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Cake Review


Jennifer Aniston delivers an Oscar-calibre performance in this rather over-worked drama, which tries to emphasise heavy-handed metaphors more than the characters themselves. But it's an involving personal odyssey thanks to Aniston's honest acting, and Daniel Barnz's sensitive direction manages to dodge most of the script's more glaring pitfalls.

Aniston plays Claire, a woman who has been in continual pain, both emotional and physical, following the car accident that claimed the life of her young son. Revelling in her bitter sarcasm, she has alienated her husband (Chris Messina), driven her physiotherapist (Mamie Gummer) to despair and so enraged her therapy leader (Felicity Huffman) that she's been thrown out of the group. The only person who patiently sticks by her side is her maid/assistant Silvana (Adriana Barazza), and she's beginning to waver. Then Nina (Anna Kendrick), a therapy-group member, commits suicide, making Claire question why she's still bothering to be alive. There has to be a spark of hope there, and she decides to stalk Nina's single-dad widower Roy (Sam Worthington) for answers.

While the premise seems to set up the usual story about two damaged souls healing each other, the story thankfully doesn't go down that tired route. Instead, Patrick Tobin's script keeps the interaction prickly and unexpected, even as it layers in so much symbolism that it becomes rather exhausting. Claire's physical scarring is clearly indicative of something deeper, as is her array of cruel defence mechanisms. Thankfully, Aniston plays these scenes with a mixture of black comedy and aching sadness that makes the character thoroughly involving and only slightly likeable. Her interaction with Barraza is the heart of the film, beautifully played because their connection remains mainly unspoken. By contrast, Worthington feels almost superfluous; he sharply matches Aniston's cynicism, but is too nice to register very strongly.

Continue reading: Cake Review

300: Rise of an Empire Review


Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is even more chaotic and much murkier to look at. It still features armies of scantily clad muscle men grunting idiotic declamatory dialogue as they charge into cartoon-style battles against all odds. No, this isn't particularly subtle filmmaking: it's loud and brutal. And good for an unintentional laugh.

At the same time as Spartan King Leonidas (a briefly glimpsed Gerard Butler) is leading his 300 men to battle against Xerses (Santoro), Greek General Themistocles (Stapleton) approaches Leonidas' wife Gorgo (Headey) for help facing Xerses vengeful military commander Artemisia (Green) on another front at sea. Themistocles' main officers are Aesyklos (Matheson) and Scyllias (Mulvey), whose son Calisto (O'Connell) secretly joins the army as they set sail for an epic ship-based battle against Artemisia's fearsome forces. And there are two more watery conflicts to come, each more outrageous than the one before, as Artemisia taunts Themistocles seductively while dispensing fiery death and destruction at every turn.

The addition of two strong women adds a bit of interest here, but the focus is still on the bare-chested men, even if only three or for of them actually emerge into proper characters. Headey's chief contribution is a rambling voiceover narration explaining everything for us, while Green's wry smirk and momentous glower let her steal every scene. By contrast, the men seem rather feeble. Stapleton is manly and commanding, but not hugely charismatic. Rising-star O'Connell barely gets two decent scenes. Santoro is hilariously grouchy eye candy. And everyone else is clearly expendable.

Continue reading: 300: Rise of an Empire Review

Picture - Mark Canton - Premiere of... Los Angeles California United Kingdom, Wednesday 5th March 2014

Mark Canton - Premiere of '300: Rise of an Empire' held at at TCL Chinese Theatre - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United Kingdom - Wednesday 5th March 2014

Picture - Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari... Hollywood California United States, Wednesday 5th March 2014

Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari - 300: Rise of an Empire Hollywood Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre - Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 5th March 2014

Picture - Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton... Los Angeles California United States, Tuesday 4th March 2014

Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton - Celebrities attend premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures' "300: Rise Of An Empire" at TCL Chinese Theatre. - Los Angeles, California, United States - Tuesday 4th March 2014

Escape Plan Review


You know not to expect something deep and meaningful when a movie stars Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and indeed this is pretty much what we expect: a slick thriller that's utterly preposterous but not quite stupid. But the premise has a certain idiotic charm to it, and there are just enough clever touches to keep our brains engaged.

Stallone plays brilliant security expert Breslin, whose job entails being thrown into maximum-security prisons so he can find the weakness in the system. Clearly unbothered by being beaten and brutalised by guards and inmates, Breslin is backed up by a support crew (Ryan and Jackson) and his business partner (D'Onofrio) back in the office. But now the CIA wants Breslin to check out its new top-secret enemy combatant lock-down. To do this, Breslin must go off the grid. And when he realises that the evil warden Hobbes (Caviezel) isn't playing ball, he teams up with brilliant scientist inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to, yes, plan an escape.

As the story develops we get the feeling that the screenwriters sat around thinking of ways they could make this prison increasingly impossible to believe. Indeed, one mid-film twist is so incredible that it actually makes us admire the writers' audacity. Arthouse director Halstrom gleefully indulges in all of this silliness, keeping the imagery sharp and cool while name-checking pretty much every cliche of both prison and heist movies. There's even a bit of political context in the way a private contractor is abusing the system to profit from the War on Terror.

Continue reading: Escape Plan Review

Picture - BooBoo Stewart Los Angeles, California, Monday 7th November 2011

Boo Boo Stewart and Mark Canton - BooBoo Stewart Los Angeles, California - 'Immortals 3D' Los Angeles premiere at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live Monday 7th November 2011

Mark Canton:
News Pictures Film

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