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Frankenstein

Two hundred years ago this month, at the age of just twenty, Mary Shelley published one a novel that still resonates in the cinema of today.  At last count, there are around 120 film and television adoptions of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. 

The origin of the novel came eighteen months earlier when Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was in  Switzerland with her lover and future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley visiting Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.  Known as the “Year Without a Summer”, 1816 was particularly cold and wet due to the so called volcanic winter following the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.  Having read all the ghost stories the villa’s library had to offer the group decided to write their own.  History suggests Mary’s was the best.   Originally not a commercial success, the novel found early success on stage, then in the twentieth century on film.  Often referred to as the original adaptation, James Whale’s seminal Frankenstein (1931), was not the first. The first film adaptation, Frankenstein (1910) came from Edison Studios in the silent era and was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley  This was followed by Life Without Soul (1921), written by Jesse J. Goldburg, and directed by Joseph W. Smiley.  There was also the Italian version, the Italian Il Mostro di Frankenstein (“The Monster of Frankenstein”), no known prints of this film remain. 320px-Frankenstein_1818_edition_title_page

I am not sure when I first saw a Frankenstein movie, but have always been aware of Frankenstein or to be more precise, his monster.  But to many people, Frankenstein is the monster not the monsters creator, who is actually called Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein.  An easy mistake to make as the creator is the real monster, but I am getting ahead of myself.  The monster, or at least the Boris Karloff, Universal version of him is probably the most recognisable and iconic character in movie history.  When did I first see him?  Probably a clip on TV.  The first, I really remember is one of two things: cardboard Halloween masks given out by the ice-cream man, or the Frankenstein’s monster alike, Herman Munster who seemed to always be on TV in the 80’s. Herman Munster

Then at the age of around ten or eleven I saw Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) (shown in a double bill on channel 4 with  Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966). I soon watched many more Hammer movies including their first Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) with Christopher Lee as the monster.  These are probably the best of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, and significant in the series.  Made off the back the Universal Monster Movies that were experiencing a renaissance on TV on both sides of the Atlantic, the 1957 film was the first significant adaptation in years.  Without the use iconic look, the rights to which were owned by Universal Hammer had to be creative.  Taking the board strokes the source material but telling its own story, with a subtext of a fear of science, this is after all a film made a decade after WWII and in the early days of the cold war. Directed with style by Terence Fisher and perfectly performed by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Like Shelley’s novel, the movie was poorly received by critics but loved by audiences proving to be commercial success and a springboard to the Hammer movies of the next decade and a half. frankenstein-created-woman1

A few years later I saw the aforementioned James Whale, Universal movies.  Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) starring Colin Clive as Frankenstein, and Boris Karloff as the monster.  One of the few films where the sequel is better than the original, but like The Godfather, or Mad Max, it doesn’t matter, as they are both brilliant.  Great art often comes from the obscure places.  Universal were haemorrhaging money.  Dracula, essentially a filmed play starring Bela Lugosi, made a lot of money so they decided to fast-track further horror/monster movies.  They hired James Whale, two pictures into a five movie contract (His previous credits were a couple of world war one movies, one of which starred future Henry (changed from Victor) Frankenstein, Colin Clive.  He was also one of the unaccredited directors on Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels). Whale elevates the movie above Dracula’s stage origin by both expanding the canvas and through cinematic flair.  Influenced by German Expressionism, the film set a template for future horror.  It also helps that both Whale and Karloff, individually and collectively understood that the monster wasn’t really the monster of the story. frankenstein

Then I read Mary Shelley’s original novel and became obsessed with Frankenstein and its many adaptations.  They include Young Frankenstein (1974).  Not to be misunderstood, Young Frankenstein (1974) is actually among the best Frankenstein movies.  Written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder; Directed by Brooks and starring Wilder, it both tells Shelley’s story, understands the themes, and most importantly, it is devastatingly funny.  Utilising original props and set dressing from the 1931 movie, it also looks like a Frankenstein movie. young frankenstein

The total opposite to the Hammer version, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) received good reviews but was less popular with audiences; Audiences who had grown up with various film versions but were less familiar with the original novel, audiences who expected the monster to be a monster.  Kenneth Branagh directs with swagger and style and is ok in the lead but Robert De Niro wasn’t the best choice of monster.  It is a film well worth revisiting. mary shelley's frankenstein

The adaptations are still coming thick and fast, here are a few from the current decade:

  • 2011: The BBC broadcast a live production from Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds; billed as Frankenstein’s Wedding.
  • 2011: The National Theatre produced a version by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. Actors Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternated the roles of Frankenstein and the monster.  The play was broadcast live to cinemas worldwide.
  • 2014: Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the Monster were both recurring characters in the (excelled) TV horror series Penny Dreadful.
  • 2014: I, Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s monster joins an age old battle between and Gargoyles.  A truly terrible film.
  • 2015: Frankenstein: a modern-day adaptation told from the monster’s point of view.
  • 2015: Victor Frankenstein:  Victorian set drama told from Igor’s perspective.
  • 2016: Frankenstein: A full length ballet performed by The Royal Ballet and simulcasts worldwide.
  • 2019: Bride of Frankenstein: The second film in the “Dark Universe” with Javier Bardem as the monster was due out next year, but is currently in turnaround.

If you are interested in Frankenstein, but don’t know where to start, I would recommend either the 1931 movie or Mary Shelley’s original novel.  Don’t wait for the next adaptation, it is unlikely to live up to either of these.  And finally for those who are wondering, the title of the article comes from a line that appeared in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and not a line spoken by Russell Crowe in the trailer for The Mummy (2017). bride of frankenstein 1935

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Dom 5There is a little academy you may have heard of who plan to announce the nominees for their film awards this week, I think they call them the Oscars.  Before that we have the Seventh Annual Groovers Movie Awards.  As ever all categories, eligibility and winners are decided by me:

Best Movie: Blade Runner 2049: Blade Runner (1982) didn’t need a sequel,  not only is this movie a worthy sequel, but it continues the story that enhances rather than diminishes the original, continuing, even expanding on the themes.  As you would expect from director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins, it looks amazing.  A love it or hate it type film; like the original, it may have underperformed at the box-office, it will find its audience in time. Blade+Runner+2049-1

Best Director: Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden.  A labyrinthine tale that never loses its focus and always holds the audience’s attention.  Based on Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, this adaptation sees the setting change from Victorian England to Japanese occupied Korea, making the most of the setting, the film looks amazing.  Possibly Park’s best movie since Oldboy. Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden

Best Actor/Actress: Casey Affleck won the academy award for Manchester by the Sea, a result I certainly wouldn’t argue with.  Jessica Chastain gave to fantastic performances in Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain

Best Dialogue: Aaron Sorkin (writer/director) Molly’s Game.  In his directorial debut, Sorkin is helped by his actors: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner who makes his machine gun dialogue sound amazing. 'Molly's Game' New York Premiere

Best Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (editors) Edgar Wright (writer/director), Julian Slater (sound designer), for Baby Driver.  I have always been an advocate of the idea that the best editing is invisible.  Baby Drive breaks this rule with very conspicuous editing; there are long takes, single take tracking shots, quick cuts all done in time with the music.  It could have been a disaster, it’s actually a masterpiece.   Baby Driver

Best Comedy: The Death of StalinArmando 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 Stalin. Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious.The-Death-of-Staling-Banner-Poster

Special Award: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.  This special award is for making interesting movie choices.  A decade ago Stewart and Pattinson became two of the biggest stars in the world thanks to the Twilight movies.  Choosing to work with directors including: James Gray, David Cronenberg, Olivier Assayas, Kelly Reichardt and Woody Allen.  They have continued making interesting and extremely good movie:  Stewart worked with Olivier Assayas for a second time with Personal Shopper, while Pattinson made Good Time with The Safdie Brothers. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson

Fandango Award: William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh – Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout film-makers of the year:  William Oldroyd, Alice Birch, and Florence Pugh are director, writer and star of Lady Macbeth respectively.   The captivating movie is the first feature for Oldroyd and Birch, and the first starring role for  Pugh.William Oldroyd Alice Birch Florence Pugh

Dom 5

Best of 2007

In my last post relating to 2017 before The Seventh Annual Groovers Movie Awards, here are my favourite things from the year: 

Film

Blade Runner 2049Blade 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.

Album

Life Love Flesh BloodLife Love Flesh Blood: Imelda May: Best known as for her rockabilly music, the Irish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist released her debut album in back in 2003.  After splitting from her husband, who was also her creative partner and collaborator on previous recordings, she decided to take a different direction.  Produced by T Bone Burnett and guided by Bono, the album crosses several genres but the standout tracks are the more blues based ballads Call Me, Black Tears, Should’ve Been You.

Book

La Belle SauvageThe Book of Dust volume one La Belle Sauvage: Phillip Pullman: Back in 2003 the BBC’s Big Read began the search for the nation’s best-loved novel, Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was voted number three in the poll.  This was the first I had heard of the books, as soon as I heard they had been ceremonially burned I decided they were worth reading, they are amazing.  After a long wait La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in the companion series The Book of Dust was released.  It was worth the wait!

TV Showtwin peaks

Twin Peaks: A quarter of a century after it originally aired Twin Peaks returned to our screens.  It could have gone so wrong, but this is David Lynch, Why did I ever have a moment of doubt.  With a combination of the original and a new cast , new and old stories it was some of the best TV of the year with one mind-bending episode in particular standing out.

 

Gig

franz ferdinandFranz Ferdinand: I didn’t go to many gigs last year, but one act stands out.  I have a couple of Franz Ferdinand albums but have never been a big fan, however, there live act is really great.  The last act before the headliners (Elbow) on the Sunday night of the Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, Franz Ferdinand but on a memorable show.

Live PerformanceMatthew Bourne_s The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes: Twenty years after I first saw the (and loved) the Pressburger and Powell classic The Red Shoes I saw Matthew Bourne’s adaptation.  A ballet based on a film about ballet is a daring choice, to score it with film music by Bernard Herrmann was is an inspired one.

  1. Twin Peaks: This could have gone so wrong.  Revisiting a TV show from quarter of a century ago with a combination of the original and a new cast.  The results were amazing, with one mind-bending episode in particular standing out.  Why did I ever doubt David Lynch.Twin Peaks
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale: I read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian satire back in the early 90’s and loved it.  There was a film version in 1990 that wasn’t bad.  Why is this version so good? Is it because it is frighteningly relevant today, because Elisabeth Moss is so good in the lead role, or that its just really well written well made television? Probably all three!The Handmaid's Tale
  3. Mindhunter: You could call it Manhunter/Silence of the Lambs Year 0.  Set in the mid/late 1970’s and telling the story of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit in the early days of criminal psychology and profiling.  It’s a very talky show, so don’t expect lots of action, but if that’s your thing you will love it.Mindhunter
  4. Godless: A seven part mini-series set in the American west in the 1880’s.  While it contains all the archetypes of the genre you would expect, and yet it feels strangely authentic.  A well constructed piece with flashbacks to tell back stories dropped in at just the right moment, it is more like a seven hour movie than a TV show.  The cast are all fantastic.Godless
  5. American Gods: Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name.  The conflict between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of the modern consumer age told from the point of view of a mortal man.  Blending mythology and pop culture in a visually stunning way often trippy to a trippy effect.  You don’t always who what is going on but it kind of all pulls together in the end.American Gods
  6. Alias Grace: The second Margaret Atwood adaptation on the list, this time written for the screen by Sarah Polley.  Based on a fictionalized version of a murder in 19th-century Canada.  The story of female oppression feels sadly relevant today, but also works as a historical drama.Alias Grace
  7. Game of Thrones: The first returning show on the list (unless you count Twin Peaks), the penultimate series gives exactly what you expect of the show to date.  Taken on its own merits it would be higher up the list, as it is, it loses a few places for reasons of familiarity.Game of Thrones
  8. Taboo: A strange and dark tale that seems a little bold for prime time BBC.  What started out looking like a strange otherworldly tale quickly settled into a far darker tale; one of commerce, and a (real life) multinational corporation trying to survive at any cost to the society around it.  Tom Hardy is excellent as ever.Taboo
  9. Peaky Blinders: Steven Knight, also responsible for Taboo, returns with a fourth season of his Birmingham based organised crime/ gang series.  It was hard to see after the last season what there was left to say.  The new storyline is excellent as are the new characters but the standout is still Helen McCrory.Peaky Blinders
  10. Star Trek Discovery: Discovery has done the impossible, it is everything you expect from Star Trek, and nothing live Star Trek as you expect it.  The boldest move is to make a character other then the captain the shows lead character.  Sonequa Martin-Green is excellent in the lead, Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca is the most interesting character.Lethe

Also recommended:

Glow, The Punisher, Stranger Things, Preacher, 13 Reasons Why, Into the Badlands

Shows That have seen recommended to me, but I haven’t seen yet:

Big Little Lies, The Good Place, Legion, Feud, The Deuce

three billboards outside ebbing missouri posterTen years ago playwright Martin McDonagh turned his hand to screenwriting and directing with In Bruges.  A bold and memorable début that blends very dark humour with even darker drama.  Following a “difficult second album”, Seven Psychopaths (2012) he is back with what is by far his best movie to date: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Several months after the brutal death of her daughter a grieving mother rents three billboards and posts a message challenging the chief of police to solve the crime. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

The first thing you will notice about the film is the fantastic cast led by Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson who are all on something approaching career best form, but the real star is the script.  The dialogue is nothing short of hilarious, but the drama is dark, far darker than In Bruges.  The story doesn’t always go in where you will expect it to, and the characters don’t always act as they would in many other films.  It helps that the characters are not simply good or bad, heroes and villains, they are fully drawn and realised, three dimensional people.  People who make poor decisions and do stupid things.  But they are also people capable of change, and not in a “Hollywood Character Arc” sort of way. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

All this is topped off by a fantastic score by Coen Brothers regular Carter Burwell and a few well placed songs, most notably Joan Baez’s cover of The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  It is a handsomely shot and edited film without being flash or showy.

Expect it to be in contention for Oscars: It is probably a front runner for Best Picture and best actress, but also deserves recognition for screenplay and both the supporting actors with Rockwell edging Harrelson.

The darkest, but also the funniest dram I have seen in a very long time is quite probably the masterpiece from a supremely talented director who has found his stride.  I am looking forward to see what he comes up with next.   

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is set for general release in the UK on 12th January 2018

Happy New Year.  As always, my first post of the month is the movie of the month for the previous month, here are the contenders:

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

Movie of the month is:Star Wars The Last Jedi poster

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.

Logan

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.

Moonlight

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.

Fences

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……..