21st century girl

reviews – my way.

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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.




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.


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.


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.




Lullaby for Pi (2010)

‘Your name is 3.14 something?’ 

Lullaby for Pi follows the story of a musician named Sam (Rupert Friend) who is recently getting over the death of his partner Josephine, and lives in the hotel room where they first met. Soon, he strikes up an unlikely romance with an artist named Pi (Clemence Poesy), who hides out in his bathroom.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched the movie. The premise of the film sounded a bit quirky, but it was executed well enough to be watchable. Rupert Friend is a surprisingly good singer and pianist, though from past viewings of his other films he just tends to throw himself in the role, making himself believeable to the part. If you want to hear him sing and play the piano, then go ahead and watch the movie. I especially liked the duet between him and Pi. As for Clemence Poesy, I had previously seen her in films like Harry Potter, and she played the part of Pi incredibly well.

However, at times, the film seems a bit all over the place, though I would definitely watch it again to pick up on the bits that I did not notice the first time that I watched it. The characters are not just cardboard cutout stereotypes, and they all had real emotions. You have the lonely pianist who hangs out in his hotel room the whole time, you have the rebellious guy who just wants to play the piano, much to his father’s dismay, and you have the rather insecure artist. Had I known about this film at all when I was in college then I would have done an art piece inspired by this movie and I would have somehow gotten hold of a Polaroid camera. The film definitely teaches you that art and music is a way to express yourself and your feelings and emotions.

This film, however, did not go down very well with the critics, and I can partly see why. So far, I haven’t read a positive review about the film. The movie does not exactly appeal to everyone, and at times, the dialogue is admittedly a little cheesy. The soundtrack, however, is fantastic.

Overall, a decent and rather quirky film that manages to embrace its quirks and come out with a good, watchable movie with remarkable actors in it. It also stars Forrest Whittaker.



The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947)

‘And memories. I have those, you know. Even if it was a dream’

The Ghost and Mrs Muir is about a newly widowed woman named Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) who moves with her daughter Anna to a seaside cottage that was previously owned by a sea captain named Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who haunts the house. It also stars Natalie Wood as the young Anna Muir, Robert Coote and George Sanders.

Until recently, I had last watched the film when I was a lot younger so I only remembered bits of it (mostly the Rex Harrison scenes and the ending). Likewise, the film provoked my ongoing interest in old, usually classic movies. I also happened to notice, that Rex Harrison’s character stands in the background to give a ghostly prescence, almost to show a sense of belonging that he lived in the house before her, and it’s on a metaphorical scale of either watching over her or guarding his house even though the character had died. He was also originally introduced by a cackling laugh and his shadow to emphasise his presence. He brought a great deal of charisma and charm to his character. Perhaps the light focused only on his eyes in the painting when she opens the door in an early scene shows a sense that she is being watched.

I think that there is a sense of beauty in old movies, perhaps a lost art. I particularly liked the shots of the tide coming in on a stormy day, and the medium close ups of the main characters faces to show expression. I also like how there is next to no successful romantic plot line as Mrs Muir’s suitor Miles ‘Uncle Neddy’ Fairley only led her on only for his wife to reveal to her that he is in fact married with a few children. What I gathered is that it isn’t the first time that he had an affair. There is a huge contrast between Captain Gregg and Miles Fairley. Captain Gregg is foul mouthed but also rather charming (in a good way) and Miles Fairley is a charming yet rather manipulative (excuse my swearing) bastard as he knew how to charm Mrs Muir but not in a good way, but she eventually learns the error of her ways.

This film gives me a great deal of nostalgia from when I watched it when I was younger. Of course, times have changed since the film was originally released so some of the dialogue hasn’t aged very well but the film is still bittersweet all the same. I also think that Rex Harrison is an incredibly theatrical actor and his voice is very distinguished. At one point, he was one of my favourite actors, and I’ve also seen him in other films such as My Fair Lady. As for Gene Tierney, I had previously seen her in Dragonwyck so I thought she was a brilliant actress for her time. I personally find that this is one of the best ghost movies around. Nearly all of the other ones are too sappy or awful or cheesy.

It’s only now that the ending to the film has moved me to tears on a personal level as my sisters refer to the ending to help me manage with the fact that my widowed grandmother is dying. I think it’s the fact that Rex Harrison’s character says ‘You’ll never be tired again. Come now,’ then Mrs Muir stands up and she’s young again. That’s what hit me emotionally.

Overall, a visually beautiful and classic old film with beautiful music that makes the movie seem timeless, even for modern, impressionable audiences.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (film)

‘I’m Abe Portman’s grandson! Please, don’t crap on us!’ 

Tim Burton directs Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar children, a film based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs, and it follows the story of a boy named Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) who discovers clues left by his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) which leads the former to a mysterious house for children with special powers, run by a woman named Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). The house also happened to be stuck in a 1940s time loop. It also stars Ella Purnell as Emma, Chris O’Dowd as Jake’s father, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench and Rupert Everett.

I had read the book before watching the film, so I knew what to expect. If I remember, the book combines elements of fantasy with real photographs so there were two major elements of story telling involved. Despite the film’s faults, such as swapping round Emma’s pelicularity of fire in the book to controlling air in the film with another fellow character Olive’s fire power in the film, the film itself turned out rather well and it was in fact better than I expected.

Visually, it was beautiful and incredibly Burtonesque. His rather gothic way of storytelling proves to be a success in adapting a wonderful book into a better than average film with so many unpredictable moments. I have been watching nearly every Asa Butterfield film that he’s done since before he did The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (though I started to get interested in him when I watched said film) and I read the original Miss Peregrine book knowing that Asa Butterfield was going to play the lead boy in the film. He has done incredibly well for himself as a young actor and I yearn to watch some more of his films. As for Eva Green, she was brilliant as Miss Peregrine, and she described herself as an alternative Mary Poppins who combined elements of masculinity and femininity (the masculine being that she smokes a pipe and pipes are commonly associated with people like Sherlock Holmes).

I think it would be a great inconvenience to everyone if you had a peculiarity like the character of Hugh in the film, who can have swarms of bees flying out of his mouth, and that power would only prove to be handy if you had a worst enemy who happened to be allergic to bees. I think that it’s also quite cool that Miss Peregrine has the power to turn into a bird. FilmIf I could have any power from anyone in the film, I would probably have Jake’s power of seeing things that other people can’t see. I found it quite cool how there were time loops involved so the children stayed as children but of course left the loop by the end of the film.

The film and the book (the latter of which, may I add, is part of a 3-book series) combines elements of fantasy and magical realism, two of my favourite genres.

Overall, a splendid, fantasy film that proves to be fun (and a little scary) to people of all ages. A must see, especially if you like Tim Burton. The film teaches that it is alright to be even a little peculiar.



Pulp Fiction (1994)

‘Let’s get into character’ 

Pulp Fiction is a cult classic movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, and it follows a series of interlinking stories that are mostly centered around two hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnifield (Samuel L. Jackson), a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) and his love interest, and it starts and ends with two people at a diner. The film also stars Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino (who makes an appearance in all of his films).

I had heard of the film before, as its reputation as a modern classic proceeds it, along with its epic soundtrack. It also happens to be my younger brother’s favourite film. I have also previously seen other Quentin Tarantino films, such as Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. I particularly liked the five dollar milkshake and iconic dance scene between Vincent and Mia. I thought that Vincent and Mia would end up together, but they don’t. That’s what Tarantino is good at. Proving that you don’t need a romantic plot line to move the story along. If you were an inspiring filmmaker, this would be the movie to watch. The camera angles speak for themselves, and I particularly took notice of the positioning in the scene between Bruce Willis’ character and his love interest. His love interest is positioned lower than he is to show her vulnerability and the fact that she is intimidated by him and that he has more authority over her. I should also note that Tarantino sometimes uses medium closeups of the characters when they speak to draw attention to them when they talk. He’s also very good at using product placement, as the characters spend most of the film eating.

There is also a contrast between the women in the film. The main female character Mia is rather headstrong and a bit rebellious. She takes drugs and she doesn’t really care what other people think. She also reminds me of someone who I used to go to college with. The closeup shot of her Mia’s lips show feminitity, and the shot of her feet highlight suggest Tarantino’s interest in showing women’s feet  in all of his films. I personally thought that the other main women in the film were a bit annoying, and I’m rather glad that most of the marketing of the films involve Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman’s character).  I did not realize until now that the Direct Line adverts make an obvious reference to Pulp Fiction, as the actor Harvey Keitel is in both Pulp Fiction and the Direct Line ads.

Quentin Tarantino makes references to other films throughout the movie itself, and the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic 50s inspired bar in the film, where there are people dressed as Marilyn Munroe, Buddy Holly and James Dean. I don’t think my older sister (who likes Buddy Holly’s music) would be complaining if a Buddy Holly lookalike was a waiter in a cool restaurant. I like how the film eventually goes back to the beginning, and how Pulp Fiction messes with your mind. It’s a rather love it or hate it film. Despite that, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta made a good pairing and they were brilliant in their roles. I should also note of the editing between the pop tarts popping up in the toaster and the John Travolta character being shot. Apparently Pulp Fiction is told in a reverse chronological order.

I think that the soundtrack also goes with the popularity of the film. I had always associated Chuck Berry’s ‘You never can tell’ with the iconic dance scene, and I’d love to eventually learn how to do that dance. It looks like fun. I think they did that dance on Strictly a few years ago. I’ve also heard the introductory music of Pulp Fiction elsewhere as well.

Overall, a cult classic film that has inspired me to look into watching other classic Tarantino films. The only downside to this film is that it sometimes drags and goes off on a tangent and doesn’t make any sense, but I think that’s just Tarantino’s artistic way of filmmaking.



Homeland (TV show)

‘I’m a guy that kills bad guys’ 

warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

Homeland is a U.S TV show about a bipolar CIA agent named Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) who become s convinced that a marine and former POW named Sargent Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is planning a Muslim terror attack on American soil. Many storylines (mostly terrorism based) spiral out from there. It also stars Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn, a CIA officer and assassin, and Mandy Patinkin as Saul, among others, including F. Murray Abraham, who was in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I initally thought that the TV series got off to a slow start, though it only really picked up in Season 2, even though you got to know the fundamentals and the background in season 1. I was aware of Damien Lewis, but I hadn’t seen him in anything else. I must admit that the only reason why I watched Homeland was because it looked interesting and I like Rupert Friend’s work. The show itself goes on such a journey that season 1 lays down the fundamentals e.g Brody’s family life, his affair with Carrie, his strained familial relationships with his wife and children, his link to terrorism etc. However, from season 2 and 3 onwards, Quinn picks up from where Brody left off, especially after Brody dies in the season 3 finale. After that, there was a period of time when the show was trying to pick up its pieces. I didn’t care for many of the characters except for Brody, Quinn, Saul and Carrie, though my interest in the latter two characters does not convince me to carry on watching the show.

I like how nobody in the show is 100% good or bad. You also see the motivations and reasons  behind the characters so that they are never dull. Quinn comes across as being a bit odd, though he is an immensely likeable character. It was rather sad to see his vulnerability at stake in the final episode, and I was left feeling empty after he died, even though he’s not a real person. He survived a gassing, an explosion, several shootings, a stabbing and being in a near death situation in a coma. He grew with us as the viewers in all of the seasons that he was in. That’s perhaps what made the season five and six season finales so emotional (at least for me anyway).

As for all of the other characters, they were also rather interesting as well. Some of the issues in the show were also incredibly close to comfort, such as the IS, the 9/11, terror attacks, bomb threats, a new president and a whole list of other things, and the contrasts between religion I.e Muslim, atheist, catholic, Jew etc and being kept hostage. I also found that the news and social media played a huge part in the story itself and the motivations behind most of the storylines, and homemade controversial videos are one of the many ways to get you into trouble. It’s also rather scary how everything from trackers to your phone to even a drop of blood can be used as evidence for your whereabouts.

I first watched Homeland one weekend when I was scrolling through Netflix. I watched episodes in the hours between giving my brother his lunch and dinner when my parents were away. Back then, I was in my last few weeks of college (I’ve since graduated) and I was watching the episodes before and after college. The series had developed along with me, and it was sad to see all of the good characters go as I have an real connection with them.

Would I watch this show again? Yes, I would, just not the episodes after the sixth season. I wish that I could unwatch the series and rewatch it again as if I had seen it for the first time, or if I had never read any spoilers prior to watching it. I was rather emotional seeing Quinn detoriate towards the end of season five and for the entirety of season six and how it affected himself and everyone else around him. He was a rather unpredictable character, he could either lash out or ignore the other character or plan to do something sneaky like making a bomb or spy on people or run off. Season five was sort of left on a cliffhanger into whether Quinn would survive or not.

Had I known about this show later last year, then it could have contributed massively to a college art project about news. I like how they also don’t brush mental illness aside, as the main character Carrie has bipolar, the main guy’s daughter’s boyfriend has mental health issues and Quinn eventually gets PTSD etc.

Overall, a great and relevant show that adapts to the time and issues of modern America.