Archive for December, 2017

2017 In Film

A quick recap of the films I have seen at the cinema in 2017 and what I thought of them: 

Silence: Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most personal movie for a long time, certainly his most weighty. While it is brilliantly made and impeccably acted I struggled to connect with it making it a really good film but not a great one.silence

Assassins Creed: The buzz was that this would be the best video game adaptation, it isn’t bad but there are some serious flaws. The biggest problem, is a total lack of fun. The 15th century Spain action scenes are brilliant, the present day are terrible and the plot is incoherent at best. assassins-creed

Live By Night: What starts out looking like it is going to be a prohibition era outlaw movie becomes a gangster epic. Ben Affleck’s weakest film as a director but not without merit. live-by-night

Manchester by the Sea: What is essentially a small family drama is elevated to greatness by great acting and a perfectly structured script. Casey Affleck is brilliant in the lead, Michelle Williams totally steals the movie in a couple of tiny scenes.MBTS_3869.CR2

Donnie Darko: Back in cinema’s for its 15th anniversary and as good as ever.donnie-darko

Underworld Blood Wars: The fifth installment of the vampires v werewolves franchise. The plot is paper and silly thin at best but it looks great Kate Beckinsale is excellent as ever. underworld-blood-wars

A Monster Calls: Juan Antonio Bayona tells a story that looks like it’s going to be a family drama, it then develops into what appears to be a monster movie but ends up being so much more. a-monster-calls

La La Land: The musical Oscar favourite is neither the masterpiece that some are claiming or The Emperor’s New Clothes that others suggest. la-la-land

Trainspotting: Re-released in time for the sequel, the cult classic from my student days is, great to see it, it hasn’t lost anything in the 20 years since I first saw it.trainspotting

XXX: Return of Xander Cage: Vin Diesel returns to the franchise. Poorly made with terrible dialogue but fun and filled with great action. xxx-return-of-xander-cage

Split: M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a director has been hit and miss at best. This horror/thriller/exploitation movie is something of a return to form. James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are both excellent. split

Jackie: Technically not a biopic of first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, more precisely a glimpse at a small but significant moment in her life, a significant moment in the 20th century. A well structured story with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman at its centre. jackie

T2 Trainspotting: The world is a very different place twenty years on, I worried that there wasn’t a place for this sequel, there was no need to worry. Both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable. t2-trainspotting

Denial: The true story of the court case that followed Holocaust denier David Irving’s attempt to sue historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. The script is a little by the numbers but the acting is brilliant from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.DENIAL


Hacksaw Ridge: A film of two halves, the war film is brilliant, the build up was to sentimental and preaching. andrew-garfield

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: The final Resident Evil movie until the inevitable reboot. It is as dumb and convoluted as the previous five films, but it is also good fun and never boring.resident-evil-the-final

Hidden Figures: The true story of Africa American woman working at the heart of NASA at the height of the space race. A feel good movie without the baggage of sentiment. Octavia Spencer received an Oscar nomination, the other two leads: Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe are just as good as is Kevin Costner in a supporting role. hidden-figures

Loving: The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving a mixed race couple whose marriage was deemed illegal in 1958 Virginia. Cleverly concentrating on the couple and not the legal case, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are both outstanding. loving

Fifty Shades Darker: It’s easy to poke fun at this film, I would rather look for the positive, sadly there is little positive to say beyond the charisma and comic timing of star Dakota Johnson, she and co star Jamie Dornan deserves so much more. fifty-shades-darker

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: An interesting little film told mainly in flashback. Surprisingly good largely thanks a great performance from unknown Joe Alwyn. There are also some great supporting performances especially from Kristen Stewart. 1289347 - BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK

20th Century Women: Back in 2010 writer / director Mike Mills gave us Beginners. A film about his late father. Now he is back with one about his mother. Set in the late 70’s it is a very modern movie with some quirky storytelling. Annette Bening is sensational, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are also great in supporting roles. 20th-century-women

John Wick: Chapter 2: Three years ago John Wick gave us a bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller. This sequel is basically the same again. It doesn’t offer anything new but is just as much fun as the original. john-wick-chapter-2

Lion: True story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta before being adopted by an Australian couple. 25 years later he attempts to track down where he is from with the help of google earth. Both Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel are excellend as the older and younger versions of Saroo. lion


Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books. More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise. Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.


Trespass Against Us: Family crime drama set within a traveller community. Michael Fassbender again proves to be one of the best actors working today. Brendan Gleeson has fun with the more showy role.

Trespass Against Us

Moonlight: Had I seen this before all the hype I would have probably declared it the best small independent film in years. As good as it is, and although I wouldn’t argue with its Oscar win, I have seen films in the past year that I prefer.


The Great Wall: As stunning to look at as you would expect from Yimou Zhang. The story is silly beyond belief but is entertaining and fun.

The Great Wall

The LEGO Batman Movie: The follow up to The LEGO movie is essentially a Batman spoof and not a LEGO movie. Ultimately it is good fun with the jokes coming thick and fast.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Kong: Skull Island: Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War a group of scientists and soldiers go in search of the titular giant ape. Uneven and disjointed but always fun. Not a patch on the 1933 original but better than most other attempts to update the story.

Kong Skull Island

Viceroy’s House: Essentially the Cliff Notes of Lord Mountbatten and Britain’s Withdrawal from India. Entertaining and informative but lacking any great depth.

Viceroy's House

Fences: Denzel Washington’s movie adapted from August Wilson’s play. Fantastic acting but the film fails to escapes its theatrical origin.


Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more innocent time, well not exactly; 1978, an arms deal goes wrong resulting in a violent but often amusing shootout. Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.

Free Fire

Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previouse film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star. A haunting film the seeps into your psyche. Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.

Personal Shopper

Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller. Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for. Best of all it is tremendous fun.

Get Out

Life: Is there life on Mars? Scientists on the international space station examine samples from The Red Planet and find that there was Life on Mars. Engaging, largely thanks to a likeable cast but without the grit or originality of Alien.

2219634 - LIFE

Power Rangers: Surprisingly not terrible. Most of the film is a teen drama that is clichéd but not dull. The robots hitting each other ending is as bad as anything Transformers has to offer.

Power Rangers

Ghost in the Shell: Like action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s seminal 1995 cyberpunk manga anime. It looks amazing and Scarlett Johansson is brilliant perfectly playing a charter who is literally uncomfortable in her own skin. Unable to transcend its manga and anime origins it is a little cold but texture is added by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s fantastic retro future score. If that hasn’t sold it to you, to top it all off, it also features Takeshi Kitano.

Ghost in the Shell

Raw: After her first taste of meat a vegetarian develops an unusual taste for meat. More visceral than gory, it is one of the most uncomfortable to watch films I have ever seen. In a strange way I really enjoyed it. Raw

Table 19: A group of interesting characters played by some great actors find themselves on the worst table at a wedding. Anna Kendrick is always worth watching but the script just isn’t funny enough. table19

Fast and Furious 8: The most bonkers instalment of the franchise to date, very silly but great fun. Jason Statham is brilliant but Charlize Theron is wasted. The-Fate-of-the-Furious

The Handmaiden: Chan-wook Park’s adaptation of Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith. The setting is moved from Victorian England to occupied Korea. The film looks amazing and has a plot that twists and turns in a most satisfying way. The Handmaiden

I Am Not Your Negro: Samuel L. Jackson narrates the words on James Baldwin from an unfinished manuscript telling the story of race relations in America. Particularly focussing on the killing of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, it is powerful, thoughtful and informative movie. Author James Baldwin

The Belko Experiment: The employees of an American company based in Columbia are locked in their office block and told to kill each other. Sold as social experiment asking the audience how they would react, the film is actually just a bloody horror thriller. Enjoyable enough but totally disposable entry into the sub-genre, Battle Royale remains the high watermark. The Belko Experiment

Rules Don’t Apply: Warren Beatty’s first film in a very long time is a light comedy drama based on the middle years of Howard Hughes. Told from the point of view of two of his employees played by Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins. Charming if a little lightweight. Rules Don't Apply

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The original Guardians of the Galaxy was the most fun movie in the MCU. This first sequel has lost none of its fun but it has forgotten to include the simple matter of a plot. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Their Finest: based on Lissa Evans novel Their Finest Hour and a Half about a the mating of a fictional British propaganda film during World War II. The whose who of British talent is led by an excellent Gemma Arterton. The film finds a perfect balance between comedy and drama and is always just the right side of sentimentality. Their Finest Hour and A Half Directed by Lone Sherfig

Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome: Having already seen my favourite film of 2105 twice on the big screen, once in IMAX 3D and once in regular 2D. I went back to see it a third time, in black and white. This monochrome edition is far more than just the regular movie with the colour setting on your TV turned down, this is a real black and white movie. Is it better in colour or black and white? I’m not sure, it somehow makes no difference, and is totally different, all at the same time. It’s a great movie either way!Mad Max Fury Road Black & Chrome

Lady MacBeth – Don’t be confused by the title, this isn’t about the wife of the eponymous antihero of the Scottish play. William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut is based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s play. Transposed to nineteenth century England it has been referred to as Victorian noir. Florence Pugh who impressed a couple of years ago with a supporting role in the excelled The Falling is front and centre and in just about every scene, she doesn’t disappoint, neither does the film. Gripping and beautiful and directed with as confidence that belies the directors inexperience. Lady MacBeth

Lowriders – A family drama set against a backdrop of street art and the lowrider car culture in East Los Angeles. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky and the acting a little wooden, but the family drama is compelling and the story is solid. Lowriders

Sleepless – Scoot McNairy, Michelle Monaghan and Dermot Mulroney are all good in supporting roles. The normally reliable Jamie Foxx is terrible in the lead, it as if you can see him acting like a poor salesman selling a lie. The plot is filled with endless twists, turns and reveals, everyone you see coming. The concept isn’t bad, maybe with a better director it could have been OK. Sleepless

Unlocked – You may as well cut and paste the review above. Like Sleepless, this movie has a good cast: Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich who are all OK, and a weak link, in this case Orlando Bloom. Bloom has a London accent to rival Dick Van Dyke, this is more concerning considering Bloom was born about fifty miles outside London unlike the Missouri born American. In case you are wondering, there are just as many twists and turns as above, and you will see them coming! Rapace deserves so much more. Unlocked

Miss Sloane – Having seemed to come out of nowhere less than a decade ago, Jessica Chastain has become just about the best actress of her generation. This criminally overlooked film is one of her best performances. The direction is taught with the two and bit hour runtime flying by. The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mark Strong. Miss Sloane

Alien: Covanant – Have you ever seen a great film, where a weaker writer/director has devalued the original art? There are many examples, Alien: Covanant is something far worse. Alien director Ridley Scott hasn’t made a pointless pondering mess of a prequel Alien, he has made two. I am sad to report this is as bad as Prometheus. One positive, Michael Fassbender is good.Alien Covanant

Colossal – I am not going to say anything about the plot to this movie, just watch it and if you can do so without reading anything about it or seeing the trailer even better. Not the film I was expecting but excellent none the less. Anne Hathaway’s best performance since the brilliant Rachel Getting Married. Colossal

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer take on the legend of King Arthur is surprisingly not bad. Charlie Hunnam is pretty good in the leading role, the rest of the cast are also solid. The modern street dialogue isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, Richie’s style as seen on the Sherlock Homes movies serves the action quite well, the week CGI and ridicules set pieces don’t. It’s a mess but it has some good moments and it isn’t boring. King Arthur Legend of the Sword

Wonder Woman: Origin story of Wonder Woman from Diana an Amazon princess through her first adventure. Perfect castling, a good story and sublime direction make for a classy comic book movie. I would go as far as to say, the best DC movie since The Dark Knight nearly a decade ago.Wonder Woman

Gifted: Family drama about a single man raising a child maths prodigy. Not totally original but not falling into all the clichés you would expect. Its greatest strength is its performances couples with well told story. Proof if you needed it that Chris Evans has a career beyond Cap. Gifted

The Mummy: Universal launches its “Dark Universe” reimagining its classic monsters. Unfortunately, it isn’t very good. There are some good moments, Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella are good, Russell Crowe is terrible. All in all, it is a missed opportunity. The Mummy

My Cousin Rachel: A young man is unsure whether to plot revenge against, or fall in love with his late cousin’s widow who may or may not have killed him. Rachel Weisz is sensational in this Daphne Du Maurier adaptation. Not perfect but extremely good. My Cousin Rachel

Baby Driver: the story of a getaway driver since before he was old enough to drive sounds like a genre B picture, in a way Baby Driver is, but in the best way. Is it Edgar Wright’s best film? That is too subjective to answer, but it is certainly his most accomplished and my favourite. Baby Driver

Churchill: Brian Cox is perfect as Winston Churchill, Miranda Richardson is even better as Clementine Churchill. The film is both interesting and largely enjoyable but considering the subject matter sadly a little lightweight and insignificant. Churchill

The Book of Henry: With a Rotten Tomatoes rating in the low 20’s and reviews including: “Grotesquely phony and manipulative” and “a sub-Spielbergian pastiche, “The Book of Henry” is mostly a tedious”. This is unkind, the movie is flawed and predicable (other than the mid movie left turn/genre change) but is well made and well acted. it isn’t great but it doesn’t disserve the vitriol. The Book of Henry

Transformers: The Last Knight: A total mess of a film with an ill-conceived and poorly realised plot. It looks good and the actors appear to be having fun. There is little to recommend it beyond saying it is less offensive than the last couple of instalments of the franchise. Transformers The Last Knight

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Do we need yet another Spider-Man re-boot? The simple answer is no, but if we are going to get a new version, this is the one we want. I’m not sure if Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man we have seen to date, he is certainly the best Peter Parker. It doesn’t do any harm that Michael Keaton is an excellent an more nuanced villain than we have come to expect. Spider-Man Homecoming

It comes at Night – Billed as a horror, actually more a character driven exercise in tension. Joel Edgerton has again proved to be an actor willing to make interesting choices. It comes at Night

War for the Planet of the Apes – The weakest of the new generation of Planet of the Apes movies but still a step above the usual blockbuster. Technically brilliant and supremely acted but a plot that lacks any surprises. War for the Planet of the Apes

The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola’s take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel lacks predatory seediness that made the Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood version so compelling. Coppola’s version is however perfectly cast and stunning to look at.The Beguiled

Dunkirk – My first IMAX movie of the year, it was so worth it. As you would expect from Christopher Nolan, this isn’t just a straight telling of the story, it is enhanced by a perfectly executed structure. The tension never lets up and is only enhanced by the lack of CGI and the imposing score. Dunkirk

The Big Sick – Comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in an autobiographical rom-com. Both compelling and funny, it is so much more than I have come to expect from a Judd Apatow produced movie. Nanjiani is good in the lead role, Zoe Kazan and Ray Romano are excellent in support, Holly Hunter steals the show as you would expect. The Big Sick

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Two decades after The Fifth Element Luc Besson returns to space for a sci-fi adventure. Adapted from Besson’s favourite comic strip Valerian can’t decide if it wants to be the camp fun of Flash Gordon, or something more nuanced. Cara Delevingne should feel a little miffed as despite being the main character and best part of the film, her character Laureline has had her name expunged from the comics original title. The content of the film seems to divide opinion one thing that can’t be disputed is how fantastic it looks. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron proved with Æon Flux that she had a affinity for action, sadly the film wasn’t much good. It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road that she had a suitable vehicle for her talent. Former stunt man/coordinator David Leitch, half the team behind John Wick has created the perfect movie for her talents. Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron gets to play a character somewhere between James Bond and John Wick. There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing. Atomic Blonde

A Ghost Story – Director David Lowery reteams with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Not much happens, and it happens very slowly without much dialogue, what should be terrible and boring, is actually brilliant. A Ghost Story

Overdrive – Low rent rip-off of The Fast and Furious franchise. The multiple twists and tunes in the plot are clearly signposted and are unlikely to surprise anyone. There is some good action and the survival rate of the classic cars is better than the aforementioned automotive franchise. Overdrive

The Dark Tower – Having not read any of the Stephen King sauce material I didn’t know what to expect from this adaptation. The narrative is a bit of a mess and lacks the epic feeling I was led to expect, but I actually enjoyed it. Idris Elba is excellent, Matthew McConaughey shows moments of brilliance but on the whole his performance is as disjointed as the film. Not a disaster, but it could have been better.The Dark Tower

Annabelle: Creation – Prequel to the spinoff of The Conjuring. Well constructed horror that is as enjoyable as the Conjuring movies largely thanks to the right balance of creepy build-up and jump scares; not to mention a supremely creepy doll._T2A7437.dng

American Made – Based on the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos, he soon finds himself working for the Medellín Cartel. Tom Cruise makes a charismatic star as ever. Directed with verve and style by Doug Liman, one of the most underrated directors working today. Domhnall Gleeson is wonderfully slimy. American Made

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh returns from retirement with a blue collar Ocean’s Eleven. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are great in the leads but the best performances come from Riley Keough and Daniel Craig. Not the best that Soderbergh has to offer but still a really good and enjoyable film. Logan Lucky

Detroit: Based on a disputed true story of an incident during the 1967 Detroit riots. A tense drama that at times plays like a horror, at others like a legal drama. Only a director with the skill of Kathryn Bigelow could have pulled it off. John Boyega and Algee Smith are both excellent, Will Poulter is sensational. Detroit

Patti Cake$: The feature debut for director Geremy Jasper tells the story of a white female rapper. Told with right amount of humour and humility, the film is warm and funny. Danielle Macdonald is excellent in her first significant role. Patti Cake$

Wind River: An FBI agent is sent to investigate when the body of a young Native American woman is found. She is a assisted by the reservation sheriff and a tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are both perfectly cast. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan and forming a loose “frontier trilogy” with Hell or High Water and Sicario that he also wrote.Wind River

Gods Own Country: Lazily compared to Brokeback Mountain, it is actually a better film than Ang Lee’s multi Oscar winner. A young Yorkshire farmer is struggling to find his place in life, spending his evenings drinking and having casual sex. He finds purpose and a possibility of happiness when they employ a Romanian migrant worker for the season. Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu are good as the young leads, Ian Hart is the standout as the farther. Gods Own Country

mother!: Lower case m and followed by an exclamation mark, even the title of Darren Aronofsky’s parable is stylised. Possibly the most divisive movie of the year, everyone who sees it seems to have strong feelings about it, personally, I loved it! The film is laden with subtext that could be read two or three different was, it’s a shame that Aronofsky and star Jennifer Lawrence (who by the way is fantastic) feel the need to explain the film in interviews. mother

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: A far-fetched theatrical plot, gentleman spy and a colourful megalomaniac villain; Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and as spoiled by the trailer and posters, Colin Firth are back for more of the same. It lacks the originality of the original but retains the politically incorrect fun. Julianne Moore is great and is clearly having a blast as the villain.Kingsman the Golden Circle

IT: Having passed the half billion dollar mark, the adaptation of Stephen Kings novel his officially the most successful horror film of all time. Criticised by some for its lack of scary moments, it plays as more a disturbing undercurrent and forgoes cheep scares. The young cast are all fantastic. IT

Borg vs McEnroe: True story of the rivalry between the top two tennis players of the era told against the backdrop of the 1980 Wimbledon tournament, particularly the epic final. Well told story with Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf both excellent in the title roles. Borg vs McEnroe

Home Again – Enjoyable but lightweight rom-com. Pairing a forty year old woman with a twentysomething man is a welcome reversal of the cinematic norm. Reese Witherspoon is always a likeable screen presence. Home Again

Goodbye Christopher Robin – The story of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories is a deeper and darker one than you would expect. Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie are both excellent, Kelly Macdonald is better. Goodbye Christopher Robin

Blade Runner 2049 – My love of the original Blade Runner is no secret, it is therefore no surprise that I was apprehensive about a sequel. If anyone was going to make it work, it is Denis Villeneuve, and he really does make it work. Truly a sequel picking up the story of the original film and taking it in an interesting direction. Blade+Runner+2049-1

The Snowman – A first rate cast does a great job in a stunning looking adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s novel. Unfortunately the Tomas Alfredson directed movie is a mess with disjointed plot. Not even three time Oscar wining editor Thelma Schoonmaker could save it. The Snowman

Double Date – A young man desperate to lose his virginity is pushed into approaching two women by his cocky friend. Unfortunately for them, the two sisters are serial killers looking for a virgin. Comedy horror is so hard to get right, but this low budget British offering really gets it right. Double Date

The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci made an interesting choice with his cast using a mix of British and American accents in this story of the power struggle in the days that followed the titular death of Starlin. Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious. Andrea Riseborough

The Party – One location, a 71 minute running time, and a small cast (Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall), The Party is essentially a filmed play. The cast are all excellent mainly playing unlikeable people. Sure to divide opinion, I was unsure to begin with, but loved it by the end. The Party

Happy Death Day – You can imagine the pitch “its Groundhog Day, meets Scream”. That is essentially what it is, a college student is murdered but has to re-live the day over and over until she solves the crime and survives the day. Disposable but surprisingly enjoyable. Happy Death Day

Thor: Ragnarok – Taika Waititi movies are bonkers, given a major franchise movie you would expect him to tow the line and make a generic sequel or find himself out of a job (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller!!!), fortunately that isn’t the case. Ragnarok is as barmy and as funny as you would expect. In Hela, played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett Marvel have found their best villain since Loki.Thor Ragnarok

Breathe – Andy Serkis’ first movie as a director. Remarkable true story of a couple’s life together after one contracts polio and isn’t expected to survive for long. A little jolly and lightweight but well shot with great performances and likeable characters. Screen-Shot-2017-06-29-at-6.47.39-PM


Murder on the Orient Express – Kenneth Branagh’s lavish and glossy take on the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery. All the A-list cast are outstanding especially Michelle Pfeiffer. Is it better than the revered 1970’s Sidney Lumet version? Probably not, however, it offers enough new gloss to make it worth seeing especially for those who haven’t seen any of the many other versions.Murder on the Orient Express

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – As with director Yorgos Lanthimos previous movie, The Lobster, it may be hard to decide if it is a masterpiece or an esoteric rant. I would go with the former on both counts.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women – The unusual origins of the Wonder Woman Comic book are explored in what is either a tender love story, or the most vanilla BDSM movie depending on your point of view. The performances are excellent, particularly the always brilliant Rebecca Hall. Not the best Wonder Woman movie of the year, but by far the best of the month!Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

The Florida Project – Poignant drama set on the edge of society just outside Disney World in Florida. There is little in the way of plot, this doesn’t matter as the cast of newcomers and unknowns (along with an excellent as always Willem Dafoe) tell the powerful story of the shame of our generation, the so called hidden homeless.The Florida Project

Paddington 2 – The first Paddington movie was so much better than expected. This sequel doesn’t disappoint. Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson are excellent additions to the cast.Paddington 2

Justice League – The Avengers (2012) was the sixth film of the MCU after introducing all its main characters. It did a great job of bringing this disparate group together. Justice League was the DCEU’s chance to do the same, they really screwed it up. The film spends the first half a movie introducing characters, the second half battling a the worst, most uninteresting villain in the history of comic book movies.Justice League

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – True story of the romance between a young British actor and fading movie star Gloria Grahame. I am a big fan of both Gloria Grahame and Annette Bening who plays her here, so the stakes were high, it doesn’t disappoint.Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Battle of the Sexes – Billed as the story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, reportedly the most watched televised sports event of all time. The film is so much more; a love story, the story of King’s coming out, and most notably the origin of the WTA. The biggest surprise, the story isn’t just about King, Riggs’ story is sympathetically told and interesting. Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both brilliant.Battle of the Sexes

Ingrid Goes West – obsession and stalking in the cyber generation. I didn’t exactly like or enjoy this movie, probably because I hated most of the characters, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) being the exception. However, it was strangely compelling. The end is perfect anchors the films context. You expect Elizabeth Olsen to be good, and she is in what a supporting role, Aubrey Plaza is brilliant in the lead.Ingrid Goes West

Molly’s Game – Shown as a secret screening a month before its UK release. Writer Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut tells the true story of Molly Bloom, the woman who ran a high-stakes poker game for the rich and famous until the mob and the FBI got in the way. The snappy dialogue that you would expect from Sorkin comes to life thanks to the brilliant Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.Molly_s Game


Good Time: Robert Pattinson continues to take interesting roles. This time working with the Safdie Brothers after approaching the pair. Shot on a low budget in New York, many of the street scenes were shot guerrilla style. A gritty and visceral character driven story. Good Time

The Man Who Invented Christmas: The story of Charles Dickens struggling with writer’s block following a series of flops. He comes up with the idea for a Christmas story but only has three weeks to finish it. Lightweight but enjoyable. The Man Who Invented Christmas

Blade of the Immortal: Takashi Miike’s 100th film is a stylish ultra-violent action samurai movie. Samurai in the 70’s B movie sense, not the Kurosawa. Fantastic violent fun as you would expect from Miike.Blade of the Immortal

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Rian Johnson picks up the rein on the Star Wars juggernaut and makes some bold choices that are dividing opinions. I loved it.Star Wars The Last Jedi

The Disaster Artist: James Franco’s passion project tells the true story of Tommy Wiseau and the making of “the worst film ever made”, The Room. You don’t need to have seen The Room to enjoy it.The Disaster Artist

Pitch Perfect 3: The characters are still likeable and there are a few funny moments, but they have really run out of ideas, the story is terrible.Pitch Perfect 3

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Follow-up to the 1995 Robin Williams movie. Amazingly it really works and is tremendous fun.Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle

The Greatest Showman: I am not much of a fan of musicals so only went to see this because there wasn’t anything else left to see. It actually wasn’t bad. The songs were inoffensive and the cast is good.The Greatest Showman

What delights are there to come in  2018? Watch this space…….. 


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It’s that time of year again, my top ten favourite films of the year.  A really tough choice, my top five came easy, I then had a short list of twenty to choose from for the final five.  From a criteria point of view:  All films were released, and most importantly seen by me in the UK in 2017. 

  1. Blade Runner 2049: I am getting predictable.  Two years ago Sicario missed out on my top movie of the year by the smallest margin to Mad Max.  Last year Arrival took the top spot. Back in 2013, Prisoners made my top ten.  It is therefore no surprise that a Denis Villeneuve tops the tree again.  What is a surprise, is that my favourite film of the year, is one I didn’t want to be made. As a lover of the original Blade Runner I just didn’t want them to mess it up.  Far from it, the film is both excellent in its own right, and takes the original movie and its concepts in an interesting direction. Blade+Runner+2049-1
  2. The Handmaiden: Chan-wook Park’s second appearance on the list after Stoker took top spot in 2013.  His adaptation of Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith sees the setting change from Victorian England to Japanese occupied Korea.  The film looks amazing and has a plot that twists and turns in a most satisfying way.The Handmaiden
  3. Baby Driver: Every generation has a new movie about a getaway driver, Baby Driver is up there with the best thanks to a fantastic concept.  The car chases are the best I have seen in years, the soundtrack is killer.  The thing that sets it apart is the way the action is cut perfectly in time with the music.  The music becomes a character in itself. A film that could have disappeared in its own style and sheen turns out to be nothing short of amazing.  Baby Driver
  4. Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more innocent time, well not exactly; 1978!  It is essentially a single location shoot ’em up  B movie set during and after a failed arms deal.  The outcome is violent but also highly amusing.  Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.Free Fire
  5. Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film.  Dunkirk looked like it would be his most conventional story to date.  The structure of three stories told over three different periods of time makes it far from conventional. The tension never lets up and is only enhanced by the lack of CGI and the imposing score.  The structure enhances rather than confuses the film.  The photography is nothing short of stunning especially when seen on IMAX. Dunkirk
  6. Atomic Blonde: Imagine if John Wick looked like Charlize Theron and was a spy in the last days of the Cold War, that would give you an idea of Atomic Blonde.  The miracle is how you make a movie like that work.  David Leitch, stunt man/coordinator and half the team behind John Wick has done it. Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron finally gets her perfect and iconic character.  There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing.Atomic Blonde
  7. The Death of Stalin: Armando Iannucci made an interesting choice with his cast using a mix of British and American accents in this story of the power struggle in the days that followed the titular death of Starlin.  Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious.  The best comedy of the year. the death of stalin
  8. Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books.  More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise.  Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.Logan
  9. Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previous film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star.  A haunting film the seeps into your psyche.  Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.Personal Shopper
  10. Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller.  Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for.  Best of all it is tremendous fun.Get Out



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I will publish my top ten favorite movies of the year in the next few days.  As a precursor, here are a few of my favorite films of the year that missed out on the top ten: 2017 Recommended Movies

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We are now half way through the DC Extended Universe release schedule as announced a couple of years ago (with a few changes along the way).  This gives us two questions.  Will we see all five of the remaining films and will this be the end of the franchise as we know it?  A lot will depend on box-office.  Early reports are that this years Justice League is underperformed, although it is sure to still make a reasonable profit.   Both artistically and financially it is impossible not to compare with the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).  Historically the MCU has had the upper hand, that is no different this year with three excellent and profitable movie (Spider-Man Homecoming $879million, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 863million, Thor: Ragnarok $843million) the DCEU’s 50% hit rate; Wonder Woman was a really enjoyable film and returned a healthy $817million.  Justice League was mess and came in with a disappointing $637million.  So far we have had:

Man of Steel (2013), it actually wasn’t a bad movie.  Given the Technicolor vibrancy of the character, the film was a little dull and dour.  It lacks all the fun of Richard Donner / Christopher Reeve movie form 1978 and its first sequel form 1980.man of steel

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), know to many as yawn of justice.  The casting of Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, as well as the return of Henry Cavill were all good, Jesse Eisenberg as the main villain Lex Luthor was beyond terrible.  The big problem, as well as Jesse Eisenberg, is the plot, the seminal graphic novel  The Dark Knight Returns (1986) has been criticised for a thin plot and describing the fight between Batman and Superman as “forced”.  It is positively Shakespearean in magnitude in comparison to the one in this movie, not to mention the way it ends.Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

Suicide Squad (2016) Was much anticipated, partly for the interesting concept, and certainly helped by a really good trailer.  Will Smith and Margot Robbie provided some fun and charisma to the party but the story was a mess.  The film describe the formation of The Suicide Squad as way to counter alien threats such as Superman.  However they actually end up fighting one of their own members who just happens to be possessed by a witch with a desire to eradicate humankind.  All the time, Jared Leto’s Joker is on the periphery of the story and is a distraction at best, in a film full of distractions.Suicide Squad

Wonder Woman (2017) was surprisingly excellent.  The final act was week, but then even the mighty Marvel struggles with final acts, we can’t condemn DC for doing the same.  I hope the mess the rest of the cinematic universe is in doesn’t prevent future Wonder Woman films.Wonder Woman

Justice League (2017) Off the back of Wonder Woman, Justice League had every chance to be great but dropped the ball at every opportunity.  The plot is terrible and the villain even worse.  It has no discernible second act. It goes from the set-up recruiting new members to the concluding battle.  The interludes where the team stand around and chat appear shoehorned in, but you wouldn’t want to loses them as they provide the movies only levity.  Zack Snyder is credited as the director but had to step away towards the end of production for personal reasons.  Joss Whedon took over and finished the film.  This could account for the mess.  Would it have been better if one director had taken creative control from start to finish?  There may be a Snyder directors cut in future.Justice League

So where to they go from here? They need to make colossal sums of money with each release.  This could prove problematic given the what has gone before and the planned movies:

Aquaman (2018) features a character that simply didn’t work in Justice League.  The character should have been the DCEU’s equivalent to Thor from the MCU.  He sadly lacks the humour and charisma of the Marvel hero.  However, it is directed by James Wan who has proved his ability to craft a story with The Conjuring franchise and that he can make a successful film, Fast & Furious 7 took over $1.5billion worldwide.  The film also features Willem Dafoe and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles.Aquaman

Next up is Shazam (2019), to the best of my knowledge is the first time the character has made it to the big screen.  The main character is a child who  by speaking the magic word “SHAZAM” transforms into an (adult) superhero.  This could be a really tough character to shoehorn into the sombre Justice League, but done right could inject a little fun.  It sounds a little to much like Bananaman for me!Shazam

Wonder Woman 2 (2019) Given the success of Patty Jenkins excellent film this year, should be the banker.  There have already been complications thanks to the well publicised problems producer Brett Ratner has experienced.  It did look at one time that it may threaten the involvement of star Gal Gadot.  Fortunately star power appears to have won and we should get a second installment from Jenkins and Gadot.Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins

Cyborg (2020) was teased in Dawn of Justice and appeared in Justice League.  He appears to be an interesting character, but they didn’t know what to do with him in justice league.Cyborg

Beyond this, it gets murky at best, to quote Yoda, “unclear, the future is!”  We have already seen a Green Lantern movie back in 2011.  A Green Lantern clearly appeared in flashback scenes in Justice league.  The new movie Green Lantern Corps (2020) would be a reboot less than a decade after the original.  There have been no announcements about casting or directors.  There has been much conjecture about a Suicide Squad 2 and/or various Harley Quinn movies, Joker movies or Harley Quinn & Joker projects.  I for one am interested to see more of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, and less keen to see more of Jared Leto’s Joker.  There have also been suggestions of a Birds of Prey and or a Gotham City Sirens film.  Flashpoint, the proposed Flash movie appears to still be on the slate for 2020 but little is known about it.  The name suggests an origin story, so it could well be a prequel to what we have already seen.  Then we have the elephant in the room, The Batman.  DC’s most bankable character. (Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy took $2.5billion at the world box-office, with about another $1billion in DVD/Blu-ray and other digital sales).  Are we going to get a standalone Batman movie, will it feature Ben Affleck or a new Batman?  We certainly don’t need another Batman origin movie, but a prequel  before the arrival of Superman could should be more interesting than what we have seen so far.  Then we have Man of Steel 2, or is it 3? It has been reported that Matthew Vaughn has been in talks with Warner Bros to make this.  A strange choice having made films independent  of studio interference to date.  The problem as always, Superman does not play well with all others, the character is too powerful and distracts from the story.

It is clear DC have suffered from a poorly planned release schedule as much as poor movies.  They have two choices scrap it and start again, or continue on and try to make it work.  This is decision that we be made on profit and loss not artistic merit.

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Is it time to address the elephant in the room? Probably.  The lack of glossy images will tell you this is a little more serious than my usual fair.  Can we appreciate the art and overlook the artist? This was a question Charles McGrath asked five years ago in his New York Times article Good Art, Bad People. I this he concentrated mainly on painters and writers but the same is true of any art, or is it? The article predates the current scandals that are engulfing the entertainment industry. This BBC article outlines the unfolding to the accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein. But this is where things get complicated. McGrath’s article talks of many artists including Hemingway, Degas and Picasso, these were visionary individuals famed for their art. But where a painter, sculptor or writer works largely alone on their creative process, film-making is collaborative.

Take The English Patient, winner of nine Academy Awards including Best Picture credited to producer Saul Zaentz; Harvey Weinstein is credited as executive producer. My understanding of the process: director Anthony Minghella, producer Saul Zaentz and Michael Ondaatje, on whose book it is based, worked together on adapting the story for the screen. Studio 20th Century Fox wanted big Hollywood names for the lead roles and wouldn’t fund the film without their choice of stars, I believe Demi Moore was suggested for the Kristin Scott Thomas role. Miramax Films (still at this time owned and run by Bob and Harvey Weinstein) stepped in to help fund, and to distribute the film. In short, one of my favourite films of the 1990’s would not have been made if not for Harvey Weinstein.

But it isn’t just a case of saying that Weinstein has been accused of bad things but he was behind a great film. If it were that simple and redemption came with great art we would be knighting him having been credited as executive producer on many beloved movies including Paddington, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction and the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, to name just a few. My argument is more complicated than that. There are over four-hundred names on the credits to The English Patient. While we can not and should not forgive peoples misdeeds because we like their art, we must remember that they are just one cog in a very machine.

Then we look back at the golden age of cinema. It is filled with stars who were less than appropriate in their treatment of their leading ladies. We have the draconian seven year contracts. Starlets forced to have cosmetic surgery. Legendary directors bullying their stars. Studio fixers breaking the law and covering up the crimes of others to protect the studio investment. Exploitative working hours in the trades behind the scenes. It would be impossible to work out which films had been ethically made.

The cog in the wheel argument may be harder to accept when the accused is on screen in front of us and not a producer in the background. I understand there is a film about sexual misconduct within the film industry that has been pulled from release because its star (who is also writer, producer and director) has been accused of misconduct himself.  As the situation snowballs, there may well be false accusations made along with all the real ones and we must to a certain degree give people their right to presumed innocence. This isn’t always easy but I am prepared to go forward with an open mind, I make no accusations, or assumptions about those people named in the article, I am simply commenting on what has already been reported. There are no simple answers, and there are sure to be more questions.


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I read an article about Molly Bloom a couple of years ago when her book Molly’s Game was first released.  A truly interesting story, I would have been keen to see a film based on it; but then things got interesting, it was announced that it was to be Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut. Molly's Game poster

After a freak accident caused the end of her dreams of becoming an Olympic Skier, Molly Bloom decided to take a year out somewhere warm.  Finding herself working in LA as a PA.  Her boss orders her to help run his poker game that features a few celebrities.  Before long, thanks to intellect, drive and organisation she took over the game and transformed it from a relatively friendly high stakes game into the biggest game in town.  Things go really well, until they don’t.     molly's game jessica chastain

It has been reported the real life game featured A list Hollywood stats, hedge fund managers, politicians and wealthy businessmen.  The names have been changed to protect the (not so) innocent.  Even West Hollywood’s infamous Viper Room (the venue for the original game) has been rebranded for the movie.  This anonymity becomes a far more important element of the story later on.  The most notable of the players known as Player X (Michael Cera) is portrayed as a grade one asshole, he clearly based on a real Hollywood star, do your own research if you are interested in finding out who he is, it isn’t difficult. molly's game michael cera

As you would expect in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, the dialogue is intelligent, snappy and extremely fast paced.  It is an absolute joy to hear it spoken by supremely talented actors Jessica Chastain in the title role as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba as her lawyer Charlie Jaffey and Kevin Costner in a small but memorable part as her farther Larry Bloom.  What I didn’t expect was the structure.  Told with that rarest of things, a voiceover that works.  at first the flashbacks seemed a little disjointed, as the film found its feet at became clear that it was telling a story at three different points in time, not just flashbacks.  This was easy to follow and well balanced, as a viewer, I never wanted to be in a different part of the story. MOLLY'S GAME

I was amazed to learn that it clocks in at 2 hours 20, it felt more like 100 minutes.  With the dialogue coming at million miles an hour it packs a lot in this time.  The best of the story comes with the interactions between Chastain and Elba.  Elba even gets the obligatory grandstand Lawyers speech, this is far measured than you would expect, but no less satisfying.  It is helps that it is shot with a reasonable amount of visual flair without being overly showy.  Aaron Sorkin’s script is based on Bloom’s book so is understandably sympathetic to her.  It is also a product of its time; wrapped before the recent scandals, there is little mention of the players attitude towards women, something Bloom has mentioned in the past.  It does however have an interesting and not particularly favourable comment on how the American justice system works.

Not without problems, but all things considered a classy and impressive film elevated by fantastic dialogue and brilliant acting.  It is also great fun to watch, with some great comic moments.  On the evidence of this I am keen to see what Aaron Sorkin comes up with next and hope it is also in the director’s chair. 

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