24 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was always going to face something of an uphill struggle. The Harry Potter franchise is one of the most successful of the 21st century so far, beloved by millions all over the world - a spin-off from that was always going to seem like something of a cash grab, regardless of J. K. Rowling's level of involvement. I'm pretty much as big a Harry Potter fan as you are likely to meet, and yet the possibility of a totally unnecessary spin-off coming along and damaging the property's well-earned reputation had me more than a little worried.

I shouldn't have been. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is by no means the perfect movie, but it still offers a good enough reason to revisit the magical world that J. K. Rowling created - and that's all it ever really need to do.

21 November 2016

Arrival review

Like all forms of entertainment, films matter. They may seem inconsequential at times, but they help inform how we think and what we think about, defining us as people even if we aren't always aware of the way they do that. 2016 has been a terrible year for a number of reasons (you know the ones), but Arrival's message of unity over division and the importance of international co-operation acts as a vital reminder that humanity is at its best when it puts the bullshit aside and strives for a common goal. Arrival is a really well-made film, one that was always going to be worth watching regardless of when it was released - but in coming out now, Arrival is transformed into something that feels like a downright necessity.

After 12 identical ships touch down in seemingly random locations over Earth, we follow linguist Louise Banks as she is hired by the US Army to communicate with the aliens, known as Heptapods for their seven legs. Deciding early on to focus on written communication over verbal, it's up to her to ensure that they have enough knowledge of the Heptapods' language to ask and understand the answer to "What is your purpose on Earth?" before one of the other nations - or even their own - allows their fear of the aliens to overcome them.

14 November 2016

Nocturnal Animals review

Nocturnal Animals, the second film from fashion designer/film-maker Tom Ford, isn't exactly an easy film to describe. An adaptation of Austin Wright's novel "Tony and Susan", it uses two distinct plots to tell one story, a narrative within a narrative in which information from one abstractly informs the other. Following the unexpected delivery of a manuscript, we follow art gallery owner Susan Morrow as she is drawn into the fictional story of Tony Hastings, whose traumatic experience forces her to recall painful memories of her past relationship with the manuscript's author.

1 November 2016

Doctor Strange review

As we neared the finale of Doctor Strange, I suddenly realised that I was more interested in seeing the after-credits scenes than I was in watching the film perform its conclusion. My investment in this movie rested more in seeing how this story and these character would go on to interact with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe than it did in the story and characters themselves, and although that's fantastic news as far as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is concerned - a testament to how well these 14 movies have come together in order to create something greater than the sum of its parts - it's also a fairly good indication that Doctor Strange itself simply isn't all that engaging a movie.

Following a career-ending car crash, we follow talented ex-neurosurgeon Stephen Strange as he attempts to master the mystical arts in order to heal his hands back into the condition they once were. Travelling to a place called Kamar-Taj in Nepal, Strange starts to study and train under the guidance of The Ancient One, who eventually reveals to Strange that he now has a responsibility to protect the Earth from the kind of mystical threats that the Avengers cannot.