Category: Film Reviews

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 […]

Salt And Fire

Watched: 29 January A bizarre eco-drama-kidnap-thriller from Werner Herzog that’s set against the backdrop of the Bolivian salt flats and the supervolcano Uturunku. The screenplay is filled with the kind of portentous lines you’d normally expect to hear Herzog himself utter in one of his documentaries – specifically 2016’s Into The Inferno, which was about […]

Café Lumière (Kōhī Jikō)

Watched: 28 January Hou’s Hsiao-hsien’s tribute to Ozu Yasojiro, made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the revered Japanese filmmaker’s birth, is a low-key but endlessly fascinating film (though as a committed Japanophile I would happily watch scenes depicting quotidian Japanese life, as seen here, for hours on end). There’s no plot to speak of, […]

Atomic Blonde

Watched: 28 January Atomic Blonde is worthy of note for being an espionage action film that features a woman (in this case Charlize Theron) in the lead role, which is still a relatively rare event within this particular genre. And Theron gives a pretty kickass performance, carrying out much of the cartoonish, John Wick-style asskicking […]

Downsizing

Watched: 25 January I really enjoyed the first hour of this sci-fi satire – the high-concept premise is fun, there are some barbed attacks that suggest a certain blandness and inherent racism and discrimination at the heart of the American Dream, and the execution up to a point is solid enough – but the second […]

Heroin(e)

Watched: 25 January A very good, short-ish documentary about the effects that heroin use have had on Huntington, West Virginia, where the drug (and related criminal activity) is widespread. The film concentrates on three local women in particular who are trying to combat the issue in different ways: a judge who presides over a mostly-successful […]

They Live

Watched: 25 January John Carpenter’s alien invasion film wears its anti-capitalist message very clearly on its sleeve; in this genre flick the wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper plays a construction worker who discovers a pair of sunglasses that enable him to see the world ‘as it really is’ – one in which subliminal advertising messages are […]

The Lovers On The Bridge (Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf)

Watched: 24 January Leos Carax’s third feature – also his most well-known to date – revolves around two vagrants who become lovers while sleeping rough on Paris’s Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’): one, played by the contorting livewire Denis Lavant, is seemingly struggling with mental illness and has been homeless for a while, while Juliette Binoche’s […]

Darkest Hour

Watched: 23 January Worth watching for the excellent performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill – which, although it’s absolutely the kind of historical British impersonation many critics and Academy voters lap up, is still undeniably impressive, with convincing make-up work augmenting a showy, shouty but believable portrait of a man with the weight of […]

Final Portrait

Watched: 21 January A low-key, unassuming film by Stanley Tucci about the Swiss-Italian artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), set in a Paris that has been bled of much of its colour. Our way in to Giacometti’s world – principally the basic, backstreet home and studio he shares with his wife Annette (Sylvie Testud), his brother […]

Rough Night

Watched: 20 January The intention here, presumably, was to make a women-led version of The Hangover, but Rough Night is inferior to every other ‘girls behaving badly’ comedy of recent years that I can think of – particularly Bridesmaids, but also 2016’s Bad Moms and last year’s Girls Trip. Formulaic to a tee, with Scarlett […]

Jaws

Rewatched: 20 January I was probably only about 8 or 9 years old when I last saw Jaws, and the more extreme moments of horror, such as the sudden appearance of the bloated dead body underwater, or the severed leg that drops slowly to the seabed, absolutely terrified me at the time. They’re surprisingly gruesome […]

The Man With The Iron Heart

Watched: 19 January This thriller about the Second World War assassination of Reinhard Heydrick (Jason Clarke) in Czechoslovakia was always going to struggle; it’s the umpteenth telling of said story, the most recent iteration being 2016’s Anthropoid, starring Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones et al. There’s more of an emphasis on the character of Heydrick here […]

Frida

Watched: 18 January A striking, vibrant portrait of the artist Frida Kahlo that’s perhaps most notable for the energetic, effervescent performance by Salma Hayek, though it did win Oscars for score and make-up too, and Kahlo’s artwork informs the production design and certain flights of fancy that occur. Typically, for a movie about an artist, […]

Shut Up And Play The Hits / The Long Goodbye

Watched: 17 January It feels a bit weird to finally sit down and watch the documentary about the ‘end’ of LCD Soundsystem and their farewell show at Madison Square Garden given that they’ve since reformed and released a new album, but Shut Up And Play The Hits is still a poignant, emotional and often thrilling […]

Justice League

Watched: 17 January At this point in time Warner Bros’ ongoing attempts to fashion a cinematic universe to rival that of Marvel Studios feel increasingly rushed, slapdash and desperate, and it seems that the studio is now starting to abandon its model of dark and lengthy films in favour of lightness and brevity. Or is […]

Blow Out

Watched: 16 January Hugely enjoyable and pulpy Brian De Palma thriller, in which John Travolta’s sound artist witnesses and manages to record the murder of a high-profile politician, subsequently launching his own investigation when the authorities seek to cover up the killing. Travolta is really good here, and although John Lithgow’s performance as a brutal […]

Boccaccio ’70

Watched: 16 January Though running close to 200 minutes in length, this early-1960s anthology of shortish films by notable neo-realist directors never really felt like a chore to get through, although I must admit I enjoyed the first two – by Mario Monicelli and Federico Fellini – much more than the latter pair by Luchino […]

Good Time

Rewatched: 16 January I think even more highly of Good Time than I did when I first saw it in 2017, and was impressed again by its relentlessness, its wired energy and the constant twists and turns of the story; there are so many coups de cinéma here it’s hard to keep up at times, […]

Black Mirror Season 4

Finished: 15 January I don’t always log the TV shows that I watch here, but as I’d added the latest episodes of Black Mirror on Letterboxd I thought I may as well collate those entries here too. The fourth season kicks off with USS Callister, a near-feature length Star Trek spoof that’s rather on the […]

The Polka King

Watched: 14 January The Polka King is the second film by Maya Forbes, whose debut feature was the infinitely-better-than-this Infinitely Polar Bear. It’s a comedy about the Polish-American musician Jan Lewan, who in real life ripped off hundreds of unsuspecting people through a Ponzi scheme in the 1990s that apparently involved various business operations (as […]

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Watched: 14 January Most people I know (or whose opinions or reviews about films I read or hear) seem to like this awards season contender from Martin McDonagh, though there have been a fair few dissenting voices too, and those are the ones I’ve tended to agree with, partly because I too have found this […]

Personal Shopper

Rewatched: 14 January This was my second viewing of Olivier Assayas’ eerie, unconventional ghost story, and it confirmed in my mind at least that Personal Shopper is one of 2017’s most intriguing releases, partly because of the way it leaves certain questions raised within the plot unanswered. Following grieving American-stylist-in-Paris Maureen (an enthralling, excellent central […]

In The Mood For Love

Watched: 12 January. Rewatched: 13 January For shame, I’d actually started to wonder why the Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is so revered, but this masterpiece has put that right; as visually interesting as the three previous films of his that I’d watched are (My Blueberry Nights, As Tears Go By, The Grandmaster), none of […]

Heart Of A Dog

Watched: 11 January This film by the musician and visual artist Laurie Anderson about the passing of her piano-playing dog Lolabelle might be a bit loose at times in terms of its structure, but its ruminations on grief and emotions are certainly and clearly presented. It also incorporates Anderson’s thoughts on 9/11, so it seems […]

The War

Finished: 11 January This extensive documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick – broken down into seven separate two-hour-long films on Netflix – provides a fascinating insight into the Second World War as it was experienced by Americans. In fact, it concentrates on the residents of just four different towns, but uses them as […]

Sleepless

Watched: 9 January This uninspired, sloppy Vegas-set action thriller stars Jamie Foxx as an undercover (or possibly dirty) cop trying to free his captive teenage son from various drug-dealing ne’er-do-wells. It’s mostly set within a casino, but it doesn’t really have much to do with gambling and could have taken place anywhere, as the action […]

The Consequences Of Love) Le Consequenze Dell’Amore

Watched: 8 January I felt a sense of relief while watching this film as my initial fears that I’d be spending 100 minutes in the company of an insufferable prick of a character soon faded. That’s pretty much how Toni Servillo’s former broker Titta – a man who has been an aloof resident of a […]

Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru)

Watched: 7 January I like the films by Hirokazu Koreeda that I’ve seen to date, but this one is probably my favourite of the lot: an emotional tale of two sets of parents who had sons on the same day in hospital, only to discover six years later that they took home the wrong boys. […]

A Dog’s Purpose

Watched: 7 January Schmaltzy, down-home drama from Lasse Hallström, who returns to familiar territory with another canine-centric story. (I must admit that I haven’t seen his earlier Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, and have no intention of doing so having sat through this cack.) A Dog’s Purpose applies a particularly odd approach to the idea of […]

Victoria & Abdul

Watched: 4 January A typically lavish British heritage piece that feels very familiar from its very first moments, mostly because Dame Judi Dench has been cast once again as Queen Victoria (and she confidently inhabits the role, delivering exactly the kind of performance you would expect). The film is about the monarch’s relationship with Muslim […]

Life Is Sweet

Watched: 3 January Is this Mike Leigh at his very best? Life Is Sweet certainly holds its own when compared with the other films he made during the 1990s, all of which are very, very good indeed (and one of which, Naked, is arguably his masterpiece to date). There are hints of several late-80s/early-90s British […]

Man With A Movie Camera (Chelovek S Kinoapparatom)

Watched: 2 January It’s definitely too much to take in on first viewing; Dziga Vertov’s silent avant-garde documentary Man With A Movie Camera – I watched the version with the accompanying Michael Nyman score – shows hundreds of scenes of daily Soviet life in Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa, and employs lots of fun tricks […]

2017 Round-up Part II: Favourite Documentaries

Here is a list of my 20 favourite documentaries of 2017, which is the second post of my three-part round-up of last year (click here for the first bit). The simple criteria is that the films were officially released in the UK during 2017 in cinemas, shown on streaming services or screened on TV. 20. […]

2017 Round-up Part I

  First of all, thanks to anyone who read The Last Picture Blog during 2017. I appreciate that this round-up of the year is a bit late, and that most bloggers published their ‘end-of-year’ lists and whatnot a while ago, but I’ve only just caught up in terms of posting about the films I watched […]

Call Me By Your Name

Watched: 31 December This awards season contender is a story of stuttering love involving a half-Italian, half-American teenager (Elio, 17, played by Timothée Chalamet) and an older American student (Oliver, 24, played by the very-much-not-24 Armie Hammer), set in Italy in the early 1980s – though unfortunately I didn’t quite connect with it as passionately […]

Bright

Watched: 29 December I watched a couple of long Ken Burns / Lynne Novack documentaries over the Christmas and New Year period and needed some light relief. Bright is not the worst film of 2017, as some critics suggested upon its Netflix debut, but this is not a particularly impressive effort by David Ayer either. […]

Dunkirk

Rewatched: 26 December Here’s what I thought when I first watched Dunkirk in the cinema last summer… In a way Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed and much-loved Dunkirk is the logical conclusion of ‘set piece’-oriented blockbuster filmmaking, because even though he has three stories of varying length playing out concurrently (and edited together superbly) in this WWII-set […]

Berlin Syndrome

Watched: 26 December There’s nothing particularly original about this thriller, in which an Australian backpacker is held captive by a sadistic teacher in Berlin, but it did hold my attention throughout and I think the performances are sound. Once Clare (Teresa Palmer) is trapped inside the ultra-secure apartment owned by Andi (Max Riemelt) it’s just […]

War For The Planet Of The Apes

Watched: 23 December Matt Reeves’ gloomy, CGI-laden Apes trilogy rumbles to a close with this misfiring finale, which suffers partly from Woody Harrelson’s hammy turn as a Colonel Kurtz-like rogue military leader (a nod that’s reinforced through the cringe-inducing underground graffiti reading ‘Ape-ocalypse Now’ that appears in the corridors below his stronghold), and also partly […]

Gook

Watched: 22 December An engaging, low-budget drama about two Korean brothers – and more generally about racism experienced by Korean people in Los Angeles – that is set against the backdrop of the 1992 LA riots. It’s crisply shot in black-and-white, and the look of the film had me recalling several notable indies that were […]

The Snowman

Watched: 20 December A shame, really, that Thomas Alfredson ran out of something (Time? Money?) while making The Snowman – you can tell that some scenes in this police procedural are missing, presumably having never been shot, and ultimately the film fails badly because of its resulting incoherence. It’s not abysmal, though, despite what some […]

That Cold Day In The Park

Watched: 20 December Among other things, this film highlights Robert Altman’s adaptability and diverse approach to filmmaking during the late 1960s and early 1970s; That Cold Day In The Park – a Vancouver-set mix of melodrama, suspense and clashing cultures – sits in his filmography between 1968’s Countdown (a low-key sci-fi drama) and the risky […]

Girls Trip

Watched: 19 December Some have found uproarious comedy and many laughs here, which is great, because overall 2017 has been a very lean year for funny films. The four protagonists – on holiday in New Orleans – are all likeable enough, and the film certainly benefits from a couple of standout performances, but I just […]

Lost In Paris

Watched: 18 December A light-hearted, Paris-set comedy by writers/directors/stars Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel that thankfully doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. The humour here is pitched somewhere between Tati and Mr Bean, though doubtless the filmmakers would prefer the comparison to the former; I’m afraid that for me it fell short, and I found its kookiness […]

The Friends Of Eddie Coyle

Watched: 18 December A bleak, gripping early-70s crime thriller that has enjoyed cult status for a number of years, though it does appear to be finding a wider audience at long last due to recent US and UK DVD/Blu-Ray releases by Eureka and Criterion; if you are a fan of the American New Wave generally […]