Film Review: The Sisters Brothers

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers is a reflective western. By subverting some of the genre tropes, Audiard has created an interesting addition to the field.

Eli and Charlie Sisters are assassins for hire. Working for Oregon’s commodore, the brothers are tasked with tracking down a prospector who has fled to California…

Based on the book by Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers is a Western that both adheres to and subverts conventions. The great thing about Audiard’s film is its illusionary nature. At first, the film appears to be a traditional western, albeit with a comedic edge. As the film progresses, it transitions into something else. The way in which director manoeuvres the narrative is quite something.

The protagonist’s develop well as The Sisters Brothers progresses. To begin with, the brothers are set up as archetypes, with the confident drunk and the more sensitive elder playing off each other. As the narrative continues, they develop into more complex characters, shrugging off the previous archetypes. The perception of masculinity is one of the film’s key themes; this is played out in a pleasing manner.

The relationships which are explored are satisfying. There are some great scenes which focus upon this. The dialogue is definitely a plus, with both humour and emotion to be derived from these interactions. The tonal shifts that occur during the film are never jarring, but instead enhance the overall picture. Audiard sets up a grand finale, which would be very in keeping with the genre. Yet what actually occurs is more rewarding.

Performances in the film are as admirable as you would expect from four great actors. Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly are both great in the film’s humourous and more reflective moments. The interactions between Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters are wonderful to watch. Audiard’s direction is assured, and the cinematography captures the vast and the intimate equally well. The tracking shot in the house at the end is fantastic.

The Sisters Brothers is an engaging and endearing picture. Audiard delivers something far more interesting than what appears at first glance. 

The Sisters Brothers is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Film Review: Una

Director Benedict Andrews’ Una is a drama that reveals its characters and narrative in an unravelling and competent manner. The film may veer towards the melodramatic, yet it excels in other ways.

Una, a young woman, travels to a warehouse to confront a man who used to be her neighbour. She wants to know what drove him to seek a relationship with her when she was just thirteen years old…

Written by David Harrower, based on his play Blackbird, Una is a drama about a difficult subject. The film tackles the area of paedophilia from the premise of a victim confronting her attacker many years after the event. The film features several flashbacks as the two main characters recollect past events.

The strength of Una is in the relaying of psychological effects of trauma. Protagonist Una feels a multitude of emotions. Given the content of the flashbacks, as well as Peter’s words, it is easy to see why what happened in her childhood has had such an effect later in life. Uncomfortable viewing at times, the film often compels. Nevertheless, it comes undone in the second half. The subplot seemingly intends to give more tension to the main interaction, yet this feels like an unnecessary addition.

Ben Mendelssohn gives a strong performance in a challenging role. Rooney Mara is also good, despite an uneven accent. Riz Ahmed is underused; his talents are not stretched in this minor role. Although the film breaks out of its space for the final third, the film does not depart majorly from its stage origins. The moving around in the warehouse may have been an attempt at differentiating from the play, yet tension may have been greater if this device had been employed less.

The final sequence adds friction certainly, however it heightens the disturbed aspect of protagonist. As a result, it feels like it cheapens a serious subject. Una is an engaging examination of a troubling relationship. The film it at its best when it underplays the theatrics.

Film Review: City of Tiny Lights

Director Pete Travis’ City of Tiny Lights is an enjoyable detective thriller. The film hits the mark more often than it misses. 

Tommy Aktar is a private eye living and working in London. He is asked to find a missing prostitute by her flatmate. At the same time, faces from Tommy’s past remerge as he investigates his latest case…

With City of Tiny Lights, director Pete Travis and writer Patrick Neate have crafted a homage to classic film noir in a thoroughly modern setting. Tommy Aktar is the quintessential noir detective. He is a whiskey drinking, chain-smoking private detective wracked with thoughts from his past. So far, so archetypal. Where the film excels is in its transplant of noir tropes to a contemporary London setting. This mixes a detective story set in a murky underworld with very ordinary surroundings. 

The film is frequently funny, despite a brooding narrative. The dialogue works well, although the narration can feel a bit laboured. Thankfully, this is not present throughout the duration. The film’s different strands combine well, although this makes some elements a bit predictable. Viewers may predict the real enemy long before the reveal. The conversation between Tommy and his father using a particular cricket term aides this by dropping a big hint. 

Flashbacks in City of Tiny Lights build the back character of the protagonist successfully. These sequences look very authentic for the period in which they are set. Interactions with Tommy and Avid are great, as well the initial meeting with Melody. Some of the action sequences are hindered by the shaky, blurry camerawork. Although a sense of confusion and motion is aimed for, it takes viewers out of the scene. Riz Ahmed delivers a solid performance as Tommy. Billie Piper provides decent support as Shelley. Rohan Seth stands out amongst the supporting cast.

City of Tiny Lights is a modern take on a classic genre. Once again, Riz Ahmed’s talents are showcased in an engaging manner.

Previews: Baywatch Poster, Logan, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a moving Baywatch poster, The Eyes of My Mother, A Cure for Wellness, and more…

Baywatch Poster

Zac Efron promotes his new film in this moving Baywatch poster. The film, based on the 1990s television show, the film stars Efron, alongside Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, and Alexandra Daddario. Baywatch hits the big screen on 31st May 2017.

The Eyes of My Mother

Gothic horror The Eyes of My Mother looks intriguing. The directorial debut of Nicolas Pesce, the film is about a young women whose dark curiosities are triggered following a tragedy in her life. Starring Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, and Clara Wong, The Eyes of My Mother will be released in UK cinemas on 24th march 2017.

A Cure for Wellness Clip

A Cure for Wellness looks rather creepy, if the above clip is anything to go by. The film stars Dane DeHaan as a young executive sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a remote wellness centre. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film also stars Oscar Isaacs and Mia Goth. A Cure for Wellness will hit UK cinemas on 24th February 2017.

Certain Women Poster

Following Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves, director Kelly Reichardt’s latest film is Certain Women. The film stars Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart as three women trying to forge there own paths in the plains of the American Northwest. Certain Women is out at UK cinemas on 3rd March 2017.

The Great Wall Featurette

Matt Damon describes The Great Wall as a “full-on battle monster movie” in the above featurette. He also speaks about his character, and the plot of the film. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, and Willem Dafoe. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the film is out at UK cinemas on 17th February 2017.

Logan Trailer

Wolverine has turned babysitter in this latest X-Men movie. The film sees Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart reprise their roles in a dystopian road movie. James Mangold directs, and the film also stars Dafne Keen. Logan launches onto UK screens on 1st March 2017.

Beauty and the Beast Poster

Emma Watson looks very much the part of Belle in this latest Beauty and the Beast poster. From the images and clips revealed so far, this live-action remake is keeping the visual style of the original animated film. Also starring Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellan, Beauty and the Beast is out on UK screens on 17th March 2017.

City of Tiny Lights Trailer

City of Tiny Lights very much evokes the look and feel of a neo-noir of decades past. Liz Ahmed stars as a deadbeat private eye whose services are engaged by a high-class prostitute. Also starring Billie Piper, City of Tiny Lights will be released in UK cinemas on 7th April 2017.

Film Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, director Gareth Edwards faces a tricky task of fleshing out the opening crawl and telling a story viewers know the outcome of. Against the odds, Edwards delivers an engaging and thoroughly entertaining film.

Jyn Erso is recruited by the Rebellion to help them discover the background to a powerful new weapon. As she finds out more, Jyn becomes the unlikely leader of an unlikely strike against the Empire…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is essentially the story from Star Wars: A New Hope‘s opening crawl. The film functions as an episode after the prequels (ending with Revenge of the Sith) and before A New Hope. The characters at the heart of the film are new. Edwards and screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy must tow a line in not reaching to far into the bookended films, whilst also offering a convincing and complete tale.

The filmmakers produce a memorable film by concentrating on the mission. The characters are developed where they need to be, yet the focus remains of the task ahead. After a timid start, the film finds its feet and propels forward. There are some good set pieces and action amongst the exposition and story development.  However the real treat is the measured build to a wonderful finale third. The climax offers spectacle and tension in abundance. Even though viewers know the outcome, Edwards delivers a memorable conclusion.

Rogue One does not carry humour or lightness in the same way as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This works however, it is a serious blockbuster without being po-faced. The mood suits the  narrative, given the known outcome. Felicity Jones is strong in the central role. She is ably supported by Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, and Ben Mendelsohn. Visuals offer both spectacle and a style in keeping with the original series. Michael Giacchino’s score complimentary of John Williams’ original.

With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Gareth Edwards delivers the type of prequel viewers would no doubt have loved from the 1999-2005 films. This latest film does the franchise proud.

Previews: Patriots Day Featurette, Rogue One, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a Patriots Day featurette, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Silence, and more…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Featurette

Here is Diego Luna talking about working on the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Luna plays Cassian Andor, a Rebel Alliance officer. The Star Wars spin-off features a stellar cast, including Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits UK screens on 15th December 2016.

Patriots Day Featurette

This Patriots Day featurette focuses on J.K. Simmons and the character he plays in the film. Patriots Day is an account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath that followed. Also starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon, Patriots Day is set for release in 2017.

Silence Poster

Silence Poster

Martin Scorsese’s latest film Silence revisits some of the themes prevalent in his earlier pictures. Starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuits priests who visit Japan to locate their mentor. Also starring Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds, Silence will hit UK screens on 1st January 2017.

Fences Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Denzel Washington’s Fences. This one reveals a little more about the plot and the main characters than the first look at the film. Based on August Wilson’s award-winning play, the film also stars Viola Davis and Jovan Adepo. Fences will be released in selected UK cinemas on 10th February 2017, and everywhere from 17th February.


Passengers Clip

Here is a brief clip from the upcoming Passengers, which showcases the special effects that the film offers. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film is about two passengers on a voyage to a new colony who wake up early in space. Passengers jets into UK cinemas on 21st December 2016.

Power Rangers Image

alpha 5 Power Rangers

Here is the first look at Alpha 5 from the upcoming Power Rangers movie. As with other images released from the film, the character looks pretty different from the 1990s TV show.  Alpha 5 is voiced by Bill Hader in the film. Also starring Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston, Power Rangers is scheduled for release on UK screens in 2017.

Hidden Figures Clip

Here is a brief clip from Hidden Figures. It is based on the true story of a group of black women who worked at NASA during the space race of the 1960s. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Kevin Costner. Hidden Figures is out in UK cinemas in February 2017.

Previews: Rogue One Trailer, David Brent and more!

Plenty in this round-up of trailers and posters from this week, including the Rogue One trailer, David Brent: Life on the Road, Ben-Hur and more…

Rogue One Trailer

Here is the Rogue One trailer. The film is the first in a series of stand-alone Star Wars movies. Taking place before the events of Episode IV, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story certainly has the look of the original franchise. Starring Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed, Rogue One hits UK screens on 16th December 2016.

David Brent: Life on the Road Trailer

The trailer for David Brent: Life on the Road is just as cringe-inducing as you would imagine. Ricky Gervais resurrects his famed character from The Office for this film about Brent’s time on the road as a salesman and amateur rockstar. David Brent: Life on the Road is out in UK cinemas on 19th August 2016.

Ben-Hur Poster


Here is the latest poster for Ben-Hur. The film is a remake of the 1959 epic. Starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman, the film is about a falsely accused Jewish nobleman who survives years of slavery. Ben-Hur gallops on to the big screen on 26th August 2016.

The B.F.G. Trailer

Here is the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s The B.F.G. The film is based on the Roald Dahl’s classic and features Mark Rylance as the title character and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. The B.F.G. hits UK screens on 22nd July 2016.

Captain America: Civil War Featurette

Here is a featurette on the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. The video focuses on the film’s main female characters, with Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen and Emily Van Camp discussing their roles in the film. Captain America: Civil War launches onto UK screens on 29th April 2016.

Film Review: Nightcrawler


Writer-director Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is an unnerving thriller. The film is atmospheric and well executed.

Louis Bloom is a young man desperate for work in Los Angeles. When he stumbles into the world of crime journalism in LA, Louis carves out his own niche…

Nightcrawler works best as a noirish thriller. Pulpy at times, Dan Gilroy’s film is nevertheless engaging and entertaining. There is an uncomfortable fascination with what Louis will do next. This aspect acutely mirrors the content of Louis’ work itself.

From the very beginning of the film, it is clear that Louis will be an unusual protagonist. The character exhibits traits which deviate from the norm. These are sometimes used as comedic devices. However, as Nightcrawler progresses, Louis’ persona and actions become increasingly disturbing. The protagonist is certainly memorable, even if some of his mannerisms appear over played at times.

Gilroy delivers the dark side of Los Angeles in Nightcrawler. This portrayal is not unlike the urban depictions in classic noir and neo-noir thrillers. With much of the action taking place at night, the city is depicted with a cheap fluorescent glare. Similarly, the level of sleaze and exploitation do not lessen in the familiarity of the television studio.

Characters are drawn starkly in Nightcrawler. Supporting characters such as Nina and Rick are given little depth, yet fulfil their functions effectively. Nina is both abhorrent and a figure for pity, whilst Rick best exemplifies the normal reaction to the situations presented. As Louis, Jake Gyllenhaal is most unnerving. His mannerisms and stares function to successfully cause discomfort. Rene Russo is well cast as Nina, whilst Riz Ahmed offers a lackadaisical quality which suits his character.

Nightcrawler stumbles in its attempt to convey social commentary. At times the film seems to strive for condemnation which may seem less than illuminating to viewers with even the barest sense of media literacy. Nevertheless, taken on the basis of a thriller, the film works well. Much like the footage Louis sells, Nightcrawler is sometimes difficult to look at, but harder to turn away from.

Nightcrawler is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 2nd March 2015.

Film Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel hooks viewers through its storytelling. With a compelling central character, The Reluctant Fundamentalist keeps its audience guessing.

Changez Khan is a Lahore University lecturer being interviewed by American journalist Bobby. An American professor has been kidnapped and Bobby questions Changez’s involvement in the incident. Changez, who spent a number of years in America, begins to tell his tale…

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is all about the grey areas. It offers a depiction of its protagonist as multi faceted, with different ideals and motivations. It is tricky to second guess Changez’s ultimate beliefs; it is this aspect that keeps the audience engaged. There is a scene in the first half of the film which is played twice, once with Bobby’s interpretation and the other with Changez’s account of events. This is emblematic of the entire film; both are plausible but it is unclear which is correct.

The film walks the fine line in depicting both fundamentalists and the CIA in a balanced light. Director Nair makes no discernible attempt to paint either side in a negative light. This is why The Reluctant Fundamentalist works. Instead of painting characters as heroes and villains, the main characters are given depth and appear realistic in their conflicts.

Performances all round are good. Riz Ahmed offers a convincing portrayal as Changez, both as the son of a Pakistani poet and a high flyer in Manhattan’s financial district. Leiv Schreiber is strong as Bobby, while Kate Hudson does well in her supporting role. The music is sometimes overpowering, but visuals are pleasing throughout.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist explores the idea of fundamentalism and what triggers it in an interesting manner. Moreover, it is an engrossing personal tale.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012.

Film Review: Trishna

Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna is an update of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, with a shifted perception. Adapting the story to fit a modeern Indian society is an interesting idea, but not entirely satisfying.

Travelling around India with his British friends, Jai meets Trishna. Finding her attractive, Jai offers Trishna a job at his father’s hotel in Jaipur when her family falls on hard times. Although Jai and Trishna’s friendship begins to develop into something more, their differences in circumstance means that there is a divide…

The drama of Trishna works well for the most part, although the title character can be frustrating to watch at times. The opening scene between Jai and his friends is poorly scripted and badly acted. Thankfully the film improves after this. Some of the interactions between Jai and Trishna are sweet, while others are effectively uncomfortable.

The chain of events in Trishna plays out unevenly. For a significant period, Jai is portrayed a certain way. Therefore when the change in his character occurs, it happens unnaturally quickly. The ending also feels quite rushed because of this. Trishna is less clear cut than its source material in attributing blame. Without being privy to what happens in the pivotal scene that takes place on the night of the wedding, it is difficult to appraise Jai’s persona. His character remains much more ambiguous than the one he is based on.

Music is used in the film effectively, although subtitling some of the lyrics did not seem necessary. The Bollywood segue felt out of place in the film. These scenes served no greater purpose to the narrative and felt surplus to requirements. Freida Pinto is suitably docile as Trishna, while Riz Ahmed has given better performances previously.

Trishna is interesting in that it depicts a middle ground in India, and not just the two extremes of opulence and poverty. However, the film is not one of the better examples of a contemporary adaptation of a classic.

Trishna is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.