fbpx

Category: Reviews

Read the latest movie reviews.

Reviews

Review: Captain Marvel [spoiler free]

March 16, 2019

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is winding down (well, until everything gets rebooted, anyway). The final Avengers movie hits the big screen next month, and soon we’ll discover just what exactly Steve Rogers and his depleted team of heroes plan on doing to resolve their little predicament.

With time running out for Disney to milk Marvel for all it’s worth (which is a lot, by the way), they’ve churned out one last origin story for us to feed on until Endgame is unleashed. The final piece in Stan Lee’s complex and colourful jigsaw.

Let’s talk about Captain Marvel.

Why now?

Captain Marvel was released on 27 February and is in cinemas in the UK.

In a nutshell

Captain Marvel is a Kree warrior caught up in an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifters aiming for universal conquest. She finds herself on Earth in the mid-90s 1995 and quickly discovers that she was once U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. Teaming up with a two-eyed Nick Fury, she sets about defeating the Skrulls and uncovering how she came to gain her incredible superpowers.

Who’s it for?

The movie is rated 12a, so some children may need an adult along. But apart from some mild Marvel-style violence, this one’s pretty tame.

Who’s in it?

Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel

Brie Larson played Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and unsurprisingly, she’s very good. Danvers is actually not the easiest role to bring to life – her past is a bit complicated, and you’re not really sure if you’re supposed to be watching a human pilot with a penchant for karaoke or a battle-hardened alien being just trying to fulfil a mission. Either way, Larson pulls it off, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her in Endgame.

Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury, but with a twist or two. He’s considerably younger here (via some clever CGI), still retains both eyes, and isn’t quite as cynical as we find him later in the MCU. It was a nice change seeing Fury being somewhat less furious than usual.

The film also stars Ben “bad-guy voice” Mendelsohn as the leader of the Skrulls, Jude Law as Danvers’ Kree mentor and Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson (again, de-aged marvellously). It’s a relatively small but strong cast.

The good stuff

The good aspects of this film are obvious from the get-go, as are its negative qualities.

The cast is great, especially Larson. As I said, I’m looking forward to seeing how she integrates into the final Avengers movie, particularly under the direction of the Russo brothers. I imagine there’ll be some nice banter between her and the other super-powered heroes we’ve come to love.

Technically, the film looks and sounds good. It’s competently directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck with some great action sequences and stunning visuals. When Danvers comes to realise the full extent of her power later in the film, you genuinely get the sense that she’s fairly unstoppable.

And as with all Marvel movies, there’s a great deal of humour interspersed with the more serious moments throughout. It’s a fun movie, and most Marvel fans will enjoy it well enough.

However…

The not so good stuff

Maybe it’s the onset of Marvel fatigue, but I felt like I’d seen this movie already. While the narrative starts off with Danvers already in possession of her powers, it quickly rolls back into the usual MCU origin story formula: gets powers, learns more about powers, beats the Big Bad in the final act with said powers. This has all been done before, and better in some cases, unfortunately.

Secondly, the writing is often sub-standard for a Marvel movie. Some of the lines spouted by characters felt lazy and too by-the-book, especially in the case of Nicky Fury, who swung too far towards Hollywood cliché at times.

The filmmakers’ desire to empower women with this film and its lead character, while definitely admirable, becomes more of a distraction at times from the actual plot. It felt like some lines had been shoehorned in just to give the audience and critics a few sound-bites to take home. Yes, this is a film that gives younger viewers a great female role-model to emulate, but a blatantly-obvious pointed line like “I have nothing to prove to you” (addressed to a man) actually detracts from the flow of the narrative, like a big diversion sign by the side of the road.

Captain Marvel shouldn’t be deemed an excellent MCU film simply because it has a strong female lead, in the same way Black Panther shouldn’t be elevated just because it debunks racial stereotypes in its genre. Those plaudits should be gained on the merits of good film-making, which I believe Black Panther achieved more successfully, though not as successfully as many others suggested (I’m one of the few Marvel fans who wouldn’t rank it in my top five MCU movies).

My own gripes aside, Captain Marvel is a bit of an ‘almost’ movie: the writing is almost good, the humour is almost funny, the plot is almost engaging. But I felt like I’d seen it all before, and the filmmakers were in too much of a hurry to bang out one more quick origin story before it all wraps up next month.   

The bottom line

Captain Marvel is another enjoyable instalment in the MCU. Brie Larson grabs the lead role by the horns and is well-supported by a strong cast. It’s a solid enough movie, but it suffers from an overbearing need for its agenda to be pushed – had it been handled with a little more care, it could have been fantastic.

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

Reviews

Retro Review: Alien

March 5, 2019

Today we are looking at another significant film celebrating an anniversary. As this year Ridley Scott’s Alien turns 40. Alien has become a phenomenon over the past 40 years. Spawning one of the most iconic horror movie monsters, heroines and one of the best sequels ever made. But 4 decades on, has Alien aged well? Or has the franchise it spawned eclipsed the significance of the original film? Let’s find out.

The story

While heading back to Earth the crew of the spaceship Nostromo are awakened from cryo-sleep by the ship’s computer to investigate a distress signal coming from a nearby moon. During the mission, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a creature, which attaches itself to him and incapacitates him. Against officer Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) wishes, Science Officer, Ash (Ian Holm) lets him back onboard.

Eventually, Kane is freed from the alien’s grasp. But the lifeform left inside him by the alien kills him by erupting from his chest. Now, with an alien loose on the ship, the crew must find a way to survive. Will they stop the alien? And is the alien the biggest threat to the crew?

What did I like…

You can accomplish a lot with a simple idea. The concept of a monster on the loose in a confined area killing people is nothing new. But Alien presents itself so well that the unoriginal premise never impacts it.

Firstly, Dan O’Bannon’s script is a marvel of showing without telling and natural characterization. The Nostromo crew aren’t action heroes but everyday people who just want to complete their job and go home. Actions define these people. Rather than being handed information we discover more about them and their world through their interactions. The space setting also makes most of their lapses in judgment feel warranted and serves the narrative. Because running away is impossible. Thus, when the alien begins stalking the crew, the film becomes tenser because we relate to and fear for these people. And dread is built effectively because of what is left to the imagination. The alien itself is constantly changing and the company the characters work for is just a vague entity hanging over them, playing on our fears of the unknown.

The acting of Alien also works with the writing to create a believable world in an unbelievable situation. The actors use understated and restrained delivery to sell their characters. Even their hysteria feels natural and not forced. With each actor adding something to their performance that makes them feel unique. Whether it be Sigourney Weaver’s hard attitude, John Hurt’s everyday charm or Harry Dean Stanton’s goofy obliviousness. Many of the characters are memorable. Even if the writing was not strong these actors would still be able to carry the film.

Alien Cast
Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton in Alien

And then there is the production design and direction. The first thing most people think of when they think of Alien is H. R. Giger’s legendary creature design. Which evokes many subconscious fears. But it becomes scarier because we rarely see the whole thing on screen. Instead. we see close-ups or out of focus shots of it in the background. Again playing up the idea that what we don’t see is scarier. And the gothic, mechanical set design heightens the tension. We watch as the clinically clean safe rooms slowly change to unnerving mechanized monstrosities. With the direction letting atmosphere grow naturally through long shots and attention to editing. Allowing us to get use to the safety of certain things before slowly breaking them.

What I do not like…

But while the elements work together overall there are still hindrances that prevent the movie from being perfect. The film effectively builds atmospheric tension, but several jump scares are used at random points. Seemingly just to remind the audience that they are watching a horror film – which feels cheap.

Some could also argue that the characters feel a little underdeveloped. Because the script focuses more on their actions relating to their current situation many could claim that we don’t get to know the characters as individuals. We don’t get to learn all their facets as we have become used to in films. Which will be distancing for some. Also, while the actors mostly do a good job Tom Skerritt is a weak link. Unlike the rest of the cast, he feels ill-suited for his role as leader. He never leaves an impression, coming across more as whiny than as authoritative.

Finally, there are some lapses in logic that can take some audience members out of the experience. Some are relatively minor annoyances such as Ripley risking her life for Jonesy in the finale. Which doesn’t sync up with her previous characterisation as someone who puts survival first. But then there are bigger questions. Such as: if the company wanted the alien why did they entrust the job to space tuckers rather than a group of marines or people who would be more prepared to deal with the alien? And, Ash’s presentation in several scenes make his treacherous intentions too obvious to ultimately be surprising.

Verdict

Despite its hype and long legacy, Alien is still engaging all these years later. It does rely too much on jump scares. Some characters can be seen as underdeveloped. Tom Skerritt offers little to his part. And the plot requires the audience to suspend their disbelief a lot. But these flaws never damage the movie too much.

The characters are relatable people doing a job beyond their capabilities. And the film creates effective tension by keeping certain plot elements vague and unseen. The actors are also very natural in their roles making them easy to believe and giving them an innate likability. And it’s all played out against some of cinemas best production design. Which combined with the slower direction and pace creates a palpable atmosphere. It’s easy to see why everyone gravitated towards it. A genuine classic that deserves revisiting.

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

Alien (1979) Trailer
Reviews

Review: Fighting With My Family

February 28, 2019

A light-hearted feel-good comedy about one of the most accomplished female wrestlers, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making a guest appearance, what’s not to like?

The story

Fighting With My Family tells the real-life story of professional wrestler Paige (Florence Pugh) and her journey from wrestling locally in Norwich to wrestling in the biggest professional wrestling organisation in the world: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The film was written & directed by Stephen Merchant (The Office, Ricky Gervais Show) & was produced by everyone’s favourite pro-wrestler turned Hollywood superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who also plays a supporting role in the film.

Paige’s entrance into the WWE also marked the start of the “Diva’s Revolution“, a period in which women wrestling became more prominent within the company. This saw a move away from female wrestlers simply being seen as eye candy or only playing a supporting role, to being seen as true athletes, on par with their male counterparts.

Family first

A clear strength from the outset is the bond between Paige and her family. Coming from a wrestling family, who run a small independent wrestling promotion, all the quirks of this close-knit family are on full display. And the inside jokes between family members and genuine moments of affection really serve as the anchor for the film. Another positive is the casting selection, particularly of the immediate family: mum, Julia (Lena Headey); dad, Ricky (Nick Forst); and brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) all fit perfectly into their respective roles.

Expectations

Despite clocking in at nearly two hours, the film never feels sluggish. Writer / director, Stephen Merchant, does a great job of conveying the key parts of Paige’s journey and maintaining good pacing throughout the film. However, don’t expect much in the way of unexpected plot twists. What you see from the outset is very much what you get with this film.

Those who follow the WWE will also be treated to some cameos from active WWE wrestlers. While the 2008 Micky Rouke-led film The Wrestler was darker and bitter-sweet in tone, Fighting With My Family’s style of comedy feels right at home with this rags-to-riches story.

Final verdict

Great biopics about our favourite sporting superstars can often transcend simply attracting fans of the sporting discipline itself. Fighting With My Family does this and will find a home with anyone who loves a great coming of age story – whether you’re a wrestling fan or not. Fighting With My Family is a well-crafted film full of laughter. The British feel-good film of the year (so far).

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

Fighting With My Family Trailer (MGM)
Reviews

Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

February 26, 2019

Five years and several spinoffs after the surprise hit of the Lego Movie we finally have an official sequel. So its time to see if the Lego Movie 2 can prove people wrong a second time. Can the sequel live up to the standard set by the original? Can everything truly be awesome again? Well take a seat on your double-decker couch and come with me on this journey to find out.

The story

Five years after the defeat of Lord Business, the Lego world is at war with the inhabitants of the Systar system. A race of Duplo aliens who are bright, colourful and worst of all covered in glitter. Their constant battles with the Lego world force the residents to become hardened and grittier, except of course for Emmet (Chris Pratt), who is still his old peaceful and lovable self. When General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps his friends to attend a ceremony hosted by Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), Emmet must journey to the Systar system with the help of Rex Dangervest (Chris Pratt again) and his Raptor helpers to save them. But what is Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi’s plan? Do his friends really need saving? And what is happening to the beings whose minds control this universe?

What did I like?

It was always going to be difficult to make a sequel to The Lego Movie. The first movie was a well-told self-contained narrative that, despite its flaws, managed to be the best version of what it wanted to be. A smart, funny and sometimes poignant ode to childhood innocence and its value in the modern world. Since then the spinoffs largely traded charm for brand recognition and heaping’s of self-reference, so things looked bad for the sequel. As original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller are only writing this time and with the final twist of the first movie it makes it difficult to view this story in the same way as we did before. But with all those points against it, Lego Movie 2 manages to be a decent sequel.

One of the movies best points is that it continues with the thread that the first movie left us with. Now that we know this universe is an extension of children’s minds, the film focuses specifically on issues relating to children interacting among themselves in a way that feels like it’s written by children rather than adults. The blunt and overblown character names, the visualizations of girlhood and boyhood culture and the way the characters act feel very real as extensions of the child characters. Unlike the first one, it’s clear that this film is aimed more at a child audience than a family one. But the film captures a child’s mindset well and keeps the thematic meat of the story easy for kids to understand without talking down to them. Eventually resolving with a good moral lesson that nicely ties the Lego characters story to the real world.

The film also continues to be hilarious and thoughtful with its characters. All the older characters get their time to shine, Will Arnett’s Batman continues to be the standout, and some are updated in interesting ways. Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), having learned to accept Emmet’s world view in the first movie, must learn to accept who she is and how that makes her special. Emmet is sent on an unexpected journey where he learns what it means to be “strong” and Batman must learn to let go of his self-imposed loneliness in order to be happy. Just like before the voice actors strike the perfect balance between serious and self-parody, making the jokes funnier. And all the new characters bring a new perspective or flavour of humour to the table, Rex Dangervests’ chatty Raptors being my favourite addition.

The movie continues the Lego tradition of being a technical marvel. The animation is incredible, and the colour scheme is a feast for the eyes. Also, the music is just as catchy as ever, the lead song (Catchy Song), even plays up this angle for laughs. Musical numbers are even included along with the new songs to ensure that boredom is impossible. Overall a very entertaining experience.

What did I not like?

While the film is good, there is nothing about it that has the same wow factor as the first. It feels like a classic case of sequelitis. The second film goes bigger with its scale, music and message but ironically it feels like less is at stake than the first film. Mostly this is due to a lack of focus. Rather than focusing on Emmet as the centrepiece and letting the other characters grow around him, we focus on several characters at once. This means that we lose the impact that comes from spending time developing a single character. The bigger set pieces, musical numbers, and live action segments just feel like a diluted experience from the first film; their sparse use in the first film made them feel impactful, but now they feel overdone.

Along with that, the characters, despite being fun and interestingly updated seem inconsistent or ill-fitting to this story. Wyldstyle fits as the film is a call for acceptance of feminine culture, but other characters feel out of place. Batman’s learning to accept people is the same arc he went through in the Lego Batman movie. Making his addition feel obligatory rather than organic. Emmet’s arc of becoming tougher also feels out of character. In the previous film, he saw a world-ending conflict where one of his friends died but he kept his innocence, only fighting others briefly to get to Lord Business. It feels bizarre that he begins considering toxic masculine bravado as a way forward. And the other returning characters just seem to be here for callbacks and references, which is disappointing considering how well these characters suited the previous film’s narrative.

Finally, the movie has many inconsistencies that minorly compromise the film. For example, the inhabitants of the Systar system act differently from scene to scene. Some display a teenage level of development and others act like babies which doesn’t sync up with how the sister character acts in the real world. The film also tries to wrong-foot the audience by passing off the conflict as the brother’s fault. But Emmet tries to make peace with the Systar system at the beginning, but they open hostilities through their threatening behaviour. And the obviously deceptive way the Systar characters act throughout the movie only serves to setup the twist. But, upon second watch the Systar characters suspect behaviour feels pointless. And only there to force conflict. These inconsistencies may feel minor, but they add up. Eventually serving as a reminder of how much better the first movie worked as a whole.

Verdict

Despite my complaints Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is not a bad movie. It keeps up the original’s standard for sound and animation. The characters are still incredibly funny, and there is a refreshing moral that is communicated to its child audience in a way that treats them like adults. The only problem is that being a sequel it is impossible to avoid comparisons to its predecessor. And under that light the movie just falls short. The inconsistencies of this movie remind you how much care and attention was given to the first film. The characters are being made to fit the narrative rather than the narrative being made to fit them and no matter how big or lavish the musical numbers and set pieces, they never equal the simple charm of “everything is awesome”.

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

The Lego Movie 2 Trailer (Warner Bros.)

Read our review of the original Lego Movie

Reviews

Review: The Cured [Spoiler Free]

February 22, 2019

A zombie movie set in Ireland. Straight away, what’s not to like?

As a native of this green island, I was immediately intrigued when I noticed The Cured pop up on Netflix recently. I’m a fan of zombie movies (much to my wife’s displeasure) and took the first available opportunity to gobble this one up. Pun intended.

Why now?

The Cured was released on January 25 on Netflix in the UK.

In a nutshell

A virus has devastated most of Europe, turning the infected into psychotic, bloodthirsty monsters, and Ireland has suffered heavily. However, a cure has been found which has been successful on 75% of the infected population, with the remaining 25% still quarantined for study. One young man called Senan, one of the cured, is released back into the care of his sister-in-law. However, the cured can remember what they did in their infected state, and it isn’t long before Senan and his fellow cured come into conflict with a society unwilling to accept them back.

Who’s it for?

The Cured is rated 15 for strong violence, gore, threat and language. It’s not quite as violent as most other zombie movies I’ve seen and much of the horror is implied. Fans of the genre will find the bloodiness satisfactory while newcomers shouldn’t be put off by it.

Ellen Page in The Cured

Who’s in it?

Sam Keeley plays protagonist Senan, while Ellen page takes the role of his sister-in-law Abbie. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Ebony Maw in Avengers: Infinity War, which was news to me) plays Conor, a fellow member of the Cured with an agenda. It’s a small but capable cast.

The good stuff

This is a smarter zombie movie than many others in the genre. Granted, most contemporary films about the brain-munchers usually try to put a fresh spin on things (unless it’s The Walking Dead) and some succeed, but I liked the fact that this one focused on an entirely new aspect of it all – what happens to those who are cured of the infection. I thought the whole concept of them actually remembering what they did in their zombie state was particularly chilling, and it’s a premise that becomes increasingly significant as the film goes on. This is a well-written, well-acted movie with shades of 28 Days Later and The Last of Us in there at times. Some scenes are genuinely scary, too. And if the writers didn’t intend for it to be an allegory of historical Irish political unrest, they certainly stumbled into it anyway.

The not so good stuff

There isn’t much to say about this movie that’s overly negative. It was clearly made on a smaller budget than other zombie movies (like the big-money World War Z, for instance) and so it doesn’t have very many big action sequences or huge amounts of zombie screen time. Some of the plot is quite predictable and the ending’s a bit of a let-down, but if you take it at face value and are happy with a slower-burning zombie flick, I doubt you’ll mind.

The bottom line

I enjoyed The Cured – it’s a good casual watch and perfect for Netflix viewing. It won’t win too many new fans to the zombie genre, but it’s a fresh enough twist on the long-running horror premise to merit a watch. Catch it while you can.

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

The Cured – Official Trailer (YouTube)
Reviews

Review: Alita: Battle Angel

February 21, 2019

Written by James Cameron (Avatar) & directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the Sci-Fi adventure film, Altia: Battle Angel.

What’s it about?

Set several centuries in the future, the story picks up when the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard by Dr. Ido, Alita has no memory of who she is, or the world she has found herself in.

Rachael RNR reviews Alita: Battle Angel (YouTube)

Alita: Battle Angel is out in cinemas now.

Reviews

Retro Review: The Lego Movie

February Half Term is here so it’s time to enjoy some family time at the cinema. With The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part looking to storm the box office this half term, lets first take a look back at the original movie. Which proved all naysayers wrong and went on to become a box office smash and spawn a franchise of Lego spinoff movies. But half a decade later, does the first movie still hold up?

The story

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a normal, generic Lego construction worker, happily going through his life conforming to the will of big businesses. But when he follows resistance fighter and master builder Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) off the beaten track he ends up fused with the legendary “piece of resistance”. This apparently means that he is the legendary “special”, prophesized to bring down Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and bring peace to the universe. The only problem is Emmet really isn’t special. He is not creative, does not possess the skills of a master builder (people who can build anything from everyday materials) and doesn’t wish to get involved. Never the less he is pursued by Lord Business.

While on the run Emmet must work with many colourful characters to find a way to stop Lord Business from freezing the world forever with his superweapon, The Kraggle. Can Emmet defeat the enemy with nothing to work with his but his everyday knowledge and fondness for double-decker couches?

What did I like?

The Lego Movie’s success really did come out of nowhere. Upon release, everyone thought it would just be another cash grab. With a celebrity voice cast collecting a paycheque. An inconsequential story and brand recognition placed above creativity. But the Lego Movie dashed all of those presumptions.

Firstly, the film looks amazing. The colour scheme is vibrant and full of variety making it an absolute joy to look at. The film also shows great affection for the Lego fanbase by having many of the characters move at a lower frame rate to give the illusion of stop motion animation, similar to Lego online videos. Which elicits plenty of affectionate charm and admiration for its creativity, backed up by gorgeously flowing animation.

Then there’s the sound. The voice cast is uniformly terrific. Everyone brings perfect comedic timing to their roles, Will Arnett’s Batman and Morgan Freemans Vitruvius being particular highlights. Each character’s voice suits and parodies their archetypes simultaneously. For example, Will Arnett’s send-up of Christian Bale’s Batman voice is made funnier through his self-aware smugness. So, the well-written jokes have extra layers to unpack through their delivery and timing. The sound design is also fantastic. The score is also beautiful, often adding an OTT silliness to the proceedings. Great thought is also put into sound details such as how walking, construction and fights sound in this Lego world. And all capped off with “Everything is Awesome”. A song that ridicules and celebrates corporate pop music in a way that ensures you’ll never forget it.

As well as looking and sounding amazing, The Lego Movie’s characters are all unique, funny and offer something to the story. Emmet makes for an easily likeable protagonist, being the only down to earth person who just wants to be nice. Wyldstyle, despite her hostile introduction, shows herself to be a strong person who takes Emmet’s self-lessness to heart and unites the world. And the supporting cast all offer different flavours of critique on “adult” perspectives or showcase the joy of childhood wonder. And the story offers different things to different generations. The simple nature of the story makes it easy for children to follow and the satire easily engages the adult viewers. And by the end, despite the cynical nature of some of the jokes, it brings both audiences together. Showing that sometimes we need to let go of adulthood for a while and be children again.

And that is the ultimate key to why The Lego Movie works so well. It blends adult craftsmanship and satire with childlike joy and enthusiasm in a way that feels complementary rather than derogatory to the overall experience. Ultimately showing that despite our cynical nature, we all have the potential to be special in our own way.

What I do not like?

However, amongst the achievements of this film there are a few missteps. The biggest problem being the way it represents women. There are only two prominent female roles in the film. Unikitty is repressed and Wyldstyle has penis envy. The twist does explain these choices and the characters never feel insulting or malicious. However their roles are still unflattering.

Lastly, some of the humour is a little too reliant on self-awareness or referencing popular culture. Though not a terrible source for jokes, most are even executed really well, their occasional overuse becomes tiresome. At some points, it even becomes alienating to people trying to become absorbed in the world and the story. The constant fourth wall breaking draws into question how invested we should be in characters who have no regard for the narrative. Though these moments are usually well delivered and spaced out enough to not be a huge issue.

Verdict 

While occasionally too self-aware, lacking a decent female insight and an overreliance on reference humour, The Lego Movie is a great family movie that deserves revisiting. It finds unique ways to appeal to both children and adults without feeling overstuffed or disingenuous. It includes a fantastic cast inhabiting interesting and hilarious characters in a beautiful world that clearly had a lot of passion behind it. And every time you return there’s something new to chew on. The Lego Movie is a testament to the power of imagination and storytelling and for me, the best animated film of the decade so far.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The Lego Movie (Trailer)

The Lego Movie is available on DVD and digital stores.

Reviews

Review: Velvet Buzzsaw

February 14, 2019

Velvet Buzzsaw is a weird film.

I’ll say that now, right off the bat. It’s weird. However, I would have liked it to be just a little weirder. So let’s talk about it.

Why now?

Velvet Buzzsaw was released on February 1 on Netflix.

In a nutshell

The art circle of Miami Beach is turned on its head when a vast collection of pieces are discovered after a reclusive master artist called Vetril Dease dies and his works are claimed by an ambitious young woman seeking to climb the social and professional ladder. It isn’t long before those who purchase Dease’s works begin to experience disturbing events, some of which prove to be fatal.

Who’s it for?

Velvet Buzzsaw is rated 15 for strong bloody violence, language, and sex, and it certainly features plenty of that. However, while it’s gory in parts and the language is occasionally pretty bad, it’s tame enough compared to other movies in the supernatural horror genre. It’s not for kids, though.

Who’s in it?

There’s a strong cast in this one. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mort Vandewalt, an art critic researching Vetril Dease after his works are discovered. He’s romantically involved with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), the lady who discovers Dease’s work; she’s employed by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), owner of the art gallery where much of the film’s central plot points take place. The film also features Toni Collett, John Malkovich and a host of others you’ll definitely recognise. Like I said, strong cast.

The good stuff

Rene Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal in Velvet Buzzsaw

Jake Gyllenhaal, for a start, is great. He plays the role of camp, snooty art critic to perfection, managing to be annoyingly arrogant while remaining relatable enough throughout. His performance largely carries the film at times. The setting is interesting, and I was intrigued with the premise from the start. The film is genuinely scary at times, too, and it’s directed fairly well.

The not so good stuff

However, like I said at the start of this review, it’s a weird film. I don’t think the writers 100% knew what they wanted it to be. It starts as some sort of satirical drama and ends as a full-on supernatural horror without being either consistently throughout its runtime. It ends up as a kind of twist on Final Destination, with characters bumped off by some unseen vengeful force in a variety of ways. It felt to me like the makers of Velvet Buzzsaw got off to a solid start and then ran out of ideas about halfway through.

Like so many Netflix films, this one could have been so much more than it ended up as. Had the writers pushed the premise just a bit more, or sent it in another direction (it would have worked as a pure comedy – if it was supposed to be a pure comedy, I didn’t get it), this may have been a five-star review.

The bottom line

I was ultimately left disappointed with Velvet Buzzsaw. It has its moments and it’s probably worth a watch if you’ve nothing better to do, but in the end, its style outweighs any real substance. What starts off strong and engaging peters out into something predictable that leaves you wondering if you should have watched something else instead.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Reviews

Review: If Beale Street Could Talk [Spoiler Free]

February 9, 2019
If Beale Street Could Talk Banner

Written & directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and based on the book by acclaimed civil rights activist and author, James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is a bittersweet tale of fighting for love and overcoming adversity, in the face of racial oppresion.

Set in early 1970’s Harlem, Tish (played by KiKi Layne), a nineteen-year-old girl, is in love with a young sculptor, Fonny (played by Stephan James), the father of her unborn child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, Tish and their families race to clear his name before the baby is born.

What is the price of love? And what is the cost of freedom? In what feels like insurmountable odds to overcome, these are questions asked of Tish & Fonny as they navigate through their blossoming relationship. Narrated by Tish, the film is a powerful introspective look at black love flourishing in a hostile environment.

Both Tish & Fonny’s families play a pivotal role as their support systems. And despite hardships faced by both families, at different points in the film, the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to a support Tish & Fonny make for some of the most heart warming moments in the film. Director, Barry Jenkins, does a great job in showcasing the strong familial bonds that exist within their respective families, and also the fraught relationship that Tish & Fonny’s families have for each other.

Facing racism

Whilst racism is an everyday reality faced by Tish & Fonny, director, Barry Jenkins highlights many of the nuanced ways this manifests – not simply through a corrupt legal system. We are given a front seat to see the racial dynamics at play in Tish’s job, through how her customers & colleagues interact with her and even though the couple’s frustration, due to the discrimination they face in finding a home.

However, we are also shown the allies that exist in other parts of their community. Each of these key moments where they are helped by other members of the community plays an important role in shaping how the story unfolds.

Although racism is something they experience, their characters are not simply defined by it. This is a testament to the care in how both lead characters have been crafted. Tish and Fonny have their own clear dreams and aspirations, and director Barry Jenkins has done a fantastic job in showing how their relationship matures over the course of the film.

Love conquers all?

It’s hard not to be emotionally invested in Tish & Fonny by the end of the film, you want them both to succeed – individually and as a couple. With lush cinematography and flawless storytelling If Beale Street Could Talk is incredible from start to finish. Although the ending of the film is bittersweet it is nonetheless a very powerful one. Visually, the film is stunning where it needs to be and yet suitably understated where it serves the interest of the story. Can love truly conquer all? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

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

If Beale Street Could Talk is an amazing film which will shape African American cinema moving forward, but also serves as a powerful love story for all to enjoy.

If Beale Street Could Talk is out in cinemas now.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Trailer)
Reviews

Review: Escape Room

February 7, 2019
Rachael RNR - Escape Room Review

YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the survival horror, Escape Room.

What’s the film about?

Six strangers are invited to participate in a mysterious escape room a game, where players solve a series of puzzles to win $10,000. But the game soon turns into a living nightmare, a matter of life or death.

Rachael RNR reviews “Escape Room” (YouTube)
Reviews

Review: Green Book

January 30, 2019
Rachael Green Book Review

YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the critically acclaimed Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali.

What’s the film about?

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Rachael RNR Reviews Green Book
Reviews

Review: Vice [Spoiler Free]

January 24, 2019

Following 2015’s The Big Short, the trio of writer / director, Adam McKay and actors Christian Bale & Steve Carell join forces for the biographical political drama, Vice. The film details the rise to power of former U.S Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Story

Based on the biography of Dick Cheney, as well as interviews with known associates, Vice tells the life story of Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale). The film documents the period of him being kicked out of Yale University to the end of George W. Bush’s administration, for which he served as Vice President. The viewer is guided through his life story by the narrator, Kurt (Jesse Plemons), we later discover how these two individuals are connected.

The supporting cast includes Amy Adams (Arrival, Justice League) as Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney; Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Welcome to Marwen) as Donald Rumsfeld; Tyler Perry (Nobody’s Fool) as Colin Powell; and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) as President George W Bush.

Hitting The Mark

Christian Bale & Amy Adams (Vice)

Over the years, Christian Bale has proven himself to be a master at immersing himself in the characters he plays, fortunately, this remains true with his depiction of Dick Cheney. From the stoic demeanour and gravelly voice, Christian Bale’s performance is on par with previous performances in American Hustle & The Fighter.

Lynne Cheney is very much the backbone of the Cheney family. Her motivations are often a lot clearer than Dick Cheney’s, which allows Amy Adams to play her role with greater depth. Her need for a sense of security in her relationship, based on her parent’s abusive relationship and her wishes to realise her own ambitions, at a time women couldn’t so easily do, gives her character a sense of drive. One that is felt constantly throughout the film.

Sam Rockwell’s depiction of George W Bush largely stays true to the former president and is as equally believable as Christian Bale’s Cheney. One of the stronger points of Vice is exploring the relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. George W. Bush once described his relationship with Dick Cheney as “cordial” and that’s largely how their relationship is shown on screen.

Most of the film revolves around three periods, which has defined modern-day Conservative politics in the U.S: The power-vacuum formed after the resignation of President Nixon because of the Watergate Scandal, the rise of the Bush family in the Republican Party & 9/11.

The film also makes references to how the wider landscape of how Conservative politics developed: from Roger Ailes’ initial wish to form a Conservative Party News Channel, which then became Fox News; to billionaires, the Koch brothers and their influence on the party.

Thought Process

Despite being accurate on key events, a downfall of the film is understanding Dick Cheney’s motivation in the first place. Early on in the film he is described as a “so-so student” and having been expelled from Yale and battling drinking, his decision to study and enter into politics, much less the long ascent to becoming the United States’ most powerful Vice President ever, isn’t given the on-screen time that it should have.

Is Dick Cheney motivated by hatred? fear? Or atriotism? Without this explored it can make light of the ruthlessness in which the real Dick Cheney moulded the Republican Party over the past decades. And whilst the director, Adam McKay, does present some facts and figures, it does little to show the motivating factors in pursuing the “War on Terror” as viciously as Dick Cheney did.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of The Big Short, you’ll certainly enjoy this. The supporting cast is great and Christian Bale is believable in his depiction of Dick Cheney. Even though it doesn’t quite reach the captivating heights of a film like Wolf of Wall Street in describing a “rise to power” story, it’s an intriguing look at how the political landscape of Republican politics has changed over the last four decades.

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