Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2019)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Film Review

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant

Director: Marielle Heller

Synopsis: When biographer Lee Israel’s (McCarthy) work dries up, she discovers some personal documents and manages to make an extortionate amount of money by forging these documents…

Review: For certain actors, they can be well known for a certain type of role that they tend to play quite a lot, they run a risk of getting typecast in that particular roleYet, every so often an actor breaks that typecast. This is certainly applicable for Melissa McCarthy, who has so often played roles of a similar ilk to her vulgar but extremely hilarious turn in Bridesmaids. Yet, for this considerably more dramatic role, it’s quite the transformative change for her, and it might just be the best performance of her career.

It is 1991 and Lee Israel’s life and career has hit a dead end, having found herself out of a job and new opportunities are becoming increasingly very hard to come by. Furthermore, she has very few acquaintances to share her life with. It is all rather gloomy until, quite by chance, she finds some unique personal artefacts of celebrities that she forges to her advantage. In doing this, she earns a substantial amount of money, and through these acts of forgery, she runs across fellow outcast Jack Hock (Grant), who aids her in these acts of deception.

The scene of the crime…

Though she comes off as quite the unlikable person, McCarthy is truly excellent in her performance. From the moment we first meet her, it is clear that she is difficult to work with and other people do not like her. These feelings are evidently reciprocal, as Lee clearly prefers the company of animals to people. The screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, adapted from Israel’s own memoir, goes about exploring how Lee intricately created her forgeries in an exciting fashion, whilst at the same time balancing that with Lee trying to build some sort of social connections with a select few people.

One of those few is Richard E Grant’s Jack Hock, who is something of an outcast himself and a recluse like Lee herself, similarly, he’s also a bit of an arsehole and not exactly the most pleasant man, but Grant is uproariously entertaining in this role. There is something heart-warming about watching these two connect despite their mutual difficulties of connecting with people, build a relationship and accomplish these naughty deeds, whilst having a tipple or two in their downtime. However, director Marielle Heller doesn’t shy away from the fact that what Lee is doing is a crime. Which, as various people begin to suspect that they have been deceived, the tension begins to grow as the authorities get involved.

Though the film does suffer from a few pacing issues, there is something about the story of Lee Israel that will be pertinent for that anyone who writes for a living, and equally so for those who dream of writing for a living. Equally so, if anyone has been an outsider, or has experienced difficulties in connecting with people, the struggles that people experience in those sorts of situations can undoubtedly take a heavy toll. And whenever people find themselves in those dark times, it can make people do things that they regret, or in Lee Israel’s case, do things and have the time of your life while doing so.

Simultaneously funny and tragic, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a poignant but fascinating study of one woman’s descent into deception, whilst getting arguably career best performances from both McCarthy and Grant.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Green Book (2019)

Image is property of Universal, Participant Media and Dreamworks

Green Book  – Film Review

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Director: Peter Farrelly

Synopsis: In need of work, Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip is recruited by renowned pianist Dr Don Shirley to be his driver/bodyguard as he embarks on a concert tour in the Deep South…

Review: One of the many wonderful thing about films is that they have the power to raise important messages about such important subjects, especially when such subjects are very topical right now. A prime example of this is racism which is an issue that is under more scrutiny than normal in recent years. Recently some film-makers have really been making some powerful films that hone in on this increasingly important issue, and in so doing, they make powerful statements, but some do it much better than others.

It is 1962, and Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen), known as Tony Lip, a native of the Bronx area of New York City, finds himself out of a job for a few months. When looking for something to fill that time, he is pointed in the direction of Don Shirley (Ali), a renowned concert pianist who is set to go on a concert tour of the Deep South of the USA, and is need of someone to be his driver/assistant/bodyguard, as that particular part of the country is/was not exactly the most hospitable of places.

What really shines through with this film are the excellent performances of both leading men. Mortensen as Tony is a brash self-proclaimed “bullshit artist” initially very much set in his ways. Meanwhile, Don is a much more suave, more refined gentleman, and some of Tony’s habits do not sit well with him. These two men are essentially complete polar opposites of one another, and though they initially clash over the other’s mannerisms and characteristics, they develop a solid understanding, almost a friendship if you will, as they embark on this slightly perilous journey. The chemistry between the actors really shows and it drives the film forward, particularly when they run into some trouble whilst on the tour.

For a film that is trying to go for the powerful themes of racism, the screenplay penned by Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga, along with Brian Hayes Currie and director Peter Farrelly is a little simplistic in how it chooses to handle the more heavier themes. It does show glimpses of the horrors of segregation in the 1960s and how black people were treated harshly for the colour of their skin, but one could simply pick up a history book to realise that. Unfortunately, it really only scratches the surface of what it could explore when it comes to this subject matter, particularly when other films have managed to strike a balance between that nuanced tone, and when it really needs to, emphatically and dramatically getting its point across to the audience.

In such a time when the issue of race in America has become increasingly in the public eye, given the quality of the actors and the really interesting nature of this story, the execution really just feels like a missed opportunity to tell something more riveting, something that really would have thrown the book at the status quo of the 1960s. The film has some undeniably good intentions and there are heart-warming sentiments behind its central story and the relationship of its two characters. However, given that there was scope for something much more powerful, it ultimately is a missed opportunity.

Excellent performances from Mortensen and Ali help keep the story moving along at a steady pace, but a rather simplistic approach of tackling a heavy issue such as race relations in 1960s America is undeniably frustrating, especially in these very emotionally charged times.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Vice (2019)

Image is property of AnnaPurna Pictures and Plan B Entertainment

Vice  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Tyler Perry

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis: A study of the life of Dick Cheney and how he went from an alcoholic Yale dropout to becoming one of the most powerful Vice Presidents in the history of the United States.

Review:  The President of the United States, one of, if not the most powerful individuals in the world. Yet today’s political climate is one that, especially in the last few years, has become increasingly divisive and hostile when it comes to, well just about anything and everything. Yet while Presidents tend to enjoy the bulk of the limelight, the Vice President is someone who may not receive quite so much of the media spotlight, but, much like the President, the power and influence they can have is quite frightening given, the current incumbents in these positions.

For a director whose early films were very much in the realms of comedies, Adam McKay has experienced quite the transition into more serious heavy-hitting film-making. The Big Short dabbled in the 2007 collapse of the housing market, and he goes much more political with this film. To go from that to a deep foray into early 2000s US politics, which was a chaotic time (to put it mildly) for the country as a horrific attack on US soil, put them on the war footing, is a bold move. Not least because in a deeply divided political spectrum, if you’re going to tell a story about how one politician of a particular political persuasion ruthlessly rose to power, that portrayal isn’t likely to sit very well with those who also are of that politician’s political persuasion.

Christian Bale is no stranger to dramatic physical transformations, having done so for a plethora of roles, and here he does it once again. He is unrecognisable under all the make up that helps him deliver an emphatically authentic performances as Dick Cheney. he goes from a drunkard college dropout, to the very top of the pyramid of US politics. Right by his side is the ever reliable Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, who as her husband rises in stature and acquires more power, she takes full advantage to further her own career, making them an extremely powerful couple. With Cheney arguably becoming even more powerful than his commander-in-chief: one George W Bush, played by an entertainingly buffoonish Sam Rockwell.

McKay chooses to tell this story in a manner that is helpful to digest the information to the audience, especially if they’re not au fait with early 2000s US politics. What is irksome is the way that he jumps from one point early in Cheney’s life, to a much later point with no explanation as to why, it’s all a bit sloppy in terms of its structure and some streamlining would have been most beneficial. While there are some funny moments, these are ultimately few and far between, which is problem for a film that is clearly trying to portray itself as political satire, it isn’t really that satirical, or funny. Furthermore, at a run time of 132 minutes, there’s a lot of unnecessary filler that really hampers the pacing.

Though there is one instance that shows Cheney’s compassion, these are overshadowed by the cold and ruthlessness nature that he possessed on his way to the top of the Washington power pyramid. The way in which McKay delivers his overall message is done in quite a reprehensible manner that, quite justifiably, will leave those who dwell on the Republican side of the aisle feeling a bit peeved. Though having said that, when you think of the current administration and his VP, and the power that they can wield, that’s quite daunting to say the least.

There’s some good intentions here, but a strong pair of performances from Adams and Bale cannot save a film that is very obnoxiously put together and just too full of its own self importance. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Favourite (2018)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight and Film4

The Favourite – Film Review

Cast: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Synopsis: In 18th Century England, with the country at war with France, a frail Queen (Colman) relies on her confidante (Weisz) to run the country. However when a new woman (Stone) arrives at court, a battle for the Queen’s attention ensues.

Review: If you encounter someone who complains about Hollywood becoming too dominated by superheroes, reboots , prequels etc., you should encourage them to seek out the filmography of Yorgos Lanthimos. If you are after something unconventional, he is your man. Eccentric to the extreme, having dabbled in a dark love story, and a wholly unique spin on the classic revenge tale. Now Lanthimos takes his idiosyncratic style to the realm of period dramas, and combines it with some very dark comedy, and a riotous romp ensues.

At the centre of this royal feud is Queen Anne, who is in rather poor health at this moment in time that means she finds it difficult in terms of being the Queen and governing her country. Instead, the Queen likes to fill her time with some rather obscure past-times so her confidante Lady Sarah is effectively ruling in her stead. This is until a new arrival at court, Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives seeking employment to turn around her own fortunes, and gain favour with the Queen, giving rise to a feisty battle between the two women to be the Queen’s “Favourite.”

Though not written by him, this feels of similar ilk to Lanthimos’s previous filmography, simple because of how out of the ordinary it is, Downton Abbey this most certainly isn’t. Telling a story in chapters is nothing new, but it’s done in a manner that feels extremely innovative. The screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara packs in a copious amount of expletives which go hand in hand with some very sharp and witty dialogue that just works so fluently between these engaging characters who seem to be continuously scheming. There are more than a few extremely humorous exchanges that should get those laughter muscles moving.

Though every member of this cast are on top form, including a brilliant turn from Nicholas Hoult, it is the performances of the three central women that are by far the standouts. Colman as Queen Anne is delightful when she wants to be, screaming at those who dare look at her. Yet she is at other times melancholic, given the tragic nature of her past. As the Queen’s confidante/lover, Sarah can be a bit bossy when push comes to shove, but Weisz plays her so brilliantly that you sympathise with her in what she is trying to do. It is however the fierce rivalry that ensues between Lady Sarah and Emma Stone’s Abigail that is the driving force of this story. This is a far cry from her work in La La Land, but Stone takes to this role like a duck to water, and just bosses it from the moment we are first introduced to her, after she has fallen face first into a pile of mud.

As he demonstrated with his previous films, Lanthimos brings a very unique visual style to this film which includes a considerable use of wide shots. The gorgeous cinematography provided by Robbie Ryan only adds to the visual flair of the film. No expense was spared when it came to the production design or the costumes as both are just absolutely exquisite, very befitting for a Queen mind you. Though the film does start to lose its way a little bit in and around the third act, it is only dips momentarily. Lanthimos is certainly different in terms of what he brings to the big screen. While different doesn’t always mean great, it has just the right amount of idiosyncrasy that makes it such a riot to watch.

Raunchy to the maximum, but an extremely witty screenplay with a trio of terrific performances from its leading ladies cement this as a period drama that revels in its eccentricity. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Image is property of Netflix

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Film Review

Cast:  Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Waits

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: A collection of six unique short stories, telling the plights of various people in very different situations in the West after the Civil War.

Review: Beginning, middle and end, a structure that films tend to adhere to. However, every once in a while, a film will come along that deviates from this structure. It may choose to tell the story in reverse order or to jump back and forth.  Hence this latest venture from Joel and Ethan Coen is unique in this respect, as instead of telling one story across two hours and ten minutes to be precise, they fill this by choosing to tell six unique stories charting the lives of a handful of different folk, each of whom are in a variety of different situations in the wake of the Civil War.

To tell six miniaturised stories as opposed to your more traditional three-structured film is an unconventional choice to say the least, but under the assured direction of the Coen brothers, it for the most part works a treat. Though some are much stronger than others, there is enjoyment to be hand in each of the stories that the Coens bring to life. Telling each story through the perspective of a storybook, we jump in with funnily enough Mr Buster Scruggs himself (Blake Nelson) a tootin’ cowboy who likes to play his guitar and sing a song for y’all. But, he is also a dab hand with a pistol, which inevitably leads to some trouble down the line.

Next we move onto ‘Near Algodones’ a nameless-up-to-no-good cowboy (Franco) who finds himself in a tricky predicament when he tries to rob a bank, with some hilarious results. “Meal Ticket’ features Liam Neeson and Harry Melling as a theatre double act, the latter of whom has no arms or legs. Despite putting on a good show, they find their numbers and income decreasing, which puts Neeson’s character in a tricky situation as to what to do with his companion. While there is some intriguing moments with both of these two segments, they do end somewhat abruptly, which is frustrating, particularly in the case of the latter, it really would have benefited with a bit more closure to the story.

The next two stories are where the film really starts to shine. ‘All Gold Canyon’ features Tom Waits as a prospector seeking the fortune of a rather large collection of gold located in an absolutely beautiful valley. Now would be a good time to mention Bruno Delbonnel’s superb cinematography which is on point across every story, but it is here especially is where it shines brightest. Waits is great as this wacky prospector seeking this fortune that, perhaps unsurprisingly has attracted the attention of some other folk looking for this fortune for themselves. ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled features Zoe Kazan as a young woman who after a family tragedy is seeking a new opportunity. It’s more dialogue heavy than the preceding stories, but Kazan’s excellent performance makes it extremely compelling to watch.

Finally, the last segment  ‘The Mortal Remains’ retains the intrigue but being the most dialogue heavy of all the stories, it is considerably not as interesting as the preceding stories. Though the dialogue is well written once again, it is really quite underwhelming as a final chapter to a rather fascinating collection of short stories. All six stories do explore similar themes about the human struggle as we all navigate this small little thing called life that we as human beings all negotiate, and the rather significant matter of death. However, to ensure that it is not all doom and gloom, The Coens, much like we all do with our own lives, fill each of these segments with their signature style of comedy that, for the most part, serves each story really rather well.

The short nature of each story will undoubtedly leave some viewers unfulfilled. Nevertheless, the thought provoking themes that beat at the heart of all six of the stories, plus some exquisite work in the cinematography, production design and costume department give this anthology film some mighty visual splendour. Though this is not on the level of say a No Country for Old Men or True Grit, given the rambling mess that was Hail! Caesar, a return to the Wild West, and indeed a much more coherent film from the duo is a darn good thing y’all.

Combining comedy and some very dark and dramatic moments, with some strong themes that beat at the heart of all six stories, this is a most welcome to return to form for the Coen brothers. 

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Image is property of Legendary and Focus Features

BlacKkKlansman – Film Review

Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier

Director: Spike Lee

Synopsis: Suspecting that the Klu Klux Klan is planning an attack, black undercover police officer Ron Stallworth infiltrates the KKK and establishes contact, whilst another officer (Driver) poses as Stallworth when they meet face-to-face…

Review: It is scary to think that a film set in the 1960s could be a reflection of 21st century USA. Yet, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit was exactly that, as it spoke volumes about the horrendous treatment of black people at the hands of police officers, something that is still horrifyingly relevant in 21st century USA. It is therefore all the more shocking that another filmmaker has come along, with another film (also based on true events) that also starkly reminds us just how racism and bigotry is startlingly prevalent in modern US society. Enter director Spike Lee, a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

The setting this time is 1979, as Ron Stallworth (Washington) joins the Colorado Springs Police and is soon appointed to become an undercover officer. When he finds a leaflet for the local KKK organisation, he bravely establishes contact over the phone and almost instantaneously strikes up a connection. To maintain the ruse another officer, Flip Zimmerman, assumes Stallworth’s identity whenever the organisation meets up whilst the actual Ron works behind the scenes, looking for any indication as to what the organisation could be planning.

To think that this is based on real life events is just completely astonishing for one thing. But also, to think that such acts of blatant racism and bigotry are still prevalent is equally nauseating, given that the very idea of one race being superior to the other, is to put it bluntly, absolute bullshit. Washington is superb in this lead role, clearly showing the talent that runs in his family. He portrays Stallworth as a guy who is intelligent and immediately likeable and you watch in anxiety as he goes about this extremely risky endeavour. As after a few exchanges, it comes across pretty quickly that, the members of the KKK are deeply unpleasant people and the risk of this operation going sour is very high right from the very first meeting.

Though having said that, there are moments of humour throughout which in such a heavy film, could be a huge risk, yet it all flows pretty seamlessly.  Lee chooses to tell this story in a manner that emphatically pulls no punches whatsoever, though there are some moments in which the pacing does suffer. Subtlety in such a heavy hitting story like this would not have been a wise decision, and thankfully Lee doesn’t choose to go down this route. There are of course two sides to this story as the story focuses on the Black Panther Party, and there are some intriguing moments in which the two movements are essentially shown side by side. While some stylistic choices are inspired, others are a little bit perplexing.

Spike Lee is a man who has not been afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the current White House incumbent and his inability to make a stand in the face of hate and division. And with this movie, and in particular the closing credits scene that utilises real life footage of the horrific events in Charlottesville last year. It is extremely thought-provoking and deeply moving imagery that will stir up the emotions. This bigotry and hate is something that should have been long since consigned to the history books. Yet unfortunately the famous saying “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” rings true now more than ever. Lee’s message is furious, it is loud, and it is crystal clear.

To think how relevant a film like this is, is frightening but the well balanced script, combined with excellent performances from Washington and Driver, make this an essential piece of cinema for this day and age.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and A24

The Disaster Artist – Film Review

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen

Director: James Franco

Synopsis: When aspiring actors Greg Sistero and Tommy Wiseau meet in an acting class, they both have dreams of making it in Hollywood. When no one gives them a chance, they decide to make their own movie, with hilarious results…

Review: There is a lot that is subjective when it comes to discussions about best and worst films of all time. There are a few usual suspects at both ends of the spectrum, but it is next to impossible to lock down one film as the absolute best, and worst respectively. Yet in the case of the latter, one film that many would argue deserves its place as the worst of the worst, is of course The Room. Yet for all that film’s many faults, no one can deny it has garnered an enormous cult following, which has helped it become perhaps the greatest worst film ever made. But how did such a monstrosity come into existence?

The answer can be found courtesy of Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell’s book of the same name, charting his journey that led him to be a part of the project that was the brainchild of Tommy Wiseau. A man of several unexplained mysteries, and a seemingly bottomless pit of money, made it all happen. The film explores Greg and Tommy’s friendship and how that led them to the adventure (or should that be misadventure?) of the making of The Room and the ensuing chaos that surrounded the production of the film. Most people will have big dreams for what they would like to do in life, and though this isn’t exactly anything new in Hollywood, The Disaster Artist is nonetheless a thoroughly amusing and at times very heartfelt story about two guys trying to make their dreams happen, even if the end result is not the type of film that would be even remotely worthy of any Oscars.

Watching in bewilderment /amusement /amazement…

As the two leading performances, the Franco brothers are both on excellent form with James taking the role of Tommy and Dave as Greg. There is a genuine almost brotherly like connection between the two of them, which is probably due to the fact that they are real life brothers! However you buy into their friendship and it makes you want both of them to succeed, which to a certain extent they do. The only thing is, it doesn’t quite go as they would have hoped. James is particularly excellent as he has the look and the mysterious accent of Wiseau almost down to a T. Dave also does an excellent job as he is the one who strives to complete the goal when things start to go spectacularly wrong for their project. There is humour to be found in the screenplay, which is no small part due to Tommy’s peculiar mannerisms, but it gets to a point where even though you hope they make their dreams come to fruition, that Tommy’s behaviour starts to become REALLY annoying. One can only begin to imagine how annoying it would have been for the crew.

It is clear that through his eccentric performance, and his direction, that Franco has a real passion for The Room, as they capture scenes from the film right down to the tiniest details. It might naht have enjoyed the success that Wiseau probably would have wanted it to upon its release. However, though it has perhaps become famous for all the wrong reasons, it has nevertheless endured the test of time. With an enormous cult following and screenings aplenty to this day, the film has even made a profit on its 6 million dollar budget. Everyone has dreams, and though the pursuit of one’s dreams might not always lead to success, it is important to never lose sight of those aspirations, as you just never know what kind of legacy you might leave behind.

A humourous look at what is ultimately a disaster of a film, but one that is told with genuine sincerity, and an important message about going after your dreams no matter how high the odds might be stacked against you. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs – Film Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber

Director: Wes Anderson

Synopsis: In a near future Japan, after all dogs are banished to a solitary island following an outbreak of a deadly virus, one young boy goes in search of his dog.

Review: “Man’s best friend,” a title that has a long association with dogs and the special relationship that humanity as a species has with our four legged friends. This concept however is completely turned on its head in the latest film to emerge from the brain of quirky director Wes Anderson, also marking his second foray in stop-motion animation film-making following 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Set around twenty years in the future, in the wake of a virus that tears through a Japanese city, a decree is issued that declares that all dogs be sentenced to a nearby trash island, firmly away from any human contact. When one young boy makes a daring venture to said island in search of his pet dog, the burden falls to a select group of pooches, namely Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), King (Balaban), Boss (Murray) and Duke (Goldblum) to help him in his quest to find his beloved hound Spots (Schreiber).

Mutts on a mission…

It certainly is a given that with any feature length film, that a lot of care and attention goes into the production of the film, but never does that feel more appropriate than for this sort of stop motion animation. With each new character that is introduced (there are a fair few of them), it is evident that a great deal of work has gone into this film, and it pays dividends. The animation is stellar and by consequence, the film has a really unique look to it. Our main gang of lovable mutts are all very well fleshed out characters, which isn’t that much of a surprise given the considerable talents of the actors lending their voices to them. The stand-out is Bryan Cranston’s Chief who has some trust issues when it comes to humans, and as such he finds himself at odds with the rest of the pack, mainly Norton’s Rex.

As well as having a unique look about it, Anderson’s screenplay goes in very intriguing directions. Though it does use elements of Japanese culture that are very commonplace, it never feels like it is cultural appropriation. Indeed, it’s more like cultural appreciation as the country’s culture is front and centre, with instances where dialogue is sometimes not even translated. And of course, there is that quirky style of humour that only comes with a Wes Anderson movie stamped all over the film. He manages to fuse that humour so effortlessly into this heart-warming tale about the relationship between man and mutt, and how far one boy will go to save his four legged friend.

With such a stacked voice cast filled with so many talented actors, it was almost inevitable that some would get lost in the mix. Aside from Cranston, it’s Norton’s Rex and The Goldblum’s Duke that make the most impact, in addition to Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  There are meaningful contributions from the likes of Harvey Keitel, Greta Gerwig and F Murray Abraham, but sadly they don’t get nearly enough the screen time that the actors of their talent deserve.

However, in spite of that, the dedication to the story and the warmth that the film-makers have not only to the culture of Japan but of pooches themselves mean that anyone who has a favourable disposition towards dogs will almost assuredly appreciate this film, likewise for anyone who is less enamoured by dogs will undoubtedly appreciate it. Who knows, perhaps even the most ardent cat lover won’t have a bone to pick with this film, but that might be a bit too far fetched.

Charming and very entertaining with beautiful detailed animation and a superb voice cast, there really isn’t anyone in Hollywood who makes movies like Wes Anderson does.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Lady Bird (2018)

Image is property of A24, Universal Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions

Lady Bird – Film Review

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein

Director: Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Lady Bird  (Ronan) is a 17 year old woman in the final year of high school, while having a tricky relationship with her mother, must negotiate friendships, romance and the prospect of college…

Review: For some, those teenage years  are the best times of your life, on the brink of adulthood but not quite at that point where you have to start looking after your own affairs. It’s something that we all go through and is as much a part of life as death and taxes. As such, to make such a film about going through that particular period of life, and to give it such a refreshing and unique spin is a very impressive feat, even more so considering that this is the film that marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig.

Focusing on Christine or Lady Bird as she prefers to be known, as she navigates her final year of school before heading off to college. Before that can happen though, she experiences everything people go through in their final year of school, establishing friendships, making new relationships, and bickering with your parents. It is such a simple, almost by the numbers premise that has been done so many times before. Yet through her remarkable and screenplay that has some razor sharp wit and humour, Gerwig fashions a story that will be relatable to almost all who watch it, as everyone will have remembered that point in their lives when they were in the exact same position as Lady Bird finds herself here, particularly when it comes to moving away from home and settling down at college/university.

A key reason as to why this film feels so fresh and so impactful is the performance of Saoirse Ronan. You know that when you just see the character and not the actor is when you know you’re witnessing a good performance, and that is applicable for almost everyone in the film. Everything about her just feels so real and genuine, and though she has a bit of a temper (let’s be fair who didn’t when they were a teenager?) she is effortlessly watchable.  To have already garnered three Oscar nominations at the age of 23 is a staggeringly impressive achievement and it is a testament to her wonderful ability as an actor. With everyone everyone else on screen giving perfect performances, it does feel like you’re watching real people with real lives, rather than watching a film.

Special mention must go to Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother. This Mother-Daughter relationship makes up the most significant portion of the film. It is a relationship that is far from perfect, indeed it’s a pretty fraught one at times. Yet there is a clear respect for one another, even if they don’t always show it. In everything the film says about the typical struggles a teenager goes through, especially for teenage girls. It manages to tell them in a manner that almost no coming-of-age film has done before. What’s more, the film is utterly hilarious, it finds its humour in all of those little moments that life throws at us when we’re on the brink of adulthood. The road of life is full of ups and downs and this film captures those moments of joy and heartbreak and tells them with such affection, that you will want a pal like Lady Bird around in your life. She’s just that lovable.

A familiar tale, but told in such a refreshingly original manner, this is a coming-of-age drama done almost to perfection, with a stunning turn from Ronan at its centre. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

I, Tonya (2018)

Image is property of AI Film and Neon

I, Tonya – Film Review

Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale

Directors: Craig Gillespie

Synopsis: Telling the story of controversial ice skater Tonya Harding who, whilst competing for her country in the Winter Olympics, becomes embroiled in a scandal following on attack on a fellow competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

Review: The lives of sports stars and professional athletes, are so often very glamorous, particularly when they enjoy success in their field and acquire incredible wealth and fame on a global scale. However, every once in a while, an athlete finds themselves in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. Take for instance, ice skater Tonya Harding. In the build up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, after an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan was carried out, a massive public scandal ensued, and the fallout was quite extensive.

This infamous incident is not the focus of the whole movie though. Indeed director Craig Gillespie chooses to focus on Tonya’s entire life, from her early upbringing and being forced into ice-skating by her pushy/over-bearing mother LaVona Golden (Janney) to her marriage to Jeff Gillooly (Stan) to of course the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan. He chooses to tell this story in a very unique way, by having the characters as if they were being interviewed by us the audience, and then flashing back to the key moments in Tonya’s life. Constantly jumping back and forth in this manner can be problematic but the film is edited together tremendously well, ensuring it flows coherently.

In a performance that has landed her her first Oscar nomination, Robbie really shines as Tonya Harding. Despite some of her less than pleasant mannerisms and behaviour, she is in many ways a very tragic character. Clearly very talented, she never quite fully realised that potential, this is perhaps more down to factors beyond her control. Of course she isn’t perfect but, her extremely difficult mother and her topsy-turvy home life certainly didn’t help matters. Janney as Tonya’s mother is also getting some well deserved recognition. Almost every word out of her mouth is profanity or a derogatory utterance directed if not at her daughter, at someone else. Though she strives to do what’s best for her daughter, it certainly doesn’t yield the right results, and she certainly wouldn’t win any Best Mother of the Year Awards.

For a person who had more than a few dark and bleak moments in her lifetime, the screenplay does manage to inject some humour into this picture, which is in no small part down to LaVona’s outbursts, and the bumbling incompetence of some of the characters who played a key role role in the attack on Kerrigan. The aforementioned use of editing in the interviews to tell the story, intertwined with some frequent fourth wall breaking keeps the plot moving for the most part along as briskly as an ice skater who’s right in the middle of their routine would.

The film does suffer from a few pacing issues though, as it seems unsure as to which element it really wants to focus on at least in the first act.  There’s also the not-so-small matter of the ice skating scenes themselves. While the camerawork to make them happen is impressive, there are a few scenes in which it is very apparent that we are looking at a stunt double, and not Robbie herself, which can be just a little bit jarring. Yet once we reach the third act and the now infamous attack on Kerrigan becomes the main focus, it becomes wildly entertaining, and serves a reminder of how even the smallest action can have devastating consequences on people’s lives and careers.

Unconventional in how it chooses to tell its ultimately tragic story, but with excellent performances from Robbie and Janney in particular fused with some very dark comedy ensures this biopic has some legs (or should that be skates?)