JUMPCUT’s Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2019

2018 was, by most people’s standards, a solid year for cinema. From Blockbuster titans such as Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther to silent, independent treasures like Roma and Leave No Trace; this was the year that appeased to the tastes of casual filmgoers and avid cinephiles alike. Thankfully, 2019 is shaping up to be just as good a year, perhaps even stronger; boasting a collection of projects destined for greatness.

We at JUMPCUT have come together to collect our most anticipated films that 2019 has to offer, and boy, are we excited. So without further ado, here are our top 10 most eagerly anticipated movies of 2019.

This piece will also include a special addition from Fiona Underhill covering her most anticipated films that will premiere at Sundance in 2019…


JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#10 – Us [dir. Jordan Peele]

In 2017, directorial debutant Jordan Peele, known by many as one of the members of comedy genius duo Key and Peele, stunned the cinematic world with Get Out – a harrowing, satirical tale of racial discrimination in its most barbaric form.

2 years later he is set to return to our screens with Us, a horror-thriller promised to be a spiritual sequel to Peele’s predecessor. Boasting a diverse cast including the likes of Elisabeth Moss, Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, we can expect another chilling tale dealing with similar societal issues as seen in Get Out. Although plot details about his new project are being kept under wraps, a new trailer is set to be released on Christmas day – and what better way to spend your festive season than to be terrified stiff by the genius of Jordan Peele?

Written by Corey Hughes

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE 

#9 – Captain Marvel [dir. Anna Boden; Ryan Fleck]

When Thanos snapped his herculean fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, all seemed lost. Half of the universe’s population was eradicated at the sound of the snap; our beloved heroes dissolving to dust in the wind. But there could be a way out. A way to defeat Thanos once and for all. Enter Captain Marvel.

Hailed by many as Marvel’s most powerful superhero, Captain Marvel makes her long-awaited feature debut in her titular origin story set to release early next year. Stepping into the esteemed boots of Marvel’s heroine is Brie Larson, a name alone worthy of generating great excitement. The Oscar-winning actress is joined by MCU newcomers Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and Gemma Chan, and also by regulars Samuel L. Jackson as (now two-eyed) Nick Fury and Lee Pace as the villainous Ronan – a cast not to be missed.

There’s a lot to be excited for here, least of all its contribution to fuelling the excitement for Avengers Endgame; another eagerly anticipated release in 2019 that will undoubtedly be featured later on in this list…

Written by Corey Hughes

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#8 – IT: Chapter 2 [dir. Andy Muschietti] 

2017 was a big year for the franchise and, as you would expect, the worldwide box office was dominated by Marvel, Star Wars, Wonder Woman and Fast and Furious. One of the unexpected hits of the year came in the form of a child-eating clown in Andres Mushcietti’s IT. Loved by critics and audiences alike, IT stormed to a worldwide box office of $700m and proved that there is still a place in the market for blockbuster horror, despite the surge in excellent indie horror films in recent years.

It is no surprise then, that a sequel will hit our screens in September 2019. The film will see Jessica Chastain team up with Muschietti again after working together on Mama. Bill Skarsgard will reprise his role as Pennywise and James McAvoy is the other standout name signed on to star alongside the returning kids. Exact plot details are still being kept quiet, but if we use Stephen King’s novel and the 1990 mini-series as a template, we can expect to see Pennywise return to Derry 27 years on from the events of IT and what’s left of the Losers Club reunite in an attempt to rid their hometown of this evil once and for all.

Written by Nick Deal

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#7 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood [dir. Quentin Tarantino]

Only Quentin Tarantino, known for his provocatively visual style of filmmaking, could make a movie based loosely on the Charles Manson killings and cast such a charming ensemble of actors. With the likes of Leonardo DiCpario (returning from his Oscar win in The Revenant), Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell and Brad Pitt among the selection, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood seems too good to miss, but when Tarantino himself describes DiCaprio and Pitt as “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman”, this is a cinematic experience that will go down in history.

But for many, the return of Tarantino is enough to get butts in seats. Since his initial declaration that he will not be making more than ten feature films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood marks his ninth; destined to be another milestone in his illustrious career thus far. Has he really only got one more film left in him after this? We sure hope not.

Written by Corey Hughes

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#6 – Glass [dir. M. Night Shyamalan]

It’s fair to say that M. Night Shyamalan, deemed by many as the master of the plot twist (sometimes at the expense of plausibility), has had a bit of a topsy-turvy career. With undeniable classics under his belt like The Sixth Sense and Signs, he’s also got some stinkers tucked away too; The Happening and The Last Airbender, yes, I’m looking at you. But with the warm critical and audience receptions for his last outing, Split, it seems that the inconsistent director is back on the right track.

Since Bruce Willis’ shock cameo in the final moments of Split, Shyamalan teased a joint-universe within his own films – the fact that the events of his last project co-exist within the same universe of Unbreakable; a trademark twist. The upcoming Glass is the sequel of all sequels, bringing together James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters into one explosive feature. You can see why it’s featured on our list.

Written by Corey Hughes

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#5 – Godzilla: King of the Monsters [dir. Michael Dougherty]

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla left some people wanting more. It focused more on the human element, it showed the action from a human perspective, looking up at the kaiju as they wrecked skyscrapers. At one point, Godzilla is shown in full for the first time, and the film cuts away to show the ensuing fight on a small news broadcast in the background. I get the problems people have with it. But, with that said, when Edwards shows us the action, it is epic. In every possible way, it is fantastic, it’s weighty, it’s brutal, it’s how you’d expect three 300ft tall monsters fighting would look. We want more of that. Less human, more monster.

Enter Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Everything about this long-awaited sequel (5 years on from its predecessor) points to it being bigger. It will reintroduce classic monsters from the Godzilla canon in Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, and pit them all against each other and Godzilla in a winner-takes-the-Earth battle of the millennium. Add in some exciting new actors to the cast like Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, and Bradley Whitford, you have a film that’s worth your attention beyond just the kaiju fights.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, the newest trailer is essential viewing as it shows these 3 in mind-blowing action, and it shows the beginnings of a mammoth clash between Godzilla and King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s giant 3-headed arch-nemesis. It is going to be a film that needs to be seen on the biggest, loudest screen you can find. I’ll be there opening night.

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#4 – Joker [dir. Todd Phillips]

Not since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – without being remotely persuaded by Wonder Woman’s origin – has DC zapped me enough to rival the enthusiasm I have for the mega Marvel universe. Nor did Jared Leto come close to re-establishing the Joker as his own like Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger did before. But a new circus is in town to pave the way for a fresh batch of DC origins led by The Hangover director Todd Phillips, who’s ready to unravel the mind of a serious, but not so serious clown.

Joaquin Phoenix – who we’ve already seen sprinting through Manhattan in full retro-clown costume – is Arthur Fleck, portrayed as a failing comedian who turns criminal amidst his misfortune. Set in the 1980s, this vision will follow the storyline of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke that should be flawless material for a raw and grounding backstory that’s set to be a stand-alone project. With promising support from Robert de Niro and confirmed appearances from Thomas Wayne, a young Bruce, trusty butler Alfred, and even Arkham Asylum, Phillips will keep Joker connected to Batman treasures in vintage, indie style.

Rumoured to be titled DC Dark or DC Black, Joker will be crucial in reinvigorating a distinct line of DC movies that show promise of being purely character driven – hinted by its low budget of $55 million and a likely R rating – that will combat the franchise’s CGI heavy past. The Joker’s history is ambiguous – put clearly in his Killing Joke quote “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice” – putting creative freedom at an all-time high when building his foundation. 2019 should confidently host an intriguing version of his dark and twisted making.

Written by Jo Craig

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#3 – John Wick: Chapter 3 [dir. Chad Stahelski]

 There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and not to piss off John Wick.

Keanu Reeve’s John Wick has become somewhat of a contemporary action hero to match the likes of Jason Bourne and James Bond, a darkened, hardened and relentless figure whose reputation strikes fear into anyone who knows his name. Chapter 3 sees the culmination of Chad Stahelski’s John Wick trilogy, its two predecessors setting the benchmark for the modern action flick with its reliance on long-shots and exuberant fight sequences to demonstrate Wick’s fearless physicality.

The Wick films also lay the foundations for an interesting mythological backdrop, particularly its realm of assassins who roam mysterious Continental hotels across the globe. It will be interesting to see how these mysteries play out in the forthcoming film, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re all here just to see Keanu Reeves annihilate his enemies in the most stylistic and aesthetically stimulating way possible. Especially from horseback. Orgasmic…

Written by Corey Hughes

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#2 – Avengers: Endgame [dir. The Russo Brothers] 

“Oh god” uttered Captain America, only to be followed by a hauntingly melancholic suite and a mightily satisfied smile from the Great Titan. When that shot cut to black, certainly in my screening, you could feel an unparalleled devastation in the air. Comic book filmgoers have been treated to darkness before, but this was new. Sudden, harsh, genocidal; this was the good guy’s worst primal fear – the bad guy winning. Some say it’s cheap, some say it’s inconsequential, I say it’s genius. How else are we fully to believe the universe-spanning power of Thanos than if he doesn’t get the chance to click those gold-plated, stone-garnished fingers?

Fitting then that the trailer for the climatic Avengers film, Endgame, is ruthlessly sombre. The loss, the agony, the powerlessness; this is a different kind of superhero movie. More urgent, more emotional. “Thanos did exactly what he said he was going to do. He wiped out 50% of all living creatures.”

It’s a modern cinema wonder the Russo’s pulled off Infinity War, but Endgame is different. Endgame is in the purest sense of the word, an event. The decade-spanning culmination of the world-building, victories and losses we as viewers have invested in.

How is it all going to pan out? How will Tony Stark survive? Will he and Cap see each other again? How did Ant-Man make it out the Quantum Realm? How will they save the day? The inevitability of heroes returning doesn’t dampen the tension, it elicits further compassion. We want to push our arms through the screen to give our remaining Avengers a pat on the back, just to say, “It’ll be okay”. But there’s more than every chance it won’t be – The Russo’s aren’t chumps. The question that’s leaving everyone’s trembling lips is, “Who’s going to (actually) die?”.

Depending on your age growing up, your ‘big series’ varies. For some, it’ll be Star Wars, or Indiana Jones, or for later generations, Harry Potter. But in terms of scope, consistency and vision, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the grand-daddy of the blockbuster franchises. Make no qualms; Endgame is, arguably, the biggest movie of all time. My excitement couldn’t be contained within any Infinity Stone – many, many, many tears will be shed on April 26, 2019. See you there.

Written by Cameron Frew

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

#1Star Wars – Episode IX [dir. JJ. Abrams]

Topping our list is the as of yet untitled Star Wars Episode IX, a film with perhaps larger expectations on its shoulders than it probably deserves. It’s no secret that preceding instalment The Last Jedi split audiences down the middle, meaning Episode IX is the rare blockbuster that, to leave the legacy it hopes to, needs to both satisfy those still on board with the saga and revitalise the interests of those who fell off over the past year. It’ll be a gargantuan feat, so here’s hoping JJ Abrams is up for the task.

What can we expect from Episode IX itself, though? Well, that’s hard to say. The film is being kept a secret as you’d expect for a trilogy-concluding blockbuster of this magnitude, and if there’s one thing absolutely no one can deny about The Last Jedi, it’s that it shook the saga up to such an extent that predicting what comes next is entirely impossible. Will Rey complete her Jedi training and fulfil her destiny? Will the Resistance rise up and defeat the First Order? What state with the currently unstable First Order even be in when we rejoin the story? And, number one on my mind, what fate awaits Kylo Ren as his journey of self-discovery reaches its big conclusion? The one thing we do know, though? None of us are going to want to miss this one.

Written by Ryan Morris

What films are you most excited for in 2019? Be sure to keep in touch and let us know!

JUMPCUT All The Way: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Directed by: Brian Henson
Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire

Written by Lucy Buglass

For many people, the Christmas period is filled with annual traditions. Finding a special film that you make time to watch each and every year is a wonderful thing, and for me, it’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. It takes a Charles Dickens classic and turns it into a wonderful festive affair that’s fun for all the family whilst still sticking to the important messages of the novel.

I’m not a massive fan of musicals in general but it’s impossible to hate such a wholesome and fun film, with musical numbers that will make you want to sing along. It embodies so many great things about Christmas, whilst telling such an iconic story in a unique way. Who would have thought that Gonzo the Great playing Charles Dickens would actually work? Somehow, it does, with Brian Henson directing his father’s beloved puppets in a beautiful and entertaining way. It’s the kind of film that exists to make people happy and carry on the legacy of Dickens’ famous story, and that is a wonderful thing.

Michael Caine is a fantastic Scrooge, embodying a cynical, grumpy old money-lender who can’t stand the celebrations. He turns down dinner invitations and even intends to work on Christmas day, seeing it as just another day to him. Scrooge’s character has been adapted into many different forms, but there’s something about Caine’s version that I adore. Seeing him alongside all the Muppets is such fun, and I never tire of it. I also love the way his emotional journey is portrayed throughout, as he meets the different ghosts and is shown flashbacks and visions of his own life. His emotional range is excellent in this film, showing all the different sides of Scrooge’s personality.

Overall, the film is incredibly vibrant and full of life. Much of this is helped by the presence of various Muppets characters making an appearance, and trying to spread some festive cheer along the way. However, I did love the eeriness of the scene featuring The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as this is the real turning point for Scrooge when he realises how awful he’s been. I liked that they didn’t try to sugarcoat it, yet kept it family friendly at the same time. It’s a difficult thing to pull off, but somehow, it really works. Scrooge is supposed to feel unsettled by the vision of his own grave, and I feel that this really resonates with the audience even in a fun, silly adaptation like this one.

I really hope that The Muppet Christmas Carol continues to delight audiences throughout the years, because for me, it’s timeless. It’s good, clean fun with an important message about being kind and understanding what the Christmas spirit is all about. I firmly believe that this film could charm all the real life Scrooges out there, and just maybe make them love Christmas after all! This is a must-see Christmas film that you can enjoy with pretty much anyone, so you should definitely consider watching it this season.

JUMPCUT All The Way: The Holiday (2006)

Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Eli Wallach

Written by Fiona Underhill

The Holiday starts with a montage and a monologue which encapsulates everything good about this film – it is scored to Hans Zimmer’s beautiful music (maybe Zimmer’s best score? Yes, I’m glad you agree) and has Kate Winslet’s Iris espousing on love and life in voice-over over images of our central four characters. So; in London, there is Iris and her brother Graham, played by Jude Law (the best character called Graham to ever exist?) and in LA, there is Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Miles (Jack Black). We also meet our villain Jasper (the delectable Rufus Sewell) in the first few minutes – he works at the same newspaper as Iris, they have had an “on-again/off-again” thing for some time (she is still very much in love with him), then tragedy strikes – his engagement to another woman is announced to the whole office and Iris’ beautiful face has to take in this news and try to hold it together. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.

I’m willing to fight anyone who does not think that Winslet’s performance as Iris is in the top ten, if not the top five performances of her career. This opening section is extremely reminiscent of Bridget Jones’ Diary (with its newspaper setting, a woman in her 30s being in love with her male colleague) but for me, it is way better and Winslet’s performance is one of the main reasons for this.

We cut to Los Angeles, where of course, Diaz’s Amanda is also unlucky in love – she throws her cheating boyfriend (played by Ed Burns – remember him?) out of the house. Amanda owns a company that makes movie trailers and this means that there is an amazing scene early on where she is working on a trailer starring James Franco and Lindsay Lohan with her two colleagues played by John Krasinski and Kathryn Hahn. Things get surprisingly dark for a rom-com as Iris inhales gas from her oven – “low point” – and it is at this moment that salvation comes from a bing on her laptop. Amanda makes the decision that she needs to get away for Christmas, so she starts searching for vacation properties and comes across a cosy cottage in Surrey, owned by – you guessed it – Iris. The two unhappy women decide to do a house-swap for two weeks and away we go.

Diaz is perhaps the one weak-link of the central four for me, but she does demonstrate some physical comedienne prowess whilst slipping and sliding her way down an icy and snowy country lane to Iris’ cottage. She almost immediately begins to regret her decision until there is a knock on the door in the dead of night. It is drunk Graham (it’s only really hitting me now, after multiple re-watches, how funny that name is) and understandably, there is an immediate spark. It is the next morning, however, that Jude Law truly gets to shine in the role because he PUTS ON GLASSES.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Iris is enjoying Amanda’s palatial home and the sunshine and quickly meets film composer Miles, who visits and tells her about the Santa Anas (I learned everything I know about these crazy winds from The Holiday and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Miles has an actress girlfriend played by Shannyn Sossamon (remember her?), showing that Jack Black clearly has game in this movie. She also meets her neighbour Arthur (Eli Wallach), who it turns out was a screenwriter during the golden age of Hollywood. One of my favourite things about this film is that it is a love letter to old Hollywood. This film features a pre-Oscar Kate Winslet seeing an Oscar and gasping and I DO NOT KNOW WHAT ELSE YOU WANT FROM A MOVIE. Arthur gives Iris a watch-list of old movies, filled with women with “gumption” and she realises that she should be “the leading lady of her own life” – sniff. Iris even throws a Hanukkah party for Arthur and his friends (this film has all your holiday bases covered).

Back in England, Amanda comes to the realization that we’ve all had about Jude Law – that he is a DADDY. It starts to come to the end of their time together and weepy Graham tells Amanda he loves her. Jasper visits Iris in LA because of course he does. Jasper is one of the most realistically awful men to ever grace a cinema screen – we have all known a Jasper. In LA, the culmination comes with a fancy event at the Writer’s Guild of America, celebrating Arthur’s career. The ending of this movie is one of the happiest endings of all time and I’m positively glowing just thinking about it.

The Holiday is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, with a quality cast on their A-game. Winslet will have you sobbing into your egg-nog and Law will have you melting into your crackling open fire. It is eminently re-watchable, even when it’s not Christmas – it warms my cockles all year round. If you’ve never seen it, now is the time to question all of your life choices and get it into your eyeballs as fast as a one-horse open sleigh. If you’ve seen, now is the time to incorporate it into your annual Christmas-viewing traditions – just try not to get the wrapping paper soggy with tears.

REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke.

Written by Cameron Frew

Mary Poppins is a curious thing. Depending on how you explain her, one would be forgiven for being slightly disturbed – a nanny who arrives out of nowhere flying out of the clouds on an umbrella, with seemingly magical powers and the ability to transport whomever she pleases into weird and wacky animated worlds. Disney turned P.L. Travers’ creation into a cinematic legend, however, beaming with warmth, peppy energy and a rigid stance on manners that taught the virtues of decorum and imagination as a pair. It was the perfect treat for the children and adults of 1964 – now more than 50 years later, cinema has given way to a sequel. Will you require a spoonful of sugar to put it over? No, this medicine is an immensely pleasant time all on its own.

Michael and Jane Banks (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) are now fully-fledged grown-ups. The latter organises rallies for the working class, the former isn’t so content. After losing his wife, he’s saddled with the task of trying to earn a living at a bank under the scrupulous but seemingly generous eye of William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth) and raising his three children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson). Life is getting particularly hard as untenable bills mount. Then, as luck would have it, from the breaking clouds flies down Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to look after the Banks children – and their children.

From the murky, familiar opening shots of an industrial London, there’s a keen sense of welcome in the picture. Not just welcoming new and old audiences, but welcoming its roots, the look, the feel, the style, the mood. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Broadway superstar from In the Heights and Hamilton, plays a huge role in fuelling the charisma machine, leading us into “the days of the Great Slump” with a pep and a jive. He has a breathless allure, the sort of birth-given gift that can’t be truly explained; he’s simply a diamond of the industry.

Whishaw and Mortimer are uncannily believable siblings, both sharing similar ticks and resonant chemistry that’s neither overpowering nor weak. The Newsroom star brings a little of that anxious energy in a likeable turn, but Whishaw has far more to do. That soft-spoken voice which propelled Paddington into our hearts is still around, but the nuance in his performance is quite impressive; at times he’s overcome with giddy joy, at others he’s harrowed with anguish and rage as events out with control cause continuous hardship. There’s a constantly sad undercurrent, the writers (David Magee, Rob Marshall and John Deluca) reminding you of the children’s endless devotion to their mother’s ethos – “That’s what mother would do” you hear them say. But in respecting this grief, in a very accessible way, the filmmakers untangle that knot of emotion.

Of course, they’re gifted the most supreme of helping hands in the form of Blunt, who in one of the most supercalifragilisticexpialadocious efforts this year, totally embodies the spirit of Poppins, and then some. Julie Andrews won the Oscar for the role, and it won’t be a surprise if there’s a Best Actress nomination on the cards this time. Punctilious and genteel, kind and firm, a queen of decorum and advocate of the imagination, Blunt is a revelation.

Soon we’re into ebullient animated-land, a mixture of modernistic visual effects-driven sequences and old-time, classic hand-drawn works that blend live-action and art in the finest display since Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The way writer-and-director Marshall and cinematographer Dion Beebe (who worked on the very different but insanely brilliant Collateral) orchestrate such dazzling set-pieces, packed with stunning choreography and warmly impressive animation is nothing short of remarkable. There are visual gags aplenty that’ll only improve on repeat viewings too, any excuse to dive back into the bathtub.

The song list is only impaired by the odd slightly overlong show tune, but the wild enthusiasm of them all is infectious, anchored on Marc Shaiman’s extravagantly grand composition that never feels anything less than an occasion. ’Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ is the finest number, an ensemble-belter that transports you into the cinema of old.

That’s the thing, Mary Poppins Returns feels like an ode to a cherished time at the movies. It packs both the power to move the kids and the adults, tap everyone’s feet and widen all the grins. There are only a few little bits that nag; the more ornate animation exceeds far better than the CGI stuff, and there’s one joke that sticks around a long time not all that effectively until the admittedly funny pay off. But you can see why big names wanted to get involved; Firth is delicious as a pantomime villain, Meryl Streep makes an appearance, and watch out for Dick Van Dyke. Few sequels these days are quite as joyous.

Blunt is sensational. On top of that, it’s pure Disney. Suppose when you consider the talent involved, there’s nowhere to go but up.

CAMERON’S VERDICT:

4

JUMPCUT All The Way: Love Actually (2003)

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth

Written by Cameron Frew

Films are a mixture of wine and perishable meats; some grow better with time, others do not age well at all. Love Actually is one such picture that has somehow fallen into both categories for the public: some praise its knowing cheese and saccharine, uplifting qualities; others (often quite furiously) criticize its mishaps and moral ambiguity, particularly among one or two of the umpteen sub-plots in this festive jamboree of laughs, sadness and joy.

Perhaps the most quintessentially British outing in the Christmas watchlist each year, the first sequence is a capture of reunions, hugs and happiness at London Heathrow airport. Then eases in Hugh Grant’s monologue, rekindling even the slightest ashes of lovesick hopelessness. He speaks, rather gently, of how love is “actually, all around”, the fact that any phone call that came from the Twin Towers on that fateful day wasn’t filled with messages with hate, but with, well, love.

Richard Curtis had long-established himself as a writer of spirited, kind-hearted comedy long before here. Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary – he wrote them all. But this was his first foray into directing, and that debutant nature flairs up occasionally with the odd overlong placeholder shot of a decorated cityscape or the River Thames. But this is generally impressive for someone on such hefty screenplay duties as well as captaining the ship.

A brisk run through of the plot then, shall we? It’s essentially similar to Crash, but a romantic comedy. We follow eight couples that are loosely connected in their own ways in the lead up to Christmas Day. New loves are found and old loves are fractured along the way, but the most important thing to remember is that all you need is — okay I’ll stop now.

There’s Bill Nighy, a faded rock star releasing a trashy Christmas single with his manager (Gregor Fisher). The former is amusingly brash and uncouth and wonderfully played by Nighy, who clearly had the time of his life with the role.

Then we have Colin Firth as a man forced out of his relationship by his adulterous girlfriend and brother (try not to cringe when you hear “hurry up big boy”), taking peaceful refuge abroad when he meets the woman who will change everything (Lúcia Moniz). For all the grander tales of affection, Firth’s is much slighter – not as easy to invest in, but by its sweeping zenith, you’ll fall head over heels.

There’s a handful of smaller, fleeting sub-plots which lack depth but pack in some great jollity. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page star as A-list stand-ins for movies; in this case, they’re in a sex scene. But nattering sparks fly and every moment they share has a cheeky, modest glee. Kris Marshall, after failing to woo the female population of the UK, decides to go to America, where he believes he will be a hit with the ladies. This is one particular instance where Curtis really invites you to be in on the joke, allowing the sort of fantasy many would probably dream of to unfold without any boundaries – and it’s hilarious.

Still in cutesy territory, there’s Liam Neeson as a recent widower, left to raise his stepson (Thomas Sangster), who so happens to have fallen for a classmate at school. She’s the cool girl, who “has no idea who he is”. In terms of bravura exuberance, this is the most effective relationship of the movie, again reaching a stunning finale that’ll have you cheering at the screen and wiping away the tears.

If you’re a Love Actually novice, get used to the idea of crying. This is not a saga free from heartbreak. We’ll start with Laura Linney’s story; she’s in love with a colleague, with whom she shares the odd flirty glance but remains to shy to do anything about it. After a push from her boss, Alan Rickman, wheels start turning. But there’s one problem; she has to always be available on the phone for her brother with special needs. Thankfully, this isn’t played for comedy at all; in fact, it’s potently bittersweet, hitting home a really selfless message where others opt for grand, romantic gestures.

The gestures are sometimes pointed in the wrong direction. The queen of queens, Emma Thompson, is Rickman’s wife. While she is self-effacing and affectionate, he is rather distant. Could be because he’s more interested in the office secretary (Heike Makatsch), who flouts decorum with her demands of “something she wants” and spreading of her legs. Rarely does infidelity evoke such rage; when Thompson realizes her husband’s dirty deeds, she shares a poignant moment with herself to the sound of Joni Mitchell (also, beautifully framed by Michael Coulter). As those tears stream, your fists tighten; it’s one of the most beautifully performed bits of acting you’ll see in an otherwise fluffy piece.

Whereas that’s a story of outright immoral actions, Andrew Lincoln’s is a bit more dubious. His best friend, Chiwetel Ejiofor marries Keira Knightley. But Lincoln is repeatedly cold to her, almost aggressively rude, like she sours his taste buds just from the mere soundbite of her voice. But the old maxim is wee boys pull girls’ hair because they like them. When this internal conflict comes to a close in arguably the film’s most iconic scene, your enjoyment is based on how well you can strip away your ethical thoughts on the matter.

But of all the aspirational fairytales, it’s Hugh Grant’s. He stars as the newly instated Prime Minister, who has an immediate fondness for one of Downing Street’s household staff, Martine McCutcheon (who has an expertly exclaimed dose of swearing: “Where the fuck’s my fucking coat?”). There’s a real charm in their growing liaison, with all their interruptions you constantly route for them. This includes the disruptive, devious President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton), who functions as an overblown but very effective caricature of the sort of smugness in politics that seems to come with birth across the pond.

But the way they all flow together is nothing short of inspired. You can’t argue that it was a phenomenon, and is readily established as a modern classic in the December genre. For what could have been a self-congratulatory exercise in bringing together a who’s who of rising and veteran stars, Love Actually is remarkably uncorrupted (despite the problematic nature of a few plot points). It’s a thoroughly British affair; endearing, involving, witty. But it’s also an ode to outlandish acts and tolerating hardship, to the necessary evil of tough love and the reparatory nature of a softer touch. Let Craig Armstrong’s uplifting, poppy, crescendo-filled score move and enthral you, and accept that no matter how many times you watch Love Actually, your blood will always boil because of Alan Rickman.

REVIEW: Under The Silver Lake (2019)

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace

Written by Sam Comrie

“Maybe there are people out there who are more important than us, more powerful, communicating things in the world that are meant for only them and not for us.”

Despite a troubling distribution schedule after hitting the festival circuit, David Robert Mitchell’s follow up to tantalizing It Follows has finally begun to see the light of day. Bringing back D.P Michael Gioulakis (Split) and composer Diasterpiece, Mitchell’s third feature-length endeavour is a left field swerve down a road that is as mysterious as the title itself. Stepping away from the anxious social horror of It Follows, Under The Silver Lake is a delirious suburban noir that brings us along on a spiralling web of underworlds, Illuminati style mysteries and a murder or two along the way.

Wearing its modern noir disguise in the open, Mitchell’s picks apart another agenda underneath the green grass and naive city smiles. It’s an agenda of hidden codes, intentions and goals that are only for those higher in the social hierarchy. Not for a greasy, problematic slacker that hasn’t paid his rent in god knows how long. Enter Andrew Garfield, giving a sleaze-filled performance that proves to be a career best, despite his troubling perspective on women that makes for an uneasy watch.

It’s uncomfortable and skin crawling but works to make Garfield’s “Sam” a vessel for all the cynicism and underworld brainwashing that he will ultimately endure to seemingly no real positive in his quest. And a quest it is indeed. When a woman from his flat complex disappears, with no explanation or trace to her existence, Sam takes it upon himself to uncover the real mystery behind her disappearance. His past and job history is never truly touched upon, only picked away at by other characters trying to uncover some human component inside Sam.

The clues begin to appear and bring an anxious sense of doubt with them. Are we actually finding a lead or we are actually going crazy the more we pull on the threads? Mitchell’s eerie and precise direction is on form once more in tandem with the dreamy wide lensed aesthetic that Gioulakis soaks the suburbia in. Palm trees and crosswalks are chosen favor of the glossy high rises that function continuously in the background.

Mitchell’s commitment to how truly unpredictable and oddball he takes the mystery is what really sold me on my experience with Silver Lake. It’s littered with brilliantly intriguing characters that add to contained lore that the film builds for itself almost unintentionally.

In the supporting cast, Patrick Fischler and Jeremy Bobb pop up along the way providing some of the best moments of strange character intricacies and sometimes reality shattering revelations. I particularly enjoyed spending time in the “lair” of Fischler’s simply titled “Comic Fan”, who has built his own web of messages. It adds to the continuous notion that Mitchell is painting a narrative that exists behind the scenes for anyone but Garfield.

Under The Silver Lake, in the end, proves itself to be another hazy passage through the unexpected, in the same vein of Mulholland Drive and Inherent Vice. I bet they’d make a unique triple bill.

SAM’S VERDICT:

5

REVIEW: The House That Jack Built (2018)

Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman

Written by Lucy Buglass

Danish director Lars Von Trier is no stranger to controversy. He has certainly divided film fans with some praising his work and some condemning it.  The House That Jack Built is his most recent creation, causing audience members at Cannes to either walk out in disgust or stand up and applaud. This seriously mixed reception caught my interest and I wanted to find out what he’d done to generate such a response.

I’ve only seen two of his previous films; Antichrist and Melancholia, the former being a film that disturbed me so much I haven’t been able to watch it a second time. Its visceral, raw and harrowing portrayal of sex, violence, and self-mutilation is something that is a thoroughly uncomfortable and unpleasant watch.  Because of Antichrist, I felt nervous yet strangely excited to see what The House That Jack Built had in store for me. I was surprised, however, to discover that it is arguably his tamest film to date, with a lot of the more graphic content happening off-screen. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its disturbing moments, but it was a lot less visceral than I was expecting based on its recent backlash.

The film is split into five chapters labelled ‘The Incidents’ and an epilogue, detailing some of the murders that Jack carried out over a 12-year span. Two of these incidents include child abuse and female mutilation, but is presented in a much more psychologically disturbing way rather than uncomfortable close-ups and drawn out scenes that you watch from behind your hands. The House That Jack Built spends more time tapping into Jack’s own psyche than it does the atrocities he commits, with Matt Dillon really stealing the show as the titular character.

It’s also darkly funny in places, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. Dillon’s portrayal of a psychotic killer with OCD is both terrifying and amusing. He is simultaneously charming and unhinged, which is a difficult thing to pull off. He was by far my favourite thing about the film, reminiscent of so many iconic serial killers that have fascinated the general public. The film relied heavily on Jack’s character and inner thoughts so it was great to see Dillon pull it off so brilliantly.

Much like Von Trier’s previous work, The House That Jack Built features lots of symbolism throughout the narrative. In this case, it focuses heavily on religion, art and family, with Jack being challenged on all of these as he recounts the incidents. The voice challenging him is a mystery to us until the third act, where Bruno Ganz’s character is finally revealed to us. I found this reveal to be a little jarring and strange, but not unexpected from one of his films. For me, the third act is where it started to go downhill and I lost interest, which is a real shame after the strength of the first two. Despite seeing some really great analyses online, it wasn’t enough to change my own views on the way it ended. It just seemed a little too out of place for my liking.

The visual style is interesting and combines live action with animation and still images. This feels very random but in the context of this particular film, it actually works in its favour. Both Dillon and Ganz narrate over the animation and still images, giving us monologues that act as food for thought and raise questions about morality, life, death and so on. It’s an intense film in that regard and one that you have to really concentrate on in order to enjoy properly.

The House That Jack Built is a depressing, harrowing and strange film. Its blend of sadistic violence and humour makes it a truly unique horror film that seems to appeal to a very specific audience. It’s not for the faint of heart, and Jack’s misogynistic killing sprees teamed with his nihilistic outlook on life is bound to be uncomfortable for many to witness. As a case study on a serial killer it’s a fascinating watch, but out of the three films I’ve seen, this one is unfortunately the weakest in my eyes.

 

LUCY’S VERDICT:

3

REVIEW: Bumblebee (2018)

Directed by: Travis Knight
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Dylan O’Brien, Justin Theroux, John Cena, Angela Bassett

Written by Dave Curtis

Let’s be honest, Transformer fans haven’t had an easy ride with movie adaptions. Back in 1986 during Transformers: The Animated Movieevery child’s favourite Autobot Optimus Prime was unexpectedly killed off. In 2007 Michael Bay unleashed the first (and best) of the live action films. What came next were 4 sequels all declining in quality. All were filled with giant explosions and very loud noises, but what they all lacked were any real cohesive storylines.  Frankly, they made no sense, it was all just crash, bang wallop. It was Paramount’s cash cow. Eventually, the cow ran dry and it was announced that the next film in the series would be a prequel/reboot of sorts centred around Bumblebee; the once little VW beetle but now a flashy Camaro getting his own spinoff movie. The fan reaction was mixed at best, but when it was announced that the film wouldn’t be directed by Michael Bay but by the exciting talent of Travis Knight (director of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’), it gave new hope to a stagnating franchise.

Bumblebee begins right in the middle of a brutal battle in the last days of Cybertron. The Autobots are on the back foot. Optimus Prime (still voiced by Peter Cullen) sends Bumblebee to earth to escape and maybe set up base for the future survival of the alien race. On arriving at Earth he quickly runs into trouble with the army (John Cena) and he is also being pursued by two Decepticons, Dropkick and Shatter (Justin Theroux and Angela Bassett). Badly damaged, he goes into hiding where Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) finds the damaged beetle in a junkyard and takes him home.

Whereas Michael Bay thought bigger was better, the Travis Knight approach is a much more refined affair. The focus is not so much on the set pieces but on Charlie’s relationship with her new car. His decision to scale back on the number of the Transformers works wonders. It is not stuffed full of mindless action which might have been fun the first time around but quickly got tedious five movies in. Bumblebee very much uses its executive producer’s Steven Spielberg blueprint of movie making. Imagine E.T but with a giant transforming car and you are halfway there. It is full of Spielberg troupes like being set in a small rural town and a missing father figure. This kind of treatment may sound like a less of a spectacular but it helps drive the plot forward to a more grounded and enjoyable film.

The cast are all excellent in their own way. Hailee Steinfeld carries on from her fine performance from Edge of Seventeen. Her performance doesn’t get overshadowed by her CGI counterpart. This is her film. John Cena as Agent Burns chews up every line for fun. He knows what kind of movie this is and he doesn’t pull back from it.

Setting the film in 1987 lends itself well to the film, the era which the original cartoon first appeared helps capture the spirit. The 80’s soundtrack helps create a bridge between the character and the script and the history and era Transformers first came popular in. Knight’s decision to return Bumblebee to his original form (Bay wasn’t a fan) will please the fans.

Christina Hodson’s smartly written script doesn’t get bogged down in any mythical madness. It is pretty simple that it doesn’t try and squeeze too much out of a wafer-thin idea. It also benefits from a reasonable runtime. Where Bay’s films were over two and a half hours (sometimes pushing 3) Bumblebee is just under 2 and it zips along nicely. The action scenes don’t over stay their welcome and the characters are actually more than just eye candy (sorry Megan Fox).

Bumblebee is a vast improvement compared to its predecessors. It’s not all about giant fight scenes with loud noises. Gone are the muddled storylines and useless MacGuffins. This is a story with real heart and it actually makes sense. The central relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee are key and the main focus of the movie, and Travis Knight doesn’t let that get away from you. As Bernie Mac says in the first Transformers film “A driver don’t pick the car. Cars pick the driver. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.” In this case, the car picked the right driver. Finally, Transformers fans have reasons to be happy and look to the future. Autobots roll out!

 

DAVE’S VERDICT:

3-5

REVIEW: Aquaman (2018)

Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

The DCEU badly needs a win. To say the DCEU has had peaks and troughs is something of an understatement. Despite, for my part, ‘Man of Steel’ being far stronger than the wider consensus says, and ‘Wonder Woman’ being as universally acclaimed as it is, the DCEU is badly trying to course correct after the mixed reception received on ‘Batman v Superman,’ and the genuinely shambolic efforts of ‘Justice League’ and ‘Suicide Squad.’ It needs a film to reunite DC fans everywhere that convinces them the DCEU could be a success. I think ‘Aquaman’ could well be that film.

Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa stars as Arthur “Aquaman” Curry, a human-Atlantean hybrid with super strength and a swimming ability not too far behind that of Michael Phelps. Living his life as a metahuman living amongst us, Arthur forgoes the secret identity schtick, openly embraces being Aquaman, and spends his time saving people from various nautical disasters. When Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s half-brother, stakes claim to the throne and threatens an Atlantean takeover of the world, Arthur must return to his true home and claim the throne that is rightfully his.

I’m going to cut to the chase. ‘Aquaman’ is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema in months. I’ve seen some terrific films in the last year, even some genuinely all-time great superhero films like ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,’ but nothing compared to ‘Aquaman.’ As the film escalates towards its inevitable, CGI-tastic battle scene, I found myself actively cheering the action on screen. It forced various exclamations that basically said, in umpteen different ways, “this is so cool.” Because that’s what James Wan, the stellar filmmaker behind films like ‘Saw’, ‘The Conjuring,’ and ‘Furious 7,’ managed to do. He made Aquaman cool. He made the guy who has been the joke of DC for years and known as “the one who can speak to fish” cool.

What really works for ‘Aquaman’ is its cast. It boasts a terrific ensemble, and no matter how ridiculous it all is if you really look at it, everyone is all in on their characters, embracing the ridiculousness of it all, and just having a great time with it. There’s a chemistry amongst every major player, from Arthur and Orm, to Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard), to Arthur and Vulko (Willem Dafoe), to Mera and Vulko, and to Orm and Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), that makes the film work. All the different relationships between the characters are, admittedly pretty blatantly, clear and their motivations are presented well so that everyone knows where they stand as the tensions mount into the third act. The ‘will-they-won’t-they’ dynamics, the rivalries, the father-and-son relationships, it’s all well thought-out and executed extremely well, thanks largely to the great cast.

Where the film does have flaws – and believe me, it has its flaws – is largely down to its dialogue. Despite the well-fleshed out relationships I mentioned above, the conversations are about as on-the-nose as it comes. Characters explicitly describe their emotions and plans in every line of dialogue, shoving in corny, superhero focused one-liners to raise an obvious moral question for Arthur to ponder for 20 minutes. It’s blunt, but it’s serviceable; there’s no room for subtext. But then again, this is fucking Aquaman. At one point, sharks are used as surfboards. Subtext left the writer’s room 27-minutes into Day One. And that’s okay.

The average cinema-goer goes to a superhero film for the action. You can claim all you want that people live for the interpersonal drama you find in the MCU, but a superhero film lives and dies by its action sequences. ‘Aquaman’ raises the bar for what a superhero film’s action scenes should look like. They’re the cleanest, best choreographed, and best shot action scenes since probably ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ In the first 10 minutes, there’s a very cool fight scene involving Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) in a living room that’s a long-take, one smooth shot in which all 3 enemies are vanquished in expert fashion as the camera swirls around the room. At that moment I knew we were in good hands, but that was just a taster.

There are a lot of nice little action sequences throughout the film, all of which are well done, but there are two stand-outs: Sicily and The Battle of the Trench. Sicily, for starters, includes a glorious long-take following a Atlantean battering ram crashing through 15 apartment walls as it’s the fastest way to Mera who is running along the rooftops, while simultaneously Arthur is being chased by Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the film’s sadly underused but encouraging secondary villain, with various moments for combat thrown in, an exploding church bell, and Arthur using a literal ball and chain as a weapon. At one point, the camera shows Arthur’s fight and zooms across the rooftops to catch up with Mera, mere minutes before she creatively uses red motherfucking wine as a weapon. Just thinking about this scene again brings a smile to my face. It’s chaos in its most glorious form.

The climactic Battle of the Trench is, thankfully, a worthy capper on a terrifically fun time. I can’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but this scene is the main cause of my exclamations of disbelief I mentioned earlier. Some of the moments on screen are wildly creative, they’re moments that will stick with you for months, because it’s a battle on the same scale as that of Helm’s Deep in ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ only this time it involves sharks with freakin’ laser beams attached to their heads, giant crocodiles, giant crabs and lobsters, and there’s even the closest thing to an actual kaiju. It’s not a case of Wan throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks here; everything sticks. The final 30 minutes of ‘Aquaman’ is the best climax to a 2018 film this side of ‘Hereditary.’

Aquaman’ is fantastic. I can forgive the flaws of its screenplay when the action is this satisfying and this impressive. It has charismatic performances, a fantastic soundtrack (‘Aquaman’’s theme is the best superhero theme since ‘Wonder Woman’, for everything the DCEU is doing wrong, it’s nailing the music), and stellar direction and cinematography. It’s one of the most bombastic, energetic, insane films of the year, and it deserves your attention.

Give me more ‘Aquaman.’ I want so much more ‘Aquaman.’

 

RHYS’ VERDICT:

5