Don Jon

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen. ‘Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy reunites with girl’. That same tired cliché has been fused into an endless stream of rom-coms. Whether they are actually funny is another thing with most being forgettable. Written and directed by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, ‘Don Jon’ provides a different twist to the genre. In a confident directorial debut, Levitt deftly explores the world of modern relationships with a style similar films desperately lack.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) objectifies everything in life. Cars, women, the church and his family are all on his radar. His friends nickname him ‘Don Jon’ for his abilities with the ladies. Also addicted to online adult entertainment, Jon decides he wants a more meaningful existence. Beginning a romance with two different women, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and Esther (Julianne Moore), both provide sharp life lessons for the macho lothario in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

‘Don Jon’ is a very raunchy comedy without being crude. Martello’s endless on-line adult addiction sees him tackling relationships without feeling. He’s totally consumed by the fantasy cyberspace creates instead of focussing on real life. The women he meets slowly attempt to draw him away from this. These elements are skilfully highlighted with Gordon-Levitt packing much into the brisk runtime.

Gordon-Levitt shines in a solid acting role. Martello oozes machismo and feels all too real. The acting honours ultimately go to Johansson and Moore who have always given excellent performances. They are well suited to their roles here, bringing more dimension than the script may have had.

There’s not much else to say about ‘Don Jon’ except it’s a solid anti-romantic comedy. Gordon-Levitt shows much promise with his insightful direction and script. The minefield of relationships are skewered with ease with ‘Don Jon’ lingering in the memory.

Rating out of 10: 8


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Based on Alvin Schwartz’s book series, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ is akin to spooky tales told around the campfire. You may know where a story is heading but you enjoy the thrill-ride anyway. The film also takes cue from a plethora of anthology-style films popularised in the 1960’s/70’s. This type of production had multiple stories within its timeframe. Whilst a few segments would be better than others, the way they are told makes them stand out. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ gamely tries to chill the bones as it walks along its dark path.

On Halloween in 1968, a group of teenagers, including Stella (Zoe Colletti), August (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajir) meet mysterious drifter Ramon (Michael Garza). Quickly striking up a friendship, Ramon suggests they explore a supposedly haunted mansion to commemorate the day. There, they discover an old book filled with horror stories. Little do they know of the shocks that await as the book’s evil spell casts a giant shadow over the intrepid group.

‘Scary Stories’ is a horror movie aimed at young adults. Whilst all ages seem to be accepting of whatever horrible visions they see, ‘Scary Stories’ is restrained in that area. It’s more concerned with tense atmosphere and shadowy visuals. It succeeds admirably as it explores how stories can control people instead of the other way around. Whether events are pre-ordained or we make them so is seen with effective scares along the way.

The cast do a fine job in making ‘Scary Stories’ watchable as they dive in with youthful energy. It’s also refreshing seeing a group of teens eager to investigate and solving mysteries. Although the mostly predictable script doesn’t particularly offer much new, it pushes the story along at a good pace and remembers to be actually scary.

Serving up a reasonable dish of light thrills, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ generally delivers. As an entrée to the world of horror for younger viewers it works. Whether we admit it or not, we all like hearing scary tales with this film sure to provide a few more for those enjoying watching these types of films in the dark.

Rating out of 10: 7