Urgh. Another boxing movie? About a man struggling to deal with life when his career is cut short after a serious injury? It’s like a well-followed bus timetable at this point! 2015 it was Southpaw. 2016 it was Bleed for This. And last year it was Jawbone. Come on guys! Considering last year’s most famous sports movies were Battle of the Sexes and I, Tonya; perhaps Journeyman could have been a little different and thrown in a gender swap.
But despite the surface appearance that would suggest this film is just a British version of literally every boxing movie ever made; director, writer and star Paddy Considine does bring a unique touch that helps elevate this movie above the boxing movies of old.
Loving family man and ageing boxer, Matty Burton (Paddy Considine), is approaching the end of his career. But wishing to go out as reigning champion, he agrees to one final fight with brash newcomer, Andre Bryte (Anthony Welsh).
Returning home in triumph, he greets his wife, Emma (new Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker) and his baby girl. But almost immediately he starts suffering from a throbbing headache, which in turn causes him to fall into a coma.
Despite him being rushed to hospital, Matty has suffered serious damage to his brain. Because of this his verbal and motor skills are no longer what they used to be, leaving Emma now needing to take care of two individuals unable to look after themselves.
As a result Matty must go on a journey, not only to restore his former self, but also to try and repair the strained relationships with his family and friends.
After his stunning directorial debut in Tyrannosaur, it could be assumed that Considine’s followup would possess the same darkness that imbued his 2011 film. But such assumptions would be unfounded (Thank God!) as the story of Journeyman doesn’t traverse the path of darkness, but rather one that hews far closer to an uplifting moral drama.
And at the centre of that morality is Considine himself. Clearly not content to only inhabit the positions of writer / director, here he takes on a role that could have been an utter disaster in lesser hands. Perfectly slipping between the moments where his character is calm and collected, and also where he is agitated and confused; Considine presents a man somewhat aware of his sudden change of situation, and yet is powerless to do anything about it.
But compelling portrayals of disability don’t appear in a vacuum. As Tom Cruise’s supporting role in Rainman proved, sometimes it’s a great supporting role for the lead to bounce off that really elevates the film as a whole. And Journeyman is no different, with Whittaker giving hands down the best performance of the entire piece. Though her love for her husband is not in anyway diminished, Whittaker shows the frustration and hopelessness of a woman buckling under the pressure of essentially losing her husband and being saddled with a second child.
Alas, the film takes a little bit of a dramatic nosedive when moving away from the relationship between Matty and Emma, and instead explores the fallout of Matt’s injury on his former boxing colleagues. While this isn’t a terrible choice on its own, said choice means a few characters make some rather odd decisions in order to keep plot moving.
But despite the unusual turn of events, it does lead to the film’s most powerful aspect: its approach to masculinity. Being a boxing movie, you would expect a stereotypical thread about physical strength and the desire to sustain one’s manhood. But here there’s an acknowledgment that male strength doesn’t have to come from raw power, but rather from the attention and sympathy men are willing to give each other. It’s a brave choice and one that leads the entire film to be far more memorable than you might have originally anticipated.
When it comes down to it, 2018 might legitimately have a nuclear war started by a rogue tweet. And after millions are dead, the war would undoubtedly end with the fall of American exceptionalism, the destruction of nearly 80 years of American political dominance, and would probably result in the rise of a Chinese-led empire.
I, however, prefer to keep things light and fluffy. And I choose to do that by sticking my head in the sand and asking myself: “Hmmmm, I wonder what’s good at the cinema this year?”
What’s it about? : Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against the mighty enemy, Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City, to save their home.
A fun way to kick off the year will be the newest release from the minds that brought us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Though critically and box office-wise, Aardman Animations have been hit or miss, I’ve always found them to be great storytellers and excellent purveyors of British comedy.
The God Particle
What’s it about? : After a scientific experiment aboard the space station involving a particle accelerator has unexpected results, the astronauts find themselves isolated. Following their horrible discovery, the space station crew must fight for survival.
A holdover from my 2017 list, The God Particle was revealed to be a secret Cloverfield 3. Even though the worldwide release is meant to be 30 days from now (Feb 2nd), there’s been no sign of a trailer, poster or any other form of advertising. I’m still not sure which title it’ll even be released under!
But with the insanely good cast of David Oyelowe, Daniel Brühl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Elizabeth Debicki, I’m sure we’ll get a damn good sci-fi film.
What’s it about? : Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.
Across Hollywood there are arguably only four actual cinematic universes: Marvel, DC, Star Wars and X-men. While it’s indisputable that Marvel are the top dogs, there might be some debut as to who is second.
I, however, am of the opinion that second place belongs to Fox and their X-men universe. Mainly because of the risks they are willing to take. In Logan we recieved a haunting tale of an old, useless superhero in the old west; while Deadpool took that R-rating and ran with it like no other film before.
And in The New Mutants, the choice to take the horror approach is just as exciting and suggests there are plenty of new avenues for the X-men franchise to explore.
White Boy Rick
What’s it about? : The true story of teenager Richard Wershe Jr., who became an undercover informant for the FBI during the 1980s, and was ultimately arrested for drug-trafficking and sentenced to life in prison.
While stories about a normal individual becoming an undercover informant for the FBI have been somewhat done to death; what if said informant was only 14 years old?
That apparently is the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (played by Richie Merritt, not Matthew McConaughey, despite the above photo!) A young boy caught up in events far beyond his control, this sounds like an amazing new approach to the crime/thriller genre.
What’s it about? : A story of survival and friendship between a young boy and a wild wolf set 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.
Here’s the thing. While I am looking forward to this movie, me buying a ticket depends entirely on the direction they take it. Will it be like Apocalypto? A stunning cinematic achievement, unafraid to ignore long-held assumputions of what would be paletable to a modern-day audience. Or will it be like 10,000 BC? In other words, yet another big budget blockbuster with a stunted excuse for a script?
What’s it about? : A shy teenager falls for someone who transforms into another person every day
Based on the novel of the same name by David Levithan, Every Day has the weird premise of a girl starting a relationship with a boy whose (soul?) jumps into multiple bodies.
Maybe it’ll be the next Fault in our Stars. Maybe it won’t. Either way, at least it’s a decent attempt at original(ish) sci-fi.
A Tale of Two Coreys
What’s it about? : The story of teen heartthrobs Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, whose lives were forever changed by the glitz, glamour, and the darker side of show business.
The world lost a great actor when Corey Haim tragically died of pneumonia at age 38 in 2010. While I am really looking forward to seeing what seems to be a very personal story, as it’s a technically a TV movie, I suppose the darker aspects of these two boys lives might be overlooked. Nonetheless, I’m sure it’ll be an interesting look at the rise and fall of two of Hollywood’s heartthrobs.
Born a King
What’s it about? : A true coming-of-age story about Faisal, a 14 year old teenage Arab prince, who is dispatched from Arabia to London by his father on a high stakes diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.
Like the above White Boy Rick, Born a King arguably has a story that has been done to death, but this time stars a 14 year old boy.
Not only that, but the film has a lot riding on it, being that it is (according to the producers) the first ever western film project to have shot in Saudi Arabia; and will also be the first film Saudi Arabian audiences will see after the 35-year cinema ban is lifted this March.
So no pressure guys.
What’s it about? : A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Fresh off La La Land, Damien Chazelle takes a hard left into biographical territory with a new film about Neil Armstrong. It’s difficult to say if there’s anything new to be told about the story of the first man on the moon. After nearly 50 years, surely all the stories have been told by now?
It’ll be interesting to see if Chazelle’s directing skill extends to the non-musical, but at least he’ll have the familiar face of Ryan Gosling in the lead role to help him out.
What’s it about? : A scientist becomes obsessed with bringing back his family members who died in a traffic accident.
This might be the only film in my life that I want to see purely because the trailer was so utterly confusing! Yes, Keanu Reeves loses his family in a car crash, that much I got.
But the trailer suggests that he brings them back through cloning, then robotic implantation, and then VR interactions. Gotta give the filmmakers credit for throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick!
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
What’s it about? : An advertising executive jumps back and forth in time between 21st century London and 17th century La Mancha, where Don Quixote mistakes him for Sancho Panza.
Has any other film had such a prolonged journey to the silver screen? I mean, pre-production technically started in 1998, and over the next 17 years the production would collapse 8 times!
So it must have been a sigh of relief when director Terry Gilliam announced on 4th June 2017 that filming has finally been completed. I can’t wait to see what Gilliam has in store for us.
What’s it about? : A mute bartender goes up against his city’s gangsters in an effort to find out what happened to his missing partner.
The second holdover from my 2017 list, it’ll be good to see what Duncan Jones has up his sleeve in his first film after the disaster that was Warcraft (though, interestingly, it’s still the highest grossing video game movie of all time).
According to Jones himself, he sees this film as a spiritual sequel to 2009’s Moon. It’s only a shame that it’s now a Netflix exclusive, meaning getting to watch it on the big screen will be all the more difficult.
On the Basis of Sex
What’s it about? : The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Felicity Jones absolutely deserves this chance at a high profile lead (Yes, I know she’s done Star Wars!). But since she usually plays wives, girlfriends and mothers; it’ll be good to see her take on such a strong role in American political history. Hopefully she’s got her American accent down!
The Professor and the Madman
What’s it about? : Professor James Murray begins work compiling words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid 19th century. However, he soon receives over 10,000 entries from a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr William Minor.
While I am looking forward to this film, I don’t hold out much hope for it making an appearance on the big screen. Having been shot in 2016, the film has unfortunately been mired in legal trouble, preventing it from being released.
It’s all the more unfortunate because, in an interesting twist, the full script is available online due to it needing to be submitted as an exhibit in a legal case. Having read the screenplay (and assuming the final film sticks fairly close to it), I think The Professor and the Madman could be one of the most entertaining films of 2018.
A Quiet Place
What’s it about? : A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.
I’m not really a huge fan of the horror genre, but this truly sounds exceptional. A film where a family must stay in utter silence because a supernatural evil is attracted to sound? And the mother is pregnant? Talk about a ticking time bomb! It’s like Speed if it was a horror film!
What’s it about? : A manic Roman Catholic family prepare for the death of their dying patriarch
Wow, now I haven’t seen Brian Dennehy on screen since I saw him in one episode of The West Wing. I honestly thought he was dead! Thank god he isn’t because this looks like a film that promises to bring out Dennehy’s sarcastic side. Add in strong support from Lesley Ann Warren and J.K. Simmons, and I can only imagine it’ll be fun for all the family!
What’s it about? : After boxer Matty Burton suffers a serious head injury during a fight, he must deal with the impact this has on his marriage, his life and and his family.
This wasn’t on my radar at first, but a friend of mine was lucky enough to see an early screening and, based on his raving, this might be the film to watch out for.
Paddy Considine is absolutely the main man here. His directorial debut back in 2011 was Tyrannosaur, a film that would go on to win the BAFTA and earn critical acclaim.
Now in Journeyman, he returns as writer, director and lead actor in what could give him his BAFTA hat-trick.
Avengers: Infinity War
What’s it about? : The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
And we come to the daddy of 2018. Coming 10 years after Iron Man and with a confirmed cast of at least 30 main characters from across the previous 18 Marvel movies, Avengers: Infinity War might legitimately be the biggest film ever made. Brace yourselves people.
And here we are ladies and gents, the end of what has got to be the most interesting year of my life. I honestly wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me on December 31st 2015 that within the next 365 days…
Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States.
Princess Leia would be the first of the Star Wars trio to shuffle off this mortal coil.
The Philippines would elect a President that would straight up murder 4000 of his own people AND still be popular.
The UK would vote to leave the European Union.
Batman V Superman would be one of the worst movies ever made.
And Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win that damn Oscar!
But as is tradition for those of us in the film loving community, what follows is a list of films that I have found especially notable during the past 12 months.
When trying to piece together which films would make the cut, my only real rule was that the film had to have been released in the UK between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016. Unlike the BAFTAs, I don’t need to pander to the Americans and pretend the year ends in February!
So sorry to Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land, but maybe you’ll be on my list next year.
Guilty Pleasures:Crazy About Tiffany’s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Eddie the Eagle, Hardcore Henry, Bad Neighbours 2, Star Trek Beyond, The Shallows, Bad Moms.
My first entry into the Rocky franchise (I know, right!), I was a little concerned that having missed the previous 6 movies, the plot would be almost impenetrable to a newbie like me. Fortunately a great script from Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington meant that I was always engaged as I followed the journey of Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed is, without a doubt, a stunning addition to the pantheon of sports movies.
Unlike Spotlight, Room has shown it was worthy of its various awards as, nearly 12 months later the journey of Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is still as powerful and moving as it was when first released.
Adapted from her own book of the same name, Emma Donoghue managed to craft one of the most emotional films released this year. Along with the Oscar worthy direction of Lenny Abrahamson, Room is a mighty example of how the love between a parent and a child can overcome the most dastardly of obstacles.
A rather overlooked film when first released, Bone Tomahawk is nonetheless a fantastic example of how an old fashioned Western can still be relevant in this age of expensive, overlong comic book dross.
Bringing together an A-list cast led by Kurt Russell, writer S. Craig Zahler has made an incredible directorial debut with only the most minimal of budgets. Accompanied by Benji Bakshi’s long sweeping shots of the beautiful yet deadly Californian desert, Bone Tomahawk is the best Western I have seen since 2010’s True Grit.
4)Zootropolis / Zootopia
It’s getting more and more common for Disney’s animated release to be superior to the annual Pixar release, and this year was no exception. Zootropolis is without a doubt the most imaginative film I have seen this year.
As has already been mentioned in hundreds of reviews, watching Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) fight through both society’s and her own prejudices is surprising relevant to our own world. While we can all argue whether or not this is the best animated film of 2016, I think we can all agree that this film contain the best “Sloth” related scene in cinema history!
… (Steinfeld’s) performance can easily stand alongside other great teen portrayals (and) the interactions she has with the supporting cast are what help elevate this film into one of the best comedies of 2016… The biting wit and snappy rapport bring to mind a Joss Whedon level of dialogue and help cement The Edge of Seventeen as one of the best debut films of the 21st century.
6) Captain America: Civil War
“What an idiotic idea for a film” – What I said when Iron Man was released.
“This film’ll never work” – What I said when Avengers was released.
” Guaranteed Box Office Bomb” – What I said when Guardians of the Galaxy was released.
This film SHOULD NOT work. And yet, Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely have done some of the best work of 2016 and written a script that not only gives decent roles to over a dozen characters, but never forgets that this is a Captain America movie and gives him his most intimate story yet. Knowing that almost all the creatives involved are now responsible for bringing Infinity War to the silver screen, its impossible not to have a sense of childlike excitement when thinking about the future of the Marvel Universe.
7) Sing Street
I’m not the biggest fan of musicals (which makes it all the more baffling that I have two of them in my top 12 list!), but Sing Street is a special case. Coming from the mind of Director/Writer John Carney, Sing Street is, on the surface, just about a boy meeting a girl. But a little digging shows off a love letter to the 80s accompanied by incredible performances from its young stars. Easily a five star classic in the vein of Moulin Rouge or Hairspray.
8) Adult Life Skills
Guaranteed to be the least seen film on this list, it’s disappointing that Adult Life Skills couldn’t find a bigger audience. (Though I suspect going up against The Secret Life of Pets didn’t help!) However this is a great comedic debut by Director/Writer Rachel Tunnard, and in Jodie Whittaker she has found a wonderful leading lady, able to deftly switch between the heights of hilarity and the rock bottom suffering that her character must endure.
A documentary that also doubles up as one of the most frightening horror films of the year? Who knew!?!
Tickled explores the niche market of “competitive endurance tickling.” Directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve travel to America to find out what type of people would compete in such activities. But to say anymore would be ruining a stunning exploration of the human psyche. Quite possibly the best documentary of the year.
10) Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping
Only grossing $10 million off a $20 million budget, it’s a true shame to see that the newest project from the guys behind The Lonely Island is a Box Office Bomb. One of the wittiest satires of 2016, the film might not be for everyone; but I think most people will find a hilarious film that is guaranteed to become a cult classic.
11) Hunt for the Wilderpeople
What’s up with New Zealand? Last year was Deathgasm, the year before was What We Do in the Shadows. And this year, from Director/Writer Taika Waititi, is one of the funniest, yet most beautiful relationships between a man and a child. Sam Neil is perfectly cast as the grumpy Uncle Hec, and his chemistry with the younger Ricky (Julian Dennison) is next to none. Supported by several amazing character actors, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is well worth a watch.
12) Eye in the Sky
Alan Rickman fortunately doesn’t suffer the same fate as Raul Julia, as Rickman’s final film before his untimely death is one for the ages. Essentially a military thriller covering the issue of drone strikes, Eye in the Sky is a highly engaging and tense experience, guaranteed to stick in the mind long after finishing.
And that’s all from me in 2016 guys! I’ve only had this blog for three months, but it’s been a lot of fun writing all my reviews, my numerous movie related thoughts, and sharing the progress and achievements of my screenwriting career.
Also, a big thanks to the 8 people that have kindly been following my blog. It great to know that someone appreciates my work!