A closer look at…45 Years

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© Curzon Artificial Eye, 2015

45 Years is rated 15 for strong language, sex. Available on DVD or to rent or buy on Amazon Instant Video.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A slow-moving, low-key drama with powerful emotions below the surface

Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary. Amid the gentle rhythms of everyday life and the last-minute party preparations, an unexpected piece of news arrives. The body of Geoff’s former girlfriend Katya, who died many years ago in a skiing accident, has been found perfectly preserved inside a Swiss glacier.

As Geoff withdraws, brooding over what might have been, Kate begins to crumble: what do the celebrations mean now that her whole lifetime with Geoff has been cast in a different light? Over the course of a few days in the run-up to their anniversary, both are shocked to find their marriage shaken to its foundations.

Continue reading A closer look at…45 Years

Oscars 2016: Five quick reactions

So it’s the morning after the night before (it’s still morning in L.A, OK?). All over Hollywood, celebrities are waking up with sore heads. Leo has fallen asleep clutching his statuette. Jenny Beavan, the evening’s biggest badass, is probably still partying.

What to make of it all, now that the dust has settled?

DiCaprio

Continue reading Oscars 2016: Five quick reactions

A child protection expert watches ‘Spotlight’

Here at Damaris Media we share an office with the folks from CharityOffice, including safeguarding specialist for charities Elaine Davidson. I wanted to hear her thoughts on the Oscar-nominated drama Spotlight, which tells the true story of the 2002 Boston sexual abuse scandal.

Hi Elaine, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Could you just share a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Hi Sophie! I have been an HR & Training consultant most of my life, but back when my children were pre-schoolers and I was juggling my career, I decided to open up my own Day Nursery. (As I didn’t have enough to do – joking – I needed good day care!). I began to get more involved, as the owner, in child protection.  We were having children placed from Children’s Services who were in temporary accommodation and fragile situations. That was a steep learning curve.

I was called in to give evidence at child case conferences where I saw firsthand what abuse and neglect could look like. It caught my heart and I’ve gone on from there to dedicate my professional life to child protection.

Continue reading A child protection expert watches ‘Spotlight’

And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to…

best picture collage
The 2016 Best Picture nominees

Guess what? I’ve seen all of the 2016 Best Picture nominees! Even though I kind of hate the Oscars! Turns out I’m a completist.

Since these are the films that are going to be dominating the cultural conversation over the next few weeks, at least, it seems worthwhile to sum up this blog’s coverage.

Continue reading And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to…

A closer look at…Mad Max: Fury Road

© Warner Brothers, 2015.
© Warner Brothers, 2015.

Mad Max: Fury Road is rated 15 for strong violence, threat. Available on DVD and to rent or buy on Amazon Instant Video.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – As human and subversive as it is noisy and brash, Mad Max: Fury Road is a journey like no other. 

In the post-apocalyptic desert that was once Australia, former warrior for justice Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been reduced to his basest survival instincts. Captured by men who serve the tyrannical warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Max is imprisoned and has his blood drained into sick soldier Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

Meanwhile Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s lieutenants, is sent on a mission to collect gasoline from a nearby town. But en-route she drives her truck wildly off course, and Joe realises that she has kidnapped five of his ‘wives’ – young women kept for breeding – and is making a desperate bid for freedom.

When Nux and the other soldiers set off in pursuit, Max is brought along – and so begins a terrifying odyssey through the wasteland.

Continue reading A closer look at…Mad Max: Fury Road

A closer look at… The Big Short

© Paramount, 2016.
© Paramount, 2016.

The Big Short is rated 15 for strong language, sexualised nudity

The ScoopA mixed bag of a film which nevertheless acts as an effective primer on the financial crash.

It’s 2005, and socially inept hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) thinks he’s spotted something huge. The housing market, long considered to be the foundation of the American economy, is far less stable than everybody believes. In fact, Burry predicts, a huge and catastrophic crash is on its way. If he plays his cards right, he can benefit from it.

Paying visits to numerous incredulous banks, Burry ‘shorts’ the housing market, effectively placing bets against it. When trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears about what Burry is doing he accidentally alerts another hedge fund manager, the cynical Mike Baum (Steve Carrell), and they team up to short the market themselves. Meanwhile, another team – young investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Whittrock), and their older mentor Ben (Brad Pitt) – have also stumbled on Burry’s prediction and are doing the same.

As Baum and his colleagues dig deeper into what is causing the market collapse, they discover a financial system riddled with more fraud, corruption and stupidity than they could have imagined. The party will soon be over – and it won’t be the banks who have to pay.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Big Short

A closer look at… Bridge of Spies

© 20th Century Fox, 2016.
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

Bridge of Spies is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate threat, violence

The Scoop –  Gripping, humane and good-humoured, Bridge of Spies is a superior thriller.

It’s 1957, and in the midst of escalating tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a nondescript Brooklyn artist is arrested as a Russian spy. Since Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) refuses to cooperate with the US government, he faces either thirty years in prison or the electric chair.

Enter insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who has been asked to represent Abel in court. Donovan’s superiors expect him to do little more than show up: but he isn’t that kind of man.  Against the objections of his wife Mary (Amy Ryan), his colleagues and the American public, Donovan sets about fighting Abel’s corner. His principles will lead him on a cloak-and-dagger trip to East Berlin, and into an unlikely friendship with the mercurial spy.

Continue reading A closer look at… Bridge of Spies

A closer look at… Spotlight

© Entertainment One, 2016.
© Entertainment One, 2016.

Spotlight is rated 15 for child sexual abuse references

The Scoop – An intelligent drama which manages to be both restrained and powerful.

It’s 2001, and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe are looking for their next big story. They’re dubious when their new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), asks them to dig deeper into a case involving an abusive priest, John Geoghan. The documents are all legally sealed, and any attempt to access them will be viewed by the Church as a hostile move. In a city where Catholicism is part of everybody’s life, the Globe doesn’t want to alienate its readers.

But when journalists ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaten), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) start asking questions, they realise that Geoghan is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are there more abusive priests in Boston than anybody had guessed, but the cover-up encompasses powerful figures from the Church and across the city.

Shining a light into this story will involve not only confronting the painful experiences of the many victims, but also coming to terms with the shocking complicity of everyone involved.

Continue reading A closer look at… Spotlight

A closer look at… The Revenant

© 20th Century Fox, 2016.
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

The Revenant is rated 15 for strong violence, bloody injury detail, strong language

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – Bleak, brutal and often beautiful, The Revenant makes for a gruelling cinema experience.

In the wilderness of nineteenth century America, fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) ekes out a living for himself and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). While their hunting party is on the run from hostile natives, Glass is badly wounded in a bear attack. Though Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) attempts to save him, unscrupulous Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) believes it’s best to just let Glass die.

As Glass teeters on the boundary between life and death, Fitzgerald does something unforgivable. And Glass will get revenge, even if it means clawing his way out of his own grave.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Revenant

A closer look at… Room

© Studiocanal, 2016.
© Studiocanal, 2016.

Room is rated 15 for strong language, abduction theme

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – At once delicate and deeply powerful, Room finds hope in the midst of unimaginable horrors.

Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is turning five. He’s excited to celebrate his birthday by making a cake with his beloved Ma (Brie Larson). Jack’s life is happy and colourful, filled with daydreams and imaginary friends. Jack’s world is the size of a single room.

But now he’s bigger, Ma wants him to know something. The world outside, the pretend world he thought only existed on TV, is real. And Ma is concocting a plan to escape the clutches of their captor, leaving Room behind forever.

Continue reading A closer look at… Room