I AM LEGEND (15)
I, DANIEL BLAKE (15)
D: Ken Loach
eOne/Sixteen/Why Not/Wild Bunch (Rebecca O'Brien)
W: Paul Laverty
DP: Robbie Ryan
Ed: Jonathan Morris
Mus: George Fenton
Dave Johns (Daniel Blake), Hayley Squires (Katie Morgan), Briana Shann (Daisy Morgan), Dylan McKiernan (Dylan Morgan)
Director Ken Loach came out of retirement as he had something serious to say about the British welfare system and the finish result was appreciated heavily at Cannes film festival, receiving a rapturous standing ovation.
The film, pieced together from several real-life stories while writer Paul Liberty was researching, follows Daniel Blake, a carpenter from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who had recently been a victim of a heart attack only to become a victim of bureaucratic changes to the department of work & pensions.
He strikes up a friendship with Katie, a single mother relocated from London where the housing services are seriously depleted.
The film does have a message to convey about people not quite getting the help they need, though it does get a little preachy in blaming the current government at the time of filming, completely ignoring that some of the wheels were put in motion by the previous leadership.
Politics aside, it's an important film which addresses the common misconception, especially from the opinion of the upper classes, that all those on benefits are no-hopers, beggars and moochers, which is far from the truth.
In the case of Daniel Blake, he's a proud, dignified gentleman whose paid into the system his whole life only to be betrayed when the safety net wasn't there to catch him, whereas Katie's dilemma can only be blamed on a lack of social housing.
One thing is for certain, it's a bleak dramatic film which is not created for enjoyment, but far more for raising awareness.
I ❤️ HUCKABEES (I HEART HUCKABEES) (15)
D: David O. Russell
Fox Searchlight/Qwerty (Gregory Goodman, David O. Russell & Scott Rudin)
W: David O. Russell
DP: Peter Deming
Ed: Robert K. Lambert
Mus: Jon Brion
Jason Schwartzman (Albert Markovski), Dustin Hoffman (Bernard Jaffe), Isabelle Huppert (Caterine Vauban), Jude Law (Brad Stand), Lily Tomlin (Vivian Jaffe), Mark Wahlberg (Tommy Corn), Naomi Watts (Dawn Campbell)
This "existential comedy" was possibly the most divisive film of 2004 with many calling it genius and an equal amount calling it pretentious twaddle.
In Short Cuts style, the plot follows a collection of characters, but the main story thread focuses on Albert Markovsky, who hires a pair of detectives who specialise in investigating the meaning of life for their clients, as he wants them to explain coincidences which happen in his day-to-day life.
Totally different from anything else you'll ever see, but to call it genius is reaching, especially when you consider that the writer-director thinks it's the weakest film from his filmography. For me, it was pretentious twaddle.
I, TONYA (15)
D: Craig Gillespie
Neon/Clubhouse/Luckychap (Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers & Bryan Unkeless)
W: Steven Rogers
DP: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Ed: Tatiana S. Riegel
Mus: Peter Nashel
Margot Robbie (Tonya Harding), Sebastian Stan (Jeff Gillooly), Allison Janney (Lavona Golden), Julianne Nicholson (Diane Rawlinson), Caitlin Carver (Nancy Kerrigan)
I, Tonya takes a unique approach to its source material, almost embracing a mockumentary-style to present this biopic of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and her huge controversial career and the scandal surrounding the 1994 Winter Olympics.
The film opens with the cast members delivering documentary-style interviews and repeatedly breaks the fourth wall with its deliverance of differing versions of the truth, headed by Margot Robbie with her career-best performance.
Coming from an unprivileged background and lacking the money to enhance her career, Tonya Harding had to make it on talent alone, but in a sporting discipline where competitors were also judged on presentation, she was always going to find it an uphill struggle, especially when her competition used classic music in their routines while "Trashy Tonya" stuck with rock & roll and film soundtracks.
Nevertheless, Tonya Harding was a talented athlete, and for a brief moment, was the United States biggest hope for Olympic Gold... until her position was usurped by rival Nancy Kerrigan, whose chances of making the 1994 Olympics were put on standby when an assailant hired by Harding's husband attacked her during a practice session. A vicious attack which Tonya Harding has always denied pre-knowledge Of and the film unfolds in a way for the viewer to make up their own mind whether she's guilty of involvement.
Margot Robbie is absolutely brilliant in the title role, but it has to be said that she's upstaged at every turn by Allison Janney as her abusive, potty-mouthed mother. All the other performances are fine, but a lot of credit also belongs to the director, writer and especially the editor who seamlessly blends VFX and stunt doubles for the exhilarating skating scenes.
A huge breakthrough film for an up-and-coming production company.
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (U)
D: Mike Thurmeier
20th Century Fox/Blue Sky (Lori Forte)
W: Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg & Yoni Brenner
Mus: John Debney
Ray Romano (Manny), John Leguizamo (Sid), Denis Leary (Diego), Simon Pegg (Buck), Adam DeVine (Julian), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Shangri Llama)
It may well be time for 20th Century Fox animation studios to give up on this. It's clear that all avenues have been exhausted when this fifth Ice Age movie opens with Scrat the Squirrel finding a spaceship and launching himself into outer space, subsequently creating the Big Bang (don't think about it too much, the writers obviously didn't.)
The opening mischief sets up a domino effect, causing a deadly meteor to career towards planet Earth, and it's down to Manny the Mammoth and his chums to stop it.
The horse is being well and truly flogged here. There isn't even any ice in this movie. Even the target audience of the under-sixes might become restless by this one. Unfortunately, it was a hit at the box office, so it's likely that a sixth will be scraped from the barrel. Some things really need to be extinct.
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (15)
D: Paul Haggis
Warner Independent/Summit/NALA (Patrick Wachsberger, Steven Samuels, Darlene Caamaño Loquet, Laurence Becsey & Paul Haggis)
W: Paul Haggis & Mark Boal [based on the article "Death & Dishonor" by Mark Boal]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Jo Francis
Mus: Mark Islam
Tommy Lee Jones (Hank Deerfield), Charlize Theron (Det. Emily Sanders), Susan Sarandon (Joan Deerfield), Jonathan Tucker (Mike Deerfield), James Franco (Sgt. First Class Dan Carnelli), Josh Brolin (Sheriff Buchwald), Jason Patric (First Lt. Kirklander), Frances Fisher (Eve)
The title of this crime mystery takes its name from the location where David slew Goliath in common folklore, referenced to in the movie during one of its particularly memorable scenes.
Based on a true story, Tommy Lee Jones stars as Hank Deerfield, a retired military investigator who receives the news that his son has been reported AWOL. He travels to the barracks in New Mexico and soon after his son's charred and dismembered body is discovered in the deserted outskirts of town. Hank pushes himself into the investigation, overseen by rookie detective Emily Sanders and both become involved in a judicial struggle between the local police and the military.
Paul Haggis' follow up to Crash features some powerful performances, especially from Jones in an Oscar-nominated role, as well as containing a strong anti-war message.
THE INBETWEENERS 2 (18)
INCREDIBLES 2 (PG)
D: Brad Bird
Disney/Pixar (John Walker & Nicole Paradis Grindle)
W: Brad Bird
Mus: Michael Giacchino
voices of: Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr / Elastigirl), Sarah Vowell (Violet Parr), Huck Milner (Dash Parr), Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius Best / Frozone), Bob Odenkirk (Winston Deavor), Catherine Keener (Evelyn Deavor)
14 years after the original Incredibles movies comes this long-awaited sequel, bound to be amongst the biggest box office successes of 2018.
The story follows on directly from the cliffhanger ending from the original film, but doesn't take too long to go on a different direction altogether. The plot follows the Parr family, still living in secrecy due to a worldwide ban on superheroes, but this one includes some social justice politics which Disney seem to love shoving down everyone's throats, going by their recent output.
Bob Parr and his wife Helen are introduced to the Deavors, an entrepreneurial brother and sister team who aim to make superheroes legal again, but only want Elastigirl's help to do it, leaving Mr. Incredible at home to watch the children, making this practically a gender switch on the original film. Now, I have no problem that studios are trying to push strong female leads. After all, movies do need strong characters regardless of gender, but they're really pushing it too hard now, to the point that it's becoming forced.
Despite the standard of animation being absolutely perfect and some genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of action scenes bound to excite, I did feel quite disappointed that, given the length of time between the two films, the best story they came up with was basically a retread of the original movie.
Rest assured, this is a highly entertaining animated film which the whole family will enjoy, but it simply isn't incredible.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (12)
D: Roland Emmerich
20th Century Fox/TSG/Centropolis (Dean Devlin, Harald Kloser & Roland Emmerich)
W: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich & James Vanderbilt
DP: Markus Förderer
Ed: Adam Wolfe
Mus: Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser
Liam Hemsworth (Jake Morrison), Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Jessie Usher (Dylan Hiller), Bill Pullman (Thomas J. Whitmore), Maika Monroe (Patricia Whitmore), Sela Ward (President Elizabeth Lanford), William Fichtner (Joshua T. Adams), Judd Hirsch (Julian Levinson), Brent Spiner (Dr. Okun), Angelababy (Rain Lao)
Independence Day: Regurgitated would be a much more fitting title, although some may argue that this is a sequel that shouldn't exist at all.
Set in an alternative present day, 20 years after the events in the first film, mankind has rebuilt society and made improvements to Earth's defence using alien technology, this is all to no avail however when the mother of all motherships is on approach to teach humans who the real boss of the universe is, but it's only America that's in any real danger.
Will Smith bowed out of appearing in this sequel, possibly because the production couldn't afford his salary, but most likely because he didn't fancy the script. Nevertheless, his character's son steps into the shoes of a top gun pilot and characters from the original film are resurrected, often needlessly, especially in the case of Dr. Okun, in a coma for 20 years and awakens just to provide some pathetic comic relief. Judd Hirsch is also needlessly wasted, returning in a cameo role as Jeff Goldblum's incredibly Jewish father. Even Eve from Wall•E turns up to instruct us foolish peasants on how to defeat the evil alien species.
The film is a blatant cash-grab, which isn't surprising considering how bankable the first film was, but what's less forgiving is how boring it is, with action scenes which feel lifted from the deleted scenes of any other doomsday film. Every single acting performance is laughably bad and the terrible CGI effects equally unconvincing.
The first Independence Day was far from perfect, but it was a fun update of 1950's B movies with some excellent crafted model effects, and though the dialogue was cheesy, the action films kept it entertaining. This sequel has absolutely nothing going for it and has to be considered as one of the worst films of 2016. It's certainly one of the most boring. The worst thing of all is that it even sets up a third movie... Hopefully a real alien attack will happen before production begins.
AN INSPECTOR CALLS (PG)
D: Guy Hamilton
British Lion/Watergate (A.D. Peters)
W: Desmond Davis [based on the play by J.B. Priestley]
DP: Ted Schaife
Ed: Alan Osbiston
Mus: Francis Chagrin
Alastair Sim (Inspector Poole), Jane Wenham (Eva Smith), Arthur Young (Arthur Berling), Olga Lindo (Sybil Berling), Brian Worth (Gerald Croft)
J.B. Priestley's most celebrated stage play is conservatively brought to the screen, practically carried by a masterful performance by Alastair Sim as the inspector of the title.
Set in 1912, the plot follows a mysterious inspector who pays a visit to an upper-class Yorkshire family with news of the death of a young girl, and sets out to prove that each of them have some responsibility for her death.
Though the execution is somewhat old-fashioned, the message is still strong and cuts a knife through the system which divides the classes.
On balance, the stage play is much better, but this is as good a film adaptation as could be imagined.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (12)
D: Ralph Fiennes
Sony/Headline/BBC (Gabriella Tana, Stewart Mackinnon, Christian Baute & Carolyn Marks Blackwood)
W: Abi Morgan [based on the novel by Claire Tomalin]
DP: Rob Hardy
Ed: Nicolas Gaster
Mus: Ilan Eshkeri
PD: Maria Djurkovic
Cos: Michael O'Connor
Ralph Fiennes (Charles Dickens), Felicity Jones (Nelly Ternan), Kristen Scott-Thomas (Mrs. Ternan), Tom Hollander (Wilkie Collins), Michelle Fairley (Caroline Graves)
Though the title may make it sound like part of Marvel's series of superhero movies, The Invisible Woman is in fact a biopic of Charles Dickens' and his clandestine affair with Nelly Ternan, a young actress who becomes his mistress until the authors' death.
Felicity Jones is excellent as the lead actress, and Ralph Fiennes apes Charles Dickens to brilliant effect, but the story itself is rather dull. Overall, it would have worked better as a TV movie or perhaps a mini series.
The period detail is good, as are the performances, but everything else is just a little stagnant.
THE IPCRESS FILE (PG)
D: Sidney J. Furie
Rank/Lowndes (Harry Saltzman)
W: Bill Canaway & James Doran [based on the novel by Len Deighton]
DP: Otto Heller
Ed: Peter Hunt
Mus: John Barry
PD: Ken Adam
Michael Caine (Harry Palmer), Guy Doleman (Colonel Ross), Nigel Green (Major Dalby), Sue Lloyd (Jean Courtney), Gordon Jackson (Carswell)
The James Bond films' cockney cousin, providing Michael Caine with his breakthrough role as Harry Palmer, a working class spy who investigates a series of British agents being brainwashed by an underground criminal organisation.
Certain elements are dated, and it does feel like it's riding a little too much on the coattails of the Bond movies successes, but it's still a great deal better than some of the 007 movies.
Caine is simply perfect in the role, and some of the cinematography is very well done. BAFTA noticed this, rewarding Otto Heller for his work.
ISLE OF DOGS (PG)
D: Wes Anderson
Fox Searchlight/American Empirical/Indian Paintbrush (Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson)
W: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman & Kunichi Nomura
Mus: Alexandre Desplat
voices of: Bryan Cranston (Chief), Koyu Rankin (Atari Kobayashi), Edward Norton (Rex), Bob Balaban (King), Bill Murray (Boss), Jeff Goldblum (Duke), Scarlett Johansson (Nutmeg), Greta Gerwig (Tracy Walker)
Wes Anderson usual visual style and quirky humour goes into this animated film, set in the dystopian future of Japan caught in a dog flu epidemic. The dictatorial mayor of the city passes a law exiling all canines to an island full of trash and a young boy ventures over to get his beloved dog, Spots, back.
Despite being an animated film, this is more likely to be enjoyed by adults, as it will probably go over the heads of young children.
The stop-motion animation style is excellent, the voice actors are all perfectly cast and the script does have many humorous and touching moments, presenting the film as a satire on immigration, consumerist waste, dictatorial societies and a face value story about one boy and his dog.
At 101 minutes, the novelty does wear off in the final half hour, especially when the trailer practically sums the entire film up in a couple of minutes, but it's certainly recommended to those who enjoy Anderson's other works.
D: Andy Muschetti
Warner Bros/New Line/Ratpac-Dune (Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame, David Katzenberg & Barbara Muschetti)
W: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga & Gary Dauberman [based on the novel by Stephen King]
DP: Chung-Hoon Chung
Ed: Jason Ballatyne
Mus: Benjamin Wallfisch
Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazier (Eddie Kaspbrak), Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise)
The much anticipated feature film version of Stephen King's It, which originally hit screens in the form of a two-part TV movie way back in 1990.
The original film wasn't without its faults. Though bound by restrictions on budget and violence, it still provided effective shocks, mostly due to the creepy performance from Tim Curry as the sinister child-murdering spectral clown. Still, the first part of the 1990 version was much more entertaining than the second part, which drifted into nonsense and wasn't particularly scary.
This 2017 update suffers from similar circumstances, except it's the opposite way. The first half is dire, suffering from poor acting and ridiculously slow pacing, only punctuated by the usual cliché horror moments and predictable jump scares.
The story doesn't drift too far from the source material, but it's only half the story. Set in 1989, instead of the 1960's (probably to save on production design budget) only half of King's novel is focused on, following a group of school friends who come together to defeat a malevolent spirit who manifests himself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown who comes out of hibernation every 27 years to feast on children.
Perhaps this would have been a better film had Cary Fukunaga (the creator of True Detective) been kept as director, it's clearly his influence in the final hour which redeem this film, with some truly terrifying visuals leading up to a nail-biting climax. Unfortunately, the final moments of the film are poorly done, throwing in a romance hook which feels more like a cockblock and leaving it open for a sequel because money is to be made from another film, rather than telling it all in one.
The CGI is often quite ropey, as are many of the juvenile performances, with only Sophia Lillis' performance as Beverly Marsh the real standout.
Bill Skarsgård does an okay job portraying the evil clown, but he's creepy for the sake of being creepy, whereas Tim Curry's performance in the original was far more effective.
As far as remakes go, it's far from terrible, but one wonders what could've been had Cary Fukunaga been able to take it down a psychological thriller path rather than settling for the usual big studio blueprint.