Eternals Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest entry is, at the time of writing, the lowest rated MCU movie in the 13 year history of the multi-film franchise. Straight away, that seems like a bizarre phenomenon. This is not Thor The Dark World, but I do understand where the low ratings are coming from. It’s taken a few days to figure out what to write about this film, because I don’t want to just spend the whole review defending it.

On paper this has everything you want from a big budget movie. It’s directed by last years Best Director Oscar Winner Chloe Zhao, it has a cast packed with more talent than you can shake a stick at and its being produced by a studio that we have become very trustworthy of. Gemma Chan, Kit Harrington, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Richard Madden are just some of the names in the film, and they’re all as talented as each other. That level of talent being directed by Chloe Zhao should lead to a phenomenal film.

The Eternals are beings that have been around for thousands of years, helping humanity at times but mostly staying out of things and just protecting them from the Deviants, another race of beings that’s have been around for thousands of years. That’s the concept, its simple enough and if that was the core thread we pulled on, we could really get to know the characters.

As it is the film lays the groundwork and lore for the Eternals’ history in the world, spanning thousands of years. We jump from the present day to a smattering of different times and locations, with the Eternals being presented as legends and deity’s throughout time. These scenes do build lore for the world, but they also felt a bit messy. I enjoyed the scenes, and its fun seeing these characters interact but only a few of them feel like they’re given enough.

The lead character, if there is one, is Gemma Chan’s Sersi. Her chemistry with Kit Harrington was palpable, unfortunately that is the only person I felt the chemistry flowing with. I didn’t buy the other romance in the film, and I found her performance a bit stiff. She delivered the lines fine, but when she’s opposite a whole cast of actors who are delivering great performances it was noticeable to me that she wasn’t emoting quite as much as I thought she might. She isn’t bad, just it reminded me of pre-MCU marvel films, where actors wasn’t quite so into the characters.

The rest of the elements we get in Eternals are exactly as good as you expect. The special effects and the action are great, and the unique style of this film really makes it feel different. There are some spectacular visual’s throughout and the Eternals costumes and powers help to make them distinct from each other whilst also feeling like a team.

The Deviants are quite generic enemies in this film, and again that simplicity could have allowed the Eternals to really shine. Weirdly the film starts to develop the lead deviants into being interesting an interesting three dimensional character, and then it just sweeps that aside at the climax. The other kind of antagonist in this film is the Celestial Arishem, and that is where I think people might start to fall off the ride.

I love all this stuff, I’m a comic book nerd and I followed along happily knowing where things were kind of going. These cosmic entities in the Marvel universe are grand concepts that aren’t easily approachable and are even more bombastic than anything we have seen in MCU films so far. It took a 23 film series to get us to endgame, and now they’ve cut the safety net and are diving headfirst into some of the more crazy side of the Marvel universe.

This film is introducing Celestials, Disney Plus shows Wandavision and Loki are heralding in the Multiverse which will explode when spiderman comes out in December, and this is all happening whilst Falcon and the Winter soldier and Hawkeye are doing the smaller scale things in their own shows and we are supposed to be keeping track of everything. For people like me who live for this stuff, it’s a smorgasbord (FINALLY USED THAT WORD) of delightful references and moments to enjoy and marvel at. For the more casual audience members, which is the majority of people, I think its starting to all get too complex. They built to the infinity saga slowly, teasing things and slowly opening that door and helping people along the way. The Eternals basically throws you a Lord of the Rings book worth of lore and history and expects you to keep up and follow along whilst getting to know these characters and still enjoying the action and hero moments.

There are enough of those moments to put the action sequences in Eternals up with the best the MCU has delivered. Speedster Makkari steals every scene she is in and I loved Phastos’ role in both an action sense and the characters arc in the film being something you do not expect to see in a big Disney film.

For me, Eternals was a fine film. It isn’t the MCU’s peak, but nor is it the nadir. I can easily see why audiences and critics are starting to wonder if the MCU is getting out of hand. All the hard work done to build the audience and educate them on the world was masterful. It can all be undone very quickly if Marvel try to sprint just as their audience has gotten it’s head round the concept of walking.

A clumsy metaphor, perhaps the perfect way to end this review of Eternals.

Good: Stunning visuals, some great character moments and some very solid performances. The action is great fun.

Bad: Huge concepts that don’t feel set up enough pushed into a script that doesn’t quite know how to manage all of its moving parts.

TL;DR – Eternals is a fine film but one that doesn’t quite make the most of all of its moving parts. Could this be the start of the MCU losing some casual fans?

Last Night In Soho Review

Seeing places you know well in films is always fun. In that respect, Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho can stake a claim to being the most fun I have ever had in a cinema. Every location is one I recognised. Even the Sainsbury’s I buy my lunches in is in the film. I walk past the Toucan pub and Soho Square almost every day. I even saw the film in Leicester Square, then immediately had to walk through Soho and the majority of the locations to get home.

Edgar Wright makes films that I usually love. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver are three of my favourite films and the first two are endlessly quotable. Last Night in Soho is a departure in sorts from his style though. The comedy is sprinkled in gingerly, and it’s more of a thriller/suspense film than anything else, although it does touch into drama and even romance at times. Similar to Wes Anderson in the French Dispatch review last week, Edgar Wright films almost live in their own genre for the most part. Last Night in Soho doesn’t fit too neatly into that world for me.

A lot of the elements of his other films are present. There are countless fantastic transitions and excellent editing combining both the licenced music and score to create this feast for the eyes and ears. I saw it in a Dolby Atmos theatre, and it was stunning to experience. The performers all bring their best as well. Leads Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor Joy are genuinely excellent, both really becoming the characters and you buy everything they are doing in the film. Matt Smith, Michael Ajao and Terrence Stamp (General Zod is in this, mad right) all support well, even stealing some scenes they’re in.

Once again, like last weeks French Dispatch review, all the above elements are great, but I would not recommend this film to most people. It’s great to look at and I had a lot of fun with “Oh I walked past that place!” moments, but the film really lost it’s way for me narratively after a really strong start. I was in 100% on a fish out of water story with this really interesting twist with the 60’s playing into it, but then it just loses its way to the point where I just didn’t care at the end.

I try my best to avoid spoilers, and this isn’t really one, but the film touches on elements of Psychosis and even Schizophrenia, and then forgets about them until it’s next convenient to bring them up. Instead of a dive into the mental health issues it suggests, it diverts into a jump scare thriller that plays fast and loose with the rules of the world that seemed to be set up. I think a more grounded approach could have turned this into a much darker, difficult story but it’s one I would have been more invested in than the strange slasher/thriller we ended up with. The horror elements simply didn’t hit for me, something that I think really took away from my enjoyment.

There is a really interesting story here, in fact there is more than one. Both the 60’s and the modern day characters have really engaging stories. I would happily watch two movies about the characters in their own worlds with none of the more supernatural elements. While the way they intertwine leads to some great shots and transitions, but they never come together in a way that felt right to me.

All of the technical elements of this film are bang on. The editing is award worthy and the score and music are perfect. The film’s narrative and breaking the rules of the world lost me along the way and ended up as style over substance. It might work for horror fans, but I’m not one, so this one is a miss for me.

Good: The editing, the locations, the costumes, production design, and soundtrack are all excellent.

Bad: The horror elements and the throwaway mention of mental health issues lost me.

TL;DR – A rare thing, an Edgar Wright film I didn’t really enjoy.

The French Dispatch Review

The French Dispatch is an odd film. Maybe not surprising considering its the latest Wes Anderson film, but this one feels particularly out there. Its hard to explain what it is, and when I heard it’s a magazine in movie form, it made very little sense to me. Having seen the film I can confirm that it does fit that description, it’s just you need a mind like Wes Anderson’s to imagine what that looks like.

You can’t really pin a genre on this film, but by now Writer/Director Wes Anderson has pretty much carved out his very own genre. Nobody makes films that feel like his. The French Dispatch, at its most basic, is a comedy. But really it’s a series of vignettes that come together as a series of stories set in a small town called Ennui in France. Even the name of the town is a joke, and little touches of detail like that are what I really appreciated about this film. The attention to detail is unrivalled.

Wes Anderson keeps the camera still more than anyone else would dare, each frame is treated more like a painting than a film. That stillness means everything in frame is deliberate and I imagine there is loads of subtle touches throughout the film I missed on top of the details I noticed. Having seen Dune at the weekend, following it up with this is a great showcase in the range of visual styles that can be equally stunning.

The cast is littered with talent, the different vignettes giving licence to really through around what feel like lead roles to multiple actors. Each “writer” each piece of the film is based on is a character in their own stories, and they’re surrounded by other characters that are just as three dimensional. Owen Wilson, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Benecio Del Toro and more all have what I’d consider big roles. The fact they all feel like they work is a great combination their performances, the direction, and the writing all being captured in that distinct visual style.

So far, so good? All those elements above, the editing, the sound and score, it’s all really well executed. It feels wrong to lavish all this praise on The French Dispatch and then say this but it’s unfortunately true; I would not recommend seeing this film.

As a filmmaker, and as someone who is really into the art of filmmaking, it’s a genuine treat. The stories themselves though did not do anything for me. They are all fun little short films their own right, really well done. The issue I have with the film is that none of it plays into each other. There is an overarching story about what’s happening at the company itself revolving around Bill Murray, but I honestly felt no attachment to that.

I enjoyed moments consistently throughout this film and my appreciation for it as an exercise in filmmaking is endless. It never made me care though. I wanted to see how all these stories come together to a head, but they never do. That left me feeling a bit cold on the film. The French Dispatch is simultaneously marvellous and meh. Perhaps that was the idea, the town in the film is called Ennui after all.

Good: A technically brilliant execution of a film.

Bad: I wanted to care, and it never made me do so.

TL;DR – The French Dispatch is a very good film that left me feeling unsatisfied despite enjoying all the elements.

Dune Review

They’ve only gone and Dune it.

“There are Movies, and then there are Films”. It’s a cheesy quote, but one that does sort of explain that line between the blockbuster movies that are expected to put up big box office numbers and the smaller, usually more dramatic and serious films. Dune has a foot in both worlds.

I knew nothing about Dune. I haven’t read the book, seen the 1984 film or the TV show. All I knew was there’s some big ol’ worms. After a couple of hours in a cinema, I’m now seriously considering reading the book just because I am desperate to spend more time in this world. From the start of the film I was keen to not miss anything important. As it progresses the lines started to join up and the world starts to make more and more sense. Like watching a painter at work, first of all it’s just brush strokes and paint but at some point it starts to look like a stunning vista.

You have to be engaged with Dune or you will be lost. This isn’t a film you can drop in and out of. Even going for a pee break is fraught with risks. You could come back and have missed something that alters what we know about the world, the characters, the planets, anything. This is heavy sci-fi, much closer to Director Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival than it is Star Wars.

There wasn’t much doubt in my mind before, but this confirms Denis Villeneuve as one of the top directors working now. To ring such a complex world to screens is a feat in itself. To have it all work in such a powerful way with performances that are universally excellent and stunning visuals is just another thing altogether. I see a director’s job as being there to get the best out of every department, and he does it here.

One of those elements that’s near perfection is the score. There is a lot of dialogue free moments that the score swells and adds so much without ever being distracting. It’s no real surprise it was done by Hans Zimmer. He’s become the go to composer for these epic films and his work here is up there with his best.

As I mentioned, Dune is heavy sci-fi. There are very few big action set pieces, and it doesn’t build to a huge battle like most of these sci-fi epic scale films do. It’s a smaller finale, still full of tension and payoff, but not a grand scale special effects light show. Those type of things may be coming in future movies, which hopefully happen, as this first film is the start of what feels like an epic story.

Dune reminds me a lot of the first Lord of the Rings film. It’s a big comparison, one that I don’t make lightly, but it’s the only film I’ve seen since Fellowship of the Ring that successfully builds a huge world and sets up the lore, and then ends with you wanting to watch the next part of the story immediately. There’s elements of other great properties here too, Game of Thrones had clearly taken a lot of inspiration from Dune, and the TV Show that’s in the works to go alongside the Dune films might be a rival to that beloved (up to S6) series.

The only issue I had was with the pacing early on. The film drags a little for the first 45 while it introduces the characters. There’s still important moments in these early scenes, but it takes its time getting you hooked. That combined with the heavy, dramatic story might leave some more casual audiences a bit cold on the film. I think the next parts of the story will have much more in the way of physical conflict and could lead to some crazy action scenes.

The next part is not guaranteed, which is very disappointing and there’s a chance this ends up as the greatest trilogy never made. Dune is a great film, one that could be the first in a LOTR style epic saga. I really hope we get to see it.

Good: Possibly the best adaptation of a story with this scope I’ve seen for 20 years. Incredibly well done in all elements, Performances, special effects, cinematography, production design, sound and score. It’s superb.

Bad: Slow pace and very deep sci-fi storytelling might lose audiences who aren’t paying close attention. Not for kids or short attention spans.

TL;DR – Dune is Fellowship of the Ring but in the future. Please go and see it.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review

Tom Hardy seems really committed to this.

The Venom film released a couple of years ago was a strange experience. It was entertaining in parts, but mostly a chaotic mess that had Tom Hardy chewing scenery and a plot that dissolved into nothing the second you thought about it. The best thing I can say about this sequel is that the Venom/Eddie Brock relationship is still the best part of the film.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good ended for me. It’s quite rare to find a film that is so generic but still leaves you feeling like you’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s strange in all the wrong ways. Woody Harrelson plays Cletus Kassidy, who becomes Carnage eventually, and when he was cast, I was excited. Him playing a guy who is just a total psychopath sounds like a fun time, but this is not quite what I was hoping for. There is an air of intimidation there, but he isn’t scary.

When we get to the part where he becomes Carnage. There are moments I thought we were about to take a turn into horror and really get somewhere interesting. Alas no, we just get a loud, crashing action scene where we cut 100 times and a load of generic cops get murdered in some way. Carnage is a character that is supposed to be sick, horrendous and genuinely evil. As much as he does kill lots of people, you hardly ever get the sense the symbiote is doing it because he likes it.

Perhaps I am leaning on my own hopes and expectations for the character here, but to me the two symbiotes, Venom and Carnage, are hardly distinct. Even the way Carnage comes into the film is a bit odd, and it’s never explained. Thanks to the MCU we’ve been taught to expect villains and characters to come organically into the world with the actions of the people we see in it often leading to the creation of the villains. Within the world set up in a superhero film, we expect to be able to follow the breadcrumbs to the current situation.

That particular point occurred to me during the film and made me think about other superhero franchises (mainly DC) that aren’t as thorough with the world building as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. Those films have fallen into the shadows of the much loved MCU, and even though this film is tangentially part of that universe via spiderman, the rules of the world don’t seem to apply here. Without straight up spoiling everything that happens I can’t explain further but I think there is something in that contributing to these other franchises feeling a little underwhelming.

There is not much to Venom: Let there be carnage. I went in expecting a fun time in moments with a nonsense plot, and I got less than that. If you are out for a fun time at the cinema this week, go and see Halloween Kills. If you loved the first film, this is going to be an enjoyable time for you. It’s just more, but with the silliness turned up to 11. Even an intriguing post credit scene couldn’t turn this into a win for me.

Good: There is some entertaining back and forth with Venom and Eddie, but not enough to make this worth watching. I’d like to see this venom interact with Tom Holland’s Spiderman though.

Bad: You won’t remember what happened by the time you get home.

TL;DR – Venom lacks potency.

No Time To Die – Review

The Latest Bond Movie Review.

Craig. Daniel Craig.

James Bond films were always fun, throwaway nonsense when I was younger. Timothy Dalton had a buttocks instead of a chin which I couldn’t get past. Roger Moore was like your grandad trying to be cool. Pierce Brosnan was seemingly cool until you thought of literally any other action star. John McClane would beat the crap out of Brosnan’s Bond for example, and he’s just a cop.

Then came Casino Royale. Daniel Craig took that slightly out of date, campy character and spun Bond into a slick, believable bad ass. Craig’s Bond would wipe the floor with John McClane. That film and his take on the character continued to be solid, and with Skyfall they delivered the best bond film I’ve ever seen.

No Time To Die takes place after Bond’s retirement, and starts with him in a position I’ve never seen this character, he’s happy. I didn’t always buy into the previous dynamic between Craig and Lea Seydoux, but it’s at its best in this film and actually believable at times. Their relationship is the first time we see James Bond bordering on a normal life, and the events that shatter that world apart feel genuinely sad.

This film was in and out of writers rooms, delayed by a year, then delayed again. Before they even began production, Daniel Craig himself had made comments about retiring from the role after his time on Spectre. The fact this film isn’t an awful mess is a small miracle, more than that, its actually a really fun film. What’s always a guarantee with a Bond film is quality production values and great action set pieces and this delivers on every front.

That main plot thread is really well executed and leads to the most impactful scenes. One scene with the returning Christoph Waltz is phenomenal and feels like the culmination of that relationship in a really satisfying way. I love Christoph Waltz as an antagonist and he is better here than he was in all of Spectre, and the pay off really hit.

That leads me onto the other antagonist of this film, Remi Malek’s Safin. He is very good at being an unusual and quirky character, and I can see where they was trying to go with him. The issue I had was his motivations were just not clear enough to me, and he faded into just being a cliché Bond bad guy. The character’s monologue was full of flowery language, but I couldn’t really follow the line from the start of the film to the end.

It’s hard to discuss this film’s best parts without spoiling it, and I won’t, but there are a couple of key events/reveals that really hit home. I found myself smiling at the end of the film and left it feeling like it’s a very fitting end cap on the Daniel Craig series of films. I haven’t seen every Bond film but this is the first time I’ve noticed a real ongoing thread throughout the films that actually had a real payoff.

This Bond film has a lot of the standard things we’ve come to expect in a Bond film, but plays with the tropes a bit. One perfect example is the “Bond Girl” this time round. Ana De Armas plays her, but she’s nothing like her predecessors. I’ve seen calls for a spin off movie based purely on her

Daniel Craig has said he is done, and there is a hunt for a new James Bond, but honestly I am more interested in them putting the character away for a few years and seeing what else they can do with the rest of these characters. Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Lashana Lynch and Ana De Armas are all younger actors who could combine to carry the franchise in a new direction. I don’t know if that is something they’re considering, and chances are we will just get another new actor in the James Bond role.

The questions over the future of the franchise will be answered in time, but for now we are left with a really solid entry in the franchise and a film. It’s a sort of Frankenstein of a film. There is a generic Bond movie here wrapped around a genuinely heartfelt story of a man whose past won’t allow himself to be happy.

Good: The most genuinely heartfelt story in any Bond film for a long time and a satisfying end to the Daniel Craig Era.

Bad: Remi Malek was a miss for me, a little discomforting but fell into a generic villain by the end.

TL;DR: More Bond, but this time, it has heart.

Godzilla Vs Kong – Review

Exactly what I expected.

Sometimes a films title is just a title. It doesn’t play into the plot much, or it is just a phrase someone says at some point. Whiplash is just the name of a piece of music in a film about a jazz drummer really. It doesn’t tell you anything else from the title. Godzilla V Kong is the complete opposite. The title is exactly what you get, and its exactly what I wanted from a film featuring these two cinema icons.

In a season of Oscar films with deep meaningful plots and themes, this film comes along to cleanse the palate and remind you that sometimes movies are just dumb fun. There is a plot, of course, and its as outrageous as you would expect. I enjoy that the writers have decided “Screw it, people are here to watch monsters, this stuff doesn’t have to be that coherent”. The evolution of these films from the first Godzilla film has been very satisfying. That film was interesting but it didn’t have enough of the big lizard. That is not a worry here.

That said, it takes it’s time to get really into it. After an initially fun opening, we spend a good half hour jumping around establishing what the humans are doing. I can’t say any of it is bad, all the actors are good in their roles, there is just a bit too much of it. Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry and Alexander Skarsgard all throw themselves into the ridiculousness. There are plot holes and characters take unbelievable revelations in their stride like it is nothing, but it is all just set up. Pushing us along to the titular event we are here to see.

Once we get to Godzilla & Kong facing off, it’s all just visually great fun. The two have distinct ways of fighting. I went in expecting Godzilla to be more front and centre but by the end I was wishing I could have my own pet Kong. His connection with the deaf young girl is endearing even if it comes out of nowhere. There is no such relationship with Godzilla, but the big lizard is the antagonist for half of the film until a certain point. No spoilers, but its exactly how you expect these movies to go.

There is not a lot to say about this film. I could rip it apart for idiotic plot holes, generic dialogue and dumb moments, but that just isn’t what this film is for. There is enough plot to get us to the two big guys fighting it out for supremacy. That is what the title, the posters, and the trailers promised. And it’s exactly what you get with consistently spectacular cinematic moments. Just don’t go in expecting anything else.

Good: Godzilla & Kong fight. I don’t know what more you could want from this film.

Bad: Character development? An interesting story? Oscar worthy dialogue? This has none of those things.

TL;DR – Does exactly what you expect and that is honestly the best thing you can hope for in a movie called “Godzilla Vs Kong”.

Nomadland – Review

Frances McDormand is exceptional in a story about living in a van.

Nomadland is, at the time of writing, the favourite for the best picture award at the Oscars in a few weeks time. Beyond that, it’s directed by Chloe Zhao who the marvel fans amongst you might know as the director who was given The Eternals which comes out later this year. Don’t come to this film expecting something like a marvel spectacle. Nomadland is something very different to your standard blockbuster.

Nomadland follows Fern, played by the always magnificent Frances McDormand, a woman who has committed to life as a nomadic traveller living in her van. This has come about after the death of her husband and essentially the closure of her town after the industry that kept it going shut down. Her performance is incredible, feeling incredibly real. That same genuine feeling I felt watching Minari a few weeks ago was back here.

As you are watching Nomadland, it feels like it’s blurring the lines between a fictional story and a documentary. The people Fern meets along the way feel incredibly genuine. The key reason for that, most of the other people in this film aren’t actually actors. They’re what’s been called “Non-actors”. These are people who are essentially playing a slightly altered version of themselves. Drawing from their own experiences to bring their own real life trials and tribulations to Fern’s fictional story.

That all brings a real sense of authenticity to Nomadland. I don’t know if I’ve seen another film do it quite like this that wasn’t a documentary. It feels like the character of Fern has been dropped into this world of mostly elderly Americans who are living this nomadic lifestyle and Frances McDormand has just lived the life for the year the film covers. Of course, that isn’t how it happened, it is written and the events are scripted. Every character is at least a little different from the real person.

This film tells more of it’s story using visual story telling and well placed music than it does with character dialogue. When people are talking it has a purpose, or they just make small talk. There isn’t the kind of forced conversations you feel happen in a lot of films where every emotion and explanation has to be said out loud by someone. You feel the weight of loss, the consistency of grief and the joy of remembering.

The score is one of the best this year. It sounded how I felt Fern was living. Still for a moment, then on the move. The character never wants to stop in one place for too long, and by the end I understood why. This, perhaps more than any of the other Oscar nominated films this year, is a moving film. Maybe the year we’ve all had contributed to this, but this film made me think about how we deal with loss and how we can move on but keep the one’s we’ve lost in our minds. But I can easily see someone else getting a different, maybe more positive message about your enjoying life your way.

Chloe Zhao’s approach to this film shows all the hallmarks of a great filmmaker. The unorthodox approach to the casting pays dividends with the authentic feel. It boasts an excellent score that’s memorable and fits the main character. The cinematography lets the breath taking scenery do the talking, at times looking like a windows background in it’s picture perfect nature. Nomadland is a personal story told in an intimate way that hits home. It’s a very “Oscary” movie in that it’s not going to get your blood pumping with adrenaline, but it might just make you think.

Good: Great performance by Frances McDormand, and I really liked how it made me think about certain things towards the end of the film.

Bad: The meandering plotless style may turn people off even though it fits the “Nomad” tag.

TL;DR – Nomadland is one of the more thought provoking films I’ve seen for a while, and moves up to my No.2 for best picture. (Chicago 7 remains top dog for me).

One Night In Miami – Review

Pardon me… are you Aaron Burr, Sir?

Based on a night that might have really happened, One Night in Miami follows the events that happened in a hotel room following Muhammed Ali’s world championship title win in 1964. Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcom X spent the evening together, and that premise is enough on it’s own to intrigue me.

I don’t think know how historically accurate this film is, but the setting serves as a perfect backdrop for the conversations about these prominent figures in Black history and their impact on the world. I’d only heard of one of the 4 main actors, that one being Leslie Odom Jr, a star of Hamilton, which was probably the best thing I watched during Lockdown. I really should write about Hamilton.

The movie picks up before that title fight, and introduces us to the main characters in their elements, giving each actor a chance to establish themselves with the audience before they are thrown together. Up to then it’s a bit by the numbers and uninteresting, nothing really grabbing me. The boxing scenes aren’t particularly stunning, but it’s not what this film is about.

Malcom X is played by Kinglsey Ben-Adir, who peaky blinders fans might recognise, but he was a newcomer to me. He certainly looks the part, and brings the sense of purpose and focus I imagine embodied a man like Malcom X. He is the driver of the conversation, which would have been little more than a drunken night out without his presence. At first he struck me as that guy who gets all political on a night out, but quickly you understand there is more to this for him. It’s not just about a boxing victory celebration.

Cassius Clay is such an iconic figure, it’s a huge testament to actor Eli Goree that I only ever saw Ali. He becomes the young version of the man who would go on to conquer the boxing world seamlessly. I wanted more from him, but the plot just didn’t require it and despite being such a larger than life character, he blends into the room when it’s other’s time to shine. That collaborative effort is shared between all the actors.

I wouldn’t normally dedicate a paragraph to each of the main actors in a film, but this one deserves it. Aldis Hodge brings a confident, sure of himself power to NFL star and actor Jim Brown. He is the least “active” of the quartet, but in his moments he provides some well placed levity and some thoughtful moments with characters that support the other three well.

There was a moment in the film when I nodded and went “It’s his film now”. Leslie Odom Jr is an incredibly talented human, he is the best part of Hamilton and that’s praise of the highest order. His portrayal of Sam Cooke is an excellent piece of casting as the characters love for music is easily brought to life in little moments early on in the film. Then he explodes with charisma and is magnetic on screen during the most memorable moments of this film.

It perhaps lends to Odom Jr’s talents that the film plays out like a stage play. There are long one shot takes and the majority of the movie takes place in one hotel room. That theatre feel carries over into the passionate speeches the characters exchange as they battle for their own way of fighting the same fight.

There is no debating the importance of the cause they are fighting. The hardest moments of this film for me came after the credits reflecting on it. Black people’s struggles are appallingly still prevalent today. The fact this film’s message is still something we need to discuss is horrendous, but we do and therefore we need to keep having the tough conversations.

One Night in Miami isn’t a perfect film, but its provocative and entertaining one. The performances elevate it, and Leslie Odom Jr deserves all the praise he is getting for this one. It’s not a film I think everyone will enjoy, but one I did a lot.

Good: Magnetic performance’s and an intriguing premise make this one worth spending the time watching.

Bad: Slow pace at the start and stage play like back and forth is maybe not for everyone.

TL;DR – The story of One Night in Miami that Leslie Odom Jr earned an Oscar Nomination.

Sound of Metal – Review

A Film based on a drummer? Sign me up.

I continued my Oscar Movie Marathon with Sound of Metal. Considering the last film about a drummer i watched was Whiplash, which is probably my favourite film of the last decade, I went into this one rather excited to see another film with music at it’s heart. What I got was not what I expected.

Sound of Metal follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a heavy metal duo. Together with Lou (Olivia Cooke), his other half both in the music act and in a romantic sense, they are plugging away at being a success in the music industry. Ruben begins losing his hearing, and we follow his journey as he deals with his new reality.

No spoilers as usual, but the film is not a musical in any way. Ruben’s passion and main outlet is his drumming, but that isn’t the focus. Instead you are taken on an eye opening ride into what it’s like to lose a sense like hearing. Ruben’s a deeply flawed character in a lot of ways, and losing his hearing threatens to strip away everything he knows and push him back to a past of addiction.

The couple have both clearly had troubled lives and this isn’t told via exposition or a conversation, it’s all visual. You see the scars on Lou’s arms, the suicidal thoughts tattooed on Rubens chest. It’s never the focus, but it’s there. You get the impression this couple are keeping each other stable and would be lost if separated. It’s all set up very efficiently and we get into the journey Ruben goes on.

Riz Ahmed is in every moment of this film, it is put on his shoulders and he carries it with his passionate and committed performance. You feel the anguish and frustration he feels, and you see the ignorance of someone who lives entirely for one thing. He has a sole focus and one that he is convinced will work, and is too stubborn to ever admit he is wrong.

The film shows the extremes of how I imagine I would feel if my hearing was to go. The frustration at not being able to do something you’ve taken for granted for your whole life. The difficulty adapting to the new sound of the world. It’s all laid out in this film and Riz Ahmed’s performance elevates it.

His performance is matched in this film by the sound design. I often a film’s use of silence powerful, and this does that expertly. I watched with headphones on, and I suggest you do too, as it really added to the experience. A good sound system will do the same, but the way the film flicks between the sound of the scene and the sounds Ruben can hear is unlike anything I have watched before. It’s the closest you can feel in a film to being in a characters head.

This is unlike most films you will watch this year. It’s a dive into what life is like for the deaf community, and still manages to keep an emotional hook that got me more than I expected at the end. It rides on the shoulders of a fantastic performance and unique sound design which all come together into a very good film.

That combination of all these elements is down to a wonderful directorial debut by Darius Marder who can feel a little unlucky to not have an Oscar nomination for directing. Sound of Metal has come out of nowhere to be one of my favourite films of the year.

Good: A heavy hitting look into the life of someone losing their hearing, wrapped in an emotional story told with real passion and care.

Bad: It’s quiet a lot of the time which is a bit unusual…. honestly there is not much I have to say negatively about this film.

TL;DR – Sound of Metal is a film that highlights the trials the deaf community has, and importantly how people adapt and overcome them. That message is worked into an emotional story and delivered in a very well made film.