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Eighth Grade (2018)
Burnham knows young people.
Eighth grader: Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is in her last week of middle school before joining high school, and she's trying to get herself out there in her school before the end of the year. Posting different videos on her blog discussing how to be more confident in being yourself, Kayla challenges herself to be brave in the scary digital obsessed world of the middle schoolers, from connecting with her current class mates to meeting new ones and trying to impress the boy she fancies.
For Bo Burnham's directorial debut, Eighth Grade is a masterful coming of age film, beautifully engrossed in the modern day and age of the current young generation. Burnham's age is no doubt his strongest benefit for taking on a coming of age project in this period, but his inter-personal study of the character Kayla demonstrates a heavy level of understanding of the teenage mind. Although myself, I am under the term young-adult, I can say that the issues dealt in the film are just as real and applicable to a universal audience. And it really comes down to the genius of his writing, a screenplay undeniably over looked by the last awards season, (but who needs to listen to awards after this year anyway). From the smallest details about pop digital culture to the playful and awkward dialogue between the kids, Burnham's script envelopes an outstanding 21st century world. Simply put Burnham knows the lives of young people.
The heart and joy of the film is a fantastic Elsie Fisher a definitive teenager, embodying the true isolated and lonely middle school anxieties, we can all recall. I saw a lot of myself in her. From her blank shyness in the class room to the her more self-confident identity alone on her blog, Fisher is a fully 3-D dimensional character. At one-point Karla comments on the fact that if people got to know her, they would see she's a fun person, and that I think is the sort of wisdom that prevents us, even grownups from engaging with other people. There's no way to prevent yourself from being caught up in this sympathetic and charming girl, her shyness makes us care for her, but the world she's facing is just as daunting. There's a more than promising future ahead of this one.
Josh Hamilton as Karla's dad: Mark is the loveable but embarrassing parent that cares deeply for his daughter but is at a long distance to understanding her fully. During critical conversations between him and Karla like all parents he is the rock of her strength and love. Between their wise cracking arguments and social boundary on the dinner table and in the car, Hamilton is adorably funny, and yet magnificently true as a parent. Burnham handles his characters with precise care but strong realism.
What Eighth Grade gloriously takes hold of is a weighty atmosphere antagonised through the sound of the music and song choices that perform in great coordination with the feelings of stress and angst. Or when Kayla stares at the boy she likes and the same slow-motion dramatic music plays, its ticklish and delightful.
With a sincere recognition of the digital world that is consumed by the young generation, with the faces and minds absorbed by their phones. One sequence with some superb editing techniques captures this engrossment almost too perfectly, through a montage of white screens.
Intelligently funny, engaged with the its culture the film is entertaining not just for its own audience but for adults alike, with an incredible lead performance of pure teenage social anxiety, Eighth Grade is a glowing gem to be seen.
When the Wilson family arrive for their holidays in Santa Cruz, father: Gabe (Winston Duke) is pumped for the family fun, but mother: Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) feels sceptical for their peaceful vacation, as a past trauma seems to be haunting her. When night comes, another mysterious family appear outside their house, who begin to terrorise the Wilson family, but appear to be a set of doppelgangers carrying very lethal scissors.
Fresh off his Oscar success with Get Out (2017), Jordan Peale cements his course for the horror genre in a new complex episode. Coincidentally being the new host of the upcoming revised Twilight Zone series, Jordan Peale directs an ambitious original tale of terror wrapped in its own dimension of mystery. The notion of the danger coming after you being yourself is a creepy concept, and Peale takes this into a gripping thriller opening up to a fascinating reality.
Taking a more joyful embrace of the horror genre, Us goes full out to scare, disturb and shock. The nightmare beginning with a classic home invasion is familiar territory but patiently frightening. The doppelgangers' lack of movement and intimidating stillness is enough to send shivers, accompanied by their overarching grins; we know that they not carrying those scissors to offer a free haircut. Praise be given to chorography throughout the film for its constant parade of sinister, embodied beautifully by the cast, especially to Evan Alex who plays Jason and his doppelganger Pluto in a feral animalistic physical performance. Even one moment for me during the final climax matched a perfect note of sound and movement, tense but like a ballet.
Lupita Nyong'o carries a fearsome energy all the way, encompassing the victim of terror as well as the terror itself. A magnificent staple of double identities, Nyong'o is unstoppable in both roles, a strong heroine but unnerving villain (but which is which, Peale suggests). Winston Dukes brings the relative breather in the mist of the horror, offering a frequent variety of comical lines, and humorous moments. Peale wants us to enjoy the experience as well as dread it at times. Even Elizabeth Moss's presence is well judged for the scares.
Although stating clearly that this one is not dealing with race issues, Peale continuous a political engagement through an expressive exploration of horror. The scariest thing in the world can be ourselves. An ambiguous statement, but Peale leaves enough blank spaces for this thesis to be interpreted for ourselves. As the title implies and a later a cut-throat line of dialogue: "We're Americans" brings clear to the table the ideas that Peale wants to address. With the current state of America, Peale wants to invert some challenging ideas on where a sense of position, identity, and social divide stem from; not all explicitly explored. More subtle then Get Out, Peale again holds up a mirror but really hands it to the audience for what is it they are seeing. It may be confusing, but Peale's efforts are a skilled practise of cinema and genre.
Jordan Peale's new nightmare is an impressive and exhilarating watch, definitely one to come for the fun and fear, but also you're in for an intriguing new socio-political study, along with a few laughs now and then.
This movie is gonna get stuck inside you head.
Is everything Awesome five years after the invasion of the Duplo on Taco Tuesday, well now we find out, in the long awaited sequel to the 2014 animated delight
Since we last saw our heroes, Bricksburg has now become Apocalpseberg a Mad Max desert land, as the citezens and master builders prepare for the next attack by destructive Duplo creatures. While Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the group toughen themselves for combat, the only optimistic master builder left is Emmet (Chris Pratt) who hopes to live a more peaceful life, but is however haunted by a dreaded premonition. When the mysterious General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) arrives to kidnap Emmet's friends and take them to the Systar system, Emmet is determined to toughen up and rescue his friends, with the help of Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt) to show him the ropes.
For a beloved fan of the first LEGO Movie, I was apprehensive whether the sequel would be able pull of the same grandeur that the first film did so well. It's with great joy that I can say that The LEGO Movie 2 surpasses all expectations, and becomes another unexpected treat for the family. It's been a really long time since I found myself smiling so much in the cinema, and for a long rainy week this really is the best cure out there at the moment.
For the most part of the LEGO Movie 2, you are taken across galaxies and wonderous worlds, ad sure it may be quite confusing, but the beauty is that you just go with it. The LEGO Movie 2 does takes us on another poignant story happening in the real world, and manages to implement another moving truth on growing up, and rivalry. Although not necessarily as strong as the first film it's again surprising for the turns that the film takes. At times it feels quite complicated and messy but really it's on relatively stable route, and I think there is real genius to admired in the story.
It's really all made up in the voice cast, with some even more exceptional new voices, featuring a hilarious voice appearance by Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade. Seeing our beloved master builders of Will Arnett's self-obsessed Batman getting caught in a strange engagement and Alison Brie's Princess Unikitty whose's stuck in a constant rage return is just a pleasure. But as soon as Vandervest enters the screen, Pratt's energetic adventurer chews up all the dialogue in hilarious fashion.
One of the amusing or annoying aspects of the film, for you to decide is the more eccentric soundtrack. "Oh no, are we in a musical?" Wildstyle utters. Of course if you thought Everything is Awesome was an annoyingly catchy song, well prepare yourselves for an entire sequence of the characters singing a song exclaiming "This song's gonna get stuck inside your head". But in a childish glee, this reduced me to tears.
It's very rare for me to laugh out loud in the cinema but the LEGO Movie 2's laugh score is so high you barley have any breathing space. Jokes about Bruce Willies, Vampire trousers, CPDs (Convenient Plot Devises) the pop culture references that never stop coming.
One of the better strengths of the film is that there is more lasting time to enjoy the colourful bricked universe of the Lego world, instead of the fast paced brick smashing action cut with the attitude of Michael Bay film.
With constant laughs and beautiful visuals coming all back, the LEGO Movie 2 is an exuberant party not to be missed. Although on wilder grounds than before, you can't help but be overcome by the sheer enjoyment had. This movie is gonna get stuck inside you head.
Beautiful Boy (2018)
Very poweful, just could be better
Based off on the memoirs by David Shelf, Beautiful Boy follows David (Steve Carell) from his fatherly perspective watching his son Nick (Timothée Chalamet) deal with his drug addiction. Cutting back and forth between memories and present day, we watch the father and son relationship at it brightest to it's painful strain.
When discovering that a film with Timothée Chalamet, by far one of the best things to come out of 2017 (no pun intended if you know what I'm talking about) and Steve Carell, by far one of the most versatile and underrated actors at the moment, were going to be in a film together as father and son, I was beyond excited. As clips and trailers were released, I could see that this biographical drama could be really something. And it defiantly is a film with something, just doesn't quite know how to use that something.
With Felix van Groeningen directing his first English language debut, and including producers from Oscar winners: 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Moonlight (2016), there is most definitely some talent behind this film, but it just unfortunately becomes very misjudged in tone and structure.
But to lay out the things that Beautiful Boy strives in, one being the performances. Steve Carell doing what I think Steve Carell is very good at, being just an average man. You can feel his tensions and worries as a father, even if you not one yourself, and tell exactly what is on the root of his mind. He is our gateway into the film, as he tries to work out how to help his son, so do we. And from his memories we are shown the strength of his relationship with Nic. But again stealing the show is Chalamet, proving more why he is on his way to an incredible career. As Nic, Chalamet embodies the frustrated young teen so brilliantly, which swirls into dark habit and a twisted mind where his addiction takes over his life. Balancing a fantastic rebellion but still vulnerability we want Nic to be okay but like his dad we become exhausted by continuous cycle of relapse. It truly is Carell and Chalamet's more than convincing relationship that carries the film. And the fact that you do believe in their relationship is what entangles you in this overpowering journey. With some solid, but I felt slightly wasted supporting performances by Maura Tierney, and Amy Ryan the film attempts for more tying threads, but really puts all of its energy into the father and son.
However, as Beautiful Boy strives with its performances the way it orchestrates the rest is less of a victory. As the film jumps back and forth from past and present memories, the chronology becomes rather confused. Although establishing the context of it's characters, it becomes inconsistent. This rickty line only lasts through to the second act, where it has been purely centred on the bond between Nic and David where the film is at it's strongest, but then as it passes the middle act of the film, it goes off course and becomes more of a Chalamet film. At this point we briefly loose that central grip between the two characters. There is also a very strong screenplay in their, but it never quite meets it's poniancy and moving capacity but shows potential.
It's a film that wants to be real, but choses to use very peculiar soundtrack choices at a number of scenes which only really confuse the film's overall mood. This is a case where if in the hands of someone like Kenneth Lonergan or Richard Linklater, we would have a much more honest and affective film.
As the film drifts to it's heart destroying climax you find that all the gooey insides in you have turned rock solid. By the end of Beautiful Boy you feel like you've be flattened by a massive pile of bricks, a heavy experience I have not felt since August: Osage County (2013). For all its issues, the emotional engagement we have with these characters does pay off for its shattering trek.
For all the things that Beautiful Boy gets wrong, it manages to maintain it's beating heart through the performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. It succeeds very much in bringing it's message across. It disappoints me that there could be a much better film in there, but for what it is, it does an adequate job.
The Favourite (2018)
The Favourite is a very enjoyable, mad tale, webbed in glorious design,
During the early 18th Century, Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) becomes bedridden from a severe case of gout, while needing to tend to serious matters regarding the war with France. Her confidant; Sarah (Rachel Weisz) tends to the Queen's duties herself and comforts her in an extreme intimate nature. Arriving at the palace is Abigail (Emma Stone) cousin of Sarah who seeks employment , but is degenerately put to work in the slum kitchens where she is forced to sleep in a cramped room with countless others. While Anne is helpless in bed, Abigail sneaks her self into the Queen's favour becoming her new bedroom maid, toppling her friendship with Sarah, and emotively aggravating Sarah.
Within the first moments of the Favourite, I think you immediately decide whether you are on board with it, and I found myself in comfortable arms from the very beginning. In a very quick and witty story, the Favourite is an easily enjoyable and elegant tale, if you are compatible with the world of wigs and mad humour. Slightly far off the tone of Lanthimos previous films, unlike The Lobster (2015), and the Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), The Favourite is a less challenging and more entertaining watch.
This is systematically brought to life in widely smart and funny script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. The tension and powerplay in the narrative is almost Shakespearian with its wicked ensemble of double crossing. The pleasure of these character's quibble is truly smashing.
The film's true charm is achieved in the love triangle between Queen Anne, Sarah, and Abigail, as both court favourites compete over receiving the Queen's praise and friendship for their own gain. The talents of Coleman, Weisz and Stone are undoubtable expectational, with an exquisite dynamic on screen. Weisz is uptight and tough and an intimidating presence who dominates the film. Although still a confidant, Sarah seems to be really pulling the strings on he political matters. Sarah even walks over the spoilt childlike Anne who roams her palace helplessly shouting at her musicians and cuddling her seventeen rabbits. Coleman's British wackiness seems never out of place. Then Emma Stone; first a sweet and innocent Abigail is sympathetic lead, but gradually reveals only to be a self serving villain herself as she greases herself up to the Queen. Although Coleman's role had been identified as the lead, it feels at times that her presence is mostly overtaken by the performances of Weisz and Stone.
Additionally grand is the film's gorgeous periodical production design, covered in the delicate artwork infested hallways and ballrooms, to the coordinated outdoor gardens and palace landscapes. There is an almost post Barry Lyndon-esc serge that echoes through Robbie Ryan's sharp photography. There are frequent shots of spherical frames twisting the scale of the land, but capturing beautiful texture. With a high contrast with the palace rooms, the film's art direction powerfully embodies it's historical period, almost overwhelmingly so.
The Favourite is a very enjoyable, mad tale, webbed in glorious design, precisely crafted by Yorgos Lanthimos, but it's heart is truly made in the ensemble cast. If his other films are too weird for you, then I think the Favourite will be a much more amusing experience.
The most powerful cinematic journey of year.
Alfonso Cuaron take us back to his childhood in mesmerising cinematic journey of Roma.
Set in 1970s Colina Roma, the life of a maid: Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) working for an upper middle class family who live and survive in Mexico City. Surrounded by riots and demonstrations, the dark and wonderful surfaces to the city are explored in this visual tale. Based off Cuaron's life growing up in Mexico, the director brings his cinematic talents back to his roots, not since his 2001 road movie: Y Tu Mamá Tambien. Cuaron demonstrates how intact and important his childhood is and is magnificently captured in a personal song to his past.
In an episodic fashion, we follow Cleo through her life cleaning the floors, tending to the children as if they were her own, and going to the movies with her marital art practising boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). Selected beauty scaping moment, that move, distress and horrify, Roma dives into moving and shocking.
Roma is wave after wave of emotional and cinematic beauty that washes over you with personal entanglement. Cuaron's vision of his memory feels photographic. With astoundingly comprehensive sound design, detailed to the last drop of water, the sound and life of Mexico is breathing an surrounding embodiment. The grounded prospect of Cuaron's direction, is filled with his homestyle traces of Y Tu Mamá Tambien with the similar sentiment of Children of Men (2006), and then topped with the overpowering ecstasy of Gravity (2013) brought back down to earth.
Using first time actors, Cuaron takes excessive realistic and minimalist approach to bring his memories alive. Yalitza is a sensation for her first screen appearance, a loyal maid, loving guardian to the family children, one sequence contains one of the most convincing hugs I have ever seen on film. Sofia, the mother of family is played by Marina de Tavira who roams the screen with lucid emotional intensity, highly strung as she keeps her family together through their trials. The intimacy between the characters is an infectious and heart throbbing, Cuaron's heart and soul are clear on screen.
Shot on 65mm, Cuaron creates a landscape embracing experience, enhancing the world of Mexico City to full virtual effect. The black and white cinematograph add closer texture striking lighting, which is impressive to see alongside Pawel Pawlikowski's smoky Cold War (2018). Although it's unfortunate to see another truly worthy masterpiece of cinema release (unless seeked out) Roma wide release on Netflix will hopefully bring something extraordinary for subscribers on the popular screaming service. Made of wide pans, the smoothness of Cuaron's hand is to precise delicacy not to disturb the authentic motion.
With award season gearing, voters would have to be blind not give this film the attention it deserves. As arguably the most powerful cinematic journey of year Alfonso Cuaron fresh masterpiece should not be missed.
This really Got Under my Skin
Luca Guadagnino re-invents Dario Argento's 1977 cult horror, set in a divided Berlin, with hypnotically ominous dancing.
Susi Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives in Berlin 1977 to join the Markos Dance Academy, where she joins a group of female students under the direction of Madam Blanc (Tilda Swinton). After rumours of one student: Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) disappearing due to suspicions of witchcraft within the Academy, Bannion and the girls become subject to strange and supernatural behaviour.
According to Guadagnino, this has been a film the director has wanted to make his own version of since he was 14, after seeing Argento's original film. The film demonstrates his love and homage to the original, but takes its core subject and ideas to greater depth. Coming out of Suspira, you can't quite recount everything that you've just witnessed but it plays your mind, waiting for you to go back and see it again. It is very much its own film, with a broaden narrative structure, significant to its cold war setting.
Although without a shocking opening unlike Argento's film, Suspira is packed with fresh jaw dropping set pieces of its own, especially one which has already been established online as "that scene". Furthermore through its invigorating, but menacing dance sequences, exquisitely choreographed by Damien Jalet. Guadagnino has said that his retelling of the story is meant to express his feelings of watching the original film and communicate this experience to the audience. Suspira is very much crafted in its majestic cinematic language, emotions conveyed through visuals and music.
What of course what made Argento's film so distinguishing was its outstanding art direction and colour palette, which Guadagnino has not reprised, but still there is a faint echo of the evocative architecture, which becomes absorbing in the sight of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.
With all its disturbing moments, Suspira to me is a dark artwork of ecstatic beauty, especially when we reach its climax. A 2hr 32min journey that keeps us on edge but is patient as it unravels its layers. You can very much feel Guadagnino's passion coming through, which becomes overwhelmingly infectious.
Our journey into this curious fantasy is much seen from the character of Dr Joseph Klemperer who is meeting a guilt over his lost love. Through his eyes we undergo a sceptical surreal experience as he attempts to unravel the mystery of the academy. Illusion and psychological fantasy are still very rooted in the film as well with more focused angle. "A delusion is a lie that tells a truth." utters Klemperer. There's a real story of sadness under the skin of the film, a thick layer of melancholy. Like Call Me By Your Name (2017), it's a film that breathes sentimentality, if you look close enough.
Suspira is a confusing, and unsettling experience, but it truly gets under your skin with its metamorphic and nightmarish imagery, set against Thom Yoke's score and soundtrack leaves you with something more emotionally engaging than you may have expected. Clearly Guadagnino's version will divide people, from my perspective it's a film that I got its claws in me and I very much look forward to a second viewing.
First Man (2018)
Ryan Gosling brings massive intensity as Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle's First Man.
Leaving the Hollywood musical scene, Chazelle reaches for the stars in this biopic, bringing all his cinematic talent from La La Land (2016) into a space epic.
Pilot Neil Armstrong (Gosling), desperate to escape the grief of his daughter, joins the NASA, for the Gemini missions and eventually Apollo 11, striving to touch the surface of the moon. While ruthless to make the giant leap for mankind, Armstrong struggles to keep himself together and tender to his wife (Claire Foy) and children.
Astonishing to think that only at the age of 33 Damien Chazelle has already written himself in film history and he continues to do so with First Man. Although I said it was a "space epic", what Chazelle is more interested in is the relationship between Neil and Janet, as the earthbound strains and anxieties make Neil want to escape his grief. As well as being a an exhilarating journey to the moon, Chazelle's creation is more of a character drama than a space epic.
Its Gosling and Foy's chemistry at the very heart of the film, struggling to let go of the past, but afraid to show any emotion of it, Gosling's Armstrong is silent and isolated, fixed on his mission. A role which has felt comfortable for Gosling, but in moving quiet passion he is a man finding it hard to breath but continuing to hold his breathe. Armstrong's emotional comptonization is shown rarely but when it is revealed in heart-breaking motion, from the interaction with his children, to his moments of solitude.
This is mainly seen through the eyes his wife Janet who releases the feelings for both of them. Foy stunningly shows how she tries to support her husband's mission but in she clearly hides the fear of losing her husband. Foy's performance brings us closer to the disturbing shock and danger of the mission and how much it cost. It's in the show and not tell that makes Foy's performance outstanding.
In frequent close ups and shaky cam, First Man puts us right in the middle of the action, bringing to life history itself. Chazelle's collaboration with cinematographer Linus Sandgren has brought him great favour again, from opening right in a test flight leaving you clenched and breathless from the start. With another previous collaborator Justin Hurwitz the brilliant creator of the heavenly score for La La Land, Hurwitz gives us an glorious and atmospheric soundtrack. From the gentle yet powerfully moving harps to the lonely nostalgic sound of the thermion, Hurwitz score carries the emotional intensity, thrill ride, and silent wonder of space all together.
It is here we also find an acquainted operatic display, as First Man echoes similar space epics, From 2001 (1968) to even Interstellar (2014). In the several overwhelming test flights to the ultimate climax we are met with stellar sound design, culminating the loud launches and crashes with unexpected silence is almost entrancing. Chazelle combines cinematic practice with emotional drive to create one inspiring work, again another example of how beautiful blockbuster cinema can be
Pay no attention to the ridiculous controversy brought by some very annoying Americans, First Man is astonishingly sharp and beautiful, one of the most impressive films of the year. Chazelle reminds us of this great accomplishment in human history, that we may neglect from time to time, I know I do, but powers it with a fantastic character story.
Zimna wojna (2018)
A Cold War Romance
Pawel Pawlikowski's Cannes hit is a tragic romance in background of the Cold War. After winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film for Ida (2013), the Polish director pays tribute to his parents with a love story threatened by historic conflict. Its rather poignant for me to be seeing and hearing outrageously positive things about Pawlowski's latest film, as my own university; Oxford Brookes has been once been home of teaching for the director. Although I haven't myself had the pleasure to be lectured by the man himself, his education in film is reaching me through his craft and non-more superbly shown then through Cold War.
While recruiting a group of Polish citizens to perform communist propaganda songs in a traveling concert, composer Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) becomes infatuated with a peasant girl Zulu (Joanna Kulig) rumored to have killed her father. As their secret love is kept hidden during the tour, Warski and Zulu struggle to find true happiness in their bond while the events of the Cold War unfold over 15 years.
Loosely based on the lives of his parents, Pawilowski takes us on an powerful journey into war and love simultaneously. As Zulu and Warski cross paths over different sides of the Iron curtain their attraction to each over is invaded by their political contexts that prevent them from being together. You could easily mistake this couple for Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman from Casablanca (1943).
Its not just the central romance that rings the bell of Rick's Café, but indeed in the look and feel of the film the golden age of cinema is seeping out. Pawel Pawlowski's takes us back to a more traditional form of cinema with a 1:33 ratio, black and white, and more classical cinematography from Lukasz Zal. We are transported back in time, with Zal's camerawork with movements and stills that could very well have come from films from the same era.
The central performers of Kulig and Kot bring authentic and immersive energy to their roles, building a beautiful relationship that we are engrossed by for the entire film. But its Joanne Kulig's electrifying performance that's the stand out. From her journey to small peasant girl to a concert star is a natural as the flourishing of a flower. One sequence with Kulig's Zulu dancing in a bar is poetry itself.
Cold War's jazz soundtrack is narration of the story itself with an early melody about a forbidden love already foreshadowing the star crossed lover's tale. With some unforgettable music sequences in the dark smoke room clubs with glimpses of tormented eyes of Zulu as she sings. You can almost see a lot of Damien Chazelle's La La Land (2016) in the nightclub scenes.
Pawlikowski's portrayal of love in war is a masterful construction of beauty and melancholy, led by the wonderful central performances. A tale that says much more with its visual than dialogue another pure testimonial to cinema itself as well as the director's parents. Marvellous.
A Star Is Born (2018)
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's music romance is a rip-roaring journey back stage of love and fame. A star is truly born in Bradley Cooper's directorial debut.
When returning from a gig, country music singer: Jackson Maine (Cooper) walks into a drag bar to find a phenomenal voice in waitress Ally (Gaga) moonlighting as a club singer. Enchanted, Jackson and Ally share an evening professing their passion for music, leading Jackson inviting her to join him on stage during a concert to reveal her voice to the world. The couple's romance quickly blossoms as Ally's musical career begins, but Jackson's alcohol and drug addiction begins to disrupt their dreams.
42 years following Frank Pearson version with Barbra Streisand, Cooper launches his directing career with a 21st century re-envisioning of the Hollywood classic. Following the legacy of Janet Ganor, Judy Garland, and Streisand, Gaga is an apt idol of modern pop, and her transference of her musical talent to the screen is magnetic. With rumours of Clint Eastwood directing the project in 2011 with Beyoncé, I can honestly say I'm glad Eastwood's project never lifted the ground.
It's incredible to think that the man who stared in three Hangover movies, and voiced a space racoon, can produce a stunning piece of cinema. As demonstrated from A Star is Born, Cooper understands the art and craft of filmmaking, and its a joy to see him put his skill to work.
As the alcoholic Jackson Maine, Cooper depicts a likeness to Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005), but at his centre is a heart passionate to share Ally to the world, but troubled by his tinnitus, pulling him to the bottle. Donning a deep Arizona accent Cooper loses himself deeply into the role. A character on the edge but spirited to heighten Ally's gift. Then we have Lady Gaga as the Ally who's nervous and hidden soul majestically blossoms in her romance with Jackson and her rise to fame opposite Jackson's decent. Gaga has complete investment in the film and we completely buy into her. Moments on and off stage Gaga crushes it as the heartfelt Ally. Gaga and Cooper's chemistry on screen is sublime, the very heart beat of the film itself, producing several powerhouse ballads.
Opening in the middle of a concert with the roaring crowds, howling guitars tuning and high frequency amps, met with the smooth camera motion, Cooper literally invites us to join him on stage to be in the moment. This no more true than during the climax of the first act, when we witness the captivating "Shallow" already picked for award attention for Best Original Song. At this point I have never found a better moment to use the world "electrifying". Matthew Libatique's cinematography engulfs the audience into the music scene, decorating each shot in exquisite lighting and composition producing beautiful imagery throughout the film. Any one of these shots could be seen on an album cover.
Cooper remarkably presents the joys and troubles of showbusiness with the central couple's imbalanced relationship, one rising to fame, the other declining. With a realistic feel to the drama behind the stage, alike to the ups and downs of La La Land (2016). But know that this is in no way like the Hollywood musical, but an honest romance occurring in the music industry. There is much excitement to be had in the music but also much sorrow.
With already early awards buzz, A Star is Born will no doubt be a hit for the audiences and critics and will do well when awards season arrives. I am hoping that viewers who love The Greatest Showman (2017) will see this and forget all about that nonsense and appreciate a real piece of cinema.
This would have wiped me out if it was in the cinema
Although I have finally caught up with Alex Garland's latest science fiction thriller, I am still irritated I didn't get the pleasure to witness it in the cinema, but I hope Netflix has offered the best of the experience.
Garland's previous film Ex Machina (2015) displayed an intelligent and deep presentation of science fiction, which is what you should also expect for Annihilation. Based on the novel Jeff VanderMeer, Garland creates a visual sensation of suspense and mystery, unfortunately robbed the chance to be shown on the big screen in the UK., however its distribution on Netflix does hopefully make a film more people to reach.
Natalie Portman plays Lena, and ex army solider, biologist, who Special Forces' husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) unexpectedly returns after being presumed killed in action. After Kane becomes ill, Lena is taken to Area X, a secret base which is monitoring a mysterious anomaly called the 'Shimmer'. which Kane has returned from. Now Lena and group of female scientists Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Josie (Tessa Thompson), (Cassie Tuva Novotny) led by Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) begin an expedition into the 'Shimmer' to reach the source of the anomaly, the lighthouse.
At the center of the film is Natalie Portman, a charismatic scientist a solider who's journey deeper into the 'Shimmer' draws us deeper into her mind. Carrying a determined personal mission to understand what has happened to her husband, Lena is a looking glass into the mysteries that the Shimmer contains. Opposite her is Jennifer Jason Leigh a puzzle herself with her own unknown reasons for the mission but whose screen presence is somehow misused.
But what illuminates and grips us into this journey is the stunning visuals splashing blends of colour and shapes, beautiful but also sinister. Inside the 'Shimmer' we find unimaginable sights nature and life evolving in a extraordinary but disturbing fashion when the team encounter various creatures and plants.
Carried through this excursion is also the unsettling growls and wails of Ben Sailsbury and Geoff Barrow's score. Sailsbury and Barrow's sound for my mind took me back to the loud drowning noises of Los Angeles from Blade Runner 2049 (2017) with the atmosphere of Arrival (2016). I wonder whether Denise Villenurce and Alex Garland get along in their common approaches to the science fiction genre. Annihilation does splendidly entertain in this manner as well as being a thought provoking concentration of ideas. The film journey to reach this may seem ambiguous to some and also confusing but fundamentally works in a stable form.
With Netflix's rise to power increasing, its a positive to see that they are getting their hands on strong material but still steals the chance to see something that is born to be a cinematic experience, which I feel would have left a stronger impact.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A honourable construction of terror and concept triumphantly put together by a young director.
A family living in silence in order to survive detection from sound seeing monsters is a very adventurous film for the former Dunder Mifflin employee, but manages to be successful and bone chilling experience. "Good work Jim".
I must take my hat off to John Krasinski in his tremendously directional work. It's surprising when you watch a horror film and you yourself are particularly sensitive to jump scares, but you emerge from the cinema with a great big smile on your face. Although filled with tense edge of seat, and moments of unimaginable terror, I couldn't help but love it. This is not a salute to the idea of horror and fear, but purely to the craft that Krasinski has displayed.
In the year 2020, when earth has been ambushed by ominous creatures that locate through their amplified sense of hearing, we follow the trail of the Abbott family lead by Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) with their two children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). Living alone on a farm moving only in bare foot and communicating though sign language, the Abbott family are taking every precaution to avoid being found by the creatures. But it only lakes one lamp falling over, one pin to drop for their quiet home to be invaded by petrifying monsters. In a non-stop seat gripping array of set pieces, A Quiet Place is in a inescapable nightmare.
Now although the posters, trailers, and what I've just described sounds disconcerting, what A Quiet Place is filled with is sentiment, love and family. A story about a family living together and the efforts their father will go to, to protect them. Kraskinski's lead is a fitting choice in his strong, and leading father and husband, opposite his brave and supporting wife which Blunt delivers mighty. Blunt steals several clenching moments which she seems almost to perfect for, but which also become endless. Regan played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is also a stand out performance as the deaf oldest child, which makes her one of the most vulnerable characters in the story but also one of the most strong.
Our investment into these characters becomes all the more real with relationships and character drama underneath. On surface this may be horror film, but it is charged with powerful drama and emotion.
The films most striking aspect is defiantly the use of sound, poignant to the story and atmosphere. Mostly constructed by silence, the film brings to life the quiet in the world of the film that makes the even smallest noise a little jump. The idea itself of sound being the cause of horror is a fantastic proposal which is really brought to life on screen as Krasinski takes all of cinema to make this sound mixing experience. Then we also have Marco Beltrami's score, familiar to his previous horror work with loud and threating drone noises, but also adds the sentimentality in the family drama which I won't lie almost reduced me to tears.
Kraskinski has indeed been daring for this chiller, with moments and sequences that will jaw drop and shock but work in creating a very impressive piece of horror cinema, which is all the more surprising as Michael Bay is also tied to this film, lets hope he's learned a thing or too now.
A honourable construction of terror and concept triumphantly put together by a young director.
The Square (2017)
A weird but wonderful look at modern art and life
Ruben Östlund's satirical examination of the boundaries of the modern art world looks more deeply into the art of society and culture than you may expect.
The Royal Palace in Stockholm is home to the worlds finest modern contemporary art, chief curator Christian (Claes Bang) plans to open a new exhibit called "The Square" a space for people to be equal and trusting and caring. However as the Christian and his team try to create a striking marketing video, the intriguing art of society and interaction begin to intrigue the curator's taste.
Winner of the Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes film festival, The Square is an fresh satire of humor, and drama that will be one you'll never forget. Exhibiting a range of visual imagery coated over the disturbing obsession of art lovers, with surprisingly underscore of the modern behavior of people in a common society.
With the very brilliant Claes Bang as our leading curator touring us through a personal journey of discovering after the simple act of having his wallet and phone stolen. From then Christian finds himself unveiling an artwork morality in the modern day and age as he collides with various members of society, from the homeless, to a one night stand, and angry boy accused of being a thief. Bang is a marvellous presence in his charm of being a passionate at exhibitor, strong in power, but also sloppy and abusive in his treatment of those around him. Christian becomes adamant to open the new exhibit from the "The Square" only revealing to public that "The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations".
Östlund's film almost then becomes an exhibition on life itself and human behavior, trying to reach out to the audience on silent human decency that the world sourly needs. Bangs interaction with the people he meets are what set this message in motion. But it is far from an enriching and moving piece of moral exploration.
With one narrative thread examining the media response to a controversial video ad, to the iconic but yet shocking performance art set piece of Terry Notary hounding the guest of the museum during his portrayal as a while ape. It from these moments that make The Square a difficult film to connect with or even really understand completely, but still admire its bold and disturbing displays of the madness of modern art.
A very odd but intriguing picture to say the least, but fascinating in its portrayal and assessment to the modern ways of society, masked with its comedic take on the world of ridiculously ambiguous displays of contemporary art
Remember This one
Pixar return in a death defying new magical tale: Coco
Entering the wonderful Mexican culture of Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead. Director: Lee Unkrich, the outstanding creator of Toy Story 3 (2010), packs the same emotional punch through the magnificent Spanish tradition in a beautiful and heart melting story.
Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) aspires to be a musician in his home Santa Cecilia, Mexico, but as part of his family history, song and music have been condemned forever. Unable to fight his dream, during the Day of the dead, Miguel finds himself in reach of his idol: Ernesto de la Cruz's (Benjamin Bratt), guitar which transports him into the land of the dead, becoming visible to his remembered ancestors. To help Miguel figure out how he can make it back to land of the living is the 'unforgettable' Hector (Gael García Bernal) a rickety skeleton trying to reach the land of the living but is fading from the memories of his own family.
As always baffles me is Pixar's astonishing talent in compacting the laughs, the story, and tears in exquisite animation pictures. The animation's studio's 19th film shows that they've never lost the magic. In unique territory then before, but still bringing all you'd expect, Coco will be regarded as another animated classic. Although Coco hasn't revolutionized the customary storytelling, Coco still becomes a wonderful and beautiful work, doing that Pixar thing in a new and interesting form.
At its core is the virtuous chronicle about remembering, and family, a touching look into heritage,and identity. An emotional driving force of memory really brings out the tears in the expected heart-wrenching moments. Even more successful is the film honourable achievement of taking this rather delicate subject matter and producing it in a playful and joyful fashion. Pixar execute this tremendously surrounded by the ravishing and colourful imagery of the land of the dead, as well as the laugh out loud jokes (one at the beginning, which if you have any extended European family, will find hilarious.) As always with Pixar humor is the slapstick, against the hilarity of the funny yet poignant laughs part of the film's universal appeal.
Similar, to a previous 2017 animated feature, (The LEGO Batman Movie), Coco does become a very energetic film, in early rushes and excitement to get going with the plot. This is only minor nit-pic, but just moments I wanted it to just take its time, which is better than wanting the film to hurry up. More distant from its regular works, Coco still keeps in tact with its own ancestors, like Ratatouille (2007) (embracing the delicious French culture) investing in the wonderful Spanish society, or Monsters Inc. (2001) (bringing to life and civilizing, the whimsical world of monsters) beautifully visualising and fabricating the land of the dead. Furthermore bringing that home grown family love that all Pixar works provide. Of course there is significant resemblance to the 2014 animated adventure The Book of Life, which if you enjoyed then I 'm sure your love Coco . The film also echoes moments from 2016's stop motion picture Kubo and the Two Strings, with similar emotional background.
Pixar's latest masterwork is an exceptional tribute to family and ancestry, in a new but also traditional form. For those who find themselves at this point in a mournful state, I truly believe Coco will be an uplifting and celebratory watch in remembrance of the ones we loose, but never forget. A fantastically moving creation by the brilliant animated magicians, Pixar yet again create an exceptional piece of cinema, to be relished by all.
Why Martin McDonogh is a fantastic writer
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a very poignant and moving tale of justice, grief and redemption about a unstable little community opposing Frances McDomand's rough, and tough Mildred Hayes.
From playwrite, director: Martin McDonagh creator of In Bruges (2008), and Seven Psychopaths (2012), and numerous plays such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane, brings us a remarkable new black comedy, led by a ruthless display compelling performances . With a mix of tension and laughs as per usual to McDonagh's previous work, Three Billboards thrives in its substance and characters, in a surprisingly sentimental story.
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) wages her own war against her town's police department by putting up three billboards with direct messages to the police, after no progress or effort has been shown after Hayes' daughter Angela was raped and murder. Protesting her acts, Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) tries to keep the town from tearing itself apart from the indecorous billboards. But Hayes' real battle is with despicable Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell). As the billboards stir the pleasant towns folk, Hayes gradually earns herself more enemies attracting more hate to her and her son.
Less thrill ride than Psychobaths but more dark passion as with In Bruges, McDonagh's latest achievement is a vigorous triumphant in story-telling. With a immense ensemble cast leading the way and a script as naturally articulated by the cast sets McDonagh's drama in its realist genuine setting.
McDomand bringing an astonishingly fierce performance as the grieving mother, shows more grit than her more cheerful detective from Fargo (1996). Every moment with Hayes is an emotional presence of anguish but also sorrow. McDormand thrives forcefully in a rough kick performance of aggression, fuelling the drive of the film. Especially shot in intense close ups, our attention is drawn to the intensity and emotion.
Sam Rockwell also finally receives the recognition he deserves as a fantastic supporting role as the sluggish, racist Dixon whose demented life style is just as abroken as Hayes. Rockwell's familiar drunk charm and quirkiness serve him best in his latest performance for the antagonist. Dixon's odyssey in the film manifests in a timeless journey of redemption.
If you haven't learnt of McDonagh's genius as a writer, than Three Billboards is the hard cold evidence. One of the unique things that the trailer sadly misleads you on, is that although you may think this is quirky black comedy and it is, but still has really mournful heart in its centre subject matter. Continuing to tie in the accustomed biblical concepts and heaven and hell, Three Billboards is another formidable reflection of the soul.
McDonagh triumphantly brings out real humanity in this twisted drama. Its the small moments McDormand crying towards the camera are really heart-melting. The transition that McDonagh constructs for his characters are a fabulous force of spirit, rather encouraging at this point in time. Carter Burwell's soundtrack furthermore is an appropriate background, guiding the tale from start to finish, contributing to petite moments of sadness.
An exceptional mix of comedy, wow, and healing, Three Billboards is an unpredictable sorrowful story with an unforgettable presence of talent by the ensemble cast, but is maintained and victorious in its masterly story brought to life by McDonagh.
The Force has properly Awaken
The 8th chapter in the newly resurrected Star Wars series, is a rollercoaster of an adventure, filled with the unexpected fun, twist and turns that have been delightfully introduced by Rian Johnson. What you would expect is not what is given to you, in the most whimsical Star Wars film to date.
Following from the end of the Force Awakens, we find Rey attempting to bring Luke Skywalker out of hiding to help the battle against the vicious First Order, but Skywalker himself does not seek to return, as his own past has defined him as he insists on staying in the dark. Meanwhile General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leads the resistance in escape from the First Order in deep space, where Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Hux ( Domhnall Gleeson) won't rest till they are finally destroy them.
As a life long Star Wars fan, it was regrettable when I went to see The Force Awakens two years ago, and coming out feeling very disappointed. After a couple more views, I have been able to enjoy the film, but still find several issues with it, that haven't made it the Star Wars film for me. I have to admit though that the ending, with reveal of Rey's power and that final appearance of Mark Hamil did have me anticipating in glee for the next chapter of the series. With a darker appearance than the previous film, and a different director: Rian Johnson, I have been very excited about the promise of The Last Jedi.
As the caption "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away" emerged I had a sudden shiver of joy (as did it last time). Unfortunately soon after, I found myself thinking its was going in the same direction of the Force Awakens, with the same issues occurring.
We start with a rather choppy beginning in the establishment of our characters, that created a great disturbance in the balance of things. This was only pre-mature but stood out to ne. Again we have frequent moments of on the nose dialogue, that may sound good on paper, but through certain delivery is not. There is also have middle subplot with Finn (Jon Boyega) and new rebel character Rosa ( that doesn't really land on its feet and eventually becomes a waste of time just to fit into the 152 minute runtime.
We furthermore have the return of the endless string of laugh out loud jokes and quirks that turn it almost into comedy, charming to some maybe, but not for this fan. Star Wars at its core is film about the struggle of good vs evil which I and I'm sure many fans take seriously, but its very hard to take it serious if the film isn't half the time. Its not just the cute humour with BB-8 but there are times during critical conversation, that it appears a custard pie has to be thrown. I know if you take any Marvel film you could pick out a hundred moments of humour, but there's something about the humour in the latest Star Wars films, which just ruins it for me, it pulls me out of this fantasy and draws attention to the artificial construction.
That being said what Star Wars The Last Jedi wonderfully succeeds as a fun, action pack, adventure, character drama, and I am over joyed to say for myself, as a Star Wars film.
A Bold and original take for the Star Wars series, The Last Jedi at last becomes its very own film, in a inventive war drama, taking you places you would never expect to find yourself. From a brilliant dramatic tension between, Rey and Luke, to Ren's desperation to prove himself to Supreme Leader Snoke, and the resistance struggling to work cooperatively against the First Order. This is mostly held together by Mark Hamill's stand out performance as the broken Jedi master, in his heart-rendering eyes and stares, Hamill, perfectly embodies an aging Skywalker, lost of hope for the rest of the galaxy. This is the key heart that drives the soul of the film. Furthermore Driver brings a much stronger an more powerful performance in Kylo Ren, especially when opposite his counterpart Rey, with Daisy Ridley also bringing a more thriving performance.
Of course opposite Johnson's brialliant storytelling, is a range of fantastic action, including some sensational space dog fights, planet battles and as always exhilarating lighsaber battles. The Last Jedi, almost never rests in its continuous array of action making it one of the most action packed Star Wars films yet.
What I wanted for The Force Awakens is exactly what I got in the Last Jedi with its own story, still with certain shouts to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but still a new chapter to remember. As also similar to last year's spin off film Rogue One, The Last Jedi, properly begins and ends with a monumental final third act This is where the new Star Wars era finally become Star Wars for me. The film represents the change and innovation which the filmmakers are presumably planning to bring into a new Star Wars generation.
Star Wars The Last Jedi has now thankfully awakened the force in me, as to appreciate this new Star Wars era. It does still suffer from a several flaws within narrative structure, and my personal quarrels, but managed to bring out the real Star Wars fan in me. An incredible and enjoyable watch, The force is very strong with this one.
The Florida Project (2017)
One of 2017s best and most affecting
An marvellous vision into the working class struggles of the residents at the Magic Castle Motel in Florida, just outside of tropical Disneyworld.
Sean Baker' triumphant drama takes us into the poverty of young parents and their adventurous children. Creating a wonderful performance of joy and sadness through this adult story but fantastically illuminated through the eyes of the young.
Moonie (Brooklynn Prince) an ecstatic six year old girl lives with her labouring mother Haley (Bria Vinaite) in the purple Magic Castle motel in Kissimmee, Florida, where she and her friends gallivant the colourful Disney established community. Making the world their own playground the modern group of little rascals cause their own array of mischief which brings much irritation to the assertive manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) and the local tourists.
From the maker Tangerine (2015), The Florida Project is a masterpiece of childhood and humane realism, Sean Baker brings the melancholy story down into young level bringing us into the universe of these joyous children. While in the backdrop of the play time, we also see the despairing truth of the poor well-being that these children are living in.
The visual marvel of the film is exceptional, the vibrant Florida community full of standout colour schemes in beautiful design of the wonderland from the motel purple to the orange land bright yellow and red. As the kids course around the community it is a tender excursion of these intrepid children's fantasy. This originates from the pragmatic cinematography from Alexis Zabe. A fantastic low level framing bringing us down to the height of these children, entering their playground of a world in delightful perspective . The fluid movement of the camera gives life into the sublime setting and explicit lighting to the Florida "paradise".
The Florida Project visibly strives in one of the best ensemble performances of the year. Brooklynn Prince along with the rest of her friends gives the best realist child performance since Tremblay in Room, being that innocent and energetic lead at the centre of the films heart. This is also shared by her crass but exuberant mother, as Bria Vinaite phenomenally portrays the straining Haley, we may loose respect for her as the film progresses but Vinaite's performs it brilliantly that still tugs our hearts for the mother daughter relationship. Willem Dafoe's supporting role is another standout aspect to take away, as the defensive landlord, who although may find the small rascals a pain, shadows a caring love for them, which Dafoe provides astonishingly on screen.
The Florida Project is one of the years best and most moving films, an instant classic construction of childhood life and poverty. A must see experience with an awe-inspiring range of break-out performances.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
An Atmospherc and Beautiful Summer Romance
A sensual romance about a boy who finds himself through the discovery of another.
Luca Guadagnino's third chapter in his desire trilogy, following I am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015) is Call Me By Your Name, a novel arbitrary love tale between two young men in the shimmering summer of 80s Italy. A romantic drama pealing back the layers of its Romeo and "Juliet" in a elementary yet bewildering fashion.
In the 80s suburban Italy, 17 year old Elio ( Timothée Chalamet) and his parents unwind for their summer lounge, when Oliver (Armie Hammer) a 24 year old academic arrives at the families home to work along side Elio's father Lyle (Michael Stuhlbarg). While Elio's first impressions of the strapping American are sower, Elio's enchantment with Oliver blossoms a beautiful friendship between the two and then as the drama proceeds a romantic one.
Guadiagnio's vision of a summer love affair is one to truly be admired by the way Call Me By Your Name eases you into a conceivable relationship. Instead of your traditional love at first sight films. Call Me By Your Name has the confidence to take its time with the characters to produce a remarkable layered character journey. From this we are given the perspective of Elio's world and his flourishing growth as young man, before his world is truly altered by his contact with Oliver. The film is more a coming age of story of Elio as well as a romance.
Obviously the coursing heartbeat of the film is the central characters relationship as it blossoms from the very start to finish, an amazing master work in romantic story telling to say the least. As Elio and Oliver converse over music, philosophy and archaeology, the two's connection is thickened in the company of each other, and of us the audience as well. This is wonderfully transcribed in James Ivory's script beautifully adapted from André Aciman's book. Although Elio is our main window into this romance, both characters are as equal as each other, as the title implies.
Real masters giving life to this tale is the cast themselves. A fabulous ensemble performance by all participants in a warm welcoming environment, usually found unfamiliar in this narrative context. From Michael Stuhlbarg's wise Lyle passionate about his love of archaeology that he shares with Oliver, while also being a passionate father to Elio guiding him in his journey as a youth. Armie Hammer's Oliver is scene stealing charming puzzle which along side Elio we are trying to unravel. Hammer brings forth an exceptional performance which is already ringing potential Oscar bells. Although those bells better be ringing louder for the true standout performance of Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet brings a marvellous collection of young but also mature character in Elio trying to decipher his own identity which becomes all the more clear when he meets Oliver. A major break out performance hopefully to set Chalamet on the path of even greater work.
What moulds Call Me By Your Name is its glistening flavour is its exotic summer presence in honourable landscape beauty of Italy, tenderly caught by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's cinematography. A strong throwback to the hot summer just gone, as we now enter the cold winter. A lavish film in its own right, seriously a film to really immerse in with its exotic atmosphere while, pouring its heart out in the characters.
Call Me By Your Name is the most remarkable drama of the year, if you believe in any love story this year let it be this one, as your swept in a fantastic voyage of discovering love for the first time. Truly a masterpiece in romantic story-telling.
Loving Vincent (2017)
Real Cinematic Art
Cinema has always been a gloried artwork and we have much more authentic proof in astounding Loving Vincent.
An animated construction entirely brought to life by oil paintings, is quintessential proof that cinema has still barely scratched the surface of its reaches. Loving Vincent is landmark event for animation and even biographical storytelling through its majestic vision at the last days of Vincent Van Gogh.
Set a after the death of fabled painter, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) is possessed with a letter from Van Gogh to his brother Theo before his death, and begins the journey to deliver it. While on call, Roulin encounters all the people close to Vincent before is death gradually trying to put the pieces of what cause his sudden suicide. From this we are taken back to key moments of Van Gogh's life mesmerizingly displayed through the living oil paintings.
Generated by 65,000 paintings by over a 100 artist, Loving Vincent is living work of art. First shot as a live action depiction then adapted into paintings, the immersive gallery of scenes is a first in new format of animation. Directors: Dorota Kobiela, and Hugh Welchman take Van Gogh's own artistry into his own biography (almost), from Citizen Kane style narrative, assessing and celebrating the life of one of the worlds if not the most famous painter. From this production becomes transporting cinema experience into the world of Van Gogh and an enchanting watch of magnificent painting and animation.
Of course what is the fundamental strength of Loving Vincent is its captivating artwork which for every moment is spectacular, and then you have the real narrative of Van Gogh's last days which on its own is an affectionate journey. Even if you don't not much about the life of Van Gogh this is an enthralling experience.
The monumental presence of the paintings is consistently exceptional with wonderful detail and creation put into it. One of the sensational efforts for the film is its sketch of the real actors, making them instantly recognisable on screen, bringing their performance into the art. Although our eyes are set on visual presence, Clint Mansell's score is also a tear-jerking atmosphere throughout the film, capturing the melancholy as well as joy of Van Gogh.
Loving Vincent is a visual sensation, proving the amazing talent that animation brings to the screen. This is by far one of the most significant films of the year and is must see experience, especially for art students.
The Shape of Water (2017)
Del Toro's new moving, thrilling romantic fantasy
If I was to tell you about Guillermo Del Toro's new film what would I say.
As the father of dark fantasy, Guillermo Del Toro knows how to bring alive the illusive wonderlands and nightmares we can relish and transform them into wonderful poignant crafts of insight and meaning, and The Shape of Water is no exception. With its journey from Venice to Toronto, The Shape of Water has now hit the London Film Festival, now within reach of this exuberant critic. I had only the budget to see one film at this year's festival and I most certainly made a wise decision.
During the Cold War conflict of the 60s, a mute but hearing Eliza (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaner at a secret government facility, where she becomes drawn to the new specimen: a mysterious marine creature (Doug Jones). While Eliza begins to fall in love with it, the facility head Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), only desires to take the creature apart for experimental advantage against the Russians. Eliza's bond with the creature soon begins to effect those around her: her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), work college Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and scientist Robert Hoffsteder (Michael Stuhbarg) What is amazing profound about Del Toro's latest work is its eccentric visualisation in reflection of the political and social conceptions of the past , but also today. The most centralised end is the the treatment of those who are different. Directly dealing with the fantasy of other species but intertwined with racial treatment relevant to the time in which the film is set, and then of course against the back drop of the national conflicts, but then also the value of those with deficiencies, as portrayed by Sally Hawkins.
More distant from his darker tones in, Pan's Labyrinth, and Crimson Peak, but not far from the surreal fantasy, The Shape of Water becomes more grounded than previous Del Toro films, and diversely more lighter and funnier. With frequent laughs and jokes on screen, the romantic fantasy is a much light hearted watch, of course not without its moment of bloody violence but at a lower volume. What may be hard for some audiences to get their head around, is this idea of an inter-species relations and with the astonishing design of the creature itself becomes something more than just a fish costume. The bond and sexuality of this romance is a significant thread to the film and is one that featured heavily with its repetitive moments of adult content. But what Del Toro explores its is real beauty in love and within the context of the film it does becomes something remarkable.
Sally Hawkins is exceptional in her vigorous performance as the mute Eliza, with dynamic sign language and spirited facial expressions, we see the isolated heart of the "princess without voice" which makes her connection to this solitary creature all the more real. Opposite her is the confident physical actor Doug Jones, manning the rubber suit of the creature in a brilliant bodily performance, outdoing his previous collaborative performances with Del Toro. Then Michael Shannon sensationally brings the real monster to the tale in Strickland, the dominating Colonel facing his battle in masculinity as well as with the creature. Shannon gives one of the best performances of his career, keeping with that classic fairy tale juxtaposition of man being the real monster.
As with all Del Toro's dark fantasies, it all becomes about the characters. Eliza reaching out to another like herself. Strickland trying to maintain his power and masculinity in his skirmish with the creature and Eliza. Hoffsetider being caught between to sides but seeking his own right, and Giles trying to find his significance back in society.
As never fails with a Del Toro films is the signature production design that brings to life these magnificent worlds. The Shape of Water although is not full Del Tory fairy tale land, does have a very extraordinary construct of the real world, from Eliza's apartment to the secret facility, echoing the true Gothic universe of the real world. Opening in a momentous title sequence, Del Toro literally floods the screen in ravishing visual effects and segments. Only more so combined with the inescapable talents of cinematographer: Dan Laustsen, swiftly moving from one room to the next in a mythical immersive experience alluring us furthermore into the depths of the story and art work of the film.
The Shape of Water is a wonderfully weird, quirky, heart-warming, extraordinary piece of cinema. For fans who have found Del Toro's previous works too dark or scary, will be delighted by this much more charming fantasy.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Only Denis Villeneurve
30 years after Ridley Scott's sci fi masterpiece, Denis Villeneuve astoundingly brings the epic classic back to the screen in a perfect sequel to the mind bending dystopian thriller.
In the year 2049, the Wallace corporation dominates the Nexus industry in producing new 'Replicants' with complete obedience, now a new Blade Runner: K, (Ryan Gosling) pursues the surviving Nexus 8 replicants, but unravels a shattering mystery.
After the tense drama of Prisoners, soul stirring atmosphere of Sicario, and immense experience of Arrival, learning that Villeneuve was going to direct the Blade Runner sequel, there was no other director who could take on the job, and the long awaited film is confirmation of that truth. It is clear that Villeneuve has great passion for the Scott's work, which is shown through the sensational craft of Blade Runner 2049.
The critical significance about Blade Runner is its eerie arty atmosphere unlike any science fiction thriller. Its not a action packed blockbuster, its a steady thought provoking neo noir. Villeneuve absolutely understands this and has continued this course remarkably in the sequel. What Villanueva and writer Hampton Fancher successfully produce is a progressing exploration into the stirring narratives of what it means to be alive and memory that drove the first film. Carrying more heart wrenching depth into these matters, 2049 provokes stronger spirit into the concept of Blade Runner. As the story of humans and replicants progresses more mind boggling and moving threads are revealed in this next chapter.
The most marvellous achievement of 2049 is the breath-taking scenery of the same dark dystopian Los Angeles in sensational colour schemes exhibiting the amazing realism of the Blade Runner world. So many moments of beautiful set pieces and design show the wonderful art that cinema really is, furthermore presented through the enchanting cinematography of Roger Deakins. A perspective into the Blade Runner world identical to the first vision in magnificent presence of vibrating terrain. From the towering lens flare city buildings in L.A, to the desolate orange wastelands of Las Vegas.
Of course one of the most memorable traits of the first film was Vangelis's shivering yet absorbing score, which again is brilliant revived through the work of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfirsch replicating (no pun intended) the startling and momentous sound of the captivating future.
Ryan Gosling again proves his brilliant talent, in a authentic performance of pain and humanity carrying the soul of the film through his character's journey. Jared Leto's scene chewing creepy Ninader Wallace is a disturbing display of character that will stay with you for a ages. Ford's returning presence was an impressive display especially in his first contact with Gosling (A reprisal I found much more credible than his performance in the recent Star Wars) Blade Runner 2049 is the cinematic spectacle people have been waiting for years and is arguable the most significant film of 2017 and is most defiantly one of the most mesmerising. The most perfectly executed sequel to a loved classic I have ever seen. The original Blade Runner for me will always be on top, but Denise Villeneuve's work is an exceptional accomplishment.
A Mother!'s Nightmare
Darren Aronofsky's disturbing nightmare parable horror-thriller, is a new masterclass work in cinematic depictions and narrative
In the comforting urban paradise, separated from the rest of the world, a husband and wife's tranquil life is disturbed by the continues arrival of uninvited guests. 'Mother'(Jennifer Lawrence) becomes incapable of stopping the trespasses 'Him' (Javier Barden) graciously invites the people into their homes as means to create inspiration for his writing. But as tensions and distress begin to flood the house, transcendent rage rises in the heart of Mother!
Aronofsky is very well known for his disturbing, surreal dark fantasies as shown by works like Black Swan, but Mother! is something else entirely. Never before has film like this been more alive cinematically. There is much to repel and divide audiences in the case of Mother!, what Aronofsky effectively achieves is moments of massive shock that may enrage audiences., but beyond the visual level is a much compelling nature.
In the very soul of the film is Jenifer Lawrence, the active housewife to Javier Barden, determined to respect her husbands ambitions, but also break his writers block. In a very extraordinary view, we are never not by Lawrence's side as the camera creeps astonishing behind Lawrence's every move in extreme close ups and over the shoulder shots. Consistently always from her point of view, we are easily transported into the nauseating nightmare that becomes her world. Even as she seeks gentle comfort from her husband, Barden presence and behaviour only drags us further into the depth of the horror.
Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are the first of the guests to arrive at the house, and from first contact immediately are most definitely no the company you want in your home. Pfeiffer is frustratingly terrific as the childlike, intrusive 'woman', with her nosy tendency to invading the couple's personal life which leaves 'mother's' aggressive lashes to be only responded by ignorance from the her husband and 'woman'.
The haunting presence of location within the house is fascinatingly portrayed by Matthew Libatique's cinematography, although always in focus on Lawrence, creates the Gothic environment of the harrowing home. In one scene, Libaitque takes us through and almost historic but apocalyptic journey through the house, during the shocking and jaw dropping climax.
Mother!'s ending result leaves you rather traumatised and overwhelmed by the astounding cinematic creation you have just witnessed. In an amazing display, Aronofsky has fabricating and elusive dream like vision layered in many and different narratives to be interpreted in multiple ways depending on its viewers. From a poetic expression of the collapse of a happy marriage to a comment on torment of mother nature, to also biblical depictions.
Mother! is masterfully constructed piece in whatever way you look at it. From surface level this work, is a very controversial and staggeringly difficult watch but as construction of narrative and cinema is phenomenal.
Wind River (2017)
Heat to the Cold Sheridan's fantastic crime thrillers work beyond change in weather
After the southern heat of Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan gives us the cold wintery thriller Wind River.
In the frosty Wind River Indian Reservation of Wyoming, the body an 18 year old Native American girl is discovered by Wildlife service agent Cory Lambett (Jeremy Renner). Lambett with his knowledge of the mountain assists foreign FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson) to track down the killer, but also his own personal reasons wants to find the killer in an attempt to wrestle his own demons.
Inspired by true cases of missing native American girls, Wind River has cold hearted passion in its story-telling. A very melancholy murder mystery drama exploring grief and vengeance but also the neglect of the Native Americans in the mountain regions in the USA.
During a time this week while I was pondering the significance of different crime thrillers, with also the approach of the The Snowman in November, Wind River is real important stand out. The film itself although is about a murder is more centred on the atmosphere and location. Repetitive vibes of a hellish land resonate throughout the film. This mostly breathed life by the chilly aerial shots of the cold mountain land, identifying misery through the snow breeze and wind (an atmospheric format that was similar expressed in Hell or High Water). The most haunting aspect is the character brought to Wind River by Nick Cave and Warren Elis eerie soundtrack, echoing the dark past of the freezing land.
What leads us into the desolate mystery of Wind River is Jeremey Renner superb performance as the experienced hunter possessed by the past but also enriched with perception of his home land and its welcome. Renner very much appears as himself, however is a perfect casting choice with his neutral expression hiding his deeper emotions. Opposite is Elizabeth Olson, the most convincing FBI agent I've seen on screen for a while. But her city slicker style does not prepare her for the divergent law enforcement experience in the isolated Wyoming. These two leads are the perfect casting, with a enigmatic presence that makes you completely believe in them.
While Wind River has deeper meaning at its centre, Sheridan knows how to thrill his audience in quiet sensational but violent sequences. Loud sound effects of the gun shots bring light to the silent landscape that the characters dwell, and present a sense of realism to the experience.
Sheridan's third feature in his trilogy of modern American law enforcement, following, Sicario, Hell or High Water, has shown his strength in creating masterful crime thrillers with much to reflect about the real world. This capacity has also lead stronger confidence his potential prospects in directing a Bond film. 9.2/10
So much Potential, just missed it
Mark Palansky's sci fi mystery has its heart just about in the right place but the rest of the film isn't.
Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage) becomes determined to solve the murder of "genius" Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan) the inventor of the "Rememory Machine" a device that allows you to witness your life memories. Meanwhile Bloom struggles with his grief and memories concerning the death of his brother.
Premiering at Sundance with starting 8.9 on IMDb and fantastic unique premise, Rememory looked liked a dream come true, until its recent release in the USA, and free limited viewing period on Google Play, which has lead to very poor reviews. But there is no right opinion just a majority so you never know whether you personally will like it. Well I can say for myself that the film does have so many things wrong with it....but in my book its not entirely terrible.
Written by Michael Vukadinovich, this story has so much potential to be something really meaningful. This is something that the film is striving for, but falls on its own a bit when it makes a few miss steps. Palansky, I do believe has captured the tone and atmosphere right but just doesn't follow through with what could make this film very memorable, wink wink. The concept of revisiting past memories that define our character is a key theme to works like, Inside Out, Eternal Sunshine, and Memento, but I believe that Rememory could have been on to something really heart-breaking but engaging as well. One of its flaws is how the film can't decide what it is, whether it wants to be a thriller, or drama. The trailer doesn't help what so ever. I think the film is stronger as an emotional drama about memory and identity, instead of a throw away missed thriller movie. Although the majority of the time it does try to be a mystery thriller, this genre gets lost in the emotional and character depth that the film tip toes on but never really embraces. This leaves a rather messy piece of work.
SO we've got this juggling of genres going on but he one of really issues is the characters. We are surrounded by very 2-D characters apart from Bloom, but his is where the film could be so much good. As Bloom investigates the subjects that were around the victim before he died, this is the perfect opportunity to discover this history and character and what connects them to Dunn. Unfortunately the film completely misses past the opportunity for character development and side lines of lot of good supporting stories. This could provide much emotional weight to the world of the characters and work with the melancholy tone that the film is swimming in. I don't know it anyone recalls the BBC Christmas TV film Lost Christmas (2011) which had a man and boy connecting different people to what they've lost in past Christmases, carrying so much emotional baggage from memories. This is exactly what Rememory could have become but it just wants a lot of different things.
Probably the joy of the film is watching the GOT star Peter Dinklage investigating a murder, instead of drinking wine and advising kings and queens. Dinklage gives a very sporting performance, especially when he engages opposite co-star Julie Ormond, but isn't quit enough on his own to save the film. The rest of the cast however, are doing a very half hearted job, with some poorly delivered lines and rather drowsy scenes. But probably with the lack of identity in the script must make it hard for the actors to work with.
Although I name these issues with the film, (I didn't even mention the rather slow pace) I don't hate this film, because what the film could be striving for, it does eventually reach at a low volume, but enough for this film to not be entirely dismissed. It is a shame though how the potential of the film is so good that it is wasted. But as always that's just my opinion, it is free on Google Play for a limited time, so it won't cost you anything to just see what its like for yourself. 6.0/10
Logan Lucky (2017)
Soderbergh's fun Hill Billy adventure
Steven Soderbergh's fun hill billy heist thriller hilariously knocks it out of the park., in this topsy turvey crime spree made up of a rump of a star cast.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) the caring recently fired father decides to go for gold in planning a heist in the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Combined with his one armed, sorry one handed bartender: brother Clyde (Adam Driver) who is depressed by his theory of misfortune that seems to follow he Logan family, and his stylist sister Mellie (Reily Keough) making the caper a nice family event. To assist them in breaking into this vault under the race track, the Logan's need to recruit "IN-CAR-CER-RA-TED" Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Craig leaving his comfortable British charm, for a mad southern criminal.
Soderbergh on familiar territory with a new caper film, from the director of the Oceans movies, Soderbergh definitely knows how to make a fun and exciting heist film. With a simple three act structure, of the plan, heist, and aftermath, Logan Lucky is enjoyable journey following our characters, debating whether we should really be on their side, until we see Hilary Swank's face, we know who the actual villain is.
The main joy of Logan Lucky is the characters and the ridiculous banter shared between them in the hilariously written dialogue. From one arm jokes, to making explosives with gummy bears, to one scene that will tickle the Game of Thrones fans.
Channing Tatum's Jimmy Logan is our classic anti-hero, very much lives or his daughter, with down hill life direction, we very much understand his need for this great money caper. Adam Driver's one handed Clyde Logan has a very emotionless personality but with an amusing southern accent and plastic arm provides many moments of humor. But its very agreeable to say that Craig is the standout performer, as Joe Bang. With his bleach white hair, strong southern accent, and high energy makes Craig very unrecognisable, but very entertaining and fun to watch. Another delightful character is also the supporting obnoxious British race car driver Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane) who also with an over the top British accent adds more hilarity in personalities to the group southern accents.
Its also fare to say that the film is at its strongest during the heist during the second act, which makes the rest of the film rather inferior but still enjoyable. With all the excitement, jokes and southern accents, does make Logan Lucky a very intoxicating hill Biliy cinema venture. 7.8/10