Features

Top 10 Films of 2018

10. A Simple Favour

“A Simple Favor is a film determined to entertain at all costs and that determination is intoxicating. Feig surrounds his neo-noir plot in fun, frothy comedy and together it serves as a playful showcase for the excellent leading ladies at the film’s centre”.
Check out Seensome’s review
9. Lady Bird

“Lady Bird is a warm and wacky love-letter to adolescence which marks an important directorial debut for Gerwig. The identifiable style and substance from her career-to-date has carried through into her craft behind the lens, and her work carries a lot of emotional baggage along with the whimsical humour”.
My full review
8. Dumped

 

“Dumped (Larguées) is brilliantly blithe and full of fun, encapsulating the insouciant essence of a holiday in the sun. Time away from day-to-day trials and tribulations can offer up an opportunity to reflect, and while their trip is initially planned to help Françoise recover from her marital woes, hers isn’t the only emotional baggage that needs to be checked. Lang delivers an entertaining cinematic excursion that you won’t want to come back from”.
My full review
7. Blindspotting

“Blindspotting’s core steeliness can, in fact, be glimpsed early on, as Diggs’s man-with-a-van Collin – out beyond his curfew, two days before his probation ends – witnesses a cop shoot a fleeing suspect in the back. Should he report the incident, and potentially put himself back behind bars? Where a declamatory film would have made this quandary the whole show, director Carlos López Estrada pushes on”.
The Guardian’s full review
6. Kler

 

“Smarzowski attacks the corruption of Roman Catholicism from behind the camera lens with powerful propagandic piece Kler, but it’s a directorial damning that’s delivered with deft deliberation and a darkly dry sense of humour”.
My full review
5. Widows

“Widows is a riveting and rampant thriller that carries heft in its subject matter, but also captures the intrigue and exhilaration of the heist genre. It’s probably McQueen’s most mainstream work to date but doesn’t lack his signature visionary style. His acute artistic flair is as prominent as ever in a vehement, violent Chicago, adding considerable flesh to the bones of Flynn’s compelling screenplay to form a captivating cinematic caper”.
My full review
4. First Reformed

 “First Reformed is a thought-provoking, engaging film that will challenge and shock cinema-goers, and Ethan Hawke brilliantly immerses us into Toller’s increasingly disturbed psyche. Tapping into society’s collective anxieties, Schrader delivers a mesmerising movie that is so strange and unsettling, and yet scarily topical in the craziness of the current climate”.
My full review
3. You Were Never Really Here

“In Phoenix, Ramsay has a major ally in staking her case for bleak psychological artistry. Weighed down with the horrific ballast of things he has suffered and seen – he’s a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent, too, with the scars to prove it – Joe comes to life in an almost gruellingly subtle and interiorised performance”.
Check out The Telegraph’s full review
2. Phantom Thread

“Phantom Thread is a grandiose tale of toxic love that is completely bizarre in its brilliance. With stunning orchestral sounds leading us through the turbulence and the tension of Reynold and Alma’s relationship, Paul Thomas Anderson pulls the strings from afar, masterfully conducting a svelte swansong for leading man Daniel Day-Lewis”.
My full review
1. Molly’s Game

“Molly’s Game is a modern-day Goodfellas but with the bullets tucked up its sleeve, and Chastain delivers a turn that really ups the ante of her unsurmountable talents. Through the extraordinary woman the tabloids labelled as the ‘poker princess’, Sorkin has achieved the crowning glory of his cinematic career to date”.
My full review

 

Features

Top 5 Skins Stars Making it in the Movies…

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When it launched in 2007, Skins was one of the most talked-about, controversial shows on British telly. Featuring sex, drugs and…more sex and drugs, these high school kids really caused a stir. Some have faded out of the public eye since, but a selection have gone on to be huge!

Continue reading “Top 5 Skins Stars Making it in the Movies…”

Features

Top 10 Films of 2017

10. A Ghost Story

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“David Lowery serves up a surreal slice of paranormal absurdity with A Ghost Story, finding long-lasting intimacy in a film that is utterly and eternally universal. The lonely protagonist is trapped by space but not time, creating thought-provoking cinema that intelligently highlights both the significance and insignificance of the marks we leave on the world in our wake”.
My full review
9. War for the Planet of the Apes

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“War for the Planet of the Apes is a thoughtful, emotionally charged and fitting finale to what should be recognised as one of the greatest trilogies in the modern age of filmmaking”.
My full review
8. Lost City of Z

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“As a work of filmmaking, it’s an immediate classic, fit to stand beside the best of Werner Herzog and Stanley Kubrick – though it’s also entirely its own thing, classical to its bones yet not quite like anything that’s come before it”.
The Telegraph’s full review
7. The Beguiled

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“There is tremendous entertainment value in the dinners and musical evenings that the women lay on for their wolfish guest. Kidman’s delivery of the line, “Would you cay-uh for a digestif, corporal?” is very entertaining”.
The Guardian’s full review
6. Manchester by the Sea

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“With its minimalistic cinematic approach, Manchester by the Sea manages to tell a heartrending story with maximum impact. Lonergan’s precise filmmaking, both in the script and the visuals, is cleverly geared towards the performance of Casey Affleck, which doesn’t for one second fail to deliver”.
My full review
5. Raw

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“Raw marks a masterful directorial debut from a skilled filmmaker who presents a visceral feast for the eyes and ears that should be avoided at all costs by the sensitive and squeamish. It may be the most disgusting film I’ve seen at the cinema but the frequent shocking sequences are reined in by a sharply clever script that ensures that the craft of storytelling is at the forefront of the film’s vision”.
My full review
4. The Florida Project

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“Moonee, along with her friends Scooty and Jancey, goes off exploring around odd pastel coloured buildings that resemble the run-down ruins of a Wes Anderson set, and through their playful escapades the movie masterfully captures the mischievous adventure of childhood. The narrative flows like a summer holiday; wild and sprawling with no strong sense of where one day ends and another begins”.
My full review
3. Dunkirk

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“Dunkirk is war cinema at its most epic, perfectly showcasing Christopher Nolan’s supreme ability as a director as well as his storytelling gift of depicting intimacy on the grandest of scales”.
My full review
2. Get Out

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“Jordan Peele achieves shockingly smart satire as well as shuddering trepidation with his remarkable directorial debut. His subversive vision is powerful and scarily topical, and is transformed into an intensely enjoyable cinema experience”.
My full review
1. La La Land

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“The trick to why La La Land works so well is the clever balancing act between nods to romanticised nostalgia and the harshness of reality. For example, mesmerising musical sequences can be ended abruptly by the shrill sound of an incoming call, illustrating the juxtaposition between the era they revere and the world we live in today”.
My full review

 

Features

Chicago Film Festival 2017: Review Round-up

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I was fortunate enough to spend a day covering this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, and can share with you my capsule reviews below!

God’s Own Country
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Francis Lee’s coming-of-age coming-out feature debut has been labelled as the UK’s answer to Ang Lee’s critically acclaimed romance Brokeback Mountain; Britback Mountain if you will, but it replaces sentimentality with bleak, bruising reality. Set in the beautifully sprawling Yorkshire countryside, the progressive plot centres around Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a young farmer who works tirelessly all day and binge drinks at night to avoid acceptance of his sexuality. When his family hire Romanian farmhand Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a simmering romance ensues, and his passion is unleashed. The power of Lee’s filmmaking comes from the effective simplicity. He slowly builds atmosphere as Johnny’s feelings rise within him, and this pent-up tension is portrayed immaculately. There are questionable character traits as the story develops that don’t always ring true, but minor problems aside, this is a refreshing and compelling exploration of LGBT issues on the big screen.

They
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Rhys Fehrenbacher stars as J in They, the feature debut by writer-director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh which tackles gender identity. Born as a boy but identifying as a girl, J takes hormone blocking medication to postpone puberty while they embark on a journey of self-discovery. When J’s parents are away for the weekend, older sister Lauren (Nicole Coffineau) and her boyfriend Araz (Koohyar Hosseini) arrive to look after her. Unfortunately, the acting comes across as amateurish and this in turn makes J’s interactions with those around her feel stilted and unnatural. What begins as an intriguing premise loses its way around halfway through when a dinner scene at Araz’s Iranian parent’s house is dragged out so long that you’d think they’d changed the reel and put a different movie on.

Los Perros
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A character study is the focal point in steamy Chilean drama Los Perros, written and directed by Marcela Said who began her filmmaking career in documentaries. The central character is Mariana (Antonia Zegers), a bored and restless kept woman who wants to break out of the caged life she’s found herself in. Controlled by both her husband Pedro (Rafael Spregelburd) and her father Francisco (Alejandro Sieveking), she seeks solace from her horse-riding instructor Juan (Alfredo Castro), an ex-colonel with a dark and mysterious past. Visually the film is very impressive and cinematographer Georges Lechaptois takes full advantage of the stunning backdrop it unfolds against. Zegers gives a strong lead performance as Mariana’s unpredictable nature drives the story forward. However, once the initial metaphor is established and Mariana is seen to be the titular ‘dog’, the narrative treads water through the final act.

Features

Top 5 Movie Bartenders…

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In Steven Soderbergh’s crime comedy caper Logan Lucky, Adam Driver delivers what could be his career-best performance to date as hapless one-armed barman Clyde Logan. His brilliant role has inspired a reflection on cinema bartenders who know their craft from their crap.

Arthur (Passengers)
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Passengers wasn’t a great film, but it did have a great bartender in Arthur, played by Michael Sheen. The android smooth operator serves up drinks to star-crossed lovers Jim and Aurora on luxury spaceship Avalon and injects welcomed humour into the script, albeit not always intentionally.

My review in full.

Razor Charlie (From Dusk Till Dawn)
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When the Gecko brothers played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino turn up at the Titty Twister rock bar, they are greeted by an intimidating leather-clad barman called Razor Charlie. Portrayed by Danny Trejo in a brief but memorable sequence, it soon transpires that all is not what it seems with the drinking-den clientele.

Sick Boy (T2)
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Twenty years after the iconic original, Jonny Lee Miller reprised his excellent role as the entrepreneurial chancer Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson. Now running the soulless Port Sunshine establishment, he sarcastically remarks that ‘the great wave of gentrification hasn’t hit us yet’.

My review in full.

Eddie (Barfly)
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When heavy drinking Henry Chinaski is a regular at the other side of your bar, it’s fair to say that you will have your work cut out. In steps Eddie played by Frank Stallone (Sly’s younger brother). When he’s not battling and bickering with Henry indoors as shown in the image above, they are out in the lot having a street fight.

Bob (The Drop)
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Tom Hardy certainly isn’t known for having a subtle approach to acting, but goes against the grain with a nuanced performance is Boston-set crime drama The Drop. Running a bar used by local criminals as a drop-off point for ill-gotten goods, he gives a powerhouse turn that should go down as one of his best.

My review in full.