An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining true story. Packed with an astonishing sequence of absurd twists and turns, it's the kind of movie that could only be based on real-life events. But Cruise kind of overwhelms the material, turning it into a film about his trademark cock-of-the-walk swagger rather than an actual man who got caught up in a series of outrageous situations.
It opens in 1978, as airline pilot Barry Seal (Cruise) is approached by shifty CIA handler Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) and offered a great job flying over Central America and taking spy photos of freedom fighters and terrorists. With his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) oblivious, the job soon escalates into an arms-delivery service across the region. This introduces Barry to Colombian drug lord Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda), who offers him huge amounts of cash to carry cocaine back to America on his return flights. Soon Barry is running a massive business under the protection of the CIA, DEA and Reagan's White House. But these are dangerous people, and a series of shaky events reminds Barry how precarious his position is.
The film is narrated with videotapes Barry records in 1986 to document everything he got up to over the previous eight years. This gives director Doug Liman and screenwriter Gary Spinelli a framework on which to hang a series of rapid-fire set pieces, and the story leaps quickly from one crazy moment to the next, rarely pausing for breath. This is a lot of fun to watch, especially because the details scattered throughout the script are so jaw-dropping. But this race through the material doesn't offer much time for character development, and Barry never seems like a person in his own right: he's Tom Cruise, flashing that white grin while diving into a series of dangerous stunts.
Continue reading: American Made Review
Ron Howard poses alone and with producer Brian Grazer at the world premiere of 'The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years' held at The Odeon Leicester Square, London, United Kingdom - Thursday 15th September 2016
With an appropriately jarring sense of energy, this James Brown biopic acutely captures the Godfather of Soul's iconic musical talents, although the fragmented script undermines any emotional kick in his story. The film also struggles to build up momentum, because it continually leaps between various chapters in Brown's life. Which means that it never quite connects these disparate episodes into one coherent narrative. Even so, Chadwick Boseman delivers an electrically charged central performance.
Boseman plays James from the time he was 16, thrown into prison for stealing a suit in 1949, until his comeback in the 1990s. Raised in a brothel run by his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) after his parents (Viola Davis and Lennie James) abandoned him, James is in prison when he meets visiting gospel singer Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), who takes him in on his release. Together they form The Famous Flames, gaining small-time success as James catches the eye of a manager (Dan Aykroyd), a record executive (Fred Melamed) and the public. A string of major hits followed in the 1950s and 60s, then James went solo in the 70s before the usual issues of fame caught up with him: money, drugs and guns. But he returned to the stage in the 1990s.
The film completely skips over his Hollywood years in the 80s, which wouldn't be a problem if the decade was so notably missing from the film. As the story skips back and forth through the years, the audience is forced to make sense of the disparate scenes, filling in several holes along the way. Aside from one rather surreal scene in a Southern Gospel church, there's never much of a sense of how Brown found his voice or developed his inimitable style. It also never quite captures his impact on the music industry as a whole.
Continue reading: Get On Up Review
The cast and crew of forthcoming James Brown biopic 'Get On Up' talk about the legacy of the pioneering entertainer and the impact he had following his spectacular live show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem which was subsequently transposed to his 1963 live album entitled 'Live At The Apollo'.
The stars of James Brown biopic 'Get On Up' including leading man Chadwick Boseman arrive for the New York premiere of the movie which was held at the city's Apollo Theater. The movie is scheduled to hit cinemas in September 2014.
Exhilarating racing action punctuates this true story, which sharply traces the rivalry between two Formula One champs. It's superbly well-shot and edited, with engaging performances from the entire cast. And with only one moment of calculated sentimentality, it's director Ron Howard's most honest movie in years.
The story begins in the early 1970s, when two rising-star F1 drivers clash over their very different styles. Britain's James Hunt (Hemsworth) is a swaggering womaniser, revelling in the rock-star lifestyle. By contrast, Austria's Niki Lauda (Bruhl) is a fiercely detailed technician who loves pushing barriers. They clearly see things they like in each other, so their different approaches on the track develop into a competitive relationship that spurs them to the front of the pack. Over the years, both meet their wives (Wilde and Lara, respectively) and move from team to team as they rise to the top of their sport. And their rivalry comes to a head at the 1976 German Grand Prix when world champion Lauda is involved in a horrific, fiery accident.
Morgan's script is essentially two biopics cleverly woven together to let us see the push and pull between these two iconic figures. Unexpectedly, Bruhl's Lauda emerges as the stronger character, with his grounded approach and sardonic wit allowing Bruhl to play effectively with submerged emotions. By contrast, Hemsworth's Hunt is little more than a gifted good-time boy who isn't worried about his lack of substance. It's a likeable, loose performance (we barely notice the wobbly British accent). Opposite them Lara and Wilde provide solid, subtle support, as do the fine actors who fill out the pit crews.
Continue reading: Rush Review
John Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio) was only 29 when he became director of the Bureau of Investigation (later the FBI), and he ruled supreme until his death in 1972, holding eight US presidents in the palm of his hand with his notorious files of personal secrets. But he also had loyal friends, including his secretary Helen (Watts) and his right-hand man Clyde (Hammer). As a young man, his mother (Dench) instilled in him a hatred of liberalism and homosexuality, so his enemies included Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy (Donovan) and himself.
Continue reading: J. Edgar Review
After his parents are killed in a car crash, the thoughtful young Enoch (Hopper) becomes obsessed with death, attending random funerals and chatting to Hiroshi (Kase), the ghost of a young kamikaze pilot. The at one memorial service, Enoch is rumbled by Annabel (Wasikowska), who pursues a friendship with him. As they become closer, Enoch learns that the sparky Annabel has a fatal illness, which means he can no longer put off dealing with the fact that death is actually part of life.
Continue reading: Restless Review
Jake (Craig) wakes up in the desert with no memory of who he is or why he has a strange metal bracelet clamped onto his arm. He staggers into a dusty town, where the sheriff (Carradine) helps him until he clashes with local bully Percy (Dano), the son of power-mad landowner Dolarhyde (Ford), who has a history with Jake. But when strange airborne "demons" attack the town, Jake discovers that his bracelet is a weapon that can fight them. So Dolarhyde drafts him into a posse to hunt them down.
Continue reading: Cowboys & Aliens Review
Robin Longstride (Crowe) fought alongside King Richard (Danny Huston) in the crusades but returned to England under shady circumstances with two of his archer buddies (Grimes and Doyle) and a beefy fighter (Durand). Heading to Nottingham to honour an oath, he meets Sir Walter (von Sydow) and his feisty daughter-in-law Marian (Blanchett), who are being squeezed out of their land by the Sheriff (Macfadyen). But there are bigger problems, as Godfrey (Strong) marauds through the country with an army of French goons, plotting to steal the country from the vain new King John (Isaac).
Continue reading: Robin Hood Review
Fit snug into the mother superior of self-reflexive roles, Angelina Jolie once again finds herself the eye of the storm in Clint Eastwood's epic melodrama Changeling. Armed with her thick, crimson lips, period duds, and that ever-present cloche, Jolie goes all gooey as Christine Collins, a single mother who finds herself a media fulcrum when she denies that a boy returned to her by the LAPD is Walter, her son who had been kidnapped five months prior.
Based on a catastrophic piece of the infamous Wineville Chicken-Coop Murders, which ran from 1928 to 1930, and the ensuing trials that yielded a major ousting of the LAPD's top tier and almost no real answers, Changeling is an exceedingly visual film yet one that lacks confidence in its imagery, relying too often on clunky language and an unsteady lead performance. This is no loose adaptation of actual events: Collins fought against the terminally-corrupt LAPD for years, became a martyr for forced institutionalization, and kept her job as a roller-skating switchboard operator while continuing the search for her lost boy. That's no small feat for a lone woman in the late 20s/early 30s.
After taking the boy the LAPD presented home, Collins begins to document inaccuracies between the delivered boy and her son, only to be brushed off by Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), the man in charge of the investigation. Support comes in the form of Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), a flamboyant radio preacher who's been hounding the LAPD for years. When Collins finally takes her story to the media, it's Gustav who starts yelling for her return as she is forced into a psychiatric hospital with a gaggle of mistreated women, the most vocal of whom is played by Amy Ryan.
In its third act, Eastwood switches focus to the trial and execution of Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner), the man who kidnapped and slaughtered over 20 children on his ranch in Wineville, one of which was Collins' son. The introduction of Northcott disrupts the tone and mood of the film, stumbling from feminist parable to legal drama. It does permit a final scene between Collins and Northcott, allowing Jolie a final, enraged plea for closure: It's later revealed that Walter might have escaped Northcott's ranch, a fact that's meant to bolster an infuriating feel-good ending.
Changeling, like most of Eastwood's excellent latter-day work, is a classy affair, but one of technical weight rather than dramatic. Shot by Tom Stern, the brilliant cinematographer who has been working with Eastwood since 2002's Blood Work, the director's latest is covered in dehydrated colors and beautifully scored by Eastwood himself with lilting pianos and blustery strings. While Jolie overplays her scorned mother, the supporting cast blends in beautifully, especially Donovan's complexly-composited policeman and Malkovich's propulsive, lively clergyman. Schematically unstable, it's J. Michael Straczynski's woozy script that proves the film's most incapable cog, handling its cerebral and narrative shifts with the subtlety of a race car hitting a speed bump.
At a hulking 141-minute runtime, Changeling suffers from more than its fair share of showy moments, none more egregious than when momma bear profanely tells off the head of the psychiatric hospital. Eastwood's direction is proficient, but he finds it impossible for his actress and his aesthetics to coalesce. Unable to internalize the drama, Jolie engulfs every scene with an utterance of "I want my son back!," often cheapening the meticulous production design, courtesy of the talented James J. Murakami. It's a gaudy, showboat performance, trading nuance and grace for simple presence; I'll eat a small fishing boat if she doesn't get an Oscar nomination. British director Michael Winterbottom tempered Jolie the starlet as another single mother left as residue after a media-centric tragedy in A Mighty Heart by centering on the procedure of retrieval. With Eastwood, however, Jolie's weeping caterwaul reduces a firebrand of corrupt politics into a work of enthused pageantry.
First we're gonna catch this Zodiac guy, then we'll find your boy.
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