Justice League Review

Justice League

Of the many, many mistakes Justice League makes, one of the most damaging isn’t really the film itself’s fault. In releasing just a few weeks after Thor Ragnarok showed that there’s plenty of life and originality left in the comic book genre, the crushing staleness of DC and Zack Snyder’s attempted answer to Avengers is that much more apparent. An overstuffed and tonally confused mess, it’s the exact sort of superhero film that inspires exhaustion with the genre, with too much CG, a terrible villain, and little in the way of real stakes. Yet, it’s not quite a total calamity, ending up as a basically functional but mostly boring blockbuster.  Continue reading

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Hostiles Review

Hostiles

Over the last decade we’ve received a slew of truly brilliant modern westerns, separating themselves from their predecessors with various flashes of thrilling originality, be they stylistic or thematic. For example, Inarittu’s The Revenant had its thunderous exploration of nature’s raw power, Tarantino’s Django Unchained moved the action to the antebellum South, and John Maclean’s Slow West was a raucously funny and surreal look at outsiders in America. Where Hostiles, the fourth film from the always unshowy Scott Cooper, first falls down is in its total lack of USP, a generic journey movie with gritty violence and occasional thrumming intensity, but little to consistently engage.  Continue reading

I, Tonya Review

I Tonya

At the outset of I, Tonya, the amusingly contradictory to-camera interviews given by the characters recalling the film’s events suggest that what we’re about to see is a multi-perspective, and very unreliable, take on the infamous events of the build up to the 1994 Winter Olympics figure skating competition. Though this what director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers give us to an extent, their film is also more empathetic than that, allowing the disgraced Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) to tell her own story. Hers is the version of the facts that the film is most comfortable settling with, ensuring the plentiful entertainment mined from her life doesn’t feel too exploitative.  Continue reading

Murder on the Orient Express Review

Murder Orient Express

In a world where billion dollar superhero and sci-fi epics dominate the blockbuster scene and the TV schedules are packed to bursting with complex conspiracies that take tens of hours to unravel, a simple two-hour murder mystery film feels quite novel, even a little quaint. Kenneth Branagh, director and star of this new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s sublime Murder on the Orient Express, has chosen to overcome this feeling with sheer star power. Much like the Sidney Lumet version of the story from the ‘70s, Branagh’s cast is a murderer’s row of superstars, whose collective charisma and charm elevate the slightly overcooked material.  Continue reading

Thor Ragnarok Review

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Thor and the Hulk have always been one of Marvel Comics’ best power couples, two extremely destructive allies, friends, and occasional enemies. This relationship has been enjoyably introduced in Joss Whedon’s Avengers films, but Thor Ragnarok is easily the duo’s best MCU showcase, a raucously fun buddy movie starring the universe’s strongest heroes. New franchise director Taika Waititi fully embraces the ridiculousness of the premise of a friendship between a Norse god and irradiated green giant in one of the most entertaining and unashamedly ‘comic book’ MCU entries yet.  Continue reading

Paddington 2 Review

Paddington 2

Paddington 2’s final five minutes are as moving as any film scene in 2017, not only culminating an utterly lovely adventure story, but also extolling the virtues of kind, tolerant togetherness with the sort of shameless sincerity that only family films really ever dare reach for. It’s incredibly touching, and a perfect example of why this sequel to Paul King’s surprise smash-hit 2014 adaptation of Michael Bond’s Paddington books is exactly the film that 2017 Britain needs. It’s an obviously political and utopian vision of the UK that happens to be wrapped up in a caper starring a small CG bear.  Continue reading

You Were Never Really Here Review

You were never really here

Even in the most skilful horror movies, feeling genuinely physically trapped by a film is a trick almost impossible to pull off for any director. Lynne Ramsay, though, has achieved just that in the masterful You Were Never Really Here, a whirling dervish of pain, fear, and anxiety that sinks its claws into your brain and soul early in its minuscule 85 minute runtime and doesn’t let you go until long after the credits roll. It’s an unshakeably distressing and brutal work of capital-A-Art, and almost certainly the film of the year. Continue reading