20 FEET FROM STARDOM
(US, 2013) Dir: Morgan Neville. Documentary. “A life affirming, toe-tapping documentary that not only places the magnifying glass on back-up singers, their role and music, but examines the music scene and its icons during the past 50 years… We become involved in the lives of all the women but ultimately the film is about the music and the sound that the voices – the ultimate instruments – can make,” says Louise.
(UK, 2013) Dir: Richard Curtis. Stars Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander. “If you loved Four Weddings and Love Actually, you will also love this warm, funny and uplifting film that champions living each moment to the max,” says Louise. “ .. romantic comedy with tragic twists. Feel the joy, feel the pain …. sweet and sour. Cinematically, the juxtapose is key,” says Andrew.
(Aust/France, 2013) Dir: Anne Fontaine. Stars Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Sophie Lowe. “Melodramatic with a plot more suited to a TV soapie, Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Doris Lessing’s 2003 novella The Grandmothers is overblown and totally unbelievable,” says Louise. “Their world seems to hover between their own fantasy and the castrated culture which Fontaine creates. A nothingness envelops them,” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: Woody Allen. Stars Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard. “Blanchett discards all vanity and oozes despair … Allen’s voice can be heard throughout the film and if this screenplay is indicative of his current mindset, he is feeling blue or in any event, enjoying twisting the knife into the keyhole of human foibles,” says Louise. “Allen has chosen to tell this story in slices, cutting back and forth in time … only works to a degree; for one thing, it robs many scenes of their full emotional payoff,” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: Lee Daniels. Stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, John Cusack, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman. “While The Butler offers many enjoyable moments, it feels as though Daniels has tried to cram too many details and deliver too much information,” says Louise. “Having lived through it all – serving six Presidents – Cecile Gaines had a unique perspective, and the film does capture this quite well. But it’s overly ambitious. The result is rather episodic, like getting Postcards from History,” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: Paul Greengrass. Stars Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Max Martini. “The sea is not the only thing that is rough in Paul Greengrass’s emotionally tense film in which the twists and turns of its real-life hostage drama are as unpredictable as the waves on which it takes place,” says Louise. “If it weren’t for the Greengrass/Ackroyd school of eye-crossing filmmaking, it would be even more intense and gripping, but this filmmaking duo prefer to use a hand held camera in all circumstances … The ethos continues through the editing, so that chaos is shot chaotically, as if that were necessary,” says Andrew.
(US/UK, 2013) Dir: Ridley Scott. Stars Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt. “Intriguing from the get-go, Ridley Scott’s superbly directed thriller distinguishes itself by its complex, colourful and mostly bad characters … Greed and lust are the drivers and it is one hell of a ride,” says Louise. “Every element of the film is designed for maximum impact, no matter how small its part in the big picture,” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: Nicole Holofcener. Stars James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette. “The delicacy of nuance and the impact of the minutiae are placed under the microscope in this keenly observed comedy about relationships and the unpredictable essence of human behaviour. This is filmmaker Nicole Holofcener’s forte,” says Louise. “It may well have been titled Too Much Said, as two divorced women and a bickering married one are thrown into a relationship train wreck – two of them participants, the third a snappy onlooker,” says Andrew.
(UK, 2013) Dir: Jon S. Baird. Stars James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Iain De Caestecker, Joanne Frogatt, Shirley Henderson, Emun Elliott, Eddie Marsan. “Dark, subversive, chaotic and confronting, Filth seems to have been enormous fun for the cast and crew, but I’m not sure if many audiences will revel in the filth that the title so openly warns us of. Of course, it’s familiar territory for Irvine Welsh fans, but is the adaptation as successful an experience as his novel?” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: Alfonso Cuarón. Stars Sandra Bullock, George Clooney. “We are on edge throughout. There is no respite, no relief, no safety net and the fact that almost the entirety of the film takes place in space instills tension and a profound sense of claustrophobia. Tranquility is contrasted by chaos; ethereal beauty by destructive disruption,” says Louise. “Together with perfect casting and a superb score, Gravity gets its exclamation mark from the astute use of 3D – adding a layer of thrills at key moments. Hell, they’re all key moments,” says Andrew.
HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
(US, 2013) Dir: Francis Lawrence. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Slaflin, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson. ".... encompasses the same themes of courage and sacrifice in a totalitarian regime as the first film and will no doubt thrill the fans, despite the fact that it delivers less. It is surprising that the odds are not in the film's favour, in light of the narrative's rich undercurrent of betrayal and pretence; it feels overlong, the emotional curve fails to ignite and the ending is anticlimactic. Jennifer Lawrence is the film's greatest asset...", says Louise.
(US, 2013) Dir: Klay Hall. Voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher. “Reach for the stars is the theme of this Disney animation and while it’s cute in part, it lacks the throttle of Pixar’s Cars franchise,” says Louise. “The schmaltzy resolution may work for the undemanding, but given how much fabulous work has gone into the film, it’s a shame the result isn’t a more complete success,” says Andrew.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
(US, 2013) Dir: Alan Taylor. Stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston. “.. at times engaging but often bogged down by a cumbersome plot ….The screenplay lacks light and shade and it is not surprising that the film’s humorous moments stand out as its best,” says Louise. “There’s a great deal of effort involved in making this film and I am full of admiration – even if not especially keen to see it again,” says Andrew.
(US, 2013) Dir: David Soren. Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Michael Pena, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader. “Filled with inventive ideas, wacky concepts and characters so colourful they are off the rainbow chart, Turbo is a breath of fresh air guaranteed to delight youngsters and adults alike,” says Louise. “Perfectly predictable but endlessly entertaining and boasting amazing animation, Turbo is yet another zero to hero story,” says Andrew.