Joker ★★★★☆

 

Following a string of impressive DC releases, we have the latest incarnation of the legendary villain, The Joker. Can Phoenix match Ledger in bring the crown prince of crime to the big screen?

Directed by Todd Phillips

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro


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Dirty God ★★★☆☆

Dirty God is a somber look at a young mother who has to suffer from the consequences of an acid attack on the streets of London. The lead, is played by a real life burns survivor, bringing an extra sense of realism to the film.

Directed by Sacha Polak

Starring Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly


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Tolkien ★★½☆☆

Flying in under the radar, was this look back at the life of the legendary author, JRR Tolkien. Looking back at the events and experiences that shaped his life, which would go on to inspire his to write of books called Lord of the Rings………may sound familiar!

Directed by Dome Karukoski

Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins


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Rocketman ★★★★☆

Freddie Mercury got the big screen treatment last year, now it’s the turn for another musical icon to get on the silver screen. Can Rocketman hit the Oscar buzz? Taron Egerton takes up the role of the iconic Elton John in this flamboyant biopic!

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

Starring Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard


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Review / Creed ★★★★☆

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When the Creed spin off was first announced, audiences were skeptical to if this was simply another money grabbing franchise, put together for a quick cash in. But just like prior release Rocky Balboa, Creed proved to be an excellent addition to the Rocky series. Focusing on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed(Michael B Jordan), as he is taken under the wings of a retired Rocky. Creed 2, no longer has the influential Ryan Coogler attached to the project, but ultimately, new director Steven Caple Jr. still delivers an excellent sequel.

Even though the fights bring the glamour to these movies, the Rocky franchise has always been more about the story and character development. Creed 2 manages to give both Creed, and his rival, the son of the lethal Ivan Drago, Viktor (Munteanu) , some real personality. Adonis is actually far more unlikable in this film, as opposed to Viktor. Adonis with his arrogance and resentment, comes across far more conflicted, which makes his progress throughout the movie far more enjoyable. Dealing with his engagement and child brings him a far tougher challenge than anything the ring has thrown at him.

Speaking of Viktor, he is far more captivating of an opponent, than the rival in the first film (boxer Tony Bellew’s Ricky Conlon). Conlon was simply a generic cocky, brash prize-fighter, seen many times over. Although Munteanu is not a professional boxer, unlike Bellew, his relationship with his once formidable, but now disgraced father Ivan (Lundgren) really gives Viktor an edge in terms of a personality. The final showdown is done is such a way, you really do end up rooting for both of them to win, as they are both dealing with such inner turmoil. The boxing is as well filmed as they always are in this franchise. You can really feel every killer hook or brutal knockdown.

Stallone is as endearing as always as the aging Italian Stallion, though he doesn’t have as big a role as the previous film,  his character is as warming as ever, and his arc does get wrapped up nicely. If the rumors are true, it would be a nice way to write out the legend. Tessa Thompson also shines again as Creed’s partner Bianca, she is nicely incorporated into Adonis’s facade both in and out the ring. It would have been easy for the film to simply wash over her hearing issues, but it’s used for some powerful scenes this time around.

The movie does suffer from following the usual Rocky formula, borrowing elements from both Rocky 3 & 4. The film is rather predictable to any one who is familiar with any of the previous entries, It’s also a shame that Rocky & Drago don’t really share much screen time together, bar their first meeting early in the movie. Apparently there were some post fight scenes as our old foes share a moment of respect, but it was cut. As soon as the final fight ends, it cuts right to the conclusion of the film. One other nagging moment is that the iconic training montage just seems to lack something to make it Rocky caliber, not just your everyday montage.

Those criticisms aside, Creed 2 is still a fascinating sequel. Adonis really changes as a person, and our antagonist is also as endearing as our hero. The fight scenes are incredibly powerful and wonderfully shot. In all honesty, there really is no need to make a third installment. Though if anything, a film following the Dragos journey to redemption would be just as intriguing to watch.

Review : Searching ★★★★

We’ve already seen the ‘on screen’ format recently with Unfriended :Dark Web, where the majority of the action takes place on the screen of a characters computer. It’s a unique way of telling a story, which works rather well with the society we live in now. Whereas Unfriended used this method to deploy cheap thrills and deliver an incoherent story, Searching manages to be surprisingly emotional and intense.

Following the disappearance of his young daughter, Margot (Michelle La) , David Kim (John Cho) uses all the methods at hand in order to track down what exactly happened. After tracking her Facebook, Tumblr and other social media activities, things start to turn down a sinister avenue.

Director Aneesh Chaganty manages to weave a captivating tale, even though we only see the drama take place in one place, the desktop of David. The film feels very current, and the tech used are the real programs, giving the film that much more realism.  John Cho puts in a fascinating performance,  he is pretty much in all the scenes, and really has to carry the movie. Though he is commonly known for his comedic talents, his role as a worried dad, willing to do anything to find out the truth is wonderful.

The film makes great use of the mother’s passing, to convey emotion. Especially when David logs into the account of someone who has passed away. It provides an eerie vibe, with small details like an inbox with thousands on unread emails. There are several other small details hidden in the background that makes things so effective.

The film manages to relate to several issues we have nowadays, especially the trend of people trying to bandwagon onto whatever the next trending news is, in order to get some more likes or retweets. How easy it is to talk trash/meme a stranger online. or how people act in real life, as opposed to their online persona. One particular scene is done extremely well, and makes want to yell at the character on screen!

On the negative side, there really isn’t too much to frown upon, the only issue I had was the fact the film’s promotional material, actively mentioned a big twist, which isn’t really that shocking. It was obvious the film would have a twist, and it felt strange that they felt like it needed to be mentioned, especially as the twist felt rather rushed. The film’s trailer also reveals far too much of the story, and would have preferred if they kept more of it a secret!

Searching is by far one of the best movies of the year so far, and is getting the critical praise it deserves (still at 92% on RT!), Cho really turns this film into what could have been a fairly average film, to a great one. It also contains probably one of the most emotional openings to a film since Up! And that’s saying something!

The Foreigner Does Enough

Jackie Chan is not usually seen in a serious tone in his movies over here in the West. Although he may be great as a comedic actor, he is also well known for his more dramatic roles back in the East. So fans were intrigued to see that the latest Chan movie to be released here, was a shift away from the norm here, and places him in a far more melancholic surrounding.

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The Foreigner directed by Martin Campbell, is a fairly typical revenge thriller. Quan (Chan) is a worker, living a simple life in London, but following an IRA terrorist bombing, he loses his teenage daughter (Katie Lueng). Using all his military expertise from days gone past, he sets out on a relentless pursuit for answers, and to find the people responsible. This leads him to the doorstep of the deputy minister for Northern Ireland, Liam Hennessy (Brosnan).

Taken, this isn’t, but The Foreigner is still an enjoyable movie to sit down and watch. It’s far more interesting to see Chan as the broken down father figure, rather than what he  is usually type cast as, and all his scenes carry great intensity. There are several action scenes that make use of Chan, but they are not as vibrant as they usually are, it’s far more visceral and calculated. Brosnan is excellent as the charming deputy minister, bringing a strong gravitas to a film that really isn’t flooded with big names. His witty exchanges with his fellow cabinet members and staff still exude that 007 aura he had, even down to getting his hands messy if needs must.  The cat & mouse interactions between Quan & Hennessy are by far the most fascinating parts of the movie, though Hennessy insists he was not involved, Quan is adamant he must have known something, considering his powerful political position.

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Where the film struggles is the overall story arc, the entire IRA subplot really does slow down the movie, and it gets drowned in a lot of dialogue and conversations.  The plot attempts to be far more intricate and layered than it really should have been. Any scene which does not involve Chan or Brosnan really feels like a drag.  The whole affair plot line has a resolution, but even then, it feels like it could have been written in a much more captivating manner.  Also, there could have been more scenes with Chan, as that really is the film’s strongest points.  Seeing Chan take out elite soldiers in the woods is far more interesting than political power plays. Quan is almost a secondary character compared to Hennessy. As good as Hennessy is, most people would be tuning into this for Chan, and they really didn’t make the most of that factor.

Overall, the movie does seem to drown itself with its plot at times, but the star power of Chan and the charm of Brosnan has enough to make The Foreigner worth a watch.

Battle of the Sexes – An Ace For Fans

Starring Emma Stone & Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes is the dramatization of the real life events in 1973 which lead to the creation of the WTA, the Women’s Tennis Association.

Battle of the Sexes takes a look back at the monumental clash between former men’s Number 1, Bobby Riggs (Carell), in the twilight on his career. Up against one of the top women’s players at the time, Billie Jean King (Stone) in an open challenge to the Women’s tour.  Back in the early 70s, the Women’s game was highly disregarded in the male dominated game, with far less pay and recognition than their male counterparts. So the consequences of this clash would go far beyond the court.

Though the subject of the movie may be Tennis, the film takes a greater look into the inner conflicts and demons that our two protagonists are facing. King is struggling to deal with her sexuality, and the pressures of being away on tour from her husband. Whereas Riggs is trying to balance the end of a career with his increasing gambling addiction, which is causing immence strain in his relationship with his wife.

Battle of the Sexes is a slow burner, as the first hour focuses mainly off the court, with both Stone & Carell excelling in their performances. Though the role is far more serious than what he usually does, Carell still brings his trademark flair to the role of Riggs, bringing sympathy to a character who revels playing the pantomine villain in this show.  

The struggles faced especially by King, against a system which simply does not treat her colleagues as a serious threat and the credibility they deserve provides the movie with an antagonist we can all get behind, the USLTA commsioner Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). Sarah Silverman also shines bright as the resourceful & sassy manager of the breakaway LTA organisation.

Battle of the Sexes is a must watch for any fan of Tennis, as the influences of this event still reverberates today. It may feel like it does drag on at times, and the actual showdown isn’t as hyped up as it could have been, it feels like the drama on the court could have been built up far more greater. The 2 actors are not known for the physical roles, so it probably was expected to reduce the on court scenes in a minimum. However it’s the players personal battles off court, that soar above their battles on court. 

Our Last Tango – It Takes Two!

Going into this movie, I wasn’t too sure what to expect! I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Dance, nor am I familiar with the famous names associated with the Tango. But this does give me a chance to watch ‘Our Last Tango’ with a neutral position, with no bias. Any documentary can attract the attention of the fans it’s aimed towards, but a great documentary can intrigue even the most casual of fans!

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Our Last Tango’ is the journey of Maria Nieves & Juan Carlos Copes, the dance partners who took the Tango, which at the time, was relatively unknown, all the way to the international stage. The couple were praised for their intensity & ingenuity, which has made the Tango what it is now. But they were only a couple on the stage, this compelling documentary takes a look at what eventually became a tumultuous relationship. With the two dancers taking very different trajectories in life.

The film is split into two distinguishable parts. You have the standard documentary format, using interviews from Maria & Juan, among others, and the use of stock footage from the archives. Then there are the dance segments, in which various actors are used to dramatize certain parts from days gone past. These are vibrant displays of Tango which really display how much the couple loved what they do, and how their journey from their roots, all the way to shining lights of Broadway developed. It is very similar in format to ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’, which also released earlier this year.

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Director German Kral does a stellar job in weaving the flamboyant fiction with the more sombre factual interviews. Their relationship is at such a point, the two partners, rarely see each other, but at the same time, it is important to see what they did in their glory days, and the joy they bought to their millions of fans around the world.

Even though I didn’t have much of a connection with either of our couple beforehand, ‘Our Last Tango’ does a grand feat in making the audience feel empathy. The story of Maria is especially poignant, as she was truly devoted to Juan, but in the end, it just did not work out for her. Juan was dedicated to his goal of making the Tango world renowned, after all, it was his unique idea to dance on a table up on stage, but he never truly envisioned a life together with Maria as life went on. The scene where she receives an emotional standing ovation, by the fans she though did not care for her is very stirring, and almost makes you want to join in with the applause too!

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Overall, the film will intrigue anyone who has an interest to the Tango, and if your into your cultural arts, you will certainly appreciate this, but it did terrifically to make me feel as much as I did!  The dancing scenes are spectacular, with the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ sequence being the highlight on the film by far, but it’s the sentimental story behind all the glitz and glamour that really gives ‘Our Last Tango’ that emotional grip on our attentions.

3 word reviewvibrant and emotional

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