27 January 2015

Review: EX MACHINA

Alex Garland hasn't been getting nearly enough credit for consistently turning out terrific screenplays for British science-fiction cinema, with the revisionist horror of 28 Days Later, the survivalist parable of Sunshine, the heart-wrenching dystopia of Never Let Me Go and the comic book action of Dredd, Those were all amongst the best films of their respective years, and now Garland's directorial debut Ex Machina fits right in next to them.

Domnhall Gleeson plays Caleb, a coder for the world's top search engine, Bluebook. As the winner of a Wonka-esque lottery of the company's employees, he is invited to spend a week at the remote compound of reclusive boss-man Nathan, a paranoid, hard-drinking tech genius played by Oscar Isaac. The purpose of his visit becomes clear when he meets Ava, an artificially intelligent cyborg who happens to look like Alicia Vikander. Nathan wants Caleb to undertake the Turing test with Ava, but between the three of them, she may not be the only one whose humanity is being evaluated.

25 January 2015

Review: WHIPLASH

At the time of writing, I've now seen all of this year's Best Picture Oscars contenders, thanks to advance screenings and a less staggered UK release schedule. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel are both great; American Sniper is kind of toxic; The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are both standard prestige fare, while Boyhood and Selma (review coming soon) rose above them by not going down the traditional road to worthiness.

But to my mind at least, we have a winner, and it's Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. Re-developed for feature length after Chazelle took a scene from his script and made it into a short film favourite at Sundance last year, the film follows jazz drummer Andrew Neiman, who has the ambition and perhaps even the talent to be one of the greats. He's eager to impress band-leader Terence Fletcher, but Fletcher's tactics of pushing his musicians beyond what's expected of them soon drive Andrew to a physical and emotional breaking point.

20 January 2015

Review: AMERICAN SNIPER

American Sniper doesn't need defending. The film racked up six Academy Award nominations, and Thursday's announcement spurred on the wide release of the film in the United States this weekend to a record-breaking $90m opening. Unfortunately, it may also be the worst film that director Clint Eastwood has ever made.

The film is based on the memoir of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who amassed 160 confirmed kills during four tours of duty in the Iraq War. It covers his entire military record, travelling between his exploits as leader of a direct squad on the ground in Iraq, to his fraught home life with concerned wife Taya and young kids, without necessarily having anything to say about either.

Read my full review on Den of Geek »

American Sniper is now showing at cinemas nationwide.

19 January 2015

Review: WILD

Certain films can be both uplifting and exhausting, bringing the feel-good factor not from sunny optimism, but from a hard-won victory over cynicism and adversity. The most comfortable Wild ever feels would be in that category, taking inspiration from Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail. Like the book, the film follows her solo 1,100 mile hike across America's Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to the border of Washington State, through extreme weather on both ends of the spectrum, without any prior backpacking experience.

Read my full review on Den of Geek »

Wild is now showing at cinemas nationwide.

14 January 2015

Review: INTO THE WOODS

Musicals can be tough to adapt from the stage to film, but you'd think that Rob Marshall, who brought the genre into the 21st century with 2002's Oscar-winning Chicago, would be a safe pair of hands. Unfortunately, that's maybe too true of Into The Woods, a project that has flummoxed filmmakers for a good couple of decades. The much anticipated film is based on Stephen Sondheim's play, mashing up a bunch of different fairytales to more subversive effect.

In a magical kingdom by a great forest, a baker and his wife are desperate to have a child together. Alas, the baker is cursed with childlessness by the Witch who lives next door, over a quarrel with his deadbeat dad. Fortunately for them, she agrees to lift the curse in the event of a blue moon three nights hence, if they gather the ingredients she needs to make a restorative potion, including items that belong to other iconic fairytale characters.

Read my full review on Den of Geek » 

Into The Woods is now showing at cinemas nationwide.