Shakespeare's Scottish play returns to the big screen with earthy energy, visual style and roaring performances. Acclaimed Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) takes an artistic approach that makes terrific use of sweeping landscapes and harsh weather, which allows the cast to put their guts into their roles. Yet while the film looks absolutely amazing, the sound mix is so muddled that anyone unfamiliar with the play will find it difficult to follow.
Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth, an 11th century general who has just triumphed on the Highland battlefield but is struggling internally after he and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) lost their infant child. So when three witches tell him that he is destined to become king, his wife encourages him to make it happen sooner rather than later. In secret, Macbeth murders King Duncan (David Thewlis) and pins the blame on his son Malcolm (Jack Reynor), who flees in fear, raising suspicion. Now on the throne, King and Queen Macbeth are overwhelmed by paranoia about any hint of a threat to their power, raising distrust of loyal friends like Banquo (Paddy Considine) and Duncan's defender Macduff (Sean Harris). Meanwhile, Malcolm has raised an army in England and is coming back to claim his title.
This is one of Shakespeare's bleakest, leanest plays, and Kurzel gives it an intriguingly expansive tone by setting most of the action outdoors in the elements rather than in shadowy castle corridors. In addition to adding a gritty, muddy kick, this allows the battle sequences to take on a Lord of the Rings-scale intensity. So the effect of this violence on the characters is that much more resonant. Lady Macbeth turns inward, tormenting herself in an extended dream sequence, while Macbeth goes the other way, killing anyone who seems even remotely shifty. But of course they also understand that their ambition and guilt are causing these extreme reactions.
Continue reading: Macbeth Review
This may be a drama about breast cancer, but it's astutely written and played with a jagged sense of humour that makes it thoroughly entertaining. Anchored by energetic, emotionally resonant performances from Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, the film is also a sharp depiction of lifelong friends who travel through some enormous events together. And by keeping everything so funny and honest, it's even more moving than expected.
Jess and Milly (Barrymore and Collette) have grown up together in London, outsiders who always had each others' backs. Their respective spouses Jago and Kit (Paddy Considine and Dominic Cooper) have become part of their extended family, as are Milly's two sparky kids (Honor Kneafsey and Ryan Lennon Baker) and Milly's diva mum (Jacqueline Bisset). Jess has never been able to get pregnant, so she and Jago are undergoing fertility treatment. And just as Jess finds out that she's pregnant, Milly is diagnosed with cancer. Both are understandably nervous about sharing their news. Then things get even more strained when Milly's relationship with Kit falters, and she starts flirting shamelessly with a local barman (Tyson Ritter).
Morwenna Banks' screenplay may have a fairly standard structure, but its details are fresh and unusually balanced, cleverly deepening the characters and never letting the movie fall into sentimental sappiness. Indeed, as the emotions get more intense, the interaction gets edgier and the jokes dirtier. Both Barrymore and Collette shine in their roles. With the showier, more wrenching character, Collette brings a raucous feistiness that's utterly infectious, even when Milly does something she knows is wrong. She is certainly not a cancer "victim"! And Barrymore digs much deeper than usual as Jess, deploying her impeccable comic timing to draw out the character's inner yearnings. Opposite them, both Considine and Cooper are excellent in roles that are more textured than the usual long-suffering husbands.
Continue reading: Miss You Already Review
Milly has rather a modest life as a community gardener, living on a boat in London with her long term boyfriend Jago with whom she is trying for a baby. And while her relationship with Jago is at its peak, Milly's real soulmate is in her best friend Jess; a rather more outspoken woman with a booming career, husband and two children, and who has been by Milly's side since they were very small children. They have always been there for each other despite how different they are, but their friendship is about to be tested for the first time when Jess is suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. Now with mortality threatening to break the duo apart, they must find a way to keep on smiling even when things get even harder with Jess' treatment, and the stress that comes with having a potentially terminal illness.
Continue: Miss You Already Trailer
Macbeth is a Scottish Duke who is greeted by three witches following a victorious battle. They reveal to him a prophecy which speaks of him one day becoming King of Scotland, and not only that, but he shall not be killed by any of woman born. Poisoned by greed, he confides in his wife Lady Macbeth, who is equally consumed with fantasies of riches and royalty. She convinces him to kill the current King to gain power and succeeds, though not without a price. From that moment on, this noble man transforms into a tyrant bound by guilt and paranoia and willing to do anything to maintain his throne and keep his dark secret hidden. But the more he tries to find peace within himself, the more danger he is faced with.
Continue: Macbeth - Clips
After a long, hard battle, a Scottish Thane learns of a prophesy that will change his life forever. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is confronted by three witches, who inform him that he shall one day be king, and that no man born by a woman shall ever kill him. When another of their prophecies comes true, he confronts his wife (Marion Cotillard), who convinces him that he must murder King Duncan (David Thewlis). From there, Macbeth falls into the darkest depths of the human soul, as he betrays those he loves for power, and abandons his friends for the love of prophesies.
Continue: Macbeth - Teaser Trailer
A meaty, fascinating story is splintered into three plot strands that battle for the viewer's attention, so while the film is never boring, it's also oddly uninvolving. Fortunately, it has an excellent cast and is shot with skill and a relentless intensity to feel like a big, epic-style dramatic thriller with heavy political overtones.
After a scene-setting prologue, the story starts in 1953 Moscow, where Leo (Tom Hardy) is a war hero now working in the military police, purging the city of its spies. Or at least its suspected spies. In the Soviet socialist utopia, crime officially doesn't exist, but Leo finds it difficult to tell his best pal Alexei (Fares Fares) that his 8-year-old son was killed in a train accident when he was so clearly tortured and murdered. Ordered by his boss (Vincent Cassel) to let it go, and menaced by his rival colleague Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), Leo continues investigating, resulting in a reprimand that sees Leo and his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) relocated to the the grim industrial city of Volsk. But when another young boy's body appears here, Leo gets his new boss (Gary Oldman) to see the connection.
There are at least three main plots in this film, and the filmmakers oddly never allow one to become the central strand. There's the mystery involving this brutal, unhinged serial killer (Paddy Considine) stalking boys along the railway. There's the thriller about Leo being brutally taunted by Vasili, who has a thing for Raisa and is trying to crush them for good. But the only emotionally engaging strand is Leo and Raisa's complex marriage relationship, which takes a couple of unexpected turns. Along the way, there are several action sequences shot with shaky cameras and edited so they're impossible to follow. And there's a sense that the film also wants to be a grandiose Russian epic with its expansive cinematography and big orchestral score.
Continue reading: Child 44 Review
Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that it wears our faces out with all the smiling, laughing, crying and cheering. Skilfully written and directed, and sharply well played by an ace cast, this is a story that can't help but get under the skin. Its twists and turns are genuinely jaw-dropping, and the character interaction sparks with all kinds of issues that feel hugely resonant, even though the events depicted took place 30 years ago. In other words, this is a strong candidate for film of the year.
It's set in 1984 London, where 20-year-old Joe (George MacKay) sneaks out of his parents' home to attend the gay pride festivities. When he meets a group of lesbian and gay activists (including Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott and Dominic West), he feels like he has found his own place in the world. Their cause is to aid striking miners, because they understand how it feels to be abused by the police and oppressed by their own government. But of course Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners finds it difficult to get a group to accept their assistance. Eventually, they discover a group of strike supporters in the small Welsh village of Dulais who are willing to partner with them, so they travel to Wales to meet them (including Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Jessica Gunning), sparking a major culture clash.
Cleverly, the script allows each character in the story to take his or her own personal journey, and the variety of plot-threads weave together beautifully to be powerfully involving. This also allows the filmmakers to explore a wide range of issues in both communities. The gays are facing family rejection, public harassment and the dawn of the Aids epidemic, while the miners are grappling with deep-seated prejudices while watching their lives eviscerated by Thatcher's systematic plan to crush the unions. All of this gives the cast a lot of meat to chew on, and yet the film's brightly anarchic pacing and energetic period touches keep it from ever feeling preachy.
Continue reading: Pride Review
'Pride' could be BAFTA's - and perhaps Oscars bound - after critics lauded it ahead of release this weekend.
Pride is almost certainly the movie that you have to see at the cinema this weekend. The comedy-drama has everything to match some of the great British movies of recent years - The King's Speech, Tyrannosaur, In Bruges, etc. It has a strong narrative, a hugely talented cast and, now, excellent reviews.
Set in the summer of 1984, with Margaret Thatcher in power and the National Union of Mineworkers on strike, Pride tells the story of a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists who raise money to support the strikers' family. Initially rejected by the Union, the group set off to a tiny mining village in Wales to make their donation in person. In probably the most British line in a movie synopsis, ever, "As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all."
Continue reading: With 100%, 'Pride' Is Probably The Best British Movie Of The Year
There's such an important issue at the centre of this British thriller that the film should not be ignored, even if filmmaker Shan Khan strains to turn it into a formulaic thriller. It's beautifully shot and performed with emotional resonance by a gifted cast, but the fragmented structure makes it difficult to engage with the story.
The topic at hand is honour killing, a threat that becomes real for British-Pakistani estate agent Mona (Aiysha Hart) when she decides to run off with her boyfriend Tanvir (Nikesh Patel) against her family's wishes. So her mother (Harvey Virdi) and older brother Kasim (Faraz Ayub), reluctantly joined by younger brother Adel (Shubham Saraf), hire an unnamed bounty hunter (Paddy Considine) to track her down and stop her. But this case forces him to examine with his own past as a racist thug.
Considine delivers one of his most textured performances yet as a man who is finally listening to his conscience after years of harsh brutality. This makes him an absorbing character through which to enter this story, and his limited interaction with others is telling and sometimes moving. Hart is also terrific as a young woman who is pushed from high-flying professional to cowering victim by her own subculture. The other standout is Saraf as a teen who knows his family traditions are utterly wrong and feels helpless to stand up against them.
Continue reading: Honour Review
After his acclaimed drama Submarine, actor-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade applies his considerable visual skills to this striking blackly comical adaptation of Dostoevsky's novella. Bristling with wit and snappy details, the film's style overwhelms its emotional core, leaving us unable to feel the punch of this odyssey about a young man wrestling with his own identity.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Simon, a loner who's still anonymous at work after seven years in his desk job. Secretly in love with the copy girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), he watches her through a telescope from his flat and digs through her rubbish. Then just as he's assigned to mentor the surly teen daughter (Yasmin Paige) of his manager (Wallace Shawn), James meets new employee Simon (also Eisenberg), a mirror image of himself who is far more confident, fun-loving and, yes, popular with everyone in the office.
Ayoade designs the film like a drab variation on Terry Gilliam's Brazil (and more recently The Zero Theorem), with that same claustrophobic sense of overcrowded anonymity and Kaflaesque bureaucracy. It's not particularly original, but it is fun to watch, especially on a big screen where we can take in the detailed sets and costumes, as well as a steady procession of amusing cameos from the likes of Chris O'Dowd and Submarine stars Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor and Craig Roberts. All of this adds to the general chaos of Simon's life, as well as his deep urban angst. But we're too distracted to properly sympathise with him.
Continue reading: The Double Review
Shakespeare's Scottish play returns to the big screen with earthy energy, visual style and roaring...
This may be a drama about breast cancer, but it's astutely written and played with...
Milly has rather a modest life as a community gardener, living on a boat in...
Macbeth is a Scottish Duke who is greeted by three witches following a victorious battle....
After a long, hard battle, a Scottish Thane learns of a prophesy that will change...
A meaty, fascinating story is splintered into three plot strands that battle for the viewer's...
Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that...
During the UK miners strike between 1984 and 1985, working families are in desperate need...
There's such an important issue at the centre of this British thriller that the film...
After his acclaimed drama Submarine, actor-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade applies his considerable visual skills to this...
Simon is a timid, uncharismatic and largely forgettable man who doesn't seem to be getting...