Unlike the titular nuptials, Marriage Story launches well and scarcely drops the ball. The performances are unanimously immaculate, bolstered by thoughtful and well-mannered direction from Noah Baumbach, who writes too, in his second Netflix gem. As with The Meyerowitz Stories before it, Marriage Story unreels its tale of kindly woe on the delicately handled juxtaposition of tenderest bitterness. Baumbach’s honesty in this warts and all exploration of contemporary divorce proceedings is commendable, fuelled, as it is, by personal experience as boy and adult; as third and first party.
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‘You know, it doesn’t normally snow on Christmas Eve.’ So says Joan Cusacks’ local, tin-foil wearing narrator as Let it Snow, Netflix’s latest entry to the festive canon, opens. Any slim chance that this might be some ironic nod to the fact that it always snows on Christmas Eve in films such as this dissipates rapidly. This is earnest, predictable material, carved from an algorithmic record of past successes. It’s woke Love Actually for the streaming generation, chockablock with YA stars and extracts from the Richard Curtis back catalogue. There’s no depth nor visceral meaning whatsoever here but it’s likeable enough in bite-size skits.
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It takes all of twenty-five minutes for the phrase ‘fake news’ to rear its ugly head in Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim sobering new documentary for Netflix. By this point in the film, a conspiratorial tone has already established humanity to be doomed, corrupted and likely on the fast track to thinly veiled authoritarianism. But it is our willing acceptance of such a fate that horrifies. It’s our fault. In the words of Dr. David Carroll, one of three de facto narrators here: ‘We were so in love with the gift of this free connectivity that no one bothered to read the terms and conditions.’ Fake news? No, this is an all too real project of fear.
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A little over fifty years ago, Bonnie and Clyde took on Old Hollywood and won. Arthur Penn’s fizzing, sexy crime biopic made stars of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, hailed a new age for cinema and effectively ended the career of stuffy film critic Bosley Crowther. It’s been a long time coming but the establishment finally have a dull, self righteous response. Occasionally saved by strong leading turns by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen is the antithesis of Penn’s groundbreaker, taking great pains to remind youthful viewers that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not nice people. At all. This is counter-counterculture in the extreme.
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Less action is more ambition in the case of Triple Frontier. Once attached to the likes of Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali and Johnny Depp, the film has retained some degree of its star power in the casting of Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac. It benefits too from a muscular but sage approach by director J. C. Chandor and soundtrack that plays heavy on heightening the fun. If the film lacks in many regards – tension, pacing and Charlie Hunnam’s accent – it succeeds in as many more.
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It is rather. Boasting an irresistible premise, feel good charm and tremendous leading talent in Rebel Wilson – not romcom’s first plus-sized belle – Isn’t It Romantic is an easy watch. It’s not a beguiling film by any stretch of the imagination but, with this level of genial appeal, it should do very well with any audience prepared to settle in.
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Dan Gilroy’s third feature as director, Velvet Buzzsaw, has the all strengths of his first, Nightcrawler, and flaws of his second, Roman J. Israel, Esq. It’s a pulpy, viciously entertaining hodgepodge of a film, benefitting from bountifully thrilling conceits but suffering from the lapses of a frustratingly potholed script. At every turn, an a-lister is to be found revelling in roles that demand performative excess and there is great joy to be had in witnessing the ascent of Zawe Ashton to the big time. If only the script were smarter, this would likely be an all-time horror classic.
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