Tag Archives: Film Review

The Greatest Showman Review

By Ellie Robson.

Michael Gracey’s debut film The Greatest Showman was advertised as the big Christmas family film of the year; a big, bright musical extravaganza which told the ultimate rags-to-riches narrative. This is certainly a promise that it has delivered, which is shown by the dominance of the film at the box office, with many members of the audience returning for a second viewing. As I write this, The Greatest Showman soundtrack is holding the No. 1 spot on the iTunes albums charts, ahead of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, with Keala Settle’s outstanding performance of single “This Is Me” at No. 7 in the songs chart. Continue reading The Greatest Showman Review

Murder on the Orient Express Film Review

By Geri Blackburn

In this new take on the British crime classic, Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as arguably Agatha Christie’s most popular creation, the famous yet peculiar Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The combination of this well-known story, as well as its all-star cast, such as Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, has allowed Murder on the Orient Express to become one of the most anticipated new releases of the year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Continue reading Murder on the Orient Express Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review: Does it Live Up to the First?

By Natalie Froome

The second instalment of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy has been long awaited, but it was worth it. In ‘Vol.2’ The band of unlikely heroes are back again, saving the galaxy from a threat that’s much closer to home.

Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review: Does it Live Up to the First?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

By Beth Papworth

This magical spin off of Harry Potter is well worth a watch, it captures the hearts and minds of fans that are enchanted by the wizarding world. Directed by the esteemed David Yates, who does not fail to impress, we are introduced to wild and fantastical beasts like the Niffler and Occamy. The film follows  busy body Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), who protects his magical creatures in his suitcase and helps fend off dark magic.

Soon we are transported to 1926, where Scamander arrives at Ellis Island with a bottomless suitcase full of illegal “livestock”, ranging from a naughty Niffler (a mole that loves shiny objects and money) to a giant storm-causing Thunderbird. You can’t help but love the adorable Newt with his particular idiosyncrasies and adoration for magic. It is his encounter with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a factory worker who unleashes a dozen magical creatures onto the streets, that we witness a budding friendship.

Eddie Redmayne is the perfect casting for the lead role. He’s kind, awkward and quintessentially British. The chemistry that unfolds between him and Katherine Waterson, who plays auror Tina, keeps the audience hooked. Jacob is the comedic legend of the film, who is utterly besotted with flapper Queenie (Alison Sudol).

It’s a real rollercoaster ride through New York City in the jazz age. Entertainment fills the screen with wild beasts on the loose and heroic Newt bravely on the hunt to catch the escaped creatures. Visually, the film is impressive with its tall buildings, squalid city streets, and realistic looking beasts. Audiences will warm to the Niffler, in spite of its mischievous antics and crazy escapades around the city. A creative, charming and enchanting film that would be a shame to miss if you’re a fan of all things magical.

Image: “Eddie Redmayne” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A Street Cat Named Bob Review

By Luke Farnish

As a lover of small budget, feel-good, indie films, I leapt at the ‘chance to see a street cat named Bob’. The film, closely based on the book of the same name, itself a written account of the life of the main character, centres on James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a London busker and recovering heroin addict. He’s given a lucky break when his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt, Anna Bates in Downton Abbey) finds him emergency housing. A short time later, James’ life is changed when he has a break in, only to find the trespasser is no thief, but a ginger cat who a neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas) names Bob (played by several cats, but most notably himself). The film then shows how James’ life slowly improves by having Bob around, through highs and lows until ending on the high of publishing the book that the film is based on, with some special guests in the final scenes.

As mentioned, this is my kind of film. The budget was estimated to be around $8,000,000 (or about 1/30th the cost of Star Wars VII) but the relatively low budget does not show. Although, while watching it’s hard to ignore the fact that the cast is small and the use of locations limited, as well as James’ flat being hardly full of expensive props, you can’t help but feel that this sort of film plays to the strengths of the indie genre and avoids having to pay for expensive CGI and other effects.

The casting choices are interesting as, excluding Joanne Froggatt and Anthony Head (who plays James’ father), the major actors are relatively unknown. Despite this, the performances by all involved were compelling and emotive, with Treadaway’s performance being of particular note as all of the songs shown while busking are performed by him. However, all the actors are overshadowed by one debut performance, that of Bob himself. Bob comes across as by far the most deeply thought about and complex character of the film. His curious and loving nature making even the most stone-hearted viewer warm to him. While several cats portray Bob and his antics, the real Bob is among them too – something rarely done with such a film. It’s rare for a film that is ‘based on a true story’ to feel so much like it really is. It’s hard to find any element of the film that does not seem believable even if some parts are obviously slightly edited to improve flow.

There are, as with any film, issues. Pacing is certainly one. The film moves at a relatively even pace which is not very typical for a genre that enjoys taking the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster and that pace is perhaps a little slower than a modern audience might be expecting.

Overall, though, this film ticks all the right boxes for an evening of movie delight. An easy four stars for a film about nine lives.

Image “That London” by Bryan Ledgard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Louis Theroux “My Scientology Movie”

By Sophie Lurcuck

If asked whether you could name a journalist or documentary maker, presumably many young people will come up stumped. Except from the likes of David Attenborough, the name most students are interested in is Louis Theroux. Whether that is due to the streaming mogul, Netflix, exposing a new generation to his infamous past of rapping on an episode of Weird Weekends, or growing up with his charm and ability to gain answers, he definitely has a way of captivating his audience.

His latest documentary entitled, ‘My Scientology Movie’ was no different being a truly funny, informative and even tense in places, insight into the enigmatic religion that is Scientology. Since being created by Sci-Fi author, L. Ron Hubbard, the religion has grown, with its base in Los Angeles where the documentary is set. Unfortunately, Louis was denied access into Scientology to make his film, which inevitably raised the question for both Louis and the audience of how can he make a documentary about a subject that he cannot be witness to or investigate fully?

His vision, shared by director John Dower, of reconstructing some of the most extreme events that allegedly took place within the church became the key basis of the film. The main source behind these reconstructions was former Scientologist, Marty Rathbun, who was the Attorney General for the church. He was accused of carrying out some of the most violent incidents although not even Louis with his trademark long pauses could elicit further details on the matter. In a gripping scene Marty demonstrated, using a team of actors, the practices scientologists undergo in order to achieve a believed divine goal. This included bizarre activities such as screaming at an object placed on an adjacent chair.

Although the documentary was not the overt expose into Scientology I was expecting, it still provided coverage of the fundamentals of Scientology, such as current leader David Miscavige’s belief that he is going to save the entire universe. After being denied interviews, Louis improvised by using actors to play the role of Miscavige to recreate the alleged explosive incidents that the church has always denied. One such recreation was very distressing and emotionally effective in conveying the fear reported by ex-members to the audience. The film successfully depicted the immense power one man has within this religion, and explored his relationship with celebrities such as Tom Cruise, who recently praised Scientology on the red carpet.

However, Marty is scorned by the Scientologists as a traitor and accused of being bitter by the church and therefore is not a very reliable source for the majority of the film to depend on. Arguably the documentary itself was biased, by exploring the negative sides of Scientology predominantly through talking to people who have left the religion, also known as defectors. The only interview with a current member was an exposé of the consumerist side of Scientology, demonstrating how people are ‘manipulated’ into spending thousands of dollars on books, to achieve higher status within the church.

However, with credit to Louis, he did approach the Church for access to their side of the story, and when faced with impromptu encounters with members of Scientology he did attempt to hear their views, but they were reluctant to participate. The validity of his intentions are questionable, but Marty did provide an interesting glimpse into how tough life was after leaving scientology, through the capture of incidents of harassment he has had with ‘Squirrel busters’, an organisation I was previously unaware existed.

Overall the documentary is an insightful depiction of the life of a Scientologist, in which you learn some of the stages you have to complete in order to reach this perceived idealism. The entertaining portrayal of the secretiveness of the church itself left me just as fascinated with Scientology’s impenetrable exterior as Louis himself.

Image “Tom Cruise” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

By Jodie Bailey

It seems like we have YA book adaptations popping up here, there and everywhere these days, and with such an over-saturation of the YA genre you would be forgiven for holding out little faith that original stories could be told. And fine, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a quirky mash-up of X-Men and Harry Potter so it’s not entirely original, but thanks to Tim Burton’s masterful ability to add a Gothic twist to anything he creates, Miss Peregrine manages to stand out from an otherwise formulaic genre.

Our story focuses on Jake (Asa Butterfield), a Harry Potter-type who actually has parents and a grandfather, whose bedtime stories aren’t the works of fiction Jake believed them to be. After a family tragedy Jake is haunted by monstrous dreams, so he goes to Wales to put his fears to rest, only to find that the monsters in his dreams are all too real. At the titular home, he meets several children with an array of ‘peculiarities’ and of course Miss Peregrine herself (portrayed by Eva Green, who sadly doesn’t get enough screen time). Asa Butterfield takes on an archetypal hero role and holds his own in a great cast including Chris O’Dowd and Samuel L. Jackson, who begins to grate on you only ever so slightly towards the end of the film.

Whilst the film strays away from the original plot of the book, the movie has enough peculiarities to keep it fresh and engaging. The special effects are great, but not in an overly Tim Burton fashion, so those who aren’t huge fans of his work shouldn’t be put off. After watching the movie your usual YA series will no longer suffice, so go on, embrace the peculiar!

Image from 20th Century Fox

Girl on the Train Review

By Cassie Waters

As someone who read Paula Hawkins’ Girl on the Train with a fascinated horror that meant I was glued to my copy for several days, I was sure that seeing the film would go one of two ways. It would either do the book complete justice and reaffirm all that I loved about it, or I would hate it, horrified by the changes made to turn it into a screenplay or by actors that I felt didn’t fit the part. However the reality was much more flat. I felt no joy or outrage at the adaptation. The film seemed to wilt, falling under the pressure of the expectations of an audience of readers. The film seemed to coast throughout, never reaching its potential. The only time I gripped my seat was at a gory moment at the end, more my own squeamishness than any tension achieved by the film.

However, despite the generally underwhelming nature of Girl on the Train, a shining light throughout the film was Emily Blunt as the alcoholic protagonist Rachel, a woman destroyed by her divorce from her husband and obsessed by the seemingly perfect life of a woman who lives near her former house. Her chapped lips, vacant eyes and slurred speech interspersed with outbreaks of pure rage at her situation made her appear both pitiable and potentially threatening. Through the shaking camera lens the audience is forced to confront what it is like to be in a permanent state of being drunk or hungover and the effect is haunting. Emily Blunt’s raw, unglamorous believability contrasted with Haley Bennett’s Megan, the woman at the heart of Rachel’s fantasies of the perfect life, who I felt came across as two dimensional and towards whom I felt no sympathy. Rebecca Ferguson, as the other woman turned wife of Rachel’s ex husband, was similarly disappointing. She didn’t quite manage to pull off the conflicting nature of a character who was both smug and self satisfied and deeply insecure. She could not compete with the on screen presence of Emily Blunt

Ultimately, the film relies heavily on the question of what happened that day when Megan went missing to interest the viewer. For those like me who have already read the book and know what will happen, the film does not do enough to make you invested in the story all over again, always falling short of the heights it could achieve, despite the brilliance of Emily Blunt. And if that isn’t enough to express the slowness of Girl on the Train, the fact my housemate fell asleep during it sums it up.

Image from The Guardian

Captain America: Civil War Review

By Alex J Lee

Wow! If I was to sum this movie up in one word it would probably be wow. I’m a Marvel fan and I think that this is probably Marvel’s best movie yet. Captain America: Civil War got the balance of action, adventure, humour, plot, emotion and excitement just right. If you like Marvel and superheroes go and see it!

Following a fight between Crossbones and a team of Avengers – Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Captain America and Falcon – the governments of the world decide that superheroes need to be held accountable for the collateral damage caused in their fights. Iron Man/Tony Stark agrees and Captain America/Steve Rogers disagrees. Their friends and fellow Avengers get involved and it leads to the titular Civil War. Except it’s not quite so formulaic and various sub-plots arise – including the reappearance of Steve’s old friend Bucky Barnes also known as the Winter Soldier – which leads to more and more compilations.

Given the track record of DC movies to ignore collateral damage, many times taking property damage to extreme level, it’s certainly interesting to finally see a superhero movie that acknowledges this. Also given Marvels past with representation it’s good to see a Marvel movie with three black heroes – War Machine, Falcon and Black Panther – as well as three female heroes – Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and Agent 13. I hope Marvel continue to grow in this direction.

Civil War is not a flawless movie. In my opinion, (and remember I am proudly Team Cap) Tony Stark didn’t have to fully deal with the consequences of his actions leaving his story arc within the movie feeling incomplete. Also I thought Zemo was misused as an antagonist in the movie given that he is an important villain in the comics.

In many ways Civil War is a more worthy sequel to Avengers Assemble than last year’s Age Of Ultron. That said; Avengers Assemble is a good jumping on point to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suspect someone who hasn’t seen at least two other Marvel movies would probably be completely lost.

Image from Marvel Website

Hail, Caesar! Review

By Emily Vause

I went to watch Hail, Caesar! purely on a whim with no knowledge of what it was about nor who was in it, with the exception of Channing Tatum, therefore I had no expectations prior to seeing the film. If I’d had expectations however, I think they would have been surpassed. Hail, Caesar! is one of the most random, yet funniest, films I have seen in a long time. The movie is centred on the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) and the general struggles running a Hollywood studio in the 1950s.

One of the main surprises the film held for me was the vast amount of actors I recognised; Scarlet Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, and of course, as mentioned earlier, Clooney and Tatum. The star-studded cast was definitely a perk however it was the performance of an actor who I didn’t know so well, that of Alden Ehrenreich, that impressed me the most. Ehrenreich convincingly portrays a wannabee actor who just cannot act while also giving a stunning performance in that role, very paradoxical.

Hail, Caesar! seems to have achieved more negative reviews than positive overall on the internet from people going to see the film expecting a masterpiece however that is not the aim of the film. Hail, Caesar! is both a spoof and an ode to past films, particularly water ballets, westerns and biblical adaptations. Many reviewers missed that point. If you need some light entertainment and a few laughs head down to the cinema and catch this one, it’s not a masterpiece but it is hilarious.

Although I recommend it for a number of reasons, if there is anything you watch it for let it be Tatum’s somewhat homoerotic tap dance sequence, it had the whole cinema in stitches.

Image from Hail, Caesar! website

Pride, Prejudice and Zombies – Did it Have Bite?

By Emily Vause

Although I had wanted to see this film for a long time I did not have high hopes that it would go on to become a cinematic masterpiece. I went out seeking a good laugh and maybe a bit of a scare and in these respects it succeeded. After reading, and loving, Pride and Prejudice I was interested in what a few Zombies could add to the mix. What they did do is turn the Bennet girls into tough, feminist role models with Elizabeth’s main concern about marrying being giving up her knives.

If you have read Pride and Prejudice this film is an absolutely hilarious watch but even if you haven’t, the humour is not restricted to inside jokes for those who have read the book. Though there are a few, the humour in the film is genuine and had the entire cinema in hysterics. One character in particular had everyone in tears. There was not one scene that Mr Collins, played by UEA’s own Matt Smith, was in that did not make the cinema roar with laughter. If there is anything you watch the film for let it be his atrocious character and amazing acting.

Of course the sexual tension between Elizabeth and Darcy is just as clear in the film as it was to perceptive readers of the book. One scene in particular, I won’t say which but some may guess, had me in hysterics. It will not disappoint.

There are a few scary bits I warn, not so much for content but for loud bangs and jump scares that absolutely succeeded in their aim. That is not a deterrence from seeing the film however, in a way the horror adds to the humour in a great way.

I know there are a few Pride and Prejudice lovers out there who probably think the film just looks trashy, and I thought that when I heard about the book, but we are both wrong. Pride, Prejudice and Zombies is one of the funniest films I have seen this year and everyone needs the experience of Darcy angrily beheading trees in their lives.

Image from variety.com