“First Man” (2018)

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Rating: PG-13 / Genre: Drama / Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds / Directed By: Damien Chazelle / Written By: Josh Singer / Released: October 12th, 2018 / Runtime: 138 minutes / Studio: Universal Pictures

Summary:

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Review:

Here we have a thoroughly enthralling film with beautiful shots and a great cast.

Ryan Gosling proves once again his talents as he takes centre stage starring as Neil Armstrong. His portrayal is compelling as heart-breaking events in his life unfold amidst the preparation for the infamous finale.

The use of first-person perspective in varying moments give this exploration to space an original and thrilling difference from previous space movies that have come before. As an audience we are well and truly thrown into the chaos, excitement, tension, scariness, adventure of going to the moon. – All the more powerful on the big screen.

I’m surprised this isn’t among the Best Picture nominations. It seems a more likely candidate that some of the lucky few this year.

A film that will catapult you into a exhilarating exploit you don’t want to miss.

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“Juliet, Naked” (2018)

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Rating: 12s / Genre: Comedy / Starring: Ethan Hawke, , Chris O’Dowd / Directed By: Jesse Peretz / Written By: Tamara Jenkins, Jim Taylor, Evgenia Peretz, Phil Alden Robinson / Released: August 17th 2018 / Runtime: 98 minutes / Studio: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Summary:

Annie (Rose Byrne) is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) – an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to a life-changing encounter with the elusive rocker himself. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked is a comic account of life’s second chances.

Review:

A little “You’ve Got Mail” meets “Almost Famous”…This is a lovely little comedy with a sweet story and vibrant characters to make you smile. Devoid of any major confrontation this makes it a surprisingly enjoyable watch. Or not so surprising, depending what you expect from it going in.

Ethan Hawke and Rose Byrne light up the screen bringing us chuckles and a warmth in our hearts. Their budding friendship happens upon a surprisingly sweet beginning and flourishes through the movie. Chris O’Dowd also has his moments too.

The story itself appears very light-hearted and it is for the most part but then takes a heart-felt, slightly darker dare we say, turn and it’s at that moment I felt glad to have watched it. It was touch and go at the beginning but if you give it a chance and stick with it, it’s a great movie to unwind with after a long day.

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“A Star Is Born” (2018)

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Rating: 12s / Genre: Drama, Romance / Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady GaGa / Directed By: Bradley Cooper / Written By: Will Fetters, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper / Released: October 5th 2018 / Runtime: 135 minutes / Studio: Warner Bros Pictures

Summary:

Seasoned musician Jackson Maine discovers — and falls in love with — struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

Review:

I’m going to be honest. I am aware I am in a minority when I say I did not enjoy this film. I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it was a lot to do with how built up it had been for me before going into the film. Everyone I talked to who had seen it glorified it to high heavens. Yet, I came away from the cinema feeling like I’d wasted two hours of my life.

I felt that the story itself was a bit lacklustre. Yes, dramatic things happened but it was all bullshit. I think what happens in the finale (for those who have seen it) is very sad, don’t get me wrong, but also felt it was purely there for the sake of drama and the fact that it was thrown in there for good measure just made me roll my eyes. It’s as though the film was trying too hard to make you cry. I felt that it dragged and was not all that interesting.

Frankly, I’m wondering why it was even necessary at all. We already had the Kris Kristopherson and Barbara Streisand version. Frankly, if you’ve seen this one you’ll wonder why there was need for this new version. But the world is different now and apparently this nonsense is what appeals to people nowadays. I think Bradley Cooper is simply copying Kris Kistropherson’s performance from the original, rather than doing his own thing. He’s acting as Kris Kristopherson’s character rather than the character in the new script.

I didn’t buy into the relationship between Lady GaGa’s character and Bradley Cooper’s character. I didn’t see the chemistry that a lot of other people have clearly seen. Some of the dialogue was quite cheesy and forced and, in the end, didn’t actually amount to anything. It was all a bit pretentious, it wanted mean something more than it actually did. The romance of it all is underwhelming.

I have nothing against Bradley Cooper or Lady GaGa, I think they have been successful in the past in their respective fields. I have enjoyed many of Bradley Cooper’s films in the past, and I think it’s admirable this was a directorial debut for him. However, I really don’t consider this his best film.  I also think Lady GaGa should have stuck to singing and performing in the music industry. She’s not a terribly bad actress, but she’s not as wonderful as a lot of actresses out there today, who because of this film, are not getting the recognition they deserve. This opinion goes back to her days in American Horror Story. Again, I just didn’t see it myself, personally. As a singer I admire what she does. But as an actress…Sometimes it’s ok for musicians not to cross over into the film industry even if they are great performers.

I feel I should say something positive, so I will say I did like the soundtrack. The songs, to their credit, have nice lyrics and are enjoyable. I wouldn’t say they were Lady GaGa’s best but they’re good just the same.

I also wouldn’t fault the cinematography. The film looks good. Probably one of the only aspects that kept me in the seat. (That, and I thought my friend was enjoying the film – it turns out we both felt the same after leaving and were kicking ourselves we didn’t say something after all). I know a lot of people are going to disagree heavily with what I’ve just said but this is my review. I didn’t enjoy this film. I’m actually baffled it’s an Oscar Best Picture nomination. Then again, I’m baffled by a lot of the films that have been nominated this year.

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“If Beale Street Could Talk” (2019)

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Rating: 15s / Genre: Drama, Romance / Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephen James, Regina King / Directed By: Barry Jenkins / Written By: Barry Jenkins / Released: January 11th, 2019 / Runtime: 117 minutes / Studio: Annappurna Pictures

Summary:

In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny. Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

Review:

I feel like this film is extremely underrated. Nobody seems to be talking about it. It only received one Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay and that’s it which I find a little disappointing to be honest. I felt it deserved a place in the Best Picture category more than some that are on that list. Oh well…

For what it’s worth, the screenplay is very deserving of its nomination. The story is very simple yet dramatic enough to have a lasting impact. The dialogue is sharp in many cases. The characters are well constructed and, in turn, brought to life by a fantastic cast. Everyone in the film stood out in certain scenes and made this film a special one to watch.

The music is very understated but adds a lot to the happenings. I came away from the film feeling very bummed out but also refreshed.

This film will bring a smile to your face, not because it’s in any way uplifting, but because of how well it was put together. I feel disappointed that it seems to be so underrated.

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“The Favourite” (2019)

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Rating: 18s / Genre: Comedy, Drama / Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult / Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos / Written By: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara / Released: January 1st, 2019 / Runtime: 119 minutes / Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Film4 and Waypoint

Summary:

In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne, and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead, while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.

Review:

This film seems to be a big favourite (no pun intended) at award festivals this year with so many nominations. Of course, it hasn’t won any of them yet, but received its fair share, it has.

Olivia Colman is the highlight of this film. She brings the character of Anne to life in such a vibrant and comedic way.. I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it was.

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz also provide fantastic supporting performances. Both are exceptionally witty. The relationships between the three of these characters leave us guessing after every scene who is the real baddy of the ensemble? Perhaps none of them are really hereos except in their own head. It’s a guessing game from start to finish.

By splitting the story into different chapters added an extra quirkiness to an already energetic film. The editing was something I enjoyed too. It’s hard to know at times whether the film considers itself a period drama, or a comedic parody of a period drama. It’s one of the film’s attributes that gives it its undeniable quirkiness. It’s certainly an entertaining ride.

I recommend this very much. A film worthy of all the hype it has received thus far. A word of warning, however, maybe not one to watch with the parents if you’re going to cinema for a family event…But definitely one to watch.

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“Green Book” (2018)

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Rating: PG-13 / Genre: Comedy, Drama / Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali / Directed By: Peter Farrelly / Written By: Nick Vallelonga / Released: November 21st 2018 / Runtime: 130 minutes / Studio: Universal Pictures

Summary:

Dr Don Shirley is a world-class African-American pianist, who is about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip, a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighbourhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.

Review:

I enjoyed this film a lot more than I was expecting to. The trailer makes it look average. And while it’s not the greatest film I’ve ever seen, it’s still a pretty damn enjoyable one.

What hooked me most was the budding friendship between the two lead characters. Their banter and indifferences are equally engaging and wonderful. They both have something to teach the other and bring to each of their lives. They do say opposites attract, well in this case the saying couldn’t be more evident. One outspoken rough around the edges, the other soft mannerly and reserved. A recipe for a very entertaining friendship.

While the story itself lacks tremendous conflict, it still manages to pack a punch. A lot of it is a bit sentimental and Hollywoodish, but who are we kidding, we all secretly love that stuff deep down when it’s done right. For the most part, Green Book gets it. For others it’s a little jaded and overdone. It has much charm that it’s easily forgiven.

The soundtrack adds a little something as well.

All in all, would I say this is necessarily Best Picture material? Not exactly… But it’s still a good film just the same.

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“Eighth Grade” (2018)

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Rating: PG-13 / Genre: Comedy / Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson / Directed By: Bo Burnham / Written By: Bo Burnham / Released: August 3rd, 2018 / Runtime: 94 minutes / Studio: A24

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth-grade year.

Review:

Eighth Grade is a refreshing teen-movie that shows a far more realistic portrayal of what teenagers go through and look like. For one thing, the actors playing them are teenagers themselves, with acne and all. Gone are the unrealistic and frankly unattainable, teenagers portrayed in the likes of Mean Girls or Clueless or Easy A…to name but a few. We all love those films I’ve just mentioned but, I think we can all agree, we had a little grudge against the 20-something year old actors playing 15/16 year olds. Ten years their junior. Here, however, we do not have that problem and it’s refreshing.

This film, I think also shows the state of today’s world in the stark light it has become. Instagram rules the roost, students have to go through drills for school shootings, and the phrases used are a whole other language to decode. Some of it made me very sad. It’s all true and the harsh reality of the situation, but when you see it with no embellishments in front of you on a screen, it’s a bit of a shock. Is this really the right way to be going?

Elsie Fisher is a brilliant lead. All the awkwardness and hardship portrayed through her character of what people her age go through is put right there in front of us, no fuss, no muss. Crushes, confidence, sexuality, friendships, parents – it all comes to a boil. She did a great job with her role in this film.

In a lot of cases, this film seems to have slipped under the radar a bit which I feel is a bit unfair. It’s a film people of that age should be watching as it’s definitely something they need. Two big thumbs up. I definite should-see.

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