The Shape of Water

Year: 2018
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones

Written by Sarah Buddery

It is hard to believe that over 11 years have passed since arguably Guillermo del Toro’s finest work, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Considered by many as his magnum opus, his films have been varying in quality since, although never not magnificent to look at. Supposedly the only film the visionary director has been 100% happy with, ‘The Shape of Water’ is possibly the only other del Toro film to rival the masterpiece status of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, and that is not something which should be said lightly.

Back in familiar territory of dark, gothic fairy tales, ‘The Shape of Water’ is an absolute masterstroke, full of fantasy, wonder, gorgeous visuals, and a subtle nod in the direction of influential old Hollywood movies. This does put it into the category of films the Academy will unquestionably fawn over, but it is impossible not to fall in love with this film. ‘Pan’s’ was beautiful and twisted tragedy, whereas ‘The Shape of Water’ is beautiful and twisted romance, and it is completely stunning.

Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) plays a mute woman, obsessed with routine, she works nights at a government facility. Whilst she has strong friendships with her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), her disability prevents her from forging meaningful connections with the people she comes into contact with. That is until she happens across an amphibious creature which is being held at the facility she works at for testing. Somehow able to develop an unexplainable bond to this creature, they connect through basic communication and a mutual understanding.

To spoil much more of the story than mentioned above would be a crime, and this is one of those films which is good to go into as blind as possible; although its festival buzz may be hard to silence! The relationship between Eliza and the creature goes to wonderful and incredibly unexpected places, and despite being fantastical in nature, it never feels anything less than completely and utterly genuine. To watch this relationship develop is simply mesmerising, and Sally Hawkins gives a performance which is breathtaking. To be able to communicate so passionately and with the range that she does, without words, is a monumental achievement, and if you were yet to make your mind up about Best Actress Oscar prospects, it might just be worth putting some money on Hawkins right now.

The supporting cast, particularly Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon, are also perfectly matched to their characters. Spencer provides some welcome light relief, and fresh from her acclaimed supporting role in ‘Hidden Figures’, she continues to be a dependable and consistently watchable actress. Whilst normally the best thing about any film he is in, Michael Shannon does play second fiddle to Hawkins’ incredible lead performance, but he excels at playing the genuinely menacing and detestable villain. He’s not quite up there with the abhorrent Captain Vidal from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – few people are – but he is on fine form and gives an incredibly memorable performance.

Whilst on the whole it is a thing of beauty, it equally never shies away from some truly horrifying moments, and there’s a couple of genuinely shocking, gory scenes, just in case you’d forgotten you were watching a del Toro film! Initially this may not seem in keeping with the rest of the film, but it works so perfectly, and gives it an edge which helps it to truly stand out.

Put simply, ‘The Shape of Water’ is utterly magical in every sense of the word, and “more” than what you could wish for in all conceivable ways. It is more than a love story, more than a fantasy, more than a story, and more than a film; it is a transcendental masterpiece, and one which words can hardly do justice. With incredible performances, absolutely stunning visuals (special nod to the underwater scenes which are totally breathtaking), masterful direction, and a unique and memorable story, ‘The Shape of Water’ deserves to be looked back on with the same fondness and reverence that ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is. A modern masterpiece, and a truly spectacular film.

Sarah’s Rating: 10/10

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Happy Death Day

Year: 2017
Director: Christopher B. Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitkin

Written by Jessica Peña

Into the realm of fun slasher films comes ‘Happy Death Day,’ a film that shoots its way into box office mayhem, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Christopher B. Landon, the ‘Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse’ director helmed this thriller and gave it a new direction in fear we haven’t been given before. It borrows the notion of the beloved ‘Groundhog Day’ in that our protagonist experiences the same day in a continuous loop, but in this case, our protagonist is unexpectedly killed into the next (same) day. Blumhouse Productions took a stab in producing this one and it somewhat pays off.

Tree Gelbman is a self-centered, sorority girl who prances through life with the egotistical impression that she is above everyone else at her college. It’s her birthday and her dad buzzing on the the phone wakes her in the dorm bed of a guy named Carter, with whom it’s presumed she slept with the night before. Tree rushes out of the room, without a care in the world for Carter’s friendly words, and attempts to carry on her day like nothing. She avoids her father’s calls, with the hopes of not celebrating the birthday she shares with her deceased mother. As she continues her day, she’s given a homemade cupcake from her roommate, is late for class, and is on her way to a house party that evening until she is stabbed by someone bearing the mascot baby mask and is awaken back into the dorm bed. Thinking it was a hella realistic nightmare, Tree gets up and begins to notice that she may have lived this day before. As her day plays out the exact same, she’s killed once again, realizing that she needs to somehow break this cycle and figure out who her killer is.

‘Happy Death Day’ carries on with superficial college campus stereotypes. An airhead sorority queen, gnarly parties where drama ensues at the thought of who’s gonna sleep with who, an affair with your professor, and other small touches in its tropes. Set almost entirely on the college campus, the film really takes a leap of faith with its predictability. With that being said, it does have a few surprises up its sleeve. Christopher B. Landon and writer Scott Lobdell know that the audience, from the get-go, will be on the lookout for Tree’s killer. The film dances around the ideas throughout the runtime and half-heartedly fulfills it, not to say we weren’t surprised though!

We see a delightful performance in ‘Happy Death Day’ from Jessica Rothe as the collegian victim who realises the gravity of not only her murderous encounters, but also what it’s like to look at the person you have become. Rothe gave lasting performances in her day to day chances at life. Her acting saves the film enough to make it unforgettable. We see her experience almost every feeling imaginable and it begs us to just follow her in future films she ventures to. While silly as some scenes of the film may be, it plays hand in hand with the thriller’s narrative, which is pretty decent on some levels. Going into the theater and leaving it pleasantly surprised is enough to give ‘Happy Death Day’ credit where it’s due. The baby mask worn by the recurrent killer only amplifies as a staple to the film. Where it doesn’t excel in storylines, it makes up for as a film that was fun to watch.

The film carries more heart to it than one would expect. There are times when it makes us take a look at ourselves and how, if given the chance to redo things, we would fix them. Tree struggles in the beginning at being a likeable character, as she is mainly a stereotype sorority gal. Toward the middle of the film is where she grows a few redeeming qualities, and I give it tons of kudos in this department. ‘Happy Death Day’ angles at not being too full of itself and it demands to be a lasting print into the modern thriller collection.

Jessica’s Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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The Glass Castle

Year: 2017
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Sarah Snook, Max Greenfield

Written by Jo Craig

We all recall those hazy, adolescent memories of a family outing that stretched until sunset, laced with heated moments and inevitable bickering but ultimately transpired as one of those nostalgic recollections that tugs on our laughter lines. Pushing that sentiment further is Hawaiian born filmmaker, Destin Daniel Cretton, who effectively acknowledges the repercussions of a bittersweet childhood in his latest biographical drama ‘The Glass Castle’, narrating the true life of the bohemian Walls family.

Based on an autobiography of the same name, Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) leads a precarious life caused by the unethical upbringing from her non-conformist parents, Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). As a travelling family of six, The Walls search for the perfect location to build their “glass castle”; a paradise residence that symbolises hope for a family struggling to adapt within society.

Told through a present-day timeline with a series of flashbacks, Cretton’s coming-of-age drama focuses on protagonist Jeannette, depicting “a day in the life of” the Walls family as they scurry from location to location. Whilst viewing Rex and Rose Mary’s actions from a child’s perspective, a thin line between tough love and abuse emerges as a theme that’s established early on and features abruptly and sporadically throughout, thus causing a constant duality between love and control that leaves the audience pondering over their questionable nurturing skills. This arduous conflict becomes one of the strongest components to ‘The Glass Castle’, exposing a very delicate balance between affection and psychological maltreatment.

Further highlights of this weighty biography are potent artists Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, uniting as a vigorous trivium that passes most of the film as captivating. With Jennifer Lawrence previously tied to the role of Jeannette, Cretton made a favourable choice in collaborating with Larson after working with her on the critically acclaimed, ‘Short Term 12’, showcasing her Oscar-winning talents alongside her raw and ‘Rampart’ co-star, Woody Harrelson. The electric relationship between Rex and Jeannette demanded a sturdy conjunction between character and actor, which was essential to the storyline’s development and maintained from start to finish in a wonderful display of passion and intellect. Naomi Watts’ performance of Rose Mary was somewhat of a stand-out display of experienced acting in a modest supporting role, detaching from her accustomed sun-kissed roles of playing mothers and alluring psychologists, to a role of great substance that left a gleaming impression. Using three actors per Walls sibling established an efficient progress in age and another nod to conveying the biography’s authenticity, with the added bonus of using second time on-screen siblings Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell from 2016’s ‘Captain Fantastic’.

While ‘The Glass Castle’ excels in cast and credible material, the consistency in tone between the current day and the reminiscent flashbacks causes a stalling effect between the two that interrupts its immersive quality. Larson’s Jeannette remains relatively subdued throughout the drama, causing points of frustration and a general need for relief with the exception of one incredibly satisfying scene. With the production addressing hard topics of this calibre, we search for alleviation that rarely comes to aid, and when it does it comes at a fleeting moment drowning in anguish, where a nervous giggle is all we have to muster.

Undeterred by these undermining bumps in the road, Cretton’s first mainstream feature film shows his skill to target a story with provocative messages and immerse his production into disclosing the important principles. The script being penned by Cretton, Jeannette Walls and Andrew Lanham, who composed the playbook for The Shack, all added credence to the validity of the true accounts being recreated on screen. Cinematographer Brett Pawlak, also from ‘Short Term 12’, has a charming ability to capture a family’s sincerity and strength in unity through warm-toned colour grading and expressive wide angles. Cretton has shrewdly resided with a team he trusts to deliver this level of poignancy, and shows great prospect for any promising director.

With some informative post-credit scenes with the real Walls family, that acts as testament to a wonderfully selected cast, ‘The Glass Castle’ provides some incredibly touching moments depicting a troubled yet loving father and daughter relationship, perfect at delivering those nostalgic moments. Cretton provides a clever link between imagination and harsh realism whilst tying in the audience’s personal memories of family life, despite the tone becoming redundant. The morals of Jeannette Walls’ adaptation proves how the complexity of our psyche can cause our love to be expressed in various manners, but still exists no matter how unnaturally it’s given. A powerful family tale that proves home goes wherever the family goes, and a title that sounds magical in Spanish: ‘El Castillo de Cristal’.

Jo’s Rating: 7.0 out of 10
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Blade Runner 2049

Release: 2017
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks

Written by Abbie Eales

Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian sci-fi epic ‘Blade Runner’ saw Harrison Ford playing Deckard, one of the titular blade runners, who had been tasked with hunting down and killing four replicants, (extremely life-like androids), who had escaped from the colonies and were now posing a threat to human life in the city of Los Angeles. The film is filled with stark and beautiful imagery, philosophical musings on the nature of humanity and love, and is scored by a wonderful soundtrack by Vangelis.

When it emerged there was a sequel in the works, with Harrison Ford attached to star again hearts sank. Let’s face it, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ was almost bad enough to turn the world off the originals, so bringing Ford back to the role of Deckard 35 years later did not seem like solid thinking. Then it was announced that Ryan Gosling was attached, an actor who has been extremely canny in his choice of roles, seemingly not having made a recent mis-step. Once ‘Arrival’ and ‘Sicario’s’ Denis Villeneuve was announced as director, hopes were raised once more. But would this be the thoughtful sequel the world wanted or clumsy “re-energising” and potential franchise starter?

Blade Runner 2049 continues the hunt for artificial humans, 30 years on from the original, echoing the real-life passage of time since Ridley Scott’s classic hit the big screen. Gosling plays K, a blade runner who has been charged with rounding up and dispatching the last of the old model replicants, the last of the robots with free will. To say much more about the plot could ruin the experience, as this is a near perfect piece of cinema which should be enjoyed to the full.

From the opening shot of a single ice-blue eye filling the screen, to the inclusion of a clear plastic raincoat, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is perfectly respectful of its predecessor while taking some of its beautiful imagery to even more extraordinary places. The film is stunning, mildly disorienting and borderline surreal, quietly worming its way under your skin over the course of its 2 hour 43 minute run-time.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography is just sublime. Every shot in the film is near perfect. The design of costumes and make-up is among the best I’ve seen, subtle but always adding to character. The soundtrack, by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, is by turns a thundering juggernaut of mechanical crunches and shudders and then delicate piano notes, giving way to the space-age echoes of Vangelis work on the original.

Every single member of the cast is superb, with Villeneuve eliciting some career-best performances. Ford adds multiples layers to his usual curmudgeon-with-a-heart turn, embracing an unusual vulnerability. Gosling is quietly enigmatic, channelling his turn in Drive. The real stand out among the cast is Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, who manages to be both eerily serene and utterly terrifying.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ may also be Villeneuve’s best work to date. Taking time to really linger on key scenes, to build tension, but also to allow the audience to think and take in not just the visuals but the concepts being shown to them, it’s an extremely confident and uncompromising piece of cinema.

It is an absolute marvel of film-making, a thoughtful, beautiful piece of art. Profound, moving, intellectual and solid evidence that studios can make blockbusters that might also win Academy awards. Go see it big and loud and be left breathless by the spectacle.

Abbie’s Rating: 10 out of 10

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Flatliners

Year: 2017
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Ellen Page, James Norton, Nina Dobrev, Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons

Written by Jo Craig

The premise of quizzical Med students prepared to temporarily stop their hearts in order to obtain scientific and spiritual research from the afterlife, is a fascinating subject to explore even twenty-seven years after Joel Schumacher’s first encounter with the intriguing idea. The uncertainty of death is a relentless “big question” and a timeless topic for debate between the man of science and the man of faith that can translate into a gripping story… if executed carefully. This fall, Danish director Niels Arden Oplev is on call embarking on his endeavour with the great beyond, uniting with an alternative cast primed with adrenaline that ultimately become smothered under the weight of an unrefined rehash.

2017’s ‘Flatliners’ introduces medical student Courtney (Ellen Page) who is deeply distracted from her studies by a festering side project; an experiment to stop her heart or “flatline” in order to gain enlightenment and provide documentation of how our brains respond after death. After recruiting a team of four colleagues who gradually partake in her growing obsession, Courtney soon realises that tempting death comes with a price that alters the lives of all who tamper with it.

Schumacher’s original nineties production became somewhat of a cult success in the later years of its existence, combining eighties stars Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon with rising star Julia Roberts in a thought-provoking plot for the start of an action-packed decade that eventually succeeded in its obscurity, much like ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. On the grounds that cult treasures should remain untouched, the news of a redo was met with catatonic dismay from the general public, as zero interest was shown towards another steroid-induced horror with overactive big kids and their inflated ego’s looking to get their jollies from breaking the rules while using the phrase “hashtag flatline”. While hashtag’s thankfully remained silent, the outcome of Oplev’s modernisation was far from a trending phenomenon.

Breaking down what initially and conclusively was a disjointed cast, indie-comedy favourite Ellen Page spends a majority of ‘Flatliners’ holding the trembling hands of her supporting cast, while by no means creating a solid performance herself. Page has been under fire for accepting a role out with her usual genre, suspecting the part of lead flatliner as nothing more than a bonus pay check. ‘Grantchester’ alum James Norton and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ sweetheart Nina Dobrev appear unsettled in their roles as hot-shot Jamie and headstrong Margo, showing uncertainty against the material they’ve been given to recreate. ‘Rogue One’’s Diego Luna provides some grounding acting opposing newcomer Kiersey Clemons who has been named “a star on the rise” that regrettably failed to shine during any point of the production. This perplexing party of five failed to push the experience or summon the compatibility to make their rebellious bond believable, jilting Page to grind the plot forward while Luna remained shackled by a smaller role.

‘Flatliners’ grasps the main concept of its predecessor, but loses all momentum in deciding where its priorities lie and what genre provides the best platform to export those morals. In 1990 we were watching a classic sci-fi horror designed to last the test of time, however our present day rendition delivers a puzzling concoction of teen drama with cheap psych thriller in a lab of glossy sci-fi tainted with hand-me-down horror; a smorgasbord of careless niche crowd-pleasing. By the third act, we as an audience are feeling alienated after a shock conclusion to the second act, winding down with a wild surge towards time of death being called and body bag filled with abolished investment.  

With only the minor works of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Dead Man Down’ under his belt, Oplev struggles to deliver the gravitas or originality to make this remake worthy of being reborn, igniting a small injection of tactful imagery and ideas that loses its novelty rather quickly. A middling script penned by ‘Source Code’’s Ben Ripley and aided by original screenwriter, Peter Filardi hindered the films progress from fully exploring the girth of such a morbid practice and the impulse that pushes each character to engage our primal need to find answers. Key scenes involving the students “flatlining” episodes could have been the window to explore the distinctive psyche of each individual, building a robust connection with our protagonists instead of being teased with an informal introduction and a limp handshake.

All in all, ‘Flatliners’ was one ceaseless beep with no thrill and zero depth, doing its cliché rounds while the audience delved further and further into a vegetative state, only showing signs of life when Ellen Page cracked a smile or when the CPR got a bit hairy. While many predict this to be the bomb of the October box office, fans of ‘The Vampire Diaries’ will probably enjoy a Sunday evening tickle, while fans of Schumacher’s midnight movie will be eager to pronounce this nineties itch dead on arrival.

An unofficial warning from JUMPCUT: Epinephrine should be administered before viewing.

Jo’s Rating: 4 out of 10

Shin Godzilla

Year: 2016
Director: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara

Written by Sasha Hornby

I remember watching the original Japanese kaiju movies (a genre of film typically focusing on giant monsters – think Godzilla, Mothra and King Kong) of the 50s and 60s on weekend afternoon TV when I was younger.  I remember feeling abject fear at seeing the King of Monsters, Godzilla, with it’s towering stature and atomic breath.  As I grew older, I came to appreciate the creature’s conception as a metaphor for nuclear weapons in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As a long-time fan, when Toho, the studio that produced the original ‘Godzilla’ (1954), announced ‘Shin Godzilla‘ was to be released in 2016, I was hyped.

Literally translated, ‘Shin Godzilla’ means ‘New Godzilla’.  The first full reboot of the iconic monster from the Japanese studio, and 31st film outing, this retelling sees Godzilla, or “Gojira”, emerge in Tokyo to wreak havoc on the citizens of the city.  The American government is responsible for dumping nuclear waste in the ocean where the ancient leviathan lay dormant, and now the world must come together, without The Beatles, to deal with the “God Incarnate”.

Written by Hideaki Anno, creator of the cult anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, and co-directed with Shinji Higuchi, director of the live action Attack on Titan, ‘Shin Godzilla’ is as much a political satire as it is a disaster movie.  As bureaucrats form committees and research teams to deal with the monster that surfaces, that monster rapidly mutates and evolves before our eyes.  The tension that builds is almost unbearable as politicians and scientists race to stay one step ahead of the brutish kaiju.  The dialogue is sharp, dry and witty, paced at breakneck speed, keeping it fresh and exciting throughout.  I honestly feel if Aaron Sorkin wrote a Godzilla movie, it would be this.

Speaking of the titular monster, a combination of puppetry, models and motion-capture performance make up the kaiju we see on screen.  At times Harryhausen-esque in the way it moves, its reminiscent of Godzillas from the past, slow and clunky.  Its metamorphosis from what can only be described as derpy sea beast to indestructible behemoth is masterful.  Its powers evolved beyond any previous on-screen version.  Its scream as enduring as ever.  The ultimate homage to Ishirō Honda’s original with a modern twist.

And the homage doesn’t end there.  The scoring in ‘Shin Godzilla’ literally expands on the original orchestral music composed by Akira Ifukube in his decades-long tenure as composer for the legendary kaiju.  Shiro Sagisu creates a score both perfectly retro and expertly updated for a newer audience.  The musical cues are unlike anything I’ve experienced.  Capable of building anticipation with booming battle themes and breaking tension with frankly comedic synthy-schmaltzy pop, the music is almost as important as Godzilla itself.

The trailers promised the King of Monsters is back in Tokyo.  And back in a villainous role after years of retconning to be a defeater of other beastly kaiju.  Come for Godzilla, but stay for the human story at the heart – this isn’t supposed to be about death and destruction, but about human triumph.  I guarantee you will leave with a smile on your face.

In closing, ‘Shin Godzilla is roar-some.

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Sasha’s Rating: 8.8 out of 10

Little Evil

Year: 2017
Director: Eli Craig
Starring: Evangeline Lilly, Adam Scott, Sally Field

Written by Sasha Hornby

Horror is one of the most polarising genres – some people are staunch horror fans, watching even the most bargain basement of offerings; others will write off any film with even a whisper of horror.  Horror, when done well, reminds us of our greatest fears and has a mileage well beyond release.  Be it demonically possessed children (‘The Exorcist’, 1973), quirky strangers in backwoods hotels (‘Psycho’, 1960), big-ass sharks (‘Jaws’, 1975), or the un-dead returning from the grave (‘Night of the Living Dead’, 1968), there is a flavour of horror to tap into every phobia.  

‘Little Evil’, the latest Netflix Original release, taps into some very specific fears – those of a man finding his feet in the new role of ‘step-dad’ and those of any parent who worries their child may be the antichrist.  Written and directed by Eli Craig, the writer and director of underrated redneck slasher spoof, ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’ (2010), ‘Little Evil’ falls directly into the ‘horror-comedy’ sub-genre.  It stars comedy favourite Adam Scott as Gary, a man who has just married his perfect woman following a whirlwind romance, Samantha (Evangeline Lilly).  Not all is hunky-dory though, as Gary must now forge a relationship with his creepy step-son, Lucas (Owen Atlas).  

‘Little Evil’ wears it’s influences proudly on it’s sleeve, directly spoofing classics such as ‘Poltergeist’ (1982), ‘The Shining’ (1980), and most notably, ‘The Omen’ (1976).  Lucas wears the same instantly recognisable flat cap and little short suit that Damien wears in Richard Donner’s tale of an antichrist child.  And ‘strange things’ keep happening in his presence (such as his teacher throwing herself out of a window, or his birthday clown setting himself on fire).  And lets not even go there with the sock goat he uses to communicate in a growling voice to those around him.  

In a film that is clearly more about the comedy than the horror, Adam Scott is predictably reliable.  He plays the part of concerned step-parent well, exhasperated by his new wife’s apparent obliviousness to her son’s menace.  He attends a step-dad support group in an attempt to burn his anxieties and doubts, instead only feeding them.  The support group includes Donald Faison, Chris D’Elia and Kyle Bornheimer, who are mostly fine, if a little disappointing.

Bridget Everett is the true stand-out here as AL, Gary’s work friend and member of the step-dad support group.  She is loyal, supportive, and truly funny to boot.  The fact she is a lesbian is never made the butt of a joke, and she is often the voice of action.  I’ve never seen Everett in anything prior to this, but looking at her IMDb, with roles in ‘Trainwreck’ (2015) and the recent ‘Patti Cake$‘ (2017), she is clearly and up-and-coming actress on the comedy circuit, and I, for one, am stoked about this.

The other stand-outs, though scarcely used, are Clancy Brown as the Reverend Gospel and Tyler Labine as videographer Karl.  Brown is a prolific voice and genre actor, who relishes the role of cult leader, fervishly working to open the gates of Hell and bring about the end of the world.  Labine is extraordinarily funny as the wedding videographer who fancies himself as an auteur, delivering some home truths to Gary.

Eli Craig knows his way around a horror-comedy script.  Between ‘Little Evil’ and the aforementioned ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’, he is in control of his references versus originality.  At 95 minutes, ‘Little Evil’ is about the right length, though I find myself wishing there had been more set-pieces.  The final act is completely ludicrous, but so saccharine, even the coldest of hearts will be warmed.

For ardent horror fans, or those who would recognise the ‘classics’, ‘Little Evil’ will at least raise a smile as it lovingly pokes fun at, whilst simultaneously paying homage to, the icons of the ‘creepy child’ sub-genre.  Distinctly lacking in horror though, and not really as clever or subversive as some of the great spoofs before it, it never quite hits the mark.  There’s a lot to like, but don’t watch for the scares or the ‘laugh out loud’ moments; watch for the pastiche.

Sasha’s Rating – 6.0/10

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (3D)

Year:  1991 (2D), 2017 (3D)
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

Written by Chris Gelderd

So much can be said about a film as important and ground-breaking as this after over 25 years of constant adoration and cultural significance. This time, however, director James Cameron brings us a newly restored 4K 137 min theatrical release that has also been converted to 3D.

I would like to think 90% of cinema audiences and film fans have, since 1991, seen this film, but if not, I will provide a review of the film itself and then the 4K/3D conversion. As the film will have been and gone from its one night showing at the time of this review going live, it will be available to purchase soon on Blu-ray.

Thankfully securing many original faces such as the $15m paid Arnold Schwarzenegger and the $1m paid Linda Hamilton returning from the 1984 original, young Edward Furlong joins the cast as a fiery young John Connor perfectly. All three form the perfect dysfunctional family, with the “father figure” in the guise of a cyborg killer wonderfully developed by Schwarzenegger, thanks to an expanded role as the Terminator which gives him more room to flesh out his character as Connor tries to teach him what it means to be human.

This leaves room for subtle humour injected into their relationship and is nice to see without turning the Terminator into a comedy side-kick. Schwarzenegger proves once more his role as the Terminator is his defining work thanks to his imposing image and delivery of the monotone lines. He never fails to showcase his talent for action scenes in this film, building on the under-lying nightmarish character he is still from the original. However you could see all this a double-edged sword; more humanity means less of the cold cyborg killer and increased one-liners and family friendly “no killing” rules.

And of course we have Robert Patrick as the uber-advanced T-1000 liquid metal shape shifting Terminator which straight away makes the T-800 seem out of date and clunky. Patrick is the efficient killer that Schwarzenegger was in the 1984 original, but seemingly more humane and created to blend into the crowd more. Patrick embodies the role perfectly; focused, cunning, effective and ruthless. But he moves and acts in a fluid way that likens his model Terminator a Porsche, and makes the T-800 look like a Panzer tank.

Supported by Joe Morton as Miles Dyson, future creator of SkyNet, and the return of Earl Boen as hapless Dr Silberman, they all add to the story in which that all play a vital part in some way.

Technically, the mise-en-scene and cinematography in this film are some of his best work, and the diegetic sound is perfect. Everything seems to happen naturally, but you know Cameron has crafted everything to the last detail to create a vividly entertaining and powerful film. For example, most scenes with the T-1000 are coloured in a hazy blue to signify the robotic, synthetic quality he is. The soundtrack is full of repetitive, machine like riffs that accompany both Terminators’ on screen to give a nightmarish and artificial presence to their scenes, as well as “slasher” horror shocks and scares.

An example of Cameron’s attention to detail is the focus on the T-800. All camera angles focused Schwarzenegger are at a lower angle to remind us of his giant stature and power in every scene. It’s then heart-breaking to note that the only time we look down on the broken T-800 is the final moments, making his fate more emotional than any other aspect of the film, and probably the series, thanks to these simple technical moves and acting talent.

Special mention has to be for Stan Winston and his team for the ground-breaking special effects. 26 years later and I am still amazed how well the transition between actor Robert Patrick and his CG T-1000 are blended better than most modern films. With the CGI used to enhance and create these futuristic killers rather than build a modern day world around them, there is less than 15 minutes of CGI creation used as it is done sparingly and never abused. Everything else is done for real with model work, miniatures, stunt doubles and brilliant make-up and costume. This is why it never seems to age, and you hear and feel all the gun shots, explosions and clashing metal.

With wonderfully gentle pacing to provide fans enough exposition about the creation of the SkyNet programme that forms the backbone to the whole series, Cameron takes his time between the stand out action sequences to develop character relationships and the reasons that they have all been brought together.

The continued fight between man and machine has never been more exciting as it has been portrayed here, and we get it now in crisp, clear 4K detail which really makes it a timeless looking piece of cinema. Yet it’s the 3D conversion that will add a new price-tag to the Blu-ray release in a few months.

Is it worth the money? Not for the 3D, no, and certainly not if you already own the film in any format. It seems 3D is now more of a gimmick that doesn’t add anything to many films bar depth, making characters and objects stand out now and then, which works well in the Future War scenes, but after that, sort of doesn’t stand out at all. In fact the only sequences I really felt the 3D come to life was during the Future War and the SWAT van / helicopter chase. Bar that, it wasn’t much to shout about. It was a little hazy around the edges of the screen too, with some objects out of focus – it wasn’t as sharp as other 3D conversions I’ve seen, and in this respect it detracted from the 4K restoration at times.

The 3D won’t add anything exciting to this film, except a couple of continuity tweaks, but the main draw was simply having the chance to see it on the big-screen for the first time, or the tenth time. It doesn’t matter. ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ is one of those sequels we didn’t need, but are so thankful we got. Just don’t shell out for a 3D Blu-ray that you certainly don’t need for a film you probably already own in theatrical and extended versions anyway.

Chris’ Rating: 9.1 out of 10 | 3D Conversion –  4.1 out of 10

Patti Cake$

Year: 2017
Director: Geremy Jasper

Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty

Written by Sarah Buddery

Sometimes it is the most unassuming little films that completely take you by surprise, and whilst ‘Patti Cake$’ garnered some buzz from both Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals with nominations in some of the top categories, this is the sort of film that will fly under a lot of people’s radars which would be a great shame indeed.

You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of director Geremy Jasper before, as ‘Patti Cake$’ is in fact his first feature length directorial effort, having directed a handful of shorts and music videos previously. With a cast of relative unknowns as well (aside perhaps from Moriarty), this is the sort of independent film which will rely heavily on word of mouth to find its audience, and I really hope it does.

It’s a story seen before, and indeed obvious comparisons will be drawn with Eminem biopic ‘8 Mile’; but where that went for gritty realism, ‘Patti Cake$’ has a much sunnier disposition, whilst still dealing with some dramatic events and character struggles in a believable and authentic way. It helps that the characters are instantly likeable, and with the story told from the perspective of our gutsy heroine Patti (Danielle Macdonald), there is warmth, humour, and unexpected tenderness.

Whilst it doesn’t fully avoid the tropes of a “rags to riches” storyline, it does thankfully avoid making jokes at Patti’s expense, and the sensitive writing should be commended for never making her size the crutch for an unnecessary punchline. We spend near enough the entire run-time with this character, and relative newcomer Danielle Macdonald does a wonderful job of breathing life to this character. She is funny, believable, honest, and an easy character to spend extended periods of time with. There is a fire and a passion that erupts like a volcano whenever she raps, and it is a wonderful contrast to her softer side.

The soundtrack, as expected, is absolutely killer and a great listen in isolation of the film as well. Whilst the other characters are not as well developed as Patti is, her relationships with all the other characters are given their moment in turn; particularly her relationship with best friend Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) is believable and genuine. Her tumultuous relationship with her mother Barb (Bridget Everett) has a very satisfying arc, and the sweet relationship she shares with her Grandmother (Moriarty) provides the emotional heart of the film. Whilst the romantic subplot felt a little shoehorned in, it ended up being surprisingly sweet and didn’t feel extraneous.

Really, the only thing I could’ve done without in this film was the subplot involving one of Patti’s rap idols, O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah). There were a number of “fantasy” and dream sequences scattered throughout the movie, and whilst they made sense and provided some context around Patti’s aspirations for stardom, equally they were something that didn’t add a whole lot to the plot overall, and could’ve been cut to trim the runtime down to something much punchier.

On the whole though, ‘Patti Cake$’ is a delightful, uplifting comedy drama with a killer soundtrack and a great performance from an actress who will definitely be one to watch. Intimately and tenderly shot, this is a surprisingly accomplished film for a first time director, and is definitely one to seek out if you get the chance.

Sarah’s rating: 8 out of 10