Category Archives: Reviews

The latest and the greatest in films!

Booksmart – Review

Occasionally there is a film that not only meets the hype surrounding it but surpasses it gleefully. Booksmart is one of those movies that has been receiving positive criticism all-around and it deserves every single iota of praise it is getting.

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Directed by Olivia Wilde, the film revolves around Amy and Molly, two over-achieving best friends who have been ousted to the outskirts of their school society because they are deemed pretentious. Not really bothered as they chose to focus on their academia than their social life. However, when they find out the students they considered burn-outs have also gotten into prestigious schools, they are aghast, realising that whilst they focused on school, they could have also been focussing on partying. So in a last ditch attempt before graduation, the pair decide to have one night of debauchery…

Booksmart is one of the funniest movies you’ll see all year. In fact, it’ll probably go down as one of the most hilarious teen movies of all-time. Happily rubbing shoulders with movies such as Superbad, Dazed and Confused, and American Graffiti –the “one night is all it takes” comedic outing is an energetic piece that is a riotous ride. Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman, the movie is a snappy and funny film that’ll have you laughing until you cry. With comedy ranging from the raunchy to the weird, Booksmart hits joke after joke.

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Which makes all the emotional moments hit harder. The script is succinct in delivering some teenage antics but also at bringing a soul to it. Amy and Molly fight, they feel sad, and their earnest need to finally let lose is unforgettable – especially for anyone who has felt ostracised by their peers. There are key messages of not losing your childhood and your fun in the pursuit of academia, learning to find balance in all areas. Not only that, but there is a stark message of discovering the person underneath the teenage stereotypes – from both the nerdy side and the burnout side.

Olivia Wilde’s confident directorial debut is rambunctious. Wilde commands the screen and in moments of heightened emotions, she fluidly manoeuvres the camera and scene so the beats truly sink in. Wilde may take the film to some superbly surreal places (a stop-motion scene is perhaps the only disjointed, but she knows how to bring it back down to earth.

Booksmart works best because our leading ladies are so incredible in their performances. Kaitlyn Dever as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly flesh out these young women immensely. As actresses who have already proven their substantial talent in films such as Beautiful Boy and Lady Bird, giving them a whole film to showcase just how phenomenal they are is fantastic. And with a movie this genius? Downright amazing. Alone, they are amazing characters – intelligent, determined, strong-willed, and adoring of one another. Put them together and you’ve got one of cinemas greatest relationships on the big screen.

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The ensemble cast behind them are terrific too, from young actors such as Noah Galvin and Skyler Gisondo to more established folk such as Jason Sudeikis and Lisa Kudrow. But MVP of the whole movie goes to Billie Lourd who is the resident mysterious weirdo, popping up to give the girls advice.

Booksmart is a must-see. It’s a movie for the smart girls who are also the fun girls. It’s a film about accepting every part of you and being true to yourself. It’s also exceptionally funny.

A-pluses all around!


Booksmart is out Monday 27th May! 

Glass – Review

Glass, the new film from director M. Night Shyamalan follows on from the ending of last year’s thriller Split. The ending revealed multiple personality serial Killer Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) is from the same universe as superhuman David Dunn (Bruce Willis) from Unbreakable, (a previous Shyamalan film).

The film unites the director with his cast from both films in a story that brings them all together. Despite having a brilliant cast and the premises of two strong works, Glass is sadly overdone. It starts off well but never fully establishes itself and ends on a shaky final act.

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The film begins as more young girls have been kidnapped by deranged killer Kevin. With Dunn now using his super strength to bring violent criminals to justice, he eventually crosses paths with “The Hoarde” while looking for the girls. The two battle it out but are both caught by authorities and sent to a mental institution. Once inside, Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) has three days to study the pair alongside long-time inmate Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson). But can two super humans and a genius really be contained?

In what Shyamalan has christened his Eastrail 177 trilogy, Glass is the third outing for the ensembled characters. The director is most known for his early works The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village. Shyamalan is also known for his twist/shock endings in his films.

Glass starts off very strong. Crumb has kidnapped more young girls and is still battling the multiple personalities he inhabits. Meanwhile Dunn has transformed himself into the vigilante known as the Overseer. While out patrolling he passes Crumb and sees a vision of the girls. Dunn pursues him but both are caught by the police, who put them into a mental facility. This brings them together with Elijah and the stage is set. Sadly, this is also where the film loses pace and begins to fall apart. Dr Staple studies all three and tries to convince them of their mental disorders but it all just feels to farfetched. Although the film is building to its finale, you never feel it. It lacks pace and tension despite the efforts of the cast.

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For those that are used to the troupe Shyamalan endings the film attemps to twist and turn for dramatic effect, but they fall flat. They feel segwayed in, rather than developed plot twists. With unbreakable the director deconstructed the super hero genre in an intelligent, if a little slow, thriller. Despite elements of the previous works being used the premise is messy and servearly under written.

The film may fail in terms of pace and narrativ but the cast are as you would expect superb. McAvoy flips between his multiple personalities easily, evoking horror one minute and sympathy the next. His character is just as much a physical performance as well as an emotional one with his superhuman strength being tested here by Dunn.

Bruce Willis reprises Dunn as a vililante that has aged and suffered loss. Whilst still being the overseer, he feels himself slowing down and the loss of his wife and his son’s concerns weigh on him.

Samuel.L Jackson is just as intringing as he ever was as genius super villain ‘Mr Glass’. He delivers his lines and theories that attempt to deconstruct the superhero genre with his usual flair. He remains ahead of the game and the shocks in the film that do surprise come from him.

Although Glass has a strong cast and the potential from its previous outings, the third in the Eastrail 177 trilogy is an overdone, drawn out mess.


Glass is out in DVD & Blu-Ray now!

Beautiful Boy – Review

There have been many movies made on addiction. Even A Star is Born focuses on  the debilitating disease. Stories like these need to be told because we need to understand the struggles of those suffering, the heartache of the families, and support ways we help people blighted

Director Felix Van Groeningen, the open and honest story about addiction. Based on the memoirs of Nic and David Sheff, Beautiful Boy revolves around a father struggling to keep his eldest son Nic of drugs. Going over several years, Nic recovers and relapses repeatedly, unaware of the impact his addiction is having on his family.

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Timothée Chalamet came into prominence with Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (and also made millions and millions fall in love with him.) As brilliant as his performance is in that film, the end roaring fireplace credit sequence a particular highlight, it’ll not prepare you for how astonishing he is in Beautiful Boy. Chalamet has the difficult task at portraying Nic Sheff’s constant battle with addiction,  Chalamet is captivating which makes the film more brutal. From Nic’s candidness about why he chose to take drugs to his relapses, Chalamet gets into the grittiness of addiction. The young actor is open and each experience Nic goes through here is palpable. Scenes of desperation, illness, and disease are harrowing yet you can’t keep your eyes off him. He’s haunting here and no matter what lengths he goes too, you feel compassion, pity, and solace for him.

 

Steve Carell has made impressive strides in dramatic performances such as Foxcatcher, Battle of the Sexes, and The Big Short. Here, however, is certainly his best work. Carell is tremendous as David, hopelessly and urgently trying to help his son, no matter what he puts him through. Each agonizing phone call to every late night search, Carell inhibits this father who is slowly abandoning his son through sure resignation. But also he has to be a father to his other children and a husband to his wife whilst also working at a writer. His balance to control Nic’s recovery with his day to day life.

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Carell and Chalamet make an earnest and heart-breaking pair; with all the chemistry of a father-son pairing whilst honing in the tragic gravitas of drug-addiction for a family. Director and co-writer Van Groeningen does well to keep Nic as a sympathetic character but also shows the impact of his struggle on the rest of his family. Not just his mother Vicki (an brilliant as always Amy Ryan,) and his step-mother Karen (a phenomenal Maura Tierney,) but his little brother and sister who feel the ripples of each of Nic’s deterioration.

Beautiful Boy is an emotive experience. There is some uneven filmmaking which has some very confused editing and leaps through time. Yet with the intimate and stirring performances, you’ll find yourself captivated even if it is an excruciating watch.

Van Groeningen ends the film on statistics. It’s clear that the Sheffs’ impacting stories serve to tell a bigger story. One of the biggest epidemics in the USA, it’s important that these movies make an impact on you and see how you can help those in need.


Beautiful Boy is out on DVD & Blu-Ray.

John Wick 3 – Parabellum – Review

John Wick has been a surprising popular franchise. Well, that’s a silly statement to kick off a review with. Of course, John Wick sparked off immense popularity. It is a film where everyone’s favourite Keanu Reeves kills people in highly imaginative ways over the sad death of his dog. The first outing saw a tremendous amount of fans which carried on to the explosive sequel. And now we are truly in the endgame as John Wick concludes his epic fur-venge journey. But does the finale conclude in an explosive yet satisfactory manner?

Yes, yes, and thrice yes.

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John Wick 3 – Parabellum follows directly from the shocking end of John Wick 2 – the titular assassin has been excommunicated from the underground of top-notch killers, meaning he doesn’t have any help from the organisation or anywhere to hide. To make matters worse, he killed a member of the High Table, meaning there is a high bounty on his head. With all of the world’s professional hit-men keen to get that prize and to get rid of Wick, is all lost for the killer?

Yeah, we’re thinking it’s not.

One of the biggest distinctions that John Wick 3 has comparatively to any other action film is it’s absolute style. The contemporary Gothic  that frames the fights is lavish and gorgeous. The classic architecture of gold and red anointed theatres, the opulence of colours in the deserts of Morocco, and the cool glass modernism all make impeccable set-pieces for blood to be spilt. As for the beating heart of the film, The Continental combines all these different elements into one bombastic and spectacular finale. The set design and dressing is made even more palatable by Dan Lausten’s moody cinematography that drenches each frame in beauty.

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Keanu Reeves has truly made this stoic yet surviving hit-man. As he struggles without his support network, it’s interesting to see how he’ll get out of his predicament – how will he outlast with the whole assassin network after his head? It’s a terrific performance that continues to be as engaging as it is thrilling. There are familiar faces such as Ian McShane and Laurence Fishbourne but Halle Berry makes a superb new addition who can fight just as well as John (and cares about dogs just as much.)

Of course, the fight sequences are still absolutely phenomenal. If you thought you’d seen all the ways in which one man can kill another, then you’d haven’t seen anything yet. Perfectly choreographed and timed, its heart-racing stuff.

John Wick 3 falls short in complete story-telling, leaving threads open (one suspects for another outing) and really dragging out a somewhat simplistic plot (action man is on the run) over two hours means there are moments of lag between the fights and slaying. Yet John Wick never truly disappoints. Part tense Western, part blood-thirsty action, part operatic drama, Parabellum is poetic.


John Wick 3 – Parabellum is out in cinemas now

Madeline’s Madeline – Review

Films as dynamic and different as Madeline’s Madeline showcase how art can truly push boundaries of performers, emotions, and story-telling.

This experimental film by Josephine Decker revolves around the young titular character. Enamoured by a local drama group, Madeline gets swept up into the world of the stage. However, tensions between the hyper-aggressive Madeline and her wrought and over-attentive mother, Regina, reach breaking point, spilling over into her performance on-stage. Madeline’s teacher Evangeline uses and begins to abuse that spark…As art blends into reality, Madeline herself is pushed to the edge of her imagination and emotion.

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Madeline’s Madeline is an experimental slice of cinema. It is a film that starts in a cacophony of frustration and confusion. A combination of adolescence fantasy and heated drama that sets-up the films flit between Madeline’s dreamlike method acting and her traumatic emotions involving her mother. Decker explores the suffocating relationship where the seemingly meagre Regina is abused by her somewhat aggressive Madeline. Their tentative relationship is put on display where you never truly know who is in the wrong with Regina suffocating her daughter to the point where Madeline lashes out. In turn, the audience is given an initial irritating beginning but that’s part of Decker’s ploy – to have you puzzling over Madeline’s world.

Then you add Evangeline to mix who believes she has found herself a terrific performer and is willing to do anything to further her play. Madeline’s Madeline adds this teacher who is willing to use Madeline’s wrought story to further her artistic endeavours. When Madeline is pushed, she begins to break and it culminates in this dazzling finale.

Upon revelation of the final third, Madeline’s Madeline is an enchanting spectacle of pure art ripples with emotion. It questions the very beating heart of the film come to a dizzying head and the film captivates you. Exploring the line between how artists can break boundaries in order to push something towards a satisfying conclusion. When people question the ethics of this, the film explodes with every repression and every bit of rage becoming this palpable piece.

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This is captured in Helena Howard’s phenomenal performance. The young actress is absolutely electrifying her who can absolutely dig into the heart of Madeline. As the character, Howard is able to dig into adolescence villainy whilst also feeling sympathetic to her relationship with her mother. Flanked by her false matriarch Molly Parker and her real yet affecting one Miranda July, Howard is able to reach into her complex emotions, mental health, and illness that impacts herself and those around her.

Josephine Decker delivers a feverish contemporary movie exists to irritate and charm, to ruffle and repel as well as attract and assuage. A pulsating, refreshing, and incredible somewhat thriller whose drama explodes in a magnificent manner, Madeline’s Madeline is a different yet must-see movie.


Madeline’s Madeline is available in cinemas and on MUBI! 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Review

I know exactly what you are thinking: Do we really need more Spider-Man movies?

That question came along when young Tom Holland took on the mantel for last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact, the question came along when Andrew Garfield led the Amazing reboots back in 2012. (Actually, we were pondering the importance of Spider-Man back when the abysmal third film happened and Peter Parker thrusted his crotch at us in big screen glory.)

Regardless, Sony and Marvel have decided that we still haven’t had enough of the web-slinging hero. Or even his world, with action/romantic comedy Venom coming out a mere few months ago.

Despite all this, the animated romp Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is exactly what we need to re-energise the friendly neighbourhood hero.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse revolves around the second person to take on the blue and red spandex mantel in Ultimate Marvel – Miles Morales. The highly-intellectual young boy is caught between his parent’s high expectations as well as wanting to do ordinary youngster things like slack-off or sneak out of his boarding school. When Miles and his Uncle are “vandalising” a disused train station, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider. Confused by the turn of events, Miles goes searching for answers and winds up in the middle of a multi-universe plot that spits out different iterations of Spider-Man. Together, they must put the world back in order.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has three directors, five producers, two screen writers, and stars a whole heap of voice-acting talents as well as several different Spider-People. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning for nearly two hours of run time. Which it does. Which it does so gloriously well.

The focus on Miles Morales, voiced by Dope’s  Shameik Moore, grounds the Spider-Man legend in a modern day tale. Here is a kid who is caught between many different worlds; a black and Hispanic mix-raced teenager who is smart but also is willing to break the rules, under the influence of his police-officer father and his slacker uncle. A young adult who is thrust into this responsibility and now has several voices urging him to do the right thing. Morales makes a fascinating character to lead this heroic journey. With Moore’s earnestness aiding to an impressive, depth-filled arc, Morales levels up much more than we’ve seen Parker do on screen.

That’s not to say Parker is any less of a character here. In fact, we get two different versions of him on-screen and each comes with their own struggles and plights. Voiced by both Chris Pine and Jake Johnson, it’s easy to see which is used for comedy and who isn’t. The actors play the epitomes part well. Speaking of the voice cast, it’s a stellar one that consists of Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Haliee Steinfield, Kathryn Hahn, Kake Bell, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, and Liev Schrieber.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is imbued with self-referential humour that isn’t afraid to poke fun at even itself. Yet unlike Lord and Miller’s rambunctious films The LEGO Movie or 21 Jump Street, the comedy rarely overrides the heart of the story. So whilst you may laugh at Mulaney’s Spider-Ham, an imitation of classic Warner Bros cartoons, or giggle at the super-serious black and white Spider-Noir (Cage imitating the likes of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney) there is a substantial amount of emotion as  Morales learns his own important Spider-Man lessons.

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There’s also great action sequences and peril. Utilising the style of Morales’ co-creator Sara Pichelli’s, Spider-Verse is an absolutely spectacle of colour exploration. With animators working on a second a week, the hard-work pays-off here. The inventive explosion of colour is masterfully handled. It’s unique, and highly beautiful. The striking array of scenes is a feast for your eyes.

This review doesn’t do this film much justice, I can honestly tell you that this film is superb. It is beyond the Spider-Man lore, bringing together old familiar beats and brand new ones all at the same time. It’s as good for adults as it is for children, with many people hanging on through a great credit sequence to an impeccable end-credit sting. Every plate is spun amazingly by passionate and determined creators.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is smart, energetic, and visceral….and I cannot wait to watch it again.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now