Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain or this year's American Pastoral), but they're so rich and provocative that they can't be ignored. For his directing debut, writer-producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) adaps this story as a tightly controlled period drama with blackly comical edges and darkly personal emotions.
It's set in 1951 New Jersey, where the young Marcus (Logan Lerman) is preparing to leave home for university in Ohio. His parents (Linda Emond and Danny Burstein) are worried that he will make the same mistakes that are ruining teens' lives across the country at the moment or, even worse, head off to fight in the Korean War. But Marcus is a very serious kid, focussed on making his own decisions about what he wants to do. He certainly wants nothing to do with his crazy roommates (Ben Rosenfield and Philip Ettinger) or the Jewish frat-house, whose leader (Pico Alexander) is desperately trying to recruit him. And then there's the pressure he's getting from the university dean (Tracy Letts). He's much more interested in the enigmatic Olivia (Sarah Gadon), a young woman who constantly surprises him.
Yes, this is essentially a coming-of-age drama about a young man making the shift from his loving family to take control of his own destiny in the big bad world. But it's much more complex than that, as it weaves in political and topical themes. The conversations are riveting, as Marcus' atheistic beliefs provoke everyone he meets. This leads to a stunning centrepiece scene, a blistering 15-minute argument between Marcus and the dean that's like a battlefield set-piece with subtle attacks, bomb blasts and surprising outcomes. Through all of this Schamus maintains the beautifully tailored appearance of the period, when the carefully muted surfaces obscured the churning, world-changing ideas underneath.
Continue reading: Indignation Review
Although it takes a breezy, sometimes silly approach to a fragment of a true story, this British period film has enough charm to keep audiences entertained, thanks to its lively cast and ambitious recreation of historical events. Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) may be largely fictionalising what happened to real people on VE Day 70 years ago, but he certainly knows how to have some fun at the same time. And the film has some intriguing things to say about how the world has changed since then.
Victory in Europe was declared on May 8th 1945, and the streets of London filled with disorderly celebrations. Watching all of this from within Buckingham Palace, the teen princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (Sarah Gadon and Bel Powley) are desperate to get out there and mingle with the crowd. Their parents, King George VI and Queen Elzabeth (Rupert Everett and Emily Watson), reluctantly agree to let them leave with two military escorts (Jack Laskey and Jack Gordon). But they soon lose their chaperones in the party atmosphere in The Ritz. The ditzy Margaret heads off into the night visiting a string of parties, while Elizabeth tries to track her down, assisted by a helpful stranger, airman Jack (Jack Reynor), an anti-royalist who has no idea who this young woman actually is.
First of all, it's intriguing to remember that in 1945 people in the streets wouldn't have recognised the princesses, especially since they had essentially been locked out of view for the previous seven years. This is inconceivable now, as is the idea of revellers filling the streets celebrating victory in a war, because no generation since has had a war end on a remotely positive note. These kinds of themes add subtext to what is otherwise a frothy romp punctuated by moments of silly slapstick. Jarrold recreates the evening beautifully on-screen, with a real sense of the club-lined streets of Mayfair, the drug dens of Soho, the flag-waving crowds going wild in Trafalgar Square, and the bombed-out city returning to life.
Continue reading: A Royal Night Out Review
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth are distinctly unworldly despite their prestigious education as young women, but when World War 2 comes to an end in 1945, even their parents King George and Queen Elizabeth can't deny them the chance to celebrate. And so it is that the girls are allowed to venture out into London, to join the men and women of the country in their parties - albeit going incognito and on the one condition that they are chaperoned by two soldiers. As it turns out, it's impossible to hide their identity for long and soon everyone knows that the future Queen of England and her sister are out fraternising with soldiers - and their royal parents are faced with worry when they are out much later than they should have been.
Continue: A Royal Night Out Trailer
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
'Dracula Untold' is released in US cinemas next week but have critics already driven a stake through the latest take on the Vampire legend?
With a 17% top critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's safe to say reviews have drained whatever life was left in Dracula Untold. Yet audiences still seem to be enjoying the film which attempts to show a more heroic side to the much maligned monster.
Luke Evans in Dracula Untold.
Continue reading: 'Dracula Untold': Critics Attack Visual Effects & Vampire Lore Treatment
As it explores Hollywood's inbred underbelly, this film becomes increasingly deranged and also rather dark and creepy, but it's so fiercely entertaining that it's impossible to look away from the screen. With razor-sharp performances, a brutally witty script by Bruce Wagner and snaky direction from David Cronenberg, the film is perhaps too knowing as it explores a group of fiercely ambitious people who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Things kick off as Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Los Angeles and is collected by chauffeur Jerome (Robert Pattinson), who is also of course an aspiring screenwriter and actor. Focussed and determined, Agatha visits the ruins of a Hollywood Hills home before using a friendship with Carrie Fisher to get a job as an assistant to acclaimed actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). Facing middle age, Havana is desperate for a comeback role in a remake of the movie that made her mother a star. Meanwhile, 13-year-old teen pin-up Benjie (Evan Bird) has completed rehab and is ready to act again, encouraged by his manager mother (Olivia Williams) and self-help guru dad (John Cusack), who are unnerved when they hear that Agatha is back in town. Clearly everyone has a secret that can jeopardise their career paths. And they're connected in ways no one wants to acknowledge.
The knotted mess of the plot is carefully unpicked over the course of the film, which only makes everything that much more intense and nasty. While it's blackly funny, the movie's overall tone is extremely grim, as these wealthy stars are crippled by emptiness and desperation. They're also willing to do just about anything to get ahead, from celebrating someone else's misfortune to blatantly lying about their pasts.
Continue reading: Maps To The Stars Review
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an actress struggling with her insecurities and desperate to reprise her late mother Clarice's star role in the remake of the latter's 60s film. Constantly haunted by her mother's image and feeling like a less attractive version of her, she seeks comfort from her psychotherapist Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack). Weiss is struggling in his own life, with his wife managing his child star son's comeback acting career after a stint in rehab - and he's only 13-years-old. His other child, daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), has been discharged from a mental hospital unbeknownst to them, and lands a job as a PA for none other than Havana. Stafford starts to become suspicious when Havana talks of her unnamed PA having a scarred face from a fire and warns his wife and son that their daughter may have returned. Meanwhile, Agatha becomes close to a limo driver named Jerome who has his own Hollywood dreams.
Continue: Maps To The Stars Trailer
Can't stand the prospect of watching another vampire movie in the same vein as 'Twilight'? Do you yearn for the days when vampires were the stuff of nightmares and not the subject of appalling teenage romantic fiction? Then 'Dracula Untold' may be the tonic you need!
It's fair to say anyone past the age of 14 is fed up with vampires or at least of the overly sympathetic versions we are bombarded with in Twilight. We all miss the good old days when vampires were naughty, vicious and decadent creatures as opposed to floppy haired 'vegetarian' romantics. So if you're longing for the days of Lestat, searching for the sharp wit of Spike or simply want to see Gary Oldman's shadow mischievously revealing his inner thoughts, then the upcoming film Dracula Untold may be for you.
Lee Evans stars in Dracula Untold as Vlad Tepes.
Dracula Untold follows the character Bram Stoker's Dracula is based on, Vlad III, and attempts to create a link between the medieval Romanian ruler and the fictional monster we've come to know and love. In the film we are set to see Vlad strike up a bargain with an unusual fanged creature (yes, it's most definitely a vampire) that lives high on a deserted mountain in order to protect his family and people from the machinations of Sultan Mehmed II. Complete with billowing red cape, the trailer suggests Dracula Untold may be an historical epic crossed with a graphic novel à la 300.
Vlad III Tepes is the Prince of Wallachia and a warrior with a fearsome reputation. Thought of by many as a hero with the ability to defeat armies of men, and by others as a powerful and often cruel adversary, Vlad is facing a huge challenge. Sultan Mehmed II is preparing for battle and he needs a thousand young boys to join his army, and thus Vlad's son is being dragged into the conflict. Determined to protect his family, he sets out to find a way to protect his people single-handedly, so that no children must face the dangers of war. It's then he comes across a dark beast with the power to transform him, and he becomes Dracula; an immortal, blood-drinking demon with the ability to morph into a bat and defend whole cities of civilians. Unfortunately, few are welcoming of his new form and it seems that even those he is striving to protect will turn against him.
Continue: Dracula Untold Trailer
The plot feels like a Jane Austen novel infused with a hot-potato political issue, but this is actually a true story. It's been somewhat fictionalised, but the central facts are accurate, and while the production is perhaps a bit too polished for its own good, the solid acting and filmmaking make the story involving and provocative. And its themes feel just as relevant today.
In 1769 London, a young half-black girl named Dido Belle is taken by her soldier father (Matthew Goode) to live with his uncle, the Lord Chief Justice Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson). With his wife (Emily Watson) and sister (Penelope Winton), he is already caring for another niece, and the two girls grow up as inseparable friends. Hidden from society, Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) inherits a small fortune from her father. And while Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) is penniless, her white skin makes her a more suitable spouse. Then family friend Lady Ashford (Miranda Richardson) foists her son James (Tom Felten) on Elizabeth. To their horror, his brother Oliver (James Norton) falls for Dido. But she's more interested in an impoverished law student (Sam Reid).
Along with these rather standard period-movie romantic shenanigans, there's a major subplot about Lord Mansfield's imminent ruling in the first court case to take on the slave trade, which could destabilise the entire British Empire. And this is where the film jolts into something significant: the UK's top judge had an adopted mixed-race daughter who probably influenced the first landmark decision against slavery. Meanwhile, director Amma Asante also vividly portrays the gritty realities of this young black woman's precarious position in society.
Continue reading: Belle Review
Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...
With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...
Louis Drax is a young boy who lives with his mother and father, the family...
The film Indignation is a screen adaptation of Philip Roth's novel of the same name...
Although it takes a breezy, sometimes silly approach to a fragment of a true story,...
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth are distinctly unworldly despite their prestigious education as young women,...
This may be a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but mainstream audiences should also note that...
As it explores Hollywood's inbred underbelly, this film becomes increasingly deranged and also rather dark...
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an actress struggling with her insecurities and desperate to reprise...
Vlad III Tepes is the Prince of Wallachia and a warrior with a fearsome reputation....
The plot feels like a Jane Austen novel infused with a hot-potato political issue, but...
Surly is a short-tempered purple squirrel who's beginning to worry as the cold winter approaches...