Coco Review

COCO

It’s always a blessing when a new high-end Pixar film comes about, reminding us how good children’s animation can be in the hands of a studio that really cares. Coco, their non-sequel effort for 2017, is a tremendous step up from The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory, and Cars 3 and easily the year’s best animated film – even matching the wonderful Paddington 2 in terms of sublime children’s entertainment. Already a record-breaking hit in Mexico, it’s deeply moving and visually stunning in the way that we always expect from Pixar, but also culturally important, with insightful looks into Mexican culture and tradition and an entirely Latinx cast.  Continue reading

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Beach Rats Review

Beach Rats - Still 1

Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is a young man caught up in a storm of his emotions. He’s lying to himself, but can’t quite work out why, and ‘I don’t know what I like’ is his default answer to any remotely probing question. He’s the star of Beach Rats, the striking second film from Eliza Hittman, on the cusp of adulthood during a long, directionless summer around Coney Island, driven by well-intentioned indecision, trying his best to make sure nobody, himself especially, gets hurt. In a year with some astounding gay love stories with Moonlight, God’s Own Country, and Call Me By Your Name, Beach Rats can feel slight and over-conventional, but marks a intriguing breakout for Hittman and her hugely charismatic young star Dickinson.  Continue reading

Roman J Israel Esq Review

Roman J Israel Esq

Our principles and core beliefs are never something that we should take lightly, especially not if we’re given any position of legal power. This thought guides the eponymous star of Roman J Israel Esq, but this is far from a conventional story of a heroic, downtrodden defense lawyer. Instead, Dan Gilroy, of Nightcrawler fame, deconstructs the notion of unbreakable virtue and delivers a compelling story of a man unravelled by his stubborn will to take life as a theoretical construct, instead of the vibrant, messy, and uncomfortable collection of practical demands that it truly is.  Continue reading

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

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