Ah, Hollywood! The magic, the romance, the city of angels: Los Angeles. Secretly we all know that Hollywood’s not a real place. Hollywood’s a dream and creative ideal combined and it’s a world captured picture-perfectly by Damien Chazelle’s first work since his Oscar-winning Whiplash from 2014. La La Land tells the tale of aspiring starlet Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz wannabe Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in an all singing, all dancing tribute to those cockle-warming classics of the mid-twentieth century.
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Kenneth Lonergan’s latest film has been a long time coming. Originally proposed by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Manchester by the Sea is the story of both the aftermath and prelude to one family’s grief. It is a quietly heartbreaking essay in broken humanity. Whilst exploring relatable themes, Lonergan focuses on intimately personal devastation and lays bare truths in a world which so often seems intolerable.
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‘In your world I have another name and you must know me by it’ said Liam Neeson in Narna. His was a voice of gravitas there and continues to be so in J. A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls. If Neeson’s Aslan was C. S. Lewis’ creator in another land, his Monster is Bayona’s death in our own.
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Will Smith is a gift for any film’s marketing team. Send him out to do the rounds and this is a man who’s charisma could genuinely sell ice to Eskimos. He even almost – almost – manages to sell Collateral Beauty. Smith plays Howard, a high-flying creative businessman whose grief at the death of his daughter has broken his marriage and now threatens his company. Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Peña are his collateral friends/colleagues who dubiously decide to interfere by hiring a trio of actors to portray Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightly) in a bid to turn his life around or – better still – prove that he’s lost his marbles and thereby cut him out. If Passengers hadn’t already claimed the prize, Collateral Beauty would have walked away with the award for most disturbing-yet-supposedly-friendly plot of the year. Oh, 2016.
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Let’s not beat around the bush here – something Morten Tyldum could do with taking note of – Passengers is a real let down. One-part Jennifer Lawrence, four-parts bland, clichéd, pedestrian disappointment. It’s genuinely gutting.
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Choosing to go backwards feels an unusual step for a franchise with a patchy history of doing so but that’s Star Wars for you. A phenomenon with its own rulebook. How many other series could get away with two comebacks, a strangely dated font (even director Gareth Edwards agrees on that one) and each time expanding and complicating its narrative whilst somehow skewing mainstream? Set as ever ‘a long time ago’, longer than last year’s most recent addition and longer than the originals but not quite as long a time ago as the the prequels (perhaps a ‘somewhat long time ago’?) Rogue One is the second film to come from the Disney reboots in what’s looking like an annual treat for the foreseeable future. If this one’s anything to go by at least, an annual treat it will be.
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Way back, in the wake of directing 2009’s Princess and the Frog, Ron Clements and John Musker were lining up an adaptation of Terry Prachett’s Mort as their next enterprise. Prachett feels an unusual inspiration to add to the Magic Kingdom but an interesting one all the same. Whilst, alas, that grubby business of rights got in the way of poor Mort, the film the pair have produced instead puts Disney on much safer ground.
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