Love Is All You Need (2012) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Love Is All You Need (2012) Directed by Susanne Bier. With Trine Dyrholm, Pierce Brosnan, Sebastian Jessen, Molly Blixt Egelind, Paprika Steen, Christiane Schaumburg-Muller and Kim Bodnia.

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As a lover of film, I love being taken by surprise. Susanne Bier’s stunning Love Is All You Need, represents perhaps the biggest surprise I have had in quite some time. Starring Pierce Brosnan and Danish actress, Trine Dyrholm, the film is a multi lingual, romantic drama comedy funded by Danish, Swedish, French, German and Italian money. And it is absolutely beautiful.

The basic plot revolves around a young couple getting married in a small, rustic Italian seafront village. And their visiting relatives. The cinematography is breathtaking and instantly has the effect of making you want to find the nearest travel agent to book a last minute escape.

Essentially, a romantic drama, the film also has its fair share of humour and poignancy. As mother of the bride-to-be, and central character of the tale, Ida, Trine Dyrholm is an arresting presence. In a delightfully classy performance, Dyrholm truly makes us root for her character, a feeling that is seldom elicited in the romantic comedy mainstream. Countering her sunny personality is a brilliantly grouchy Pierce Brosnan as father of the groom, Philip. As we learn more about them, and they learn more about each other, their characters become closer and closer to our hearts.

With an ensemble cast of colourful characters, and an extraordinarily beautiful backdrop, there is much to admire about Love Is All You Need. It has a fairytale quality to it, but at the same time, is smart enough to not over egg that particular pudding. Watch this with someone you really love. 5/5

 

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What Maisie Knew (2012) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

What Maisie Knew (2012) Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. With Onata Aprile, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham.

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Adapted and updated from the Henry James novel of the same name, What Maise Knew is a story told from the perspective of a six-year-old girl, who as a result of her parent’s divorce, is forced to live an unstable life.

Made by the co-directing team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel, there’s a distinctly original flavour to the film, as well as a sense of admiration at not only their attempt to pull off, what might look on paper an awkward story to navigate, but also their achievement of making it a resonant and powerful piece of cinema.

Circling Maisie’s world are four central characters played by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan (her natural mother and father) and Alexander Skarsgard and Joanna Vanderham (her step-parents, of sorts). The former are reprehensible people, clearly unfit to look after a dog, which is exactly how they treat their daughter. The latter, a pair of guardian angels who bring love and security to Maisie’s world.

Taking the title role of Maisie is the adorable Onata Aprile, who not only manages to get through all her scenes – that isn’t meant to sound patronising, she doesn’t look a day older than 5 –  but does so in a way that utterly convinces the audience of the confusion that a child of such a young age might go through under such strain. Maisie isn’t a tearful child, though, it’s almost as if she has taken on a certain amount of numbness to the crazy goings on of her parents and the sheer lack of emotional consistency that pervades her life.

At times, it’s varyingly beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. With romance, explosive arguments, emotional breakdowns, blind neglect, bitterness, love, jealousy and every other complicated emotion/situation you can think of, its a safe bet Maisie will grow up with a few emotional problems of her own. It is, however, a poignant and important look at the huge responsibility of being a parent. 4/5

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Frances Ha (2012) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Frances Ha (2012) Directed by Noah Baumbach. With Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Esper amd Grace Gummer.

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Principally, a collaborative effort between director Noah Baumbach, and star, Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha is a low budget character study of a scatterbrained New York woman using her social situations to keep her world afloat, amid the fast-changing pace of city life.

Co-written by director and star, the film has a very loose and experimental feel to it, which creates a very natural flow to the scenes. As Frances, Greta Gerwig creates a very easy spirited person, but at the same time, someone who seems to struggle to be taken seriously by almost everyone she meets. Throughout the film, we’re firmly on her side, to the extent that when others judge her hyperactive behaviours, we feel inclined to judge them negatively for doing so.

Shot entirely in monochrome and set mostly in New York, it evokes memories of Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’, in a sense, but is also at pains to avoid showcasing any landmarks or famous sites, leaving the city that never sleeps, to gently nap in the background while lensing the character of Frances, front and centre.

Funny and sweet natured, Frances Ha doesn’t really shoot for any kind of resolution or big narrative arc. It is simply a small glimpse into the life of a girl struggling to keep her head above water. We can all identify with that. 3.5/5

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Only God Forgives (2013) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Only God Forgives (2013) Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. With Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm.

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They said I’d either love it or hate it. Well, I loved Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ so much, that I actually got as far as looking up Ryan Gosling’s ‘scorpion jacket’ on eBay, shortly after viewing it, while listening to the soundtrack on Spotify. ‘They’ said the same of Only God Forgives, again, a revenge film set in Bangkok, directed by Winding Refn with Gosling playing a tough guy bouncer. What could there possibly be not to love!? Well, this one has me a little more divided.

First off, the film looks absolutely stunning. The camera work and shot compositions are a treat. The colour, richness and clarity of the images hold a hypnotic quality that combines with the neon lit, ultra stylised look, to ensure that if nothing else, the film plays as a breathtaking slideshow of captivating imagery.

The plot and overall story are perhaps not the films best attributes. The whole thing is a very basic revenge tale, told in an art house cinema kind of style with sparse dialogue, explosions of graphic violence, and scenes that unravel in slow motion with creeping camera push-in’s and a discordant sense that the goings on are someone’s bad dream/nightmare.

You might not think it possible, but Ryan Gosling seems to have even less dialogue here than in Drive, leaving most of the limited chat to his mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas), the films most intriguing presence.

It’s not hard to to see why Only God Forgives wasn’t welcomed happily across the cinematic threshold, like Drive eventually was. It looks great, but the slow pace, as entrancing as it sometimes is, could easily frustrate or annoy. That coupled with the sadistic nature of much of the violence, and a sense of overall weirdness will mean it’s trek to cult classic status might take a few more years. 3/5

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Blue Jasmine (2013) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Blue Jasmine (2013) Directed by Woody Allen. With Cate Blanchett, Alec Bladwin, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale.

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Cate Blanchett took home an Academy Award for her striking performance as a New York socialite, fallen on hard times in Woody Allen’s drama, Blue Jasmine. It is however, much more than just her film, as it also features markedly impressive turns from Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale.

Every time Woody Allen makes a good film, the critics rush to announce a ‘return to form’, as was the case with this offering, however most seemed to conveniently neglect that the beguiling Midnight in Paris was released only two years prior.

Blue Jasmine is a character study without any real catharsis. It traces the events of a period of its central characters life, that have culminated in her being ‘out of pocket’. That isn’t a spoiler, by the way, as we learn she is destitute in the opening exchanges of the very first scene. As with most of Allen’s directorial work, character is king. Blanchett’s performance is one of such intensity that it often feels exhausting just watching her. Blanchett goes through the emotional wringer, committing to the role with such persuasion that it’s hard not to feel pity for her, despite her characters obvious flaws and selfish desires.

It’s hard to say for sure if this is a film you’ll ‘enjoy’. For much of it, Blanchett is the sort of character you’d hope to never meet, but somehow, despite her terrible attitude to everyone and everything, there’s still a sense that you’d like to see her attain some kind of happiness in the end, such is her emotional torment. A continuation of form then, from one of America’s most significant film makers of the past 40-some years. 4/5

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The Family Stone (2005) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

The Family Stone (2005) Directed by Thomas Buzecha. With Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams and Craig T. Nelson.

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Written and directed by Thomas Buzecha, The Family Stone can be looked at as either a warm but poignant, home for the holidays Christmas movie, or for Sex and the City fans – ‘What Carrie Did Next’.

With an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Craig T Nelson, Luke Wilson, Dermot Mulroney and Rachel McAdams, it is perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker who takes the most central role, her first after the conclusion of her role on TV as sex columnist, Carrie Bradshaw. SJP plays Meredith, an uptight and awkward character, accompanying her boyfriend to his family home to meet them for the first time, over the Christmas festivities.

What initially has the feel of a fairly conventional Hollywood comedy, gradually introduces more sombre tones as a serious relationship/family drama unfolds. While there is always an air of comic relief lurking, thanks to the easy presence of Luke Wilson and SJP, from the hour-mark onwards, the film clearly sets its sights on going for your emotional jugular, making the final 30-some minutes mostly predictable and a touch trite.

Thanks to the cosy setting of the family home, the Christmas card surroundings and an impressive cast, The Family Stone will perhaps reel you enough to jerk a tear ,or two, but it could also weigh surprisingly heavily for those in search of a lighter, National Lampoons kind of a time. 2.5/5

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Jurassic Park (1993) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Jurassic Park (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough.

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Back in 1993, the shock and awe on the face of Sam Neill’s character upon first encountering dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s film, Jurassic Park, was mirrored on the faces of cinema audiences around the globe, as CGI fulfilled its potential in a family blockbuster for the first time. While Jurassic Park perhaps wasn’t the seismic cultural earth-shaker that was Star Wars in the late 1970′s, it was nevertheless, a massively significant watershed moment for live action/CGI integration and served as a blueprint to names like Bay, Cameron, Jackson, Emmerich and yes, even George Lucas himself, for what could now be achieved.

Adapted for the screen from the Michael Crichton novel, the film is based on the fantastic notion of using dinosaur DNA, trapped in ancient tree sap, to regrow dinosaurs in the modern age. Richard Attenborough plays a Walt Disney, of sorts, as the man behind building a park attraction that ‘safely’ showcases the wonder of live dinosaurs to the general public. In this regard, the film shares DNA with King Kong and perhaps even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as Attenborough’s character, John Hammond, test-runs the park in the hope of gaining approval from legal and scientific minds.

When it comes to creating thrill and suspense, Spielberg is always a sure bet. While Jurassic Park might not posses the same depth of character as say, Jaws, the big ideas and overall execution do enough to cover Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s slightly bland leading turns. Jeff Goldblum too, quite easily the film’s best presence, gives a typically offbeat and humorous performance, delivering all the best lines as he smirks his way through the film.

Despite its flaws, the film is considered something of a classic. For my money, it doesn’t quite stretch to that status, but the CGI that wowed audiences back in 1993, still stands up surprisingly well over 20 years on. The ending seems a little abrupt and some of the plot developments feel formulaic, but the ambitious technical achievements and overall ideas, mixed together with the real star attractions, namely the dino’s, don’t disappoint. 4/5

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