Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review, London Film Festival 2020

Another Round (2020)

Image is property of Nordisk Film and StudioCanal

Another Round  – Film Review

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie, Susse Wold

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Synopsis: With their work and social lives all seemingly going nowhere, four high school teachers take part in a risky experiment where they maintain a consistent level of alcohol in their blood…

Review: When many of us reach the end of our working weeks, we may well celebrate with a little, or a lot of alcohol. Similarly, when a special celebration such as a birthday, a wedding or Christmas comes around, chances are that alcohol will be consumed. Many of us will have undoubtedly experienced the instance where on such occasions, we’ve overindulged ourselves and had a little bit too much to drink. Save for any naughty/illegal intoxicated acts, drinking heavily is unlikely to have major ramifications, apart from a hangover the following day. However, it would be considerably more risky, if people were to have a drink whilst during their day job working during their workday, but that is precisely what four high school teachers decide to do in an intriguing social experiment.

Martin (Mikkelsen) is a high school teacher along with his friends, Tommy (Larsen), Peter (Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Millang). The four of them are all finding little enjoyment in their work, struggling to motivate their students, leaving them all deeply unsatisfied with their lives. This deep starts to have knock on effects for their personal lives. However as the four of them gather to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th birthday, they come up with an experiment of maintaining a consistent level of alcohol (0.05%) in their blood. Initially, the experiment produces positive results as the four of them receive a boost to their confidence, and they start to enjoy their jobs again. Yet, as their dependency on alcohol increases, the more they all drink. The experiment dictates that they even drink whilst on school grounds, running the risk of major consequences if they are caught.

Much alcohol was likely consumed that night….

Following on from their work together on the Oscar nominated The Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen reunites with Vinterberg, and as he so often does whenever he’s on screen, Mikkelsen delivers an extremely charismatic and layered performance. Of all the four teachers at the centre of this story, Martin’s arc is given the most screen time. We see initially how his marriage, and his relationships with wife Trine (Bonnevie), and their two sons are breaking down pre-experiment, which is causing tensions between the two of them. However, his relationship and his job are given new leases of life when the experiment initially begins. This is also applicable for each of Martin’s friends. Right from their first appearance together on screen, it definitely feels as though these four men have been friends for a great many years, as the chemistry between them all is very strong.

However, when you’re making an experiment with something as addicting as alcohol, there may be a high for a period of time, but with every high, there will likely be a low. Namely, there will come a point there where the experiment starts to have severely adverse effects on not just their lives, but those of their loved ones. Much like how the wrong mixture of alcohol in a beverage can be lethal, mixing comedy with serious drama can be a dangerous concoction if the comedy negates the serious drama. Yet, Vinterberg walks this line expertly, as he uses the camera to ensure that the audience feels the relief and euphoria that these men experience at the start, which offers ripe comedic material. Though, when things go south, the laughter dissipates pretty quickly, as the consequences of what happens when a dependency on this drug, become painfully clear. Simultaneously, reminding us all, that like many things in life, moderation is key.

Bolstered by an extremingly charismatic leading performance from Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round presents a fascinating look at the midlife crisis, and the wave of emotions that one can experience when battling an addiction.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Gentlemen (2020)

Image is property of Miramax

The Gentleman – Film Review

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant

Director: Guy Ritchie

Synopsis: When word gets out that the head of profitable drugs empire plans to take a step back from his business, the bids to assume control of the business between the various interested parties threatens to boil over…

Review: Whenever you think of certain directors, you’re likely to associate them with certain genres. So for example, when the name Guy Ritchie is mentioned, the classic British gangster flicks, or Sherlock Holmes, may come to mind. When he hopped on Disney’s magic carpet for the live action remake of Aladdin, it seemed to be an unlikely match. Undeniably a profitable venture for both Ritchie and the House of Mouse, yet the end product was considerably uninspiring. Hence, it’s little surprise that Ritchie has gone back to what he knows best, and all the better for it, as his latest film is one that feels very much cut from the same cloth as his classic Gangster flicks.

Micky Pearson (McConaughey) is the founder of a marijuana business that he established in his university days. Having turned it into a very lucrative venture over many years, with Raymond (Hunnam) as his assistant, he has made a decision to cash in and sell as he desires to spend more time with his wife Ros (Dockery). Yet, before he can sign off on a very profitable deal, a number of pesky, scheming individuals are lurking and plotting to take control of the business for themselves. These conniving individuals include the slimy billionaire Matthew (Strong), ruthless gangster boss Dry Eye (Golding), and the wily and deceptive private investigator Fletcher (Grant).

It goes without saying that the key players of a crime/gangster flick are probably not going to be the nicest of people, which would be problematic if they were not compelling characters. Fortunately, with this pitch perfect cast that Ritchie has assembled, there’s not a bad performance to be found. McConaughey is his usual charming and charismatic self, but for a man of his position, a dark and menacing side lays beneath his suave demeanour. Henry Golding has so often portrayed charming gentleman-esque characters. Hence to see him flip that that perception of him on its head and portray a cold and calculating gangster is delightful to see, and he does it brilliantly. Through all of this though, it’s Hugh Grant’s gleefully enthusiastic performance as the dastardly Fletcher, who steals the entire film. He presents himself as a charming geezer, but underneath that charade, there’s something quite mischievous about his character.

In a rather ingenious move by Ritchie, he uses Fletcher to establish the key players, and the events that have led up to the events of the film. Fletcher’s mischievous tendencies mean that you take his narration with a huge pinch of salt. All is almost certainly not what it seems as he narrates the state of play. With all the numerous schemes and plots that are all happening simultaneously, the film can be a little hard to follow. Yet, it crucially never loses its sense of intrigue, and as Ritchie connects all the dots, it’s nothing short of delightfully entertaining. Ritchie combines this sense of intrigue with some excellent lines of dialogue, and no shortage of violent action scenes.

The abundance of extremely politically incorrect language that’s littered throughout the film may turn off some viewers. Furthermore, the film really squanders the potential that Michelle Dockery’s Ros offered. She could have been a very interesting character to explore, but her development is threadbare and she’s not given enough screen time to significantly develop her character or her relationship with her husband. In spite of that, Ritchie has put the disappointment of his Disney venture behind him, and shown the when he is the one who makes the rules, it can be a blast from start to finish. The Guv’nor of the British gangster flicks is back to rule, and let’s hope he’s here to stay.

Bursting with exciting action and a charismatic array of characters, The Gentlemen marks a much needed return to form for Guy Ritchie.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready or Not (2019)

Image is property of Searchlight Pictures

Ready or Not  – Film Review

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Synopsis: As she marries into a wealthy family that owns a considerable empire built upon board games, a bride’s wedding night turns violent when she’s forced into a deadly game of hide and seek…

Review: When you think of a wedding, you picture them to be joyful, happy occasions filled with family, drinks and memories that will last a lifetime. Or, that’s at least how they usually go. However, for anyone marrying into a family that has a vast and considerable empire built upon board games, their wedding night will not involve a disco, lots of drinks and some joyous music. Instead, it will involve a game, a game of the considerably more bloody variety that pits everyone in a brutal battle for survival.

Grace (Weaving) is excited to finally be marrying into the Le Domas family as she ties the knot with her fiance Alex (O’Brien). Once the ceremony is concluded, Grace is invited by her new relatives to take part in a game that the Le Domas clan do every time someone new enters the family. When Grace chooses the “hide and seek” card, she initially believes that they will be playing a typical, innocent game of hide and seek. However, she soon realises that it it is anything but, as due to a curse that they believe an ancestor has placed on them, her crazed new relatives believe they must kill Grace, before the next morning, at all costs.

With such an absurd, and just completely bonkers premise, had the film taken a more serious approach it with itstone, it likely would have fallen flat on its face. However, the film knows what it is, and it uses the absurdity of that premise to its advantage. Writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy use this ludicrous premise, and transform it from your typical run-of-the-mill horror/slasher film, into a batshit, and brilliantly entertaining horror that expertly manages the balance between the comedic and horror elements of the story. It is made all the better by peppering brilliant moments of dark humour throughout, whilst significantly turning up the dial on some very over-the-top violence.

As the woman who’s forced into this deadly fight for survival, Samara Weaving, having had the smallest of roles in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, gives a spectacular, memorable breakthrough performance. Right from the moment you meet her, she’s an immensely likeable protagonist, and you will her to find the courage and resourcefulness to escape this dangerous life or death situation, that she finds herself in. The main source of comedy largely comes from the Le Domas clan, who clearly have no idea how to handle the rather antiquated weapons they’re using to try and eliminate Grace, which leads to some spectacularly entertaining moments.

Boasting some excellent production design, and likewise with the costumes, most notably Grace’s wedding dress, that goes through just a few wears and tears as the night wears on. While it almost never fails to be entertaining throughout its 95 minute run time, it does get to a point where the violence becomes so over the top and ridiculous, that the comedic aspect of it does begin to wear off a little bit. Touching upon themes of marriage, family, and a bitter class divide, the scope was there for these to be explored a little more. Though, it may make someone think twice before agreeing to marry into an eccentric and wealthy family in the future.

A brilliantly, and entertainingly bonkers blend of horror and comedy, with a truly memorable performance from Samara Weaving. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “till death do us part.”

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Marriage Story (2019)

Image is property of Netflix

Marriage Story  – Film Review

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta

Director: Noah Baumbach

Synopsis: As their marriage starts to fall apart, a couple living at opposite coasts of the United States go through a difficult divorce, that threatens to push the pair of them to breaking point…

Review: The day that two people tie the knot and agree to spend the rest of their lives together is usually a joyful, momentous occasion. However, through a plethora of circumstances, that romance and joy can regrettably diminish. Consequently, a couple begin to break apart and regrettably there comes a time when their marriage comes to an end, and they make the painful decision to divorce. Such circumstances would undoubtedly be extremely difficult. So it is to director Noah Baumbach’s immense credit, that he captures the pain and heartbreak of that process in such an emotionally powerful manner.

Charlie (Driver) and Nicole (Johansson) have spent many years happily married, and have a son together. Yet, their relationship has deteriorated and they have made the difficult decision to divorce. The matter is significantly complicated as Charlie is a theatre director, who has his theatre commitments in New York.  Meanwhile Nicole has moved to the West Coast of the USA to pursue her career in acting, leaving their son Henry in a far from ideal predicament. Though both Charlie and Nicole strive to ensure that the process be as amicable, and as complication free as possible, things start to go sour and the situation threatens to push them both to breaking point.

As the main couple in the film, both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are nothing short of phenomenal in their performances. As a couple, they have strong chemistry, their romance feels so raw and authentic that you no longer see the actors, but rather the characters that they are portraying.  The script firmly takes a neutral stance, in that it doesn’t paint one as the hero, and the other a villain. Like anything in life, there are two sides to every personal struggle, and Baumbach’s strong script and expert direction shifts perspectives to allow the audience to see where both of them are coming from.

Despite the divorce, it’s clear that both Charlie and Nicole have strong feelings for one another, and want to do what is best for their child. However, as the divorce process goes on, it threatens to turn them completely against each other. With sublime leading performances from Driver and Johansson, Laura Dern threatens to steal the show, with a scintillating performance as a lawyer who has been recruited to help deal with the proceedings. She’s a consummate professional, but when push comes to shove, is not afraid to be ruthless, especially when it comes to defending her clients.

The strength of Baumbach’s script lies in its ability to make you laugh one minute, and feel immense sorrow the next. There’s something so raw and powerful in, not just everyone of the performances, but how he handles the devastating drama beating at the heart of this story.  Irrespective of whether you’ve been through a divorce, or seen your parents go through a divorce, or you haven’t been in this situation at all, it will be next to impossible to not be emotionally impacted by the film in some capacity. But if you have, you’ll certainly be able to appreciate the film that much more. The mix between comedy and drama is for the most part well handled. There may be a happy and joyful scene, but at any given moment, it will flick that switch in a heartbeat.

Though occasionally, the shifts in tone don’t entirely work. With one moment in particular, the drama is offset by an out-of-the-blue musical performance. While this is undeniably touching, it does feel completely out of place in the context of the scene. Having said that, it doesn’t negate the emotional gravity of the story, and its ability to tear your heart into a million pieces by the time the credits have begun to roll.

Emotionally raw, with sublime leading performances, Marriage Story presents a sincere and heart-breaking look at the humanity of the people going through a divorce, and the devastating impact that this heavy situation can have on people’s lives.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Knives Out (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Media Rights Capital

Knives Out – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: After a family patriarch dies in mysterious circumstances, a highly renowned private investigator is hired to lead the police inquiry…

Review: After making one of the most polarising blockbusters of all time in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson would have been forgiven for taking a break from film-making, given the fierce, at times toxic, reaction that his Star Wars film generated. Yet, Johnson was having none of that and has wasted no time getting back into the game. After conceiving the idea of a murder mystery following the release of Looper, he takes obvious inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie to give his own unique take on the “Whodunnit” genre, with extremely enthralling results.

As with all entertainment that centres on a murder mystery, it pays to know as little as possible about any plot details before diving head first into the madness. Therefore, vagueness is the name of the game from this point onwards. As he celebrates his 85th birthday party with his family, a family patriarch dies. Sensing something suspicious about the circumstances of the death, an official investigation is opened. As the tagline reads: “Hell, any of them could have done it.” As such, with everyone who attended the party a suspect, the detectives must interview the family members, and use those “little grey cells” in a bid to piece together the clues and to try and crack the case.

The most attractive group of suspects you’ll maybe ever see…

With such a stacked, A-list, ensemble cast, to give everyone their moment to shine would be extremely difficult. However, with a sharp and brilliantly witty script, Johnson does exactly that, and it enables him to get excellent performances out of everyone. Every member of this family is given fascinating, fleshed out back stories, which enables the audience to try and establish their potential motivations. Though, like all great murder mysteries, the audience is kept on their toes. Though, to go into too much detail about who gives the best performances is running the risk of getting into spoiler territory. With that in mind, let’s just say that, apart from Daniel Craig’s brilliant turn as the lead detective channelling his inner Poirot (if Poirot ever became a gruff Southern sleuth), the characters who wind up being at the centre of this investigation, are the best of a truly outstanding bunch.

There’s some ingenious subtext to the story that could have been a massive turn-off. However, it’s written so cleverly into the plot that makes it relevant and extremely entertaining. With every line of dialogue, Johnson’s passion for the genre comes across effortlessly, and he proves that he is a master of his craft. There’s also the distinct possibility that with some of the lines that these characters spit venomously at each other, that it’s Johnson’s subtle way of firing back, following the vitriol that was aimed in his direction following his Star Wars venture. For a film that centres on a murder investigation, it seems absurd that there’d be so many hilarious moments throughout. They are plentiful and they never feel out of place as the jokes keep the plot moving along at such a thrilling, kinetic pace. It ensures that not a single moment of the film’s run-time is wasted.

Bolstered by some immaculate, very colourful production design, this was the perfect film for Johnson to “bounce back” from the endless mire of the The Last Jedi backlash. It proves, if it were somehow ever in doubt that, Johnson’s mastery of the craft remains intact, and that he’s at the very top of his game as a writer and a director. Furthermore, it’s evident from every frame, that the cast are having a blast with this script, and there’s a good chance that this feeling will be reciprocal for the audience. It will make them want to grab their deerstalker hat and magnifying glass, and strive to  solve the riddle at the centre of this enthralling mystery.

A razor sharp, ingenious screenplay, backed by an impeccable ensemble cast ensures that Johnson’s modern update on the Whodunnit genre is an audacious, riveting spectacle. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight

Jojo Rabbit – Film Review

Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: When a young lad in the Hilter Youth finds out that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic of their house, he starts to question the ideology that’s been drummed into him from a young age…

Review: Whenever a comedy is pitched to a studio, it’s hard to imagine a premise would the centre of that pitch involve the presence of one of the most evil men of the 20th century and set slap bang in the middle of Nazi Germany. For it to also be pitched as a comedy/satire, it’s a concept that seems so absurd, there would have been a good chance that you’d get laughed out of the room. In the wrong hands, such an idea could have been a catastrophe of enormous proportions in its execution. Yet in the hands of Taika Waititi, the whimsical New Zealand comedian/director, it’s an absolute masterstroke.

When young Johannes (Davis) or Jojo for short, joins the Hitler Youth, his love for his country, and his naïve belief in its ideals knows no bounds. With his imaginary friend, an ethnically inaccurate (and considerably more moronic) version of Hitler by his side, he strives to complete his time at the Hitler Youth with flying colours. However, when he uncovers the startling secret that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (McKenzie) in the attic of his house, it brings Jojo back down to Earth with a jolt, and he must grapple with everything that has been taught to him throughout his childhood.

For his very first acting role, Roman Griffin Davis is nothing short of a revelation. He handles both the comedic elements of the story and the more dramatic moments like a seasoned actor with several roles already under his belt. Alongside him, Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, the Jewish girl hiding in the attic, gives a wounded, but impactful performance, in a role that represents the heart and soul of the film. For the rest of the supporting cast, everyone does their job tremendously well, and there’s not a single performance out of place. From Sam Rockwell’s Nazi Commanding Officer, to Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s compassionate mother. The true scene-stealer in all of this, is writer/director Waititi’s portrayal of the moronic version of Hitler. Any moment he pops into the frame, or opens his mouth, it will be next to impossible not to just burst into fits of laughter.

Adapted from the book Caging Skies, by Christine Leunens, Waititi’s screenplay expertly combines the comedy aspects with the much more dramatic/heavy moments. In Waititi’s signature idiosyncratic style, there’s tonnes of hilarious jokes peppered throughout the film. However, merging comedy with drama is always walking the very finest of fine lines, especially for a film set in this particular time period.  However, through Waititi’s skilled comedic timing and direction, the comedy never overshadows the moments of the film that require the audience to pause and reflect.

In a time when divisions in many societies across the world seem to be more fierce and toxic than ever, this is a very timely film. Poking fun at the absurdity of the Nazis and their ideologies is not exactly anything new and as such, the risk of the gags running out of steam very early on was very high. While the satirical nature of the comedy may not land with everyone, there’s a powerful message at the core of the film. Namely, it serves as a reminder of the power that love can conquer hate. Furthermore, despite any differences we share, there’s ultimately more that connects us, than separates us. Which, in this divisive era, is a message that society can definitely grab on to.

Blending satire with some heavy drama could have gone horribly wrong. Though, thanks to Waititi’s sharp screenplay and superb performances across the board, the end product is side-splitting and simultaneously incredibly poignant.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Farewell (2019)

Image is property of A24

The Farewell  – Film Review

Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo

Director: Lulu Wang

Synopsis: After receiving the heart-breaking news that her grandmother has terminal cancer, a young woman flies over to China to be with her beloved grandmother and her family. However, to ease her pain, her relatives have vowed to not inform their matriarch of her fatal diagnosis….

Review: There’s something special and unique about the bonds that we share with the people that we call family. Whether they live just a few blocks away, or maybe across an ocean, the bonds that family members form can be unbreakable and resolute. Within the first few minutes of this semi-biographical film from Lulu Wang, she establishes one such connection between a woman and her dearly beloved Grandma (or Nai Nai as she’s affectionately known). Instantly, from the first few minutes, we are reminded of the power that this institution can have over our lives.

The centrepiece of this heartfelt drama is Billi (Awkwafina), a struggling writer living in New York City. When Billi learns of her Grandmother’s terminal diagnosis, an impromptu celebration is organised so that everyone can bid their matriarch farewell. The only thing is, due to cultural traditions, everyone is under extremely strict instructions not to disclose anything relating to her diagnosis so as to ease her suffering, and let her enjoy her final few weeks of life. Having grown up outside of this cultural tradition, this approach does not sit well with Billi. As the gathering gets started, the entire time, Billi finds herself immensely conflicted.

Having made her name with, and nearly stolen the entire show in Crazy Rich Asians, Awkwafina gives a heart-wrenching, powerful performance. It’s a very different role when compared to her one in Crazy Rich Asians, but one that she pulls off magnificently. Right throughout the film, there are moments where you can just see this conflict eating away at her, and at numerous times, she seems like she might crack. However despite her intense frustrations, at the urging of her other relatives, she strives to hold firm and maintain the pretence. Though other relatives have their moments with her, the spotlight is firmly on Nai Nai’s relationship with Billi, which is built on nothing but unequivocal love and respect for one another.

For a film that features a family saying goodbye to a dearly beloved relative, it would seem unlikely to have comedy woven throughout the story. However, Lulu Wang’s screenplay expertly combines the comedy and drama, and the results are entertaining and poignant. This balancing act mainly comes down to the wonderful performance of Nai Nai (Shuzhen). While everyone around her is fighting so hard, repressing their sadness, this lady remains blissfully unaware of everything and living her life without a care in the world. In a world where humanity can become cocooned by our own cultures and ways of life, it’s always fascinating to see another culture be brought to a wider audience. Furthermore, irrespective of their own culture, any audience member can appreciate, and be moved by, the traditions of the culture on screen.

The importance of family, and everything that this institution can teach us all as human beings has been depicted in movies before. Therefore, it is to this film’s immense credit that it manages to provide a refreshing take on this important theme and message, with a story that will almost certainly tug on those heartstrings. What’s more, for those that are blessed to still have their grandparents with them, it ought to make them want to reach out and ensure that they take heed to any pearl of wisdom that their grandparents can impart, and to cherish every second of time that you’re able to spend with them.

Poignant and comedic, anchored by a powerful performance from Awkwafina, The Farewell is an emotional family drama that will touch the hearts and minds of any audience member, regardless of culture or creed.  

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hustlers (2019)

Image is property of STX Films and Gloria Sanchez Productions

Hustlers  – Film Review

Cast:  Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Synopsis: When business at their strip club starts to diminish, a group of the club’s employees devise a scheme to turn the tables on the wealthy clientele that frequent their establishment…

Review: In the wake of the #MeToo movement that shook Hollywood to its core, it seems timely, one could argue even necessary, for more films to be made that feature women front and centre. Films that feature women in empowering situations, not being beholden to any men, and firmly in control of their own destinies. Furthermore, for a film that features women in a line of work that a debate could rage all day and all night about whether said line of work is objectification, or empowerment. In this case, it is absolutely, unequivocally the latter.

Destiny (Wu) is a young woman, who with people she needs to take care of, finds herself struggling to earn a decent living whilst working in a strip club. This is until she meets the confident Ramona (Lopez), who soon takes Destiny under her wing. Under Ramona’s tutelage, Destiny learns how to make more money for herself while she’s on the job. Things start off well, but when the establishment’s customers (and by consequence the money) start to diminish, these women take matters into their own hands to make their living and provide for those they care about. In doing so, they may just manipulate some wealthy individuals along the way.

Right from the very first moment she’s introduced, you know straight away that Ramona is Queen Bee (no, not that one) of this establishment, and our central group of women. Lopez possesses such a commanding on screen presence, and it helps her to own every minute of screen time that she has, delivering arguably her best ever performance. Destiny is at first a little unsure of herself but under Ramona’s tutelage she absolutely comes into her own Ramona, and Constance Wu turns in a solid performance. Though other ladies (Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart) become part of the titular hustle, the film’s focus is squarely on Ramona and Destiny, and the sweet and sincere friendship that they have. Their chemistry is the glue that binds the whole film together.

Lorene Scafaria’s direction is confident and assured. Given the profession of these women, a choice could definitely have been made under a different to director to overly sexualise them. Thankfully, Scafaria is having none of that, simply because such a decision would be completely unnecessary. She chooses to structure the film with various cuts back and forth between the events of the hustle, and a journalist (Stiles) who’s interviewing the key players for an article that she’s writing about the hustle. While this choice could hamper the film’s flow, the screenplay is sharp and stylish enough to ensure, and the excellent editing ensures that the sharp pace of the film never waivers. The first half of the film takes its time, as it is the calm before the storm, of the hustle. Whereas the second half is relentlessly exciting as the events of the hustle play out, as well as the immediate aftermath.

The film doesn’t exactly paint these women as heroes, because what they are doing is, simply put, not legal. On the other hand, it refuses to completely vilify them. It makes you see where they are coming from and why they are targeting these well-off clients. Quite a few humorous moments are interjected throughout, mainly courtesy of Lili Reinhart’s Annabelle. However, though there may be upsides, it’s not going to be all fun, and games and shopping sprees. There will also likely be drama, and above all, there will be consequences, for the hustlers, and for the people caught up in it all.

With a career best performance from Lopez, and a sharp as a stiletto screenplay, Hustlers combines a gripping and dramatic story, whilst celebrating female empowerment in a respectful manner.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Room (2003)

Image is property of Wiseau-Films

The Room  – Film Review

Cast:  Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott

Director: Tommy Wiseau

Synopsis: Johnny (Wiseau) and Lisa (Danielle) are engaged, but unbeknownst to Johnny, Lisa has grown tired of the relationship and wants out. When she tries to seduce Johnny’s best friend Mark (Sestero), it threatens to tear their lives apart…

Review: Of all the films to have acquired a cult following over the years, there’s hasn’t been a film quite like the bizarre concoction that is The Room. The “brainchild” if you will, of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, who when trying to make it in Hollywood, chose to make a film, largely funded out of his own back pocket. In spite of earning a reputation as being “The Citizen Kane of bad films,” it has not prevented the film from gaining a passionate cult following, a following that has endured many years after the film’s release, in spite of just about every aspect of this film being, well, terrible.

When we first meet him, Johnny’s life is appearing to go splendidly with a great job, a lovely fiance in Lisa, and a best friend in Mark. But everything is not as happy as it seems as Lisa, in spite of being treated well by Johnny, has grown tired of him and plans to dump him, in favour of Mark. Though this doesn’t sit well with Mark initially, he succumbs to her advances and consequently a love triangle has formed. Now, based on that quite dramatic sounding premise, one would think that they’re about to be absorbed by a thrilling relationship drama. Though Wiseau clearly intended it to be perceived this way, it is anything but.

“Just up here, thinking y’know….”

Instead, due to the abysmal script, practically every line in this film is unintentionally hilarious. The writing is awful across the board, especially the romantic dialogue, which is so cheesy it makes George Lucas’s romantic dialogue feel like Shakespeare in comparison. Indeed, given that the script is filled with such poor writing, many scenes have become notorious for just how hilariously cringe-inducing they are. As a consequence of the inept script, it means that every member of the cast turns in hilariously awful performances across the board. Performances that in the age of the internet, have secured iconic status, but definitely for the wrong reasons. Furthermore, in a movie that’s got so many long and gratuitous sex scenes, it’s somewhat bemusing that the film was not marketed as a porno upon its release.

There’s so many things about this movie that really don’t make any sense (spoons anyone?), or the excessive establishing shots of San Francisco. In addition, it could not be more apparent where there’s a scene involving a green screen. Though in spite of everything being the dictionary definition of terrible, for one reason or another, this film’s popularity has endured, and it no signs of slowing down any time soon. Indeed, thanks to the 2017 film The Disaster Artist, that explored the behind the scenes making of The Room, the notoriety of the film was likely introduced to a whole new audience, and its legacy has almost certainly been enhanced.

Watching the hilarious atrocity that is this film with a group of people makes the viewing an infinitely more enjoyable experience, especially when it comes to the spoons being chucked at the screen. However, when when people talk about The Room being one of the worst movies ever made, they’re not wrong. The complete ineptitude on just about every level of the production ensures that the title of “The Citizen Kane of bad movies” is richly deserved.

Its cult status has undoubtedly endured throughout the years. However, the poor quality of every aspect of the production ensures that The Room is consistently hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Image is property of Studio Canal and WT²

Shaun of the Dead  – Film Review

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz

Director: Edgar Wright

Synopsis: With his life going nowhere, stuck in a dead-end job and failing to win over his on-off girlfriend Liz, Shaun (Pegg) tries to get his life together, and must do all this, in the middle of a Zombie apocalypse…

Review: Like many fictional beings that don’t really exist in our world, humanity has seemingly always had an interest in all things Zombies. Ever since the first Zombie film debuted back in the 1930s, these horrifying creatures have been an ever present, creating their own sub-genre of horror films. But in the first film of what is now known, as the Cornetto trilogy, director Edgar Wright and his two leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, devoured this genre and blended a bit of romance and comedy, all while giving it a very uniquely British taste.

Shaun and his best mate Ed (Frost) are both aimless in their lives and careers, seemingly content with going nowhere, and more than happy to pass their time playing video games, and getting drunk at their favourite pub. However, when Liz (Ashfield) decides she has had enough with Shaun’s laziness, she dumps him.  Being jilted gives Shaun the kick up the backside he needs to get his act, and life together and win her back. To make matters even more complicated, the city of London is now experiencing a Zombie apocalypse that throws many undead obstacles in Shaun’s path, which Shaun and Ed must now do battle with, all while on a quest to win back Liz’s heart.

Impersonate a Zombie day was not a roaring success..

Right away, it’s clear that Shaun is not initially the most likeable of protagonists but, probably in no small part due to Simon Pegg’s charisma and charm, he has a good heart that ultimately brings you round to his cause. That being said, having Ed by his side definitely doesn’t help matters. Though Ed can be extremely entertaining in his own right, his lazy, reluctant attitude brings out the worst qualities in Shaun. Yet, despite the massive flaws in both their personalities, that there’s something that’s very sincere and hilarious about their friendship that you cannot help but want to see them succeed, even when Liz and her best friends Diane (Davis) and David (Moran) are less than supportive of Shaun’s efforts.

Edgar Wright and Pegg’s screenplay is consistently hilarious. From the very first shots of people on their commute, who already look like they are members of the undead, to the very first scuffle with a pair of zombies, to the moment where the Zombie Apocalypse has fully taken over the city. Much like a Zombie apocalypse, the comedy never lets up. Wright fuses the excellent comedy of the script and at the same time, turns on the style with the action. From a fight in a back garden to the climatic final showdown in a pub of all places, the comedy compliments the action, and vice versa.

Even in the midst of all the uproarious and absurd action scenes, there are quite a few moments of intense drama and emotion. In addition, of course it wouldn’t be a Zombie film, without its fair share of blood and guts, with a fair number of London’s citizens meeting some rather grim fates. However, having cut his teeth on A Fistful of Fingers and the Channel 4 TV show Spaced, it was just the start of an upward trajectory for Wright as a director, and likewise for Pegg and Frost as actors. Each of their careers, and indeed the Cornetto trilogy, would later go from strength to strength, whilst presumably giving sales of Cornettos an enormous boost at the same time.

Consistently hilarious, with an exciting blend of comedy, drama and horror, and an excellent ensemble cast ensured that the Cornetto trilogy got off to a tasty start.