Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One – Film Review

Cast: Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: In the year 2045, the real world in pretty bad shape. As such, in order to escape their daily troubles, many people go into a virtual game world known as the OASIS, where a world of games and activities await…

Review: If ever there was a record for the amount of pop culture references that were made throughout the runtime of one particular film, the odds are good that this particular work would be pretty near the top of the list. If you were to play a round of pop culture bingo whilst watching this film, you would probably have enough references to yell out bingo, possible a few times over, and maybe then a few more.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the story focuses on Wade Watts (name to sound like a superhero alter-ego). He is just one of many citizens whose life is far from idyllic in Columbus, Ohio. So he goes into the virtual reality world known as the OASIS, essentially on a daily basis. Given what you can do in this world (basically anything) it isn’t hard to see why people jump into this world with such regularity. As part of a prize left behind by the world’s creator, a competition arises to win a pretty sweet prize that would change the life of the winner forever, which naturally has Wade’s attention. All the while, the head honchos at a rival company led by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) try to get their hands on the big prize for their own maniacal purposes.

Given the sheer volume of pop culture references in this film, it could have very easily felt just like a massive pop culture extravaganza. However, despite all the references that will undoubtedly delight audiences everywhere, Spielberg strikes a balance between the vast array of pop culture and a very personal story involving Wade and the relationship he begins to strike up with another gamer, namely Samantha (Cooke). The chemistry between these two is really well done and provides the film with the emotional heart that it really needs amidst all the pop culture phenomenon that is taking place, and the battle that ensues between these two and Sorrento.

Given the portfolio of a director such as Spielberg, with so many pieces of work that have left their ever-lasting stamp on the world of entertainment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Spielberg crafts a visual treat in terms of the world of the OASIS and all that it encompasses. After his last few films have ventured for the most part into the Oscar territory, it is refreshing to see Spielberg go back into the pure blockbuster spectacle territory. As such, it is likely that a lot of fun was being had during the production, which definitely filters through when it comes to the story. Though it is a visual treat, the plot does suffer from some narrative issues and there is a notable lack of character development on some of the supporting crew besides Wade and Samantha. Furthermore, though the film is extremely entertaining visually, the plot can’t help but stray into very familiar and predictable territory.

Nevertheless, there is something delightful to behold in what Spielberg has brought to the screen, which will definitely be enhanced by how many of the references you will recognise and appreciate. Sheridan and Cooke are excellent in their key roles, and Mark Rylance once again reunites with Spielberg to great effect once again as perhaps the most significant player in this entire story. Spielberg strikes just about the right balance between this incredible world of the OASIS and the real life struggle that comes about as a result of this quest. The nostalgia factor plays its part, but the film is driven deeply personal story at its core. Though let’s be fair, a film driven entirely by the nostalgia/Pop culture Easter egg bonanza under the genius vision of a director like Spielberg wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Visually delightful with pop culture Easter eggs aplenty, fused together with a heartfelt and intriguing story ensure a solid return in the blockbuster film-making department for Spielberg.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs – Film Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber

Director: Wes Anderson

Synopsis: In a near future Japan, after all dogs are banished to a solitary island following an outbreak of a deadly virus, one young boy goes in search of his dog.

Review: “Man’s best friend,” a title that has a long association with dogs and the special relationship that humanity as a species has with our four legged friends. This concept however is completely turned on its head in the latest film to emerge from the brain of quirky director Wes Anderson, also marking his second foray in stop-motion animation film-making following 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Set around twenty years in the future, in the wake of a virus that tears through a Japanese city, a decree is issued that declares that all dogs be sentenced to a nearby trash island, firmly away from any human contact. When one young boy makes a daring venture to said island in search of his pet dog, the burden falls to a select group of pooches, namely Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), King (Balaban), Boss (Murray) and Duke (Goldblum) to help him in his quest to find his beloved hound Spots (Schreiber).

Mutts on a mission…

It certainly is a given that with any feature length film, that a lot of care and attention goes into the production of the film, but never does that feel more appropriate than for this sort of stop motion animation. With each new character that is introduced (there are a fair few of them), it is evident that a great deal of work has gone into this film, and it pays dividends. The animation is stellar and by consequence, the film has a really unique look to it. Our main gang of lovable mutts are all very well fleshed out characters, which isn’t that much of a surprise given the considerable talents of the actors lending their voices to them. The stand-out is Bryan Cranston’s Chief who has some trust issues when it comes to humans, and as such he finds himself at odds with the rest of the pack, mainly Norton’s Rex.

As well as having a unique look about it, Anderson’s screenplay goes in very intriguing directions. Though it does use elements of Japanese culture that are very commonplace, it never feels like it is cultural appropriation. Indeed, it’s more like cultural appreciation as the country’s culture is front and centre, with instances where dialogue is sometimes not even translated. And of course, there is that quirky style of humour that only comes with a Wes Anderson movie stamped all over the film. He manages to fuse that humour so effortlessly into this heart-warming tale about the relationship between man and mutt, and how far one boy will go to save his four legged friend.

With such a stacked voice cast filled with so many talented actors, it was almost inevitable that some would get lost in the mix. Aside from Cranston, it’s Norton’s Rex and The Goldblum’s Duke that make the most impact, in addition to Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  There are meaningful contributions from the likes of Harvey Keitel, Greta Gerwig and F Murray Abraham, but sadly they don’t get nearly enough the screen time that the actors of their talent deserve.

However, in spite of that, the dedication to the story and the warmth that the film-makers have not only to the culture of Japan but of pooches themselves mean that anyone who has a favourable disposition towards dogs will almost assuredly appreciate this film, likewise for anyone who is less enamoured by dogs will undoubtedly appreciate it. Who knows, perhaps even the most ardent cat lover won’t have a bone to pick with this film, but that might be a bit too far fetched.

Charming and very entertaining with beautiful detailed animation and a superb voice cast, there really isn’t anyone in Hollywood who makes movies like Wes Anderson does.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Red Sparrow (2018)

Image is property of TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Red Sparrow  – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: A Russian ballerina is enrolled into a top secret programme that trains its recruits to become highly skilled agent known as Sparrows. Her primary target quickly becomes a CIA agent who is in possession of some top secret information.

Review: The United States of America and Russia,  two countries with an extremely murky history. A history that teased the terrifying prospect of nuclear conflict that lasted the best part of the 20th century. As such, it opens the door for filmmakers and storytellers to tap into this relationship of sorts between these two countries and how that may develop in the years to come. Mix that in with elements of espionage and seduction, and you have the materials to make a dark and unsettling espionage thriller.

Yet despite ticking all these boxes, there is something about Red Sparrow that just never  hits the mark. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, it’s intriguing premise offers much, but the hope that this intriguing premise would deliver a compelling story feels really misguided. Marking his first project since completing the Hunger Games franchise, Francis Lawrence has reunited with his Hunger Games collaborator Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) to tell this story of Dominika. A gifted Russian ballerina who suffers a devastating accident which destroys her career as a ballerina. Unsure as to what she should do next, she is pushed into the direction of the Sparrow programme, and it’s from this moment, her life will never be the same again.

The trailers certainly made the movie look as though it was going to be an intriguing espionage thriller, yet sadly it really is not all that thrilling. The screenplay by Justin Hythe certainly offers up an intriguing first act, including some very dark scenes that could have taken the story in a very interesting direction. However, it all quickly fizzles away into insignificance before long. A story with this premise should not be this mediocre, but several scenes just meander and it all becomes just not very interesting to watch. The actual plot itself is extremely convoluted, and it all just gets a little bit messy.  There’s some impressive camerawork involving the moment her ballerina prospects go up in flames, but there’s not much else to shout about, which is frustrating given some of the work we have seen from Lawrence as a director (see Catching Fire).

Lawrence has shown that since she hung up her bow as Katniss that she can take on a variety of different roles and make them her own. Her performance is admirable as she tries to hold the film on her shoulders, but the extremely lacklustre material she has been given to work with prevents her from doing so. Though her accent does slip on occasions, she gives comfortably the strongest performance. The rest of this very talented cast are by and large either extremely under-utilised or not given enough development to really make the audience care for them. Edgerton is perhaps the only exception, but even then the development he gets is thin, at best. Meanwhile, other actors such as Jeremy Irons seem really miscast in their roles.

The chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton is serviceable, but it could and really should have been so much stronger given the talent of the actors. The plot is so convoluted that by the time the credits begin to play, you’ll be wondering if it was worth it, and the answer sadly, is probably not.

An intriguing premise, thrown away on an extremely convoluted and messy plot, combined with very bland and forgettable characters, all of which results in an extremely disappointing finished product.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Lady Bird (2018)

Image is property of A24, Universal Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions

Lady Bird – Film Review

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein

Director: Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Lady Bird  (Ronan) is a 17 year old woman in the final year of high school, while having a tricky relationship with her mother, must negotiate friendships, romance and the prospect of college…

Review: For some, those teenage years  are the best times of your life, on the brink of adulthood but not quite at that point where you have to start looking after your own affairs. It’s something that we all go through and is as much a part of life as death and taxes. As such, to make such a film about going through that particular period of life, and to give it such a refreshing and unique spin is a very impressive feat, even more so considering that this is the film that marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig.

Focusing on Christine or Lady Bird as she prefers to be known, as she navigates her final year of school before heading off to college. Before that can happen though, she experiences everything people go through in their final year of school, establishing friendships, making new relationships, and bickering with your parents. It is such a simple, almost by the numbers premise that has been done so many times before. Yet through her remarkable and screenplay that has some razor sharp wit and humour, Gerwig fashions a story that will be relatable to almost all who watch it, as everyone will have remembered that point in their lives when they were in the exact same position as Lady Bird finds herself here, particularly when it comes to moving away from home and settling down at college/university.

A key reason as to why this film feels so fresh and so impactful is the performance of Saoirse Ronan. You know that when you just see the character and not the actor is when you know you’re witnessing a good performance, and that is applicable for almost everyone in the film. Everything about her just feels so real and genuine, and though she has a bit of a temper (let’s be fair who didn’t when they were a teenager?) she is effortlessly watchable.  To have already garnered three Oscar nominations at the age of 23 is a staggeringly impressive achievement and it is a testament to her wonderful ability as an actor. With everyone everyone else on screen giving perfect performances, it does feel like you’re watching real people with real lives, rather than watching a film.

Special mention must go to Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother. This Mother-Daughter relationship makes up the most significant portion of the film. It is a relationship that is far from perfect, indeed it’s a pretty fraught one at times. Yet there is a clear respect for one another, even if they don’t always show it. In everything the film says about the typical struggles a teenager goes through, especially for teenage girls. It manages to tell them in a manner that almost no coming-of-age film has done before. What’s more, the film is utterly hilarious, it finds its humour in all of those little moments that life throws at us when we’re on the brink of adulthood. The road of life is full of ups and downs and this film captures those moments of joy and heartbreak and tells them with such affection, that you will want a pal like Lady Bird around in your life. She’s just that lovable.

A familiar tale, but told in such a refreshingly original manner, this is a coming-of-age drama done almost to perfection, with a stunning turn from Ronan at its centre. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Phantom Thread (2018)

Image is property of Universal Pictures and Annapurna Pictures

Phantom Thread – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicki Krieps

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Synopsis: Reynolds Woodcock is an accomplished dress designer, with a set daily routine and some extremely wealthy clientele. When he meets Alma, a strong willed woman, his daily life and routine is turned upside down.

Review: When it comes to actors and method acting, there is perhaps no one who does this better than the one and the only Daniel Day-Lewis. With every role he takes on, he goes to extraordinary lengths to get into character, and he has done so across his career. It is an approach that has served him well, becoming the only man to win three Best Actor gongs. Reuniting with his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson, for one last hurrah after he announced he would retire from the profession, it is safe to say that one of the most legendary actors to ever grace our screens has gone out on a very high note indeed.

Telling the story of meticulous fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock, living in 1950s London. He is a man who lives his life with a very strict routine and any break from that routine is most certainly not welcome. Yet whilst on a break from his daily life he meets a woman named Alma (Krieps) and falls head over heels for her. Before long the two of them are in a relationship with Alma assisting Reynolds as he makes his luxury garments. Yet while Alma’s arrival is initially a joyful one, things soon start to turn a little difficult as Alma’s presence starts to interrupt his fastidious way of life.

With this his swansong performance, he once again adopted his meticulous approach to the roles he takes on, as he learned how to create and design a dress all on his own, and it adds so much sincerity and conviction to his performance, you really get the impression that he’s a man who not only knows his craft, but is one of the best in the business. Of course by being so good at what he does, it does mean he comes into friction with people when his routine is disturbed. These people are mainly of course Alma, and his sister Cyril (Manville) who is an instrumental part of why Reynolds’s business is the success it is.

Opposite Day Lewis, who of course has landed a final nomination, both women really shine in excellent performances that earned Manville an Oscar nomination. Both have to wrestle with Reynolds’s stubborn mannerisms, but Krieps can count herself really unfortunate to not have landed one as well as it’s her relationship with Reynolds that becomes the spotlight of the picture.  To hold her own opposite Day Lewis, and perhaps maybe even outshine him is an extraordinary feat that should see more scripts get pushed in her direction.

Like the process of designing and making an extravagant gown probably is, the film is written and directed meticulously and superbly by Anderson. He takes his time with his three principal characters and gives each of them their moment to really shine. All three are extremely well fleshed out and strong-willed and so to see the sparks fly between these very fierce personalities clash is almost always utterly compelling.

Something would have gone very badly amiss if the costumes on display weren’t absolutely sumptuous, rest assured that is simply not the case. The production design likewise is immaculate, as is the beautiful cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s score is both beautiful and haunting in equal measure. The film does maybe suffer from a few pacing issues in part, but it remains an exquisite piece of cinema and if this is to be Daniel Day Lewis’s final bow, then this truly magnificently talented man has ensured that he leaves behind a legacy to the art form of cinema that will never diminish.

Immaculate production elements combined with three remarkable performances ensure that Day-Lewis is given a send off worthy of one of the finest actors to ever grace the big screen.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Shape of Water (2018)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight Pictures and TSG Entertainment

The Shape of Water – Film Review

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Synopsis: In the middle of the Cold War, a mute woman working at a top secret research facility develops a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that has been brought in for testing.

Review: Hollywood is certainly no stranger to stories about love, but when you have a director like Guillermo del Toro, here’s a filmmaker who’s certainly no stranger to making a couple of films about some intriguing creatures. Hence, to merge these together for a film with themes of love and acceptance at its core, and fuse these with some fantasy elements, it’s a unique mishmash of genres, the latter of which is right up del Toro’s alley. It’s most definitely bold film-making, but it also happens to be exquisite and beautiful film-making at the same time.

Set in Cold War 1960s USA, Elisa (Hawkins) is a mute woman working at a top secret research facility as a cleaner. She goes about her shift as normal with close friend and co-worker Zelda (Spencer). Their job is very unremarkable, about as mundane as it gets. This is until the arrival of an extremely rare amphibian creature that has been brought in to give the USA an advantage in the Cold War arms race changes everything for Elisa as she forms a very close relationship with the creature.

Love at first sight

To have a leading role in a film and be a mute requires an actor to have extraordinary ability, and thankfully Sally Hawkins has that in abundance as she delivers a truly  remarkable performance. Without saying a word she manages to convey the trauma that her past has clearly inflicted on her. Yet through it all she shows such raw and powerful emotion, about her life and her feelings for those around her, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.  The way that del Toro builds the relationship with his leading lady and the creature (portrayed by GDT regular Doug Jones) is beautiful to watch and to do so without either character uttering a word is all the more remarkable. It serves as a timely reminder that love is such a powerful emotion that it transcends anything, be it disability, gender, race, religion.

Alongside Hawkins, Octavia Spencer provides excellent support as Elisa’s best friend and who also serves as her sign language translator. Likewise for Richard Jenkins as Elisa’s roommate who’s desperately trying to get back on the scene as an artist, who also has his own set of problems that he’s trying to fight. The two of them give Elisa the support she needs as she tries to build her romance with the creature. On the opposite side of that coin comes Michael Shannon’s Strickland, who definitely does not share the emotional connection that Elisa has for the creature. It’s a similar role for Shannon, this no nonsense mean-spirited bad guy, but he does it so well it’s undeniably intriguing to watch.

The work done by the make up team to create the creature is once again absolutely extraordinary, and with some absolutely mesmerising production design and cinematography. The film looks immaculately beautiful, which works to reflect the incredibly heartfelt and touching story that del Toro brings to the screen, which is boosted by an immaculate score provided by Alexandre Desplat. Not everything that you see on screen is pretty mind you, what with it being set in the Cold War, there’s a fair few agendas flying around.

The central themes that this film champions remain as relevant today as they did over half a century ago.  Pitching this film was probably not the easiest film to have been given the green light, but when you have a director like del Toro on board you’ve got enormous potential for greatness, and this is his drenched masterpiece.

A beautiful blend of genres results in a touching and powerful story, soaked with gorgeous visuals and an absolutely stunning turn from Hawkins, this is cinema at its most majestic and magical.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Black Panther (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Black Panther – Film Review

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyongo’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

Director: Ryan Coogler

Synopsis: In the wake of his father’s death, T’Challa returns to his homeland of Wakanda, to be crowned King. Yet as he seeks to continue the Black Panther legacy, challenges to his rule begin to emerge…

Review: For all the might and marvel that the MCU has built and delivered to audiences all around the world, there was always something missing from this vast and enthralling universe. No, not a female led superhero film (though that is on its way), but a film that taps into a vast culture that up until now hadn’t really been explored. A culture that encompasses the beautiful continent of Africa, and all the beauty it has to offer. Indeed, little Easter Eggs were placed in earlier films but now at long last, it takes centre stage.

Following on from the events of Civil War, T’Challa returns to his home of Wakanda, a technologically advanced nation in Africa that has chosen to shield itself and its absolutely awesome technology away from the world. However, trouble is brewing for T’Challa as events from the past are threatening to reap terrible consequences on Wakanda and its people. All the while, T’Challa must balance his duties as the King of his country, whilst also being the iconic Black Panther, being a King is sometimes not the great thing it is so often cracked up to be.

After reinvigorating the Rocky franchise so succesfully with Creed, Ryan Coogler takes on what his comfortably his largest project to date. Yet much like Taika Waititi before him, he brings his own sense of style to the story and indeed to the wider Marvel Universe. The work that is done to establish this world of Wakanda is so breath-taking and done in such a vivid manner, it feels like it almost could be a place on this planet, which regrettably it is not. Of course it being an MCU film certain things are almost guaranteed to be present, such as the humour. While a few jokes can be hit or miss, for the most part, the humour adds to the scenes but never compromises the experience of what is ultimately a very personal story about a man, his duty to his country, and to his family, and what that means to his country.

Ready to pounce…

Speaking of which, Boseman continues his excellent work as both the man and the hero, but special mention must go Letitia Wright as the King’s technological whizkid of a sister, Shura. She has all the technological toys that she and her brother get to utilise, and their chemistry is excellent. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is also on excellent form as the tough warrior Nakia, as is Danai Gurira as the head of the Dora Milaje, a fearsome squad of badass female warriors serving Wakanda. This cast packs plenty of stars and nearly all of them really get their moment in the spotlight. Coogler’s muse though seems to be Michael B Jordan, and as Erik Killmonger, he comes across as a strong villain who’s well fleshed out, and you fully understand his motivations.

Re-teaming with his cinematographer from Creed, and recent first time Oscar nominee for cinematography  Rachel Morrison, the film is beautifully shot with stunning shots of the Wakanda landscape. There are more than a few insanely good action sequences to relish but the film is not reliant on these to tell the story and let the audience have fun. The deeply personal story that Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole craft is what makes this story so invigorating. It has central themes that will hit home with any and all who watch it. It’s extremely relevant and important film-making in this respect, and for Marvel to continue to break new barriers, after an incredible 18 films into their Universe, is an important and remarkable achievement.

 A gripping personal story, packed with vibrant colours and costumes, terrific characters and a fascinating look into a breath-taking civilisation, it’s another landmark achievement for the MCU. Wakanda forever!

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Post (2018)

Image is property of DreamWorks Pictures, Universal and 20th Century Fox

The Post – Film Review

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: When classified government documents concerning the Vietnam War end up in the hands of journalists for The Washington Post, they must decide whether to risk their careers and the paper’s legacy and publish these documents, whilst risking the wrath of the United States Government.

Review: There is something to be admired about those people who go above and beyond to try and report the facts in this crazy world we live in, especially at a time when journalists in this day and age find themselves under intense scrutiny. As so many people, especially certain world leaders, just dismiss stories about them that paint them in a negative light. Yet, the work these people do plays such a vital role in our society, and that cannot be ignored, especially when the work of journalists .

Indeed, the work of journalists has helped to break some pretty major stories like the enormous scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church, making films such as this and 2015’s Spotlight feel extremely relevant in today’s society. When some government secrets that reveal some shocking truths concerning the US Government and the Vietnam War fall into the hands of The New York Times, the US Government forbids them from running any further stories. When the same documents fall into the hands of The Washington Post, the editor Ben Bradlee debates with the paper’s first female owner Katharine Graham as to whether these documents should be published.

In much the same way that Spotlight was a very dialogue driven film, The Post follows in that manner. Therefore the screenplay has to be of a very high calibre, and that quality is ably provided by Spotlight’s scribe Josh Singer as well as Liz Hannah, marking her first foray into screenplay writing. Though the first half of the film delves into newspapers and business, it does mean that unless you’re extremely well versed in the worlds of newspapers, business, stocks and shares, then this could feel a little bit over-whelming. However, once we get to the small matter of whether the story should become front page news, is where it becomes very intriguing to watch.

Under the guidance of such a masterful director like Spielberg, the performances of everyone really shine. Yet in news that should not be surprising to anyone, the limelight belongs to Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (more the former than the latter though). It is fascinating two of the biggest actors in the business, who had never worked together prior to this film, engage in some deep discussions about whether or not the decision is made to go to print. With this role banking her a 21st Oscar nomination, it’s little wonder that Streep is regarded as one of the finest women to ever grace the big screen, as no matter what the role is, she never fails to impress. Much like Streep, Hanks almost always impresses and as Ben Bradlee, the man who helped break the infamous Watergate scandal, he’s a man who is absolutely committed to telling the public what he feels they have the right to know.

Though the script doesn’t fully portray the important role that The New York Times played in the leaking of the documents, it does remind everyone that at such times when the press is under such fierce criticism, that this industry and indeed these people serve a role that needs to be respected. Otherwise politicians would try to  to sweep certain things under the rug. Though the film doesn’t carry the emotional sucker punch like Spotlight did, the key message about journalism integrity and the commitment to the truth retains its indispensable value to our society and our democracy.

Assured direction from Spielberg, and strong performances from Streep and Hanks ensure this trio of extraordinary talents provide a timely reminder of the power of the press and the fundamental aspects of a democracy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

I, Tonya (2018)

Image is property of AI Film and Neon

I, Tonya – Film Review

Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale

Directors: Craig Gillespie

Synopsis: Telling the story of controversial ice skater Tonya Harding who, whilst competing for her country in the Winter Olympics, becomes embroiled in a scandal following on attack on a fellow competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

Review: The lives of sports stars and professional athletes, are so often very glamorous, particularly when they enjoy success in their field and acquire incredible wealth and fame on a global scale. However, every once in a while, an athlete finds themselves in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. Take for instance, ice skater Tonya Harding. In the build up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, after an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan was carried out, a massive public scandal ensued, and the fallout was quite extensive.

This infamous incident is not the focus of the whole movie though. Indeed director Craig Gillespie chooses to focus on Tonya’s entire life, from her early upbringing and being forced into ice-skating by her pushy/over-bearing mother LaVona Golden (Janney) to her marriage to Jeff Gillooly (Stan) to of course the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan. He chooses to tell this story in a very unique way, by having the characters as if they were being interviewed by us the audience, and then flashing back to the key moments in Tonya’s life. Constantly jumping back and forth in this manner can be problematic but the film is edited together tremendously well, ensuring it flows coherently.

In a performance that has landed her her first Oscar nomination, Robbie really shines as Tonya Harding. Despite some of her less than pleasant mannerisms and behaviour, she is in many ways a very tragic character. Clearly very talented, she never quite fully realised that potential, this is perhaps more down to factors beyond her control. Of course she isn’t perfect but, her extremely difficult mother and her topsy-turvy home life certainly didn’t help matters. Janney as Tonya’s mother is also getting some well deserved recognition. Almost every word out of her mouth is profanity or a derogatory utterance directed if not at her daughter, at someone else. Though she strives to do what’s best for her daughter, it certainly doesn’t yield the right results, and she certainly wouldn’t win any Best Mother of the Year Awards.

For a person who had more than a few dark and bleak moments in her lifetime, the screenplay does manage to inject some humour into this picture, which is in no small part down to LaVona’s outbursts, and the bumbling incompetence of some of the characters who played a key role role in the attack on Kerrigan. The aforementioned use of editing in the interviews to tell the story, intertwined with some frequent fourth wall breaking keeps the plot moving for the most part along as briskly as an ice skater who’s right in the middle of their routine would.

The film does suffer from a few pacing issues though, as it seems unsure as to which element it really wants to focus on at least in the first act.  There’s also the not-so-small matter of the ice skating scenes themselves. While the camerawork to make them happen is impressive, there are a few scenes in which it is very apparent that we are looking at a stunt double, and not Robbie herself, which can be just a little bit jarring. Yet once we reach the third act and the now infamous attack on Kerrigan becomes the main focus, it becomes wildly entertaining, and serves a reminder of how even the smallest action can have devastating consequences on people’s lives and careers.

Unconventional in how it chooses to tell its ultimately tragic story, but with excellent performances from Robbie and Janney in particular fused with some very dark comedy ensures this biopic has some legs (or should that be skates?)