Monday, 30 January 2017

Manchester By The Sea

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Witnessing pain and despair in a film can be draining on an audience. But when it is done right, as it is in Manchester By The Sea, that kind of raw emotion can be compelling viewing. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has created a family drama about grief without being drearily melodramatic. It is a simple premise, but provides a lot of insight and complex character development. Lee (Casey Affleck) is working as a janitor and handyman when his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, leaving Lee to plan the funeral and take care of Joe’s 16-year old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). There is some mystery about why Lee is so despondent, which is slowly revealed in a series of flashbacks. It is not a massive twist but it is a sad one and there is a particularly moving scene between Affleck and Michelle Williams, who plays his ex-wife. Like most of Lonergan's films, Manchester By The Sea is a little too long, but it is such an in-depth journey of personal struggles.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Split

By Angie Raphael

4.5 stars

Suspenseful and twisted, Split will keep audiences on the edge of their seats for almost two hours. The story centres on a deeply disturbed man named Kevin (James McAvoy), who abducts three teenage girls named Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). He locks them up in a basement and each time he visits, the girls never know who they will get because Kevin has a split personality disorder with dozens of personae, including a nine-year-old boy and a middle-aged woman. So the girls try to play each persona off the other to save themselves. McAvoy gives a chilling performance and shows his amazing range as an actor, including being both menacing and vulnerable. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan expertly crafts the film and is fully aware that the success of Split hinges on Kevin remaining a somewhat sympathetic character. Split is truly terrifying, thrilling and layered.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Moonlight

By Angie Raphael

4 stars

Unique films can be difficult to come by these days, but Moonlight offers a new perspective into the lives of drug addicts and criminals, and youths trying to break free from the vicious cycle. The bittersweet story is explored relatively well by writer/director Barry Jenkins – although there are some unanswered questions – and most importantly, it is all handled sensitively. Moonlight is told in three parts, chronicling the life of gay black male Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) from childhood to adulthood in Miami. Unfortunately, the camera work was terrible, including too many close-ups and hand-held vision. No doubt the cinematography was carefully planned out, but it just did not work. The three leads, on the other hand, are wonderful and look similar too. The supporting cast are also solid. Moonlight's most powerful aspect is its story and it is an important one worth depicting on film. 


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Collateral Beauty

By Jackie Raphael

2 stars

This film is very disappointing for such an all-star cast. It is based on a man (Will Smith) who is struggling through life after a tragedy and writes three letters to Love, Time and Death. These three themes become the core of the plot. His colleagues are played by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Pena, and together the characters try to help him and save the company. In doing so, we learn about their own individual issues. The film tries too hard to link all the sub-plots and is filled with coincidences. It felt like a cross between 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There are also many lame moments throughout. However, with a strong cast there are some enjoyable scenes. Helen Mirren was particularly funny in her role as an actress who takes part in the scheme. But no matter how much you might like the actors, do not bother wasting your time and money seeing this film at the cinema.  


Monday, 2 January 2017

A Man Called Ove

By Angie Raphael 

4 stars

Everyone probably knows a cranky older person and has wondered about their past, and that is what makes A Man Called Ove so relatable. Based on the 2012 novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove is about a quintessential grumpy old man (Rolf Lassgard) who has nothing better to do than bother his neighbours and visit his wife's grave every day, promising to join her. But his suicide attempts are comical failures and things start to change for Ove when he spends time with his new neighbours, especially the pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars). Writer/director Hannes Holm slowly peels back the layers of Ove's heavily guarded personality as the audience learns about his past and sweet love story with his wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll) through a series of flashbacks. This foreign film is sentimental, bittersweet and worth watching. 


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Passengers

By Angie Raphael

3 stars 

The concept for this science fiction romance is intriguing, and for the most part, Passengers works well – until it fails dismally at the end. There were far better options open to writer Jon Spaihts and director Mortem Tyldum. The story is set some unspecified time in the future when a spacecraft that is en route to a colony planet with thousands of people onboard has a malfunction in its sleep chambers, which leaves two passengers, mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), awake 90 years too early. Without giving away important details of the plot, I will say the film deals with some interesting moral dilemmas and that is where the film is at its best. There is also some amazing set design and details in the spaceship's technology. The romance between the two lonely people is believable and the chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is strong. Each character is also complex and well layered, especially Jim who is heavily flawed. Passengers is a mostly enjoyable film, but unfortunately there are some plot holes and I cannot get past the appalling final act to ever probably consider watching this film again.