A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like. Instead, it's a darkly emotional journey taken by a young boy who is grappling with huge issues he doesn't quite understand. In other words, it's a film for adults that centres on a child. It's also one of the most moving films in recent memory, with a powerful cast and a remarkably resonant sense of authenticity even in its big effects-based sequences.
In northern England, 12-year-old Conor (newcomer Lewis MacDougall) is running his home while his mother (Felicity Jones) undergoes treatment for cancer. He's rather annoyed that his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) keeps butting in to take over, and also that his father (Toby Kebbell) lives in America and can only drop in for short visits. Overwhelmed by all of this, Conor imagines the gigantic yew tree in a nearby churchyard coming to life and visiting him at night. This monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) spins a series of fables about princes and dragons, exploring complex themes Conor can't quite grasp because they don't have the simple morality of obvious heroes and villains. And now the monster tells Conor that he has to recount the final story himself, and that it has to be the truth.
Yes, this film is exploring the wrenching nature of mortality and grief, and how it feels to discover for the first time what it means to each of us personally. Thankfully, writer Patrick Ness (adapting his own novel) and director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible) are clever enough to make a film that will touch grown-ups and children in very different ways. The basic story works as an adventure odyssey with strong dramatic kicks. And while youngsters are caught up in the rich depth of ideas that are momentous but just out of reach, the audience members with experience in this area will find some scenes almost overwhelmingly emotional.
Continue reading: A Monster Calls Review
Conor's life has never been easy, his mother is loving but any other family members are distant from the young boy. He's bullied at school and is increasingly turning into a loner. One night Conor goes to sleep but it awakened by a noise at the window.
What is revealed to Conor is a monster who starts talking with the boy. He says he'll tell the boy a series of stories in return for the boy eventually telling his own. As nights pass, the monster and the boy become closer friends but as the monster begins to get Conor into trouble, he must face up to a few issues in his life that he's been avoiding.
A Monster Calls is an adaptation of the Patrick Ness book of the same name. The book was originally published in 2011 but had its roots actually came from famed children's author Siobhan Dowd who wrote Bog Child. Dowd began work on the A Monster Calls before her death but unfortunately ran out of time, at which point Ness picked the novel up.
A Monster Calls stars Liam Neeson, Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones & Sigourney Weaver.
Director JA Bayona (The Orphanage) draws out exceptional performances in his cast, as well as his technical crew, to turn a true story into a potent dramatic thriller. This is such a staggering story of survival that the title almost feels understated. And even though it has a hugely emotional tone, the film never feels mawkish, taking a gritty, intimate approach to a situation that's seriously mind-boggling.
We're talking about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which claimed nearly 300,000 lives. But this is the story of just one family: Henry and Maria (McGregor and Watts), who travel to Thailand with their three sons Lucas, Thomas and Simon (Holland, Joslin and Pendergast) for an idyllic Christmas holiday. Then the Indian Ocean tsunami tears through the landscape. Lucas manages to stay with the badly injured Maria, and they go looking for help. Meanwhile, Henry finds Thomas and Simon and sets out to reunite his family. But the devastation is total, and it will take a miracle for them to find each other in the confusion of relief efforts and medical emergencies.
Avoiding the pitfalls of the usual disaster movie, the script remains tightly focussed on these five characters, even as they meet others along the way. This lets us feel every moment along with them. Meanwhile, the soaring cinematography and seamless effects work make it feel like we're watching actual footage of the tsunami, complete with almost unnervingly realistic make-up. In the tidal wave's wake, these people are grippingly sympathetic, more concerned with helping their family members than with wiping the blood off their faces. And all five actors vividly let us feel their characters' internal journey.
Continue reading: The Impossible Review
It's December 2004 and a young mother and father take their three sons on a paradise vacation to Southeast Asia where they are not far from white sandy beaches and a clear blue ocean - a far cry from the freezing winter temperatures back home. One day, whilst the Maria relaxes by the pool, watching husband Henry play ball with the kids, an ominous, trembling noise can be heard getting closer and closer. Before the family, and other vacation-goers, have time to run for their lives, they suddenly find themselves caught in one of the most horrific natural disasters of the generation; the tsunami resulting from the earthquake of the Indian Ocean. Miraculously, the family survive; Henry drifts back to consciousness with an overwhelming fear when his children are nowhere to be seen, though it is not long before his two youngest discover him. Maria and the eldest, Lucas, have drifted elsewhere and Henry vows to search every shelter and every hospital for them. They are so far unharmed and are found by some locals who take them to a nearby hospital. Maria sends Lucas off to help people find their families and finds his own along the way.
Continue: The Impossible Trailer
Left on the steps of an isolated Spanish monastery as an infant, Ambrosio (Cassel) has grown up to be a celebrated priest, wowing the population of nearby Madrid with his radical sermons. But he's haunted by visions, as well as a dark secret kept by an oddly powerful woman (Francois). Meanwhile, young Antonia (Japy) is being wooed by the sexy Lorenzo (Noaille), a match her mother (Mouchet) approves but worries about. And no one has a clue that all of their fates are intertwined.
Continue reading: The Monk [Le Moine] Review
When he was a baby, Ambrosio was raised by Capucin monks in a Spanish monastery. He becomes a devout monk and, as an adult, his sermons are among the most popular in the country, if not the most popular. However, most of his fellow monks are jealous of Ambrosio's success.
Continue: The Monk Trailer
American-raised actor Lawrence (Del Toro) returns to his family manor on an English moor, where his wild-haired father Sir John (Hopkins) lives with his Sikh servant (Malik). Lawrence discovers that his brother has just been killed in the woods by a vicious creature, which later wounds him as well, turning him into a werewolf. And on the first full moon, he finds himself on the hunt as well as chased by a Scotland Yard detective (Weaving). But maybe a gypsy woman (Chaplin) and his brother's ex-fiancee (Blunt) hold the key to his salvation.
Continue reading: The Wolfman Review
Possibly the most celebrated film of the 1970s -- at least among film snob circles -- Robert Altman's sprawling case study of five days in the Tennessee city is self-absorbed, overwrought, and dismissive. Nor is it particularly well-made, with poor sound (even after being remastered for its DVD release) and washed-out photography, not to mention a running time (2:40) that's at least an hour too long.
Continue reading: Nashville Review
Don't get me wrong, I loved Sense And Sensibility (it even made my 1995 top ten list), but I gave Persuasion one of the worst reviews of the year. Here comes Jane Eyre to follow in the latter's footsteps.
Continue reading: Jane Eyre Review
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