Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling a sprawling story with artistry, invention and vivid characters that leave most Hollywood animated movies in the dust. It's based on a 10th century Japanese folktale that's packed with resonant themes, and it's been animated in a way that makes it look like a childhood storybook come to life. So even if it feels rather long at 2 hours 17 minutes, the visual minimalism is relentlessly beautiful.
The story begins in the countryside, where farmer Okina (James Caan in the English-language version) finds a tiny girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a bamboo stalk. Believing her to be a princess, he raises her with his wife Ouna (Mary Steenburgen). When he finds silk and gold in his bamboo grove, Okina decides that the gods want them to raise the now-teen girl in a more regal setting, so they all move to the capital, where she's officially named Princess Kaguya and becomes the most eligible girl in the kingdom, attracting offers from five wealthy men, plus His Majesty (Dean Cain) himself. But Kaguya is longing for the quieter life in the country, and misses her childhood pal Sutemaru (Darren Criss).
As it develops, the story becomes deeper and richer, offering hints as to where the events are headed, although nothing prepares us for the final-act sequence, which feels almost anachronistic in its surreally eclectic splendour. But by then, we have become completely engulfed in Kaguya's story, identifying with her longing to reconnect with the friends who used to call her "L'il Bamboo" because she grew up much more quickly than they did. This tension between sophisticated high society and rural simplicity adds an extra layer of meaning to the entire film, as does the running commentary about Japan's gender politics. And the hint of romance between Kaguya and Sutemaru offers further subversion of the social order.
Continue reading: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Review
Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen - Photographs of a variety of stars as they arrived for the Premiere of the biographical drama 'Wild' at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at AMPAS in Beverly Hills, California, United States - Thursday 20th November 2014
An almost ridiculously strong cast and a witty script by the writer of Crazy Stupid Love make this silly film a lot more entertaining than it should be. As it playfully explores long friendships and the struggles of ageing, it turns into a four-sided bromance. So even if the film feels a little under-powered, it's still thoroughly charming.
At the centre are four lifelong buddies who are determined not to grow old. Paddy (De Niro) is trying to recover from grief over his wife's death, while Archie (Freeman) is tired of being fussed over by his son (Ealy) and Sam (Kline) hates living in a retirement community with his spirited wife (Gleason). So they jump on the chance to travel to Vegas for a stag weekend for their pal Billy (Douglas), who is marrying a woman (Blair) in her 30s. And getting together sparks their youthful sense of mischief as they plan a lavish party. Especially when two of them begin to fall for lounge singer Diana (Steenburgen).
Having five Oscar winners in the lead roles gives considerable oomph to the whole project, as these seasoned veterans bring out engaging details of their characters. Douglas has the safest role as a hapless lover-boy, while De Niro does the emotional heavy lifting and Kline endures the cheapest jokes (because his wife has given him a "free pass" for the weekend). Meanwhile, Freeman is clearly having the most fun: cool and relaxed with a naughty glint in his eye. And Steenburgen provides some badly needed female feistiness.
Continue reading: Last Vegas Review
Co-stars Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Michael Douglas reunite on the red carpet at the New York premiere of 'Last Vegas'. The trio were three of four of the Oscar winning acting veterans selected for the lead roles in the comedy which sees them hit Las Vegas for a last night of youthful excitement.
Star power hasn't rubbed off here.
What a risk this was: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline sharing a screen as four old friends travelling to Las Vegas to fulfill some sort of nostalgic dream of a bachelor party in the debauched city.
Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Mary Steenburgen and Robert De Niro
All four actors have made brilliant films, and are all screen legends in their own right. Apart from maybe Kline, who recently starred as 'Wounded Soldier' in 2012’s Oscar-winning Lincoln – one of his best films.
Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Aunt Freida, Nancy Kelly and Guest - CBS Films LAST VEGAS Special Screening After Party and Red Carpet Arrivals at Haze Nightclub at ARIA - Las Vegas, NV, United States - Saturday 19th October 2013
After graduating from university, Skeeter (Stone) returns home to Jackson, Mississippi, to seek work as a journalist. But one theme from her childhood haunts her: the maid (Tyson) who actually raised her. But her similarly raised close friends (Howard, O'Reilly and Camp) now take their own maids for granted, and Skeeter wonders why this story has never been told from the help's point of view. After finding an interested New York editor (Steenburgen), it takes awhile to convince Aibileen (Davis) to tell her story, especially as both know it will upset the status quo.
Continue reading: The Help Review
Dave (Jones) is a detective looking into the violent murder of a prostitute when movie star Elrod (Sarsgaard), filming nearby in a swamp, stumbles across the decades-old skeleton of a chained-up black man. In Dave's mind, the murders are linked, and as he questions a local mobster (Goodman), a partying investor (Beatty) and the film's director (Sayles), both cases get increasingly haunting. Dave also imagines that he sees a Confederate general (Helm) roaming the bayou around his house. And within this swirling mist, things start to make sense.
Continue reading: In the Electric Mist Review
Margaret (Bullock) is a ruthless editor in New York whose efficient assistant Andrew (Reynolds) can't stand her. But when Margaret finds out she's being deported back to her native Canada, she talks Andrew into marrying her. To convince the probing immigration agent (O'Hare), she accompanies Andrew home to see his parents (Steenburgen and Nelson) in Alaska. And over the course of the weekend, their plan begins unravel even as they begin to see each other as humans for a change.
Continue reading: The Proposal Review
In the Electric Mist -- my nomination for the worst-titled film since Quantum of Solace -- is likely destined to meet a similar fate. Despite star turns from Tommy Lee Jones, John goodman, Mary Steenburgen, and Peter Sarsgaard, Tavernier's rural Louisianan tale of murder, mobsters, and, er, dead Confederate soldiers, is a rocky affair that makes next to no sense at all.
Continue reading: In the Electric Mist Review
On the day he leaves for Sweden to pick up his Nobel Prize in chemistry, Dr. Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) finds out that his PhD-candidate son Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) has been kidnapped. While his FBI forensics psychologist wife Sarah (Mary Steenburgen) worries, a $2 million ransom is demanded. With the help of Detective Max Mariner (Bill Pullman), and neurotic neighbor Mr. Gastner (Danny Devito), they hope to find the boy alive. What they don't know is that Barkley has befriended his captor, a man named Thaddeus James (Shawn Hatosy) who has a DNA-sized bone to pick with the good doctor. Armed with proof that Michaelson doesn't deserve science's highest honor, the duo will create an elaborate plot to get the cash, clear up the crime, and go their separate ways. So imagine Barkley's surprise when Thaddeus ends up at his front door, with former, improbably-named fling City Hall (Eliza Dushku) on his arm.
Continue reading: Nobel Son Review