Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive this film for being somewhat dull in the way the events are recounted. Solid acting helps give the characters some soulfulness, and the issues are things society is still grappling with. Writer-director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) may struggle to maintain the momentum of the story with his fragmented script, but he recreates the period beautifully and makes sure that the ideas resonate.
It's set in 1862 Mississippi, as the American Civil War is in full force and medic Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) finds it increasingly difficult to serve in the Confederate Army. In addition to the rampant racism, he realises that this is little more than a class war: poor men fighting to help the rich maintain their wealth. So he abandons his post and returns home, where he assembles a ragtag militia from escaped slaves and deserters. Together, they claim that Jones County is a free state. Their battles with military forces and angry locals continue long after the war ends. But Newton and his second wife Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) keep fighting against the state's blatantly racist laws.
This story is intercut with another series of events 75 years later, as a descendant of Newton and Rachel fights a courtroom battle in which he's criminally charged with marrying a white woman, even though he's only one-eighth black. This sideroad has nothing to do with Newton's story, other than to connect it loosely to America's civil rights protests in the 1960s, so it drastically slows down the entire movie. There's a lot happening with Newton, but filmmaker Ross never quite lets a scene build up some momentum before cutting away to something else.
Continue reading: Free State Of Jones Review
The brutal reality of war is those who often die and put their lives on the line are the ones who reap the smallest of rewards. If you're no longer fighting for your freedom, for some there's no point to continue risking your life. When Newton Knight is faced with the death of a young boy, it's enough for him to begin questioning exactly what and who he is fighting for.
Forced to go on the run Newton helps many folk on the way and also goes on a journey of self-discovery, one that leads him to fight a fight that's really worth dying for. With the help of some slaves, who are also on the run, Newton and the people of Jones County begin to fight back and take back the land from the wealthy and put it in the hands of the people.
Free State of Jones is based on the true story of Newton Knight and it directed by Gary Ross.
After the rather lacklustre teen-dystopia adventure The Maze Runner, the action continues in this equally gimmicky sequel. It's the middle episode in novelist James Dashner's trilogy, so it lacks a proper narrative structure, building through a series of action sequences that put our heroes into jeopardy. But the film never develops any suspense because writer T.S. Nowlin and director Wes Ball never bother to properly develop the characters or find an original approach to the action.
After escaping from the Maze, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his friends (including Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee and Dexter Darden) find themselves in the Scorch, a wasteland created by some sort of environmental catastrophe. They're rescued by Janson (Aidan Gillen) and taken into a sort of halfway house for lost teens, where Thomas meets Aris (Jacob Lofland), a loner who knows something nefarious is going on. Sure enough, the monolithic corporation WCKD, run by Ava (Patricia Clarkson), is using these kids because they are immune to the disease that's turning people into Cranks who maraud across the landscape. To avoid this fate, Thomas and crew plot an escape, fleeing into a devastated city, where they meet Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and feisty teen Brenda (Rosa Salazar). Pursued by WCKD, they travel on into the mountains in search of a safe haven.
Yes, this has essentially become a zombie thriller now, as the Cranks chase the kids even more relentlessly than Janson and WCKD do. The problem is that everything about this film feels familiar, from crowds of The Walking Dead to The Day After Tomorrow's abandoned shopping mall to Transformers 3's tilting skyscraper. As with the first film, the dialogue overflows with corny mythology in which everything given an ominous, cool-sounding name. It's all so constructed that it sounds utterly artificial. And the derivative action sequences are directed without even a hint of realism.
Continue reading: The Scorch Trials Review
Having overcome a series of deadly encounters in the box-office smash The Maze Runner, this much-anticipated second chapter in the dystopian young-adult series finds Thomas and his fellow Gladers facing their greatest challenge yet, as they search for clues about the sinister organisation known as WCKD. Their mission takes them to a desolate landscape called the Scorch, where they face new dangers at every turn. Teaming up with resistance fighters, they must take on WCKD's powerful forces in an attempt to uncover the organisation's shocking plans for these young heroes.
Continue: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Trailer
Following their supposed escape from the monster infested maze, the surviving Gladers led by Thomas are taken to an underground facility in the wake of a devastating solar flare known as The Scorch that has left the vast majority of the population infected with a disease called the Flare, but little do they know they are about to enter Phase Two. Soon they begin to realise that they're still part of WCKD's dastardly experiment and they must find a way to escape once and for all or risk more of them dying untimely deaths. They are warned about the dangers of entering the barren wasteland that has become the rest of the world, but they have no choice if they want freedom. Cities have been overtaken by sand dunes, but they soon about to discover yet more unfathomable horrors that lie before them.
With a strikingly unflinching eye, newcomer Sara Colangelo astutely adapts her 2010 short into an evocative feature, beautifully capturing the impact a series of random tragedies can have on a community. It's gorgeously shot and sensitively acted by a skilled cast, and while the film remains a little too ambiguous for its own good, it still gets under the skin to leave us pondering some very hard issues.
It's set in a working-class West Virginia town that's still reeling after a devastating mining accident. The only survivor was Amos (Boyd Holbrook), who has been left injured both physically and psychologically. And it doesn't help that everyone is pressuring him to lie to the investigators while quietly resenting him for surviving. For support, he turns to Diane (Elizabeth Banks), the wife of the mine's manager (Josh Lucas). And Diane needs help too, because her teen son JT (Travis Tope) has gone missing. The only person who knows what happened is 14-year-old Owen (Jacob Lofland), whose father died in the accident. He was cruelly bullied by JT in school, and is struggling to keep his own secret.
The script is minimalistic, as Colangelo prefers to deepen the characters rather than construct a detailed plot. Sometimes this feels rather too understated, but it also allows the actors to create people who are remarkably involving. Holbrook is magnetic, the heart of the film as a damaged man looking for healing wherever he can find it. Banks is simply wonderful in a complex role that makes us wish she'd do more serious drama. And Lofland more than lives up to the promise of Mud with a darkly involving performance that continually catches us by surprise. These three characters circle around each other like wounded animals looking for help, but while the plot points that push them together might feel contrived, their interaction is earthy and very real.
Continue reading: Little Accidents Review
Writer-director Nichols continues to get inside the heads of his characters with this involving but overlong dramatic thriller. Like his previous film Take Shelter, this is another fable-like movie, this time harking back to Huck Finn with a boys' adventure story set on the waterways of rural Arkansas. It's impeccably shot and edited, with terrific performances even from side characters. But at over two hours, the long running-time tries our patience.
Our hero is Ellis (Sheridan), a shy but steely 14-year-old who dreams of one day escaping his backwoods community. For entertainment, he explores the rivers with his pal Neckbone (Lofland), and when they hear rumours of a boat stranded in a tree, they have to investigate. Sure enough, there it is, then inside it they discover the fugitive Mud (McConaughey). Even though he's wanted for murder, they decide to help free the boat so he can escape with his battered girlfriend Juniper (Witherspoon), who's hiding in a local motel. But Ellis and Neckbone need some help with this elaborate plan, so they turn to the scary old man (Shepard) who lives across the river.
Cinematographer Adam Stone beautifully captures both the evocative settings and the expressive faces of the actors, who all bring an introspective touch to their characters. Sheridan and Lofland are excellent in the lead roles, which are pretty demanding as these two teens have to grow up quickly. And McConaughey and Witherspoon dive fully into their much flashier roles, constantly surprising us with sparky details that take these people in unexpected directions. There's also a telling smaller role for Nichols' regular Shannon as Neckbone's haunted, sidelined guardian.
Continue reading: Mud Review
Ellis and Neckbone are two young boys from Mississippi who spend their time exploring the wilderness and river near their home. When they discover a sizeable motor boat stuck in a tree after a flood, they think they've hit the jackpot of all discoveries and claim it as their own. However, they soon notice that food has been left there, leading them to believe that someone has been sleeping there. Unnerved, they leave to find their boat and venture home, only to come across a new neighbour on the isolated island, Mud. Mud is hiding from some bounty hunters who want to arrest him for killing a man in Texas who attempted to steal his girlfriend Juniper. Initially, wary of him, the boys soon warm to him and agree to bring him food if he helps them mend their motor boat before Juniper arrives to meet him. However, things aren't as easy as they seem when the boys start becoming suspicious of Mud and Juniper has problems of her own.
Continue: Mud - Clips
Ellis and Neckbone are two fourteen year old boys from Mississippi who, after crossing a river in a small boat on one of their regular explorations, discover a larger motor boat stuck in a tree on an island after a previous flood. They claim the boat as their own but soon begin to discover that someone has been sleeping there and they come across Mud. Mud is a man who has been hiding from a group of bounty hunters who have been hired by the family of a man he murdered in Texas for attempting to steal his beautiful girlfriend Juniper. The boys are sympathetic and captivated by him and agree to help him mend the boat while he makes plans to meet Juniper, who is hiding out in a motel, and run away with her. Things don't go as smoothly as planned and deceptions and suspicion causes tensions to rise between Mud, Juniper and the boys.
'Mud' is an emotional journey tackling issues about right and wrong and good guys and bad guys. It has been directed and written by Jeff Nichols ('Take Shelter', 'Shotgun Stories') and received a last minute nomination for the Palme d'Or award on its showing at the Cannes Film Festival. It is set to hit cinemas on April 17th 2013.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Continue: Mud Trailer
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