Saturday, February 17, 2018

Film Review - Lady Bird (2018)

Lady Bird marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig and stars Saiorise Ronan as Lady Bird a young teenager going through high school in Sacramento California and wanting to do something more with her life unlike her mother (Laurie Metcalf) who she constantly fights with all the time but while mothers and daughters may fight as a way of showing how much they care about each other down deep Lady Bird stills tries to find her place in the world even if it means flying away from the nest.

I absolutely adored this movie and was very touched by it when I began to think about it some more coming out of my session because I was that age myself back then in 2002-2003 which is where I will begin though my time in that period was very different to Lady Bird’s the same angsts, desires and feelings are there regardless of gender and Ms Gerwig firstly with her script captures all of that wonderfully the way that people talk here through her dialogue it all sounds very real it doesn’t sound the scriptwriter having their characters talk as they would or saying things that feel insincere or false or untrue to how people talk in this life there’s a genuine sincerity to this story here and it is very welcome indeed.

Secondly Ms Gerwig’s direction is wonderful she doesn’t let her scenes run on too long so her performers can improvise or adlib to try and get a cheap laugh or force some humour in there where it isn’t needed she knows exactly how to time the scenes, direct her actors and when to cut to the next scene so the overall film doesn’t run on too long and to think that this is her directorial debut it has the confidence of someone who has been directing for a decade up to this point I very very much admire her work here and I hope she is making movies for a very long time to come because I will see all of them.

Secondly the central performance by Ms Ronan is simply fantastic every scene she’s in has you glued to the screen watching her she’s that good but she has been very good for a long time and hardly anyone has noticed but here you can’t take your eyes off her and it is fitting to see her nominated for an Academy Award for her work here but she isn’t along in doing good work Tim Chalamet from Call Me By Your Name is very good as the James Dean esque Bad Boy that Lady Bird falls for Ms Metcalf is good here, Lucas Hedges is very good as Danny hell its hard to think of a bad performance in this movie everyone here puts their trust in Ms Gerwig and they repay it ten fold.

But there is one last point I want to make and that is this movie along with last year’s criminally underseen The Edge of 17 written and directed by Kelly Craig beautifully capture what it means to be a young person going through adolescence and puberty a huge change in your life that signifies growing up towards being an adult and through that trying to find who you are as a person both inside and out and yet both films do it with a sincerity and a sense of intimacy that is very hard to find with male filmmakers.

There is a tendency in male oriented teen films especially recently to treat that kind of physical and emotional intimacy in a way that can feel very exploitative where the female characters are seen as more sexualized than is normally the case or where the emotional core where a male character might feel something for a young girl at that age but be unsure what to do about it can be easily sacrificed for either a cheap gag or a cynical laugh where that person is made to feel like their soft and weak for feeling that way like “They shouldn’t be seen as being like that, you should just want to fuck them and leave them” and for me it just pulls me out of the film and it distracts from the emotional core that is trying to play out.

That wasn’t the case in Edge of 17 and it isn’t the case here the emotional core is intact and is handled with great care and if there are laughs to be had they are done in a way that makes sense within the context of that particular scene all of that stuff feels real because their directors and actors believe in it 115% and as a result you as an audience member believe in the characters and their emotions and desires and it makes you feel something inside of how it really felt to be that age and feel like how others can handle these huge changes with ease while you yourself can’t seem to do anything right at all and if you do care about someone it hurts when it goes bad and it feels wonderful when it goes right.

And lastly with these 2 films and Wonder Woman also from last year it is great to see female filmmakers challenge the guys at genres they’ve traditionally dominated in and prove that they can do it as well and have the guys love their work as much as women do even if they don’t quite understand how much it means to the female audience to see themselves represented in this way on that big cinema screen but that’s okay because I personally am happy for them as it can be a very powerful feeling.

And so that was my review of Lady Bird a film I loved and I hope people will go and see in cinemas, 4 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther is the newest Marvel Studios production the last one before Avengers Infinity War in April no less and reintroduced His Royal Highness King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War back in 2016 here he becomes the heir to the throne and has to deal with the challenges of maintaining it first by trying to bring Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) to justice and then by having to face a new challenger to his throne in Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) a challenger who has a much more aggressive desire to rule the Kingdom of Wakanda than T’Challa does.

Black Panther is one of the better Marvel Studios productions and represents also a very and much needed shift towards a more serious tone in the MCU a shift that has really been needed with Avengers Age of Ultron in 2015 but only really comes to the forefront here and a big reason for this is due to the director Mr Ryan Coogler who brings a more serious minded feel to the film and while there is plenty of the trademark Marvel Studios humour it doesn’t feel as forced as it has been in some of the previous movies.

And also Mr Boseman is great as King T’Challa I really liked his work in the role in Civil War and he continues that good work here balancing both his life as the Black Panther the protector of his kingdom and his people but also his responsibilities as a King and a Monarch and how he must find his own path rather than follow the one left for him but his ancestors its an arc that is handled with thought and patience and it is done very well here.

Also great is Martin Freeman as Agent Ross who proves to be a very welcome ally to his Highness as well as Letita Wright, Danai Gurira and Winston Duke providing very welcome support as well and Serkis is also good fun as Klaw not not that one but there was literally one point in the movie where he gets away from the Black Panther after a big chase scene and I literally said to myself “I’ll get you next time Panther, Next Time.”

But the show stealer here is Mr Jordan as Killmonger and at long long long long long long last the Marvel Villain problem has been fixed and how fitting it is that Mr Jordan is the one to do it even though I still wish that Josh Brolin’s Thanos got to be the one to do it but that is a wish and here is the reality and he is great in this role and when I came out of the film I thought to myself that this is his redemption for being in that horrible Fant4stic film from 2015.

What makes him a great villain is that he has a clear goal that he wants to achieve and he is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way in order to achieve it and both Coogler and Jordan give him a seriousness in that goal that has been sorely sorely missing from the other MCU villains who have by contrast been treated either as an afterthought to focus more on the heroes or just as a joke something to dismiss to the sidelines and treat as a mere punching bag that walks and talks with no real seriousness or goals to them at all and I can’t tell all of you how relieving it is that Marvel Studios has now fixed their weakest spot and all it took was someone to come in and give the villain some much needed TLC.

However this is not a perfect movie and where it does fall down slightly is in its action sequences and its not because they are terrible in any way its only because the direction and editing of those scenes tends to become a close up shaky cam fest after a while though Mr Coogler is only directing that kind of high energy action and visual effects work for the first time here so he is finding his feet in this realm so hopefully if he gets the opportunity to do a sequel he will have gone through the learning curve and feel more confident in that kind of direction and build on the work he has done here.

And so that was Black Panther a well made and entertaining Marvel Studios movie that fans will love, 3 out of 5.

Film Review - The Shape of Water (2018)

The Shape of Water is directed by Guillermo Del Toro and takes place in Cold War America where a mute cleaning lady named Eliza (Sally Hawkins) comes across a Fish monster (Doug Jones) who is said to be worshipped like a God in South America, the two then spark an unlikely romance much to the chagrin of the Federal Agent (Michael Shannon) who is keen to keep the creature out of Russian hands and study it for his own purposes.

I am of 2 minds on this movie which would make it a mixed reaction first off GDT once again shows with an extraordinary world builder he can be every set in this movie be it the Government facility or the apartments above a cinema where Eliza and her friend played by Richard Jenkins live which is full of things like an old TV to artists drawing boards to even the posters in the locker rooms there is a lot of visual details big and small that makes this movie as well as films like Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim so worthwhile to watch.

And also the performances by Hawkins, Jones and Shannon are all top notch Ms Hawkins first off is really really good even though she has no lines of dialogue at all she only communicates through sign language as if she was dear Jones also does a lot with only his body moments (he also appeared in Pan’s Labyrinth as the Goat type creature) and he too is very good and Mr Shannon is a great foil for the 2 of them the Gaston in this Beauty and the Beast esque story.

Unfortunately outside of them the rest of the film did very little for me and that is sadly down to the screenplay by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor every time the other characters open their mouths and start talking I almost immediately wanted them to shut up as I was loving just the quiet talkless scenes with Jones and Hawkins they said so much with just their body language and gestures that I didn’t need endless scenes of dialogue to be given to me Christopher Nolan did this beautifully with Dunkirk he only let his characters speak when they needed to say something and he let the visuals and the music and the sound and the body gestures of his actors do the rest whereas here Del Toro has too many scenes of people talking and as a result it undermines somewhat the romantic wordless feel of his love story.

And so that was the Shape of Water which has great performances and visuals but its script has too many talking scenes that undercut the wordless lyrical quality of its central love story, 2 and a half out of 5.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Film Review - I, Tonya (2018)

I, Tonya is based off of the true story of Tonya Harding the first woman in America to do a triple axel in ice skating Margot Robbie both stars as Tonya and produced this movie we see her become a skating champion as well as her turbulent marriage to Geoff (Sebastian Stan) as well as the infamous incident involving Nancy Kerrigan that saw her whole life turned upside down.

I was looking forward to this movie as the preview I saw looked good and I like Ms Robbie very much though its more fair to say I’ve loved her since Wolf of Wall Street in 2014 but sadly my first attempt to see this movie was derailed due to print issues with my daily cinema but with all of that out of the way I finally got my chance but could it deliver the goods or just be the big disappointment of 2018?

Well actually I didn’t mind it I wouldn’t say it was a great film or anything but it was one I found fun and entertaining to watch and first off that is due to the great performances in this movie Robbie showcases great work and though she takes some time to get into the groove of the role after a while you find it hard to take your eyes off her Alison Janney is also very good here and its easy to see why she will most likely win the Academy Award as she comes across as a real fire bird here.

And also Sebastian Stan is really really good here and was probably my favourite performance in the whole film as he got to show here that there is more to him than just being the Winter Soldier he can be a great actor with the right role and the right guidance I hope he does more work like this one in the future.

And also the film has a very nice jukebox soundtrack with tracks like Never Break the Chain among others though I don’t really remember them all that much to be honest.

But as good as the soundtrack and performances are the movie’s script has some pretty jarring tonal issues on the one hand its detailing the rough background Tonya went through and the firestorm of publicity that came after the incident with Nancy to once again having the films lead characters climb Mt. Bedsheets and swear Shit, Fuck and Cnut every chance they get and much like in 3 Billboards it felt a little out of place and after a while it began to sour my overall view of the movie and I love swearing in movies but here much like in 3 Billboards it got a bit much.

Now comes the million dollar question that I’m sure some will be thinking because lord knows I’ve thought of it all evening:

Would I have liked the film more if I hadn’t seen it in the way that I have.

Well yes I would have I would’ve said that it was a fun and entertaining movie that told an interesting story that I didn’t know much about as I was only 7/8 years old when it happened along with praising its performances and soundtrack though I still would have had issues with its tone.

And because of that I am going to do separate scores for this movie:

Non Cancelled Session: 3 out of 5.

The Way things Went: 2 and a half out of 5.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Film Review - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018)

Three Billboards is written and directed by Martin McDonague and stars Francis McDormand as Mildred the mother of a young girl who was raped and murdered and is frustrated by the lack of action from the local police chief (Woody Harrelson) so she rents some advertising space on three abandoned billboards coming into town billboards that don’t make people think of English Muffins or Clown College but of a serious case.

Three Billboards is well written and performed but it left me a little cold especially given its recent streak in the awards race but before I delve into my negatives I will delve more into those performances as they are the best thing about this movie McDormand is great as someone who has been through hell and back and doesn’t give a rats ass about anyone or anything anymore she just wants justice to be served and a painful chapter of her family’s life to be closed, Woody Harrelson is very good as the local police chief under a lot of pressure but Sam Rockwell didn’t do much for me as the racist cop his arc felt too familiar to me.

But the biggest problem I have with this movie is its tone on the one hand it is a very serious drama about a mother having to suffer the insufferable and bury their child long before they wanted to and their search for justice and answers goes nowhere so she takes matters into her own hands much to the dismay of the local townspeople but on the other hand it has all of this black humour in it and copious amount of harsh language now I am far from a prude from some fucking language but this movie gives Wolf of Wall Street a run for its money and that film had a lot of both but here the two styles just didn’t mesh for me.

And so that was 3 Billboards and it was okay but its tonal style left me cold, 2 out of 5.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Film Review - The Post (2018)

The Post is directed by Steven Spielberg and is based off of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 despite the Nixon administration’s specific wishes against such a plan having already barred the New York Times from publishing state secrets but the chief editor of the paper (Tom Hanks) and its owner (Meryl Streep) have to contend with lest they also feel the White House’s wrath.

I really enjoyed the Post and I can be very Hot and Cold on Spielberg as a filmmaker he’s made films like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark that I really love but at the same time he can be very sweet and sentimental no doubt coming after his huge success with ET in 1982 which was a very sweet and sentimental film despite its darker moments but here I thought he directed the film well bringing a feel that actually made me think this was cinematic unlike Spotlight in 2016 which I enjoyed but felt it didn’t look cinematic and could have easily enjoyed it as much on Video.

As for the performances well when Streep is good in a movie it feels like the world is a slightly better place as it feels like a cinematic crime when she is either wasted or bad in a movie role as for Hanks well he’s Tom Hanks he’s his usual solid self plus I did enjoy Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara the Defense Secretary and the inspiration (well the name anywau) for Dr. McNamara who administered the ED-209 in Robocop.

But while watching this movie I thought to myself that this felt like a really nice tribute to all of my wonderful friends at ABC South East SA where I just finished up after 3 and a half years doing film reviews there for them and having seen that newsroom environment up close and seeing how hard everyone there works to deliver and create the content both in news stories and on Radio watching the newsroom scenes in this movie reminded me of them in some way so much so that when Hanks has his back to camera and walks away in one scene he literally reminded me of Stuart who runs that office.

And so that was the Post a really enjoyable drama that serves as one of Spielberg’s better movies of recent years, 3 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - All the Money in the World (2018)

All the Money in the World is directed by Ridley Scott and is based off of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III by Italian hitmen hoping to get a large ransom fee from his grandfather John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer infamously replacing Kevin Spacey in the role) but he refuses to pay despite caring for his wellbeing so he hires Mr. Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to help the young boy’s mother (Michelle Williams) go to Italy and find him.

All the Money in the World I had hoped would be a rousing return to form for Mr Scott after his very very underwhelming Alien Covenant last year and while it is better than that film it sadly continues his bad streak from this decade save for the Martian from 2015 though this one does have some nice visuals with plumes of Italian grassland and nice big house interiors and cold and windy England days not to mention nice and bright desert landscapes where you can almost feel the heat of those locations.

But I found this to be a very emotionless thriller and to be honest it felt a little bit like a return of the bad old days of Ridley Scott where he would make these visually beautiful films but they would have no emotional pull to them at all and his best work combines the two very well like Blade Runner for example and the scene with the older Japanese mob boss in Black Rain where he talks about being only 10 when the B-29 came and how it led to people like Sato being created in that film but here there is little to that and I found it hard to care after a while if the boy was ever found.

As for the performances Wahlberg and Williams are fine but Plummer was the glue of the story showing a business like ruthlessness as well as being believably grandfatherly but sadly his scenes feel so last minute that what emotional tension there might have been isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been and this is where I would be interested in seeing Kevin’s scenes even if he looked silly with all the old age makeup as I can’t help but feel that that emotional tension might have been there in those scenes given they were done during the main production so Ridley would have had the time to really finesse the filming of those scenes.

Then again if the studio had actually trusted Ridley Scott and let him cast Christopher Plummer as he originally wanted they wouldn’t have had this mess to begin with and the film would’ve been better all around so that should tell you to trust your directors shouldn’t it.

And so that was All the Money in the World and there is no hurry you see for you have all the Time in the World to see this movie its visually nice but a forgettable thriller with no emotional pull Ridley desperately desperately needs a great screenwriter to make great films, 2 out of 5.