43 Contributions by: Jamie Rutherford (Page 2)

Staff & contributors
Monster is a biographical depiction of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a prostitute and serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The film follows the burgeoning relationship between Wuornos and young Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, in a role based on Wuornos' real-life girlfriend Tyria Moore), as she grows increasingly desperate to provide for her young companion financially. Her desperation and her rage against men, brought on by years of both childhood and adult abuse, leads her down a dark path of murder and theft, even as she struggles to shield Selby from the horror of her crimes. The overwhelming highlight of the film is Theron’s mesmerizing performance as Wuornos—a role that won her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She’s almost unrecognizable and altogether phenomenal as the volatile and increasingly unstable Wuornos, whose ferocity is interwoven with surprising affection for young Selby. This unexpected tenderness lends the film an air of tragic poignancy, and provides a bittersweet portrayal of a severely troubled woman. Very much intended for mature audiences only, Monster is a fascinating recreation of a disturbing yet compelling chapter in the annals of true crime in America.

The Last Man on the Moon is a documentary about astronaut Eugene Cernan, Commander of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission in 1972. Chronicled by Cernan himself as he reminisces on his life, the film follows his early career with the Navy, his recruitment and training as an astronaut, and his participation in 3 trips to space: Gemini 9A, Apollo 10 and eventually Apollo 17—the last of NASA’s six expeditions to the Moon. Cern also delves heartfully into his loss of friends as well as his regretfulness for missing out on so much family time while away. It’s a poignant and inspiring account, with Cern providing a fine lesson in the confidence and diligence in takes to pursue and accomplish one’s dreams

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film is the story of a pair of vampires, Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton), married for thousand of years and living thousands of miles apart, subsequently reunited in modern-day Detroit to find Hiddleston in state of disrepair and depression. Their lives are shaken up by the sudden appearance of Swinton’s wayward young vampire sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) that sets their lives into tumult. It's the type of evenly-paced and wryly amusing dramedy that only Jarmusch could craft. I loved the atmosphere and sensibility of this film, not to mention the various literary allusions along with the dark, somber soundtrack. Less of a narrative and more of a modern-day-vampire-slice-of-life, this is one of those films that gets under skin and stays awhile (and not in a bad way).

A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret, Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga’s work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.
Twinsters is a documentary about a young Asian American actress, Samantha Futerman (also co-director), who is contacted over the internet by a young French-Asian woman, Anaïs Bordier, who has been shown a video of Samantha on the internet — and cannot believe their remarkably similar physical appearance. After initial perplexity and uncertainty, Samantha and Anaïs are soon embroiled in excited correspondence and travel to meet one another in their respective countries — eventually confirming via DNA testing that they are in fact long-lost twin sisters given up for adoption 25 years earlier in South Korea. A remarkable true story with a wonderfully beating heart, Twinsters does a lovely job of not just spelling out the amazing story of the sisters’ unlikely connection, but also finding and exploring the growing love and affection between both the two girls, as well as their extended families and groups of friends. A truly touching and humanistic film-viewing experience.
Things We Lost in the Fire is a touching drama about Audrey (Hall Berry), a married mother-of-two, whose husband Brian (David Duchovny) is killed tragically in a random act of violence. Amidst her grief she comes to connect with Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), Brian’s childhood friend who is living an isolated life as a junkie, and ultimately invites him to live with her and her children. What may sound like a formulaic set-up, with broken souls coming together to find mutual reconciliation, is elevated immeasurably by Susanne Bier’s deft directorial hand. The celebrated director of After the Wedding and In A Better World weaves a poignant narrative about loss and human connectivity, featuring stunningly good performances by both Berry and Del Toro. It’s a film that’s likely to surprise you with its heartfelt tenderness and compassion.
A devastating depiction of sexual addiction, featuring Michael Fassbender in one of the most remarkable acting displays of the entire year. His performance is nearly matched by Carey Mulligan as his wayward sister, whose intrusion into his lifestyle sets the central conflict of the story in motion. To sex what Requiem for a Dream was to drugs, this is NOT a film to be viewed in any sort of mixed company (note the NC-17 rating). Director and renowned British artist Steve McQueen continues his ascension toward filmmaking royalty, in follow-up to his extraordinary 2008 feature Hunger (also starring Fassbender).
A War (Krigen) is a Danish war drama that focuses on Commander Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) as he leads a company of soldiers in modern day Afghanistan, while his wife at home in Denmark struggles to care for their three children. During a mission to rescue a family from Taliban threat, Claus’ unit is overcome by enemy fire, forcing him to make a dramatic decision that has a complicated effect upon himself, his fellow soldiers, and his family back home. A War is a tense yet thoroughly involving drama that offers a profound example of moral ambiguity and the repercussions of warfare. The acting and direction are utterly superb across the board—another enthralling and superbly humanistic affair from Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking).
A seemingly well-adjusted Scandinavian Family vacationing in the French Alps experiences a frightening avalanche scare near the beginning of Force Majeure, thereby unleashing a cacophony of mistrust and anxiety as their dynamic is shaken to the core. This pitch black comedy from Sweden charts the steady disintegration of the family unit and the father’s psyche in particular, as his reaction to impending death leaves his family deeply questioning his masculinity and prioritization of their well-being. The stages of blame and negotiation play out with painful honesty, holding back very little in a manner that leaves the viewer supremely uncomfortable, as if eavesdropping on a neighbor's personal affairs. The effect is unsettling yet stunningly honest and often laugh-quietly-on-the-inside worthy in its depiction of human vulnerability. Unlike many narrative films, the “climax” comes at the beginning of Force Majeure, with the remainder of the film acting as an extended denouement in the form of a measured, Kubrickian character study.
The Reader is a German-American drama from 2008, based on the best-selling novel by author Bernhard Schlink. The storyline begins with adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes) reminiscing about his adolescence in post-World War II Berlin and his fateful relationship with an older woman named Hannah (Kate Winslet). 15-year old Michael is beset by Scarlet Fever and helped off the street one day by Hannah. Taken into her care, they soon begin a passionate affair, quickly forsaking family and friends for every opportunity to ensconce themselves in a world of lust and desire. As their time together progresses, Hannah begins urging Michael to read to her daily—to which he draws from many classic novels and delights in their rich interchange. Hannah suddenly disappears from Michael’s life, however, only reappearing several years later when young law student Michael is stunned to find her facing a World War II war-crimes tribunal. Tied to a real-life series of trials against former Auschwitz employees, The Reader is a strikingly original and exceptionally well-made film that is recommended to those who appreciate sophisticated, emotionally mannered cinema.
The Fountain is a highly compelling science-fiction/fantasy film told in three interwoven parts related to the mythical concept of the Tree of Life. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in a triad of roles that alternate along the film’s narrative: 1) an ancient conquistador assigned by the Queen of Spain to locate the legendary tree within the jungles of South American, 2) a modern medical doctor desperately striving to find a cure for his wife’s terminal brain cancer, and 3) a futuristic space traveler transporting the sacred tree across the cosmos with spectral images of his wife as his companion. In this, his 3rd feature feature-length film, writer/director Darren Aronofsky has crafted a strikingly ambitious depiction of the search for, manifestation of and preservation of the oft-fabled key to eternity. It’s highly philosophical and at times strikingly abstract visual storytelling, aided immeasurably by Jackman’s and Weisz’s heartfelt, aggrieved performances. The passion and the earnestness they deliver helps to buoy a complicated plot that isn’t always entirely cohesive, but comes together as a wonderfully compelling amalgamation of sights and sounds bound to inspire the viewer. Kudos to Aronofsky for eschewing simple fantasy in lieu of something so dynamic, original and emotionally commanding.

Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is a dark comedy that follows the exploits of teenage outcasts Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) as they navigate the many complexities of burgeoning adulthood. Central to the story is the unlikely friendship that Enid strikes up with a lonesome older man (played by Steve Buscemi), a curious relationship that drifts through various humorous and melancholy situations. It’s an original and often poignant look at alienation and identity, with Birch delivering a wonderfully deadpan and often hilarious performance, despite her entirely pessimistic attitude. It’s the type of film that’s just right when you’re in the mood for something just a little bit different.

A dramatic recreation of the last 10 years in the life of famed pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas), told primarily from the perspective of his young lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film follows from naive young Thorson’s early introduction to Liberace through his 6-year romance and live-in relationship with the celebrated luminary. Coming from a broken home and multiple foster families, Thorson finds newfound comfort in the fawning adoration and financial protection that Liberace provides to him, as they quickly become lovers and confidants. Much of the story re-enacts their often stormy, behind-the-scenes affairs in candid fashion—including the lengths to which Thorson alters himself physically to conform to Liberace’s standards. Both Douglas and Damon are excellent in their roles, with Douglas in particular providing a striking recreation of Liberace in both appearance and mannerism. He truly embodies the role, and provides the viewer with a genuine glimpse into the personal life of “Mr. Showmanship"—replete with all of his passions, concerns and insecurities. It’s an intimate depiction of a real-life May-December relationship, told with striking honesty, and ending with a remarkably touching tribute to Liberace in all of his campy yet sincere glory.

A slow-burning spy thriller set within the British intelligence service during the height of the Cold War, this complex drama is highlighted by Gary Oldman’s acutely understated performance. As a high level agent brought out of retirement to ferret out a mole within the MI5, he exudes intensity and intellect with unerring precision. The story itself is exceptionally complicated and yet highly engaging. I felt that casting and corresponding screen time made it clear whom the mole would turn out to be…but you may disagree.