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Film

Joy

David O Russell’s wacky screwball spin on the rags-to-riches biopic opens with the line: ‘Inspired by stories of brave women.’ He could just as easily have borrowed the opening line from his last film, ‘American Hustle’ – ‘Some of this actually happened.’ ‘Joy’ is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the Long Island single mom who in the early 1990s invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop and became a shopping channel superstar. Cinema is full of American dreams: stories of men battling to build empires. This is a film about three generations of women. It has some of the macho stuff: the nostalgic voiceover, Scorsese-style, by Joy’s grandma (Diane Ladd); Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ blasting out; and it ends with Joy sitting behind a giant I’ve-made-it desk like Don Corleone. But Russell also mixes in elements of kitsch soap opera, allowing the dialogue to tip over in bigger-than-life melodrama. Only he could pull off a film with one foot in daytime TV and the other in ‘Goodfellas’. ‘Joy’ is brilliantly feminist – written by Russell and based on a story by Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote ‘Bridesmaids’ with Kristen Wiig. We first see Joy as a little girl, making a fairytale forest kingdom out of paper. All that’s missing is a prince, says her sister – ‘I don’t need a prince.’ Later, Joy meets Bradley Cooper’s TV exec, the boss of the QVC channel that will make her a star. Both their hearts skip a beat – but this woman does not have time for that. Joy is too busy

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Deadpool

‘You are relentlessly annoying,’ barks arms dealer Ed Skrein to Ryan Reynolds’s wisecracking, fetish-clad anti-superhero midway through this latest romp inspired by a Marvel comic. It’s an insult that applies just as easily to the film itself. Bloody, shallow and oh-so-smug, ‘Deadpool’ is so eager to offend that it’d almost be sweet if it wasn’t so, well, relentlessly annoying. We first meet Wade Wilson as an ex-military drifter, working as a thug-for-hire and about to fall madly in love with (you guessed it) a hooker-with-a-heart, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wade is suckered in by a shady corporation run by the villainous Ajax (Skrein), who promises to save his life. The cure leaves Wade disfigured and scarred, but pumped with advanced healing powers, a hunger for revenge and a thing for bright red Lycra. Clearly inspired by the ooh-aren’t-we-naughty sweary superheroics of Matthew Vaughn (‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Kingsman’), ‘Deadpool’ is the kind of movie that thinks a shot of the hero being dildoed by his girlfriend on International Women’s Day is feminist enough to make up for the fact that she’s a foxy ex-prostitute and the script is peppered with rape jokes. It all looks cheap and grimy – whether this is a stylistic choice or a budgetary issue isn’t clear. Meanwhile the action sequences sacrifice tension and excitement in favour of hyperactive editing and splattering gore. The result is rarely boring, but it’s not half as smart, funny or sub

Time Out says
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Film

The Revenant

After the playful, urban and contemporary humour of the Oscar-winning ‘Birdman’, this bleak-faced 1820s-set frontier western sees Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu return to the darker worldview of his earlier films like ‘Babel’ and ‘21 Grams’. Based on a 2002 Michael Punke novel about real-life folk hero Hugh Glass, ‘The Revenant’ stars Leonardo DiCaprio (gruff, committed, unreadable) as a fur trapper and frontiersman left for dead by his colleagues in a wintry American landscape after he is viciously shredded by a grizzly bear. Glass survives, and he hauls his damaged body through snow, across rivers, up rocks and over plains, driven by revenge. In his sights is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, savage with a dash of black humour), the man responsible for abandoning him to die and for forcing him to watch as his young son (of mixed-race parentage) is murdered in front of his eyes. So, no, it’s not a happy tale. But what survives from ‘Birdman’ is a compelling, forward-moving, simple approach to storytelling that grips us through stretches of silence and misery. The film's relentlessness itself becomes magnetic. There are times when 'The Revenant' feels like one long and unforgiving act of sadism, mostly directed at its lead character, but occasionally at us (a warning: the film is long, the dialogue is minimal and the violence is sharp). There are moments, too, that feel like parodies of awards-hungry acting, such as when we see DiCaprio chomping on raw animal organ

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

The Big Short

Adam McKay's latest film is a gleeful tumble towards the apocalypse

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Film

Macbeth

At the start of this brilliant, brutal film of Shakespeare’s Scottish Play, Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth lays oyster shells over the eyes of his dead son: an eerie funeral rite before the tiny body is burned on a pyre. Traditionally, the Macbeths have been portrayed as power-hungry. Cutting loose the play’s baggage, Australian director Justin Kurzel (who made the ultraviolent true-crime film ‘Snowtown’) recasts them as damaged. Untethered by grief, ambition fills the void, as Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) lures her husband into dark places, manipulating him into murdering the king. This ‘Macbeth’ is ferociously well acted. Fassbender’s prowling energy electrifies the film. He is utterly convincing as the battle-weary warrior: his face is a map of scars, with the hollowed-out, blank-eyed look of a man who has seen too much death (Fassbender has said he thought of his Macbeth as suffering from PTSD). Lady Macbeth can often be hard to watch, shrill and one-note, yet Cotillard, with that face you could stare at for hours, makes her subtle and human. Admittedly she struggles with the Scots – though, to be fair, she’s not the only actor here with an all-over-the-place accent. Still, both actors risk being upstaged by the natural elements. The wild Scottish Highlands, with its hardness and beauty, is a landscape that seems to have a murderous impulse of its own. And rising-star Kurzel directs this Shakespeare like a western: spare and savage.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Life

This small, well-coiffed and attentively designed film shows us a few weeks in the life of James Dean (Dane DeHaan) on the brink of reluctant stardom in 1955. Robert Pattinson co-stars as Dennis Stock, a Life magazine photographer from New York desperately wooing the farm boy from Indiana to give his own career a much-needed shot in the arm. ‘Life’ continues the current vogue for framing microcosmic snapshots of well-known folk’s lives in the hope that greater truths will emerge. But for every virtuoso ‘Lincoln’ there’s a pedestrian ‘My Week with Marilyn’, and this leans closer to the latter, setting up Dean and Stock’s relationship as meaningful, but in the end offering only a mildly interesting, gossipy window on Dean’s side of the tale as he hovered in limbo between the release of ‘East of Eden’ and shooting ‘Rebel without a Cause’. Director Anton Corbijn (‘Control’, ‘The American’), a photographer himself (and he plays one here in a brief cameo), lends the whole thing a Dean-like careful poise, and DeHaan is good at getting across the actor’s heavy-eyelided, good-spirited insouciance (even if, in the end, he doesn’t have the looks). There’s also a fun turn by Ben Kingsley illustrating studio boss Jack Warner’s control of his stars (‘If you’re not a good boy, I’m going to fuck you til it hurts’). But ultimately Luke Davies’s script, for all its warm observations on the man behind the myth (there are winning scenes back at Dean’s uncle and aunt’s farm), feels like a footn

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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