Wednesday, 28 January 2015
111 Minutes. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson, Michael K. Williams, Jessica Lange & John Goodman. Director: Rupert Wyatt.
Everything on Mark! Wahlberg is all in, to the score of being the 'Six Million Dollar' man. You better check this Mark's hand, because he's got the hot one. Just like his early days plays of 'Three Kings' and 'Four Brothers'. A 'Perfect Storm' for this 'Lone Survivor' of the star stock market rise and fall of the Hollywood hills. Sure he's been dealt some bad hands. That's just 'Pain and Gain' for you. Still he's bet big and cashed in on franchise face cards from the metal to the fur with 'Transformers' and 'Ted'. All whilst concealing some of his best deals with that Cruise/Keanu blending in picture poker face, with hidden gems like 'Contraband' and other thrillers like 'We Own The Night', '2 Guns' 'Broken City' and now this one. Still amongst all the fun ('The Other Guys') and games ('The Fighter'), the man whose cashed in and played with more chips than McDonalds always had an ace in the hole with his Academy Award nominated 'The Departed'. You got to love this guys hustle. Now reuniting with 'Departed' writer William Monahan, Wahlberg invites a 'Planet Of The Apes' (no not his one) director Rupert Wyatt to the table to play their cards at remaking a 1973 James Caan film, complete with an up to date soundtrack your hipster friend would be O.M.G. jealous of and a cinematographic look of the city of angels, Los Angeles that one of their Instagram filters could never quite do so digitally proud. From the big and bold red, drive-in cinema typography title, to its opening, yellow line cruise through the California coasts highways of Los Angeles this just looks cool. For the look and feel of this cool and slick picture, this 'Gambler' pays off.
But buyer and gamble aware, the Hollywood house always wins. This is no suckers bet, but in card comparison to his unsung numbers its no sure thing. That doesn't mean its not a decent deal however and with a slight of hand slick move it pulls something out of its ass that is all real and no magic. Tricking the eye before your silver screens, the muscle of Mark is slimmed down (a great way of the frame pairing a portrait of a man down on his luck and time with a cocky confidence that is merely mirrors and smoke) to an almost gaunt Dylanesque look, complete with those trademark shades that either cover a black eye, or one hell of a night. It just might be both as this Jack wears the same suit, trying to find the perfect one to pay off more gangsters and debts than a failed hip-hop star. In this 'Oceans Eleven' our lead may find himself sleeping with the fishes if he doesn't break a leg in this game of chance. Oh the irony. Breaking if he does, broken if he doesn't. Wahlberg perfectly plays a former best-selling novelist, lecturing English as his new day job and moonlighting in some extra curricula activities as profitable and headache inducing as moonshine. He talks a good game and lectures one too. Preaching at his class to lead better lives, all whilst talking himself out of losing his. Facing off against it all Wahlberg plays it straight and flushed. This ace is smoking.
Just like Brie Larson, an actress really coming into her own and showing substance in this cigarettes and coffee picture. 'Scott Pilgrim' and '21 Jump Street' made her a face in this game. Stealing the show with a few words of worldly wisdom over some anti-social smart phoning in 'Don Jon' and now this co-star of real chips down support, now shows Larson is the real deal. Count more cards however and you'll find a classy call of a cast. From young, 'Place Beyond The Pines' standout Emory Cohen, to 'King Kong' and 'Big Fish', Oscar winning legend Jessica Lange. Still in Wahlberg's mark its the people who he owes money to that you can really bank on. 'The Wire's' Omar and 'Boardwalk Empire's' Chalky, Michael K. Williams is cigar smoking cool, finally getting the bigger role he worked so hard for and royaly deserves. No more spare seconds of scene in '12 Years A Slave' or dreaded 'Robocop' pictures. Still, however the biggest and best gamble hers lies with the great man Goodman. Or shall we say sitting here with dear John, draped in a towel and sauna sweat, bic shaving the scalp, looking like a mighty Moby Dick monster of a man complete with gangster goatee and grimaces. And lets not forget that stare and the glaring threats that provide all fire and no smoke to those burning holes. 'The Artist', 'Argo', 'Flight', 'Inside Llewyn Davis' and 'The Monuments Men'. John Goodman has been racking up the star standouts in some Oscar nominated or worthy films for some years now. He's only a few more scenes and Oscar away. Still the voice that joined Wahlberg as a 'Transformer' in last years 'Age Of Extinction' brings his sinister and best in years. Character acting has rarely felt and looked the part this much. All in all this tale and take of addiction in a heavily gambling money, cash cow advertised world is hard to resist. Sure detoxing critics have left this at a debt and of course this writer will love any film with a well done basketball scene played in, but still this is a strong suit. From its wheel of fortune, ball spinning logo start to its slick direction cut of the deck. Still if the ever playable Wahlberg wants to hit real riches again in his career catalogue, he'll have to roll the dice for something that's more of a sure thing. Otherwise...snake eyes! Nicholas Cage! No more bets! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
108 Minutes. Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac & Alicia Vikander. Director: Alex Garland.
Do androids dream of this?! Today, science fiction seems to be at a whole new stage in this modern digital age. Today we can control almost everything and anything from just a tap and an app of a smartphone. Now in this comic-book, geek generation dominated by superheroes and apocalypse it's time we got even more from the cycle of cyborg cinema. Besides it's been awhile since 'I, Robot', even if this is the 'Age Of Ultron' with 'Pacific Rim' and 'Days Of Future Past' sentinel monster machines dominating like 'Godzilla's of the future. Since 'Metropolis' changed the game and genre way back in the jazz age of 1927, the fiction of science has been getting even closer to fact. Even 'District 9' and 'Elysium' director Neil Blomkamp has proven to be the modern day filmmaking equivalent of legendary sci-fi, future theory writer Phillip K. Dick. One of the forefathers of this genre and a man whose chapters have inspired decades of movies from 'Blade Runner' and 'Total Recall' to 'The Adjustment Bureau' and 'Minority Report'. In this 2014 of 'Big Hero 6', the friendly 'Chappie' looks to further the robotics and science of Blomkamp's South African work, but before that it's time for dynamite, dynamic director Alex Garland to have his say. The novel man who wrote the book 'The Beach' which gave new land to Leonardo DiCaprio's career and also the screenplay for Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', a new look in Britain of an apocalyptic future. Now adding a new android theory to the ascent of man that will leave us slaves to our creations this is one of the most interesting and compelling looks at humanity and technology.
Dr. Satler in 'Jurassic Park' was right too. As man messes more and more with their own chaos theory of evolution it seems that women will inherit the earth. And that woman is, Alicia Vikander. No, not Natalie Portman, but Vikander. A young Swedish actress who made her mark in 'Anna Karenina' and 'The Fifth Estate', but now truly shining unsettlingly like Jack Nicholson in all her fibre optics. Playing the android 'Ava' and interacting with our lead and us in some 'Turing Tests', we too as audiences to this set-up will be fooled and convinced that this girl is as real as they come even though a human face is the only real flesh that covers a metallic frame. Still, not only does Vikander bring humanity and depth to this role reversal, she also motion captures and embodies the mannerisms of a robot perfectly, without breaking stride, face or character. It truly is a futuristic performance of the ages. From 'Runner' to 'Recall' you've never seen anything as con, convincing as this. K. Dick would be proud of this one. Looking more advanced than 'I, Robot' or the 'love app-ually' of last years SIRI, serious romance 'Her', this takes falling in love with something digital to a new, physical extreme. Actor Domhnall Gleeson need not apply for a 'Tinder' account as he's falling head over steel, stilettos heels in this theme of tech taking over real love. The 'Harry Potter' and 'About Time' star really goes boldly into the future here, like it was 'Star Trek' he was starring in next, not 'Star Wars'. Its an inspired performance of his own awareness and advancement on something that will fast-track his career to new levels. If you didn't think he was a real star then, after these tests you'll be convinced of how genuine he is now.
Still, in this Academy Award nominated picture of the future, its Gleeson's co-star and forthcoming 'Star Wars' one that is the true awakening force. Even without one, a true Oscar, Issac is the gold standard here. Its clear with these 'Robot Wars' the star ones and his own 'Apocalypse' of 'X-Men are in safe, but dark side of the Hollywood moon hands. Its refreshing in this industry when an actor goes from a household name to a legendary one in just two films, like a Chadwick Boseman (playing Jackie Robinson and James Brown in '42' and 'Get On Up' respectively) or another Oscar worthy talent. Here the former bit part actor of 'Robin Hood' and 'Drive' who really sang for his career in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is only in competition with himself right now. This week we have an Oscar, double feature with the dual release of this and the instant classic, breakout performance alongside fellow, rising actress of type Jessica Chastain, 'A Most Violent Year'. Still, you couldn't wildest dreams imagine two more different films or performances, both equally as inspired and incredible as each other as they flip between the classic, character conflict of the good versus evil coin toss. Going from a slick, clean cut, in Armani man, to a balding, bearded 'Machinist' in glasses and sweats. As wealthy however as his oil rich 'Most Violent Year' tycoon, here our scientist locks himself and his android dungeon away in his fortress in the mountains as he drinks away his liver as much as he think a way for the future. Nursing beer bottles and a hangover of a mind of fibre optics tinkering and firewall guarded paranoia in a man cave lair even Tony Stark would be proud of, as he builds his Fe Iron-Women in all their batteries not included, short circuits. Cabin fever has never looked so much like a dream home. A seemingly madcap genius isolated from the outside world, social interaction and sometimes common courtesy graces, going stir crazy...but dude can he dance! Rewriting the acting layers of code of his career, this leading man is truly next gen. As a matter of fact the force is with this whole future fable, putting up a metallic mirror to the man versus machine, help versus hurt, technological advancement nature of today and tomorrows world. Hauntingly beautiful and technically magical, this is a masterpiece of a machine. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 24 January 2015
125 Minutes. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo & Albert Brooks. Director: J.C. Chandor.
Roses are red, violence is blue...but is Oscar not gold? The Academy must be in a haze when it comes to Issac for the time being, because this next great actor is in a stage of his own right now. So much so that in the United Kingdom today he's in competition with himself, as this film comes out at the same time as the artificial intelligence of 'Ex Machina'. A film that has been drawing a wave of rave reviews in this digital age. Taking it back to New York City, 1981 with 'All Is Lost' visionary director J.C. Chandor however, nothing is milk carton absent in the past here. Even an Oscar snub cant dim the light of this 80's winter, N.Y.C, crime drama that is dripping with Scorsece sweat out the pours. Leading and looking halfway between Pacino and De Niro, the character chameleon Oscar wears many coats. But this sand/cream cut, draped over a suit number is far from the 'Goodfellas' of another tired, old mob flick. Save that for the 'Godfather', there's even some tongue in nodding smile cheek to "walking around like gangsters" here. Despite its 'Most Violent' name this isn't exactly that darling. Far from the 'Ultraviolence' of a Lana Del Ray album, even if there is a Brooklyn baby here, or the 'American Gangster' of the American dream this is something that doesn't shoot much more than your average number of bullets from the clip. But a sick straight shooter that sees the man who made his name as great acting folk in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' after his full throttle start up in 'Drive', do the right thing so much that that's probably the reason you won't see him in Hollywood next month. No matter, he's about to add science fiction and comic book stardom to his already fame studded jacket with 'Star Wars', 'The Force Awakens' and his 'Apocalypse' villain in the next 'X-Men' movie. Besides who needs an Oscar when you are one.
Issac is charming and compelling as the pied piper of what just may be his best picture amongst all the sci-fi and big names. This is his moment and between all the long hair, big beards to buzz cuts, oil slicked back, this man has never looked better in classic Armani, driving round in a vintage Mercedes. This is the kind of life the big bucks of real business studies brings you...and this is an ethics lesson on just that. With Oscar just trying to get his slice of the American dream the right way, between cops breathing suspicion down his turtle necks and mob hits trying to jack his dollars by the truckload, everyone wants to have his cake and eat it too. Between our leading mans smart tie restrained passion and emotion and his cufflink removed, shirt rolled up depth of determination, its lucky this man has more than a trophy wife by his side, playing as they say the Lady Macbeth to his modern day morale fable of Scorsese Shakespeare. Chain smoking and chain gang working the numbers she punches in with a pen, all whilst Vogue-ing a Madonna haircut and being the toast of a cocktail dress that will leave you punch drunk in love, Jessica Chastain is perfect here. So where's her nomination too? 'The Help' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' brought her the awaited acclaim she deserved and since then, going 'Lawless' and 'Interstellar' this year has made her stock soar. Now this is her moment too on her own hot streak. Beside and behind that too she's an incredible revolution in another chameleonic, almost unrecognizable performance to the famous finger wagging. Thus making her and Issac the perfect cinematic couple in more ways than one. So where are the nominations Oscar? This was very disrespectful.
Isn't that right David Oyelow? You didn't just cameo alongside Chastain in Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar', you are familiar with your own films Academy snub right now, as your superb turn in 'Selma' as the great Martin Luther King Jnr should have inspired the world of awards. Still even your integral D.A. with integrity here is worthy of an honour. Nothing like some fine detective work to make a crime drama that much more dramatically thrilling by the novel idea book. The breakout star of the 'Planet Of The Apes' and 'Jack Reacher' franchises is about to have his own monster blockbuster year with the 'Jurassic World' main attraction, but right now the man that brings drama to the civil rights films of 'The Butler' and his M.L.K. one is also helping paint a portrait of a significant time in American history. As title stated, the year in the city of New York that was the most violent has more cast hits on this recognisable line-up roll call. There's depth of acting across the Hudson, even up to the Jon Voight in 'Ali' unrecognizable look of Albert Brooks. Issac's 'Drive' co-star who ages like a disgraceful Rutger Hauer, with square glasses and a blonde on grey centre parting. Just another look at how much we can possibly see from this talented look of veteran acting. Matter of fact, this whole 80's number looks as captivating as its Manhattan skyline view or Marvin Gaye 'Inner City Blues' soundtrack that scores subtlety but cuttingly. Its just that compelling, from the cinematography to Chandor's sublime storytelling. For more thrills give chase to some action activating, running men scenes that build brilliant, bottle neck tension as well as lats. Still there is nothing more genuinely honest and groundingly humbled then Issac's role of big business and American dream reversal...and remember behind every great man is a woman like Jessica Chastain. Only the fellow slow-burning 'Foxcatcher' comes as cinematically classic, candle close as this modern masterpiece this three, six, five. Speaking of which, this 'Gone Girl', 'Nightcrawler', 'Birdman', 'Whiplash' et al dark side of the American dream themed Oscar season just got its moral centre in the most unlikely of places, in the core of the post seventies Big Apple. In its all business and big and bold, brutality bucking stand against violence this year, for that this Oscar and his Academy deserves the most. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 21 January 2015
106 Minutes. Starring: Miles Teller & J.K. Simmons. Director: Damien Chazelle.
Drum roll please, as I peel open the envelope. And the Oscar goes too...? Just when you thought it was all over with 'The Theory Of Everything' and all the other fall, fantastic, films for February that could even beat last years Academy of 'Gravity', 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years A Slave', another Oscar contender comes marching in after Christmas with a little drummer boy. With this movie of the moment, that's getting heads talking, soon everybody will be claiming 'Whiplash' like fender benders. Boy this movie is really something else! After last years Oscar theme of heroism over insurmountable odds, this years Oscar season films from the 'Fury' and 'Nightcrawler' pretenders to the 'Birdman', 'American Sniper' and 'Foxcatcher' nominees, have all been about studying the dark side of the American dream (it really has been 'A Most Violent Year'). This film however tunes into both and its the perfect pitch for critical and commercial gold, worthy of the award tour. In concert with a terrific territory of tight competition, this dramatic premise is for those with skin tougher than what you find on a set of drums, as our kid with the jazz hand sticks is eager to impress a musical maestro who is a conductor and manipulator of human emotions to a script perfect Hollywood singing and screaming hymn sheet. Its all signed off in creative cursive by new director Damien Chazelle who with his second movie brings the superhero connection and makes award worthy stars out of recognisable actors young and old. Making them more than Marvel's Mr. Fantastic and Peter Parker's boss at the Daily Bugle in this Avenger, 'Age Of Ultron'.
Read all about it though however, because stretching across the skins like he had Reed Richards arm-strong limbs, Miles Teller has his milestone moment. The baby-faced, still able to play characters that get carded, 27 year old is a star in his own right now thank to this. The kid from 'Divergent' and 'The Awkward Moment' now gives character credibility, alongside his co-star and 'Fruitvale Station' standout Michael B. Jordan in their 'Fantastic Four' franchise reboot. Marvel's first family may be lagging in popularity behind the Avengers, X-Men and now Guardians Of The Galaxy, but after these powerhouse performances the hype expectation may have just gone from laughable to formidable. Besides just look what Jackie Robinson/James Brown Chadwick Boseman is doing for the Black Panther. Going the extra mile here, Teller banks the performance of his or any of his contemporaries career until all manner of skins are left bleeding. And he does all this three years shy of 30 in a matured and focussed role. This is more than his remarkable, rolling drumming, practice makes perfect background. This is the young looking enough to play teenage, but old enough to know better and wiser, perspective performance like Channing Tatum in 'Foxcatcher'. Another limelight dream, under the nightmare shadows of an overbearing, would be mentor with more push than they deserve. Oh and for all the golden statues their handing put this year Teller was as robbed as Tatum...just like their characters. A theme of coincidence? Oscar Issac isn't the only rising star to tread the bridged gap, gene and acting pool of Pacino and De Niro. Miles isn't far from that too...just a little younger.
Still its Simmons who keeps this exhilarating and mesmerising gig, working out like his sculpted, sixty year old frame, marching to the beat of his drum. The recognisable and memorable face of everything from 'Ladykillers' and 'Burn After Reading' to 'Spider Man' and 'I Love You Man' goes from a character actor to a classic one in a one to four count in. J.K. rewrites his career like Rowling. This is his tempo. His new groove and he's about to have the Oscar orchestra playing for him and his every gesture...like his character or not! Playing a cruel conductor bordering on abhorrent abuse as a tired and legality testing teaching method, Simmons is superb at being super bad. Decked out in a black t-shirt clung tighter than the white on rice ear he has for the slightest mistake, with not a hair of a room for error allowed, like not a single note of it on his scalp, this man is terrifying for the perfection defying. Going from nice to vice grip threatening in the flick of an an imaginary wand, this character that is being acted bulldozes the line of what's too far. The line is a dot to him like your favourite friends would say. Its hard to believe this guy has any either. Going from a musical appreciation of the arts one stanza, to a New York taxi-cab vocabulary of compliments the next. With eyes and heads down responses of scared shame, all waiting in anxious apprehension fate for his conducted, cut hand gestures as menacingly terrifying as Joaquin Phoenix's thumbs down death sentence in 'Gladiator'. Yep, Simmons is that good. Scarily good. Even with a stand up cast of stars, like Paul Reiser offering fatherly advice and 'Glee' girlfriend Melissa Benoist giving musical direction, nothing is more of an influence than Simons. This powerhouse performance with percussion lashes the whip and bands everything together as he takes knocks at Teller's confidence and set up to fail cockiness like a bass drum. As this film provides the youth of todays impossible to achieve, head in the iCloud dream, future with an important message, do all the players understand? Just how much would you do, or more appropriately put up with for your dream...and after that is it really all it seems? Its a notion of shakey devotion. A metaphor of all or nothing, rest of your life gambles at 21, versus the purgatory of young adult indecision or action. Its all in how you conduct yourselves. This film stays with you like your best teacher...or worst. Emotions roll high. This is one of great note. Now beat that! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 18 January 2015
Master Of The Universe.
123 Minutes. Starring: Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones. Director: James Marsh.
Ready made for acting gold, Redmayne has the ability to ruffle the feathers of Michael Keaton's 'Birdman' and trap the 'Foxcatcher' of Steve Carell. All whilst beating out fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch's 'Imitation Game' and 'American Sniper', three, consecutive timed Academy nominated Bradley Cooper for Oscar's 'Best Actor'. Sure in an amazing 2013 that followed last years groundbreaking movie one, the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal ('Nightcrawler'), Brad Pitt ('Fury') and Chadwick Boseman ('Get On Up') have been left robbed, but still what looks on the surface like a five horse race has one clear favourite by a nose. Eddie is just that enthralling in James Marsh's magnificent and exquisite 'The Theory Of Everything', a new British dramatic classic that even the 'Bard would be proud of. The rum lies in Redmayne's inspired and incredible, portrait, perfect performance as Professor Stephen Hawking in this beautiful and brilliant biopic. Felicity Jones is also fantastic as the wife of the physicist coming off a brief performance in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' to show she has the acting goods to show how really great she can be in this bold and bittersweet love story. Still after missing out on the gold when they gave out the Oscars to his 'Les Mis' cast-mates, despite his underrated and unquestionable performance, it's Redmayne's moment now. With taste and tact, this is the terrific signature storytelling that will tack together the Academy envelope that reads his name. Biopics may be the Oscar standard, but Eddie sets a new one with this. Like any true biography you forget you're looking at the actor and not the subject, like Jamie in 'Ray' or of course Chadwick. Going to the physical and mental lengths that show just how mind over matter mastering this marvellous man really is. More than just a respectful and sympathetic performance of a great man with a disability in the public eye that sometimes sees a battle with all too cruel and callous sneers of ridicule, this is a real and raw portrayal of a man that overcame so much to show any physical limitations wouldn't stop his mind and imagination from flying out of this world to new heights. Changing the world as we thought we knew it, in more ways than one as our star in this galaxy does to the acting one. Hawking is the real hero here but in a heartfelt, breaking and warming homage, Redmayne deserves everything he's about to get. More than just in theory. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Friday, 16 January 2015
132 Minutes. Starring: Bradley Cooper & Sienna Miller. Director: Clint Eastwood.
Do you take the shot? You're in the middle of a war-zone in the worst, horrendous conditions that are just inhumanly unthinkable. Your fellow troops, colleagues, brothers are below you, risking life and limb and its up to you on high, from a snipers position to have their back. To help make sure they leave this conflict with a medal around their necks rather than a folded flag in their wives laps. To above all to protect your fellow man. Suspicion is all around you, but so too are regular people trying to live their day-to-day lives between cruel and callous conflict. You see a young woman in the sights of your scope. She looks nice enough, but also a little suspicious. Do you put her in the cross-hairs? From her clothing she then pulls out the biggest grenade you've seen...and then she hands it to her son. Do you take the shot? That's the question here in Clint Eastwood's new movie with Bradley Cooper, as actor and director look at the brilliant book and 'legend' life of 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle. The most lethal sniper in U.S. military history who tragically died after four tours of military service, by being shot by a troubled veteran he was just trying to help. The cruel, tragic turn of fate that took this American heroes life is just part of the story of the measure of this man. Credited with around 150 kills, Chris Kyle may have taken more lives than minutes in this movie but he did so by doing his job and protecting and serving his country and fellow countryman in a hard fought war that just doesn't seem to be able to be won. There's more than one burning question raised here in Clint and Cooper's film on Chris. When a suicide bomber is not only going to die, but possibly take the lives of countless soldiers and innocent people around them and you could change it all in a split second decision, no matter the judgement we have to ask you again. Do you take the shot?
'Dirty Harry' certainly has the balls to do it! Clint Eastwood is prepared to take his shot at bringing one young mans story and all of the world that surrounds it and the divided opinions and outrage to the critical and public judgement of big-screen cinema. So much so that the mans first war torn script since his defining 'Flags Of Our Fathers' and 'Letters From Iwo Jima' double makes for arguably his best film since the veteran mind-warfare undertones of 'Gran Torino', but with a new 'Million Dollar Baby' packing on the pounds of muscle for a fleshed out performance this is as real and raw as it gets for the master of strength in subtlety. From the world changing South African game of rugby in 'Invictus' to his last dance and unsung number in his amazing, behind the big stage 'Jersey Boys' adaptation. With the worlds sexiest man dragged round from the back of Kyle's truck, Clint is yet again showing the real humanity behind the beauty of Hollywood's finest under the screaming spotlight of dark definitions. Just like when he helped Angelina Jolie show she was a real actress and not just a huge name and one-half power couple in the classic 'Changeling'. Now teaming up for a one, two punch with Bradley, Clint and Cooper bring something that he didn't quite critically receive with big-hitting leading men Matt Damon (in 'Hereafter') or Leonardo DiCaprio ('J. Edgar'), despite these movie moments being vastly underrated like Clint's non directorial 'Trouble With The Curve'. With a formidable filmography and classic collection some of the catalogue will always be flicked through by some newspaper readers and writers, but this one wont. Despite the fact that this six time Oscar hopeful needs a 'Best Director' nomination for one of the greatest directors we have, one who may even be better behind the lens then his big name was in front of it...sometimes though, where lucky enough to get both. Here however with his throwback lookalike son Scott Eastwood acting in the World War II of Brad Pitt's 'Fury', Clint Eastwood brings some modern warfare for the 'Call Of Duty' generation all the way down to the marvelled 'Punisher' homage references. Mixing the subtle beauty of a simple family life with the corrosive cruelty of combat this film shows the whole life of the man behind the trigger finger that took so many. There's harrowing scenes, but ones of great humanity too as the devils of Middle-Eastern war our met with the angels back home. Between the breaking and warming, felt hearts there's also humour in the form of drill sergeants for these Jarheads as insultingly hilarious as the ones that wear jackets made out of full metal. Looking at the scope of a man that see's his duty from a distance we also delve into his inner war between leaving family and country to fight for his and exactly that. Its a character study that brings confined closeness to all this conflict. If 'Fury' is the tank claustrophobic accompaniment to 'Saving Private Ryan', then this is the same marksmen point precision partner to the bombed out 'The Hurt Locker'.
In the line of fire there are plenty of action scenes that delve deeper than a tense and tight rooftop view however. Battling with 'The Hurt Locker' to show you first hand just what todays war is atrociously really like, more than any first-person shooter could ever capture. Clint evokes it all in this epic. All the way from some aerial, cinematography capturing to a classic cast. Sienna Miller in particular perfect as Mrs Kyle, standing by her man and with this and the fellow Oscar season, award worthy 'Foxcatcher' finally shaking off that tabloid tag. Still nothing in this tribute is more fitting and a tour de force than Cooper. New Oscar darling Bradley now has his third Academy Award nomination in as many a year and this one truly strikes gold standard. Far from the career beginning 'Alias' of a show sidekick or 'Wedding Crasher' jerk, the 'Hangover' megastar has truly woken up to a new career. And the 'Silver Linings Play Book' and 'American Hustle' chameleon character doesn't need Jennifer Lawrence to get his own Oscar, despite that 'Serena' standout. Now after three years and films with Lawrence, Cooper gets his third nomination for something different and more definitive, just like last years 'The Place Beyond The Pines' should have done over 'Hustle'. Now with this, a talking Racoon in last years biggest hit 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and a beast of a Broadway performance in 'The Elephant Man', if this is 40 for Mr. Cooper than he really did take that pill because right now he's 'Limitless'. Here muscling up, eating every 55 minutes and pumping iron to pounds of hench-pressing frame, Cooper changes again like a 'Raging Bull' by the Hollywood horns in a terrific transformation to play the grizzled bearded Kyle, all accented by a Texan state signature. A drawl as distinctive as the overall, outstanding, powerhouse performance all the way down to the behind the barrel brutality of brain chamber conflictions. Bringing the anxiety, unavoidable, gap bridging of 'Silver Linings' and his moving MTV award speech about more soldiers dying after war than during it, this is another passion project for Cooper who with his labour of love, character study of complexity also seen on stage right now in New York is joining the Leonardo and McConaughey likes of big name heartthrobs, heart-warming and breaking good to becoming Hollywood acting Gods. Now this 'American Sniper' joins 'Foxcatcher', 'Birdman' and all the other academies of talent. Still between this and the amazing acting of inspired imitation by Cooper nothing is more important here than the sniper himself Chris Kyle and all he's done. A man who told his wife before he died "imagine if we got Clint Eastwood to direct" after Spielberg dropped out. A real American hero that put his life on the line for more than just Hollywood. With the Academy, Eastwood and Bradley to this great man we join in sombre salute. Hoorah! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 11 January 2015
134 Minutes. Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller & Vanessa Redgrave. Director: Bennett Miller.
Steve Carell is no longer funny! I'm sorry to break it to you. You wont be laughing anymore. Things are getting serious now! Sinisterly serious. Todays comedy gold performer is taking it to new physical and psychological limits. Forget laughing at Brick, you're more likely to s### one in response to him going from 'Anchorman' to Coach Crazy in one prosthetic. This is 'Foxcatcher'. One of the years best films, leading the Academy of Oscar season. A sports drama that wrestles with much more than its subjects profession. After bringing out the best of the late, legendary Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 'Capote' and then swinging and hitting big with Brad Pitt in the adaptation of Michael Lewis' 'Moneyball', deep director Bennett Miller returns with what just might be his best yet in his big-three, behind his own sporting, acting big-three of Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo complete with what looks like some horrendous Hollywood plastic surgery disguised as cauliflower ear and room in their respective trophy cabinets for more gold this February. This Best Picture just looks the part too. From its eighties look all the way down to the 'Sony Classics' opening I.D. to its almost horror film look and feel. This haunting and compelling thriller is a horror film too. In all its psychological elements with hardly any pause for its stunning score. This true story of two wrestling brothers being recruited by the wealthy Foxcatcher farms of John Du Pont and the thing that will pin you to the floor about it-if you don't already know-will hold you over 134 minutes in its relentless, breath-taking, no mercy choke hold.
Carell is incredible at his point in playing Du Pont. The franchise face, voice and star of 'Despicable Me', 'The Office' and so many more hysterical laughing fits shows he's no joke here. More than just the offbeat humorous drams of something like 'Dan In Real Life', 'Little Miss Sunshine', 'Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World' and 'Crazy, Stupid Love' (although those films should have bern a clue that this sort of thing was coming) this is as real and raw as it gets. It doesn't just look like he's had plastic surgery to his face, but the very being of his career too. He's just a whole new person here...and that's the point. Or should we say Du Pont. From the awkward way he speaks and moves, he feels like a made-up villain masqueraded by studios to chill you to the core beyond your bones, but it's all too real. Finally another comic actor reaches down to the 'Insomnia' and 'One Hour Photo' dark, actual acting depths that the late, great, funniest man in Hollywood Robin Williams did so ravishingly well. Its no coincidence that these two men where in line to play The Joker in 'The Dark Knight' before the dearly departed Heath Ledger won everyone including Jack Nicholson over. And you all laughed back then! You wont be able to turn your nose up at this one now. Come Oscar night the man with the biggest fake nose will have the last laugh. This wrestle of mania really has everything. Even strong support from on-screen, 'American Sniper' wife of the moment Sienna Miller and the legendary Vanessa Redgrave. Still as Carell goes for Academy gold in Los Angeles as Du Pont goes for Olympic one in Seoul its all about the two brothers.
In the red leotard we have Tatum. What a couple of years its been for Channing Tatum. No longer the fodder of rom-coms this studio stud has had his own Matthew McConaughey like renaissance after hitting 30 and he's set to have an 'XXL' year with sequels, Sci-Fi and 'X-Men' and Tarantino films in the heavyweight room works. Still this film is the measure of the man and the true breakout between the roles where he's shown his acting chops, or the 'Jump Street' franchise favouring with Jonah the king of the comedy hill that proves he's funny as a curse word. Here playing an isolated, insulated would be wrestling world wonder, Tatum dukes out living under the smothering shadows of his brother, expectation versus the extinction of sports and a whole new darkness coming to light perfectly. Channing is the right age and holding himself stature to play a kid younger than his years, albeit with the post-30 veteran understanding of what it all means. This is what makes him such a great, young actor and under the subtle but strong direction of Miller he shows the poverty and loneliness of some Olympians between the almost half decade gaps of competition that eat away at their time and tide of pride and prime. From eating fast food in his car, to placing his gold medal between what looks like high-school trophies in his one-room apartment, after making a speech to some bored elementary kids you don't need any eager movie exposition to engross you in these notions. Still as the new Gambit wrestles with The Incredible Hulk in a mesmerising and beautiful scene of both brotherly love and the art of their sport, lets not forget about Mark Ruffalo. With everyone talking about Carell and Tatum we need to acknowledge the catalyst of this story and cinematic classic that is true art to the canvas. Ruffalo is just as amazing and award worthy as anyone here and the scene stealer of the likes of 'Collateral' and 'Shutter Island' may have just performed his best picture portrayal. The ever likable actor and character even in the face of tragedy is an emotive genius. Now don't make him angry, just give him the 'Hulk' solo picture he already deserves. Still tougher than the rest nothing is stronger than this. Jake Gyllenhaal, Brad Pitt, Chadwick Boseman and their respective 'Nightcrawler', 'Fury' and 'Get On Up' pictures are in trouble as are Michael Keaton's 'Birdman' and Bradley Cooper's 'American Sniper'. In this Oscar year theme of the dark-side of the American dream three men are tag-teaming as everyone else is trying to tap out. These fantastic foxes trapping everything else could be one, two and three on the podium. Now what do the Oscars say?! Time! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 10 January 2015
119 Minutes. Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan & Edward Norton. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
"F###### boring"! That was the verdict the last time Michael Keaton was on the big stage in New York City. The Mecca of Madison Square Garden to be exact at the dawn of a new century in 2001. The biggest opening night in another display of theatres history. When the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan returned to the NBA as his new Washington Wizards faced the New York Knicks for a return like no other. But between first game of the season rust, post-40 year old legs and those damn Knicks that was Keaton's on-air, classic unrealised, live T.V. reaction to a BBC reporter asking him how the game was. It was just that boring. Pure comedy gold just comes out of the most random situations and that's exactly the point here. As Keaton and director González Iñárritu play up the fact that the 'Beetlejuice' star is most famous for almost saying 'Batman' three times. This Gotham night, off-Broadway, off-beat, dark knight black comedy sets the stage as something in a whole new Academy this Oscar season. This stage show is no 'Producers', or 'Artist'. Its just a whole, different animal altogether. No rap fans, 'Birdman' has nothing to do Baby and Lil' Wayne, or Chris Anderson if you want to stay on the basketball playing court. Neither is it about Bruce Wayne for that matter. More like a more avian, Sesame Street like superhero with a voice that speaks to us and scares us more than Christian Bale as Keaton tries to put the spandex in the skeleton closet. Perhaps playing on the fact that this Bruce Wayne himself made it clear months ago that he didn't really care about his caped crusader alter-ego, until he responded to Christian Bale's admitted jealously of Ben Affleck by classically replying to questions of his jealousy by stating, "I'm Batman"! Well there you go! Pure comedy gold again. Still even in this superhero age, this satirical look at that and Hollywood still has The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man's girlfriend amongst its co-stars, whilst our ex-crusader moves objects like Magneto. The is bat-s### crazy! Random irony again is the makings of a great joke and this one has the last, lasting laughs.
What else do you expect when this film begins with Keaton meditating mid-air in some underwear that would do Bridget Jones' mother proud? Only to meander around Times Square mid-play in the same bills for a classic moment in cinema. Superheros haven't been this epically embarrassed in the neon, commercial heart of the city since Electro caught Peter Parker with his pants down. From the typewriter, typography beginnings, the whole thing marches to a drumbeat that could stay in time with The Roots of Jimmy Fallon's 'Late Night', filmed in one courageously creative running shot that would even leave Matthew McConaughey's classic 'True Detective' scene pausing to catch its breath. As a matter of fact this sure-shot and love Playbill to New York and the stage is a thing of beauty. Flowing purely in instrumental rhythm, to crescendo into new heights of bittersweet comedy and dramatic stages set to the tone of an aging actor coming to terms with his profession and self. Its a perfect portrait in all its paint cracks. Suffering from a super, typecast case of cape fear and directing and starring in a play based off the whimsical notion of a cocktail napkin devotion, Keaton's character is tongue-in-cheek superb. He'll leave a lump in your throat and a laugh in your belly. Showing the madcap comedy that made him a great, two by two addition to 'Multiplicity'. Only to then get every critics attention by roasting a New York reviewer by bareing his and her very being over some barroom back and forth that's anything but banter. So much so that he makes this aspiring critic that really wishes he was an actor want to put the pen down...because after all its just words.
But all of these are for him with formidable fondness. Even with Wolverine and Rocket heroes like Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper making the New York Times with their theatrics in 'The River' and 'The Elephant Man' respectively, this is Broadway's biggest hit right now. One that's about to be a tour de force all the way past the star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, all the way to the flashbulb love of the Kodak Theatre mid-February. 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal, the 'Fury' of Brad Pitt and James Brown's Chadwick Boseman better watch out, because there's a new 'Best Actor' in town with a whole new bag of tricks for this trade. The supporting all get their nods too. The ever manically great Edward Norton will leave you green with rage and envy at his range as he plays a prick to point perfection. Emma Stone also breaks and warms your heart with a tragically funny performance as a daughter in rehab itching for the closeness of a nearer father figure. Figure the other women in Keaton's life from the 'Oblivion' of the outstanding Andrea Riseborough to the 'Gone Baby Gone', stage vet Amy Ryan then you have more classic complexities to this stunning script. That's before we even hear the lines read by the always screenplay pitch perfect Naomi Watts, or the funny, black comedy, darker depths Zach Galifianakis will go to in order to wake up from 'The Hangover' of just another Alan keyed in typecast. This whole thing just works as perfect as the seamless lack of cut. Its a wrap. Forget the preview, the review is hear and it reads all about a hit. The headline? 'Birdman' spreads his wings, soaring over New York City and everything else'. "I am Birdman" declares Michael Keaton proudly too, as anyone waiting in ignorance for something more finally sees here that patience really is the virtue of this bird call. Accept the unexpected! TIM DAVID HARVEY.