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Showing posts from 2016

Bleed for This

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Since his extraordinarily intense performance as the tormented Andrew in the Oscar-nominated Whiplash, Miles Teller has been nothing short of a disappointment. Roles in last year's infamous Fantastic Four reboot and the Allegiant series have stunk of blockbuster blandness, while his character in schlocky generic rom-com That Awkward Moment was as unambitious as it was overdone. Clearly, the brief golden boy of Hollywood needed a better project and Bleed for This seemed a promising place to start.


The strength of director Ben Younger's film lies primarily in the incredible true story it tells. Teller plays Vinny Pazienza, a world champion in middleweight boxing, who is seriously injured in a horrific car crash. A broken neck leads to Pazienza being told he may never walk again and the majority of the film follows his life in the aftermath of the accident. The contrast of seeing Teller go from a cocky, egotistical champion to a feeble, bedridden patient is a powerful sight and Yo…

Cafe Society

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Woody Allen's Cafe Society is really nothing we haven't seen before: the tale of a hapless romantic Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) who moves to Hollywood in search of work and ends up falling in love with the charming Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) has been told countless times before. The setting of late 30's America, rich furs and jazz music aplenty, is far from original too. Clearly, Allen's latest is far from ambitious and retreads familiar ground for the director but the film just manages to prove its worth with two likeable protagonists and gorgeous cinematography.

If anyone were to play Allen in a biopic of his life, it could only be Eisenberg. As Bobby, he adopts the fretful gait and frenetic, half-stuttering voice that is instantly recognisable from any number of Allen's past roles. 

The impression is far from perfect and lacks some of the charm of Allen but it doesn't feel too much of a departure from Eisenberg's usual, awkward style and creates enjoyable fricti…

Sausage Party

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Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's food-based animated flick is a parody of all things Disney and Pixar and takes no time in establishing its target audience, with swears dominating the script from start to finish. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie. Or at least the only good joke. The whole point of Sausage Party is simply to get cutesy things to say nasty things, dressing up a sweary shock comedy as a cheery kids film. Of course, such foul language would be fine if the comedy were actually funny. But disappointingly, there isn't really that much comedy.

Well, comedy that actually works anyway. The frequent food-based puns are amusing for the first few minutes until you realise that they make up 90% of the film. The surprise in seeing hot dog buns and baby carrots cursing at each other wears off quickly, showing how one great trailer can't be stretched into a full length film when little else is added. Even the clever Saving Private Ryan reference from t…

We Are Your Friends

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We Are Your Friends looks to cover new ground in exploring the electronic music scene and the DJs at the heart of it. The film attracted a very mixed reception upon its release last year, with some denouncing its simplistic portrayal of the US's current rave scene while others praised Zac Efron in his portrayal of aspiring DJ Cole Carter. However, the film subsequently bombed at the box office, taking a pitiful $11 million in total. Was this simply due to the ambitious and unique subject matter that audiences weren't used to or the film simply being a failure? 

Few films have explored the modern American electronic music scene and the increasingly ludicrous world of DJing so We Are Your Friends had plenty of potential and original ideas to explore. However, what we get instead is a tired, cliched coming of age story as Cole and his friends dream of escaping the San Fernando Valley and moving to L.A. Cue an abundance of party scenes, horribly forced banter and even a generic boy…

10 Cloverfield Lane

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CONTAINS ONLY MINIMAL PLOT DETAILS AND NO SPOILERS 




2008's Cloverfield was an effective, if somewhat gimmicky, found footage disaster flick that came out of nowhere to surprise audiences with its apocalyptic 9/11 metaphors and impressive effects. 8 years on and we have 10 Cloverfield Lane, a "spiritual sequel" that was revealed with cleverly minimal advertising and few plot details. Converted from a previous project known as "The Cellar" and subjected to extensive re-writes from Whiplash's Damien Chazelle, this is not the successor to the JJ Abrams' produced original that some may have expected. Instead, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a unique and claustrophobic psychological thriller that makes brave steps away from the genre boundaries.

The story centers around Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, while fleeing from her fiance, is hit by a car. She awakes in a basement where Harold (John Goodman) tells her he rescued her from a nationwide attack by bringing …

Anomalisa

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A list of the most unique and intelligent film-makers working today wouldn't be complete without Charlie Kaufman. The American screenwriter and director has become a well-established figure for standout films such as Synecdoche New York (which I place among the very best films of all time), Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. Add to the list Anomalisa, a stop-motion project that may just be Kaufman's quirkiest project yet. Teaming up with Duke Johnson (who directed the excellent stop-motion christmas Community episode), the crowd-funded film was an intriguing idea that took over 3 years to finish. And if Synecdoche New York was Kaufman's sprawling, expansive masterpiece then Anomalisa is quite the opposite: Compact and simplistic in concept but with a hell of a lot to say.

Customer service expert Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) arrives in Cincinnati to deliver a book talk and checks into a hotel. It is clear that Michael is a troubled character, lacking motivation …

The Witch

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In some ways I regret seeing the Witch. A tinge of paranoia and a slight sickness have haunted me since seeing it, such is the power of Robert Egger's directorial debut. This 1600-set folk tale was a greatly anticipated and much hyped project, attracting a huge buzz at the Sundance Film Festival. And it delivers on every hope and expectation to an incredible degree.
The central family of the film, led by father William (Ralph Ineson), are introduced being expelled from their settlement for implied misdemeanours and religious overzealousness. As the family set out through the harsh and beautifully shot landscape (high praise to Jarin Blaschke for the stunning cinematography), it is instantly made clear that the Witch is not for the faint of heart. A missing family member has disturbingly grisly consequences and it is soon obvious that the settlers are far from alone. 
Much of the Witch's deep rooted tension is down to Ineson's gripping performance, mastering the balance betw…

In My Opinion: How Spotlight won Best Picture

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To the surprise of many, the docu-drama Spotlight swooped in and plucked the Oscar for best picture out of the Revenant's hands at last night's ceremony. Being the first best picture winner since The Greatest Show on Earth in 1953 to win only one other Oscar, how did Spotlight win?
1. It is a David and Goliath story

Spotlight follows the story of a lowly team of Boston Globe journalists attempting to investigate the powerful Catholic Church, pitting the tiny Spotlight team against the might of the deeply Church. In fact, this is a common theme among a number of this year's contenders: The Big Short fights the bankers, Mad Max revolves around the struggle of the "wives" against their oppressors, Bridge of Spies fights for justice against the Russian and American intelligence agencies while The Martian deals with Nasa bureaucracy. It is clear that the struggle against the many is a favourite theme within the academy.

2.It has an impressive ensemble cast

Mark Ruffalo, R…

In My Opinion: The Oscars

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Marred by controversy and promising a number of hotly contested awards, all eyes will be on Hollywood once again come Sunday night. Here is a look at this year's Academy Awards and my perspective on the all-important categories.



Best Actress 
I cannot see anyone else having much of a chance in this category after seeing Room. Brie Larson gave an extraordinarily real and heartbreaking performance as Joy Newsome and is one that I feel will stick with all who saw it for a very long time. Both Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan received high praise from many in 45 Years and Brooklyn respectively, but Larson was on another level for me.

Should Win: Brie Larson
Will Win: Brie Larson






Best Actor
DiCaprio's brutal and extremely physical performance as Hugh Glass gave the Revenant much of its power and raw, unforgiving nature. The actor displayed both the hunger and desire for revenge through a tough, often painful to watch performance. Truly unique.


Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Will Win: Le…

Oscars Season: Spotlight

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In 2001, the investigative section of the Boston Globe known as Spotlight were tasked with exploring claims that a number of priests from the Catholic Church had sexually abused children without punishment. Due to the importance of the Church within the city and the seemingly impenetrable nature of the organisation, the group of journalists were initially sceptical and doubtful that their work would come to anything. Tom McCarthy's film reveals how the Spotlight team subsequently uncovered the shocking truth surrounding the Church and their Priesthood, with major consequences.
The film handles the gravitas of its subject matter well, provoking equal measures of horror and anger with every new case. There is little sugar-coating to be found here and, unlike many modern day dramatisations, every event seems believable and no turn is left to blind coincidence. Phone calls and interviews leave us hanging on every word, piecing together the sheer scale of the situation. There is little …

Oscars Season: The Big Short

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Straight from minute one, The Big Short fires on all cylinders. A barrage of economic buzzwords, skyrocketing sums and the Wall Street buzz light up the screen, threatening to leave you behind if you miss but a single word. Then, a few minutes in, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) turns to the camera, suddenly realising how lost we all are. Enter Margot Robbie being served champagne in a bubble bath to explain what the heck is going on. Even though it is little more than a brief cameo, this gives a pretty good idea about what kind of film The Big Short is.

But fear not, this is no wannabe Wolf of Wall Street clone. This is an entirely different kettle of economically unstable fish. Taking on the job of translating the financial crash of 2008 into a gripping drama, director Adam McKay strikes a well-measured balance of comedy and tragedy to create an engaging docu-drama that is executed with plenty of panache. 

Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carrel all impress as the "antiheroes"…

Oscars Season: Room

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Adapted from Emma Donoghue's novel of the same title, Room revolves around Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), imprisoned in a cramped, grimy room by "Old Nick" (a character most comparable to the real life psychopath Josef Fritzl). Shut off from the outside world for years, Jack has no idea of the outside world and knows solely of "room," while Joy is all too aware of their sick-minded torturer and the abhorrent life that he has subjected them to.

Larson and Tremblay deliver two of the greatest performances in recent memory and are so completely believable and so completely enveloped in their characters that they elevate Room from a brilliant film to the heady heights of Oscar winning sublimity. The chemistry between the two is perfect to such a degree that the barrier of performance appears to disappear and they are their characters. While Larson is flawless and impressively subtle as Joy's existence seemingly collapses around her and her …

Oscars Season: The Revenant

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NO PLOT SPOILERS

The Revenant is a feat of the human spirit and pushes the boundaries of possibility, both in its subject matter and its production. A year on from his Oscar victory for Birdman, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has somehow outdone himself, gathering a stellar cast of actors and subjecting them to some of the harshest of conditions and climates to create a sensory thrill ride that plumbs the very depths of humanity and the overwhelming power of nature. I have never felt as physically exhausted and emotionally drained from a film.
We follow a group of fur traders fleeing from an encroaching army of Native Americans when Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is attacked by a bear and abandoned by the others, leaving him on the brink of death and seeking revenge. The majority of the running time is spent with Glass, as he attempts to survive the harsh American winter and escape from both the French and Native American armies. It is also interesting to note that the film is loo…

Oscars Season: Creed

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In 1976, a little known film named Rocky sweeped the 49th Academy Awards, winning best picture and best director to the surprise of the whole world. "How did this low budget project about a rags to riches boxer, fronted by little known actor Sylvester Stallone, steal the limelight from such high profile films as Network and Taxi Driver?" was the question on everyone's lips. Life mirrored art as Rocky the underdog defied the odds and rose to fame...

...40 years later and the story is very different. Four sequels followed in an attempt to capture the original's success but they failed to find success and the box office diminished upon every installment. Up stepped young director Ryan Coogler, promising to offer the series a fresh spin and a new lease of life. Stallone was initially reluctant to return to his much loved character but was convinced by the direction the new film would take...


...Creed follows the illegitimate son of Rocky's infamous rival Apollo Creed, …