D: Sean Baker
Magnolia/Duplass Brothers/Through Films (Sean Baker, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox, Darren Dean & Shih-Ching Tsou)
W: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
DP: Sean Baker & Radium Cheung
Ed: Sean Baker
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Sin-Dee), Mya Taylor (Alexandra), James Ransone (Chester), Mickey O'Hagan (Dinah), Karren Karagulian (Razmik)
Filmed entirely using an iPhone app (FiLMIC pro) on a modest budget of $100,000, Tangerine follows two transsexual prostitutes as they try to reunite with their pimp, whom one of them is in a relationship with.
The rest of the film is padded out with taxi cab confessions and other various characters, and though there is some good dialogue and the characters are reasonably well fleshed out, it's just a little too experimental for conventional tastes.
As a short film, this may have worked a lot better, although it did present Sean Baker with his breakthrough, which he followed up with the quite excellent The Florida Project (qv) in 2017.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (12)
D: Dave Green
Paramount/Nickelodeon/Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Scott Mednick & Galen Walker)
W: Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec [based on characters created by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird]
DP: Lula Carvalho
Ed: Jim May & Bob Ducsay
Mus: Steve Jablonsky
Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Megan Fox (April O'Neill), Stephen Arnell (Casey Jones), Will Arnett (Vern Fenwick), Brian Tee (Oroku Saki / The Shredder), Tyler Perry (Dr. Baxter Stockman), Laura Linney (Police Chief Rebecca Vincent)
My expectations were this were pretty low considering how little I enjoyed the previous movie, but even so, this is a poor sequel.
Tacky acting, slipshod dialogue and hokey visual effects and the Michael Bay formula of brainless action scene after brainless action scene wrap themselves around a lazy story, which does introduce the more familiar villains of Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady into the fold, but not in a way which will appease fans of the original cartoon series.
It is what it is, and will most likely be enjoyed by youngsters, but is best avoided by everyone else.
D: Roman Polanski
Columbia/Renn/Timothy Burrill/SFP (Claude Berri)
UK/France 1979 (released 1980)
W: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach & John Brownjohn [based on the novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" by Thomas Hardy]
DP: Geoffrey Unsworth & Ghislain Cloquet
Ed: Alastair McIntyre & Tom Priestley
Mus: Philippe Sarde
PD: Pierre Guffroy & Jack Stephens
Cos: Anthony Powell
Nastassja Kinski (Tess Durbeyfield), Peter Firth (Angel Clare), Leigh Lawson (Alec Stokes d'Urberville), Rosemary Martin (Mrs. Durbeyfield), Carolyn Pickles (Marian)
Roman Polanski's tribute to his late wife (Sharon Tate) is this brilliant realised costume drama, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 19th century novel.
Nastassja Kinski lights up the screen as the title character, a peasant girl who discovers that she is of noble heritage and on upon discovering her extended family, she becomes the object of affection for two men, one of whom her affluent cousin.
It's a fine testament to Thomas Hardy's work, which was very ahead of its time, with much focus paid to the setting of 19th century Wessex (director Polanski, a fugitive from America, filmed everything in France, which was harbouring him from arrest). Credit must also go to the two cinematographers, Geoffrey Unsworth, who passed away during filming, and Ghislain Cloquet, who seamlessly took over for the rest of the production
Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, the film went on to win 3 awards (Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design).
Very much worth a watch, even if you're not a fan of period drama.
Very close to perfect cinema. It's a movie in a genre of its own: One which you mull over and mentally digest long after the end credits finish. An intelligent mix of Western, period drama and an allegory for the birth of capitalism and the death of religion.
Daniel Day-Lewis thoroughly deserved his second Oscar for his tour de force performance as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, a man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever as he manipulates his way into a small church community for the oil beneath their land at the turn of the 20th century.
I'd even go as far to say that it deserved the Best Picture Academy Award also instead of the Coen Brother's winner No Country For Old Men. Albeit this might not be a film for all tastes, it cannot be denied that it's an intelligent, thought-provoking, meticulously filmed piece of work that could be hailed as a modern classic.
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD (E)
D: Peter Jackson
Wingnut (Peter Jackson & Clare Olssen)
Ed: Jabez Olssen
Mus: Plan 9
Released in the centennial year following the end of World War I, Peter Jackson's harrowing documentary utilises a film colourisation process which brings new life to historical footage, almost to the point where it seems as though it were captured in the modern era.
The narration is provided by interviews with soldiers who served, detailing their experiences both overseas in Europe during the conflict and their return home afterwards.
A masterclass of factual filmmaking and a technological breakthrough with its retrospective trickery. Incredibly powerful and moving stuff.
THINGS TO COME (PG)
D: William Cameron Menzies
London Films (Alexander Korda)
W: H.G. Wells [based on his novel "The Shape Of Things To Come"]
DP: Georges Perinal
Ed: Charles Crichton & Francis Lyon
Mus: Arthur Bliss
PD: William Cameron Menzies & Vincent Korda
Raymond Massey (John Cabal / Oswald Cabal), Edward Chapman (Pippa Passworthy / Raymond Passworthy), Ralph Richardson (The Boss), Margaretta Scott (Roxana / Rowena), Cedric Hardwicke (Theotocopulos)
In 1936, this British science fiction drama was likely to have been palmed off as flights of fancy. However, on hindsight, H.G. Wells' adaptation of his own novel features a prophecy which doesn't stray too far from real-life events.
The film opens in 1940, in a London-like "Everytown" on the eve of a war which rages on for decades. The war only ceases due to a plague, which is followed by a new civilisation, class system and a race for space, which prompts a rebellion that threatens another war.
A masterful storyteller H.G. Wells may be, but his skills as an author don't necessarily crossover to screenwriting, with little attention paid to dialogue or character development. Visually, however, this film is years ahead of its time, with much focus on the artistic and technical side of filmmaking. Director William Cameron Menzies, whose main expertise was as a production designer and art director, ensures that the ambitious set designs and special effects are a sight to behold, while Arthur Bliss's music captivates the ear.
A remake was released in 1979, but this was more to cash-in on the success of Star Wars rather than pay tribute to this film.
Two incredibly strong acting performances drive this movie. Holly Hunter really should have won her second Oscar for this and Evan Rachel Wood should have at the very least received a nomination.
Wood plays Tracy, a typical thirteen year old girl, getting decent grades at school, but not one of the in-crowd. Her life (and her mother's) turn upside down when she becomes friends with one of the cool kids, Evie (Nikki Reed). From a sweet girl who respects her family and does chores for her mum (Hunter). Tracy gets involved with drugs, alcohol, petty crime and self-harm, getting involved so deep she's a completely different person come the end of the movie, much to the emotional drain of her family and especially her mother.
It's more than just a movie about teen angst, it's also about manipulative friendships and how parents are sometimes almost powerless to stop their kids falling in with the wrong type.
A big surprise is how well directed this film is, beginning in rich colour and slowly becoming black & white as it depicts Tracy's descent into her troubles.
It's a huge shame director Catherine Hardwicke had to go and (arguably) ruin her career with the first Twilight movie.
The sort-of-sequel to Knocked Up.
It follows the other couple from that movie, Pete & Debbie, as they hit 40-years-old and suffer a marital crisis, financial problems, a daughter going through puberty and other mid-life problems.
It's pretty much sitcom material from Judd Apatow with slightly more interesting characters, though it's quite obvious in the dialogue what was scripted and what was ad-libbed by the actors. It also makes a mistake of marketing itself as a "sequel" to Knocked Up (qv), but doesn't even have any true reference to events from that movie, nor does it feature the characters played by Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. Instead it features cameos from Jason Segel, John Lithgow, Megan Fox and others.
As a standalone comedy, it's reasonably enjoyable as a witty attempt to mirror the trials and tribulations of a real-life relationship, but it could have done with being half-an-hour shorter.
All the actors in This Is The End play exaggerated versions of themselves, most of whom only seem to play the same character they've played in every film in which they've appeared. The cast includes Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera and Danny McBride, all of which do their usual.
The story pans out like an American stoner end of days flick, written and filmed while the entire cast were high on drugs.
During a party at James Franco's house, where everyone is doing drugs, the apocalypse occurs leaving Franco, Rogen, Robinson, Hill, McBride and Jay Baruchel to fight over who gets to eat a Milky Way and who gets to rape Emma Watson.
The biggest problem with this film is that it's just not funny and just comes off as a self-indulgent Shaun Of The Dead. I actually find it quite insulting that a group of actors and grown men need to stoop to the level of "look at us, we're famous, but we do drugs just like the 'common' folk". It just smacks of needy.
I personally couldn't wait for the end.
An okay sequel to the first film which follows on from the events in 2012's Avengers Assemble.
It's important to watch the preceding movies, but not imperative (as it should be). Of course, it always helps to be familiar with the comic book character.
With Loki in the dungeons and Thor about to take his throne, the people of his kingdom face an invisible enemy who wish to destroy the universe as we know it.
In truth, the plot is a load of mumbo-jumbo, but it sees characters from the original film returning, including Natalie Portman as Thor's bit of fluff.
The action set pieces are what make the movie worth watching and it sets up the third movie nicely.
THOR: RAGNAROK (12)
D: Taika Waititi
Disney/Marvel (Kevin Feige)
W: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost [based on characters created by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber]
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe
Ed: Joel Negron & Zene Baker
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh
Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Karl Urban (Skurge), Jeff Goldblum (The Grandmaster)
The third Thor movie and 17th of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is up amongst the better superhero movies and is certainly the best of Thor's individual adventures.
The action and adventure commences immediately, with Thor defeating a fire demon to prevent the fabled Ragnarok (a prophecy foretelling the end of Asgard, Thor's home planet).
On his return home, he discovers that his mischievous brother Loki has been impersonating their father, and has allowed their world to become vulnerable to attack.
They visit Earth to locate their father, and are met by their older sister, Hela, The Goddess of War, who takes over their home and leaves Thor stranded on a junkyard planet where he becomes involved in gladiatorial combat for a dictatorial leader's entertainment.
Thor: Ragnarok had plenty of action, adventure and comic relief to entertain throughout its duration, and sticks closely enough to the source material to keep fanboys happy.
Some of the visual effects aren't quite as polished as others (the giant dog looks rather poor), but the Incredible Hulk effects have never looked better.
As always, a post-credit sequence offers a teaser for the next in the series of films (2018's The Avengers: Infinity War). One minor gripe is that Natalie Portman's character is lazily written out, replaced by Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, whose acting certainly can't be classed as Oscar-worthy by any stretch of the imagination.
D: Cory Finley
Universal/Focus Features/June/Big Indie (Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Kevin J. Walsh, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)
US 2017 [released 2018]
W: Cory Finley
DP: Lyle Vincent
Ed: Louise Ford
Mus: Erik Friedlander
Anya Taylor-Joy (Lily), Olivia Cooke (Amanda), Anton Yelchin (Tim), Paul Sparks (Max), Francie Swift (Cynthia)
The distributor's marketing department definitely made a faux pas pushing this film as a comedy. If anything, it could loosely be considered a black comedy, but it would be more apt to call it an indie mix of Heathers, Heavenly Creatures and Strangers On A Train.
Anya Taylor-Joy & Olivia Cooke play a pair of troubled upper-class schoolgirls, Lily and Amanda, who rekindle an unlikely friendship after spending much of their teenage years apart. The uneasy friendship between them culminates in a conspiracy to plot the murder of Lily's stepfather... enlisting the help of slacker drug dealer Tim.
Spending a year on the festival circuit before being given a wide release, this is an impressive piece of independent cinema from a breakthrough writer-director, with two good performances from its young actresses (Taylor-Joy is definitely one to watch).
The script was originally written for stage, and though it would probably best be suited to that medium, this film is well worth a watch if you have a spare 90 odd minutes.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (15)
D: Michael McDonagh
Fox Searchlight/Film4/Cutting Edge/Blueprint (Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin & Martin McDonagh)
W: Martin McDonagh
DP: Ben Davis
Ed: Jon Gregory
Mus: Carter Burwell
Frances McDormand (Mildred Hayes), Woody Harrelson (William Willoughby), Sam Rockwell (Jason Dixon), Lucas Hedges (Robbie), Caleb Landry Jones (Red Welby), Abbie Cornish (Anne), John Hawkes (Charlie), Peter Dinklage (James)
Frances McDormand delivers one of her very best performances (and certainly her best since Fargo) in this jet black comedy from Martin McDonagh.
McDormand plays Mildred, a mourning mother, fuelled by guilt and grief, who makes use of three billboards outside her small Missouri town to shame the local police into finding her daughter's killer.
The local police chief, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), is initially opposed to the erection of the billboards, which also spawn the wrath of racist deputy Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) and it doesn't take long before the rest of the townsfolk turn against Mildred and her vigilante actions.
With dialogue which cuts like a knife and a cast of characters who fall between morally reprehensible and wholly sympathetic, McDonagh's film feels like a Chaucer inspired fable on the stages of grieving, managing to tackle every emotion and bring it to the screen. You may laugh, you may cry, you may even wince.
There will be some who won't take a liking to its style and content, but for many this will easily amongst the best films they'll see from 2017.
3:10 TO YUMA (15)
D: James Mangold
Lionsgate/Relativity Media/Tree Line (Cathy Konrad)
W: Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt & Derek Haas [based on the novel "Three-Ten To Yuma" by Elmore Leonard]
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Michael McCusker
Mus: Marco Beltrami
Christian Bale (Dan Evans), Russell Crowe (Ben Wade), Logan Lerman (William Evans), Ben Foster (Charlie Prince), Peter Fonda (Byron McElroy), Alan Tudyk (Doc Potter)
Elmore Leonard's novel was originally given the big screen treatment in 1957 starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Fifty years later comes this update with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in the respective roles and it has to be said that it's a very impressive remake, especially considering it was released in a decade when the western genre was generally considered a thing of the past.
Bale plays Dan Evans, a penniless rancher who lives with his family and gets no respect from his teenage son. He witnesses a stagecoach robbery by infamous outlaw Ben Wade and his crew nearby his land and when the criminal is captured by authorities, he volunteers to escort him to the town of Contention, which has a rail station which will transport the prisoner to Yuma, where he will face trial. Evans does this for two reasons, money to save his ranch and also to win the respect of his son, as the mission takes them across hostile territory and pursued by Wade's violent gang.
Both Bale and Crowe are excellent and the film does a great job transporting the viewer back to the Wild West. Oscar nominations were received for its music and sound, and it wouldn't have been a huge surprise had it received more.
Many have called it one of the best remakes of recent years, and I'd be inclined to agree.
THX 1138 (15)
D: George Lucas
Warner Bros/American Zoetrope (Francis Ford Coppola & Lawrence Sturhahn)
W: George Lucas
DP: David Myers & Albert Kihn
Ed: George Lucas
Mus: Lalo Schifrin
Robert Duvall (THX 1138), Donald Pleasance (SEN 5241), Maggie McOmie (LUH 3417)
Six years before Star Wars was originally released, George Lucas made his directorial debut with this Avant Garde sci-fi, based on a short film he created whilst still studying at film school.
Set in a dystopian future policed by cyborgs, humans are stripped of their identities and have their emotions suppressed by mandatory drugs. THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) begins to break these rules along with two other rebels, and they rise up against the strict society in which they live.
It's fair to say that the concept is better than the film, and although this served as an inspiration to what was to become Star Wars, it failed to find an audience when it was originally released, only garnering a cult following after George Lucas' universal success.