Friday's film reviews: Miss You Already, Solace, Life and Captive

Friday's film reviews: Miss You Already, Solace, Life and Captive

Miss You Already

Friday's film reviews: Miss You Already, Solace, Life and Captive

In 1988, Beaches starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey was the weepie du jour for a generation of women, hankering for a bittersweet portrait of steadfast sisterly solidarity.

Bottom lips still quiver, more than 25 years later, to the first notes of Midler’s soaring ballad, Wind Beneath My Wings.

It’s been a long wait but actress Morwenna Banks provides 21st century gal pals with their own sobathon as screenwriter of this occasionally foul-mouthed comedy drama set in the shadow of breast cancer.

There are tears aplenty in Catherine Hardwicke’s film, predominantly shed by lead actresses Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore as they rage against a cruel disease that affects one in eight women in the UK.

There is humour and pathos too, not least in one beautifully handled scene between a wig maker (Frances de la Tour) and Collette’s patient, as they select a new permanent barnet to replace the flowing locks lost to chemotherapy.

Pleasingly, Banks’ script doesn’t paint characters as saints or martyrs.

They are deeply flawed and behave badly, even at their lowest ebb, propelling a wrecking ball through a marriage when they should be fighting for survival.

Miss You Already is galvanised by believable screen chemistry shared by the two leads.

Barrymore oozes adorability, while Collette has the meatier role and teases out the selfishness of her ambitious career woman, who has always prided herself on being able to arouse her husband.

Scenes of Milly pre and post-surgery are moving, leavened by flashes of humour as friends and family attempt to buoy Milly’s spirits: “Come on Frankentits. Let’s get you bandaged up!”

Plotting is a tad haphazard and a protracted 250-mile trek to the Yorkshire Moors creates unnecessary conflict.

Thankfully, screenwriter Banks redeems herself with a well-judged final act that tugs our heartstrings without feeling like we’re being shamelessly manipulated into reaching for another tissue.

Star Rating: 7/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 50%

Solace

The only solace that thrill-starved audiences could take from Afonso Poyart’s formulaic hunt for a diabolical serial killer is a sub-two hour running time and some restrained scenery chewing from Anthony Hopkins.

Unusually, the Oscar-winning Welsh actor, who sent chills down the spine as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, helps the FBI with their enquiries here rather than leading the police on a merry, blood-spattered dance.

Instead, Colin Farrell sinks his teeth into the film’s two-dimensional antagonist, whose wonky moral compass provides a perfect excuse to slay victims every time the pacing begins to drag.

Scriptwriters Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin steep the mind games in supernatural hokum, blessing men on both sides of the police investigation with psychic abilities, resulting in disorienting images of future events.

These flash-forwards are intentionally fragmented, but audiences won’t need to possess powers of clairvoyance to second guess the twists.

Poyart flags up each kink in the narrative so brazenly that the sole genuine surprise is how long it takes the authorities to catch up with our logical reasoning and their perpetrator.

Solace is blessed with a solid opening half that lures Hopkins’ wise old coot out of retirement in pursuit of a wily nemesis.

Once the method behind the killer’s madness is revealed, it’s evident where the film is going and Poyart dutifully heads there with the minimum of fuss and few pulse-quickening set pieces.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish are both short-changed as ballsy cops, who harbour painful secrets, while Farrell remains largely off screen until the anticlimactic, mind-bending final showdown.

Star Rating: 5/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 40%

Life

Friday's film reviews: Miss You Already, Solace, Life and Captive

One moment in time frozen on glossy photographic paper can capture the spirit of an era, touch hearts divided by conflict and occasionally shape global opinion.

Six soldiers raising the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima; a sailor planting an impromptu smacker on a nurse in New York amid celebrations to mark the end of the Second World War; a lone man standing in front of a Chinese military tank in Tiananmen Square; a pop band walking across Abbey Road; a drowned Syrian boy lying face down in the sand of a Turkish beach.

These iconic images linger but more often than not, the person behind the camera, who was in the right place at the right time, goes unmentioned.

Directed by Anton Corbijn, the celebrated Dutch photographer who made a seamless transition to celluloid with the 2007 biopic Control about Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Life is a handsome drama about one of these unsung heroes and his close working relationship with a subject, who transfixes us 60 years after his untimely death.

Life is blessed with a mesmerising performance from Dane DeHaan as the handsome star, who died seven months after his memorable encounter with Stock.

Robert Pattison is understated, but there is a pleasing rapport between the two actors as their characters wrestle with the hefty price of celebrity in an era of controlling studios.

Cinematography and impeccable production design beautifully capture the fashions and fads of a smoke and booze-stained era.

Corbijn directs at a pace that some audiences might find glacial, but considerable patience reaps decent emotional rewards.

Star Rating: 6/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 63%

Captive

Friday's film reviews: Miss You Already, Solace, Life and Captive

Adapted from the memoir Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith, Captive is a hostage drama of hope, redemption and wavering faith that provides Kate Mara and David Oyelowo with plum roles as a recovering drug addict and tormented escaped prisoner.

The claustrophobic setting and high stakes should provide Jerry Jameson’s modest film with a relentless dramatic momentum and nail-biting tension.

Unfortunately, his picture doesn’t kidnap our attention and pivotal scenes between the lead characters are devoid of the verbal fireworks that should be littered throughout Brian Bird’s script.

The tempo barely increases when the narrative strays outside of the besieged home to focus on the police operation to end the stand-off with minimum bloodshed.

Closing with a dedication to the victims of Nichols’ jailbreak, Captive shoulders its responsibility to the facts, largely sacrificing cinematic thrills for the sake of accuracy.

Bird’s script makes heavy work of this chance encounter between two lost and deeply damaged souls.

Themes of forgiveness and self-belief are loosely woven into the disappointingly pedestrian narrative, while Mara and Oyelowo work hard to make us care about their characters as the police SWAT team prepares to swing into action.

Over the end credits, archive footage of Smith’s appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s chat show to discuss her hellish ordeal emphasizes how close the single mother came to death inside her own home.

Alas, we come equally close to indifference during the modest 97 minutes of Jameson’s dramatisation.

Star Rating: 5/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 26%

In Selected Cinemas…

99 Homes

Writer-director Ramin Bahrani, who garnered numerous plaudits for his independent films Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, examines the American dream turned sour in this gritty character study.

Corrupt real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) earns his dollars by evicting down-on-their-luck families from their homes. He targets Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker and single father, who has fallen on hard times and is struggling to provide for his nine-year-old son, Connor (Noah Lomax).

Having evicted Nash, Carver rubs salt into raw wounds by offering the family man a job as part of his cut-throat team. Reluctantly, Nash takes up the offer and is sucked into Carver’s vortex of greed, where he must perform the same foreclosures on other distraught families.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 89%

Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live

In the winter of 2014, singer, guitarist and Hunger Games actor Lenny Kravitz promoted his 10th studio album Strut with a world tour including 25 dates in Europe, beginning in Moscow on October 22 and ending in Nantes on December 11.

During this period, director Paul Dugdale captured on stage performances of Kravitz and his band, intercutting these electrifying renditions with rehearsal footage, rare behind-the-scenes material and candid interviews with the performer.

This concert film’s track list includes Fly Away, Dirty White Boots, American Woman, Dancin’ ’Til Dawn, Strut, It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over, New York City, The Chamber, Sister, Dig In, Let Love Rule and Are You Gonna Go My Way.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: N/A

The Martian

Director Ridley Scott, who memorably ventured into space with the sci-fi thriller Alien, blasts off for the red planet in this contemplative drama, based on the bestselling novel by Andy Weir.

The six-strong crew of the Ares 3 touches down on Mars and heads onto the planet surface to explore. During a violent storm, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is separated from his colleagues and presumed dead.

The remaining five members of Ares 3 – Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and Aleks Vogel (Aksel Hennie) – return to Nasa mission control on Earth, crestfallen by their devastating loss.

Little do they realise that back on Mars, Watney is alive and well. He transmits a distress call and attempts to tame the elements on his new home, conscious that it will take weeks for a rescue mission to return to the red planet.

When NASA Administrator Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) learns that Watney is still alive, he joins forces with the world’s best scientific minds to let his astronaut know that he is not alone and the cavalry is coming.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 93%

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