Julie Lynn

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Life Review

Very Good

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective at generating tension and terror. And it helps that an adept cast is on board to give some weight to characters who are rather thinly written. The script, by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, keeps everything lean and mean, concentrating on the scary stuff while ignoring any thematic depth or topicality. But director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) keeps it moving briskly.

It's set on board the International Space Station, where a specialised six-person crew is examining new soil samples from Mars. Science officer Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) finds alien life in the dirt, and watches in amazement as the cells grow and cooperate to create an interactive jellyfish-like creature, which schoolchildren on Earth name Calvin. Infectious disease doctors David and Miranda (Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson) are concerned that this life-form remains contained in the lab. So Captain Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya) and technicians Roy and Sho (Ryan Reynolds and Hiroyuki Sanada) set out to lock things down. But of course, this proves trickier than they thought it would be.

What follows is, unsurprisingly, a stalker slasher movie in which the crew members go down one by one. Calvin is a quick learner, and grows into a seriously menacing creature, complete with the silly addition of a kind of evil digital face. It also gets a few corny point of view camera angles. But mainly Espinosa holds his nerve, maintaining a believable sense of the science and the setting as things get increasingly out of control. Each terrifying set piece is followed by a brief moment of silence in which the characters (and audience) catch their breath. This also allows them to add one back story detail per person, in an attempt to stir up some emotional connection. But it doesn't really matter once the violent mayhem kicks into gear again.

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The Face Of Love Review


Weak

Middle-aged romances are rare on the big screen, so it's frustrating that this one is so badly compromised by a series of contrived plot points. One gimmick wasn't enough for director-cowriter Arie Posin, who continually twists and turns the events in ways that are both bizarre and melodramatic. Within this, Annette Bening and Ed Harris still manage to create intriguing characters, but it becomes increasingly difficult to care when the screenwriters clearly have trouble on their minds.

It opens as Nikki (Bening) is flooded with memories of her husband Garret (Harris), who died five years ago while they were vacationing in Mexico. Now that their daughter (Jess Weixler) is moving away from home in Los Angeles to attend college in Seattle, Nikki has time to think. Although she wants to remain friends and nothing more with her lusty widowed neighbour Roger (Robin Williams), an old friend of Garret's. Then Nikki meets a man who looks uncannily like Garret and begins stalking him. Tom (Harris again) is an art professor, and when Nikki gets up the nerve to talk to him, she knows she's going to a very odd place.

The film is like a variation on Vertigo, as Posin plays up the freaky doppelganger storyline to add a heightened sense of dangerous tension. But it's not so easy for the audience to accept such a set-up, when one honest conversation would solve everything. Instead, Nikki lies to everyone she knows, hides Tom from them and then lies to Tom as well. It's difficult to take a romance seriously when it has such a fraudulent foundation. Thankfully, Bening gives Nikki a fragility that makes her sympathetic, and her interaction with Harris bristles with unexpected connections because they are experiencing their blossoming relationship in such strikingly different ways. Both of them add layers of interest to their characters that make them engaging between the lines. Sadly, Williams' character never gets a chance to evolve.

Continue reading: The Face Of Love Review

Albert Nobbs Review


Good
Based on a true story, this introspective film seems to suggest that these events aren't perhaps as extraordinary as they appear. But the strong premise is weakened by writing and direction that never get a grip on the story.

In 1898, Albert (Close) works at an upscale Dublin hotel, and no one suspects that he's actually a woman. Quietly going about his work while saving to open a tobacco shop, Albert is unassuming and relentlessly polite. Then he's asked to share his room with visiting painter Hubert (McTeer), who learns his secret and reveals one of his own: he's a woman too. But Hubert has managed to have a normal married life. This inspires Albert to pursue the hotel maid Helen (Wasikowska), which is complicated by her lusty relationship with handyman Joe (Johnson).

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Mother And Child Review


Very Good
An excellent ensemble makes the most of a multi-strand female-centred film that drifts very close to melodrama as it explores various aspects of motherhood.

Fortunately writer-director Garcia is very careful to avoid wallowing in sentimentality.

Elizabeth (Watts) is a shark-like lawyer who easily seduces her new boss Paul (Jackson). She's had a difficult emotional life, and prefers to keep things under control, managing her friendships and relationships with icy distance.

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The Jane Austen Book Club Review


Bad
You need neither a deep appreciation for author Jane Austen nor an understanding of her six novels to recognize that The Jane Austen Book Club stinks.

A chick-lit-flick, Book Club is poorly directed by Robin Swicord from her own inconsistent adaptation of Karen Jay Fowler's novel about five women (and one coerced man) who use Austen's novels as a means to escape their broken lives. They cover one book a month, and we roll our eyes as their individual problems mirror the quandaries found in Austen's chapters.

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10 Items Or Less Review


Very Good
It's not going to ruin anything to tell you that nothing happens in 10 Items or Less. Yeah, it's one of those kinds of movies. A couple of characters (only one of whom even has a name) spend a day together, doing menial tasks, and getting to know one another. Night falls. The movie is over. That's what we have here. And, for the most part, it works.

The nameless man is Morgan Freeman, playing a Hollywood actor who's researching a role as a lower-class service worker, so he's spending copious amounts of time in the barrio in L.A. At a rundown supermarket he encounters Scarlet (Paz Vega), who agrees to let him tag along with her on a day of mindless errands and fast food. They eat at Arby's, get the car washed, and watch an in-store demo of a "magic" towel at Target. (Freeman's expression when free mops are offered to the crowd is priceless.)

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Nine Lives Review


Weak
A well-cast compilation film suffocating on its own self-importance, Nine Lives aims to tie together nine vastly different stories, but ends up telling hardly any of them well. The conceit of writer/director Rodrigo Garcia is to take nine vignettes, each centered around a different woman (usually in desperate circumstances), and give us a brief glimpse into her life before cutting away to the next one, while stringing a few connecting threads between them all. To ensure that he's not playing favorites, each piece is done in one single Steadicam shot and kept to only nine or ten minutes in length. A minor character from one vignette becomes a major player later on, or vice versa. As in literature, anthology works like this are a hit-and-miss affair, and in this case the misses far outnumber the ones that connect.

Nine Lives opens strong on Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo), an imprisoned mother. Mopping up a floor, she's threatened by fellow prisoners, and harassed by a guard (Miguel Sandoval) who's convinced she can give him information. Everyone tells Sandra she's not going to make it, but you think she just might be able to, hunkering down turtle-like and just plowing through the rest of her sentence. But then her daughter visits, and the phone doesn't work, sending Sandra into a stunning explosion of rage, like a mother bear kept from her cub. It's a short, unrelentingly powerful story, and done by itself it would stand as a sublime little tragedy. The same goes for the final piece, in which Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning (hardly a better match could be imagined) visit a cemetery and talk with sublime ease about not much at all. But then comes the rest of the film in between.

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Julie Lynn Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Face of Love Movie Review

The Face of Love Movie Review

Middle-aged romances are rare on the big screen, so it's frustrating that this one is...

Albert Nobbs Movie Review

Albert Nobbs Movie Review

Based on a true story, this introspective film seems to suggest that these events aren't...

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Mother and Child Movie Review

Mother and Child Movie Review

An excellent ensemble makes the most of a multi-strand female-centred film that drifts very close...

The Jane Austen Book Club Movie Review

The Jane Austen Book Club Movie Review

You need neither a deep appreciation for author Jane Austen nor an understanding of her...

10 Items Or Less Movie Review

10 Items Or Less Movie Review

It's not going to ruin anything to tell you that nothing happens in 10 Items...

Nine Lives Movie Review

Nine Lives Movie Review

A well-cast compilation film suffocating on its own self-importance, Nine Lives aims to tie together...

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