A clever premise can't help but grab the audience's attention as this mystery-thriller plays with ideas of identity and memory, but the simplistic filmmaking makes it feel like a cheat. Writer-director Rowan Joffe (2010's Brighton Rock remake) badly underestimates the audience, using melodrama and contrived storytelling to try to manipulate viewers' emotions. And it doesn't help that the leading lady can't move her face.
Nicole Kidman stars as Christine, who wakes up every morning thinking that she's 23. When she discovers Ben (Colin Firth) in her bed, she's almost as horrified as when she sees her 40-year-old face in the mirror. But Ben patiently explains who she is, that he's her husband and that an accident damaged her ability to make new long-term memories. When he leaves for work each day, she is contacted by Dr Nash (Mark Strong), who helps nudge her into the present. But all of this does little more than make Christine wonder whether anyone is telling the truth. As she digs deeper each day, she gets in touch with her friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff), who offers some continuity. And by piecing clues together she begins to realise that there's a gap between what's really happening and what she thinks she remembers.
With elements of both Memento and 50 First Dates, this film is packed with tricky elements that add to the suspense, creating a creepy atmosphere that's surprisingly moving as seen through Christine's eyes. Even with her immobile face, Kidman's eyes are alert and emotive, strongly conveying Christine's yearning to understand the truth. Opposite her, the always terrific Duff has the film's best role simply because she seems to be who she claims to be. Meanwhile, Firth and Strong have a great time wrong-footing both Christine and the audience, or maybe they're just misunderstood. The fascinating premise forces us to sift through the clues ourselves to figure out what's going on.
Continue reading: Before I Go To Sleep Review
Striking a tone somewhere between the po-faced original and the silly Part 2, this rampaging action nonsense is badly overcrowded and chaotic, but there's plenty of comedy and whizzy stuntwork to keep the audience entertained. It of course helps a lot that the film is packed to the rafters with iconic actors and lively newcomers. And their sassy dialogue helps make up for the idiotic plot.
It opens with a prison break, as Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and his team (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews) rescue their old cohort Doc (Wesley Snipes) then head off on a mysterious mission that turns out to involve their presumed-dead nemesis Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who is targeting Barney's team. So Barney and his pal Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) set about finding four new commandoes (Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz) to take on Stonebanks, but of course nothing goes as plan. For the final face-off they're joined by the old team, CIA boss Drummer (Harrison Ford), former colleagues Trench and Yin (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li), and chatty newcomer Galgo (Antonio Banderas).
The ever-increasing cast means that some characters can't help but be pushed into the shadows (Crews and Li are barely in this film), while others hover around the edges of scenes injecting moments of sarcastic wit. Each of the characters gets his or her moment of eye-popping action, as the film lurches from set-piece to set-piece in a whirl of bombs, bullets and blades. All of this is fun because the actors are gleefully refusing to take any of this seriously. The scene-stealers this time are Gibson, terrific as the swaggering villain, and Banderas, who's hilarious as the only person who can string a sentence together.
Continue reading: The Expendables 3 Review
James Franco makes his directing debut with this ambitious adaptation of William Faulkner's notoriously downbeat novel. No surprise: it's extremely grim! It's also a bit too cleverly shot and edited to tell the tale from each character's perspective, which means there's no central point to draw us in emotionally.
The story takes place in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century, where the Bundren family have surrounded Addie (Grant) on her deathbed. Her children are all nearby: daughter Dewey Dell (O'Reilly) stays by her side, Cash (Parrack) saws timber for her coffin, Jewel (Marshall-Green) rides his precious horse to clear his mind, and Darl (Franco) tries to keep everyone happy, including youngest brother Vard (Permenter). But their dad Anse (Nelson) has promised to bury Addie in Jefferson, a three-day journey away. And as they painstakingly make their way across the countryside, each of them has a personal issue to deal with along the way.
All of the characters get a chance to narrate part of the film, which lets us see their inner thoughts and dreams and understand the secrets they are hiding from each other. Along with Franco's use of split screens to show scenes from multiple angles, this essentially makes us all-seeing witnesses to the story, unable to dive in and engage with the raw emotions that are churning around everyone. The film is beautifully shot and acted with real soulfulness, but it also feels eerily dispassionate about these fragile people.
Continue reading: As I Lay Dying Review
Barney (Stallone) and his team of ageing mercenaries are coerced by Church (Willis) into heading into hostile territory to retrieve a top secret electronic gadget. Most shocking is the fact that Church insists that a woman, Maggie (Yu), joins them. And when things go wrong, Barney leads the gang on a grisly revenge mission against a nasty villain (Van Damme) who's callously putting humanity in peril. Along the way they're joined by Church and Trench (Schwarzenegger), and get help from lone-wolf Booker (Norris).
Continue reading: The Expendables 2 Review
Elite hitman Arthur (Statham) lives a solitary life in a New Orleans bayou with his stinking wealth and exquisite taste. But he's shocked when his boss (Goldwyn) gives him his next assignment: to kill his mentor Harry (Sutherland).
Arthur is a cool professional, but now he's also wracked with guilt. So he takes Harry's wastrel son Steve (Foster) under his wing, teaching him the assassination trade and letting him practice during a few jobs. But the work gets increasingly dangerous, and soon it becomes apparent that Harry was set up. Revenge is in the air.
Continue reading: The Mechanic Review
When hard-boiled rapists, pedophiles, murders, and drug lords slip through the legal system, are people who take the law into their own hands criminals or heroes? Righteous Kill explores the familiar subject of vigilante killers with a slight twist. This time, the killer is a cop.
Continue reading: Righteous Kill Review
Remember that TV show Heroes, where something happens maybe every 15 episodes to advance the storyline? Cleaner is kind of like that but condensed into a movie. The movie beats around the bush for about half an hour before it actually introduces a conflict; the rest of the 90 minutes is filled with Samuel L. Jackson yelling at various people until we finally encounter a twist at the very end. The "surprise" ending is so contrived and underwhelming you'll want to take a nap after sitting through this film to recover your soul from horrendous boredom by dreaming up something more interesting.
Continue reading: Cleaner Review
Turns out My Mom's New Boyfriend has some differences with Mama's Boy, though it sticks closely to the overall shoddy quality level. This time out it's not a straight-up case of a son feeling betrayed. Writer/director George Gallo (DysFunktional Family) throws in a crime caper too. Henry (Colin Hanks) hasn't seen Mom (Meg Ryan) in three years due to his undercover duties as an FBI agent. When he returns home with a fiancee (Selma Blair), he finds that Mom hasn't just lost hundreds of pounds, she's also turned into a raving sexual lunatic, too. No sooner has Henry made his old bed than Mom gets mixed up with Tommy (Antonio Banderas), a known art thief... who Henry's been assigned to spy on!
Continue reading: My Mom's New Boyfriend Review
The story begins with decent promise as Freeman is revealed to be a stellar hitman, only his cover is finally blown and the many enemies he's made over the years come after him. He escapes an elaborate assassination and runs into the wilderness, only to be apprehended (because he's in handcuffs) by a camping father (John Cusack) and his son. While the trio attempts to get back to civilization to turn Freeman in, they're pursued by the bad guys and the good guys, and they still have to deal with harsh terrain surrounding them. Beresford's setup starts strong but soon peters out and gets repetitive as Cusack faces down one impossible situation after another, but never with much finesse. It's just running around on a mountain, often in the dark: The final showdown takes place completely and absurdly without lighting and pretty much seals the movie's doom.
Continue reading: The Contract Review
The generally limp script by Josh Friedman starts off smartly, setting us up for the bruising friendship between the stars, a couple of L.A. cops who also happen to be boxers and get paired up for a publicity-machine fight that touts them as "Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice." Ice is "Bucky" Bleichart (Josh Hartnett), a cool and low-key guy charitably described as a loser who gets his shot at a good chunk of change as well as reassignment to the LAPD's hotshot Warrants department for agreeing to the fight. Fire is Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), one of those bigger-than-life cops who cuts corners with aplomb and seems happy enough to bring Bucky on as his partner after knocking his teeth out (literally) in the ring. Further binding the two men together, besides work and friendship, is Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), the sultry blonde dame on Lee's arm who takes a shine to Bleichart that doesn't seem to be entirely platonic.
Continue reading: The Black Dahlia Review
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