Film Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

54 years is quite the wait for a sequel but Mary Poppins Returns is full of nostalgic sweetness and charm  

“Are you sure this is quite safe?
‘Not in the slightest. Ready!'”

54 years is quite the wait for a sequel but the sweetness and charm with which Mary Poppins Returns lands on our screens makes it pretty much worth it. It’s a film that does more than wrap you up in a warm blanket of nostalgia, it tucks you in, throws another log on the fire and makes you a steaming hot chocolate (no marshmallows though!).

Set 30 years after the much cherished original, the story (by David Magee, Rob Marshall and John DeLuca based off of PL Travers’s original tales) sees us rejoin Cherry Tree Lane where the adult Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lives with his young family (Pixie Davies, Nathaniel Saleh and Joel Dawson). But much like the other long-held sequel of the year, a sadness fills the house for a mother has died. And Michael’s artistic inclinations and part-time job at the bank aren’t bringing in enough to keep them from repossession. Who could possibly save the day…? Continue reading “Film Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)”

Film Review: Lady Macbeth (2017)

Who needs Shakespeare when you have William Oldroyd and Alice Birch to give us a chillingly excellent Lady Macbeth

“I’d rather stop you breathing than have you doubt how I feel”

Based on the book Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Nikolai Leskov, William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is a ferocious debut film and written by Alice Birch (no stranger to theatregoers but also making a feature debut here), it is a remarkably forward-thinking piece for that old hoary chestnut that is the British period drama.

Layering in intersectional notions of race and class, not shying away from domestic abuse and violence, it is probably safe to say it is unlike any other film you’ve seen that is set in 1865 England. Trapped into a stifling marriage with a disinterested man with a domineering father and a dour isolated estate in the North East, Katherine resolves not to let this be the sum total of her life. Continue reading “Film Review: Lady Macbeth (2017)”

Film Review: Twelfth Night (2018)

With Sheila Atim playing both Viola and Sebastian, this film of Twelfth Night has many a highlight even if it is ultimately overlong

“You will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard”

As a debut for both Shanty Productions and Adam Smethurst as screenwriter and director, this Twelfth Night is an intriguing thing. At a more than healthy 2 hours 45 minutes, its slavish adherence to the text can feel like a bit of a challenge as it occasionally feels like it is moving at a glacial pace. On the other hand, it has Sheila Atim doing double duty as shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian and so it proves a great showcase for her.

Filmed over a single month in West Sussex on an economical budget, this contemporary imagining of Shakespeare’s tale of mistaken identities and affections gone haywire benefits from some astute casting. Shalini Peiris’s Olivia is younger than the average but it’s a choice that makes sense of her impetuous nature, and leaning into Antony Bunsee’s experience makes for a compelling Malvolio, the unlikeliness of any relationship between them all the more stark for once. Continue reading “Film Review: Twelfth Night (2018)”

Film Review: Under the Tree (2017)

A savagely dark comedy from Iceland, Under the Tree/Undir trénu is a film to look out for

“It had nothing to do with emotion”

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s Under the Tree (or Undir trénu in his natice Icelandic) is proof that there’s nothing so dangerous as suburbia, no matter which country you’re in. A wickedly dark, sharply comic and tensely plotted film, it scorches through the false comfort of liberal pretensions about loving your neighbour and suggests something far more unsettling about human nature.

The first crack in the veneer comes from afar. Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir’s Agnes walks in on Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson’s Atli having a hand shandy to an old sex tape of him and another woman. With nowhere left to go when she kicks him out, he moves back in with his parents in their suburban home. They are otherwise distracted though by a long-simmering dispute with their neighbours about a tree that casts a shadow over some prime sunbathing real estate. Continue reading “Film Review: Under the Tree (2017)”

Film Review: The Levelling (2016)

Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling is a haunting film debut, and a grim one too

“There’s nothing for you here anymore”

Eee, it’s grim to be a farmer in the UK right now, if we’re to believe what we see in the cinema. At least in Yorkshire, there’s the chance of some hot gay sex but in Somerset, things look decidedly worse with not even that relief as an option.

Writer/director Hope Dickson Leach finds something more desperate in the unforgiving land of the Somerset levels, as she explores the fracturing of a family farm in the aftermath of the death of the son and heir. Trainee vet Clover returns for the funeral of her brother but is shocked at what she discovers.

Continue reading “Film Review: The Levelling (2016)”

Film Review: Journey’s End (2017)

A beautifully sensitive film adaptation of Journey’s End that spares none of its horror

“Smells like liver without the smooth wet look”

In all of the art that has been created around the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, it is a shame that this film adaptation of Journey’s End passed by without much fanfare last year. RC Sherriff’s play is a rightfully punishing and pummeling play and Simon Reade’s adaptation loses none of the ferocity and horror of the writing, while adding new layers of disturbing verisimilitude in its staging.

Set in the final months of the First World War in the trenches of northern France, Journey’s End follows C Company as they await orders with an increasing sense of dread. Newly arrived Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) has requested the posting as he naively wants to be reunited with former school colleague and family friend Captain Stanhope. But nothing can prepare him for life on the front line, nor the effects of war on his pal. Continue reading “Film Review: Journey’s End (2017)”

Film Review: Lucky

One of Harry Dean Stanton’s final film performances, John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky proves a fitting tribute

“You’re old, and you’re getting older”

Even at the age of 90, Lucky is fit as a fiddle. It might be the daily yoga sessions, or the regular walks around the background Arizona town in which he resides, it sure ain’t the packet a day he smokes. But for whatever reason, life just keeps on rolling by and as a nonagenarian, he’s not one for changing anything anytime soon.

Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja specifically for veteran actor Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky can’t help but now be informed by the death of the 91-year-old actor just before the film’s theatrical release in the US last year. As a meditation on mortality, it’s achingly poignant; but as a celebration of a life well lived, connections made, a career fulfilled, it is quietly joyful. Continue reading “Film Review: Lucky”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review

Tom Cruise might have just outdone himself in the sixth and latest movie in the epic Mission: Impossible franchise. To no one’s surprise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout does not disappoint. It’s satisfyingly filled with all the sequences that have made the franchise awesome: Cruise’s signature run, intensely gratifying motorcycle and car chases, and the all-out display of the actor’s athletic ability and overall disregard for his personal safety. It’s hard to believe that Hollywood’s favourite action star is already 56 years old.

In fact, it is Cruise’s age and his still youthful charm, which perfectly encapsulates the success of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Even as Cruise is still in the peak of his physical prowess, he no longer looks young enough to pass for the eternal twenty-something that most people remember him to be. Instead, he succeeds at looking just past half his age, a perfect fit for the now mature IMF secret operative who’s stopped his fair share of world-destroying plots. Director Christopher McQuarrie actually uses this element in the film brilliantly. He succeeds in creating a narrative that ties in relevant elements from the past Mission: Impossible films to create a continuity that has been previously absent in the acclaimed action franchise. Continue reading “Mission: Impossible – Fallout Review”

Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

On the two viewings I’ve managed so far, I’m pretty sure Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the epoch-defining film that we don’t deserve but which we sorely need

“When you’re gone
How can I even try to go on?”

I was lucky enough to see an early screening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week and I thought it was fricking fantastic. But as the occasion fuelled by an afternoon tea that was heavy on the bubbles and the raucous atmosphere of a stagey audience and not quite bold enough to stick by the courage of my convictions, I opted to wait until seeing the film a second time before officially declaring my opinion.

And I have to say I really do think this is a superb film. The sequel that no-one really knew they wanted, whipped together in under 12 months once the green light had been given, that somehow manages to do everything you expect it to, and but better, and infinitely more moving than it has any right to be. I knew I’d shed a tear or three of joy but there was more than one moment where I was just sobbing, so rich is the emotion here. And that’s only fitting considering the bittersweet melancholy that is ABBA’s true calling card, rather than the cheesiness they are famed for. Continue reading “Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)”