This harrowing morality play is timely and riveting, but never remotely subtle. The setting is the mortgage crisis, during which savvy fast-talkers figured out how to make a fortune on the back of other people's tragedy. It's strikingly written and directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani with an attention to internalised detail, revealing an aspect of Western culture that's deeply disturbing.
It's 2010, and the economy is in freefall as families and small businesses struggle to survive. When Florida builder Dennis (Andrew Garfield) loses his job, he has no idea how he'll support his mother and son (Laura Dern and Noah Lomax). Unable to pay their inflated mortgage, they're evicted from the family home by ruthless estate agent Rick (Michael Shannon). Then Rick sees something in Dennis that he admires, and hires him to do some building work, eventually taking him under his wing and teaching him how to profit from the record number of repossessions. But this means taking advantage of government grants, banking loopholes and people whose lives have collapsed. And it isn't long before it starts eating away at Dennis.
Garfield gives an open, searching performance as this desperate young father who's grasping at any lifeline he can find for his family. It's a complex, difficult character, mainly because his moral dithering sits in contrast to Shannon's flashier, shark-like Rick, who's often scary in the way he's able to avoid empathising with people in pain. In a much smaller role, Dern is the polar opposite, a warm blast of straight-arrow morality who continually prods her son to do the right thing. Yes, these characters are somewhat constructed as three points in a triangle, but they beautifully highlight the issues involved. And the actors dig deep into the emotional ramifications.
Continue reading: 99 Homes Review
Dennis Nash is a struggling single father whose life is turned upside down when he's evicted from his home by a corrupt real-estate broker named Rick Carver. Facing life on the streets, Dennis is forced to work for Carver in the hope of reclaiming his home, but how will he cope carrying out the same ruthless eviction techniques that were used on him? As Dennis falls deeper into Carver's web, relationships suffer and his situation becomes more dangerous than he could have imagined.
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Steve Butler is a successful businessman as part of a natural gas company who wishes to close down failing farming communities in order to obtain resources. He and his business partner Sue Thomason go to visit a particular town that is suffering a lot in the economic crisis in the hope that it will be easy to get drilling rights for the farmers' land in order to gain important resources through hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as 'fracking'. Things do seem easy at first, with his proposition providing some hope of economic relief for many members of the community, however he is soon challenged when a highly regarded teacher from the school and a determined grassroots campaigner object to the proposal and go about trying to get the rest of the town to vote against it.
'Promised Land' is a particularly appropriate film for the current economic climate and raises important issues that are of real concern to many. It has been directed by Gus Van Sant ('Good Will Hunting', 'Milk', 'Paris, je t'aime'), written by the movie's stars John Krasinski and Oscar winner Matt Damon (writer of 'Good Will Hunting') and based on a story by Dave Eggers ('Away We Go', 'Where the Wild Things Are') and is set to hit screens in the UK next year on April 19th 2013.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
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David Walling and Terry Ostroff are totally inseparable. Living across the street from each other in the beautiful town of West Orange, New Jersey, both patriarchs bring their families together at every available opportunity and every single year to celebrate Thanksgiving. When 24-year-old Ostroff daughter Nina comes home to join in the festivities for the first time in five years after splitting up with her fiancé, both families secretly have hopes that she and Walling son Toby might get together. However, there is a shocking turn of events when Nina's suspicious mother Cathy follows her as she leaves the house with a mysterious person and turns up at a motel. Outside, Cathy runs into David and her daughter and both struggle to explain what's going on. They have inadvertently fallen for one another and, as their attraction grows ever stronger, the two inseparable families face are suddenly faced with conflict and heartbreak.
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A Buddy Story is the tale of a not very successful solo singer/songwriter's quest for self-discovery. Buddy meets Susan along his journey - his new next door neighbour who is suffering at the hands of her abusive boyfriend, Pete. She seeks an escape from the city and her boyfriend so she, Buddy and Buddy's pet turtle drive out into the open road making a variety of stops on the way; such as the birthday party of an old man turned one hundred, and the rowdy atmosphere of a biker bar! The conclusion of this heart-warming story brings realisation and important understanding of the journey to find happiness.
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In the 1930's The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth was known as the best circus in America, a small and tight knit community of performers and animals who were all masters of their craft. When trainee veterinarian Jacob Jankowski finds himself as a passenger on their circus train he soon becomes part of the family. Hired to look after the animals he meets Marlena, a beautiful woman who performs as an equestrian star and her husband August, the head animal trainer; it doesn't take long for Jacob to see there's a sinister side to August's personality.
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In a vaguely present time, we meet old Inge (Lois Smith), mourning the dealth of husband Olaf. After much wringing of hands, she remembers back to the time of their meeting in 1920. Fresh of the boat from Deutschland, young Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) is picked up as a mail-order bride by young Olaf (Tim Guinee) and best pal Frandsen (Alan Cumming), and they head straight to the church to get married. When the preacher (John Heard) finds out she's German, he refuses to marry them. This becomes the central conflict of the film: Inge is shunned in town, can't return home, and can't live with Olaf out of wedlock (darn society!!!). They're soon both outcasts, and harvest time approaches...
Continue reading: Sweet Land Review
Anna (Michelle Williams) is the vacuous, borderline-underage girlfriend of mobster Billy (Meat Loaf), and the deleterious effect of watching her criminal lover murder a restaurateur (Louis Zorich) - coupled with the recent death of her G.I. brother Dan (Wendell Pierce), who perished after post-WWII electro-shock treatments administered at the request of their nasty parents - has left the girl a psychological mess. Fortunately, frightening Dr. Harold Ashton (Bill Raymond) has just arrived in town promoting a newfangled cure-all that strikes Anna's easily swayed fancy: the transorbital lobotomy, which the neurologist claims will eradicate everything from anxiety and insomnia to alcoholism. The "ice-pick lobotomy" - a popular procedure apparently based on historical fact, and so nicknamed because of the primary instrument used - is immediately appealing to Anna, who sees it as the easiest method of coping with her traumatic life. Will she go through with the dangerous operation, thus choosing to forget, rather than confront, her painful memories? Will the town's new resident Tom (Tim Guinee), an honest Korean War vet being blackmailed by Billy, succeed in convincing Anna that lobotomies are a less-than-reasonable therapeutic solution to one's problems? Will Ledes create something coherent out of his symbolism-saturated story?
Continue reading: A Hole In One Review
Did you ever notice that all those quirky (read: mundane) indies have such flashy titles? The Myth of Fingerprints, The Tao of Steve, Dream With the Fishes... this one happens to be called The Young Girl and the Monsoon. Don't be too quick to pigeonhole this particular "quirk" into a category of vapid mediocrity, though. Ryan shows a perceptive knack for small moments of familial tenderness found in unlikely places, including a Central Park boxing match between daddy and daughter that runs the gamut from rage to bliss. He arouses pathos in a Chinese restaurant sequence where Constance demands that daddy carry her to the door. Such, such are the joys of handling a teenage girl going insane on the bridge to adulthood.
Continue reading: The Young Girl And The Monsoon Review
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Now THAT'S an engagement ring. Good job, Aaron Lohr!
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.
This harrowing morality play is timely and riveting, but never remotely subtle. The setting is...
Dennis Nash is a struggling single father whose life is turned upside down when he's...
Steve Butler is a successful businessman as part of a natural gas company who wishes...
David Walling and Terry Ostroff are totally inseparable. Living across the street from each other...
A Buddy Story is the tale of a not very successful solo singer/songwriter's quest for...
In the 1930's The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth was known as the...
Quirky to the point of irritation, Richard Ledes' A Hole in One trades in inventive...
A finger-snapping swing soundtrack and the Manhattan skyline are accompanied by the sarcastic voice-over of...
Comprised of three frank and psychologically resounding stories of women at crossroads in their relationships...
The third line of dialogue in "Ladder 49" is the all too familiar refrain "I'm...