Nick Hornby's soulful adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name is both heart-warming and heartbreaking in equal measure. He captures the trepidation and excitement of Ellis Lacey's life-changing move to Brooklyn, New York from small town Ireland perfectly; his impressive script given all the gravitas required with an enchanting performance from Saoirse Ronan. It's a delicate, wise-beyond-her-years portrayal of a caring, considerate young woman who is torn between her new life and her old one. Ronan is nothing short of a revelation here in a weighty leading role that fully embraces her incredible acting abilities.
The story may feel twee at times, but Hornby's script details incredible restraint. Ronan too reins in the need to wallow in melodrama with her nuanced performance. Director John Crowley's attention to detail in authenticity of the period is incredible; giving this small story the right injection of scale to give it weight without overburdening the story.
The film rarely falters with its impeccable combination of production design, great storytelling and amazing performances. But more than anything, Brooklyn is a great reminder that old-fashioned storytelling is a dying art, and when it's this good it needs to be embraced.
Seth Rogan's one joke - the stoner bromance comedy - can be easily overlayed over a multitude of bigger narrative styles. We already have the Seth Rogan apocalypse movie, the Seth Rogan living-in-suburbia movie, the Seth Rogan hero movie, heck even the Seth Rogan porno movie.
He has had incredible mileage out of this premise, and while it's been hit and miss, Rogan's affable slacker charm continues to win out even when things don't work as well as they should. So without further ado, The Night Before becomes the Seth Rogan holiday movie you've been waiting all your life for.
The Night Before sits someone in the middle of his hit-rate scale. With Anthony Mackie and Jospeh Gordon-Levitt as his partners in crime here, the trio make for a likable leads. The premise, bromantic as usual, see these best mates on their last ever annual Christmas pilgrimage throughout NYC for a night of debauchery and mayhem.
The movie brings on some heavy themes of growing up and moving on from youthful indiscretions; themes which indicate the heady Pineapple Express days are slowing moving into the past. Not that there aren't copious use of drugs here; Michael Shannon's turn as a supplier is pretty amusing when dishing out the hallucinogenics.
The Night Before may not be as flat out funny as the guys' straight up comedies in the past, but it has a jovial holiday spirit with meaningful themes that don't feel out of place amidst the crassness and typical stoner jokes.
To be honest, there wasn't much fear when it was announced JJ Abrams would be helming the modern rebirth of one of popular science fictions most beloved franchises. He worked himself up to this; through cult TV series like Lost, and then sharpening his teeth on genre titles like Super 8 and his equally quality reinvigoration of Star Trek. If JJ could make that arguably more geeky franchise something that appeals to the masses, then Star Wars would be a walk in the park.
To that end, the result here is certainly nothing that either lifelong fans or the casual watcher should be worried about. The Force Awakens is every bit the same kind of entertaining space opera that George Lucas created all those years ago; right down to the humour and action spectacle.
Unlike Lucas' self-important prequels, what really works is JJ's ability to craft a film that meets huge expectations but still feels like just a night at the movies. Abrams strikes the perfect balance of referential homage to where it all began, with a restrained busyness of modern big-budget extravaganzas. The Force Awakens is perhaps too familiar to its original trilogy predecessors, but it's that straightforwardness that makes this all the better.
Old, familiar faces give weight to the talented young cast who are ready and excited to take the reins from the old guard. It never feels forced, and again is all part of the fun; which was always what made Star Wars so enduring and multi-generational. That this has been recreated in that spirit gives us all a new hope that there is still life in this franchise to come.
Films these days so often feel like an amalgamation of various other films that precede it; which is a shame, because it leads to the notion that there really aren't any original ideas left.
Kingsman is Kick-Ass director Michael Vaughn's comic-book ultra-violent interpretation of James Bond.
Not surprisingly, it's a combination that works; thanks to Vaughn's tongue-in-cheek reverence to the genre, and his willingness to go balls to the wall with his hyper-kinetic action scenes that all too often feel like they are defying the laws of nature. His camera has the ability to glide through his incredibly staged set pieces with ease; that insane church scene in the final third is a perfect case in point.
He also lucks out with great casting, that often feels like a gimmick, but works a charm; here is its buttoned down Colin Firth as super-spy Harry Hart who has all the right moves in all the right places. Samuel L Jackson seems to relish the idea of camping it up with a lispy villain who is one note, but still fun in tone with the films intentions.
So, it may offer little new overall, but Kingsman has fun plot with a few tricks up its sleeve and its directors usual flair for flamboyant action film aesthetics which keep this enjoyable romp rollicking along nicely.
If you felt like Part 1 was half a film, then prepare to be redeemed. Splitting the story into two was financial no-brainer for movie studio execs, but ruined the flow of the plot that was weighed down by a stunted narrative structure.
The meaty second half is where all the good stuff clearly lies, as Part 2 clears the way for the inevitable usurping of the capital by the rebels who are still determined to end the tyranny of President Snow.
Yeah, that old chestnut. No one is expecting a new spin on the anti-establishment-lite plotting that is ingrained in the YA adaptation that the filmmakers have been adhering to, but there are some nifty little twists in the tale as the story weaves its way to its conclusion. Not everything is as it seems, which gives those who have stuck it out - and haven't read the books - some interesting stuff to chew on.
The cast, including a fired up Oscar nominee Lawrence concluding her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, do what they can with the usual stilted dialogue, but it's the exciting set pieces and finality of the story that most people are here for, and the rewards are solidly entertaining.
It may have overstayed its welcome by a couple of hours, but this mostly faithful adaptation finally gets a conclusion that was certainly worth the effort.