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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Colin Trevorrow Has Left Star Wars Episode IX

A mutual decision by Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow has resulted in the director leaving Star Wars Episode IX. It was announced by Disney yesterday that due to having different ‘visions on the project’ they have parted ways leaving it open for another director to step in. 

In a statement regarding Trevorrow, Disney has said ‘Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutual chosen to part ways on Star Wars Episode IX. Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.’
The news comes after Ron Howard replaced the fired Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the Han Solo movie in June. Recent rumours have surfaced regarding their sacking including their attempt to make Han Solo similar to Ace Ventura. The directors had been working on this film for almost 2 years so this came as quite a shock.

Trevorrow was announced as director of Episode IX on 2015 after the success of Jurassic World which has rebooted the franchise after making $1.6bn at the box office.

A replacement director has not been announced just yet so watch this space. Star Wars Episode IX is due for release on June 21st, 2019 with the next part of the saga The Last Jedi in cinemas on December 14th, 2017.

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