Film Review: King of Thieves

James Marsh’s King of Thieves is a broadly enjoyable crime caper drama. The second half of the film falters, compared to a peppier first half. 

An ageing group of crooks contemplate an audacious job. Hatton Garden is the home of jewellery district. The group decide to pull off a heist that could earn them millions…

Telling the story behind the 2015 Hatton Garden robbery, King of Thieves combines a crime caper with a drama. Director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) gives character to the little-known villains, and tells the story of the heist and the subsequent fallout.

Given that the events took place in very recent history, it is forgivable to question what the the film will offer. Nevertheless, King of Thieves is sufficiently entertaining, even if all the elements are not on point. The film is one of two halves. The first focuses on the build up to the heist and the job itself. The second concentrates on the gang’s behaviour after the robbery, and the police investigation.

The introduction of the main characters is adequate. Later in the film, Marsh’s focuses on the main players in the gang, and this works well. There is humour to be found, especially in the first half. Marsh lulls viewers into a sense of familiarity with the protagonists, before reminding of their menace. The crime caper aspects work well. The film falters as it progresses, however. This is because the dramatic aspects are not that impactful. The police investigation element is depicted in an interesting enough fashion, even if the investigators are nameless. The focus on the in-fighting of the gang does not engage in the same way the lead up to the heist did.

Michael Caine and Ray Winstone are perfectly fine, although they never leave their comfort zone. Jim Broadbent steals the show, portraying a menace that is striking. Charlie Cox also does well as the youngest member of the group. King of Thieves offers a great cast, but not that memorable of a film.

Film Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an enchanting fantasy adventure. The film combines beautiful animation and an entertaining story.

Mary is a young girl living in the countryside with her great aunt. With friends around, one day Mary follows a mysterious cat which leads her to a broomstick and an unusual looking flower…

Based on the story The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, Mary and the Witch’s Flower combines the charm of Studio Ponoc (founded by Studio Ghibli alums including Yoshiaki Nishimura) and a quintessentially English setting. And indeed, even the fantasy seems to combine the folklore of Britain with the imagination of the Japanese filmmakers. 

The narrative at first seems to be something of a coming of age tale for the protagonist. Mary is a young girl in a new place, who needs to settle into her new life. However, the film develops into something more, thanks to good storytelling. The protagonist is developed well as the film progresses.

Whilst the focus is on Mary, other characters are however developed sufficiently for their roles. Mary and the Witch’s Flower provides contrasting archetypes, yet the villains are not quite as clear cut as they first appear. It is certainly a positive thing that the antagonists do not fully adhere to archetypes. Although the film does follow an expected path, it is by no means totally predictable. The film depicts magic in an interesting light. There is the element of power and control which appears in other fantasy films of this ilk, but also a question of the ethics of its use.

In the English-dubbed version, Ruby Barnhill is well cast as the voice of Mary. She is ably assisted by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent. The animation is as lush as one would expect from the studio. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a great movie for both children and adults. The film is engaging and enchanting.

Previews: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Featurette, More!

This week’s preview of coming attractions includes the latest Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette, The New Mutants, and more…

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Featurette

Ahead of the trailer’s launch tomorrow, this Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette reveals a little bit more about the plot and characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return, and are joined by Jurassic Park royalty Jeff Goldblum. A Monster Calls‘ J.A. Bayona directs this sequel, taking the helm from Jurassic World‘s Colin Trevorrow. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits UK screens on 7th June 2018.

The New Mutants Poster

Here is the new poster for the forthcoming The New Mutants. The film is part of the X-Men franchise, and is about the first graduates from Charles Xavier’s school. The film looks like something different from the superhero genre, in that there is an emphasis on horror rather than just action adventure. The New Mutants will be released in 2018.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower Trailer

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first feature from Studio Ponoc, formed by Studio Ghibli alums. The film is about a young girl who discovers a flower which gives her the power to be a witch. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There), the English voice cast features Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is scheduled for release in UK cinemas in Spring 2018.

A Matter of Life and Death Trailer

Here is a trailer for the 4K restoration of the Powell & Pressburger’s classic A Matter of Life and Death. The film was originally released in 1946, and combines fantasy and romance as an air force pilot is given additional time on Earth by an afterlife jury. Starring David Niven, a 4K restoration of A Matter of Life and Death will be released in UK cinemas on 8th December 2017.

Film Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas is an ambitious if not wholly successful project. Some of the film’s strands are definitely stronger than others.

A voyage across the Pacific in 1849, a young English musician trying to compose music in 1936, a journalistic investigation in San Francisco 1976, a book publisher in 2012, a cloned waitress in Korea 2144, and post-apocalyptic Hawaii. All these people and events are connected…

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, Cloud Atlas is an ambitious amalgamation of six different stories set at different times and in different locations, with the same actors playing multiple parts. The film has a strong start, but some stories wane as others become more interesting. It is the contemporary-set strand which is most entertaining, given its humour.

With its interwoven stories, it is unclear how the film will map out. Some of the strands are engaging whilst the post-apocalyptic strand in particular fails to capture the imagination. Cutting frequently from story to story, it is difficult to gauge how far along in the narrative the film is at any particular time. As a result, the film feels like it is heading to its conclusion a lot sooner than it actually does. The second half of Cloud Atlas seems sluggish in comparison with the first half. With a running time of just under three hours, viewers will be forgiven for getting restless.

The different eras are given very distinctive looks. Parts of the future-set sequences are highly reminiscent of other films. There is also a part of the narrative that resembles another film, although an overt reference is made to this earlier in proceedings. The score is great, but some of the prosthetics are very noticeable. The changing of races and genders is odd, but adds to the overall theme of the film.

Performances in Cloud Atlas are great for the most part, with a number of the actors taking several different roles. Ben Whishaw stands out in the 1936 strand, while Hugo Weaving is strong in all his roles. Jim Broadbent also delivers strong performances, and Tom Hanks is as solid as ever.

If the cod philosophy is ignored, Cloud Atlas is entertaining enough. Ultimately it is the fact that the film is overlong which lets it down. An interesting concept which would have been wonderful if the directors could have fully pulled it off.

Postman Pat Movie!

That title certainly deserves an exclamation mark, as today brings us the news that Postman Pat will be starring in his very first feature film. The announcement comes on Pat’s 30th birthday. To be honest, I thought the reliable postman was older than this, but there you go. The film, Postman Pat: The Movie – You Know You’re the One, will be released in 3D in Spring 2013. It features the voices of Stephen Mangan, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint and David Tennant.

I always liked Postman Pat as a child. It helped that I met him when I was young (true story). Despite the character’s popularity, it is surprising that a feature film has never been previously made. My favourite character was Jess the cat, unsurprisingly, so it will be interesting to see what the new film does with her (or him?). Also, the original theme song needs to be retained; it will be a crime against humanity if it isn’t.

Film Review: Another Year

Another Year is typical of a Mike Leigh film in that it concentrates firmly on the characters in a thoroughly British setting. There are some wonderful performances, as well as a real negativity about the film, which is haunting.

Another Year follows a year in the life of couple Tom and Gerri, focusing on their relationship with their family and friends. As time passes, some of these relationships change, but the characters don’t seem to follow suit…

A very obvious parallel is drawn between the lives of the couple and that of their friends. As is remarked a number of times, Tom and Gerri are a lucky pair; they appear to have a perfect marriage, and have a great relationship with their grown-up son Joe. Their friends, however, seem to have been afflicted with the opposite luck. In comparison to the couple, the friends appear to lead hollow and unfulfilling lives.

This is all a fairly realistic representation of how life is sometimes. Nevertheless, the two friends of the couple featured most in Another Year, Mary and Ken, as well as Tom’s brother Ronnie, all have alcohol problems. It is unclear what is the cause and what is the effect in each case, however there is an overriding insinuation that these characters do nothing to help themselves out of their situation. There seems to be no redemption for these doomed characters, particularly in the case of Mary.

Gerri’s colleague Mary is one of the most tragic characters you will see on the big screen this year. Middle-aged and single, her mask of calmness often slips, especially if she has been drinking. At times, it is hard to watch Mary in the midst of her upset. Mary’s obliviousness to how her behaviour is perceived is what is most tragic. There is an unequivocal pessimism that she will continue in this cycle indefinitely.

Lesley Manville gives a tremendous performance as Mary. She brings humour when exhibiting the dottiness of Mary, and a great sadness in more serious and poignant moments. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen share a great chemistry as married pair Tom and Gerri, with Broadbent in particular a cause for many of the laughs.

The script is Mike Leigh at his best, accurately portraying a plethora of emotions in a single scene. The filmmaker’s greatest skill is how effortlessly the humour turns to sadness and back to joviality again in such a realistic fashion.

Another Year is thought-provoking in its exploration of the relationships between the characters. Although the lack of redemption for some of the characters is pessimistic, the film nevertheless is an engaging watch.

Another Year is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.