Film Review: This Beautiful Fantastic

Simon Aboud’s sophomore picture This Beautiful Fantastic is amiable but forgettable. The film paints a twee picture, which provides decent escapism.

Bella Brown is a library assistant who dreams of being a children’s author. In her real life, she must contend with a cantankerous old neighbour and his dispute with her garden, whilst falling for a library patron…

Writer and director Simon Aboud produces a film which is heavy on the whimsy with This Beautiful Fantastic. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie seems to have been an inspiration for the filmmaker, although this movie lacks the charisma of the 2001 film. That is not to say This Beautiful Fantastic is beyond redemption, but merely that it lacks impact.

Aboud’s film is easy watching. It is the sort of movie to watch on a rainy day; one that does not require any real investment. As such, it does the trick. Bella is an interesting enough protagonist. She is boundlessly twee, but warm enough to gain the audience’s sympathy. Alfie makes a good initial antagonist.

There are a number of strands at play in This Beautiful Fantastic, nearly all of which relate to Bella. There is the overarching theme of her desired career, which is paired with her mundane job and three main relationship strands. Some of these are more interesting than others. The burgeoning friendship between Bella and Alfie has some nice scenes. Nevertheless, the scenes with the protagonist and Billy are not as entertaining, probably because the latter is not fleshed out sufficiently. The scenes between Vernon and Alfie feature the film’s best dialogue.

Jessica Brown Findlay delivers a good performance as Bella, but it is Tom Wilkinson who really shines as Alfie. Andrew Scott and Jeremy Irvine are also decent in supporting roles. Aboud paints an old-fashioned portrait of North London with this film; it is pretty, but feels far removed from reality.

This Beautiful Fantastic is the perfect film for viewer who want short, sweet and non-comital viewing.

This Beautiful Fantastic will be available to watch on Digital Download from 5th March 2018 and can be bought here.

Film Review: Denial

Mick Jackson’s Denial is a courtroom drama that offers a good script and superb performances from its leads.

Acclaimed writer and historian Deborah Lipstadt has just published her latest book, on the subject of Holocaust denial. Infamous Holocaust denier David Irving decides to bring a libel case against her in the UK courts. It is up to Deborah and her team to prove that the Holocaust happened…

Despite the action taking place seventeen years ago, Denial feels like a very contemporary film. Following the real life libel case brought by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt, the issues which arise (the contention of truth, and alternative fact) feel very pertinent. Moreover, the antagonist bears some hallmarks of today’s malefactors.

The narrative focuses on the lead up to the lawsuit, and subsequent court case which occurred in 2000. The first section of the film sets the scene with ease, introducing the main players in a succinct manner. There is the necessary exposition, with the unfamiliarity of British law explained to both Deborah and the audience. The screenplay, by David Hare, excels in painting its characters in an authentic light. Deborah’s interaction, and indeed the friction in her law team, seems realistic. Moreover, as the film progresses, director Mick Jackson impresses both the importance of the case, and the impact it has on the main characters.

Denial delivers great performances from its two leads. Rachel Weisz is very convincing as Lipstadt, and delivers the emotional aspect of her character exceptionally well. Spall is fantastic as Irving, offering a compelling performance. Tom Wilkinson provides able support as Richard Rampton.

As much as it delves slightly into the horrors of the Holocaust, the film keeps the attention on the libel case. It is a better film for this; Denial concentrates instead on the importance of truth, and the consequences of alternative facts being given credence.

Denial is out on DVD on Monday 5th June 2017.

Previews: Denial trailer, Hacksaw Ridge and More!

Plenty of trailers, images, and features this week, including the Denial trailer, Hacksaw Ridge, Wonder Woman and more…

Denial Trailer

Here is the new Denial trailer. The film is based on the legal battle over Holocaust denial. Rachel Weisz plays Deborah E. Lipstadt who is accused of libel by David Irving (Timothy Spall). Also starring Tom Wilkinson, Denial is set for release on 27th January 2017.

Fences Poster

Fences Quad Poster

Here is the latest poster for Denzel Washington’s Fences. Washington directs and stars in the film, based on August Wilson’s play. Wilson also writes the screenplay for the film. Also starring Viola Davis, Fences is out in UK cinemas in early 2017.

Hacksaw Ridge Clip

This is a clip from the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge. Directed by Mel Gibson, the film is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, who saved many soldiers without firing a weapon in a World War II battle. Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge will be released on 27th January 2017.

Darkest Hour Image

Darkest Hour Image

The first image from Darkest Hour is striking to say the least. Gary Oldman has form as a chameleon, and proves his transformation skills once again playing Winston Churchill. Director Joe Wright’s film is about the tense time the former British Prime Minister faces trying to negotiate a peace treaty with Nazi Germany. Darkest Hour is scheduled for release on 29th December 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

A spin-off from the wonderful The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie focuses on one of the best characters from the original film. This trailer reveals more about the plot, as well as the range of franchise characters we can expect. Featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, and Michael Cera, The LEGO Batman Movie will hit UK screens on 10th February 2017.

Passengers Poster

Passengers Poster

Here is the latest poster for Passengers. Starring America’s current sweethearts Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film is about to passengers on a spacecraft transporting them to a different planet. Also starring Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne, Passengers is out in UK cinemas on 21st December 2016.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The second trailer for Wonder Woman reveals more about the narrative and the main characters. Set during World War II, the film tells the story behind the photograph seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman hits UK screens on 2nd June 2017.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Poster

Sully Poster

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson tells the story of the pilot who landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, focuses on the heroic act and the investigation that followed. Sully: Miracle on the Hudson jets onto UK screens on 2nd December 2016.

Film Review: Selma

SELMA

Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a historical drama which is equally parts moving and absorbing.

In 1965, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters attempt to help secure equal voting rights for citizens in Selma, Alabama. In the face of violent opposition, the civil rights activist plans a march from Selma to Montgomery…

Selma is a finely executed historical drama. Director Ava DuVernay guides the story with precision; concentrating on the events during a three-month period rather than more infamous aspects of King’s story and the civil rights movement. The film allows for pensive moments and sincere dialogue without a lapse in pacing. The conclusion is build towards with the requisite tension it requires.

The story that the film focuses on functions on a number of levels. There is a keen awareness, referenced in the film, that this is just one struggle of many within the movement. Moreover, the film gives viewers enough indication of Martin Luther King Jr. as an individual without the need for an encompassing biopic. Finally, Selma is powerful in its depiction of real struggles and tragedies.

Selma features a story that took place at a pivotal period in the civil rights movement. The film has additional weight given that some aspects portrayed are sadly mirrored in recent events that have taken place in the US. There are several moments in Selma that feel poignant, and DuVernay executes these effectively.

Bradford Young’s cinematography is decent throughout. The use of lighting is particularly strong. Costumes and stylings are also good, as is the film’s score.

David Oyelowo gives a convincing performance in Selma. Playing a much recorded character, the actor had a lot to live up to. Nevertheless, Oyelowo carries it off incredibly well; the lack of an Oscar nomination for this role is surprising. Tom Wilkinson and Carmen Ejogo offer good support.

Selma tells an important story, and has been released at a pertinent time. Highly recommended viewing.

Film Review: The Conspirator

Robert Redford’s period courtroom drama is a bit of a slow burner. The Conspirator is sufficiently engaging, but lacks a strong sense of tension when it is really needed.

On 14th April 1865, president Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. In the wake of this shocking event, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to murder the president, vice-president and the secretary of state. Frederick Aitken, a Union war veteran and rookie lawyer is appointed to represent Mary Surratt, who faces the death penalty if found guilty…

The beginning of The Conspirator works incredibly well to set up the rest of the film. Particularly for viewers not familiar with all the details of the Lincoln assassination, this section conveys the chaos of the incident, as well as situating protagonist Aitken in the centre of the action.

James Solomon’s screenplay exhibits the unfolding drama from the viewpoint of Aitken. Giving some distance between the accused and her condemners, Aitken appears level-headed and a lonely voice of reason. Moreover, considering he was a Union soldier, Aitken is perfectly placed to initially hold contempt for Mary Surratt. Aitken’s struggle to uphold the oath he took to defend his client is palpable. As much as the film is about the case, it is also about Aitken’s beliefs and personal journey.

What makes The Conspirator interesting is the lack of exploration into Mary’s alleged crimes. Although these are documented in the court scenes, the film never sways too far in suggesting her level of guilt. The concentration is placed on the legal proceedings instead. Whilst the film comments on this, it leaves open questions about the extent of Mary’s involvement. This exhibits a maturity missing from many historical or courtroom dramas. Given that the facts of her situation will never truly be known, the film takes the wise option of not implying whether she is guilty or not.

Parallels between the events of the film and recent post 9/11 incidents are unmistakable. The hooded prisoners are just one of the visual indicators of this. Elsewhere, there is resonance in the words of Edwin Stanton, when discussing the aftermath of Lincoln’s death. There is also a reference to the Inquisition, with The Conspirator suggesting that these ‘witch trials’ replicate through history.

James McAvoy offers a decent performance as Aitken overall, although he sometimes fails to convey the gravity of the situation. Robin Wright is controlled as Mary Surratt, while Kevin Kline’s Edwin Stanton is unmoving in his determination. Tom Wilkinson is great as Reverdy Johnson, providing reasoned opposition to others in power.

The Conspirator deals with the facts in a balanced manner for the most part, and is an interesting watch because of this. It is just a shame that the film fails to provide the requisite tension in pivotal scenes.

Film Review: Burke and Hare

John Landis’ first feature film for over ten years, Burke and Hare is perfect for those who want a touch of the macabre this Halloween without the frights. It is an interesting tale, but as a black comedy it is not as funny as it should be.

Burke and Hare are two Irishmen struggling to make a living in nineteenth-century Edinburgh. When they need to get rid of the dead body of a lodger, the pair stumbles into a lucrative business providing cadavers for one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious medical schools…

Based on the true story, albeit with a healthy supply of embellishment, Burke and Hare offers a humorous and sympathetic portrayal of the grave robbers. Rather than depict the pair as cold-blooded murders, screenwriters Nick Moorcroft and Piers Answorth instead paint them as opportunists, capitalising on a macabre demand. It is difficult to see how the film would work otherwise, given the tone.

Burke and Hare exudes an air of camp reminiscent of the later Hammer horror films. This is assisted greatly by the supporting a cast, which includes Christopher Lee. Tim Curry is wonderfully camp as Dr Monroe, one of the movie’s villains. Elsewhere, Ronnie Corbett, Tom Wilkinson and Hugh Bonneville play as if they are very much in on the joke. The result is a film that does not take itself too seriously; an attitude that works very well.

Given that Burke and Hare‘s narrative centres on corpses, the presence of gore is unsurprising. However, there is not an excess, and any such depictions are not overly realistic. The film has a limited palette of dark and drab colours, so blood does stand out. It is so bright, nevertheless, that it appears fake rather than shocking. This appears to be the aim of the filmmakers, given that Burke and Hare is a black comedy.

Simon Pegg as Burke and Andy Serkis as Hare are great as the bumbling duo. It is just a shame that they were not given better lines by the screenwriters. Isla Fisher is bubbly as Burke’s love interest Ginny, although her accent is patchy. Jessica Hynes is solid as the sometimes alcoholic Lucky, delivering a number of laughs with her physical comedy.

Not the first film based on the story of the grave-robbing duo, Burke and Hare takes a light-hearted approach to quite a sombre topic. It is just a shame that laughs were not more frequent.