Bridget Jones’s Baby

Year: 2016
Director: Sharon Maguire
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey
Written by Sarah Buddery

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since we first saw Renée Zellweger as the loveable, memoir-scribbling, singleton Bridget Jones, but she is indeed back. The original, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ was an undeniably likeable affair; charmingly funny, and quintessentially British, with the big name home-grown stars to back it up. The sequel, ‘The Edge of Reason’, took most people to the edge of despair; unashamedly trying to invoke the spirit of the original by simply recreating the jokes and scenes. It was a pretty lazy sequel by any stretch, so I can be forgiven for not being too excited about this third installment.

However, I’m happy to report that ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ is neither as terrible as the second movie, or as good as the first one, but it definitely has a purpose and a reason to exist, which for sequels these days, can generally make it “good enough”. Lessons are learnt from ‘The Edge of Reason’, and this effort very much allows itself to be its own film, rather than riding the coat tails of the original; the characters are older, and maybe a little wiser, and it is genuinely really nice to see them all again.

There’s a sense of nostalgia, which does a good job of masking the inadequacies of the plot, but I doubt fans will really mind this at all. The storyline is very one note though; the “thing” happens very early on, and from there it is really just an endless series of “who’s the daddy” questions and set-pieces. For me, it was also incredibly predictable, and if you know anything about these films you’ll probably have an idea how it will pan out right from the start. With a weighty runtime of just over two hours, it does all feel a little laboured (pun very much intended), and when it wasn’t making me laugh, I wasn’t very interested.

The cast are all great, and the returning cast members settle comfortably back into their roles, so much so that it’s hard to believe they’ve been gone for so long. The new cast members are pretty good as well, with the absolute stand-out being Emma Thompson. I could honestly watch Emma Thompson in anything, and she completely steals every scene she is a part of here. I thought Patrick Dempsey was adequate as possible new love interest, Jack, but he has a difficult job trying to compete with the characters everyone is so familiar with, and he didn’t quite nail it.

Rather fittingly, this film feels like settling down with your favourite blanket and sipping on a glass of wine after a long week at work; it is warm and comforting, but it does absolutely nothing new. It’s very safe, and this will absolutely be enough for some people, but it isn’t something which is going to leave a lasting impression. A better three-quel than it could, or perhaps should, have been, ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ should satisfy fans, and maybe, that is all it needed to do.

Sarah’s rating: 6.4 out of 10

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Irrational Man

Year: 2015
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone
Written by Rhys Wortham

Love stories often involve fluffy stuff and some kind of “they were meant to be” theme, which means the industry usually churns out cliché-ridden projects like ‘The Notebook’. Some stray from the usual theme and fall into obscurity like ‘I Love You, New York’ or ‘Ghost Town’. Both are off-beat love stories and have their own merits, and to me, they keep the genre alive, while some Tom Hanks movie pulls in the crowds. So, where does Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’ figure in to the love story equation? Simple: somewhere between the local gossip column in a magazine and a request to submit someone to a psych ward.

The story focuses on a man named Abe (Joaquin Phoenix), who is incredibly reckless, yet somehow lands himself a teaching job at a university. This leaves him open to taking advantage of lonely married women, and young, attractive co-eds. Now, unlike ‘Animal House’, this doesn’t turn out to be funny, and unlike ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, it doesn’t involve a lot of reckless behavior that turns out positive in the end. Instead, Abe makes a series of very bad decisions that go nowhere and he isn’t punished for them; some involving married and/or taken women. Meanwhile, everyone seems to be talking about fantastic things Abe has done, which would have made the film much more interesting if we actually saw them. Since no flashbacks occur, it leaves the question open as to whether Abe’s deeds were as pure as people say they were, or whether it’s all just a bunch of lies.

Eventually Abe overhears a woman in a cafe who is really in distress over some judge not siding with her on a divorce hearing. So, Abe gets some kind of hair-brained scheme to kill the bugger. He does, and then people slowly put the pieces together as a “joke.” I guess this is where the comedy aspect is supposed to come in. I don’t know, because I didn’t laugh at any point in the entire film. The movie, as far as I could tell, basically just slowly talks us through the merits, and pitfalls, of committing murder.

It’s a very one-sided argument, since it’s obvious Abe is impulsive, and didn’t get all the facts before committing murder. Also, being a loud asshole about the “possibilities” of killing someone one day after a major news station covered the judge’s murder is total red flag territory. This would have given him away to anyone with half a brain, unlike the characters in the movie who don’t seem to have one between them. After this, the movie, to me, falls flat and I could easily predict where it would end up.

For me, this film is really forgettable, for lots of reasons. Abe is hopelessly unrealistic and quite frankly, just odd at times. The way people describe him makes him sound like he’s the next Dalhi Lama, but in the film he’s more like a grumpy, drunk Moe Szyslack from ‘The Simpsons’, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Jill, played by Emma Stone, is too young and stupid to realise that she actually has no concept of love or loyalty. The rest of the characters we meet are pretty much nondescript or excessively bland. The story is slim, and just drones on and on about things that would have been more interesting to see than to be talked about. Some people might like this odd exploration into the questions surrounding murder, and how people can love a murderer. However, the whole discussion, which could have been interesting, just feels rushed. I won’t be watching this film again, and with good reason.

Rhys’ rating: 3.0 out of 10

War Dogs

Year: 2016
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller
Written by Tom Sheffield

If there was one thing I could guarantee I would see during my numerous visits to the cinema over the summer, it was the trailer for ‘War Dogs’ before the film I was about to watch started. I have sat through that trailer more times than I dare count, but it hadn’t deterred me from finally going to see the film upon its release. In fact, despite knowing the trailer like the back of my own hand, I still thought the film looked like something I would enjoy and was really looking forward to seeing Miles Teller and Jonah Hill on-screen together.

‘War Dogs’ follows the story of David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) who are are reunited years after Diveroli moved away to help his Uncle sell guns. Before their reunion, Packouz is a massage therapist struggling to make ends meet and looking to make some extra money on the side to support his pregnant girlfriend. Packouz pumps all his savings into making luxury Egyptian cotton sheets, in the hope that the retirement homes of Miami will make his venture a success. After failing to sell a single bed sheet, Diveroli comes to Packouz’s rescue shortly after their reunion and offers him a job at his new company, AEY, which is currently a one-man business, bidding on US Government contracts to supply the military with weapons. After filling various small orders, AEY begins to expand and look into bigger contracts to start making life-changing sums of money. Packouz and Diveroli successfully bid on a $300 million deal but soon find they may be over their heads as they face setback after setback, until they decide it’s time to get their hands dirty and do anything and everything to make sure the contract is fulfilled.

Teller and Hill’s characters are very different in both personality and their outlook on life; Teller’s Packouz has his feet firmly on the ground, wants to earn an honest living to support his family and make sure there’s ice cream in the freezer. My first impression of Hill’s character, Diveroli, is that he’s a little rascal that has his head in the clouds and talks a big game. It later becomes apparent that actually he’s more of a paranoid sociopath with a coke habit and a short fuse (which is arguably more fun). Hill brilliantly portrays his characters dark descent over the course of the film, so much so that you’ll find yourself thinking over the film to figure out at what point this change starts to come to fruition.

I think the film has a more serious tone to it than the trailers showed. The trailers seemed fairly intent on showcasing comedic snippets of the film, which are actually few and far between in the final product. With Todd Phillips (The Hangover) at the helm, there could have been a temptation to head down the comedic route, but I’m really glad they didn’t sell out and turn ‘War Dogs’ into just another Todd Phillips comedy, instead going for a darker tone and more of a drama to match the seriousness of the characters’ actions and repercussions of said actions in the film. ‘War Dogs’ at times felt like the “arms dealer” version of ‘The Big Short’, by which I mean there is a lot of jargon and very wordy dialogue that doesn’t make a lot of sense to the general audience, but we are quickly thrown back into the loop as Diveroli breaks it down and explains everything for Packouz when he starts at AEY. Indeed, this film also mirrors ‘The Big Short’ in the sense that a typically comedy-minded director (Adam McKay in that instance), has taken on something a little more serious, and succeeded.

On the odd occasion, the plot feels as if it’s been stretched out and I must admit it lost my full attention for a short period or two during some slower scenes, but the performances by the cast were enough to keep me focused on what was happening. The film itself is pretty fast paced and there’s always lots going on, which in turn made it more noticeable when things got a bit slower, but thankfully the slow parts were short and sweet. I really enjoyed the cinematography on display too, and I think some of the scenes were shot superbly to match the mood and tone of the film at different points. Likewise, the music choice plays a big part in setting the tone in both the lighter and happier scenes and the darker and more serious ones.

I would highly recommend giving ‘War Dogs’ a watch if you like darker dramas with a hint of comedy. I have a feeling this film won’t be to everyone’s liking, but watching Teller and Hill on-screen together was just as great as I’d hoped and I really hope we get to see them in something a little different together in the future. If you find yourself enjoying the film, I highly recommend reading the Rolling Stones article, named ‘Arms and the Dudes’, about the true story that the film is loosely based on.

Tom’s rating: 8.0 out of 10

Anthropoid

Year: 2016
Director: Sean Ellis
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan
Written by Fiona Underhill

There is a memorial in my local park (Jephson’s Gardens, Leamington Spa) in the shape of a parachute, with seven Czech names on it. It commemorates the parachutists, who were based in Leamington during World War Two, who were flown to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia with a mission – code name Anthropoid. Their orders were to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi (third in command, after Hitler and Himmler), the “protector” (how ironic) of Bohemia and Moravia. As well as brutally executing any Czechoslovakians thought to be resisting Nazi occupation, Heydrich was also chief architect of “The Final Solution”. Despite fears of reprisals, the Czech government (exiled in London) wanted to send a message that the Czech people could not be so easily subjugated.

The story of the men given this mission has now been made into a film starring Jamie Dornan (Jan) and Cillian Murphy (Josef), from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, respectively, speaking English with Czech accents. Whilst slightly jarring at first, you do get used to the accents and it is perhaps preferable to having everyone speak in British received pronunciation, which can often happen in historical films where everyone should be speaking languages other than English. More distracting are Dornan’s matinee idol looks and model height – he does look out-of-place squeezing into a tiny cottage and later in the various hiding places he is forced into. However, while he will probably be forever tarnished by the Christian Grey brush, he has shown acting potential in ‘The Fall’. He doesn’t look entirely comfortable in this role, although his character is certainly torn about the mission. An indecision which is partly to do with a romantic sub-plot that has been shoe-horned into this film. After their Uncle (Toby Jones) has arranged a safe house where the parachutists can lay low whilst plotting the assassination, he gravely warns them not to go outside unless they absolutely have to and certainly not together. Well, within five minutes, the pair have arranged a double date with the maid of the house and her friend. The female pair function to give Jan and Josef something to live for and to give them doubts about their suicidal mission. Murphy, on the other hand, delivers the familiar glassy-eyed, coolly detached performance we have come to know and love from his ‘Peaky Blinders’ run – Josef is much more focused on the job in hand and is not thinking about the consequences.

Something more factually accurate, that adds a moral dilemma to the mission, is that Jan and Josef place everyone around them in danger. Mrs Moravec and her son Ata (Bill Milner – unrecognisable from Son of Rambow) provide shelter and courier messages for the resistance. The film does become much more emotionally heightened when scenes of violence and torture come to the fore, after the assassination attempt leads the Nazis to raise Prague to the ground, looking for the culprits.

Although I was really interested in the subject, this film did fall a little flat for me. I kept feeling that I wanted to know more, about Jan and Josef and also the wider historical backdrop. It may have helped to cut back to the Czech government in London, to have further understood their motivation in getting rid of one Nazi, at the cost of thousands of Czechoslovakians. Also, if we had met Heydrich as more of a well-rounded “character” (like Goeth in Schindler’s List), it perhaps would have added an extra dimension to the film. It’s a shame, because I really wanted to like this film, but I have come away feeling quite frustrated and think it will be hard to remember much about it within a few days. Unfortunately, this is not the film the real-life counterparts deserve. Here’s hoping for more successful war films to come (I’m looking at you, Nolan).

Fiona’s rating: 6.5 out of 10

Don’t Breathe

Year: 2016
Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto
Written by Noah Jackson

The summer season of 2016 has been a fairly disappointing experience for film enthusiasts like myself. It arguably reached its peak in May with ‘Captain America: Civil War’, and ended with the disappointing experience that was ‘Suicide Squad’. Along the way, we’ve seen many mediocre or terrible movies. Some of the best movies have been independent or low-budget productions, which is great, but it’s a bittersweet triumph for the smaller films, as not everyone will have managed to enjoy what the summer season had to offer. Enter ‘Don’t Breathe’, a fairly low-budget horror-thriller with an exciting premise and a really well presented trailer; a film which has exploded at the box office and also has critics’ approval. The summer ends on a good note then. But is ‘Don’t Breathe’ really the great movie of the summer, or is it just a breath of fresh air in a stagnant movie industry?

Don’t Breathe’ stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang, and revolves around a group of robbers who target a blind veteran with a large cash settlement. Problem is, once they get in the house, they realise this blind guy is much more dangerous than they anticipated. He can, of course, hear their movements, and he also has some hardcore army skills that he puts to use. So it is now a game of cat-and-mouse between some young people looking to get rich quick versus this blind man with nothing really left to lose…or so we think.

The movie works best when it utilises its horror elements. The writer and director, Fede Alvarez (2013’s Evil Dead), makes the jump scare technique as effective as possible. It had me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the film. The performances are all good too, especially Stephen Lang as the blind man. His presence on screen – along with those biceps – really adds some depth and energy to the movie.

I mentioned earlier that the film’s premise and trailer were really good. I wasn’t lying. The concept alone had me interested to see it, and the trailer got me into the theatre. I don’t really enjoy horror movies that much, because I find that a lot of them are really insipid and dull. But when the rave reviews started rolling in, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I am pleased to say that the whole movie is not in the trailer, but I am also unhappy to say that I kinda wish that it was.

‘Don’t Breathe’ has two egregious flaws. The first, is its beginning and ending. The first 15 second shot of the film basically spoils the rest of the film. And then, in the next three minutes of exposition, which was pretty well done, it dropped a little hint which would later lead to the big “twist” of the movie. And I guessed that twist almost immediately after that notion was brought up. As for the ending, it doesn’t have any real meaning. It’s supposed to act as a cliffhanger type of ending, but it had such little significance at that point, it truly felt unnecessary.

The second flaw is the “twist”. It’s really stupid. The ingenious concept of this overall film and how it plays out would’ve been enough to make the film a success. However, about halfway through, an extra story arc gets thrown in that takes the movie to a new level of ridiculousness. To put it another way, the story goes from realistic to absurd faster than you can say “M. Night Shymalan’s The Village had a clever ending”. To put it ANOTHER way, I will let my theatre experience speak for itself. There’s a scene that has really got everyone talking, and while this scene was playing out, the audience around me burst out laughing. Not in an immature way though, more in sheer disbelief and bewilderment at the course the film had taken. It was awkward and ridiculous, and for the rest of the movie, I was no longer scared because of how utterly insane it had gotten. When (slash if) you watch the film, you’ll know exactly which scene I’m talking about. It’s a shame really that what could have been a decent horror flick will now be forever remembered for this one bizarre moment.

The cinematography was also a subject of inner debate for myself, because I couldn’t decide whether or not it was any good. A lot of it was out of focus and blurry, but it made sense with the character’s being in an environment that wasn’t always visible. A lot of scenes featured long takes, and in those long takes there’s sometimes a jump scare to keep you alert. All of the additional technical parts to the movie were well done, especially the score and most notably the sound production; much of the effects for the guns and other loud noises had my nerves constantly on edge. A lot of the directorial and audio-based parts of the movie were really well done. However, I cannot forgive the story for what it tried to do.

Overall, I would recommend seeing ‘Don’t Breathe’. It’s got a good thriller narrative, and the first half is actually pretty good. If you are a fan of horror and being scared, this is a great movie. If you found the summer disappointing and hope that this is the remedy, look elsewhere. It is by no means bad, but it seems to me that this will be one of the more overrated movies of 2016 when all is said and done.

Noah’s Rating: 6.5/10

Yoga Hosers

Year: 2016
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp, Adam Brody
Written by Dalton Brown

Boredom can sometimes lead to interesting experiences. It’s actually one of the reasons why I chose to sit through Kevin Smith’s latest film ‘Yoga Hosers’. With his daughter (Harley Quinn Smith) and her best friend (Lily-Rose Depp) in the leading roles, you would be forgiven for assuming this was just Smith attempting to send some work their way. In truth, ‘Yoga Hosers’ isn’t a very good movie, nor is it a very memorable one either, yet I enjoyed most of it. Now, bear with me as I try to explain this rather conflicting statement.

Alright, let’s get into the plot; well, it’s non-existent to be honest with you. I sort of have a thing for movies with loose plots, it seems. Anyway, I guess saying that there is no plot is an overstatement; it’s there, it just isn’t very good. There’s Nazis and bratwurst, and the film is set in the ‘Tusk’ universe (for those of you unfamiliar, ‘Tusk’ is a Kevin Smith movie from 2014). To elaborate a little more, ‘Yoga Hosers’ is about two yoga-loving Canadian teenagers that just want to party. They also, for some reason that probably Kevin Smith himself doesn’t even know, have the same name: Colleen. Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen Mackenzie (Harley Quinn Smith), to be more specific. Okay, so I’ve taken longer to explain the plot than what is probably necessary.

Moving on, there are a couple of good things to come from ‘Yoga Hosers’. Like, for example, there’s a cameo that was pretty cool. Seriously though, there really is no good reason as to why I like this movie as much as I do. Maybe it’s because when I saw it, I was in the mood for something sort of “not-good” and dare I say, “simple”. Or maybe it’s because I’m insane. I’m going to say the former, just because I don’t think I want to admit to the latter.

Speaking of insane, the CGI was insane – insanely confusing. I mean, it was awful, but it felt purposefully awful. I don’t really know why that is either. Maybe budget constraints, but there really wasn’t much to suggest that ‘Yoga Hosers’ was breaking the bank in other areas. No explosions and limited locations, the only thing I can think of is that cameo; I can see how that could have ended up being expensive. Nevertheless, I didn’t really mind it the poor CGI all too much, because I felt that it matched the tone and mood of the film. The only thing that actually did bother me, however – besides Johnny Depp’s moles – was Kevin Smith’s sad attempt at being funny. Instead of accepting his failure, he denies it so much that he just ends up drowning. I mean, the jokes were fine but they never made me want to laugh out loud. I chuckled slightly at a few of them though, I’ll admit that. But I was mostly just sat there, mouth open, catching flies. Basically, I think I was just trying to come to terms with what I had gotten myself into. Plus, I was also trying to understand what Johnny Depp’s character, Guy LaPointe, was trying to say.

If you haven’t yet figured it out, I am left with a feeling of conflict after watching this film. I really don’t hate this movie, let me make that perfectly clear. I do, however, understand why people will hate it. Their reasons for not liking may differ from the reasons I mentioned, but I feel as though most people will at least be in the same ballpark here. It’s a dumb movie. The title basically tells you all you need to know. You just have to decide if ‘Yoga Hosers’ is right for you. All I know is, it was right for me.

Dalton’s rating: 6.5 out of 10

Kubo And The Two Strings

Year: 2016
Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes (all voice)
Written by Sarah Buddery

Animation studios Laika might not be considered in the same conversations as Pixar or Dreamworks, but there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be, and their latest offering, ‘Kubo and The Two Strings’, cements that fact. The fourth feature film from the stop-motion animation studio has already been receiving rave reviews, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Stop-motion has come on leaps and bounds, and has now reached the point where it is so well done, that it is difficult to tell it is actually stop-motion. Indeed, there were moments in ‘Kubo’ where you would be forgiven for thinking that this was all created on a computer, rather than painstakingly manipulated by someone’s hands.

It’s testament to how beautiful a film is, when the visuals would still be compelling independent of the dialogue, and ‘Kubo’ is absolutely one of those films. It is one of the most visually striking animated films I have seen in a very long time; there was more than one beautifully photographic shot which led me to let out an audible “wow”. The detail is absolutely mind-blowing, and it is rather fitting that the opening lines of the movie suggest we “don’t blink”. Honestly, it was very difficult to look away, even for a moment.

There’s so much to enjoy in this film, and whilst it has been marketed as an adventure tale, there is so much more to it than that. It’s emotionally complex, and despite its fantastical elements, has a very human story at its core. It covers things like loss, grieving and memories, but it never tries to beat you over the head with the message. Instead, the film allows you to just enjoy the magical adventure, whilst giving you the opportunity to take a lot more away from it if you wish.

The only thing that stopped this film from being completely perfect for me was the humour, which was a little disjointed. There were moments that were very funny and which felt earned, but there were other moments which felt a little forced, almost as if there was a concern that audiences would switch off if they weren’t laughing. When a film is as gorgeous to look at as this one, and with a storyline this compelling, that should never have been a concern.

The voice cast were excellent, and the three main leads were particularly great. Art Parkinson is likeable as the hero, Kubo, but he also brings a huge amount of emotional depth to this character. Charlize Theron is fantastic as Monkey as well, and Matthew McConaughey brings a lot of the laughs as Beetle. And, credit where credit’s due, Rooney Mara voiced one of the villains so well I had absolutely no idea it was her voice until the credits were rolling.

I could rave about this film all day, but to try and summarise, it is simply stunning. The story is compelling and interesting, and the animation is mind-blowingly beautiful. You might not have heard of Laika before, but this absolutely should be the film which puts them on the map. This is easily my favourite of the feature films they’ve released, and ‘Kubo and The Two Strings’ is also undoubtedly one of the finest animated offerings of 2016 so far.

Sarah’s rating: 9.5 out of 10

Morgan

Year: 2016
Director: Luke Scott
Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones
Written by Tom Sheffield

With Ridley Scott’s company producing, and his son Luke Scott directing, I had hoped that ‘Morgan’ would be another under-marketed film ready to surprise me when I watch it. It’s fair to say I was surprised, but the surprise was that I was actually able to sit through the whole thing and not walk out after the halfway point. It’s very hard to fully express my disappointment without actually spoiling the plot, but rest assured there will be no spoilers in my review.

Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is a “Corporate Risk Assessment Specialist” who is sent to a remote lab on behalf of her employer, after a serious incident with lab created human-hybrid Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) – named after the project she’s been created for – brutally attacks one of their scientists as she struggles to control and contain her emotions. Lee soon realises that the scientists at the remote lab have grown attached to Morgan and see her as more than just a science experiment – they see her as if she was their own child. After a psychology analysis interview goes wrong, Morgan has one “tantrum” too many and Lee decides it’s time for action to be taken, action that the scientists strongly oppose.

First things first, I was really disappointed in the direction the story took, it felt like the writers started off full of enthusiasm and ideas and then halfway through they kind of lost their steam and went with the first thing they could think of. The script is pretty dull and the dialogue between characters is very simple and irksome. I found myself struggling to pay attention to the film, and was forcing myself to stay focused in order to write this review. The premise of the film was so promising, and given the right script and an experienced director, I think the film could have truly been something great, maybe even as great as ‘Ex Machina’, that I had seen lots of people compare it to.

Morgan is classed as a sci-fi/horror, but I found it more of a comedy by the end, and actually found myself laughing out loud at how bad the second half of the film was, and it was apparent I wasn’t alone in thinking this after hearing a few loud sighs and mutterings from the other six or seven people in the screening. There definitely isn’t any part of the film that makes this a “horror”, other than some of its shocking continuity errors; one big one being a scene taking place outside in the dark, a quick shot of someone in the house, and then the following shot back outside to the same character doing the same thing we last saw them doing but it’s now broad daylight, and it’s extremely obvious that in actuality, hardly any time has passed.

Despite my gripes with the film, I have to commend Anya Taylor-Joy on another brilliant performance. Her acting in ‘The Witch’ was outstanding and is one of the many reasons that that film is one of my favourite films of the year thus far. Her portrayal of Morgan was a great way to showcase her undeniable talent and she delivered her lines and displayed Morgan’s complex personality brilliantly. I was really surprised how underused the big names in the film were though. Kate Mara, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie and Michelle Yeoh’s characters were all way below their true capabilities and it’s painstakingly clear throughout the film that if it had been written better, the actors could have made the film a true thriller given half a chance.

In my personal opinion, I definitely wouldn’t recommend paying the price of a cinema ticket for this film. It’s probably something you might watch if you pick it up out of the bargain basket a few months after it’s release. I couldn’t help but feel the film could have ended after an hour, and would have got a higher rating from me. The ending is easily predictable, if you actually find yourself paying attention to what’s been said and what’s happening, and that, in my opinion, makes it that much more disappointing. A slow, lusterless and very underwhelming flick.

Tom’s rating: 3.2 out of 10

Hell Or High Water

Year: 2016
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Written by Tom Sheffield

‘Hell or High Water’ has been one of my most anticipated films over the last few months. After what I personally consider to be a fairly disappointing summer of films, I held hope that there was still plenty to look forward to between now and the end of the year, and this film was one I had high expectations for. My high expectations emanated from the cast, which includes Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges, as well as boasting the writing skills of Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote ‘Sicario’, (which was one of my favourite films of last year). Not to mention, the incredible trailer that gave us a glimpse into the nature of the film.

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are two Texan brothers who couldn’t be any more different. After Tanner’s release from prison, Toby devises a plan to rob branches of a large bank with the help of his older brother, despite being very wary of his brother’s brash personality and unpredictability. The bank branches they intend to steal from are part of a larger bank that is threatening to foreclose on Toby’s family home and land, which would leave his children with nothing. It’s not long before Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are on the case. Marcus is more determined than ever to catch the culprits of these robberies so he can retire with a victory, but he soon learns it won’t be his easiest case.

Pine and Foster gave truly enthralling performances as the two brothers. We learn a lot about the nature of their relationship towards the beginning of the film, and see the strength of their brotherhood despite the big differences in their personalities and their attitudes and approach towards the bank robberies. This is by far my favourite performance from Pine, making sure the audience knew the motives behind his actions and even when he wasn’t saying anything, the audience could tell his brother, children and family were always at the forefront of his mind. His on-screen chemistry with Foster really shined, which is a far cry from seeing them both in ‘The Finest Hours’ earlier this year, which I was really disappointed by.

I really loved the scenes where Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham interacted with one another whilst on the case. Bridges’ character is so genuine, and I loved his friendship with his partner Alberto, who he regularly torments with racist jokes and non-stop talking. It brought a lighter tone to the film without compromising the actual seriousness and morally thought-provoking nature of the film. At times I found myself rooting for Toby and Tanner to successfully pull off their robberies and pay off their debts, and sometimes I wanted Bridges to catch them both and retire victorious, because he wants it so bad, and he is relentless when it comes to his investigation.

The film itself is moderately paced, but the performances and dialogue keep you engaged throughout the entire thing. The story flows very naturally and is a great example of how a film doesn’t need to overdose on action scenes, explosions and plot twists to keep the attention of the audience. The stunning Texas scenery gives the film that true “Western” feel, and we are treated to lots of shots of the landscape and breathtaking scenery that Texas has to offer, as the brothers and officers travel from town to town.

It’s hard to do this film justice in 600 words or so, but I highly recommend going to watching ‘Hell Or High Water’. The cast, cinematography, direction and script were all superb, and I feel (and hope) this film will do well come awards season. It’s criminal that this film isn’t getting the attention it truly deserves, with numbers at the US box office much lower than other films being released around the same time, despite glowing reviews from critics and viewers alike.

Tom’s rating: 9.8 out of 10

Tale Of Tales

Year: 2016
Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Bebe Cave
Written by Abbie Eales

In ‘Tale of Tales’ Matteo Garrone takes the basis of three Italian folk tales – originally collected in the 15th century by Giambattista Basile (who also made the first known records of the tales of Rapunzel and Cinderella) – and weaves them into a sumptuous and magical portmanteau film.

In the first tale we see Salma Hayek as Queen of Longtrellis, with John C. Reilly as her heroic King, being told they will be able to have their long-yearned-for child if he can only defeat a sea monster, and she can then devour it’s heart having had it cooked by a virgin. Bizarre, I know. The second tale sees Vincent Cassell as the lothario King of Strongcliff, who is banging his way around the kingdom, exhausting himself and the ladies he leaves strewn in his wake. One day he hears the beautiful voice of a woman he has never heard before, and finds himself accidentally wooing two elderly sisters. Toby Jones leads the third tale, as he finds his Kingly affections swayed not by women, but an altogether very different kind of creature, leading him to make a decision which leaves his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) in mortal peril.

‘Tale of Tales’ is a very grown-up fairy tale of sorts, with sex and violence galore, and some pretty adult themes to boot. Part ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, part ‘The Princess Bride’, it comes as no surprise to learn that the cinematographer is Peter Suschitzky, who has a long history working with David Lynch on films such as ‘Naked Lunch’ and ‘eXistenZ’, and consequently is well-versed in capturing gruesome beasties and body horror to maximum effect.

The performances are all excellent, but they are often eclipsed by the incredible costumes, sets and make-up, which really make the film stand out from its more saccharine counterparts. The practical effects in particular are stunning, with several impressive and terrifying creatures being bought to life not through CGI but through good old silicon and ingenuity. The aged make-up on Hayley Carmichael and Shirley Henderson is truly something to behold.

It’s great to see that the women of these fairy tales are not all damsels in distress needing saving by a handsome Prince. Indeed, their lives are far more complex, their desires more nuanced, and they certainly don’t all live happily ever after. While one of the tales peters out and another meets a brutal, gory end, it is Toby Jones and Bebe Cave’s tale which provides the substantial backbone to the film, and gives us the most satisfying resolution.

‘Tale of Tales’ is a resolutely gorgeous, brutal carnival of the grotesque and magical, although it is a little too patchy for it to be ranked as a classic, it may still make it to cult status.

Abbie’s rating: 8.0 out of 10

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates

Year: 2016
Director: Jake Szymanski
Starring: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

Now, this was a film that I was almost certain that I wouldn’t even watch, and even more certain that I wouldn’t enjoy if I did watch it. To put it bluntly, ‘Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates’ just looked like another pathetically stupid attempt at comedy, in the same vein as the ‘Bad Neighbours’ series, which I despise. I mean, just look at the title of the film for heaven’s sake; ridiculous! I had to endure the trailer for this film so many times whilst waiting to watch other films in the cinema, and each time I saw it, I cringed at how awful the latest offering from Zac Efron looked. But, the world works in mysterious ways, and when I missed a screening for ‘David Brent: Life On The Road’, I had no other option than to watch ‘Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates’. 

Believe it or not, the premise of the film is incredibly simple, and revolves around the two central characters, Mike and Dave Stangle, needing to find dates for their sister’s wedding. With a reputation for “riling each other up”, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) have ruined every family party they’ve attended with their crazy antics, so they are tasked with finding “nice, respectable girls” to keep them in line on their sister’s big day. Unfortunately for them, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) fool the boys into taking them to Hawaii for the wedding, and may just give the Stangle brothers a run for their money.

Despite my reservations about the quality of the comedy on offer, I was already a fan of the main actors and actresses. Zac Efron is the best thing about the ‘Bad Neighbours’ franchise and seems like he doesn’t take himself too seriously; Anna Kendrick is pivotal in making ‘Pitch Perfect’ one of my favourite guilty pleasures; Aubrey Plaza is amazing as April Ludgate in ‘Parks and Recreation’; and Adam Devine is the standout star in one of my favourite modern sitcoms ‘Workaholics’, so what could go wrong? Well, it turns out, not a lot. Efron and Devine were brilliant at delivering dumb fun and bounced off each other superbly here, with Devine in particular being the highlight. Aubrey Plaza too, was rather entertaining and really seemed to “fit” in with this kind of comedy. However, Anna Kendrick’s attempts at being the “dumb, reckless” girl here were painful to watch, and you could really tell she was acting.

I have to warn you, this film is not for the more prudish viewer, with bad language, drug references, LOTS of sexual content and even some really inappropriate cancer jokes. Aside from the two or three cancer jokes, the rest of the humour really did land surprisingly well. The whole audience in my screening were laughing out loud, and I must admit, so was I, for most of the film. It’s dumb humour at its finest (or worst, depending on how you look at it), but the kind of silly fun that you just can’t help but laugh at. Maybe I was just in a good mood, or maybe my low expectations helped, but I actually found this film incredibly entertaining, and as far as this year’s comedies go, it’s right up there as one of the funniest.

‘Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates’ is one of those films, where if I tried to retell one of the many gags, it just wouldn’t work, and that’s because the whole thing is just so stupid and so bizarre that it has to be seen to be believed. One scene in particular seems to be going on way too long and is very uncomfortable to watch, but then Adam Devine steps in and the whole thing kinda feels justified (when you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Actually, Adam Devine really does save this film from being simply crass and stupid, to being crass and stupid but with killer execution. A real guilty pleasure of a film, and one which (I can’t believe I’m saying this), I highly recommend to anyone seeking some good old fashioned fun. 

Jakob’s rating: 7.4 out of 10

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Year: 2016
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt
Written by Fiona Underhill

I was quite excited when early images and posters were released for this film – despite being called ‘The Huntsman’, the focus of the film certainly seemed to be on the three strong female leads – Charlize Theron returning as “main baddy” Ravenna, Emily Blunt as her sister Freya, the Ice Queen, and Jessica Chastain as Sara, the huntswoman. It is refreshing to see a major blockbuster film with this sort of male-to-female ratio, and to see Chris Hemsworth once again joining a mainly female ensemble cast. However, the film did gather a lot of negative reviews, which meant seeing it at the cinema was no longer a priority.

For a film like this, especially if you’ve seen the first one, you know what you’re getting – a large scale fantasy, with some impressive CGI and some nicely-drawn characters. Nick Frost is the only returning dwarf from what was an impressive cast in the first film – he is joined in this sequel by Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach (from one of my favourite TV programmes – Utopia). They provide the comic relief and are counter-pointed well by the goblins. These are horned, black creatures, dripping in bling, who are obsessed with mining and gold. They have an exciting battle with Eric (Hemsworth), Sara and the dwarves over the magic mirror – an object of great power that they are trying to prevent from falling into Queen Freya’s hands.

What the film does perhaps less well, is the slightly odd timeline that it covers. It is both prequel AND sequel to the first film, and this makes Kristen Stewart’s absence (as Snow White, who is now Queen of her own kingdom) even more noticeable. The main premise of the film is that Ravenna and now, Freya see love as a weakness, so they try to stamp it out in their kingdoms. Freya raises Eric and Sara as huntsmen, but when she notices them falling in love, she tears them apart. Both Hemsworth and Chastain look a little old to be playing the ‘young lovers’, but the casting of Chastain is quite a coup for a film such as this.

Yes, my attention wandered at times, but it tends to do so much more when watching a film at home, as opposed to the cinema. The world conjured up in this film is richly textured; from Freya’s northern kingdom of ice and snow, to the “sanctuary” – an idyllic green land of fairies and pixies. Blunt portrays Freya’s desperation well – her character is clearly torn between being bitterly angry at her own heartbreak and her desire to nurture her “children”. Theron is a stonking villain – her evil beauty quite something to behold. Hemsworth is as charming as ever and Chastain does show some impressive action skills in her scenes. Both Hemsworth and Chastain do possess terrible Scottish accents, however.

This film was never going to set the world alight, and many have expressed surprise that a sequel was even made to ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. However, it is perfectly entertaining enough to while away an evening, if you like this sort of thing, which I do. This film also stands for something much more important than the sum of its parts – that three fantastic actresses can dominate a fantasy blockbuster – this shouldn’t be unusual or noteworthy, but sadly it still is. So, while the film is fair to middling, hopefully it is a sign of bigger and brighter things to come in terms of casting women. And, for that alone, it deserves a thumbs up.

Fiona’s rating: 6.5 out of 10