Tag Archives: 2018 movies

The Tale (2018) Review

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The Tale

Time: 114 minutes
Cast:
Laura Dern as Jennifer Fox
Isabelle Nélisse as Jenny Fox, age 13
Jessica Sarah Flaum as Jenny Fox, age 15
Ellen Burstyn as Nadine “Nettie” Fox
John Heard as William P. Allens
Jason Ritter as Bill Allens
Frances Conroy as Jane Gramercy
Elizabeth Debicki as Mrs. G
Common as Martin
Director: Jennifer Fox

Jennifer (Laura Dern) has it all, with a loving boyfriend (Common) and a great career as a journalist and professor. But when her mother (Ellen Burstyn) discovers a story – “The Tale” – that Jennifer wrote when she was 13, detailing a special relationship Jennifer had with two adult coaches (Jason Ritter and Elizabeth Debicki), Jennifer returns to the Carolina horse farm where the events transpired to try to reconcile her version of events with the truth.

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I had been meaning to watch The Tale for some time. I knew that Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki were in it and that it was about the director’s own sexual abuse as a child and I heard some good things about it. The Tale isn’t by any means an easy film to watch but I do think that it is worth taking a look at.

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Handling a subject matter like abuse is definitely touchy and not an easy task for any film to have. I’m actually surprised that it was actually HBO who distributed this movie, it’s probably their most controversial movie and looking at the results, the risk definitely paid off well. This is a great examination of trauma and abuse, and something that definitely helped is that director Jennifer Fox is telling her own story, and that really added a lot. It’s a bit unconventional with the way it tells its story, mainly the flashbacks, with the time period jumping all around the place. In a way it works as it’s Fox looking back at her life, but at times it’s a little too jarring and hard to follow. I will say though that the way they ended the movie and story was great.

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One of the highlights of the movie are the performances. Laura Dern is such an talented and underrated actress and I’m glad that she finally got a lead role in a movie. Here she basically plays Jennifer Fox and this is definitely among her best performances, a powerhouse yet real performance, especially towards the end of the movie. Isabelle Nélisse also plays the younger Jennifer and she’s quite prominent throughout flashbacks and she’s quite convincing in her role. The rest of the cast is great as well. Jason Ritter and Elizbeth Debicki play the two adult coaches that the young Fox had some sort of relationship with and both were really great, especially Debicki. The older versions of the two played by John Heard and Frances Conroy were also great. Ellen Burstyn and Common were also very good as Dern’s mother and boyfriend respectively.

The Tale

Jennifer Fox’s direction was quite good and she knows how to handle her story, even if there were some aspects that didn’t work perfectly. Fox prior to filming The Tale was a documentary filmmaker and at times you can feel it, and I mean it in a good way. There are bits where people in the flashbacks where Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and even Isabelle Nélisse (who played the younger version of Fox) are being interviewed by the younger and older versions of Fox, with the camera facing the interviewee and all that. As it is about Fox looking back at these people, it made sense and worked for what she was going for. Despite some editing decisions that made the movie a little bit jumpy at times and feeling occasionally like a tv show (given that it’s an HBO movie it’s not that surprising), Fox’s debut at a non-documentary film was quite good.

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The Tale is for sure difficult to watch, but an important look at abuse and trauma, and all around was a really good movie. The highlights were the great performances, particularly from Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki, and it was directed very well. While the subject matter is heavy, I’d say that it’s a film well worth watching.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Retrospective Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Director: Ron Howard

Before he crossed paths with The Rebellion, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) was a former Imperial Militant who became a space pirate cruising around the Outer Rim alongside his fellow outlaw: the mighty Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). This is the story of how he came to be known as the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler, and how the man became a legend.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story remains a movie that was just mildly received by fans and critics alike. While some people would chalk that up to disinterest in Star Wars after the backlash to The Last Jedi from the year before, not many people really wanted a young Han Solo movie, and from the trailers it looked generally okay at best. It surprisingly bombed at the box office despite being a Star Wars movie (though they probably should’ve put it in cinemas in December instead of the middle of the year). I liked Solo when I first saw it, and I still like Solo now. However it’s probably the worst movie in the Star Wars series, aside from the first two prequels of course. I wouldn’t say that it does a lot of bad, it’s that it’s mostly just fine, competently made but doesn’t have a lot of great aspects to make it very memorable.

Much of the plot is straightforward and I went along with much of the plot decisions, even some of the weird ones like how Han received his last name of Solo. There are some callbacks which are a little cringeworthy and forced, but I tolerated them. The part that interested me the most about the plot was the part about the criminal underworld, we hadn’t seen that explored in a live action Star Wars movie. I wish there was a little more of that however, you get some but really not enough of that. Ultimately my biggest gripe with the movie was how safe it played everything. The movie is what you’d expect a Han Solo movie to be, but just that. It shows how Han met Chewbacca and Lando, how he got the Millennium Falcon, how he made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, etc. Now as some people know already, this movie originally had Chris Lord and Phil Miller directing, and part of the reason they were fired was because they were improvising a lot and deviating from the screenplay often. While I can’t say which version would’ve been better, it would’ve at least made things a little more unique at least. The ending with Darth Maul might’ve been fanservice (especially with him randomly igniting his lightsabre during his hologram meeting with Qi’ra for no reason at all), but I genuinely would’ve liked to have seen where it progressed next in future movies.

Alden Ehrenreich ultimately does a good job as young Han Solo, he may not be doing a Harrison Ford impression, but what’s most important is that he nails the essence of a younger version of the beloved character. It’s not an easy task, but I think that Ehrenreich really pulled it off. I feel like this version of Han really suffered from not having follow up movies to progress him. For those who know, Han changed quite a bit in A New Hope, and so his story arc from smuggler to hero was in that movie already. By the end of Solo however, Han is a hero, so it feels like follow up movies would have to make him go backwards so that he’s at the state that he’s in before A New Hope. It’s irksome but you get past that. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, Han’s mentor, you wouldn’t think it at first but he actually fits the role quite well. Emilia Clarke was quite good here, with her role of Qi’ra being one of the more interesting characters of the movie. With the point that they left off the movie at the end of Solo, I really would’ve like to have seen where the next movie would take her character, with her as the new leader of the Crimson Dawn. Paul Bettany plays Michael K. Williams’s replacement as Dryden Vos. Bettany is clearly having fun with the role, and he’s pretty good, even if it’s just a couple scenes. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen what Michael K. Williams would’ve done in the role. There was much hype with Donald Glover playing Lando Calrissian in the lead up to Solo’s release. Personally I thought he did a very fine impression of Billy Dee Williams. Outside of that there’s not really much to say about the performance, you don’t really get to learn anything about Lando and he doesn’t really leave much of an impression. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 character had received criticism from some people, I found her to be just fine. Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau (as a voice) are very brief performers as members of Harrelson’s crew, I guess they play their parts well but they don’t last very long, so they really could’ve cast anyone in these roles and it would’ve worked just as well.

Solo isn’t among his best films, but Ron Howard did direct this well. The visual effects are quite good as to be expected, and the action was entertaining and fast paced. The cinematography by Bradford Young is among the best of the Star Wars movies, there are many parts that looked great. There’s just one problem, at times the lighting was a little too dark for its own good, so there are some parts especially earlier on where it was hard to see what was happening. The score by John Powell worked well enough for the movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is relatively decent. It’s mostly directed well, and most of the cast do well in their roles. It’s entertaining for what it is, but it really doesn’t do enough to justify its existence and at the end of the day, was just sort of conventional. If I was to recommend someone watching the whole series, even if it isn’t the worst in the series, I would say that they wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on a lot if they didn’t see Solo. However it’s not a bad watch if you have 2 hours and 15 minutes to spare.

Revenge (2018) Review

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Matilda Lutz as Jen
Kevin Janssens as Richard
Vincent Colombe as Stan
Guillaume Bouchède as Dimitri
Jean-Louis Tribes as Roberto
Director: Coralie Fargeat

Jen (Matilda Lutz) is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend (Kevin Janssens) until his two sleazy friends (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède) arrive for an unannounced hunting trip. As tension mounts in the house, the situation abruptly and viciously intensifies, culminating in a shocking act that leaves Jen brutalised and left for dead. Unfortunately for her assailants, she survives and soon begins a relentless quest for bloody revenge.

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Revenge was a movie I had been hearing about for some time, mainly that it was a graphic French revenge movie that is really good. Rape revenge is a sub-genre I haven’t exactly come across until now, nor was it one I was particularly looking to start watching, but I guess this is my first movie in the genre, and it was a pretty good flick at that. Definitely not an easy watch but it was very well made movie for what it is.

Revenge as you can probably tell, is a revenge movie and in that it follows the familiar tropes that come with it, plotwise it doesn’t really do anything unpredictable or different. For the first half it fails to do much special things as all it does is fall into the familiar beats that are to be expected from a typical revenge movie. The story and characters aren’t given much depth and are very simplistic. With that said, there is an understanding that this is what the movie was going for, a straightforward and bloody revenge flick, and in that it really succeeds. I can’t really talk about how it compares to other rape revenge movies but I’ve seen a few exploitation movies, and it really fits right in that genre. Despite some of the dark and violent things that happen, it doesn’t quite feel tasteless. Also know that despite how grimy and gritty this movie can get, it’s not the most realistic of revenge stories. For example, the attempt on the lead character’s life was being pushed off a cliff onto a cactus and being brutally impaled, she literally shouldn’t be alive for longer than an hour. It’s not a big deal, just worth noting going in. At under 2 hours long, once it starts with the main character going after the 3 antagonists, it has your attention all the way to the end.

As I mentioned previously, Revenge doesn’t have particularly well written or interesting characters but the cast played their roles quite well. One of the film’s strong parts is Matilda Lutz in the lead role, she was great. The only other movie I’ve seen Lutz in was Rings, a movie that I really didn’t like. It seemed it didn’t showcase her talents very well because she’s great in Revenge. She is very convincing at the revenge parts of the movie, at the same time she’s never necessarily always on top of things, really well balanced. It’s pretty clear that her character is not used to all of this and still feels vulnerable throughout the entire movie. After the failed attempt on her life, I don’t think she had any lines throughout the rest of the movie, yet she was able to act so well with very little. The 3 men who Matilda go up against, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède, work well enough. They are pretty standard villains and don’t have a lot to them but do enough to make themselves seem like human beings instead of just one note evil antagonists.

Probably what makes Revenge stand out from other revenge movies is the direction by Coralie Fargeat, which was great. Even though it didn’t start out particularly strong or gripping, the direction was just so incredible that I was kept interested during the early sections of the movie. Even before all the violence starts, it is pretty effectively uncomfortable early on, such as the way it focusses on things like a mouth chewing food or ants on a partly eaten apple. Apparently Fargeat was inspired by the likes of Tarantino and it shows throughout Revenge. It is an incredibly brutal and graphic movie, not for the faint of heart at all. Imagine the blood and gore from a typical Quentin Tarantino movie, then double it. It might actually be one of the most violent movies I’ve seen, certainly the most violent to come from 2018. Not so much that it unsettled or disturbed me (I have a very strong stomach for movie violence), it’s just that there are large portions that I was just amazed by the amount of blood on screen. It can be a particularly ugly movie at times, and while with some movies it can be very offputting and work against it, it really worked for Revenge. It is a stunning looking movie, and it really places you right there alongside these characters in the hot desert.

Revenge definitely isn’t for everyone. It is an incredibly violent movie and if you’re squeamish in the slightest, definitely don’t watch it. It has some faults with it being a little too similar to other revenge movies and doesn’t do much to make it stand out from the rest, but on the whole, I still liked it quite a lot. Coralie Fargeat’s direction was incredibly effective and particularly impressive, and Matilda Lutz was great in the lead role. If you like watching exploitation movies and can stomach a lot of extreme violence, give Revenge a shot, it might be right up your alley.

Eighth Grade (2018) Review

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Elsie Fisher as Kayla Day
Josh Hamilton as Mark Day
Emily Robinson as Olivia
Catherine Oliviere as Kennedy Graves
Jake Ryan as Gabe
Luke Prael as Aiden Wilson
Daniel Zolghadri as Riley
Director: Bo Bunrham

Thirteen-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth-grade year.

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I heard a lot of positive things about Eighth Grade for a little while. All I knew about the movie was that it was focussing on a girl in eighth grade and apparently it was good. I didn’t know anything outside of that going in. Eighth Grade actually was quite good, an honest portrayal of adolescence and social anxiety with good acting, writing and direction.

I was nervous about some things going into Eighth Grade, every time a movie tries to focus on teenagers and particularly things in their lives like social media, more often than not it ends up being a 90+ minute dose of “How do you do fellow kids”. It’s particularly annoying to me when adults attempt to portray and present teenagers in movie and are clearly so out of touch with how kids actually are like. So when I say that Eighth Grade did it well, I mean it. It’s surprising all things considering, it features adults unironically saying “lit” and dabbing and still manages to feel authentic to real life. It’s been a while since I’ve been in eighth grade so I can’t be absolutely certain that they portrayed everything accurately, but it at least manages to capture the feeling of being in school around that time. Watching Eighth Grade at times could be cringey and uncomfortable but know that I mean that in a good way. Many of the situations that the lead character find herself in are awkward and it does a good job at making you almost as uncomfortable as her. There’s something about the whole movie that feels so natural and honest, especially when it comes to them portraying social anxiety quite well through the main character. Bo Burnham’s script is just so great overall and is a large part of why Eighth Grade works so well.

Elsie Fisher is great in the lead role, I haven’t seen her in anything really and she hasn’t been in much, but she worked so well here. Her performance is just so natural and you really are with her throughout the entire film. I guess it also helps that they cast an actual teenager in the role instead of an actress in her 20s pretending to be a teenager, like a lot of coming of age movies. Josh Hamilton is also really good as Fisher’s single father. He’s a tad too perfect and understanding of a father, which kind of took me out of the movie because of how mostly realistic the movie is. Nonetheless he and Fisher still really worked well together. There’s really nothing else to say about the rest of the cast, they play their roles well enough but they are usually in the background or show up for like a few scenes when they are focussed on and then just disappear from the rest of the movie.

I haven’t heard of Bo Burnham, before this movie apparently he was a Youtuber and a comedian and Eighth Grade is his directorial debut. I have to say that it was a pretty great directorial debut, really the cinematography and editing is definitely competent and compliment the rest of the movie quite well.

Eighth Grade is definitely well worth the watch. On top of the great performances by Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton, it’s a very genuine movie about adolescence and social anxiety, well written and directed by Bo Burnham. It’s well deserving of the praise it has been receiving.

Vox Lux (2018) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use & sexual material
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Celeste Montgomery
Raffey Cassidy as Young Celeste Montgomery/Albertine
Jude Law as The Manager
Stacy Martin as Eleanor “Ellie” Montgomery
Jennifer Ehle as Josie
Director: Brady Corbet

Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is a 13-year-old music prodigy who survives a horrific school shooting in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1999. Her talent shines through during the memorial service when she sings a song that touches the hearts of the mourners. Guided by her sister (Stacy Martin) and a talent manager (Jude Law), the young phenom transforms into a rising pop star with a promising future. Eighteen years later, Celeste (Natalie Portman) now finds herself on the comeback trail when a scandal, personal struggles and the pitfalls of fame threaten her career.

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Vox Lux was the one 2018 movie that I had been meaning to watch before making my best films of 2018 list. I had been hearing about this movie for a long time, from the point that Rooney Mara was originally cast in the lead role before Natalie Portman replaced her. While I would’ve loved to have seen Mara in the role, Natalie Portman is still a fantastic actress, Jude Law was also in the movie, the music is done by Sia, and so I was at the very least curious about the movie. The very polarising reaction to the whole movie just got me interested in it more. Having watched the movie, I can confirm that it’s not a movie for everyone but is definitely worth watching.

Vox Lux is split into two halves, the Raffey Cassidy half, and the Natalie Portman half. The Raffey Cassidy half is really great, I really liked seeing the rise of Celeste. There have been plenty of movies following the rise of musicians but Vox Lux is quite original throughout, touching on topics that you wouldn’t expect it to, there’s a lot to unpack with this movie. It’s so out there, ambitious and bold, and much of it won’t work for people, I loved it though. The Natalie Portman is a dramatic shift for sure, while I’m sure most people will like the Cassidy half, the second half is what will divide some people. I will say that it’s a step down from the first half and is the main reason why I don’t love the movie more, however I still really liked it. The problem with talking about this section is that I can’t exactly express why the second half just didn’t work quite as well. The first half I really was invested for the entirety of it. With the Portman half I still was interested in it but not as much as the previous half. While I liked the concert section at the end, there was something that was missing from the conclusion. Maybe if it was a little longer (the movie is only like an hour and 50 minutes long) it might’ve worked a little better. Maybe another viewing of the movie might make things much more clear for me regarding this section.

Raffey Cassidy plays Celeste in her teenage years and also plays the daughter of Celeste in the Portman half and is equally great in both roles, giving a really subtle and effective performance. I’d argue that it’s Cassidy who steals the show in this movie. Natalie Portman’s performance is something that I’ve heard mixed things about, mostly that it’s over the top. Having watched the movie, I do think that the complaints are exaggerated just a little bit, she really is great here and puts everything into her performance. Yes, her performance is larger than life (not sure whether it was her or Corbet’s choice), and maybe a slightly more subtle performance would’ve worked. Most of the problem with that is that Portman plays Celeste completely differently from Cassidy, so it’s very jarring. I get that 15 years later she might’ve been acting differently, but it was so distractingly different. Making it even more so was the accent, it may not have bothered me as much as it did others but it is a little too over the top (not to mention I’m not really sure how Celeste just suddenly gained a completely different accent). Nonetheless her hamming up her performance here was entertaining amd she really gives a performance that I’ve never seen her give before. The rest of the cast play their parts as well, Stacy Martin was really good as Celeste’s sister and Jude Law was also good as Celeste’s manager.

This is the first film by Brady Corbet that I’ve seen and on the whole, he’s really directed this film well. From beginning to end, it’s a great looking movie. The concert scenes were particularly great. The only out of place moment was a very weirdly directed sequence with Portman and Law, is sped up and has some weird looking effect to it. It’s very brief though, it’s just that it stands out a bit from the rest of the movie. The music is also really good, (it’s written by Sia), both Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman also perform the music very convincingly. The film also uses some narration with Willem Dafoe, and while I’m usually mixed about the use of narration, it actually works alright here (not to mention Dafoe’s voice really fitted this movie quite well).

Vox Lux won’t work for everyone, it’s very ambitious and different. However, I do think that it’s worth watching. The first half is definitely the stronger portion of the movie, but I still really liked the whole movie. I really liked what Brady Corbet did with the writing and direction, and the performances (especially from Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman) are really great. Definitely see it for yourself, and it might be a movie I need to rewatch at some point.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
KiKi Layne as Clementine “Tish” Rivers
Stephan James as Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt
Regina King as Sharon Rivers
Teyonah Parris as Ernestine Rivers
Colman Domingo as Joseph Rivers
Brian Tyree Henry as Daniel Carty
Ed Skrein as Officer Bell
Emily Rios as Victoria Rogers
Michael Beach as Frank Hunt
Aunjanue Ellis as Mrs. Hunt
Ebony Obsidian as Adrienne Hunt
Dominique Thorne as Sheila Hunt
Finn Wittrock as Hayward
Diego Luna as Pedrocito
Pedro Pascal as Pietro Alvarez
Dave Franco as Levy
Director: Barry Jenkins

In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish (KiKi Layne) vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

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If Beale Street Could Talk has been a movie I’ve been meaning to see for a while and it’s partly the reason why I have been holding off on making my favourite films of 2018 list. The main standout part was that it comes from Barry Jenkins, the writer/director behind Moonlight, an excellent film that rightfully won Best Picture of that year. I had been hearing so many great things about his latest film and I am so glad I waited to see it. I had a great amount of anticipation for If Beale Street Could Talk, and yet it blew me away, it was absolutely phenomenal.

Like with Moonlight, the film was written by Barry Jenkins, this time it’s based on a book of the same name by James Baldwin, however you can really feel that this is a Jenkins movie. It’s actually pretty difficult to explain why If Beale Street Can Talk works as well as it does, however I’ll do my best. Everything about the writing, from the story, to the dialogue and the characters feels so incredibly real and genuine, you really feel like you’re watching a real story with real people. You just get so emotionally invested with the characters. Yes, given the premise you’d be right to say that it’s quite melancholic at some points, because it is, given that it’s surrounding a black man being put in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. However it’s not just one big long depressing watch, it feels very natural and human, with happy moments, humorous moments, sad moments and the like. Honestly the only thing about the movie that I might take issue with might be that there’s a scene where we get to see the families of both Tish and Fonny, and while we get a brief look at the family dynamics, we don’t get a dive enough into the conflicts beyond that one scene, it’s a very minor nitpick however and isn’t that big of a problem. The movie ends on a bit of an open note, but it was the perfect ending for the film.

There are a lot of actors involved with the movie and they all do a great job, no matter how big or little their roles are. KiKi Layne and Stephan James play the leads of Tish and Fonny, and they are really great. We only get some glimpses into their romance in the time before Fonny is arrested, however in the moments we get, they are very believable together and their chemistry is truly great. Often times when it comes to a romance movie, even if it gets most aspects well, I would feel very underwhelmed if I’m not truly invested in the lead relationship. Thankfully, Beale Street’s central romance works excellently. Layne is particularly wonderful in her role as the central lead, definitely deserving of a lot of praise. Regina King is really great as Tish’s mother, I can see why she’s the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress at this upcoming Oscars. Brian Tyree Henry is also briefly in the movie as a friend of Stephen James and while he’s not in a lot of scenes, he is a standout in his screentime. The rest of the cast were all really good. Even those who show up for a scene or two, whether that be Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal or Ed Skrein, they do great jobs at making themselves memorable for their screentime, and not necessarily just because you recognise them.

Barry Jenkins once again directs absolutely wonderfully here, like with his writing you can definitely tell this is a Jenkins film from his direction. Everything is so perfectly put together. I also noticed that there were plenty of visual storytelling moments, they are very sublte and small, and not a lot happens, but they tell so much. It’s a beautiful looking movie, with James Laxton’s great cinematography really adding a tremendous amount to the movie and at times really giving it a dreamlike vibe. That vibe is also helped by the score composed by Nicolas Britell, which was great.

If Beale Street Could Talk is fantastic and one of the all time best films of 2018. It’s a heartfelt and emotional movie, it’s perfectly written, the performances are great and Barry Jenkins’s direction was fantastic. I am absolutely astounded that despite floating around multiple film awards, it was shut out for Best Picture, had it been nominated this year it would’ve been my pick for it. I’m not sure how it ranks against Moonlight, I’ll need to rewatch it to be sure, but If Beale Street Could Talk is still a fantastic film on its own and is an absolute essential watch.

The Wife (2018) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Glenn Close as Joan Castleman
Annie Starke as young Joan Castleman
Jonathan Pryce as Professor Joseph Castleman
Harry Lloyd as young Joseph Castleman
Christian Slater as Nathaniel Bone
Max Irons as David Castleman
Elizabeth McGovern as Elaine Mozell
Director: Björn Runge

Joan (Glenn Close) and Joe (Jonathan Pryce) remain complements after nearly 40 years of marriage. Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant. Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing. And where Joe enjoys his very public role as the great American novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm and diplomacy into the private role of a great man’s wife. As Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work, Joan starts to think about the shared compromises, secrets and betrayals.

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I hadn’t been looking forward to watching The Wife. It seemed like yet another one of those bland awards movies that only get attention because of one performance and the plot didn’t seem interesting in the slightest. Even the title was uninteresting. The only reason I watched The Wife honestly was because of the awards attention towards Glenn Close’s performance, and it was pretty much what I thought it would be. Not bad but nothing much more than above average, with the acting being really the only good part of the whole movie.

The Wife as a story just really wasn’t all that impressive. When I say that the trailer pretty much covers the extent of where the plot goes, I really mean it. I don’t mean it in as the trailer showed too much, it gives the basic idea of the movie (as it should) but the plot doesn’t really become much more than that. There are plenty of movies about a husband taking credit for the wife’s work (see Colette and Big Eyes) but The Wife seems to just be about that basic idea and nothing more. It has nothing else to offer, there is nothing different about this story from others to make it interesting. The third act is when it is when it picks up, because that’s when Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce directly address the issue and get into conflicts about it and we really get to see their dynamic and then it becomes interesting. While the idea is teased earlier on, the only time that the two characters deal with it head on is near the end of the movie. If it even started halfway through it would’ve kept my attention longer. Instead we have to wait for like 80 minutes of them beating around the bush. Even just the writing itself wasn’t all that great. The dialogue can be pretty on the nose and cliched, and some of the things that happen can be contrived and coincidental at times, an example involving a flight attendant on a plane earlier in the movie. On top of that, the story just wasn’t all that interesting and was rather dull. Again, picks up in the third act but throughout the rest of the movie I was completely uninvested. The script wasn’t terrible but was generally lacklustre until the third act.

The one thing that makes the movie better than average is the performances but I feel like even they feel somewhat held back by both the writing and direction. Their best acting moments mostly consist of them having ‘big acting moments’ (you know what I’m meaning), not that the acting is bad, it’s just that at times it feels like there are moments allocated for each actor to go really big with their acting. I’m not even sure if I’ve seen a movie with Glenn Close in it before (aside from Guardians of the Galaxy) but she was really good here. I don’t think she’s as spectacular as some people have been making her out to be and I have seen better lead actress performances last year, but she was still quite good. To be fair to her, she also does have some subtle acting moments as it builds up to the third act, and that third act is where she goes full force with her performance and just unleashes everything she has. Jonathan Pryce was also surprisingly great as the husband, given that when it came to this movie the only positive thing I heard about was relating to Glenn Close. Pryce also deserves some praise as well for his performance. Max Irons is decent enough as their son and Christian Slater is good as a biographer/journalist who is prying into the lives of the lead characters. Annie Starke (the daughter of Glenn Close by the way) and Harry Lloyd were also good as the younger versions of the lead characters.

Usually I don’t have much to say about the direction when it comes to these types of Oscar movies, usually it was competent enough and there’s not much to say about it. This time it’s different, not because it’s spectacular, quite the opposite really. Apparently Björn Runge has directed some things before, I’ve not seen his other work but his direction of The Wife is quite average really. Even with a script which isn’t great, it still could’ve been spiced things up to make it a little more interesting. There is no style whatsoever when it comes to the direction, it’s very blandly directed and all in all is rather subpar. The only thing I could say that was done well with regards to the technical elements was that the locations were pretty good.

The Wife doesn’t have much to offer outside of the performances. The direction is really bland and the writing doesn’t offer much of interest until the third act. It’s just the acting elevating things slightly, with Glenn Close of course having the spotlight. If you want to see what all the fuss about Glenn Close’s performance for awards season, then I guess you could watch The Wife. It’s not bad or anything, just not really that good either.

The Old Man & the Gun (2018) Review

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Forrest Tucker
Casey Affleck as John Hunt
Danny Glover as Teddy Green
Tika Sumpter as Maureen Hunt
Tom Waits as Waller
Sissy Spacek as Jewel
Director: David Lowery

At the age of 70, Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) makes an audacious escape from San Quentin, conducting an unprecedented string of heists that confound authorities and enchant the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest’s commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek) who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.

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The Old Man & the Gun was a movie that I was interested in. Not only is it a film by David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Pete’s Dragon) and having a cast that features actors like Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek, it’s also said to be legendary actor’s Robert Redford’s last performance. I will admit watching it, it really wasn’t quite as great as I was hoping it would be given all of what I just mentioned. However, there were still some pretty good parts to it and the movie was decent enough overall.

There’s nothing that the movie does particularly wrong, it’s just not as memorable and I wasn’t entertained/interested as I hoped I would be. I don’t even have that much to say about it except that it’s fine. You do need to go in expecting a bit of a slow burn throughout, because that’s what it really is. It took me a while for me to get really into it, after a certain point I was somewhat interested in what was going on. I guess knowing that this movie is based on a true story and real person does make the movie more interesting at least.

The cast is all around talented and great. I know that this movie is based on a true story and a true person but this role seems perfectly tailed to Robert Redford, that I can’t imagine any other actor playing that role. As the titular Old Man with a gun, he’s basically the main event and this whole movie is surrounding him, and he’s definitely the best part of the movie. While admittedly I haven’t seen a ton of his performances in his career overall, I think this might be one of his best, and a pretty good one to end his career on. Sissy Spacek is good as well as someone who ends up being Redford’s love interest, the two of them have great chemistry throughout. Now 3 time David Lowery collaborator Casey Affleck is good as the cop who’s trying to track down Robert Redford, despite the amount of scenes that he gets however, his doesn’t quite have a resolution to his story. Other actors like Danny Glover and Tom Waits (both of them playing Redford’s accomplices) do well in their roles as well.

David Lowery has proved with his past few films that he’s a really great director and The Old Man & the Gun was again directed pretty well. There’s not a lot to say about the direction all round, I guess it feels like it’s in the 1980s, the production design, costumes and editing was pretty good and it was shot well, the music choices also worked really well for the movie. It’s a very lowkey movie, with the direction not being too flashy.

The Old Man & the Gun I’d say is definitely David Lowery’s weakest movie out of the ones I’ve seen from him but still is pretty decent and isn’t bad by any means. I’d describe it as a pretty good (albeit slow) movie to watch if you’re doing something while watching it. It’s not essential viewing by any means but it might be worth checking out for the performances, especially for Robert Redford’s last performance.

Christopher Robin (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin
Hayley Atwell as Evelyn Robin
Bronte Carmichael as Madeline Robin
Jim Cummings as: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger
Brad Garrett as Eeyore
Director: Marc Forster

Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) – now a family man living in London – receives a surprise visit from his old childhood pal, Winnie the Pooh. With Christopher’s help, Pooh embarks on a journey to find his friends – Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo. Once reunited, the lovable bear and the gang travel to the big city to help Christopher rediscover the joy of life.

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I’ve been meaning to watch Christopher Robin for a little while. I don’t think I grew up with Winnie the Pooh but I was still somewhat similar familiar with it, and with it starring Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell, I was somewhat curious about it. Christopher Robin is a pretty good and heartwarming family movie, even if it doesn’t start off as great as it could’ve.

Christopher Robin isn’t just a jolly Winnie the Pooh live action movie featuring an adult Christopher Robin, or at the very least it doesn’t start off like that. At the very beginning it’s very melancholic and reflective, way too overly so. It starts with Christopher Robin saying goodbye to his Winnie the Pooh friends, then it shows him growing up as an adult and then for some reason it shows him in war, it was a really weird tone to start with, considering later on it doesn’t maintain that tone. With it starting out with that sombre tone it felt like the movie was going to be depressing by the end. I was really wondering where it was really going, and not in the good way. Where it picked up was when Christopher meets with Pooh and even more so when he comes back to his childhood home and meets his other old friends. There is quite a notable amount of light hearted humour (even if it doesn’t appear so at first), most of it coming from the Winnie the Pooh characters, and it really worked. I guess the story is not that unpredictable, the setup of the story is very familiar to some other family movies, where the father is always busy with his job and doesn’t spend much time with their child. We’ve seen this plot many times before and you can probably tell what happens in the rest of the movie just from that description. However it still works alright for this movie and its not too big of a deal that it’s nothing that new.

Ewan McGregor is good as an older Christopher Robin, as I said this portrayal of Christopher has been done with lead characters in these kinds of stories many times before and is nothing special but McGregor is still good in the role. Hayley Atwell plays Christopher’s wife and while she doesn’t get a lot to work with, she does the best with what she has and added to the movie. Christopher’s daughter played by Bronte Carmichael was also pretty good. All the portrayals of the Winnie the Pooh characters here seem quite representative of the characters from the original source material (at least from what I remember).

Marc Forster is a pretty good director, and his work on Christopher Robin is pretty good as well. The animation and designs of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the characters worked really well, with them looking like teddy bears and toys. Aside from them there doesn’t appear to be much other visual effects. It’s a pretty low key and grounded movie throughout.

Christopher Robin is well acted and solidly directed and all around pretty good. It doesn’t start off the best, with it being way too melancholic but once we get to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters again, it really picks up and it gets to be the light hearted movie it is. It’s nothing innovative but I’d say that it’s worth checking out if it sounds interesting to you.

The Ritual (2018) Review

Time: 94 Minutes
Cast:
Rafe Spall as Luke
Arsher Ali as Phil
Robert James-Collier as Hutch
Sam Troughton as Dom
Director: David Bruckner

Reuniting after the tragic death of their friend, four college pals (Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton) set out to hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. A wrong turn leads them into the mysterious forests of Norse legend, where an ancient evil exists and stalks them at ever turn.

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I had sort of heard about The Ritual for a while now, a Netflix horror thriller that takes place in the woods with Nordic elements. That’s literally all I knew going into the movie and with that I had quite a good time with it. It’s quite a familiar horror movie for sure but its nonetheless a pretty good movie.

I personally found not knowing anything about the movie before going in helped a lot, so if you don’t already know much about it, try to not learn too much more about what it’s about before watching. The Ritual has a pretty standard plot: people go into the woods and crazy things happen. It does a pretty good job at keeping your attention throughout its 90 minute runtime. Most of the movie is a slow build up but isn’t necessarily a slow burn, it keeps up the pace and doesn’t really drag. Once it gets to the 4 of them entering inside a house, that’s when it really picks up. Every random sighting or experience from them just adds upon the suspense and sense of dread. There aren’t any answers given to them until much later on in the movie. When it gets to the last act it sort of loses that sort of suspense and mystery but I was still fine with where they went. While I was okay with the direction they went with for the story at the end, they do end it a little abruptly and it would’ve been benefitted from another scene or so.

The cast consists of mainly Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James Collier and Sam Troughton and while their characters aren’t given a huge amount of depth and are standard horror main characters, their performances made up for it. The 4 of them do feel like friends and people losing their minds as they descend deeper into the woods. The main character out of all of them is really Rafe Spall and while he is really good in the movie, unfortunately the only aspect really given to his character is just guilt over not being able to stop a friend’s death. Otherwise we basically know nothing about him and that one aspect we do know about him doesn’t really come around to affect the plot in a major way, which is strange considering that we keep flashing back to it. We don’t know that much more about the other 3 characters but its enough for the movie.

Almost all of the movie is set inside the Swedish woods and it does a great job at setting the audience there as well. It builds up atmosphere very effectively and the scares for the most part aren’t cheap and are effective. The Ritual throughout is building up some sort of creature or force and while I won’t spoil what it is, I’ll say that the creature itself is completely original and unique to any horror monster I’ve seen before. Most of the time you don’t see it at all but it is creepy and freaky whenever it is.

The Ritual is another decent little horror flick. The acting is pretty good, the overall direction was good, the atmosphere is effective, the monster is something unique and the whole movie keeps your attention from start to finish. It’s not something that we haven’t seen before but if you like horror movies, The Ritual is definitely worth a watch.