My Month in Films:March

So while I work my way into better habits and tighter trousers, I’m keeping it tame in the food department. I could tell you once more about places I’ve revisited to eat but I want things to be fresh. My new attempts at self-improvement haven’t stopped me from visiting the cinema, and as I realised this morning I’ve been a few times this last month and I have a little to say about each experience.

Black Panther

How should you see it: However you like, just do
How does it look: Collectively, like nothing I’ve seen before
Entertainment value: Better than most MCU films
Quality cinema rating: 3/5

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As the MCU’s first non white-male lead I was anxious early for it to succeed, particularly after the delay of Captain Marvel, the historically blatant lack of Black Widow film and the hiring of Oscar-winning actresses as love interests. Proving to Marvel and Disney that white-male heroes aren’t all we want to see was important considering the box office monopoly they have for their releases. I was concerned, after see the promotional images, that Black Panther would be too ‘different’ and fantastical to really pick up. But I’m also the person that heard about a talking raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy and thought it would fail. So despite how I may act, I’m not always right and I’m very grateful in these circumstances to be wrong.

To me Black Panther succeeds because it is different, we have a high-budget wide release Western film that is exploring African culture and heritage in a way that hasn’t happened since The Lion King (and that was mainly white people pretending to be animals) . The music, clothing, and settings are all new and diverse to the MCU’s catalogue. This wouldn’t work without a fantastic cast, engaging story and strong direction but with those alone I don’t think people would have seen this film more than Frozen if it wasn’t special.

So here are some of the reasons the film is great. The bare plot isn’t the most original but the execution of the story will reel you in. The characters are engaging and the risk in their lives feels very real. Often the stakes in action films can seem overblown and flimsy but with Black Panther you understand the potential cost of characters’ actions and their emotional value. With the exception of Martin Freeman’s character; he brought nothing to the film other than his weak American accent.

One of the most individual and strongest features of the film is its style. The regal thumping score of drums and wooden pipes beats like a heart through the film. The music flows and rises, taking you through the emotions on screen, providing a truly distinct and frankly awesome soundtrack. The costumes are also memorable, Wakandans wearing vibrant colours and with intricate designs, the dowager Queen rocking a level of ‘wow’ and sophistication that would make Queen Amidala look like a child in fancy dress (which, in fairness, she was). Certain sequences in the film combine these elements to a great effect, such as the casino scene followed by a fast and furious car chase. While by themselves those are exciting and glamorous, the scenes are just made a lot cooler with the sweet soundtrack and killer costumes. In particular Danai Gurira’s character exacerbated removal of her wig once her cover is blown so that she can kick some ass.

This said, I do feel like my expectations of the film where harmed by the sheer hype. Black Panther isn’t The Dark Knight, which redefined what a superhero movie could be and was also a technical feat of filmmaking. Black Panther does have the elements of this but maybe I just didn’t like it as much. Perhaps more importantly, I know that this film will mean a lot to other people, particularly kids who don’t get to see themselves as heroes like this, making Black Panther a culturally significant film.

Lady Bird

How should you see it:  With bottle of wine at home on the sofa
How does it look: Like a photo of a sleepover taken with a disposable camera
Entertainment value: Tears, laughter and secondhand embarrassment–what more do you need?
Quality cinema rating: 5/5

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I have been excited about this film before the acclaim and fuss of awards season. I’m a Greta Gerwig fan for sure. She is an active part of one of my favourite film genres: Greta Gerwig Films (quirky independent comedies with a female lead). She has collaborated with partner Noah Baumbach on a number of films, most notably Frances Ha, which I highly recommend, but Lady Bird sees Gerwig take the directional reins.

But was it any good? Short answer: yes, quite good.

Long answer: Lady Bird is is a teenage film minus the bullshit. There are no grand gestures, make-up transformations, and promises that everything will be fine. It’s realistic and in turn entirely relatable. Considering this, I wonder how much of Gerwig there is in Ladybird’s story, but I’m happy not knowing it doesn’t affect how I see the film. Which is not the story of a specific individual but of many who have experienced high school post-9/11. That said, the main character is Christine “Lady Bird” McPhereson, played by the poised Saoirse Ronan (who has more shit together than me and five other people I know) is a spotty skinny teenage girl who isn’t getting into an Ivy League university and isn’t particularly talented. She has one main goal, to move to New York for University, but financial family pressures and academic achievement stand in her way. I’m not going to explain the plot, that’s what IMDB is for, but that’s the key plotpoint.

The best parts of this film are its subtle and surprising nature. The humour and emotion in this film arrive unexpectedly. You aren’t just laughing after a punchline or crying when the lead does, you are invested in the characters and story, not as a voyeuristic third party but almost as a friend sharing the experience. This is a part of why the film is special and uniquely enjoyable. Another aspect of this is its representation of relationships, specifically the way the characters relate to one another. The mother-daughter relationship is the most challenging and dynamic of the film and the stakes are greatest here. Lady Bird is preparing to leave her family home and the nature of who she and her mother  are to one another is changing. The differences between the two characters is clear, unrelated they would not make good friends, as such they tussle with one another to find these new roles and establish an equilibrium.

The soft and grainy nature of the film compliments its nostalgic feeling, not to say that it romanticizes teenage life–quite the opposite. Ladybird’s life is awkward, confusing, fun and has all the emotional waves that surging hormones bring.This is a charming film offering a fresh perspective on the transition from teenager to young adult. Watch it at home with your friends and remember how things used to feel and the journey that you have all been through.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

How should you see it: At the cinema, on a stupid big screen
How does it look: Like a 12 year-old’s Bionicle fantasy
Entertainment value: Like riding a fast roller coaster while listening to Aerosmith-cheesy but good
Quality cinema rating: 2/5

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I have been looking forward to the Pacific Rim sequel for some time now. The first film was everything a big action film should be, paying homage to big creature movies and giving us compelling and diverse characters to root for.

The new film, I don’t feel, will have the same cultural impact because it doesn’t feel as fresh as the first. But I bought my film tickets wanting two things: John Boyega and big mechs fighting big monsters. And I was not disappointed. I feel like his Attack the Block character has graduated to bigger nasties and Boyega brings real fun and life to the screen, he is greatly entertaining to watch. Particularly when paired with the cardboard cut-out of an American action hero, Clint–sorry–Scott Eastwood, who admittedly does play into the whole stale stereotype pretty well. If you go to see this film wanting to have a good time and see some cool fights then this will give it to you. I’m not going to talk at length about this because this article is too long and I want to publish it before April ends but you should watch Pacific Rim: Uprising when you don’t feel like taking everything super seriously. However I do recommend a cinema trip for it because it makes the big things look even bigger which just adds to the excitement, plus you won’t miss anything too important if you need the loo, as in typical action film style things are spelt out fairly regularly.

Upcoming next month: I Love Dogs, Avengers: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: The Movie and the Shhhh Shhh film.

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