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Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

“These Creatures Were Here Before Us. And If We’re Not Careful, They’re Going To Be Here After…”

With Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World managing to take an eye-watering amount of cash at both the worldwide and U.S domestic box office back in 2015, a sequel to the return to all things dinosaurs was rather unsurprising and expected giving the current cinematic climate, and with Fallen Kingdom adding to the already mind-blowing array of big-screen blockbusters within the past six months, 2018 seems to be the year to beat in terms of record breaking ticket sales. With Trevorrow taking a step back from directorial duties for the time being, with the American reduced to executive producer before returning to the director’s chair for the third Jurassic World instalment in 2021, The Orphanage and A Monster Calls director, J. A. Bayona takes control of a middle trilogy entry which remains high on gorgeous spectacle and charismatic characters, but one too which is aching for any meaningful level of substance, but with a flashy, beautifully designed catalogue of reincarnated dinosaurs and a riveting potential set-up for Jurassic World part three, Fallen Kingdom is a popcorn-induced exercise of cinematic box-ticking which becomes more rewarding the less you examine its’ rather obvious many faults.

With the movie sweeping towards you with a break-neck speed from the outset, the frenetic pacing of the piece provides quite obviously a film which may have benefited from being broken in two, with the first hour dedicated to a return to Isla Nubar, the titular home of the Jurassic Park franchise, for the basis of a rescue operation after the introduction of previously inactive volcano which is set on eradicating all life on the island, and the second hour a hammer-horror style exaggerated set-piece which sees the newly created Indoraptor wreak havoc within the confines of a mansion where the richest of the rich have come to exploit the now captured prehistoric beasts. With characterisation out the window and the emphasis instead on set pieces, Bayona’s movie attempts to juggle a wide range of interesting notions, ranging from animal rights to the strange inclusion of human cloning, amidst continuous destruction in order to both add something original and stay faithful to audiences who come to just see dinosaur mayhem on-screen, and whilst the end result is messy, the attempt can at least be applauded, particularly when some of the more downright horror inflicted elements of the movie work rather efficiently. With a handful of gorgeously executed shots, including the sight of a sole dinosaur being swollen up by the darkness of an on-shore volcano and the biggest survival downhill run seen in years, Bayona’s take on the Jurassic World franchise is admirable and engaging enough to paint over the creases, and with a tantalising premise hinted at during its’ conclusion, Fallen Kingdom is undoubtedly the middle act of a wider scheme which does its’ duties well enough to suit the generic movie-going audience eager for some explosive digital dinosaur action.

Overall Score: 7/10

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Film Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I’ve Never Completely Freed Myself From The Suspicion That There Are Some Extremely Odd Things About This Mission…” 

With The Shining re-released into cinema chains across the country last year, the brilliance of Stanley Kubrick’s masterful adaptation of Stephen King’s most iconic novel meant that audiences could experience the works of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time for potentially the first occasion upon the big screen, and with this year being fifty years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chance to embrace one of the greatest and most influential science fiction movies of all time within the confines of all its’ cinematic glory is similarly too tantalising to pass by. Based upon Arthur C. Clarke’s 1951 short story, “The Sentinel”, Kubrick’s undisputed masterpiece has been subject to tributes, parody and political analysis in regards to its’ potential leanings on the filming of the Moon landing ever since its’ first release, a questionable standpoint if ever there was one, and with groundbreaking special effects, a spine-tingling musical accompaniment and the subversive, auteur touch of Kubrickian’s perfectionist idealism, 2001 remains to this day an unmissable experience, one which captures the scope of endless cinematic possibility and one which emphasises the bold strokes of a master filmmaker at his most unparalleled and extravagant.

With the fanfare of Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” bellowing majestically against the backdrop of Earth’s reveal, a stellar introductory piece which rivals the opening scroll of Star Wars for most iconic science fiction prologue, the first act’s dedication to the discovery of both man’s ability to kill and the appearance of the ominous alien monolith is a staggering work of cinematic bravery, one which picks off those unable to handle the stagnated, silent aura of Kubrick’s storytelling and one which features the most ridiculous, yet brilliant, editing jump cut in which two instruments of death are swiftly compared, just with million of years in between. With on-screen speech not occurring until the twenty minute mark when the introduction of William Sylvester’s Dr. Heywood Floyd brings with it exposition which attempts to outline the ambiguous nature surrounding a supposed mass epidemic at a moon-based space station, the gorgeous special effects and cute, clever technical asides being presented to the backdrop of Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” is an outstanding cinematic partnership, with the set design and Oscar winning visual effects both remarkable and as beautiful today as it would have been half a century ago, and for younger audiences who have been treated to increasingly impressive special effects over the past few decades or so, the one real reservation of seeing the effects of 2001 on the big screen is the shame of not seeing it back in 1968 when its’ unprecedented spectacle would have been jaw-dropping.

As the movie moves into its third act and most impressive act, the trials and tribulations of the ill-fated Jupiter Mission is the centrepiece of the film’s real action, a tense build-up of muddled uncertainty and of course, the deadly “malfunctioning” of the iconic HAL-9000, the super computer whose flawless and perfect technical record is questioned by Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea’s Frank Poole and David Bowman, two on-board scientists unaware of the bigger picture surrounding their suspiciously ambiguous deep space mission. With Douglas Rain brilliantly supplying the voice for HAL, his creepy yet elegant monotone speech is the work of genius, one which captures perfectly the sense of something that may indeed feel human but is undoubtedly still a cold and very calculating machine, a factor evidenced by the relatively nonchalant way death is portrayed on-screen. With the final twenty minutes dedicated to Bowman’s journey through the Infinite, the famous surrealist “star-gate” sequence is absolutely bewildering and stunning to behold within the cinematic format, a vivid roller-coaster of beautiful imagery which transports the audience to science fiction heaven and beyond. With a concluding act which leaves all questions intact without clear answers or the chance for any form of meaningful resolution like the best science fiction movies are brave enough to do, 2001: A Space Odyssey deserves its’ chance to be witnessed on the big screen, and with it hard to believe such a movie has ticked over to the ripe old age of fifty, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kubrick’s masterpiece still as effective as ever in another fifty years’ time.

Overall Score: 10/10

Film Review: Revenge

“There Are Three Of Us And We’re Armed. What Are You Afraid Of…?”

With rape revenge movies holding precedent with the likes of infamous video nasties including Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, two 1970’s era releases which both ended up on the Director of Public Prosecution’s list for decade-long bans and subsequently ended up being re-made for a twentieth century audience for reasons still unknown to this day, French big-screen debutante, Coralie Fargeat, cuts her teeth with Revenge, a ridiculously hyper-violent but uproariously entertaining B-movie which sees Matilda Lutz (Rings) as Jennifer, an eye-catching and knowingly beautiful socialite who travels with Kevin Janssens’ millionaire playboy-type, Richard, to a rural, secluded property in the middle of golden sanded desert and is swiftly left for dead after being raped by one of Richard’s associates. Whilst the cliches and the straightforward nature of the central narrative is one not exactly harbouring on originality, Revenge succeeds in a wide range of fields elsewhere, with its’ ripe and tantalising stylish sensibility in particular an astonishingly brave and bold cinematic treat, and with strong performances and a staggering amount of seemingly endless levels of bloodshed, Fargeat’s big-screen debut is a joyous, if tough, cinematic debut.

With Julia Ducournau showing the world last year what can be achieved if given free reigns to commit to a particular first-time project, her own personal debut in the form of the excellent Raw does bear many similarities to Revenge, particularly in regards to its’ use of tone, style and B-movie violence, and whilst its’ hard to envisage any movie which contains the notion of sexual violence in any form as blackly comic, Fargeat’s direction of the events which unfold on-screen can’t help but be chuckled at in a completely over-the-top kind of fashion, particularly as the movie morphs from its’ strongly sadistic opening act to a second half which almost falls into the realm of absurdity and incomprehensibility. With bucket loads of blood, Tarantino-esque gun shot wounds and toe-curling personal first aid skills, Revenge doesn’t hold back on its’ well deserved 18 rating and whilst many may find the contradictory tone between the opening first act and the remaining hour or so slightly alienating, the sheer ripeness of the style in which the action plays out is staggeringly entertaining and jaw-dropping at times to behold. With a lurid, neon-dipped colour palette set against the backdrop of a searing golden-plain desert, the movie feels like a hybrid of Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon and Mad Max: Fury Road, and with a penchant for the latter’s unchained craziness riding through it like a hot poker, Fargeat’s debut is a wild, ultra-violent ride which will undoubtedly make even the most well-versed horror movie fan wriggle in their seat.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Let Me Give You Some Advice. Assume Everyone Will Betray You And You Will Never Be Disappointed…”

Within the space of just one blockbusting cinematic month, audiences across the globe have been joyously rewarded with big release after big release, with Infinity War and Deadpool 2 both hotly anticipated franchise follow ups which have seemingly succeeded to staggering degrees in terms of both their critical appeal and eye-watering box office figures, particular in regards to the former which has managed to cement its’ place quite rightly into the top five highest grossing films of all time. Another week therefore brings with it yet another Disney backed big budget extravaganza in the form of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second spin-off in the ever expanding space opera franchise after 2016’s Rogue One and a movie which explores the early undertakings of Alden Ehrenreich’s (Hail, Caesar!) young, cocky and confident take on the titular space pilot. With high-profile production issues, including the firing of original director’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 and 22 Jump Street fame after “creative differences” and mumbling’s regarding Ehrenreich’s on-set acting ability, a strange rumour if ever there was one considering his superb performance in Hail, Caesar!, Solo seemed doomed to fail from the outset, and with fan expectation an all-time low for a cinematic release with the Star Wars branding after mixed responses to its’ fundamental existence, does Solo manage to fend off its’ many steely-eyed critics?

Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, the film does exactly just that, swapping the melancholic and controversially bold tones of Rogue One and The Last Jedi respectively for a more conventional science fiction romp, one stuffed full of exhilarating action set pieces, interesting new characters and a youth-infused charm thanks to the steady handed nature of its’ well-formed cast who have gripped tightly the chance to step into the shoes of iconic franchise personas. With Ron Howard taking over directorial duties halfway through the filming process and capturing a reported seventy percent of the finished article on his own say, for a man whose back catalogue varies from greatness (Rush, Frost/Nixon) to outright blandness (Inferno, In The Heart of the Sea), the “steady handed” approach of Howard’s film-making abilities isn’t exactly the first name to spring to mind when attempting to rebuild a reportedly sunken ship, but credit of course should be handed when its’ due and whilst its’ hard to gauge perhaps Howard’s stamp on the final product, Solo is undeniably well made and makes up for its’ somewhat straightforward hero narrative by having the most fun possible with its’ strong points, akin to say the more low-key Marvel releases such as Ant-Man and Doctor Strange which play to a sense of familiarity but succeed due to the commitment showed by all involved.

With Ehrenreich easing into the inexperienced, swaggering nature of a hopeful Han Solo, the film begins by presenting the central relationship between Solo and Emilia Clarke’s (Game of Thrones) Qi’ra, a fellow low-born survivor who like Han himself, will do anything to survive the perilous world of slavers, gangsters and thieves which the film resides in. With Solo’s journey resulting in introductions to Woody Harrelson’s (Three Billboards) father figure, Tobias Beckett, Paul Bettany’s (Infinity War) scar-ridden criminal, Dryden Voss, and of course, Donald Glover’s (The Martian) charming interpretation of Lando Calrissian, the range of bright, fascinating characters allows the limited amount of time spent on deep, meaningful characterisation to be somewhat overlooked, with Howard at times more interested in a rapid, relentless editing pace which moves from one well designed planet to the the next without ever really having the chance to breathe. Whilst the relationship between Qi’ra and Solo is somewhat generic and functional, the real bromance of the piece is of course between Solo and Chewbacca, the furry, murderous Wookie who is as charming and fundamentally likeable as ever, and with the interactions between the cast effective and wickedly humorous, the Disney stamp which has made most of the entries in the MCU so great is vividly on show to see. With it meant to be the undisputed train wreck of the year, Solo: A Star Wars Story turns out to be anything but, a splendidly ludicrous popcorn fest which ties into the franchise’s space opera mantra with ease, a movie which will hopefully appease the fans left cold by The Last Jedi and one which proves that when in doubt, get the right guys in to get the job done.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Deadpool 2

“Doing The Right Thing Is Messy. You Want To Fight For What’s Right, Sometimes You Have To Fight Dirty…”

With Avengers: Infinity War concurring global box office domination for the past four weeks or so, it seems only fair that another highly anticipated superhero sequel should try and chip at the financial willingness of a 21st century, comic-hungry audience, and whilst that sequel this week is of course Deadpool 2, it comes at no surprise that Marveland more unsurprisingly, Disney, feel the need to make even more eye-watering sums of cash with yet another hot release. I mean come on, it almost feels like yet another Star Wars should be coming out soon, right? Right? Swapping mass universal destruction and gut wrenching superhero genocide for the 15 rated oeuvre in which 2016’s Deadpool graced its’ successful presence, Deadpool 2 swaps original director, Tim Miller, for Atomic Blonde and unaccredited John Wick director, David Leitch, as it attempts to build on the meta-referencing, fourth-wall breaking shenanigans of its’ predecessor and proving the joke of R-rated comic book carnage isn’t as one note as one might expect. With the original Deadpool described in my own review as “not amazing, but enjoyable nonetheless” and a movie which “goes in one ear and carves its’ way out the other in the most violent and adolescent way possible”, it’s ironic how such sentiments echo the feeling of its’ sequel, a movie which takes the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 approach of playing to its’ predecessors strengths and attempting to expand upon them to successful degrees, and whilst Vol.2 never was going to match the success of its’ respective predecessor, Deadpool 2 does manage to complete such a task and whilst Leitch’s movie still isn’t on the same level of excellence as other Marvel alternatives, it’s still a expletive laden ride.

With Ryan Reynolds (Life) returning as the invincible and titular figure of Wade Wilson, the added inclusion of 2018’s man of the year, Josh Brolin, as the time travelling, futuristic cyborg killer, Nathan Summers/Cable, is undeniably one of the more pressing reasons for the sequel’s existence, but with Brolin’s superbly crafted digital performance of Thanos in Infinity War setting a new bar for superhero villains, it’s surprising how little character development Brolin’s Cable is afforded in the movie’s extended two hour runtime, resulting in his character somewhat lacking in memorability even when Brolin is as cool and imposing as ever. With an added level of sentiment within a Looper inspired narrative, particularly aided by the inclusion of Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s, Julian Dennison, the tonal shifts between shock value comedy and gut punching loss does not work well at all, with the early death of an important character not entirely suiting the film’s overly silly sensibility, but with at least eighty percent of the quickfire puns and sharp, slick in-house references resulting in effective laughs, Deadpool 2 feeds the paying audience exactly what they want without ever stopping slow enough to fall out of the carnival-esque state the movie straps you into, and with solid enough action and comedy set pieces, a quickfire editing pace and a combination of brilliantly designed pre and post credit sequences, Deadpool 2 is flashier, more experimental and much more rewarding that its’ first incarnation, but too a movie which begs the question how much longer the joke can be stretched out before it begins to feel slightly tiresome. I’m sure the box office will have the final answer on that one.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Breaking In

“I Know This Is Not How You Wanted To Spend Your Weekend…”

Directed by James McTeigue, a filmmaker who has never really eclipsed the success of his debut big-screen feature in the form of the rather excellent V for Vendetta, Breaking In, starring Gabrielle Union (Sleepless) in the leading role as mother of two, Shaun Russell, is essentially a hybrid crossover of a wide range of famous, historic movies, one which sees Russell attempt to save her children after they are locked inside a ultra-secure familial home with violent burglars who have come to claim a large monetary stash for their own. With a strange shadow of Panic Room airing over it, McTeigue’s movie is undeniably wrapped in B-Movie sensibility, and as the action moves from paranoid thriller to Die Hard territory and arguably even more so onto Hostage territory, a movie which in itself was a rather perfunctory rip-off of Die Hard anyhow and a film which too featured Bruce Willis, Breaking In is a movie which ultimately knows its boundaries, its’ flaws and complete lack of substance but runs with it anyway, and with a kick-ass leading heroine in the form of Union undeniably audience winning, McTeigue’s movie surprisingly falls into the category of enjoyable silliness.

With dialogue so exposition heavy throughout it seems to have been churned out in a cliched text machine, the first twenty minutes highlights the rather extreme security capabilities of the household in which Union’s Shaun has been tasked with selling after the sudden and unexpected death of her powerful father. With drones, bulletproof wall coverings and more CCTV coverage than the city of London, the stage is set for the action to unfold, and whilst the movie does fall rather heavily into generic conventions in regards to its’ typeface leading villain, lack of real tangible peril and an overly predictable Hollywood ending, the real interest resides in Union’s portrayal of a mother figure who will do absolutely anything in order to be re-united with her children, no matter what the consequences and how violent they may be. With laughable editing of obvious foul language and a mixed degree to which on-screen violence is approached, it seems obvious the filmmakers opted for a Taken 3 sensibility by aiming for the 12A threshold which ultimately was rejected, but with a classy eighty minute runtime and enough twisting, narrative turns in order to get to the film’s inevitable conclusion, Breaking In isn’t exactly groundbreaking but it does the job comfortably enough and for that I’m more than happy with.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Life of the Party

“Somebody’s Mum Just Enrolled In College..!”

Following on from the release of the Amy Schumer led I Feel Pretty this weekAmerica’s second favourite female comedian of the moment, Melissa McCarthy (Spy) feels the need to grace us with her presence upon the big screen too within Life of the Party, a morbidly unfunny back-to-school drama which sees McCarthy’s recently divorced mum Deanna Miles feel the need to attend her daughter’s college in order to finally complete her degree after dropping out previously in order to care for her family. Cue dance offs, excessive drinking and sleeping with minors of an uncertain age and what we have with Life of the Party is yet another swing at attempting to create the legacy and enjoyment of a film such as National Lampoon’s Animal House albeit with a narrative twist which attempts to showcase every child’s living hell when their respective parent drops in uninvited at a party, jumper and rucksack in toe, and with contemporary coming-of-age comedies such as Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! an example of smartly written and successful on-screen American frat house debaucheries, McCarthy’s latest manages to at least capture that sense of awkward family reunions by being a film which no-one in their right mind really wants to admit to having enjoyed let alone be a part of.

With McCarthy one of the many contemporary U.S based comic actors who have failed to ignite any sense of interest thus far thanks to less than spectacular performances within the likes of The Boss and Ghostbusters, her reunion with husband Ben Falcone once again proves that her supposed potential has been put tragically to waste, with Life of the Party a soulless, cringey and overly annoying attempt at a comedy which aside from one stand-out set piece, is rather quite unbearable from beginning to end. With a whiny, screechy voice and totally awkward sensibility, McCarthy’s Deanna holds solid ground for most annoying character of the year in film, with the first hour in which we see her attempt to embed herself within the college lifestyle simply torturous to endure, and with the younger actors, particularly Molly Morgan’s Millie and Gillian Jacobs’ Helen, not only much more interesting but universally more entertaining and comedic than their elder leading star, there is indeed a somewhat successful movie embedded within the action, but just one that doesn’t happen to feature McCarthy in any shape or form. With a shock-tastic set piece towards the latter end of the movie offering the one real taste of interesting implausibility, by the time it gets around the damage has unfortunately already been done, with Life of the Party failing pretty miserably as both an example of contemporary American comedy and a project for McCarthy to thrive within, something of which backfires rather spectacularly.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: I Feel Pretty

“I’ve Always Wondered What It’s Like To Be Undeniably Pretty…”

Following on from the mediocrity of Trainwreck and the sheer awfulness of Snatched, the latest face of American comedy in the form of Amy Schumer returns this week with I Feel Pretty, an attempted idealistic comedy written and directed by the film-making duo of Abby Kohn and Mark Silverstein, whose previous work together includes Valentines Day and How To Be Single, which sees Schumer as Renee Bennett, an inspiring low-level worker for cosmetic giant, Lily LeClaire whose concerns regarding low self-esteem and sweeping generalisations regarding society’s reaction to those not considered “perfect” are suddenly vanquished after an accident which results in her seeing her own body image in a completely different light. With the film’s trailers pretty much giving away the entirety of the narrative from beginning to end, Schumer’s latest is a movie which relies too much on the supposed talent of Schumer and the underlying message of the film, but with a severe lack of comedic elements whatsoever and a convoluted, confused and mistreated discussion regarding beauty being on the internal rather than the external, I Feel Pretty is somewhat majorly out of fashion.

With Schumer attempting to juggle a wide range of narrative strands which range from her fortunate psychological switch, a relationship with Rory Scovel’s (The House) Ethan and her blossoming career path, one aided by the ever radiant Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea) as the highly pitched Avery LeClaire, a similarly confused fashion mogul whose freakishly kooky performance is undeniably the best element in the film, I Feel Pretty primarily fails to warrant its’ nearly two hour runtime and unsurprisingly outstays its’ welcome come just before the eighty minute mark. With the middle section of the movie in which Schumer manages to embrace her sudden boost in confidence actually managing to develop her leading character into someone resembling more of a walking punch bag than a redemption punching martyr for societal freedoms, the underlying themes regarding the expression of our individual beauty just becomes totally tedious, concluding in a cringe-laden final speech in which female liberation is expressed whilst conducting a pitch for high-end beauty products which attempt to make the lay person much more attractive. With no laughs, a lack of diligent editing techniques and Schumer yet again failing to impress, I Feel Pretty should have just focused on Michelle Williams’ character, something of which I would happily have enjoyed much much more.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: The Strangers: Prey at Night

“Is Someone Else Staying Here? I Thought We Were Alone..?”

With it being an entire decade since the release of Bryan Bertino’s mildly successful 2008 American horror, The Strangers, the follow up sequel, subtitled Prey at Night, finally hits the big screen under the direction of English filmmaker Johannes Roberts, whose previous credits include 47 Metres Down and The Other Side of the Door, with Bertino still attached to the project by supplying the screenplay for the movie alongside American pen pusher Ben Ketai. With the original film based on a culmination of the infamous Manson Family murders and a personal experience of break-ins in and around an area to which Bertino lived within, the 2008 release was nihilistic oddity with a genuine nasty streak which paid tribute to the likes of famous video nasties including Straw Dogs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left, and what Prey at Night offers is a very familiar, ultra violent slasher flick which overcomes a wide array of weaknesses thanks to a stylish, retro tone and various interesting and well orchestrated set pieces which offers the case for Roberts’ movie being a case of a sequel which improves upon the basis set by its’ predecessor.

With an opening act which introduces the quartet of leading familial victims including Christina Hendricks’ (Drive) mother figure, Cindy, Martin Henderson’s (Everest) Mike, and the two teenage children played by Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman, the attempt to flesh out any reasonable characterisation within the first twenty minutes fails pretty spectacularly, with the reasoning behind the families sudden venture to the most vacant of caravan parks not really expanded upon, resulting in a complete absence of empathy for when the inevitable violence eventually occurs. Thankfully however, once the action begins, Prey at Night continues the overly hyper-violent tone of the original to impressive means, utilising a surprising early character death to set the pace for remaining hour or so of the piece, and with the aid of the creepy masked killers, the iconic image of the series so far, the murderous rampage which the film embarks upon is surprisingly entertaining. Central to the film’s success however is a strangely ironic and satirical undertone, one which is beefed up by a wholly comedic and off-kilter 1980’s jukebox soundtrack, and one which allows individual set pieces to blossom with a heavy sense of style, particularly a latter act scene involving a superbly manoeuvred confrontation at a swimming pool which for me, took the film to a higher level than it possibly should have ever been, and although Prey at Night does indeed fall into a realm of cliche and predictability when looking back as a whole body of work, its’ the film’s style and nasty streak which makes the sequel work to an entertaining degree.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Beast

“Sweetheart, You Just Can’t Change The Rules Because Someone’s Showed An Interest…”

Appearing onto the cinematic fold with his first big-screen offering after a number of independent shorts, Michael Pearce writes and directs Beast, a spine-tingling, nihilistic and paranoid psychological thriller which sees Jessie Buckley’s (Taboo) Moll break free of her critical and controlling family as she comes into contact with Johnny Flynn’s (Clouds of Sils Maria) bohemian and free-spirited Pascal within the confines of an unnamed, rural and isolated community paralysed with fear after a number of young women are found brutally raped and murdered. With the ghost of Twin Peaks springing to mind each and every time there is a narrative crossover regarding the impact of death on a close-knit community, Pearce’s movie does impressively share a tonal similarity with David Lynch’s sprawling and surrealist masterpiece, with the film holding a relentless ominous tone up until its’ final, haunting shot, and whilst Beast decides to stay strictly within the realms of linear storytelling, with its’ feet planted heavily on the ground rather than conforming to the surrealist temperaments found in most Lynch works, its’ the shadow of the uncertain which brilliantly pushes the drama and undoubtedly leaves the audience in a contemplative mood regarding what has unfolded upon them.

Shot primarily on the island of Jersey, Pearce’s movie follows Buckley’s Moll, a reclusive, distant and dissatisfied daughter who resides at her home alongside the intrusive, demanding and judgemental figure of her mother, Hilary, brilliantly played by Geraldine James (Rogue One) who demands familial perfection. After stumbling across Flynn’s Pascal, a relationship between the two begins to blossom, much to the distaste of the rest of Moll’s family, resulting in a heavy sense of alienation as Moll begins to suspect that Pascal has much more to his questionable and overly murky history than it originally seems. Although Pearce’s movie features beautiful, sweeping landscapes and that particularly familiar British independent feel around it, akin to the melancholic temperament of Calvary and the uncertain sensibility of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, the film is not entirely cinematic throughout its’ 110 minute runtime, with dialogue set pieces heavily reminiscent of an ITV crime drama at times, but with a clear Hitchcock influence, particularly Shadow of a Doubt, acting as a thorough through line from start to finish, Pearce’s feature debut is a dark, twisted and enjoyably startling success.

Overall Score: 8/10