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Director: Greta Gerwig Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep Running Time: 135 minutes

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Not having yet read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or seen any of the previous film versions means that it’s difficult in many ways to discuss the latest version by Greta Gerwig’s success as an adaptation. Will those who have read the coming of age story of the March sisters cover to cover dozens of times take issue with characterisations that I wouldn’t spot, or balk at Gerwig’s remixing of the story? Possibly, but even without familiarity it is possible to describe how the film feels and to add by way of ringing endorsement that Gerwig’s take on a book around 150 years old is so fresh and vibrant as to shoot it up to the top of the aul’ “must read list”. It feels like someone who loves a story very deeply gush over all the little details of it to you, feeling for the characters like they’re old friends and filling you in with every bit of their lives, a warm and welcoming time in the cinema.

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Director: J.J. Abrams Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Carrie Fischer, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo Running Time: 142 minutes

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If there is one thing we can surely all agree on, it’s that conversation around Star Wars has long since become exhausting. The most popular thing in the world seems destined to be endlessly divisive, drafted unwittingly into assorted sides of the culture wars, something that has gone from nerd fixation to an inescapable franchise conveyor belt. Surely we can all agree that a children’s movie about lasers and space goblins shouldn’t be taken too seriously one way or another. If you couldn’t care less about The Rise of Skywalker with all the baggage it has, it would be hard to blame you. If you watch it and enjoy the film’s spectacle and fan service, more power to you. But in trying to wrestle with the considerable backlash to The Last Jedi, while both concluding a nine film saga and keeping the franchise in good enough favour to continue into the future all while also also trying (one hopes) to be a functioning narrative and entertaining film in its own right, is all too much for one film to rise above. Instead, it falls down a bit of a pit, but has that ever been much of a problem where Star Wars is concerned? It never quite seems to kill things off the way it should.

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Director: Rian Johnson Starring: Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer Running Time: 130 minutes

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“The game is afoot” renowned mystery-solver Benoit Blanc knowingly crows during one of Knives Out‘s twisty turns, and it seems clear from the outset what game director Rian Johnson is playing here. However mixed (and wearingly unending) the reception may have been for Johnson’s last movie, the man clearly has strong support from Hollywood higher-ups, enough to fund a big “one for him” movie, a “dig out an old idea you’ve always wanted to do and hire everyone you’ve always wanted to work with” movie. And so we get Johnson’s loving homage to the murder mystery genre, a story he’s been kicking around since just after Brick, packed to the seams with rising talents, esteemed character actors and Hollywood royalty. And it’s a bloody delight. The opportunity to self-indulge to this extent is not a luxury every filmmaker is afforded, for what it’s worth though, Johnson uses the platform to delve into some unexpected areas worth examining. If you’re going to do something silly, you might as well do it smartly, which Knives Out accomplished on a number of levels.

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Director: Martin Scorsese Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Harvey Keitel, Kathrine Narducci Running Time: 210 minutes

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There is a moment, deep in the runtime of The Irishman where Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran, a man decades in  service to the mafia, tries to talk Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa out of going past a point of no return, Hoffa invoking the wrath of the mobsters he’s found himself in league with. It’s a key communication, a warning to a close friend to put aside his pride and stubborness in the face of certain death, a plea for cooler hands to prevail in a genre where they never do, as well as an internal clash of Sheeran’s loyalties and his warped sense of duty. The words, to say the least, don’t come easy. Sheeran is unable to conjure more than loaded stock phrases and inneundo, a sad Johnny Tightlips mumbling that “it is what it is”. In the mafia, you never say what it actually is, threats and confessions alike meant always to be dangled just out of reach, and the great Martin Scorsese’s pensive reflection of decades of crime shows how these delusions and denials erode a man from the inside over time. Weaving through the histories of these stubborn criminals, The Irishman lays bare just how hollow their power and legacies ultimately are, gently but firmly.”You don’t know how fast time goes by until you get there,” says Frank and the story of how gets there and what is left of him when he does is one of Scorsese’s finest in years. A slow, sad reflection of the past.

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Directed by: Todd Philips Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro Runtime: 122 mins


Directed by Todd Phillips, this latest incarnation of the clown faced supervillain has seen its fair share of controversy throughout its development right up to its release. Since premiering, Joker has sparked debates about how putting the fabric of violence on the big screen could inspire real life terror. It’s a kind of terror that the DC Universe is familiar with, after the 2012 shooting in Aurora Colorado during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Police officers have been present at screenings, and lead actor Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview when pressed on potential links the subject matter might have with copycats. This is nothing new, with parallels been drawn between Gus Van Sant’s Elephant and the 2005 Red Lake Shootings, as well as the alleged influence of Child’s Play 3 on the 1993 murder of James Bulger. These divisive topics demand a separate lengthy discussion, and while it’s certainly something I’ve reflected on after viewing the film, it’s not something I’m going to fully address here.

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Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell Runtime: 95 mins


Ready Or Not manages to balance fun with suspense, its fast pace keeps the viewer onboard throughout the simple but bonkers premise. The film opens with Grace, who is marrying into the Le Domas board game dynasty (or dominion as they prefer), practicing her vows ahead of a garden wedding in the grounds of the Le Domas’ estate. We soon meet her fiance Alex who in a bout of flirty banter suggests they ditch the wedding and run away together. Turns out this isn’t a bad idea.

While Grace and Alex are making out in his room, they’re interrupted by his elderly Aunt Helene who announces that it’s time they come and join the family for a game. Alex goes on to explain that this is a quirky family tradition; each married couple must take part in a game starting at midnight to initiate the new family member. Grace agrees to humour her new in-laws and joins the fam in a room hidden in the middle of the house by big antique doors which wouldn’t look out of place in Cluedo. Here, Alex’ father Tony goes on to explain that the Le Domas’ attribute their wealth and success to a deal to a wager his great-grandfather made during a sea voyage with Mr. Le Bail. The wager involved a mysterious box which Tony explains randomly selects the game to be played by the incoming family member. Grace draws Hide and Seek, the family play an old-timey Hide and Seek song on a gramophone and she goes off to hide. What she doesn’t know is that if they catch her, they’ll kill her.

Ready Or Not borrows from the story lines of cult horror, the aesthetics of adventure stories, mingles it together with fabulous acting from Samara Weaving and the fast pace carries us through what is quite a bare premise. The Le Domas house is stunning and the directors take the time to give us sweeping views of the chandeliers, gorgeous staircase and massive grounds in a way that’s reminiscent of Spanish horror. The characters are quite broadstrokes; all we know about Grace is she was a foster child and that she’s been with Alex for 18 months, we get a sense of her personality but we don’t really get a feel for the others. The film has a You’re Next vibe but it actually gives Grace more credit than Erin gets in You’re Next; Grace hasn’t been trained by her father to be a survivalist, her ability to adapt and react to this situation and come out on top is entirely down to her own competence. She knows when to hide and when to fight and it’s refreshing to see a woman in a horror film who isn’t just screaming and falling over.

At times it feels like the film is dipping its toe into social commentary territory, like when the maids get killed and the family barely react or when Grace exclaims ‘Fucking rich people’ when she’s running for her life but it’s all very surface-level stuff, particularly because the film is moving at breakneck speed through its plot. Still, we’re in a safe pair of hands with duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett who have collaborated previously on horror titles VHS, Southbound and Devil’s Due. They’re well versed in the genre and it allows them to turn horror conventions on their head. Ready Or Not is slick and it blends in humour in a way many horror films of the moment are trying and failing to accomplish. This film should have been released earlier in the summer, it definitely had the mileage.

(4 / 5)

Directed by: James Gray Starring: Brad Pitt, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland Runtime: 122 mins

Fresh off of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt is leaping back into theatres dressed in a spacesuit and with a mellower demeanour than his previous role involved. Like Tarantino, director James Gray boasts a lean filmography, with only a handful of feature films to his name before Ad Astra

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Director: Lorene Scafaria Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart Running Time: 110 minutes

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The strip club is a common port of call in the crime film, but it’s more typically shown as a treat for the men doing the crime. It’s a backdrop for partying during ‘the good times’, a sign of a movie crook’s dollar-raining hubris and sleaze. It’s shown as a place for men to flex their power, exude their control, revel in their success at playing the game. Be they mafia men or white-collar creeps, a movie may tut or titillate with them as they celebrate their ill-gotten gains surrounded by faceless, lifeless dancing girls. Based on the article The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers shifts the focus to the strippers themselves, removing the male gaze and revealing the complex, insightful and engaging characters underneath, while showing up their marks as the “mostly rich, (usually) disgusting, (in their minds) pathetic men” in the process. In the cut-throat world of capitalism, it’s hustlers all the way up, or as Jennifer Lopez bluntly but perfectly puts it; “It’s all a strip club. You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance”.

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Directed by: André Øvredal Starring: Zoe Colletti,Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush,Austin Zajur Runtime: 108 mins

With much of the summer’s horror focus on the highly anticipated It: Chapter 2, it was always going to take something special to divert the audiences’ attention from the second adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller. Despite Guillermo del Toro’s involvement as producer, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark didn’t garner as much buzz as this summer’s other horror blockbusters enjoyed. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a debut from Norwegian director André Øvredal, with the mildly received but competently made The Autopsy of Jane Doe attached to his name in 2016. However, it is fair to say that this is the first time the director has been tested in a way that may definitively shape his future horror filmography.

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Directed by: Gary Dauberman Starring: Mckenna Grace, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson Runtime: 106 minutes

In light of the success achieved by James Wan’s The Conjuring in 2013, something interesting happened in the horror genre. The traditional horror franchise was reinvigorated with a sexy contemporary touch. What became known as The Conjuring universe was formed. Invoking the trend of the Marvel Universe, the deal worked well for all interested parties.  A fresh look on supernatural tales with a sincere effort that went into character development and that tried to find the balance between jump scare cliches and atmospheric horror. While The Conjuring and its 2016 sequel The Conjuring 2 did well to serve up a feast of scares, a distinct compelling feature was that it also had interpersonal depth. Indeed, it was as much character driven as it was driven by a desire to generate buzz around its refreshing demonic spirits. With characters like The Nun spurring justifiable albeit tepid spin-offs, supernatural investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are the cohesive glue that bind the Conjuring Universe together. The closer they’ve been to the series in the respective films, the better the films have fared, and with such good onscreen chemistry it’s easy to see why.

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