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The Man Who Invented Christmas Review

Very Good

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave cynical audiences annoyed. But for those who leave their bah-humbug attitudes at home, it's a wonderfully entertaining take on a classic. In 1843, when Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, the holiday was a fairly low-key religious festival. But the book helped create a cultural phenomenon that is still growing. And this enjoyable film recounts how it was written in six short weeks.

At the time, Dickens (Legion's Dan Stevens) was Britain's most famous author. But his last three novels failed to sell. Desperate for a hit due to financial pressures, he decides to write a Christmas book, something that had never really been done. But he's distracted by the fact that his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is pregnant and his parents (Jonathan Pryce and Ger Ryan) have dropped in for a noisy visit. As he plans this new book, the central figure of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) is inspired by someone he meets, as are the rest of the story's characters and settings. But he's struggling to complete the tale, and time is running short.

The film basically proves the resilience of Dickens' iconic novella, because it has remarkable power even when turned inside-out by this script. Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) gives the film a twinkly, often comical tone but doesn't shy away from the darker corners or some strongly emotional moments. And the script includes quite a bit of biographical detail about Dickens' life without making it too melodramatic. With his book, Dickens wanted to address Britain's harsh labour practices and the greediness of capitalism, urging people to be kinder to each other. So he reinvented Christmas as a time of year to reach out to those less fortunate.

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Enemy Review


Excellent

This may be a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but mainstream audiences should also note that this is an artful film that refuses to tell its story using the usual formula. For some viewers, this psychological angle will be exhilarating and challenging, although it might feel elusive to others. Either way, Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) has boldly made a film that defies expectations and gives Gyllenhaal two of his strongest performances in years.

Yes, he plays two roles in this doppleganger mystery. We meet him as Adam, a Toronto history professor with a beautiful but busy girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) and a dull repetitious life. One evening he watches a movie at home that features an extra who looks exactly like him, so he sets out to learn more about the actor, credited as "Daniel Saint Claire", although everyone calls him Anthony. Adam discovers that Anthony's wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) is six months pregnant, and when the two men meet they are both disarmed that they look so exactly alike, down to their scars. Adam's mother (Isabella Rossellini) insists that he doesn't have a long-lost twin. Then things start to take a darker turn as the two men begin to learn things about each other.

Director Villeneuve is superb at getting under the skin of his characters, and the film is shot and edited to take us right into Adam's troubled mind, revealing his more shadowy inner corners through movie clips and creepy cutaways that may or may not be part of Anthony's freaky secret life, which involves some sort of elite sex club. Villeneuve further builds the mood with a horror-style musical score (by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans) and insinuating, sexy editing. He also resolutely refuses to explain what everything means, including the central plot itself, preferring to challenge viewers to internalise everything and discover their own explanation.

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Antiviral Review


Very Good

It may be style over substance, but Brandon Cronenberg cleverly blends his father David's love of medical yuckiness with an elusive Lynchian-style mystery to keep us unnerved all the way through this low-key thriller. And the film also works as a dark satire on today's celebrity-obsessive culture, in which fans will go to any lengths to be closer to their idols. So imagine if they had the chance to share a star's illness.

This is the work done by the gleaming, futuristic Lucas Clinic, where clinician Syd (Jones) works. He injects one patient (Smith) with an STD taken from mega-star Hanna Geist (Gadon). But Syd has secretly given himself a more powerful virus, which he learns is killing Hannah. Now everyone wants to get their hands on him, even as he realises that he needs to find a cure before it's too late. So he gets in touch with Hannah's assistant (McCarthy) and doctor (McDowell), and discovers that there's a conspiracy afoot involving his clinic's main rival.

The idea that fans would go to this kind of extreme isn't actually that unbelievable in a culture in which we watch their every move on reality TV and feel like their friends through Twitter. And Cronenberg's idea goes beyond sharing viruses, including cloned skin grafts and even a butcher (Pingue) who sells meat grown from celebrity cells. While the ideas echo some of David Cronenberg's films (mainly Videodrome and eXistenZ), this is also a strikingly original approach. The imagery looks amazing, with all-white surfaces and a spare use of colour, against which Syd's unravelling physicality looks increasingly garish.

Continue reading: Antiviral Review

Snow Cake Review


Good
Turning what might have been an "illness of the week" tragedy into an affecting, entertaining entry for arthouse patrons, director Marc Evans, working from Angela Pell's screenplay, pulls it off in a small-scale way but with emotional sensitivity and a solid cast with particular appeal to the increasing numbers of people who have personal experience with autism.

Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young hitchhiker with more spirit than fear, enters a restaurant, scans it, and picks a man sitting alone to delight with her company. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), a laconic Englishman, barely tolerates the intrusion on his quiet privacy with a gabby adolescent and, after displaying what is, for him, considerable patience, rejects her suggestion to ride with him. He leaves, as alone as when he came in, and drives off.

Continue reading: Snow Cake Review

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Niv Fichman Movies

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Enemy Movie Review

Enemy Movie Review

This may be a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but mainstream audiences should also note that...

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Antiviral Movie Review

Antiviral Movie Review

It may be style over substance, but Brandon Cronenberg cleverly blends his father David's love...

Snow Cake Movie Review

Snow Cake Movie Review

Turning what might have been an "illness of the week" tragedy into an affecting, entertaining...

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