Category: Reviews

Read the latest movie reviews.


Review: Little Monsters

November 19, 2019
Lupita in Little Monsters

The movie industry has not been kind to Lupita Nyong’o this year. She had to endure dark times, deaths and bloodshed in US and thanks to writer/director Abe Forsythe (Down Under) she now has to face evil again. It seems that acting in a twisted horror film is Nyong’o her strength. Together with Josh Gad and Alexander England, she gives us both the shivers as well as a joyful feeling in Little Monsters.

Shake the zombies off

A happy teacher wearing a bright yellow dress. Playing Ukelele in front of her small class full of happy, playful and innocent children. Nothing seems to imply that this movie will be about zombies. Certainly not when Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), her children and Dave (Alexander England), one of the parents, are going to a zoo full of cute animals. Playing Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, learning new words and just being surprised by all the beautiful animals. How does something so happy turns into a zombie apocalypse? Well, not far from the zoo, a zombie outbreak has happened in a chemical laboratory where loads of secretive research is happening. Many of those researchers became zombies themselves because if the undead bite you but don’t kill you then you turn up becoming one of them.

While the zombies are making their way to the farm, the children just arrived and met one of the most colourful television personalities they know: Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad). It all goes fine until Miss Caroline, Dave, the children, and McGiggle are coming face-to-face with the zombies. While trying to shake them off and protecting the children, everyone is making their way to the safe place: the souvenir store. Not sure if that was the best idea. The children are feeling that something scary is happening and while Miss Caroline is doing everything she can to keep them calm and happy, it’s not going as planned. Not only because of the (strange) character of McGiggle but sadly also because of a medical incident with Felix, one of the little boys. Will Miss Caroline and Dave be able to help him and get the children to safety or will the zombies unleash an apocalypse on them?

Dave (Alexander England) and Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) in Little Monsters (Source: IMDb)

For the love of family and film

While the story seems predictable and unoriginal it’s everything but that. For director Forsythe has had a personal meaning as ‘it’s a love letter to his son’ and also because he made that exact trip with his son and the school children. Well, minus the zombies luckily. That’s why the film gets an even more personal touch than just ‘being another zombie movie’.

We always feel sorry for the make-up and special effect teams working on a zombie film because sometimes they don’t get enough credit for that. That’s not the case when it comes to the teams of this movie. During our interview with Forsythe, he mentioned that he was incredibly proud to have Oscar-winning makeup artists on board. We understand why they did an outstanding job. We could feel the splashing blood, the smell of dead flesh and the zombies coming to us in no time.

A marvellous cast

There is great chemistry between the leading cast. Nyong’o (Black Panther, 12 Years a Slave) doesn’t only literally and figuratively light up the screen with her bright yellow dress but also with her captivating, passionate and affectionate performance. She’s been accompanied by two brilliant actors. Both England and Gad bring their elements to this film and especially the scenes between the two of them are worth the trip to the cinema. England (Alien: Covenant, Down Under) shows us beautifully and compassionately how much children deserve and how to protect them from danger.

He was LeFou in Beauty and the Beast and just like then, Gad (Murder on the Orient Express, Marshall) brings a comic note to this film but also a darker element this time. While McGiggle seems to be the cheerful joyful person on the outside, there’s a lot of hatred and self-pity going on inside. Of course, we can’t forget the eleven cute children who put a smile on your face for sure, especially when they bring the Ukelele version of Shake it Off. It was very hard to get that song for this movie. Forsythe tried multiple ways but it was only thanks to Lupita that it made it into the movie.

Predictable but still unique

A group of innocent people hiding from some flesh-eating zombies? It sounds predictable. However, the very unique inspiration for the story, the undeniable passionate crew, an outstanding lead cast and that catchy Taylor Swift song make from Little Monster a film you will enjoy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Little Monsters (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Interview with “Little Monsters” writer/director Abe Forsythe

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Review: Midway

November 11, 2019

Does the name Roland Emmerich ring a bell? No? He’s the brain behind bombastic films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and White House Down. Three films that have many elements in common such as impressive CGI effects, a story about survival and A-list stars. That’s exactly what he uses in his latest Midway. However, this time it doesn’t do the trick for 100%

The battle of Midway is near

This film is retelling the events from the first months of the War in the Pacific beginning with Pearl Harbor in 1937 to the Battle of Midway in 1942. After their defeat during the Pearl Harbor attack, America wants to take revenge on Japan. In Midway, we see these events unravelling from both Japanese and American positions. On the Japanese side, there are Admiral Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano) and Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura). The American story is being told mostly by bomber pilot Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) and intelligence officer Lt. Comm. Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson).

The Pearl Harbor defeat is still lingering in the head of Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) who was recently appointed as Commander-In-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. America might be able to get their retribution for that dark day sooner than they think. After intercepting a Japanese radio message, Layton is convinced that Midway is Japan’s next target. America starts gathering all the troops. From bomber pilot Lt. Richard “Dick” Best (Ed Skrein) to aviation mechanic Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas) and from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) to Air Group Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans). They’re all gearing up to protect their country. The aircraft carriers are lined up, the destroyers are strategically placed and the bombers are ready to fire. The battle of Midway is upon us…

Both hits and misses

The story of Midway probably sounds familiar. Not only because it’s based on real-life but also because it was already told in Jack Smight’s Midway. Just like Smight, Emmerich can count on a fascinating story and an all-star cast. His Midway might not be the biggest hit he ever made but it’s still an enjoyable film.

Ok, yes the CGI effects are completely over the top and sometimes too excessive but that doesn’t mean they don’t do the trick. They give Midway that extravagant and ‘made for the big screen’ effect. The most impressive special effects scenes are during which we are in Best’s pilot seat seeing the events through his eyes.

Secondly, this movie stays incredibly true to the actual events. It showed us what sacrifices people had to make during that difficult time and while some details might have been incorrect, the majority is spot on. The great thing about Midway is that both the American and Japanese points of view are represented and not just one of them.

Woody Harrelson playing Chester Nimitz in Midway (credit: Lionsgate Movies)

Strong performances but too many characters

When it comes to the characters, there are certainly resemblances between the people who had to go to the battles and the actors portraying them. Sadly, none of the actors get the chance to shine due to the incredibly fast (too fast sometimes) pace and the introduction of too many characters. Skrein (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Deadpool) is leading the cast to the apotheosis as the rebellious but also heroic Best in a charismatic and cocky way. Adding some smartness to this movie is the excellent Wilson (In the Tall Grass, Annabelle Comes Home) as the intelligence officer whose warnings were previously ignored.

They’re joined by the engaging Harrelson (Zombieland: Double Tap, Venom) and also by young and fine acting talent such as Keean Johnson (Alita: Battle Angel, Low Tide) Nick Jonas (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Luke Kleintank (The Goldfinch, Crown Vic) and Daren Criss (All You Ever Wished For, Girl Most Likely) who all give it their best shot. To balance out that testosterone, there’s Mandy Moore (Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Darkest Minds) as Best’s wife. Her role could have been a little bit more explored and present in the film but nevertheless, Moore delivers an emotional performance. 

Of course, there’s also the Japanese side that’s being represented by Toyokawa (Paradise Next, Samurai Marathon 1855), Asano (Thor: Ragnarok, The Outsider) and Kunimura (The Witness, The Great War of Archimedes) who create without a doubt one of the most emotional scenes of this film. Shame, it’s right at the end.

No victory but no defeat either

It might seem that a 138 minutes film about the war between America and Japan would be a dragging one and yes, sometimes that’s certainly the case. That prolonged feeling and the too many characters (with too little potential to grow) are present in Midway but the CGI effects and performances make from this film worth the watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: The Aeronauts (Review)

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Review: Luce

November 4, 2019

Becoming a teenager is never easy as it undeniably comes with a lot of responsibilities and expectations. Expectations that might be a little bit too high. Well, not for Luce. He seems like the most excellent student, public speaker, and star athlete. However, behind the perfect façade, is something darker is going on? That’s exactly what you will wonder the entire time throughout the newest film from director Julius Onah (Don’t Look Back, The Cloverfield Paradox). His Luce starts like any other family drama but it soon will turn into a mysterious, gripping and head-twisting thriller.

Violent psychopath or innocent teenager?

From the moment we meet Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) we see the perfect poster boy for young black teenagers. After being a child soldier in Eritrea, he was adopted by Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). This was the start of a new life for Luce as he grew to become the perfect schoolkid: A great public speaker, filled with dreams and who’s there for everyone. Even his history teacher Harriett Wilson (Octavia Spencer) praises him. However, that will change sooner than expected. After discovering Luce’s essay discussing radical philosopher Frantz Fanon’s belief and the need for violence to oppress people, Wilson sees this as the first sign of Luce’s darker side. When she finds illegal fireworks in his locker, it’s time to ring the alarm bell and to warn his parents. Being loyal to their son, Amy and Peter don’t want to confront Luce immediately. However, that doesn’t go down well with his teacher Harriet Wilson and she’s not afraid to show that at all.

The friendly relationship between Luce and Wilson turning into a tense one doesn’t go unnoticed by Amy and Peter. They’re getting the feeling that Luce is keeping things for himself, especially when he withdraws himself from them. It’s just a matter of time before their love and compassion are taken over by doubts and mistrust. After all, you can take the kid out of the war but can you take the war out of the kid?

Harrison Jr. and Spencer are worth gold

You might think “why again a film about the difficulties black emigrants in America have to face”? Well, let us explain to you why Luce deserves its place during the upcoming award race.

First of all, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (JT LeRoy, Assassination Nation) delivers a talented and confident performance, and he certainly knows how to grab our attention. He’s stunning as the young man who’s trying to fight the prejudices and the expectations the society has and who at the same time has to find out who he wants to be. Thanks to his dazzling acting, we asked ourselves the “is he out for violence or is he being betrayed by the people the closest to him?” question every single minute.

Another reason why that question is constantly on our minds is because of the astounding performance of Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water). We already saw her in a dark role in Ma but now she steps up her game even more. Spencer is immensely on-point as the history teacher who’s either overprotective or who has a hidden agenda. The scenes between her and Harrison Jr. are the beating heart of this movie.

The supporting performances from Watts (The Glass Castle, Chuck) and Roth (The Hateful Eight, Hardcore) are wonderful as well. The climax at the end is a masterpiece by the entire cast.

Kelvin Harrison Jr (pictured in the middle) plays Luce (credit: Universal / Dream Factory)

From family drama to an intense thriller

What was so intriguing about this movie is the way the biggest story and the small mysteries are unravelling. One moment, you will feel sorry for Luce but the other, you might think that he is a violent psychopath in the body of a saint. What about Wilson, the strict teacher who finds it necessary to protect her school, no matter how many dreams of young people are being shattered? Will the parents stand by their son unconditionally or not? Well, you might find it out after watching this suspenseful film.

That Luce goes from predictable family drama to an intense thriller is also thanks to the stunning cinematography from Larkin Seiple (Swiss Army Man, Cop Car) and the poignant score from Geoff Barrow and Ben who both worked together on Free Fire and Ex Machina. They play in the hand of the genre expectations but without losing that thrilling and mysterious effect.

Sitting on the edge of your seat

There’s no denying that Luce is an intense and solid thriller. Not only the most delightfully narrative but also the great performances (from both lead and supporting actors), the suspenseful cinematography and the bombastic score make sure that you will be sitting on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: The Aeronauts (Review)

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Review: The Aeronauts

November 2, 2019

What do you want to become when you grow up? A heroic fireman/firewoman, a creative baker or an immensely successful businessman/businesswoman? Well, Amelia Wren and James Glaisher give a different answer to the question. Amelia wants to become a pilot of a big air balloon while scientist James dreams of being able to predict the weather. They come from diverse backgrounds and have many peculiar ideas but when they come together, their ideas become even more ambitious. We can’t deny this newest work from Tom Harper (Wild Rose, War Book) telling their true story is an ambitious project as well. Thanks to the extremely wonderful performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones The Aeronauts would have flown incredibly high… if the first part was only as great as the second one.

Up in the air

Both living in London in 1862, Amelia (Felicity Jones) and James (Eddie Redmayne) are trying to change the society in which they live. She wants to prove that females can become professional pilots, while he’s excited to show the world that the limits of knowledge are endless. Who thought that a party encounter between them would be the start of something new? Together they want to fly a hot air balloon to the newest heights. Heights that no one has ever reached before. After months of preparations, it’s finally time to take their baby into the air. Surrounded and encouraged by the London audience, friends and acquaintances, they’re about to realize their dream. It’s a dream that might become a nightmare as James his weather predictions weren’t as accurate as they should have been.

It looks like it might be over for Amelia and James but you always have to keep your head held high. The hope they share seems to be bigger than the unpredictable weather. After a time of insecurity and fear, the voyage takes a quieter and beautiful turn. It’s finally time for them to enjoy the beautifulness, the peacefulness, and the amazing sky. But as any Londoner knows, the weather can change from one moment to another. Sadly, that’s exactly what happens and Amelia and James have to take drastic actions. Actions that might have catastrophic consequences…

Flying to a cinema near you (credit: Amazon Studios)

Fabulous chemistry between Jones and Redmayne

If you saw the previous collaboration between Jones and Redmayne The Theory of Everything then you know that they can deliver fireworks. What that film had was a lot of emotions, touching moments and tons of chemistry between the leading characters. This is exactly what The Aeronauts has but sadly not as much as in The Theory of Everything. Don’t get us wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performances of Jones and Redmayne. Jones (On the Basis of Sex, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is captivating, charming and terrific as the determined and fearless pilot who’s not afraid to show her emotions and making emotional decisions. This character thread is even more explored during the second part of the film when Amelia is becoming even more determined and a fighter as it becomes a flight of life and death.

Just as in The Theory of Everything, Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Danish Girl) is playing a genius whose knowledge knows no boundaries and who’s not afraid to put his knowledge and wisdom out there. In this film, it’s Jones who takes the emotional upper hand but that doesn’t mean that Redmayne’s performance isn’t emotional, charismatic and extremely well-performed as well.

Cinematography is the brightest star

While director Harper can count on those big stars, the brightest one of his team is cinematographer George Steel (Robin Hood, Peaky Blinders). Right from the very beginning, Steel has us in his power thanks to the vibrant and engagement colours. He keeps us engaged with the gorgeous and visually stunning blue sky or the cold and turbulent end scenes. We step into the balloon with the leading characters instantly thanks to his work.

Reach for potential heights

After flying by the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, The Aeronauts made a stop in the UK during the BFI Film Festival London. If you’ve missed it, then we have good news for you. This wondrous film is released in UK cinemas on the 4th of November. We recommended that you watch this movie on the biggest screen possible, entirely for the stunning cinematography of Steel. The film itself might have a sluggish start but once Jones and Redmayne are up in the air, it takes you on an incredibly exciting flight.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Also Read: Sorry We Missed You: Films and the North

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Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

October 26, 2019
Maleficent - Mistress of Evil

Do you prefer Sleeping Beauty over Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Cinderella? Well, we have good news for you! After creating her story in a dark but heart-warming way in Maleficent, Disney has now brought her back to the big screen in the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. This movie from director Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Max Manus: Man of War) probably won’t be crowned as the film of 2019 but it’s still a very enjoyable watch.

A magical story about love and war

Just a quick recap to Maleficent. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), a compassionate but heart-breaking fairy, finds Aurora, the newborn daughter of her ex-lover Stefan. Being vengeful against her and Stefan at first, Maleficent opens us towards Aurora and makes her the princess of the Moors. The goal is to unite the human kingdom and the magical one under one throne and that’s the start of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. After meeting and falling madly in love with each other, Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now engaged to her Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson). This is the perfect opportunity o unite two lovebirds but also two different kingdoms.

However, not everyone shares that same joy. Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), the mother of Philip, sees Aurora as a mysterious and dark intruder like Maleficent and Maleficent herself doesn’t want to give up her daughter to the humans. During the oh-so-important family dinner, it all goes off the rails. King John (Robert Lindsay) falls ill and Maleficent is being accused of poisoning him. When Aurora chooses the side of her in-laws and breaks her loyalty to Maleficent, Maleficent feels betrayed and is out for revenge. She’s not the only furious, vengeful and powerful woman. Queen Ingrith wants to honour the legacy of her husband and gather her troops to protect her kingdom, no matter the consequences. It becomes an immensely heated battle. Who will win this war and what will happen to the union of the kingdoms?

Queen Ingrith played by Michelle Pfeiffer (credit: Disney)

Characters are key

There was already the battle between “dark vs white”, “good versus evil”, “magical creature versus human” in the 2014 film and it’s that same conflict that Rønning is showing in this movie. Because of that and also because it’s a fairytale, the storyline seems very predictable. However, there’s still some elements that will make you fall in love with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

The characters in this sequel are both hit and miss. The biggest hit is without a doubt casting Pfeiffer (Avengers: Endgame, Murder on the Orient Express) as Queen Ingrith. If you’re a fan of accents, you might wonder why they cast her but once you’ve seen her in the full battle outfit as the furious, head-strong and dark Queen, you know why. Pfeiffer puts on such a bombastic and powerful performance as the warrior but also a more emotional and friendly one as the caring and protective mother(-in-law). The scenes between her and Jolie (By the Sea, The Tourist) are the dark highlights of this movie. Of course, this is also because of Jolie’s stunning acting. Yes, sometimes her white and thin face can be a little bit over-the-top but once you get over that you see an energetic, impressive and badass Jolie. Luckily for us and this film, Sam Riley (Radioactive, Sometimes Always Never) is returning as Diaval, Maleficent’s loyal servant. Riley brings an immense rock ‘n roll vibe, tons of humour, wittiness and funny moments to the screen

This film is not only about the war but also about love and the marriage between Aurora and her Philip. In a relationship, it’s all about chemistry and passion but that’s not visible in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. This has absolutely nothing to do with Fanning (Teen Spirit, Mary Shelley) her wonderful, beautiful and strong performance, especially during the second part of the film when she gets the chance to shine bright. The reason why there’s no chemistry is the character of Prince Philip and the associated acting performance from Dickinson (County Lines, The Darkest Minds). It falls incredibly flat, it’s bland and doesn’t do this movie any justice. We would have loved to see Brenton Thwaites again as Philip.

Is there such a thing as too much CGI?

In a fantasy film like this, the CGI should be on point and again, we’re divided about this. The special effects are stunningly made, definitely the eye-catcher of this movie and fit the story incredibly well. It brings the fairytale element to life, especially when the ones taking place in the magical forest. At first, you will be swept off your feet by all the romance, the clever and sticky special effects. Sadly, the great VFX will fade when things are heated and becoming more darker. There’s just overuse of CGI. It becomes too much, a little bit of confusion and a mess. As a result of that, Jolie and Pfeifer can’t show their acting skills. Don’t get us started how cringy it feels to see Juno Temple (Lost Transmissions, The Pretenders), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Hampstead) and Imelda Staunton (Downton Abbey, Finding Your Feet) as the three CGI fairies.

Not great but certainly not bad

Rønning is no stranger when it comes to making big-budget films as he sat in the directors’ chair during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Just like that film, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t reach its full potential. The reasons for that are the extravagant use of special effects and some half-written characters. However, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is still an entertaining, marvellous and eye-catching film because of some strong acting performances, humour, and vividness.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Official Trailer)
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Review: Monos

October 24, 2019
Monos Screenshot

Being a teenager can be hard. You get those first feelings of love, doubts, and insecurity and there’s the undeniable body change. However, we’re pretty sure that your teenage years weren’t as bad as the ones the Monos, a group of young kids, have to go through. Instead of playing football and partying, they’re being turned into warriors far away from human society somewhere in Colombia. Their stories are now being told in the latest work of Alejandro Landes (Porfirio, Cocalero). The storyline of Monos might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the striking cinematography, great soundtrack and uniqueness make this movie one you can’t miss.

Rebellious teenagers

Some details will never become clear in Monos such as who the characters really are and where their fights are taking place. However, there are so many wonderful elements to discover in the storyline of the movie. Numerous young fighters are preparing themselves both mentally and physically for the hard time that awaits them. The location is unknown and so are the real names of our young protagonists. Instead, they’ve been given nicknames such as Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), Smurf (Deiby Rueda), Lady (Karen Quintero), Swede (Laura Castrillón), Wolf (Julian Giraldo), Dog (Paul Cubides), and Bigfoot (Moises Arias). They’re driven by “The Organization” with their messenger (Wilson Salazar) as the only link with the outside world. Their tasks are simple: protecting a dairy cow named Shakira and ensuring that the American hostage Doctora Sara Watson (Julianne Nicholson) does not escape.

Those tasks don’t seem to go as easy as the teenagers thought. This leads to doubts about love, friendship, their purposes, many disagreements, frustration, anger and difficult and hard time. The fact that they’re right in their puberty doesn’t help at all. Will they be able to cope with these many changes in a civilized, human and peaceful manner or will they solve it in the way they also do: violently, ruthless and furiously?

Award-winning cinematography

While watching Monos, you will face many questions. You are probably going to ask yourself things like: where do those kids come from, have they been “working” for The Organization their entire lives or is this what happens to young people when you raise them with weapons and military training instead of love and tenderness? We wouldn’t be surprised if films like Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now would pop into your mind but don’t expect Monos to be just a homage to those movies. No, this film from Landes has many unique components.

The main reason for its uniqueness is without a doubt the sublime camera work of Jasper Wolf (Open Seas, Broers). He stunningly brings out the wilderness and the remoteness of the landscape that’s untouched by modern society. The beautifully and vividly shot scenes have an even bigger, more enduring and fascinating impact because of the slow paste of the film. You will be able to enjoy this greatness of nature every single time and especially when Wolf uses those long and panoramic shots. That he’s an immensely skilled and versatile cameraman is shown in his use of extreme close-up shot scenes or scenes that are deliberately out of focus. Because of this, we can feel the alienation and dehumanisation of young children. Monos is certainly not shy of showing sex, violence, and blood. The cinematography of Wolf is why you should watch this movie on the biggest screen possible as it has an undeniable impact on the movie and on you. It’s no wonder Wolf already won the award for Best Cinematography during the Newport Beach Film Festival earlier this year.

The most outstanding work of Mica Levi

(L-R) Composer Mica Levi and director Alejandro Landes pose at the “Monos” photocall during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin (Photo by Brian Dowling/WireImage)

Mica Levi already made furore with her astonishing score for Jackie so it’s no surprise that director Landes wanted to work with her on Monos. The dark and mysterious vibe created and the questions raised by the cinematography of Wolf become even darker, dreamier and more confusing thanks to Levi’s outstanding music. Her work was already awarded for its originality multiple times and it’s incredible understandable why. It brings such a bombastic, thunderous and enigmatic effect to the film and while Monos is a very slow movie, her score will keep you awake without a doubt. Roaring, impactful and emotional. A score doesn’t have to be more than that.

An unknown cast with great talent

While there’s a place for violence and war, Monos is mostly about the emotional and psychological journey the teenagers have to go through. To pull this off beautifully you need a strong cast and that’s exactly what the casting team gave to director Landes. It’s unbelievable that most of the young cast such as Sofia Buenaventura (Rambo), Rueda (Pitufo), Cubides (Perro) and Castro (Boom Boom) make their film debut in this movie as they all put on an incredibly strong performance. You will also see more well-known talent in Monos such as Nicholson (I, Tonya, August: Osage County) who portrays the most complex character of this movie in a gripping, emotional and intriguing way.

Made for the biggest screen possible!

Monos already won 23 awards during its festival run, of which most of them were for the film itself. The movie might not be everyone’s taste but it’s clear that it’s loved and praised by both public and critics. Not only for its mysterious vibe but also for the perplexing and unique way universal topics such as love, friendship but also anger and violence are being handled. The overall cast amazes from start to finish thanks to the chemistry, stunning acting performances, and captivating charisma. Add the exceptional score from Levi and eye-catching, energetic and baffling cinematography from Wolf and you know that you will see a stunning and potential Academy Award-winning film. One you should watch on the big screen when it’s released on the 25th of October in the UK.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Monos (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Waiting For The Barbarians (Review)

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Rachael RNR reviews “The Day Shall Come”

October 19, 2019
Rachael Review The Day Shall Come

YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews The Day Shall Come

What’s it about?

From writer/director, Chris Morris (Four Lions), The Day Shall Come follows Moses (Marchánt Davis) on his revolutionary dreams, but gets caught in the twisted FBI terrorist prevention schemes that in fact create the threat.

The Day Shall Come Review (Rachael RNR)

Also Read: #Cancelled: Being Offended and Offensive in the 21st Century

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Review: Monsoon [London Film Festival]

October 13, 2019

Monsoon begins at a junction. The cars pass, slowly and orderly, before mopeds and vans swirl into the mix. Chaos fills the road with no markings, no sense of order, but yet there is no catastrophe only narrow misses and swerving bikes. The camera rises up, higher and higher, enlarging the scope of the madness, of the disorder, before cutting to Kit (Henry Goulding), who sits in a taxi, on his way to a hotel. 

Kit has returned to Vietnam after 30 years in England. His family escaped during the war after his father was arrested when Kit was only six. He is back in Saigon to find a location to spread his mother’s ashes but he finds that the little he does remember of his once home is gone – the small pond behind the flat he grew up in where he used to play, has been filled in and built over and the building the flat is in is likely to be knocked down in due course. He remembers flashes, brief and small images from his short time in Saigon, but he lacks more than that. When his family fled they burnt all their family photographs to protect those closest to them, so they couldn’t be identified.  

Monsoon / Peccadillo Pictures

While in Saigon, Kit meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers), an American man in Vietnam to set up his clothing company ‘Curve’ – so named because Lewis is ‘not straight’. The two meet for a drink on a rooftop bar, discussing their online dating profiles, before heading back to Kit’s hotel room. They kiss, take off their shirts, and it feels like it might be leading somewhere but the film cuts to the two men, post-sex. It’s disappointing that the sex in Monsoon is so regulated, with each scene cutting away before anything really raunchy or even tender happens. The only scene with any hint of actual sex is during a hook-up Kit has on a trip to Hanoi, as he turns his lover around and kicks aside his leg in a move of aggressive sexuality.

This is an all too common problem for queer cinema; figuring out who it is appealing to, a queer audience or a straight one? Sex scenes, like those in Call Me By Your Name or Brokeback Mountain, are short and relatively un-sexual in their sparseness to keep a straight audience interested and the former came under fire for watering down the famous ‘peach scene’ from the book. In the case of Monsoon, it feels the director and writer, Hong Khaou, wanted the sex but worried about alienating a straight audience which leaves the film feeling somewhat censored, as if there are parts missing.  Especially in contrast to the other queer film’s screening at the festival like Levan Akin’s And Then We Danced which is deeply erotic and charged, the tender nudity in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, or the full-framed rawness of the sex in Lucio Castro’s End of the Century.

Goulding and Sawyers have good chemistry and their scenes together do feel the most real and warm, their flirting feels playful and sweet. Goulding’s performance in-particular is quiet and brooding most of the time which adds another string to the bow of a man who’s already been compared to Clark Gable. Yet something feels like it’s missing (and it’s not just the sex). 

Henry Goulding / PHOTO: GQ.

Hong Khaou’s debut film Lilting in 2014 was about a young gay man living in London trying to form a connection with the mother of his dead boyfriend. It was a deep and rich film that delicately unravelled itself before your eyes. In this way, Khaou’s films feel like they are about translation; of language, of emotion, of experience. They find themselves within a world of shifting cultures and personal hardships. They’re often quiet, still, and creeping. They look at disconnection and wonder what fills that gap between people. They look at loss and how it wraps itself around you and consumes you. Yet, Monsoon doesn’t quite live up to the emotional weight of Lilting nor does it seem to have the same focus or drive. It loses itself in what it’s trying to say and ultimately never quite makes its mark. It’s hampered by dialogue that is riddled with exposition. As such it never really feels like the film is in the moment and, as an audience, we’re being asked to catch up constantly. 

As emphasised by its impressive opening shot, Benjamin Kracun’s cinematography is the film’s strongest asset. The slow-moving or often still camera compliments Kit’s position – stuck between England and Vietnam, between past and future. He is mysterious and doesn’t reveal his cards right away and the camera does the same, its slow pans and stationary shots of skyscrapers don’t reveal their intention immediately, but cause you to wonder and guess at their meaning in a way that feels considered and intentionally vague. Kracun, whose recent credits include the dark thriller Beast and the rave oriented Beats, is certainly one to watch.

Despite its stronger moments, Monsoon unfortunately doesn’t feel like a worthy follow-up to Lilting. Instead, it finds itself lost somewhere between romance and family drama, unable to really make an impact in either category. While the chemistry of its two leads is, at times, palpable it’s not enough to turn it into the Before Sunrise or Columbus it feels like it wants to be. 

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Monsoon will be distributed by Peccadillo Pictures.

A release date has yet to be announced.

Monsoon (Film Clip)

Also Read: Understanding The British Rom-Com

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Review: Honey Boy [London Film Festival]

October 11, 2019

‘The only thing my dad gave me that was worth anything was pain and you want to take that away from me,’ says Otis, a former child actor who is currently attending court-ordered rehab. He is in the process of therapy, something that is being recorded to prove to the courts he is recovering and  Honey Boy was written from that exact place. 

Shia LaBeouf, once a famed child actor and now more commonly known for his performance art and various arrests, wrote the first draft of the script from rehab where he sent it to Alma Har’el, a friend and confidant (who would later become the film’s director). It was an unfinished draft, born from LaBeouf’s therapy sessions, and once LeBeouf was out of rehab the two finished it together. While this might sound like the kind of Hollywood vanity project fuelled by ego that you might expect from someone in LaBeouf’s position, it’s couldn’t be further from it. It’s tender, disarming, sympathetic, hypnotising, and raw. 

The film follows an adult Otis (Lucas Hedges) as he examines his past and his relationship with his father after being diagnosed with PTSD from his childhood. Through flashbacks, we see a younger Otis (Noah Jupe) on the set of his TV show (with scenes reminiscent of Even Stevens) and his life with his father, James (Shia LaBeouf). Their life, in a motel complex somewhere in LA, is not the life you’d expect a child star to live. Otis often walks himself home and steals food from the set. While his dad grows weed in secret by the freeway and attends AA meetings regularly. It is not the lifestyle that comes to mind when you think of the ‘Hollywood Elite’ who are so often pontificated about.

Writer and star Shia LaBeouf / Photo: Larry Busacca

This life couldn’t be further from that of the Kardashian’s or any other Hollywood ‘royalty’ we have become used to. Otis’s dad refuses to hold his hand anywhere people might see them, he doesn’t want to be seen to be soft or caring. He is an addict, four years sober, who didn’t achieve what he wanted. He is a  former clown and performer who, after an arrest and sexual assault allegation, found himself divorced and working for his prepubescent son. He is an abuser, emotionally and physically. He’s a man in pain. In some moments we feel his pain and at others, we detest him – sometimes feeling both simultaneously. We see his hurt, we see its roots and we see its reach. 

Can we inherit pain? If those around us, who raise us, are racked with hurt do we then carry that burden too? How do we take that on? How does it manifest within us? How does it hinder us, grip us, affect us? Some scientists believe that the trauma of our parents changes our genetic markers while others disagree. Either way, growing up near so much pain is bound to have an effect and Honey Boy wants to understand that effect, to inspect it, and portray it. 

Director Alma Har’el / Photo: AdAge

Har’el’s direction does just that by cutting right through to the essence in this, her fiction film debut. Her ability to jump from bombastic montages set to thumping hip-hop to quiet, sombre, introspection is masterful. She straddles the narrative and the avant-garde with ease, superbly creating a dreamlike, hazy, feel to the overall film while continually rooting it in reality. She makes the film feel like memory and reality are converging on each other, the line between them becoming hazier with each scene but then, all at once, plummeting back into certainty. She continually charms you with humour and light before shocking you with aggression and gloom. It’s LeBeouf’s world but Har’el weaves it into a tapestry that is complex and disarming. 

Har’el is also skilled with actors. LeBeouf’s performance is a career-best as he draws the character, based on his own father, in the grey areas. Outside of LaBeouf, there isn’t a dud performance to be seen. Relative newcomer Noah Jupe shines as a young boy managing his father’s temper and expectations while elsewhere Lucas Hedges continues to prove he’s one of cinema’s most interesting and versatile talents as the older Otis. FKA Twigs (in her film debut) exudes cosiness and melancholy as the girl growing up across the street from Otis, her performance is deeply rooted in physicality and quietness. Even Natasha Lyonne, though never seen on screen, provides audio cameo in one of the films funniest yet tragic scenes as Otis’s mother. 

Honey Boy, at its core, is a portrait of broken people. From those who are trying to build themselves again and those who have shattered beyond repair. It’s about addiction and the ways in which we become our parents. We watch their demise, their mistakes, and then do the same thing in a way that feels almost inevitable, unavoidable, and mythic in its tragic nature. The film itself feels like therapy for its writer but not in a way that feels solipsistic or melodramatic. It feels deeply personal and intimate yet never closed off. It feels like Honey Boy is an example of something not often seen, in which an artist abandons their ego, owns up to their mistakes, and cuts through all the noise to tell an honest, human, story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Honey Boy is scheduled for release in December.

Also Read: The Lighthouse (Review)

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Review: The Lighthouse [London Film Festival]

October 10, 2019
The Lighthouse

How long ago was it that you saw a great black and white film? A few days, weeks, months or is it that long ago that you forget it? Well, if there’s one black-white movie you will remember forever, it’s The Lighthouse from director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Tell-Tale Heart). Together with co-writer Max Eggers, he wrote a very compelling story that is being turned into a masterpiece by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.

Follow the light

Thomas Wake (Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) are two lighthouse keepers who are being sent to a remote island. They will live there for only a few weeks but that will be much harder than they think. While both of them are lighthouse keepers, it’s Wake who’s clearly in charge of the lighthouse. Instead of being Wake’s prodigy, Winslow seems to be his slave. He needs to get the food in the pouring rain and heavy wind and needs to clean up the mess. At first, he’s fine with doing all these chores but it doesn’t take long before that feeling changes.

Living together 24/7 in a very small place is putting pressure on both men. Winslow is getting more agitated about his work, wants to operate the lighthouse and wants a woman he can love instead of living with an “old man”. Wake, on the other hand, is getting more annoyed by Winslow his behaviour and finds him very ungrateful. Deep down he wants someone who takes care of him and who appreciates the things he does. How long will it be before the men are getting at each other throats?

Perfectly crafted film

Since winning the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival where the film got its world premiere, The Lighthouse is creating an Oscar buzz. One or multiple Academy Awards would be well-deserved as this movie is an outstanding one for many reasons.

This film was shot on 35mm and in the Academy ratio and it’s so liberating to see a modern film like that. These days we get to see revivals from more older films shot 33mm and so it’s great to see that director Eggers decided to honour that unique way of shooting in a more recent movie. If this would have been shot in colour, it would certainly have not the same effect. The Lighthouse is visually perfect and it fits the story impeccably well.

A big part of the movie is without a doubt the sound, especially at the beginning when there are not a lot of conversations. Whether the loud honks are imitating the sound of the boats passing by or just to create the right atmosphere of this film, they do the trick. It gives The Lighthouse a very special horror vibe but at the same time, the film also becomes a drama and psychological thriller. It transcends genres, that’s for sure.  

The writing process for this film must have a very interesting one. There’s not much dialogue going on in this movie. Most of the conversations are either monologues of the two men following each other up or some drunk debates. Sometimes they don’t make any sense, especially when they come from Wake who’s suffering from loneliness, but they will leave you breathless.

Dafoe and Pattinson outdo themselves

These are monologues that are being brought perfectly by both Dafoe and Pattinson. What Pattinson (High Life, The Lost City of Z) didn’t have in The King, he has now in bucket loads in The Lighthouse. Charisma, the power to drawn people to the screen and to the ability to put on a spot-on performance. From someone who shows respect and loyalty at first to a broken man who doesn’t let someone walking over him. Pattinson allows us to sympathise with his character who has to endure a hard time. His performance reminds us of the one he put on in Good Time.

What about Dafoe (The Florida Project, At Eternity’s Gate)? Well, he’s just superb as the drunken, unstable and confused lighthouse keeper who has lost the grip on reality. The hangover scenes between the two men are just gold and bring a fun element to this film.

The Lighthouse guides you to the cinema

If there’s a movie you have to see on the big screen, it’s this one. After making the brilliant The Witch, director Eggers pulls it off again. The incredibly dark and hypnotic The Lighthouse will blow you away with its smashing cinematography and intense score and is an impressive two men act from Pattinson and Dafoe. Catch it while you can during the BFI Film Festival on Friday the 11th of October or Sunday the 13th. If you can’t make it, then you’re going to have to wait until the beginning of next year. Not sure if you want to wait that long… 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

(This review was written as part of Big Picture Film Club’s coverage of the BFI London Film Festival 2019)

The Lighthouse (Official Trailer)

Also Read: The Unlikely Success of A24

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Review: Joker

October 4, 2019

Whether you know him as Clown Prince of Crime or the Harlequin of Hate, you know who we’re talking about. The Joker! That green hair, the pale face and the bright red lips are back because of director Todd Phillips (Due Date, The Hangover). However, the Jester of Genocide was never this human, terrifying and compelling as he’s in Joker. The man you have to thank for that: the dazzling Joaquin Phoenix.

From party clown to murderer

Welcome to Gotham City in the ’70s. It’s a time during which a massive economic and political crisis is threating the city, that’s crumbling down completely. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is one of the people who have to endure those uncertain times. He’s having mental health problems, a cigarette addiction and when his social worker won’t give him medication, life becomes even worse. His job as a clown and his ambition to become a stand-up comedian bring a little bit more laughter to his life. Most of the time way too much laughter as Fleck has to deal with his uncontrollable laughter decease. Despite his troubled and dark life, he’s trying to give his mother (Frances Conroy), with who he lives together, the best life possible. He’s cooking her food and watching her favourite show “The Murray Franklin show” together.

His life gets even darker when he is fired from his job and when his comedy act isn’t working. When people are making more and more fun of his incurable decease, something in Fleck’s mind snaps. Ready to take revenge on those who mock him and those who neglected him when he and his mother needed them the most (such as Thomas Wayne). What happens when his anger, frustration, and vengeful feelings are being enhanced by the troubled society? Well, then Fleck becomes the Joker!

Give the man an Oscar

You probably have seen joker in multiple shapes (Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger,…) and many different films (Batman, The Dark Knight,…) but no one or no film comes as close as the real thing as this one by Phillips.

The main reason is without a doubt the stunning performance from Phoenix (Walk the Line, You Were Never Really Here). Having to portray a broken, confused, desperate but also vindictive, violent and determined man must have been extremely hard to do. Phoenix pulls it off extraordinarily. He’s shy, reserved and insecure as the comedian but strong, violent and reckless as the Joker. We can still hear his hard and cruel laugh. By the end of the film, he made us feel confused, uncomfortable and astonished, all in a good way though. We certainly need to applaud Phoenix’s stunning psychical transformation.

While Phoenix does rise above everyone else, this is not a one-man show. As the entertaining, suave and typical talk show host, we see captivating and intriguing Robert De Niro (The Irishman, Silver Linings Playbook). It might not be his best work but the last scene with Phoenix makes up for that big time. That talk and everything around it shows the best of the best of both actors and will leave you breathless way after the film ended.

The motherly emotions are being brought to life by the great and captivating Conroy (American Horror Story (TV series), Mountain Rest) as the sad, confused and naïve Penny. More wonderful supporting performances come from Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider, The Dark Knight Rises) as the egocentric, powerful and forceful politician Thomas Wayne and from the fine and delighted Zazie Beetz (Lucy in the Sky, Deadpool) as Fleck’s neighbour who’s a little spark of light in his life.

More than just a comic

While watching Joker, you might even forget that this movie is based on the DC Comic characters. Phillips made such an immensely mature movie. Instead of focussing on the superhero side, Joker becomes a psychological study of a damaged and mentally ill man. Phillips wasn’t only able to create this via the brilliant acting performances but also via the impressive cinematography from Lawrence Sher (The Hangover, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and the bombastic music from Hildur Guðnadóttir (Chernobyl (TV series), Sicario: Day of the Soldado).

Phillips and Sher already worked together during The Hangover films and their partnership is again spot on. While Phillips brings the Joker story to life by work, Sher does it with dark, enigmatic and mysterious images. Images of which you ask whether they’re happening or whether they’re just Fleck’s imagination. That very last scene is really the highlight of their corporation. If you add the grandiose, over-the-top and disturbing musical score from Guðnadóttir to it, you feel the gloomy, dark and disturbing vibe coming out of the (IMAX) screen instantly.

Who’s laughing now?

Well, pretty sure it’s director Phillips. Since the world premiere during the Toronto Film Festival, both critics and audiences fell in love with Joker. Not so hard to guess why. This brilliantly made, perfectly performed and spot-on dark character study will blow you away big time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Joker (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis

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Review: Waiting for the Barbarians

September 28, 2019

Last year, director Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent, The Wind Journeys) made furore with his Birds of Passage (original title: Pájaros de Verano) and won nineteen prestigious awards with it. Pretty sure that his newest film Waiting for the Barbarians, which is also his first English-language feature, will receive the same success. Not only because of the superb performance of Mark Rylance but also because he created a visually attractive, emotionally and stunningly crafted movie.

The compassionate Magistrate versus the frigid colonel

The unnamed Magistrate (Mark Rylance), who’s working in a distant outpost near the frontier, is living a humble and down to earth life. There’s not much going on his village and so he enjoys his spare time by doing some writing. However, that peace is disturbed by the arrival of colonel Joll (Johnny Depp). Despite the Magistrate good intentions, the colonel has everything but that. No interrogation tactic is too cruel for him to make sure that every Barbarian is serving ‘justice’. After concluding that Barbarian people are indeed savages, the colonel decides he has seen enough for now and says goodbye to the village.

The colonel might be gone but the troubles are still present for the magistrate. After encountering a homeless (and Barbarian) girl (Gana Bayarsaikhan) in his village, he decides to take her in. Not only because he’s good to everyone but also because she had to endure a hard time by the hands of the colonel. She seems a closed book at first but after opening up to the Magistrate about herself, her family and her future, he wants a future with her. Sadly, she wants to return to her family. Even though it would be against his people their beliefs, the Magistrate decides to help her to get back to the Barbarians. However, both his town as well as the colonel see this as treason. What will await him when he returns home?

Mark Rylance outclasses everyone

If this story sounds familiar, then you’ve probably read the novel by the South African-born writer J. M. Coetzee. His work was the inspiration for this film. Just like the book by Coetzee itself, this movie has many great things to offer.

One of them is the strong performance of Rylance (Dunkirk, Ready Player One). We haven’t seen a lot of actors who can play such a modest, honest and poignant role as he does in such an outstanding way. To some, it might seem that he’s underplaying it but that’s where his brilliance comes in. Big emotions subtlety performed. Who’s absolutely not subtle is colonel Joll, played by Depp (City of Lies, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) in a dark and mysterious way. His character is the opposite of Rylance’s. A cold-blooded and cruel colonel who only wants it his way. While we don’t see much emotions of Depp, due to the nature of the colonel, he still puts on a convincing display.

He’s another of those big names attached to this film but it takes a long while before we see a glimpse of Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse, High Life). While we, from the bottom of our hearts, want to believe the powerful traits of his officer Mandel, it’s hard to do that. Not only because of Pattinson’s laughter but also because he lacks a little bit of charisma in this movie. His performance might have its flaws but it was still very enjoyable to watch. The female touch and emotions are provided by Gana Bayarsaikhan (Wonder Woman, Ex Machina). She brings an even more vulnerable and touching vibe to this movie which certainly balances out the masculinity in this film.

Congratulations to the entire crew!

The production crew behind Waiting for the Barbarians (source: IMDB)

Despite the performances being on point, they’re not elements that stand out in this film. No, it‘s clear that the teams behind the camera are the ones that excel in this film. There’s no doubt in our minds that the members of the makeup department are really the ones that brought this film to life. The gashing wounds, the painful injuries or the deep cuts. With that in mind, we want to say that this movie isn’t for the light-hearted. We also certainly want to applaud cinematographer Chris Menges and location manager Youssef Abagourram. They were able to bring together beautiful, eye-catching and diverse landscapes, which light up the big screen in a gorgeous way. You have to stay until the very end to see one of the most beautiful made scenes in this movie.

Captivating, intriguing and splendid movie led by Mark Rylance

Waiting for the Barbarians is divided into four different segments, which represent the four seasons. They all have delightful stories to tell, stories you need to see and hear. Want to catch this captivating, intriguing and splendidly made film that included a dazzling performance from Rylance? Well, then you’re in luck. This movie will be screened at the BFI Film Festival London on Sunday the 6th, Monday the 7th and Wednesday the 8th of October.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

(This review was written as part of Big Picture Film Club’s coverage of the BFI London Film Festival 2019)

Waiting for the Barbarians (Teaser Clip)

Also Read: Ad Astra (Review)

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