Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015)

Cyber terrorism thriller Blackhat sees director Michael Mann continuing to explore themes found in his earlier works like Heat and Thief, but with a firm foot in the stylistic experimentation that has characterised his 21st century output to date.

Those with little tolerance for CollateralPublic Enemies, and, especially, Miami Vice may find little to latch on to here, but those enamoured or, at least, fascinated by his increasingly impressionistic and abstract use of digital in approaching action film scenarios will be rewarded. He’s even thrown in a couple of cheeky self-citations for the super-fans to get a kick out of – see Chris Hemsworth’s lauded hacker Nick Hathaway quoting one of Manhunter’s best remembered lines…

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Uzumasa Limelight (Ken Ochiai, 2014)

Uzumasa Limelight is a heartfelt tribute to the samurai-saturated chanbara films of Japanese cinema, particularly the largely unsung, intensely physical pros often found in extra roles, exiting as quickly as they entered at a swish of the star’s sword…

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Monsters: Dark Continent (Tom Green, 2014)

In the vein of the genre switch-up between Alien and AliensMonsters sequel Dark Continent is an action-orientated take on the setup of the more modest original, with road trip leanings swapped for a bigger scope, explosions and fire-power…

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn, 2014)

Reuniting the director, chief screenwriter and source material scribe of Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Mark Millar respectively), Kingsman: The Secret Service is similarly concerned with cartoonish hyper-violence and lame shock tactic vulgarity. It too has the sense of humour of the stereotypical straight teenage male, and also takes the form of a boneheaded “subversion” of a beloved action subgenre (superheroes last time, spy fiction this time). It’s largely insufferable…

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Mortdecai (David Koepp, 2015)

This piece was originally published at Sound On Sight, which is no longer active. The below is an edit from 7 May 2018.

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Seemingly late in the game of David Koepp’s Mortdecai, the eponymous character (played by Johnny Depp) asks his wife, “Are you quite finished with your barrage of insults?” It’s an apt question for the film itself, a cataclysmically unfunny, unbelievably tedious disaster of baffling misjudgments and multiple career lows that feels as long as Shoah, and only a little less harrowing. No such luck, though, as the film goes on for another 25 minutes. It then ends on people about to throw up. Also apt. Continue reading Mortdecai (David Koepp, 2015)

The Place Beyond the Mines: Writer-director Sara Colangelo on ‘Little Accidents’

This piece was originally published at Sound On Sight, which is no longer active. The below is an edit from 7 May 2018.

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The feature debut of writer-director Sara Colangelo, Little Accidents is an intense small-town drama that premiered to positive notices at the 2014 instalment of the Sundance Film Festival, and is now seeing a release one year on. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas and Chloë Sevigny, it concerns several players in a town recently devastated by a fatal mining accident. There’s Amos (Holbrook), the sole survivor of the accident that killed ten of his colleagues; Owen (Lofland), whose father was one of those who perished; Bill (Lucas), a mining company executive whose role in the accident has made his family a target of contempt for the town’s anger and sorrow; and Diane (Banks), Bill’s mostly housebound wife, who finds herself drifting away from her partner, and not just because their teenage son has gone missing.

In the week leading up to the film’s debut in American cinemas, Colangelo was kind enough to speak to Sound On Sight about the story’s roots, her cinematic inspirations and intentions, and her experience with the Sundance Institute’s famed Screenwriters and Directors Labs. Continue reading The Place Beyond the Mines: Writer-director Sara Colangelo on ‘Little Accidents’

Big Eyes (Tim Burton, 2014)

With Big Eyes, Tim Burton takes a break from his spate of auto-pilot adaptations (be it butchering Alice in Wonderland or remaking his own early short films) to tell a more engaging tale than the dreary films of his recent creative slump. Based on true events which took place in the 1950s and 60s, it explores a decade in the life of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams, reliably strong in the lead), who spent years producing cutesy paintings of big-eyed, miserable children that captured the public’s imagination (and their cash). The only problem is that no one knew the paintings were hers, as emotionally manipulative husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) passed himself off as the artist and claimed all the fame…

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Writing by Josh Slater-Williams