Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Battle of the Sexes (Review)

'Battle of the Sexes' is a sports drama starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. This film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Sports and gender politics are consistently changing and evolving in today's world, but in the early 70's a more radical change was made with the 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King dubbed 'The Battle of the Sexes'.

As a biographical drama 'Battle of the Sexes' ticks all the boxes you would expect. It establishes it's main two characters background, it highlights the journey of their rivalry and it makes timely comparisons to today's society. From the outlook it looks like it's easy to make a story like this one, but in actual fact a story likes this puts a lot of pressure on the actors to deliver their characters drive and that's where Emma Stone and Steve Carell really shine. Emma Stone's performance is easily the best aspect of this film, despite the wig and glasses her performance was a lot less theatrical than I was expecting and found a good balance between subtlety and charisma.

The penultimate tennis match is quite a thrilling moment to watch, the way Dayton and Faris directed and shot this scene in particular was simplistic, but it was all the better for it. Although the film has great performances and is well directed, some of the writing has room for improvement. Some of the dialog is feels sappy and heavy handed when the film wants to discuss it's themes. The film also feels a little too long, during the second act there were moments where I could feel myself losing interest.

Overall, 'The Battle of the Sexes' is a film which is made with a lot of heart, and while some of that feels over the top, most of that passion for this story pays off.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Good Time (Review)

'Good Time' is a crime thriller which stars 
Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ben Safdie. This film is directed by Ben and Josh Safdie.

Pumped up pacing and sheer drive make 'Good Time' one of the most punchy thrillers of the year. In similar nature to 2014's 'John Wick', Good Time's narrative is a straight forward, but clears the runway for a film which feels out of control but has a clear grip on what makes a compelling narrative.

This film features a head turning performance from Robert Pattinson, proving he has the talents of great  chameleon actors of recent cinema, such as Joel Edgerton and Gary Oldman. This type of chameleon acting is rare for his generation of screen actors and this performance stands out because of Pattinson's efforts. Co-director Ben Safdie also gives a earnest performances as Nick Nikas, the main characters brother who suffers from autism.

The electronic and eccentric soundtrack provide the film with a cool sheen and electric pulse, certainly one of the most memorable soundtracks of the year.
My Only flaw with this film is that Taliah Webster's character Crystal feels underdeveloped and is used as more of a plot device rather than a memorable character.

'Good Time' is a film which is has a speedy pace and a straight forward narrative, with impressive visuals and music to boot. The performances lift this way above your standard crime thriller and as for as the overall package, the film is an engaging ride for viewing as an audience and is a good piece of filmmaking for the more analytical sort.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Florida Project (Review)

'The Florida Project' is a independent drama film which stars William Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite. This film is directed by Sean Baker.

Florida is becoming a new hot spot of american indie film settings, recent films such as 99 Homes and Moonlight have used this location to explore the poverty side of the state we rarely see. The Florida Project is set in Kissimmee, Florida, just outside of the 'Walt Disney World Resort', this film is named after the original title of the development plan for Walt Disney World, the film like the title plays on the absurdity of tourism mixing with the poverty of the underprivileged who reside there.

This film is not the charming, happy go lucky indie film it was advertised to be, but it is rather a brief, but realistic look at the lives of children living in deprived areas, such as long stay motels and hosing projects. The film uses colour for two dramatic uses, one is to portray the juxtaposed dream like setting the characters live in and it's effectively used as a device to see the world through a child's eyes.

'The Florida Project' is not an easy watch, the first 30 minutes are hard to sit through because none of the characters seem likable, however it's to the film's strength that because of the well written and detailed character arcs you begin to sympathise with them later on in the film.

The performances from new comers Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite are brilliantly natural and feel completely earnest and heartfelt. William Defoe provides another excellent charismatic performance. All the performances in this film are a testament to Sean Baker's talents as a "actor's director".

Overall, 'The Florida Project' is a well written, beautifully shot and terrifically cast film which mostly hits the mark, but can sometimes become too distracted by itself to create the amount of impact it desires.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League (Review)

'Justice League' is a superhero action film which stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill. This film is directed by Zack Snyder.

Like many superhero films, Justice League has been the subject of much anticipation and dread. Each exciting news released is soon met with a red label warning of how much of a mess it will be. It's no secret that DC had been struggling with critics and audiences alike, but public opinion has since changed with this year's 'Wonder Woman', so naturally people are split whether to be excited about this or dread it's release it multiplexes everywhere.

The truth is that this film feel a lot more balanced than one would expect, whether it be a positive or negative aspect of the film, the tone is always consistent which is what my largest worry was. The 2 hour run time seems very restrictive for a film of this scale, yet this works both as a blessing and a curse, the positive is that the film is fast paced and each scene feels urgent and essential, yet with a rushed narrative which spends too little building character development. At first when I saw 'BVS' I felt that the world building and visual effects were bad because they didn't look realistic, but watching this film, with it's lighter tone the world fits in naturally with the story that is being presented.

As far as the characters are concerned Batman, Wonder Woman and Flash are fleshed out the most, Aquaman has some good scenes, but it's Cyborg who is stuck without much meaningful and memorable dialog, but he's given heavy exposition to explain who he is. As a team, the characters play well off each other and provide the film with some of it's best scenes. The performances are of a good and memorable quality especially from the likes of Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller. The action sequences are very fun to watch because they dial them up to 11 here, if you want realism, you won't find it in this film, but for the type of film it is, it's all the better for it. Most surprising of all is that despite the amount of time Superman is on-screen, he is far more interesting to watch then he is in previous DC installments.

Overall, 'Justice League' is not a runaway success and is problematic, but yet this film doesn't feel like a hot mess unlike 'BVS' and 'Suicide Squad', it's an entertaining film which is serviceable, but disposable, but it was a fairly enjoyable watch nevertheless.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Review)

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' is a art-house horror drama which stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. This film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Yorgos Lanthimos' follow up to his critically acalimed 'The Lobster' follows the same abusdise and nightmare driven pitch black comedy which makes his work stand out. In laymen's terms Lanthimos films are weird, The take turns you wouldn't expect, they are uncompromising, and times you are thrilled and in awe with what you see on screen, other times you feel personally sickened and provoked. This director certainly hasn't sold out on his creativity because I felt all of these emotions watching this.

Each moment of this film changed my perspective on it, there was a scene I loved followed by a scene that repelled me. It felt earnest and utterly pretentious at the same time.

The cast deliver great performances with thematically and tonally challenging material and the film benefits from it's haunting slow pace.

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' can be a hard film to get your head around, some of it was engaging and effective, other parts felt boring and self satisfied, but overall I give credit to a film to make me feel something and to provoke and manipulate multiple emotions from me.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Death of Stalin (Review)

'The Death of Stalin' is a satirical black comedy film which stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend and Jason Isaacs. This film is directed by Armando Iannucci.

In the same fashion as films such as 'Dr. Strangelove' and Iannucci's own "In the Loop", 'The Death of Stalin' takes dark subject matter and turns it on it's head with slick dry comedy and a pitch black sense of humour. The film is held first and foremost by the brilliant comedic forces of it's actors. The talented performances in this film are first rate, each actor is remarkably skilled at bringing out the most humour without becoming too broad or over theatrical. Steve Buscemi gives one of his best performances in recent memory as the quick talking, weasely, but manipulative First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. Jason Isaacs plays Georgy Zhukov in an unexpected, but priceless performance as a masculine no-nonsense northerner.

If you were expecting a historically and culturally accurate film, then you maybe confused as to why all the Russian characters have distinctive British and American accents, once you start to settle into the tone of the film you begin to understand why director Armando Iannucci has made this decision. In terms of tone it feels like a mix between 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' and 'House of Cards' as odd as a mix that sounds it works excellently to create the absurd world that is satirising one not too dissimilar.

The writing, performances and direction make 'The Death of Stalin' a film which whatever your political opinion maybe, laugh at the flawed and desperate nature of the characters, which we can all relate to in one way or another. While I don't have any real criticisms of the film, the film does not leave you on a high note, which is hard to complain about because of the subject matter, but for a comedy, despite all the laughs, the ending did make me feel quite low, however I think on multiple viewings I may grow to like it more.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 27 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (Review)

'Thor: Ragnarok' is a superhero fantasy film which stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett and Mark Ruffalo. This film is directed by Taika Waititi.

Any competition is already green with envy with the early success of this new chapter of the MCU cannon. Marvel knew that their new superhero film would need a little something special to compete with DC's upcoming Justice League and that is to dial the style up to eleven by hiring New Zealand director Taika Waititi, his zany flair was a sure fire guarantee for some needed originality.

To my surprise and admitted disappointment, the film was not as visually crazy as it was marketed to be, the film certainly has it's eye catching moments of style, but despite the hype, Marvel has already made more visually captivating films with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The main different between this film and the other Marvel film's is that it plays as more of a comedy than previous avengers related films, for the most part it's successful in creating an amusing and entertaining story with a good amount of character development for it's main characters. For me the highlight is seeing Thor and Hulk/Bruce Banner conversing with each other, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo have a good comedic chemistry between each other which makes the characters all the more human, despite their characters god-like capabilities.

If some of you were hoping for a compelling villain then turn away because you won't find one here. Although Cate Blanchett tries here best at hamming up her performance, the writing is just not there for her to play a villain that you are interested in, plus the fact that each opportunity for her to be threatening is bundled because the film is pushing the humour as far as it can go, even in places were it hurts the tone.

 Overall 'Thor: Ragnarok' is a film which fits in slightly above average marvel fare with fun moments, good pacing, but again another weak villain. it's well made fun and uplifting entertainment, but it's a film which I doubt I'll remember in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Battle of the Sexes (Review)

'Battle of the Sexes' is a sports drama starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. This film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie...