Reviews

Page 1 of 2027  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »

The Homesman

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Back in 2005, Tommy Lee Jones followed in the footsteps of his amigo Clint Eastwood and took a turn into directing. The result was The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, a very fine and idiosyncratic modern western. It's taken 9 years for him to make his next film, but The Homesman is certainly worth the wait. Bossy, 'plain-looking' spinster Mary (Hilary Swank) is an independent woman who can look after herself - not too common in the pioneer days of the American West. She takes on the task of transporting three women who have lost their minds (played by Miranda Otto, Grace Gummer and Sonja Richter) across Nebraska to Iowa by covered wagon, where they'll be looked after by Altha (Meryl Streep). Along the way, she runs into the cantankerous George (Jones), sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck. She lets him go on the condition that he accompany her across the plains to complete the job. 'Three crazy women for five weeks is a lot more than I bargained for' he says to Mary. Maybe he should make that four... The Homesman has been acclaimed as the best western since Unforgiven. That's a tall claim but Jones comes very close to achieving those highs. It's a road-movie of sorts, without the road. Films about journeys are as much about characters. Working from Glendon Swarthout's novel, Jones has co-written the screenplay with Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley A. Oliver. The characters are very clearly defined and the inter-play between the pious Mary and the earthy, weather-beaten George is great fun to watch. The actors really give it their all here. One misstep though: James Spader's hostile hotelier, with a decidedly mangled Oirish accent (we can forgive Jones for that). It's a moving story about frontier life taken from a mostly female perspective - not something you'd expect from the gruff, macho Jones. The Homesman shares a certain amount of DNA with Three Burials - it's about a long journey, it's about characters going through changes, it's even got the same gallows humour. In other words, a Tommy Lee Jones joint that plays very much to his style of directing and acting. Highly recommended - you'd be a darn fool to miss it.

My Old Lady

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

My Old Lady is a comedy of manners set in Paris involving an apartment, an old English lady, her daughter and an American. The American in question is Mathias (Kevin Kline), who arrives in Paris almost penniless hoping to make some money out of an apartment left to him in his father's will. On arrival, he finds that it's already occupied. Not by a squatter, but by Mathilde (Maggie Smith) - an elderly lady who isn't honest about her age. That's because there's a quirk in French law allowing her to stay in the apartment until her death. So, Mathias not only inherits the apartment but also Mathilde, much to displeasure of her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). Some family skeletons are going to be let out of the closet... My Old Lady is written and directed by Israel Horovitz, based on his stage play. Whereas most films based on stage plays try to open things out and use different locations, Horovitz sticks to the filmed play format. As a result, it feels very stiff and stagey. Mathias barely speaks French, yet everyone in Paris magically speaks English (aren't the French rather proud of their language?). The chemistry between Kline and Scott Thomas (playing yet another brittle, bitter woman) doesn't work and worryingly, there's even a Star Wars moment in there. Where the film only really works is in the scenes between Kline and Smith, who spark off each other well. Horovitz makes Paris look postcard-pretty, but the French characters are 1-dimensional and barely register. A slow, Sunday afternoon-type film to take your old lady too, but otherwise there's not a lot to recommend about My Old Lady. Voila.

Get on Up

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

Get On Up is a biopic of the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. But while it tries hard, it falls just short of being truly great. Flitting back and forth across various timeframes between 1939 and 1993 (!), it squeezes a lot into its 139-minute running time. We discover Brown's beginnings as a dirt-poor kid in South Carolina, then move forward in time to his early days as a young man (Chadwick Boseman) making waves as a talented singer of African-American soul music. Set against the turbulent back-drop of the Civil Rights movement, he bands together with Bobby Byrd (Nelson Ellis) and agent Ben Bart (Dan Aykroyd) to establish himself as an influential singer who broke down racial barriers - music has no colour. He surely was the coolest cat in the business... Tate Taylor, who previously directed The Help, has decided to go for a colourful, expansive biopic of the late, great Brown. It gets the period detail, the costumes and the attitudes just right. It's co-produced by Mick Jagger, so it feels authentic (look fast for a brief appearance by the Rolling Stones). Brown's superb, toe-tapping music is the highlight, with Boseman doing the dancing and some of the singing. Boseman is virtually unknown over here (his recent appearance in baseball drama 42 went unseen in this country), but he gets the hysical and vocal mannerisms just right, even if it can be a little hard to understand him sometimes. It's a very lively, physical performance that is the best thing about this film. The film feels a little too reverent though - a scene involving domestic abuse is kept offscreen and Brown's drug problems are lightly skipped over. Maybe Oliver Stone would be more daring. Get On Up isn't quite 'So Good', but it's an entertaining journey through the life of one extraordinary man. Right on, brother.

What We Do in the Shadows

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Films about vampires are very common, so it's refreshing to come across something a little bit different. What We Do In The Shadows is a New Zealand mockumentary about the daily comings and goings of four Wellington vampires. They're all living together in a flat and only come out at night. There's the bossy dandy Viago (Taika Waititi), randy torturer Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), ladies man and bad boy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and the Nosferatu-like Petyr (Ben Fransham), who scares even Viago. Granted protection by the four, a film crew follows them around Wellington as they deal with household chores, dating problems, rival werewolf gangs, human familiars who help them and mates they just turned into vampires. They also prepare for the Annual Unholy Masquerade, a gathering of ghouls and monsters... Co-written and directed by Clement and Waititi, What We Do In The Shadows is like This Is Spinal Tap, but with vampires instead of rockers. It feels very original though and is frequently hilarious. It's no surprise to see Peter Jackson's name being thanked in the end credits (stay for them for an extra treat). Maybe 20 ago, Jackson could have made something like this as it's very much his strain of humour. Clement and Waititi take a very unassuming look of vampire life, stripping out the glamour to make it look all rather humdrum. Still, being able to fly can be very handy for hoovering around the house. The sense of humour is very Kiwi. A very funny, very rewarding horror comedy with bite. Go see.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One

Reviewed by vu1999uk

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

While nothing too bad, this is a big disappointment in the Hunger Games series. Despite being just over two hours long, the whole thing drags quite badly. All the action is low key, and most is off screen. Just feels like a bit of a filler film, before things pick up in the second part. But, that all being said, I am still giving it two stars because the film does deal with some fairly heavy subjects, and does so well. Also Jennifer Lawrence as usual is brilliant as Katniss. It's just a pity some of the supporting cast have little more than cameos, Woody Harleson in particular is criminally underused.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

Well, that didn't take long. After a strong start and an even stronger first sequel, The Hunger Games franchise has gone into reverse and hit a brick wall. A shame. The lumbering title of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 sees our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) having succeeded in destroying the game arena and escaped to District 13. This is where we find her, holed up with mentor Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and driven President Alma (Julianne Moore) in an underground facility. They want to mould Katniss into a revolutionary figurehead, the mockingjay, to take on the might and tyranny of The Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss rises to the challenge, but quickly finds herself being challenged by Snow when he brings forth Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who is alive and appears to be brain-washed into Capitol propaganda. A battle for the future of Panem has begun... Cynically following the final film template set by other popular franchises Harry Potter and Twilight, Suzanne Collins' book has been split into two films. Mockingjay Part 1 essentially suffers the same problem as Deathly Hallows Part 1: it's a painfully slow bridging movie that plays out like an over-extended first act. What we really want is the big pay-off, but we'll have to wait another year for that (what, not 6 months?). Instead, we have a pretty drab drama that is mostly confined to gray corridors and even grayer costumes. The Matrix Reloaded is another unwelcome comparison. There is some action, but not on the scale of the previous films. The blowing up of a dam is somewhat lessened in that it just leads to a power cut. Oh right. Director Francis Lawrence just goes through the motions in getting the story to the point where it needs to be: setting things up for Part 2. The dynamic energy and fun of Catching Fire has been dissipated. Francis Lawrence has a lot of work to do to rescue this franchise and let it go out with a bang, not a whimper. Everyone will see Mockingjay Part 1, but what we really want to see is Part 2. Hopefully, it'll deliver.

Interstellar

Reviewed by SneakySeán96

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

I knew going into this film that it wasn't going to be the masterpiece Interstellar was hyped up to be. The film's concept is too grand and cerebral for some, and it would trip over on it complicated plot. But this film delivered on pretty much everything else. The acting was phenominal, the characters were well-balanced, the special effects were beautiful and the science in the film was intriguing. The script is so what flawed but fine nonetheless. Overall, I'd recommend to see it on the big screen. It's out of this world!

STANDBY

Reviewed by vu1999uk

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

While nothing earth shattering, there is still plenty to like about this low budget Irish Romantic Comedy. It never really has too many laugh out loud moments, but it is just so sweet and nice, that you can't help smiling throughout. The two leads are great and Dublin has never looked better.

What We Do in the Shadows

Reviewed by vu1999uk

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Hilarious mockumentary that looks at the lives of flat sharing vampires. The jokes are great, the actors are all on top form and it manages to put enough emotion and pathos into proceedings, so when it does go a bit more serious, it handles it all very well, and is actually quite moving.

Life Itself

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Reviewing a documentary film about the life of a notable film critic makes for an interesting change - but it also becomes a little bit tricky. Maybe Pauline Kael or Leslie Halliwell would be tricky to review, but not the much-loved Roger Ebert. Life Itself is based on Ebert's book, charting his early days writing for newspapers and his love of cinema. That lead him on to become a film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, at a time when film criticism was only just being taken seriously. It was a great time to review films, as Ebert notes while clips of Bonnie & Clyde play in the background. The 1970s was a golden era for American cinema, with studios giving directors and producers the kind of creative freedom that their current counter-parts can only dream of. Ebert found even more fame co-presenting the TV show At The Movies with Gene Siskel, a fellow Chicago film critic. The two frequently disagreed with each other, but remained firm friends for over 20 years. The out-takes of them messing around are warmly funny, like watching an old married couple that don't mean any harm. Where Steven James' film really hits home though is with the very personal footage of Ebert in his dying days. Even with his jaw removed due to thyroid cancer, the scenes of him talking to his wife via a computer voice are very moving. His mind was still as sharp as always, even towards the end. We get a very rounded view of the man himself - film critic, screenwriter, journalist, family man. For anyone who loves cinema, this is essential viewing. "For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It helps you understand hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us identify the people who are sharing this journey with us". Spot on, Roger.

Third Person

Reviewed by filmbuff2011

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

You know a film is in trouble when the distributor decides to bury it in distant suburban cinemas rather than open it up to a wider audience. It's like the distributor doesn't even want anyone to see it - maybe just as well. Not that anyone will particularly care for Third Person, as it's clearly a misfire from Paul Haggis, the man who gave us the Oscar-winning Crash. The film has a three story strand structure. In Paris, writer Michael (Liam Neeson) is distracted from his failed marriage by the much younger Anna (Olivia Wilde), who falls in and out of love with him quite easily and has a big secret of her own. In Rome, reluctant traveller Scott (Adrien Brody) helps an exotic but troubled Romanian woman Monika (Moran Atias) re-claim her daughter from criminals. In New York, messed-up hotel maid Julia (Mila Kunis) tries to get custody and visitation rights to her son, who is being shielded from her by her former partner Rick (James Franco). These three stories all have common elements that criss-cross each other... Third Person is a confused and confusing film. It's populated by improbably glamorous people who don't seem to know what to do with their lives. Life is precious, yet they squander it. For a film that ostensibly is based on reality, it goes to some weird places towards the end. Glaring continuity errors stick out like a sore thumb: in the space of five minutes, Julia is in New York, then appears in Paris in Michael's room, then re-appears in New York. Did she borrow a teleportation device when we weren't looking? Characters also fade in and out of the screen as well. Hmmmm. It's hard to know what Haggis is trying to say with this film. It's as cryptic as the novel that Michael is writing. Sample line: 'White. The colour of trust'. Err... OK. Although the starry cast make it just about watchable, their characters just aren't interesting enough to sustain a film that is at least half an hour longer than it should be. Haggis has only himself to blame, as he wrote the story and directed it. A waste of time for all involved, but most of all for the audience.

The Imitation Game

Reviewed by emer

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

“The Imitation Game” is an intelligent British period biopic directed by Morten Tyldum about the eccentric prodigy who cracked the German Enigma code and helped win WW11. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the British mathematician and pioneering computer scientist whose work in Bletchley Park during WW11 led to him being known as the Father of Artificial Intelligence. The film not only covers his number crunching genius at work but also delves into the more tragic aspects of his life: his 1952 prosecution for gross indecency (Turing was gay), imprisonment and State mandated chemical castration through the barbaric and then experimental hormonal therapy, leading to his eventual suicide two years later because of persecution and loneliness. The film covers three main timeframes: the school years, the war period and the Bletchley years, ending with the persecuted aftermath. The 3 periods are excellently inter-cut to provide background and develop the stories in tandem. During his school years, he is played as an awkward misfit by an excellent Alex Lawther where his early fondness for crytography and his same sex desires develop as he passes code messages back and forth with his only classmate. With the Nazis taking control of Europe, the British government needs to act and engages a team of maths geniuses to attempt to crack the infamous Germans' code, Enigma, which is perceived as unbreakable. It is the code by which their naval forces receive instructions on a daily basis. The team includes chess champion Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), Scot John Cairncross (Allen Leech) and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard). They are later joined by crossword whiz, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who becomes a close friend of Turing over the course of the project and he comes to depend on her, even offering her an insincere and half hearted proposal of marriage. His team find his aloof, arrogant and irascible manner impossible to work with. Turing lacks social graces, feels that the team are slowing him down and he even informs them in no uncertain terms that he considers them so useless that he'd be better off working on his own. The project Turing directs is to develop a machine which could automate the process of decoding Nazi messages, because it would take decades to decipher them by conventional methods. He works for months on a secret device with moving knobs and discs. It is basically an early computer which goes through innumerable combinations of numbers and letters in the hopes of uncracking the secret code. After 2 years of no success, pressure is building and eventually they get a breakthrough. However the solving of the code must remain a tightly guarded secret because they must protect against the possibility of Germany realizing their Enigma machine has been decrypted and immediately reprogramming it, thus undoing years of painstaking work. The moral implications of hiding their victory is chilling, they must literally play God, picking and choosing what lives are to be saved. In the aftermath of the Enigma success, the film moves takes a darker, more troubled and interesting angle. It starts to focus on Turing himself - his painful secret, his past and his story. The performances are excellent. Benedict Cumberbatch is a gifted actor, intelligent and committed. He gives an effortless and yet complex portrayal of the exceptionally talent but tragically tormented problem solver, Turing. His array of eccentricities carry the film and his rudeness and insulting manner is so condescending and superior that it is actually quite amusing to watch. Keira Knightley, the only woman admitted to the inner circle of code breakers adds further interest to proceedings. As would be expected, she plays her part exceptionally well and her Britishness serves her well. She is both sympathetic and effective in a role which I thought could have been further developed. The supporting cast is entirely dependable and makes the movie very easy to watch. “The Imitation Game” is a strong, rich, engaging and yet rather tragic tale which moves along at a steady pace. Graham Moore’s clean screenplay deftly navigates between the 3 time periods of Turing’s life and the period setting of the film was superbly well done. On the one hand we have a wartime bio pic of struggle and victory and on the other hand a story of the prejudices and fears of a nation which ultimately destroyed a man. I liked the cautious handling of Turing’s sexuality, his tormented childhood and the emotional toll it takes on him. We are reminded of the enormous personal sacrifices her made and this gives the film a pervading sense of poignancy. I thought it was a moving and bittersweet story of the men and women behind the WW11 victory for the Allies, with the development of their revolutionary “computer”. It is a well constructed drama and one that I can see doing well come Awards season.

Page 1 of 2027  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »