There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a blast of complex romance alongside some dark Hitchcockian twists. But filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) was probably the wrong man for the directing job, as he overproduces every scene to within an inch of its life. Everything is so big and slick that the story begins to be swamped by the too-perfect costumes and scenery. Which makes it difficult for the audience to engage in what should really be a scrappy, dangerous little drama.
It all kicks off in 1942 Casablanca, where Canadian pilot Max (Brad Pitt) meets French resistance agent Marianne (Cotillard), and together they pose as a couple to infiltrate a party and assassinate a high-ranking Nazi. They also fall in love, and afterwards decide to move to London together and start a family. But a year later, as they are raising their young daughter in leafy Hampstead, Max is told by British officials (Jared Harris and Simon McBurney) that Marianne may have secretly been a German spy all along. And there's now a countdown, as a trap as been laid to prove her guilt unless Max can find evidence to the contrary.
What follows is a tense series of events that are drenched in suspicion and intrigue as Max scrambles around to find the truth while trying not to let Marianne know what he's up to. It's a clever set-up that's very nicely played by Pitt and Cotillard, both of whom bring contrasting layers of emotion and subterfuge to their roles, plus plenty of swooning romantic energy. Most intriguing is that both are able to remain likeable as things progress. So whatever the outcome, it won't change how we feel about them. The adept actors in the side roles are excellent, although they're little more than more scenery around the central couple.
Continue reading: Allied Review
Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels like it could be a worthy successor to The Hunger Games saga, with its smart story and strong characters. The premise feels remarkably grounded, as it follows a feisty teen while her world is turned upside down by an alien invasion. And Chloe Grace Moretz gives one of her most complex performances to date as a quick, flawed heroine.
The title refers to the stages of invasion, as unseen aliens quietly take over the planet. And then not so quietly. Most of humanity has been killed by disasters or disease, with the survivors waiting for whatever the next wave of attack might be. Before this, Cassie (Moretz) was a normal 16-year-old with a crush on the cute Ben (Nick Robinson). Now she's running for her life, trying to rescue her little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur), who has been whisked to safety by the gung-ho Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) and his military resistance. Along the way, she meets farm boy Evan (Alex Roe), whom she reluctantly trusts mainly because he's such a hunk. Meanwhile, Ben finds himself in Sam's unit in the newly formed child's army Vosch is training to hunt down aliens who have taken human form.
Director Blakeson keeps the pace brisk without rushing past important details. This makes what happens feel unusually believable, and it also allows the actors to add personal touches to their performances. Moretz finds Cassie's innate courage and quick physicality, but nicely balances it with her impulsive decisions and adolescent self-doubt. As in most of these movies, she has to be in a love triangle, but her scenes with both Robinson and Roe offer something a bit more intriguing, mainly because both actors have surprises up their sleeves. There's also a fourth person in this relationship in the form of Maika Monroe's tough-girl fighter Ringer, perhaps the most intriguing character on-screen.
Continue reading: The 5th Wave Review
After three years of a rather secretive relationship with singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, Ryan is single once again.
The greatest surprise that celebrity watchers will feel for the split of actor Meg Ryan and singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, was the fact that these two screen veterans were even dating in the first place. Such was the pair’s coyness and clandestine approach to the relationship that their coupling largely flew under the radar. The liaison itself lasted all of three years and marks another in a long list of failed relationships for the now 52 year-old Ryan.
Ryan and Mellencamp's relationship remained largely hidden from the glare of the media
Ryan and Mellencamp came together some time in 2010, after Mellencamp ended an 18 year marriage with Elaine Irwin, a former model who was once the face of Ralph Lauren. Splitting their time between an east coast dwelling and Mellencamp’s longtime home of Indiana, it has been cited that it was the sheer distance between the pair that led to the split. Ryan, once a prolific actress, has not appeared in a motion picture since 2009’s Serious Moonlight but is currently producing a film entitled Ithaca. Meanwhile, Mellencamp has been busy on a new album, Plain Spoken, which is due for release shortly. But why can’t Ryan keep hold of a man?
Continue reading: Meg Ryan And John Mellencamp Split. Why Is Meg Ryan So Unlucky In Love?
Music-lover Clint Eastwood adapts the long-running stage musical for the big screen with mixed results: it recounts a terrific true story but has an uneven pace. It also fails to put the events into any kind of context in the period, which leaves the achievements of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons feeling isolated from the rest of the music industry of the time. So it's difficult to engage in much of what happens.
In 1951 Newark, Frankie (John Lloyd Young) works as a barber's assistant, hangs out with a mafioso (Christopher Walken) and sings in a band with his pals Tommy and Nick (Vincent Piazza and Michael Lomenda), troublemakers up to all kinds of scams. But it's when they added songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to the band that things begin to take off. Working with ace producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), they release three No 1 singles in a row: Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like a Man. And their fame grows from there. But Tommy's money problems eat away at the band's unity, and Nick begins to think that he's had enough.
Oddly, there the story of the Four Seasons feels dragged out to sustain a two-hour 15-minute film. The narrative is fractured and episodic, with long stretches in which nothing happens that hasn't been portrayed in every other musician biopic. Eastwood directs the film like a serious period epic, draining much of the colour from the screen while concentrating on shades of grey and brown. But the real problem is the script, which never manages to build up any momentum. Big events pale in interest next to the fantastic music, while a confusing flashback jumbles the timeline unnecessarily. And occasional scenes are narrated by the actors straight to camera, which is extremely distracting on a film screen, especially when Nick stops singing and starts chatting to us in the middle of the band's iconic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Continue reading: Jersey Boys Review
After spending nearly 200 years trapped in a coffin, Barnabas Collins (Depp) is released to rejoin what's left of his wealthy New England family in 1972. The matriarch Elizabeth (Pfeiffer) now lives in the falling-down manor Collinswood with her brother Roger (Miller), her daughter (Moretz) and his son (McGrath), as well as a live-in shrink (Bonham Carter), a caretaker (Haley) and a new governess (Heathcote). But Angelique (Green), the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire, is still trying to destroy the family.
Continue reading: Dark Shadows Review
Based on the Brian Selznick novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese's first family movie combines a young boy's adventure with a cinematic history lesson. It's a celebration of wide-eyed wonder that's a joy to watch, although the title isn't the only thing that's dumbed-down.
In early 1930s Paris, the orphaned Hugo (Butterfield) lives in Montparnasse station, where he scurries through forgotten passageways maintaining the clocks. He learned this skill from his late father (Law), but an automaton they were fixing is his only reminder of his happier childhood. Dodging the tenacious station inspector (Baron Cohen), Hugo worms his way into the life of grouchy shopkeeper Georges (Kingsley), and has a series of adventures with his goddaughter Isabelle (Moretz). When they learn that Georges is forgotten pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies, they decide to help bring him back to life.
Scorsese tells this story with bravura moviemaking trickery, from whooshing tracking shots to wonderfully inventive uses of 3D. He also peppers the screen with witty references to film history from Modern Times to Vertigo, clips from early cinema and flashbacks to the Lumiere brothers' exhibition and Melies' busy studio. Meanwhile, the main plot unfolds with a warmly inviting glow, sharply telling details and a colourful cast of memorable side characters.
Intriguingly, everyone is a bit opaque; like the automaton, the gears turn but we never really understand them.
Butterfield's Hugo may be consumed by an inner yearning, but he's always on guard, providing a watchful pair of eyes through which we see the drama, romance and slapstick of the station. And it's in these details that Scorsese and his cast draw us in. Standouts are Baron Cohen, who adds layers of comedy and pathos to every scene, and McCrory (as Mrs Melies), with her barely suppressed enthusiasm. As usual, Kingsley never lets his guard down: he invests this broken man with a bit too much dignity.
As the film progresses, the passion for the movies is infectious. Scorsese's gorgeous visual approach and writer Logan's controlled cleverness never overwhelm the human story. And even if Melies' life and Paris' geography are adjusted for no real reason, the film's warm drama and delightful imagery really get under the skin, making us fall in love with the movies all over again.
In 1960, Kemp (Depp) applies for a job at the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico, working for the sardonic editor Lotterman (Jenkins). He shares a ramshackle flat with photographer Sala (Rispoli), who home-brews super-strong rum with another journalist (Ribisi). While getting slowly pickled, Kemp also gets to know the fast-talking Sanderson (Eckhart), a public relations expert who is using property developers to increase his fortune. Sanderson also has a sexy girlfriend, Chenault (Heard), who immediately catches Kemp's eye. Trouble is brewing everywhere.
Continue reading: The Rum Diary Review
Elisa (Jolie) is a sleek, overdressed woman of mystery who is being stalked by a tenacious British detective (Bettany). When she boards a train from Paris to Venice, his men are in hot pursuit, so she sidles up to American touristFrank (Depp) to throw them off the scent. He looks similar to her boyfriend, who's wanted by the cops and a vicious Russian mobster (Berkoff). Once in Venice, Frank finds his world turned upside both by this ludicrously elegant woman and the army of goons pursuing him at every turn.
Continue reading: The Tourist Review
Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas entertainer disguising his true abilities with a cheesy stage show. FBI Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) has decided that the best way to stop a smuggled nuclear bomb from detonating somewhere in the U.S. is to use Johnson's talent for prognostication. Never mind the fact that he can only see two minutes into the future, giving her a very brief window in which to act if he were to see the bomb. That's about the level of logic at which this film operates.
Continue reading: Next Review
The Departed is based on the Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, in which a cop goes undercover in the mob while the mob places one of their own as a mole in the police force. In Scorsese's version, the scene shifts to Boston, where mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) puts loyal-from-boyhood employee Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) through police training. As Sullivan rises through the ranks, Special Investigations Unit chiefs Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) recruit rookie Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to get "kicked off" the force and do time to gain Costello's confidence.
Continue reading: The Departed Review
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