Film Review: Charlie Says

Mary Harron’s drama Charlie Says is a meditation on some of the members of the Manson Family. The film is quietly captivating. 

Years after the notorious Manson murders, three women who killed for him are incarcerated in an isolated cell block. When a graduate student attempts to provide education to them, she sees that they are still under Manson’s spell…

Focusing on three members of the Manson Family, Charlie Says looks at the motivations of these women as they look back on the past. The film arrives among a spate of Manson-related films (The Haunting of Sharon Tate was recently released, and Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is due for release later this Summer). Unlike the former, and indeed some other previous films on the subject, director Mary Harron’s film does not feel at all exploitative. The gruesome depictions are not the focal point; instead Harron ponders the horror of the young women’s decisions. 

The narrative unfolds in an interesting manner. The decision to situate the audience with Karlene is a shrewd one. Audience will be able to relate to her knowledge of the crimes and her fascination with the motivations of the women. The story is told in a fragmented fashion, with lengthy past sequences interspersed with the present-day prison scenes. The contrast between these scenes is stark, as Harron intended. 

Viewers will know the outcome of Leslie’s immersion into the cult, yet Harron keeps viewers engaged. Viewers can share the frustration of Karlene as she tries to get through to her students. The meditative approach works well. Viewers will know what is coming, but Harron treats the climax and the culmination of Leslie’s brainwashing and action rather than focusing on the detail of the murders. It is a better film for this. 

Charlie Says is shot well; the warm tones are a good contrast to prison scenes. The film captures the era in an evocative manner. Hannah Murray gives a solid performance. Matt Smith is suitably convincing as Charlie, elsewhere Merritt Wever and Marianne Rendón are also good. 

Charlie Says does not seek to excuse actions of the women. Instead, the film seeks to understand the journey which led them to that point. The final sequence is most poignant; a fitting end to a thoughtful film. 

Charlie Says is available on Digital HD from 22nd July, and DVD from 29th July 2019.

Previews: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Trailer, More!

Plenty to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer, Downton Abbey, The Flood, and more…

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Trailer

Here is the brand new Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer. Earlier in-world posters from the film were revealed. Quentin Tarantino’s latest stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor, and Brad Pitt as his stunt double. Also starring Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits UK screens on 14th August 2019.

Downton Abbey Trailer

Above is the first full trailer for the upcoming Downton Abbey film. Written by television series creator Julian Fellowes, the film sees the return of the main cast including Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, and Michelle Dockery. Downton Abbey will be released in UK cinemas on 13th September 2019.

The Flood Trailer

Here is the trailer for The Flood. The film, directed by Anthony Woodley, is about an immigration officer and her interrogation of a young man seeking asylum. Starring Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headley and Iain Glen, and Ivanno Jeremiah, The Flood will be released in cinemas and on demand from 21st June 2019.

Framing John DeLorean Trailer

Framing John DeLorean is a documentary-drama about the rise and fall of automotive executive John DeLorean. The film mixes interviews and archival footage with re-enactments featuring Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, and Josh Charles. Directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, Framing John DeLorean will be available on Digital Download from 29th July 2019.

Pavarotti Trailer

Here is the first trailer for upcoming film Pavarotti. Directed by Ron Howard, the documentary focuses on the life and career of the late opera legend Luciano Pavarotti. With unique access to home movies, family archives, and behind the scenes footage, Pavarotti will be released in UK cinemas on 15th July 2019.

Previews: Pet Sematary Clip, Long Shot, More!

Plenty of film-related goodness in this preview of coming attractions, including a new Pet Sematary clip, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Thunder Road and more…

Pet Sematary Clip

Here is a new Pet Sematary clip. The upcoming film is an adaption of the Stephen King novel, which was previously brought to the silver screen in 1989. This new adaptation stars Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz who relocate to rural Maine with their young children. Pet Sematary hits the big screen on 4th April 2019.

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood Poster

Here is the brand new poster for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. The film is set in 1969, and focuses on a television star and his stunt double around the time of the Manson murders. The film features an enviable ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino. One Upon a Time in… Hollywood is set for release on 14th August 2019.

Thunder Road Trailer

Thunder Road, which has been a critical hit at festivals so far, gets a UK release. The film is written and directed by and stars Jim Cummings. Thunder Road is a dark comedy about a police officer who suffers a breakdown following his divorce. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 31st May 2019.

Long Shot Trailer

Long Shot is the latest film from director Jonathan Levine (The Night Before, 50/50). The film is about a journalist who is reunited with his first crush, an accomplished diplomat who is making a run for the presidency. Starring Charlize Theron, Seth Rogan, and O’Shea Jackson Jr., Long Shot hits UK screens on 3rd May 2019.

Spy Cat Trailer

What is this? A film about a special agent cat certainly ticks the boxes! Spy Cat is an adventure comedy about a house cat who must team up with a band of drifters when she is abandoned at a rural petrol station. Spy Cat will exclusively be screened at Vue Cinemas from 26th April 2019.

Preview of Coming Attractions: Films in 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…

The Favourite

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.

The Irishman

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.

The Nightingale

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.

What to Watch on Shudder: I Vampiri and More

A look at some of the highlights on horror platform Shudder. Here’s what to watch on Shudder this week…

What to Watch on Shudder: I Vampiri

Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava’s I Vampiri (also known as Lust of the Vampire) is an Italian gothic classic. The film combines a detective story with a horror movie. Like many gothic films, the scares do not come thick and fast. However, the wonderful atmosphere and gothic excess make up for this, particularly in later scenes. I Vampiri is about an investigation into a spate of murders of young women. Each of these women are found with the blood drained. Set in Paris, Pierre Lantin is the journalist hot on the trail of the perpetrator. The film combines a modern setting with some classic gothic tropes. Moreover, the visual effects are great for the period.

What to Watch on Shudder: Raze

Josh C. Waller’s Raze offers an enticing premise and a brutal execution. The film is about kidnapped women who are forced into fighting each other for survival. Raze combines a terrifying premise with some fantastic fight sequences. Waller injects a ferociousness to these sequences; the violence is hard to watch at times. He is ably assisted by the skills of actress and stunt woman Zoë Bell (a Quentin Tarantino favourite, and star of Whip It), who plays protagonist Sabrina. There are similarities with The Purge: Anarchy (released the following year), yet Raze is very much its own film.

What to Watch on Shudder: Venefica

Maria Wilson directs, produces and stars in short film Venefica. The film is about a modern-day witch who must complete a ritual to see how her magic will be used. Venefica offers sufficient intrigue and good production values. Maria Wilson’s film is worth eight minutes of your time.

To find out more and to sign up to Shudder, visit

Battling Slavery: Fantasy and Actuality in Django Unchained and Lincoln

Django Unchained

If Quentin Tarantino had directed Lincoln, the film would have most likely ended with all the no voters in the House of Representatives being gunned down by Private Harold Green and Corporal Ira Clark, who appear at the beginning of the film. And this ending would have felt satisfying, if historically inaccurate.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained have much in common in terms of topic and setting. Yet they are poles apart in terms of style and tone. In the UK, the films have been released a week apart, in the all important awards season. Perhaps less of a coincidence but more significantly, the release of these two films sandwich President Obama’s inauguration. Although these movies have no overt link to the second term of America’s first mixed-race president, it nevertheless seems like the fruition of events that transpire in the two narratives.

In contrasting Django Unchained with Lincoln, it can be argued that Tarantino’s film represents the fantasy of the abolishment of slavery whilst  Spielberg’s picture represents the actuality. Although it would be impossible to ascertain just how accurate Lincoln is as a study of a long-dead figure, the vote to pass the thirteenth amendment in 1865 is more difficult to dispute. Django Unchained meanwhile deals in pure fiction, however entertaining this may be.


Ultimately, Django Unchained version of overcoming slavery feels more gratifying than Lincoln’s, than the actuality of events. The story of a black former slave who enacts revenge against the barbaric slave owners engenders more passion than the privileged politician seeking to right a wide-scale wrong. Django Unchained offers a catharsis; the kind of revenge that is only appropriate in a film as outlandish as Tarantino’s.

Quentin Tarantino offers us viewers a protagonist that we can get behind. It is not necessary to be able to relate to the race of Django; fighting back against slavery and injustice is something for all to admire. Rather it is Django’s position as an underdog that empowers the character in a way that Abraham Lincoln lacks. As the victim of prejudice and mistreatment, Django is a character we want to overcome the odds.

In Lincoln, the president’s connection with the issue of slavery is markedly different. His encounters with black people are limited to a conversation with soldiers at the beginning of the film and the presence of his butler (born a free man) and his wife’s maid Elizabeth Keckley. It is the personal relationship with the issue that is missing, in spite of Lincoln’s admirable intentions. Django meanwhile is something of a trailblazer, bucking the conventions of the time and aided by his white friend Dr Schultz. Whilst it is true that Django’s aim is not to end slavery (his vendetta is a personal one), in killing merciless slave owners he does free at least some of the enslaved.

Django Unchained

Lincoln uses his position as the most powerful individual in the white male political class to exact change. His crusade is a pivotal and historically one. There is something more satisfying, however, about a former slave eliminating those who trade in human life. Django is the protagonist we want to cheer along to his goal.

Lincoln and Django Unchained depict an era that seems as alien as it is unpalatable. A glance at this week’s events in Washington DC indicates how much things have changed since then. It was Lincoln who facilitated this change back in 1865. But how much more fun would it be if it had been Django?

Django Unchained is in cinemas now. Lincoln is released in UK cinemas on 25th January 2013.

Film Review: Django Unchained

Django UnchainedQuentin Tarantino does revenge motifs well, and Django Unchained is no exception. Tarantino’s spaghetti western is immense fun.

Former dentist Dr Schultz buys the freedom of a slave, Django, in order to help him complete a mission. As Django can identify the men Schultz is after, the former dentist trains him in the art of bounty hunting. Django meanwhile is determined to be reunited with his wife…

Like many westerns, the theme at the heart of Django Unchained is revenge. This is fulfilled by both the overarching narrative and the occupation of bounty hunter. The plot is uncomplicated, eschewing numerous strands to concentrate on character motivation and action set pieces.

Django Unchained is a fantasy of the oppressed. It is one that most can engage with. It will be difficult to find viewers who cannot get behind the protagonist. Slavery is universally abhorred, so the idea of a slave getting revenge on those that mistreat others was bound to be a winner.

The violence in Tarantino’s film is frequent and often over the top. Some of the brutality is difficult to stomach, but represents the seriousness of the issue, despite the film’s novelty wrapping. The outlandishness of the shoot outs bring the fun back in a wholly cathartic manner.

The music used in Django Unchained really sets the tone. There are several stylistic devices that mark it out as an unmistakable product of Quentin Tarantino. Dialogue is often quotable. Much has been made of the film’s use of racially charged language. Nevertheless, it appears entirely in keeping given the setting.

Jamie Foxx plays the title character straight, allowing the supporting cast to excel in terms of amusement or outlandishness. Christoph Waltz is excellent as Dr Schultz, while Samuel L. Jackson delivers a star turn as Stephen. Leonardo DiCaprio makes a memorable foe as Calvin Candie.

Django Unchained is a very enjoyable film. Tarantino has produced a striking addition to the genre.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff this week; a new Oz The Great and Powerful poster, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailer, something from Stoker and more…

Trouble With the Curve

Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, Trouble With the Curve is a drama about a baseball scout. After Clint Eastwood films received a mixed reception at best, it will be a relief to some that he is not directing this one. Trouble With the Curve is out in cinemas on 30th November 2012.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel was always a disturbing fairy tale, so it is really no surprise that the filmmakers have chosen to go down the violent fantasy route with this cinematic adaptation. Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks like a lot of fun. The film is released in the UK on 15th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

This week the first poster for Oz The Great and Powerful was released. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Disney’s last foray into Oz territory was the cult classic Return to Oz, so it will be interesting to see what this new film brings. Oz The Great and Powerful is due for release in March 2013.


This is not a trailer for Stoker, but a video that depicts the creation of the poster, along with clips from the film. I’m not entirely sure what Stoker is, but I am interested to find out more. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, Stoker will be released on 1st March 2013.

A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane is back for another adventure in A Good Day to Die Hard. The last instalment did not quite match the much-loved earlier trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how this one does. Bruce Willis returns as McClane on 14th February 2013.

Django Unchained

Above is the latest trailer for Django Unchained. The trailer has director Quentin Tarantino’s stamp all over it. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained is released in UK cinemas on 18th January 2013.

Trailer Round-Up

Trailers this week come in the form of Wreck-It Ralph, Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby. Additionally, I have included a music video from Rock of Ages, just because.

Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph appears to be Toy Story but for video games. The tropes of that hugely successfully franchise are apparent in the first trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Rich Moore. The film looks like it will satisfy a family audience, whilst also referencing video games heavily. Wreck-It Ralph is due for release in February 2013.

Django Unchained

The trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Django Unchained, was released this week. Tarantino has jumped from Nazis to slave owners, with Jamie Foxx playing a slave seeking vengeance and searching for his wife. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars in the film, alongside Tarantino-collaborator Christoph Waltz. Django Unchained will be released in the UK on 18 January 2013.

The Great Gatsby

 This trailer has been knocking about for a while, but I thought I would post it to make a Leonardo DiCaprio double bill. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was never going to be traditional. The novel has many avid fans, and if they can take it as a reinterpretation of Fitzgerald’s classic rather than a straightforward adaptation, then it looks like a lot of fun. The Great Gatsby is due for release in 3D on 26th December 2012.

Rock of Ages

The film version of musical Rock of Ages is out on 13th June 2012. I am seeing it today, and I cannot wait. To get everyone in the mood for the film (well me at least), I thought I would post a music video from Rock of Ages, a cover of the Journey classic ‘Any Way You Want It’. Enjoy!