Top 10 Road Trip Films (I Own)

For the next week and a half I will be roaming around the South West of England in a yellow VW Campervan called Barney embarking on A Very English Road Trip. To celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the top ten road trip movies I own on DVD. An odd criteria for a film list but these film lists are superficial at the best of times.

Away We Go
A surprisingly light-hearted film from Sam Mendes as a young couple visit friends and relatives while trying to find the right place to bring up their imminent baby. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are a convincing couple and provide the sanity amongst the crazy characters they visit. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney are the two main highlights along their journey.

Catfish
The only documentary on this list, Catfish follows the burgeoning online romance between Yaniv Schulman and the sister of a young artist he has been emailing. After some suspicious events Yaniv and his friends travel to the mystery girl’s house and uncover something they had never expected. There is debate about this documentary’s authenticity, either way it makes for a gripping watch.

The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson takes his signature style on the road, or rather on the track, as three brothers travel through India by train, looking for their mother and getting to grips with the loss of their father. Jason Schwartzmann, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson fit perfectly with Anderson’s tone as the three brothers and their journey is as much emotional as it is physical. Natalie Portman makes a brief, but revealing, appearance in the preceding short film.

The Go-Getter
The most indie film on the list unites Sundance darlings Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel and Jena Malone and brought together for the first time the she and him in She & Him. A young man has a quarter life crisis, steals a car and discovers love, and himself, on the road. A little bit twee to ever be successful, this is worth a watch if you are a fan of the cast, or just enjoy a gentle film about someone abandoning life and hitting the road.

Into the Wild
Speaking of a young man having a quarter life crisis and hitting the road… This time round the traveller is played by Emile Hirsch with a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart providing the tempting romance he finds along the way. Stewart’s role is quite small though and this is the biggest single-hander of the lot, with Hirsch the only character present throughout. This was Sean Penn’s last work behind the camera and is proof he should do more.

Little Miss Sunshine
An amazing cast go travelling in a yellow VW Campervan (not called Barney) in order to get Abigail Breslin to her beauty pageant. Darkly funny and more than a little moving this road trip ends the way all movies should, with a big dance number. Kevin Bacon would be proud. The film is notable for featuring Steve Carell’s most subdued performance, and for inspiring the colour scheme of this very website.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Even the Coen Brothers have made a road trip film, theirs being an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey and starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as three escaped convicts searching for hidden treasure. Encountering all manner of characters and obstacles along the way this is the quintessential road trip film, and the only one to involve the KKK.

Transamerica
Any good road trip forces the film to shift focus from traditional plot or location and instead focus on the characters who are the only constant through the film, and their relationships. Few films utilise this better than Transamerica as Felicity Huffman’s pre-op transsexual meets her son for the first time as she ferries him across country under the guise of being a charity worker.

Wristcutters: A Love Story
While most of these films involve travelling across the United States, Wristcutters moves beyond the world of the living and instead is set in an afterlife reserved for people who commit suicide. Shortly after his death Patrick Fugit hears that his old girlfriend, Leslie Bibb, has also killed herself and so takes his room-mate and tries to find her. Along the way he encounters some charmingly rustic supernatural elements and Tom Waits, who also provides the soundtrack.

Zombieland
While everyone in Wristcutters is dead, most of the people our travellers come across in this film are the undead. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson travel through the post-apocalyptic landscape in search of Twinkies and instead find Emma Stone (swoon), Abigail Breslin (road trip queen) and more zombies than you can shake a double barreled shotgun at. One of cinema’s greatest cameos is the icing on this zombie cake.

If there’s anything all these films have in common, it’s that the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey and characters that are key when the film has no other consistent element.

Splice – Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Splice and was all the better for it. While the trailer presents a horror filled with jumps surrounding a freakish monster created in a lad, the film itself is much more than that. Though it does admittedly contain moments of what the trailer pretended the entire film was.

Splice it turns out is a funny and touching film exploring the morality of science, a couple’s relationship and their desire for a child. There were plenty of adorable moments as the audience practically cooed at the growing monstrosity learning to be as human as it could be.

Ultimately however things turned sour and the film suddenly became slightly offensive to the eyes as events unfolded that I had expected, and some that I wasn’t quite ready for. Splice is different from the norm, and was a good watch though not one I am likely to repeat.

Adrian Brody once again shows a fresh side to himself  and Sarah Polley somehow makes you side with the guys who are messing around splicing DNA. The real heart of the film however is ??Delphine Chanéac, who makes the animalistic Dren seem very human, at times adorable and then terrifying.

Definitely not one for the whole family, but something a little different.

Predators – Review

Adrien Brody certainly takes on a good range of films. This year we’ve had a hopeless romantic in Brothers Bloom, a fieldmouse in Fantastic Mr. Fox and are soon to have a mad scientist in Splice. For Predators Brody unveils a new character as he becomes the gravelly voiced and big armed action hero. And he pulls it off too!

Without Brody Predators would just be a bad action/sci-fi/thriller but he manages to bring it up to a mediocre action/sci-fi/thriller. As a result the film was pretty enjoyable though did had surprisingly long sections where nothing particularly happened, I suppose these were to create “tension” but it didn’t really work.

None of the characters were particularly memorable and they were all completely unlikable. Topher Grace in particular managed to come across as a creep as he pretty much reprised his character from Spiderman 3. Grace’s best performance on the big screen remains in his small part in Valentines Day.

Having not seen any other films in this franchise (I know, I know) I can’t really compare it to the other but from the sounds of the first this contains slightly more of the actual Predators while retaining the jungle setting.

One thing I’ll say for the film is it doesn’t beat around the bush at the start… well technically the characters do… anyway the action starts right off with everyone falling from the sky.

In summary, it wasn’t very good but wasn’t painful to watch.

The Brothers Bloom – Review

Rian Johnson, writer and director of The Brothers Bloom, has only directed one other film and that film, Brick, just so happens to be one of my all time favourites. He also recently directed an episode of Breaking Bad one of my all time favourite TV shows. My expectations were suitably raised upon going to see Bloom and as such I was slightly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good film; funny, stylised and surprising. Bloom just isn’t quite right.

Where the film suffers is with timing. While the film is under two hours long it seems to drag a lot in the middle; a con movie such as this needs to be a bit faster paced but Johnson’s plan to have a con movie with sympathetic characters requirs time for emotional scenes that held the film up. Ultimately this was a worthy sacrifice; what it lacked in pace it made up for in heart as while we never knew the characters true motives as the film went along we did start to care about what would happen to them.

The entire cast, Rachel Wiesz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi and Robbie Coltrane were perfect for their parts and performed well. The direction and general production design were both very stylised, something that is often seen as a criticism. Personally I think it is often a plus point if you notice a particularly nice camera move, there’s nothing wrong with direction standing out as good as opposed to being overly generic. The music is also a treat, and as with Brick is provided by Johnson’s cousin, combining piano and various jazz instruments to create a unique sound, so different to most hollywood films.

With good direction, writing, music and acting it’s hard to know where the film comes up short but it does, if only slightly. Thankfully it remains clear that Rian Johnson has a real flair for writing and directing and any comparisons to Wes Anderson should be taken as a compliment.