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Dunkirk- Review

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Cast: Fion Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, & Cillian Murhpy

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: In May and June of 1941, the Nazis had surrounded the Allied forces and were pushing them into the sea near the French city of Dunkirk. The only escape for the Allied troops was for the British to shuttle them with a combination of Naval and civilian vessels across the English Channel. However, Nazi Stukas and Messerschmitts thwarted their escape, bombing and gunning down British and French soldiers on the beach and harrying the vessels ferrying them to safety. The movie follows three timelines: 1. The Mole, 2. The Sea, 3. The Air. The segments interweave throughout the movie and provide different perspectives on the Allied retreat. The Mole follows the British troops on the beaches of Dunkirk who are trying to survive the Nazi air attacks long enough to board a ship for home. The Sea tells the story of a father (Mark Rylance), his son, and his son’s friend who take their boat to help rescue the stranded soldiers. The Air runs faster than the previous two segments because its length is one hour, as opposed to 1 week for the Mole and 1 day for the Sea. The Air follows three Spitfire pilots, the main character being Farrier (Tom Hardy) whose mission it is is to protect the Allied troops from the Nazi air attacks.

While I must admit that Dunkirk failed to move me to the extreme it did Saul, I did enjoy Christopher Nolan’s tenth full-length film. With Dunkirk, Nolan, once again, impressively turned conventional storytelling on its head as he did with Memento and The Prestige. Instead of opting to show the film in a linear fashion, Nolan broke the movie into three segments that follow three different groups of characters that all span varying time lengths. One lasted a week, another one day, and, the final one, one hour. Most writers and directors would have dropped the ball trying to work such a convoluted plot into a meaningful and intense story. Yet Nolan does so seamlessly, tying all the groups together into several rewarding climaxes.

Nolan is undeniably an untouchable master of cinema, but I believe the real hero of Dunkirk to be Hans Zimmer. His score kept me on edge throughout the film, even while soldiers just waited for boats to ferry them across the English Channel. Through long pulls on stringed instruments, Zimmer constantly reminded the audience that death lurked just outside the frame, and that Time, constantly present with the ever-ticking clock sound in the background, was scarce as the enemy slowly but continuously tightened the noose around the Allied soldiers. I did not expect Dunkirk‘s score to be one of my favorite parts of the film, yet it was.

Another surprise was Harry Styles. The former One Direction singer played Alex, who despite limited screen time proved to be one of my favorite characters. This surprised me because he shared time with some of my favorite actors: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance and more than held his own. The scene that comes to mind is when a group of British soldiers are trapped in a beached fishing boat that the Nazis are using for target practice. As the tide starts to come in, the ship begins to take on water through the bullet holes in its hull. Believing that they needed to lose weight, Alex accuses the quiet solider, played by Damien Bonnard, of being a German spy. I thought this accusation to be true due to man’s failure to talk up to the point in the film.  Alex verbally attacks the man with the scary conviction of a cornered beast.

It was perilous moments like this, heightened by Zimmer’s score, where I thought the movie shone. Nolan made Dunkirk two things: a war film and a survival film. Its war aspect was what I came for (besides the fact that it is a Nolan film with excellent actors), but it was the survival element that made Dunkirk excellent. All the horrors that befell the Allied troops were believable as were their reactions to death and its ever-impending peril. Whether it was Alex threatening to throw the quiet solider overboard to the Nazis or Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked violent outburst at the prospect of returning to Dunkirk, these actors’ talent combined with Nolan’s camera work and Zimmer’s score made me share these characters’ fear.

Please go see this in IMAX. The sound quality alone is worth the extra five bucks. I felt that the Nazis were bombing my theater.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Dunkirk

Leaving the cinema after watching Dunkirk, I was compelled to write this piece; to write about the importance of what Christopher Nolan has created.

To know Europe, you must understand The Second World War. My parents grew up in the 1960’s playing in bombsites: open wounds across Liverpool even 20 years on. Joy Division and New Order took their names from Nazi projects. My father sometimes recalls neighbours who were veterans of the World Wars, men who left legs behind on a beach during D-Day and others whose minds cracked like china under the strain of trench warfare in France and Belgium. Travelling across Europe for the first time at 19, the Nazis haunted every nation I visited, from Anne Frank’s safe-house in Amsterdam to the crumbling ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. The First World War razed the old Europe, but the pain of the Second World War forged the new.

Since the Ancient Greeks first told myths, the past has been the anchor which moors identity in a sea of clashing collectives. Across Europe, our anchor is weakening as the Second World War ebbs away from living memory onto the shores of textbooks and academia. The train from Birmingham back home stops at a particular station.  Built into the station wall is a memorial to the men from the Railway line who fought and died in both World Wars. The names of the dead stack up to the ceiling, but no one stops to read them.

Dunkirk is a gift to the future, a grain of bottled time giving meaning back to the marble names that dwell in railway stations, parks, monuments, and statues across Europe. When watching Dunkirk we can live in that unfiltered speck of memory. We can experience a time of survival where there is no good or evil, only the enemy who is everywhere yet nowhere, toying with the British as they scrabble for their lives while bombs fall, snipers fire, and submarines sink hospital boats. When death comes, there is no quiet reflection or glory, it is quick and uncaring. Pilots simply disappear and soldiers, flung into the air by Stukha bombers, with their Jericho horns deafening all,  never return to ground. The characters utter little dialogue as few words are needed: the story speaks through Hans Zimmer’s score and Nolan’s vision.  The tale of Dunkirk told in words of sight and sound, is hope in the face of horror. It is the ringing notes of stoicism, the images of heroism, of ships silently sailing to shore and pilots sacrificing themselves which kindled hope for the men trapped ashore, caught between the ocean and the German tide. Hope saved our men, hope saved us.

When the civilian boats quietly prevail and reach Dunkirk’s shores, Zimmer’s rendition of Elgar blares as red sails flutter in the cold Atlantic wind. I was moved. I felt proud  of my country. In a present where Britain seems lost inside itself, we needed the pride Dunkirk brings to remind ourselves of a moment when we stood alone, and vowed to return to our European brothers once more.

Hopefully we will return to Europe again one day.

Hagood’s review of the Dunkirk will be available soon.

By Saul Shimmin

 

 

Bone Tomahawk

Movie Score: 5 out of 5 (Classic)

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Matthew Fox, & David Arquette.

Director: S. Craig Zahler

Synopsis: A stranger wanders into a small, western town. His suspicious actions draw the attention of  the town sheriff, Hunt (Kurt Russell), who wounds the man when he tries to run away from an interrogation. That night, Samantha (Lili Simmons), the town’s stand-in doctor, tends to the man’s injury at the jail as Hunt’s deputy stands guard. The next morning, a townsman alerts Hunt that savages kidnapped Samantha, the deputy, and the stranger, which prompts a rescue mission. A four-man search party forms and they set-out after the savages. A lot of fun, death, and fear ensues.

I realize my synopsis might make Bone Tomahawk sound like a rip-off of John Wayne’s 1956 classic, The Searchers, but trusts me, Bone Tomahawk surpasses its predecessor. I think my favorite part of the film is its realness. The movie’s actors skillfully embody the frailty of human life on the west. When the savages attack the town, none of the townspeople run scared or act crazy. Through their actions, the audience can see that such awful occurrences are not uncommon. Also, none of the characters are normal western “heroes” who can shoot from the hip and hit a running man at 100 yards. Each man shoots how a normal, somewhat-skilled cowboy would shoot.

Bone Tomahawk‘s greatest deviation from The Searchers though is its gradual descent from a western film into a horror one.  One of the first indications of such a transition begins with the Zahler’s decision to limit his shots to medium and close-up shots of the search party. At first, this limitation annoyed me because I wanted to see the grand landscapes that often paint western films. However, as Zahler restricts his shots, the audience loses more and more knowledge of what actions occurred outside of the frame, creating a sense of unease. Zahler compounds this feeling by electing not to add a score or soundtrack to the film. Breathing, crickets, and the wind are the only sounds the audience hears, which increased my fear because I felt so alone and lost while watching this movie. Normally, a movie’s score indicates when something is about to happen. Most horror movies have a soundtrack and when it stops, it is hinting that something is about to occur. Bone Tomahawk provided no such signposts leaving me on edge for most of the film.

Zahler also wrote the film and followed a tried and true formula. Place your characters in a bad situation and then make it worse. He did a fantastic job executing this strategy because with each passing moment, the search party fell into deeper and deeper peril. The reason I enjoyed this facet of the movie is because Zahler created believable reasons for each calamity to occur. My favorite was a brief moment of anger from Samantha’s husband, Arthur (Patrick Wilson), one of the four members of the search party. Mr. Brooder, another searcher, made a quip about Samantha that related to an earlier scene. Arthur responds negatively to the joke, punching Brooder. While his punch landed solidly on Brooder’s jaw, Arthur’s broke leg, in splints, lands unevenly on a rock causing the bone to break the skin. This injury forces Arthur to stay behind as the rest of the party carry’s on with its search.

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Despite all these great facets, the moment that pushed Bone Tomahawk from an excellent film to a classic occurred later in the film when the savages overpower the search party and take them captive. The savages, who are also cannibals, lock the survivors into a cage and take out the previously captured deputy. Up to this point in the film, most violence acts were not shown but only heard. In what was the most grisly scene I’ve ever seen in my life, the savages take the deputy out of his cage, scalp him, shove his scalp in his mouth, take a tomahawk to his genitals, and then devour him. Zahler’s relative restraint in violence up to that point, combined with the high morality of the sheriff and his cohort (except for Brooder at times), the scene was unsettling to the extreme and made hope unreachable for the heroes.

Target Audience: Adults only.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

The Red Turtle

Movie Score: 5 out of 5 (Classic)

Director: Michaël Dudok de Wit

Synopsis: An allegory of family, nature, innocence and more, The Red Turtle revolves around an unnamed man who becomes stranded on island which refuses to let him go.

The Red Turtle’s plays on the saying ‘no man is an island’. Life, its value and its purpose, stem from our connections with the world, and our loved ones. The life and identity of the unnamed man before being cast away are never revealed. At The Red Turtle’s beginning, he bursts from the water amid a dark storm. Devoid of anything, the man’s arrival on the island is his rebirth, from which he begins to adapt to the island, until one scene where he falls asleep, slowly forming the shape of the mountain which peaks the island.

The man becomes part of the island, and the island becomes the world. The Red Turtle lets us witness the cycle of life with an intimacy of a documentary, as scenes focus upon the rainfall in a monsoon, birds flying in the dusk, or the havoc of a storm. The island’s wildlife being to react to the man, adopting the air of children. The wildlife and its behaviour endears us the island providing levity, but also emotional impact, when the harshness of life bears down.

Director de Wit years of effort to create The Red Turtle has forged a masterpiece which requires little dialogue to connect us with the unnamed man’s trials and tribulations. Instead, de Wit uses the island itself as a series of props to convey emotions and ideas to us, alongside eerie dream sequences and the haunting lullaby soundtrack. De Wit’s spartan art style, blending Asiatic economy with a European colour palette, renders the vibrant island alive.

The Red Turtle, which was eventually backed by Studio Ghibli, epitomises the power of animated film. The genre is as profound and provocative as other forms of cinema and can be appreciated by adult audiences. This is a beautiful film which will stay in your eyes and your mind long after viewing as you ponder of its meaning. That being said, The Red Turtle is not a film for children. At times my attention wavered, and when viewing it at the Southbank in London, the bulk of the audience were in their 30’s or older. For parents looking for a good animated film for children below 14, I recommend Belleville Rendez-vous, which is below and a favourite of mine.

I have said little about the film’s plot for fearing of spoiling the story.  The trailer for The Red Turtle is below, but I would strongly advise you to not watch it before viewing the film. Having only watched the trailer after viewing the film, it is a better experience The Red Turtle blind, allowing the twists and turns to have their full weight.

Do watch de Wit’s earlier short film, Father and Daughter, before viewing The Red Turtle. It is linked below the review and acts as an indirect and helpful prelude to ideas and themes in The Red Turtle.

By Saul Shimmin

The Red Turtle Trailer

Father and Daughter (full-film)

 

Belleville Rendez-Vous trailer

Logan 

Movie Score: 5 out 5 (The only classic Marvel film so far)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Richard. E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, and introducing Dafne Keen.

Saul’s Review

Logan stands alone as a classic film from the superhero genre. Remove the abilities, and Logan is a gritty film contending with violence, desperation, hope, and family. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart return to roles that have defined their careers, delivering their best performances as The Wolverine and Professor X. Out of the two, Jackman truly shines,depicting Logan not as a hero in any sort, but as a man crushed by a hostile world, frayed by years of hiding and tainted by a long life of misery. Set in a dystopian premonition of Trump’s America, the superheroes in Logan are not invincible, but vulnerable, and it is their vulnerability which makes them so dangerous. This is the most human superhero film ever made. Nor does the film waiver, like so many blockbuster films, from its own serious tone. Logan unflinchingly shows the consequences and deaths which ensue The Wolverine’s actions.

A great final performance

In Logan, The Wolverine has shifted from being a man with nothing to lose as seen in earlier films, to a man who wants to die. It takes an actor with an understanding and an appreciation of a character, like Hugh Jackman, to successfully affect such a subtle shift. Down to his physicality, The Wolverine is a broken man, shuffling onto the opening scenes, dragging himself against the worries of the world. Although he is older and wearier of violence, The Wolverine’s anger is unbridled once provoked rendering him even deadlier than ever. Director James Mangold, who directed The Wolverine before Logan, understands the character, and is able to present a darker depiction of The Wolverine, injecting enough levity into the plot to stop Logan delving into melodrama.

Professor X is no longer the leader of the X-Men but an ailing and elderly man who has moments of lucidity. Patrick Stewart always fitted the role of Professor X, but in Logan we see two refreshing sides to the character. Professor X alternates between a caring grandfather figure towards the young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen), to a stern and mainly ungrateful father and mentor to The Wolverine. Both Stewart and Jackson had great chemistry together in earlier X-Men films, but Logan’s focus upon the pair adds to the close relationship these characters have, and how ultimately, they need each other.

Dafne Keen, without revealing too much about her character, is the mirror to The Wolverine. Her youth and rage matches The Wolverine’s weariness and age. While watching her character, she repeats many of the mannerisms, and flaws, of a younger Wolverine, and clearly needs his help to accept who she is.

Despite William Boyd, of Narcos fame, delivering a great turn as head villain Donald Pierce, lacing his role with humour and a clear admiration for mutants, it is Stephen Merchant who surprises as mutant Caliban. Merchant’s performance was refreshingly serious, with his comedic quips only adding to a character who I became quickly attached to. I hope Merchant receives more serious roles as a result of Logan, he definitely has the talent to succeed.

Weird West

Logan is a hybrid of dystopian and Western themes which draws from Rian Johnson’s Looper’s setting and themes of family, love and redemption. It is a credit to Mangold and screenwriter Scott Frank that Logan steps onto well used tropes, but remains unique. By straddling the America-Mexico border, the film subtly comments upon temporary America, juxtaposing the desolate but peaceful Mexico borderlands with the aggressive patriotism and debauchery of El Paso, Texas.

Broad landscape panoramas of Mexican plans cut against well scripted fight scenes that flit between steady cam and fixed camera shots. The car chases scenes take inspiration from Mad Max: Fury Road, delivering moments which appear like a choreographed dance. Pitting The Wolverine and Professor X against The Reavers, mechanically enhanced mercenaries, evens the odds. Every encounter with The Reavers is a hard-won fight, as opposed to earlier X-Men films where it was all too obvious which side would succeed.

Verdict

Not since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has a superhero film felt as grounded in realism, where actions have a cost and the characters are not fantastical, but people trying to better the world, however bleak. If you have the time, go see Logan.

Recommended audience: Comic-book lovers, Marvel Fans and anyone who does not want to see a typical blockbuster film.

Hagood’s review:

I couldn’t think of a better send off for my favorite member of the X-Men. This “final” Wolverine film surpassed Superhero clichés in the best way: intense drama. Deadpool & Guardians of the Galaxy both circumvented such clichés, but did so by mocking or over-exaggerating them. After a string of decent Wolverine movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine & The Wolverine), Logan does more than deliver breathtaking action. It brings intense emotion fueled by complex characters.

The movie starts with a weakened and aged Logan dedicatedly nursing the sick Professor X south of the Mexican border. Neither he nor Professor X have a true purpose in life. Both struggle in their day-to-day lives, but then enters the young and tumultuous mutant, Laura (the debut role of the superb Dafne Keen), who is being hunted by mercenary Donald Pierce (played by rising star, Boyd Holbrook).

Suddenly, these two aging mutants have a purpose to live: Protect the last child of their race.

But the plot goes deeper than “racial” eugenics. It boils down to the fiercest bonds humans share: Family. This is where Logan bests its Marvel and DC brethren. Most gloss over such important bonding elements and instead focus on delivering a massive third-act battle royale, which can be fun, but quickly becomes boring. Logan does both: it packs in several concentrated and extreme battles, but it doesn’t withhold the quiet moments where characters connect.

My only gripe with Logan is that at 2 hours and 17 minutes, it is a bit long. Honestly, I cannot recommend a scene to shorten or cut, so maybe it doesn’t need a cut.

Please, go enjoy this pleasantly deep Marvel film.

Target audience: Teenage males (for the bloody action) and serious movie aficionados

For the trailer follow the link 

Manchester by the Sea

Film Score: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)

Manchester by the Sea follows the period of life after lonely Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck), brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), dies. Frequent flashbacks reveal the brothers’ backgrounds and their former lives. The present focuses on Joe’s son, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges), who Joe left under the care of his loner brother. Lee doesn’t want to move from his Boston home to his hometown of Manchester where Patrick’s life is ensconced: he has two girlfriends, an established friend group, an indie band, and is a member of his high school’s hockey team. The movie shows the interactions between the uncle and nephew and their individual reactions to their brother/father’s death. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

This movie is not a holiday movie. It is not a happy movie. While it does have its share of comedic moments, it is a depressing examination of death, love, relationships, parenthood, and family. I was not a fan. But that is not to say the movie was not good or well made. Lonergan deftly portrayed New England, its attitudes, its life, and its scenery. The ensemble-cast phenomenally embodied their roles. Even the tenants of the apartment complex Lee serviced were amazing. So were the regulars at the local pub, as was Joe’s fishing partner, George (C. J. Wilson). Each only had less than a minute of screen time, yet they managed to fully develop themselves in those brief moments. Lonergan’s strongly developed his characters. All had believable and motivating backstories, and I truly felt for each one.

However, at 2 hours and 15 minutes the movie dragged. The dour nature of the film eventually got to me, and with the characters’ few changes in emotion it was tough for me to continue caring for them. Also, Lee had no true revelation at the end. Other characters did, but Lee, at the end of the movie, was just as stoic as he was at the beginning. I desired more character change to all the heartache that I witnessed. I’m certain that this lack of revelation was intentional as Lonergan left out nothing else in this tragedy. However, the movie would have benefitted from such a conclusion or realization by Lee. Side note: I’m purposefully not discussing those moments because they were the most powerful moments of the film and I do not want to spoil them.

I recommend this movie to only serious cinephiles and older audiences. Otherwise, you might get bored in the details of Chandler’s life. It’s a long, slow trek through pain and suffering to arrive right where Chandler began at the beginning of this movie.

By Hagood Grantham

Target audience: mature audiences, cinephiles, & New Englanders.

For the trailer, please see below:

 

Moana

Film Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Moana is a story about family, destiny, and Polynesian mythology. The main character, Moana, (voiced by gifted newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho) yearns for the open sea and an adventure away from her small, home island. However, her father forbids her to leave. Yet the dark forces of Te Kā, set free some millennia earlier by Maui (Dwyane Johnson), a demi-god, when he stole the heart-stone from the island goddess, Te Fiti, are now annihilating the island’s crops and wildlife. Moana must find the lost Maui, and seek his help to return the heart-stone to Te Fiti and restore life to their island’s ecosystem.

Moana thoroughly impressed me. Despite Disney’s repetitive use of the trope of the royal child going against his/her parent’s will (Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Brave [yes, I know it’s a Pixar film]), Moana is a thriving movie full of ear-catching songs, loveable characters (Maui in particular), and clever fourth-wall breaks. The fourth wall breaks were particularly interesting. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker tastefully interjected them, especially with Tamatoa’s scene (voiced by the all-mighty Jemaine Clement) e.g. his “I hope you liked the song” comment.

Honestly, I don’t want to say much about this movie (also, it’s finals at UVA so time is scarce). I want you to go see it and hear the life Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina pumped into this gorgeous movie. It’s not a ground breaking plot, but Disney still managed to jerk some tears from my eyes in the movie’s climax. If it says anything, upon returning from the movie, I purchased a copy of the movie’s album and will be listening to it on repeat as I fondly relive the adventures of Maui and Moana. But please, Disney, don’t make a sequel. Make another great, new story about another different culture and life perspective.

Target Audience: Everyone but teens who would act to above it all to enjoy this enchanting tale. Children, pre-teens, adults, parents, and grandparents.

By Hagood Grantham

For trailer, see below:

 

Doctor Strange: Change the meds

Film Score: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)

In this new Disney-Marvel Expansion, prominent surgeon Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is struck by tragedy, leading a to a mystical journey from surgeon to ‘heroic’ magician. That journey felt like a 4 a.m. taxi ride on a Saturday night after one kebab too many.

Doctor Strange is part of Disney’s inevitable expansion of the Marvel Universe as it leads up to the Infinity War. The film feels like a rushed attempt to cash-in on acquired I.P., rather than a holistic introduction to a character unknown to many viewers unless they are Marvel readers.

I have no bias against Disney’s Marvel expansion, some of the Disney-Marvel films were great, particularly Guardians of the Galaxy. Having watched the Doctor Strange trailer, and seen the actors involved, my expectation was that Doctor Strange would mirror the wackiness and humour of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Doctor Strange’s persistent flaw is the aggressive urgency by which the plot develops. The film feels like a check-list of events, exposition and emotions which have been rushed through in competition with a deadline.

The most obvious example of Doctor Strange’s ridiculous pace is the romance element between title character Doctor Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and colleague Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).  It is clear from the first hospital scene that the pair have been romantically involved at some point, yet little reason is given to why the relationship failed. Following the film’s introduction, their romance seems to reappear and disappear at a whim, until Strange seemingly forgoes Christine to fight the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikklesen).

The film is so eager to conclude the story that it veers between serious drama and slapstick humour, pushing the viewer between emotions and leaving them confused as to what they should feel at any given time. The scene where Doctor Strange is introduced to magic is the worst affected by the film’s rushed feel. Strange’s reality is shattered and I should have shared his sense of being overwhelmed by this new world. I spent the 2 minutes of that scene laughing out loud, to my realisation that I was one of the few laughing in the audience. This excessive alteration between comedy and drama blots out the genuine moments in the film, tinging Doctor Strange with a sense of melodrama.

The main cast are seasoned actors, particularly Mads Mikklesen (Kaecilius) who has been one of my favourite actors since watching The Hunt. The acting is great throughout but once again the plot weakens the film. Character development is very limited. Characters appear on cue, but no time is afforded to develop any emotional bond between them and the audience. When the film concluded, I had the same sense of investment in what had unfolded as when I half-heartedly watch a Sunday T.V show with my parents.

There were opportunities to develop the film’s characters further, some of the character’s past history and motivations are stated but not expanded upon. These omissions stem from what appears to be a lack of time. Doctor Strange is the character that lacks the most development, he comes across as a jerk who is too clever for his own good, refusing to accept any of the lessons afforded to him during his journey from surgeon to mage. The end attempts to show that Doctor Strange has become a hero, but it was missing a good twenty minutes showing the protagonist’s actual transition.

It is probable that the next cinematic appearance by the good Doctor Strange will humble him and expand on his past. However, Doctor Strange would have been better suited to the generous runtime of a Netflix series, allowing characters and the story to grow naturally.

Despite watching Doctor Strange in 2D the film’s special effects were impressive, but that is to be expected from a company with Disney’s financial stature.

The franchise awakens

Doctor Strange raises concerns for Disney’s second and far more recent I.P. acquisition, Star Wars.

I am a fan of the original films and I did enjoy The Force Awakens, although I did not dress up for my local premiere in Star Wars garb like the middle aged father, and his two embarrassed daughters, sitting next to me.  The next films in the Star Wars franchise are Rogue One and the Han Solo’s origins story.

The upcoming Star Wars spin-offs boast robust casts but I have my doubts. Rogue One is essentially a story with an ending that is already known to fans of the series. Moreover Han Solo is the fan favourite of the original films and will definitely reap a profit. I fear that for Star Wars, in comparison to how Marvel is faring under Disney, that the franchise is going to be exactly that, a franchise. Instead of Star Wars being a film series which at certain levels deals with matters such as morality and spirituality, it is going to become a conveyor belt of ever minor characters to a point of saturation.

In  Disney’s defence they are a major company and they need to maintain profit growth for shareholders. Yet I was hoping with Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars title, that there would be spin-offs exploring deeper issues for the older Star Wars audience which has grown up with the original films and the prequels from the late 1970’s to the 2000’s. A potential subject for a more mature Star Wars film would be the fact that Republic’s Clone Army is a force of slaves. A film exploring this issue could cover many issues within our reality in a sci-fi setting, such as the loss of identity in warfare, freedom and destiny, and so forth.

When I left the screening of Doctor Strange, I did have a sense that Disney was basically selling the family silver, rather than taking risks. I hope that my opinion will be soon disproved.

Target audience: Younger teens and children.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

 

 

Edge of Seventeen

Film score: 2.5 out of 5

The Edge of Seventeen realistically, albeit boringly, depicts the struggles of an unlucky high schooler, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld). The movie starts with vigor as Nadine poignantly reveals how her hero, her dad (a fantastic Eric Keenleyside), made her life livable. However, just minutes after this, he tragically suffers a heart attack and dies. From there, the audience watches Nadine’s life unravel as her best-friend hooks up with her brother, her mom (Kyra Sedgwick) fails to be a competent parent, and her crush turns out to be the piece of trash.

Viewers expecting a teenage Rom-Com inspired by Emma Stone’s Easy A will be surprised/disappointed by a far more dramatic plot which bears a closer resemblance to Shailene Woodley’s The Fault in Our Stars. However, unlike these movies, The Edge of Seventeen bored me. I left the theater feeling let down. I turned to my dad and asked him what he thought. “Loved it. Every parent and their daughters need to see it.”

After a day of reflection, I still can’t say it was a fun movie to watch or even entertaining. At least, not for a 24-year-old male. I mean, it did have its moments: Every scene with Woody Harrelson, Nadine’s English teacher/mentor, was magic and the car-make-out/almost sex scene was cringe-worthy, but for all the right reasons. The actors were fantastic and the direction was commendable. I saw no issues in those departments.

My trouble with the movie arose from its story elements. The first two-thirds lacked dramatic momentum. The movie’s trailer reveals the bulk of the plot’s points and more importantly, its twists. Therefore, when Nadine learns that Nadine’s best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) is interested in her brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), the audience isn’t as shocked as Nadine because the trailer divulged this betrayal. However, this scene was one of the better scenes in the movie’s first half because when Nadine walks in on them, they aren’t having sex. Instead, Krista is giving Darian a hand-job. This might seem a crude element to highlight in a movie review, but its addition made the movie’s high school setting more realistic because teenage sexual encounters are awkward. Hardly ever, do they consist of the nude, moaning sex that most Hollywood studios demand in their movies.

Another let down in those first two-thirds is the things that rattled Nadine felt unimportant, and I found myself getting annoyed with Nadine. Her motivation was unclear, but my dad, my mom, and even my girlfriend, whoever I talked to about the movie, immediately understood Nadine and empathized with her. They all felt these were pertinent issues that need movies need to show and talk about. As my dad put it, “All teenagers and their parents need to see this movie so that they know that even when everything is going to shit and things keep going against you or your child, you’ll make it through, and the sun will eventually shine.”

Despite this one positive takeaway, The Edge of Seventeen is far too focused on a target demographic of mid-to-older teenage girls and indirectly, their parents, rather than having a broad appeal. The focus upon this demographic robs the protagonist of any empathy to viewers who outside this sizable niche. Moreover, the trailer bears a lot of blame for the underwhelming plot revelations because it divulges nearly all of its major turns.

By Hagood Grantham

Target Audience:  Older teenagers, adults, parents.

For trailer, see below:

 

 

Nocturnal Animals

Film score: 5 out of 5

Nocturnal Animals is a tale about art, reality, and regret. Susan (Amy Adams)  leads a lavish but hollow life with second husband Hutton (Armie Hammer). Susan receives a manuscript from her estranged ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Spending the weekend alone and unable to sleep, Susan begins to reflect on her past choices as she falls ever deeper into Edward’s tale of tragedy, heartbreak and violence.

Tom Ford’s second film is a refreshing return to film noir, 1950’s Hollywood Thrillers and French New Wave Cinema, permeated by dashes of Hitchcock, Chabrol, Godard and other Cinematic masters.

Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography conjures an eerie and isolating Los Angeles, distant and cold, covered in rain or fog. The city’s ambience is mirrored in the commercial art scene in which Susan now works. Plunged into a wide depth of field, Susan seems lost in her life, constantly detached from a large and empty world. These scenes are contrasted by Susan’s memories of her first husband Edward and the imagined world of his new novel. Both of these words are intimate and colourful, boasting a broader range of colour and smaller frames, allowing characters to truly inhabit both spaces.

Ford’s direction and his writing hold together a narrative that flits between the past, the present and the sub-narrative of Edward’s novel. It would have been easy for the film to become a jarring experience, due to the repeated and sudden switches between all three worlds.  Yet Ford manages to pull it off, the differing depths of field, changing colour palettes, and particularly changes in Susan’s wardrobe, merges all three parts into a cohesive whole.

Praise is deserved for Ford’s and McGarvey’s effective use of soviet montage theory in switching between the novel and present day, the camera repeatedly cuts from Edward’s novel to Susan’s reaction to the unfolding events. This cutting between the sadness of Edward’s novel to Susan’s emotions causes the fictional world and reality to bleed over. By the end of the film, it is hard to say whether the events of the film actually happened, or that the audience has witnessed a dream within Susan’s fatigued mind as she regrets her past.

Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon all excel in their roles. It is warming to see that all three actors, who are major stars, are still willing to make films that do not fit the standard box office formula.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrays Ray Marcus, the predatory villain of Edward’s novel who leads a small band of thugs. Taylor-Johnson’s depiction of Ray is excellent because the character is a pantomime villain, the audience is not allowed to understand Ray’s motivations or to empathize with him. Essentially Ray does what he does. It is a credit to Taylor-Johnson’s acting that this flaw in the character only appears some time after the film’s end. Throughout his appearance on the screen, Ray acts a centre of tension, he is completely unpredictable and sociopathic.

Ultimately I do not think that the film is a tale of indirect revenge. It seems to hold a deeper meaning about the sacrifices creative people undertake to succeed in their Art, and a commentary on the commercialization of Art in all its forms.

By Saul Shimmin

Target audience: Anyone looking for a good film that they will ponder for days.

For the trailer, see below: