As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high for this sequel. So it's a very nice surprise that this film stands on its own as a charming and often very funny romantic comedy while rounding off the trilogy in style. The cast is terrific, and the script bristles with snappy dialogue and witty characters that lead the audience down an unpredictable route to a complicated happy ending.
On her 43rd birthday, Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is finally content with her single life. Although her romantic past continues to torment her, especially when she runs into former flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at a funeral. With a corporate shake-up underway at the TV news programme she produces, presenter Miranda (Sara Solemani) suggests that Bridget needs some sex to liven up her life, whisking her off to a music festival. There she has a cute, hot encounter with the dishy Jack (Patrick Dempsey). And a week later, she rekindles her romance with Mark when she learns that his marriage has ended. So when she discovers that she's pregnant, Bridget hasn't a clue which man is the father.
This premise offers plenty of scope for both thematic meaning and awkward plot turns, and the screenplay merrily dives right into all of it, mixing some silly slapstick with darker emotions as director Sharon Maguire maintains a breezy-comical tone. This kind of balance is difficult to get right, but the film feels effortlessly engaging.
Continue reading: Bridget Jones's Baby Review
An intelligent ode to a time when Hollywood made wildly inventive movies without pressure from focus groups, there's a serious edge to what superficially looks like a madcap comical romp. But this isn't one of Joel and Ethan Coen's nutty comedies. It's a pointed exploration of the collision between art and commerce, assembled as a sprawlingly entertaining ensemble movie packed with lively, often hilarious characters.
It's set over 24 hours at Capitol Pictures in 1951 as studio minder Eddie (Josh Brolin) tries to keep several movies in production despite a series of hitches, while twin gossip columnists (two Tilda Swintons) try to get a scoop. Top movie star Baird (George Clooney) has been kidnapped by communist writers from the set of his Roman epic. Water-ballet diva DeeAnna (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant and unapologetically unmarried. And rising-star Hobie (Alden Ehrenreich) is struggling to make the transition from Western action hero to chamber room drama, clashing with his demanding new director Laurence (Ralph Fiennes). Meanwhile, song-and-dance man Burt (Channing Tatum) is up to something on the set of his sailor musical. With all of this, Eddie begins to think that maybe he should take the offer of a job outside the film industry.
As the movie darts between these various productions, the Coens gleefully reinvent this series of genres that have essentially died out. Yes, the film is a pointed depiction of how Hollywood used to make a wide array of movies for much broader audiences. Each sequence is written and directed with witty details that perfectly catch the way the chaos of a film set can be transformed into a glamorous motion picture in time for the starry red-carpet premiere. And the entire cast rises to the challenge. Clooney is terrific as the dim-witted star who hasn't a clue what's happening around him. Ehrenreich shows real charm as a smart kid struggling in an insane situation. Brolin holds things together in a surprisingly sympathetic role, while Swinton, Johansson and Fiennes add plenty of spark, and the film is stolen by Frances McDormand as a spiky film editor.
Continue reading: Hail, Caesar! Review
Director Tom Hooper deploys the same style he used in The King's Speech for this much darker story about the first man to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. It's an odd mix of rather too-pretty visuals with an edgy series of events that perhaps demands a lot more raw honesty. But the story is fascinating, and the cast is excellent, delivering astute, introspective performances that reveal the much earthier narrative under the lovely surface.
It opens in 1926 Copenhagen, where husband and wife painters Einar and Gerda Wegener (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander) are hoping to start a family as they develop their careers. One day, Gerda talks Einar into putting on a dress to pose for one of her paintings, and the experience triggers long-suppressed yearnings from his childhood. Gerda and their friend Ulla (Amber Heard) encourage him to attend a party in drag, and Lili Elbe is born, Einar's female alter ego who immediately attracts the attention of a lovelorn man (Ben Whishaw). After they move to Paris, they find another friend in Gerda's agent Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), who was Einar's childhood pal. But while the French doctors think Einar is simply crazy, Gerda sticks by him as he decides to undergo a radical experimental surgery offered by a doctor (Sebastian Koch) in Germany.
Hooper's usual directorial flourishes include off-centre compositions, painterly sets and emotive close-ups, which bring out the internal struggles of the characters in beautiful ways. But this also has a tendency to simplify a story that is seriously complex. By emphasising the social conflicts and relational melodrama, the entire movie begins to feel rather thin, never quite grappling with the more provocative or disturbing aspects of the issues at hand. There are hints of what might have given the film an edgier kick, such as a moment of Hitchcockian obsession or the shifting of power between the male and female characters.
Continue reading: The Danish Girl Review
After leaving Ant-man, Wright is to direct Baby Driver, a film that has been in the pipeline for several years already.
After a storm of scepticism surrounding Edgar Wright’s decision to walk away from the future Marvel blockbuster Ant Man, the British director has instead turned his hand to a new project which promises to put a fresh spin on the action-packed crime film. Having shot to directorial superstardom after the incredibly successful ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, his collaboration with long-time friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost which included the crowd-pleasers Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and World’s End, Wright has found himself as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors. Moreover, he has proved that he is unafraid to walk away from a project if he feels strongly perturbed by the direction it is being aimed toward by studio executives.
Wright left Ant Man after a prolonged dispute over the script
With Wright freed from Ant Man after script disputes, Baby Driver is reportedly being fast-tracked towards production, with the screenplay already being written following the Wright’s 2010 hit Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Details on the film remain scarce, but a small amount of speculation has been addressed by the director in a series of interviews. As intrigued fans have pointed out, Baby Driver is also the name of a track from the iconic Simon and Garfunkle album Bridge Over Troubled Water. In an interview conducted in 2011, Wright conformed he had written a script that borders on being a musical, admitting that it would in many ways act as a departure for the director in terms of style.
Continue reading: Everything We Know About Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver'
Curtis has said he may stop making movies, and on the basis of this film you can kind of see why: he's clearly in a rut. While this romance attempts a bit of magical whimsy, it's the same collection of sassy comedy, romantic drama and sudsy sentimentality that characterised Love Actually and Notting Hill. More troubling is how it presents that same almost offensively slanted view of British society.
The magical element is time travel, as young Tim (Gleeson) learns from his father (Nighy) that the men in his family can flit back along their timelines at will, reliving past events and fixing things where needed. Tim decides this will come in handy as he looks for a wife, and indeed he uses his skill to circle round and round charming American Mary (McAdams) until they fall in love. And over the next several years, as he figures out how to make their life together as amazing as possible, he learns that there are some limitations to this gift.
As always, Curtis gives his characters a fantasy level of wealth that doesn't really make sense. We never see Tim travel back to win the lottery, but there's no other explanation for how he and Mary are able to buy a house in a posh Maida Vale street. And these characters also live in an imagined pocket of London that has no diversity at all, as we never see anyone who isn't white and straight. But then, Tim's idyllic childhood on the Cornish coast isn't exactly believable either, complete with a quirky earth-adoring sister (Wilson) and always-confused uncle (Cordery).
Continue reading: About Time Review
After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Wright conclude their so-called Cornetto Trilogy with yet another riotously inspired exploration of British culture: the pub crawl. And this time it's apocalyptic! But what makes the film thoroughly endearing is its focus on old friendships that are so well-played that we can't help but find ourselves on-screen even when things get very, very silly.
Pegg plays Gary, the ringleader of his band of school pals. It's been more than 20 years since their failed attempt to visit all 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. Now approaching 40, Gary hasn't grown up nearly as much as his friends, so it takes a bit of convincing to get the now-settled Andy, Ollie, Pete and Steve (Frost, Freeman, Marsan and Considine) to reunite for a renewed attempt to drink their way through town. Then after the first couple of pints, they start to suspect that something isn't quite right. People are behaving strangely, as if there are alien body snatchers taking over the town. So to avoid attracting attention, the boys just carry on getting blind drunk on their way to the 12th pub, The World's End.
As in the previous films, Pegg and Wright continue developing the characters and their inter-relationships even as everything falls apart around them. Sure, the end of the humanity seems to be upon them, but there's unfinished business between them that needs sorting out, and besides there are more pints to drink. Along the way, things are spiced up as they meet Ollie's sister Sam (Pike), who shocks Gary by refusing to pick up where they left off. They also encounter a former teacher (Brosnan), the town's crazy old man (Bradley) and a shady guy known as The Reverend (Smiley).
Continue reading: The World's End Review
Not so much a rom-com as an anti-romance comedy, this brightly amusing British film makes us laugh fairly consistently, although the story itself is pretty grim. It's also a problem that the plot and characters are contrived and inconsistent. Even so, there's enough jaggedly hilarious humour in here to make it worth a look, complete with a superior cast that knows how to make the very most of even the smallest role.
The film opens with the lavish wedding of Josh and Nat (Spall and Byrne), although their friends and family not-so-secretly wonder if the marriage will last. Over the coming months, Josh's best mate Danny (Merchant) tries to distract them with inappropriate jokes, but the tension between relatives Naomi and Hugh (Driver and Flemyng) only reminds them how much work marriages require. After nine months, they begin seeing a therapist (Colman) who encourages them to try to make it to their first anniversary. But Josh is thinking about rekindling romance with an ex (Faris), while Nat is falling for the charms of a sexy client (Baker).
Essentially a collection of comedy set-pieces, the plot lurches around in search of ways to lampoon relationships, often in the rudest way possible as people say the worst things at the wrong times. Along the way there are some hilarious sequences, such as a humiliating game of charades or a ridiculous attempt at a threesome. Each set-up is are seized upon by expert improvisors like Merchant and Key (as a pessimistic insurance salesman). And the funniest moments in the film belong to Colman, who makes the most of every scene-stealing opportunity, and Driver, who expertly delivers a constant stream of withering insults.
Continue reading: I Give It A Year Review
Starting at full-emotion and never wavering for a moment, this huge movie adaptation of the long-running stage musical wears us out with its relentlessly epic approach. OK, so neither the musical nor Victor Hugo's source novel could be accused of being understated, but director Hooper (The King's Speech) never even tries to find a moment of quiet feeling here. The result is thrillingly moving, making the most of the soaring anthems that fill the show. But it's also pretty overwhelming.
The story starts in 1815 as convict Jean Valjean (Jackman) finishes 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. His parole officer Javert (Crowe) vows to keep an eye on him, but Valjean slips away and, after a redemptive encounter with a priest, eventually reinvents himself as an upstanding businessman. He tries to help fallen woman Fantine (Hathaway), rescuing her daughter Cosette (Allen, then Seyfried) from her greedy foster parents (Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter). Years later, Valjean and Cosette move to Paris, where a young revolutionary (Redmayne) falls for Cosette just as the 1832 student uprisings break out. And Javert is still determined to recapture Valjean.
Hooper maintains the play's operatic style, in which the dialog is sung-through in between the big numbers. And we're talking about massively emotional power ballads here, performed to wrenching effect. Hathaway's one-take rendition of I Dreamed a Dream is the kind of breathtaking scene that wins Oscars. Jackman's voice wavers and cracks beautifully as he holds the story together. Marks delivers a belting version of the soulful On My Own. Redmayne nearly steals the show with his soaring tenor voice and wonderful acting chops. Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter provide some raucously overwrought comical relief. And Crowe gets away with Javert's big musical moments because he has the acting power to back up his oddly thin voice.
Continue reading: Les Miserables Review
Tolstoy's iconic novel may have been filmed several times, but you've never seen a version like this. Clever writer Tom Stoppard and visually whizzy director Joe Wright combine talents with this ambitious film, which sets all of the action in a theatre that expands and shifts into a variety of settings.
Yes, it's rather strange, but it's also drop-dead gorgeous.
Knightley reteams with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Wright to deliver another solid performance as Anna, an aristocrat in 1870s St Petersburg who is married to the achingly nice establishment gent Alexei (Law) but falls under the spell of the bland but sexy young heartbreaker Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). And when she gets pregnant, she has to make a very difficult decision. The central theme is that these people are characters in a play dictated to them by their restrictive Russian society, so they have little choice but head toward tragedy.
Fortunately, there's a parallel plot about a wealthy farmer (Gleeson) who rejects so-called civilised society to stay in touch with the earth. He pursues the smart, young Kitty (Vikander), also entranced with Vronsky but beginning to become disgusted with so-called civilised culture. The film includes a rather huge number of characters, including Anna's womanising brother (Macfadyen) and his longsuffering wife (a particularly excellent Macdonald). And Wright and Stoppard effortlessly let everyone swirl around each other in a huge pool of emotion.
Although this pool often feels frozen over, as the feelings are pretty icy. So it's good to have open-hearted performances by Macdonald and Gleeson to hold our interest. Knightley is excellent, although we never understand why Anna does anything she does (which is the whole point). But perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is its astoundingly beautiful design: the sets, costumes, photography and music are sumptuous and lush, never fussy but always adding to the intensity of each scene. Look for it to deservedly hoover up Oscar nominations across the board.
Chris (Wahlberg) is a notorious smuggler who has gone straight to have a quiet life with his wife Kate (Beckinsale) and their two young kids. But when Kate's brother (Jones) falls afoul of New Orleans thug Briggs (Ribisi), Chris and his pal Sebastian (Foster) have to plan "one last job" to get the family off the hook. This involves Chris and Andy travelling by ship to Panama to collect counterfeit bills from a crazy dealer (Luna), then furtively returning to America. But of course nothing goes to plan.
Continue reading: Contraband Review
In 1988 Barrow, at the top of Alaska, aspiring reporter Adam (Krasinski) stumbles across three whales trapped beneath the icecap. Unable to reach the open sea, there's just a tiny hole in the ice that lets them breathe. Adam's report goes viral, grabbing the attention of America's press as well as his Greenpeace-activist ex Rachel (Barrymore). And the rescue effort will require an L.A. journalist (Bell), military pilot (Mulroney), Inuit boy (Sweeney), whale expert (Nelson), oil baron (Danson), White House rep (Shaw), two chuckleheads from Minnesota (LeGros and Riggle) and the Russian Navy.
Continue reading: Big Miracle Review
After a disastrous mission in Mozambique, disgraced spy Johnny English (Atkinson) joined a Himalayan monastery. But MI7 boss Pegasus (Anderson) calls him back into service, and soon he stumbles into a nefarious plan to assassinate China's prime minister. But he's also of course causing havoc. Now the lead suspect, only the agency's sexy shrink Kate (Pike) and his sidekick Tucker (Kaluuya) still have faith in him. And as the murderous plot unfurls at a mountain-top Swiss hideaway, English makes a daring attempt to save the world and clear his name.
Continue reading: Johnny English Reborn Review
Especially when it shows as much audacious skill as this British thriller does.
In the Cold War paranoia of 1973, there's a Russian mole in British intelligence. And the top boss Control (Hurt) has narrowed it down to four top colleagues (Firth, Jones, Hinds and Dencik). He asks faithful George Smiley (Oldman) to root out the spy, so he and Peter (Cumberbatch) begin a complex investigation that involves a discredited agent (Hardy) and a murdered operative (Strong). But the truth only seems to get more elusive the further they descend into the rabbit hole.
Continue reading: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review
During the Blitz in London, posh children Cyril and Celia (Vlahos and Taylor-Ritson) are sent to stay with their aunt, Mrs Green (Gyllenhaal), on her farm. While she awaits news of her soldier husband, she struggles to manage her three rambunctious kids (Butterfield, Woods and Steer), pay her bills, fend off her financially desperate brother-in-law (Ifans) and keep the dotty local shopkeeper (Smith) from doing something dangerous. The person she needs is clearly Nanny McPhee (Thompson), who arrives with several stern-but-magical tricks up her sleeve.
Continue reading: Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang Review
The filmmakers have returned, and corrected many of their mistakes. Hot Fuzz is not only hilariously funny, but every intelligent detail makes sense this time around, and the action is that much more engaging for what takes place because of it.
Continue reading: Hot Fuzz Review
But our hero had a job to do, and he never shied away from danger. He swallowed his fear, hopped into his silver, gas-fueled chariot, and sped off through the rain and inky darkness to the multiplex, that house of horrors where Cedric the Entertainer and John Travolta lurked. The critic pushed open the heavy doors and made his fateful way to face off against Nanny McPhee.
Continue reading: Nanny McPhee Review
But a little oddness is forgivable: Directing a movie is a strange place for Richard Curtis, who's written umpteen Brit-friendly movies and TV shows over the years but hasn't directed one, until now.
Continue reading: Love Actually Review
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