After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to tell a true story from half a century ago, finding unnerving present-day resonance in the details. Using exhaustive research, they recount the events surrounding the Detroit riots for the first time, with characters who feel achingly real. It's so impeccably assembled that it carries a strong punch to the gut.
It kicked off in July 1967 when white police raided a peaceful party, brutally arresting the blacks in attendance. People hit the streets in protest, and the officials cracked down. Caught up in this, aspiring Motown singer Larry (Algee Smith) and his pal Fred (Jacob Latimore) take refuge in the Algiers Motel, where they meet some other men (including Anthony Mackie and Jason Mitchell) and two white girls (Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever). Thinking they heard shots fired, local cop Krauss (Will Poulter) and his partners (Jack Reynor and Ben O'Toole) charge in, lining everyone up and menacing them brutally. Caught in the middle, security guard Melvin (John Boyega) tries to diffuse the situation without further aggravating these viciously bigoted policemen.
The film opens with a lucid prologue tracing the roots of America's racial tensions in the continued segregation between inner-cities and suburbs, creating a police state with whites marginalising blacks. Bigelow's direction and Boal's script then recount events journalistically, throwing the audience right into the situation without character back-stories. This makes everything feel urgent and dangerous, a situation in which absolutely anything can happen. So when it leads to murder, we're deeply horrified.
Continue reading: Detroit Review
Amanda Fuller, Jordon Masterson, Kaitlyn Dever , Jonathan Adams - Disney ABC Television Group's 2015 TCA Summer Press Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel - Arrivals at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Disney, ABC, Beverly Hilton Hotel - Beverly Hills, California, United States - Tuesday 4th August 2015
There's a fundamental flaw to this multi-strand social media-themed drama: it's told completely from the perspective of older people who are fearful about the possibilities, rather than the generation for whom electronic communication is the norm. It's well-made by director Jason Reitman (age 36) and his cowriter Erin Cressida Wilson (50) from the novel by Chad Kultgen (38), but it kind of misses the point that this is the future of human interaction. So younger (or more switched-on) viewers won't buy the cautionary message.
IR's set in Austin, Texas, where Rachel and Don (Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Sandler) are each so focussed on finding space outside their marriage that they don't notice that their teen son Chris (Travis Tope) is hanging out with self-proclaimed slutty cheerleader Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia). Her best friend Allison (Elena Kamporis) is starving herself to be like her, spurred on by her mother (Judy Greer), who is doing everything she can to make Allison a star. Meanwhile, Patricia (Jennifer Garner) is desperate to control how her daughter Brandy (Kaitkyn Dever) uses small-screens, especially worried about her growing friendship with Tim (Ansel Elgort), whose father (Dean Norris) is annoyed that he has quit the school football team.
Oddly, the film seems to adopt the adults' fears as its central tone: the internet and mobile phone communications are potentially dangerous, addictive and isolating. But this makes the film feel more like a sermon than a set of intertwined stories. A far more interesting approach would be to explore how communication and relationships are shifting due to the influence of online media. Indeed, the generational aspects to the films various plotlines are the most compelling elements, with clashing points of view between grown-ups and kids. But audience members who believe that mobile phones and social media sites are the future will struggle with the way Reitman presents them as inherently troublesome.
Continue reading: Men, Women & Children Review
Keira Knightley continues to open up as an actress with this sparky comedy. As in Begin Again and The Imitation Game, she taps into her own lively personality to create a punchy character who's loose, likeable and prickly. And while the film has a warm, engaging tone that's often both honest and funny, it also feels somewhat contrived as it pushes Knightley's character into corner after corner. As with films like Humpday and Your Sister's Sister, director Lynn Shelton takes a spirited idea and ends up playing it oddly safe.
It's set in Seattle, where Megan (Knightley) is in her late-20s, horrified to see her close circle of friends settling down into predictable lives involving marriage and children. So when her longtime boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber) proposes, just as she discovers that her dad (Jeff Garlin) has cheated on her mom, Megan makes a run for it. At a convenience shop, a group of teens asks her to buy some alcohol, and suddenly she has a new best friend in Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz). As they bond, Annika invites Megan to stay at her house. So Megan invents a story about attending a self-help conference and lays low, hanging out with her new teen gang like it's the good old days. But Annika's single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell) begins to challenge Megan to realise that perhaps there are benefits to growing up.
Yes, it's obvious from the moment Megan and Craig start bickering where this is headed. And these predictable plot turns feed into the standard rom-com structure of the screenplay, right up to climactic scenes at both an airport and the prom. There isn't a single surprise along the way, but Knightley's breezy performance is more than enough to carry the audience with her on this odyssey. Effortlessly charming even when she's being a jerk, she develops a wonderful improv-like chemistry with both Moretz and Rockwell, while the bit players add plenty of texture to each episodic sequence.
Continue reading: Say When [Laggies] Review
One group of very different people - including popular high school teens and their less popular peers, and a married couple struggling in their relationship - is explored in a telling story of how social media has taken over various areas of people's lives. From love lives and infidelities to body image, the world of social networking has become a hub for public scrutiny and lack of privacy as the world flock to the net in order to gain acceptance and admiration, to meet potential partners, become famous, or even bully each other. 'Men, Women & Children' looks at the dangerous rise in the sharing of sexually explicit content, cyberbullying and other disastrous effects that the web has had on the Western world.
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Megan (Keira Knightley) is 28-years-old and she still hasn't got any sort of long term plan for her future. She earns a living as a sign flipper at her dad's business and is still dating her boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber) from high school. After attending a school reunion, the realisation that her life appears to be at a standstill grows in intensity when he tries to propose marriage. After escaping the party, she bumps into Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz); a 16-year-old girl trying to find someone whose willing to buy them alcohol. She decides to stick around with her and moves in with her for a week to clear her head after lying to her boyfriend about business trip. Annika's father Craig (Sam Rockwell) makes his reservations about a woman in her late twenties hanging out with his teenage daughter known, but soon warms to her as a spark ignites between them.
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Documentary-style authenticity gives this understated drama a real kick as it explores the fallout of child abuse from an angle we'd never expect. But this isn't the usual devastatingly gloomy approach, as filmmaker Cretton creates people and situations that are so honest that we have no trouble identifying with them. And he remains realistic and hopeful about the future.
The story centres on Grace (Larson), a counsellor at a short-term group home for at-risk teens. She's secretly in a relationship with her colleague Mason (Gallagher), and has a shock when she learns that she's pregnant. The real surprise is how this news dredges up memories of her own troubled childhood. But she doesn't have much time to take care of herself, because she, Mason and their coworkers (Malek and Beatriz) have a variety of kids who need their help. These include Marcus (Stanfield), who's about to turn 18 and move out on his own, and new arrival Jayden (Dever), who keeps trying to run away to see her abusive father.
Writer-director Cretton reveals Grace's personal history only as she's willing to face it herself. This allows Larson to deliver a remarkably transparent performance, as we see her confronting things she won't admit to herself. Her scenes with Gallagher are packed with jagged emotion as all of these issues swell up around them. And we can see that Mason's past in much more stable foster homes has given him more tools to handle these things.
Continue reading: Short Term 12 Review
'An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong' star Kaitlyn Dever takes the time to personally sign autographs for her fans with their names as she arrives for the opening night of 'The Wizard Of Oz' - a stage production by Andrew Lloyd Webber - at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
Sutter Keely thinks he has the perfect life; he's a high-school student with a car, a job he loves, a gorgeous girlfriend and the ability to make friends wherever he goes. Rather than thinking about his future and what graduation will bring, he's perfectly contented to take each day as it comes. It only becomes a curse when his girlfriend dumps him, but things take a different turn in his life when he wakes up after a particularly alcohol-fuelled night only to find himself in someone else's yard with a concerned looking Aimee Finicky next to him. Aimee's the good girl, who's never had a boyfriend and puts her focus on her future. Sutter finds himself falling in love and coming round to the idea of a quiet life, but thinking about the future has made him wonder if he should factor in Aimee's at all.
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Aside from the general lack of funny gags, miscasting is the major problem.
There's also an unwillingness to commit to the characters' dark sides, opting instead for gross-out silliness.
Continue reading: Bad Teacher Review
After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...
There's a fundamental flaw to this multi-strand social media-themed drama: it's told completely from the...
Keira Knightley continues to open up as an actress with this sparky comedy. As in...
One group of very different people - including popular high school teens and their less...
Megan (Keira Knightley) is 28-years-old and she still hasn't got any sort of long term...
Documentary-style authenticity gives this understated drama a real kick as it explores the fallout of...
Sutter Keely thinks he has the perfect life; he's a high-school student with a car,...