21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Category: 2010s

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.

4/5

 

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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.

3.5/5

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.

4/5

The Confirmation

I don’t want to eat Jesus’ 

The Confirmation follows the story of a carpenter named Walt (Clive Owen) who spends the weekend with his son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher), and a series of events lead Walt and Anthony to bond, including Walt losing his toolbox. It also stars Maria Bello, who plays Anthony’s mother and Walt’s ex wife.

I knew of this film as Clive Owen is one of my favourite actors, so this review may or may not be a little biased. Indeed, Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the son, shows promise in case he decides to pursue roles in the future. I think that, in a way, the movie is more from the child’s perspective. As for Clive Owen, his character was incredibly unpredictable, and as usual of Clive Owen, he delivers a certain degree of charm to his roles. I have also found that his character’s tend to have a personal demon, such as a drink of drug problem, and the former is no different for the character of Walt.

I have also noticed that some of the shots in the film consist of the child by himself, perhaps showing that he does not have a close parental figure, or the child is somewhat independent. There are also heavy religious undertones, from the boy going to church to the lead up to his first communion/ confirmation (a big event in a catholic person’s life) .

If you are a fan of Clive Owen’s work, watch this film. You won’t be disappointed. It is quite interesting how it takes place over the course of a weekend.

4.5/5

 

 

The Big Bang Theory (TV Show)

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I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested!’ 

The Big Bang Theory is an American TV show about a group of scientists/physicists called Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny  Galecki), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Neyyar) and an engineer called Howard Wollowitz (Simon Helberg) and the women in their lives, to include Amy Ferrari Fowler (Mayim Bialick), Bernadette (Melissa Raunch) and the blonde and slightly bimboish Penny (Kaley Cuoco).

I watched the series because some of my friends are obsessed with the show, and when I was less familiar with the programme, we watched the scene about Sheldon’s explanation of the Doppler effect in GCSE physics. I also knew that Sheldon’s favourite number is 73 long before I began to watch the show.

Generally, some of the episodes make me laugh, while some of the plot lines are quite repetitive throughout some of the seasons and therefore aren’t that funny. I don’t really like the character of Penny, particularly in the earlier seasons. I felt that if you threw something at her character then her character would either fall down or not budge or react, but I suppose that she grows on you as the seasons progress and she’s only there for the same appeal that the character of Charlotte brought to The Inbetweeners. The show also plays on a lot of common stereotypes. I particularly like the characters of Amy and Sheldon. Sheldon is a man child and Parsons brings so much geeky, bittersweet and childlike charm to his character. As for Amy, her comic timing and stage prescence is fantastic and I identify more with her character rather than any other female in the show.

Likewise, the show is heavily quotable, one of my favourites being the common Sheldon quote ‘That’s my spot’. Despite all the cliches, I think that it is quite a good show and I watched it because it was convientantly on Netflix. I like the social aspect of most American TV shows. You walk into each other’s apartments (using the secret knock first), have takeaway every night and occasionally go down to the lab.

An interesting, heavily quotable and slightly addictive programme with a catchy theme song that does not insult the geek culture,but rather makes all the everyday people look stupid. In some ways, it also explores the opposition of views of the beginning of humanity I.e the religious version from Sheldon’s mother and the slightly more realistic and scientific view from people such as Sheldon.

4/5

 

The Dressmaker

‘I’m back, you bastards,’

The Dressmaker is a novel by Rosalie Hamm and it is about a dressmaker called Tilly Dunnage who returns to Dungatar in the hope of looking after her ill mother Molly. She develops a friendship with Sargeant Farrat (played by Hugo Weaving in the film), the town’s policeman who likes to secretly dress up in women’s outfits and therefore challenges gender norms and she falls in love with Teddy McSwiney, a football player.

In terms of the book, the narrative is a bit all over the place. I can’t really keep track of many of the characters and I don’t really care about most of them anyway but I liked the humor and the vivid descriptions of the littlest things, such as the food and the clothing that they design and wear. Sargeant Farrat was a flexible character who was loved by everyone and I’m sure that Teddy is probably our ideal man.

As for the film, Kate Winslet was very stunning. People obviously loved her character Tilly because of the dresses that she made or they hated her because of what she did to the little boy when she was younger which they have never forgiven her for, including her own mentally unstable mother Molly (Judy Davis). The film clearly makes a statement about how your choice of fashion can change you with a few sequins. I think Liam Hemsworth was written in for sex appeal but he did a decent job as Teddy, Tilly’s toyboy. They missed out big chunks of the book but luckily the parts that they missed out were the unnecessary plotlines. William and Tilly’s childhood friend Gertrude’s relationship was explored a little more in the book but I wasn’t really bothered by it.

Hugo Weaving clearly loved wearing all the outfits in the movie as Sargent Farrat. He was loveable and he opposed gender norms. For instance, as the town’s only policeman, he would ideally be strict, masculine and nearly always in uniform but he was wearing all sorts of stylish, and usually women’s outfits and being popular with the people in the town. He would be the type of person who everyone would want to have as a friend. I liked the use of closeups of fashion items i.e shoes, dresses, to emphasise the importance of fashion.

Not the best film in the world but it does have its good moments, especially when Tilly can make the plainest of people look fantastic, and she can promise feather boas to an eccentric policeman. Tilly and Farrat’s characters were flawed, Tilly’s mother was a bit unstable and the I-killed-the boy storyline dragged a bit but it was a central plotpoint anyway. I might have to rewatch this movie to get details that I didn’t catch before.

The director Jocelyn Moorhouse also directed Hugo Weaving in his early movie Proof (1991) and it was good that they did another film together.

3/5

Cinderella (2015)

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‘Mark my words, you shall not go to the ball!

Many adaptations of Disney animated films do not turn out as well as the original. Luckily, this one is not one of them.

As the story goes, Helena Bonham Carter narrates the film and stars as the Fairy Godmother. Indeed, she does a very convincing job from it and she is very over the top. The story is standard, a girl called Ella, and nicknamed Cinderella (Lily James) is mistreated by her evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters Anastasia (Holliday Granger) and Drizella (Sophie  McShera). Ella hopes to reunite with the prince Kit (Richard Madden) that she met in the woods but her stepfamily refuse to let her take the limelight and become the object of the prince’s heart.

Some of it is quite obvious CGI, but the movie won’t let the CGI and the all star cast get the best of them. Quite a few of the actors in the film are also stage actors and I found that the movie was indeed very theatrical by using certain levels, close ups and aerial shots. One scene in particular, Cate Blanchett was at the top of the stairs while Cinderella’s character was at the bottom of the stairs, showing that the stepmother was of a higher authority than Cinderella, but by the end, the bars on the stairs in front of the stepmother showed that Cinderella had trapped her as punishment of what she had done to her. Cate Blanchett’s character wears green in mostly all of her scenes and green is a cold color that represents jealousy. She also wears red lipstick and red represents death, hatred and blood. Cate Blanchett could move her entire performance using her eyes, facial expression and screen prescense.

Quite a few other recognizable faces such as Stellan Skarsgard and the guy who plays Neil’s Dad in theI Inbetweeners. I don’t like mice but the mice in the movie were adorable despite the fact that they looked computer generated. Most of the movie made me and my older sister laugh because of the comic timing yet they still kept it relevant.

Many phrases from Cinderella have been adapted into expressions in the English language e.g you shall go to the ball, turn into a pumpkin etc. I watched the original 1950s Cinderella when I was younger but I think this version is better. The cinematography is excellent and the soundtrack/score was beautifully composed. The prince was a bit soppy and melodramatic but I think that’s the point.

Brilliant acting from Cate Blanchett and Lily James, stunning visuals, memorable film and a great soundtrack.

4/5

Billionaire Boy

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‘It doesn’t need a discussion’

The TV movie, based off the book by David Walliams, is about a boy called Joe who is a billionaire because his father made a living from inventing his own toilet roll. Joe has everything he wants, except friends.

The boy actor who played Joe showed some promise for success in future projects, but other than him and maybe Warwick Davis, everyone was trying a bit too hard, but I think it was for comical effect. Catherine Tate, who I saw in her Lauren Cooper sketches which were made back in the mid 00s, was overacting a bit, and James Fleet’s performance was ok but minimal, and I recognized some of the other cast members. The film had too many plots and subplots to deal with and it felt as if it didn’t really end when it ended as they were held at an immaturely written and loose end.

My younger brother loves David Walliams books and I’m sure that he loved the film but I think that it was too short for its own good. However, David Walliams did look good as a woman and he did it for a comedic effect and Warwick Davis was so brilliant. Most of the characters were a bit cartoony (especially the bullies, who acted as if they were reading off a script) but I shouldn’t be so horrible about a fun family film.

I suppose that there were moments of laughter but most of the subplots were unresolved. I think that it was good that Joe eventually got a friend and learnt a few lessons about his own worth and to not use it as a weapon.

Ok film but it ended without tying up some of the loose knots.

2.5/5

 

The Knick Season 1episode 10

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‘John, the drug. It’s destroying you’

Thackery’s drug addiction makes him more obviously paranoid while his competitor Zinberg carries out blood transfusion research and Cornelia chooses to not keep Algernon’s baby but proceeds with her wedding.

It is a qood round off to a fairly so-so series. Out of this series, I liked the historical references e.g blood transfusions, 500 years to figure out the cause of germs, Pasteur, blood transfusions etc but what I don’t like is the fact that some episodes seem more like a soap opera than a proper series. There have been some rubbish episodes but there have been some good ones as well.

Thackery and Elkins’ romance carries on but Elkins is trying to cover up a lot of things and she becomes scared of Thackery’s sudden mood swings when he doesn’t get what he wants (drugs) and as a early 20th century surgeon, he is a no-nonsense professional in surgery. Until the drugs get the best of him and everything comes together. I liked how the end of the series was very open ended. I haven’t seen Season 2 as of yet but I would presume that the open ending allows many possibilities and plots and scenarios that can carry on successfully into series 2.

Season 1 has had its ups and downs but the last shot of Thackery going to sleep really sums up how he deserved some rest and somebody needed to take charge of his addiction before it was too late to save him like he couldn’t save some of his patients.

Moral message: don’t do drugs, kids and save lives.

3/5

Far from the Madding Crowd

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Far from the Madding Crowd is a movie about a fairly independent Victorian woman called Bathsheba (Carey Mullingan) who chooses between a sheep farmer Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts), a charming and good looking soldier Sgt Troy (Tom Sturridge) and a rich slightly older man called William Boldwood (Micheal Sheen). It is based off the book of the same name by Thomas Hardy. The movie also stars Juno Temple.

My Mum and older sister were both obsessed with this movie and they compared it to the original book. The movie is one of the most faithful Book-film adaptations although there there have been many other versions.

While I was a bit restless at times, the cinematography was incredible. It would come in handy to anyone interested in photography, cinematography or even art. The light behind them reflected onto them and at times, it looked like an oil painting.

The cinematography wasn’t there just to make it look good. Carey Mullingan is generally a very good actress and she played her character very well, incredibly badass despite slipping down that metaphorical independent ladder throughout the film as the hot soldier guy manipulates her as she and Juno Temple’s character become objects for men. Her costumes looked really beautiful and who couldn’t love Tom Sturridge in the fit red uniform? (not loving his character, though). The dog actor was very adorable and he carried the performance on his own.

Great cinematography, fantastic cast and brilliant costumes.

3.5/5