When success and failure intertwine in one relationship, things can become strained. That's exactly what happened with Jamie Wellerstein and Cathy Hiatt. After a whirlwind five year relationship which saw them move in together and get married, things start to fall apart. Jamie has never been more successful after his latest novel gets picked up; a feat which takes him miles away to New York for days at a time. Meanwhile, Cathy faces rejection after rejection as her acting career wilts and she finds herself becoming hopelessly envious of her other half. It doesn't help when Jamie starts to hide things from her and she suspects that he may be seeking comfort for his failing relationship in other women. Is this just a couple that have always been doomed for failure?
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An intimate exploration of a five-year romance through the conflicting points of view of the man and woman involved, this musical is packed with honest, thoughtful observations even if the fragmented structure prevents us from engaging emotionally. Oddly, the story of these years is recounted out of sequence as a series of alternating solos that leap back and forth in time. It's an ambitious approach that probably worked even better on stage in Jason Robert Brown's musical production.
This is the romance of two aspiring artists: actress Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and novelist Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). They meet and fall in love quickly, get married and settle in a New York apartment to build their life together and pursue their dreams. But while Jamie's writing career takes off with his first published book, Cathy struggles to find work and has to travel to Ohio in the summer to perform in a lakeside holiday camp. Back in Manhattan, Jamie's life is a series of glamorous parties where sexy women throw themselves at him. But the worst thing is that Cathy begins to resent his success, while Jamie struggles to encourage her in ways that don't sound patronising. And as they begin to grow apart, these issues only intensify.
Since the scenes play out in seemingly random order, there are no surprising twists and turns in the plot. We know from the opening moment that they are going to split up, and the fragmented structure means that we don't get to watch their happy life unravel. Instead, each achingly truthful scene reveals further details about these two people, swirling their five-year relationship into a collage of emotions, both happy and sad. It only works because it's skilfully directed by Richard LaGravenese (Beautiful Creatures) and acted with open-handed nerve by Kendrick and Jordan.
Continue reading: The Last Five Years Review
With a true story that's almost hard to believe, this inspiring biographical drama is made with attention to detail and a remarkable resistance to sentiment. And strong acting helps bring the characters to life, even if everything feels a little too carefully staged. But it's the real-life aspect that grabs the attention, and a central figure who's a remarkable example of the indomitable human spirit. The film also marks an auspicious step forward for Angelina Jolie as a director, telling a big story without giving in to the usual sappy moviemaking pitfalls.
Son of Italian immigrants, Louie Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) grew up in 1920s Southern California and by the time he hit his teens is on the way to becoming a criminal. But his brother Pete (Alex Russell) helps him channel his energy to running instead, and his natural skill make him a local champion as well as an American record-holder at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the war breaks out, he enlists and serves as a bombardier in the Pacific, surviving a plane crash before later going down at sea and drifting with two colleagues (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock) for 47 days before being captured by the Japanese. From here he endures a horrific stint in a prisoner of war camp, taunted by the cruel commandant everyone calls The Bird (Miyavi), who takes particular notice of Louie simply because he refuses to break.
Jolie assembles the film as a big-budget epic, with massive set pieces as the plot cycles through several outrageous episodes before settling in on the prison years. Cinematographer Roger Deakins carefully contrasts Louie's sunny California youth with the much starker visit to Nazi Germany and the astoundingly bleak Japanese prison camp, with those endless days baking at sea in the middle. So the film looks terrific, drawing us into each chapter in Louie's story while building a sense of momentum. It's not quite as complex as it looks; Louie's darker moments feel a bit superficial. But O'Connell adds some weight to each scene, offering a kick of emotion as well as the charisma that convinces the men around him to draw inspiration from his tenacity.
Continue reading: Unbroken Review
This biopic about the pianist-showman Liberace may look almost painfully camp, and sometimes it is, but it's also a remarkably honest depiction of an intimate relationship. In the hands of Steven Soderbergh, the flaming excess is never made the butt of the joke; instead we get a strong dose of gritty humour, dark emotion and even a revealing look into the smoke and mirrors of show business. And the astute performances from both Douglas and Damon continually catch us off guard with their resonance.
It was 1977 when the 57-year-old entertainer (Douglas) met 17-year-old Scott Thorson (Damon). There was an instant spark as Liberace, known to his friends as Lee, offered Scott a job as a companion: on the stage, in his bed and running his household. But their relationship wasn't easy. Lee coaxed Scott into joining him under the knife of a plastic surgeon (Lowe) who reshaped Scott's face to look like a younger Liberace. Afterwards, Scott became addicted to a variety of drugs, which strained their romance to the breaking point. And it didn't help that Lee had an eye for ever-younger boys, all while insisting to the world that he was straight. "People see what they want to see," he said.
While the production design overflows with Liberace's "palatial kitsch" design sensibility, Soderbergh keeps the story and characters grounded, finding humour in unexpected places (Lowe's over-lifted face is hilarious). And despite the outrageous costumes and hair, the actors never camp up their performances, which cleverly holds the story in a delicate balance between sharp comedy and involving drama. In this sense, LaGravenese's script is particularly clever, peppering the dialog with telling details that gives us a remarkably well-rounded picture of the interaction between these men. And it continually resists becoming another stereotypical gay romance, celebrity biopic or drugs odyssey.
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While this package has all of the key marketing elements to reach the Twilight audience, the film itself is rather a lot more fun, made with some wit and intelligence, plus a cast that's happy to chomp on the scenery. Based on a four-novel series, this film actually has more in common with True Blood than Twilight, with its Deep South setting and the clash between religious fundamentalism and supernatural beings.
At the centre is Ethan (Ehrehreich), a 16-year-old who is bristling against the isolation of his small South Carolina town. His recently deceased mother instilled in him a love of books banned by the town's hyper-religious leaders, and the local librarian Amma (Davis) helps keep his interest alive. As a result, he's more open than the other teens when Lena (Englert) arrives at school. But she's shunned because her Uncle Macon (Irons) is the town's pariah, a landowner whom everyone thinks is a devil worshipper. Actually, the whole family are casters, people with special powers that are designated good or evil on their 16th birthday.
The plot stirs up some suspense as Lena's big day of reckoning approaches. She's terrified that she'll go over to the dark side like her man-eating cousin (Rossum) or, worse still, her spectral mother, who does her mischief by inhabiting the body of the town's most pious housewife Mrs Lincoln (Thompson). This of course gives Thompson two insane characters to play at the same time, and she has a ball with it. As does Irons with the shadowy, snaky Macon. And at the centre, Ehrenreich and Englert both show considerable promise, with their strikingly non-Hollywood good looks and a depth of character that makes the film more engaging than we expect.
Continue reading: Beautiful Creatures Review
Lena Duchannes is a Caster whose family has plenty of dark power between them, but rather than feeling empowered, Lena just wishes she can be mortal so she wouldn't have to hide and people wouldn't talk about her all the time. When she moves to the small and somewhat conservative town of Gatlin, South Carolina, she finds herself an outcast but is soon noticed by her school mate Ethan Wate who is enchanted by her and the excitement her arrival brings to this ordinary, unmoving town. However, their relationship is compromised by the fact that Lena only has a matter of days left before she is subjected to the Claiming; a process that will decide whether she will turn to the Light or the Dark side of magic. While her uncle does everything in her power to make sure she is claimed to the Light, the all-powerful Sarafine is convinced that she will have great magical supremacy which would better be served in the Dark.
'Beautiful Creatures' is the story of just how much love can conquer and, equally, the devastation it brings. It has been adapted to screen by Oscar nominated director and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese ('P.S. I Love You', 'The Mirror Has Two Faces') from the book of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The fantasy romance will be released in time for Valentine's Day on February 13th 2013.
Director: Richard LaGravenese
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The list in this category is long, and the quality broad, ranging from To Sir, with Love (Sidney Poitier straightens up hooligans) to Sunset Park (Rhea Perlman coaches hoops!). Instead of sliding into pitfalls of predictability, writer Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Beloved), who also directs, relies on straight, unforced dialogue delivered by a fine cast. Like many similar films, this one happens to be based on truth.
Continue reading: Freedom Writers Review
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