Bridget Jones’s Baby

September 20, 2016 by  
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Bridget Jones's Baby

Jones is back. The women who taught us it’s ok to drink alone while dancing around your bedroom and that you should never apply makeup in the back of a moving taxi has returned with a few more essential life lessons.

Played by the Oscar-winning Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones appears to finally have her life in order – having at last lost those few extra pounds and with a job as a top news producer, she is composed and happy. However, with the passing of another birthday, her complicated love life once again takes a turn leaving her in a rather unexpected situation. Now an expectant mother, Jones has to deal with a more pressing matter – who is the father? The men in Bridget’s life are once again fighting for her approval but this time, the dreamy American Jack, played by Patrick Dempsey joins Colin Firth, the collected Mr Darcy, as Jones’s potential suitors.

There has been no fluffing round the edges; our favourite, flustered Ms Jones braces our screens again with her frivolous sex life, outrageous dress sense and overcrowded, London borough flat. With excellent support from Emma Thompson, as Dr Rawlings the film provides a fitting end to the Bridget Jones franchise but leaves us questioning, can the eponymous heroine ever have a ‘happily ever after’?

Bridget Jones’s Baby in cinemas nationwide from 16 September 2016

Photography: Universal Pictures – Giles Keyte

Hell or High Water

September 8, 2016 by  
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Chris Pine and Ben Foster

Not your typical American Western movie, Hell or High Water delves into the tortuous relationship between two estranged brothers, raising questions about friendship and loyalty. Set in rural Texas, siblings Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard clearly have a rocky relationship but find common purpose trying to save their late mother’s farm. United by their contempt for the faceless executives behind the Texas Midlands Bank, the pair resort to drastic measures to save their mother’s legacy from repossession.

In a time when the corporate banks have sucked the life out of many small Texas towns, the bleak economic opportunities have led the brothers to plan a series of bank robberies, and as you’d expect, not everything goes to plan. Jumping straight into the first heist, there is no easy transition into the action but this injection of pace helps frame the characters and their motive.

Both Pine and Foster do a superb job playing such complex characters; Pine the heartthrob, blue-eyed divorced father of two who would do anything for his family, and Foster the troubled ex-con watching over his younger brother. In pursuit of the Howard brothers is the wonderful Jeff Bridges, as the shamelessly racist Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, who, on the eve of his retirement is looking for one last showdown.

British film director David Mackenzie is on to a winner with this modern day Western, keeping the audience on edge as he builds his characters while allowing the film’s narrative to be punctuated with violence, abrasive humour and tender moments of love and kinship.

None of this would have been as effective without Giles Nuttgen’s beautifully crafted cinematography; his carefully considered shots bring the audience right into the centre of the Howard brother’s world of disequilibrium.

In all, Hell or High Water is a twisted chase of a movie, which brings a welcome jolt to the Western genre.

Released nationwide on 9 September 2016

War Dogs

August 23, 2016 by  
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war dogs Miles Teller Jonah Hill

With such a ludicrous plot line it’s hard to believe that War Dogs is based on true events, throughout the film this is something that is easy to forget. Childhood friends David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), are two twentysomething Americans who manage to land a $300 million deal supplying arms to Afghan military forces.

Having started their own small arms company they are quickly onto a financial win that could solve their seemingly, rather petty, life woes. Before long however, they are quickly in way over their heads; highlighting the true danger of the business.

Todd Phillips has paid exceptional attention to detail adding a strong sense of humour to a ridiculous situation that really has us laughing in the face of violence. If nothing else this film is funny, focusing on the side of war that is never discussed, but ultimately it highlights that like most things, war is just a business deal with opposing sides doing anything for money.

Released nationwide 26 August 2016

The Colony

August 21, 2016 by  
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The Colony 1

Emma Watson is big news currently. It seems that a week doesn’t go by without a mention of her latest film work; the Beauty and the Beast teaser trailer recently broke records as the most watched teaser trailer online, with over 90 million views within 24 hours of being uploaded. Similarly, her work as a UN Ambassador, and the launch of the HeForShe campaign for gender equality has also kept her in the public eye.

The Colony, also known as Colonia, is a historical thriller based on true events, starring Emma Watson (Lena) and Daniel Brühl (Daniel) as a young German couple, caught up in a Chilean Military Coup. After Daniel is captured by the secret police and imprisoned, Lena joins an infamous cult known as the Colonia Dignidad (Dignity Colony) to track down Daniel and escape with him.

Despite the popularity of Emma Watson, and her having top billing, I had only recently heard of The Colony as it is about to be released on DVD and Blu-ray. The film was originally intended to be streamed online only; perhaps this accounts for the fact that it only made £47 during its opening weekend in the UK, from showing in five cinemas! This is a stark contrast to several trailers for The Colony, which have racked up millions of views online between them.

Although not greatly publicised, I find The Colony to be a strong film, with solid performances from the cast. Watson manages to lead the film brilliantly, giving an emotional performance which captures romance, sadness and fear. Daniel Brühl is equally excellent, as he is in all of his film performances. Michael Nyqvist gives a sinister performance as Paul Schäfer, the notorious real life leader of Colonia Dignidad.

This is a true ‘edge of your seat’ drama, which will keep you wondering what will happen to Lena and Daniel until the last minute. The real story and politics behind the Colonia Dignidad is not looked at in great detail, but instead the story of those within the cult keeps the film entertaining throughout its 100 minutes’ duration.

For those who still see Emma Watson as Hermione from the Harry Potter film series, a role for which she will be most remembered, there is no doubt that her ability as an actress has grown, and her film career will not be dwindling anytime soon.

During the summer months, cinema screenings are often filled with comedies and family films. The Colony is a perfect antidote to this type of film, and provides a thoughtful drama, for those who like their films on the heavier side.

The Colony will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 22nd August 2016.

Suicide Squad

August 9, 2016 by  
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Suicide Squad 1

Much maligned by the first crop of critical reviews, one might have had low expectations of such a highly anticipated movie. I, however, would recommend you go to see this with an open mind and set out to be entertained by, in what was in my opinion, a hugely fun cinematic triumph.

So the first thing we, as an audience, want to know is ‘how are these criminals, psychopaths, reprobates and general menaces to society, put together?’. And that is a question we quickly have answered in the first few fantastically sequenced, frenetic, exciting and captivating scenes, presenting each character one by one, with fast-paced, yet skilfully described introductions. All tied up neatly with an incise explanation of why they were brought together, the formidable combination of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Slipknot and El Diablo, otherwise known as the Suicide Squad, are brought together, to set up an intriguing plot.

As I previously wrote about Batman v Superman, this is a movie for the fans, which may explain why non-DC fans and some critics may not like this production. However, as a fan myself, I loved it. If you know what to expect, know what kind of storylines, characters and nuances comic books present, you’ll be enthralled by Suicide Squad. To give a prime example, a character such as Killer Croc might seem somewhat ridiculous to some and fighting a mythical witch as their main nemesis, may be overly fantastical or even kind of silly to many, but this is exactly the sort of thing a real fan would be accustomed to and the way in which writer and director David Ayer captures the DC comic world, in which the Suicide Squad reside, perfectly encapsulates what one might muster in their mind. It’s an unconventional world, yet a unique and unflinching homage to the comics.

To summarise the premise of the plot, a gang of criminals, locked up for a plethora of unmentionable crimes, are brought together for their individual and collective skills and abilities, to assist in battling the potentially catastrophic dangers presented after the appearance of Superman and the possibility of ‘unfriendly’ alien visitors. In this case, their help is required more urgently than anticipated, after Enchantress, a witch with immensely destructive powers, hell bent on world domination, recruits her brother to assist in her abominable mission. Cue the Suicide Squad to come to the rescue of planet Earth.

Some of the cast selections may have raised some eyebrows, however, there were some truly outstanding performances. Will Smith, as Deadshot, was immense in his performance as the leader of the motley crew, portraying the focused and unnervingly single-minded one-time assassin. The undoubted star performance, though, was that of Margot Robbie, as Harley Quinn. Her psychotic, demented, colourful, enticing, vibrant, alluring, sexy and all round crazy bitch portrayal will, in my opinion, go down as iconic in cinematic history. To say she was scene stealing, would be an understatement. Although only really a bit part role, Jared Leto’s Joker deserves considerable mention. In yet another unique incarnation, Leto delivers an intoxicating performance, producing grippingly sinister scenes, absolutely engrossing the audience. His role in the upcoming solo Batman project will be highly anticipated.

I’ve set aside a special tribute for the tremendous soundtrack. Soundtracks can often make a movie and in this case, the film’s musical choices were absolutely spot on. Such tracks as ‘House of the rising sun’, ‘You Don’t Own me’ and ‘Bohemiam Rhapsody’ expertly evoked and mirrored the feel and tone of certain scenes. A tip of the hat to Steven Price’s input here.

So ignore the pretentious, self-important critics and go and immerse yourself in the frenetic fun and sensory circus that is Suicide Squad. You won’t be disappointed.

Suicide Squad is in cinemas now.

Poor Cow

July 18, 2016 by  
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Poor Cow 1

British director Ken Loach is probably best known for his second feature film, Kes (1969). Loach also directed the famous TV drama, Cathy Come Home (1966) starring Carol White. Less well known is his first film, Poor Cow (1967), also featuring White, and a young Terrance Stamp.

Kenneth Loach, as he is credited in Poor Cow, brings a gritty, kitchen sink drama to the screen in the story of 18-year-old Joy, as she marries her abusive boyfriend Tom and has a baby. After Tom is imprisoned for armed robbery, we see the continued choices that Joy makes through the years as a single mother.

Loach wrote the screenplay with Nell Dunn, the author of the novel on which the film is based. However, actor Terrance Stamp has said that the film was mostly improvised, to give it a more realistic feel.

Carol White is perfectly cast in the role of Joy. Her strong resemblance to Julie Christie fits her into the 1960s styling of the film, and her performance brings the realism that is needed to show a woman struggling in times of post-war hardship. Poor Cow has many entertaining characters, but only Joy is explored in depth.

As brilliant as this performance is, Poor Cow is let down by its lack of plot. Although only running at 100 minutes, the film feels longer with its drawn out scenes. It is a film made to make the audience think; to think about the choices that Joy is making, and how they will affect her future. Regardless, it still feels as if the film is missing something. It is just not an overly gripping film.

Poor Cow gives us a slice of 1960s London, and has an important place in social history and within the ‘kitchen sink drama’ genre. As iconic as Ken Loach is to 20th Century filmmaking, I feel that his other work is rightly held in higher regard.

Poor Cow will be released on Blu-ray on 25th July 2016.

The Here After

July 4, 2016 by  
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The Here After 1

As a theatrical film debut, writer/director Magnus von Horn has created a chilling Swedish drama in The Here After. We follow John (Ulrik Munther) as he leaves a juvenile offenders unit, where he has spent the past two years for an unknown crime. Although ready to continue with his life and education in the small town he grew up in, the residents are not so ready to forgive and forget his crime.

The rising tensions manifest not only with the local town and other students, but also between John and his father Martin (Mats Blomgren). As the film progresses, we delve deeper into the crime that has been committed, and see just what affect it has had on John and those around him. Musician Munther, in his screen debut, is very well cast in this role; rage builds up as we see John trying to control his emotions, but also losing his way as his crime is slowly revealed.

The work of Polish cinematographer Lukasz Zal is another highlight of The Here After, as we see widescreen and long shots of John and those he comes into contact with. Although this style of storytelling will not be to everyone’s taste, the long scenes manage to project the isolation that John feels on his return, and the hidden narrative will keep the viewer looking for clues throughout.

Although clearly a slow-burner, The Here After is an intriguing story of the search for normality in the face of hostility. There is likely to be more complex dramas released in 2016, but The Here After is certainly worth a viewing, especially for those who are fans of Swedish cinema.

The Here After will be released on DVD on 4th July 2016.

Rams

May 28, 2016 by  
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Rams 1

Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams, a surprise hit at last year’s Cannes festival is a tale of sheep farming in Iceland, following the fortunes of two aged and warring brothers whose flocks and livelihoods are devastated by the arrival of the dreaded scrapie disease.

Sigurður Sigurjónsson plays Gummi, the younger, quieter and ostensibly saner sibling, while Theódór Júlíusson, plays the more oafish and aggressive – and frequently drunk – Kiddi. The two have not spoken in more than 40 years, due to some unknown bad blood, communicating exclusively through handwritten notes delivered by a sheepdog.

Surreal little flourishes such as this help create the unique atmosphere of the film – it is by turns darkly comic and depressingly bleak. There are several scenes, such as Kiddi being driven to hospital, drunk and comatose in the bucket of Gummi’s tractor, or Gummi’s desperate bath-time scrubbing of his prized ram to try and cleanse any trace of scrapie, that tread a fine line between hilarious and heart-breaking.

Ultimately though, it’s the heartbreak that wins out – watching the two wizened old farmers still clinging on to their ancient feuds and way of life in the face of the modern world is a sad affair. After Gummi slaughters his own sheep, rather than let the sleekly professional, out-of-town veterinarians do it, he calmly washes the blood off his face in the bathroom sink, before pausing, gazing into the mirror, and breaking down in full-chested sobs. It’s a powerful moment, that cuts away any sense that the film is playing this curious and out-of-time lifestyle for laughs. But neither is it overly sentimental – the sparse piano soundtrack and still, stark beauty of the frozen landscapes combine to bring a coolly detached feel to proceedings.

Some will love it, some will find it singularly depressing- but it’s a striking film no matter what. The fine performances from the two leads, beautiful visuals, and affecting portrayal of lives in decline make it an engrossing watch.

As part of the DVD, there is also an interview with Hákonarson, the director, conducted at the BFI in February, and his lauded 2007 short Wrestling, following the lives of two young male wrestlers who fall in love, and must hide their relationship from their conservative society.

A Beautiful Planet

May 26, 2016 by  
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A Beautiful Planet 1

A Beautiful Planet is the new documentary from famed IMAX director Toni Myers. Her previous works have looked outwards into space from Earth, but here the camera is turned, looking back at Earth from the International Space Station. Filmed by the astronauts of the ISS, it’s a jaw dropping visual spectacle, featuring incredible footage of iconic landscapes from 250 miles above the surface.

Simply put, the aerial shots of Earth are just mesmerizing. From the enormous eye of Hurricane Julio, to the near constant thunderstorms over Central and East Africa, the film features one breath-taking aerial shot after another.

It also brutally exposes some of our own follies, and impact on the planet, showing the deforestation of the Amazon and Madagascar, as well as the Central Valley of California, where it appears as though, as astronaut Terry Virts puts it, someone has taken a, “giant ice cream scoop” and dug straight through the middle of the state.

And one of the most arresting shots is of Korea at night, showing the divide between the South, one of the most brightly lit and colourful areas on the planet, and the North, which is in almost total darkness, save for a few dim lights scattered around Pyongyang.

Interspersed with this are excerpts from the astronauts’ daily routines, showing how they sleep, exercise and carry out their duties. The contrast between these awesome, huge vistas, reminding us of our vulnerability, and perhaps insignificance, in the universe, and the intimate, human minutiae of the crew’s basic needs, such as washing their hair, or even enjoying a cup of espresso from the specially designed ISSpresso machine is very effective. And the genuine warmth, camaraderie of the crew, as well as their obvious joy at fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition, is great to see.

There is some excellent footage of a spacewalk, showing the downright awkwardness of trying to conduct work in the disorientating atmosphere of space, as the astronauts struggle in their huge, bulky spacesuits, bumping into things, spinning around upside down, snagging their tether ropes on all the equipment of the station – all in temperatures veering between 120 and minus 150 degrees centigrade. It’s another great illustration of the immense danger and hostility of the deceptively beautiful environment.

Unfortunately the script is a little clichéd; descriptions of “gossamer clouds”, “snaking rivers” and “teeming metropolises” abound. It’s narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, who does a fine, if perhaps unnecessary job – one suspects she is only there in order to put a big marquee-name on the poster. More revealing are the thoughts of the crew members, particularly Samantha Cristoforetti’s observation on the necessity for us all to look after our planet: “Looking at Earth from space, we need to start considering ourselves as crewmembers, not passengers. Nobody gets a free ride.”

A Beautiful Planet is an extraordinary illustration of our place in the universe, and the sheer improbability of our very existence.

It is light enough that children will be enthralled, whilst the spectacular visuals will ensure that even the most down-to-earth souls will have their head in the clouds.

Spotlight

May 22, 2016 by  
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Spotlight 1

The critically acclaimed Spotlight took away the most prestigious prize from the 2015 Award Season; Academy Award for Best Picture. In my view, Room was the best film of 2015, although Spotlight is not far behind.

The film follows a group of investigative journalists, working for the Boston Globe, as they uncover the widespread issue of child abuse by the Roman Catholic church within the Boston area. Based on true events, we see the ‘Spotlight’ team research and write the stories of those involved and affected by child abuse, and how delving into the subject matter begins to affect the team and their own lives.

The ‘Spotlight’ team is made up of Matt (Brian d’Arcy James), Walter (Michael Keaton), Sacha (Rachel McAdams), Michael (Mark Ruffalo) and Ben (John Slattery), with Marty (Liev Schreiber) as their editor. As such, there is no lead actor in the film, although both McAdams and Ruffalo were nominated for the Best Supporting role at the Academy Awards. The strongest aspect of the film is the cast, and how they perfectly hold the film together as a team.

Spotlight is an engrossing and entertaining film, which relies heavily on the dialogue to give a detailed account of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Globe team. On release, the film was meet with acclaim from critics and audiences, but unsurprisingly, was met with hostility from the Catholic church. The film is not anti-Catholic in intent, but is portraying a sensitive, and still present aspect within the Catholic church.

Spotlight is a perfectly watchable drama, with its slick screenplay and tight cast. The subject matter is a difficult one, which the film tackles well, managing to tell the story and convey the emotions of what is happening, by bringing it to the forefront of the screen. Although not always easy viewing, Spotlight is certainly one of the better films to come out of 2015.

Spotlight will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 23rd May 2016.

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