Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s informative and thought provoking documentary offers a comprehensive introduction to the captivity of killer whales, their trainers and the human tragedies that have made a business like SeaWorld increasingly controversial.
Ever since the Harry Potter franchise adaptations of young adult literature have been a lucrative Hollywood trend. Yet the quality has descended into a ceaseless torrent of substandard replicas piloted by a toxic, pseudo-feminist, profit-driven vampire saga. That was until 2012 with the arrival of Gary Ross’ flawed, yet hugely successful The Hunger Games which towered above its feeble competition and though it failed to stem the flow it offered enough to restore at least a little faith in young adult films. Though fans remain loyal to their beloved franchise, a degree of scepticism remained to greet its successor, but Catching Fire surprises us all over again as a darker, more serious and far more mature sequel that surpasses the first in every way and reignites a genre that looked all but extinguished.
Set in 1971, The Conjuring dramatises the real life tale of married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. While planning for retirement they are approached by a family who claim there is something evil in their new home and after some deliberation the ghost hunting duo decide to embark on this unique case unaware that it would be the most terrifying of their entire careers.
Almost a year ago exactly, Peter Jackson’s An Unexpected Journey opened to great financial success, but disappointed critically as many viewers failed to indulge in its epic length, the often trivial plot embellishments and frankly pointless high frame rate experimentation. Restrained by the trepidation that these failures provoked, The Desolation of Smaug failed to repeat its predecessor’s box-office triumph, but this gutsy sequel returns Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy to familiar ground – a bigger, bolder adventure with detailed characters and breathtaking action set pieces.
Emotionally charged, suspenseful and brilliantly paced; there’s no denying Paul Greengrass’ ability to keep the tension high throughout his dramatisation of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking. While its high octane action is certainly engaging, Captain Phillips lacks the depth to take it to another level and is unable to shake the feeling of being a missed opportunity; an entertaining thriller, but little more.
Following in the footsteps of one of the most competitive cinematic years in recent memory was always going to be a tough task, but 2013 showed a lot of promise with its big budget headliners and artistic endeavours. It began strongly as many awards season winners arrived from overseas to cash in on their Oscar-glory, but as summer arrived fewer and fewer of the year’s biggest releases managed to hit their mark and it wasn’t until autumn where a succession of fresh contenders emerged.
“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade” – Werner Herzog
Regardless of how many films you watch, The Act of Killing is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and a third collaborator, who like the majority of the crew remain anonymous for their own safety, unite as a directorial trio to deliver a challenging and outrageously innovative documentary about the Indonesian genocide in 1965.
Compelling, flawed and tricky. tricky. tricky.
With incredible access to Kevin Pearce, his family and friends and their archive footage of his brief extreme sports career, Lucy Walker has assembled a compelling documentary about the teenage snowboarding champion and potential Olympian, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a serious crash during training in 2009.
A new star child is born
Science fiction films, like any form of mainstream storytelling, typically hinge on humanity’s struggle against an antagonist, whether it’s an alien species, self conscious technology or earthbound asteroid. Powered by his ambition to deliver the most lifelike presentation of what it’s like begin in space, Alfonso Cuarón substitutes a tangible antagonist for a minimalist focus on the isolation, emptiness and natural dangers that occur within such an inhabitable space. It’s immediately clear that Cuarón’s daring enterprise is a rare breed, but this is only one of the elements that sets Gravity apart from the vast majority of others.
Saints and Sinners
Stephen Frears’ Philomena recounts the true story of a devout Catholic woman, Philomena Lee, who was sent to a convent when she became pregnant as an unwed teenager. During her imprisonment she and many other girls were subjected to abuse, but nothing was more traumatising than the nun’s exploitative side business of selling their babies to rich Americans. Fifty years later, a now elderly Philomena contacts a disgraced journalist Martin Sixsmith to embark on a search for the son who was stolen from her at birth.