Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: David Feeney, John Quaintance
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky, John Carroll Lynch
Last year, Reese Witherspoon earned yet another Academy Award nomination for her magical performance in docudrama Wild. Judging by Hot Pursuit, it is clear she may be an abysmal loser. This Road trip-comedy highlights a scary trend – that descent between an actor’s Oscar-calibre project and their paycheck-grabbing follow-up. It is an abysmal, insensitive effort fuelled by poor decisions and Hollywood power.
Hot Pursuit sees Rose Cooper (Witherspoon), benched after an unfortunate tasing incident, struggling to balance an intense work ethic with her personal life. Busting out of the evidence locker, she is assigned to protect a cartel informant and his wife Daniella (Sofia Vergara).
Despite the 87-minute run-time, Hot Pursuit reeks of a rushed production struggling for content. What follows is a ‘hilarious’ and ‘wacky’ assortment of sketches and set-pieces. Very little works about this bland, derivative road-trip comedy. Playing up to stereotypes, the film pulls out and dusts off every cheap, lame gag against women and Hispanic people.
Witherspoon, producing and starring in this mess, claimed the film was part of her company’s movement for strong female characters. Menstruation jokes and weird accent gags fail to warrant even a quick chuckle. Its lead characters are inhuman and insensitive, struggling to grasp human emotions and common sense.
Witherspoon and Vergara’s talents are thoroughly wasted here, with the Modern Family actress forced to wheeze out a Fran Drescher impersonation. Witherspoon Texan caricature is sure to offend, sidelined by cheap jokes about her appearance. Comedians Mike Birbiglia and Jim Gaffigan are stuck in unfunny, one-scene roles.
Verdict: A offensive waste of talent, money etc.
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Writer: Craig Bolotin
Stars: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin
The Longest Ride is yet another instalment in the never-ending line of Nicholas Sparks romantic-dramas. Building upon his vast sums of money and followers from The Notebook and The Lucky One, his latest adaptation may be the best one by default.
The Longest Ride follows senior year arts student Sophie Denko (Britt Robertson). Forced out of her sorority dorm by her friends, she meets big-time bull rider Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) at the local rodeo. Collins, one of the Professional Bull Riders on tour, is coming off a major incident at his last event.
This Sparks adaptation is divided into two familiar but effecting tales. One concerns the relationship between our two sparkling leads, featuring a cacophony of Sparksian clichés including shirtless people, the rain, and a late-night swim in a lake. The other delves into the deeper elements, chronicling a love story set in WWII-era America between Ira (Jack Huston) and Ruth (Oona Chaplin).
Both plot-threads intersect at appropriate moments, succinctly complimenting one another. Sophie and Luke’s conversations with the elderly Ira (Alan Alda) accentuate the film’s impressive performances. Director George Tilmman Jr. (Notorious, Faster) wrangles strong performances out of his young leads. Robertson, known for Tomorrowland, is the next blonde charmer. Eastwood, displaying his father’s charisma and good looks, is a worthy candidate for the next big superhero franchise.
Despite the tried and true formula, The Longest Ride is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. Tillman Jr. and co. provide a fresh take on the material for girls and boys to enjoy.
Verdict: A sweet, good-natured romantic-drama.
Director: Jeremy Sims
Writers: Reg Cribb, Jeremy Sims
Stars: Michael Caton, Mark Coles Smith, Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Jacki Weaver
Australian cinema ranges typically between dark, brooding drama (Strangerland) and over-the-top comedy (The Dressmaker). Hollywood and foreign film continually give us works that sit in between these polar opposites. Last Cab to Darwin, at the very least, makes a gracious and worthwhile attempt to balance drama and comedy with ease.
Last Cab to Darwin chronicles the professional and personal aspects of taxi driver Rex(Michael Caton)’s life. The sole taxi driver in Broken Hill, New South Wales, his days and nights begin to blur together. By day, he drives around town helping everyone out. By night, he visits his local pub, chats with his mates, before listening to his records alone. His neighbour/lady-friend Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) is his one true source of comfort.
Rex is told that his cancer, despite having previously been operated on, has spread throughout his body with a vengeance. Given three months to live, Rex takes up an offer from GP and euthanasia activist Dr. Nicole Farmer (Jacki Weaver) in the Northern Territory to be her first patient once the law comes through.
You guessed it, Rex takes his taxi across the country and over great, red plains to die on his own terms. Based on Cribb’s 2003 theatre production, Last Cab to Darwin is the outback cinema version of comfort food. The narrative hits the familiar beats, with Rex encountering a wide array of archetypes and situations putting his life into perspective. Bouncing off Tilly (Mark Coles Smith) and Julie (Emma Hamilton), Rex, thanks to Caton’s touching performance, is a determined, fascinating character.
Last Cab to Darwin, fusing familiar narrative with serious topic, is a defining contemporary Australian flick.