Director: Martin Koolhoven
Stars: Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Emilia Jones, Kit Harington, Carice van Houten
Released: 29th September 2017 (UK)
Reviewer: Sinead Beverland (@sinb)
A frontier set film promising a strong female lead fighting for her survival is a premise to lure in even the most reluctant viewer. Couple that with the tease of a scene chomping performance of religious mania from Guy Pearce, known only as the Reverend and Brimstone should tick all the boxes and a few extra for good measure. With an incredibly strong opening, visually and emotionally, you are immediately hooked in to the story world but as it progresses, the power of the film is somewhat diminished and discomfort starts to set in.
Liz (Dakota Fanning), a mute woman who acts as the local midwife, lives with her husband, stepson and daughter on the wilds of the American plain. Their ordinary, good lives are disturbed when the Reverend (Guy Pearce) appears on the pulpit, preaching to the congregation. Akin to Clint Eastwood’s ‘man with no name’, he arrives with no introduction and little back story. It is immediately clear he is connected to Liz in some way and despite his religious words, he does not come in peace. He claims she has caused a man’s death and he has come to take her back to face her apparent crimes.
Brimstone is divided in to four chapters; revelation, exodus, genesis and retribution. It is a perfect framing device for the story, which unfolds backwards, filling in the story of Liz and the Reverend until it comes full circle back to the climactic chapter. Writer / Director Koolhoven crafts the story well, releasing information slowly and although viewers might be one step ahead of him in plot, this doesn’t detract from the telling of the tale. The music and visuals are impressive and the early chapters of the film feel raw, yet this style is somewhat abandoned for a more other worldly feel which lacks the believability and intenseness that initially serves the film well.
From the moment Guy Pearce takes to the screen you know that his take on religion is a skewed one. Strongly reminiscent of Robert Mitchum in ‘Night of the Hunter’, he carries a sense of presence when he appears, his eyes black and his expression set. Unfortunately as the film progresses and we hear more from the Dutch Reverend, he does not live up to the strength of Mitchum’s Harry Powell. He is a viscous and brutal man but his rhetoric does not carry the same punch as his silence. By chapter three; genesis, the stakes become so extreme, Pearce’s performance starts to seem a little caricatured which is a shame.
As we learn more about Liz’s past and her connection to the Reverend, the film becomes harder to watch and takes a step steps towards gratuity rather than vicious, visceral film making. When the younger Liz is introduced to a cathouse full of prostitutes, from here on out the treatment of women is brutal and excessive. One could argue that this is a depiction of the times, but there is little balance here, apart from the brief inclusion of Kit Harrington’s character Samuel, who offers some hope for the tortured young Liz.
With Koolhoven seeming to decide to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Liz, the subtle terror of her world feels undermined as you wonder what on earth could possibly happen to her next. There’s no doubting that Fanning (and Emilia Jones as her younger counterpart) give sterling performances, but the character ends up feeling a martyr rather than the strong woman she clearly is. A brief interlude of her friendship with fellow prostitute (Carla Juri) is a touching element within the story, allowing for more character insight and Juri gives a charming and feisty portrayal. A development of this to counterbalance the Reverend’s actions would have been welcomed.
Having watched Liz’s struggle through life, ultimately you want to leave the cinema feeling triumphant, yet instead you feel downhearted, which given everything that has happened is a strange sensation. Whilst Koolhoven’s eye and style are hard to fault, it is the extremity of story that lets the film down on the whole. If the later chapters had been a little more reigned in, Brimstone could have been epic.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★
Released: 20th July 2018
Directed By: Ol Parker
Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
The iconic Swedish pop group said ‘Thank You For The Music!’. An overjoyed studio said ‘Thank You For The Box Office!’.
Sure. Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA’s SOS had a hint of the Borat (Sorry Sacha!) about it. But the summer of 2008 bared witness to a cinematic juggernaut in ‘Mamma Mia’, a jubilant jukebox musical whose sense of joy and fun proved irresistible for audiences. Considering life’s too short. Ten years on we return to the sumptuous setting of Kalokairi Greece with ‘Here We Go Again’, as the sequel fleshes out the timeline, remaining keen to create more cinematic memories.
Content with her unorthodox triple father situation in Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) fierce determination to honour her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) dream of renovating her surroundings into a lavish hotel, coincides with the severe turbulence she’s enduring in her ongoing relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper).
Increasingly doubtful of her own capabilities. The dynamo duo of Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie look to bolster her confidence by delving into Donna’s past, as Lily James’ enthused younger incarnation of the character guides us through her eventful youth with the dungarees intact, reliving her initial encounters in 1979 with Sophie’s dads (Hugh Skinner/Jeremy Irvine/Josh Dylan).
Previously unapologetic in its ramshackle charm and high camp. Director Ol Parker to much relief resists applying restraint to its energetic, big-hearted song and dance numbers, whilst technically and narratively tightening up the deficiencies that perhaps plagued its 2008 counterpart for the purists, with a sharper focus on emotional engagement. As a result, it may not be as quick to overwhelm us with its blindingly sunny disposition like its predecessor, occasionally labouring in its first half with its time-hopping.
Yet when those glorious highs arrive like a new take on ‘Dancing Queen’ and Cher’s stellar firework-heavy rendition of ‘Fernando’, whose cameo evoked hearty cheers in the screening i was in. They are now armed with a poignant and reflective slant, reinforcing the ingenuity in how these timeless songs are integrated into the framework, in order to offer fresh interpretations.
Lighting up the screen as a young Donna Sheridan. Lily James captures the carefree spirit and mannerisms of the character superbly, proving a solid counterpart to Meryl Streep’s original performance and Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in the singing stakes. Speaking of Streep, much has been made about her (lack of?) involvement in this follow-up. Without slipping into spoiler territory, her gorgeous screen moments this time around epitomise why many fans deemed her an instant hit in the first film. Elsewhere, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to provide fantastic farce, stealing much of the script’s zingy dialogue whilst Andy Garcia’s enigmatic hotel manager is a disarming and dashing addition.
It may not have been a sequel we were warming up the vocal chords for. Yet in striking a killer balance between emotive and euphoric. ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a truly wonderful follow-up that brims with sincerity and show-stopping splendour.
Dig out the spandex and unleash your inner ‘Super Trouper’…
Hotel Artemis ★★★
Released: 20th July 2018
Directed By: Drew Pearce
Starring: Jodie Foster, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Iron Man 3 alum Drew Pearce makes his feature directorial debut with this slick future-set actioner – evoking the neon-tinged hyperbolic aesthetic of John Wick and applying it to a more stripped-down set-up akin to Joe Carnahan’s strangely forgotten Smoking Aces. Hotel Artemis sees the eponymous underworld hospital of the future come under siege by forces both outside and in, with a who’s-who of “hey – it’s….!” figures to bring its gleefully vitriolic war well and truly to life.
On Pearce’s part, Hotel Artemis knows its own playbook pretty well – tense action beats are played with coherence but don’t skimp on imagination, and the staging of it all is first rate. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, leads an engaging cast that includes a wonderfully sleazy Charlie Day, the brilliantly deadpan Sterling K. Brown, and an amusingly in-her-comfort-zone Sofia Boutella. It’s best to keep as much of its casting a surprise as possible, but there’s tons of fun to be had via mere cast reveals to keep proceedings engaging.
On the action front, though, it is strange that Hotel Artemis feels as subdued as it does as regards its own sense of internal rage. Whilst far from a bloodless PG-13, Pearce’s film never quite embeds itself as much in the hyperviolence of its world as you’d expect, or, rather, hope. It’s certainly no John Wick in that sense, and, though there is a decent share of world-building to kick things off, it’s quickly evident that this element of restraint is self-imposed by Pearce’s writing, rather than a by-product of now requisite franchise-creation. Hotel Artemis, incidentally, could easily garner itself a cheap and cheerful sequel or two, were there somehow a demand.
On the back of this pretty solid ninety minute actioner, that’s absolutely a consideration. The world it builds is fleshed out enough to intrigue, the cast are game for an intriguing balance of quirk and creepiness, and Pearce steps up to the director’s chair with unbroken confidence and a comic book sensibility that takes him deftly to the finish line. Stoker cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung astonishes as ever, and, while not his showiest work to date, Cliff Martinez’s score fleshes out the bonkers world of Hotel Artemis nicely.
Best aimed at those looking for another round of Smoking Aces-grade action – though, without quite the same singular ferocity – Hotel Artemis is a nice bit of bullet-laden fun with a lively cast and some slick visuals. It’ll never be one of the iconic points on the timeline of action cinema, but it’s a worthy stop-off on the way between the ones that are.
Released: 12th July 2018
Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.
Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.
Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.
Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.
In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.
It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.
Zachary Levi Is ‘Shazam!’ In Official Teaser Trailer
Fantastical Debut Trailer For ‘Aquaman’ Welcomes You To Atlantis
First ‘Godzilla: King Of The Monsters’ Trailer Is An Atomic Blast
Official Comic-Con Trailer For ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald’
A Look Inside ‘Mortal Engines’ Feature
Meryl Streep’s 21 Academy Award Nominations
The Game of Poker in James Bond Films
MM Supports: You Are My Sunshine
MM Supports: Violent Lines
Cannes 2018 Spotlight: Marcello Fonte Wins Best Actor For ‘Dogman’ Performance
News3 days ago
Lin-Manuel Miranda To Make His Directorial Debut With ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’
News4 days ago
It’s Paratroopers Versus Nazi Zombies in ‘Overlord’ Trailer
Featured Review2 days ago
Hotel Artemis ★★★
Trailers5 days ago
Mission: Impossible – Fallout ”No Hard Feelings’ Clip
News4 days ago
New ‘Welcome To Marwen’ Trailer Is An Emotional Ride
News5 days ago
A Rooftop Cinema Screen is coming to Camden with a Best of British Film Season.
News5 days ago
Powerful Debut Trailer For Joel Edgerton’s ‘Boy Erased’
News5 days ago
Official ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Trailer Is Here To Rock Your World