Riders of Justice Film Review

Riders of Justice is a dark dark dark revenge comedy that remarkably manages to warm the heart amid the gut punching f*cked-up-ness and bouts of nihilism. Mads Mikkelsen is incredible as the brooding, angry Marcus, who pummels and shoots his way through much of the movie, while his bumbling trio of sidekicks grapple with their own messed up lives and coming to terms with dealing with their past. Despite Marcus’ demons, Mikkelsen’s portrayal makes the character extremely compelling to watch, a man broken inside who can only respond through what he knows best – violence.

The film twists and turns in its genre, moving from mystery to action to satire and tragicomedy, often within two or three scenes. There’s a lot of odd character moments from Nikolaj Lie Kaas’ Otto, Lars Brygmann’s Lennart and Nicolas Bro’s Emmenthaler, which pay off in little ways as you progress through the film. On top of this, the violence is extremely vivid and comes right out of the blue, amid laughs and pathos, creating a very surreal sense of narrative.

Some of the best moments in the film are the family-style setting that emerges, as the trio move in with Marcus under the guise of pretending to be psychologists for Marcus and his daughter, in response to the loss of his wife and her mother. The playful acting from the characters adds another level of distortion to this rather confused film, and makes it all the better. While the ending unravels into an all-out murder-fest, the characters and great performances hold it together, and we’re lucky enough to be witness to some amazing festive apparel before the credits roll.

Jungle Cruise Film Review

Jungle Cruise is the latest in Disney’s roster of live action-adventure films and an obvious attempt at returning to its previous glories of power film franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean. So does it channel the success of Jack Sparrow and co, or is it more of a John Carter or Lone Ranger?

The idea is a promising one, and the two leads give enough energy and excitement to their roles, but aside from the boat ride itself, there’s too much meandering in the shallows to really get the audience on the edge of their seat. One of the main issues is the huge numbers of films Jungle Cruise draws from – you’ve got the lead trio mirroring the cast of the Mummy, nods to everything from Indiana Jones to the African Queen, Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo to Romancing the Stone, plus fantasy elements and snake-filled zombies that could have been directly lifted from Pirates of the Caribbean. All these similarities mean the film doesn’t have room to breathe on its own and is stuck in the shadow of other people’s ideas.

That said, there’s a lot to enjoy, there’s cheerful camaraderie galore between Blunt’s Lily and Johnson’s Frank, while the latter steals the show with his theme park-style hosting duties, fleecing tourists for money on his river cruises. Plemons gives a fun star turn in his brief scenes as the over the top bad guy aristocrat Joachim who pursues our heroes down the Amazon. The less said about the other antagonists the better, especially the CGI-filled fest of an ending action sequence which drags the film down considerably.

Aside from that special effects-laden section at the end, the cinematography is bright, vivid and captures the sense of wonder as we’re drawn into the majesty of the rainforest, and the little touch of a silent film camera moment is particularly endearing. There’s also a fair few moments of comedic action which work well, thanks in no small part to the charisma of the leads, but nothing really shines in the way to get you fully invested. Part of this is down to the characters themselves, who are little more than threadbare caricatures, with just enough characteristics to give some sense of personality, but just not enough to give the audience a reason to care, especially in the early sections of the film.

While there’s some charm and joy to be found on this theme park ride, Jungle Cruise is a confused mood board of classic adventure films that doesn’t really know what direction it wants to go in. It’s a shame, as the adventure genre has been lacking of late, and pulling this one off well could have been the shock in the arm this style of film could definitely do with.

Shiva Baby Film Review

Emma Seligman’s short but sweet black comedy may have had its release delayed due to the pandemic, but the delay has in no way dampened its well-earned critical success.

The film tells the story of a young Jewish woman, Danielle, attending a shiva with her parents, with surprise guests including her secret sugar daddy, plus his wife and child, as well as her ex-girlfriend. The film follows our lead’s pinball style journey, bouncing around the party and colliding with its colourful cast of characters; all the while the possible uncovering of her sugar daddy relationship with the husband hangs over her, ready to drop at any minute.

What makes the film special is the horror-style elements overlaid over the comedy and drama. You’ve got a stripped back, menacing score, combined with claustrophobic cinematography to really ramp up the tension, building and building as we reach what we have to believe must be the climax of the drama that has slowly been unveiling itself. On top of this, the director manages to turn a relatively small and quiet wake setting into a sprawling mass of chaos, waiting to spill over.

There’s great performances from the cast, bringing a realistic, documentary-style feel to the proceedings, especially with perfect small cameos from the various attendees who wander in and out of the film during the 78 minutes. Rachel Sennott as Danielle is great, imbuing the character’s aimlessness, while Molly Gordon as her ex-girlfriend Maya brings out the warmth of a harsh character well. Also big shout-outs have to go to Fred Melamed and Polly Draper as Danielle’s parents, who play off against each other with brilliant comic timing.

Infinite (2021) Film Review

Infinite (2021) Film Review – The big idea of the film is what if people were reborn with their past memories, essentially living forever, except through different bodies?

Infinite, the latest film from Antoine Fuqua, is an intriguing example of how a really interesting concept and top notch script can get bogged down in production and sadly ‘blandified’ beyond all recognition. The concept, originally taken from The Reincarnationist Papers, is given an action refresh, moving from a serious philosophical piece to a more Fast & Furious-style romp.

The big idea of the film is what if people were reborn with their past memories, essentially living forever, except through different bodies? Now, this has been done before, but the little things they nod to in the film, such as the characters’ flashes of memories across the centuries and references to major historical events, suggest that angle could have been a lot more fun to explore beyond the thrill ride that movie soon becomes.

That said, it’s an exciting ride, and there are more than enough set pieces to shake a stick at,  all well executed, with just enough originality to make it worth your while. The best example of this is the armoured car chase through a police station, which screamed originality and gave off a general ‘what the hell will happen next’ feel to the film as it veers towards another death-defying moment.

The acting is workable, but again, it feels like some better casting would have resulted in more pathos and character development. The standout performance is without a doubt, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the menacing Bathurst, who looms over the story, and hams up the part when necessary, with a touch of Shakespearian eloquence. On top of that, Jason Mantzoukas’ screwball Artisan adds some much-needed levity in his far-too-few appearances. Mark Wahlberg is serviceable as the part-everyman who the audience can relate to and follow, but when you leave your rather convoluted exposition to Wahlberg, you’ve got a problem.

Infinite will offer you an entertaining thrill ride over 106 minutes, without requiring much thought, and that’s the main takeaway – with a concept like this, having a bit more thoughtfulness, playfulness and fun with it, would have gone a long way to making something a lot more memorable.

Nobody Film Review

Nobody_2021_Film_Poster

You can never go wrong with Bob Odenkirk, right? Well, that’s the logic behind why I sat down to watch his latest movie, the action killathon that is Nobody.

Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a man seemingly stuck in a rut at a 9-5 and mocked by pretty much everyone, including his wife and son.

However, a chance break-in at his house reveals there’s a lot more to the straight-laced man than we were initially led to believe. Hutch flips back into killer assassin mode, cripples a mob boss’s brother and things escalate. A lot.

From the writer of John Wick, you get a one-man killing machine employing an eye-openingly fun variety of different ways to kill the bad guys. It’s exciting, extremely well-paced, and Odenkirk is superb, channelling droll humour and world-weariness to perfect effect, on top of some real stunt prowess.

As you’d expect, the fight choreography is top-notch, with innovative set pieces really pushing action film making to the limit, without too much dependence on special effects, which always adds a little bit more magic and weight to the film.

But it’s not just a one-man show, with Connie Nielsen offering up fantastic chemistry, RZA speaking volumes despite a relatively small part, and Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s adorable dad.

A simple, fun and extremely effective Saturday night action thriller, and one we may be lucky enough to get a sequel to in the future.

2021 Games We’re Looking Forward TO

It’s that time of year again when you’re making resolutions, goals and plans for the months ahead – and it wouldn’t be complete without a list of the top video games that you’re eagerly awaiting to sink your teeth into! So here’s our curated selection of which games you’ll be frantically waiting to install on your various platforms in 2021.

Bravely Default 2 (Switch)
The series which takes a refreshing spin on the traditional RPG is thankfully returning to wow us with its intricate storytelling, marvellous world building and stunning soundtrack. The demo has already got us excited, with its idyllic introduction to strange lands and an intriguing set of characters, and we can’t wait to get return when the full game is released this year.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)
The follow up to arguably one of the best ever console launch titles, Breath of the Wild 2 has much to live up to, but we’re hopeful it’ll astound us just like original game did back in 2017. It appears the game will re-use the original lands of Hyrule, but with addition of many areas, stories and game mechanics. The trailers eeleaes so far suggest a darker tone than the original, with nods to 2006’s Twilight Princess.

Bayonetta 3 (Switch)
Developer PlatinumGames are on a bit of winning streak of late, with major hits like Nier:Automata and Astral Chain under their belt, so the third entry in the Bayonetta series is definitely going to be one the slash ‘em up to beat in 2021. With more cheesy supernatural battles than you can shake a high heeled shoe at, Bayonetta’s return is bound to be unforgettable (TBC 2020)

Hollow Knight: Silksong (PC/Switch)
Originally intended as a smallish add-on to the original platforming classic Hollow Knight, this game is now set yo be a full-blown sequel. With its unique art style returning, this entry will take Hornet on an adventure you’ll be dying to get your claws into.

Far Cry 6 (PS4/5; Xbox One/X; PC)
The vast open world shooter returns for the sixth time with the drama and acting ramped up with the inclusion of Giancarlo Esposito as the menacing dictator of the Caribbean island that’ll be your playground for countless hours.

God of War: Ragnarok (PS5)
With the triumphant return of the self titled God of War on the PS4 back in 2018, the new found narrative and storytelling focus was a welcome surprise and that game’s framework is likely to set the tone for this PS5 exclusive.

Halo Infinite – (Xbox Series X; PC)
Despite being lauded as the must-have new Xbox launch title, the fact the long awaited sixth main entry in the Master Chief’s story is having a bit more development time is nothing to complain about, especially considering the recent issues with Cyberpunk 2017.

Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)
It’s incredible to think that the groundbreaking first game in the series, Horizon Zero Dawn, was only released in 2017, and we’re lucky enlightened to have a sequel in 2021 that will make as much use of the PS5 as the original did on the PS4. With its gloriously beautiful open world, memorable characters and pitch perfect combat, this is a sequel well worth getting excited about.

Resident Evil Village (PS5; Xbox Series X; PC)
The first person reboot which was Resident Evil 7: Biohazard scared the bejesus out of us back in, especially the VR version, so we’re eagerly awaiting to have the hairs stand up on the back of necks in Capcom’s follow up, which takes you into a creepy village setting, recalling the classic Resident Evil 4. Let’s hope that the famous chainsaw scene returns in some form of another!

Elden Ring: (PS4/Xbox; PC)
This much hyped project combines the do or die combat of the Dark Souls series with the narrative stylings of a certain George R R Martin, which by our estimation, makes it the must-have action-RPG for 2021. Fingers crossed it lives up to the hype!

Another Round / Druk LFF Film Review

Another Round / Druk London Film Festival 2020 Movie Review

Druk (“Another Round”) is the latest feature from Danish director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg, reuniting him and actor Mads Mikkelsen some eight years after the Oscar-nominated Jagten (“The Hunt”). This dark comedy follows four disillusioned high school teachers who decide to rejuvenate their lives by embarking on an elaborate drinking game.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are all in a mid-life limbo, with the lead, Martin, increasingly isolated from his wife and children, mocked by his students, and reconsidering his life choices. Following an enjoyably boozy birthday meal, all four agree to engage in an experiment based on the work of a Norwegian psychologist, who claims humans are born with a deficit of 0.05% blood alcohol.

Faced with the four characters’ pathetic plights, the audience easily begins to root for them as they unleash their new selves upon the world. The early scenes are brilliantly funny, with the four adjusting to their new inebriated states during their school lessons, and are uplifting for the characters as they take their new-found confidence to help engage better with their students and lives outside of class. The physical humour is uncannily inspired, with the actors perfectly embodying the swaying bodies, alcohol-fuelled swagger and the odd bumping into walls and collapsing that occurs. Mads Mikkelsen in particular, effortlessly captures the progression of Martin, from lifeless to boisterously playful, along with more subtle levels of anguish, despair and catharsis.

Despite the comedy, a sense of dread builds as their plans become perilously close to being uncovered. The film slowly cranks up the tension as they progress from Hemingway rules (no drinking after 8 pm or at weekends) to Tchaikovsky approach (adjusting alcohol levels for optimal social and mental ability) to last but definitely not least, the Total Oblivion – maximum blood alcohol level. While they attest to their drinking being a scientific experiment, they begin to fool themselves into the logic of it, with increasingly farcical reasoning to go further and further.

As the film has been hinting, this ship they’ve embarked upon can only come crashing down on the rocks, with the first incident after the Total Oblivion, leading to the study ending “due to immense, negative social effects and the danger of alcoholism”. The event that leads to this, results in Martin’s separating from his wife, Nikolaj crawling into bed with his wife and wetting himself, while it leads Tommy down an even more dangerous route. In the face of a horrifically bleak ending, the film comes full circle with the friends in the harsh daylight, celebrating the successes of their students and culminating with an cathartic, impromptu jazz ballet dance piece from Mads Mikkelsen.

While mostly adhering to a realistic style, with hand-held camerawork, natural lighting and a simple setting, warm colours and flare are subtly added to the drinking scenes to emphasise their enticing nature. On top of that, the rising pressure and descent of the quartet is incredibly well matched by the cinematography of each of the seasons. The documentary-style is further heightened by the silent movie style black dialogue cards that flash up, alerting the audience to the various characters’ blood alcohol levels, as well as the short clips of various politicians famous for their drinking, such as Yeltsin, Sarkozy and even Boris Johnson.

This bittersweet tragicomedy is a meditation on attitudes to alcohol, ageing and masculinity in a nation that “drinks like maniacs”. While we see the bright positives and the grim negatives of intoxication, Druk instead wants to focus on why people turn to such destructive behaviour – is it boredom, stress or the desire to re-engage with their lives? In one sense, the alcohol is merely the springboard from which to take a deep look into the male psyche through these four very different characters.

While the quartet’s humorous, yet brutal trials and tribulations with alcohol set the scene, Druk is a bold examination of the thirst for life, love and friendship.

One Night In Miami LFF Film Review

One Night In Miami London Film Festival Review

Adapted from a stage play, One Night in Miami is the debut feature from Regina King, covering a fictional imagining of the night of 25 February 1964 when boxer Cassius Clay, singer Sam Cook, NFL star Jim Phillips and activist Malcolm X all met to celebrate Clay’s surprise win to become heavyweight champion of the world aged just 22.

The film confidently sticks to its theatre roots, with the vast chunk of the 110 minutes solely confined to a small motel room. The compact space is full to bursting with the personalities of the four black icons, who verbally jab bob and weave at each other, sparring just like Clay, but instead of boxing, their conflict is over their approach to their identities, personal and private lives and their success all in their individual struggles against racism. The script particularly focuses on what it means to support the civil rights movement as successful black men, dissecting each of the different character’s approaches and assumptions about each others’.

All four actors perfectly embody the energy, direction and opinions of their given role, Eli Goree’s Clay charmingly bounces off the walls, Aldis Hodges’ Brown is thoughtful yet firm, Leslie Odom Jr.’s Cook is passionately antagonistic with an incredible voice, and Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X captures a fiery anger hiding his vulnerability. All have some incredible dialogue to play with, with knockout lines getting served up so fast you can barely keep up.

As it centres around the aftermath of Clay’s fight, he leads us into the film, but as we progress it feels it becomes more focused on Malcolm X’s hidden dilemma over leaving the Nation of Islam, while he hopes to bring Clay to announce his conversion to the public. The tension builds up slowly, with the heated temperatures matching the verbal sparring, especially between Sam Cook and Malcolm X, who believes Cook isn’t doing enough through his songs to help further the cause.

The powerful transformative effect of the night is an incredible sight to see, though the epilogue proves bittersweet with Malcolm X’s famous words “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country” shown on the screen, along the fact they were spoken a mere two days before his murder.

One Night in Miami is a fantastically absorbing slice of partly-imagined history, with four powerhouse performances capturing the iconic figures’ meditation on race, civil rights and their own personal and private lives on a hot February night in 1964.

Supernova LFF Film Review

Supernova London Film Festival 2020 Film Review

Supernova, the second feature from actor, writer and filmmaker Harry Macqueen, is a heartbreaking tale of an older couple grappling with early-onset dementia.

Colin Firth’s Sam and Stanley Tucci’s Tusker are 50-somethings who embark on a mini-road trip through the Lake District, retracing their steps from decades before, reuniting with friends and family, all on the way to a cottage where Sam is set to perform a piano recital. And, last but not least, they bring their adorable dog Ruby along for the ride.

But it’s not all dogs, friends and stunning scenery, as Supernova takes an honestly bold look at the way Tusker’s condition of early-onset dementia takes its toll on both of the characters. The film takes it slowly, introducing us to a charming couple, before taking a more serious turn. The tension builds as Sam discovers that Tusker isn’t coping as well as he’s pretending to, and how the secrets they’re keeping from each other build-up to a dramatic set of scenes and a big dilemma.

There’s a real sense of the love between the two characters – they playfully bicker over the directions in the van, Tusker is overly protective over Sam’s fame, while Sam doles out patient and loving care over Tusker. The chemistry and the dialogue between the two protagonists are what really elevates the already great, though simple travel-style narrative. The little nuances of behaviours, the quiet moments and the heated arguments, all come together to paint a stunningly intimate portrait of two people facing one of the most difficult periods of their relationship and life.

Tucci’s sublime performance is bolstered by a painfully honest set of powerful lines capturing his character’s emotional state. Firth is more reserved, but equally strong, especially when faced with tough decisions. He’s reticent, as he tries to hide his emotional troubles while remaining strong for his partner.

On their journey, Sam and Tusker, and the audience are faced with compelling, yet harsh truths about the condition, but told through the partnership of the two, which is a joyful relationship, filled with humour, grumpiness and love. That said, the film sets out and succeeds in exploring the heartbreaking conflict between the selfishness of love, wanting not to lose your partner, and the selflessness of being a burden, feeling like you’re no longer the same person you were and losing control – “becoming a passenger [when you’re not] not a passenger.”.

Along with the acting and script, the other highlight is the cinematography. Aside from the stunning autumnal tones and vistas of a dramatic Lake District, the couple’s camper van is a remarkable set in itself. Masterfully shot, lit and staged, the van feels like an intimate world for the couple, yet still managing to create distance between the two, as well as capturing several different settings – everyday domestic life, a confessional space and a place of loneliness.

Supernova is a charmingly honest and sweetly romantic, yet brutally heartbreaking take on early-onset dementia and the traumatic effects it has on the body, mind and relationships. One of the frontrunners for the best film of the London Film Festival.

Kajillionaire LFF Film Review

Kajillionaire London Film Festival 2020 Review

The third feature from Miranda July, Kajillionaire is a surreal look at the life of Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood), named for a homeless lottery winner who the parents hoped would leave her money in his will. Sadly, we’re told, he spent it on experimental cancer treatments.

The quirky tale explores the strange lives of the Dyne family, conning their way through Los Angeles, stealing mail, forging signatures and living in a basement office which regularly floods with bubbles trickling down from a factory above. The actors play up the weirdness brilliantly, particularly Richard Jenkins, but the star has to be Evan Rachel Wood, who’s stubbornly suspended in an emotional prison of arrested development.

Gina Rodriguez plays the whirlwind of Melanie who flies into their life and mixes up the family’s very precise routines and chemistry, which Wood’s Old Dolio is so reliant upon. It’s hard not to see Melanie as the outsider, or the viewer – a normal person thrown into the kooky, surreal and bizarre world of Miranda July. Rodriquez brings charm, humour and strength to a role that works brilliantly in grounding a film in need of an anchor of realism.

Kajillionaire seems to set up the question – is the family in just a long-con – are familial bonds true or just a means to control, dominate and trick others? Either way, Wood’s Old Dolio is in much need of an outside perspective, and that’s where her intriguing journey with Rodriguez’s Melanie shines most. Definitely the most accessible of Miranda July’s catalogue, this is a strange, surreal and charming fairy tale of a lost woman trapped by her family, her upbringing and herself, and in much need of rescuing.