Dumbo – Review

There are a few notable things about Disney’s classic Dumbo animation film from 1952. One of the biggest things is that it now seems completely dated, with uncouth stereotypes and animal captivity in the circus. The other big thing – well, small really – is that it is only 64 minutes. A nice somewhat charming tale that comes in just over an hour because that’s all it truly needs to be.

Tim Burton manages to adapt and change all of that for his latest movie spectacular. After a run of poorly-received films such as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Dark Shadows, is Burton back on top with Dumbo? The big top?

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For those who haven’t heard the story of Dumbo, the film revolves around Medici’s travelling circus. Fallen on hard times, it’s namesake owner has decided to sell anything. When wartime hero Holt comes back from the war injured, he is dismayed to hear about the passing of his wife – having to now look after his to children alone. Once a horse performer, he now has to tend to the elephants and, lo and behold, one gives birth to a daft looking elephant with huge ears. Ferrier’s children Milly and Joe look after him, only his surprising talent piques the interest of someone else…
As family adventures go, Burton has crafted a film that has a lot of imagination. The great world of vintage circus is on display with glorious outfits and timely set pieces. The titular animal is crafted by an elephant performer and CGI and the result is magical – making Dumbo absolutely adorable with big blue eyes that you cannot help but root for. There is a lot of emotion here and the melodious scene of Baby Mine still pulls at your heart-strings as much as the classic did.

The problem is that even with the colours, sights, and sounds, there is still this incessant Burton drabness that dilutes the proceedings. Plus, the original is an hour long – just over. Trying to stretch that film into a two hour story is ambitious, and it doesn’t work. If anything, it just slows the movie down. The climax should be Dumbo figuring out he can fly and does so outstandingly in front of an audience. It’s the classic story but that’s why it works – it’s all about Dumbo’s self-believe in the face of bullying, and adversity. Instead, Burton changes the message. He does all his flying work in less than an hour and is taken to a Coney Island funfair to be the main attraction.

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Soon the film changes tone and tempo to become a escape film that warns of the moral implications of keeping animals in captivity for entertainment. It’s somewhat admirable that Burton would focus on this but it doesn’t quite fit the movie or momentum, causing it to drag in places.

With Dumbo, there is more heart in here than most of Burton’s latest releases and that works to keep you entertained for the runtime. Colin Farrell makes a compelling Dad (and a very hot clown,) whilst Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins are charming children to root for. Dumbo just gets sloppy and it is an unnecessary outing.

Go, however, purely for the adorable elephant!

Dumbo is out 29th March

Under the Silver Lake – Review

When you craft a really impeccable first film, there is a lot of pressure to provide an equally great second film.

Some directors take this in their stride.  Jordan Peele, for example, after winning an Academy Award for Get Out, followed up with the horrifying Us. Barry Jenkins’ crafted the superb Moonlight then his next movie was the phenomenal If Beale Street Could Talk.

Some directors cannot rise to the greatness of the first film.

Under the Silver Lake, a sophomore release for It Follows director David Robert Mitchell, manages to straddle both – become a perplexing film that never full rises to the occasion but doesn’t entirely sink to the bottom either.

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Starring Andrew Garfield, Under The Silver Lake revolves around Sam – a nice but lazy guy who spends his time watching his neighbours in his flat on Silver Lake. When he falls for an attractive girl in his block, they spend a night together only for her to disappear the very next day. Soon he starts seeing clues everywhere. Following the signs seemingly left for him, Sam is about to uncover some fiendish plot that controls the whole city of Los Angeles…

David Robert Mitchell’s neo-noir fantasy is a sharply shot and colourful film that boasts some exquisite shots and beautiful colour-grading to match its weird storyline. Andrew Garfield gives his best performance as an increasingly erratic loser who plunges himself into the deep seedy underworld of Hollywood and its surrounding towns. His big doe eyes lend themselves well to Sam’s curiosity and Garfield manages the humour, the fear, and the lunacy quite well.

Music by Disasterpeace, though over-bearing in places, is also well-pitched in others.

There’s a fear in claiming a film is nonsensical because then commenters come out of the woodwork to proclaim that one doesn’t “get it” or are “too stupid to understand.” No – on the basic level Under the Silver Lake has a pretty standard plotline – girl goes missing, secret codes, cults, and the whole she-bang. The problem is that the movie just haphazardly adds elements that don’t gel with the film or add any sustenance to the proceedings. It is so indulgent and sniffs of desperation to be edgy and quirky – never quite feeling like both. The tonal shifts and inability to decide what it is trying to be is off-putting, making it dull in places.

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And yet…and yet… you can’t help but find yourself drawn into this messy spider’s web. Under the Silver Lake dives into the story head-first and that’s somewhat admirable. It’s film full of contention that’ll split people down the middle on every part here. From the misogyny of our lead character and the films numerous breast shots (is that a flaw of the character or the film?), to the weird supernatural phenomenons that crop up throughout, Under the Silver Lake will probably be discussed and chopped up for years to come .

The one thing about Under the Silver Lake is that it’s era-less aesthetic, capturing a different and unusual heart of Los Angeles made me reminisce about how good The Nice Guys were. So, so good.

Under the Silver Lake is in cinemas and available on MUBI now! 

Fisherman’s Friends – Review

The underdogs have always been a staple of British cinema. From the clumsy Bridget Jones’ Diary to Dexter Fletcher’s Eddie the Eagle, we just love to root for the outsider. Heck, even the brilliant The Fully Monty saw a bunch of ragtag men jubilantly take their clothes off to Tom Jones’ You Can Leave Your Hat On (and you will always cry, always.)

Anyway, maybe because we all feel like underdogs and we’re just too polite to say it, but underdogs are our cinematic bread and butter.
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Fisherman’s Friends is the latest story to come along in this wheelhouse. Based, of course, on a true story, the film revolves around an all-male singing group in Port Issac, Cornwall. Happily singing tunes for locals and tourists, they are content with taking to the seas and the pub after a hard day on the waves. When a bunch of music executives arrive for a stag-do, they drunkenly upset the order. In a weird practical joke, they leave behind Danny with the task of signing the band (as a laugh,) and soon Danny immerses himself in the town. Soon he finds that maybe the Fisherman’s Friends isn’t what he is truly looking for.

Directed by Chris Foggin, Fisherman’s Friends is your average inspiring garb that despite it’s flaws will still make you feel things and cry a bit. It’s a tender film with some epic singing and great acting from the wide-eyed Daniel Mays to the strong-willed Tuppence Middleton (both, of which, need to be cast in more things.) Though the film ticks all the “inspiring story” boxes, the movie still finds a good groove and makes us like the characters and their story. There are also some pretty great scenes such as the Fisherman louting around London and the finale.

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Even though the film has heart, it still has a lot of flaws. For some reason, this is a movie of two halves with cinematography. The film has a standard Brit-flick fare but then inter-splices it with weird drone footage and sketchy filming. Especially in London – it is as though they had two different budgets for the two different places and that’s off-putting. Plus, as mentioned, it is so average in story-telling. In fact, spoiler alert, before the film began I told my friend that someone would definitely die, pointed out who it would be, and I was not wrong. I was not wrong at all. It’s beats to the same drum as movies that have come before.

These movies aren’t ever going to go away and that isn’t a massive issue completely. They are good for something mundane and feel good. On that front, it certainly gets you – hook, line, and sinker.

Fisherman’s Friends is out 15th March

Booksmart – Brand New Trailer!

Olivia Wilde is making her directorial debut with the fantastic Booksmart.

Starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, it stars as two smart and hard-working girls who regret not having any fun whilst pursuing their academic careers. Now before graduation they aim to do all the things they’ve denied themselves.

This looks amazing and cannot stop laughing. The chemistry and jokes look brilliant and it has already been highly praised following it’s debut at SXSW Festival. What do you think?

Booksmart is out later this year! 

7 Great Films Written By Women

Women! We love women. We especially love women behind the camera. Ladies telling stories, promoting their talents, bringing stories to the big screen. There is nothing better than a woman screenwriter.

So  we’re taking a look at some fantastic films written by female screenwriters.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) – Emma Thompson

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We may know Thompson as an incredible actress, but she is also an Academy Award winning screenwriter.  Her adaptation of Jane Austen’s terrific drama, revolving around betrothed sisters, and secret loves, is considered one of the best period dramas of all time, reinforcing Austen’s elements of feminist satire Directed by Ang Lee, Thompson too stars as the beloved Elinor and with a young Kate Winslet blossoming to a steadfast actress, Sense and Sensibility is a terrific, enjoyable, and deep movie helped by Thompson’s flare for writing.

Persepolis (2013) – Marjane Satrapi

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Recently directing black comedy Ryan Reynolds led film The Voices, Satrapi’s best known work is for the adult animation Persepolis, based on her autobiographical novel of the same name. Co-written and co-directed  with Vincent Paronnaud ,the film revolves around a young girl coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. Winning the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, the movie is both an exhilarating and thrilling yet harrowing and anguish filled, a triumphant movie.

The Limehouse Golem (2017) – Jane Goldman

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Though Jane Goldman’s work consists off Kick-Ass, Stardust, and Kingsman, I have a soft spot for the recently released Victorian murder romp. Yes, there may be detractors to the movie, but the extremely entertaining flick sees Bill Nighy tackle the murky Victorian underground as a killer goes on the romp and a woman is set to hang for her murder of her husband. Full of twists and turns, this is a highly beguiling movie enriched with amusement and that cliched but still ridiculously enjoyable.  Goldman has a flare for the Victorian  macabre.

Gone Girl (2015) – Gillian Flynn

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Adapted from her own novel, Flynn proved that she had might for the big screen (and should probably do some more work for cinema) with this Academy Award nominated script. The intense mystery thriller that led to one of the greatest performance of the year by the outstanding Rosamund Pike is an insatiable and lurid film with so much darkness. The murky elements of the film, matched with the twisting mystery made it David Fincher’s finer pieces and that’s all thanks to Flynn’s script. Even with knowing the book, she revisited Amy Dunne on a big screen with such a fresh beat that even die-hard fans would be impressed.

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)  – Caroline Thompson

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Did you know Nightmare Before Christmas was written by a woman? Did you? Because I didn’t and I am currently drinking tea from a Jack Skellington mug. I know, this is heinously amiss of me. It is the ultimate festive film revolving around the King of Halloween Town who becomes bored of his life and wishes to steal Christmas to bring some excitement back. This stop–motion epic, directed by Henry Selick and based on characters by Tim Burton, Thompson delights with this hilarious, witty, and at times deeply dark film filled to the brim with holiday cheer.

Juno (2010) – Diablo Cody

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Winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Cody’s terrific and poignant depiction of a teen pregnancy was celebrated across the filled. This is even more amazing considering it was Cody’s debut screenplay. Launching Ellen Paige into the stratosphere, Juno was a humorous depiction of a teenager in a crisis with whip-smart dialogue and endearing, emotional moments within the comedy……home-skillet.

Singin In The Rain  (1952) – Betty Comden

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One of the most incredible and seminal musicals of all time, Singin In The Rain is an enchanting and thrilling piece directed by and starring Gene Kelly. It revolves around two men and a woman trying to make it in showbiz. Featuring some brilliant songs including the titular one and Good Morning, this is a must-see masterpiece. And it was crafted by a woman. Alongside Adolph Green, Betty Comden excelled in producing one of the most memorable and watchable musicals of all time. Part of a performance duo with Green, her work on the stage was essential to bringing Singin In The Rain to life!

What are your favourite films written by women? 

Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) – Review

by Coralie Bizien

Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) starts with the metronome sound of a clock mechanism. The introduction send us into the heart of a church bell tower, between darkness and sunlight, while a bird is trapped in a space where it cannot find this way out….

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Laura (Penélope Cruz) returns in Spain with her two children, for the wedding of one of her sisters. She meets Paco (Javier Bardem), ex-lover and the buyer of the part of the family property that Laura had inherited. When her daughter goes missing during the wedding reception, the family is plunged into chaos. Under the eyes of the villagers, the troubles of the past and many resentments reappear…

We meet Laura as an energetic mother, happy attending the reunion of her family. Sweet dialogue exchanges establish the characters and their relationships, allowing us to discover them at the same time. The happiness of the reunion is soon met by with many different struggles such as a ign of financial worries, heartache, and common problems we all meet in life. But the reunion is also an opportunity for Laura’s daughter, Irene (Carla Campra) to meet Felipe (Sergio Castellanos) : a youthful love which, in the shadow of the conjugal celebrations, echoes the love that Laura and Paco once had for each other at their age.

The scenes follow one another and respond to one another, dominated by the ardor that takes precedence over reason until drama and suspicion are imposed. Asghar Farhadi admits the human mechanics even before really sketching the contours.

The audience play the role of a discreet observer who suddenly examines, the masks that shape what is happening in a front of us. Asghar Farhadi captures the silences, the sustained or fleeting glances, like the flighty speeches that dictate the rumour. Their masks fall off and reveal some shenanigans whose interest is, as the title underlines, of little importance.

With the naturalism of his approach and this cast, Asghar Farhadi takes us as far as his camera plunges us into a novel. The complexity of his writing is total; Does he set up a thriller, inviting us to look beyond the acts, facing the souls of these seeming archetypes? The answer of that question came directly from the screen which becomes a mirror where our own reflection is drawn….

The Iranian director doesn’t leave his obsession for human interaction behind. Todos lo saben serves as a manifesto: Farhadi is obsessed with human mechanics, what moves them, what ignites them, and their contradictory movements.

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The structure is well recognised – reminiscent of About Elly (a weekend with friends turns to the criminal investigation coupled with the unveiling of buried intimate secrets) – the film that made Farhadi internationally renowned. Characters who seemed uninteresting are fascinating under the effect of unexpected. In Spanish vineyards, money reigns. We need it for the ransom, we need it to atone for past mistakes. He is the one who gradually undoes Laura’s solar insurance with Paco’s beautiful male chauvinist, and exercises that their performers (Cruz and Bardem) master perfectly.

With Todos lo saben, the Iranian director does not hesitate to highlight themes such as temporality and the importance of the past, mixing with the codes of a thriller as well as snippets of a great striking human comedy. Farhadi is not at his best, a little too academic, a little too “great cinema”, but it remains a very pleasant, tense and highly recommendable film.

Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) is out 8th March