Category Archives: On The Big Screen

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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! 

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 

On The Basis of Sex – Review: Does it do Ruth Bader Ginsburg justice?

by Catherine Courtney

I’m Ruth Bader,
Yes I’m the Real Bader
All you other Ruth Baders are just imitating,
So won’t the Real Ruth Bader please…. rise, court is now in session…

2019 is off to a pretty rocky start so far. It’s not as bad as 2018 – yet – but this film and the simply named documentary RBG have made these first couple of months a little more bearable. Honestly, when I was watching these movies, I actually forgot about Brexit.

The benefit that On the Basis of Sex has, is the subject matter herself – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s hard to imagine being a pioneer of something… anything… in a society where it feels like most things have already been discovered. But the Notorious RBG was a pioneer, a champion and quite simply an all-round total badass. Eager to become a lawyer, she was one of the very first women to be accepted into the Harvard program where still all content was driven towards men and men alone. She triumphed at school before becoming a professor herself, and has spent her entire career advocating gender equality and women’s rights, and has changed actual laws in the US which have revolutionised the treatment of men vs women. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yep. Total badass.

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In eOne’s new release, Felicity Jones steps up to the plate to take on this formidable role – who is surprisingly manifested in a simply small, quiet body. While she gets much closer to the character than Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon does, there’s something so unique and special about the Original Ruth that isn’t quite tapped into in this role. She’s tough and determined, and Jones seems to walk with the air of owning a room – it’s the underestimation of Ginsburg’s peers that causes such a powerful impact.

There are some marvellously artsy shots such as the moment she’s the blue-blazered salmon swimming against the tide of black and grey male suits, but the magic of this woman’s story is in her words, and fortunately for this film her nephew wrote them all. This has given the story an insider feel, with sweet family dynamics and a mother-daughter relationship development that made me want to see more. Whether it was too close to home brings hesitation to the glossiness of the story, but it’s a story you want to believe in nevertheless.

One of the main beauties of Justice Ginsburg’s life is her incredible relationship with her husband, who genuinely glows in a limelight both separate and connected to hers. A man as sound as any young girl with a fluffy diary and a killer attitude could dream of – Handsome! Charming! Willing to do the dishes! Martin Ginsburg was a lawyer in his own right (and a very good one at that), climbing to the top of a tax career in New York and yet always looking next to him to make sure Ruth was achieving the things that she was capable of. It’s either luck or destiny that Armie Hammer was found for the role – a gentle giant, with eyes to melt any tough New Yorker judge, stories taller than petite Felicity and yet embodying a character that would happily put her on his shoulders so she could see and do more (suggestion for Hollywood’s obsession with sequels – On the Basis of Sex 2: Marty, Dreamboat Feminist…)

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The film itself is a fairly rose-tinted version of Ruth’s story, with incredibly powerful moments zipped past like the difficulties that have washed off Ginsburg’s back throughout her life. A truly defining moment comes at the dinner table of the Dean of Harvard, who gets each woman enrolled that year to stand in front of her peers and justify why she felt she had the right to take a place in school that could have been given to a man. No, really.

Look out for enjoyable performances from Justin Theroux and Sam Waterston, while Cailee Spaeny ignites sparks in a very early stage of her career – possibly a name to keep an eye on in future roles. But my concern for the film is in the viewer’s previous knowledge of Queen Notorious, as this film centres around one legal suit and the ebb and flow of the story may come across as slow and dragging at points for those who don’t know where it’s heading. I hope the tiny moments of defiance that built this woman are noticeable enough to those who aren’t looking for them. Does she simply come across as a stubborn woman with an obsessive tendency or can the UK audience see her true majesty and fire? Here’s hoping that the film will inspire people to find out more about the woman that’s helped to change the world.

A woman like this make us look at the world today. Gender equality has made leaps and bounds, but is nowhere near the end of its battle. Do feminists and champions for human rights have to be loud and brash? Can you still be classed as a feminist if you don’t attend every march with a witty homemade placard? And does it have to be that only the voice of many can make a difference while the voice of the few will struggle to make a sound? I think Ginsburg would say no – anyone can be a champion, and anyone can do it whichever way feels right to them. And every voice, no matter how loud or soft, has a right to be heard. So, Ruth – I think I’ll spend my life trying to make mine worth listening to.

On the Basis of Sex is out now in cinemas nationwide.

Sometimes Always Never – Review

Bill Nighy is such a brilliant actor, isn’t he? He has blessed our screens with some really good onscreen performances that are wild and varied. Towering as villains in fantasy romps such as Underworld to heart-wrenching in movies such as Pride, Bill Nighy is, and will continue to be, one of our most treasured actors.

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Directed by Carl Hunter, Sometimes Always Never is a wonderful off-beat black comedy that revolves around Alan – a word and Scrabble obsessed father whose eldest son went missing 19 years ago. When a body is found, his youngest son Peter, who feels constantly in the shadow of his older brother, is whisked away by his father to help identify the body. The series of events cause the two men to confront each other and a history of repressed emotions.

Sometimes Always Never takes a little while to get into its oddball cinematography and aesthetic. Framing this tale of heartache with the quirks of Scrabble and Alan’s red labelling machine, enhancing this movie in a Wes Anderson type fashion. Imbued with colours such as orange and greens, giving it a vintage sheen. The off-kilter look really hones in a special type of tone for the film – adding a rambunctious flare to the proceedings.

Wrapping his tongue around a Merseyside accent, Bill Nighy is phenomenal in this role. The actor is adept at subtly weaving an emotional arc into the embellishments of his character. Peter is a wistful character,who is stuck in his own ways and at ease in the games he plays, swindling folk out of their cash and airing his Scrabble standards. All this is a front as he tackles with almighty guilt that he may not have been the perfect Dad but he tries hard to understand his family to the best of his ability. It’s a delicate and utterly engaging performance by Nighy.

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Opposite him is the criminally underrated Sam Riley who depicts his second eldest son Peter with all the irritation of someone putting up with ghost of someone deemed better than he. Riley is perfect, reconciling his own emotions of loss with that of jealousy and envy – his prickliness affecting his wife and son also. Yet the final scenes between the pair are affectionate and soft, bringing closure to the two men who both richly deserve it in one sense or another.

Sometimes Always Never deals with second best characters earnestly trying to live full lives in the shadows of others. With Tim McInnery and Jenny Agutter as great supporting roles, the film is a small project with a lot of heart. An witty and emotive piece about fathers, sons, and Scrabble, Sometimes Always Never is a fantastic indie film to watch this weekend

Sometimes Always Never is out 14th June! 

Knife + Heart – Review

Yann Gonzalez has been a prolific filmmaker who has a keen and obvious eye for visuals and provocative cinema. From directing You and the Night to producing the criminally underseen We Are the Flesh, his work has stirred and offended in equal measures.

Now he returns with his absolutely delightful, funny, and brilliantly trashy Knife + Heart.

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Directed by Yann Gonzalez and starring Vanessa Paradis (of this fame,) Knife + Heart revolves around a third-rate gay porn director Anne in Paris during the Summer of 1979. After her lover and editor Lois leaves her, Anne is dismayed and looks to shoot her most ambitious film yet, alongside extroverted yet trusted friend Archibald. However, when one of her actors is found brutally murdered, Anne is thrown into an investigation that turns her life upside-down!

Knife + Heart is both a stunning depiction of the unbridled sexual seventies and over-the-top thriller films of that period too. Reminiscent of movies such as Brian De Palma’s phenomenal Phantom of the Paradise and the crazed antics of El Topo, Knife + Heart is a dream-like fantasy. Drenching in pastel colours, Gonzalez presents this almost fantastical slasher film that dives deep into the gay porn scene and confident self-identity plagued by blood and darkness.

Paradis is a brilliant anti-heroine. She is a somewhat crazed and grief-stricken character who is deeply affected by the murders that happen around her but gives off this loud offish personality that bristles all those around her.  It is fantastic to watch Paradis tackle this brutish woman who is unabashed yet still sympathetic and sensitive to her surroundings. Anne is a fantastic character who utilises scenes around her into her gay porn film Homocidal (which, I wish existed as its own movie.

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Most of all, Knife + Heart is a sumptuous watch brings this dream-like nature into fruition. There is a lot of beauty within her – whether it is the sun-soaked Parisian countryside or the white clothed walls of the intense film. Filled with freed sexuality and an abundance of earnest characters, Gonzalez has honoured the period setting and embellished it with modern colours and filming. Giallo in some aspects, De Palma in others, and even venturing into the world of Mighty Boosh (with its utterly bizzare villain,) the movie delves into the excess of porn and horror and marries them in gorgeous package.

Whilst it may not find a terribly big audience, Gonzalez’ film will find a terribly committed one.

Knife + Heart is out in cinemas 5 July! 

Searching Eva – Fragments Festival

The world has been birthed a new. Though there are pressures from the far right to curtail to a more puritan landscape, there is a somewhat freeing blow coming from liberation. More people are expressing their love and who they are with sheer confidence.

It is still a terrifying world – with brutality leering at every corner.

But now, more than ever, a new generation is standing proud of their identity and proclaiming loud on who they are. That’s somewhat the case in the gorgeous captured Searching Eva.

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Directed by Pia Hellenthal, Searching Eva is it’s very own beautifully filmed documentary. The movie revolves around Eva. At 25, she is a sex-worker, a drifter, a Berliner, a pet-owner, a lesbian, a Virgo, a housewife, a feminist, a model, and   Convey this new age of humanity who have grown in the age of the internet, Searching Eva looks to tackle the different threads of Eva that tie and dance together.

In Hellenthal’s film, the movie takes a fly-on-the-wall approach whilst also interviewing Eva in order to showcase exactly who she is and why her story matters in this vast new social climate.

Searching Eva certainly comes with its own sets of rules. The film’s titular subject is an intriguing soul who definitely underlines what it means to be a “millennial” in this landscape. Observing her behaviour and her own history, it becomes apparent that Eva is fluid in her sexuality, her identity, and also her lifestyle – spending her time taking drugs or having sex. In one scene, she utters “the patriarchy fucks me over every day, so I may as well get paid for it.” (I mean, you go girl.)

Eva herself is a beguiling watch and at times annoying – a point that the film plays into. She is vastly different from the norm that older generations have and though not all of her behaviour is permissible to all, she is still a confident young woman and fleshed out greatly in this documentary.

The framing is stunning. From pastel colours to intense reds, the movie utilises this pretty world that Eva lives in. It is incredibly lush.

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Searching Eva is an intriguing watch. It feels somewhat dismissive to mention that it may not appeal to everyone’s sensibilities. I mean, there never has been a truer sentiment here because the documentary flits through these gorgeously filmed landscapes, intimate stories, sexual moments, texts on screen, and more surreal moments that will tinge with the unexpected.

That being said, Searching Eva is a bold documentary about an equally vibrant subject. Gorgeously filmed and wonderfully excavated, this is certainly a titillating and phenomenal watch.

Much like it’s subject.

Searching Eva is part of Fragments Festival
Buy tickets now!