A Monster Calls. A touching story about grief that was consistently decent until the last incredible 15-20 minutes at which point everything seemed to step up a few notches – the action, the effects, the emotion, the insanely powerful acting from child lead Lewis MacDougall. In fact, I think this has tricked most people into thinking the film is better than it actually is.
Assassin’s Creed. I did not have the game experience to compare to but this is probably one of the better video game to film adaptions I have seen. That is not to say this was a good film. It was ok, it had its moments. It definitely employed a far better cast than it deserved, in Fassbender, Collitard, Irons, and Rampling but it was fun enough.
Silence. Scorsese’s raw and brutal film about Catholic priests trying to force their wacky ideas on the Japanese is a pretty engrossing two hours 45 minutes. A struggle in places, no doubt – it probably didn’t need to be so long, to be honest – but the pace of it was nice. Andrew Garfield is strong, as is the support from Liam Neeson and Adam Driver. Not quite sure on the ethical POV Scorsese was trying to relay (maybe he was not) but I had little sympathy for anyone really – they were all arguing about similarly ridiculous ideas.
Your Name. This Japanese animation was showing at Broadway Cinema and had a pretty decent concept for a coming of age story – a male and female teenager keep swapping bodies randomly and get to know each other through the messages they leave for each other. It looks really nice; the hand drawn backgrounds look lovely, in the style of Studio Ghibli features. Unfortunately, also in Ghibli’s style, is the music. The awful awful music. The score is ok but the cheesy Japanese new punk and other songs made for cringe worthy viewing. And there were cheesy moments abound. Decent overall.
Live By Night. A Dennis Lehane book adaption, written and directed by Ben Affleck was an exciting prospect. Both things had good track records – separately and previously together (with the great Gone Baby Gone). However, it was not to be this time. It had some great elements, but it felt stilted throughout, as did Affleck’s performance. He didn’t seem quite right for the lead role, to be honest. A standout line from Elle Fanning, though, beautifully delivered: “I hope there is a God. And I hope he is kind. Wouldn’t that be swell.”
Manchester by the Sea. Casey won the battle of the Afflecks this month. This was an incredibly moving, sad, yet funny film. Casey Affleck played his role perfectly – his numbness to the world after a horrific event in his life was subtly executed. One scene he has with Michelle Williams was so awfully sad – it was actually difficult to watch and mesmerising at the same time. Lucas Hedges, as Patrick, was also great – he and Affleck played off each other nicely, and it is their interactions that produce much of the genuine humour.
La La Land. I am not the biggest fan of musicals, but there is no doubt that this is a great piece of cinema and an excellent follow up to Whiplash by Damien Chazelle. A very different film, with just the jazz theme tying them together, it was an exciting homage to old Hollywood musicals. I admit, after the first ten minutes, I was worried (it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t shaping up to be 4 or 5 star material) but it soon became funny and inventive with great performances (and chemistry) from Gosling and Stone. High five for that ending too.
Jackie. A very very well made film. The direction, editing, acting and excellent Mica Levi score elevate it to a level way above the quality of what this would have looked like at screenplay stage. Not that the screenplay was particularly bad, but this film could have been very average if director Pablo Larraín hadn’t made it in such an interesting way. Also, I am not the biggest Natalie Portman fan, but she really nailed the titular role.
Trainspotting 2. Of course it was never going to be as good as the first one. Beyond that obvious conclusion, this sequel is a good one; not a great one, unfortunately, but definitely good. Everyone is on top form here – the four main cast members and Danny Boyle. It was very nostalgia driven, which was how the story was set up, but it also made it lean too much on the first one with flashbacks a plenty – though the use of music to feed into these memories was incredibly effective. The soundtrack in general was well curated, as it was such an important part of the first, they did get it right again. And there were some great visuals and comedy, it just felt a bit flat overall; probably something to do with the script, elements of which were a bit weak.
Split. This is M. Night Shyamalan’s best film for a while. The potential heavy handedness of a mental health issue was a worry, but it was dealt with ok overall and then makes even more sense with the excellent (and refreshingly surprising) reveal at the end. James McAvoy also acts his socks off in the many different roles. Don’t get me wrong, this won’t be making my top ten of 2017 list, and it ain’t a patch on his best film Unbreakable, but there is genuine tension and intrigue throughout.
FILM OF THE MONTH: Manchester by the Sea