For Film4 www.film4.com/reviews/2013/her
Synopsis: Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where The Wild Things Are) writes and directs this melancholic romance set in the near future.
Review: Spike Jonze’s Her opens with its moustachioed main character Theodore Twombly (the ever-astonishing Joaquin Phoenix) reading – in voice-over – a letter that he is composing at work. The missive is almost embarrassingly personal in its details – and yet Theodore’s connection to its nominal author and addressee, a couple celebrating their fiftieth…
Review for Grolsch FilmWorks grolschfilmworks.com/ca/reviews/the-wolf-of-wall-street
"The world of investing can be a jungle," states the slick corporate advertisement with which The Wolf of Wall Street opens, "Bulls, bears, danger at every turn" – and, underlining this animal metaphor, a lion is shown prowling between the office desks. Once the ad has come to an end, we see a different side of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont during a bacchanalian office shindig, as whitecollars high on Quaaludes and coke hurl a hired…
Review for LWLies: www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/theatrical-reviews/american-hustle-25628
"We don't do new — we renovate!"
So declares Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a salt-of-the-earth politician in New Jersey 1978, as he shows Sheik Abdullah (Michael Peña) around the Atlantic City building that he hopes to turn into a casino. Carmine's big dream depends on Abdullah's investment, but the Sheik is a fake — part of an elaborate sting operation spearheaded by Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who has his own dreams of FBI glory,…
Synopsis: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) bring the Lego multiverse to comic life in this animated adventure.
Review: Lego's interlocking bricks have been around since 1949, their very plasticity and modularity ensuring that they have provided foundations for the constructive imaginations not only of today's boys and girls, but also of their parents and even grandparents. Besides crossing platforms to games and theme parks, Lego has featured in many official and…
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is a mutant hybrid of ensemble heroics and time travel antics - the former bringing the tag-team action, the latter the TERMINATOR-stye loopy paradoxes. It is full of plot holes - all widened considerably by knowledge of 'previous' entries in the franchise - but upon reflection, those yawning gaps in logic can just about be construed instead as wormholes between alternative universes in an endless war that just keeps repeating itself in slightly mutated forms…
Review for Film4 www.film4.com/reviews/2013/dallas-buyers-club
Synopsis: Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) directs this true-life story of a Texan redneck's struggle against AIDS, America's pharmaceutical industry, and his own individualist instincts.
Review: Dallas Buyers Club opens in 1986 with a double image of the thrills and dangers of bareback riding. As one man tries vainly to sit upright on the back of a bucking rodeo bull, another takes a pair of 'whores' from behind in the now-empty bull cage. The latter…
We first meet Laura (Scarlett Johansson) near the beginning of Under the Skin in a room of uncannily pure white. Dressing her own naked body in the clothes that she has just stripped from a dead woman, she pauses, in a circumstantially odd, unexpectedly tender gesture, to stroke the corpse's flesh.
Director/co-writer Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) has similarly stripped down Michel Faber's 2000 novel to exposition-free scenes of a vampish Laura seeking out Scottish male loners to…
It's a smart, and smartly edited, mash-up of GROUNDHOG DAY, SOURCE CODE, STARSHIP TROOPERS and the best part of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (played on loop) - but the ending that seems to make no real sense does not suddenly make better sense in retrospect, and comes across merely as someone else's idea of crowd-pandering wish fulfilment - which is a problem for a film that realises so very many possible endings. Still, any film that merges the repeat play of video games with the endless nightmare of PTSD is doing something interesting...
For Grolsch FilmWorks grolschfilmworks.com/ca/reviews/the-raid-2
"It's a question of ambition really," says up-and-coming gangster Bejo (Alex Abbab) at the beginning of The Raid 2. "Let me rephrase that: it's a matter of limitation."
Ambition and limitation are key dynamics in Gareth Evans' sequel to his 2011 action film. The cruel yet calculating Bejo is "in this for the long run", regarding the bid to muscle and manipulate his way to criminal supremacy as a "step-at-a-time thing" – and his ascent is…
Reviewed for Film4 www.film4.com/reviews/2014/how-to-train-your-dragon-2
Synopsis: Dean DeBlois, co-writer and co-director of How To Train Your Dragon, flies solo with this more adult animated Viking adventure sequel.
Review: In the five years since the events of How To Train Your Dragon (2010), the island village of Berk has become a peaceful haven where Vikings and dragons live in harmony, bothering nobody but the sheep that they use as balls in Quidditch-like competitions.
Young Hiccup (voiced again by Jay Baruchel) has won…
Synopsis: The feature debut of writer/director Ryan Coogler, this docudrama uses a real-life injustice to explore America's abiding problems with racial division.
Review: Fruitvale Station opens with a temporal dissonance. The first thing we hear may be Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), early in the morning of New Year's Eve 2008, discussing their resolutions for 2009, but the first thing we see is shaky mobile phone footage from 24 hours later…