BLACK CHRISTMAS (aka SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT) (18)
BLACK NARCISSUS (PG)
D: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Rank/The Archers (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
W: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger [based on the novel by Rumer Godden]
DP: Jack Cardiff
Ed: Reginald Mills
Mus: Brian Easdale
PD: Alfred Junge
Cos: Hein Heckroth
Deborah Kerr (Sister Clodagh), Sabu (Dilip Rai), David Farrar (Mr. Dean), Flora Robson (Sister Philippa), Jean Simmons (Kanchi), Kathleen Byron (Sister Ruth)
Often considered amongst the greatest British films of all time and the very best films of the 1940's, this drama from the collaborative duo Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger does have some truly impressive moments considering it's age, the storyline however is more of an acquired taste.
Set at a Himalayan convent during the height of the British Empire's occupancy in India, a group of nun's struggle to adapt to their surroundings as they teach the native people the English language, with two of the sisters' developing a rivalry when they both establish a friendship with a cynical but dashing government officer Mr. Dean.
The title is in reference to the perfumed clothing of a bejewelled Indian officer who visits the convent to learn English, and he becomes infatuated by a seductive native girl (played by Jean Simmons in a strange, but very memorable role).
The subject matter does touch on themes which balance between religious duty and emotional restraint, which aren't such an important issue in modern times, but the production is so well made for its age that it still remains an impressive piece of filmmaking for its British auteurs.
BLACK PANTHER (12)
D: Ryan Coogler
Disney/Marvel (Kevin Feige)
W: Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole [based on characters created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby]
DP: Rachel Morrison
Ed: Michael P. Shawver & Debbie Berman
Mus: Ludwig Göransson
PD: Hannah Beachler
Cos: Ruth E. Carter
Chadwick Boseman (King T'Challa / Black Panther), Michael B. Jordan (N'Jadaka / Erik 'Killmonger' Stevens), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Daniel Kaluuya (W'Kabi), Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue)
Superhero Black Panther was initially introduced in 2016's Captain America: Civil War before getting his own solo adventure for Marvel's Cinematic Universe, meeting a divisive response from the audiences, sometimes for the wrong reasons.
I'm not going to entertain political opinion or comment on the cultural benefits that movie alludes to have. It is a comic book adaptation, and that is how it shall be reviewed.
In comparison to some of the stronger MCU films (Thor: Ragnarok, The Avengers, etc.) it doesn't quite cut the mustard, but as a standalone companion piece to the other movies it's perfectly entertaining and does a good job introducing the character's origins.
Prince T'Challa becomes the newly crowned King of Watanga, a fictional African region, following the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. The African land gets power from a fallen meteorite in prehistoric times which have enriched them with technology and magic, but the truth is kept secret from the outside world in case it falls into the wrong hands, such as the warmongering villains in this movie who seek to bring about a new world order with Watanga's technology.
The plot to the film does seem to draw inspiration from The Lion King, Thor and African folklore, and there is a bit of a slow build up to the handful of action scenes which are quite erratic in their execution, some of which seem to have been following the Michael Bay handbook of filmmaking, which is a huge shame.
Still, much of the visual element of the film is impressive, though some of the effects could do with another lick of paint. There can't be any complaints with the performances, though some of the jokes feel completely out of place.
One minor irritant (SPOILER ALERT) is that the titular hero is bested fair and square in the challenge to take his crown, but wins it back with the aid of others. Isn't that cheating??
All in all, it's well worth the price of a cinema ticket and adds another entertaining chapter to the Marvel franchise.
BLACK SUNDAY (MASK OF THE DEMON) (15)
D: Spike Lee
Focus Features/Legendary/Blumhouse/Monkeypaw/40 Acres & A Mule (Jason Blum, Spike Lee, Raymond Mansfield, Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele & Shaun Redick)
W: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee [based on the book by Ron Stallworth]
DP: Chayse Irvin
Ed: Barry Alexander Brown
Mus: Terence Blanchard
John David Washington (Ron Stallworth), Adam Driver (Flip Zimmerman), Laura Harrier (Patrice Dumas), Topher Grace (David Duke), Jasper Pääkkonen (Felix Kendrickson)
Spike Lee's return to form, BlackkKlansman treads a very peculiar line between biopic, comedy, horrifying drama and political agitprop, but it has to be admitted that this is up there with 2018's best.
Based on a true story, the plot concerns a black police officer in Colorado Springs who is swiftly promoted to the intelligence unit and begins a case where he infiltrates the local organisation of the Ku Klux Klan. Unable to attend meetings himself (for obvious reasons), he sends by proxy a white skinned detective who harbours a Jewish heritage. The investigation gets in deep with the "Grand Wizard of the KKK" David Dukes and also insinuates that other people in high places (such as the FBI) were also members.
The double act between John David Washington and Adam Driver is where the film works best, but there is a subplot involving a romance with a civil rights activist and a bit of throwing the blame at movies such as Gone With The Wind & Birth Of A Nation. Personally, I take exception to this. The art itself cannot be racist, only the person who perceives the said art. It's quite easy to pick apart works of art from the past with political correct lenses of today, but any claim that it was films like these which provided the springboard for racist movements is clutching at straws, as well as being very preachy and a bit hypocritical from Lee.
Despite the director's personal politics obscuring some moments of the film, it's a very well-made piece of work, even achieving the look of Blaxploitation movies of the early 1970's in a way that Quentin Tarantino would.
It's a film which traipses a line between fierce racial hatred and satirical comedy and doesn't hold back as it delves deeper and deeper into the ugliness. Overall, Mississippi Burning did a better job, but this is still an informative and important film to watch.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (15)
D: Denis Villeneuve
Warner Bros/Sony/Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free (Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin & Cynthia Yorkin)
W: Hampton Fancher & Michael Green [based on characters created by Philip K. Dick]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Joe Walker
Mus: Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch
PD: Dennis Gassner
Cos: Renee April
Ryan Gosling (Officer K), Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Ana de Armas (Joi), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), Robin Wright (Lt. Joshi), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Dave Bautista (Sapper Morton), Jared Leto (Niander Wallace)
35 years after the original comes this highly anticipated sequel, which has a lot to live up to considering the original 1982 film is amongst the greatest science fiction films of all time.
Simply put, it's impossible to review this new film by dancing around the plot, and this will uncover major spoilers, so if you haven't seen it and wish to... stop reading now.
Firstly, it's absolutely imperative not only to have watched the original Blade Runner, but also to have seen The Final Cut, widely available on both DVD and Bluray, as the plot follows on from the finale of that particular version. Set two decades after the events of the first film, replicants are still considered illegal and Blade Runner officers are still hunting them for "retirement". One of the Blade Runner detectives is K, who makes an astonishing discovery that a replicant has procreated and is given the order to exterminate the child, who will now be an adult. The mission eventually introduces him to Rick Deckard, the protagonist of the original film, now in hiding following the birth of his child with his love interest from the first film, Rachel.
Another party interested in the replicant child's identity is Niander Wallace, who wishes to create the perfect biological human.
If the plot sounds like a bit of a mish-mash, you can always just sit back and enjoy the visuals, which are impeccable, but where the first film was a futuristic film noir, this is simply a futuristic detective story.
There really is a lot to enjoy about this new film, particularly from a technical point of view. The cinematography, production design, sound and visual effects are a cinema experience worth paying for, but if you have a wandering mind or haven't seen the 1982 film (any version of it), this really won't be for you. It does meander, it does have pretensions, and it has a subplot about existentialism which may leave you scratching your head wondering what the big deal is.
It's a thinking man's sci-fi, and like the first film, it needs time to gestate. Some may consider it style over substance, while others will think it the best thing since sliced bread and there really is a lot to love about it. Just don't expect the normal Hollywood output and lower your expectations if you're expecting this to be as good as the original film. It is a marvel to behold, but at a headache inducing 163 minutes it might have you fidgeting a bit before the end credits. Not recommended if you didn't like the first movie.
BLAME IT ON RIO (18)
D: Kay Cannon
Universal/Good Universe/Point Grey/DMG (Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg & Chris Fenton)
W: Brian Kehoe & Jim Kehoe
DP: Russ Alsobrook
Ed: Stacey Schroeder
Mus: Mateo Messina
John Cena (Mitchell), Ike Barinholtz (Hunter), Leslie Mann (Lisa), Kathryn Newton (Julie), Geraldine Viswanathan (Kayla), Gideon Adlon (Sam)
Marketed as an American Pie sex comedy with a gender flip, Blockers is actually a lot more insightful than it has any right to be.
Three teenage girls make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night and when their parents find out, they follow the girls to various parties and attempt to sabotage their plans.
The performances and humour are pretty much as you'd expect, but the screenplay has an empathetic intelligence and wit which you wouldn't usually associate with a film like this.
D: Michelangelo Antonioni
Bridge Films (Carlo Ponti)
🇬🇧 🇮🇹 1966
W: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra & Edward Bond
DP: Carlo di Palma
Ed: Frank Clarke
Mus: Herbie Hancock
PD: Assheton Gorton
Cos: Jocelyn Richards
David Hemmings (Thomas), Vanessa Redgrave (Jane), Sarah Miles (Patricia), Peter Bowles (Ron)
Not many films capture the swinging sixties of London quite the way Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 thriller does, though the plot of the film is far from being about the culture of the time, but rather a mysterious drama about the power of perception.
Professional photographer Thomas captures a seemingly innocent romantic moment between a couple in the park and is accosted by the woman (Jane) who demands that he turns the photographs over to her. Later, after developing the pictures, Thomas is convinced that he has captured a crime on film, but events conspire against him as he searches for the truth.
Antonioni's film is full of surrealist touches which make it much more than your standard thriller, including a photoshoot scene which has become an icon of popular culture. The more adult scenes of the film pushed the boundaries of the production code, which existed at the time and was abolished shortly after.
Looking back at it from a modern standpoint, some will wonder what all the fuss was about, but it still can't be denied that this was one of the most commercially successful art films made during the decade and still remains one of the most influential films of the 1960's.
BLUE JASMINE (15)
D: Woody Allen
Sony Pictures Classics/Gravier (Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum & Edward Walson)
W: Woody Allen
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe
Ed: Alisa Lepselter
Cate Blanchett (Jeanette 'Jasmine' Francis); Sally Hawkins (Ginger), Alec Baldwin (Hal Francis), Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight Westlake), Louis C.K. (Al Munsinger), Bobby Cannavale (Chili), Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Flicker)
For me, Woody Allen's movies can be very hit and miss, and with the writer-director making a new film every year (at least since 1982), it's understandable that the quality will fluctuate.
Blue Jasmine is certainly amongst Allen's best films, featuring a brilliant pair of performances from both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins.
Blanchett plays Jasmine, an entitled socialite who hasn't worked a day in her life, and lived her luxuriant lifestyle out of her husband's pockets. Jasmine moves away from the luxuriant penthouse apartments of Manhattan to her sister Ginger's more modest accommodation on the west coast, where she spares no time getting involved in Ginger's personal life.
The non-linear storyline delves into the past, where it emerges that Jasmine's millionaire husband commit suicide shortly after being sentenced to prison for real estate fraud, which also affected Ginger's marriage to her first husband.
Though Allen's screenplay doesn't quite answer all the issues that it raises, Cate Blanchett gives an excellent portrayal of a deeply troubled woman, who may look complete on the outside but is totally broken within. A performance which was rewarded with an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Sally Hawkins and Woody Allen's screenplay also received well-deserved Oscar nominations.
THE BLUE LAGOON (15)