Split (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 2/10

Synopsis

While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him – as well as everyone around him – as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

The Review

Oh M. Night Shyamalan. What happened? You made great films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs…but then went on to make films such as Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth. And don’t get me started with The Last Airbender, given you ruined my all time favourite anime series on the big screen which I still hate you for. So when I start reading from multiple respective outlets that “Split” is a return to form for Shyamalan, it got me all excited. Has he really written something again that was as unique and memorable as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable?

No. No he has not. Not by a mile. Split is a mess of a movie. I’m angry just thinking about it while writing this review.

James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man who has suffered with dissociative identity disorder all his life, giving him the burden of having 23 distinct personalities. At the beginning of the film, we see one of his personalities, “Dennis”, kidnap three teenagers: Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula), and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). From there we get to see glimpses of his different identities, most notably Barry, a wannabe fashion designer (only appearing in front of his regular sessions with his psychiatrist), Hedwig, a little child, and Patricia, a stern and authoritative woman. It’s the personalities of Dennis and Patricia who have “worked” together to kidnap these girls as they need to ready them for the inevitable appearance of Kevin’s 24th distinct personality, known only as “The Beast”.

The film is littered with so many glaring mistakes it’s shameful, given that it doesn’t help that the plot is extremely stupid as well and can’t keep up with its own unique concept. The second half is down right ridiculous due to how clearly irrational it is.The first quarter of the film is intriguing, unravelling the mental issues Kevin has been suffering all his life, keeping you captivated to understand the purpose of why he has kidnapped these girls. But when the personality of “The Beast” begins to get mentioned, it becomes way too predictable but at the same time doesn’t realise how insulting it is that it’s ending up representing people with similar mental issues to be extremely dangerous human beings in real life.

Another is the portrayal of women in this film, notably the three kidnapped teenagers. One of the personalities, Barry, loves to watch naked girls dancing. Using that as plot point, he asks one of the girls to remove their pants, and another to remove their top. REALLY?!  It’s just an infuriating sexist excuse to ensure they remain like that for the rest of the film. Taylor-Joy’s Casey is the only girl out of the three given a back-story around an abusive past which is handled poorly. There’s even little moments in the film that proves the difference between a good director and a bad one. An example being one of the actresses having gone through a terrifying ordeal just minutes ago, has full on make-up on and looking like they’ve just got of the shower. The only saving grace and why I’m even giving any score is James McAvoy as he is incredible in this film. A performance more crazy than his turn in “Filth”. It’s just a shame his talent is wasted away here.

Final Word

Three words: Split is Shit.

T2 Trainspotting (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 7/10

Synopsis

First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.

The Review

21 years ago, a little film called Trainspotting got released to the UK public. Based on the same novel by Irvine Welsh, the film shocked audience members everywhere for its brutal and honest portrayal of drug addiction, but also how culturally relevant it was of that time, taking on topics such as class status, youth culture, and poverty. The first time I watched it it felt like a punch to the gut. The kinetic direction by Danny Boyle with a soundtrack for the ages lives on in your memory, rightfully placing it as one of the greatest movies of the 90s. Decades later, T2 has arrived, returning Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) back on our screens.

After the events of the first one, we see Renton has been living in Amsterdam for the past 20 years. Spud still can’t let go of his heroin addiction which is affecting his relationship with his wife and son, whilst trying to get a stable job. Sick Boy is still finding dodgy ways of making money, pursuing the life of blackmail on the side, even if he is a pub landlord. And Begbie is still in prison, serving his 25-year sentence and being denied parole.

If you’re expecting the thrill of the first one to be captured again in this sequel then think again. This is a film about memories. Memories of the past that you can’t let go. Even if years have gone by, it hasn’t healed the mistakes that you have made. The main purpose of this film is to show the toil that age takes upon you. We see flashes of the first film stitched into poignant moments reflecting the “best of times” (even with echoing snippets of the first soundtrack), but really shows that our characters aren’t young adults anymore and have wasted their lives away.  It’s also a film about friendship, having moments showing children representing our characters when they were young and how the bond between them began. It’s a more emotional film with a desperation of our “heroes” trying to hold on to what they can of their past, even if the world around them has moved on to a more modern era. It’s welcoming to see that the film embraces the changes that have occurred in the real world these last two decades.

Out of all the main characters, McGregor’s Renton is definitely the one who has aged the most, with Renton being less brash and energetic like he was in the first film. He’s ultimately seeking forgiveness, given what he did at the end of the first film has taken a toil on the rest of the people he is connected with. Miller and Carlyle are still the Sick Boy and Begbie (respectively) that we know, schemers and back stabbers. But it’s Ewen Bremner’s Spud that will carry on being in your head as you leave the cinema. He was my favourite character from the first one and still is in the second one. It’s heartbreaking to see Spud with where he is in his life, given that he is the most likeable of them all.

And that’s one of the issues I have with this film. Other than Spud, none of these characters are likeable at all by the end. You don’t care whether or not they get killed for their actions throughout the film. Another issue is the film doesn’t really have much of a plot. It really becomes some sort of a story near the final 30 minutes. Before that, its a collection of scenes put together (even if some of these scenes beautifully captures the surrealism of the first one), with an okay soundtrack, but Scotland still looks it’s beautiful self on screen.

Final Word

 T2 Trainspotting is about lost youth, broken friendships, and the acceptance of a different era. It’s a welcome return of some of the most iconic characters from film, but never captures what made the first one so unique and special.

Lion (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 8/10

Synopsis

Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

The Review

Based on an incredible true story, Six-time Oscar nominated film “Lion” is a story of two-halves: one half providing the audience the anguish, distress, and loss of losing your loved ones as a child, and the other providing the journey of vanquishing those emotions as an adult to find the ones you’ve lost through the powers of modern technology. At times incredible…harrowing…heartbreaking, but let down by a slow second hour after a masterful first.

Shot beautifully by cinematographer (and now Oscar-nominated) Greig Fraser, the film begins with the five-year old Saroo (played by newcomer Sunny Pawar) and his big brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) climbing onto a coal-bearing train and stealing the coal so they can sell it at the local market to buy food. They are very poor, living in a mud-hut with their little sister and their mother (Priyanka Bose), who goes to work all day to break rocks at a construction site. One evening, Guddu tells Saroo that he’s been given some work to do and will be out of the home all night. Saroo wants to help so tags along with his brother. They reach the nearby train station, where Saroo becomes too tired to go on with his brother. Guddu tells Saroo to stay put on the station bench whilst he heads off to work. Its the middle of the night now and with Saroo becoming a bit anxious, he sees a dormant train nearby to search for his brother. He can’t find him but seeing that the train is not moving, he stays put in the train and falls asleep whilst waiting for Guddu’s return. And so begins a heart-breaking turn of events: the train rushing thousands of kilometres away from his village to a city where the spoken language is not Hindu, surviving alone in a city where everything around him towers above his size, and avoiding dangers that so many lost children face in India every year. With a fortunate turn of events he gets adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman & David Wenham) and the film switches to a 26-year old Saroo (played by Dev Patel) who during one friend’s house party starts having flashes of his past, and with the suggestion of his friends, uses Google Earth to retrace his steps from the flashes he is getting to find his way back home, in turn isolating everyone who cares about him (including his girlfriend Lucy, played by Rooney Mara).

It’s extraordinary to think that this is a true story and the things that real life Saroo had to face to find his Indian family. At times, “Lion” is a tear-jerker with the standard “pulling the heart strings when it needs to” moments that you would expect from a story like this. But my main issue with the film is the way each half of the film (Saroo’s younger self and his older self) is played out which imbalances the film as whole. When you are following the tale of Saroo as a five-year old (which is half of the film’s running time), it is one of the most harrowing, terrifying, and heartbreaking hour of film I have watched in the last year. This little boy all alone in a city where everything is alien to him, and where dangers lie everywhere whilst somehow trying to find his way back home is pulse racing stuff. It was like watching a Dickensian tale play out. That whole hour is anchored by THE MOST incredible child actor in the form of Sunny Pawar. It’s insane to think that this is his first film and I don’t understand how he has not been nominated for his performance at the Oscars. The film belongs to him.

The second half with the older Saroo in the shape of Dev Patel, who puts in a career-best Oscar-nominated performance, becomes so much more slower it became distracting to me. Not to say that it’s a bad half as it is interesting to see his dynamic with his adopted parents (most notably with an in-form Nicole Kidman), how he uses Google Earth to find his way back home, and the troubles his character is feeling when wondering what his Indian family must’ve been feeling when they lost him. But there is so much of looking on the internet and the clicking of the mouse that the film can drag out and the viewer can take. There are moments in this half which the older Saroo does that just annoyed me, particularly his relationship with his girlfriend (the talented Rooney Mara wasted here). Because of this, the crescendo ending didn’t have a tearful impact for me as I hoped it would.

Final Word

 An incredible true story told in two halves: A masterful and harrowing first half anchored by a powerful performance by 7-year old newcomer Sunny Pawar, let down by a slower second half, even if we get a career-best performance by Dev Patel. If you’re going to watch it with your children, you’ll end up never letting them go after watching this.

“La La Land” receives 14 Oscar Nominations & #OscarsSoWhite is NO MORE!

News

Modern musical “La La Land” landed 14 Oscar Nominations today, tying with “Titanic” in 1997 and “All About Eve” in 1950, with the most Oscar nominations received by any film in the history of the competition.

It’s director Damien Chazelle received two nominations (one for Best Director and one Original Screenplay), with the stars of the film Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling receiving a nod in the Best Actress and Best Actor categories, respectively. It was also nominated twice in the Best Original Song category (“Audition” and “City of Stars”), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

“Arrival” and “Moonlight” each received eight nominations, both included in the Best Picture category, with “Fences”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Hell or High Water”, “Hidden Figures”, “Manchester by the Sea”, and “Lion” making up that list.

In the acting categories, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen, and Denzal Washington were nominated with Gosling in the Best Actor category, and joining Stone is Isabelle Huppert, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep (a record 20 nominations now), and surprise nomination Ruth Negga make up the Best Actress category.

Mel Gibson is nominated again 20 years after Braveheart for Best Director, with Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, and Denis Villeneue making up the category with Chazelle.

With the big news for the past two years being the no-show of non-white presence in the Oscars Acting categories (and others), #OscarsSoWhite is no more with seven non-white actors and actresses being nominated over the four main acting categories. Good to see the shakeup that was promised last year by the Oscars president really working!

The nominations were announced early this afternoon in a completely unconventional way from what we are used to, with a pre-recorded video of past winners and nominees telling their stories what it felt like learning that they had been nominated. A bit weird and very infomercial like…let’s see if it carries over the coming years.

For the full list of nominees click on the link here. I will be writing many more articles following the run up to the big event which will be on February 26th so look out for those!

Golden Globes 2017 – Predictions

Opinion Piece

Tonight, Hollywood will be hosting it’s first major awards show of 2017 with the Golden Globes. One of the few major award events that has both film and TV categories placed together, and the most unpredictable given the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) being notorious for being different and, at times, stupid with their choices . Usually for the TV side of things, it doesn’t really give any indication of what to expect in terms of major players as the Emmys will happen all the way down in September. And the HFPA usually like to give away awards to the new shows that have just come out, with history usually showing they have not gone onto doing well come Emmy time. But for the films side of things, this is a major indicator of who could go on to win the coveted prizes at the Oscars at the end of February so all eyes will be on those categories. So far, its been either “La La Land”(who leads with seven nominations) or “Moonlight” who have had the momentum of winning all awards given by the US critics (and I won’t expect that momentum to falter this evening). But here are my predictions of who I want to win AND will go on to winning tonight! Let me know your predictions in the comments section below:

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Best Motion Picture — Drama

Manchester by the Sea – Want to Win

Moonlight – Will Win

As I said earlier, I don’t see Moonlight losing its momentum here and going on to win the final prize of the night, but Manchester by the Sea is equally amazing (and one of my favourite films of last year) so it could sneak in for the win.

Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

La La Land – Want to Win & Will Win

I’ve been an advocate of this film since last year and its a given for winning the prize on the night. A true shock if it doesn’t.

Best Director — Motion Picture

Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

What Chazelle has done to revitalise the modern Hollywood musical is truly visionary so I’m expecting him to be rewarded his dues.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama

Amy Adams (Arrival) – Want to Win

Natalie Portman (Jackie) – Will Win

I love everything that Amy Adams does, and her work on “Arrival” just portrays an Actress at the top of her game. She could end up winning on the night given the HPFA’s past love for her. But the buzz and awards that Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy has been getting won’t surprise me one bit if she wins the award on the night.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) – Want to Win & Will Win

The best performance of last year by a mile. Casey Affleck will go on to win on the night and then at the Oscars.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical

Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

La La Land will win nearly all of its categories and I won’t expect it to falter here. Gosling’s charming performance is an important cog that makes the film work so well.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical

Emma Stone (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

Gosling’s great in the film, but the stand out and what makes the film truly special is Emma Stone. She’s the heart of the film and she will be reading her acceptance speech tonight.

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another lock in tonight’s Golden Globes. Ali has been winning all the major awards for his performance in Moonlight and I’m expecting him to go on to winning.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) – Want to Win

Viola Davis (Fences) – Will win

This is a really tough category to predict. Michelle Williams was outstanding in Manchester, opposite Affleck. And the buzz that Naomie Harris has been receiving for her performance has a drug-addicted mother in Moonlight has been strong. But the odds on favourite is Viola Davis’ towering performance in Fences, a character she has played in Broadway before.

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Best Motion Picture — Animated

Kubo and the Two Strings – Want to Win

Zootopia – Will Win

I loved Kubo and placed it in my top ten films of 2016, but I could see Zootopia taking this, given the messages on inclusivity it preached throughout the whole film.

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea) – Want to Win & Will Win

The only award which La La Land will not win. Kenny Lonergan’s screenplay is perfect and he should be rewarded for it.

Best Original Score — Motion Picture

Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another deadlock. An original musical where all the songs are great!

Best Original Song

“City of Stars” – La La Land – Want to Win & Will Win

You can’t stop whistling this song once you hear it for the first time.

Best Foreign Language Film

Toni Erdmann (Germany) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another one that’s hard for me to predict, given they haven’t been released yet here in the UK. But I’ve already added Elle and Toni Erdmann as films I need to watch this year, and predict Toni Erdmann to take it given the universal acclaim it has received.

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Best Television Series — Drama

Game of Thrones – Want to Win

Stranger Things – Will Win

No begins the unpredictable categories. In an ideal world, Game of Thrones would win everything. But HFPA always give awards to new dramas and I don’t expect that trend to differ this year. So my prediction is the awesome Stranger Things winning on the night.

Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Atlanta – Want to Win & Will Win

Donald Glover’s Atlanta was the best new comedy I saw last year. Original and bold, I’m expecting it to win big tonight.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama

Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) – Will Win

Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) – Want to Win

An incredibly strong year for female performances. I fell in love with Evan Rachel Wood last year with her performance as android Dolores, but if Stranger Things wins best drama on the night, the return of Winona Ryder on our screens will be given the reward.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) – Want to Win & Will Win

Malek’s incredible performance in Mr Robot will again get the award tonight. He is the best thing on the show and the only reason why I kept on watching it last year given it wasn’t as great as the first season.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Donald Glover (Atlanta) – Want to Win & Will Win

Glover should be rewarded for his talent and he will tonight if Atlanta wins best comedy. Childish Gambino FTW!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) – Want to Win & Will Win

She’s the queen of comedy and no other comic actress is out there like her. She didn’t win it last year but I see that changing tonight.

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Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – Want to Win & Will Win

It won all the awards in last year’s Emmys and it will go on to dominate in the Golden Globes tonight, and so it should. The trial of OJ Simpson was simply thrilling to watch.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Amazing performances nominated in this category, but Vance as the late Johnnie Cochran was as bold and sleazy like the man himself. He won the Emmy for it last year and will win again tonight.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Sarah Paulson (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Marcia Marcia Marcia. Paulson is the tour-de-force in the show and she will win again tonight.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television

Sterling K. Brown (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Paulson and Vance wouldn’t have given those amazing performances without Sterling K.Brown’s Chris Darden opposite them. A sweep for “The People Vs.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) – Want to Win

Thandie Newton (Westworld) – Will Win

The only category where I won’t have regret if either Headey or Newton went on to win. Both were phenomenal in Game of Thrones and Westworld (respectively) so credit is due to either of them.

 

Films of 2017: My Top 12 Picks

Opinion Piece

Happy New Year Ladies and Gentlemen! Yes we are all now suffering the post-holiday blues,  and to make up for it we’re already showing off on our countless social media accounts how we’re in the gym sweating off that built up holiday fat, or even torturing ourselves with a “dry” January  (even though the UK isn’t going through a water shortage). Without dawdling on unrealistic expectations, what we can expect and rely on is another brilliant year of releases in UK cinemas. Here are my twelve picks (one for every month) of my most anticipated movies of 2017. Let me know in the comments section below what film(s) you are most excited to see in the next twelve months!

January

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Top Pick: La La Land (12th January)

With awards season in full swing, the UK will be provided an abundance of movies hotly tipped to be nominated for the upcoming Oscars at the end of February. BUT none of these were close to the film that I chose as my top film of 2016. Be ready to watch a musical masterpiece as “La La Land” is finally released here in the UK. A film that is pure joy from the beginning to the end. If you need a date movie, this is THE ONE to watch with that special someone! (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Manchester by the Sea, A Monster Calls, Silence, Jackie, Lion, Split, Christine, Hacksaw Ridge, T2 Trainspotting

February

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Top Pick: Moonlight (17th February)

My top pick and one which is La La Land’s real competition in winning Best Picture in this year’s Oscars is Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed “Moonlight”. A story that follows the life of an African American over three stages of his life, whos trying to come to terms with his sexuality is vital and relevant viewing, given the awful acts that have happened in the US in the last year towards the Black and LGBT community. (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Toni Erdmann, Loving, Fences, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2

March

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Top Pick: Logan (3rd March)

It’s the last ever outing from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that is my top pick of March. After 17 years spread over 8 films, Jackman will finally hang his claws playing the character that has made him a household name in the movie industry. We will see a very old Logan who’s healing abilities are now failing, trying to protect a teenage girl with the same mutant abilities as him, whilst taking care of a dementia stricken Professor Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). Am I finally gonna get the Wolverine from the comics? Gotta have to wait and see. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Free Fire, Ghost in the Shell

April

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Top Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (28th April)

April sees the release of “The Handmaiden”, the next film from master South Korean director Park Chan-Wook (if you don’t know who he is, go and check out the incredible “Vengeance” trilogy by him). Yet it is overshadowed by the first of three releases (my most anticipated of the lot) from Marvel Studios, and the sequel to the most successful gamble Marvel Studios have ever made with superheroes no one has heard of. The loveable misfits that are Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and BABY GROOT are back on the big screen for Volume 2 of their adventures (most likely backed by an incredible 80s soundtrack). The first film I expect to reach a billion dollars in cinema ticket sales this year. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Handmaiden, City of Tiny Lights

May

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Top Pick: Alien Covenant (19th May)

The “Alien” series for me has always been hit-and-miss. The first two in the series are movie masterpieces, but all the sequels that have come out after “Aliens” have either been mediocre or utter sh*te. Given the release of the trailer to “Covenant” at the end of 2016, Ridley Scott’s sequel to “Prometheus”, and second prequel to the original Alien series, the footage echoes the original horror and tension that the first film had so masterfully portrayed. Expect gore, screaming, and another gruesome chest bursting scene. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: My Life as a Courgette

June

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Top Pick: Wonder Woman (2nd June)

One of the few great things from last year’s disappointment that was “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, Gal Gadot dons the infamous superhero outfit to play the Amazonian Princess (first appearing in comics in 1941) who goes to help the fight in World War I. Given the trailers that have been released, the visual direction looks stunning and certainly looks like the female superhero movie that the world needs,  given the already extremely male dominated genre. Warner Bros. needs this to be a success to justify their future DC comics superhero movie releases. No pressure then. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The House

July

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Top Pick: Dunkirk (21st July)

So this was a tough month to choose my top pick as all the films that I have placed as runner ups are worthy for the top position of July for a number of reasons. But any month that has a release from Christopher Nolan will always edge out everything else. Ever since I saw “Memento” nearly 12 years ago, he has gone onto direct some of my favourite movies of all time, so I’m always on high alert for anything Nolan related. Based on the incredible true events of the evacuation of allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France in World War II, expect this to be classic Nolan: epic and needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Dark Tower, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

August

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Top Pick: Baby Driver (11th August)

Oh Edgar Wright. Ever since you created one of the greatest television comedies in the last twenty years in the form of “Spaced”, you have gone on to make classic film after classic film. From zombie masterpiece “Shaun of the Dead” to cult comic book classic “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, Wright always makes movies that are unique and have his signature eccentric flair. Not much is known about the film other than it being about a young getaway driver trying to leave the life of crime, but Wright has recently revealed that music is the biggest influence of this action thriller, with 35 songs to be played throughout the whole film. God I can’t wait for this. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Coldest City

September

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Top Pick: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (29th September)

The first Kingsman movie came out of nowhere,  turning out to be a great and funny spy movie with some inspired action sequences (the insane church fight is one of the best choreographed action sequences in recent memory), so I’m excited to see what direction Matthew Vaughan takes this. With Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry joining the great cast from the first film (Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong), Vaughan is definitely expanding the universe as the Kingsman Secret Service go to America to work with their US counterpart, Statesman, after their fellow neighbours-in-arms are attacked by a criminal mastermind. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Flatliners, It

October

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Top Pick: Blade Runner 2049 (6th October)

Its insane to think that after 35 years (and several hundred versions of Blade Runner) we are finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest science fiction movies ever created. Do I feel a bit worried it might suck? Not.One.Bit. Why? Because Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, with an amazing cast led by Ryan Gosling, with a screenplay written by one half of the original writing team of the first film, and it’s being directed by Denis Villeneuve who showed with “Arrival” he can do intelligent science fiction. The trailer alone shows they’ve perfectly captured the distinct unique feel that the first film was renowned for. I just hope the score is as mesmerising as Vangelis’. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Thor: Ragnarok

November

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Top Pick: Justice League (17th November)

Its the biggie of 2017 for superhero movies. Warner Bros are hoping to mirror the success of The Avengers movies with their take on the epic superhero mashup. We will see Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) team up to take on Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons. Its a massive gamble given the critical slating that BvS took in 2016. Its a film that will set up future individual superhero movies. Its a film I am praying turns out to be great. Zach Snyder…please make this as good as Watchmen! (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Red Sparrow, Paddington 2

December

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Top Pick: Star Wars: Episode VIII (14th December)

I mean…its the sequel to the third-highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME and the next chapter to one of the most successful sagas in movie history. With how The Force Awakens had ended, Rey is now on her journey of learning the teachings of the force and becoming the Jedi she was destined to be. Plus, we will finally get to see Luke Skywalker being a frickin’ Jedi Master!  Its my most anticipated movie of this year, not only because of it being a Star Wars movie, but it will be the final time we will see Princess Leia, a.k.a the legendary Carrie Fisher, to ever grace our screens after her untimely death on Christmas Eve. May the force be with you always…(No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Coco

Top Ten Films Of 2016

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2016 did not disappoint with films this year. With the age of binge-watching in full swing, studios are finding it tough to get people into cinema seats as the content, storytelling and originality that is becoming available in platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and premium channels such as HBO and AMC, is surpassing the level of highly-promoted films released in cinemas. We’re even seeing big Hollywood stars venturing more and more into doing a mini series than they would have ten years ago. Yet we are still getting gems released and 2016 had an abundance of them. Here are my top 10 films of 2016 which I can’t stop thinking about. Leave in the comments section below on what your favourite films of 2016 were, and any you feel should’ve made it in my list!
Note: Some of these are yet to be released in the UK but I was fortunate enough to catch them at special screenings this year.

Honourable Mentions: The Revenant, Creed

10. The Nice Guys

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The second best buddy comedy of the year (No. 3 takes the title) is also Shane Black’s best work since 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (sorry guys but Iron Man 3 was average at best). Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play Healy and March, two private investigators looking into the death of a pornstar, and a missing teenage girl in 1970s sun-soaked, drug-fuelled Los Angeles. Set to an amazing soundtrack, Black’s writing is funny and sharp, delivered perfectly by Crowe’s punch-first-talk-later enforcer, and Gosling’s dim-witted private eye. Who knew they could do comedy? Also, where else will you see Crowe and Gosling having a conversation with a human-sized bumble bee?

Favourite Quote: “So you’re telling me you made a porno where the plot is the point?”

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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2016 was a “meh” year for animation, with okay sequels in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Finding Dory, and mediocre/watchable releases from DreamWorks and Illumination such as “Trolls” and “The Secret Life of Pets”. But two stood out from the rest. Disney’s “Zootopia” tackled the subject of discrimination and prejudice in the form of animated animals. But it was “Kubo and the Two Strings”, the story of a young Japanese boy on a quest to find a magical suit of armour (with the help of Monkey and Beetle) to defeat The Moon King, which left a longer lasting effect on me. With the right balance of love and darkness, it’s ultimately a tale about what lengths a mother would go to to protect her child. With stellar voice work from Art Parkinson (Kubo), Charlize Theron (Monkey), and Matthew McConaughey (Beetle – standout), Laika studios’ stop-motion animation is a beauty to behold and unlike anything else you’ll see this year.

Favourite Quote: “He looked into my eyes and uttered four simple words. These words changed everything… You are my quest”

8. Captain America: Civil War

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In the last decade alone we’ve had OVER FIFTY superhero movies, with a fifth of them being from the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. The once formulaic superhero movie plot has become a lot more meatier in terms of character studies, making you as a viewer invest more in these “super” beings but also question the ideals they hold, and there wasn’t any other superhero drama this year that did it better than Civil War (its really Avengers 3). Based loosely on the incredible comic book series, Captain America (Chris Evans) is at odds with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), as Stark believes that The Avengers should be put in check under government law due to the unnecessary human whiplash that occurs whenever they go saving the day. Thus a division occurs within The Avengers. Not as great as The Winter Soldier (still my favourite Marvel movie), but still has moments of pure spectacle (with a scene-stealing Tom Holland as Spider-Man) that fulfils any superhero fans’ heart. The airport scene alone is worth the price of the cinema ticket!

Favourite Quote: “It’s your conscience. We don’t talk a lot these days.”

7. The Hateful Eight

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Ah Mr Tarantino. I have been your follower ever since I first watched “Pulp Fiction” all those years ago. Whenever you release a movie, there isn’t any other way to describe it other than an event and boy was “The Hateful Eight” worth the wait. It was close to not being made at all, as the original script was leaked in 2014 before it went into production. But after doing a live theatre reading of the script with actors who most would end up in the final film, QT changed his mind (thank the lord!) and ended up making this cold, tension filled, three-hour long, western epic. The story of eight shady characters holed up in a cabin whilst a blizzard is happening outside is told in classic Tarantino fashion: non-linear chapters, rhythmic dialogue, a stellar cast, an incredible score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone (his first in 35 years), and blood. A…lot…of…blood.

Favourite Quote: “Move a little strange, you’re gonna get a bullet. Not a warning, not a question…a bullet”

6. The Big Short

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In the months between 2011 and 2012, I did my Masters degree on Global Banking and Finance. Of course, a major chunk of it was dedicated to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis, a fascinating insight into the arrogance of banks which led to affecting millions of people all around the world. So when I heard the director of Anchorman was adapting a best-selling book about this subject, with a perfect cast that consisted of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, OH GREAT ODIN’S RAVEN did it grab my attention. The subject its dealing with is complex, but Adam McKay makes sure his audience don’t drown in finance jargon, with well-placed cues to explain it to us in the form of celebrities. It is very funny but it also makes sure that the viewers understand that this is no laughing matter, as millions of people did lose their homes because of big banks becoming too greedy for their own good.

Favourite Quote: “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about f**king banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number – every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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In my glowing review of “Rogue One” which you can read here, I called this “…the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back” and I still support that statement. The journey of Jyn Erso (a perfectly cast Felicity Jones) and a group of rebels who go on to steal the plans to the Death Star is brought to epic, pulse-racing life by director Gareth Edwards. The characters are compelling, with Chirrut and K-2SO as standouts, and the CGI is a technological achievement. But its the final 45 miunte long battle which takes place in both the planet Scarif and space which will be remembered as one of the greatest war sequences shot in film history. Its brutal and relentless, echoing Saving Private Ryan and Platoon. Have I also not mentioned the terrifying return of Darth Vader to our screens as well?

Favourite Quote: “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me”

4. Arrival

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At the beginning of 2016, I predicted “Rogue One” will definitely be my favourite science fiction film this year. Nine months later, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a few gala screenings at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and “Arrival” was one of them. Two hours later and an ending that blew my tiny mind, I said to myself “This may be one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever seen”. Based on the novella “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang, it tells the story of 12 extraterrestrial spaceships (or “shells”) suddenly appearing in random cities around the world. The world doesn’t understand why they are here and whether they are a threat to human kind. The US army hire a professor of linguistics, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to find a way of communicating with these beings and to help answer these questions. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed “Sicario” & “Prisoners”, and is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors right now), Villeneuve has created a subtle,  nuanced thinking-man sci-fi film which isn’t really about an alien invasion, but about the power of language and how communication is the most powerful form of action. No wonder I’m so excited to see his Blade Runner sequel next year! But this film wouldn’t have truly reached its heights without Amy Adams. The FIVE-TIME (!) Oscar nominated actress will surely become the SIX-TIME Oscar nominated actress next year, as she is the soul of this film and this really is her most vulnerable performance yet.

Favourite Quote: “If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?”

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Meet Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a 12-year old Tupac Shakur loving juvenile and orphan, who gets forced by child services to live with his aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). As the film unravels, Ricky and Uncle Hec find themselves going on the run in the wild New Zealand bush and become part of a national manhunt. This is not only the funniest film of the year, its the best comedy in the last decade. There are endless jokes and quotes in this film that will make you cry with laughter, delivered by the amazing Sam Neill and the revelation that is Julian Dennison. The quick back-and-forth between Ricky and Hector is so wonderful, I can imagine both the actors must’ve found it so hard to keep a straight face when delivering their lines. And man that script. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, with a budget of only $2.5 million, it would be an absolute shame if his screenplay isn’t nominated come Oscar time. No wonder its become the highest grossing New Zealand film ever!

Favourite Quote: “Faulkner is cauc-asian” – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white”

2. Manchester by the Sea

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The second of the three films that I attended gala screenings for in this year’s London BFI Film Festival is also the film that made my brother and I, two fully grown adults in three-piece suits cry like babies…i mean cry man tears in a dark cinema. Being released here in the UK on 13th January 2017 (look out for my review around that time), Manchester is a tale about a man who’s brother dies from a long-standing illness and is now forced to take care of his nephew in Manchester, Massachusetts. Whats so striking about this film is how natural the conversations feel between the characters, making you feel so much more empathetic towards them, and adds more depth to the wounds these characters have in them. Beautiful writing and direction from playwright Kenneth Lonergan, with perfect performances from Michelle Williams, who is flawless like she is in all her films, and in his first ever role, Lucas Hedges has stapled himself as a future actor to look out for. But its Casey Affleck’s film, and it is the best performance I have seen all year by any actor or actress. It is moving, nuanaced, subtle and heartbreaking. Affleck wears an armour of pain throughout the film. Pain that I could feel as it was fully subjected to me throughout the running time, and not many actors could do that. Get ready to take tissues with you to watch this film come January.

Favourite Quote: “I said a lot of terrible things to you. My heart was broken, and I know yours is broken, too”

1. La La Land

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Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” was my favourite movie of 2014. I went to its UK premiere at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and it was something that had captured me by the throat the moment I heard the drum beat in the opening credits. I love that film so much, when the film was released on Blu-ray, I bought a copy for myself and I watched it once everyday for the next seven days. When I first heard Chazelle’s next project was a musical based in LA about an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling), all the way back in 2015, I was counting down the days till the moment I could watch it. How poetic it was that I was able to nab a ticket to the UK premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, two years after seeing Whiplash. I had already heard and read great things about it in other film festivals this was unveiled at so my expectations were high. They were so high, that sense of “Oh God what if this turns out to be terrible?!” was lingering like a leech on my skin. The lights turn down in the cinema hall…the sun-drenched view of LA appears on the gigantic screen…the opening song kicks in and explodes like beautiful fireworks. From that moment on and for the next two hours, I had only one expression on my face: a wide-eyed smile. This film is the definition of joy. The definition of what it feels like to be a dreamer. Anyone can grab their dreams, have their true calling if they never give up. Its a musical masterpiece and a film so needed in a year of so many shocking events that have occurred in 2016. Its a film you want to watch again and again and again. It comes out here in the UK on January 13th 2017, and I can’t wait to write a full review for you and for this definite Best Film winner in next years’ Oscars.

Favourite Quote: “Maybe I’m not good enough!”