The Martian: by far the best film to maroon Matt Damon in space

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

Are the 2010s the decade that made space travel cool again?

Gravity swept the Academy Awards back in 2013, Interstellar reminded us of the potential wonders of the universe in a way that no one had arguably done since Kubrick – Marvel even got in on the action with Guardians of the Galaxy.…

American Sniper has great performances but lacks vision

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

For an Academy Award Best Picture nominee, American Sniper is not without its problems.

Its 84-year-old director Clint Eastwood is known for being a slightly hawkish libertarian with a penchant for shouting at empty chairs (“penchant” might be overstating, but, as they say, “You f**k one sheep…”).…

The Theory of Everything forgets about the numbers so ends up playing by them

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

James Marsh’s new film, a biopic of legendary astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde, is firstly a very traditionally British film; which is to say, a very reserved one.

In the face of tragedy – the gradual debilitation of a vibrant person – there’s nary a tear shed.…

Selma passionately documents the coming of a change

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

Why was Selma largely overlooked by The Academy?

Given its pedigree, it should, by most standards, have been a lock. What then? Could it be backlash from last year’s choice of Best Picture – have voters grown tired of slavery and segregation?…

Get lost in the grounded transcendentalism of Wild

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A life-affirming tale of finding yourself amidst nature, based on a best-selling memoir, Wild follows Cheryl Strayed, an aspiring writer whose life falls apart upon the death of her mother.

Having sought refuge in sex and drugs, Cheryl decides to repair her life by walking the 1,200 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from the US-Mexican border, through California, Oregon, and Washington, all the way up to Canada.…

Whiplash might be my film of the decade

5 Stars (5 / 5)

 

A tense, astonishing drama about precision, obsession, and determination, Whiplash seizes you from its opening moment – a snare drum, like a quickening heartbeat, over black – to the final crash of cymbals.

Miles Teller stars as Andrew Neyman, an awkward drumming prodigy who finds himself thrown in at the deep end when he’s invited to join a band led by conductor Miles Fletcher.…

Nightcrawler makes a scintillating roadshow out of the modern media circus

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

The best films are often a product of the age in which they were made (interesting word that, “product”).

Without the post-‘Nam disillusionment of the mid-‘70s, no Taxi Driver. Without the on-air suicide of TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck the same year, no Network.

12 Years a Slave is a stunning and necessary reminder of the insidious evils of slavery

5 Stars (5 / 5)

 

12 Years a Slave is the tale of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejifor), a free black man and professional violinist in the mid 19th Century northeastern United States who, in 1841, was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The third film of Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave feels, from the off, like a more mature approach to “the problem” of slavery than either of its two most immediate predecessors.…

Gravity is a technically stunning work of (plausible) thematic sci-fi

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

I wrote a piece a while back on how Alfonso Cuarón showed signs of becoming one of the 21st Century’s foremost directors of science fiction – up there with Duncan Jones, Neill Blomkamp, and Shane Carruth – just on the strength of 2006’s Children of Men.

Nebraska: an emotionally resonant father-son road trip

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

A meditative, black-and-white exploration about growing up, growing old, and accepting life’s defeats.

Middle-of-the-road bachelor David Grant (Will Forte) takes his indolent, cantankerous father, Woody (Bruce Dern), on a road trip to collect on a junk-mail flyer for a million dollars.…