The Children Act Review

The Plot

A family court judge struggles with the pressures of her own faltering marriage and a complex case involving a young boy refusing lifesaving medical treatment on religious grounds. A strange and unlikely bond develops between the pair, challenging both their world views and creating considerable emotional turmoil.

The Good

Based on the book by much celebrated author Ian McEwan, The Children Act is a thoughtful and sincere adaptation of an undeniable poignant story. The fact that it is at least loosely inspired by real life legal drama and personal tragedy adds an extra dimension of credibility to an already well-crafted production. The film’s authentic legal settings and faultless production values in particular allows it to provide a compelling and immersive portrait of the stark emotional realities of family court’s often traumatic work.

Emma Thompson is an actress of singular skill and subtly. It is simply impossible to imagine anyone better suited to delivering this nuanced and achingly troubled performance. Her ability to trade swiftly in both brisk professional stoicism and evident reservoirs of deeper personal emotions enables her to deliver a performance that excels even by her own typically high standards. Few actors are so readily able to truly capture the complex layers of strength and weakness that so often distinguishes real life from mere storytelling.

Young Dunkirk star Fionn Whitehead likewise gives his character a captivating wide eyed intensity. He lurches skilfully from youthful charm to anguished uncertainty throughout a slow burning tale that injects each scene with a raw and nervous energy. It’s testament to the skill of this young star that he is capable of portraying fresh faced optimism and harrowed nihilism with equal convincing sincerity.

Supporting turns from a host of recognisable talents and a sharply precise script further helps director Richard Eyre deliver a film capable of fully investing audiences in admittedly difficult subject matter.

The Bad

While The Children Act showcases undoubtedly outstanding performances, its dark and often tragic themes will prove difficult if rewarding viewing for audiences. The film’s lack of clear messages will leave many emotionally drained by the absence of the kind of cathartic emotional triumph they will likely expect and crave from typically escapist blockbuster drama.

Irrespective of how skilled and earnest the production and its stellar cast are, the fact remains that this is a film which deals with terminal illness, the legal profession and personal tragedy. Despite the film’s commendable handling of each of these themes, their collective impact on audiences may inevitably be more downbeat and sombre than uplifting or entertaining.

Ultimately the film’s brave choice to leave much of its emotional subtext more realistically confused may prove a little daunting for more casual audiences.

The Ugly truth

The Children Act is a thoughtful and sincere adaptation of a story that deals with complex emotional subject matter, particularly through a pair of brilliant central stars. Emma Thompson is on absolutely stellar form and her five star performance largely helps carry the poignant burden such subject matter inevitably places on audiences.

Review by Russell Nelson

The Festival Review

The Plot

Nick a university graduate recovering from a humiliating breakup is reluctantly dragged to a music festival by his loyal best friend. Unfortunately the hapless pair soon lurch from one disaster to the next as they experience the very best and worst the mud drenched madness of a music festival has to offer.

The Good

Director Ian Morris delivers yet another riotously funny character assassination of adolescent shamefulness. While showcasing his proven flare for turning bodily functions and social ineptness into calamitous comedy gold, The Festival also serves as a fitting homage to the messy reality of music festivals. Many of the discomforts and misfortunes Nick and his well-intentioned friends endure will be embarrassingly familiar to anyone who’s ever popped a tent at a real life festival.

Given the combination of Morris and former cast members, it’s impossible to avoid inevitable comparisons with The Inbetweeners. While the tone and comedic tactics are undoubtedly similar it’s a compliment to the filmmaking talents that this never feels like merely an awkward attempt to recapture former glories. A host of new characters and a highly specific setting gives the film more than enough distinct personality. This film never feels like an attempt to make The Inbetweeners 3, even if it will absolutely satisfy the many fans who yearned for more of their signature comedy style.

Leading man Joe Thomas is an actor with a unique combination of endearing likeability and obnoxious cluelessness. It allows audiences to simultaneously sympathise with his character’s disastrous misfortunes and yet also joyously revel in them. It’s a comedic gift he’s employed repeatedly in The Inbetweeners or Fresh Meat and it transfers effortlessly once again to the big screen.  The Festival provides the perfect vehicle for his indignant frustration and dejected disappointment, throwing a barrage of increasingly extreme calamity against him. Thomas as always eagerly shows willingness to sacrifice both body and pride for audiences’ entertainment.

Special praise is also due to Hammed Animashaun and Claudia O’Doherty as Nick’s abundantly optimistic friends. Their characters help constantly propel the film in more absurd directions, adding even more fuel to Nick’s raging fire of shame and abject failure. Their endearing enthusiasm for situations and each other in the face of disaster helps keep the audience on their side even when Nick’s selfishly self-defeating antics test the limits of that sympathy.

Around the film’s hapless trio of heroes a line-up of familiar faces do a great job providing comedic support, with the likes of Jermain Clement, Nick Frost and Noel Fielding among them. It’s also worth noting that filming at real life festivals gives the film a sense of genuine scale far beyond the film’s relatively modest budget. It’s a clever way of making sure the film captures a credible sense of the ‘epic insanity’ of an actual music festival.

The Bad

Anyone who found The Inbetweeners trademark cringe drenched comedy exploits to be more excruciating than entertaining will likely have a similarly visceral reaction to The Festival. Not everyone seemingly finds joy so easily in witnessing the chronic failures and inevitable humiliations of hapless young adults. Those that can’t bare the sight of tortuous embarrassment will likely spend much of the film squirming with discomfort. So be warned that this is clearly and unashamedly a film for those that actually relish those feelings.

The Ugly Truth

The Festival is a five star slice of cringe soaked comedy that perfectly captures the shameful mud drenched misadventures and madness of music festivals. Likeable leads and an enthusiastic supporting cast sacrifice dignity for a steady stream of memorable laugh out loud moments. Fans of The Inbetweeners in particular will find plenty of familiar joys and some new delights in their festival experience.

Review by Russell Nelson

The Meg Review

The Plot

A group of scientist uncover a deadly secret while exploring the very deepest recesses of the ocean. Now faced with a monster shark of unimaginable proportions they have to turn to the only man who has survived a past encounter with one and is just brave enough to get back in the water…

The Good

Jason Statham has the kind of rugged charm and self-aware swagger that wins over audiences quickly and allows them to largely suspend disbelief. It’s a valuable asset indeed with dealing with unashamedly silly action movie cliché’s. He clearly does his best to deliver predictably awful dialogue and to keep this film afloat. His presence certainly enhances the film considerably even if it might not be enough to save it overall.

For those most avid addicts of the guilty pleasure giant monster genre it will be nice to watch one on the big screen rather than on late night TV. Even if the quality is sadly much the same. The Meg at least has a significant budget and a few familiar faces on show.

The Meg offer some very occasional laughs and has at least a last minute flurry of action. Which thanks to the film’s 12 rating, can be watched by less discerning younger fans. At least the film is less likely to traumatise generations of people about going in the water like Jaws famously did.

The Bad

The Meg promised so much with a well cut trailer that worked miracles in projecting the film as a shamelessly silly and action packed monster thrill ride. Unfortunately those that flock to watch the actual film, hoping for big laughs and horrified gasps will find an embarrassingly short supply of both.

Aiming for a family friendly rating has largely neutered any potential horrific delights, robbing the film of the kind of genuine terror that makes Jaws such an undisputed classic. There’s very few moments in the film that will raise adrenalin levels much beyond abject boredom. Likewise for a ‘creature feature’ whose posters shamelessly boast of the gargantuan size of this prehistoric monster shark the film largely fails to deliver anything like that sense of scale. Poorly crafted and inconsistent effects work means that the shark never feels anywhere near as impressive or fun on screen as it does in single poster shots.

It’s also a shame to have to admit that the Meg gets surprisingly little screen time in a film that seems more preoccupied for large chunks with achingly dull family melodrama.

It’s also worth noting that the internationally co-financed production makes repeated use of Chinese locations, characters and language. The pandering for Chinese box office appeal feels a little distracting at times, particularly when it seemingly forces the film to focus on the dull human characters instead of the giant monster mayhem.

Even those most determined to enjoy the film thanks to its fun concept and appealing marketing campaign will find the slow paced, badly acted, lacklustre action and effects largely frustrates those efforts to take much pleasure from proceedings.

The Ugly Truth

The Meg had so much potential to be a perfect guilty pleasure, but sadly even Jason Statham’s gruff voiced charisma can’t distract from poor effects, non-existent plot and some truly atrocious acting. Even armed with a genuine blockbuster budget this film doesn’t offer any more than the typical forgettably awful monster movie that clogs up late night TV and the straight to DVD bargain bins.

Review by Russell Nelson

Ant Man and The Wasp Review

The Plot

Scott Lang serving the final days of his house arrest finds himself once again caught up in an adventure of both miniature and massive proportions as he joins forces with Dr Hank Pym and erstwhile love interest Hope Van Dyne to tackle a mysterious new foe and solve the dangerous mysteries of the quantum realm.

The Good

Ant Man and The Wasp is a solid sequel for one of Marvel’s less mainstream heroes that keeps much of what worked about his first solo outing. The film showcases a great array of action sequences that makes the absolute best of the unique opportunities afforded by both the miniature and massive proportions offered by the Dr Hank Pym’s technology. Those flawless effect and inventive set pieces combines effortlessly with the film’s playful comedic tone.

Paul Rudd is an ageless star blessed with an embarrassing abundance of natural charisma. His famously endless supply of charming one liners and innate likeability looks in no danger of dwindling any time soon. He is able to make Scott Lang the perfect mix of endearing buffoon and faultless hero. Having done such a good job establishing the character and transitioning to being a genuine action star in the first film, he seems even more at home in the superhero suit this time around.

Likewise Evangeline Lily and Michael Douglas are on typically stellar form as Dr Pym and titular new hero The Wasp. This film even further fleshes out the emotional layers to their relationship and past that the first film did such a good job in establishing. Evangeline Lily in particular is sensational in her super suit, given even more prominent action responsibilities this time round. Obviously having At Man and The Wasp working in tandem provides even more fun opportunities for action packed fun, which the film takes full advantage of.

Michael Pena as Scott’s swift talking comedic sidekick Luis was a scene stealing delight in the first film and he is yet another welcome feature of a sequel which matches and frequently surpasses the original. The addition of Michelle Pfeiffer, Hannah John-Kamen and Laurence Fishburne to the cast is just another example of the abundant embarrassment of riches the MCU has to offer.

The Bad

Those waiting agonisingly to see the resolution of the Infinity War story arc will no doubt feel a little impatient to get to that conclusion and may have a little less initial enthusiasm for this film because of that. While perfectly crafted and self-contained it’s fair to say this is a sequel that in a wider sense very much represents treading water for the MCU. After years of seeing major character introductions and pieces of a much larger puzzle being laid in place fans may have come to merely expect those moments. That is perhaps the only film this film fails to deliver though and it is undeniably brilliant in its own right.

The Ugly Truth

After the dark and emotionally devastating climax of Avengers Infinity War this fun spirited standalone adventure serves as a welcome pallet cleanser for Marvel fans. Armed with impressive and original action, a well-crafted plot and a very likeable cast this is a perfect second outing for Marvel’s most diminutive hero.

Review by Russell Nelson

TIFF 2018 Line Up Announced

Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF , and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of  TIFF , today unveiled the first round of titles premiering in the Gala and Special Presentation  programmes of the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival.  Of the 17 Galas and 30 Special Presentations, this first announcement includes 21 World  Premieres, 7 International Premieres, 8 North American Premieres and 11 Canadian Premieres.  The selection announced today includes 13 features directed by women.

Piers Handling commented to say

“We have an exceptional selection of films this year that will excite Festival audiences from all  walks of life. Today’s lineup showcases beloved auteurs alongside fresh voices in  filmmaking, including numerous female powerhouses. The sweeping range in cinematic  storytelling from around the world is a testament to the uniqueness of the films that are being  made. Every September we invite the whole film world to Toronto, one of the most diverse, movie-mad  cities in the world. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to put together a lineup of Galas and Special  Presentations that reflects Toronto’s spirit of inclusive, passionate engagement with film. We can’t  wait to unveil these films for our audience.”

The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 to 16, 2018.  List of announced Galas and special presentations below:

GALAS 2018  

Beautiful Boy Felix van Groeningen, USA  World Premiere    Everybody Knows Asghar Farhadi, Spain/France/Italy  North American Premiere First Man Damien Chazelle, USA  Canadian Premiere   Galveston Mélanie Laurent, USA  Canadian Premiere     The Hate U Give George Tillman, Jr., USA  World Premiere     Hidden Man Jiang Wen, China  International Premiere    High Life Claire Denis, Germany/France/Poland/United Kingdom  World Premiere    Husband Material Anurag Kashyap, India  World Premiere    The Kindergarten Teacher Sara Colangelo, USA  Canadian Premiere   The Land of Steady Habits Nicole Holofcener, USA  World Premiere   Life Itself Dan Fogelman, USA  World Premiere     The Public Emilio Estevez, USA  World Premiere    Red Joan Sir Trevor Nunn, United Kingdom  World Premiere    Shadow Zhang Yimou, China  North American Premiere    A Star is Born Bradley Cooper, USA  North American Premiere    What They Had Elizabeth Chomko, USA  International Premiere  Widows Steve M c Queen, United Kingdom/USA  World Premiere


Ben is Back Peter Hedges, USA  World Premiere    Burning Lee Chang-dong, South Korea  North American Premiere   Can You Ever Forgive Me? Marielle Heller, USA  International Premiere   Capernaum Nadine Labaki, Lebanon  North American Premiere   Cold War Paweł Pawlikowski, Poland/United Kingdom/France  Canadian Premiere    Colette Wash Westmoreland, United Kingdom   Canadian Premiere   Dogman Matteo Garrone, Italy/France  Canadian Premiere     The Front Runner Jason Reitman, USA  International Premiere    Giant Little Ones Keith Behrman, Canada   World Premiere     Girls of the Sun ( Les filles du soleil) Eva Husson, France   International Premiere    Hotel Mumbai Anthony Maras, Australia   World Premiere    The Hummingbird Project Kim Nguyen, Canada   World Premiere   If Beale Street Could Talk Barry Jenkins, USA  World Premiere  Manto Nandita Das, India   North American Premiere    Maya Mia Hansen-Løve, France  World Premiere   Monsters and Men Reinaldo Marcus Green, USA  Canadian Premiere   *Special Presentations Opening Film*  MOUTHPIECE Patricia Rozema, Canada   World Premiere     Non-Fiction Olivier Assayas, France  Canadian Premiere    The Old Man & The Gun David Lowery, USA  International Premiere    Papi Chulo John Butler, Ireland  World Premiere    Roma Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico/USA  Canadian Premiere    *Special Presentations Closing Film*  Shoplifters Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan   Canadian Premiere     The Sisters Brothers Jacques Audiard, USA/France/Romania/Spain  North American Premiere     Sunset László Nemes, Hungary/France  North American Premiere    Through Black Spruce Don McKellar, Canada  World Premiere     The Wedding Guest Michael Winterbottom, United Kingdom  World Premiere    The Weekend Stella Meghie, USA  World Premiere  Where Hands Touch Amma Asante, United Kingdom   World Premiere    White Boy Rick Yann Demange, USA  International Premiere    Wildlife Paul Dano, USA   Canadian Premiere