Upcoming cinema releases to look forward to…

  1. Last Night in Soho (29th October)

Dancing between modern day and 1960’s Soho, Edgar Wright’s latest feature tells the story of a young girl (Thomasin McKenzie) who dreams of becoming a fashion designer, idolising an aspiring singer from the 60’s (Anya Taylor-Joy). Mysteriously, the young designer becomes able to travel back to the 1960’s, and although things may at first seem exciting, this strange ability to time travel suddenly starts to corrupt her world. Applying the fast-paced and stylised characteristics of Wright’s filmmaking to a thriller will be sure to result in something very interesting, and shouldn’t be missed on the big screen.

2. The Beatles: Get Back (27th August)

Perhaps the best band to ever do it, Peter Jackson has reunited the fab four on the big screen once again. Working from over fifty-five hours of footage originally captured by Michael Lindsey-Hogg in 1970, the ‘Lord of the Rings’ director has restored and re-edited the footage to create an incredible three-part documentary series, with each instalment being two hours in length. To see all four of these incredible musicians come to life once again will be a brilliant experience, and my only complaint would be that I wish the documentary was covering footage from the ‘White Album’ rather than ‘Get Back.’ If you haven’t seen the teaser trailer released a few months ago, I would highly recommend giving it a watch.

3. House of Gucci (26th November)

Ridley Scott directing Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto and Al Pacino in a murder-tale about one of the most influential families in the fashion world might be enough to sell this film to anyone. With the trailer having recently been released, it’s difficult not to anticipate the day that we’ll be able to sit down and enjoy this on the big screen, and although Scott is known to have had a fairly on-and-off run in terms of quality in recent years, it’s looking like ‘House of Gucci’ could be another great film for the director.

4. Dune (21st October)

One of 2021’s most anticipated blockbusters finally arrives in the UK late October. Denis Villeneuve directs this new adaption of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel about the son of a nobel family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy. It’s unsurprising that with this star-studded cast Dune has already taken the film festival circuit by storm. This film is definitely one to watch on the big screen.

5. King Richard (12th November)

A film that seems to have flown relatively under the radar, but absolutely one to keep an eye on, King Richard. The film takes a look at tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, where they came from and how they rose to dominate their sport having been coached by their father, Richard Williams. With early Oscar buzz around Will Smiths performance, it’s certainly a film to see in the cinema.

6. Death on the Nile (11th February)

After Kenneth Branagh’s ambitious adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ brought an all-star cast to the big screen back in 2017, the director/starring actor is lining up another intriguing Christie text with ‘Death on the Nile’. Featuring such brilliant actors as Gal Gadot, Letitia Wright, Armie Hammer and Emma Mackey, with the likes of Ridley Scott helping out on the production side of things, Kenneth Branagh should hopefully deliver another exciting and intriguing blockbuster to cinema goers in early 2022.

The Last Bus – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Ben Ewing and Natalie Mitson. Directed by Gillies MacKinnon Written by Joe Ainsworth Length: 86mins

The last bus follows Tom, a retired engineer, who, upon losing his wife decides that he wants to make one last, long bus trip. After a tragedy early on in their marriage, the pair moved from Lands End up to John O’Groats and the film picks up with Tom as he sets about making the trip back down to the most southernly part of England to wrap up the story of their love. 

In theory, this Brit-flick should be a warm, relatively easy watch; pulling at the heartstrings of it’s audience as they follow the elderly hero as he sets off on his nostalgic journey. Unfortunately, for me it just didn’t translate. Although it was a short film, I was checking my watch, it just didn’t move quite as smoothly as I’d hoped and I found it quite disjointed. Each new scene brought a whole new drama, it almost became funny as every possible thing that could have happened to Tom on his trip, does. 

Having said this, Timothy Spall plays Tom with integrity and commitment. He doesn’t present the total cliche of ‘cute old man’, which at least makes the character a bit more of a ‘real person’. We are allowed to feel his heartbreak and confusion as he negotiates the trip. It was a nice touch to have the memories of Tom and Mary’s relationship when they were first married, it broke up the action and allows the audience to connect with the pair and their experiences.It’s through Tom’s memories that we find the film’s emotional core – why he and his wife moved from Cornwall to the most northern point of the UK and the reasons for some of his stop-offs.

It’s a shame but this film just doesn’t hit the mark, it’s a slow mover that feels like drama has been added simply to push the story along. The writing feels lazy to the point that even with fantastic actors, there is only so much that could be done. Not worth a watch in my opinion. 

The Green Knight – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Dev Patel, Barry Keoghan, Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton
Directed by David Lowery
Length: 130mins

Another film caught up in the unfortunate delays which have affected so many releases in the last year or two, ‘The Green Knight’ has finally been able to hit the big screen and be appreciated by audiences across the world. A promising, if fairly typical A24 trailer built a great amount of anticipation for the latest release from up-and-coming director David Lowery, hinting at a twisted and unsettling adaptation of the classic medieval tale of Gawain and the Green Knight, and in many regards the film managed to deliver on its promises.

Firstly, a review of ‘The Green Knight’ wouldn’t be complete without an appreciation for the incredible visuals which define the story. Capturing the mythological nature of the film through a wide range of techniques, cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo brilliantly conveys the themes and aesthetic through visuals alone. The often barren and untouched landscapes which Gawaian travels across are shown with an eye for detail that feels reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s filmography. Another key aspect which Palermo delivers on is his ability to show the status of a character simply through positioning of the camera and their framing within the shot. Dev Patel’s introduction as a young man not yet come-of-age within the first scenes of the film are reinforced by the way that the camera is used, and immediately shows the audience what to make of him.

Speaking of Patel, his performance is another of many great ones from the last few years. Mark Kermode described his body language in 2018’s ‘David Copperfield’ as Chaplin-esque, and Patel carries this same energy and attention to detail into ‘The Green Knight’. As his character develops throughout the narrative, so does the way in which he presents the character of Gawain, beginning as an inexperienced but slightly overly confident boy, and developing into something else entirely after experiencing one hardship after another.

David Lowery is not a director known for his conventional approach to filmmaking or narrative, and will often tell stories in a way unlike many I’ve seen. His slow and hypnotic ‘A Ghost Story’ from 2017 entrances the viewer through its use of simplistic, yet beautiful visuals and story. With ‘The Green Knight’, a more extravagant and action-oriented fantasy tale, Lowery once again thinks outside the box, and delivers brilliant moments within the story that turn all expectations the audience could have had on their head. However, in terms of pacing, the film does suffer as a result, with the final act delivering a very interesting ending, but one which the audience feels like they have to work towards, slightly diminishing the satisfaction of a final resolution somewhat. Despite this, I wouldn’t criticise the director for what he’s trying to do, as I think it’s great to have filmmakers working today who are willing to challenge conventions.

‘The Green Knight’ is a must watch for anyone with a love for beautifully filmed fantasy stories, and I’m sure even those who aren’t interested in such things would still get a lot from it. Dev Patel and Barry Keoghan are both excellent, and I would recommend not giving up the chance to see this one on the big screen.

Last Letter From Your Lover – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn, Felicity Jones, Nabhaan Rizwan and Callum Turner. Directed by Augustine Frizzell Written by Nick Payne, Esta Spalding and Jojo Moyes (based on the book by) Length: 110mins

Last Letter From Your Lover, a 2021 release based on the book of the same name, promises a good old fashioned romance switching between two timelines which focusses on two different couples. Boasting an array of established young talent, it’s bound to attract the attention of any romance fans. 

The film begins in 1965 in London, as socialite Jennifer Stirling (Woodley) returns home from the hospital. It’s clear that there has been some sort of accident and that Jennifer has no memory from before. Her best friend informs her that she has ‘the perfect life’, but upon discovering a love letter from another man that she had hidden in a book, Jennifer sets about discovering the truth and searching for a love that she’s forgotten. Meanwhile, in the present time, Ellie (Jones) is introduced as a less than interested thirty-something, emerging from a one-night stand with a clear desire to avoid any sort of meaningful relationship. She’s a journalist working on a profile, who upon discovering a letter in the paper’s archive, begging “J” to run away with him, is absolutely determined to learn the romantic story of the mysterious ‘pen pals’ from the past. With the help of an eager archivist, Rory (Rizwan), Ellie begins to piece together the romance, presented to the audience through flashbacks, between Jennifer and Anthony O’Hare (Turner).

 The Last Letter from Your Lover is  definitely watchable. It’s an entertaining enough story which, while relatively predictable, holds the attention of it’s audience. The writing has moments that are beautifully poetic, particularly in the letters, which I assume are taken directly from the book. It helps the establish the differences between the two timelines and adds to the romance at the core of the story.  Having said this, it’s not quite the sweeping romance it feels like it should be. I can only attribute that to the lack of on screen passion, particularly in the flashback timeline. We aren’t given the opportunity to watch the relationship actually develop, we are presented with a hint of their true passion through the letters, but in the action we’re given limited dialogue, some nice montages and no real exploration of the story of their falling for each other.

The story gives us four characters who have had or are having unhappy experiences of relationships which creates drama. It immediately presents conflict which makes a romance more interesting, but the lack of exploration into three of the four backstories leaves its audience wanting. I quite enjoyed the modern day story; they didn’t push it too much or over romanticise a situation that was clearly just starting which makes it a little bit more authentic. The flashbacks are definitely romanticised but it fits the essence and world that is created in the flashbacks. You can see moments where the filmmakers clearly try to mirror the two stories. This works quite nicely as a link and to highlight the differences between the two times, but it feels like it could have been used to a greater level; to really show similarities in heart, frustration or hurt, particularly between the two female leads who had plenty of differences. 

While this review has been somewhat critical, I would still recommend watching it. It’s entertaining, has moments of romance and is led by a solid cast. My frustrations stem from a story that has so much potential. It just feels that the end result is lacking, and if we had been given more backstory and character development I think it could have been great. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Medina Senghore. Directed by Taylor Sheridan Written by Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt and Taylor Sheridan. Length: 100mins

Those who wish me dead is a whirlwind action thriller that boasts big stars and a big storyline that starts fairly widespread and gets significantly more narrow as the film unfolds. Angelina Jolie plays Hannah Faber, a wild and determined smoke jumper battling PTSD after she was unable to save the lives of some teenagers. The story teases Hannah’s interesting but dramatic job,  the unusual relationship she has with her ex and forces her to face her recent trauma as she finds herself responsible for a frightened teenager who is being hunted by two no nonsense hitmen. 

The storyline was really interesting to me, it feels both familiar yet original. In the first twenty minutes we’re introduced to all elements of the film in their separate locations. Hannah, her team mates, her job and recent trauma. Ethan, local law enforcement and Hannah’s ex boyfriend who clearly likes to play by the rules and his pregnant wife Allison. Connor and his dad hanging out eating breakfast until they realise that Connors dads work has placed them in danger, and Patrick and Jack, hitmen who disguise themselves and blow up the house of a local politician…it seems like a lot and spreads the audiences attention. But it doesn’t take long for the pieces to come together and I actually think it’s really interesting. One thing that I found particularly refreshing with this movie, is that they didn’t feel the need to inform its audience of all of the characters backstories. They’re happy to pick the story up where it is and just roll with it without using detailed history to inform the current situation, with the exception of Hannah’s recent trauma.

This film boasts solid performances all around, giving the audience a great mix of ‘character type’. We have the rebel, the hero, the bad guys, the vulnerable kid…all there on a base level but built upon with very human emotion and reaction to the stories events. The unexpected but much appreciated surprise came at the point you might expect to find your typical ‘damsel in distress’ character taking control of her situation and defying expectation. Though all performances were strong, the stand out was with the young Finn Little, a teenager from Australia who summons brilliantly raw, authentic emotion. Without him, the film wouldn’t resonate in quite the same way.

In my opinion, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a decent watch. It’s entertaining and exciting but without the need to get deeply invested. It’s a shame that it moved quietly through it’s cinematic release, just as the country was released from lockdown but it’s definitely one to look out for when it releases to the smaller screen. It’s quite a random standalone film, it has set up loosely for the opportunity to make another but I have no real idea where that would go. Unfortunately feels like generally it will be forgotten or missed but I would watch it again given the opportunity. 

Candyman – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Colman Domingo
Directed by Nia DaCosta
Length: 91mins

2021’s ‘Candyman’ takes the ritualistic horror of the 1992 original and brings it up to speed for a contemporary setting, adding a new sense of societal and cultural awareness which influences a major part of the film. Now in the hands of rising star Nia DaCosta, this new ‘Candyman’ promises just as many thrills as the last.

Although the horror genre is one known for infrequent character development, with many performers being introduced with very little background, simply for the purpose of an easy murder scene, there are always some which take the time to bring the audience into the world of those they’re watching, and often it’s those same films which receive a great amount of success. However, this latest ‘Candyman’ is sadly not such a film, as each character receives only a surface level introduction, and are often only used to perform a certain task or reflect a certain issue, rather than feeling as if they actually live within the world of the film. As a result, the real thrill of seeing such characters being put through variously terrifying situations loses its edge fairly quickly, as the consequence of their death or escape is one of the last things on the audience’s mind.

From the very start, DaCosta’s ‘Candyman’ establishes itself as a film which will use its horror as a means to delve deep into issues revolving around race and inequality. The bourgeois Chicago neighbourhood which comprises the film’s setting is a newly-gentrified area, having taken the homes of those generally in poverty, and renovating them to make such a place more attractive to those from wealthier and more privileged backgrounds. The lead character himself, Anthony, is one such resident, and his careless attitude to the origins of the Candyman work as a reflection to the disregard shown towards such neighbourhoods by the city on a more metaphorical level, and as the beginning of the end for his character in terms of narrative. Whilst it’s important that films use their own medium as a way to explore key issues such as this, and the horror genre is definitely seeming to catch up to others in this way, it’s the overly heavy-handed manner in which ‘Candyman’ goes about developing its themes which can take an audience both out of a scene, and out of the film entirely. Rather than using subtlety and implicit meaning to allow the viewer to think for themselves, the narrative constantly makes reference to specific details in a way that very easily allows the audience to switch off from what’s trying to be said.

‘Candyman’ definitely has moments where it feels as if it’s trying something new, and I imagine that Nia DaCosta has big things ahead of her, but for now I can’t say I’d recommend this film to many people, even those who love horror. The trailer delivers a brilliant use of animation, but other than that, ‘Candyman’ has fairly little to offer.