Top Ten Films of 2017 – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! In Film, As In Life may have taken a short break for the last few months of 2017, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t spending time at the cinema, catching up on all the films I could see. Sadly I didn’t get around to reviewing them all last year, but it’s a new year, and I plan to be back with a new review or post for you each and every week.

To catch you all up on some of the films I’ve seen since I last posted (the last review I posted was back in September, for Atomic Blonde – can you believe it? Did you miss me?), and to look back at the year gone by, I’ve compiled my Top Ten Films of 2017 list – I hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did!

  1. Logan

 

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The best superhero movies are the ones that don’t feel like superhero movies, and Logan blew me away with its bold choices, depth of character development, and simple yet emotional storytelling. Hugh Jackman gives a career-best performance as Logan, who’s looking after a severely deteriorating Professor X (Patrick Stewart, also giving a devastating performance) after the demise of the X-Men, when a mysterious young girl with familiar powers (Dafne Keen) appears with news of young mutants living in North Dakota. Filled with a brutal brand of violence that Wolverine deserves, Logan is a raw, heartbreaking culmination for a character we’ve loved for decades, and the perfect end to the Wolverine franchise.

  1. Wonder Woman

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Almost the antithesis to Logan, but also fantastic in its own right, Wonder Woman was every bit a superhero movie – and everything a superhero movie should be. Taking the breakout character from 2016’s Batman vs Superman and giving her a WWI-set origin story, Wonder Woman sees Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) travel journey from her warrior’s paradise on Themyscira to the world of man, to fight Ares, the God of War, and save humanity from the devastation of the Great War. Though much of the film’s sincerity and heart comes from its director Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot carries the film on her shoulders as the charismatic, fierce, loving hero Diana, a role model for women everywhere as she bursts onto No Man’s Land and defends those she loves, and a step forward in representation for women onscreen. An optimistic film in a cynical time, Wonder Woman was the breath of fresh air 2017 definitely needed.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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My love of the Spider-Man movies is well known and documented – I was a huge Tobey Maguire-web-slinger fan as a kid, and after the MCU debut of Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, I was hooked and ready to see Tom Holland’s solo debut in Homecoming. And he didn’t disappoint: part superhero film, part teen comedy, Spider-Man: Homecoming focused just as much on Peter’s growing pains as a high schooler whose life is going through major upheaval with his powers, as it did with the heart-stopping action scenes that we’ve come to love and expect. Not only was the film sweet, fun and funny, but Tom Holland was perfect as the precocious Peter, making me even more excited to see him fight alongside the Avengers later this year in Infinity War.

  1. The Beguiled

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The Beguiled was a very different kind of female-driven movie this year: set in the South during the Civil War, it centres on a small girls school led by headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and her young pupils, who take in an injured Yankee soldier and nurse him back to health. But things get dark when jealousy erupts between these women, all of whom have spent much of their lives isolated from men, and none of the young women know who they can trust – or even who the real villain of the house is. Filled with nuanced, powerful performances across the board, the Beguiled is a fascinating film about the complexity of female relationships, coming of age, sexuality, and the importance of sisterhood.

  1. Baby Driver

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Baby Driver was by far the coolest movie of 2017. It may even be director Edgar Wright’s coolest movie to date, which is saying a lot. Starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a talented getaway driver with tinnitus who listens to music constantly to drown it out, almost the entire film is choreographed (and edited) to its amazing soundtrack – which means we get car chases set to the Damned, and coffee runs set to Harlem Shuffle. Its fantastic ensemble cast (Jon Hamm, Lily James, Jamie Foxx) is second only to its originality of storytelling, and as you watch it, you feel like you’re watching something fresh, new, and satisfying.

  1. The Big Sick

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The Big Sick was the little indie darling that could this year, a hilarious yet emotional romantic comedy written by real-life married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon about the fascinating story of how they got together. Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani-born stand-up comedian struggling with his family’s more traditional views of marriage; Emily (here played by a wonderful Zoe Kazan) is a psychology grad student who heckles him at a gig, but their newfound relationship soon finds trouble when Emily falls into a coma due to a mysterious illness. The Big Sick is a heartfelt look at love and the importance of family, with a poignant, yet very funny, script, and is filled with career-best performances from Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and Nanjiani himself. And it’s just been nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award! Not only was the Big Sick one of the most genuine, feel-good films I saw this year, but it was one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen (it’s both extremely funny, and very romantic), and if you didn’t see it this year, I highly recommend you track it down.

  1. Wind River

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Wind River was an even smaller film this year, but it probably had one of the biggest emotional impacts on me as a cinema-going experience. Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, Wind River follows a veteran tracker (Renner) who is still grieving the death of his young daughter, as he helps a naïve FBI agent (Olsen) solve the murder of a local young Native American woman in the dead of winter. Jeremy Renner gives a heartbreaking performance as Cory, a white man whose life has been torn apart by violence, and is seeking retribution for the family of the murder victim, who was best friends with his own murdered daughter. Olson also gives a very complex performance as an outsider in this Native American community, and as the mystery behind what really happened becomes clearer and even more devastating, the film gives you only a few small moments of catharsis, with the film’s final emotional punch as unrelenting as the breathtaking blizzard that rages throughout the entire film.

  1. Ingrid Goes West

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Continuing my trend of fantastic independent cinema, Ingrid Goes West is a biting satire of social media, authenticity and LA culture. Aubrey Plaza is captivating as Ingrid, an Instagram-addicted stalker who has just found her new obsession: photographer and “lifestyle guru” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). She moves to LA and constructs this fake life and personality around herself as she befriends Taylor, but, the further into the lie she entangles herself, the further she has to fall when it all unravels. Movies about social media rarely work, but this one does on so many levels – it’s realistic, and terrifying, but also incredibly dark and comedic, a cautionary tale about oversharing and the authenticity of our online selves versus reality. This is Plaza’s best role since April on Parks and Rec, but Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic, as is Billy Magnussen as her coked-up brother and O’Shea Jackson Jr as an aspiring fanboy screenwriter. Ingrid Goes West is probably my favourite film of the year, and if you can find it anywhere, I promise you it’s worth your time.

  1. Coco

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Oh, man. Coco is the latest film to come out of Pixar, so grab the tissues and prepare yourself. It follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who loves to play the guitar, but his family despises music, after his musician great-great grandfather abandoned his family years and years ago. On Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and must find his great-great grandfather, the legendary singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) to receive his blessing and return home. In their most stunningly colourful animation since Inside Out, Pixar have created their emotional film to date, a beautiful story about passion, family, and remembering where you came from. Miguel’s journey through the Land of the Dead is breathtaking, both visually and through the lore of what happens after you die, and is filled with vibrant music in traditional Mexican style, as well as heartbreaking moments that would melt even the coldest heart. Coco is truly a Pixar film to make you feel human again.

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Unlike the many, very vocal, people on the internet, I actually loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi so, so much. It accomplished many of the things a truly great sequel must: it took characters we were familiar with and helped them grow across their journey, with Rey coming to terms with a Luke that is barely recognisable and growing stronger in the ways of the Force herself. It established new, complex and interesting relationship between characters we’ve barely see interact before, as Rey and Kylo Ren’s fascinating Force connection and Leia and Poe’s more lighthearted friendship showed us. It expanded upon the lore of the previous films, with the Force working in new and interesting ways, and it also gave us some of the best fight sequences and moments ever seen in Star Wars. Whilst much of Finn, Rose and the Resistance’s storyline clearly didn’t work and was quite boring, I can commend it for bringing into the story powerful themes about the blurred lines between good and evil, an idea which will surely come into greater focus in the trilogy’s final instalment, but I think the thing I enjoyed most about The Last Jedi was that it was unafraid to take risks. Things don’t turn out exactly how you expected them to, and people change, and whilst this may have rubbed some people the wrong way, it made me even more excited about the future of Star Wars. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” Star Wars will only remain great if it stays fresh and new within itself, and after Last Jedi, I have hope that it will.

And that’s my top ten of 2017! What was yours? Let me know in the comments!

Also, I know I’ve been pretty absent for the last six or so months, but this time I plan on sticking around, so stay tuned for reviews of my favourite films through the year ahead!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2527336/mediaviewer/rm3942668544
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2380307/mediaviewer/rm3852613632
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5962210/mediaviewer/rm440285696
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5362988/mediaviewer/rm3198770432
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5462602/mediaviewer/rm3978767360
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3890160/mediaviewer/rm921905408
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2250912/mediaviewer/rm1537878528
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5592248/mediaviewer/rm2299078656
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451279/mediaviewer/rm1282484736
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3315342/mediaviewer/rm2050175488

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Comic-Con Trailer Recap

For me, Christmas in July is the most magical time – because with so many of the year’s most highly anticipated films coming out in July, and the influx of movie news and trailers coming in from Comic-Con, it feels like Christmas to me! The last week has seen the year’s biggest convention, where all the stars came out to showcase their upcoming projects and hang out with us fans, and this year didn’t disappoint; even though I wasn’t there (and have never been, though if anyone has a spare ticket…), keeping updated through Twitter and YouTube was one of the highlights of my (admittedly uninteresting) week, seeing all the new footage and hearing so many cool stories of people meeting their favourite icons.

But the trailers are what everyone’s been talking about! From Ready Player One to Thor: Ragnarok, and a slew of exciting trailers for upcoming television, too, they’ve created utter excitement and their fair share of mixed reviews. I certainly have my own opinions about them all, so I thought I’d break down the biggest of them all below – enjoy!

Thor: Ragnarok:

Not only was the first trailer for Thor’s third outing (due in cinemas October 26th) received with much praise and excitement, it made Thor: Ragnarok the Marvel film on everybody’s lips for this year, even more so than Spider-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy. So its new trailer at Comic-Con was highly anticipated, and certainly didn’t disappoint: not only did we get to see more of Cate Blanchett’s badass-looking Hella, Goddess of Death, but we also got a better look at Tessa Thompson’s warrior Valkyrie, another glimpse of Jeff Goldblum’s Grand Master, a co-operative Loki for a change (is he turning over a new leaf?), and a preview of the film’s comedic tone, particularly through Thor’s newfound friendship with the Hulk – who now speaks! So far, all trailers point to ‘yes, please’ when it comes to Thor, only making me more excited for the mainstream breakthrough of one of my favourite directors, Taika Waititi, whose comedy in this trailer could be something new, exciting, and different for the MCU.

Justice League:

On the other side of the comic-world, a new trailer for Justice League also dropped; though it didn’t feature as awesome a song as the first trailer’s Come Together, it did heavily feature Wonder Woman, a clever move by DC to galvanise her newfound fan base. And boy, does she kick ass; not only does she save the world AND stop bank robberies, but we even see a few shots of Themyscira Queen Hippolyta (a badass Connie Nielsen), signifying the return of the Amazons. However, there was a lot to love about the trailer: Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is already the coolest Justice League Uncle you could ever want, with Ezra Miller’s Flash fitting nicely into the comic relief role, too, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon also look promising. Superman has yet to show his face after his untimely death, but will surely return, and this trailer gets me super psyched for the characters in this movie; but I’m still unsure about the story, whether it will gel all its elements of Superman’s death, and the creation of the Justice League, together well. Regardless, this trailer still gets me excited for its November release.

Bright:

The two words Netflix and blockbuster might not seem like they fit together but, well, they’ve done everything else, so why not? David Ayer’s new cop-fantasy action epic seems unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, as Will Smith’s human police officer Daryl and Joel Edgerton’s Orc cop Nick must work together to find a powerful weapon that’s causing havoc in their already divided town. Looking both dark and darkly funny, with a lot of interesting and innovative fantasy elements in the middle, Bright could just be the return to form that both Smith and Ayer need, but beyond that, I’m hoping it signals a return for Tolkien-esque fantasy and more interesting takes on the genre.

Stranger Things Season 2:

Stranger Things was one of my favourite shows of last year, and possibly all time, so when the Super Bowl teaser came out earlier this year, it quickly became my most highly anticipated show of the year. This first full trailer offered up more than we could have dreamed: more 80s, with Ghostbusters costumes, arcades, and a sweet Thriller soundtrack; more horror, with Will still reeling from the effects of the upside down and some scary-as-hell monsters looming in the sky; more Hopper, who I can’t wait to catch up with, and more Nancy, Steve and Johnathon, and all of the little stories that make this world so fascinating. Of course, there’s also a massive tease for the return of Eleven at the end, as she reaches her hand out into the real world; her appearance may have been brief, but it was all I needed to make me hope she’s in much more of the show than just one scene. Is it October yet?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

How do I love Kingsman? Let me count the ways. Kingsman is one of my favourite movies ever, especially of the last few years, and I’ve been following the casting announcements, stills and trailers like a hawk, trying to pick out any new information that I can find. Though the original fifteen second trailer will always be my favourite, this new trailer is awesome because it gives us our first new look at our villainous Julianne Moore; we still know so little about her, but just from the small taste we get you can sense the psycho that she is. The trailer is full of its usual stylised violence and action, but also features a heavy Brits v. Americans vibe, which will most certainly give the film much of its humour. It gives us a great tease for all our new characters, too; not just Channing Tatum’s highly publicized role as Agent Tequila, but also Pedro Pascal’s cowboy Agent Whiskey, Halle Berry’s techy Ginger, Jeff Bridges’ Agent Champagne, and the returning cast we love so much from the first. Of course, Taron Egerton is still front and centre in a dashing orange suit, but I must ask: if the tailor shop is destroyed in the trailer, where do they get all these fine suits from? Guess we’ll have to watch and find out.

Ready Player One:

It’s Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited adaptation of Ernest Cline’s ground-breaking novel, but here’s an unpopular opinion: was it just me, or is the teaser for Ready Player One kind of generic? Though I haven’t read the book, I’ve heard and read a lot about it, and it sounds like this big pop culture epic with a lot of personality, fun and heart; this teaser, on the other hand, reminds me of TRON: Legacy, and several recent YA dystopian flops, just monochrome fighting teenagers in weird outfits and hopeful young actors trying their best. I know it’s from the genius of Spielberg, whom I DO trust, and it IS just a teaser, so there is still hope. But does this teaser get me excited to enter this VR world? Not really.

Blade Runner 2049:

The original Blade Runner is still one of my (and many people’s) favourite sci-fi films, and when I heard there would be a sequel, of course I was ready to cry foul; however, almost every piece of information we’ve seen so far has made me excited. Denis Villeneuve directing? Check. Harrison Ford returning? Check. Ryan Gosling in the lead? CHECK. I’m ready. And though this new trailer features a LOT of Jared Leto and some very cheesy dialogue, I can’t help but get excited; Villeneuve is exploring some really interesting ideas that aren’t just re-treading Ridley Scott’s original, the visuals are fantastic and expansive, and Ryan Gosling is really taking charge of the film, signifying that this will be more than just a fan service sequel.

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3501632/mediaviewer/rm1413491712
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0974015/mediaviewer/rm340274176
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856101/mediaviewer/rm4281940480

Movie Snacks: A Definitive Guide

I am a snacker. I like to snack when I study, read, travel, and, most importantly, when I watch movies. Sometimes I want to go to the movies just because I’m craving good popcorn. Of course, not every movie snack is created equal, and most of the time, theatre-bought snacks are very expensive, but they are still an essential element of movie-going. So, below I have created a guide for every occasion at the movies, once and for all deciding which snacks are the Best of the Best:

Popcorn (AKA The Classic):
Popcorn has been a staple of movie theatres since the 1920s, when silent films became talkies and going to the theatre was much more of a crowd experience than an outing for the wealthy, and has become synonymous with the cinema since. Despite being the best, and most iconic, choice, popcorn is often really expensive to buy from the big chain movie theatres, and they usually bulk it up with so much salt and butter that you need a drink, too. I tend only to buy popcorn at my local or smaller cinemas, where tickets are cheap enough that food is affordable (and those cinemas, like my local, tend to make THE BEST popcorn, too!). But sometimes movies just aren’t right without a fistful of popcorn.
Pair with: Popcorn is great on its own, but reaches next level greatness when paired with almost any chocolate (see below).

Maltesers (AKA The Whiplash Trick):
Though MnMs are superior on a day-to-day scale, Maltesers are the best chocolate to eat at the movies because they pair best with popcorn. Recently made infamous by the film Whiplash, I’ve been pouring my Maltesers into my popcorn bucket since before I was in high school, but apparently this isn’t a common thing? Get it together, people! Consider this a Public Service Announcement: popcorn salt and butter on a Malteser is a heavenly combination, and once you try it, you’ll be wishing you’d known about it sooner. Plus, they’re pretty great on their own.
Pair with: Popcorn, for the ultimate experience.

Sour Patch Kids (AKA The ‘Only At The Movies’ Treat):
For all the lollies you could eat at the movies, these are the best choice because I tend to only buy them when I’m going to the movies. When I was a kid, the cinema would always advertise the candy bar with the slogan ‘no one can see you in the dark’, so when else do you have the opportunity to eat a whole bag of sour patch kids in public? You’d probably never want to do it anywhere else; just go for it.
Pair with: A drink, because God knows you’ll need one.

Choc Top (AKA The Old Favourite):
I don’t know if everyone around the world has these, but choc tops are a quintessential part of Australian cinema-going. It’s just a pre-packed ice cream cone with a hard chocolate coating, but what makes it so special is that you can really only buy them at the movies (the best ones, at least). Plus, one of the best parts is that sometimes you can forget they exist, and your first choc top after a few years without is like returning home.
Pair with: I was at the movies once and saw this unbelievable trick: a guy dipped his choc top IN HIS POPCORN. Ice cream and popcorn. This man deserves a Nobel Prize. I am yet to try it, but that’s some next level snacking.

Drinks at the Movies (AKA Tough Choice):
Though most will insist on giant soft drinks from the candy bar, many other drinks offer a variety of different movie-going experiences. Coffee (hot or otherwise) is always an interesting idea when seeing a slower movie (AKA How I Sat Through The Revenant), and if your local cinema offers cups of tea, I highly recommend ordering one at least once for a cosier viewing. And for fancier sessions, like deluxe sessions or one-off screenings, never say no if they offer you drinks on arrival (unless you’re underage, of course). Champagne at the movies is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like royalty.

What are your favourite movie snacks? Is there anything I need to try? Let me know in the comments!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Top Five: Matthew Vaughn

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There are many directors I admire – Steven Spielberg, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott – but probably my absolute favourite is Matthew Vaughn. Though not quite so prolific as the aforementioned names, Matthew Vaughn has been a strong stylistic voice on the scene since the 90s, forming a strong relationship with Guy Ritchie as a recurring producer before forging his own path as a director. I’ve seen all of his films, which isn’t exactly a mean feat – there’s only five of them – but each of them have a very individual genre and tone, whilst still obviously part of one filmmaker’s specific canon. From fairy-tales to crime films, superheroes and spies, all of Matthew Vaughn’s might be adaptations of graphic novels or books; but all have such a creative take on the source material and genre features that it feels like specifically his vision, which is why I love them so much. You never know what he’s going to take on next.

Except we do: his next film is a sequel to his most recent outing, Kingsman: The Secret Service, but even his interviews on the film suggest an entirely different film, focusing on Americana as a theme rather than class relations. So, as an appreciation post for one of my favourite filmmakers, as well as a channel for my excitement for his next film, here is my top five favourite films directed by Matthew Vaughn (in order of release):

  1. Layer Cake (2004) (AKA His First):

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Layer Cake was Vaughn’s directorial debut, establishing a style which really put him on the map: a hyper-violent, oh-so-cool London lad film about a middle man on the drug-ring scene, played by Daniel Craig, who is just about to retire comfortably when his last job gets very messy. Layer Cake allowed Vaughn to showcase his filmic roots in a film that, while reflecting his collaboration with Guy Ritchie, with its brash British characters and gritty tone, was inventive in that it placed entirely new characters in a crime film, such as the middle class XXXX (Daniel Craig’s character in the film is unnamed, which is so much fun). Whilst not my favourite Matthew Vaughn movie (crime movies are not my forte), the large, brilliant cast, including Sienna Miller, George Harris and Michael Gambon, highlights the faith the film industry had in this first time director.

  1. Stardust (2007) (AKA My Guilty Pleasure)

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Maybe it’s the pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox with pirate hair, or a campy Robert De Niro, a long-haired Mark Strong, or just a love of fairy-tales, but Stardust is one of my absolute favourite films, and very high on the list of Vaughn films for me. Adapted from the Neil Gaiman book of the same name, Stardust is about a poor boy named Tristan (Charlie Cox) from the small town of Wall who, in order to win the affection of his crush Victoria (Sienna Miller), ventures over the fence into a magical neighbouring town to collect a fallen star, who appears in the form of Yvaine (Claire Danes). As they trek back home, they encounter all sorts of obstacles and villains, such as Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) and the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), and new friends too, and it’s all narrated so wonderfully by Ian McKellen that I can’t help but be enchanted every time. Even though it’s ridiculously cheesy and very camp, I fall in love every time I watch it; it’s full of great little cameos, fun scenes, and an incredibly heart-warming will-they-won’t-they love story, and you can really see the world-building that both Gaiman and Vaughn have contributed to, since the fairy-tale itself stands up quite well. It may be Vaughn’s least-known movie, but it holds a special place in my heart.

  1. Kick-Ass (2010) (AKA Everyone’s Favourite)

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When I was in high school, my friends would not shut up about Kick-Ass! And when I finally watched it, many years too late, I completely realised why: it does what Matthew Vaughn does best by taking genre tropes, in this case superhero tropes, and uses them lovingly, whilst also making them baudy and sending them up. In this case, bored, comic-reading teenager Dave Lizewski (a fresh-faced Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decides to become the superhero Kick-Ass after a car accident leaves him with the inability to feel pain, catching the attention of crime boss Frank D’Amico (a barely recognisable Mark Strong) and two other superheroes, daddy-daughter duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz). It’s big, and bold, and incredibly funny, creating careers for Taylor-Johnson and Moretz as well as revitalising Cage’s, and in the beginning of an age of superhero films, it managed to be a precursor to the lower budget superhero movies that are making a comeback (Chronicle, even Deadpool), focusing on story and characters instead of meeting marks. Its sequel might not hold up, but that’s not directed by Vaughn, and Kick-Ass works so well on its own.

  1. X-Men: First Class (2011) (AKA My First)

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Even my favourite X-Men film is a Matthew Vaughn movie! X-Men: First Class not only started my love of Matthew Vaughn movies, but it started my love and interest of the X-Men franchise, and superhero movies as a whole genre. This prequel to the original X-trilogy, which sees a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) discovering their powers and meeting for the first time in the 1960s, is very much a departure from his regular, almost parody-like genre films, but is still so reflective of his own visual tone – strong 60s style, star-studded cast (albeit American this time), and a story that focuses on the characters’ relationships, not their battle scenes. Though he’d firs been tapped to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, no-one could have saved that sinking ship, and First Class was the perfect vehicle that allowed Vaughn to work on even bigger projects, like his next one, which is my absolute favourite.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) (AKA My Love)

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There is not a single thing I don’t like about this movie. For those of you reading this who have ever suffered a conversation with me about this film, please forgive me, but this is the part where I sing the praises of one of my favourite movies ever. A classic tale of working class man becomes upper class gentleman, Kingsman tells the story of Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton), a young man who is taken under the wing of gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and joins the secret spy agency Kingsman, just as tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (a lispy Samuel L. Jackson), whose radical environmental beliefs are much, much more sinister than they seem, sets his plan into action. Kingsman pays homage to the over-the-top classic spy movies of the 60s with its larger than life villain, crazy technology and gentlemanly affairs, whilst also forging its own path entirely, using its filthy humour, outrageous violence and great mixture of talented veterans and exciting newcomers to set itself apart and make it one of the most loved and successful films of 2015, especially for a heavily rated film. I love the cast; I love the soundtrack; I love the themes; the story, the humour, and even the gory action. It is peak Matthew Vaughn, and I love it.

If you haven’t seen a Matthew Vaughn film, please do! I would recommend any of these films feverishly, because, if nothing else, you’re going to have a seriously fun two hours. And if you’ve seen these films, tell me what your favourite is in the comments!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0891216/mediaviewer/rm209816832
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375912/mediaviewer/rm414679296
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486655/mediaviewer/rm1031900416
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1250777/mediaviewer/rm2146077952
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270798/mediaviewer/rm3898784000
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802144/mediaviewer/rm80084992

Two Years of In Film, As In Life!


Two years ago, I was a first year university student with no idea. With very little background knowledge and no idea how to achieve it, I dreamed of being a film critic, driven by my passion for film and my keen interest in reading about them. So when my best friend told me about how she’d started a blog, I thought, I could do that! And thus, my passion project and love for the last two years was started in the form of In Film, As In Life.

In Film, As In Life changed my own life from then: it inspired me to watch more films, both in cinema and on DVD; it allowed me to develop my own opinions and ideas about movies, and taught me how to express them; it also encouraged me to have faith in my own opinions about film (just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong). It even gave me the opportunity to do internships with magazines I admire and love; I even got to write for Empire Magazine, my original inspiration for becoming a film critic, and I’m still working for FilmInk, a movie magazine which pushes my love of indie cinema. And don’t get me wrong, not all of my reviews of been perfect or flawless or even well-written – I cringe reading back my older reviews – but it’s all been a learning process, and boy, have I learned a few things. 

But one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that some people actually read my reviews, people I know, and people I don’t. I would do this even if nobody was reading (and not many people, if any at all, were reading for a very long time), but one of the wonderful things this blog has allowed me to do is interact with people who love movies just as much as I do. I feel a sense of pride every time I press post on a new review, but that’s nothing in comparison to the excitement I get reading comments and interacting with this community. So to all you readers out there, thank you. 

While I’m here, I may as well thank a few more people (since this is already a very indulgent personal post): thank you to everyone who reads these posts, I love hearing your thoughts and talking to you about my favourite things. Thank you to my friends who put up with my writer’s block, who read through my reviews and help me keep going. Thank you to my family, who have always given me constructive criticism and pushed me to do my best, and thank you to all of my friends who go to the movies with me; you make every cinema trip so much more fun. 

But the most important acknowledgement here is all the movies I’ve seen over the last two years. This website has inspired me to watch as many things as I can, and I have seen well over a hundred films in the last two years at the movies alone, and infinitely more DVDs. While not all of those movies have been good, I have enjoyed going to see each and every one, all for different reasons. Some made me laugh, many made me cry, a lot made me think, and they were all such different viewing experiences that they were all worth the money (sometimes, my mum makes me tally up how much money I’ve spent on DVDs or movie tickets; I’m always more impressed than depressed). 

So to celebrate the last two wonderful, fascinating, exciting years, I want to share with you my five favourite movie-related experiences from the last two years: they may not have all been 5 star films, but I had the most amazing time. So here is my celebratory top five:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road – In Conversation
After the phenomenon that was Mad Max: Fury Road, my friends and I scored tickets to a panel with George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, who shared concept art, videos and storyboards of the mind-blowing film. It was so interesting to get their insight into the deep themes of the film; an action blockbuster on the surface, the feminist themes and human values were fascinating in discussion with some of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. 

2. The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood

In 2015 I was lucky enough to be able to visit the US and spend a fabulous day in Hollywood, soaking in the sunshine and the history of Tinseltown. I saw the Dolby Theatre and all its Oscar history (they have columns engraved with the names of each of the Best Picture winners dating back to the 1920s!!); I got to see some of my favourite names, Julie Andrews and Harrison Ford on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and then got to measure my hands against my heroes at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Tom Hanks, RDJ, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, and the brilliant Robin Williams, it was a pretty inspiring place, topped off with lunch at the Hard Rock. It was only one day, but it made the whole trip. 

3. Star Wars: the Force Awakens, in Midnight Release

For the first Star Wars release in over ten years, my friends and I ventured to our local cinema to bask in the neediness and fandom that is a Star Wars midnight release. The adrenaline was pumping late at night, the lines were full of people dressed as stormtroopers, Jedi and Darth Vader, and even with all that coolness, nothing compared to the excitement of seeing that opening crawl for the very first time. A perfect night for a great film. 

4. Spotlight and Deadpool: Double Movie Day 

With my great movie friend Sam, we embarked on a mission of epic proportions: two movies, one amazing day. We started with Spotlight early in the morning, and its deep, emotional themes moved us before we got to cleanse our palettes with one of the biggest comedies of 2016 – Deadpool. They were surprisingly complimentary films, one to make you think and one to follow as an upper, and we’ve been trying to one-up ourselves ever since. 

5. The Founder – My First Press Screening 

My first glamorous introduction into the wonderful world of film criticism, I ventured into the city to see Michael Keaton’s the Founder in a private screening. Signing embargoes, checking my phone at the door; my friend Marina and I drank in the corporate atmosphere before walking all the way back to the office (a longer walk than imaginable), stopping only for dumplings on the way. 

Happy Two Years for In Film, As In Life, and here’s to many more! 

Talk soon, 

Jessica x

My 100th Blog Post!!!

100 posts! It’s hard to believe I’ve written so many posts, but then again, it feels like a thousand. This blog began as an outlet for me to be able to share my work with my friends, and eventually, the world; to think I’ve complained about, criticised, and praised so many different films, shared so many of my opinions and thoughts on movies, and spent so much time working on all of these different posts is astonishing. But the craziest part is that they actually get read by people, so to whomever it is that’s out there reading this, thank you. I truly appreciate it.

But to be honest, I would still do this without people reading it, and I did for a long time, too, and that’s because I really love movies, and I really love this blog. I think about both of them every day, constantly, prattle on about them to whoever will listen, and don’t think I will ever stop doing that.

With the two year anniversary of this blog coming up (two years! I can’t believe it), I thought I’d save the big memory-fest for that post instead, so for my 100th blog post I thought I’d focus on my two big loves, movies and lists. Two commemorate my 100th blog post, here is my top ten favourite films of all time:

(Disclaimer: I have dozens of favourite films. I’d challenge anyone to pick the one favourite movie of all time they have. This top ten focuses mainly on the important stuff, like making me feel all good inside, re-watchability, memories and favourite characters. Okay. Enjoy!)

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service
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    It’s a newer film, but when it came out I saw it three times in the cinemas. I bought it for my birthday, and watched it on my birthday. I just love it. Following a gentleman spy named Harry Hart (Colin Firth) who takes a working class man, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), under his wing, Kingsman has heaps of humour, action and great performances that never fail to make me smile and make a bad day good again.
  2. The Holiday
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    The Holiday is one of my absolute favourite Kate Winslet movies, and certainly one of my favourite movies of all time, about a Hollywood editor and a newspaper reporter who swap homes for the holidays after their love-lives get turned upside down. It sounds cheesy, and it is, which is why I don’t particularly like Cameron Diaz’s character in it, but everyone else is fantastic: Kate Winslet and Jack Black have such wonderful, sweet and comedic chemistry together, and Jude Law is wonderful romantic and heartfelt. And my favourite character, Arthur (played by the brilliant Eli Wallach), a retired Hollywood screenwriter, provides some moments and quotes that get me every time, reminding us to be the leading character in our own lives.
  3. Aladdin
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    A Disney classic, Aladdin captures my heart for two reasons. The first is because he is the most relatable character; he’s not royalty, but he’s in love, and he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for the person he’s in love with or the things that he wants. He only figures out that the best way to connect with Jasmine is being himself through the Genie, which is the second reason I love this movie. Robin Williams is an icon to me, I love everything he did, and the Genie is probably his most Robin Williams role ever, so full of life and pop culture and fun, that re-watching Aladdin is like sitting down with an old friend.
  4. The Princess Bride
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    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The Princess Bride is one of those movies that is so memorable and quotable, that you feel like you’ve seen it a hundred times when you’ve only seen it a few, but in the best possible way. The story of Buttercup, Wesley and their friends is so dear to me because it has everything a movie could want: it’s a romance and an action film, with the quirkiest, most lovable sense of humour I’ve ever encountered, so much so that the framing device of the grandfather reading the story to his grandson is actually one of my favourite parts of the movie. The Princess Bride is one of my “Twoo wuv”s of cinema.
  5. Toy Story 2
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    One of the strongest memories I have from my childhood is the Toy Story 2 PC game. There was checkers with Woody’s critters, a luggage jumping game, and a Frogger-esque game where you had to navigate Buzz and co. across the highway. When watching the movie, however, my nostalgia changes: Toy Story 2’s ideas of leaving our toys behind and growing up hits me so hard every time, I cry just hearing the song from Jessie’s flashback. But it also has so many jokes, like Empire Strikes Back references galore and toy store jokes, and it’s just such a wonderful, well-rounded, heartfelt sequel that really elevates the franchise and makes you feel everything.
  6. X-Men: First Class
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    This movie is actually one of the first movies that really made me passionate about movies. The X-Men franchise is one of my favourite series, and First Class, directed by my favourite director Matthew Vaughn, is one of the best X-movies, a great combination of fantastic cast, sharp story and quick action. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give Charles and Erik such an interesting relationship, and Vaughn really makes use of his talented cast and setting, giving it depth but also having fun with it. Of all superhero movies, this is the one I love the most.
  7. Roman Holiday
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    I haven’t seen very many, but I love classic movies, and I love Audrey Hepburn movies best of all. Roman Holiday was her first headlining role as Princess Ann, a bored Royal visiting Rome who escapes from palace life for the day with Joe Bradley, an American journalist played by Gregory Peck. Even though it’s in black and white, Rome absolutely shines in this charming film about friendship and duty, and the chemistry between Hepburn and Peck (and, indeed, Eddie Albert, who third wheels as Joe’s photographer friend Irving for most of the film) is delightful, with a beautiful score serenading them on top. But despite all it’s brilliance, Audrey Hepburn is still the best part, sweet and funny and heartbreaking, and it’s her Oscar winning role. Roman Holiday makes any day better.
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
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    I grew up on three movie series: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbbean. The first two series make up the next two slots, but one of my favourite movies of all time is Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I always loved the sword-fighting and swashbuckling, Geoffrey Rush scared the hell out of me as a kid, and I was so in love with Orlando Bloom as a child (is that creepy? You decide). But rewatching it as an adult, the film has a really enjoyable and original story, awesome action, and such lovable characters, with Johnny Depp’s iconic staggering Jack Sparrow and great chemistry between Bloom and Keira Knightley. I am well overdue for a re-watch of this movie, but I will always love it.
  9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
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    All three original Indiana Jones films (we don’t talk about the fourth) are masterpieces, but of the three, The Last Crusade has always been my favourite. I don’t know why young me chose to love the one with the snakes and rats, but that must speak volumes about the tight story and great relationship between Indy and his dad (my favourite Sean Connery role), that I would overlook such horrifying scenes. The Last Crusade was the basis for my love of Ancient History, and of Harrison Ford, who is more iconic as Indiana than Han for me, and the fun action and story always makes me to watch it whenever it’s on TV, which is often.
  10. Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope
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    Last year I did a whole series of reviews of each Star Wars movie, and every time I re-watch the series, A New Hope is by far my favourite. There’s something about Lucas building his world for the first time that always captures my imagination: Old Ben is telling Luke stories about the Old Republic, the trash compacter scene, Leia’s classic one-liners, Han shooting first in the Cantina… I could go on and on about how much I love A New Hope, because there isn’t a scene I don’t love, a line I can’t quote, a character that doesn’t excite me. The Empire Strikes Back may be perfect, but A New Hope is perfect to me.

There are so many movies I had to leave off this list that I could honestly write about another twenty films and still be nowhere near done, but the movies listed above are a quintessential list of films that never fail to brighten my day and get me excited.

What are some of your favourite movies? Let me know in the comments, and if I haven’t seen them, they’ll be next on my watchlist!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802144/mediaviewer/rm214302720
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457939/mediaviewer/rm3696138496
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Six Most Exciting Films of 2017

Happy New Year everybody! Whilst many of us are mostly just glad to put 2016 behind us, I absolutely cannot wait for 2017 to swing into gear: not only will I have my degree by the end of the year and *hopefully* pursuing a career in film criticism, but there are so many fantastic movies that I can’t wait to see! I’m hoping to delve a little bit more into the indie movie world a bit this year, as well as expand my repertoire of classic film (not to mention finally finish that Watchlist I made almost two years ago), but there are some giant films coming out this year that have had my attention since I first discovered they were in production.

Now, here I would normally do my Top Five list, but there were so many movies I’m just itching to see that I had to expand it to a Top Six. So, here’s my Top Six Most Exciting Films of 2017, in order of release dates:

  1. Wonder Woman (ETA June 2nd)

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After DC’s shocking year last year, a lot of people are losing their faith in what used to be the biggest names in superhero films, but all of that could change with Wonder Woman. In what seems to be an origins story with a modern day framing device, this movie will follow Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince as she leaves the Amazonians to fight in the war to end all wars. Wonder Woman was easily the best part of Batman v. Superman, and this trailer looks super badass, complete with Amazonian drums and the epic theme we experienced during BvS, but the best part is Gal Gadot, who both looks the part and has such a presence that this film is bound to make her shine. With a female director behind the camera, here’s hoping she’s given the opportunity to dominate like she deserves.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming (ETA July 7th)

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I’ve made no secret here on this website: Spider-Man is my favourite superhero ever, and Tom Holland’s debut as the teenage webslinger in Captain America: Civil War was a highlight of last year in film for me, combining the youthful awkwardness of Peter Parker and the cocky quipping that so defines Spider-Man in a way that we’ve never seen before. When that teaser trailer was dropped announcing the full trailer last month, I practically lived on Twitter waiting for it to come out, and it didn’t disappoint. With a brief glimpse of Michael Keaton’s The Vulture, and an even larger role from Tony Stark than expected, Jon Watts’ take on Spidey seems very John Hughes-esque in the best possible way, a true coming of age story for a 15 year old who’s just fought with the Avengers. Your typical teenage stuff.

  1. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (ETA October 6th)

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Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of my favourite movies of 2015, a brilliant fresh take on a tired trope that not only invigorated the spy-genre, but gave us yet another great performance from Colin Firth, launched talented newcomer Taron Egerton’s career, and cemented Matthew Vaughn as my favourite director. When I heard there was going to be a sequel, I flipped. But since then there’s been barely any information shared – all we know is that the film will involve the American Statesmen, bringing Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Julianne Moree among others into the cast; Mark Strong and Taron Egerton will return, and (somehow) Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, who infamously died halfway through the film, will be returning, teased in a cryptic image posted on social media (see above). Plus, Matthew Vaughn will once again be in the director’s chair, the first true sequel he’s ever made, so all signs point to a fantastic film.

  1. Blade Runner 2049 (ETA October 6th)

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Let me take you back to my final year of high school, when I, a not even 18 yet, was given the opportunity to study the original Blade Runner. Never have I ever been so lucky to have been introduced to a film that, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have seen. It’s one of my favourite sci-fi films, and easily my favourite Ridley Scott movie, a brilliant exploration of what it means to be human, full of fantastic performances. Blade Runner 2049 was one of those sequels that, upon announcement, I dreaded – how dare they destroy such a perfect movie? But each piece of information we’ve received about it since then – the fact that Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) is directing, Harrison Ford is returning, Ryan Gosling will be playing an interesting new role – has piqued my interest further and further, and when that trailer dropped a few weeks ago it shot to one of my most anticipated films of the year. For me, it doesn’t even have to do something similar to Blade Runner; if it’s just as interesting in a completely different way, I’ll be satisfying.

  1. Thor: Ragnarok (ETA November 3rd)

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Why would I choose Thor 3 over Guardians 2, I hear the internet roar? Two words: Taika Waititi. One of my favourite local directors, Waititi has directed some of my favourite films, including What We Do In The Shadows and last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Apart from working on the script for Moana, this will be Waititi’s first big Hollywood film, and since he’s got some local talent to work with too – Hemsworth, obviously, plus Sam Neill is rumoured to be making a cameo in the film – this is his chance to really show off his irreverent humour and talent to the world on a much larger scale. Even from the little Comic-Con feature following Thor and what he’s been up to since Avengers 2, his humour is on show and on point – if Thor 3 is even half as funny, it’ll be a success in my books.

  1. Star Wars Episode VIII (ETA December 15th)

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How could I make a list like this one without adding any Star Wars? After the Force Awakens so brilliantly returned us to a galaxy far, far away, we were left with so many questions: is Finn okay? Who are the Knights of Ren? Who was Rey waiting for on Jakku? And what in the hell has Luke Skywalker been up to? Literally nothing is known about the film – there aren’t any set photos on IMDb, no plot, not even a definitive title – and the next few months are going to be full of firsts for the film, with a teaser trailer hopefully dropping in the next few months. And, with Looper’s Rian Johnson at the helm, we seem to be in great hands for Star Wars to make it dramatic return next summer.

There are so many other films I could have put on this list: The Space Between Us, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Circle, the list goes on. But I’m most excited for the ones I haven’t even heard of yet, where I’ll enter the theatre unassumingly and leave a new person.

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856101/mediaviewer/rm1511143936
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4649466/mediaviewer/rm3954187264
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2250912/mediaviewer/rm3938925312
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