Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Review | Mary Queen Of Scots

Review | Mary Queen Of Scots


Never did I think I would go to the cinema and see a period drama about the Queen of Scotland, never mind actually enjoy it. Luckily when you put two, young and hot-of-the-moment actresses in the lead roles, you'll catch my attention, and probably the attention of other young film goers. It's a clever move, really. I feel like a bit of a fool in this case though, that i've been swayed by the marketing of a film solely based on the actors that are in it. For example, if it was two unknown actresses or actresses whom I was less a fan of, I probably wouldn't have gone to see this film...well, at least i'm honest! C'mon, how many times have YOU been to see a film because Leo Dicaprio/Ryan Gosling is in it? Anyway, point made, and on with the review.

Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie prove themselves to be versatile and actresses to be taken seriously in these roles, particularly Robbie who is un-recognisable in the second half of the film when she is left scarred and losing her hair. Nothing like the beautiful, stunning blonde that you've seen in Wolf Of Wall Street. Ronan is excellent as Mary and plays the part of a queen you wouldn't want to mess with and adopts a superb Scottish accent - no doubt not too hard to adapt from her Irish one. She sticks to her guns even when the (all male) opinions around her try to tell her otherwise. As the queen of France at sixteen and widowed at eighteen, Mary defies the pressure to remarry. She returns to her home, Scotland, to reclaim her throne. However, Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I, played by Robbie. Each young Queen beholds her sister in fear and fascination, never actually meeting till the end of the film in a suspenseful scene as the appearance of each queen is slowly revealed to the other.

I don't watch a lot of period dramas like this (can you tell) so it was quite eye-opening for me, to have an insight of how royalty used to live. What really interested me was that even back in the 1500's, there was still a lot of drama, gossip and scandal going on which hasn't changed much to this day. This kept the movie interesting, what would have otherwise been incredibly slow-paced and boring, was kept exciting with the occasional russle-tussle, battle or love scene...at one point Mary's face fills the entire screen having quite a grand time to herself, if you get my jist. There was the right amount of 'GOT' style drama going throughout, to keep the viewer entertained for over two hours. Though surrounded mostly by an all male cast, Mary would confide in her maids, and share with them her private life in relationships and love. I found these scenes to be revealing, uncovering the girl that lay underneath the facade. On the exterior, to her male employees she was the hard, powerful and straight-talking Mary Queen of Scots but the film allowed us to see briefly that she was just like any other young woman, but with a very out-of-the-ordinary role she had to perform each day.

Director Josie Rourke makes a brave debut in directing her first film, normally a theatre director, she has obviously acquired the right skills and knowledge to take on a motion picture. Rourke definitely got the right performances out of Ronan and Robbie and the movie succeeds with its good casting from the lead actresses plus smaller roles featuring Gemma Chan and David Tennant. As a first time director, Rourke shows she has all the right technical attributes of an experienced figure in the film industry but maybe plays it a little 'safe', however perhaps this was done on purpose, as she prefers to perfect her craft first, then surprise us in future features to come...
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Review | Us

Review | Us

Normally i'm quite clued up on what movies are coming out but I had actually heard nothing about 'Us' until I was recommended by a friend to see it. Perhaps as it wasn't part of the current awards circuit madness so it passed me by. Anyway, so I watched the trailer, and agreed, despite the likely prospect of being traumatised, to go and see the new thriller, horror epic by cinematic master Jordan Peele. Most will know the name from the much talked about horror and dystopian thriller 'Get Out' which made this director one to watch and landed him an Oscar too.

I want to write about 'Us' while it's still fresh in mind from seeing it on Friday. Still two days later and I get excited when I think about it, and how good it was and actually how much I want to see it again and again, really! There were so many layers to it, so much beautiful cinematography and so many details to absorb. Never did I think I would like a horror movie this much. I often associate horror movies with the likes of Paranormal Activity, Saw and the likes...that are yes, pretty creepy, but no where near as intelligent, clever, slick or artistic as 'Us' is.

The story begins through the eyes and ears of Adelaide, who is out on a fun, family trip at the fair-ground by the beach in Santa Cruz, circa the 80's. But from the minute the film begins, everything just feels a bit 'off' and unsettling, like that niggling anxiety you sometimes get but can't pinpoint why. Adelaide has an acute awareness of her surroundings, as she looks around and locks eyes on every person she passes, her ears prick up to the sound of screaming children on the fairground rides. While her dad is distracted playing a game, she is told to stay put, but Adelaide's curiosity leads her down a rabbit hole of unexpected events. As she wanders down to the beach against her parents will, lightning is crashing and she is lured into a fun house with a sign saying "find yourself here". The nightmarish journey begins. 

We fast forward to the present, to a normal and happy-looking family of four - mum - lead protagonist played by Lupita Nyong'o, dad, son and daughter. They return to their beachfront home where Adelaide grew up as a child and head to the same beach where all those years ago she faced the biggest fear of her life in the fun house of mirrors. She has an instant inkling that something is not right and the same night a family of four descend on their home who reveal themselves to be an almost identical copy of their family. It gets weirder. The family are dressed in red, prison-like boiler suits, accompanied each by a set of golden scissors, distorted voices and violent motives. 

The rest of the film becomes a game of survival as more and more of these almost zombie-like people present themselves as it turns out there's an almost parallel universe that exists, and every one has a double who is out to get them. As you can imagine the movie often had me on the edge of my seat, hooked on what was to come next and yes a couple of times I hid behind my hands. Whether it was on purpose, Peele's 'Us' seems to be inspired heavily from old zombie movies, and I noticed elements of 'Black Swan' and 'Coherence' running through too. Like 'Get Out', the movie has a heavy socio-political message running through, however with this one, I still don't quite know what I watched. I'm still reading about the movie, other reviews and synopses to get a better grasp of the story. 

Conclusively, the movie is shot beautifully, the choice of using a fairground, beach and holiday home to shoot a majority of the movie was a fantastic one and made for an excellent backdrop for a horror. There was the right amount of suspense in this movie and the occasional jump-scare, accompanied by a chilling musical score. When I left the cinema, I jumped at the first person I saw. A must see.
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Recently On... Netflix

Recently On... Netflix

I'm sure most people can agree that Netflix can be a bit of a mind field so having some recommendations may help you choose what to watch next time you're scrolling through the many options they have on there. I've recently seen a couple of things on Netflix and decided to share them here...happy reading!

Tidying Up With Marie Kondo



Is it just me or is there a huge emerging trend in tidying up lately? I've come across so many Instagram accounts and people running small businesses where they literally tidy up other people's homes. Being a bit *ahem* of a tidy freak myself, I couldn't be happier with the trend!

I'm not surprised Marie Kondo is Japanese, as they were probably one of the first to promote this minimalist way of living. In Marie Kondo's series 'Tidying Up", she comes into people's homes of all different backgrounds and stories and teaches them the importance of organising their spaces more efficiently, decluttering and learning better ways of storage. She's kind of like a tiny (she really is tiny) little fairy that comes in and waves her magic tidying wand. I won't lie, it is strange in parts, when Marie finds a spot in the house, introduces herself to the house, talks to it, etc, but I can't help but find the whole show totally therapeutic and motivating to watch.

So far i've only seen a couple but the episode with recently widowed Margie was by far the hardest episode to watch yet so empowering. Margie was such an incredibly brave candidate to come on the show and finally declutter her house of her late husbands clothes and some belongings, and created a whole new arts and crafts room for herself. Some parts had me in tears! Marie Kondo is also the famous author behind Spark Joy and The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying and is becoming hugely popular in America too. In fact you can even become a Marie Kondo consultant, no really. A must watch if you need some tips and motivation on being more tidy and organised in your home life.

Sierra Burgess Is A Loser



This was kind of one of those films that it's so bad it's so good. This really is the old school 'rom com' reminiscing the likes of Mean Girls, 13 going on 30 and other films alike. Sierra is the unpopular but super smart girl at school and doesn't fit the typical standard of physical beauty. She's regularly taunted by Veronica, thee it girl of the school and she takes it one step further by giving the cute guy in school Sierra's number, instead of hers, leading Sierra to think hot guy is interested in her, even though he thinks he's texting Veronica...still following?

Eventually somehow along the way Veronica and Sierra become friends despite the odds, as Sierra promises to help her with her school work and tries to keep texting the hot guy. Whilst there are many problematic issues raised throughout the film (just read this article here), it for me felt more like a cringie comedy than anything else and just highly unrealistic with a script that was a bit all over the place. I must have face palmed after every scene in this film it was that cringe worthy, but kind of still enjoyable...if that makes sense? If you like bad rom coms, cheesy lines and Noah Centineo then you will enjoy this!

To All The Boys I've Loved Before



In one of my older posts, I talked about my favourite rom coms of the noughties and was wondering if they were becoming a dying genre but i'm glad to see Netflix is reviving it! Sometimes you just want to watch a cheesy film and this one ticks all the boxes. Lead protagonist Lara Jean is quite happy to keep herself to herself, avoid telling any boy she likes them and live in her own little world, until her little sister finds several letters written by Lara, addressed to the five boys she likes/liked and posts them to each guy. 

Suddenly her quiet existence at school is turned upside down. One letter is addressed to Josh, Lara's sisters ex and to Peter (Noah Centineo, again!), the hottest guy in school, no really, he's frickin' beautiful. She decides to get involved in a fake relationship with Peter to reassure Josh she has no interest in him, while Peter can make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Of course, they eventually both develop real feelings for one another and things become a bit tangled. TATBILB (abbreviation needed) is a heart-warming, funny, down-to-earth rom com with a fun soundtrack, beautifully shot and plenty to keep you entertained...kind of like a dream you had as a teenager that you didn't want to end.

Newness


Nicholas Hoult and Laia Costa star in this contemporary milennial love story as Martin and Gabi, who find love via a social media hook up, very much like Tinder. The movie navigates relationships and how they keep that initial and exciting spark alive from the beginning, and not being tempted by something potentially 'better' around the corner, which apps like Tinder sort of encourage. In Newness, the couple’s fear of keeping things fresh pushes them to be candid about their romantic fantasies and secret crushes. Together the couple resolve to give each other permission to flirt with other people, even having sex with them, as long as they maintain their commitment to one another and don't keep any secrets. It explores the complexities of monogamy well but kind of drags on, for over two hours and you kind of get the point long before the end of the story. However, I thought both performances were well portrayed especially in scenes of conflict between the couple. Scenes involving arguments never felt staged or over the top but exactly how real couples interact and communicate. An interesting exploration of modern day relationships.


Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool


I got my expectations up a little too high for this film, mainly because I studied in Liverpool and was excited to see some familiar places, plus, Annette Bening, Jamie Bell...yes! But overall it didn't fulfil what I was hoping for. The film tells the tale of Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame who finds romance and happiness with a younger man, but then her life changes forever when she is diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1970s. It's not the performances themselves that fail but the story and the film which don't really carry them that well, I just found myself irritated by both characters and the slow pace of the film which never really picked up its pace. Gloria Grahame's character reminded me a little of the romance between Marilyn Monroe and Colin Clarke in My Week With Marilyn, just a slightly more slow-paced and bland one to watch. The highlight of the film was a dance off scene between Gloria and Peter, probably being the most upbeat part of the movie. However, the film overall might still appeal to some audiences and maybe it just wasn't my kind of movie so it might still be worth a watch...

What have you seen on Netflix lately, the good and the bad?

Wednesday, February 06, 2019
Review | Beautiful Boy

Review | Beautiful Boy


To kick off film reviews for 2019, i'm starting by chatting about Beautiful Boy - director Felix Van Groeningen's English language debut. The movie is based on the best-selling memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, played by Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet. First of all I would say this movie is by no means going to leave you feeling uplifted, but it's not exactly a story that can be sugar coated. Beautiful Boy tells the tale of young boy, Nic, who struggles with drug addiction, particularly to meth, and the effects this has on his family and throughout his life. It's a sombre story but an inspiring and important one that is told so very (beautiful)ly indeed. In just over two hours you see Nic go from a little boy into an adult, then back again, toing-froing between rehab and relapse, to moments of his childhood and moments of recovery.

The film largely focuses on the father-son relationship and the lengths David goes to to save his son from his addictions and spiralling further. It's seen early on in the film just how close a bond the two have and just how unbreakable that bond is. Time and time again, David picks his son back up, reaches out for help, takes him to rehab and quite literally never gives up and if that doesn't get a lump in your throat, I don't know what will. The film regularly uses flashbacks to give viewers a way into David's mind, as he recalls the precious memories from Nic's childhood and how at one time, things were, at least on the surface, perfect. The film raises the concern of most parents in difficult situations when they begin to question their actions, whether or not they raised their child right, what they could have done better or what they could have prevented.

It was hard to pinpoint in the film for me, the factors that contributed to Nic's downward spiral into drug addiction, much like life, you never really know what's going on inside someone's mind. The only thing that stuck out for me was a scene at the airport, Nic is saying farewell to his dad, to stay with his mum and shows difficulty in leaving his dad, whom he holds such a strong bond with.  We also see a scene where David is rifling through Nic's room and discovers his notebook filled with doodles and drawings in black which reflect the mental pain Nic is going through.

What feels like several times in the film, Nic goes into rehab, recovers then relapses, again and again. It accurately portrayed the realities for an addict like Nic, when there is always this constant juggle with battling the addiction and succumbing to it, which Chalamet plays to a T. It is frustrating to watch Nic fall back into the trap of drugs, almost as frustrating as it must have been for his father in real life. 

The most painful scene (spoiler alert) is when for one of the final times, Nic calls up his dad and for the first time ever in the whole film, David has to finally refuse to give him help because he feels he can no longer support him. This scene was so heartbreaking to watch as you could imagine the pain felt on both sides when this was said...however, David does actually help Nic again which seems to be the final push that is needed, as the credits role, we are told Nic Sheff (irl) has been 8 years sober. 

Aesthetically, both in cinematography and soundtrack, the film also ticks all those boxes. The playlist features the likes of Nirvana, where we are shown a flashback scene to Nic as a young boy and his father rocking out in the car and other tracks by Bowie, Sigur Rós and John Lennon. There's a wide range of throwback songs to cinematic instrumental injections thus the film kind of flows like a beautiful yet painful poem about life, family, relationships and the importance on support in mental health and drug addiction.

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