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The Gentlemen Review

Guy Ritchie made his name with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and one of my personal favourite films: Snatch. With the Gentlemen, he has returned to his British gangster film roots and brought to it a cast packed with big names and huge talent. His writing and his dialogue are what made the films hits, and from the trailers it just looked like him flexing his writing and directorial muscles after years working in different genres. 

In recent years he’s made Aladdin and Man from Uncle, two films I really enjoyed but didn’t quite have that Guy Ritchie style I love. I missed catching King Arthur, but that film just didn’t seem like it suited the director’s flair. The Gentlemen, whilst initially giving me a Kingsman vibe, is Ritchie going back to what he does better than anyone. It’s fast paced, anarchic, over the top fun, and that’s a word that’s relatively dull to use to describe a film but honestly, it’s how it is best described.

The last few films I have watched have been Bombshell and Little Women, two dramas about real issues and bringing up emotions. The Gentlemen never tries to kid you into thinking it’s going to be that. It knows what it wants to do, and it goes about achieving it as best it can. Getting the talents of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell and the surprise star of the show Hugh Grant elevates the expectations a little for me. I love Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam seems promising in everything I’ve seen of him, and McConaughey is one of the best in the business. All three sell the fast-paced dialogue and excessive nature of everything well. Even little things like how many different suits McConaughey’s character gets through made me smile, as every new scene has him sporting a new pattern and pulling it off.

Hugh Grant is unrecognisable from the heartthrob audiences know from his various romantic comedies over the years, and he looks like he had an unbelievable amount of fun playing such a quirky oddball. He is the one delivering the exposition, and normally it would be excessive, but the character is so incredibly entertaining throughout that you just eat it all up.

To be honest, the flaws in the movie are all things that you just don’t come into a Guy Ritchie gangster film to see. If you want an introspective drama or a tragic story, there are other films that do that, this is unashamed to be here proudly displaying what it is. You know from early in the film what you’re in for, and it doesn’t change or surprise you. It subverts expectations by what the characters say and do, but mainly because there is nobody who writes dialogue quite like this.

There’s countless cunts and fucks thrown around with happy abandon for the offence people take to that language. There is no time for you to dwell on it, because before you know it, you’re into the next scene and something else bonkers is happening.

There is something in most of Guy Ritchie’s films that have reminded me of Tarantino, and this is another one where I can see shades of it. The difference, at least for now, is that Tarantino somehow takes a similar strain of over the top craziness and funnels it into a more investing story, something which The Gentlemen never threatens to do.

There is a narrative at play, but it felt like it’s just a vessel to get us to the next moment. I laughed consistently throughout, I was hooked by the performances, but I never cared. It never made me feel something for the characters, and that’s what holds this style of film back now.

If you enjoy Snatch or Lock Stock, this will be a fantastic ride for you. It’s got all the hallmarks of those films and a few references here and there, but if you want something to make you think or challenge you emotionally, this isn’t the film for it. This film is here to give you a good time, and in Oscar season it came along at just the right time for me.

Good: Dialogue, Performances, plenty of laughs and dripping with style.

Bad: Not going to make you feel much, no real connection to any characters.

7/10 – Guy Ritchie having some fun. 

 

Bombshell Review

Bombshell caught me by surprise late last year when I stumbled across the trailer and saw it had some of the most talented actresses all bundled together to tell an important, powerful story. It then fell off my radar until it finally released, and now I have finally been able to see whether it could live up to the expectations such a talent packed cast demand. 

Well first off, that cast all turn up and deliver excellent performances all-round the board. Everyone follows the lead of Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles and that level of performance is what really drives this film and makes it so compelling. Charlize Theron in particular catches the eye, and the Oscar nomination she has received for this role is well earned.

Margot Robbie is less central in the film, but she has some of the most powerful scenes and that’s why she is in the running for the supporting actress role, once again earning it. I did feel that those two were just a level above Nicole Kidman, who plays a very important role in the film but never threatens to steal a scene from anyone.

John Lithgow plays Roger Ailes, the man in charge of Fox and the man who is pitting these women against each other in their competitive field. He channels the ability he’s displayed in several roles over the years to be incredibly unsettling. He shares scenes with all the leads and although Margot Robbie’s character is a blend of several real women, the idea that this is based on true events made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

The story, if you don’t know it already, is essentially a dramatic telling of the events that led to Roger Ailes being removed from his role at Fox due to him sexually harassing numerous women over years in power at the news platform. The movie does a fantastic job of bringing you through the events, and the voice over from the three leads provides extra exposition when needed to give you more information as we go through the events.

There are a couple scenes in this that really feel powerful, and the film starts to go deeper into the characters and their emotions and the struggles they had to deal with. Margot Robbie bears the brunt of these scenes, with one showing how much the events have hurt her and another asking cutting questions to other women asking why they didn’t come out sooner to protect the next group of women from being abused the same way they was.

In these moments, the film threatens to step up another level to a point where I would be championing it for best picture, but it never quite goes for that step up and delivering something that really pulls at your emotions. It’s not that there is a joke that breaks the tension, it’s that the moments sort of fizzle out, they pass without a big moment to really punch it over the line and that’s where this film doesn’t quite make it to where it could have.

I found the subject matter horrible to watch, as a straight white dude I have not experienced anything like this and I am ashamed of the men in this story, as they stand idly by and turn a blind eye to these events. I can imagine that in the moment these situations are unbelievably difficult to manage. Their careers and personal aims would be unaffected by them staying on the outside of this, but they could lose it all by stepping into the fight for women against powerful men.

This film wasn’t about them though, and rightfully so, its focused on the women that stood up to the Mad Men style patriarchy and came out of it with an important win. I would be interested to know how this film makes women feel watching it, and I am looking forward to the conversations I will have about this film.

Good: Fantastic Performances carry this film, and it tells an important, interesting and at times powerful story.

Bad: The tone doesn’t always match the events unfolding, and the pacing took away from some of the more dramatic beats that could have elevated this film even higher.

8/10 – Bombshell is full of Bombshells. 

 

 

 

 

“You” Season 2 Review

The first season of You caught me off guard. I went in thinking it’d be a by the numbers rom-com style thing with a bit of a twist. What I got was a show that confused the audience by making you invest in a truly horrendous person in a twist on the “everyone is the hero of their own story” cliché. 

Personally, I was happy with it being a one and done season, a brilliant executed series that was hooking from start to finish. The set up for a second season was well done, and we re-join Joe Goldberg in LA, a city that is filled with people who care what people think almost as much as Joe does.

From there, we follow Joe as he tries to fall in love again and predictably runs into all kinds of issues. Once again Penn Badgley is great in the lead role, and there is a lot on his shoulders considering the complicated relationship his character has with the audience. “You” consistently throws up new scenarios for Joe to react to, and the majority of the time he endears himself to the audience.

Then he does something horrific, and as an audience member you find yourself trying to find a way of justifying it. This is compounded with the regular voice over from Joe, telling you exactly how he justifies his actions to himself. It has the effect of giving you a leg up to still rooting for someone who is clearly evil.

This season’s love interest is Love Quinn (a bit on the nose), played by Victoria Pedretti. I really enjoyed her character, as well as her odd family’s dynamics. The main member of that family who we get a lot of time with is Forty Quinn, her brother. At first, he seems like the most generic hipster character ever written but over the course of the ten episodes he turns into something much deeper. Beyond just their sibling relationship, both have their own arcs and although Joe is a key part of their stories, they’re both equally interesting in their own rights.

The issue I have with this season is it is beginning to feel like there is an otherworldly force protecting Joe from being caught out. He has committed several crimes, and somehow, he is still able to do whatever he wants, and nobody has caught him out. The show explains away a lot of this, but at a certain point there needs to be consequences for a character’s actions. It leads me to worry about how long the show can continue to be as entertaining as it has been to date. The ending of the series sets up another season, but I don’t think this show can continue much further beyond that without a changeup of the formula.

The second season of You gives us loads more of what the first season great. It even adds some new elements in the later episodes that keep you guessing what is going to happen right up to the end. I enjoyed this season, but it didn’t have that surprise hit feeling of the first season and going in knowing what to expect and largely being given that makes it good, but not great.

I would still suggest people search the show out on Netflix and give it a try, you’ll know within an episode or two if it you’re going to enjoy it. Right now, the two seasons are excellently made TV that will keep you engrossed and guessing for 20 episodes. Get it while its hot though, I have some concerns about how much longer it will be a success if it sticks to this formula.

Good: Great performances all round, production value is great and the Bad Human as a protagonist thing is executed better than anything else, I have watched.

Bad: Convenience seems to be Joe’s best friend, and the future of the series might be a little shaky.

8/10 – “You” can’t get much better than this.

 

 

1917 Review

1917 is the latest movie to explore the horror of war. This time, as the title may have given away, we are in the trenches of the first world war, following two soldiers who must carry a message to another division to prevent them from heading into a trap laid by the Germans. That is essentially the entire plot, and once the film starts, its one long, winding journey all captured in one seemingly seamless shot. 

That effect is the most obvious place to start. Director Sam Mendes teams back up with cinematographer Roger Deakins to produce this one continuous shot effect that immerses you in the film. You discover the landscape and the horrors right alongside our two characters and the film does much of its storytelling visually.  The film shows the cost of war to the people on the front lines, and the majority of the time, the cost is their lives. The continuous camera rolls past scarred battlefields littered with bodies, through abandoned homes that have been turned into ruins.

Being a war film there is violence throughout, but not actually as much as you would think. It’s used sparingly, and that gives the moments it is present much more impact. It’s here where the sound design steps to the forefront and really shines. Every gunshot pierces the air and pings off surfaces. Every explosion is followed by the patter of debris showering down. You genuinely feel at any time anyone on screen could be hit, because we don’t see them as invincible. They aren’t Rambo, they aren’t super soldiers running and gunning their way to their target. Engaging in conflict is terrifying for the people on screen, and as we learn more about Blake and Schofield, we discover they’re as prepared for this task as you or I would be in this situation.

The film starts with Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, being woken up and told to pick a man and meet an officer in a bunker. They don’t have any idea what they’re being tasked with, they learn it with us in the audience, and they have the same amount of time to process it as we do. Schofield, played by George MacKay, and Blake set off and that is pretty much all the setup we are given. It is a very basic plot, but it gives the film licence to explore anything they want on this journey, and the destination is just a target in the distance.

What they explore, as I mentioned above, is the horror of war, and to that end it does a very good job. The films plot and the gimmick of the camera following along is very much a device for Sam Mendes to show how bad things were for these people. The characters aren’t particularly deep, they aren’t there for you to invest in and buy into a bond between men, they’re there to drag the camera through the landscape. As much as this works well for what Mendes was trying to achieve, it feels odd coming out of a film that I really enjoyed watching, but not really feeling anything for the main characters.

At its conclusion, I felt myself feeling satisfied, but not really any overwhelming emotion. It’s very much about the journey, and not the destination. 1917 is a nearly perfectly executed film, a clinic in film making at its best. It is a must see for any film junkies out there who love the craft of the industry. The impact of the scenes throughout can’t be questioned, it just didn’t have that knockout punch I wanted toward the end, but I don’t think that’s what this film was going for.

1917 is a movie that will win a lot of awards, and rightfully so. I don’t think it will be anyone’s favourite movie of the year though. That accolade will go to films like Little Women and JoJo Rabbit this year.

Speaking of JoJo Rabbit, watching this film in the wake of that film being a reminder of how ridiculous the beliefs that start wars can be, 1917 serves a sobering reminder of the cost that those idiotic beliefs incur on humanity.

Good: The best made film in years, it’s an amazing experience for your eyes and ears. Achieves exactly what it set out to do.

Bad: I just wanted that final moment to have a little more impact than it did for me.

9/10 – They will show 1917 in film making classes everywhere. 

Little Women Review

On my journey home from the office before seeing this film, I decided to watch a trailer to give myself an idea of what I was in for. I must be honest, the trailer did nothing for me. An hour later, I was in the cinema ready to experience the film for myself and tried to cast the shadow of a trailer that made it seem like a generic love story out of my head. 

I remember seeing the Suicide Squad trailer and being extremely excited. The action was cut to the beat of the music, and Jared Leto looked mental as The Joker. Of course, when I saw the film, I discovered it was a mess. Well Little Women is similar to Suicide Squad in one way:

This film should not be judged by its trailer.

Little Women is based on a novel of the same name by author Louisa May Alcott in the 1800s, and it has been adapted for the silver screen, the small screen and the stage countless times over the last 100+ years. When a story has that kind of staying power, you know there must be something to it. I knew nothing more of the story going in than it was based on a popular book but coming out I can see why this story has resonated with people for so long.

Telling the story of 4 sisters who all have their own dreams and the film jumps between their formative teen years and their young adult lives. Set in the 1860s, a period I normally struggle to get immersed in, we follow Jo March, played by Saoirse (Sersha) Ronan, as she tries to make her own way in the world. I won’t say much more as a lot of people will already know the story from the book. If you don’t know it, you get to experience it all like I did. With no idea what was coming next.

Top of the things to praise in this movie is the cast. Leading the line is the aforementioned Saoirse Ronan, and she is phenomenal. I have only seen her in one film before this, Lady Bird in 2017, and she impressed there and has improved to the point where she is now one of the best young actresses working. She has been nominated for two academy awards already, and more are bound to be on their way, with a win not far off I am sure.

Backing her up, and rivalling her for the title of best young actress around, is Florence Pugh, fresh off her great performance in Fighting with my Family earlier in 2019, she plays a completely different character here and still owns all the scenes she is in. Meryl Streep and Laura Dern are both exceptional as well, and the other sisters Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen both do decent jobs, the former starting to show she might not always be instantly recognised as Hermione. I know that’s more of a problem in my own head with just associating her with that character, but this is the first time I have seen her and really bought her as any other character.

Timothee Chalamet, pronounced Timotay Chalomay, is the main male presence, and he continues to be an ageless quantity. He can look any age between 10 & 30. I haven’t seen him in too much, just Lady Bird that I can recall, but he shows in Little Women why he is being expected to become a huge star. He is charming at times, and then borders on creepy and unnerving when the moment requires it.

It’s not too often I praise a score in a movie. I don’t tend to talk about them too much unless there is a real stand out moment where the score shines, but in this film I found the use of the score, and at times the use of silence, to be extremely powerful and it really helped with setting the tone of each scene.

There is a key scene in this film that is one of those “That is why I watch movies” moments for me. It’s a scene which nearly got me to tearing up, in which there are no words. The combination in the scene of the score, the cinematography, and the actor’s performances are all you need to feel all of what is happening and that is when Little Women is at its best.

The scene nearly got me to tear up, but didn’t, and a reason for that is because it comes so soon after another which meant I was still kind of processing it. It really comes down to the decision to split this story in 2 timelines, and that device, whilst it used well throughout, felt a bit out of place in that scene. To be honest it’s not a huge problem, but I noticed it in the cinema, and I can’t help but feel it could have had even more impact.

The other element of this film I wasn’t too keen on was the Love story element. I won’t elaborate to avoid spoilers, but there are events towards the end of the film that didn’t quite play out in a way that fit with the characters. Writer Director Greta Gerwig does try to get around this in a quite clever way, but the ambiguity at the end left a little bit of a blemish on this otherwise great picture.

I said in my review of JoJo Rabbit that “Films are at their best when they make you feel emotions”. Little Women achieves that, gives us a great world to live in for a little bit and throws in some characters you will be invested in. With all that going for it, Little Women is one of the better films you can see in cinema’s right now.

Good: An excellent cast put in great work, beautiful cinematography and an expertly used score. Emotional ride will hit people.

Bad: Love story element was a little unearned and ambiguous at the end.

9/10 – Little Women, Big Score. 

 

 

 

JoJo Rabbit Review

Some films are funny. Some films make you laugh. Some films make you want to cry. Some films have powerful messages. Some films take all of that and combine it into one incredible experience. JoJo Rabbit was that film for me. 

I should preface this with the fact I am a fan of Taika Waititi’s style and comedy, and its satirical nature gets me laughing. With a film like What we do in the Shadows, Taika showed his raw talent for satire. JoJo Rabbit feels like an evolution of that film maker, and with age and experience comes the knowledge of when to use humour.

JoJo Rabbit, if you didn’t know, is a film about a ten year old member of the Hitler Youth, who is all in on the Nazi message, and has an imaginary best friend, who just happens to be Adolf Hitler himself, but through a ten year olds eyes. I won’t say more, as I really do think this film should be seen. I don’t want to risk numbing you to all the twists and emotions that play out through the film.

I must mention the cast, as I haven’t seen any of the children in anything before, but they’re all fantastic. The title character JoJo is played by Roman Griffin Davis and considering the whole film revolves around him, it’s a shockingly good performance. Opposite him are Tomasin McKenzie as Elsa (not that one) and Archie Yates as Yorki. Considering the subject matter, they are working with, the fact these three all deliver such great performances is a testament to their talent and the work of director Taika.

Praise must be given to Scarlett Johansson as well, she plays JoJo’s mother and I will not go into detail on the role, but she is excellent at being the heart of the film and coming across as a genuinely good person.

Director/Actor Taika is wonderfully weird and over the top as imaginary Hitler, and that makes the ridiculous things he is saying and doing acceptable. He is a ten-year old’s image of the horrific creature we know from history, and the film’s refusal to acknowledge him as anything but an over embellished bullshit peddling maniac is perfect. Yes, what the Nazi’s did was horrendous, nobody in this film argues against that. JoJo Rabbit treats the ideals that these awful people tried to instil in an entire country with the contempt it deserves. They’re portrayed as ridiculous, because that’s how outlandish and stupid the things they genuinely believed were.

The subject matter gets heavy at times, and those moments are given the room they need. The film has a lot of ups and downs, but crucially with a film on this topic, it ends it in such a positive way that you leave the cinema with a smile on your face. I had high expectations going in, and to come out with them surpassed is unbelievable to me.

The only reason I can see people not enjoying this film is because of the way it handles such awful people in the way I described above, if you’re someone who can be offended by some of the subject matter, I would advise steering clear. For me, the message and the handling of the subject is perfect as I stated, but I know that won’t be the case for all, but that’s kind of the only thing stopping me from recommending this movie to everybody.

Films are at their best when they make you feel emotions, be that at the emotional crescendo of this film, or when Iron Man snaps his fingers in Endgame, or when Woody grabs his friends hands as they head towards a garbage incinerator in  Toy Story 3. They are all moments that make you feel something, and JoJo Rabbit does it consistently throughout making this one of my very favourite films.

Good: Great Performances, Excellent Script. A Funny, Tear-Inducing rollercoaster that leaves you smiling.

Bad: Satirical handling of sensitive subject matter might not work for everyone.

10/10 – This is my favourite film of 2019

 

 

2020 – Most Anticipated Films

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade, Happy New 365 days of films, games and television to enjoy. 2019 was the culmination of a decade of geeks ruling pop culture, and 2020 doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down. There are superhero films all over the shop, but none of them are intriguing me currently. Here are a few films that I can’t wait to see, and none of them have a superhero in them. Shocking right. 

Tenet – 17th July 2020

I saw a short part of Christopher Nolan’s next film at an IMAX screening a couple of weeks ago, and the entire cinema was on the edge of their seats from start to finish. That was with no context, just a scene that immediately lets you know the feel of this film. There is something odd happening in this film, as we have come to expect from Christopher Nolan, and all I can tell so far is that its time related.

Nolan has become one of those few directors who is bigger than the films he makes. I was signed up for seeing Tenet as soon as Nolan said that’s his next project, and that goes for a lot of people now. He has built up enough goodwill with the audience off the back of Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight and so on, that whatever he chooses to do next automatically qualifies as a must-see film.

We have a bit of a wait for Tenet to be ready for cinema’s but with this film maker it’s very likely to be well worth the wait.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – 10th July 2020

It would appear July is going to be a bit of a stacked month, and to my own surprise one of the films I am most excited for is a Ghostbusters film. I like the original Ghostbusters, I even watched a bit of the cartoon as a child, but I never saw Ghostbusters 2 and I took a hard pass on the rebooted film last year because it just didn’t look like something I would enjoy and nobody I know wanted to see it either.

Enter Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a film I had down as “probably won’t see it” because it’s coming out in a busy period. This is a great example of the power of a fantastic trailer, as now I cannot wait. I have no real attachment to the Ecto-1, but by the time I saw it careening around streets and through fields in that trailer, I was completely sold and hyped to see that car again.

It’s only been one trailer, and they can be misleading, but fingers crossed this one is as good as it looks.

A Quiet Place: Part 2 – 20th March 2020

I watched A Quiet Place indoors with my flat mate, and I remember us both being deadly quiet throughout the entire film. It’s an incredible film and the idea it came from Jim in The Office is mind blowing to me. It seems like the Horror genre is becoming a fertile ground for comedic talent to show a different side to them, with John Krasinski following in the footsteps of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us.

I have no idea what to expect in Part 2 of A Quiet Place, but with Emily Blunt in the lead role it’s got a chance of being great, and the premise of this world is so beautifully cinematic I can’t wait to sit in the cinema for this one and witness an entire theatre on the edge of their seat and afraid to make a noise.

West Side Story – 18th December 2020

This one is a bit of a wildcard. I have never seen the original West Side Story, but I have only ever heard good things about it. I have a soft spot for musicals, as confirmed by Lala Land being one of my favourite films in recent years. West Side Story is a classic musical, and it’s being directed by Steven Spielberg which makes this whole project a little bit more intriguing.

I don’t believe he has ever made a Musical before, but he has covered just about every other genre in his career. He has been successful with almost every genre he has attempted, and I am excited to see what he can bring to the Musical genre. I know very little about the story so it’s one of those films I am excited to see the trailer for to judge whether it will be for me.

Top Gun: Maverick – 17th July 2020

If you were outraged by me not having seen West Side Story, the fact I have never seen Top Gun is probably even more of an egregious oversight. I have loved Tom Cruise’s movies over the last few years, and that’s kind of made me excited to see this new Top Gun. I might even go back to watch the original, as all I really know about Top Gun is it’s got Kenny Loggins’ hit Danger Zone in it, which I know because of Archer.

The trailers have been solid, and even though I have no clue what the story is going to be, there is going to be some cool flight scenes which look stunning from the trailers.  Could I end the year a huge top gun fan? I wouldn’t be surprised; Tom Cruise hasn’t really put a foot wrong in the last few years, so I expect Maverick to be more of the same.

There is 5 of the films I am most looking forward to next year, and not a single mention of Black Widow, Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, or Mulan, which I now realise makes me seem like a sexist. In fact, I just haven’t seen anything from those films yet to really get me more excited for them than the above-mentioned films. Wonder Woman wins 2020’s Poster competition immediately but beyond that there isn’t much that’s got me interested. Birds of Prey looks bizarre, Black Widow looks generic, and James Bond needs to do a lot to get me excited for yet another bond film.

Next year there is no Avengers, there is no Star Wars. The MCU has no Iron Man anymore, Captain America is gone, and with them the two heads of the franchise. Star Wars hit me hard, a franchise I love that much not delivering for me was painful, but I have enjoyed the Mandalorian, and I am excited for everything Disney Plus will bring in March when it finally arrives in the UK. As is always the case for me this far out, I have no idea what the Oscar type movies will be, this time last year I hadn’t even heard of JoJo Rabbit, but now It’s the next film I am going to see, hopefully tomorrow night.

That’ll be the first review of the year, thanks for reading throughout 2019 and Happy 2020!

ChAzJS