REVIEW: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Written by Sarah Buddery

Having been a fan of Black Mirror since it’s humble 3 episode series’ on Channel 4, I have been delighted to watch it blossom into a genuine modern television phenomenon.

Now on its new home on Netflix, Charlie Brooker’s terrifying technology themed mini masterpieces have grown in scope and along the way, found an even bigger audience. With its thoroughly potent themes, hidden episode easter eggs and mind-bending messages, Black Mirror truly is the TV show for Social Media and tech-obsessed millennials.

For a show to consistently break new ground is an impressive feat but Brooker has done it once again with the latest episode ‘Bandersnatch’; a “choose your own adventure” style episode which hands full control over to those with the remote controller in hand at home.

I had initial concerns that this episode would feel gimmicky but I needn’t have worried. It maintains everything we know, love, and fear from Black Mirror and yet offers something completely different and one of the most unique and brilliant TV experiences in recent memory. Those used to video games that follow this format will find familiarity as we’re presented with a simple ‘this or that’ option, starting off as straightforward as choosing a cereal to, well, slightly more sinister choices; to spoil which would not only be unfair but also impossible as everyone is certain to have different experiences with this episode

And that is the absolute beauty of this episode. It is so expertly crafted that as soon as it is over you’ll want to go back to it and see if those seemingly inconsequential early decisions have potentially drastic and different consequences later on. There is a fairly straightforward path you can take through this episode but there is also much to uncover and I wholeheartedly recommend spending about 90 minutes with it to enjoy the full experience. There are several stops in the story that let you go back and do-over a certain scenario and it is at these points that you can pick something completely different.

There’s an event seen in a flashback early into the episode that I thought held the key to everything but as my episode and my decisions played out, it went in a completely unexpected direction and this totally floored me.

Breaking the fourth, the fifth, and every other wall possible, Bandersnatch is expert storytelling and Black Mirror at its most ground-breaking.

Watch, watch again, and be amazed each time.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Netflix and Chill-mas

Written by Sarah Buddery

Christmas movies are just a click or a tap away and in a year where the Netflix original films have really kicked up a notch, the streaming service is bringing us four fresh festive offerings this year.

JumpCut All The Way is celebrating some of the best and most beloved Christmas movies and the big question is, can any of the Netflix offerings join this pantheon? Here’s how I have them stacked up, from worst to best, to help you make the best choices this Christmas…

 

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6. Christmas Inheritance (2017)

Full disclosure on this one, I was not able to get through this film. I was invested in its trashy and predictable vibes initially and just when I thought it would start wrapping up, I made the mistake of pausing it and seeing that there was, unfortunately, another 75 minutes left. I persevered for a little while, but honestly, this film is unwatchable. It struggles in particular with having a central character who is so inconceivably stupid and borderline detestable, that it is impossible to feel anything for its attempts at schmaltz. A character going on some kind of magical transformation is what we would expect from a film such as this, but this character is so unlikeable, you can’t help but think that she really doesn’t deserve to inherit anything. The pace is so slow it feels like it is moving backwards, and it lacks the charm and warmth of many of the other Netflix offerings. Avoid.

 

 

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5. The Holiday Calendar (2018)

In a film about an enchanted advent calendar, you know the schmaltz is going to be ladled on thick, but whilst there is still an odd charm to The Holiday Calendar the contrivances outweigh this. There is absolutely no doubt, from the moment the film starts, how it is going to end, which makes much of the film feel like a wasted exercise. The performances are okay, and if you know exactly what type of film you are going to see going into it, then there are still things to enjoy.

 

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4.  A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

Just like the first film, this sequel is cosy nonsense, as indulgent as a giant mug of hot chocolate with mountains of whip cream and all the marshmallow trimmings. Its faux attempts at drama and plot are all inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as we’re really just here to see the magical Christmas nuptials, and they do not disappoint. The original was bafflingly brilliant and fans who have been eagerly anticipating this sequel will not be disappointed.

 

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3. The Princess Switch (2018)

Anyone who thought A Christmas Prince had the most confusing location logic, you’re in for a treat with The Princess Switch. Continuing the trend of adding “via” onto the end of a random word to make a European sounding country, The Princess Switch takes place in the fictional country of Belgravia (actually an affluent district in London, but definitely not a country) centred around a baking competition that takes place at Wembley. No, not that Wembley, just a large building called Wembley, because of course any of the naming conventions of these films are decided by throwing a dart at a map of London. Aside from the fact it makes absolutely no sense, The Princess Switch is a rehash of The Parent Trap and as long as you can switch your brain off, this film is kind of fun. It’s ludicrous of course, but the dual performance from Vanessa Hudgens is charming, and the picturesque scenery will certainly make you feel warm and festive.

 

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2. A Christmas Prince (2017)

Its placing at second on this list should not fool you, A Christmas Prince is still absolute trash, but boy is it wonderful trash! Again, the logic is absolutely baffling, and you’ll know how it ends from the moment it starts. It’s a slightly more modern take on Cinderella but it has a lot of the same story beats and is the closest a film has come to recreating the magic of Disney with a live-action offering. The locations are again beautiful and as a film, it could, of course, exist without the Christmas element at all, but it’s all part of the odd charm. Like mince pies and Christmas cake, A Christmas Prince is the indulgent treat that you should only have to endure once a year.

 

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1. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Home Alone, Die Hard, Elf…everyone has their go-to Christmas movie, whether it is one of those mentioned here or one of the countless other classics. Hopefully, this is not overstating the mark, but The Christmas Chronicles genuinely feels like it could be one of those ones. It’s endearing and sweet enough to give you all the warm festive fuzzies that you need, but it also has plenty for the adults with the legendary Kurt Russell playing a (rather dashing!) Santa Claus. There’s a couple of jokes in it which are not going to age particularly well but it still has all the ingredients of a Christmas classic. It’s funny, heart-warming and has all the magic to make you laugh and cry. This is far and away Netflix’s best original Christmas film and one which will hopefully endure for many years to come.

Netflix Release First Trailer For J.C. Chandor’s ‘Triple Frontier’

“Make no mistake, this is not a military operation. See Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal attempt to rob one of the world’s most violent cartels in Triple Frontier — on Netflix and in select theaters. Coming this March.”

 

Directed by: J.C. Chandor

Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal

Release Date: March 2019

Reel Women: November UK Releases

Welcome back to Reel Women, the monthly feature that highlights the films being released in the UK that are written and/or directed by women. The clocks have gone back, it’s dark and cold outside, so what better way to spend the dark evenings than in the cinema?! This month there’s dramas, rom-coms and the start of the Christmas-themed releases. Oh, and there’s a little film about wizards and another small animated film featuring well-known Disney characters.

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2 November

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston
Written by Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy

When Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is transported to a magical world of her mother’s making, she’ll do anything to protect it.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is Ashleigh Powell’s first produced screenplay. She’s attached to adapt the books The Paper Magician and The Hazel Wood into screenplays.

 

Juliet, Naked

Directed by Jesse Peretz
Written by Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor and Tamara Jenkins

After Annie (Rose Byne) breaks up with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), she embarks on an unlikely romance with a famous singer-songwriter who happened to be Duncan’s favourite musician.

Tamara Jenkins is a writer-director who was Oscar nominated for her original screenplay The Savages (2007). Her latest film, Private Life, is a new Netflix Original. Evgenia Peretz is a writer and producer, Juliet, Naked is her second produced screenplay.

 

King of Crime

Directed by Matt Gambell
Written by Linda Dunscombe

The biggest player in British cyber-crime goes head to head against some Islamic extremists by playing the biggest scam of his life.

As well as writing King of Crime, Linda Dunscombe was also a producer on the film, and the films casting director.

 

 

6 November

Widows

Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen

Four women whose dead husbands’ criminal actives leave them in trouble, conspire to come together to survive the forces that are out to get them.

Gillian Flynn is an author and screenwriter who adapted her own novel, Gone Girl (2014) to critical acclaim earning her a Golden Globe nomination.

 

 

9 November

Wildlife

Directed by Paul Dano
Written by Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan

A boy witnesses his parents’ (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) marriage fall apart.

Zoe Kazan is an actress and screenwriter whose acting credits include What If (2013), Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and The Big Sick (2017). Her previous screenplay was Ruby Sparks (2012) in which she played the titular role.

Our review

 

Outlaw King

Directed by David Mackenzie
Written by Mark Bomback, Bathsheba Doran, David Harrower, James MacInnes and David Mackenzie

The story of how Scottish Robert The Bruce (Chris Pine) fought to defeat and repel the much larger occupying English army.

Outlaw King is Bathsheba Doran’s first feature film, but she’s written episodes of multiple TV shows including Broadwalk Empire and Masters of Sex.

Our review

 

The Other Side of Everything

Directed by Mila Turajlic

A documentary about Serbian filmmaker Mila Turajlic, who learns more about her family history and her country’s tumultuous political inheritance after opening a locked door in her mother’s apartment in Belgrade.

Mila Turajlic is a producer and director who was also the cinematographer for The Other Side of Everything.

 

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16 November

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Directed by David Yates
Written by J.K. Rowling

Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) tasks Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to take down Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) who believes wizards are better than muggles.

J.K. Rowling needs no introduction. After writing the Harry Potter book series that turned into a global phenomenon, Rowling is now the writing the screenplays for the Fantastic Beasts series.

 

The Princess Switch

Directed by Mike Rohl
Written by Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger

Netflix’s first Christmas themed film of the year, The Princess Switch is about how one week before Christmas, Margaret, the gorgeous Duchess of Montenaro, switches places with Stacy, a “commoner” from Chicago, who looks exactly like her.

Robin Bernheim is a writer and producer of films and TV shows including Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Voyager. The Princess Switch is Megan Mertzger is first produced screenplay.

 

Hell Fest

Directed by Gregory Plotkin
Written by Seth M. Sherwood, Blair Butler and Akela Cooper

A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal hunting ground.

Blair Butler is a writer, director and producer. Hell Fest is her first feature film. Hell Fest is Akela Cooper’s first feature film screenplay as well but she has written multiple episodes of the TV shows Grimm, Luke Cage and The 100.

 

 

23 November

Back to Berlin

Directed by Catherine Lurie-Alt

Documentary about eleven motor bikers have a mission to take the Maccabiah torch from Israel to the site of the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics, for the first Jewish Olympic Games on German soil.

This is Catherine Lurie-Alt’s first film.

Nativity Rocks!

Written & Directed by Debbie Isitt

The fourth film about St Bernadette’s Primary School in Coventry and the staff and students there who audition for a coveted place in a spectacular Christmas rock musical competition.

Debbie Isitt has written and directed all four Nativity films – the first two films, starring Martin Freeman and David Tennant, are on Netflix if you fancy getting into the Christmas spirit early.

The Judge

Directed by Erika Cohn

Documentary about Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih, the first woman appointed to a Shari’a court in the Middle East.

Erika Cohn is a producer and writer and The Judge is her second feature-length documentary.

 

 

30 November

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore
Written by Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon

Ralph and Penelope discover the internet and go on a whole new adventure.

Pamela Ribon is an actress, producer and writer whose previous screenwriting credits include Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017).

 

Disobedience

Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Written by Sebastián Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home to her Jewish community after being shunned by them years before for her attraction to a female friend. When Ronit and Esti (Rachel McAdams) meet again their passions reignite.

Disobedience is Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s second feature film. Her previous film was Oscar winner Ida (2013) and her next film is Colette starring Keira Knightley which is released in the UK early next year.

 

The Wild Pear Tree

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Written by Akin Aksu, Ebru Ceylan and Nuri Bilge Ceylan

An aspiring writer returns to his native village, where his father’s debts catch up to him.

Ebru Ceylan is a writer and director whose debut short film Kiyida (1998) was nominated for the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at Cannes Film Festival. The Wild Pear Tree is her third feature-length screenplay.


And that’s it for this month’s Reel Women. That’s 16 films from a wide range of genres that are released in the UK that are made by women in November. Do let us know what you think of any of these films if you get a chance to see them – some might be easier to find than others!

What You Can’t See Can’t Hurt You In The First Trailer For Netflix’s ‘Bird Box’

“When a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, only one thing is certain: if you see it, you take your life. Facing the unknown, Malorie finds love, hope and a new beginning only for it to unravel. Now she must flee with her two children down a treacherous river to the one place left that may offer sanctuary. But to survive, they’ll have to undertake the perilous two-day journey blindfolded.”

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Release Date: December 21st, 2018 (Netflix)

REVIEW: Apostle (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Richard Elfyn, Paul Higgins, Lucy Boynton

Written by Jo Craig

There is a rare moment after watching a film where you sit and stare at the credits, or even pause them rolling altogether whilst wearing a perplexed expression. Your brain frantically tries to decipher the last couple of hours you’ve spent watching a feature that carries its pros and cons, but leaves you with the hanging expression: “What the fuck?”. Gareth Evans’ Apostle hit Netflix at the start of Halloween season, and my thoughts are still stuck inside his brutal cult horror that had an avid gore fan glancing away to “take a moment”.

The premise of Apostle lies in the early twentieth century, following infiltrator Thomas (Dan Stevens) as he travels to a remote island to rescue his sister who has been taken hostage by a religious cult. Lead through blinding faith and insanity, Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen) demands her rich father to pay a ransom so his sect can continue to thrive in their segregated habitat, but Thomas soon uncovers a larger plan at work that explains the devotion of Malcolm and his followers.

Only viewing the trailer last month, I was giddy to see Apostle arrive on our favourite streaming platform so soon to let the grim rituals begin. Grim stood as a massive understatement by the end of Evans’ Welsh folktale (in stripped-back terms) that is rich in exposing the evil behind religious loyalty but perhaps suffers in its colossal leap to explain the abnormal. By the end, I was exhausted. Not surprising from the director of The Raid (Apostle being Evans’ first English language film since his first feature Footsteps) where his joint effort in direction and penning is admirable and driven with enough force to support the unforgettable scenes of the macabre.

Dan Stevens has had quite a genre shift from his recent silver screen entries (Beauty and the Beast, The Man Who Invented Christmas) making his role in Apostle surprising for the charming actor whose dabbling with horror only reached the extent of his fantastic cult superhero show Legion. Nevertheless, Stevens is first class and full of expression, whose piercing blue eyes are a character in themselves; Wide in terror on top a blood-soaked body was so visually effective and his permanent furrowed brow resembled my face as the plot thickened. Michael Sheen brought a powerful performance to witness as the proud prophet who was certainly a grounding character to hold on to as the waves of fantasy swept in to aggravate an already seasick stomach.

Undoubtedly gripped by every slow building scene in the first hour – too engrossed, in fact, to even recognise a thirst that had been developing while my jaw grazed the floor – Evans’ understanding of suspense has to be applauded. The raw brutality – that you would expect from his direction – tangled with threads of hyperbolic lore may be the gigantic leap of faith that some viewers won’t be willing to take. Personally, the added mythical element restrained a considered tale from being nothing more than a mindless gore-fest that you’d expect from Eli Roth. Instead, Apostle resembles (at points) greats like The Wicker Man that build on the terrifying feeling of isolation and play on belief and faith in various different ways pertaining to which character has the spotlight. In an abstract way of thinking, the tale’s progression could emulate bible chapters as they introduce each character and acknowledge their beliefs whether for or against the unorthodox civilisation they have ended up living in, further proving that Evans has a sound method behind the madness.

Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal’s tour de force score holds your attention in a vice even from the title screen with a resounding ambience that is deliberately too loud to ignore. A series of haunting choirs and screeching strings (reminiscent to Mother!) only drives the audience into a deeper state of discomfort that supports Evans’ crippling tension and the religious nature of the premise. As you hear every overwhelming roar of instruments, Yuskemal’s sound design never lets you miss a crunch of bone which adds credence to Evans’ skilful decision-making as a horror filmmaker.

This dark crusade will no doubt divide audiences and troublesome psyches as it’s not for the faint-hearted, but although fantasy and horror are mixed and often overpowering in the denouement, its hold over you never slackens despite its lengthy runtime of 130 min. It’s not the likeliest of films to end up on your Halloween marathon nor a film that I would revisit in the near future, but regardless of possibly being the heaviest film of the year, Apostle respectively thrives in its originality.  If being squeamish is your downfall, then forcing yourself through the torture of watching an albeit, for lack of a better term, thought-provoking horror, is pointless and conclusively a feature you can afford to miss.

Jo’s Verdict:

3-5

                              

Watch this Space #4

We’re coming in hot this weekend with some new staff picks to make your streaming time interesting! This week’s selections come from all points of the spectrum as we recommend stories of thrill, ones with heartfelt gut-punches, and one’s that delightfully pass the time. Let us know what you’re eyeing on this list or if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing one or two of these spectacular finds!

Paddington (Paul King, 2014)

Amazon Prime UK, Netflix US/ UK

Paddington. Oh, what a lovely film indeed. For someone who, to the best of his knowledge, wasn’t all that big on the duffle coat wearing bear as a youngster, the cute little bugger won me over in the first 10 minutes of his live action outing.

There’s an insatiable British charm that runs through the entirety of Paddington, injected into the witticisms of the heartwarming bear and his surrounding ensemble. This includes, but isn’t limited to, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi. But the success of the film lies most of all within Ben Whishaw’s sublime vocals as the titular hero. Polite, self-assured and hilariously innocent, he brings the bear to life in a way I didn’t think possible.

It bears much similarity plot wise to underrated dog-flick, Beethoven, but there’s a level of admirable ambition in elevating this to a larger than life, sweeter than marmalade adventure that will have adults and kids wiping away tears of laughter in equal measure. And don’t get me started on Paddington 2, that’s an even bigger treat.

— Cameron Frew

 

Thunder Road (short) (Jim Cummings, 2016)

Vimeo

My recommendation this week will only take 12 minutes of your time, but I genuinely can’t recommend it enough. Thunder Road is written and directed by Jim Cummings, a chap we were lucky enough to interview recently following the premiere of the feature-film adaptation of this short at BFI’s London Film Festival. The short focuses on Officer Jim Arnaud, who is about to make a speech at his mother’s funeral. Cummings’ depiction of his character’s grief is truly heartbreaking to watch, and yet, he manages to add some heartwarming comedy into his performance that almost made me feel bad for smiling at. I don’t really want to say any more about the short as it’s best to watch it all first hand and witness the grief-stricken officer deliver his eulogy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the feature-film adaptation secures some form of UK distribution because my jealousy for those who’ve watched it at this year’s LFF is reaching dangerous levels!

— Tom Sheffield

 

Apostle (Gareth Evans, 2018)

Netflix UK/ US

If you’re thinking of assessing your squeamish meter this Halloween, then Gareth Evans’ Apostle might just be the challenge to put your stomach to the test, or bestow a psychological break on whichever poor soul you convince to watch it with you. Determined and never without his furrowed brow, Dan Stevens must save his sister from captivity on an isolated island inhabited by a religious cult lead by Michael Sheen’s prophet.

Brutal and dripping with grunge, Apostle contests with the big torture porn players but is laced with myth and fantasy that distances itself from the likes of Hostel while displaying stellar performances from Stevens and Sheen. Evans’ slow burning tension around a contest of beliefs is reminiscent with The Wicker Man and The Witch with one eye-widening finale that takes an early twentieth century folktale through the meat grinder.

— Jo Craig

 

Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

Netflix UK/ US

This superbly sharp dramedy is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone with its wholesome humour and endearing awkwardness. But beware, there are plenty of gut-punching moments waiting to hit you, whether you like it or not – which I guess you could say is testament to the way the film portrays the authenticities of adult life. Both Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn give career-best performances, and clearly thrive in this more grounded, raw setting. Alongside them, breakout star Kayli Carter shines, offering up much of the great comedic moments in this little indie treat.

— Jakob Lewis Barnes

 

Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, 2018)

Hulu

In a year of stellar documentary viewings to pick from, Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap uncovers some of the hardest truths in domestic violence and young teen culture. With a caring eye and ear to listen, Liu chronicles 12 years in the lives of his and two friends’ upbringing in turmultous homes. From the emotional scars of trauma to the side effects of growing out of it, the documentary digs deep and looks for answers.

One obvious haven for these young men is how the escapism of skateboarding all these years has helped them retain a foundation of trust, fun, and safety from the bad. It’s one thing to leave home for the day and forget about the worries, it’s another thing to grow up and examine the person you’re becoming in part due to your childhood. Minding the Gap just picked up a Gotham Awards nom for documentary and it surely deserves it. Go find it!

— Jessica Peña


Be sure to give us a shout over on Twitter if we’ve twisted your arm into watching any of the above this weekend. Feel free to share your streaming recommendations with us too!

LFF 2018: Roma

Year: 2018
Directed by: Alfonso CuarĂłn
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy GarcĂ­a GarcĂ­a, VerĂłnica GarcĂ­a

Written by Sarah Buddery

‘Roma’ may just be Alfonso CuarĂłn’s masterpiece. A bold way to start any review, but ‘Roma’ is a bold film, and the praise being heaped upon it already is thoroughly deserved.

Cuarón’s love letter to his country and his childhood exhibits some of the most exquisite filmmaking from the Mexican director, and the decision to shoot in black and white results in some of the most beautiful shots in any film this year. Cuarón’s camera (he also did the cinematography) travels with the characters with beautiful fluidity, pausing delicately to provide an intimacy with them.

‘Roma’ is a film which transcends normal filmmaking. It is a film which more often than not, doesn’t even feel like you’re watching a film. It feels like watching a story unfold, a story that we are fully invested and involved in. Everything about ‘Roma’ feels real and authentic. It feels like we the audience are not voyeurs on these characters and events, but instead of watching from the outside, we are totally involved and present. This makes the emotions so tangible and involving, that when it is all over you are left feeling totally breathless. ‘Roma’ is an out-of-body experience, and one which you will never want to end.

Seen through the eyes of Cleo (Aparicio), ‘Roma’ is the story of a time and a place, of change and politics, of the divide between rich and poor, and whilst it explores all of these things, it never strays away from Cleo. Because of this, the film remains above all else a testament to motherhood and strong women. In places it is uplifting, and in others it is devastating, but it is consistently authentic, honest, and powerful.

The sound design isn’t perhaps the first thing people pick out in a film, but the sound of ‘Roma’ is absolutely incredible. It feels so immersive and so real, the sounds of the city happening around us, voices and noises coming from all directions causing you to study every inch of the screen. It is hard to describe, but ‘Roma’ does really need to be heard to be believed.

Visually striking, aurally immersive and emotionally captivating, ‘Roma’ is undoubtedly one of the finest films of the year and arguably CuarĂłn’s best film. It is certainly his most personal film, and the labour of love that this film represents permeates through every single frame. With exceptional performances, beautiful imagery, and the finest sound design in recent years, ‘Roma’ isn’t just a film which deserves to be seen on the big screen, it is one which deserves to be heard on the big screen. It bears repeating: ‘Roma’ is a masterpiece.

SARAH’S VERDICT:

5

LFF 2018: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson,

Written by Dave Curtis

Have you ever wondered how many ideas rattle around the inside of Joel and Ethan Coens head? The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the end product of some of those ideas they could no longer contain. This Netiflx produced film has every thing you love and hate from the brothers, fantastic characters, a host of famous names, snappy smart dialogue, beautiful cinematography and strong bloody violence.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of short stories set in the old west. It was once destined for the small screen as a TV series but luckily it has been given the big screen treatment, the landscapes alone deserved it. The film starts with a shot of a book, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. A hand appears and turns the front cover to reveal the first chapter which is accompanied by a carefully drawn picture from the upcoming story. With it is a small section of dialogue, teasing what is about to happen. This happens every time a story ends and a new chapter begins.

First up is Buster Scruggs himself, played by Coen Brothers regular Tim Blake Nelson. First seen riding his horse (named Dan) playing a guitar and singing at the top of his voice. He might come across as fun time cowboy but really he is a crack shot, deadly as he is polite. This chapter is classic Coen Bros. Funny and violent. A full film of just Buster Scruggs would have been all we needed. It is a fun and blistering first 30 minutes, if only The Ballad of Buster Scruggs could maintain that level.

James Franco as a bumbling bank robber in the second short story gets the best line and biggest laugh in the whole film. Over the next few short stories there are a collection of more serious and darker tales. Don’t worry the usual humour is sprinkled about. There is Liam Neeson as a travelling entertainer of sorts. Tom Waits searching for gold. Zoe Karzan who joins a wagon train to search for a new life in Oregon. Brendan Gleeson (sorry no beard) and others in stagecoach journey. In all this the movie takes a slight dip. Each story is different in appearance and tone. The transition between story could have been worked out better. Maybe using a reoccurring character or location would have smoothed it out (but what do I know, the Coen Brothers are masters and definitely know better than me). Apparently this is the longest film the two brothers have made and in some places it does feel that way.

If its one thing that the Coen Brothers do well is Westerns and stunning landscapes. Cinematographer Bruno Delhonnel here working with Joel and Ethan for the second time (The first being ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’) captures the mood and feel for each little story perfectly.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs may not be the Coen Brothers best film, but a bad film for them is still better than most films released today. The problem is when it’s good it is really good and that reflects on some on the slower stories. A strong start and beautiful cinematography enriched by a score by Carter Burwell tides this film together. The cast are just the icing that brings it all together. Tim Blake Nelson is the films VIP.

 

Dave’s Verdict:

3-5