Political documentaries tend to get the blood boiling, and this is no exception, as it keeps us entertained with a lucid exploration of just how our governments have failed us economically. The central topic is income inequality, and having a riotous figure like Russell Brand front and centre brings the issues home in a clear, infuriating way. Director Michael Winterbottom does a terrific job reining Brand in, keeping him on-point and making sure the details are clearly presented.
Right from the start Brand says that there's nothing in this film we don't already know. But he's connecting the dots in ways that the media certainly isn't willing to do, because they're part of the problem. Indeed, as he works with a classroom of young students, he proves that even a child can understand that our system simply isn't fair: the rich are getting richer, but the poor are struggling more than ever as the gap between them grows out of all proportion. Instead of tackling this problem, the politicians simply deflect it, blaming something as essentially irrelevant as immigration while neglecting a fundamental human value we all teach our children: sharing.
The film goes back in history to explore how we got here. In the 1970s, the wealthy earned 10 times what their lowest-paid employees earned, but the policies of Reagan and Thatcher shifted the balance to the rich, arguing that the cash would trickle down into the rest of society. But that has never happened. Companies and banks only consolidated power and profits, as the free market system made the highest-earning 1 percent even more greedy and selfish than they were before. Now top earners get up to 300 times what their employees are paid. No wonder people are broke, small businesses are failing and towns are in bankruptcy, while the rich just get richer.
Continue reading: The Emperor's New Clothes Review
Exhilarating racing action punctuates this true story, which sharply traces the rivalry between two Formula One champs. It's superbly well-shot and edited, with engaging performances from the entire cast. And with only one moment of calculated sentimentality, it's director Ron Howard's most honest movie in years.
The story begins in the early 1970s, when two rising-star F1 drivers clash over their very different styles. Britain's James Hunt (Hemsworth) is a swaggering womaniser, revelling in the rock-star lifestyle. By contrast, Austria's Niki Lauda (Bruhl) is a fiercely detailed technician who loves pushing barriers. They clearly see things they like in each other, so their different approaches on the track develop into a competitive relationship that spurs them to the front of the pack. Over the years, both meet their wives (Wilde and Lara, respectively) and move from team to team as they rise to the top of their sport. And their rivalry comes to a head at the 1976 German Grand Prix when world champion Lauda is involved in a horrific, fiery accident.
Morgan's script is essentially two biopics cleverly woven together to let us see the push and pull between these two iconic figures. Unexpectedly, Bruhl's Lauda emerges as the stronger character, with his grounded approach and sardonic wit allowing Bruhl to play effectively with submerged emotions. By contrast, Hemsworth's Hunt is little more than a gifted good-time boy who isn't worried about his lack of substance. It's a likeable, loose performance (we barely notice the wobbly British accent). Opposite them Lara and Wilde provide solid, subtle support, as do the fine actors who fill out the pit crews.
Continue reading: Rush Review
The story of Belfast's "godfather of punk" is told with plenty of groovy style to match the 1970s setting, mixing the music with colourful locations and lively characters. But while the story is fascinating, the film itself is too cluttered and fragmented to resonate with anyone who isn't already familiar with the events.
As politics and religion rage against each other in late-1960s Northern Ireland, local DJ Terry Hooley (Dormer) rejects both sides to concentrate on the music he loves. His wife Ruth (Whittaker) loves it as well, but starts to worry when Terry catches the fire of the punk movement, which stands up boldly to society. Soon Terry is helping promote local bands through his Good Vibrations record shop, discovering the likes of Rudi, the Outcasts and, most notably, the Undertones and their mega-hit Teenage Kicks. Terry knows what he has with them, but is doing this out of passion for the music. Which means he never keeps enough cash for himself to pay his bills.
Filmmakers D'Sa and Leyburn follow Hooley closely through his rollercoaster life, from moments of high excess to more harrowing scenes as his business and marriage fall apart around him. The narrative bounces quickly through the decades, keeping the tone light while remembering the seriousness of the violent clashes in the streets and the darker emotional issues that keep coming to the surface. But Hooley is a happy-go-lucky guy, only barely aware that he is squandering his resources. And Dormer delivers a remarkably vivid performance as a funny and hugely likeable guy who prefers to help others instead of himself.
Continue reading: Good Vibrations Review
In Vienna, British businessman Michael (Law) has arranged to meet Slovakian prostitute Blanka (Siposova) on her first night on the job. But the situation shifts, and Michael ends up thinking about his wife (Weisz) in London.
Meanwhile, she's having a fling with a Brazilian (Cazarre) whose girlfriend (Flor) is fed up with his infidelity. On her flight home, she meets a troubled British man (Hopkins) and a recovering sex-offender (Foster). Meanwhile, an Algerian dentist (Debbouze) in Paris is in love with his Russian employee (Drukarova), whose husband (Vdovichenkov) works for a hotheaded gangster (Ivanir).
Continue reading: 360 Review
Indeed, Winterbottom keeps Thompson's bleakness intact, leaving us little to engage with. But the film has an earth beauty and is a haunting look at the dark side of being human.
Lou Ford (Affleck) is a small-town deputy in 1950s West Texas, where he's still struggling with childhood demons and feelings of inadequacy. Even though he has an adoring girlfriend (Hudson), he starts a torrid fling with a prostitute (Alba) who lives on the edge of town. And as he sets in motion an elaborate revenge plot, we discover that underneath his nice guy exterior Lou is a sadistic murderer. And he's only barely staying one step ahead of the investigators (including Bower, Koteas and Baker).
Continue reading: The Killer Inside Me Review
And even though the story wobbles along the way, it's a vital, involving film.
Lucy (Windsor) is an 11-year-old living with her father (Carlyle) in Nottingham. But when a schoolteacher discovers that she has been violently beaten, she's placed in a care home, sharing a room with 16-year-old tearaway Lauren (Socha). Lauren takes Lucy on several rather illicit outings, constantly landing the pair in trouble. And when Lucy wonders why she can't live with her mother (Lynch), her social worker (Stacey) only says that it's not possible.
Continue reading: The Unloved Review
Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young hitchhiker with more spirit than fear, enters a restaurant, scans it, and picks a man sitting alone to delight with her company. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), a laconic Englishman, barely tolerates the intrusion on his quiet privacy with a gabby adolescent and, after displaying what is, for him, considerable patience, rejects her suggestion to ride with him. He leaves, as alone as when he came in, and drives off.
Continue reading: Snow Cake Review
At the time, Pearl's kidnapping was like a tertiary aftershock to 9/11, proving that nobody was safe. The World Trade Center, international symbol of dominating Western capitalism, made sense as a target. Pearl, a universally respected journalist (evidence shows that "beloved" would actually not have been too strong a description of people's feelings about him) who wanted only to understand the terrorists and to explain them to the world, made no sense. And it's that swirling fog of frightened confusion that Winterbottom evokes so powerfully in A Mighty Heart, one of the best films yet made about modern terrorism.
Continue reading: A Mighty Heart Review
Sterne's novel is a big old mess and has never been quite accepted in the literary canon. Published in nine installments over a decade, it's a subplot-mad, diversion-crazed bildungsroman where the narrator - Shandy - can't even get past describing his own birth by the end of the book, due to his tendency to go off on tangents. Along the way it packs in satires of contemporary intellectuals like Pope and Locke and plays with the novelistic form, including even having one page printed entirely black to represent sorrow at a character's death. They try that in the film, but then realize it's not quite so interesting for audience.
Continue reading: Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story Review
The plot is dippy melodrama cloaked in politically charged keywords: corporate entities, genetic coding, the Haves and the Have Nots, multicultural whitewashing, language barriers, secret passports, checkpoints, homeland security. It's charged material, but Winterbottom transforms it into so much white noise. That's all right -- it provides a sheen that's nice to look at, and the keyword dialogue takes on a musicality when spoken by detective William Geld (Tim Robbins) and suspect Maria Gonzalez (Samantha Morton). But it's all a smokescreen meant to disguise a story about love found, love lost, and a tragic denouement made-to-order from the Oedipus legend.
Continue reading: Code 46 Review
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