Showing posts with label Colin Firth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colin Firth. Show all posts

17 September 2014

Film Review - Magic In The Moonlight (2014)

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Genre: Comedy, Romance
Distributor: 19th September 2014 (UK)
Rating: 15
Running Time:97 Minutes
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater


After the sensational Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's latest feature sees him returning to the sort of nostalgic, charming and ever-so-slight fare that he seems to adore making. Taking us back to the 1920s, Magic in the Moonlight is a tale packed with a sumptuous visual aesthetic and absorbing performances - but little real substance.

Allen's latest settles in a wealthy estate in the South of France where Stanley (Colin Firth) an English illusionist goes undercover to unmask Sophie (Emma Stone), a suspected American swindler who claims to be clairvoyant. However, personal feelings get in the way of this dynamic and Stanley finds his judgement becoming cloudy as he falls for the young American.

Opening with a sprightly Cole Porter number, Allen starts as he means to go on by crafting the light and breezy, ever-charming tone that we have come to expect from his period features. This welcoming atmosphere is also bolstered by the appearance of Firth's Stanley, a man touring the country posing as Chinese conjurer Wei Ling Soo - when we first see him out of costume, Firth delights, arriving like a steam-train of dry sarcasm and snappy wit.

Upon shifting the narrative to Stanley's travels in France, Allen and cinematographer Darius Khondji pack the tale with a fairytale like aesthetic beauty - from the greenery of the rich country estates to the dazzling pastel colours of the cliffsides and seas. Combined with dazzling period costumes from Sonia Grande, Magic in the Moonlight is a visual feast that fully transports us back to a more appealing, carefree world of 1920s characters and whimsy.

Emma Stone brings a welcome sparkiness to the fold, with Allen's sharp dialogue flowing effortlessly from the wide-eyed, energetic actresses' tongue. There is an initial likeable simplicity to Sophie, yet it is always clear that there is slightly more depth to her occasionally suspect motivations. Paired with a savvy, sharp turn from Firth, Magic in the Moonlight should work effortlessly - and undeniably there is an amusing battle of personalities between the pair, however, this is squandered by a misjudged romantic turn in the narrative.

Whilst there is a watchable chemistry between the pair, this is not a convincing romantic chemistry - with the relationship never feeling particularly authentic (perhaps this is Allen's intention?). This is most likely due to the blatant age-gap between the pair and the fact we never quite believe that Firth's Stanley is head over heels for the near-thirty years junior Sophie. Given that this takes up such a vast part of Allen's narrative, this romantic angle brings a severe dip in quality.

Saving graces are provided by the delightful aesthetic, breezy humour and occasional sparks of dry brilliance in the dialogue. There are welcome supporting turns by the ever brilliant Eileen Atkins and Simon McBurney, and likeable appearances from Jacki Weaver and Marcia Gay Harden. However, unlike the magnificent Blue Jasmine, there is never anything particularly substantial (like Cate Blanchett's performance) for us as viewers to hold onto and be engrossed by.

Magic in the Moonlight is light, carefree and whimsically charming. With sumptuous visuals and period details, but little real substance, this is Allen at his most frustratingly pleasant and mediocre.

★★★
Andrew McArthur

Abig thanks to Andrew for letting us use his Culture Fix review

21 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Devil's Knot

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devilsknot-reece-witherspoon
Rating:
15
Release Date (TIFF):
8th & 9th September 2013
Director:
Atom Eyogan
Cast:
Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer,

Back in 1993, 3 boys wandered into the woods of a small Arkansas town and never came out alive, their bodies were found hog-tied and dumped in the river, apparent victims to a satanic murder. Quickly, but with little actual evidence, the crimes were pinned on three teens aptly labelled ‘The West Memphis Three’.  The media circus that erupted around this small-town murder escalated to a witch hunt which called for the boys to be charged and punished as quickly as possible. Suitable doubt has been raised in recent years as to the validity of the prosecution and a frankly unsettling question as to who the real murderers are. The case has been the subject of numerous documentaries and novels, Atom Egoyan’s feature Devil's Knot  is in fact based on one such novel of the same title by Mara Leveritt and partly adapted by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and Paul Harris Boardman (The Exorcism of Emily Rose).

The story itself is compelling in the most disturbing way, so the film has a great base to work from; a haunting tale of savage murder and hysteria shrouded in a dense mystery wrapped in incompetence and small-town politics. Egoyan has a keen eye for tone and mood, setting both with a masterful control over colour, image, and creeping camera movements. But under its pretty thriller façade, there’s not a huge amount to bolster this as anything more than a visual representation of a well-written book.

Reece Witherspoon stars as one of the murdered boys mothers and spends all of her time doing just that; sobbing and looking panicked, whilst Colin Firth is perhaps a little more grabbing as the inquisitive George Lux, but not much more. There’s a superb supporting cast here, but not enough solid story to work from. Sure the courtroom sequences are great in their totally maddening lack of reason; the hysteria of a community demanding blood over-takes the true desire for justice. And there are a few scenes that are truly distressing, but again that’s down to the subject matter and rarely the way it’s relayed, bar a grim and cruel first twenty minutes that are deeply upsetting. The strongest element of Egoyan’s feature is its ability to present a mystery without spoon-feeding, thus allowing the audience to do a bit of the work and realise just how shoddily the case was handled.

Devil’s Knot is grim and torturous, dark and cynical. It skips the happy ending, start and middle, instead grappling with concrete mystery. At its heart it’s a court drama thriller, but the story surpasses the execution rendering this a dubious venture. If you've read the book or seen one of the documentaries, there’s little need to watch the film.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark