Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one of those movies that will be unbearably inspirational and patriotic. But thanks to director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), this is a gritty, honest drama that never dips into sentimentality. It's also a strikingly involving story about a young man who is forced to confront things about himself far beyond his injuries. And that makes it genuinely inspirational.
The man at the centre is Jeff Bauman (Jake Gylenhaal), a happy-go-lucky lad who is cheering his on-again/off-again girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) at the marathon's finish line. Jeff loses both legs in the explosion, returning home to live with his boozy mother (Miranda Richardson) as he tries to put his life back together. But he feels uneasy that the entire city is celebrating him as a hero. So while his working-class family enjoys the celebrity, Jeff goes quiet. Erin tries to get him to take a more proactive approach to his physiotherapy and get on with his life, but Jeff instead slips back into his old habit of drinking too much with his buddies (Richard Jane Jr. and Nate Richman). And this leaves him without much desire to work toward a full recovery.
Against expectations, the filmmakers refuse to sensationalise either the bombing or Jeff's injuries, instead taking a matter-of-fact approach that feels edgy and authentic. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff as a likeable slacker who knows he's a loser, so can't cope with his status as a symbol of hope. This gives his internal journey some real resonance, and Gyllenhaal gives Jeff a remarkable intensity that's sympathetic even when he's being a jerk. Maslany is also skilfully understated in her pivotal role, while Richardson is the standout as an uneducated woman who makes some very bad decisions but is fiercely protective of her son.
Continue reading: Stronger Review
There's something about national tragedy that has the ability to unite human beings and incite personal growth within the souls of individuals. The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 was just one such example, and proof that as a united force we'll never let the terrorists win.
On April 15th 2013, Erin Hurley (played by 'Orphan Black' star Tatiana Maslany) decided to run the marathon to raise money for Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. As usual, her boyfriend Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) was hugely supportive of her decision, but she was left with much doubt that he would show up to the event, cheering her on at the finish line with a huge sign as he had promised. It just wasn't in his nature to be reliable.
In a cruel twist of fate, however, it seems this one time he decided to honour his words was at the moment that two terrorists decided to detonate two homemade bombs in the crowd. The incident killed three people and left hundreds of other people injured. Jeff was one of the unlucky 16 who lost limbs in the blast, and it took him a long time to come to terms with his life now that it had been turned upside down.
Continue: Stronger Trailer
Based on the iconic strategy game, this fantasy battle epic will appeal mainly to either the gamers themselves or audiences that love wildly detailed fantasy worlds. Everyone else will probably feel a bit lost when faced with the stream of confusing names, spells and magical phenomena that fill every scene. It looks terrific, and is directed with plenty of energy and personality. But it feels both overcrowded and superficial.
With their home world Draenor dying, the orcs need to travel through a portal to the human realm Azeroth to find more life force to steal. One orc chieftan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), is having doubts about this murderous plan, and thinks peace with humans might be a better option. His rival chief Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and the cackling orc shaman Gul-dan (Daniel Wu) disagree, and set a massacre in motion. Preparing for the attack, human King Llane (Dominic Cooper) turns for help to his top knight Lothar (Travis Fimmel), sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster) and apprentice wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). Then they meet outcast half-caste Garona (Paula Patton), and she offers another way to take on the invaders.
For the uninitiated, the elaborate mythology is so detailed that it blurs together into something rather incomprehensible. Director Duncan Jones doesn't have time to explain everything, so he charges ahead and just lets the dialogue overflow with references that may or may not be needed to work out what's happening. The film leaps from one strikingly staged battle to another, all cleverly designed to mix digital animation with gothic costumes. It looks pretty amazing in 3D, but the only characters who emerge with any depth are Durotan and Garona, nicely played by Kebbell and Patton under mounds of effects, makeup, fur and teeth.
Continue reading: Warcraft Review
Eddie Mannix is a fixer who works in Hollywood where he tames celebrities and keeps theirs, and movie studios', secrets out of the press - no matter how big the story. It's not the easiest job in the world, and it's certainly not always the most morally fulfilling, but it's about to get a whole lot harder when one studio, Capitol Pictures, presents him with a major problem the likes of which could be career destroying. They're working on a huge production epic entitled 'Hail, Caesar!' starring Hollywood sensation Baird Whitlock, but things go particularly awry when he is kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious group known only as The Future. They want $100,000, and after 24 hours, the studio aren't looking any more hopeful. Mannix enlists a feisty and beautiful female star to procure the money, while Whitlook finds himself in a most unusual situation.
Continue: Hail, Caesar! Trailer
This harrowing morality play is timely and riveting, but never remotely subtle. The setting is the mortgage crisis, during which savvy fast-talkers figured out how to make a fortune on the back of other people's tragedy. It's strikingly written and directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani with an attention to internalised detail, revealing an aspect of Western culture that's deeply disturbing.
It's 2010, and the economy is in freefall as families and small businesses struggle to survive. When Florida builder Dennis (Andrew Garfield) loses his job, he has no idea how he'll support his mother and son (Laura Dern and Noah Lomax). Unable to pay their inflated mortgage, they're evicted from the family home by ruthless estate agent Rick (Michael Shannon). Then Rick sees something in Dennis that he admires, and hires him to do some building work, eventually taking him under his wing and teaching him how to profit from the record number of repossessions. But this means taking advantage of government grants, banking loopholes and people whose lives have collapsed. And it isn't long before it starts eating away at Dennis.
Garfield gives an open, searching performance as this desperate young father who's grasping at any lifeline he can find for his family. It's a complex, difficult character, mainly because his moral dithering sits in contrast to Shannon's flashier, shark-like Rick, who's often scary in the way he's able to avoid empathising with people in pain. In a much smaller role, Dern is the polar opposite, a warm blast of straight-arrow morality who continually prods her son to do the right thing. Yes, these characters are somewhat constructed as three points in a triangle, but they beautifully highlight the issues involved. And the actors dig deep into the emotional ramifications.
Continue reading: 99 Homes Review
Dennis Nash is a struggling single father whose life is turned upside down when he's evicted from his home by a corrupt real-estate broker named Rick Carver. Facing life on the streets, Dennis is forced to work for Carver in the hope of reclaiming his home, but how will he cope carrying out the same ruthless eviction techniques that were used on him? As Dennis falls deeper into Carver's web, relationships suffer and his situation becomes more dangerous than he could have imagined.
Continue: 99 Homes Trailer
SpongeBob SquarePants has always been aimed much more at childish adults than actual children, and this deranged comical adventure is no exception. Youngsters may giggle at the relentless silliness, but it's the grown-ups who will enjoy the script's continual raucous mayhem, including a stream of innuendo that's genuinely hilarious. This film also manages to bridge the gap between the TV show's hand-drawn style and eye-catching 3D live-action digital animation as our heroes head above the surface for the first time.
It kicks off as usual under the sea in Bikini Bottom, just as the recipe for the town's addictive snack, the Krabby Patty, is stolen. Everyone thinks the villain has to be fast-food rival Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), but Krabby Burger cook SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) believes Plankton is innocent this time. As Bikini Bottom descends into a post-Krabby apocalypse, SpongeBob assembles his pals to set things right, including dimwitted starfish Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), blustering boss Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown), the clueless Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) and the hyperactive squirrel Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence). On their quest, they get unexpected help from, yes, galactic guardian dolphin Bubbles (Matt Berry) to travel to dry land and confront the thief, an opportunistic pirate named Captain BurgerBeard (Antonio Banderas).
Everything about this film is so completely bonkers that we have little choice but to sit back and just go with it, especially as the screenwriters continually add random elements to get themselves out of various plot corners. For example, to take on BurgerBeard, the team manages to acquire superpowers that lead to a massive Avengers-style action-chase sequence. Not one moment makes even a bit of sense, and yet the film is so cheerful that we can't help but enjoy every random bit of knowing silliness. Even Banderas' hammy, over-the-top performance grows on us as it goes along.
Continue reading: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water Review
In the underwater realm of Bikini Bottom, an annual Crabby Patty festival in underway. Yet, when the inhabitants prepare for their delicious tasty meals, they discover that the secret recipe for the patties has disappeared. It turns out that the dreaded pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) has taken it and begun selling the burgers on the mainland. Now, an elite taskforce of SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny), Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) and Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) must head out of the water to retrieve the secret recipe in order to defeat Burger Beard and restore peace to Bikini Bottom.
When a pirate gets his hands on a long lost magic book in which anything he writes comes true, he thinks he finally has the power to execute his evil plans. However, in order to carry out his dastardly deeds, he needs to get his hands on the final page - unfortunately, that page is dearly protected at the bottom of the ocean by intrepid hero SpongeBob SquarePants. The pirate attacks the town of Bikini Bottom for the page until SpongeBob and his friends are forced to brave the surface in order to win back the book. It's then that they manage to re-write themselves and become superheroes better equipped at defeating their mortal enemy and also impressing the beachside ladies along the way. Can SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and friends save the world yet again? Or are they finally out of their depth?
Water and Power are twin brothers nicknamed so by their workaholic father; a blue collar worker at the Department of Water & Power of Los Angeles who insisted that you couldn't have one without the other. While Water is rising to the top in his illustrious political career, Power is caught up in a web of criminal deception as a cop in the LAPD, trying to keep the peace in the mean streets and struggling to work out whether he's doing a good job, or whether he is just like the gun-toting felons he's bringing in. After a particularly traumatic night, the pair reunite and find themselves in a motel room where they must join forces to survive - Water and Power have so many differences, but can they find common ground so they can work together just like their father always said they must?
Continue: Water & Power Trailer
Clancy Brown - "At Any Price" Los Angeles Premiere held at The Egyptian Theatre - Los Angeles, California, United States - Tuesday 16th April 2013
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