Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck
Upon receiving the Golden Globe for Best Director for The Revenant, Alejandro G. Iñárritu said, “Pain is temporary, but a film is forever.” It is a mantra that he has obviously willed himself to believe because the stories from set in Canada suggest this ambitious frontier epic will earn its place alongside Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo as one of film history’s most arduous and challenging shoots. The film is an endurance test, for its crew, for its characters and even, in the best possible way, for its audience.
A revenge Western – though Iñárritu insists that it isn’t a Western – based in part on the 2002 novel by Michael Punke, The Revenant tells the incredible “true” survival story of frontiersman Hugh Glass. In 1823, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) leads a group of fur trappers through the Rocky Mountains on a quest for pelts. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is charged with navigating them safely through this dangerous territory Continue reading
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larsen, Colin Quinn, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, John Cena
The traditional romantic comedy is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. A hit romantic comedy in the 21st century requires a slightly harder edge, and that is exactly what you get in Trainwreck, the debut film from writer and star Amy Schumer.
Trainwreck starts with a flashback, 23 years in the past, as Gordon (Colin Quinn) sits his two young daughters down to explain why he and their mother are getting a divorce, an explanation which finishes with the girls reciting the mantra “monogamy is unrealistic.” Fast forward to the present day, and while Kim (Brie Larson) is happily married with a step son and a baby on the way, elder sister Amy (Amy Schumer) has taken her father’s advice to heart. She is a proud, single woman with a long list of conquests and a job she loves, writing for S’Nuff, a seedy men’s magazine not above publishing articles on the ugliest celebrity children and the effects of garlic on the taste of semen. Despite her hatred of sports, she is assigned to do a profile on a prominent sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). There is an instant chemistry between the two and a preliminary interview becomes drinks and then a cab ride back to his apartment and… well, you know. Continue reading
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind, Polly Draper
‘Abortion comedy’ is hardly a phrase that rolls off the tongue, ‘abortion romantic comedy’ even less so. It sounds like an oxymoron, or at least in questionable taste. But that is exactly what we get with Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, a brave debut feature unafraid to look honestly at this most divisive of issues.
Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a very frank, small-time stand up comedienne. Her material is highly confessional, consisting mainly of sharing her life experiences with her audience, with a generous smattering of bodily functions jokes. She has the rug pulled out from under her when her boyfriend breaks up with her, at least in part due to his discomfort with the details of their relationship being shared so openly with her audience. As part of her meltdown, she has a drunken one-night stand with a clean-cut business student, Max (Jake Lacy), and a couple of weeks later discovers, to her horror, that she is pregnant.
So far, this is nothing really new. Continue reading
Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
New York auteur Noah Baumbach seems to make films about life stages. The Squid and the Whale, his 2005 calling card, was about a teenager dealing with the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. The critically acclaimed Frances Ha was about being in your twenties and trying to forge your identity. His newest film, While We’re Young, is about reaching middle age. It is about reaching that point where you no longer feel like a kid pretending to be an adult, about reaching that point when you realise that you no longer understand young people.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in their forties and have recently lost the last of their peers to babies. Cornelia is the producer daughter of celebrated documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin), while Josh is a documentary maker who, after initial acclaim, has spent the best part of the last decade working on an ambitious and intellectual film which in its current form is a six-and-a-half hour film that is seven hours too long. They meet a young, hipster couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Continue reading
Director: Juame Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook, Genesis Rodriguez, Common
In 2008, at the age of 56, Oscar nominated actor Liam Neeson’s career took a peculiar turn. Pierre Morel’s Taken introduced the world to Neeson’s “very particular set of skills,” and the success of that movie, its sequels and imitations have turned Neeson into arguably Hollywood’s most bankable action star. That all of this happened simultaneous to The Expendables franchise having tongue-in-cheek fun by bringing back a group of action heroes from decades past, most of whom happen to be roughly the same vintage as Neeson, only adds to the peculiarity. Juame Collet-Serra’s Run All Night is the latest film to take advantage of Neeson’s new tough guy persona.
Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is a mess. Once known as Jimmy the Gravedigger, he used to be a feared hitman for mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Fifteen years down the track he is an alcoholic, estranged from his only son and gets by on charity from Shawn. One night, Jimmy’s son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) is in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses Shawn’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), murder an Albanian heroin dealer. Continue reading
Director: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer
Chris Rock is a great stand-up comedian. While many comics see stand-up as a stepping stone to television and movies – and Rock has definitely taken his fair share of average movie roles – he clearly has aspirations to be a filmmaker not just a performer. With Top Five writer-director-star Rock has his go at being Woody Allen.
Playing what he knows, Rock stars as Andre Allen, a famous stand-up comedian who became a movie star thanks to the stupid but hugely successful ‘Hammy the Bear’ trilogy in which he plays a wise-cracking, gun-toting police bear. However, in a predicament similar to Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, Andre Allen has lost the desire to be funny. Seeking to make serious, uplifting entertainment he has invested everything in a new film overflowing with hubris, ‘Uprize,’ about the 1791 Haitian slave rebellion. It is a couple of days out from the release of the film, which everyone except Allen knows is going to be a flop, and he is doing non-stop publicity. Also on the horizon is his high profile wedding to reality TV star Erica Long (Gabriella Union), a runaway train of an event which his heart does not seem to be in. Continue reading
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Joanna Newsom, Benecio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Hong Chau, Eric Roberts, Martin Short, Jenna Malone, Michael Kenneth Williams, Maya Rudolph
When it comes to the films of Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master) I have tended to appreciate them without really enjoying them. In the case of his latest, Inherent Vice, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it without really understanding it.
Inherent Vice is an aggressively, unapologetically confusing mystery set in 1970 in the fictional California seaside town of Gordita Beach. Beach bum, stoner PI Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is approached by a former girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), for help. She is currently having an affair with real estate tycoon Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) and Wolfmann’s wife and her lover have come to her offering money for her help in getting rid of him. Doc agrees to look into it only to find it is the beginning of a web that could include a missing musician, a maritime lawyer, a society of dentists, an Indo-Chinese heroin cartel and the deputy District Attorney. Or it could include none of those things. Or it could include some of those things but not others. With nothing quite as it seems it’s a bit hard to tell. Continue reading
Director: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo, Elyes Gabel
A Most Violent Year is the third film from writer-director J.C. Chandor, after Margin Call and All is Lost. While he doesn’t enjoy a high profile, Chandor has built himself an impressive body of work as one of those rare beasts: a filmmaker who makes movies for grownups.
Abel Morales and his wife Anna run an up-and-coming heating oil company, but find themselves in a crisis. Someone is hijacking their trucks. Drivers are being beaten, trucks taken and dumped with their contents stolen. The loss in revenue is building and the drivers are scared to go to work. The teamsters union is demanding Abel arm his drivers, but he fears escalation. Simultaneously, after a two year investigating into corruption in the heating oil industry the District Attorney is ready to start laying charges, including 14 against Abel’s company. All of this could not be happening at a worse time, as Abel has committed to an important property deal. He has put down a 40% deposit, everything he has, on a waterfront oil holding facility which will give them direct access to the oil tankers and the potential for dramatic growth. Continue reading
Director: Morgan Matthews
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang
In 2007, Morgan Matthews directed a 90 minute documentary about the weird and wonderful young competitors at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) called Beautiful Young Minds. The subject matter obviously left its mark on the director as seven years later he would return to it for his feature film debut X+Y.
X+Y tells the story of Nathan Ellis, an autistic boy who lives with his mother Julie in Yorkshire. Diagnosed at a young age, Nathan’s social difficulties were accelerated when his father, with whom he shared a special bond, was killed in a car accident. Nathan’s interest is mathematics and with Julie incapable of meeting his appetite for maths – whenever she tries he frequently reminds her that she is not clever enough – she engages former child prodigy Martin Humphreys to tutor him. Together, Nathan and Martin set their sights on the IMO in Cambridge. Continue reading
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
As someone who watches a lot of films, there is nothing quite so exciting as when you see something you have never seen before, an entirely original cinematic vision. There is simply no other way to describe Birdman – full title Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – the new black comedy from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (the director of Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros who has here rebadged himself Alejandro G. Iñárritu).
Birdman centres on Riggan Thomson, a middle aged movie star who is living in the shadow of the superhero character he played in three blockbusters in the early 1990s. Birdman has become Riggan’s tormentor. As he slowly but surely breaks down, it is Birdman’s voice he hears personifying all of his insecurity and self-doubt. In an effort to regain his significance and artistic integrity, Riggan has gone all in, writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Days before opening night, an accident serendipitously befalls Riggan’s weak co-star and the opportunity arises to introduce Broadway superstar Mike Shiner into the cast. Continue reading