Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos reteams with his The Lobster star Colin Farrell for another offbeat thriller with surreal twists. While this film has a bit less of the supernatural weirdness, it's a far darker story, verging on horror as it pushes its characters into a seriously messy exploration of the morality of revenge. In the end, the message might be a little unclear, but it's a rare film that has the power to leave our heads spinning.
It's set in Cincinnati, in middle America, where cardiologist Steven (Farrell) has finally conquered the alcoholism that threatened his career. His loyal wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) helped him through this, along with their teen daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger son Bob (Sunny Siljic). Now Steven is secretly meeting up with the 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan), son of a patient Steven lost on the operating table. As they become friends, he introduces Martin to his family, and things take a strange turn as Martin's plan for vengeance begins to target Kim and Bob. And Steven and Anna are terrified when they think about what has to happen for Martin to feel like they're even.
With big moral questions that continually touch a nerve, the film sometimes feels like a particularly deranged Twilight Zone episode. And it also has a powerful emotional resonance, because the characters are so easy to identify with, including Martin. And since the actors underplay their roles, we can't help but put ourselves in their shoes. Farrell and Kidman find a terrific blend of vulnerability and tenacity in their roles, bringing these frightened parents to vivid life. Cassidy and Suljic are also excellent as intelligent children caught up in what to them is an inexplicable nightmare, while Keoghan steals the film with a casual intensity that becomes increasingly freaky without ever tipping over the top.
Continue reading: The Killing Of A Sacred Deer Review
To most of the world, Molly Bloom is a beautiful young skiing extraordinaire, but behind closed doors she is a serious poker prodigy. She has been running an exclusive, underground gambling club in a luxury suite for ten years with a clientele that includes the likes of Hollywoo's biggest superstars, celebrity athletes, business tycoons and even the Russian mob. Unfortunately for her, the latter lands her in the sights of the FBI who raid her poker game one late night and arrest her for operating an illegal gambling business. The only person she can talk to now is her defence lawyer Charlie Jaffrey, but even he takes some convincing to change his perspective on this shrewd and uncompromising woman. And who is really going to believe that she isn't in cahoots with the mob?
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Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists and turns that the audience never sees coming. It's a complex series of events that sometimes gets a bit bogged down in the under-explained details, but the characters are fantastic. And at the centre, Matthew McConaughey shines in a role that requires him to completely change the way he looks.
It's set in the late 1980s, as the fast-talking salesman Kenny (McConaughey) is trying to raise funding in Reno for a project he has been dreaming about for decades: prospecting for gold in Indonesia. He is sure there's a fortune in those mountains, but everyone else is dubious. And even as he's on the verge of losing everything, his wife Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) quietly stands by him. In desperation, he gets on a plane to Jakarta, pitching his idea to local adventurer Michael (Edgar Ramirez), who escorts him into an area populated by head-hunters. When the companies back in America hear that they've found gold, there's more money than Kenny and Michael can count. But the FBI suspects it's a scam.
McConaughey is magnetic as the balding, overweight Kenny, a guy who simply won't take no for an answer. He is convinced that there's gold in the rainforest, even though no one has ever seen any, and his optimism is infectious to both the other characters and the movie's audience. This makes all the men in suits opposite Kenny look rather dull by comparison. Howard gives her role a powerful kick of emotion, although Kay is sidelined by the plot. And Ramirez gets some terrific scenes as the Indiana Jones-style explorer. All of these people seem to be caught up in a flood of events they have no control over, and the film races along without pausing for breath.
Continue reading: Gold Review
Whitey Bulger has had the FBI under his thumb for too long, and now people are starting to notice. How can a criminal mastermind responsible for every major offence in the city pass by seemingly unnoticed for an entire lifetime? It's true he landed in Alcatrez at a young age, but the older the more dangerous he becomes; a kingpin of the South Boston criminal underworld who escaped justice by informing authorities of all movements of the rival gang, the Italian Mafia, as suggested by his most useful contact and friend John Connolly. But the Irish Winter Hill Gang is growing ever more powerful, and Bulger's feelings of invincibility lead to more and more murders and destruction. It's time he was stopped, but finding him is not going to be easy.
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Irish-American criminal mastermind Whitey Bulger was arguably one of the most dangerous men in America before his arrest in 2011 at the age of 81. He'd already spent time in Alcatrez as a much younger man, having spent a lot of time on the streets of South Boston. However, by the 70s he proved to be the FBI's best tool in controlling organised crime within the country, and he was eventually persuaded by his friend John Connolly to be their informant in all workings of the rival Italian Mafia. However, it's not safe business being both a highly respected gangster and a police informant, and while much of his activity is being largely ignored as he rises to become top of the Irish Winter Hill Gang, it seems he is gaining too many killings and dodgy dealings under his belt to go unnoticed.
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An unusually inventive approach brings this story to life, as the filmmakers get into the mind of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson to reveal how he created those unforgettable songs. Even more impressive is the depiction of Wilson's troubled personal life, which plays out with an unnerving resonance rarely matched by rock-star biopics. This is due to artful direction and writing plus committed performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack, who play Wilson at two key points in his life.
As a young man in the 1960s, Brian Wilson (Dano) is a prodigious genius, preferring to stay in the studio while his brothers Dennis and Carl (Kenny Wormald and Brett Davern) and their bandmate Mike Love (Jake Abel) head out to meet girls on tour. They don't understand Brian's obsession with oddball sounds, but let him do his thing until it becomes clear that he's mentally unstable. Years later, in the late 1980s, Brian (now Cusack) falls for Cadillac saleswoman Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), who realises that he is being over-medicated and possibly abused by his controlling psychiatrist guardian Eugene (Paul Giamatti). And instead of leaving, as Eugene orders her to do, she fights for Brian.
These two time periods are interwoven together in a strikingly seamless way, shifting back and forth to build a potent dramatic and emotional momentum. By seeing everything from Wilson's perspective, the filmmakers are able to take the audience on a remarkable journey through his life, avoiding the usual predictable formula. Wilson's life may follow the usual trajectory of success followed by drug abuse, but his mental illness adds an involving angle that's depicted with sensitivity by Dano and Cusack, as well as director Bill Pohlad and writers Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner. Even more impressive is Banks' performance, which is the key that takes us right into the story. It's a beautifully textured turn that reminds us that she can do a lot more than steal movies in comical roles (see Pitch Perfect, Magic Mike and The Hunger Games).
Continue reading: Love & Mercy Review
Sometimes, the greatest hiding place is in plain sight. For twelve years from the mid-1990s, he was the FBI's second most wanted fugitive, behind Osama Bin Laden. Throughout the 1970s, he was an FBI informant, revealing information to bring down an Italian American crime family, and he was the brother of a US senator. But really, his informant years were to stop another family from invading his own turf. Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most brutal and violent criminals in Boston, being the secret puppet master behind one of the most dangerous crime families in history.
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In the mid-1960s, The Beach Boys were at the top of their game. Having released ten classic albums, a young songwriter and leader of the band, Brian Wilson (Paul Dano), was preparing to create the greatest album in history. His aggressive pursuit of the perfect sound for the band's eleventh studio album, 'Pet Sounds', had a negative effect on his psychological well-being. Almost two decades later in the 1980s, Wilson (John Cusack) is trapped in his own mind, sedated by medication and a troubled psychiatrist. But a young woman, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), believes that she can restore him to the great man he once was, through a mixture of Love and Mercy.
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Things have been tough for Brian (Bradley Cooper). Having been fired from the US Air Force for his cockiness, he lost his girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) by a chain of events he doesn't fully understand himself. But when he is recalled back into service by a boss that has a soft spot for him, Brian discovers that his life has to get an awful lot more complicated before it can get simpler. Tasked with overseeing the launch of a weapons satellite from Hawaii, Brian is put in charge of training Allison (Emma Stone) to be both a good pilot, and a valuable member of the air force. But as he begins to reconnect with Tracy, Allison begins to fall for him, leading to Brian having to truly figure out once and for all, just what it is that he wants.
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By Rich Cline
If a movie's success is measured by its ability to get under our skin and provoke a reaction, then this might be the film of the year. Designed to make us furious, this drama pushes us to the brink as we shout at the characters for being so naive. But the events depicted are based on actual experiences, and the more we think about this, the more unnerving it becomes. It might be impossible to believe that anyone could be this stupid, but can we really be sure we'd make better decisions?
Award-winning actress Ann Dowd (who also played Channing Tatum's mum in Side Effects) stars as Sandra, manager of a ChickWich fast-food outlet in Ohio. She has the usual issues with her young employees, who think she's out of touch, but is happy because she expects her boyfriend Van (Camp) to propose tonight. Then she gets a phone call from Officer Daniels (Healy) telling her that her young employee Becky (Walker) has stolen cash from a customer. He asks Sandra to detain Becky in the office and search her belongings. Sandra makes sure the assistant manager (Atkinson) is present, but she becomes more hesitant about Daniels' more extreme demands. And over the next few hours, he pushes things much further, getting Becky's young colleague Kevin (Ettinger) involved, as well as Van.
Writer-director Zobel structures the film perfectly to strike a nerve. As outsiders we are naturally more suspicious, wondering how Sandra knows that the man on the phone is actually a cop, especially when be begins to bully her with threats. She just wants to do the right thing, and questions all of Daniels' requests, but for us looking in we can't help but think that what he's saying is so preposterous that she needs to just put a stop to it. Cleverly, each character has a very distinct reaction when they get on the phone with Daniels. But as the situation escalates into something unthinkable, we can't understand why no one becomes a voice of reason.
Continue reading: Compliance Review