Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Film Review: The Martian (2015)

After a team of scientists and explorers, led by commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), are hit by an unexpectedly large storm on the surface of Mars, they must stage an emergency evacuation.  Yet on the way to the module, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by a communication antenna and left behind presumed dead.  He then quickly has to figure out a way to survive for multiple years for a rescue mission in a habitat designed to last for 30 days and “science the shit out of” his terrifying dilemma.

There’s an old philosophical thought experiment about five passengers riding an out-of-control tram on a rail line approaching a cliff next to a track-switch with a second line with a sleeping man laying on it.  Should you pull the lever and save the five even if it means killing the one?  What is the ethical price of a human life?  The Martian is an extended meditation on that very question, with a whole harmony of other themes of solitude, determination and survival.

Film Review: Brooklyn (2015)

In 1952 Enniscorthy in southeastern Ireland, young Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) works weekends at a small corner shop run by the nasty and spiteful evangelical Miss Kelly (Bríd Brennan).  Hating her job, yet finding no better, she agrees to a new life in New York City set up by her sister Rose and émigré Father Flood (Jim Broadbent).

After making the uncomfortable journey across the Atlantic, with the help of her more experienced bunkmate, Eilis ends up in an Irish boarding house in Brooklyn under the watchful eye of her landlady Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters) and protective, yet intimidating, fellow Irish immigrant residents.  She gets a job at a department store, yet fails to impress her supervisor Miss Fortini (Jessica Paré) and her homesickness only begins to subside when she meets a local Italian-American called Tony… 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Film Review: The Big Short (2016)

As you will all no doubt remember, in 2007 the financial world had a little bit of a cataclysmic meltdown due to the reckless behavior of some money men on Wall Street.  A lot of white men in suits had created some difficult financial mechanisms that included hundreds of thousands of mortgages, which could be traded and repackaged and traded and repackaged and traded and repackaged…and as long as the house prices kept going up, everyone was happy.

Yet in 2005, an outsider hedge fund-manager and blogger called Michael Burry (Christian Bale) discovers that a huge amount of these mortgages are at risk of default (or ‘subprime’), and are in fact likely to lead to a massive reversal in fortune for the investment banks.  This idea resonates with a number of other maverick financiers, such as the exasperated Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and shady trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who were willing to bet big against the housing market:  The Big Short. 

Film Review: Spotlight (2016)

Sometimes, years after the event, there is nothing better than a Hollywood film to summarise a real-life narrative that we are all painfully aware of.  Films that take a scandal or a public crisis and tell the story from the inside or from another angle, if done well, can really do a public service in canonizing important moments in history.  Or they can just make us feel bad…

Spotlight – headed by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) and consisting of Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachael McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) – is the quasi-independent investigative journalist department inside of the Boston Globe. 

Usually left to their own intuitions about stories, the arrival of new Florida editor Marty Baron (Liev Schriber) points them in the direction of a recent claim by a lawyer who says that the Archbishop of Boston was aware of accusations of pedophilia amongst Catholic priests and did nothing to stop them.  Initially working on the premise that they are following one bad priest, it quickly descends into an all-out investigation of the whole diocese (only stopping briefly for the inconvenience of 9/11). 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Film Review: The Revenant (2016)

The Revenant

In early 19th century North America, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) has lead a pack of pelt hunters from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company across the frontier wilderness along the Missouri river. Under the expertise of experienced tracker Hugh Glass (Leo DiCaprio), they have come to the end of their expedition and are preparing their haul for transport back to the outpost, when nearby Arikara warriors looking for their kidnapped chieftain’s daughter attack them.

Glass and Henry lead the few survivors – Glass’ son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), a young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and the selfish John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and others – down the river on a boat to escape.  Further down the river they set up camp, only for Glass to get into a horrific accident whilst searching for food.  After tending to his seemingly fatal wounds, Henry leads the survivors back to the outpost, leaving Fitzgerald in charge of Hawk and Bridger to look after Glass until his final breath.  A decision that everyone will live to regret… 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Film Review: The Danish Girl (2016)

“It’s hard for a man to be looked at by a woman”

In 1926 Copenhagen, husband and wife couple Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) Wegener are both working as painters honing their craft.  Although Einar has had success in displaying his landscapes, Gerda is being told that her portraits are not yet worthy of exhibition.  In order to help finish her latest work, Einar agrees to model some tights, shoes and a dress, which starts to awaken a growing desire in him.  And so when Einar refuses to attend a tiresome artist’s ball, they decide that Gerda should instead accompany a new alter ego, Lili.

Redmayne portrays Lili with a passionate curiosity as she begins to take on a life of her own outside from Einar, including as Lily begins to see other men from the art world including the amorous Henrik (Ben Whirshaw), and as the unsympathetic Dr. Hexler (Pip Torrens) tries to exorcise Lily through radiation therapy.  As the film advances, Redmayne learns to mimic the movements of the glamorous woman around him, not unlike his extraordinary physical transformation in The Theory of Everything.

Film Review: Carol (2015)

In 1952 Manhattan, Therese (Rooney Mara) has started a temporary job at Frankenberg’s department store where she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett) a glamorous and alluring woman looking for Christmas gifts for her daughter.  After the transaction, Carol leaves her gloves behind leading to Therese finding her address and send them back to her.  Out of gratitude Carol invites her to lunch where they become increasingly closer

Therese is trying to skirt the issue of marriage with her boring boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy).   Meanwhile, Carol is in the middle of a custody battle with her neglectful husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), who is using an affair Carol had with her friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) as proof of her incapacity for motherhood.  To escape their personal lives, they head out west for a road trip… 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

So you think you understand the technical oscar categories...?

This time of year everyone starts to make predictions on who will win which Academy Award, but are you sure you understand the nuance of each category?  If not, then have a read below and ensure that you have the knowledge to pick the right winners...

Oscar Predictions 2016

Below is the list of Academy Award nominees for 2016. Some I like, and some I don't like - But before the big night on February 28th, I will have reviewed most if not all of the big films below and given an opinion on whom I think will win each category...  Stay tuned for updates and look out for my category breakdown later this afternoon.

The glory years...