Month: December 2015

Spotlight, Early Review – Doggedly authentic

Spotlight

Spotlight’s most obvious ‘eureka moment’ scene does not arrive, as in so many journalist procedurals, after a long night of drinking and piecing things together with clippings and red string. Nor is there some sort of secret source who demands a dangerously mysterious meet-up after dark. Instead, three reporters look through a series of public domain files, during work hours, and discover a pattern that has to be confirmed via the use of an Excel spreadsheet. It’s this stubborn commitment to authenticity that makes Spotlight such a distinct Oscar-friendly true story film, the lack of embellishment on an already fascinating story both one of its most commendable virtues and a contributor to its main weakness. Justice is done to this important tale, at the occasional expense of conventional dramatics, in an unshowy and sharply subversive Best Picture frontrunner.  (more…)

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Spectre Review – Audaciously confident showmanship

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in the action film

Spectre’s opening sequence sets out the film’s purpose perfectly. We’re in Mexico City, swooping over the celebrations for the Dia de Muertos, a festival in which the living and the dead collide. Over the next 2 and a half hours, the film itself pulls off the same trick – the new, Bourne-inspired muscularity of the Daniel Craig era is very much intact, with the added relevance of an anti-surveillance message, but Spectre also delights in giving us some very old-school Bond tropes. Villainous lairs in meteorite craters, a near-mute powerhouse who fights 007 on a train, and the eponymous evil organisation evoke the Bond of the ‘60s and ‘70s, whilst retaining most of the elements that made Casino Royale and Skyfall so successful.  (more…)

Mississippi Grind Review -Red Hot Poker

Mississippi Grind

If you want to make a film that evokes the ‘70s, it’s hard to go wrong with a gambling story. Casino towns, at least according to Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Mississippi Grind, don’t seem to have changed at all in the last 40 years, and, apart from size, there’s not much to tell the places themselves apart. All bathed in the same damp neon sadness, the only thing that makes any gambling town distinctive is the amount of money you can win, or more likely lose, there. Half James Caan’s The Gambler, half road/buddy movie, Mississippi Grind is a brilliantly character-driven film, with incredible performances from its two leads.  (more…)

Crimson Peak Review – Deliciously Macabre

Crimson Peak

After the blockbuster bombast of the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim, the question was raised of whether or not Guillermo del Toro could translate his mastery of dark fantasy into English. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the finest modern examples of the genre, and whilst Crimson Peak is not quite as good, it answers the above question in the affirmative with style. At the same time, it also shows that 19th Century literature can make for thrilling cinema, as long as there’s a visually ingenious director at the helm. Influenced by everything from Jane Eyre to Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, with a little bit of Sherlock HolmesCrimson Peak is not only a fantastic film in its own right, but also an exciting revitalisation of an old-fashioned sort of storytelling.  (more…)