Here's another remarkable biopic from Oliver Stone, who has used all-star casts and intensely pointed filmmaking to trace the lives of such people as JFK, Nixon, Jim Morrison and George W. Bush. And now he turns his attention to whistleblower Edward Snowden. This is an urgent, skilfully made film that manages to avoid preachy politics as it asks the central question: was Snowden a traitor or a patriot?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Ed, a nerdy genius who never went to university but was spotted by CIA trainer Corbin (Rhys Ifans) and brought into the fold. Rising through the ranks, he moves from Virginia to Switzerland, Japan and Hawaii, accompanied by his long-suffering girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), who isn't allowed to know what he does for a living. Over the years, his faith in America's government is shaken as he discovers the scale of its data-gathering operation, collecting all telephone and internet information on every person on earth, whether or not they're a suspect. And he believes that the taxpayers have a right to know what their elected officials are doing.
The script tells the story as Ed describes his life to filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and two Guardian journalists (Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson) while hiding in a Hong Kong hotel, an event recounted in the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. Eventually, this element of the story generates some proper action as the CIA tracks him down and gives chase. Stone orchestrates these scenes expertly, generating some real adrenaline without sacrificing the bigger narrative. And Gordon-Levitt is simply remarkable, vanishing into the role so effectively that the final dissolve to the real Snowden is barely perceptible. His chemistry with Woodley is complex and engaging (even with a gratuitous sex scene), creating a terrific central love story to guide the audience through the events.
Continue reading: Snowden Review
Edward Snowden always knew he wanted to serve his country and, as most young men and women who feel the need to serve their country, he enrolled in the United States Army Reserves, training was tough and it took a toll on his body, an accident led to Snowden fracturing both his legs, his plans for the future were thrown into chaos and he had to evaluate a new way to serve - as well as make a living.
Turing to one of his other natural skills, Snowden continued to hone his computer skills and finally applied for a job at the CIA. Working his way up the ranks, Snowden became an intrinsic member of staff and it lead him to be offered a new job at the NSA by their deputy director. His job was to analyse the internet, to find new ways to intercept the one communication from the 'bad guy' amongst all the innocent communications each person sends on a day to day basis but what he discovers is that the NSA have access to far more knowledge and information than he or any other normal citizen would expect.
Though he's never believed in sharing state secrets, now he's privy to this information, Snowden knows he must do something with it and that he might be putting his life on the line in order to bring this enormous data privacy breach to light. Sneaking out files via a micro drive hidden in his rubik's cube, Snowden contacts three journalists Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill and Glenn Greenwald with his newly found knowledge and they begin to unfold the information.
Continue: Snowden Trailer
Based on the iconic strategy game, this fantasy battle epic will appeal mainly to either the gamers themselves or audiences that love wildly detailed fantasy worlds. Everyone else will probably feel a bit lost when faced with the stream of confusing names, spells and magical phenomena that fill every scene. It looks terrific, and is directed with plenty of energy and personality. But it feels both overcrowded and superficial.
With their home world Draenor dying, the orcs need to travel through a portal to the human realm Azeroth to find more life force to steal. One orc chieftan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), is having doubts about this murderous plan, and thinks peace with humans might be a better option. His rival chief Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and the cackling orc shaman Gul-dan (Daniel Wu) disagree, and set a massacre in motion. Preparing for the attack, human King Llane (Dominic Cooper) turns for help to his top knight Lothar (Travis Fimmel), sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster) and apprentice wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). Then they meet outcast half-caste Garona (Paula Patton), and she offers another way to take on the invaders.
For the uninitiated, the elaborate mythology is so detailed that it blurs together into something rather incomprehensible. Director Duncan Jones doesn't have time to explain everything, so he charges ahead and just lets the dialogue overflow with references that may or may not be needed to work out what's happening. The film leaps from one strikingly staged battle to another, all cleverly designed to mix digital animation with gothic costumes. It looks pretty amazing in 3D, but the only characters who emerge with any depth are Durotan and Garona, nicely played by Kebbell and Patton under mounds of effects, makeup, fur and teeth.
Continue reading: Warcraft Review
After years of peace, dark forces fall upon the world of Azeroth as it stands on the brink of war, when their civilisation is faced with invasion from the fearsome Orc warriors.
With their homeland of Draenor dying, the Orc race has only one chance of survival, to flee their home and attempt to colonise in another world. But as war breaks out the Dark Portal opens to connect the two worlds, with the human army facing destruction and the Orcs battling extinction.
From opposite sides, two heroes, Anduin Lothar, leader of the humans, and Durotan, leader of the orcs, are sent on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home.
Continue: Warcraft Trailer
Travis Fimmel is set to lead the cast in one of the most epic films of 2016. Warcraft: The Beginning is based on Blizzard Entertainment's hugely successful computer game. Warcraft: The Beginning is being directed by Duncan Jones (The son of David Bowie who previously directed Moon starring Sam Rockwell)
Warcraft: The Beginning is a live action film released in 3-D by Universal & Legendary Pictures.
The full trailer will launch November 6 2015
In June 2013, a high-flying 29-year-old government employee named Edward Snowdon suddenly found himself the most wanted man in the world after leaking classified documents from the US government to the media. An intelligent young man, whose army career at just 20 led him to join the CIA and eventually become an NSA contractor where he was faced with what he deemed as seriously questionable ethics from his colleagues, and those above him. Disturbed by the lies spoken by those around him and with a direct concern for the welfare of the people, he sought justice. He knew what such a move would entail, and indeed he was accused of being a traitor when the government tried to suggest that his actions had a negative impact on their counterterrorism programmes, but he knew he couldn't watch the citizens of Earth be continually deceived.
Continue: Snowden - Teaser Trailer
Morocco Omari and Ben Schnetzer - Opening night after party for the New Group production Rasheeda Speaking, held at the West Bank Cafe - Arrivals. at West Bank Cafe, - New York, New York, United States - Thursday 12th February 2015
Nancy Snyder and Ben Schnetzer - Opening night after party for The New Group production Sticks and Bones, held at the Out NYC hotel - Arrivals. at Out NYC hotel, - New York, New York, United States - Friday 7th November 2014
Solid acting and adept filmmaking help make up for the fact that this film asks us to spend a couple of hours in the presence of a group of truly despicable characters. They're played by some of the brightest (and most beautiful) rising stars in the movies at the moment, but each one of these young men is vile to the core. So the fact that these are supposed to be Britain's brightest and best hope for the future makes the film pretty terrifying.
It's set at Oxford University, where the elite Riot Club (including Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Freddie Fox, Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer and Olly Alexander) are on the lookout for wealthy white students to complete their 10-man membership. They find suitable candidates in new arrivals: the sneering Alistair (Sam Claflin) and conflicted Miles (Max Irons), whose one drawback is that he's seeing a common girl (Holliday Grainger). After the rigorous initiation process, Alistair and Miles are welcomed to the hedonistic gang at a lavish dinner in the private room of a country pub. But things turn nasty as they drunkenly hurl abuse at the pub manager (Gordon Brown), his daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay) and a high-class hooker (Natalie Dormer) they hire for the night.
Based on the play Posh by screenwriter Laura Wade, the film is centred around this increasingly chaotic dinner party. Although nothing that happens is particularly surprising, because these young men are such relentlessly bigoted, misogynist snobs that it's impossible to believe they belong anywhere other than prison. They certainly don't deserve their self-appointed status as the top students at Oxford, who are getting debauchery out of their systems before taking the lead in British politics and business. But then, that's precisely Wade's point, and she makes it loudly. Thankfully, director Lone Scherfig balances things by offering glimpses into these young men's dark souls while skilfully capturing the old-world subculture and a strong sense of irony.
Continue reading: The Riot Club Review
Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that it wears our faces out with all the smiling, laughing, crying and cheering. Skilfully written and directed, and sharply well played by an ace cast, this is a story that can't help but get under the skin. Its twists and turns are genuinely jaw-dropping, and the character interaction sparks with all kinds of issues that feel hugely resonant, even though the events depicted took place 30 years ago. In other words, this is a strong candidate for film of the year.
It's set in 1984 London, where 20-year-old Joe (George MacKay) sneaks out of his parents' home to attend the gay pride festivities. When he meets a group of lesbian and gay activists (including Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott and Dominic West), he feels like he has found his own place in the world. Their cause is to aid striking miners, because they understand how it feels to be abused by the police and oppressed by their own government. But of course Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners finds it difficult to get a group to accept their assistance. Eventually, they discover a group of strike supporters in the small Welsh village of Dulais who are willing to partner with them, so they travel to Wales to meet them (including Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Jessica Gunning), sparking a major culture clash.
Cleverly, the script allows each character in the story to take his or her own personal journey, and the variety of plot-threads weave together beautifully to be powerfully involving. This also allows the filmmakers to explore a wide range of issues in both communities. The gays are facing family rejection, public harassment and the dawn of the Aids epidemic, while the miners are grappling with deep-seated prejudices while watching their lives eviscerated by Thatcher's systematic plan to crush the unions. All of this gives the cast a lot of meat to chew on, and yet the film's brightly anarchic pacing and energetic period touches keep it from ever feeling preachy.
Continue reading: Pride Review
The Riot Club is an elite group of ten Oxford University students; the very best who are almost definitely going to go on to have successful futures. It's hundreds of years old and is notorious for their ritual drunken debauchery, lawlessness and often violent behaviour during their exclusive dinner parties each term. Their current president persuades a pub landlord and his daughter to let the club hire out the venue for the night, as long as he keeps things under control. However, it soon becomes clear that none of these young men are up for a quiet night when one of them hires a prostitute to 'entertain' them. She manages to make a quick escape when she realises what she's let herself in for though, and most of the club decide to take their frustrations out on the landlord and his daughter. Tragically, things get out of hand when one of the men seriously injures the landlord, causing the rest of them to panic. But with reputations at stake, who's going to blamed for it?
Continue: The Riot Club Trailer
While there's a strong story in here about the power of literature and the fragility of life, this movie takes a far too wistful approach, so it feels like a cheesy bedtime yarn rather than a look at horrors of Nazi Germany. As a result, it's difficult to feel the full force of either the wrenchingly emotional events or the provocative themes.
Set in 1938, the story opens as irreverent 12-year-old Leisel (Nelisse) is taken away from her mother, who is accused of being a communist. She's then adopted by the childless couple Hans and Rosa (Rush and Watson). But while the cheerful artist Hans makes her feel at home, Rosa is relentlessly harsh. Leisel also reluctantly befriends neighbour boy Rolf (Liersch) and embarks on a series of adventures, including stealing books from Nazi book-burning rallies. But the mayor's wife (Auer) doesn't mind Leisel stealing books from her library. And when Hans and Rosa take in a Jewish refugee boy (Schnetzer), he encourages Leisel to start writing her own stories.
Oddly, director Percival softens every dark element in Petroni's screenplay. The Nazis are like school playground bullies, while the Allied bombings leave buildings in rubble but dead bodies bizarrely intact and peaceful. Even the setting looks like a fairy tale, with magical snowdrifts and fanciful spires. And the strangest touch of all is the cheery voiceover narration by Death (Allam), which turns the most horrific atrocities into a kind of wry eventuality. Watching brutal murder presented as a sort of poetic justice is deeply disturbing.
Continue reading: The Book Thief Review
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