Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

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Image is property of Lionsgate, Pandemonium Films, Permut Productions, Vendian Entertainment and Kylin Pictures

Hacksaw Ridge – Film Review

Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, Rachel Griffiths

Director: Mel Gibson

Synopsis: Telling the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, a Devout Christian who signs up for the US Army and serves as a medic in the heart of World War II, all while refusing to carry a gun.

Review: For many of us, the horrors of war are something we are all too familiar with. From learning about terrible wars of the past to the brutal wars of the present, war is rarely anything other than a very dark time for humanity. Yet undoubtedly in such dark times, acts of incredible bravery and selflessness are committed, and for director Mel Gibson, the telling of one remarkable true story is in many ways his redemption, and a superb return to form for a man who it would be fair to say had something of a fall from grace, never being too far away from controversy.

Yet, despite all that controversy, Gibson has come out fighting with his first stint in the director’s chair after directing 2006’s Apocalypto. Set in the heart of Japan in 1945, the USA is battling the Japanese at the Battle of Okinawa and after some troubling times with his training Desmond Doss enters the fray of war, and never fires a single shot or carries a gun. It seems such a ludicrous decision to enter the hell of war without anything to protect yourself but the screenplay, penned by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan helps you understand where Doss is coming from, he’s a man who resolutely sticks to his principles. His superhero days may be behind him, but with this performance and his sterling work in Silence, Garfield is showing himself to be a tremendous actor and his performance is extremely powerful, ensuring a well earned Oscar nomination as well.

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Garfield is the leading light of an extremely well polished cast, that includes Hugo Weaving as Doss’s alcoholic father who witnessed the devastation of World War I and is loathed to lose his sons to the horror of warfare. Teresa Palmer is equally excellent as Doss’s love interest Dorothy. The scenes between the two could have been a real stumbling block and detriment to the plot, but the chemistry between Garfield and Palmer is superb and their romance is far from a hindrance, instead adding real depth to Doss’s character. Vince Vaughn also turns in an excellent performance as Doss’s stern Sergeant who certainly does his best to add the humour while all of the recruits undergo some intense army training. At the same time, all the new recruits look down on Doss for his beliefs, and make his life a hell on Earth, and this is before they are even in reach of the war zone.

For Gibson, a nomination for Best Director might have seemed far-fetched but his work here is extremely deserving of a nomination. He helms the film superbly well, the action is extremely tense to watch and the work that he achieves, along with his sound team, fully capture what it must be like to be in the middle of a war zone. The film’s editing also helps add to the gritty realism. The violence is not glorified in the slightest, it’s just very frighteningly realistic. Be under no doubt, this is not a film for the squeamish, the bullets fly by their thousands and the blood and guts flow. Yet through all of this, the film shows to the audience that it can really pay to stick by your principles, even if everyone is trying to belittle you for holding on to those beliefs.

Though this is for all for all intents and purposes a war film, the themes of anti-war and pacifism are strong, as well as being true to one’s beliefs, and the themes and messages that the film conveys should hit home with the audience and leave a lasting impression on them. War certainly is hell, but the actions of brave men like Desmond Doss should and will hopefully never be forgotten. Furthermore, they can serve as a great lesson for all, of the true valour of bravery and heroism, even in the most desperate and hopeless of situations.

An explosive, and quite brilliant return to the director’s chair for Gibson, with Garfield giving arguably the performance of his career, and just maybe the best war movie of the 2010s thus far.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Image is property of Laika and Focus Features

Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.

Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).

Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.

Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters  and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.

Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Beautiful detailed animation, combined with an enthralling story and tremendous characters, Kubo is an animation that will tug at the heartstrings of everyone, no matter how young or old they are.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Top 10 Films of 2016

Another year passes, and another year of big blockbusters, smaller films and more sequels and reboots than perhaps we want. Yet nevertheless, it has been an interesting year for cinema. While 2016, might be most remembered for the alarming amount of beloved celebs who we lost, it was still an interesting year for cinema goers all around the world. We had superhero squabbles, private detectives in 1977 Los Angeles, the true story of the 2010 BP oil disaster, hiking in the New Zealand wilderness, and some heart-warming musicals. Of course some films on this list did arrive in 2017 in the UK (my humble abode), but I am counting the ones that I have seen as 2016 releases, as per IMDB. With that said, I now give you my picks for the 10 best movies of the year. I should note that for films like Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Moonlight, that I have not been able to catch these before writing this list. As such, they will instead be eligible for 2017’s list instead as they have yet to reach UK shores.

One thing to bear in mind, is that grades here do not matter, a film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year, this is my list of my favourite movies that I had the most fun with or enjoyed the most.  Before I get into the body of my list I do have some honourable mentions, films that were awesome and that didn’t quite make the list with there being 10 spaces, but were still a lot of fun. And first up is…

Moana (review), this was another superb year for Walt Disney Animation Studios, with two absolutely stellar films being released and Moana was just so much fun. You expect gorgeous animation from Disney, but Moana’s animation was just almost on another level, the music is great, the character of Moana is great and it was just a fantastic adventure.

Deadpool (review), superhero films are really popular currently, but we were yet to be treated to be a proper R rated one, until the Merc with a Mouth came along. Hilarious, with a terrific turn from Reynolds, and quite possibly the best opening credits scene EVER, it was a welcome breath of fresh air for the genre, and with its success, it shall be interesting to see if other studios follow suit in making their superhero movies a bit more edgy and violent

Sing Street (review coming soon) movies about music can be terrifying (e.g. Whiplash) but this movie from writer and director John Carney was simply a blast. From start to finish, it was just so much fun to watch as this kid who has his eye on a girl does his best to woo her by forming a band. The acting was great, the music was also so well realised, if you haven’t seen this film, it is on UK Netflix now, do give it a look see, you won’t be disappointed.

Silence (review), Martin Scorsese is unquestionably one of the finest film-makers in history and we’re lucky that he’s still making incredible pieces of cinema. This was a gripping tale of two priests journeying to a country where their religion was totally banned, and the punishments for following it were severe. It’s acted beautifully and the dialogue is extremely well written, and harrowing to watch at times.

Star Trek Beyond (review). Justin Lin took the reins from JJ Abrams after he directed the first two films in this reboot of the long running franchise, and continued down the path of excellence that Abrams started. Once again the action is so much fun to watch, but what makes this franchise so great is its characters, Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov (RIP Anton Yelchin) and a great new addition in Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. The franchise is certainly living long and prospering, even with the sad deaths of both Yelchin and the great Leonard Nimoy. And finally…

Spotlight (review), yes I know this is technically a 2015 release but it didn’t reach the UK till late January hence why I am including it here. This true story about the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the horrendous abuse scandal that went on in the Catholic Church was utterly riveting to watch and acted beautifully particularly from Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, it’s a story that needed to be told and by the time the credits begin to roll, it will leave you speechless.

Honourable mentions concluded, time for the big guns, the top 10 and we start with…

10. Hell or High Water

My Hell or High Water review

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When you get Chris Pine, Jeff Brides and Ben Foster in a movie, particularly in a Western kind of setting, you’re probably going to be in for some greatness, and that is precisely what Hell or High Water gives you. Hailing from Scotland, David Mackenzie brought a thrilling tale of two brothers who resort to robbing banks as a means to stay afloat financially. Throw Jeff Bridges in as your gruff Texas Ranger in very much Rooster Cogburn mode, and the end result is one thrilling Western heist movie with some of 2016’s best acting from all three of its lead actors, and a damn fine spectacle.

9. Deepwater Horizon

My Deepwater Horizon review

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The 2010 BP Oil Disaster was a terrible disaster that claimed 11 lives, and for director Peter Berg, it must have been quite the challenge to make the film that pays tribute towards those who died whilst telling the true to life story of how the worst ever environmental disasters in US history, in a gripping manner, and my oh my was this film gripping! You know going in that the disaster is lurking around the corner, but when the shit hits the fan and it all goes south, this film really goes up a couple of exciting pegs. With an excellent Mark Wahlberg performance at its core, this film will almost certainly shake you to your core, and leave you wondering how on earth such a monumental disaster was allowed to happen, and how no criminal charges were filed.

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars story

My Rogue One: A Star Wars story review

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Another trip to a galaxy far far away, except this time not focusing on the main saga. The first of three (at least for now) Anthology films focusing on the daring mission executed by the rebels to steal the plans for the Death Star, fitting in just nicely right before A New Hope kicks off. Edwards helmed this film beautifully with some absolutely brilliant action sequences, particularly that third act, and my oh my, that Vader hallway scene, you know the one I am talking about, was just an absolute blast to watch. Sure for some of the new characters, their development was not as much as you would like, but the franchise has another awesome female heroine in Felicity Jones’s Jyn.  The Star Wars renaissance thanks to Disney is blooming, and long may it continue.

7. Hidden Figures

My Hidden Figures review

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The beauty of film is that it can bring to the attention to a substantial audience a story that has really not seen the light of day, such is the case with this true story of the inspirational women who worked behind the scenes at NASA to make the US space missions of the 1960s a reality. The three central women are all beautifully acted by Octavia Spencer, Taraji P Henson and Janelle Monae, and it demonstrated that although because of their skin colour and their gender, that even though pretty much everyone in society looked down on them, they were able to make a real difference to their industry, despite the attempts to put them in their supposed place.

6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

My Hunt for the Wilderpeople review

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Taika Waititi is a director to certainly keep a close eye on, certainly with Thor: Ragnarok due to be released in cinemas later this year, and this film will have certainly cemented his growing reputation. A film that is so unique, so original and utterly hilarious to watch, yet made very little at the box office (more on that later). It is just pure gold to watch as this troublesome foster kid and his new guardian have themselves a little adventure in the New Zealand wilderness. Sam Neill is brilliant but newcomer Julian Dennison absolutely steals the show. These two as a comedic duo, simply just hilarious to watch as they go on about their wildnerness adventure, all the while being chased by the authorities. Mayhem in the New Zealand forest, and just non stop entertainment.

5. Zootopia (Zootropolis)

My Zootopia/Zootropolis review

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The 1st film to be released by Disney Animation Studios in 2016, and one of the best animated films to emerge from the Mouse House in recent years. In an animal metropolis where animals live and work, seemingly in harmony, but only on the surface. For an animation, this film has a lot of really deep and significant undertones that will really get the adult viewers who watch the film really thinking about what is has to say and the messages it gives off. With some great little easter eggs to some classic movies thrown in for the adults to enjoy, as well as some great jokes, and a really great leading duo, this proves that Disney studios have certainly not lost their magic when it comes to making great entertainment that is a lot of fun for both kids and adults to enjoy, as well as a thumping good tune from Shakira!!

4. Captain America: Civil War

My Captain America: Civil War review

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This was the thirteenth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe array of movies. Unlucky? Not a chance! This was another truly superb comic book movie that proved Marvel is still leading the way in terms of their extended cinematic universe over DC, by A LOT. When looking at the film’s promo, it certainly seemed as though this wasn’t Captain America 3, but Avengers 2.5. Well without spoiling too much, its most definitely a Captain America film, despite the massive ensemble of heroes which included terrific first appearances by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa AKA Black Panther, and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. The story is told tremendously well and it does a tremendous job of splitting your loyalties and it’s not a simple case of one being right, and the other being wrong, it is much more complicated than that. And that airport battle was simply put, one of the best superhero battles ever put on the big screen EVER.

3. La La Land

My La La Land review

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Much like with Sing Street, this is another musical picture that was just an absolute bundle of joy to watch, from the opening spontaneous song and dance number on a LA Freeway to the very end. Damien Chazelle is a writer and director who certainly takes great inspiration in musicals as Whiplash and this film demonstrate, and he might just be the best director currently working in this genre. The music does not feel overbearing or annoying, every time a character sings or breaks out and dances, it feels like it’s necessary to the scene, to the development of the characters, and with Stone and Gosling both on outstanding form. Everyone has had a dream at some point in their life, and this film’s message about dreams will undoubtedly resonate with all who watch it.

2. Arrival

My Arrival review

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Sci-Fi movies do like to have big explosions, aliens and a cool battle where the aliens and the humans face off, but there is none of that here in Denis Villeneuve’s latest film. One of the smartest, most inventive pieces of story-telling to emerge in recent years, with a screenplay that really gets the brain working, and will blow your mind. Focusing on 12 alien ships who have arrived on Earth, a linguistics professor is recruited to help understand who these aliens are and their purpose on Earth. Villeuneve,  is fast become one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, and after watching this film, it is easy to see why. At its core is a truly superb performance from Amy Adams,in a role that could land her some Oscar gold at long last. A film to really get the mind working, it’s a very human story with a lot to say for itself, and not to mention some of the  best visual effects in 2016, and some gorgeous cinematography to go with it.

And my #1 favourite film of 2016 is……………………….

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1. The Nice Guys

My The Nice Guys review

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Ryan Gosling is clearly doing something right! So many films this year are continuation of franchises, sequels, reboots and so on. Yet every year, there are plenty of original pieces of work that are brought to the big screen, yet sometimes this new and fresh ideas, despite great critical receptions, absolutely tank at the box office, and no film typifies this more than Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as two PIs in 1970s Los Angeles, with a story focused on a missing girl, and the porn industry. I mean how the fuck did more people not go to see this film??? The action is great, the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is fantastic and there’s a great break out performance from Angourie Rice. This film is hilarious, the dialogue is great and Black is doing what he knows best. It is no wonder studios focus their efforts on properties audiences know and are aware of, because they make more money, and no one chooses to watch new and original content. Yet if you’re reading this, and you have not seen this movie, I implore you to go seek this film out via any legal means you can, rent it, buy it on DVD or Blu Ray because this film is a gem, and more films like this need to get made. It is by far my favourite film of 2016, and although Hollywood these days is dominated by sequels, I would love to see a sequel to this movie.

So there you have it! My top 10 picks for the best films of 2016. But what are your top 10 best films of 2016? Let me know in the comments below. Or you could hit me up on my Twitter and don’t forget to like Through the Silver Screen on Facebook to ensure you never miss another review of mine! Let us hope that we are treated to more cinematic gold on the big screen in 2017, and for the must see movies coming out this year, be sure to give my Top 10 most anticipated films of 2017 a look see!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hidden Figures (2016)

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Image is property of Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Hidden Figures – Film Review

Cast:  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons

Director: Theodore Melfi

Synopsis: Telling the true story of three African American women who during the 1960s Space Race made ground-breaking strides to provide NASA with vital data critical to the US Space Program.

Review: In the 1960s, while the Space Race between the United States of America and the USSR was becoming fiercely competitive, it was almost unheard of for a woman to take a front and centre role in the pioneering and creative work that was going on at NASA, never mind an African American woman. Division and segregation was still very strong in these times, there was very little mixing. Which makes the achievements of three women in particular, who worked on NASA’s program in the sixties, so incredibly remarkable and ground-breaking, in every sense of the word.

These three women in question, Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monáe) start out working in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center, and in a divided country, there was never any expectation for them to be in real positions of power, where they could make a real difference. Before long however, due to their extraordinary talents, they begin to make waves. Soon enough, all three make their contributions to the US Space program and thanks to their pioneering work, the missions that followed in the sixties were made that much more attainable thanks to these extraordinary women, and for a long time, they certainly were hidden figures of history.

However, the incredible story of these women is now getting the recognition it absolutely merits thanks to director Theodore Melfi, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Allison Schroeder. The script manages to strike a perfect balance of really serious and dramatic moments, mixed in with plenty of rather brilliant humour. These women do have just about every obstacle thrown in their path that they could, from a society that really frowned upon black people sharing just about anything with white people. There’s no violence and brutality to be found (though that certainly existed) the story merely focuses on the obstacles these women faced, and how they defied the expectations society placed on them.

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The acting from all three leading women is simply tremendous, and all three could very well land Oscar nominations. Their chemistry is excellent and you really feel for each of them whenever their work is restricted or impeded by their mostly white and mostly male colleagues. But by far and away, the leading light is Taraji P Henson’s Katherine who is called up to work as part of an integral mission for NASA, due to her extraordinary mathematical ability. Her story is certainly more of the main focus, but it does not detract from other two ladies, as their story lines weave together, as they strive to not only help NASA, but break the stereotypes that were placed upon women in their position.

Where the story errs a bit is in the telling of the private lives of the women, which although important as it gives them character depth and ensures that the audience is able to understand their characters and bond with them more, does detract from the story a bit. It’s not overbearing, but you might perhaps wish to see more of their work at NASA. Also the movie does try to explain a lot of the mathematics but unless you’re a mathematics genius, it is more than likely to fly straight over your head like a rocket.

The Space Race of the 1960s is an era known to many. Yet the story of these remarkable women is one you probably didn’t know, but you really should, as it sheds light on a very important story that needs to be seen by everyone. Hopefully with this film, these women will no longer be the hidden figures of history that they have arguably been for a great many decades now.

A story with real heart, substance and emotion at its core, anchored by beautiful acting, Hidden Figures tells a vital story that everyone, everywhere should know about.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

La La Land (2016)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures and Marc Platt Productions

La La Land – Film Review

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: An actress desperately trying to catch her big break in Hollywood meets a jazz pianist struggling to make ends meet, and the duo begin a blossoming romance.

Review: The art of cinema is one that can have great impact on the human soul whenever we sit down to watch a film for the first time. Cinema has the power to generate so many emotions among its audience, from the most euphoric moments of unrivalled joy to the dark moments of despair. Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s previous directorial outing Whiplash certainly had a mixture of those happy and sad moments, more of the latter than the former mind you. Yet for his new picture, again with a musical theme at its brimming heart, definitely has a lot more of those moments of pure unparalleled joy.

An insane but quite brilliant musical number set on an LA freeway sets you up for the kind of ride Chazelle is about to take you on, as we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, an actress who, despite audition after audition, is just not getting any rewards. By chance she runs into Ryan Gosling’s Seb an aspiring Jazz pianist who also happens to be in something of a rut, this is until he meets Mia, and the two fall head over heels for one another and begin planning a life for themselves together, with both having big aspirations and dreams. It all seems so perfect for them, until their careers threatens to pull them away from one another, and both are presented with a difficult decision. Though this is very much a musical at is heart, its packed with great humour, romance and drama all fused into one glorious picture. right from the aforementioned musical freeway scene, you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself tapping along with the music.

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With this marking their third collaboration since Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, it’s crystal clear at this point that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have brilliant chemistry together, and it is their chemistry along with brilliant performances from them both that help elevate La La Land to a golden standard for musical cinema. As well as the electric performances, the music is also beautiful to listen to. With each note that Stone and Gosling sing, it will find its way to melt your heart and fall in love with these characters, even if a member of the audience is about as emotionless as a Cyberman from Doctor Who, it will lift your spirits and leave you floating on cloud nine. All of us undoubtedly have dreams and aspirations for want we want to do with our lives, and this film has much to say about following your dreams, that will hit home with almost everyone.

Despite those moments of sheer joy, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for our leads, as they encounter some tricky obstacles in both of their lives. Rest assured however, that no one is throwing any chairs at anyone this time, and no psycho music teachers brutally tearing people down. This is nowhere near as intense as Whiplash was, but it’s just as well written and equally tremendously acted, with a glorious cameo appearance from J.K Simmons, this time not in raging jazz teacher mode.

Chazelle, with only his third feature film, seems to have found his spark, when it comes to live action musicals, currently he is the man of the moment, and is certainly proving himself to be a formidable director and one to watch. A recording breaking Golden Globe haul accomplished, with the Oscars in sight, La La Land looks certainly set to sing and dance its way to more awards glory.

With some thumping good tunes, Stone and Gosling on electric form, and a deep, thought provoking story, this is cinema at its heart-warming and magical best.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Monster Calls (2016)

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Image is property of Focus Features, River Road Entertainment and Participant Media

A Monster Calls – Film Review

Cast:  Lewis MacDougallFelicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: A young boy, battling with bullies and his mother’s terminal illness, finds an unlikely companion in a gigantic living tree, who teaches the boy tales about life.

Review: Growing up, no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, is tough. Of course some may have it easier than others, but all of us as we leave our early years behind us enter a tricky phase in our lives, a period that is not exactly simple to negotiate. Now imagine if you’re in a situation where you’re frequently getting picked on at school, and your life at home is well difficult too, which again is something it is possible many out there have gone through. Yet what if, during these tricky and testing times, you were visited by a giant talking tree monster who came to you when you needed someone to talk to? That’s something certainly no one has ever had to experience, unless you’re the main character in this interesting delve into the fantasy genre, spliced with heartbreaking family drama.

Conor (MacDougall) is the boy in question battling all of these difficult situations in his life. Picked on by bullies, and with his mother (Jones) terminally ill due to cancer, his only solace is the titular “monster” a walking talking tree voiced and mo-capped by Liam Neeson, who in the dead of night, comes to Conor to tell him stories, all the while seeking to make the boy’s life happier. From a screenplay by Patrick Ness who also wrote the novel on which this is based, director J.A. Bayona steers this mesh of fantasy and real life drama and tragedy, into an extremely imaginative tale, that’s visually quite tremendous to watch, and gets some beautiful and emotional performances from its cast.

In what is only his second film role, MacDougall has much of the film riding on his shoulders, and for a young actor he rises to the challenge and does a tremendous job. He really conveys the unimaginable pain that someone in his position would be going through superbly well. Though his performance does wobble in parts, his emotion and rage against his circumstances ensure you feel for his character. Felicity Jones, on the back of Rogue One, gives also a very wounded and powerful performance as Conor’s mother. Though she is battling a terrible illness, she does her best to be positive and upbeat for her son’s benefit, and Jones could just potentially be a dark horse in this awards season race for best supporting actress. Signourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell do shine as Conor’s stern Grandmother and somewhat absentee Father respectively, but its Jones and MacDougall who are the leading lights, and they take home the acting plaudits.

There’s also the not so small matter of Neeson’s Tree Monster, a sort of Groot XL who can say a lot more than “I am Groot.” Through his booming voice and motion capture work, he brings the character to life brilliantly. Neeson has shown in the past he has quite the deep, powerful voice that has lent itself to the deity like figures of Zeus and Aslan, and as a tree like being, his voice and its deep tone is quite effective. It gives the tales that the Monster tells Conor really weight and ensures that they have the impact on the audience that undoubtedly the film makers wanted it to have. The tales themselves are told in a very intriguing manner, and doubt that it is extremely effective, at tugging at the audience heartstrings, and Bayona adapts the story beautifully, so much so that you might find it hard to fight back the tears once the credits begin to roll.

Visually breath-taking, combined with an emotional story that is not afraid to go in some dark and troubling places, that will hit home for anyone who has had a family member battling cancer, or experienced some rough years at school.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silence (2016)

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Image is property of Paramount Pictures and IM Global

Silence – Film Review

Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: In seventeenth century Japan, two Jesuit priests set out on a mission to seek out their mentor, all the while trying to teach their faith, in a country that vehemently opposes Christianity.

Review: Religion is a subject that even to this day remains quite controversial. In certain areas of the world, people who practice other religions are frowned upon, and some even face extreme violence and persecution for their beliefs, with certain events in history demonstrating how people who are of certain faiths received brutal and fatal treatment because of their religion. It is then quite remarkable that a tale set in the seventeenth century, has certain elements that ring true in the 21st century. Therefore for Martin Scorsese, a man born and raised in a Catholic environment, it certainly takes a fair bit of courage to make a film that tackles such difficult subjects and religious persecution, and for that he certainly deserves plaudits.

Adapted from the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō, the story focuses on Fathers Rodrigues (Garfield) and Garrpe (Driver) who travel to Japan seeking to find Father Ferreira (Neeson) who they believed might have renounced their religion, due to the extreme hostilities that Christians faced at that time. Undeterred by the daunting mission facing them, they travel to the country and try to locate their lost mentor, and to teach their religion. Scorsese is a man who is arguably most well known for his gangster flicks, but this is his passion project, nearly 25 years in the making, and he tells the story in brutal and unflinching manner. With a screenplay co-written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, there is no shying away from the horrific and painful treatment that Christians received for their beliefs, and if they didn’t renounce their religion, it usually would not end well. The film is very dialogue driven, but the writing is of a very high standard, and certainly poses questions that will certainly leave the audience with plenty to ponder as they watch.

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The performances are riveting to watch, particularly from the three main men, but the spotlight focuses primarily on Garfield. and he certainly gives one of the performances of his career. His belief in his faith is unwavering, even in the face of great suffering and pain, and the attempts made by the locals to renounce his religion. After shooting to stardom thanks to his work with Star Wars, Driver is also equally terrific in his work, giving a harrowing performance, and both men could certainly get award nominations for their performances.

The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is both beautiful and haunting at the same time. It is crystal clear that with each frame of this film, that great care and precision has gone into their creation. Nothing is rushed, as such the slow pace might jar with some, whilst also explaining the film’s 161 minute running time. There are plenty of visual images to get the minds of the audience deep in thought, and while some will almost certainly have viewers numb with the brutality that these Hidden Christians faced. “A picture tells a thousand words” is quite a popular phrase, and in this instance, that certainly rings true. Having spent so long on this story, Scorsese’s passion for the story absolutely comes to the fore, and makes it all the more gripping to watch, so much so that even if you’re not religious,or practise a religion that is not Christianity, you’ll find it difficult not to be moved by some of the events on screen.

Indeed, the title of “Silence” is quite appropriate, given that for the Jesuit priests and all those in Japan at the time who practised Christianity, they had to practise their faith in silence, and despite their suffering, their prayers were met with silence. And there will be moments of silent reflection for the audience once the credits begin to roll, as it’s pretty inescapable that although these are ficitonalised events of the past, they will still carry a significant weight to them given how in different corners of the globe, people of certain religions continue to endure strong hostility, to this day.

Quite a long time in the making, but certainly worth the wait. Scorsese’s passion for the story shines through, and it helps to deliver a tense emotional journey for all, with themes that continue to have great significance to this day

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2017

Hello 2017!! 2016 was a year that might be more remembered as the year the world went a bit mad, as well as for the multitude of beloved celebrities that sadly passed away. It is also  a year that cinema goers across the world were given, let’s be honest, a bit of an underwhelming year for movies. Sure there were a few gems, but there were more than a few colossal disappointments, and films that just didn’t quite deliver on epic trailers that they teased. However, a new year promises well more superheroes, more reboots and sequels, and the odd original piece of film making in there too for good measure. So it is that time of the year where I look ahead to see what I’m most looking forward to to hit the big screen in 2017.

As seems to be the case every year in the UK, there are a number of limited 2016 releases such as La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge,  that arrive in cinemas in January here, but they will not be on here as I count these as 2016 releases, and will be on my best of 2016 list, should they be good enough of course, which will be published mid to late January. But there are more than a few films in this year that do look very intriguing to see and so let’s get cracking with the list. The release dates you see below are these films respective UK release dates, as such they might be different if your humble abode is not in the UK like me, but anyway, let us begin as usual with the honourable mentions:

Justice League, Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman were both on my list anticipated list of 2016, and they had the hopes and dreams of every DC fan riding on them to set up the DC extended universe, and unfortunately, neither film met those lofty expectations that many people placed on them. Both had their moments, but both had their fair share of problems too, BVS more than Suicide Squad for me, and for that reason, Justice League is only an honourable mention, as I worry if Zack Snyder will have learnt from his mistakes. Time will tell but for now I am cautious…

Ghost in the Shell, The premise for this movie is certainly extremely intriguing and the from the trailer this world certainly looks great and Scarlett Johansson is a very capable actress, who can do great action scenes as her role as Black Widow in the MCU has demonstrated for many years now. However, criticism of a white actress in the lead role has resulted in some very fierce criticism of more Hollywood whitewashing. This is justifiable but hopefully this adaptation can be translated well for the big screen.

The Dark Tower, Stephen King novels being brought to the big screen has produced some of cinema’s greatest films, and this is the latest one to come out, and so automatically that captures intrigue. Thrown in Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in lead roles and this is immediately one of to watch for when it arrives in cinemas in July of this year.

Lego Batman Movie, Back in 2014, if you had proposed that a movie based on the popular toy Lego would be an absolute smash hit with film goers and critics, people would probably have laughed at you. But that happened alright and 2017 will go back to that crazy world of Lego, for a spin off film featuring one of the Lego Movie’s standouts, Lego Batman getting his own movie, and it looks to be just as entertaining as the first film.

Beauty and the Beast, love them or hate them Disney’s campaign to bring some of their most beloved animated films the live action treatment shows no signs of slowing down, and following on from Cinderella, and 2016’s surprisingly decent The Jungle Book. this is the next film to get the live action treatment. Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens and The Beast are the leads among a very talented cast. The trailers certainly looked to have captured the magic of the animated classic and many people will be eager to be a guest when this arrives in cinemas.

Now that the honourable mentions are done, let’s get cracking with this list:

10. Spider Man: Homecoming

Release date: 7th July

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One of the many awesome things that emerged from Captain America: Civil War was the introduction of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, who FINALLY made his MCU debut after Sony and Marvel thrashed out a deal to allow him to appear, and Holland might just be the best on screen version of the web-crawler to date, so to see him put on the Spidey suit again should be a lot of fun to watch. In his first solo film inside the MCU, we get to see Peter still in high school taking on ex Batman Michael Keaton’s Vulture with assistance from Tony Stark himself once again. After the overall mediocre tales that were Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man movies, hopefully this reboot gets the franchise back up and running again.

9. Wonder Woman

Release date: 2nd June

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Prior to the arrival of BVS, many wandered if Gal Gadot was the best actress they could have picked to play Diana Prince, and as we all saw, she was (along with Ben Affleck’s Batman) one of the saving graces of BVS. For all of the MCU’s greatness, they have yet to have a film that’s lead by a female superhero, though one is currently on the production schedule, DC is taking a lead in this respect. The action from the two trailers we have had looks great, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is an excellent addition to the cast. DC fans must be hoping that this film is the one that finally achieves proper lift off for the DCEU, and give it its first truly great film after their 2016 efforts didn’t quite do so.

8. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Release date: 29th September 

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One of the absolute surprise hits of 2015 was Kingsman: The Secret Service, an extremely funny take on the spy/espionage genre, with a superb break out performance from Taron Egerton in the lead role as this down on his luck kid who becomes the ultimate badass, and they’re certainly upping the stakes considerably for this sequel. As this one will feature the Kingsman’s US counterparts, the Statesman to help save the world. The cast looks incredible with Julianne Moore following in Sam L Jackson’s footsteps as the bad guy, with a cast that also includes Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal and Colin Firth again (WHATTTTTTTTTTT?????)

7. Thor: Ragnarok

Release date: 27th October

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Thor is undeniably a popular Avenger, but his solo outings have been a bit hot and cold so far. Thor was a fun time if a little bit rushed in places, whilst its sequel The Dark World was fine, but nothing truly spectacular when compared to Civil War or Guardians of the Galaxy. Hopefully this will change with Thor’s third outing. With Taika Waititi directing, the man behind this year’s extraordinary Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and a superb cast that includes Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Cate Blanchett as the villain and Mark Ruffalo back as everyone’s favourite green rage monster, along with of course Tom Hiddleston back as Loki, this has every potential to be the best Thor film yet.

6. Blade Runner 2049

Release date: 6th October

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The sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic is getting a sequel after development began back in 1999, and the project is in the hands of arguably the hottest director in Hollywood right now, Denis Villeneuve, who blew everyone’s minds this year with one of the smartest pieces of science fiction storytelling with Arrival. Harrison Ford is back as Deckard and with a stacked cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Robin Wright. This sequel has all the potential to be just as good as its predecessor, almost three decades after the original came out!

5. Logan

Release date: 3rd March

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When you think of the character of Logan/Wolverine, you think of Hugh Jackman and the incredible work he has done bringing this character to the big screen for well almost TWO DECADES now is remarkable but sadly all good things must come to an end and this is Jackman’s last hurrah as Wolverine. In what many could argue is one of 2016’s finest trailers, Wolverine looks a little bruised and beaten, and the suggestion is that this will be an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline, with a Last of Us kind of vibe as well.  With Patrick Stewart also back as Professor X, this has all the makings to give Jackman the swansong he deserves before he hangs up the claws for good.

4. Dunkirk

Release date: 21st July

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Has Christopher Nolan made a bad film? For many the answer to that question is a resounding no, and it’s easy to see why, he has forged his name as a superb director over these last few years. And his latest film, Dunkirk is looking like it could very well continue that path of excellence. Set in the heart of the Second World War, the film focuses on the Allied operation to evacuate soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk (shocker!) With an absolutely amazing cast that includes some Nolan veterans such as Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, as well as some newbies such as Oscar winner Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh along for the ride too. World War II films are not exactly in short supply so it will be interesting to see what Nolan can bring to the table. Furthermore, it will be intriguing to see if Harry Styles’s acting is better than his singing….

3. War for the Planet of the Apes

Release date: 14th July

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APES ON HORSES!! Director Matt Reeves  is back with his 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Dawn was an absolutely stellar film that managed to build on the first film and make it even better, and Reeves is once again behind the camera for the third film is this rebooted franchise. As the title suggests it is all out war between the humans, now led by Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel and Caesar, once again mo-capped by Andy Serkis, who has seriously earned an Oscar nomination for his incredible work that he has done in motion capture over many many years, particularly for his work as Caesar. The teaser trailer that recently dropped was excellent, and if the film can deliver on that promise, then we could be looking at a very solid and well made trilogy of movies that have given this franchise a lease of life.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Release date: 28th April

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No one could have possibly predicted that when 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was set to be released what an enormous hit it was going to be, or how fucking amazing it was! The characters were great, the dialogue outstanding, the action was excellent and that soundtrack was just perfection. So James Gunn is back for more madness from the Guardians, with a few secrets set to be revealed such as who is Star Lord’s father. The movie could honestly be just be two hours of Rocket and Groot arguing and I am sure many people would pay to see that! If the latest teasers are anything to go by, it looks to be more of the same explosive fun that the first movie was, and Baby Groot might just be the cutest thing ever…

And my #1 most anticpated film of 2017 is……………………………………………………

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1. Star Wars: Episode VIII

Release date: 15th December

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Was there ever really any doubt? After the enormous successes of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, excitement is understandably at galactic levels for another trip to a galaxy far far away. This film’s plot is so far being kept closely under wraps but director Rian Johnson is taking the directorial reins from JJ Abrams in a continuation of the story with Rey, Finn, Poe, BB8 taking on Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke. And having had what amounts to a cameo in Episode VII, Mark Hamill will hopefully have some lines as Luke Skywalker in this next chapter, and certainly when he find out about the fate that befell his old friend Han Solo in episode VII. Of course there are many more questions that need answering so hopefully those the answers we seek will be delivered.  Johnson is a very capable pair of hands, having made an incredibly smart sci-fi back in 2012 in Looper, so may the force be with him to deliver more greatness to this franchise! With the incredibly sad death of Carrie Fisher, fans will certainly hope that this film gives one of cinema’s most badass female characters a truly fitting send off!

And there we have it, my top 10 most anticipated films that are set to be released in 2017. What are your most anticipated films for this year? Let me know in the comments below or hitting me up on Twitter. Don’t forget to give my Facebook page a like! Through the Silver Screen on Facebook Thank you for reading and here’s to hopefully a great year for cinema!