Tag Archives: julia roberts

Flatliners (1990) Review

Nineties with a capital 9, stripped of the rose-coloured shroud of nostalgia, Joel Schumacher’s morbid thriller emphasises the ‘flat’ in “Flatliners”.

Inspired by the near-death experiences of patients, a  group of brilliant, ambitious medical students decide to probe beyond the veil to establish empirically what happens when you die. But as each of them becomes haunted by what they saw, they must find a way to make peace with their experiences.

Stuffed with Brat Pack actors, Schumacher brings the same campily gothic aesthetic to “Flatliners” that he would later dial all the way up to 11 in “Batman & Robin”. Unfortunately, the ludicrously grandiose set design and general post-industrial atmosphere simply serve to undermine any sense of realism whatsoever, leaving the flights of fantasy with nothing to ground them. Everything is lit with the subtlety of a sledgehammer in stark orange or bright blue to give you a ready indicator as to whether something good or bad is happening, which is handy because your attention will wander as much as the plot does. Even if you’re not paying attention, though, you’ll still notice some of the clumsiest on screen set adjustments to accommodate the forthcoming camera movement you’ll ever see.

Essentially a high-concept morality play about atoning for past (or sometimes present) sins, it’s all terribly vague and vaguely terrible. Kiefer Sutherland – who despite being a poor medical student apparently lives in a giant mansion from a high-class fragrance commercial – hides possibly the worst secret of the bunch. But then again they’re all phenomenally bad scientists, withholding vital information from each other, making a mockery of the pretence they’re invested in scientific research rather than a low-wattage Twilight Zone clip show. Despite raising some interesting philosophical, metaphysical and theological questions, the film doesn’t care to address them at all, preferring to focus on the banal, small stories of the characters.

All flash and very little bang, the only flatline that sticks in the mind was my level of interest in the self-indulgent narcissistic guilt trips of these unlikeable characters, except for Sutherland’s Norman, whose level of guilt is so far removed from the context of the others that his ultimate redemption feels grotesque. If people are calling the new remake a disappointment, I can’t help but wonder if they’re setting the original’s bar low enough?


Mother’s Day (2016) Review

A limp and saccharine end to a great career, “Mother’s Day” forms the third and final part of Gary Marshall’s ensemble holiday-themed dramedy trilogy and, despite how bad “Valentine’s Day” was, “Mother’s Day” still finds enough depths to plumb to ensure it adheres to the law of trilogies.

In the build-up to Mother’s Day – which is apparently a huge deal for the purposes of this film – a diverse and eclectic mix of friends and families love, laugh and learn the true meaning of motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Mother’s Day the day. The film, yes, but not the day itself. As usual, Marshall manages to corral a glittering array of big screen talent – and Jack Whitehall – to populate his candyfloss melodrama but ultimately it all feels arbitrary and inconsequential despite setting its sights on such weighty topics as divorce, bereavement, racism and homophobia. It wastes the talents of the likes of Jason Sudeikis and allows many of its biggest names to stay lazily in their comfort zones all in service to a cosily twee resolution. Deeply unpleasant lifelong homophobia and racial prejudices are resolved in the twinkling of an eye thanks to some awkwardly forced hijinks while the absence of a mother is essayed by underlining how inept men are in caring for children, typified by a ‘humorous’ scene where a man who’s apparently been married for over a decade has somehow never had to buy tampons before. It’s okay because then he makes up for his late wife’s absence by showering his children with material goods. Bless.

Despite the film’s frequent and clumsy shout-outs to Julia Roberts’ back catalogue, she also features in the movie’s only vaguely worthwhile scene (unless you count the gag reel which plays over the end credits which is, honestly, much more fun than the film itself) as Julia Roberts and Jennifer Anniston share the screen together in a pivotal encounter. It’s the rom-com equivalent of the iconic cinematic meeting of DeNiro and Pacino in “Heat”.

Trite, pointless and sentimentally uninvolving, not even a mother could love this tedious schlockfest.


Money Monster (2016) Review

Reuniting George Clooney and Julia Roberts on screen for the first time since 2004’s “Ocean’s 12”, director Jodie Foster has constructed a topical corporate thriller which attempts to combine the hot button issues of domestic terrorism and socioeconomic anger.

When a slick money market TV show host is taken hostage by an armed gunman during a live broadcast, he is forced to confront the effects his advice has had on the ordinary people who watch his show as well as confront some unpleasant truths about the dark underside of the stock market.

“Money Monster” is a decent thriller and manages to build up a decent amount of tension despite a slightly uneven tone and some odd choices early on to cut away to seemingly random and unrelated locations (they do eventually play into the story but their context-free appearance so early on interrupts rather than intrigues).

Clooney plays shallow TV host Lee Gates with his twinkly-eyed charisma turned up to eleven and there are times when it veers perilously close to “Scrooged”’s Frank Cross in terms of execution. That’s not meant as a criticism but it meant I spent a bit of time imagining what the film would have been like had Bill Murray been cast instead. Julia Roberts is good too, finding an easy and world-weary chemistry with Clooney as Gates’s producer, a feat all the more impressive given the pair actually filmed very few scenes together. The pair may no longer be in their pomp, they certainly showcase why they are both A-list movie stars (although while Clooney is undoubtedly a bona fide movie star he’s never been what you’d call a box office sensation). It’s Jack O’Connell, though, who gives the story its much needed substance and grit, delivering yet another impressive turn as the desperate victim of Wall Street shenanigans.

Ultimately, the story pulls its punches when sticking it to the corporate fatcats, singling out a single entity and individual for egregiously shady practices rather than putting the whole house of cards system under the microscope. Instead, Foster has a more potent target, delivering the film’s slyest sucker punch to the audience by showing that, once all the drama and salaciously televised intrigue is resolved, the general public simply go back to whatever it was they were doing and wilfully ignores everything else that may be and probably is happening in the corporate boardrooms and stock markets of the world. Ouch.

It’s not as clever as it wants to be nor as astutely critical as it should be, but “Money Monster” is a solid character-driven thriller with three great lead performances.