British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the surfaces of his stories and characters. So it's especially intriguing to see him take on a biopic about the enigmatic American poet Emily Dickinson. Like her writing, the film has a moody, dry exterior that conceals a fiendishly sharp wit. It's also an unusually smart film, combining emotional resonance with brainy conversation, even as it moves at a glacial pace.
It's set in 19th century Massachusetts, where Emily (young Emma Bell, then Cynthia Nixon) grows up in a fiercely religious household. But then, everyone in this community is devout to the point of distraction, and no one knows what to do about Emily's unusually outspoken thoughts. The way she speaks about her faith horrifies her parents (Keith Carradine and Joanna Bacon), even though they raised Emily and her siblings Vinnie and Austin (Jennifer Ehle and Duncan Duff) to think for themselves. As Emily begins publishing her poems anonymously, she also challenges the role of women in this society, where they're expected to be little more than decoration. So it's no wonder that the plain-speaking new arrival Vryling (Catherine Bailey) catches her attention.
The film covers the final decades in Emily's life, punctuating scenes with her evocative, often disturbing poetry. Davies keeps the period details crisp and unfussy, using period photographs to great effect, such as in the striking sequence that traces the American Civil War. That said, the Dickinson family's life seems like little more than a sequence of nasty diseases and personal conflicts, which isn't easy to stick with. Thankfully, Nixon brings an alertness to Emily that catches the imagination, and her connection with Ehle's Vinnie is lively and engaging. These two women are inquisitive and sharp, in stark contrast to the gloomy people around them.
Continue reading: A Quiet Passion Review
Audiences looking for a French historical costume drama should look elsewhere, but those who enjoy British period comedies will love it. With a pointed dash of history and politics, this is a silly movie about social status, and it's so well written and played that only cynics won't have a lot of fun with it. Thankfully, the talent both in front of and behind the camera keep the focus on the lively characters, which makes it engaging on a deeper level than expected.
The fictional story is set around real events in 1682 France, as King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) was planning to move his court from Paris to Versailles, a vast palace still under construction. The final project there is the expansive garden, which landscaper Andre (Matthias Schoenaerts) has to complete on deadline and under budget. And everyone is shocked when he hires the little-known Sabine (Kate Winslet) to build an outdoor ballroom and fountain. But he has been smitten with her skill and passion for gardening, and there's also a gently gurgling romantic spark between them as well. The problem is that his high-society wife (Helen McCrory) notices this and sets out to sabotage Sabine's work.
There's not much here that's historically accurate, from the frankly outrageous costumes to the English filming locations and dialogue that buzzes with specifically British humour. But it's so breezy and snappy that all we can do is sit back and enjoy it for what it is. Those who do so may even find some underlying resonance in the discussions of order and chaos in landscape design, as well as the way honesty is like a blast of fresh air in a world constrained by status. Indeed, the film's most memorable scene is a gorgeously written and played chance encounter between Sabine and the King in which they initially don't know who the other is.
Continue reading: A Little Chaos Review
Will Holloway is faced with not only the most critical event of his career as assistant to the head of counter-terrorism at MI5 Harry Pearce, but also what has been dubbed the biggest failure by the UK intelligence agency in history when a known terrorist by the name of Adem Qasim escapes from their clutches. Not only that, but Harry's disappearance soon follows, leaving behind few clues apart from a series of encrypted phonecalls. Other members of MI5 have worries of a much broader scale on their minds, that Qasim might be in the process of brainwashing their leader while the whole of London is facing enormous immediate threat. When he stumbles across a global conspiracy, however, Holloway begins to realise that this horror is broader than any of them could ever have imagined.
Continue: Spooks: The Greater Good Trailer
After all the hype, it's impossible not to expect steam from this adaptation of E.L. James' mommy-porn bestseller, but the average episode of Red Shoe Diaries is friskier than this movie. Still, it's a well written and played drama, building an unusual romance with a series of scenes that are sometimes sexy but never actually transgressive. And the nicest surprise is that in the hands of director Sam Taylor-Johnson it becomes a witty tale of female empowerment.
It's set in the American Northwest, where Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is finishing her studies as an English literature major when she's asked by her journalist roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) to interview Seattle's most eligible bachelor, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Ana's awkwardly confident approach immediately gets under his skin, and he pursues her as if she's a corporate acquisition, complete with non-disclosure agreements and a contract that would make her submissive to his dominant. But she isn't so sure about all of this, and as she falls for him, she begins to make him break his own rules. Of course he thinks she should be punished for that.
Essentially, this film is mere foreplay, as the push and pull between Ana and Christian cycles through various set-pieces on the way to an ending that is clearly designed to get fans in a lather for films based on the second and third novels in the trilogy. And the studio would be wise to keep Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks, another story of male-female control) on board, as they have clearly beefed up James' novel with a strong dose of wry humour, bringing out the deeper themes rather than focussing on the under-developed plot and characters.
Continue reading: Fifty Shades Of Grey Review
When reserved college girl Anastasia Steele meets mysterious businessman Christian Grey for an interview, she ends up feeling rather foolish, fearing that she's messed up the opportunity. Mr. Grey doesn't see it that way however; on the contrary, he develops a strong romantic fixation with her. Anastasia is flattered, but soon realises that this guy isn't the sort to take her to take her out for romantic meals or shower her with gifts. Nonetheless, he is an enigmatic presence in her life that she cannot hope to resist, and she soon finds herself treading deeper and deeper into this man's life. As their relationship progresses, he reveals his unusual sexual desires which involves Anastasia signing a written document in order to give him permission to do whatever he likes with her. Enchanted and seduced by the sense of unknown that lies ahead, she agrees.
Sometimes, a single favour to a friend can end up changing you entirely. When a young literature student, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) attends an interview on behalf of her sick friend, she is totally unaware of the consequences. Steele meets with the illusive, enigmatic and intimidating young billionaire businessman, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), and almost immediately finds herself wildly attracted to him. Grey is insistent on controlling every aspect of his life, business and personal feelings, yet Steele represents a problem for him: he, too, is attracted to her, yet it is because of her free nature. As the couple clash, their futures are thrown into jeopardy with the revelation that neither of their lives will ever be the same again.
When a young girl's mother dies in childbirth, she is sent to live with her grandparents. After her grandmother dies in a car accident, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) takes on the responsibility of raising her by himself. When his granddaughter's African American grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) arrives to tell him that they should share custody, Elliot is reluctant to the point of hostility. Despite his granddaughter having more family living in the South - including her drug-addicted father - Elliot furiously battles for sole custody, stating that his fight is not born of racial hatred, but due to the loss of both his wife and daughter making his granddaughter the only thing he has left in the world.
Continue: Black Or White Trailer
Anastasia Steele is a shy college student who is forced to interview an enigmatic entrepreneur named Christian Grey. Their first meeting doesn't go as well as planned and subsequently she is shocked when it appears that he has a seemingly romantic interest in her. He's not the sort to go out on drunken nights or make any of the usual romantic gestures, but Anastasia remains captivated by the intense sense of mystery surrounding him. Some of that mystery is unveiled, however, when he reveals his sexual desires to her, but it seems even then his wishes are not of the usual kind. Christian asks Anastasia to sign a document in order for them to be intimate, and that coupled with the rope and tape he recently purchased starts to make her realise just what sort of sensual adventure she's about to experience.
Continue: Fifty Shades Of Grey Trailer
When young college student Anastasia Steele meets a mysterious wealthy businessman named Christian Grey, she had no idea she'd be embarking on the sexual adventure of her lifetime. While he makes it clear that he's not the type for wild nights of drunken laughs or even for a bunch of flowers and chocolates, Ana can't help but feel irresistably intrigued by the beguiling sense of unknown surrounding her new obsession. Soon though, all is revealed when Christian insists she sign a document before they enter into any kind of intimacy, and putting that together with the bunch of rope and masking tape she saw him purchase at the hardware store, she starts to realise that she's about to enter into a relationship that is more out of the ordinary than she could ever have possibly imagined.
Continue: Fifty Shades Of Grey Trailer
There's a robust, intelligent tone to this action remake that makes it continually intriguing, even if it's never properly exciting. The problem is that the characters are far too simplistic for us to care about, with moral dilemmas that are extremely cut and dried. Because the premise deals with several provocative themes, it wouldn't have taken much work to beef up the screenplay.
Set in the near future when American military robots patrol the world but are outlawed at home, the story centres on Omnicorp boss Sellars (Keaton), who is determined to sell his robots to the US market as police enforcers. So he decides to get around the law by putting a man inside a robot, drafting seriously injured Detroit cop Murphy (Kinnaman) as his guinea pig. Doctor Norton (Oldman) does an amazing job, building a machine around Murphy with extremely high technical capabilities. But Murphy can't help but worry about his wife (Cornish) and son, and he's obsessed with revenge over his attempted murder. So Norton is forced to use chemicals to suppress his emotions.
In other words, Murphy is actually more machine than man now, and operates at the whim of Sellars and his media spokesperson (Ehle), marketing nerd (Baruchel) and a rabid TV host (Jackson) to manipulate the US Congress to change the law. This greedy corporation gives the film a bite of satire, as does the issue of America's rampant willingness to brutally suppress anyone outside its borders. But without even a shading of complexity, the plot feels predictable and, frankly, rather dull. It's fun to watch everything happen, but our pulse rates never rise at all.
Continue reading: RoboCop Review
British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...
Nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson might be well known now for her classic catalogue of...
Audiences looking for a French historical costume drama should look elsewhere, but those who enjoy...
Will Holloway is faced with not only the most critical event of his career as...
After all the hype, it's impossible not to expect steam from this adaptation of E.L....
When reserved college girl Anastasia Steele meets mysterious businessman Christian Grey for an interview, she...
Dark times are coming to the United Kingdom. During a handover to MI5 Counter-terrorism leader...
Sometimes, a single favour to a friend can end up changing you entirely. When a...
When a young girl's mother dies in childbirth, she is sent to live with her...