Perhaps the most surprising critical hit of the past decade, The Lego Movie did the impossible in 2014 by disproving the cynical rule that commercial product movies have to be soulless. Sugary to the extreme, the film launched a yellow brick franchise that in just five years transgressed from novel to tired. To this end, Mike Mitchell’s follow up to the original – The Second Part – has some major ground to regain for the sake of the franchise’s ongoing longevity. Oddly – for what is essentially a rehash – he’s managed a very genuine success.
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In much the same way that Boy Erased curiously paralleled The Miseducation of Cameron Post months later, Ben is Back sees arthouse starlet Lucas Hedges lead a belated companion piece to Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy. Both features concern the strain of parental connection in the face of a crippling drug addiction. Whereas the latter told the tale of father and son, the former offers the perspective of a mother. It’s moving stuff, very well directed and performed with outstanding nuance by a tremendous cast.
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Being associated with comedy must be a burden. Wearing this weight of expectation, it’s no wonder that Jessica Hynes looks quite so exhausted throughout her directorial debut. The Fight is not, however, a comedy. Revolving around a plot concerned with the genealogy of bullying, this is actually surprisingly sober material from the star of Twenty Twelve and Up the Women. As first features go, it’s a touch uneven but essentially promising.
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Less action is more ambition in the case of Triple Frontier. Once attached to the likes of Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali and Johnny Depp, the film has retained some degree of its star power in the casting of Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac. It benefits too from a muscular but sage approach by director J. C. Chandor and soundtrack that plays heavy on heightening the fun. If the film lacks in many regards – tension, pacing and Charlie Hunnam’s accent – it succeeds in as many more.
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It’s embarrassing how long it has taken the MCU to embrace meaningful equality. Twenty films. No female-led films. How come Chief Feige? Hot on the heels of last year’s revelation that leading heroes don’t have to be white, Captain Marvel now seeks to prove that they don’t have to be women either. Who knew? Whilst this isn’t the sickly romcom Scarlet Johansson once forecast in a bitingly brilliant spoof – ‘Marvel knows women!’ – neither is it the groundbreaking triumph that was Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman two years ago. When push comes to shove, Captain Marvel is actually very average.
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Relentless and crushingly unpredictable, sexism has long since been a devastating iceberg in the ocean of gender equality. Seas of change, however, brew in this gripping film by seasoned sports documentarian Alex Holmes. Maiden tells the tale of yachting legend Tracy Edwards and her quest to skipper the first ever all-female crew to enter the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. It is a story driven by intense passion and endurance, captured with an immediacy not so dissimilar from the likes of Maidentrip and Deep Water.
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‘We are all on our path to University’ is really not so inspirational a mantra as the teacher who announces it to a group of troubled eleven year olds towards the start of H is for Harry believes. Neither is it revolutionary. In fact, the word reductive springs to mind. Not that directors Edward Owles and Jamie Taylor particularly pass comment. Theirs is a nicely made little feature – cutely produced and warm to the core – but frustrates as a documentary. Without the focus of a critical eye or narrative voice, the film ambles without real cause or impact.
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