Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Ciné File: February 2017

I love the cinema during awards season.


Moonlight is a remarkable example of filmmaking and an absolute triumph. It's astonishingly moving, beautifully made and is without a shadow of a doubt an instant classic (and more than worthy of taking home the Best Picture Oscar this evening even though it's sadly unlikely to topple the musical behemoth La La Land). Kudos must be given to casting director Yesi Ramirez for ensuring that the 3 versions of protagonist Chiron are so alike that you'd be forgiven for thinking director Barry Jenkins did a Boyhood and filmed it over a number of years and not merely 45 days.

To say that this film is amazing would be a major understatement. I feel like I haven't left the cinema with an ear-to-ear grin and the instant desire to run straight back in and watch the film again in over a year, but I had to physically drag myself from the cinema after The Lego Batman Movie. Oh man, it's fantastic. The jokes fly thick and fast, it's richly detailed with characters both big and small from the DC comics and the animation is phenomenal. It's utterly joyous and a wonder for both children and adults alike: what a winning combination!

GOLD - 2*
The McConaissance has ended. Gold desperately wants to be awards-worthy with McConaughey's transformation, the real-life inspiration and Stephen Gaghan at the helm, but it's patchy at best, with irritating characters and a limp, boring storyline.

LA LA LAND - 5* 
Oh, La La Land. Thanks to its phenomenal success throughout this awards season (it's poised for further gold statues at the Oscars this weekend) the backlash has began but my opinion hasn't changed: it's a whimsical ode to classic Hollywood, with catchy songs and such utterly dreamy cinematography you'll leave with an enormous smile on your face. Even non-musical fans will adore it and with good reason.

N.B. I saw it for the third time in IMAX, and while I didn't really notice too much of a difference it did enhance the music terrifically.

The quiet, understated nature of Loving is clearly what has garnered it so much praise over the last few months and led to a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Ruth Negga, and while it's beautifully made it's these very qualities that make it - dare I say it - rather boring. It's an extraordinarily unshowy film for such a remarkable true story, and as the tensions build wonderfully throughout, there are no traditionally dramatic scenes and the climax falls a little flat. Unfortunately, despite the calibre of the performances and the importance of the subject matter at hand, it's an entirely forgettable film.

The hype for this three-hour German comedy has been almost as overwhelming as that for La La Land, and as such I made a special trip to a cinema 30 miles away to see it. I must have missed something as I didn't find it funny at all. The excruciating embarrassment inflicted on Ines (Sandra Hüller) by her practical-joke loving father Winfried (Peter Simonischek) had the audience cringing - and rightfully so as it was masterfully done - but the comedic elements were not as prevalent as I'd been led to believe. That being said, it definitely doesn't warrant the American remake that's recently been announced: I may not have enjoyed it, but the European charm is what makes Toni Erdmann so special.

The dizzying combination of director Ang Lee, British newcomer Joe Alwyn and a film shot with 120 frames per second had me intrigued from the onset, but sadly Billy Lynn doesn't quite deliver. It's been shut out from awards season discussions, and having now seen it the decision makes sense: it doesn't quite have the emotional heft required to actually make an impact. The half time scenes are electrifying, but the flashbacks lack depth.

One of the best innovations recently has to be NT Live, where theatre (mostly West End) productions are beamed live into cinemas around the world. Therefore the misconception that theatre is inaccessible to the masses is refuted, and while nothing beats seeing a performance first-hand in the theatre, live broadcasts are a godsend for sold out or expensive shows. Fences felt like an NT Live screening, and not at all like a film. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as the theatricality of the movie only enhanced its strengths, but this may be off-putting for those who dislike theatre. It's powerful, and Viola Davis, in particular, shines in a leading role (it's definitely not supporting: she would have had a plausible shot at winning in the lead category).

It seems rather timely to have a film hitting cinemas that charts the rise of an unscrupulous American who rose to achieve fame and fortune while standing on the shoulders of better, more worthy men before him. Keaton does a terrific job as the simultaneously pathetic and ambitious Ray Kroc and he really got under my skin - I absolutely hated Kroc by the end of the film. He's backed up by a stellar cast in a film that somehow makes the growth of a fast food empire interesting.


It's never going to be remembered as a career highlight for Farrell or Wahlberg, but there of a couple of laughs along the way that stop it from being a complete disaster.

The first time I saw John Wick I only managed the first 15 minutes due to a fire alarm going off in the cinema and management deciding to abandon the rest of the screening once the fire brigade had left. It's taken this long for me to sit down and watch the entire film, and it does not disappoint. While the premise is nothing new at all, the action is sublime, visceral and self-assured, and makes for incredibly enjoyable watching.

In a similar vein to John Wick above, How to be Single doesn't offer anything fresh to the genre, but it's harmless enough and worth a watch all the same. The charming cast do what they can with the script but there are too many underdeveloped and mis-used characters inhabiting loosely connected storylines for it to be revered as a truly good romantic comedy. However, there are a number of laughs, the soundtrack is excellent and it paints New York in a gorgeous light (albeit done millions of times before and much more successfully by other directors).

Having boasted one of the best PR campaigns of 2016 (and recently being honoured for it), steadfastly not compromising on comic book material in order to appeal to a family-friendly audience, and a cheeky fourth-wall breaking protagonist, it's no surprise that Deadpool was one of the surprise hits of last year. It's filthy, foul-mouthed and enormous fun. I rarely say this, but I'm actually looking forward to the sequel. Bring on Deadpool 2!


Steve McQueen crafted a masterpiece with 12 Years a Slave, and with stand out performances from Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender and lead Chiwetel Ejiofor it makes for harrowing and impressive viewing.

Before Alicia Vikander dominated cinemas in 2015/6 she shone in sumptuous Danish historical drama A Royal Affair (for which she remarkably learnt Danish from scratch in a matter of months). It's highly polished account of a lesser-known period of Danish history - to the rest of the world - where a passionate love affair between the young Queen Caroline and her physician essentially brought about the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Denmark. It's beautifully made without getting held down by the details.

It's a classic. I don't need to say any more.

I think February's been pretty successful, and there's still a few days to go! I have a list of films to see in cinemas in March, but I'd love suggestions for hidden gems to be found on the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Sky. Do let me know if there's a film I simply must see - I'll watch anything except horror, so send suggestions my way!

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