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Everything, Everything

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Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Stella Maghie

Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Ana de la Reguera, Anika Noni Rose, Dan Payne, Danube R. Hermosillo, Farryn VanHumbeck, Fiona Loewi, Françoise Yip, Nick Robinson, Peter Benson, Robert Lawrenson, Taylor Hickson

Released: August 18th, 2017

For a film about an unforgettable romance the worst crime Everything, Everything commits is not exactly searing itself into the minds of viewers as such. Everything, Everything is a fine enough teen love story, but it is also a very slight love story-never allowing us to become invested in the characters or passionate enough about their plight as it seems we should. Moreover, the film does this to itself as it very well could have allowed more time and dedicated more of that time to developing why our two leads do indeed fall head over heels for another. Alas, at only ninety-six minutes Everything, Everything only has so much space to divulge the complexities of our greatest of virtues. That isn’t to say the film doesn’t make good use of the time it does spend on our star-crossed lovers, but only that we get to the inevitable rather abruptly (which might otherwise be admired) leaving the remainder of the film and the risks these characters take for one another seem all the more drastic and irresponsible which is the last thing you want when your movie positions the kids as the heroes who are smarter than the adults that surround them. The point being, as with everything, ones reaction to Everything, Everything will largely depend on the stage of life that viewer is currently experiencing when taking it in. Being a young parent, but someone who still feels at least slightly in touch with youth/popular culture Everything, Everything played with my sympathies toward the conundrum our characters face while at the same time appreciating that were this to actually occur in the real world the parents would be more rational and the stakes nowhere near as dire. Young love wants to feel a little dangerous though, a little forbidden, and slightly scary-it is what gives it that rush of excitement and uncertainty; it is what makes it all that more memorable in hindsight and it is in these details, in the minutiae of such times, that Everything, Everything actually finds its success. Director Stella Maghie and the screenplay from J. Mills Goodloe (Age of Adaline) that was of course adapted from the New York Times Bestseller by Nicola Yoon doesn’t so much let her film stand on the shoulders of grand gestures or dramatic speeches, but more in the small, precise details of what makes love worth living for when you’re young and want nothing more than to feel indestructible. This focus on precise over big moments allows much of the underdevelopment and lack of any real arc to (mostly) be forgiven come the end of the movie. Still, you won’t remember much of it the next day.

Madeline “Maddy” Whittier (Amandla Stenberg or Rue from The Hunger Games) suffers from a rare condition called severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), meaning her antibodies are not able to properly fight off infection. She has spent the majority of her life and all that she can remember about that life inside the house her doctor of a mother (Anika Noni Rose) has made into a fortress of cleanliness. With all the latest technology and necessary adornments Maddy could essentially want for nothing and go on living a risk-free life, but of course-life happens. The only people allowed inside the house besides Maddy and her mother is Maddy’s nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and her daughter Rosa (Danube R. Hermosillo). It is when new neighbors move in next door that hormones begin to rage and thus we witness Maddy rush into something as serious as her first serious relationship simply because she is desperate for something real, something palpable. Such a desire comes in the form of Olly (Nick Robinson), a self-proclaimed loser of sorts who likes to wear black (very much in contrast to Maddy’s consistent all-white aesthetic) and appreciates a person with a few good vices. Things begin innocently enough as Olly is rightfully curious about the pretty girl next door who doesn’t come outside and whose mom refuses Bundt cake because it didn’t come from her immaculate kitchen. Olly begins by making distant meet-cute gestures from his bedroom window which is luckily just across from Maddy’s. After a few days he writes his number on his window and the two begin texting. They learn what they can about one another and rather quickly decide they like one another. The flirting continues which only increases the need for each party to get more out of the other. Texting from each other’s bedrooms gets old quickly; it’s not good enough. Maddy guilt’s Carla into allowing Olly to visit where they’re still not allowed to touch, but will of course only increase that desire tenfold. Things escalate as one might expect, but despite knowing the relationship at the heart of the story will most certainly go the predictable way of a movie what we don’t know is what way the fate of Maddy will go. Is Olly truly setting himself up for heartbreak or is there more to the narrative than meets the eye?

As these things go, Everything, Everything is right down the middle in terms of ambition and execution. Everything here is done in competent fashion, but in a pleasant twist there are certain aspects that highlight the continually evolving way in which texting and social media are presented on screen that are intriguing on their own. These spontaneous bursts of inspiration paired with both Robinson and Stenberg’s dedication to the material and making it work give the film the fresh, lightweight feeling it incessantly possesses. It is in these inspired moments that Everything, Everything is made more endearing as they are unexpected, but undoubtedly appreciated. Maghie certainly has a vision for the material she’s been given and isn’t content to simply sit by and let what could have easily directed itself be done in such a manner. The first instance of this comes after Maddy and Olly begin texting one another. Rather than having her two actors stare longingly at one another through glass Maghie allows them to come together at an old fashioned diner, in a booth-not dissimilar from the model Maddy has been working on as part of her homeschool curriculum. Maghie then proceeds to shoot the remainder of the conversation in this environment as if the two are not only talking face to face, but also in a dream-like state. The set is very much a diner, but it is surreal. There are still phone tones going off in the background when each character begins to speak signaling this is still only a text conversation, but to remove that barrier and convey the state of minds these two individuals must feel like they’re in when talking to one another despite the obvious hurdle is what makes a viewer sit up and smile. Further down the road, Maghie again uses a technique much like Marc Webb did in (500) Days of Summer in the expectation vs. reality scene where, the second time Maddy and Olly meet face to face, the subtext of the dialogue the two are speaking to one another shows up at the bottom of the screen as if interpretations of what is actually coming out of their mouths. It’s nothing that is necessarily revolutionary, but it was pre-meditated and that is visible in the performances; lending what might have been an otherwise routine scene of dialogue that aforementioned fresh, lightweight feeling.

Adding to this tone the film carries throughout is the distinct sense of innocence it all possesses. For as old as Maddy is and as fast as things seemingly move this is still the first time Maddy is feeling many of these emotions, much less creating the opportunity for herself to experience them. Most importantly, while older audience members may condemn Maddy and Olly for being foolish in their young love, we like who these two are as people and despite what could easily be seen as faults or shortcomings-we want what is best for them. Maddy likes The Little Prince-it reminds her that, “Love is Everything. Everything.” while Olly is more of a Lord of the Flies guy that needs no reminding that he can have a poor outlook on life. Given his home situation though, this is to be understood especially as Olly is in his most formative years. Maddy presents the aura of an angel whereas Olly plays to his belief in the bleak, but neither are as clean cut in their categorizations as they’d have you believe and in the romance that evolves between the two of them they seem to genuinely find the secret to love and life in one another-balance. As for the adults, none of them are fleshed out enough to matter much, but we spend the most time with Maddy’s mom as Rose’s Pauline is at one time written and played as a more complex character than would typically be written in such a role while at the tail end of the film resorted to such a plot device that it’s hard for her to register as little more than as much. In our first real encounter with Pauline, Rose plays her as a surprisingly understanding figure than what we inherently anticipate to be a tyrannical, condescending parent. Ultimately though, she must uphold the law she has put in force and though her motivations are understandable and selfish to a degree that even teens in the audience might be able to fairly comprehend the perspective of living and actually being alive never comes across as valuable enough to justify consideration. All things considered, Pauline would have to have known the events depicted in Everything, Everything would happen eventually and that she would need to be prepared for as much. Such complications might seem slight prior to viewing the film, but afterwards such a detail is a sore thumb in the way of how the film chooses to resolve itself. The resolution isn’t necessarily unexpected, but it certainly doesn’t fall in line with the tone or romanticism that seemed so effortlessly expressed until it was forced to roll the credits; maybe if more time had been taken to flesh it out a more organic resolution might have presented itself. Maybe, maybe.

I love movies, simple as that. I watch them with an intent to write about them and have always enjoyed discussing the latest news and releases with others. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Mass Communications/Digital Filmmaking and combined those interests when I began writing about cinema. Hope you enjoy the reviews, Happy reading!

Movie Reviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★

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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’…

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Featured Review

Hotel Artemis ★★★

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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.

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Movie Reviews

Skyscraper ★★★★

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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.

 

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