Category: Film Reviews

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Clearly the best action film that has been released so far during 2018, this latest franchise entry delivers plenty of the high-octane thrills that have become synonymous with the series, particularly during recent years. There’s a quite thrilling, brutally bone-crunching fist fight that takes place in a bathroom, for example, involving Tom Cruise’s familiar IMF […]

A Silent Voice (Eiga Koe No Katachi)

Watched: 7 March Endearing high school-set anime about a bully named Ishida who torments the new girl in his class, Nishimiya. She is ostracised on account of her deafness by other classmates, and the same children subsequently shun Ishida despite their part in the sorry affair. This contributes to Ishida’s low self-esteem, but he eventually […]

London Symphony

Watched: 6 March Taking a cue from the silent ‘city symphony’ films of the 1920s, Alex Barrett’s document of modern London applies a rather old-fashioned style to the 21st century sights, despite being shot with digital cameras. It is filmed in black and white and is made up of four thematic ‘movements’, though these can […]

Mute

Watched: 3 March Sci-fi noir with a plodding, stultifying plot and an obvious visual debt to Blade Runner (so at least Mute looks good, with its teeming city streets drenched in neon, flying cars, etc). In all honesty there’s not much else worthy of note, except to say that old Merry Brandybuck has a stab […]

After The Storm (Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku)

Watched: 2 March Another enjoyably low-key slice of Japanese family life from Hirokazu Koreeda, whose consistency and regularity of output means that he makes this kind of thing look easy (and also made me think that he is in danger of being taken for granted as a filmmaker until his recent Palme d’Or win at […]

Pitch Perfect 2

Watched: 2 March I’m glad that the cast and crew of Pitch Perfect got to make a follow-up; the first film was a feel-good treat, with Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson in particular managing to showcase their comic talents and deserving the chance to reprise their roles as the stars of college a capella singing […]

The Death Of Stalin

Watched: 1 March Another droll, biting satire from Armando Iannucci, a man who has been at the forefront of British comedy for the best part of thirty years. The title suggests that this film is about the notorious Russian leader’s demise – and it is, to a certain extent – but the focus is very […]

High Noon

Watched: 28 February Here is a classic archetype of a stoic, silent hero… and a stubborn and stupid one to boot (he should have listened to Grace Kelly’s character in the first five minutes, but then there’d be no movie). There are things I really don’t like about this showdown western – the soundtrack is […]

A Separation

Watched: 27 February Of the three films I’ve seen by Asghar Farhadi, this is definitely the best – a kind of modern day morality play in which the ‘separation’ is between an Iranian woman and her husband (she wants to move abroad, he wants to stay to look after his elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s), […]

The Final Year

Watched: 26 February Absorbing HBO documentary about Barack Obama’s final year as POTUS, focusing not only on the inspirational leader but also on former Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama’s key aide and national security adviser Ben Rhodes and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. It feels at times like director Greg […]

Lady Bird

Watched: 26 February The very best coming-of-age movies – and this widely-celebrated effort by Greta Gerwig is probably the best American take on the genre since Boyhood – find time to explore child-parent relationships as well as the usual high-school-centric flirtations with disaster. In Lady Bird, a semi-autobiographical work set in Sacramento, California in 2002, […]

Black Panther

Watched: 25 February Obviously it’s unusual to see a predominantly black cast and a black story in a big-budget blockbuster, as well as an African setting (or rather a quasi-African setting), and in that sense Ryan Coogler’s exciting and often thoughtful, incisive Black Panther very much stands out from the pack. (If I were a […]

Loving Vincent

Watched: 25 February Loving Vincent is an impressive technological and artistic accomplishment; it has oft been said already, but I think it’s worth reiterating that this film took ten years to complete, with 125 artists creating close to 65,000 paintings in doing so. That’s an amazing commitment. Piecing together the final days and death of […]

I, Tonya

Watched: 23 February I want to like this film more than I do – but the main point is that I do like it. It’s absolutely true that it’s extremely entertaining at times – much more so than some of the other ‘awards season’ contenders that I’ve seen so far this year – and there […]

Last Flag Flying

Watched: 22 February Set in 2003, Richard Linklater’s sequel-but-not-a-sequel to The Last Detail sees three ‘Nam vets (Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carroll) set off on a road trip together, ostensibly at first in order to attend a funeral. It contains its fair share of sentimental moments as they reminisce about old times and their […]

Obvious Child

Watched: 20 February Often very funny, this abortion-related rom-com rests largely on the shoulders of SNL’s/Parks and Recreation’s Jenny Slate, who delivers a really likeable turn as a stand-up with a penchant for delivering extremely personal routines in front of crowds that lead to painfully awkward silences. There are some very good comedy club routines, […]

The Post

Watched: 19 February The first of this year’s two Steven Spielberg films is perhaps more typical of the director’s later period than his other big release, Ready Player One: like 2015’s Bridge Of Spies, The Post is the kind of movie you probably won’t love, but it’s serious and forthright and concerned with historic events […]

The Florida Project

Watched: 18 February There are excellent, naturalistic performances by some relatively inexperienced actors (and one experienced actor) here, and a sugary, colourful look that captures perfectly the way that the pastels of the Walt Disney World Resort – once known as the ‘Florida Project’ during the planning stages – seep beyond its boundaries and across […]

Irreplaceable You

Watched: 17 February Cheesy landfill Netflix romance / cancer weepie. The impressive-on-paper cast (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Huisman, Steve Coogan, Christopher Walken, Jackie Weaver) have to work with a poor screenplay that rarely (if at all) gets to grips with the true pain and suffering caused by terminal illness. The sweet moments are extra-sugary, so clearly […]

The Trader (Sovdagari)

Watched: 17 February Interesting short film about a trader in Georgia who buys goods at stores and markets in towns and then sells them to people who live in rural communities, who often purchase them using potatoes as currency. Given the length you only get a glimpse into the trader’s daily life, but I enjoyed […]

Marshall

Watched: 16 February This film is supposed to be – and to a certain extent is – about the early career of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and tireless civil rights campaigner Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman)… so I’m really not sure why the story has to concentrate so much on one particular case in […]

God’s Own Country

Watched: 15 February Francis Lee’s feature debut is a love story set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire countryside – not the Dales National Park, as quite a few reviews have incorrectly stated, but just to the south in West Yorkshire, near Leeds and Skipton. The two lovers are an English farmer’s son named Johnny […]

Borg vs McEnroe

Watched: 15 February I enjoyed this dramatisation of the early days of the rivalry between ice-cool tennis champion Björn Borg and hotheaded pretender to the throne John McEnroe, which focuses on the 1980 Wimbledon championships and culminates in an excellently-staged re-enactment of their gripping men’s singles final. The two leads – Sverrir Gudnason and Shia […]

The Past (Le Passé)

Watched: 14 February Like his previous film A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past is concerned with a marital break-up, to a certain extent, although in this later drama the situation is far more complex than the one in that earlier, Oscar-winning piece. There’s a moral quandary at the heart of both screenplays, and you get […]

Mountain

Watched: 12 February This eye candy-heavy documentary by Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa) looks at our fascination with the world’s highest peaks, and the ways in which we attempt to ‘conquer’ them, though Willem Dafoe’s narration carefully distances the film from such human arrogance, instead waxing lyrical about the majesty, scale and otherness of various mountain ranges. […]

The Guns Of Navarone

Watched: 11 February Better than your average WWII adventure, although considering Gregory Peck is such a charismatic actor his stoic hero here is a little dreary – certainly when standing next to fellow gun-destroyers David Niven and Anthony Quinn, anyway. I grew up watching big war movies with stellar casts like this, and I’d say […]

Paddington 2

Watched: 11 February Paul King’s Paddington sequel expands on the rather lovely first film, revisiting certain locations and characters while also finding the time for an entertaining prison-set sequence, a terrific train-based finale and some sweet pop-up book-style stop-motion animation – the latter a lovely and cleverly-incorporated homage to the BBC/FilmFair Paddington TV series of […]

A Bad Moms Christmas

Watched: 11 February Not quite as funny as the first Bad Moms film, but not without merit, mostly because the excellent Kathryn Hahn reprises her role as baddest bad mom Carla. Like other low-brow American comedy sequels of recent years this simply pulls the trick of dishing up similar gags (the women get drunk and […]

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Watched: 10 February British heritage period piece about the life of ‘Winnie The Pooh’ author AA Milne (Domnhall Gleeson), focusing on the creation of his enduring stories for children and the way that this shaped his relationship with son Christopher (Will Tilston, Alex Lawther). It’s certainly not bad but there’s something tiresome about the way […]

My Happy Family

Watched: 10 February A well-acted Georgian film by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß, in which the central character Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) decides that she has had enough of living with her family and moves out of her home and into her own apartment. She is seeking more space, both physical and mental, and it’s soon […]

Collateral Beauty

Watched: 10 February Terrible film in which a man (Will Smith) tries to get over the death of his young daughter while his colleagues/friends (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña) unkindly drag him through some protracted screwball comedy gubbins that involves tricking him into thinking he’s seeing apparitions (the apparitions are, in fact, played by […]

The Odyssey (L’Odyssée)

Watched: 9 February Biographical drama about Jacques Cousteau. It’s fine, if ultimately forgettable: the performances are OK and there’s some lovely, crisp underwater photography that’s reminiscent of The Big Blue. We see too much of the mundane aspects of Cousteau’s life, though, such as his attempts to secure funding for his expeditions and films, and […]

The 15:17 To Paris

Watched: 9 February A film about the incredible story of three very brave young American backpackers, who tackled and subdued an armed man before he could murder an entire train’s worth of people en route to Paris. Director Clint Eastwood has even cast all three men as themselves in his latest film, which is a […]

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Watched: 9 February Fun second episode that carries on where the first Hellboy film left off, with Guillermo del Toro once again putting Ron Perlman’s world-weary, snarky, cigar-chomping demon scrapper to good use. As you would expect the production design is superb – even better than the first film – and I liked the increased […]

The Battle Of Midway

Watched: 8 February Harrowing documentary footage of Pacific fighting during World War II, directed by John Ford. The effect of the footage is lessened somewhat by the glib narration. Interesting propaganda piece. (**½)

The Cloverfield Paradox

Watched: 8 February There are a few links here to the previous two Cloverfield films, but increasingly this has become a cobbled-together franchise for unloved, unoptioned and unfilmed genre screenplays that have been floating around Hollywood, and results have become somewhat mixed, rather predictably. This instalment of the alien invasion saga takes place almost entirely […]

Phantom Thread

Watched: 7 February Yet another richly-textured, atmospheric and constantly fascinating drama by Paul Thomas Anderson, centering on a woman (Vicky Krieps) who becomes both muse and lover – very much in that order – to a couturier (Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1950s London. Both newcomer and supposedly-retiring old hand deliver excellent performances; Krieps’ character Alma is […]

Machines

Watched: 6 February Rahul Jain’s film shows – in some depth – the workers and workings of a textile factory in Gujarat, India, the camera slowly moving around the giant machinery and huge rolls of material, occasionally catching napping employees presumably exhausted on account of their twelve-hour shifts. The conditions are poor, and the men […]

Moolaadé

Watched: 5 February Ousmane Sembène’s last film, Moolaadé, is set in a small village in Burkina Faso, and its plot is set in motion when a mother named Collé (who is also the second of a man’s three wives) refuses to let her daughter’s genitals be cut, which is sadly a practice that is still […]

Dirty Pretty Things

Watched: 4 February Stephen Frears’ drama looks at the lives of immigrant Londoners, with characters from a number of different backgrounds finding some common ground with one another as co-workers within the Baltic Hotel (actually Whitehall Court in Westminster). The plot is concerned with illegal organ harvesting – a trade that’s actually being carried out […]

The Belko Experiment

Watched: 4 February There’s a rather fun premise here that plays on the dog-eat-dog, cutthroat nature of corporate life, with all the attendant backstabbing, ruthlessness and selfishness that one associates with employees who are desperately trying to make their way up the greasy pole. The story is set within an American company’s isolated office block […]

Mother!

Watched: 3 February Darren Aronofsky’s Mother Earth parable is certainly a visceral experience, especially during the second half, in which Jennifer Lawrence’s character ‘her’ is terrorised by hordes of unwanted and uninvited visitors in her house, several of whom start to attack her (a couple of scenes here arguably go too far in depicting the […]

Trophy

Watched: 3 February Like me, you’ll probably approach this documentary with a pre-existing opinion on ‘canned’ big game trophy hunting, or hunting more generally; it’s something that I disagree with, although after seeing this film I am more aware of the arguments in favour of it than I was beforehand. This is a work with […]

In Between (Bar Bahar)

Watched: 2 February I really enjoyed this drama by Maysaloun Hamoud about three different women in Tel Aviv, who are each grappling with problems that relate in different ways to struggles for independence, equality and tolerance within a patriarchal, conservative society, though the city does appear to be a more progressive place than the outlying […]

Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer

Watched: 2 February Richard Gere has been picking some very interesting roles of late, and continues his recent penchant for playing older men on the fringes of society with Norman, a fixer who claims to know just about everyone within New York’s Jewish community (though there’s never any clear evidence that he actually does). In […]

Molly’s Game

Watched: 31 January I think there’s almost (almost!) a very good film here, but Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut – about high-stakes poker game organiser Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) – is really let down by a cliché-riven final act reconciliation between Molly and her father (despite the excellent supporting turn by Kevin Costner) and a rather […]

The Night Is Young (aka Bad Blood) (Mauvais Sang)

Watched: 30 January On the face of it this entertaining film by Leos Carax is about a love triangle (involving characters played by Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche and Julie Delpy), but there’s a lot more going on than you might assume. It’s set in France in the near future, at a point in which young […]

My Life To Live (Vivre Sa Vie)

Watched: 30 January An excellent Jean-Luc Godard film from the early 60s, made at the height of the director’s infatuation with his stunning star (and, by this point in time, his wife), Anna Karina. She is on great form as Nana, who in the course of twelve separate segments goes from being a wife and […]