There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave cynical audiences annoyed. But for those who leave their bah-humbug attitudes at home, it's a wonderfully entertaining take on a classic. In 1843, when Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, the holiday was a fairly low-key religious festival. But the book helped create a cultural phenomenon that is still growing. And this enjoyable film recounts how it was written in six short weeks.
At the time, Dickens (Legion's Dan Stevens) was Britain's most famous author. But his last three novels failed to sell. Desperate for a hit due to financial pressures, he decides to write a Christmas book, something that had never really been done. But he's distracted by the fact that his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is pregnant and his parents (Jonathan Pryce and Ger Ryan) have dropped in for a noisy visit. As he plans this new book, the central figure of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) is inspired by someone he meets, as are the rest of the story's characters and settings. But he's struggling to complete the tale, and time is running short.
The film basically proves the resilience of Dickens' iconic novella, because it has remarkable power even when turned inside-out by this script. Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) gives the film a twinkly, often comical tone but doesn't shy away from the darker corners or some strongly emotional moments. And the script includes quite a bit of biographical detail about Dickens' life without making it too melodramatic. With his book, Dickens wanted to address Britain's harsh labour practices and the greediness of capitalism, urging people to be kinder to each other. So he reinvented Christmas as a time of year to reach out to those less fortunate.
Continue reading: The Man Who Invented Christmas Review
This may be a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but mainstream audiences should also note that this is an artful film that refuses to tell its story using the usual formula. For some viewers, this psychological angle will be exhilarating and challenging, although it might feel elusive to others. Either way, Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) has boldly made a film that defies expectations and gives Gyllenhaal two of his strongest performances in years.
Yes, he plays two roles in this doppleganger mystery. We meet him as Adam, a Toronto history professor with a beautiful but busy girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) and a dull repetitious life. One evening he watches a movie at home that features an extra who looks exactly like him, so he sets out to learn more about the actor, credited as "Daniel Saint Claire", although everyone calls him Anthony. Adam discovers that Anthony's wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) is six months pregnant, and when the two men meet they are both disarmed that they look so exactly alike, down to their scars. Adam's mother (Isabella Rossellini) insists that he doesn't have a long-lost twin. Then things start to take a darker turn as the two men begin to learn things about each other.
Director Villeneuve is superb at getting under the skin of his characters, and the film is shot and edited to take us right into Adam's troubled mind, revealing his more shadowy inner corners through movie clips and creepy cutaways that may or may not be part of Anthony's freaky secret life, which involves some sort of elite sex club. Villeneuve further builds the mood with a horror-style musical score (by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans) and insinuating, sexy editing. He also resolutely refuses to explain what everything means, including the central plot itself, preferring to challenge viewers to internalise everything and discover their own explanation.
Continue reading: Enemy Review
Analeine Cal y Mayor, Zoe Kravitz, Douglas Smith and Niv Fichman - 30th Miami International Film Festival - 'The Boy Who Smells Like Fish' - Arrivals - Miami, Florida, United States - Saturday 2nd March 2013
It may be style over substance, but Brandon Cronenberg cleverly blends his father David's love of medical yuckiness with an elusive Lynchian-style mystery to keep us unnerved all the way through this low-key thriller. And the film also works as a dark satire on today's celebrity-obsessive culture, in which fans will go to any lengths to be closer to their idols. So imagine if they had the chance to share a star's illness.
This is the work done by the gleaming, futuristic Lucas Clinic, where clinician Syd (Jones) works. He injects one patient (Smith) with an STD taken from mega-star Hanna Geist (Gadon). But Syd has secretly given himself a more powerful virus, which he learns is killing Hannah. Now everyone wants to get their hands on him, even as he realises that he needs to find a cure before it's too late. So he gets in touch with Hannah's assistant (McCarthy) and doctor (McDowell), and discovers that there's a conspiracy afoot involving his clinic's main rival.
The idea that fans would go to this kind of extreme isn't actually that unbelievable in a culture in which we watch their every move on reality TV and feel like their friends through Twitter. And Cronenberg's idea goes beyond sharing viruses, including cloned skin grafts and even a butcher (Pingue) who sells meat grown from celebrity cells. While the ideas echo some of David Cronenberg's films (mainly Videodrome and eXistenZ), this is also a strikingly original approach. The imagery looks amazing, with all-white surfaces and a spare use of colour, against which Syd's unravelling physicality looks increasingly garish.
Continue reading: Antiviral Review
A homeless man (Hauer), looking for cash to buy a lawnmower to earn a living, finally gets fed up with the violence doled out by ruthless local gangster Drake (Downey), who delights in gruesomely killing anyone who crosses him, including his brother (Wells). Drake's also responsible for the arcade that's turning teens into game addicts with loan-shark debts and a desire for blood.
After running afoul of the crooked police chief (Akerman), the hobo is helped by kindly hooker Abby (Dunsworth). Then he gets a shotgun and sets out to clean up the streets.
Continue reading: Hobo With A Shotgun Review
The woman (Julianne Moore) tags along with her ophthalmologist husband (Mark Ruffalo) when he is struck by the blindness and sent to the initial holding facility for the infected. Visually plagued by random flashes of pure white, the film hams up Saramago's eloquent metaphor as the wards of the facility become factions. One splinter supports a dictator (Gael García Bernal) and an accountant (Maury Chaykin) who garner the entirety of the rations supplied by the army. Possessions and eventually women are traded for meager portions as the nameless woman begins to consider her tolerance in the face of a shadowy, violent orgy that even Argentine provocateur Gaspar Noé might find a little too much.
Continue reading: Blindness Review
Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young hitchhiker with more spirit than fear, enters a restaurant, scans it, and picks a man sitting alone to delight with her company. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), a laconic Englishman, barely tolerates the intrusion on his quiet privacy with a gabby adolescent and, after displaying what is, for him, considerable patience, rejects her suggestion to ride with him. He leaves, as alone as when he came in, and drives off.
Continue reading: Snow Cake Review
There is one scene in Clean that sticks out to me. A supremely-groggy Nick Nolte sits at a small fast food joint and gets a small salad and water while Maggie Cheung (playing his widowed daughter-in-law) goes up to the counter and orders a monster burger, french fries, and onion rings with a large coke. It's her first real meal since getting out of prison and it's his first meal with her for god knows how long. There's a lot of symbolism, even though it's simple, being used in the scene, and it gives depth to a complicated relationship (everyone thinks she Courtney-Loved her rocker boyfriend). How did director Olivier Assayas, a seasoned pro, allow this to be one of the scant few scenes that hold any real fascination? Furthermore, how did he allow himself to write something so damn drab and insipid?
Emily (Cheung) spends the first 15 minutes of the film being the annoying Yoko to Lee (Nick Cave dead ringer and cohort James Johnston), an aging rocker trying to get a deal for his anthology. She gets nabbed for heroin possession just when she finds Lee's body but is saved by Lee's manager. Out of jail after a quick stint, she meets with Albrecht (Nolte), her father-in-law who has been raising her son Jay with his wife. It's apparent to all involved (besides Jay) that Emily needs to get clean, get a job, and take custody of her child. The journey is held up by a brief stint in Paris where she still takes pills, gets fired from a job and finally begins to detox after her musician friend Tricky (playing himself) ignores her requests for help with the custody issue.
Continue reading: Clean Review
Continue reading: The Red Violin Review
I rarely read film production notes, but writer/director/star Don McKellar's introduction to Last Night caught my eye this time. I quote, "The world is ending, once again. But this time, in my movie, there is no overburdened loner duking it out with the asteroid, no presidents or generals turning the tables on extra-terrestrials. Those heroes are out there, somewhere, one hopes, but I was interested in the rest of us suckers--hapless individuals who, with limited access to nuclear resources, would have to come to terms with the fast-approaching finale."
Continue reading: Last Night Review
The adult-oriented character piece delves headfirst into the natural landscapes of the Southeast - primarily Georgia and North Carolina - to hide the criminal wrongdoings of kidnapper Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) and his valuable target, Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford). While the men work their way to an undisclosed location in the woods, Clearing continues to focus on the consequent people affected by the impromptu abduction - from Wayne's wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), and their children (Alessandro Nivola, Melissa Sagemiller) to the businessman's mistress (Wendy Crewson).
Continue reading: The Clearing Review
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