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).