Summer of Cinema: Black Widow

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has a strong relevance to Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D, it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film, gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

Dear Reader,

I, like many others have been waiting for this film for over a year. Marvel fans have had some amazing TV shows to keep us entertained in 2021, but when the time came for Black Widow, I had to see the first female Avenger get her due. In some ways, it has been much longer than a year waiting for this film. The friend who organised my group outing has been anticipating since Black Widow’s debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Natasha Romanoff has always been a mystery. We have seen a little of her back story in the Red Room, training to be an assassin but how did she really become Black Widow and how did she join S.H.I.E.L.D?

I saw this film at a Vue Extreme screening in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, London so I definitely got the full effect. The screen was massive and the audience was packed for a Friday afternoon. I went with a group of friends and mutual friends and despite not everyone being a Marvel geek, we all enjoyed seeing Black Widow get her moment to shine.

There’s so much to dissect within the film including amazing aerial fight sequences, powerful female characters, an unexpected family drama aspect, humorous squabbling and the long awaited Budapest story.

I will start first with the characters. We have met Natasha Romanoff in several Marvel films as different versions of herself. There was Natalie Rushman in Iron Man 2 and her true name, Natalia Alianova Romanova was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite an appearance in eight other Marvel films, Black Widow has always kept her cards close to her chest in terms of her origin story; we have only been given little bits and pieces.

In Black Widow, we find Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the government after the events of Captain America: Civil War. She expertly evades Secretary Ross (William Hurt) and ends up in Norway. She still has her trademark red hair but we know that at some point she will dye it blonde for her appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.

We also learn of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a Black Widow agent on mission in Morocco. After exposure to a chemical, Yelena wakes up from mind control and goes rogue. Natasha finds her in Budapest and after trying to kill each other, the two remember their past as sisters in America.

Natasha and Yelena were raised as sisters for three years with the Red Guardian – Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) – a former Widow posing as their parents. The first sequence shows their life together and then suddenly having to leave sleepy Ohio for Russia to train in the Red Room.

When Natasha learns that the Red Room still exists and girls are still being trained as assassins, she agrees to help Yelena take it down. They team up with Alexei and Melina once again who help them find the Red Room. There is a big focus on aerial stunts in this film which is something Marvel loves to dabble in with its flying heroes such as Falcon, Iron Man, Vision and War Machine but we have not seen this so much with Natasha. There is the small airplane sequence where Alexei tries to fend off the police from the wing of the plane; the helicopter jailbreak in Russia with Yelena flying it and Natasha swinging from a cable and of course, the fight sequence when everything falls after the Red Room is blown up.

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has strong relevance in Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D; it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

When Natasha and Yelena sit down for dinner with Alexei and Melina, family dynamics that had been forgotten for 20 years come into play with Melina criticising Natasha’s posture and Alexei telling the women to listen to their ‘mother.’ The humour and banter between the four characters demonstrates the closeness they once shared. They are able to fall back into familiar roles.

An element of the film that fans have been waiting for is the story behind what happened in Budapest with Natasha and Clint Barton. It started as a throwaway line in Avengers (2012) but has become a key part of Natasha’s story. When she finds Yelena in Budapest at a safe house, she recounts meeting Clint and him helping her avoid being recalled to the Red Room. We get details such as hiding in an air duct in the Metro for two days and using the same safe house where Natasha and Yelena meet. This is evidenced by arrow holes in the wall. Natasha mentioned before that Clint was sent to kill her but instead gave her a chance to join a different side. Her accidental killing (or so she thought) of Dreykov’s daughter was her proof that she had separated herself from Dreykov and the Widows.

Overall, this film was entertaining and a welcome return for Marvel at the cinema. It was funnier than I expected whilst still maintaining a serious plot and a worthy adversary to destroy. The aerial stunt at the end was like nothing I had seen in a Marvel outing or elsewhere and was amazing to see on a big screen. If you have been waiting to return to the cinema, definitely make this film your first one back.

I give this film 5/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Oscar Hopefuls 2020

The biggest award of the night if 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 everyone else. It is beautiful to watch, the script is powerful and the acting brought the well-loved and well-done 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 equally 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.

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

Little Women

After hearing the announcement of the cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timotheé Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep I became very excited. The director Greta Gerwig is one of the only 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 Timotheé. As Laurie and Jo, the pair were just stunning. Every little movement and look heightened the possibility of a love story between the two.

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.

September Cinema goings

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. 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 I volunteer at. 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.

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 Timothée 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

Stranger Things 3 – A Masterpiece of 80s nostalgia

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.

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.

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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.

Strong Women in Film

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.

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 🙂

My Top Actors and Actresses This Year // February 2019

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.

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

Image result for steve carell in beautiful boy

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 Timothée 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 🙂

Top Netflix Original Films I recommend from this Summer

Hello readers,

Another blog post today, this time about films I have seen and enjoyed this summer on Netflix. All the films below are Netflix Originals as I have seen many other films on Netflix but too many to list here.

I think that this year Netflix has produced some great original and entertaining films (and TV shows) that I haven’t seen done before.

My favourites are:

Like Father (2018)

 

A truly original and heart warming film about a father and daughter, Like Father really moved me in a way I didn’t expect. The synopsis – a workaholic left at the altar spends her honeymoon cruise with her estranged father – really does not explain the emotions this film portrays. The back drop of New York and later the Caribbean cruise liner, Harmony of the Seas was a combination that not only worked but that I had never seen before. The cruise ship was epic and breathtaking and exuded luxury which makes the fact that Rachel is sharing the experience with her dad, not new husband all the more hilarious.

Harry and Rachel are put in a group of other honeymooners and that provides comic relief and advice. Seth Rogen makes an appearance as Rachel’s holiday rebound.

This film while being fun to watch also contains deeper messages about love and parenting. For any daughters who have absent or working away fathers, it will make them think about what’s important.

Directed by Lauren Miller Rogen (Seth Rogen’s wife) and starring Kristen Bell as Rachel and Kelsey Grammer as her father, this film definitely explored emotions deeper than I thought it would in a unique setting.

A particularly enjoyable scene was the game show where Rachel and Harry have to compete as though husband and wife.

I give Like Father 5/5.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Based on bestselling novel by Jenny Han, this teen romance has quickly been dubbed a classic by many. I, for one, happen to agree wholeheartedly. It centres around teen Lara Jean who lives in her own fantasy land when it comes to love. She’s never had a boyfriend but plenty of crushes. When the secret love letters she writes to them are posted by her younger sister Kitty, Lara Jean’s fantasies start coming true. Lara Jean begins a fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky, her 5th grade crush, because that always goes well.

A reason why this film is so widely loved and appreciated is down to a few key reasons. One is that Lara Jean and her sisters are Asian-American. Many mixed race girls have never seen themselves as a main character represented so well in film or otherwise. The Coveys’ heritage is never sidelined with their American father attempting Korean food and the sisters’ love for Yakult, it is never exposed for stereotypes or even explicitly mentioned. It is visually shown with a few references. Another reason is Peter’s respect for Lara Jean. He never makes fun of her for being inexperienced, he loves listening to her and helps her gently move out of her comfort zone. When Kitty tells him, ‘call me Katherine’ he is patient until she learns to like him. He also quickly earns the respect of Dr. Covey something which others find hard to do.

Kitty Covey is another well thought out character. Though she is only 11, she knows that as a woman she shouldn’t be talked down to or dismissed. She even talks back to her dad and is always seen wearing a necklace saying ‘Feminist’. She makes fun of her sisters’ but also helps them find romance.

The film truly depicts how stepping out of your shell can result in finding what you’ve been looking for and shows many people that being shy doesn’t mean you can’t get the guy.

Directed and written by women, Susan Johnson, Sofia Alvarez and Jenny Han (author of the book) really shines through in the script and the male characters are written just as well as the female ones.

Starring the brilliant Lana Condor (X-Men Apocalypse) as Lara Jean, Noah Centineo (The Fosters) as Peter, Janel Parrish (Pretty Little Liars) as Margot, Anna Cathcart (Desendants 2) as Kitty and John Corbett (Sex in the City) as Dr. Covey.

This film really does make you believe in love so therefore I give To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 5/5.

Father of the Year (2018)

David Spade and Nat Faxon in Father of the Year (2018)

I wasn’t expecting to like Father of the Year and almost dismissed it as another bad comedy but I surprised myself by enjoying it. The synopsis definitely doesn’t do the film justice – a drunken debate between two college graduates about whose father would win in a fight – really is very wrong. One, the two college graduates are childhood friends who went to college together and have one last summer before going to New York. The debate was not drunken but a funny dinner discussion at one boy’s house with his father present.

The film for me shows a father dismissed by his son as being a wasted, unemployed slob, desperately trying to have one last summer before his son begins his adult life.

While Ben’s father, Wayne is all of the above, he is also genuinely caring which can be hard to find in a parent. Ben’s mother seemingly left Wayne to go travelling and have an ambitious career and is only briefly mentioned in the film.

Larry’s father however is a scientist but is pushed around by his 8 year old stepson, Aiden and wife to a point of the viewer feeling frustrated at why he can’t have a backbone. He also does care for his eldest son and tries to be a good father. He never resents Aiden for treating him so appallingly and and can barely tell him off.

While both fathers do end up fighting and causing trouble for Ben, this is only a small part of the film. Ben meets a girl, Meredith, his first real relationship while Larry searches for his purpose in life.

Although the slapstick comedy made me laugh out loud, the feelings and emotions between father and son also made me love for the characters and their misfortunes.

Starring David Spade (Joe Dirt) as Wayne, Nat Faxon (the Desendants – Writer – Won Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award) as Larry’s father, Mardy; Joey Bragg (Liv and Maddie) as Ben, Matt Shively (Power Rangers) as Larry and Bridgit Mendler ( Good Luck Charlie) as Meredith.

I give Father of the Year 4/5.

Dude (2018)

A real coming age story of four friends about to graduate high school, where they call their teachers by their first name, dealing with love and loss whilst smoking weed.

The four friends, Lily, Chloe, Amelia and Rebecca attend a progressive school unlike any shown in American media. Chloe is dealing with the loss of her older brother, Thomas while Lily as his girlfriend also grieves. Rebecca deals with not being as rich as her friends and her crush on a teacher and Amelia is stuck mediating her divorcing parents. Although three of the girls are wealthy, the film shows that money can’t buy friendship or happiness.

I liked the film for it’s honesty about grief and friendship and that girls can be stoners too. It shows how grief for a brother and a boyfriend often feel the same but can be different.

Featuring an all star cast of Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), Kathryn Prescott (Skins), Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon),  Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8), Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) and Austin Butler (Aliens in the Attic).

Set It Up (2018)

Taye Diggs, Lucy Liu, Glen Powell, and Zoey Deutch in Set It Up (2018)This more traditional rom com between two adults in New York is original but features a troupe I’ve seen before. Two people who hate each other slowly become friends and fall in love. This particular setting though was very original.

Two assistants hatch a plan to create a romance between their two demanding bosses to give themselves more free time. With the romantic setting of New York City, love was bound to happen.

The comedy comes from Harper and Charlie both faking gifts and date ideas from each boss that they should clearly use in their own lives. Harper wants the free time to find a suitable boyfriend and finally write an article for the website her boss runs and Charlie wants more time for his girlfriend.

Of course they eventually find they want more time for each other.

Harper is refreshingly a huge sports fan and sees her favorite team, the Mets whenever they have a game.

The film shows that it isn’t bad to have ambition and love could be right under your nose when you least expect it.

Starring Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall) as Harper, Glen Powell (Hidden Figures) as Charlie, Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels) as Kirsten, Taye Diggs (Chicago) as Rick and Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live) as Charlie’s roommate, Duncan.

I give Set It Up 5/5.

The Kissing Booth (2018)

Joey King, Joel Courtney, and Jacob Elordi in The Kissing Booth (2018)

The first of my recommendations that I saw this summer and the first one I really loved.

Elle Evans who has had the same best friend, Lee Flynn since she can remember has the smart idea to run a kissing booth at her school fair. Over the summer she has matured and now catches the eye of some male students.

After promising the appearance of Lee’s gorgeous older brother, Noah at the booth, she is surprised when he turns up and kisses her. They then embark on a secret relationship as she has a pact with Lee to never date his brother.

Elle is the kind of sweet and loveable character that always ends up making a fool of herself despite trying her best. She attempts to keep everyone happy but can’t help following her heart.

Also based on the best selling novel by Beth Reekles.

Starring the incredible Joey King (White House Down) as Elle, Joel Courtney (Super 8) as Lee, Jacob Elordi (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Noah and Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles) as Mrs Flynn.

I give The Kissing Booth 5/5.

If you have any Netflix Originals that you have enjoyed this summer, please leave your recommendations below.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

Female Empowerment at its Finest: How Ocean’s Eight has brought changes to the androcentric industry

Hello readers,

Having finally seen Ocean’s Eight at the cinema a couple of months ago, I thought I would give my opinion on why the film is important in terms of female empowerment. The film, a continuation of the Ocean’s 11 trilogy starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, is not just a heist film about eight women stealing a necklace, it’s a change in the right direction for female filmmakers.

Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, and Awkwafina in Ocean's Eight (2018)

Even though the film was directed by a man, Gary Ross, writer, producer and director; it is the cast and plot of the film that has shown women on top for once.

The eight talented and diverse leads from the music and acting world were not just picked randomly, as a unit they gelled together to create a believable and enjoyable chemistry.

I loved the setting of the film, at the MET Gala, one of the most prestigious events in the world. It played to the character’s strengths and interests: Mindy Kaling’s character is a jewellery maker, Sarah Paulson takes a job at Vogue, Anne Hathaway is a vain but devious celebrity. Some male critics dismissed the setting as a ‘typical female subject’. I however disagree with this.

The setting of the MET Gala as the most exclusive invitation in America makes the stakes for the heist that much higher. Just robbing the vault where the necklace was kept wouldn’t be as exciting or dangerous as actually carrying out the heist at the gala with cameras and security covering every inch of the place.

In most male-led heist films they would not consider robbing a necklace and certainly not by taking a job at a magazine or catering the event. This is where women find their individuality and what makes the film plot interesting.

There are some very influential and key male characters in the film such as Claude Becker, Debbie Ocean’s ex-boyfriend who becomes an important person in the heist as he is taken to the gala as Daphne Kluger’s date and is manipulated for revenge by Debbie.

A satisfying ending to the film reveals the eight never being caught but letting the insurance agent trying to hunt down the stolen necklace only have 10%. Lou also reveals all the other jewellery she managed to lift so the participants all get $30 million – twice the agreed upon amount.

This film showed me that women can still wear dresses, take typically feminine jobs, steal a necklace but can also be clever, not get caught and make a great entertaining movie.

Some personal highlights of the film for me were Debbie Ocean managing to get herself a free hotel room at the beginning, the recruitment of Daphne to the plan, the ‘job within a job’ at the gala, framing Claude Becker and the four retired actresses at the end auctioning off parts of the necklace as bracelets and brooches.

Directed by Gary Ross

Screenplay by Gary Ross & Olivia Milch

Cast:

Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean (the leader and the woman who thought up the heist whilst in prison)

Cate Blanchett as Lou (Debbie’s best friend with catering skills and an authoritative persona)

Helena Bonham Carter as Rose Weil (a timid fashion designer struggling with debt)

Mindy Kaling as Amita (a jewellery designer, looking for a boyfriend and still living with her mother)

Rihanna as Nine Ball (a hacker who can crack any puzzle)

Awkwafina as Constance ( a pickpocket who can take anything from anyone)

Sarah Paulson as Tammy (a housewife with kids, running a secret buy and sell operation and an old friend of Debbie’s)

Anne Hathaway as Daphne Kluger (one of the most famous actresses in the world, looking for her MET Ball dress designer and who is vain but also deceitful)

Richard Armitage as Claude Becker (an arrogant gallery owner who is an ex-boyfriend of Debbie’s and Daphne’s new beau)

James Corden as John Frazier (the insurance agent trying to hunt down the stolen necklace who managed to catch members of Debbie’s family on several occasions)

There were also many celebrity cameos at the MET Gala such as:

Hailey Baldwin, Olivia Munn, Katie Holmes, Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Serena Williams.

Overall I think this film is very entertaining for both men and women and the empowering messages for women only enhance the story.

I give Ocean’s Eight 5/5.

Sorry for not posting in almost two months. I have been on holiday in places with no WiFi and I also haven’t had the time to write a good piece. Hopefully will be doing a few more this month to make up for the lack of pieces in July.

Happy Watching,

Robyn 🙂

Guest Writer: It’s All About the Plot – Dramas by Women to Watch this Summer

Hello readers,

This post is written by a guest writer – A. L. Fox. This woman is a professional writer, having written articles for newspapers and magazines but here is her first blog post. She writes about films and TV shows that she watched recently and wants to recommend to you.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

It’s All About the Plot – Dramas by Women to Watch this Summer by A.L. Fox

What makes a good film? Simple question but there is no simple answer. Critics and the viewing public often disagree as box office figures often illustrate. One recent example is that of the latest blockbuster in the Star Wars franchise, Solo. It was given a warm reception by most film critics and yet, it has had poor box office returns.

However, back to the question about what constitutes a good film – and, in my definition, that means a film that I have enjoyed watching – and one that I don’t wish back the hours spent in its’ company.

For me, plot is everything – tell a good story and you’re definitely on to a winner; dialogue comes next closely followed by good acting – and good casting. If the actors aren’t right for the characters whom they are portraying (wrong age, wrong ethnicity, wrong dynamics and so on) then no matter how good their acting skills, they won’t be convincing and the film will feel contrived. You could argue that all films operate at this level but there has to be some ring of authenticity to connect with the audience. On reflection, perhaps casting needs to lead the field. Nina Gold, casting director of well-earned repute, with Games of Thrones and The Crown, just two of her long list of credits, would probably agree.

There are so many films out there; so much choice that hours can be wasted just choosing one to actually watch. Sometimes the blurb helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Here are two of my random selections from Netflix:

Maggie’s Plan (2015)

Maggie's Plan (2015)
Directed by Rebecca Miller

Stars: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore.

Reading the blurb on Netflix and the ‘rom com’ categorisation, almost had me swiping right. But the quality of the cast led me to press select and I urge you to do the same. This was a sensitive portrayal of relationships and conflict and a very touching reflection of the dynamics within those relationships. Maggie wants to have a baby but she’s not in a relationship and decides to use a donor. But she meets John, who has distanced himself from his marriage to a much more successful college professor, Georgette. John doesn’t work – he is writing a book and Maggie is flattered that he has asked her to proofread his manuscript. Their relationship develops as Maggie finds herself pregnant and they marry.

However, Maggie then finds that John continues his self-absorbed life and she becomes the main breadwinner and carer, often looking after John’s children from his first marriage. Seeking to regain her independence, she seeks to reunite John with Georgette realising that they still love each other and that they are similar personalities.

There’s a wonderful plot suggestion at the very end of the film that completes the heartwarming tale.

Their Finest (2016)

Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton, and Sam Claflin in Their Finest (2016)

 

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Stars: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.

This was categorised as drama and it provided plenty of that along with a slice of war history that is not as familiar as the bombs and battlefields of WWII. Catrin leaves her Welsh home to live with a man in London but he soon leaves her for another and to support herself, she works as a secretary and then as a scriptwriter for the film division of the government, making propaganda reels to keep up the country’s morale.

Her struggles for recognition as a woman scriptwriter are documented without becoming too sentimental or political but it does highlight the difficulties of being accepted as a professional working woman in that era. There is a love interest who, although set against her joining the division at first to the extent of undermining her contribution, eventually falls in love with her. The ending isn’t as expected but this elevates the film from descending into the realm of fantasy. A good watch with some interesting historical detail and a good plot.

The Split (2018)

That word again – plot. The television series that has caught my attention – and kept it – is The Split, from the pen of Abi Morgan. The story centres on the travails of a family of divorce lawyers, the Defoes, mother and two sisters who are lawyers and another sister who works as an au pair, thrown into turmoil by the return of the father after a thirty year absence. He ran off to America when the children were small – with their nanny. There is plenty of drama with everyone’s relationship falling into the spotlight in turn; it’s all there, from hidden children to hidden secrets, from the twists and turns of divorce battles to betrayals. It depicts love in all its’ forms and manages to retain a freshness and dynamic that keeps you interested. With Nicola Walker heading a fine list of actors (Anthony Head is the father), the occasional misstep could be overlooked in the lower ranks. It is now on iPlayer so watch it before it vanishes.

Reviewing my recommendations, I have noticed that they are all by women – the writing, and the directing. Women tell a good story and have more empathy with the position of women in society generally, In the beginning, in the 1920s and 30s in Hollywood, the majority of screenwriters were women; it was relatively low-paid and it was all about the action. When cinema became big business and men realised there was money to be made from writing, they muscled in and took over. Now, only 16 percent of screenwriters are women – a shocking statistic that needs to be addressed, something the above writers are helping to change.

After all, women have been telling stories for centuries; they need to regain control and prominence on our screens once again.