This isn't your usual period movie. A powerfully emotional depiction of rural Scottish life at the turn of the 20th century, Terence Davies' drama is both strikingly earthy and artfully beautiful. Based on the classic 1932 novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbons, it's a gritty story that takes a deeply personal approach to both the time and place, building complex characters that are so easy to identify with that we feel each surge of happiness and heartbreak.
It's set in The Mearns, in the Scottish north east, where Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) grew up on her family farm hoping to one day become a teacher. But her perpetually pregnant mother (Daniela Nardini) simply can't take any more of this, and her sensitive brother Will (Jack Greenlees) moves to get away from their hardened father John (Peter Mullan), leaving Chris to care for him. Eventually she ends up running the farm herself, and finally finds some happiness when she falls for nice-guy neighbour Ewan (Kevin Guthrie). She worries about him becoming like her father, but their marriage is blissfully sweet. Until the Great War breaks out and he enlists to join the fight.
The story's main focus is on the way the demands of life change us in both obvious and subtle ways. This gives the film a complexity that gets deep under the skin, making the themes timeless while also challenging preconceptions. For example, instead of just being a villainous brute, John's violence might be a symptom of his experiences. And Chris' tough-minded tenacity may come from the same place that pushed her mother over the edge. Like us, these are people trying to steer their destinies in the face of everyday pressures and the forces of nature. And yet the film never feels terribly bleak. It's hard and gruelling, but also hopeful.
Continue reading: Sunset Song Review
For the past 15 years, Hector McAdam has been somewhat of a drifter having left his small Scottish village Hector found solace moving from shelter to shelter in various parts of the UK. Hector might be in his latter years but each Christmas he finds himself traveling to London to visit a homeless refuge where he has friends.
After years of drifting, in a bid to reunite with his family, Hector takes steps to track down and find his brother and find a way to begin to make amends for his constant absence.
Hector once again takes to the road and begins a journey that will take various turns - both emotionally and physically. Even though the setting of Hector's life is one of sorrow, his personality and resilience makes for a heart-warming look at life.
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Chris is a young heroine from a rural Scottish community, with an intense passion for life and a loyalty to the often unforgiving land, who has given her heart to the unsettled Ewan.
With a dysfunctional family, who have already faced dark times, Chris choses to devote herself to the land as World War One begins changing the world around her. But when Ewan decides to enlist in the army, Chris faces greater hardships than ever before as her once happy marriage crumbles.
As all seems lost Chris, a woman of remarkable strength, is able to draw from the ancient land at look to the future, even if the modern world is threatening everything she holds dear.
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Far more entertaining than it has any right to be, this is a big, messy blockbuster retelling of the Greek myth that thankfully has a sharp sense of humour and some surprising twists up its sleeve. The cast is also packed with veteran performers who know how to make the most of some eyebrow-raising innuendo, generating intrigue while keeping the audience laughing with them rather than at them.
The premise takes a revisionist approach, grounding the legend of the demigod Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) in real stories that have been exaggerated by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who travels with him as a kind of toga-era marketing expert. Their team of mercenaries includes wryly fatalistic seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), quick-witted blade-thrower Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), bow-wielding amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and loyal mute warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). When they're offered a fortune by Lord Cotys (John Hurt) to quell a rebellion, they find themselves in the middle of a massive battle that doesn't go the way they expected. And as events take unforeseen turns, Hercules and his gang have to dig deep to turn the tide in their favour.
Johnson is a natural in the role, so massively pumped up that he looks like he could be popped with a pin. His hulking physique and just enough back-story give the character's reputation some weight, both literally and figuratively, so even if he's not half-god his achievements are still pretty impressive. (There are also plenty of hints that he may turn out to be a god after all.) And the surrounding characters add to this with cleverly written roles that are expertly played by British scene-stealers Hurt, McShane, Sewell, Mullan and Fiennes. McShane is so good that he essentially walks off with the whole movie. But relative newcomers Ritchie, Hennie and Berdal more than hold their own.
Continue reading: Hercules Review
Hercules is a bitter and haunted demi-god filled with resentment for the people and the gods (including his father Zeus) who put him through the Twelve Labours; a series of arduous tasks that saw him dance with death on a number of occasions. Now, alone and with no family of any kind to turn to, his only comfort in the world is fighting to the death in battle, alongside a group of other like-minded warriors who similarly have nothing left to live for. However, they face a challenge of a more ominous kind when the King of Thrace enlists them to train up as the most formidable army ever created in a bid to overthrow a powerful general. This is a fight of a different kind for Hercules; he may have more strength than the average man, but just how far will that take him?
Dwayne Johnson stars as Hercules in the latest adaptation of the Greco-Roman myth. Based on the graphic novel 'Hercules: The Thracian Wars' by Steve Moore, the movie has been directed by Brett Ratner ('Rush Hour', 'X-Men: The Last Stand', 'Red Dragon') and written by Ryan Condal ('The Sixth Gun') and Evan Spiliotopoulos ('The Nutty Professor', 'Battle for Terra'). 'Hercules' is scheduled for UK cinematic release on August 8th 2014.
Dark new New Zealand drama 'Top of the Lake' premieres but what does 'Mad Men' actress Elisabeth Moss think of her new detective role?
Top of the Lake has debuted on British TV this weekend, establishing Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss as a truly fine television actress in her role after secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson. The six-part series comes from Jane Campion who directed 1993 The Piano and who gives the new BBC2 bleak drama about child abuse a film-like feel. Moss plays the role of detective Robin Griffin who, although usually based in Sydney, Australia, returns home to the village of Laketop of New Zealand's south island to visit her mother who is suffering with cancer. Whilst home in the idyllic, mountain-framed town, Griffin is called upon to help investigate the case of Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe); a 12 year-old girl who is found to be five months pregnant with her angry, Scottish, criminal kingpin father Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan) suspected.
Elisabeth Moss To Take On A New Detective Character In Dark TV Series Top of the Lake.
The first episode sets the scene of the eerie, lawless town perfectly, with Moss fitting in her unglamorous role as Kiwi detective, with the Los Angeles-born actress mastering the tricky New Zealand accent for her new character. The Guardian's Sarah Dempster evaluates the engaging new series as one that harbours many clichés yet is a "beautifully shot mystery, wrapped in an unpleasant thriller that's also a morality tale" The Telegraph's Serena Davies also gives the BBC2 drama a thumbs up for being "flawlessly beautiful" in its setting and praises lead actors Peter Mullan, Holly Hunter and Elisabeth Moss for cementing the awkward, backwood, small-town feel that makes it clear to the viewer why Griffin decided to seek friendlier climes in the Australian cities.
Blackly comical writing and direction add a playful slant to what could have been a typically over-serious British crime thriller. And there's also a coming-of-age element to the plot that holds our interest. It's all relatively simplistic, and never really goes anywhere, but the offbeat approach and vividly well-played characters make it worth a look.
Rising-star Brit Jack O'Connell (Skins) plays 19-year-old Adam, a goof-off who thinks it's hilarious when he wrecks his stepdad Peter's (Mullan) pricey car. But Peter is a mobster, and his patience is wearing thin. Without telling Adam's mother (Wareing), he gives Adam a job to help pay for the damage. He'll be a driver for Roy (Roth), who turns out to be a hitman on a nasty mission. This opens Adam up to a world he has never known, and as the stakes begin to rise he has to grow up very quickly. Then things get even more intense when he and Roy encounter a backpacker (Riley) who sends them on a crazed cat-and-mouse chase.
Mixing comedy with suspense isn't easy to pull off, but writer Wrathall and director Viveiros manage it by keeping the humour pitch black and playing everything dead straight. O'Connell portrays Adam as a hapless buffoon who has no idea how to behave in any given situation. But he's deeply likeable, so we root for him in the face of Roy's stony silence. Roth can play this kind of thug in his sleep, but stirs in some wry exasperation and even a low-lying emotional resonance as things develop. And the chemistry between them never feels remotely safe.
Continue reading: The Liability Review
Adam is just 19-years-old but, after managing to prang his mother's mobster boyfriend's car, is coerced into performing a driving job for jaded hitman Roy who, apart from being visibly annoyed at having to mentor a kid who knows less about organised crime than the average person, would like nothing better than the chance to finally retire from his life of killing. They drive to Northumberland where the unlikely duo dispose of their target deep in a woods. However, despite their presumed isolation, they are spotted by a beautiful young girl who they understand they must also kill to save their own skins. She manages to make an escape though, with some extremely important evidence and the assassins are forced to chase her down. Along the way, they find out her identity and connections that place Adam's stepfather involved in some debauched dealings.
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After the tiny drama Shifty, British filmmaker Creevy turns to both Hong Kong and Hollywood for inspiration, creating an unusually glossy, explosive London cop thriller. But for all the sleek filmmaking and energetic action, the film struggles to make us care about characters who are dark and troubled. Their complexity is interesting, but not hugely engaging.
Adding to the visual sheen, the action is set among the gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers of Canary Wharf in East London, where detective Max (McAvoy) is still struggling to accept his inability to stop a heist three years earlier. The mastermind Jacob (Strong) managed to escape then, but he's back in town now, so Max is chomping at the bit to grab him. Max's lieutenant (Morrissey) tells him to back off, but he secretly works with his partner Sarah (Riseborough) to join the hunt. Meanwhile, Jacob teams up with an old pal (Mullan) to find out why one of the gang members (Harris) is on a murderous rampage. Which puts Jacob on a collision course with Max.
With so much full-on gunplay in a city where cops aren't actually armed, the film feels like it's set in some sort of parallel reality London. And Creevy augments this fantasy tone by indulging in shootouts that are sudden and brutal - like John Woo crossed with Michael Mann. The plot is full of clever twists, as motivations are revealed and a political conspiracy becomes apparent. It's all a bit convoluted and implausible, and the details are annoyingly murky, but within this premise the cast are able to find some emotional resonance.
Continue reading: Welcome To The Punch Review
Max Lewinsky is a determined police detective who remains bitter about never managing to find and arrest the elusive criminal that is Jacob Sternwood. However, he is in with another chance of victory when Sternwood leaves his hideout in Iceland to return to the streets of London where his son Ruan is lying unconscious in a hospital bed after suffering a near-fatal bullet wound to the stomach during a heist that went wrong. Knowing that Sternwood will attempt to sneak in to the hospital to see his son and also attempt to smuggle him out under the police's nose, Lewinsky pulls out all the stops in the biggest effort of his career to catch this former criminal and reinstate his flawless reputation. However, as they come face to face, the both of them find themselves in the middle of a much bigger scheme and the pair must work together to uncover the shady truth.
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