Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Promising Young Woman (2021)

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Promising Young Woman  – Film Review

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chris Lowell, Alfred Molina

Director: Emerald Fennell

Synopsis: After a traumatic event in her past, a young woman goes to bars and nightclubs pretending to be drunk in order to catch out men who try to take advantage over her while they believe her to be intoxicated…

Review: For the the past few years, a number of movements have risen up about urgent topics that have demanded the world to sit up, take notice, and to initiate conversations to enact meaningful changes in our society. As an example, it was thanks to the bravery of those who launched the Me Too and the Time’s Up movements. These movements forced the world to have some much needed conversations about sexual harassment and abuse. For far too long, women were being subjected to harassment and unwanted advances by men, in just about every aspect of day-to-day life. This need for a film, that holds up a mirror to our society, demanding everyone to talk about sexual harassment and rape, plays heavily into the feature film debut of Emerald Fennell.

Cassie (Mulligan) is a 30 year old who earns her living working in a coffee shop. Years earlier, she began med school with much promise about her future. This is until everything changed, as she was forced to drop out, due an extremely traumatic incident involving a very close friend. Years later, having never fully recovered, Cassie goes to nightclubs and bars in the evening, pretending to be totally drunk. This inevitably attracts the attention of men, who initially offer to take her home, which quickly changes to back to their place for a few more drinks and to try and take advantage of her while they believe her to be too drunk to give consent. However, by revealing that she is completely stone cold sober every time, she turns the tables on these men, giving them a revelatory lesson about their predatory behaviour. Yet through every interaction with one of these men, Cassie has one ulterior motive, and it is revenge.

The well known saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” could definitely be applied to numerous characters throughout film history. Yet, one could make the argument that it has never been more applicable when it comes to Cassie, and Carey Mulligan’s performance is absolutely electrifying to watch. There are so many layers to her character as to start with, she has to portray the vulnerability of the character given everything she’s been through. She expertly contrasts the scenes where she is pretending to be drunk, with the scenes where she completely turns the tables on the men who were poised to take advantage of her. From that moment on, it is absolutely crystal clear that it is Cassie who’s the one in control of the situation, while these so called “nice guys” squirm with discomfort.

Whenever a film is brave enough to tackle two almost completely different genres together into one film, it’s definitely a risk, and there has need to ensure that the right balance is struck. Through her direction, Fennell pulls this off magnificently. The film dips in and out between being an almost horror film-esque revenge thriller, whilst also being a colourful rom-com as Cassie connects with a character from her Med School past (played excellently by Bo Burnham). Yet, the rom-com element never negates the revenge-thriller aspect, and vice versa.  There is a brief lag in the film’s pacing in and around the second/third act. However, this is definitely a momentary lapse, before Cassie’s endgame comes into view, as the events that set her off on this path of revenge come full circle.

The film is once again a timely reminder of the work that needs to be done when it comes to dealing with harassment, in just about every single walk of life, and how society once again fails to protect women who fall victim to the predatory behaviour that they too often experience at the hands of men. Certain elements of the film may be uncomfortable to sit through, but it’s clear that Fennell’s goal is not to provide comfort to the audience. Her aim is to open their eyes, especially those of men, and remind them of the seemingly never ending barrage of unwanted attention and harassment that women get on a constant basis. In the years since the Me Too movement sparked those much needed conversations, a few films have made efforts to tackle the subject. However, no film has done it such a daring, yet successful manner. Whenever a film comes along that strives to hold up a mirror to the society we’re living in, it must leave a lasting impression, and Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut does not miss.

Boasting a career best performance from Carey Mulligan, thanks to its bold and daring approach to its timely subject matter, Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is perhaps the most important film in the post #MeToo era of Hollywood.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Image is property of Sony Pictures and Marvel

Spider-Man 2 Film Review

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy

Director: Sam Raimi

Synopsis: Now fully established as Spider-Man, Peter Parker struggles to balance his superhero duties, college and his personal life. All the while, after an experiment goes awry, the villainous Doctor Octopus is unleashed on New York City…

Review: When the line “with great power comes great responsibility” is uttered by Uncle Ben Parker around the middle of the first film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, it was advice that Peter Parker brushed off at the time. However as the film’s events transpired and Peter became everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, one of the last pieces of advice that Peter received from his beloved Uncle stuck with him, and transformed him into the wall-crawling badass. Furthermore, as a piece of advice that’s so powerful, it seems evident that it resonated the production team. As with the success that the first film enjoyed, the responsibility was on them to top that when it came to the sequel, and they absolutely delivered.

Having adopted his superhero mantra and doing a plethora of good deeds, not everything is going as Peter would want it to in terms of his personal life. He’s struggling at college and is struggling to connect with the love of his life MJ, whilst best friend Harry is still fuming with Spidey as believes Spider-Man was the man who killed his father. It’s a balancing act, and Peter just doesn’t quite have a hold on it. Things get even more tricky when brilliant scientist Dr Otto Octavius, who is aiming to change the world, sees an experiment go south and turns him into the villainous Doctor Octopus. It’s quite the job balancing all of these and not letting the plot get bogged down, but screenwriter Alvin Sargent balances all of these to keep the story moving swiftly along.

Maguire, Dunst and Franco are all once again tremendous in their roles. As the central characters you really feel for each of them, and the various situations they’re going through. Peter and MJ certainly made their feelings for each other known and you want to see them make it work. The very best superheroes have layers to them, that there’s so much more to them than the person behind the mask, and Maguire is very compelling as both Peter and the man behind the mask. Though Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin was a wonderful antagonist, he was sort of hampered by his costume. Fortunately there’s none of that here as Alfred Molina is superb in the dual role of the brilliant professor, Otto Octavius and the mad scientist super-villain with four mechanical arms, knock as Doc Ock after his experiment fails.

Raimi once again in the director’s web, and he does a tremendous job of fusing the injections of comedy that are peppered throughout the script, with some seriously dark and disturbing scenes. Much like its predecessor, there is one scene in particular that really pushes the boundary, and is perhaps a glorious nod to Raimi’s background in the horror genre. Though in terms of the action scenes, there’s absolutely nothing horrific here, just some crafted to perfection scenes that are pulsating to watch. Special mention to the battle on the train, which would surely rank as one of the best fight scenes in a superhero film without any question of a doubt.

There is an element of repeating the tropes of the first film for sure, but given that it worked a treat the first time, you can hardly blame Raimi and co for wanting to change up the formula, especially since what they produced here was an improvement on the first film.  With Danny Elfman again providing a superb accompanying score, Raimi hit all the right notes and ensured that Spidey swung his way to success once more, deservedly regarded by many as the best Spidey film that has graced the silver screen.

Improving on the foundations of the web that was weaved by the first film, adding great new layers and depth to the characters whilst delivering some truly jaw-dropping action scenes.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Frozen II (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Frozen II – Film Review

Cast:  Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina

Directors:  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Synopsis: Set three years after the events of the first film, as a mysterious voice that calls out to Elsa, she must venture beyond Arendelle’s borders in search of the truth behind her powers…

Review: Cast your minds back to November 2013, the time when Frozen fever came, and quickly conquered all before it. No matter where you were, this phenomenon was inescapable as it swept across the globe, shattering box office records left, right and centre, eventually landing the title of highest grossing film of all time, a title it was to hold for six years. Furthermore, with the irresistibly catchy “Let it Go” a song that almost certainly got stuck in heads, especially those with children, several times over. It was a matter of time before Elsa’s powers brought a sequel into existence.

In the years since the events of the first film, the citizens of Arendelle are prospering under Elsa’s rule. With her relationship with Anna as strong as ever, Kristoff’s romance with Anna is going from strength to strength. Alongside them, with Kristoff’s trusted reindeer Sven and the sentient snowman Olaf by their side, all seems right with the world. However, when Elsa begins to hear a distant and mysterious voice that calls out to her, she and Anna must journey beyond Arendelle’s lands to seek out the voice that she suspects might have something to do with the origin of her powers.

Given the incredible phenomenon the preceding film became, when news that a sequel was in the works, the anticipation for it was at freezing boiling point. Taking a familiar Disney Princess trope and turning it on its head(ish), worked a treat for the first film. However, this time around they take the story into a much bolder direction. Rather than focusing on a fundamental battle of good vs evil, the screenplay recognises that the audience have grown up in the six years between the films. With that in mind, it aims to go into a much more nuanced, and mature direction. It’s an admirable approach, but despite a strong start, the plot is not as solid as its predecessor and does start to crack around half way through.

In terms of animation, Disney seldom disappoints and once again, they have delivered in some style. The animation is once again simply stunning to look at. There’s so much sophistication and detail in numerous aspects of the animation that are just make for some astounding visuals, especially when it comes to Elsa’s powers. Furthermore, what definitely helped the first film become the phenomenon it was, was down to the film’s music. Though there’s nothing here quite as powerful, or indeed as catchy as “Let it Go“, returning songwriters, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez have come up with a number of songs go mightily close to recapture those, soaring notes. most notably “Into the Unknown” that makes the best use of Idina Menzel’s remarkable vocals.

While Olaf’s humour worked in the first film, this time around though it is very hit and miss. There’s a few instances where he can be very funny, but at other times, his humour starts to become extremely grating. Thankfully though, it’s not enough to derail the film, as despite its shortcomings from a narrative aspect, the excellent voice work, the strong sisterly bond between Elsa and Anna, and the handful of memorable tunes go a long way to ensure that this latest venture to the land of Arendelle will not give you frostbite.

The plot is not on as solid ground as its predecessor, however the stunning animation, excellent voice work and soaring music ensure that this is an adventure into the unknown, that’s worth going on.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Ralph Breaks the Internet – Film Review

Cast:  John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston

Synopsis: When her game Sugar Rush becomes at risk of being unplugged, Vanellope and her best friend Ralph must journey to the vast world of the internet in order to save her game…

Review: The great wonder of film-making, particularly when it comes to animation is that the possibilities are endless. There is no limit to what you can or cannot do, this is also very much applicable to this rather marvellous invention known as the internet. It is also a world of endless possibilities and a place where you can do literally just about anything you so desire. It seems fitting then that after a film that explored what video game characters get up to after their games close for the day, to go up a notch for the sequel and explore the crazy world that is the internet.

A few years have passed since the events of the first film, with Ralph (Reilly) and Vanellope (Silverman) enjoying a solid friendship hanging out together when their gaming duties for the day are done. However, for Vanellope, something is just not fulfilling enough, she strives for something more. When her game suffers a malfunction that puts its immediate future at risk, she and Ralph must journey to the centre of the conglomerate of the internet in order to save her game.

Sequels should always aim to broaden the scope of their predecessor, and so to make the jump from the inner workings of something as small as an arcade, to the never-ending maze that is the internet is a bold move on the part of Disney, but it turns out to be an inspired one as it makes for a very intriguing adventure. Given that the world of the internet offers users so much to explore, the way that the filmmakers concoct the internet is really quite clever. To be expected, there are a fair number of jokes centred around the internet and various phenomenons that have gone viral because of the internet, which provide plenty of humourous moments.

Furthermore, given the vast array of properties that Disney now owns, there’s a vast array of Disney “Easter Eggs” to be found. The most notable example of this would be the appearances of all Disney’s most popular princesses. This could be problematic as it could have come across as egotistical on the studio’s part. However, their appearances provide the film with some of its best moments (including a rather ingenious Brave gag).

The voice work of Reilly and Silverman in particular once again shines brightest as we watch these two, who seem the unlikeliest of friends, try to make their friendship work. Which, while heart-warming to see given how likeable they both are, is a very familiar premise and therefore doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of story-telling. Gal Gadot, though not herself a Disney Princess, is also a welcome addition to the cast. Despite that, you cannot help but feel, though her character and world are interesting, that the themes explored are somewhat clichéd and could have been a bit more innovative in light of the brilliantly clever concept of exploring the world-wide web.

Though the film is somewhat lacking in terms of a fulfilling narrative, some choices in particular do really feel completely out of the blue. It makes up for this with plenty of heart and (to be expected) some marvellous animation. However, the inevitability of sequels is they are going to be compared to their predecessors, and unfortunately Ralph Breaks the Internet is just not as clever as its predecessor. What’s more, the filmmakers really missed a trick with the title of the film, surely Ralph Wrecks the Internet would have been better?

Retaining the heart and vibrancy of its predecessor, Ralph Breaks the Internet offers up an imaginative look at the Internet, but doesn’t use the cleverness of its concept in a completely fulfilling manner.