Monday, 8 October 2018

First Man (2018)

First Man advertises as the first film to show the iconic astronaut, Neil Armstrong's mission to the moon. Which to be honest, surprised me a little. The amount of space films we have we don't often have ones based on the truth. In fact, bar the recent Hidden Figures (2016) off the top of my head none immediately spring to mind. That's a big part within this film, to show us something we've seen countless times but for real, for the first time.

It's a space film, it's science-non-fiction. There are some things that are always going to be interesting to shoot but that doesn't mean the director can get lazy with his work. Linus Sandgren is the cinematographer as he was for Damien Chazelle's Oscar winning La La Land (2016). There's a strong focus on natural organic shots. With at least 70% of the film taking place on Earth it still has to be natural and first and foremost dated. It's the 60's it needs to looks as such and it does. Hair and costume were good as were the vintage space equipment and vessels.

The editing went well with crisp contracts of locations. The muted almost somewhat warm offices and homes to the cold mechanical insides of the space shuttle. The cinematography was subtle. Used various handheld shots to mimic news reports, then used the same technique just slightly different to replicate home movies. Tying the shots with stationary views or image binded to the shuttle works well with the tranquility of space. The score was obviously beautiful. As expected Justin Hurwitz, who did the original music for La La Land (2016) and Whiplash (2014) delivers again for this. A lot of which is gentle but as the film goes on the score becomes more prominent as the frequency of space and moon shots. The mission itself has its own theme. Beautiful yet somewhat evocative. Manages to embody the journey, the sacrifice mixed with the accomplishments. Also big nod to the sound mixing, can't imagine that won't be recognised as award winning. The stark contracts were poignant and fitting as well as the use of real sample interviews. 

Now the cast sold me. When back when, when we were just told Chazelle, Gosling, Armstrong, I was in. To be fair, there wasn't a great deal to add to that. Gosling was fantastic as expected, he's getting the opportunity to flex his acting chops a little more and he's getting taken more and more seriously. The difficulty he had with the role was that he was playing a real person. It's not a character. And though Armstong is a world wide name he's not a world wide character. I think a lot of people would struggle to pick him out of a line up let alone know what his personality is. So yes Gosling can act, he's tern and quiet but speaks up when needed. He shows intelligences and interest as well as awe. All of which whilst mourning. He doesn't let his feelings overpower him except when he does. I imagine he may get an Oscar nom. 

Claire Foy on the other hand may actually win. She maintains the poise and authority that she's mastered in The Crown. She's herself alongside a wife and mother. She has some real powerful scenes with Gosling and it really makes you think about the pressure this situation would put on any relationship. The final wordless scene between the two of them felt so intimate and strong though it was just a small interaction between them. With no comparison to the real people I personally found Foy to be a more believable person.

It was overall a beautiful film. Well constructed story of a mans life during a period in which he made history. I wanted to like this more. I'm a fan of so many elements but I'm not jump to rewatch this as I did Chazelle's previous filmography. It's long. Towards the end of the film it kinda feels like the end of a long haul flight home, everything up to this point has been nice but you know whats going to happen next so you're just kinda waiting for the landing. 

Meticulously made, and deserves to be appreciated. Just not my favourite thing to come from any of the cast or crew. 7/10 


Tuesday, 2 October 2018

A Star is Born (2018)

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018)Everyone gets attached to a particular story more than others at some point. Everyone has a film that touches them more than they could ever expect and they leave the screening completely blown away, instantly looking for a way to watch it again ASAP.

I'm 23, bisexual, i love Gaga more than I love myself. I have a longstanding, secondhand perspective of the shit storm that can be created by drug and alcohol addictions. If it's got a queen in it, I'll watch it (even if it's only 10 minutes of Willam). So, for me - A Star is Born is that film.

That was a mouthful, right? But my point is, this film got me. I knew it could have a massive impact on me, but I didn’t think it actually would, especially not in the way it has.

A Star is Born, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, and co-starring Lady Gaga is the story of Jackson Maine (Cooper) a famous country singer with attachment issues, a severe drug and alcohol addiction who is only certain of which spirit he is going to drink that night, and that his brother Bobby (Sam Elliott) is going to be there to clean up his mess.

Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born (2018)

He bumps into Ally (Lady Gaga), a small time singer and waitress who has always been told she isn’t enough, is too ugly, and doesn’t have the voice and so begins their bloody adorable, enticing, hectic, exciting, beautiful, horrendous, romantic adventure.

The story itself is enough, it’s a beautiful story and for a sucker like me, it’s perfect. It felt real, I mean obviously not all of us are mad talented and bump into famous, delicious looking men that want to whisk us away and get our career going, but it showed how difficult things can be, and if you want them bad enough, and if someone believes in you enough you’re going to be able to do it. One of the best things really, was the fact that crucial parts of the story are hidden from the trailers, there are a couple of things I didn’t think were going to happen so they were nice (maybe not the best word when you know what they are, but you get my point) additions when I actually watched it.

The writing is simple, but effective. There are some twists and turns in this, some events that do not pan out how you’d expect, but the simplicity of how they are presented is what makes them phenomenal. This is compliment to the acting and editing really, it shows that a hefty script isn’t always needed, sometimes the talent that is there can be enough.

Sam Elliott, Bradley Cooper, and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018)The casting for A Star is Born is spectacular. I can’t explain enough how perfectly chosen each person was.
Gaga gave me chills, she exceeded every expectation I had before going into this screening. I knew I was PUUUUMPED before the film even came out, but that is simply because I felt proud to see her face for this movie on a billboard, and because I love her so much whatever she does. This is the same for Bradley Cooper, he is such a badass (dish), and I was buzzing that this was his directorial debut, I was ready to see what he had to offer and he didn’t disappoint.

As soon as the film started I had extreme goosebumps, the dedication from Cooper to make this a masterpiece is insane. Knowing the months of rehearsal and coaching he went through to make his vision come to life shows that he actually gives a shit about what he is putting out there to a massive audience. His performance was stellar. As I said above I know the shit that can come alongside alcohol addiction, and he did the role justice. It even brings tears to my eyes now writing this, just remembering parts of his performance that resonated with my life so well. I felt his happiness, his excitement, his genuine love for Ally, and I understood his escape through music. Credit where credit is fucking due. This felt like a different role for him, but one he should be proud of.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018)

Where do I begin with Gaga... she wasn’t acting, she was her character. You can see that she put so much from her personal experiences into this role. She knew the story, she knew the meaning, she became her character as soon as the cameras were rolling, and it shows. I cannot see a more perfect person cast for the role of Ally. I just forgot it was Gaga, someone that has the power to make you forget that are someone other than the character they are playing has a talent that deserves to be talked about. As well as that, her voice is unbelievable, anyone that denies that is lying - whether you are a fan or not, you can’t deny that talent. Even down to her writing for the film, just an absolutely beautiful, perfect performance.

Both performances from Cooper and Gaga were genuine, and my god were they memorable.

So, the score... I have heard it in my head since the second I left the screening. It was so powerful, it complimented the script and the whole story so well. The whole score was so pure, and different and just helped to tell the story better than I could have expected. The story of these two characters wouldn’t have evolved so well without such powerful writing, and flawless musical performances.

Visually, I think it was great. They were lucky really that they were in pretty places. You can’t say a sunny landscape on a motorbike is unattractive, that Gaga and Cooper kissing is unattractive, that a drag bar is boring, that a montage of different stages, and set ups are boring, it was great to look at.

I know i’m not the person anyone should trust when it comes to films - I mean my film of the year for 2017 was The Disaster Artist... my opinion is just one, but this film is my film of the year. It’s only September as i’m writing this but A Star is Born is it for me. 

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018)

This is a must-see film, if you disagree with this that is okay... but for me, this film is spectacular. It is fuelled by excellent chemistry, and is a moving and exhilarating story

I’m sure there are flaws, but when you find a film with an average story that is made into something incredibly above average, it it flawless. I haven’t had this feeling about a film for a while, and i’m so happy this film was the one to bring it back for me.

What we thinking, I’ll watch this 5 times on the big screen and wait a week to pre-order this??

Congrats Bradley Cooper, it was the success you’d hoped.



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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Whitney (2018)

Whitney Houston in Whitney (2018)

I find it surprising that people on earth still have never heard of Whitney Houston, but are old enough to buy alcohol and are supposedly responsible enough to drive a car… what is that about?

Since her death in 2012 there have been a handful of documentaries and different accounts popping up all attempting to tell Whitney’s story, but to be honest none of them have done anything for me. They either make her life seem ‘meh’, or present her as an awful drug addict.

 I love Whitney a hell of a lot, so for me badly made documentaries don’t change my opinion of her, but for those that are either not familiar with her, her life or work they don’t seem to make the best impression. 

Kevin MacDonald also has a go a this, and does her life and body of work some justice and attempts to make the world realise that you can never stop learning about someone’s life even if the film industry appears to have rinsed anyone and everyone of all the information they have.

This film hooked me in right from the beginning because of how much detail was paid to the editing. Throughout the film we are given a bit of an idea what era we are in by there being a montage almost of Whitney’s most popular music at that time mushed in with a series of flickering political events. It was such a perfect contrast and made you really think about the great escape Whitney created for her fans. 

The film then works chronologically and doesn’t just go from baby, to star, to dead star like other portrayals seem to have done before this. We get an idea of what her childhood was like, then we grow up with her, so to speak – throughout this film. Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother) doesn’t seem to be someone you see being interviewed a lot, (well at least I don’t think I have and I have gone to some deep, dark corners of the internet when it comes to Whitney) but hearing her side of things really brought such a personal element to this film and tied things together as best as could be done for this type of production. We also heard accounts from other family members such as Whitney’s brothers – Gary and Michael, her sister in law – Pat, and close friends. As well as this we get a brief appearance from ex-husband, rapper, Bobbi Brown.

There are some parts of this film that just created goose bumps all over my body. For starters, the sound is fantastic – that’s a given, it’s Whitney Houston. Second, in some of the accounts from her family members you learn much more about her drug habit and how this began, and progressed – well at least I did. And finally, you get to the time surrounding her death which just gets me personally every time.

It really is a touching, heart-warming, upsetting, brave, considerate, and respectful piece of film.

Whether you are a Whitney fan or not, you should give this a go – I mean I took a friend who half forgot that she had died and they enjoyed it, so if that’s not giving credit I don’t know what is.



Monday, 2 July 2018

Book Club (2018)

Image result for book club

Four friends meet regularly for a book club and have been doing this for 30 odd years. They all have different relationship dynamics, and different lifestyles but everything seems to centre around their longstanding friendships. They then start reading the Fifty Shades trilogy and start to re-evaluate their lives.

The story behind this film doesn’t develop too far from this. I went into it with very low expectations but it was surprisingly better than I thought. It had some depth, and it wasn’t too wishy-washy so that it felt like you were chasing pointless characters. We get a rough idea of what all of them are doing and how they got there, but it goes no further than that in terms of character development – and it was just the right amount.

I didn’t understand how a film about a book club could be interesting or have anything to it, but really it was quite well done. The comedy in it was a bit meh in places, but there were also some chances to squeeze out an absolute belly laugh. However, I am not a middle-aged woman so some of the comedy may have been funnier if you are older? I don’t agree with that though really. I think it was made quite well for audiences of younger women upwards. I mean, I could possibly watch this with my Grandma… at a push, but it’s definitely something you could watch with your Mum.

Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Bill Holderman in Book Club (2018)

The pacing was a little bit off, as some parts really dragged, and it seemed like they really wanted to put emphasis on the fact that ‘funny women are serious too’. There was a focus on some characters more than other – as you would expect, because from the off you know who the main character is. Some parts were just eye rolling kind of stuff.

Jane Fonda in Book Club (2018)I can’t say I noticed any kind of a score, I’m sure there was music it was just obviously not memorable enough, and wasn’t complimented by editing.
For me, the stars of the show – as I had anticipated were Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton. They are funny ladies. The cast was well chosen really, they all seemed to complement each other and you could believe that they had a relationship that meant something. It seemed like the kind of friendship you want in your 60’s.

Overall, it was incredibly average really. I wouldn’t buy it but I would recommend it to the mums of the world.



Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Hereditary (2018)

I love horrors and I love A24. Hearing that they were releasing a new film called Hereditary piqued my interest by the title alone. After a family loses its matriarch they touch on various levels of grief. Soon after, there's an accident losing another member of the family and it spirals down from there.

Though A24 obviously use a wide range of case and crew but their films often have quite similar lighting and presence. This was the same again plus a little some some. There's a lot of natural lighting with soft edges. Even with the darkness the shadows are natural and soft, they're not afraid to show you things but doesn't shy away from have one sole focus in a somewhat blank canvas. As you can guess from the marketing 'this generations exorcist' there's some sort of spirit in this movie. Out of body it's portrayal is with moving light, subtle and only just out of the ordinary. There's a great shot with Alexx Wolff's character when he's alone in bed looking outside and we can see the heaters from the tree house reflected in his eyes. The glowing red reflecting from his dark eyes in his dark room may be a little on the house but looked great. There were some great silhouettes in the dark, wonderfully framed to heighten the horror element. They were bold and uncomfortable but almost out of focus, alarming but somehow not sudden.

The sound was fantastic, the daughter has a trademark sound, a clicking of her tongue, a 'cock' noise. Which as the film goes on it becomes more ominous. I'm a big fan of the slow quiet build ups for the score. Some horrors have got this down and Hereditary is one of them. You don't need a Jaws (1975) theme to alert you to the next attack. You want something that grows with your anxiety, something that finds its way with you instead of leading you there. The editing was also great. There were a few cuts that moved between identical shots in different locations and unique moments that utilises every angle. The mixture between abrupt cut and lingering on an image was perfect. Cuts were alarming but never whisked away before you had a complete look. But at 2hr7mins you there's time to see everything. 

Now the cast, here we go. Amazing. Fascinating to watch. Milly Shapiro plays Charlie the daughter and she's good, she's interesting to watch and I'm curious to see what her next move will be. Gabriel Byrne is great as Steve, almost separates Steve the dad and Steve the husband and it works well, it's exactly what the story needs. Toni Collette is wonderful as always playing the mum, Annie. She gives away nothing as well as a lot. She's vulnerable but determined. The main point is we believe her. We believe she had a strained relationship with her mother though we never see it. As you would have seen from the trailer Annie creates miniature art pieces based on her home life. We see crude near accurate images of memories and moments she's trying to see from another angle. She uses it to grieve and in anger. It's her outlet and it's isolated from the rest of the family, hell from the outside of that one room. Some pieces she had even turned away to face the other direction. Even if we didn't believe she existed before the film we're given a little visual key anyway.

Now Alex Wolff. I could talk about him for a good while and not just because I think he's cute (cos man do I). If you haven't yet seen My Friend Dahmer (2017) go watch it and check out our review here. I thought Wolff was good in that but he excels in hereditary. He's genuine. His stages of grief are genuine and real. They're deep and dark. When someone experiences something as horrific as he has there's no comparable feeling. He has a weighted numbness that, again, is believable. His commitment to the role is commendable and clear. His reactions are fantastic and he holds his own against Oscar nommed Toni Collette. AND AGAIN is someone to look out for. 

It's a slow burner but a well written script. Takes a little while to digest and rightly so. Even spoiler free there's so much to be said about this film I feel I've missed so many points to analyse. It's a very well written script that ties so much together. I almost hope I missed something so I've got another stone to unturn. 8/10


Sunday, 10 June 2018

My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Completely intrigued by this because of course I am. It's about one of the most famous serial killers in the last 40 years. My Friend Dahmer is based on a graphic novel (by the same name) by artist John 'Derf' Backderf. It follows Backderfs relationship with Dahmer through high school until graduation and his first murder.

If you've not heard of him (how?) his first of many murders was committed in the late 70's. Ever notice that films set in the 60's and 70's are always muted? The colours are full. As if they've aged even when they haven't yet. The decor of course look dated to us though the high school, minus the clothes and prom, still look relatively recent. Costume was great, hair and make up must have had a field day with his glorious yet terrible hair. Same goes for the roadkill and acid filled jars. The sound was subtle, the score was gentle and rare. When it made an appearance if highlighted the potential severity of the scene. It elicited the same feeling as a good horror score would fear. There were a few uncomfortable scenes, not due to gore but social anxiety preemptive disgust, A few occasions you get second hand embarrassment. In a way to get attention Dahmer parodied a gentleman with cerebral palsy and pretends to have fits on the floor. It would be uncomfortable then but due to us as a society moving away from humour in mimicking disabled people it's even more awkward to see. 

Some of the shots were quite interesting. A few of the opening shots were notable shot well. I recently read the graphic novel out of interest and some of the frames were taken shot for shot, as were parts of the dialogue. Which would make sense as a lot of the conversations actually happened. Some of the shots were a little distant, the film isn't to change your opinion on Dahmer it's to give you more information. So a lot of the shots are for observation and to put space in between him and everyone around him. Wasn't incredible but did what it should have. 

So Dahmer himself is played by Ross Lynch. Recognise the name? Me neither, he's a Disney boy and I'm just too old for when he was in power. Yep star of Austin & Ally is now a serial killer. Props to him. I thoroughly enjoy actors choosing more unique and out there roles, especially when they're young. Same goes for Alex Wolff who plays Backderf. Previous Disney lad now in this and upcoming Hereditary (2018). Doing very different roles, moving away from Disney strongly. Either way I was impressed. Lynch was creepy and yet still had an air of adolescence about him. He had a moments of experienced faux confidence mixed with genuine confusion and loss. The key in the character, and the person, before the crimes was his loneliness. And that's captured well. 

Granted it does feel a little serial killer 101, playing with dead animals and being that weird kid that people laughed at or avoided at school. But that's how it was. If you have the opportunity to read the graphic novel I'd recommend it, it's online. It's a unique perspective that doesn't have a great deal of narrative. That is the purpose of it, that its a lead up to a notorious killers first murder. Without that it would be a semi artsy film of a troubled young man with no help or direction that just made people uncomfortable. Without the biopic qualities it's a somewhat average film. The reason it's so interesting to watch is due to the reality of it. 

Keep in mind it's not a traditional horror, drama biopic is more accurate. 6/10 for the film 8/10 for the total experience. Definitely worth reading more into if you're interested in character over story. 


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Breaking In (2018)

Smart home, invasion. Gabrielle Union stays in her deceased father's home with her two children when a group of criminals break in to steal what's in her fathers safe. They only learn upon arrival how smart the house is. 

Seeing the trailer I thought this was just going to be a fun actiony thriller thing. And I was right. The children get trapped inside with the criminals whilst mama Union tries to finds her way in. So the house is kitted out. When we arrive the son finds all the surveillance, every room, every door, motion activated sensors, control panel to watch and cover that and lighting and speakers. Oh and a drone, cos why not. If this was ten years ago it might have been seen as a little stretch but now you accept it easy. And you accept how easy it is to control. 

When the family first arrive Union's character Shaun notices a few out of place things, things we find are due to the fact there had been people in the house. Pairing that with the fact it's the house she grew up in mixed with a little desperation her quick wit seems pretty believing. The four intruders were done reasonably well though one was a little excessive. The ring leader, Eddie, played by Billy Burke, means business and respects Shaun somewhat. Though underestimating her he isn't entirely surprised by her progress and successes. One of the intruders isn't really given a character but the other two work well off each other. One is s murderous and impulsive and the other already regret the decision when the kids are involved. They rock back and forth, pushing each other closer and further from redemption. We see the daughter pick up traits from her mother and help her and her brother survive. We're not given a great deal of intro other than that and that's all we need. 

The action was decent and well thought out. Stayed interesting throughout and kept tensions high during quite a few scenes. Didn't fall victim to 'she should have gone that way' or 'why didn't she do that'. Partly because the whole situation is on a time limit, The security company call 911 if systems aren't back online after the mains were cut. And partly because she's just smarter than the audience. And I'm okay with that. There were a few parts where she seemed to be able to take more hits than I would have expected a human to handle and still stand afterwards. And it definitely reminded me that hollywood mums are just fitter than real life mums, because how many other 45 year olds can fight strangers and climb onto roofs? 

The script was alright though some of the dialogue was a bit lacking. By some I mean most, most of the interesting parts of the film involved silence and action. Yes it did lean on the mama bear protecting cubs thing, which wasn't as annoying as it could have been, but was still pretty cliche in doing so. Though Union and Burke were great a cast can only go so far with what they're given. 

Had surprisingly smart scenes, would watch again/would have in the background. Just slightly more original than the standard home invasion but not by a great deal. Passable but not an urgent watch 5/10