PREVIEW: June 2018

Well, another month has come and gone, and I have been able to get some reviews up, the majority being for new releases. My review of Life of the Party happened to be Post 300 on this blog – 300 posts later and I still thoroughly enjoy blogging here.

There are a number of new releases coming out in June that I intend to see in cinemas, and those include: Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomHereditaryMcQueenThe Happy PrinceOcean’s 8AdriftSicario 2: Soldado and Tag. Yep, we really are coming into the summer film season. I will endeavour to get as many of these reviewed on this blog as possible, but it will not be all of them, simply because AdriftSicario 2: Soldado and Tag are all out on the same day…June 29th. I could try to see all three in the same day, but I am in the process of writing my MA Thesis, so free time is a bit of a luxury.

If I can then I will try to get reviews of non-new releases up on here as well, but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to. If I can though, then I will post reviews of Jurassic ParkJurassic World and Sicario. Thank you as ever for visiting this blog, for I love sharing my thoughts on Creative Arts here. And for the month ahead I wish you all well, and Happy Reading!

FILM: On Chesil Beach (2017, Dominic Cooke)

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On Chesil Beach is a drama film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel, that is distributed theatrically by Lionsgate, almost a year after its premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Newlyweds Florence (Saiorse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are about to consummate their marriage, but both are terribly worried about doing so. Through flashbacks it is gradually pieced together why they are emotionally stunted people, and how they came to be married.

PROS

  • Decent production design that gives the film a good feel of the 1960s.
  • Decent performances from Saiorse Ronan and Billy Howle, who convince us that Florence and Edward are emotionally stunted and socially awkward.

CONS

  • The non-linear narrative makes the film feel incredibly disjointed, which coupled with its slow pace makes it feel longer than 110 minutes.
  • Very insensitive, frankly cavalier approaches to mental illness, traumatic experiences and brain damage, while hints towards sexual abuse are tossed in briefly, almost like an afterthought.
  • Very thinly drawn out supporting characters, who add very little to the narrative, and frankly are a bore to have to watch.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017, Hiromasa Nishimura)

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Fantasy Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first film of new anime company Studio Ponoc. Mary (Hana Sugisaki) has just moved to the countryside, and when she goes exploring in the woods she comes across a mysterious flower. The flower gives her magical powers and she is taken by a broomstick to Endor College – a school of magic. The staff there seem friendly at first, but it soon becomes clear that they have sinister intentions for the Witch’s Flower.

PROS

  • Stunning animation that testifies to how beautiful hand-drawn animation truly is, thanks to wonderful detail and a rich colour palette.
  • A fun sense of adventure and a charming sense of fantasy make the film’s narrative very engaging.
  • Mary is a likeable protagonist, while Madame Mumblechook (Yūki Amami) and Doctor Dee (Fumiyo Kohinata) of Endor College are very quirky supporting characters.

CONS

  • The narrative as a whole does get quite predictable, in particular during the climax, which is also quite convoluted.
  • A number of the supporting characters are underused and exist solely as plot devices.

VERDICT: 7/10

FILM: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018, Ron Howard)

A group of people standing in a row, in the middle stands Han Solo pointing his blaster. The background is divided into blocks resembling a cockpit window.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the latest spin-off to the main series of the Star Wars saga. Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) escapes his forsaken home planet in his late teens, but in the process gets separated from his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). Three years later he is working with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) in a life of crime, and the two take a job for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Vos gives them a huge new job, so that Beckett may pay off his debt to him, and assigns none other than Qi’ra to work with them. Can they pull off this job? And can Han and Qi’ra find a way to be together again?

PROS

  • It should go without saying that this is (for the most part) a technically brilliant film, with a huge sense of scale and stunning visual effects.
  • Some well edited action scenes make for some quite exciting moments.
  • A good ensemble cast, with Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover (who plays a young Lando Calirissian) and Paul Bettany all playing their roles rather well indeed.

CONS

  • Some of the species’ design is, well, shoddy and frankly some of the puppetry work from the Original Trilogy holds up better than some of the CGI creatures here.
  • A very convoluted narrative and uncertain style, which respectively emphasise this film’s cash grab status and the production issues (re. directors).
  • It is impossible to invest in any of the characters (other than Han, Chewbacca and Lando) or their relationships as we know that we will never see them again.

VERDICT: 5/10

 

FILM: The Shallows (2016, Jaume Collet-Serra)

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Survival thriller The Shallows is distributed by Columbia Pictures. Medical school student Nancy (Blake Lively) has gone to Mexico for a surfing trip. She goes to a secluded beach, but while out in the ocean she gets attacked by a shark. She manages to climb onto a rock that is about 100 metres away from the shore, but with the high tide getting ever closer and her leg bleeding profusely, for how long can she evade death by shark?

PROS

  • For the most part this is a gritty, tense piece of survival thriller, the scenes with the shark guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat as you watch this beautifully shot film.
  • Very vivid injury detail, which is actually relatively simple, and in doing so proves that less can be more where the cinematic gore factor is concerned.
  • Blake Lively ultimately carries this film, conveying both strength and vulnerability equally well, and makes Nancy quite a compelling leading lady.

CONS

  • The film is somewhat tonally inconsistent, feeling almost like a high-budget music video for the first twenty minutes, before going into darker and grittier territory.
  • The narrative is quite predictable at times, while the climax feels somewhat rushed.
  • There are some moments that are meant to be emotionally resonant where the sense of emotion falls somewhat flat.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: Entebbe (2018, José Padilha)

Note: in the USA this film is entitled 7 Days in Entebbe.

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Following its premiere at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, crime-thriller Entebbe is distributed in UK cinemas by Entertainment One. The film tells the true story of how a group of Israeli and German terrorists hijacked Air Flight France 139 in 1976, and then held the passengers and crew to ransom at Entebbe Airport. The film also depicts how the Israeli government approved a counter-terrorist hostage rescue operation by IDF commandos, following the failure of diplomatic efforts.

PROS

  • Cinematographer Lula Carvalho uses silhouettes and shadows magnificently, making this a visually beautiful film with a gritty feel.
  • A decent ensemble cast, with not a single performance that felt weak or (for real lack of a better word) bad.

CONS

  • The fact that a seven day hostage crisis takes place in a two-hour film and feels dragged out testifies to how poorly paced the narrative is and how thinly drawn the characters and events are.
  • Director José Padilha comes across as somewhat uncertain in his direction, and the fact that the gunfight scenes are some of the least gritty or brutal of recent cinema history reflects a sense that he is being overly self-restrained.
  • The totally unnecessary scenes of a physical theatre troupe doing a stage play is a case of José Padilha aiming for style over substance…he just does not quite manage to pull it off.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: Breaking In (2018, James McTeigue)

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Breaking In is a home invasion thriller that is distributed by Universal. Shaun (Gabrielle Union) and her kids (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr) have gone to stay at her late dad’s (Damien Leake) house in order to get it ready to be put on the market. But when Shaun steps outside to get some fresh air, the house is broken into by a group of men who want to rob her dad’s hidden safe. Shaun ends up locked outside the house, while the kids are taken hostage, and she must find a way to break into the house and save the kids without being detected.

CONS

  • This film stinks of wasted potential, as the premise is an interesting twist on the usual home invasion premise, but this film is neither tense nor thrilling, instead being slow and predictable.
  • It is hard to believe that this film is less than 90 minutes long, as the narrative really does feel dragged out, and by the time the end credits started I felt like I had just sat through a film of Kubrickian epic length.
  • An ensemble of wooden adult actors, whose characters are very one-sided and not at all interesting, and get no development at all during the narrative.
  • Director James McTeigue is (at very best) unconfident in his direction, and no matter how much he uses slow-motion, it does not make the film look impressive, as no amount of slow-motion can substitute for good screenwriting, action or direction.

PROS

  • The two child actors give the only okay performances in the film.
  • Decent use of shadows by cinematographer Toby Oliver.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: Deadpool 2 (2018, David Leitch)

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Superhero film Deadpool 2 is an X-Men spin-off that is distributed by 20th Century Fox. When time-travelling mercenary Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives in Deadpool’s (Ryan Reynolds) day, he arrives to kill young mutant Russell Collins (Julian Dennison). The merc with the mouth becomes determined to stop this from happening, so he puts together a superhero team – X-Force.

PROS

  • This is a very energetic film, and like the original it boasts both heartfelt drama and a lot of hilarious screenwriting, with a lot of fourth wall breaking and a brilliant sense of self-referential awareness.
  • Ryan Reynolds is once again on top comic form in his now most renowned role, but he also hits some real dramatic notes as Deadpool, and it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the merc with the mouth.
  • Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison and Zazie Beetz (as Domino) are great new additions to the cast, and bring real energy to the well edited fight sequences.

CONS

  • This film tries to have too large an ensemble, most of whom add very little to the narrative (in particular five of the X-Force members).
  • While the action and fight scenes are well edited, they are too convoluted in their choreography and the grand scale of them betrays the spirit of those of Deadpool.
  • The emotional weight that is present in this film is good, but it gets very ham-fisted towards the end of the narrative, which does drag a bit.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: I Feel Pretty (2018, Abby Kohn/Marc Silverstein)

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I Feel Pretty is a comedy film that is distributed co-distributed by STXfilms and Star Cinema. Renee (Amy Schumer) has struggled with insecurities over her physical attractiveness for many years, but after sustaining a head injury she sees physical self in a wholly different light, and as such becomes very self-confident. But can this new found confidence last forever?

PROS

  • A relevant social message about the importance of accepting your physical appearance, and not letting the opinions of others define how you see yourself.
  • Amy Schumer’s passion for this project is inescapable, and she also gives her best film performance yet as she successfully hits dramatic notes as well as comedic.
  • When the jokes are good they are good, and there are the odd heartfelt moments too.

CONS

  • The social message is a bit ham-fisted at times, not least because the film compliments the beauty industry here and there, despite trying to critique it.
  • The jokes ultimately are very hit-and-miss, with a little too much reliance on cringe humour at times, and a fair few dramatic moments also fall flat.
  • Very one-dimensional supporting characters, none of whom are crafted by memorable performances, and a number of whom add nothing to the narrative.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Life of the Party (2018, Ben Falcone)

NOTEThis is Post 300 on this blog. Three-hundred posts into blogging here, and I have loved every minute of it.

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Life of the Party is a comedy film, which is distributed by Warner Bros. Following her divorce, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) decides to finish her Archaeology degree, so returns to university…the same university that her daughter (Molly Gordon) attends. As mother and daughter go through their senior year together, this may well be the year that Deanna finds her true self.

PROS

  • The jokes may (for the most part) be unfunny, but the film is nevertheless watchable, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm that Melissa McCarthy brings to Deanna, and her chemistry with her younger co-stars.
  • The film depicts university life in a realistic (if somewhat cliched) way through the mise-en-scene and screenwriting.

CONS

  • While there are a couple of laughs here and there from moments that have shock value, the jokes mostly fall flat, due to weak writing, predictability and over-reliance on vulgarity.
  • Very thinly drawn out supporting characters, many of whom do not really add anything to the film.
  • Very jumbled direction from Ben Falcone, which conveys (rightly or wrongly) a sense that he was uncomfortable and/or unsure about what he was doing with this film.
  • Some poor performances from the supporting cast, while two of the best assets (Jacki Weaver and Stephen Root) are severely underused.

VERDICT: 4/10