Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of a mystery may disappoint die-hard fans, but as an astute drama it's more than worth a look because Ian McKellen is simply terrific in the title role. This is a much more complex character than he has been able to play recently either in movies (like the X-men and Lord of the Rings franchises) or television (the nutty sitcom Vicious). The film also reunites him with Bill Condon, who directed him to an Oscar nomination in Gods and Monsters 17 years ago.
It's 1947, and Sherlock is 93 years old when we meet him, living on the Sussex coast where he keeps bees and has befriended Roger (Milo Parker), the curious son of his tough-minded housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney). As Sherlock teaches Roger about both beekeeping and sleuthing, he is also trying to work out his final case some 30 years ago, which his mind simply refuses to recall. As he relives it in his mind, rather than through Watson's embellished account, all he can remember is a worried husband (Patrick Kennedy) asking him to follow his wife (Hattie Morahan). In addition, Sherlock is also still thinking about the things he discovered while recently in post-war Japan at the invitation of a fan (Hiroyuki Sanada).
The main story and the two flashback sequences are intriguingly intertwined in Sherlock's mind, offering parallel discoveries that help him piece together events that unfold in all three. It's a clever approach that allows McKellen to dig deep into the character as a man discovering that his mind is fading, perhaps into senility. His take on Sherlock is simply fascinating, a witty detective who has always resisted the fictional depiction of him in Watson's stories. And he's also an ageing man who hasn't lost his childlike curiosity, which makes his friendship with the young Roger surprisingly tender and engaging.
Continue reading: Mr. Holmes Review
With a strikingly unflinching eye, newcomer Sara Colangelo astutely adapts her 2010 short into an evocative feature, beautifully capturing the impact a series of random tragedies can have on a community. It's gorgeously shot and sensitively acted by a skilled cast, and while the film remains a little too ambiguous for its own good, it still gets under the skin to leave us pondering some very hard issues.
It's set in a working-class West Virginia town that's still reeling after a devastating mining accident. The only survivor was Amos (Boyd Holbrook), who has been left injured both physically and psychologically. And it doesn't help that everyone is pressuring him to lie to the investigators while quietly resenting him for surviving. For support, he turns to Diane (Elizabeth Banks), the wife of the mine's manager (Josh Lucas). And Diane needs help too, because her teen son JT (Travis Tope) has gone missing. The only person who knows what happened is 14-year-old Owen (Jacob Lofland), whose father died in the accident. He was cruelly bullied by JT in school, and is struggling to keep his own secret.
The script is minimalistic, as Colangelo prefers to deepen the characters rather than construct a detailed plot. Sometimes this feels rather too understated, but it also allows the actors to create people who are remarkably involving. Holbrook is magnetic, the heart of the film as a damaged man looking for healing wherever he can find it. Banks is simply wonderful in a complex role that makes us wish she'd do more serious drama. And Lofland more than lives up to the promise of Mud with a darkly involving performance that continually catches us by surprise. These three characters circle around each other like wounded animals looking for help, but while the plot points that push them together might feel contrived, their interaction is earthy and very real.
Continue reading: Little Accidents Review
No one really knows Jack (Clooney). Or maybe his name is Edward. Some call him Butterfly, and he's clearly a ruthlessly efficient man who leaves little to chance. An expert in customised guns and ammunition, he's hiding in an Italian village from some nasty Swedes. There he's making a rifle for Mathilde (Reuten) while befriending a priest (Bonacelli) and starting a tentative relationship with local prostitute Carla (Placido). But he doesn't trust anyone, and starts to worry whether he'll survive this job.
Continue reading: The American Review
For graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), life is just not turning out right. His parents promised to fund his planned trip to Europe. Instead, they hit him with the horrible news: They cannot afford to pay his way. Even worse, Columbia University grad school may be out as well. Forced to get a summer job, James winds up at Adventureland, a pathetic Pennsylvania amusement park run by Bobby (Bill Hader), his slightly dense wife Paulette (Kristen Wiig), and a rogue's gallery of social rejects including uber-nerd Joel (Martin Starr), arrested adolescent Tommy Frigo (Matt Bush), and musician turned handyman Connell (Ryan Reynolds). James also meets Em (Kristen Stewart), a like-minded gal with dreams of something bigger. As their relationship blossoms, our hero gains a greater perspective on life, living, and what's truly important.
Continue reading: Adventureland Review
On the other side of the country, Lenny's two kids are busying themselves with crap jobs while they attempt to be acclaimed writers. Wendy (Laura Linney) temps at data-entry cubicles in New York City, using their copiers and mailing capabilities to apply for Guggenheim fellowships. When she can, she also sneaks into the supply room and steals her weight in pens and paper. She comes home to a message on her answering machine about her father's incident and panics. Meanwhile, Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) teaches at a second-rate Buffalo college as he attempts to finish research for a book on Bertolt Brecht. When Wendy pleads for him to help her hunt down their father, Jon responds with lethargic wit: "This is not a Sam Shepard play."
Continue reading: The Savages Review
Eccentric children's book author and womanizer Ted Cole (an adequately flaky Jeff Bridges) lost his two sons in a car accident years ago, and though he and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) have relocated to a quaint New Hampshire town and attempted to fill the void in their lives by having daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning), they're still reeling from their family catastrophe and poised to separate. In a supremely idiotic decision, Ted hires Eddie (Jon Foster), a young student from Phillips Exeter Academy who looks just like his deceased oldest son, to be his assistant. However, the freewheeling writer - whose hipness is supposedly confirmed by his penchant for walking around naked in front of others, making erotic sketches of his mistress Mrs. Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), and listening to skanky hip-hop before watching Girls Gone Wild - makes a grave mistake by having the kid work during the day at his wife's nearby apartment. Eddie takes a masturbatory liking to Marion's bra and panties, and when he's caught in the act of self-gratification by the female object of his desire, she's all too willing to accommodate his Mrs. Robinson-patterned longings.
Continue reading: The Door in the Floor Review