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Darkest Hour

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Together with the cast and the creative team, director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarten, created a film that was utterly riveting despite all the talking and the 125 minutes run time. But more than that, the film was also surprisingly funny, unexpectedly rousing and heartfelt. This was Wright's best film since Atonement. Gary Oldman was phenomenon in it, just give him the Best Actor Oscar already, and the supporting cast was also stellar, especially the underrated Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James and Ben Mendelsohn. In addition, the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel and the score by Dario Marianelli (whom also worked with Wright on Atonement) were both absolutely top-notched; similarly, the costume design by Jacqueline Durran was outstanding, as were the makeup and production design. This film was an outstanding creative achievement.

Wright's direction was assured and he paced the story very well, except maybe for a slight lagging in the middle of the second act. Howeve…

Molly's Game

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This was, from the start, a very Aaron Sorkin-ish kind of film with bullet-speed dialogue, rapid-fire exchanges, sports metaphors and humour. The film was engaging, intelligent, funny and even a bit sentimental, and despite its 140 minutes runtime, it never felt long or draggy. There is a benefit of having Sorkin direct his own script, as he would be the best person to understand how he would want to tell the story. Although the choice to have so much voiceovers was a gamble, but luckily he has a way with words and Jessica Chastain's narration was great. She was a great casting choice, with her pro-feminist persona in full force as she ably rattled off Sorkin's words with aplomb, and giving a strong, layered performance as Molly Bloom. Her chemistry with Idris Elba as a Sorkin-dialogue sparring partner was palpable and it would have been great if they had more moments together.

Sorkin's directorial debut was competent, however he does not seem to have an eye for continuit…

All The Money in the World

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A competent thriller/drama, given all its last minute controversies, that remained intriguing and rather tightly tensed by Ridley Scott despite the mildly apparent and distracting reshoots. Nonetheless, Scott deserved praise for his dedication and direction to saving this film in light of Spacey-gate. Christopher Plummer more than aptly raised to the challenge presenting a fascinating portrayal of an equally fascinating man, and Michelle Williams gave a strongly nuanced and layered performance that deserved to be seen. Unfortunately Mark Wahlberg was the weakest link of the main cast. David Scarpa's screenplay was efficient but the story - and Scott's direction - tended to meander and lose focus in a long/draggy second act; Dariusz Wolski's washed-out palette also did not help to engage the audience visually. Where the film worked best was its character studies of J. Paul Getty and Gail Getty, and consequently when the focus were on Plummer and Williams.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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An absolutely riveting, searingly powerful and bitingly black comedy/drama by the brilliant director/writer Martin McDonagh. Led by Frances McDormand in a tour de force performance and the equally astounding Sam Rockwell, the talented ensemble cast (in particular Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Hedges) brought McDonagh's wickedly smart script to life. This was despite the film's difficult premise and generally unlikeable characters. However, McDormand and Rockwell really nailed their complex characters and hit it right off the park. They both should be in the running come Oscar season and hopefully together with McDonagh for screenplay and maybe even direction, Carter Burwell for another sublimal score and Ben Davis' for his lensing. With one of the longest title - yet also catchiest - "Three Billboards..." had moments that were sincerely touching and emotionally raw, and also equal parts bitingly funny and honestly bleak, this film was superb and a…

The Greatest Showman

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An entertaining, original, period-musical that was over ambitious in its scope, scattered in its direction and shallow in its emotional execution, but by god, Hugh Jackman was charismatic and the songs were show-tunes calibre and quality. The life story of P.T. Barnum - interesting in its own right - was too complex to be shoehorned into an 105 minutes musical. Newbie director Michael Gracey lacked the chops to handle the story and the reshoots by James Mangold were apparent in the scattered tone of the final product. The book - or the script by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon - had too many strands that were not well handled, resulting in a lack of character depths and emotional resonance. Other than Jackman, broadway star Keala Settle was a refreshing breath and Rebecca Ferguson was aptly cast; unfortunately Michelle Williams looked bored and lacked chemistry with Jackman, and Zac Efron was badly miscast (does Zendaya have a clause in her contract that her romantic partner must not be t…

Wonder

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A wonderfully told, unabashed, tearjerker that absolutely earned its tugs on the heartstrings. A film for all ages that is so relevant with its message of optimism and kindness. Directorial manipulation is inevitable but Stephen Chbosky kept the swells of the strings and the montages to a bare minimum, instead relied on the strength of R.J. Palacio's story, the sincerity of its characters and the honest, heartfelt portrayal of its actors. If Sandra Bullock could win a Best Actress with "The Blind Side", then Julia Roberts really, really deserves at least a nomination. Her performance exuded sincerity, warmth, vulnerability and a genuine maternal love. But this film belonged to the young actors and the casting of Jacob Tremblay, Noah Jupe and Izabela Vidovic were superb casting choices with Chbosky eliciting a natural, authentic ease from them. Equally, the rest of the supporting cast from Owen Wilson and Mandy Patinkin to Daveed Diggs and Danielle Rose Russell were spot …

Mudbound

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A beautifully shot and uniquely crafted film. Director Dee Rees weaved a multi-faceted and multi-layered story interlaced with alternating POVs of the main characters like chapter divisions in a novel. The film explored a myriad of themes from race and class division, family vs self, post-war PTSD and place in society, and ignorance and inaction vs responsibility and guilt; but for all its ambitions, "Mudbound" could not sustain the juggling act and some stories fell to the side. However, the most important of which - racial politics - was powerfully told and climaxed in an heart wrenching third act. And Dee Rees was the director to tell that story, in particular this less often told period of American history: the changing of generation and evolving attitudes and the conflict within family towards the change. A complex story with complex characters, simply told. Mary J Blige was a standout with a strong, restrained performance; Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan were as usual …