Warcraft

Duncan Jones’ first film Moon had some of the most impressive models I’ve seen in a low budget title and it seems like quite a leap to move to a production which I reckon is 84% CGI and an astronomical amount of money involved. But here we have Warcraft, a fantasy epic that while impressing with its style and effects lost me completely in its characters and story. For once there was one (a story) but as this was my first foray into this world the place names, people and magic had me scratching my head, I wonder if it was any clearer for people who have played the game? In amongst the ambitious battles and sweeping aerial shots over vast cities there is still some subtle and clever camera work. Music, acting and direction are all great and I was intrigued to see it through to the end even though it was all a bit over my head. Go and see it for the spectacle and the fantasy and the Orcs but don’t expect to come out any the wiser than when you went in.

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The Jungle Book

As far as Disney films go ‘Jungle Book’ is one of the classics, the characters so familiar and the songs so catchy (I bet at one time or another every one of you has belted out a drunken Bear Necessities) so it was with a little trepidation I went to see the all new updated version. Whenever someone says they are going to remake something from your childhood it is normally followed by the heads in your hands motion because they are always so bad, but not this time. More of a reimagining than remake it keeps the characters and even cleverly bits of the songs the script stays along a similar line but is adapted when needed. But what really makes this version stand out is the casting, Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is truly terrifying but balanced out by Bill Murray’s goofy Baloo, but its Christopher Walken who steals the show with his speech akin to the watch tale from Pulp Fiction, his King Louie has a certain kind of menace. I have heard people criticize Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli, but for a child actor most of the time acting to nothing in front of a green screen I thought he was great. So to conclude funny, scary, familiar, new, beautiful and faithful, all the emotions that a good film should give you.

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Victoria

Films done in one take (or supposedly in one take) is nothing new, we have Oscar winner Birdman and famously Hitchcock’s Rope, now there’s another to add to the list in the form of ‘Victoria’. This two and a half hour handheld film from Germany is tense, claustrophobic and almost Dogme like in its execution. From the start you get a real sense that things are not going to go well for our namesake and central character a trait that runs throughout the duration, which is what makes this such a good thriller, you just never know what is coming next. Shot in Berlin we follow Victoria as she prepares to end her night only to find it has only just begun, this lost Spanish girl gets out of her depth when she is coerced by a group of local lads into continuing her night in their company. What follows is a spiral of events that threaten to change everyone involved and keep the viewer on a knifes edge. I don’t want to give too much away as part of the stressful fun of the film is the way your nerves unravel along with the action as the close up camera work keeps you right in the middle of the story. With a standout performance from Laia Costa and a cast of many all hitting their marks in the city ‘Victoria’ is a film you won’t forget in a hurry.

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Knight of Cups

Right let’s get one thing out of the way, Knight of Cups is shot beautifully, the cinematography, the locations, the lighting all superb everything else I’m afraid is a different matter. Malick’s latest, and I’m a fan of his work, is perhaps his worst output to date, it’s the ultimate in white people whinging. Imagine the Sean Penn bits from ‘Tree of Life’ stretched out to nearly two hours but with Penn played by a melancholy Batman, perhaps because he’s swapped his cool car for a bad moustache and appears to spend most of the time bemused as to where his shoes have gone. He mumbles his way through the film spouting more pretentious nonsense than a broken tap while attending one party after the other. He looks miserable by the pool, he looks deep in thought covered in models, he looks like he’s trying to hold in a tiny fart while contemplating the works of some of the finest philosophers of our time, as some would say it’s a hard life. Malick’s style is also now so predictable that you can play the ‘what shot comes next’ game. Bale on a beach looking at the sky followed by grass blowing in the breeze followed by a street full of time-lapse traffic at night so next has to be a solitary cactus in a desert right? Damn jellyfish under a black light, so close. I’m sure there are messages somewhere in the text but it is more jumbled than the sick that would come out of Christopher Nolan’s mouth after eating a rotten thesaurus. Oh yeah and apparently it has something to do with tarot cards? But I, like most of the cast, am none the wiser.

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Anomalisa

Anomalisa is another trip into the fabulously wonderful mind of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine, Being John Malkovich) and while he doesn’t always hit (Synecdoche New York) you can’t say his work isn’t interesting. Anomalisa is one of those films that will polarize people, some will find it head scratchingly boring and others will be charmed by its tale of human identity told entirely by stop motion puppets. David, voiced by Thewlis, is on tour promoting his book about wellbeing but the irony is all is not well with him. Told through a series of hotel based situations he is spiralling until he meets Lisa and things change. The film asks a lot of metaphorical questions like why are the corridors so long? Why does everyone (apart from the leads) have the same voice? What is going on with David’s face? Kaufman once again weaves what on the surface is a simple romance/morality tale into something much more and with that in mind this is another that will I’m sure require multiple viewings.

On a side note it also contains one of the funniest jokes of the year at the beginning.

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The Survivalist

The survivalist is different in that it is set in a world gone to shit but unlike other post-apocalyptic films it is set in a lush green wood. In a shack in this wood lives our ‘survivalist’ foraging off the land as best he can and burning each night his slowly dwindling belongings and reminders of the past. Every night he fortifies his shack and sleeps with one eye open should anyone come and try to steal his things or worse. Everything is fine until mother and daughter show up asking to share in his harvest, first they offer seeds and eventually sex and a strange family unit is formed one that has palatable mistrust on all sides. There is no music and hardly any dialogue adding to the fear and tension created by the situations. The Survivalist offers no explanations or answers but instead shows you a snap shot of life where food and water are worth more than gold and the lengths people will go to collect and protect just that, it’s a cruel and unforgiving world and as one character says ‘no one who lives in it is without blood on their hands’.

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Bone Tomahawk

Back in the day westerns were ten a penny but you don’t seem to get many anymore even on television we only really had Deadwood and Hell on Wheels to dampen our appetite for all things cowboy. So when there’s a big screen outing it will get scrutinised by critics and fans alike. Bone Tomahawk follows in the footsteps of last year’s Slow West and for want and a better word is really a road trip on horses. A simple enough story is brought to life by the characters, good and bad, the cinematography and the violence and believe me there is violence. Brutal as the times themselves the film doesn’t shy away from showing you gory details but it is essential in the overall picture being shown. Kurt Russell leads the cast looking almost identical to his character in Hateful Eight, making me wonder if the two were filmed on adjacent plots and after a few dodgy roles and his perfect turn in Fargo season 2 Patrick Wilson is now proving he has what it takes. I have heard a few say that this film is destined to grow into a cult classic and for once I cannot disagree but I urge you not to wait that long.

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