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Showing posts from 2017

mother!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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[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]

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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

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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

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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)

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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…

Baby Driver

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Of the most important parts of a film, the soundtrack has always been key. It conveys the whole mood of the film more effectively than almost any other technique and a well curated tracklist can only serve to maximise its success (just look at Guardians of the Galaxy). However, no film has used music in quite the same way as director Edgar Wright's new high-octane heist thriller Baby Driver. The film is literally built around the soundtrack, an energetic bag of foot-tapping, head bobbing tunes that complement the action like never before. 

Almost as impressive as the soundtrack is the star-studded cast that Wright has managed to pull together. An indicator of his increasing recognition in Hollywood (after the iconic comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and the simply flawless Scott Pilgrim vs The World), Wright pulls together a cast including Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Lily James, resulting in a set of stellar performances that complement each other perfectly. 
Seeing…

Gloria

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As director Sebastian Lelio explained in the q & a following the screening of his 2013 film Gloria , he aimed to create a film firmly and emphatically centered on an aging woman, a figure so often sidelined in cinema. Lelio therefore built the film around actress Paulina Garcia and upon seeing the film it is obvious why, with Garcia delivering an extraordinary performance as the complex but consistently likeable Gloria. 

Gloria is depicted as an unpredictable and compulsive character whose desire to find love and companionship results in a constant struggle with an unreliable and fragile family and a similarly unpredictable lover in Rodolfo (perfectly played in a heartbreakingly comical fashion by Sergio Hernandez). 
However, lying within Gloria is a warmth and optimism for life that makes her impossible to dislike. All these qualities are wonderfully balanced in Garcia's fantastic performance, proving once and for all that older women deserve a larger spotlight in cinema and pe…

The Red Turtle

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[NOTE: I would highly recommend avoiding the trailer for this film, as it spoils far too much]

It spoke volumes when every single member of the audience I saw the Red Turtle with remained until the end of the credits. Such was the emotional power of this co-production between Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli about a man who is shipwrecked on a desert island. 

It is a beautifully simple premise, stunning in its innocence while at the same time possessing a depth and weight that is rare in most films.

As expected from the much loved Studio Ghibli, the 
animation is simply stunning. It is somewhat of a departure from their traditional style, with the work of Michael Dudok de Wit as director producing a wonderful mesh of hand-drawn and CGI images that create a lush, mysterious island untouched by man. The film provides an often awe-inspiring study of nature and the bases of humanity, touching on a number of heavy subjects with a wonderful subtlety and innocence. 


It is a physical film that doesn&#…

Frantz

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Within Frantz, director Francois Ozon tells the story of Anna, a young German woman who has lost her fiance, Frantz Hoffmeister, to the First World War. Her grief and emptiness is touching to witness and is made even more powerful when we see the mourning of Frantz's parents, whom she lives with.
However, the appearance of a mysterious French man, who visits Frantz's grave and appears to mourn his death, raises the suspicions of Anna, who is curious as to his connection to her fiance. The man explains he had been a friend of Frantz's back in Paris and both Anna and the Hoffmeister's find some solace in his accounts of his time with Frantz. However, the cryptic man may not be telling the whole story.

The film is driven by two fantastic lead performances from Paula Beer as Anna and Pierre Niney as the Frenchman Adrien. They both deliver raw, emotional roles, with their grief over the loss of Frantz beautifully realised. The developing connection between the two, with a con…

Alien: Covenant

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The original Alien series combined horror, sci-fi and action to create some of the most memorable monsters in cinema history and a strong female lead in Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who kept the xenomorphs at bay often single handedly. Director Ridley Scott returned to the series in 2012 with Prometheus, which sought to establish a new storyline and proved incredibly polarizing for fans of the originals. Now we have Covenant, which attempts to blend together elements old and new to please everyone. It may sound risky, but Scott somehow pulls it off in a gory, thrilling fashion. 

Covenant sets out in similar fashion to the original. A group of scientists travel to a remote planet in hopes of discovering a new habitat. Sadly for them, things do not go to plan and they find that, rather than discovering a deserted paradise, life already exists on the planet in the form of the terrifying xenomorphs, who begin to infect the scientists. 

The difference here is that their ship carries thousands …