Last Night in Soho


Viewed – 27 December 2021

I’ve kept an eye on the careers of both Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy in recent years, both having impressed in ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’ and Netflix show ‘The Queens Gambit’ respectively. So when I heard that the latest from director Edgar Wright starred both of these talents, I was certainly appealed. McKenzie plays Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer who moves to London. There she finds her love for the sixties era come to life when she experiences visions that follow the escapades of a young wannabe singer named Sandy (Taylor-Joy). Somehow the two girls lives become entwined as the glitz and glamour take a sinister turn.

Edgar Wright has always been one of the more inventive and stylish directors, first coming to fame with zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, and that creativity is on fine form here, inventively jumping back and forth from past to present, whilst bringing to life sixties London with a top notch soundtrack. Both lead actresses deliver great performances but this is especially a showcase for McKenzie who carries the movie in a demanding yet effective turn.

This just held my internet throughout. For what on paper is a sort of horror thriller, this wasn’t as scary as it might have intended but was still a joy to watch and get mesmerised by the atmosphere, the twisty-turny plot and visuals. Is it Wright’s best movie to date? Possibly, and also proves a great showcase for two of the most watchable and talented young actresses currently working. A must see.

Verdict: Essential

The New Mutants


Viewed – 05 January 2021 online-rental

2020 was the first year in a while that we had no real big comic book movies, apart from Wonder Woman 1984 at the end and this decidedly low key release. Set in the same universe as the X-Men movies, this focuses on a group of troubled teens in a hospital who are coming to terms with their mutations as a female doctor studies them … including a Native American girl who arrives following an incident that wiped out her reservation.

Think ‘Girl, Interrupted’ meets ‘Heroes’ and you’ll get the vibe this one’s going for. A recognisable cast includes Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams as a girl with the ability to turn into a wolf, and The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy as a bitchy Russian who can summon abilities from other dimensions. The banter and varying powers between the characters held my interest and there’s some good action, even if this is less a full-on comic book actioner and more a character piece.

However, hints at a shady organisation responsible for the hospital are unexplored, and the whole thing feels like part one of a bigger story. Plenty of potential here despite the fact that teen mutants is nothing new and has been explored in prior X-Men movies. Sadly a luke-warm critical and commercial reaction probably means this story won’t get continued. Worth a watch though.

Verdict: Good

Thoroughbreds


Viewed – 19 November 2018. online rental

What attracted me to this was actress Anya Taylor-Joy who first impressed in the unsettling horror The Witch and was also one of the better aspects of Split. She’s quickly grown to be a go-to actress for me. So sitting down to this I was also pleased to discover that Olivia Cooke was also in this, who was great in the Bates Motel television series as well as Ready Player One.

Two high society girls, Lily & Amanda who are brought together after a time apart rekindle an unconventional friendship and soon conspire to do something that may just improve their disaffected lives. This takes it’s cue from similar mean-spirited movies like Heavenly Creatures and Heathers and portrays two troubled girls with subtlety and solid performances. Although a tad slow at first, the direction, complete with effective use of what is pretty much a single location, is what excels. One scene especially plays out with a threat of violence thats almost unbearable, and it’s brilliantly done as is a final act that left me rather shaken. It’s not a showy movie but plays cleverly with anticipation and gradually getting to know two characters, and as a result for a slow burner this packs the required punch.

I’d have liked a little more back story and the motives behind certain actions were vague at best, causing me to lack sympathy. The oddball soundtrack is also a little too bizarre to be all that effective. However, for one of those movies you may not be aware of, this is well worth checking out.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Split


Viewed – 06 June 2017  online-rental

It’s probably safe to say that acclaimed director M Night Shyamalan has been off his game for a few years, with such poorly received movies as The Last Airbender and The Happening.  However recently there seems to have been a slight return to form, what with the well received The Visit and now this much talked about thriller.  James McAvoy plays a disturbed man who suffers from dissociative personality disorder and claims to have 23 different personalities all vying for attention.  Told with a combination of visits to his psychiatrist and the kidnapping of three young women by his more sociopathic personalities, this sets the stage for a clever little thriller, held together by a demanding and often eye-opening performance.

Split

The initial impression I got from the trailer (and I tend to avoid trailers for the most part) wasn’t all that positive despite plenty of good word-of-mouth.  McAvoy you see delivers a myriad of different performances here, some menacing, others it has to be said rather absurd and silly (do we really need him to do a rather dodgy impression of a nine year old boy, complete with a lisp?) and less said about the campy female personality the better.  Which is a shame as Shyamalan’s direction is tight and atmospheric, full of eerie camera movement not unlike something from a Hitchcock movie and great use of claustrophobic locations.  The three turns from the kidnapped girls are also good, especially from The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy (an actress who continues to impress).  However a final twist involving a 24th personality throws the movie into schlocky horror, doing away with it’s otherwise semi-realistic tone … and well, we get a final scene that adds a connection to an earlier Shyamalan movie that just felt forced.

However with what has to be said is a colourful and impressive turn from McAvoy (his transitions from certain personalities are damn freaky) and bags of tension I still found myself entertained.  Just sad the idea promised much more than the movie could eventually deliver.

Verdict:  3 /5

Morgan


Viewed – 07 February 2017  online rental

A corporate risk management consultant (Kate Mara) is called to a secluded research facility after a top secret test subject attacks a doctor, leaving her blinded in one eye.  Said test subject turns out to be an artificially engineered young girl.  Was her actions a one-off or is she dangerous?

Morgan

Immediately this brought back memories of movies like Ex Machina and Splice and is always for me a fascinating subject.  Mara plays the stiff collared consultant called in and she’s one of those actress’s I’ve become increasingly aware of, following memorable turns in House of Cards and Gone Girl.  Although I’ve seen her as a much more feisty presence … she handled herself well enough here even if her particular casting didn’t seem all that suited.  However the fairly new to the scene Anya Taylor-Joy (who I recognised from The Witch) impressed much more and delivered a nuanced and layered turn as Morgan, keeping this viewer guessing on how things might turn out.  The concept although familiar was fairly well delivered and support cast was adequate, bar a scene stealing Paul Giammati (who come on, is always a scene stealer). 

As an observation on artificial life forms and with a smattering of action (with some rather impressive fight choreography) and a bit of horror, this made for enjoyable, if lightweight entertainment.  It certainly hasn’t as much to say on the subject as similar movies… but still managed to surprise, especially with that ending.

Verdict:  3 /5