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)”

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Review: Foxcatcher (2014)

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Bennett Miller’s follow-up to Moneyball is a meticulously crafted, errie, yet ultimately laborious and obscure drama. Forever living in his brother’s shadow, former Olympic winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) enters into an intense and destructive partnership with millionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell).  Continue reading “Review: Foxcatcher (2014)”

Review: Begin Again (2014)

Begin Again

Ten year’s after soaring to success with his breathtaking low-budget directorial debut Once, writer and director John Carney returns to our screens with Begin Again, a more polished, yet no less triumphant musical drama. When left betrayed by her long-term boyfriend, Gretta (Keira Knightley) finds herself unstuck in New York City – until she meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down-on-his-luck record producer, who hones in on her raw singing talent. Continue reading “Review: Begin Again (2014)”

Review: Margaret (2011)

Written and directed by filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan (only his second directorial feature after the multi award-winning You Can Count On Me), Margaret is a rambling, overpowered modern drama that bravely taps into people’s post 9/11 fear and hostility. Delayed, re-edited and shrouded in several still unfolding lawsuits, Lonergan’s effort seemed unlikely to see the light of day. But, thankfully Margaret now makes its way to cinema screens, albeit in a limited capacity, bearing the mark of its six year journey.

When tumultuous college student Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is involved in a horrific bus accident that claims the life of a compassionate woman (Allison Continue reading “Review: Margaret (2011)”

Review: The Avengers (2012)

After laying hands on “the Tesseract” (a cube shaped source of energy capable of opening portals between worlds), Asgardian demi-God Loki (Tom Hiddleston) becomes hell bent on conquering Earth once and for all. Realising they don’t have a human army resilient enough to check his wrath, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls upon six individuals with superhuman abilities – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – in a plan codenamed the “Avengers Initiative”, to Continue reading “Review: The Avengers (2012)”

Review: The Brothers Bloom (2008)

The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Brick – is a conceitedly intricate tale of con-men, retribution and love.

The film centers on two con men brothers – Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), the mastermind, and Bloom (Adrien Brody), the so-called anti-hero – who, with the help of their associate explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), embark on one last con: tricking a rich, socially-isolated New Jersey heiress named Penelope Stamp

Johnson’s film is a subtly mischievous piece of cinema, cleverly written and whimsical, with a healthy dose of the inanity that made Brick the breakout success it was.

Each of the four leads – Brody, Ruffalo, Weisz and Kikuchi – inhabit their respective roles with a fantastically rich mania, delivering their one liners with incredible, soulful comedic timing.

It’s this, along with the light-hearted, distinguished approach to the direction that brings the warmhearted, densely written script and devilishly intrinsic tone to a exuberant life.

While it may not be as boundary-breaking as Brick, The Brothers Bloom is ultimately a joyous game between Johnson and the audience, one that takes you on an incredible journey, twist after twist, holding your attention, making you laugh throughout.

All in all, it’s a cleverly made, intelligent and high quality film that rewards your investment.

Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Lisa Cholodenko directs The Kids Are All Right, a mainstream comedy drama about modern family life.

The film centers on Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), a strained lesbian couple living in the suburbs of California, who each gave birth to one of their children using a sperm donor.

When the eldest child, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) turns eighteen, her brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) asks her to initiate contact with their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an attractive, single, laid-back restaurateur

Each of the family members respond to Paul in different ways: free-spirited Jules welcomes him with open arms; head of the family Nic grits her teeth; Joni hits it off with him straight away; while Laser almost rejects him and his self-centered attitude.

The partnership between Moore’s Jules and Benning’s Nic is pitch-perfect. Their personalities are vastly different, but appear to work well together. It’s only during the film as events reach a head that the true reality of their relationship is exposed. Both actresses handle the material beautifully, forming an understandable, and wholly believable, lesbian couple.

Ruffalo delivers one of his most under-stated, yet dignified performances, displaying a range of emotions through the body of an often immature and underdeveloped man. Paul breaks the equilibrium, forcing each character, in turn, to re-address their position within the family.

Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the children, Joni and Laser respectively, both provide clever and self-assured performances. Wasikowska in particular, in that tricky second film, shows she’s blossoming into a fine adolescent actress.

Cholodenko’s direction is superb, using the correct lighting and camera shots to add meaning and depth to each of her scenes and character profiles. Despite sometimes verging on static, she always manages to pull it back, the sign of a truly exceptional director.

The screenplay is well executed. Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg are able to find the perfect balance between humour and afflicting, allowing viewers to empathise with each character, never influencing our interpretation. Cholodenko’s personal experience with sperm donation quite clearly had an influence on the film’s narrative, but the film evidently benefits from the personal touch, managing to avoid common clichés and melodrama.

By exploring an experimental model of family, Cholodenko bravely introduces viewers to subject matter not normally addressed within Hollywood films. While this may put off some people, it’s something those willing to accept should celebrate.

A subplot focusing on Laser’s friendship with wayward skater Clay feels unnecessary, and the kids’ parts often feel slightly less integral than that of the adult trio. However, these are minor pitfalls, and never detract from the overall enjoyment or meaning of the film.

In all honesty, The Kids Are All Right a fantastic film, exuding charm, wit, love, insecurity and anguish at every appropriate corner. In essence, it’s a film about the struggles of human relationships, and shows a family’s love has the potential to overcome any obstacle. It’s certainly one of the finer films of the year.