2016-10-14T10:47:49ZInspired by a true story, Danny Collins tells the story of ageing hard living rock star Danny Collins (Al Pacino) who discovers that 40 years ago John Lennon wrote him a letter with advice about how to handle fame. The letter advises him to ‘stay true’ to himself and his art, and inevitably causes Danny to reflect […]
(image) Inspired by a true story, Danny Collins tells the story of ageing hard living rock star Danny Collins (Al Pacino) who discovers that 40 years ago John Lennon wrote him a letter with advice about how to handle fame. The letter advises him to ‘stay true’ to himself and his art, and inevitably causes Danny to reflect on how he has led his life and seek redemption before it is too late.
Within a day, he has ended his relationship with a money seeking younger woman, checked into a Hilton hotel in New Jersey, and contacted his estranged son to try to salvage something from their non existent relationship. There are few surprises in Danny Collins but it is a fun take on a familiar story with good performances all around.
(image) The stellar performances ensure Danny Collins is an enjoyable romp. The predictable plot is saved by the strong focus on the Father and Son relationship which packs the emotional punch the film needs. Bobby Annavale is excellent as Danny’s son Tommy who although initially full of anger at his father’s absence from his childhood, finds himself becoming begrudgingly fond of Danny and his charming personality. Despite initially being told to disappear, Danny keeps appearing and doing things for Tommy and his family.
Al Pacino is a little over the top in the role and his singing voice is not great, but it’s easy to believe that years of hard drinking and drugs would damage even the best singing voice. He’s outgoing to the point of annoying, but he manages to charm everyone he comes into contact with, and you do find yourself rooting for him to do good.
The soundtrack is dominated by John Lennon classics which work to remind you of Danny’s motivation and suggest the career Danny might have had if he had continued to write his own material, instead of selling out and singing songs he was told might be hits.
Danny Collins is nothing amazing and you’ve probably seen this story played out many times before, most recently Ricki and the Flash where Merly Streep was the rock star trying to reconnect with her children,but it’s heartwarming at times and entertaining enough. Wouldn’t seek it out, but worth a watch if you see it’s on.
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Bobby Annavale
Dir: Dan Fogelman
2016-07-27T15:17:25ZSet in the 1950s when same sex relationships were still a rarity, Carol is a visually satisfying period romance about a forbidden love affair between two women in New York. A brief encounter in a department store leads to a slow burning romance between shop assistant and budding photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and high class […]
(image) Set in the 1950s when same sex relationships were still a rarity, Carol is a visually satisfying period romance about a forbidden love affair between two women in New York. A brief encounter in a department store leads to a slow burning romance between shop assistant and budding photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and high class socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). The relationship leads to the realisation that sometimes being yourself does come at a cost, but is the cost worth it?
(image) There is very little narrative in Carol and the love affair is mostly told through evocative music and telling looks. The music is largely slow piano, and the beauty of this score suggests depth of feelings without overwhelming the viewer. The score is more revealing than the dialogue as there is actually very little conversation between the characters and the romance itself is a slow burner.
Although the score does successfully tell the underlying emotions of the characters, the lack of dialogue is a little bit frustrating in the beginning as the formation of their friendship is quite a hard sell. Carol leaves some gloves at the store which Therese returns to her and as a thank you Carol takes her to lunch. It’s unlikely these events would lead the two characters to develop strong feelings for each other, but if you can get past this, the rest of the film is a beautiful thing.
The beauty of the soundtrack is matched only by the powerfully quiet performances of both Mara and Blanchett. Blanchett manages to portray Carol’s unhappiness beautifully and sympathetically. She is a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who is afraid to be herself for fear of losing access to her daughter and being rejected by society. Therese is a character unsure of her place in the world and who she wants to be and Rooney Mara successfully portrays this with a quiet subtle performance that is mostly told through the direction of her eyes.
Carol is a beautiful slow burning film with evocative music and performances that tell the story of this relationship in a quiet and suggestive way.
Dir: Todd Haynes
Starring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett
2016-07-13T12:57:29ZLove and Friendship is an adaptation of a little known Jane Austen novella called Lady Susan. In contrast to other Austen novels which have been adapted for the screen many times, Lady Susan has hardly been touched. A reason for this might be because the heroine is a manipulative adulteress, rare and quite risque for a film set in […]Love and Friendship is an adaptation of a little known Jane Austen novella called Lady Susan. In contrast to other Austen novels which have been adapted for the screen many times, Lady Susan has hardly been touched. A reason for this might be because the heroine is a manipulative adulteress, rare and quite risque for a film set in the 1790s. Love and Friendship is not afraid to stray from the usual style of Austen adaptations that centre around the romances in the stories and the effect is a refreshing take on a widely covered author and period. The central character is middle-aged widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) who amidst rumours of scandal comes to stay at her brother in law Charles’s estate. Whilst there she decides to set about securing a husband for herself and her daughter Frederica. Her manipulative schemes create much hilarity for viewers as other characters fall foul of her plans. She uses her charm, beauty, intelligence, and connections to make her way in society with largely successful results. She brushes rumours of scandals aside and quickly convinces people she has merely had the misfortune of being talked about by people unfamiliar with her situation. Love and Friendship is full of hilarious performances. The stand out comedy performance comes from Tom Bennett as Frederica’s intended James Martin. He is extremely rich and extremely stupid and provides entertainment whenever he is on screen. Due to his high ranking in society, his comments are rarely ridiculed and therefore he feels at ease spouting whatever nonsense enters his head, which he often does. Kate Beckinsale’s comedy is more subtle and comes largely from her cunning and manipulative antics which sees a number of men caught in her schemes, unable to believe that they are being played by a superior being. Love and Friendship is a refreshing take on Austen’s work, which is normally highly romanticised. Romance is not idealised in Love and Friendship. Lady Susan does not fall head over heels in love for an eligible bachelor, she considers all the options of potential husbands available to her and plays her cards to secure her financial future as well as securing a lover in the process. She is a manipulative adulteress but her wit and intelligence still leave you rooting for her. Dir: Whit Stillman Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny [...]
2016-07-11T19:28:09ZThe advent of wireless home security and surveillance technology has certainly made homes safer. Have you ever thought what would happen if this technology were used against you? How easy would it be for someone to spy on you in your own home? This is the premise that the film 13 Cameras is built upon. […]The advent of wireless home security and surveillance technology has certainly made homes safer. Have you ever thought what would happen if this technology were used against you? How easy would it be for someone to spy on you in your own home? This is the premise that the film 13 Cameras is built upon. Gerald, played by Neville Archambault, is a creepy landlord who buys several tiny surveillance cameras and installs them in his rental home. Gerald is a disturbing little man. He is always profusely sweating and seems to be the sort that would sniff your chair after you got up. Unfortunately for the young couple of Ryan and Claire, he is their new landlord in their new dream home. Ryan and Claire come into the house with problems of their own. While she is pregnant with their first child, Ryan is stepping out with his assistant for a bit of frisky business. Unfortunately for Ryan, this relationship is also taking a turn for the worse and begins to threaten things on the homefront. All of this is captured via wireless camera and beamed straight to the den of perennial pervert Gerald. The film shows us him watching while they eat, while they fight, and while they screw, especially while they screw. Is this a believable movie? To a degree it is. Unfortunately, the advent of security surveillance can work against us in ways that may come as a surprise. Since many modern home security systems are now tethered through the Internet, all a hacker really needs is to crack your password and he or she can gain access to not only burglar alarms but your home computers, mobile devices, and any smart appliances you may have. A hacker can essentially control your entire home at will. Watching you through your own cameras, computers, and television would be an effortless task. While the couple in the movie are busy fighting and trying to sort their lives, Gerald is plotting some insidious acts of violence. I won’t give away the ending, but I am sure you can use your imagination. For fans of horror cinema who are also technology buffs, this is a suitably creepy film. It really drives home just how vulnerable we as a society are. Does this mean we are doomed to be at the mercy of any tech-savvy hacker? Of course not – but it’s still important to protect yourself against those who roam cyberspace with ulterior motives. Further online resources can direct you to in-depth coverage of security do’s and don’ts, but here here are a few quick tips to help anyone secure their home against intruders. Use A Secure Network It is never advisable to use a public network to access your home security system. This leaves it vulnerable for anybody nearby to pick up your password. Change Your Password Frequently As hackers develop methods to crack passwords at lightning speed, your outdated password may not have the necessary security attributes to withstand a brute force attempt. Change your passwords often, write them down in a secure (offline!) location, and never leave any home security devices with their initial login information intact. Monitor Your Camera Logs Your home security system will have records of all IP addresses that have accessed your system. If the IP address is not one that you recognize, change your password immediately and notify both the company that monitors your system and law enforcement authorities. Using these methods will ensure that you are as safe as possible and don’t end up like our friends Ryan and Claire. The last any average citizen needs is a man like Gerald lurking around the corner. [...]
2016-06-08T03:07:39ZIn science fiction, the line separating a “utopian” existence from a “dystopian” one is often thin. A seemingly well-ordered world may hide dark secrets. The new 2016 film, Equals, is set in a futuristic society that seems perfect on the surface, but beneath the shiny high-rise buildings and perfume-ad aesthetics is a society that’s lost its […]In science fiction, the line separating a “utopian” existence from a “dystopian” one is often thin. A seemingly well-ordered world may hide dark secrets. The new 2016 film, Equals, is set in a futuristic society that seems perfect on the surface, but beneath the shiny high-rise buildings and perfume-ad aesthetics is a society that’s lost its humanity. In Equals, society has stopped feeling. Individuals have their emotions switched off when they’re still in utero, and they reach adulthood without experiencing happiness or anger, love or hatred. The movie follows these emotion-free individuals as they go about their daily lives. They eat alone, they work alone, and they play virtual games alone. They rarely touch. However, this ossified existence is called into question when a young man and a young woman start to feel again. The young people in question are played by Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult. Hoult plays Silas, an artist in a large corporation’s “speculative nonfiction” division. When his suppressed emotions begin to bubble to the surface, he begins to look at the world in a different way. He notices Nia (Kristen Stewart) trembling at the sight of a corpse, and he starts to wonder whether she too is afflicted with Switched-On Syndrome. Stewart and Hoult manage to generate chemistry, though their romance is more furtive than febrile. Stewart gives a small, internal performance, but her emotional awakening is visible in every shy smile and tilt of the head. Hoult, with his impenetrable handsomeness and icy blue eyes, looks right at home in the minimalist world of the film. His subtle performance anchors Equals, and he finds interesting notes to play within the film’s confined emotional spectrum. Equals is directed by Drake Doremus, who previously helmed Breathe In and Like Crazy – movies that also explored the limits of young love. With Equals, however, he expands his scope, attempting to create a fully realized sci-fi world. The film’s set recalls Tokyo and the Guggenheim Museum, with a streamlined style that becomes almost dizzying. The clean, rigid cityscape is at once beautiful and frightening, stylish and clinical. Doremus chooses to use symmetrical compositions and a limited color palette to create a feeling of unease. The characters are trapped in the frame, breaking free in increments as their emotions return. While Equals is an effective portrait of young love, the dystopian society at the heart of the film sometimes feels underdeveloped. The movie offers no explanation for this emotion-free existence, and it feels as though more thought was given to the set design than to the wider ramifications of a world without feelings. But if the film isn’t interested in political structures, perhaps that’s not a fault. The world of Equals may be brimming with untapped potential, but the film is decidedly, willfully small. It’s more about small gestures than sweeping societal problems. It chooses to be about two characters, rather than the society that surrounds them. For sci-fi fans looking for action and excitement, this might be disappointing. Equals is a small-scale romance, and it may not satisfy people looking for thrilling set pieces or incisive critiques of dystopian societies. In scope, it is comparable to films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Her, which use sci-fi conceits as a backdrop rather than a focus. For people who want the sheen of futuristic sci-fi with a healthy dose of romance, however, Equals is a good option. Equals, w[...]
2016-05-09T12:55:56ZDespite being loosely labelled a sequel to the successful 2008 Cloverfield which was shot in found footage format and portrayed an alien invasion, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different experience. It is not immediately apparent that it has any connection to the previous movie, except that the title also contains the word Cloverfield. This film has only three […]Despite being loosely labelled a sequel to the successful 2008 Cloverfield which was shot in found footage format and portrayed an alien invasion, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different experience. It is not immediately apparent that it has any connection to the previous movie, except that the title also contains the word Cloverfield. This film has only three characters who are living in a bunker due to an unexplained apocalyptic type event having taken place. Instead of the tension being created by the attack unfolding before your eyes, the tense atmosphere here is created by the confined setting and the uncertainty of what might be waiting outside. Waking up following a serious car crash, Michelle ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself chained to a wall in the home of a sinister seeming Howard (John Goodman). He soon unchains her and explains to her that there was an attack on the outside world. Rather than kidnapping her as she believes, he explains he has saved her life by bringing her to his bunker. His story is confirmed by fellow resident Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who tells her he fought his way into the bunker when the attack happened. After some initial disbelief, events occur that seem to confirm Howard’s claims and the three characters begin to bond and accept they may be together for the foreseeable future. The strained peace does not last long though as a chance discovery makes Michelle realise Howard may be more menacing than anything awaiting her outside. It’s a psychological thriller in a claustrophobic setting that confines the viewer to the same restrictions as the characters. We are told the same information as them about the outside world and have to come to our own conclusions about what/if anything has happened. The shortness of the film means the confined setting never gets too dull and it picks up pace just when it should. The tension of the sinister situation keeps you on the edge of your seat as you await the big reveal. Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr Dir: Dan Trachtenberg [...]
2016-03-23T10:48:07ZThe Iceman is based on the true story of New Jersey contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) who murdered more than 100 men before he was finally arrested in 1986. As well as being a cold blooded killer, Kuklinski was a devoted husband and Father who kept his work a secret from his family. The film shows these contrasting sides of […]The Iceman is based on the true story of New Jersey contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) who murdered more than 100 men before he was finally arrested in 1986. As well as being a cold blooded killer, Kuklinski was a devoted husband and Father who kept his work a secret from his family. The film shows these contrasting sides of his life and how eventually as he loses control of his work / life balance, cracks starts to appear and the law slowly catches up with him. Kuklinski almost just falls into the contract killer job after an incident with mob boss DeMeo (Ray Liotta)where his cold unflinching nature becomes apparent. DeMeo sees potential in this personality trait and hires him as a contract killer. A montage of killing clips follows as Kuklinski gets better at his job and gradually gets richer as the money starts rolling in. Then the films cuts to a better dressed Kuklinski out for a posh meal with his wife Deborah and friends. It is revealed Kuklinski’s cover is that he’s a businessman, which his wife and friends seems to accept without question. For years, Kuklinski seems to evade the law but when an incident leads to DeMeo asking him to retire, he is forced to find work elsewhere and starts taking risks that put him and his family in danger and draw the law’s attention closer to him. There are only very brief references to Kuklinski’s childhood and what may be behind his cruel nature. A quick mention of a brutal Father is about the only explanation and the rest is left to the audience to guess at. This vagueness makes it difficult to feel any empathy towards the character. The killings themselves are mostly skimmed over which may be intentional to mirror the character’s coldness and his feelings towards the acts he is committing, but it does feel like there should more emphasis on the horror of the acts he committed. This is an average film that is made worthwhile by the performances it contains. Shannon excels as cold blooded killer Kuklinski who somehow manages to only convey real emotion in the family scenes and shows cold detachment everywhere else. Winona Ryder is likeable as gullible wife Deborah who never suspects her improving surroundings are due to anything but her husband’s honest hard work. Even when cracks start to show and Kuklinki’s temper starts to reveal itself at home, she never for a second starts to suspect. Ray Liotta is excellent, once again playing a mob boss. He may be typecast in that role, but he always plays it superbly. David Schwimmer is entertaining as sleazeball Josh Rosenthal and convincingly carries off a ponytail and moustache. All the performances are excellent, but the film itself leaves you cold. Dir: Ariel Vromen Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans [...]
2016-03-07T17:29:45ZEnergy and industry are terms that are synonymous with the word “progress,” but dirty energy that contributes to climate change has increasingly become a target for proactive discussion and alternatives. Dirty air, pollution, greenhouse gasses and the effects of global warming on our environment are no longer acceptable in today’s society, although the majority […] Energy and industry are terms that are synonymous with the word “progress,” but dirty energy that contributes to climate change has increasingly become a target for proactive discussion and alternatives. Dirty air, pollution, greenhouse gasses and the effects of global warming on our environment are no longer acceptable in today’s society, although the majority of the world’s energy is still produced by fossil fuels. With The Future of Energy, we can see that there is much work to do to create new goals for renewable energy sources. The award-winning documentary film, The Future of Energy, features the environmental work of activists, authors, educators and businesses who are leading the nation with their spirited efforts toward the goal of 100 percent renewable energy in the communities of Lancaster, California and Greensburg, Kansas. According to the researchers who are interviewed in the film, these types of renewable energies have the potential to provide power to the entire earth by the year 2050. The Future of Energy: Lateral Power to the People was directed by Brett Mazurek and produced by Maximilian DeArmon and Missy Lahren. This powerful team of filmmakers brings all their passion to this empowering film of hope. Theo Badashi serves as host and writer, and this team creates an engaging film that educates while also providing humor and inspiration for audiences everywhere. The goal of the film is to give people hope, and it is encouraging viewers across the nation to take positive action of their own. The film focuses on everyday people who are taking on the responsibility to change the way their communities utilize energy. Working with environmental organizations such as 350.org, Green for All, and Go100%, these community efforts have influenced the work of activists and renewable energy advocates to spread the power of community activism. Currently, renewable energy makes up for about 13 percent of the energy produced in the United States, according to Ohio Gas, and this number is surely going to increase with big enough efforts from all over the world. Lancaster, California, is showcased in the film for its innovative goal to become the “solar capital of the world” by producing more solar power than the city’s residents utilize. The city has won national and international awards for their industry-defining efforts. Similarly, the small Midwestern town of Greensburg, Kansas, is celebrated for its successful transition to renewable wind energy following the town’s heartbreaking destruction due to a 2007 tornado. They harnessed the power of this damaging event and turned it into their new source of energy. The mayors of both progressive cities are featured in the movie with interviews and examples of their community’s challenges and triumphs. The film showcases these success stories by encouraging similar actions in other communities across the globe. The power of the wind, water and the sun are all encouraged for a transition to 100-percent sustainable and renewable energy sources. Social change can lead to energy independence and break the reliance on outdated, pollution-causing sources of power. Community action begins with individuals pursuing a passion, and many of those individuals are interviewed in the film to inspire others to do the same. The Future of Energy leaves the viewer with a feeling of hope and inspiration. With individuals, communities and leaders of both local governments and environmental organi[...]
2016-02-03T13:28:23ZLike the majority of movies in the Rocky franchise, Creed is a crowd pleaser. The basic premise of an underdog getting a chance at the big time and defying the odds is a winning formula and the inclusion of Rocky Balboa as a mentor is a good touch and gives the feel of the Rocky reins being handed […]Like the majority of movies in the Rocky franchise, Creed is a crowd pleaser. The basic premise of an underdog getting a chance at the big time and defying the odds is a winning formula and the inclusion of Rocky Balboa as a mentor is a good touch and gives the feel of the Rocky reins being handed over to new blood. Creed takes the Rocky franchise in a new direction, with the central character and main boxer being Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan), the illegitimate son of the late Heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. Wanting to be recognised for his talent alone, Creed is living and fighting under the name Donnie Johnson. Knowing he has a lot to learn, he enlists his Dad’s old opponent and pal Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) as his mentor. After a win, the secret of Donnie’s lineage is leaked and a Champion boxer with something to prove challenges Donnie to a fight on the condition he fights under his father’s name Creed. The challenge is set. Sylvester Stallone has been nominated for an Oscar for this reprisal of the Rocky Balboa character and with good cause. He brings out Rocky’s vulnerability and charm in a way that none of the movies since the first Rocky have done. Where the other movies ultimately aimed to show Rocky as the ultimate fighter and champion, Creed shows Rocky well past his boxing days and presents him as frail and sick and ready to give up on life. Stallone’s performance is subtle and understated yet powerful. He barely raises his voice in the entire film but steals every scene he’s in with his presence and gentle charm. Because Rocky is a character most people know and love already, this quiet performance really works and when he opens up about his love for his late wife and tries to justify his son never visiting him, you may just find yourself a little bit teary. There were a few elements of the film that were poor. The casting of real boxer Tony Bellow in the Role of Creed’s opponent Ricky Conlan was questionable. It maybe adds a touch of authenticity to the boxing scenes, but unfortunately Bellow’s acting is so poor and his liverpudlian accent so strong, that the scenes where he actually has dialogue are pretty laughable. His character is not very well fleshed out and although he’s clearly meant to be a thug, you don’t really end up liking or disliking him to any great extent. He seems purely there to give Creed someone to fight against. Another ludicrous element is the amount of injuries that occur in the boxing match. At one point, Donnie can’t even open his eye but we are expected to believe that the fight would be allowed to continue. Logic defying really but dramatic license maybe excuses that one. It is a film that will please fans of the Rocky franchise, as although the central fighter has changed, it essentially follows the same format. An underdog gets a challenge he can’t refuse, cue training montage and catchy music and a spectacular final fight. It’s a winning format. Dir: Ryan Coogler Cast: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone [...]
2016-01-14T19:24:14ZAtom Egoyan’s Remember features marvelous acting by many notable and significant people but the story itself is not always consistently plotted. Canadian born Christopher Plummer plays Zev, the elderly main character who isn’t able to forgive the death of his family by the hands of the Nazis many decades ago, but can’t help but forget […]Atom Egoyan’s Remember features marvelous acting by many notable and significant people but the story itself is not always consistently plotted. Canadian born Christopher Plummer plays Zev, the elderly main character who isn’t able to forgive the death of his family by the hands of the Nazis many decades ago, but can’t help but forget as he slowly loses his memory to age. An elderly friend, Max, who suffered similarly when he was younger concocts a plan that he is too feeble to personally carry out. With Max’s guidance, the more physically able Zev leaves his comfortable life and family behind to go on a journey of revenge. Produced by A24 and DirecTV, Remember tells the story of the main character, Zev, and his descent into dementia. The challenge of finding his tormentor is equal only to that of his fight to hold onto his mind long enough to complete his mission, as his memory continues to slip away. He’s also reeling from the recent loss of his wife, adding emotional pressure to an already fraught situation. He travels across the country in search of the man who made his life hell when he was younger. However, all he has is a name and multiple possible suspects. The audience also has to watch Zev’s son, Charles, try to track his ill and missing father soon after losing his mother. Their different journeys and motivations are appropriately shown in sharp contrast. This basic plot could have made for a spectacular movie, but where it falls short is in the details and in the coincidences the characters encounter. It asks the audience to suspend far too much disbelief as it twists and turns to its inevitable conclusion. While Plummer and co stars Martin Landau and Dean Norris do their best with the script, there are too many spots where things just don’t make sense. The violence shown isn’t always easy to watch either, though it does manage to hit the right spot between being too gory and too watered down. There are moments of brilliance in the film as well. The poignancy of Zev having to write notes to himself on the same arm that has a faded serial number tattooed on it will strike a chord with many people, especially anyone who has studied the Holocaust or simply watched a loved one lose their own memory. Nor does the frustration felt by both Zev and Max at the possibility of justice not being served fail to be moving. One point the film makes clearly is that while many years may have passed, some wounds can never be healed nor some crimes forgiven. These moments aren’t enough to completely save the film, but they keep it from being fully condemned as well. Egoyan is also skilled at slowly ratcheting up the tension – something evident in his latest project. In the end, audiences who have enjoyed Egoyan’s previous films should give Remember a try. It may not live up to his masterpieces Speaking Parts or The Sweet Hereafter, but he is not capable of directing a complete stinker either, especially with such a stellar cast. Sharp cinematography and tight editing also serve to bring the audience into the story, helping to patch some of the credibility problems. While this may not be the best film of Egoyan’s career, neither is it the worst. [...]