With its grindingly low-key tension and unusual perspectives, this Western has a chance to revamp the genre in intriguing ways. The first-rate cast adds plenty of depth to the usual roles, including a strong female point-of-view from Natalie Portman, who also produced the film. But some rather simplistic thematic touches undermine the originality, and the film never quite cracks through the surface to become something meaningful.
It's set in 1871 New Mexico, where Jane (Portman) lives on a hidden ranch with her outlaw husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) and their young daughter. But Bill's been badly injured, and the notorious scoundrel Bishop (Ewan McGregor) has vowed to track him down. For help Jane turns to her ex-fiance Dan (Joel Edgerton), an angry gunslinger who has never got over being abandoned by Jane all those years ago. He agrees to help her, and of course Bill isn't too happy about this, but he's too injured to protest. And Jane is so fiercely independent that she refuses to let her history with these two men define her future.
The premise is packed with all kinds of intriguing layers, but the script continually over-explains everything with a series of flashbacks to Jane's earlier encounters with Dan, Bishop, Bishop's hotheaded brother (Boyd Holbrook) and a particularly brutal desperado (Rodrigo Santoro). Not one of these people has even a hint of morality about them, which gives the actors a chance to inject a lot of complex texture into their performances. These are tough-minded men who never stop to think about the rule of law. And Portman's Jane is steelier than all of them, a woman who makes her own hard decisions in a place that doesn't let anyone off easily. Portman is terrific in the role, even if director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) undermines her with his rather straightforward approach. Even so, her scenes with Edgerton and McGregor crackle with subtext.
Continue reading: Jane Got A Gun Review
With a script by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace), this thriller has more substance than most, although it's also been compromised by the inclusion of a lot of contrived action mayhem. At its centre, there's a nice exploration of two retirement-age men looking at the world they have created, and how things have changed since they made key decisions as younger men. But director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop) seems uninterested in these serious themes, and would clearly rather stage another shoot-out or chase instead.
Liam Neeson stars as Jimmy, a lifelong criminal who's now a wheezy husk of his former thrusting self. But he maintains his childhood friendship with Shawn (Ed Harris), who turned his crime empire legit but is having problems keeping his son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) out of trouble. Now Danny has made a dodgy deal with some Albanians, and when that goes predictably wrong, it accidentally puts Jimmy's estranged good-guy son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), his wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and kids in danger. So Jimmy sets out to set things right, although this means that he ends up on opposite sides of the conflict from Shawn. And he and Mike also have to outrun his detective nemesis (Vincent D'Onofrio) and a ruthless assassin (Common).
There's a nice sense of respect and inevitability to the relationship between Jimmy and Shawn that goes a long way in making this overlong movie watchable. Neeson and Harris are terrific at playing men who are too old to be running around with guns. Their quietly tense conversations are by far the most riveting scenes in the film. By comparison, the action sequences feel rather routine: brutal and fast, with flashy editing, outrageous stunts and more firepower than is strictly necessary. And for a man who can barely stand when the film opens, Jimmy is suspiciously able to run, jump, drive and shoot like a trained professional a third his age.
Continue reading: Run All Night 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
Although the plot isn't particularly original, a darkly internalised tone makes this low-key thriller oddly compelling. It may be the usual serial killer nastiness, but it also pays attention to earthier themes like morality and the futility of revenge. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson is able to combine his more recent action-hero persona with his serious acting chops this time. And writer-director Scott Frank infuses the film with moody grit, quietly subverting each cliche of the genre.
The action picks up eight years after Matt (Neeson) stopped drinking and quit the police force, following a shootout that went horribly wrong. It's now 1999, and New York is in the grip of Y2K paranoia. Matt is working as an unlicensed private detective who uses word-of-mouth to find clients. So Matt is intrigued when one of his 12-step friends (Boyd Holbrook) introduces his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), a wealthy drug trafficker whose wife was kidnapped and then murdered even though he paid the ransom. As Matt digs into the case, he realises that the two killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) have a left a string of similar victims in their wake, and that the murders are connected. Meanwhile, Matt takes in homeless teen TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), an observant kid who helps him work piece together the clues. And together they try to figure out where the killers will strike next.
This story unfolds with a remarkably gloomy tone, combining horrific violence with introspective drama. This mixture can feel rather jarring, especially as it wallows in the nastier side of human existence. Every character is tortured in more ways than one, with lost loves, physical afflictions and internal demons. Even the smaller side roles are packed with detail, including Olafur Darri Olafsson's creepy cemetery worker and Sebastian Roche's frazzled Russian mobster. All of this adds texture to the film, a welcome distraction from the grisly central plot, which is never played as a mystery, but rather as an inevitability.
Continue reading: A Walk Among The Tombstones Review
Nick Dunne finds himself at the fore of a police investigation when his wife Amy mysteriously goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. He has mixed emotions about the whole thing as he enlists volunteers to help find her; their marriage has been on the rocks after he lost his job and dragged Amy away from New York to open a new business. Their relationship was often volatile, further implicating his involvement in her disappearance. A part of him is not so worried about her; he knows how manipulative and deceitful she can be, but unfortunately his lack of visible devastation on TV goes solidly against him for those who are sure he's killed her. As it turns out, he's not so honest either and things come to a head when it turns out that every person in this story has a secret.
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Maggie and Milo are a twin brother and sister who have been living apart for ten years. Milo has been desperately trying to follow his Hollywood dream of stardom, while Maggie is struggling to keep hold of her marriage to Lance. The pair are reunited expectedly after both narrowly avoiding a fatal accident on exactly the same day, and Maggie offers Milo a place to stay. Their relationship is rocky at best, but it soon becomes clear that they need each other's guidance if they want to overcome their troubles; Maggie can't bring herself to tell Lance that she's not ready for the baby they've been trying to conceive, and Milo simply can't let go of a past heartbreak. Can these twins reconnect and fix each other, or is it too late to work things out?
Continue: The Skeleton Twins Trailer
Matt Scudder gave up his high-flying job with the NYPD after accidentally shooting dead a civilian while chasing away a group of criminals trying to rob the bar he was drinking in. Now working as an unlicensed private detective, this recovering alcoholic is enlisted by a man who wants Matt to find the kidnappers who took his ransom and murdered his wife. These kidnappers are no amateurs, however; they very meticulously choose their victims and it isn't long before they discover that Matt is looking for them. He may be used to taking down some pretty ruthless criminals, but he's never faced anything like this before and is constantly feeling as though he is one step behind his opposition. To nab criminals like these, he can't work within the law himself - but will that turn him into something he's tried so hard to avoid?
Continue: A Walk Among the Tombstones Trailer
Nick and Amy Dunne are a couple whose marriage is struggling following the loss of Nick's journalism job and their subsequent move away from New York City. Nick sets up a new business to support them, but nothing seems to be cutting the tension between them as their relationship gets more and more fractured. When Amy goes missing on their fifth anniversary, a series of suspicious circumstances point him out as the prime suspect in a possible murder investigation; though he denies any involvement in her disappearance, we are left questioning everything he says when his true, deceitful nature starts to shine through. However, it soon becomes clear that he's not the only dishonest character in this tale as nobody is quite what they're making out to be.
Continue: Gone Girl Trailer
Russell Baze lives in a rundown, underprivileged neighbourhood where he works full-time at a steelworks while also trying to support his wife and take care of his dying father. His spirits lift, however, at the arrival of his brother Rodney, a soldier, who has finally come home after serving in Iraq. Unfortunately, he brings will him a burden - he's in need of money and has approached a ruthless crime boss in order to get it. They arrange for him to take part in a bare-knuckle boxing match, but when he fails to comply with the winning/losing arrangements he made with his new boss, he suddenly disappears without a trace. Russell goes to the police who are less than helpful and have been unable to find his brother and so he decides to go after the gang himself, determined to seek justice.
This gripping crime thriller has an all-star cast and has been directed by Scott Cooper ('Crazy Heart') who also wrote the screenplay alongside Brad Ingelsby ('The Dynamiter'). It's a story of desperation, justice and loyalty and just how far people would go to save their loved ones. 'Out Of The Furnace' is set to appear on UK cinema screens on November 29th 2013.
Liberace was an American pianist and entertainer well-known for his flamboyant lifestyle and the sense of grandiose he carried about with him. His personal life was embroiled in scandal with rumours of homosexuality which he vehemently denied. While everyone saw him as a figure of extravagance and individuality, behind closed doors was a turbulent relationship with a young chauffeur 39 years his junior. Scott Thorson became an important figure in Liberace's life; not only as a driver, but also like a son, a brother and a best friend. They embarked on a 5 year affair that saw Liberace persuade Scott into facial surgery to resemble himself, something which led to a desperate struggle with drugs on Scott's part and many a fiery argument between them. Just what was life for Liberace like behind the glitz and glamour of his luxurious existence?
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