Freely adapted from Peter Ackroyd’s Victorian murder-mystery, Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, Woman in Black) does her usual schtick in pushing the lurid, seedy, nasty and downright squalid to the fore in the hunt for a Ripper-like serial killer. To be sure, Victorian London was lurid, seedy, nasty and downright squalid, but this is yet another provocative Goldman script that wallows with perverse delight and glee in all of that.
If, like me, you spotted the killer in the first five minutes, before the full list of suspects was even revealed, then you’re along for an uncomfortable face-slapping with wet red herrings as Bill Nighy’s dour detective re-imagines the crimes with each of his suspects in Hammer Horror-style melodrama. Continue Reading
Natalie Portman aims for Oscar glory in this bio-slice of Jackie Kennedy, covering the aftermath of the JFK assassination. From socialite to First Lady to widow, Jackie was a famously difficult and challenging character, a Washington outsider, briefly the most famous woman in the world, suddenly cast aside in the moment of her greatest loss.
With an equally difficult, mystery-thriller, jump-cut-flashback structure, jarringly stagey dialogue and a honkingly intrusive score, Pablo Larrain’s movie almost goes out of its way to be as difficult as Jackie herself. Continue Reading
Spielberg’s handsomely mounted, fact-based, Cold War drama reunites him with Tom Hanks as the non-spy sent into the cold. Packed with period atmosphere, a restrained Coen Brothers script delivers tension and humour as Hanks’ character attempts to arrange a prisoner exchange amidst the paranoia, fear and political games of the superpowers. Continue Reading
Saoirse Ronan dazzles in this unabashedly romantic adaptation of the Colm Tóibín coming-of-age novel as a reluctant Irish migrant. A top supporting cast adds weight to a flat screenplay, with the exception of love interest Tony, veering between puppy-dog innocent Italian boy, and stalker-ish would-be serial killer. No wonder our Soairse has a Sliding Doors moment back in Ireland. Continue Reading
An amusing genre mash-up of horror and classic literature tumbles out of the one-joke, no-budget, B-movie drawer. The cast has a whale of a time turning Jane Austen into the Walking Dead with bonnets, but for all it’s knowing winks and attractive stars, it’s little more than an overstretched French and Saunders sketch.
If you’re in the narrow, venn diagram demographic of classic literature, period drama and bloody body-horror fans, you will appreciate the genre clash, but maybe not all the way to the creaky, Hammer-inflected climax. Continue Reading
The script has forgiveable flaws; the performances are universally superb; the story is worth the telling in the twenty-first century. So why did director of photography Ed Grau have to spoil the whole thing by smearing Vaseline on the lens and shooting during an Earthquake? Continue Reading
Chameleon actor Tom Hardy (Batman, Legend) turns in a Brando-like performance as Russian war hero turned investigator Leo Demidov on the trail of a serial killer. In a paranoid Soviet state of suspicion and fear, executing its citizens at will, even his schoolteacher wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace – Prometheus, Dragon Tatoo trilogy) is afraid of him.
It’s not easy when ‘there can be no murder in paradise’; even when the latest murdered child – 44th – is the son of his army comrade; the totalitarian state is in denial of murder, even as it executes its citizens daily. This is Soviet Russia at the height of Stalin’s reign of terror, and even a war hero like Leo can be denounced and exiled to a remote factory town after failing to denounce his own wife, a suspected dissident. Continue Reading