Monday, 26 February 2018

I, Tonya - review

Tonya Harding faced obstacle after obstacle in her pursuit to become the greatest figure skater in the world. Whether it was an overbearing mother, abusive husband or judging panels who dislike her trailer trash upbringing, Tonya refused to let anything stand in her way. Even an opponent's kneecap. She just kept moving towards her goal.
Like someone once said "Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill".
While she may not have achieved her dream of becoming an Olympic champion, Harding did achieve notariety and infamy as one of the first "celebrities" born of the 24 hour news channel era, coming just before O.J. Simpson.
Indeed, the Harding/Kerrigan incident is one of the first celebrity news stories this reviewer remembers following during the Nineties and now, 24 years later, director Craig Gillespie aims to tell Tonya Harding's story through the people that lived it. Even if it might not be the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" but based on "irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly".
The mockumentary-style of interviews, killer soundtrack and fourth-wall breaking may not bring audiences any closer to knowing whether of not Tonya really did or did not have anything to do with the attack on Kerrigan but will bring close comparisons to Scorsese's Goodfellas. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a figure skater".
It will also generate sympathy and empathy for Harding thanks to an incredible performance from Margot Robbie. She nails the brashness and bravado of the impetuous skater as perfectly as Tonya could land the famed Triple Axel but also the sadness and vunerability of a woman who lived with abuse from everyone she loved, including her mother who is played with a foul-mouthed frenzy by the scene-stealing Allison Janney.
But it is towards the end of the film, when she is faced with the prospect of losing everything that she has worked so hard to achieve that Robbie delivers a performance as good as Tom Hanks' breakdown at the end of Captain Phillips.
In any other year, the Best Actress Oscar would have Margot's name on it but sadly, right now the only way for Robbie to win now is to hobble McDormand on her way to the podium!

3 stars

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Mute (Netflix Originals) - review

When Duncan Jones finally announced that Mute would arrive on Netflix in February, it ended the wait for his spiritual follow up to his debut Moon, one that began back in 2009 and at one point could have become a graphic novel until Netflix came along to allow Jones the opportunity to make the film he had always wanted to make, in the way he wanted to make it.
With the announcement, Jones debuted a poster he had commissioned for himself (above) that evokes the style of a '40s style pulp fiction novel or Warner Bros film noir.
Film Noir is a genre synonymous with men in sharp suits and fedoras, femme fatales, murder, betrayal, mystery and lots and lots of drinking. It might conjure images of black and white but the characters are anything but. Living in a world of more than fifty shades of grey.
But the hard boiled genre that has been transported successfully into other genres throughout the years including high school (Brick), stoner comedy (The Big Lebowski) and science fiction (Blade Runner).
Wearing its admiration for Ridley Scott's seminal film on its sleeve, writer-director Duncan Jones has created a futuristic Berlin that aesthetically feels like it could live in the same universe. Albeit one where Lunar Industries had taken over the Tyrell Corporation instead of Wallace Industries.
The greater influence is that of Casablanca. Just like the classic film, the city exists as a holding pen for the lost and. Those waiting and looking for a way out.
One such soul is Leo (Alexander Sarsgaard), a bartender who is mute due to a childhood accident which went without treatment due to his Amish upbringing. Leo's potential escape takes the form of cocktail waitress Naadirah, a woman who seems to love him for who he is but she has secrets. As all great femme fatale do.
The catalyst for the story is her disappearance which forces Leo to interact with a technological world that he does not understand in order to try and discover her whereabouts and reason for her absence. His inability to interact with technology hampers his search and unable to simply "turn it off and on again", he must resort to blunt (and brutal) force to get answers the old fashioned way.
This ultimately sets him on a collision course with two mysterious characters called Cactus Bill and Duck (played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux), a couple of Americans working in the city as doctors and surgeons for the criminal underworld; styled after "Hawkeye" and "Trapper John" in M*A*S*H.
At first, it seems that they are two very different cases. Leo is searching for a girl. Cactus Bill for a couple of permits so he can return to the US with his daughter (just like Viktor and Isla in Casablanca). But as with all great film noirs, the two plot lines eventually converge into a shocking final act.
Mute is like a blend of two Harrison Ford films as Witness meets Blade Runner.
Blade Runner was the film that coined the term Tech Noir, a futuristic blend of the new and old technologies and styles. While it is admirable that Jones has given his character the technological adverseness of an Amish upbringing, to provide more obstacles for our hero there is not enough made of this in the first act to justify his reluctance later on down the line.
In the opening prologue, he has the opportunity to have surgery to fix his vocal cords by this is refused by his Amish parents. Skip forward twenty years and he is living alone in Berlin, surrounded by technology but still remains strict Amish. Why did he move to the city and away from his family but keep his beliefs?
This leads to a situation where the more interesting characters are Cactus Bill & Duck and anytime they are not on screen, you find yourself wanting to go back to them.
One wonders that with a couple of tweaks, the film could have featured Bill as the lead character trying to find a way home for himself and his daughter only to find his plans upended by a vengeful mute bartender.
It could have worked as the prickly customer Cactus Bill is a tour-de-force performance from Paul Rudd, showcasing a side to him that has never been on screen before... along with some epic moustache work.
Rudd has great chemistry with his partner-in-crime Theroux and they spark off each other brilliantly, calling each other "babe" which leaves it open to the audience as to whether they are just two friends and comrades who have served together in war, or if it does hint at something more beneath the surface.
Both actors cope admirably as some startling facts about their pasts are revealed, shocking each other and the audience in equal measure, proving these are not mere carbon copy noir stereotypes.
Speaking of carbon copies, Mute does deliver on Duncan Jones's promise that it would provide some answers to the resolution of Sam Bell's character in Moon. In this Berlin, Lunar Industries is still a major corporation in the world, providing energy, fuel and food products for society. It also seems, if the brief TV news footage is to be believed, is that is tied up in court proceedings as multiple Sam Bells fight for their freedom and rights. There are also "Free the 158" posters dotted around the city adding to the wonderful production design of the film that manages to subtly blend the old and new together with some nice touches such as the Flymeal system that uses drones to deliver takeaway meals to your phone's location.
Unlike a Flymeal that would be delivered in 15-30 minutes, the wait for Mute for both director and audience has been much longer and therefore expectations were incredibly high.
Jones himself has said prior to release that this would be his Marmite film, producing a number of "love it" or "hate it" reactions.
This has certainly been the case since it's debut on Netflix on Friday. Critics reviews have been so savage, this reviewer can't remember this many people lining up to tear something down since the fall of the Berlin wall!
Surely a film that inspires extreme reactions, be that intense acclaim or loathing, is better for cinema than a mediocre film that barely produces a "meh" response.
Mute is far from perfect but Jones wears his heart and references on his sleeve (including an inspired appearance of Chesney Hawkes's The One And Only).
While it doesn't completely work, there is still a lot to admire including a Rudd-y marvellous performance, Clint Mansell's score and some gorgeous production design.
Unlike Leo, one can shout about the positives and as for the negatives, as Ronan Keating would put it "you say it best, when you say nothing at all".

4 stars

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Wonderstruck (Glasgow Film Festival) - review

After perfectly recreating the '50s in Carol, Todd Haynes sets his sights on the 1920s and 1970s in his adaptation of Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck.
The film sees two alternating storylines as Ben, a child in 1977, and Rose, a deaf girl in 1927, both runaway from home and head to New York in search of the missing piece of puzzle that will ultimately bring the two plots together.
With the period setting, wonderstruck children in the main roles and a puzzle to solve, it brought to mind comparisons of Martin Scorsese's Hugo. So it was no real surprise to discover that Selznick also wrote the book on which that film was based.
While Hugo's cultural reference point was the birth of cinema, Wonderstruck reveals itself as a love letter to museums. In particular the American Museum of Natural History.
Ben (Oakes Fegley) is grieving following the sudden death of his mother (played in flashbacks by Michelle Williams) and when he discovers a clue to the identity of his father in an old book, he hotfoots it to New York City.
Likewise, in the 1920s, Rose (played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds who is destined for big things this April between this and A Quiet Place), escapes from her oppressive father in search of a silent movie actress (Julianne Moore) who she spends her days idolising on the big screen.
Haynes and his production team absolutely nail the period detail, in particular the cinematography used in the '70s-set New York scenes is fabulous and looks like it was actually filmed 40 years ago.
While one cannot fault the look of the film, it is unfortunate that the concept of continually and frequently switching between the two stories becomes confusing and a distraction to the point that it takes over an hour for the plots to converge and even then, the eventual link is explained away in a rushed voiceover to try and wrap things up in a neat little bundle.
Clearly designed to invoke a sense of nostalgia for trips to the museum, it is likely to create the desire to spend a more enjoyable Night At The Museum instead.

2 stars

Rebel Heroes - Glasgow Film Festival

One of the great things about attending the Glasgow Film Festival every year is how inclusive it feels. There is literally something for everybody screening during the festival. That includes the opportunity to see a classic film for FREE every morning from Thursday 22nd February to Sunday 4th March as part of their Rebel Heroes strand.
Rebel Heroes salutes the classic male mavericks and misfits who left an indelible impression on the movies. These include the likes of Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley.
The season began with Angels With Dirty Faces starring James Cagney as gangster Rocky Sullivan, a lifelong criminal who is asked to give up his wicked ways by his childhood friend who is a priest looking to steer the local neighbourhood children away from a life of crime.
It features a tour-de-force performance from Cagney and one of the all-time great and most debated movie endings of all time.
Just as good as the films that are selected are the introductions that accompany every screening delivered by Festival Co-Director Allan Hunter. Allan provides some history and context to the film you will watch along with some fascinating film trivia. The perfect way to start your festival day!
Here is a list of the screenings coming up during the rest of the fest. Free tickets available on the door each morning prior to the screening.

Friday 23rd February - The Grapes Of Wrath
Saturday 24th February - On The Waterfront
Sunday 25th February - Rebel Without A Cause
Monday 26th February - Jailhouse Rock
Tuesday 27th February - The Defiant Ones
Wednesday 28th February - Breathless
Thursday 1st March - Cool Hand Luke
Friday 2nd March - Bullitt
Sunday 4th March - Dog Day Afternoon

Columbus (Glasgow Film Festival) - review

In 1492, Columbus went looking for India. He didn't find what he was originally looking for but it turned out to be a fortuitous stroke of luck that he discovered America.
In Kogonada's Columbus, two strangers are both searching for something.  A way out of their current existence. Instead they find each other and even though it wasn't what they were initially seeking, it turns out they were exactly what they were looking for.
John Cho plays Jin (with an N), the son of a Korean architect who arrives in Columbus, Indiana to visit his father who has suffered a stroke. It is clear that he would rather be anywhere else but is stuck there until his father recovers or passes away.
It is here that he meets Cassandra (although everyone calls her Casey), played by Haley Lu Richardson in what should be a breakout performance. Casey works in a local library but has the potential to excel in studies outwith the small town but she remains there to look after her mother who is a recovering drug addict.
Together the two of them form a bond walking around the town admiring the modern architecture that has made Columbus a mecca for design enthusiasts whilst building the foundations of a relationship stronger than the buildings around them.
Just like these visionary structures, Columbus looks absolutely beautiful. Every single shot has been carefully designed and constructed to enhance the viewing pleasure, delivering a sense of symmetry not seen outside of a Wes Anderson film.
For Jin and Casey, each of them could be one another's guardian angel and a reading of the story could be that Columbus is Purgatory. A waiting room for lost souls. Operating on a one in, one out policy that will see tough choices and sacrifices to be made in order for one of the characters to achieve their potential.
Writer-director Kogonada has previously developed short documentaries on filmmakers such as Anderson, Ozu and Linklater and it is easy to see their influence on his debut feature but has shown enough subtlety and craftsmanship to suggest he is the architect of his own career from now on.

4 stars

Isle Of Dogs (Glasgow Film Festival) - review

Wes Anderson makes a triumphant return to the Glasgow Film Festival (The Grand Budapest Hotel launched the 2014 festival) and the world of stop motion animation following 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox, with Isle of Dogs.
Set in Megasaki City, Japan, it follows the story of a young boy Atari who travels to Trash Island to save his dog Spots who has been exiled there along with all canines following an outbreak of Dog Flu by the villainous Mayor Kobayashi, whose family has been holding a grudge against the animals ever since an amusing prologue sequence where their cat-loving ancestor was defeated in battle against the dogs.
Crash landing on the island after stealing a plane, Atari is met by a pack of dogs who will help him on his quest to be reunited with his pet. Even if one of them is resistant to the idea of helping a human, a stray called Chief (voiced by Anderson-newcomer Bryan Cranston).
With that synopsis, so far, so Pixar but that is where the comparisons end… with the exception that Trash Island, built up of cubes of rubbish, looks like it was constructed by Wall-E.
Just like his adaptation of Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, Anderson manages to fill every frame, character and line of dialogue with his unique style and sense of whimsy, quirkiness and humour.
This is clear from the outset when the audience is told that the human characters will speak in their native tongue (Japanese with the odd piece of translation by an interpreter) but all the dogs barks have been changed to English.
This trick puts the audience firmly on the side of the dogs, who are the victims of “fake news” and propaganda from a government who is using the dog flu outbreak to push through their own personal agenda to rid the country of canines before the flu crosses over to the human population. Even to the point of covering up a cure for the disease.
This cover up brings in the second part of the story, which features a group of students investigating the corruption and leading protests against the government, which handily features a foreign exchange student from America (Greta Gerwig, whose tones prove a Great Earwig) to provide a recognisable voice in the fight.
Indeed, the story is much more grown up than Fox and it will be interesting to see what the audience will be for this film as it feels like a more adult tale told within the animation medium.
So in that respects, Anderson has chosen wisely by setting the story in Japan because Studio Ghibli has spent the last few decades making films for families that have very difficult subject matter e.g. My Neighbour Totoro is about loss of a family member, Grave Of The Fireflies is set during the Hiroshima bombing.
However the central crux of the role of man’s best friend in society, the importance of looking after them and rewarding their loyalty is matched with boundless charm and levity by the voice work of a stellar cast of Anderson regulars including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Jeff Goldblum who is hilarious as a gossip-hungry dog whose catchphrase becomes “Did you hear the rumour about…”
Yet it is Bryan Cranston’s scrappy stray Chief who is the Best In Show, going on an arc that is as epic as Noah’s, and all of it is believable thanks to Cranston’s vocal performance.
Also, as strange as it may sound, Isle of Dogs provides what could be 2018’s most flirtatious and sexiest scene of the year… between two stop motion animation dogs as Chief is introduced to show dog Nutmeg voiced by Scarlett Johannson.
But that is just a credit to the outstanding work of the animators and puppet designers who handcrafted each animal to a level of believability that the audience forget they are watching an animation.
The detail on each individual dog is astounding and helps in providing each with its own sense of character and identity.
You know that a filmmaker has achieved the desired effect when an entire auditorium collectively “Awwwws” at the sight of five newborn puppies on screen. Yes, hundreds of people audibly reacting to a puppy made out of plasticine and fur.
The design of the characters and settings provides a Kurosawa feel to the movie, enhanced by Alexandre Desplat’s wonderful score that makes great use of Taiko drumming.
Deftly walking the tightrope of Eastern and Western influences, Anderson has bred a film of the highest pedigree that must already be the favourite to win the Best Animated Film at next year’s Oscars.

Just like the play on words in the title, even the most ardent cat person will come out of Isle Of Dogs boldly exclaiming “I love dogs!”. You would be barking mad to miss it!

5 stars

Monday, 19 February 2018

Open The Pod Bay Doors Hal - Man Made Moon

This week I had the pleasure of guest starring on The Nerd Party's Filibuster podcast hosted by fellow film fan Lee Hutchison, to talk about all things Duncan Jones related ahead of the release of Mute on Netflix this Friday 23rd February.

You can listen to the two of us talk Moon, Source Code and Warcraft: The Beginning here.

During the podcast, I talk about an article I wrote for Clothes On Film about the double meaning of the costume design in the film and you can read the full article here.

We'll be returning to the pod booth at the weekend to review Mute so until then you'll find me casually leaning on a lamp post on the corner of the street until a certain little lady walks by...

Saturday, 17 February 2018

BAFTA Predictions

The BAFTA awards take place this Sunday and while once again the viewing public will have to deal with a two hour delay to watch the ceremony on BBC1, it is time to make my predictions on the winners in the categories that due to Brits being British, could throw up some surprises that we might not see at the Oscars. Plus it is nice to see Blade Runner 2049 get a bit more love and attention as it completely deserves it.

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Winner

Outstanding Best Film

Darkest Hour
The Death Of Stalin
God's Own Country - Winner
Lady Macbeth
Paddington 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

The Ghoul
I Am Not A Witch
Kingdom Of Us
Lady Macbeth - Winner

Film Not In The English Language

First They Killed My Father
The Handmaiden - Winner
The Salesman


City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro - Winner
An Inconvenient Sequel

Animated Film

Coco - Winner
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette


Guillermo Del Toro - The Shape Of Water
Luca Guadagnino - Call Me By Your Name
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk - Winner
Denis Villeneuve - Blade Runner 2049

Original Screenplay

Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Winner

Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name - Winner
The Death Of Stalin
Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Molly's Game
Paddington 2

Leading Actress

Annette Bening - Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Sally Hawkins - The Shape Of Water - Winner
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards
Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird

Leading Actor

Jamie Bell - Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour - Winner

Supporting Actress

Alison Janney - I, Tonya
Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread - Winner
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
Kristin Scott Thomas - Darkest Hour
Octavia Spencer - The Shape Of Water

Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project
Hugh Grant - Paddington 2
Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards
Christopher Plummer - All The Money In The World
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards - Winner

Original Music

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape Of Water - Winner


Blade Runner 2049 - Winner
Darkest Hour
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Baby Driver - Winner
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Production Design

Beauty And The Beast
Blade Runner 2049 - Winner
Darkest Hour
The Shape Of Water

Costume Design

Beauty And The Beast
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya
Phantom Thread - Winner
The Shape Of Water

Make Up & Hair

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour - Winner
I, Tonya
Victoria & Abdul


Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk - Winner
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
The Shape Of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes - Winner

EE Rising Star Award

Timothee Chalamet
Daniel Kaluuya - Winner
Josh O'Connor
Florence Pugh
Tessa Thompson

Black Panther - review

The road to Avengers: Infinity War marches on with the Marvel Studios' 18th film since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man ten years ago in 2008.
With 18 films under their belts, it could be easy for Marvel to rest on their laurels and produce carbon copies of their greatest hits time and time again. Instead they are taking bigger and bigger risks.
After all, this is the company that gave us a movie starring a talking raccoon and a tree monster and a Flash Gordon-esque Thor sequel from the director of What We Do In The Shadows.
There are only two things they are still to achieve:
1) We still don't have a female-led solo movie yet. We have to wait till 2019 and Captain Marvel for that, and is the only thing that DC can claim they have bettered Marvel at.
2) A MCU origin film that doesn't end with two CGI characters beating the crap out of each other.
While Black Panther might not buck the trend in this department, it represents a huge leap forward in other ways and could be one of the most significant cultural events in Hollywood.
Writer-director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) brings Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa back to his home country of Wakanda for his coronation as King and take on the mantle of Black Panther following his father's death in Captain America: Civil War.
To tell this story, Coogler has assembled an incredible cast of veterans, rising stars and two "Tolkien" white guys. It is truly an embarrassment of riches that include Oscar winners Forest Whitaker & Lupita N'Yongo, nominees Angela Bassett & Daniel Kayuula and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown.
It is impossible to overstate how important this moment in cinema could be. To have so many people of colour in the leading roles in a mainstream movie outside of Madea marks a welcome change and not only that, it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. The four leading women are all strong, independent queens, warriors, spies and inventors who are not sidelined in a wasted romantic subplot.
All this looks to deliver a bumper box office weekend as the audience, often underserved by Hollywood, come out in force. It's just a shame that the final product doesn't quite live up to the hype, instead coming in around mid-tier Marvel and plays out like a standard superhero origin tale.
The early signs are promising with the first half playing out like a Bond movie with Boseman as the gentlemen spy supplied with Vibranium powered gadgets by his precocious little sister Shuri who is a teenage Q and played with gleeful delight by Letitia Wright. The action jet sets around the globe from a daring robbery in London to a casino shootout and car chase in Busan with Martin Freeman's Everett Ross as Felix Lighter and Ulysses Klaue as the accented, maniacal super villain. Having spent so many years hidden underneath CGI and a motion capture suit, he is clearly relishing the chance to ham it up in front of the camera, and get time for a Hobbit reunion with Bilbo.
The issues come when the action returns to the CG heavy Wakanda and the real plot and villain in the form of Michael B. Jordan's Eric "Killmonger" come to the fore and the film switches from a spy movie to Marvel's version of The Lion King, with a prince battling to regain the throne from an evil relative following the death of his father.
The central struggle between T'Challa and Killmonger comes from an interesting place in that both want to advance the fortunes of Wakanda albeit from different perspectives and methods. One wants the country to do more through outreach and development while the other wants to provide arms to have communities rise up against their oppressors. This is Boseman's stoic MLK vs Jordan's charasmatic Malcolm X.
At the heart of it is a fascinating struggle but the power is somewhat lost as it descends into a standard Marvel third act which includes a mass CG brawl involving war rhinos, a one-on-one fight that could have been cut straight out of Tron Legacy and story beats right of the original Iron Man playbook.
It might follow the superhero formula but this is a standalone film with very few references to the wider MCU so the casual filmgoer can enjoy it for what it is without worrying too much about how it sets things up for Infinity War.
This is a superhero film straight outta Wakanda but this reviewer has a feline that Black Panther will, like the lion, find it's roar in the future.

3 stars

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Phantom Thread - review

On paper, the design of Phantom Thread suggests a masterpiece. A creation of such exquisite beauty that it could grace the front of cover of Vogue as a work of art.
You have Paul Thomas Anderson. Writer & director of some of the greatest American movies of the last twenty years (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master). And the man who won an Oscar as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis in his final acting performance before retiring.
Only time will tell if this "retirement" is a definitive one or a Steven Soderbergh retirement.
However this tale of a tortured genius whose latest muse threatens to destroy everything he has created left this reviewer with a feeling of confusion and befuddlement.
It was a similar reaction as to seeing a haute couture, high end fashion statement come towards you on the catwalk. You can appreciate the time and effort and creativity that went into its creation but it leaves you wondering who on earth it is actually aimed at and who would wear it.
The film at times feels like it could become Fifty Shades Of Grey if it had been written and filmed by Merchant Ivory.
Day-Lewis's wonderfully monikered Reynolds Woodcock is a fashion designer whose creative genius is contained, controlled and channelled by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). A woman not above removing distractions and obstacles to his work, even if that includes his girlfriends.
It is clear who wears the tailored trousers in that relationship, as evidenced by one of the best lines of dialogue of 2018 when she warns him "Don't pick a fight with me, you certainly won't come out alive. I'll go right through you and it'll be you who ends up on the floor. Understand?"
Yet the Woodcock's perfectly patterned lives will soon be thrown into disarray when Reynolds discovers the young and beautiful Alma, who becomes his new muse. A fiery, fiesty character who doesn't need a corset to give her a backbone. Vicky Krieps gives as good as she gets and goes toe to toe with the formidable Day-Lewis, particularly during a dinner argument over asparagus.
The film is rather threadbare on plot but it doesn't need it. This is a character study sumptuously scored by Jonny Greenwood. One of a twisted and tangled love triangle where if the phantom thread is continually pulled, the whole thing will start to unravel.
Phantom Thread is like that stunning piece of clothing that you see in the shop window, convinced it will be perfect but when you get home and finally try it on, it just doesn't fit right. You wear it out once, just to check if it works but ultimately you'll return home to put it in your wardrobe never to be worn again.

3 stars

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix Originals) - review

It could be fair to say that the biggest surprise of Superbowl LII wasn't that the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots but Netflix calling an audible and screened a trailer announcing that The Cloverfield Paradox would be released immediately after the game!
With that Netflix scored an impossible hail mary touchdown and won the Superbowl trailer war, receiving the most chatter on social media and sacking the big hitters like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mission Impossible: Fallout and the Solo teaser. The only thing they couldn't compete with was #SuperbowlSelfieKid!
The Cloverfield franchise has always managed to surprise. The first Cloverfield stunned audiences with a fantastic trailer that suddenly appeared in cinemas with no advance hype. 10 Cloverfield Lane was announced and released within two months and now this latest stunt.
One can only imagine that Overlord, the fourth Cloverfield movie which has already finished filming, will automatically appear on your computer one day, like a U2 album, whether you want it or not.
While one can applaud the audacity of Netflix's marketing masterstroke (releasing a film during the most watched sporting event of the year), it would only really matter if the film was any good.
The answer? Yes and No.
As a genre B-Movie, The Cloverfield Paradox plays out like a Greatest Hits of science fiction cliches. Or Now That's What I Call A Space Station Sci-Fi Film.

A space craft on a mission which is Earth's last hope but ultimately goes array and cannot be solved by Chris O'Dowd turning it off and on again? Check
A racially and ethnically diverse crew? Check!
A noble captain who will sacrifice themselves for the good of the mission? Check
A shifty, European officer who may or not be out to sabotage the mission? Check

On its own, the film is passable, enjoyable Netflix fare which gains bonus points for having the final hero and villain passing the Bechdel Test. At the same time unfortunately suffers in comparison to 2017's Life as the plot and style is very similar.
This could be why Paramount decided to sell it to Netflix, change its name from God Particle and repackage it as a Cloverfield film.
And this is where the film does fail because it feels like the movie has been retrofitted into the Cloververse.
10 Cloverfield Lane had also started life as a standalone script but it worked as the majority of the film was set in the bunker and you didn't know what was really outside (or who the real monster was). The film only laid its cards on the table in the final five minutes.
Paradox similarly has hints and minor allusions to the other films but it is only at the very end that the audience is given a definitive answer (albeit a very brief one).
While it is a fun final image, it feels like the audience have once again been shortchanged.
One starts to feel that anyone can make a cheap genre film and as long as they tack on a shot of a monster in the final reel, you can banner it under the Cloverfield name.
Let's hope this is not the case and the producers can return to the inventiveness and surprise wow factor that worked so well for the original.
It is certainly the stuff a Cloverfield of Dreams is made of.

3 stars

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Superbowl Sunday - Trailer Touchdown

Superbowl Sunday is one of the biggest dates in the sports and entertainment calendar.

Not only is it the biggest sporting event in the US, featuring an epic musical performance during the halftime show but it is the one day of the year that movie fans without an interest in sports will watch a game of American Football.

It's not because they want to see if it bears any resemblance to Al Pacino's wonderful Inch by Inch speech in Any Given Sunday...

No, the film fans are here for the trailers. Superbowl Sunday advertising premiums are the priciest in the world but with a worldwide audience of 111.3 million last year, film distributors spend a lot of money, time and effort trying to ensure that their movie trailer is the one that people are talking about the next day.

In 2017 for example, audiences were treated to teasers for Logan, Ghost In The Shell, Life, John Wick Chapter 2. However most people agreed it was the trailer for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2., using Fleetwood Mac's The Chain that triumphed into the end zone that year.

So what can we expect from Superbowl LII when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in a game of football that somehow manages to make 60 minutes last for 4 hours?

Black Panther
With less than two weeks to its release, expect one final action packed clip designed to raise anticipation to fever pitch.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
A trailer is expected to drop on Good Morning America but many feel that we will see the very first footage of the troubled production that saw Lord & Miller replaced by Ron Howard during the big game. This is the one that everyone will have an opinion on one way or the other.

Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel might focus all their attention on Black Panther but there is a slim chance that they could release a version of the trailer that was only glimpsed at Comic-Con.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Life, uh, will find a way to screen some new footage from the sequel to the billion dollar Jurassic World.

Mission Impossible: Fallout
This has another trailer that has been confirmed to screen during the Superbowl by Tom Cruise on Twitter so expect footage from the sixth installment, that may or may not include the shot of Cruise breaking his leg and Henry Cavill's moustache that sunk the Justice League movie.

God Particle (Cloverfield)
Nothing is know about the new film from the Cloverfield universe and with a release date of April, it is the perfect time to drop a strange, mysterious trailer on an unsuspecting audience.

The Rock will fight a building in the promo for the summer's new disaster movie.

Deadpool 2
There is no scenario where Deadpool and/or Ryan Reynolds do not make an appearance with a tongue-in-cheek meta take on sporting's biggest event.