Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Falters a little but still an enjoyable experience
Having breathed new life into the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens back in 2015, a film that was an adrenaline rush of nostalgia combined with fresh new characters, Star Wars was well and truly back, and bigger than ever before. Opting to close the film with such a teasing cliffhanger of a final shot left the world waiting with baited breath for the continuation of the saga and with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the wait is finally over.
As the Resistance prepares to continue the fight against the First Order, Rey (Daisy Ridley), having only just taken her first steps into the Jedi world, trains with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the ways of the Force, leading to secrets of the past being unearthed.
As soon as the goosebump inducing moment of Star Wars filling the screen with John Williams' iconic score blaring out had passed, it was clear that this was going to be a very different Star Wars film from what had come before. The potential for this film was so high however, as it drew on, I couldn't help but feel that it's let down by an inconsistent tone that became very jarring.
Rian Johnson has very much created a Star Wars film from his own vision, writing and directing probably the most unpredictable instalment of the saga yet. I admire Johnson for taking some risks but the film feels so far away from The Force Awakens that they almost don't feel connected at all. After the way we were introduced to new characters and storylines in the previous instalment, this continuation doesn't seem to live up to that standard.
Don't get me wrong, The Last Jedi features some great Star Wars moments and Johnson has taken some of the character arcs in a very interesting direction, which makes the wait for Episode IX even more tantalising. While Star Wars films do tend to feature an element of comedy, The Last Jedi almost overuses the humour, particularly in moments it shouldn't, which leads to the aforementioned inconsistent tone that hampers the film. I didn't really think the Porgs were necessary at all but hey, whatever sells merchandise I guess right?
As I've already said, The Last Jedi has some great crowd-pleasing moments, Johnson understanding what the audience wants to see for the most part, an incredibly tense showdown between a trio of characters in the middle act being one of the film's standout moments. He does opt to include some very bizarre moments mind, one of the weirdest Star Wars moments coming in the first act and a plot device that left me feeling cheated coming in the final act.
As with the majority of the Star Wars films, there are some incredible visual effects on show in The Last Jedi, the dogfights in space being utterly exhilarating yet again while watching Rey and Kylo Ren wield their lightsabers in battle is made even better by the fight choreography that's executed to perfection. The Last Jedi also boasts yet another John Williams score that accompanies the action and characters tremendously well.
Coming to the performances, The Last Jedi features an ensemble of performers who make the characters such a major success, a common trait throughout the Star Wars saga. The trio that really stood out for me though were Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Ridley and Driver have taken to being in such a major and important franchise like ducks to water, Ridley in particular, and the two of them share some memorable scenes together in The Last Jedi. Seeing Mark Hamill in the role of Luke Skywalker again was such a joy and he gives it his all here, the pain and anguish of his failures in the past coming to the fore through Hamill's performance. While I don't agree with everything Johnson did with these characters, I thought all three gave memorable performances.
Carrie Fisher gets a much more prominent role in The Last Jedi, the regal presence of Leia being a most welcome one. I didn't really take to Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico mainly because her character just feels too forced into the narrative. John Boyega, who was such a major player in The Force Awakens feels as if he's sidelined here, as does Oscar Isaac, again. It's disappointing to see these two play in the shadows so much.
A little muddled as an entry into the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi is certainly an enjoyable cinematic experience, it just didn't hit the heights already reached in the saga previously. A number of questions remain unanswered so J. J. Abrams has a lot of work in tying up loose ends to close the trilogy with Episode IX. Even though I walked out of The Last Jedi a little disappointed, I cannot wait for the final instalment.
Yet another outstanding performance from Jake Gyllenhaal
The Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 has spawned two very different films within a year in Peter Berg's Patriots Day and David Gordon Green's Stronger. The former is a film about the manhunt for the two suspects while the latter is a film that focuses on one of the survivors of the attack however, both zone in on the Boston Strong movement that grew as a result of the attack in a similarly deep and affecting manner.
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a man whose heart is in the right place but he just can't always be relied upon. When he goes to support his ex-girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany), at the Boston Marathon finish line, he is caught up in the blast, suffering life-changing injuries as a result. Stronger is Jeff Bauman's inspirational true story of how he survived and became a symbol of hope for the city of Boston.
The story behind Jeff Bauman's survival of and recovery from the Boston Marathon bombing is certainly inspirational however, it's much more complex than I ever thought it would be. I can't begin to understand what it must be like to try and get on with your life after such a monumental injury, Bauman's strength brought to the fore in David Gordon Green's film.
It's the imperfections of Bauman's character that makes Stronger such an engrossing experience though. A man surrounded by loved ones but often refusing help and behaving erratically towards them gives Stronger such a fascinating focal point, making for uneasy but necessary viewing.
The film is led by yet another outstanding performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, who again showcases his immense talents with such a different performance to what he's done before. It's a raw performance full of emotion and power, becoming one of Gyllenhaal's best in the process. Tatiana Maslany delivers a great supporting performance as Erin, the woman who served as Bauman's strong backbone during his time of anguish, as does Miranda Richardson as Bauman's alcoholic mother. There's no denying though that this film belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal.
Stronger is the telling of an inspirational true story that becomes so much more thanks to the brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal performance at its disposal. The decision to not sugar coat the story is one that only benefits the film and the impact it will have on the audience.
A thoroughly entertaining evolution
Jumanji is a film I grew up with so it'll always hold a place in my heart. It's by no means the greatest film ever made but it is a film I never thought would need a sequel, the very idea being a product of the lazy Hollywood cycle. To do a sequel to Jumanji, you have to be brave enough to evolve the franchise and not just rehash it all, which is exactly what they did with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
When four teenagers get sucked into the video game Jumanji, they become their chosen avatars; Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Together they must play along and finish the game to stand any chance of getting back home.
The evolution of Jumanji from board game to video game is one of the sensible ways that the creative team bring us a sequel two decades after the original was released. It's the only way the kids of today would ever play it so to see the game itself change to attract new players makes sense. The idea of a sequel after all this time is one that left me skeptical however, thanks to a changed concept of the story taking place inside the game rather than the game coming to the real world, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle quickly became a sequel to become interested in.
The changed concept is one that leads to a good old-fashioned adventure romp full of action and plenty of fun for the entire family. The idea of the kids being sucked into the game and being forced to play it out as characters totally opposite to their everyday selves makes for an amusing watch, the raucous laughter from the audience being a telling sign.
No one is having more fun here than the four leads of the film mind. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan all make Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle such great entertainment; Johnson milking it while playing a nerd trapped inside the body fit for an action movie star, Hart revelling in the big guy trapped in a small guy's body role, Black stealing the film as the Instagram obsessed girl playing as an overweight professor, a role he seems so suited for, and Gillan bringing the fierceness when she needs to as Ruby Roundhouse a.k.a. the "Killer of Men" which, as you've guessed, is so far away from her character back in the real world. You get a sense that working on this set would have been so much fun.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle works as a continuation of the Jumanji franchise, even if there are people out there who are adamant it won't. It's the perfect kind of film to take the family along to and I can guarantee fun will be had all round. It was much better than I was expecting and I'm ready to call it the biggest surprise of the year.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
An ode to disaster
The level of cult status that Tommy Wiseau's The Room has acquired over the years is one of those phenomenons I'd find hard to explain, having only seen it in full recently prior to the release of The Disaster Artist. It's literally one of the worst films I've ever seen but it's surrounded by this bizarre aura that makes it one of the most entertaining films you could ever watch, simply because of how bad it actually is.
Based on the book of the same name, The Disaster Artist follows the friendship of the eccentric Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), both aspiring actors who embark on a personal journey together to make a film themselves. What they think could be their ticket to stardom ends up as one of the most notoriously bad films of all time in The Room.
The idea of making a film about the making of one of the worst films going as a comedy driven biopic is a stroke of genius, particularly considering the talent involved. James Franco delivers riotous comedy in spades but this also works very well as a drama exploring the friendship between Wiseau and Sestero. I wasn't expecting the film to spend so much time outside of shooting The Room however, I'm glad it did as it gives an insight into their fascinatingly different characters and how they viewed success.
The Disaster Artist is undoubtedly at its strongest when we see them shooting The Room, some of the scenes leaving me crying with laughter. The Room is full of unintentionally funny moments but watching James Franco try to deliver Wiseau's lines in his debut in front of the camera is a moment that will forever be one of the funniest in a film for me. The film's premiere is an incredibly touching moment, explaining why the film has become such a cult classic.
Coming to the performances, The Disaster Artist features two great performances from James and Dave Franco, both playing off each other so well. James Franco literally becomes Wiseau it's actually quite scary at times, nailing the voice and mannerisms, while Dave captures the innocence of Sestero, a man led astray by the eccentric Wiseau, perfectly. There's fine support from the likes of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron too, while a whole host of cameos ensures the audience is kept entertained.
The Disaster Artist is one of my favourite films of the year and having now seen both this and The Room, I'd happily go and watch a double feature at the Prince Charles Cinema as I'd imagine there'd be such a wild atmosphere. Let's get Tommy Wiseau to the Academy Awards!!
Molly's Game (2017)
Jessica Chastain brings the fire
Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with Molly's Game, a film he also wrote, and if you've ever seen a film written by Sorkin you'll know that you're in for a film where the dialogue comes at you like bullets being sprayed from a machine gun. We've seen Sorkin write films about Facebook, baseball and Apple before but Molly's Game see Sorkin explore the world of poker to bring us the true story of Molly Bloom.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was known for running the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game, an entrepreneurial path chosen after injury cut her dream of skiing for the American Winter Olympics team short. It's a path that led to interactions with the Russian mafia and Bloom becoming a target for the FBI, ultimately leading to her attempting to clear her name.
Right from the film's opening sequence, you know you're in for another special screenplay from Aaron Sorkin as Jessica Chastain narrates over the point where Molly Bloom had to give up her skiing career. It's fast-paced and full of a lot of nonsense however, it's the true mark of Sorkin's quality that he can fill it with so much nonsense but still have the audience feeding from the palm of his hand.
Sorkin's dialogue usually brings out the best in his leads and in Jessica Chastain, Sorkin really does have one of the best leading his film. Chastain has previously proved that she is a force to be reckoned with but this is her finest hour for me, driving Molly's Game forward with such ferocity and composure. It's not only Chastain who gets to shine mind, Idris Elba is as good as he's been in a long time as Molly's defence lawyer, Charlie Jaffey, the scenes the pair share being noticeable high points of the film. There's a host of supporting characters who all add different dimensions to the narrative, Kevin Costner as the authoritative father figure, Brian d'Arcy James as the totally inept poker player Bad Brad and Chris O'Dowd as Douglas Downey, the man who introduced Molly to the mob.
For a film that's so dialogue heavy, Molly's Game has a hefty runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours however, thanks to the quickness of the screenplay and the quality of the performances, it's a film that absolutely flies by. Expect this to be a big player in the writing department come awards season.
Daddy's Home 2 (2017)
Easily better than the first
Daddy's Home was a bit of a damp squib, particularly after Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg shared such good chemistry in The Other Guys a few years before. That being said, the door was always left open for a sequel, and with the likes of John Lithgow, Mel Gibson and John Cena joining the cast, I was definitely expecting Daddy's Home 2 to be a better comedy.
Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) have put their differences aside however, their kids are fed up with the fact they spend Christmas between two homes, a result of having a father and stepfather. Problems mount when both their fathers (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson) invite themselves to spend the Christmas holiday with the family.
Comedy sequels don't usually outdo their predecessor however, that is most definitely the case with Daddy's Home 2, the main reason being the additions to the cast who make this a much more enjoyable experience. It's by no means a great comedy but it did make me laugh a lot more than the previous film.
John Lithgow and Mel Gibson are two most welcome additions to the cast, giving off the complete opposite vibe from one another and the moments they share with their screen sons key to the film being more successful. Thankfully the chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg has improved too, Ferrell in particular not being as irritating as before. John Cena, who's shown signs of potential comedy chops before, is unfortunately wasted as the rival to Dusty, which is disappointing as it would have been great to see Wahlberg and Cena go head-to-head properly.
Some of the jokes do fail to land, an ill-judged running joke of Gibson's grandfather being obsessed with getting his grandchildren to possess a firearm for hunting being the one that missed the mark by a mile. There were some moments that had me laughing hard though, which always tends to happen when Ferrell is involved however, if you're not a fan of awkward family bonding with awful singing, this may not be the film for you. I quite liked it but it could be a major turn-off for some viewers.
All in all, Daddy's Home 2 is a harmless comedy that offers plenty of fun and a dynamic between Ferrell, Wahlberg, Lithgow and Gibson that is really hard to not find amusing. There's also a great cameo towards the end for anyone who's into that sort of thing.
Justice League (2017)
Major step backwards after Wonder Woman
Before Justice League, the DCEU took a number of films to finally find its feet with Wonder Woman, and when it finally did, there was hope that the future was bright for this cinematic universe. With Justice League, I can't help but feel they've taken a huge step backwards in terms of quality because this film is an utter mess.
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Earth is seen as a defenceless and fearful target for Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). With an attack imminent and a restored faith in humanity, Batman (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of other, more powerful beings; Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), to fight to save the world.
Justice League very much feels like a film made by two directors with differing visions for the final product. Extensive reshoots and additional scenes were written and directed by Joss Whedon after Zack Snyder's departure from the project due to personal reasons. You can really tell which scenes have been added late on, making for a film that ultimately shifts away from the tone established by Snyder in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. I don't want to bring up studio interference again when talking about a superhero film but this really does stink of it unfortunately.
This should feel like an event film but it just doesn't at all, which is really disappointing for me. The DCEU have blatantly rushed into Justice League and with a mere two hour runtime, they've crammed way too much into the plot. I get trying to streamline the film however, this is a case where the extra minutes are needed to allow the film to breathe.
It's an unusual beast though this film as it feels like way too much going on in such a short space of time but it does certainly have it's entertaining moments, mainly when the team are together. There's a few decent action sequences, the finale sadly being just an overblown mess of CGI, and some of the characters really get their chance to shine but it's nowhere near as epic as it probably should and could have been.
Coming to the performances, Justice League features a dynamic between the team that mostly works but also feels incredibly forced at times. The best thing about the film is easily Ezra Miller's performance as Barry Allen/Flash, Miller nailing the giddiness and unheroic nervousness perfectly, and he steals the whole film from all the other heroes. Look out for a hilarious first meeting between Flash and Superman which had the audience in stitches.
Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot don't perform as well as they have in these roles before, which I felt might be down to the jarring shift in tone that doesn't serve them so well. Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher are served better by the film's tone however, Fisher falls into the background even when it feels like they're really trying to give him something to do.
I had such high hopes for Superman in Justice League, particularly the moment of his return, but I can't help but feel let down by the result. Henry Cavill certainly deserves better than this, his lines being so awful and the CGI cover-up of his moustache being one of the most distracting things I've ever seen in a film.
Unfortunately, weak villains are a bit too common in superhero films these days and Steppenwolf, played by Ciaran Hinds, is arguably one of the worst of all time. Not only a giant CGI atrocity, Steppenwolf doesn't really feel like much of a threat at all, which is bizarre seeing as he's supposed to challenge the team.
Justice League is thankfully better than Suicide Squad however, when you stand it up against something like Wonder Woman, it goes down like a lead balloon. It's almost as if there's a lack of respect from the studio towards one of the great superhero teams of comic-book history.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
An utter blast
Both missing in action since the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor and Hulk could be seen as the forgotten children of the MCU, and when they're two of the most popular characters with fans, that seems quite criminal to me. The two haven't really been done justice in their solo films yet, even though I'm a big fan of Thor, but with Taika Waititi on board to direct Thor: Ragnarok, my expectations were sky high.
Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is pitted against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a former ally, in a gladiatorial duel to determine whether he can travel back to Asgard and put a stop to Hela (Cate Blanchett) and her apocalyptic tendencies toward Asgardian civilisation.
It's testament to Marvel Studios that, even with Thor: Ragnarok being the seventeenth film of the MCU, they can still produce work as unique and exhilarating as they have here. Taika Waititi has worked wonders to inject the Thor solo films with such vibrancy of colours and characters, leading to Thor: Ragnarok becoming one of my favourite entries into the MCU so far.
With Waititi involved, I was expecting this film to be funny however, I was nowhere near prepared for just how funny it ended up being. Seriously guys, there are plenty of moments that caused raucous laughter from the audience, Thor and Hulk giving the Guardians of the Galaxy a run for their money as the funniest MCU heroes. It's the screenplay from Eric Pearson that should take most of the credit, along with some of the brilliant new characters we're introduced to, Korg in particular played by Waititi himself being one of the MCU's most welcome additions.
The action, of which there is plenty, is driven by the retro vibes of Mark Mothersbaugh's score and even Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, which kicks the finale into overdrive particularly well. Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography combines seamlessly with the expectedly stunning visual effects to create an almost psychedelic sense to the action sequences.
Coming to the performances, Thor: Ragnarok features a strong ensemble cast, pretty much all of them showing some fine comedy instincts at one point in the film. Chris Hemsworth leads the film with such a confident performance, matching both the cockiness and naivety of his character to great effect. Much like people say Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, I just can't imagine anyone else playing Thor.
The supporting performances make this such a special film, Mark Ruffalo doing some great work as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, keeping his place as one of the best actors within the MCU. Tom Hiddleston returns to the role of Loki and he's expectedly wicked, making it easy to see why he's such a favourite with the fans, while MCU newcomer Tessa Thompson shows plenty of potential to become a future fan favourite with a performance full of grit and fire as Valkyrie. If you're a fan of Jeff Goldblum then I'd just like to say you won't be disappointed with his performance as Grandmaster, a character just as eccentric as Goldblum himself.
I really liked Cate Blanchett as Hela, the villainess of the piece. While she may succumb to the weak villain syndrome that plagues superhero films these days, I felt that she suited the tone they were aiming for with Thor: Ragnarok. If the heroes can have some fun, why can't the villains have some as well?
Thor: Ragnarok finally gives Thor the solo film he deserves as one of the original Avengers, full of laughs and plenty of heart, the road to Avengers: Infinity War is nearly complete. I, for one, cannot wait.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Summer loving'... had me a blast
Luca Guadagnino made quite an impression on me as a filmmaker with A Bigger Splash, a film that combined an engaging narrative with some fantastic performances. With his latest film, Call Me by Your Name, Guadagnino certainly has the potential to repeat the trick and deliver more of the same.
When Oliver (Armie Hammer), a graduate student, arrives to stay with the family of his professor in northern Italy, he meets Elio (Timothée Chalamet), his professor's son. What follows is a summer full of music, food and romance that will forever change their lives.
Rather impressively, Luca Guadagnino follows A Bigger Splash with just as an engaging film however, he shows a much softer hand when dealing with the sensual nature of a film such as Call Me by Your Name. It truly is a beautiful piece of cinema, Guadagnino's direction of the intimate coming-of-age narrative being a real triumph.
There's some genuinely fantastic dialogue included in the screenplay written by Guadagnino, James Ivory and Walter Fasano. The subtlety of the comedy is great but it's the poignancy of the words when relationships come into play that will stay with the audience, particularly a moment shared between Elio and his father towards the end of the film. It's silently powerful stuff.
Coming to the performances, Call Me by Your Name features two leads in Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer who share such a natural and fitting chemistry. It felt much like that shared between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol, effortless and becoming much more impactful as a result. Chalamet in particular has a very bright future ahead of himself. There's also a fine performance from Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio's father to look out for, balancing the comedy and emotion expertly.
I expect people to make comparisons between Call Me by Your Name and Moonlight given the nature of their subject matter however, I'd rather not see people try and play them off against one another because they both deserve such high praise. Being in the company of such a film is a major achievement for a film like Call Me by Your Name.
The Snowman (2017)
Started so promisingly too
The snowy white landscapes of Oslo seemed like the perfect setting for chilling crime thriller The Snowman, a film based on Jo Nesbø's novel of the same name. The trailers promised so much and with a lead actor like Michael Fassbender on board, it had the potential to be one of the most intense films of the year.
When Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is called to investigate a string of murders where the killer leaves snowmen as a calling card, he must delve into past cases to make a connection before the killer strikes again.
For a crime thriller to work, it must grip the audience right through to the end. The first half of The Snowman had my full attention, unsure of where the story was going to go or what would be revealed however, as the film drew on and revelations were made, it utterly lost me due to how lazy it became. They storytelling that felt so strong in the first half was totally absent in the second, none of the revelations as impactful as they should have been and the ending coming so abruptly. I hate the fact the film didn't seem to wrap up this story properly before closing with such a sequel baiting final scene.
As with Tomas Alfredson's previous films, the pacing is pretty slow however, unlike Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the consistence in quality isn't maintained throughout. Half an hour before the end I was ready for it to finish. Such a shame because this had such potential to be such a creepy thriller, instead the snowmen left as calling cards coming across as more comical than anything.
Coming to the performances, The Snowman isn't exactly let down at all. It's just they feel a little uninspired considering some of the actors working in the film. Michael Fassbender is one of the best actors working today but even if he looks as if he's given up on the film towards the end. I'm still waiting for a Fassbender performance as good as Steve Jobs, and that was two years ago now. While I don't think anyone gave a bad performance, the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones and J. K. Simmons were left a little too underused for my liking.
A film of two halves for me, starting so promisingly before fizzling out to such an unsatisfying finale, The Snowman is rather annoyingly one of the biggest disappointments of the year.