Based on Colm Tóibín‘s novel, Brooklyn is an old fashioned immigrant story following the wide-eyed Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) from her small Irish town to New York where her life slowly begins to change. When the pull of home beckons, however, she will be forced to make hard decisions regarding her future, the man she loves, and which side of the Atlantic Ocean she truly wants to call home.
The film quickly becomes more romance-driven than historical drama and features a ponderously-paced first half-hour. That said, once Ellis’ life in Brooklyn truly begins the film opens up a bit, is able to breathe, and Ronan is allowed to shine. The film’s star is without doubt the movie’s biggest strength smoothing over the film’s rougher edges when it drifts dangerously close to melodrama.
The supporting cast is solid throughout highlighted by Jim Broadbent as the preacher and family friend who helps Ellis in America, Fiona Glascott as Ellis’ sister Rose, and Emory Cohen as Ellis’ suitor. Arrow fans will also take note of Emily Bett Rickards as one of the women from the Brooklyn boarding house.
Nine years after Rocky Balboa allowed Philadelphia’s favorite son to step into the ring one last time comes an unexpected sequel in Creed. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), the new film hearkens back to the themes of the original Rocky while putting a fresh take on the tale of an underdog boxer overcoming the odds to earn his big chance. Creed is as close to a reboot as you could get without recasting the Italian Stallion as a young man and not only pays tribute to the original series but sets the stage or any number of possible sequels. It may not be as good as the original, but it stands up well in comparison to any of the Rocky sequels.
Amy Schumer, who also wrote the script, stars as a relationship-averse mess of a woman whose world view is changed after interviewing a doctor (Bill Hader) for a local magazine. Trainwreck is a pretty straightforward romcom focusing on Amy’s struggles with love and her dysfunctional relationships with her father (Colin Quinn), sister (Brie Larson), and former boyfriend (John Cena). Like many scripts written by stand-up comedians, Trainwreck is a bit uneven. At times the film is quite funny even if all of its jokes don’t quite hit home.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 concludes the adventures of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a dead-eyed girl from District 12 whose only heroic action over the course of the series took place near the beginning of the first film. I don’t know if the original books on which the movies were based are any good, but the films themselves are one (small) step above torture porn with the least-interesting love triangle ever conceived thrown in for good measure. Do we care who Katniss ends up with? Not really. And because the movies have shown her to be largely unimportant as anything more than a symbol it’s hard to invest any emotion in her journey or its outcome.
Picking up immediately following the events of the last film, Katniss licks her wounds and plans her revenge against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for turning one of the men she kinda, sorta, loves (i.e. leads on) into a brainwashed killing machine. The fact that Snow is the head of a corrupt government with the blood of thousands on his hands isn’t much of a concern for our heroine who has decided murdering an old man with her own hands is the only form of justice she is willing to accept.
Director Antoine Fuqua‘s Southpaw is a relatively straightforward story of an athlete getting up off the mat after being knocked down by life. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an undefeated boxing champion nearing the end of his career whose life is struck by a series of tragic events which cause him to reevaluate his priorities, attempt to become a better father to his daughter (Oona Laurence), and reclaim a life, both in and out of the ring, which he once took for granted.
The movie is highlighted by performances by Gyllenhaal, Laurence, and Rachel McAdams as the boxer’s wife. Both Forest Whitaker add 50 Cent a little life to the party as well, but neither is asked to color outside the lines of very basic characters.
Boxing fans are likely to get more out of the movie than others, although I think the first-person perspective used in spots during the climactic in-ring battle is a little disorienting.
First introduced in Dr. No more than 50 years ago, and not heard from since the pre-credit sequence of For Your Eyes Only, SPECTRE represented a global terrorist organization focused on achieving their own goals. The rebooted Bond films, which began with Casino Royale, finally get around to reintroducing us to the classic villains and their leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in the fourth movie of the series appropriately enough entitled Spectre.
Melissa McCarthy stars as a CIA analyst forced into the field when an arms dealer (Rose Byrne) with knowledge of all the CIA’s operatives acquires a nuclear bomb and plans to sell it on the black market. I’m far from McCarthy’s biggest fan whose poor script choices have made me more than once refer to her as the female Kevin James. However, with Spy the comedienne’s talents are put to good use by writer/director Paul Feig which is odd because the script shares quite a bit in common with the far-less enjoyable Get Smart reboot from a few years back. Along with McCarthy, Feig balances the talents of Byrne, Jude Law, and a very funny Jason Statham as the alpha-male spy who is his own biggest fan in a comedy far funnier than I was expecting.
It didn’t make me hungry. That’s an interesting response to have towards a film centered around food. Our story stars Bradley Cooper as talented chef, recovering addict, and all around asshole Adam Jones who basically blackmails the old friend (Daniel Brühl) he screwed over in his last job into hiring him as the chef for a mediocre London restaurant. Jones’ motives are two-fold. First, he honestly does want to make amends to those he’s wronged in the past. At least as important to him, however, is the chance to reclaim glory in the hopes of achieving the prestigious three Michelin star rating as one of the best restaurants (and chefs) in Europe.
I joke that the food on display didn’t wet my appetite but Burnt deals with a different side of the retaurant business by focusing as much on its burdens, costs, and obsessive personalities struggling to work behind the scenes as it does about creating the food. Even when the film puts the food first the perspective is always more about the presentation of the meal than the meal itself. Although the film constantly tells us that Jones is culinary genius it rarely shows us actual examples of this on-screen.