Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of youthful energy, but not much authenticity or depth. The plot traces a young aspiring DJ trying to make his mark on the music world, and his struggle isn't exactly gruelling. But what the movie lacks in realism it makes up for in melodrama, keeping the audience involved simply because the characters are relatively enjoyable company.
Zac Efron plays Cole, a smart young guy who spends his days and nights hanging with his chucklehead pals Mason, Ollie and Squirrel (Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez and Alex Shaffer), playing music, doing drugs and tormenting the girls. But Cole has skills mixing tracks to keep a dance floor busy, and one night he's noticed by his idol James (Wes Bentley), a star DJ with a hot girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). James helps Cole discover his own distinct voice, while Cole can't help but fall for Sophie. Meanwhile, Cole and his buddies need to make some cash, so they take a job with a dodgy property developer (Jon Bernthal). But Cole is determined that this kind of work won't be his future.
Director-cowriter Max Joseph never really bothers to develop any of this properly, letting the film glide along on Cole's cool beats while indulging in arty touches like an animated drug trip. There isn't much complexity to any of the characters, but the actors add interest in the way they interact, developing camaraderie that says a lot more than their relentless macho swagger. Efron is the only actor who is allowed to offer a glimpse beneath the surface, and he navigates Cole's darker emotional moments nicely. But the script continually undermines him. For example, there are constant references to his strong moral code, and yet he seems utterly unbothered about seducing his mentor's girlfriend. Opposite him, Bentley gets to do some ace scene-stealing, but everyone else fades into the wallpaper.
Continue reading: We Are Your Friends Review
With elements of political corruption and life-threatening prejudice, this film has a rather much darker premise than the youthful Slumdog Millionaire adventure it seems to be. While much of the movie revels in teen camaraderie and finding happiness amid poverty, the plot itself is actually rather dark, intense and violent. All of this kind of muddies any message the story might be trying to carry, but it definitely holds the interest, with lively central characters and an intriguing core mystery.
It's set primarily in the Rio dump, where 14-year-old Rafael (Rickson Tevez) sifts through rubbish looking for treasures. One day he finds an ordinary wallet and splits the cash inside with his pal Gardo (Eduardo Luis). But other contents hint at something much bigger. And that's confirmed when the police swoop in demanding answers. Top detective Federico (Selton Mello) is so intent on finding the wallet that Rafael and Gardo go into hiding, teaming up outcast teen Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) to solve the mystery themselves. But the cops are too brutal to be messing with, and they're right on the boys' trail. The only adults around to help are Father Juilliard (Martin Sheen) and charity worker Olivia (Rooney Mara). And they know better than to cross the police.
Yes, this is a story set in a world of deeply corrupt cops and even more perverse politicians. In flashback, the film also traces the story of the wallet's owner Jose Angelo (Wagner Moura) and his clash with a dirty politician. Director Daldry and writer Curtis struggle to balance the crowd-pleasing aspects of the film with the seriously nasty realities of how people rampantly exploit the poor in Brazil (and everywhere, obviously). The movie wants to be a boys' adventure romp, chasing clue after clue to piece together a much bigger mystery. But the truth of corruption and prejudice is much too big for such a breezy adventure.
Continue reading: Trash Review
An unusual point of view prevents this from ever turning into the standard biopic, but it's Eddie Redmayne's staggeringly committed performance as Stephen Hawking that makes the film unmissable. Based on the book by Stephen's wife Jane Hawking, the film uses her perspective to recount the events with their relationship firmly at the centre, which adds a personal angle the audience can engage with. This diverts the attention from Hawking's scientific breakthroughs, but makes the film both energetic and emotionally riveting.
It opens in 1963 when Stephen (Redmayne) is a rising-star at Cambridge, already a genius who thinks far outside the box. But he also has a sharp sense of humour, which makes it easy to see what Jane (Felicity Jones) sees in this brainy black-hole-obsessed geek. Then just as their relationship begins to get serious, he is diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live. Instead of giving up, Jane marries him and has three kids as Stephen defies the doctor's prognosis. As his physical condition deteriorates, they get help from two people who become unexpectedly close: widowed choir director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and medical assistant Elaine (Maxine Peake). And even as their marriage comes apart under the pressure, Jane and Stephen remain deeply connected to each other.
Anthony McCarten's script cleverly lets big ideas swirl around each scene without swamping the more human story. The central factor in Stephen and Jane's interaction centres on faith: his in science, hers in God. Stephen continues to seek a theory that will scientifically explain the nature of existence, while Jane catches him out when he takes a leap of faith himself. And the film lets all of this play out through their interaction with a variety of terrific side characters, including Stephen's tutor (David Thewlis), his colleagues (Harry Lloyd and Enzo Cilenti), his father (Simon McBurney) and Jane's mother (Emily Watson). Each performance is packed with telling nuance, while Jones gives the film a textured heart and soul.
Continue reading: The Theory of Everything Review
This sun-drenched thriller is much more than a pretty picture: it's also a slow-burning story about moral compromises that worms its way under the skin. Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, there are clear parallels to The Talented Mr. Ripley as three characters circle around each other and all kinds of Hitchcockian subtext gurgles around them.
Set in 1962, the plot opens with Chester and Colette (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) on a romantic holiday in Athens, where they meet slightly too-helpful American tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac). He's already wooing one rich young tourist (Daisy Bevan) and soon locks eyes on Colette. But it's Chester he becomes entangled with, when a private eye (David Warshofsky) turns up trying to reclaim cash Chester stole from a client. So Rydal helps Chester and Colette flee to Crete and, while they wait for a plan to develop, Chester becomes convinced that Rydal and Colette are having an affair.
Writer-director Hossein Amini has already proven himself as a skilled writer of innuendo-filled dialogue (see Drive or The Wings of the Dove), and here he shows a remarkable eye for setting. It helps to have ace cinematographer Marcel Zyskind and composer Alberto Iglesias adding their considerable skills to the mix. The film looks utterly gorgeous, providing plenty of glaring sunlight and murky shadows in which Mortensen, Dunst and Isaac can bring their characters to vivid life. Every scene bursts with suggestiveness, as the inter-relationships between these three people shift unnervingly.
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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
Curtis has said he may stop making movies, and on the basis of this film you can kind of see why: he's clearly in a rut. While this romance attempts a bit of magical whimsy, it's the same collection of sassy comedy, romantic drama and sudsy sentimentality that characterised Love Actually and Notting Hill. More troubling is how it presents that same almost offensively slanted view of British society.
The magical element is time travel, as young Tim (Gleeson) learns from his father (Nighy) that the men in his family can flit back along their timelines at will, reliving past events and fixing things where needed. Tim decides this will come in handy as he looks for a wife, and indeed he uses his skill to circle round and round charming American Mary (McAdams) until they fall in love. And over the next several years, as he figures out how to make their life together as amazing as possible, he learns that there are some limitations to this gift.
As always, Curtis gives his characters a fantasy level of wealth that doesn't really make sense. We never see Tim travel back to win the lottery, but there's no other explanation for how he and Mary are able to buy a house in a posh Maida Vale street. And these characters also live in an imagined pocket of London that has no diversity at all, as we never see anyone who isn't white and straight. But then, Tim's idyllic childhood on the Cornish coast isn't exactly believable either, complete with a quirky earth-adoring sister (Wilson) and always-confused uncle (Cordery).
Continue reading: About Time Review
After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Wright conclude their so-called Cornetto Trilogy with yet another riotously inspired exploration of British culture: the pub crawl. And this time it's apocalyptic! But what makes the film thoroughly endearing is its focus on old friendships that are so well-played that we can't help but find ourselves on-screen even when things get very, very silly.
Pegg plays Gary, the ringleader of his band of school pals. It's been more than 20 years since their failed attempt to visit all 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. Now approaching 40, Gary hasn't grown up nearly as much as his friends, so it takes a bit of convincing to get the now-settled Andy, Ollie, Pete and Steve (Frost, Freeman, Marsan and Considine) to reunite for a renewed attempt to drink their way through town. Then after the first couple of pints, they start to suspect that something isn't quite right. People are behaving strangely, as if there are alien body snatchers taking over the town. So to avoid attracting attention, the boys just carry on getting blind drunk on their way to the 12th pub, The World's End.
As in the previous films, Pegg and Wright continue developing the characters and their inter-relationships even as everything falls apart around them. Sure, the end of the humanity seems to be upon them, but there's unfinished business between them that needs sorting out, and besides there are more pints to drink. Along the way, things are spiced up as they meet Ollie's sister Sam (Pike), who shocks Gary by refusing to pick up where they left off. They also encounter a former teacher (Brosnan), the town's crazy old man (Bradley) and a shady guy known as The Reverend (Smiley).
Continue reading: The World's End Review
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who star in the upcoming comedy 'The World's End', talk about the movie's director Edgar Wright in a short featurette. Producer Eric Fellner and stars Rosmund Pike, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan also offer their praise.
The cast and crew of 'The World's End', including producers Eric Fellner and Nira Park, director Edgar Wright and stars Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike, praise lead actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on their genuine on and offscreen chemistry in a featurette featuring clips of the stars from their movies together including 'Shaun of the Dead', 'Hot Fuzz', 'Paul' and the TV series 'Spaced'.
Not so much a rom-com as an anti-romance comedy, this brightly amusing British film makes us laugh fairly consistently, although the story itself is pretty grim. It's also a problem that the plot and characters are contrived and inconsistent. Even so, there's enough jaggedly hilarious humour in here to make it worth a look, complete with a superior cast that knows how to make the very most of even the smallest role.
The film opens with the lavish wedding of Josh and Nat (Spall and Byrne), although their friends and family not-so-secretly wonder if the marriage will last. Over the coming months, Josh's best mate Danny (Merchant) tries to distract them with inappropriate jokes, but the tension between relatives Naomi and Hugh (Driver and Flemyng) only reminds them how much work marriages require. After nine months, they begin seeing a therapist (Colman) who encourages them to try to make it to their first anniversary. But Josh is thinking about rekindling romance with an ex (Faris), while Nat is falling for the charms of a sexy client (Baker).
Essentially a collection of comedy set-pieces, the plot lurches around in search of ways to lampoon relationships, often in the rudest way possible as people say the worst things at the wrong times. Along the way there are some hilarious sequences, such as a humiliating game of charades or a ridiculous attempt at a threesome. Each set-up is are seized upon by expert improvisors like Merchant and Key (as a pessimistic insurance salesman). And the funniest moments in the film belong to Colman, who makes the most of every scene-stealing opportunity, and Driver, who expertly delivers a constant stream of withering insults.
Continue reading: I Give It a Year Review
Starting at full-emotion and never wavering for a moment, this huge movie adaptation of the long-running stage musical wears us out with its relentlessly epic approach. OK, so neither the musical nor Victor Hugo's source novel could be accused of being understated, but director Hooper (The King's Speech) never even tries to find a moment of quiet feeling here. The result is thrillingly moving, making the most of the soaring anthems that fill the show. But it's also pretty overwhelming.
The story starts in 1815 as convict Jean Valjean (Jackman) finishes 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. His parole officer Javert (Crowe) vows to keep an eye on him, but Valjean slips away and, after a redemptive encounter with a priest, eventually reinvents himself as an upstanding businessman. He tries to help fallen woman Fantine (Hathaway), rescuing her daughter Cosette (Allen, then Seyfried) from her greedy foster parents (Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter). Years later, Valjean and Cosette move to Paris, where a young revolutionary (Redmayne) falls for Cosette just as the 1832 student uprisings break out. And Javert is still determined to recapture Valjean.
Hooper maintains the play's operatic style, in which the dialog is sung-through in between the big numbers. And we're talking about massively emotional power ballads here, performed to wrenching effect. Hathaway's one-take rendition of I Dreamed a Dream is the kind of breathtaking scene that wins Oscars. Jackman's voice wavers and cracks beautifully as he holds the story together. Marks delivers a belting version of the soulful On My Own. Redmayne nearly steals the show with his soaring tenor voice and wonderful acting chops. Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter provide some raucously overwrought comical relief. And Crowe gets away with Javert's big musical moments because he has the acting power to back up his oddly thin voice.
Continue reading: Les Miserables Review
Tim Bevan, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hopper, Russell Crowe and Eric Fellner - Tim Bevan, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hopper, Russell Crowe, Eric Fellner Sydney, Australia The Australian premiere of 'Les Miserables' at the State Theatre - Arrivals Friday 21st December 2012
Chris (Wahlberg) is a notorious smuggler who has gone straight to have a quiet life with his wife Kate (Beckinsale) and their two young kids. But when Kate's brother (Jones) falls afoul of New Orleans thug Briggs (Ribisi), Chris and his pal Sebastian (Foster) have to plan "one last job" to get the family off the hook. This involves Chris and Andy travelling by ship to Panama to collect counterfeit bills from a crazy dealer (Luna), then furtively returning to America. But of course nothing goes to plan.
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In 1988 Barrow, at the top of Alaska, aspiring reporter Adam (Krasinski) stumbles across three whales trapped beneath the icecap. Unable to reach the open sea, there's just a tiny hole in the ice that lets them breathe. Adam's report goes viral, grabbing the attention of America's press as well as his Greenpeace-activist ex Rachel (Barrymore). And the rescue effort will require an L.A. journalist (Bell), military pilot (Mulroney), Inuit boy (Sweeney), whale expert (Nelson), oil baron (Danson), White House rep (Shaw), two chuckleheads from Minnesota (LeGros and Riggle) and the Russian Navy.
Continue reading: Big Miracle Review