Monthly Archives: January 2015

Review: Whiplash (2014)

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Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

A drum beat. It starts slowly and then it begins to gather pace. A corridor, void of life with the exception of the sound of drumming. The lone figure of Andrew Neimann is sat at his drum kit and is playing it well. This is the heart of the movie. However good it may sound to someone, it might not be good enough and it takes perseverance and commitment to become better. To become the greatest, even.

For Andrew that is his dream. To be one of the greatest drummers ever and he will stop at nothing to get to the top. During a solo practise one evening prolific music teacher, Terence Fletcher, enters the room to listen to him. What passes next is a difficult conversation between the two where Neimann struggles to understand what Fletcher requires of him. When he stops playing, Fletcher asks him why. So, he continues playing. Fletcher stops him again and says that he didn’t ask him to start; he simply asked him why he stopped. When it is evident that Neimann hasn’t grasped Fletcher’s purpose, he leaves and Andrew is left to play by himself again.

It is not the last that Andrew sees of Fletcher as he is drafted in as support at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music which is run by Fletcher, despite the recent incident. To Neimann it is a step in the right direction, but it’s the unorthodox way that Fletcher has of motivating his students to get the best out of them, occasionally bordering on violent, when he realises that he has a difficult journey to get to his full potential.

Fletcher makes it obvious to Neimann that he doesn’t feel he is good enough and pushes him to breaking point like he does to all his students. During one rehearsal he complains that a member of the group is out of tune and offers them the chance to confess. When nobody does own up he targets one person and asks him whether or not he thought he was in tune. When the student, who is terrified of Fletcher, admits he didn’t think he was in tune he becomes the next victim of one of Fletcher’s many violent outbursts and is exited from the room not before being reduced to tears in the process. Fletcher later admits that he was actually in tune, but the fact he thought he wasn’t is worse than actually being out of tune.

It is the method of his ways that Neimann struggles to overcome, but his determination is never lost and if anything it spurs him on to get better. He becomes isolated, focussing all his attention to doing what he loves and it takes blood (literally), sweat and tears to get there as he pushes himself further than he has ever done in his life to ultimately discover it’s still not good enough for Fletcher.

Tempers become fraught between the two, but on occasions Neimann witnesses the lighter side to Fletcher’s character which doesn’t appear often. With hands bandaged, cut and bruised, Neimann continues to push himself in order to earn the position of the drummer in the band, but the barrier between himself and Fletcher just gets higher and higher as the acceptance begins to sink in that he might not be able to make it any further than is physically and mentally possible.

Quite simply put – this movie is absolutely outstanding. It is one of the best I have ever had the privilege to see. The encapsulating performances, combined with a strong, tense story bring real heart and grit to the movie. There is something for everyone to take away from the experience, to learn from it, to gain from it, to push yourself to be better. Self taught drummer, Miles Teller, plays the role of Andrew Neimann with a graceful, sincerity. The maturity of the performance over the course of the movie has been captured wonderfully with the emphasis on the isolation of his character as he becomes lost in his own fortitude, striving to become the best and pushing those around him away. J.K. Simmonds, though, produces perhaps one of the best on-screen performances in modern cinema to date. The intimidation and uncertainty behind the character have been personified into a role that is not only worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but of the award itself. The intelligence that exudes from Fletcher bursts onto the screen during every scene; the passion and anger have been captured to absolute perfection. His intensity and fire not only invoke fear into the other characters, but to you as an viewer. He is truly unbelievable.

Praise should also be deservedly awarded to writer/director Damien Chazelle, who used is knowledge of the intensity of playing in a jazz group to bring life to the script which initially started life as an 18 page short film and was discovered on website Black List, a site which includes the top screenplays for motion pictures yet to be produced. Chazelle portrays his wealth of experience to ensure that each segment of each performance were nailed with the right feel of tension and pace leading us through the chicanes of Neimann’s battle to become the best with the backdrop of his hard, fast drumming adding a deeply powerful moving soundtrack to accompany the emotions of the characters.

The heart of the movie is the battle between these two characters and their determination to, not only better themselves, but to better each other which is rounded off to a phenomenal end scene leaving you unable to remove your eyes from the screen. The music is sensational and for lovers of jazz it will just add to the enjoyment of the movie. Even if jazz music isn’t an interest to you, the appreciation of the hard work and difficulty that a drummer has to overcome has to be respected.

With the Oscars coming up next month, there is a lot of buzz behind Birdman walking away with the Best Picture, but in my opinion, Whiplash is better purely for the passion and strength of the performances and the intensity of the story which will blow you away.

 

This HAS to be seen.

 

Trailer:

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Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Stars: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric

Inspired by a fictional book, The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story an author’s chance meeting with the owner of the hotel once resplendent with life and habitants now left cold and desolate with the same few guests who stay at the same time every year. The hotel is based in the fictional village of Zubrowka and is attended by a young author who meets a man that owns the hotel and who stays there once a year in a small, cramped room in the servant’s quarters, despite having the choice of the biggest and best rooms available. Fascinated by this man, the author (played by Jude Law) learns to discover how he acquired the hotel which cost him nothing at all.

In 1932, a boy by the name of Zero begins work at the Grand Budapest Hotel as a Lobby Boy where he meets perhaps the most eccentric and diverse concierge, the world renown, Mr. Gustave. Gustave is a concierge that everybody knows, not just at the Grand Budapest, but at hotels all over the world. His popularity among those who stay at the hotel is astonishing, particularly with members of the opposite sex. One of those is an elderly woman called Madame D. who leaves the Grand Budapest for the last time due to illness, much to the dismay of Gustave. During this time Gustave meets Zero and soon discovers the potential in him purely down to his enthusiasm to work at the hotel above anything else.

News soon filters back to Gustave that Madame D has passed away, so he and Zero embark on a journey to the funeral to pay their last respects. The War has begun and due to Gustave’s popularity, he and Zero make it through checkpoints with relative ease as it transpires that Gustave looked after one of the Commanders when he was a child and is treated with great appreciation. It is during the service that the last will and testament of Madame D’s fortune is read out and a priceless painting is left for Gustave, much to the disgruntlement of her nephew, Dmitri played by Adrien Brody. Dmitri is determined to claim the painting for his own and will stop at nothing to ensure that is the case.

It is later discovered that Madame D didn’t die of natural causes and was murdered with the finger of blame pointed towards Gustave. Any friendship or admiration from the Commander is soon forgotten and Gustave gets captured and put in jail awaiting trial. In jail Gustave hatches a plan to escape with a group of cell mates and finds himself on the run. With the aid of his new friend and confident, Zero, Gustave must uncover the truth to clear his name and get back to the Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel reads like a who’s who of Hollywood acting credentials. A number of the actors who appear in the movie are actors that have previously worked with Director Wes Anderson and there are numerous other stars adding their names to the billing. Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay has produced a work of art. The appeal of the movie is in the look and feel and he has captured this wonderfully in a portrayal of beautiful colours mixed with wonderful performances to make the whole experience magical. The story was an inspiration from Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig with the character of Gustave based on Zweig.

The performances associated with this wonderfully depicted tale are what gives it the life and realism. Ralph Fiennes has been criminally overlooked for an Oscar nomination for his role as Gustave as he is truly excellent. His performance is a blend of solemn, dramatic cascading into occasional hilarious comedy and it is superb allowing Fiennes to encompass a variety of emotions and characteristics to his performance and create one of the finest, funniest onscreen characters in cinema. Little know Tony Revloroi plays the role of the Lobby Boy, Zero, who looks up to Gustave as their friendship blossoms. He plays the role of the timid Zero with a great level of professionalism unfazed by the act required of him and not in awe of the ensemble around him. Then, it is a case of spot the celebrity with cameos from Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Owen Wilson and Harvey Keitel to name but a few all adding weight to this beautiful story.

The blend of the finest acting talents on offer with a superbly written screenplay by Wes Anderson himself could suggest there may be a surprise on the cards for the Awards ceremony this February with The Grand Budapest Hotel possibly being a dark horse on the final furlong of the race.

And it would deserve it too.

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Feature: Keeping Up With The Culkins

It’s hard to imagine that it has been almost 25 years since a ten year old boy appeared on our screens in a scene whereby he applies his father’s aftershave to his face and then reacts to the sting caused by the fluid on his skin. It was a role that would change Macaulay Culkin’s career and indeed his life, but not generally for the better.

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Home Alone was a turning point for the young actor.  It made over $285,000,000 in the US alone and spawned a sequel in 1992 which didn’t do as well as its predecessor, but still earned big.  Culkin himself went on to become a huge child star in Hollywood and unfortunately for him his success also caused his downfall.

Macaulay Culkin is one of many siblings born to Christopher Culkin and Patricia Brentrup. He is the third oldest of seven children all of whom share the showbiz gene in varying degrees of quantity. Macaulay, or “Mac” as he is sometimes known, got his first big film role alongside John Candy in the 1989 movie Uncle Buck, but it is his debut lead role in Home Alone that he is best known.  He was typecast in the child star void thereafter appearing in a series of family movies such as My Girl (1991), Getting Even with Dad (1994), The Pagemaster (1994) and Richie Rich (1994) before it all started to turn sour.

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In 1995 Macaulay’s parents, who were never married, split and a lengthy legal battle began over the custody of the children and rights to Macaulay’s fortune. It was during this period of time that he burnt out and vowed to quit acting until his parents settled the court case. The case itself wasn’t resolved until 1997. Culkin’s friendship with pop star Michael Jackson also came into question when allegations were made against Jackson for improper behaviour with children. It is suggested that Culkin’s relationship with Jackson was purely a friendship and nothing else. Culkin appeared in the video for Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit “Black or White”. Macaulay married fellow actress Rachel Milner in 1998, but the marriage only last two years as Milner wanted to start a family, but Culkin was more interested in getting back into acting.

The move back into acting was to be a difficult one for Culkin. Tarred with the “Child Star” brush he found roles difficult to come by and despite a stint on the West End in 2001 his next big role was the “comeback” role in 2003’s Party Monster in which he portrayed a cross dressing club promoter. It was the serious, dark role that had been hoped would reignite his career, but with the movie only receiving average reviews the comeback road had just stumbled across a detour. During the filming of Party Monster Culkin started a relationship with the then pretty much unknown Mila Kunis. It was a relationship which lasted for six years and unlike Kunis’ career, didn’t blossom much after that.

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In 2004 Culkin was arrested for drug possession. He was jailed briefly before paying $4,000 for bail.  In court he pleaded not guilty, but quickly reverted his plea to guilty. He received three one year suspended prison terms and had to pay a further $540 in fees. The continued downward spiral of not only his career, but his life resulted in drugs and alcohol with many fearing for his life as he kept on the road to self destruction. It was ex-girlfriend Mila Kunis that attempted to get him into rehab, an act which ultimately failed.

Since Party Monster Culkin has made the odd appearance in episodes of Television Series and straight to DVD movies. More recently he recreated the character of Kevin McAllister for popular comedy series “Robot Chicken”, but aside from that he has never rekindled that scene stealing performance that he did as a ten year old. But, with a rumoured fortune of $17 million in the bank, he can probably afford not to act if he chooses.

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To this day Macaulay Culkin still wears a mysterious cover. Last year he was seen on YouTube filming himself in a room eating pizza in a bizarre promotion for cover band The Pizza Underground (covering songs from The Velvet Underground, but changing the lyrics to pizza references).

Towards the end of 2014 there were rumours that Macaulay Culkin had died, but the reports later transpired into being a hoax with the former star taking to social network Twitter to post a series of images, one of which replicating 80’s movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” with band mates from The Pizza Underground. For now, music appears to be his passion and his attention is focused solely on that, but many sense there could be more twists in “Mac’s” life.

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Macaulay Culkin is one of seven children. His sibling’s lives have taken different turns…

 

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Shane Culkin (38)

Shane is the eldest of the Culkin children and his flirtation with the arts was brief only scoring an appearance in American TV’s “Great Performances” a show dedicated solely to the Performing Arts. The idea of the show was to display performances in acting, staging sections of plays, but over the years the focus has been more on music.

Shane no longer performs acting. There is not a great deal that is known about his whereabouts to this day opting for a quieter life out of the spotlight.

 

Dakota Culkin (1978 – 2008, 30)

Dakota Culkin wanted a career in Hollywood, but to work behind the camera as opposed to being in front of it. Quite a humble, warming character, Dakota had worked as an Art Production Assistant on an independent project called “Lost Soul”. Tragedy struck in December 2008 as Dakota was killed as she stepped out into the road in LA and was hit by a car. She was rushed to hospital, but had received major head injuries which she sadly died from the next day. The Culkin’s refrained from publicly grieving over the death of their sister, instead opting for a more private bereavement.

 

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Kieran Culkin was the first of the Culkin siblings to show real potential following Macaulay’s success in front of the camera. His first role came as the cute cousin of Macaulay Culkin’s character in Home Alone and its sequel, Home Alone 2.

One of his first major roles was in the 1998 movie, “The Mighty” in which he played Kevin Dillon the young boy suffering from Morquio syndrome who befriends an oversized, dyslexic who suffers at the hands of bullies. It was a performance which earned Kieran his first nomination for Young Artist award for best performance in a feature film.

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He followed that up with the role of Buster in “The Cider House Rules” (1999) in which he received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance. The roles then began to dry up and his appearance were minor roles until 2002 when he played the lead role in “Igby Goes Down”, a comedy drama centered around a teenager trying to break free of his wealthy and overbearing mother. It was a role that really displayed his capability as an actor receiving two nominations for best actor in the process. In 2010 he starred alongside fellow actor, Michael Cera in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”

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Kieran’s acting career then diverted to the stage in various guises which saw him perform at the Sidney Opera House in 2012 in a production of “This is Our Youth”. More recently Kieran can be seen in a segment of the 2013 movie “Movie 43” and is to appear in an episode of the second season of “Fargo” due to screen later this year.

Unlike his brother, Kieran has managed to steer clear from the public eye focusing his attention more on his career. Kieran was quoted once as saying “I certainly had a better, less hectic life than Mac. He took all the pressure at home and on movie sets. My dad basically left me alone because I wasn’t making enough money to warrant his scrutiny.” A bitter, scathing attack on his father, but it was Mac’s rise to fame that favoured Kieran who was able to allow his acting ability to shine.

 

Quinn Culkin

Quinn Culkin is the second daughter of the Culkin family. She, much like her older brother Shane, have not had the levels of fame that brothers Mac, Kieran and Rory have had. She scored a role in the 1993 movie “The Good Son” playing the sister of Macaulay’s character, Henry. Prior to that she had a voiceover role in the 1991 animated TV series “Wish Kid”. It was to be a very brief stint in acting for Quinn and she no longer acts.

 

Christian Culkin

Christian Culkin’s only screen credit appearance was in the 1994 movie “It Runs in the Family” alongside brother Kieran. It was to be another brief stint in acting for the young Culkin member.

 

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One of Rory’s first even screen appearances was as a younger Richie in the 1994 movie “Richie Rich” in which older brother Macaulay played the title role. He also played a younger version of Igby in the 2002 movie “Igby Goes Down”, but it was another breakthrough performance later that year in which the world would wake up and take notice.

IMG_0496In 2002 Rory starred alongside Hollywood great Mel Gibson in the    paranormal thriller “Signs” as Morgan Hess. It was a movie that grossed $407,900,000 worldwide and in which he produced such a naturally graceful performance. His roles since then have been relatively low-key, choosing to avoid mainstream cinema and opting for more indie roles until he was cast as Charlie Walker in horror franchise, “Scream 4”. His last role to date was a move back to his preferred roots in the 2014 movie “Gabriel” in which he takes the title role as a young man with mental issues trying to get over the suicide of his father. It is a performance some are saying is his best. Rory’s life won’t be getting much quieter though with plenty more work still in the pipeline.

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Much like his brother Kieran, Rory has ensured he kept out of the limelight. Whether that was through choice having witnessed what Macaulay experienced or that the attention has been taken away from them, it has probably worked in their favour. For Rory it is about the art and not about the success or fame and he has never been alone on the journey with his brothers Kieran and Macaulay both offering him advice when he needs it.

 

So, with Kieran and Rory both representing the Culkin name in the world of film will there ever be the big comeback that Macaulay had hoped for or will he continue on the new path that has been set before him?

 

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Review: Boyhood (2014)

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Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

12 years ago a project began. That project was a movie depicting the life and surroundings told through the eyes of a young boy as he grows and reaches adulthood. Twelve years later this project, which is the brainchild of writer/director, Richard Linklater, is released.

Linklater wanted to portray the growth of a child, but avoiding the use of multiple actors for the role, instead opting to use the same boy over a period of 12 years. Infact, all of the main cast worked on the film for the same period of time. It is dedication for his efforts that the movie is up for Best Picture at the Oscars as well as Best Director and Supporting Actor/Actress.

Mason (Coltrane) is a five year old boy living with his older sister Samantha (Richard Linklater’s daughter – Lorelei Linklater) and their mother (Patricia Arquette). The offspring are a result of pregnancy at a young age, and as such Mason’s parents no longer live with each other and barely get along. He hasn’t seen his father for a while and his mother struggles with a series of relationships while she has to juggle their lives and hers at the same time to ensure they have the best outcome possible. But the rivalry between older sister Sam makes life difficult at times. One evening Mason is witness to an argument between his mother and one of her boyfriends and such is the perplexed perception of life that Mason sees and accepts with as he has no basis for comparison.

Their father reappears in the story played with wonderful transition by Oscar nominated, Ethan Hawke. He is rather coy about his own life and work instead directing the majority of the conversations he has purely on the children. He is a good father, despite the absence and the children adore him. So much so they pray that he can fix things up with their mum and they can be a family again. Through a child’s eyes there is no reason why they can’t be, but through an adult’s eyes the reasons are complicated which is born with experience of age and love.

Each “scene” of the story depicts another stage in Mason’s life and as the story progresses, so does the ages of the characters. Their mum decides they should move so she can start a college course and make something of their lives and that is one of the main themes throughout the story.  It’s the settlement and upheaval of his young life as he tries to perceive their movements and understand not only his life, but the lives as others round him. His relationship with his father improves during the course of the story as he finds himself moving once again when his mum remarries, but yet more cracks in a relationship his mum has with their step-father become evident.

The beauty of Linklater’s story is the natural realism that flows as the story progresses. Rather than over complicate the storyline, he opts to portray an ordinary set of lives with the usual situations and conversations that take place. Each segment of Mason’s life is wonderfully crafted to depict music and technology of that era and the natural transition of relationships and behaviour as the characters age. Ethan Hawke plays the role of the father superbly. To begin with his character is an occasionally over-the-top, larger than life guy who is slightly rebellious and a dreamer, but he matures through the tale as his life changes. Patricia Arquette plays their mum who joins Hawke in an Oscar nomination. She plays the role of a single mother dead set on providing the best possible life for her children with perfection, tackling the obstacles constantly in her way during the course of her life. The maturity of her life and the modifications she makes as setback follows setback are clearly documented in such an illustrious performance.

Credit has to be given to the young siblings. At such a very young age they have both had a huge task set for them in not only portraying a role over such a period of time, but ensuring that the standard of acting is kept up throughout. The rivalry between them is evident from the outset and subtly improves during the course of the movie as would any normal relationship between brother and sister which is executed with natural realism and perfection.

At 165 minutes the movie is long, but you have to appreciate how much work and effort has gone into it and you can forgive Linklater for producing such an extensive story. The time lapse does hinder the movie at times with the pace slow in places and sometimes irrelevant scenes played out for too long which loses the momentum of the movie. That being said, I have nothing but admiration for his desire, commitment and dedication to the project and for producing a piece of history in modern cinema and that is worthy of an award alone.

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Review: Birdman (2014)

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BirdmanStars: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton

 

A movie with two titles – Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – tells the story of an actor trying to detach himself from the role that made him famous. Riggan Thomas was renowned for playing the title role in superhero franchise “Birdman” back in the early nineties, but he has struggled with his career ever since and wants to be known for his abilities as an actor. He has the chance to portray his true talent in the theatre as he directs and stars in a new play which is an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story, “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love”.

Aided by his friend and assistant (the wonderful Zach Galifianakis), Riggan is currently in the throes of rehearsals with the main performance a matter of days away. Unfortunately, an actor portraying one of the parts gives him cause for concern and when a piece of lighting equipment falls and hits him he has no choice but to re-cast. What also strikes as being slightly irregular are Riggan’s claims that he made the piece of lighting fall and hit him. Such as is the burden of Birdman, he cannot get rid of him. Birdman talks to him, controls him. He can levitate, he has powers of telekinesis. Or so he believes.

A method actor by the name of Mike Shiner who is one of Hollywood’s hottest names agrees to do the part in the play, but it is evident from the outset that his outspoken nature and behavior clash with Riggan as they argue and fight with each other throughout the performance. That coupled with his brazen, former drug addict daughter acting as his PA leaves Riggan’s life in a confusing place as he struggles to free the demons from within.

Writer and Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has produced a truly captivating piece of cinema with his story. Choosing to encompass some of Birdman’s abilities into Riggan’s life leading him to believe he is still part of the infamous Superhero adds an exciting twist to the vision. But it is the cramped, condensed environment of the theatre where most of the movie’s story plays out which allow us to feel the claustrophobia that Riggan has in his current predicament and the camera follows him around as if the audience were playing the burden bearing role of the title character, Birdman, watching as everything that he has worked so hard for starts to crumble away from him. The direction of the piece is haunting and funny in many occasions and allows the ability of one of Hollywood’s finest actors, Michael Keaton, to really show his true capabilities as an actor, much like he is trying to do in the role in the movie.

Edward Norton adds superb support as the antagonizing Mike Shiner. Norton’s encapsulating performance targets the true malevolence and egotism of the actor he is portraying performing against Keaton’s character and trying pin pointing the weaknesses which includes targeting his daughter.

Emma Stone is truly wonderful as Riggan’s daughter, Sam, playing an unruly wild child also trying to escape from the person her father was, playing the role with an occasionally victimized and aggressive stance, but with underlying difficulties which instantly allows her to connect with the character of Mike Shiner.

Birdman is a dark movie with moments of pure genius. The essence of the piece is brilliant and Michael Keaton performs perhaps the best we have seen of him. The casting has been spot on with Edward Norton and Emma Stone both rightfully joining Keaton in the Oscar nominations and with Alejandro González Iñárritu up for best picture and director there could be a whole host of awards heading their way.

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Review: American Sniper (2014)

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American Sniper

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner

It is during the opening sequence of American Sniper where we discover the true intensity of the movie. Marine Chris Kyle is positioned at the top of an abandoned building in Iraq, his rifle is positioned and we are looking through the telescopic sight first at an Iraqi soldier and then the attention is drawn to the ground where a mother and her son emerge from a building, the son clutches something to his chest under his jacket as his mother whispers instructions. The boy then sets off running towards Kyle’s fellow American troops and Kyle’s finger is poised on the trigger…

The beauty of Clint Eastwood’s direction is the level of intensity he can produce from a moment such as that, but the true story of Chris Kyle is depicted brilliantly not just through the direction, but through the story and the acting.  Eastwood has taken the focus of the story and balanced it between the war in Iraq and a normal life for a soldier returning home, which is anything but. The main part of the movie is in Kyle’s difficulty to separate his home life from the life he risks everyday fighting in the war. His decision to join the marines came to him through his father predominantly. His father would teach him and his brother to stand up to bullies and be strong and this is what exactly, as young men, they chose do. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 this form of ‘bullying’ spurred Kyle on to want to fight and it was soon evident his skills lay in using a rifle.

Chris Kyle had four tours of Iraq and the movie follows each one of them and also the life he shared at home with his wife and children. Like most soldiers returning from active duty, the adjustment to a life at home is difficult with everyday noises drawing dark memories to his life in conflict. In Iraq, Kyle is witness to the brutality of the enemy and an unknown assailant, also useful with a rifle, is his main target.  The price on his head from the Iraqi’s is substantial, but the bounty refuses to deter Kyle in his mission to capture Osama Bin Laden’s number two and bring an end to the war.

Bradley Cooper portrays the role of Chris Kyle in a performance that has seen him nominated for an Oscar and understandably so too. Although Cooper performs superbly, I don’t think this is his strongest performance to date. Certainly not in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook in which he was also nominated. Sienna Miller is almost unrecognisable as Kyle’s wife, Taya, in a strong role in which the depiction of her struggles with her life married to a marine is executed superbly with the emotional distress that any woman in her position would go through. It is one of the best roles I have seen her in.

My admiration goes fully to Clint Eastwood. A master in his field both in front of and behind the camera he shows no signs of letting up, even at 84 years of age. The pace and passion of the story is sublime and Eastwood doesn’t hold back for some of the more uncomfortable scenes of life that is happening every single day as our soldiers fight. The drama and intensity are with us throughout the whole movie and supported by a wonderful cast you can see how this has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I personally am not sure it has the strength to go on and win, but it is still an exhilarating experience not to be passed up.

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Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

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The Theory of Everything (2014)                                                                        The Theory of Everything

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior

 

                A Brief History of Time is a world renowned best seller written by Professor Stephen Hawking in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. But it is a book called Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen which inspired a movie adaptation depicting the relationship between Professor Hawking and his wife, Jane.

The movie begins with a young Stephen as a Cambridge student during the period of time where he first meets Jane Wilde. It’s in the early stages of his education where we first see the signs of how his brilliant mind works which is occasionally combined with an air of arrogance and, on the flip side of the coin, it is also where we first start to see the downfall of his health as he combats an illness that will plague him for the rest of his life.

Originally given two years to live, Stephen Hawking defied doctors by surviving the disease that threatened to shorten his brilliant life and he battled as the slow progression of his downfall to Motor Neurone’s Disease took over him. But, the disease that affected his ability to walk, eat or swallow by himself, didn’t affect his brain and instead the genius of this man blossomed to its full potential.

It is not the genius himself, but the relationship with his first love that this story is focussed on. The story is told from Jane Wilde’s interpretation of their relationship from when she first meets Stephen to how she adjusted her life to look after the man whom she loved and the family that she had with him. With the revelation of the full extent of his affliction, Stephen Hawking became an isolated figure refusing to burden those around him as he came to terms with the gravity of the situation, but the strength of their relationship became evident when Jane Wilde, not only stood by the man she loved, but made the decision that she would spend the rest of her life with him, fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead.

Eddie Redmayne is absolutely outstanding in his portrayal of the physical theorist in one of the best acting performances I have ever witnessed. He encapsulated the heart of Hawking not only as a genius, but ensuring he incorporated his infamous humour that Hawking is known for. It is the transformation, not only mentally and emotionally, but physically in the appearance of the Professor that owes much to the superior talent Redmayne commands as an actor. Every nuance of his transformation and every slight twitch and movement is captured perfectly and in certain scenes it is hard to differentiate Redmayne the actor from Hawking the professor as the similarities are that convincing.

Redmayne is supported by the wonderful Felicity Jones who plays the role of Jane Hawking, the professor’s wife whose book of their relationship inspired the story. Jones performs a truly exceptional role as the professor’s wife with the heart of the role seizing the love she had for this man and for the often difficult task she had in looking after him and also their ever increasing family. Despite the occasional obstructions in their relationship, it is obvious that the love between the pair was never lost and it was key to the performance that this was how it was portrayed. The progression of Jane Wilde to Jane Hawking throughout her life was enthralling and often moving.

Other key players to the story were David Thewlis who played colleague and friend, Dennis Sciama in a warm and heartfelt role born of confidence for this experienced actor. Charlie Cox played the role of Jonathon, a character who played a key role in both the Hawking’s lives as he befriended Jane when she joins the church choir and later forms a relationship with Stephen and their family as he became a strong presence and help for them, but it was also a relationship that threatened to break up the family. Cox accomplished the role with a sincere quality. The balance of his genuine willingness to help and his feelings towards Jane played out beautiful during some of the story’s poignant moments.

Much credit is also owed to Director James Marsh in his first major directorial piece. His vision and ability to tell this beautiful story was illustrated wonderfully in his depiction of the book. Marsh ensured the focus of the story was on the relationship as much as it concentrated on the disease that Hawking was known for, but it was this disease that was key to the relationship between Stephen and Jane and the trivialities it often served up.

Already nominated for four Golden Globe awards (Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne. Best Actress, Felicity Jones, Best Motion Picture. Best Original Score, Jóhann Jóhannsson) it is difficult to understand how this movie could not win. It is a wonderfully portrayed story with some of the best, if not the best acting performances you will ever see played to a beautiful and often moving story of a person that defied everything to become one of the most respected men in our history.

I would not only nominate Redmayne for an academy award, but award it to him as well.

 

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