The Month in Films: May 2015

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Exams are fast approaching, and in the midst of all that desperate revision and stress, you’re gonna need a breather. Luckily for you, we here at The Indiependent have it covered, as we highlight some of the best films hitting the shelves this month. Among May’s releases are some Oscar-winning beauties – ranging from biopics to Birdman – a gritty criminal drama set in 1980’s New York and the latest animation to come from Walt Disney Studios.


Birdman

Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. Not only this but Riggan has to deal with method actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) and his failing relationships with his daughter (Emma Stone) and wife (Naomi Watts). Birdman is an original masterpiece when it comes to filmmaking as an art and is equally entertaining to it’s credit. This Acedemy Award winning independent hit directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu is perfect in every element a film should be.

Birdman is a technical marvel, it’s cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is fascinatingly beautiful, giving the illusion that the film was shot in one continuous take, adding to the film’s theatrical atmosphere. The screenplay written by no less than five people including the director, is a masterpiece. Manifesting realistic characters that deal with a variety of everyday problems, the screenplay squeezes the very best of the entire cast, in which all performances could have been considered Oscar worthy. The film not only tackles real human problems, but real problems in Hollywood too, servicing it’s audience with the truth about the goliath that is the superhero movie as well as film critics, actors and how social media effects art and the viewing experience. Apart from it’s references to specific social media sites like Twitter, which could deny the film a timeless feeling when you let a friend lend it in 20 years time and you tell them ‘It’s a classic.’ Birdman is filmmaking perfection. And a more than entertaining time for any viewer. So, ‘Stop watching films through your phone screens and have a real experience!’

Birdman is available to buy from 4th May 2015* | Words: EM | Read the full review here


The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is James Marsh’s spectacular biopic, focusing in on the lives of infamous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Based on Wilde’s memoirs, the film offers a touching and profound insight into the struggles the young couple faced over their thirty year marriage – forefront of them all, being Hawking’s ever-deteriorating state of health, after he was tragically diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, aged 21. The film follows the couple, as they passionately wed post-diagnosis, build a family, create a new way of looking at the world and ultimately part after years of adapting to the effects of Hawking’s illness.

It is unarguably, the performances that really make this film. Redmayne’s Oscar-winning performance is truly exceptional, as he hones his craft intricately into imitating Hawking’s locked-in posture. Jones is also incredibly affecting as Jane, who quietly suffers alongside Hawking, sacrificing everything – from her scholarly ambitions to a much easier love affair with family friend Jonathan (Charlie Cox) – for the love of her husband. Though the central relationship is as undoubtedly powerful as it is moving, the rest of the plot seems just a little too sugarcoated for comfort. The film is so focused on hurrying through this three-decade long romance, that it neglects to fully expand on some of the darker moments of Hawking’s real-life history – like the bout of depression he suffered after receiving what he thought to be a death sentence. Fortunately though, for the less nit-picky viewer, this is still a very well made film, featuring many beautifully picturesque shots of Cambridge and two very admirable lead performances.

The Theory of Everything is available to buy from 11th May 2015* | Words: AH | Read the full review here


A Most Violent Year

1981. The most violent year on record in the history of New York City. It is here, that we journey through a world of shady business deals and localised economic downfall, in which our chaperone, Abel Morales (Oscar Issac), is forced to confront the dark side of the American Dream in order to raise his business to the top. He and his wife: Anna (Jessica Chastain) – a gyroscopic force to be reckoned with, who can switch from kindly benevolent to domineering and manipulative at the drop of a hat – take a chance on a low-cost oil plantation by the East RiverYou’d be cheerfully forgiven for subconsciously assuming that this is merely another traditionally action-packed American gangster movie, just from the title itself. However, that is most certainly not the case,A Most Violent Year is an in-depth, slow-burning exploration of what the life of an anti-mobster would’ve entailed in a city ruled by violence, crime and corruption. 

In fact, aside from its narrative structure, there’s not much else in the way of conventional, Corleone-esque components to been seen here. Instead, J.C. Chandor’s fascinating tale forces its audience to re-examine thegenre’s go-to stereotypes of shadowy Mafiosos accompanied by their placid trophy wives, by flipping it completely on its head. Oscar Issac stakes the first of a handful of claims to recognition as one of 2015’s breakout stars with his seasoned performance as the reserved yet fiercely ambitious Abel – an immigrant who occupies a far more rounded, reasonable and honest stance towards his business. Meanwhile Jessica Chastain delivers yet another flawlessly erudite portrayal in the no-nonsense, tenacious role of Anna. Now if you’re looking for the next Goodfellas, Scarface or The Godfather, then this certainly isn’t it. Nor is it a fast-paced action-thriller. However, whether or not Chastain’s summary of it as an ‘anti-gangster morality tale’ catches your attention, the high standard of acting, coupled with Chandor’s grippingly gritty storytelling – both visually and narratively – definitely make it worth the watch.

A Most Violent Year is available to buy from 18th May 2015* | Words: AG


Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is one of Disney’s latest – and greatest – offerings in recent years. A superhero film of all-new proportions, the loveable animated action-comedy is set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo (geddit?) and follows 14-year-old Hero Hamada – a robotics genius living with his aunt and older brother after the death of his parents. After being caught participating in illegal robot fights, his brother Tadashi takes him to his university and introduces him to Baymax, a cuddle-worthy, human-like machine designed to provide medical help. When tragedy strikes, Hero and Baymax begin a mission of epic proportions to make things right again.

Perhaps one of Disney’s biggest emotional rollercoasters, Big Hero 6 will make you belly laugh, gasp, and sob like a baby a hundred times in a hundred minutes. Full of true-to-life, honest characters, as well as Disney’s trademark for-the-adults humour, Hero and Baymax – as well as a flurry of excellent supporting characters – will touch your heart in a rare way, and leave you smiling long after the credits have rolled. Many films can be described as “a hit for all the family”, but it is most certainly true of this one; no matter your age, you gender, your background, or anything else, it’s certain that you’ll adore Big Hero 6.

Big Hero 6 is available to buy from 25th May 2015* | Words: AB


Wild

A tale of recovery and strength, Wild is the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It is the story of Strayed’s thousand mile trek across the United States, taking her from a place of grief, drug addiction and turmoil to a life full of hope. It’s a multi-linear narrative which traces Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) in the present and the past, showing how she ended up where she is and how she pushed through the harsh weather and often dangerous conditions on her trail. Wild served as the latest Academy Award nomination for past winner Reese Witherspoon and it’s easy to see why; though the film certainly isn’t a solo effort, Witherspoon brings an entire emotional spectrum to the table -­ clearly showcasing her talent as a modern actress.

Laura Dern – who plays Strayed’s mother – was also Oscar nominated for her role; a choice which set the Oscar ballot apart from many other end-of-season awards. It’s recognition is well deserved and the heartbreaking relationship between the women in this film is one of it’s most tender elements. In fact, Wild is a strange mix between tenderness and harshness, giving an incredibly honest portrayal of womanhood that was perhaps only rivalled in 2014 by Gone Girl. Wild is a film worth anyone’s while – The performances from Witherspoon and Dern are engaging, and three dimensional due to an excellent screenplay from Nick Hornby. And just like in his previous film Dallas Buyers Club, Jean ­Marc Vallée directs with boldness and sensitivity; but be warned. This film will make you cry and maybe even make you feel sick too. Oh, and it’ll make you want to walk a thousand miles. Which is a feat in itself.

Wild is available to buy from 25th May 2015* | Words: AW


Also out on DVD and Blu-ray this month*: The Last Five Years (4th), Playing It Cool (11th), Into The Woods (18th),Foxcatcher (18th) and Testament of Youth (25th)

*Please note that all release dates referenced are UK only. International release dates may differ.


Words by Amie Bailey, Alex Graham, Annie Honeyball, Eddie Michael and Ashley Woodvine

Compiled by Annie Honeyball

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