Posted by: themoviecheese | January 28, 2018

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part 2 (10-1)

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part 2 (10-1)

10. Blade Runner 2049


When Ridley Scott announced a sequel to his sci-fi noir masterpiece Blade Runner, almost the entire film world groaned. After all, look at what he’s done to the Alien franchise. The evidence of quality was certainly against him. However, when Denis Villeneuve was announced as the film’s director, suddenly everyone started listening. Myself, I wasn’t instantly taken by Villeneuve’s other sci-fi film Arrival. I found it an empty film that was largely about nothing. I did however absolutely love both Sicario and Prisoners. Blade Runner 2049 is at the very least just as great as the original, but there are parts of my mind that think it might even be (dare I say it?) better. Once again, Gosling goes against my criticisms to deliver a truly great protagonist and one that more that stands up to Harrison Ford’s Deckard. 2049 attempts to be hugely ambiguous, and that could go against it if you’re not a fan of ambiguity. Indeed, if you’re not a fan of the original because of its slow careful pace, then this film is not going to suddenly win you over. The work of DoP Roger Deakins is a marvel (as usual), and the film continues the retro slogan aesthetic of the original, coupled a fantastic score.

9. Oh Lucy!

oh lucy

Quite why Oh Lucy has been completely snubbed at this year’s Oscars is anyone’s guess. I thought it had Oscars written all over it, but what do I know? Atsuko Hirayanagi’s fantastic “lost in translation” comedy stars Shinobu Terajima as Setsuko, a middle-aged woman stuck in a seemingly meaningless life in Tokyo. When Setsuko is coerced into enrolling in an English class tutored by the unorthodox and bizarre “John” (Josh Hartnett). Pretty soon, she is given a blonde wig and told to adopt the name “Lucy”. Setsuko (or Lucy) very quickly develops romantic feelings towards John, and this sparks an adventure to Los Angeles with her estranged sister Ayako. Oh Lucy is brilliantly funny, but there are sudden tonal shifts. Despite that, the film is never jarring and I think this is ultimately down to the great central performances and well paced screenplay. Hirayanagi’s direction is warm and affectionate, but the absolute best thing about the film is the fantastic and hilarious chemistry between estranged sisters Setsuko and Ayako.

8. Your Name


From the director of 5 Centimeters Per Second, Your name tells the story of two teenagers linked through both their waking lives and their dreams. Both characters come from fairly different backgrounds, and this is what serves the bulk of what makes the animation so mesmerizing. Sweeping between epic mountain shrines and the dense busy streets of Shinjuku. This is easily Makoto Shinkai’s most ambitious tale to date, and whilst he usually opts for fantasy realism, but here he goes all out. Body swap films like Freaky Friday usually make for interesting comedies, but here the concept is taken in a different direction to deliver a film that is delicate and genuinely heartfelt in its execution.

7. Get Out

get out

Known primarily for comedy skits, Jordan Peele has now proven himself as a more than competent director. Get Out is one of the freshest horror films in years. Incredibly well written and acted, the narrative (and the specific way that each character acts) is verging on genius. Whilst not exactly scary as such, the film is definitely – erm, I guess worrying is the right word? It pulls you in with its brutal honesty – these are characters that act like these characters would absolutely act. Do you honestly think a huge party of middle-America white people would ogle the muscles of the one black person there? The whole film is simply about wanting to be someone else. Majority of us aren’t happy in the bodies we have, a sad but honest truth. Get Out addresses that and applies it to a subject that’s all too real in Trump-era America. “I would have voted for Obama a third term” Mr Armitage says to Chris, as we all cringe at how “try hard” he’s seeming. The subtleties and symbolism in the screenplay are brilliantly realised – Mr Armitage rants about how large the deer population is and how he’d like to see them wiped out (“Black Buck” was a racial slur for black men who refused to bow to white authority) – the same character is of course later killed by deer antlers. The fact that Chris was literally saved by “picking cotton” out of a leather seat. Rose wearing colonial hunting gear in the final scene. The psychiatrist tapping the side of a cup with a silver spoon the exact same way plantation owners would use to summon slaves. I honestly could go on and on, but simply put there was a staggering amount of work that went into the writing and directing of this film.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – one of my favourite quotes from philosopher Edmond Burke, and it really rings true in Martin McDonagh’s (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) latest. Frances McDormand is perfectly cast as a mother pissed off at her local police force as she feels they haven’t done enough to catch those who have raped and murdered her daughter. As you can imagine from a McDonagh film, the whole thing is actually perfectly cast, with Woody Harrelson playing the police chief and Sam Rockwell as his deputy. Also, being a McDonagh film, the script is really fucking funny. Much funnier than Seven Psychopaths and – dare I say it – at least *as funny* as In Bruges. The film also contains that key McDonagh ingredient that was missing from Seven Psychopaths – emotional heft. I don’t want to spoil too much by saying that, but believe me when I say the film is very unpredictable and there are indeed a few moments of “It feels wrong to laugh right now”. The last 20 minutes may split people down the middle I feel. Personally I loved it (the ending I mean), but I’d understand others hating it. All in all, is it as good as In Bruges? Probably not, but it’s a lot less self-indulgent than Seven Psychopaths and is so much damn fun to watch McDormand continuously kick people in the knackers and call people a “cunt”.

5. Good Time

good time

Robert Pattinson is slowly getting rid of the stigma from the Twishite movies. Here he stars in the Safdie Brothers’ (Heaven Knows What) latest – a pulsating thriller centering on a lowlife criminal (Pattinson) who has to attempt to rescue his mentally handicapped brother from being transferred to Riker’s Island prison. The film takes place over the course of one night, and definitely keeps your pulse racing as fast as Pattinson runs. I’ve ragged on Pattinson a lot in the past, but there’s no denying he is fan-fucking-tastic here. A scummy douchbag that you can’t help but route for despite his downright sleaziness. The script is extremely unpredictable and leads to some brilliant “Oh shit!” moments throughout. There’s also a thumping soundtrack from Oneohtrix Point Never – basically a blazing (and slightly ear bleeding) synth score that wouldn’t sound out of place in the likes of Stranger Things or Adam Wingard’s entire filmography. The middle section of the film is the best, with a magnificently tenses moment that takes place in a closed theme park. It does admittedly slow down somewhat after this point, but the last 20 minutes is still satisfying if just not as electrifying as the rest of the film.

4. The Disaster Artist

diaster artist

I first watched The Room in 2004 in a cinema full of people who had no clue what they were about to watch. Nowadays, if you are lucky to catch The Room in a cinema, there is a huge amount of audience participation akin to a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. There was nothing like that back in 2004 though. Back then, the screenings were largely silent. Audiences of people sat in complete disbelief at the sheer mess that was unfolding on screen. I’m not ashamed to say that The Disaster Artist was an emotional ride for me. By the final moments, I was literally fighting back the tears. Some would say that’s due to the connection I have with The Room, having endured one of the UK’s first ever screenings all those years ago. But I would say that anyone with a shred of cinema integrity will feel the same emotion. The Disaster Artist isn’t a film about a weird, eccentric film maker who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Well, I guess it is. But it’s also about a man who desired a level of respect, a man who fought to achieve his goal of making a film that audiences could enjoy. Regardless of whether Tommy always intended for The Room to be an ironical comedy as he claims, if his goal was to merely entertain his audience then he certainly succeeded. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and triumphant “film about a film” that pays homage to its controversial subject without ever actually mocking it, bolstered by a pin-sharp perfect performance from James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. “Oh hi, Mark!”

3. You Were Never Really Here


Director Lynne Ramsay returns after her thoroughly disturbing 2011 drama We Need To Talk About Kevin with another film where the title is a full sentence. Vastly different film to Kevin though – here, Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a brutal and efficient mob enforcer hired to retrieve a missing young girl. God damn this film is stunning. Ramsay crafts a dream-like feast for the eyes as Phoenix batters people over the head with a hammer. Phoenix’s performance is restrained and precise but with a worrying twitch in his eyes. Although people will no doubt make similarities to Drive, the films are vastly different. They have similar soundtracks. That’s where the similarities pretty much end. Phoenix for instance, is completely different to Gosling. Where as Gosling’s Driver is a cool as hell calculating badass, Phoenix’s Joe is more like a sheer immovable force. There’s nothing really cool about him. He’s an unshaven, dirty lug of muscle and meat, and there is nothing stylish about when he fucks someone up. They just go down, it’s as simple as that. The film has a sort of ethereal quality to it as well, there are a few point where you’re not quite sure if the film is legit or if it’s fucking with you. The film is absolutely not for everyone and I get that, but it was definitely for me. And the soundtrack for one is going straight into my collection.

2. Florida Project

florida project

Sean Baker returns after 2015’s Tangerine with, I’m gonna be honest, his Magnus opus. I loved Tangerine, but The Florida Project is something else entirely. A thoroughly absorbing and brutally honest portrayal of an almost impossible living situation. Centering mostly on 6 year old Moonee and her mother Halley living in a summer apartment building, the film never ever allows melodrama to overtake the comedy or its feeling of wonder. Willem Dafoe turns in an astounding performance as the manager of the building – I can’t even begin to describe how honest and real his performance feels. The children are fantastic little actors as well, and carry the majority of the film on their little shoulders. Brooklyn Prince us absolutely hilarious and definitely has an extremely bright future ahead of her. Stunningly paced and expertly written by Baker. Film of the year for me.

1. Journeyman


Christ alive, how fucking good is Paddy Considine? At this point, the man is a film making God. I was NOT expecting to be so emotionally affected by this film. No doubt many will compare it to his directorial debut Tyrannosaur, but they are fundamentally different films. Both fantastically absorbing, and equally as disturbing, but in completely different ways. Considine directs himself as superstar boxer Matty Burton as he faces the fight of his life to defend his world championship title. Saying ANY more would completely spoil what is one of the most unpredictable films of the year. Make no mistake, Journeyman has fucking floored me as a film fan. I haven’t seen writing, directing or acting like this in years. Considine’s performance is astonishing. I’ve always regarded him fairly highly anyway, but I never ever imagined he was capable of this level of acting chops. We’re talking early-Pacino levels of talent. It’s a hard film to sell because I don’t want to say anything about it purely because of how surprising the whole thing is as an experience. Seriously guys, I’m not gonna mince my words here. Best film of the year? Fuck that – best film of the past five years.

Posted by: themoviecheese | January 25, 2018

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part 1 (20-11)

Tom’s Top 20 Films of 2017, part one (20-11)

20. Colossal


Anne Hathaway suddenly discovers she is directly connected to a destructive phenomenon taking place in South Korea. Sounds it could be a Denis Villeneuve sci-fi drama. However, this is Nacho Vigalondo’s brutally original sci-fi comedy. Hathaway’s Gloria is a tremendously deep character, and that’s what ultimately gives the film its weight. She’s suffering from a “monster” of a problem in that she’s moving back in with her parents, but she’s also suffering from another “monster” problem in that she’s, well, controlling a monster that’s currently laying waste to South Korea. Hathaway and the rest of the cast are great, and the screenplay is genuinely refreshing.

19. Free Fire


After a couple of arty efforts (High Rise & A Field In England) Ben Wheatley returns with a true genre film. Featuring a blistering cast that includes the likes of Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson and Wheatley regular Michael Smiley, Free Fire sees a small group of IRA attempting to buy guns from an arms dealer during the 1970s. Intricately shot, and taking place entirely in one abandoned warehouse, this is definitely Wheatley’s most crowd-pleasing film. As you can probably gather from the plot and the cast, the deal turns south very quickly and it’s hugely enjoyable watching this cast of colourful characters insult one another whilst all the bullets whizz and cling around the warehouse’s walls.

18. Shin Godzilla


Shin Godzilla proves that there is only really one true home for the big man, and that is Japan. Whilst it’s no wear near the best Japanese Godzilla film, its way ahead of both the 1998 and 2014 American efforts. Shin Godzilla (Or Godzilla Resurgence as it’s known in the West) is actually a semi-remake of the 1954 Japanese original, re-imagining the first time that man has encountered the big guy. One of my favourite things about the film is that Zilla’s origin is rewritten – in this, it is the American government that dump nuclear waste leading to the creation of Godzilla. The film is actually somewhat light on destruction, and those complaining that 2014’s film didn’t contain much Godzilla may have the same complaint here. Still, what separates the two films ultimately is that this film has genuinely well written characters.

17. Wonder Woman


Warner Bros have had some serious trials when it comes to launching their DC Cinematic Universe. Leave it to Patty Jenkins to take arguably the most exciting character to come out of Batman v Superman and create one of the most invigorating superhero films since RDJ’s first Iron Man. It’s to Warner Bros’ credit that they hired comic book writer Allan Heinberg to pen the screenplay, and indeed the writing is one of Wonder Woman’s strongest points. Simply put, Heinberg really knows this character. Scenes of Diana eating her first ice cream, or the various moments where she just can’t understand why humans act the way they do – absolutely brilliant, and bolstered by a hugely confident performance from Gal Gadot. Likewise, Jenkins’ directing hits every note. The “No Man’s Land” sequence is simply one of the most incredible superhero moments of the past 10 years.

16. The Breadwinner


Ignore the fact that Angelina Jolie is all over he promo’s. She had very little to actually do with this. Regardless, the hype is real – The Breadwinner is a stunning film. One of the bravest and forthright animated films in decades. Centering on a young Afghan girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to push through the misogynistic barriers of her country so she can feed her family. This is gritty, heart wrenching stuff with some truly fantastic voice acting. It’s got Oscar bait written all over it, but God damn if it isn’t deserved.

15. Split


“A true return to form for the director” is a sentence that’s thrown around way too often in the world of film, but it really rings true in the case of M Night Shyamalan’s Split. After a plethora of just downright terrible films, Shyamalan has returned with the genre that made him famous, delivering a taut thriller with a stupendous central performance. James McAvoy stars as Kevin, a man suffering from a split personality disorder. He has 23 personalities in total, but there is actually a 24th that has yet to surface and could prove to be the most dangerous. McAvoy is brilliant, and Shyamalan is fantastic at building tension, right up until the jaw-droppingly left field ending.

14. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi


Hands down the boldest and most unpredictable Star Wars film of the entire saga. No other film in history has split audiences down the middle as this one has, and it’s really clear to see why. Rian Johnson has delivered a film that still feels like Star Wars, but bolsters the entire series in an entirely new direction that we’ve never seen before. For the first time since the 80s, we have absolutely NO idea what the next Star Wars film will even be about, and I for one find that incredibly exciting. The Last Jedi features some of the best performances we’ve ever seen in a SW film. Hamill is great in a role that takes his heroic Jedi in an entirely new direction, but one that is ultimately incredibly satisfying. For me though, its Adam Driver that *ahem* drives the film into brilliance. He is simply phenomenal in his line delivery and portrayal of arguably the most emotion-stricken character we’ve ever seen in a Star Wars film. All in all, what I got from The Last Jedi is something that has been absent from every single Star Wars film before it – true organic storytelling. The film doesn’t pander to an onslaught of fan service, and its a much better film for it.

13. La La Land

la la land

In La La Land, Damien Chazelle delivered two hours of pure fun. A delightful love story featuring career defining turns from both Gosling and Stone. I’ve actually never been much of a fan of Gosling. I enjoyed Drive, but I’ve never been a fan of actors who continuously present the same acting style regardless of what role they are playing (see: Denzel Washington). Quiet, brooding and loner can be applied to pretty much every Gossling role so far, but at least in La La Land i discovered something slightly different. I actually really related with the character because I saw a little of myself in his characterisation. The one thing I will say about La La Land is that the songs are much better if you isolate them outside of the film. The film contains pin sharp choreography, and I did find it difficult to really appreciate the lyrics due to this. Watch the film once, and then listen to the songs seperately…then watch the film a second time and you’ll appreciate it a lot more, having already isolated the music/songs.

12. Blade of the Immortal

blade of the immortal

Takashi Miike further proves he is the hardest working director in the world by releasing his 100th (100!) film Blade of the Immortal. Manji is a samurai who was blessed (or cursed) with immortality by a witch. Years later, he agrees to help young girl Rin take revenge on the clan that have wiped out her family. One of Miike’s biggest films without doubt, and one of his most instantly accessible in years. It moves at a breakneck pace, despite the 140 hour runtime. The opening scene especially is fantastic. The fights are why we are here, and they are superbly choreographed, especially the frankly verging on ridiculous ending. There’s around 12 separate fight scenes in the film as well, and despite that amount, there’s never a moment of fatigue. Takuya Kimura is great as Manji – bringing equal amounts dark humour with the badassery. There are also some great support performances from Japanese cinema faves such as Min Tanaka and Chiaki Kuriyama.

11. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

killing of a sacred

One of the most surreal and intense cinema experiences I’ve had in ages, Sacred Deer is haunting in a way that’s so difficult to describe. Lanthimos makes films that aren’t easily absorbed, and this is no exception. Just like in 2015’s The Lobster, Lanthimos presents his subverted view – this time of the American suburban family. At its core its a revenge thriller, but it’s also an incredibly dark comedy and frankly terrifying horror film. The story centers on Colin Farrell’s doctor as he welcomes the son of an ex-patient into his life and his family, only to very quickly regret the decision. The narrative is more dense than a 15-tier chocolate cake, and in usual Lanthimos-style the topsy turvy tonal shifts take some getting used to. Roll with it though, and you’ll soon realise that the reason you feel so damn uneasy is because of the genius comedic nature in which everything is presented. It’s like if Michael Haneke directed a Coen Brothers film.

Posted by: themoviecheese | December 21, 2017

‘The Disaster Artist’ review by Tom


The Disaster Artist reviewed by Tom


I’ve loved The Room since I first watched it in 2004. Yes, loved. For me, The Room is one of the ultimate film “experiences”. It’s definitely not a good film, lets get that out of the way. At the same time, how can anything that elicits so much fun in a single viewing possibly be called “bad”? Simply put, The Room makes you question why you watch certain films. If a friend approaches you and says “Have you seen Birdemic? It’s the worst horror film ever, you gotta see it!” – you have to question why they are imploring you to watch it, especially if the film is as bad as they are claiming. More importantly, you have to question why you suddenly feel a need to watch it. If somebody said to you “Don’t eat at this restaurant, it’s fucking horrible!” you wouldn’t eat there. So why do we feel a need to learn exactly why a film is claimed to be bad? For me, The Room is the perfect answer to this question.

With that in mind, I really tried…I really fucking tried to not let my bias get in the way of my critical judgement of James Franco’s ultimate The Room tribute The Disaster Artist. I tried my best not to completely fall in love with the damn thing. But The Disaster Artist is a real triumph in every sense, even if you despise The Room and Tommy Wiseau. Hell, even if you’ve never seen The Room, it still makes for a fascinating look into the mind of one of Hollywood’s most eccentric creatures.


Just as Tommy Wiseau wrote, produced, directed and starred in the Magnus opus that is The Room; here James Franco writes, produces and directs himself starring as Tommy Wiseau. His performance is every direction of perfect – absolutely nailing the accent, body mannerisms and the evasive personality that Wiseau has become so popular for. The Room is clearly a massive passion of Franco’s and there are several moments where you simply forget that it’s him on screen, having to constantly remind yourself that it’s not just Wiseau playing himself. James’ brother Dave Franco is given the much less complex portrayal of Greg Sestero – Wiseau’s partner in crime, and the author of the book on which the film is based. Despite Sestero not being as interesting a character as Wiseau, Dave Franco does also give the role his all, with the bizarre relationship that Wiseau and Sestero have making up the bulk of the narrative. The supporting cast are equally as great, with Seth Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Schklair proving he’d truly studied the ins and outs of Schklair’s various problems on the set of the film. The real Sandy Schklair has always claimed to be The Room’s true director and that he tried his very best to clean up after Wiseau at almost every turn in an attempt to turn the film into something somewhat coherent. Simply put, the aspects of The Room that do make sense are probably thanks to Schklair.


Beginning at the very moment that Tommy and Greg met one another, The Disaster Artist isn’t necessarily a biopic, but more a buddy film. Greg sees something in Tommy – a fearless sense of determination. He clearly has no actual acting talent, or much of any talent for that matter, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing forward. Greg quickly realises that there’s something not quite right about Tommy. The fact that he owns not only a flashy Mercedes Benz, but also an apartment in both central San Francisco and Los Angeles sends sparks of concern through Greg, but he brushes it off as he realises Tommy is his best shot at breaking into the Los Angeles acting circuit. As their plan seems to be moving slowly, they decide between them to make their own film, and so Tommy gets to work on his first ever screenplay, The Room.

The real-life characters are brilliantly written; all having a sense of realism about them to contrast the Alien-like personality of Tommy Wiseau. One film critic once said of The Room: “It’s like a movie made by an alien, who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him” – the moments of The Disaster Artist that focus on the making of The Room echo this statement perfectly. Franco’s Wiseau constantly makes decisions that make no sense to the average person. Even if you have absolutely no handle on how films are conventionally made, you will be constantly scratching your head at the various film making “ideas” he comes up with, mostly with hilarious results. Deciding to out right buy every single piece of equipment rather than rent, refusing to offer bottles of free water for the cast and crew – these are just some of the things that Wiseau, for what ever reason, insisted on. The Franco’s are joined by an army of cameos as well, from Sharon Stone to Judd Apatow. The best cameo comes in the form of Zack Efron starring as Dan Janjigian (the “actor” who plays the gun wielding Chris-R in The Room). The one scene he features in is one of the funniest in the film and perfectly portrays Dan’s/Chris’ raw monstrosity.


We all know that Tommy Wiseau is a secretive man. Since The Room released in 2003, his fans worldwide have asked the same questions: where was he born? How old is he? How did he fund a $6million movie out of his own pocket? That’s right – The Room cost an estimated six million dollars to produce. This is mostly due to the film having no affiliation with any other production company, other than the producers Wiseau himself had hired, meaning there was nobody to fund the film; again, other than Wiseau himself. He also opted to buy all the film making equipment rather than rent. There was also the staggering amount that Wiseau spent on marketing for the film – including having a billboard/poster erected in central Los Angeles, and paying to have it stay there for five whole years. The Disaster Artist does an excellent job of attempting to address the question of where all this money comes from. Notice I said “address”, because the film doesn’t actually answer the question, nor does it skim over it. Franco’s script cleverly alludes to these points without giving us a concrete answer. Excellent scenes of Rogen’s character attempting to cash a cheque given to him by Wiseau, only to be met with shock when the cheque actually successfully clears. Likewise, the subjects of both Wiseau’s age and place of birth are also handled with the same level of respect.

That level of respect resonates throughout the entire film. Franco isn’t here to mock Wiseau, and that becomes very clear quite early on. He clearly has a high amount of adoration for both The Room and Wiseau. When it comes to recreating full scenes from The Room with his Disaster Artist cast, Franco’s attention to detail is astounding. Set recreation, costume design and character-specific mannerisms are all absolutely on point.

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In Conclusion:
I first watched The Room in 2004 in a cinema full of people who had no clue what they were about to watch. Nowadays, if you are lucky to catch The Room in a cinema, there is a huge amount of audience participation akin to a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. There was nothing like that back in 2004 though. Back then, the screenings were largely silent. Audiences of people sat in complete disbelief at the sheer mess that was unfolding on screen. I’m not ashamed to say that The Disaster Artist was an emotional ride for me. By the final moments, I was literally fighting back the tears. Some would say that’s due to the connection I have with The Room, having endured one of the UK’s first ever screenings all those years ago. But I would say that anyone with a shred of cinema integrity will feel the same emotion. The Disaster Artist isn’t a film about a weird, eccentric film maker who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Well, I guess it is. But it’s also about a man who desired a level of respect, a man who fought to achieve his goal of making a film that audiences could enjoy. Regardless of whether Tommy always intended for The Room to be an ironical comedy as he claims, if his goal was to merely entertain his audience then he certainly succeeded. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and triumphant “film about a film” that pays homage to its controversial subject without ever actually mocking it, bolstered by a pin-sharp perfect performance from James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. “Oh hi, Mark!”

Rating: 9/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | November 6, 2016

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Day two of the festival started with a screening of Jurassic Park. I’m not going to review it for obvious reasons, but suffice to say it was the first time I’d seen it on the big screen since 1993. Here’s a wee little fact…Jurassic Park was actually the first ever film I saw at the cinema, at just 8 years old. So to say this is a big deal for me is an understatement. This is literally where my obsession with film began. We all know how well Jurassic Park still holds up today, but one thing this screening taught me is that I genuinely believe there will never be another family blockbuster quite like Jurassic Park. It’s the perfect family blockbuster. Between the characters that feel so real and authentic and the dialogue that’s witty without being even remotely pretentious, it’s a film making aesthetic that I think is unfortunately lost today. There are some great modern blockbusters out there such as Inception and Avengers, but they concern themselves with characters that ultimately feel like characters in a film. The dialogue feels synthetic and, well, written. Hollywood is so concerned with who they cast in their films. I actually enjoyed last year’s Jurassic World for what it was, but compare the cast to Park’s. Chris Pratt vs Sam Neil, Bryce Dallas Howard vs Laura Dern – these don’t feel like real people the way they did in Park. The characters in Park ultimately feel real, but not to sacrifice the blockbuster nature of the film. It’s still a huge film with one of the best examples of CGI work of all time, even at 23 years old.

Anywho, that’s enough about Jurassic Park. There were three other (new) films shown throughout the day, which were…

Ambulance (dir. Mohamed Jalaby)


Ambulance is a documentary following Palestinian film maker Mohamed Jalaby as he documents the attack on Gaza by Israeli forces during summer 2014. Jalaby joins an ambulance crew as they race around the West Bank helping to clear rubble, searching for people’s families, stitching the injured and, yes, clearing the dead bodies. Ambulance is truly harrowing stuff, and never shies away from its first person close quarters aspect. You are right in the thick of the Gaza attacks, and when a victim is brought out on a stretcher, you really feel the terror of the situation through the screams of the victim’s family. I’d say Ambulance is even more harrowing than 2011’s 5 Broken Cameras as it never once lets up, and can feel exhausting as a result. The attacks of 2014 on Gaza were constant throughout summer, and as such so is Ambulance, perfectly portraying the horror of the situation. Rating: 9/10

Mother (dir. Kadri Kousaar)


So we come to the first film of the festival that just wasn’t for me. Mother will delight some with its overly careful pacing and its Coen Brothers-esque dark humour, but it was lost on me. For me, it was mostly just a dull film featuring dull characters in a dull situation. I laughed once, and that was towards the very end of the film. I do give it proper for having a genuinely intriguing ending, but that could mostly be down to me not paying enough attention. Mother tells the story of Elsa, a mother who cares for her adult son Lauri after he is shot and placed in a coma. The police are investigating the crime, and a handful of characters enter the house one by one to pay Lauri a visit. Fine performances and a genuinely good ending stopped me from falling unconscious, but it wasn’t enough to save the dull script and bland execution. Rating: 4/10

Chi-raq (dir. Spike Lee)


Now I’m not the biggest Spike Lee fan – the man himself is up his own arse, and as a director he always seems to struggle with tone. However, a good film is still a good film, and Chi-raq is that film. Unquestionably Lee’s most ambitious film to date, Chi-raq tells the story of a group of women who set out to challenge America’s gun laws after the accidental death of a child on a violent Chicago street. Audience reception for Chi-raq has been fairly polarising for two reasons – 1. The whole film is told via cleverly scripted poetry. It’s technically a musical, just not the kind of musical you’re used to. Also 2. It’s very very liberal. This isn’t so much a problem for me. I have extremely liberal views when it comes to gun laws, but your enjoyment of the film will definitely depend on your political allegiances, as with a lot of Lee’s work. That said, the one aspect that the film really excels in is comedy – Chi-raq is very funny when it wants to be, and hilarious cameos (including Dave Chapelle’s first film appearance in almost 15 years) pop up all over the place. The casting is generally strong throughout, with stand outs being Samuel L Jackson’s narrator and John Cusack as an enigmatic priest. Teyonah Parris is a fantastic lead and carries each scene with true conviction. There is an odd addition to the cast in the form of Wesley Snipes as what is essentially one of the film’s villains. He plays a leader of one of the gang banging crews. At 54 years old, Snipes is an odd choice to play a character that should be in his twenties, and I found it extremely off putting – surely he would have been better suited playing one of the dads attempting to convince the youngsters to stop being dickheads. That’s not to say Snipes is bad as such, his performance is actually very funny and he has some of the more standout scenes. Chi-raq is also waaay too long, a common problem with Spike Lee films, and also really struggles with its tone and identity. That said, there’s no denying its enjoyable factor. Rating: 7/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | November 3, 2016

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day One

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day One

It’s that time of the year again – where I prepare my buttocks for some serious numbing, get ready for feeling a lack of nutrition, adjust my eyes to square-vision and look forward to some seriously damn good films. This year, I have decided to account each day of the festival with daily blogs. And I am going to stick to it damn it! Well…I’m going to try my best anyway. As always, the first day only contains one film…

Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch)


Outside of Ghost Dog (which is a very solid 9/10 for me), I’m not the biggest Jarmusch fan. Paterson is definitely one of the least pretentious films I’ve seen this year though. It perfectly mirrors Adam Driver’s central character Paterson in a feeling of subdued normality, never needs to even try to win anyone over. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious; and when it’s moving, it knows exactly what to tug on. Perhaps a little overlong, featuring a lot of sag that could have been cut, but Driver’s excellent performance compliments the genuinely clever script. 8/1o


Posted by: themoviecheese | September 21, 2016

“Blair Witch” (2016) Review

Blair Witch (2016) reviewed by Tom


A few months ago, horror fans everywhere were excited to learn that The Woods – the mysterious “lost in the woods”-style horror film that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett had been working on for a number of years – was actually a sequel to the most successful found footage horror film of all time: The Blair Witch Project. Both Wingard and Barrett have made huge names for themselves in the world of horror thanks to their work on titles such as The Guest, Your Next and some of the VHS segments. It stands to reason that they should surely be the perfect duo to revisit the found footage film that started it all (some would say Cannibal Holocaust started the genre, but I would argue Blair Witch Project is the film that really steered the genre into the mainstream).

The Blair Witch project single handedly revolutionised film making, making $250,000,000 worldwide from a $50,000 budget thanks to a genius marketing scheme that genuinely fooled people into thinking the film was real. It kick started an entirely new film making mantra that you could make a film on a shoe string budget and still make a sizeable profit providing you really worked a great deal on its marketing. The film would go on to be one of the scariest films ever made in the eyes of many (including this reviewer). A year later, the first sequel for the film (Book of Shadows) was released, and it was…well…not brilliant. Ditching the found footage aspect in favour of something more standard in format, the film was directed by seasoned documentarian Joe Berlinger but was reportedly butchered by the studio.

Sixteen years later, and Wingard and Barrett have teamed to bring back the formula that made the original so great. Being such a huge fan of the original, and equally such a big fan of Wingard I was sure I would be stepping into a fantastic sequel, and it really is a genuine sequel this time round. James is Heather’s brother, and upon watching a YouTube video reportedly showing newly-found footage from the Burkitsville Woods, he is sure Heather is still out there somewhere. He gets a team together (6 people this time round) to head out there.


You may be worrying about a sense of familiarity, and that is absolutely present, and is definitely Blair Witch’s first problem. There also isn’t really much of a build up, and the film doesn’t allow us enough time to really gel with the various characters on any kind of emotional level. Whereas in the original where it is a good 20/30 minutes before we even enter the woods, in this we are there almost instantly. I understand why they did that – more than likely in an attempt to differentiate from the original’s set up – but I would have liked more time with the main characters to really get to know what they are about.

One of the main things that makes the original film so fantastic and ultimately so scary is the fact that everything feels genuinely *real*. Heather, Mike and Josh don’t feel like film characters/actors, they feel like real people thanks to their superb performances. They are everyday students – not particularly attractive, and certainly not bright or quick thinking. In Blair Witch 2016, we have an assortment of characters who largely make up for anonymous victims. Outside of main character James and a couple of vaguely interesting goth characters, none of them are particularly well written. The acting is fine all round, but none of them feel like real people – at least not on the scale that the original set. They feel like characters within a film, and they’re all overly attractive and look like they’ve been through two hours of hair and make up. This formed a huge disconnect with me, and I actually found myself started to hate the film for at least the first 40-odd minutes.


I mentioned an overwhelming sense of familiarity earlier and it really is a problem. Its all here – the Wicca stick figures, the stones piled up outside the tents. If you’ve seen the first film, you’ve *mostly* seen this one, and that is a massive shame. At the same time, however, we have to ask ourselves “What could they have done different?”. They do also at least throw a couple of surprises into the latter half (more on this later).

Then there’s the jump scares. Oh lord, the jump scares. Within the first half of the film, they come thick and fast, and it is pretty relentless. Jump scares are only scary when there is a decent build up and subtle atmosphere. That is not the case for the first half of Blair Witch 2016. They become incredibly annoying very fast, to the point where one character hilarious yells “Can everyone stop doing that?!” when someone creeps up on her for the 16th time.

Wingard also bizarrely opts for background music in some of the scenes. It’s not a score as such, but more a gentle atmospheric hum, the likes of which would be present in something like The Wicker Man. I found this an incredibly odd sound design choice and again started to find myself further disconnecting from the film as a whole.


One of the aspects this film does very well, but at the same time has a downside, is technology. The film is set in 2014, and so technology has come a long way. With the widely available tech such as GPS and iPhones, it becomes increasingly less believable for six people to become lost in the woods. The film actually gets around this extremely well in ways that I don’t want to spoil. One of the characters is somewhat of a tech expert and so brings along with her some cool innovative gadgets such as earpiece cameras and a camera-mounted flying drone. The aforementioned downside to this is that the film looks a bit too nice most of the time. I really am nitpicking here, but again one of the things that made the original so scary was the terrible DV quality made it so you could hardly see anything beyond the incredible denseness of the woods. Most of Blair Witch 2016’s footage is obviously HD, which means everything is in full clear view, leaving nothing to the imagination. Those who disliked the ambiguity of the original film will probably find solace in the HD quality of this film, but for me it again kick-started a disconnect.

So half way through the film, things were not looking good for my liking of this film. I was finding the characters thin and underwritten, the relentless jump scares were boring and annoying me to tears, and the whole thing just looked a little too nice and clean. Then the second half began to happen. Make no mistake, Blair Witch 2016’s second half is a completely different experience to the first half. I’m not talking in the same vein as something like Cabin in the Woods where the film takes an unexpected turn, I’m merely talking the film’s tone, pacing and atmosphere completely shifting gear entirely. The last 40 minutes of Blair Witch 2016 is one of the scariest and most intense cinema experiences I’ve had in a very long time. The jump scares still come, but this time they are backed up by perfect timing and knee-shredding tension as well as fantastic performances from the cast. It’s almost as if Wingard only directed the second half of the film, and the first half was directed by a less experienced 2nd unit crew.


The way Wingard racks up the tension in the final moments is nothing short of masterful and there are MANY stand out moments. One moment in particular featuring a character attempting to retrieve the flying drone from a tree branch is so tightly crafted I came incredibly close to breaking a damn finger. The latter half does also attempt a few new surprises (that I won’t spoil obviously) as a way to differentiate itself from the familiarity to the original film. It does admittedly largely follow the same beats as the original, but it at least throws in some genuinely innovative additions along the way.

Another thing I really enjoyed was Barrett’s attempt to expand upon the lore by various moments of exposition. I’ve always said that the best way to develop a found footage sequel is to make a bigger film that expands on the lore set by the first film. It’s what [REC]2 did, and it worked brilliantly. Blair Witch 2016 attempts the same, and it works mostly. Remember the story about the killer who would “make one stand in the corner while he kills the other”? Well that is given much more backstory this time round, and a few funky twists and turns.

Blair Witch 2016 starts off murky. The characters are almost irritating (save a few), and the scares are nothing more than loud noises attempting to make your ears bleed. It doesn’t attempt anything different in the first half, and will slowly start to slip your interest away from you. Give it chance though, and the second half evolves into something else entirely – an almost perfectly crafted and expertly directed series of atmospheric scares that you’ll be thinking about for weeks. No other found footage film will ever come close to the original Blair Witch Project, in both believability and scare factor. This one, however, does at least give it a damn good go. It’s just a damn shame about that first act.

RATING: 6/10


Posted by: themoviecheese | January 7, 2016

Who is Rey? (My theory)

Who is Rey? (my theory)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us a lot of unanswered questions. A lot of people have complained about that, and to them I say…what in the name of Jabba’s diabetes did you expect?! That’s what movies of this calliber do, and have been doing since films BEGAN. Did we come away with questions after A New Hope? Yes, we bloody well did. We didn’t get the “I am your father” revelation until Empire, and didn’t find out Luke was teetering on an incestuous relationship until Return of the Jedi. Civil War will do the same, Batman v Superman will do the same, Star Wars Episode 8 will do the same. You already knew The Force Awakens was going to do this, and if you didn’t then…I dunno, stop watching films or something.

One of the biggest unanswered questions in the film is the background or heritage of Rey. There are hundreds of clues as to who she is the daughter of – some of them obvious, some of them kinda silly. So I’m going to break down each popular theory and explain why I think it’s possible or why I think it’s bullshit. Also – MAJOR spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, what the bloody chuff are you even doing here? Just go away.

First of all, I want to explain something about the lightsaber that features so prominently in the film, and where it comes from…
This is the lightsaber originally created by Anakin some time before Attack of the Clones. It’s been dubbed several times as the lightsaber of the “Chosen One” as Anakin was prophesized to be. This lightsaber was then picked up by Obi-wan after his epic fight with Anakin/Vader. It was then, 30 years later, given to Luke, who had it for a short while before losing it on Bespin. The reason I’m saying this is to clear up the people calling it “Luke’s lightsaber”. It was never his, it’s Anakin’s lightsaber prior to turning to the darkside. Luke merely picked it up, and did nothing of any note with it before losing it. I’d also like to point out that Obi-wan owned it for 30 whole years – longer than both Anakin and Luke owned it combined.

1. She’s Luke Skywalker’s Daughter

This is definitely the most popular theory out there, and it’s clear to see why – the film is FULL of references and clues pointing to this fact. That’s precisely the reason why I think it’s bullshit though…because that’s precisely the kind of thing JJ and Kasdan would want to do. The entire marketing of TFA has been built upon false presumptions. Most of us were wrong about a LOT of predictions that we had. Aside from Han dying – everyone knew that. If Rey is Luke’s daughter, why was she left on planet Jakku as a child? At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke has completely emraced the Jedi way and code. We learn in TFA that he attempted to start a new Jedi Council. One of the prime rules in the Jedi code is that relationships are forbidden and Jedi can not raise their own children. Why – having fully embraced the Jedi code and even become a Jedi Master – would Luke abandon this rule and bump uglies with a character we as the audience have never met? It also goes completely against his character to abandon his own blood on a far away planet. Luke, if anyone, should know how much it sucks to be a child growing up on your own on a desert island. Also, if she’s Luke’s daughter, why didn’t Han and Leia recognise her? We’re led to believe Luke, Han and Leia remained close friends right up until Ben/Kylo went batshit crazy, so surely Han or Leia would have at least SEEN Rey as a child at some point. Sure, she’s grown up, but Leia being proficient in the Force means she would have been able to sense her. She sensed Han dying from a completely different planet for crying out loud! One of the main reasons I don’t think this is true though is down to what I said earlier: JJ and Kasdan aren’t that stupid. They’re obviously going for a big “I am your father” revelation in Episode 8, and this isn’t it. It would simply be lazy writing for Rey to turn out to be “just another Skywalker”. We have a young Skywalker, his name is Ben/Kylo. Sure, Rey has a connection to Anakin’s lightsaber, but that has nothing to do with Luke as (as I stated earlier) it’s not his fecking lightsaber!

This is Anakin’s lightsaber (and the one featured in The Force Awakens)…


This is Luke’s lightsaber (the one he builds prior to Return of the Jedi)…


Got it? Good, let’s move on.

2. She’s Han & Leia’s Daughter


Just as with Luke, there is a plethora of evidence to suggest she is Han’s daughter. First of all, there is her proficiency as a pilot – this could also be evidence towards her being Luke’s daughter, but I’m talking specifically about her affinity with the Millennium Falcon. She knows instantly exactly what she’s doing. Also, one of the complaints some people have is how coincidental the placement of the Millennium Falcon is. But what if that’s intentional? (more on that later). Han also seems to share a natural bond with her, even taking her on as a crew member. Also, the expanded universe books (set after episode 6) tell of Han’s son who turned to the darkside, and a daughter who became a Jedi. Sure, these stories are no longer canon, but it’s still something to ponder. However, surely if this was true they would have revealed it in TFA prior to Han dying? Revealing this in episode 8 after Han’s death would hold almost no impact. Also, why would Han & Leia not recognise their own daughter? Again, she’s grown up around ten years, but like I said earlier Leia would have at least sensed it’s her daughter, and Kylo would have sensed she’s his sister.

3. She’s Obi-wan’s Grand Daughter

This is a new theory that’s gained a lot of ground thanks to a recent video by Mr Sunday Movies (see that video here: The various clues he’s spotted are actually rather striking. The voice that says “Rey, these are your first steps” is a mixture of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor. In order to get an audio clip of Guinness saying “Rey”, they took a clip of him saying the word “Afraid” and cut it down. Why would they go to such lengths if she wasn’t connected to the character in some form? Also, back when they were still in the casting process, there was a report from the Hollywood Reporter stating that Abrams was searching for an actress to play Obi-wan’s daughter or grand daughter. Rey also speaks with a British accent. This may not seem like much, but take note of the fact that John Boyega, the actor who plays Finn, is from Peckham in London. So why was Boyega made to speak with an American accent, and yet Rey was left with her British accent? Neither Luke, Han nor Leia are British, whereas both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor are very British (well, McGregor is Scottish, but you get my point). On the subject of Anakin’s lightsaber – it’s said that a lightsaber gains a connection to someone who is force-sensitive through the crystal inside the hilt. That lightsaber was in Obi-wan’s possession for 30 whole years, so it’s possible that over time it felt a stronger connection to Obi-wan than it did to Anakin or Luke. Luke only had it for a couple of years max before losing it on Bespin, so it wouldn’t have built up a connection to him at all, particularly because he’d had next to no training until he visited Yoda. Rey is also incredibly (almost instantly) proficient in Jedi mind tricks – a skill that both old and young Obi-wan used in abundance. She also wears very similar clothing to Obi-wan…

Also, some have pointed out how this struggle from the Rey vs Kylo fight…

…mirrors this struggle from the Obi-wan vs Anakin fight…

Again though, I find it hard to believe that Obi-wan would break his Jedi vows. Also, it’s almost impossible to determine exactly *when* he would have started a family. The only possible explanation is that he gave up on the Jedi code and settled down with a family after Revenge of the Sith, but then why is he a Force-strong recluse when Luke eventually meets up with him? Again, the main reason I don’t support this claim is because Abrams has made it almost too obvious. In fact, I dare say there’s more evidence to support this theory than there is the Luke theory.

My Theory
So what is my theory exactly? Well, after seeing the film three times I am almost convinced she is Han and Leia’s daughter. “Wait, that goes against everything you’ve said in this article” I hear you say? Hear me out…

Firstly, let’s talk about Rey’s proficiency with the Force…it comes out of fucking nowhere! It’s also one of the biggest complaints that the haters have with the film, with many people going so far as to call her a “Mary Sue” (a term given to a female who can do no wrong). She nails the Jedi mind trick with almost no practise, and she instantly becomes a badass with a lightsaber as soon as she picks one up. My theory for why this happens is that she was a young Jedi student (or “youngling” as they were called in the prequels) of Luke’s prior to Ben/Kylo loosing his shit.

Adam Driver (Ben/Kylo) is around 30 years old, Daisy Ridley (Rey) is around 20 years old. Lets say their corresponding characters are also around 30 and 20 respectively. Let’s also say (for arguments sake) that Ben turned to the darkside and became “Kylo” around ten years prior to the events of The Force Awakens, when he was around 20. Rey would have been around 10 years old, which is the age she looked in her vision when she is dumped on planet Jakku. See where I’m going with this?

I believe Han and Leia had a second child – a daughter, Rey – around ten years after having Ben. Being Leia’s daughter, she is also Force-sensitive, so Luke begins training her at a young age. I think Luke sensed something in her fairly early on…she’s the new “chosen one”. This is why Anakin’s lightsaber is drawn to her. It’s the lightsaber of the chosen one, and she is the new chosen one.

Note this shot for a second…


This is a shot from Rey’s vision. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the moment Ben turned against Luke and became Kylo Ren. Those are the “Knights of Ren” stood behind him, and those dead bodies scattered all over are no doubt Luke’s various padawans, killed by Kylo. Take note of those dead bodies; they’re all a little…short. Now, at this point in the story, 20 years have passed between Return of the Jedi and Kylo’s massacre. That means Luke has had 20 years to establish a new Jedi Council. It took around a thousand years to fully establish the original Jedi Order/Council, and that was with the help of several other Jedi. Luke was just on his own, possibly with help from Leia. This means the padawans he would have gathered will *mostly* be children. Remember when Qui-gon brought Anakin before Yoda and Mace Windu in Phantom Menace? Mace Windu said “He’s too old to train”. Then, In Empire Strikes Back when ghost Obi-wan introduces Luke to Yoda, Yoda says “He’s too old”. This means, traditionally, Jedi train from a very young age. I think Kylo wiped out all of Luke’s youngling padawans as a further attempt to mirror the actions of his grandfather, Darth Vader. He believes he is the new chosen one and can master the darkside a lot easier than his grandfather did.

However, Rey is the new chosen one, and Luke has sensed it. In early interviews, various people working on The Force Awakens said that Luke is thought to have transcended to an entirely new level of power. He’s basically like a wizard-Jedi. Imagine a Jedi/lightside version of the Emperor. One of the interviews (I forget which) said something to the effect of Luke unlocking Force powers that we’ve never seen before. I think this includes the ability to affect one’s memory, as in wipe someone’s memory. I think Luke sent Rey to planet Jakku to protect her from both Kylo and Snoke. He wiped her memory, along with the memories of Han, Leia and possibly even Ben/Kylo. However, I believe that before their memories were wiped, both Han and Leia were aware of – and in on – Luke’s plan.

The bulking hand you see holding young Rey in her vision is most definitely that of “Unkar Plutt”, the oversized alien that Simon Pegg plays in a cameo (the guy bartering with Rey during the opening scenes). When Rey and Finn take off in the Millennium Falcon, Unkar Plutt shouts “That’s mine!” I think Han gave him the Falcon both as a way of bargaining with him and also ensuring Rey has a way to escape Jakku should the shit hit the fan. With Han, Leia, Rey and Kylo’s minds all wiped, Luke went into exhile on the myserious island seen in the closing shot (I have a theory that is the location of the first ever Jedi temple).

This fully explains Luke’s expression in the final scene.


That’s not the face of someone who’s seeing his daughter for the first time in around ten years…that’s the face of someone who’s formulated a complex plan and is finally seeing it come to fruition. He’s frightened. He knows exactly what he has to do, but he’s terrified to do it. He doesn’t take the lightsaber because it’s not his, it never was.

So, that’s my (admittedly long winded) theory. Do you agree with parts of it, or disagree with all of it? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted by: themoviecheese | November 29, 2015

Top Ten Films of Leeds International Film Festival 2015

Top 10 Films of Leeds International Film Festival

So the festival is over for another year, and I am once again in dire need of some serious sleep, a long soaking bath, and several hot meals. But before I do all that, I’m going to present you with my opinion of what the top ten films of the entire festival were. Bare in mind, I choose not to include the retrospective/classic films on this list. This year, they screened such classics as The Thing, Leon and Rosemary’s Baby, along with rarely-screened beauties such as the excellent Roar and They Live. So if I were to take those into consideration, it wouldn’t be much of a contest…

10. Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker) – Comedy


Tangerine is just a basic, old-school comedy, but it thrashes conventions and clichés so well that it more than needs to be on this list. It’s an incredibly hard sell because Tangerine follows the everyday lives of a group transgender working girls. The beauty is in the fact that Tangerine knows it’s a hard sell, and it works it to its advantage. It’s determined not to sugar-coat anything, and instead celebrate a zesty yet difficult lifestyle with pure hilarity. This is one funny-ass film, and definitely fast moving, but also deeply moving. The visuals are also just as vibrant and colourful as its protagonists – made even more impressive with the knowledge that the entire film was reportedly shot on an iPhone 5. Rating: 8/10

9. The Open (dir. Marc Lahore) – Post apocalypse drama


How could a film about tennis possibly make it into my list? But, The Open isn’t really about tennis. It’s about hope, dreams and ultimate survival. It’s as if Rocky Balboa, Tim Henman and Max Rockatansky all had a massive blazing threesome. The Open “opens” up (hehe) with a terrorist attack on Paris (rather poignant considering recent events), and then shifts years into the future where we assume this attack led to a world war that ultimately left most of the planet in ruins. We join three protagonists (actually, three characters in total is all the film has to offer) as they desperately try to invent their own imaginary tennis open tournament. It sounds stupid, and initially you think it is…but then the film sucks you in. I quickly became utterly compelled by the determination and sheer will of these three characters, all in the face of the absurdity of what they were attempting to achieve. There was one scene in particular involving a lost MP3 player that almost had me clapping there and then. Rating: 8/10

8. Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley) – Romantic drama


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Brooklyn. It’s set (mostly) in 1950s New York, and follows a young Irish woman attempting to find herself in this new enormous city. She eventually finds love in the form of a handsome young Italian. This is eventually disrupted, however, when her past comes back and she must choose between two countries and the people that live within them. Brooklyn is one of the most realistic romance films I’ve seen in years. It never ever feels mushy or overly written as most romance films do. This is a tale of the desperation that comes from an entire ocean being in between two people who are deeply in love. Brooklyn currently holds an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes (124 positive reviews, 1 negative) and it shows why. Ronan’s performance is brilliant, but its in the script that the film’s true talent lies. Rating: 8/10

7. Chuck Norris vs. Communism (dir. Ilinca Calugareanu) – Documentary


This film obviously deserves a place in any list based on the title alone. However, don’t set your hopes too high because this isn’t an action film featuring Norris taking on Soviet Russia. No, this is actually a documentary charting the censorship of 1980s Romania. During the 1980s many western films were either heavily cut or outright banned. This led to an underground movement led by a black market racketeer and one incredibly brave translator/voice actress. What follows is a hugely rewarding and heart-warming tale of bravery and discovery. The interviews are the best part, listening to the stories from the various Romanians about how they would sneak into each other’s apartments to watch the latest Van Damme movie is both hilarious and touching. But there is another side to this story – that of the person orchestrating these illegal VHS copies is closer to a conspiracy thriller and is utterly riveting as such. A brilliant watch for anyone interested in film history. Rating: 9/10

6. Nina Forever (dir. Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine) – Horror/Comedy


After watching Nina Forever, my first tweet went something like “That film was totally my jam!”. Feature debut from a brother directing duo known for shorts, Nina Forever tells the story of a young man who’s girlfriend dies in a car accident. Some time later, he falls in love with one of his co-workers, but when they first make love his dead girlfriend’s bloody and mutilated body resurfaces to mock them. He soon realises that he can’t have sex without his dead girlfriend interrupting. Nina Forever is hilarious, the dialogue is extremely snappy and its also surprisingly sexy, despite most of the film being drenched in the red stuff. The tone and dark humour reminded me a lot of Ginger Snaps, which is admittedly an acquired taste of a film, as is this one. All in all it’s just a great script with (obviously) a very original genre-bending story. Rating: 9/10

5. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper) – Crime thriller


There are a lot of films out there that claim to be shot in one take (Rope, Running Time, The Silent House, Birdman to name a few), but those films DO actually contain several cuts hidden within dark zooms and fast pans. Victoria, however, is the real fucking deal: a full 2 and a half hour continuous take that apparently only took three tries to nail. I scoured every single frame of Victoria like a hawk and couldn’t find a single hidden transition. Within its 140 minute-runtime, Victoria’s cinematography spans around 25 different locations dips in and out of several vehicles and speeds around the city, contains a couple of kinetic shootouts, several extended and extremely tense chase sequences, and some very well written tender moments of calm. The first hour or so is admittedly slow-moving, but this is intentional to draw us further into the characters. Most of the dialogue is improvised (the script had a mere 12 pages), and so the characters all feel real as a result. It means when the shit hits the fan, you feel like you’ve built up a relationship with these people and you’ve connected with them on a personal level. The “hand held, single shot” aspect helps with this overall, because you feel almost like one of the characters. Victoria is simply exhausting – it’s the kind of film that you enjoy whilst you’re watching it, but you don’t truly appreciate it until the credits start rolling. Once those credits roll, you realise what you’ve just watched – one of the most incredible cinematic achievements of this generation. Oh, and that single 2 and a half hour take? It apparently took only three takes to nail. Holy shit. Rating: 9/10

4. The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers) – Horror


The Witch ultimately gave me a feeling that I haven’t felt since I watched the original Ringu around 12 years ago – an uncompromising feeling of caution; that I’d just watched something that was just so wrong. The Witch isn’t “bone chillingly frightening” or “filled with jump-out-of-your-seat moments” – let’s just get that out of the way first. The Witch is not “one of the scariest films ever made” as most of the marketing would have you believe. It is, however, one of the absolute darkest and dread-filled films I have ever seen. I really can’t stress that “ever” enough. Robert Eggers has delivered one of the bleakest films of this decade. There is no happiness here, no solace. These are characters almost entirely consumed by darkness and evil. The cinematography is simply impeccable. Perfectly portraying this sense of voyeurism, like we’re hiding behind corners because we’re not sure if we’re allowed to be watching what we’re watching. The script is sublime, taking a queue from the likes of A Field In England and giving the dialogue an air of authenticity that is so rarely found in films of this calibre. This in turn makes the acting that much more impressive, since around 70% of the cast is made up of either children or young teens. Apparently, director Robert Eggers is a huge perfectionist, and that is proven ten fold with The Witch. Simply put, this is the best example of attention to detail I have seen in years. YEARS. There’s no doubt in my mind that The Witch will be a truly polarizing release. Some will despise it’s slow burn aesthetic and it’s almost Shakespearian dialogue, while some will relish it. However, the one thing we can all surely agree on is that Eggers has directed the SHIT out of this film. There were several times where I genuinely felt like I wanted to stop watching – not because I was scared, but because I simply did not want to see what was going to happen next. The Witch is a different kind of horror. Hell, it could almost be a new genre. Rating: 9/10

3. Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier) – Horror/Thriller/Black Comedy


Green Room was my most anticipated film of the whole festival. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, director of last year’s superb revenge film Blue Ruin, Green Room is a premise I couldn’t pass up. It centres on a young punk band who have a very anti-fascism political stance. The get a gig performing at a bar they’ve never been to, only to quickly realise it is a neo-nazi bar…saying anything else would be spoiling. Yes, this is definitely the kind of film that you want to go into as blind as possible. A testament to this is the fact that there isn’t a single promotional trailer online, because none have been made. There is also but one poster, and only one short film clip (that reveals nothing) on YouTube. Once the violence starts (and like Blue Ruin, it is extremely violent), it’s completely relentless in its execution. Like in all Saulnier’s films the biggest ace is the dialogue. Saulnier has such a sublime talent for taking characters that feel real and placing them in extraordinarily cinematic situations. These are scenarios that would only happen in films, and the sequence of events follow a basic cinematic narrative structure. But the genius is in how these characters are written. Patrick Stewart’s main villain for instance could have very easily been written as a cheesy horror caricature, and if this film had been written by almost any other horror writer, his character would have certainly have come across as cartoonish. But Saulnier’s excellent and genuine dialogue coupled with Stewart’s master class in creating an everyday “nip-down-the-pub” character means that we get a villain that feels so much more frightening due to how utterly real he feels. The violence (of which there is a LOT, even more than Blue Ruin I’d say) is also brutally realistic. Make no mistake that Green Room is NOT a “torture porn” film. “Torture porn” implies the film unrealistically spurts blood in our faces as a cheap way of getting a reaction. Green Room doesn’t do that. I wouldn’t even call it “gore” as such, as none of the violence lingers on the detail. That said, however, and despite what I’ve said about the film’s realistic nature, Green Room’s biggest talent lies in its ability to “crowd please”. This is one of the biggest crowd pleasers I’ve seen in ages, and many cheers and the like were had in the packed out audience at the Night of the Dead event. This is helped by the film’s random sprinkles of great black humour. Green Room is almost a total mystery, and it needs to stay that way. Go see it with an empty head, and your ignorance will be well rewarded. Rating: 9/10

2. Son of Saul (dir. László Nemes) – Thriller/Horror


Victoria wow’d us all for its huge technical achievement, but even that pales in comparison to what Son of Saul places on the screen. It tells the story of a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz who is forced to burn the bodies of his own people. He is suddenly perplexed to come upon the dead body of a young Jewish boy. He takes the boy for his son, and sets about on a daunting, dangerous and incredibly couragous quest to find a Rabbi and gives the boy a proper burial. The entire film was shot on a single 40mm focal length, which means the film seldom leaves our protagonist’s face. To make the cinematography just that little more claustrophobic, it’s also shot at a 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning we rarely get to see the extent of what’s going on around Saul. We hear all the random gunshots, the crying and screaming, the roar of the furnaces and we can feel the great sense of depression. The point here is that we see it all through Saul’s face, and Geza Rogrig’s performance makes that aspect simply astounding. I’ve placed the film under a “horror” bracket, and this is because it is truly horrifying. No, there aren’t any zombies, and there is very little gore and not a single jump scare to speak of. But there is is an overwhelming feeling of desperation and dread. The film contains very little dialogue, but a mountain of body language that speaks much better than any lines of dialogue ever could. They say we as a people should never forget the Holocaust and what happened, well Son of Saul will make you remember. Rating: 10/10

1. Bone Tomahawk (dir. S. Craig Zahler) – Western/Horror


I’d been told two things about Bone Tomahawk prior to seeing it – 1. That it is Kurt Russell’s comeback film, and 2. That it is a slow burn with a huge pay-off and to “stick with it”. Both of these things threw me completely off guard. It’s not Kurt’s come back. Well, I guess it kind of is because he’s chuffing superb in it. But it’s also not, because it’s most definitely not a one-man movie. The rest of the cast is just sublime (especially Matthew Fox and Patrick Wilson), and watching them together and their expert chemistry is what eliminated that “slow burn” expectation for me. Avengers and Justice League can go bollocks… THIS is the team up movie of the century for me. The god damn century. Also, whilst it definitely has that promised “huge pay-off”, I didn’t find the first half to be a slow burn at all. I found it to be a perfectly paced and expertly written piece of celluloid that kept me gripped throughout. I cared about these characters; and they weren’t particularly bad ass (apart from Wilson, he was straight up fucking amazing), it was just the way they interacted and the way nothing got in the way of their teamwork or determination. I’m not going to tell you any of the story, because I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say ‘Bone Tomahawk’ takes two favourite genres and blends them together like a delicious soup. It’s the kind of film that was so good that I tried to find a fault – I really freaking tried. Everyone knows that I value character over plot. Films that contain a complex plot, but underwritten basic characters just don’t interest me. This is why I find it so easy to dislike critically-acclaimed films like Interstellar and The Godfather. ‘Bone Tomahawk’ gets this – so much so that it feels like it was taylor made for me. It’s a relatively simple plot (although it certainly becomes a lot more complex by the finish), but it’s true strength lies in its characterisation and just how brilliantly written they are as individuals coupled with the great performances (it even has a great cameo from exploitation legend Sid Haig). It has to be said as well that this film contains one of the most satisfying kills ever. Ever ever ever. Ever. Unquestionably the absolute best film of Leeds Film Festival, but also the best film of 2015 (so far). Rating: 10/10

Other Films Worth Mentioning –
Shrew’s Nest – 7/10
Black Mass – 7/10

Lovemilla – 7/10

Goodnight Mommy – 7/10

Tales of Halloween – 8/10

Forbidden Films – 8/10

Tag – 8/10

The Assassin – 8/10

Carol – 8/10

Posted by: themoviecheese | October 29, 2015

Ten Must-See Films At This Year’s LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL

Ten Must-See Films At This Year’s LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL

As you all know, each year I attend the entirety of Leeds Film Festival, one of the biggest celebrations of film in the UK. The program they put together each year always brings a great mixture of old classics and cult films with a huge selection of innovative new features and shorts. This is my list of what I believe to be the most promising and “must see” films of the festival this year… (in no particular order)

10. Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy has possibly the scariest trailer in recent memory. It tells the story of two brothers waiting for their mother to return home after surgery. She returns – face all bandaged up – but the young boys begin to suspect she isn’t actually their mother. Just watch the trailer and tell me it’s not one of the creepiest fucking things you’ve ever seen.

9. Brooklyn & Carol

Brooklyn and Carol are the festival’s opening and closing films. Both films are set in the 1950s and deal with a theme of the difficulty of romance within that era. Both have also been receiving absolute rave reviews so far as well, with Brooklyn in particular currently holding a 100% rating on Huge Oscar contenders and featuring all star casts, with the likes of Saorse Ronan, Julie Walters, Cate Blanchet and Rooney Mara.

8. The Assassin

The Assassin is the latest film from visionary director Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Featuring astounding visuals shot within an odd 1.37:1 ratio, The Assassin has received great reviews from Cannes for it’s blistering visuals and martial arts poetry.

7. The Witch

If early reviews and that fucking trailer are anything to go by, then The Witch could very well be the very best horror film of 2015. The trailer is shrouded in absolute mystery and gives you a taste of how utterly depressing, yet enthralling the atmosphere will be.

6. Roar
Roar is a film I’ve wanted to see for years. Originally shot in 1981, Roar is a film that is rather difficult to explain. It tells the story of a quiet family home that is invaded by ferocious jungle beasts, such as lions…lots of fucking lions. The twist here is that all the animals are real, and more importantly, untrained. Director Noel Marshall thought it would be a good idea and make for a more interesting film that way. What results is a film that features actual genuine animal attacks. Most of the footage of people being mauled by lions are real. One of the reviews reads “It’s like Walt Disney went insane and shot a snuff version of Swiss Family Robinson”. Also, the trailer is freaking hilarious…

5. Victoria

I hadn’t actually heard of Victoria prior to watching the trailer at the LIFF Program Launch event, and that shocks me. Simply put, Victoria looks amazing. It’s a shot-in-one-take crime thriller that has been hailed as “Run Lola Run on even more crack”. The shot-in-one-take aspect here isn’t a gimmick either, it’s the genuine article. Whereas films like Hitchcock’s Rope and last year’s Birdman used various trickery to make the film merely seem like one take, Victoria genuinely is just one take, make even more amazing by the fact that the film is 2 hours and 20 minutes long!

4. Tag

This may be an acquired taste, but Tag is a must for me being the latest film from one of my favourite directors Shion Sono. Sono is one of the hardest working directors alive (he’s directed seven films this year alone), and like most of his films, Tag’s plot makes almost no sense what-so-ever. Something about a young girl who survives a bus being sliced in half, then being chased by a knife-wielding pig wearing a tuxedo? I dunno. Either way, I’m always in for a surreal treat when it comes to Sono, and I’m sure this will be no different.

3. Green Room

If I could only pick one film – just one – to watch during this year’s festival, Green Room would definitely be that film. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the director of last year’s excellent revenge thriller Blue Ruin, Green Room features Patrick Stewart cast completely against type as a leader of a group of neo-nazi fascists and owner of a neo-nazi bar. When a young punk rock band play their usual anti-facism-themed music, all hell breaks loose and they end up trapped in this bizarre venue. Sounds pretty simple, but apparently there’s much MUCH more to this film than that simplistic sounding plot. Almost every single review for this film that I’ve read has told me not to watch any promotional material and not to read any spoiler ridden reviews. Funnily enough, there actually aren’t any trailers for Green Room available even if I did want to watch them. The only thing available is a short clip on YouTube that literally reveals nothing. That’s enough to ensure me that Green Room is the absolute number one must see film of the whole festival.

2. Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is being hailed as Kurt Russell’s big come back, along with Tarantino’s up and coming The Hateful Eight. Like that movie, Bone Tomahawk is also a western, but it’s a genre bending western that uses horror tropes to tell its story. The trailer looks great, and early reviews praise the performances and impeccible direction from S. Craig Zahler. It tells the story of a group of settlers who are kidnapped by a gang of vicious cannibals. Sherrif Hunt (Russell) gets together a team of gunslingers to set out to rescue them. With a great supporting cast including Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and grindhouse veteran/legend Sid Haig, Bone Tomahawk is a brutal and terrifying film that takes the concept of a John Wayne film and applies it to the Italian exploitation films of the 70s and 80s.

1. Black Mass

Most likely set to be the most popular film of the festival, Black Mass is the new gangster thriller from the director of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace. It stars Johnny Depp in his first role in years that doesn’t require him to wear a face-full of prosthetics, or prance around as a flamboyant pirate. In this true story, Depp plays James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious Boston criminal who eventually became an informant for the FBI to take down gangsters who were muscling in on his turf. Early reviews have had astounding praise for Depp’s performance, calling it his most important and compelling in years.

Posted by: themoviecheese | October 21, 2015

Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc Pit!

So by now, you’ve probably seen the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. If you haven’t, then you’re probably dead and I am sorry. If you have, then you’re probably just as exited as I am for December 17th. However, there is one other Star Wars product that I’m almost just as exited for, and that is Star Wars: Battlefront, the new instalment in the Battlefront series of video games made famous back during the PS2 and original Xbox days. I played the Beta last week (video here: and was extremely impressed.

Well, a new Battlefront screenshot has answered a question that’s been on the faces of many a Star Wars fan for over 30 years: did Boba Fett die in the Sarlacc Pit? Most people assume “Yes”. After all, why would you think otherwise. However, this screenshot does just that…Boba Fett is indeed alive. Or he is in the moments leading up to the Battle of Jakku anyway. The Battle of Jakku is a New Republic vs. Imperial war that takes place sometime between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens on the planet of Jakku; the desert-filled planet featured prominently in all the Force Awakens trailers. The actual battle doesn’t appear in The Force Awakens because the film takes place several years after it. It is featured in Star Wars: Batlefront, however, as a playable map in a multiplayer level, and during this map players can earn a temporary upgrade to play as the legendary bounty hunter. This isn’t just a throwaway either, as both Disney and DICE have confirmed that each playable hero will be integral to the story of each map…meaning Fett is supposed to be there.


The above image is taken from The Battle of Jakku, and features Boba Fett in all his jet-packed, badass glory. Note the plummeting Star Destroyer in the top right corner. That’s the exact same Star Destroyer in this image…


…taken directly from the Force Awakens trailer. So yeah, Boba survived the Sarlacc, but I very much doubt this means he’ll make an appearance in the future films. This is nothing but fan bait really, and I have no doubt that he’ll meet his demise during the Battle of Jakku level.

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