PREVIEW: May 2018

Well, I have a fair amount of stuff on this coming May (and it saddens me slightly that it is already May…), but I do have some cinema trips planned. We are entering the summer period, where the line-ups at my various closest Odeon Cinemas will be at their most inconsistent.

There are several somewhat smaller summer films that I plan to see in May, which include: TullyI Feel PrettyBreaking InOn Chesil BeachEntebbe and Life of the Party. And it should go without saying that I will be seeing the next two big franchise instalments – Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Assuming that I have enough free time to see all of these films, I will get reviews up as soon as I can for them all.

Who knows what else will be on this blog this coming May? I certainly do not, as I cannot plan ahead unfortunately. But, there will be a reasonable amount of new content, so watch this space! As ever, thank you for visiting this blog, and for the month ahead I wish you Happy Reading!

Box Office Predictions: Summer 2018 films

Summer is now upon us. Well, in Britain we had it last week and it was a lovely five days…most of which I spent inside working, although I did have a very nice brunch with a friend by the Kingston-upon-Thames riverside. But in all seriousness we are now entering the time of year where cinemas are going to be filled with blockbusters fighting it out for the Box Office #1 spot. So, without further ado I present my box office predictions for the films of summer 2018. Below I am going to list the ten films being released this summer that I think will have the highest worldwide box office takings, and a few sentences on each one. Now, let us start with…

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10) Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Dir. Ol Parker)

To mark the tenth anniversary of Mamma Mia! they are only going and releasing a sequel! How unusual of Hollywood… But in all seriousness, the first one was a huge box office hit and there is a fan base. However, there are two reasons why I put this as low as 10 – A) it has been a decade, and a lot of sequels do not gross so highly when there has been a lengthy gap, and B) this summer is full of films from far bigger franchises.

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9) Ocean’s 8 (Dir. Gary Ross)

If this film had been released three years ago then I would have been far more sceptical of its chances of box office success. However, the box office success of some all-female comedies in recent years proves that there is a market for such films, and a cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna proves that this film has the draw of star power.

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8) Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Dir. Genndy Tartakovsky)

The Hotel Transylvania franchise has made big bucks at the box office, and has been popular with family audiences due to there being fun, lighthearted entertainment for kids, and some fun references that the parents will understand. As such, I can see this film being a box office hit this summer, as during the summer holidays parents are going to want to take their kids to the cinema to see some fun entertainment (that logic is why the Ice Age franchise was so successful).

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7) Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)

The Mummy proved that Tom Cruise is no longer a guarantee for box office success. However, the words Mission: Impossible are, as each of the previous five films has been in the annual top ten highest grossers, bar none. The franchise is one of the most popular action film franchises of all time, and as such it has a huge fan base, which has only grown after the brilliant Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation.

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6) Ant-Man and the Wasp (Dir. Peyton Reed)

Nobody expected Ant-Man to be as good or as successful as it was this time three years ago, in the run-up to its release, and as such people are highly anticipating the return of one of Marvel’s wittiest superheroes. And in the wake of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the world is in a full on state of Marvel hype. Will it be as successful as either of those films? Almost certainly not, but it will help Disney raise the capital for their next multi-billion dollar deal.

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5) Deadpool 2 (Dir. David Leitch)

The world fell in love with the merc with a mouth two years ago when the first film came out. As such, he has a huge fan base, and the success of Logan last year reaffirmed to the world that these darker, 15 (UK)/R (US) rated superheroes films can be really good. We love the character, we love the humour, and we trust Ryan Reynolds’s love for his now most iconic role, and as such I foresee the viewers flocking to this film.

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4) Incredibles 2 (Dir. Brad Bird)

In the fourteen years since The Incredibles, Pixar have given us a trilogy of Cars films, a sequel to Finding Nemo, a prequel to Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3, but only now are we getting Incredibles 2. I was twelve when the original came out, and there was a near unanimous love for this within my generation, so forget the family audience, there will be countless members of my generation going to see this film for the nostalgia alone. Big box office bucks are coming your way once again, Pixar!

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3) Solo: A Star Wars Story (Dir. Ron Howard)

Like many Star Wars geeks, I am nervous for this film quality-wise, because it has had some serious production problems, and the trailers just have not excited me much. However, every time a new clip or a new poster has been unveiled, the internet has been overrun with Star Wars fanboys (yes, there is a difference between geeks and fanboys!) gushing over it. Regardless of quality, the words Star Wars means big box office bucks – I think the prequel trilogy proved that very well.

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2) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Dir. J.A. Bayona)

I do not have high hopes for the quality of this film, but it will be the big scale dinosaur blockbuster that everyone is expecting, and are as such anticipating. My reason for having it so high is because I think it will do a Fast & Furious 8. I did not expect Fast & Furious 8 to gross over $1 billion like Fast & Furious did, and I am anticipating that Fallen Kingdom will do the same and gross over $1 billion like Jurassic World did.

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1) Avengers: Infinity War (Dirs. Anthony and Joe Russo)

Come on, did you expect anything else to take the top spot? Marvel films are box office gold, but none more so than the Avengers films. This film is what the entire franchise had been building up to for ten years and eighteen films, and as such it has become one of the most anticipated blockbusters in cinema history, while it is currently on track to have the biggest opening weekend in cinema history. That is kind of insane when you stop and think about it, so right now Marvel and Disney executives are probably making big plans for that money.

Well, those are my predictions, and at the end of September I will post again on this topic to discuss how many of my predictions came true, as well as any surprises that I may have had. Watch this space, guys…!

FILM: Avengers: Infinity War (2018, Anthony Russo/Joe Russo)

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Superhero film Avengers: Infinity War is the nineteenth instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the third in the Avengers sub-franchise. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is travelling throughout the universe to find the six Infinity Stones, with which he can wipe out the lives of half the universe’s population. Now only the superheroes can stop him, but it will take their full force, so the split-up Avengers will have to reunite, while the Guardians of the Galaxy will have to travel from planet to planet to play their role in this.

PROS

  • Anthony and Joe Russo confirmed that Captain America: Civil War was not a fluke where good superhero crossovers are concerned, as they once again get the perfect balance between character drama, a clear narrative arc and battle sequences.
  • The screenplay has a clear narrative arc, character focused drama and battle sequences, and the balance between humour, drama and excitement is perfect, while the final third of the film has some true emotional weight to it.
  • The many established characters are kept true to character, while their various relationships and rapports are further developed and are honestly a delight to watch.
  • All of the returning cast members are just as good as ever in their popular roles, while Thanos is a very well realised, multilayered antagonist, and Josh Brolin gives a terrific motion capture performance.
  • It should go without saying that the visual effects are outstanding, and as such so are the battle sequences, which are breathtaking both in scale and intensity.
  • A lovely score by Alan Silvestri, which aids the emotional weight of the film well.

CONS

  • There are a few predictable moments, which is what comes from being nineteen films into a franchise.
  • Several characters are underused, including Wong (Benedict Wong), Heimdall (Idris Elba) and (most sadly of all) Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Rampage (2018, Brad Peyton)

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Rampage is a monster film, distributed by Warner Bros. When pathogen-containing canisters from genetic manipulation company Energyne fall from crash land across America, albino gorilla George, plus a wolf and a crocodile breathe in the pathogen and begin growing to phenomenal sizes and becoming more aggressive. Once George becomes viewed as a threat, his keeper Davis (Dwayne Johnson) must convince the government that he is not dangerous, and also find a cure.

PROS

  • The creatures are grand in design and scale, with a lot of texture and detail in their outward appearances.
  • Dwayne Johnson is once again a charismatic, likeable lead, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan has a lot of fun playing Agent Russell.

CONS

  • A very convoluted and rather predictable narrative, that does nothing that new or interesting within the genre of monster film blockbusters.
  • The visual effects become very heavy-handed, with ridiculous amounts of destruction, and it becomes clear very early on that this film is scale over substance.
  • Some of the jokes are funny at first, but quickly become repetitive.
  • Poorly realised characters, and an altogether poor supporting cast, including lacklustre turns from Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy.

VERDICT: 3/10

FILM: A Quiet Place (2018, John Krasinski)

The film poster shows a close-up of Emily Blunt in-character with her hand over her mouth.

Following its premiere at South by Southwest 2018, horror film A Quiet Place was distributed in cinemas by Paramount. By 2021, most of humanity have been wiped out by “Death Angels” – sightless creatures with hypersensitive hearing, who locate and kill anything that makes a loud noise. The film follows the efforts of Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) to protect their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) from the creatures.

PROS

  • Director/co-screenwriter/co-lead John Krasinski proves that a good horror film does not have to be super loud or super gory, with much of the dialogue done through sign-language, and the horror coming from the suspense that comes through silence, through waiting.
  • The word “suspense” understates how tense this piece of horror is, as the silence and the slowness of many scenes makes this one of the tensest film in many a long year – sitting in that cinema screen, I could feel everyone around me holding their breath…and I was too.
  • The creature design for the Death Angel is very detailed, bringing a real dark and horrific quality to the monster.
  • A unanimously strong cast, who captivate by emoting perfectly, relying on their expressions to convey the characters’ emotions and journeys.
  • The central relationship between Lee and Evelyn is very well realised, and John Krasinski has a great chemistry with Millicent Simmonds.

CONS

  • The relationships between Evelyn and her two children are never really explored, taking a backseat to the relationships between Lee and the children, as well as their relationship with each other.
  • The odd predictable moment here and there over the course of the narrative.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Truth or Dare (2018, Jeff Wadlow)

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Truth or Dare is a horror film, which is distributed by Universal. Seven college friends go on a Spring Break trip to Mexico, where they meet a mysterious chap called Carter (Landon Liboiron) persuades them to play Truth or Dare. After getting back home they find that the game is demon (Gary Anthony Williams) possessed and that they must continue playing, and if they do not then they will die. Can they find a way to break free from the game before they all die?

CONS

  • An absolutely atrocious screenplay with clunky dialogue, no real suspense, a very repetitive narrative and incredibly casual touching upon more serious themes like closeted homosexuality.
  • Very thinly drawn characters with no likeable characteristics and who ultimately are no more than just cardboard cutouts and bad college film stereotypes.
  • Some incredibly ridiculous deaths which have no shock value whatsoever, not least due to some lousy foreshadowing and red herrings.
  • An appalling cast who churn out wooden performances, and have no real sense of chemistry, despite them supposedly all being close friends.
  • The direction of this film comes across as (at best) uncertain on Jeff Wadlow’s part.
  • Scarcely any make-up and barely any gore despite the fact that the deaths are meant to be bloody and horrific, while the “Truth or Dare face” (as I call it) is absolutely ridiculous.

PROS

  • There is nothing good about this film, but this film is one of those films where you cannot help but laugh at how bad it is.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: Midnight Sun (2018, Scott Speer)

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Midnight Sun is a romantic-drama, distributed by Studio Canal in the UK. Katie (Bella Thorne) was diagnosed with XP as a small child, which means that exposure to sunlight could have fatal consequences for her. After graduating from home-schooled high school, she meets and starts dating her long term crush Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger).  However, wanting to be more than an illness, she keeps her condition from him, but how long can she keep it a secret?

CONS

  • A very cliched, predictable narrative with awkward dialogue, which is very inaccurate about XP, while screenwriter Eric Kirsten relies too much on sentiment and emotion to distract viewers from the fact that this is a real bog standard teen romance.
  • A very inconsistent tone, as many scenes that are meant to be serious have a very upbeat tone, while light-hearted moments often feel out of place as well.
  • The romance between Katie and Charlie is quite rushed and never fleshed out to its full potential.
  • A number of supporting characters serve little to no purpose to the narrative, in some cases simply ticking the boxes of stereotypes from high school films.
  • In some of his more serious scenes as Katie’s father, Rob Riggle fails to hit the right emotional notes.

PROS

  • Decent enough performances from Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger, who have an okay chemistry, while Rob Riggle does a good job with his comical moments.
  • Some stunning landscape shots of the sun reflected on the lake.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: Ghost Stories (2017, Andy Nyman/Jeremy Dyson)

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Ghost Stories is a horror film, which is distributed by Lionsgate, following its premiere at the 2017 London Film Festival. Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) has spent his life trying to disprove the paranormal and supernatural, and is shocked when his hero (Leonard Byrne) challenges him to solve three unsolved haunting cases. As Goodman tries to solve these, he becomes more aware of demons from his past that he must confront.

PROS

  • Cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland makes good use of shadows and silhouettes, bringing a visual spooky quality to the titular Ghost Stories.
  • A good leading turn from co-director/co-writer Andy Nyman, although the real scene-stealer is a charismatic Martin Freeman.
  • Although not especially well handled the narrative does ultimately address the importance of coming to terms with past trauma, and the impact that not doing so can have.

CONS

  • A very disjointed narrative, the ghost stories feeling rather rushed, as does the film as a whole, and an awful twist ending.
  • There are moments of genuine suspense, but all that any of them lead to are jump scares, on which directors/writers Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson are overly reliant.
  • The majority of the characters are poorly realised, underdeveloped and not the kind that we can really care for, a reveal in the final ten minutes being the only point at which we feel anything for Goodman.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Love, Simon (2018, Greg Berlanti)

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Love, Simon is a comedy-drama based on Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and is distributed by 20th Century Fox, following its premiere at the 2018 Mardi Gras Film Festival. Seventeen-year-old Simon (Nick Robinson) has a normal life that he loves, but he has one a secret – he is gay. Not ready to come out to his family and school friends, under the alias ‘Jacques’ he enters into email contact with another closeted teen whose alias is ‘Blue’. They start to bond, but Simon must later stoop to new lows in order to prevent his secret being revealed.

PROS

  • Director Greg Berlanti’s love and passion for this project shines through, as does the sense that he approached it with a clear vision.
  • Despite being a High School film with a 12 rating in the UK/PG-13 rating in the US, this is a mature film, with a lot of heart that looks at bigotry and loneliness, as well as how even just a throwaway comment can impact somebody.
  • The narrative as a whole is a warm, sensitive coming-of-age story about sexuality, relationships and the importance of being honest with both yourself and the people in your lives.
  • A multilayered leading performance from Nick Robinson, who brings raw emotion to Simon, and is well supported by a unanimously strong supporting cast, the standout moments often being his chemistry with Katherine Longford, who plays Simon’s lifelong best friend Leah.

CONS

  • Several of Simon’s school peers feel like cardboard cut-outs, simply there to fulfil the roles typically found in High School films, such as bullies and (for lack of a better term) “dumb blonde”.
  • The narrative gets a little reliant on red herrings, and by the end there has been too many “twists”, which cannot be ignored, no matter how happy the ending.

VERDICT: 8/10

Top 10 Films of 2017

Well, all of the Awards’ favourites of 2017 have played in UK cinemas now, and three months into 2018 I think it is time to make my Top 10 films of 2017 list. These are my critical Top 10, and not necessarily a reflection of the 2017 films that I enjoyed the most. It was a hard list to make, as I would have loved to have included LoganGet OutWind RiverThe Killing of a Sacred Deer and the overlooked indie film Patti Cake$ on this list, but alas not. That can only be a good thing though, as they were great films, but there are 10 that are even better, so here we go…

10) The Death of Stalin (Dir. Armando Iannucci)

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A good quality political satire is a rarity outside of the television programme Have I Got News For You, but this film exceeded expectations. It is easily one of the funniest films of the year, and is also one of the cleverest, as no matter how funny it may be, the screenwriters never shy away from the political corruption and horror of 1950s’ Russia.

9) Lady Bird (Dir. Greta Gerwig)

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Greta Gerwig presents us with a wonderful directorial debut here, presenting us with a charming and realistic coming-of-age story, with good humour and moving exploration of the mother-daughter relationship. Saiorse Ronan excels as the titular “Lady Bird”, and receives excellent support from Laurie Metcalf as her often short-tempered mother.

8) Coco (Dir. Lee Unkrich)

Theatrical release poster depicting the characters Coco, Dante the dog, Miguel, Héctor, Ernesto, and Imelda when viewing clockwise from the bottom left around Ernesto's white, Day of the Dead-styled guitar. The guitar has a calavera-styled headstock with a small black silhouette of Miguel, who is carrying a guitar, and Dante at the bottom. The neck of the guitar splits the background with their village during the day on the left and at night with fireworks on the right. The bottom of the poster has the film's logo and release date of "Thanksgiving".

Pixar’s latest outing (following three of their lesser films) is a stunningly animated, charming piece of comedy-drama which feels as fresh as it does due to its celebration of Mexican culture. Said celebration is beautifully written, with wonderful songs, good humour and real heart, tugging at the heartstrings if anything more than it will make you chuckle.

7) The Shape of Water (Dir. Guillermo del Toro)

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This latest film from visionary director Guillermo del Toro shows that he is at his best when creating an original story. Here he creates a visually stunning fantasy film, which presents a charming love story, addressing race, identity and sexuality. Lead Sally Hawkins gives a career best turn, and is well supported by Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer.

6) Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Dir. Martin McDonagh)

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Director/screenwriter Martin McDonagh has done it again, giving us another dark piece of comedy-drama, which will make you ache with laughter, just as much as it will tug at your heartstrings. It is about family, it is about the need for closure, and it features career best turns from Frances MacDormand and Sam Rockwell, who are well supported by Woody Harrelson also.

5) War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Matt Reeves)

Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.

I did not think that Matt Reeves and Andy Serkis could top Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but this is a chilling film that looks not only at the war between two armies, but the internal wars that we face emotionally in life. Race, family and mental health are all sensitively addressed, and the motion-capture apes have never been so beautifully created.

4) Dunkirk (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

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Christopher Nolan once again proves himself to be a genius of big-scale and technical filmmaking. Here he gives us a technically brilliant war film, which explores war as an experience and its impact upon those involved. It is easily one of the most intense films of recent years, and is just as intense upon rewatch. Long may this technical genius’s career continue!

3) Blade Runner 2049 (Dir. Denis Villeneuve)

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Blade Runner is a flawed masterpiece, and 35 years later we now have a truly surprising sequel. Denis Villeneuve further cements here his status as a visionary director, presenting a slow-burn mystery, the intrigue of which never lets up for a second, which is framed stunningly by Roger Deakins. Harrison Ford is also excellent, reprising his role of Deckard.

2) The Florida Project (Dir. Sean Baker)

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Easily one of the most overlooked films of 2017, this indie film was robbed at the big Awards’ ceremonies. Sean Baker tells a moving piece about the unseen homeless of Florida’s motel community, but the real genius comes from the fact that we see most of the film from a child’s perspective. As mother and child, Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince excel in their debut film.

1) Call Me by Your Name (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)

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It was tough, but this is marginally the best film of 2017 – a warm, charming and sensitive love story, as well as a coming-of-age story. It is a mature film, the central relationship being well realised by screenwriter James Ivory, while lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer give nuanced performances, their scenes together being charmingly and cleverly crafted.

2017 may not have been the greatest year ever for cinema, but it was a damned good one, and I look forward (I think) to making my Top 10 Films of 2018 list this time next year. Let us see what the rest of 2018 has in store.