Aladdin (2019)

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We’ve met a friend like Aladdin before; back in 1992 Disney released the two-time Oscar winning animation, and now in keeping with their recent trend of (money) spinning their back catalogue into live-action movies, we return to Agrabah to see the urchin fall in love again. Does this version reach majestic magic carpet heights or should it be bottled away for 10’000 years?

Adviser to the Sultan is Jafar (Marwen Kenzari) who seeks absolute power and the 3 wishes granted by a magic lamp in a faraway cave. Cue Aladdin (Mena Massoud); a market thief who might be the ideal candidate to enter and retrieve the item. However, it is Aladdin who winds up with the power of the Genie (Will Smith) within and his hopes of wooing Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) seem more powerful then their previous meeting.

No longer dealing with Cockney ruffians or Arthurian legend is Guy Ritchie, who directs this redo with some power in his corner, even if it’s apparent he doesn’t know how to capture musicals. The ammunition in his camp may mostly stem from the nostalgia of knowing and/or loving the original but he hasn’t majorly misstepped and, in fact the movie has plenty of punch, pizzazz and yahoo.

You can tell he’s behind the camera, with the update on the House of Mouse flick getting a few trick shots in, or at least moments that attempt a cool stylish flow; whether that be through slow motion or a mix of new and old. This doesn’t harm the film but never really adds a necessary spice either, though the blend of hip-hop and more traditional Asian influence is a flavourful dance delight after the main story wraps up.

The music of ‘Aladdin’ are favourites of mine so I was interested to see what new life and vocalists could bring to the table. Having composer Alan Menken and lyricists Tim Rice & Howard Ashman back on duty helps keep the Disney sparkle mostly in tact. ‘One Jump Ahead’ gets the toe tapping because the original music is a bop but the way the direction is handled is bizarre in the bazaar. The action on screen, for some reason is sped up in places which gives the entire scene an awkward, shoddy look.

‘A Whole New World’ is a serene thing of moonlit wonder; it doesn’t enhance the original but it doesn’t need to as the track is a classic. ‘Arabian Nights’ and ‘Friend Like Me’ both feature the former Fresh Prince combining singing and rapping to varying degrees of success. In terms of the latter and ‘Prince Ali’, the film has this hairography way of luring you into the joyful energy, colour and sound but it’s all a distraction to hide the fact the spins on the songs are less than special.

The costumes sometimes look cheap and the animal sidekicks are sadly left to the sidelines, none more than 1992 animated wise-cracker Iago. Aladdin himself is a dull lead, he has splashes of charisma and Massoud certainly gets the street rat hustle in his bones but he has more chemistry with monkey Abu than with the Sultan’s daughter. The biggest strength is in the politics, really the only change the script has seen in 27 years. The way Ritchie and John August ensure that Jasmine possesses a hungry desire to be more than a figure of beauty is awesome and no doubt empowering to many.

Will Smith has some golden moments and the CGI of his ‘Avatar’-esque appearance isn’t always ropy but he doesn’t burst out of Robin Williams shadow. Kenzari plays the sinister level well, it only notches to pantomime villainy near the end but he’s a good figure of evil. Naomi Scott is the one who steals the crown and is a royal gem to watch. There is passion, not only in her updated tale but within the very life of her eyes you can see and feel the drive and care she has for Agrabah, her father and the people. A new musical number is stunning with a pop ballad sound that you’d turn up if it came on the radio.

So, even if ‘Aladdin’ is less a diamond and more a rough copy of what’s been before, Jasmine and the heart of the main story are a wonder that do much better than the trailers would have you believe.

7/10

 

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Wild Rose (2019)

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The lead in this musical drama has the words ‘three chords and the truth’ tattooed on her arm. Here are three words and nothing but the truth about ‘Wild Rose’; authentic meaningful satisfaction. And another word because I cannot contain myself – outstanding.

Freed from jail after 12 months, Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) returns to her mam and 2 children but the home sweet home life has never really suited her. She’s a boozer, a force that can’t be tamed and country music swells in her bloodstream. Rose-Lynn only wants to make a name for herself in Nashville but juggling a cleaning job and having a family brings up what really matters.

‘Wild Rose’ contains this inescapable family aspect and director Tom Harper ensures that the carefree Glaswegian antics never overshadow the true feeling of the story. Perhaps his work on shows like ‘This is England 86’ have helped him craft that narrowing in on struggling family units and it pays off wonderfully in this feature.

Rose-Lynn’s home life is engrossing in its richness and it serves as an ideal series of notes in her narrative songbook. By the time we reach the final showstopping moment, with the camera lingering on those closest to the aspirational singer, you’d have to possess no empathy to not be moved to tears by the destructive, yet beautiful smacks of power, heart and delight shown on screen.

In this movie, Glasgow itself becomes a character. It embodies life, entrapment, hope, pain and growth which Rose-Lynn mirrors in fine measure, this helps really make you understand her roots, so by the time she touches down in the shiny world of Nashville you cannot help but know this glittery city, overrun with similar dreamers may not be the oasis she yearned for after all.

Along the way, there are a few parts which sniff of almost whacking in obstacles every other scene, just to keep raising the stakes and adding weight to Rose-Lynn’s personal tug of war but the sheer majesty of her vocals instantly makes you forgive these minor broken strings, on an otherwise finely tuned film.

Jessie Buckley pours her absolute all into this role and therefore her character crackles with life and pure soul. She is wonderful at capturing a feisty energy and emoting Rose-Lynn’s struggles with heart-wrenching power. It’s not just running amok in Scotland and beyond that make her fun to watch, up on stage or on a webcam, Buckley is a firecracker with a voice which gives you goosebumps and can also soothe you with a twang of joy. Julie Walters is a marvellous treasure; her connection to Rose-Lynn and her children are magnificent and you utterly invest into every scene she appears in.

Music can be such a megaton of power and through the truth and storytelling qualities of the country scene, ‘Wild Rose’ is one of those musical gems with something to say and it’s leading lady is a rising star to be reckoned with.

8/10

 

2018 Top 50

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Smile folks, it’s been an absolute blast this year in the cinemas and on streaming services alike. Yes, if you want to jump right in with my top 10 movies, I have already compiled a top ten list which you can find HERE, but if like me, you can’t abide a whole ton of great movies not getting their dues then this is their time to shine as I’ve come up with my first ever Top 50 countdown!

*Disclaimer* – I have not seen certain films like ‘Mandy’ or ‘Leave No Trace’ hence their absence and no ‘Truth or Dare’ doesn’t rock up, though it was a fine comedy. Okay, away we go…

50 – NEXT GEN

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A surprisingly fun and pacy cartoon flick with futuristic ideas and a charming connection between gal and bot.

Review – ‘Next Gen’

49 – MARY POPPINS RETURNS

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Emily Blunt steps into the ten to two shoes of Julie Andrews and does a spiffing job as the prim and proper nanny with magic endlessly pulled from her special bag.

Trip the Light Fantastic over to my review – ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

48 – ROMA

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Alfonso Cuaron’s black and white semi-biographical tale which hit Netflix is absolutely beautiful to look at but I just can’t quite connect to the majesty that everyone else has seen. There’s a fine story and lovely cinematography but that’s about it, no higher in the list. Don’t @ me.

My review is here – ‘Roma’

47 – BUMBLEBEE

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If someone had told me that a ‘Transformers’ spin-off would have featured higher than a stunning foreign movie lauded for Oscar glory I would have scoffed…a lot. But Travis Knight has captured the fun and nostalgic appeal that Michael Bay could only dream of.

No Decepticons here, this is a good film, my review – ‘Bumblebee’

46 – A STAR IS BORN

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Bradley Cooper dons a stetson and the first-time director title in this fourth telling of ‘A Star is Born’, it has some issues but a mostly great soundtrack and the might of Lady Gaga help this romantic country and western musical come alive.

Step into the Shallow end with my review – ‘A Star is Born’

45 – JOURNEY’S END

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A sombre and reflective WW2 drama, this truly grips you and makes you thoughtful about the dark trench warfare these brave soldiers faced. Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield are excellent.

The journey begins with my review – ‘Journey’s End’

44 – CAM

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Another Netflix feature that took me by surprise, this has dark and original ideas and a blisteringly brilliant performance from Madeline Brewer makes this tech-thriller/horror a sexy yet smartly creepy film.

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43 – GAME NIGHT

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Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams are a fun pairing in this entertaining comedic flick but the true MVP and best selling point for the films worth is Jesse Plemmons.

Roll a dice, right foot yellow and review is yours – ‘Game Night’

42 – ISLE OF DOGS

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Another quirky and lovely stop-motion outing from the wonderful Wes Anderson, this poochy plot has moments of rabid darkness but plenty of delightful storytelling.

Woof! My review is out of the kennel – ‘Isle of Dogs’

41 – A SIMPLE FAVOR

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Paul Feig’s latest has definitely divided audiences but I for one thoroughly enjoyed this strange concoction of humour and thrills all tinged with a French cinema flavour.

Only a simple favour to ask but please check out my review – ‘A Simple Favor’

40 – THOROUGHBREDS

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Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are chillingly exceptional in this fairly cold yet entrancing off-beat film. It’s quite simply put, an original film with unsettling music and unpredictable moments.

Give my review a thoroughread – ‘Thoroughbreds’

39 – MOM AND DAD

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Crazy is as crazy does: surely a motto best suited to Nicolas Cage. This frenzied and pacy film may not be a superb film but I had a right good time watching the madness unfold and it knows what it is – a pure delightful crash of crazy.

Read more – ‘Mom and Dad’

38 – THE NIGHT COMES FOR US

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Woah Nelly! This Indonesian action which is on Netflix is a furious and bloody thriller which may be light on plot but is soaring to the heavens with hellish injury detail and electrically charged, fascinating fight choreography.

37 – GHOST STORIES

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Originally a stage show, which is somewhat evident at certain points, what with some theatrical elements and practical frights leading the way, this is a nightmarish and engrossing British horror with clever storytelling.

Boo! My review – ‘Ghost Stories’

36 – TULLY

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This is most certainly a film that goes somewhere a healthy percentage of audiences might not expect but it doesn’t tarnish the previously built maternal plot and Charlize Theron’s stunningly crafted performance, if anything it just makes it a more memorable story.

Don’t dilly dally – ‘Tully’

35 – THE HATE U GIVE

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Upon seeing the trailer I really wasn’t expecting to get anything from this film. Happily it’s much more than a generic YA adaptation, it has emotion, heart and the richest relevance to current world events. Amandla Stenberg & Russell Hornsby are mind-blowingly effective in this.

Don’t let the THUG-life get ya, read my review – ‘The Hate U Give’

34 – THE SHAPE OF WATER

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You can always trust on Guillermo del Toro to make a dark fantasy a totally captivating experience and this time the Academy Awards agreed, gifting this woman-loves-fish story the Best Picture trophy. It’s beautiful, weird and Sally Hawkins is the perfect lead.

The Shape of my Review can be found here – ‘The Shape of Water’

33 – BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

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A true ensemble piece of cinema and a film noir that almost fully sinks its teeth into you. Aside from a slightly dissatisfying story that takes over, this is a clever, highly original movie and well acted thriller which deserved higher box office.

No bad times with my review – ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’

32 – CRAZY RICH ASIANS

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I openly admit I’m not an advocate for the rom-com genre but this family set story around an impending wedding really bowled me over. The luxurious visuals, stunning locations and more stunning cast balance romance and humour with finesse.

Take a walk down the aisle to my review – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

31 – YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

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Lynne Ramsay excellently weaves a gritty and immersive city thriller, aided by an astonishing turn from Joaquin Phoenix, this has threads of ‘Taxi Driver’ and is a bold and tense piece of cinematic art.

30 – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

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Fairly bloated with internet bustin’ gags and Disney references, but it’s fun, fast and a well animated sequel with Ralph and Vanellope just as endearing a friendship duo as back in 2012.

It’s good and that’s not bad, my thoughts – ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’

29 – SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

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Truly original and absurd, two qualities which you can’t complain about in the climate of sequels/prequels and the like. Boots Riley goes all in directing & writing a superb screenplay that links to current affairs and issues in an offbeat, comical and twisted manner.

Giddy up over to my review – ‘Sorry to Bother You’

28 – PHANTOM THREAD

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Possibly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final feature, his role under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson is sublime, as are Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville…and a beautifully acted breakfast scene for the ages. This early UK 2018 film looks gorgeous and bursts with spits of spite and comedy.

Sew, a needle, pull and thread – ‘Phantom Thread’

27 – IN THE FADE

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Diane Kruger’s first German feature and one that’s put across the audience in three parts. Not every part is as strong as the other and a finale may be slightly lacking but a gritty opening and glossy, tense court room second act along with Kruger’s formidable performance make this a solid thriller of loss and revenge.

1, 2…Kruger’s coming for you – ‘In the Fade’

26 – BLACK PANTHER

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A massive hit and an even bigger stepping stone for black representation in superhero movies, this Marvel entry deals with spectacle, politics and leadership with detail and thought, fuelled by a great villain expertly handled by Michael B. Jordan, ‘Black Panther’ is a near-perfect comic-book film.

Enter Wakanda – ‘Black Panther’

25 – AMERICAN ANIMALS

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This is a clever spin on the heist genre as director Bart Layton mixes truth and fiction by blending the real life people alongside his actors. As the films plan nears fruition, the gang and audience alike are left unable to back out to culpability.

A review is up for grabs just here, go on, go – ‘American Animals’

24 – THE INCREDIBLES 2

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After 14 years too long, Pixar returned to the Parr family and their mix of city saving powers. The one animated feature deserving of a sequel, this one does not disappoint. Apart from a predictable turn of events and villain, this is a joyous and stunning animation to watch and any return of Edna Mode is a positive in my book.

Dash over to my review – ‘Incredibles 2’

23 – BLACKKKLANSMAN

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This Spike Lee joint is a funny and disturbing tale of KKK infiltration. It makes you laugh but importantly, it’s something which makes you irate, angry and fits nicely against the backdrop of divide so felt nowadays. Style and power rip through this film.

Don’t be a Duke, click my review – ‘BlackKklansman’

22 – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

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The Coen Brothers enter the Netflix way of life with this western anthology of six mini stories. The likes of James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan excel in their segments. Sure, not all the tales are great and there may not be a resolute connection between them but it’s masterfully acted and captures the heart…and dust of the western genre.

21 – OVERLORD

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You’d not be wrong in thinking from outside glance this would be a naff horror but it’s in fact so much better than that. A gem of war, thriller and gory zombie effects, this is a brain-splattering delight.

Come on over – ‘Overlord’

20 – WILDLIFE

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Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan create a thing of quiet beauty in this drama about family. The former calls the shots as debut director and this adaptation of a 1990 novel is stunning not to just to look at but to revel in the towering acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Scenic views, fraught relationships and a teen running home in the snow are tenderly accomplished.

Check out the ‘Wildlife’

19 – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

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I’ve always enjoyed the writings of Irish playwright and ‘In Bruges’ commander Martin McDonagh, this angry tale of grief and, well anger is no exception. The mix of great comedy and uneasy darkness clouding over Ebbing are thickly coated but don’t outweigh Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand.

More of my musings – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

18 – HEREDITARY

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Jinkies, this horror from Ari Aster is a chilling and terrifyingly effective narrative of family tensions. If you took out all the damned creepy moments then this would be a drama on grief and that only highlights the weirder, scarier qualities included by Aster. Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this.

Don’t click your tongue, lcckk – ‘Hereditary’

17 – WIDOWS

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Steve McQueen tackles the thriller genre but makes sure to keep his sturdy understanding of character to make this an investing movie, led by four strong women. The moments of heist drama are tense and the more politically angled aspects are wonderfully handled.

Mission: read my review. I’m sure you’ve got the balls to pull this off – ‘Widows’

16 – COCO

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Two Pixar releases for the UK in 2018 and both make my top 50, mostly because their animation is always so delectable but on top of this they’re a studio almost always capturing emotional and captivating stories. ‘Coco’ is no exception, this Day of the Dead inspired animation tugs on the heart strings and incorporates tingling music and colourful visuals.

 Don’t forget to click my review, Remember Me – ‘Coco’

15 – ASSASSINATION NATION

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This is 100% a movie which will split people, I can see why some will dislike the heck out of it but I positively loved the stuffing out of this bold, loud and violent film. It pops with trigger warnings of every nature and the feminine power of the above fearsome foursome are a force to be reckoned with as their town turns on them.

Reveal some more secrets – ‘Assassination Nation’

14 – ANNIHILATION 

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Shamefully Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi didn’t get to UK cinemas but it’s streaming on Netflix and is a sheer masterpiece of visuals and is also a movie which leaves you thinking. Headed by a brave team of females, this mix of science and horror is dreamy, ambiguous and downright superb.

Enter the Shimmer – ‘Annihilation’

13 – UPGRADE

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Rammed to the skies with inventive camera shots and pacy fight scenes, this adrenaline fuelled futuristic flick bursts out of the screen with entertaining energy. On top of this, it has flashes of humour, body-horror and stylish flair.

There’s no need to Upgrade to find my review – ‘Upgrade’

12 – A QUIET PLACE

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This film has magnificent levels of sustained threat, wince-inducing visuals of pain, smart uses of playing around with sound and Emily Blunt on top form as a pregnant wife caught up in a farmhouse of fear. John Krasinski becomes feature director for the first time and really gets to grips with the model of horror building making this one of the most effective cinema experiences I’ve ever been part of.

Ssssh, my review is over here – ‘A Quiet Place’

11 – THE BREADWINNER

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The creators behind ‘Song of the Sea’ have gifted the world another animated gem. This one is less fantastical though and this Middle-Eastern texture only makes the film a much more heart-felt trip, one that’s interspersed with yarns of magic but the plight of a girl stepping up and out to help her family is a powerful and outstanding watch.

My review for #11 is here – ‘The Breadwinner’

There we have it, those were my top 40 films of 2018 and now it’s time to reveal my faves of faves as I collect the big 10.

10 – SEARCHING

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John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting, as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches.

No need to search far as the review is here – ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

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Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape.

Don’t fear the Boogeyman – ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

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Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film.

It’s the titular role – ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

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Well, here is a film that utterly bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. The songs are glorious and I’d be lying if I said I don’t listen to them almost constantly.

Don’t blink, my review isn’t a million miles away – ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

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I truly don’t care what some filmy types and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. A stadium sized biopic that will rock you.

You are the Champions if you give my review a read – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA

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Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on an ill-fated moment of Winter Olympics drama. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding.

Get your skates on to the review – ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE

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This is a blood soaked film, one which side-steps away from the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Matilda Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from Coralie Fargeat which arrived in May and I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest.

My review won’t put up a fight – ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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Snapping its fingers and claiming bronze, this is an epic comic-book celebration that I saw three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the purple might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building.

You don’t need to assemble any heroes to locate my review – ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of silver, in the only animation to feature on my top ten. This is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world.

Sling yourself over to the review – ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

1 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

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This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing they are practically executed makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever.

My review won’t self destruct in 30 seconds – ‘Mission:Impossible – Fallout’

2018 Top Ten

Well, another year has gone by and it’s been a barnstorming year for cinema. From superheroes becoming dust and Black Panthers to a luxury Singapore wedding there’s been a boom in film from all walks of life. Also, it’s definitely been 365 days where the horror genre has stepped forward as an exciting one to watch…if you forget about ‘The Nun’. It seems that each year it gets tougher and tougher to whittle down a best of list and this year is no exception, so much so in fact that I just can’t leave some movies out so a Top 50 run will follow very soon…

So without further-ado, here is my countdown of my favourite ten movies to be released in UK cinemas from 2018:

10 – SEARCHING

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John Cho leads a frenzied hunt for his missing daughter in a screen-set thriller that is anything but a cheap gimmick. The tension is palpable and the story is riveting as it’s portrayed through calls, Facebook and other social media searches. No need to search for my review as it’s right here — ‘Searching’

9 – HALLOWEEN

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Michael Myers returned, swiftly and thankfully, slashing away all the sequels, letting this story follow on 40 years after what happened to Laurie Strode that fateful Halloween night. David Gordon Green shows he has a skill for the horror genre and the entire team clearly adore the original which is why this feels like a perfect chilling return to form for the Shape. Head down Haddonfield with my review — ‘Halloween’

8 – LADY BIRD

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Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a brilliant, humour filled coming of age story about mothers and daughters. There are great pangs of emotion and with perfect performances from Ronan and Metcalf, you feel wrapped up in a comforting blanket watching this film. My review — ‘Lady Bird’

7 – HEARTS BEAT LOUD

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Well, here is a film that bowled me over and completely surpassed my expectations for it being a generically mediocre Sundance indie. What this film is, is pure charm and sunshine, with Offerman and Clemons providing great music as a dad and his daughter. Check out my thoughts at Flickfeast — ‘Hearts Beat Loud’

6 – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY 

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I truly do not care what some film fans and critics have been saying about this film. I positively adored the majority of this foot-tapping, hand-clapping tale of Queen and its front man, the legendary Freddie Mercury, who is exquisitely played by Rami Malek. The film is fun and the music speaks for itself. Rock on over to my review — ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

5 – I, TONYA 

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Margot Robbie steps onto the ice as Tonya Harding in this fresh and exciting visceral take on the wintry ice-skating scene. Allison Janney is a great supporting feature as Harding’s mum and throughout we see a story presented in way that’s unreliable but entertaining, which makes the latter emotional moments that more resounding. Skate on over to my review — ‘I, Tonya’

4 – REVENGE 

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This had been a blood soaked film sitting pretty in my top three up until the very last moment. It’s still no less fantastic, a film which escapes the schlock way of vengeful flicks and becomes an engrossing thriller capably led by bad-ass Lutz. This is an explosive female led and directed movie from May, that I haven’t forgotten about in the slightest. See my review — ‘Revenge’

3 – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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The spot most recently filled by ‘Revenge’ has snapped its fingers and shifted up a place, I mean, I saw it three times and didn’t tire with any minute of it, so it has to claim a bronze medal. Unlike repeat viewings of ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Age of Ultron’, this is a blockbuster outing which grows better upon more watches. There’s the might of a superb villain, great visuals and a cracking conclusion to ten years of MCU building. Further thoughts — ‘Infinity War’

2 – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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Miles Morales swings into the hot spot of second in the only animation to feature on my top ten. Yes, he’s fended off Pixar’s ‘Coco’ and the internet busting moves from ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ because this is not only one of the most sensational animations I’ve seen but one of the best films, full stop. The styles are incredible, the voice work is perfect and the story is just right for the Spider-Man world. My review — ‘Spider-Verse’

So…they were my top 9. It’s time to unveil my all time favourite movie that I saw in 2018. A movie with grand stunts, great scope and a moustache to set the internet alight, yes here is my number 1 – 

MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

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This is the sixth instalment in the M:I franchise and it is showing no signs of exhaustion, in fact it’s quite the contrary, with action hero Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie again teaming up to make Ethan Hunt and his globe-trotting, ankle-breaking antics an exhilarating treat to see. The stunts are next level and knowing that they are practically done makes you appreciate the action that much more than a second rate movie filling in set pieces with CGI. Fallout is 100% the real deal and is one of the finest action films I’ve seen…ever. My review if you choose to accept it — ‘Fallout’

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

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It’s been 54 years since ‘Mary Poppins’ came out, so it’s definitely been a while in terms of sequel making. ‘Chicago’ and ‘Into the Woods’ director Rob Marshall in charge of this one, would the gap seem like a pleasant breeze or should it have been a one time only deal?

The Banks children; Michael and Jane (Ben Whishaw & Emily Mortimer) are 30 years older but with their father’s home on the line it seems the skies need to send down the witchy wisdom of Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) once again. She is on hand to help Michael’s three children and with the assistance of lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a new generation of Banks’ will witness the brilliance of Mary.

The 1964 original is a bonafide classic and appears on UK televisions pretty much every seasonal opportunity, so there was no fear that Disney couldn’t pull in audiences with a sequel but does a new Mary capture the same fire? Almost is the answer. It takes a while to really get into the swing of things, even Mary’s arrival doesn’t kick-start the fun, once the characters crack on into the China bowl then the musical gets into its stride. The ending is fairly flat too, like a balloon flopping to the floor when you’d wish it’d soar but the middle is grand.

It can easily be seen that this movie is cashing in on the nostalgia appeal of which Disney is definitely not shy of lately; what with 3 House of Mouse remakes landing in 2019. This plot feels like it’s just hopping from song to song with a faint thread of banking troubles to link them all together, but smile past this and you’ve got a toe-tapping film which is enjoyable for the whole family.

‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is almost as sweet as the marmalade goodness and Britishness featured in the ‘Paddington’ films and what with Julie Walters playing virtually the same character and two Peruvian bears in the cast, it does feel like Disney are aiming for that charm just within the olde style of England and Poppins universe. There is a charm to be found but it doesn’t feel bold, it feels like it’s just leaning too heavily on what’s come before.

In terms of musical numbers they’re not exactly memorable ditties but they are alright in their own way. ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ is the ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ of the movie but wonderfully dings with 1930’s BMXing and lamppost choreography instead of leaping sweepers. ‘The Royal Doulton Music Hall’ is a bouncy bop and ‘A Cover is Not the Book’ is the best song by a mile.

Those last two songs appear in the aforementioned China bowl sequence which is the highlight of the entire film. The production value throughout the movie is stellar but especially so in this part. The crockery world features 2D drawings and painted costuming as Mary, Jack and the 3 Banks’ find themselves surrounded by celebrating animated folk making for a marvellous section in the story.

Blunt is practically perfect in every way and brings the strict yet nonsense-making, magic mistress quality of Julie Andrews to life. She encapsulates the sheen of the film in its better moments. Lin-Manuel Miranda easily tackles the songs as you’d expect from Hamilton master; his tongue twisting storytelling in ‘A Cover is Not the Book’ is pure exhilaration to listen to, Miranda also busts some of his own moves as Bert 2.0 and manoeuvres around the Cockney twang as he pleases but is better than what Dick van Dyke did years ago. Speaking of which, his return is sublime and you can’t help but beam as he dusts off some dance steps. If only they hadn’t revealed his involvement, the appearance would have been an even finer cinematic moment. Meryl Streep and her Russian flavoured role is a hoot and filled with joy, it is a scene that mirrors ‘I Love to Laugh’ but it looks amazing and is catchy.

So whilst the fantastical journey of Mary Poppins’ homecoming isn’t overly magical, it’s saved by the talented duo of Blunt and Miranda.

7/10

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

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The show must go on. After ups and downs that would sink even the sturdiest ship, this production has survived lead actor changes and a fired director to keep its head afloat and finally see release. It was worth the wait because this biopic docks with dynamic delight and is a blast of fun.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ chronicles the birth of the band Queen up to their Live Aid performance in 1985. It mostly follows the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), as he both deals with his sexuality and identity and the hopes that the group will achieve greatness for providing something different to the music landscape.

The story predominantly follows Freddie Mercury as his is the most captivating presence to observe. As a Queen affair, the other 3 members don’t play too much of a part, it’s mostly their music that does the talking and quickly this film sounds like a rock musical. Their incredible songs take over and though it would have been much better to let the film take some time in setting up their genesis, the sounds of their classic tunes can’t help but course through you and get your head nodding and your feet tapping.

This early rush of Mercury joining May and Taylor and before the audience knows it, the foursome are touring in America feels like a wasted opportunity for a gradual climb to their success but as the film progresses like the operatic vision in Freddie’s mind, it fills out with chords of fun brilliance and beats of more dramatic emotional moments. Though it plays fast and loose with a lot of facts, it’s a movie that gets better and better and when the credits roll you wish that it wasn’t over.

Bob Geldolf’s massive Live Aid concert bookends this film, the first scene is just a gorgeous snippet that tickles the senses to the arrival of a phenomenal band. It is the ending scene that plays out like a cinematic concert. The guitar riffs, drum smacks and Mercury’s vocals ring out and reverberate around the screen in the biggest and best possible way.

It isn’t solely their music that makes you go Radio Gaga, there could have been more to the privacy of Freddie and his band-mates but the brush strokes which paint us Freddie’s personal life are more included than you may expect. The LGBT scene of the period, his mannerisms and ultimately the disease which took his life at a cruelly young age aren’t flippantly tossed away, they were part of this icons magnificent character and the film ensures to include this side of him. The support of May, Taylor and John Deacon do come into play more as we see how supportive they are through thick and thin, without them Mercury would go on a full self-destructive crash.

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is inspired casting and though he felt unaware at first of Queen’s back catalogue, he quickly embodies the singer in such a way that there’s numerous times you think you are watching the real man in front of your very eyes. The movements of Malek are exceptional, he possesses an otherworldly electric grace that fires up the stage as Mercury did so well. These enigmatic and flamboyant touches are vibrantly sold by the actor. Lucy Boynton is a wonderful, sweet presence as Mary Austin, the woman behind Freddie. The actor can tell a thousand stories through her expressive eyes and the emotion she delivers shared with Malek are touching, you can really gauge their closeness despite everything. A semi-cameo from Mike Myers is amusing even just for his almost Shrek accent and ‘Wayne’s World’ reference.

This may definitely be a film that comes across like a self-congratulatory pat on the back to the band, with their hits zooming out of the speakers like a crazy stadium jukebox but it’s the most fun, energetic musical ride. At the end of the day, music is a universal language and Queen’s speaks volumes to how bold and visionary they were and will always be which the film very nearly reflects.

8/10

A Star is Born (2018)

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From comedy star in ‘The Hangover’ to more dramatic turns in films like ‘American Sniper’, Bradley Cooper has certainly been down many avenues and now he throws his stetson behind the camera for his directorial debut; a musical romance and fourth remake of the ‘A Star is Born’ brand.

Hugely famous country star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) seriously struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. On a desperate trawl to find a bar, Maine staggers into one where waitress by day-singer by night Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing. He quickly falls for her looks and talent and they begin a whirlwind relationship that sees Ally become a singer/songwriter idol.

In the 1950’s Judy Garland headlined the first remake and the 70’s saw Barbra Streisand take the lead in a rock and roll setting, one Bollywood film later and now it’s mega popstar Lady Gaga’s turn to take the cinematic stage. There’s no doubt that she’ll be up for an Oscar nomination because her performance is sensational and she makes the film what it is. The road to success with tricky obstacles and media manipulation is ripe for the times currently in Hollywood and the music perfectly encapsulates Ally and Jackson’s rocky relationship.

This movie is like a biopic of Gaga’s career, you can just see how the films’ content of moulding someone to how the management want them to be, mirrors her Poker Face days, before her songwriting and more heartfelt tunes took flight. The pop music side of Ally’s journey and the SNL showbiz aspect are necessary attributes in showing how the industry works and really demonstrates Ally as a strong individual to stick with all these changes in the dream of being recognised for her talent. She also sticks with Maine because he saw that spark within her, their relationship may be odd and harbour some cheesy moments but it feels real and the pair work beautifully together.

At a certain point it does feel like the film stretches ever so slightly and you could almost check out of the plot but thanks to the music you get drawn back in. Also, there is a very predictable narrative to follow but there’s some stunning cinematography from Matthew Libatique which goes from a pristine bathroom to a gorgeously crimson tinged drag club and the films final shot rests on a powerful, stunning image and though it is silent it sings a thousand words. On top of the great DoP work, the musical numbers themselves are toe-tappingly heartfelt and ‘Shallow’; a song penned by Gaga and Mark Ronson is gunning for an Oscar nom as well and rightly so because it screams with drama.

Cooper, with his flushed red cheeks and slurring Western drawl embodies the stereotypical drunken cowboy singer but softens this rough edges with a clear love for his Ally rose. Gaga is incredible throughout, her voice is a God given gift that fills the heart and the speakers with power. It isn’t just her singing talents that sell the film, she makes Ally a fully rounded character and you truly buy into her rise to stardom with a difficult romance aiding the way.

‘A Star is Born’ is a country and western musical for modern times and like TV show ‘Nashville’, it hits with lyrical gems and dramatic characters to soar to the top of the charts.

7/10