Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action to pull the audience in from a variety of angles. The result is powerfully visceral, catching us by surprise as it scares, moves and inspires us. As a director, Mel Gibson is great at telling vivid stories that evoke intense feelings. And Andrew Garfield delivers another remarkably internalised performance that resonates strongly.
As World War II rages, Desmond (Garfield) longs to leave his rural Virginia home to help with the fighting against Germany and Japan. But as an Adventist, he refuses to touch a weapon or fight on Sunday. He enlists anyway, and is mercilessly bullied for his pacifistic beliefs all the way through boot camp. His commanding officers (Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) are especially hard on him, trying to force him to drop out. But his haggard WWI-veteran father (Hugo Weaving) makes a pointed plea for him to remain in the military. Eventually, his platoon is sent to fight on Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, where Desmond proves his bravery in ways no one expects.
This is one of those stories that we wouldn't believe if it weren't true (the film concludes with a documentary epilogue featuring interviews with the actual people). Gibson and his screenwriters continually ground scenes in tiny details that emphasise the realism, giving the actors plenty of gristle. The opening sequence on the farm is relentlessly corny Americana, with Garfield portraying a dorky bumpkin who falls for a sweet girl (Teresa Palmer) and heads naively off to war. But Garfield deepens the character with every scene, giving weight and meaning to the jaw-dropping climactic battlefield sequence. Among the supporting cast, Vaughn, Worthington and Weaving all get strong moments of their own, as do a few of Desmond's comrades. Although while Palmer and Griffiths (as Desmond's mother) are solid, there isn't much for them to do.
Continue reading: Hacksaw Ridge Review
In 1919 Desmond Doss was born, he lived a quiet life and always wanted to become a doctor and also had ambitions to marry his sweetheart, Dorothy. As the World War II continued to spread terror around the world, Doss knew he must play his part and serve his country with his fellow man. For religious and ethical reasons, Doss had always been a pacifist and never believed in hurting another man and joined the forces as a medic in the hopes of saving the lives of injured soldiers.
When he arrived for training, resources were so tight that all medics were made to train in armed combat, there was no other option but to pick up a weapon and begin training like everyone else on the base. Unable to falter from his convictions, Doss's superiors were soon involved in the situation and Doss fought for his beliefs and was officially named a conscientious objector; that also made him a target for the other recruits who came to nickname him a coward.
As their initial battle day approached, the men didn't look toward Doss as one of their own, more as just another potential body going into a losing battle. The whole regiment found themselves being bombarded by powerful blasts from bombs and guns and somehow Doss survived, but not only did he survive, he went on to pull a number of men away from the front line and save them from certain death.
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This true story only barely avoids becoming sloppily sentimental, thanks to a solid cast and a final act that generates honest emotion. Awash with the Disney spirit, the film breaks free of the marketing machine to recount events that are lively and often very funny, but also manage to be sharply moving. It's the kind of crowd-pleaser that deserves to do well both at the box office and in awards ceremonies.
Set in 1961, it's the story of how Walt Disney (Hanks) finally lures PL Travers (Thompson) to Hollywood to woo her into signing over the film rights to Mary Poppins after some 20 years of pestering. She is equally determined to protect her creation, which is very close to her heart. But she agrees to work with the screenwriter (Whitford) and composers (Schwartzman and Novak) as long as she has veto power. Her demands are crazy ("I don't want the colour red anywhere in the movie!"), but everyone tries to win her over. Eventually Walt realises that he needs to find out exactly why Mary Poppins is so important to her. And that the story is more about Mary's affect on the family's father, Mr Banks, than the children.
Indeed, in parallel flashbacks we see Travers' childhood in rural 1906 Australia, where she lives as a young girl (Buckley) with her lively father (Farrell) and shattered mother (Wilson). Her dad's alcoholism is the driving force of these scenes, which feel like a completely separate film intercut with sunny 1960s Hollywood. But they add weight to Thompson's remarkably detailed performance, which is marvellously withering and hilarious, and also subtly emotional. Her interaction with the buoyant Hanks is sharp and jagged, and the film's nicest scenes are between Travers and her driver, sensitively played by Giamatti.
Continue reading: Saving Mr. Banks Review
P.L. Travers was an Australian author who, in the early sixties, went into negotiations with Walt Disney over the rights of her novels surrounding the character Mary Poppins. It was eventually released on the big screen and won five Oscars, though its production was not without its conflicts. Travers' initial aversion to Hollywood didn't help matters, and she was unnerved by the idea that Disney might turn her beloved character into a prancing, dancing, twinkling fairy godmother. However, when Disney began to understand that Mary Poppins' place in the story was less about the children and more about their father - and, in effect, her own father on whom she based him on - the pair began to bond better and Travers was finally willing to unleash her story onto the world.
'Saving Mr. Banks' is the story of how 'Mary Poppins' was put to film in 1964 by Walt Disney, thirty years after P.L. Travers began writing about her. It is about the conflicts between Travers and Disney and Travers own struggles with her personal life when we discover just how true to life the story really was. It has been directed by John Lee Hancock ('Snow White and the Huntsman', 'A Perfect World', 'The Blind Side') and written by Kelly Marcel ('Terra Nova') and Sue Smith ('My Brother Jack', 'Peaches') and it is set to hit UK cinemas on January 17th 2014.
We meet Angel in the apartment of Nicole (Rachel Griffiths) and her husband Henry (Denis O'Hare). It isn't quite clear what the relationship between Angel and the couple is, but we know he's been invited to sleep over. Only later do we realize that Nicole is Angel's generous social worker, and he has nowhere else to go. Henry is not pleased by the arrangement but tries to engage Angel, with little success. They're from different planets.
Continue reading: Angel Rodriguez Review
Well, with one cancer diagnosis and one death in the first 15 minutes, Blow Dry is hardly the feel-good romance you'd expect. Strikingly similar to The Big Tease, Blow Dry tells the story of a haircutting competition that descends on a small town in Britain. Celebrities (well, celebrity stylists) from around England arrive to compete, and the local boys get into the act as well. But while the drama unfolds with models and shears, another drama takes place among the locals -- largely involving various romances and a singular cancer victim.
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Yet such is the world of Blow, the most wildly anticipated drug thriller since, well, last year's Traffic. Welcome to the "based on a true story" tale of George Jung (the inimitable Johnny Depp), just a suburban boy from New England who tires of his conservative life and heads for -- where else -- L.A. Here (in the 1960s, natch), Jung hooks up with the local hair stylist/drug dealer and starts his own small pot distributorship. Soon enough he's running drugs back to Boston with the help of his friends and flight attendant girlfriend (Run Lola Run's Franka Potente). But just as he's made a name for himself, he gets busted and lands in prison.
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Plied with fiction and short on depth, the new biopic of legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly plays like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" without the excitement, charm and humor.
Bearded and brooding but otherwise uncharismatic, Heath Ledger stars as the folk-hero bushranger (Aussie for "cowboy"), who according to this film was an upstanding citizen of the Outback frontier until contemptible, crooked, downright sinister lawmen drove him to a life of crime by picking on his family.
They jailed his ma, molested his teenage sister, and falsely accused him and his brothers of horse rustling. They "started a war" against us, Kelly says in voice-over. "So I killed their coppers. I robbed their banks."
Continue reading: Ned Kelly Review
Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...
This true story only barely avoids becoming sloppily sentimental, thanks to a solid cast and...
P.L. Travers was an Australian author who, in the early sixties, went into negotiations with...
As an Australian Outback family takes a trip down memory lane, this film is anything...
Angel Rodriguez is a small-scale and elegantly understated look at one troubled urban teen's dilemmas...