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 Friday 8th March 

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! 

Possum – Review

Matthew Holness has been a big staple of British comedy for years. His work in the celebrated c cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace has made him legendary.

With that said, his comedy has always been tinged with darkness. Now he has dove straight into a murky and terrifying world with his directorial feature film debut Possum.

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Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong, Possum is the delightful tale about a disgraced children’s ventriloquist. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say delightful? I meant deeply, deeply, disturbing. After Phillip is shunned for an unknown controversy, he is forced to go back to his home, now a derelict and warped place. In it houses Morris, a grim and terrifying figure from Phillip’s childhood. In a brown bag lives a puppet named Possum and as childhood secrets start to come to the surface, as does Possum. Can Phillip escape the horrors that lay in front of him?

This gripping horror story plays like a demented fairy-tale and is perhaps this year’s most unsettling film. Possum is an intimately discomforting movie that’ll have you shuffling in your seat, looking for some sort of escape. Relying on shadows and the sheer horrific look of Possum, Holness’ gripping film will have your toes curling with every second up until the finale which is by far some of the year’s most profoundly horrifying sequences to ever grace the big screen.

Sean Harris is a particularly spectacular actor here and has a way of balancing a battered innocence with the stature of a possible antagonist. As we’ll never know the reason behind Phillip’s return home that murky past lingers and makes him an unreliable hero to follow. Yet broiling underneath his looming character is a man who lost his childhood and as he is battered with horrific memories, this innocence comes to the foreground. It’s a nuanced and spectacular performance by Harris.

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Alun Armstrong is terrific as Morris. His character has no discernible likeness about him as he scoffs food and smokes fags in a pit of a home. Morris’ exact relation to Phillip is unknown but you can see he has taunted and ridiculed the young man for years. Armstrong makes perturbs and inhibits this monstrous role like the greedy Stromboli of Pinocchio – playing the strings to a revolting conclusion.

Possum plays with creepiness at every corner, particularly in set design and location. Abandoned army barracks, swamp lands that stretch beyond your eye, and a forest of But really, it’s Phillip’s childhood home that has been left to rot that sends the shivers. It’s not even the brown and peeling wallpaper or the smoke stains on the wall – years of muck and neglect caking bygone patterns of yesteryear. It’s the surreal layout of a large house that holds it’s secrets firmly behind closed doors. A perfect playground for Possum and Phillip’s undoing.

Possum may play fast and loose with our sleeping patterns but it also has a mournful soul. It’s an intricate, if albeit terrifying, portrayal of abuse that has warped a mind. Possum is one of the most uncomfortable and nightmarish films of 2018.


Possum is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Unpopped Kernels: Begin Again (2014)

John Carney has masterminded some delicate stories and inventive musical pieces that have shot songs into our hearts, coating us with a balance of heart and despair. Working through our emotional cores through the power of song, Carney is one of Ireland’s best directors whose work with Once sent us on a soul-searching journey that has since taken to the West End and Broadway. Returning a couple of years ago with Begin Again, it was tricky to decide whether he’d capture the same magic as Once.

Instead, he created a new film filled with honesty, openness, and tunes.

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Begin Again revolves around music producer Dan and singer/song-writer Gretta who meet at the worst time in their lives. The former is an alcoholic, estranged from his family, fired from his job, and all prepared to kill himself. That is until he comes across the latter singing in a lowly pub. Gretta has just found out her boyfriend, now a famous rock star, has been cheating on her and fallen in love with someone else. When a chance meeting inspires the pair of them to produce a record together, they find a connection within the music and a chance to…begin again…

A movie that you’ll fall in love with despite rolling your shoulders so much at the premise and cast list. That being said, Begin Again is an endearing note. Though a little saccrine sweeter than Once, and therefore missing a step from the masterful iconic film, Begin Again still draws on the poignancy the two lead characters and the wholesome musical. The story is somewhat idealistic but brimming with sublime emotional arcs and a wondrous soulful journey paved by our characters and their inspiration for the music. There’s also some excellent points about the music industry (some cutting ones too) that allow this movie not to stray too.

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The small cast helmed by Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffalo really help find Begin Again’s identity. Despite the big names, Carney still crafts this independent spirit defiantly. As Dan and Gretta, Ruffalo and Knightley explore the salvation of music as both producer and singer, using the art to work through the problems that vex them.  Knightly and Ruffalo are definitely the “lost” stars of the show but it is populated by incredible talents such as Adam Levine, James Cordon, and Hailee Steinfield who embrace the energy of the film and delicate excavate the aching, longing, and the journey one must go down – all together

Begin Again is about redemption and finding a home, not just in the adoptive city you moved to, but in the people you meet. It’s about recovery after pain and how beauty can come from suffering. Utilising the character of New York with this vibrant musical whimsy, the real crux of the tale is how Gretta and Dan help one another after each feels loss and abandoned. Having them not develop into the typical love story really hones the film in and sees humanity in its finest, propelling each other to discover the happiness they deserve with this beautiful acoustic soundtrack, brimming with the summer in the Big Apple.


Begin Again is available on Amazon Video! 

Road to the Oscars: Free Solo – Review

Destined for Oscar glory in the eyes of this reviewer, especially since Three Identical Strangers didn’t make the shortlist, the documentary Free Solo follows climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope. Husband and wife directing team Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi make us care about the obsessively single-minded Alex as he challenges himself to scale 3,200 feet of sheer rock face with no safety net and a significant risk of death.

From that description, you might think that Alex is some rich kid with an expensive but dangerous hobby. When we first meet him, he is living in a van. He has climbed many rock faces before but has never attempted ‘El Cap’. No other free-solo climber has successfully ascended it, with its seemingly insurmountable features such as the ‘Boulder Problem’.

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With many successful climbs behind him, as well as an autobiography, ‘Alone on the Wall’ the thirty-one year old Alex has a degree of celebrity. A high school student asks him how much money he has. ‘As much as a dentist,’ he replies. He donates a third of his earnings to a charitable foundation improving lives in Africa and considers himself lucky to turn his hobby into a living.

However, he has also been shaped by his father Charles, who ‘never hugged him’ and may have had Asperger’s. Alex describes himself as a ‘real dork’ at high school, earning straight As. However, he dropped out of the University of California in his second term, drawn heavily to the outdoors.

Does Alex share his father’s condition? He is honest – or unguarded – enough to say that he would never put the love of a woman before his hobby. Yet as he prepares for the El Cap climb, he has a girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, who met him at a book signing and thought he was cute. ‘I didn’t hear the word ‘love’ in my household,’ Alex explains. He’s being pedantic: his mother spoke French (she was a teacher) and uttered ‘Je t’aime’. He learns hugging – he wasn’t hugged growing up – and now he’s a big fan.

In the most revealing section of the film, we see him have a CT scan. Alex’s amygdala, not to be confused with Natalie Portman’s character in The Phantom Menace, doesn’t register fear the way most brains do; the amygdala processes emotions. He doesn’t fear death when climbing; rather he is motivated to achieving peak physical condition to negotiate precarious hand and foot-holds.

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Sanni was indirectly responsible for one of Alex’s few injuries – she let go of the rope. However, they didn’t break up and still climb together. However, during his preparation, Alex undergoes another fall.

In many ways, Free Solo is a generic sports story, with the requisite setbacks. There is also the alternative. Sanni attempts to give Alex a normal life – they buy a house together in Las Vegas. He finds a coffee machine puzzling and eats his meals with a spatula used for cooking.

The climbing sequence is genuinely thrilling: heart-stopping, suspenseful and gruelling to watch. We hear the debate about whether filming would distract Alex or threaten his safety if there was an accident with the drone. During the ascent, the cameraman on the ground can scarcely bear to look at the monitor.

How you feel about Alex’s climb may to some extent be determined about how you feel about rock climbing in general. I felt for the people Alex left behind as he continued alone. I didn’t marvel at his prowess – I just wanted him to live. I don’t think Free Solo will popularise climbing without ropes. But it does show how people with Asperger’s – or the son of a man with Asperger’s – have different abilities. Spiderman doesn’t need the bite of a radioactive spider to climb walls – just a differently functioning amygdala and an appetite for a challenge.


Free Solo is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. The Oscars will air on ABC on Sunday 24 February 2019 (01:30am, Monday 25 February, Sky Cinema in the UK)

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.