A Monster Calls (Film Review) – Decent Yet Disappointing

A Monster Calls is a fantasy drama directed by J. A. Bayona and stars Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson. The story is centred on a young boy called Conor O’Malley, played by Lewis MacDougall, who has to deal with the fact that his mother, played by Felicity Jones, is dying from cancer. Additionally, Conor is struggling with being bullied at school. Conor comes across a monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, who tells him stories and aids Conor in fixing his unhappy life.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls has been receiving a lot of buzz since some critics were able to see it as early as the summer. As such, this was a film which had pushed itself to being one of my most anticipated, especially when you consider how talented the cast involved in this film is. Certainly, Felicity Jones is getting stronger and stronger as an actress and when you have Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson involved in any film, it will only increase your expectations.

Sigourney Weaver and Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls

My Thoughts on A Monster Calls

Sadly, the high hopes I had for this film were not met. While I believe that it is a decent film, it failed to emotionally captivate me as it has with other people. Still, there were some things I liked. What I really appreciated about A Monster Calls were the impressive visuals. The monster looks stunning in this film and the animation they use to tell the monsters’ stories are also very impressive.

The performances in A Monster Calls were also good. MacDougall is impressive for a boy of his age, Neeson’s voice work is solid while Felicity Jones plays the supporting role she has to the best of her ability. Nevertheless, I would have liked to have seen more of Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell as I was intrigued by their characters the most and I felt they were underused in the film which is a negative aspect of the film.

The Monster and Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls

However, my biggest gripe with A Monster Calls was that it tries to tug at your heartstrings to an extent where it feels really forced. It was like the film was screaming “CRY NOW!!” and it felt very unnatural for my liking. This will not be an issue for a lot of people but I have to give my honest opinion about how I felt about this film. At what was supposed to be the film’s most emotional moments, the majority of them fell flat due to how it tries too hard to manipulate the audience which really disappointed me, especially as I had such high hopes for this film.

Consequently, I have no intention of re-watching A Monster Calls. While I would encourage you to see this film to form your own opinions, I myself only consider this film to be decent. While it is visually impressive and the performances in this are good, certain characters were under-utilised and the film tries too hard to showcase its emotional core and force it onto the audience. This left me very disappointed but, like I said, I think you should go and see it for yourself as I also believe the problems I have with A Monster Calls will not be issues for a lot of people.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Film Review) – A Great Film That Expands Star Wars Lore

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a space opera film directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Rogue One is the first stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe and takes place just before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The story centres on Jyn Erso and her journey to obtain the plans for the Death Star which was unwillingly designed by her father Galen Erso, played my Mads Mikkelsen.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Rogue One

It is fair to say that this has been my most anticipated film of the year. In fact, every year that a Star Wars film will be released will automatically make it my most anticipated film due to my love of the franchise. I grew up watching the Original Trilogy on VHS (yes, the version of the Original Trilogy before it was ruined by the Special Editions) and that was really the basis for my love of film in general.

I owe this franchise a lot of gratitude even though it went through a very rough patch with the Prequels and the constant and unnecessary tinkering to the Original Trilogy with the Special Editions. For a time, that did leave me in a state of uncertainty about how Lucasfilm could recapture the glory days.

However, my faith has been restored in recent years. Under the ownership of Disney and the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm delivered a great film with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They have also been gradually giving hardcore fans such as myself with new canon material that is finally coherent and on an equal level of importance as the theatrical films. They have done a good job of paying homage to the Original Trilogy while setting up exciting new narratives.

Death Star firing on Jedha

Consequently, I was really eager to see if Rogue One would continue the great work that Lucasfilm has been doing so far. Going into this film, my experience would already be enhanced due to the fact that I read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, a book which came out a month before Rogue One was released.

The book is set before and ties into Rogue One by focusing on Galen Erso, his relationship with Orson Krennic and the Republic’s, and later the Galactic Empire’s, project to develop the Death Star. It was a really good book and I learnt a lot of back-story to Rogue One which I hoped would enhance my appreciation of what would be a great film.

My Thoughts on Rogue One

My hopes were realised. Rogue One is a great film that really expands the lore of Star Wars. Truly, this film ties in really well to A New Hope while giving us new information and a greater perspective of the wider universe. For instance, seeing the Empire and the Rebel Alliance be fleshed out was great to see. We get to see the extent of the Empire’ s control over the galaxy while also seeing that the Rebel Alliance are not the altruistic good guys we always thought they were. The way in which this film enhanced our understanding about the Empire and the Rebel Alliance was a really strong point about the film.

Another great thing about Rogue One was the ensemble cast who gave really good performances. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are great as Jyn Erso and Cassian Endor respectively. But, the standout characters for me were the droid K-2SO, played by Alan Tudyk, and Chirrut Îmwe who was played by Donnie Yen. K-2SO provides some really humorous moments with the dry delivery of his lines while Chirrut was an absolute boss in some of the action scenes while having a spiritual connection to The Force.

Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe on Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I also liked Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Orsen Krennic and his strained relationship with Tarkin which, if you read Catalyst, was established in that book and developed in this film. And yes, Tarkin is in this film and I thought the use of him was necessary given his connection to the Death Star and A New Hope. At the same, it was organic as it could possibly be given the fact that Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin in A New Hope, is no longer alive.

Tarkin is played by Guy Henry whose face is digitally manipulated to resemble Peter Cushing and, for me personally, the CGI used to accomplish this is the best I have seen in a film so far. True, it is not flawless but it never took me out of the film. In fact, it enhanced Rogue One for me and the same can be said when the technique used to bring Tarkin back to life was used on another character towards the end of the film. Again, it was another example of how successful Rogue One was in tying into A New Hope.

Darth Vader

Still, while Tarkin is a great villain and was used well in this film, one villain will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, I am talking about Darth Vader whose role in this film, while small, was very impactful. Certainly, I was captivated whenever he was on screen with one scene in particular instantly becoming one of my Top 10 scenes in Star Wars history.

Additionally, James Earl Jones came back to voice Vader and he did a really good job too. Selfishly, I would have loved to have seen more of Vader in this film seeing as he is my favourite Star Wars character and the greatest villain of all time. Still, his role made sense within the film. Moreover, it was another great way in which Rogue One tied into A New Hope.

Darth Vader and Orsen Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Additionally, the use of cameos of characters from A New Hope in Rogue One was also a nice nod to the fans without feeling forced. Still, there is plenty of stuff within this film that has never been seen in a Star Wars film. For one, the variety of locations we got to see in this film was great to see, the cinematography is the best we have ever had in a Star Wars film and the action in Rogue One is fantastic. Certainly, there is great action throughout but it reaches its peak in the final act, especially with the space battles which are stunning.

As well as being a great action film, Rogue One is also quite emotional when it matters, especially in relation to Galen Erso and Jyn Erso. It is even more emotional if you read Catalyst. Indeed, hardcore fans of Star Wars who are immersed in the new canon will appreciate this film to a much greater degree due to the references and links to the wider material that is available.

A Great Film…But Not Perfect

As you can see, I think Rogue One is pretty great but I do feel that, like every film, there are some minor flaws. For one, I thought the text used in the title for Rogue One at the beginning of the film could have been much better. I’m not sure why they could not have used the same text for Rogue One as they did for the other films in the franchise. Also, I thought the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, was just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it was not bad and at certain moments it is very effective but I struggle to think of a memorable piece of music from it.

I would have also cut out one scene involving a CGI creature which I thought was unnecessary but these are my only issues with Rogue One and they didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of it. Moreover, I might not see these as issues upon multiple viewings of the film. One thing I will mention though is that I can completely understand if people are upset with the lack of an opening crawl. I respect the fact that some will have an issue with it but, for me personally, it never held the film back from being as great as it is.

X-Wing in Battle of Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Overall, Lucasfilm has once again given us another worthwhile entry in the Star Wars franchise with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While there are minor issues, there are plenty of great things in Rogue One to help it achieve the tough task of expanding the lore of Star Wars while making sure it both ties into A New Hope and enhances it in the process. The great action, the cinematography, the strength of the ensemble cast, the characters, the use of Tarkin and the CGI used to bring characters like him to life as well as the added bonus of Darth Vader make this a great film which you need to see as soon as you can.

Sully (Film Review) – A Well-Crafted Film About Heroism

Sully is a biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney and Tom Hanks. Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who performed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009 in which all 155 passengers and crew survived. The story of this film focuses on the landing as well as the subsequent publicity and investigation and how it impacted Sullenberger.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Sully

I remember when this event happened and the intense media coverage surrounding it. It was dubbed as the “Miracle on the Hudson” and I was interested to see if this film could effectively tell this story. My confidence about how good Sully would be was boosted thanks to the talented people involved in the making of this film. Certainly, Clint Eastwood has proven what a great director he is in addition to his prowess as an actor.

Tom Hanks in Sully

Films he has directed such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino among many others prove that he is a force to be reckoned with when telling stories. Additionally, having Tom Hanks is enough to give any film a chance of being great. As you can see, this film had a lot going for it. An interesting true-life story, a great director and a great actor in the lead role meant that Sully had all the right ingredients to be good.

My Thoughts on Sully

I am happy to say that Sully does not disappoint. This is a good film for several reasons. For me personally, the main reason why this film is good is because it is has been crafted very well. Indeed, Sully is paced well thanks to the non-linear storytelling and the running time is perfect.

The film does not drag and I give a lot of credit to Eastwood for telling this story in such a way that you are always connected to the story and never feel bored. I also liked how Sully celebrates the heroic acts of normal people and how people can come together in difficult situations.

Clint Eastwood and Aaron Eckhart in Sully

Another great strength of Sully was the performances. Certainly, Hanks is very good in the lead but, for me, Aaron Eckhart gave my favourite performance in this film. He provides levity in what is a very serious film, especially as it brings up issues such as PTSD. You need Eckhart’s character, who was the co-pilot to Sullenberger, to bring some light relief and comedic moments which gives the film a soul.

Overall, all of the talent involved come together to make a very good film which tells an uplifting story about the heroism of normal people. Eastwood effectively directs the film and tells the story in such a way that you are constantly engaged in the story while Hanks and Eckhart give good performances which, in the end, makes Sully a very worthwhile film to see.

Paterson (Film Review) – A Celebration of Normality

Paterson is a drama directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver. The story focuses on a week in the life of Adam Driver who plays an inspiring poet and bus driver called Paterson who lives in the city of Paterson, New Jersey in the film called Paterson (I know, extraordinary).

My Knowledge and Expectations of Paterson

I had heard a lot of good things about this film from critics who had seen earlier releases of Paterson at various film festivals throughout the year. My interest in Paterson was also increased due to the unique nature of the film’s plot. It seemed to be quite different compared to other films in cinemas at this moment and that is one of the great things about independent films like Paterson. It offers us the chance to experience intimate stories and this was my expectation going into Paterson.

Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver in Paterson

My Thoughts on Paterson

I have to say, I was right to think this way. I enjoyed Paterson. I wouldn’t give it the lavish praise that film critics have but I did enjoy it. This was largely down to how the film celebrated people and the normality of regular life. Truthfully, I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives, eavesdropping on their conversations (just like Paterson did while driving his bus) and I give a lot of credit to Jim Jarmusch for structuring the film in a way where we feel a real connection to the characters because they are just like us.

Adam Driver is really good in the film. He gives us a very quaint, reserved performance in a film which is quaint and reserved and it is likeable because of this. Certainly, there is no big set piece or dramatic twist in Paterson and that does mean that certain people who watch this film may find themselves to be bored. Certainly, the pacing is slow which will annoy some people. It didn’t affect my viewing of Paterson too much but it does affect the film’s re-watchability.

Masatoshi Nagase and Adam Driver and Paterson

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed Paterson for what it was. It is a unique film which celebrates ordinary life and ordinary individuals. It is well directed and Adam Driver gives a good performance. I admit that the film will frustrate some people due to its slow pacing which does limits the re-watchability of Paterson but if you go in knowing what to expect then you can enjoy it.

A United Kingdom (Film Review) – A Likeable Film About Love

A United Kingdom is a biographical romantic drama directed by Amma Asante which stares David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams Khama. The story is based on the true-life events detailing the interracial marriage between Seretse and Ruth in 1948 which at the time was highly controversial. They must defy the social and political unrest both in the United Kingdom and South Africa to stay together and lead Bechuanaland to independence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A United Kingdom

I was going into A United Kingdom expecting, at the very least, good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They have proven in the past that they are great actors capable of delivering performances with great range and emotion. Certainly, Oyelowo was great in Selma and in Queen of Katwe which I recently reviewed.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom

Rosamund Pike herself gave a chilling performance in Gone Girl which really announced her to a wider audience as being a talented actress. Because of this, I was looking forward to seeing if this film would deliver good performances as well as deliver on the promise of giving us an uplifting story which was advertised in the trailers.

My Thoughts on A United Kingdom

On the whole, I would say that A United Kingdom does achieve this. It has its flaws but it is a very decent, likeable film about love. What I liked most about the film was the relationship between Seretse and Ruth and that is solely down to the performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They really give A United Kingdom a soul and it was nice to see Amma Asante bring the story about this couple to life. The supporting cast were good too but Oyelowo and Pike were the standouts and Asante deserves credit for crafting the film around them.

Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom

However, as I said, A United Kingdom has flaws. I felt that the first act, which focused on Seretse and Ruth’s blossoming relationship, was a bit rushed in its pacing. I would have liked to spend a bit more time focusing on their initial relationship. You can see that the film wants to get to the main story-line, which was their struggle of staying together and ruling Bechuanaland, as soon as possible.

Still, once we get there, A United Kingdom really finds its footing and delivers a captivating story about how their marriage was consistently hindered in the face of corrupt politics. Overall, while it has some flaws in its first act, A United Kingdom is a very decent film which is very easy to like and admire thanks to the good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and its uplifting message.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Film Review) – Wonderful and Vibrant

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy film directed by David Yates and stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Colin Farrell and Eddie Redmayne who plays the lead as Newt Scamander. The story follows Newt, a magizoologist who journeys to New York City with a briefcase full of magical creatures, some of which have been accidentally set free which causes havoc across a city which is no stranger to magical disturbances. This film is a spin-off prequel of the Harry Potter films. It is the first instalment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise and the ninth instalment in J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

My Love of Harry Potter and Expectation of Fantastic Beasts

I have to say, Fantastic Beasts had a lot to live up to. This is due to my belief that the Harry Potter film series is, in my opinion, the greatest saga ever. All eight films in that series are, at the very least, very good and this consistency of greatness is quite a remarkable feat considering how other franchises struggle in this regard.

Dan Fogler, Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Fantastic Beasts

For instance, Star Wars has the Prequel Trilogy (and the Special Editions but that’s another discussion), the Middle-Earth film series has the Hobbit Trilogy and Indiana Jones has Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to diminish the quality of their respective franchises. Harry Potter had no films which were bad. They were all quality films and, going into Fantastic Beasts, I hoped that this streak would continue.

My Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I had a fantastic time with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is a wonderful film that has great characters. Certainly, Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as Newt Scamander who fitted into the world seamlessly and his little quirks in the film made his character really likeable. Still, while Redmayne is great, the character of Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, was my favourite part of this film. He is really funny in Fantastic Beasts and gives the film a lot of genuine heart.

Additionally, the strength of the script, which was written by J. K. Rowling herself, is also a standout in Fantastic Beasts. Rowling successfully expands on the lore of the Wizarding World she created and crafted a story which is able to stand on its own two feet while, at the same time, able to set the foundation for future instalments. I also liked how the different stories within Fantastic Beasts all linked well with each other once the film had ended.

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Moreover, I thought that David Yates did a great job directing this film. He is no stranger to this franchise. Indeed, he directed the last four Harry Potter films and was able to continue his great work by creating a vibrant film in Fantastic Beasts. Certainly, the visual effects were really good and none of the CGI took me out of the film. I was captivated throughout.

Fantastic Beasts had a tough task on its hand to follow the brilliance of the Harry Potter film series and be a film which sets up a franchise while still being able to stand on its own two feet. For me, it succeeds on all levels. An entertaining story supplemented by great characters and great visual effects makes Fantastic Beasts a film which continues the greatness of the Harry Potter film series and makes me really excited for future instalments which can really build upon what was established in this film.

Arrival (Film Review) – A Slow But Engaging Film With A Clever Twist

Arrival is a science fiction thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. The film is based on Story of Your Life which is a short story written by Ted Chiang and Arrival tells the story of twelve mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft landing across various locations on Earth and how humanity responds to this event.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Arrival

This has been a film which I have been looking forward to seeing for a while. The calibre of the cast was partly responsible for this, especially after I saw Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals which I recently reviewed. Nevertheless, it was the fact that Arrival was being directed by Denis Villeneuve which really made me excited.

Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams on the set of Arrival

He is one of the best director’s working at the moment and he has made some really great films such as Prisoners and Sicario with the latter itself being one of my favourite films to come out last year. Additionally, Arrival had been getting great reviews and critics I highly admire really liked it so my expectations were quite high going into this film.

My Thoughts on Arrival

I was not disappointed. Arrival is a very good film which is visually impressive. Moreover, it challenges the audience and it features great performances from its cast with Amy Adams being the standout in the lead role. You should not expect this to be an alien invasion film full of action. Instead, you should expect to watch a film which is slow but engaging, deep and full of important themes such as communication, co-operation, rashness and irrational fear.

Villeneuve structures Arrival in such a way that suspense and sound are critical tools to tell a story which is quite unique and, as I said before, challenging for the audience. Certainly, Arrival will make you think deeply about what choices you would make in the situations the film presents to the audience, especially in the latter stages of the film which delivers a very clever twist that changes your whole perception of the film. For some, the twist won’t deliver but, for me personally, it worked very well.

It Left Me Feeling Sad

As you can see, I think that Arrival is a very good film but the overall feeling I had at the end of the film was one of sadness. The reason why I felt this way was down to the fact that one of the strongest themes throughout the film was the eventual need for humanity to communicate, to work together and to overcome fear and prejudice.

Poster showing an Alien Ship in Arrival

The incident in the film which allowed this to happen was, quite frankly, a miracle and it just shows how flawed we our as a species that it takes extraordinary events to make us come together and work for the greater good. It made me realise that this is not likely to happen in the near future, especially after a certain election caused a bigoted, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic “man” to become President of the most powerful country in the world.

Overall, Arrival is a film which has great performances and has a unique story which challenges its audience and can cause a variety of emotional responses. For some, this film will be a nice tonic at a time of fear, prejudice and hate. For others such as myself, it will make us sad and reaffirm the harsh reality that times of widespread co-operation, love and understanding amongst humanity is a rare thing. It will be even rarer with the way the world is going at the moment.

Nocturnal Animals (Film Review) – Disturbing, Unsettling, Brilliant

Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller written, co-produced, and directed by Tom Ford and stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher and Michael Shannon. This is Tom Ford’s second directorial effort and it tells the story of an art gallery owner, played by Amy Adams, whose actions in the past are now at the forefront of her mind due to reading a novel which was written by her ex-husband, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Nocturnal Animals

I knew little about this film when sitting down to watch it at my local cinema. Quite honestly, it was the strength of the cast which made me really interested to see Nocturnal Animals in the first place. Additionally, I knew little about Tom Ford whose only previous directorial effort was 2009’s A Single Man which is a film I have not seen yet. As a result, I went into the film not really knowing what to expect.

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals

My Thoughts on Nocturnal Animals

I have to say, I am so glad about this because Nocturnal Animals floored me. Any expectations I had about how good this film would be were exceeded to a very large degree. Firstly, the performances in this film are incredible. Amy Adams is great and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unrecognisable in this film by giving a chilling, dark performance. This was a stark contrast to his previous work in films such as Kick-Ass and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the character of Quicksilver.

Yet, the standouts are Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. They give performances which rank amongst the very best they have given in their careers so far. Gyllenhaal plays two characters in Nocturnal Animals and he shines in his raw, powerful and heartbreaking portrayal of Tony Hastings. He gives his absolute all in this film and Shannon gives an equally great performance which I hope will be recognised.

The Stories

In this film, three stories are happening at the same time and it can be a struggle for a film to tell these stories with equal importance. Nocturnal Animals finds the right balance and the stories are seamlessly interwoven which makes the more emotional moments hit that much harder. While there are small moments of humour which relieve the tension, this film is emotional and harrowing and I struggle to think of another film released this year which has impacted me in the same way.

Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals

Truthfully, you will not forget Nocturnal Animals. You will think it about for a while after you’ve seen it and I am still trying to figure out the overall meaning of the film due to the various themes in this film such as cynicism, revenge, regret, proving yourself, shallowness and the barbaric nature of humanity.

Overall, Nocturnal Animals ranks amongst the very best films I have seen this year. While I may struggle to watch it again due to the harrowing elements within the film, it will stay with me for a long time due to the fantastic performances by the cast, its themes and the impact each story had on me.

Because of this, I definitely feel that Nocturnal Animals will be recognised once awards season starts and it deserves to be recognised as the film is a wonderful achievement. Tom Ford deserves a lot of credit for making this film and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.

Queen of Katwe (Film Review) – A Feel Good Film with Great Performances

Queen of Katwe is a biographical sports drama directed by Mira Nair, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga. Nalwanga makes her feature film debut in Queen of Katwe and stars as Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in Katwe which is the largest slum in Kampala.

This film tells the true story of Mutesi who learns to play chess and reaches such a high level that she could become a Woman Candidate Master and escape from poverty and the harshness of life in Katwe for herself and her family. Nyong’o stars as the mother of Mutesi while Oyelowo plays the role of Robert Katende, Mutesi’s chess coach.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Queen of Katwe

My interest in seeing this film was largely down to the impressive cast. Certainly, Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo are highly talented and have been brilliant in other films, especially Oyelowo who was fantastic in The Butler and in portraying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Additionally, this film had been receiving critical praise prior to its release which only served to enhance my anticipation and give me a sense that Queen of Katwe was, at the very least, going to be good.

Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe

My Thoughts on Queen of Katwe

I am pleased to say that Queen of Katwe is a very good film and this is largely down to the excellent performances. Madina Nalwanga is really good which is quite remarkable considering that this is her feature film debut. She gives a performance beyond her years and I hope to see more of her in the future. Nevertheless, while Nalwanga is really good, Nyong’o and Oyelowo are the stars of this film. They give the film class and help to captivate the audience and make them become emotionally invested in a story which has a good balance of dramatic and light-hearted moments.

Moreover, the themes which are present in Queen of Katwe help to make this a feel-good film which is something we all need considering everything that has happened in the world recently. Evidently, there a lot of good things in this film. However, if I was to pick out one thing that I think could have been improved it would be the running time. This film did feel a bit too long and I feel that certain things could have been trimmed and cut to reduce the running time by 10-15 minutes. This would have made Queen of Katwe tighter in its storytelling.

Madina Nalwanga and Lupita Nyong'o in Queen of Katwe

Still, this is a small, personal negative which does not take from the overall quality of the film. Certainly, Queen of Katwe is one of this year’s more uplifting films with excellent performances by Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, a really good debut by Madina Nalwanga and a positive message is showcased at a time of negativity. If you are looking for a film which will inspire you and improve your mood, then Queen of Katwe will certainly do the job.

Doctor Strange (Film Review) – Unique and Familiar

Doctor Strange is a superhero film directed by Scott Derrickson which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who suffers a tragic car accident which ends his career and guides him down a desperate path which eventually leads him to studying the mystic arts from the Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton. This is the fourteenth film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and I was curious to see if Marvel could continue its streak of making consistently good films.

The Ancient One teaches the Mystic Arts to Doctor Strange

My Thoughts on Doctor Strange

I am pleased to say that they have and they have done it in a very unique but familiar way. The uniqueness of Doctor Strange is purely down to its stunning visuals. Honestly, I struggle to think of another film which has better visual effects than Doctor Strange. It is like Inception but on steroids and LSD.

Watching Doctor Strange was an enthralling experience and some of the things which are set up in this film are very new and have the potential to take the MCU in a very strange direction (I promise no pun was intended!). I also thought that the performances in this film were excellent across the board, particularly from Cumberbatch and Swinton. Still, good performances in an MCU film are a normal expectation nowadays.

This brings us unto the elements of Doctor Strange which feel very familiar in a MCU film. Firstly, the humour in this film was, for the most part, very good. Secondly, the structure of this film was very formulaic but well executed in terms of telling an origin story. These were the positive aspects of the film which felt familiar.

Again, A Weak Villain

However, the negative aspect of this familiarity was that the villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen was very forgettable. While this is the norm in MCU films, it was a real shame considering that Mikkelsen has played really captivating antagonists in the past such as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. He felt a bit wasted in this film.

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange

Still, weak villains in the MCU have not hugely affected the overall quality of MCU films in the past and they are not about to with Doctor Strange. Overall, Doctor Strange has some unique, new and exciting elements which elevate the film to a place where its familiar aspects, both positive and negative, do not diminish the quality of the film. For me personally, this is a very good film which I would highly recommend to both hardcore and casual fans of the MCU.