Rimini – Review

Release Date – 9th December 2022, Cert – 18, Run-time – 1 hour 55 minutes, Director – Ulrich Seidl

With his career far from the limelight it was once in an aging singer (Michael Thomas) struggles to raise the money his daughter (Tessa Göttlicher) claims is owed from 18 years of her father not being present.

There’s little trying to glamorise the life which former pop star Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is living. His career is as far from the limelight that it may have once possibly been in the 80s as it can possibly be. His days are spent drinking and occasionally dealing with residents (or rather fans) staying in his home as an Airbnb style situation, while in the afternoons and evenings he goes to hotels and dance halls which appear to have not changed in decades to belt out his equally old ballads to small audiences of elderly people. Each one backed with a MIDI-style track which begins to blend into all those before it. It’s a struggle for him to earn any money as he does everything he can to cash in on his former fame, particularly when his daughter, Tess (Tessa Göttlicher) turns up demanding the money he never paid her and her mother for the past 18 years when he wasn’t present.

While he largely follows the same unfulfilling paths, particularly after returning to town after the death of his mother, it’s interesting to see where the film takes Richard. He seems to sell opportunities to have a sexual encounter with him, although the lines between a form of relationship or general prostitution without knowledge of the man’s other career are always blurred by the encounter itself. It all further fuels the idea that the protagonist is an immensely lonely, and underwhelmed, figure. Often framed in the middle of a drawn out wide or establishing shot – undoubtedly the best shots of the film – Thomas’ well-performed central figure is clearly desperate, when briefly trying to talk to his angered daughter – her silent boyfriend always in the background – for some form of connection, however it’s something he consistently lacks; perhaps down to his barely delved into past.

We’re very much thrown into this world from the very start of the film. It takes a bit of time to properly settle into things as the events that span the run-time begin to build-up. It certainly feels as if it takes some time for Tessa to actually come into the piece, and then for Richie to properly respond to her in communicating his difficulties of trying to get thousands of euros together. Things may be gradual in terms of their build up but there’s at least enough to keep you interested, largely in terms of the ways in which the now-part-time-singer gains money and tries to cling on to his last hint of ‘fame’. It’s largely the character details rather than the events themselves which keep you engaged and interested in the piece, but as things pick up there’s certainly enough to keep you involved and allow for things to move along.

It’s as the film’s close nears and it feels as if things have come to a close in terms of the narrative developments that we get a number of scenes which don’t quite feel in place with the rest of the film. A drawn out drunken night of sexual games and conversation feels as if it goes on for far too long before leading to another set of points that begin to feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the feature. While thinking about it afterwards and the way things are brought somewhat full circle there are perhaps some good touches they don’t completely click in the moment, and still bear something of a dent in the closing stages when thinking back.

Rimini certainly doesn’t pose itself as an engaging arc bookended by the slopes of two other acts, but it does take a bit of time to introduce its key elements and then find its way to its ending. While the majority of the film, once it gets going, has enough to keep you interested in terms of the character details and their various interactions in-between the various shame-tinged moneymaking endeavours of Richie Bravo which keep things moving along and the viewer engaged. Given a boost by a number of effective shots throughout it may not be perfect, but as a whole Rimini avoids feeling like the struggling efforts of its central character, particularly with it seeming as if he views his won actions as degrading – something which the film doesn’t put across.

It may take a bit of time for things to build-up, and then reach an ending, but in-between there’s an interesting set of character interactions and motivations throughout Rimini to keep you engaged and interested in how things are going to pan out.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Violent Night – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Director – Tommy Wirkola

After finding himself stranded in the house of a wealthy family on Christmas Eve Santa (David Harbour) must protect himself and them from a gang of criminals looking to steal millions of dollars.

It seems that a drunk, disgruntled Santa is the role that David Harbour was born to play. As he punches, stabs, pees and belches his way through Violent Night it’s clear that he’s having a fair deal of fun being a part of this film. Even if his hammer-wielding warrior Santa is initially struggling to survive the night after his reindeer fly off and he’s stranded in the estate of the wealthy Lightstone family. A group whose Christmas Eve of bickering and one-upmanship is interrupted by them becoming the hostages of a gang (led by John Leguizamo’s Scrooge) hoping to steal millions of dollars from their vault.

Throughout the night Santa is communicating with youngest Lightstone Trudy (Leah Brady) – a young girl who tops the nice list with acts such as inviting the weird kid to her party, whose Christmas wish is to simply see her distant parents (Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder) make up. The two navigate the house with their own distinct styles, both equally gory but one much more heavily inspired by Home Alone than the other – leading to a particular sequence which in itself is funnier and better than Home Alone is itself (although this is coming from someone who isn’t such a big fan of that film). There’s plenty of creativity on display when it comes to the various attacks and weapons used. From basic weapons to a candy cane shiv and an ice skate which brings a smile to the face as soon as it’s picked up the action sequences are truly the highlights of the film. Certainly filled with bloodshed and rather gory it never feels as if director Tommy Wirkola goes overboard or above anything which fits the film.

In terms of the content which surrounds the various action sequences there are a number of chuckles along the way. Beverly D’Angelo brings a handful of laughs as the foul-mouthed matriarch of the family, alongside the way her children (Hassell and Edi Patterson). In general, if you’ve seen the trailers for Violent Night, you very much get what you might be expecting; an enjoyable flick with plenty of action and a handful of chuckles along the way which, most importantly, doesn’t take itself too seriously. While the final product may be a couple of minutes too long there’s still a consistency with pace and tone so that things don’t really feel as if they drop just before truly wrapping up.

But still, amongst the enjoyable family disputes interrupted, and sometimes caused by, the hostage situation they find themselves in and the skimmed-milk-hating Santa who happens to be present (no pun intended) when things kick off there’s a lot to enjoy. A heavy deal of thrilling violence with plenty of enjoyable additions and sequences mixed with a number of chuckles along the way. As far as new festive offerings go this may just be the most entertaining, albeit crimson-lined, one this year. All led by a deeply enjoyable David Harbour who feels a natural fit for this interpretation of jolly old St Nick.

There’s plenty to enjoy within action highlights of Violent Night, further fuelled by the effective humour and an excellent David Harbour. Made by a lack of seriousness its a consistently entertaining, blood-soaked slay ride.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2022: White Noise – Review

Release Date – 2nd December 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 15 minutes, Director – Noah Baumbach

After a chemical spill causes his entire town to evacuate college professor Jack (Adam Driver), alongside his family, begins to face many personal struggles revolving around his life and mortality.

After the multi-Oscar nominated success of Marriage Story Noah Baumbach returns with something perhaps on the complete other end of the scale. It’s a slight shock to the system, perhaps, as he tackles the realms of an existential, occasionally absurdist, comedy drama focusing on a college lecturer who specialises in “Advanced Nazisim”. Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) may just be “One of the most prominent Hitler studiests in America”. He has a good working life and comfortable family situation as well. However, his calm life of strange debates with colleagues is brought to a halt as a nearby chemical spill expands into a dark black and purple cloud billowing over the town and creating an airborne toxic event.

We see Jack constantly denying any form of havoc just before he and his family are forced to leave their home and join the increasing traffic jam of other families seeking refuge. It’s as we leave the seemingly unfocused, somewhat uncertain first act and enter into the escalation of the evacuation that things begin to pick up. There are certainly a handful of lines and parallels that can be drawn to the pandemic – particularly with some of the more satirical reflections which crop up within the strand of the toxic airborne event having potential links to the pandemic, although the film itself is based on Dom DeLillo’s 1985 novel of the same name – which to some extent create a somewhat ‘late’/ dated feel to the film before it moves on to other focuses.

This is a rather busy film with all the themes and ideas that it presents. The chemical spill strand and evacuation is built up as the main arc of the narrative before suddenly swerving back home to bring in a line about Jack, and his wife Babbette (Greta Gerwig), facing complex thoughts and emotions on life and love. All while still slightly veiled under a farcical style of comedy. A tone which often clashes with the more dramatic edges and sequences of the piece when arriving immediately after. Throughout the somewhat lengthy 2 hours plus run-time of the film there’s an overall weird mix of tones and genres which never completely gel together.

The performances may be good, and there may be some occasional chuckles in the more comedic scenes, but as a whole the film feels messy both tonally and thematically. It doesn’t completely become certain what the film is trying to get across until the various conversations about mortality and relationships between Driver and Gerwig’s characters in the second half of the film. Everything beforehand, while having some good moments, simply feels like rather patchy build-up where the film is almost working out in real-time what it actually wants to be.

It’s for this reason that your engagement and interest fluctuates throughout the film and you’re never truly fully engaged with it. There’s an undeniably strange mix at the centre of it. Wanting to capture something similar to the muddled and confused thoughts of the central characters as they face aspects of their lives that they’ve pushed to the side for so long, but never quite manages to find the right match. There are some good points and moments here and there, and this is largely what keeps you engaged and the film going, but you never can quite get over how jumbled the film – like its characters – seems to be.

At one moment an uncertain set of conversations and musings between family and colleagues, the next National Lampoon’s Apocalyptic Vacation. There’s a lot going on within White Noise and the jumble of tones and themes never quite gels together properly despite the efforts of the cast pushing things along and getting across some of the occasional chuckles.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Strange World – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 42 minutes, Directors – Don Hall, Qui Nguyen

While trying to find what’s attacking the roots of the plant that gives his town power, farmer Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds his long-lost explorer father (Dennis Quaid) in a world below their own.

There are a number of places and people that are expecting Disney’s latest, Strange World, to be something of a box office disappointment. If it is there’s suggestion that it may be down to what feels like a strong lack of marketing. Watching the film it’s easy to see how a company such as Disney may not know how to promote a film such as this. However, there’s the feeling with Strange World that it may very well end up with a growing cult-like audience over the years in the same way that Treasure Planet and The Black Cauldron did. As if every ten years they release a film that while it might not set anything alight when first released goes on to inspire over the years after.

Rightfully so in the case of Strange World which overflows with creativity in the fantastic visuals and animation. You see what may be concept art appear over the credits and have to admit that the animation does a brilliant job of bringing such images to life and adding further detail to the colourful creatures and realm that we see. It’s a world below that of the central characters who have travelled underground to the unifying root of the pando plant, which has given the small town of Avalonia power for 25 years, to discover what is attacking it and taking away its power.

We primarily follow farmer Searcher (an intensely likable Jake Gyllenhaal), who joins the ‘rescue’ team, with his wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and stowaway son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Ethan wants to escape his farming life to become an explorer, like his long-lost grandfather who not only had some excellent facial hair, but also lived and breathed a life of adventure. While Searcher tries to lead him away from this he finds it more difficult when discovering his father (Dennis Quaid) alive and well, still passionate for exploration and finding a way to the other side of the endless mountains which surround his hometown. The conflictions between the three, particularly Searcher and father Jaegar, produce plenty of laughs along the way, particularly when they stop to play a card game while drifting through the most fantastical of landscapes.

You may be able to tell where some of the family dynamic elements are going to go, alongside other narrative developments in the closing stages, but there’s no denying the levels of engagement that the film produces. Not just in terms of the creativity that’s on display in the craft of the world and the creatures that we see. From the “it’s so cute, I wanna merchandise it” blue blob monster Splat, and little, wobbly, squeaky, orange blobs which create an odd giggly joy whenever they appear on screen, to bright pink, screeching pterodactyl-like predators there’s plenty to get caught up in and enjoy here. Luckily, it’s not the only front and centre element here as the world is used to progress the narrative as much as the characters are. The landscapes and life in the area actually feel used instead of just there for the characters to walk around and explore, allowing it to feel more involved and fleshed out.

Yet, the film remembers to focus on its characters and the way that they interact with each other – not just the three generations of men, but the other figures leading the mission, particularly Lucy Liu’s President Mal. It’s clear the point that the film is trying to push across in the final stages as it starts to wrap things up – it may feel surprisingly early but that’s simply down to how quickly the film has gone by – but at least as a whole it doesn’t feel overly laboured, instead quite cleverly and in some aspects unexpectedly worked into the plot.

There’s a lot to like about Strange World as it works the titular discovery into the narrative as much as it progresses its characters. With as much easily effective humour along the way as there is engaging visuals as part of the fantastic elements there’s a very enjoyable film here. Something different that it feels Disney haven’t quite done for a little bit of time, and maybe the kind of film that will go on to inspire another generation as it finds an audience over the years.

Led by a very likable cast there’s plenty of humour throughout Strange World, creating engaging characters who work well with the creatively detailed title world which much of the fast-flowing film takes place in. A real delight from start to finish.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2022: She Said – Review

Release Date – 25th November 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 8 minutes, Director – Maria Schrader

The story of the New York Times investigation which launched the #MeToo campaign and uncovered decades of sexual abuse and misconduct from Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood figures.

For a film that follows an investigation into historical cases of sexual abuse and misconduct She Said rarely uses flashbacks or recreations. Instead we sit with those scarred and affected – in one case Ashley Judd plays herself – as they retell their traumas to New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan). While keeping your interest in these interview sequences through the dialogue and performances there are occasional glimpses of static shots of the settings in which the discussed events took place. Objects and clothing are sometimes strewn across the floor, the shots could be seen as a crime scene – they are a crime scene. Occasionally a sound may drift in such as a shower running, or the subtle notes of Nicholas Britell’s excellent score. As the camera stays static it enhances the feeling of being stuck in that moment, unable to leave as the dialogue adds to the discomfort being felt.

There’s reluctance from some to speak about their experiences, while others don’t want to go on the record knowing what the man their accusing is capable of. Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, the man who could make, and in some cases broke, their hopes and careers. The Times is investigating decades of abuse from Weinstein, and uncovering more across Hollywood, as the film covers the research and writing of the article from which the #MeToo campaign sprung. Throughout the effect that Weinstein has had on the women interviewed lingers as journalists face increasing threats from him and his team in relation to the supposed-to-be-secretive article. We don’t see his face, we rarely hear his voice. But as it crackles over speakerphone through the voice of Mike Houston you can’t help but feel a sense of fear and tension in those moments.

While we know of where the piece ends up and the effect of it the film isn’t about that. It’s about what was went through to write the piece, not just for the journalists but for those who suffered for it to have to be uncovered in the first place. The film allows the words of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay (adapted from Kantor, Twohey and Rebecca Corbett’s (played here by Patricia Clarkson) book of the same name) to speak for themselves. Delivered well by a strong ensemble cast – led by Kazan, with a more held back, ‘formal’ performance, and Mulligan, with the more visible, ‘performance’ style take, both of whom are very good in their roles – things flow well and keep you engaged throughout.

You’re caught up in the investigation and the determination of the team that are trying to put together this article against all adversities, including rival publications potentially tackling similar stories. There’s a strong source of interest throughout the conversations, discussions, reveals and more that line the course of the narrative all building up to a rather brilliant ending point. One which leaves you sat back in silence, although different to those of stunned fear and shock which arise at certain points throughout the film – including when a member of the writing staff receives a severely unsettling dead-pan death threat from a stranger over the phone.

Maria Schrader’s direction helps to also keep the pace up and things moving along. Never causing things to feel rushed while never drawing moments out or making an interview feel like a standard back-and-forth. There’s plenty within the additions to certain scenes, and Lenkiewicz’s screenplay to avoid all of this and simply lead to a more engaging film. One which stirs up emotions and responses to what is witnessed and heard about. Discomfort and tension are firmly rooted in certain moments as the performances help to further bring you in to each moment of research which often feels for the central figures involved as if it’s going nowhere or could have the plug pulled at any second for one reason or another.

She Said deals with a lot and handles it all well thanks to the fact that it keeps its key points at the centre and moves with them consistently. Knowing what needs to be said and done to get to that excellent final shot. All within a film where part of the power comes through the fact that it acknowledges, and points out, that there is a lot that still needs to be done; and can be done, to stop and tackle sexual abuse. Subtly going well beyond its point of communal strength and the tagline question of “will you go on the record?” to create a strong, emotionally engaging piece of work with a fine flow and confidence.

She Said does a lot within the well-flowing build up to its brilliant final shot. The natural power of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay is lifted by the central performances and direction which allow for moments to speak for themselves without feeling bland or repetitive. A very well told story with plenty of emotional engagement and effects.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2022: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical

Release Date – 25th November 2022, Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 57 minutes, Director – Matthew Warchus

After being constantly belittled and undermined by the controlling adults in her life schoolgirl Matilda (Alisha Weir) puts her mind, imagination and storytelling abilities towards getting revenge.

While having not seen the stage version of Matilda The Musical it seems apparent from watching the film adaptation that there are plenty of moments designed to be enjoyed live with an audience, particularly when it comes to potential stagecraft and effects. There’s a fair deal of CGI throughout the film as we explore the imagination and potential telekinetic powers of the titular figure (Alisha Weir), particularly increasing in the third act and the confrontations that it produces. Yet, the film certainly doesn’t feel like it could easily be played out on a stage, not just because of the various long shots of hundreds of bodies dancing in a courtyard or running through the school corridors.

We open straight into a big musical number. Loud, proud, bright and slightly camp the world is coloured with glaring lights and tones as we’re told just how much of a joy life, particularly new life, is – contrasting greatly to the underwhelmed, to say the least, response of Andrea Riseborough’s Mrs Wormwood. Jump forward a couple of years and Mrs Wormwood, alongside her husband (Stephen Graham) are still bringing up their daughter, but often neglecting her to the attic, lined with a handful of books – not including those which she borrows from the travelling library run by Sindhu Vee’s Mrs Phelps who thinks the world of the young girl so fascinated with reading.

For musical sceptics it’s unlikely that these opening stages are going to turn minds as a lot emerges from the scream at great volume with little response and connection. Yet, while the first impressions may not be the greatest, you do start to prepare for a very long, slightly over the top two hours, things begin to somewhat settle down as Matilda is sent to Crunchem Hall. A notoriously strict school led by former hammer throwing champion Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson). A rather contrasting role to her earlier stellar performance in this year’s Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, Thompson is clearly having a great time playing up the nasty villain role.

With her belief that all children are maggots there’s a very traditional storybook villain to Thompson’s performance which adds to the film as a whole. With the way that certain elements come across, largely the way that some of the adults in Matilda’s life treat and talk down to her and other kids, there seems to be a fair deal that specifically speaks to younger audiences. It’s largely in certain interactions and pieces of dialogue where the lines feel as if they could have come directly from the mind of a child – when asked if she’d like to hear about her daughter’s first day at school Riseborough’s character throws away the line “yuck, I’d rather eat vegetables”. Such interactions inspire Matilda to leap further into sprawling stories of her own creation, leading her to take action after seeing the punishment other kids face for doing very little to upset the headteacher of the school – although we largely only hear rumours of the dreaded ‘Chokey’.

Of course, aside from the dives into fiction and storytelling there are plenty of songs to burst into – this is Matilda The Musical after all. Largely the film has been sold on its earworms such as When I Grow Up. As mentioned, I haven’t seen the stage musical version but I had heard this particularly track a number of times. There’s an emotional punch to it as the adult chorus joins in with the central children’s voices, something which doesn’t quite come into play here until a brief moment part way through, seeming to take something away from the song a bit. That is until Lashana Lynch’s Miss Honey takes to the stage. This is yet another role where Lynch proves that she can pretty much do anything. A warm and kind performance you simply wish that you could see more of her throughout the film, particularly in the first half, so you can see more of the kindness and belief she demonstrates towards her new student Matilda.

The musical numbers certainly have a specific style to them and there are a number which are enjoyable in the moment and simply help to bring you further into the tall, stone walls of Crunchem Hall, perhaps where the best elements of the film occur. There’s a cartoon-like nature to some of the sequences (not the child abuse, which even after various iterations of this story you forget how much there is) which largely revolves around the clear villains. Further pushing the childlike nature and perspective that the film lightly carries throughout a number of its events and sequences. Narratively it certainly gets a lot into two hours, meaning that certain elements don’t always get as much time to shine or develop as they might perhaps need or want – again, Matilda’s relationship with Miss Honey. But, as a whole with what you do see there’s plenty to enjoy and get caught up with once you’ve settled into the film, and the film itself has settled down somewhat.

With a cast who are clearly having a good time camping it up – particularly Thompson relishing lines such as “to teach the child we must first break the child”, alongside fellow antagonists Riseborough and Graham – there’s eventually quite a bit to engage and enjoy within Matilda The Musical. There may be some bumps along the way within the busy course of the film, but thanks to the fast energy of some of the musical numbers, and the child’s mind nature that’s brought to certain characters and instances, it’s easy to remain caught up in it and engaged. Get past the first 20 or so minutes and there’s quite a bit to like about the way some of these familiar events are presented. Bruce Bogtrotter (Charlie Hodson-Prior) eating a multi-layered chocolate cake slathered in icing may start out like a trial but as the number picks up and the crowd of kids encourage him there’s something rather enjoyable about the proceedings.

Things may take a bit of time to calm down before you can properly ease into them, but once they do there’s a more controlled energy to the busy course of Matilda The Musical. Thompson steals the show while the supporting cast, especially Lynch, put in good efforts. The road may be bumpy, but there’s plenty to engage and enjoy throughout.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2022: Bones And All – Review

Release Date – 23rd November 2022, Cert – 18, Run-time – 2 hours 11 minutes, Director – Luca Guadagnino

With the help of fellow ‘eater’ Lee (Timothée Chalamet), Maren (Taylor Russell) tries to navigate a newly opened world to her whilst trying to fight cannibalistic impulses, all while being chased down by other eaters.

From its opening stages Bones And All tries to blend and subvert genres. Teenager Maren (Taylor Russell) sneaks out late at night to attend a sleepover with some school friends. While she needs to be back before morning so that her dad (André Holland) doesn’t find out she went the moment dwells on the peaceful evening between the girls. As they try on nail polish and show each other how it looks it feels like an almost romantic connection is being built between Maren and one particular friend things take a quick swerve as the protagonist takes swoon-like bite into her friend’s finger. As screams erupt she escapes running home to her father who, it turns out, must once again escape with her to a new town.

It’s something he’s tired of doing and therefore soon leaves a tape explaining to his daughter that she’s going to have to fend for herself and navigate the world, and her cannibalistic impulses, alone. However, it’s not long until she meets fellow ‘eater’ Lee (Timothée Chalamet), agreeing to take her in to help her take control of her want to eat, whilst they also try to outrun other eaters – especially Mark Rylance’s Sully; who promises Maren, who has a sense of smell almost as good as his for finding food, that “life’s not dully with Sully”.

It’s lines like this, a number of which are delivered by Rylance, that feel generally silly and yet don’t quite enter humorous territory. As a whole the film struggles tonally due to its blending of genres. Amongst its road trip course, where a handful of moments and interactions don’t really feel as if they lead anywhere, it feels neither restrained or outlandish enough to properly be comedic or engagingly dramatic. The ultimate result is something quite boring as the characters run into various personal circumstances which simply end up feeling disjointed.

Such moments largely revolve around Maren and the potential origins of her want to eat people. While she tries to stop herself from doing so, especially to avoid killing innocent people, her cravings increase – leading Lee to tell her “you either eat, off yourself, or lock yourself up”. Such moments begin to become dramatically interesting, however the tonal jumble throughout the film and the fact that such moments just feel, as mentioned, disjointed from the rest of the film. Add to that the levels of disengagement which have built up to this and its simply difficult to get back into the film as it once again starts to knock things that it builds up down.

Much like the tones and genres don’t always mix it simply feels as if the personal dramas and cannibalism themes never quite work together, even though often they’re the same thing – or at least should be. The film feels split and divided as to what it wants to be which creates an increasingly jumbled feeling. As the characters drive around various small towns across the US while their journey goes from point to point the narrative with its various focuses and beats jumps back and forth with little to actually grab you and bring you in. Trying to veil things under a coming-of-age feel doesn’t do enough to disguise the clashes between horror, drama, potential comedic beats, thriller and more. Things simply never feel fully tacked down leading to them getting away from the film.

It’s all a shame as there’s a lot of potential for a film with these stylings, even within the simple realms of a coming-of-age cannibal film (there’s not a great deal here in comparison to Julia Ducournau’s Raw – so thoughts of that leave the mind relatively quickly, if they’re there at all). While some moments and ideas may have promise and hints of interest they eventually add to the disjointed and disengaging feel of the film which ultimately leaves you bored with its drawn out set of events and sets of interactions between characters.

While some dialogue may come across as quite silly there’s little humour within Bones And All which feels neither restrained or outlandish enough to properly lean into drama, comedy, or any other genre it tries to tackle. In the end the various ideas, tones and genres fail to come together, leading to a boring, disjointed feel.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Armageddon Time – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 54 minutes, Director – James Gray

Pre-teen Paul (Banks Repeta) finds himself thrown into tumbling familial and social worlds when moving to a new, ‘higher-thought-of’ school.

“Don’t make yourself objectionable for once” is the instruction/ advice provided by Jeremy Strong’s father to his son, Paul (Banks Repeta). It’s as part of one of a handful of heated family exchanges around the busy dinner table where it feels to Paul that he has little connection with anyone aside from his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) who’s wisdom he could listen to all day. There’s a wonderfully observed tone and style to writer-director James Gray’s scenes between grandfather and grandson. A warmth which while present throughout other family scenes is especially felt in such moments between the two generations. Hopkins is especially excellent in this role where you feel his connection to Repeta’s pre-teen character, often boosted by the tone of the cinematography throughout the film.

There’s an element of calm between the pair as they almost find escape within each other from the rest of the world that they find themselves in. Entering sixth grade Paul finds himself crashing into the social tensions of the 1980s as the aspiring famous artist becomes friends with Johnny (Jaylin Webb), the only black kid in class. While the two find themselves getting into increasing trouble as they try to make the rest of the class laugh to getting caught smoking weed in school Paul discovers that it’s often Johnny who gets the more severe punishments.

It’s clear that this is certainly not a nostalgia-filled throwback to the 80s. There’s strong naturalism to the piece and the way in which the characters interact and talk to each other, especially Paul and his mother (a very good Anne Hathaway). While Gray may bring in a sense of wistfulness to the personally inspired feature there’s an openness to the personal angles which line the narrative-light course which invite you in. It invites you to join the dinner table and classrooms as you’re engaged in the warmth and fondness, even in the more intense and dramatic moments, of the familial figures on display.

Much of this is lined with a light yet effective score by Christopher Spelman often lying quietly in the background and yet certainly helping to lift a number of scenes. Particularly towards the final stages where, while there’s still plenty of engagement to be had as Paul truly discovers the extent of social inequalities in his time it’s around this point where things just begin to tip into feeling slightly lengthy.

Still echoing at this point is the feeling that this is a drama that may very well work for all ages. While the 15 rating is definitely justified it feels as if it’s a film that would work well for those in the same 11/12 age group as Paul (although, of course, the BBFC rating doesn’t permit) as it would for those in his grandfather’s and parents age groups. Each age group will bring something different to Armageddon Time and will likely take something different away from it.

Regardless of what that is there’s a warmth to the family scenarios within the film, particularly grandfather and grandson where much of the warmth and imaginative escape comes in. You can feel the personal touches without being overwhelmed by them to the point of things feeling closed off. There’s a lot to like and be engaged by throughout as there’s plenty to take to and from the film as a whole. It’s an interesting piece of work, led by a great ensemble cast, that while eventually a bit on the long side manages to fill itself with plenty of moments and ideas to work for the various generations depicted and perhaps attending.

Armageddon Time is perhaps a film made by what you bring to it, whatever that may be there’s plenty of warmth amongst the dramas within the family and social relationships and points throughout James Gray’s slightly lengthy personally open lookback.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spirited – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 7 minutes, Director – Sean Anders

A controversial PR manager (Ryan Reynolds) labelled as Unredeemable proves a difficult figure for a group specialising in Christmas changes of character, particularly the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell).

Perhaps one of the best things about Spirited is that it gives us the first Ryan Reynolds performance in what feels like a long time where Reynolds doesn’t entirely seem to be playing himself. While not an entirely against-type role it’s still nice to see him making a change from his Deadpool-esque roles and asides of the last year or two. He plays Clint Briggs, a man “so persuasive [he] kind of makes you want to push an old lady down the stairs”. As a PR manager he’s made a career of spawning controversy and Twitter storms between celebrities, his views of taking down opponents with as much of an attack as possible bring him to the attention of a particular group who specialise in recreating key life events of a chosen figure each festive season in the hopes of changing them for good.

The main figure who leads Clint through his Christmas past and present is Present himself (a restrained Will Ferrell). Relishing the opportunity to jump into a musical number there’s plenty of energy to be found within the various songs throughout the film. It may occasionally feels as if the musical edge has been dropped, however when leaping back into another Benj Pasek and Justin Paul number. Most of which scream Broadway with their big jazzy, theatrical, all-teeth stylings. Occasional songs may feel as if they’ve been written for the stage, particularly with the way in which they are built up to, but there’s still plenty of energy and enough to enjoy within them.

Present in particular gets a number of ballad-style songs as his conflictions with his job, where some are questioning whether he may retire or not to an actual life, come more to the fore. This is especially the case in the second half when the film introduces a number of elements as slight continuations of what has come beforehand. Yet, a handful feel like new points and the film as a whole starts to feel slightly lengthy. It’s not that things feel cluttered or busy, more near to drawn out, particularly at 127 minutes long. However, while this may enter the mind a couple of times after the 85-90 minute mark the musical numbers help to carry things through by simply keeping a continuous highly entertaining tone. They bring the engagement and entertainment factor, alongside a handful of chuckles every now and then within the very festive tone.

Much of these chuckles arrive when Reynolds and Ferrell bounce off each other. Feeling kept in place by director and co-writer (alongside John Morris) Sean Anders there feels a style of having stuck to the script thanks to their consistently restrained performances. You manage to engage with them and the fun that they appear to have been having on set, also pushed across by a supporting cast which includes Octavia Spencer and Patrick Page. Together, alongside the screenplay, they all help to take the elements of A Christmas Carol, and slightly deconstruct them as the narrative moves along and changing the story to not quite tell the same old course again. While things might slow down and feel a bit drawn out when adding extra details to the narrative there’s still enough glitzy festive cheer on display in the theatrical musical numbers, and chemistry between Reynolds and Ferrell, to keep things moving along rather well.

A restrained Ferrell and Reynolds work well together in creating a handful of chuckles within Spirited. Things may begin to feel a bit drawn out and busy with the narrative developments of the second hour, but there’s still plenty to enjoy within the highly entertaining glitzy musical numbers.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Disenchanted – Review

Cert – Recommended for ages 9+, Run-time – 1 hour 58 minutes, Director – Adam Shankman

After wishing that her new neighbourhood be more like a fairytale Giselle (Amy Adams) must reverse the spell before midnight strikes and she becomes the evil stepmother.

There’s been some form of sequel to 2007’s Enchanted in the works since not too long after the release of the original film. In a year where there has been plenty of praise and anticipation around a number of ‘legacy sequels’ this 15 years later release doesn’t tread into such territory and instead makes a general direct sequel without any belated fanfare. While we meet the characters around a decade older, with certain narrative events based around that, it’s all part of the standard sequel basis as Giselle (Amy Adams) is preparing for a new idealistic life in a quiet neighbourhood outside of New York City.

However, things don’t get off to a good start as husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) struggles with commuter life and early starts, her relationship with now-teenage step-daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) feels increasingly distant as she tries to also look after new baby Sofia. Therefore, when presented with a wand by King Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel), still living in her animated homeworld of Andalasia, Giselle wishes for her new town to be just like a fairytale. Cue a live-action depiction of her former life filled with plenty of music and dance numbers and as many traditional narrative arcs as you can imagine. It’s an introduction which breaks into the convention which has been present up until this point as the film solidifies that this is about everyone being in Giselle’s world instead of her being in theirs as was the case with the first film.

Yet, despite the familiar tones and surroundings Giselle is desperate to leave as she finds herself transforming into the vain role of the wicked stepmother. All she needs to do is reverse the spell using the same wand, which just also happens to be sought by Queen, and leader of most events and celebrations in the real world, Malvina (Maya Rudolph). Rudolph, as with many members of the cast, clearly recognises just how deep into a fairytale scenario Disenchanted is and very much plays it up. There’s a sense of theatricality to a number of the performances here, however while Rudolph plays up the role is never quite seems to land in the way that’s perhaps hoped for. Perhaps sticking out more so due to the more ensemble nature of the cast, with the film focusing on a number of different characters and how their day changes now they’re overcome with new personalities to fit the world they’re now a part of.

The film as a whole does feel a bit overlong with its busyness from various different perspectives, however there’s still enough to generally engage and amuse. Perhaps part of why the original worked so much was the consistency of a ‘y’know for kids’ tone. While this sequel should certainly work for younger viewers it doesn’t quite specifically target them throughout without pandering to adults who may be watching with kids or on their own. Yet, it perhaps detracts something slightly overall particularly when it comes to some of the themes and points that are on display, especially in the general vibe of the transformed town she initially enjoys until the consequences become apparent, if the spell isn’t reversed by midnight.

Perhaps the most confident, and enjoyable, sequences of the film come in the musical numbers. It’s no surprise when you remember that Alan Menken is behind them. Providing such moments with an energy which lifts sequences up and helps keep you in place in the developing narrative(s). The theatrical stylings are perfectly caught and summed up in such moments where they feels most and home largely because of what Menken infuses into them. This isn’t the same world where the singing princess is out of place and the songs need to grow around her, no, they burst in straight away here and in a number of instances it simply makes for an even bigger burst when they arrive to move things along.

As a whole there’s a generally likable, if very busy, nature to Disenchanted. It may feel slightly longer due to its leaning into cliché and convention, however the theatricality that lies throughout – particularly within Menken’s musical numbers – helps to keep you engaged within the world that has been created and expanded for this direct sequel which gets on with the job instead of lingering in any kind of nostalgia or catch up. Not without its faults, but there’s still enough to like and be engaged by with everything that the film gets in in just under two hours.

A bit long due to its busyness and focus on various characters, while Disenchanted may be made up of conventions there’s plenty of theatricality on display, particularly within the musical numbers where it’s most at home, to take away from that for a generally likable sequel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.