Review – Ready Player One (2018)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao, Simon Pegg, T.J. Miller

Ready Player One

When introducing Ready Player One before its premiere at South by Southwest, director Steven Spielberg stated that in bringing Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel to the screen he was trying to make a movie, not a film. The resulting work sees the legendary director back in a fun, crowd pleasing mode he hasn’t played in for a long time, and in doing so the filmmaker who practically invented the modern blockbuster shows that he has still got it.

In the year 2045, people all over the world escape the mundanity of the real life by donning a headset and disappearing into the Oasis, a virtual universe in which you can do anything and be anyone. Before his death, the creator of the Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), devised a Willy Wonka-like scheme to find an heir. He built into the Oasis three hidden challenges. The first person to successfully complete the challenges and find Halliday’s Easter Egg would inherit control of the Oasis. Continue reading

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Review – Red Sparrow (2018)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Douglas Hodge, Sakina Jaffrey

Red Sparrow

As Jennifer Lawrence has transitioned from just being an actress to being a fully fledged superstar her public persona, the irreverent, funny goofball, has come to the fore. Red Sparrow, in which she is reunited with director Francis Lawrence who helmed the final three films of the Hunger Games series, gives her the opportunity to return to those qualities which first grabbed the world’s attention  in Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook: strength, defiance, determination.

“Every human being is a puzzle of need. Learn how to be the missing piece and they will give you anything.” This is the mantra of the Sparrows, a special program within the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, focused on psychological manipulation. Continue reading

Review – Lady Bird (2017)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothee Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott

Lady Bird

It is always great when a potent new cinematic voice announces themselves, but as a female, millenial voice Greta Gerwig’s arrival is particularly timely. Then again, ‘arrival’ may be misleading. Over the last decade Gerwig has established herself as a significant figure in the American independent film scene as an actress and screenwriter, first through her involvement in the emerging Mumblecore movement, and more recently through her collaborations with writer-director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America). However, the confidence and maturity of her first solo effort as writer-director, Lady Bird, has seen it transcend its indie status and capture a level of deserved attention that has previously alluded her.

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who prefers to go by Lady Bird, is a senior at Immaculate Heart Catholic girls school in Sacramento who dreams of escaping the city for an east coast college, ”where culture is.” Continue reading

Review – The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg

Shape of Water

Steven Spielberg once suggested that if someone can tell him an idea in a single sentence, it will make a pretty good movie. In the case of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, that sentence would be “A mute cleaning lady falls in love with a fish monster.” It’s an unusual sentence, and its an unusual film: a Cold War noir, fairytale romance to be precise. But you know what, Spielberg was right. It’s a pretty good movie.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) lives in a small Baltimore apartment, upstairs from a cinema. She is mute and lives on her own, but she is not alone. She spends her time watching old musicals on television with her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), a closeted gay artist, and works as a cleaner at a military aerospace research facility with the irrepressible Zelda (Octavia Spencer), who fortunately does enough talking for the both of them. Continue reading

Review – Mary Magdalene (2018)

Director: Garth Davis

Starring: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahar Rahim, Charles Babaloa, Uri Gavriel, Twfeek Barhom, Zohar Shtrauss, Ariane Labed, Ryan Corr, Denis Menochet

Mary Magdalene

There have been many films made about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Some have been good. Others have not. Some have been insightful. Others have crumbled under the pressure of the intimidating source material. Every time we get a new retelling of Jesus story the question needs to be asked: why? What will be different about this one? What will this adaptation tell us that previous ones have not? With Garth Davis’s Mary Magdalene, by focusing on the titular character, it gives us a uniquely female perspective on a tale thats telling is almost always inherently patriarchal.

In the year 561, Pope Gregory declared that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute, conflating her character with another who appeared in the gospel, a misconception which remains to today. Mary Magdalene, written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, seeks to reclaim her story. Continue reading

Review – Black Panther (2018)

Director: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker

Black Panther

The superhero movie has evolved as a genre over the last two decades, embracing more sophisticated narratives and themes. However despite that progression, it has remained almost exclusively the domain of white, male protagonists. The overwhelming response to Wonder Woman last year showed how empowering it was for women to finally see themselves in positions of strength and agency usually reserved for men. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther offers that same experience to people of African descent, again pointing to the incredible importance of representation in cinema, particularly in popular cinema. Continue reading

Review – I, Tonya (2017)

Director: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Caitlin Carver

I Tonya

Sporting villains don’t come much greater than Tonya Harding. In the lead up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was injured in an attack found to have been orchestrated by Harding’s husband. It was one of the most outrageous sporting scandals in history and brought Harding an infamy far exceeding the profile of her sport. For the many who have only ever known Tonya Harding in relation to “the incident,” Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya serves as interesting background to one of sports most notorious figures. With an entirely different energy to your traditional biopic, I, Tonya is Goodfellas if it were set in the world of competitive figure skating and populated entirely by morons. Continue reading