Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Everything a Nicholas Sparks Movie Wishes It Was
Often movies have a magical quality as you're viewing them. Some will demand your undivided attention, others will hypnotize your senses, leaving them to simply wash over you with their exuberance and classic filmmaking procedures. In the case of John Crowley's "Brooklyn," the latter is certainly the case. There comes a moment in the film when you are taken in by the film's classic style filmmaking, and tenderly thought-provoking performances from its cast. Director Crowley, in partnership with Oscar-nominated scribe Nick Hornby, create a beautiful and sensitive love story that is everything a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation wishes it could be. With a vibrant turn from Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan at the helm, "Brooklyn" utilizes all of its tools in its arsenal to convey a potent message of love and family.
"Brooklyn" tells the story of Ellis Lacey (Ronan), who in 1950s Ireland and New York, has to choose between two men and two countries. One is the charismatic Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen) while the other is the reserved yet sensitive Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). Both are making a case for Ellis' love.
The film is helmed with a strong and undeniable confidence from Saoirse Ronan. Feeling the internal battle just pouring out of her in nearly every sense and every scene, Ronan finds Ellis' struggle and wears it on her sleeve. She doesn't just have fear of choice, she goes through a barrage of emotions, and we actively see the character progress in each milestone that she hits throughout. It begins with the yearning and devastating separation from her family in Ireland, before gradually being brought to a yearn for acceptance in a new city. Her mild but rewarding progression into comfort and confidence is shown before being abruptly ripped away when tragedy strikes. Every instance is felt in Ronan's work, all of which is authentically true and vivaciously real. It's one of her best turns, and further proof that her name will be on our lips for quite some years.
After breaking out with a scene-stealing turn in Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines," Emory Cohen shows his sensitive and charming side of his range, resulting in an equally measured and tantalizing performance to his co-star. Don't sleep on this kid. Domhnall Gleeson's reservations to Jim Farrell is haunting in a role that doesn't call for many words or emotions. You can see the ache and pain in his movements, desperate for love and an overwhelming feeling of being lost. In a few scenes, Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe sustains as a surprisingly comic relief in a very serious drama. Her stoic, passive demeanor is such a treat to watch in her scenes of interaction with the girls of the boarding house in which Ellis is staying.
Screenwriter Nick Hornby constructs the story with real life emotion, taking very few short cuts for its characters. He allows Ellis' feelings to make the journey in each instance in which she faces them. The foundation of Tony and Ellis is honest, and rings true as something we'd see in any instance within our own lives. Where he really shines in the connection between Ellis and her family. Thousands of miles away, and with little interaction on screen, you are heartbroken and pulled through the ringer as Ronan exemplifies the loss of her family and determination to see them once again. If there is a chink in Hornby's armor, it's the case he creates for the audience for Ellis to stay in Ireland. Up until the second half of the film, Hornby makes his case for New York, I'd only wish he made a more compelling case for Ireland, giving the audience a more fruitful and difficult dilemma in making their own decision about where Ellis should be.
One must acknowledge how impeccably constructed the film is from head to toe. Crowley assembles a dynamite team behind the camera, who all standout in their own right. Cinematographer Yves Bélanger, with a yellow hue and soft palate, capture the country and the city to stunning results. He frames each scene intimately, capturing the heart and emotion of every word spoken. Production Designer François Séguin and Set Decorator Suzanne Cloutier capture the 50's homes as if plucked from the time period themselves, along with transporting us to a foreign land we can only dream to visit. Odile Dicks- Mireaux's magnetic costume work elevates each performance, allowing the actors to fully engage with their characters and the time. And finally, the music of Michael Brook is a breathtaking swell of emotion, creating moments that will surely bring you to tears.
"Brooklyn" is a damn fine movie, following all the classic beats that we've grown to love about the most timeless love stories. "Brooklyn" will join the ranks of those timeless stories in the coming years. It's a joyful and heart aching film that stands as one of the year's best, and a sure-fire contender for several Academy Awards.
Read more @ (http://www.awardscircuit.com)
Saul fia (2015)
The Gifts of László Nemes and Géza Röhrig
We simply don't deserve László Nemes, the first-time writer/director of Hungary's submission for the Oscar's Foreign Language category, "Son of Saul." Nemes vacuums everything we think we know about filmmaking and the Holocaust, and gives it a raw, intense, and fresh outlook that we haven't seen since Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," perhaps even Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List." Not to mention, he is thoroughly aided and indebted to the stunning and remarkable talent of Géza Röhrig, in his feature debut. The two simply dance circles around other films and performances seen in this year, with an authentic and genuine approach to art, that we just don't get to experience too often. I'm in awe.
"Son of Saul" tells the story of Saul Ausländer, a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners isolated from the camp and forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large- scale extermination. In October 1944, Saul discovers the corpse of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkomando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task.
Its direction like Nemes that should make the world very optimistic about the future of cinema. If we have filmmakers like him, getting in the trenches of history and the human spirit, and beckoning its awakening into our souls, we should be so lucky to have him display the beauty and evil of the world in such a provocative and engaging manner. His choices in which to shoot the film, and portray one of the most heinous acts in the history of our existence is just downright scintillating. "Son of Saul" plays as if we're watching a disturbing, noxious, and depraved home movie about a time in which we never want to see. From a near first-person perspective, we enter the revolting world of Auschwitz-Birkenau. He uses out of focus camera work, to not bath in the bloodshed, but wallow in the psyche of a man, that is desperate for purpose. It's the single best direction of the year. I'd go so far to say this could be the single best direction seen this decade. His script, along with co- writer Clara Royer, is so painstakingly simple but echoes decades of oppression in its short, respectful run time.
Don't call him a "poet by profession" because newcomer Géza Röhrig doesn't believe in the word profession. There's only artists. Géza Röhrig is an artist, of which I haven't seen in some time. With little words, he says countless and devastating things about what he's feeling and what we know about ourselves. He doesn't use cheap tricks to engage the audiences like "really intense face" or "really scared moving." Röhrig displays the numb, almost disengaged weight of the world in every physical and vocal movement he chooses to exhibit. It's a flawless, masterful performance that we need more of in this cinematic world.
Cinematographer Mátyás Erdély is your next great craftsman to watch, even though making his mark on films like "The Quiet Ones" and "Miss Bala." He frames close-ups that Danny Cohen himself, would hope to achieve in his next collaboration with Tom Hooper. He stays with a person, a scene, a moment, so intelligently, and so vibrantly, he places each one of us in the rooms, full of fear, and full of hopelessness. The subtle yet effective music by László Melis is sonorous but the Sound team is what really needs their praise. Tamás Dévényi (Production Soundmixer), Tamás Székely (Sound Editor), and Tamás Zányi (Sound Designer) create monstrous and dynamic effects that essentially become its own focal point of the story. We are listening intently, desperately, and just fearful at every nick, boom, and cry we come in contact with. It's something everyone should and will notice and applaud.
"Son of Saul" sneaks up on you. It's too important and critical to our cinematic landscape to overlooked or forgotten. I can't imagine a more dour and sullen experience this year that fills my heart with this much adoration. It stands toe-to-toe with most Holocaust films created in and before my lifetime. It may be the definitive one this millennium.
Steve Jobs (2015)
'Jobs' Proves Fassbender and Winslet's Worth
There are dozens of things to truly admire about Danny Boyle's new film "Steve Jobs," from its ambition to tell a compelling story about a famous man and the structure in which it decides to tell it. The initial casting of Academy Award nominee Michael Fassbender was criticized initially because some felt he was "too good looking" to interpret a man, who was essentially a computer nerd. By the film's third sequence, Fassbender fully melts into the role and delivers one of his most visceral and intriguing performances to date. What's equally measured to his work is the talent and ferocity of Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, who falls into a sympathetic, determined woman, whose conscious is complicit in witnessing vile behavior. Aaron Sorkin's script is a multitude of words and one- liners, and is just plain smart in its dialogue exchanges between its characters. And finally, Boyle himself has never been more reserved in his direction, letting the words flow through the screen like a tractor trailer through a corn field. He sits on the sidelines, only letting instances of his vivacious direction show its head, which may or may not be a plus for Boyle enthusiasts. With all this said, it sounds like just a romp at the movies. Then why am I left underwhelmed by the final product?
We have to begin with the story's narrative structure. Choosing three set pieces in 1984, 1988, and 1998 to show the progression of the film's characters was genius. We see a growth and progression to not just Steve Jobs, but the surrounding players in which are a part of his life. The film is jam-packed with wall-to-wall dialogue, something that is truly impressive to watch unfold in the moment, but hard to take in as key information and thoughts are being displayed. I needed some more beats, to take in, and disengage from the moment, to properly move on to the next. Its a movie that clearly needs two or three viewings to get everything from it. This may be its ultimate downfall. "Steve Jobs" demands so much of its viewer. Our attention, dedication, and fearless endowment to the characters and the moment. I'm not entirely certain that general audiences can do that for 122 minutes. It becomes a double-edged sword. Is it okay that a movie such as this exists that will require us to give repeated participation to fully understand everything it has to say and reveal or does a film only deserve one shot to say everything it wants to say? I'm not sure I have a clear answer to that but I feel comfortable that general audiences members probably feel more towards the latter. Sorkin's work is compelling, with vibrantly preyed upon dialogue that simply sings through the theater. Its surely one of his most ambitious efforts of his career, and likely something that will forward his progression as a screenwriter, even in his later years.
From a performance standpoint, the film stands near the top of ensembles and individualized works seen in 2015. Fassbender approaches Jobs with a familiarity, like he knows the man. He finds sarcasm to be a second language, and repugnancy to be a way of life. Boyle and Sorkin do very little to have Jobs redeem himself, as he continues to pile on immorality with repulsive, revolting behavior that may make you think twice before talking to "Siri" ever again. I can't recall a Lead Actor candidate this unlikable in quite some time. It's a tour-de-force to behold, and one that will surely place near the top of Oscar ballots, but I'd be lying if I say I was looking forward to spending time with the character "Steve Jobs" again.
What Fassbender benefits immensely from, is a squad of supporting players, each making their individual mark. Winslet firmly plants her feet next to "Jobs," declaring herself as one of the finest actresses we have working today. Jeff Daniels as John Sculley is easily the most comfortable with the script's barrage of words. Daniels handles it with a defined purpose, delivering his best portrayal since "The Squid and the Whale." To a pleasant surprise, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak is tenderly inserted, and holding back all his normal tics and signature mannerisms that have made him a star. It's a welcomed entry into serious and challenging roles in the actor's future. Staggeringly underused but equally effective as each of her castmates is Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs' high-school girlfriend and "possible mother" to his daughter, played by three talented child actresses, Makenzie Moss, Perla Haney-Jardine, and Ripley Sobo. The dynamic and vigorous Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld is a sensation to watch, and will go down as one of the key players by a select group of movie-goers. Let's just call this a SAG Ensemble lock, shall we?
Boyle's market for his bombastic colors and dance sequences are sure to miss them because they are non-existent. It's great to see him taking a different approach to his storytelling, though letting running text play a role should feel familiar for many. What I found dizzying was the camera work by Alwin H. Küchler, who in the spirit of "Birdman," has the audience constantly moving along with its constant walking characters. At one point, you want to just beg them to sit down and chill out for a second. Hats off to Elliot Graham's editing, who cuts to a commanding pace, even if more pauses would have been appreciated. What shines above all the technical merits is the score by Daniel Pemberton, orchestrating a symphony of music that swells in at the finest moments, and breathes new life into the work of composers everywhere. It was a truly remarkable piece of music that just flies off the screen.
"Steve Jobs" may require more from us than we're willing to give...Read the rest at http://www.awardscircuit.com
Bridge of Spies (2015)
Just Solid, Classic Spielberg
One of the most prolific directors in the history of cinema, Steven Spielberg, returns to the silver screen with his new period thriller "Bridge of Spies" starring two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. It features competent and solid filmmaking from its director, writers, and crafts team however, the film doesn't quite ignite passion and excitement from its standard storytelling. What really manages to standout is the impeccable and sensational performance of Emmy Award nominee Mark Rylance, who steals and owns every scene he's present.
The film tells the story of James Donovan (Hanks), an American lawyer that is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot (Austin Stowell) detained in the Soviet Union. It all begins with the discovery of a probable spy on our own soil Rudolf Abel (Rylance), who tests Donovan's profession and safety net.
Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg brings many of his signature techniques to the spy tale. Tugging at the emotional heartstrings is an Olympic event at this juncture in his career, although not exactly hitting the mark the way it was intended. He frames his scenes with the same familiar authority that we've grown to love about Spielberg, and it definitely exceeds some of his lesser works like "War Horse" and "The Terminal." What the film truly lacks is a daring approach to its source material. Unfamiliar with the story and real life individuals, Spielberg, and the writers, Joel & Ethan Coen and Matt Charman, don't enter the grit and horror of two countries at a feud, literally on the brink of a real devastating war.
Tom Hanks brings his natural charisma and wit that we've loved about him for decades. His James Donovan is caring, engaging, and reminiscent of Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." His devotion to his family and the human condition is truly admirable, all clear and on display thanks to Hanks. As Rudolf Abel, Mark Rylance is just a joy to behold, filling in the gaps of the film's shortcomings with charm and seasoned acting ability. It's a brilliant turn by a brilliant actor. It's one of the year's best supporting turns and a contender for the Oscar statue.
As James' wife Mary, Amy Ryan is relegated to just a few scenes but great nonetheless. Also brief are the works of Billy Magnussen and Alan Alda, who have good, solid one scenes to chew on.
Technically the film does present qualms. Janusz Kaminski's camera work is distracting in parts, shining bright lights through windows, and keeping a one note camera style all throughout its 135 minute run time. Thomas Newman's score isn't put to its best use, as it swells in inopportune moments, even managing to overwhelm a key and fantastic scene by Rylance. Michael Kahn cuts the film to a bloated expansive run time but manages to keep you involved enough to make it through. The film really shines in its Production Design by Adam Stockhausen and its Costume work by Kasia Walicka-Maimone.
"Bridge of Spies" may find lovers in mass audiences. What it does well is ignite a curiosity and power to look at the history of its subject. Spielberg succeeds at introducing the world to James Donovan and what else he contributed to society, along with the supporting players at hand. We do wish that a better, more dynamic treatment had hit the screens. From an awards standpoint, it's going to appeal to a great deal. Perhaps a second viewing will open up more possibilities.
'Carol' Puts Blanchett and Paulson at the Top of their Game!
The seduction and hypnosis of a Todd Haynes film is hard to deny. His attention to detail in such films like "Far from Heaven" and "I'm Not There" are simply superb, and one cannot overlook the vision he engulfs upon as he directs each one of them. In his newest venture, "Carol," which is based on the book "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith, the luxurious command in which he approaches the material is confident and pristinely evident once again. He pulls out some outstanding performances, especially from Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson, and crafts another multi-layered deconstruction on love during a time where it was simply one note to modern society. With all that said, there's a barrier between the film's central characters and its audience, resulting in a good, not great cinematic endeavor.
"Carol" tells the story of Therese (pronounced TER-REZ and played by Rooney Mara), a department store clerk who dreams of a better life outside the normalcy of work and her persistent beau Richard (played by Jake Lacy). Set in 1950s New York, she falls for an older, married woman names Carol (played by Blanchett), and the two embark on a journey of forbidden love.
"Carol" is as lusciously made as you come to expect from any Haynes film. Sexy, sultry, and vibrantly crafted, Haynes pours his heart and soul into each frame he directs with generous and respectful admiration. He transports us to a time we can only see in our dreams, with stunning cloths of the 1950's, thanks to outstanding Sandy Powell, and gorgeous set design, thanks to Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler.
The script by Phyllis Nagy, whose only credit is the TV Movie "Mrs. Harris," which she also directed and was nominated for an Emmy, is profound in parts. It's natural to go back to something like "Brokeback Mountain" for comparison, a story that succeeded so much on the subtle and quietly spoken thoughts of its characters. We see their love present in a secret kiss on the side of an apartment, or on a quiet standing by a camp fire as Ennis goes to take care of the caddle for the night. These are factors that add to up a forbidden love.
In "Carol," there's a missing variable in Carol and Therese's relationship. They meet, flirt awkwardly, and then suddenly are together in a strange circumstance. Now, one can argue that love knows no boundaries of time nor space. Perhaps you would be correct in that, but the main difference between Ennis and Jack versus Carol and Therese, is that the love in the former felt just as high-stakes at what they threatened to lose. Ennis loses his family, wanders the Earth essentially, still unsure of his own place, even without theoretically any more obstacles. Yet, Jack visits him upon the news of his impending divorce, and with still a real fear of exile and being true to himself, Ennis sends him away. Jack is heartbroken by this behavior, that translates well into one of the most iconic lines, "I wish I knew how to quit you."
Carol feels like Ennis in this regard, destined to live alone despite embracing her own sensibilities and self. However , in Therese's young, unconfident mind, she doesn't equal or amount to the yin, of Carol's yang. Her exploration comes off like curiosity rather than love. Perhaps that's the intent, and if it is, then I applaud it, but when the film reaches its conclusion, nothing supports that claim. I find little reason to root for these two to be together. "Blue is the Warmest Color," even with intense and ill-fitting explicit scenes, manages to show the passion between the two main characters. I think that's the key word that's missing from the film: passion.
With those hurdles, some of the performances surpass any and all expectations. With a stellar year in hand with James Vanderbilt's "Truth" already loved by so many, Cate Blanchett delivers an even more breathtaking portrayal in Haynes' film. Blanchett captures the lioness quality of Carol, steaming forward with blinders on as she finds herself entranced by Therese's innocence. Her slow, sultry hand moving across her lover's shoulder is a vibrant action that speaks impeccable volumes. I thought it was one of her best performances ever.
Rooney Mara's sensitive yet disengaged nature from her surroundings is particularly moving as she walks through the film. Her quiet breakdowns are felt in the moment but have no lasting effect for the rest of the story. With such strong Supporting Actress buzz for the performance, I'm a little baffled by its unanimous love fest. Especially when standing next to the great Sarah Paulson, whose role and performance will hawk back to Patricia Clarkson in "Far from Heaven" but with such depth and assurance. Not exactly developed to its full potential, but as Abby, Carol's best friend and former flame, Paulson engages it all with a vigorous and palpable energy. As Carol's husband Harge, Kyle Chandler's desperation and urgency is lively and vivid, but with not enough substance and time to really make an impact.
"Carol" is fruitful in the cinematic capacity of its structure but it leaves some things to be desired. For a Haynes enthusiast, they'll likely run the gauntlet on its construction and performances, eating every morsel of it up with a spoon. For others, the appreciation will surely be clear, but there may be some that are left out in the cold.
The Lobster (2015)
A beautiful dream with Colin Farrell's best screen role ever...
Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)
It took some time to let Yorgos Lanthimos' new film "The Lobster" settle into my mind. On the surface is a dark comedy, full of rich images, and staggering performances from its principal cast. Deeper lays one of the most original and heart wrenching stories on modern relationships, likely the best seen in film since Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
"The Lobster" tells the story of a dystopian near future, where single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty- five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. At the center is David (played by Colin Farrell), who enters the Hotel with his brother, who's been turned into a dog, and begins a domino effect that will make him both an outcast and a fugitive.
Beginning with a hilarious and smart script by Lanthimos and co- writer Efthymis Filippou, "The Lobster" gets some of the year's biggest laughs. The two create a symphony of truth about our society's perception of relationships and love. When David first enters the hotel, you can see the initial despair and fight against the system. He believes in the idea of love but isn't particularly fond of being under its spell once again. Its simply life and death but when the story makes him an outcast, where love is forbidden, you see his hopeless romantic self become drawn to his "Short Sighted Woman." (played by Rachel Weisz) The evolution of David's outlook on his current situation is authentic and real, as he shows the center of his heartache in only intermittent spurts. You can thank all that to the powerhouse performance by Colin Farrell, who delivers his best and most audacious film role to date.
"The Lobster" isn't just about its script and lead performer. It also assembles one of the year's best cast ensembles. Rachel Weisz is a sensation, giving her best work since her Oscar-winning role in "The Constant Gardener." As the "Lisping Man," its refreshing to see John C. Reilly dig deep into a role like this, one of which we haven't seen from him in nearly a decade. As the "Limping Man," Ben Whishaw continues to build an arsenal of titanic-like performances, all of which solidifies him as one of the best kept secrets working today. More roles for him please. As the "Loner Leader," Léa Seydoux's villainous and vile demeanor is a fantastical addition, adding a needed depth and danger to the film and role. Olivia Colman's Hotel Manager is a bonus treat, as she effortlessly brings chuckles and fear to her mystery woman.
Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis finds his stride and vision early on, capturing an aesthetic that is both stylized and advantageous. The visual contrast is dazzling and particularly noteworthy but what's lurking between each and every frame is especially dynamic and robust. One of the year's very best. Upon first viewing, Yorgos Mavropsaridis' editing work can seem bloated but over 24 hours later, it's a taut and vivaciously engaging piece, cut with a resemblance of Jeff Buchanan and Eric Zumbrunnen's snubbed work on Spike Jonze's "Her." The score is insanely haunting and very appropriate for its dark natured comic look at life.
It took some time to digest but "The Lobster" feels full of life and is a soulful opus on love. Quirky and clever, its black comic tones shouldn't distract from its core narrative and mission; to engage the parimeters and infatuation of devotion. Just a dream.
The Walk (2015)
'The Walk' is Half Visual Spectacle and Half Dreadful
Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com)
Robert Zemeckis has created some of the best films of the last 30 years. "Forrest Gump" is one of cinema's finest masterpieces, "Back to the Future" revolutionized the time travel genre, and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" is a beautiful merge of animation and the real world. With his newest effort "The Walk," Zemeckis creates an apparent respect and adoration of New York City and the twin towers that haven't really been seen in film post-9/11 however, his narrative tones and setup are both uninspired and dull, all leading up to a grand finale that makes the film simply watchable. Helmed by a very determined Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the visual spectacle creates a real sense of height and wonder, portraying breathtaking effects. Though its only half passable, the film feels like an appropriate and perfect opener for the New York Film Festival.
"The Walk" tells the story of high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who in 1974, recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.
Written by Christopher Browne and Robert Zemeckis, "The Walk" is narrated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, on top of the torch of the Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center towers in the background. He addresses the audience with every thought, which is heavily relied upon from the film's writing team. From the opening of Levitt's monologue, the entire set up looks like the beginning of a "Saturday Night Live" episode where Levitt himself, was hosting. Giggles were sprinkled among the audience as the first minutes passed but eventually Gordon- Levitt settles into his role. His accent was impressive, speaking fluent French, and to the untrained ear, he nails his lines. From an emotional perspective, Levitt leaves much to be desired. In his defense, the script does him no favors. Browne and Zemeckis inflects a wit and charm into Philippe that can come off annoying and unlikable.
Co-star Charlotte Le Bon, who plays Annie, Philippe's girlfriend, is a sensitive addition, trying her very best to elevate the one- dimensional character that she's given. James Badge Dale is best- in-show, giving personality and spunk to a vastly underwritten role. Ben Kingsley is added as veteran acting wallpaper, just to show experience and dignity in a role that can be done in his sleep.
IMAX 3D is put to fantastic use. The final hour is a sequence that stands as one of the year's best. To watch Petit set up for the death-defying stunt was totally engaging, and seeing him take his first steps on the wire was a fantastic spectacle. The natural thoughts go to the Oscar-winning "Man on Wire," but what Zemeckis focuses on is his time on the wire, walking back and forth, making daring moves, and utilizing 3D imagery to inflict real fear and anxiety into the audience. From a directorial standpoint, Zemeckis attempts to make his "Hugo," using 3D as something to progress and tell the story impeccably, placing the audience right there on the wire.
"The Walk" is an ambitious and respectable misstep. The Visual Effects are well worth the price of a ticket in an IMAX theater, and with the final sequence as long as it is, you should definitely seek it out.
There's 'Truth' in Blanchett and Redford, But Not Much Else
James Vanderbilt's feature debut "Truth" assembles the likes of two- time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, alongside Oscar-winner Robert Redford, in a story about how Mary Mapes and Dan Rather lost their careers following a "60 Minutes" story about George W. Bush's military records. While professionally and passionately executed with the performances of its cast, Vanderbilt's film doesn't quite have a strong enough handle on the material or the story he's trying to tell. What is left by the credits, is a duo of stellar turns, alongside often forced and unnatural dialogue. If anything, it'll be the work of those two veterans that will pull you through successfully but most importantly, it does spark a needed interest on the state of modern journalism. Vanderbilt should be applauded for that at minimum.
"Truth" begins with Mary Mapes (Blanchett) producing a "60 Minutes" special, in which host Dan Rather (Redford) presented documents of George W. Bush's military records, showing that he went AWOL during his time in the military and received special treatment. After the episode airing, bloggers and experts make accusations that the records are indeed fake. As Mapes and her team try anxiously to retrace their steps, inaccuracies and possible corruption is brought to light.
Putting politics aside, I've never read Mary Mapes' "Truth and Duty," the memoir on which the film is based upon. Going by what the film shows, Mapes' account of the aftermath following the "60 Minutes" special becomes a dog chasing its tail. Unsure if they were trying to portray an incompetent producer/journalist, or a misguided woman, led astray by false information. Nevertheless, Vanderbilt's script, at times, portrays a compelling argument in favor of the accuracy but leaves the audience wondering what he or anyone firmly believes. There is some great things happening in the story, that would have made a smarter, more interesting complete film. Vanderbilt explores the relationship of Mapes and her family, which makes for an interesting perspective to see her actions. Rather's tumultuous relationship with CBS is touched upon, but little else outside of the compounds of the cameras.
Calling back to a film like "Shattered Glass," Blanchett often feels like Hayden Christiansen, desperately believing the "story" but giving everyone around her doubt. Cate Blanchett's work explodes on screen, jolting in and out of coherent thoughts and persuasion, often never letting the viewer feel secure about their how they really feel about her. In one dynamite scene, and we'll call it her "Oscar scene," Blanchett controls the screen and her cast members with a bull-like charge, invoking and bringing to life, the best written scene of the film. It's one of her very best performances ever, and something that will courageously keep her in the Oscar conversation for Best Actress.
Robert Redford's stoic and reserved take on Dan Rather is a quiet storm, and likely the unsung hero of the film. He takes on the man's mannerisms but inserts his own sensibilities about how we perceive him to be. Dennis Quaid shines as an ex-Military personnel working on the story while Topher Grace goes a little bit overboard as a manic and shrill young journalists trying to find the conspiracy theories. Elisabeth Moss is regulated in general inquiries about the players behind the documents but offers little else in her underwritten role. Bruce Greenwood, as the president of CBS, is fantastically present. David Lyons also surprises as Josh Howard, a role that boils right to the top without going over. Same goes for the always diabolical Stacy Keach.
"Truth" excels in many of its technical merits. Brian Tyler's score offers depth and suspense to certain scenes while Mandy Walker's camera work softly maneuvers through the film. Richard Francis- Bruce's editing almost nailed a perfect ending to the film, but for whatever reason, was taken to one extra scene that the viewer truly didn't need.
"Truth" may not be an all-out homerun for Vanderbilt, but its a fine example of the exceptional work that Blanchett and Redford are capable of doing in any role they're given. Though not magnificently executed, I can't help but still ponder on its findings, and the questions that it brings up in its first few moments. He gets the mind thinking, and the juices flowing, before ultimately resting on the merits of two journalists that may or may not have been duped.
Flat Out Remarkable! Possibly the Year's Best!
Seconds after the credits for Tom McCarthy's "Spotlight" roll, an overwhelming feeling of changing your career takes over. Is film criticism really where I belong? What important, life-changing story am I not writing about? Truth is, quite a bit of classic films give off that same feeling. "Rocky" made a bunch of our fathers and older brothers go for a morning run and drink raw eggs. "Rudy" made us want to go out and play Notre Dame football. "Spotlight" makes you want to go down to your local courthouse and search the public records for clues. Then, get on the phone, with a pen and a pad, and start asking some really tough questions. Honestly speaking, "Spotlight" is the best investigative news drama this century. Matter of fact, behind "All the President's Men" and maybe "The Insider," it's among the best ever made.
"Spotlight" tells the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Where you must begin, with any praise for the film, is the audacious and fortifying script by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. The two create cinematic magic in their articulation of words, characters, and narrative storytelling. Each person feels authentic. Each scene feels rich and equally important as the last. And most of all, its the tightest, most satisfying film from beginning to end, seen this year. From minute one, you're hooked, up until the last second, where they decide the last words spoken should be, "Spotlight" is astonishingly crafted.
I'm still in shock and awe that Tom McCarthy is the one who made this. This is a writer/director who I've appreciated but didn't have the "love" factor surrounding any of his films. Paired with an outstanding cast, co-writer Josh Singer, editor Tom McArdle, cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi and composer Howard Shore, Tom McCarthy gets a chance to create his masterpiece and succeeds. He makes brilliant artistic choices, such as letting a Mark Ruffalo letter reading play over a 2-minute taxi car ride back to the newspaper. McCarthy's direction is one of the best directorial efforts from any filmmaker this year thus far.
All the players performing are top-notch but walking away, best-in- show, is the performance of Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo exhibits his best screen performance to date, and makes a stake in his claim for the Oscar this year. Weirdly reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix's work in "The Master," Ruffalo builds his 'Mike' from the feet up, giving him his own characteristics that I'm not sure McCarthy and Singer set out to do. His expressions in words, mannerisms, all encapsulate the magnitude of his work, bookended by an explosive scene that brought tears to my eyes. Think back to Emma Stone's acclaimed work in "Birdman," and the scene that made everyone notice. I wanted to simply applaud.
Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, who play "Robbie" and "Sacha" respectively, are attune with their characters and destinations. Each bring strong sensibilities and sensitivity to their roles that desperately call for them. Hotly worked into the story is Liev Schreiber as a newly appointed Editor, that in the little screen time he's given, makes a long-lasting impression. Stanley Tucci is also afforded the same opportunity, and gives one of the film's best monologues.
If there's a film this year that feels like an Oscar-winner, "Spotlight" sure does make a compelling case. Dramatic, heart- pounding, and necessarily made. It's one of the most important films this year and probably THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR. The Telluride tradition may continue.
Come for Moore but Sadly Nothing Else!
In a time when our nation is going through some the most progressive and long overdue changes in history, a film as timely as "Freeheld" would be welcomed with open arms and minds from critics and audiences. Unfortunately, what director Peter Sollett creates, in partnership with Academy Award nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, is an uninspired, insipid, and downright cheap take on a same-sex couple fighting for death benefits.
Starring recently Oscar-crowned Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, the two manage decent chemistry and maneuver through generic and Lifetime movie-like lines. The impressive Michael Shannon does his very best to elevate all the material, showing the if you're talented enough, no script can hold you back. On the hand, the rest of the cast, particularly Steve Carell, is so over-the-top, and poorly guided, that everything that could have made "Freeheld" a spectacular and moving drama, is quickly transformed into a distorted and tragic version of the Oscar-winning short that the film is based on. The most novice filmmakers could have created something more gratifying.
"Freeheld" tells the story of New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester (Moore), and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree (Page). When Laurel is diagnosed with terminal cancer, both battle to secure Hester's pension benefits.
After just winning her long overdue Academy Award for last year's "Still Alice," the excitement and anticipation for Julianne Moore's next role was at an all-time high. Moore, as we come to expect, commits firmly to the role of a dying woman. Reminiscent of performances like Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby," Moore dives into her psyche, offering her soul to a woman who lived her life with secrets, and became alive in her later years. While Nyswaner's script offers little insight into Laurel and Stacie's love, outside of montages and cancer treatments, Moore finds her way through the pitfalls to come out on the other side intact. Page, who was a strong voice in getting the picture made, is relegated to crying and awkward ticks. Several instances, we are led to believe that "this scene" will be "her scene" where she gets the chance to let loose and show us what she's all about. Once again, Sollett's plain and boring direction quickly cut her every scene short, and offer no room to explore her character's surroundings and feelings. It's a terrible waste of talent.
Michael Shannon delivers a competent and layered performance as Dane, Laurel's cop partner. He finds the humanity and conflict in Dane's misunderstanding about Laurel's lifestyle and later in the fight for equality. He's the film's key positive note. Carell's over-the-top yelling and mannerisms is among the worst acting examples seen in 2015. It's as if Sollett decided to let "Michael Scott" from "The Office" run amok on the set because that's all that Carell manages to evoke. One year after a career-topping work in "Foxcatcher," I'm embarrassed that this is his next venture for the world to behold.
Even down to the cheesy score by Hans Zimmer, nothing about "Freeheld" sings. It lays dormant in a small courtroom, where anger and inspiration are supposed to fly but lies lifeless among the picket signs and Josh Charles' snarls. I was sincerely hoping for something better, actually something magnificent; too bad there's not enough vision to bring this powerful story to life.