Director: Danny Boyle.
Starring: James Franco.
Synopsis: Adventurer Aron Ralston goes out exploring mountains without telling anyone where he’s gone. His boundless energy and enthusiasm soon finds him in peril after a freak fall leaves him arm trapped between a boulder and a cave wall. With no one around for miles, how long before he must take drastic action?
It’s one of those films that whilst your watching it your brain is thinking out what it would do if you stupidly got yourself in such a dangerous situation; would you scream yourself hoarse for help? Would you consider suicide? How would you could with the crushing desperation? You feel in his shoes at every stage of the dilemma. And considering the majority of it involves only one actor, with limited movement in the one location, it’s difficult to imagine how this film could possibly work. And yet it does, and in fact in some parts is downright thrilling, a testament to Franco’s acting skills and Danny Boyles creative directing. Ok he goes a little bit crazy at one point with his video camera and a make belief chat show appearance, but it’s these psychotic flights of fancy that give the film a little spice. But it’s also a film you go into with knowledge of the inevitable ending, and it’s every bit as gruesome as you imagine and more. It’s frustrating, it’s sad, its panic inducing and gory, but the tale is ultimately uplifting. A nod to human endurance and foolish endeavors.
The Kings Speech
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush
A historical drama that centers on war time Royal Prince Albert, a stammering monarch who due to circumstances is thrust into the throne and in front of a nation worried by the advancements of the German army in Europe. Can the words of their king settle a worried population?
This film arrives on a great wave of hype, and it’s satisfying to say that it lives up to its reputation. Colin Firth is incredible as the shy and beaten Albert, bullied and put down all his life by an affliction that no one has managed to cure. However his wife Helena Bonham Carter thinks she has found the solution in the odd ball techniques of speech therapist Lionel Logue. What follows is a reluctant ‘Bertie’ slowly adapting to the madness of Logue’s ways and a loving warm friendship opening up between the pair. There’s even a fantastic scene involving a lot of humorous swearing. However when his father dies and selfish brother abdicates from the throne, it’s left to Albert to step out onto the world stage and be the voice of Britain against the oncoming force of Hitler and Germany.
Part historical drama, part old fashioned romance, it’s a tale of fighting demons and overcoming the odds. Firth is fantastic as the reluctant but trying Albert, Bonham Carter a treat as the loving wife, and Geoffrey Rush a joy as the delightfully cheeky and forward Logue. It’s both inspiring and entertaining, but most of all a thoroughly British affair.
Director: Darren Aranofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis
A surprisingly chilling psychological drama in which sweet and over protected Ballet dancer Natalie Portman yearns to play the lead role in a career making performance of Swan Lake. However her director worries she may be too squeaky clean to embody the dual role of the evil black swan, and so she must plum the darkest parts of her personality to get into the mindset. However pressure and paranoia soon take their toll…
It’s been labeled by reviewers as Fight Club for girls, and that’s a pretty apt description. The beautiful Portman plays a determined but bland girl, constantly nit picked by an overbearing mother who gave up her own dancing career to raise her. Fed up of being sidelined she pleads the director for the lead role, and eager to exploit her talents (and her body) he pushes her to her mental boundaries, spinning her moral compass round in order to evoke the darkness of the black swan character. She begins to lose it, projecting paranoia onto rival Mila Kunis who she sees as the dangerous edge the black swan requires. She goes off the rails, does drink and drugs, rebels against her mother and indulges in a little same sex cunnylingus. Well at least in her head. The special effects are also astounding as the black swan literally gets under her skin. It also stars Winona Ryder as a bitter and suicidal has been ballet star, a warning to the dangers of success and pressure. It’s intense and chilling, wonderfully scored and marked by a career defining performance from Portman. Like a beautiful nightmare.
Director: David O Russell
Starring: Mark Whalberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams.
Mark Whalberg stars as boxer Micky Ward, a fighter with fire and potential but is being put to waste by the terrible management of his onetime successful boxer cum crack head brother Dicky and out to make a quick buck mother. But when Dicky gets arrested and Micky’s career takes off, he finds himself at odds between family loyalty, love and success.
Long after the film has finished it’s Christian Bale’s performance as Dicky that you’ll take away from this film. He bounces around screen unfocussed, mouthy and distracted. A crack addict who lives on his past glory and dependent on the skills of his brother for money. However Micky’s adoration for Dicky blinds him to how destructive Dicky and his mother are managing his career. They match him with Fighters far above his weight just to take the pay. Micky is destroyed in the ring and his confidence takes a bashing. However Micky starts a burgeoning romance with a straight talking sassy bartender played by Amy Adams who helps Micky stand up to his mother and posy of bitch sisters after Dicky gets sent down for drugs. As his career starts to flourish and a title shot lies ahead, can Micky reconcile with a now clean Dicky to help him become champion?
It’s an exciting tale about broken dreams and personal battles. Bale steals the show as the messed up Dicky, a selfish crack addict with a genuine love for his brother. Mention must also go to Melissa Leo, who plays the role of the matriarch, whose rose tinted view of Dicky stops her from seeing Micky’s massive potential. Adams also shines as the tough talking girlfriend who turns Micky around. It may get dubbed as Rocky for a new generation, but it has more than enough weight and merit to stand on its own success.
Director: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon.
After her father is murdered and the law fails to act, 14 year old Mattie Ross goes in search of a marshal with ‘true grit’ who can hunt down this man and bring him to justice. She pins her hopes on Jeff Bridges whose reputation precedes him but whose odd and often drunken methods of working leave Mattie filled with doubts. Also along for the ride is Matt Damon as a ranger also on the trail of the murderer. The 3 form a motley crew as the head out into the wilderness in search of the dangerous and slippery outlaw.
Full with the brim with humor and quick dialogue, The Coens serve up a Western treat with their interpretation of the old John Wayne classic. Hailee Steinfeld is a revelation as Mattie, assertive and outspoken her haggling skills with a corrupt contractor towards the start sets the tone of her character and film. Conducting herself with maturity and resolve, she stands in mark contrast to Jeff Bridges as Marshall Rooster, a slovenly type with an unexpectedly big heart. Damon’s character does at times seem surplus for requirement. It provides all the thrills and fights a cowboy film should, and The Coens tide the narrative along at just the right pace and humor. I’m not a fan of westerns but this one certainly hit the bull’s eye.
The Social Network
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake.
Synopsis: The notorious tale of how the Facebook phenomenon came into existence told through a series of flashbacks stemming from the various court cases its creators found themselves in.
The Social Network seems to be the film of the moment, and possibly the year, and it’s a valiant effort in finding real grit and emotion in a film about a website that celebrates the vacuous and the mundane. Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg portrayed as a weedy and neurotic eccentric, obsessed with exclusive clubs and bitter about a recent break up. Out of spite he creates a website that compares local girls on the basis of attraction, and the site becomes so popular that it crashes the Harvard system and gives Zuckerberg reputation and notoriety. He is then approached by twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, with the aim to create in essence a dating site with the niche it’s exclusive to those with a Harvard email account. Dwelling on it, Zuckerberg decides on something far greater, and sets about creating it using money given to him by best friend Eduardo Saverin. The site goes on to become Facebook, but Zuckerberg soon finds accusations levied against him from the Winklevoss twins that he stole the idea. The drama properly begins to unfold when Zuckerberg befriends Napster founder Sean Parker, played deliciously Machovelian by Justin Timberlake, who convinces Mark to open the door to big businesses and drive a wedge between Zuckerberg and Saverin.
The Social Network is very much tinged with a sense of irony; based on a site intended to bring friends together, it ends up driving two best friends apart. Zuckerberg is portrayed as unlikeable character, full of quirks and insecurities. However he is insistent that his project remains ‘cool’ and conducts his running of Facebook with integrity. Garfield is good as the loyal best friend, enraged by Mark’s complacency to monetise the site, and irked by his closeness to the seedy Parker. It is a story of greed and compulsion that destroys a friendship. The Winklevoss twins, two overly privileged hot headed Olympian rowers, are so ineptly funny it’s incredible to think they aren’t fictional. They provide spurts of humor in what is otherwise a very understated but dignified account of how Facebook swept across the globe.