Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

Stars: Paul Rudd, Kathryn Newton, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonathan Majors
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Jeff Loveness, Jack Kirby

As Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) embraces his new normal after the events of Endgame, we catch up with him as he promotes his autobiography “Look Out for the Little Guy” whilst rebuilding his relationship with his daughter. At a family pizza night Cassie (Kathryn Newton) surprises her Dad when he finds out she has been studying the Quantumrealm and in a sudden accident the 5 Lang/Pyms get sucked into the whacky world of the Quantumrealm. 

Freak event after freak event causes the party to be separated and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) leads Hank (Michael Douglas) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly), whilst Scott and Cassie find themselves caught up in a rebellion uprising against “The Conquerer”…

Enter Kang. 

Jonathan Majors returns to the role of Kang the Conquerer after his cameo in the season one finale of the Disney+ series Loki. Kang has one ambition, to conquer all multiverses because of the horrors of his past. 

Scott and his big team work together to find a way out of the Quantumrealm, whilst battling Kang and supporting the socialist uprising along the way. 

Majors performance holds the entire film together in an unexpected way and develops the character in both his past but also his future. Kang is joined by comic book favourite M.O.D.O.K, who has a somewhat familiar face and is used as a violent pawn in Kang’s vicious game. 

Cassie, now brilliantly played by MCU newcomer Kathryn Newton, is a rebellious teenager who supports the rights of those whose lives were ruined by the blip.  However, this socialist behaviour leads her into sticky situations, both in the Quantumrealm and in her reality. Newton is fantastic in the role and embodies the sass and confidence that Cassie has yet to bring to the Ant-Man stories. 

The visual effects and world building bring an almost Star Wars edge to the MCU, the closest we’ve seen to this point is from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, however this time it is all consuming. Parts of this film was shot on the MCU volume and kudos to all involved in creating this wild and whacky world. Although occasionally ropey, the effects are vivid and fast paced, keeping up with the energy of the film and its pivotal characters. 

Despite the ambitious surroundings and storytelling, ultimately the film felt like a character piece. Focusing on the relationships between Scott and his family and Kang and his past. 

The full title of the film is Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, although including The Wasp in the title is unjustified as, yet again, Hope Van Dyne is completely underused. She has one epic moment towards the finale of the film but otherwise she is forgotten about and pushed to the side. A disservice to both character and performer. 

Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with this film, it is completely different to anything seen in the MCU so far and manages to utilise the great character performers at its disposal. Majors and Newton are absolute standouts and Rudd manages to continue Ant-Man’s legacy with both humour and heart. I can’t wait to see it again and thanks to the TWO credit stings, I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner for Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

The Fabelmans

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano

Steven Spielberg brings this autobiographical tale to life, telling the story of a troubled family as they are relocated from New Jersey to California. The Fabelmans are made up of Mum (Michelle Williams), Dad (Paul Dano) Son Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) and three daughters…oh and a monkey!

The story follows Sammy as he discovers a love for filmmaking and begins shooting his own short films with the undying support of his musician mother. His father, although having his reservations, stands by and watches as his son becomes a young man and passionate story teller.

When tragedy hits the Fabelmans home, the family struggle to recover and Sammy puts filmmaking to one side.

After a difficult few years dealing with bullying, his parents marriage crumbling and relationship struggles, Sammy returns to his passion and switches the camera on once again.

Every single shot in this 2 hour spectacle is so intricately thought out that it is impeccably easy to get completely absorbed by the magic of it. The storytelling is beautifully fluent with the narrative of Sammy’s love and heartbreak with his craft that it screams from the rooftops. Spielbergs heart and soul went into this film, that is clear to see, and the moments of his own experiences are vividly charming.

The direction is, as expected, utterly flawless. But a director is only as good as those he’s directing, and the performances shine from the entire cast. LaBelle will be a new face to most but this film will put him on the map as one to watch, his performance is honest and raw. Whilst the film is emotional, the moments of comedy are crafted with perfect skill.

The Fabelmans is both an ode to the beauty of cinema whilst being a powerful coming of age film. Thanks to its beautiful cinematography and stylish editing techniques it deserves to be seen on the big screen.

The Fabelmans

Animation Roundup 2022

2022 has been a great year for film, cinema’s have boomed thanks to the huge release of Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion and closing the year with Avatar: The Way of Water. But, despite the exciting live action films that have graced the silver screen, I think it’s time we celebrated the explosion of animated films we have been gifted this year. From the return to the Toy Story universe in Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear to the gruesome battle between teddy bears and unicorns in Unicorn Wars, I’m going to delve into some of the animated highlights of the year. 

If you can, I ask you to cast your minds back to the start of the year. We’d just seen Disney’s Encanto take home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, which came as no surprise to anyone. In an Oscar’s first, Danish animated documentary Flee was awarded Best Feature Length Documentary at the Academy Awards and The Windshield Wiper from Spanish filmmaker Alberto Mieglo wins best animated short. After the celebrations of the 94th Academy Awards we waved goodbye to the animated films of the last 12 months and looked forward to 2022 and what it had in store.

Disney/Pixar were straight off the mark with the release of their highly anticipated coming of age animation about a young teenage girl Meilin who reaches a stage in her adolescence and finds herself turning…ahem…red. Turning Red is up there with my favourite animated films of the year and celebrates everything great, and at times not so great, about being a teenage girl. With the addition of boy band 4-Town and her awkward best friends, it resonated with audiences of all ages and thanks to its stunning CG animation (what else would we expect from Pixar?) Turning Red should be celebrated. 

Turning Red was Pixar’s first outing of 2022, followed just a few months later with Lightyear which was Pixar’s first cinema release since before the COVID pandemic. Lightyear tells the origin story of the beloved Toy Story hero Buzz Lightyear, this time round voiced by the perfectly cast Chris Evans and supported by a gabble of other well known voices. From the likes of Taika Waititi, Kiki Palmer and James Brolin as fan favourite Zurg. Lightyear is great fun, and with the addition of the fun robot cat sidekick SOX, despite slightly lacking the whimsy and nostalgia of the Toy Story series, still managed to capture our hearts.

The end of 2022 has seen the release of Disney’s Strange World, which despite its weak marketing, is absolutely stunning. The adventurous tale of Searcher (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal) who goes on a rescue mission to save their home with the companionship of his son, wife and three legged dog. Meeting bonkers creatures and fantastical surroundings along the way, Strange World is bright, colourful and vastly enjoyable to watch. Quirky in all the right places with a wonderfully original story that pulls it all together, Strange World is making its way to Disney+ by the end of the year and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

From one major streaming platform to another, Netflix have also had their share of animation releases this year. Apollo 10 ½ : A Space Age Childhood was released in April this year and tells the coming of age story loosely based on the childhood experience of writer/director Richard Linklater. Supported by its stunning visuals and ambitious animation style, Apollo 10 ½ is favourite for an Oscar nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. 

The Sea Beast was also released on Netflix this year and sits as the third biggest Netflix film of the year. The stunning tale of an outcast sea creature who is victim to hunting, only until a bond is formed between it and a young stowaway. The animation is bold and beautiful and, quite frankly, deserved a cinema release. Hopefully in the future, Netflix decides to get their original animations on the big screen. 

With the Christmas season upon us, Netflix have jumped on the bandwagon of retelling the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol in the new animated musical Scrooge: A Christmas Carol. The animation technique of sharp angles and block colours could be considered intelligently creative, however, at times it comes across as lazy and over-stimulated. However, thanks to the musical soundtrack, the voice acting is fantastic. Luke Evans as Scrooge, with his bellowing tones, was a brilliant choice and brings a depth to the ever familiar role. 

2022 was a treat for stop motion animation fans, Henry Selick (director of the stop motion giants The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) made his long awaited return to the medium in the shape of Wendell & Wild, a stop motion animation horror adventure from writers Keegan Micheal Key and Jordan Peele. Released in time for Halloween, Wendell & Wild bares the same spooky, gothic fantasy style as Selicks previous works whilst incorporating a modern twist with relevant music styles, fashion and character design. 

Jumping back to Disney+, the summer of 2022 was jam packed with fun family friendly films, and Disney+ was the place to be for some of the best of them. May 20th saw the release of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, a rollocking comedy following the parallel lives of the now retired Chip and Dale after their successful career on TV’s favourite show, The Rescue Rangers. From comic con appearances to reality TV gigs, this part animation/part live action comedy is an absolute blast for all ages.
For the slightly more mature audiences (in age, not sense of humour!), Disney+ released The Bob’s Burgers Movie. A musical animation spin-off of the hugely popular adult animation series, The Bob’s Burgers Movie was loved by critics and fans alike and is looking likely to pick up some nominations in this year’s awards season. 

Although Disney and Netflix dominate the animation circuit year after year, that’s not to say there isn’t room for independent animation studios to make their mark. Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon, who have previously graced audiences with the likes of Wolf Walkers, Songs of the Sea and The Breadwinner, returned this year with their family fantasy My Fathers Dragon. After receiving positive reviews from the London Film Festival, My Fathers Dragon made its way to Netflix in November and is a hidden gem. Beautiful animation, teamed with a stellar voice cast and the whimsy that Cartoon Saloon always brings to their projects makes this fantasy adventure film one to watch. 

Spanish animation studio Abano Productions also brought their most recent project to the London Film Festival. Much less a family favourite, and more a dark adult comedy, Unicorn Wars is a brutal interpretation of the misfortune of war and the battle between…ahem…teddy bears and unicorns. Full of crass humour and gory visuals, Unicorn Wars definitely won’t be for everyone, but is ambitious and should be celebrated for that alone. 

Also released on Netflix this year was Studio Colorido’s Drifting Home from Japanese filmmaker Hiroyasu Ishida. Drifting Home follows a group of school children who find themselves floating in the middle of the ocean on top of a block of flats, between friendship dynamics and coming of age dilemmas, the group must navigate themselves back to land whilst working together as a team to find food and supplies. Powerful, emotional and visually stunning Drifting Home should not be overlooked. 

Saving the best for last, I am finishing my Animation roundup with the hugely anticipated and thus critically acclaimed stop motion animation from Guillermo Del Toro. Pinocchio had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October and has gone on to receive rave reviews and Oscar predictions since its global Netflix release in December. Del Toro has teased about bringing the story of Pinocchio to life in his own dark fantasy style for some years now and the end result didn’t disappoint. The animation is intricate and beautiful, the changes to the original fairytale are dark and powerful and the voice cast is flawless. Bursting with passion and style, GDT’s Pinocchio is favourite to wipe the board on animation awards this season and rightly so. A huge achievement from everyone involved, and as always with Del Toro’s work, I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

And there we have it, 17 films, multiple animation styles and a shed load of voice acting talent, we have the 2022 round up of animated feature lengths. Bring on 2023.

(Special shout out to A24’s Marcel The Shell With Shoes On which I have already seen but is scheduled for major release in February so will undoubtedly make the list next year!). 

Happy New Year everyone. 

Animation Roundup 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Stephen Lang
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Let’s cast our minds back to 2009. The summer blockbuster season is upon us and we have already been transported back to Hogwarts (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), into the skies with Karl and Russell (Up) and to gloomy Forks in another adventure with Bella and Edward (Twilight: New Moon) and James Cameron hasn’t even made his mark yet. Avatar opens with a groundbreaking opening weekend, with the use of 3D and motion capture technology, audiences are collectively astounded. And rightly so. People go back again and again to be immersed in the beauty of Pandora and all its glory. 

James Cameron’s passion project is ambitious, expensive and fascinating and takes audiences on a rollercoaster of discovery, scientific study and an emotional character journey for lead character Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington), Avatar is a phenomenon. Skirting around the 3 hour run time it falls into the same category as each of the epic Lord of the Rings saga, the cinematic classic Gone with the Wind and Cameron’s previous groundbreaking achievement, Titanic. It is an investment, both emotionally and physically (there’s no time for toilet breaks in this perfectly paced epic!). 

After battling the greed and brutality of the American humans that are attempting to colonise Pandora, we leave Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) in the trusted hands of her people as Jake makes the permanent transition from human to Na’vi. 

13 years later and audiences around the world are being transported back to Pandora to catch up with some old and new friends in Avatar: The Way of Water

From the opening shot to the closing music, Avatar: The Way of Water is everything a sequel needs to be. Cameron hasn’t shied away from the powers of the original whilst injecting the plot with new characters, new settings, new lore and a powerfully emotional story. Jake Sully is back with his young family, sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak’s (Britain Dalton) and young daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). Also amongst the Sully brood is Kiri, voiced by returning cast member Sigourney Weaver, who, despite her troubled and confused past, has become the adopted daughter of Jake and Neytiri. As well as the 4 Na’vi children, Jake and Neytiri have welcomed nomad Spider to their midst, a human boy that was born on Pandora and despite knowing his father, believes he is to be a part of the Na’vi tribe and lives with the Sullys when he can. 

A family of 7, living at peace with Pandora and their people. Until ghosts from their past show there ugly faces in a plot to seek revenge for Jakes mistakes. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) returns to the Na’vi bodied version of his previous character who was killed at the end of the first film, and finds himself on a revenge mission, to kill Jake Sully. With his family to keep safe, Jake leaves their home in the forest and flee to the water people who after some convincing, welcome the Sullys to their home. 

A bold and ambitious third act allows the family to work together with their new tribe and battle the ghosts of Jakes past. 

After 13 years, a lot rides on this being a successful sequel. And after James Cameron’s success with sequels in the past it seemed like a sure deal. And for me, it is everything I hoped it would be and more. It seems an obvious thing to point out but the visual effects are like nothing seen before, the introduction to the world of water allows the creative team to embellish what we have already seen in the original. New characters and new creatures encourage the vast creativity of this seismic world that Cameron and his team have created. The transition from daytime to nighttime is a feast for the eyes and encapsulated the audience with every frame. 

Powerful performances throughout encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief and fully engage in the dynamics and relationships between the family. Despite the 3+ hour runtime, the pacing of the storytelling is careful and delicate where it needs to be and jam packed with epic action sequences where the story requires it. 

James Cameron holds on to the standard 3 act structure, which helps drive the film in the right direction and allows for immense world building techniques throughout. Just as the first one challenged the way visual effects can be used to tell a story, the sequel continues to hold the mantel for what a blockbuster can be, and what technology allows performers and filmmakers to achieve. 

Avatar: The Way of Water is magnificent, both visually and emotionally. I urge anyone who wants to see this film to see it on the biggest screen possible, and run to the loo as close to the start time as you can! Because you will not want to miss a second of it. 

Avatar: The Way of Water

Tomorrow Morning

Cast: Samantha Barkes, Ramin Karimloo
Director: Nick Winston
Writer: Laurence Mark Wythe

Catherine and Will are a couple very much in love on the eve of their wedding day, until we jump forward in time and see Will as he prepares for the court hearing of their impending divorce. TOMORROW MORNING delves into the emotional turmoil of a modern day family as they battle with their complications whilst considering their 11 year old son. 

The cast is lead by musical theatre superstars Samantha Barkes (Frozen, Pretty Woman, Les Miserables) and Ramin Karimloo (Love Never Dies, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables) as they sing their way through their complicated love story. 

The songs aren’t the most memorable, however, they navigate the plot in true musical fashion. The intricacies of the plot and the time jumping element keep the pace moving swiftly and allow the cast the opportunity to explore the varied emotions of the characters. 

The cast is brimming with exciting names, from Joan Collins to Omid Djalili and a great supporting role from Fleur East. 

This film won’t be for everyone, and it suffers from a clunky production, but the music is charming, the performances are endearing and the plot is intelligent. A perfect cosy Sunday afternoon musical. 

Tomorrow Morning

My Policeman

Cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson
Director: Michael Grandage
Writer: Ron Nyswaner

Michael Grandage directs My Policeman, the love story of Policeman Tom (Harry Styles), museum manager Patrick (David Dawson) and primary school teacher Marian (Emma Corrin). Set in 1950’s Brighton, Tom and Marian meet, fall in love and get married. What Marian doesn’t know is that Tom is having an affair with Patrick and after catching them as they have a steamy shack up in a …ahem… shack, Patrick gets arrested, Tom loses his job and Marian floats along as a heart broken bystander. 

Running parallel to the 1950s is the 1990s where we see Tom (Linus Roache) and Marian (Gina McKee) living in a sleepy seaside town. When in a peculiar turn of events, Patrick (Rupert Everett) is wheeled into their home after suffering a stroke and Marian becomes his full time carer. 

A plot that shows such promise and potential could have excelled in an emotionally charged romantic drama, sadly, falls short when trying to project any form of emotion or excitement. 

The cast, packed mostly full of celebrated performers, is served a boring and cliched script leaving no room for creativity. Styles, who leads the cast, struggles to control his northern accent and leaves the majority of his scenes dry and lifeless. Everett is completely wasted in his role and is a forgettable addition to the cast. 

The score is unfitting, the plot is completely flat with absolutely no pay off and the character development is missable. 

A failed effort, 1 star because it has a cute dog. 

My Policeman

The Whale

Cast: Brendan Frasier, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Ty Simpkins
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Samuel D. Hunter

Darren Aronofsky brings his new feature film to the London Film Festival in the shape of The Whale. An emotionally charged drama telling the story of Charlie (Brendan Frasier), a morbidly obese online professor who is suffering with chronic depression. After being diagnosed with a fatal heart condition in the opening chapter, Charlie attempts to rekindle a broken relationship with his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink). 

Adapted from the stage play of the same name, The Whale ventures into dark corners and devastating moments as Charlie’s life is told through a plot that covers 5 days from the confines of his dank, dreary flat. 

Aronofsky directs this gut wrenching tale with creativity unlike any other. The story of Charlie’s character is supported by Lisa (Hong Chau), his best friend and nurse who packs and emotional punch in a flawless performance. Mary (Samantha Morton), Ellie’s mother and Charlie’s ex wife is only on the screen for a short time but steals every moment available to her as she approaches Charlie’s condition from her perspective. And Ty Simpkins who plays Thomas, a local New Church missionary with his own past trauma and sees saving Charlie as his religious calling. 

All the performances throughout this powerful character piece are breathtaking but the film is completely overshadowed by Frasier’s raw acting talent. The nuances in his projection of depression and grief are so perfectly matched with his emotional outrage. The current celebrations surrounding him are not unjustified. 

Various creative decisions throughout the piece help drive the horrors of Charlie’s past and the devastation he has faced but also pick up on the traumatic mistakes he has made throughout his life. His drive to support his daughter at all costs, regardless of how horrendously she treats him, are heartwarming. Aronofsky also makes the visionary decision of when to end the film, right at the crescendo, leaving the audience in stunned silence as a rapturous applause broke out over the closing music. 

An artistic masterpiece. 

The Whale

Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Callum Turner
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves (Story by JK Rowling)

It feels like a century since we last went on an adventure with Newt (Redmayne), Tina (Katherine Waterstone), Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Fogler). At the end of Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald we left the gang in Paris where they fought Grindelwald (then portrayed by Johnny Depp) in an elaborate battle, and in the process lost one of their own, Leta LeStrange (Zoe Kravitz). 

In a dramatic cliff hanger, Credence (Miller) was left traumatised when he found out he was in fact part of the Dumbledore bloodline, a plot point that fans across the world questioned with strong arguments based on the already established history of the Dumbledore family. 

The third instalment of the supposedly five-part series has had a lot of obstacles to overcome along the way. After Warner Bros. made the decision to recast Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald with the highly celebrated Mads Mikkelsen, the production was put on hold. The production team then recruited Potter favourite, screenplay writer Steve Kloves to take over from JK Rowling who penned the first two instalments. JK Rowling herself was then centre of controversy, leading to actress Katherine Waterstone distancing herself from the role. And, if that wasn’t enough, in the weeks leading up to the films release, Ezra Miller has been arrested, restrained and the topic of conversation relating to an assault accusation. 

So to say the film has been through the ringer is an understatement. 

The second part of the spin-off franchise (Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindlewald) received varied reviews and led people to lose faith in the series. Leading fans to question its position in Warner Bros. Wizard World Cinematic Universe. 

Has Secrets of Dumbledore done enough to restore that faith? Probably not. Is it more enjoyable than it’s prequel? Most definitely. 

I suppose it makes sense for me to approach the Grindelwald in the room first. As a life long Johnny Depp fan it is going to take me a few watches to get used to the dramatic change, not only in actor, but in character. Mads Mikkelsen is a fantastic actor, there’s no doubt about that, but his stripped back, sinister take on the super villain is a completely new vision compared to Depp’s crazed, evil portrayal. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the performance, if Mikkelsen had owned the role from the start it would have worked a charm, it just seems like quite a dramatic jump from what we saw of Depp previously. 

Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne don’t miss the target in their wholesome portrayals of the two main characters. Introducing Richard Coyle as Aberforth Dumbledore was inspired casting, he embodies the inner turmoil of the character that we originally witnessed in Deathly Hallows part 2. The return of Jacob and Queenie gave the film the softer touch it needed, it’s a lot of doom and gloom without the forbidden love story that the Muggle and witch have to tell.

Despite the title “Secrets of Dumbledore” being fairly ambiguous, considering there are three Dumbledore’s in this film, I was expecting more from Credence. I always enjoy Ezra Miller’s performances (despite his behaviour off screen) and I’d have liked to have seen more of his characters tortured tale.

In the same way as the two previous films, the plot is over complicate and attempts to follow the story of too many characters, leaving the audience loosing track of who’s who and where everyone is. 

Kloves managed to pull the body of the film back to the original brief, this film is not short of a Fantastic Beast or two. Teddy the Niffler and Picket the Bowtruckle are, without a doubt, scene stealers. And thanks to the improved visual effects, both have the desired presence in every shot, resulting in (most) audience members audibly “aww-ing” every time we see them. 

Character developments are both crucially important and feverishly risky when writing prequels, even more so when telling stories of characters that are so incredibly beloved as those in the Potter-verse. I think Kloves and Rowling have managed to hone in on the character relationships and personalities enough to keep audiences watching and (in my case) hoping for more, whilst sprinkling the script with enough fan service to keep the Potter-heads interested.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, anyone expecting these films to be as good as the Harry Potter series are fooling themselves, but it’s worth a watch and it’s redeeming qualities from the second film allow it to captivate the audience, heart warming, shocking at times and most importantly, entertaining. 

I can’t wait to see what’s next for Newt, Teddy and Picket. 

Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore

The Way Way Back

Director: Nat Faxton, Jim Rash
Screenwriter: Nat Faxton, Jim Rash
Starring: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Liam James

The Way Way Back is one of those films that will be remembered for being thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. We follow Duncan (Liam James) a young teenage boy who is struggling with his new step-father Trent (Steve Carell) and step-sister Steph (Zoe Levin) imposing on his family after his parents divorce. The newly formed family drive to Trent’s beach house for the approaching hot summer as an attempt to bond and act as a normal family, only for things not to be as perfect as they hoped.

Duncan struggles to fit in and being surrounded by beautiful sun kissed teenagers is instantly a problem for him, so on a solo day trip to explore the town he bumps into Owen (Sam Rockwell) and develops and unlikely bond. On another exploration Duncan finds himself in the company of Owen again, only this time in the Water Wizz aquatic park where Owen is the manager. Duncan finds himself happy for the first time since the start of the summer and begins spending most of his free time at Water Wizz with Owen.

Set against the bright sunshine of the idyllic vacation town, Duncans internal grief for his parents deceased relationship is told through the contrasting colour palette and dramatic differences between Duncan and the majority of the other characters. The screenplay is jam packed with juicy dialogue, all written to be witty and charming and each line is delivered perfectly by its corresponding performer. Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of the slightly useless yet extremely loveable theme park manager, Owen, is so on point it makes the film addictive. Living in the neighbouring beach house to Duncan and his family is fun loving Betty (Janney) who also carries the film with her witty remarks and cheeky sense of humour.

From start to finish the film is highly relatable, even for an audience member who hasn’t been through those exact events in life, the overall feeling was one of reality. The moment Duncan is forced to go to the beach with Steph (his new step-sister) and her friends of beautifully preened teenagers it becomes instantly an awareness of age, awkward moments and development for Duncan. It truly highlights the ridiculousness of division within teenagers and the effects it has on them. Steph is a spoilt brat, Duncan in a recluse, they are so different from each other than the idea of them hanging out on the beach is ridiculous.

It’s rarely seen in coming of ages films that the first storyline the audience is introduced to is one of the supporting roles, the beauty of the script for The Way Way Down is that you’re led to believe it’s going to be a story of the parents relationships with the children, when in reality it is Duncan’s story from the off. He spends the entire film learning small, but very important things about himself including talking to a girl for the first time alone, making new friends, his first job and finally his first kiss. The turning point for the plot is when he learns that he has been right not to trust his step-father all along. Finding a way to tell his mother what he’s found out without breaking her heart seems to be an impossible task for Duncan but one he manages to fulfil.

The film showcases some breathtaking moments of characterisation that drive directly from the powerful performances of the cast. Toward the end of the film Trent starts to square up to Duncan after he runs off to say goodbye to his friends at the water park and Owen takes this as an opportunity to put Trent in his place and stands between the step-son and step-father. Rockwell gives a slight motion of his head and a tiny bit of eye contact that implies the shift in responsibility for the boy; it’s enough to give anyone a lump in the throat. This is just one of many times the film reminds the audience of the power of companionship and loyalty between friends, it’s powerful, beautiful and above all else completely relevant.

With an absolutely stellar cast and a screenplay to match, The Way Way Back holds an impression on its audience and enlightens all watching with a strong sense of empathy and passion. An absolutely must watch.

The Way Way Back

Films that support the Black Lives Matter movement

We live in a world where the only thing we get for free is our education. It is all around us for us to take whenever we want, on whatever subject we want, whether it’s reading articles, books, watching videos, admiring art or listening to music.

For me, I find I constantly learn from watching films about real life and real people. So in an attempt to pass on the education I have compiled a list of films that I believe will educate you if you feel disconnected or unaware of the reason behind the protests and demonstrations taking place around the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Hate U Give (2018)

(Available on Sky Movies and Now TV)

Based on the 2017 young adult novel of the same name, The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a young black girl from Garden Heights who is trying to find her place in a society. Starr attends a highly respected, and predominantly white, high school where she tries to fit in knowing she is different. She lives in a complicated world where her family are learning and growing whilst trying to heal from past events. One night changes everything for her and she has to make the decision of who she is going to be.

Every scene in this film is entirely relevant for the situations taking place around the world at the moment. I feel so much more aware of the position people have to try and live in thanks to this film, it’s brilliantly made and perfectly told with outstanding performances from everyone involved.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

(Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime)

12 Years a Slave is a biographical account of Solomon Northups (Chiwetel Ejiofor) life whilst he was working as a slave on the cotton plantations of Louisiana. After being tricked into the slave trade by two conmen in New York he becomes the property of slave traders and spends 12 years fighting to return to his wife and two children. 

A powerful period drama based on true events and educating its audience of the reality of the slave trade from the 1800’s, 12 Years a Slave is an absolute masterpiece and deserves to be watched. 

BlackKKlansman (2018)

(Available on Sky Movies and Now TV)

Spike Lee’s 2018 historical crime drama follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American policeman from California, who successfully manages to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan with the help of his white Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver).

Set in the early 1970’s, BlackkKlansman showcases the level of racist acts that took place in the hands of the KKK, whilst highlighting the activists that took to the streets to fight for their freedom. 

Mudbound (2017)

(Available on Netflix) 

When two soldiers return home to Mississippi after World War II and both land jobs working on a farm they encounter multiple levels and acts of racism and have to learn to deal with their differences despite their similar past.

Absolutely jam packed with stunning performances and a career best from Mary J. Blige, Mudbound is an eyeopening drama telling a difficult story from multiple different sides. 

Fruitvale Station (2013)

(Available on Netflix) 

An intimate look at the last day of Oscar Grant III’s (Michael B. Jordan) life after an incident took place on the BART train on New Years Eve, 2008, resulting in a policeman shooting Oscar in the back. A story of love, family, friendship and injustice told beautifully through Ryan Coogler’s writing and direction. 

Full of outstanding performances from both Jordan and his supporting cast, made up of Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother and Melonie Diaz as Oscar’s girlfriend.

Cooglar’s work, alongside the acting talent of Michael B. Jordan, is changing the film industry for the better with his inclusion of black stories and casting of African-American talent. His other works include Creed and Black Panther.

6. Hairspray (2007)

(Available on Amazon Prime) 

Telling the story of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonski), a young white girl with big dreams of becoming a dancer but who’s priorities change as she comes to realise the level of systemic racism within the entertainment industry. Full of inspiring songs telling the stories of the black community of Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960’s, Hairspray is surprisingly relevant today with terminology like ‘integration’ ‘checkerboard’ ‘negro day’ being regularly used throughout. 

Queen Latifa gives a career best performance as Motormouth Maybelle, the mother of young black dancers who are trying to achieve an impossible goal of appearing as regulars on the Corny Collins Show, and gives a groundbreaking rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been”. 

The following films are, unfortunately, not currently available on UK streaming platforms, however I highly recommend watching them if the opportunity arises. 

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Documentary from writer James Baldwin of the story of race in modern America, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. 

Harriet (2019)

The biographical story of Harriet Tubman who fought her way across country to release her family from the binds of slavery. Starring Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monae. 

Fences (2016) 

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this stage to screen adaptation about working-class lives of African-Americans in 1950’s America.

The Help (2011)

Oscar winning drama based on the book of the same title, with a star studded cast including Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Emma Stone, telling the accounts of the lives of “The Help” during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. 

Hidden Figures (2016)

During the 1970’s NASA space programme, Hidden Figures follows the lives and careers of three female African-American mathematicians as they face work place discrimination. Starring Taraji P. Hensen, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. 

The Colour Purple (1985)

Opera Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg star in this tale of a black Southern woman who struggles with her life living with her abusive father. 

Selma (2014)

The historical drama telling the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights in 1960’s Alabama.

Malcom X (1992)

Spike Lee directs Denzel Washington in the biopic of the influential Black Nationalists leader’s life.

Detroit (2017)

Katherine Bigelow directs this crime drama telling the story of the Detroit riots of 1967. Starring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Will Poulter. 

Just Mercy (2019)

Michael B. Jordan and Jamiee Fox star in this courtroom drama about the civil rights defence attorney, Bryan Stevenson, who’s work included trying to free a wrongly convicted death row prisoner. 

Queen & Slim (2019)

A ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ style drama starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith following a couples first date after a police officer wrongfully pulls them over.

Films that support the Black Lives Matter movement