Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Ibiza - Netflix Originals review

One has to wonder if the Netflix office were tripping when they greenlit and funded this horrendous excuse for a film.
The signs are not good when the most detailed description of the plot on IMDB is "A young American woman and her two best friends seek out a hot DJ in Spain".
As evidenced by the above poster, the film is clearly aimed at trying to cash into the market that enjoyed Girls Trip, Rough Night, Bridesmaids and Sex And The City.
However Ibiza makes Sex And The City 2 look like Lawrence of Arabia.
Gillian Jacobs stars as Harper, a "young American woman" who works at a PR firm and is sent to Barcelona by her boss to close a deal because she is attractive and the clients will want to sleep with her. Her "two best friends" convince her to swap her business class ticket for three economy tickets (because you can just do that apparently) and join her in Spain. Cue hilarity!
These three friends seem to live in a giant open plan apartment in Manhattan even though one works in PR, one is a dental assistant and the other is freelance.
I would go into more detail about their characters but the opening scene where they discuss taking time off work is as deep as it gets.
Harper's defining characteristic is that she hasn't had sex in a long time. Leah (Phoebe Robinson) has "drug friends" who are into drugs and Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) is the ditzy & wacky as evidenced by the scene where she gets sunburnt.
They arrive in Barcelona and spend 5 minutes setting up a hotel room/blacklight/jizz gag that you can see coming a mile away (pun, intended).
The film then follows the two friends to the beach rather than following main character Harper to her business meeting so we can see if she is any good at her job or not. Up to this point we have only seen her getting hung up on by clients.
To cut a long story short (too late), the girls go out clubbing where Harper meets DJ Leo West (and yes I am having to refer back to IMdb for every single name because they are that unmemorable or hardly even mentioned in the film in the first place). Their meet-cute takes place because he notices that she has a dick drawn on her face. Yes, really.
Leo is played by Game of Thrones Richard Madden and he is using his own Scottish accent which makes it feel like he is playing a Calvin Harris-type superstar DJ (here we go) but if you were to close your eyes when watching (and you really should at times), you would believe that James McAvoy was starring in this stinker.
I know, I know, but if they are in Barcelona, "why is the film called Ibiza?" I hear you all cry out in horror.
Well, the film's second act takes place in Ibiza when Harper's awful friends convince her to fly to the party island to see Leo again at his next gig, thus jeopardising her final pitch meeting with the client which takes place the next day. The meeting is meant to take place in the evening so plenty time to catch an early morning flight back but anyone who has ever seen a movie will see where this is going to go.
I struggle to remember if this film with a majority of female lead characters even passes the Bechdel test because all they seem to talk about is having sex with men and how they seem to prioritise this over their careers.
Anyway they arrive in Ibiza... actually make that Croatia apparently because they did not actually film in Ibiza. This is possibly down to the fact that no one in the film can actually pronounce it correctly. Instead calling it "I-bee-za" the entire time.
Watching the film, one thinks that this could be the nadir of the entire production until you become that drunk crying in the bathroom when you realise that someone has managed to license David Bowie's Life On Mars to appear on the soundtrack.
Immediately following this, the girls ask a taxi driver to take them to the sunset which turns out to be on the opposite side of the island from the club and cue awkward journey back with crazy, stereotypical locals, drinking, drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll, etc.
Well, you can probably guess where the third act goes. She gets the man, has sex, misses her meeting but sends her friend, gets fired but somehow manages to score the client which leads her to setting up her own PR firm just like that. Who knew it was so easy?
So DJ Calvin Harris mark 2 phones and asks her to fly to Tokyo to see him but she declines saying she needs to focus on herself and her work. She can't be chasing around the world after him... only for her to change her mind and decide to go. Go female empowerment!
So what did we learn? What great journey did the characters go on? Did they learn that there is more to define them and their happiness than a man? Apparently not.
Ibiza is one bad trip and rather than going clubbing, this should be clubbed to death.

1 star

Friday, 25 May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story - review

With another year to wait until we get another "Episode" Star Wars film, it is time for another "A Star Wars Story" film from Disney that plugs a gap in the cinema release schedule and the Expanded Universe backstory.
Just like Rogue One told the story of how the Rebels got the plans for the Death Star, this new film explores the backstory of the saga's most lovable rogue, Han Solo.
And just like Rogue One, this film is one that has had a route to the big screen even trickier than flying through an asteroid film.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie) were fired by producer Kathleen Kennedy after filming 90% of the movie with too comedic a tone. This led to Kennedy bringing in Ron Howard to complete the movie and shooting 70% of the film.
This leads us to a situation where you have 160% of a film and a battle between two creative styles. How did it affect the story and performances? How would it all gel together? It is enough for anyone to say "I've got a bad feeling about this".
Safe to say the odds were against the film but as a certain someone might say, "Never tell me the odds".
Why? Because on watching the final film, there is no real hint of any issues with production.
With Rogue One, there were the expectations delivered by the initial trailer that ultimately featured many scenes that were not in the final film.
Here, for any viewers unaware of the behind-the-scenes problems, you would never know there were any.
As a reviewer, that is how one must approach the film as well. One cannot review it wanting and hoping they were watching the Lord and Miller version. In a similar way to wondering what Edgar Wright's Ant-Man would have been like. They must give Ron Howard's film a fair old crack of the whip instead (wait, wrong Harrison Ford character reference).
And here we arrive at the main issue with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The production problems were never the problem. The issue here is that the entire film feels redundant and unnecessary.
When Han Solo first appeared in the Star Wars universe, sitting in the cantina in Mos Eisley, you knew exactly who this character was. From his brash boasting to Obi-Wan and Luke, to the way he coldly and brutally dispatched Greedo by shooting first. This short introduction told the audience everything they needed to know to set up his character in the universe.
There was never any need to see how he became the man he was at the start of Episode IV.
Do we need to discover where he got his gun from? No.
Do we need to see how he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando? No, he told us in Empire Strikes Back.
Do we need to know how he got the name Han Solo? No.
Do we need to know how he met Chewbacca? No but it is a nice scene and one of the highlights of the film.
And we certainly don't need to see a back story to those bloody dice which only suddenly became important at the end of The Last Jedi. Well I hate to break it to you Leia, but they reminded Han of another woman!!!
That woman is Qi'ra played by Emilia Clarke who is cast in the now standard Star Wars role of lead female character who is white, short brown hair and in her late-twenties/mid-thirties (see Carrie Fisher, Natalie Portman, Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones).
Han and Qi'ra wish to escape Corellia together but when she is forced to stay behind, Han promises to return to free her and travel the galaxy together on a ship.
This promise is what drives Solo for the majority of the story, joining forces with a crew led by Woody Harrelson to pull off a job to win a huge payoff. When this goes awry, they are indebted to Paul Bettany's gangster Dryden Vos and forced to plan and pull off a daring robbery via the infamous Kessel Run.
It is here Solo is reunited with his love Qi'Ra, now in Vos's employ, and meets the other loves of his life; Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian and the Millennium Falcon.
Donald Glover steals the show as the charasmatic owner of the Falcon, along with his droid co-pilot L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who similar to Dobby in the Harry Potter films, strives for equality for droids.
But what of Alden Ehrenreich? The man with one of the most unenviable jobs in movie history. How do you step into the boots of Harrison Ford and one of the most iconic characters in all of cinema? Would that it were so simple.
Thanfully he is, more or less, up to the task. He never tries to do a simple impression of Ford. Instead, building his own version that one can see becoming Ford's seminal take on roguish smuggler.
In fact when we first meet the young Solo, he is lightyears away from the man we all know and love. He is wide-eyed, a dreamer and like a puppy in love. He is more akin to a young Luke Skywalker dreaming of escaping life on Tatooine.
Over the course of the film, events slowly shape and mould him into a more recognisable version of the character to the point where you can see him becoming this guy...

While the characterisation is there, the overall plot feels very perfunctory as it carefully but unimaginatively joins the dots to get Solo from to Chewbacca to Lando to the Falcon to the Kessel Run, etc, etc.
This is the last time Lord and Miller will be mentioned but a Lord and Miller-led adventure where you weren't exactly sure where it was going to go and how it was going to play out could have been just what the story needed to feel fresh and relevant. Ron Howard's studio-mandated film is rather pedestrian, tried and tested route. If Howard took the standard 20 parsecs to do the Kessel Run, Lord & Miller could have done it in less than 12. Riskier but the payoff could have been bigger.
The Last Jedi proved that the saga could (and should) take risks but with Solo, instead of "great shot kid, that was one in a million" it left this reviewer colder than carbonite.

2 stars

NB: Please avoid the 3D print of the film which is incredibly dark and muddy

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Top Ten Things To See

This morning I travelled to Edinburgh, and more specifically, the Filmhouse to attend the programme launch for the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Festival Director Mark Adams introduced us to the launch, the festival and went through a selection of his own personal highlights before making sure we all had our goodie bags...

With over 120 films in the official line-up it can be daunting to know where to start when deciding what to go and see. To help you out a little bit, I've gone through the entire brochure with my trusty highlighter and selected my top ten recommendations for what to watch this June.
Tickets are on sale now to Filmhouse & Belmont Filmhouse members and on sale to the general public from 10.00am on Friday 25th May.

Blood Fest

Screening 22nd & 24th June
Dubbed a razor-sharp synthesis of Scream and Cabin In The Woods, this meta horror sees a group of hardcore film fans having to use their knowledge of the genre to escape a horror movie festival when events take a gory turn. This could be one of the breakout late night hits of the fest.
To book tickets, click here.


Screening 22nd, 23rd & 30th June
A World Premiere for writer-director Matt Palmer’s tale of two friends on a hunting trip in the remote Scottish Highlands that takes a deadly turn. The film also sees a welcome return for Festival favourite Jack Lowden who opened the Fest in 2016 with Tommy’s Honour and closed last year’s with England Is Mine.
To book tickets, click here.

Flammable Children (Swinging Safari)

Screening 27th & 29th June
Sold on this film by the image of Guy Pearce with a moustache to rival Paul Rudd’s from Mute, this Australian comedy set in the “swinging Seventies” and also stars Kylie Minogue this is one movie made especially for you (sorry, not sorry).
To book tickets, click here.

Humor Me

Screening 30th June & 1st July
Sometimes just a couple of cast names is enough to merit a viewing and the double act of Jemaine Clement and Elliot Gould as a father-son duo is a must see.
Clement stars as a struggling playwright who moves in with his father in a retirement village and finds himself coaching a group of woman putting on a staging of The Mikado. Could this be Flight of the Concubines?
To book tickets, click here.

The Incredibles 2

Screening 24th June
Someone at the Festival must have something on Disney because this is the 4th year in a row that they have scored an advance screening of the new Pixar film for the Family Gala and this year it is the sequel to The Incredibles, one of the greatest Pixar films of all-time. Will it be a Toy Story 2 or a Cars 2? Only time will tell but I’m keeping my elasti-fingers crossed for this one.
To book tickets, click here.

Jaws - In Concert with RSNO

Friday 22nd June
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Festival Theatre, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra will play one of John Williams’ most iconic scores live at a screening of Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster Jaws.
Following in the footsteps of previous year’s screenings of Back To The Future, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, this will be one night not to be missed.
To book tickets, click here.

Life After Flash

Screening 28th & 30th June
A light-hearted documentary that follows Sam Jones as he tours the convention circuit. Finally embracing the fame and fandom that came with starring in Flash Gordon, a film that for a long time he had a difficult relationship with.
To book tickets, click here.


Screening 21st & 22nd June
The plot of a father trying to track down his missing daughter might not sound like anything new but this film tells the story entirely through various screens from laptops to mobile phones which could elevate this crime thriller to something truly special.
To book tickets, click here.

The Secret Of Marrowbone

Screening 21st & 22nd June
Expectations are high for Sergio G. Sanchez’s haunted-house drama given that he wrote the screenplay for The Orphanage. It stars Scottish star George Mackay as part of a family that move to a dilapidated old house to escape their brutal father but realise there might be an even greater danger lurking in the attic.
To book tickets, click here.

Unicorn Store

Screening 29th & 30th June
One of the hot tickets of the festival, Brie Larson’s directorial debut sees Captain Marvel herself play a woman obsessed with unicorns who is offered the chance to adopt a real unicorn by a flamboyant salesman (Samuel L. Jackson), if she completes a series of tasks in this quirky and charming story.
To book tickets, click here.

Also, if you prefer to listen to my picks, check out this mini Filibuster podcast where Lee and I talk about our most anticipated movies...

Cargo - Netflix review

Shuffling onto Netflix without a huge amount of fanfare this week was Cargo, a zombie film starring Martin Freeman.
Freeman plays Andy, husband and father to Kay and Rosie, who are travelling on a houseboat in an attempt to survive a pandemic outbreak that turns infected people into zombies after 48 hours.
The film puts a new spin on the genre by having Andy infected quite early on in the film and faces a race against time to find a safe home for daughter before he succumbs to the infection and turns into one of the walking dead.
Written and directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, this is not your traditional zombie horror in the style of Night Of The Living Dead or even the remake of Dawn Of The Dead.
Just like the Australian outback where it is set, it is very sparse in terms of action or gore.
Instead it is more of a character study of a man faced with impossible choices to make to try and protect his family. It just so happens that this takes place within a zombie pandemic.
Cargo plays its cards close to its chest in terms of the reasons behind the outbreak and doesn't get bogged down in exposition as to when, where and why it happened because that it ultimately not important to Andy's story.
One can speculate from the odd visual clue that the disease was potentially spread from fracking the earth and has destroyed the urban areas on the coast, resulting in people moving inland to escape the epidemic.
Indeed, technology is all but redundant out here. The only technology that works are the FitBit-style wrist bands that count down the hours until the virus takes over.
The only people who seem to have a handle on the situation are the Aboriginals who spend their nights cleansing the land of these lost souls. This is clearly part of the filmmakers' ultimate message of the story where we must protect and cherish our land and heritage or risk losing our way of life.
Along his journey, Andy meets several different people who could potentially offer salvation but often end up showcasing the dark heart of humanity.
These encounters cause him to lose hope and contemplate taking not only his life but Rosie's as well for fear of leaving her behind to an even worse fate.
Freeman anchors the film with a strong, heartfelt performance where you can truly feel his pain, anger, frustration at the situation but also his love for his daughter that keeps him going to the very end.
The film's tagline is "He is her only hope. And her greatest threat". Not only does this describe the relationship between Andy and Rosie in the film but also the relationship between Netflix and these low budget, independent films that they have taken into their care.
Netflix does offer an avenue for filmmakers to get there films out there to an international audience but it all depends on Netflix's algorithms and marketing to ensure that they find that audience because there is a chance they could end up lost and forgotten like a zombie with its head buried in the sand.
Rare gems like this need championed and one hopes that, like Andy's wish for Rosie, it finds the perfect home because this is precious Cargo.

3 stars

Friday, 18 May 2018

Filibuster podcast - Cinema Etiquette

When a filmgoer live tweeted Greta Gerwig's alleged reaction to I Feel Pretty, it sparked debate about who was in the wrong and how people should behave when watching a movie.

Dallas and Lee discuss their frustrations with the modern cinema experience and how they believe it can improved. They also share their favourite cinema stories and what makes it such a special place for them.

Also, just what do cinemas do with all those spoons from screenings of The Room?

What are your best and worst movie-going experiences? Where is your favourite place to watch a film?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Deadpool 2 - review

Sorry Ant-Man and the Wasp. Your delayed August release in the U.K. means that you have been pipped to the post of "small scale comic relief superhero movie designed to lift your spirits following the tragic events of Infinity War" by the Unicorn-riding, Frozen singing, Merc with the Motormouth Deadpool 2.

(Woah I know what those of you reading this are thinking. What's that about? Calling out an unreleased Marvel Studios movie to praise the efforts of another Marvel movie within a review? That is SO Deadpool. Hang on, did I just mention that this was a review within the review. Breaking the fourth wall? Again, that is SO Deadpool!)

It can be a challenging prospect to write a review about Deadpool 2. Why? There is always a chance that the marketing team at 20th Century Fox (or is it Disney now? I can't keep up. It's as confusing as the X-Men timelines) could use what you say to work for one of their self-deprecating campaigns;

"Deadpool 2 is like an overstuffed chimichanga. Yes, it is tasty, satisfying and value for money at the time and you wolf down every morsel but you could wake up the morning after looking like Josh Brolin in an Instagram video wondering why you did it to yourself"

Or even worse, Ryan Reynolds himself might see it and print out a copy to call you out on your review right in the middle of (the inevitable) Deadpool 3: Dirty Harry.

So is it best to just stick to delivering something in the standard review format? Perhaps using WikiHow's guide to writing a film review?

1. Start with a compelling fact or opinion about the film
This film is the first Deadpool film to feature the number 2 in the title.

2. Give a clear well, established opinion early on
"Deadpool 2 is like an overstuffed chimichanga. Yes, it is tasty, satisfying and value for money at the time and you wolf down every morsel but you could wake up the morning after looking like Josh Brolin in an Instagram video wondering why you did it to yourself" (Oh dammit, see why did you write that? I told you not to earlier on. See above for details!)

3. Write your review
See above and below this line of text.

4. Move beyond obvious plot analysis
In Deadpool 2, our hero must save a kid from Josh Brolin's Thanos Cable, who has travelled back in time to kill the younger version of an evil mutant who is responsible for killing the people that he loves.
If I was Rian Johnson, the writer-director of Looper, a film about a man who must stop the older version of himself who has travelled back in time to kill a kid responsible for murdering the person he loves, I would be calling my intellectual property lawyers about now.

5. Bring your review full circle in the ending
See end of review where Deadpool picks up the young mutant and shows him off like the young lion in the musical number The Circle of Life in The Lion King... say what you want about the rest of the film, turns out Wade Wilson is spot on about Frozen ripping off Yentl for Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? But I digress!

6. Gather basic facts about your movie
Ryan Reynolds is the only actor to appear in all 65 episodes of Canadian TV show Hillside (1990)

7. Take notes while you watch it
"Remember to take the rubbish out when you get home. Recycling collection is tomorrow."
"Need more almond milk because I am a vegan millennial now apparently. When did this happen?"
"This reminds me. I must rewatch Green Lantern at some point"

8. Analyse the mechanics of the movie
There were no mechanics featured in the film. Sadly Jason Statham's The Mechanic also did not appear.

9. Watch it one more time.
Ryan Reynolds and Fox will be happy about that. Good thing I have an Unlimited card!

Okay, let's get serious for a minute. Something that this film cannot do. I mean people complain about the MCU undercutting emotional scenes with humour. This film has a bigger undercut than Brolin's hairstyle as Cable.

Deadpool was a huge success and it worked because of Ryan Reynolds' commitment to the project and the character. He is Wade Wilson in the way that Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark. A perfect marriage of character and actor. Something that I'm sure Wilson and Reynolds would do if they were allowed.

The sequel makes no apologies from the outset in dialling everything that worked about the first one all the way up to 11 (just like Cable's gun) including pops at Hugh Jackman and Logan for upstaging them, a brief spot of fridging and a Bond-esque opening credit sequence.

Just like Instagram, this film has #NoFilter and absolutely everyone is a target including Marvel Studios, D.C. Comics, Stranger Things, The Goonies et all.

It's not that the film or schtick is tired yet, it's just exhausting. There are SO many jokes that is difficult to remember them all once you have left the theatre which kind of indicates that there wasn't a stand out (or balls out) joke beyond a basic Basic Instinct reference.

That being said is is still a wild, enjoyable ride for even if not all the jokes land, it doesn't matter because there is another right behind it. In fact, it is probably up there with Airplane for its joke-per-minute ratio.

The only major disappointment (beyond the Fridging of a major character which initially could have been a parody of that writing trope but sadly wasn't) was the over-reliance on CGI in the fight scenes (to the point where Deadpool cues one up with "Big CGI fight time") which meant that "one of the guys who killed John Wick's dog" is unable to truly show off what he can do with an action sequence. I guess we have to wait for the Fast & Furious spin-off with The Rock and The Stath. Speaking of which, wasn't it odd that with all the mention of "family" in the film that there were no references to those movies?
So bringing it full circle jerk. Like a superhero landing on the knees, Deadpool sticks to what he knows and delivers a hilarious, enjoyable, diverting comic book movie. Even if it is not one that will subvert the genre like the original.
Like Deadpool himself, as long as there are other superhero movies to take the piss out of, this is going to be one franchise that won't die and is likely to run and run and run just like Wade's mouth.

3 stars

Friday, 11 May 2018

I Feel Pretty - review

Hmmm, just like the main character Renee (Amy Schumer) and her body, I have very conflicted views on I Feel Pretty and am not entirely sure what I am meant to be looking at.
On one hand it is supposedly an inspiring tale for all women who have insecurities about their bodies and that the self-esteem and confidence to make your dreams come true is within you the whole time.
On the other hand, the woman in the film telling the audience this is someone who is incredibly successful in her own life and only in the fashion world (in which the film is set) could she ever be considered "unattractive".
Yes, women everywhere are constantly bombarded with magazines, adverts, TV programmes and movies showing them how "society" believes we should all look and it sucks. It is a huge issue and one that the film tries to tackle by having Schumer's character join the front of house of a fashion company and it makes some valid points but also some terrible ones. For example, Renee gets the job of the receptionist because she wants to be "seen" but admits it is actually a step down for her in terms of pay.
But the film is not just about changing the fashion company's views towards everyday women. It is about Renee changing her view of herself.
It should get some credit for doing a body swap comedy in which the body is never swapped.
Schumer is Schumer the entire time and at no point is there any Shallow Hal-style fat suits or she suddenly wakes up in the body of Jennifer Lawrence.
If this concept sounds like Big then you would be right and it even features a scene of Renee watching the film and wishing she could be beautiful. Cue an accident during a spin cycle class and a knock on the head which makes her believe she is beautiful.
This is where the issues start to slowly creep in. It is never really established whether Renee is seeing someone else in the mirror or whether she truly believes that her actual body is beautiful.
Obviously everyone else sees the real Renee, albeit one now exuding an overabundance of confidence that makes her (initially) more attractive and appealing to everyone she meets.
The film then follows the body swap movie/Big/13 Going On 30/17 Again template to the letter.
Her big change allows her to gain everything that she ever wanted. Her dream job, success, a boyfriend, etc. etc. but the further she goes down the rabbit hole, the more she starts to believe the hype and alienates those who loved her for who she was such as her friends and new love Ethan (played by the non-typical leading man Rory Scovel).
What is interesting about the film is that looking back on it, Renee is always treated the same way by the men in her life. They are attracted to her beauty and confidence, even when stood against supermodels types as exhibited in the bikini contest sequence. The real body shaming issues actually come from fellow women, particularly those who work within the Lily LeClaire fashion house.
Despite all the talk recently of women should be supporting other women, this movie reinforces the idea that women are in competition with each other for work, men, success, etc.
The only person that sees Renee as a friend and ally is Michelle Williams' Avery LeClaire. She sees her as someone different, not afraid to say what she thinks and the perfect person to help deliver a new make up line aimed at the everyday woman on the street (not that kind of woman!).
Unlike The Devil Wears Prada, Avery is a boss who is honest and likeable in her treatment of Renee and is played with this Betty Boop-esque high-pitched squeak by Williams which is an inspired decision and leads to some of the film's best moments and makes her relatable as she struggles with confidence and not being taken seriously due to her voice.
It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever seen this type of film before that she suddenly loses her "looks" and crashes hard, believing her life is now over that she has lost everything (looks, job, friends, love interest) all through her own undoing.
Despite its best intentions for a last minute course redirect to stay on point on the film's message in the final act once our lead character realises that "it was inside me all along", the delivery falls kind of flat.
The moment that it lost its audience is probably when Schumer chastises Emily Ratajkowski for worrying about her looks and love life when she looks like that and the women in the cinema auditorium are screaming the same thing back at her.
For an example of this, check out this Twitter moment of someone live tweeting Greta Gerwig's reactions to the film while watching it.
So when it comes down to it, I Feel Pretty confident in saying that the end result is one that feels not pretty but pretty confused, not that witty or bright.

2 stars

Friday, 4 May 2018

Tully - Review

Tully is the final part of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman's Womanhood trilogy. They began with Juno, about a young woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. Young Adult saw a woman unable to accept growing up and Tully sees a grown woman overwhelmed by the pressures of being a mother.
Charlize Theron, who was dynamite in the trio's previous collaboration Young Adult, is Marlo, a woman nearing the end of her rope. She is a mother of three, including a newborn and a young son with behavioural problems and possibly on the spectrum. She is barely keeping her head afloat yet alone treading water.
Jason Reitman helps to establish this with a wonderful jump cut montage that brings to mind the work of his directorial doppelganger Edgar Wright.
Her faithful but distant husband is too busy working to help so her rich brother hires her a night nanny to help ease her heavy load. Despite her initial misgivings that is. She even says what the audience is thinking, "That's like a Lifetime movie where the nanny tries to kill the family and the mom survives and she has to walk with a cane at the end".
Yes, you think that the movie has potential to go down the Hand That Rocks The Cradle route or the tired "nanny becoming involved with the husband" routine but this is not that film.
This is a warts-and-all, honest, raw portrayal of motherhood featuring an astounding central performance from Theron who will have every single mother in the world nodding along in agreement at the film. This is a woman, like George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life, in need of saving and her angel is just around the corner.
When the eponymous Tully makes her entrance, she seems to good to be true. Similar to another infamous nanny, she is practically perfect in every way. Young, attractive, full of life yet full of wisdom and instantly connects with newborn Mia and Marlo.
Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror, Blade Runner 2049) pitches it perfectly, cleverly avoiding becoming a pixie girl stereotype and instead embodying everything that Marlo misses about herself and wishes she could be.
Her appearance gives Marlo a second lease at life. Allowing her to connect with her children and husband again but also making time for herself. This leads to a hilarious road trip for a spontaneous night out in "the city" where they head to Brooklyn listening Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun but goes through the entire album before they reach their destination.
But Tully's being there was only meant to be a temporary fix. A balm. A band aid that Marlo will eventually have to rip off and get back to normality and the third acts developments have proved divisive for some but for this reviewer they worked perfectly given the set up and are executed beautifully.

4 stars

Beast - review

Beast is an unusual, well, beast. The story of woman who becomes increasingly suspicious that the man she is involved with is responsible for a series of murders on the island of Jersey could be the plot of a regional crime drama like Midsomer Murders. Yet here, writer-director Michael Pearce presents it here as a dark adult fairy tale, like a modern take on the Brothers Grimm.
Jessie Buckley (Taboo) is Moll, a young woman who is forced to stay at home to look after her ailing father by her wicked, domineering mother (Geraldine James).
After escaping her birthday party, she meets the mysterious woodsman Pascale (Johnny Flynn) and begins a torrid love affair that will have serious repurcussions for the both of them.
For there is a killer on the remote island, stalking young women. Is Pascale Moll's prince/knight in shining armour or is he the big, bad wolf?
Pearce tells the whole story from Moll's point of view, keeping the audience with her as she is faced with a choice whether or not to trust the man she loves. But is she trustworthy herself? For Moll may have her own secrets buried deep.
Buckley is superb as a woman who was kept under the thumb of a controlling woman, finally breaking free and embracing womanhood and her burgeoning sexuality (as all good fairy tales are about).
Johnny Flynn is perfectly ambiguous as the stranger Pascale. Walking that tightrope between charming and dangerous with effortless ease.
The film is shot with a ethereal beauty, particularly the nighttime scenes which turn a seemingly tranquil, safe island into a world filled with mystery, intrigue and horror.
It takes some dramatic leaps in the third act that may be too out of left field for some audiences but this is a film that from the outset never guarantees this will be a case of "happily ever after".
This is one Beast burdened with glorious purpose.

4 stars

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Custody - review

At the moment, given the box office headlines, you might be forgiven for thinking that Avengers Infinity War is the only film out in cinemas at the moment.
However there are a few smaller films out there that are fighting for the audiences' attention and love... similar to the battle at the heart of the Glasgow Film Festival award winner Custody.
Written and directed by Xavier Legrand, this character study of a custody battle between two bitter exes is mainly viewed through the eyes of the youngest son. Who at times, is nothing more than a weapon wielded by one party to inflict pain on the other.
The film begins with with a very mundane, matter of fact arbitration hearing with both parties blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage. She claims he is violent and he claims she is a liar and manipulative.
Throughout the course of the story, the truth slowly begins to emerge. Even if things are never truly black and white until the final act.
Actor Denis Minochet is superb as the father who is a whirlwind of emotions. Effortlessly moving from rage to heartbreak in a single scene,
He will be familiar to some as the French farmer who is visited by Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, which was another masterpiece of tension.
Legrand deliberately plays the long game here to spectacular effect.
Audiences watching Custody will be like the frog that is placed in a pan of water. Rather than dropping us straight into a visceral and direct formulaic thriller and potentially losing us, Legrand instead perfectly executes the slow build. Pulling you further and further in to the family dynamic before it all comes crashing down in spectacular fashion.
It is only when it is too late that we realise that Legrand has slowly been turning up the temperature throughout the film and we find ourselves boiling alive and in a situation that is so tense that your fingers will need surgically removed from the armrests at the end of the film.

4 stars