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drama

Gifted (2017)

DIRECTOR: Marc Webb

CAST: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate

REVIEW:

Its trailers make it look like Lifetime Original Movie fodder served up with a cute precocious child and a dash of melodramatic courtroom drama, but that does Gifted a bit of a disservice.  The movie isn’t anything hugely ambitious or original, but the movie is more emotionally true and—apart from some third act contrived narrative contortions—the drama more subdued than the previews might suggest, and the result deserves a chance to be judged on its own merits. Continue reading

Locke (2013)

2F3A9835.jpgDIRECTOR: Steven Knight

CAST: Tom Hardy, voices of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, Bill Milner

REVIEW:

So, how engaging can a movie be centering entirely on 90 minutes of a man driving in a car and talking on the phone, with the other characters only present via their voices?  As it turns out, Locke is often surprisingly absorbing in the moment, even if it’s ultimately unable to withstand the onset of monotony.  A small, low-key, low-budget indie movie initially opening at independent film festivals in the UK, Locke moved on to a limited theatrical release in the US amid positive critical reviews  and a much-praised performance by Tom Hardy, but the prospect of spending an hour and a half watching a film in which nothing happens but a man driving in a car dealing with a series of personal crises on the phone is not a premise to draw mainstream crowds.  Locke may be a critical darling, but it’s strictly indie art-house fare, and while an intriguing cinematic experiment, its gimmicky premise ultimately wears thin. Continue reading

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

dallas-buyers-clubDIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallee

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

REVIEW:

Like 1993’s PhiladelphiaDallas Buyers Club centers on an individual’s experience in the AIDS crisis, but unlike Jonathan Demme’s earlier film, it tells a true story, that of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic heterosexual who was transformed by circumstances into a crusader for AIDS patients and the ringleader of a mostly gay Dallas-based group called The Dallas Buyers Club, using medications unapproved in the US and waging a years-long war with the FDA and extending his own life to another seven years, far beyond his initial prognosis of thirty days.  While Philadelphia‘s flaws were somewhat mitigated by its social courage in releasing at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Dallas Buyers Club might have the most value to viewers too young to remember the climate of the time period, with AIDS sufferers treated with fear and ignorance and effective medication hard to come by. Continue reading

The Great Gatsby (2013)

carey-mulligan-600DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Jack Thompson

REVIEW:

 

I’ll get this out of the way right upfront: I have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, now considered a staple of American literature (though it was received poorly at the time, perhaps partly due to its social commentary on 1920s excess), so this review will not include comparisons to the book or any previous film adaptation (the most prominent of which came out in 1974 and starred Robert Redford in the title role), merely review this as a stand-alone film.  Continue reading

Les Misérables (2012)

DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper

CAST:

Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN “SPOILERS”

Based on the phenomenally popular, long-running musical stage production which debuted in 1985, which itself was based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, this musical big screen adaptation of arguably the greatest French novel was a long time coming. Continue reading

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky

CAST: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack

REVIEW:

Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from the book by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film version, is part of a heavily-populated genre—the “coming-of-age” story, and like many of them, it focuses on the outsiders and non-conformists who spent high school on the outside looking in. Continue reading

Warrior (2011)

 WC9V4530.tifDIRECTOR: Gavin O’Connor

CAST: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL ASPECTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

I don’t know much about MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting, but that doesn’t matter here, because Warrior is less about the sport itself and more about the fractured family drama that plays out both in and outside the ring. MMA is the vehicle used to convey this story, but not the core of it, and even for those both unfamiliar with and not particularly interested in MMA fighting (including myself), Warrior is an engaging and sometimes powerful drama about universal themes of regrets, resentment, and forgiveness. Continue reading

Green Street Hooligans (2005)

DIRECTOR: Lexi Alexander

CAST:

Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani, Marc Warren, Leo Gregory, Geoff Bell, Henry Goodman, Terence Jay

REVIEW:

‘Football Hooliganism’ dates back to the late 1800s, with gangs of overzealous football (soccer to us Yanks) club supporters- who came in Britain to be known as firms- intimidating or attacking rival players and clashing with opposing firms. Continue reading

The Cider House Rules (1999)

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström

CAST:

Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Erykah Badu, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Kate Nelligan, Kieran Culkin, Heavy D, J.K. Simmons

REVIEW:

The Cider House Rules, based on the same-named novel by John Irving, is a low-key subdued film but one with grace and emotional depth. Labeling it an ‘abortion movie’, as some have, is an unfair oversimplification in the same way that Brokeback Mountain, another slowly-unfolding, quietly powerful drama, is pigeonholed as a ‘gay cowboy movie’. Continue reading

Hamlet (1996)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

CAST:

Kenneth Branagh, Sir Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney, Richard Briers, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Brian Blessed, Jack Lemmon, Rosemary Harris, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Reece Dinsdale, Gerard Depardieu, Sir John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Sir Richard Attenborough

REVIEW:

WARNING: This review mentions specific details of the plot

In the world of Shakespearean film, few figures loom larger than Kenneth Branagh. William Shakespeare is something of an obsession for Branagh, who directed Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, co-starred in Othello, and here wears three hats as writer, director, and star of this lavish, star-studded adaptation of Hamlet, the only version to include every single line from the play intact and as such running approximately four hours. Continue reading

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