Film Review: Angel Heart

Alan Parker’s neo-noir thriller Angel Heart is rightly considered a classic. Parker’s nightmarish vision is just as indelible over thirty years later.

Private investigator Harry Angel is hired by a man to track down a singer who owes him a debt from years ago. Angel starts tracking down leads, before the investigation takes a dark turn…

Angel Heart’s noir premise is straightforward enough; a private detective on a case to track down an individual. Nothing is as simple as it seems however, as the case leads him to travel far and wide to chase down any viable lead. Viewers suspicions are raised from the beginning, with his mysterious client. The picture features a film noir set up, which gets increasingly darker as narrative progresses. 

Set in 1955, Angel Heart has hallmarks of a noir mystery. The dialogue is very much in keeping with the genre. Angel’s exchange with Dr Fowler feels like it is could be straight out of a classic-era noir. There some great lines and turns of phrase used in the film. Based on William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, writer-director Alan Parker’s screenplay keeps the audience hooked with its well-developed turns. Parker imbues the film with a sense of mystery that only increases as the story advances. 

The setting of the film envelopes viewers. There is an otherworldly atmosphere that permeates Angel Heart. The hidden underside of the big city feels like it is brimming to the surface more and more as the narrative progresses. Attention to detail in the film is great: the styling of Cyphre, Angel’s dishevelled look, the 1955 period aspects such as the identity cards. Production design is noteworthy, with some distinctive looks such as Margaret’s salon. 

Sound works very effectively to build tension. The pulsating heartbeat is a good effect, whilst the sudden cessation of sound is startling in the film’s climax. Grisly images add to the sense of horror, with the shock of the first body conveyed with a gory close up. Close ups and reactions shots are used efficiently throughout the film. The rapid cutting of the voodoo artefacts is a successful conveyance of descent into horror. Furthermore, the cross-cutting between Angel discovering the body and the tap-dancing outside really amps up the horror. A long shot of the beach conversation is striking. The use of light and shadow very atmospheric in key sequences. 

Casting in Angel Heart is great overall, but particularly with lead Mickey Rourke as Angel. Rourke delivers a strong central performance, inhabiting the role of the jaded investigator. Robert De Niro is as believable as ever as Cyphre. His delivery really helps to heighten the character. Meanwhile, Lisa Bonet is memorable as Epiphany. 

With its horror crescendo of a conclusion, Angel Heart truly is a fantastic noir mystery. The film is atmospheric, curious, and engrossing. 

The Alan Parker approved 4K restoration of Angel Heart is released on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 14th October 2019.

Film Review: The Irishman


In a career positively littered with jewels, Martin Scorsese manages to surpass expectations once more. The Irishman is a magnificent gem. 

Frank Sheeran recounts his life as a mob hitman and a labour union official. Frank tells of his relationship with union leader Jimmy Hoffa, as well as some of the most powerful mobsters in the second half of the twentieth century…

Based on Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses, Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Steven Zallian have created something special with The Irishman. The film is compelling from start to finish. Running at almost three and a half hours, this is no mean feat. Instead, the film flys by in no time at all, which is testament to Scorsese and Zallian’s storytelling abilities. 

Starting with an ageing Frank Sheeran telling his story directly to viewers, the film tells a story through a second story. A road trip to a wedding becomes a vehicle for Sheeran to look back. From here, the narrative unfolds in a chronological fashion, interspersed with scenes from this road trip. The story is woven in an engrossing fashion. The script is fantastic, with snappy dialogue and captivating narration. The Irishman offers plenty of laughs, yet can change tone so effortlessly. 

Focusing on real events, Scorsese knows when to be restrained and when to be outlandish. Tying events to moments of historical importance, the film works almost to expose an underside of 20th century American history. Scorsese both emphasises the impact of one man, and positions the machine behind as a dominating force. 

Scorsese underlines how Sheeran‘s line of work impacted him, particularly later in life. The director has erroneously been accused on glamorising crime and violence in the past. It is unlikely anyone would make that mistake here. The Irishman is an introspective study, with Scorsese pulling no punches where it counts. 

Violence is sparse in the film, and utilised very effectively. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker cuts away from the most visceral on occasion, and at other times Scorsese leaves viewers no place to hide from the brutality. Scorsese’s visual flair is always present. Particularly pleasing is a reverse tracking shot which goes back forward and moves away at a critical point. Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto create some beautiful shots. The film soundtrack is excellent, and helps to set the different eras very well.

For most Scorsese fans it is genuinely a thrill to see the filmmaker reunited with not only Robert De Niro, but also Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. Add Al Pacino to the mix, and the result is dynamite. De Niro is wonderful here, and ably assisted by a brilliant Pesci and a fiery Pacino. It is the best performance from De Niro for years, and Pesci has rarely been as strong. Other regular Scorsese contributors Stephen Graham and Bobby Cannavale are an asset in supporting roles.

Any scepticism that the re-teaming of Scorsese and De Niro may be a disappointment can happily be swept aside. The Irishman is a truly stunning accomplishment.

The Irishman closes the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Previews: Queen & Slim, The Irishman, more!

Lots of tantalising clips in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Queen & Slim trailer, The Irishman, JT LeRoy, and more…

Queen & Slim Trailer

Here is the brand new Queen & Slim trailer. The trailer gives allusions of Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise with its couple on the run premise, albeit with a very contemporary edge. The film is written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim is coming soon to cinemas.

The Irishman Trailer

Finally the trailer for one of the year’s most anticipated films is here. The Irishman sees Martin Scorsese re-team with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Additions to the cast include Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, and Anna Paquin. Written by Steve Zalillian, The Irishman is about a hitman who worked alongside some of the 20th century’s most notorious figures. The Irishman will be released in select UK cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

JT LeRoy Trailer

JT LeRoy tells the story of one of the literary world’s most infamous hoaxes. The film stars Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, and Jim Sturgess. Directed by Justin Kelly, JT LeRoy will be released in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood Trailer

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood feels like the kind of film we need about now. The film is about Mister Rogers and his friendship with journalist Tom Junod. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), the film stars Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is set for release in UK cinemas on 6th December 2019.

Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer

Here is the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap. A belated sequel to the 2009 hit Zombieland, the film sees director Ruben Fleischer reunite with stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland: Double Tap hits UK screens on 18th October 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.

Us

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.

Sunset

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.

Greed

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.

Sequels

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.

Previews: Alice Through The Looking Glass and more!

A visual feast in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including Alice Through The Looking Glass, Sisters, and By The Sea

Alice Through The Looking Glass Trailer

Here is the first at upcoming sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass. Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast return for the follow-up to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice Through The Looking Glass is directed by James Bobin, whose work on the last two Muppet films is certainly a good sign. Alice Through The Looking Glass is set for release in the UK on 27th May 2016.

Sisters Poster

Sisters Poster

Sisters is the latest venture to reunite Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The film is about two disconnected sisters who return to their family home to clear out their childhood bedroom. Directed by Pitch Perfect‘s Jason Moore, Sisters will hit UK screens on 18th December, with previews from 12th December 2015.

The Good Dinosaur Clip

This just looks magical. The Good Dinosaur poses the question of what if the dinosaurs never became extinct. The notion looks rather wonderful in the film, although I do wonder if in reality in would be some horrible Jurassic Park type situation. The Good Dinosaur is out in UK cinemas on 27th November 2015.

By The Sea Featurette

Angelina Jolie speaks about her ideas behind By The Sea. The film is written, directed and stars Jolie, alongside husband Brad Pitt. She states that she has been influenced by European cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, and audiences will be able to see for themselves when By The Sea is released on 11th December 2015.

The Dressmaker Trailer

The Dressmaker stars Kate Winslet as a designer who returns to her childhood small town in Australia. Also starring Judy Davis and Liam Hemsworth, the comedy drama is based on Rosalie Ham’s bestselling novel. The Dressmaker is out in UK cinemas on 20th November 2015.

The Revenant Poster

The Revenant

Is this the film that will get Leonardo DiCaprio his coveted Oscar? The Revenant tells the story of Hugo Glass, a man left for dead in uncharted territory. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the film also stars Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Lucas Haas. The Revenant hits UK screens in January 2016.

Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron stars as the straight-laced groom to be on a road trip with his recently windowed grandfather in comedy Dirty Grandpa. Robert De Niro’s grandfather is not quite the kindly old gentleman however. Also starring Aubrey Plaza, Dirty Grandpa is set for release on 22nd January 2016.

Previews: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Bridge of Spies and More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions including the full Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, a clip from Bridge of Spies and more…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Here it is. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer has already set the internet ablaze since its release a matter of hours ago. People are reminiscing over their childhood, ticket sales are going crazy; it is pretty much the biggest news of the day. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released in cinemas on 17th December 2015.

Bridge of Spies Clip

 

Tom Hanks stars as an insurance claims lawyer who finds himself thrust into the centre of the Cold War in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. The above clip shows Hanks’ character as he gets ready for his trip abroad. Bridge of Spies hits UK screens on 27th November 2015.

The 33 Featurette

The 33 is about the story of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground in 2010. This featurette sees the cast and crew of the new movie discussing the event, and their thoughts behind the film. Starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche, The 33 is set for release on 29th January 2016.

Joy Trailer

Writer-director David O. Russell re-teams with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper for Joy. The film is about a family across four generations, and centres on a young woman who founds a business dynasty. Joy is scheduled for release in January 2016.

Hail, Caesar! Trailer

The Coen Brothers’ latest is Hail, Caesar!, a comedy set during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film follows Josh Brolin’s studio fixer Eddie Mannix, who encounters plenty of problems with the studio’s stars. With an enviable cast that includes George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, Hail, Caesar! will hit the big screen on 26th February 2016.

Film Review: The Intern

THE INTERN

Nancy Myers comedy drama The Intern hits the notes expected from the writer-director. The film is entertaining throughout, with a thoughtful message at its core.

Bored of the retired life, widower Ben Whittaker looks for ways to fill his days. He decides to apply for a job as a senior intern. Ben is placed with creative Jules Ostin, the busy founder of an online site…

Those acquainted with other Nancy Myers films will instantly recognise the tone and style of The Intern. The film has a familiar feel, setting and set up as other Myers’ pictures. The New York setting is sleek, feelings are deep and meaningful, and real-life issues are dealt with. This is not really a bad thing; most viewers will know what to expect from The Intern. And the film offers a little more besides.

At its heart, The Intern is about an inter-generational friendship. Other aspects, such as professional and romantic relationships are merely strands to the central story. The burgeoning friendship between Ben and Jules is pleasant to watch, with other elements of their lives working to provide need for this unusual relationship.

The comedy in The Intern works fairly well. The humour is light, focussing heavily on differences between the generations. Thankfully, the film eschews the jokes about Ben not understanding anything modern, for the most part at least. The Intern‘s more dramatic sequences are also well executed, with sufficient occurrences present to give the film more emotional depth.

The reflections of both Ben and Jules illustrate the differences in time and generations. What is more striking is the stance the film takes regarding career and family life for contemporary women. Whilst the outcome of the film may not be wholly satisfying for all, the messages in the significance of choice, the importance of career, and the duty of balancing aspects of life are certainly welcome and relevant.

The Intern may not have worked as well if it was not for the great chemistry between Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. As it stands, those who enjoy Myers’ films are unlikely to be disappointed.