The Last Duel – Review

Rating: 18 Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck and Alex Lawther. Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Length: 152mins.

Inspired by Eric Jager’s 2004 account of France’s last officially recognised duel, Ridley Scott takes on the task of telling this medieval tale broken down into three chapters and told from three perspectives. The story is one of rape-revenge focussing primarily on three characters – Jean de Carrouges (Damon), his wife Marguerite (Comer) and Jacques Le Gris, exploring the downward spiral of de Carrouges, the arrogant rise of Le Gris and the impossible choices facing Marguerite as her husbands absence is taken advantage of. 

The Last Duel gets somewhat bogged down in the mud and blood of its period; a whole mix of arrows-in-the-face type violence and war, none of which I have a problem with, but it seemed to drag the film out and distract from the main story. While it did assist somewhat in setting the scene, I didn’t feel that it was fully necessary to include so much.  Having said this, the actual storytelling was really clever and very well written. Each perspective was similar enough for the audience to know what’s happening, but with brilliantly subtle changes, contrasting tone and dialogue – right up until the rape scene which was, in line with telling the story from perspectives, a significantly different event to each character. 

This film was expertly cast. Adam Driver played his role perfectly, he is fully believable in his arrogance and aggression but allows an appealing vulnerability into his role that just keeps his Le Gris interesting, until, of course, you realise the sort of man he is. This is one of Matt Damon’s finer performances in recent years. He plays in contractions – he’s clearly a well respected, strong warrior, but he is overwhelmed and constantly trying to keep his head above water. We see a good amount of Damon’s range in this film, he really is a brilliant watch. Jodie Comer is phenomenal. Those of us who have watched her rise in the acting industry are very well aware of how brilliant she is but this film is a mighty task and she’s flawless. She fully holds her own while working with Hollywood A-Listers, she demonstrates depth, innocence and the complexities of her character and without her the film would not have such an impact.

Interestingly, many reviews are not speaking of The Last Duel too favourably. It seems that many issues from a reviewers point of view surround the fact that, though Comer is brilliant, the drama is centred on the men; the three part structure means Marguerite can only get one third of our attention. I can see what is being said here – it’s an important topic and it could seemingly pull focus. However, there were three parties involved at the centre of the story, the time period would not allow or listen to a woman making accusations without the backing of her husband and so I cannot see another way to tell this story. Also, the films title is The Last Duel – an act that could only be undertaken by the men, the duel is featured (perhaps taking a little too much screen time in my view…) and therefore the history of the two men, their perspectives and the journey that got them to the duel are important. The story is told, the impact on Marguerite is brilliantly portrayed and audiences are walking away with her story at the front of their mind. For me, that tells me that the film has done what it intended to do.

No Time To Die – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Christoph Waltz, Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge Length:163mins

 Finally – the long awaited 25th instalment of Ian Flemings well loved British agent, 007, has hit our big screens. After having it’s release postponed several times throughout the Covid:19 pandemic, the world seemed to hold it’s breath as thousands returned to the cinema. With all eyes on it’s release, No Time To Die not only wanted to end the ‘Daniel Craig as James Bond’ era with a bang; but shouldered the pressure of enticing customers back to the cinemas.

In No Time To Die Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace and quiet is short-lived when his old friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. 

While this film has been criticised for not being ‘Bond enough’, I would have to disagree. The writers have done a good job in creating a story that is fleshed out with action, relationship, humour and, of course, gadgets. There are some lovely nods to past Bond films through the use of its score, one liners and the familiar location of a private island which calls to mind 1962 release, Dr. No. It was a wise move to bring the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge into the writers room, you can certainly see her influence around the strong female characters and wit, as well as being mindful of keeping the essence of James Bond in a post #MeToo society. 

No Time To Die gives it’s audiences the chance to experience the deeper relationship between James and Madeleine, showing a more emotional side of 007, a side that we don’t usually get to see. The chemistry between the two, in my opinion, was better than it was in Spectre which made the whole relationship feel more authentic. Due to the deeper relationship and their history, it presented an opportunity for another two strong women to enter the story without being love interests. Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas didn’t disappoint. Both brought flair and humour to characters who were fiercely capable and complimentary to moving the story forward. As far as Bond villains go, this film hits the jackpot. While having two different villains does take away from the impact of one sole threat, you can’t really complain when the characters are manned by the cool, controlled calm of Christoph Waltz and countered with the somewhat wired, yet considered, Rami Malek. 

Visually this film doesn’t disappoint and is full of action. As Daniel Craig’s final Bond film it does have loose ends to tie up so the franchise can move forward. Unfortunately the length is a slight sticking point, at 2hrs43 it is quite a commitment and there are certainly moments that could have been cut, as they serve no purpose in moving the plot forward. No Time To Die is absolutely worth a watch, and on a big screen. There’s something wonderful about returning to a packed cinema to watch a film from long running franchise, with multigenerational audiences all enjoying and connecting to a character that has graced Cinema and TV screens for years. 

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. 

Black Widow – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Ray Winstone. Directed by Cate Shortland Written by Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson and Eric Pearson. Length: 133mins

The greatly anticipated Black Widow ‘stand alone’ movie has finally hit our screens after several release delays due to Covid:19. We join Natasha Romanoff inbetween Captian America: Civil War and Infinity War to learn more about her past and what drove her to become the Avenger that so many know and love.

There was a lot to pack into the plot of Black Widow. We uncover more about who Natasha was as a child and her experiences, we discover relationships that the Marvel audience has never seen before which needed a bit of grit  and history in around them to be believable, we have a couple of ‘mini-missions’, the main ‘mission’ and the fact that Natasha is currently on the run from shield to remind our audience of where this film fits into the MCU timeline. I really appreciated how they introduced the new characters of Yelena (Pugh), Alexi (Harbour) and Melina (Weisz). It could have been quite jarring to just announce these characters but with a bit of backstory and intelligent dialogue we get a real essence of who they are and what they do, without requiring a whole load of new introductory movies. The writers managed to acknowledge the world that this film exists in without dwelling on or focussing on the action of the other MCU films, it wasn’t too intense, but gave an appropriate nod to well known characters and situations when necessary. It’s an easy, entertaining watch, scattered with plenty of humour delivered wonderfully by the immovable Florence Pugh and brilliant David Harbour.

In true MCU fashion, this isn’t a short film. As previously stated they do cram a lot in and there were no moments that I found myself checking my watch but, for me, there were certain scenes that seemed unnecessarily long which was frustrating as there are other elements that might have served the story in a different, more impactful way. There was a lot of ‘falling through the sky’, which, although impressive started to get a bit boring after a while. Dare I say it, some of the more ‘explosive’ scenes towards the end of the film, felt like they were trying to match other films rather than embrace their own direction. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Black Widow, and would absolutely watch it again. Obviously, it’s great to have a female hero in this universe and this story will only enhance peoples love for Natasha Romanov. She’s human, she’s flawed, but she’s fierce, strong and passionate and fights for what is right. What else do we want as a role model for children? One thing I would say, as cinemas are still fighting to survive after the massive blow of being shut for over a year, social distancing and limited capacity, please, go and watch this on the big screen. It was made for cinematic release and although some may find it easier to stream and watch it at home, I don’t think you’ll regret the cinematic experience for this movie. 

Oh, and don’t forget to stay until the end of the credits…

In the Heights – Review

Rating: PG Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Olga Merediz. Directed by Jon M. Chu Written by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda Length: 143mins

Lin Manuel Miranda’s first, deeply personal, broadway musical explodes onto our screens, full of passion, exuberance and joy. In the Heights, directed by Jon M. Chu and led by the formidable Anthony Ramos, is finally hitting the big screen after it’s initial release date in summer 2020 was pushed due to Covid 19, and this is definitely a great film to return to if you haven’t been to the cinema since they’ve reopened.

The story is somewhat three pronged; our leading man, Usnavi, navigating rising costs and running his bodega in Washington Heights with his young cousin as he dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic to spark life into the beach side bar his father owned before coming to New York. Nina, the brilliant student returning from Stanford facing the pressure of being the ‘one who made it out’ and representing her community in an environment that doesn’t treat her with any kind of respect and Vanessa, the girl with big dreams who is itching to get started. All three stories intertwine with one connecting factor. Community.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know to expect fireworks. This film is big, it’s colourful, its loud and it’s unashamedly a translation from stage to screen. Chu hasn’t tried to mould this musical into a hard hitting movie. It manages to carry the energy that was something that made the Broadway show so incredible and drop it into our cinemas letting the fun of musical theatre to do it’s thing all while bringing attention to the themes of unity, representation, community and love to the forefront. Now if you’ve seen or heard any of Miranda’s songwriting then you’ll be aware that his style doesn’t fall into a classic ‘razzle dazzle’, jazz hands musical theatre genre. He uses rap as much as ballad and I’m aware that this might put people off but I highly recommend that you give it a go. The first 10 minutes of the film take a bit of adjusting, your thrown into quite a long rap, a few location jumps, actors looking down the camera lens…it’s quite a lot. But if you allow yourself to settle down, accept what is on your screens and get to know the characters and the stories in front of you then you’re likely to find yourself deeply invested as well as shimmying in your seats. 

Now as a film, it’s not perfect. It’s a long movie which is fine if you can buy into the world but I appreciate that the 2hrs23mins run time might be somewhat off putting. There’s very little character development which I think is part of the transition from stage to screen, it requires it’s audience to take it at face value and just hop on with the situation as it is. Had this not been a musical, you can see where film makers might explore the backstories of some focal characters; I personally didn’t mind the lack of deep characterisation but again, appreciate that others might find it a little jarring.

This feels like an important film. Not only is it bringing attention to an under represented group of highly skilled, brilliant people from the Latinx community, but it is a film for the dreamers. There’s been a lot of discussion around representation within this film, on which I am not really the right person to be commenting, but one thing that I think is so important in this movie is that it highlights people. It highlights community. It highlights friendships. It highlights family. It represents the dreamers. The bottom line is that the style of this film will not be to everyones taste, but, it speaks to more than ‘taste’. If you watch it with an open heart I truly believe that there is something that everyone can take from it.

“With patience and faith we remain unafraid”

Dick Johnson is Dead – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Dick Johnson, Kirsten Johnson
Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Written by Kirsten Johnson and Nels Bangerter
Length: 89mins

Released by Netflix in 2020, but drawing from a long and loving relationship between Kirsten Johnson and her father, Richard, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ proudly seeks to tackle the one area of life that is so often neglected – death. The first documentary we’ve ever reviewed on this site, the film still uses elements of fiction within the story that it tells, as the director, Kirsten herself, frequently utilises practical and special effects to create scenarios that ultimately end in her father’s untimely demise. Despite the morbid tone to the synopsis that accompanies this documentary, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ is perhaps one of the greatest celebrations of life brought to the screen this year.

In the years prior to Dick Johnson’s 86th birthday, his daughter directed a film that seems to work not only as a documentation of her father’s life as it becomes corrupted by alzheimers, but also an attempt to visually show the uncertainty and struggles that are brought on people when someone they love is diagnosed with the illness. As the story progresses, we begin to learn to a greater extent how much the disease has affected the Johnson’s lives, and this documentary almost feels as if it’s the result of understanding that your family will not always be there for you in the same way they once were. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ seeks to combat this issue with film itself. Being an acclaimed filmmaker, Kirsten Johnson clearly understands the power of the art form, and in her latest release, utilises the great potential that it has to mimic reality. She may not always have her father, but she will always be able to remember their time together through this film.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of films that are created in dedication to someone that was loved by others, or someone who did something great for someone else, but where ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ truly shines is in the frequent change between reality and fantasy. To fantasise about something is often considered a positive instinct, but when you begin to make your fantasy a reality, and it comes in the form of acting out the death of someone who you fear you may soon lose, the whole idea comes across as slightly insensitive and cruel. To define the documentary in this way, however, would be to completely miss the point of the whole story. ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ boasts such a bold title because it’s a celebration of life rather than a mockery of it. Dick Johnson lives as a charming and funny man, so why can’t he die in such a way? Furthermore, to look death in the face and laugh with the people you love takes the edge off of something that will one day happen to all of us, and in ‘Dick Johnson is Dead,’ both Kirsten and Dick choose to spend their time celebrating the life they have together, rather than worry about the one that they one day won’t. 

All in all, ‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ focuses on some fairly heavy topics. It’s not a film that will one day have a happy ending, and for many the story will hit close to home. But these aren’t reasons to avoid watching it, and are instead things that will only allow you to greater connect with and appreciate the storytelling that is going on here. I would recommend the documentary to anyone, and I believe it provides a fresh perspective on the entire film genre.

Marriage Story – Review

Rated: 15
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Written by Noah Baumbach
Length: 136 mins

A director known for his realistic dialogue and perceptive insights into true-to-life relationships, Noah Baumbach’s approach to a marriage that has led to divorce was also going to be interesting, but ‘Marriage Story’ is a truly brilliant work of cinema, and it is one which will stick with you for a long while after the credits close.

The performances within this film are incredible. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson portray their characters in the most immersive way, and their on-screen relationship can travel from hopeful to entirely hopeless within a matter of seconds, through the most minimalist of actions. The development of their characters is brilliantly enhanced by the films pacing also, with long periods of Charlie’s (Driver) experiences with the divorce being portrayed, only for then a similar length to show Nicole’s (Johansson) own ordeal. It is impossible to not attempt to choose a side within the divorce, but it is even more difficult to maintain that viewpoint throughout the entire narrative.

Furthermore, the supporting roles within ‘Marriage Story’ are not only excellently brought to screen, but also feel as if they are used for the exact amount of appropriate time. Laura Dern’s fast-talking and bold performance as Nicole’s divorce attorney may at first appear as slightly over-dramatic, but you soon come to associate the importance her character has on the relationship with the stress that Charlie and Nicole are put through – the perfect status as a supporting role. Similarly, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta perform as lawyers which Charlie consults on separate occasions, and whilst they do successfully serve a clear narrative purpose, they also are more symbolic in demonstrating the type of attitude that Charlie has towards Nicole, depending on the time in which he approaches them. Whilst Alda’s ‘Bert Spitz’ is relatively introverted and more comforting, Liotta’s ‘Jay’ is far more harsh and upfront with Charlie, and it’s interesting to watch Baumbach delicately place such characters within the narrative when appropriate.

Baumbach’s direction within ‘Marriage Story’ is both delicate and subtle, whilst also allowing for moments of sudden breaks within the diegesis. His ability to allow a scene to flow smoothly until one small moment – a cupboard door hitting a character or simply a word out of place – can change the entire direction of the scene, is exacted perfectly, and allows for a balance between immersion within the narrative and the audiences own personal interactions being applied to the story that is told.

Such change within scenes can definitely be credited in part to the film’s editing and score. With the music by Randy Newman, who is forever immortalised for his contributions to the world of ‘Toy Story,’ the film maintains a touching and personal story within the sound that is brilliantly applied to moments of the film which require it. As well as this, ‘Marriage Story’ was edited by Jennifer Lame, who has previously worked on films such as ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea,’ which both feature editing that excellently furthers the complexion of the narrative. Therefore it is no surprise that Lame’s ability to convey emotion with such talent is also applied to ‘Marriage Story’, and the result is a film which draws in the viewer and tells its story in the most complete way possible.

There isn’t a single moment within Baumbach’s latest release that feels unnecessary, and ‘Marriage Story’ tells such a human story that it’s hard not to continue thinking about it days after the film has finished. Go and watch it on Netflix, and if you have the opportunity to see it a cinema near you then even better, but either way, make sure you find some time to experience the most compelling film of this year.

The Good Liar – Review

Rated: 15
Cast: Sir Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Russel Tovey, Jim Carter
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Nicholas Searle (Novel)
Length: 109Mins

‘The Good Liar’ is at first presented as a con film, with the morally corrupt Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) weaving his way into the life of seemingly-innocent Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), a lonely widow who wishes for love. I will say this now, the many turns and twists of the film are well interwoven into the character arcs of these two, and therefore to truly analyse ‘The Good Liar’ would require giving away some details. Of course, I won’t do this, but rather urge you to see the film for yourself, whilst I attempt to best articulate my thoughts without giving away any of the secrets that the film invites you to unfold.

Though at first a film that seems to explore the loneliness that can come from growing old, we are shown from the trailer that Roy has more villainous reasons to grow close to Betty – to get his hands on the small fortune that she has saved throughout her life. The inauspicious reasons for their meeting is quickly addressed in the opening scenes, and from here the film is able to go on to explore various other themes, such as how the actions of our past can sometimes be what narrates our future. Both children of a generation that grew up in the conflict of World War 2, the connotations of a post-war lifestyle weigh heavily on Betty and Roy’s story. Though this is a film that can entertain all ages, it is clear that the director, Bill Condon, wishes to create a sense of empathy between an elderly viewer and the characters seen on screen, as the fallout from a conflict as great as WWII is entirely personal, and often the greatest comfort for those affected is to be shown that you aren’t alone. This is brilliantly personified by Mirren and McKellen – performers that may at times be unfairly constricted by being seen as figureheads for a certain era of cinema, but show in ‘The Good Liar’ that they can still take on the challenges of modern life, just as the viewer can in their own personal life.

Many have compared ‘The Good Liar’ to a jigsaw puzzle, and I agree with their comparison. The key elements of the story are slowly and surely placed throughout the film, and it isn’t until you take a moment to look back on what is being created, that you begin to interpret the story’s message. That is, of course, until the creators wipe the puzzle off the table in the closing scenes. Though I was drawn in by the final unravelling of the story, I did find that the actual build-up to it was often times slow and lacked significant creative ambition from the director. The music, cinematography and editing were at times basic, with the occasional flair of inspiration drawing audiences back into the story. However, I do understand that this is a film which is largely dependent on the success of the overarching story, as well as the performances of our films leads. Both of these elements were well-delivered, and did justice to the clever articulation of the conclusion.

My other criticism was one which was only partially satisfied within the final act, where was Helen Mirren? Such a prestigious actress as she is, I expected the tension between her and Ian McKellen to be electrifying, especially considering the treacherous surroundings of their relationship. However, throughout most of the film, the creators seemed have been inspired more by the presentation of the performers in ‘Chinatown,’ where the focus is very much on Jack Nicholson as the lead, and rarely strays from their own personal interaction with the events of the plot. Despite this, the scenes where both performers were together on screen felt fairly lacklustre. Save for the conclusion, many of the opportunities for tension within the script were rarely capitalised on, and ultimately left the film devoid of any great feeling of risk or thrill. This I would pinpoint on the actual lines themselves, rather than how they were delivered.

This brings me into my final point – the script. The concept of the film is brilliant, and the way that many of the more audacious events of the film are portrayed is exciting and intriguing, but the script itself really lacks anything unique. There were many opportunities for the relationship between our leads to be developed, but instead the film spends its time over-emphasising clues for later in the story, as well as spending excessive amounts of time ensuring that we understand the character traits of our two leads, when we are already invested because of the status that McKellen and Mirren have as performers within the industry.

To conclude, I do believe that ‘The Good Liar’ is still an important watch, as the elements of the story guide the viewer to an ending which is entirely unexpected. There are some great moments of excitement, but ultimately I don’t believe that Bill Condon contributes anything unique to the world of film in his most recent creation.

Judy – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell.
Directed by Rupert Goold.
Written by Tom Edge.
Length: 118Mins

Judy is a beautifully presented biopic giving us a glimpse into the life of Judy Garland, with the primary focus towards the end of her life during a series of sold-out concerts in London. We see her thrown back into a life that she doesn’t want, forced to tour to make money while faced with the threat of losing custody of her two youngest children. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. Captivating and entertaining while equally saddening and thought provoking.

Since it’s release the feature has received extremely high praise, specifically the phenomenal portrayal of Judy herself, played by the meticulous Renée Zellweger. Her performance is complex. To depict the lifetime of difficulties that Garland faced, while dealing with concern for her children, substance abuse and new relationships clearly requires immense skill. Not forgetting, of course, that Zellweger did not lip-sync in this movie, the vocals are all hers – a vast challenge in itself, never mind all of the character work. Honestly, if the rest of the movie fell short I would still recommend audiences to watch purely for Zellweger’s skill. As it happens, there’s so much more to take in and enjoy.

Most people know that Judy Garland had an extremely sad and difficult life. Even if you don’t know very much of Garland’s story you can still watch and enjoy this film, it reveals some of the challenges of being a child star in old Hollywood through flashbacks, whilst subtly implying some of the darker, even more devastating streams of abuse that she faced. There are lots of rumours surrounding Garlands experiences on set throughout her childhood that are truly heartbreaking and unfortunately, likely to be true. Goold did well to stick to the timeline of the story that he’s telling, while allowing Zellweger’s performance to show some scars of Judy’s past, as well as the great performance as ‘young Judy’ by Darci Shaw during the flashbacks.

Aside from Zellweger, the other stand out performance for me was Jessie Buckley. I was only introduced to Buckley when she starred in 2018’s ‘Wild Rose’ but she really is one to watch. There’s something about all of her performances – they are enchanting. You really get behind her storytelling and her portrayal of Rosalyn Wilder is no different. As an audience member you experience the journey of her characters almost starstruck naivety, through frustration and desperation which circles around to an empathetic but genuine friendship.

Due to the nature of this film, I believe that each audience member will find certain elements that resonate, which may be entirely different to the person watching next to them. The main thing that I took away from the film was a heavy heart. It made me consider how far Hollywood has come and how much further it has to go. This isn’t the sort of film to watch if you need a lift, obviously it deals with some serious topics, but Zellweger is sensational and if you’re emotionally prepared to for quite a heavy film (though dispersed with light moments) I would highly recommend this film.

Fred’s Top 5 Horror Films

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought that I’d take a look back on some of my favourite scary films. From the desolate arctic, to the abandoned streets of London, horror can be found everywhere, and within this list I’ve reflected back on what makes these films so thrilling.

5. 28 Days Later

First of all, it’s a Danny Boyle film, so what isn’t there to love? ’28 Days Later’ is arguably one of the greatest zombie films of all time, and with incredible performances from Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston and Naomie Harris, to name a few, this story is perhaps the most thrilling descent into the apocalypse put to the big screen. The third act of this film is unbelievably intense, and only increased by the stylistic choice of pathetic fallacy, as the rain hammers down and the story begins to conclude. Personally, I love Boyle’s use of the soundtrack in this film, as songs such as Grandaddy’s ‘A.M 180’ accompanies the true ‘highs’ of the film, contrasted by an edited version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘East Hastings’ – one of the bleakest songs I know – embodying the hopelessness of our protagonists. ‘28 Days Later,’ is a contemporary classic of the horror genre, and is a must-see around Halloween time.

4. The Shining

I don’t think that any horror list would be complete without this film. Written by the twisted mind of Stephen King and put to screen by the complex imagination of Stanley Kubrick, ‘The Shining,’ is a true landmark in the horror genre. As with many of Kubrick’s works, fans have poured over the minute details of this film to read further into the story’s subtext, and from an allegory of the American Civil War to a modern twist on the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, there is so much conversation surrounding this film that any horror-buff, or film fan in general cannot miss it. Of course, Jack Nicholson receives his deserved praise for his performance in this film, but I think that perhaps the best acting comes from Shelley Duvall. Never have I seen terror portrayed in such a real and hysterical way as Duvall does in this film. Overall, there are so many elements of storytelling that come together brilliantly in ‘The Shining,’ that it should be seen not only by fans of the horror genre, but anyone at all interested in film.

3. The Thing (1982)

Honoured for his contributions to horror at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, there’s a reason why John Carpenter is hailed as the ‘master of horror.’ Perhaps his most famous work, ‘The Thing’ features some of the most suspenseful scenes put to cinema. The story of a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of any creatures around it, we watch as a team of researchers in Antarctica are plagued by this being. What makes this film truly special (and terrifying) is the brilliant visual effects used, that still hold up to this day. The entirely isolated setting adds to the hopelessness of the film, and it is through this fear that the audience is able to experience the same terror that is felt by the stories protagonists, as they remain entirely clueless as to who – or what – the creature has embodied.

2. Climax

Perhaps the most human film on this list, Gasper Noe’s 2018 release tells the story of a group of dancers in an isolated hall in France, who drink from a punch that has been spiked with LSD. From there, it is the slow descent into madness over the course of the night which portrays such a real horror. Noe uses long, unbroken takes that float from one characters nightmare to the next, all whilst the lighting flares and the music blasts from the speakers. Known for his cruel violence, the director makes no exception for ‘Climax,’ and leaves the viewer feeling sickened by what they have seen, made worse only by the knowledge that the story is based on true events

1. Hereditary

There are so many elements of Ari Aster’s filmmaking style that I love, all of which are showcased brilliantly in his feature debut, ‘Hereditary.’ I believe that the best way to experience this film is to go in knowing as little as possible about the story, and so I will only provide the description from iMDB; ‘a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences.’

When looking into what makes this film special, I believe that Aster’s ability to draw out truly haunting performances from his cast is perhaps top of this list. Toni Collette gives an incredibly powerful performance, which can only really by appreciated by watching the film for yourself and becoming enthralled by her character. As well as this, the utilisation of cinematography for suspense and terror is another element that allows ‘Hereditary’ to sit at the top of this list. The art of framing and pacing in this film immerses the viewer brilliantly, whilst also highlighting the smaller, more minute details of the setting that ultimately accumulate into some of the most essential elements of the story. ‘Hereditary’ is not only my favourite horror film, but also the most terrifying that I have seen. It’s the first film that I would recommend to any fan of the genre, and the first that I would want to discuss with anyone who has a passion for horror.