Film Review: ‘Kill Your Friends’

★★☆☆☆ Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) came under heavy fire from some quarters for not being strident enough in its disavowal of the behaviour of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. There’s a very fine line between portraying outrageous behaviour and skewed morality in the hopes of highlighting its grotesquerie, and relenting to its…

Film Review: ‘He Named Me Malala’

★★★☆☆ Davis Guggenheim opens his latest documentary, He Named Me Malala (2015), with its most essential element – the voice of Malala Yousafzai. Instantly recognisable, she narrates the animated story of an Afghan heroine who spoke out against the invasion of British forces at Maiwand in 1880. Leading the Pashtun to a great victory, she…

Film Review: ‘Brooklyn’

★★★★☆ John Crowley’s Brooklyn (2015) is based on a novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín, a man considered by many to be the finest writer Ireland has produced since John Banville. His novel has, however, been digested by Nick Hornby, who produced the screenplay. In the process, it has been stripped of any…

Film Review: ‘The Program’

★★★☆☆ Standing in front of a mirror, a man repeats the phrase, “I have never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.” His intonation and inflection changes but his eyes remain piercing, emotionless and glacially cold. Pauses for effect are added, differing facial expressions are selected, each one conveying a slightly altered emotion, as if picking a…

Film Review: ‘The Martian’

★★★☆☆ Is there a current Hollywood star more effortlessly convincing as an scientist-cum-astronaut than Matt Damon? If Ridley Scott’s latest foray into the realms of science fiction, The Martian (2015), is to be considered as evidence, then the answer is ‘not likely’. Based on the novel by Andy Wier, here Damon excels as botanist Mark…

Film Review: ‘The Reflektor Tapes’

★★☆☆☆ “Insofar as I have any ambition for our music, it would be that it survives anonymously,” a band member with scant irony states at the beginning of Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes (2015), begging the question: why not just release your music anonymously? Why allow a filmmaker access to your live shows and recording…

Toronto 2015: ‘Room’ review

★★★★☆ In his previous two features, Lenny Abrahamson has managed to coax sensational performances from Jack Reynor (What Richard Did) and, even beneath an enormous papier mâché head, Michael Fassbender (Frank). The director has done it again with Room (2015), an intimate, harrowing drama that features stellar performances from both Brie Larson and the young…

Toronto 2015: ‘Mississippi Grind’ review

★★☆☆☆ The saying goes that when in a hole you should stop digging. Meandering road movie Mississippi Grind (2015), co-directed by the Half Nelson (2006) and Sugar (2008) duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, features two hopeless gamblers on whom the sentiment of this old adage appears to have been entirely lost. The pairing…

Toronto 2015: ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’

★★☆☆☆ The inherent drama of political election campaigns have long proved effective oil for the cinematic narrative machine – both inside and outside the Hollywood dream factory. Whilst the cogs are whirring at full steam for David Gordon Green’s latest venture, Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) turns out to be a disappointingly middling affair. Whilst…

Toronto 2015: ‘Last Cab to Darwin’ review

★★★★☆ If there’s one thing that Australia has in spades it’s miles and miles of open road. Be it tarmacked or dust and dirt, lifelong cab driver, Rex (Michael Caton), covers a fair amount of both driving from Broken Hill, NSW, through Oz’s barren Red Centre, to Darwin at the tip of the Northern Territory….

Toronto 2015: ‘The Idol’ review

★★★★☆ “People are dying, you’re singing,” come the words of recrimination as four kids with homemade instruments are drenched in water from a window. Of course, they’re words laced with dramatic irony when deployed at the beginning of a well known a true story as is presented in Hany Abu-Assad’s The Idol (2015). It follows…

Toronto 2015: ‘The Family Fang’ review

★☆☆☆☆ The Family Fang (2015) is Jason Bateman’s second directorial undertaking. Known predominantly for his work in Arrested Development, feature film comedies and oddball roles in more serious pieces, Bateman proved in this year’s The Gift (a scintillating debut picture by Australian actor Joel Edgerton) that he has a far greater acting range than many…