Saturday, 29 July 2017

28 July 2017

Okay so it has been like aaaaaaages since I wrote one of these but when I see a movie this good (or a string of movies this good)) it always gets me inspired to write down my thoughts, you know it is nice to put how I feel into words. But now that I have said that I will not talk about any of those movies in this post and will instead try to think back to last year and finish off the "American film year" which to be honest finishes in like March. So without further ado, here's the ones I can remember that I hadn't already talked about (after that I will try to dig out a list of my favorite films of the year then finally I can talk about what I have written recently). I will keep these brief as there are a lot to get through

Moonlight (2016)

And of course I start with the true masterpiece of 2016. Blending three periods of such a person's life in such a beautiful way. Packed with great performances, absolutely gorgeous cinematography, excellent score, I don't need to write much more than that, I will remember this film for a long time.

Hidden Figures(2016)

I remember really liking hidden figures: the subject matter is really important, the three central performances are all really strong and the story is told at a decent pace. It is a shame that it is told so conventionally but hey if it ain't broke don't fix it I guess. The conventional way it is told works because the subject matter is so worthy and it has some excellent dialogue but I would not recommend it above a film like moonlight because of this.

Nocturnal Animals (Okay I should stop with the dates, these are all 2016)

Urgh, so yes its really pretty, yes its pretty, engaging and gripping, yes Michael Shannon is AMAZING, yes right up until the end I really enjoyed it but urgh, did it have to have such a pro-life ending? Like basically the whole argument of the character at the end was that aborting his child was the equivalent of raping and murdering his wife and child? I am sorry but I just cannot support that and it didn't help that it was displayed in such a dumb, obvious kind of way.


Okay so the actual good Amy Adams film yay! Okay this film was fantastic, everyone behind it really knows how to speak the language of cinema. The circular narrative, the philosophy of language, the dialogue and suspense, the technical mastery all bound together by the wonderful Amy Adams was just a marvel to behold.


Lion is a super sweet film. The kid (I can't be bothered looking him up to remember his name) is a revelation. That is not to say the rest of the cast aren't great too (especially Dev Patel who gives it his all as usual). The aerial shots of India are really beautiful to look at as is the film as a whole. It was just a really fantastic story told really competently and believably. What more could you really want?


This was a fascinating film, they tried to do something really different and they kind of pulled it off. Natalie Portman is phenomenal in the lead role and credit has to go out to al the technical people for the costumes, set, hair, makeup and cinematography that give this film a really interesting and unique feel. Not the best of these films, the way they told the story only sort of worked but it is well worth it for the technical mastery.


Honestly, I don't really remember this that well beyond it was kinda shitty (maybe that is why I don't remember it). If I wanted to say why I would have to watch it again and I don't want to do that.

Manchester By The Sea

A really impressive feat of storytelling. This is a story where everything goes wrong for the main character, he goes through so much shit and you really feel for him, it really feels like he is a real, three dimensional human being and that you really want to help him but there is nothing you can do. But despite all of this they manage to bring out such humour and joy in the darkest moments. That is to me the most impressive thing about this film - which mostly comes down to it being so well written. Despite this, I feel I still need to mention how incredible the performances were. This is easily Casey Affleck's best performance to date and he really deserves that Oscar.


A really interesting, realistic portrayal of the difficulties of being a working class black man trying to do make something of themself in the US; however it goes further than that as it shows how that almost goes too far and that people often get stuck in the mentality where they hold back those around them and assume they can't be more than you are. I do agree with some people that say its a bit stagey - it is definitely wordy and confined but at the same time the dialogue is great and the performances are fantastic so I would recommend it - with caution to anyone who doesn't like their films too wordy.

Hell or High Water

Excellent performances, wonderful story, shot phenomenally, great score all the while, it quietly has something to say about the state of life in rural midwestern US towns. I really loved Hell or High water.

Hacksaw Ridge

So I am not religious but this was a really great reminder of the great things that faith can do for certain people. It is an important, well told faith based story all anchored by the increasingly great Andrew Garfield. (by the way these are getting shorter as I get tired but this is just a catch up anyway).

Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep just can't seem to fail. This outragiously funny, while also really sweet true story was a delight, while not something I would shout about in the streets and proclaim best movie of the year, it was a lot of fun and had a lot of heart and I am really glad I saw it.

My Life as a Courgette

A really wonderful animated film, while it is colourful and intentionally unrealistic looking it is still really believable and has a lot of heart. It is also very pretty to look at which helps a lot.


An old fashioned hollywood story in the bad sense. It really did feel like a bunch of hollywood actors pretending to be something they are not. I didn't really believe it for a second. In saying that, it did look good (albeit in a fake kind of way) and the story was somewhat engaging if not at all convincing.


A grueling, long, difficult, hard to watch, sobering, beautiful, masterful work of art. This fascinating meditation on religion is a true work of art but it is long, it is difficult to get through and it does wear you down. If you can make it to the other side it is totally worth it. It is packed with really wonderful, believable performances too.


This film was a piece of garbage and does not deserve more than one line of a description. Some of the setpieces were good looking through (albeit in a fake kinda way).

Right, there are heaps I probably missed but I think I got most of them!

Monday, 19 December 2016

How this works

Each post has one big review with a series of smaller ones. Normally just a selection of films I have seen recently (I don't have the time to talk about everything I see because I see a lot of films). I will also discuss other stuff from time to time if I feel so inclined. Sometimes I will make posts everyday and sometimes I will wait a month to post, it just depends on how much free time I have. Older posts may have rankings but I have done away with that.

La la land and more

La la land 

I absolutely loved whiplash back in 2014 so when I heard Damien Chazelle was making a musical in the style of the 70s I was unbelievably excited. Despite this, I did not anticipate just how much I would be blown away by this film.

The first two acts of the film beautifully plays homage to the beautiful musicals of the 70s. The music could not have captured this era more perfectly, though as a general rule, they are not as upbeat as one may expect (there is really only one number that I would describe at "catchy" because that is not what the film is aiming for). More often than not the early parts of the story are told through slow ballads or jazz instrumentals, which were extremely captivating but won't leave you coming out of the theatre singing the songs. As a musical style jazz (a dying art in and of itself) is an inspired choice of music for a film playing homage to a dying art.

The beautiful music is complimented by the film's beautiful look. The cinematography felt very personal, while leaving us a lot of room to breath. This helped me to stay truly invested in the characters without feeling trapped within their skin. This look is obviously aided brilliantly by the sets and costumes, which are build beautifully to often contrast the stunning bright optimism that the film is built on with sporadic dark backdrops. These often feel at once encouraging and romantic but also discouraged and frustrated. While my knowledge of dance is limited, the choreography appeared (at least to the untrained eye) to add work wonderfully with the aesthetic that Chazelle and his crew had created.

This is all exactly what I was expecting, a beautiful homage to a lost art that looks and sounds great. Having seen whiplash I was very confident Chazelle would be able to pull that off beautifully. What I didn't anticipate how it would completely transcend this to create real dramatic tension that offers one of the most optimistically heartbreaking final scenes of any movie I have ever seen. I really do not want to spoil it in case someone ever reads this review but seriously the final sequence in this movie is simply perfection. Between this and Whiplash, I must say Chazelle seriously knows how to end a film strongly. One of the final moments involves a simple smile from Ryan Gosling, which was so perfectly captured that you could feel every ounce of emotion running through the veins of his character.

Speaking of which, I could go on and on about the aesthetics of the film but it would be nothing without the fantastic central performances. Ryan Gosling gives probably his best performance I have ever seen as Sebastian, who is an obsessive jazz pianist. This is met wonderfully by the absolutely perfect Emma Stone as Mia, an LA waitress struggling to break through as an actress. Both sung beautifully (often live I believe) and managed to convey such emotion that you really believed these characters. Neither character felt a single bit one-dimensional (as musical characters often do) and they share an unbelievable amount of chemistry.

To sum up I absolutely adored this movie. I struggle to find any single aspect that was lacking. It sounded and looked great, the acting/ characters were phenomenal, the writing felt real and allowed for multi-dimensional character and the final act just seriously knocked it out of the park. No final scene has ever affected me as much as this one did. I will not forget this movie in a hurry!

Julieta (Spanish)

This is possibly the most real film of the year. The characters are all extremely well realized, albeit in an understated way and this allows for every single moment to be completely believable. Its a film predominantly about motherhood and relationships and it left me with a lot to think about and discuss in the context of a situation that seemed like it absolutely could have been real. Additionally the acting was all very good (especially Emma Su├írez in the title role), the film both looked and sounded great and the plot was perfectly paced.

Life, Animated

A really wonderful documentary about an autistic boy (Owen) whose obsession with Disney movies allowed his parents to get through to him. As an adult he is a truly wonderful human being to see on screen and the director, Roger Ross Williams, brings handles the subject matter so delicately but truthfully that you really see Owen's personality shine. That is all I really want, its fantastic and definitely worth the watch.   

Suicide Squad

So director David Ayer is definitely a butt guy. The first thing I just cannot help but mention is how frustrating his obsession in with shots framed around Margot Robbie's butt as she walks. I guess he thinks "I find this butt sexy when it walks so despite the fact that someone is talking so it would make sense to face the camera at that person, I will just point the camera at this butt". Yeah, classy shit. But if you can get past that (I really can't, it makes the film nearly unwatchable) it is not a good movie anyway. They spend almost half the movie introducing the characters through a series of extremely contrived flashbacks that (I guess) were supposed to get us to relate to the characters but none of them felt the slightest bit authentic and they all went on way too long. Then once we have finally been over-introduced to these characters, they go in and unconvincingly fight some terrible looking CGI monsters and nothing that interesting really happens. Credit where its due, Margot Robbie is fantastic, but beyond her performance I really don't see any real reason to watch this movie (unless you really like butts).

Elle (French)

This film is dark, bizarre and kind of masterful. A film about sexual assault that doesn't shy away from occasional humor and moral ambiguity. I finished it with heaps to think and talk about (as I think is important for a good film). Isabelle Huppert is fantastic in the lead role and she is supported by a great ensemble of actors. It looks great (in a horrendous kind of way), it sounds great and it is ballsy enough to dive straight into complicated ethical situations where our lead character acts in ways that seem so illogical in the most human way. A worthy watch, but a very dark one that could be very divisive and is at times difficult to watch.

Rogue One

A very worthy addition to the star wars franchise. They bring together a diverse cast of really interesting characters to tell a basic and compelling story. I must not understate how great it is that Disney is choosing really diverse casts for these and actually turning them into fun characters. At the end of the day it is nothing more or less than a super fun ride with a bunch of fun folks. The visual effects (as you can imagine) are wonderful, blended with many practical effects. The original score is effective (even if it is just trying to mimick the sound of the original John Williams scores rather than being its own thing). If I have one complaint (it sounds minor but its actually very noticeable) its that they revived a bunch of characters from the original trilogy using CGI and you can tell immediately that its not real. But beyond that its a really fun distracting that will keep you engaged and interested throughout.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

23 November (forgot to publish)

I'm not good at this noting down movies thing but here we go, let's try to carry on. I've watched dozens and dozens of films since last post so these will be really short.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)

This was a really fun movie. I love the idea of continuing the Harry Potter universe without any connection to the original story as the universe is vast and interesting but any attempt at revisiting the original characters would likely feel forced and unnecessary. I really hope they keep it that way as the Harry Potter easter eggs were one of the more disappointing parts of the movie. There were several really obvious moments where you could just feel the characters nudging you as they mention a person or situation mentioned in the earlier movies (luckily they could not do this too badly as most of the Harry Potter characters are not alive at this point - although they do try their hardest).

The main cast create a bunch of very fun characters. Eddie Redmayne is wonderful as you would expect and Dan Fogler is a lot of fun as a non-magical character that is picked up along the way - although one criticism I would have is that he is often used rather lazily as an excuse for Eddie Redmayne's character to explain plot points directly to the audience. Topping out our team of protagonists we have Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol who both bring their own quirky energy to the mix. The supporting roles beyond these all feel a bit weak, the main antagonist (who I will not name in the interest of spoilers - although everyone watching will have guessed it anyway) is very one dimensional far too predictable. Beyond them, supporting characters all felt disappointingly like plot devices, with no small parts standing out in the slightest.

One really great thing I did keep noticing about the acting is the choreography, even in the simplest situations. The way everybody stands and holds themselves seems to have been thought out really well. This then translates into any sequences where magic is involved as everyone seems to have their own style. This is a small thing but it gives each character a really unique feel.

As for the actual plot, it gets somewhat stuck between two competing movies. Where the movie opens up and focuses on our protagonist magi-zoologist finding or interacting with his creatures we get some truly magical scenes with such originality and wonder. Unfortunately, at times throughout the movie and more particularly ramping up towards the third act JK Rowling decides that there isn't enough of a movie in this so we need a generic story with an evil wizard and dark forces. This feels very tacked on as if it was saying "oh yeah by the way here is the story that goes with the actual fun movie". Just about every development could be guessed a mile before it happens because it has all been done before.

On a more technical level, this is directed by David Yates who made the final four Harry Potter films. Because of this you have a pretty good idea of how this movie will look and feel coming in. The set pieces and costumes are brilliantly designed - as was the case in the Harry Potter films. So too were the visual effects. I cannot stress enough how magical some of the creature scenes were - everything looked and felt absolutely exquisite. Topping this off, it was shot in a very non-intrusive way and had a familiar (because of the 8 similar films that came before) but lovely soundtrack. 

All in all it is worth the watch. Eddie Redmayne makes for a fantastic protagonist and the main characters all make for a team (even if the rest of the supporting cast are a little weak). It looks and sounds great and there is true magic when we are watching the movie that its title suggests we are getting. I really hope that the sequels build on the best elements of this and do not feel stale.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The 70s were a great time for musicals. They got inventive with them and ended up making just about any genre they wanted into musicals. We seem to have lost our touch with this in the 21st century so it is always a delight to go back and visit the greats. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory really is one of the greats.

The feel of the film is simply perfect, it does not feel like it has aged a day in the nearly 50 years since it was released. The look of the film is crisp/ interesting and the sarcastic wit sprinkled throughout gives the film an instantly endearing quality. This is, of course, helped a lot by the near perfect casting of the late Gene Wilder, who recently passed away. The rest of the cast are great too, as is the music and nearly every line of dialogue. I absolutely adore this movie if by some miracle there are those who have not seen it, they really should.

Pete's Dragon (2016)

Pete's dragon is wonderful. Its not terribly inventive or original but very delightful. The CGI is pretty decent (although the dragon's face could do with redesigning). Every character and situation feels very familiar but it doesn't feel too repetitive. Its also looks and sounds very good. Its by no means the best movie I have seen but it is a good distraction.

The Light Between Oceans (2016)

I found this to be relatively disappointing. Alicia Vikander, who I usually absolutely adore, needed to be seriously toned down - every expression, stance and movement seemed to have been thought through so much that it was overdone and ceased to be believable. Michael Fasbender on the other hand was fine, although the accents in general were all over the place. On a positive note, it looks very pretty (despite the occasional bad shaky cam) and has a wonderful score. Also the overall story is something that could very easily catch my attention, unfortunately the pacing was quite uneven leaving some parts feeling like they were stretched paper thin. There is plenty to like here and there are often hints of a very good movie poking through the cracks but the acting needs to be toned down and it feels like more time was needed in the editing room.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

5 September 2016

Its been a while since my last post. I have watched a fair few films. I will probably have forgotten a bunch here so I will catch up on those later. Because there are so many I will make my blurbs smaller than usual (if I can I will try to keep some of them as small as a single sentence).

99 Homes (2015)

99 Homes is timely, deep, engaging and very well shot. This is a perfect companion piece to watch after the big short (which I should revisit one of these days). It is very well acted with Michael Shannon putting in a particularly strong performance. At times, however, it is not an easy watch. It really saddens me how people can be so driven by greed. Regardless it is well worth the watch.

Midnight Special
What happens when Spielberg meets King? You get an engaging drama with plenty of heart. The suspense in this film is great, I simply love the feeling of watching a movie and wondering what is going to happen next. Additionally, the whole cast give great performances, particularly Micheal Shannon (again) and Joel Edgerton whose slightly gruff personas work very well together. It is also shot very well. That being said, the ending was much more simple than I had hoped for and the second act felt lie it dragged on a little too long at times. Regardless, a fun little film that is made with a lot of love.

Into the Woods

Into the woods is a fun, if middle of the road musical. There are some really great and fun moments and some really good music. There are some great performances, particularly I thought Chris Pine really surprised me in a comedic role very unlike what I would normally expect from him. Additionally, Emily Blunt and James Cordon are great in the lead roles and Meryl Streep is fine (if over-rated) as the witch. I was somewhat disappointed with the rest of the cast. I found in particular that Anna Kendrick's voice (which is really great when paired with the right music) was not well suited to this material.

The set-pieces are all nice as you would expect, as are the costumes (with the exception of whatever Johnny Depp was wearing). I did struggle to love this movie though. It sort of feels like they started out trying to make something wacky, out there and slightly dark but then reined it in too much. It ends up sitting in that in between space where it is too wacky to be played straight but not wacky enough to be as much fun as it should be. Overall though it is fine and there really is a lot to like. I just wished it was more.

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)
What a disappointment! I am personally a big fan of the office. I think David Brent is a very well developed, strangely likable and funny character. I was therefore cautiously excited for this movie because despite feeling like it was a tad unnecessary I felt like it should be at the very least entertaining. Unfortunately it wasn't. 

It started out fine, introducing an interesting group of new characters, which had me thinking yeah they could definitely do something with these. Then the second act came along and joke after joke started falling flat. It really wanted to be outrageous but I feel like it wanted too much to have a low age rating too. This meant that when he tried to go for the big shock laughs (which were 90% of the jokes) they were reined in too much to have any impact. 

As far as positives go, it had a very strong third act that would have been quite affecting and emotional if I hadn't been too bored in the second act to develop a feeling for these characters. The supporting cast are also pretty great. Doc Brown really impressed me (a name I had never heard before this film. In the end, however, I cannot call this movie anything other than a disappointment. The jokes fell flat, the scenarios mostly felt stale and the character has, by now, probably worn out his welcome.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

I am a big fan of studio Laika but after The Boxtrolls I became worried that they may have run out of good stories to tell. I am glad to say they hadn't. Kubo is fantastic. The stop-motion animation is as gorgeous as it has always been in Laika's films. The characters are interesting, the jokes are funny and the story is engaging. One thing I have not mentioned is the action. My god is it well staged. I just had so much fun watching the creativity unfold in this beautifully realized world. 

As far as characters and voices go I absolutely loved Matthew McConaughey's character, known only for the majority of the story as Beetle. McConaughey seemed to be having a refreshingly fun time with the character. I thought Charlize Theron's mostly serious, overprotective "Monkey" makes for a good contrast to this. The rest of the voice cast were great too.

If I really wanted to criticize it somewhere, I would say that the big plot reveal before the third act was way too easy to guess. I would not say that is too much of a problem though. They did not put much effort into hiding it and part of the fun was knowing what was going on before the main character did. Overall I adored Kubo, it is funny, smart and just really fun to watch.

Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003)
As a New Zealand film geek (and well, as a film geek in general) of course I love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I recently rewatched it and just like every other time I have watched it, I remembered why I loved it so much. 

I do not feel there is much point in reviewing individual movies because they fit together as if a single movie such that I do not feel a need to distinguish between them. Regardless, what is not to love: the characters are well crafted and well cast, the set-pieces, costumes and CGI are very impressive (especially the practical effects). 

The cinematography is great, the action is very well staged. It has heart, it has soul, it is just simply a beautiful series. Then there is that score that is just to die for. If I had to criticize anything, it possibly has one too many endings but after so many hours of wonder, fuck it just let them have it! Seriously, this movie is as close as you can get to perfect.

The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys is over the top, outrageous and absolutely hilarious. Is it at times a tad contrived? Maybe. But that doesn't stop it being fun. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are a much better pairing than they have any right to be and seem to be enjoying the shoot far too much. I laughed a lot and felt surprisingly engaged in this overthetop, never-ending thrill-ride.

Irrational Man (2015)

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in a Woody Allen movie? That sounds like a pretty good pairing to me. That is until I actually saw the movie. I am struggling to find something I liked about this movie. I could not believe in, let alone empathize with, any of the main characters. When they weren't explaining to the camera how they were feeling, they were giving a narrative on how they were feeling or giving long, dumb expositions that were supposed to sound smart and sophisticated. 

I guess some of the cinematography was pretty I guess but there was really nothing else I could think of to praise this movie for. When it started out I found myself thinking "okay the needless expositions will finish soon and we will start to get a decent movie" but then they didn't and the point that I realized where the movie was heading was the point in which I realized just what a mess I was watching.

But then the third act came along and it got even worse. The characters all started acting in ways contradictory to the way they were set up earlier and the whole plot seemed to be going for "how shocking can we be" but rather than shocking me just ended up pissing me off. I guess I have give it half a mark for being somewhat pretty at times (although its far from Woody Allen's best) but beyond that this movie is simply awful.

Sing Street (2016)
Its official, John Carney is the most underappreciated filmmaker working today. With a cast of completely unknown stars, Carney makes a deeply moving, heartfelt film about friendship, brotherhood and the desire to fit in. It manages to put itself out there while still staying very much grounded. The cast are great, the music is great, its very well shot. This is a movie more people should have seen. It was an absolute delight and I would thoroughly recommend it.

I am sure there are plenty I missed but I can add them to the next big post. I still need to do a post about the animated shorts at the film festival (I will make it short) and one discussing the Harry Potter films (which I just rewatched).

Friday, 19 August 2016

New Zealand International Film Festival

Lately most of the films I have seen have been at the film festival. Here are my opinions listed from worst to best, I haven't included the animated shorts, which will get a post of their own.

Heart of a Dog 
I hate to say it but this film is lunacy at its finest. It comes across as if the director wants to put us through philosophy 101 without having ever taken a philosophy class. The whole movie consists of the camera zooming onto something and putting an ugly filter on it while Laurie Anderson gives narrative that is supposed to make you ask deep questions about life. Instead it simply left me wondering where she got her education.

I hate to shit on someone for doing something different but I cannot give a pass to something this stupid, ignorant and pandery. I am sure plenty of people will give it good reviews but that is only because most people watching it will not be academic so may not realize how dumb the whole thing is. Of particular annoyance is when she decided to weigh in on the NSA (a certain sabotage quote comes to mind, which was unintentionally hilarious) and 9/11. I guess as a non-religious skeptic, I am not the right crowd for this movie but honestly, surely being Buddhist is not synonymous with being stupid.

The Road

- Trailer not available
I found The Road fascinating in that it was all over the place. Filmed in China it may have appeared as though they pretended to be pro communist in order to get close to the negative effects of the communist party. They, however seemed to have forgotten to take the pro-government aspects out. What you are left with is a confused film that is on one hand following the construction of a road and showing off how the government did not care who they hurt in making it. While on the other hand you also have a film  championing the great achievement of the road (especially in the final moments of the film).

On top of this the pacing could be a bit slow in parts and it had a habit of needlessly repeating itself, Ultimately though, it was not a complete failure, there were some good moments and I did learn from it.

Jim: The James Foley Story

 - Trailer not available
The James Foley story is in many ways an important story but in other ways a story we all knew very well. From the word go it was kept quite a long ways off Jim as a person. This is probably for his own privacy but I felt like I did not get to know who he actually was particularly well throughout the film. It would have also been nice to get a little bit more of the other side of the story - why the US would not help much with his release. There was also little to no mention of a failed rescue mission, which certainly occurred.

There were many interesting and informative pieces of the story. It was especially engaging during talks with the others held hostage along with Jim. These were, however, somewhat degraded by poorly staged and unnecessary reenactments. Overall it is a film that had to be made. It was put together by the books and felt a little too safe but it was still informative and gave you some insight into the whole situation. 

Land of Mine
Do not get deceived by how low on the list this is. From here on everything I saw at the  festival was great and they could easily be rearranged as I have time to ponder them over the coming months. I put this lower than some other films only because this was the film I forgot I had seen when I came to make this list. While in hindsight I thought it was really terrific, this must , to some extent, mean it had less impact on me.

Regardless this film is shot very well and tells a balanced, informative, and at times even touching, story. The acting is all superb, the tone is set wonderfully and I absolutely believed in every single character.

The Red Turtle
This internationally produced film looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. I came to the red turtle expecting something much more storyline driven (such as something Studio Ghibli would have made themselves) and this is definitely not that. The actual story in the red turtle is relatively light. Instead it puts a major focus on metaphor, poetry (in the unspoken sense) and beauty. Fully enjoying the red turtle requires a lot of thinking but it is worth it. If you are with the right crowd it is also an excellent conversation starter.

Swiss Army Man
I hate having to put this such a long way down my list too. Swiss army man is wonderful. It is touching in the most bizarre way. While the film is also very funny (and this is a lot of what people will be talking about after getting through the abnormality of the whole thing), concentrating on the humor is sort of missing the point. At its core, Swiss Army Man is a creative way to ponder the arbitrary rules we have set up in our society, which governs the way we act. 

I do not want to spoil the ending in case some poor, unsuspecting fool happens upon this blog, but while the ending is left up to interpretation, you absolutely believe in the wacky friendship that our two leads build throughout the course of the film. I should say, HOLY SHIT is Daniel Radcliffe good in this. It is probably the best work he has ever done and Paul Dano (who is always wonderful) matches this perfectly. Also to be noted is the absolutely gorgeous cinematograph, which will probably go unnoticed by many, and the wonderful original music, which will almost certainly not. This film comes thoroughly recommended for anyone can cope with entirely wacky.

I, Daniel Blake

Made to highlight the difficulty and cruelty of the welfare system in the United Kingdom, "I, Daniel Blake" is a tough watch. It does get right to the a major aspect of why film festivals exist "to showcase films that highlight real issues with the aim of making change". The script is put together in such a way that I was constantly engaged and you are always rooting for the main character. It is not, however a fun time at the movies. It is tough to watch and extremely sobering, however enlightening and necessary.

The actors all do wonderful jobs (together with everyone else involved) to create such well-rounded real characters to the point that it often feels real. It is shot in a simple, non-intrusive way as it should be to keep the emphasis on the characters and not on the film. Hopefully films like this will continue to be funded and help people to take notice of issues in our society to bring about change.


I was always interested in Anthony Weiner as a person because he has, in my opinion, always been a good guy who stands for good things and is the right person to bring about change when change is needed. He just did a few very dumb things. I was, therefore, interested in this documentary but I did not expect it to be this good! No matter what I say I will not be able to sell this documentary well enough.

It is one of the most personal documentaries I have ever seen, to the point that large parts of it taking place inside his home to see what he is like as a normal human being. Together, this and the unique, almost manic way it is put together give the film a modern, refreshing feel to it. It also manages to be very informative about a life in politics and what that entails without feeling boring or draggy. Ultimately, I think this will do very well because people will take from it what they want to take from it. I can come out feeling I have got a really good feel for a brilliant but somewhat unstable man, whereas others may come out feeling they are glad he is no longer in politics.

Toni Erdmann
While I struggled to order the 2nd to 4th best on this list, from the moment I had seen this I knew nothing would top it. I could say that Toni Erdmann is easily the funniest film I have ever seen, however it is one part of what makes it so brilliant. The film blew me away at how it could talk about depression, discontent and family relationships (along with what can happen when kids leave home) in such a lighthearted tone, yet be so effective. There are so many layers of depth going on but they are all buried beneath hilarious comic relief characters carrying out cray skits. The happenings are also, simply said, extremely engaging. It never once felt boring or slow even with a long running time and very few locations.

The two lead actors are absolutely fantastic (I certainly hope that Peter Simoneschek gets some recognition for his fantastic work in the title role) with characters drawn up so intelligently by writer-director Maren Ade. It is a hard film to sell but almost two weeks later I am still in shock at just how great it really is. At this stage it may well be sitting atop my best of the year awards.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

August 2nd Recently viewed

Okay so I haven't posted anything in a while but I have still been seeing films so here is a big dump. I am certainly missing heaps but I can add more later. Also I have been at the film festival lately. Will add those in later.

Good will Hunting (1997)

So, for the first time since I made this blog I have re-watched my favorite film. This movie is about as close to perfect as you can get. The film has a wonderful script from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and a great ensemble lead by Matt Damon in a role that kick started his career. The standout of the ensemble is Robin Williams in a career best performance that blends humor and heart with believablity and realness (yes its a word).

This film is smart, funny, heartfelt and real. Its characters are whole, real and deeply moving. The casting is perfect, the music is perfect, it is paced perfectly and it is shot in a simple, non-invasive fashion, which makes it easy and pleasant to watch.Would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Nemo is a film I have great affection for. Its far from Pixar's best and it is relatively basic but it is colorful, pleasant and easy to watch. This made the prospect of a sequel seem a little odd and unnecessary. I am, however, pleased to say that Finding Dory is the smart type of sequel that is not just Finding Nemo done again but instead takes the characters and does something entirely different with them.

The idea basically boils down to "remember that comic relief character that you enjoyed laughing at in the previous film? Well what makes her that way is actually a serious childhood condition she has been struggling with her whole life". That is an interesting way to go and actually gives the fun little fish film something to say. Beyond that, it looks exactly as pretty as you expect, the characters are otherwise how you remember them and the plot moves along at a fun pace. 

Those who have raised a kid with mental disabilities will probably feel like they have been hit by a ton of bricks. However, for the rest of us it is a fun distraction that will not change your life but will give you a couple of hours with a smile on your face.

The BFG (2016)

Steven Spielberg shows once again that he has still got it. The BFG is one of the best looking films you will see this year. The motion capture work is very impressive, as is the whole production set. It also features an original score from John Williams, which is as beautiful as anything he has done. The script is very well written with infectious humor scattered throughout.

What makes this film truly special, however, is the way Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill act together. Rylance is continuing to show himself as one of the most talented living actors and Barnhill makes an excellent film debut. If there is one issue I had with it, it is that the story lacks tension at times with rather one-note antagonists. This ends up being somewhat unimportant, however, because the movie is really about the relationship between our two protagonists and that is the stuff Spielberg excels at.

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The Star Trek reboots have taken a lot of flack from avid Star Trek fans recently. I, however never got into the original series so only judged them as action science fiction films and as far as that goes have rather enjoyed them. The latest is a bit of a mixed bag. I found the first act to be sort of messy. It is obvious Justin Lin is not used to shooting action in confined spaces and the editing gets very choppy early on when a lot of action is occurring on a ship. Eventually, the crew end up separated on a planet and things start to pick up from there.When Justin Lin is given space to breathe he shows that he can direct a hell of a spectacle. 

The plot is rather thin but there is some great character development, especially between Spok and McCoy. As usual the usual actors all do a great job, I should mention that Anton Yelchin will be sorely missed. Idris Alba does a good job as our main antagonist. He comes across somewhat one-note for a large portion in the movie but is brought back to reality much more in the third act. All in all it is enjoyable and with some great moments. Far from the best I have seen this year but well worth the ticket.

 Dazed and Confused (1993)

I must admit, while I am a huge fan of Richard Linklater, I only just got around to watching Dazed and Confused. When it was getting started, I found myself thinking "really, this is what people refer to as Linklater's masterpiece?" but as the film progressed the film snuck up on me and by the end it absolutely had me.

Like many of Linklater's films, this is light on story, high on character and it is very real. It is clear that he has very strong feelings for this part of his life: carefree, fun, wild but in a way oppressed and desperate for freedom. The characters are all people who easily could have existed and while I am a generation or so removed from this time, even I can relate to many them. The film also has an understated, timeless look to it and wonderfully timed music throughout. I would thoroughly recommend that this film is watched with groups of people from different age groups because it will create conversation. In my opinion, it is not Linklater's best, but still a wonderfully realized conversation starter with great character and some decent humor spread through. Well worth the watch.

Song of the Sea (2015)

I promise I will stop watching so many animated films one day. Song of the sea is a colorful, fun, unique, interesting experience. The story is engrossing, the characters are brilliantly realized and music is hauntingly beautiful.

This international collaboration brought together aspects of many different countries and cultures in the way it was made. This gave it a special feel to it that leaves you with the realization that there is not anything else like this. It comes complete with a refreshing art style and diverse voice-work. Would thoroughly recommend.


Brooklyn (2015)
This is the 4th time I have watched Brooklyn in the small amount of time it has been available. Saoirse Ronan gives the performance of a lifetime as a young woman who moves from Ireland to America in the 1950s and falls in love. Brooklyn is understated in the best sense of the word. It is simple, elegant and thoroughly engrossing. 

The cast sells the variation between Ireland and America in those times, giving us a real glimpse of what it must have been like for a woman such as our main protagonist. The cinematography is gorgeous, focusing often on artistic close up shots of our main character. Ronan suits this style of film as she is an impressively expressive actress. The score gives it that added touch to really hold you in. I found myself absolutely entranced by this film and would strongly recommend it.