The Imitation Game (2014)

21 Oct

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There is something disconcertingly unsatisfying in the fact that the complex life of master mathematician, cryptanalyst and key figure in the outcome of World War II, Alan Turing (played by a magnificent Benedict Cumberbatch), is relayed here in such formulaic fashion. Turing was an enigmatic man: fiercely intelligent but emotionally distant, impersonal and difficult — yet his very genius relied on him being just so. While Morten Tyldum does attempt to unravel Turing’s tale and character by touching on his formative years at school and his ultimately tragic postwar fate, the focus here is on Turing’s work at Bletchley Park during World War II and his pioneering work on cracking the Enigma code.

Tyldum might have been best served sticking to that aspect of Turing’s story alone, as the sporadic flashbacks to his school days add little texture, while the postwar scenes are a diversion that only serves to highlight the eventual injustice afforded to a war hero on the basis of his homosexuality. Of course, Turing’s sexuality was a key aspect of his character, yet it is glossed over to such an extent that it sits rather uncomfortably.

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Still the Enemy Within (2014)

19 Oct

still enemy

The British miners’ strike of 1984 to ’85 was a wholly divisive and socially transformative industrial action that threatened to paralyse the country and bring down Margaret Thatcher’s government. It was the last great battle cry of the socialist unions, fed up with the Tory diktat of rampant privatization of British industry but ultimately one that served to signal the end of overt unionist power. The struggle was pitched as “Arthur’s army” (after influential National Union of Mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill) versus the enemy within, a vicious moniker coined by Thatcher to describe the striking miners. “Still the Enemy Within” is the unashamed and wholly single-minded story from the miners’ perspective of those dark days that came to define Thatcher’s decade-long reign and that changed a country forever.

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The Equalizer (2014)

1 Oct

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Proponents of above-average 1980s TV shows may recall a gruff and mysterious Edward Woodward in a stellar turn as shady agency-type Robert McCall meting out deserved vengeance on all manner of ne’er-do-wells. Its premise revolved around McCall — haunted by his past life — offering to put things right by helping those in need against forces of evil, in effect equalizing rights and wrongs. It was an interesting concept, legitimizing violent revenge by instilling its hero with a fierce moral compass. No wonder then that the show has been afforded a big screen adaptation, bought into the 21st century by “Training Day” tag team Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington.

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From the Archives: At the End of Daybreak (2009)

3 Jun

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Inspired by a tabloid crime story, Malaysian director Ho Yuhang’s “At the End of Daybreak” is a tale of class divides, tragic love and the loss of innocence. It’s a slick, hectic and moody picture that’s tinged with anger and passion that cements Ho’s already exciting reputation.

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Gojira (1954)

3 Jun
If there's a way to defeat Godzilla, we need to know.

If there’s a way to defeat Godzilla, we need to know.

Fruitvale Station (2013)

13 May

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The tragic true tale of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident gunned down by an overzealous cop on New Year’s Day 2009, forms the basis of Ryan Coogler’s hauntingly powerful feature debut, Fruitvale Station. Opening with shaky archival mobile phone footage of the incident that sparked outrage across the US, Coogler gives us a glimpse of Grant’s fate before unveiling the story of the man who ultimately lies behind the statistic. Continue reading

Batman (1989)

13 May
I have given a name to my pain, and it is Batman.

I have given a name to my pain, and it is Batman.

Woman Without Piano (2009)

23 Apr

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FIPRESCI award-winning director Javier Rebollo teams up with Spanish TV stalwart Carmen Machi for an atmospheric character study that touches on feelings of helplessness and discontent and the lengths some people will go to define their existence.

Machi is Rosa, a middle-aged Madrid housewife who wiles away her time watching daytime television and tending to trite chores; Rebollo neatly highlights the banality of her routine with shots of a made bed and a plate of food. She has long, tedious conversations with people she doesn’t want to speak to: a salesman on the phone, an unhelpful woman at the post office. It all makes for a fairly miserable and meandering existence, which Rebollo emphasises by filling the picture with shots of clocks highlighting the slow passage of time. Yet when night falls, Rosa appears to lead a secret life and donning a wig she disappears into the night.

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To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

23 Apr
If you're looking for a pigeon, go to the park.

If you’re looking for a pigeon, go to the park.

From the Archives: Starsuckers (2009)

31 Mar

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Chris Atkins may be the most influential documentary maker currently working in Britain. His 2007 BAFTA-nominated film, “Taking Liberties,” examined the gradual erosion of civil liberties and the rise of a surveillance society under New Labour; it’s an informative and terrifying picture. His follow up, “Starsuckers,” is a damning indictment of the power of the media and the cult of celebrity; and it’s perhaps the most relevant and hard-hitting picture of the year.

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