After several high-profile grown-up movies (from Atonement to Anna Karenina), director Joe Wright aims this Peter Pan origin story squarely at children. So while it's far too manic and broad for adults, this adventure will be the most exciting movie any 8-year-old has seen in years. It's colourful and fantastical, and it thankfully doesn't indulge in reworking the beloved J.M. Barrie stories. Instead, it imagines an action-packed prequel universe.
As German bombs fall on London during the Blitz, young Peter (Levi Miller) is up to all kinds of mischief in the grim orphanage overseen by Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke), who sells bad boys to airborne pirates. Sure enough, one night Peter is taken, sailing into the sky to Neverland, where he is sent to work in the mines for the swaggering, heartless Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). In the mines Peter is befriended by the adventurer Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and when Peter discovers that he can fly they make their escape. Blackbeard chases them out into the woods, where they take refuge with Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her tribe, which is convinced that Peter is the child of a prophecy that will lead the fairy kingdom to freedom. But just when Peter learns who his parents really were, Blackbeard catches up with them.
This is an old-school kids' movie, packed with larger-than-life characters and outrageously imaginative action sequences that make the most of the 3D cinematography. Yes, there's so much digital trickery going on that the movie is essentially a cartoon, but it's so vividly explosive that it's a lot of fun to watch. And many of the big set-pieces are genuinely thrilling. There's also quite a lot of fun to be had in the way the story twists the familiar characters around. Obviously, Hook couldn't have always been a bad guy; here he's one of the heroes, and he still has both hands, which hints that further prequel adventures may be on the cards.
Continue reading: Pan Review
A riveting performance from Tom Hardy makes this pseudo-thriller utterly riveting, turning even the most contrived plot elements into punchy drama. Like Robert Redford in All Is Lost or Sandra Bullock in Gravity, this one-person show also works as an intriguing cinematic experiment: telling an entire story centred only on a man driving a car for 90 minutes.
Hardy plays construction foreman Ivan Locke, who's set to oversee the biggest concrete pour in Europe. But at the crucial moment, he abandons his post and hits the road for a late-night drive from Birmingham to London. He turns his work responsibility over to his extremely nervous assistant (voiced by Andrew Scott), but has a tough time calming down the corporate bosses. He also phones his sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) to tell them he won't make it home to watch the big game, but he struggles to explain to his angry wife (Ruth Wilson) the reason he's driving to London to meet a middle-aged woman (Olivia Colman), who is also sounding rather stressed down the line.
As Hardy's character tries to salvage his marriage, family and career, his moral conundrum becomes increasingly intense, and Hardy plays him as a man whose internal turmoil is raging behind his confident voice. It's a remarkably effective performance, gripping and involving, asking big questions even if the script never quite gets around to grappling with the issues at hand. It's also playing rather heavily on the irony that doing the right thing is likely to cost Ivan pretty much everything, leaving him alone and despised like his father.
Continue reading: Locke Review
Jason Statham takes a darker role than usual in a gritty London drama that never quite seems sure of itself, as writer-turned-director Knight mashes several huge social issues with a hint of action and a rather awkward romance. It's always intriguing, and has several jaw-dropping moments along the way, but ultimately leaves us wondering why Knight made the film at all.
Statham plays Joey, an ex-soldier on the run from the military police. Living homeless in central London, he breaks into a sexy loft flat and discovers that the resident will be away for eight months. So he assumes his identity, borrows his bank account and starts his life over with a job in a Chinese restaurant. Then his bosses (Wong and Lee) notice how good he is in a fight, and give him a high-paying job as a mob goon. With his new wealth, he starts helping out Cristina (Buzek), the Polish-born nun who feeds the homeless in Covent Garden. As they begin a strange friendship, he also contacts his bitter ex-wife (McClure) and young daughter.
As he did in his scripts for Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, Knight reels off the social issues in London's underbelly: illegal immigrants, human trafficking, gang violence, desperate prostitution, post-traumatic stress. But the real story here is Joey's redemption, as pointedly symbolised by the hummingbirds that flit through his drug-detox dreams. As he tries to help Cristina in a variety of sometimes contrived ways, she responds by improbably falling for him. Meanwhile, he spends a lot of time searching for a missing friend (Bewick) while also trying to make things up to his ex.
Continue reading: Hummingbird [Redemption] Review
Keira Knightley starred in the off-the-wall adaptation of Tolstory novel Anna Karenina
There's been talk about it for months; just what has director JOE WRIGHT done to Tolstoy's literary classic Anna Karenina? Both cast and crew have promised a re-telling of the the tragic tale of Russian socialite Karenina's affair with Count Vronsky that veers away from previous adaptations, and from the reviews that have thus far come out that certainly seems to be what they've committed to. Our own Rich Cline wrote "the most impressive thing about this film is its astoundingly beautiful design: the sets, costumes, photography and music are sumptuous and lush, never fussy but always adding to the intensity of each scene. Look for it to deservedly hoover up Oscar nominations across the board." Others have also pointed out the design, which has moved the tale from its typically austere surroundings into something of an otherworldliness.
Tolstoy's iconic novel may have been filmed several times, but you've never seen a version like this. Clever writer Tom Stoppard and visually whizzy director Joe Wright combine talents with this ambitious film, which sets all of the action in a theatre that expands and shifts into a variety of settings.
Yes, it's rather strange, but it's also drop-dead gorgeous.
Knightley reteams with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Wright to deliver another solid performance as Anna, an aristocrat in 1870s St Petersburg who is married to the achingly nice establishment gent Alexei (Law) but falls under the spell of the bland but sexy young heartbreaker Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). And when she gets pregnant, she has to make a very difficult decision. The central theme is that these people are characters in a play dictated to them by their restrictive Russian society, so they have little choice but head toward tragedy.
Fortunately, there's a parallel plot about a wealthy farmer (Gleeson) who rejects so-called civilised society to stay in touch with the earth. He pursues the smart, young Kitty (Vikander), also entranced with Vronsky but beginning to become disgusted with so-called civilised culture. The film includes a rather huge number of characters, including Anna's womanising brother (Macfadyen) and his longsuffering wife (a particularly excellent Macdonald). And Wright and Stoppard effortlessly let everyone swirl around each other in a huge pool of emotion.
Although this pool often feels frozen over, as the feelings are pretty icy. So it's good to have open-hearted performances by Macdonald and Gleeson to hold our interest. Knightley is excellent, although we never understand why Anna does anything she does (which is the whole point). But perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is its astoundingly beautiful design: the sets, costumes, photography and music are sumptuous and lush, never fussy but always adding to the intensity of each scene. Look for it to deservedly hoover up Oscar nominations across the board.
Fred (McGregor) is a UK government fishing expert assigned to help a wildly wealthy sheikh (Waked) create a fly-fishing site in the Yemen. Working with the sheikh's financial advisor Harriet (Blunt), Fred struggles to overcome his doubts about the scheme. But he's won over by the fact that the sheikh is both passionate about fishing and has enough cash to achieve the seemingly impossible. As Fred begins to fall for Harriet, he'll need to make a decision about his estranged wife (Stirling), while Harriet's special-services boyfriend (Mison) has gone missing in action.
Continue reading: Salmon Fishing In The Yemen Review
Pinkie (Riley) is a young member of a Brighton gang that becomes rudderless when its leader is killed by rival mobster Colleoni (Serkis). Second in command Spicer (Davis) tries to take charge, but Pinkie starts escalating things, avenging his boss' death in a way that creates a violent tit-for-tat. He also becomes vulnerable to murder charges. As he romances a young witness (Riseborough) to make sure she doesn't say anything, he angers her boss (Mirren) as well as both Colleoni and his righthand man (Hurt).
Continue reading: Brighton Rock Review
The same shot can be found in Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's monumental Atonement, though the setting is now 1930s France. Three soldiers from London come upon a beach filled with soldiers waiting to return to their respective homelands. The camera glides past sergeants executing diseased horses, a choir of damaged infantry men and dozens of wounded battalions. Smoke bellows from scrap fires and a looming ferris wheel turns in the distance as the three English soldiers make their way into a bar.
Continue reading: Atonement Review
Joshua, a long-time Little Odessa expatriate, is called back to the neighborhood to perform a hit on a big shot resident. When he arrives, he encounters his worshipful brother Reuben (Edward Furlong), former lover Alla (Moira Kelly), hateful father Arkady (Maximilian Schell), and dying mother Irina (Vanessa Redgrave). Together, the cast creates a highly dysfunctional family the likes of which you've probably never seen before.
Continue reading: Little Odessa Review
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