REVIEW: Dog Days (2018)

Directed by: Ken Marino
Starring: Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Finn Wolfhard

Written by Elena Morgan

Set in sunny Los Angeles, we follow the lives of multiple dog owners and their beloved fluffy pals. When these human and canine paths start to intertwine, their lives begin changing in ways they never expected…

Dog Days is in the same vein as Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day. However, it doesn’t have quite the A-List cast those three films have, and instead of being set around one day, dogs are what connect all the characters and their stories. All the characters have dogs in their lives, and a lot of them find romance and friendship thanks to their furry friends. There’s Nina Dobrev’s TV host who meets a former NBA player and Vanessa Hudgens’ barista Tara who fancies the sexy vet who works across the street, while Finn Wolfhard’s pizza boy helps an elderly professor find his lost dog. There’s a lot more characters and plots than that but if I listed them that’d take up this whole review.

Contrary to what the film’s title might suggest, the focus of Dog Days is on the humans rather than their canine counterparts. The cast all give decent performances and those whose character’s stories involve a romance, generally they have good chemistry with their love interest. The characters themselves are all pretty cliché and there’s no characters that stand out, for good or bad reasons. The various character’s stories are incredibly predictable but sometimes it’s nice to watch a film that’s nice and fluffy – in more ways than one!

Dog Days is a rom-com with dogs. The romance can be sickly sweet, and the comedy is a bit hit or miss with most jokes merely raising a smile rather than a proper laugh, but all in all it is satisfyingly sentimental. I’m a soppy dog lover so naturally there were a few moments that made me tear up, and there was one moment in particular that made me cry like a baby. In amongst the romance and friendship drama, these characters all love dogs and the relationships they build with their four-legged friends does tug on the heartstrings.

Elena’s Verdict:

3

 

We’re currently running a competition to win a Blu-ray copy of the film!

REVIEW: The World Before Your Feet (2018)

Directed by: Jeremy Workman
Genre: Documentary

Written by Jessica Peña

For no other reason than curiosity’s sake, Matt Green has embarked on a mission to walk every block of New York City, passing through all five boroughs of the bustling, diverse metropolis. You may think he’s chasing and finding nothing with this project, but in reality, he’s found the infinite wonders of his lovely town and the people and historical places that make the experience rewarding. Director Jeremy Workman begins to follow Matt on his intrinsic voyage and lets us take a peek in this uplifting, vérité story about a man’s journey.  

The World Before Your Feet is sublime in the way it appreciates location and culture that’s just around the corner. Matt Green is one of a kind, although human all the same, and his perspective in life has geared him up for this passion project (which at the time of the film’s release, is still going!). He was working as an engineer when he decided to just quit his job and begin this tiny project that’s brought on a lifetime of discovery. Some will think he’s a bum for living this way, and on his small blog, he invites you to tell him that. It’s not without good intentions and his sense of community and respect is contagious.

From Flushing, Queens, to Governors Island, the documentary begins and we’re already following Matt on the streets of a beautiful day. He’s observant, friendly, and full of magnificent insight. He sees nature and people mix on a daily basis, sharing the space with them, strolling by every block and corner. He’s even got a keen awareness to it all, even birds. “A lot of times, you don’t hear them ‘cause you’re not listening for them,” he tells the camera as he’s walking along a South Bronx neighborhood. It’s kind of like living in a neighborhood all your life and never noticing the things around you, the cool things just around that corner you never come to pass by. For Matt Green, it comes naturally and Workman makes it so easy to watch and experience it with him.

Influenced greatly by the documentaries from director Werner Herzog, Workman draws out the interesting in people and spotlights that individuality to the big screen. It also helps to have Jesse Eisenberg as an executive producer of the film, seeing as he’s a New York native and fell in love with the film’s rough cut. The most populous city in the U.S. is home to the things that come to dub the country the “melting pot” itself. It’s the people, the culture, the history, the natural elements, and the way they all come together. With the discoveries of culture, Matt stops at a moment’s notice to say hi to kids playing, offer help to others, and check out community gardens all the while documenting his routes by taking pictures and blogging his research onto his site, “I’m Just Walkin.”  

He’s essentially homeless, couch surfing at friends’ homes, house sitting for people, cat sitting regularly as a source of income. It explores parts about him as much as the love for the city. We see how this personal endeavor attracted some into his life and for the same reasons, pushed those relationships away. Of course, he’s a three-dimensional guy and the road to his oddly joyous plan to walk 8,000 miles in New York City has taken its minor hits. Nonetheless, Matt finds joy in learning more about the layers of the city’s history and memorial landmarks. The amount of history in one block alone is remarkable. His pictures of local barber shops, plants, buildings, old tulip trees, and piles of trash bags speak for themselves. He’s finding victories in these moments of appreciation and time frames of the unexpected that he comes by. The film chronicles his project in a multitude of interactions, both the retrospective instances and the curiosities from his bystander audience and background.

The World Before Your Feet is as curious for the intangible as it is reflective of blossoming culture and history. It’s an invitation to simple pleasures. The documentary coasts along for an enjoyable watch as this Virginia man turned New York streetwalker explores and relishes in his findings. Workman’s film is a lovely take on the busy city and finds warm spirits all around, as told through Matt Green’s delightful walking project. It’s us observing a wander-lusting, happy wanderer and it’s kind of absorbing.

 

JESSICA’S VERDICT:

3-5

REVIEW: Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

Directed by: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Tudkyk, Jack McBrayer

Written by Fernando Andrade

After Wreck-It Ralph hit the big screen back in 2012 and introduced us to the arcade world of Ralph and Vanellope, we get the long-awaited sequel which transports our characters to the vast world of the internet. Fully equipped with its product placement, Disney nostalgia, and Easter eggs, Ralph Breaks the Internet delivers much more than just eye candy. It tells a story about friendship, true friendship, one which everyone, young and old, should see.

Ralph Breaks the Internet takes place six years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph. Both Ralph (John C. Rielly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) live rather simple lives in their world, following a pretty strict routine and rarely breaking from it – no pun intended. They see the sunrise, play their game – or as they call it “work”, and then goof off, going into other games, drinking root beer, and then the process repeats. Ralph is more than content doing the same thing over and over again, and so is Vanellope – to an extent. She is vocal about how easy her game has become, shes memorized all the tracks and finds no challenge in it anymore. So when a girl comes into the arcade ready to play her game, Ralph takes it upon himself to make a new track for her to hopefully give her a new sense of joy. When Vanellope starts taking control over the game, the girl playing ends up breaking the steering wheel causing her game to be unplugged. This sets our heroes on a journey through the internet to try and buy the missing part to save Vanellope’s game.

The surprising thing about Ralph Breaks the Internet is how deeply layered it is. The directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, along with their entire team, created a very intelligent movie, one which both children and adults can enjoy – which also happens to be a great sequel. Both Ralph and Vanellope develop as characters from the original movie in a very believable and earned way. A lot of that has to do with the incredible voice talents of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman who bring these characters to life. Its a true testament to how good both of them are when you are able to have such strong emotions watching a giant hobo and candy princess figure out their friendship while inside the world of the internet.

Speaking of the internet, the way it is portrayed in this movie is also very intelligent, sometimes even for its own good. Unlike other internet inspired movies like the abomination that is The Emoji Movie, Ralph Breaks The Internet does not prioritize the internet as it’s main engagement tool (that is strictly reserved for the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope). If anything the internet is just used as a vessel to get our characters to there ultimate destination, while along the way providing some great moments of comedy that is also extremely relatable (yes the princess scene is absolutely wonderful). It could be argued that the internet is this movies main selling point, as the trailers highlighted in depth, but once the movie transitions into the world wide web, it sticks with its characters every step of the way. That being said, at times the pacing suffers a little in the second act of the film when our heroes are deep within the internet world. At times some references can be really in your face and take you out of the movie, but the directors went about a clever way of trying to reduce that by creating their own websites where the majority of the movie takes place.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is one of the best animated films of the year, providing a very sincere and important message which everyone should witness. While it is littered with references and nods to familiar things, the relationship of Ralph and Vanellope, one that grows from the original movie, is front and center. We see them grow and change as characters which culminate in a very satisfying ending – one that is capable of causing tears, so you have been warned.

Fernando’s Rating:

4

REVIEW: Robin Hood (2018)

Directed by: Otto Bathurst
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Tim Minchin, Jamie Dornan

Written by Tom Sheffield

With countless films, books, and TV shows about the legendary outlaw,  we can probably assume almost everyone will have have heard of Robin of Loxely, aka Robin Hood, in some form of media. The last time we saw him on the silver screen was in 2010 played by Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, and in those 8 years Robin Hood has appeared in multiple TV films and shows, including Doctor Who,  Once Upon A Time, and Alyas Robin Hood (Bow of Justice) and many more.

Hell, there’s even films multiple films in the works focusing on Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and the Merry Men.  Disney are currently developing one under the title Nottingham and the Hood, the Wachowski sister’s have written, and will direct, a modern retelling of Robin’s story in their film Hood, and Sony are developing Marian which currently has Margot Robbie set to star in the titular role and will focus on her character as she mourns the death of Robin. It wouldn’t suprise me at this point if Disney announced a live-action remake of their 1973 animated classic and we see Robin Hood in fox form once again..

After fighting in the crusade for 4 years, Lord Robin of Loxley (Egerton) returns to Nottingham only to learn that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn) has pushed the people of the city to breaking point with his war taxes and tolls and they’re forced to work in the mines and constantly beaten at the hands of the Sheriff’s guards. Robin and John (Foxx), a former Arabian soldier, begin to plan their revenge by restoring hope to the people and hitting the Sheriff where it hurts most… his treasury.

It’s clear that Egerton put a lot of work into this film, even going so far as to train with YouTube archery sensation Lars Andersen. This definitely paid off in the final product because whilst some of the CGI shots were shockingly bad (some sticking out like a sore thumb), I could at least enjoy the fact that (for the most part) Egerton was being an actual badass with a bow. The performances from the rest of the cast are pretty good across the board, despite them not really having all that much to do. Hewson and Minchin were criminally underused and the film as a whole would of benefitted from giving the pair of them more screen time, especially as we start to learn more of what the pair have been up to in Robin’s absence.

The set and costume design is sure to confuse many who find themselves watching this film. The design of the character’s clothes doesn’t quite fit in with the medieval look of Nottingham. Taron Egerton could waltz down the streets of Hollywood in his Robin Hood get up and no one would bat an eyelid. Even the Crusader’s armour at the beginning of the film looks a little too modern for the setting, so much so you could have replaced the bows in their hand with a modern day rifle and it wouldn’t have looked out of place. That’s not to say the costumes don’t look good though. Some of them are really well designed and you’ll catch me wearing the Sheriff of Nottingham’s cloak when it hits the racks in M&S later this month.

The fight choreography was also very hit and miss. In some scenes it felt like their was a bit of creativity in the way Robin fought and sparked a little hope in me that it would build up to something special. Sadly this wasn’t the case and instead the audience is bombarded with pointless slow-motion shots of fists clenching, cloaks twirling, someone drop kicking a shield, and fire.. lots and LOTS of fire. As touched upon a couple paragraphs above, the CGI in some of the scenes is laughably poor. There’s one chase scene in particular that the poor quality is really noticeable on, and it feels like the constant burst of flames they’ve thrown in throughout were there to try and distract you from noticing the poor quality green screen.

As for character development, well, there was none. We know next to nothing about Robin, other than he’s a Lord and before the crusade he loved nothing more than just spending time in his manor with Marian (and doing dramatic kissing spins). Marian and the rest of the unassembled Merry Men may as well have just been another face in the crowd for this story because anyone could have stepped into their shoes. The film relies heavily on you investing in Robin and Marian’s relationship in the opening scenes of the film to add some emotional depth to the story later on but sadly they fall flat due to the  incredibly poor writing and pacing of the film.

The writing for Ben Mendelsohn’s Sheriff of Nottingham in particular was pretty underwhelming and whilst we know he CAN deliver an intimidating portrayal of a power-hungry villain (Orson Krennic in Rogue One, Sorrento in Ready Player One), the Sheriff of Nottingham just didn’t hit the mark for me here (despite Mendelsohn’s best efforts), and winds up becoming a pretty forgettable villain.

Whilst I left the cinema feeling like I’d just wasted 2 hours of my Saturday morning, my brother had the compete opposite feeling and was pretty damn happy with Robin Hood’s latest outing. My brother is a big fan of all things Robin Hood (and archery) and there probably isn’t a film, TV show, or character cameo that he hasn’t seen. Make of that what you will…

Sadly this is yet another misfire when it comes to telling the story of one of the greatest and most legendary outlaws. Maybe one of the multiple Robin Hood films currently in development might actually deliver? Just don’t tell me it’s not worth fighting for.

 

1

REVIEW: Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Tim Wardle
Genre: Documentary

Written by Bianca Garner

Imagine waking up one day believing you were completely unique, truly one of a kind. Then suddenly realising that you were actually part of identical triplets. And not only do you all look alike, but you also share the same interests, have the same mannerisms and even smoke the same brand of cigarettes. Now, if this sounds like it’s a plot of a crazy larger than life comedy, then think again.

This extraordinary tale actually did happen to three young men and their story is explored in Three Identical Strangers. Directed by Tim Wardle, this extraordinary documentary starts off as a feelgood human interest story, but by the end, it will leave the viewer questioning “what makes you, you?” Wardle’s approach to telling this story is highly imaginative and visual, allowing the images and footage to speak for itself. It is clear that Wardle is interested in the subject matter (or should that be subject matters) and even those who aren’t the biggest fans of documentaries will find this one, very appealing.

Three Identical Strangers begins in 1980, with 19-year-old Bobby Shafran. Bobby attends his first day of university only to find his new classmates greeting him as ‘Eddy’, acting like they’ve known him for years despite it being the first time that they have met. In order to capture how surreal this even must have been, the director decides to tell the first half of the documentary through narration and recreated scenes. The viewer becomes immersed in this moment and is invested in the events that are playing out. Bobby and Eddy are introduced face to face, and there’s no denying that these two young men must be related. However, things take another unexpected turn when Bobby and Eddy meet and are contacted by David, whose adoptive mother noticed a pair of twins in the newspaper who looked exactly like her son.

What followed after the reunion, was a period of (pre-internet) immense fame that took the triplets from the Phil Donahue Show to a cameo alongside Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. The general public and the media were fascinated by the brothers’ likeness. The triplets played up to this act: they finished each other’s sentences, smoked the same brand of cigarettes, even had the same taste in women (“We prefer older ladies”). When one brother crossed his legs, the others followed. A decade later, the triplets us their fame to open they a steakhouse in Soho, New York, called Triplets (of course!), which was a hit. However, then their tale took an unexpectedly dark turn.

As the narrative unfolds, a shocking discovery is made concerning the truth about why the triplets were separated. It’s best not to give any of these details away, but it is truly disturbing to think how others could get away with meddling in the lives of newborn children. The shift in tone is at first quite a shock at first, and it will take some time to progress all the information that is being provided to you. Perhaps the documentary could have benefitted from a long run-time or being a television mini-series, simply because this story is so vast in scope. This is not a critique of the film, but rather praise. The story and the subjects are so interesting, that you want to see more of them. Wardle’s strong director and eye for detail help keep the viewer on the edge of their seat as they absorb everything that is occurring on screen, soaking in every last snippet of detail. In a year of strong, moving and well-directed documentaries, Wardle’s Three Identical Strangers certainly stands out from the rest with its distinct look and well-crafted use of editing, music, and visuals.

Not only is this a highly enjoyable and entertaining documentary; but is, more importantly, an educational and thought-provoking one. Three Identical Strangers asks the viewer to question and debates ideas (like the idea of nature vs. nurture and how far can the boundaries of human psychologically be tested). Wardle shows his capability as a compassionate director, and never does the documentary feel manipulative or false in order to provoke deep emotional responses from its viewer. This is a genuinely moving documentary, that does this extraordinary tale justice. This story is like nothing else you will see on screen this year, and you have to see it, to believe it.

Three Identical Strangers is truly identical and original in its own right.

BIANCA’S VERDICT:

4

REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Carmen Ejogo, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol

Written by Fiona Underhill

Unfortunately, before you can start talking about this film, there is so much that has to be discussed.

Firstly: Johnny Depp. I wrestled with even going to see this film, knowing that Depp would be in it. I’m pretty disgusted at the attitude of JK Rowling, The Davids – Heyman and Yates and Warner Brothers over Depp and I HATE that he casts a pall over what is probably my favourite film franchise. It is especially frustrating that in a world with polyjuice potions and metamorphmagus and setting the precedent of both Colin Farrell and Jamie Campbell Bower playing versions of the character, Depp could have been easily replaced and still could be. I would love to see the filmmakers finally do the right thing here. It is only because I am SO invested in this world that I went ahead and watched this film anyway. I struggled with this decision, I’m not proud of it and I fully understand people boycotting this film because of Depp. When watching and reviewing, I have tried to focus on the film around him and ignore him as much as possible.

Secondly: Rowling’s revisionism and queer-baiting. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fangirl but I and many of my fellow Potterheads are sick of Rowling coming out and saying “oh, by the way, Dumbledore was gay” or “Hermione could have been black” and trying to get points for diversity which were not apparent in the books or first films. The Cursed Child featured two teenage boys who were clearly in love with one another, but Rowling has rightly come under fire for queer-baiting because she won’t go the whole hog and make it explicit. Now that the Fantastic Beasts films have chosen to focus on young Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald, Rowling should be forced to follow through with the statements she has been teasing. The extent to which The Crimes of Grindelwald does this, I will explore later in this review.

So, onto the film. I’m one of the few people who loved the first Fantastic Beasts film. Yes, it was packed with far too much plot, but the setting of 1920s New York was to die for, it had a really strong cast and stunning costume and production design (I still think about Colin Farrell’s haircut and coat all the time). One of the strongest aspects of the first film was Ezra Miller as Credence (a really compelling role and one which could be seen as a metaphor for being LGBTQ while growing up in a religious home and also for trying to live with and hide a mental illness). Credence’s scenes with Colin Farrell were electric, as Graves/Grindy took advantage of this broken, vulnerable young man who was desperate for love and a sense of belonging and set about grooming and manipulating him. I had been skeptical about Farrell’s casting beforehand, but he blew me away (yet another reason to be so angry about Depp). Samantha Morton was also reliably amazing. The world-building of Fantastic Beasts was so good, with Newt’s suitcase being the highlight. I’m not particularly a fan of Eddie Redmayne (especially when he seems to have filled his performance of Newt with tics left over from playing Stephen Hawking) or Katherine Waterston, but the supporting characters of Jacob and Queenie were amiable enough to provide enough hope for the sequels. I do like that Newt’s character is so sympathetic and caring to those who most of the world view as monsters, freaks or aliens and see them to be feared and controlled. When I heard that Miller would be returning for The Crimes of Grindelwald and that Jude Law would be young Dumbledore, I allowed myself to get excited. Add in Zoe Kravitz and Callum Turner and the cast just got extremely hot. I was just hoping that Depp would not overshadow all of the positive aspects.

The Crimes of Grindelwald moves from New York to Paris and continues the trend of being visually breath-taking. Even in ‘normal’ apartments, the attention to detail in the production design is astounding – there is just so much to take in from every corner of the frame. Even something as simple as Credence and Nagini entering an apartment via a corridor is shot and framed and designed so beautifully – the corridor lined with windows and the apartment hung with lace. The bigger set-pieces, such as the circus scene brought tears to my eyes – the thought of a magic circus, filled with fantastic beasts in the Potter universe is just so tantalising (a bit like the speakeasy nightclub scene in the first Fantastic Beasts). The costumes again are so appealing, with Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange purple outfit and Queenie’s pink shoes being particular highlights. The design of the ministries – in New York, London and Paris each have their own flavour – I never tire of seeing the green ‘London Underground’ style tiles in the British ministry. The use of a green copper statue which comes to life and shows the way into the magical world of Paris is ingenious. Being basked in the Potter universe and submerged in the sumptuous visuals is so enjoyable (for me, anyway), it makes up for a lot.

I have heard a lot of grumbling about the characters in the two Fantastic Beasts films and that no one cares about them. Yes, Redmayne is annoying, but Newt is a worthy central character to hang this franchise on. His morality is very much in keeping with the original series, he is loyal and values his friends (even if others don’t – like Neville, Luna and in the case of Fantastic Beasts; Jacob) just like Harry did. He is a protector of the downtrodden, the outcasts and there is a lot to be said for that. The new additions in this film (ignoring Depp for a moment) were successful. Law absolutely nails Dumbledore (with just the subtlest hint of an Irish lilt, as a nod to Harris) and this film does not shy away from the fact that he is morally grey, manipulative and is definitely that bitch. Leta Lestrange gets an interesting backstory and character arc and is played by the beautiful Kravitz to perfection – her English accent is a treat for the ears. Callum Turner is perfectly cast as Theseus Scamander (his physical resemblance to Redmayne is uncanny), however, the decision to make the younger Turner Newt’s older brother is perhaps unnecessary – the rivalry between the brothers may have actually worked better if Theseus was younger. I look forward to seeing where his character goes in future films. Nagini (Claudia Kim) has been a controversial character (yet another revision by Rowling) but I liked her relationship with Credence and also that her character was perhaps on an unexpected side – again, I look forward to seeing where her arc goes in the future. Nicholas Flamel was a welcome and humorous addition and this provided my favourite cameo – Jessica Williams in one of Flamel’s books. Jacob and Queenie’s characters and relationship certainly go in an unexpected direction in this film, not everyone is going to be a fan of this, but I thought it was interesting and means both characters will have plenty to do in the subsequent films. They are both fully invested and involved in this war and will not just be the light-hearted or comedic sideshow act they were in the first film.

Now we come to the plot and writing, which as with the first film, are going to be the most flawed aspects. I sincerely wish that, as she did with The Cursed Child, Rowling would give the writing reigns over to someone else on this franchise. I have heard the complaint that this film has “no plot”, but the problem is actually the opposite – it has far too much going on, as did the first film. By far the most glaringly negative aspect of The Crimes of Grindelwald for me was that in the second half of the film, the editing goes absolutely haywire as it tries to keep up with the plot. In a world in which characters can already apparate to new places in a split second, the editing makes characters just suddenly appear in new locations with no coherence. However, although plot-holes abound (once you start examining events too closely), there is a lot to enjoy here. The events return to Hogwarts and if you don’t get emotional hearing that music during the establishing shots, you must have a heart of stone. Seeing Dumbledore in Lupin’s role of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, schooling students on patronuses using boggarts is wonderful. The actors who play young Newt and Leta are exceptional – Joshua Shea (young Newt) has obviously studied Redmayne’s mannerisms in detail, because his portrayal is completely convincing. There are several spectacular set-pieces; the afore-mentioned circus scene and a scene at the French ministry involving moving towers of records and black cat protectors were particular highlights. Newt’s basement takes over from his suitcase as a land of magic and wonders – the new beasts in this film are glorious – including a kelpie, a Chinese dragon and an expanded roster of Nifflers. This film did lean into Newt being in love with Tina a lot more than I was expecting, which was not really needed. I found the Newt, Theseus and Leta love-triangle more compelling, although it did echo the Snape, Lily and James one a bit uncomfortably.

As for Dumbledore and Grindelwald – this film did address their (ahem) ‘relationship’ more than I thought it would. There are many strong hints that they were in love – Dumbledore sees his young self with Grindelwald in The Mirror Of Erised, they share a blood bond, they were “closer than brothers” – however, all of this will prove meaningless and empty if it isn’t directly and explicitly addressed in future films. I and many others are getting increasingly angry and frustrated at all of these teases (as I said, they were there in The Cursed Child as well), in this day and age you should be able to show a homosexual relationship in any kind of film – even YA, fantasy, family and/or blockbuster films. These films do not shy away from showing heterosexual crushes amongst teens and using heterosexual love as major motivating factors for characters’ decisions. It is absolutely in keeping with the Potterverse that Dumbledore and Grindelwald loving one another would provide complications in their rivalry and it is good and interesting, but these half-hearted hints are not enough and not acceptable. Do better JK and Warner Brothers.

So, an extremely mixed bag, but for me, the good outweighed the bad. Two hours spent in the Potter universe is always going to be preferable to just about anything else I could be doing. The visuals are overwhelmingly stunning, so many of my personal boxes are ticked by setting Potter in the 1920s, it is always going to be a good time for me. I completely understand some people’s frustrations with these Fantastic Beasts films and I entirely appreciate why many people are done with Rowling. I understand people being against these films because of Depp or because of how sexuality is potentially being mishandled, however, for me, the plot and the characters, for the large part, are successful. I am invested enough in these characters (new and old) to want to see where it’s going. I desperately hope that certain decisions are made (recasting Depp, allowing Dumbledore and Grindelwald to be fully gay) to make me feel not so uncomfortable about defending these films. Rowling has certainly made many decisions that are indefensible and she deserves to be called out on them unreservedly. But I cannot help but be succumbed by the positive aspects eg. making Newt and Credence complex metaphors for much of what is going on in the world right now, which shows what Rowling can get right. And Law’s Dumbledore was SO good, I want to see him again. I just hope that this franchise goes in a positive direction.

FIONA’S RATING:

3-5

BFI COMEDY GENIUS: Sightseers (2012)

Directed by: Ben Wheatley

Starring: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Eileen Davies, Kenneth Hadley

Written by Tom Sheffield

“I’m not coming home. Yorkshire is lovely. Not like you said at all. They can smile and they do sell my pasta sauce.”

The second strand of Showroom Cinema’s BFI Comedy Genius season is Contemporary British Comedy – an exploration of quintessentially British wit, expect a bitter twist and a sprinkling of social realism delivered by the British stars of today (and tomorrow). Kicking off this strand was Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, a film that took me by complete surprise when I first watched a couple of years ago, and one I was very interested in watching with an audience just to hear their reactions to the bat-shit craziness that ensues. So on Saturday afternoon, I was joined by fellow Yorkshire folk in the comfort of Screen 4 at Showroom, pint in hand (of course) for 85 minutes of ‘WHAT THE FUCK!?’

Tina (Lowe) and Chris (Oram) have been dating for 3 months and decide to do a little tour of Yorkshire with Chris’ caravan in tow. Chris is an aspiring writer and is hoping some time in the British countryside with his girlfriend will help him with ideas. The couple’s relationship appears like any other, and in truth, they come off like a match made in heaven, with similar personalities and they both appear to love every moment they’re together. Tina’s mother is much against her daughter going away with Chris, even going as far as telling Chris she doesn’t like him as he’s about to drive off with her daughter in the passenger seat.

During their first stop at the National Tramway Musuem, Chris’ blood begins to boil as he calls a man out for littering and he refuses to pick it up. The ordeal starts to completely ruin the day for Chris and as he and Tina are about to leave the museum he accidentally reverses his caravan over the man, leaving him with a huge gash spurting gash in his neck. His wife and son look on in horror and Chris tries to cover Tina’s eyes from the horror – but neither of them can take their eyes odd the dying man. After they leave the police station the pair continue their holiday. The event at that museum sparks a bloody and relentless killing spree, but whilst Chris tries to justify his murders – one being “he’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader”  – but Tina’s erratic and unpredictable nature begins to make Chris question their relationship.

Lowe and Oram are fantastic as the loved-up serial killers and what makes this dark comedy so good is that you actually buy them as real people. Tina and Chris look and act (in public) like an average couple you might see wandering around the beautiful sights of Yorkshire. This film needed strong leads to make its audience believe this relationship was real because everything they do they think they’re doing for each other – and luckily it has them. The film also features some familiar British talent, including Eileen Davies, Tony Way, and Richard Lumsden.

Murder sprees aside, Wheatley beautifully captures the British countryside and some of the characters you’ll find wandering through it. We get a look round some of the museums, my favourite being the Pencil Museum which includes a scene of Tina trying to write a heartfelt letter with a pencil as big as her. There’s also some genuinely hilarious exchanges of dialogue between some of the characters, but they’re best heard in context,

Watching this film with an audience was just as interesting as I hoping it would be. Sometimes you don’t know whether you’re supposed to laugh or be shocked at some of the couple’s antics, but it’s reassuring when everyone else is belly laughing at scenes that made you question how dark your sense of humour is. The audible gasps and wincing from some of the audience also made managed to add bring a few more laughs to the screening.

A special mention must also go out to the make-up and visual effects department for some absolutely brilliant and grotesque work on Tina and Chris’ victims. There’s one in particular where someone’s face, uhm, meets a rock and the camera shyly hovers over the shoulders of the couple to give us a quick look at the aftermath. If blood makes you a little queasy, be sure to have a sick bag to hand if you plan to watch this (which you totally should).

The film’s runtime clocks out at around the right time, the killing does become a little much and you can’t help but find yourself questioning how this film will bow out. Thankfully, and without spoiling it, the film comes does close in a fitting manner and perhaps not how you imagined it would.

Those with a dark sense of humour ought to crack out the Yorkshire tea, put your feet up, and stick Sightseers on one night you need a good laugh.

For more information, and details of the various workshops and Q+A sessions ongoing throughout the comedy season, click here.

REVIEW: Shadow of a Gun (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Micah Van Hove
Starring: Dominic Pino, Jacob King, Brett Baxter

Written by Jessica Peña

Micah Van Hove’s latest film Shadow of a Gun is a harrowing and meticulous slice of work that closes in on America’s gun culture, but more significantly on its psychological effects. Tom is a firearm hobbyist, responsible and collected. He works part-time at a music store where he’s exceptionally good at. He has a girlfriend (Brett Baxter) and his life seems to be pretty fulfillingly average until his neighbor Jason (Jacob King) stops by after a run. He sees Tom working on a gun and speculates the object’s construction. What at first looks like a BB gun to Jason becomes a growing infatuation with firearms and the power that comes with it. He’s soon very game to building an AR-10 rifle with the help of Tom, forming a peculiar friendship.

In the United States’ current climate, firearms are always on the table of discussion. The spectrum of gun ownership seems to be one extreme to another; those that are sensible enthusiasts who admire the mechanisms of guns and those that use its power as an overt weaponry against society. What the film explores in that respect is the growth of toxic masculinity that may come to wield it, and what that means in contrast to responsible, civil collectors. Have this narrative rested in the midst of a growing friendship between two males and you get the explicitly relevant Shadow of a Gun. Tucked beneath Jason’s privileged, upper-class surface is a manic, discovered person who wants to rattle the world with no regard to consequences. Doing drugs and going to parties in gas masks is only the beginning of his downward spiral. Against Tom’s level-headed character, Jason ventures into grim fascinations of terrorism, hidden from his friend and only manifested in solitude by way of his home vlogs.

Van Hove’s film is a patient wait toward the inevitable. In its climax it still manages to tell more about our antagonist’s pursuits. It’s not always predictable and Van Hove’s script, developed by Jeffrey Reeser, alongside Pino and King, is an electrifying meditation on these social effects. It’s hard to tell how the crystallization of Jason, played exceptionally well by Jacob King, has fully affected the lives of those around him, but the clearcut urgency of his actions are what bring the story full circle and cement its relevance. At a moment’s notice, cause and effect play their hands and take control. This goes for both Jason and Tom, seeing as their sudden camaraderie changes their lives. Tom’s work tardiness begins, his health is at risk, he continues to smoke excessively (among dabbling in drugs with Jason), and his relationship with Alexa suffers a bit. As separate as their lives may be in class scope, this partnership has become the catalyst of decline.

Shadow of a Gun is a distressing call to empathy. One that is nested in self-chaos and unravelment. In our interview with director Micah Van Hove, he expresses one part of the film’s conception as dealing with “young men with problems of identity, not fully understanding where they fit in the world…” It’s within King’s character where we begin to ask ourselves about the polarizing subject matter and how empathy plays its role here, even when it’s juggling Tom’s hobby and how it’s been normalized to masquerade it as evil. Wherever you stand on such issues, Van Hove’s film is enthralling and burning to the mind, one that you’ll want to dissect with others.

JESSICA’S VERDICT:

4

CAMFF 2018: Lemonade (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Ioana Uricaru
Starring: Mãlina Manovici, Dylan Smith, Milan Hurduc

Written by Elena Morgan

Mara (Mãlina Manovici) is a young Romanian woman working in America when she meets and marries Daniel (Dylan Smith). After she brings her nine-year-old son Dragos (Milan Hurduc) to America, things are looking good for her new family until she encounters problems when applying for a Green Card.

Lemonade opens with Mara and Daniel being interviewed by the US immigration authorities, including immigration officer Moji (Steve Bacic), who seems kind to begin with, but he has a cruel misogynistic streak and he’s happy to exploit those desperate enough. It’s through the conversations between these characters that you slowly start to piece together their story, how Mara and Daniel met and if their marriage was just a way for Mara to stay in America. Lemonade paints the immigration process as something that’s incredibly difficult and often dehumanising to those who go through it. With the problems Mara encounters it’s clear that this hardship is worth it to her and that living in America would give her and her son more prospects than in her homeland.

It’s unfortunate that Mara’s naivety almost stretches the credibility of her story. The decisions she makes are in part fuelled by her desperation to stay in America, and in part due to her being an honest person who’s still learning the way America’s rules and regulations work. She believes in America to be different but she soon finds that the men in power can be just as corrupt and dangerous as in any other country.

Manovici gives a fine performance but it’s a shame that Mara is such an inconsistent character. She’s mostly naïve but there’s the odd moment when she gets some steely determination as she tries to overcome the many obstacles that are put in her path. Those moments are short-lived and she’s soon back to being ignorant of the world at large.

Lemonade is a topical yet bleak film about immigration but with some characters actions and reactions being so inconsistent and full of naiveté, it makes the whole venture feel less believable and even more depressing.

ELENA’S VERDICT:

2