1917

Set during WWI, two young British soldiers Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given an impossible mission, to deliver a message to call off a planned attack that would see 1,600 men walk straight into a trap. 1917 follows these two soldiers on their deadly mission across enemy territory. You’re going to feel every minute of this film because it’s a outstanding story and a masterclass in film making.

MacKay and Chapman quickly meld into their characters, you can no longer see the acting and you’re thrown headfirst into this incredibly tense film. Throughout 1917 you could hear a pin drop it was that quiet, and my local cinema generally tends to sound something like a zoo at the best of times so for it to be that quiet is almost unheard of. With a nearly sold out screen, every single person was fully immersed in this spectacular War film. Expertly directed by Sam Mendes and complimented by a haunting soundtrack by Thomas Newman. The score is beautiful and it looks like it will be a very close competition between Newman and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Joker soundtrack.

I should have known the cinematographer was Roger Deakins and his decision to film 1917 as a series of long takes is extremely bold and ambitious. At nearly two hours it plays out like one continuous shot, it’s truly stunning and I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into that. The sweeping camera work is skilfully done and it’s near impossible to see the edits. All the behind the scenes work should pay off because I believe 1917 is going to clean up at the Oscars and rightly so. If you’ve made it this far without seeing the trailer then keep it that way because the trailer does this film no justice. It honestly gave me the impression that this was a generic Oscar bait war movie. This far from the case, 1917 is an original take on a war film and I know it’s early in the year to say this but we’ve already seen one of the best films of the year. A film that needs to be seen on the big screen, so what are you waiting for, get to a cinema and see 1917. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

Bombshell

A highly topical film with a stand out cast, the three central performances by Theron, Kidman and Robbie are reason enough to see Bombshell.

Bombshell is heavily based on a real scandal against Fox News head Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network. It follows three women working at Fox News, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). As with all “based on true events” movies one has to be aware that certain creative liberties will always be at play. Yes the main plot details will hopefully be accurate but everything around that is up for debate. It’s best not to dwell on that as it may hinder your enjoyment of the film itself. In one way you will be entertained watching Bombshell with its snappy dialogue, hoping to get a few laughs from you. But keep in the mind the subject matter. It flips from one end of the spectrum to the other very quickly and there are a couple of scenes that are shocking and very uncomfortable to watch. John Lithgow is absolutely vile as Roger Ailes. I do mean that as a compliment, his performance is so convincing it will make your skin crawl. Lithgow and Theron’s transformation into their characters is very impressive and credit has to be given to the prosthetic makeup designer, Kazu Hiro. There are a lot of good contenders among the Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar nominees this year but Bombshell deserves to win.

Bombshell does highlight the toxic environment of the news network and you’ll feel two very strong emotions when watching it. Empathy towards the women, which is only enhanced by the superb acting from the cast and anger towards the harmful work environment and severe lack of repercussions to these high up sexual predators abusing their positions of power. Although I can’t fault the acting from anyone I’m not sure Bombshell is making the grand statement it thinks it’s making. It doesn’t shy away from the allegations against Ailes but other than that it doesn’t really deal with the issues it has raised. Has anything really changed? I didn’t have a high opinion of Fox News and Bombshell doesn’t do a whole lot to change that. It also feels like it’s trying to empower women yet it doesn’t exactly achieve that either. It’s an appropriate film and suitable for today’s climate, I only wish it had tried to be less like a comedy and delve deeper into the subject matter. Regardless it’s still worth your time and recommended.

★★★★☆

Jojo Rabbit

Shocking, hilarious and heartwarming

It honestly doesn’t get any quirkier than this and with director Taika Waititi at the helm I’d expect nothing less. Jojo Rabbit is one hell of an emotional roller-coaster and tonally a bit all over the place which will leave most of you an emotional wreck by the time the credits roll.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is dead set on becoming a member of the Hitler Youth during the last years of WWII. When he finds a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home he becomes caught between his moral conscience and his blind nationalism. You’ll be laughing one minute and nearly in tears the next. Jojo Rabbit has more than a few tear-jerking moments, yet the mood will quickly change any time Taika Waititi appears on screen as Adolf Hitler. Yes you read that right, Waititi portrays Jojo’s imaginary friend Hitler. I don’t believe any other person could have gotten away with that and on paper it sounds very strange but trust me on this, it works. It just about finds the balance between political satire and a moving story. Yes it’s a little outrageous at times but the acting from the entire cast is absolutely exceptional. Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother and Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf give a standout performance, but it’s Roman Griffin Davis who really shines through. A very impressive debut, I don’t know where they found him but I’m sure he has a very successful career ahead of him. I loved JoJo Rabbit, it’s shocking, funny and well worth the ticket price. A black comedy that will warm your heart and highly recommended.

★★★★☆

Uncut Gems

Unquestionably the best Adam Sandler performance you’ll ever see

Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen because I’m about to give an Adam Sandler film a positive review. I don’t believe this has ever happened before and it may never happen again but here it is, an historic moment indeed. If you haven’t heard of Uncut Gems until now, where have you been hiding? It’s an exhilarating thrill ride you won’t want to miss.

The Safdie brothers are two wonderful directors and writers who know what it takes to make a great crime movie. Uncut Gems is perhaps the most stress inducing film you’ll see in years with a role so clearly written for Adam Sandler and he’s absolutely perfect for the part. A charismatic New York City jeweler, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) with a serious gambling addiction is in the process of making a series of incredibly high-stakes bets that could lead to the win of a lifetime. Uncut Gems took a little while to win me over, it starts frantically with so many characters all talking over each other, I was struggling to hear anything that was happening. Yet, once the set up is out of the way and the plot gets going it just doesn’t stop. Good Time is one of those crime movies where one thing going horribly wrong and is quickly following by a whole stream of equally horrible events where absolutely everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Uncut Gems follows a similar formula only it’s even more frantic and will send your stress levels soaring. Sandler’s character is so infuriating and unlikable and to see him get himself into constant situations with everything becoming worse and worse is insanely frustrating. Immersive cinema at its best, it grips you and doesn’t let go until it’s over. A tense comedy crime thriller you can see in cinemas on limited release or for all you Netflix addicts it’s out at the end of the month. Recommended.

★★★★☆

Top Ten Best Movies of 2019

It’s that time of year again, to reflect on just some of my favourite films of 2019. I tried to see as many films as possible this year but if there is something I missed I’m not throwing them shade I just didn’t get the chance to see them. Some honourable mentions include Us, Shazam, Toy Story 4 and Can You Ever Forgive Me?

10. Ad Astra

First on the list is Ad Astra, Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is sent on a mission to the outer edges of the solar system to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones) who went missing on a mission 30 years ago. Gives us something a little different than your typical “let’s explore space” movie with scenes full of tension. I wasn’t always sure what was going to happen next and I was fully engaged with the story. As with a lot of space movies it’s very pretty to look at with a beautiful soundtrack to go with it. Music is essential for any film but space movies particularly needs a memorable score to compliment it. Ad Astra is a lot more emotional than I ever expected it to be and you may leave the cinema feeling sadder than when you went in.

9. Avengers: Endgame

Next in at number 9 is a truly spectacular cinematic achievement with a very satisfying ending and a real sense of closure, Avengers: Endgame. I still remember seeing the first Iron Man movie in the cinema as a teenager and I never would have thought it would bring us here. All the previous Marvel films have led up to this moment and no time is wasted diving straight in. What drives Endgame is the characters we’ve come to know and love over this long journey. I loved Endgame, my heart was racing and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll cheer along with the film. There’s nothing better than being in a packed cinema screen with die-hard fans of the franchise.

8. The Irishman

Directed by Martin Scorsese and filled to the brim with a standout cast. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel, the list goes on. Spanning decades, The Irishman is told from the point of view of mobster/hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro). I really loved this film and I urge anyone who has yet to see The Irishman to make the time to see it. Fast-paced, witty with a bit of dark humour thrown into the mix. It feels authentic, it’s unexpectedly emotional and will make you laugh. The acting from everyone is exceptional but particularly Joe Pesci’s performance stole the show for me. Regarding the lengthy running time, I did feel it was a little too long. For the most part I was engaged but in the last act of the film it was starting to feel dragged out. Almost like Scorsese didn’t want it to end, but can we blame him? He’s given us the best performances from De Niro, Pacino and Pesci in years. There was enough material here that this could have easily been a mini-series.

7. The Mustang

The Mustang is a film that may not have been on everyone’s radar but I absolutely loved it and it deserved a place on the list. Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, The Mustang tells the story of Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts). A violent criminal serving his sentence in prison is given the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation therapy program involving training wild mustangs. A hugely emotional and touching story, not revealing all the plot details to you right away as the story unfolds. With a spectacular performance from Matthias, he brings this intense performance to life. Often without using dialogue but his overall onscreen presence. A very well told and stripped back story with an absolutely beautiful soundtrack by Jed Kurzel. I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Mustang but it certainly exceeded expectations.

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Top Ten Worst Movies of 2019

Alright here’s a list of my least favourite movies of the year. I just about managed to get to ten this year so either 2019 has been a great year for films or I didn’t get the same use out of my unlimited cinema card compared to previous years. Just don’t expect to see Cats on this list as I avoided that monstrosity like the plague and by all accounts that may have been a wise choice.

10. Glass

I’m sure none of you actually wrote to M. Night Shyamalan requesting a sequel to Split/Unbreakable but if films aren’t part of some franchise anymore will anyone even bother seeing them? The third film in the M. Night Universe, well that is until he decides The Sixth Sense fits into this mess somehow. M. Night is no fool, most of his films (not you Lady in the Water) make a huge amount of money no matter what you think of them. In today’s climate superhero movies and horrors are nearly always a sure thing when it comes to financial success so why not combine the genres and see what you get? The result we’ve gotten is Glass. A film somewhere in the area of better than The Happening but not as good as Split. Glass certainly deserves a place on this list as the only reason anyone should subject themselves to this is for James McAvoy, his performance alone carries the entire movie.

9. Annabelle Comes Home

I don’t know how many Conjuring spin off movies we’re going to get before it finally stops because despite a repertoire of more bad than good horrors, The Conjuring have managed to turn 7 movies into a very successful franchise and I don’t see them stopping any time soon. And sure you’ve got the bad (looking at you Annabelle: Creation) and the really bad (looking at you Valak) but The Conjuring 1 & 2 are entertaining popcorn movies you can sit back, switch off and enjoy. Annabelle Comes Home is not that and if you’ve made it this far without seeing it then do yourself a favour and keep it that way.

8. Aladdin

The lovable street rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finds a magic lamp containing a Genie (only instead of Robin Williams we have Will Smith) and cue wishes, songs and a magic carpet. Also featuring Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who not only has more lines but her own song too yey! And Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who I’m sorry is so bland he manages to be upstaged by a CGI carpet. That’s right the Disney remake parade is still going strong and the sooner it stops the better. Aladdin 2019 is a painful, cringe inducing auto-tuned mess and a dismal attempt to recreate something magical.

7. Dumbo

You’ve seen a horse fly, you’ve seen a dragon fly, you may even have seen a house fly, but you ain’t ever seen an elephant fly. Well you have if you’ve seen the 1941 animated version of Dumbo, but these days Disney insists on remaking all their old classics because they’re all out of ideas, they want to bring in a new generation of fans. In 2019 you can see Dumbo fly all over again in a live adaptation remake. A truly magical moment on the big screen again only with better effects but doesn’t exactly tug at the heart strings like the original 1941 classic. It does not hold up to the original animation, sorry Tim Burton I’m a huge fan and all but this is nowhere near the standard it should have been.

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Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Puts a nice end to the Skywalker story and I can finally say I’m done with Star Wars now

The final chapter of the Skywalker saga, the Resistance facing the First Order once more in an epic battle of good versus evil. As always this is a spoiler free review, rest assured there are no plot details but if you are a die-hard Star Wars fan what are you doing reading this? Go see the film.

The Rise of Skywalker is well and truly for the fans, and if you can criticise it for at least one thing it might actually be paying too much fan service. But do I care? No, I was too busy enjoying myself. It’s not perfect but it’s entertaining, emotional and has some show stealing performances. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver together carried The Rise of Skywalker. I loved absolutely everything about them, the focus is very much on them and this films gives the opportunity to show us just what they’re capable of as Rey and Kylo Ren. You also have everything else expected with a Star Wars movie, spectacular visual effects and the iconic John Williams soundtrack. It ties up as many loose ends as it can, it has a real sense of closure and will hit you with a lot of nostalgia.

Perhaps Abrams was being a little overly ambitious with The Rise of Skywalker, the pacing for much of this film wasn’t great if I’m honest. A lot of scenes seemed to be cut short and I found myself wanting a lot more. There is a lot jam-packed into it and certain scenes suffer as a result. This also creates a problem with underused characters along with a huge amount of cameos. I’m not saying I wasn’t on board with this but again it all felt like a desperate attempt to get back on good terms with the angry fans. By giving certain characters little to no screen time but stuffing in an unnecessary amount of cameos felt cheap and honestly wasn’t needed. The Force Awakens gave us some much needed new blood to the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi expanded on this and was a lot more ambitious. I was a little disappointed to see The Rise of Skywalker abandon this but I’ll just have to get over it. Say what you want about The Last Jedi but it took a lot more risks compared to The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker. They both feel very safe and by the book but in it’s defense it kept me entertained. I personally love all three movies in this new trilogy but some people feel completely differently. And then there are some mad bastards who’ll defend the dreaded prequels, we all have a preference and by trying too hard to please everyone you may end up pleasing no one. Not everyone is loving it but the only way you’ll know for sure is if you see it for yourself.

After the controversial response to Rian Johnson’s take on Star Wars it really feels like J.J Abrams was doing some damage control and trying to win over all those pissed off fans and what is the result? More pissed off fans, no matter what, you can’t please everyone and if you don’t like The Rise of Skywalker, fine. Good for you for having an opinion but don’t attack someone else for liking it. I loved it and many others feel the same. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a Star Wars film because aside from this new trilogy I haven’t enjoyed a Star Wars film since the original movies so yes I enjoyed every minute of The Rise of Skywalker, it puts a nice definitive ending to the story and I’ll no doubt see it again. Highly recommended for all the Star Wars fans.

★★★★☆

Knives Out

Watching Knives Out is like hopping straight into a real-life game of Cluedo

Director Rian Johnson has given us an early Christmas present with this absolute gem of a film. Knives Out is the film that just keeps on giving. I was sold after the first few minutes and although the whodunnit is not a genre I’m overly familiar with, (Agatha Christie is not really my thing) Knives Out is a brilliantly told mystery thriller with an exceptional cast. Appealing to all and with a script so witty you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

The acclaimed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his home just after his 85th birthday. Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been mysteriously hired to investigate what appears to be a closed case. Yet Thrombey’s obviously dysfunctional family each appear to have their own motive for murder (if indeed it is a murder) and it’s up to Detective Blanc to determine whether foul play is involved and to uncover the truth.

The plot is packed full of witty one liners and enough twists and turns to keep you fully invested in the story. Knives Out is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year, and in no way takes itself too seriously. In fact it drifts into an almost pantomime type performance at times, particularly Craig’s over the top Detective Blanc but that only adds to the charm. Daniel Craig is a terrific actor and it’s always nice to see him in a non-James Bond movie because he’s having so much fun with this and it really shows. The entire cast is having a great time with this film and it shines through. An hilarious whodunnit that you should definitely take the time to see. It leaves you wanting more and if we get the chance to see another mystery thriller with Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig then I’m all for it. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

21 Bridges

21 Bridges might feel a little like a video game and although generic with a predictable plot it’s entertaining in the moment. You won’t regret watching it but at the same time it’s probably not going to leave a lasting impression either.

Detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a no-nonsense revenge seeking kinda cop who grumbles his way through the entire film set over the course of one night. A robbery gone wrong leads to a city wide manhunt where Andre makes the bold decision to close all 21 bridges into Manhattan until the two criminals are caught. With a time limit of 5.00am to catch the bad guys before the bridges are reopened. Racing against the clock Andre teams up with Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) but begins to get the unsettling feeling that not all is what it seems. Sure the plot basically writes itself yet the result is the kinda movie you can lose yourself in for a little under two hours.

An entertaining popcorn flick for all you cinema goers looking for your weekly action movie. Delivers exactly what you expect, nothing more, nothing less and recommended if you’ve nothing better to do.

★★★☆☆

Le Mans ’66

Le Mans ’66 / Ford v Ferrari, whatever you want to call it, is definitely worth the ticket price

American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) work together to build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company to take on Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France 1966. Le Mans ’66 an exhilarating thrill ride from start to finish and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The art of good story telling is creating something that anyone can enjoy, you don’t have to know a whole lot about cars and racing to appreciate Le Mans ’66. I’m sure all you car nuts out there will get a little more out of this film but when you break it down, Le Mans ’66 is an exciting real life story jam packed with intense racing sequences and some unexpected emotional moments. The racing scenes are all real and not relying on computer generated effects and the results pay off. Nail biting drama, extremely immersive and will have you on the edge of your seat. But for me what pushes this movie into five star territory is the relationship between Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Genuine and humorous with electric chemistry.

I knew virtually nothing about the story before seeing Le Mans ’66 and I really feel this added to the drama. Whether you’re interested in racing or not I can promise you’ll enjoy this film. A truly gripping story with two brilliant central performances from Damon and Bale. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended.

★★★★★