Joker | Review

★★★

This latest offering from Hangover trilogy director Todd Philips doesn’t half get the mind going. Having earned rapturous applause from the Venice International crowd, Joker has since met critique for its crude depiction of mental health suffering and inciting of violence. Perhaps such attacks take the situation too seriously – tonal murk aside, Joker is a superhero film – but there is no smoke without fire. As a work of cinema, meanwhile, the film does impress. Philips’ direction is smart and his production handsome. Yet, the real trump card here is an immersed central turn by Joaquin Phoenix. And that’s no joke.

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A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon | Review

★★★★

From directing duo Will Becher and Richard Phelan, Farmageddon is the immensely clever, laugh a minute follow up to Aardman’s similarly inspired Shaun the Sheep Movie of 2015. Yes, it really was that long ago. The film is also the apex in the history of a character who has transgressed from Wallace and Gromit sub player to international superstar. Note that Shaun’s first big screen foray won the Bristol based studio box office takings of over $100m. Perhaps part two isn’t quite so faultless as its pitch perfect predecessor but, by gum, it’s close enough to be a fan favourite.

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The Aeronauts | Review

★★★★

There’s an unquenchable irresistibility to the visual prospect of an Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones screen reunion, set in the basket of a hot air balloon some 37,000 feet above the ground. A cinematic match made in heaven, which happens to be set in the heavens. Maybe it is the case that neither Redmayne nor Jones will feature in next February’s awards conversations – as they did following 2014 hit The Theory of Everything – but in the imaginations of willing audiences, they can only soar higher and higher.

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The Laundromat | Review

Criticism for The Laundromat, Netflix’s Steven Soderbergh directed answer to Adam McKay, has been generous. This is, by all accounts, a cheap, intensely smug and fundamentally patronising exercise in flippancy. Of course, it’s evidently not cheap. Aside from Soderbergh’s likely high price tag, the film stacks debts to a pedigree of acting talent that stretches from leading turns by Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas to cameos from the likes of David Schwimmer, Sharon Stone and Matthias Schoenaerts. In delivery, the film is so irksome it’s almost enough to encourage support for Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca’s ludicrous attempts to block the film as defamatory. If only it were that entertaining.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil | Review

★★

Much like Alice Through the Looking Glass before it, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has been too long coming to truly still warrant its own existence. The ever welcome screen presence of an on-form Angelina Jolie aside, this is that vogue of follow up that no one asked for and fewer still needed. Indeed, Mistress of Evil has all the drably conceived hallmarks of a sequel that Buena Vista would have shipped straight to video twenty years back. It is, at least, no worse than its predecessor, which was itself a deeply inconsistent beastie.

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Monos | Review

★★★★★

From Columbian director Alejandro Landes, Monos might wear a dozen cultural references on its increasingly ragged sleeve but still carves a brutally distinct, and entirely unique, identity. It is surely, by that virtue alone, among the very best films of the year to date. A little bit Lord of Flies, a touch more Apocalypse Now and with nods also to all from Women in Love to Apocalypto, the film is at once dreamy and dreadful. It exhilarates and terrifies. There is tenderness in abundance but venom in every heart beat. Sensorily, it is a triumph, whilst, as far as the narrative is concerned, Monos will take a long time to exit the dark depths of the imagination.

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Where Hands Touch | Review

★★

You can tell Amma Asante, erstwhile director of Belle and A United Kingdom, means well by Where Hands Touch. That’s why it hurts so to label it a misfire, which it surely is. Much akin to her work on this year’s mixed series of The Handmaid’s Tale, Asante displays here an evident eye for the cinematically seductive but proves less skilled in pairing such with hardline narrative. Indeed, it is a persistent niggle of the film that Nazi Germany should not enjoy so romantic a reminiscence. 

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