Review – Isle of Dogs (2018)

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Fisher Stevens, Liev Schreiber, Courtney B. Vance.

Isle of Dogs

In recent years, Wes Anderson has seemingly surpassed Tim Burton as cinema’s most popular and recognisable visual stylist. With every new film he only becomes more and more Wes Anderson. His latest offering, Isle of Dogs, is possibly his most imaginative film yet and sees him returning to the painstaking medium of stop-motion animation for the first time since Fantastic Mr. Fox.

While the title of the film may sound like ‘I love dogs,’ it takes us to a world which sadly does not. In the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, 20 years in the future, an outbreak of snout fever and dog flu has seen Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), the latest head of the cat-loving Kobayashi dynasty, banish all of the city’s dogs to Trash Island. In this exile colony sick and angry dogs search for food among the garbage, forming gangs and alliances in order to survive. Continue reading

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Review – The Death of Stalin (2018)

Director: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Adrian McLoughlin, Olga Kurylenko, Dermot Crowley, Paul Whitehouse, Paul Chahidi, Paddy Considine

Death of Stalin

It has been said that comedy is tragedy plus time. With The Death of Stalin, Armando Iannucci, the creator of Veep and The Thick of It, really puts that idea to the test by bringing his brand of acerbic political satire to the darkness of Stalin’s Soviet Union. 

In the years after the Great Terror, the Soviet citizenry and politicians alike live in a constant state of fear of their leader, Josef Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin). But on the evening of 28th February, 1953, the dictator suffers a stroke and collapses alone in his office. The guards outside the door hear him fall but are too terrified to risk interrupting. When his body is discovered the next morning the Council of Ministers convene, but the fear and paranoia remains so strong that none are willing to be the first to acknowledge he has died lest it be interpreted as wishful thinking, nor make any decisive plans lest it be seen as opportunism. Continue reading

Review – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Benedict Wong, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Peter Dinklage, Idris Elba

Avengers

With the incredible success of Black Panther, which is the year’s top grossing film by some margin and Marvel’s third highest grossing film ever, 2018 was already a winner for Marvel Studios before they had even played their trump card. Avengers: Infinity Wars is, by most any measure, one of the biggest movies in history. The film that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to for a decade now, it is a crossover epic 18 films in the making, and promises to be the blockbuster movie event of the year.

When Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who has been missing from Earth since Avengers: Age of Ultron, comes crashing down into Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) Sanctum Sanctorum he brings with him an ominous warning. The titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) is gathering the infinity stones. These six gems forged in the big bang each control an elemental power and if he gets his hand on all six, and he already has three, he will become all powerful. His ultimate goal? Genocide on an unimaginable scale. Continue reading

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

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