Category Archives: Reviews

The latest and the greatest in films!

Captain Marvel – Review

We’ve been heavily anticipating Captain Marvel since they announced the hero’s involvement in The Avengers series. When we saw her insignia flash on Nick Fury’s pager as he faded to dust, we were fully prepared to dive into a whole new superhero origin story. Now she’s here and she is burning bright in every sense of the world.

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Set in 1995, Captain Marvel revolves around Kree soldier in training Vers, who is part of an elite Starforce on the planet Hala and has no memory beyond her six years on the planet. The alien-race of Kree are fighting a war against shape-shifting Skrull army. When Vers is taken hostage, the Skrulls unlock memories from her life before. Throw a daring escape, Vers is sent to Earth alongside a handful of Skrulls. To stop the alien-race invading Earth, Vers pairs up with SHIELD agent Nick Fury and may unlock the very secrets to her being…Could she be Carol Danvers?

Captain Marvel is a pretty good thrill ride. However, unlike Black Panthers new take on a solo outing (where he has been an established character, working on his own separate family issues,) this is an origin outing and therefore suffers from trying to establish a character already part of a grand-scale story.  The film lacks any connection during the beginning which means you aren’t completely invested in Carol “Vers” Danvers. It isn’t until she is jettisoned to Earth and she meets Fury that she opens up and becomes a more intriguing character with serious stakes in the mission.

Brie Larson is always brilliant – and here is no different – but Carol is an amnesiac hero from start to beginning and the grandeur elements of the story engulf the character, losing her from time to time. Whilst Larson does get to the heart of Carol, and she is the bright, smiley spirit within the film, Captain Marvel overwhelms her with on-the-nose empowering messages and nineties nostalgia. This is best exampled when a big fight sequence is set to No Doubt’s I’m Just A Girl. Yes, it’s enjoyable, but also oddly jarring too. It’s great to have a female-led superhero film from Marvel but it’s not good to sound off about it every five minutes.

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This may sound like a negative review. It’s true that Captain Marvel is flawed but it isn’t more flawed than say Captain America: The First Avenger or Doctor Strange’s opening act. It hits every Marvel checkbox from the witty-lines to a somewhat weak enemy.

Positively, Captain Marvel is a lot of fun. From bombastic battles and Carol unlocking her powers  to Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson’s BFF relationship, Captain Marvel delivers a lot of super-charged energy. Ben Mendolsohn is a terrific supporting character who has, perhaps, a better arc than our leading character whilst Lashana Lynch anchors the film with more emotion. The soundtrack is brilliant too – making anyone millennial cheer.

Captain Marvel is good – great when you consider that it has a cat called Goose which at one point gets called a Flerken – but it’s not as strong as some movies that have come before it.


Captain Marvel is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Border – Review

Fairy-tales.. They have seeped throughout time and history. Chattered imagination has been whispered in bed-time stories and campfire horrors. For centuries with been spooked by spectres, haunted by horrors, and frightened by fantasies.

In Scandinavia, adults and children have been particularly terrified by their own particular historical creatures. Creatures which Ali Abbasi has spun into a glorious modern yarn.

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Border revolves around Tina, a woman who has an “ugly” facial structure, who works for the Swedish Border Agency that screens people coming off ships. Tina has a special ability at sniffing out people’s guilt and shame. Living off the grid in a woodland area and with dog-breeder Roland, she spends her time walking the forests nearby or caring for her ailing father. When she comes across a man, Vore, who she can’t sniff out and looks like her, she becomes drawn to him. It becomes apparent that he might be uncover secrets about who she is and the pair become closer…

Border is a subversive and mysterious drama that unravels in a glorious manner. Iranian director Abbasi, whose work includes the much acclaimed Shelley, implements an intriguing modern fairy-tale. The film is an enchantment in some scenes, ghoulish in others, but utterly captivating from start to finish. The film works greatly with these tonal shifts. Offering up some impeccable sequences, including one frivolous and endearing frolic through the sun-streaked trees, the film can be a romantic story one second then horror to ponder the next.

There is also an undercurrent of social commentary here. When the film digs deeper into how we treat those who are different and especially those we deem as “ugly.” The film asks you to shift your perception through graphic sexual scenes or simply Tina being. It also gender-bends throughout and it’s non-conforming ideals make it a magnificent watch.

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The whole of the film wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Eva Melander as Tina. My god is she breath-taking here. Though unrecognisable due to her prominent prosthetics, this doesn’t sop her convey earnest and intimate emotions. Tina is a sympathetic character but doesn’t require pity. She is determined, strong, with an upstanding set of morals whilst also being vulnerable, sweet, and funny. As this film is all about her becoming, Melander beautifully develops Tina and makes a truly cinematic heroine.

Opposite her is Eero Milonoff as Vore. The pair have an instant chemistry with one another the minute they meet but Milonoff keeps his character as mysterious as possible, revealing bit by bit. Though this is Melander’s film, Milonoff is also as expressive and great as Vore, balancing between love interest and possible villain, the actor is unexpectedly alluring.

Border is a brooding film that will stay with you long after watching. That may be because of the graphic sequences and detail, but it’s also because of the soulfulness . The mood and tone matched with some gorgeous imagery are truly affecting, haunting even. There’s also a soulful and mournful message about nature and finding who you are, against the backdrop of an isolating and brutal society. Blending fantasy with social commentary, Border is a riveting and redolent affair.


Border is out 8th March

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 on DVD & Blu-Ray now!

The Hole In The Ground – Review

Children in movies are adorable. They speak in this high-pitched cute curious tones that make us all tilt our head to one side and go “awwwwwww.” We can’t help but adore them. (Well, sometimes – others think that they are annoying and whiney but that’s moot here.)

However, if you put any child of any cuteness in a horror film – they are bound to creep you out. Horror movie children – even if they are the victim – are insanely disturbing and even more so if they are the terror that haunts you (See: The Village, The Grudge, The Rin

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This year’s highly underrated horror gem, The Hole In The Ground sees young Sarah moving to a small secluded Irish village with her son Chris, following from an abusive relationship. When Chris gets lost in the woods, Sarah finds him on the edge of a sinkhole that is ever growing in the forest by their home. When she gets him back, she starts to notice peculiar things and starts to suspect that her child may not be what he seems. Soon Sarah starts to spiral out of control…

Lee Cronin’s  uneasy horror is a masterfully paced horror that unnerves you from the beginning.  From the brown-hued cinematography to the imposing forest that creaks and looms with the Stephen McKeon’s enrapturing score, The Hole In The Ground is about tension that crawls across your skin and digs into your senses. Cronin builds by having the audience constantly question along with Sarah. As you try to work out why the dead-eyed, innocent-speaking Chris is evil or not, the writing and direction lulls you into a horrifying scare.

Seána Kerslake is brilliant as Sarah. She performs as a woman utterly unsure about her weird- acting child. Caught between utter reason – as no one else around her can sense there is something wrong – or the gnawing gut feeling that her child is not her own, Kerslake brilliantly unravels Sarah with great affect as you follow your her in this utterly terrifying journey. Young James Quinn Markey is effective as Chris. For such a young actor, he really captures that sense of unease with his  character, making seamlessly innocent moments – such as a classic school performance -completely petrifying.

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As with most things, The Hole In The Ground falters somewhat in the big finale and reveal. It’s not a big falter but because you have all the answers, a lot of that juicy and delicious tension melts away. Again, this isn’t a huge deal because Cronin succeeds in taking you on this intense horror journey that sticks with you after.

With a brooding atmosphere and stunning acting, The Hole In The Ground is one of the best horrors, and films, of the year.


The Hole In The Ground is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Ray and Liz – Review

First features always have smatterings of something deeply personal. Desiree Akhavan explored her New York life in Appropriate Behaviour whilst  Bo Burhnam injected his own sense of self into Eighth Grade. Filmmakers always input their souls into their films but for a first feature, it always seems more poignant – closer to the director’s reality.

For Richard Billingham, his debut Ray & Liz truly puts a picture of his life on the big screen in a complex, brooding, and utterly beautiful way.

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Ray & Liz is based onon a video artwork of photographer Billingham, as well as a book collection called Ray’s a Laugh. Billingham puts his own experiences of life in Birmingham on the big screen. The film starts off with an aged alcoholic Ray stumbling around his own flat, drinking home-brew and chain-smoking. At different times, Ray looks back at his life with the volatile Liz, their children Richard and Jason, and the world of 1970s Birmingham.

Ray & Liz is such an impacting slice of British life. The film is so detailed in its craft and really awakens this authentic period setting. . As director Richard Billingham brings the stories of his own life onto the big screen, it feels so much as though we’ve stepped into this picturesque world. As exquisite as it maybe in cinematography, and shots, Billingham imbues the background with a lot of background. It’s so distinct and detailed in the drab dirtiness of near-poverty that one familiar with that life would practically be able to smell the cheap hairspray or damp.

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Billingham deals with his own life story in such an intimate way. His tragic ode to his family doesn’t feel embittered or angered. Instead, this bleak depiction of his childhood, scattered with odd humour, has an ingrained empathy for his neglectful parents. Played by the impressive Ella Smith and the formidable Justin Salinger , their selfish and scheming behaviour is tangible throughout. The caustic manner in the way they are lends itself to the gloomy and problematic way of life for them and their children. Yet Billingham is wary to not put blame on his parents. Instead, through snippets about his uncle or brother or even himself, the director shows that this is just life as it was. Or, even, life as it is for people maligned to the outskirts of society.

Actually, this is a story about people who are society; folk scraping by on dole and redundancy money, frittering way the pennies for alcohol or begging others it by hounding and hassling. As their children attempt to find warmth in other homes, the titular pair scrounge for cigarettes on the underpass or walk their bunnies in the park without really questioning where their children have been. The films impoverished family are gloriously realised on the big screen; in all their scathing sorrow.

The earnestness on display in Billingham’s Ray & Liz is impacting. An ever-lasting ode to family life that bears it’s bruises and scars for all to see. An intimate display of despair that moves with a spirit and a soul, this poignant cinematic poetry is definitely one to see.


Ray and Liz is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Apollo 11 – Review

by Chris Rogers

It seems remarkable that only fifty years after the first moon landing do we finally have footage of the event that feels worthy of its tremendous legacy. Many feature adaptations (most recently Damien Chazelle’s sublime First Man, to which this will make a fine companion alongside Al Reinert’s melancholic For All Mankind) have tried their damndest to portray the awe and wonder of mankind’s greatest journey, but surely nothing has ever come close to this, Todd Douglas Miller’s exemplary documentary. 

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Utilising a veritable lunar goldmine of newly-discovered 70mm film from launch day – as well as restored on-board footage from the lunar lander – Miller chooses not to fill Apollo 11 with the usual talking heads, reconstructions or “Where are they now?”s. Only the voices of our historic trio – Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins – and their guardians at mission control remain. This narrow focus somehow adds to and enhances the inherent tension of a ludicrously dangerous mission, regardless of the fact we all know the outcome – the mark of any great true story retold.

Having seen so many (perfectly worthy) adaptations and watch the same old broadcast sizzles wheeled out for countless TV docs, experiencing that first ignition blast engulf the Saturn V rocket in crystal clarity and surround sound is – and I only use such an overworked phrase because all else fails me – a sight to behold. As Matt Morton’s exceptional score (conjuring musical magic using only instruments one could purchase in July 1969) swelled and every face on planet Earth looked to the skies as one, I could have wept. Oh, to be in that next generation of schoolchildren whose first sight of our giant leap will be something of such magical realism.

The quality of the film (format and feature both) is certainly astonishing, but more incredible still is the total discipline required to strip 65 reels (11,000 hours!) worth of history down to the pure essentials. Yet amongst the sweeping space vistas are delightfully small, human-sized highlights. See the Apollo crew mess around with a tape player in zero-g, or the hordes of onlookers getting a nice tan in the baking Orlando summer. 

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There’s also a timely glimpse of aerospace engineer JoAnn Morgan – the lone female voice in the NASA control room, centered in the frame and flanked by an endless sea of male peers (Miller spoke in a post-screening Q&A of a cut scene involving the 25 year-old taking to the official audio channel, correcting two colleagues bickering over each other’s calculations).

This spirit of giving everyone their moment in the moonlight, shining a light on these oft-forgotten faces is the heart of Apollo 11. More than its blockbuster-level exhibition and sheer space geek attention to detail, the true ‘experience’ lies in the chorus of commands, acknowledgements, “Good luck”s and “God speed”s, in seeing the faces of the crew – expectant, terrified, resolute – as mankind sits on the brink of a new age. We all know the eagle landed – seeing and knowing those who made it soar is something else altogether.


Apollo 11 is out in cinemas 28th June