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Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

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This film opens with Leanne (Saoirse Ronan), who was kidnapped at the age of 4 and has lived with her benevolent but disturbed abductor Ben (Jason Isaacs) for 17 years, being returned to her parents, having escaped/been discovered at Ben’s home (it is never made clear how she gets away). Her mother Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and father Glen (David Warshofsky) are delighted to have her home, but their joy soon turns to heartbreak as they realise that they don’t know their daughter – renamed Leia by Ben – at all, and not only does she not remember them, but she also identifies more with Ben, who has been her sole companion for most of her life. As the family struggle to find a way to tread this unfamiliar ground, events take a sinister turn in Marcy’s desperation to make a connection with her daughter.

I enjoyed this film a lot, despite the disturbing subject. The acting – particularly from Ronan, Nixon and Isaacs (albeit Jason Isaacs took a small role, with his character’s life with Leia being told in flashback and just one scene in the present day) was outstanding, and really made me invest in the characters.

It is a slow moving story, certainly not a film for fans of action movies, but I found that that suited the mood perfectly. The ambiguous ending also fitted the rest of the film, and I found myself thinking about this film and the characters for several days after viewing it.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Writer: Nikole Beckwith

Main stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky

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singles

Set in Seattle in the grunge era of the early 1990s, Singles is a romantic comedy about a number of 20-somethings, many of whom live in the same apartment block, and their various relationships and entanglements.

There’s Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee stop Barista, who is in love with Cliff (Matt Dillon), lead singer of a grunge band which is far bigger in his mind than in reality. Then there’s Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meets Steve (Campbell Scott), who has just sworn off relationships to concentrate on his career.

This film is now a shocking 24 years old! However, it still feels totally watchable and the characters are completely relatable. Most viewers will be familiar with the different games people wittingly or unwittingly play when they meet someone new, and the heartache of discovering that someone is not who you thought they were. Linda for example tells her best friend how happy she is to have met someone who isn’t playing any kind of angle, at precisely the same time as Steve is asking his friends exactly how he should play things with Linda!

There’s more than comedy here though – a completely unexpected development in Steve and Linda’s relationship hits them hard, only for a sudden and unforeseeable event to happen while they are coming to terms with their situation (fear of giving away spoilers prevents me from giving more details).

The acting is great – Kyra Sedgwick and (in particular) Bridget Fonda are believable and likeable. Matt Dillon provides a fair amount of comedy as the deluded wannabe rock star, and Campbell Scott is perfectly cast as Steve – he strikes the perfect note between completely ‘normal’ for want of a better word, and being charismatic enough to attract Linda.

Overall, this is a little gem of a movie – perfect if you want something entertaining, relatable and undemanding.

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Year of release: 1992

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda

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arbitrage

Richard Gere heads up the cast in this thriller – he plays Robert Miller, a successful hedge fund magnate. Miller is desperate to try and sell his company before his dodgy financial dealings come to light, but is soon faced with an even bigger problem on a more personal scale. Desperate to cover up his involvement in a young lady’s death, he tries to out manoeuvre the tenacious Detectiver Bryer (Tim Roth), who knows Miller’s guilt (no spoilers here) and is prepared to go to any lengths to prove it. Throughout all of this, Miller’s family life with wife Ellen and daughter Brooke (Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling respectively) starts to crumble. Can Miller outrun the truth – and how long will his power and influence be able to protect him?

This was another film which exceeded my expectations. I watched it because of Tim Roth and from the description was not sure that it would be something that I would really enjoy. However, it held my attention from the moment it started and I thoroughly liked the whole story. The cast were excellent – Richard Gere was great as the powerful businessman who could feel everything he had achieved slipping through his fingers. He moved seamlessly from a loving father to a ruthless businessman and although I did not really like the character (and I don’t think we were meant to like him) I still found him interesting. Tim Roth was – of course – excellent in the type of role that he plays so well; determined and persistent. Although his character was essentially on the side of the good, Bryer’s own morals were somewhat ambiguous. I do feel that Susan Sarandon was somewhat underused, appearing in only really a handful of scenes, although there was one very relevant one towards the end – I won’t say more about that because the ending was excellent and I don’t think anyone watching this film should have it spoiled for them.

Also brilliant was Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant – a young man with a criminal past, who is  now trying to rebuild his life, but whose connections with Miller and a favour which he does for Miller threaten to ruin his future.

Overall, an enjoyable and absorbing thriller, which is well worth a watch.

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Year of release: 2012

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Writer: Nicholas Jarecki

Main cast: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling

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It may be easy to forget nowadays, but Liza Minnelli could stun an audience with her loveliness and her incredible dancing and singing. This film is proof of that.

Minnelli is Mavis Turner, a former Broadway dancer, who has moved to New York State and teaches a tap dancing class, made up of a group of very different women (Julie Walters, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Carol Woods, Ellen Green, Robyn Stevan) and including one man, Geoffrey (Bill Irwin). Shelley Winters is the stern pianist Mrs Fraser.

The class allows the group to bond and find confidence in themselves and each other, and when they are given a chance to star in a large stage show, they have to pull together to make sure that they put on a terrific performance, despite being convinced that they are not capable of doing it.

Meanwhile, each of them have their own personal problems to deal with and overcome.

I adored this film. Truly adored it. Liza Minnelli was not only lovely as Mavis, but blew me away with her stunning solo dance halfway through the film. The rest of the cast were also wonderful, especially the incredible Bill Irwin, as the shy Geoffrey.

For fans of tap dancing such as myself, this is a real treat, and the finale is a joy to be viewed and viewed again.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Year of release: 1991

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Richard Harris

Main cast: Liza Minnelli, Julie Walters, Shelley Winters, Bill Irwin, Carol Woods, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Robyn Stevan, Ellen Green

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8470

When their friend Cookie (Thandi Newton) overdoses after using heroin for the first time, musicians Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) decide it’s time to kick their addiction, get into a government rehab program and finally get clean. However, it is easier said than done, as their good intentions are thwarted by bureaucracy and red tape at every turn. Not only that, but a local drug lord (Vondie Curtis-Hall) has it in for them, and staying one step ahead of him is not easy…

I watched this film purely because Tim Roth is in it, and honestly I was just expecting a fairly enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. From the outset though, this film exceeded all my expectations and I would probably now put it in my top ten films of all time.

It’s a comedy, and there were several scenes which made me laugh out loud. That said, it’s definitely not a light-hearted comedy – there’s a serious point to be made about how hard it is to get help for addiction (bearing in mind this film is nearly 20 years old, I can not be sure how realistic it is nowadays), and there is a lot of violence, albeit most of it does take place off-screen.

Although there are a lot of characters, it’s basically Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur’s film. I knew Tim Roth would be great, because…well, he ALWAYS is – and he was – but I have never seen Tupac’s acting before, and I was really surprised by how talented he was. Often when singers turn to acting, the results are less than stellar, but Tupac brought just the right about of comedy and angst to the role. He and Tim Roth bounced off each other perfectly, with Stretch (Roth) being the more wild and impulsive character, while Spoon (Shakur) was the one attempting to keep him in line.

Kudos too to Vondie Curtis-Hall as D-Reper, the drug lord who Spoon and Stretch found themselves on the wrong side of – Curtis-Hall also wrote and directed this film, so he is obviously a multi-talented man.

If you are not offended by swearing or drug references, I would definitely recommend this film. I give it a solid 10 out of 10.

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Year of release: 1997

Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Writer: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Main cast: Tim Roth, Tupac Shukar, Thandie Newton, Vondie Curtis-Hall

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James Wayland (Tim Roth) is an alcoholic, epileptic, unemployed genius, from a rich and powerful family. Accused of raping and mutilating a prostitute, he is taken into a police station where Detectives Braxton and Kennesaw (Chris Penn and Michael Rooker respectively) give him a lie detector test. However, they have under-estimated their adversary, who is soon able to manipulate them with their own issues – Braxton has gambling problems, and Kennesaw is convinced his wife is cheating on him. What follows is a tense and sinister stand off between the three men, interspersed with flashbacks of events leading up to the interrogation.

I wanted to watch this film because Tim Roth is one of the main stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here, he plays a deeply unpleasant character, who may or may not have committed a particularly gruesome  murder (no spoilers here!) There are plenty of psychological mind games afoot, and the truth behind what actually happened is revealed bit by bit. However, as the flashbacks are seen from the points of view of the characters, you are never sure whether what they are remembering is accurate or not, thereby keeping the viewer in the dark along with the detectives.

Super acting from all three of the main cast makes this film a worthwhile watch. As a lot of the film takes place in a single room in a police station, the atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic and there is always a disturbing undertone.

I think my only niggle would be that some of the events that take place in the second half of the film are just not believable – they simply couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. Nonetheless, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, this shouldn’t hamper enjoyment.

Special mention for Renee Zellweger in a departure from her usual roles – she is superb as the murdered prostitute, Elizabeth.

Overall, if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, give this a watch and prepare for a few surprises.

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Year of release: 1997

Directors: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Writers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Main cast: Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Rooker, Renee Zellweger

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dow0a

This movie is a an affectionate homage and occasional parody of those Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies from the 1960s – the most famous being Pillow Talk, which this film reminded me of.

Renee Zellweger is Barbara Novak, an author who has just released her book ‘Down With Love’ which is all about how women don’t really need men, and how they can be just as cavalier in their relationships as men are. This turns her into an overnight celebrity and she seizes the opportunity to publicly criticise Catcher Block (!) (Ewan McGregor), famous journalist and notorious ladies man.

Catcher is determined to exact revenge and sets out to make Barbara fall in love with him – she has never actually seen him so he assumes a fake identity and starts to romance her. Inevitably the deceit starts to unravel and revelation piles upon revelation…

I personally thought this was an absolute gem of a film, although it received only a lukewarm reception when it first came out. Zellweger and McGregor are perfectly cast in their parts and have terrific chemistry. The film is very colourful and playful throughout, perfectly recapturing the mood of those movies which it is playfully paying tribute to.

There are some terrific one-line zingers, and some unexpected twists, and at times I was genuinely laughing out loud. And Tony Randall – who co-starred in those Day/Hudson collaborations pops up here too! David Hyde Pierce plays the role that Randall tended to play in the original films, which is that of best friend/neurotic co-worker, and he is perfect for that part.

This is definitely one I will want to watch again and again.

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Year of release: 2003

Director: Peyton Reed

Writers: Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake

Main cast: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce

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