Cert: 15 Runtime: 126 mins Director: Duncan Jones Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh, Noel Clarke and Robert Kazinski
He doesn’t need words
Duncan Jones has to one of the most captivating film-makers today. After his roaring hit with Moon, he has created worlds and challenged his audiences. On the later most audiences don’t really grasp his style or stories. Mute is his latest film, that has gone direct to Netflix. So what is Mute all about you say? The story is set in Berlin forty years from today and centers on Leo Beiler (Alexander Skarsgård), a mute bartender as he searches for his missing girlfriend, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) the love of his life, his salvation, through dark streets, frenzied plazas, and the full spectrum of the cities shadow-dwellers. As Leo’s search takes him deeper into the city’s underbelly he finds himself mixed up with Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), a pair of irreverent US army surgeons on a mission all their own, and Leo can’t tell if they can help, or who he should fear most.
Duncan Jones has a great vision for Mute, it seems to strike a homage to Blade Runner but stands on its own two feet. Throughout the film now and then there are some great long panning shots that show the setting of the film extremely well. It’s visually stunning to watch and the added grime and neon lighting submerges you into the world.
The cinematography of the film as well is very good, the film can look very dark and dire but then in a split second change into a wonderful amount of vibrant colour. Very nice contrast and makes the world of the film look very much lived in as if all of the surrounding buildings have got history to them. The films story is pretty straight forward, with layered secrets slowly unravelling throughout the run time. It’s a good noir if you ask me, the dark undertones are hard to view in some occasions. The subject matter also may put some viewers off their cereal. For me it enhanced Mute, Jones is showing what the world could end up as and respect his vision. But the pacing is rather stagnant during the run-time, and you click out of the film for a few minutes.
This is the issue with Netflix, it can be hard to concentrate. You have so many distractions around you, it’s not a true cinematic experience. The cast is an interesting bunch to be honest and all of them for the most part are good with what they are given to do. Obviously the standout is Alexander Skarsgård , who is very good as the mute bartender Leo, he is the heart beat of the film and he carries the film along well. His use of his body, eyes and expression really gives him life. The character itself doesn’t really have much of a story, but Skarsgård gives Leo life. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux are both good in their respective weird roles that are extremely strange, but they do the best they can. Rudd would make a great villain upon watching Mute, Theroux was utterly terrifying and un-nerving for me. Mute is a very strange neon-noir, I understand why it’s not for everyone but for me I enjoyed it.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 119 mins Director: Craig Gillespie Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver and Paul Walter Hauser
You fuck dumb. You don’t marry dumb.
Margot Robbie has received wide acclaim for I, Tonya. Tonya Harding is someone I know little about, but I have heard a few crazy stories. All I have gathered from the trailers is that it’s like The Wolf of Wall Street. So what is it all about you ask? Based on the unbelievable but true events, I, TONYA is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).
The film is sort of told from a mockumentary perspective as if key characters are being interviewed. The film also utilises breaking the fourth wall where characters in a scene would talk to the audience. I thought this was interesting and separates itself from being a standard biopic and gives this film a real comedic depth. Some wonder why the film was made but it kind of helps you identify with Tonya. She suffered physical and psychological abuse from both her foul mouthed mother and her rage filled husband. Her hands may not be completely clean in what happens to Nancy Kerrigan, but she is also just a victim of circumstances. The first-hour is solid & gets into Tonya’s world & the people involved with a wicked sense of humour. The second-hour is a little disappointing & overlong, and the sub-plot involving the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, Harding’s rival and Olympic teammate, offers less impact. The Writing isn’t always compelling & takes away some glory from the film, overall.
Normally, actresses got an Oscar for emotional performances, and without any doubt, Margot does brilliant emotional acting in the movie “I, Tonya”. But at the same time, you also have to consider the difficulty of the physical performances.Allison Janney was just as good. Sure it already was a showy part to begin with but Janney even put something on top. You never knew if you should just straight up hate her or if there is something good in her. Very cynical, very sarcastic performance. Does the film excuse Harding’s behaviours or paint her out to be a victim? Not really and if it had, the film would have been a waste of time. What it does do is help you at least understand who she was and why she did what she did as she was more than just an intense competitor.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 94 mins Director: Greta Gerwig Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein and Lois Smith
People go by the names their parents give them, but they don’t believe in God.
Greta Gerwig has evolved from actress to film-maker. The Frances Ha actress has given the world Lady Bird, a film that was 100% fresh for weeks. Not only the freshness, it has multiple award nominations and critical acclaim. During LFF I ignored watching it for the new 4K restoration of Suspria, to this day I don’t regret my decision. So what is Lady Bird about you ask? Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.
This is one of the finest coming of age stories I have watched, but it it no Ghost World! The film’s brilliant balance of genuine emotional drama and laugh-out-loud humour is astonishingly smooth. This is easily one of the year’s best written films with strong structure throughout. Practically everything in the writing works to the quirky dialogue, realistic back and forth between characters, and our heroin’s progression and change throughout the story. Most will find the screenplay refreshingly original minus a few jokes that don’t land well with the characters themselves and therefore, the audience. As for the film-making I don’t think there is anything refreshing or new. But Gerwig’s voice within her context and dialogue make up for it.
The magic behind their performances it that it feels like it’s not a performance at all. Diving into realistic and genuine human emotions bring out the most humanistic side to these characters and each one goes above and beyond what was required of them. Saoirse Ronan does a great job as a rebellious yet empathetic teenager as her angst does feel like it comes from a genuine place. What I’ve always had issues in the past from coming of age films is they make the teenagers problems feel self inflicted, but instead her character is coming more from a place of needing to explore more in life. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts are truly spectacular they both dominate different extremes of the parental spectrum. Metclaf in particular compliments Ronan so well. She is a pure stand out in Lady Bird. Lady Bird doesn’t reinvent the wheel of coming of age stories, however it does move with a lot of charm.
Cert: 12A Runtime: 134 mins Director: Ryan Coogler Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis
Guns… so uncivilized!
Marvel Studios are releasing their 18th studio movie! The penultimate film before the Infinity War begins, Black Panther is making history and has been critically acclaimed. What is Black Panther about you ask? T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after the events of ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk. Ryan Coogler has created a very interesting world and has established Wakanda in the MCU. It feels like Thor’s first outing but it stands on it’s own two feet. Michael B.Jordan is the stand out for me, it has taken a while for Marvel Studios to establish a great villain and here he is. It’s a shame that the soundtrack isn’t heavily featured in the film but it’s worth a listen. Coogler has given Black Panther a James Bond feel to it, and it works nicely especially in the casino scene.
Few problems with the film one being the main villain, which is a shame since Michael b Jordan playing this role is the best villain they have done by far, the problem here is that he doesn’t get enough screen time as the film focus too much on the political and tribal side of the film. Chadwick Boseman is rather weak of a leading man here, the cast around him provide the lift he needs to carry the film over. It’s very clever with the more well established actors the scenes are filtered through out the film. So Boseman has that support through out. Michael B. Jordan has a lot more energy than any-other actor, without his energy Black Panther would have been in trouble. The films pacing is very stop/start, which makes it a lot more dialogue heavy. This is rather different for an MCU movie. I prefer dialogue heavy films, but for a general audience I can’t see them persevering too much. Black Panther is a fun filled movie but I do feel it’s not perfect. It’s a good trip to the cinema but I won’t be re-watching it anytime soon.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 127 mins Director: Andrey Zvyaginstev Cast: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin and Matvey Novikov
I think I’ve made a terrible mistake
Andrey Zvyaginstev made a stamp in cinema with Lethiavan in 2014. His latest Loveless made it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival with a positive response, it then moved on to be nominated at this years Academy Awards. So what is Loveless all about you ask? Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration and recriminations. Already embarking on new lives, each with a new partner, they are impatient to start again, to turn the page – even if it means threatening to abandon their 12-year-old son Alyosha. Until, after witnessing one of their fights, Alyosha disappears…Loveless is a socking experience because of its unbearable truth. This society that is described could be anywhere. Not only in Russia. Loveless is so beautifully and carefully made; is awesome how it takes his time to express and show how the characters are and what his title means.
You see the two main characters and their lack of love, how that transform their lives and most important how it determines another person’s life, in this case the boy. After we saw everything about both parents and how they try to find love far from the other (being his son the only link between both) a situation when they need to be together appears. Zvyagintsev’s Direction is clean and precise with well thought out camera compositions. The minimal score is spare but effective. Loveless is all about the mood and sharp portrayal of modern relationships (both to ourselves and to each other). This kind of stuff is difficult to put into words adequately, and neither should it be – because journey goes to modern man’s unconscious side, not rational. It may be difficult to say one ‘enjoyed’ a distressing movie like LOVELESS, but, it earn your admiration.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 135 mins Director: Alexander Payne Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Jason Sudekis and Kristen Wiig
We are meant for something bigger
Alexander Payne is a hit and miss director for me, with captivating films like Election and Sideways he tends to wobble at time. Downsizing was panned by most critics and a film I refused to watch at LFF on two separate occasions. Downsizing has a captivating premise but it wasn’t necessarily for me. It has finally come out in UK cinemas so I thought I would try it out. So what is Downsizing about you ask? When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to overpopulation, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.
If you came to see this movie because of the trailer or because of curiosity of what a world would be like if you were 5 inches instead of 6 feet, then you paid for about 45 minutes. In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre. There are many characters that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. It attempts to be funny, humorous, satirical social commentary, and it ends up being a pathetic mess.
The attempts at social satire are either fleeting glimpses of obligatory bigotry to drawn out stereotyping designed to insult the intelligence of the audience and the ethnic/socioeconomic groups portrayed. In the end, the writers resorted to stereotypical gutter language in an attempt to add humour to a humourless situation. The closing scene, apparently designed to imply Damon’s character found personal validation, actually shows that a doormat will always be a doormat, even if he or she is appreciated by those who walk over them. Sadly Downsizing’s overly-ambitious exterior falls to Payne’s editing techniques i.e. the pacing, at 2 hours and 15 minutes the story often feels stretched as Payne tends to linger on a couple of shots, granted they’re stunning but they ultimately end up empty, which also impacts on the film’s central heart. Sure this may pass through some thanks to Payne’s hilarious light-hearted writing but to others the big premise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 125 mins Director: Richard Linklater Cast: Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne
Every generation has their war. Men make the wars and wars make the men. It never ends!
Richard Linklater has gone back to his smaller origins after the critical success of Boyhood. Last Flag Flying is his latest and allegedly one of his most powerful of films. With a strong trio of actors leading his latest venture what could go wrong? What is Last Flag Flying all about you ask? Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), a former Navy medic, has had the type of year that no one deserves. It’s 2003 and he has just been notified that his Marine son was killed in action while on duty in the war in Iraq. He embarks on a mission to ask his Vietnam buddies Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) accompany him to claim his son’s body at Arlington National Cemetery. The three men share the burden of a war secret that each has tried to forget, and they begin what’s basically a road trip movie of middle aged men bonding during what is the absolute low point in life for one of them.
Last Flag Flying was subtly delicate and original, mixing comedy with sensitive subjects is what Richard Linklater does best. Richard Linklater has the ability to tell a story with a certain warmth. You feel that and you feel what these actors portrait. Even though this movie deals with marines and serving your country it is not about that. It is about friendship, about forgiving about loss and so much more. The execution was careful and on point and bringing on some huge names excelled in both comedy and drama. Steve Carell shines quietly throughout and continues to show his stellar acting chops. While Bryan Cranston is a lot more showy and Fishburne keeps the trio glued together. Unfortunately, the contrivances are too many and too frequent to allow the film and characters to breathe and achieve the greatness of a true message movie. It teases us with flashes us brilliance and then pokes us in the ribs with another goofy sidebar as if to say “just kidding”. It seems this would have been better served as an intimate portrayal of these three ageing men who were willing to die for their country than as a giant political anti-war statement and an accusation of how evil the government is.