Writer-director Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters is an entertaining, if forgettable, zombie comedy. The film’s leads are a definite plus.
Dave agrees to chaperone his nephew’s class trip, after he takes a shine to the teacher Miss Caroline. The pair must protect the children when an zombie outbreak occurs…
The narrative of Little Monsters follows Dave, an adult who clearly needs to grow up. The opening gambit is very funny, and a great introduction to the protagonist. Dave’s outlandishness is amusing; he is both refreshing and crude in his expression. The film is clearly a redemption tale, with a protagonist initially following self interest before learning to care about others. Forsythe approaches this theme in a playful manner, giving the audience enough to laugh about on the way. When it does get a bit more serious, the film loses its shine a little.
At just over ninety minutes, Little Monsters is fairly succinct in telling its story. As the film reaches its climax, the peril is never really sincere. Despite the bawdiness of the first half of the film, the way the second half pans out means there is never a fear that the children are in real danger. The jokes hit more often than not. The film does not skimp on gore, although Forsythe goes the cartoonish route, in keeping with the tone.
Alexander England delivers a good performance as Dave. Lupita Nyong’o is a delight. Josh Gad is suitably irritating as Teddy. Although an antagonist among the zombie hordes may have been needed, Teddy gets too much screen time for the scope of his role. Music is used well in the film, and is often employed for laughs.
In focusing on Dave’s character development, the film gives up on outrageousness. There was an opportunity for the film to become blackly humorous, and it is a bit of a disappointment that Fotsythe does not go this route. Nevertheless Little Monsters never bores, and there are enough laughs to placate most viewers.
Little Monsters is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018, and will be released in UK cinemas on 15th November 2019.
With an abundance of movie releases slated for next year, it can be hard to identify the gems. After all, there is a glut of Disney live-action remakes (Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King), as well as the straight up unappealing (Downton Abbey film, anyone). Here are some must-see films in 2019…
Begin the New Year with Yorgos Lanthimos’ brilliant The Favourite. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, the film is Lanthimos’ most enjoyable to date. Boasting a superb script and wonderful performances, The Favourite is hilarious, consuming, and at times touching. Read full review here.
The Favourite will be released in UK cinemas on 1st January 2019.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director Barry Jenkins has done it again with the powerful and beguiling If Beale Street Could Talk. There is so much to be in awe of in If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins’ attention to detail is superb. His storytelling is absolutely enchanting. Read full review here.
If Beale Street Could Talk will be released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2019.
The Lady Eve
Not a new release for the upcoming year, nevertheless the 1941 classic gets a re-release in 2019. Directed by Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, the screwball comedy stands the test of time. For first time viewers, The Lady Eve will be one of the best films in 2019.
The Lady Eve will be released at the BFI Southbank and at selected cinemas nationwide from 15th February 2019. It will be screened as part of the Barbara Stanwyck season in February 2019. For more details see here.
Jordan Peele’s Us is one of the most anticipated films in 2019. Following the success of 2017’s Get Out, director and writer Peele returns with another striking-looking horror. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elisabeth Moss, the film is about a family trip that takes a dark turn.
Us will be released in UK cinemas on 15th March 2019.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s latest film has the potential to be explosive. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set during the Manson Family reign of terror, focusing on a television star and his stunt double. With a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is sure to get people talking.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be released in UK cinemas on 26th July 2019.
Martin Scorsese’s latest project is a thrilling proposition. Focusing on a mob hitman and his possible involvement in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa, the film sees Scorsese reunite with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and a host of Boardwalk Empire stars (Stephen Graham, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Huston). The Irishman also sees Scorsese direct Al Pacino for the first time. The film is expected to have a cinema release as well as being available to stream on Netflix.
László Nemes’ Sunset is a captivating watch. The director’s sophomore feature (after Son of Saul) is an entrancing mystery drama. Part of the film’s beauty is that it maintains this mystery throughout the duration. Set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the eve of World War I, Sunset‘s sense of unease is enthralling. The film is set to be released in early 2019.
After the success of 2014’s The Babadook, all eyes are on director Jennifer Kent for her next picture. The Nightingale is about a young Irish convict woman who chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness in the early nineteenth century. Starring Sam Claflin and Aisling Franciosi, the film premiered at Venice Film Festival and is due to be released in 2019.
Michael Winterbottom’s Greed is sure to be a lot of fun. The satire is about a fictional retail billionaire and the build up to his star-studded 60th birthday party on a Greek island. Greed stars Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, and David Mitchell. Although the protagonist is fictional, the parallels are all too clear. Greed is due to be released in UK cinemas in late 2019.
Like 2018, next year will see many sequels. Here are some of the more anticipated follow-up films in 2019. 2014’s The LEGO Movie gets a sequel, with the main voice cast returning, as well as Phil Lord and Chris Miller as producers. The LEGO Movie 2 will be released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2019.
Later in the year, Avengers: Endgame sees the finale of the cycle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which began with 2008’s Iron Man. The film will hit UK screens on 26th April 2019. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the sequel to 2017’s superb Spider-Man: Homecoming. Jake Gyllenhaal joins the returning cast for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which will be released on 5th July 2019. Later this year, Zombieland gets a belated sequel. The original cast return for Zombieland 2, which will be released in UK cinemas on 11th October 2019.
Director Mira Nair’s film is infectious in its positivity. Queen of Katwe is a heartwarming picture.
Phiona is growing up in the slums of Katwe, Kampala, living with her mother and siblings. When she unexpectedly discovers the game of chess, Phiona seems like a natural. With the support of her coach, Phiona excels, despite home troubles…
Telling the true story of an unlikely chess champion from the slums of Kampala, Queen of Kwante is an edifying film. Mira Nair’s film is a classic underdog tale. Whilst it is the type of story that has been told before, the film is made appealing thanks to strongly drawn characters and Nair’s fine storytelling.
Queen of Katwe quickly established Phiona’s life for viewers; it is easy to see her lack of prospects. The film also plays up the arbitrary manner in which Phiona discovers chess. An accidental stumbling on to coach’s chess group changes her life. There is a sense that if not for this meeting, Phiona’s talents would never have been discovered. The film also is a proponent of the idea of an equality of opportunity for children, whatever their background.
Nair’s film is polished, and vibrant in its visuals. Nevertheless, Queen of Katwe does not shy away from presenting reality of Phiona’s life. Yet Nair does not feel the need to be overtly gritty; the harshness is often implied without too much depiction of on-screen suffering. This works well in the context of film.
There are strong female characters at heart of Queen of Katwe. Although coach Robert is a pivotal role, and shows great support to the protagonist, it is the women who stand out. Phone is the one who excels using her natural talents, with the support of Robert and others. Also, Phiona’s Harriet’s mother is a believable and staunch character. Even Robert’s supportive wife Sara is depicted as a progressive and strong character, albeit in a small role. Newcomer Madina Nalwanga gives a great performance as Phiona. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o are both excellent in their roles.
Queen of Katwe is an uplifting story, and a thoroughly enjoyable film.
Queen of Katwe is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.
Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.
The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrivaland The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.
Strand Galas and Special Presentations
This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.
Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.
The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.
Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.
The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.
Non-Stop is always entertaining as an action thriller, but requires viewers to reject the seeping incredulity they will no doubt encounter.
Reluctant to fly to London, Bill Marks’ flight takes a turn for the worse when he receives text messages from an unknown source. Threatening the passengers on board, Bill must spring into action…
Non-Stop is the latest in a sub-genre of films where Liam Neeson plays the hero in an action movie with a dubious plot, risible twists, corny dialogue, or all three of the aforementioned. Undoubtedly, Non-Stop is entertaining fare, despite the plot and rationale becoming increasingly silly.
Non-Stop sees Neeson reconnect with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra. The director keeps the momentum going with the help of a deadline device. This gives the film a level of trepidation that works well. Non-Stop starts strong, with the premise offering a type of murder mystery in the sky. The film veers into action early on however, in what could be described as Speed on a plane.
As the film progresses, plotting becomes increasingly silly as suspects are revealed and eliminated. In the second half of the film it becomes more important to suspend disbelief. The climax, although action-packed, is a letdown, with the reason given for such a situation feeling too clichéd. When the culprit is revealed, it seems farcical that such an outcome would have been executed in that way.
Non-Stop is a proponent of rugged individualism for the most part. Bill Marks is the hero against the odds, relying on wits and strength rather than the outside help that realistically would have been forthcoming. Non-Stop seems to want to make a statement on airport security but backs away from outright condemnation. Instead, there are a few asides to media reporting and bureaucracy. Liam Neeson is decent in a now familiar role. Julianne Moore provides good support. Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyongo’o are given little to do.
Non-Stop can be a little po-faced at times, although there is the occasional acknowledgement of how silly it all is. An enjoyable ride, but not a particularly satisfying one.
A veritable profusion of cinema-related goodness this week, with the new Tammy trailer, Under The Skin and Miss Piggy…
Above is the first Tammy trailer. The comedy stars Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd and Kathy Bates. Apparently, Susan Sarandon plays Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother. I’m not sure how this is possible, given how young Sarandon looks. Perhaps she is aged up. Tammy is due for release in UK cinemas on 4th July 2014.
Under The Skin
Here is the full UK trailer for science-fiction thriller Under The Skin. Directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johansson the film has been receiving critical acclaim at its festival screenings. Under The Skin is released in UK cinemas on 14th march 2014.
The Love Punch
Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson star as an ex-husband and wife whose retirement fund is wiped out when their company is defrauded in The Love Punch. This comedy caper also stars Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie. The Love Punch hits UK screens on 18th April 2014.
Muppets Most Wanted
Miss Piggy looks resplendent. Her dress is designed by none other than Vivienne Westwood, who has also designed Miss Piggy’s key wardrobe for Muppets Most Wanted. The image above begs the question of whether Miss Piggy marries Kermit in the film. I wholeheartedly approve, particularly if Rowlf provides piano accompaniment. Muppets Most Wanted is released in cinemas on 28th March 2014.
Postman Pat: The Movie
Postman Pat can carry a tune?! This is apparently the case in the upcoming Postman Pat: The Movie. I am more interested, however, in the robots. And Jess of course. And the glimpse of robot Jess. Postman Pat: The Movie hits UK screens on 23rd May 2014.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
This teaser trailer has everything; Optimus Prime getting pumped with bullets, Marky Mark running around looking scared, Dinobots, and, erm, dragons. I’m sure more will be revealed as the release approaches. Transformers: Age of Extinction is due for release on 10th July 2014 in the UK.
The Legend of Hercules
This trailers is giving me shades of Gladiator and 300. Kellan Lutz plays the titular character in The Legend of Hercules. Having previously appeared in Immortals, Lutz is no stranger to ancient myth films. The Legend of Hercules is released in UK cinemas on 28th March 2014.
Yves Saint Laurent
Biopic Yves Saint Laurent looks slick, polished, and endlessly stylish. Pierre Niney stars as the young fashion designer who is catapulted to fame in the late 1950s. Yves Saint Laurent is released in UK cinemas on 21st March 2014.
Liam Neeson has really carved out a niche as an abrasive but meritorious action hero of late. Non-Stop continues this trend, as the above clip from the movie illustrates. Also starring Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o, Non-Stop hits UK screens on 28th February 2014.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be ticking all the boxes. Writer-director Wes Anderson is most admirable, and the cast, including the excellent Bill Murray, is enviable. Also, there’s a cat. The Grand Budapest Hotel is released in the UK on 7th March 2014.
Based on the best-selling novel, Divergent stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Kate Winslet. The sci-fi film is set in a future where people are divided into factions based on their personality. Divergent hits UK screens on 4th April 2014.
G.B.F. looks like a fun, high school-set comedy. The film is directed by Darren Stein, who helmed late nineties black comedy Jawbreaker. I’m hoping for the same kind of satirical style from G.B.F., which is released in cinemas on 21st March, and is available on demand on 22nd March 2014.
12 Years a Slave is a masterpiece. Steve McQueen’s film is powerful, brutal, and endlessly compelling.
In the 1940s, Solomon Northup is a free black musician from upstate New York. His comfortable lifestyle and loving family are ripped from him when Solomon is abducted and sold into slavery…
12 Years a Slave is a definitive film on the subject of slavery. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, McQueen’s film certainly packs a punch. The narrative works to pull viewers in. The use of flashbacks are effective in drawing a strong contrast in Solomon’s life pre and during slavery.
Steve McQueen’s direction is sublime. He does not shy away from presenting the brutality of Solomon’s story. The film is violent, in a realistic and disturbing manner. This is never gratuitous, but simply highlighting realities of the time.
Characters in 12 Years a Slave are depicted in a three-dimensional way. Screenwriter John Ridley carves a solid protagonist in Solomon, one that viewers will fully engage with. It is not difficult to feel immensely involved with the character, such is the injustice suffered. Other characters are equally well drawn; there are shades of grey among the good and bad.
12 Years a Slave is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. The sunsets are key in marking the passing of time. Hans Zimmer’s score is gorgeous. There is a a striking juxtaposition between the beauty of the film and the horrific nature of what is depicted.
Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a powerhouse performance that is sure to receive numerous accolades. Michael Fassbender is also excellent plantation owner Epps, while Lupita Nyong’o is superb as Patsey. There is a melancholia to her performance which is affecting.
The skill of McQueen, the cast and the crew is that they have taken a true story and made it cinematic without ever losing its potency. 12 Years a Slave is an unmissable film.
12 Years a Slave is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.