FILM: Adrift (2018, Baltasar Kormákur)

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Adrift is a biographical survival film, which is distributed by STXfilms. In 1983, young, adventurous couple Tami (Shailene Woodley) and Richard (Sam Claflin) are given $10,000 to sail a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego (approximately 6,500 kilometres). However, they get caught in Hurricane Raymond, and the yacht suffers serious damage, while Richard is critically injured. It is now up to Tami to sail them to their destination, but with no radio, a broken engine and limited food and drinking water, can she do it?

PROS

  • Visually this is a stunning film, with breathtaking shots of the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean, while Hurricane Raymond is jaw-dropping in scale.
  • Shailene Woodley gives a multilayered turn, filled with real energy and clear passion for her art.
  • Brief, but vivid injury detail, which adds to the sense of fear for Richard’s survival.

CONS

  • The film is ultimately style over substance, with a non-linear narrative that feels quite disjointed, and far more focus on the surface-level romance than the survival itself.
  • A rather shaky performance from Sam Claflin, who lacks chemistry with Shailene Woodley.
  • A very inconsistent pace and tone, with many sequences feeling quite rushed and many others feeling quite dragged out.

VERDICT: 5/10

PREVIEW: July 2018

Wow…we are already about halfway through 2018. That is actually insane. While 2015, 2016 and 2017 felt far more dragged-out than they actually were, this year feels like it has gone by fairly quickly. As we are about halfway through the year, that means that we are entering proper summer blockbuster season, and that will dominate what I see in cinemas in July, no doubt about it.

I have a number of cinema trips planned for July. These include Skyscraper, The First PurgeMamma Mia! Here We Go AgainThe Secret of MarrowboneHotel ArtemisUncle DrewMission: Impossible – Fallout and Incredibles 2. July will no doubt be a busy month as I continue working on my MA Thesis, but fortunately I intend to keep as many evenings free as I can, so a fair few cinema trips can be fitted in. The tan that I got last weekend is already starting to fade, so I guess that that is my lot for this summer.

So, I thank you all (as ever) for coming to visit this blog, and for the month ahead I wish you all a good summer, and (as ever) Happy Reading!

FILM: Sicario 2: Soldado (2018, Stefano Sollima)

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NOTE: In America this film is entitled Sicario: Day of the Soldado – a far better title, in my opinion.

Sicario 2: Soldado is a crime-thriller sequel that is distributed to UK cinemas by Lionsgate. The drug war at the US-Mexico border has escalated greatly, to the point where cartels are transporting terrorists over the border to wreak havoc across America. In order to stop these terror attacks, the CIA – with Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) leading the field agents – team up with Mexican hitman Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro).

PROS

  • There is a fair bit of great stuff to Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay. It is dark, gritty and often brutal, depicting the gritty reality that terrorism is a big concern today, and doing nothing that could glamorise the life of a CIA Agent.
  •  A visually excellent film with flawless cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, and very good editing by Matthew Newman, who makes the action sequences tense and meticulously crafted.
  • Terrific performances from Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, who give gritty turns and make their characters tough and engaging, while teen actress Isabela Moner gives an emotional, multilayered turn as kidnap victim Isabela Reyes.
  • Very good make-up which makes some scenes even more vivid to look at than they were before.

CONS

  • There are some real shortcomings to Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay. It is disjointed and convoluted, with some rather predictable moments, a blatant set up for a third film and a “twist” that is more Hollyoaks than Hollywood. Plus, a story about choosing where to draw the moral line does not work very well when all of the characters are on a similar page.
  • A very underused supporting cast, with many (including Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine) serving as little more than plot devices.
  • Some sequences (in particular some of the large scale ones) feel very staged – those poor extras either cannot act or did not get directed well.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: The Happy Prince (2018, Rupert Everett)

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The Happy Prince is a biopic, which is distributed by Lionsgate following its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Director/screenwriter Rupert Everett stars as the film’s subject matter – poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. The film follows Wilde in the final few years of his life, after his release from prison for homosexual practice, as he tries to start a new life in Europe and also tries to find happiness, which is made far harder when former lover Lord Douglas (Colin Morgan) comes back into his life.

PROS

  • Rupert Everett’s fascination and love for Oscar Wilde come through in his direction, screenwriting and acting, all of which he crafts with real passion and gives a theatrical quality that is only fitting for a biopic of Wilde.
  • Wonderfully detailed production design, which gives the film a real period piece feel, and lovely costume design that gives the film a more glamorous, stylish feel.
  • Uses of mid to close range shots give the film a sense of intimacy, which is aided by the fact that Rupert Everett has good chemistry with supporting stars Colin Firth, Colin Morgan and Edwin Thomas.

CONS

  • The film is ultimately style over substance, as we are ultimately only given a surface level look at a man whose life and emotions were tremendously complex.
  • The non-linear narrative does make the film feel a bit disjointed, while the ending does feel awfully dragged out (which is kind of crazy given that the film is barely 100 minutes long).
  • Noticeable underuse of some very talented supporting cast members, including Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and Anna Chancellor.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: McQueen (2018, Ian Bonhôte)

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McQueen is a documentary film that is distributed by Lionsgate, which tells the story of the life and career of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, known to his loved ones by his birth-name “Lee”. The documentary is put together with a combination of home videos, media coverage and interviews with the people in his life.

PROS

  • A brilliantly crafted five-act structure, which flows from one act to the next very well, thanks to clear links and follow-ups from one to the next.
  • A perfect tone: the first two acts are very upbeat, the latter three get gradually bleaker, reflecting how McQueen’s emotional outlook on life changed over time.
  • A beautifully abstract artistic quality to the look and feel of the documentary, which works tremendously well when one considers how wonderfully abstract McQueen’s designs are.
  • The variety of people interviewed and the number of sources used give this story of McQueen’s rags-to-riches life a well informed, well-rounded feel.
  • With great poignancy McQueen highlights to the world that the fashion industry is not as glamorous and idealistic as it is made out to be, and shows that fame and fortune cannot provide true happiness.

NITPICKS

  • The odd moment here or there where the editing could have been slightly tighter, while discussions about McQueen’s younger days may have benefited from an extra couple of minutes.

VERDICT: 10/10

FILM: Ocean’s 8 (2018, Gary Ross)

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Ocean’s 8 is a heist-comedy, distributed by Warner Bros., and the sequel to Ocean’s Thirteen. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is released from prison, not long after the death of older brother Danny. Crime is in her blood, so with best friend and long-term partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett) she assembles a team to pull off the perfect heist and steal a $150 million diamond necklace.

PROS

  • Good performances from the entire cast, with Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna all absolutely stealing their scenes.
  • A slickly edited and well thought-out heist, which proves quite engaging to watch.
  • Some well written moments of comedy that make it an altogether entertaining film.

CONS

  • While the performances are good, the majority of the characters are quite underdeveloped cardboard cut-outs.
  • The ending of the film is quite dragged out and convoluted.
  • For a film that is supposedly about female empowerment, it is quite backwards that most of the women are somewhat obsessed with jewellery and dresses.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)

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Hereditary is a supernatural horror film that is distributed by A24, following its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. After being partially responsible for the freak accident that killed his little sister Charlie (Milly Shapiro), Peter (Alex Wolff) is plagued by guilt, while their mother Annie (Toni Colette) is overcome by grief. However, after some chance meetings and random things – this is the only way to describe it without risking spoilers – Peter and Annie both start to wonder if Charlie has come back as a malevolent spirit to haunt them.

PROS

  • First time director Ari Aster proves to be a genius at building suspense as he directs a truly chilling piece of cinema, and he is wise enough to trust the audience, as often it is the small details that have the most terrifying payoffs.
  • Screenwriter Ari Aster not only nails the supernatural element of the horror, but he also creates an unsettling and moving depiction of the horror of grief and trauma.
  • Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski uses close-up shots very well to capture small details, and makes masterful use of the shadows.
  • Terrific production design, filled with lots of small, somewhat unsettling details that really aid the sense of horror.
  • A unanimously strong cast, with Toni Colette giving a career-best, Oscar worthy performance.

CONS

  • The final fifteen minutes or so are somewhat disjointed compared to the rest of the film and a bit unfocused.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg)

A black poster featuring a red shield with a stylized Tyrannosaurus skeleton under a plaque reading "Jurassic Park". Below is the tagline "An Adventure 65 Million Years In the Making".

Jurassic Park is a science-fiction film, which was distributed by Universal, and based on Michael Crichton’s novel. Dr. Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invites scientists and mathematicians to Isla Nublar in Central America, where he is set to open a new theme park – Jurassic Park. Why scientists and mathematicians? Because in this park are successful clones of dinosaurs! Unfortunately, once the power goes down the dinosaurs roam free and start hunting the humans on the island.

PROS

  • Outstanding visual effects (a meticulous blend of CGI and animatronics) create the dinosaurs, which set/raised a new bar, and still stand up today when compared to recent blockbusters.
  • A real sense of suspense throughout the second half of the film, with some of the most suspenseful scenes directed by Steven Spielberg since Jaws.
  • A very good cast, with some memorable performances from Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough.
  • John Williams’s fabulous score, with the main theme of which has become truly iconic.
  • It may be a dinosaur film, but it is also a great human survival story, with a terrific sense of adventure and some real moments of peril.
NITPICKS
  • The child actors do not get as much chance to shine as those of previous Spielberg films, such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
  • The use of foreshadowing is slightly heavy-handed in some sequences.

VERDICT: 10/10

TELEVISION: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

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American sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air originally aired on NBC for 148 episodes. Philadelphia teenager Will (Will Smith) is sent to live with wealthy relatives in Bel-Air, so that he may get opportunities that he would not get living in “The Hood”. While Will is street-smart, his more laid-back attitude and working-class outlook on life regularly put him at odds with his new wealthy environment.

PROS

  • A hugely entertaining comedy of manners, this sitcom has terrific humour of both the physical and verbal kind.
  • The series is not afraid to explore issues of race and identity, as well as serious issues such as gun crime.
  • A unanimously strong ensemble cast, who compliment each other well and do great work with both comedy and drama.
  • Well realised characters, whose traits and relationships are developed well over the course of the series.

CONS

  • A number of supporting characters (school friends, colleagues, extended family, et cetera) are introduced over the series’ run, but are not utilised that well.
  • Some glaring continuity errors – specifically the ages of Will and his cousins.
  • Lesser quality to the humour in the latter three seasons.

VERDICT: 7/10

FILM: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018, J.A. Bayona)

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the fifth instalment in Universal’s Jurassic Park. The volcano on Isla Nublar looks set to erupt, so Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) – on behalf of Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the late John Hammond’s former partner – hires Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to help a rescue operation to save the dinosaurs that roam free on the island. But is everything what it seems?

PROS

  • As one would expect of a J.A. Bayona film and of a Jurassic film, this is a visually stunning film and the dinosaurs look absolutely terrific.
  • There are some good moments of humour, but this film is an altogether rather exciting adventure, with some tense moments and the odd moment of emotion also.
  • Chris Pratt is once again a charismatic leading man, who has good chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard. The stand-out support is from Tobey Jones and Isabella Sermon, and Jeff Goldblum’s cameo reprising the role of Dr. Ian Malcolm made me smile.

CONS

  • The narrative is actually altogether quite rushed and convoluted, with a chunk of the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure, and ultimately exists to set-up the next instalment (scheduled for a summer 2021 release).
  • Some real predictability in a number of scenes, particularly in the final half-hour or so.
  • Some thinly drawn supporting characters that add little to the film, the most annoying of whom is Justice Smith as computer geek Franklin, who is just an annoying presence.

VERDICT: 5/10