Thursday, 28 February 2019

First Look: X-Men: Dark Phoenix Trailer

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Trailer


Directed by: Simon Kinberg

Starring: Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men franchise), James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Glass), Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Michael Fassbender (X-Men franchise), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, The Favourite)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix Trailer
Synopsis: In X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. 

During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. 

Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. 

Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. 

With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. 

Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite -- not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

Pokemon Sword and Shield is here

Pokemon Sword and Shield is here

Unsheathe your sword and take up your shield! ⚔ ūüõ° The world of Pok√©mon expands to include the Galar region in Pok√©mon Sword and Pok√©mon Shield, coming in late 2019!

During its latest Nintendo Direct livestream this morning, Nintendo finally provided some details about its much-anticipated next Pok√©mon game for the Switch. Called Pok√©mon: Sword and Shield, the new mainline games are due to launch late this year.
The new games feature a more detailed 3D art style compared to the Let’s Go games, and include a wide variety of locales in a new region called Galar that appears heavily inspired by the UK. Naturally, there are also new monsters, including a frankly adorable trio of starters called Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble

The Three Pok√©mon You’ll Meet First!

Your new adventure in the Galar region will begin by choosing one of these three Pokémon.

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pok√©mon Sword and Pok√©mon Shield will be set in Galar, an expansive region with many environments—idyllic countryside, contemporary cities, thick forests, and craggy, snow-covered mountains. The people and Pok√©mon live together in this region, and they’ve worked together to develop the industries here.
You’ll visit the various Gyms in the Galar region, aiming for the enviable and admirable title of Champion!

The Guilty: Film Review

The Guilty: Film Review

Taut, terrific and twisty, The Guilty's captive setting and lead man make director Gustav M√∂ller's claustrophobic call centre flick one of the most compelling of the festival.

Nearing the end of his potentially last shift, Jakob Cedergren's policeman Asger Holm is a troubled man. With a court appearance the next day, press hounding him, and colleagues clearly less than enamoured with him, Asger appears to simply want to get it done, and move on.

A series of emergency calls come in - each more mundane than the next in his eyes, but each vital to those dialling for the help. Then a call comes in that sets his senses off - an apparent kidnapping.

With the clock ticking in real-time, Asger decides to go back to his policeman roots and try and solve the case....

The Guilty: NZIFF Review

To say much about The Guilty's reveals is to spoil the elements carefully placed together by Cedergren and director M√∂ller.

Background pieces are trickled through, each dripfed when needed and each naturally inserted into the narrative rather than shoe-horned in. As Asger tries to piece together the kidnapping, the audience is left piecing together him - it's a fascinatingly compelling touch from Möller and one which is wonderfully played by Cedergren's subtleties. The smallest of looks here, the slightest of twitches of behaviour there reveal more than screeds of exposition ever could - and The Guilty sells it right down the line.

Möller also delivers some directorial flair into the setting as well - he refuses initially to show anyone other than Asger in focus, hinting at Asger's perception that others around him are worthy of his time and temperament. Asger himself is never pictured in anything other than close up until it starts to unravel for him - all demonstrating more about character than dialogue would ever achieve.

As a result The Guilty becomes a film that looks like it's destined for a Hollywood remake. Sure, it's got touches of Locke and Buried, but it's also got a panache that's all its own and a sleekness which sets it above many other entries.

Clever, compelling, and character-led, The Guilty is a must-see - a stripped back, pared down character piece that's almost Shakespearean in its tragedy. See it now, preferably Hollywood miscasts its lead in its remake. 

Netflix releases official trailer for The OA Part II

Netflix releases official trailer for The OA Part II

NETFLIX releases official trailer:  
The OA Part II

It’s been 2 years... Are you ready to make the jump back into The OA Part II and meet in a new dimension?

Today, Netflix announced that the “mind-bending” story returns with ​The OA Part II on March 22nd and released first look images, trailer and key art. ​

The “mind-bending” story returns with The OA Part II, which follows OA as she navigates a new dimension, one in which she had a completely different life as a Russian heiress, and one in which she once again finds herself as Hap’s captive. Part II introduces Karim Washington, a private detective tasked with finding a missing teen. His path crosses with OA, as they try to solve the mystery of the teen’s whereabouts and a house on Nob Hill connected to the disappearance of several teenagers. Meanwhile, back in the first dimension, BBA, Angie and the boys find themselves on a journey to understand the truth behind OA’s story and the incredible realities she described.

The OA Part II is once again coming from visionaries Brit Marling who is also starring in the show and Zal Batmanglij who created and wrote the eight chapter odyssey together.

Jason Isaacs, Emory Cohen, Patrick Gibson, Phyllis Smith, Brendan Meyer, Ian Alexander, Brandon Perea and Sharon van Etten are amongst the returning cast members as well as newcomers Kingsley Ben-Adir and Chlo√ę Levine. Paz Vega, Irene Jacob and Riz Ahmed are also guest stars in Part II.

Produced by Aida Rogers and executive produced by Michael Sugar, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Sarah Esberg from Plan B (Oscar winning producers of 12 Years a Slave), along with Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, The OA Part II is a Netflix production.

For more information, visit the show’s social pages:

Swimming With Men: Film Review

Swimming With Men: Film Review

Cast: Rob Brydon, Jane Horrocks, Daniel Mays, Jim Carter, Thomas Turgoose, Rupert Graves, Adeel Aktar, Charlotte Riley
Director: Oliver Parker

There's a kernel of a decent movie trying to rise to the surface in this tale about a male synchronised swimming team.

Easily dismissed as The Full Monty under water, Parker's take on the male midlife crisis movie is fairly middle of the road.

Brydon plays Eric, an accountant who's been in the job since forever. Tired and jaded of it all, and insecure after his wife (Horrocks, wasted in a minor role) finds her second wind as a local councillor.
His only reprieve from the tedium of spreadsheets and nondescript lift journeys is in the pool, where one day he finds a group of men practising their moves.
Swimming With Men: Film Review

Asked to join by the members ('It's not just a club, it's an idea, a protest against who we've become" one says), Eric finds his second wind also.

Swimming With Men is the kind of film that works best on TV, rather than the big screen, offering as it does little that's not been seen before.

But it's also not above using a poo in a pool at a kids' event to promote some laughs.

Based on a true story it may be (about a Swedish male swim team), and while there's something about the indefatigable Brydon doing his everyman thing again, the film doesn't offer much of life outside the pool to really grab you.

Each of the fellow swimmers is fairly loosely sketched, with a little more afforded to Rupert Graves' character as he bonds with Eric (despite the warnings that lives outside stay private). It's not that that's a bad thing, but the speed bumps when they come, can be seen miles off as the relatively pedestrian comedy tries to hit its stride.

It's all about the feelgood factor, and midlife crisis of friendships - and while Swimming With Men doesn't exactly do anything sensational with those ideas, it does present them pleasantly, albeit occasionally in a pedestrian fashion.

It's almost as if Parker was afraid to do anything radical with this tale, and lumped for the basic approach rather than something memorable.

As it is, Swimming With Men doesn't exactly swim to the top, but it doesn't also sink to the bottom without a trace - it's probably safer in the shallow part of the pool, than the emotionally deeper quarters.

A Dog's Way Home: Film Review

A Dog's Way Home: Film Review

Cast: Joanh Hauer-King, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ashley Judd, Alexandra Shipp, Barry Watson
Director: Charles Martin Smith

It's not exactly rocket science - a film about a dog's bond with their master that transcends the obstacles put in their place.

Throw into that mix a 400 mile journey, and you've got some idea of what A Dog's Way Home is about - it's like a Nicholas Sparks version of an animal love tale - dog meets boy, dog and boy separated and will they be reunited?

Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young pup, living under a house with a group of stray cats. When Bella meets Lucas (Hauer-King), it's puppy love on both sides, and the pair forms a bond that can't be broken.
A Dog's Way Home: Film Review

But when a nasty animal control officer condemns Bella under city law, Bella's forced to leave the city for her own safety - and leave behind her new family. However, she decides that it's important that she gets home to Lucas, and so she sets out on an incredible journey to get home.

A Dog's Way Home is aimed young, and it hits every level that the book from W Bruce Cameron would want to.

From simplistic voiceover to narrative simplicity, this is a film that knows what it wants to do and how to avoid a majority of mawkishness to get there. But it's also not above throwing in montages with middle-of-the-road soppy songs and cover versions along with some ropey CGI animal work to pad it out. Its short episodic feel does hurt it in places, and while there are elements of The Littlest Hobo for when Bella comes into people's lives, it's harmless family fluff.

Interestingly, there's also a few threads of tolerance seeded for an audience that are younger - from the inter-racial relationships to the message of tolerance towards army veterans and acceptance of their plight, A Dog's Way Home has its heart in the right place, even if its execution is questionable at times.

It's a very familiar journey for the tried-but-true animal friendship film, and while the cougar and dog relationship is unusual at best, A Dog's Way Home is really about the bond between man and dog - and is what is likely to resonate with the audience.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Widows: Blu Ray Review

Widows: Blu Ray Review

Ripped from a Lynda LaPlante UK TV series from the mid-80s, the contemporary US update of Widows is startling in its recreation of the power of money, the corruption of wealth, and the power of women to rise above what's been dealt to them.
Widows: Film Review

A searing Viola Davis plays Veronica, the wife of known career criminal Harry Rawlins (Neeson, mixing tenderness and harshness in flashbacks) who finds herself widowed after a heist goes wrong.

Visited by the local crime boss and informed that Harry had stolen $2 million from him, Veronica's given a month to return the cash - or pay the consequences.

So, in order to escape the hand she's been unwillingly and unwittingly dealt, Veronica goes to the also-widowed women of Harry's associates Linda and Alice (Rodriguez and Debicki respectively) to enlist them into the job.

Widows is the antithesis to Ocean's 8 - and so much the better for it, trading darkness and depth for Oceans' sleight of hand and smoke-and-mirrors routine.

Director Steve McQueen, who brought such pain and pathos to the likes of Hunger and 12 Years A Slave, gives himself more of a contemporary pat setting with Chicago's seedy underbelly, politicking and dirty money and deceit forming the backbone of a sickeningly compelling movie.

It begins with a heist gone wrong, before weaving complex threads of destroyed relationships, power, and of desperate lives trying to reset and survive.

Set against the politicking of Colin Farrell's incumbent alderman wanting to stay in power, along with the exposure of all that entails, and how deep the corruption goes, Widows could collapse under the weight of its darker themes.

But along with McQueen's flashy director touches, and anchored by a gripping central turn from Davis, the pieces of this at-times slow-moving chess board trundle inexorably and inevitably to their tragic ends.

Widows: Film Review

Yet, it's also empowering (and a breakthrough role) for Debicki's Alice, a beaten wife whose life has seen her repeatedly slapped around by different generations; and for Davis, whose commanding presence on screen brings nuance and uncertainty to the woman who was happy to enjoy the benefits of her husband's ill-gotten gains but negotiates murky waters when it comes to availing herself of any guilt.

It helps that McQueen's underpinned his film (from Gone Girl's Gillian Flynn's script) with none of the usual tropes of a heist and grounded it in a humanity that gives it an emotional core to cling to - certainly, in its actual heist sequence, it's nothing short of electrifying, urgent and riveting, a set piece par excellence that's swift, brutal and suspenseful.

Essentially Davis and Debicki's time to shine, Widows is a powerfully pared back film and engrossing drama that hides layers behind its themes of societal corruption, political heft, and anger at a system.

It's being touted for awards, and quite frankly, much like some of the power of Denzel Washington's Fences, Widows is a film that you can't fire enough superlatives at.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Win a double pass to see A DOG'S WAY HOME

Win a double pass to see A DOG'S WAY HOME

To celebrate the release of A DOG'S WAY HOME, you can win a double pass!


As a puppy, Bella finds her way into the arms of Lucas, a young man who gives her a good home. 

When Bella becomes separated from Lucas, she soon finds herself on an epic 400-mile journey to reunite with her beloved owner. 

Along the way, the lost but spirited dog touches the lives of an orphaned mountain lion, a down-on-his-luck veteran and some friendly strangers who happen to cross her path.

A DOG'S WAY HOME is in cinemas from February 28th

Play The Division 2 Open Beta this weekend

Play The Division 2 Open Beta this weekend

Starting on March 1st, you will be able to freely experience The Division 2 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Here is what awaits you, in solo and in coop: 

- Explore the eastern part of Washington D.C.
- Play 3 main missions and 5 side missions
- Discover and upgrade the "Theatre" settlement
- Battle to extract precious loot in Dark Zone East
- Try out The Division 2 Endgame


Monday, 25 February 2019

Full list of the 91st Academy Award Winners

Full list of the 91st Academy Award Winners

Here is the full list of the 91st Academy Award Winners.

Best picture: "Green Book''

Best actress: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite''

Best actor: Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody''

Best director: Alfonso Cuaron, "Roma''

Best supporting actress: Regina King, ``If Beale Street Could Talk''

Best supporting actor: Mahershala Ali, ``Green Book''

Foreign language film: Mexico's ``Roma''

Original screenplay: ``Green Book,'' Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly

Adapted screenplay: ``BlacKkKlansman,'' Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee

Original Song: ``Shallow'' from ``A Star Is Born,'' music and lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt.

Cinematography: Alfonso Cuaron, ``Roma''

Best animated film: ``Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse''

Original Score: ``Black Panther,'' Ludwig Goransson

Costume design: Ruth Carter, ``Black Panther''

Production design: ``Black Panther''

Sound Editing: `'Bohemian Rhapsody''

Sound Mixing: `'Bohemian Rhapsody''

Film Editing: John Ottman, ``Bohemian Rhapsody''

Animated short film: ``Bao''

Documentary short subject: ``Period. End of Sentence''

Visual effects: ``First Man''

Live action short film: ``Skin''

Documentary feature: ``Free Solo''

Makeup and hairstyling: ``Vice''

Red Dead Online Beta: New Modes, Enhancements and More Arrive Next Week

Red Dead Online Beta: New Modes, Enhancements and More Arrive Next Week

Red Dead Online Beta Update Arrives Next WeekAll New World Enhancements, Modes and More from February 26

Next week the Red Dead Online Beta frontier expands with all new Free Roam Events, a host of new Showdown Modes, and new Races coming as part of its first title update on Tuesday, February 26. This update also brings the first batch of new Weapons, Clothing, and Emotes for your character, as well as a series of improvements and balances detailed last week.  Also starting on Tuesday, February 26 look out for new content and special promotions weekly.

New Gameplay
New additions will include the Fool’s Gold Free Roam Event, where players will compete to control an equal parts gaudy and protective suit of Golden Armor. Fight to take down the armor wearer to earn points and claim it as your own, then turn the tables and earn points for kills while wearing the armor.

Competitive Challenges gets a fresh catch with Fishing Challenges. Fishing Challenges are broken out by type, opt in to the challenge and you’ll receive all the equipment necessary to compete including the rod as well lures and bait specific to the challenge type, whether it’s crickets for a river challenge, crayfish for the swamp or worms for lakes. Then head to an appropriate body of water to take part – also, you’ll be made safe from the nuisance of trigger-happy outlaws while you are taking the challenge. Catch the highest weight total of fish to win.

Also on the way are three new Showdown Modes where players and teams compete to capture and deliver bags, steal loot from each other and survive. Stay tuned for more details around Up in SmokeSpoils of War and Plunder. Races will also see a new variation with Target Races where players shoot targets from horseback to pass checkpoints as they race along a track to the finish line.

New Weapons
B.D. and Co. is turning out the high grade, high capacity Evans Repeater rifle. The Rare Shotgun is D.D. Packenbush’s latest variation of the powerful double-barreled longarm. Sporting an antique style faded brass finish and an artfully adorned stock. Both weapons will be available via the Wheeler & Rawson Catalogue and local Gunsmiths.

New Clothing and Emotes
A wide range of new clothing to further customize your character – from the snake adorned Diamondback Hat to the fur trimmed Rutledge Vest – is also on the way with new Outfits, Jackets, Boots, Coats, Gloves, Hats, Vests and more. In addition to all the clothing that will be available for purchase at your leisure, keep an eye on the shops and the Catalogue for unique special items that will come and go. A variety of new Emotes is also on the way – featuring everything from greets to reactions and taunts.

PS4 Early Access Content
In addition to new Target Races, PlayStation 4 players will have early access to Open Target Races where you compete in an open space to take out the most targets on horseback. PS4 players will also get early access to the Jawbone Knife, a unique melee weapon with a handle artfully carved from the remains of a slain animal’s jaw, as well as a range of new clothing options and 3 new Emotes.

Bonus XP This Week
Play the Red Dead Online Beta all this week to earn 20% more XP on all activities ahead of the launch of these new updates on February 26. And be sure to look out for new bonuses, giveaways, promotions and content updates weekly, as we continue to build, balance and evolve the world of Red Dead Online.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

2019 Oscar Awards - who will win

2019 Oscar Awards - who will win

2019 Academy Award winnersSo, it's time - the 91st Academy Awards.

And as ever, ahead of Hollywood handing out awards on Sunday night, it's time to predict the 2019 Academy Award winners

Best Picture - Roma

Best Director - Alfonso Cuaron

Best Actor - Rami Malek

Best Actress - Glenn Close

Best Supporting Actor - Mahershala Ali

Best Supporting Actress - Regina King

Best Animated Feature - Spider-Man : Into The Spider-Verse

Best Original Screenplay - The Favourite

Doomsday Week in GTA Online, New Principe Deveste Eight, Principe T-Shirt Unlock and More

Doomsday Week in GTA Online, New Principe Deveste Eight, Principe T-Shirt Unlock and More

It began as little more than a myth: whispers on the dark net that Principe's top engineers were working on their first ever supercar. Then the myth became a legend: a few leaked photographs so provocative that possession was a federal crime. Then the legend became a rumor: a car so exclusive no one could confirm it existed in the real world. And now, thanks to you, that rumor is about to become a very messy headline.
Introducing the Principe Deveste Eight, now available at Legendary Motorsport.
There's more than one way for you and your squad to earn big this week. Further your career in post-apocalyptic vehicular warfare with Double GTA$ & RP in the Arena War Series all week long. Plus, launch into any one of the Doomsday Heist finales to score 2X GTA$ and RP payloads
Rush to an IAA base under the Satellite Relay Station in the desert. Foreign agents are attacking and trying to hack government servers - they need to be stopped.
Launch an operation on a foreign submarine lurking off the coast. One team boards through an airlock and disables the sub, while the other holds off enemy agents in an aircraft above.
A Missile Launch Base has fallen into the wrong hands. Storm the base, clear it out, stop the warhead from launching, and save the day.
To mark the release of Principe's first foray into the 4-wheeled market, play anytime this week to unlock the Principe Black T-shirt.
Playing GTA Online at any point this weekend on Saturday February 23rd or Sunday February 24th makes you eligible for this month’s 4th and final GTA$250K bonus, which will be awarded when you log in next weekend.
Plus, if you loaded up GTA Online February 16 - 17, play anytime this coming weekend to claim your outstandingGTA$250K.
Host your own Doomsday Heists with discounts on Facilities and Facility upgrades:
  • Facilities – 30% off
  • Facility Renovations – 30% off
  • Hangars – 40% off
Also, take 30% off the weaponized Doomsday vehicles and more:
  • Mammoth Avenger
  • Imponte Deluxo
  • Mammoth Thruster
  • TM-02 Khanjali
  • Ocelot Stromberg
  • RCV
  • Buckingham Akula
  • Volatol 
  • HVY Barrage
  • HVY Chernobog
  • P-996 Lazer
For more information on all the latest GTA Online bonuses, head to the Social Club Events page.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

After Life: Netflix Review

After Life: Netflix Review

Watching Ricky Gervais' new series After Life, there's a deepening sense of isolation and low-level anger over its six episode run.

But as the series develops, the acid edges Gervais' Tony has start to soften, as the show starts to wrap itself around the complicated edges of grief, denial and anger.

Tony's had a happy life - 25 years with his wife, before breast cancer stole her. Episode two of the show starts with a stark image, rife in its honesty, as Tony offers up a razor to his wrists in the bath to rid himself of the wretchedness he feels.
After Life: Netflix Review

Yet, he's stopped from doing so, not by a revelation or epiphany - it's the fact his dog comes into the bathroom, reminding him that she needs feeding. It's this moment of frank honesty, which reveals much about what After Life is trying to do. Something banal needs doing - and that pulls him off the ledge.

Admittedly, the first episode makes Tony a tough character to empathise with or even begin to love.

Sure, he's got the trademark Gervais laugh in flashbacks with Tony and his wife Lisa, but this sallow, slumped man of now is not what you'd expect from a character on screen these days - flashes of malice line some of the barbs, others are just him lashing out in frustration, blackly hitting targets you'd not expect - and delivering c-bombs aplenty in the first outing to make you question the second's necessity for viewing.

However, what Gervais does is remarkable in some ways - but disappointingly, it won't be for everyone - even though we'll all be afflicted by what it's tackling.

It's a study of grief admittedly, but it's also a study of how people react to grief - from the person in the maelstrom to those on the outskirts who try to tackle what's best for their friend.
After Life: Netflix Review

Bathed in veracity, a conversation with his nephew two-thirds of the way into episode two reveals much. Sure, it's Gervais' trademark atheism writ large, but when the nephew asks why the doctors couldn't save Lisa, Tony says the words without realising, confessing that they tried all they could. It's a flailing bitterness in the wind moment, a moment that speaks to the psyche of those of us in grief - that sometimes, you don't win; sometimes, you don't get the ending you wanted - but sometimes, honesty is what counts.

It's the moments like this in After Life which count; cut through the bleakness like life smashes through dreams. And while Gervais still delivers some bittersweet laughs with Tony's frustrations against the endless inanities of the idiocy of those he works with at his local paper, it's once the sound and fury of the anger subsides, that you see the honesty of the work and bittersweet beauty of it within.

Friday, 22 February 2019

New Rocketman trailer is here

New Rocketman trailer is here

Here is your first look as the Rocketman trailer with Taron Egerton starring as Elton John.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Seagull: DVD Review

The Seagull: DVD Review

Based on the play by Anton Chekhov, director Michael Mayer's take on The Seagull is a light, breezy film that benefits greatly from its core cast.

Bening, Stoll and Ronan all breathe exceptional life into their respective roles.

The Seagull: Film Review

Bening is Irina, an actress whose insecurities stretch to admonishing her son Constantin and mocking his attempts at play-writing. Called in to visit her ailing brother, a tale unfolds of how Constantin met Saoirse Ronan's Nina, an appalling wannabe actress who became his muse.

However, Irina has brought with her the famous writer Boris Trigoran (Stoll, a stoic presence) whose appearance at the family home causes rifts and consternation as all tremble in the shadow of his reputation.

As the rifts deepen, everyone's insecurities increase exponentially...

As mentioned, The Seagull benefits from a career best from Bening, whose scoffing and mocking of those around her surfaces amid her own insecurities. Bening more than delivers, adding touches of nuance when required and bringing the pain to the fore as it's needed.

The Seagull: Film Review

Equally Stoll and Ronan add much to the ensemble as the combination of comedy and drama unfolds; additional support from a growingly unhinged Elisabeth Moss as an infatuated woman lends the necessary scorn to the piece.

However, some of the hints of destruction are not seen on the screen, and with the flashbacks played out only to a point, The Seagull doesn't quite deliver the emotional heft that's necessary in times. An attempted suicide falls flat, a discussion of one character left bereft feels stripped of the heft - granted, it's a different approach but given the denouement relies on the emotion of the past as the script comes full circle from the flashbacks, it feels a little like The Seagull cheats - even if it does follow Chekov's play.

Fortunately, biting dialogue and stellar performances detract from the downsides, and The Seagull takes flight when it needs to, but fails to soar into the skies when it should. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Stan & Ollie: Film Review

Stan & Ollie: Film Review

Cast: John C Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda
Director: Jon S Baird

Less a film about an actual break-up, more a piece about the aftermath, Stan & Ollie's tale of a degenerating work partnership and the effects of long-term friendship.
Stan & Ollie: Film Review

Beginning in 1937 with Coogan's Stan Laurel refusing to sign a new contract with studio head Hal Roach at the peak of their fame, the cracks show when Oliver Hardy (Reilly in a spot-on turn as the infamous gambler and womaniser Babe) doesn't demonstrate solidarity with his on-screen chum.

Fast forward 16 years and the motion pictures have dried up, the crowds have largely deserted and the audiences have moved on, Baird's film follows the duo in the twilight of their career as they pursue live shows in the UK.

Whilst Stan & Ollie doesn't exactly push the envelope in terms of on-screen presentation, but it's pleasantly evocative of an era long since forgotten in a world that revolves around CGI.

Simply and affectionately presented, Stan & Ollie benefits greatly from everything being laid bare on the table - the performances pickle in their own bittersweet moments, and the finale is designed - and succeeds in - to deliver a lump to the throat.

Coogan and Reilly encapsulate the duo perfectly; from Coogan's slight stumbles as he delivers Laurel's trademark speech patterns, to Reilly's capturing of Hardy's performance tics, this is a deeply affectionate tribute to the duo.

But more than that the bittersweet touches and hints of a friend not wanting to let down another friend are subtly painted in and liberally applied throughout. More goes unsaid during the film, but when the moments need to be delivered in the final 10 minutes, it's perfectly dispatched for superb effect.

At its core, Stan & Ollie is a film about friendship, of the peaks and troughs, of the resentments both spoken and kept internalised - and Coogan and Reilly make wondrous fists of both the sub-text and the physical demands of Laurel and Hardy's routines, which are recreated throughout.
Stan & Ollie: Film Review

There's wonderful support from Henderson and Adrianda as their wives, with their spiky relationship echoing that of Laurel and Hardy themselves, and showcasing a different paradigm of much the same relationship mechanic - it's fair to say their arrival enlivens things a little, but the groundwork's already been done by Reilly and Coogan with ease.

Bathed in melancholy, with a wonderful opening tracking shot that mixes both the truth of the Laurel and Hardy dynamic as well as the need to constantly perform for the public no matter how fleetingly, Stan & Ollie is a fitting celebration and a biopic that's haunting and anything but another fine mess.

Vox Lux: Film Review

Vox Lux: Film Review

Cast: Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle
Director: Brady Corbet

Brady Corbet's Vox Lux aims to shock, albeit unintentionally.
Vox Lux: Film Review

Its opening is as powerful as it is mundane, beginning as we do with Raffey Cassidy's Celeste going back to school after the holidays. To say more is to deprive you of the jolt, but needless to say Corbet's opening salvo puts our heroine on a path she'd not expected as tragedy comes calling.

As Celeste begins to find her singing voice, she's aided by her agent (Jude Law) as Vox Lux's pre-2001 episode begins to chart her career ascent as a singer. Book-ended by both a personally major event and a US event of the time, Celeste's life is tarnished with tragedy.

The messy scrappy second half of the film picks up 16 years later with Portman portraying Celeste as she mounts the comeback trail, before something else threatens to overwhelm her and her plans.

Vox Lux is a pompous, self-obsessed, pretentious mite of a movie - and some will run lovingly into its arms because of that very fact, while others will head in the opposite direction screaming.
Vox Lux: Film Review

But its two halves division causes an issue, and the first's stronger loss-of-innocence tale towers over the second, with a subtlety of direction and script helping propel it along (as well as Dafoe's booming voiceover pomposity).

However, its second half is blessed by a ferocious Portman, who revels in the Gaga-esque edges of the character, but who makes the self-loathing feel all too real, after years of insecurities eat away at her from the first years of her life and career as she teeters on the cusp of her journey.

There's a bravura edge on Corbet's filmmaking, even if the script and its ultimately disappointing end make parts of the film feel uneven. As an artistic endeavour, it's second to none, revelling in its luxuries in the second half, but dawdling in its emotional waters early on.

Vox Lux is polarising to be sure - is it a commentary on the music industry, on society and its violence, is it a piece about how we've always been anchored in violence and its effects?

No one is telling for sure as it ends, but what is certain about Vox Lux is that it's a piece of film-making which will shock you out of the dullness that pervades cinemas these days. And while that power is never quite as stringent as in its first half, its effects linger long after it's ended.

Escape Room: Film Review

Escape Room: Film Review

Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine
Director: Adam Robitel

Less torturous than the Saw franchise, but still none the less suspenseful, Escape Room's premise is a nicely executed mystery box, awaiting to be opened.
Escape Room: Film Review

Zoe (Russell) is a college kid, who finds herself at a loose end at the Thanksgiving break, and not going home. Upon receiving a mystery box, she cracks it open, eventually, to discover an invite to an Escape Room meeting, where the prize is $10,000 for escape.

Upon arrival, she finds a clutch of others in the waiting room as well, destined to be her colleagues in the escape. But each has a secret, and as the reality begins to settle in, everyone has everything to lose.

While Escape Room is a case of some fairly weak character work (everyone's a stereoptype in some form or other), thanks to the lead's empathy, there's a bit to latch on to in terms of emotional stakes.

And what Escape Room may lack in depth for leads, it more than makes up for in terms of execution.

Essentially a series of five chamber pieces, the claustrophobia and suspense of an escape machination is given a taut and well-executed edge. Certainly, the aesthetics of the third room is brilliantly conceived and nonchalantly realised. To say more is to spoil that reveal, but needless to say this one central set piece more than makes for the price of admission.
Escape Room: Film Review

What's not as great about Escape Room (aside from some of the aforementioned characterisation) is the fact its ending feels deliberately conceived as a cash-grab, scene setting for anything future. It's massively disappointing that this cynical approach is deployed, robbing the audience of a feeling of completion and a film that deserves another on its own merits, rather than lazy writing by studio fat-cats.

Ultimately, Escape Room provides some knotty moments, gives the torture-porn series a welcome non torturous approach, but fails the finale intensely.

The Girl In The Spider's Web: Blu Ray Review

The Girl In The Spider's Web: Blu Ray Review

The Millennium Trilogy was, to be frank, a sensation.
Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander

Dark, dingy, Scandi-noir that hooked audiences, the Noomi Rapace/ Michael Nyqvist combo sustained three films and millions of book sales. The subsequent reimagining with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara fell short, even if it embraced some of the darkness and intense nastiness which percolated through the first.

And now, from the director of Don't Breathe, the book not written by Stieg Larsson has made it to the big screen, with The Crown star Claire Foy taking the lead role of hacker Lisbeth Salander.

Yet, The Girl In The Spider's Web all feels so formulaic, and largely unexciting.

The story concerns Salander who's contacted by Stephen Merchant's Frans Balder to retrieve a defence programme he's written. Salander does, but then finds herself unexpectedly under attack from others who want it, and framed for crimes she didn't commit.

Sylvia Hoeks in The Girl In The Spider's Web

Racing against time to clear her name, and stop the end of the world, Salander discovers the conspiracy has a very familial feel to it...

The problems with The Girl In The Spider's Web are largely not those connected with the execution of the film, which deploys some clever twists and starkly nasty imagery with veritable aplomb.

And the problem doesn't lie on the shoulders of a relatively emotionless Foy, who largely turns Salander into a scowling, scornful, brooding superhero type, in a performance which dials down the restraint, ups the physicality from Foy and leaves an impressive feel.

The main issue with The Girl In The Spider's Web is the story itself - it seems so out of keeping with what the original trilogy aimed for.

When Salander first appears, it's like she's cosplaying Oliver McQueen from Arrow, and the script demands an avenging angel like performance as the righter of wrongs, catapulting Salander into the echelons of damaged superheroes. And while Alvarez does much with jerky camera movements and handheld rushes to complement a sense of suspense at the start, he soon abandons for formulaic thriller territory.

The Girl In The Spider's Web

The Girl In The Spider's Web still has some nightmarish edges, and while the emotional touches at the end come down to a short scene involving two people on a snowy ledge, there's little to let the light in throughout.

Stanfield is terribly and woefully underused as an American agent chasing the missing program; and in much similar ways, journalist Mikael Blomkvist is sidelined as the story goes on, robbing the film of the central spiky partnership that was such a tenet of the original series.

If all of this feels like The Girl In The Spider's Web is being damned, it's pertinent to say it's still a competent thriller, even if it's one constrained in a narrative web of its own doing.

It's just compared to the original films, and source material, no matter what Alvarez and Foy do, it's not enough to lift it from the gloom that pervades throughout - both of atmosphere and of oh-so-familiar pulp plot which lacks the sophistication and lyrical poetry of the first three. 

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