FILM: Night School (2018, Malcolm D. Lee)

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Comedy film Night School is distributed by Universal. When forced to make a career change by unforeseen circumstances, high school dropout Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) goes to Night School to earn his GED. Nothing, however, could have prepared him or his classmates with just how tough their teacher (Tiffany Haddish) is, but matters are further complicated for Teddy as he does not want his fiancee (Megalyn Echikunwoke) to find out about his attendance at Night School.

PROS

  • Kevin Hart brings energy and enthusiasm to the project, while Tiffany Haddish, Taran Killam, Romany Malco and Fat Joe all hit their comic notes well.
  • There are some laugh-out-loud moments to the comedy, occasionally in the slightly more outrageous moments, but also mostly thanks to the aforementioned actors.

CONS

  • The humour for the most part is not funny, thanks not least to some ongoing jokes that never hit the mark in the first place, but mainly because it does not fully commit to being an outrageous comedy. It has a 12 (UK)/PG-13 (USA) rating, but the comedy is a too outrageous for 12-13-year-olds, but nowhere near outrageous enough to satisfy adults who like that type of humour.
  • Poor attempts to engage with relevant issues, said attempts simply falling flat and leading to the viewer rolling their eyes in exasperation; and a padded-out ending.
  • Very thinly drawn characters, with underdeveloped personalities and backstories, while some simply conform to awkward and (quite frankly) obvious stereotypes.
  • Poor supporting turns from a number of the cast, including Rob Riggle, Ben Schwartz and Bresha Webb; while Keith David is disappointingly not used to his full potential.

VERDICT: 3/10

FILM: The Little Stranger (2018, Lenny Abrahamson)

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Adapted from Sarah Waters’s novel of the same title, gothic period drama The Little Stranger is distributed in the UK by Pathé. In 1947, Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) starts making regular visits to Hundreds Hall to help Roddy Ayres (Will Poulter) make better use of a leg permanently damaged during his time in the RAF. He also starts to pursue a romance with Roddy’s sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson), but soon a malicious spirit within the grand old house starts to pick on the residents one-by-one.

PROS

  • Outstanding work by the make-up department, the highlights being that used to make Will Poulter’s Roddy appear highly disfigured (although that never masks the quality of Poulter’s performance), and the effective use of fake blood.
  • A well framed film by cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland, which brings an eerie visual quality to the film and draws attention to the psychological impact upon characters through use of close-up shots.

CONS

  • While their performances are fine, it is disappointing that turns from Domhnall Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling simply are not memorable, while Ruth Wilson and Liv Hill give rather wooden turns indeed.
  • Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon dips her toes in the genres of period drama, romantic drama and gothic horror, but seems frankly afraid to even consider committing to one, and the final product is a bit of a drag to watch.
  • Director Lenny Abrahamson seems quite unconfident in his vision for the film, dabbling between tones and never really delivering on the promise of horror that the scenes of a more eerie atmosphere foreshadow.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: A Simple Favour (2018, Paul Feig)

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Adapted from Darcey Bell’s novel of the same title, mystery film A Simple Favour is distributed by Lionsgate. Widowed super-mum Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) befriends the mysterious and wealthy Emily (Blake Lively). However, after phoning Stephanie one afternoon to ask her if she could look after her son Nicky (Ian Ho), Emily goes missing. Stephanie starts to investigate what could have happened, only to discover a web of secrets about Emily which nobody could have foreseen.

PROS

  • For the first two-thirds of the film, this is a genuinely intriguing mystery with interesting characters, well written dialogue and some good gags.
  • Well realised, note-perfect turns from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, who are very engaging leads, while young actors Ian Ho and Joshua Satine prove to be natural talents, and Bashir Salahuddin and Rupert Friend both absolutely steal their more comedic scenes.
  • A very well shot film by cinematographer John Schwartzman, whose captures the glamour of Emily’s lifestyle, and juxtaposes that well with the dark secrets of her past.

CONS

  • The final third is highly predictable, once a specific secret of Emily’s past is revealed and, frankly, after that it becomes as daft and over-the-top as a more silly episode of a teen soap opera such as Hollyoaks.
  • The fact that serious issues such as alcoholism and neglectful parenting are treated in such a cavalier, light-hearted manner is frankly uncomfortable to have to watch on screen.

VERDICT: 6/10

Box Office Predictions: the Remainder of 2018

So, we are now entering Autumn. The leaves are falling, Costa Coffee are selling Bonfire Spiced Latte and the temperature is cooler (thank goodness!). We are now entering a unique time of year for cinema, for the final three months of the year shall see all of the major contenders for the Oscars, BAFTAs, et cetera be released (most of which will be coming off the back of a successful run on the Festival circuit), but we will also have the last of the year’s blockbusters, especially in December time to coincide with the Christmas holidays.

In this post I shall be making my predictions for the highest grossing films worldwide of the final third of 2018, so without further ado, let us start with

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10) Halloween (Dir. David Gordon Green)

Yes, this franchise has been done to death over the years, but this new film to commemorate the 40th Anniversary will retcon all of the previous sequels. Why I expect this to be a big hit is the fact that (for Horror fans) the original is an iconic piece of cinema, and the prospect of not only Michael Myers returning, but also Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode will draw numerous Horror fans to the cinema. My reason for not ranking it higher – Horror films are never the big hitters in the way that Science-Fiction films tend to be.

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9) Creed II (Dir. Steven Caple Jr.)

Creed reinvigorated the Rocky franchise in 2015, and took the world by surprise with how good it was. With some powerful trailers recently, as well as the increased star power of Michael B. Jordan (following Black Panther), there is more than enough to pique the curiosity of those who are not particularly familiar with the iconic boxing franchise. Plus the fact that the film is tied in so well with the most divisive Rocky film (Rocky IV) will no doubt intrigue Rocky fans further.

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8) First Man (Dir. Damien Chazelle)

The film stars Ryan Gosling and the trailers use the phrase “From the Director of La La Land“. Even for viewers who are not that interested in a film about the Space Race, that will be enough to pique their interests and drive them to cinemas. The question on everyone’s mind now though – will this film be Damien Chazelle’s first actual Best Picture winner. Oh yes, I went there, and I am not even sorry.

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7) Bumblebee (Dir. Travis Knight)

Two years ago I would have placed a Transformers spin-off far higher in my predictions but, after the underwhelming performance of The Last Knight last year, it seems that the fan base finally has franchise fatigue for the Robots in Disguise. Nevertheless, attention has been drawn to the recent trailers, due to their depiction of what people see as a throwback to the Transformers of the 1980s so, for fans of the franchise pre-Michael Bay films, it will be one to see in cinemas.

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6) Aquaman (Dir. James Wan)

Following Justice League and everything this year in the media to do with recasting the Joker, Batman and Superman, Warner Bros. have a lot riding on this sixth instalment in the DC Extended Universe. There does not seem to be much excitement for it in the way that there was for Wonder Woman, but superhero films are almost always box office gold, and the fact that this film is being released in the weekend that schools break up for Christmas will almost certainly boost its box office takings.

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5) A Star is Born (Dir. Bradley Cooper)

A Festival circuit hit this high up on the list? You may well be thinking just that, and I understand. But there is so much hype surrounding this film, thanks not least to the terrific marketing of it, plus Bradley Cooper carries star status within the film industry, and here he is both co-lead and director. The three previous iterations of this film were huge hits for their respective generations of young cinema goers, and I am wholly banking on this one being so as well.

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4) Mary Poppins Returns (Dir. Rob Marshall)

Over fifty years later and the original remains one of the most beloved Disney films to date, and with a cinema release in the same weekend that schools break up for Christmas, parents are going to be looking for a fun family film to take the children to for the afternoon. On top of this, the film has been well marketed and you have the star power of Emily Blunt taking over the titular role from Julie Andrews.

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3) Venom (Dir. Ruben Fleischer)

Venom is currently one of the most anticipated films of the coming months, with comic book fans and casual superhero viewers alike intrigued by this iconic Marvel character getting his own solo film, a film which carries the star power of Tom Hardy. Expectations are mixed – some are pumped, some are fearing for the worst – but either way the turn out at cinemas will be huge.

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2) Ralph Breaks the Internet (Dirs. Rich Moore/Phil Johnston)

Look, I will be honest, I am a little nervous for the quality of this film. However, let us be real here…it is a Disney film and a sequel to one of the most popular Disney films of the last twenty years. It really does not matter how good it is (though I will admit that it looks like a rather fun film), children and adults alike will flock to cinemas in their millions to see this.

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1) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Dir. David Yates)

It does not matter how much controversy this film has already been at the centre of, this is a Harry Potter spin-off. I mean, for goodness sake, the established fan base alone is enough for this film to be a phenomenal hit, and the fact that it ties further into the main series by depicting a younger Dumbledore and the origin story of Nagini will have literally every Harry Potter fan out there at the very least curious. This will definitely be the biggest hit of the coming weeks.

So, those are my predictions for the highest grossing films worldwide of the remainder of 2018. At the start of February, once all of the late December releases have all had a fair shot at the box office, I shall return to the blog to discuss just how well I did in my predictions and highlight any surprises that came up. I will be seeing all of the aforementioned films in cinemas and publishing reviews, so keep an eye out for those and, as ever, Happy Reading!

PREVIEW: October 2018

Well, September is coming to a close, and I have made a fair few cinema trips during the past month. I still have a couple more lined up for this weekend, so there will be some more reviews published before the month is out.

October is upon us, and it is a month for which I have a fair few cinema trips planned. These include A Star is BornVenomJohnny English Strikes AgainFirst ManBad Times at the El RoyaleHalloweenHunter KillerGoosebumps 2: Haunted HalloweenThe Hate U Give and Bohemian Rhapsody. I shall endeavour to publish reviews of these and any other new releases that I see during October.

So, as ever, thank you for visiting this blog and, for the month ahead, I wish you Happy Reading!

FILM: North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)

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Thriller film North by Northwest was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After being mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplan, advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is forced to flee cross-country after a mysterious organisation try to prevent him from sabotaging their plan to smuggle government secrets out of the country.

PROS

  • A brilliantly plotted, cleverly written narrative, which engages with relevant fears of Cold War era America, and has well-realised characters and some very nicely executed twists and turns.
  • Splendid direction by Alfred Hitchcock, who creates yet another film that truly proves him to be the Master of Suspense, thanks not least to the now iconic masterpiece of a sequence that is the crop duster scene.
  • Spectacular cinematography and editing, which makes both the crop duster scene and the climax atop Mount Rushmore (among others) both tense and thrilling to watch.
  • A unanimously strong cast, led by a charming, charismatic Cary Grant, who has excellent chemistry with Eva Marie Saint.

CONS

  • The ending does feel quite disappointing after the climax atop Mount Rushmore, feeling like a bit of a cop-out and almost like something that was improvised.

VERDICT: 9/10

Box Office Results: Summer 2018 films

So, back at the end of April I made my predictions for the ten highest grossing films worldwide of the summer 2018 crop. Five months later and summer is over, and all of the summer films have had their main go at the box office. So let us take a look at how I did…

My predictions for the ten highest grossing films worldwide of summer 2018 were…

  1. Avengers: Infinity War
  2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  3. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  4. Incredibles 2
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  7. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  8. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
  9. Ocean’s 8
  10. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The actual ten highest grossing films worldwide of summer 2018 were…

  1. Avengers: Infinity War
  2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  3. Incredibles 2
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  7. The Meg
  8. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
  9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  10. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

So…in total I got 9/10 where my predicted titles were concerned, and I got 6/10 where predicted rankings were concerned. It was a pleasant surprise to see The Meg on the list, just like the degree to which I enjoyed it was pleasantly surprising. The massive surprise that nobody could see coming was the underperformance of Solo. Nobody could have foreseen a Star Wars film making a loss at the summer box office, but that just goes to prove that the summer box office is not as simple to predict as some assume.

So, that is another summer done and dusted, and I fully intend to do this whole prediction…thing…again next summer.

FILM: Mile 22 (2018, Peter Berg)

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Action film Mile 22 is distributed by STXfilms. An elite CIA task force, led by Agents Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and Kerr (Lauren Cohan) must escort a high-priority asset (Li Noor) 22 miles to an extraction point, while being hunted by the government.

CONS

  • The flashback, first-person style of the narrative not only makes the final outcome highly predictable, but also makes the entire film feel disjointed.
  • All (Ha! Maybe two or three at most!) attempts to flesh out characters are done at an extremely surface-level depth, with Lea Carpenter’s screenplay being basically all action, the attempts at drama being half-hearted and dull.
  • Poorly framed and edited action sequences, which are a bit of a headache to follow, and which are simply not engaging or enjoyable to watch.
  • A poorly utilised cast, with wooden performances from John Malkovich and Ronda Rousey, among others.
  • A blatant attempt to set up a franchise.

PROS

  • Perfectly adequate leading performances from Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan and Li Noor.
  • Vivid use of fake blood and gore by the make-up department.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: King of Thieves (2018, James Marsh)

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Heist film King of Thieves is distributed by StudioCanal. The film tells the true story of how six pensioners (Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone, Paul Whitehouse and Michael Gambon) and a young tech wiz (Charlie Cox) broke into the Hatton Garden vault during the 2015 Easter weekend and stole millions. But soon these career criminals start to turn on each other and loyalties are called into question.

PROS

  • A good ensemble cast, all of whom make the most of their moments to shine, led capably and efficiently by Michael Caine.
  • A generally engaging (if somewhat predictable) narrative, the central heist itself being well executed in terms of screenwriting and on a technical level, making for very enjoyable cinema.
  • Screenwriter Joe Penhall wrote excellent dialogue for this film, getting a good balance between humour and intense confrontation between the criminals.

CONS

  • With the exception of Brian (Michael Caine) and Terry (Jim Broadbent), the characters are not that well realised or developed, thanks not least to scarce backstories.
  • Director James Marsh keeps making nods to previous projects done by the cast of British acting veterans, and comes across as a little too enamoured with these icons of British film and theatre to commit his all to the film.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: Superfly (2018, Director X)

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Crime film Superfly is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. Career criminal Priest (Trevor Jackson) is Atlanta’s most revered drug dealer, but he is thinking about getting out of the game. However, a deal gone wrong puts him and his people in danger as he becomes a target for rival gang Snow Patrol.

PROS

  • The gritty action is well shot and edited, with some quite exciting moments and vivid use of fake blood and gore.
  • Trevor Jackson gives a well-realised, stoic turn as Priest, and has a good rapport with several of the key supporting cast members.

CONS

  • Director X dabbles in the filmmaking styles of Michael Mann, The Fast and the Furious, hood films of the 1990s and Blaxploitation films of the 1970s without truly committing to any one.
  • A very predictable screenplay, with twists and turns that can frankly be seen coming from a mile away.
  • The depiction of women is uncomfortable to watch as it is both misogynistic and exploitative; while the supporting cast for the most part are very underwhelming, not least as they have thinly drawn characters to work with.

VERDICT: 4/10