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Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling a sprawling story with artistry, invention and vivid characters that leave most Hollywood animated movies in the dust. It's based on a 10th century Japanese folktale that's packed with resonant themes, and it's been animated in a way that makes it look like a childhood storybook come to life. So even if it feels rather long at 2 hours 17 minutes, the visual minimalism is relentlessly beautiful.
The story begins in the countryside, where farmer Okina (James Caan in the English-language version) finds a tiny girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a bamboo stalk. Believing her to be a princess, he raises her with his wife Ouna (Mary Steenburgen). When he finds silk and gold in his bamboo grove, Okina decides that the gods want them to raise the now-teen girl in a more regal setting, so they all move to the capital, where she's officially named Princess Kaguya and becomes the most eligible girl in the kingdom, attracting offers from five wealthy men, plus His Majesty (Dean Cain) himself. But Kaguya is longing for the quieter life in the country, and misses her childhood pal Sutemaru (Darren Criss).
As it develops, the story becomes deeper and richer, offering hints as to where the events are headed, although nothing prepares us for the final-act sequence, which feels almost anachronistic in its surreally eclectic splendour. But by then, we have become completely engulfed in Kaguya's story, identifying with her longing to reconnect with the friends who used to call her "L'il Bamboo" because she grew up much more quickly than they did. This tension between sophisticated high society and rural simplicity adds an extra layer of meaning to the entire film, as does the running commentary about Japan's gender politics. And the hint of romance between Kaguya and Sutemaru offers further subversion of the social order.
Continue reading: The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya Review
Once upon a time in Japan, a bamboo cutter discovered a miniature girl inside the body of a glowing stalk of bamboo. When he took the girl home, he adopted her as his daughter, and decided that she must be a princess. The princess began to grow at an alarming rate, soon becoming a young woman. One day, the bamboo cutter discovered another glowing stalk and once again, decided to chop it down. Inside was enough gold for him to build a palace for his princess. But a princess with a palace needs a prince, and the little princess wanted only to return to her friends. The punishment for dishonouring the prince's request would be death, so the princess was forced to embark on a journey through love, life, and Japan, in search of her heart's desire.
Continue: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Trailer
While the story centres on twisted moral dilemmas, this 1970s-set thriller takes such a hesitant, internalised approach that if never lets viewers under the characters' skin. As a result, there's virtually no spark of real life here, despite the presence of several fine actors and a twisty plot that focusses on how decisions affect relationships. It's an oddly muted approach to events that really should have a much stronger emotional jolt.
It's 1974 Brooklyn, where Chris (Clive Owen) has just been released after 10 years in prison. His police detective brother Frank (Billy Crudup) offers help with finding a place to stay, getting a job and escaping his former life of crime, but the options are limited. While trying to reconnect with his junkie-prostitute ex Monica (Marion Cotillard), Chris also begins dating the younger Natalie (Mila Kunis). And he finds himself drifting back into his old gangster role. This causes a conflict of interest for Frank in his work as a cop, especially since he's further compromised by having an affair with Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts) he's just put in jail.
Filmmaker Guillaume Canet is remaking the 2008 French thriller Rivals (in which he played the Frank character), and he recreates the period beautifully, shooting the film in a grainy 1970s style that emphasises character over action. So it's odd that the characters feel so thinly written, with most of the ambiguity drained from each moral issue they face. Much of this is because everyone is pushing their emotions away and internalising their thought processes so no one else can see them. But this leaves the audience out in the cold. And as a result, everything feels obvious and inevitable, which makes it impossible to get involved as events escalate. It's as if these people are tragic losers, so no amount of sympathy will save them.
Continue reading: Blood Ties Review
'Last Vegas' star Michael Douglas and his 'Rock of Ages' actress wife Catherine Zeta-Jones were snapped holding hands on the red carpet at the 41st annual Chaplin Award Gala. Also spotted arriving at the event was 'The Wolf of Wall Street' star Rob Reiner who was being honoured with an accolade.
Blunt and simplistic, there's not a moment in this thriller that feels inspired by anything other than criminal TV shows. This means that everything on-screen feels comfortably familiar, so we happily go along with the story even as it gets increasingly ridiculous. But just a bit of complexity might have helped us care about what happens.
When his daughter Samantha is found murdered in Los Angeles, military contractor Lex is called back from the front lines to claim her body. But after flying in from the Middle East, he discovers that it's not her. Local police Detective Klein (Patric) is more interested in investigating Lex than finding out what really happened to Samantha, so Lex starts to look into things himself. First, he checks out Samantha's shifty boss (Caan). Then, with the help of a friend (Elizabeth), he tracks down her boyfriend Ricky (Messner) and eventually finds Samantha herself (Ordway). And now there's a whole new set of problems.
Writer-director Miller tells this story as if it's a pilot episode for a cop series, eliminating any ambiguity by continually reminding us who's good and bad. As a result, there isn't a single surprise along the way, action scenes are predictable and the drama feels soapy and silly. It's not like there aren't strong themes gurgling under the surface, but none of the actors bother to break through. Fairbrass is such a meathead that we wonder how he could possibly be an elite tactical soldier, while Caan seems to be channelling vicious-thug-mode Robert DeNiro. At least he and Patric seem to be having some fun with their roles.
Continue reading: The Outsider Review
Frank is a remarkable cop with a lot to look forward to in his life, but as happy as he is, he still has major worries for the people around him. His brother Chris has just been released from prison after a gang-related murder several years ago. Frank wants to make sure Chris stays on the straight and narrow as he rebuilds his shattered life, and offers him shelter, a job and an opportunity to restore his relationships with his former wife Monica and his children. However, Chris also finds himself reconnecting with some old 'friends' and it soon becomes clear that he has no intention of living straight. All Frank wants is a happy and secure family, but if he keeps trying to save his wayward brother's back from the law, he could find himself facing an uncertain future in the force.
'Blood Ties' is the Hollywood re-make of Jacques Maillot's 2008 French film 'Les liens du sang' which is also adapted from the novel by Bruno and Michel Papet. It has been directed by Guillaume Canet ('Little White Lies', 'Tell No One', 'Whatever You Say') and co-written by James Gray ('Two Lovers', 'We Own the Night', 'The Yards') and is due to appear in theatres on March 21st 2014.
Anyone interested in how movies get made will love this feisty behind-the-scenes documentary, which uses sharp comedy to explore the messy business side of cinema. Both smart and very funny, it may not tell us much that we don't know (mainly that it's almost impossible to get a film financed unless it's a blockbuster with bankable stars), but it reveals things in ways that make us wonder about the future of the movies.
The film follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback as they head to the Cannes Film Festival to secure funding for their planned Iraq-set riff on Last Tango in Paris. They meet with a variety of experts who tell them that their hoped-for budget is three times too high for a movie starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell. So they talk to Chastain, Bejo and Kruger about taking over the lead role. They also consult with a range of prominent filmmakers including Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski and the Last Tango maestro himself, Bertolucci. But the more time they spend with the people who control the money, the more they wonder if their movie will ever get made.
It's fairly clear from the start that Last Tango in Tikrit is a joke project, but everyone takes it seriously. And as they talk to prospective investors, Baldwin and Toback consider adjusting the film to get more cash by, for example, shooting scenes in Russia or China. It's fascinating to hear these billionaires offer advice on how to get their movie made. And hilariously, no one worries about Baldwin's insistence that the story requires explicit sexual scenes.
Continue reading: Seduced And Abandoned Review
The network has made its final call on the freshmen series to debut this year
ABC have extended their Tuesday night sitcoms The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife to full seasons, adding nine episodes to the thirteen already being produced. Their fate has been shared by the comedy Super Fun Night, which was given four additional episodes, bringing its total to 17 episodes, with the news coming soon after the network's decision to extend Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a full season run.
The Goldbergs have been given a full season run
Not all of the freshmen series have been quite so successful, with the James Cann-starrer Back in the Game coming to an end after 13 episodes. Lucky 7 has also been dropped following an unimpressive run, whilst fellow new series Betrayal was only planned as a 'limited' 13-episode season and won't be returning. The information was released by ABC at the beginning of the month, with The Hollywood Reporter publishing the information.
With new writers and directors, this frenetic sequel indulges in silliness with less substance than last time. It's a lot of fun, but also rather forgettable, like the movie's surprisingly unimaginative title (honestly, the sky was literally the limit here). So while we laugh at the constant barrage of jokes and the colourful visual mayhem, there's nothing to engage us on a more satisfying level.
It opens with a recap of the first film, then carries on immediately, as young inventor Flint (voiced by Hader) is thrilled that his idol Chester (Forte), head of super-cool mega-company Live Corp, is put in charge of cleaning up the food storm Flint started. With a secret plan to get his hands on Flint's invention, Chester evacuates everyone from the island community Swallow Falls and offers Flint a job at his headquarters in San Franjose, California. But back home the food has come to life and is threatening to attack the world, so Flint is sent to solve the problem, unofficially accompanied by his pals (Faris' weathergirl, Samberg's surfer dude, Bratt's cameraman and Crews' muscle-cop) and his fisherman dad (Caan).
These characters are so hilariously goofy that we can't help but enjoy the chaos as they return to the island, which has been transformed into a Jurassic Park-style jungle overrun by food-pun creatures like shrimpanzees, tacodiles and watermelephants. The animation is gorgeously detailed, with all kinds of visual gags to match the deranged verbal banter. And the snappy voice cast dive in with gusto. The new characters fit in perfectly: Forte is hilariously slimy, while Schaal (as his talking baboon assistant Barb) steals the show as the only person on-screen who has a story arc.
Continue reading: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 Review
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' will continue Flint's story.
The new Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 trailer has rolled out online, promising more of the same from Sony's surprise animated hit that appears to be on the verge of forming a franchise. The first film - featuring the voice of Bill Hader, Anna Faris and James Caan - won strong reviews on its way to securing $243 million worldwide.
The sequel continues right after the first film, with young inventor Flint and his friends forced to leave their home town. However, when the food machine awakens to produce living food beasts like living pickles, hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, and apple pie-thons, he must return to the save the world.
There's plenty to enjoy in the new trailer, particularly when the gang marvel at all the weird and wonderful new food monsters before coming across a tomato.that's.just a tomato. There's also the "leek in the boat" gang from the original trailer.
Date of birth
26th March, 1940
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