Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Good Time (LFF)

Image
Directors Josh and Benny Safdie clearly have very little concern for the stress levels of their audience. Their new crime thriller Good Time is an incredibly intense, full on experience that contains some of the most visually impressive action sequences in cinema. It is the breakneck tale of a heist carried out by Connie (Robert Pattinson) and his vulnerable brother Nick (Benny Safdie). When the heist falls apart and the brothers are torn apart, Connie is left to pick up the pieces and try to reach Nick.

Pattinson gives an inspired performance as Connie, one of the more dislikable protagonists I've seen in a long time. Highly explosive, cruelly exploitative and in general just pretty damn scummy, he is the absolute driving force of the film, remaining undeniably fascinating throughout all his awful antics. While I admittedly haven't seen Pattinson in many of his previous roles, though him being the only redeeming part of Cronenberg's turgid Cosmopolis does stand out, he is …

Beach Rats (LFF)

Image
Beach Rats opens with a dark room, lit sporadically by the harsh flash of a camera, by which we see brief glimpses of a naked torso, a flexing arm. This is our introduction to Frankie, a hyper-masculine teen growing up in suburban Brooklyn whose struggles to come to terms with his sexuality prove tortuous for him and forms the central narrative of the film. I say narrative, but the film is more a portrayal of Frankie's life as he struggles with his disintegrating family and meets up with older men online. 

Harris Dickinson is absolutely sensational in the title role, bringing to the forefront Frankie's internal conflict with stunning clarity. His total immersion in and embodiment of the role means he is at once completely cryptic but strikingly readable, his long gazes and often grim-faced expression speaking volumes. It's an incredibly complex performance that reminded me in many ways of Johnny from the recent British film God's Own Country; both are moody and at times…

Blade Runner 2049

Image
Blade Runner 2049 is a gorgeous creation with stunning visuals, incredible cinematography, great performances, a brilliant score and jaw-dropping effects. Ryan Gosling is excellent as protagonist K and standout supporting roles from Robin Wright and Ana de Armas help to elevate proceedings, while an early appearance from Dave Bautista adds much to the opening of the film. Nearly every component of the Blade Runner sequel, released 35 years on from the original, is perfect. But here's the stinger... I was left underwhelmed and more than a little disappointed. 

For all the stylistic flourishes and gorgeous landscapes revealed throughout the film, it felt like there was very little depth to what was going on. The story, without revealing anything, is rather slim, especially when stretched over a near three hour running time. And this is 2049's biggest problem.  

It is a hugely bloated beast with so much padding in the middle stretch that it had pretty much lost me by the time the c…

Brigsby Bear (London Film Festival)

Image
Brigsby Bear is a film that, at its core, is about child abduction. But wait! It is also one of the most surprising and unexpectedly humorous films you will see all year. Fronted by SNL regular Kyle Mooney and with a very talented team behind the project, it is ultimately an incredibly upbeat and uplifting experience that isn't afraid to tear up the rule book altogether. 

Mooney's excellent work on SNL shines through in his performance as James, providing a wonderfully innocent energy to the film and instantly winning over the audience. He rightfully gets the lion's (or should that be bear's?) share of the best lines, delivering a number of great jokes that I wasn't quite expecting from a film like this. 

The film also packs in a surprising amount of quality supporting performances from Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill and a certain ex-Lonely Island member (hint hint). The standout though is Matt Walsh as Greg, providing many of the film's punchy emotional…

mother!

Image
In his past work, acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky has crafted stunningly surreal and often shocking films that seek to push boundaries and challenge audiences. With mother!, he has taken this formula and pushed it to the extreme, delivering a nightmarish and powerfully intense experience that has been criticised by some for going to far, including a review from the National Review calling it perhaps "the vilest movie ever released by a major Hollywood studio."

While mother! is very graphic in places and definitely deserves it's 18 rating, it is hard to describe how much of an overreaction many have had towards the film. Yes, it's brutal. But it's also an absolute thrill-ride of a film that is completely captivating in its increasingly outrageous and daring style. 

Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence excel as expected as the central couple of the film, with Lawrence being the absolute focus of the proceedings and the eyes through which we see the story unfold. H…

In Between

Image
The debut feature film of female director Maysaloun Hamoud shows she is clearly not afraid of confronting hot-button issues. In Between takes on themes of oppression and backwards ideology head-on, shining a vital light on the lives of oppressed women. The central three characters each suffer differently from the restrictions of their culture and Hamoud expertly balances the focus of the film between the leads, with each character given ample room to develop. 

The most affecting thread follows the shy and religiously devout Noor (Shaden Kanboura), who moves in with Leila (Mouna Hawa) and Salma (Sana Jammelieh), two free-living and rebellious friends who couldn't be more different to Noor. While this initially leads to a number of amusing clashes, Noor's story takes a darker turn as the issues between her and her fiance lead to disturbing clashes, addressing themes of patriarchy and abuse. 

But by sharing the story with Leila and Salma, the film also offers a vital view on famili…

It

Image
Let me make this clear straight away: this film is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It is by far one of the most horrifying experiences I've had in a long time and, even though it gave me stomach cramps from trying to sink further and further into my seat, I absolutely loved it. Delivering some of the best established scares in years while maintaining an adventurous spirit and a brilliant cast of teen actors, it is pretty much the perfect Stephen King adaptation. It's Stand by Me with a demonic terror thrown into the mix. What more could you want?

As much of the film is centered around a group of teens, who style themselves as the "Loser's" club, it's such a pleasant surprise to see a film that for once nails teen dialogue without descending into a cringey embarrassing mess. The teen cast are all spot on in their performances, with Finn Wolfhard as Richie and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie getting many of the best lines. In fact, motormouth Richie often ends …

Terminator 2: Judgement Day 3D

Image
There's little to say about James Cameron's action masterpiece that hasn't already been said countless times. Managing to one-up the already brilliant original with a perfectly paced story, an ingenious character flip (bad guy Arnie becomes good guy Arnie), and some of the best action sequences to this day, it still remains Cameron's best (in my opinion, it is superior to Aliens). 

The major difference with this re-release however (one that Cameron has been fighting for for years) is that it has been converted into the infamous 3D format (something that Cameron played a huge role in making mainstream with 2009's Avatar). 

I have extremely mixed feelings on this decision. On one hand, it is clear that a lot of love went into the conversion process and it is admittedly used more sparingly and in a far less invasive manner than I've previously experienced. I will also admit that, despite being a long time cynic of the format, it does add something to a number of sho…

A Ghost Story

Image
[Yep, this is going to be another one of those reviews. One where I urge you not to see the trailer, not to read a plot synopsis. You just need to see this film, as soon as possible. Trust me.]


A Ghost Story may have been one of the riskiest films for an established director to make. David Lowery, fresh from directing last year's remake of Pete's Dragon, returned to his indie roots to make a film featuring Casey Affleck walking around under a sheet 90% of the time and Rooney Mara eating a whole pie, uninterrupted, for 5 minutes. This could have been the death knell of his career. 

It actually turns out to be the complete opposite. This may in fact be Lowery's defining work. He has crafted a film so potent, so powerful, so overwhelming that it's subheading should be Existential Crisis: The Movie. Its deep probing of mortality, humanity's response to grief and the bleakness of the human life cycle may hold similarities with much of Terrence Malick's work, particula…

Dunkirk [IMAX]

Image
To call Dunkirk immersive is a major understatement. The latest project from blockbuster king Christopher Nolan, who has consistently pushed the boundaries with films such as the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Memento, tells the story of one of the defining moments of World War II in extraordinary fashion, throwing the viewer headfirst into the horrors of the conflict with every gunshot and explosion having a brutal impact. In this way it is in fact the perfect war movie, a film not so much about war but a film that literally is war. Add to this the fact that it was shot with IMAX in mind and this is truly, like Nolan described it himself, "virtual reality without the goggles." 

In terms of structure and storytelling, this is without a doubt Nolan's most barebones film to date. Divided into three intersecting parts, land, sea and air, we follow the efforts of the British soldiers, the RAF and the sailors as they struggle to evacuate the beaches of Dunkirk with the Axi…

The Big Sick

Image
To call the Big Sick a rom-com is to do it a huge disservice. The genre is seen in general as a low effort money machine, with only a handful of gems usually ending up lost amongst the trash. Kumail Nanjiani's film soars far above the genre, crafting the perfect balancing act between razor-sharp comedy, raw emotion and an overwhelming amount of charm. Produced by Judd Apatow, the Big Sick is smarter and funnier than any of Apatow's previous films, landing every single one of its cleverly crafted punchlines without pulling any of its punches when it comes to emotional weight.

Based on Nanjiani's own personal experience, he plays himself as a middling stand up comic in Chicago, with Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant delivering excellent turns as his comedian buddies. Kumail meets Emily, here played by the endlessly charming Zoe Kazan (who stole the show in 2013's What If), and the connection is clear straight away. But a large barrier facing their relationship comes in the shape…

War for the Planet of the Apes

Image
1968's Planet of the Apes is a much revered classic that spawned multiple sequels and has lived on in popular culture ever since. Featuring a central performance from the beloved Charlton Heston and delivering one of the greatest endings of all time, it was an instant hit and is still remembered fondly today. So when the series was rebooted in 2011, there was considerable scepticism and doubts over whether such a project could succeed 40 years after the original. 

But Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a hugely deserved success and was such a hit that it spawned 2014's sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was equally brilliant. So now we have War for the Planet of the Apes, with the return of director Matt Reeves (who previously took charge of Dawn).

The biggest difference between War and its two predecessors is how much the focus has shifted towards the apes. Rise was a largely human-led story, where we witnessed Caesar's upbringing by scientist Will Rodman (one of …

It Comes at Night (or Why Movie Marketing is Garbage and Misleading)

Image
If you're looking for a fun, uplifting summer movie, you may want to steer clear of It Comes at Night. A brutally tense, constantly oppressive and absolutely gripping indie project from director Trey Edward Shults, it is a fascinating exploration of the human psyche when under intense strain and in the worst of situations. Treading the line between horror, thriller and drama, Shults crafts a bleak world where man has grown increasingly paranoid and fearful. 

For films that feature such a tiny ensemble, the casting becomes an even more important factor. And here it was absolutely nailed. Joel Edgerton excels as the gruff Paul, struggling to protect his family in this barren, post-apocalyptic world. 
His constant fear and paranoia, desperately trying to maintain the security of their house amidst the thick forest is a key driving force of the film, as his reluctance to trust anyone from the outside world is increasingly strained. Carmen Ejogo as Sarah, Paul's wife, delivers a sim…