Film: Red Sparrow


Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova and Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash

In this new era of Russian nerve-agent attacks, assassinations and interference, Russian themed cinema abounds at the moment including Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton. I’ve heard a lot of negativity surrounding this film and including some trash talk directed at Jen. Don’t listen to it people. This spy thriller is solid gold, albeit, disturbing at times. It’s based on the novel written by Jason Matthews and it stays fairly true to the source story. Jen and Joel are exactly as I pictured the main characters. Both being good actors, they capture the essence of Mathew’s creations with aplomb. The screen play is also well done. Whilst books tend to be better than their film adaptations, in this case they are both as good as each other. Can that be a thing? Please don’t send me to Butyrka. And for heaven’s sake, don’t send your mom along to this flick. You know how I said ‘disturbing’ earlier on – it’s nasty filthy. Expect a berating from your old lady if you ignore my advice. Otherwise this movie is a thumbs up from me!


Film: Winchester


Helen Mirren in Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built

I’ve heard on good authority the old house which is still standing to this day is really cool to visit. And that they also do night time tours. So I’m adding a visit to my bucket list. Because I love ghosts and ghost stories. And I’ve also taken a shine to this film starring Helen Mirren. Winchester marks the start of the 2018 horror season for me. After a stellar 2017 I’m desperate to get my fix of jump scares going forward. This film has a sprinkling of jump out of your skin moments throughout. A good sized audience for our viewing, there were plenty of gasps as old lady Winchester draws spirits across America to reside in her permanently under construction, ramshackle mansion. Although not Helen’s greatest performance [although adequate], Jason Clarke who plays psychiatrist Eric Price is excellent. Clarke is a natural as he attempts to come to grips with the supernatural and competing interests from the Winchester Rifle Company who are concerned the widow is insane. Whilst this film won’t win awards, if you like your scary stuff, you’ll enjoy it. It’s a see on the big screen for big screams from me.


Jason Clarke as Eric Price

Film: Loving Vincent


Loving Vincent

Billed as the first fully painted feature film. 65,000 frames were hand painted by a large team of artists in the style of the great master. And I think it’s been beautifully done. The story is set after Vincent’s Van Gogh’s death. An old postmaster and friend sets his son the task of delivering a letter to next of kin. In the process, the son gets to know those closest to Vincent in his final days and some all important questions get aired. Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered? The answer to these are as murky as Vincent’s own life grappling with mental illness. The screen play is exceptional and even if you are not keen on seeing an animation, I urge you to give Loving Vincent a go. Some big names give voice to the characters including: Saoirse Ronan, Jerome Fylnn and Aiden Turner. I like this film and it has been well received here in Wellington.

Film: Black Panther


Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther

I’m a reluctant super hero movie attendee. But the pressure was building for me to go to Black Panther this week. And the critics are giving it a thumbs up. And audiences are raving about it. But what was I to make of Marvel’s latest flick? It’s better than most in the genre. It’ll be hard for me to add anything to the chatter out there but here goes. The acting was really good. I single out three in particular for praise: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Andy Serkis. The bad guys in particular are really bad. As it should be. The screen play is tight. But I have a small gripe – I would have liked to see more screen time devoted to Oakland, California. And last but not least, the costumes are incredible. I’m not talking about Black Panther’s ‘cat suit’ but the support cast’s threads in Wakanda. There most certainly needs to be plenty of awards handed out for best costume design. Of local note in Wellywood – good cinema attendances and film is popular with kids. I’m not sure I’ll go to a sequel of Black Panther when it comes. But super hero fans are no doubt going to support this franchise given it’s quality.

Film: Lady Bird


Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and Beanie Feldstein as “Julie”

A Catholic school girl’s coming of age story. Sounds niche or narrow focused doesn’t it? Perhaps. Depending on your demographic it could be tough for me to convince you this film is a good one. Lady Bird is a sophisticated story about sexuality, first love, a sometimes harsh mother and a girl’s journey to find independence from both Church and family. Let me repeat here: it’s a good one. And it will be a strong contender at the Oscars. You may have seen Saoirse Ronan before on screen in say, Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lovely Bones’. Her portrayal as the oft surly and fiercely independent Lady Bird is one for the ages. Backed up with a mint screen play and directing from Greta Gerwig. And I’m picking Greta for best director at the Academy Awards. Yep – my neck is on the line here. Lady Bird will be a winner. The cinema last night for our viewing was packed out – with mostly women. Not many guys in attendance. It’s not a guy’s flick at first glance. But if I may appeal to all the men out there, be a charmer and take your missus. She wants to see Lady Bird. And trust me when I say, as a guy, the story resonates with us too. You will totally get it. Whether you are a father of a teenager or you remember your high school days. Lady Bird is a highly recommended from me.

Film: I, Tonya


Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

Oh pleeeease! Cry me a river, Tonya Harding. You blame your mom [a real bitch by the way]. You blame your ex husband [a nasty bastard]. Yet I still struggle to find sympathy for you. And more importantly the truth in this cesspit of an actual real life story. But the film known as I, Tonya is brilliant. Even though I’m wont to trash talk the former ice skating queen herself, this biopic is quite the experience. Because Margo Robbie, the queen of the resting bitch face, plays another bat shit crazy girl. Albeit, minus the baseball bat and Harley Quin’s hammer. Margot reaches a whole other level in this film and is worthy of accolades. But it’s Allison Janney who plays the mother of all ‘cows’ who is probably going to bring home an Uncle Oscar. It’s scary to think that I knew women like Harding’s mother. And I can’t praise enough Allison’s portrayal of her. I’m having a good run of seeing top notch films at the moment and I urge you all to give this movie a go. Without a doubt Tonya is a victim herself of some really shit people around her at the time of the infamous knee capping. So I’ll soften my attitude toward her a little. But spare a thought for Nancy Kerrigan – the true victim in this tawdry affair. Has she seen the film? I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.


Allison Janney as LaVona Fay Golden, Harding’s mother

Film: The Shape of Water


Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito meets her new love interest.

If kinky inter-species sex appeals to you then this film is a winner. That was most unkind. Still, don’t even think about taking your kids to this one. It’ll likely be R16 in most places anyhow. Never the less, this creature feature may end up being a winner at the Oscars. Personally I don’t think it will take out any big categories [you can slap me later if I’m wrong]. But it is a very, very good movie. Given how I started this piece so negatively you may have thought I’m gonna slam Guillermo del Toro’s latest creation. You are wrong. It’s a masterpiece. I loved it start to finish. Here’s why: casting/acting, a succinct screen play, the film noir look and feel, and finally some well timed horror elements. I already said this film is not for children. It’s an adult film about lonely misfits, a story tinged with sadness and told sensitively. Some bill it as a re-imagining of the 1954 Creature From The Black Lagoon. Perhaps it is. It could even be considered a sequel of sorts. But don’t freak out if you haven’t seen that original black and white monster film. Let me encourage you to give the new one a go. Get yourself to The Shape Of Water at your local multiplex even if it’s not something you would normally take in. It’s time to be adventurous. I rate it highly and you are sure not to be disappointed. It’s being critically acclaimed across the board and I’m on that band wagon. This flick is sure to become a cult classic.


Michael Shannon as the villain, Colonel Richard Strickland


Film: Darkest Hour


Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

Let me begin by saying Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the dear old duffer is par excellence. We know Winston Churchill was a deeply flawed man with a chequered career including presiding over the disastrous Gallipoli campaign during WW1. That he was chosen to replace the cowardly Neville Chamberlain is remarkable. And it is a remarkable film that I just watched covering the transition of power from one man to the other. There have been a several attempts at the Churchillian biopic down the years but Darkest Hour has become my favorite. And I forgive the two old geezers down the front of the cinema for snoring 20 minutes into the film. They were quickly dispatched with sharp elbows from their wives. It’s perhaps my fault for going to see this flick on pensioners’ day. And the cinema was almost sold out with the grey hair brigade. That director Joe Wright’s efforts has a big appeal to the over 60 y/o crowd is undeniable. But I do hope younger people find their way into screenings. And I hope Gary is a front runner at the Oscars. Go see this film on the big screen people.

Film: The Post


Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Kay Graham

The Post is a film you have to be wide awake while watching. Without wanting to make it sound like a movie your high school teacher might have made you watch in History class, one does need to pay attention. This is not a bad thing. A rich screen play is brought to life by two heavy weights in acting: the venerable Hanks and Streep. Totally convincing in their portrayals, we learn about a newspaper that took on a US president and an administration wanting to keep their dirty laundry out of the public eye. Sound familiar? One can’t help but draw parallels between The Post’s battle with Nixon and modern media outlets troubles with Trump. I don’t think the ‘Don’ will like this Spielberg film. But then again, it is unlikely he will make an effort to watch it. I’m glad I did and I urge you, dear readers to get tix to this flick. But don’t take anyone with you that’s prone to nodding off. No, it’s not boring – quite the opposite. But it is dialogue heavy. Call me a nerd but I like this sort of thing. The Post is a thumbs up from me. Now lets see how it goes at the Oscars…

Film: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon and Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes

A queue out the door, a sold out cinema & unlucky latecomers being turned away. Remarkable turnout and incredible is the film known as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. An incendiary story about a mother’s rage at the lack of progress by the local police force in finding the person[s] responsible for her daughter’s grisly murder. Billed by some as a dark comedy, this label is not entirely correct. For sure there are some droll moments and dry humor is sprinkled about. But there are some serious themes and scenes that are not for the faint hearted. Some vulnerable persons should probably keep away from this movie as suicide and rape are dealt with in the story. I found it to be a very serious film that operates on multiple levels. My partner hated it. She found it disturbing overall and commented that the victim [Mildred’s daughter] was not given enough focus in the screen play including lack of details surrounding the murder. This is a reasonable comment but there in lies the crux of the issue – no one was giving the deceased enough attention and that the case had gone cold after only seven months infuriated the mother, culminating in her taking out three billboard adverts in order to shame the authorities back into action. I think I’ll leave it at that so as not to give away any spoilers. For what it’s worth, I’m picking this film for best picture at the Academy Awards. And Frances McDormand for best actress. I loved Three Billboards, some of you will hate it, but please keep an open mind and see it on the big screen if you can. Wherever you are, also consider getting your tix in advance so you don’t get caught out on the night should your viewing get sold out.


Woody Harrelson as Sheriff Bill Willoughby