Reviews

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      Hail Caesar! (6/10)


        “Hail Caesar!” is a gentle comedy on the surface, but seems to me more a homage to the glory days of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s-50s. At that time the “big five” studios (Warner, RKO, Fox, Loew and Paramount) controlled every aspect of film production, from script writing through to distribution. Actors were on contract to a studio, who managed every aspect of their career and their public image.


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      The Lady in the Van (5/10)


        ‘The Lady in the Van’ was Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), an elderly vagrant living in her van in the streets of Camden in the 1970s and 80s. She came to live in Alan Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) driveway for some fifteen years. The movie tells the story of how Mary came to live, in her van, in Alan’s garden, and in a slow and roundabout way also discloses how she ended up living her autumn years in that van in the first place.


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      The Big Short (7/10)


        We are still living the (aftermath of…?) the global financial crisis that took the economy into recession starting in 2008. But it didn’t start in 2008 of course. It started over a decade earlier when investment banks found new ways of packaging debt. Then they evolved these new markets further by creating products consisting of funds consisting of bonds consisting of shares in packaged debt consisting of subprime mortgages. And these new markets were just as intransparent as the previous sentence was.


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      Pawn Sacrifice (6/10)


        The life of chess prodigy Bobby Fischer has rich potential for drama. He was a poor kid from Brooklyn who taught himself chess and became the youngest ever US chess champion. In the Cold War era when the Soviets dominated the game, Fischer was the solitary western player who could compete with the Soviet grandmasters. But the line between genius and madness is a thin one, and it was rarely thinner than in the case of Fischer.


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      Creed (5/10)


        Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of any of the Rocky movies. So now we have installment 7 of the Greatest Boxing Legend of American Cinema. It does however have several things going for it before even seeing it: it is the first movie in the franchise not written by Stallone, and Rocky is now only a supporting character rather than the lead.


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      Spotlight (7/10)


        ‘Spotlight’ is the section of the Boston Globe’s paper that looks beyond and delves deeper – work done by the paper’s investigative journalism team led by Robby Robertson (Michael Keaton). In 2001, the newspaper gets a new Chief Editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). Marty suggests the Spotlight team take a closer look at priest Geoghan, as there have been various stories about accusations against him.


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      A Bigger Splash (7/10)


        In this film Tilda Swinton plays Marianne, a major rock star who has had to have a throat operation and is convalescing in a villa on an isolated Mediterranean island. All seems idyllic and Eden-esque (complete with a presumably symbolic local snake) when temptation arrives in the form of her former record producer and ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) who has recently discovered that he has a grown-up daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who is travelling with him during a break from her studies.


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      Last Cab to Darwin (7/10)


        This movie tells the story of Rex (Michael Caton), a taxi driver who has never even left his hometown of Broken Hill, NSW. Just as Rex learns his stomach cancer has spread and the doctors give him maximum three months to live, he hears the news that voluntary euthanasia has been legalised in the Nothern Territory. Within a couple of days he is on his way in his cab to Darwin to find Dr. Farmer (Jacki Weaver), who is in the limelight for championing a new euthanasia programme.


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      Goosebumps (6/10)


        This movie takes one of R.L.Stine’s book series (there are currently 182 Goosebump books) and makes a merry mash-up of it all. Jack Black plays RL Stine as a recluse, living in a small town in Delaware. When new neighbours move in, teenage Zach (Dylan Minette) can’t help himself and finds himself sneaking into Stine’s house one night. When he accidentally drops one of Stine’s Goosebump manuscripts on the floor, it unleashes the monster inside…


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      Room (9/10)


        The premise of Room does not sound promising. A young woman is bringing up her young child, both confined to a small shed that she has been held captive in for seven years by an abductor. The child, who has just turned five years of age, has no idea what the outside world looks like other than through TV images, which his mother has described to him as from outer space.


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