Director: Billy Ray (2016)
In my eyes there’s far too little mystery in this plodding political pot boiler.
The star of 12 Years A Slave (2014) Chiwetel Ejiofor is now 13 years an investigator, that’s the time his character Ray has spent hunting for a killer.
As talented as the public school educated British actor is, he fails to convince as a blue collar New York cop.
Ray’s convinced he’s found the man responsible for the murder of the daughter of former colleague Jess.
Julia Roberts performance has been described as ‘brave’, meaning she wears no make up.
To borrow Stephen Fry’s ungentlemanly phrase from the Baftas, she looks, albeit intentionally, like a bag lady.
Nicole Kidman’s glamorous District Attorney is reluctant to jeopardise her career by reopening the case on the basis Ray’s flimsy evidence.
There are corruption, confessions, chases, interrogations, break ins and some waffle about baseball.
The story switches between two years, most of what happens in 2002 lacks tension and 2015 is too concerned with Ray trying to resolve a romantic obsession.
The top drawer cast are on great form and none disappoint as in turn they’re granted the space to demonstrate their considerable ability.
But we’re not terribly invested in the characters and the script isn’t interested in the plot and moments of humour are misjudged as the cast strive to carry weighty themes.
Based on an Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) it’s been heavily retooled for the American market.
There’s an effectively created mood of paranoia and uncertainty in the aftermath of 9/11.
Addressing the attacks’ effect on the American psyche, the script demands the US bury its grief and stop feeling guilty over allowing it to occur.
Arguing the US must in future deliver swift and terminal justice to wrong doers is an insular and biblical view point which may play better across the pond than over here.
Director: Jason Zada (2016)
There’s a cabin in the woods and paranormal activity occurs in the fog, but this supernatural horror contains meagre thrills.
When American teacher Jess is presumed dead in a supposedly haunted Japanese forest, her twin sister Sara is convinced she’s alive and sets out to find her.
Natalie Dormer is great in both roles which allow her to be intelligent and resourceful, to howl like a banshee and in a brief flashback banter with herself.
She hooks up with Taylor Kinney’s expat journalist Aiden, and Yukiyoshi Ozawa’s Forest guide Michi who help her in her hunt.
Aokigahara Forest lies at the base of Mt. Fuji and is a location of ancient and mystical beauty.
Oozing atmosphere and flesh eating maggots by day, at night it’s a very crowded place indeed.
A shame the script couldn’t find something more ghoulish to populate it.
Director: Felix Thompson (2016)
There’s a royal heart powering this coming of age adventure which captures the agonies of teen life with a clear and unsentimental eye.
In a small down market US town, Jack is engaged in a running feud with the older local bully.
Charlie Plummer stands out in a tremendous young cast whose captivating performances are full of nuance and honesty.
Resentful when his single parent mother lumbers him with his 12 year old cousin. A day of selfies, cigarettes and switchblades leads to a momentous party.
Assured and engaging, King Jack’s harsh charm disguises it’s thoroughbred cinematic breeding.
Director: Louis Leterrier (2016)
Super spy James Bond meets TV’s Shameless in this offensively funny action comedy.
Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen stars as super chav turned secret agent Nobby Grimsby.
As producer, writer and lead actor he takes comic pot shots which rake across satire, slapstick, sex and stupidity. The successful ones strike their target with explosive effect.
A cast iron structure has the weaker first half ticking along with underclass chaos and well choreographed action scenes, stealthily setting the audience up for the outrageously gross second half.
Though the script seems to want to mock and defend chav culture, it isn’t wildly successful doing either.
With his Liam Gallagher attitude, Frank Gallagher dress sense, Britpop tunes and wandering northern accent, Nobby seems based on the wrong side of the Pennines.
The town of Grimsby is never the target, the film could have been called Oldham, Bolton or Rochdale for all it matters to the plot.
Football fan and prodigious procreator, Nobby is reunited with his long lost brother Sebastian, a smooth British spy.
He’s played by a commendably game for a laugh Mark Strong, the pair making themselves the butt of all the best jokes.
After a thwarted assassination during a symposium held by Penelope Cruz’s charity boss, the footie mad brothers Grimsby are hunted around the globe.
They must clear their name, prevent a genocide and try to attend the World Cup Final in Chile.
As Nobby’s wife Dawn, Australian actress Rebel Wilson is a slatternly housewife, Isla Fisher is in Miss Moneypenny mode and Ian McShane is a generally disbelieving M type.
Among the beer bellied drinkers at the local pub, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas and Jon Thomson there’s professional northern support.
Swilling about in it’s own magnificent bad taste, Grimsby is the first great comedy of 2016.
Director: John Hillcoat (2016)
This confused crime drama is a loose tissue of tattoos, muscles and machismo.
Despite the violence, very strong language, drug use and nudity, the lack of focus and ambivalent moral stance makes for an un-involving experience.
Too many minor characters slow the pace and the moody lighting fails to illuminate the blunt action scenes.
Kate Winslet gives tremendous vamp as a glossy Russian-Israeli mafia mol who blackmails a crew of corrupt cops into one last heist.
The gang leader is Michael who’s played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor rarely given to compromising his character’s intensity in return for popularity.
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul appears as a loose cannon with a drug problem. Again.
Full of epic ambition and clearly influenced by Michael Mann’s far superior Heat (1995), director Hillcoat had a much firmer grip of his material with the taut Australian western The Proposition (2005).
Director: Craig Gillespie (2016)
Batten down the hatches and prepare for heroism on the high seas in this historical drama.
It’s a sturdy old fashioned tale of duty, courage and comradeship in extreme circumstances.
But it offers only a squall of excitement, not a storm of danger.
During the ferocious winter storm of 1952, a Massachusetts coast guard crew combats ferocious conditions to rescue the crew of a stricken oil tanker.
But when a second tanker is ripped in two, it is left to a lowly Boatswains mate to launch a second mission with an inexperienced crew and unsuitable craft.
The action is a well staged mix of real action and special effects but the soggy performances threaten to capsize the story.
Bernie Webber is a shy, cautious soul. As the quiet hero Chris Pine carries none of the arrogant swagger of his Captain Kirk from the recent Star Trek reboot.
Instead he acts his little serious socks off, trying to out furrow the knotted brow of a typically downbeat Casey Affleck.
He plays Ray, the engineer and acting skipper of what remains of the tanker.
His authority is challenged by Seaman Brown, an enjoyably dissident Michael Raymond-James. Being a Disney movie, these are the most profanity free sailors ever to set sail.
The story flounders as when Bernie begins to abandon his cherished regulations to follow his instinct. It’s almost as if he’s using the Force from Star wars.
As Bernie’s pretty telephonist fiancee Miriam, Brit actress Holliday Grainger has little to do by drive about the dock and look worried. It’s a thankless role but the script at least attempts to give her a mind of her own.
A thunderous score seeks to drown out the scolding winds and though there’s some fine moments, you won’t be blown away at any minute or hour.
Director S. Craig Zahler (2016)
Four cowboys ride out to the rescue in this brutal western horror.
Kurt Russell is a crafty and charming Sheriff, leading his misfit posse against cannibal troglodytes.
The savages have captured his deputy, a young bride and an outlaw and we’re never sure if anyone is coming back alive.
There’s a welcome element of the supernatural and the sparse music and dry humour echo the barren landscape.
With well staged gory action scenes, it’s an effective visceral thrill ride which succeeds in upsetting the stomach.
But it’s never interested in engaging the brain.
Director Michel Franco (2016)
In this deeply humane yet bleak drama, Tim Roth plays a home care nurse for the terminally ill.
David is trying to rebuild his life and tentatively reaching out to his adult daughter after some time away.
He becomes too close to his patients but isn’t guilty of the crime of which he’s accused.
The film suggests possessing too much empathy is a trait which is not only undervalued by society, but one destined to be punished.
Filmed with an unflinchingly clear eye, a sober sensitivity and a largely static camera, it’s an intelligent and sensitive call for compassion and support for the lonely and infirm.