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Review: Jojo Rabbit

January 8, 2020

What’s Going On?

Jojo Rabbit is a film about 10-year-old Jojo living in the last months of Hitler’s Germany. Jojo is a very devoted member of the Hitler Youth and believes so passionately in the Nazi party his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Jojo lives with his unconventional mother and to his surprise a Jewish girl who his mother is hiding – the patriotic Jojo is torn between his devotion to the Nazi Party and not wanting to get his mother into serious trouble. It is described by its director as an anti-hate satire and is largely a comedy but obviously touches on many issues full of tragedy and horror.

Behind The Scenes

Jojo Rabbit (variety.com)

Jojo Rabbit is the latest film by Taiki Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnorak, What We Do In The Shadows and many more, It is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. I have not seen all of Waititi’s films but every one that I have seen is very, very good, even doing the impossible and making me care about Thor.

In Front Of The Camera

Jojo Rabbit (source: bristol247.com)

Jojo is played by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, Elsa, the Jewish girl in hiding, by Thomasin McKenzie, probably best known for her role of Tom in Leave No Trace. There is a large ensemble cast including Scarlett Johansson as Rosie, Jojo’s mother, Sam Rockwell as world, and possibly war, weary Captain Klenzendorf, Stephen Merchant as the local Gestapo officer and Rebel Wilson as an extremely enthusiastic Nazi. And of course, Taiki Waititi played Hitler (Jojo’s imaginary-friend Hitler anyway).

Does It Work?

Jojo Rabbit (source: refinery29.com)

I had very high expectations for this film, mainly because of my love of Taiki Waititi’s work but also the trailer had me hooked immediately. I shall say straight away that I loved it. Many films have shown up fascism, the Nazi Party and Hitler as evil, ridiculous, cruel and worthy of mockery, Jojo Rabbit does this but also makes a strong case for love, freedom, kindness and dancing. The film is moving, capturing the many different ways fascism hurt people, as well as being very funny. The scenes with Jojo and Hitler are particularly funny, with Hitler trying to find parallels with his world of global domination with Jojo’s struggles as a young boy. Much fun is had with Captain Klenzendorf who often takes a sideways glance at Nazi propaganda and this works even better when coupled to Rebel Wilson’s character, who wholeheartedly believes all of it.

The crucial part of the film is that Jojo is not really a Nazi, he’s too young to understand what that means and whenever he is given the opportunity to really be a Nazi he doesn’t take it. Early in the film older members of the Hitler Youth want him to kill a rabbit, to show his strength, and he won’t do it (hence his nickname Jojo Rabbit). Jojo is basically a good person, the same is true for his friend Yorki, a similarly enthusiastic member of Hitler Youth whose message of hatred and cruelty crumbles before his basic good naturedness.

It’s always dangerous mixing comedy with topics so infused with horror, hatred and outright evil but I think Waititi succeeds admirably. At no point does it feel like the film being funny comes before showing Nazi Germany for what it was. For all, it’s a comedy it has two of the most moving scenes I have seen in recent years, one of which I am still trying to come to terms with.

There were times it reminded me of Death of Stalin, another film mixing comedy and the darkest of events. When we saw the daily madness of living under such a regime, the bizarre lies you would have to tell yourself, the complete abandonment of common sense and logic, as well as the horror that you could get caught up in these horrors so easily.

Jojo Rabbit (deseret.com)

The film revolves around Jojo and Elsa, and both actors are great, Roman Griffin Davis never strays so close to Nazism that the audience turns against him. Thomasin McKenzie runs through a gamut of emotions of righteous anger to hopelessness perfectly and believably. The ensemble cast is very good, with Scarlett Johansson giving a tremendous and at times heartbreaking performance. Sam Rockwell’s performance is an odd one, in many ways we are supposed to like Captain Klenzendorf, the eccentric frequently drunk soldier who never seems entirely convinced by fascism and does good where he can, while at the same time he wears the uniform and fought in the army and I’m still unsure what Waititi was going for with this character. Stephen Merchant is very funny as the local Gestapo officer, an embodiment of all the nonsense and stupidity of fascism. And there is Waititi playing the imaginary friend Hitler, a mix of charismatic tyrant and idiotic, petulant child, at times trying to buoy Jojo’s spirits or placing insane demands on him.

Jojo is a film at times is funny and even manages to be joyous about life as well as being deeply moving and thoughtful and it is a rare director who can this in one film.

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

JoJo Rabbit (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Parasite (Review)

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Reviews

Review: Parasite

December 28, 2019

When a parasite connects to its host, it’s trying to survive. As an organism it has adapted to this way of life, to rely on its host to endure, to feed, and to live. The host is noticeably weakened by the parasite, its resources now feed two beings and as such parasites are merciless. 

In Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winning Parasitethose organisms are the Kim family. A group who, struck by misfortune and lack of wealth, try to make a living from what they can in their semi-basement apartment. They fold the pizza boxes for a local restaurant, use the WIFI of the person who lives above them, they risk their own health to take advantage of local fumigation via their open windows, and they have to watch each night as drunk men piss outside those same windows. So when an opportunity to tutor the daughter of the wealthy Park family befalls the son of the family, Ki-Woo (played with hope and grit by Choi Woo-shik) a plan emerges. 

Ki-Woo likes plans, to know the next step, to already have his counteraction prepared. As it becomes clear the youngest Park child needs an art tutor, he suddenly ‘remembers’ someone he’s heard of and thus, his sister, Ki-jeong (a deftly cool and calm Park So-dam), takes up the mantle of Jessica – an artistic genius and expert in art therapy who studied in the USA. Soon, there appear to be roles for the entire family and they set about making it happen. Utilising titbits of information they hear from the family they find ways to oust the driver and the housekeeper, leaving room for Ki-teak (Song Kang-ho) and Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) to take over. Their infiltration of the Park family is ruthless and smooth.

Parasite Film
“Parasite” screenshot (credit: Universal Pictures)

What then of their host, the Park family? The mother, Yeon-gyo (played sweetly by Cho Yeo-jeong) whose ignorance to the world outside is unwittingly antagonistic and her maternal anxiety only seems to stretch to her youngest son. The father, Dong-ik, the CEO of an IT company, who brings home the money and wins over his son with gifts. They are two people who, as the film twists and writhes into unexpected places, become more grotesque as their out-of-touch air wrestles with their lack of empathy for others. As for their children, Da-song, is a seemingly wild, uncontrollable child while Da-hye is a shy, self-conscious teen, aware of the lack of attention she gets from her parents and thus finds romantic entanglements with all her tutors. 

The Parks live in an enviable mansion mostly protected from prying eyes by tall trees in their garden. The suave house, filled with motion sensors, cool chrome finishes, and Voss Water, is the stage on which this symbiotic relationship plays out. The Kim’s infiltrate and live off the Parks and the Parks, ignorant to the toils of the working classes, are none the wiser. 

To talk too much more about the film’s plot would rob the viewer of experiencing its wild ride (and it is wild). Instead, what is more, beneficial is thinking about Parasite has to say, with class strategically centred in this astute and pointed story of a wide and cavernous divide. But, make no mistake, the evaluation of Parasite as class warfare is not this critic engaging with the film’s subtilties, far from it. The film wears its anti-capitalist message on its sleeve, open and in plain sight with no chance you could miss it. That is, in fact, one of its strongest qualities: its unabashed commitment to its thesis. The world of the film is the same as the world we live in, the rich find it hard to see the poverty for the trees that they surround their massive houses with. Global warming leads to hotter summers for those beach getaways and rising house prices mean a stronger investment in property and likely more needy tenants to rent to.

It is not the only film to grapple with this divide that simply cannot be ignored. In a piece for Vulture, critic Alison Willmore wrote, “[C]lass rage on the big screen provides a reflection of the particular despair and frustration underscoring our real-world present, where the divide between security and anxiety, both here and abroad, is ever more cavernous.” Willmore placed Parasite alongside 2019’s slew of films that examined that class gap including Ready or NotHustlersKnives Out, and more. Does this mean things are changing?

Parasite
“Parasite” screenshot (credit: Universal Pictures)

Parasites notably weaken their host, but when it comes to class nothing seems to be budging, nobody appears any frailer. The rich keep getting richer, the money builds up as billionaires see tax decreases and off-shore accounts continue to exist. But the working classes see none of that dough, it isn’t put back into the economy unless you count the poor wages paid for zero-hour contracts or casual work. And if you don’t like it? There’s a line of hundreds just like you, in need of work, lining up around the block to survive. If there were a job opening ‘500 university graduates would go for it’, Ki-Taek says, highlighting the grim prospects that a lot of young people know all too well. 

Bong Joon-ho’s social commentary flick is made more effective through the stylish and gripping way the story unfolds. It’s dark, funny, clever, surprising, and I’m sure I could use almost every adjective in my lexicon. I could go on for hours about the way class and politics come into play but I won’t. All I’ll say is this: parasites don’t intend to harm their host, that is a by-product of the way in which they exist. They want, as all creatures do, to live. 

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

Parasite is being distributed by Curzon in the UK and will be in cinemas 7th February 2020.

Also Read: The Anatomy of a Christopher Nolan Film

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Reviews

Review: Cats

December 23, 2019
Cats Movie

Ever since the first trailer was released during the summer, Cats has been criticised for its unflattering and wrongly used special effects. Director Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl, Les Misérables) decided to use the comments from the public and critics to change his film, even until the last moment. Now that the movie is finally released, we can see the result. Sadly, we wish we could unsee it right after we watched it.

The search for a new life

She’s still very young but she has already been through so much. Victoria ( Francesca Hayward) is being abandoned by her parents and now finds herself in London all by herself. At first, she’s being looked at with a lot of contempt by other cats. They doubt if she’s one of them, one of the “Jellicles” cats, but after accepting her (until a certain degree), they invite her to the Jellicle Ball. During that annual ball, many cats can compete to go to a place known as the Heaviside Layer to undergo reincarnation. The winner is being crowned by the leader of the tribe, Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench). A whole new world is opening in front of Victoria. One that she discovers alongside magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) and guardian of the “Jellicles” cats Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild).

She meets many cats who each have their unique talent. You have Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), Bustopher Jones (James Corden) and Gus (Sir. Ian McKellen). Sadly, not everyone is welcome as Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), who once was a well-respected cat, is now being treated with a lot of fear and disgust. The big evening is about to arrive and so everyone’s ready to show off their talent but that’s not to the liking of the “Moriarty amongst the cats” Macavity (Idris Elba) as he wants to be the winner himself. He will do everything in his power to get rid of his competitors…

Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella in Cats.
(source: Universal Pictures)

Cast by name and not by the (right) talent

When watching a film that’s based on a musical, you expect the performers to dance and sing their hearts out. Well, let us tell you. That doesn’t happen at all in Cats. We’re not saying that the cast isn’t talented (respect for both the A-listers as well as the newcomers) but most of them were cast for the wrong reasons. The two biggest casting mistakes are without a doubt Dench (Murder on the Orient Express) and McKellen (The Good Liar). They’re both esteemed actors but they just don’t fit in Cats. Their voices don’t match the songs and due to the terrible special effects, they can’t put their great acting on display. The result: Cringing moments and a waste of talent.

That putting celebrity names on the poster was more important than finding the right actors for the job is being proved by casting Elba (Molly’s Game) as Macavity and Taylor Swift as Bombalurina. In the original work, Macavity is a ginger cat that oozes evil and danger. Certainly not a dark-skinned (no offence here) one that brings even more funniness to the work. Oh and didn’t Swift her character hate Macavity in the poems? Well, not according to Hooper and his team.

There were some great casting choices in the film as well. The best one is certainly Fairchild as Munkustrap. He brings emotions, elegance, and class to this movie and it’s clear that he already had musical experience from his days when he performed in An American in Paris – The Musical. More magic and fun is brought to the screen by the very charming and delightful Davidson (Will). That Magical Mr. Mistoffelees song is one of the most captivating moments of the film. Cats also introduces us to the ballet dancer Hayward and she shines in her first full-length feature film. Hudson (All Rise) is the only one that could give us goosebumps during this film by signing Memory.

Special effects that aren’t special

The reason why the story, its touching vibe and the acting performances don’t come through is because of the special effects. It’s just too weird to see Dench as a cat (especially because it seems she’s wearing a collar) and making from the coloured Hayward a white cat just doesn’t do the trick at all. Also Wilson her cat taking off an extra layer of skin by unzipping it? Nope, Cats isn’t always eye-candy.

Not totally cat-astrophic

Do you need to see Cats or not? The question isn’t that simple to answer. They’re flaws when it comes to the characters, special effects, and casting but it’s certainly not like you waste one of the nine lives watching this film. The dancing, the signing of Hudson and that little spark of magic are the few elements that keep Cats alive.

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

Also Read: How To Revive A Franchise After Many Years

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Reviews

Review: Black Christmas (2019) [Spoilers]

December 20, 2019
Black Christmas 2019 (Source: We Live Entertainment)

The original 1974 Black Christmas about a group of sorority girls being stalked by a serial killer over the Christmas break was not only a forerunner of the slasher craze but also gained a lot of praise over the years for its well-characterised female leads and subtle pro-feminist message regarding issues like pro-choice and female agency. And with feminist issues still being prominent in modern culture, it’s only natural that a new generation would want to tell their interpretation of Black Christmas. However, this remake had a lot of difficulties to overcome.  

Not only is the original film highly influential and beloved by many horror fans; the first Black Christmas remake from 2006 was a critical and box office disappointment. Potentially inviting unfavourable comparisons and minimal box office appeal. The film also had a disastrous marketing campaign, with a trailer that seemed to reveal the movie’s twist. But with the acclaimed Sophia Takal directing and stars like Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes attached could Black Christmas (2019) prove itself and step out of the shadow of its beloved and derided brethren? Let’s see.

The Story

Everyone at Hawthorne College is heading home for the holidays but the women of the MKE sorority have other plans. Riley (Imogen Poots) is still recovering from a harrowing sexual assault incident. Aggravated by her uncharged attacker returning to campus. Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is continuing to fight for the removal of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes). And all their other sorority sisters are helping out with a charitable dinner. But they soon realize something evil is lurking in the college grounds.

As some of the sisters go missing, others receive threatening messages and hooded figures stalk the grounds it becomes clear that someone wants these girls dead. As the women race to find out who their attackers are and what their motives are, the bonds between them grow stronger and they eventually resolve to take the fight to their abusers.

What Did I Like?

Firstly, I really like how the new movie updated the originals feminist undercurrent by incorporating issues relating to the modern female experience in the story – both overtly and subtly. Such as the threat of rape culture, toxic masculinity, and the empowerment of the #MeToo movement. Also, instead of copying the original’s plot, this film weaves these thematic threads and some of the iconography of the original (the faceless killer, some of the weapons and the setting) into something more akin to cult horror than a slasher film. Which yields some inventive and interesting results.

Imogen Poots’ also gives a great performance as Riley. Poots is an often-underappreciated actress, but her portrayal of the mental and emotional torture that Riley has gone through is sensitive, understated and incredibly touching. She’s very likeable in the role and despite problems regarding her lines, which we will discuss later, Poots remains untouchable. Easily putting this film above the 2006 version, as this movie has at least one likeable character.

Lastly, the film looks and sounds gorgeous. The lighting perfectly captures the feel of a Christmas horror film with festive reds and greens brightening the frame. Inventive long shots are also used to create suspense (pay attention Exorcist 3 fans). And the score by Will and Brooke Blair is very effective. Creating a nicely tense and eery atmosphere that compliments the gothic tones of the story and its setting. Unfortunately, the movie’s positives are cancelled out by several problems.

What Did I not like?

The biggest problem is the script. This movie’s dialogue is abysmal. Every line continually beats the movie’s message over your head. Obviously, themes are important, and many films use characters to articulate certain points of view (Jess filled this role in the original). But this must be balanced by subtle dialogue. To get the point across without becoming preachy. The original excelled at this. This film’s lines are so cartoonishly written it becomes laughable.

The film also suffers from weak plotting and characterisation. The original had proactive characters, with varied, likeable personalities, who always had something to do; because we cared about them and always knew where the killer was, there was a sense of danger propelling the narrative. The characters in Black Christmas (2019) lack agency and personality. Most are just mouthpieces who spend their time doing little of relevance; while a few scenes have a tense presentation, there’s no overarching tension on a character or plot level to keep the audience invested. Just a lot of cheap jump scares.

Then there’s the third act. Which introduces a supernatural element out of nowhere, undermining the grounded conflict and relevant social commentary and transforming into a silly action movie. With new plot elements being added that have no explanation (the other sorority houses) or serve no purpose (using objects to track down students despite the villains already knowing where the main characters live). Leaving the movie an unfocused mess.

Finally, every actor (besides Poots) delivers a terrible performance. All the evil male characters are over the top to the point of parody. The worst offender is Cary Elwes, whose turn is so pantomime villain it becomes insulting that our leads never figure out his intentions. But the film plays elements like the music and lighting completely straight. As though these people are meant to be scary. Which is incredibly jarring. The good men also fail to endear themselves because they’re just too dull. The women don’t fare any better with most being flat and forgettable. Except for Aleyse Shannon, whose performance is so smug and self-satisfied that she becomes instantly annoying.

Verdict

Despite a good central performance from Imogen Poots, some gorgeous, occasionally inventive cinematography, a creepy score; the inventive updating of the themes and story of the original Black Christmas, which easily puts it above the first remake in terms of quality, Black Christmas (2019) is a chore to sit through.

This is thanks to a completely inept script full of preachy dialogue that hammers the movie’s themes home with no subtlety. Coupled with a thin plot that gives no agency or arcs to its characters. Disastrous and annoying performances and a third act that destroys everything the prior movie was building towards.

At the end of the day, Black Christmas (2019) is a movie whose message takes priority over its filmmaking. But when a movie has little to offer besides that it quickly becomes boring. Even to people who agree with said message. It wants to be game-changing like the original but completely lacks any understanding of what made the original film work. After 45 years the original still remains unbeaten.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Black Christmas (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Alternative Christmas Movies

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Reviews

Review: 1917

December 16, 2019
1917 - Sam Mendes Film

While it’s more than a hundred years after the First World War, many horrific and unknown stories are still being discovered and told. One of the recent ones comes from the hand of soldier Alfred Mendes. If the surname sounds familiar to you, then you might already know who decided to bring that breathtaking story to life. Yep, director Sam Mendes, his grandson. With an incredibly personal script, an abnormal talented team and stunning performances, Mendes made a superb war film and an unbelievable tribute to his grandfather and the soldiers.

Time is the enemy

We’re almost at the end of the war when we meet Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay). The young privates are being called by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) who gives them the most important and dangerous mission. Blake and Schofield have to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, including Blake’s brother, from getting killed. During their mission, their enemy isn’t the biggest threat. No, time is. It’s from vital importance that they deliver the message on time.

Along the way, they’re being confronted with destruction, death and war scenes they wished they’d never seen. They find out who is the enemy and who are their allies as it might not seem as obvious as it looks. Will the privates succeed in their utmost dangerous and life-threatening mission or will their hours and the ones of their follow soldiers be counted?

War like you’ve never it seen before

We can hear you say it. “Why again another war film. Did we need one more”? Let us tell you: We definitely needed 1917 as it’s a war film like you’ve never seen before. As an established and successful director, Mendes already worked on grandiose films such as Spectre and Skyfall and his immense knowledge made sure that 1917 is a piece-of-art that both includes remarkable craftsmanship and emotional performances.

The biggest reason why this movie deserves all the attention it can get is because of the spectacular way it was created. Together with the immense talented cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario) and gifted editorial department, Mendes wanted to give the feeling that the movie was shot in one single long take. That’s exactly the vibe we got. The camera is always with the two main protagonists following them during their difficult journey. The audience stands shoulder by shoulder with them. Because of the way this movie was edited and shot, the emotional connection between the privates and the audience is exceptionally high.

George MacKay as Lance Corporal Schofield and Dean-Charles Chapman as Lance Corporal Blake in 1917 (source: IMDb)

Chapman and MacKay are two spectacular leads

There’s not only extreme talent behind the camera but also in front. While the big stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Andrew Scott all put on wonderful performances (we’ll come back to this), they’re being outclassed by the impressive duo Chapman (The King, Blinded by the Light) and MacKay (True History of the Kelly Gang, Pride). They both give emotional, natural and captivating performances. It looks like they were indeed soldiers who had seen much more of the war than anyone should ever have. They both bring unique elements to their character and when you put them together, you get great on-screen chemistry. The emotions, the feelings, and the life-like performances also heighten the bond between the leading characters and the public.

Not only the leading actors but also the supporting ones are just the dream team. We get to see Scott (Fleabag, Sherlock) as the cynical but also caring Lieutenant Leslie and Firth (The Mercy, The Happy Prince) as the devoted, helpful and clever General Erinmore. Cumberbatch (Avengers: Endgame, The Current War) only makes a brief appearance but he certainly has a few of the most impactful lines: “I hoped today would be a good day. Hope is a dangerous thing”. Lines that he delivers in such an emotional and skilful way. Richard Madden (Rocketman, Bodyguard) brings more emotions and personality to the screen as Lieutenant Blake and Strong (Shazam!, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) delivers a splendid performance as the rough-tough, dedicated and amicable Captain Smith.

Most powerful, emotional and unique war film in years

Ever since its world premiere in London earlier this month, 1917 is being praised by both the critics and the audience. If you’ve seen this film then you know that this comes as no surprise. 1917 will have you on the edge of your seat from the very first moment and will leave you breathless. It’s an immensely powerful and important film that’s been brought to life most uniquely and thrillingly way. This is because of the continuous shot effect but also the magnificent cast and a superb creative team. While watching 1917, you just know that you’re looking at a potential Oscar-winning film.

1917 will hit U.K. cinemas on the 10th of January 2020.

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

1917 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade

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Review: Knives Out

November 30, 2019

2019 is certainly the year of playing games. We already participate in a round of hide and seek in the Ready or Not from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Now writer/director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Looper) brings a twisted game of Cluedo to the big screen in Knives Out. A game that’s played by a superb cast, brought to life by sublime cinematography and packed with humour. Are you ready to solve the puzzle? Let’s do this!

That game is afoot

That death can take over life in a heartbeat is being cruelly proven to the Thrombey family. The day after celebrating the 85th birthday of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), he’s found dead. As a father and grandfather, he will be missed by everyone of his family. Although, not by everyone it seems, as his death might not be suicide as initially thought. It could be a grim murder instead and because of that, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) starts to look into this case. He’s not only investigating that tragic night but also the entire family. What a family it is!

It doesn’t take long before we find out that every family member has some dark secrets behind the innocent and grieving façade. The main suspect is Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the help who was the last person who saw Harlan alive. Was it maybe one of the family members such as his daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), his son Walt (Michael Shannon) or one of the inlaws such as Harlan’s third child’s widow Joni (Toni Collette) or son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson)? Probably not because the dogs barked and so it certainly must be a stranger? Maybe it’s the long lost Ransom (Chris Evans), who has a nasty relationship with the rest of his family? The further his investigation takes him, the bigger the mystery becomes. Who will be the evilest family member and will be able to solve the murder?

Noah Segan ( Trooper Wagner), LaKeith Stanfield ( Lieutenant Elliott) and
Benoit Blanc (Danie Craig) in Knives Out (source: MovieWeb)

A brilliant A-list cast and impressive upcoming talent

So many questions and so little answers. Throughout the film, more clues about the dead come to the surface. By the end of Knives Out, you will not only have become the next Sherlock Holmes but you’ve also seen a thrilling, electrifying, humourist and stunningly performed film.

There’s absolutely no shortage of incredible talent in Knives Out. He already did spy work in multiple James Bond films and solving mysterious is what Graig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Spectre) is superior in. In Knives Out, he steps up his game even more as the clever, witty and humouristic private detective. Even his Southern accent is spot-on. The “I’m talking to myself” scenes are such a joy to watch and the big revelation scene is certainly the highlight of this movie. As the grieving daughter, Curtis (Halloween, An Acceptable Loss) never overplays or underplays the emotions and gives her character a lot of flair and confidence. She brings a lot of humour and memorable moments to Knives Out.

It was halfway through the movie that we got a glimpse of Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Gifted) for the first time but the wait was worth it. With his contagious laughter and fabulous performance, he brings out the arrogant, underhanded and secretive characteristics of Ransom. It’s not only the established actors giving it their best shot but also upcoming talent such as de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, War Dogs). She puts on a thrilling, emotional, funny and joyful performance which is both dark and lively at the same time.

Spectacular setting and bombastic score

Another element of why this movie feels like a big game of Cluedo is the colossal mansion with many different and spacious rooms. All the rooms are filled with possible murder/suicide weapons such as the many antiques, paintings or even that magnificent masterpiece full of knives. Is there one knife missing by any chance? Congratulations are definitely in order for the location management department and the set decorator.

A film like this, that’s full of suspense, betrayal and mystery elements, needs to have an on-point score and that’s exactly what Knives Out has. It doesn’t take long before the sharp violins, heavily beating drums and bombastic music take over this film. The score gives this movie such a powerful effect.

A devious whodunnit with a superb cast

After being screened at the BFI London Film Festival, Knives Out is now now coming back to UK cinemas. If you want to see a gorgeous, enigmatic, compelling and entertaining whodunnit that’s brought to life by stunning performances, grandiose score and bags of humour then Knives Out is the perfect film.

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

Also Read: The Irishman (Review)

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Review: The Irishman

November 28, 2019

Perhaps the most anticipated movie of the year featuring a cast list covered in Oscars, a director rightly hailed as one of the best there ever was and a writer who’s written everything from Schindler’s List to Moneyball. And it’s on Netflix.

What’s Going On?

The Irishman (source: buffalonews.com)

The Irishman follows the life of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) from meat-delivery driver to well… not in the Mafia, but certainly doing a lot of work for them, after all, he’s Irish, not Sicilian. Frank is effectively brought into this life by Russel Buffalino (Joe Pesci) a high up person in the Mafia. Frank does a lot of work for him up to and including killing people. After a few years, Russel sends Frank to watch over Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), head of the Teamsters union and very much in business with the Mafia. The film follows the course of this relationship and especially how Frank is pulled in opposite directions because of his friendships with Russel and Hoffa.

Behind The Scenes

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to anyone – the director is Martin Scorsese, certainly one of the best directors alive if not one of the best directors ever. And this is a crime movie with an incredible cast, hardly unfamiliar territory for Scorsese. He’s already directed what in my opinion is the best Mafia movie ever – Goodfellas and expectations are high.

In Front Of The Camera

The Irishman (source: denofgeek.com)

First, there is the key trio of De Niro, Pesci and Pacino, and already that’s amazing. De Niro is the narrator and gives an excellent performance especially as things become strained as the film goes on. Pesci, normally known for his wild, unpredictable and maybe a little crazy criminal characters plays against type as a very calm and, for the mafia, reasonable man. However, it’s Pacino who I think gives the best performance. Hoffa is a man surrounded by criminals, murderers even, and never bats an eyelid. He will argue with them, he will insult them, he’ll get in fistfights with them. He’s a larger than life character and you can see how he ended up union president.

Outside of those three roles, the cast is still full of diamonds. Actors like Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano taking on small roles. I was convinced that Plemons was going to go through the movie and not actually have a line. Paquin, and indeed the child actors who play her characters, are excellent and act almost like the conscience of the film, judging the bad people around her, including her father Frank Sheeran. At one point Paquin says a single word that seems to break Sheeran.

Historical Note – Jimmy Hoffa & The Teamsters Union

Jimmy Hoffa was a very famous person in America, and in many ways still is, and I don’t think there will be a person in America who doesn’t already know where the story is heading and Scorsese made this film knowing that. I only knew of Hoffa from references to him in American film and TV but didn’t really understand who he was or what happened to him. After all, union bosses don’t tend to be that famous. Again, I’ve heard of “teamsters” but didn’t really know what that was but it’s enough to say this was the largest union in America at the time, giving Hoffa an incredible amount of power and influence, and in looking after their pension fund, access to literally billions of dollars. My perhaps controversial opinion is you look Hoffa up on Wikipedia before you watch the film.

He Looks Good For His Age

The film shows these characters at various stages of their life Scorsese employed some clever de-ageing special effects which I thought were flawless.

Does It Work?

The Irishman (source: slate.com)

My expectations for The Irishman were very high, not only is Scorsese one of my favourite directors many of the early reviews were saying that was his best film in a long time. Personally I would put this in the second-tier of Scorsese films, with Gangs of New York and The Departed, it’s great but not quite up there with his best. Let’s be clear, it’s a great film, it’s three and a half hours long and keeps you engaged throughout, the acting is all first-rate and is full of brilliant little flourishes – one scene of a person having to psych themselves up to start their car as they were worried it might explode was one such moment. But I was a little disappointed and perhaps thought it was a mistake for Scorsese to return to territory he has already thoroughly explored. I am a big fan of Wolf of Wall Street and see it as a kind of Goodfellas for a different sort of crime and was a good move for him and I think maybe another gangster film wasn’t the best use of Scorsese’s time and talent.

That said if this was a film by virtually any other director I would only be singing it’s praises and really the only problem is it’s Martin Scorsese so you’re hoping for a masterpiece.

Even before this film, the debate about are Netflix films proper films was surely settled and this just adds to the argument that they are. They’ve made everything from Oscar-winning drama like Roma to fantasy special effects-laden frippery like Bright, not everything is gold but the same is true for every studio.

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

The Irishman (Official Trailer)

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Reviews

Review: 21 Bridges

November 27, 2019
21 Bridges Movie Banner

Some of us believe in it, some of us don’t. Destiny. Whether it’s regarding love, friendship or work, for some people “it’s written in the stars”. For Andre Davis, this was becoming the best cop the NYPD has even known. Sadly, his destiny didn’t come to him in the most joyful way. How? Well, you will know that if you continuing reading or if you watch the newest film by Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones, Luther). His 21 Bridges takes you into a dark world filled with corrupt cops, intrigues, drugs, and betrayal and will never let you go until the very end.

We flood the island with blue

Attending a funeral is never easy and especially not at a young age. The young Andre (Christian Isaiah) has to say goodbye to his father who was not only his inspiration but also a celebrated cop at the NYPD and who tragically died on duty. No better way to honour your father and his important legacy than stepping into his footstep and many years after the tragic events, Andre (Chadwick Boseman) is now wearing the NYPD uniform and badge immensely proud. While he already attended multiple crime scenes, none of them come even close to his latest one. Right after midnight, an (unexpected) drug bust ended up in a terrible shoot out. The result: Two killers on the loose, 50 kilograms of drugs missing and seven cops tragically killed.

Filled with anger, rage, and sadness, Andre starts his investigation. His plan: Completely locking down Manhattan, including the closure of the 21 bridges. He gets the best people for the job: Narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) and Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) from the NYPD and his team. Their investigation takes them on a journey that involves death, destruction, dirty money, and drugs. The clock is literally ticking for Andre as Manhattan can only be on lockdown for a few hours. Will he able to catch the killers in the name of his fallen colleagues or will his passion, skills, and dedication won’t be enough this time?

Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James) as the drugs thieves and killers in 21 Bridges (source: The Hollywood Reporter)

Predictable characters, great cinematography

A young and devoted cop who lives for his job and who looks the devil into the eyes every day to keep his city protected. He would even give up his own life if necessary. It sounds familiar, right? Mostly because we’ve seen many films already regarding this topic but never one that’s made by Kirk.

The biggest reason why this film is a fascinating one is that 21 Bridges can count on the incredibly solid performance over the overall cast. A cast that’s lead by the remarkable Boseman (Black Panther, 24). He makes a “damn fine cop” and excels when it comes to both the physical and emotional aspects. While watching him, it feels like he certainly knows how to fire a gun and to perfectly execute a car chase. As a cop, you can’t let your emotions getting in the way of the investigation but of course, you’re also humans at the same time. Boseman portrays those emotions in a subtle but also big way.

Miller (American Woman, High-Rise) can definitely kick some ass and stand her ground in the world full of male cops as the strong-willed and fearless Frankie. Despite Miller’s character being the most predictable one, Miller can still captivate us throughout the entire movie. They get the wonderful support from Simmons (The Front Runner, Whiplash) who is in his usual fine form as the uncompromising. 21 Bridges would just have been much more captivating and refreshing if the characters got more depth as they fall a little bit flat.

While there’s nothing new under the sun in 21 Bridges, it’s still a highly entertaining movie. This is due to the thrilling, fast and grandiose shoot outs and car chases. Some might say that it’s all a little bit too much and overly dramatic but thanks to the splendid work of cinematographer Paul Cameron (The Commuter, Dead Man Down) this film will have you drawn to the screen every second of it.

Predictable but action-packed thriller

While the story is predictable and the characters are the usual clichés, 21 Bridges can certainly provide you with an exciting and electrifying time. The reasons? The explosive cinematography, the fast-pace and the spectacular performance of Boseman.

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

Also Read: Rebel Without A Pulse, Art Without A Soul

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Reviews

Retro Review: King Kong (1933)

November 26, 2019
King Kong

86 years ago King Kong, the most famous movie monster of all time, made his debut. Since then his first movie has become permanently ingrained in popular culture. Even people who’ve never seen it know the film’s story and several famous quotes. But as we have seen, the influential don’t always stand the test of time.

So join us for our retro review of King Kong as we see just how well it holds up all these years later.

Synopsis

Film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is looking to make the ultimate movie to silence his critics and please audiences worldwide. To do this he takes his film crew and leading lady, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to the uncharted Skull Island to find the mythical monster Kong.

Upon reaching their destination the island natives kidnap Ann and offer her to Kong, who carries her off into the jungle. Facing many prehistoric threats the crew eventually retrieve Ann, capture Kong and decide to take him back to civilization.

Once back in New York, Denham puts Kong on display as the eighth wonder of the world. But Kong breaks free, steals Ann and begins wreaking havoc upon the city. Before finally climbing the Empire State Building in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time.

What did I like?

The best part of King Kong is its sheer spectacle. Produced for $672,000 (only $13 million today), King Kong delivers a spectacle that still puts modern movies to shame. The production design and sets are fantastic, giving the film a grand scale. Skull Island’s design is incredibly detailed, feels very lived-in and full of rich history. And effectively contrasts the soulless concrete jungle of New York.

Then there are the iconic effects. The mixture of stop motion, miniatures, full-scale animatronics, and other processes invented for the film, created something film audiences had never seen before. A living breathing world, full of incredible creatures that appeared to actually interact with the cast. Some parts may look a bit ropey today, but the sheer effort it took to realize these sequences and the enthusiasm present make it impossible to not appreciate.

This movie also proved that special effects could be used to realize a story, not just stunning visuals. Kong is one of cinemas best characters. Without a word spoken, we know exactly what Kong is feeling because of his extensive expressive facial animations. Transforming a simple model into a three-dimensional character. And his arc from a mindless animal who sees Ann as a trophy to seeing her as something more is touching and tragic.

Denham also proves to be a compelling character. Though he sees everyone around him as a tool to achieve his ambitions his passion to make art that entertains everyone and his dry sense of humour makes him an enjoyable presence. Despite his actions.  

And Max Steiner’s sweeping orchestral score is incredible. Contributing to the grand scale of the production and adding an operatic edge which gives the dramatic moments great weight. But while Kong’s iconic status is unquestionable, a few blemishes have emerged over time.

What did I not like?

Now, of course, there are the blemishes inherent with films from this era that may impact some modern viewers’ enjoyment of the film. Namely the stereotypical depictions of women as solely damsels to be rescued or objects of affection for the men. And slightly racist depictions of other cultures.

But then there’s also the incredibly cheesy overwritten dialogue and performances, which make the film hard to take seriously. The macho posturing, overegged similes, and hammy New York accents make the film feel like a parody of itself. Resulting in the characters looking more like caricatures than human beings. This isn’t helped by most of the human characters being boring without much depth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Ann and John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). It never feels natural. The actors have no chemistry, their dialogue is cringe-inducing and their romance only really serves to further the plot. Instead of being something that helps the characters grow and become compelling. Making the movie a slog until Kong shows up.

Finally, because King Kong’s themes, iconography, and other elements have been so thoroughly reused and deconstructed by other films over the years revisiting the original now can feel underwhelming. While the movie remains important historically, it has largely dwarfed by what it inspired. Ultimately rendering the movie itself as somewhat clichéd as a result. Though this is largely the fault of popular culture, not the film itself.

Verdict

King Kong is a movie that has inspired generations of film lovers and for good reason. With a rousing score, two engaging characters and incredible effects, that required so much time, effort and the invention of new techniques to accomplish, it is a wonderful example of what cinematic fantasy is capable of.

But some elements of the plot do feel forced for the sake of drama. The acting, dialogue, and depictions of certain genders and races are quite dated and may affect some modern audiences enjoyment of the film. And the film itself can be considered somewhat cliché at this point.

Ultimately as a piece of film history Kong is required viewing. It is a piece of entertaining genre filmmaking which though entrenched in the flaws of it’s time helped to pave the way for the blockbusters of today. And that is worth seeing. Warts and all.

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

King Kong (Official Trailer)

King Kong is available on the BBC IPlayer service until 30th November 2019.

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Review: Le Mans ‘66

November 22, 2019
Le Man '66

Hearing the roaring engines, smelling that burned rubber and just seeing the black tracks on the ground. For both racecars lovers and drivers, this is the best moment you will ever have. These days we have Hamilton representing Mercedes, Vettel driving for Ferrari and Verstappen racing for Red Bull Racing. Director James Mangold (Logan, The Wolverine) shares their passion for fast cars as he decided to dedicate his latest film Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari) to one of the most historical racing rivalries in history: Ford v Ferrari.

Start your engines!

He was the icon in the racing sport for multiple years and was the inspiration for many younger generations. Sadly, due to health reasons, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) his days as a racecar driver are now over. Instead, he’s spending most of his time as the owner of Shelby American Inc., designing and selling cars. However, he still has a big passion for the racing tracks. He’s not the only one as his best friend, auto mechanic and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) his world is full of fast cars and perfect laps as well. After losing his auto mechanic shop and needing the money, Miles would do anything to be able to provide his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and son Peter (Noah Jupe) with the best care possible. No better way to do that than with car racing, right?

That’s exactly what he wants and that exactly what he gets when Shelby comes to him with a very unusual but alluring proposition. Shelby was approached by Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to take on Ferrari during Le Mans ’66. He wants his best friend Miles behind the wheel. After being reluctant about the job, both men want to take Ford to the start of one of the biggest racing events: The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

However, there are many bumps along the way. The main one is Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), the right hand of Ford, who sees everything from the advertisement side and who prefers charisma and style above passion and knowledge. There are also the expected technical issues such as not working breaks and cars not being ready. Will Shelby and Miles be able to bring Ford to the start of Le Mans ’66 and provide him with a huge victory or will Ferrari make it happen again and be the one taking a victory lap?

Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in Le Mans ’66 (Source: IMDb)

Passion and skills drive this movie

Not so long, Bale (Vice, The Fighter) revealed that he’s done with undergoing dramatical weight transition but to play Miles, he has outdone himself again. Not only with the psychical metamorphosis but also by nailing the American accent. His excellent performance shows us the determination and passion of Miles. Bale does it with flair and joy and it’s such a pleasure to watch. Opposite him, we see the superb Damon (Suburbicon, Downsizing) as Shelby. He puts on a brilliant display as the resolute car designer who fights for what and who he believes in. The scenes between Bale and Damon are where the magic happens.

Due to the grandiose presence of the characters and the dazzling performances of Bale and Damon, there’s not much space for the supporting cast. That’s a shame if you can count on wonderful actors such as Jupe (A Quiet Place, Wonder), Balfe (Money Monster, Now You See Me), and Jon Bernthal (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Widows). The first two bring more emotions to this movie but to be able to have a lasting impact, their screen time is just too limited. Bernthal his Lee Iacocca is the head of the marketing team and while Bernthal’s performance is fine and enjoyable, he doesn’t get the chance to shine.

In high speed and incredibly entertaining film, there are some special effects used. In Le Mans ’66 it’s not clear where the real-life driving and incredible stunts made room for the SFX effects. Thanks to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, The Monuments Men), we feel like we’re with Miles, driving in speed record away from the competition. However, the element that enhanced the car race experience is without a doubt the stunning sound design. That roaring sound of the engines gives this film the vibrant and compelling element it needs.

Racing towards the Oscars

This film shows a lot of passion and craftsmanship, both behind and in front of the screen. The fuel that drives this movie is the humour, sound design, and the incredible stunt driving. With Matt Damon and Christian Bale in the driver’s seat, this movie races in a lap record towards the multiple awards waiting at the finish line. You should catch this movie on the biggest screen and with the best sound system possible.

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

Le Man ’66 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Little Monsters (Review)

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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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