Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and A24

The Disaster Artist – Film Review

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen

Director: James Franco

Synopsis: When aspiring actors Greg Sistero and Tommy Wiseau meet in an acting class, they both have dreams of making it in Hollywood. When no one gives them a chance, they decide to make their own movie, with hilarious results…

Review: There is a lot that is subjective when it comes to discussions about best and worst films of all time. There are a few usual suspects at both ends of the spectrum, but it is next to impossible to lock down one film as the absolute best, and worst respectively. Yet in the case of the latter, one film that many would argue deserves its place as the worst of the worst, is of course The Room. Yet for all that film’s many faults, no one can deny it has garnered an enormous cult following, which has helped it become perhaps the greatest worst film ever made. But how did such a monstrosity come into existence?

The answer can be found courtesy of Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell’s book of the same name, charting his journey that led him to be a part of the project that was the brainchild of Tommy Wiseau. A man of several unexplained mysteries, and a seemingly bottomless pit of money, made it all happen. The film explores Greg and Tommy’s friendship and how that led them to the adventure (or should that be misadventure?) of the making of The Room and the ensuing chaos that surrounded the production of the film. Most people will have big dreams for what they would like to do in life, and though this isn’t exactly anything new in Hollywood, The Disaster Artist is nonetheless a thoroughly amusing and at times very heartfelt story about two guys trying to make their dreams happen, even if the end result is not the type of film that would be even remotely worthy of any Oscars.

Watching in bewilderment /amusement /amazement…

As the two leading performances, the Franco brothers are both on excellent form with James taking the role of Tommy and Dave as Greg. There is a genuine almost brotherly like connection between the two of them, which is probably due to the fact that they are real life brothers! However you buy into their friendship and it makes you want both of them to succeed, which to a certain extent they do. The only thing is, it doesn’t quite go as they would have hoped. James is particularly excellent as he has the look and the mysterious accent of Wiseau almost down to a T. Dave also does an excellent job as he is the one who strives to complete the goal when things start to go spectacularly wrong for their project. There is humour to be found in the screenplay, which is no small part due to Tommy’s peculiar mannerisms, but it gets to a point where even though you hope they make their dreams come to fruition, that Tommy’s behaviour starts to become REALLY annoying. One can only begin to imagine how annoying it would have been for the crew.

It is clear that through his eccentric performance, and his direction, that Franco has a real passion for The Room, as they capture scenes from the film right down to the tiniest details. It might naht have enjoyed the success that Wiseau probably would have wanted it to upon its release. However, though it has perhaps become famous for all the wrong reasons, it has nevertheless endured the test of time. With an enormous cult following and screenings aplenty to this day, the film has even made a profit on its 6 million dollar budget. Everyone has dreams, and though the pursuit of one’s dreams might not always lead to success, it is important to never lose sight of those aspirations, as you just never know what kind of legacy you might leave behind.

A humourous look at what is ultimately a disaster of a film, but one that is told with genuine sincerity, and an important message about going after your dreams no matter how high the odds might be stacked against you. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards: Predictions

Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us once again, and the Academy celebrates it’s 90th birthday. For such a significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is extremely fitting then there is a plethora of really good films that are up for the big prizes this year. A story about a woman who falls in love with a fish man, a film about the power of advertising, a return to the world of replicants, a journalism drama, the story of the Dunkirk evacuation, a love story set in 1980s Italy and a film about a dress designer that marks the final on screen performance of the legendary Daniel Day Lewis. Of course, for all the great films there can only be one winner in every category and so it is time to predict the winners in the majority of the categories (I have not seen the documentaries and animated shorts) and chime in with my own thoughts on who should take home that coveted golden statue come the end of the night.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Timothée Chalamet Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-LewisPhantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya Get Out
  • Gary Oldman Darkest Hour
  • Denzel WashingtonRoman J. Israel, Esq.

It is looking likely that this will be the occasion that Gary Oldman finally strikes Oscar gold, for a transformative, mesmerising turn as Winston Churchill. He’s been sweeping the board throughout this awards season and it would be more than deserved. At times, you forgot it was him under all that make up, his captivating performance binds the whole film together, and it would be a major surprise if Oldman is not victorious.

Will Win: Gary Oldman

Should Win: Gary Oldman

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sally Hawkins The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie I, Tonya
  • Saoirse RonanLady Bird
  • Meryl StreepThe Post

It’s a similar story with the leading actress category as McDormand has also been sweeping the board with her terrific and heartbreaking work as a mother desperately seeking answers over her child’s murder. That being said, Saorise Ronan could be something of an underdog with her beautiful performance. What’s more to say, for a film in which she has no dialogue, Sally Hawkins should also not be ruled out. A victory for any of these three would be more than worthy but the writing is on the billboard for McDormand and she should take home her 2nd Oscar.

Will Win: Frances McDormand

Should Win: Sally Hawkins

Could have been nominated: Vicki Krieps for Phantom Thread

Best Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Billboards’s domination should continue here as much like the preceding two categories, Rockwell has been cleaning house and is the hot favourite to win his first Oscar. His work in Billboards was extraordinary and despite the excellent efforts of all the gentlemen nominated in this category with him, this is most definitely Rockwell’s to lose.

Will Win: Sam Rockwell

Should Win: Sam Rockwell

Could have been nominated: Harrison Ford for Blade Runner 2049

Best Supporting Actress 

  • Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
  • Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

The last acting category and another very likely triumph, this time for Alison Janney. Her work as the vicious mother of Tonya Harding was uncompromising, yet at the same time very funny. Yet one could feel that Laurie Metcalf’s work opposite Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird was the much more sincere performance as a mother who also wants what’s best for her daughter but tries to be a little bit more compassionate about it. Like the previous acting categories, Janney has definitely got this one wrapped up.

Will Win: Allison Janney 

Should Win: Laurie Metcalf

Could have been nominated: Holly Hunter for The Big Sick

Best Director

  • Christopher NolanDunkirk
  • Jordan PeeleGet Out
  • Greta GerwigLady Bird
  • Paul Thomas AndersonPhantom Thread
  • Guillermo del ToroThe Shape of Water

Meshing three inter-weaving storylines and making them all flow seamlessly is an extraordinary feat of directorial mastery, and for that Nolan could yet take his FIRST Oscar (err what?!!?). Yet this one is seemingly heading towards Del Toro. Though that would not be an undeserving win for an extraordinary film-maker, there is fierce competition from both Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, both of whom made their directorial debuts in almighty style. But the odds are in Del Toro’s favour.

Will Win:  Guillermo del Toro 

Should Win: Christopher Nolan

Could have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Screenplay 

  • The Big Sick – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
  • Get Out – Jordan Peele
  • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
  • The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

Five very strong screenplays, any of these would be a worthy winner, but it seems as though it’s a race between Get Out and Three Billboards. Peele’s screenplay is razor sharp in terms of its humour and very relevant social commentary that makes it a hot favourite, and deservedly so. That being said, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also balances the extremely dark nature of its subject matter, and injects it with extremely black humour that hits the mark. It could be a very close call.

Will Win:  Get Out

Should Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could have been nominated: Coco

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call Me by Your NameJames Ivory 
  • The Disaster ArtistScott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
  • LoganScott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
  • Molly’s GameAaron Sorkin
  • MudboundVirgil Williams and Dee Rees

Call Me By Your Name has been pretty much sweeping this category across this awards season and so its success here is looking almost guaranteed. It is somewhat surprising to see a superhero film nominated, but that is a testament to the sheer quality of Logan’s screenplay that it deserves its place here and in another year, might have even taken home the gold.

Will Win:  Call Me by Your Name 

Should Win: Logan

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Feature Film 

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand 
  • Loving Vincent 

In contrast to last year, this is something of a weak category for animation. The power of Pixar will get Coco through here. Though the omission of the Lego Batman Movie proves that the Academy must have a vendetta against Lego for some strange reason.

Will Win:  Coco

Should Win: Coco

Should have been nominated: The Lego Batman Movie

Best Original Score 

  • DunkirkHans Zimmer
  • Phantom ThreadJonny Greenwood
  • The Shape of WaterAlexandre Desplat
  • Star Wars: The Last JediJohn Williams
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriCarter Burwell

Zimmer’s score certainly helped to add massive amounts of tension to Dunkirk. But the work of Desplat goes hand in hand with the beautiful work that you see on screen. Though Jonny Greenwood’s work on Phantom Thread is equally mesmerising so it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

Will Win:  The Shape of Water

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Song 

  • “Mighty River” from Mudbound – Music and Lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
  • “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name – Music and Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens
  • “Remember Me” from Coco – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall – Music by Diane Warren; Lyrics by Common and Diane Warren
  • “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman – Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

This seems to be a battle between “This is Me” and “Remember Me” though “Mystery of Love” could certainly pull off an upset. With music being a central part of Coco, that could give it an edge but “This is Me” seems the most likely to triumph

Will Win:  “This is Me” from Greatest Showman

Should Win: “Remember Me” from Coco

Best Sound Editing

The sound categories this year seem to be a battle between the slick and stylish work of Baby Driver versus the heart-pounding intensity of Dunkirk. The work done by both these teams is very impressive, but Dunkirk‘s technical mastery should be enough to get it home with the Oscar in tow.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing

  • Baby Driver Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
  • Blade Runner 2049Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
  • DunkirkMark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo
  • The Shape of WaterChristian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
  • Star Wars: The Last JediDavid Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

As with the Sound Editing category, it is Dunkirk VS Baby Driver and as before, though either would be more than a worthy winner, Dunkirk’s sound wizardry is second to none.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Production Design 

  • Beauty and the Beast – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Blade Runner 2049 – Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
  • Darkest Hour – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Dunkirk – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • The Shape of Water – Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin

To take the world of Los Angeles in the future and have it look so dazzlingly authentic gives Blade Runner 2049  a real shot at winning. However in a similar vein, fusing the fantastical elements of the story with the gritty nature of 1960s Cold War America gives Shape of Water a real chance of taking the award out of the hands of those replicants.

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Cinematography

  • Blade Runner 2049Roger Deakins
  • Darkest HourBruno Delbonnel
  • DunkirkHoyte van Hoytema
  • MudboundRachel Morrison
  • The Shape of WaterDan Laustsen

Simply put, #DeakinsorRiot. One of the finest cinematographers ever is due on Oscar and this better be the one that gives him the damn statue after 14 previous attempts.

Will Win:  Roger Deakins

Should Win: Roger Deakins

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

  • Darkest Hour Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
  • Victoria & AbdulDaniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
  • WonderArjen Tuiten

As previously mentioned, the extraordinary work that helped transform Mr Oldman into Mr Churchill should ensure Darkest Hour is triumphant.

Will Win:  Darkest Hour

Should Win: Darkest Hour

Best Costume Design 

  • Beauty and the BeastJacqueline Durran
  • Darkest HourJacqueline Durran
  • Phantom ThreadMark Bridges
  • The Shape of Water Luis Sequeira
  • Victoria & AbdulConsolata Boyle

The dresses that were on display in Phantom Thread were sumptuous in their design and while the work done by Jacqueline Durran in Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast deserves plaudits, this one belongs to Phantom Thread.

Will Win:  Phantom Thread

Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Film Editing

  • Baby Driver Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
  • DunkirkLee Smith
  • I, TonyaTatiana S. Riegel
  • The Shape of WaterSidney Wolinsky
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriJon Gregory

When you take a film that intertwines 3 differing story-lines and it is all edited so brilliantly that should be more than enough to ensure that Dunkirk flies home with this Oscar.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects

  • Blade Runner 2049 John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
  • Kong: Skull IslandStephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
  • War for the Planet of the ApesJoe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Aside from the fact that the remarkable work Andy Serkis has done with this revived Apes trilogy should have ensured he at the very least got nominated, the work that is done on these films has been extraordinary and deserves to be recognised. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 will probably take this one home. Also why on earth is Kong: Skull Island here?

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could have been nominated: Thor: Ragnarok

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

  • Call Me by Your Name Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, and Marco Morabito
  • Darkest HourTim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten, and Douglas Urbanski
  • Dunkirk Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
  • Get Out Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., and Jordan Peele
  • Lady BirdScott Rudin, Eli Bush, and Evelyn O’Neill
  • Phantom Thread JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi
  • The PostAmy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, and Kristie Macosko Krieger
  • The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriGraham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, and Martin McDonagh

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

An incredibly stacked year, full of some terrific works and usually there is one film that is a clear runaway favourite, but not so this year as there are a few that have a legitimate shot at taking home the biggest prize of the night.  Three Billboards will undoubtedly be buoyed by its BAFTA and SAG victories but success for The Shape of Water at the Critics Choice and Producer’s Guild of America Awards, highlights the unpredictability of this year’s crop. Though usually it requires a Best Director nomination to stand a good chance of scooping Best Picture, Three Billboards might just defy that expectation and become only the fifth film to win without a Best Director nomination. However, my hope is that The Shape of Water will emerge triumphant, it would go nicely with Del Toro’s probable victory in the director category, but this is extremely close to call.

Will Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards Predictions: Cinematography

 

Continuing in the coverage of the biggest night for Hollywood. Myself and a few film bloggers have gathered together to give our own take on each of the categories and provide our thoughts on who should emerge victorious. So let’s take a look at the nominees for the Best Cinematography. The nominees are:

  • Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins

  • Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel

  • Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema

  • Mudbound – Rachel Morrison

  • The Shape of Water – Dan Laustsen

————————————————————————————————————————————

The cinematographers, the geniuses who give the film each its own unique look, and yet again four supremely talented men and for the first time ever, a woman (about damn time!) are up for recognition for their work.

The overwhelming favourite to take home the trophy is Roger Deakins for his work with Denis Villenueve in Blade Runner 2049. Simply put, as a cinematographer he is one of the best in the business but that Oscar has somehow eluded him over the years, but given his mesmerising work in Blade Runner, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films ever made, it looks as though this will be the time for Deakins to finally claim that long overdue Oscar.

That being said, there is still a chance that Hoyte van Hoytema could sneak a win as Dunkirk is an impressive cinematic achievement in its own right. The camera work really makes you feel like you’re on that beach with those soldiers.

Likewise, the work from Dan Lausten on The Shape of Water is also mesmerising to look at and next to Blade Runner possess the most vivid colour palette among this year’s nominees.

Darkest Hour also boasts some excellent visual splendour, but it’s unlikely to emerge victorious.

While history was made with Rachel Morrison becoming the first female cinematographer ever to pick up a nomination for Mudbound. Time’s certainly are changing in Hollywood, and while Morrison winning would be a wonderful surprise, it is time the Academy recognised the extraordinary talents of a man who’s been the brains behind some of the most stunning visual films in recent years.

Predicted winner…

Blade Runner 2049

Should win…

Blade Runner 2049

Click the links below to view our thoughts on the other categories:

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking the 2018 Best Picture Nominees

The Academy Awards celebrates its 90th birthday this weekend and to celebrate this significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is only fitting that there is an excellent selection of films that are up for the most prestigious award of the night, this of course being the Best Picture. A total of nine films have been selected for the prize, but only one film will walk away victorious. The films up for this prize are certainly an interesting bunch. A story focusing on some brave journalists, a couple of love stories, a visceral telling of the evacuation at Dunkirk, a deeply unsettling tale of racism and one woman’s quest for justice. There was a lot to love about these films and so it is time to rank them from worst to best, starting with…

9. Call Me By Your Name

Now, I know that many people around the world have fallen head over heels in love with this film, I sadly am not one of these people. Something about this film just didn’t land with me as much as it did with many a film critic. It was undoubtedly a beautifully shot film, with lush cinematography and a terrific score. What really drags this film down for me is the story. Though both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet both give solid performances, with it being a love story, I just was not invested enough in their romance. The film’s pacing is severely slow and it means the film drags. Though it does have an extremely powerful closing scene that is memorable and very emotional, the rest of the film in my mind, sadly is not.

8. The Post

Full review here

Steven Spielberg as director? Check. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on board? Check. A film about a time when journalists and the White House clash over top secret documents? Check. All the ingredients for greatness, but sadly there’s something about this Spielberg picture that just doesn’t quite hit its mark. Given the current incumbent in the White House, it’s little wonder Spielberg fast-tracked it into production. The themes of this film are really relevant in this “fake news” era, but the film really struggles to get going in the first half, before finally giving a tense second half. You would expect something more from a director as gifted as Spielberg, but it just never matched those lofty expectations.

7. Phantom Thread

Full review here

Daniel Day Lewis is one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. The only man to win three Best Actor awards and for one final bow, back with Paul Thomas Anderson in this beautiful tale about a dress designer who falls in love with a woman, and the sometimes loving, sometimes extremely testing relationship that plays out on screen. As a film it is masterfully directed and the three central performances of the film bind it all together. Day Lewis is of course superb, but it’s the work of Vicky Krieps that captures the most attention. Going toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis is not easy, but she pulls it off, and it’s a fascinating relationship to watch. The costumes are stunning and the music is equally so. A worthy send off for a sublime actor.

6. Darkest Hour

Full review here

World War II. Britain at war with a tyrannical man threatening to wreak havoc on the continent. It was truly a desperate situation, and one man stepped up when his country needed him most. That man was Winston Churchill and what maybe a career defining performance, and one that is looking extremely likely to bag Gary Oldman the Best Actor gong this year. The actor is barely recoginseable under the make up, but it helps make his performance feel so powerful and authentic. You just see Churchill on screen and not the actor, and that is worthy of praise. With an impeccably acted cast, as Churchill faces a race against time to evacuate British soldiers from Dunkirk (more on that later). It manages to inject humour into this bleak situation, and serves a reminder of that indomitable British spirit that help this nation through the Second World War.

5. Get Out

If ever a film that was released in 2017 that felt timely, it was Get Out. A year that saw some horrifying events take place in America, hence making the directorial debut from Jordan Peele an extremely relevant and important piece of cinema. Fusing comedy and horror is walking a very fine line, but given Peele’s comedy roots, he absolutely walks that line perfectly. In that one minute it’s a happy scene and the next it’s utterly horrifying. Daniel Kaluuya is perhaps the best he has ever been in the lead role in a film that has such significant and relevant social commentary.  It’s a remarkable achievement for Peele and all the more impressive that it has stayed in the Awards conversation all this time,  despite coming out in February in the States.

4. Lady Bird

Full review here

Growing up, something we have all got to go through at one point in our lives, and though this is not anything new in movie making and story telling, nothing has captured it quite as well as this film. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, also making her directorial debut along with Jordan Peele, this film just captures those struggles that we all go through as teenagers so affectionately, that it made it really unlike any other coming-of-age drama. Saorise Ronan’s magnetic performance at the heart of it all is the reason why it all just clicks. Like with Oldman, you don’t see the actress only the character that she has become, likewise with Laurie Metcalf as her mother. Likewise with Peele, Gerwig’s debut behind the camera means that she has a very bright future ahead of her.

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Full review here

Much like Get Out, when you fuse two genres that are so different like comedy and horror, the result can be a gigantic mess. Similalrly fusing comedy and tragedy can be equally problematic. Yet again this tale of a woman grieving over her daughter’s murder and her fury with the inaction by the authorities is both dark and in places deeply tragic. Yet it manages to be extremely funny, finding humour in the most unlikely of places. Frances McDormand has been winning plaudits left, right and centre, and much like Oldman, it would be an enormous surprise if she is not clutching that trophy by the end of the  night, likewise for Sam Rockwell in the Best Supporting Actor category.

2. Dunkirk

Full review here

Christopher Nolan, a director whose name will immediately capture the attention of cinema goers across the world. Dabbling in history for this film about the Miracle of Dunkirk, proved that as a director, he can take any genre and make an extremely compelling, magnificently crafted film. The film-making on show here is flawless, the use of practical models adds so much authenticity to the story and from a technical standpoint it’s just astounding to watch. Though there’s not much dialogue, and the characters do not have much in the way of character development, the story that Nolan crafts is edited, fusing three varying narratives into one so faultlessly.  In terms of the technical categories, this film is bound to pick up a few awards in that area.

1. The Shape of Water

Full review here

Of all the things you can say about Guillermo del Toro, one thing is for sure, this man is a visionary director, and no film better exemplifies this than this absolutely stunning film. If you tell someone the basic premise of this film they would probably look at you in utter bemusement that a film like this could be so emotive and so heartfelt, but it is that and then some. McDormand is favourite but as a mute woman who falls in love with this creature, Sally Hawkins is mesmerising which is so remarkable given that she has no dialogue in the film, and is superbly supported by Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stulbarg and Richard Jenkins especially. It’s soaked in absolutely gorgeous visuals and the cinematography is equally dripping in breath-taking beauty. A truly magnetic and immersive piece of cinema and one of del Toro’s best without any question of a doubt.

Could/should have been nominated…

While for the most part, all of these films deserve to be awarded with this recognition, there are a few films that for my money could have been included. Here are three that for my money could have joined the above:

Blade Runner 2049 (review) – The sequel to the film that shaped science fiction, that in turn was a worthy companion piece and one of the best films of 2017. Denis Villeneuve’s film was technically astounding with breath-taking cinematography and a really emotionally investing story. While it’s technical brilliance has been recognised and one that should see Roger Deakins finally win the Oscar, it deserved a Best Picture nomination (#DeakinsorRiot).

The Big Sick (review) – Romantic comedies can sometimes be so generic, basically retelling the same story over and over, but The Big Sick certainly isn’t that. It was a tremendously funny film about the real life exploits of its star Kumail Nanjiani, who despite pressure from his parents falls in love with an American woman, who develops a very serious illness. It was a very sincere story, told with heart and though its original screenplay nomination is well deserved, it could have got a lot more than that.

Coco (review) – Pixar is synonymous with telling emotional stories that leave its audience members to absolute blubbering messes, and its latest is no exemption. This was a beautifully told story about one boy’s passion for what he wants to do despite being completely forbidden from doing so by his family. The animation is magnificent and the music is delightful. Incredibly only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3) and Coco had more than enough quality to join that category.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Best Films of 2017

2017 might be best remembered as the year when certain people in Hollywood and their unpleasant behaviour was finally made public. With luck, it will hopefully shine a strong spotlight on this sort of behaviour to ensure it is stamped out for good. But anyway, aside from all that unpleasantness, this year also brought us a plethora of exciting films. A female led superhero film, a return to the world of replicants, a couple of incredible true stories about war, the end of one man’s remarkable portrayal of a character that he has played for nearly two decades, and of course the continuation of the new trilogy of adventures taking place in a galaxy far far away. Lots of great films, and so it is now time for me to cast my eye back on the last 12 months of so of film and select what for me ranks as the best of the best of the ones that I have seen.

A few things to note. There are certain releases on this list that you might be thinking were released in 2016. well certain films didn’t reach UK shores until 2017 and so that makes them eligible for this year’s list. But as is the case every year there are a select few films that get their main release in early January and if I get a chance to catch these in the first few weeks of the month, they will qualify for this year’s list. Also I unfortunately didn’t see every film that was released this year so apologies if your favourite film didn’t make my list as I may not have seen it. Lastly, anything that is released from this point onwards (e.g. Phantom Thread, Lady Bird) will be considered for the best films of 2018. These studios and their bizarre release dates…

Second, grades here have little impact on the ranking of these films. One 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. First up…

mother! (review) if ever there was one film that divided audiences right down the middle, this would be one particular example. Darren Aronofsky’s tale about a woman whose home is invaded was riddled with metaphors aplenty that explored a collection of really interesting and thought-provoking themes. Yet there were some scenes that were just downright messed up (if you have seen the film, you’ll likely know what I’m referring to.) Despite that, it was refreshing to see such a completely original concept be brought to the big screen, and this is a film that will be analysed for years to come.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (review) Yes I know I can hear the shockwaves around the galaxy already as to why this hasn’t made the actual list. It was a great addition to the saga as it took the characters that were introduced to us in The Force Awakens and took them in interesting new directions. For many fans, the big problem with Force Awakens was the fact that it felt too similar to A New Hope. As such director Rian Johnson was clearly trying to take the franchise in new directions, and while not everything was perfect, it was an enjoyable ride and sets up nicely for Episode IX.

Wind River (review) Taylor Sheridan made his directorial debut good and proper telling the story of the investigation surrounding the death of a young woman in the brutal Wyoming winter. Jeremy Renner perhaps gives his best performance as a hunter who discovers the young woman’s body and Elizabeth Olsen as the FBI agent leading the investigation. It’s a tense film that keeps you on the edge, particularly when we reach that third act and the action is turned up to the maximum.

Molly’s Game (review) Telling the true story of Molly Bloom, the woman who ran elite high stakes poker games, until she ran into a bit of bother with the law. In a superb leading performance, Jessica Chastain carries the film on her shoulders as we watch her go the crushing lows that wrecked early career aspirations to the ensuing trouble that surrounds her poker career. Under the stewardship of master screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who also makes his directorial debut, in triumphant style.

The Big Sick (review). When there’s a lot  of films in one particular genre that are very similar, it runs the risk of all just becoming a bit stale. Thankfully every once in a while, one comes along that is a breath of fresh air. Based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani who despite his parents attempts to arrange a marriage for him, falls for a woman, except when she falls ill, it really tests their relationship. With sincere heartfelt performances at its core, alongside tremendous comedic turns from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. A very refreshing new take on the rom-com genre.

Honourable mentions done, time to crack on with the main list and we begin with…

10. Wonder Woman

Full Wonder Woman review

Just what the doctor ordered for the DCEU. Fans might have had little hope of seeing a great DCEU film after experincing a rough start. This is until Diana of Themyscira came along. Telling the origins story of Wonder Woman and how she came to be the all powerful hero we know and love. It was so thrilling to see a female led superhero film, the first one that we have really had since the genre has been thriving since the mid to late 2000s, be such an exciting blast.

Gal Gadot picked up where she left off from BVS and delivered a truly exceptional performance. Chris Pine was also in excellent form as Steve Trevor, Diana’s love interest. The action, particularly that superb No Man’s Land sequence was enthralling. While the last act did drag the film down a bit, it was still a wonderful breath of fresh air for the superhero genre, and one would hope that more female driven superhero films will follow.

9. Darkest Hour

Full Darkest Hour review

The film that is surely going to end Gary Oldman’s long wait for that first elusive Oscar. With the country, indeed the entire continent of Europe at war, the United Kingdom needed a leader, and that man was Winston Churchill. The rest, as they say, is history. Oldman gives such a convincing and authentic performance and he carries the film tremendously well as he battles with those who are desperate to undermine him and his position.

Oldman is strongly  supported by the likes of Kristen Scott Thomas and Lily James. With excellent production design and cinematography that captures 1940s London superbly, with a stirring screenplay from Anthony McCarten. This is another fascinating insight into one of the most intense periods of British history.

8. Baby Driver

Full Baby Driver review

One of the main contenders for the coolest characters of 2017 is Ansel Elgort as the lead character in Edgar Wright’s latest film, which was perhaps the most stylish film that has been released all year, as well as being a rare piece of completely original story-telling. Elgort was electric in the lead role as the getaway driver who works for a mob boss in order to pay off a debt. The action scenes were so well cut together and with an absolutely stellar soundtrack to boot, it made for some superb edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

With an equally stellar supporting cast including great turns from Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and he-who-shall-not-be-named. It was a heist film with a lot of heart and one of Wright’s finest films.

 

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Full, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri review

When someone you love passes away, the grief and sadness can be extremely difficult to recover from. So what do you do when that someone is murdered but there have been no arrests? Well one woman’s answer is to rent the use of three billboards outside her town to force the authorities into action. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this is an extremely dark comedy focusing on one woman’s relentless mission to get justice. With a stunning performance from Frances McDormand and tremendous turns from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, it is a film that will keep you on your toes from beginning to end.

6. Thor: Ragnarok

Full Thor: Ragnarok review

Third time was certainly the charm for the God of Thunder. His first two films while enjoyable were not exactly the cream of the MCU crop. However in comes New Zealand director Taika Waititi to give us by far and away the best Thor film, and also the funniest and maybe even the funniest MCU film we have had yet. As the villainous Hela comes back to claim the throne of Asgard, Thor finds himself in a mission with everyone’s favourite green rage monster in a mission to reclaim the throne.

Waititi fuses his delightful brand of humour, in a film that is buddy cop comedy meets superhero. Hemsworth is once again brilliant as Thor, likewise for Tom Hiddleston as Loki. In addition, we got introduced to Jeff Goldblum basically playing himself in a fancy costune, and Tessa Thompson as the badass Valkyrie. It’s vibrant, colourful and oh yeah, it has one of the best MCU side characters ever in Korg who steals every minute of screen time he has. Korg solo film anyone?

5. Dunkirk

Full Dunkirk review

Christopher Nolan is without a doubt one of the finest directors working today. His films are always so immaculately well made and he has almost never disappointed. Here with his latest, he continues that trend and gives us a truly superb war film that tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation. Telling this story in three separate strands and weaving them together so expertly is a ballsy move, but Nolan made it work. The use of practical effects in as many scenes as possible added so much authenticity to the film.

A gripe that many seemed to have was the lack of character development on any of the characters, and it would be fair to say that while this was in short supply, the acting was superb from just about everyone and it made it such a hard-hitting, emotional watch to the extent that the impact of the film is vast and along with another war film that is yet to appear on this list, it will go down as one of the most breath-taking war films ever made. With yet another nearly flawless film added to his filmography, it makes you wonder is there any genre that Nolan cannot conquer?

4. War for the Planet of the Apes

Full War for the Planet of the Apes review

APES. TOGETHER. STRONG. After two stunning films in this rebooted franchise, the stage was set for the perfect film to close out this superb trilogy and boy did director Matt Reeves do just that, and in incredible style too. Andy Serkis’s work in bringing Caesar to life is just simply extraordinary and it’s about damn time his work was recognised with an Oscar nod. Despite the film’s title, there isn’t much of a war to be found in terms of all out guns blazing warfare. Given how we have watched Caesar grow from a young chimp to be this battle hardened leader of the Apes, to see him at the end of his tether here made for some insanely riveting viewing.

Nevertheless the film still managed to be a gripping story this is still a superb film about family, conflict and your place in a very chaotic world. Caesar once again stole the show, but Woody Harrelson deserves praise for his work as the vicious Colonel. Though more films are bound to follow, this closed the book on what is an absolutely fantastic trilogy.

3. Logan

Full Logan review

Every once in a while, a superhero film comes along that becomes so much more than just your regular superhero flick. A film that becomes something more, a deeply personal story that transcends the comic book genre, and that is precisely what Logan is. Right from the off, you just know that is going to be a very different type of Wolverine film than what we had previously seen. The violence is turned up to the maximum, which made absolutely perfect sense given the nature of the character.

Hugh Jackman has made this role his own, and given that it was his last time playing the role after 9 films and 17 years, he couldn’t have gone out on a better note, it might just be his best ever turn in the role. Likewise for Sir Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. It was a tough watch to see these two guys at pretty much their lowest ebb as they work to protect a young mutant named Laura played superbly by Dafne Keen. The prospect of a solo film with her is certainly a very intriguing one.

2. Blade Runner 2049

Full Blade Runner 2049 review

After directing the exceptional Sicario and Arrival, up next for Denis Villeneuve was the sequel to one of the most influential films of the sci-fi genre maybe ever. It was an enormous challenge and fans might have wondered if it was ever going to live up to the original. Thankfully, this is one of the finest sequels ever made and a perfect companion piece to Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. It honoured what came before it, but also created a truly riveting and compelling story to tell, with some of the most beautiful cinematography that has graced the big screen this whole year. Each frame of this film was just dripping with breath-taking visuals that were dazzling to the eyes. Seriously give Roger Deakins a damn Oscar already!

Ryan Gosling was superb as K, and Harrison Ford once again excelled in the role of Deckard. It was everything fans of the original could have hoped for and delivered an exceptional film that might just be even better than the original, and that is a remarkable accomplishment. Villeneuve emphatically proved that as a director he is at the very top of his craft and it will be fascinating to see what project he takes on next.

And so my #1 film of 2017 is

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1. Hacksaw Ridge

Full Hacksaw Ridge review

I won’t beat around the bush here. No film that I saw in 2017 had a bigger impact on me than Hacksaw Ridge, and no film left me just completely speechless walking out of it as this film did. As a history student, the Second World War was always one of my favourite periods to study, and the fact that I hadn’t come across this story just astounded me as it is one of the most inspirational stories of the war. Telling the story of Desmond Doss, a man who wanted to serve his country but due to his religious beliefs, refused to carry a gun. It seems ludicrous to even do such a thing but the film does an exceptional job of making you understand why Doss believes the way he does.

It’s once we get to Hacksaw Ridge itself is where the film completely changes its focus and becomes an absolutely brutal war film, with some of the most pulsating action sequences in perhaps any war film since Saving Private Ryan. The violence here isn’t glorified, it just feels so frighteningly realistic and it makes you realise that war is brutal. Andrew Garfield as Doss gave a career best performance that for my money should have won him an Oscar. I won’t reveal the true extent of this man’s heroics in case you don’t know, but the fact he did what he did, all while refusing to carry a gun is just absolutely incredible. It is one of the best war films ever made and is my number 1 film of 2017. After I saw it, I wondered if anything would top it all year long, but nothing managed to displace it.

That is a wrap on my list of the best films of 2017. What are your top 10 best films of 2017?  Be sure to follow 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 2018.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Darkest Hour (2017)

Image is property of Universal, Working Title and Focus Features

Darkest Hour – Film Review

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendolsohn, Stephen Dillane

Director: Joe Wright

Synopsis: In the early days of World War II, with the rest of Europe falling under the iron grip of the Nazis, Winston Churchill ascends to the role of Prime Minister, with the country seemingly on the brink of almost certain defeat…

Review: In periods of war, strong leadership from those who hold positions of power can be the difference between victory and defeat. Never is this more applicable than for the United Kingdom in the early years of the Second World War, which like the film’s title success was truly some of the darkest days for the country. The Nazis closed in having swiftly conquered the majority of Western Europe, and there seemed to be no one capable of stopping Hitler from his mission of total domination across the continent. This is of course, until one man came to the fore, and that man is of course Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

Being one of, if not the most prominent Prime Ministers in UK history, there has been a great many actor to play Churchill, and Gary Oldman becomes the latest man to assume the role, and it is one that he fully commits to, giving an absolutely incredible performance that has rightfully installed him as a hot favourite to finally scoop a Best Actor Oscar this year. His performance captures Churchill and his mannerisms so well that at times you forget that it is indeed Oldman under all that makeup.

Having seen his predecessor Neville Chamberlain being forced into resignation, Churchill assumes office and immediately realise the enormity of the task facing him as the British forces find themselves stranded on the French coast with the Germans closing in fast. While Churchill favours a more guns blazing approach, there are those who would prefer to negotiate a peace treaty with Hitler and as one character calls him, his “lackey” Mussolini. As the days go by and the situation worsens, pressure and indeed opposition towards him grows stronger, but Churchill will not yield.

Given the gravity of the situation, it would be easy for the script to be completely dreary. However, the screenplay by Anthony McCarten allows for plenty of humour, of which Churchill is of course front and centre. Aside from Oldman’s towering performance, the rest of the supporting cast all deliver assured performances. Chief among these are Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife Clementine and Lily James as his secretary Elizabeth Layton, while neither are given extensive amounts of screentime, they both make their mark on Churchill and are figures of support as he battles his opponents who are calling for him to negotiate for peace, led by the stern Viscount Halifax, who is expertly portrayed by Stephen Dillane.

With meticulous production design by Sarah Greenwood, director Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel capture 1940s London in intriguing visual style. The scenes in Parliament especially stand out in the way Wright shoots them, using lighting that gives the scenes an almost melancholic feel to them, which to be fair wouldn’t entirely be out of place in war time. Yet it is here where Oldman shines brightest, giving the rousing “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech that has taken its deserved place as one of the best speeches in history.

In what is almost a companion piece to the gripping retelling of the Dunkirk evacuation from Christopher Nolan, while that film focuses on the evacuation itself, Darkest Hour focuses on the man who at a time when his country needed him most, rose to the challenge and helped to make it all possible. In the darkest hour that perhaps the UK has ever faced, one man showed us the light.

A gripping story of a country on the brink at its centre, with a magnificent performance from Oldman at its core, this is Wright’s and Oldman’s finest hour.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight and Film4

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Director: Martin McDonagh

Synopsis: After a young woman’s murder goes unsolved, her mother rents out the use of three billboards just outside her town to try and force the authorities into action…

Review: As human beings, it would certainly be fair to say that we can be at our lowest ebbs whenever someone we love has passed away. Whether it be from natural causes, or if they’re cruelly and sometimes callously taken away from us. But what could anyone do in the case of the latter? Well there’s not a lot you could do except hope that killer was caught and swiftly faces justice for their actions. However, what if that doesn’t come to pass?  Do you have any other options?

Yes is the answer for one bereaved mother, as she chooses to take matters into her own hands. After her daughter Angela was brutally raped and murdered seven months prior, Mildred Hayes makes use of three large billboards just outside of her town, with  messages that are directed at the police whose investigation hasn’t yielded any clues. Though by doing this, it causes a stir among the population of the town (and not in a good way) that creates some problems on top of the problems that Mildred is already having in her life.

You would think that such a bleak scenario does not allow for comedy, but that’s exactly what writer/director Martin McDonagh provides. His superb screenplay manages fuses both the comedy and the tragedy of this family drama so effortlessly that one never negates the other. One scene can shift from a wonderfully humorous moment to a gut-wrenchingly sad moment in an instant. Furthermore, in a country that is facing some deeply testing times, the screenplay also goes beyond the personal grief of one family and examines some important issues facing American society today. It’s extremely powerful and hard-hitting.

Being the centrepiece of this story Mildred Hayes is a character who it is clear has had a lot of shit going on in her life besides the tragic fate that befell her daughter. Even though she isn’t exactly going things in the most acceptable or indeed correct manner, you understand her rage that she has for certain people and as such you do sympathise with her. Frances McDormand gives a terrific performance that has already won her a Golden Globe, with more nominations and potentially awards to follow, all of which would be well deserved. Equally terrific are Police Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) who’s encountering his own difficult personal problems and a bigoted policeman (Rockwell) who is absolutely not a friendly chap whatsoever. Yet there is a hint of a man who is a little bit vulnerable, though the same could be said for perhaps almost everyone in the town, with these events having clearly taken their toll on the town as a whole.

With each of the story-lines that these characters have and the ensuing journey that these three in particular go on makes for some hilarious, and in some cases, harrowing viewing. Yet  it handles its subject matter in such a delicate manner that the comedy and the tragedy do not cancel each other out. With McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay and direction, combined with the electric performances from the ensemble cast ensures that the film is extremely thought-provoking. It packs so much more emotional weight that ensures it will leave a lasting impression, on both the viewer and indeed on this current awards season race.

 Funny, shocking and depressing, sometimes all in the same scene, but McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay ensures it is all meshed together supremely well. This is bold, but quite brilliant film-making in equal measure.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

All the Money in the World (2017)

Image is property of Tristar Pictures and Scott Free Productions

All the Money in the World – Film Review

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: After his grandson is kidnapped and held for ransom, billionaire businessman John Paul Getty refuses to negotiate, while his mother works tirelessly to secure his release.

Review: It became one of the biggest stories in the world of film in 2017. When allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Kevin Spacey, it had far-reaching consequences. With Spacey having completed filming for the role of John Paul Getty, amid fears that having him in the final film would be financially catastrophic, it prompted Ridley Scott to hurriedly axe Spacey from the role of John Paul Getty and instead replace him with Christopher Plummer, at a reported cost of £7.5 million. It was an enormous gamble, but one that definitely paid off.

Based on the incredible true story, as he’s walking around Rome, John Paul Getty III is whisked away by some kidnappers who demand a lofty ransom from his super rich grandfather. This sets in motion a tense battle between Getty and the mother of his grandson Gail (Michelle Williams) to ensure his safe release. While Gail is doing all she can to secure her son’s release, Getty remains defiant, refusing to submit to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers, whilst being extremely cold and distant towards Gail. This sets off a chain of events that trigger a race against time to ensure that her son makes it back home alive, whose life it would be fair to say, is hanging in the balance.

For what it is worth, those pricey reshoots certainly made everything worthwhile as Plummer is tremendous and steals the show. It is hard to imagine anyone else playing this role. In spite of his vast riches,  and despite caring for all of his grandchildren, he simply refuses to negotiate or cave to the kidnappers demands, and though it seems heartless, you understand why he refuses to give in to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers. The screenplay by David Scarpa, adapted from Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (quite the long title!) tells this remarkable story in a manner that is extremely gripping. Though the film does suffer from some pacing issues where not a great deal is happening, the back-and-forth between Getty and Gail makes for some tense magnificently acted family drama.

Speaking of, Michelle Williams as Gail is also superb. In spite of the extreme difficulties she faces in getting Getty to cough up, she pursues every avenue that she can, possessing a relentless motherly drive to be reunited with her child, who is brought to the screen tremendously well by Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher). Wahlberg certainly doesn’t steal the show like Plummer or Williams, but he gets the job done as the man who Getty hires to assist Gail in her desperate quest to find her son.

Ridley Scott is a director who has had quite the career, but with Alien: Covenant receiving a decidedly mixed reaction among many cinema goers, it is pleasing to see him bounce back here. The film is directed tremendously well and Scott brings out some excellent performances from his cast, which is impressive given how little time he had to complete the reshoots to make the film’s release date. The third act especially is where Scott really turns the tension up a few levels and delivers a pulsating conclusion to a film that might have gone down in the history books for all the wrong reasons if Scott had chosen to not do anything. Thankfully, and indeed all the money in the world (well not quite) to help pay for those reshoots ensured it is another remarkable entry into Ridley Scott’s remarkable filmography, and given the circumstances, that is some achievement.

An incredible true story told with sincerity by Scott and boosted by the superb award worthy performances of Williams and Plummer, all the more remarkable given the circumstances that necessitated the latter’s last minute involvement in the project.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Molly’s Game (2017)

Image is property of STXfilms

Molly’s Game – Film Review

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Synopsis: After her professional sports career lies in tatters, a young woman named Molly Bloom sets up and runs high stakes poker games, but it isn’t long before she finds herself at risk of running into trouble with the law…

Review: When it comes to a screenplay that is written by the one and only Aaron Sorkin, you’re going to get extremely well written and extremely engaging dialogue. In addition, the characters on screen will be talking in a fast pace that keeps you completely focused on the words that they are saying, whilst moving the plot forward in a timely manner. With Sorkin he can take almost any aspect such as the inner workings of baseball, or the lives behind the founders of Apple and Facebook and turn them into extremely entertaining, very character driven pieces that yield exceptional performances. Except this time, having for so long been the master of the screenplay, he makes his first venture in the world of directing.

His debut feature tells the story of Molly Bloom, a budding young athlete in her early life with dreams of going professional. This was until a horrendous incident ruined those dreams for good. Seeking a new venture, she finds herself working as for want of a better word, a secretary for a man who runs poker games. After acquiring the experience and developing the skills, she becomes extremely good at this, to the point where she decides to set up her own business running extremely high stakes poker games for some A list celebrities. However it isn’t long before she finds herself dealing with some much more scary sort of clientele that soon lands her in some hot water.

Sorkin chooses to tell Molly’s story by focusing on her fraught meetings with her lawyer (Idris Elba) and then flashes back to her past and how she went from an athlete with shattered dreams to running high stakes poker games for some truly A list clients. Among these clients include some very high calibre Hollywood actors, though the real identities of these people have been deliberately obscured. The script is filled with Sorkin’s familiar sort of very fast paced dialogue, with extremely watchable characters who definitely have a story to tell, and in the case of Molly Bloom, hers is certainly one that will have your interest in from the word go.

As she so often is Chastain is fantastic in this role that has already bagged her a few award nominations. She displays dogged determination to succeed in spite of some people giving her some rough treatment, whilst crucially giving the character strong emotional weight when she’s tussling and arguing with her lawyer, and even more so when the effects of her glamourous lifestyle really begin to take their toll on her. Elba, as said lawyer is also excellent as he tries his best to determine the best course of action for Molly to take in this precarious situation.

Sorkin is undeniably a master when it comes to screenwriting, as a director he shows himself to be equally adept combining his signature dialogue and making the film cohesive and structurally on point. The weaving together of two timelines can lead to a messy outcome, but thankfully the film doesn’t collapse and fall apart like a poker player might if they had a terrible hand.  Even if you have no clue whatsoever when it comes to poker, the story is told in such a way that keeps you engaged and interested in this woman and her truly fascinating story from the depth of despair to a remarkable rise to riches, and back again.

Anchored by an electric performance from Chastain, with superb work from Elba, Molly’s Game ensures that Sorkin’s directorial debut has plenty of aces up its sleeve.

 

Posted in Film Feature, Ranking

Ranking 2017 Superhero Films

Another year passes, and another collection of superhero ensembles and solo flicks have graced the big screen once again. It certainly was an interesting year with Marvel continuing to dominate the market. Meanwhile, DC trying to get their Extended Universe back on track, as well as one beloved character bowing out after a staggering amount of time in the role. It was quite the year but what stood out among the best of the best?

Anyway, with that said and done, it’s now time to grab the Lasso of Truth (well kind of) and rank 2017’s superhero flicks from worst to best, starting with…

7. Justice League

Click here for my Justice League review

It’s fair to say that five films in, the DC Extended Universe hasn’t exactly been a roaring success that it would have hoped to be. Though Wonder Woman certainly helped get things on track, the familiar feel of production problems certainly effected DC’s answer to the Avengers. With director Zack Snyder stepping down from the post production process due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film and oversee some reshoots. Though the film has polarised both fans and critics alike (not for the first time for DC) there is much to like about this. For one it does combine Snyder’s flair for visuals with Whedon’s ability to create funny dialogue. And seeing the team unite for the first time was undeniably a pleasure to watch, with memorable turns from Wonder Woman and a very exciting debut for Ezra Miller as Barry Gordon AKA The Flash. It’s not on the same level as The Avengers, but it does represent a step in the right direction for DC.

6. Spider Man Homecoming

Click here for my Spider-Man Homecoming review

Having made his glorious MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, a solo Spidey film with him very much a part of the MCU was almost inevitable. As such, with a little bit of reorganisation, Spider-Man got his big screen MCU bow in the middle of the third phase of its cinematic universe. Tom Holland once again gave a superb performance as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood web-crawler, giving the character that real high school authenticity that had been somewhat lacking from the likes of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While the story doesn’t exactly break any new ground in terms of what we have seen on the big screen for Spider-Man,  Spidey battles Adrian Toombes AKA the Vulture. Given the MCU’s well documented trouble with villains, he was certainly one of the better ones we have seen, as you understood his motivations and he had a connection to Peter that made it all the more interesting to watch. It doesn’t top the first two Raimi Spidey flicks, but it’s certainly a vast upgrade on everything that came after those two films.

5. Lego Batman Movie

Click here for my Lego Batman review

In the wake of the extremely entertaining Lego Movie, comes a spin off movie of equally hilarious Batman shaped proportions. With plenty of visual references to Batman and all of his previous incarnations, this film is paradise for all who are fans of Batman, which let’s be honest who isn’t, if someone says they’re not, don’t believe them cos they’re only kidding themselves. Will Arnett returns to voice this animated version of the Caped Crusader and Zach Galfianakis as the latest incarnation of the Joker, and considerably more well received than poor Jared Leto’s take on the character. The animation is great and the plot is extremely entertaining, albeit  it does get a little bit on the silly side at times, but when it’s this much fun to watch, no one is really going to mind.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

Click here for my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review

When 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy came along, it was such a wonderful breath of fresh air for the MCU, giving us a look at new characters the overwhelming majority of us had likely never even heard of. It was fun, hilarious and overall just really enjoyable. So it’s little surprise that for the sequel, James Gunn chose to replicate the formula that worked to such great effect the first time around. However, while that still makes for an entertaining flick, it doesn’t have quite the same impact as the first Guardians movie. That being said, all of the team remain very fun to watch, it continues the humour from the first film, and yes Baby Groot is freaking adorable. The story is entertaining but certain elements do bog it down, and furthermore it doesn’t retain that freshness and originality that the first movie brought.

3. Wonder Woman

Click here for my Wonder Woman review

DC’s cinematic universe wasn’t exactly going well prior to the release of this film, Suicide Squad and BVS had endured rough reactions from fans and critics, and well it wasn’t looking good for the future of the DCEU. Enter Patty Jenkins to tell the story of Wonder Woman, and give us by far and away the best film that the DCEU has brought us and one that will hopefully open the floodgates for more female led superhero movies. Gal Gadot proved to be the perfect choice to play our titular heroine, she had the necessary charisma to carry the film on her shoulders, brilliantly combining such ferocity with compassion and a strong willed desire to do the right thing. With Chris Pine in equally superb form, watching Wonder Woman enter the battlefield in the heart of the First World War, and be an absolute badass particularly in the No Man’s Land sequence made for one of the standout moments of cinema in 2017 for sure.

2. Thor: Ragnarok

Click here for my Thor: Ragnarok review

Thor Ragnarok marked the staggering 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it without doubt takes its place as one of the best. Marking Thor’s 3rd solo film, it defied the notion that the third film is always the worst in the trilogy as this is by far better than the previous two films. Setting up events that are very much likely to play a part in next year’s Infinity War. Directed by the delightful Taika Waititi, this film was humorous right from the word go and it never lets up. This was the MCU’s version of a buddy cop film but instead starring Thor and Bruce Banner, and one of the FUNNIEST characters that the MCU has ever given us in Korg, the loveable bunch of rocks ably voiced by Waititi himself, battling against the villainous Hela played tremendously well by Cate Blanchett. It was exciting, funny, extremely colourful and exhilarating to watch.

1. Logan

Click here for my Logan review

What a way to bow out of a role and a franchise that for 17 years you have made your own. Logan marked the last time that Hugh Jackman will play the iconic character of Wolverine, and he couldn’t have gone out on a better note. Immediately director James Mangold lets you know what kind of film you’re about to watch. Right from the off, this was a much darker, and considerably more violent portrayal of the character than we have ever seen previously with quite a bit more blood and vulgarity, and all the better for it. As Logan must look after the ailing Professor X and young Laura who has some mysterious people after her. It’s a mash up between Wolverine and The Last of Us, and it’s by far and away the only superhero film that could have a legitimate shot and picking up some acting nods at this year’s Oscars. That could be wishful thinking but with an ending that will almost certainly leave you a blubbering mess, the work that Jackman has done with this character has been so extraordinary over all this years. As such, it will be an almighty task for anyone to take on this role in the future.

Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know what your ranking would be by commenting below or tweeting me at @thrsilverscreen.