Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bombshell (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Annapurna Pictures

Bombshell  – Film Review

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

Director: Jay Roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Ingenious Film Partners and Chernin Entertainment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Directors: Rupert Wyatt

Synopsis: Whilst carrying out some tests to research a cure for Alzheimer’s, a determined scientist discovers a young ape who after experimentation, develops remarkable advanced intelligence.

Review: As a species, humanity has had the dominion of Planet Earth has for the past two millennia. Of course, the idea that one day something else could come along and take that away from humanity is a theme that has been explored a considerable amount in cinema. There’s the classic alien invasion films, but the idea of super smart apes taking over the planet is one that has been around since the 1960s and the original Planet of the Apes film featuring Charlton Heston, which spawned four sequels. Then came Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg in 2001, to which a sequel never materialised and after another decade, the franchise was rebooted once more.

In this new take on the franchise, Will (Franco) is a scientist aiming to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. His research leads to the developing of a drug that is given on some Apes, which leads to one particular ape developing unprecedented abilities and super advanced intelligence that Will decides to adopt and name Caesar. As we watch Caesar grow up, and his intelligence becomes apparent, he begins to start questioning himself. All the while, the development of the drug begins to create tensions for the humans and as you might imagine a conflict between the humans and the apes starts to brew.

The wonder of modern technology meant that the apes were brought to life via motion capture work, and it’s just remarkable how advanced the technology has become. The technology is so impressive that it could almost make you forget that there is an actor who’s bringing the character to life. Though there are a handful of actors who bring the apes to life, the main man is the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis himself. His work here is flawless, giving Caesar a very distinct personality, and a character you absolutely can empathise with.  Given that it is in fact Caesar who is the main character in the film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver give him the most back story out of everyone by far, which does mean the back story of others does suffer a little bit.

As Caesar’s main father figure, Franco is excellent in his role as one of the few humans that Caesar trusts, along with Will’s ailing father Charles (Lithgow) and love interest Caroline (Pinto). There’s not a great deal of development on them, but they’re characters you care about.  There’s one human who doesn’t quite view Caesar the way Will does, and that is Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon. Channelling his inner Draco Malfoy, he’s a man who relishes mistreating apes and putting them in their place, and when he meets Caesar, he’s certainly got his hands full, as it’s all well and good telling the audience that Caesar is a smart ape, but actions sometimes speak louder than words, and this is definitely the case with Caesar.

Under Wyatt’s direction the film is visually crisp with action scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. With scenes that take place on California’s Golden Gate Bridge standing out as a particular highlight. The film’s pacing isn’t perfect, there are a few lapses in the plot where the film does drag. However there are one or two moments “holy shit” moments that more than make up for this. If a franchise has been dormant for a decade, any reboot’s key purpose is to reinvigorate interest in the franchise in a substantial way, and in that sense, it certainly was mission accomplished.

What a reboot should be, centred by a magnificent performance from Serkis with some stunning CGI and a very intriguing story, one that paved the way for future greatness.