SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2016 – DVD & ON DEMAND REVIEW ROUND-UP

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2016 – DVD & ON DEMAND REVIEW ROUND-UP

In addition to my cinema reviews I also watched an eclectic mix of TV shows, big movies and art and indie flicks this month. As usual I have packaged them into bitesize chunks for your perusal. As usual marks are out of eleven.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

AMANDA KNOX (2016) – NETFLIX

The despicable murder of Meredith Kercher caused a media and legal storm in Italy over ten years ago now. Amanda Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito were charged and convicted before appealing against the crimes. This intriguing documentary lifts the lid on a case where the media and Italian legal system are on trial as much as Knox herself. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

CIRCLE (2015) – NETFLIX

Well-written-one-location-low-budget film finds many strangers in room fighting for their lives.  Social, religious, gender and ethnic demographics become key to the choice of “who dies next”; in a nifty, intelligent thriller which critiques humanity in an entertaining fashion. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

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DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) – NETFLIX

Tarantino’s classic revisionist slave western gets better on every watch; and I would have to say that it is arguably, amidst the stylistic flourishes, his most satisfying narrative as a whole. The bone-crunching violence and bloody shootouts are a joy, yet Tarantino also draws emotional power from the love story between Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington’s enslaved couple. Meanwhile, Christophe Waltz and Leonard DiCaprio ride off into the sunset with the acting honours. (Mark: 10 out of 11)

ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) – TCM

I loved this Bruce Lee Kung-fu classic when I was growing up. Now, it just seems like a slightly tired James Bond rip-off in terms of plot, however, Bruce Lee was a martial arts master and movie star; so it is his charisma and fighting skills which really shine through now. (Mark: 8 out of 11 – for Lee!)

GOOSEBUMPS (2015) – SKY CINEMA

This is a pretty decent meta-fictional comedy-action film with Jack Black hamming it up as a mysterious writer whose creations wreak havoc on a small town. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

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GOTO – ISLAND OF LOVE (1969) – DVD

This is a very surreal drama from critically acclaimed Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk.  In the past I would have loved insane stuff like this but I couldn’t get my head around the weird inhabitants of a prison colony acting out warped love rituals while trapped on an island. (Mark: 5 out of 11)

THE GUEST (2014) – FILM FOUR

The Guest (2014) is a smart, funny and violent B-movie which makes merry hell of its’ “cuckoo in the nest” plot.  Dan Stevens is brilliant and has all the charm and looks of a bona fide movie star in the making and a good shout for the next James Bond. I’ve seen this a few times now and it is a genuine under-rated classic. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) – ITV2

Soppy time-travel love story which kind of does and doesn’t make sense stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It’s a likable film with fun concept and pleasant moments.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

MATCH POINT (2005) – NETFLIX

Woody Allen’s excellent London-set thriller builds slowly and pays off wonderfully by the end. The characters are well drawn as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers young existential tennis pro darkens his soul through poor life decisions. Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johannsson, Brian Cox and Matthew Goode complete an attractive cast in the excellent Dostoyevsky-laced crime drama. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

PEOPLE JUST DO NOTHING – SEASON 1 (2014) – NETFLIX

This is a funny Gervais-influenced-Office-style-mockumentary-comedy which follows the shenanigans of a West London pirate radio station. Satirizing youth culture and we get a peek into the lives of the likes of MC Grindah and feckless mates.  (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

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SAW (2004) – SKY CINEMA

While it started a tortuous never-ending-cash-cow-franchise, never forget the original Saw is a genuine horror classic from James Wan and Leigh Whannell. You get two guys, one cell and a hell-of-a-dangerous serial killer on the loose that leads to some great twists and bloody murder. The ending alone is still a gob-smacking treat as you put together Jigsaw’s fiendish plan. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR – SKY CINEMA

Roberto Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s sequel to the mind-blowing violent-noir-comic-book-digital-backlot-splatterfest Sin City (2005) was eagerly anticipated by me. This had the same hard-boiled dialogue, bone-crunching violence and some fantastic imagery, but aside from Eva Green’s terrific femme fatale it lacked the impact of the first film and fell a bit flat. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

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SONS OF ANARCHY – SEASON 3 (2010) – NETFLIX

The third revving-crunching-porno-shooting-explosive season had Jax and the other gang members battling the Mayans, the FBI and going on “holiday” to Ireland to take on the “Real” Irish Republican Army. It’s a real soapy mix of violence, bullets and familial-led drama with enough plot turns and jaw-dropping set-pieces to keep you entertained throughout the fast-paced episodes. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

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THE FINEST HOURS (2016) – SKY CINEMA

This Disney disaster movie set in the 1950s is a very watchable human drama sensitively directed by Craig Gillespie. It flopped at the box office, yet Chris Pine and Casey Affleck are on very good form in the leads and there are some great set-pieces too on the sea. The real star is Carter Burwell’s epic music but in my opinion the film deserved a bigger audience. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

TO THE WONDER (2012) – DVD

This is a beautifully shot yet overlong and pretentious love story with banal Olga Kurylenko and a depressive Ben Affleck sleep-walking through his role. Terence Malick is a fine auteur but despite the wondrous scenery and vaguely interesting structure this bored me overall. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

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SCREENWASH SPECIAL- ARRIVAL, DR STRANGE & NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEWED

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER CINEMA SPECIAL – by PAUL LAIGHT

I often have all my reviews for the month in one place but occasionally I split them, as is the case here. I haven’t seen that many films at the cinema this month but the three I did see were all excellent in their own way. Here are my reviews with marks out of eleven.

**CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**

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ARRIVAL (2016)

The wonderfully serene Amy Adams portrays, Louise Banks, an academic linguist whose standing is such that when Earth is visited by twelve spaceships, she is called in by the military to attempt communication. Governments all over the world try various methods in which to discover whether the aliens are intending to attack. What are their primary intentions or targets? Are they friends or foe?

As it is directed by the supremely talented Denis Villeneuve the film moves at a careful but considered pace. When Adam’s accompanies Jeremy Renner’s physicist, Ian Donnelly we at first see the inside of the alien craft and it’s not long before we are faced with the strange-looking cephalopod-type creatures. The narrative meat becomes a series of attempts by Banks and Donnelly to try and crack the visual alien code. Meanwhile, the Chinese and Russians are becoming impatient and, like the Americans, considering attacking the spaceships in a pre-emptive military measure.

I won’t say any more because it would risk ruining the story but what unfolds is a clever and mind-bending turn of events which upsides genre expectations. The intriguing premise, brilliant script, ambient score, stylish effects, subtle cinematography and purposeful direction make this one of the best films I have seen all year. It is an intelligent and emotional science-fiction drama with a beautifully constructed narrative which constantly surprised and moved me.  It also asks big questions on the nature of time, existence and love; informing us that not all extra-terrestrial life in movies has to be monstrous and deadly.  (Mark 10 out of 11)

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DR STRANGE (2016)

Marvel, like they did with Ant-Man (2015) take a lesser known character in Dr Stephen Strange and turn it into one of the most entertaining and spellbinding blockbusters of the year.  To be honest none of this should work, however, it is a testament to the work of a committed director in Scott Derrickson and formidable heavyweight acting cast including: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and imperious Tilda Swinton, that this mystical soufflé works so well.

Cumberbatch, filtering his Sherlock persona wonderfully, is a gifted, yet arrogant neurosurgeon who following a bone-crunching automobile accident finds his gifted hands are no good to man nor beast. His attempts at physical rehabilitation prove unsuccessful so he goes on a spiritual journey to Nepal in an attempt to fix his damaged body and soul. There he meets Mordo (Ejiofor) and subsequently The Ancient One (Swinton) and that’s where the real fun starts.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this. Its pacey plot zips along rapidly with some fine comedic one-liners. Cumberbatch and Swinton stand out amongst a fine cast with both of them imbuing their characters with a depth beyond your usual super-hero film. While the origins story is standard genre stuff the magical gifts and capes Dr Strange uses are wonderful fun, as are the hallucinogenic visuals, eye-popping Inceptionesque fight scenes plus mystical marvels straight out of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lastly, Derrickson deserves praise for several cracking set-pieces notably the out-of-body fight in the hospital and complex temporal-twisting combat with inter-dimensional beast Dormammu. Strange days are indeed upon as Marvel spellbinds us with yet another big comic-book hit. (Mark 9 out of 11)

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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016)

Filmmaker Tom Ford’s debut film A Single Man (2009) was an eloquent character study of grief, loneliness and existential romance; beautifully photographed, styled and constructed with Colin Firth’s heartfelt performance providing the thudding beats of pathos and pain. It was a film I only saw recently but knew that the director was definitely one to follow, and thus, his second film Nocturnal Animals promised much.

Nocturnal Animals is an altogether colder beast centring on separation of love rather than the meditation on loss like A Single Man. The once again brilliant Amy Adams is a privileged art gallery owner married to Armie Hammer’s rich, yet absent, businessman. She is a hollow woman musing about her failed previous marriage to writer Jake Gyllenhaal and the apparent emptiness of her life, career and the people around her. It is a testament to Ford and Adams that they extricate empathy for such a seemingly spoilt character, but they ably demonstrate that wealth does not defeat loneliness or the guilt of past actions.

Adams’ Susan Morrow is similar to Firth’s George Falconer in that she is lost and flailing in her first world but very human problems. Thrown into the mix is the about-to-be-published book her former husband has written and sent her. So, we end up with two stories for the price of one as the events in the manuscript come to life in Susan’s mind. As she reads it, Jake Gyllenhaal’s (yes, he plays two characters) family are terrorized on a backwater freeway by Aaron Johnson’s violent gang. Michael Shannon also pops up as a busted lung of a cop sick of the scum and his turn is a delight.The sun-bleached, desert and neo-Western style in these episodes provide a fascinating and stylistic juxtaposition to shadowy, cool darkness that is Susan Morrow’s life in Los Angeles.

The two stories collide, compare and contrast each other to fascinating effect as Ford weaves literary and cinematic tropes, brilliantly adapting the original novel on which is it based – Tony and Susan – written by Austin Wright. This, overall, is about storytelling being used as a means not only to haunt and create guilt, but also wreak revenge. It’s a complex watch but beautiful, cold creature to look at. Yet, despite the privilege of Amy Adam’s character I was thoroughly absorbed by her crumbling psyche, while the book within the film is totally gripping too. (Mark 9.5 out of 11)

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #10 – CARTER BURWELL by PAUL LAIGHT

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #10 – CARTER BURWELL by PAUL LAIGHT

To continue the My Cinematic Romance series of filmmakers, genres, actors who I absolutely love, I give you my praise to composer Carter Burwell.  His soundtracks are usually SO good I can watch a film that I don’t even like if it has Burwell’s music. He has a knack of not only capturing the emotion of the characters and story but also being intelligent; using the genre and style of the film to infuse the soundtrack.

Burwell has provided the score to many films including: Conspiracy Theory (1997), Hamlet (2000), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), The Blind Side (2009), Rob Roy (1995), The Chamber (1996), Being John Malkovich (1999) Gods and Monsters (1998), This Boy’s Life (1993), Wayne’s World 2 (1993), Airheads (1994), Before Night Falls (2000), A Knight’s Tale (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), The Alamo (2004), Legend (2015), The Kids Are Alright (2010), Mr Holmes (2015), Hail Caesar (2016), No Country For Old Men (2007) etc.

I don’t know much about music, other than playing the guitar to a very average level; however, I know what I like. And I love Carter Burwell. Moreover, having worked consistently in all kinds of genres from big Hollywood productions to auteurs’ and arty films, Burwell is held in the highest regard within the industry. Esteemed filmmakers like: Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufmann, Todd Haynes, David O. Russell and the Coen Brothers have all employed his fine musical abilities. Thus, here are seven breathtaking compositions which really stand out. Indeed, his work with the Coen Brothers is legendary so I have limited those choices to just two films; just to make the piece more of a challenge.

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CAROL (2015) – TODD HAYNES

Burwell finally won a well-deserved Oscar for this beautifully constructed score.  It captures perfectly the emotion and period and the light and dark of this “forbidden” fifties romance story.

FARGO (1996) – THE COENS

As the music rises to crescendo the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The mood and atmosphere are literally chilling. When I see this I think of snow, cold, blood and murder.

THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER (1999)

While this army-police procedural drama is not a classic the music is haunting and beautiful adding a fragile counterpoint to the violent nature of the content.

IN BRUGES (2006)

Burwell does death exceedingly well. This score is less orchestral with a pared down piano and cello to the fore, prior to launching into an alt-rock guitar sound. The notes skip and rip about giving us a dark insight and backing to the off-centre characters and setting.

MILLERS CROSSING (1990)

This lyrical Irish-tinged score is another beautiful score. While the Coens’ superb gangster drama had its fair share of blood, the music pushes against the grain somewhat providing light and uplift amidst the plotting, double-crosses and chaos.


THE FINEST HOURS (2016)

This Disney disaster movie set in the 1950s is a very watchable human drama sensitively directed by Craig Gillespie. It flopped at the box office, yet as soon as I heard the score I knew it was Burwell. This is epic music of the highest order for a film which deserved a bigger audience.

TWILIGHT (2008)

I haven’t seen any of these films although I know the Twilight saga is a cultural phenomenon. Yet, I found this piece called Bella’s Lullaby on YouTube and it is just exquisite; it even makes me want to watch the films!

CHANCE ENCOUNTER – Trek Fan Productions Profile!

Our latest short film CHANCE ENCOUNTER is brilliantly profiled by TREKFANPRODUCTIONS.com.

Trekfanproductions.com

top-newchance-bannerOne thing I wanted to do when I started this blog was not only bring you information about all the current fan film productions that we all know and love but also seek out the ones that are either unknown or ones that have not even been made yet.

Chance Encounter” was one I stumbled across thanks to the “TrekBBS” website; I saw this thread and thought to myself that I want to know more.

After reading the thread, watching the videos, and going to the website I was intrigued as with the exception of Nick Cooks Intrepid I am currently unaware of any Star Trek Fan Productions based within the UK. This alone made me very curious not only because I found this aspect appealing (I am a Brit and I wanted to see how or IF! We differ in the way we make a…

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FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #4 – JACK & DANNY (2008) short film by Paul Laight

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #4 – JACK & DANNY (2008)

TWO COPS. ONE DILEMMA!

Another indulgent look back on works of yesteryear and Fix Films 4th short movie was a cheeky comedic chamber piece starring two excellent actors Chris Crocker and Phil Wolff. Technically speaking it’s very lo-fi with basic sound, natural lighting and a simple story of two cops on a stakeout chewing the fat over a possible adultery. In some ways it is more of a first draft film demo and was not intended for festivals and competitions. However,  there is much to enjoy.

“And you wanted to extend that bone to her sister.” – JACK

Our intention was not to make another short as Gary was in the midst of post-production on Elephant Trunk (2008), but for reasons which elude me that was taking a while. Then we needed some urgent dialogue re-recorded with Chris, thus, I came up with the idea of shooting a quick short over a few hours AND getting the dialogue done at the same time. My flatmate had just moved out too so I had a free room too.

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The idea came from an internet story which was doing the email rounds in the office and was called The Love Test. The characters are clearly archetypes seen on a thousand cops and robber shows but as I say we were going for direct and simple here. Phil played Jack, a jaded older cop who “coaches” the younger more sensitive Chris on the nature of what is or isn’t infidelity.  Safe to say his advice isn’t particularly sage-like. This, the opposition of the characters and chemistry between the two actors is what drives the comedy.

“Love is natures’ way of conning you into the act of pro-creation!” – JACK

Looking back it’s certainly a funny script with great performances from Chris and Phil and it shows that with a couple of decent actors, some funny characters and a single room you can make something worthwhile.  I had a lot of fun writing and filming this with the director Gary and cast. What it lacks in technical gloss it makes up with in humour, performance and some humorous lines. Here is the film:

 

 

 

SCREENWASH – October 2016 – REVIEWS BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – OCTOBER 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

Amidst the films I watched at the London Film Festival in October I also watched some very decent TV shows and other movies too. Here they with the usual marks out of eleven!

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

AS I LAY DYING (2013) – DVD

James Franco’s directorial debut is an interesting and authentic adaptation of William Faulkner’s much lauded novel. It follows a family and their toiled journey to bury the dead matriarch during 1930s depression-hit America. Great performances all-round are ruined by too much split-screen shenanigans.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and a deft script from the Coen Brothers are all faultless here in a beautifully shot spy thriller. Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, a top insurance salesman in 1957, who is called in to broker a spy exchange deal. Set during the politically charged cold war climate, this is an enthralling film which while subtle in delivery remains very satisfying due to great performances notably from Hanks and Rylance. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

DADDY’S HOME (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are rival “Dads” in a conventional, yet sparky, comedy! It plays off their physical and comedic charms and great one-liners, crazy stunts and offbeat supporting roles which make it worth a rental. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

FILL THE VOID (2012) – DVD

This is a beautifully shot and acted cultural and character study of a Haredi Orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv.  The central story portrays Shira, an 18 year-old innocent, who is thrown into emotional flux when a ‘difficult’ marriage proposal is put her way. I was intrigued by the cultural differences presented and found the subtle drama an illuminating joy. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016) – CINEMA

Emily Blunt brilliantly portrays an alcoholic who may or may not have been the last person to see a missing woman. The story develops much suspense as we doubt her character and while the plot lurches toward melodrama at the end, the film works as a fine character study of substance and marital abuse. Some subtle thrills and decent performances with Blunt satisfactorily gluing this novel adaptation together.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)


GRANDMA (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Lily Tomlin is a wonderfully funny actress and in Grandma she plays an acerbic academic who assists her pregnant granddaughter when the father leaves her in the lurch. This is a gem of a character comedy and Tomlin excels as the matriarch who takes no prisoners in her no-nonsense-out-spoken-ways.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

GRIMSBY (2016) – SKY CINEMA

Mark Strong is one our finest actors and to see him inside an Elephant’s vagina is a sight to behold!  Sacha Baron Cohen plays Nobby – a Northern-ten-kid-benefits-cheat-tracksuited-Liam-Gallagher-lookalike – who gets reunited with his super-spy brother with gross and hilarious consequences. I’d had a few beers and laughed like a drain throughout; so do watch if you like bass gross-out comedies! (Mark: 7 out of 11)

HOMELAND (2012) – SEASON 2 – NETFLIX

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are once again on top form as the suspected terrorist spy and bi-polar CIA operative who cross swords during a terrorist plot on US soil. The writing, acting and direction are of the highest quality as the story jags from one white-knuckle set-piece to another without drawing breath. This is television drama of the highest order; like Hitchcock directed a cerebral version of 24 and then some.  (Mark: 9 out of 11)

LOVE & MERCY (2014) – SKY CINEMA

Paul Dano plays young Brian Wilson and John Cusack plays the older version in a look at different timelines of the Beach Boys genius’ life.  Wilson gave us so much music to enjoy, yet tragically he was struck down with debilitating mental illness. Older Wilson was left open to exploitation by “Doctor” Eugene Landy, who is portrayed with evil spit by Paul Giamatti. Dano as younger Wilson is just perfect; and this is an excellent music biopic and character study! (Mark: 8 out of 11)

MR ROBOT (2015) – SEASON 1 – UNIVERSAL

Moody, mysterious, enigmatic and bafflement were very much the stylistic bents of this excellent hacker drama. It concerns the expert cyber-spaceman Eliot Alderson (icily brilliant Rami Malek) and his attempts to reconcile himself with his father’s death while battling nefarious firm EvilCorp!  This is very well written and sparks fly when Malek and Christian Slater are on screen, but the big reveal you can see a mile off. Overall, it was too slow-paced and despite the quality I won’t go back for season 2. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

SON OF A GUN (2015) – SKY CINEMA

A pretty decent crime thriller stars Ewan McGregor as a badass bank robber who “mentors” young offender Brenton Thwaites. The ever-sparkling Alicia Vikander shines too as a young gangster’s moll trying to escape a life of violence. We’ve seen it all before but it has some good chases and fights so worth a watch on a hungover-Saturday night. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

SONS OF ANARCHY (2008 – 2009) – SEASON 1 & 2 – NETFLIX

Full of over-the-top gang fights, gun deals, porn stars, cock and roll soundtrack and muscular drama, it features sexy women, tough-as-nails men and dirty cops in a fast-paced, brutal and darkly funny show. While the biker anti-heroes include fine character actors: Ron Perlman, Maggie Siff, Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates and Katey Sagal are on the wrong side of the law they are somehow on the righteous path compared to the enemies they face. Kurt Sutter’s quasi-Western is a tattoed-leather-biker-testosteronic-amoral-crime-fest guilty pleasure and very entertaining. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

WESTWORLD (1973) – NOW TV

Michael Crichton’s classic robots-gone-wrong formula was a state-of-the-art sci-fi classic of its’ day. Highlights are Yul Brynner’s terminator-cowboy going mental and the concept of an adult theme park which allows you to re-enact your every fantasy. The new rebooted HBO show is currently bemusing us with its tricky plotting and devious character work, however, this lean, mean fighting machine of a film remains a brilliant watch.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

SCREENWASH – 2016 BFI – LONDON FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL

SCREENWASH – 2016 BFI – LONDON FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL – by PAUL LAIGHT

The 60th BFI London Film Festival took place between the 5-16 October 2016 and it has very much become a cultural highlight of my year. If I could afford it I would love to take a holiday and go and see as many films as I could as the Festival offers a wonderful array of movies from all kinds of talent, genre, philosophical and geographical parts of the world.

Thanks, on the main, to my wonderful wife booking tickets, I was able to see a number of films this year.  I have reviewed them individually on my blog, however, for ease of reference here’s a quick-fire review with marks out of eleven for each film I witnessed. Overall, they were all very good choices and should definitely be caught at the cinema when, and if, released. By the way, full spoiler-free reviews can be found on my blog www.paulraylaight.wordpress.com.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

This is an impressive monster movie for all the family. The performances of all involved are excellent, notably Lewis MacDougall as the angry and afraid Connor; a youth facing uncertainly over his unwell mother (Felicity Jones). Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona directs very confidently, with a dark palette of live action, effects and animation that give the audience an exciting canvas to gorge on. Moreover, Liam Neeson’s-voiced monster is, while initially threatening, a fantastically animated screen beast. The stories-within-a-story are deftly weaved and overall this is a film which, while scaring the very young, will provide fine entertainment for everyone. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

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THE BIRTH OF A NATION (2016)

Nate Parker’s impressive drama is a compelling watch and while not as startlingly stylistic as the big-budget-spaghetti-slave-Western Django Unchained (2012), The Birth of a Nation is a heart-breaking narrative which posits the power of the scriptures and damns the beast of humanity which allowed free people to be stolen and made to serve others.  Overall, the film works as a lower-budget epic in the vein of Braveheart (1995) and Spartacus (1960), while covering similar ground thematically as Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave (2013). Parker as writer-producer-director-star deserves incredible praise for independently producing such a moving film on such a relatively low budget.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

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FREE FIRE (2016)

Free Fire is an all-out-ballsy-gritty-shoot-em-up which employs a wonderful 1970s setting to dress his actors up in flares, beards, sideburns, dagger-collars, long hair and Cuban heels, all while delivering a fast-paced-high-octane-gun-fest. The premise is very simple: an arms deal between a Rhodesian gun runner and the IRA descends into chaos as opposing sides split amidst a series of bullets and double-crosses.  The cast are brilliant, but I personally loved Armie Hammer’s suave Jewish hit-man and Sharlto Copley’s obnoxious Afrikaner; plus Sam Riley is also a standout as the junkie prick whose behaviour ultimately screws the deal. Ben Wheatley is a talented filmmaker and here he moves away from the insane satire of High Rise (2015) to give us an altogether more satisfying genre bullet-fest. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

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MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA (2016)

This is one of those films which moves at its’ own pace and in scenes of quiet drama, sporadic violence and subtle flashbacks, filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan builds a truly formidable narrative and character study. Casey Affleck portrays a lost soul with such exquisite pathos you could feel his characters’ pain jump out from the screen. His scenes with Michelle Williams genuinely made me want to cry because they were so sad.  Yes, this is Affleck’s film as he haunts the screen with a truly award-winning performance. I wholeheartedly recommend this heart racking drama which stretches the emotions while also providing flickers of light amidst the pain of existence through humour and empathy for the tough working class characters. (Mark: 10 out of 11)
manchester-by-the-seaMINDHORN (2016)

Julian Barratt is portrays a failing actor who reignites his most famous character to assist the police in a grisly crime.  Overall, this is an uneven comedy in terms of the plot and lacks the cinematic verve of the ‘Cornetto trilogy’ created by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. However, Barratt is a comedy genius and his performance, some silly costumes, wigs and set-pieces make this worth watching. Barratt filters his cowardly, proud and foolish ‘Howard Moon’ persona into the flailing thespian with much hilarity. Moreover, Simon Farnaby hams up his Danish stuntman role to perfection and Russell Tovey is hilarious as “The Kestrel” (don’t ask!) The sight gags, parodies and one-liners come thick and fast and this is recommended for everyone who loves offbeat comedy. (Mark: 8 out of 11)
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PHANTASM (REMASTERED) (1979)

This classic horror film gets the 4k restoration treatment from JJ Abram’s Bad Robot company and the film remains a right royal horror blast today. Phantasm is a synthesis of genres from rites-of-passage, suspense, horror and science fiction.  Ultimately, it’s the epitome of a cult classic and a triumph of concepts over finance. It’s full of mood and atmosphere and has a creepy synth-based soundtrack that cranks up the fear factor. Overall, super-positive director Don Coscarelli created an imaginative fantasy concerned with death and mourning that has stood the test of time. (Mark: 9 out of 11)
phantasm-tall-man-chillRAW (2016)

This is a very animalistic and instinctive film dealing as it does with beasts both human, canine and equine. The lead actress Marillier is a prominent force throughout as her journey follows a carnal, chemical and gory path following a student initiation ‘ceremony’. Ducorneau, the director, gets a great performance from this young talent as her character transforms from angel to devil without the loss of audience empathy. This is both an entertaining contemporary horror film and a very intelligent one. It works on so many different levels with themes covered including: veganism, peer pressure, animal cruelty, sexuality, lesbianism, homosexuality, hedonism, nature versus nurture, cannibalism, family etc.  It crosses genres effortlessly and has one of the most disgusting scenes I have had the pleasure to see for some time.  (Mark: 9.5 out of 11) 

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And while I did not see loads of films they were ALL excellent. The best of the best for me though was MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016). 

Writer. Filmmaker. Semi-Pro Comedian. Wageslave