Network (1976) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 2h01
Release 01.11.2002
Director Sidney Lumet
About In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) discovers that he’s being put out to pasture, and he’s none too happy about it. After threatening to shoot himself on live television, instead he launches into an angry televised rant, which turns out to be a huge ratings boost for the UBS network. This stunt allows ambitious producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) to develop even more outrageous programming, a concept that she takes to unsettling extremes.
Moon: no moon
Where to Watch: Own copy
Trailer:

The Good

  • This is for anyone who loves the work of Aaron Sorkin. Particularly those who have watched, and loved, his 2012 drama The Newsroom. Not that this film takes away from Sorkin’s creation, far from it. This provides a viewer with an insight to the inspiration behind the work. I also suspect that there are some Easter Eggs hidden within the 3 season, Jeff Daniels fronted, show.
    I’d also say this is perfect for those who have enjoyed The Morning Show.
  • I’m not sure I’d heard of Peter Finch before watching this film. However, his performance was something else. It is easy to see why he won the best actor awards. I must admit, I do shy away from War based films, but perhaps this is the push I need to explore the genre. (Correction, I have seen Finch in A Town Like Alice. I know exactly who he plays, but I do not remember it.)
  • This is a prophetic tale akin to that of 1984 and almost as dark a morality story as A Handmaid’s Tale. While it could easily be reworked to fit our modern setting, the idea that this came as a “warning” does add to the horrific nature of that ending.
  • The cast is made up of people you will recognise, but not necessarily place. Yes, it may distract you from the narrative, but its really quite fun to work out what you know people from.

The Bad

  • Modern viewers have been ruined by on-your-nose satire and might miss some of the cues and nods being set out of the era in which the film was made. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even look anything up about this film prior to putting it on. I simply wanted to watch a film from the 70s and it was the first one to come up. It wasn’t obvious to me that it *was* satire until reading up on it.

The Ugly

  • It’s a very static and dialogue led film. This might seem like a strange criticism for someone who adores Sorkin and has a yearly rewatch of the Gilmore Girls. However, Sorkin did develop the ‘walk and talk’ and that really does give movement to his work.
    Network feels a little like a Samuel Beckett play; they all use a lot of words, but they don’t say very much at all. It felt to me, that this film had the same problem as Beckett’s play ‘Happy Days’ in which for two hours you watch ONE actor, buried from the waist talk to an unseen person. No movement, whatsoever.

Final Thoughts

A thought provoking must-see movie. Less painful than Citizen Kane, but you won’t necessarily feel entertained.

Inside Out (2015) Film Review

Rating U
Length 1h42
Release 24.7.2015
Director Pete Docter
About Eleven-year-old Riley moves to San Francisco, leaving behind her life in Minnesota. She and her five core emotions, Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust and Sadness, struggle to cope with her new life.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:

The Good

  • The story; the metaphor for emotions and memory is not only well presented, but it is really important for anyone exploring the growth mindset.
  • The use of colour to reflect Riley’s emotions is brilliant, particularly when Riley is on the bus and her thoughts change.
  • The voice casting is genius; Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler are perfect in their roles.
  • There’s the nice added touch of seeing into other people’s heads and how their Joy et al manifest.

The Bad

  • The clown and the imaginary friend. Nope, nope, nope! Hate them, can’t be doing with them. Just, no!
  • I hate Sadness. I know you’re meant to and the moral is that we all do need that bit of sadness in our lives, but seriously, I want to yeet her out the movie before it even begins.

The Ugly

  • How has there not been a sequel. There’s so much potential there that I would rather have seen a number 2 of this than the 4th Toy Story.

Final Thoughts

Another addition to the Pixar Studio. I must admit though, I absolutely hated this movie the first time I watched it.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Rating 15
Length 1h 54
Release 16.4.2021
Director Emerald Fennell
About Nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.


The Good

  • This film is visually beautiful. There were so many times during the runtime I thought ‘put that on a canvas and I’d hang it in my house’. Very few films have even one frame like that for me. Yet here is this film, a Film Studies academic’s dream, giving me enough canvas for a museum.
  • The film holds a wonderful familiarity with one of my favourite films, Get Carter, and a beloved tv show of mine, Veronica Mars. Not in a way that screams “remake” or “rip off”, but gives me the indication that the creatives behind this film are aiming for my demographic. That this is a film for me, by someone like me.
  • The entire cast is incredible, but this really is Carey Mulligan’s time to shine. It was Cassandra’s story and Mulligan told it with such a presence that you’re drawn right in. I always knew she was going on to do great things when my favourite episode of Doctor Who became the one in which the Doctor, David Tennant’s Doctor no less, was barely present. It makes the geek in me really happy to see her hold her own in such a powerful and important film.
  • Okay, there’s one other person I need to mention and that is Jennifer Coolidge. Holy crap, she blindsided me. She has been the epitome of comedy and caricatures that I am ashamed to say I cringed when I saw her name in the credits. Gone was that nasal squeak that she seemed to have branded herself with, gone are the blonde locks and instead we get a rather understated performance that really added to the family dynamic in the film. Directors, I hope you use this woman more because she is so much more than her 2 Broke Girls’ “Hi everybody”.

The Bad

  • Eat before you press play. Do everything you need to because you are not moving once it starts. I stupidly didn’t think I was going to like this movie, so I naively put it on about 30 minutes before I was going to have my dinner. I couldn’t pause, I couldn’t just nip out… this film had me not only engrossed, but invested. To have paused, even for a moment, could have altered the outcome.
    Now, that, that is cinema at its finest.

The Ugly

  • Its not the most comfortable of watches when you consider the themes, the story and the characters. This isn’t a film for entertainment’s sake. This is a cautionary tale and a societal mirror for trauma, grief and gender prejudice.

Final Thoughts

Watch this movie. Show your mother, your sister and most importantly, show your son, show your brother and show your dad this movie.

Educating Rita (1983)

Rating 15
Length 1h 50
Release 16.6.1983
Director Lewis Gilbert
About Rita (Julie Walters), a married hair stylist in her 20s, wants to go back to school. She begins studying with Dr. Bryant (Michael Caine), a professor using alcohol to cope with his divorce. Despite his personal problems, Dr. Bryant helps Rita realise her academic potential. In turn, her passion for learning revitalises his love of teaching.


The Good

  • I loved it from the very start. I’m a Scouser, so of course I’m going to be drawn in to a Willy Russell story that flirts with the original source material of Pretty Women and My Fair Lady (Pygmalion). Without naming them outright, this film takes on the class divide and gender politics that I’d hope not many people would stand for today.
  • It’s pacing and time span are perfect and allow you to stay invested. The creative team have added players and places in order to expand the story from the two person play Russell wrote. There’s no point in the film where I thought “Ah, that’s where the interval would be.” Something that can be rather obvious if a play is not well adapted.
  • Michael Caine. Bloody hell, I loved and loathed the character in equal measure. There’s not many men who could bring the charm that he did to the role and it makes the difference. The alcoholism is a difficult thing to portray on film and its something that can suck the humanity out of even the best of people. So to see the character of Frank come alive at the prospect of educating Rita… or rather Rita educating him, it allows you to invest in the character. More so than My Fair Ladys Professor Higgins.
  • Now, I’ve always been a bit bias when it comes to Julie Walters; she reminds me of my mum. So to have her in a film playing a Scouser, making those ‘ays’ and ‘tarras’, was a bittersweet dream for me. Not only that, but for me, it played almost like I was watching what could have been my mother’s life.
    Julie Walter’s in this film is incredible. Anyone who has seen her in anything, will know that she is a chameleon. However, in this we see her evolve the character and bring Susan/Rita from a state of turmoil and wanting to discover herself, to being an independent and confident woman who at least knows who she is in the moment.

The Bad

  • For me, the suicide attempt of the friend came out of left field. While it was very well handled and approached, I found it difficult to watch for the reality of it and the candour in which Maureen Lipman’s Trish speaks about her sadness that she hadn’t succeeded. It was the final line in their interaction that struck home for me “When I listen to poetry and music, then I can live. You see, darling, the rest of the time it’s just me. And that’s not enough.”
    I’ll forgive you if you scoff at first. I certainly did when she opened with the music and poetry; she has been set up as rather pretentious. However, the reveal opens up and and its certainly something that transcends class; the opinion we have of ones self. It’s often rather shit and a battle to challenge.

The Ugly

  • The synthesiser music seems to clash with the story being told. It seems more like music heard in BBCs Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981) or A Clockwork Orange (1971). It’s a shame really because it doesn’t match the tone of the movie and even goes so far as to make it feel like a TV movie.
  • Where the fuck is it set? It ain’t Liverpool. It’s really frustrating to know that the source material places it there, but due to bloody politics (Tories again, the bastards), production was moved to Ireland. Can’t help but feel thrown off by not recognising any of the locations.

Final Thoughts

I’m only gutted I’ve never thought to seek this film out before today. Walters and Caine could have quite easily filmed this in the one room without any other participants and I would have been just as enchanted.
That said, give me a budget and Jodie Comer in Liverpool and I would relish a remake. Yes, we’re seeing a lot of 80s vintage in movies, but I feel like this bit of Russell grit will give people something away from the neon and pop.

Film Review: Aladdin (1992)

Length: 1Hr 30

Rating: U

Release: 17th November 1992

About: When street rat Aladdin frees a genie from a lamp, he finds his wishes granted. However, he soon finds that the evil has other plans for the lamp — and for Princess Jasmine. But can Aladdin save Princess Jasmine and his love for her after she sees that he isn’t quite what he appears to be?

First things first

This was my birthday movie for 1992. My neighbour went to see it just before Christmas and invited me, but I was a tool and turned the offer down under the argument of ‘it’s my birthday movie’. I was very surprised when my dad picked this to watch, but I suspect it’s because he wants to watch the new one that’s about to be released and can’t get to the cinema.

The Good

• Robin Williams marked a change in animation. Yes, Angela Lansbury had leant her vocal talents to Mrs Potts the year before, but she had always been part of the Disney stable and I would argue her box office potential. Williams brought about the start of employing box office stars to headline animations. What a choice it was?! There’s been so much talk about the upcoming live-action release and that’s centred around the casting of the Genie. How can anyone replace someone who made the role iconic?!

• It’s not only Williams’ familiar tones that we all love, it’s his humour that has adults and children alike belly laughing. The imitations and nods to pop culture are perfect and make sure that adults feel invested in the film too.

• The music is delightful and I think I prefer it to The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. It has a happy beat, reminiscent of Jungle Book that you will always hum for hours after finishing the film. My personal favourite is Prince Ali. The only shame is that the songs are front heavy and we only get a brief reprise and reworking of Prince Ali at the climax.

• My favourite characters will always be Abu, the monkey and the carpet! I love the humour gained from both. I would say the Carpet is the precursor to BB-8; cute but sassy.

The Bad

• There are a few scenes that are using the high tech computer graphics. Only problem is, that what was high tech in 1992 no longer looks the case. As a result, the escape from the cave of wonders and some of the palace doesn’t blend as well with the rest of the traditional animation. It is perhaps why it’s not long before the Mouse House trade in traditional methods for a consistent computer created approach.

The Ugly

• It’s very Hollywood and very white washed. While the story is, without a doubt, perfect this was one of the animations in Disney Vault that should be given the makeover treatment. The animations are perhaps ‘culture neutral’, however when you see that most of the voices are produced by white Americans, it’s hard to deny it’s a little questionable. It’s certainly enough for me to feel a little uncomfortable and welcome the new live action.

(Side bar): I find it quite interesting how many people of ethnic origins are voicing white characters in animations. I’m not sure where I stand on this; should it go with the ‘no straight actor should play a gay character’? It’s something I want to consider further, but surely if I’m offended by Anthony Hopkins black facing Othello, this is of a similar ilk?

Final Thoughts

Casting aside, this is a perfect animated classic; funny, action packed and with a good hearted protagonist.

Whiplash- 15

whiplash-bloodThere was no doubt that I was seeing this movie. I didn’t want to, but it had an Oscar nomination and I like to have the full set. At the time of writing this, I only have Selma left to see out of the best picture catagory and 12 others (outside of shorts and foreign language. That is not to say I’m avoiding them, it’s just difficult and I have priorities)

I digress. This is a hipster anti Dead Poet’s Society film. It’s cruel, it’s unrelenting. You see the *twist* coming a mile away and wonder why Miles Teller’s Andrew is gutten for more in that final act. That said, It’s hilarious, J. K Simmons is a genius as sadistic Terrence Fletcher, hell bent in the belief that everyone needs to be pushed to breaking point to reach greatness.

The romantic storyline between Teller’s Andrew and Mellisa Benoist’s Nicole is a little underdeveloped to the point of pointlessness (Ok yes, Andrew puts music/drumming first. Sleeping next to his drum kit and playing to the point he’s bleeding do that just fine), but I guess it says it all when the only character name I don’t need to look up is her’s.

I’m happy to see Paul Reiser of ‘My Two Dads’ and ‘Aliens’ play the role of Andrew’s father. While he plays a vital role toward the end of the film, he is still underused. It comes across as two different films. I would have like to have either seen Andrew completely cut off from everyone, or a little bit more of a development of those close characters; after all, I don’t believe a father as caring as Reisser’s Jim would ever let the problems get so far.
The biggest let down for me was that I’d convinced myself from the trailer that Sam Caflin was playing a part in this movie. Alas, no Finnick to cheer me on my way.

The music was good. However, shouldn’t I be saying the music was great, fantasic, superb. I love my jazz, but the story took it away from me. Jazz, to me, is about expression and soul. Neither of which I saw represented in this film.

Now, I did what I NEVER do with this movie. I read a number of reviews first. I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to see this movie. They all raved about it, stellar performances (I’ll give you J.K, but check out 21 and Over for a better performance from Teller.), great story, worthy of repeat viewing. I think I’m missing something (more that Caflin). I did not leave feeling like I’d learnt a lesson (Other than I need to curb my OCD of completing collections. Which reminds me, I need to buy a kinder egg on my way home), I think it’s ruined jazz for me and it certainly didn’t put the arts in a good light.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Pace- 7
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 6

Wild- 15 (potential spoilers)

wild r witherspoon

An allegory for the grief process, this film will hit home to anyone who has lost someone close to them.
The narrative is edited like a jigsaw to allow the audience feel as lost as Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl. What inspired her to go on this crazy journey that so many abandon? Typical biopic feels are here; loss, betrayal and most importantly overcoming challenges on the way.

A movie about walking?! I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% sold from the trailer and multiple visits to Middle Earth have taught me not to trust a film that has walking central to the narrative. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had enough humour in the opening scene to throw me off guard.

I found the flashbacks to Laura Dern’s demise a little too close to the knuckle for me. Having lost my own mother almost 9 years ago, I found a little too much of myself in the character. Ok, so I certainly didn’t go down the path of heroin and sex, but we all become a little self destructive and in need of self discovery when you loose a parent so young. Dern was so perfectly flawed that I did want a little more screen time with her. However, isn’t that the point; Don’t we all want a little more time with our mothers?

Witherspoon pulls this character off brilliantly, shaking off all the preppy happy people of the past. She fully deserves the Oscar nomination. However, with such contenders as Julianne Moore and Rosamund Pike at the 2015 proceedings, I simply don’t think it’s her year. If she keeps picking these roles though, one could be in her sights very soon.

The film ends with you feeling satisfied that all wounds are healed. A little too much of a Hollywood ending, but at least it conveys that most important message; there is hope.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 8
Pace- 8
Music/Sound- 7
Enjoyability- 8

Big Hero 6

big hero 6

Marvel have failed to put their name on what is quite possibly ‘their’ best Disney film to date. Having now been to a Q&A with Producer John Lasseter and director Don Hall I have a little more insight into this. It is very much a Disney movie with Marvel DNA.
Big Hero 6 is a typical origin story, but with a big heart and many more laughs. The plot has everything it needs and even the short lived character, Tadashi (explained in the trailer), is well developed. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting him to have as much screen time as he did (due to the reveal in the trailer), but I truly left wanting more of him. He played off so well against his bother.
The big bad is dispatched before the film is out and this can sometimes be a fault of Marvel/hero movies, it can be forgiven as there is currently not plans set in stone for a sequel. This said, it is one of the strongest Marvel villains seen on screen and a sequel would be welcome.
What I do hope is that Disney/Marvel seize this opportunity to create a comic that will engage younger people and inspire the next generation of readers.

Cast/Voice talent- 9
Cinematography- 10
Plot- 8
Music/Sound- 8
Pace- 9
Enjoyability- 9

Birdman- 15

Michael Keaton plays a washed-up superhero actor in this breathtakingly original showbiz satire.

I left the film not knowing if this was the best piece of film ever created or the worst drivel I have yet to inflict upon myself. I still don’t know.
Keaton is good and Norton steals the show, but in a film about actors it’s hard to tell if they are simply playing themselves or not.
While I enjoyed seeing such an ensemble on the screen, I am still finding it hard to see the point of the movie other than it being a mainstream artsy hipster conceit created simply to be an Oscar nomination.
I don’t feel like my time has been wasted, but I still feel like I’ve been left out of a joke or missing one vital piece of information that will make the whole thing make sense.The irony of seeing a play about producing a film noir movie (City of Angels, review to follow) made it hard not to see the flaws in Birdman.
The music in this film is obtrusive and unrelenting to the point of distraction. While it is later revealed to diegetic (or not, if it is indeed all in Keaton’s head), it detracts from the overall enjoyability.

It’s worth a high brow watch, particularly if you are in the midst of an Oscar buzz, but it is not a film for your DVD collection.

Cast- 9
cinematography- 8
plot- 7
music/sound- 3
pace- 7
enjoyability- 6

Foxcatcher- 15

Foxcatcher

Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star in a gripping psychological drama based on the shocking true story of an Olympic champion.

Steve Carell in haunting brilliant, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are beautifully ugly to the point that it’s hypnotic. All three are able to suggest the emotional scars without having to dwell upon them.
The hard part I have always found about ‘psychological dramas’ is that it is a term thrown about to excuse the feeling that audiences don’t quite know what’s going on. It also seems to be a little confused about what it is trying to achieve; the first bulk of the movie plays like a Sports film. It was only the last third of the film that revealed itself as anything but a quirky, arty look at the world of wrestling.
I found the film a little overindulgent and lacking any energy or motivation to keep an audience captivated. That said, those who are interested in biopic and sports movies will find some redeeming features.

It is very much an Oscar bait movie: high brow, arty and primarily about the acting while not caring about the comfort of the audience.

cast 10
cinematography 7
plot- 8
pace- 5
music/sound- 5
enjoyability- 4

American Sniper – 15

2015/01/img_1121.jpg

Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper in the visceral true story of the U.S. Military’s most lethal sniper.

An all too real look into the Iraqi battlefield, Bradley Cooper is perfect in the role of Chris Kyle; Navy SEAL and sniper legend. His portrayal is uncompromising and powerful.
Sienna Miller is excellent as Chris’ suffering wife, left at home while he completes four volatile tours. However, the supporting cast feel a little underused and too interchangeable.
The film initially plays with the narrative; flitting back and forth smoothly until Chris’ timeline crashes back to the opening scene. It appears to be a common trick with a number of films recently and it really works here.
Apart from one action laden scene that takes place in a sand storm, this is one of the most engaging and emotive war movies for many years.

Cast- 9/10
Cinematography- 7/10
Plot- 9/10
Pace- 9/10
Music/sound- 7/10
Enjoyability- 8/10

Total-48/60