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Silver Linings Playbook

3 / 5

FILMS THAT EXPLORE mental illness always tend to pique my interest. There’s something about the abnormality and unpredictability of the mind—along with my general intrigue in anything stigmatized—that bumps a screenplay up several notches. That being said, Silver Linings Playbook manages to only bump itself up one or two above average.

The film centres on Pat (Bradley Cooper) following his release from a psychiatric hospital after a violent episode with a man he finds in the shower with his wife. This is eight months after the incident; Pat has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is re-entering his community that now sees him differently. While attempting to reconnect with his wife, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose behaviour after the death of her husband has led people to see her as just as “crazy” as Pat. The two begin a friendship, but their relationship soon becomes much more complicated.

Silver Linings Playbook is either a dark comedy or a light drama; either way, it manages to extract quite a bit of humour from the subject of mental illness. Cooper and Lawrence are better than expected in their shared neurosis, though still a bit awkward. Unfortunately, the film becomes less unique and entertaining and more cheesy and formulaic as it goes along, shifting steadily from an offbeat comedy to an only slightly unusual romance. Silver Linings Playbook puts forth a promising effort and is certainly an interesting experience, but sadly it doesn’t follow through as the raw and thoughtful film it could have been.

—Adam Feibel

Cloud Atlas

4.5 / 5

WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND produced by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), Cloud Atlas has vision and scope that’s unparalleled to any film made in recent years. The film follows six stories, each unique and interesting in its own right, continually cutting from one to another throughout the film in the traditional hyperlink style. They range quite drastically in setting and theme, featuring a dying lawyer travelling on the South Pacific Ocean in 1849 and a post-apocalyptic future in the Hawaiian Islands.

One creative strategy is the use and reuse of actors playing different but similar characters throughout the various settings of the film, giving a feel of familiarity from story to story. The characters begin to realize that their lives are continuous throughout history and that their lives “are bound to others, past and present.” In particular, Tom Hanks, through the six characters he plays in the film, gives an outstanding performance that’s a welcome deviation from some of the less-than-inspiring films he’s done recently.

The true magic of Cloud Atlas, however, is the stories themselves. The film has received some criticism, but I found every moment of each story to be captivating. Whether you love them all, dislike some, or hate the whole thing, the undeniable truth is that each individual story has enough substance and detail to be worthy of its own feature film. Somehow the creative trio behind this undervalued film was able to compress it all into one feature, creating a rich and deeply layered body of work.

—Scott Keirstead

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -Part 2

1 / 5

MAKING IT THROUGH the entirety of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 was an exercise in self-restraint; I had to hold back my disdainful laughter, snorts of contempt, and, during some of the more intimate moments between the vampire protagonists, my vomit.

Before you write me off as just another Twilight-hating cynic, I should mention that I have seen and enjoyed all the other films depicting Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural saga. Admittedly, none of the previous Twilight movies are deserving of an award more prestigious than the participant ribbons handed out on your elementary school’s track-and-field day, nor is Kristen Stewart going to walk away with an Oscar for her rice-cake-and-cardboard portrayal of Bella Swan, but in general, the first few Twilight movies were action-packed and fun. The same cannot be said for Breaking Dawn – Part 2. The climax of this movie occurred when two groups of attractive yet underdressed people stood in two lines in the middle of a snow-covered field and stared at each other. I kid you not.

Perhaps the most appalling part of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is the way the film portrayed Renesmee, the spawn of Bella and her undead husband Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). For the majority of the movie, Renesmee is a shockingly obvious and highly distracting computer-generated image that gives you the creeps every time she appears onscreen. An audience member behind me audibly gasped the first time we bore witness to her.

Anyone who has seen the first four Twilight movies should go ahead and watch Breaking Dawn – Part 2. You’ve made it this far, you might as well finish the marathon. For everyone else, save yourself the money and play a game of red rover in the snow with your friends. There, you’ve just experienced the best Breaking Dawn – Part 2 has to offer, and you did it for free.

—Kristyn Filip

Anna Karenina

4.5 / 5

DIRECTOR JOE WRIGHT’S latest film, Anna Karenina, is a work of creative innovation. Keira Knightley truly tests her acting skills while portraying the complex and emotionally rich role of the main character Anna, whose careless actions cause her to devolve as drugs and alcohol become her vices and her unpredictable emotions and mood swings ultimately lead her down a dark path. Knightley’s incredibly convincing behaviour, personality, and emotions are perfectly in tune with the tone of Leo Tolstoy’s late-19th-century novel.

The film takes place in 18th-century Russia as Anna begins a cursed and lustful affair with Count Vronsky. The movie begins much like a play, with lighting and music setting the scene. Music is key throughout the film, acting as the glue for smooth scene transitions. Costumes are crucial to character development; for example, playful characters wear bright colours while sinful characters wear dark, rich colours.

Anna Karenina feels similar to watching a live performance on stage. You’re dragged in from the very beginning as it invokes both laughter and sadness through cheeky wit and raw emotion. The clever themes and foreshadowing create suspense and leave you wondering about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

—Marley Lewington