My Desert Island Films

This is a list that as a film student I have debated for many years and a couple of months ago, I finally came up with my five desert island films. This is inspired by Desert Island Discs, a popular radio show where guests have to list the eight songs that they would bring to a desert island. Each film on this list holds great memories from different moments in my life.

  1. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Synopsis – A climate scientist tries to warn his colleagues and the US government about an impending new ice age. His son is on a school trip to New York City and after a massive flood traps Sam and his fellow survivors in the Public Library. Jack and fellow explorers set off from Washington DC to find him while in other parts of the world, civilisation prepares for devastation.

Cast – The cast has a lot of potential in this film and they go on in the 16 years after this film was released to make some really great content. One of the biggest stars to come from the film is Jake Gyllenhaal who has been nominated for several Hollywood and British Acting awards and has also stretched his limits as an actor from horrors to romantic comedies to superhero films. He is an actor that I would struggle to put into one category as he is always doing something new whether that be theatre, comedy specials, indie films and he is about to foray into television. The other actors I feel that are worth talking about from this film are Dennis Quaid and Emmy Rossum. Dennis Quaid is always a good leading actor who often plays a man who looks tough or emotionally unavailable but starts to show an inner vulnerability. I have not seen as much of his work as I have of Gyllenhaal’s but I did enjoy his recent Netflix show and a scattering of other films that he has done. He was quite a prolific actor before my time so I have not gone back and seen many of his works. Emmy Rossum is also interesting for her roles as director and producer and as an artist. She played such a complex character for such a long time on one television show but finally left to pursue new passions. I admire her loyalty but also determination about when to leave at the right time.

Review – I first saw this film when it played on the television is the USA where I was on holiday. I was about 9 years old at the time and became entranced with this film. Whenever it played on TV from then on, in the following years I could never resist the pull. I know this is not a very sophisticated film with some pseudoscience and unlikely events but I think it is the human spirit and the way the characters try to survive and help each other that appeals to me. The mission that Quaid’s character undertakes walking from Washington DC to New York to save his son has such a powerful message about the love a parent contains for their child. His colleagues accompany him just as they would to the Antarctic without second thought. My favourite sub-genre of film is disaster films because of this movie. Seeing New York be flooded in such a way truly shows the power of the earth and while the events of the film are fictional, it does send a warning about climate change that many people are not heeding at this moment.

2. What Happens in Vegas (2008)

Synopsis – Two strangers go for a wild weekend in Vegas with their best friends. After getting married while drunk and then winning big on the jackpot, they must stay married for 6 months to keep the money. With court ordered marriage counselling, work, living together, exes and family to negotiate, will Jack and Joy make it the full six months?

Cast – The couple in the film are played by Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz. Both amazing actors in their own rights. Kutcher coming from television and doing a range of romantic comedies, and dramas whereas Diaz from a more film background with experience in voice acting, comedy and rom-coms. The chemistry between the two in the film is one of the main draws for me. At the beginning, I believe that they really despise each other but there is still an energy between the two. They are both great at physical comedy which is used a fair amount in the film. The best friends played by Lake Bell and Rob Cordry also have a fierce hate-hate relationship that makes for a fun sub-plot. I have seen both in a number of different films and while Bell leans more towards drama and sophisticated comedy, Cordry is very much in the stoner comedy world. The therapist played by Queen Latifah is a great role for her as she has the command to play her role well while still using comedy.

Review – I love this film. I discovered it by buying the DVD from a shop while abroad and as the cover was not in English I went by the actors. This is easily my favourite romantic comedy of all time. I have seen it probably over 10 times which is a lot for me as apart from the films on this list and a couple of others I hardly re-watch anything more than once or twice. It is a film that is great to watch if you’re happy or sad or feeling poorly or bored or anything. I always find new things and there are so many great actors. Jason Sudeikis also has a significant role as well as Zach Galifianakis, Treat Williams and Krysten Ritter. The title gives a little idea to the events but does not give us clues to the main chunk of the film. The scene at the end where Jack proves that he knows Joy by finding her in her happy place always makes me feel that love really does exist.

3. Mamma Mia! (2008)

Synopsis – The film is based on the hit musical and the songs of pop group ABBA. Growing up on a remote Greek island with her mother, Donna, Sophie has never known her father but when her and boyfriend, Sky decide to get hitched, Sophie sends out invitations to three potential fathers she has read about in Donna’s diary. Hilarity and drama ensues when all three turn up and Donna along with her friends and bandmates, Tanya and Rosie navigate seeing her three old flames all at once. The plot is shaped by ABBA’s iconic music with all the actors doing their own singing.

Cast – This film has a strong ensemble cast with all the actors being Hollywood greats or at least well known. Sophie played by Amanda Seyfried may only be 20 but has a great presence in the film and can certainly hold her own against her mother. Prior to this point, Seyfried did mainly television with an exception as a mean girl. Dominic Cooper has a film and theatre background and has since done a mix of things including television and film. The brilliant Meryl Streep as Donna is one of the best casting decisions and as she sung all her songs live proves that she is not just a serious dramatic actress. She was offered more musical roles after this film. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters are great side kicks for Donna each bringing their own personalities as dry and sarcastic wit along with honest and comedic assurance. The three fathers also blend well together despite playing different nationalities. Changing Bill’s nationality from Australian to Swedish for the film works great and Stellan Skarsgård plays a great sailor/lone wolf. I was surprised at Bill’s identity when I saw the musical in 2017. Pierce Brosnan is often thought of as the worst singer in the film but I think he holds his own and injects a lot of emotion particularly with his duets with Meryl. He previously played James Bond so this role is definitely a turn around and started a romantic comedy phase for him. Colin Firth as Harry also shows a different side from his early television and film days and I love the trope that all his characters get wet while wearing a white shirt as a nod to his Austen days. He also is the only gay character in the film and while it is not a main story point it is still there and never discriminated against.

Review – I do not quite remember my first viewing of this film but it would have been soon after it came out. It is something of a family favourite in my household with viewings almost yearly and many listens of ABBA in between. I always sing along and I think the story carries a real truth about family not being all about your biological offspring but your chosen family. There are some great dance numbers and being set in Greece gives the film a wonderful edge that it would not have if set in the UK or US. I also love the sequel to the film and saw in the cinema while on holiday as I couldn’t wait. I have also recently watched it when the original was not available. The first Mamma Mia! will always be my favourite and holds a special place on this list.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban (2004)

Synopsis – It is third year at Hogwarts for Harry, Ron and Hermione. They are teenagers now and the danger levels are rising. A prisoner has escaped from Azkaban, Harry is seeing deadly omens and Hagrid is now a teacher. This film is the first to take a darker turn but uses new elements such as time travel to bring a new flavour to the series.

Cast – The cast remains almost the same as the previous films with a few additions and one replacement. Sadly Richard Harris passed away after filming the second film so the character of Dumbledore is played from now on by Michael Gambon. He does a great job and I think of him as the better Dumbledore. He has more style and agility than Harris who was more of a grandfather figure. New additions also include Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry’s father’s friend and David Thewlis as Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and another of Harry’s father’s friends. The fourth member of the Marauders is also made known later on as Peter Pettigrew or Wormtail played by Timothy Spall. The Marauders all do a great job in their roles especially in a scene between the three of them at the Shrieking Shack and appear in the later films. The Golden Trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione take on new challenges this year and Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson do a great job bringing these characters from children to teenagers. The teachers, Professor Snape, McGonagall and Hagrid all have significant roles to play as we get to see new sides to all of them with Snape’s protectiveness over the trio; McGonagall’s honesty and pity for Harry and his family and Hagrid vulnerability and softer side over Buckbeak. Matthew Lewis as Neville and Tom Felton as Malfoy shine as always. These films have such big casts that it is hard to talk about all of them but I have focused on who has a bigger role this time around.

Review – This film has always been my favourite of the Harry Potter series but as a film itself it has many great elements that all come together well. I feel that the costumes are showing the character’s progression into teenhood as well as the sets and special effects. Having so many characters in the final showdown could have been tricky to navigate but everyone has their role and no scene feels clunky. New magic is also introduced with the Marauders Map, new creatures, Divination classes, the Patronus Charm and Dementors. I used to watch this film many times over with a friend when were in our Harry Potter Phase around 9 years old but I do not remember my first viewing. I love all of the films but this is the one I return to the most.

5. Rocketman (2019)

Synopsis – The story of Elton John from his early years as a piano student to fame, fortune and rehab. The plot is told through Elton’s music along with performances at the Troubadour, Dodger Stadium and around the world. Even though he falls into a dark world of sex, drugs and rock and roll he makes it out.

Cast – The stand out of the film is of course Taron Egerton as Elton John. I never really thought about their similarities as before the film I was not a big Elton John fan so had little idea of his appearance in the 70s/80s. Egerton does a great job at showing the highs and the lows of the character as well as Elton’s quest in life to be loved as himself despite his mother and manager/lover telling him otherwise. The singing is great and I personally prefer Egerton’s versions to the originals. Prior to the film, Egerton played a spy, an Olympian, a soldier and an outlaw with little singing experience apart from as an animated gorilla. Richard Madden as John Reed, Elton’s manager and lover does a great job at making Elton believe that he truly loves him and wants him to be a success but then his true nature comes out as Elton becomes rich and an addict. John’s villainy gave Elton something to rebel against and helped him pull himself out of the gutter. Bryce Dallas Howard is not someone I thought would be in a musical as a firm English mother but she played the role well and was a very emotional singer. Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, Elton’s song writing partner and best friend was also a good supporter to Egerton but I feel his role was to help Elton in times of crisis rather than anything else. Kit Connor as young Elton was also very good and his songs were great too. He has really rose to fame in the last few years and is popping up everywhere.

Review – I have always been a fan of musicals as this list shows but I think what grabbed me about this film was the music more than anything. I listened to the soundtrack on repeat for about a year after it came out and I did see this film in the cinema which is the first of the five on the list. It is also the only film made in the 2010s but sometimes with films its about a certain feeling or connection that comes instantly rather than over time. I have actually only seen the film two or three times but have listened to the full soundtrack hundreds of times which gives you the bare bones of the story anyway. I also love the bond between Taron and Elton. They both were in the second Kingsman film and Taron sang an Elton John song in Sing as a gorilla so the two were destined to work together again. This film showed at the Cannes Film Festival which is unusual for a studio biopic but thoroughly deserved. Since the film, Taron and Elton have performed together many times and Taron has stayed over at Elton and David’s house. This connection really enhanced the film for me and I’m sure it gave a lift to Egerton’s performance. Elton and his husband, David also served as producers on the film which helped with the reality of the story. Many biopics are made without the person’s involvement or after their death so Elton’s involvement helped the film immensely.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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My First Trip back to the Cinema

Hello readers,

I have been absent from the blog for a while as in the current pandemic, there has not been many new films to write about. I have been watching more television shows as Netflix has been releasing some great new series during the pandemic.

I have as of a few days ago ventured back to the silver screen. I am however in Antalya, Turkey and not the UK and as the coronavirus was controlled here a little earlier, I feel safer going back to being out and about. The cinema has introduced a number of preventative measures including hosing down the seats after every screening. I also chose the Gold Class screen which is more luxurious with only 4 seats to a row and these are spaced out. The cinema chain, Cinemaximum has had these screens for a while and they are really coming in handy this year! They are also leather so make cleaning super easy and comfortable to sit in.

Anyway onto the film. I went to see Palm Springs, a Hulu original film starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. I did not think that I would get to see the film as I was under the impression that it would only be released on the streaming platform, Hulu which is only available in the US. Turkey does tend to get a lot of films that don’t have wide international releases so this may be a reason. I was very happy to see the film though as the concept sounded fun and is a new twist on the time loop trope.

Of course, being stuck in a time loop is no new plot device as seen in films such as Groundhog Day which set the precedent for this sort of films; Source Code; Happy Death Day and Looper. What was different about this time loop was that there were multiple people stuck in the loop. The two main characters Nyles and Sarah played by Samberg and Milioti respectively are both guests at a wedding in Palm Springs. Nyles is the boyfriend of bridesmaid Misty and Sarah is maid of honour to her sister, Tala. The two have never met before the loop starts but quickly become allies.

Some elements of the plot surprised me from what I saw in the trailer which is rare these days as many trailers reveal just a little too much of the film. I was under the impression that Nyles and Sarah both got stuck in the time loop at the same time but as I realised early on, Nyles has been endlessly living out November 9th in Palm Springs way before Sarah gets pulled into it. This worked well as a narrative device where a new character is introduced to a pre-existing scenario to explain things to the audience without needing a character to break the fourth wall.

One night at the wedding, Sarah is having a horrible time and gets drunk and decides to hook up with Nyles. He appears to not care at all as he wears a Hawaiian shirt and shorts at the reception. While sneaking off to a more secluded area, Nyles is attacked by a mysterious figure and crawls into a cave while Sarah looks on horrified. She follows him in and then gets stuck into his time loop. Nyles guides her through life in the time loop and Nyles begins to enjoy his life again along with Sarah who after first trying to get out by dying comes to accept her fate with Nyles. Sometimes they attend the wedding, other times they hang out at the local bar or meet with people that Nyles has befriended after his endless loops of the day.

There were a few twists to the story that I will not reveal but this romantic comedy is not just a straight forward happy ending. The film does have some swearing and intimate scenes but I think it could be classed as a 15 as there is no nudity, only suggestions of it. I really loved the film especially as it was in the luxury screen of Gold Class and the first film I had seen in the cinema since March. My watching partner was not satisfied with the ambiguous ending but I felt it didn’t need to be anything more than it was.

Today in the cinema, Christopher Nolan’s new film, Tenet comes out and I will hopefully be seeing this in the next week so look out for that review soon.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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My Theories and Musings on Season 4 of 13 Reasons Why

Hello readers,

This post is about my theories and musings of the characters and events of the fourth series of 13 Reasons Why. I enjoyed this season very much and of course, many spoilers below.

The title of the series is still relevant as even though the 13 Reasons are not all there, the tapes brought them together and created the group for the season. Many of the incidents of season 4 would not have happened if not for Hannah’s tapes. A great full circle moment: the characters, along with Ryan and Courtney, burying the tapes in the hills overlooking Evergreen.

The catalyst of the season is the graffiti of “Monty was Framed” across the administration’s office. I thought that Clay would have been doing it as his guilt was subconsciously coming out and he wanted all his secrets to be out in the open. I thought sleepwalking but the truth of blacking out is more serious than I predicted. I had thoughts that Clay may submit his guilt essay about covering up a murder by accident, but I’m glad that Ani saved him by changing it.

One of Clay’s traits is that he needs to be needed. He feels pushed out a little at the beginning of the season with his parents and Justin. He needs to feel wanted and when his parents shine a little more light on Justin, he feels a little left out. When Tyler calls Clay, he feels needed again. Ever since the tapes, there have been reasons for Clay to be needed for multiple people but after Monty’s death, there was no new crisis until Clay subconsciously created one. Clay needs all his friends focuses together on one thing in their senior year.

Clay is a truly good person as his interactions with Monty and Bryce’s ghosts show. Some may see this as the show trying to humanise rapists or criminals but I see this as showing that no person is one dimensional. These people are still just kids and there are many layers to their actions/ crimes. Everyone has deep issues within themselves. For example, Bryce felt neglected by his father and sometimes his mother so wanted control over girls. He was in a position of power within the school because of his money and being on the football team so he thought many women genuinely wanted to be with him. Then this turned into sexual abuse which is never okay, no matter your history. Many characters such as Tony, Ani and Justin have suffered similar neglect or distancing from their families but have never turned into the person Bryce becomes.

A big part of the show is how Clay related to all the characters and ties them together. Clay feels immense pressure as he has to keep everyone’s secrets. I wonder how fast they would all fall apart if Clay wasn’t there. Ani was the other glue and after she becomes and absent player in this season, Clay starts to fall apart as well as all of the others. Without the glue of Clay and Ani the whole situation falls apart. Another reason for Ani’s absence this season.

As with Monty, he has such a deep disliking of his sexual preferences that stems from his father’s homophobia and possibly a result of his Latino heritage. Again we can compare this with Tony who has the same heritage but his family is loving and supportive and he has had several gay relationships in the four seasons of the show and even lives with his boyfriend in seasons 3 and 4. Monty has internalised homophobia and violent tendencies as his fight with Alex showed. Even when he met Winston as the Hillcrest party, he was unable to enjoy his first time interacting with a guy in that way and had to become violent.

Clay’s reaction to Diego’s prank of the mannequin on the football field showed how Clay may be losing his mind but still has his humanity. Many people would shun and hate Monty and Bryce for this pain and crimes they inflicted on Clay’s friends but Clay still sees them as humans even though they are dead. He saw Monty bleeding and still tried to help him and cried over him. I don’t think any other character in the show has the strong compassion that Clay has. He is one of the only characters to hallucinate the ghosts of Monty and Bryce, and he feels so much guilt even though he had no direct connections to their deaths or crimes. He was never a victim but he absorbed everyone’s pain and carried around their guilt. I believe that if Clay had been on the docks when Bryce was injured he would have helped him and not behaved as Alex did. Although, who knows?

Clay’s psychological issues are the most prevalent this season with his violent outbursts, black outs and hallucinations. This is partially because the series is from his POV but also because of his mental health conditions of anxiety and depression that he admits to in his graduation speech. Clay’s relationship with Ani is something that helps to show Clay’s destruction. He uses Ani as a shield and I think only really dates her as she knows his secrets and is in their group. Not many of the group date outside it apart from Tyler, Zach and Tony. Ani not being present for Clay’s biggest breakdowns was a good narrative direction as he has no crutch to lean on or to get him of these situations.

At the beginning, Justin tells Jessica that he doesn’t want to date her as he is still recovering from his drug addiction. Jessica is not happy with this and becomes jealous when he flirts with the college tor guide. She just wants to be happy with Justin, she doesn’t see how much he needs to be alone as he has never needed that before in their relationship. A part of Justin’s healing process is going to AA meetings for drug addiction. When he sees his football coach there it gives him a boost of empathy.

His past catches up with him after reuniting with Jess and getting into college. His death is the main revelation of this season: the season 1 is Hannah; season 2 is Monty and Tyler. Season 3 is Monty’s death and season 4 is Justin’s. There are five meaningful deaths across the four seasons: Hannah, from suicide after the 13 reasons that are people; Jeff from a car crash caused by the stop sign hit by Sheri and Hannah; Bryce after being attacked by Zach and then pushed in the water by Alex while Jess watched on; Monty is jail after he is labelled a child rapist and Justin from HIV that turns into AIDs after being left untreated. Justin’s death could have been preventable if the HIV was caught earlier which makes it all the more sad. His history of sharing needles for drug use and having sex with men for money while he was homeless is the reason for the HIV. These things could have been avoided if Justin has received better support from his friends such as Bryce who instead lent him money for drugs. Clay became like a brother for Justin after helping him get off drugs. The end scenes in the hospital between Clay and Justin and when Clay reads Justin’s college essay shows how far they have grown as adopted brothers.

Justin’s funeral was used as a catalyst at the very start of the first episode which leaves you guessing who the funeral is for. I guessed Justin or Alex after Alex and Charlie got together. We see Charlie speaking at the funeral in episode two. I guessed Justin or Alex as the death as Charlie is not very close to many of the characters. He would speak at Justin’s as they are on the football team and he is the only true ally left from the team apart from the coach. Zach is absent from the team this year after his knee injury; Diego is Justin’s nemesis in the hand of Jessica and Bryce/Monty are dead. The other minor characters are not close to Justin. I think this was a very good narrative device to give the audience clues about a potential death.

Alex starts out figuring out his sexuality with Winston as he is a new student and doesn’t know his past with suicide and his other secrets. Alex tells him anyway as he feels the need to be honest with potential romantic partners. That is why he then breaks up with Winston on the senior trip as when he finds out that Winston was with Monty, he could not trust himself to keep his secret from Winston and feels guilty for dating him. He claims that he was hurt that Winston was with Monty, a criminal but ultimately he is trying to protect everyone because he knows the guilt will build and he will spill his secrets Alex pushed Bryce into the water, eventually killing him not because he is a violent person but because he felt the pain of Hannah and Jessica so closely. They used to be a group of three and there is a reason that Alex tried to kill himself at the end of season 1.

Charlie had a smaller role in the previous season but becomes a bigger role in this season after his involvement in the Monty secret. He puts himself in harm’s way to help people he barely knows keep this secret. After knowing how Monty has behaved, he does not hesitate to help the gang to frame Monty. He has become a permanent addition to the group. After Diego tells Jess that Charlie is gay/bi, I was waiting for Charlie to have a love interest. No line is ever said for no reason. Charlie is a better boyfriend for Alex as he googles Alex’s condition to help him, gives him cookies and helps him through his panic attacks in the shooting drill. Charlie is quite a shy character but becomes a pivotal part of the gang after getting together with Alex. I think he has had a crush on Alex for some time but was waiting to see if Alex reciprocated his feelings. Charlie seeks out Alex at the party and at the senior camping trip. I loved that Alex went to prom with Charlie and had Clay as a buffer. Winning Prom King and Queen with Charlie really helped Alex to confirm his sexuality.

Winston is determined to find out who really killed Bryce to prove Monty’s innocence so he leaves Hillcrest on purpose to scope out the Liberty kids. After befriending Tyler and Alex for this purpose, Winston accidentally falls for Alex. Winston then starts scoping out the Liberty gang one by one. During the potential school shooting, Winston and Zach are trapped together. Winston buys Zach’s trust with some drugs and after confessing, gets a truth from Zach about the night of Bryce’s death. He teams up with Diego to scare Clay. He suspects Justin then Jessica.

Winston has a small redemption arc when he apologises to Alex after but do we believe him? At first, I liked Winston and Alex together because of my inclination towards gay relationships. Although after reflection, Winston was very dismissive of Alex’s condition and all he had been through. This is in stark contrast to how his boyfriend, Charlie behaves before they have even got together. Winston also talks himself into thinking he’s in love with Monty even though they only hooked up twice. In the prom scene, Winston gets a good talking down from Monty’s ghost. This is a positive towards the character of Monty but as Monty is dead, this is just Winston’s feelings coming out. After finding out everything about Monty, he knows that he would never be allowed to love Monty as he would want. This is proved by Monty beating up Winston after they hooked up.

Zach becomes very self-destructive this season with drinking and having sex with random girls. He feels guilty about almost killing Bryce and then dating his ex-girlfriend, Chloe. Zach also has extra guilt about Hannah and how he treated her. Zach is someone who Alex tries to kiss when realising his sexuality but gently lets him down. A big emotional moment for Zach is when Justin is dying in the hospital and Zach cannot face him. The hospital is where his father died only a few years before and he has bad memories associated with it. Charlie then talks to Zach as his mother also died in that hospital. This shows another reason for his self-destructive behaviour this season. His scene with Alex on the boat and saving Alex from drowning creates a redemptive story for Zach.

Jessica begins the season by trying to deal with her rejection from Justin by dating Diego his antagonist. She thinks that this will make Justin jealous and want her back. She acts a little childish is this aspect of her. Before Justin’s illness is revealed Jessica is playing games with Justin. She is also haunted by the ghost of Bryce as Clay is too. Attention less focused on her this series but her friendship with Ani goes though some patches. After Ani moves in with her, it creates a new dynamic between them. Jessica’s main focus is her campaign against sexual abuse and towards equality. This is very relevant today.

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New Television Shows I have been watching in Quarantine

Hello readers,

It has been a while since I’ve made a blog post. With the lockdown and everything, cinemas have been shut and I have not been watching many new films apart from on streaming services. I have however been enjoying some new television shows and I am finally getting around to reviewing a few.

Outer Banks

Quick Synopsis: Set on the island of Outer Banks, North Carolina; a group of teenagers set out to solve a mystery that spans all social classes on their island. The adventure starts after John B, discovers his missing father’s compass on a sunken boat. Is the mystery linked to the story of the 400 million in British gold somewhere off the coast of Outer Banks?

I love this show and watched all ten episodes in the course of two days. It starts as a kind of Goonies/Stranger Things show without the supernatural elements. As the show progresses, it becomes more intense and like a cat mouse chase mixed with murder and danger. The hunt for the truth and kids turned criminals is what carries the drama of the show. Most of the stars are new to the acting world but do a great job playing either a Pogue or a Kook. 10/10.

Space Force

Quick Synopsis: General Mark Naird, a member of the Air Force in America is tasked with setting up a new section of the Armed Forces: Space Force. The show fast forwards a year when things are up and running in Colorado. Things have changed for Mark. His wife is now in prison nearby, his daughter is struggling to make friends and he is facing new challenges obeying POTUS.

This show only released a couple of days ago but I think it’s one of the funniest new shows I’ve seen in a while. The premise is fairly straightforward as the current POTUS has announced plans for a Space Force in the US but that’s where reality stops. Some of the situations the characters find themselves in are hysterical yet almost believable. Mark is played by Steve Carell, the co-creator of the show and he has some brilliant co-stars. John Malkovich plays his number two, scientist Dr. Mallory; Lisa Kudrow is his incarcerated wife; Diana Silvers is his teenage daughter, Erin. There are many other comedy actors involved as well as some I haven’t seen do comedy or anything else. Many of the jokes either have an episode-long duration or are simple throw away lines. They do not rely on quick laughs but rather use their big budget to create this world that happens to be funny. The Space Force base is really amazing and the show itself is very progressive with lead astronaut, Captain Ali being a black female and head scientist, Dr. Chang being Asian. I would say the show reminds me slightly of The Office just a more politically correct and socially aware version. I would highly recommend to comedy or space fans. 9/10.

Locke & Key

Quick Synopsis: After their father dies, the Locke family move to his childhood home in the small town of Matheson. The siblings, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode slowly discover various Keys hidden around Key House and a bigger mystery begins to unveil itself.

I came to this show later than when it first came out but I am really glad I did as I thought it was well crafted and the young cast that lead the show did a great job. There was a lot of characters and smaller sub plots but I thought everything was fleshed out really well. The locations were great, especially some of the places you visit via the Keys. I liked how elements of the past came back into the present of the show. A Season 2 has been announced and I am looking forward to it being produced when possible. 8/10.

Hollywood

Quick Synopsis: Set in the world of a post-WWII Hollywood, a group of creatives set about making social change with their film. Actors, actresses, producers, directors, writers and others all come together to create a picture more progressive than the film industry has seen before. Hollywood shows how the world could have been if attitudes were different.

I also started this show later than everyone else as I wanted to reduce my continue watching section of Netflix before it got too cluttered. As a film student, this show was always going to appeal, being set in Hollywood but I really enjoyed it and I think non-film people would too. It was amazing to see how society could have been if social change occurred 60 years ago. In the show, the creatives want to produce a film with a female black lead, written by a black writer and directed by a half-Asian director. They are met with many challenges but ultimately it exists which never happened in the 50s. The production design was amazing, as well as the cars, shops, clothing and film sets. The show was created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan who have made shows such as Pose and Glee. There were a few of Murphy’s favourites including Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Dylan McDermott, Patti LuPone mixed with some newcomers and experienced actors. I think this limited series would do well with a second series but concludes nicely. 9/10.

Never Have I Ever

Quick Synopsis: Devi, an Indian teen living in California has had a hard time lately. Her dad dropped dead at her school concert then she was paralysed but starting the new school year as a sophomore should be better. Along with her two best friends, Eleanor and Fabiola, Devi juggles family expectations, boy drama, friend drama and therapy. Her life is narrated by tennis player, John McEnroe.

I thought this teen comedy show was really funny with a touch more darkness than usual. It covered a lot of tough topics but kept the audience rooting for Devi and her friends. There was a great diverse cast and as the creator, Mindy Kaling is also Indian, all the Indian traditions and culture seemed very accurate. Devi’s life being narrated by an old white guy could have gone two ways but it added a quirk to what could be just another teen show. Devi has a strong spirit but made a lot of mistakes that I think many could relate too. She ended up in a lot of funny situations . All the main characters were well fleshed out with their own lives away from the main character and I learned a lot about Indian culture. A little more out there than a show made for teenagers. 8/10.

I Am Not Okay With This

Quick Synopsis: Sydney, a teenager in a small town is not part of the the popular crowd. When she makes a new friend in Dina, she hopes that life is turning around until telekinetic powers start. She is trying to replace her late father as a second parent to her younger brother and fending off the admiration of neighbour Stanley.

This show is based on a graphic novel by the same people who did ‘The End of the F***ing World’ and has similar vibes although in America. I thought all the emotions that Syd goes through were very powerful, given that when she feels angry, her powers manifest. The set isn’t as flashy but still helps to create the world. A lot of the props and the costumes give vintage vibes including Stanley’s car and his blue suit. This show has a slow build but an explosive ending. 7/10.

The Stranger

Quick Synopsis: People in an English city all become connected by a stranger who knows all their secrets. Different plot lines all begin to converge as the mystery and identity of ‘The Stranger’ becomes clearer. Weaving throughout is Adam’s need to find his missing wife, Corinne. She is at the centre of this mystery and her son leads a plot line amongst the teenagers.

Another great story from the mind of Harlan Coben who was responsible for another Netflix drama, Safe. There is a plot with adults but also with school kids so I think it adds a great blend. There’s a big cast but everyone gets a chance to show their story. You don’t often see teenage and adult drama mixed together like this which is the unique factor at play in this show. It was highly talked about and remains one of the best drama series I have seen. 10/10.

There are some great shows to come and some I am keen to start include Normal People, Snowpiercer, White Lines and Noughts and Crosses.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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10 Films to watch in Quarantine

Hello readers,

Apologies for not having posted for awhile. I got very busy with university work and then the Coronavirus hit. As I now have more time on my hands due to the government-imposed quarantine, I thought I would recommend 10 films to watch if you need an escape from the situation happening around the world at this time. I have used a mix of genres and these are all films I feel provide an escape into the world of cinema with different settings and destinations that show some locations that aren’t accessible at the moment. I’ve included Hollywood and British films. I have enjoyed all the films below and would recommend if you need something to watch. As ever all the film I recommend are available either on Amazon Prime or Netflix UK.

Everest (2015)

You may not think of this film as a likely choice to distract from a global pandemic but I watched it recently and for the whole film I was completely wrapped up in the story and the fate of the group. The film as you can probably guess is about climbing Mount Everest but as I didn’t know, it is based on a true story about a group of climbers in the 1990s who did not have a happy ending. I thought the film had great realism and gave a real portrayal of the difficulty needed when climbing the highest mountain on Earth. The acting was good, featuring some famous faces: Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley and Naoko Mori. 8/10 because it was quite sad at the end.

About Time (2013)

I have not watched this film in years but it is a classic British rom-com that I will be definitely be revisiting in this time period. Richard Curtis always delivers and this film is no different. It was a breakout role for Domhnall Gleeson establishing him as a lead. The film is set in the real world with a fun twist. In the film when Tim (Gleeson) turns 21, his father tells him of a family secret: when every male reaches 21, they have the ability to time travel within their own lives. He uses this new power to improve his own life in small ways. A really touching film with some good old British nostalgia. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Margot Robbie, Vanessa Kirby and Tom Hollander. 9/10 again for sadness factor but overall it is uplifting with beautiful scenery.

Lion (2016)

This real story tells an emotional journey about a boy who gets separated from his family in India while travelling across the country by train. He is then adopted by an Australian couple and grows up there. Cut to 25 years later and Saroo goes back to try and find his family. This film may have a simple premise but is an amazing true story and contains great scenery of India. It includes great performances from Dev Patel – best of his career-; Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman. I have not seen this film for a couple of years but be prepared to cry. 8/10 a great story but not a 10/10 film.

Green Book (2018)

I happened to see this film after it won the Best Picture Oscar in 2019. When I heard it had won, I was annoyed that a film I hadn’t heard of won. This was before I saw it. One of my favourite films of last year. It was poignant, gentle, dramatic, socially aware. These are all qualities I look for in a good film. As a period piece, it held up with attitudes of the time particularly towards a black, gay man without being overly discriminatory. No main character was racist or homophobic towards Mahershala Ali’s character, Dr. Don Shirley. The films chronicles an Italian-American man acting as a security man for a classical pianist on his tour of the Southern States of the US. They face much backlash from establishments but form a strong bond that isn’t often seen between two older male characters, especially between those of different backgrounds and in the 1960s. I loved the vibe between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the fact that when Dr. Shirley is caught naked with another man, Tony (Mortensen) doesn’t so much as bat an eye lid. There could have been more female characters but there wasn’t really room for more than Linda Cardellini who played Tony’s wife, Dolores who stayed at home in New York. I give this film 10/10 as I did when I first watched it. I am really glad that it is available to watch online.

What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)

Another British classic, a comedy this time, a family adventure. Doug and Abby are separating but put on a united front at Doug’s father’s 75th birthday. The family with Lottie, Mickey and Jess drive up to Scotland for the big event. Gordie is dying of cancer but wants one more day with the children while his other son, Gavin organises the big event. Hilarity and family realness ensues. I love this film as it is really funny in a less obvious way. British comedy is often more subtle than other forms and the chemistry between all the characters along with off hand one-liners and the children’s knack for timing makes this film watchable again and again. I re-watched this film yesterday and while I remembered it being funny, I had forgotten the heart and grief that was present. Yes there is a sadness to the film but real life isn’t all fun and games. I have seen this film at least three times and would highly recommend for anyone looking for a laugh. The views of Scotland also are breathtaking. 10/10 as I see no faults with this one.

Long Shot (2019)

I wanted to put in an American rom com as well as British ones as the Americans also do comedy well. This film has elements of a stoner comedy as well as action and romance. Seth Rogen plays Fred who bumps into Charlotte, his babysitter and childhood crush. Charlotte is now big in politics and about to announce her candidacy for President. She hires Fred as a speech writer and the two set off on a round the world press tour and bond together. I thought this film was the right balance of comedy and drama with some very real danger but also heightened reality. I saw it in the cinema last year and will definitely be watching on Netflix again. 8/10 as some scenes are a little over the top but overall a good time with great female representation.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

I really love this film and have seen multiple times in both the cinema and on DVD. A fun way to update the Jumanji film from the 1990s featuring CGI and special effects as I’ve never seen before. The trope of body swapping has been newly revived with teenagers possessing the bodies of action heroes. The film starts by showing the game of Jumanji turning into a video game in 1996. A random boy gets sucked into the game. Cut to 2017 and group of kids find the video game in their school’s junk room while in detention. They then enter the game and must complete it to escape. A great mix of teenage angst mixed with action, comedy and the chemistry between Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. They are well-known friends and collaborators so seeing at as teenagers was fun. I would also recommend the second Jumanji film; Jumanji: The Next Level but it not on streaming platforms at the moment. I give this film 9/10 as it can sometimes feel a little bit of a boys world but the characters of Martha and Bethany do hold their own.

Chalet Girl (2009)

One of my favourite rom coms and again another British one. This time it’s a trip to Austria for a snow filled story. Kim, a skateboard star needs a job. She finds a position as a chalet girl for a rich family in Austria. She then decides to learn to snowboard using her skills from skateboarding. She begins to get out of her shell and have fun with her new friends. She also finds romance with Johnny, son of the family she caters for. Will he pick Kim over his girlfriend? Filled with an amazing cast of Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Egerton, Sophia Bush, Bill Bailey and Brooke Shields. While this film is set in snow, it is not a Christmas one and I think is watchable any time of the year. 8/10 as the ending is a little rom com cheesy but feel good all the same.

We’re the Millers! (2015)

This film always makes me laugh and never disappoints. One for families with teenagers as features some risque scenes and bad language. Starring comedy geniuses Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, the Miller family take a family vacation to Mexico and road trip back. In reality, Mum, Dad and the two kids aren’t related and just happen to know each other. David deals weed and he is threatened by local drug lord to take a shipment over the US/Mexican border. He enlists Rose; his neighbour and stripper; Kenny; his other neighbour and naive teenager and Casey a local runaway girl that Kenny knows to become the Millers. So many hilarious moments occur particularly when they meet the Fitzgerald family made up of Kathryn Hahn; Nick Offerman and Molly Quinn. This film has some interesting scenery but for me is about the characters and their unlikely bond. 10/10 for the ability to make me laugh over and over.

21 & Over (2013)

I have only seen this film once but found it really funny. It features three college friends as one of them turns 21. His high school friends go and visit for a night of fun which quickly turns into a quest to get Jeff Chang to his medical school interview the next morning. Miller and Casey soon find themselves handling a very drunk friend while navigating parties, cops and how to get back to their friend’s dorm. While at heart, this film is a college frat boy comedy it contained many truths about friendship and the pressures one can feel to be a particular person. A progressive yet slightly left-wing approach to gayness. I enjoyed this film especially when Miller and Casey have to complete the party house levels to get to the top. 8/10 as some portrayals of women were a little mean and some jokes didn’t make the mark but overall a fun late night comedy. Again not so much the scenery but the adventure.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

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Oscar Hopefuls 2020

I was just chatting to someone and talking through who I would like to win the Oscar in each category and thought why not make it into a blog post? As the Oscars will be gracing our screens tomorrow and into the night for the UK audience, I am going to go through my favourites for this year. Hopefuls and Predictions are different: there are those you would like to win and those that probably will. I will not be doing any categories where I have only seen one film or zero as that is not fair.

The biggest award of the night is of course Best Picture. There is stiff competition this year with every film in the category gaining multiple nominations. I have not yet seen Joker, Parasite or 1917 so I am discounting those. My pick would be Little Women. It is a much needed film for women and for everyone. It is beautiful to watch, the script is powerful and the acting brought the well-loved and well-acted characters a breath of fresh air. Performances were noticed due to the two nominations but sadly Greta Gerwig was not recognised for a project that she made happen. She wrote and directed it and put so much love and care into the story. This film moved me more than the other nominations and to see a film called Little Women with four female leads in a game that is usually about men is amazing. Many people say that equality between the genders has been achieved but as most of the nominations that are for both genders contain male nominees, this is not the case.

If Little Women did not win, I would not mind Jojo Rabbit or Ford vs Ferrari as both were enjoyable with so much hard work being put into them.

Actor in a Leading Role is not a particularly diverse category this year with many familiar players from other award shows present. It is great that Antonio Banderas has been included as he has not been recognised elsewhere. My pick would be Jonathan Pryce as I feel his role was more a stretch as an actor than Driver or DiCaprio. His role as the Pope brought such emotion and depth to the story (The Two Popes). He has also never won before and is such a talented actor that it would be a great ending to his career.

Actress in a Leading Role also contains people that have been picked out in other areas and again not much diversity with the exception of Cynthia Erivo for her role as titular Harriet. Considering this is only her third film role in 2 years and she has been nominated for an Oscar, she has done remarkably well. I loved her performance and the film Harriet really stayed with me hours after watching. I am disappointed it has only been picked up for 2 nominations as the film was so powerful. My pick for Actress in a Leading Role would be Saoirse Ronan. This is her 4th nomination and she is only in her mid 20s. She brought such independence, power, spirit and strength to her role as Jo March in Little Women. I love her as an actress and I hope that this will be her year.

Actor in a Supporting Role is tricky as all of these actors are established Hollywood greats. Brad Pitt has won the SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe for this role so if he won this one it would be the set. I think however that his performance was not as inspiring as others we have seen this year. Tom Hanks also another great actor has been nominated but as I have not seen his film I cannot comment. My Pick would be Anthony Hopkins for his role as former Pope Benedict. Like Jonathan Pryce, his role brought such emotion to the film and I am not surprised that they have both been nominated.

Actress in a Supporting Role again doesn’t have any diversity other than nationality: American, British and Australian nominees. I am glad there is no double nomination for Margot Robbie as there was at the BAFTAs. I think nominating the same person twice in the same category is too much. I am not very happy with Scarlett Johansson’s double nomination either but at least she had seminal roles in both films whereas as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Robbie barely had any lines. My pick would be Florence Pugh as this is her first nomination and she did an amazing job as Amy March in Little Women. She has only been acting on screen for 6 years and her progression to being nominated so early is amazing. Saoirse was also nominated early in her career so this could be the start for Florence.

For Animated Feature Film, I have only seen Klaus and Toy Story 4. Both very different films with different animation styles. My pick would be Toy Story 4 for nostalgia reasons. Watching the film, I felt a strong connection to my inner child and even shed a few tears near the end. Klaus was very moving and a beautiful story but it did not elicit the same response.

In the Cinematography category I have only seen two of the nominations and with both I did not particularly notice the cinematography. I would have to go with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as some of the shots were interesting whereas with the Irishman, nothing noteworthy springs to mind.

Costume Design is a strange category this year. There are a few nominations that confuse me such as Joker and The Irishman. The other three are worthy nominees and my pick would be Little Women due to the detail Jacqueline Durran put into each characters costume. I’ve heard Greta Gerwig explain all her choices and I think so much thought and care went into the costumes that it is a worthy winner.

Directing again is all male nominees which is so disappointing as there were some amazing female led films this year such as Little Women, Harriet, Blinded by the Light, Honey Boy, Queen and Slim and Breakthrough. Out of the selection I would pick Bong Joon Ho even though I have not seen Parasite due to the fact that is not a white man. All the other directors have been recognised many times in their career.

For Film Editing, most of the nominations surprised me as the editing again was not particularly noteworthy apart from Ford vs Ferrari which I think would be a worthy winner. The editing of the Les Mans scenes made the film feel exciting and really highlighted the achievement of Ken Miles.

For the Make Up and Hairstyling award, I would like Bombshell to win as the three main actresses and John Lithgow looked very much the part. I have only seen one other nominee, Judy and while Renée Zellweger was made to look like Judy Garland, I think the effect in Bombshell was more impressive.

For the Original Score, I would like Joker to win as Hildur Guðnadóttir is making waves for female composers but as I have not seen the film, my pick would be Little Women as the score added so much to the film and Alexandre Desplat is an amazing composer.

For Original Song, I am pleased that Rocketman – (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again is nominated and I wold love if this song wins as represents such a pinnacle moment in the film and Elton John’s life. Stand Up from Harriet is also a worthy nominee but I did’t think the song was the best element of the film.

For Production Design I would chose Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit as both had amazing design that really contributed to the film. The 60s vibes of Tarantino’s Hollywood spectacle were the best part of the film. Jojo Rabbit was also a historical setting but with a more satirical view of Germany in the war.

Sound Editing is a tricky category for me as I am not much of an expert on sound editing but I would like Ford vs Ferrari to win as the sound very much added to the adrenaline of the racing. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is also a worthy nominee as the sound is a big part of any Star Wars film.

Ad Astra would be my pick for Sound Mixing as I haven’t seen all the nominees but this film had beautiful sounds. The setting was also amazing but this is nominated for sound mixing not production design.

Visual Effects is a tie category for me as I think Avengers Endgame and The Lion King both had great visual effects. Avengers Endgame means more to me as a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Lion King looked amazing also but I prefer the 1994 original.

I would love if Greta Gerwig won Adapted Screenplay for Little Women as she has been snubbed in the Directing category. Her interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s story was so different to other versions of the story. Starting with the girls when they were older was a great new idea. The lines were so strong and meant a lot to me as a woman. It was also relatable and funny in places.

My pick for Original Screenplay would be Knives Out as the script was very different to many of the films going around and a great take on the murder mystery film. I have seen this film twice and it was great to see all the hints and red herrings when you know the ending. Marriage Story was strong but didn’t impress me as much.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone enjoys the Oscars this year.

Robyn

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Little Women

This film really means a lot to me for a number of reasons so this review was always going to be a love letter to Little Women but after seeing the film yesterday, I was truly moved and surprised by the version I saw. This will contain spoilers as it has been out for a while so turn back now if you want to watch in the future although the story has been around for 150 years.

Years ago I tried to read the book of Little Women but gave up due to the complex language. However, after seeing the BBC adaptation at Christmas, a couple of years ago starring Maya Hawke, Kathryn Newton and Michael Gambon, I fell in love with the story. The strength in all of the sisters living in the times they did but managing to be such strong characters was something I really cherished. The fact that it was published in the 1860s in a time when women were not particularly valued as authors really shows the power of the little women.

After hearing the announcement of the cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep I became very excited. The director Greta Gerwig is one of only a few female directors to be nominated for an Oscar for Lady Bird. That was a film I also absolutely loved and it also starred Saoirse and Timothée. As Laurie and Jo, the pair were just stunning. Every little movement and look heightened the possibility of a love story between the two.

The story of Little Women follows four sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth March in 1850s America. The Civil War is raging during their childhood with their father away fighting. They live in a modest house in Concord, Massachusetts with their mother, Marmee (Dern) and their maid, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell). They are restricted by society at the time of how a woman should present herself and do with her life i.e. get married and have children. They often lament at being poor compared to their friends and others but are soon put in their place after helping out a local family with 5 young children living in one room.

Each sister has their own story, Jo is boyish and doesn’t want to marry. She loves writing and is constantly writing plays for her sisters to act in. Jo is also the main character of the story as it is mainly told from her perspective. Jo’s dream is to live in New York and become a novelist.

The next sister is Amy. She is younger than Jo and Meg and is annoyed at being treated as a baby all the time. For example, she is not allowed to go with Meg and Jo to a dance. She has aspirations of becoming an artist as she loves to paint. She is also cultured and is in ways the smartest sister. She is picked to go to Paris with Aunt March as she knows French and is a good companion.

The sister with perhaps more humble aspirations is Meg (Watson). We hear from Jo of her dreams to be an actress and Jo even suggests running away together but Meg corrects her that she wants to be a wife and live a quiet, happy life. Meg is the oldest sister and often goes to balls or dances which is required to hopefully meet an eligible rich man to marry.

The youngest and most fragile of the sisters is Beth (Eliza Scanlen). She is not interested in finding anyone and her biggest dream is for all of them to be together. She has skills at the piano and Mr Laurence (Chris Cooper) is taken to Beth and even gives her his grand piano. Beth is the kindest and least selfish sister. She even gets scarlet fever visiting the poor family when her sisters keep forgetting.

Laurie played by Timothée Chalamet is a character that interacts with every sister in a way. He lives next door to the March Family with his grandfather. From meeting Jo and Meg at a dance he is enamoured with Jo. She is bold and fierce and cares deeply. They become best friends but Jo never sees him that way. He becomes more relaxed and even angry when he meets Amy in Paris after being rejected by Jo. His nature is a caring one but has a temper that can match Amy’s. Not having any women in his life draws him to the March family and their business. There are many scenes where the sisters are all talking at once but understanding each other. Timothée and Saoirse have great chemistry from playing love interests in Lady Bird so it is not hard to imagine them together as Jo and Laurie which is needed as the audience need to believe in the potential of Jo and Laurie ending up together.

Marmee is a a character that encompasses all the sisters. Greta Gerwig said in an interview that a part of Marmee’s character went to each sister. Her anger at life to Jo, her caring nature to Beth, her desire to be a wife and mother to Meg and her boldness to Amy. Laura Dern is a very dynamic actress and I loved her portrayal of Marmee.

Meryl Streep was brilliant as Aunt March, her comic timing and straight talking brought an authority to Aunt March who acted as a role model to the girls especially Amy and Jo who often sat with their aunt. She never held back any thoughts which was unusual for a woman of the time and she also never married which was even more unusual. There’s a great part where Jo is trying to sell her novel to her publisher and he insists that if the main character is a woman she must be married or dead by the end. That was how society saw a woman’s place in that part of the world.

Greta’s interpretation of the story surprised me as it was not told traditionally. We started with the girls in their adulthood, Jo in New York, Meg married with children, Beth sick and Amy in Paris. The film then went back and forth between the glow of their childhood and the coldness of their adulthood. A few moments that really moved me were Beth’s death, Jo rejecting Laurie, Jo seeing her book ‘Little Women’ being printed, Meg getting married, Laurie finally choosing Amy and the ending where the sisters are all together at Aunt March’s house now turned into a school.

All of the actors were very good at their roles and two have been nominated for Oscars – Florence Pugh for her fierce and bold portrayal of Amy and Saoirse Ronan for her feisty and tempestuous role as Jo.

I think this film will become a classic in the days to come and a masterclass in how to take a well-known, well-portrayed tale and weave it into an emotional, dramatic performance that leaves you feeling like you have lived as a March sister in their house in Concord. Overall I give this film 5/5.

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Bombshell

I was privileged to see this film before the UK release date as I was abroad, in Turkey and the release date was much earlier. I thought I would post however on the UK release date to give potential watchers an idea of what the film entails.

I was not aware of this story before the film was announced but it only happened four years ago in 2016. I have heard of Fox News, the American news channel that broadcasts incorrect or speculative information. I had no idea of the size of this media giant with all of its news programmes and breakfast shows.

This scandal was right on the cusp of the #MeToo movement where many famous actors, sportspeople, finance workers and many other fields all came forward with stories of sexual abuse or assault. Bombshell is set in the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential Election. It is before the candidates have officially been announced so there isn’t necessarily a Trump v Clinton race going on but they are both present. The first major scandal of the film comes when Trump talks about Fox presenter Megyn Kelly on TV and refers to her menstruating as an excuse for her statements. This affects Megyn with Trump then tweeting harsh words about her. Even though this incident isn’t part of the main narrative it is certainly a warm up of what is to come.

The film focuses on three separate women working at Fox News. There is Gretchen (Nicole Kidman) who has just been demoted for trying to be more women-positive on her breakfast show. She was a top presenter transferred to a less popular show.

Megyn Kelly played by Charlize Theron is another of the main women. She goes on holiday for a week to avoid the controversy after the Trump incident. Her support or not openly dismissing the assaulter later in the film is make or break for conviction.

The third woman, Kayla ( Margot Robbie) is a researcher who has grown up watching Fox News. She wants to be on TV and starts meetings with the head of Fox News. Her relationship with fellow researcher and desk buddy, Jess (Kate McKinnon) is another sub plot. Even though they hook up after a night out, Kayla says she is not a lesbian. Jess also supports Clinton and wants her to be the Democratic candidate. Fox News is firmly a Republican station so she keeps that part of her identity hidden.

The catalyst of the film is when Gretchen meets with her lawyers to sue Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), the boss of Fox News for sexual assault. She claims that she was demoted for refusing to be with him sexually. When she decides to come forward publicly, more and more women come forward with stories about Roger and how he made them do awful things to progress their career. In the film, we see how Kayla is being groomed by Roger in her aim to be on TV. Megyn eventually admits to her own assault some 10 years previously. Although the majority of the assault claims focus on Ailes, other executives on the second floor also have allegations made against them.

It is shocking that this scandal took so long to come out but it is not so surprising seeing how Ailes and the others treat the female presenters. They all have to wear short, tight dresses showing cleavage and with Spanx to look as thin as possible. There is one scene in the wardrobe department where there are racks and racks of dresses in every colour and one woman in at least two layers of Spanx. Someone asks to wear trousers and they are told they aren’t allowed without permission from the second floor which is Ailes.

I thought this film was very powerful and eye-opening about what goes on behind closed doors. I was surprised that everything about Trump could be put in this film considering he is currently the President but I am glad it was included. The acting was also strong with Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie all at the top of their game. Charlize and Margot have also been nominated for various awards for their performances at the Globes, SAGs, BAFTAs and Oscars. Nicole also has a nod at the SAGs.

This sort of film is really important in today’s climate and even though the #MeToo movement has changed things, audiences need to understand what it was like and in some cases still is in this kind of cut-throat business. If you dared to speak up, you were fired. Many people couldn’t afford this so were forced into accepting assault.

Overall I think this film was very powerful and brought light to a situation I had no idea about. 4.5/5.

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Knives Out – 2nd Watch Review

I saw this film for the first time the weekend after it opened. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked interesting. With the starry cast and original storyline, not to mention the acclaimed director, Rian Johnson, I was hooked. My first reaction was pure delight. I love a whodunnit murder mystery and they have faded out of popularity this century but seeing Knives Out and its updated version of the classic Agatha Christie tale was amazing. So many films these days, especially American ones are reboots, remakes, sequels, third sequels; based on books, games, apps or true stories, it was refreshing to see something original.

The ending truly shocked me and when it was all explained by the Private Investigator, I did not expect what unfolded to happen.

I saw this film again last night and I was a little concerned that seeing it a second time around might ruin the magic as I knew the result but it did not. When viewing this film a second time, I could spot all the small clues that led to the answer.

The basic storyline of the film is that a family gather for their father’s 85th birthday party. There are arguments and family drama and the next morning, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), head of the family is dead. Many think a suicide but after Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by an anonymous source, foul play is suspected. Harlan Thrombey is a rich man with a grand mansion, he makes his money from writing mystery novels. He has three children, one deceased before the film starts. There’s Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), self-made estate agent and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). Their son, Ransom (Chris Evans) is the black sheep of the family and he leaves the party early.

Next is Joni (Toni Collette), widow of Harlan’s son, Neil. She runs a beauty business, Flam and receives a yearly allowance from Harlan. There is her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford) who Harlan pays for to go to college.

The youngest son is Walt (Michael Shannon). He runs Harlan’s publishing company and is trying to get his father to agree to selling rights to film and TV. His wife, Donna (Riki Lindhome) is not a main player and is never questioned as a suspect. Their son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is always on his phone and is part of alt-right wing parties. He is only 16 so isn’t questioned either.

There is also Harlan’s mother, Wanetta (K Callan) who is disregarded by the family due to her age. She becomes a vital part in the investigation.

The non-family members are Fran (Edi Patterson), the maid and Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). Marta was the last to spend time with Harlan. There is also the two Detectives, Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)

I love this film and the differences between the characters are all subtlety outlined by their responses to certain questions. Joni says to Benoit Blanc that she saw a tweet of a New Yorker article about him. Linda then says she read about him in the New Yorker. Richard, Joni and Walt all appear to have motives at the beginning of the film.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it as it is really something you have to see for yourself. I read a Buzzfeed article last week about why its still so popular 5 weeks after release. My answer is that it is a great story with a twist and the acting was superb. Overall 5/5.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Finally here is the conclusion of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars has been a big piece of pop culture and film history since the first film came to cinemas in 1977. As a millennial, I have not before been exposed to the excitement of seeing a Star Wars film in the cinemas until I went to see Force Awakens with my dad. I have never been a big Star Wars fan but as he has always been a follower of the franchise, we went to see it. This was five years ago and I must admit I was anticipating Episode IX along with millions of other die hard fans. This review is spoiler-free so feel free to read if you are planning to watch in the future.

I watched The Rise of Skywalker in a cinema abroad with subtitles but this did not hinder my viewing at all. I hate watching films with subtitles on Netflix if they are in the same language as the audio but as English is not the first language where I am for the holidays, there was no other option.

Now to the actual film. I have heard a lot of noise on the grapevine about The Rise of Skywalker being a redo of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, Episode XIII in the franchise. I am definitely not an expert so I don’t feel I have the knowledge to comment on this controversy having only seen both films once each.

I thought the film was excellent. Star Wars has a certain flavour of teamwork, rebellion, adventure, final showdowns and lasting friendships that other popular franchises haven’t really accomplished. I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the film and accompanied with John Williams’ score, the adrenaline was pumping. Having been in the last two films the new trio of Rey, Poe and Finn have settled into their roles in the films. Rey is finding herself as a Jedi, Poe has a position of leadership and Finn has found his own place in the Rebel alliance as a former Stormtrooper.

The film starts, of course, with a mission that leads the trio to ending the fight between good and evil. We get new characters, ships, planets as well as all the old friends, foes and gadgets. The original trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa all make appearances despite Luke and Han perishing in the previous films and Carrie Fisher sadly passing away in 2016.

There were a few things I didn’t understand not having brushed up on my Star Wars trivia or having seen the original films but I knew enough to be shocked at demises and thrilled at successes.

Seeing Star Wars at the cinema is a must-do, the spectacle demands the big screen and surround sound but I also had the added benefit of seeing it in a special screen with leather recliners and lots of space. I believe that the place determines one’s enjoyment of a film. There are films I would have enjoyed more if I wasn’t surrounded by noisy children or in a tiny screen but there are also those films that it doesn’t matter where you are, the excitement can override the discomfort.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and apart from an epic conclusion to a nine film saga spanning over forty years, it was a great adventure in space. 4/5.

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