Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Top 16 Films of 2016

With 2016 coming to a close, time to look back over the year's cinematic releases (UK release date only) and select my favourite films.

1.  Arrival

2.  Nocturnal Animals

3.  Train To Busan

4.  Your Name

5.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

6.  Paterson

7.  The Neon Demon

8.  The Nice Guys

9.  The Revenant

10.  High-Rise

11.  Son Of Saul

12.  Captain America: Civil War

13.  Hell Or High Water

14.  The Jungle Book

15.  10 Cloverfield Lane

16=  Kubo And The Two Strings
16=  The Conjuring 2

Best Film Not To Receive Full Theatrical Release - James White

Friday, 5 August 2016

Suicide Squad - review

Ever since Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale hung up the cowl in The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) has been playing catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which itself only started back in 2008 with the risky (at the time) Iron Man.

At that point, besides Spider-Man 2 and X2, the DC movies were considered the better films.

But Marvel found their groove and after a string of successful solo movies, they unleashed The Avengers and have never looked back.

Following the lukewarm reception to Man Of Steel, they were desperate for a hit with Batman VS Superman but the critics once again were not impressed.

Suddenly there was a LOT riding on the success of Suicide Squad and unfortunately they are left with another mess on their hands.

It is difficult to tell how much the finished product has been influenced by the fallout from the BvS backlash but the film feels tonally all over the shop.

We are introduced to Deadshot and Harley Quinn at the very start, only to then be reintroduced to them again as Amanda Waller outlines her Task Force X project along with some other bad guys.

Characters drift in and out of the movie, some only there for exposition (or is that explosition?), randomly inserted cameos that serve no purpose except "Justice League is coming!" and scenes seem to be disjointed, like something has been left on the editing room floor. Plus the action scenes are dull and often confusing (particularly the climatic showdown).

The first half features a director plugging rolls of quarters into a jukebox and putting the random selections on top of scenes only to run out of cash halfway through and replace them with a generic score.

Character-wise, Will Smith's Deadshot gets an actual backstory and has the most charasmatic turn in the film. Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn bigger than her hot pants (which isn't saying much) and Jay Hernandez's Diablo does get an arc to his story.

Beyond that, everyone else is completely forgettable but the two worst performances are from Cara Delevingne and Jared Leto's Joker.

Delevingne's Enchantress spends most of her time awkwardly gyrating round the room like she is trying to remove a wedgie whilst doing an impersonation of Cate Blanchett in Lord Of The Rings when Galadriel goes all demonic!

The fact that Leto spent all that time and effort tormenting the cast and crew with his antics is the biggest joke because his Joker pales in comparison to the other iconic screen interpretations.

The biggest condemnation of the film is actually in a post credits scene where two characters discuss how the Suicide Squad mission was a failure and they should have left it to the Justice League. Take out the DC characters and put in two WB executives and you have an accurate description of conversations that will be had in the office on Monday morning.

The Manic Street Preachers sang that "Suicide Is Painless". Sadly watching Suicide Squad is anything but.

2 stars

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Green Room - Review

The date Friday the 13th is synonymous with misfortune, horror and a guy with a hockey mask. Replace the guy with the hockey mask with an evil Patrick Stewart and you have this week’s new release Green Room.
Following a gig in a Neo-Nazi bar, punk band The Ain't Rights find themselves in a Green Room that is witness to more horror and carnage than the aftermath of an Ozzy Osbourne or Justin Bieber gig.
Forget a bottle of Jack Daniels or 1000 brown M&M's in a brandy glass, the only thing on their rider is staying alive… and that is not a copy of the Bee Gees song either.
The band must survive the night and fight their way out in the hope that they might play one final encore. Patrick Stewart however, in a role that is more American History X than Professor X, is determined to stop them. In fact you could say he will “make it so” that they are a one hit wonder.
With all great horror films, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier wastes no time in effectively setting up the band dynamics before it all goes south and he ramps up the tension and violence all the way to 11 whilst shredding more nerves than guitar solos along the way to a bloody crescendo.
Having filmed Blue Ruin and Green Room, one wonders if Jeremy Saulnier will complete his own Three Colours trilogy with a red-based film. Perhaps Red Rum? A sequel to The Shining or a biopic of the Grand National-winning horse maybe?

4 stars

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Oscar Predictions

It’s that time of year when everybody attempts to predict the results of this evening’s Oscar ceremony.

It some ways it is a tricky thing to do. Outside of the fact that no one really understands the differences between sound mixing and sound editing.

Do you say who you think should win or do you try and predict who the Academy will vote for (anybody who’s white essentially).

So therefore each category will have three answers; who will win, who should win and where appropriate who should have been nominated… with the exception of the short film categories which will be predicted using the same technique as placing a bet on the Grand National i.e. which one has the best name!


Best Animated Short Film

Bear Story, Prologue (predicted winner), Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World Of Tomorrow


Best Live Action Short Film

Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay (Alles WirdGut) (predicted winner)Shok, Stutterer


Visual Effects

Ex_Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Will win – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Should win – Ex_Machina


Sound Mixing

Bridge Of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road


Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, SicarioStar Wars: The Force Awakens


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win  Mad Max: Fury Road


Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room


Will win – The Big Short

Should win – The Big Short

Should have been nominated (and won) – Steve Jobs


Original Screenplay

Bridge Of Spies, Ex_Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton


Will win – Spotlight

Should win – Ex_Machina

Should have been nominated  The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino)


Production Design

Bridge Of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated – Crimson Peak


Original Song

Earned It – Fifty Shades Of Grey, Manta Ray – Racing Extinction, Simple Song 3 – Youth, Til It Happens To You – The Hunting Ground, Writing’s On The Wall – SPECTRE


Will win Til It Happens To You (The Hunting Ground)

Should win – Simple Song 3 (Youth)

Should have been nominated  See You Again (Fast & Furious 7)


Original Score

Bridge Of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win – The Hateful Eight

Should win – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Should have been nominated – It Follows and Mad Max: Fury Road


Make up & Hair

Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared, The Revenant


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated – Crimson Peak


Foreign Language Film

Embrace Of The Serpent, Mustang, Son Of Saul (predicted winner)Theeb, A War


Animated Feature Film

Anomalisa, Boy And The World, Inside Out, Shaun The Sheep, When Marnie Was There


Will win – Inside Out

Should win – Inside Out



The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road


Documentary Short Film

Body Term 12 (predicted winner), Chau Beyond The Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of The Shoah, The Girl On The River: The Place Of Forgiveness, Last Day Of Freedom


Documentary Feature 

Amy, Cartel Land, The Look Of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom


Will win – The Look Of Silence

Should win – The Look Of Silence



The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight


Will win – Alejandro GInarrituThe Revenant

Should win – Alejandro GInarrituThe Revenant

Should have been nominated  Ridley Scott, The Martian


Costume Design

Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant


Will win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated – Crimson Peak



Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario


Will win – The Revenant.

Should win – The Revenant

Sorry Roger Deakins, 13th time unlucky as Emmanuel Lubezkiwill make it three Oscars in a row.

Should have been nominated  This is actually the only category where the five nominated films are the five best shot films of the year.


Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)


Will win – Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Should win – Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs). Only saying Winslet should win as Vikander and Mara should have been nominated in the lead actress category

Should have been nominated  Cynthia Nixon (James White)


Best Actor In A Supporting Role

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)


Will win – Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Should win – Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Should have been nominated – Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) or Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight)


Best Actress In A Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), SaiorseRonan (Brooklyn)


Will win – Brie Larson (Room)

Should win – Brie Larson (Room)

Should have been nominated  Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) or Emily Blunt (Sicario)


Best Actor In A Leading Role

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)


Will win – Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Should win – Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)



Best Picture

The Big Short, Bridge Of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight


Will win – The Revenant

Should win – Mad Max: Fury Road

Should have been nominated – Carol or Star Wars: The Force AwakensComing off the back of the awful prequels, the fact that it was so nostalgic yet set the bar high for the future meant it was deserving of a nomination.





Friday, 19 February 2016

High-Rise - Glasgow Film Festival Review


There is an old saying in Hollywood: “Don’t kill the dog.


You can get away with just about anything else in a movie but killing a dog (or other animal for that matter) can be seen by an audience as an unforgivable act. Just ask John Wick!


So for director Ben Wheatley to begin the film with the lovable Tom Hiddleston seemingly rescue a dog only to barbecue it on his patio, this is an incredibly bold move and one that signals all bets are off in this adaptation of JG Ballard’s 1975 yet incredibly prescient novel.


Now that is in no way a spoiler for the movie. In fact it is in the first line of the book; <i>”Later, as he sat on his balconyeating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”</i>


Tom Hiddleston plays Dr. Robert Laing who moves into an apartment on the 25th floor of the giant high-rise building designed by architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), who resides at the very top (obviously) while men like Richard Wilder (Luke Evans), a rambunctious family man, live nearer the bottom (again pay attention to the names).


At first, everything is normal. Laing is comfortable in his setting. Able to mix with everyone in the building whilst not belonging to any particular group. He is our cypher into this world. It is no coincidence that he paints the walls of his apartment grey. This is a man who wants to go unnoticed, blend in and not create waves or even a ripple.


And ripples do start to appear. Ripples that turn into cracks, that start at the base of the building and slowly work their way up to the top.


Increasingly we are of a generation where we don’t know our neighbours and no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors and there are a lot of doors in this high-rise, each with their own interesting characters such as Reece Shearsmith’s orthodontist, Sienna Miller’s socialite single mother, James Purefoy’s hedonistic lawyer and Sienna Guillory’s washed-up actress.


When the building begins to break down, so do the doors and the tenant’s true feelings and inhibitions are released.


The building suffers from power cuts, and when it does the power is cut off from the lower floors in order to keep the power in the higher floors, where the richer residents live. This is just the spark that threatens to ignite the whole powder keg as the lower classes start to rise up against the higher floors until all the residents are on an express elevator to hell. All set to the tune of ABBA’s S.O.S. (covered quite stunningly by Portishead).

Wheatley’s direction, coupled with Clint Mansell’s fantastic score, delivers a dizzying and demented ascent through many different stories as people desperately try to make their way to the top as society falls all around them in an orgy of sex, drugs and violence that they are incapable of escaping… despite the fact the front door is always open.

It’s as if everyone wants to be sitting at the head table on the Titanic as it charts a course to Sodom and Gomorrah!


It paints a similar picture to 2014’s Snowpiercer which saw a world destroyed by climate change, with the survivorsall on one train that continuously circled the earth. The dregs of society lived in squalor at the rear of the train while the 1% lived in opulence at the front. That is until one day the 99% decided they had had enough of being a shoe and started a revolution, working their way forward to take control of the train.


However High-Rise is much more than just the vertical Snowpiercer… but since High-Rise was written before Snowpiercer, does that make Snowpiercer the horizontal High-Rise?


The excellent production design and costuming make it feel like it is from the Seventies when the book was written (it even features the voice of Maggie Thatcher who rose to power in 1979, yet it also has a old-school British science-fiction feel to it that gives it a timeless quality thus acting as a warning of where society is heading but also where it has come from.


Following on from the bizarre and brilliant Kill List and A Field In England</i>, Ben Wheatley has raised his game and delivered a terrific adaptation that will see High-Rise end up very high on many people’s Best of 2016 lists.


5 stars

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Hail Caesar! - Glasgow Film Festival Review

Last night was the opening gala for the twelfth Glasgow Film Festival which is now one of the “<i>biggest film festivals in the UK… and Europe!</i>, as proudly stated by Festival co-directors Alison Gardner and Allan Hunter during their welcomeflanked by Roman Centurions.


The festival kicked off with some good old-fashioned Hollywood glitz and glamour in the form of the UK Premiere of the Coen Brothers new film <i>Hail Caesar!</i>… hence the aforementioned centurions.

<i>Hail Caesar</i> looks at one day in the life of Capitol Pictures resident studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin)who faces a delicate juggling act trying to get four different productions and their problems back on track and out of the gossip columns. This proves particularly difficult when his biggest star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group of communist screenwriters known as “The Future”.


On the surface, the film is a love letter to the golden age of the studio system.


There is the big budget Roman epic Hail Caesar!; Busby Berkeley-esque synchronised swimming dance number with Scarlett Johansson as a mermaid; Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-type dancing up a storm in a tap dancing number featuring a score of sailors and seamen singing about the life they’ll have on sea with no dames around; and in the film’s funniest scene, a stuffy English director struggles to mould an actor best known for cowboy pictures into a straight costume drama, would that it were so simple!


Underneath however there is an underlying criticism of the current Hollywood system. In <i>Hail Caesar</i>, the kidnappers of Baird Whitlock are a group of communist screenwriters who believe that it is unfair that the studios profit from their work, with none of them seeing any reciprocal reward and even blacklisted and shut out of the system when they attempt to write anything new or subversive into screenplays that doesn’t fit into the studio’s ideals.


This could be seen as a comment on the frustrations of the screenwriters and filmmakers face in the Hollywood of today, where the main focus is the generation of profits through endless remakes and sequels and where the commissioning of original screenplays is much rarer, particularly in a system where there is a massive gap in terms of budgets where the mid-sized picture with a budget of $40-80 million doesn’t really exist anymore. Instead it is $2-10 million indie or a tentpole $100-150 million blockbuster.


It also fits in to the larger Coen Brothers universe because Capitol Pictures is the same movie studio that Barton Fink worked at, and where he was ultimately blacklisted by a studio head for writing a “<i>fruity movie about suffering</i>” rather than a straightforward wrestling picture.


A minor criticism of a film filled with wonderful characters such as Ralph Fiennes’ director Laurence Laurentz and Alden Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle (who at one point actually performs a spaghetti western), it would have nice to spend more screen time with them as these characters tend to come in and out of the picture quite frequently but this is ultimately Mannix’s story.

One that Brolin plays well as a man trying to decide whether his time in the business is over, or perhaps it is the business itself that is over.


Ultimately, <i>Hail Caesar!</i> proves there is no business like show business! A sentiment echoed by the <b>Glasgow Film Festival</b> who not only put on a splendid after party complete with showgirls, lindyhoppers, champagne and canap├ęs, gramophone DJ and photo booth but have assembled a fantastic programme of cinema over the next 11 days.

<b>4 stars</i>