Whiplash Review

Whiplash
Written and Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

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Although only just going wide-release now, it seems that another review of Whiplash is a bit late to the party already thrown in its favour; the streamers have been swept up, the champagne glasses washed and drying and the poster so laden with glowing recommendations that there’s physically no room left on the one-sheet for any more to be said. A cursory glance of the promotional material and a perusal of the more gushing reviews will have you thinking that this is the feel-good movie of the year: Rocky with drumsticks set in the halls of Fame school. Therein maybe lies the film’s most laudable accomplishment, the ability to be a mirror for whatever sentiment you choose to see within its coming-of-age tale, because to me the conclusion of Whiplash serves up a downbeat tale of art destroyed by ambition and human warmth replaced by the clinical application of technique.

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Predestination Review

Predestination
Directed by: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Written by: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (screenplay), Robert A. Heinlein (story)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor

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Zombies are so last year. Time travel is Hollywood’s newest favoritist thing and 2014 sure saw a glut of them ride the zeitgeist: Time Lapse, Edge Of Tomorrow, even Interstellar. At the close of the year arrives Predestination, covering both bases by being an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies”. Spoiler! There are no actual zombies in Predestination, unless you count the barely-twitching plot but we’ll get to that in good time.

Ethan Hawke is the preeminent operative of the Temporal Bureau – timecops, gottit? The TB is actively hunting the Fizzle Bomber, a time-hopping terrorist who has killed thousands in a series of attacks spanning decades. Thus we find Hawke working undercover as a bartender in 1970 New York City. But this is five years before the bomber’s most devastating attack which Hawke has been charged with thwarting. Evidently, some long game is at play here. A stranger pulls up a stool at his counter and they begin to chat.

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The Rover Review

The Rover
Directed by: David Michod
Written by: David Michod (screenplay), Joel Edgerton and David Michod (story)
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy

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“Australia. Ten years after The Collapse.”

So begins David Michod’s follow-up to Animal Kingdom. As a man – credited as Eric though Guy Pearce’s character never gives his name throughout proceedings – sits in a remote ramshackle bar at some forlorn corner of the Outback, a pickup truck comes to a crashing stop on the highway outside. Moments later, its occupants – Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his gang of outlaws – have stolen Eric’s car and resumed their flight from an unseen botched robbery father up the road. When he comes upon Henry’s brother Rey (Robert Pattinson), wounded and abandoned by the gang, Eric takes Rey hostage and gives chase in Henry’s truck. It’s a nice truck too, probably better suited to the crumbling infrastructre of this new world disorder than Eric’s sensible family saloon. But Eric really really wants his own car back, because…

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Night Moves Review

Night Moves
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Written by: Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard

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Night Moves (2013) is not to be mistaken for a remake of the 1975 Gene Hackman thriller, though both do star Lex Luthors in-waiting. It’s Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to her 2010 anti-western Meek’s Cutoff, and it’s being lauded as her most accessible film to date.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are friends who live and work on the margins of modern society in the Pacific northwest; he on an organic farm, she at a wellness center and spa. Dena’s a trust fund brat who’s slumming it with the tree-hugger set and using her wealth to bankroll direct action against industrial interests they perceive as enemies of the environment. For their next target, they enlist Josh’s friend Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), a wilderness recluse, former marine, to help devise and execute a strike that will cross the line from activism into eco-terrorism: the bombing of a local dam.

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Calvary Review

Calvary
Written and Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankolé, Domhnall Gleeson

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“Certainly a startling opening line,” is about all that Father James (Brendan Gleeson) can manage in response to the mystery parishioner who enters his confession box and states the cause of his grievance. You can discover this opening line for yourself when you watch Calvary, suffice to say that its shocking content and shockingly nonchalant delivery set the tone for this satire on modern Irish morality: edgy, irreverent and just a wee bit too broad for its philosophical ponderings to win out.

The unseen confessor informs Fr. James that he has seven days to put his affairs in order because he’s going to kill him – a good and innocent priest – as symbolic retribution for abuse suffered as a boy at the hands of another. Will Fr. James acquiesce and present himself as the sacrificial lamb on the appointed hour at the appointed place? Will he report the threat – he suspects he knows his tormentor’s identity – or will he look to resolve the situation himself?

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Locke Review

Locke
Written and Directed by: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott

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Ivan Locke is a devoted family man and respected construction engineer. This makes it all the more out-of-character when he abandons his biggest project the night before a critical stage. Instead of heading home, Ivan commences the long drive south to London and a series of telephone calls to deliberately dismantle everything he has worked hard to achieve.

Locke falls into the entertainment classification of extreme ‘bottle drama'; a single location: the interior of Ivan’s SUV on his non-stop rush down the M1 motorway; and a single performer: Tom Hardy as Ivan, supported only by the voices of the characters who come and go in the series of phone calls by which the plot plays itself out. It shares this same conceit with movies such as Phone Booth and All Is Lost but its cinematic twin is most definitely Buried when it comes to strict adherence to setting and narrative device. But whereas Buried had a mystery underpinning the situation and a race-against-time element to generate tension, Locke has no such genre intentions.

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