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Bus PalladiumAnne Murphy
It's the 80's and the boys have formed a band, now all they need is the big time.
Five childhood friends form a rock band as young men, put them on a tour bus, and we're watching the movie equivalent of rock 'n' roll heaven. The stereotypical band members are troubled by nothing more than the usual sex and drugs and making music together, their travails accompanied by an authentic soundtrack that recreates the feel of the era. The boys are as likable as "Bus Palladium" is enjoyable. Get a ticket and get on the bus.
The Company MenWendy Slevison
Centres on a year in the life of three men trying to survive a round of corporate downsizing.
This movie is informed by the global financial crisis, which dramatically affected the world economy. Initially, the characters in the film are difficult to connect with. They are executives who earn big bucks and live the big life... until the crash comes, and along with it, radical changes to everything they have known and cherished, ultimately exposing the very core of who they are as men. The high quality of performance in this film evokes a surprising empathy and admiration, and you end up feeling that you have indeed been in good company.
The Way BackAndrew O'Dea
Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, "The Way Back" is authentic film-making that proves you don't need CGI to create a sweeping epic. The incredibly long running time and deliberate pacing commands you to appreciate the vast distances and stunning landscapes of the protagonists' journey, step by slow step. One suspects this was entirely the director's intention, and in this regard credit is undeniably due. Some will no doubt be inspired by this sprawling story, but others may get lost along the way.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' NestTom Jones
Lisbeth is recovering and awaiting trial for three murders. Mikael must prove her innocence, but Lisbeth must be willing to share the details of her sordid experiences with the court.
Millennium fans will be fulfilled by this portrayal of the final book of the series. The magnitude of this story is handled well, despite feeling a little rushed at times. The quickened pace impacts on the suspense, which is never given enough time to really build. Consequently, the film feels less like a thriller and more like a courtroom drama. However, the acting is superb, the story is bold and the climax… revenge has never tasted so sweet. She's kicking nests... and goals.
A woman puts herself through long years of law school to prove her convicted brother of innocence.
This movie has all the makings of a textbook 'midday telemovie'; true story, appeals to older females, very sentimental and touching. However, it's a step above the rest, and well worth watching. It is extraordinary to learn about this real woman, who commits her whole life to saving her brother. The acting is amazing, especially from the lead actress who is fantastic in her portrayal of the real life heroine. The directing is sometimes lacklustre, and it feels like it could have harnessed the emotions a lot more. Otherwise, convict yourself to this one!
A man awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.
The premise of "Unknown" is solid, but it's the execution that falters. You can't help but shake the feeling you've seen it all before, only done much better. Most disappointing is the talented cast that is wasted in underwhelming, forgettable roles. An inevitable twist might explain inconsistencies in the plot, but it only leads to a pedestrian climax that will have most wishing the amnesia that plagues the protagonist could've translated to the viewing experience as well. Forget it.
King Lear (National Live Theatre)Anne Murphy
An aging King invites disaster when he abdicates to his corrupt daughters and rejects his honest one.
The UK National Theatre brings a quality stage production to the cinema screen. The extraordinary passion that underscores this much loved story is evident in the performances of the experienced cast. It's those performances, not to mention the playwright's words, which hold attention. It's an extraordinary play, although the minimalist backdrops provide a simpler visual experience than cinema goers are likely expect. The experience of watching a play on the big screen is unusual and Lear, "...still every inch a King".
Rabbit HoleWendy Slevison
Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident.
"Rabbit Hole" wants to be an authentic and poignant exploration of grief and the differing ways in which people deal with it. Unfortunately, despite excellent performances from a fabulous supporting cast, the film feels slightly contrived and unconvincing - due mainly to the much lauded leading lady, who plays her role with about as much emotional depth as the wrinkles on her forehead. You feel as though you are watching her act the way she thinks someone might behave in such tragic circumstances. The journey through this rabbit hole just doesn't quite lead to wonderland.
127 HoursStefan Bugryn
A man gets stuck under a boulder while he ventures out alone to a canyon in Utah.
It is quite obvious the film-makers wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with the protagonist throughout this harrowingly absorbing ordeal. At times it almost feels like a 'docu-drama'. There's an abundance of uncomfortable close ups as the storyline is confined to that wretched canyon, while 'that scene' is unflinchingly realistic (you won't ever forget it!). In doing so, they created a film experience that is both gruelling and rewarding, and will leave you deep in thought afterwards. Every minute, and hour, is worth it.
An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother's death.
"Faster" is the story of a man's single-minded and bloody revenge mission. His modus operandi is cold-blooded, calculated, and chilling. In spite of this, somehow, we are on his side. Strangely, particularly given the near-silent portrayal by the lead actor, we feel sympathy and compassion for his tortured soul. The movie has other subplots, as well as an awesome car chase, but essentially it is about moving on, and as our "hero" drives off into the sunset, we find ourselves hoping that he finds peace... fast.
A drama centered on three people who are touched by death in different ways.
For a film with such promise; the director and cast are of the highest caliber, this movie really falls short on all levels. With the exception of a couple of scenes (the opening is on another level of film direction), the story, characters, and climax are all rather lame. A film on this material should force audiences to question their faith in the afterlife or the ability to communicate with the dead. Instead, it looks uninspiringly at the experiences of three individuals with no agenda on the subject presented. "Hereafter" - underwhelming in life and death.
The Next Three DaysWendy Slevison
A married couple's life is turned upside down when the wife is accused of a murder.
"The Next Three Days" is an arrogant American remake of a first-rate French film. However, the elegance of the original is completely lost in translation. Absurd, implausible, boring and disconnected are words that come to mind to describe this pretentious mishmash. Actually, the leading man has about as much charisma as a lump of mash, and this is far from his best work. The leading lady is merely forgettable. As a couple… who cares? This supposed thriller feels as though it drags on for three days - please don't waste your time.
True GritAndrew O'Dea
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.
"True Grit" is a film that holds the idea of a classic western in high reverence. The spectacular cinematography is a highlight in this story of retribution, and the directors' hands are clearly present; the storyline contains all the wit, deadpan humour and fleeting moments of brutality that one has come to expect from them. Although some may be dismayed at the tonal slur that is the dialogue, the language is drawling yet authentic, and we revel in the interplay between the leads, each impeccable in their roles. Gritty n' good.
Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power with war.
It's a simple plot that's brought to life in this epic-scaled production. The magnificent courtyards and halls of the Shaolin temple play a starring role. Add sweeping rural landscapes of China to the on-screen splendour and the characters end up as extras. There are no crouching tigers but there are astonishing displays of aerial and on-the-ground martial arts. The well executed and bloody action scenes are furiously fought, not hampered by one side being mostly monks. Even Buddhist principles need defending.