Laurie Macdonald

Laurie Macdonald

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He Named Me Malala Review

Excellent

Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) creates a riveting portrait of the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. And it's her amazing story and magnetic personality that holds the attention, rather than the way Guggenheim reorders her life to punch the emotional buttons. Malala is a genuinely inspirational figure who has spent her entire life trying to make the world a better place. And she's still only 18.

The film explores her childhood in Swat Valley, northern Pakistan, where she was named by her father Ziauddin after a 19th century Afghan heroine who led the Pashtun fighters against British interlopers and was shot in the process. As a school teacher, Ziauddin instilled in Malala a love of education, so when the Taliban began to close schools to girls, she began speaking out, first anonymously in a blog and then bravely expressing herself in public amid threats of violence. And the Taliban responded by trying to kill her. She was shot in the head, but survived and fled to England with her family, where she recovered and continues to travel the world speaking eloquently about issues relating to education and refugees.

In its fly-on-the-wall segments in England, the film reveals Malala to be a fairly typical teen, engaging in cheeky rivalry with her younger brothers Kushai and Atal, who tease her about her crush on Roger Federer. And she also has a very strong bond with her father and her mother Toor, who has a moving story of her own. Intercut with this are scenes of Malala meeting world leaders including Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II, plus journalists like Jon Stewart. Clearly this young woman was a gifted speaker even before she was propelled onto the global stage, passionately discussing the right to education and the truth about her faith. "Islam teaches me humanity, equality and forgiveness," she says. "The Taliban aren't Muslims. They're not about faith, but power."

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Flight Review


Good

With another deeply committed performance, Washington brings badly needed complexity to what is otherwise a contrived, overstated drama about addiction. It helps that the film is directed by Zemeckis as a kind of companion piece to his last live-action movie, 2000's Cast Away, another film about a man whose life is dramatically changed by a plane crash. Although here he's lost in a wilderness of substance abuse.

Washington plays Whip, a veteran commercial pilot who fills his days with women, alcohol and drugs. Even when he's flying a plane full of passengers. On a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta, a catastrophic malfunction sends his airliner hurtling toward the ground, prompting an outrageously inventive reaction that saves 96 of the 102 lives on board. Then the investigators discover that he had both alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time. His union rep (Greenwood) hires a high-powered lawyer (Cheadle) to represent him, but Whip doesn't even try to straighten up until he meets young junkie Nicole (Reilly), who's serious about cleaning up her life.

The main problem here is that Gatins' script completely misses the point of his own story, never remotely touching on the central theme of a flawed hero who has no real moral compass. So drugs are the villain; it has nothing to do with Whip's personal failings. Instead, the script just uses a variety of contrived characters to confront him with his drug problems until he finally cracks under all this pressure. Fortunately, Washington is excellent as the high-functioning addict, and the supporting cast is solid in providing whatever element Gatins needs at the moment: Cheadle's straight-arrow efficiency, Reilly's hopeful anguish and Greenwood's steadfast friendship, plus scene-stealer Goodman as Whip's hilariously honest dealer-buddy and Leo as a ruthlessly tenacious investigator.

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Men In Black 3 Review


Good
A decade after Men in Black II, the cast and crew attempt to rekindle that blend of dry humour and outrageous silliness. But instead of ramping up the hilarity, as in part 2, this movie is weighed down with a messy plot and jokes that are amusing if not actually funny.

One day Agent J (Smith) wakes up to find that his partner Agent K (Jones) has been dead for more than 40 years. It turns out that evil alien Boris (Clement) has travelled back to 1969 to stop K from capturing him so he can conquer Earth. So J has little choice but to follow him. First, he must convince new boss O (Thompson) to let him go, and then he has to explain everything to the younger K (Brolin) and work with another alien (Stuhlbarg) who can see multiple futures.

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street Review


Very Good
Quite possibly the strangest holiday release since Miramax rolled out its bloodsucking Dracula update in December 2000, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street reproduces Stephen Sondheim's moody musical as a theatrically macabre vengeance play that gleefully soaks its numbers in gallons of gooey, red stage blood. It's a mesmerizing mess of a film that alternates its high notes with blatant missteps. Yet for all its unmistakable faults, it casts such a complete spell that I'm chomping at the bit to see it again (and again).

Where other studios might have demanded proven singers for the parts, Paramount (bravely?) permits Burton to practice extreme nepotism. The director recruits his better half, Johnny Depp, for the title role of a wrongfully jailed barber who seeks vengeance against a covetous judge (Alan Rickman) and his troll-like lackey (Timothy Spall). As for the role of Mrs. Lovett, it goes to Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter. A meat-pie maker, Lovett helps dispose of Sweeney's human victims by turning them into delectable delicacies.

Continue reading: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street Review

Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events Review


Good
This film lives up entirely to its title. The events are as follows: Death of parents by fire, three siblings turned into victims of their closest relative, deception, escapes, disguises, greed, murder attempted and accomplished, evil genius, egomania, abduction, forced marriage, and more wickedness than we might want to witness.

It also has the genius of a multi-disguised Jim Carrey, the narrative voice (and silhouetted presence) of a finely articulated Jude Law, and a basis in a best-selling series of books, 18 million copies of which have been sold since 1999. The movie has seamless effects, inspired inventiveness, and a serious dramatic "problem." More on that below.

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The Island Review


Good
If you're going to clone someone, Scarlett Johansson is a damn good choice. But putting Scarlett in an action movie -- and dying her hair blonde? You can't be serious.

I am serious. And while The Island isn't exactly a great film, the case for Johansson as action starlet has been made, handily.

Continue reading: The Island Review

Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events Review


Good
This film lives up entirely to its title. The events are as follows: Death of parents by fire, three siblings turned into victims of their closest relative, deception, escapes, disguises, greed, murder attempted and accomplished, evil genius, egomania, abduction, forced marriage, and more wickedness than we might want to witness.

It also has the genius of a multi-disguised Jim Carrey, the narrative voice (and silhouetted presence) of a finely articulated Jude Law, and a basis in a best-selling series of books, 18 million copies of which have been sold since 1999. The movie has seamless effects, inspired inventiveness, and a serious dramatic "problem." More on that below.

Continue reading: Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events Review

The Terminal Review


Good
No modern traveler has more notoriety than Merhan Karimi Nasseri, who has been stranded in Terminal One of Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport since 1988. Nasseri was expelled from Iran in 1977 and spent 10 years trying to gain political asylum in Europe. That all came to an end when his bag was stolen in Paris, essentially stranding him at CDG. In 1993, a movie was made about him (Lost in Transit), starring Jean Rochefort. Nasseri's life reappears on screen this year in The Terminal, courtesy of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. And shamefully, Nasseri goes unmentioned in the movie's production notes.

In The Terminal, Spielberg gives us Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a visitor from the fictitious country of Krakhozia in Eastern Europe. Hanks, made up to be pasty and lumpy, puts on a mush-mouthed accent reminiscent of Yakov Smirnoff, and finds himself landing at New York's JFK on a mission we won't discover until the end of the film. We know only that it involves a Planters peanut can.

Continue reading: The Terminal Review

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Laurie MacDonald Movies

He Named Me Malala Movie Review

He Named Me Malala Movie Review

Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) creates a riveting portrait of the youngest ever...

Flight Movie Review

Flight Movie Review

With another deeply committed performance, Washington brings badly needed complexity to what is otherwise a...

Men in Black 3 Movie Review

Men in Black 3 Movie Review

A decade after Men in Black II, the cast and crew attempt to rekindle that...

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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Review

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Review

This film lives up entirely to its title. The events are as follows: Death of...

The Island Movie Review

The Island Movie Review

If you're going to clone someone, Scarlett Johansson is a damn good choice. But putting...

The Terminal Movie Review

The Terminal Movie Review

No modern traveler has more notoriety than Merhan Karimi Nasseri, who has been stranded in...

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