~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Rated R; 112 minutes
Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph (excerpted)
Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) works in the suburbs of Orlando, and specializes in foreclosures. When a homeowner can’t pay their mortgage, Carver swoops in to handle the eviction on the bank’s behalf: an ugly business for which he’s handsomely rewarded. His company then sells on the empty houses to investors, where even greater profits are at stake.
The film is set in 2010, at the height of the foreclosure crisis: for Carver, this is a new Gold Rush and a chance to set himself up for life. When we first see him in action, his victim is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker who’s labouring under the belief that progress involves building things up. Carver arrives on the doorstep, confronts Dennis, his mother (Laura Dern) and son (Noah Lomax) and within minutes, they’re standing on the pavement, watching the front lawn being slowly covered over by a drift of their belongings.
The Nashes decamp to a motel, but Dennis won’t let the matter lie, and drives to Carver’s office to confront his goons: the estate agent is quietly impressed by his nerve, and offers him work. At first it’s odd-jobs around seized homes being prepared for sale, but soon enough he’s also carrying out evictions, and the wages allow him to provide once more for his mother and son.
~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Rated R; 108 minutes
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (excerpted)
Gambling tales are a hard sell. But this one is on a lucky streak. Writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck take their cue from Robert Altman's iconic California Split and let the action flow loose and lively to define character. The movie needed great performances, and it gets them from Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn.
Reynolds has never been better than he is as Curtis, a slick pro who gets latched onto in Iowa by sad sack Gerry (Mendelsohn in a four-aces performance that nails every nuance). Gerry's addiction has cost him a wife and a daughter. He thinks Curtis will change his fortune on a gambling tour ending in a high-roller poker game in New Orleans.
That's it. Two guys on the road, grimy bars flavored by blues and honky-tonk, looking for a connection that's not in the cards. To celebrate a win, Curtis treats Gerry to a Woodford, a top-shelf bourbon. Mississippi Grind is Woodford all the way.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
He Named Me Malala
Rated PG-13; 87 minutes
Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter (excerpted)
Many people know the basic elements of the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But He Named Me Malala retells that story in a deft and affecting way. Director Davis Guggenheim, (the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth) does some of his most heartfelt work in this tribute to Malala and her entire family.
When the Taliban took over Malala’s village in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, books and videos were burned, and girls were forbidden any education except religious education. Malala spoke out against this policy, first on a BBC blog and later more publicly, and she was shot in the head by the Taliban at the age of 15. Miraculously, she survived and was transported to England for surgery. She spent months in the hospital recuperating. Although the left side of her face is partially paralyzed, Malala has become an eloquent spokesperson for female education, and with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, she has traveled all over the world as an advocate, in addition to co-authoring the best-selling book, I Am Malala.
Guggenheim scored marvelous interviews with Malala and her entire family, including a younger brother who is uninhibited and engaging. The fact that he earned their trust is a tribute to his empathy as a filmmaker. One of the most affecting moments comes when Malala’s mother admits that she misses her home in Pakistan. The Yousafzais now live in Birmingham, England. This uprooting of a loving family is one of the prices Malala and her father paid for their outspokenness.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Rated PG-13; 106 minutes
Cath Clarke, Time Out (excerpted)
Nearly 100 years after smashing shop windows and blowing up letterboxes, the British suffragettes finally get a film they deserve. And thank god it’s not a pretty-pretty sugarcoated period drama. Writer Abi Morgan and director Sarah Gavron's tough, raw, bleak-looking film makes the suffragettes' dilemma feel immediate and real. You feel the knife-edge danger of women risking everything: sacked from their jobs, locked up in prison, separated from their children. But if not, them, who?
Carey Mulligan is Maud, an east London laundry worker in 1912 who’s always done as she’s told. Maud is 24 but her face is exhausted and lined from years sweating over dirty clothes. She’s married to decent but conservative Sonny (Ben Whishaw, reliably superb), who keeps his head down and salutes a portrait of the King every morning. The couple have a young son. What difference would fighting for the vote mean to Maud? She’s not Emmeline Pankhurst – she’ll never be written about in history books. Why take the risk?
It’s a tremendous, awards-worthy performance from Mulligan. The film plays out in her eyes. You see the emotion flicker in her face as Maud wakes up and finds her voice. The rest of the cast is excellent too – including Helena Bonham Carter as a pharmacist cooking up homemade bombs. Meryl Streep makes a cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst, wanted by the police but popping up to rally the troops from a London balcony. It’s perfect casting – Streep sprinkling stardust as Mrs P awes her followers.