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On a macro scale, a film’s success comes from star ratings, box office revenue, or Rotten Tomatoes percentages. However, the small-scale success of a film is with the individual, where emotional investment and cinematic appreciation are foregrounded. We have selected seven films that we genuinely believe are the best cinematic releases from over the summer holidays. These films have been chosen according to what the films mean to us, what they mean for society, and how much we recommend these films for underrated reasons.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
by Javier Orella
At a time when the promise of endless sequels is as natural to film as sound and colour, it’s refreshing to find a franchise where the only unbroken constant is each instalment being better than the last (ignore John Woo’s misfire with Mission: Impossible II). Fallout, the sixth and latest (some say best) addition, obeys this rule but is an oddity in two other aspects. Not only is director Chris McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) the first in the franchise to return for second helpings after 2015’s Rogue Nation, but his newest effort is perhaps the most stylized of the family, with a heightened sense of realism more reminiscent of Sicario than of its own franchise and packing about ten plot-twists in the span of five minutes in the third act.
Thankfully, it doesn’t lose itself in this new direction, retaining the wit and dry humour of previous outings, combined with a newfound gritty physicality (a bathroom scene between Tom Cruise and newcomer Henry Cavill near the beginning of the film is just as good as it sounds). The HALO jump near the opening of the film might be the most technically impressive in recent memory (shot completely in the air and in one take), and the helicopter chase at the end – though not as impressive on paper – is surprisingly breath-taking. Escalation is one of the guilty pleasures of the Mission: Impossible franchise, both in stakes and in Cruise’s daredevil stunts, and Fallout shines where Rogue Nation felt just adequate (and a bit too derivative of its predecessor, Brad Bird’s 2011 Ghost Protocol).
In comparing the two, an interesting transition appears. In the distant age of 2015, Rogue Nation was filled with an intense paranoia for global conspiracies and meddling government. The post-Brexit, post-Trump Fallout of 2018 softly warns against the cult of the hero and the single-minded pursuit of your goals to the detriment of your values. Take that as you will, but at any rate the stakes are higher than ever for the next and inevitable Mission: Impossible sequel.
by Kirsty Fitzpatrick
Before I knew it, I had been swept up in a post-war Britain where furry animals were guiding a man out of a mid-life crisis and into the Hundred Acre Wood. Was this, I recall thinking, the perfect break from over-saturated tales of masculinity in Disney films? Think: the macho prince rescues the damsel in distress…
The redemptive quality amongst all the flouncy middle-class drama was the nonsensical wit that summarised Pooh and his band of friends. With Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore in tow, there was something charming about seeing woodland creatures fumbling around the business quarters of the Big Smoke. Whether you liked Winnie the Pooh as a child or not, almost everyone has a friend as sullen as Eeyore, a colleague as anxious as Piglet, and a sibling as energetic as Tigger – and despite the adventure being contained in a bygone era, the energy of the expedition is timeless. I couldn’t help but imagine Christopher Robin as 21st century businessman chasing the band of animals around Canary Wharf.
The film wasn’t ambitious, nor was it imaginative even for Disney’s standards. It was, however, exactly what my inner child needed: an annual measure of nostalgic nonsense and happily received happy endings. It pleased me like Paddington never could.
by Toby Cooke
Oldham-born Daniel Kokotajlo’s debut feature is everything apart from the ordinary. This film was made in only a month, on an incredibly small budget, and it really pays off on screen. You may question the advantage of watching such a film on a big screen, but the big-screen only improves the realism of the film. You are fully immersed into real life and exposed to a topic that is known not often explored in the media. Jehovah’s Witness is a religion we all know of and see, but Apostasy brings out the details and the harsh truths of what it’s like to experience it, with the clashes that general society causes, especially as it socially progresses.
Apostasy stars Happy Valley and Benidorm actor Siobhan Finneran and she is nothing less than perfect for her role. To maintain such a glum attitude for a whole film, and not make it too depressing or samey takes real talent. You also empathise with her dilemma to be a good mother and a good member of the religion, despite the choice being easy for most. My one criticism with the film is perhaps the lack of defence that the Jehovah’s Witnesses receive in the film. I exited the cinema without finding one praising point of the religion, and that made me feel slightly guilty, and I hope members of the religion are not villainised as a result.
The Incredibles 2
by Matt Harrison
Earlier this summer we received the release of the long-anticipated sequel to Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles and like many, I saw it during its opening week after the dreaded fourteen years wait. However, with the decade between itself and its predecessor, the first thing you notice in a screening is the great improvement in animation quality, as to be expected from a modern animated film.
With Pixar’s growth and the enhancement of animation technology, The Incredibles 2 has a more complete depiction of its own world. More attention is given to flesh out details that could otherwise go unnoticed or were absent from the first film – such as the distinguishable city settings from each scene and time accurate technologies which make the film feel more like it is actually set in the 1960s. This improvement on the setting creates the perfect nostalgia film for everyone who had seen The Incredibles as a kid, beginning exactly where the last film left off.
All the old cast make an appearance, as well as new characters, but there is a noticeable change in all the characters’ personalities and there being no apparent motive for this change (such as, Mr Incredible goes from being a lovable, supportive husband, to being more self-centred when he discourages Elastigirl’s career). This is even more noticeable if you are to watch both films back-to-back and I would consider this is not even a good change in character as it leads to most of them becoming less likeable (except Frozone, everyone loves Frozone). Even with this change and some other minor, forgivable issues, The Incredibles 2 is a worthy successor to The Incredibles and you won’t come out of this film with any regrets.
by Zoe Crombie
I’ll start by acknowledging the obvious: the gimmick of a story told entirely through computer screens is nothing new. First achieved in the mainstream by the disappointing Unfriended, a horror that follows five ‘friends’ in a murderous real-time Skype call, it came across as an easy way out for the cast and crew, requiring very little effort on their part and resulting in a film that is clever on the surface, but rather lazy underneath.
Fortunately, Aneesh Chaganty’s directorial debut Searching avoids this fate through the level of detail in the performances, narrative, and most importantly the use of its main draw. John Cho in his most intense dramatic role to date is David Kim, a recent widower who awakes one morning to find that his teenage daughter Margot hasn’t come home. What follows is an enthralling mystery as David and Detective Rosemary Vick scour through Margot’s social media footprint for answers, uncovering the true nature of her and others along the way. The steps that David takes, importantly, rarely feel contrived or far-fetched even within the confines of the film’s aesthetic – when he realises to check a certain website, friend list or photo album, you feel as though you’re uncovering clues alongside him. Even the way in which he types and uses his computer feel far closer to life than Unfriended’s clumsy efforts.
Rarely dull and never predictable, Searching has managed to single-handedly revitalise the concept of the world wide web breaching into movies in more experimental ways. You might rethink the ways that you use social media, and you’ll certainly be excited for what Chaganty will do next.
Leave No Trace
by Toby Cooke
A rare film to reach 100% on rotten tomatoes. This absolute gem of a film was put only on a limited release in the UK, which was a massive shame, since Leave No Trace holds mass-appeal. Debra Genik’s drawn back, raw piece, covers the life of a father and daughter living in the wild. It begins with a surprising depiction of life in the wild; life away from most public interaction. Surprising because the depiction is nuanced, and not exaggerated, showing a genuine representation of a shocking life possibility, that is not represented simply as homelessness.
The film shows the two leads making attempts to adjust into normal life, after the intervention of social services. The father finds this much harder than his daughter, and it’s painful to see how this rubs off on their relationship. Ben Foster plays the father with perfection, and again is so nuanced, his character is easy to identify with, despite living within an unrelatable situation. This is a follow-up to Winter’s Bone starring Jennifer Lawrence, and has strong comparisons, so is definitely one to see if you enjoy subtle survival films.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
by Emma Armitage
Mary and the Witch’s Flower’s main strength comes from how it defies the good vs evil magic conventions used in other media, as in Mary and the Witch’s Flower, no character is depicted as inherently evil. The antagonists, Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee, do evil things like conducting animal and witch experiments, but they realise their wrongdoings when all goes to pot. By the end of the film, all animals have been restored, everyone is safe, and the antagonists are left being circled by the animals they mistreated. The events of the film are not scarring or deeply worrying, and all events are concluded, making it a very casual and enjoyable viewing experience.
But what really won me over about this film wasn’t how the plot is tied up neatly or how casual a watch it is. The best part of the film is Tib the cat. Tib initiates the whole plot: he leads Mary to Endor College to find his girlfriend Gib after she’s captured by Doctor Dee. Plus, how often Tib ignores Mary and misbehaves is so much like a real cat, that I laughed aloud at times at Mary’s lack of control. Tib truly steals the film!
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a comforting mix of nostalgia and a familiar slice of life, with enough magic integration to keep interest. It is a calming and easy-to-watch film, which is just what you need at times.