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
The Weekend Box Office results for 31st July-2nd August are in and the latest installment of ‘Mission Impossible’ reigns supreme.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has topped the U.S. Weekend Box Office (31st July-2nd August). The action film, which was released on 31st July, made $56 million in the U.S. and Canada. The film has made over $40 million more than the other newcomer in the office, Vacation, which comes in at number 2 in the Box Office chart.
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with a constant stream of barbed humour, the film has an enjoyably knotted mystery plot and action set-pieces that feel like they're grounded in the real world. It's a terrific shift into earthy believability for a series of movies that has previously indulged in gleefully incoherent narratives and exaggerated explosive chaos.
Right from the start, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is an outsider. As he searches for a shady assassin (Sean Harris) and his mythical organisation The Syndicate, Ethan's Impossible Mission Force is being dissolved by the US government. CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) absorbs the IMF team, but tech genius Benji (Simon Pegg) secretly helps Ethan, enlisting Luther (Ving Rhames) and William (Jeremy Renner) as well. Soon, all three are gallivanting from Vienna to Morocco and back to London, as Ethan works with double or perhaps triple agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) to prove that The Syndicate exists and stop its nefarious plan.
The film plays out like an edgy James Bond adventure, as Ethan works with a possibly dangerous woman in exotic locations in pursuit of some very shadowy baddies. McQuarrie's script is unusually lucid for this genre, piecing together the various elements expertly, building a genuine sense of tension without ever letting things tip over into overblown silliness. The chase sequences are remarkably rough and unpredictable, avoiding digital trickery to create moments that are jaw-droppingly authentic. As usual, we can tell that Cruise does his own stunts; the opening hanging-from-an-airplane scene is awesome, and a helmet-free motorbike chase looks even more perilous. With the IMF disbanded, it's never quite clear how Ethan funds his one-man operation, but he has a terrific supply of cool gadgets stashed all over Europe.
Continue reading: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Review
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
The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) have been active for years, but it's time has run out. The head of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) informs them that they are to be disbanded, but some people can't actually adjust to that sort of thing. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) can't let go, and soon discovers that the IMF is actually needed more than ever. The Syndicate - a Rouge Nation - has been steadily growing over the years, and is seen as an anti-IMF. Now, Hunt and his team must engage in their most impossible mission to date, and fight an enemy which, officially, does not exist.
Despite their countless missions, most of which deemed impossible, the IMF is closing down. Considered an irrelevant and archaic group, the government intends to tie off any loose ends - especially Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). The problem is, Hunt is a veteran, and a tremendous agent of the IMF, and has uncovered a terrifying secret rouge nation, known as The Syndicate. Hunt plans to track down, expose and destroy The Syndicate through any means necessary. To that end, he recruits his old friends and colleges from the IMF, and plans to take the fight to them. Even if the mission is impossible.
Continue: Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer
Gorgeously shot, this period drama has a terrific setting and vivid characters, but is edited together in a jarring way that distances the audience from the situations. As the story progresses, the film also shifts strangely from a riveting exploration of a power couple with a pioneering spirit to a more melodramatic thriller about corruption and murder. It's consistently engaging thanks to the power of the cast, but it should have also been darkly moving as well.
The story is set in the late 1920s, as lumber baron George (Bradley Cooper) struggles under the economic pressures of the impending Great Depression. Then he meets Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) and it's love at first sight. A feisty, outspoken woman with a background in logging, she immediately ruffles feathers in George's camp by giving out advice that's actually helpful. George's two righthand men, accountant Buchanan (David Dencik) and foreman Campbell (Sean Harris), both quietly wonder if this woman is going to mess up their all-male world of underhanded bribes and physical danger. But she develops a rapport with George's hunting tracker Galloway (Rhys Ifans). Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Toby Jones) is trying to get George's land declared protected national parkland.
Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier (In a Better World) gives the film a grand scale with expansive mountain landscapes and a sweeping romantic tone. The Western-style bustle of the logging camp is lively and authentic, as is the continual threat of death or dismemberment on the job. Against this, Cooper and Lawrence have terrific chemistry both with each other and the characters around them, sharply portrayed by strong actors who know how to invest plenty of attitude into even a small role.
Continue reading: Serena Review
Both an intensely personal odyssey and an exploration of the impact of conflict on communities, this sharply involving thriller marks an auspicious debut for director Yann Demange. It also features yet another striking lead performance for Jack O'Connell, who also received high praise for Starred Up earlier this year and has Angelina Jolie's Unbroken still to come. This film puts him through his paces as his character is sent on a relentless journey right into the heart of one of the most complex conflicts on earth.
The title tells us when this is taking place: it's the early days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as young Private Hook (O'Connell) is assigned to Belfast, where clashes between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists have turned the city into a war zone. While on a mission to diffuse a street riot, things spiral out of control and Hook is separated from his unit. Running for his life, he works his way across the city pursued by a tenacious thug (Killian Scott). He also meets a local leader (David Wilmot) and a couple (Richard Dormer and Charlie Murply) who help him survive. Meanwhile, Hook's senior officer (Sam Reid) works with a pair of British spies (Sean Harris and Paul Anderson) to track him down.
The film unfolds as a series of life-or-death encounters that can go either way, and each adds to the bigger picture of how the Troubles have torn Ireland apart. But the script intriguingly avoids politics to make a deeper comment on humanity, making it clear that this kind of situation certainly isn't unique to this time and place. Demange stages each sequence with bravura touches, using long-takes and intense filmmaking to put us right in the middle of the action. And O'Connell's sensitive, expressive performance makes it very easy to identify with Hook as he's thrown into a situation where everyone has guns and bombs but no experience at battle. This approach is so human that it's deeply unsettling; death is always a possibility, random and sudden.
Continue reading: '71 Review
Jack O'Connell continues his incredible run with '71'.
Undoubtedly, historical-drama 71 represents the pick of the cinematic releases in the UK this weekend - another movie starring Jack O'Connell that could easily pass as one of the years' finest. The 22-year-old stars as a young British soldier accidently abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast.
Jack O'Connell [L] dazzles in '71'
Unable to pick out friend from foe, Gary Hook becomes increasingly wary of his own comrades and must survive the night alone.
Continue reading: '71' Continues Jack O'Connell's Incredible Rise To Fame
Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is a British soldier, nervous about his placement in Belfast during the political riots of 1971. With little to no experience being barely out of school, the only thing he can trust is his own instincts, while being uncomfortable and suspicious of both the locals and his fellow soldiers. Unfortunately for him, his fear of the volatile situation is only about to get worse as he finds himself abandoned on unfamiliar streets when his own regiment takes flight. Now all alone surrounded by savage and angry Northern Irish residents, he has to find a way to survive the rest of the night before joining his team once again.
Continue: 71 - Clip
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