Abel Morales (Oscar Issac) runs a successful business in the competitive New York oil market. His focus is on the constant growth of his enterprise with a strict adherence to the law, even though his competitors don’t have the same kind of scruples. In the January of 1981 Abel puts a hefty deposit on a piece of land that will rapidly enable him to expand his business and gain the upper hand but the terms of the sale are tough and if he does not raise the remainder of the money within thirty days he will lose everything. At the same time, he is being investigated by the DA (David Oyelowo), who is convinced there is something untoward going on in his business and someone keeps knocking off his trucks. If that wasn’t enough, Abel’s wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), the daughter of a Brooklyn mobster wants Abel to do whatever it takes to keep her and their children safe, whether it compromises his principles or not, and if he’s not willing to… she will. A Most Violent Year is probably my favourite film I’ve seen this year. It’s a bit of a slow burn but the pay off is epic. While in some part it’s about the murky underbelly 1980’s New York, which is fascinating, it’s even more about Abel and Anna’s intense, passionate and volatile relationship. Isaac is outstanding as the complex, driven Abel and he’s matched scene for scene by Chastain who has never been better playing a woman who is dangerous as she is breathtakingly glamorous (seriously, I would die for her cream coat). It might have missed out on an Oscar nomination but if you get a chance, don’t pass this example of great storytelling, paired with excellent character development, a blistering script and outstanding performances. 5/5
On an expedition to Peru British explorer, Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) meets a pair of extremely intelligent bears called Pastuzo (voiced by Michael Gambon) and Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton), introducing them to marmalade and promising them that they’ll always be welcome to visit him in London. Years later when tragedy strikes, Pastuzo and Lucy’s nephew, Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw) travels to London to find Montgomery and a new home. Unfortunately for the young bear he finds that not only is the weather in London unwelcoming but the people are even worse. Eventually Paddington is taken in by the Brown family ostensibly for the night with the intention of handing him over to the “proper authorities” in the morning. It’s not long before Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) grows attached to Paddington despite her husband’s (Hugh Bonneville) misgivings and the children realise that living with a bear can be pretty cool. But life with Paddington isn’t alway easy – not only is he constantly accidentally destroying everything in his path but there’s a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) on his tail and all she wants to do is stuff him. I’m not normally a great one for family films but I’ve got to say Paddington was absolutely adorable. There’s enough whacky humour to keep kids and adults entertained and while some of Paddington’s mishaps are pretty wild, they never get completely out of control which stops the film from taking on a completely cartoonish nature. Hawkins is charming as the kind and gentle Mrs Brown, while Bonneville is suitably stuffy as the risk averse Mr Brown but it’s Whishaw’s characterisation of the ever positive Paddington that steals the show. Whether you loved the Paddington books as much as I did as a child you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy this cute caper which has not suffered by being modernised for a new audience. Also coincidentally the only film I’ve ever seen where someone in the theatre loudly announced that they “needed a poo” and had to be marched out by a grandparent. The joys of a Saturday matinee. Lol! 4/5
Channing Tatum plays Mark Schultz, a real life Olympic gold medal wrestler in training for the World Championships. While Mark is quick of body, he is slower of mind, somewhat socially awkward and has always lived in the shadow of his older brother, David (Mark Ruffalo) also an Olympic gold medalist. When Mark receives a mysterious invitation to the Foxcatcher estate to meet billionaire, Mark Du Pont (Steve Carrell) he is intrigued and pleased to be singled out. Du Pont invites Mark to live at Foxcatcher and train with a team he has assembled in a state of the art gym he has built. Du Pont’s behaviour towards Mark is immediately somewhat erratic and unpredictable and his motivations questionable but a close bond develops between the two with Du Pont acting as a kind of father figure. However, without the structure of training with David and Du Pont’s lack of coaching experience, Mark struggles with motivation and discipline and his relationship with Du Pont as well as his performance starts to suffer. This is not helped by Du Pont’s increasingly odd behaviour and his insistence that David should also join the training camp as part of his bid to position Foxcatcher as the official Olympic training camp. When David arrives with his family in tow he is shocked to discover what has been going on at Foxcatcher and starts to reinstate a proper training programme, while trying to reengage his disaffected brother but things are nowhere near as strange as they’re going to get. All three of the key actors give successful performances that challenge their ability to demonstrate the physical characteristics and mannerisms of the characters they are playing. Tatum proves that he is capable of more than taking off his shirt, Carrell breaks out of his normal comedic roles, bringing a a constantly creepy feeling to Du Pont managing to make him come across as menacing and somewhat pathetic all in one go and Ruffalo is as effective as ever playing the emotional heart of the film. It would be difficult to call Foxcatcher entertaining since the subject matter and atmosphere are so odd but it certainly is interesting. The first half of the film is extremely slow moving, so much so that Mr O decided to go home and have a bath. I stuck around for the second half and was rewarded with a much more intense second act followed by a truly jaw-dropping ending. Although I found this a worthwhile watch based on the performances, I’m not sure it’s something I would ever watch again and the first half really was quite a hard slog. 3.5/5
Juliet (Kerry Fox), David (Christopher Eccleston) and Alex (Ewan McGregor) are three young and somewhat self-absorbed professionals who share a beautiful flat in Glasgow. When their fourth flatmate moves out, they embark on a search for someone new, eventually choosing Hugo (Keith Allen). When they find Hugo dead in his room with a suitcase full of money it doesn’t take them long to decide to keep it. But that leaves the question of the body and who is going to be stuck with the grisly task of dismembering it for disposal and where all the money came from in the first place because surely someone must want it back? As the police and some unsavoury characters start sniffing around, paranoia and greed sets in the group’s once close knit friendship and their minds start to unravel. This cult classic is iconic director, Danny Boyle’s first film and bears all the hallmarks of his style – characters struggling with sanity and reality, colour-rich cinematography, intense dialogue and flights of fancy mishmashed with brutal reality. Essentially it’s a fable telling us that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and that every action has consequences. If you have any fond memories of the nineties or you’re a Boyle fan you’re bound to enjoy this forgotten indie gem. 3.5/5
Good reviews! I really enjoyed both A Most Violent Year and Foxcatcher. They’re both slow burning as you say but they have such a strong sense of atmosphere. Great performances in both too.
Atmosphere really can make or break a film!
I saw A Most Violent Year quite a while ago…it was good, and thought-provoking, but it hasn’t stayed with me. I haven’t seen Paddington yet but can hardly wait. Foxcatcher was beyond creepy and I think I’m still getting over it, though I watched it like 3 months ago!
Foxcatcher is super, super creepy. It made my skin crawl and I already cam’t wait to see A Most Violent Year again. I am sure you will love Paddington as much as I did 🙂
Lots of cool movies for you this week! Everyone seems to love ‘a Most Violent Year’. I liked Oscar Iissac a lot in Inside Llewyn Davis. I better watch this one soon. Nice reviews, Abbi.
Oscar Isaac is fast becoming of my favourite actors.
A magical post!
Wow Abbi, I thoughts almost mirror each other perfectly. I too LOVED “A Most Violent Year”. Paddington was a delight and a wonderful surprise. Foxcatcher was really good but it does have those slow patches you mention and I thought the ending was a bit clunky. Haven’t seen Shallow Grave.
I am glad I wasn’t the only won who struggled a little with Foxcatcher and also that Paddington is getting an audience. Shallow Grave is really interesting so it’s worth a watch if you come across it.
I dunno, the words “Channing Tatum” on any movie poster makes me very wary. I haven’t seen much of him, just enough to know that I don’t want to see more. And seriously ladies (and some gentlemen), you all need to have your eyes checked. Dude is fugly! :-p
I don’t think Channing Tatum is attractive at all but I do think given the right role he can turn out a good performance and he’s great here.
Nice reviews, Abbi! 🙂 We feel similar about Foxcatcher. I wasn’t going to go to A Most Violent Year but maybe I should, hmm? I really like Shallow Grave – back when Boyle made good stuff! Lol – love the Paddington poo story. 🙂
I loved A Most Violent Year but I know some people wanted it to be a bit more of a mob movie. For me the performances were great though. What has happened to Boyle? It’s all gone tits up. The little boy who needed the poo break was too sweet.
You are quick off the mark. A Most Violent Year hasn’t been out long. Can’t wait to see it
It’s had such a short run in my local cinema that I had to get in quick.
Nice one Abbi. A Most Violent Year was definitely something wasn’t it?
Great to see Shallow Grave get a highlight, though. I love that little flick.
I am genuinely shocked that it didn’t get an Oscar nomination.
Shallow Grave is great fun. Glad Mr O introduced me to it.
Great post! Can’t wait to see these!
Hope you get to see them all soon.
Wow. What a great selection of films. Love them all.
It was nice to have a week of all pluses because there’s normally at least one stinker!
Great mini reviews Abbi. I can’t say Foxcatcher was entertaining either, I think the performances are what made the film for me. I can’t wait to see A Most Violent Year! I missed that on the big screen but I love both Issac and Chastain, and Chandor’s first film Margin Call was impressive!
I think you’ll really enjoy A Most Violent Year. Isaac and Chastain both shine.
I need to watch Shallow Grave again, I love that film!
It’s so fabulously 90s!