Trust Love All The Way

Barry Jenkins

Kiki Layne
Stephan James

While not told in linear fashion, If Beale Street Could Talk cuts back and forth between two timelines. Throughout one we see the budding relationship between a young black woman, Tish Rivers [Layne] and her boyfriend Fonny Hunt [James] in the 1970s. The other predominantly deals with Fonny’s arrest and incarceration on a falsely accused rape charge with the added complication of Tish’s recent pregnancy.

Some of the greatest romances have been stories of obstructions getting in the way of love, whether war, family feuds, or in this case, systemic racism. Case in point, I’ve seen so many World War II related features that achingly highlight the futility of war by using the backdrop of a young relationship that is marred or nullified by this inescapable but wholly pointless goliath. And for those who have experienced the trials and tribulations of love, this concept of injustice is so painfully relatable – which is why this type of romantic tale has prevailed and proved popular over the centuries. In truth, there have been many versions of this kind of story but not so many that have been filmed and shot so exquisitely.

As an adaptation of a novel, the bulk of the writing praise should go to the source material but without a doubt, there is a level of visual craft that Jenkins and his team bring that really elevate the whole narrative. From James Laxton’s intimate close-up shots, straight down the barrel and unwavering to the audience to the vibrant colour palates of the clothing, which fades as the hardships of realities of adult life take over. To top all that, we are treated to another fine Nicholas Britell score which shifts from period-setting jazz to uneasy tension and intoxicating romantic strings. The whole amalgam highlights how all involved are operating at the top of their game, underpinning the tension and despair with a rising feeling of prevailing hope.

In addition to this emotional spectrum, there is also a purity to what we are shown. Patient and perfectly paced, the leads age throughout so painfully but in a very real and identifiable way. A large part of this is down to the fact that most of the central actors are largely unknown to mainstream cinema and therefore few preconceptions are brought into the film. Both Layne and James carry this film magnificently and the chemistry between them is wonderful and not simply because they are a couple in love but because their various interactions hint at something more; momentary hesitation, insecurity, frustration, coyness – so many factors that make it feel whole and fleshed-out.

These tender performances help emphasise the tragically grounded finale but that grounding is also at the expense of elements from the novel, which has a few darker sections which are set aside to create something beautiful. There will also be audience members who don’t care for the conclusion. Over the years, film has raised us to believe that by the time the story ends, everything will probably be alright or at least have enough of a denouement to guarantee closure. Instead, If Beale Street Could Talk, infuriatingly swerves at the last minute and denies you the fairy tale ending because that isn’t how life works. Usually, I genuinely enjoy those kinds of endings but I know a lot of people watch something like No Country For Old Men or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and feel frustrated by the abrupt finale.

Release Date:
15th February 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
Throughout the story we are treated to a few contained vignettes that feel theatrical in structure, with character entrances and exits while the majority of the scene retains its position in one location. One of the best examples of this is the shifting performances and razor-sharp dialogue in the Rivers’ living room when Tish tells Fonny’s family the news about the pregnancy. The mood fluctuates depending on who has entered or left the scene and the brazen discourse is simultaneously shocking and entrancing.

Notable Characters:
With such a strong and solid cast, it would be quite easy to highlight most of the actors involved but owing to one specific scene wherein Tish’s mother, Sharon (played by Regina King) travels to Puerto Rico and tracks down the woman who has accused Fonny of rape. The scene itself is desperate and disheartening and audiences may expect the scene (and indeed the remainder of the film) to take a certain course but seeing Sharon come so close and fail is frankly crushing.

Highlighted Quote:
“I need to figure out a way to get some bread together and the get the fuck out of this country”

In A Few Words:
“A tragically beautiful love story, singularly told”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #230

[27 January 2019]

Winning Team:
The Unbearable Lightness Of Ursa Major
Genre – Things get grizzly under the stars

Runners Up:
We Are Pooh!
Genre – Fleeing persecution from the Romans, a bear with no trousers allies himself with a group of slaves. Once cornered on a hillside, the slaves refuse to give up their ursine comrade, responding simply with the phrase “we are pooh”
Liverpool Street Bear
Genre – Tragic story of a small bear from darkest Peru, who starves to death on a train stuck outside Stowmarket due to signal failure
Timothy’s Ball
Genre – The left one
My Bear Lady
Genre – A snobbish professor trains an uncouth Bart the Bear to become a high-class socialite
Mary Plain, Queen Of Scots
Genre – Historical drama

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the sequel to The Incredibles?
2. Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred is the drink of choice for which character?
3. Which Jurassic Park films feature Sam Neill as Dr Alan Grant? (one point per correct answer)
4. Who directed The Hateful Eight?
5. Who played the lead role in Con Air?
6. Hancock, starring Will Smith, was released in which year?
7. What is the name of the Night Fury dragon in How To Train Your Dragon?
8. The following quote is from which film, “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you.. stranger”?
9. What did M Night Shyamalan direct in between The Sixth Sense and Signs?
10. Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin appeared in which crime thriller?

ROUND II: Filming [Bear Films]
1. Who directed and voiced the title role in Ted? Mark Wahlberg? Giovanni Ribisi? Seth MacFarlane?
2. Which South American country does Paddington come from in the film of the same name? Peru? Argentina? Brazil?
3. What animal is Mr Big, voiced by Maurice LaMarche in Zootopia/Zootropolis? Polar Bear? Cheetah? Shrew?
4. The following quote is from which film, “They don’t hear your voice, they just see the colour of your face. You understand?”? The Revenant? Backcountry? Balto?
5. What item turns Merida’s mother (and eventually her brothers) into a bear? Pie? Biscuit? Cake?
6. Who voices the lead role in Disney’s Brother Bear? Joaquin Phoenix? Michael J Fox? Joseph Gordon-Levitt?
7. Tropic Thunder was nominated for one Oscar, in which category? Best Original Screenplay? Best Hair and Makeup? Best Supporting Actor?
8. Which actors voiced Yogi and Boo Boo in 2010’s Yogi Bear? Ray Romano & Adam Levine? Dan Aykroyd & Justin Timberlake? Danny Glover & Usher?
9. Anthony Hopkins worked with Bart The Bear in two films, which of the following isn’t one of them? Instinct? Legends Of The Fall? The Edge?
10. The vultures in The Jungle Book were originally going to be voiced by The Beatles but John Lennon refused. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Name the four lead actors in Roman Polanski’s Carnage. (one point per correct answer)
2. How many films Wes Anderson films have been released to date?
3. Which actor starred in JFK, Lost In Space, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix and Lawless?
4. What is the name of John Wick’s dog in John Wick?
5. What is the title of the World War II film directed by Mel Gibson, starring Andrew Garfield?
6. The following quote is from which film, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’”?
7. Who directed 1990’s Miller’s Crossing?
8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was followed up by which sequel/spin-off?
9. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth starred in which film?
10. The Gareth Edwards’ directed Godzilla was released in which year?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following did not appear in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Tilda Swinton? Mahershala Ali? Bradley Whitford?
2. Room was released in which year? 2012? 2015? 2017?
3. What is the name of the company that Saito hires Cobb to dismantle in Inception? Devlin-Jones? Fisher-Morrow? Teller-Heilberg?
4. The following quote is from which film, “Cross over, children. All are welcome. All welcome. Go into the light”? The Conjuring? Thirteen Ghosts? Poltergeist?
5. Akira is set in which year? 2001? 2019? 2052?
6. Erik Stevens is the villain in which Marvel film? Black Panther? Ant-Man? The Incredible Hulk?
7. What is the name of the 2009 animated film starring Elijah Wood as a six inch tall rag doll in a steam punk universe? Franklyn? 9? Coraline?
8. Which Star Trek film is the first and only title in the franchise to not receive a full worldwide cinematic release (going direct to video) due to poor early reviews and box office sales? V: The Final Frontier? XI: Insurrection? X: Nemesis?
9. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The city shines brightest at night”? Friday Night Lights? Bringing Out The Dead? Nightcrawler?
10. Monstro is the name of the whale in Pinocchio. True or False?

Screenshots: Mr Turner / The Last Samurai / Vanilla Sky / Hamlet
Poster: Chicken Run
Actor: Timothy Spall


Bow To No One.

Josie Rourke

Saorise Ronan
Margot Robbie
Jack Lowden
Guy Pearce

Following the death of her husband, the Catholic Queen of Scotland Mary [Ronan], returned to her native land. Her cousin, the unmarried and heirless Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth [Robbie], is threatened by her return and is advised by several politicians, earls, dukes and lords that they must act against any advancement to power made by Mary but constitutionally, Elizabeth is unable to directly involve herself without inciting open warfare. Elizabeth is advised by William Cecil [Pearce] to send a loyal English noble to wed Mary, thus enacting some control over her but Mary rejects Elizabeth’s choice and vies for the hand of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley [Lowden]. Mary’s marriage to Darnley upsets the English who see this as an elevation of Mary’s right to the crown and the Scottish are suspicious of an Englishman sitting on the throne of Scotland.

Right from the outset, we need to discuss this feature’s finest components; the production design, hair and makeup and cinematography. The practical elements are astoundingly good and every scene is magnificently orchestrated and shot. All too often we take for granted the level of detail and work that goes into a production of this scale but the intricacy and craft is truly praiseworthy. Similarly, other than Logan, John Mathieson hasn’t been given a great deal to sink his teeth into that wasn’t slathered in CGI and with Mary Queen Of Scots, he finally gets to present an interesting dynamic, with Scotland’s blueish hues, covered in shadow and cloud, while England is presented with a warmer palate. I have no idea if this red against blue contrast (which mimics the nation’s respective flags) was intentional or not but it’s a nice touch either way.

Due to the script often lacking enough clout, the performances end up a bit of a mixed bag. Out in front we have Robbie and Ronan, both of whom do a spectacular job illustrating the struggles of a ruling female monarch who is surrounded by opportunistic chancers. Furthermore, both characters are presented in a fairly unique way, with Elizabeth transitioning to what she dubs “more man than woman” becoming a cold, calculating individual to survive and Mary is given a warrior’s prowess, abandoning the fairly soft-spoken representation we are all too familiar with. What’s more, mostly to date the lives of these queens has been told through the eyes and pens of male filmmakers and storytellers but there is a notably different feel with a female director at the helm, centring on the injustices inflicted upon these heads of state. This largely takes the form of sneering courtiers, red-faced with fury at the prospect of an upset status quo and incredibly weak, easily manipulated men. A prime example of the latter is Mary’s husband Henry, who is a spineless lush but given a considerable amount of power solely because of his gender and standing. As stated, the roles vary a little and a lot of the supports are neglected (a common complaint of any biopic) and unresolved, only to reappear to spout exposition. Curiously, Guy Pearce largely escapes that as William Cecil but he is also presented rather distinctly from other iterations; neither cold operator nor warm grandfather, he is presented as a loyal citizen who wants his country to excel seemingly above all personal interest.

Historical accuracy is going to be an interesting point of contention with release but let’s start with things the film seems to present well. Overall, I was rather impressed with the presentation and portrayal of court life; both Mary and Elizabeth are surrounded by two support struts, their council and their handmaidens. With the former, there is a clear resentment of female rule and an assumption that the monarch can be manipulated into puppetry and ultimately supplanted. As an interesting contrast to the controlling, conspiratorial nature of ambitious men, we have Elizabeth and Mary’s confidants. When Elizabeth is struck with the pox, her company of chamber maids seem unconcerned with infection and fiercely protect their queen. Likewise, Mary’s troupe are just as loyal, made up of Scottish, French and Italian individuals, one of whom being David Rizzio [Ismael Cruz Cordova], whose sexuality is addressed and welcomed by Mary: “be whoever you wish with us, you make for a lovely sister.”

But there are various developments that are rarely depicted on-screen which has left me wondering whether this film is ultimately revisionist or revelatory. As I have always maintained, for a work of entertainment, it doesn’t always matter. If you set out to create a living documentary, then so be it; if you want to make some bombastic fantastical feature that is more legend than history, that’s your choice. But historical films tend to pitch to a modern audience based on the expectations of the time. This is usually a given for action sequences, presenting fights that would seem underwhelming or sluggish are given a contemporary twist to elevate the scale and energy. This is also true for social politics and environmental factors; mostly an awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, bold religious opinions and respect for nature. Subsequently, Mary is presented as a very progressive and tolerant monarch. Now, whether this is in any way true or not is frankly impossible to know but as a device that serves to highlight the kind of impact Mary’s ideas would have had at the time, it is a decent narrative decision. Similarly, the presence of a more diverse cast of supporting roles is anachronistic because while there would have been a population of people of African or Asian descent in England, they certainly wouldn’t have been in such places of prominence in relation to the monarch. But again, is that at all important? I am of the same mindset as most contemporary Shakespearean productions – when casting, the right role should go to the right actor, regardless of ethnicity or gender.

Overall, this film boils down to a fairly hollow release. It contains fine performances, great levels of production and beautiful cinematography but the writing is pretty anemic and despite the new ground covered, the whole still feels like a re-tread. In a way, it has the air of the majority of films released directly to Netflix, that aren’t nearly as terrible as they could be but aside from a few thought-provoking aspects, are ultimately quite forgettable.

Release Date:
18th January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers within**
With the pending birth of Queen Mary and Lord Darnley’s child worrying both English and Scottish lords, pressure is mounted on Darnley to blame Rizzio for the Queen’s alleged adultery and execute him. Rizzio is brutally murdered but Mary coerces Darnley to act and they leave the castle. Free from the hands of conspirators, Mary turns on Darnley and has him banished but will not divorce him. This entire section is fantastic cinema and a part of history that a great many people are probably unfamiliar with. Well-acted, well-executed and well-deserving of praise.

Notable Characters:
David Tennant portrays staunch Protestant cleric, John Knox; a man directly opposed to female rule and any form of Catholic subversion that may come with it. Stirring up inflammatory sentiment, he is one of the queen’s greatest nemeses. Yet all of his scenes effectively boil down to a strop in a castle courtroom and a handful of aggressive rants from the pulpit. Underusing this character is a missed opportunity but casting Tennant in such a villainous, antagonistic role and then underusing him is frankly shocking.

Highlighted Quote:
“When I am dead and you are dead and she is dead, what will it matter what names were or weren’t said?”

In A Few Words:
“A stimulating and refreshing historical drama lies deep within this film but there is far too much surface level inadequacy for it to properly shine”

Total Score:



The Untold Story That Changed The Course Of History

Adam McKay

Christian Bale
Jesse Plemons
Amy Adams
Steve Carrell
Sam Rockwell

Bouncing back and forth between formative events, we are shown the life and political times of former US Vice President Dick Cheney [Bale]. Narrated by a fictional Iraq/Afghan war veteran [Plemons], we learn of Cheney’s simple origins and his quick rise to power through four separate Republican presidencies. Along the way, we see him networking with Donald Rumsfeld [Carrell] who acts as his first boss and mentor in Washington, being guided and supported by his opinionated and galvanised wife Lynne [Adams] and taking the young impressionable and inexperienced George W Bush [Rockwell] under his wing to push his own agenda.

As with The Big Short, McKay utilises his distinct style for this rather unorthodox biopic. In order for this to work you need a handful of unwavering, straight elements and several dynamic components that can shift and adapt when necessary. A primary example of that is Nicholas Britell’s magnificent score, which combines ominous and soaring brass with irreverent funky tracks, producing a genuinely solid output. The editing is also mostly there; initially wonderful and erratic, indicative of life flashing before your eyes, working around the nostalgic, simple memories of fishing but ultimately it loses itself and ends up feeling messy. For some, the level of comedy will be lacking and the gimmicks arbitrary or weak but I feel Vice displays just the right amount of comedy, both neatly getting around what is unknown with the omniscient narrator and employing over-the-top bits like a Shakespearean soliloquy to acknowledge that no one knows what was exchanged between two specific characters in private.

While we will return to talk about Christian Bale and his performance later, the casting in this movie is genuinely fantastic. Amy Adams is on fine form as Cheney’s wife, muse and driving motivator is powerful and human while also being rather abhorrent at times. What is most interesting is the pivotal conversation between her and her husband to be, stating that while she craves power and success, that life is not open to a woman (or at least, was less so at the time) so she needs her partner to be a success and she won’t settle for anything less. Equally, Carrell as the brash, charming but ultimately toxic Donald Rumsfeld is a brilliant mixture of cartoonish caricature and unnervingly real portrayal. Then we have Sam Rockwell as George W Bush. Bush is a really tricky performance that no one has been able to nail perfectly but Rockwell comes extremely close, with his confidence, naivety and ultimate incompetence.

Speaking of Bush, we need to talk about Oliver Stone. With such a dark figure coming from fairly innocuous backgrounds, there are a lot of interesting comparisons with Presidential biopic Nixon. At over three hours, that feature was a bit divisive but rather well received. Thirteen years later Stone took on the presidency of George W Bush with W. and while it did some very interesting things it didn’t cut deeply enough and felt very flat and ineffectual. Vice falls somewhere between these two releases, veering between the cutting sincerity and eye-opening portrayals and the lacklustre frailty of an inadequately delivered message. This should be a critical evolution of ruthlessness. We are presented with a serviceable tale, littered with a medley of archive footage and cultural reference points to establish the timeline (things like the “Wassup” Budweiser commercials), that pulls no punches and avoids neutrality with shots like showing Cheney’s cold, literally black heart. Yet there are two films at work (and ultimately at odds) here; one which humanises its subject, showing a protective father in several poignant quiet moments and then we have the busy stylistic choices depicting an opportunistic, unfeeling, monotone boogie man. I have no doubt Cheney is an amalgam hybrid of both but the story fails to cohesively blend them into one all-round exploratory experience, leaving vital developments by the side of the road. At no point do we really go into any detail as to the motivation behind Cheney’s rise and psyche, nor do we analyse how he transitioned from dropout nobody to getting a placement in the Nixon White House. One day he’s a degenerate, the next he’s an aid to Rumsfeld. Then we have the frankly shocking story of Lynne Cheney’s mother’s death – a part of history I was completely oblivious to – despite the implication of murder and an incredibly fractured relationship with Lynne’s father, the entire thread is abandoned as quickly as it is introduced. And finally, and most importantly, McKay finds himself in the same rut as Olive Stone by alluding to the really important atrocities such as torture and war profiteering but told with a knowing look, as if to say “you remember this” to a generation who really don’t.

In truth, Vice is a very entertaining and extremely well-performed feature with a smirk accenting its cold sneer but for those who know little of American politics, post 9/11 policies and the fallout of the actions taken by Cheney during his multiple stints at the White House, this film does little to educate or illuminate. But to be fair, this is why the movie opens with a title card that starts with an apology, stating so much is shrouded in secrecy but they tried. And with that in mind, this movie could be a lot worse.

Release Date:
25th January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
Midway through the film, Cheney leaves the White House and enters the private sector, becoming the CEO of oil conglomerate Halliburton. The film then offers several title cards depicting an alternate future wherein Cheney left politics for good to be with his family and raise an award-winning breed of dogs. It even goes so far as to start rolling credits before record scratching with a phone call from George W Bush to run as VP. I was very split over this. On the one hand, I find these fake-outs very amusing. I like the idea of a hindsight-possessing narrator toying with the idea of what could have been. On the other, this kind of joke can quickly outstay its welcome once it has been revealed that it’s not going anywhere – especially as McKay pulled this before with the end of The Big Short, discussing the fallout of the banking crisis and how so few individuals and companies were held to account. But as conflicted as I am, the sequence is still memorable and ultimately praiseworthy.

Notable Characters:
As with many biopics, the central performance is pretty much everything and Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney is marvellous. The actor loses himself in the role spectacularly and wears the familiar characteristics with ease and style. From the cold calculation to the matter-of-fact reactions to various heart attacks, Bale gives us the closest we can get to a man hungry for power. It’s simply a desperate shame that the script never gives him enough material to explore the inception of that hunger.

Highlighted Quote:
“The world is as you find it. You have to deal with that reality”

In A Few Words:
“A well-performed lambasting of a notoriously secretive political figure that just falls short of greatness”

Total Score:


Cinema City Quiz #229

[13 January 2019]

Winning Team:
Singin In The Purple Rain
Genre – Prince’s wet homage to silent cinema

Runners Up:
Requiem For A Wet Dream
Genre – A teenage Jared Leto is coming of age
Let It Go; Or How I Learned My Fart Will Go On
Genre – A sprout obsessed Disney princess learning to let it go
Batman Vs Superman Vs Newman
Genre – Randy Newman helps Clark and Bruce settle their difference by forcing them to gather round the piano and sing “You got a friend in me”
Highway To A Mediocre Score
Genre – A thought-provoking action comedy
Street Shiter IV
Genre – Action comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Requiem For A Dream is an adaptation of which novel?
2. Which Disney animated film is about a young elephant with large ears?
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “He taught him the secret to karate lies in the mind and heart, not in the hands”?
4. Who played the title role in 2013’s The Great Gatsby?
5. What is the title of the 2016 film wherein Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner make first contact with an alien race?
6. The following quote is from which film, “If it bleeds, we can kill it”?
7. Across The Universe is a musical that runs through the sixties to the songs of which British band?
8. Ghostbusters 2 was released in which year?
9. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis starred in which comedy trilogy?
10. What is the title of Hades’ minions in the 1997 film, Hercules? (one point per correct answer)

ROUND II: Filming [Songs Written For Films]
1. Rocky III / 1982 / Survivor
2. Toy Story / 1995 / Randy Newman
3. The Breakfast Club / 1985 / Simple Minds
4. Despicable Me 2 / 2013 / Pharrell Williams
5. Top Gun / 1986 / Kenny Loggins
6. Dangerous Minds / 1995 / Coolio feat L.V.
7. Licence To Kill / 1989 / Gladys Knight
8. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World / 2010 / Beck and Nigel Godrich
9. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome / 1985 / Tina Turner
10. Selma / 2014 / John Legend and Common

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which film, “The rage, vengeance, anger, loss, regret, they’re all tremendous motivators. They truly clear the mind. So, I’m good to go”?
2. What is the title of the dystopian science fiction film where a life expectancy clock is used as currency, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried?
3. The Big Short was released in which year?
4. Which 2010 film won best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards?
5. In which film is Cary Grant iconically chased by crop duster while waiting at a bus-stop outside of Chicago?
6. Which two actors co-played the lead role in Looper? (one point per correct answer)
7. What is the US title for Zootropolis?
8. In which film does Matt Damon play Mark Watney?
9. What is the name of the Princess in Brave?
10. The following quote is from which film, “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love”?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who directed the 1972 version of Solaris? Kirill Serebrennikov? Aleksei Yuryevich German? Andrei Tarkovsky?
2. According to the prologue for Wonder Woman what is the name of the weapon left to the Amazons? Earth-Shaker? God-Killer? World-Ender?
3. Who played the role of Count de Rochefort in 1973’s The Three Musketeers? Christopher Lee? Charlton Heston? Richard Dreyfuss?
4. Which instalment in the Transformers franchise is Dark Of The Moon? Second? Third? Fourth?
5. Which of the following did not appear in 2012’s Les Misérables? Sacha Baron Cohen? Eddie Redmayne? Geoffrey Rush?
6. What is Rashomon in the 1950 film of the same name? A city gate? A type of sword? A tribunal system?
7. Which of the following is not a found-footage/POV film? Chronicle? Orphan? Troll Hunter?
8. Which Steven Soderbergh film was released in 2011? The Limey? Unsane? Contagion?
9. Who directed The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Paul Thomas Anderson? Gus Van Sant? David Fincher?
10. The premiere for Martin Scorsese’s Silence was held at the Vatican. True or False?

Screenshots: Schindler’s List / Kingdom Of Heaven / Taken 2 / Batman Begins
Poster: Excalibur
Actor: Liam Neeson


The Untold Story Of The World’s Greatest Comedy Act

Jon S Baird

Steven Coogan
John C Reilly
Shirley Henderson
Nina Arianda
Rufus Jones

Decades after the height of their success, Stan Laurel [Coogan] and Oliver Hardy [Reilly] have reunited to perform on stage in Britain while a producer secures funds for a feature film about Robin Hood. The quaint accommodation, middling crowds and rundown venues are a far throw from what they have been used to and their impresario, Bernard Delfont [Jones] is offering very little assistance, distracted by more lucrative clientele like Norman Wisdom. As the tour continues, we get a look into the cause of the fracture between the two artists, which exasperates with the arrival of the comic duo’s wives.

As with all biopics, this film is driven by its central performances and while Coogan and Reilly may not immediately jump to mind when thinking of ideal casting, they prove themselves quintessential. Offering an effortless, human portrayal of the personas and chemistry that people associate with the comedy duo but also delving into the mind-set of any creative partnership and the complications that sprout from clashing egos and lopsided behind-the-scenes workloads. More than that, there is a true on-screen revelry as Coogan and Reilly perfectly mimic the stylings and routines of Laurel and Hardy. But it should be noted, for all the exceptional recreations, sometimes it is at the expense of narrative content, leaving many of the routines feeling like padding or filer. As a comparison, Bohemian Rhapsody is full of amazing simulacra but audience fatigue with lip-synched covers can set in followed by the realisation that the story isn’t exactly being pushed forward by yet another (admittedly well-acted) bit. With such a keen and narrow focus on two powerful lead performances, supporting actors almost always fall by the side of the road but to quote the film, “two double-acts for the price of one.” The three other characters rounding out the main cast are Laurel and Hardy’s respective wives and their tour manager. Starting with the latter, Rufus Jones does a wonderful job of playing this semi-bullish, painfully cringe-worthy producer dancing that fine line between sycophancy and self-serving opportunism and it’s frankly marvellous. Then we have Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel, both of whom are fiercely protective of their husbands as well as equally pleasing caricatures as their husbands. Ida and her various eccentricities, especially, was extremely entertaining.

From a technical standpoint, the film is very capable. The direction, editing and production design are all praiseworthy and although the score is a touch straight and safe, it hardly detracts from the overall experience and, in truth, would likely be the ideal accompaniment for this kind of feel-good feature, for a lot of audience members. I will say, however, that the hair and makeup, including the prosthetic work, was incredibly good. It seems there has been a notable shift over the last few years, long gone are some of the more painfully dated effects and in their place are high quality seamless transformative appendages and suits.

For all the praise I can bestow upon the practical accomplishments, the overall impact is surprisingly tepid. Rather than a full account of the working relationship between two comedians, we are treated to a snapshot story, laced with a few brief flashbacks to better days and the rift that formed between Laurel and Hardy over a contract dispute. In doing so, we are given an entirely pleasant treatment that is given an inoffensive soft touch that lacks intricacy or detail. And for anyone who would contest this by highlighting the runtime of a film or audience separation from the subject matter, I would point to Chaplin which charts the entire course of Charlie Chaplin’s career while openly highlighting the unknown elements and effectively translating for a modern audience. But this isn’t to say that this film is in any way unworthy. Despite the gentle approach, it is no less immersive or captivating, generating something that is beautifully tragic at times. Case in point, the film closes with an incredibly ill Oliver Hardy pushing him and his partner into one of their most iconic dance routines to end their show. Physically demanding, Laurel’s face is racked with concern but Hardy insists and the final sequence is a wondrous, painful sight to behold. Sure, a lot of audience members will find this film boring or slow but for that perfect demographic, this film will thrill.

Release Date:
11th January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers within**
Other than that aforementioned dance sequence, there was another wonderful, cutting moment when Stan reveals to Ollie that the picture deal has fallen through and Ollie confesses that he already knew. In that moment of transparency, Stan is briefly taken aback and asks if he knew, why would Ollie keep asking about the script and rehearsing scenes, to which he replies that Stan was writing them and it’s what they do. As heart-breaking as it is uplifting, it embodies everything you need to know about these two individuals.

Notable Characters:
Something I picked up on was the laudable levels of diversity in the supports. Whenever we look back to the past, it is through a very caucasian prism, both in terms of perspective and presence. Subsequently, reminding people that post war Britain saw a huge boom in different ethnicities, was a genuinely appreciated addition.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s moments like this that make me love this industry. Madness. Beautiful madness”

In A Few Words:
“A simple, loving celebration”

Total Score:



Long Live The Queen

Yorgos Lanthimos

Olivia Colman
Rachel Weisz
Emma Stone

Set in the early seventeen hundreds – a rarely explored period of British history – we are introduced to Queen Anne [Colman] and her advisor Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough [Weisz]. Through the early interactions it is clear that Anne has little interest or even capacity to rule the country and daily matters of state are pushed through by Marlborough. As England is at war with France (the fourteen year War of the Spanish Succession) Marlborough pushes for the war effort to be doubled and taxes to be raised, infuriating half of parliament. Politicians are unable to work past Marlborough to get to the Queen until Abigail Hill [Stone] is taken on as a scullery maid. It is revealed that Abigail is Marlborough’s cousin but due to her father’s gambling and drinking, has long lost her title. After surreptitiously treating the Queen’s gout, Abigail earns the Queen’s favour and is elevated to lady-in-waiting. As the story continues, it becomes apparent that Abigail means to further work her way into the Queen’s graces and ultimately supplant Marlborough.

It would be wrong to call this a comedy. Despite the marketing campaign, the level of sadism and spite that supersedes the initially pitched straight comedy will ostracise many cinemagoers. This is, of course, far from a negative point, as pandering to audiences should rarely be an artist’s priority. Ultimately, I can’t say I’m that surprised, considering Lanthimos’ previous works but in truth, this release is significantly more approachable, subduing the more outlandish elements and favouring a fairly straightforward look at hedonism, entitlement and absurdity. It is presented, however, with a specific visual flare, combining lavish production design and settings with the occasional fish-eye lens and ever-low, snaking camera movements, as if the viewer is a mere unseen underling, passing unseen through these private chambers. Equally, the score can be quite maddening, ranging from typical period-appropriate classical pieces to almost horror score stings and stabs.

While the beautiful visuals and haunting aural work is on top form, the film mostly shines thanks to the three lead performances. Olivia Colman has been portraying deep, emotional roles on British television and cinema screens for several years but will no doubt rise to prominence for her role here once paired with her upcoming work on The Crown .Colman’s portrayal of mental health, infirmity and decrepitude is both realistic and unflattering. There is always the constant danger, when portraying mental health on screen, of veering into excess and extravagance (admittedly, sometimes the role calls for it) but Queen Anne feels grounded and plausible with erratic mood swings, bouts of manic urgency and fatigue. Weisz and her delivery are extremely curious. Her role as Anne’s confidante is delivered with a similar childlike speed, confidence and naivety that was on display in The Lobster but in a way this serves to assist in normalising Anne’s eccentricities by highlighting the insanity of life at court. It’s also extremely difficult, when discussing Stone’s character, to avoid comparisons between The Favourite and All About Eve. But Stone reminds us of why she is a genuinely interesting talent, offering a complex, paranoid performance of a woman who sees loyalty as a thing to be manipulated rather than earned. But this only illustrates the best element of this story, which is that none of these characters are truly innocent and all are guilty of manipulating the other for various forms of personal gain.

The Favourite is, however, not without its flaws. There will be critics who will fawn over its lavish nonsense and viewers who will dismiss it for the exact same reason. In truth, while it is extremely well executed, this film lacks a few components or developments that could have really created a fantastic piece from start to end. Things like Marlborough’s motives pushing so heavily for war. A great deal is implied in terms of theft but due to the semi-unreliable nature of the characters it’s difficult to tell whether this is real or a fabrication of Abigail’s – even if the latter is most likely. There’s also a lack of historical context and absence of life outside the palace. While this replicates the hermetic environment the Queen inhabits, it adds a great deal of unknown for the audience and a lot of the satirical nods are lost. I’m not saying the movie should adhere to complete historical accuracy but the chance to analyse an incompetent ruler surrounded by sycophants and conspirators while drawing a subtle contemporary comparison would have been greatly appreciated. On top of that, everything unfolds very neatly and due to the nature of the performances, a lot of the tension is lost.

Overall, The Favourite is a very fun and ridiculous feature that often ventures into the cruel and brutal but for all its bells and whistles, it just misses out on being something truly special.

Release Date:
1st January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
To offset the Queen’s temper, Abigail discusses the ornate hutches in the monarch’s chambers. Anne explains that each rabbit is named after a child that she lost, whether stillborn or miscarriage. It’s a simple sobering moment amidst the senselessness and one that highlights the depths of Colman and Stone’s performances respectively.

Notable Characters:
While the three leads carry this film, the other key standout performance is Nicholas Hoult’s brilliantly awful representation of the leader of the opposing Whig Party, Robert Harley, the first Earl of Oxford. Uncaring, unfeeling, opportunistic, arrogant and pressing his own agenda, Hoult is one of the more comedic performances and even in his malice is laughably silly and extremely well-performed.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s my state. Am I not business of state?”

In A Few Words:
“A more restrained effort from Lanthimos but a fantastic, twisted release all the same”

Total Score:




Best Motion Picture Of The Year
Avengers: Infinity War
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
The Shape Of Water
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Crazy Rich Asians
All The Money In The World

Worst Motion Picture Of The Year
Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle
The Cloverfield Paradox
The Nutcracker And The Four Realms
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald
The Grinch

Most Over-rated Motion Picture of 2018
The Old Man And The Gun

Most Under-rated Motion Picture of 2018
You Were Never Really Here

Best Animated Feature
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Incredibles 2
Mirai / 未来のミライ
Isle Of Dogs

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Josh Brolin [Avengers: Infinity War]
John David Washington [BlacKkKlansman]
Gary Oldman [Darkest Hour]
Rami Malek [Bohemian Rhapsody]
Joaquin Phoenix [You Were Never Really Here]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand [Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri]
Sally Hawkins [The Shape Of Water]
Yalitza Aparicio [Roma]
Michelle Williams [All The Money In The World]
Natalie Portman [Annihilation]

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Michael B Jordan [Black Panther]
Sam Rockwell [Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri]
Christopher Plummer [All The Money In The World]
Richard Jenkins [The Shape Of Water]
Adam Driver [BlacKkKlansman]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Allison Janney [I, Tonya]
Michelle Yeoh [Crazy Rich Asians]
Tessa Thompson [Annihilation]
Elizabeth Debicki [Widows]
Zoe Kazan [The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs]

Best Achievement in Directing
Alfonso Cuaron [Roma]
Alex Garland [Annihilation]
Anthony Russo & Joe Russo [Avengers: Infinity War]
Guillermo Del Toro [The Shape Of Water]
Spike Lee [BlacKkKlansman]

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Private Life
The Shape Of Water
First Reformed

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
You Were Never Really Here
Crazy Rich Asians
American Animals
All The Money In The World

Best Achievement for Original Musical Score
Alexandre Desplat [The Shape Of Water]
Takatsugu Muramatsu [Mary And The Witch’s Flower / メアリと魔女の花]
Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow [Annihilation]
Colin Stetson [Hereditary]
Lustmord [First Reformed]

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Alfonso Cuaron [Roma]
Dariusz Wolski [All The Money In The World]
Rob Hardy [Annihilation]
Sean Bobbitt [Widows]
Thomas Townend [You Were Never Really Here]

Best Achievement in Editing
Avengers: Infinity War
I, Tonya
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
A Quiet Place
American Animals

Best Achievement in Production Design
The Shape Of Water
Black Panther
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Black Panther
Crazy Rich Asians
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

Best Achievement in Hair & Makeup
Darkest Hour
The Shape Of Water
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
Ocean’s 8

Best Achievement in Sound
A Quiet Place
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Shape Of Water
Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Pacific Rim: Uprising

Reviews 2019

[07 October 2019] Joker (2019)

[18 September 2019] Ad Astra (2019)

[13 September 2019] Hustlers (2019)

[07 September 2019] It Chapter Two (2019)

[23 August 2019] Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

[02 August 2019] Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

[19 July 2019] The Lion King (2019)

[02 July 2019] Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

[28 June 2019] Yesterday (2019)

[26 June 2019] Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative (2019)

[21 June 2019] Toy Story 4 (2019)

[14 June 2019] Men In Black: International (2019)

[05 June 2019] X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

[29 May 2019] Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019)

[23 May 2019] Rocketman (2019)

[22 May 2019] Aladdin (2019)

[10 May 2019] Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

[06 May 2019] Booksmart (2019)

[25 April 2019] Avengers: Endgame (2019)

[11 April 2019] Hellboy (2019)

[29 March 2019] Dumbo (2019)

[27 March 2019] Shazam! (2019)

[22 March 2019] Us (2019)

[08 March 2019] Captain Marvel (2019)

[04 February 2019] Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

[28 January 2019] If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

[18 January 2019] Mary Queen Of Scots (2018)

[14 January 2019] Vice (2018)

[10 January 2019] Stan & Ollie (2018)

[01 January 2019] The Favourite (2018)