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. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

La La Land (2016)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures and Marc Platt Productions

La La Land – Film Review

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: An actress desperately trying to catch her big break in Hollywood meets a jazz pianist struggling to make ends meet, and the duo begin a blossoming romance.

Review: The art of cinema is one that can have great impact on the human soul whenever we sit down to watch a film for the first time. Cinema has the power to generate so many emotions among its audience, from the most euphoric moments of unrivalled joy to the dark moments of despair. Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s previous directorial outing Whiplash certainly had a mixture of those happy and sad moments, more of the latter than the former mind you. Yet for his new picture, again with a musical theme at its brimming heart, definitely has a lot more of those moments of pure unparalleled joy.

An insane but quite brilliant musical number set on an LA freeway sets you up for the kind of ride Chazelle is about to take you on, as we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, an actress who, despite audition after audition, is just not getting any rewards. By chance she runs into Ryan Gosling’s Seb an aspiring Jazz pianist who also happens to be in something of a rut, this is until he meets Mia, and the two fall head over heels for one another and begin planning a life for themselves together, with both having big aspirations and dreams. It all seems so perfect for them, until their careers threatens to pull them away from one another, and both are presented with a difficult decision. Though this is very much a musical at is heart, its packed with great humour, romance and drama all fused into one glorious picture. right from the aforementioned musical freeway scene, you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself tapping along with the music.

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With this marking their third collaboration since Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, it’s crystal clear at this point that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have brilliant chemistry together, and it is their chemistry along with brilliant performances from them both that help elevate La La Land to a golden standard for musical cinema. As well as the electric performances, the music is also beautiful to listen to. With each note that Stone and Gosling sing, it will find its way to melt your heart and fall in love with these characters, even if a member of the audience is about as emotionless as a Cyberman from Doctor Who, it will lift your spirits and leave you floating on cloud nine. All of us undoubtedly have dreams and aspirations for want we want to do with our lives, and this film has much to say about following your dreams, that will hit home with almost everyone.

Despite those moments of sheer joy, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for our leads, as they encounter some tricky obstacles in both of their lives. Rest assured however, that no one is throwing any chairs at anyone this time, and no psycho music teachers brutally tearing people down. This is nowhere near as intense as Whiplash was, but it’s just as well written and equally tremendously acted, with a glorious cameo appearance from J.K Simmons, this time not in raging jazz teacher mode.

Chazelle, with only his third feature film, seems to have found his spark, when it comes to live action musicals, currently he is the man of the moment, and is certainly proving himself to be a formidable director and one to watch. A recording breaking Golden Globe haul accomplished, with the Oscars in sight, La La Land looks certainly set to sing and dance its way to more awards glory.

With some thumping good tunes, Stone and Gosling on electric form, and a deep, thought provoking story, this is cinema at its heart-warming and magical best.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Birdman (2014)

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Image rights belong to Stephen Mirrione Production companies, Regency Enterprises, New Regency Productions, M Productions, Le Grisbi Productions, TSG Entertainment, Worldview Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Birdman – Film Review 

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Director:  Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a former Hollywood actor seeks to re-establish his stagnating career in the form of a Broadway play, all sorts of things start to go wrong as he battles with family, career troubles and snobby critics…

Review: When hearing of the title of this film, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another Hollywood film about superheroes to go along with the domination of Marvel and DC films that we have witnessed in recent years . Yet you would be mistaken (sort of.) This is not an action movie based on a man with extraordinary powers. Instead this story finds itself depicting former Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) the once legendary star of the Birdman superhero franchise, who’s seeking to re-establish himself in the entertainment business via a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

He used to be all about the big bucks and the superhero genre, but not anymore. Yet his efforts are encountering road block after road block, with things going spectacularly wrong. The film has so much to say about superhero movies, actors, critics, life and modern technology among many other things.  Through a wonderful screenplay by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, the messages on the plethora of topics talked about in the film are rammed home in a way that really gets the audience thinking long and hard about who they are and where they stand in society.

Sniping at real life Hollywood events such as Robert Downey Jr in the Iron Man franchise, Ryan Gosling and Jeremy Renner. He sneers vehemently at the former, or rather his somewhat wacky alter ego does, “that clown doesn’t have half your talent” snarls the Birdman with such strong disdain. The contempt for the state of the modern movie industry he has is raw and although many modern superhero films are fantastic pieces of cinema loved by audiences the world over, the audience almost always connects with our lead man and his wing wearing alter ego. It delves deep into art, and what is art, how good an actor are you if you make over-the-top superhero movies? Or are you a better actor if you choose those smaller, not-so-big budget roles?

Michael Keaton, once the wearer of the great cape and cowl of the Batman, is on top form in a role that finally landed him his first Oscar nomination. His performance is invigorating and refreshing, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of what was once a stagnating career. Edward Norton, likewise is equally fascinating to watch. A method actor who really gets into the part he plays, in more ways than one. His back and forth with Keaton is some of the most enthralling dialogue that emerged from cinema in 2014. With two excellent male performances, one Emma Stone fights the ladies corner, and she definitely more than holds her own against these two accomplished actors, giving the performance of her career. The other key cast were all equally excellent in their roles, including a remarkably more laid back turn from Hangover funny man Zach Galifianakis. Keaton, Norton and Stone were well deserving of their nominations, with Stone arguably the most unlucky to lose out.

Visually, the film is extremely engaging and in many ways, revolutionary as it is made to look as if it is one single shot. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is magnificent, following on from his magnificent work on the Oscar winning Gravity. Lubezki is again on form here, delivering another visual sensation, and deservedly added another Oscar on top of the one he bagged for Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama. Evocative and incredible imagery are packed throughout the two hour run time. There are more than a few scenes that will get your mind racing and leave you breathless with the incredible technical skill that is on show.

The theatre setting would make the audience believe that the film is taking a stance on the theatre industry, but the messages are without a doubt about the film industry. Birdman is a must see for any fans of film, as it is smart, intelligent, original and humorous. The script packs lots of punches and provides audiences with a film going experience like nothing else we have ever seen before, and may never see again.

Funny, original, emotional, visually mesmerising, acted and directed to perfection, Birdman takes flight and soars into cinematic history, and a significant amount of well deserved awards. 

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