Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bombshell (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Annapurna Pictures

Bombshell  – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney

Director: Jay Roach

Synopsis: As the United States gears up towards the 2016 Presidential Election, one of the country’s most prominent TV networks, Fox News, is rocked by allegations of sexual harassment allegations against its chairman Roger Ailes…

Review: Back in 2017, the shocking details of the sexual behaviour of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, and his appalling conduct of sexually harassing women became public. The disclosure of such appalling revelations gave life to such powerful and important campaigns like Time’s Up and the Me Too movement, which have started vital discourses about sexual harassment. Yet, one year earlier, thanks to the brave courage of women, an equally loathsome dynasty, deservedly fell from grace.

The attention of the entire United States, and the wider world alike, is focusing on the 2016 Presidential election, with controversial candidate Donald Trump emerging as the front runner for the Republican Party. But behind the scenes at the conservative leaning Fox News, the company’s chairman, Roger Ailes, is perpetrating a rampant scheme of sexual harassment against his employees. With employees so often powerless to do anything about it, it goes unchallenged for a significantly long period of time. Until some decide, that it’s time to drop an explosive bombshell on their employers.

Thanks to the work of the makeup team (lead by Darkest Hour‘s Oscar winner Kazu Hiro) Charlize Theron puts in an excellent, transformative performance as notorious Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. She’s one of network’s greatest assets, but in the wake of wake of some sexist comments that are fired her way by following one of the televised debates, she becomes the centre of attention of not just Ailes the Fox News audience, but of the country as a whole. Kelly initially seems willing to let the matter slide, in order to further her career. But as time goes on, amid the rampant nature of the abuse that is going on, means that she has to take a stand.

The film approaches the matter from three perspectives, that of Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson (Kidman), and fictionalised producer Kayla Pospisil (Robbie). The contrast between Carlson and Pospisil could not be more apparent. The former is starting to get extremely tired of the culture that she’s witnessing at the network, and is preparing herself for a possible legal showdown. Meanwhile the latter is determined to forge a career at this network, an approach that begins to waiver when Ailes himself (a brilliantly slimy John Lithgow) takes a liking to Kayla, and subjects her to the sort of demeaning treatment that he almost certainly subjected many women to. It’s a deeply uncomfortable moment that puts this whole scandal into perspective.

While it would have made quite the statement had this film been written and directed by women, writer Charles Randolph and director Jay Roach approach this tricky and emotional subject matter from an empathetic standpoint. Pitching this as a satire ran the risk of negating the heavy subject matter and making light of the abuse that these women suffered. The approach taken is at times, rather sensationalist and is scratching at the surface. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take lightly the awful abuse that these women endured. Regardless of political persuasion, it serves as a necessary reminder that there’s the bigger picture to focus on. Specifically, that women to this day experience this sort of harassment in workplaces across the world.

It could have been overtly gratuitous with some decisions it makes, but it chooses to keep the awful treatment that these women were subjected to front and centre, and never is that more apparent than in a heart-breaking scene between Kayla and a co-worker. Ailes and Weinstein have deservedly fallen from grace, but the bigger picture remains that predators like them almost certainly remain very much at large, in workplaces all across the world. Crucially, women must not be afraid to speak out, because when they do, it can shine a light on individuals  who perpetrate such loathsome schemes. Change won’t happen overnight, but we can kickstart efforts to stamp out this repugnant behaviour.

Combining such weighty subject matter with satire is always risky. However, with a broadly empathetic approach to its storytelling combined with three strong performances, it’s a timely reminder of the vital importance of initiatives like Time’s Up and the Me Too Movement.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Long Shot (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures

Long Shot – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård

Director: Jonathan Levine

Synopsis: As she is preparing her bid for President of the United States, Charlotte Fields (Theron), recruits childhood acquaintance Fred Flarksy (Rogen), an outspoken journalist, as her speechwriter…

Review: In these very politically charged times, to make a film that is very politically orientated is an extremely brave decision to make. It is even more bold to take a genre that you wouldn’t normally associate with politics, like rom-com, and to add a bit of political spice into the mix. The final outcome is an interesting hodgepodge of genres, and while it is not quite a landslide victory, it isn’t too far away.

Fred Flarksy is an outspoken journalist who is down on his luck having just lost his job. As he bids to get back on his feet, he runs into Charlotte Fields, who he once knew as a child. While his life is somewhat in limbo, she is flying high in US politics as the Secretary of State. However, she has her eyes on a much bigger prize and is poised to officially announce her bid for the Presidency. A chance meeting reunites them both, and sensing she can use Fred’s writing skills to pep up her speeches, and boost her ratings, she offers him a job on her official campaign as her speechwriter. Of course, though they don’t seem like the most ideal couple, that doesn’t stop them falling for one another, and an unlikely romance starts to brew between them.

As with any romantic comedy, its primary objectives are to be both romantic and funny, and this film puts an X in both these boxes. Rogen’s background in comedy certainly helps with the comedic aspect as there are plenty of laughs to be found.  As she has proved throughout her career, Theron, is effortlessly watchable as she brings class and sophistication to her performance, a polar opposite to the brash, loudmouth nature of Fred’s personality. However, when the situation requires it, she can also be extremely hilarious as she engages in some amusing shenanigans.

As a pairing, Rogen and Theron certainly seem far from a match made in political heaven, but the chemistry between the two of them is very strong and as the film wears on you completely buy them as a couple and hope to see, in spite of the difficulties of the situation, to make it work between them. Of all the excellent supporting cast, O’Shea Jackson Jr is by far the best of the bunch as Fred’s extremely entertaining, supportive long time best friend. Though it is for the most part extremely entertaining, not all of the jokes hit their targets, as some of them can be extremely cringey.

The world of politics is a very fraught arena right now, and the screenplay from Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling uses that to its advantage. It takes some not-so-subtle digs at certain news organisations, and their CEOs. In addition, it puts the current US political climate under a microscope, analysing a plethora of topics most notably, the intense scrutiny that political candidates, especially female ones can find themselves under. Though it does have plenty of things to say about numerous topics. However, the pacing is not perfect as it does lose its way about half way through the film. There are some familiar rom com tropes, yet the performances of the leading duo ensure that the film has charm and sets it on its way to success in the polls.

 A blend of romance, comedy and politics is an unlikely mesh, but with the backing of the great performances of its leads, Long Shot gets the votes it needs to set it on its way to success.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

kubo
Image is property of Laika and Focus Features

Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.

Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).

Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.

Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters  and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.

Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Beautiful detailed animation, combined with an enthralling story and tremendous characters, Kubo is an animation that will tug at the heartstrings of everyone, no matter how young or old they are.

a 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad max
Image rights belong to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Adelaide Clemens, Riley Keough

Director: George Miller

Synopsis: Humanity is on the brink following a collapse in law and order in the face of tyranny and resources are scarce. However, humanity’s last hope might just be in the form of a wandering road warrior…

Review: If the title of a film alone was to offer any indication of the spectacle that the audience is going to be treated to, then very few films can compete with the Mad Max franchise. Cars, explosions, extremely intense chases. The adjective “mad”  certainly is one of many that could be used to describe it, but truth be told, mad is only scratching the surface of this larger than life, and exhilarating franchise, because it is MUCH more than mad, it’s INSANE.

Returning for a fourth adventure after a three decade hiatus following the release of Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. The third entry was a somewhat less than spectacular outing, but with the two solid previous entries before it, full of intense chases, explosions and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, there was much potential and hope for this new instalment with a bigger budget. With the vision and genius of Oscar winning director George Miller who brought this crazy world into existence back once again for this latest adventure that exceeds all of the previous films of a franchise that is surely going to explode into life once more.

With Mel Gibson occupying the titular role in the previous instalments, and owning it throughout, the role has passed on to Tom Hardy. From Bane to Mad Max Rockatansky, quite the career progression! But like most Tom Hardy performances, the man is on outstanding form here. He may be a man of few words, but he is definitely a man of action, quite often of an explosive variety, as he strives to protect a group of people seeking to break away from the main colony.

Leading the charge against the Road Warrior is the villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and aiding Max in his fight is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Female characters in modern cinema rarely have that tough, strong woman spirit about them, yet Furiosa is an exception and then some. She more than gives Max a good run for his money and should provide a shining light for Hollywood writers on how to write a decent female character.  Yet the villain, was a bit of a weak link, as he was overshadowed by his crazy army of War Boys.

As previously mentioned, madness is an adjective that barely scratches the surface of this film, as it is absolutely insane. Almost immediately from the off, the film is packed with some crazy, enthralling action sequences. The previous films established themselves as benchmarks for action films in the late 70s and early 80s, yet that benchmark has been blown away (quite literally) by this new adventure.  The action here is simply incredible, whilst at the same time being completely insane and almost ridiculous. Guitars that shoot out flames, cars, lots and lots of explosions. It is almost like Top Gear blended with a Michael Bay movie full of explosions, except this film, unlike many of Michael Bay’s movies has real heart and feeling to it.

You care for these characters and you want them to succeed in their crazy quest and avoid their maniacal pursuers. There is no shaky cam, just well filmed, hardcore intense action scenes to take your breath away, in the same way that movies such as 1991’s Terminator 2 Judgement Day did. We have already seen some terrific action movies as we approach this halfway point in the decade, and Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely up there with the best of them so far in the 2010s.

Miller said in an interview that there could be more from the Road Warrior depending on how well Fury Road did, and judging by its success, we could very well get more craziness, cars, explosions and electric flame throwing guitars back on the big screen before long. Brace yourself, because you have arrived at madness station and this is not going to be the only stop on this train! Oh what a fantastic movie!

Visually incredible with explosive and some extremely well filmed and realistic action sequences that are just crazy and awesome to behold, the path down Fury Road is one you will not want to miss!

a