September Cinema goings

Hello readers,

This was initially going to just be a review of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood but I decided to include a couple of others I saw in the cinema this month. A Rainy Day in New York was one I went to for the actors and even though the performances were good, Woody Allen’s direction and writing did not work. Animals, directed by Sophie Hyde, was a screening I attended on my shift at the small cinema where I volunteer. Bizarrely, no-one turned up. Below, I’m going to examine why these films have not done so well. Plus what I think of the latest Tarantino.

A Rainy Day in New York

A Rainy Day in New York (2019)
A Rainy Day in New York Poster

As a fan of TimothĂ©e Chalamet and his Oscar nominated performance in ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (Now on Netflix) I wanted to see this film for his performance. I saw it in a cinema in Turkey on holiday this summer. It has yet to be released in the UK or US. The film has faced lots of controversy due to allegations against writer and director Woody Allen. I’m not here to debate his actions but let me just say that I do not agree with them and by watching the film I am in no way defending Woody Allen. Many of the cast have also tried to distance themselves from the film and have donated their salaries to the charity ‘Time’s Up’ which fights for fair treatment of men and women in many industries but specifically the Hollywood business.

Now on to the film. The basic premise involves college couple Gatsby (Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) going to New York City for an interview Ashleigh has landed with a director. Gatsby wants to turn the weekend into showing her his favourite spots as a New York Native and meeting his family. They quickly get separated as Ashleigh gets involved in the dramas of the director (Liev Schreiber), his screenwriter (Jude Law)and hotshot actor Francisco Vega (Diego Luna). Gatsby connects with his ex-girlfriend’s younger sister, Chan (Selena Gomez) and ends up taking her to the activities.

The synopsis doesn’t sound so bad but the writing and many plot points turned this film into a sexist, unbelievable film. For starters, all the characters speak to each other as though they are doing a PhD in linguistics. The language is filled with metaphors and references that the target audience, 16-24, would not understand. I certainly did not understand it neither did the person I went with. As for the sexism, Ashleigh goes to do a one hour interview with a director and ends up having emotional and physical affairs with three different older men in one day. She is a smart young woman and seeing all these older men taking advantage of her is so remnant of the #MeToo movement that Allen is involved in its almost funny. Most people would not just abandon their boyfriends to go off with older men despite how clever or sexy they are. Ashleigh was also playing the part of the dumb blond. She could never remember which hotel she was staying in. She may never have been to New York except for once in her childhood but anyone can remember one name.

Ashleigh’s naivety and Gatsby’s pursuit of Chan despite once dating her sister and being in a relationship are some of the points of the film that really did not work for me. Also, the coincidences of people just happening to run into each other was too unbelievable. Once or twice for the rom com effect maybe but New York is not as small as it appeared to be in this film. The ending where Chan and Gatsby just know to meet in the same place was cute but too far-fetched. Another scene where Gatsby’s mother confesses to being an escort before she met his father didn’t add anything to the plot. This is practically the only scene we see them interact.

One other issue I had was that despite having smartphones, the film could have been set in the 80s/90s. The characters never went on social media which is an every day necessity of Generation Z or took any photos. They only used their phones for the occasional text or call. I think if you’re going to write a film in modern day New York you have to use the technology and environment of the present day. You could tell that it was written by someone who is not familiar with what the younger generation actually do or talk about.

Overall the actors did the best with what they had but it just felt like any other Woody Allen film from days gone by. I half expected Diane Keaton to pop up in a baggy suit. 2/5.

Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Damon Herriman, Timothy Olyphant, Mike Moh, Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley, and Julia Butters in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood Poster

I finally got around to seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film. It was definitely not what I expected but after reflecting for a few weeks was typical of Tarantino’s personal style, elevated by the talented cast. I am not a huge fan of Tarantino having seen about half of his filmography which is not hard as he has only made nine films. My favourite is Inglorious Basterds but Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood is definitely up there. I really enjoyed the setting and aesthetic of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The film revolves around several characters, many stars from the time. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an action star is becoming edged out of the business and feels like his glory days are over. His friend and stunt man, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is struggling with his own life being over and how he’s going to survive in his trailer.

Rick lives next door to Hollywood director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). They are rarely seen together as Roman is always away filming. Sharon is often seen with her ex, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). Rick is trying to get more roles as the leading man but ends up doing many guest TV episodes as the one off villain. His agent, Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) suggests he find more leading man roles otherwise the public will start to see him as the villain.

Meanwhile, Cliff has his own plot going on as he meets Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) from a nearby cult run by ‘Charlie’ who is actually Charles Manson. I was aware that the story evolved around Sharon Tate and Charles Manson and thought it would show the famous murder but it had a more spectacular, fictonal ending. Anyway, Cliff visits the ranch where the cult live to check on an old friend, George Spahn (Bruce Dern).

Other highlights include Sharon going to the cinema to see her new film and not being recognised; Rick being told by his young co-star ‘that was some of the best acting I’ve ever seen’; a fight between Cliff and Bruce Lee and Brad Pitt shirtless on a roof. The ending was in true Tarantino style, violent and over the top. It involved members of the cult breaking into Rick’s house and ends with mauling, stabbing and one of the intruders being torched by Rick’s flame gun. Although the violence was over the top for the film, it was true to Tarantino’s style.

Overall I really enjoyed the film and the Hollywood setting really made it for me. The calibre of acting was amazing and it was great to see Leo and Brad vibing off each other. The script was great and all the shop fronts, cars, costumes and props really helped you believe it was 1969. 4/5.

Animals

Animals (2019)
Animals Poster

I had not heard much about this film other than seeing in it on the programme but I think it was a shame that no one turned up to see it. It had a quality that really drew you to the characters and I certainly became invested in their story. It centres on two women, Laura and Tyler, roommates and best friends living in Ireland. They party most nights but when Laura finds a connection with musician Jim, she tries to pull away from her life with Tyler.

The raw honesty in this film, based on a book by Emma Jane Unsworth, was one of the best parts about it. Female friendships are often shown as rock solid and always loving and supportive but the rockiness and co-dependency of Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler’s (Alia Shawkat) friendship was really refreshing to see. We can see the world through both of their eyes. Laura is fed up of being told how great she is by Tyler despite not doing any work. She claims to be a writer but has only done 10 pages in the last decade. Tyler constantly tells her how talented she is but when it comes to actually writing Laura draws a blank and goes back to drinking and partying with Tyler.

Tyler meanwhile doesn’t seem to have many ambitions other than having a brilliant night every night. Her outfits are outrageous and cool. Clothes we all wish we could pull off before throwing on jeans and a nice top. She is very insecure about Laura’s whirlwind relationship with Jim and their engagement seems to be the catalyst to set off the divide between them. Tyler turns 30 but doesn’t feel like she should clean up her act until Laura moves out.

Laura seeing her wild little sister have a baby and settled into family life drives her to want to marry Jim but the pair don’t actually have that much in common. The hopelessness and pressure to write something good was greatly shown by Laura. She had a fear of never being brilliant so didn’t really try.

I think that no one turned up as it had not been greatly advertised and most of the cast and crew aren’t widely known. Marketing is so important in today’s era when there is so much choice.

Overall I enjoyed the film and was an honest portrait of women with no male gaze thanks to the female director, Sophie Hyde. An enjoyable watch that will make you feel better about your own failures. 3/5.

This concludes my three films for this post. No 5/5s for this week but not every film you see is going to be amazing. They all had their own qualities though.

Other films I have enjoyed recently are Dead in a Week… Or Your Money Back; The Back-Up Plan and Tall Girl. Now that I am back at university, I hope to start going to the cinema more often.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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Lion King – How does the new CGI film match up to the original… and the musical on the West End

Hello readers,

I know I haven’t been very active recently but holidays and such things have kept me busy and I haven’t been going to the cinema as much. Anyway, I have had this post in the works for a month now and thought I would finally write it while Lion King is still relevant.

If you’re a Lion King fan you probably will have seen the new version by now but I thought I would compare it to the original and the musical which I was lucky enough to see at the West End last winter.

Old vs. New

The Lion King (1994)
Lion King 1994 Poster
James Earl Jones and JD McCrary in The Lion King (2019)
Lion King 2019 Poster

For many people the original 1994 Lion King is a classic and well-loved childhood film. I have seen this film a handful of times as both child and adult and I agree that it is one of Disney’s best from that era. The Elton John soundtrack; the voice acting; the classic animation style and the fact that it’s set in the plains of Africa with no human characters, not something that was common in Disney or any animation at the time. To anthropomorphise a pride of lions, hyenas and a warthog and give them very real human emotions and relationships could be considered a risky move but one that Disney pulled off.

It ended up grossing $968m at the box office and won two Academy Awards, another rarity for a children’s animation.

After the success of the first film, the new CGI version of 2019 had a lot to live up to. For me, the original will always be number one as that’s the one I grew up with along with many others and the animation style is dated enough to remind me of days gone by and how far cinema has come. Needless to say I did enjoy the new one. I thought the CGI was great and it made it all much more real. You could really believe that these animals could talk and interact with each other whereas the cartoon was relying more on imagination and artistic license.

I also loved the new twists such as the new song Spirit and elaboration on some scenes. To most people who perhaps saw the original film 20 years ago, the films will appear almost identical but having recently watched the older version I can see the subtle changes. Obviously nothing was changed too much as the original plot, characters and songs are what make the film enjoyable and popular but an identical replica would not draw the crowds. I must admit I did find myself dropping off asleep for a couple of minutes but whether I was just tired or the film didn’t keep me as enraptured as it should have is by the by. I saw the film a week or so after it was released and the screening was pretty full so clearly it was popular.

One small fact that I learned from the internet is there is one real shot in the film that is not CGI created. It is the sun rising over the trees at the very beginning just as Circle of Life is starting. Jon Favreau, the director, said he wanted to put it in to see if anyone would notice. I knew it was coming but couldn’t distinguish real from computer generated. To date, the film has grossed $1.5bn and is now the seventh biggest grossing of all time. If you compare the totals to the original Lion King which when adjusted for inflation grossed $1.6bn it’s about on par and is still in cinemas so could surpass.

Award ceremonies are yet to happen for 2019 Lion King but I’m sure there will be some nominations in there somewhere.

New vs. Musical

JD McCrary in The Lion King (2019)
Simba in Lion King 2019
Image result for lion king west end musical
The Lion King Musical Poster

Last November, I went to the West End to see the production of The Lion King. It was set up by a Disney film society I am part of at university and I must admit I had not desires previously to see it but when the trip was mentioned I thought it would make for a fun evening.

All my expectations were thrown out the door as soon as the musical began. I wasn’t sure how people were going to portray the animals, maybe just suggested with face paint or masks, but the Africa headdresses and elaborate puppets brought a creative and imaginative spark to the story. The songs and dances were performed using stage mechanics along with talented dancers and singers. It was definitely not your typical musical but it needed to be to show the story.

Some highlights for me included Circle of Life where Pride Rock rose from the stage and Hakuna Matata, a song I always enjoy. Our seats were quite far back but I could still see everything and get the full effect of the show. It was so different from the film that I was not comparing them in my head at all. I loved this interpretation and can now see why so many people flock to see it.

Now comparing the musical with the new film is tricky as they are different mediums with different budgets and boundaries but I think I liked the power and emotion of the songs on stage more than the film’s versions. Seeing an actual person singing and pouring their heart into the scene is different from seeing a CGI lion do the same. However, I think the setting and plot flowed better in the film as the musical left some things open to interpretation. One hilarious moment that you can only do on stage was when Zazu is singing ‘Let it Go’ and Scar tells him to be quiet. Zazu from the film would have no idea about Frozen or any film for that matter. There were a few fourth wall breaks which added an unexpected comedy element to the dark and dramatic tale.

I couldn’t pick one above the other as they are both amazing in different ways so if you are a fan of musicals or Lion King, I recommend seeing for yourself.

Hopefully I will be getting to the cinema more this summer so will have more films to write about.

Films I have enjoyed in the last month or so: Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw; Apollo 13; The Gambler; Fun with Dick and Jane; Death at a Funeral (2007); The Adjustment Bureau; As Good as It Gets; American Made and All the Money in the World.

TV shows I would recommend: Forever (only one series but worth it); 13 Reasons Why Series 3 (up to episode 10 and gripped); Good Omens (Dad loved the book, amazing show and I am now reading the book); This Way Up (Aisling Bea is amazing); GameFace Series 2 (Roisin Conaty, likewise); GLOW Series 3 (amazing).

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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Stranger Things 3 – A Masterpiece of 80s nostalgia

Hello readers,

Another post so soon? What a shock. I have been travelling a lot recently so haven’t gone to the cinema too much until a week or so ago but now I have the whole summer to watch and review.

In this post I am talking about the new season/series of Stranger Things!

Image result for stranger things 3 promo pics
Stranger Things 3 promotional poster

Thought about posting this earlier but wanted to make sure I didn’t spoil the series for any one not as fast at bingeing as me. So if you haven’t seen all of Stranger Things 3 or are planning to watch it in the future, look away now!

The latest series had a different vibe to the previous: the kids are growing up; they’ve lost people; the stakes are becoming higher and the monsters harder to conquer.

The addition of the Starcourt Mall to Hawkins, Indiana was a great plot idea as it created the location for many of the adventures, shopping trips and final showdowns. Steve and Robin work at Scoops Ahoy for the summer, the group sneak into the cinema and Russians are building something underneath.

Starcourt Mall, Hawkins, IN

I think that the dynamics between all the different characters were very well balanced. There are more characters than ever this series with new additions of Robin, Alexei, Tom, Larry and Heather. The main cast are split into four gangs, if you will. There is Scoops Troop consisting of Steve, Robin, Dustin and Erica, Lucas’ younger sister who has a much bigger role in series 3. Their adventure below the Starcourt Mall trying to defeat Russians and become American heroes takes them away from the main action of the Mind Flayer and the Flayed.

Scoops Troop

Eleven has grown into her new home and place within the group, bonding with Max and having a summer of love with Mike. The kids group consists of Max, Lucas, Will, Mike and Eleven. They are soon joined by Jonathan and Nancy who get up to some investigating of their own involving rats and fertiliser.

Another character off on their own adventure is Billy, Max’s older step-brother and eye-candy of the community pool. Again his role has been expanded this series. Last series, Billy was an enemy, Steve’s school rival and Max’ gate keeper. This series there is so much more to his story. Also stemming from the last series is the relationship that Billy has built up with Karen, Nancy and Mike’s mother. Billy suggests they meet in motel for some private ‘swimming lessons’ and I bet Karen is glad she didn’t go through with it after Billy’s arc this series. Billy recruits Heather into his evil plots but he isn’t himself. The Mind Flayer is back and has taken over Billy’s mind.

Billy and Karen Wheeler
Heather

Our last group of Stranger Things characters are Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper, Will’s mother and Eleven’s adoptive father, Jopper. They team up to investigate mysterious goings on with a loss of magnetism in the town. Joyce also goes to Mr Clarke for help, the kid’s science teacher. They then kidnap Alexei and hold him hostage from a man who could be described as the Russian Terminator. They find Murray as he is the only Russian speaker for miles around.

It was really interesting to split up the characters into new and old gangs to work out what monsters are plaguing Hawkins and I think when they eventually all teamed up together which I was hoping for, they all gelled well with one another.

The setting and 80s culture played a big part in this series as always. The fashion of crazy prints, short shorts and block colours was great to explore and as this series is set around 4th July, the Duffer Brothers could explore what a summer in Hawkins looks like. Particular stand out outfits to me were Eleven’s. Max takes her shopping to the mall and they go to The Gap to get her a new look after she dumped Mike. The clash of patterns and bright colours were great for Eleven and showed some of her quirky personality.

Max and Eleven

Other 80s culture I loved was the films that were referenced. With the new multiplex cinema in Starcourt, the characters had many chances to go the cinema. At the beginning of the series, the group sneak into a showing of Day of the Dead and when Steve and Robin have been drugged by the Russians, on their escape Dustin and Erica try to get them to hide out in a screening of Back to the Future. Other films on the marquee at the front of the cinema are Fletch, D.A.R.Y.L., The Stuff and Return to Oz.

Image result for starcourt cinema stranger things
Starcourt Cinema

Other pop culture items mentioned are Ralph Macchio: Max’s apparent celebrity crush which prompts Lucas to wear a Karate Kid t-shirt; The Neverending Story theme tune: a duet between Dustin and his camp girlfriend, Suzie over radio; Cheers, a popular US TV show that Joyce and Hopper both watch and the New Coke that only Lucas likes.

The monsters were bigger and gorier than before with the Mind Flayer possessing Billy then getting him to kidnap others for the army. In the end almost thirty people end up as Mind Flayer goop. The monster that grows larger, the more it absorbs people is the most gruesome so far and hardest to destroy. Jonathan and Nancy in the hospital certainly try their hardest but don’t succeed. Of course it takes team work, powers and sheer cleverness to defeat the monsters… and the evil Russians.

The series was kept with Stranger Things’ theme and tone and made a brilliant new season. I cannot wait to see what they have in store next year.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Films I’ve enjoyed recently are Chasing Happiness, Legend, Starter for 10, Rough Night and Wildlife.

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Yesterday film review and my extra experience!

Hello Readers,

Last Saturday I went to the cinema to see the film Yesterday. This has been a long standing arrangement with my friends for the last 365 days. That is because we were extras in the film when the cast and crew filmed at Gorleston Beach for the day. Gorleston is where I have spent much of my childhood and is only a short drive from our home town.

The film itself was a delight. Watching it felt like a warm hug on a winter’s day or a bar of chocolate after a rough day at school. I think that it will become an instant classic as so many of Richard Curtis’ and Danny Boyle’s films have already. There was a real feel good vibe about the story. I felt attached to the film because of my extra experience and that the character was from a part of the world I knew very well. However, I think it is enjoyable no matter your own experiences or where in the world you hail from.

I will start by reviewing the film itself then move on to the day of filming.

Yesterday (2019) Poster

Yesterday tells the story of Jack, a struggling musician from Suffolk. He continuously tries to break into the music scene by gigging in local pubs and at one point a festival but with no luck. In a freak storm that causes a worldwide blackout and an unfortunate yet hilarious injury for Jack, his life changes. The world can no longer remember the chart topping, legendary band, The Beatles. As a guitar player and singer, they are some of Jack’s idols but now no one else in the world knows who they are.

Jack sees this opportunity to reinvent his musical persona after hearing amazing feedback from his friends and manager/friend Ellie. He starts by recording some of the songs and his success spreads very quickly with the help of Ed Sheeran. He becomes a worldwide sensation but starts to loose focus of what matters, his friends and possible romance with Ellie.

I am a huge fan of The Beatles so would definitely be seeing this film even if I hadn’t been an extra. I was worried at first that Jack would be trying to pass off the music as his own without any moral dilemmas but throughout the film, Jack is constantly unsure if he is doing the right thing and fears being caught out. He only does it to show the world the incredible music they have all forgotten. He just wants the world to know the power of the Beatles.

My friend Will who was also an extra enjoyed the film and it made him more excited to see it having been in the film.

My experience as a film extra

The day itself was a really great atmosphere and a fun day out. I heard about the experience from a friend and rallied together a group to drive to the beach. I am not sure why but I wasn’t expecting the beach to be that busy. Probably because I hadn’t seen the event advertised on social media or heard about it from anyone else.

When we got there, I was shocked to see hordes of people at the car park, waiting to get the bus to the beach. The crowd was about 6,000 people, the largest gathering of extras in the UK. The experience was free but we still had to get tickets and waiting in line to get them checked took a while but we all got the the beach. There was a field full of Porta Loos and food stands as we all had a free burger and ice cream for taking part.

We were quite near the back as we did not arrive at the crack of dawn and because some of the party got lost on the way. We still had a great view of the Pier Hotel, where the main action was. Having Danny Boyle, a world famous director interact with the crowd and tell us what to do was an amazing experience. I could see lots of cameras on the stage and a band all set up; there was another big camera near us and a helicopter that flew over head.

Filming that day really made me appreciate how much effort goes into such a small scene. It took basically 6 hours to get the shots and we did probably 8 or 9 takes of jumping up and down for a song. It must have taken a lot of coordination. I couldn’t really tell what the song was as it was a more rocky version but after watching the film, Jack is upset while playing it so the song comes out very angry. The scene that took a whole day to shoot, was probably two or three minutes in the film.

Another friend who was there on the day said that it “felt cool to be part of an actual film and see the director”.

The only downside of the experience was the sunburn that I came home with.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Other films I have enjoyed at the cinema recently are: Rocketman, Toy Story 4, Men in Black International and Spiderman: Far from Home.

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Romantic Comedies are now promoting smart, successful and powerful women… and they’re still funny

Hello readers,

It’s been a while since I have done a post, just over six weeks but with university ending for this year and England suddenly becoming a warm country I haven’t found the time. I then saw a great film last night that I knew would make a great review. Long Shot starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen is a romantic comedy but one I had not seen before with the woman more powerful than her love interest. The way of Hollywood and other film industries is that the woman will have a job as a secretary/bakery owner/journalist/teacher or something else. These jobs are, of course all valid and necessary but her male love interest will be a banker/CEO/policeman/her boss or someone with more authority and power. In Long Shot, the roles are flipped.

Long Shot Poster

Charlize Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State of the United States. She has all the power, a team of advisers and not much down time. Her love interest, Fred Flarsky, played by Seth Rogen is a junkie journalist who is forced to quit his job and dresses like he’s going to a 90s rave. Charlotte holds all the power between the two and it is her career on the line throughout the film.

Although of course, this is still the real world and the United States of America so even though Charlotte is successful, she is still treated as unequal to the male politicians in the film. She is talks about being asked what her skincare routine is, what designer she is wearing or being treated as just a pretty face. She has to work twice as hard as the men just to be taken seriously as a politician.

The film showed me that women in positions of power often have to fight harder for longer to gain the respect that men seem to gain more easily. The President of the United States in the film played by Bob Odenkirk and is a TV star who previously played the president on a TV show then decided to run for office. I thought that was a fun twist and The President decides he won’t be running for a second term to get into movie acting which he sees as more ambitious then being POTUS.

The main story of the film is that Fred leaves his job then goes to a benefit with his successful friend, Lance, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. They run into Charlotte who used to be Fred’s babysitter when he was a teenager. Charlotte decides that to up her humour points, she has to hire Fred to write her speeches. The two go on a tour promoting Charlotte’s ‘bees, trees and seas’ environmental plan that she has been passionate about since she was 16.

While touring around the world, Fred and Charlotte reconnect and get to know each other better. Fred helps Charlotte to relax more and develop interests outside of her job. As this is a Seth Rogen film, he off course smokes weed and one hilarious scene involves Charlotte and Fred going clubbing in Paris after having taken drugs. Charlotte then has to deal with a hostage situation whilst still high.

The villain of the film, Parker Wembley played by Andy Serkis in some prosthetics, runs Wembley News that makes ridiculous claims and tries to discredit Charlotte. He continues trying to get a meeting with her after she persistently turns him down. It is his actions that almost ruin Charlotte’s career.

This film is laugh out loud funny which was not compromised despite the politics and feminism woven throughout the plot. There were no politically incorrect jokes or degrading comments made about women that were not self-aware or seen as bad within the film.

My friend Terry who I went to see the film with said that she liked the way that Charlotte “manages to achieve her goals without compromising her beliefs and still get the guy.” Terry also said that Charlotte “felt really real to me. She felt like a real person. You don’t often feel that in rom coms, especially with the female characters.” I agree with Terry and I think that a big part of the reason we both liked the film was that Charlotte was a smart successful woman but she could still be vulnerable and she still had feelings and hurdles to overcome in the film with her romantic life and her job.

I loved this film and Seth and Charlize had great chemistry that helped make their relationship seem believable. If you like rom coms but are tired of the man always being in power and the woman shown as weak, sexualised, ditsy or nerdy then this is the film for you. It is a 15 and there are some raunchy scenes but nothing too intense, it is a rom com after all.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

P.S. Other films I have enjoyed since last writing a blog post are Shazam!, Dumbo, Avengers: Endgame, Wild Rose, Wine Country, Ideal Home, Dog Days, The Perfect Date and The Last Summer.

TV series I have loved watching since my last post are The Society, Dead To Me, Now Apocalypse, Timeless, Z Nation, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Durrells, Special and On My Block.

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Strong Women in Film

Hi readers,

I will discussing films that I have seen last month with strong and inspiring female characters. In the past, actresses were there just to be rescued or as someone for the actor to talk to or monologue to. Almost like a plot device. There have been many films featuring women and I feel like society’s attitudes towards women has become more accepting and inclusive. We are getting biopics about amazing women such as the female NASA mathematicians in Hidden Figures that helped put a man in space; Wonder Woman, the first superhero film that I have seen starring a woman; films about female musicians, Amy and Whitney; films remade with a female cast, Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, What Men Want, The Hustle. I will be looking at some film’s I have seen last month with a strong female lead.

On the Basis of Sex

Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for work toward gender equality and her position as Supreme Court Justice. This origin story shows how she progressed from Harvard Housewife to the woman she is today. Ruth was one of the first women to attend Harvard Law school and when her husband Marty was diagnosed with a serious illness she took his classes for him. She graduates but no law firms in New York will employ a female lawyer in 1959. She becomes a lecturer but when one case opens her eyes to the injustice towards a man then all women, she must take a stand. Felicity Jones was powerful as Ruth and even though small in stature, she had command and the authority that Ruth had and still has. The portrayal of Rut Bader Ginsburg really inspired me that even though she had been pushed aside, Ruth knew her place was to fight for equality. Her daughter also inspired her as she turned to feminist activism. This film is really one to watch, not just for Felicity Jones’ amazing outfits, inspiring performance but Ruth’s amazing life story.

Captain Marvel

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)

The first female lead Marvel film was always going to be good but Brie Larson as Carol Danvers just took it to a place beyond anything I thought it could go. The main message running through was that even though Carol had gained Kree powers and could blast people, she was powerful and strong when she was human. Her determination and strength was shown in a beautiful montage of Carol being knocked down at various ages but then standing up stronger and braver than before. Brie Larson’s comedic timing was on point and I believed that she really didn’t have an memories before waking up in Hala, the Kree city. Maria, Carol’s best friend and fellow pilot was also a great female character. Despite being a single mother and black, she became an Air Force pilot. When Carol came back with no memory, she helped her remember her life and their adventures together. Her daughter, Monica who admired Carol as her role model was also a great female character. Definitely one to take young girls who need self-belief and the confidence to achieve their dreams.

A Private War

This film was very powerful and more shocking and sad than the previous two but Rosamund Pike as the war journalist, Marie Colvin was striking. Marie goes to war zone after war zone reporting on the most horrific things she can find and does it with a bravery that most people don’t have in them. A male journalist in her situation might retire after the trauma and danger she went through but she kept going even after having a stint in a rehabilitation facility due to her PTSD. In each war zone: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, Marie felt compelled to share the horrors of war and what was happening to the civilians who had nothing to do with the conflict. Marie also struggles with her personal life, her husband leaves her, she drinks and smokes way way too much, she doesn’t leave enough time for friends and after losing an eye, she becomes depressed.

I loved this film for it’s honesty and showing what war is really like not for the soldiers or terrorists but for the people, the citizens. War really took a toll on Marie and her writing was so visual that she is regarded as one of the best journalists of her time. The ending shocked me as I didn’t know much of Marie’s story and I won’t spoil it here but throughout the film there is a countdown in years to Syria. Would be happy to watch this again.

The Princess Diaries

An older film than the others in this post but she a great film for women. Mia, a normal, socially awkward teenager is told that she is the heir to the Genovian throne, a fictional European country. She starts ‘Princess Lessons’ with her Grandmother, Clarisse, the Queen of Genovia. Mia realises that some people just want fame and not everyone will be as nice as her artistic supportive mum or best friend Lily. This film is full of laughs and I have seen it many a time. Mia is a role model to young girls everywhere as she chooses to use her position to change things in the world for the better. Her house is also really cool. I would encourage any woman, young, old or in-between to watch this uplifting female empowering film. The sequel is also worth a look.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Lee Israel’s motivations are relatable, she can’t sell her work and is living in a cockroach invested apartment in New York. Her actions are not well thought out as she starts forging letters from great literary figures like Dorothy Parker when her work as a celebrity biographer is no longer relevant. She starts selling her letters, claiming her cousin found them in his loft and then ropes in her friend and fellow writer, Jack Hock to help her pass off the letters as originals. It works until it doesn’t. Lee doesn’t have much luck in her personal life, her girlfriend left her and her new love interest at the book shop unravels when the letters are discovered as forged. The film itself is based on Lee’s book she wrote on the ordeal and why she did it. Melissa McCarthy as Lee was one of the best of her career and a real change from her usual comedy such as Bridesmaids, Tammy, Identity Thief and Life of the Party. This film showed Lee’s ingenuity and creativity when she had no other way of making money. Someone else may have accepted a job in a different field but Lee persevered in her chosen profession. A great film that showed the resilience of women.

Isn’t it Romantic

Rebel Wilson in Isn't It Romantic (2019)

An anti-rom-com with Rebel Wilson in her first lead role that made fun of every troupe while simultaneously fulfilling them all. Rebel plays Natalie an architect who loves her job but wishes she did more than design parking garages and watch her friend Josh stare at the beautiful woman on the billboard outside her window. When Natalie bumps her head she ends up in a cliche rom-com with hot doctors, clean streets and handsome men falling in love with her. She doesn’t know how to leave but when Josh starts dating the woman from the billboard; yoga ambassador Isabella, Natalie thinks that breaking them up will get her out of this rosy, annoying world. This film was a feel-good romantic comedy while simultaneously making fun of all the cliches such as women fighting at work, Natalie’s friend/assistant, Whitney suddenly becomes her rival; random bursting into song; perfect flash mob dance sequences. Natalie realises at the end that to escape the ‘perfect’ world she needs to love herself not any man and I think that is a really female empowering message. I love Rebel Wilson in any role she does and this was no exception.

I Feel Pretty

Another film where a woman feels underappreciated then hits her head. This time Amy Schumer is Renee, an under-confident woman not happy with her size, her dating life or her dead end job in a basement in Chinatown working for Lilly Leclair as an IT specialist. After falling off a Soul Cycle bike and hitting her head, Renee wakes up believing that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. This gives her more confidence to pursue her dream job as a receptionist for Lilly Leclair, working in their Fifth Avenue office. Her friends who have always loved her are confused as it everyone else as Renee hasn’t changed at all, she just thinks she has. When Renee becomes close to Lilly Leclair head honcho, Avery Leclair, she starts leaving her friends and new boyfriend, Ethan behind. Being confident makes her self-centred and vain. I thought Amy Schumer was great in this role and the message that you are perfect just the way you are and can achieve your dreams with the right attitude and self-belief was really strong and moving for me.

20th Century Women

This film about 3 strong women raising a teenage boy in 1979 was a true to life look at what struggles women face such as teenage pregnancy, ovarian cancer, single motherhood, rebellious children. The atmosphere of the film and the women interacting with each other intellectually and taking Jamie under their wings while fighting stereotypes and discussing menstruation, sex and womanhood was one I haven’t seen in many films and made me feel seen as a woman. Setting the film in 1979 was important as periods and other female ‘issues’ were regarded as even more taboo at that time. The love that Dorothea felt for her son made you sad that he kept pushing her away but also you understood he just wanted to be free and live his life. A great story and look at life in California in the 1970s.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

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My Top Actors and Actresses This Year // February 2019

Hello readers,

Instead of a film review I thought I would talk about the brilliant portrayals I’ve seen by different actors and actresses in the cinema this year. I know it’s only February but there have been some stellar performances. I have seen some great performances in older films but I wanted to concentrate on newer films.

Actresses

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Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart in Mary Queen of Scots

This female driven historical drama led by Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I was powerful and emotional. Mary’s story of love and loss really pulled at my emotions and even though I knew that in the past, women had basically no rights, I expected more for two British Queens. Saoirse played Mary as a strong queen who also loved motherhood and being the head of the army. She showed her loss greatly and suffered with noble quality. A particularly heart breaking scene to watch was the murder of David Rizzio, Mary’s friend. He was struck by many of her noblemen with her husband delivering the reluctant final blow. The birth of her child, James I was also a great scene by Saoirse. Saoirse Ronan is an amazing actress who has been nominated for three Oscars. Other roles, I have loved Saoirse in are Lady Bird and Brooklyn.

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Emma Stone as Abigail in The Favourite

Emma’s performance reminded me of the goofiness and fun personality she has in real life but when Abigail starts to sabotage Sarah and become Queen Anne’s lady in waiting, there’s a manipulative, possessive undertone that I hadn’t seen her play before. Normally, Emma plays the fun, smart, down to earth type of character but Abigail was a side to her I had not seen before. Every little smirk and look to other characters and the camera showed what her character was thinking and feeling and her funny faces made me laugh. She definitely deserves her Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

Image result for tessa thompson in sorry to bother you full body

Tessa Thompson as Detroit in Sorry to Bother You

Tessa is a versatile actress who I have seen in Thor: Ragnarok and Annihilation before but in Sorry to Bother You she was electric. As an artist and protester, her character Detroit is not afraid to speak her mind in the capitalist US, the film has created. Detroit supports Cassius but when he starts to become more of a corporate stooge she quickly leaves him alone as she puts her own morals and beliefs before her relationship. The scene that stood out to me for its boldness and bravery was her live performance stunt at her art gallery. Detroit is dressed in a sort of bikini made of black gloves and she lets people throw pigs blood and old mobile phones at her. To stand there, wearing barely anything and having things thrown at you was a bold choice for the actress. Many people would not have been dedicated enough to do that on camera. The way she carried herself and never apologised for anything was a great character trait for a woman in any film but especially this one where the working man or woman was forced into working for capitalist pigs such as Steve Lift, played by Armie Hammer. Overall a fantastic performance and I can’t wait to see what Tessa does next.

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Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns

To resurrect such an iconic character is a brave and certainly risky endeavour for any actress but to Emily Blunt the role of Mary Poppins just fitted. I loved the Julie Andrews version as a child so I had high expectations for this film and it certainly delivered. Emily looked the part of Mary Poppins and had the mannerisms and voice down pat. She was reminiscent of Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins but definitely put her own spin on it. Every wink and look she did was carefully coordinated. Emily is also a fantastic dancer and singer which are essential skills for this Disney character. My favourite performances were ‘A Cover is Not the Book’ which Emily sang with Lin-Manuel Miranda and some CGI animals. Having to act with characters that aren’t there is a tricky feat but this musical number made it look natural. I also liked ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ which had a great dance routine. Emily has taken a few serious roles in recent years with The Girl on the Train and A Quiet Place so it was great to see her in a lighter part.

Actors

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Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

I’m a Steve Carell fan from his comedy work on The Office and in films such as Get Smart and Crazy Stupid Love but he has been doing some great drama performances in recent years and David Sheff in Beautiful Boy was one of the best of his career. Playing the father of a drug addict is no easy role but Steve managed it beautifully. Every time Nic played by TimothĂ©e Chalamet let his family and his father down, you could see in Steve’s eyes that his character was gradually becoming more tired and upset over his son’s actions. David tried so hard time and time again to help his son get off drugs even going so far as trying cocaine himself to see what was so good about it. He also has his wife and two other children to look after and his job. Steve showed David’s struggles really well. I think that Steve is a great dramatic actor. I also recently saw him in Vice and his character was dramatic in a political, ballsy way, not taking no for an answer. Very different from his character in Beautiful Boy. I hope that Steve keeps playing dramatic roles in the future.

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Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

As a massive Queen fan, I was always going to high expectations for this film but Rami Malek’s transformation into Freddie Mercury was the thing that completely sold it to me. The songs and other cast were also amazing, particularly the other members of Queen but Rami’s performance made me fall in love with Queen and Freddie all over again. Rami’s movements and voice, singing and talking sounded so much like the original. I have been a fan of the music of Queen for years but I wasn’t aware of the struggles and hardships Freddie went through just to be himself. I never knew that he was with a woman before he met Jim or his fallout with Queen. His use of drugs to try and regulate his symptoms of AIDs was quite emotional to watch. His stand out scenes for me were the interview where he is high and all the journalists want to know about is his private life and of course the climax, the Live Aid performance. He is well deserving of his Oscar nomination and his Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Awards.

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Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You

In a film set in an alternate reality, an important part to keep the audience understanding the plot is the interactions of the characters and how they behave. Lakeith was great in this role because he kept me on track in the different reality and I related to his story of wanting to succeed and make people proud of him. Lakeith’s character, Cassius Greene becomes a telemarketer and rises to the top using his ‘white voice’. Cassius becomes a power caller and leaves his friends behind but you can see by his expressions that he isn’t happy to do it. He is motivated by pride and the need to be successful and be able to provide for his uncle. In the end, he did the right thing which is what makes him the hero of the tale. One of my favourite parts was when Cassius would call people up and in the film, they plonked his desk right next to the customer. It showed that telemarketers can feel like they are right there in your home. I am excited to see what roles Lakeith takes on next.

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Christian Bale in Vice

Many people are aware that Christian Bale is a very method actor but for his role as Dick Cheney, he is virtually unrecognisable as you can see from the photo above. I completely believed that he was Dick Cheney and it was interesting to see his journey from being a loser to the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet. When Dick starts working for Donald Rumsfeld, he is quiet and helpful but as he starts moving up the ranks, he becomes more outspoken and controlling. As Vice President, he managed to negotiate with George W. Bush and control most of the President’s responsibilities. The scenes showing 9/11 were when Dick Cheney was at his most ferocious. Christian completely became this character and his gradual build up into the most powerful man in the world was an amazing process. I also recently watched the Big Short by the same director as Vice and Christian’s character in that film was so far from Dick Cheney it is hard to think of them as a the same actor.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

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My Weekly Recommendation // February 2019

Hello readers,

I’ve been watching more films recently and wanted to share some recommendations from the past week that I have seen either in the cinema or at home. There’s a mix of sci-fi, comedy, drama and alternate realities. I hope that something I have enjoyed this week sparks an interest for you.

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Sorry to Bother You Poster

Set in an alternate reality Oakland, Sorry to Bother You shows what it can be like to climb the corporate ladder in Capitalist America. Cassius Green takes a job as a telemarketer at RegalView and quickly learns that using his ‘white voice’ will help him advance to power caller, a highly coveted position, available via the golden elevator. When Cassius starts earning more, he soon realises that being rich and successful, does not mean happy. His girlfriend, Detroit is a feminist activist determined to protest against the state of the world.

I really enjoyed this film. The bizarre alternate reality provided a satirical view on corporate America and what it could be like if powerful companies had more influence. The film was clearly a protest against corporate greed with the CEO of WorryFree, a cost-free way of living, being a billionaire and the antagonist of the film. There were many hilarious jokes, relatable moments, wacky incidents. The cast were amazing and the script was well-written. I would happily watch it again and recommend to anyone to go along to the cinema to take in this amazing film. I saw it in a sold out screening so it has been very popular. The ending took a weird direction but in an alternate reality, anything goes. 5/5.

Cast:

Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green

Tessa Thompson as Detroit

Jermaine Fowler as Salvador or Sal, Cassius’ best friend and fellow RegalView worker.

Omari Hardwick as Mr. ________, a nameless manager who takes Cassius under his wing when he becomes a power caller.

Terry Crews as Sergio, Cassius’ uncle. Cassius lives in Sergio’s basement and is motivated to become a power caller when Sergio learns he many lose his house.

Michael X. Sommers as Johnny, Cassius’ manager.

Steven Yeun as Squeeze, organiser of the worker’s union at RegalView.

Armie Hammer as Steve Lift, CEO of WorryFree and writer of best seller, I’m on Top.

Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 (2011)
Super 8 Poster

A sci-fi film with a strong element of family relationships. It’s 1979 and Joe and his friends are making a movie together. They are all around 13/14 years of age. While filming at a train station they witness a monumental train crash. Afterwards, many strange incidents occur, suddenly making real life way more interesting than the zombie film they envisioned. Joe is also struggling with the sudden death of his mother and his deputy police chief father is too busy to listen to him. Joe and his friends try and save their town from a mysterious creature.

I really loved this film for many reasons. The writer/ director, J.J. Abrams and producer, Steven Spielberg have made some of my favourite films and TV shows such as Star Trek (2009), Lost, Jurassic Park, ET, Ready Player One and so many more. It was also interesting from a film student point of view to see the sort of equipment the average kid would have access to while making a film. The technology was more advanced than I had realised for that time. The actors were all superb with Joel Courtney as Joe in his first role! and Elle Fanning as Alice really standing out. They both struggle with strict fathers but don’t let that stop them making the film. It was great to see a big Hollywood film put children as the main actors and most of them had little or no previous experience. I also enjoyed the 70s setting of the cars, clothes and general culture. Family played a big part of the film and I found myself shedding a few tears at the end which I haven’t done at a sci-fi film before. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi, family orientated or kid-centred films. 5/5.

Cast:

Joel Courtney as Joe, the makeup wizard who also makes models of trains.

Elle Fanning as Alice, a convincing actress who borrows his dad’s car.

Ryan Lee as Cary, a great zombie actor who always brings explosives.

Riley Griffiths as Charles, the writer/director of the film and Joe’s best friend. He has many siblings and his parents always look out for Joe.

Gabriel Basso as Martin, the lead of their film who isn’t as clever as the others but has plenty of talent.

Zach Mills as Preston, another actor and general helper. Often left behind to cover.

Kyle Chandler as Joe’s father, Deputy Jackson Lamb

Ron Eldard as Alice’s father, still angry over his wife leaving.

Noah Emmerich as Colonel Nelec, he leads the military presence that take over the town.

Glynn Turman as Dr. Woodward, the kid’s science teacher who is the key to the monster’s appearance.

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton, and Sennia Nanua in The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
The Girl with All the Gifts Poster

Based on the best-selling book, The Girl with All the Gifts tells the post-apocalypse story of Melanie who is kept in a military compound and spends her time in a classroom, buckled into a wheelchair. A zombie apocalypse has happened and the remaining survivors are living in military camps across the UK. Melanie loves her teacher, Miss Justineau as she tells the class wonderful stories of princesses, goddesses, Romans, Greeks and warriors. When the base is over run, Melanie realises that she too is a ‘hungry’ and with Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks, Dr. Caldwell and a couple of soldiers, she travels through the dystopian wasteland of England to reach Beacon, the next place of hope.

I was really excited for this film as I read the book a couple of years ago and greatly enjoyed it. The film was good but did not deliver the same enjoyment as the book. A few big points were changed and the romance between Sergeant Parks and Miss Justineau was completely written out and the ethnicity of Miss Justineau and Melanie was swapped around. It was entertaining and the acting was okay but it did not live up to my expectations. I would not watch again in a hurry. 3/5.

Cast:

Sennia Nanua as Melanie, Miss Justineau’s best student and Dr. Caldwell’s last chance.

Gemma Arterton as Miss Justineau, Melanie’s teacher who feels great compassion for all the children in her class.

Paddy Considine as Sgt. Parks, the no-nonsense leader who grows to trust Melanie.

Glenn Close as Dr. Caldwell, the scientist who wants to use the children to make a cure.

Anthony Welsh as Dillon, a private who goes on the expedition to Beacon.

Fisayo Akinade as Kieran Gallagher, a private that Melanie trusts who also goes on the trip to Beacon.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Shameik Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Poster

This epic animation took four years to make and certainly delivered. It focuses on teenager, Miles Morales, he has just started at his new boarding school but still sneaks out to hang with his Uncle and paint graffiti. He is bitten by a radioactive spider and gets all sorts of powers. They get him into many embarrassing situations but after witnessing Peter Parker’s death, he takes on the responsibility to stop The Kingpin from destroying reality by trying to bring back his dead family. Miles gets help from many different Spider-People that have been brought to his reality. He struggles with believing in himself and it doesn’t help that his dad’s a cop.

I loved this film. It has received a lot of praise and is nominated for an Oscar so I was pleased when I eventually got around to seeing it. The animation was brilliant as unique, often going back to comic book lay out. The cast of voices is hugely talented and they helped bring life to some amazing characters. There were many hilarious parts but also some great messages about helping your friends and being brave. I would recommend to any superhero fans or anyone that is looking for something different from an animation. 5/5.

Voice cast:

Shameik Moore as Miles Morales

Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker, an older Spider-Man who has let himself go in his reality.

Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, who became Spider-Man instead of Peter Parker in her reality.

Mahershala Ali as Uncle Aaron, Miles’ cool uncle.

Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis, Miles’ police officer father.

John Mulaney as Peter Porker/ Spider-Ham, a pig who is also Spider-Man.

Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker, from the future, she co-pilots her robot with a spider.

Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir, from the 1930s, in a monochrome universe.

Lily Tomlin as Aunt May, Peter Parker’s guardian who helps the Spider gang in their mission.

ZoĂ« Kravitz as Mary Jane, Peter Parker’s widow

Kathryn Hahn as Dr. Olivia Octavius, Wilson Fisk’s scientist with a superhero alter-ego

Liev Schreiber as The Kingpin, the evil owner of Alchemax.

Chris Pine as Peter Parker, the first Spider-Man who dies trying to stop the Kingpin.

Almost Famous (2000)

Kate Hudson in Almost Famous (2000)

This cult classic from 2000 may be old but it tells a great rock and roll story. 15 year old William convinces Rolling Stone Magazine that he is a legitimate music journalist and goes on tour with upcoming rock band, StillWater. He is trying to write his piece but also has many experiences along the way. He makes friends with Band Aid, Penny Lane, who is romancing Russell, the guitarist of StillWater. William learns that rock stars are not all glitz and glamour and they aren’t always your friend. It is set in the early 1970s, the golden age of rock.

I really enjoyed the film. I love rock music especially from the 1970s and it was interesting to see the music industry through the eyes of a teenager. The acting was great, Kate Hudson stood out as Penny Lane and Frances McDormand as Elaine, William’s strict mother. It had many funny moments while not holding back on drama and entertainment. A classic for a reason. 5/5.

Cast:

Billy Crudup as Russell, leader of StillWater and the person William becomes closest to in the band.

Kate Hudson as Penny Lane, 16 year old Band Aid, who likes to runaway from life by touring with bands.

Frances McDormand as Elaine, William’s mother

Patrick Fugit as William, rock fan and wannabee journalist.

Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe, member of StillWater.

Zooey Deschanel as Anita, William’s sister. She leaves home when William is 11 to escape her oppressive mother and to become an air stewardess.

Anna Paquin as Polexia, Penny’s fellow Band Aid

Noah Taylor as Dick Roswell, the band’s manager

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, editor of Cream magazine who gives advice to William.

Jimmy Fallon as StillWater’s new manager brought in to bring some order to the tour.

I have watched a diverse selection this week and I hope that you are inspired to watch something I enjoyed.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

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What I have been watching this January // 2019

Hello readers,

Another post for me in the same month is rare I know but as I am still on university holidays, I thought I would write about what I’ve been watching this year. I have had quite a lot of spare time so I have been watching many TV series and films. Not everything listed below came out this year. Hope everyone is having a good 2019 so far!

I will start with the films that I have seen.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol 2011

I watched this at home a few days ago and as a lover of the latest film I had high expectations. They were certainly met. The dynamics between the main cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner really gave the film the human spark it needed to not be a mindless action thriller. There were amazing stunts and cool gadgets – the magnetic suit for one, stunning locations and spine-tingling suspense. I would definitely watch again and I will be watching the earlier films in the Mission: Impossible franchise. 5/5.

Cast:

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, an IMF spy, constantly on the run and never out of danger.

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, the funny computer genius who has just passed field training.

Paula Patton as Jane, a colleague who is out for revenge.

Jeremy Renner as Brandt, an analyst who gets caught up in Hunt’s mission.

LĂ©a Seydoux as Moreau, an assassin looking to trade documents for diamonds

Mary Poppins Returns 2018

I was quite late to the party with this one but I managed to see it last week at the cinema. This film appear to have sparked a controversy as while some people were disappointed with the outcome, it has been nominated for four Golden Globes and three BAFTAs. I, however, really enjoyed it. I have seen the first one but not for a while so it wasn’t fresh in my mind but the overall feeling of this film is updated yet similar to the original. The songs and sets are different and the characters have grown up but Mary Poppins is still there to save the day. The animated scenes were inspired by but didn’t copy the original. The film gave me a heartwarming feeling. Great bit of fun for all the family. 5/5.

Cast:

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, the magical nanny returning to the Banks’.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, the lamp lighter who joins in on the fun.

Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, he’s all grown up and struggling with finances.

Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks, she rallies for women’s rights.

Pixie Davies as Anabel Banks, the most responsible Banks child.

Nathanael Saleh as John Banks, the sensible one.

Joel Dawson as Georgie Banks, he likes to wander off and fly kites.

Julie Walters as Ellen, the housekeeper and cook.

Meryl Streep as Cousin Topsy, who can everything but not on a second Wednesday.

Colin Firth as Mr Wilkins, chairman of the bank who is determined to repossess the Banks’ house.

Finding Your Feet 2018

This heartwarming comedy will tug at your heart strings and put a smile on your face. Sandra discovers her husbands affair and runs to her sister’s council flat in London. By finding her long forgotten love of dance again and meeting Biv’s fun friends, Sandra gets a new burst of life and reconnects with her sister. I particularly liked the sequences in Rome and Biv’s eccentric zest for life. It also shows to me that older actors can still make a great entertaining film and younger leads aren’t always necessary.

Cast:

Imelda Staunton as Sandra, whose husband has been having a secret affair for years. She lived in a big house in Surrey but moves in with her sister at the beginning.

Celia Imrie as Biv, a woman who lives every day like it’s her last. She swims in cold water pools, does weekly dance classes, goes on dates and buys her stuff from the charity shop.

Timothy Spall as Charlie who lives on a canal boat and takes a shine to Sandra.

Joanna Lumley as Jackie a fellow dancer and a lawyer, she knows how to have fun.

David Hayman as Ted who lives next to Charlie on the canal. He’s Charlie’s best friend and is always there for support.

Overboard 2018

A hilarious comedy about a woman taking revenge a bit too far. Kate is working multiple jobs to put herself through nursing school and support her three daughters. After a billionaire playboy throws her off his luxury yacht, she uses him for her own gain. Leo, himself falls off the yacht and wakes up with no memory. Kate convinces him that she is his wife and takes him home. She makes him do manual labour and earn money until she can pass her upcoming exam. Full of heart and funny scenes this film was a delight to watch. The only slight downside was as most of the characters were fluent in Spanish they spoke it frequently with no subtitles. It didn’t impede too much on understanding the main plot though. 5/5.

Cast:

Anna Faris as Kate, a wannabe nurse struggling to balance work, studying and looking after her children.

Eugenio Derbez as Leo, a selfish billionaire who becomes a doting husband after her gets amnesia.

Eva Longoria as Theresa, Kate’s friend who is in on the act and helps her keep it up.

Mel Rodriguez as Bobby, Theresa’s husband, he lets Leo work for his building company.

John Hannah as Colin, Leo’s chef and employer on the yacht.

Roma 2018

I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t really enjoy or understand this film but seeing as it won two Golden Globes, some people must appreciate it. The film set in Mexico in 1970 is telling the story of Cleo, a domestic servant and the family she works for. It is in black and white and while this does give the film some atmosphere, I think that the film didn’t have a strong enough setting, dialogue or plot. There were also a lot of long shots such as the beginning and many unexplained events. The acting was okay but I didn’t really connect with the characters enough to care about what happened to them. The family appeared to care for Cleo at some points but still treated her like just a servant. Confusing. 2/5.

Cast:

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, the domestic worker who works for Sofia and her children.

Marina de Travia as Sofia, the lady of the house and the mother of 4 children.

Fernando Grediaga as Antonio, the husband and father who works as a doctor and is away a lot of the time.

VerĂłnica GarcĂ­a as Teresa, Sofia’s mother who helped out the family.

Attack the Block 2011

I really liked this action comedy. It is set in and around a block of flats in South London. A gang of teenagers find a strange creature and kill it. It turns out to a an alien and the rest of the fleet descend on the block. Sam, a nurse teams up with the gang and they defend their home. They also have to avoid angry rival gang members and keep little wannabees out of the way. Featuring appearances from Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega, this award winning film is definitely worth a watch. 4/5.

Cast:

John Boyega as Moses, the gang’s leader who is just trying to survive childhood.

Jodie Whittaker as Sam, a nurse who gets sucked in to defending the block

Alex Esmail as Pest, the token white guy in the gang and the first to be injured.

Leeon James as Jerome, Moses right hand man

Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a rich boy who is the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nick Frost as Ron, a drug dealer with his own weed room.

I have also been loving many TV shows, most of them are Netflix Originals.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Series 3 2019

This third and final series is the climax to A Series of Unfortunate Events. I really liked the film that was made but this series really does justice to the books. It uses two episodes for each book. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire have been on the run from the evil Count Olaf since their parents died in a mysterious fire. They have discovered that their parents were in an organisation V.F.D but they don’t have all the answers yet. Can they ever escape from Count Olaf’s grasp? What is in the sugar bowl? What is V.F.D? Could one of their parents still be alive? Find out if you dare in series three. I really loved the series. The acting is superb and the story is very well thought out. It definitely does the books justice. 5/5.

Cast:

Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, the oldest sibling and an inventor. She always ties her hair up with a ribbon when she has an idea.

Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, the middle sibling and the researcher. He has read many books and his extensive knowledge comes in handy.

Presley Smith as Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest sibling, a toddler who likes to bite things and often comes to the right answer before her siblings.

Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, the narrator of the Baudelaire’s tale. He has pieced together the story for us to watch unfold.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, an actor who travels with his troupe and is desperate to get his hands on the Baudelaire’s fortune.

Lucy Punch as EsmĂ© Squalor, the forth most important financial advisor and Count Olaf’s girlfriend. She travels with Olaf in hopes of finding the sugar bowl. She wears ridiculous ‘in’ outfits.

Kitana Turnbull as Carmelita Spats, a spoiled little girl who loves performing and travels with EsmĂ© and Count Olaf as their ‘daughter’. She hates the Baudelaires and calls everyone ‘cake-sniffer’.

Alison Williams as Kit Snicket, the sister to Jacques and Lemony. She has been trying to help the Baudelaires.

COMEDIANS of the world: UK: Ellie Taylor 2019

I watched Ellie Taylor’s special and really enjoyed it. She talked a lot about marriage and impending motherhood but in a very funny way and many of her opinions. She is one of my favourite comedians and it’s great to see her representing the UK in this series. There are many different comedians from around the world in this collection.

The Good Place Series 3: Episode 10 and 11 2019

Since the series has come back from it’s mid series break, it has taken many turns. The four humans, Michael and Janet finally got to the Good Place but they only reached the mail room. They have to work out what to do next. Eleanor and Chidi talk about the events of episode nine and Michael is concerned about the points system. The next episode takes place in IHOP but I don’t want to give too much away. It’s hilarious as always whilst teaching about philosophy and what makes a good person.

Cast:

Kristen Bell as Eleanor, the shrimp loving Arizona trash bag with a thing for mailmen.

William Jackson Harper as Chidi, a philosophy teacher who struggles with choices and gets nervous stomach aches.

Jameela Jamil as Tahani, a rich self entitled party hostess who only does charity for her own gain and grew up in her sister’s shadow.

Manny Jacinto as Jason, a Jacksonville Jaguars fan who has been in many dance crews and doesn’t have much brain power but a lot of heart.

Ted Danson as Michael, a demon who enjoyed torturing the four humans but is now working with them to get to the Good Place. He loves human quirks.

D’Arcy Carden as Janet, a human search engine with powers to get you anything you want. She has been rebooted so many times, she is starting to behave like a human.

Sex Education 2019

This series is filthy, dramatic, funny, quirky, relatable and entertaining. Set in a rural part of England, Sex Education tells the story of Otis Milburn, a 16 year old who wanted to be that person in the corner. His mother is a sex therapist and after one piece of great advice to the school bully, Otis and scary Maeve Wiley set up a sex clinic for the students of Moordale High. People start coming to Otis with all sorts of problems. Otis is also trying to be a teenager and sort through his own issues with sex and relationships. He is helped by his best friend Eric who is constantly pushing Otis out of his comfort zone. Otis’ mother, Jean is an overbearing, involved mother with a vibrant sex life. I loved this series and watched it all in two days. Very graphic so definitely for over 18s. It has been watched by 40 million Netflix users this month. 5/5.

Cast:

Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, unlicensed therapist navigating being a teenager and dealing with his embarrassing mother.

Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley, she has a bad reputation, is very smart and is always broke.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric, Otis’ best friend who is out and proud but struggles with his father accepting him and his outrageous outfits.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn, sex therapist and single mother, Jean worries about her son and doesn’t do boyfriends

Connor Swindells as Adam Groff, the headmaster’s son. He doesn’t care about school and prefers to bully the student body. His father is constantly disappointed in him.

Aimee Lou Wood as Aimee, one of the Untouchables who struggles with their endless rules, she always has a boyfriend and is friends with Maeve.

Kedar Williams-Stirling as Jackson, the head boy and competitive swimmer. He has a lot of pressure from his mum to do well and needs plenty of advice about girls.

Alistair Petrie as Mr Groff, Moordale’s headmaster and Adam’s dad. He knows how to deal out the punishments and does not let up for anyone, even his own son.

Mikael Persbrandt as Jakob, a plummer that is fixing Jean’s bathroom.

Friends from College – Series 2 2019

The second series in this hilarious comedy drama about six 40 year olds who have been friends since college. Set in New York City, the series concentrates on their relationships with others and each other. In the last series, a lot of drama went down and the gang is still recovering. Max and Felix are engaged now, Lisa and Ethan and separating, Sam and her husband are in trouble, Nick is finally dating someone his own age and Marianne is still living her carefree life. I love this series and the second series definitely delivered on the drama and comedy. A stellar cast, this series is amazing. 5/5.

Cast:

Keegan-Michael Key as Ethan, a young adult author who is desperate to know if his wife, Lisa wants a divorce or not after his affair was revealed.

Fred Savage as Max, a publisher who works closely with Ethan and is engaged to his long term boyfriend, Felix.

Nat Faxon as Nick, a player who only went out with girls in their 20s. He finds a woman his own age but can’t let go of Lisa who has been crushing on for 20 years.

Annie Parisse as Sam, a working mother who is the most successful of the group. She is having trouble with her husband, Jon after her affair with Ethan was revealed.

Jae Suh Park as Marianne, a carefree actress with nothing to tie her down apart from her daredevil on again off again boyfriend.

Cobie Smulders as Lisa, a lawyer who disappears after sleeping with Nick and reappears with a new boyfriend a year later

Billy Eichner as Felix, a doctor who is so done with the drama from Max’s friends.

Lost in Space 2018

This show has been out for a while but I watched the last few episodes in the series this year. I started it months ago but have been watching it sporadically. It’s about the Robinsons who leave Earth for a better future but crash land on a strange planet. They have to work together with others that land there to get back to the mother ship. There are alien robots, lying doctors, brave engineers and daring escape attempts. There is a lot of family drama involved and problem solving. The last episodes were the best for me as the middle of the series dipped from the great opening but still enjoyable. It’s different from the original series and the 1998 film. 4/5.

Cast:

Maxwell Jenkins as Will Robinson, the youngest and bravest. He manages to befriend a robot.

Taylor Russell as Judy Robinson, the doctor and the eldest, she takes risks to protect her patients and her family.

Mina Sundwall as Penny Robinson as the engineer who likes to do her own thing and bend the rules.

Molly Parker as Maureen, the mother and a rocket scientist. She designed their ship, the Jupiter and lied to get her son on board.

Toby Stephens as John, the father and a soldier. He was absent for most of the kid’s childhood and is trying to make up for it.

Ignacio Serricchio as Don West, an electrical engineer who doesn’t have a family so is always up for danger.

Parker Posey as Dr Smith, a survivor who is determined to reach the new world. She manipulates people to get what she wants.

Les Miserables 2018/9

An adaptation of the beloved book, this series is not a musical, but a drama. Only three episodes have aired but I am really enjoying Les MisĂ©rables so far. It tells the story of many different characters, a prisoner, a police chief, a factory worker, a little girl, two swindlers. It illustrates the gap between the rich and the poor in the early 1800s in Paris. The acting is excellent and I can’t wait to see what happens. 5/5.

Main Cast from first 3 episodes :

Lily Collins as Fantine, a factory worker trying to feed herself and her child

Dominic West as Jean Valjean, a prisoner who got 19 years for a loaf of bread. He goes from one place to another, escaping his past.

David Oyelowo as Javert, a governor turned police chief, hunting Valjean for his crimes.

Adeel Akhtar as Thenardier, a pub owner who brags about being in the war. He cheats people from their money.

Olivia Colman as Madame Thenardier, a mother who cares for her own children only. Gets as much money as she can from anyone who comes her way.

Thank you for reading!

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

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Who I think should have won at the Golden Globes 2019

Hello readers,

For my first post of 2019, I’m sharing my personal opinions on who should have won at the Golden Globes this year. There were some unexpected winners and losers for me so I thought I would discuss these and what I thought of some of the films that won. I’m only going to talk about categories in which I have seen at least 3 of the films.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Best Motion Picture – Drama

I was very excited about this film as I am a long time fan of Freddie Mercury and Queen. The film certainly didn’t disappoint and it is one of my favourite films of the year. I found out more about one of my favourite bands and the hardships and joy they experienced in the early days of their success. I’m also really pleased for the cast as they all worked really hard on the film and press tour. I follow them on Instagram and the posts they make featuring each other have really kept the spirit of the film alive.

The category this year had 3 films featuring black actors which is historic in itself as awards ceremonies in Hollywood have been accused of unfair treatment in previous years. The fact that Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk were nominated is a big step towards racial equality. I have seen both Black Panther at the cinema and the Cannes Film Festival in May and BlacKkKlansman at the cinema back in September. Both films were amazing and would have been worthy winners of this award. A Star is Born was one of my best films of the year and it’s one award was disappointing but in this category I think it faced tough competition.

Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody – Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Rami Malek was the perfect Freddie Mercury in this film and got Freddie’s movements and mannerisms down to a T. I loved him as the lead singer of Queen and his performance brought the film to amazing heights. I also admire Malek for his roles in Need for Speed and the Night at the Museum franchise.

Bradley Cooper did an amazing job in A Star is Born as I have mentioned in a previous post and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth was powerful and iconic. Ron Stallworth becomes the first black cop in Colorado Springs and he engineers an infiltration into a branch of the Ku Klux Klan. The film by Spike Lee had a lot of powerful imagery and showed how awful and traumatising racism has been and continues to be. I have not seen At Eternity’s Gate or Boy Erased but Willem Dafoe and Lucas Hedges are both worthy nominees.

Alfonso CuarĂłn for Roma – Best Director – Motion Picture

I personally did not enjoy this film. It didn’t have enough plot or dialogue to follow to be able to empathise or relate to the characters. It was a pretty film to look at but as a drama it did nothing for me. I was disappointed with this winner and I thought the other nominees were more deserving.

Spike Lee and Bradley Cooper both did great jobs with their films and I would have preferred if one of them had won. I love Bradley Cooper as an actor and to be nominated for his directorial debut is a credit to his talents. Spike Lee knows how to tell a powerful tale and this was evident in BlacKkKlansman. Some of the dialogue and events really stuck with me. I haven’t seen Green Book or Vice so I don’t know how good the directing is.

Justin Hurwitz for First Man – Best Original Score – Motion Picture

The score for First Man really enhanced the breathtaking images of the film. When Neil Armstrong is going into space at the beginning the score helped me feel as though I was in the rocket with him. I think this score and composer are worthy winners in a tough category. Marco Beltrami did an amazing job with A Quiet Place, a film with minimal dialogue but the score creates great tension and suspense. I was on the edge of my seat for most of this film. Alexandre Desplat also did an amazing job with Isle of Dogs; another great film of 2018. Directed by Wes Anderson and told as an animation with Japanese and English dialogue, Isle of Dogs was a lovely story about the love between an owner and their dog. Like the Quiet Place, the score for Isle of Dogs helped enhance the story and build tension.

Black Panther’s score was also award worthy and it’s amazing to see a Marvel film nominated for so many awards at the Globes. Ludwig Göransson did a brilliant job and paired with the soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar, the sound is one of the major factors that has made Black Panther one of the best films in recent years. I have not yet seen Mary Poppins Returns but have heard wonderful things about the film.

Shallow from A Star is Born – Best Original Song – Motion Picture

I think this song really deserved to win. It’s a powerful song and sung by Lady Gaga in the film, it tells the story and feelings of her character, Ally perfectly. Bradley Cooper also sings the song very well but I think it is Lady Gaga that truly owns it. I have listened to on repeat for months and it still moves me and empowers me at the same time. The sheer power of Lady Gaga’s voice singing it in A Star is Born gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it in the film. I’m glad that A Star is Born won in this category.

It did have tough competition though as I think every song in this category was award worthy. All the Stars by Kendrick Lamar and SZA from Black Panther has a great beat that is perfect for the film and Girl in the Movies from Dumplin’ by Dolly Parton is a great theme song for the film. It’s uplifting in the same way as the message in the film. I have just listened to Requiem for A Private War and it was a beautiful song but I haven’t seen the film that it was written for. Revelation from Boy Erased is another powerful song that would have been a worthy winner.

The Americans – Best Television Series – Drama

I haven’t watched the recent seasons of The Americans but I have seen it before and I think it’s a good show but this year there were more worthy winners. I think that Bodyguard or Killing Eve should have won. I enjoyed both these series and think they were great television dramas. Bodyguard about the British Home Secretary having an affair with her personal bodyguard. It seem fairly simple but there is so much more to this drama. Plenty of action and romance and the last episode is one of the most intense pieces of television I have ever seen. Killing Eve had more of a cat and mouse element with Eve who works for MI6 trying to track down a female assassin all over Europe. It was a great female lead drama and the drama was more long played than in Bodyguard. Great plot twists and acting. I haven’t seen Pose or Homecoming but I have heard great things.

Rachel Brosnahan for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

I think that Rachel Brosnahan is an amazing actress and this is the role that she is born to play. I can’t see anyone else even attempting to play Mrs Maisel. I love this show and have seen both seasons. It is about an upper class Jewish woman in New York City. At the beginning of the show, Mrs Maisel’s husband leaves her for his secretary and to cope she turns to stand up comedy. It is set in the late 1950s when women were not very well received in comedy. The whole cast of the show are amazing and I would highly recommend watching it.

GLOW is an amazing series about female wrestlers in the 1980s and Alison Brie does a great performance as Ruth. I love this show and have seen both series and I cannot wait for the next season. Kristen Bell is also great as Eleanor Shellstrop in the Good Place, a comedy about going to the afterlife. The show while being up to date on pop culture also helps the audience to understand concepts of philosophy and make sense of what happens to us after death. I was really glad that Kristen Bell was nominated. Will & Grace and Murphy Brown are shows that I haven’t seen but have heard good things about.

I would also like to give a special mention to Ben Whishaw who won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television. His role as Norman Scott in A Very English Scandal was great and he was worthy of the award. I have however not seen any other nominations in his category so it wouldn’t be fair to say he is the best, not having anything to compare it to. I watched all of A Very English Scandal last night and it was such a powerful and almost unbelievable true story. It tells the tale of Norman Scott having a gay affair with powerful politician Jeremy Thorpe in the 1960s and then being targeted for murder by Thorpe. Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe was also great and a role we rarely see him play, the bad guy.

I know I only gave my opinions on a few of the categories but I didn’t feel it was right to judge categories in which I hadn’t seen more than 3 of the nominations.

I hope to write on many new and different topics in 2019.

Keep Watching,

Robyn

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