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|91 reviews in total|
Although previous movies haven't set the bar very high, 'Mr Turner' is
probably the most revealing, interesting and authentic biopic about the
life, character and methods of an artist. JMW Turner is arguably
Britain's greatest landscape painter, who was born and raised as the
working class son of a London barber. His early work was relatively
conventional as he mimicked the styles of some illustrious predecessors
- but during the latter part of his life, financially secure and with
his reputation established, he embarked on a series of ambitious
revolutionary paintings that anticipated the techniques of artists who
arrived on the scene several decades later.
Director Mike Leigh makes no attempt to string together a coherent biographical account as he observes Turner's unorthodox domestic arrangements, and his interactions with aristocratic patrons, industrial entrepreneurs, proletarian mistresses, fellow artists and critics. The narrative follows Turner's peripatetic workaholic existence from stately home to brothel, then back to his studio and on to the cheap lodging houses which skirted the wild landscapes that he loved to paint. The painter's coarse manners and social awkwardness are probably exaggerated for dramatic effect in this portrayal, but that's a minor gripe. At the center of the film is Timothy Spall's wonderful portrayal of this eccentric virtuoso - and nobody with an interest in the visual arts should miss it.
Once upon a time Ridley Scott was an innovative director of
ground-breaking projects, but those days are long gone. There's nothing
new or remarkable about 'The Counselor', which chronicles the
tribulations of a lawyer who goes into business with a bloodthirsty
Mexican drug cartel in the US Southwest. The film has an star-studded
cast and a screenwriter with a big reputation as a novelist, but the
end result doesn't add up to anything better than a routine suspense
thriller masquerading as a cautionary tale.
As far as plot is concerned, the corrupt attorney soon gets out of his depth amongst the criminal lowlifes, wicked women and a couple of cheetahs, but there's little reason to care about the fate of these worthless people. Whatever sympathy one might have considered wasting on such generic characters soon disappears when they start making pompous speeches to one another in between the obligatory shoot-outs, betrayals, kidnappings and assassinations. Scott tries to glamorize this environment with couture clothing, expensive cars, strange sex fetishes and gruesome deaths by decapitation, but 'Breaking Bad' did it all far better for a fraction of the budget.
'Manhattan Romance' begins with film-maker Danny embarking on a
documentary about relationships, which requires him to interview
various acquaintances and strangers about their love lives. One of them
is a manipulative neo-hippie tease called Theresa, who allows him to
give her topless massages while she talks about her open relationship
life-style. Her flirting has Danny anticipating detours into amorous
territory, but she persistently puts him off with vague excuses. In
between these frustrating encounters, he visits his friend Carla to
film her discussing her lesbian romance. When he complains to her about
his unrequited desires for Theresa, Carla offers only amused eye-rolls
and muted sympathy in response.
The film is Tom O'Brien's second feature as writer/producer/director/actor, and his direction and writing gives the excellent cast space and material to create intriguing characters. The story takes some interesting twists and turns as Danny zigzags between his real life connections and his project. The boundary between these two zones becomes blurred, leaving Danny increasingly confused about the true nature of his own relationships, until the narrative eventually unfolds to a satisfying conclusion. When all is said and done, 'Manhattan Romance' delivers some sophisticated entertainment that is both playful and poignant.
'Inception' had some problems, but its concept stretched the
imagination. Christopher Nolan's new film delivers exactly what a
pessimist would expect if a puffed-up Batman director thought he could
eclipse Kubrick's '2001' with a puerile adventure story. 'Interstellar'
begins badly and goes steadily downhill as its long-winded prologue
introduces the stereotypical elements of a Steven Spielberg/Norman
Rockwell Sci-Fi co-production - a dying Earth, a widowed ex-astronaut
farmer, his chiseled jaw, a feisty daughter, a crusty grandpa,
paranormal activity, dust storms, baseball, cornfields - and lots of
After about an hour - which seems like two - a valiant crew lifts off in search of a planet to save humanity. Once they've journeyed through an intergalactic wormhole, the implausibility dimension expands to cosmic heights of absurdity. Scientific hocus-pocus is stirred into the sentimental sludge as gigantic tsunamis, deranged astronauts, spaceship chases, time travel tomfoolery and black hole baloney eventually lead to a schmaltzy Hallmark-level climax. The visual effects are above average, but far short of awesome. When all is said and done, the film's ludicrous self-importance and mawkishness leave one rooting for humanity's extinction.
'Fort Tilden' is the tale of a ten-mile road trip by a couple of
tiresome Brooklyn trust fund brats, Harper and Allie, who head for the
beach to hook up with a pair of charmless dudes. These two spoiled
simpletons can only dream of becoming Indie-land's new 'Thelma and
Louise', since their adventures are no more than mundane exchanges and
minor fiascoes involving various acquaintances and strangers.
This airhead odyssey is a plodding marathon by bicycle, cab and foot - and although it's clearly intended to be a comedy, the film is short on laughs, wit or interest. The actresses struggle gamely with the pedestrian material, but their characters' constant whiny griping and feckless behavior leaves one hoping a truck will squash them into roadkill long before they arrive at their dismal double date on a gray, windswept seashore.
After director Jason Reitman almost drowned in 'Labor Day's' syrupy
conclusion, the opening minutes of his new film suggest he might have
got his feet back on solid ground and his hands on some gritty
material. 'Men, Women and Children' kicks off portraying how social
media affects American suburban communities, but its collection of
characters have too many narrative arcs, and the script just skates
over their dilemmas. Almost all of the issues are connected to sex and
the internet - such as: teenage romance, extra-marital hook-ups,
divorcée dating, obsessive masturbation, porn-induced impotence,
hyper-controlling parents, anorexia, video game addiction, child
exploitation and high school cyber-bullying.
The fine cast turns in sound performances, but they're little more than cardboard cut-outs enmeshed in soap opera melodramas, and their stories don't make a deep impression. Reitman attempts to give this middle-class stew some extra weight with irrelevant footage of a 1970's space probe departing the solar system accompanied by a pompous voice-over, but the device fails to give the film any gravity. The plot-lines with the 'decent' people are conventionally tied up with pink ribbon at the end, while the masturbators, fornicators and sexually-repressed snoops are left dangling in the void. 'Men, Women and Children' shows Reitman is still stuck in the treacly traditions of commercial cinema - with a cynical eye coldly calculating sweet box-office returns.
A 40-something couple from Seattle arrives in New York to interview a
flamboyant aging bi-sexual ballet teacher about his long career for a
dissertation on classical dance. As the questions probe deeper, they
begin to focus upon the man's relationship with a female fellow dancer,
with whom he had enjoyed a brief affair many years previously. Before
too long it becomes obvious this romance is the focus of the
interviewers' interest, and their inquiries soon take a detour into
Each of the three characters attracts both sympathy and antipathy at various times, with the dialog crackling with wit, pathos and hostility as the story changes direction, tone and pace like a switchback ride. The narrative travels through several different zones of the emotional spectrum until it eventually arrives at a sophisticated and satisfying conclusion. The three actors turn in excellent performances, and 'Match' provides gripping entertainment along with some thought-provoking insights about making art. Hopefully it will do well, and encourage producers to make more films of similar intelligence.
Joe Swanberg's latest project is set in motion when a young woman
breaks up with her boyfriend, and moves in with her brother, his wife
and their toddler son. On Jenny's first night under Jeff and Kelly's
roof, her irresponsible tendencies are revealed when she goes to a
party and gets seriously wasted, requiring her brother to be roused
from his bed to drive her home. Contrite over this bad beginning, she
provides some useful support to her sister-in-law, helping her balance
her creative impulses with the duties of motherhood. Unfortunately
Jenny's dysfunctional behavior also persists, causing friction within
the household which leads to some minor confrontations and upheavals.
Nobody familiar with Swanberg's previous work will anticipate a refined, slick product, but 'Happy Christmas' extends his move away from the ultra-basic conventions of the 'mumblecore' school and broadens his storytelling sophistication. The film's events are depicted with subtle humor and poignancy as the film focuses primarily on Jenny, and her relationship with Kelly. Everybody else also turns in nice performances, while Anna Kendrick credibly portrays the feckless Jenny as charming, vulnerable, manipulative and irritating, and her nuanced character study is echoed by the story's understated resolution.
'Boyhood' is another of Richard Linklater's ambitious projects with
several similarities to the innovative 'Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight'
series. Shot over twelve years, it portrays the journey through boyhood
and adolescence of a young fellow called Mason, who is the son of a
divorced couple and brother to an older sister. The film charts the
changing nature of his relationships with his mother, father, sister
and two stepfathers as he goes through a number of house moves,
separations, lost friendships, broken high school romances and the
birth of a creative impulse.
The acting, screen-writing and direction are so close to flawless that any shortcomings are imperceptible, with Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater portraying the four principal characters as the years roll by. Mason's story is revealed through commonplace family interactions, sibling squabbles, school activities and camping expeditions, but the result is intensely riveting because the characters are authentic and well developed. Although many of the events seem random, Mason's odyssey through 'Boyhood' is a coherent mythic narrative. Clues to the constant presence of metaphor are provided by clumsy gifts of a shotgun and bible as Mason passes through one of life's portals - an impression confirmed by the parallels between the opening and closing scenes. Linklater refrains from the temptation to insert extreme melodramatic incidents into Mason's life, but this remarkable film somehow leaves the imprint of a grand sweeping epic.
There are numerous Sci-Fi films jostling at the front of the pack for
the "Worst Ever' accolade, and 'Event Horizon' should certainly be
counted amongst them. After an experimental faster-than-light spaceship
goes missing on its maiden flight, it mysteriously reappears seven
years later orbiting Neptune - and another vessel is dispatched to
investigate. Although the film has upscale production values,
penny-pinching in the screen writing budget becomes obvious as soon as
the characters open their mouths. The astronauts are squabbling like
juveniles even before they arrive at the derelict hulk, and their
discipline and rationality go into terminal decline after they start
exploring its Industrial-Gothic interior.
The hack screenplay and direction lead to the film's degeneration into a crude gore-and-horror fest, with the crew screaming at one another like lunatics in an insane asylum. The soundtrack adds to the hysteria in an desperate attempt to paper over the deficiencies of the material. None of the tedious nastiness makes any sense, and the eventual explanation for the cursed vessel would be laughed out of a script conference for an early Star Trek TV episode. After '2001' and 'Alien' had shown the possibilities for modern Sci-Fi, 'Event Horizon' is just another major embarrassment which gives the entire genre a bad name.
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