Call Me By Your Name (2017)


After missing out upon it’s initial release, awards hopeful ‘Call Me by Your Name’ returned to a cinema near me and though I liked the sun-drenched aesthetic, music and performances, I didn’t find myself captivated by the plot in any way.

In 1983, an American grad student called Oliver (Armie Hammer), spends 6 weeks of his summer at the Perlman residence to help with his paperwork. Seventeen year old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) begins seeing this outside figure as a nuisance but it moves forward to secretive hang outs and a blossoming first love for him to ride the highs and lows of.

Luca Guadagnino’s directive stamp on this is pretty stunning, The Great Beauty of an undisclosed Italian location is as ripe as a peach for beautiful moments. Sayombhu Mudkeeprom works with the director to create shots that are filled with yellow rays and highlight the glory of both Italy and this summer love. Closing Guadagnino’s ‘Desire’ trilogy, this is definitely a glorious and interesting melancholic yarn being spun; it’s without a doubt a much more engaging movie than ‘A Bigger Splash’, but again it’s a release that suffers with length.

I must admit I did in fact get quite bored during the late stages of the second half. In the first part, the setting, characters and music all get introduced very well but as the private romance begins, the film started waning and stretched almost into boredom for me, where I was just waiting for the obvious moment when the two would go their separate ways.

The main reason I feel like the later scenes distanced me, is because I never ever bought into their relationship. It’s meant to be this beautiful spark of mutual attraction but I didn’t once believe they loved each other. It felt like Elio was a kid infatuated and Oliver was taking on a summer fling; which makes the consequent second half and their sad parting…well not very sad at all. The story didn’t resonate with me in the way I expected it would, considering all the astounding reviews it’s been collecting recently. I in no way disliked the film, I just started tiring by the end and wouldn’t recommend it outright.

I did thoroughly enjoy the score, almost wrapping me up into the lush scenery of the film. A piano heavy backdrop of music works well in both providing a nice lullaby tone and mirroring the pianist skills of Elio himself. Sufjan Stevens gifts the movie three songs and Mystery of Love; which is in contention for an Academy Award, is like some calm water gently soaking over you as you listen. The song perfectly compliments the look and tone of the film.

Chalamet is a wonderful presence, at times presenting himself wrapped round Oliver, like the curved statues spoken of as displaying desire. He brings this quiet teen intellect to the character but you can see there’s a nervous unknowing to how his narrative plays out, which is quite fascinating to watch. Hammer possesses this goofy charm throughout the picture, a serene confidence to his character and the eventual relationship. It’s definitely one of his finer turns and I’m sold on his dance moves which are care free and delightful. Michael Stuhlbarg is in this and it’s a wonder, no, a crying shame that he hasn’t been up for a major award yet, because he most often is the best quality in a production, and in this he provides good touches of humour, believable dad advice and a calming aspect to run with the general calmness of the story.

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is an assured sweet film about the ride of first love and it’s summer tinged backdrop is a wonderful look to bolster the vivid exploration of Elio’s crush. I just wasn’t as taken by the story itself that’s all.



Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015)


When you go in to see a Mission: Impossible film you can always guarantee action, fun and a well constructed story, try and forgot the second one, and this outing is no exception, really taking action packed to the limits we see badass Cruise globe-hopping in a darker tale as a twisted version of the spy force become the ones to find.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is under investigation with the rest of IMF – Impossible Mission Force, he uses his time to focus on his theory that an operative titled The Syndicate is to blame for a series of accidents. Pulling back together tech whizz Benji (Simon Pegg) Hunt tries to track down the leader of this evil group to prove IMF is a worthy organisation. Though mysterious newbie Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) may prove to be a help and hindrance as all actions shoot towards the finale.

Just to put it out there, I do love Mission: Impossible movies, there’s something so entertaining about them that even if the plot sometimes weakens I don’t really notice or care. Yet this fifth installment has an interesting arc, with a darker take on an IMF set up being one step ahead of Ethan’s usual one step ahead routine. The story is engaging and it pulls together more than a couple of impossible mission scenarios while still balancing that undercurrent of finding a shadow organisation. At times you can tell where things may go, as in it being a tale of them being shut down and scrutinised, this ‘in hiding’ situation comes with certain expectations but it’s done well.

Now to the action, where Cruise clearly has no insurance policy or one so high that I fear for the people behind the camera yanking at the collar as he runs about the place like a mini rocket. When a film begins with a sequence so barmy and yet brilliant as Tom Cruise jumping onto a moving plane and then hanging on as it takes off, you know you’re in for a ride and a half. That moment is no less cool even if you’ve seen the trailers and adverts multiple times. Then car and motorbike chases, fist fights and an underwater task pile in to add more fun to the mix as the movie progresses its 130 minute run time.

Christopher McQuarrie follows up Brad Bird’s glorious Ghost Protocol with a film that packs a lot in but it looks good too. It appears like it should, establishing shots of worldwide locations, fast crazed close ups for the fighting and slow builds for the Impossible moments, like Benji taking the nervous trip through a Moroccan power station. It might not be stylish or have some kind of poetic handle but McQuarrie gifts the film that necessary summer blockbuster vibe and focuses on presenting these action scenes in an exhilarating way.

Highlight of the film for me, in terms of directing, music and action is the Austrian Opera scene which is a fantastically grand series of events that looks breathtaking even if it’s taking in the backstage of an opera. The theatrical way it keeps on building, rigging keeps on moving and characters add to Hunt’s confusion of who to trust which we join, is masterful. It’s a beautiful sequence aided by a fantastic score and stands out as intriguing, classy and gripping.

The music scored by Joe Kraemer is orchestral and swelling to do its best in raising the hairs on the back of your neck. He utilises the theme by Lalo Schifrin, adding country flavour to the famous sounds, in London it becomes classic and regal and it Morocco it comes across exotic. The score in between is just as neat in adding to the visuals and building that sense of urgency in the battles Ethan must face. Cleverly as well, from the beginning using a record shop to discuss classical music, the film takes it further by blending sections of ‘Nessun Dorma’ underneath scenes which comes to fruition in that opera sequence in Vienna.

Tom Cruise is the man when it comes to doing stunts. He’s always reliable for action and this film makes that statement no less true. Gladly you’re not watching a double or CGI, you know that the man up there on screen is none other than Cruise. His determination is what makes him likable and he pretty much is Ethan Hunt. Rebecca Ferguson is an enigmatic arrival in the franchise, balancing that shadowy ambiguity really well. Step aside critics as well as she’s a kick ass female character that can hold her own, provides a challenge for the male lead and isn’t there for a romantic entanglement. Simon Pegg, once more comes back for that ingredient of light relief though his role is amped up more as he’s put on the field in a bigger way and could face the consequences. Jeremy Renner is slightly sidelined to a suit and politics role as he hangs back traversing Hunley’s orders. Alec Baldwin who I can no longer see as anyone but Jack Donaghy is there as the role Baldwin can do in his sleep but therefore it sells. Ving Rhames exudes cool in a glare though he too is on the outskirts with Renner as it becomes the Ethan & Benji show. Then there’s Sean Harris as the most chilling villain yet, his costuming adding to the slender figure of Harris’ precise acting, creepily calm voice and cold stare.

It isn’t the best in the series but it ticks all the boxes required for a fun and entertaining watch with enough action to please the senses. It’s a cool summer blast of mystery, thrills and spills to make way for more I’m sure.


Ant-Man (2015)


In that expected Marvel way, this last Phase 2 movie is formulaic but it has a welcome change in terms of style. It’s more light and loose with the way it builds the hero origin and the perspectives of Ant-Man’s world give the film a new edge.

Recently released convict Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is scouted out for hire by one time hero and scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to become the new user of his Ant-Man suit. Trying to stop S.H.I.E.L.D and now Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from using the dangerous technology, Hank and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) help Scott become the necessary hero to stop shrink tech getting into the wrong hands.

After going through small halts in its production phase and then a big piece of news in exciting directing talent Edgar Wright jumping off the deck, this film is slightly evident in not being so smooth as the previous slick efforts from team Marvel. Peyton Reed does direct the film with enough style to showcase the big moments of being small yet mighty and the humour from Wright’s mark is still clear thanks to Rudd and writer Adam McKay aiding the scripts changes. It’s just slightly shaky at times in the way that the film builds to the conclusion.

It’s good that Wright and Joe Cornish still get screenplay credit and Edgar Wright’s fast paced and comedic value is felt throughout a lot of the film even though he wasn’t behind the camera. Obviously we don’t fully know what parts were kept until a possible DVD bonus feature sheds some light but that zanier zippier quirk of humour feels strong in Luis’ accounts and generally how Scott is as a character. Peyton Reed includes an Avenger which works, maybe not part of Wright’s vision to make it stand alone but this hero’s part isn’t forced and becomes right for the story and I liked them being there.

Spectacle wise, this film is a showboat for the microscopic detail of Scott’s journey into insect sized heroism. The initial sequence when he first sees what the suit is capable of is is brilliant, from bath tub dilemmas to night club traversing, the mini him is literally thrown into a terrifying new life. The design of the suit with it’s graphics beaming around it as it shrinks is cool and the jumping back and forth between sizes makes for a pacy film. It’s also a great way to utilise on the comedy of the situation, the Thomas the Tank Engine moments leaping out as perfect examples.

The villain is slightly underwhelming, though he’s bad and doesn’t give a damn, he’s like most wrong ‘uns, charging their way to make money and not stopping until they win. Darren is like Obadiah in ‘Iron Man’, from who is in comparison to the initial hero to their rise to evil. The Yellowjacket suit is super fancy though and does look nasty, those many sharp prongs giving it a creepy wasp vibe even though the Wasp is another creation altogether.

Paul Rudd has everything needed to tackle a Marvel cinematic lead and most of that comes from the charm of him being the incapable hero. It’s no Chris Pratt performance but Rudd is likable and is the strongest element of this film. Evangeline Lilly packs the punches in training Scott, at times put to the sidelines but for purpose that is seen later in the films progress. She has the emotion under the duress of a tough father who won’t let her show her potential. Corey Stoll does more than enough with the smirks and glares as Darren Cross and though the villain is poor, Stoll makes him feel like he’s better. Michael Pena gifts narrations with a funny pang of speed and nonsense and his constant happy unknowing grin about situations is brilliant. Michael Douglas is intelligent yet vulnerable as Hank Pym, the leading knowledge in science is also fractured by a past loss and his desire to protect Hope. Douglas displays both sides of this character very well.

It’s not exactly a truly exciting film like the new additions of Star-Lord, Groot and the gang but Ant-Man has some snappy visuals and enough difference to keep the Marvel Universe chugging along nicely. A fun, pacy summer watch about tiny thrills with a big heart.


Inside Out (2015)


Thoughtful and brimming with creativity, this is Pixar well and truly back on the scene after a few scratchy patches. The construction, emotion and wonder of what keeps our minds ticking leads the film into some smart colourful set ups with that expected Pixar stamp of heart you can’t dislike.

Minnesota born Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is going through the upheaval of moving to San Francisco with her mum and dad, little knowing that inside her head are the emotions keeping her brain chugging along and aiding her actions. Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are at the controls until two of the team end up lost in the back-lot of Riley’s mind and need to get back to stop the 11 year old from going awry.

There is so much joy to be had within this film, the colour coded characters for a start lift the film with that bright feeling of bold warmth, reds, blues and yellows shine on the screen gifting us that summer buzz. That could just be me but Pixar have a knack for lighting up cinemas with their tales of objects, be it toys or emotions, delighting audiences and putting some sort of magical glow in my heart. It’s the clever storytelling that keeps them ahead in the game and this is no exception.

Pete Docter directs but also conjured up the story and screenplay along with help from Ronnie del Carmen, Josh Cooley and Meg LeFauve. The process of what goes on inside our skulls could be dark but they give it such unyielding spirit. Of course the plot travels down the sadness route to provide dramatic weight and this is something they always build up well. The straining family backdrop accompanied by the struggle of keeping Riley as they want is tense and believable, considering that the film is about walking talking emotions in our heads.

Also, there’s such fantastic rewards to be had in the journey that we go on with two of the emotions. Discovering what the subconscious, long term memory and other thought processes look like is a visual treat. The story makes room for clever openings on how we work as people and what could be behind our eyes helping us make decisions. Concepts of imaginary friends and forgotten memories all truly make you think when Pixar are at the wheel.

Michael Giacchino composes and you can feel that same emotive sense in the music that he crafted for ‘Up’. It bounces along when necessary making you happy and when the troubles begin bubbling away the music becomes tense, not too dark for the kids but worrying enough that you feel the desired emotions. I’m worried about how many times I’m writing the word emotions in this film review. But seriously, it stirs up the right…feels.

Animation wise, the content is gorgeous, the flaking static design of the main emotions and how each one suits their host body is perfect. The memory balls are shining, the view of Riley’s islands is intelligent and detailed and once the journey begins seeing the wonderful ways the brain could be if we were so lucky is fascinating. A dream scene and the little moment of abstraction and turning into broken pieces and 2D art is a cool sequence to watch. It’s a provoking and warm welcome back to this studio and their work.

All the voices suit greatly, Amy Poehler brings a peppy kick to Joy and though she’s control obsessed you can’t help but like her for the sunny disposition she has on the story. The golden voice has to be with Phyllis Smith who somehow makes you laugh and empathise with someone so one tone in their speech. Simply put, it’s a fantastically delivered role. Bill Hader freaks out in a non annoying way as Fear, Mindy Kaling manages to make you smirk as the person inside all of us wanting to spit the truth and Lewis Black blows his top being Anger, the rough determination speaking to all of us who want to get mad. As I mentioned the voices suit greatly, making the characters stand out as individual and integral.

It’s something that is more than worth one watch just to break up the unoriginal trash that floods cinemas consistently. It’s so damn inventive, fun and emotional that inside and out this movie does everything it needs to entice and excite people of every age. No disgust or anger, just sheer joy.


The Kings of Summer (2013)


Originally titled ‘Toy House’ this is a sort of sweet coming-of-age comedy and drama that does at least grab the essence of summer, it just at times feels as if it’s forcing dramatic connections too much and some of the comedic moments are annoying not funny.

The plot sees a growing lad called Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) growing in frustration at living with his single father who always comes down on him. Joe’s friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is in the same boat of getting sick of his parents who are pretty darn irritating. After a freak disperse at a party, Joe and the local oddball Biaggio (Moises Arias) stumble upon a clearing in the woods that sparks off an idea in Joe to runaway from home and make their own place in the wild.

The first section of the film is really good and looks stunning. The opening beat of the metal pipe smashed on by Patrick and Joe make for a big echoing beat that looks good in slow motion and makes for an interesting unique curtain opener. The set up of Joe as well is good and his bird house mishap is a good little character detail to get more into the zone of who Joe is. There is a lot of slow motion to be had, not just in the first stages of this movie but throughout. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it feels like someone is going overboard with putting slo-mo in. The story does a great job in giving us the characters and setting up the feeling of what is to come. The hints at attraction Joe has for fellow school goer Kelly (Erin Moriarty) are fed in enough that we get he’s into her even if she is dating. This becomes more significant as his emotions to do with her are played with down the line.

As the film progresses it starts, at times, feeling a tad pushy in making parallels clear to the audience. It’s already nearly 100% obvious that the film starts alluding to the similarities between how Joe is becoming like his father but then there’s a montage segment that cuts back and forth between the two in similar situations, just in home vs. wild and that’s unnecessary. Also in the nature world there is a lot of close ups of animals, trees or other suitably woody like shots to make you realise they’re moving into this green environment. It’s alright to begin with but they don’t need to keep on showing these close ups, it’s not a BBC documentary narrated by David Attenborough.

The soundtrack is both fantastic and annoying. There are some moments where the music feeling your ears stirs the right emotions and works with the images moving on the screen and there are other songs that feel out of place but wouldn’t go amiss in an MTV marathon. It’s the fact that music comes into play a lot that takes away from the power of silence or just dialogue. I truly feel that cinema doesn’t need to rely on music to tell a story and if it does then the story isn’t worth telling. You can present a film without overusing a soundtrack and this film goes into that direction.

Joe is played brilliantly by Nick Robinson, even if connecting to his character becomes harder to do as he becomes more of an unlikeable fellow. I realise it is part of the development in his love and agony of how to deal with the facts he witnesses but some of the things he says and does make it a little difficult to empathise with him. At least Robinson portrays this changing character with conviction and becomes the wild man needed to sell this summer of discovery story. Basso plays Patrick really well in being the pulled along best friend who has more likeability than Joe but doesn’t have the motivation all the time to come up with these schemes. Arias really hits it out of the park in being the strikingly surreal yet kind Biaggio, he can sometimes be a slight annoyance but on the most part his comedy lands and he gets the biggest share of laughs with Nick Offerman who plays Joe’s dad Frank. The ‘Parks and Recreation’ star gets his teeth into the funnier model of parental nasty than that compared to Steve Carell’s father in ‘The Way Way Back’, though both are harsh and unlikeable characters. Alison Brie is in a small capacity unfortunately but plays the sweet caring sister of Joe well and does the job of helping Frank see he can be mean to others.

There are some frankly brilliant scenes in this film, the opening, the construction of the wood house, the two monopoly scenes are brilliant in magiking up that tense family strain when playing board games. The case of crossing the road for chicken is a funny aspect in their failed trials of being at one with nature. It’s a good little summery movie of adventure in friendship and heartbreak and it’s hard now to get a coming-of-age drama/comedy flick right in an ever increasing market of them but this squeezes in as a satisfactory addition to the genre.

A good film if not as great as I was expecting and hoping for. It achieves the sunny side of summer and the more downer moods of unrequited love but I doubt it will stand the test of time as an example of how to make these types of movies.