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The Shape of Water - DVD Review

The Shape of Water

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

OSCAR-winning movie The Shape of Water saw writer-director Guillermo del Toro make a welcome return to the type of filmmaking he exhibited with his best works, such as The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s as thematically rich and challenging as it is visually arresting.

Described by the director himself as ‘a fairytale for troubled times’, the film offers plenty of social commentary for those willing to see beyond the strangeness of its storyline. But that doesn’t mean it’s preachy or weighed down by over-earnest intent.

Rather, the same kind of storytelling flair that del Toro displayed with those aforementioned films is front and centre here, by virtue of the wondrous nature of the tale and the quality of its central performances.

Set in the US during the early ’60s, when Cold War hostilities were at their height, the film follows voiceless orphan Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a cleaner at the Occam aerospace research facility, as she befriends a strange amphibious creature from the Amazon that has been brought back to the US for research purposes (in a bid to win the Space race).

Elisa is inexplicably drawn to this creature, whose existence is continually undermined by those seeking to learn from it – most notably, sadistic government agent Strickland (Michael Shannon), who would much rather destroy the creature than learn from it.

When time appears to be running out for the creature (played by del Toro regular Doug Jones), Elisa resolves to mount a rescue operation, enlisting the help of her shy artist neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), fellow cleaner Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and another scientist [and covert Russian spy], Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg).

The ensuing fantasy-romance is as strange as the synopsis suggests, particularly during the moments that Elisa bonds sexually with the creature. But it somehow succeeds by virtue of the time that del Toro takes to create believable characters and situations.

This is a dark, adult fairytale that treats its audience as grown-ups. And it has plenty to say about acceptance (practically every demographic is represented in some way) and being true to one’s nature, as well as man’s capacity for evil.

Hence, Elisa’s innocence and ability to express unconditional love serves as a nice contrast to the intrinsic and ever-growing evil of Shannon’s Strickland, making their respective journeys through the movie utterly engrossing. del Toro, meanwhile, strives to find optimism and compassion in the darkest of places, even when characters are prone to heinous acts of violence and/or betrayal.

It may be a story rooted within ’60s paranoia, but it proves to be scarily resonant today (particularly in light of some of President Trump’s policies).

Hence, the opportunities del Toro allows his peripheral characters to breathe also afford more scope for social observation, whether in the form of Spencer’s Zelda (and the racism shown towards her) or Jenkins’ gay neighbour (and the prejudices and fears he must overcome).

Away from those issues, the film also displays a keen knack for storytelling on a more basic level. It’s involving emotionally, exciting in terms of the escape sequences and clever in the way it resolves things.

And while, in my opinion, it wasn’t the obvious choice for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars (when compared with Three Billboards or Dunkirk), it is an admirable and hugely enjoyable film that shows what a terrific [and visionary] filmmaker del Toro can be.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 59mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 25, 2018

Win Jim Carrey's Dark Crimes on DVD

Dark Crimes

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of Dark Crimes – available on DVD & Digital Download from July 9, 2018, from Signature Entertainment – we have a DVD to giveaway!

Every crime reveals a story in this bold, unsettling Euro noir thriller starring a startlingly different Jim Carrey as a hardboiled detective in a story where the question isn’t whether you’ll uncover dark secrets, but when.

Carrey commands the screen in this exciting new direction for the iconic actor, bringing to life a broken and well-weathered detective desperate to fan the last passionate ember that remains before his self-destruction.

Carrey more than holds his own even opposite the equally powerful Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marton Csokas, whose own stand-out performance conjures a charismatic, yet tormenting antagonist who is as unpredictable as the twisted story.

The film is directed by Alexandros Avranas (Miss Violence) from a script by Jeremy Brock (The Last King of Scotland).

Order today

Synopsis

When a crime novelist shares intimate knowledge of an unsolved murder, disgraced detective Tadek (Carrey) sees an opportunity to end his career with honour. The author, outspoken provocateur Kozlow (Csokas), isn’t as slippery as his prose implies however.

Trapped in a battle of wits that will test his very moral fibre, the hardened investigator must confront the shadows lurking in every corner if he hopes to uncover what the truth is, or really means.

Win Dark Crimes on DVD

To celebrate the release of Dark Crimes on DVD on Monday, July 9, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win a copy. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Dark Crimes?

Simply send the answer to Dark Crimes competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Win The Lodgers on DVD

The Lodgers

Preview by Jack Foley

THE LODGERS is a classic gothic ghost story telling the haunting story of orphaned teenage twins who reside on a crumbling family estate in 1920s rural Ireland.

Though isolated, Rachel and Edward are not alone – for they share the house with sinister unseen entities that have three strict rules: To be in bed by midnight; never allow anyone to cross the threshold; and never permanently leave the house. Failure to abide by these rules will unleash the wrath of those who reside in the basement – The Lodgers.

However, when the arrival of a troubled war veteran encourages a sexual awakening in Rachel and a confrontation with Edward, she realises that she will have to fight alone to escape the family curse that has long haunted them.

The Lodgers is directed by Brian O’Malley and stars Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner.

Win The Lodgers on DVD

To celebrate the release of The Lodgers on DVD on Monday, June 25, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs The Lodgers?

Simply send the answer to The Lodgers competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Watch the trailer

Win It Came From The Desert on DVD

It Came From The Desert

IT Came From The Desert is an action-packed monster movie inspired by the cult classic 1980s video game.

When a group of teenage motocross contenders head to the New Mexico desert, they soon discover something strange coming from an underground military laboratory: mutated ants!

It’s up to the survivors to uncover the secrets behind a crashed meteorite from the 1950s, fight off their giant attackers, and save the world from alien invasion.

Directed by Marko Mäkilaakso, the film stars Vanessa Grasse and Mark Arnold.

Win It Came From The Desert on DVD

To celebrate the release of It Came From The Desert on DVD on Monday, June 25, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 2 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs It Came From The Desert?

Simply send the answer to It Came From The Desert competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Watch the trailer

Black Panther - DVD Review

Black Panther

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MARVEL continue to demonstrate their willingness to take risks and challenge audiences with Black Panther, a superhero movie with plenty of differences.

Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station and Creed fame), the film is notable for being the first black superhero movie – and one that isn’t afraid to be so. Yet by doing so, it also becomes an overtly political movie, with plenty to say to boot.

That’s not to say this comes at the expense of Marvel convention. It still does everything you’d expect a superhero movie to do. But the film is at its most interesting when breaking away from convention and doing its own things.

Having been introduced in Captain America: Civil War as a periphery character with bags of potential, Black Panther now takes centre stage so that audiences can really get to know and understand the motivations behind the character as well as, crucially, the flaws and insecurities.

Hence, as the film begins, T’Challa (played once again by Chadwick Boseman), finds himself succeeding to the throne of the fictional African state of Wakanda, a secret city state that is alive with innovative technology and powered by a hidden element known as vibranium, which in itself provides the Black Panther suit with much of its force.

First and foremost, T’Challa aims to be a good king. But he soon comes to realise that the sins of a father he once looked up to (and who perished in Civil War), may well provide him with the sort of ethical and moral dilemmas that compromise his ability to be so.

This conflict is exacerbated by the arrival of Wakandan exile Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a man determined to use Wakanda’s technological superiority to make a stand for racially oppressed African Americans and black people everywhere, as well as gain some form of personal revenge for a wrong he suffered as a child.

Black Panther

And to make matters even more complicated, there are the internal politics of the various African tribes that make up the Wakandan landscape to navigate, a potential love interest in Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), the continued presence of a white South African career criminal Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who is determined to steal more of Wakanda’s vibranium, and CIA man Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), who has his own reasons for hunting Klaue.

With so many elements to juggle, it’s to Coogler’s credit that Black Panther doesn’t feel overly convoluted or top-heavy in regards to the politics or the action. Yes, it is very vocal in what it has to say but the script – co-written by American Crime Story‘s Joe Robert Cole – manages to balance drama, action and, for the most part, character progression.

Many of the primary players are very well defined, not least the women whose ranks include T’Challa’s tech-savvy sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), a fun Q-style figure, and head of the Dora Milaje security force Okoye (Danai Gurira), whose kick-ass presence provides the film with plenty of its more crowd-pleasing moments. Not only is Black Panther proud to be black, it’s unquestionably feminist to boot.

Of the men, Boseman taps into an insecurity and vulnerability that endears, making him a more fallible superhero than, say, Iron Man or Thor, while Jordan exudes passion and rage as well as providing enough to empathise with, thereby ensuring that he’s far from one dimensional.

Indeed, such is the quality of Jordan’s villain, that one of the film’s biggest flaws is its failure to do more with him. Just as he steps into his own, Killmonger’s story arc is curtailed by the third act descent into more conventional superhero dynamics.

And this, in turn, exposes another flaw. The set pieces, while efficient, are sometimes undermined by an over-reliance on CGI, especially in its use of the Black Panther character. A car chase in Korea, for example, is sometimes let down by some obvious use of CGI, while the climactic battle also sometimes underwhelms for the same reasons (as well as by virtue of the fact it’s another smack-down scenario).

Black Panther

But in most other respects, Black Panther deserves praise for the way in which Marvel [and Disney] have allowed Coogler to realise his own vision for the film which, in turn, lends it such a distinct identity. The political agenda is forthright but intelligently debated and even includes a mid-credits speech that feels like a direct riposte to the current state of Trump’s America.

Yet the look and feel of the film draws from Coogler’s own love for cinema, too, with the Black Empowerment of films like Shaft getting as much love as nods to James Bond (particularly in the South Korean segment) and even The Lion King (in terms of its more personal themes). It gives cine-philes plenty to enjoy.

Marvel fans just seeking Marvel-style thrills are also well catered for, with the likes of Serkis (deliciously OTT) and Freeman providing plenty of links to the established MCU. There’s even the odd surprise in terms of who survives and who doesn’t.

If Black Panther ultimately falls short of the game-changing masterpiece status that early Tweets suggested, it nevertheless remains a bold, exciting and fresh piece of work that delivers on several levels. It is a landmark moment in blockbuster cinema that couldn’t be more timely or more confident in its ability to be so.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 15mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 11, 2018

Roman J Israel Esq - DVD Review

Roman J Israel Esq

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DENZEL Washington turns in yet another top notch performance in Dan Gilroy’s quirky but gripping legal drama Roman J Israel, Esq.

The actor was Oscar nominated for his portrayal of the dishevelled lawyer of the film’s title, whose reclusive existence is shaken up by the sudden death of his law firm partner, thereby placing him on a path that will come to question everything he has held dear.

For Washington, Israel is a far cry from the type of role that he more commonly inhabits – and that’s what makes him so fascinating. There’s very little charisma, no chance to grandstand or showboat. The muscular presence he usually brings to his roles, whether physical or vocal, is absent.

Rather, Israel is a quiet man… someone who has preferred to exist in the shadows, pulling the strings so to speak. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind. And he is a fierce advocate for human rights, particularly African-Americans who have long been oppressed by America’s wayward legal system.

But he’s also obsessively compulsive and borderline autistic. He’s socially awkward and a man living very much in the past. Modern life and modern attitudes are things he finds difficult to adjust to.

So, when forced to take a job with a ruthless law firm run by Colin Farrell’s hotshot attorney George Pierce, Israel finds himself in all kinds of uncomfortable new positions. Eventually, this will leave him morally and ethically compromised, and forced – by his own conscience – to take a law suit out against himself.

Indeed, this is how Gilroy’s film opens, with Israel drafting his suit. It then jumps back in time to inform the audience how Israel reached this point.

And while the ensuing film may be a little too wordy and slow paced to suit all tastes, seldom doing what is expected of a law drama, it is nevertheless an endlessly fascinating and utterly gripping character study anchored by the power of Washington’s transformative performance.

Gilroy has already proven he has a knack for creating fascinating lead characters, as evidenced by Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in his directorial debut Nightcrawler. And here, he allows Washington plenty of room to create another.

But while Nightcrawler got nastier the longer it lasted, and pacier too, Roman J Israel opts for a more sedate approach – the darkness inherent in its themes giving way to a last act that manages to be both tragic and hopeful. There is more heart, here, which may divide some opinions.

It’s also to the film’s credit that it doesn’t always do what’s expected. Whenever a courtroom scene seems to beckon, the film changes direction and sets up new possibilities. Israel’s motivations aren’t always obvious, either, as if to illustrate the uncertainty and confusion of his state of mind. It lends the film an unpredictability that – again – may frustrate some; but should delight those that like to be challenged and surprised.

Washington, to his credit, underplays Israel’s social quirks, while leaving you in no doubt as to how intelligent he can be. He’s awkward but likeable, even when making bad decisions. And he’s a fascinating onion to peel. Through his eyes we see how activism has changed, in line with attitudes, and how easy it can be to feel out of time and place. Gilroy’s intelligent script offers plenty to think about.

There’s equally notable work from Farrell, suitably conflicted by Israel’s presence, and Carmen Ejogo, as a hard working civil rights lawyer who finds herself reluctantly inspired by Israel’s legacy.

If Gilroy’s film ultimately lacks the boldness to really issue a damning indictment of America’s legal system and its social disparities, preferring to pose questions rather than answering them or offering too firm an opinion, then that’s a minor criticism. The film still has plenty to say.

It’s an astute piece of work that is still capable of opening a debate, while simultaneously providing another terrific platform for Washington to flex those sizeable acting pecs. And seeing that in itself is an opportunity not to be missed for any fans of the actor.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 59mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 11, 2018

Win Loveless on DVD

Loveless

Preview by Jack Foley

ALTITUDE Film Distribution is pleased to announce that Loveless – the latest masterpiece from the Oscar-nominated Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev – will be available to download on June 4, 2018, and on DVD and Blu-ray from June 11 (order now).

A bold and unflinching look at family dynamics in an era of growing alienation amidst the ever-increasing connectivity afforded by modern technology, Loveless is the work of a filmmaker at the height of his powers.

Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration and recriminations.

Already embarking on new lives, each with a new partner, they are impatient to start again, to turn the page – even if it means threat ning to abandon their 12-year-old son Alyosha. Until, after witnessing one of their fights, Alyosha disappears…

Loveless is the fifth feature from Zvyagintsev, who previously won a Golden Globe and the Best Screenplay prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for Leviathan.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, Loveless won Best Film at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

Win Loveless on DVD

To celebrate the release of Loveless on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, June 11, 2018, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies on DVD. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Loveless?

Simply send the answer to Loveless competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Have a 20th Century Fox Father's Day: Win Die Hard, Commando, Taken and more

Bad Ass Dads

In need of some urgent gift inspiration this Father’s Day? Ditch the tired hamper and the socks! Make his Father’s Day special on June 17, 2018, with these bad-ass films from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Our lucky winner will receive copies of Die Hard 4K, Commando, The Liam Neeson Collection, True Lies and Rocky.

Explore more gifts here

Win Die Hard 4K, Commando, The Liam Neeson Collection, True Lies and Rocky

To celebrate Father’s Day, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win a collection of bad-ass films, featuring bad-ass dads, for their own fathers [possibly]. The lucky winner will receive Die Hard 4K Blu-ray, Commando Blu-ray, The Liam Neeson Collection DVD, True Lies DVD and Rocky Blu-ray. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Which film follows the adventures of a father who has a particular set of skills?

A) Commando
B) Taken
C) Die Hard

Simply send the answer to Bad-Ass Dads competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Terms & conditions

- Open to UK participants only.

- 1 (one) winner will receive 1 (one) bundle of the following titles: Die Hard 4K Blu-ray, Commando Blu-ray, The Liam Neeson Collection DVD, True Lies DVD and Rocky Blu-ray.

- The prize will be delivered to the winner upon receipt of their email contact details.

- The Editor’s decision is final and binding on the entrants. No correspondence will be entered into.

- There is no cash alternative to Prizes which are subject to availability, non-transferable, non-negotiable and non-refundable. Prizes may not be sold, offered for sale or used in connection with any other competition or promotion by the Prize winner.

- The promoter of this competition is Fetch Dynamic Ltd.

Journey's End (Sam Claflin/Paul Bettany) - DVD Review

Journey's End

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RC Sherriff’s classic First World War drama has regularly provided theatre-goers with a moving insight into the horrors of the trenches. Now finally adapted for the big screen, it loses none of its potency.

Saul Dibb’s film may operate on a larger canvas but it remains an intimate portrait of the effect war has on men.

Sam Claflin heads an impressive ensemble as Captain Stanhope, a leader haunted as much by what he has asked men to do as by what he has also witnessed. Now reliant upon a bottle for solace, he must once again rally his troops against an impending German onslaught: the type of which, he knows, few will walk away from.

Waiting with him are the likes of Paul Bettany’s Osborne, a kindly father figure to many of the men and Stanhope’s voice of reason; Stephen Graham’s Trotter, a journeyman soldier with a hearty appetite; Toby Jones’ wary cook Mason, and – newly arrived – Asa Butterfeld’s Raleigh, a wide-eyed rookie keen to be reunited with his former friend, Stanhope, yet painfully unaware of the toll war has taken upon him.

The bulk of Dibb’s film is spent in the make-shift HQ of Stanhope, as he wrestles with his colleagues, his superiors and himself while attempting to keep morale afloat. It’s therefore a talky picture that seldom strays too far from its stagey trappings.

But while some may view this as a missed opportunity, it does ensure that the talented ensemble cast have plenty to work with.

Claflin and Bettany are particularly formidable: the former carrying his demons like a cross, and struggling to keep a lid on his dwindling sanity, while Bettany goes about his business with a quiet, unassuming dignity that belies his own fears.

Jones and Graham offer the odd blasts of humour without compromising on their own drama, while Butterfeld conveys his coming-of-age all too well.

Dibb does venture into No Man’s Land for one nightmarish sequence and manages to convey the claustrophobia and uncertainty of day to day life amid the mud and blood. But he also employs a more traditional approach rather than anything too showy or unexpected.

Journey’s End therefore operates as more of a character study than a full blown war movie; one that quietly celebrates heroism, sacrifice and brotherly bonds while turning its main focus on the tragedy, waste and emotional toll of conflict.

Hence, the film stands as a powerful tribute to those who fought during the First World War, thereby bringing Sherriff’s classic text to a new generation, while also holding plenty of contemporary relevance for those contemplating future conflicts.

It is a moving, thought-provoking piece of work that genuinely impresses.

Read our cast interview

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 47mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 4, 2018

Win The Mercy on DVD

The Mercy

Preview by Jack Foley

ONE of the most incredible and enduring mysteries of recent times comes to vivid, cinematic life when The Mercy arrives on digital download, DVD and Blu-ray™ on June 4, 2018 – available to pre-order now.

To celebrate the release, we are giving away 3 DVDs. Simply answer the below question to be in with a chance of winning.

From Academy Award® winner James Marsh, the director of The Theory of Everything, comes the extraordinary and moving true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Academy Award ® winner Colin Firth), and his attempt to win the first non-stop single-handed round-the-world yacht race in 1968.

With an unfinished boat and his business and house on the line, Donald leaves his wife, Clare (Academy Award ® winner Rachel Weisz) and their children behind, hesitantly embarking on an epic adventure on his boat, the Teignmouth Electron.

During his months at sea, Donald encounters bad weather, faulty equipment, structural damage and solitude. As the pressure from what awaits him back home increases, Donald relies on fierce ambition to keep his seemingly unachievable dream alive.

This quintessential British story and production is boosted by an impressive support cast of David Thewlis, Ken Stott and Jonathan Bailey. Produced by Pete Czernin and Graham Broadbent through Blueprint Pictures and Scott Z. Burns, alongside Nicolas Mauvernay and Jacques Perrin of Galatee, the project was developed with Christine Langan from BBC Films and STUDIOCANAL.

Featuring outstanding central performances from Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, The Mercy is a powerful, emotional and compelling true story about one man’s dream to attempt the extraordinary.

Q: Who plays amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst in The Mercy?

A) Daniel Craig
B) Hugh Grant
C) Colin Firth

Simply send the answer to The Mercy competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email