Not since Emma Stone have I been so impressed with the comedic talent of a young actress. Mae Whitman is the next big thing; this cute and refreshingly honest film proves it. The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) could have travelled the same predictable road of other teen comedies, and though some themes and characters are a little cliché, I was mostly impressed and amused by the turn of events The DUFF provided. Whitman and Robbie Amell’s chemistry is just right, really pushing the central relationship to its satisfying conclusion. Though hardly breaking new ground, this short and sweet story should amuse and entertain teenagers 14+.
An emotional thriller and Daniel Radcliffe’s most daring role to date, Kill Your Darlings is not a peppy portrait of the Beat generation, but a gripping tale of obsession gone awry. Dane DeHaan’s Lucien Carr is convincingly lust-worthy, offering us the object of Allen Ginsberg’s affection, as well as a multi-dimensional villain. While Radcliffe’s performance is both fearless and emotional, I couldn’t help but notice that his chemistry with DeHaan was not as convincing as it could have been, mere admiration compared to lust. His accent wavered a few times too, but I still give him credit for what he did bring to the role, and that was a boat-load of emotional variety. Indie buffs need only apply, though general drama fans will find something special in this biopic too.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Reece Witherspoon, Laura Dern
What could seriously have been an extremely boring film turns out to be a confronting and ultimately redemptive portrait of an average woman trying to make amends for the mistakes she has made. After a downward spiral prompted by the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a walk that is notoriously difficult for first-time hikers. Reece Witherspoon gives an emotional performance as Strayed, while Laura Dern shines as Strayed’s eccentric mother. Dallas Buyer’s Club director Jean-Marc Vallee makes many good decisions in regards to the storytelling, but fails slightly in regards to the variety of imagery he could have provided. Nonetheless, an emotional biopic that will strike a chord with anyone who has struggled in life one way or another.
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone
Where to begin with this highly original comedy? Michael Keaton gives a brilliant and varied performance as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up movie star directing, writing and starring in a play, with the hopes of shedding the one-role image that haunts him – Birdman. Yes, he played a superhero in a movie franchise and its left him bitter. Edward Norton shines as a method actor with a penchant for truth. Emma Stone is also exceptional in her most emotion-charged role yet. Pigeon-holing (ha!) this unique and quirky film is impossible, it’s so fresh and different. If you like your comedy with a side of weird, I’d definitely check out this gem.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong
A fine way to start out my film season, The Imitation Game goes beyond a simple historical retelling, becoming an inspirational biopic of the genius Alan Turing, often noted as the man who led the team that ended World War II early, and saved approximately 14 million lives. The film plays out multiple threads of Turing’s life, all of them relevant and equally absorbing. Cumberbatch is typically brilliant as the closeted homosexual mathematician, and Knightley shines as Joan Clarke, a determined young woman with a knack for numbers herself. Tense, moving and ultimately triumphant, The Imitation Game is well worth a look in.