Best and Worst Films of 2017

I always hate it when I do these so late. Everyone is planning what they will see in the upcoming year and here I am twiddling my thumbs, trying to get this done in between work, life and doing fuck all. But there you go, not much I can do about it now, I’m sure you’re all very eager to find out what made the list and why. I’ve included honourable mentions for those who didn’t quite make it, frankly there were a lot of good films and a lot of terrible films in 2017. Let’s start with the worst.

Worst of 2017

10. Rules Don’t Apply

I listened to Warren Beatty speak passionately about this film. His interviews in the UK during the press tour were really excellent, he talked for hours and journalists loved it. It was such a joy to read and listen to. What a shame that the film is nothing but self-indulgent. It’s one of those movies you expect more from but that became such a huge disappointment. Beatty, playing Howard Hughes in this biopic, had returned to acting after more than a decade in hiatus. The film was oddly bad timing in fact. Whilst it came out quite a while before the Weinstein controversies, watching a much older man have private meetings with young girls really feels wrong. 

9. Alien: Covenant

This is how you kill a once great franchise. Correct me if I’m wrong but the first three Alien films were superb, entwining horror with sci-fi was a mark of genius. This however was not. Flute fingering aside, the film was predictable, dull and just plain pathetic. Whilst it was arguably better than Prometheus it had an abundance of stupidity; touching things you shouldn’t go near, the person in charge putting his head over an alien egg (guess what happens with one of those face-huggers) and a confusing set of plot details which make no sense. This is coming close to utterly ruining the franchise.

8. Suburbicon

One of the biggest let downs of the year. Directed by George Clooney, starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Issac should mean it’s a sure fire hit. You expect to be thoroughly entertained, maybe laugh, feel something or both and more. But no. Very much no. Unlike his previous efforts at directing, Clooney completely misses the mark on this one. A white family go on a killing spree but it’s the new black family who get all of the hassle from the racist neighbourhood. Whilst I understand what he was going for, he failed miserably. When a main character would start to talk, you’d sit and wait for them to shut up (besides the under used Issac who is the film’s only saving grace). In a Cohen brothers written script, this should never be the case. Perhaps the pair need to direct the films they write rather than palming them off.

7. Lost City of Z

Why Charlie Hunnam keeps getting roles is like asking how do they continually let Michael Bay behind a camera? The same can be said for Gerard Butler but we’ll get into that later. The plot revolved around an explorer and his team trying to find a lost city in the Amazons in the 1920s. It’s something that’s utterly forgettable but at the same time memorable for being pants. He was apparently good in the TV show Sons of Anarchy but besides that, I haven’t seen a decent performance from Hunnam at all. He made what was already a shite film even worse with his terrible acting and stupid face. Harsh? I don’t care! He sucks!

6. King Arthur

Oh for fuck sake! Here he is AGAIN! Bugger off Hunnam! You are on a list of terrible things about this pointless cockney remake. What the fuck was Guy Ritchie thinking?! I could almost hear someone say “up the apples and pears” every five bloody minutes, as if pandering to Americans because that’s what ALL Brits sound like, DON’T WE?! Character names, besides Arthur included Mischief John, Wet Stick and Back Lack. Why? Just. Why? At one point David Beckham shoves his into frame and says some god awful line which has something to do with pulling a sword out a stone. Apparently it’s so difficult they need instructions from an over the top sounding Londoner. Terrible.

5. Transformers: The Last Knight

Funnily enough this links up to the previous film. Not only does it feature the knights of the round table, it is also a fucking dreadful film. This is yet another incoherent movie in the Transformers franchise which continues to smash robots together. That’s pretty much it. That’ all that happens, it’s terrible. Screen Junkies describes  these films as junkyard having sex which is a great way to look at it! One thing I will say is that it’s less leery than previous addition but still treats women like they’re idiots. Fuck you Bay.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Frankly I don’t want to spend too much time on this however it is yet another Johnny Depp shitshow in which he uses his god given talent on a caricature. The very first film was excellent; entertaining, funny, genuinely. All of this was lacking in every other Pirates film including this one. Apparently this isn’t the end! Again, this film had a slight saving grace, Orlando Bloom was only in it for a very small amount of time. PHEW!

3. Baywatch

Shockingly this film was more sexist than Transformers. On every turn when it says “no offence” to a woman after some sort of sexist remark it’s trying to make it humorous. It fails to do so on a number of occasions. The trailers looked stupid, over the top but funny. I thought it would be ridiculous fun, but it was just ridiculous. I hate this film so much, I am slowly being put off Dwayne Johnson, which is not a good thing!

2. Geostorm

Oh Gerard Butler (or as a particular podcast calls him Shutup Buttwad) I can always rely on you to star in a terrible film in which the plot is batshit and everyone around it is just awful. Geostorm takes my number 2 spot in the worst films of the year. Yes believe it or not, there’s one other film worse than this. Last year it was London Has Fallen, the racist film with terrible action and awful VFX. Nothing has changed. Here, Butler is called on to punch the weather in the face after a computer which controls it is hacked. He literally needs to turn it off and on again in order to reboot it. It’s very telling of how bad a film is when the funny parts are boring and the serious parts are utterly hilarious. I watched this with a friend and we loudly mocked it via laughter. Highly recommended for those who want to lose several brain cells.

1. The Emoji Movie

When I left the cinema after seeing this “film”, I’ve never ever felt so awful about myself. I felt sick and hated who I was. Thankfully I had nothing to do with the making of this terrible affliction we’ve suffered through. Worse yet, this was the first movie to be shown in the cinema after the 35 year ban was lifted in Saudi Arabia. I assume they will put that back in force after this. This was a glorified advert for all apps we use on a regular basis with no sense of humour and James Corden. If the apocalypse doesn’t come soon, we’ll be lucky. Their own poster pretty much sums it up.

Okay I think that’s all of my hate pretty much gone. Oh wait! There’s still a bit left for Downsizing (a good concept which becomes dull very quickly with a large dollop of racism thanks to the over the top Vietnamese accent), Live by Night (you look at Affleck’s previous directorial work and it’s mostly very good! This? Generic, dull, disappointing and pointless. A huge let down), Viceroy’s House (if you want to tell a story about the segregation which lead to India becoming India and Pakistan, fine. Do it I say. As someone with Indian heritage it’s somewhat insulting to tell the story of the white people involved instead of the richer stories there will be of those having to shift their entire life across hundreds of miles. It was dreadful), Life (basically an Alien rip off with an all star cast. It’s got everything you’d expect from a film like this which is good looking stupid scientists try to defeat some goo. Seems pretty pointless to have made this although I think they want to do more. WHY?!) and Manifesto (I’m so angry at this film, partly because it was a waste of time, partly because others loved it. I didn’t. It was a patronizing and pretentious piece of propaganda in which we were consistently told by a number of Cate Blanchett iterations why art and other aspects of life are so great. This was an experiment gone wrong).

Best of 2017

10. God’s Own Country

The story is of a young farmer who starts a relationship with a Romanian who comes to work for them. The bond the two share feels genuine. There are moments of a proud father telling his son his true feelings as well as heartbreaking conversations had between the two young men, all of which hit you hard. Directed by Francis Lee, it’s a film which was at one point described as a British Brokeback Mountain but it is so much more than that. It’s not just focusing on two people, it brings others into this story by showing how complex a relationship in a small town like this can be. If you’ve never been sure if your father is proud of you or you feel lost in your current life, this is a truly tough watch.

9. The Levelling

This is yet another one set on a farm, however with a mystery surrounding it’s entire plot. Clover (Ellie Kendrick) returns home after the death of her brother and has to face her father, a man she hasn’t seen in years. Their relationship is tense to say the least. The family drama which is depicted throughout the narrative hits all the right notes as it pushes through to its gut wrenching end. A superb film, brilliantly written, with stunning shots throughout and I would just like to mention Kendrick whose performance of her overwrought character is one of the best I saw in 2017.

8. Raw

Whilst a lot of people were talking about the cannibalism, it says something a lot more powerful about family and the bonds you share with them. Raw pushes the family drama to new heights and dimensions where we see two sisters become closer over something forbidden. A vegetarian enters veterinary college with her sister and soon begins to have unwanted feelings towards meat, unleashing her carnivorous side. The film comes together right at the end which drops down like an emotional time bomb that’s always been there but no one ever knew. This is a film which caused controversy due to what some say is it’s core subject, however to me it’s about a family and all that you are willing to do for them.

7. Paddington 2

Possibly the nicest film of all time. Paddington 2 is surprisingly better than it’s predecessor. Our favourite CGI bear gets caught up in a burglary and ends up going to prison for a crime he obviously didn’t commit. Why would he? The plot then revolves around getting him freed whilst he meets Brendan Gleeson’s Knuckles McGinty and we get to see how being nice even in prison can help make you a lot of friends. The cast is choc full of British talent including a now award nominated performance from Hugh Grant (Best Supporting Actor in BAFTA) who plays Phoenix Buchanan. He’s a deliciously evil villain and is having a superb time playing him. If you don’t cry at the end, you’re dead inside. Such a warm and wonderful film.

6. My Life as a Courgette

At around an hour and 10 minutes, it’s impressive to see My Life as a Courgette speak volumes throughout, developing its characters and has a fully rounded story too. A lot of films which are an unnecessary 2 hours+ could learn a thing or two. Courgette, as he is called, is taken to a foster home after his mother dies. It’s here where he meets a collective of children in similar situations. All of them feel as if they have been left behind and have no where else to go. What you get is a story in which all of the characters are shown in an honest light, it creates a bond between them and it comes up with some the most emotional wrenching scenes ever put on film. 70 minutes is all it needed to do that. Why can’t we have more which are as smart as this?

5. Shape of Water

One of the most beautiful films and it’s not at all surprising that it comes from Guillermo del Toro, the mind who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth. The love story which unfolds with the creature and Sally Hawkins’ Elisa is unexpected and warming. Two living things who in many ways are treated as if they do not belong in society come together and forge a narrative which feels heartfelt and original. Sally Hawkins is superb in it, being a mute throughout the film, she mainly acts through expressions on her face.

4. Logan

Without question, the solo Wolverine films have been sub-par at best. They’ve never been able to give him the claws he needs and he’s never truly expressed his rage as he’s meant to. Well, his time finally came in Logan. The fact that it was just called Logan, no X-Men, no Wolverine, showed a lot of direction already. It was going to be simplified and stripped back. Hugh Jackman and James Mangold both came up with a way that prove to be the perfect send off and apparently told the studio that is was their way or no way. It really paid off, it became a gritty, brutal, extremely violent comicbook movie in which the biggest thing that blows up is a van. Thanks to the performances from Jackman, Patrick Stewart and surprisingly Stephen Merchant, plus the direction from Mangold what we saw something we have never seen in this genre. It gave us an ending that not only felt satisfying but personal too.

3. Get Out

Jordan Peele’s debut film was a surprise hit, making $254.6m after being made for just $4.5. The financial side shows how well it did but not only did it make a stupid amount of money, the critics love it too. For everyone to enjoy a horror film this much is very rare, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen before. The reason it did so well is because of its originality, the sharp script, its comment on society in racism deep seeded in America (coming out during the Trump era Presidency) and there were some genuinely terrifying moments in it. Real jump scares, a sense of nervousness as soon as they reach the house and moments that will truly haunt you.

2. Call Me By Your Name

It’s rare for a film to stay with you the way Call Me By Your Name does but I found myself thinking about it and how deeply it affected me. We have all been the young adolescent who has their heart broken, however when a relationship comes out of nowhere and it hits you as this does then ends suddenly, it’s worse. Believe me, it hurts. This became a beautiful and tender romance between Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) that goes further than they thought possible. Their performances have received numerous praise from countless critics and rightly so.

1. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s latest has been called perfect and accurate from war veterans who were there, how can anyone say it’s a bad film? People have, friends of mine were not a fan of how there was no depth in character and therefore didn’t qualify as a good film. They are wrong. The film was an intense look at a time when no one thought they would survive, when they were trapped with no escape. Its use of sound and music gave it a scope like no other, telling its story in three different intertwining timelines, Nolan pushes his film making skills further buy using some of the real planes and boats who were part of Dunkirk. If you’ve not seen it yet, check it out in IMAX. It’s a great way to see it.

A few honourable mentions for The Lovers (a rarely good and very funny romantic comedy about an older couple, each of whom is having an affair), Spider-Man: Homecoming (who knew we could get an original Spider-Man film after we’ve already had 5! Well done Marvel) Baby Driver (minus the actor who has tainted all of his films and his TV show, this was a thrill ride from start to finish, dancing cars and cutting music in with it to match each frame. Just genius film making from Edgar Wright) Prevenge (yet another funny horror, this time from Alice Lowe. She’s possessed by a baby and goes on a killing spree. As batshit as you’d expect, very violent and very funny), War for the Planet of the Apes (the third in a trilogy is rarely as good as this. The technology to make these apes look real is unbelievable. It makes you care about their plight even more than before, an amazing story and so brilliantly told), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (yeah sod off fan boys who don’t like it because it’s not what Star Wars is. If it continued the way you want it to, the franchise would die! An original film which fixes its gender problem and pushes the saga in a direction we never seen it go before), Toni Erdmann (all I will say is that it’s a very funny German film, I promise you laugh a lot), The Big Sick (being a brown guy who is going out with a white girl, I just had to see this. It’s a sweet, funny and heartwarming film, with probably the best 9/11 joke ever) and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Jamie Belle has never been better and Annette Benning was superb as the ageing actress whose life isn’t going as well as it once was. A really wonderful film in which these two bond with such ease, it doesn’t ever make you doubt their relationship.)

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer, review 

A doctor has his life turned upside down when he’s given an unthinkable choice after a boy, who he has taken under his wing, turns sinister. 

Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t ordinarily deal with the conventional. From Dogtooth in which three teenagers never leave their home because of overprotective parents to Lobster where a community of people are turned into an animal of their choosing if their search for love in a hotel fails after 45 days. He continues to comment on society and it’s rules with interesting storytelling techniques and smartly driven scripts. The Killing of a Sacred Deer may be his most narratively conventional film but it’s just as breathtaking to watch.

Colin Farrell plays a successful surgeon Steven Murphy, who is a family man, he commands a great deal of respect from the medical community. He and his wife Anna, played by Nicole Kidman live in a beautiful house with their children (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic). Farrell and Kidman’s chemistry is razor sharp, as they compliment each other’s performance. Their wry dialogue and awkward sexual tension is just as painful to watch as it is intriguing.

Steven has been spending time with a young boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan) with whom he has an unconventional friendship. The pair have lunch and take walks, it’s almost as if they are concealing an extra marital affair. It becomes clear that whilst these two are friends and Steven is protective over him, they don’t share the same bond as the other relationships in his life. Things take a turn when he threatens Steven’s family by informing him that his wife and two children will lose the use of their legs, have no appetite, bleed from the eyes and perish unless he is to kill one of them himself. 

To look at previous work by Lanthimos, he creates odd ball characters in unusual situations. His work on Dogtooth got him noticed as an auteur of the strange after being nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2011 Oscars as well as receiving widespread praise for 2015’s The Lobster, also starring Farrell. He has a way of inserting an underlying menance into the body of his films, creating almost unintentionally comedic moments which make you cringe as you laugh. Killing of a Sacred Deer is no different, making you wince at the conversation concerning Farrell’s daughter getting her first period and raise a slightly awkward smile when he discusses watches with a colleague and why his is apparently better. You cannot take your eyes off these scenes even when speaking about mundane subjects, as the camera follows, thanks to Lanthimos’ regular cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, it creates a claustrophobic atmosphere which is trick well pulled off in these wide open spaces. 

Farrell and Kidman’s relationship slowly crumbles as Martin continues his plan, its Keoghan who shines. His dead eyes, blunt talking and honesty seal his sinister character. As their lives become more intense, their actions are increasingly erratic leading to a conclusion only this director could concoct. Just a quick mention to Martin’s painfully single mother played by Alicia Silverstone who Steven meets whilst at their home. She comes across as sadly desperate and delivers the best line “I won’t let you leave until you’ve tried my tart.”

Like Dogtooth about over protective parents or Alps, helping those who have lost someone or Lobster, about societal pressures to find love, the plot is kept simple. Essentially this is a revenge story with a twist. The director’s signature unnerving style is nothing like anything you’ll see.

4 out of 5.

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Avengers: Infinity War – Trailer Breakdown

It’s been 10 years in the making and when Marvel began with Iron Man in 2008, they had no idea where they were going. However, the consistent success and being able to go deeper with characters by developing their stories more, they have arrived at Infinity War. 

Classically, in the comic books, Civil War is bigger than Infinity War, however they’ve taken a different route when culminating these characters in one film. By the time it’s out, there will have been 18 films part of the MCU something that no one thought would happen. Here’s the trailer, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Beginning with a statement from a number of the Avengers, it’s what Nick Fury said to get his team together in Avengers Assemble, desperately clinging onto what was left of his mostly disbanded team by telling them about a plan to bring together a group of remarkable individuals. A plan known as the Avenger Initiative. Fury, Iron Man, Vision, Thor, Black Widow all share lines from statement, as we see each of them in separate shots. During this montage there’s a human Vision in the form of Paul Bettany with Scarlett Witch, perhaps this is real however it’s more likely that it’s a dream sequence. In the comics they develop a relationship which is heavily hinted at here.

There’s also a confused looking Bruce Banner who seems to have crashed into Sanctum Sanctorum with Doctor Strange and Wong. There’s even a reunion between Banner and Black Widow hinted at, something we all can’t wait for. We then see Wong, Strange, Banner and Tony Stark again in New York’s Sanctum Sanctorum, shortly after Stark leaves and then a brief shot of Peter Parker and his Spidey sense kicking in as he see a round contraption in the skyline. 

Showing war torn streets and then Loki handing over the Tesseract to Thanos who reveals himself just as Spider-Man shows off his new suit which we first saw in Homecoming. Thor shows up, as does Steve Rogers (I have NO idea if I am to call him Captain America any more, should I? Is he Nomad now?? Not a clue!) as he dodges and grabs a spear thrown at him by Proxima Midnight, one of Thanos’ Black Order. It’s a welcome return for Rogers who comes out of the shadows sporting a sexy beard as Black Panther demands that someone gets him a shield.

During the trailer, we see plenty of fights and battles which is what you expect from a film with the word War in the title. There’s a team up including Rogers (long hair flowing as he runs and punches. I think I have a new man crush), Falcon, Okoye, War Machine, Hulk, Black Widow, Bucky and Black Panther an army with them. 

The Hulkbuster armour makes an unexpected reappearance and both Tony and Peter get beaten badly by Thanos himself. It’s a brutal trailer which gets worse for the Avengers as we see Vision’s stone being almost ripped out of his head and Thanos loads his Infinity Gauntlet with just a few stones. No scenes with Stark and Rogers, however it’s assumed that they have kissed and made up by now, but who knows how??

Frankly we see everyone including a brief teaser at the end with Thor with one eye meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, however a couple of notable absences include Hawkeye and Ant-Man who have been Luke Skywalkered! It’ll be curious to see why they aren’t in the trailer, especially Ant-Man who isn’t in the ComicCon poster either.

All in all it’s a very interesting trailer, showing most of the characters we have all come to love battling Thanos and co. who has a power that they be never come up against before. Deaths of the Avengers, especially in its original line up are to be expected, however whether that’ll happen in 2018’s Infinity War or in the as yet Untitled Avengers 4 out in 2019 remains to be seen. 

The Russo brothers have taken the helm with this being their third MCU film once again working with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Avengers: Infinity War is set for an April 27th release in the UK and May 4th in the USA. 

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downsizing, review

During a financially difficult time in their lives Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wigg) decide to go in for a new procedure in which they are shrunk down to join a community of people 1/16 their original size.

Alexander Payne’s filmography boasts of Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. His experience with characters looking for something in their lives is solid, so it’s a shame to see such an amazing concept fall short.

Matt Damon stars with his on-screen wife Kristen Wigg, they play Paul and Audrey Safranek, whose last name becomes a tired running gag when others are trying to pronounce it. After seeing a report about downsizing on TV and meeting a couple who had the procedure at their high school reunion they decide to do a little research. They are told their money would be worth a considerable amount more (their $152,000 converts into a whopping $12m) and due to their recent financial troubles, they both opt to go ahead with it, knowing full well that it’s irreversible.

The script, co-written with Payne’s regular partner Jim Taylor, is smart as it doesn’t take the easy route of making short jokes, if anything their choice of lifestyle is a cause of friction with problems including their right to vote and the amount of taxes they pay. The writing pair have come up with real world problems which could happen if life ever imitated art. Whilst there is very little waste and they don’t take up much room there are still issues such as it becoming easier to smuggle people from country and country whether for political purposes or to harm others. It gives it a genuine feel which the rest of the film mostly fails to do.

It’s supporting cast is made up of Jason Sudekis, the high school friend who is instrumental in convincing the Safraneks that this was the best thing they’ve done, Christoph Waltz, the charmingly smug and entertaining upstairs neighbour Dusan Mirkovic who is constantly holding parties and trying to convince Paul not to be so boring, and his cleaner Ngoc Lan Tran who slowly becomes the crux of the story. She comes from Vietnam and her unfortunate accent is entirely put on by actress Hong Chau. When imitating a real accent there should be a level of caution taken however she becomes the source of “comedy relief”. It comes across as though they are mimicking their culture which felt like a real low point.

There are constant reminders that these people are small, including a full sized dollar bill hung on a wall and a flower which is literally carried around so you don’t forget. It’s this sort of technique which proves that, whilst the concept is smart and original, this is just another film about lost people connecting in an unlikely place. It’s fine but loses credit in the by reminding you what these people are. 

With an idea as original as this (admittedly others have been shrunk in movies before but it’s ordinarily against their will) and some good performances, it’s a shame it feels the need to remind you what it’s about. As it reaches it’s anti-climactic end, you can’t help but feel short changed 

3 out of 5.

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Brawl in Cell Block 99, review

After becoming a drug-runner, former boxer Bradley Thomas gets imprisoned in a maximum security facility to complete a violent task.

Until a few years ago, Vince Vaughan was primarly seen as a comedic actor. Starring in movies such as Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball and Old School, he made his mark on the industry by making people laugh. More recently however he’s been pushing his serious actor status after working on various projects such as Hacksaw Ridge, True Detective and now Brawl in Cell Block 99. Whilst he’s an interesting presence, the film isn’t quite the role Vaughan was probably hoping for. 

He stars as Bradley (not Brad) Thomas, a former boxer who is fired from his job at a garage. Feeling desperate to provide for his wife, he turns to drug dealer Gil to become a driver in order to make a living. When a deal goes wrong, he’s arrested and thrown into prison. During Bradley’s stint, his wife is kidnapped and he’s tasked with killing a fellow inmate in order to get her back. 

The film rests on Vaughan’s fighting skills and that is something which is worth seeing, at first. Besides his anger, he’s relatively emotionless, only breaking down once. A straight talker who tells you what he’s thinking, it seems he’s always on the lookout for trouble, even before prison. Furiously smashing a car with his bare fists, breaking bones of those who get in his way, even becoming aggressive with his own associates, it’s clear that he’s been like this for a while. It’s a heavy weight to carry and Vaughan doesn’t quite manage it. His fighting style becomes quite dull as it’s the same thing over and over again. He’s easily the best thing but when he’s up against several mishandled supporting characters such as the warden pretending to be a sheriff  (he may as well literally have said “I’m the sheriff in this town”) and a few slimey bad guys, it’s not that difficult. The prison guards were pretty funny though, you can imagine the sense of humour you need to work in a place like that.

This is a messy, brutal and fierce film looking to make Vince Vaughan into a bigger brute than he seems. It’s certainly commendable but falls flat due to it’s clunky dialogue, over the top gore and a terrible supporting cast.

2 out of 5.

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The Shape of Water, review

A lonely woman who is employed as a cleaner at a highly secure government laboratory has her life changed after bonding with a creature. 

Guillermo del Toro has created a striking film in which he has combined the genres of fantasy, fairytale and love story all in one. Using modern society as an inspiration and being set during a cold war era, two living things bond in the most unlikely of places.

Sally Hawkins plays Eliza, who works as a cleaner at a laboratory based in Baltimore. She lives on her own above a cinema and counts her chatty neighbour Giles (an incredibly likeable Richard Jenkins) and her protective co-worker Zelda (the always wonderful Octavia Spencer) as her friends. During a routine shift a creature, referred to by Strickland (Michael Shannon) as the asset, is wheeled through in a metal tank. Eliza’s first encounter with the amphibious being is brief but immediately intriguing.

From here, the pair bond over being outcasts. They are both mute and share a love for each other’s company, Eliza is able to communicate with the creature on a level like no other human can. Her child like demeanour and love of imitating old movies gives her the perfect amount of innocence and fascination to be at complete ease with it. Hawkins has formed a character around being mute and somehow made her charming, sweet, adorable and likeable without the use of a single word. Her performance pushes the boundaries of what you’d expect from an actress of such high calibre. Shannon’s turn as the deliciously evil, mildly threatening family man gives you a villain to hate and admire. His terrifying grin and idiosyncratic love of a type of particular sweet gives him an edge of unsure malice. Despite it’s subject matter, the movie still has several moments of comedy relief including a scene involving a number of pies and another with Zelda proclaiming “Some of the best minds in the country and they still pee all over the floor in here”. The humour adds a level of realism in what is a fantasy film.

A beautiful fantasy film with a breathtaking creature and stellar performances from Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon makes this film a contender during awards season.

4 out of 5.

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The Breadwinner, review

A girl in Afghanistan pretends to be a boy in order to provide for her family after her father is wrongly imprisoned.

For girls to go outside without a male member of their family in certain parts of the world is unthinkable. They are still considered second class citizens and treated as such. Even when they are with a member of their own family, it is still looked down upon. This is the premise of The Breadwinner, an animated film by Nora Twomey who is directing her first solo feature. Taking place in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, it shows the harsh conditions people have to endure in order to live.

Creating the initially atmosphere, The Breadwinner is a beautiful looking film, with stunning landscapes and scenes along with sounds to accompany them. The oppressing environment girls are living in is also established quickly with the girl, Parvana (Saara Chaudry) who is selling items with her father at the local market. During an altercation with three men, her father is told she should not have left the house and both are almost beaten for doing so. As things escalate, her father is hauled off to prison, leaving the family with little money and food. Shortly after she is being chased away from attempting to go shopping on her own, which forces Parvana to disguise herself as a boy to provide for her family. Living with her sick mother, older sister and younger brother, there are a lot of mouths to feed, Parvana puts pressure on herself to be the breadwinner. 

Parvana is a strong willed girl who uses her method of storytelling as her own form of escapism and dealing with harrowing events from her past. The flashes into her story about a boy trying to defeat an evil spirit are as equally gorgeous as the rest of the film, looking as if it’s been cut out from paper. These dream like images pushes it’s plot forward by becoming more erratic as does their situation at home. 

During the course of the movie, we are constantly reminded of the place women have in this particular society. They are beaten for no reason, told not to work, that men are always in charge, that they should be staying at home and look after the men in their family and do nothing else. It’s with this that the director shows what our protagonist is made of, defying what the social convention is whilst hiding who she is. 

The beauty of the animation is matched by the emotional weight within it’s characters. The torture and torment they all suffer on different levels hits the perfect mark in each scene. 

4 out of 5.

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Battle of the Sexes, review

After becoming the most successful female player of all time, Billie Jean King is challenged to a match from retired male player, Bobby Riggs.

Tennis movies are a difficult one to crack. It’s not the most cinematic event to watch and it’s only occasionally exciting. How do you create an exciting film in which one ball gets hit around a court by two people? Well, you cut it out of most of the movie. This is what Battle of the Sexes has done, which focuses more on the of politics of man vs. woman than the sport itself. A smart move from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Based on true events from 1973, it begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) winning a pivotal match which makes her the most succesful female tennis player of all time. Shortly after, she’s told by her sassy friend Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman, clearly enjoying herself a lot) that the women’s prize money will be considerably less than that of the men’s. This news triggers a surprise meeting with Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), the man who has made this decision based on his own sexist views which essentially boils down to men are better than women. It’s this encounter which spurs Billie to start a rival tournament.

It’s impossible to keep count of the amount of sexist and patronising comments said by men which, whilst frustrating, serve a narrative purpose to the feminist story being told. Billie takes on the establishment for not helping her and other female tennis players despite selling just as many tickets as their male counterparts. The discourse in female rights, social politics and male dominance is rife throughout the movie’s central plot. Steve Carell’s Bobby Riggs is one one of these men. Frustrated by his post tennis career and working at his father in-laws business, he gets the idea to play against Billie during a late night tennis match which is funding his gambling habbit.

The pacing of the film is perfectly executed, going from the rise of Billie’s defying tournament, and moving on to her personal life whilst weaving it into her career. There’s a real sense of creating a narrative which links together very nearly, and with it’s smart writing from Simon Beaufoy, it achieves this with ease. The tension between King and Riggs builds before the climax towards the end.

Carell and Stone both give perfect performances. The former as the flamboyant, over the top, annoyingly charming (despite his sexist remarks) Riggs. He has channelled what it’s like to go from world phenomenon to working in an office, becoming increasingly irritated by his own mundane existence. The latter convincingly battles with countless men regarding their views on what women can and can’t do as well as concealing her sexuality during a time when it was not considered wholesome to be anything but straight and married with children. At one point she meets the open minded and going with the flow Marilyn Barnett played by Andrea Riseborough. The pair have an immediate spark which is difficult to fake. Stone embodies the most perfect version of Billie Jean King; an activist in a repressive time. 

It’s an impressive sports film without much sport, it deals with the gender politics perfectly and accurately looks at how tough women had it (and still have it). It’s final match fails to get to the lofty heights of excitement you usually witness in a boxing movie however it’s more than that. It shows how far we’ve come and how far we’re yet to go.

4 out of 5. 

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Release New Trailer, Images and Poster

We finally have a brand new trailer for The Last Jedi and it seem Disney are being very generous by giving us some images and a new poster too. Some of the images have been taken directly from the new trailer, all of which features the cast in it’s entirety. 

Since seeing the first trailer about 5 months ago, fans have been eagerly awaiting more from the upcoming continuation of the saga. We’ve had a few images released along with the Vanity Fair photo shoot but now we have more! Take a look at the trailer, poster and images below.

What we see includes an all out war against the First Order, Chewbacca with an adorable new friend in the Millennium Falcon, Finn taking on Phasma, General Huxleading Stormtroopers (possibly including the rumoured Tom Hardy) into battle, Rey potentially turning over to the Dark Side, Kylo Ren acting like an angry child again with the chance of killing his mother and Luke FINALLY getting something to say. He’ll be happy with that.

The new poster is pushing the colour red even more than before, we have Luke, Finn, Rey, Poe, Leia, Chewie, General Hux, R2D2, C3PO, BB8, Phasma, Rose Rico and lots of red. Very curious to see why they’ve gone this way with this colour, not long until we get to see it.

Star Wars. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi will be released in the UK on December 14th, with Rian Johnson directing. I’ve heard that tickets are on sale this week so check your local listings. 

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Wonderstruck, review

A young boy’s story of finding his estranged father intertwines with that of a girl 50 years previous. 

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” The movie starts with a dream of wolves and this quote, which introduces us to Ben, the vulnerable protagonist of this story. In the first few minutes we learn that he’s living with his aunt and cousins after the death of his mother. It soon cuts to 50 years previously in 1927 where a deaf girl is searching for a famous actress she appears to be an admirer of. 

It’s from here that the film intertwines it’s story, showing their paths both of which lead to New York. Ben, played by Oakes Fegley, makes his way using a coach after escaping from a hospital following an accident. His clues lead him on different roads to find out about his father. Whereas Rose (Millicent Simmonds) runs away from home to escape her repressed childhood and frightful father. 

Along the way we’re introduced to Ben’s mother, Elaine (Michelle Williams), Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore) and Jamie (Jaden Michael), a friend Ben makes whilst searching for answers. His father works at the museum of natural history so it’s here where the pair bond in the way children do; curiosity. 

Both Oakes and Millicent give decent performances to portray the struggles they would be going through in different times, however when you have a cast that includes Michelle Williams, who pretty much just makes a cameo and Julianne Moore, there is no competing. The two are effortlessly brilliant as ever, Williams once again picking a relatively small film and Moore expressing everything in the odd look here and there. You can see it all in her face. 

However these two are not enough to save what is a pretty flimsy film. The intricate weave it’s trying to put together doesn’t quite pay off. It struggles with the amount of time it spends with Jamie, who doesn’t have a narrative point and serves absolutely no purpose. If anything he slows down our protagonist in getting to where he needs to go. This creates a lengthy running time of almost two hours, with a film that should really be an hour and half. Tops. 

With an interesting premise and a promising start, this is a movie being pushed down by it’s inability to cut scenes from a weighty script.

2 out of 5.

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