21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Month: October, 2017

The Death of Stalin

‘Stalin’s dead,’ 

Armando Iannuchi directs The Death of Stalin, a satire film that follows Stalin’s final days and the chaos that irrupts the days after his death. It stars Micheal Palin, Paddy Constantine, Rupert Friend, Andrea Risenbourgh and Steve Buscemi, among many other famous faces.

As a huge fan of Rupert Friend, I was reluctant to wait to see this movie in my local Vue cinema. Indeed, Friend played the part of Stalin’s spoilt son Vasily incredibly well in the scenes that he was in (he was in a lot less scenes than I thought but he still took over the screen with his screen presence when he was in the film). I was thoroughly engrossed in the film while I was watching it. It’s one of those films that you have no idea what is going on while watching the film, but it all comes together afterwards. Most of the humour came from the comic timing, and it is more about what you don’t see than what you see (even though the burning body scene was rather unexpected). I don’t know if it’s just me but a lot of Friend’s characters seem to have some form of a drinking problem, the character of Vasily included, and all of his lines were funny. He does, however, play them incredibly well and I hope to see him in more roles in the future. As for the other actors, I thought that Steve Buscemi was rather good, and I did not realize how many noteable films that he was in until I looked on his IMDB page later on. I spent some time after the movie quoting parts of the film to family members.

My only issue with the film that it eventually felt a bit rushed, though that did not seem to matter in my overall film experience. Likewise, it did have rather clever visuals and the costumes were superb. From what I read, the director clearly did his research, and the historical accuracy is good (the quote that Stalin’s daughter- played by Andrea Risenbourgh- says about ‘why couldn’t he shoot himself like mother’ is in fact true to life) but if I wanted accuracy, I would watch a Stalin documentary, not a satire film.

Overall, a thouroughly enjoyable satire film with some great famous faces and a few laughable moments scattered throughout the movie. I would highly recommend it.




Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ follows the story of a female CIA operative named Maya (Jessica Chastain) who locates and hopes to hunt and kill Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I watched this film, not only because it is apparently my younger brother’s favourite film, but rather as research for a module on auteur directors for my university studies, and Kathryn Bigelow’s being one of the auteurs that we looked at in lectures and seminars (though we looked into the Hurt Locker more specifically). While watching this film, I could not help but think that it draws many similarities to the TV show Homeland (one of my personal favourite TV shows), and at times, it had that Homeland vibe. Had Damien Lewis, Rupert Friend, Clare Danes or Mandy Pantinkin been in Zero Dark Thirty then I would have assumed that it would be Homeland all over again, right from the theme of terrorism and the CIA and some of the familiar filming locations.

Right from the very start, we are pulled into the danger zone, from the audio clips of panicked presumed victims or family members of 9/11 victims right from the beginning. This gives an emotional touch to a seemingly heavy film. It’s as if Bigelow is giving a statement on the post 9/11 America and Pakistan and applying it to these characters finding what some say was the most wanted man alive-Osama Bin Laden. In a scene that we think is relaxing is soon interrupted by the disruption of a suicide bomb or a bomb going off. Even as viewers, we feel as though we are being surveillance.

Overall, a film that gets you thinking right from the very start, and gets straight to the point in the opening scene.


La La Land (2016)

‘I’m a phoinex rising from the ashes’ 

La La Land is a film following an actress named Mia (Emma Stone) and a jazz musician named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) face the hardships of their aspirations and fall in love. The film also stars John Legend and J.K Simmons.

I heard about this film more from the reputation rather than the film itself, and from the mishap at the Oscars regarding Best Picture. My sisters also like the film quite a bit, even though I’ve generally heard mixed reviews about the film. Indeed, the film is a lot like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Despite the fact that the film was wonderful with the actor choices, visual experience and soundtrack, I couldn’t help but think that the film’s plot has been done many times before. Likewise, the two leads played their part to the T. I like how it references other musicals and had a Grease vibe going on in the beginning of the film, even though La La Land is set in modern times. It is a great homage to jazz, and the accompanying jazz soundtrack was brilliant. I have a huge guilty pleasure for musicals, and this one is probably one of my favourites. Out of the two leads, I’m probably being a bit basic here but I prefer Ryan Gosling’s character. I had previously seen Ryan Gosling in films such as The Notebook and I’m aware of his reputation in films as being the attractive lead male love interest type. Likewise, It shows that if you have a passion for a dream in life then you have to work your way up for it, as shown by Sebastian playing Jingle Bells on a piano in the beginning and achieving his dreams at the end. The same goes for Emma Stone’s character and her character’s scriptwriter/actress aspirations. It was pleasant to see J.K Simmons make an appearance, although I’m still terrified of his characters as a result of watching Whiplash (A film that the La La Land director Damien Chazelle also directed).

Overall, La La Land is a type of film that you think will just be full of recycled old cliches, but the cliches soon fade and you get enthralled in the film. I particularly like the homage to jazz in the soundtrack, especially ‘A lovely night’. Whether the film is good or watchable depends on the person, though.


Arrival (2016)

Arrival is a film about a linguistics professor named Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who interepets the language of alien visitors. It also stars Forest Whitaker.

I watched the film as part of a university cinema society screening, and I approached the film thinking the wrong sort of assumptions. At first, the film was quite hard to get into, though I soon picked up the pattern and the cinematic idea of the hero’s journey that I also learnt about in one of my lectures at university. The frequent flashback sequences of the main character and her daughter Hannah (who, from what I picked up on throughout the film, died from some kind of cancer brought on from the radiation) were also rather sweet, if not poignant at times.

If I were to watch this film again, I would pick up on the things that I missed out on in the last viewing. While this movie wasn’t my favourite movie in the world, the actors did a tremendous job and the the film itself definetly shows the impact of news. I also thought that it was rather clever that the young daughter built one of the aliens out of playdough. I could not help but notice that the flashback scenes are tinted lighter colours, as if to show happier times, while the other scenes are slightly darker, perhaps to show a change of mood and the passing of time. Arrival is one of those movies where you have to watch all of it to understand it otherwise it won’t make sense, and the film takes some time to get into. The montage effect was particularly effective when showing a series of flashbacks throughout the movie. Had I known about the film back when I was in college then a series of ideas that were applicable to the project at hand could be based around some of the aspects of the film.

Overall, a fairly decent film with superb actors, an unpredictable plot and great cinematography. My only criticism would be the fact that it drags at times, but it is still a good enough movie.


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, to put it briefly, follows the story of a former law student named Raskolnikov, who commits an act of murdering two women with an axe. Only a prostitute named Sonya can offer him redemption.

Although I had heard of a few icons in classic Russian literature, such as Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and of course, Dostoyevsky, I had never read any Russian literature in its intirity until I read Crime and Punishment. In fact, my older sister (who loves books) recommended the book to me, and I ended up reading it before lectures and in my own time. Though it was partly ruined by the fact that the famous Moors murderers read it and was a key motivation towards one of their murders, Crime and Punishment seemed like a good book all the same. I am aware that the book has been made into several film adaptations, though I have tried my best to avoid watching the adaptations for fear of ruining my perception of the novel, though interestingly, I realised that the late, great John Hurt played Porfiry in the 2002 version.

The novel, as a whole, teaches that all actions have consequences, and that there was no way that he could ever get away with murder. To be honest, he got what he deserved. I simply love the author’s flowing, overly detailed descriptions. Although some of the novel dragged just a tiny bit in places (i.e pages and pages of dialogue), my favourite part of the entire book was when he told Sonya (perhaps one of the main female characters in the entire book) that he killed the women, who turned out to be connected to her in some way or another. I also think that the novel is a critical reflection of Russian society at the time of when Dostoyevsky was writing it. You had your peasants, members of the police force, and the prostitutes.This book has definitely launched my recently found small interest in Russian literature.

If you have several days to spare, then go ahead and read Crime and Punishment. People always seem to assume that old books are long and dreary, but depending on the book, it is rather interesting, even though the names of the characters in this book were rather long and at times, I was confused with who was who.

Overall, a great, classic novel that has broadened my horizons while exploring new things to read and enjoy.


Wonder Woman (2017)

I shall destroy you!’ 

Wonder Woman is a movie based on the DC comics, and it is about a powerful woman named Diana (Gal Gadot) who discovers her true identity as she fights wars with other men. It also stars Chris Pine and David Thewlis to name a few big names.

I approached the film thinking that it involved Mary-Sue archetype characters, but I was quickly proved wrong. Although it was a little dramatic at times, I  watched it with a large group of people as part of a cinema society taster session at university, and I think most of the people liked it. I ended up discussing it with a group of friends on the way home. I suppose that this would be a good example of a feminist film. The main character Diana had dreamed about being wonderwoman ever since she was a young girl. It’s as though she has been on a journey from an island full of women to being faced with battle. It makes fun of gender norms, showing, in the simplest way possible, that men and women should be and are in fact equal. There is non stop plot twists and conflict throughout the film, even when they’re not on the battlefield. David Thewlis was brilliant in his role too, and I have seen most of his other work as he seems to be in everything, but he makes a good job of it. Chris Pine was also good in his role, along with, of course, Gal Gadot as the leading lady. If I had the chance, I would watch this film again.

Overall, a decent film adaptation from a well known DC comic that proves that not all female characters have to be hapless maidens, but rather powerful superheroes.