Mile 22

Year: 2018
Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg,, John Malkovich, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey

Written by Elena Morgan

When police officer Li Noor (Iko Uwais) hands himself into the US Embassy with the promise to give the Americans information on missing nuclear substances in exchange for getting him out of the country, it’s up to intelligence officer James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and a secret tactical command unit to do just that.

‘Mile 22’ is an action thriller where the action is overly edited and there aren’t many thrills. Honestly, my eyes and my head hurt by the end of this film. There are so many cuts in a scene, even the mundane ones of two people talking at a table, that it puts that scene in ‘Taken 3′ where there are about 14 cuts in the 6 seconds it takes Liam Neeson to climb a fence to shame.

When you’ve got a fantastic martial artist like Iko Uwais starring in your film, why on earth would you film and edit every single one of his fight scenes so incomprehensible that you never really get to see what he does best?! The editing is so quick, the cuts are at weird places, and the camera is constantly shaking. In one scene it’s so difficult to follow what is going on I somehow managed to confuse Uwais for Wahlberg. The problem with a lot of the action sequences is that there are so much shaky cam and far too many cuts, that it was difficult to make out where characters were in relation to one another, even when they were in one room.

Mark Wahlberg’s James Silva is one of the rudest, abrasive and unlikable characters I’ve seen in a long time. He monologues in people’s faces, is disrespectful towards his colleagues (some of whom are supposed to be his friends as well) and to make sure you know how smart he is from the outset, in one of his first scenes he completes the “World’s Most Difficult Puzzle” – though besides from doing that you never really see him being smart, he just shoots a lot of people and talks very quickly.

‘Mile 22’ revels in its violence. Characters are mowed down by gunfire left and right, both good guys and bad guys, but none of them are fleshed out or remotely interesting so you feel nothing when they die a gruesome death. ‘Mile 22′ is full of American patriotism, but not the good kind. This is the hateful, toxic kind where Americans play God with no real thought paid to those everyday people who are living in an apartment block where they are having a shootout in the hallway. And then there’s the member of the tactical unit who controls a drone and is so eager to destroy property and kill people that when he finally gets the chance he pushes that button with glee. The fact this is played for laughs makes it even more distasteful.

‘Mile 22’ is an incomprehensible overly-edited mess. It’s a hateful film full of hateful characters who bark out not-so witty one-liners one minute and technical jargon the next – none of these characters seem like real people. Even with this super-secret all-knowing task force being a part of its plot, the script offers nothing new to the genre and its attempt at flashiness fails to hide how dull and predictable the story really is.

ELENA’S RATING:

1

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The Little Stranger

Year: 2018
Directed by:  Lenny Abrahamson 
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter

Written by Fiona Underhill

The Gothic genre has had something of a revival in recent years, particularly focusing on the theme of gas-lighting, which feels especially relevant now in the era of “Time’s Up” and “Me Too.” We have had ‘Stoker’ (2013), ‘Crimson Peak’ (2015), ‘Lady Macbeth’ (2016), ‘My Cousin Rachel’ (2017), ‘The Beguiled’ (2017) and ‘Phantom Thread’ (2017) all featuring this theme and dealing with the reliability of protagonists and narrators. They have all been influenced (directly or indirectly) by Gothic literature (and in some cases Southern Gothic), Daphne Du Maurier, Dickens, and Alfred Hitchcock and are all right up my street. Now comes an adaptation of ‘The Little Stranger’ from author Sarah Waters, set in a haunted mansion in my home county of Warwickshire.

Director Lenny Abrahamson is best known for directing ‘Room’, the film which won Brie Larson the Best Actress Oscar. He has an eclectic CV, which also includes ‘Frank’, the tale of Frank Sidebottom, starring Michael Fassbender. The narrator of this tale is Doctor Faraday, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who is having an incredibly prolific few years, juggling his ‘Star Wars’ commitments with the likes of ‘American Made’ and ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He is a fantastic actor and I’m glad he’s finding so much work. Caroline Ayres is played by Ruth Wilson, who is mainly known for her role in the TV show ‘The Affair’ and it is somewhat surprising to see her cast as a ‘dowdy old maid’ character here, who is repeatedly referred to as being challenged in the looks department. One of my favourite actors, Will Poulter is typically excellent here as Roderick Ayres, a young man who was badly wounded in the war and is now struggling to manage the family estate. Poulter was recently seen in ‘Kids in Love’ and ‘Detroit’ but I will always associate him fondly with ‘Son of Rambow’ and ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, where he showed enormous potential as a child actor. The Ayres family is rounded out with Mrs Ayres, played by living legend Charlotte Rampling, whose career is showing no signs of slowing down, in fact she has starred in ‘45 Years’, ‘Broadchurch’, ‘London Spy’ and ‘The Sense of an Ending’ (to name just a few high profile roles) within the last three years.

Doctor Faraday comes from humble beginnings and has always had a fascination with Hundreds Hall – the local manor and estate. As a child, he attends a fete there and he finds himself jealous of Suki Ayres, the little girl who lives there. Faraday’s mother had been a maid at the hall, which gives him access to through the hallowed doors for a brief time. It turns out that shortly after this happy occasion, Suki dies from an illness. Mrs. Ayres then goes on to have two more children – Caroline and Roderick. As an adult, Faraday is initially called to Hundreds Hall to attend to Betty (the maid), who has been spooked by something. He then decides to stay on, to try out some experimental treatments on Roderick’s legs. He becomes closer to Caroline, but both Roderick and Mrs. Ayres become troubled by strange occurrences in the hall.

The film plays with the reliability of the narrator well, leaving you questioning if any of the characters are trust-worthy by the end. Gleeson’s performance anchors the film masterfully, keeping Faraday’s true motivations hidden beneath layers of decorum and pride. The costume and production design really contribute to the atmosphere, particularly in depicting the crumbling pile, having fallen on hard times. Don’t go in expecting a horror film – it doesn’t even particularly have jump-scares, just a build up of a feeling of uncertainty and dread. As I said at the start, I really appreciate this recent trend in films  – where you question the story unfolding before your eyes because of the point-of-view that you’re seeing it from. Three more recent films; ‘I, Tonya’, ‘American Animals’ and ‘Wild Nights with Emily’ have also played with this format and I think it is incredibly fitting for the times of “fake news” we are living through now. It makes you work as an audience member and teaches you not to just accept the framing of the narrative you are being presented with. You realise that if another character within the story told it from their perspective, you might get a totally different version. Challenging the audience to think and to be a more active participant in the viewing experience is only a good thing, in my books. I look forward to more films that do the same.

FIONA’S RATING:

3.5

 

 

Blaze

Year: 2018
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Charles Adam, Alia Shawkat, Edgar Arreola

Written by Jessica Peña

‘Blaze’ plays out like a hardy poem come to life, as much a devastating musical as a beautiful portrait of love and tragedy. But it’s a love story of so many little corners of life, mostly the ones that defined, inspired, and befuddled underground country musician Blaze Foley. Newcomer Ben Dickey portrays the late Arkansan singer and doesn’t let his lack of acting background fool you because he is a revelation here. A singer/songwriter himself, Dickey captures the inviting and sometimes unlikable spirit of Foley, strumming the chords of a loose narrative that just wrench us in the right way. If you’re keen to the music of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ or ‘Crazy Heart’, you’ll find a comfort in the music of unsung legend Blaze Foley.

From its inception, the journey of adapting Foley’s life story is encapsulated within the structure of three different timelines in the film: Foley’s recorded performance at the Austin Outhouse (on the night he died), his long-running love with Sybil Rosen, and the guiding of an interview with Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton) looking back on Foley’s life. With such effortless direction, Ethan Hawke lets the story glide over with an immense devotion to making art and not just a standard, play-by-play biopic. As those close to the singer have said, Blaze would’ve just wanted to see art. There’s something marvelous happening as the film treks on, following Blaze and then wife, Sybil Rosen, across states and rolling out the fires and joys of living in a treehouse, life on the road, and life on the rocks. His hitchhiking way of touring brought on more troubles with the bottle than a humbling career comfort.

“I don’t want to be a star. I wants to be a legend,” Foley tells Sybil in the back of a pickup truck before the throes of a lifelong meditation of wayward aches. ‘Blaze’, as much as it teases the tropes of a sad, hardened man, plays with a formula of reliving the best memories to recover the best in us. The film is a precious, rustic adaptation of Sybil’s own book, “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley,” where she recollects the bittersweet moments that once were.  

Ethan Hawke’s self-proclaimed “country western opera” finds itself comfortable in lush, natural stability. The warm color palette and cinematography by Steve Cosens is one of many defining charms. Dickey and Shawkat are miraculous with chemistry, making it known that Sybil’s character is as much a highlight as Blaze is. If ever Foley had doubts about anything, it was Sybil who reignited his ability to believe again and again that people should be listening to pure talent. She’s supremely free-spirited and has a connection with Blaze that becomes just as much of a key component to the film as the musician’s many profound songs (all part of an amazing soundtrack). Even if Sybil ever questioned the beating energy of confidence, Blaze would amuse her and say it’s the feeling of being alive in the moment. And just like that, their adventures through woodsy whimsy and priceless moments entangled into a lifelong muse. It’s their love story written out like a memory and then pieced together in a heartrending puzzle.

The story of this ‘Duct Tape Messiah’ as told through the lens is almost too relished in its lingering pace midway through. If not that, audiences may not find it all that important if the style isn’t their cup of tea. It’s basked in its own backwoods style, revolting against high standards as much as Blaze Foley himself saw the outside world. The peculiar directorial choices Hawke takes are unmistakingly a comment to a bigger picture, a wider understanding. Seeing Blaze take the stage for the last time becomes something less about himself and more about the veering existence of everyday joes at the dive bar that same night. A subtle, interchanging transition, but still on par with its narrative.  

‘Blaze’ is a deserving remembrance of a man we may not have known, but spirited by a swan song legacy, we come out on the other side so touched. Ethan Hawke is surely putting out his best directorial work to date, resting on a handful of past projects but nonetheless showing an artistic precision. Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat are mesmerizing as they live within their characters, breathing life to the best scenes of the film. ‘Blaze’ is noticeably a personal piece of work, handled with care, and the way Hawke rests this project on us is a sight to behold.

JESSICA’S RATING:

4

The Nun

Year: 2018
Directed by: Corin Hardy
Cast: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons

Written by Tom Sheffield

Prior to The Nun’s release this week, The Conjuring Universe has made over $1.2 billion globally with it’s four current entries, two of which are spin-offs. Before The Conjuring released there were no plans on the table to build this universe, but due to the popularity of the first film and how much fans wanted to see more of the creepy Annabelle doll, the first spin-off was rushed into production and Annabelle was released a year later. We were introduced to Valak the demon nun in The Conjuring 2 (a character that was added in during reshoots)  and of course New Line Cinema got dollar signs in their eyes and saw potential for another spin-off (which was then teased at the end of Annabelle: Creation). We recently posted up a timeline breakdown and ranking of this horror universe if you wish to delve more in to it.

After a nun is found hanging outside an abbey, Father Burke (Bichir) and Sister Irene (Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to Romania to investigate further. Unbeknown to them, both were specifically chosen for this investigation due to their previous experiences with spirits . When they arrive in Romania they seek out the man who found the nun’s body, Frenchie (Bloquet), who then agrees takes them to the secluded abbey. It doesn’t take long for before the malevolent force plaguing the abbey makes itself known to Father Burke and Sister Irene and they must find a way to rid the abbey of this evil.

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably had unreasonably high expectations for this film after Valak made such an impression on me in The Conjuring 2. Her presence in that film sent shivers down my spine, most notably the scene in which her shadow walks behind Ed’s painting of her.  Valak’s presence in The Nun somehow didn’t strike the same level of fear/terror in me like her brief appearance in The Conjuring’s sequel did. I can’t quite put my finger on why just yet – but a second viewing sometime in the future may be able to help shed some light on it.

Abel Korzeniowski’s score, along with Hardy’s direction, builds some incredible tension during the first act, however, the jump scares (and their build up) start to feel repetitive pretty quickly, and Hardy’s dizzying direction making the plot far too predictable with the same framing when something is about kick off. The few surprises that The Nun does deliver on are effective and pulled off really well, and when/if you see this film it’ll probably be obvious of one scene in particular I am referring to.

One of the few redeeming qualities of the film is its cinematography, courtesy of Maxime Alexandra, who has previously work on Annabelle: Creation, The Hills Have Eyes, and the upcoming Shazam! film. The dark and grim exterior shots of the abbey and surrounding areas really set the tone for the film, and despite the abbey’s large looking appearance, the interior shots feel incredibly claustrophobic and Alexandra has perfectly used the film’s setting – from the dark, candlelit hallways to the fog ladened graveyard – to convey a consistently dark tone throughout the film.

The Nun may not bring anything groundbreaking to the horror genre or The Conjuring Universe, but it’s definitely worth a watch for fans of either. Demián Bichir & Taissa Farmiga’s strong performances carry the film during its slower scenes, and ramp up the tension when things start to going south for their characters. Whilst the film is pretty predictable for the most part, there are some genuine jumps and surprises scattered throughout the film that got quite the reaction from the audience I was in – which heightened my overall experience of the film because even though I could see what was coming, lots of the audience didn’t and hearing them react was a sufficient replacement for my own lack of a reaction.

With all that said, I think The Nun might have benefited from not being an origin and should have perhaps focused on Valak’s antics just before she begins to haunt the Warrens. There’s clearly plenty of her story to be told – but I wont delve in to why for those who haven’t seen the film. I applaud Wan and Dauberman for how they managed to weave The Nun into The Conjuring Universe, with the film’s opening and closing scenes being pulled straight from earlier entries – and despite this film not being something to shout about, I’m still incredibly excited for future of this horror universe, with Annabelle 3 and The Crooked Man confirmed so far. Personally, I would love a third The Conjuring more than these spin-offs – any excuse for me to see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga on-screen together again as the Warrens.

Tom’s Verdict:

3

FRIGHTFEST: The Dark

Year: 2018
Directed byJustin P. Lange, Klemens Hufnagl
StarringNadia Alexander, Toby Nicholas

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

The last film I saw at this year’s ‘Frightfest’ was an Austrian/British film called The Dark. The film is mainly set in one location and follows Mina, an undead girl who lives in the woods and feeds off human flesh. After meeting a blind abused boy called Alex that she decides to care for, she starts regaining human emotions, causing her to question herself.

I want to bring this up now before I continue the review: the plot details I was given before the film were a little misleading. I think, if I had gone in blind, I probably would have different opinions on it. Therefore, my review has been affected by this factor. The details I was given was that Mina is a ghoul that is cursed to haunt her childhood home. However, as you’ll see in the film, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Overall, I thought ‘The Dark’ was ok. The two main actors carried the film very well and they had good on-screen chemistry for the most part (although their acting was a little unbelievable in a couple of scenes). From the details I was given, I expected the film to be a fast-paced monster-esque movie. However, this film is a very slow paced, art-house style film. This works for the majority of the time, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would’ve worked better as a fast-paced adventure. There were also a lot of shots that overstayed their welcome on the big screen, and this got tiring very quickly.

The Dark was an interesting idea that unfortunately didn’t completely work in its execution. The cinematography was beautiful but the shots stayed on-screen for far too long most of the time. This would be great to watch on the big screen, just for the cinematography, but that’s about it.

MEGAN’s RATING:

3

FRIGHTFEST: F.U.B.A.R

Year: 2018
Directed by: Ben Kent
Starring: Mark Heap, Sean Verey, Danny Kirrane, David Mumeni, Timothy
Renouf, Ewen MacIntosh

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

Picture this: A weekend spent at a zombie-themed survival adventure with your best friends (and your Father-in-law) for your Stag do. Sounds great right? Nothing is going to go wrong at all…well, in Ben Kent’s new horror-comedy F.U.B.A.R (a military acronym for ‘F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition/Repair’), everything goes wrong!

This British film was fantastic and very funny; it has the humour and tone of Shaun of the Dead, which blends perfectly with the film’s premise. The cast were all great and they had fantastic on-screen chemistry. They also all had their own personalities and story arcs, making the film consistently entertaining and interesting, as we watched each character react and deal with the quickly unravelling situation differently. Mark Heap, who plays the straight-faced Father-in-Law and supposed ex-Navy veteran Gerald, was a standout, as well as Sean Verey, who plays the slightly awkward Groom-to-be Sam.

This scenario did unravel in a fairly fast-paced and humorous fashion, which worked to the film’s advantage, as it matched the crazy and on-going problems that the main characters faced.

The final act was where it started to falter a little, as the scenario became a little unbelievable, and the running time could’ve been cut by about 10-20 minutes. However, this film overall was a fun and hilarious ride into complete mayhem that echoes an Edgar Wright film. Make sure to check this one out when it is released.

MEGAN’S RATING:

4.5

American Animals

Year: 2018
Directed by: Bart Layton
Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd

Written by Rhys Bowen-Jones

Following in the footsteps of Sarah Buddery’s Blackkklansman review, I’m finding American Animals a really difficult film to review. I’ve been trying to find an angle from which to approach the film since I saw it. It’s a film that has been firmly trenched in my mind for days now, despite the fact that on initial reflection, I wasn’t a big fan of it. Or at least, I don’t think I was. The film has morphed in my mind thanks to the numerous discussions I’ve had and articles I’ve read into something that I didn’t think it was, but even now I’m still completely unsure of myself. So, with that in mind, let’s do a deep dive into Bart Layton’s American Animals.

American Animals is a true story about two friends, Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) and Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), who are seemingly bored with the day to day life of university. Spencer notes how he always feels like he’s waiting for something to happen. Warren considers himself something of an Artful Dodger, and the two conspire to do something extraordinary…just because. That something extraordinary? To steal an extremely valuable collection of books from the University library and sell them for profit.

There are a lot of positives to be said about American Animals, particularly the performances. Evan Peters has been on the map for years after his regular starring roles in American Horror Story, but has never made the leap to a true leading man. Here, he’s very much playing the Evan Peters-type, the cocksure, street smart, witty college student, but he seems to understand the vulnerability behind Warren. His natural charm gets him out of several holes, but once he’s in a place of uncertainty, his frailty comes out, and he loses his cool easily. Peters plays the role excellently.

Barry Keoghan’s Spencer is different. Spencer is an Art History major and an excellent artist, as shown by his hand-drawn library blueprints. He comes across as a university student who is only there to satisfy his parents. He doesn’t seem challenged by university, and feels he’s destined for something more than he’s doing. Keoghan, one of Hollywood’s current golden boys following stellar performances in The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk, is perfect for the role. His unassuming nature and blasé attitude to everything he does, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary, is something Keoghan does well. Spencer has an intelligence about him that goes far beyond his peers, but he downplays it for others’ benefit.

Other elements of American Animals leave an impression too. The cinematography is particularly impressive in the first two-thirds of the film (this sadly diminishes as the film progresses, which I’ll get to later), cross cutting our protagonists with various “American animals,” shown as startled owls, deer in headlights, vicious bald eagles. The first few opening shots of an upside down horizon and an upside down American flag blowing in the wind are particularly impressive, but like I said, this style doesn’t last.

Music also plays a great part in the proceedings, ramping up tension when necessary and infusing scenes with 50s, 60s, and 70s rock classics, per Warren’s taste, to complement the imagery. Composer Anne Nikitin felt in control, knowing when to bring music to the fore front and when to have it drift in the background.

Here is where this review reaches a fork in the road. I saw American Animals on an evening where it was a secret film, I had an idea what the film would be, but I didn’t know for certain. I’d seen one trailer beforehand, so I went in fairly blind. I’m about to reveal a major element of the film because I feel it needs to be discussed relating to the efficacy of the film, but if you wouldn’t like to know what it is, please close this tab and carry on with your day. If you’re curious, read along.

Are we safe? Has everyone gone? Okay.

American Animals is a documentary. Or, it’s half of one. Bart Layton frequently cuts into the dramatic narrative to show interview footage with the real Warren Lipka, and the real Spencer Reinhard. This completely took me by surprise. At first, I was fascinated by the execution of it; Layton has effectively created a documentary of his own film and shown them both simultaneously. The documentary aspect brings a new dimension to the film and really drives home the unreliable narrator angle.

The story has two narrators, and both of them remember the story differently. There are some very creative sequences where we see the same event from two different perspectives. The real Warren remembers telling The real Spencer about his heist plan at a party, but Keoghan’s Spencer, mid-party, tells Peters’ Warren to “pull in here” because The real Spencer remembers being told of the heist while they were driving. Scenes change on screen as the real person narrates it differently and it adds to the experience, questioning who we can trust, and asking us what to think of The real Warren and Spencer.

Being half a documentary is both a help and a hindrance to American Animals. The help comes with scenes as described above, and offering insights into the actual people behind the heist, but the hindrances, for me at least, outweighed the positives. So much of the tension within the heist was diminished knowing certain details about the outcome just from visuals alone. The beginning of the film, upon reflection, is further interview footage showing a reaction to the crime that promised to be shocking and something that they couldn’t believe happened. And yet, the heist we got doesn’t have the necessary shock factor to stick the landing.

The tonal whiplash from being a smart, Edgar Wright-ish heist film to a stereotypical documentary results in an ultimately frustrating experience. The film promises so much in its opening half an hour and doesn’t manage to deliver on such promises. I mentioned earlier about the cinematography losing its way as the film progresses, there is an angle from which I understand the decision to make the film less flashy as the fantasy becomes reality, but it doesn’t come across as well as it thinks it does.

I hope you see why I found this so difficult to write about it. It’s a film that, despite my frustrations, deserves to be talked about from many different perspectives – the morality of the students, the filmmaking, the way the students are perceived. ‘American Animals’ feels like a film that honestly could have been something spectacular, but it doesn’t manage to reach such dizzy heights.

Rhys’ Rating:

3

Like Father

Year: 2018
Directed by: Lauren Miller
Starring: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

Actor-turned-director Lauren Miller, notably known for her comedic roles in Superbad and Sausage Party, makes her feature-length debut with the Netflix backed drama Like Father, a take on the ‘estranged father’ sub-genre that shouldn’t be confused with Father of the Year; another Netflix original film that is, shall we say, an insult to cinema.

Like Father tells the story of Rachel (Kristen Bell), who is introduced in the opening scene taking a business call in her wedding dress. It’s her wedding day, her future husband stands at the altar awaiting his bride; looking worried as she’s later than expected. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her estranged father sits in the crowd on her big day, learning about his daughter for the first time as her boss officiates her wedding – telling stories about Rachel’s character. But when Rachel’s phone slips out of her dress and falls to the ground, her husband leaves her stranded at the altar; frustrated at his fiancé’s life-intruding work ethic. As she spots her long-lost father in the crowd, Rachel’s day can’t seem to get much worse…

At the film’s most warming and tender scene, Rachel and Harry spend a night drinking Manhattan’s and discussing theoretical principles on how to eat pizza on a park bench in the hope of rejuvenating their fractured relationship. Sadly for Rachel, drunken decisions lead to the pair waking up sore-headed on a cruise across the Caribbean; both stranded at sea and forced to rekindle the extinguished flame that is their relationship.

The strongest aspect of Miller’s debut is her encouraging depiction of Rachel, a strong-willed woman in an esteemed position at an advertising firm in New York; a positive role model for all female viewers. Yet that also leads to the main problem of the movie, in the way that Miller obliviously contradicts her achievement in bringing a headstrong, independent woman to the fore by promoting her relentless work-ethic as a discouraging trait; a trait that leads her to being the butt of a bad joke between her fellow cruise attendees. There’s an argument that Rachel’s constant phone-checking is a metaphor (albeit on-the-nose) for our obsession with digital media consumption, but when this message is being banged over our heads for the entire duration of the movie, it undermines the sincerity of bringing a successful female protagonist to the centre of the narrative.

Even if you disassociate the politics from the story, the film also fails on a tonal level. Miller has a hard time juggling between the heavy melodrama of childhood trauma and the comedic levity, the latter relying on cliched humour such as fat people falling and awkward first encounters for laughs. The comedy isn’t that funny, and the more dramatic moments fail to penetrate beneath the surface; as if the movie wants to be more of a Caribbean cruise commercial rather than an emotionally provocative comedic drama about estranged parenthood.

Ultimately, Like Father adds to Netlfix’s collection of unspectacular and forgettable flicks. There’s nothing new to be seen here, but I have faith that debutant Miller has much more to show in her career.

COREY’S RATING:

2-5

BlacKkKlansman

Year: 2018
Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Alec Baldwin, Ken Garito

WRITTEN BY SARAH BUDDERY

Just putting this out there upfront, BlacKkKlansman is one of the hardest films I’ve ever had to review. There is so much that it has to say, so much weight to it, and so much potency and relevance for our times that it seems an injustice to the film to try and condense it into a review. All I can hope for is that this review encourages you to seek it out, because BlacKkKlansman is without a doubt, one of the year’s very best films so far.

Focusing on an unbelievable and frankly downright ludicrous true story of an undercover black cop who manages to infiltrate the notorious Ku Klux Klan, this is a film which simultaneously manages to be faithful both in stylistic choices and cultural nods to its period setting, whilst also remaining terrifyingly current. There is a knowingness to this film, most keenly shown in a conversation between Stallworth (John David Washington) and Sergeant Trapp (Ken Garito), when they discuss the unlikelihood of a known racist ending up in the White House. You’ll find director Spike Lee’s tongue very firmly in his cheek here. However despite this knowingness, this film never feels like it is ramming an agenda down our throats; it is a film with something to say but it also manages to be entertaining and enjoyable.

BlacKkKlansman is wild, outrageous, dangerously funny and full of a sparkling wit which ensures it is never anything short of entertaining. Alongside this, it delivers frequent and ferocious punches to the gut which might make you feel slightly guilty for the outbursts of laughter that precede or follow this. There is intentionality in these tonal shifts though, and where it forces you to jump between humour and outrage, it is through and through a film which makes you feel uncomfortable enjoyment, and this makes for a truly unique and compelling experience.

Speaking of gut punches, the final moments of this film are some of the most powerful and the audience reaction it provoked is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Immediately following a shot that could have been taken straight out of a 70s blaxploitation film, we’re hurled into the present day and delivered the terrifying notion that not only have things not really changed, in many ways, they are so much worse.

Spike Lee works wonders with this outrageous story, dialling up the ridiculous when it is appropriate to do so, and scaling back when the emotional resonance needs to speak for itself. The cast are equally fantastic, John David Washington and Adam Driver both bring a wonderful duality to their characters, and their interactions are believable and enjoyable to watch. As revolutionary Patrice Dumas, Laura Harrier lights up the screen, and she is a character that is fully interesting in their own right.

BlacKkKlansman is a film which is timely, relevant, and potent, the comedy and darkness expertly layered. It is scathing yet charming, hilarious yet horrifying, and its slow burn tension is staged like a horror film, something which is appropriate given some of the subject matter. This is an important film, and one which deserves to be seen by many. Simply unmissable.

SARAH’S RATING:

4.5