Logan | Review

★★★★

The X-Men franchise is like a box of melted chocolates, you never know what mutation you’re going to get. It is indeed a series that’s provided some serious ups and downs. For every popping candy/caramel barrel combination (Days of Future Past – deliriously good) they’ve pulled out a chocolate blob that’s lost its raisin (Apocalypse – you know, fine but it’s kind of missing the point). Therefore, it’s with an air of caution that one approaches Logan, Hugh Jackman’s last stand as the Wolverine after an impressive seventeen years. Jackman’s been an ever-solid presence since his first appearance in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, but up to now his standalone spin-offs have, frankly, been a bit of let down. Thankfully, Logan finally hits the mark. X marks the spot, if you will…

Continue reading Logan | Review

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Elle | Review

★★★★★

Right from its establishing image, Elle shocks.

That the rape of the film’s protagonist, Michèle (Isabelle Huppert), is heard before seen – and in such a way that it could yet be consensual – addresses straight from the top the themes of complicity that will prove so directly challenging throughout the film. That this opening audio gasps over the name of its director, Paul Verhoeven, is equally telling.

The man who brought the world Basic Instinct is back after a decade’s hiatus with a bang.

Continue reading Elle | Review

Moonlight | Review

★★★★★

Moonlight is a bold move by Medicine for Melancholy director, Barry Jenkins. Adopting the unrealised, semi-autobiographical, 2003 drama project of Tarell Alvin McCraney: In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, as his inspiration; Jenkins’ film is a rejection of the hard line, socio-realist aesthetic, synonymous with depictions usually granted to similarly located films. Bringing to the production his own experiences as a child in Miami, Moonlight sees its director take the sun-kissed cinematography of Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s equally tough City of God, and infuse the picture with a beautifully Rococo, pastel palette. The effect is a deeply jarring one. Grit and grime are painted in pinks, blues and greens which serve to express the visceral tension underlying this society within ‘the sunshine state’. The title here is an apt one, for what setting could better connote the fine line of romance and danger than one in moonlight?

The film is a coming of age story through and through: ‘At some point,’ Mahershala Ali’s Juan tells Chiron, ‘you’ve got to decide for yourself who you gonna be’. Thus, Moonlight is divided into three chapters, each a fluidly overlapped – but clearly signalled – epoch in the life of the story’s protagonist, Chiron. The clearest indicator of this time in motion is that in each period a different actor takes this lead role. In the first part, ‘Little’, Alex Hibbert plays Chiron at his youngest in the film. Here Chiron is a shy introvert, lonely, and abusively bullied from his peers and drug-using mother (Naomie Harris) alike. He finds solace however when discovered hiding from his tormentors by Juan, who takes him home to his girlfriend – played by Hidden Figures’ Jangle Monáe. No saint himself, Juan is a dealer embodying the sensibilities of a Dickensian Mr Brownlow type, conjoined with the moral ambiguity of a Fagin figure. To make the situation worse, and more cruelly ironic, he is also the man supplying the boy’s mother and therein engineering the fall that will follow.

Ashton Sanders is the next to portray an older Chiron (‘Chiron’ being too the name of this second vignette), still at school and now even more violently and physically brutalised by those around him. If the first part presents the naiveté of childhood (‘What’s a faggot…Am I a faggot?’), the second brings Chiron into the confusion of adolescence and the mental dynamics within that as a boy coming to terms with his homosexuality. The relationship he has with one friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome in this part) becomes now all the more complicated. It is Kevin that provides the title of the closing chapter in nicknaming Chiron ‘Black’.

The final performance comes from the, significantly more athletic, Trevante Rhodes, who is left to realise the emotional fallout of Chiron’s boyhood. It’s worthy at this point to give the Richard Linklater film Boyhood a mention. The two films follow familiar processions but it’s almost in mockery of Linklater’s twelve-year production that Moonlight instead utilises exceptional casting to pull off the same effect with a near same affect. Whilst Boyhood, it’s true, does gain a beautiful layer of social development via its gimmick, Jenkins has selected his respective ‘Chiron’s masterfully, each one rising to the occasion with a lovely naturalism. Furthermore, the production values of Moonlight more than manage to convey a sense for the timeline’s peripheral journeys – Naomi Harris is given a particularly believable, and wisely subtle, ageing makeover. Harris gives the performance of her career here, amid an ensemble that could all have received award season nominations for their roles. Most notable however is Ali who steals practically every one of his, comparatively few, scenes in the film.

Behind the scenes meanwhile, and pulling the strings with arch precision, Jenkins deserves levels of acclaim that – it’s a sore truth – he’s unlikely to receive for the film. The camerawork in Moonlight is both artful and earthy; it’s a style that manages to balance breathtaking cinematography with a genuinely tangible physicality. Shots are tight, but alive with motion and often spiral out of control, particularly in Chiron’s adolescent years, to create the ever-constant risk of the lens losing focus. There are sequences in Moonlight that made me want to squeal, such was their effervescence.

Following the life of a black, African-American and gay young man may seem a niche venture, yet Moonlight is at once both a unique passage down an under-explored avenue of cinema and an entirely universal story. Is there anyone who cannot identify with the confusion of self-identification in a world determinately setting out the terms of who you are supposed to be? Black/white, gay/straight, male/female, it’s all tediously arbitrary. Moonlight is an experience of life and, I promise you, the experience of a lifetime.

T.S.

A-Z

The Mystery Blogger Award Nomination

Thank you very much to The Cinematic Explorer for the Nomination! Bit of fun so here goes!

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by the wonderful Okoto Enigma, who I’m sure we can all agree can describe the award better in her own words, than I ever could, so without further ado:

“The “Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion”.

mystery-blog

The Rules

Put the award logo/image on your blog
List the rules.
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question
Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Me:

  1. I’m a student of Art History at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where I write film reviews for the student newspaper, The Saint.
  2. When I was younger I made documentary films about my family – sometimes embarrassing, sometimes a joy to watch back now!
  3. I’m from Yorkshire in the North of England and am proud to be so! A good Yorkshire film? The Full MontyBilly LiarThe Railway Children…I could go on!

Who’s your all time favourite actor?

Until I started writing this answer I would’ve have no idea, but, having started typing, it’s occurred to me that of course my favourite actor is James Stewart! Rear WindowIt’s a Wonderful LifeVertigo…Stewart was the Tom Hanks of his day – ever reliable and always watchable! No wonder that he was named in the AFI’s top three Hollywood screen legends!

What’s your favourite type of film genre?

Cop out of an answer but I love films that mix genres and defy expectations in doing so. Take Elle, a recent example. Elle sits in a very slippery position in terms of its genre – part psychological rape-revenge thriller, part brilliantly funny satire. It’s a disturbing and uncomfortable watch but breathtakingly unpredictable!

Who’s your favourite Director and what’s their best film to date?

Classically, I’d probably have to say Hitchcock. In terms of working actors today however, it’s a hard pick between Martin Scorsese – Mean Streets for me! – and Alejandro González Iñárritu – until last year his best was Birdman for me, then he made The Revenant! The man’s a genius.

If you could see any film early (before its release date) this year, what would it be?

Beauty and the Beast, with Blade Runner 2049 a close second. My adoration for the original films of both these two is so inordinately high that I feel a strange sense of personal investment. I just don’t want to be disappointed, is that so much to ask?

Pirates or Wizards?

Wizards, no question. Easy. Come on: Gandalf, Dumbledore, Merlin…! I’m a Harry Potter fan through and through; Pirates of the Caribbean has been through some rocky waters of late, but Fantastic Beasts proved that the magicians’  have still got this in the bag.

I’m going to nominate:

Hammy Reviews

Cindy Bruchman

The Cinema Elite

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)

Keith Loves Movies

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews

CineMuseFilms

Keith & the Movies

lloydmarken

dbmoviesblog

They’re all marvellous so do give them a look! I’d be fascinated to hear their answers to the following questions…

  1. Is there a remake/reboot of a film that you wish you could erase from history?
  2. If you could put any director and any actor together from any time in history for one film, who would they be?
  3. What was your favourite film of 1987? (Totally random one there!)
  4. Why do you write about film, or anything really?
  5. Which film should win Best Picture at the Oscars this weekend?

As for my favourite post? I’m particularly fond of the Silence review I did.

T.S.

Hacksaw Ridge | Review

★★★

Three hundred years on from Silence and Andrew Garfield is still being persecuted for his religious beliefs. He is even still wrestling with his conscience and contemplating his relationship with God: ‘I pray to God and I like to think he hears me, it ain’t a conversation’. Indeed, one scene sees the army send in his fiancé, channelling Liam Neeson, to convince him to give in: ‘It’s pride and stubbornness – don’t confuse your will with the Lord’s’. No, this isn’t Silence 2: Still No Word from the Man Upstairs, this is Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.

Continue reading Hacksaw Ridge | Review

The Lego Batman Movie | Review

★★★★

Don’t deny it! When Warner Bros. green lit The Lego Movie back in 2011 you sneered. It may have been only the slightest sneer, the twitch of an eyebrow say, but your first thought was: ‘seriously?!’ Yes, on paper it sounded like the most horrendously capitalist commercialised marketing vehicle since Pixar announced Cars 3 and E.T. turned out to be a massive fan of Reece’s Pieces. They even went and announced a relatively little known TV sitcom star as the lead. Hardly wattage… But you were wrong. Nay, we were wrong. Back in 2014 The Lego Movie was glorious. It was…well, awesome! And that ‘little known TV sitcom star’? Only one of today’s biggest blockbusters in the business, Chris Pratt! Mind, any fan of Parks and Recreation could’ve sung his praises years ago.

Continue reading The Lego Batman Movie | Review

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