2019 Film Reviews – 66: Marriage Story [dir. Noah Baumbach; 2019]

There’s no doubt that much of Marriage Story is touching and memorable. As it crosses over from America’s east coast to its west, this story of a couple handling the realities of a break-up – and its effects on their child – impresses with its honesty and its refusal to descend into mawkishness. But I’d suggest that its one-sidedness is a serious and fundamental flaw. … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 66: Marriage Story [dir. Noah Baumbach; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 64: Toy Story 4 [dir. Josh Cooley; 2019]

The teams behind the Toy Story films have always displayed a commendable talent for telling relatively simple, focussed stories with terrific attention to detail, neat characterisation and an insistence on intelligent, convincing plotting. However, I’d argue that this precision-led approach has resulted in sequels that have been satisfying, but haven’t quite managed to linger in one’s memory. Toy Story 4 is very much in this … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 64: Toy Story 4 [dir. Josh Cooley; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 62: The Laundromat [dir. Steven Soderbergh; 2019]

What a curious little film. First, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman appear – playing two lawyers at the centre of 2016’s Panama Papers scandal – and proceed to give us a direct-to-camera lesson in the development of the barter system and the creation of money. Then Meryl Streep pops up, trying to navigate the treacherous world of fake insurance policies following the death of her … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 62: The Laundromat [dir. Steven Soderbergh; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 61: The Irishman [dir. Martin Scorsese; 2019]

Several critics have declared The Irishman to be Martin Scorsese’s finest film of the last decade, and whilst I agree that it is superb, I think I’d qualify the praise slightly by saying that it’s probably his most fan-pleasing film of recent years. This epic – but never baggy – story of a low-grade criminal getting caught up with the mob and possibly playing a … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 61: The Irishman [dir. Martin Scorsese; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 60: Booksmart [dir. Olivia Wilde; 2019]

Despite its (appropriate?) crudeness, there’s a real charm running all the way through Booksmart — a frenetic account of two American girls deciding, on the eve of their high school graduation, that they have to indulge in at least one night of partying, rule-breaking and all-round debauchery. As they try to fulfil this ambition, they meet a host of increasingly eccentric characters and stumble into … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 60: Booksmart [dir. Olivia Wilde; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 59: By The Grace Of God [dir. Francois Ozon; 2018]

There is a great deal to admire in François Ozon’s level-headed presentation of a real, recent case which saw the Diocese Of Lyon having to address several instances of historic child abuse. But I suppose one of the main aspects of the film that struck me was the skill with which the director showed disparate, visually distinct stories come together – as the victims drew … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 59: By The Grace Of God [dir. Francois Ozon; 2018]

2019 Film Reviews – 58: Monos [dir. Alejandro Landes; 2019]

The worlds of Apocalypse Now and Lord Of The Flies bleed into each other in dizzying, brain-pummelling fashion in Monos: an elliptical, immaculately-performed tale of child soldiers looking after an American hostage in an unnamed South American country. As he moves the action from mountains to jungle – and his young protagonists shed more and more layers of their humanity – Landes contrasts aggressive shapes … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 58: Monos [dir. Alejandro Landes; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 57: Joker [dir. Todd Phillips; 2019]

There is an almost palpable truth at the core of Joaquin Phoenix’s detailed, jittery, utterly mesmeric central performance in Joker — an account of the ‘birth’ of Batman’s arch-nemesis, set in a New York heavily influenced by Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King Of Comedy. Refusing to fall into any potential genre traps, Phoenix plays the increasingly unwell and put-upon Arthur Fleck with what feels like … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 57: Joker [dir. Todd Phillips; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 56: For Sama [dir. Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts; 2019]

There are many moments during For Sama – a first-person documentary account of the recent history of Syria, with a particular focus on the siege of Aleppo – when you feel you have no right to be watching the events portrayed on screen. The intimacy is almost overwhelming – the unflinching portrayal of horror, of death, of birth, love, betrayal, anguish, the bravery (or folly? … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 56: For Sama [dir. Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 53: Pain & Glory [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 2019]

It’s a testament to Almodóvar’s skills as a storyteller – and to the trust he places in his team – that one of the most memorable sequences in Pain & Glory was written a mere day before it was filmed, in response to the director seeing how a particular actress played her character. The scene in question – wherein Antonio Banderas’ frustrated movie-maker confronts his … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 53: Pain & Glory [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 2019]