OCEAN’S 8

Every Con Has Its Pros

Director
Gary Ross

Starring
Sandra Bullock
Cate Blanchett
Anne Hathaway
Helena Bonham Carter
Mindy Kaling
Awkwafina
Sarah Paulson
Rihanna



The film opens by introducing us to Debbie Ocean [Bullock], the younger sister of notorious conman Danny Ocean (lead character in the 2001 remake Ocean’s Eleven). Having spent five years in prison, she has finally been released and is ready to pull off an extremely ambitious jewellery heist but she figures it will only require a seven person team and a starting capital of $20,000. Debbie recruits long-time partner Lou [Blanchett] to help run the mechanics of the scam, including conscripting individuals with a very particular set of skills. It is then revealed that Ocean’s plan went from a bank heist to multiple bank heists before settling on something extremely challenging: convincing Cartier to release a one hundred and fifty million dollar diamond necklace to be worn by actress Daphne Kluger [Hathaway] at the star-studded New York Met gala.. then steal it.

One of the first things that stands out about this release is the visual separation from the first trilogy. Soderbergh’s films were very slick but very of their time, with deep saturation and high contrast throughout – as much of the early 2000s tended to be with the rise of digital filmmaking. Ocean’s 8 moves away from this and pays simple homage to heist films of the 60s and 70s with tracking pans and zooms that have long fallen out of fashion. This helps not only forge a new identity for this release but also offers a pleasingly simple associative aesthetic. This is accentuated by Daniel Pemberton’s score which bleeds contemporary elements with the bouncing jazzy rhythms of features like The Thomas Crown Affair and The Pink Panther.

While the cast from the first gelled really well and were a formidable ensemble of the time, I would posit that the group gathered here are superior, owing to the fact they are fewer in number, meaning less small-bit tertiary characters to juggle and there isn’t a single weak component among the group. Now, that will be contested but I genuinely feel that everyone’s strengths are largely capitalised on and the streamlining of the assembled team means more of a connection for the audience and less time is taken establishing the characters abilities and skills. The group can be easily broken down into two separate tiers: the veteran actors and the younger wave. On the one hand we have Sandra Bullock being smooth, confident and in control and while that works, I feel her exceptional comic timing is often neglected (but that’s hardly something that needs to be present in every release), there’s also Cate Blanchett who seems to be having more fun than should be allowed, getting away with it devilishly well, Sarah Paulson as the somewhat cautious “I’m out of this life” character that appears in all these releases but proves she is more than capable and Helena Bonham Carter who should be irritating but comes off as a genuinely endearing part of the group. On the other end of the scale we have Awkwafina bringing a youthful energy and cynicism, complimented by a similar dismissive attitude from Rihanna’s character, Mindy Kaling gives a confident performance highlighting her character’s knowledge and expertise and while Anne Hathaway’s performance is initially hyper to the point of cliché, it pivots nicely and rounds out rather well by the film’s close. There are a few subtle legacy cameos that genuinely play out nicely but the less than subtle celebrity cameos ranged from interesting to painfully obvious and, for lack of a better word, cloying.

For a lot of audience members and critics, a sticking point will be the story – entirely centring on its simplicity. For some this will be a neat, slick jaunt that focuses as much on the characters as it does the sleight of hand, while others will find it too simplistic and devoid of complexity. Personally, I am of the former and while I will happily acknowledge the film somewhat suffers from being a touch straightforward and not exactly doing anything new, it is a simple proof of concept, greatly executed with solid twists and decent bread-crumbing while being conscious of new grounded technology. The only problem is that Ocean’s 8 is lacking an element of crescendo and suspense; Bullock’s character feels so in charge and we trust her so implicitly, that at no point is there much in the way of peril or concern that the plan will not be a roaring success. This may sound like a minor point but for me, it’s the film’s biggest flaw. Having said that, any supposed criticisms present here could quite easily be placed at the feet of 2001’s Ocean’s 11, so it could be said that this is merely par for the course and a hazard of sticking to the original formula so succinctly.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 is a smart, funny, entertaining release and, if one can suspend expectations of intricacy and innovation, it embodies everything this kind of blockbuster should be.


Release Date:
22nd June 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**paragraph full of spoilers**
A heavy amount of the third act rides on an insurance investigator, played by James Corden, dismissing the truth for results; and I take issue with that. After the necklace is revealed to be missing, John Frazier, an independent investigator is assigned to the case and seems aware of the Ocean family’s criminal history, having direct dealings with them in the past. As the film is winding down, we are left wondering if and how they will get away with the fencing of the diamonds. Regrettably, Corden’s part of the story wraps things up a little too quickly and conveniently, with the character himself stating that he doesn’t care about who is responsible, as long as he can get the necklace back. In a film that is genuinely pleasing, this is a particular convenient bugbear that resolves itself far too neatly and jeopardises the suspension of disbelief.

Notable Characters:
As stated earlier, I was truly impressed by the entire ensemble and believe the chemistry between them worked favourably. Having said that, Cate Blanchett really stood out as this film’s forerunner; slick, cool, in charge, playful, stunning wardrobe, she is the embodiment of everything these films aspire to and more. But in truth, is anyone surprised by that?

Highlighted Quote:
“A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored and for once I want to be ignored”

In A Few Words:
“A simple competent heist film that entertains effortlessly and easily proves itself the best Oceans sequel”

Total Score:

4/5

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

The Park Is Gone

Director
JA Bayona

Starring
Bryce Dallas Howard
Chris Pratt
Rafe Spall
Isabella Sermon



The story opens three years after the events in Jurassic World, the park is wild and largely reclaimed by nature but opportunists and poachers continue to scavenge from the site in the hopes of getting a jump-start on the bio-technology. Claire Dearing [Howard] is now running a protection group, hoping to save the dinosaurs on the island from a second extinction event as the dormant volcano on Isla Nublar has become active. John Lockwood (portrayed by James Cromwell), the former partner of John Hammond, has put his subordinate Eli Mills [Spall] in charge of a rescue operation to preserve as many species as they can. As the dinosaurs are all chipped, they require Claire’s handprint login to track them, more than that, they have their eye on the only surviving velociraptor and Claire enlists Owen Grady [Pratt] to help but their relationship is strained and Mills’ motives aren’t all that they appear.

Before I go any further, I would like to highlight a quote from The Lost World: Jurassic Park: “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again” “No, you’re making all new ones.” This, to me, embodies the core problem with everything that followed Jurassic Park; I genuinely don’t believe any of the four sequels have come close to the original and no matter how often they try and rework the formula, the positive elements crumble under the weight of colossally disappointing or flat-out terrible ones. A lot of the issues here can be attributed to most contemporary blockbusters which prioritise moments over logic and narrative reasoning; usually for marketing purposes. But this leaves us with pleasing developments that work rather well amongst the connective dross that loosely strings them together. Things like the image used in the above poster, the actual moment in the film is remarkably stupid and everything surrounding it defies logic; from Owen meeting up with Claire and Franklin (played as a walking cliché by Justice Smith) despite the size of the island, to discovering the gyrosphere, to the fact that said gyrosphere is avoided by a stampede despite the surrounding environment being demolished, then we have a dinosaur circling the orb trying to eat Owen but then the T-Rex appears to kill the other carnivore only to then run away! It’s all nauseating nonsense reminiscent of that painful dinosaur stampede in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. What does any of this do other than provide a heightened tickbox set-piece? It certainly doesn’t generate suspense as the threat feels phony – and while I always fall back on the James Bond argument (the conceit that it’s not if Bond will get out of peril, it’s how), the lack of coherent progression disconnects the audience from a sense of earned urgency.

On top of that, we have to put up with so many stupid decisions from both the human and dinosaur contingent. People being arrogant and dumb I can understand. A trained hunter who steps into a cage after an animal passes out, assuming it’s completely tranq’d is entering more into a territory of such disbelief that the usual suspension isn’t sufficient. But it still gets a pass because I can maintain that humans can be clouded by their own motivational drives. What I can’t understand is a film that breaks the logic or rules that it establishes. If a science fiction or fantasy film introduces a status quo fact, it cannot then simply ignore it for plot convenience; in this case I am talking about animal inconsistency and the extreme overuse of dino ex machina. Throughout these films we have been told about the patterns of these animals, that they move in herds, that alpha specimens can have influences over others, that they are communicating and breeding, that they are capable of extraordinary acts, etc. And yet whenever we witness these creatures loosed, they conform to stupid human logic. The indoraptor, a refined hybrid that should constitute as a spoiler but it’s in every trailer, is whatever the scene needs it to be at that time: a silent apex predator that can smell prey from a mile away before relentlessly tracking and pursuing it or a moronic beast that is extraordinarily clumsy and can be outrun by a child. It’s lazy writing and has given rise to the “a dinosaur will run in and save the day” cliché which is posing as homage to the closing scene from the first film. This trope has been exploited so much that any time the situation looks dire, I fully expect a T-Rex to silently enter from screen left and bite the problem. Stuck in a lift? No way out and a fire has started in the control panel? *Chomp* T-Rex eats the problem. The two people a character has been crushing on are meeting for the first time and the semi-cute-meet “how do we all know each other” puts him/her in an awkward positon? *Roar* T-Rex creates a distraction and the lead gets to avoid confronting this problem until later in the third act.

What is interesting is that if you scratch away the blockbustery studio mandated components, you are left with a very simple, minimalised story presenting a basic question about the consequences of the advancement of technology – which is very indicative of Michael Crichton’s work. But as stated, this factor is so buried under the mountainous action quota that it becomes a fleeting, scantly revisited set of interesting thought experiments: the ecological philosophy behind saving animals that we manufactured, the concept of government involvement on a private island, the moral culpability and responsibility of those involved, the grey-area difference between exploiting animals for experiments and war over captivity and entertainment, the lengths of meddling with death and resurrection but I’ll expand on all of that later. The truth is, these kinds of issues are usually better left as open-ended conversation starters, like The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror because following something like this to its conclusion will change the face of the established world so much that it will alter the relatability of the grounded world around it. In other words, if you introduce a fantastical element and state that it has been normalised for decades, you cannot say the world will completely mirror our own and while that’s a great launchpad for stories it can quickly deviate to the absurd; for an example, see Independence Day: Resurgence.

Another element that strongly links this feature with the original – and one that Jurassic World didn’t use as well – is the welcome return of extensive animatronic puppetry. It feels like we are finally getting back to a point where computer generated imagery and practical effects can work in harmony, complimenting each other, rather than in direct competition and the film succeeds greatly because of it. There are also fascinating behind the scenes practical technics, such as an outdoor rollercoaster track which was built for the gyrosphere descent over a cliff-edge, generating a genuine reaction of both fear and gravity on the body. But as much as I love the ingenuity and creativity of this kind of filmmaking, it’s brutalised and all but lost in fast-paced editing and a frankly absurd sequence devoid of consequence. And that’s why I’ve rated this film the way I have; so many technical aspects are working exceptionally well, the cinematography is great, Michael Giacchino’s score gives us enough new material to evolve the familiar themes, the practical and digital effects are genuinely impressive, make-up, costumes, set design, all of them are performing at peak levels but the story fails them every single time. If I was rating on story alone, this film would be a travesty but the amount of work that has gone into its execution is truly praiseworthy.

The prospect of a zoo-like environment failing is a terrifying and relatable prospect and one which illustrates man’s arrogance when it comes to controlling environments. Zoos, circuses, theme parks, things we create for our amusement at the expense of something wild is a playground for What If fiction and while this film follows the same lines it is somehow less rewarding and stretches into fantasy territory. As stated earlier, I believe this is a problem with the nature of Michael Crichton’s work and why the only sequels and follow-ups he produced were at the pressure and behest of others rather than from a creative desire to further a story. And yet it’s not impossible, the “where do you go from here” is not out of our reach and to prove that, one need only look to the Planet Of The Apes prequels. The major difference there is that the story gave us a very emotionally relatable core along with ground-breaking motion capture techniques, to the degree that we were vested in the non-human story more than the one we would traditionally empathise with. But Jurassic Park isn’t those films, it’s always billed as a monster movie and as much as they push this “Blue is the chosen one” storyline, it’s not sticking because through both the performance and circumstance, I simply don’t buy the connection.

At the end of the day, Fallen Kingdom is another instalment in a long line of mediocre continuations that brings very little to the series but the way this one ends gives me the impression that we will get something very new next time – whether that will be positive or not, remains to be seen.


Release Date:
8th June 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**extreme spoilers throughout this whole section**
The film closes pretty much back where it started, with the moral quandary of do these creatures deserve a chance to live again or have the repeated incidents highlighted that this is simply a bad idea which needs to be stopped at all costs. Having spent the majority of the film weighing the options, Claire makes the decision to not save the dinosaurs and in a rather traumatic gas chamber sequence, we have a Toy Story 3 fake-out, leading audiences to believe that they may witness something surprisingly adult in this relatively light action fare. And in that moment, the doors open and the dinosaurs are unleashed on California. With a town in running distance, several species of herbivore and carnivore are let loose on a completely unprepared environment and populace. As the camera pans, we reveal Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie [Sermon] has activated the door, explaining that these animals deserve the chance to live. And my face immediately contorted into some twisted mesh of disgust and outrage and my internal monologue screamed, “What the fuck!? You made the wrong choice kid! Who.. who the fuck put the child in charge!?” If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you know the movie’s big twist, that Lockwood’s granddaughter is in fact a clone of Lockwood’s deceased daughter, which understandably caused a rift between Hammond and Lockwood. This is a development that I have such contention with. On the one hand, it’s a fascinating and natural evolution of where this technology could and would progress to but on the other it steps away from the simplicity of “park goes offline, animals get out” but doesn’t give it enough time to really develop into anything rewarding enough. Maisie’s justification for her action is to compare the dinosaur’s right to exist with that of her own; again, another HUGE moral quandary that this film has done so little to explore. But it’s all irrelevant, Maisie pressing the button is symbolic of a franchise that has never really worked outside of the first and should be left to die but the kids have voted and regardless of consequence, they have demanded more.

Notable Characters:
There isn’t one human character I have liked in these last two Jurassic Park films. Say what you will about The Lost World and Jurassic Park III at least they had Goldblum or Neill entertaining us with their expertise and cantankerous observations. What do we get? Owen fucking Grady. Pratt’s character continues to be the worst in the entire Jurassic Park franchise – yeah, I’m including Paul Bowman and Amanda Kirby in that. A lot of larger than life personalities have made their mark on this series and sometimes their absurdity can elevate the film. But Grady is a mess, he is consistently selfish yet superheroic in his actions, not to mention the fact he’s practically immortal. Without meaning to sound ridiculous, he is a representation of how America sees itself, a lone hero fighting against the odds for a little peace and quiet; you know, a real conservative wet-dream. But at no point does the character or the film really acknowledge that this charming yet outdated cowboy archetype is the villain. Owen trains the raptors but refuses to accept responsibility that his work could/would be imitated by others, his interactions with other humans devolves to that of a thuggish child and his plot-armour driven “I don’t know what I’m doing but this will work out” attitude puts everyone at risk but never fails so nothing is learned. And this isn’t the case of another Peter Quill because that individual experienced genuine arrested development and culture shock through displacement, this is an ex-military individual who works with animals but displays the tendencies of someone who simply doesn’t live in the real world. And when you have a film that is filled with genetically resurrected dinosaurs, you need lots of real world to make the Jurassic bit work.

Highlighted Quote:
“Change is like death, you don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates”

In A Few Words:
“As with every other Jurassic Park sequel, there are lots of interesting questions asked but all of them take a back-seat to some fairly uninspired action sequences”

Total Score:

2/5

SOLO

A Star Wars Story

Director
Ron Howard

Starring
Alden Ehrenreich
Donald Glover
Joonas Suotamo
Emilia Clarke
Woody Harrelson
Paul Bettany



Set years before the events of Star Wars, we are introduced to a young impoverished Han [Ehrenreich], making his way on the Imperial controlled planet Corellia with his girlfriend and accomplice, Qi’ra [Clarke]. Han manages to escape but Qi’ra is trapped and as she is dragged away, Han vows to return and save her. To avoid being caught, Han takes on the new surname of Solo and enlists with the Empire. Years later, caught up in a siege on an alien world, Solo meets a group of thieves, led by the charming but dastardly Tobias Beckett [Harrelson], and bargains his way on to their latest heist with the help of a newly-liberated slave, Chewbacca [Suotamo].

Before we crack on with this review, we need to cover a bit of history. In addition to the central saga of Star Wars films, Disney announced they were going to be releasing anthology stories that explored established characters and introduced all new characters, planets and factions. Thus far, we have had Rogue One which was a big success but recently it has been revealed how much of a nightmare the production was – which came across through the plot-holes, heavy reshoots and trailers littered with footage that never appeared in the film. But Solo goes back further as George Lucas was working on the idea for this film before he sold the Star Wars property to Disney; which makes a lot of sense considering Lucas’ obsession with connecting a vast universe to a handful of individuals. Directors Lord and Miller were put in charge of the project but heavily argued they were making an improv-heavy straight comedy, leading to them being effectively fired six months into the shoot. This resulted in Ron Howard being brought in to reshoot a good 70% of the film with an established cast and script. You may be asking the relevance of all this but it is important because for everything that went wrong behind the scenes on this film, it’s a genuine testament to everyone involved that a) the movie was completed and b) it came out as decently as it did. Problems and conflicts of this nature cause ruptures that bleed into the film itself and doom it to failure before it’s even released, add a mixed-bag tone and the hand of Lucas (who, may have birthed this universe but is the culprit of some of its most hideous mistakes) and it could quite easily be an utter travesty but what they have salvaged here is extremely agreeable.

Unlike something along the lines of Blade Runner 2049, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull or even The Force Awakens, Solo has the frankly impossible task of replicating through recasting; less a handoff and more a comparative piece which rarely sits well with audiences and their myriad preconceptions. To my mind, the most recent example of a successfully duplicated property counterpart is actually Star Trek and for the most part Solo performs admirably. Admittedly, of the new cast members, the highest levels of scrutiny will be reserved for Ehrenreich and Glover. Although it didn’t come over brilliantly in the marketing material, Ehrenreich conveys the necessary confidence and swagger that Harrison Ford brings to almost every role but the iconic sardonic cynicism (verging on bored apathy) is absent. I can understand the logic for this, as a bitter older man is hardly born bitter, but there was a fear that this would fail to generate the familiarity audiences have with the character. Thankfully, Ehrenreich performs commendably and with enough charm to bring a new side to the character – in the same way that Ewan McGregor did in the prequels. Purists will never be satisfied but for an impossible task, he’s come out in a strong place. Then we have Donald Glover as Lando, the role famously performed by Billy Dee Williams. Glover is not only the obvious casting choice, he is the reason I wanted to see this film. The man does such a wonderful job of bringing the smooth, charismatic and self-assured pirate to life and my only complaint is that his role was so small. I may not have cared for a Solo spin-off (because how much story is left to tell?) but a Lando film charting the story of pirate to captain of industry to military general, starring Glover? I would be first in line.

**quite a few spoilers toward the end of this paragraph**
For all the positives, this film is far from devoid of faults. Any feature picked up midway by a new creative will cause an immediate clash of directing styles and is going to feel a little jumbled no matter the talent involved. Subsequently, there is a lot of fallout that never gets properly resolved, from small things like the excessive use of conversational transitions (where a conversation starts in one place and is finished in the next scene in an entirely new location) to a subplot about droid rights which is interesting but is also weirdly – and somewhat dismissively – executed. The most apparent example of this unsettling air of unevenness is in the supporting characterisation; specifically Dryden Vos and Enfys Nest. While I would highlight both as really solid performances and interesting characters, their existence feels like the product of adjustment and course correction. Firstly we have Paul Bettany, who plays the gangster villain Vos well, but his threat level degrades quickly to the point of irrelevance. It has been mentioned that the original actor was intended to be brought to life as a motion-capture alien-humanoid but scheduling conflicts led to the entire part being rewritten and Bettany being brought on board. For an example of what I mean, Vos is described as a formidable force who will hunt you to the end of the universe for crossing him but not only is he outfoxed by a simple deception, his supposedly vast army is merely a dozen easily tricked subordinates. Speaking of which, both Beckett and Vos have an adversary in the form of marauders led by the heavily armoured Enfys Nest. Now, I know the Enfys Nest identity reveal was supposed to be “but you’re just a kid” but because of Star Wars lore and the importance placed on bloody parents and siblings, I was expecting something bigger and more connected; that this is Phasma’s mother or something stupid. Admittedly the disconnected nature of Jyn Erso in Rogue One should have taught audiences not to expect these threads of association but Star Wars fans can’t help but draw patterns and links where there are none. And while I could have left that as it was, as the seeds of something yet to come, the film then dismisses that entire mindset with the BIG reveal (the one that was pushed throughout with coy mentions of “you know who I work for” and “there are more dangerous people in this galaxy than Dryden Vos” etc) which couldn’t be more connected to the expanded universe and will be such a huge talking point for fans.

While several creative changes may have shifted during production, one that would have been past the point of no return is the production design. The amount of work, effort and money that goes in to getting things like costume and casting sorted is a very difficult train to derail but in fairness, the level of detail and design that has gone into the world building/expansion is extremely positive and praiseworthy. Nothing on this film feels rushed or cheap, every frame is flowing with intrigue and oddities – as all Star Wars films should. On top of that, everything is shot beautifully and Bradford Young has done a wondrous job created a dark, murky side of space largely unseen in the main saga. And, as with the casting, John Powell has the extremely unenviable task of making his mark on the Star Wars brand and what we are given with the musical score is perfectly fitting, the John Williams recycling is to be expected but the Marauders theme was particularly pleasing.

I said in my review for The Last Jedi that these indulgence pieces are for anyone who wants to savour nostalgia over progress (not an attack, just an observation) and would a story about Han Solo’s younger years appease, assuage or entertain them? In truth, I don’t know the answer. I feel there are probably too many unanswered questions, a wall of irritating sequel secrets and future developments have been erected but who knows how, when or if they will be addressed and the overall narrative could be described as predictable, formulaic and straight-forward with a tick-box of character components based on peripheral props and throwaway lines three 40 year old films. And yet it works. There are things that mainstream audiences may find uninteresting or convoluted (in terms of delving into the expanded universe) and there will be contradictions, alterations and inclusions that will irk hardcore Star Wars fans. To my mind, this film achieves the insurmountable by taking an extremely well-known character and producing a fun space pirating romp in spite of all the production dramas but the problem with all prequels is that they remove the veil of mystery and quantify the sum parts, leaving us with answers that can feel unfulfilling, like an explorer completing a map and realising there is no more unknown left to discover.


Release Date:
25th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
One of the main exciting set-pieces chocked with visual flare and high-stakes adventure is the Kessel Run; a maelstrom of space storms surrounding several resource-rich planets. Navigation of this particular sector of space is extremely difficult due to the multiple hyperspace jumps that need to be precisely co-ordinated, or face obliteration at the mercy of the unknown. On paper this is great science fiction stuff paired with classic high-seas adventure writing. And yet, the reason I am highlighting it, is the obsession of making things fit. Almost every single aspect of the expanded universe stems from a small handful of lines uttered in the original films and one of those is Han’s claim to Luke Skywalker that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” When it was pointed out years later that this is in fact erroneous, fans made it work, concocting a workaround which define the Kessel Run as an example of Han’s expertise as a pilot, rather than his speed. Admittedly, it strengthens the character but also causes the bite of the original statement to feel a touch lacklustre.. and all because George Lucas didn’t understand a parsec measures distance not time. The knock on effect of such a simple screenwriting action in the late 1970s is truly astonishing.

Notable Characters:
In a strange way, the only returning member of the principal cast is Suotamo as Chewbacca – as he worked with his counterpart Peter Mayhew on the most recent Star Wars films. Not only does he perform admirably on his own in this outing, we experience more of a connection between Han and Chewie than han and Qi’ra; something I should be miffed about but ultimately works because that’s the relationship we know and wanted to see more of.

Highlighted Quote:
“You just lost the canon.. and I really hurt my thumbs”

In A Few Words:
“A rather impressive feat considering the production difficulties and while it is fairly tame and vanilla, it adds enough to the Star Wars universe to warrant its own existence”

Total Score:

3/5

DEADPOOL 2

From The Studio That Killed Wolverine

Director
David Leitch

Starring
Ryan Reynolds
Josh Brolin
Julian Dennison
Zazie Beetz
Morena Baccarin



Following the events of Deadpool, Wade Wilson [Reynolds] has taken several high profile international contracts, executing various elements of the criminal underworld. One particular druglord locks himself in a panic room and, having escaped his fate, pays a visit to Wade’s home. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just jump ahead with the story. Finally convinced to join the X-Men, Deadpool’s first mission involves an out-of-control young mutant named Russell [Dennison], who is threatening to burn down the orphanage he resides in and everyone in charge of it. We later learn that Cable [Brolin], a powerful mutant from the future, has travelled back in time in an attempt to kill Russell before he can become a force for evil in the coming years. In order to stop this from happening, Deadpool must unite a team of unlikely heroes, including Domino [Beetz], a woman whose superpower is being incredibly lucky.

Throughout this review, several highlighted points will feel like they are circling the same all-encompassing flaw within this film: repetition. As odd as this may sound, considering it was a commercial and critical success, Shrek 2 suffered in the same way when it embodied the very thing it was lampooning. The trouble is that something created as a means to poke fun at a huge franchise or genre pieces will eventually perpetrate the same weaknesses it initially spurned in other releases; like an independent coffee shop growing to become a successful chain – the product is the same but you can’t take the moral ground of being different when you eventually operate in the same manner. Now, I will openly admit, this is a bit of an exaggeration for Deadpool 2. It is, for all intents and purposes, a very fun, enjoyable and well-crafted film but there are simply far too many call-backs and when it does something new or bold, it works beautifully but when it lazily plays it safe, the whole thing falls flat. The degree and frequency to which audiences will tolerate or even notice this, will vary.

Stepping away from the negative for a second, Deadpool 2 manages to do something quite impressive by providing genuine emotional heft among the sea of sophomoric jokes. The majority of this stems from the new characters and the performances given and by grounding the story to something personal and contained, rather than escalating to tackle some global threat. Characters like Russell and Cable are extremely well suited to be paired with someone like Deadpool. On the one hand, you have a foul-mouthed, hot-headed child looking for both revenge and somewhere to belong. While one wouldn’t immediately assign the moniker of mentor to a character like Deadpool, Russell’s presence and influence certainly has a somewhat maturing effect on the lead and the role seems almost custom-built for Dennison after his performance in Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Cable is also a classic pairing for Wade, as he was in the comics, due to his sneering, no-nonsense veneer and complete deadpan straightness to Deadpool’s hyperactive eccentricity. With Brolin so recently performing exceptionally as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Cable feels a little basic and undemanding but equally, this character in this particular capacity is meant to be much more straightforward and simplistic. As for the other new cast, I will come back to them later.

**spoilers**
Despite greatly enjoying the new additions to the cast, the film doesn’t really know what to do with its established characters. Sure, they all make an appearance and have a few solid moments but they are mostly shifted to the side-line. Frankly, with an ensemble sequel, this is to be somewhat expected and I wouldn’t have drawn such significant attention to it, if it weren’t for Vanessa. In my synopsis, I side-stepped a rather large development: Vanessa is killed before the opening credits. I am horribly conflicted by this because on one hand, I appreciate that there was little else to do with her character arc and their relationship presents an issue for the story in its current state (see every superhero’s significant other.. ever), I will also acknowledge the emotional and motivational push that it generates for Wade. However, we have a phrase for that and it is “woman in the fridge.” Every effort seems to be made to make Vanessa’s death both meaningful and justifiable and Baccarin continues to perform commendably but for a film that calls out other films for these kinds of developments, it’s a sloppy move and one that I can irritatingly understand but did not enjoy.

Much like the first film, Deadpool 2 is a really impressive technical achievement with so much being achieved with arguably limited resources (compared to other blockbusters). In truth, I could take a jab at the CGI being ropey at times but for the most part it is handled decently, so we’ll overlook that. Leitch’s direction is perfectly fine and the choice to keep the story grounded and gritty serves both the character and this spin-off series very well but it never elevates or presents us with anything truly standout. Finally we have the sound design, which works extremely well but is marred by Tyler Bates’ extremely temperate score. I’ve noticed that Bates turns up and either produces something memorable and impressive or completely forgettable and compared to Junkie XL’s Michael Jackson inspired tones, this offering doesn’t feel as noteworthy. Having said that, the facetious choral music used during the third act fight scene outside the orphanage was extremely amusing and lambasted the genre’s musical tropes brilliantly.

Much like the nitpicking of MCU features, it’s easy to forget that this film shouldn’t exist and what we’re seeing is really down to a handful of dogged individuals fighting for a subversive property they truly believe in. As such, I hold this feature to high standards, things that could be overlooked or dismissed are magnified because they have already proven themselves capable of producing something better. If I’m not making my hyperbolic point clearly, a half-decent DCEU film feels like a spectacular victory whereas a Marvel film that stumbles even a little, feels like a potentially devastating **. Neither is true and yet we are often left with this impression thanks to what came before. This whole thing rides on the shoulders and charisma of Ryan Reynolds and that man continues to carry this whole thing magnificently and yet a parallel can be drawn bet ween the film itself and the Deadpool rap remix during the end credits: it’s effectively the same thing and Deadpool fans will love it regardless but for those of us who want this sub-genre of self-aware critical scolding to continue elevating and challenging the industry standards, it’s playing it a little too safe, holding a few too many punches and indulging in a few too many hypocritical tropes. I still appreciate everything this film does, I just wanted it to be better.


Release Date:
18th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers**
During the last wave of trailers, we were told that the team X-Force would be a major factor, with several recognisable cast names. Pretty much everything surrounding X-Force was wonderful. From the interview process, to the inclusion of regular-guy Peter but most importantly the fact that all bar Domino and Deadpool are killed off because of Deadpool’s incompetence and arrogance. It’s a brilliant move and the exact kind of thing one would expect and hope for from this release. I genuinely didn’t care for killing off Vanessa but introducing a handful of powerful mutants and taking them out a few minutes later was brilliant. Annoyingly, one of the better jokes was completely ruined. One of the recruits is an invisible individual named Vanisher. For a while you’re not sure if he’s real or not but then there’s a parachute flying by itself and we realise he is indeed part of the team. As he dies we get a glimpse of who the character is and he audience are both shocked and elated that it’s none other than Brad Pitt. At least, that would be the case if it weren’t for the terrible CGI, silent reaction and quick edit away from it, leaving audiences both confused and not entirely sure if they saw some random guy or indeed Brad Pitt. I’m all for blink and you’ll miss it cameos (Alan Tudyk has one, as do the rest of the young X-Men cast) but if you can’t savour the inclusion then you have to wonder what was the point?

Notable Characters:
**more spoilers**
Zazie Beetz is marvellous as Domino, her powers are a wonderful partnering for Deadpool, as the various lucky developments leave her as invincible as Wilson himself. Able to hold her own with the merc with a mouth and a genuine on-screen force to be reckoned with, I would love to see her return in a more pronounced capacity; which I can easily see future films doing. I was also impressed with the arguable main villain. While in prison, Russell befriends the “biggest guy in the icebox” and we are left wondering which character it will be. When it is eventually revealed that the character in question is in fact Juggernaut, I was very pleased; giving audiences a better iteration than the laughable Vinnie Jones in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Highlighted Quote:
“Listen to the pain, it’s both history teacher and fortune teller”

In A Few Words:
“I feel this will be a divisive release but for the most part it will please fans of both the first film and the source material”

Total Score:

3/5

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Directors
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Starring
Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Chris Hemsworth
Josh Brolin



After several cameos and teaser appearances, Thanos [Brolin] has finally enacted his grand plan to unite the mighty, universe altering, infinity stones, attach them to his gauntlet and restore balance to the universe by wiping out half of its populace. As the stones have been housed in various locations throughout the established Marvel plane, his dark quest means he will have to go through the Guardians Of The Galaxy, the Avengers and all their allies along the way. At its heart, this movie is actually comprised of a handful of simple set pieces and immense character jostling but the weight behind the legacy of the back catalogue of films is present and elevates the whole. And this is something that a lot of imitators have never been able to replicate: momentum. Like a train hurtling at increasing speeds, the longer it’s on its track, the more power and built up energy it accumulates, giving it more of an overwhelming appearance. Sticking with that analogy for a second, a train thundering through a station at high speeds is pretty impressive but one that doesn’t slow down and flies past with tonnes of haulage, rattling the nearby structures is a fearsome spectacle. And that’s very much what this feature is, more spectacle and experience than conventional narrative; which is both the best and worst aspect of its existence.

As with every review I pen, this will be more of a post-viewing analysis than a spoiler free tease; this is to ensure that I can justify, in detail, where a film succeeds or fails. Naturally, this film has been heavily marketed to ensure its secrets are kept but this review will cover a lot of content, so if you haven’t already seen this movie, for God’s sake stop reading. With that cautionary statement out of the way, I can say that this is a spectacularly bold release. As the film ended and the audience sat waiting for the single post-credit sequence, we watched the names plainly displayed on screen like an in memoriam segment. And once that final snippet was served up, everyone slowly filed out of the cinema in shock, reeling from the film’s funereal close. Again, no matter how good or bad the film was, the climax was extraordinarily bold.

Speaking of merits and faults, let’s get the biggest defects out of the way. Marvel has always had an issue with their scores and aside from a few standout pieces and themes, the majority has been disappointing, lacklustre or forgettable. Having created the Avengers theme – one of the more distinctly memorable and pleasing – Alan Silvestri returns but despite the vast library of character-related themes to play with, we have ended up with an acceptable score that regrettably lacks a lot of presence. Naturally it’s perfectly serviceable but after a while retreats from the fore to simply become big background brass and string elements that do little to spur on the emotional resonance. Another huge point of contention is the CGI. For the most part, it’s spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable but there were a few shots of snarling alien beasts, Thanos in his armour and floating heads on CGI bodies that didn’t work as well as they could and if these cracks are showing on the day of release, they will definitely age horribly. And that’s about it, the rest of the film follows some truly astoundingly competent direction and I fear that amidst all the forums of possible future developments and the specific fates of certain characters, not enough credit will be awarded to several background factors that have been working perfectly throughout these films; things like set design, costume, hair and make-up, cinematography, editing, all working harmoniously in the shadows.

Looking over the marketing for this release, a great deal of this film’s grand appeal was recreating and escalating something that was first successfully done in Avengers – crossover. Obviously I’m not stating this is the first franchise crossover but it is the payoff after literally a decade of world-building. Despite a few stumbles and course corrections, Marvel has never really fallen flat on its face and at this stage, no one else is coming close to the kind of industry spearheading that they are pioneering. Subsequently, it feels like they are trying to burn the engine out and simply run as hard and as fast as they can to see where the audience’s limit is but in doing so have created something that probably cannot be replicated. And I would posit this returning loyalty and desperation for “what comes next” is largely thanks to the characters themselves. Marvel has such an arsenal of characters and each of them have been portrayed in a way that will suit different audience demographics, meaning a crossover as intense as this will draw in every Marvel fan. And yet this film, in spite of the giant game of superhero bingo, doesn’t have a great deal of contained arcs. I say contained specifically because while certain character arcs are practically non-existent, their actions and stories in the previous standalone instalments serve as foundation for the conclusions presented here. To give an example, take Bruce Banner [Mark Ruffalo]. For too many boring legal and rights reasons, we won’t be getting a Hulk film any time soon and as such Marvel only has Banner’s appearances in other features to further his story. Interestingly, his actions in Thor Ragnarok and this film feel like the first two parts of a three act journey which will conclude in the next release. This is also visually interesting for viewers, as we don’t just see the Hulk smashing things (although there’s a fair amount of that at the start) and puts Banner in a position to take part in a fight in a unique and pleasing way. There is also the surprise appearance by the spectre of Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt, which I thoroughly enjoyed as part of a legacy closure, some seven years in the making but it generated so many questions that I doubt would have satisfying conclusions. Could this set up a return of the character? It’s unknown at this point and I think his presence was more a cameo for shock value purposes rather than a launching pad for something bigger or more detailed. And then we have Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the Dwarf King and master of a galactic weapons forge. Much like Red Skull, the role is a very small incidental one but something about it felt extraordinarily off. It’s very hard to quantify primarily because it’s such a weird performance. I totally get the casting but of all the ridiculous things these films have thrown at me, this one took me out of the film entirely and I stepped into the shoes of someone who doesn’t care about this franchise at all, muttering to myself, “this is stupid.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel is somehow aware of this because every time you get too close to realising it’s all nonsense, they undercut with humour and you’re back and under their mighty spell once more.

As stated previously, this film is more spectacle than story but it still manages to come out surprisingly well balanced. I have no doubt that because of the tone there will be several comparisons to things like The Empire Strikes Back but in truth, I feel the more accurate comparison would be The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, specifically, the third instalment. So much ground work has been laid and finally every character is brought together for one mighty, fatigue-inducing battle.. and yet somehow it works magnificently as a pairing of beloved characters and monumental developments. Throughout, there is a very clear impression of desperation, that this is the last battle which has genuine stakes and it is very rare for a film – even one bisected like this – to follow through with the implications. After all, the film was advertised on the threat that Thanos could wipe out half of the universe’s populace with the snap of his fingers, to not see such an act would rob the audience of something momentous but the fact they followed through was still surprising; but then, that’s what happened in the comics. Before I get onto the bulk of my thoughts about the film’s ending, I need to address something that has come up a lot recently: the concept of the half film. Several adaptations of hefty novels have, for creative or fiscal reasons, chosen to split the story into two separate features. This partition often ruins the natural flow and we end up with one entire feature of setup and one of pay-off but neither having that necessary balance. With these Marvel films emulating the on-going serial aspect of the source material, the never-ending story aspect kind of works in its favour and while this movie is most certainly a part one, the presence of a cliff-hanger does not make something half a movie. I will openly admit that there is no real story, just a series of bombastic events, yet Infinity War still retains its three act structure. In truth, if you shift the perspective and make Thanos the lead character, then the film has a complete arc and happy finale because of the victory attained.

As much as the ending is a temporary state, it is still a powerful one. To take a franchise of familiar faces and extremely well-known actors and almost dismissively remove them from existence is something that takes an exceptional amount of confidence and bravado. Up until this point, death in the MCU has never been felt thanks to reversals, resurrections, lack of development/connection (looking at you Quicksilver) and plot armour so to deal such a devastating blow, I wouldn’t be surprised if many audience members will feel simply unprepared. And I’m all too familiar with comic lore, I know that the bulk of the post-click deaths will be reversed but it genuinely doesn’t matter if these things are unwritten because, much like The Last Jedi, they are real in this moment and what is presented as real for the characters is presented as real for us. Now we will have another year of theories, speculation and discussion which is, at its heart, word of mouth marketing, generating twelve months of hype and expectation that ensure ticket sales and interest long before the elusive title of this follow-up are even released. Ultimately, these films were made for the internet age, they know people trawl through trailers, combing for details so they purposefully subvert the promotional material to both retain their secrets and sell you on the concept rather than the content. Things like Thor’s bloody eye in the Ragnarok trailer, the Hulk running with the group in the main pre-trailer title card charge, Spider-Man in the background of the Star Lord/Iron Man planning rather than Doctor Strange, just little amendments that either stem from reshoots or an active attempt to keep things secret. But if I was pressed, I would say I genuinely appreciate these tactics. With both the Star Wars and Marvel universes, Disney have taken to revealing so precious little, knowing that the rabid and obsessive fanbase will do all the marketing for them with minimal prompting. The only things they need to confirm are a handful of characters (mostly in new outfits), a tantalising tone, a title and a release date. That’s it. I mean, I went into this film with no idea how it would turn out and I left it with no idea what is coming next and that is so very, very exciting.


Release Date:
27th April 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
In the absence of much of a story, this is a film of moments. Among the countless quips and cool fight sequences there is seemingly something for everyone. Even at two and a half hours, screen time is so limited but a marvellous job has been done giving almost everyone both something to do and awarding them with a standout moment. Rather than pinpointing one, I would say it is a great exercise in highlighting the sort of Marvel fan/critic you are. With so much going on, the thing that stands out to you would more than likely dictate the kind of character and values you support or the kind of film you wanted to see. Admittedly, that is an incredibly broad statement but one that I believe fits.

Notable Characters:
Thanos. How could it be anyone else? After six years of setup and escalating promotion, which amounted to doing very little, we finally get an insight into the man pulling all the strings. I was genuinely anxious, fearful of a crushing anti-climax but Thanos is such a detailed and layered character, full of conflict and motivational drive that you can’t help but be taken in by it all. More than that, the performance is so painfully brilliant that at times, you are taken in by his twisted logic. This is truly the best kind of bad guy, the one who feels he is right in his actions and starts to coerce you into thinking the same thing. From a screenwriting angle, through Brolin’s performance and the extremely impressive visual effects work, he is a collaborative triumph. Thanos is a being addressing a very real problem with the worst possible solution; truly both a story and creation to represent our socio-political times.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m not looking for forgiveness and I’m way past asking for permission”

In A Few Words:
“A triumphant release marred only by the smallest of complaints but Marvel are pushing further out into unchartered waters yet somehow thriving”

Total Score:

4/5

MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

Meari To Majo No Hana [メアリと魔女の花]

Director
Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring
Hana Sugisaki
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Yuki Amami
Fumiyo Kohinata



Set in the English countryside, young Mary Smith [Sugisaki] has moved in with her great Aunt Charlotte. Bored by her simple surroundings, Mary finds herself wondering the woods, having followed a pair of cats named Tib and Gib. Deep in the forest she comes across a small blue flower. Back at home she learns that the flower is called “fly by night” and is very rare; she also learns that the two cats belong to a precocious young boy in the village named Peter [Kamiki]. Unbeknownst to Mary, the picking of the flower generates a dense mist and again, she follows the cat into the woods, finding an old broomstick covered in vines. When the bud of the flower bursts in her hand, she absorbs the fluid and is imbued with magical powers and immediately transported to the fantastical Endor College, overseen by Headmistress Madam Mumblechook [Amami] and the outlandish Doctor Dee [Kohinata]. But with the college’s number one rule being “trespassers will be transformed” will she be discovered and suffer the consequences?

Separate from the merits of the film itself, Mary And The Witch’s Flower’s biggest point of note will be the fact it is the first film in Studio Ponoc’s future catalogue. With Ponoc being an offshoot of Studio Ghibli, avoiding any comparison between the two studios is nigh on impossible. I have no doubt that over the coming years Ponoc will forge its own identity but everything from the stylistic design and the music to the animators and chosen story, feels like a Ghibli release; and with so many veteran Ghibli creatives working on this release, the presence of this very recognisable aesthetic is hardly surprising. Having said that, this feature feels similar to Tales From Earthsea, Arrietty and When Marnie Was There in that it’s a very high quality feature but doesn’t feel as good as Ghibli’s upper tier releases. Yet I remain hopeful that standing will improve as soon as they release an original property rather than an adaptation.

Like all hand-drawn animation, in this age of cheap, plasticy computer generated imagery, there is a distinct nostalgia-infused beauty to the visuals. Admittedly, cinema magnifies flaws and quite a few scenes were presented with some rushed or elementary animation but even at its weakest moments, the craft involved feels imbued with more care and attention to detail than most mainstream releases. As with something like Porco Rosso or The Wind Rises, there is a dreamlike quality to the setting, a mixture of reality and expectation. Which isn’t exactly surprising given that producer Yoshiaki Nishimura stated the artists visited rural England for research but were encouraged to draw from what they remembered rather than direct references like photos, that way they would capture the personality and impression of the place. Adding to this dreamlike quality is the fantastic score, by Takatsugu Muramatsu, with its plinky elements and impressive use of a dulcimer to give an otherworldly ambience. Equally, the sound design is wonderful and immersive, creating atmospheric realm of magic and intrigue.

Before I get on to discussing the performances, I should highlight that I will be expressly referring to the original language recording. Having only sampled the dub version, it sounds over-boiled and grating, so I can only imagine it had a detrimental impact. In terms of delivery, personality and character, there isn’t a single weak component present; each main character is eccentric enough to be recognisable without slipping into over-the-top absurdity. And yet, in its simplicity, there is a slight hollowness to Mary and her adventure. Specifically that she doesn’t seem to have changed much at all; so much so that the final shot of the film could quite easily have been dubbed with a triumphant, “I learned.. NOTHING! Yay!” It’s not that Mary is a bad character, she merely lacks fleshing out in terms of consequence and proactivity. In fact, I would go further and say the films lacks dimensionality all over but I think that may be more the fault of the source material than this particular interpretation. On top of that, it would be easy enough to draw a comparison between Mary And The Witch’s Flower and something like Alice In Wonderland – a similarly dreamlike fantasy that doesn’t explore the lasting fallout of its bizarre adventure.

Aside from the main character, the supports hint at an interesting universe but only scratch the surface. In the most obvious example, Endor College is really only gleaned but additionally, there are so many random subplots that are alluded to but go nowhere. The film opens on a pending funeral for the town’s mayor. There doesn’t seem to be any significance or connection to the story and other than a line or two of dialogue and someone dressed in black, it bears no relevance to the story. We also have a lot of fog surrounding Peter’s mother. He seems highly motivated to return home to take care of her, even saying he would want magical powers and to grow older in order to take care of her but, again, no explanation as to why. There’s also the functionality of the school during and after the oversight of Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook, we see there are other teachers but anything peripheral to Mary’s actions are non-existent, to the degree that if I was to discover the other pupils at the school were an illusion, it would be entirely plausible.

While it may not be the most engaging or praiseworthy example of an animated adventure, it succeeds where other huge family targeted blockbusters fail. We are given a passionate female lead, the story never talks down to children, there are zero burp or fart jokes that feel the need to crop up for a cheap laugh and the narrative is clear and easy to follow. All in all, Mary And The Witch’s Flower is a perfectly commendable release but like a lot of things released in early 2018, with the talent involved, they were capable of much more.


Release Date:
4th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers**
In one scene, we experience a semblance of humanising for the villains and suddenly the antagonist themes fell into doubt. As the story progresses, we learn that the flower that Mary discovered was stolen from the college decades ago and both Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook have been experimenting on animals. Obviously this is typical bad guy stuff and we immediately want to see them bested. But when it comes to experimenting on humans, we learn that their end goal is to further magical studies and gift everyone with magical powers. Suddenly their motives are seemingly quite noble, trying to establish a state of equality. I appreciate the methods are questionable but it’s a curious turn. Equally, in other fictional representations, magic is usually depicted as a natural source of power and one in harmony with nature. While there are elements of that present here, there seems to be a distinct presence of balance and the idea that the expansion (or abuse) of magic being in direct violation with nature – a theme usually reserved for the advancement of technology and industry over rustic living.

Notable Characters:
The first faculty member that Mary encounters is an anthropomorphic fox named Flanagan (voiced by Jiro Sato) who used to teach broomstick flying but is currently in charge of the grounds. Flanagan is as one dimensional as a lot of the story and other characters but remains a comic relief and welcome personality all the same; even if he was a bit of an oblivious, constantly occurring ex machina.

Highlighted Quote:
“You never know what kids are up to”

In A Few Words:
“A delightfully presented if simplistic fantasy story”

Total Score:

3/5

A QUIET PLACE

If They Hear You, They Hunt You

Director
John Krasinksi

Starring
Millicent Simmonds
Emily Blunt
John Krasinksi
Noah Jupe



Set three months after a cataclysmic event, we learn in the opening prologue that the Earth has been overrun by creatures that are drawn to moderately loud sounds, which have gone on to wipe out the majority of the population. After the opening establishing events, we skip forward a year and a half and follow the daily existence of Lee [Krasinksi], Evelyn [Blunt], Regan [Simmonds] and Marcus Abbott [Jupe]; a family surviving in this dangerous environment. Part of the reason they have lasted this long is the strict rules they live by – completely overhauling their way of life to avoid making excessive noise – and the fact that Regan herself is deaf, meaning the family are able to communicate with sign language. Despite their resourcefulness, they will be put to the test as Evelyn is heavily pregnant and a crying baby would put all of their lives in danger.

Anyone who regularly frequents this site will see a distinct pattern surrounding reviews for horror titles; specifically that there don’t tend to be many. That’s because I don’t enjoy horror. There are some genuinely standout titles that greatly appeal to me but genre’s formulaic nature and excessive use of loud jump scares make them lazy, painful affairs to endure. Having said that, there has been a bit of a new-wave presenting itself within the genre, films that tend to ebb away from cheap scare tactics and excessive schlocky violence, favouring smart tense premises and endearing and likable characters. That’s why films like The Witch, Get Out, 10 Cloverfield Lane and It Follows do well with a certain crowd but are then torn down for not “being real horrors” when, in actuality, they refrain from conforming to the regular tropes and draw a heavier emphasis on the central premise, story and character design. And A Quiet Place is a perfect addition to these titles, with a very simple but instantly recognisable premise that taps into a fundamentally animalistic fear of helplessness and no longer being the top of the food chain. On top of that, we have the absolutely wonderful world building and production design; from the sets to all the rituals and routines which have been methodically thought out and help outline an adjusted dystopian world not to dissimilar to our own.

In addition to all the pleasing visual and thematic elements, this film really shines when it comes to sound. And this is one of those films that doesn’t simply use one gimmick but employs a variety of methods and inventive fixes to really immerse you and create a terrifying environment. Cinematically speaking, we are often treated to the most powerful speakers and sound systems which mask the general bustle and noise of a collected audience but when you are forced to sit in the near-silence of this film, you become more aware of yourself and those around you. That creates another level of discomfort above and beyond what is present in the film itself and that is why this is exceptional horror; the kind that burrows into your mind and unwrites the logic that tells you that you are safe and this is a work of fiction. Of course, that isn’t meant to be a slight against the use of sound, as it is frankly masterful. The way we experience the world through Regan’s eyes/ears, the unseen threat just off-screen, the concept of one natural sound outweighing another (e.g. screaming into a waterfall) and Marco Beltrami’s perfect, incredibly unsettling score – all of these components create a unique world that perpetuates an unease that runs from start to finish.

All of these technical components are of course moot if the acting is sub-par. Thankfully, the family presented carry this film magnificently and although one could argue so little actually happens, the fear on their faces sells so much and generates a sustained tension and a perfectly paced experience. When listing my cast, it occurred to me that I really wasn’t sure who the main character is. I can almost certainly rule out Marcus, just because of screen-time but between Regan, Evelyn and Lee, there is a jostling for which will be the most proactive individual and subsequently this highlights a few interesting things about the cast. For those who don’t know, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are married, so what we have here is a real couple dynamic (especially as these actors have two children together); on top of that, Millicent Simmonds is, for lack of a better phrase, actually deaf which brings an obvious realism to the performance. And yet one could argue these things are not requisite to making a good film, that just because an on-screen couple are together in real-life, doesn’t mean they will be able to escape performing. The difference is experience and relatability. In terms of writing and direction, Krasinski has brought a lot of very personal emotionality that plays on the mind of a parent. I’m not saying it’s impossible for someone to empathise and assume what it would be like but there is a priceless insight which is utilised. Equally, with Simmonds, having someone who experiences the world differently, offers the opportunity to incorporate developments into the film that maximise the concept of what it is like to live without sound. Coupled with a strong story and amazing production, phenomenal performances are what tip this over the edge into truly great cinema. The only flaws I can find are elements of mimicry and familiarity with other suspenseful releases and a couple of gender presentation issues that don’t get fully addressed but outside of that, it’s a completely relentless, emotional, simple piece that is extremely enjoyable and wholly commendable.


Release Date:
6th April 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
One of the early examples of the exquisite sound design is during one of the progressive moves forward, leaping the events ahead and opening with Regan sleeping on a sandy floor. Either in her dreams or a stylistic choice, we hear the sounds of nature and are given the impression she is laying calmly on a beach. It’s only when she abruptly wakes and the dull hum that signals her “point of view” as a deaf person replaces the familiar sounds. The moment itself is so simple but it is a sublime example of the messages, situations and perspectives that cinema can convey.

Notable Characters:
I really have to commend Krasinksi, partly because he has done an astounding job acting but also because his direction is spot-on. More so than that, he made one particular casting choice that really pleased me. Too often film and television rely on able-bodied actors to play individuals with disabilities and it shuts out an entire group of people who can bring so much to that performance from a perspective point alone. And while this may sound like hyperbole, it is, in essence, not far off men playing women on stage during the 1600s or white people in black-face. I don’t doubt someone could have given a credible performance in the role of Regan but having someone who can accurately draw on things that someone who is imitating that existence may not have considered, should be championed as often as possible. And I really shouldn’t be saying things like that in this day and age, it should be the norm.

Highlighted Quote:
“Who are we if we can’t protect them? Who are we?”

In A Few Words:
“A fantastically tense and marvellously acted feature from start to finish”

Total Score:

5/5

ISLE OF DOGS

Join The Pack

Director
Wes Anderson

Starring
Bryan Cranston
Koyu Rankin



Twenty years in the future, an epidemic affecting dogs has run through Japan. One city, led by Mayor Kobayashi [Kunichi Nomura] passes a law to send all dogs to an island solely designed for dumping refuse. The first dog deported is Spots [Liev Schrieber], guard dog to the Mayor’s distantly related nephew, Atari Kobayashi [Rankin]. Several years later we are introduced to a pack of alpha dogs led by Chief [Cranston], who witness Atari crash land on the island, in an attempt to find and rescue Spots. Feeling an innate loyalty to a human master, the pack (bar Chief) agree to help Atari find his dog.

What used to be an industry standard for visual effects, stop-motion is rarely utilised these days. As it’s such a time-consuming art form, we tend to only see it in the form of a narrative device (often in a fantasy feature), in very independent shorts/features or huge passion projects. The two recent examples that leap to mind are the works being produced by Laika and Aardman Animation, who hold steadfast, keeping the craft alive. But Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox cannot be overlooked as it was a truly pleasing release, with the practical nature of a need for attention to detail really lending itself to the auteur director’s distinct style. There was also pleasant use of hand-drawn animation doubling for camera footage but if I’m honest, I felt there was a little too much reliance on this method; to the degree that it ended up feeling like a money saving exercise. Either way, the film is visually glorious and no matter what one thinks of the story or its creator, the talent and skill that has gone into presenting this tale is beyond compare.

There is a lot to love about the casting of this film. An opening title card explains (because of course it does, it’s a Wes Anderson film) that subtitles are few and far between and that everyone speaks in their native language, including the canine characters. This tapestry of sound makes for a very interesting and human presentation, that I wish was utilised more in mainstream releases. Films like Inglourious Basterds for example, switching back and forth between various European language with little care for the audience because the story requires it. Equally here, we have the dogs as the main characters, written to be understood by a Western audience and the human component voiced by Japanese actors without subtitles, either dubbed by a translator or left to understand through the visuals of the performance – which speaks to the trust placed upon the animators. It could be argued that the Japanese characters speak with a favouring of monosyllabic phrases and gairaigo to convey to an English speaking audience but I think that speaks more to the difference between the animal and human counterparts than a cultural commentary. The performances themselves, however, are amusing, endearing and exude simple emotion – all necessary requirements for good characters in any animated family film. The performances themselves are quite simplistic and contribute to a wonderful analysis of mistrust and hysteria.

Speaking of cast, there was one element that I had issue with. I completely support the idea of the Japanese cast speaking in Japanese and the dogs being various English-speaking actors; it’s a language barrier that younger audience members would understand – unlike other “talking animal” features wherein the fact both species are speaking the same language but one can’t understand the other is odd. I was also enjoying the cultural setting right up until Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) came along and white savioured the film. For people unfamiliar with the phrase, a white saviour, is when a caucasian character arrives in a foreign land and either leads them to victory or highlights the errors of the ways, elevating their entire society. The character of Tracy herself is passionately written and Gerwig does a wonderful job of voicing her but the fact she’s an outsider who could have quite easily been a Japanese character is a problem.

As a Kurosawa fan, I’m all for cross-pollenisation of cultures and ideas – he being heavily inspired by American cinema, only for his work to go on and inspire American directors; sort of West imitating East imitating West. I also think any story with a futuristic setting understands the melting pot of ideas and cultural aesthetics to create a unified future; features like Blade Runner and Star Trek. This kind of film is one step toward that. Whether it was a clumsy footfall (Lost In Translation) or bold stride (Mulan) is probably not for me to say. When creating Fantastic Mr Fox, Anderson took all the externally visible components of both the English countryside and Roald Dahl’s source material and presented them through his own lens, same for his analysis of Indian culture in The Darjeeling Limited. I wouldn’t say he always gets it right and in doing so inadvertently causes offence at times but bringing something new to an audience who would not experience these things can only be a positive. However, the argument remains that by creating awareness of other cultures, artists have a responsibility to present them as honestly as possible, avoiding stereotypes and ensuring the hero of the story isn’t someone who looks like your target audience just because you feel the need to throw them in there; otherwise we merely perpetuate the cinematic status quo and uncomfortable trends of presenting people as caricatures rather than relatable individuals. But I will admit this film is a heightened reality (as Anderson’s films tend to be) and subsequently, realism isn’t exactly the desired effect.

Then of course we have Anderson himself. It seems whenever Wes Anderson releases a film reviews are divided between those who enjoy his films and those who do not. I will confess, it’s one thing having a signature style, it’s another making the same film over and over; as this leads to eventual stagnation or self-parody. But I believe Anderson is genuinely a very adroit filmmaker and one who has such a persistent and clear vision, free from outside interference or influence. In that regard, his work is so immediately recognisable because it has such a strong and unique voice with all the components conforming to its tropes, quirks and eccentricities. In a similar vein, long-time collaborator Alexandre Desplat is his usual exceptional self and creates a wonderful score rife with inflated action-based tension (the kind we hear in family films that is exciting without being genuinely perilous) and simple moments, threading together the events between the carefully selected indie tracks. I also particularly liked the embedded influence from late 50’s/early 60’s cinema.

In summary, this film is not going to win over anyone on the fence about Wes Anderson. Everything at this stage of his career is in his complete control and unless he makes an exceptionally bold move, I doubt he will diverge from his honed style. But for what it is, Isle Of Dogs is a very colourful, delightfully crafted, whimsical tale with a decent message and enjoyable characters. For fans of his usual fare, this will be a welcome treat and for those who are unfamiliar with or resistant of his previous films, they may get something out of it too.


Release Date:
30th March 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
This is going to sound like an odd thing to highlight – especially as I intend to be quite vague to avoid spoilers – but toward the end of the film, there is a surgery scene, wherein a character has a kidney extracted. Now, I know it’s not real but presenting an unmoving camera on a detailed open surgery in a PG rated feature is a little unusual. I wouldn’t say it’s a positive or a negative, merely unexpected.. and therefore oddly memorable.

Notable Characters:
**spoilers**
As with all Wes Anderson films, there is always a colourful host of tiny supporting roles that exit as soon as they enter; sometimes even dwarfing the consistently impressive work from the leads. But I was a little surprised by the characters who we would believe to be the main supports. The pack that guides Atari separate and while they were introduced with a fair amount of detail and gravitas, they are dismissed about midway through and all but disappear from the final act. I appreciate they are on the border of the scenes toward the end but I would be curious to know how much of the final runtime goes by without a line of dialogue from either Duke, King, Rex or Boss.

Highlighted Quote:
“I turn my back.. on mankind! Frosted window pane”

In A Few Words:
“Another gleeful absurd story from Anderson brought to life with some truly impressive and captivating visual work”

Total Score:

4/5

READY PLAYER ONE

An Adventure Too Big For The Real World

Director
Steven Spielberg

Starring
Tye Sheridan
Olivia Cooke
Ben Mendelsohn



In the year 2045, humanity has faced several crises but rather than treating them head on, most have retreated into a virtual video game environment called the Oasis. One such user is Wade Watts/Parzival [Sheridan] who is a “gunter,” a player who takes part in a quest for keys hidden throughout the programme which lead to an Easter egg placed by the Oasis’ late co-creator, James Halliday [Mark Rylance], granting the recipient sole control of the VR world and a sizeable fortune. Wade is assisted by a cadre of friends and allies, despite confessing that “he doesn’t clan up” with others. Acting as opposition is Nolan Sorrento [Mendelsohn], head of the unscrupulous conglomerate IOI who is seeking control of the Oasis in order to further his own nefarious ends and unwrite a lot of the parameters set by Halliday to ensure the product remains safe, fun and ad-free (for any current gamer, this part will really resonate). As Wade gets closer to ultimate success, the stakes are raised and his actions in the virtual world have lasting fallout in the real one.

Before going any further, I have not read the source material but one of the reasons this film ultimately succeeds is due to salvaging the barebones of the book’s story and injecting it with more cinematically pleasing challenges and ditching a lot of the 80s-heavy nostalgia that acts more as an exclusionary club than an inviting story. At the end of the day, that’s where I couldn’t get on with the book, it branded itself as a haven and celebration of pop culture but with the overbearing tone of “never forget that I know more than you;” so basically every film/comic/merch convention I’ve ever attended. But in a world where people carry phones and portable consoles around with them while investing in motion control or VR accessories for consoles, this feels like an interesting reflection on our desire to escape the real world and enter a fantasy of our own construction.

In a world where you can be anything you want, it makes complete sense to have a diverse cast of ethnicities. But the characters they portray are unfortunately quite flat. Through Aech we have a really nice story about the simple innocence of gender identity without beating you over the head with it but at the same time, the supports never really do much in the real world; leaving them as little more than accessories for Wade’s quest. Equally frustrating is that as much as we have the opportunity to challenge conventions of what a hero or a romance can look like, we still end up with a bland, predictable resolution of the pretty white boy ending up with pretty white girl and I’m going to go ahead and say that the port-stain birthmark is this film’s girl with glasses and a ponytail. Yet as vanilla as the characters eventually become, I have to commend the actors for bringing them to life to the best of their abilities. The romance may be painful but Cooke does a fantastic job as the passionate but semi-closed off Samantha/Art3mis and Sheridan elevates Wade/Parzival from a thoroughly obnoxious individual to a socially shaky but fundamentally passionate person.

If anything, this film is a bisected piece. On the one hand, it’s a visual spectacle, a feast for the eyes and senses offering an inviting world of bright escapism through references, trivia and nostalgia. In addition to all this, an overriding message is presented about both celebrating your hobbies and passions but ensuring you don’t compromise your real world existence in the process. The visuals are also pretty spectacular, in the few moments when everything is still and during the close-ups we are offered a look into the detailing process which is extremely well-crafted and being a fictional realm, the audience can suspend its disbelief so things like photorealism and the uncanny valley go largely out of the window because the environment everything takes place in, is essentially a video game. I also, cannot commend everyone involved enough for streamlining and making sense of that book. I know several people who are very attached to Cline’s novel but at times it’s abysmally written and a really grinding dirge of exposition and fact quoting to justify its existence. The film, while inherently guilty of a similar tactic at least uses it in moderation and cleverly enough to be forgivable and entertaining.

It is also, however, a bit of a mess. As stated, the visuals are superb but only when you can see them. During the race through Liberty Island, there were far too many occasions were you are frankly unable to process what the hell is going on. I would also say, as much as I despise 3D, they really missed an opportunity, as it would have been much more impressive and immersive if the real-world events were presented in 2D while the Oasis content was rendered in 3D. I’ll admit you may need to structure the movie a little differently to ensure that the constant switching didn’t become nauseating but it would highlight the grimy difference between the real world and the slick digital kingdom. And this isn’t such an outlandish proposition due to the presence of someone like Spielberg; but this highlights yet another major issue. The involvement of people like Spielberg and Alan Silvestri, who moulded and defined so much of the pop culture that people adore, should give them access to not only a treasure-trove of inspiration but one of innovation too. Yet this emulation never reaches the dizzy heights of the iconic pieces in these artist’s respective oeuvres while committing stupid rookie mistakes and dumb developments. Things like a world of facial recognition software to activate your account, yet you still have a fucking manual password? I get the joke and it’s a funny and eye-rollingly relatable one but it still seems to contradict the technology level that has been presented to us. It’s World Building 101, if you present something as true you cannot then walk it back to make the plot more convenient.

And then we hit the biggest wall of the film, the thing that will either draw you in or send you running screaming: the nostalgia, the intellectual properties, the references. For a film gleefully purporting to have every reference, a lot of weird things are missing and a lot of weird things are included. Naturally, I understand property licencing and while it’s easy to write “Batman pilots the Millennium Falcon through the Deep Space 9 wormhole to Arrakis and challenges Don Vito Corleone to a dance off,” the logistics of getting the owners of the copyrights on board is a mighty challenge. Thus things like Star Wars, Marvel, Nintendo, Harry Potter and other huge properties are absent, leaving the references as fairly regressive with the film’s finger very much off the pulse; I counted one Robocop and maybe 9 Battletoads. Battletoads for fuck’s sake! The best way I could summate the result is like asking for a list of your favourite songs but you can only choose from a catalogue available; so these are the best of what they could get. This also means we have a lot of faceless placeholders; going back to the race, for every recognisable vehicle there are at least ten generic holding ones to fill the screen in a cost efficient manner.

To my mind, your favourite things say a lot about you and therefore there is a validity to liking arguably any property. You can be a fan of highbrow and schlock alike and there’s nothing wrong with that, the fact someone else does not share this viewpoint should in no way cheapen your experience of them. As a caveat, I would argue that film critiquing is as much about form and function as entertainability, so that’s somewhat different. In this case, it’s very clear that the references stem less from Cline and his book and more from the things that writer Zak Penn and Spielberg enjoy, which radically shifts the tone of what is presented. Case in point, I’m pretty sure the book’s second key is found after playing a perfect game of Pac-Man (I openly admit I could be wrong there) whereas the film’s version is in a hyper-recreation of The Shining. And yet there is such an oversaturation of content which means many of the references are lost. Even though I realise this is physically unlikely, this constant bombardment of pop-culture left me feeling like the selective choices made in both The Lego Movie and Wreck-It Ralph somehow had more references, which is probably owing to them being presented in a far clearer, organised manner.

Which brings us to my overall impressions and any conclusion I can draw from this film. As far as the narrative is concerned, it’s perfectly pleasing, equally the visuals largely work and the bombastic audacity of it all is genuinely engrossing but as I seem to be repeating over-and-over with Spielberg’s latest endeavours, it simply lacks that sticking magic, that lasting retention that make something either an instant or cult classic. Through mimicry and tribute, Ready Player One does little new and simply recycles familiarities, hoping to prey on our nostalgic weaknesses. And as the credits began, I was immediately reminded of Patton Oswalt’s prescient article for Wired in 2010 entitled, Wake Up Geek Culture, Time To Die. I won’t clumsily regurgitate it for you here, you can seek it out on your own but it does address the principal reasons why this film is more detrimental than progressive. As it stands, Ready Player One is a decent blockbuster but one that revels too much in what has come before without contributing to what is to come.


Release Date:
30th March 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
As much as I can bemoan the inclusion of a mountain of throwaway gags and plugs, my veneer of cynicism dropped at one point and I couldn’t help but feel my heart beat just a little bit faster. During the climactic final battle, a large portion of time is devoted to a battle between the Mobile Suit Gundam RX-78 and Mechagodzilla. Admittedly, this initial celebration of things I really enjoy was short-lived and the aforementioned cynicism returned but the truth of that moment cannot be ignored: it is almost a guarantee that there will be something for everyone, either a throwaway line or a split-second cameo but something that will genuinely make you shout out and acclaim satisfaction and joy that something that you care about was included. And that might be the real power and charm of this release.

Notable Characters:
Since Bridge Of Spies, Mark Rylance has been something of a recurring feature for Spielberg. Here he plays the socially reclusive and awkward but extremely talented Halliday with a very human grace. Constructing a hybrid of the playful talent of Georges Melies with the timid personality of Garth from Wayne’s World. Yet while the Willy Wonka comparison is one that initially leaps to mind, there is a warped nature to this individual. There is an almost creepy narcissistic arrogance to the contest itself and burying clues by backing up his memory and personality to the Oasis (possibly living on as AI, who knows?) is such a strangely perverse and open method that it seems to contradict the reserved, private nature of the character himself. I mean, Wonka was obsessed with finding a worthy successor, setting up elaborate tests but I don’t remember specific trips down a literal memory lane to uncover his favourite type of chocolate. Again, we are met by that divide: I really like the performance and feel it exceptionally praiseworthy but its very existence is remarkably stupid and contradictory.

Highlighted Quote:
“There are only three things in the world I hate; steampunk, pirates and tabbouleh”

In A Few Words:
“Ready Player One neither powerfully excels nor hideously fails, leaving us with an acceptable blockbuster that isn’t worth the sum of its parts”

Total Score:

3/5

A WRINKLE IN TIME

Be A Warrior

Director
Ava DuVernay

Starring
Storm Reid
Oprah Winfrey
Reese Witherspoon
Mindy Kaling
Chris Pine



After a brief flashback, we are introduced to teenager Meg Murry [Reid]. Her parents, Dr Alexander Murry [Pine] and Dr Kate Murry [Gugu Mbatha-Raw] were working on the concept of travelling across the universe in seconds with the use of frequencies but four years ago Alexander disappeared. Since his disappearance, Meg’s performance in school has slipped and she has become anti-social. Her younger brother Charles Wallace [Deric McCabe] has been conversing with a stranger calling herself Mrs Whatsit [Witherspoon], who, along with a quotation-spouting Mrs Who [Kaling] and the wise Mrs Which [Winfrey], explains the concept of “tessering,” the ability to travel across the universe. Realising her father is alive, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin (a boy from school played by Levi Miller who tags along – more on that later) set off on a journey across the expanses of the unknown to locate her father and combat an entity of pure evil called “The It.”

At its core, A Wrinkle In Time is your classic hero’s journey tale with decent messages of female empowerment and self-worth throughout. Taking the cynicism of genuine teenage anguish and countering it with beauty and fantasy, it feels very reminiscent of The Chronicles Of Narnia, which is unsurprising considering the strong Christian overtones in the source material. This adaptation goes one step further with the messages and presents us with another positive progressive point by utilising a diverse cast; all of whom are exceptionally talented individuals that any feature would be lucky to count among their number; the problem is, most of them falter because this film is, ultimately and very disappointingly, remarkably mediocre.

As mentioned, the cast involved are fantastic, the adult performers can be divided into two sets: the human contingent and the celestial beings. Then we have the child actors, who are frankly breathtakingly good. Storm Reid commands the screen magnificently, holding her own with acting heavyweights while giving us a very real and relatable portrayal of an untethered teenager, Deric McCabe is eerily brilliant as the eerily brilliant Charles Wallace, displaying skills far beyond his years and Levi Miller acts as a commendable support – even if his character’s devotion to Meg feels so very sudden and unearned. Meg’s parents are perfectly fine – two scientists, one grounded, the other a dreamer – but the real sticking point is the Mrs W’s; Whatsit, Who and Which. At times these are really enchanting performances with personality, flavour and majesty, other times they are irritating, unnecessarily cryptic and surprisingly useless. But in fairness, that’s absolutely no different from any other mentor role in YA fiction adaptation; you could even use those words to describe Gandalf so maybe it’s simply a genre trapping that I shouldn’t bemoan too much.

Walking into this feature, alarm bells were sounding almost immediately. After a very promising opening prologue, the film sporadically flusters, trying to establish characters and a version of quantum physics that will effectively power the story. By the time Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin tesser (a term I came to despise by the end of the film) to the planet Uriel, the film had committed some pretty damaging developments to get them there. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that despite the uphill struggle, A Wrinkle In Time manages to overcome its terrible pacing and genuinely improves as it progresses. Which brings me to Ava DuVernay. Often, when transitioning from independent dramatic features to big budget action adventures, a director’s style can be stifled or shifted. This is largely due to time constraints and visual effects restrictions, meaning basic coverage is prioritised. While this isn’t true throughout the entire film, there was a noticeable difference between the Earth-based footage and the otherworldly scenes, that left a detrimental impact, meaning things that should have been overwhelming and jaw dropping fell flat for me. But while it didn’t always succeed, we shouldn’t exactly chastise films for their reach exceeding their grasp. Having said that, films with really important and powerful messages, deserve genuinely fitting housing and it’s always greatly disappointing when they fall short of that task. The delivery of the message does not weaken the message, it merely highlights how it could have been delivered better. Matthew Stogdon. British/Irish.

I really wanted to like this movie but the truth of the matter is that my dissatisfaction with it is contained. The spotlight of scrutiny should allow filmmakers to fail without being recorded as a strike for all female directors or films of that genre. With this movie being released in the US a couple of weeks before the UK, I’ve seen far too much pressure put on this feature, as if the future of diverse, female-led family films hinges on this film’s success or failure. The best comparison I could give is 2015’s Tomorrowland; it too was a Disney live-action feature full of colourful world-building and a stellar cast that turned out to be thoroughly mediocre and wholly forgettable. Despite its failings, nobody gasped and asked if Brad Bird’s career was at risk, nobody wondered if science fiction films would continue to be made and nobody posited that George Clooney would never act again. So to summate, this film is a perfectly fine family feature, the themes are substantial but the execution wavers all too often.


Release Date:
23rd March 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoiler heavy content follows**
The film ends with Meg saving her brother, restoring (if only for a brief period) light to the universe and bringing her father home after four years of absence. The implications of this ending are frankly world changing and present so many questions. Honestly, where do we go from here? Does Alexander Murry present his findings, explaining that we can now travel across the universe if you focus on the frequency of love and let your mind go? I know this film tries to push belief in one’s self but it also pushes a heavy scientific message and you can’t just pull an Interstellar and say “it was love all along.” Even explaining that we can transport our bodies across infinite planes by aligning our neural pathways and releasing a specific chemical that secretes when we feel what we perceive as love would be a bloody stretch. Also, the redemption of the malicious bully irked me. I get what the film is trying to say: everyone is managing their own drama, so try to see the world through their eyes they are suddenly nice to you but because you wave and smile? You can fuck right off with that shit.

Notable Characters:
In addition to the three celestial guides, there is a figure called the Happy Medium, this being an obvious play on words between balance and foresight, played by Zach Galifianakis. More so than the other figures, the Happy Medium is irritatingly human. His function makes sense but like a lot in this film, the execution doesn’t seem to fit.

Highlighted Quote:
“To you, I give the gift of your faults. You’re welcome”

In A Few Words:
“Uneven and messy but carries with it an admirable message which almost excuses these flaws”

Total Score:

3/5