Cert: 12A Runtime: 118 mins Director: Roar Uthaug Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walter Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristen Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi
All myths are foundations of reality
One of the first video games I played as a child was Tomb Raider, probably one of the most iconic video games of them all. Growing up I ignored the Angelina Jolie movies (I have seen them, but I have repressed them). The game was re-booted in 2013 to great praise and acclaim, and that also opened up a movie re-boot. Daisy Ridley was the original front runner for the role, but it eventually went to Alicia Vikander <a better choice if you ask me>. Surely this re-boot would wipe the originals to the stone age? What is Tomb Raider about you ask? Lara Croft (Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, and takes college courses, rarely making it to class. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her fathers global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death.
Tomb Raider is a respectful, relatively realistic and pretty gritty adaptation that hits the tone of the recent rebooted games in a loose, neutered but ultimately generally satisfying way while always staying a step away from both the source material and the previous filmic incarnations of the character . It’s a surprise that it’s as good as it is, with the middle section being a fun and enjoyable mix of excitement and (slightly iffy) intrigue.I feel like the movie should have more action. I expected a little more from it. The first act of the film follows Lara in London (which is rather cheesy) and we learn a little about her. But it starts with a slow pace before she crashes in the island. Then, there are a few action scenes with her fighting, escaping, and trying to get to the tomb and escaping again. The premise never had enough potential to bedazzle the audience in the first place but in here the director Roar Uthaug is not even convincing the audience for a second look.
The father and daughter section of the story is too hammy for its own good but can be pardoned by being short (although reducing it to bare minimum would actually be much better).Alicia Vikander doesn’t disappoint, and can certainly hold her lips together. The sections of ship in the storm and Lara escaping the baddies on the island are definite highlights, especially her in the crumbling plane over the waterfall. The film has storytelling flaws, is slightly long, and may show signs of wear as the film moves along. Its still a step in thee right direction for a franchise that wasn’t very good. I see it as a film that’s meant to be non serious and a vehicle to create another strong athletic female heroine. Its fun, just turn off your brain and enjoy a fun popcorn flick.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 151 mins Director: Ruben Östlund Cast: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West
If you place an object in a museum does that make this object a piece of art?
Ruben Östlund’s Palm D’Or winning The Square, has grown from strength to strength! After it’s recent Oscar nomination it has finally arrived in UK cinemas. He is probably one of the most intriguing film-makers out there now. He challenges us mentally and leaves questions about society continuously! So what is The Square about you ask? Christian (Claes Bang) is a divorced but devoted father of two, and the respected curator of a contemporary art museum in Stockholm. He’s gearing up to launch their next show, ‘The Square’, a daring installation examining altruism and our duty to help others. However, Christian’s own views on social responsibility are put to the test when he becomes the victim of a scam, forcing him to question the world around him and his place in it. Meanwhile, a shocking viral stunt cooked up by the museum’s PR agency is met with public outcry, sending Christian – and the museum – into an existential crisis.
Östlund makes a critical and very intelligent film. It shows very well the absurdity that we as human beings can be, as well as how ironic our lives are if we pay attention to the details. The Swedish director also sins of what criticises, extending many scenes without reason to make clear his point … but that may or may not be intentional. The Square walks a sometimes humorous and sometimes harrowing trajectory between art and society. It explores issues of power and privilege from an almost bewildering number of angles and perspectives, manifested in all levels of relationship, social and sexual, primal and intellectual and does it in a way that brings the viewer into an intimate experience of the ramifications of our actions and points of view. The film is long and requires some commitment and is worth every minute.The film has some pretty insightful commentary on modern art, including what makes art art, and society’s reaction to it.
It also has some pretty interesting commentary on modern society in general, and the different power dynamics, as well as relationships, between different classes of people. A late-bloomer Claes Bang is perfectly apt in inhabiting Christian’s towering figure, dapper mien and jaunty disposition, oozing disarming charisma which veils his self-seeking nature to a degree we even tend to give excuses to him involuntarily (that boy is tenacious and annoying, how on earth his staff could upload that inappropriate video onto their public website without his imprimatur?), and in the gender politics spar with a gutsy Elisabeth Moss (although her part is shamefully peripheral, and her defence of “it takes two to tango” accusation is too feeble to register), which fortuitously hits the hot-button with the current power-abuse cleansing pandemic. Balancing nicely between absurdism, surrealism and entertaining satire that escapes none of the film’s characters, it’s an impressive movie.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 115 mins Director: Alex Garland Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Gina Rodriguez,Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong and Oscar Isaac
Almost none of us commit suicide, whereas almost all of us self-destruct.
Alex Garland’s directorial debut with Ex-Machina moistened the appetite of most cinema lovers in 2015. Instantly he announced his latest film Annihilation. After an argument between Scott Rudin and Paramount, the international distribution of the film was sold to Netflix. It saddened me that I will not see Annihilation in the cinema, but I have been on a three year wait for this film. So what is Annihilation about you ask? Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac) inside Area X – a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline. Once inside, the expedition discovers a world of mutated landscape and creatures, as dangerous as it is beautiful, that threatens both their lives and their sanity.
Annihilation asks a lot of questions but isn’t interested in the answers. It’s bold, brave, challenging. The film is about the experience, the visuals and audio, the curiosity, the suspense. A world that could only be accessible to us in our imaginations is here brought to life on the screen. Some of it is spectacular, some of it less so. Naturally, that will split opinion, but we’ve become too accustomed to the ready-packaged that the studios churn out for us. I am great-full to Scott Rudin for getting final cut, as the studio disliked the ending and wanted to simplify it. We as an audience need to be challenged and that’s what Garland achieves.Forget the plot holes. They exist in every film, otherwise they wouldn’t be stories. Some of my favourite films have canyon-sized plot holes and inconsistencies.
Natalie Portman leads the cast and gives one of the toughest performance of her career. The character she plays works on different layers and she does it all extremely convincingly. Jennifer Jason Leigh also has a memorable appearance. Gina Rodriguez more and more developed into a very interesting actress. She and Tessa Thompson have scene stealing appearances. Fine performance by Oscar Isaac but he was a bit too wooden here. Yes it was intentional, but still a bit irritating seeing a usually vivid actor like Isaac being so restricted. Alex Garland is the answer to making modern sci-fi movies more modern. The inside of the movie is like living a dream within a nightmare.
Cert: 15 Runtime: 100 mins Director: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris and Jesse Plemons
Any of you fucking pricks move, I’m gonna execute every motherfucking last one of you!
Generally when you watch a Jason Bateman movie it isn’t good. Game Night came across my lap when I saw the trailer a few months back. It actually looked like a lot of fun and ever so slightly original. Once the initial reviews came out, it became even more alluring. So what is Game Night all about you ask? Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), whose free time revolves around couples game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So when Brooks gets kidnapped, it’s all part of the game…right? But as the six uber-competitive gamers set out to solve the case and win, they begin to discover that neither this ‘game’—nor Brooks—are what they seem to be. Over the course of one chaotic night, the friends find themselves increasingly in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn. With no rules, no points, and no idea who all the players are, this could turn out to be the most fun they’ve ever had…or game over.
Game Night moves at a quick clip and the central mystery never stops being interesting. Is it realistic? No. But I thought it was plausible enough that I didn’t have to start picking it apart. I was too busy having fun and even when you think you have this thing solved, it kicks up a couple of notches introducing new characters and some plot twists.What maybe surprised me the most about Game Night was that it had a slick sense of style. The car chase scenes aren’t amazing but for 2 directors primarily known for comedy, they more than get the job done. The scene transitions use nice visuals like a scale model of the neighbourhood, even the title cards introducing the studio were fun with the game pieces falling in the background. This movie was actually shot and filmed well despite being a comedy and that’s a rare accomplishment.
Jason Bateman is as consistent as you get for a leading man comedian and he holds up his bit of the movie with ease. Rachel McAdams is a constantly underrated talent, she’s funny here but as I mentioned above, her chemistry with Bateman is great and carries the movie initially. Kyle Chandler does a good job playing against type as Brooks. As I mentioned earlier as well, Jessie Plemons and Billy Magnusson were my two favourites in the supporting cast, they’re awesome. Game Night had some fun ideas, but I really wasn’t expecting anything great. Comedies are very hot/cold, what you think is funny, someone else might be rolling their eyes. I really loved the first Horrible Bosses and that’s what gave me some hope for this. Keep an eye out for all the amazing cameos too FYI.
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.