Review: Anomalisa (2015)

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Seven years after Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman returns with a stop-motion animation that’s as distinctive as it is inventive. Michael (David Thewlis), a motivational speaker and author in Cincinatti for a conference, is distant to everyone, yearning for connection amidst a world of uniformity. He sees – and hears – everyone around him as the same person, all of them voiced by Tom Noonan. That is, however, until he meets distinctively voiced Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Continue reading “Review: Anomalisa (2015)”

Review: Spotlight (2015)

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Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s assured take on the Boston Globe’s expose of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, is a thrilling procedural that celebrates thorough reporting. Based on real events, it avoids sensationalism and instead opts for low-key concentration as a team of four reporters – played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian D’Arcy James – are tasked with investigating allegations against one priest, only to be stunned by what they discover as they dig deeper and deeper. Continue reading “Review: Spotlight (2015)”

Review: Goosebumps (2015)

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This big-screen spin turns R. L. Stine’s brand of popular kids’ horror stories into an entertaining comedy with several meta flashes. Instead of adapting one story, director Rob Letterman opts to cram as many of Stine’s creations in as possible, the narrative revolving around Stine (Jack Black) himself as new neighbour Zach (Dylan Minnette) and dim-witted sidekick Champ (Ryan Lee) break into his house and inadvertently unleash every monster he’s ever created. Continue reading “Review: Goosebumps (2015)”

Review: Room (2015)

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Anchored by a pair of rich, intricate performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, Room – self-adapted from Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel – somehow manages to be both fascinating and uplifting in the face of unrelenting bleakness. Ma (Larson) and Jack (Tremblay) live in a cramped shed, locked away from the outside world by their captor. Continue reading “Review: Room (2015)”

Review: The Revenant (2015)

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Fresh from the imaginative Birdman, which secured several award wins, director Alejandro G. Inarritu returns with a bang – more specifically a survival thriller of intense power and raw visceral beauty. Leonardo DiCaprio takes the lead as Hugh Glass, a 19th century frontiersman who’s left for dead in the harsh American wilderness after being brutally mauled by a bear. Continue reading “Review: The Revenant (2015)”

Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film The Hateful Eight is a bloody, brutal and riotous blast of a western that can’t help but run out of steam come its inevitable end. John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a notorious bounty hunter, is forced to take shelter from a blizzard in a halfway house while taking a fugitive to be tried in Red Rock. There, he engages with other stranded travels – played by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth – who may or may not be as they seem. Continue reading “Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)”

2015 In Film: Top Five

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The year is almost over. Christmas is done and dusted and the bells are about to ring on a brand new year. It only feels right, then, to take a look back over the last twelve months, specifically in relation to cinema. It’s been a bumper year, with everything from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Birdman hitting the screen, so much so that there’s still no Academy Award frontrunner.

So, to provide you with an idea of what I’ve liked best from this year’s offerings, here’s a list of my top five (narrowed down from twenty, and then from ten). Bear in mind that these are my choices and my choices alone. If yours differ in any way, then better for it, as it builds more of a case for what a stand-out year it’s been.

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1. Carol came late in the year, November to be precise. I’d heard from various screenings elsewhere that it was something special, but I didn’t quite believe the hype until I saw it for myself. It’s beautiful, anchored by two outstanding performances by co-leads Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The story may be simple, but the emotion, power and passion in the way it’s told ensure it leaves a big impression.

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2. 45 Years is a film that I was lucky enough to see at the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in June. I’d missed the two public screenings, but thankfully managed to catch it on the final day of the festival. I wasn’t disappointed. Andrew Haigh, who made a mark with Weekend a few years back, delivers yet another powerhouse slice of British cinema.

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3. Sci-fi isn’t normally my thing, so it was a shock to me that I was so captivated by Ex Machina. Part of that had to do with the fact that the sci-fi played second fiddle to a dark, psychological and thrilling chamber piece between three characters, played superbly by the trio of Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and – with extra emphasis – Alicia Vikander.

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4. Tangerine is a mini marvel, and not just because it was shot with no money on a series of modified iPhone’s. The film is alive from the very start, brimming with such fizz and spark that any limitations are quickly forgotten about. In fact, it’s so light on its feet that it doesn’t dawn on you how insightful and eye-opening a film it really is.

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5. Pixar took a few years off after the release of Monsters University, only to come back all guns blazing with Inside Out, one of their sharpest and most adult efforts yet. Set inside the mind of an 11 year old during a difficult transitionary period, this animated gem scores big laughs, while broadcasting some pretty substantial life messages at the same time.

If you’re interested, then other films I loved this year include: Whiplash, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, The Tribe, Mommy, Sicario, Love & Mercy and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Review: Carol (2015)

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Carol, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian romance The Price Of Salt, is in terms of its performances and sublime execution, one of the most beautiful films of the year. Therese (Rooney Mara), a smart shop clerk with aspirations, falls for an alluring woman (Cate Blanchett) whose marriage is in demise. Continue reading “Review: Carol (2015)”

Review: Bridge Of Spies (2015)

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Bridge Of Spies reunites frequent collaborators Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for a powerful but measured Cold War thriller inspired by true events. Insurance lawyer Jim Donovan (Hanks) is recruited to defend Soviet infiltrator Rufold Abel (Mark Rylance, brilliant) in court, with twists unraveling along the way as Jim finds himself dragged into far more serious matters, all of which are expertly employed by screenwriter Matt Charman. Continue reading “Review: Bridge Of Spies (2015)”

Review: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

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The Good Dinosaur is the second Pixar film this year – a warm-hearted, if unmistakably flat adventure that imagines a world in which the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs missed Earth completely. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is the focus, a small and timid Apatosaurus whose fear always holds him back. He’s forced to challenge himself, however, when a series of unfortunate events sees him washed up way down river, with only a wild cave boy – whom he names Spot – for help in returning home. Continue reading “Review: The Good Dinosaur (2015)”