The Founder Review

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One way or another McDonalds has been a part of your life whether or not you’ve even eaten at one. I’m not particularly fond of it myself but I was intrigued by how it got started to become the phenomenon it is today.

Keaton has been on a roll as of late, from being in 2 back to back Best Picture winners (Birdman and Spotlight) to becoming a villain within the Marvel cinematic universe, he’s quite sought after now and I’m now intrigued by what project he’s involved with next. His role as business tycoon Ray Croc is quite complex; he’s brash, inspired, crooked, opportunistic and somewhat greedy. But as Michael Douglas said in 1987’s ‘Wall Street’, ‘Greed is good’. He’s driven; half of it for selfish reasons mind as prior to building this dynasty for himself, he was down on his luck selling milkshake machines to clients who weren’t really that interested.

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That is until Nick Offerman’s Dick Mcdonald is on the phone with him as Dick and his brother Mac (John Carroll Lynch) ordered a rather large number of milkshake makers. Before Ray even makes his way over to their establishment you can hear through the phone just how hectic it is there. When Ray gets there he is in awe of the satisfaction on the customers’ faces. The people back in 1954 were awful friendly, when Ray is enjoying his McDonald’s meal a woman with her children asks in the most pleasant fashion she can sit next to him on a bench he’s sat on. For a burger, fries and a shake by the way was only 35 cense back then, pretty dirt cheap. I was as amazed as what Ray was.

People back then said ‘What the heck’ or ‘beeswax’, you believe these are things the people of that time would actually say and that’s down to how the cast fits into the era that’s being depicted very suitably. The mannerisms of American society back then mirrors to an extent the overall tone of the movie, its delightful and warm. The music is the biggest giveaway where that’s concerned and the colour scheme is of a variety of soft colours like brown, bright yellow, beige and soft orange. It’s almost always sunny in the movie too, being in an environment  like that ought to make anyone want to strive for greatness.

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The brothers are proud enough to showcase the system they’ve implemented in the kitchen which is described by Dick as “a symphony of efficiency”, it’s really quite amazing. The story of how the brothers themselves started this establishment is a fascinating one in and of itself. They’re both played wonderfully by Lynch and Offerman, who by the way is near unrecognisable without his moustache. I really bought them as brothers. You get the sense that they’re very supportive of one another, and it shows in their values for what they want their restaurant to represent, Family. They’re somewhat inseparable too, every time a phone call takes place between Croc and Dick, Mac is right there. They’re neighbourly, humble but also traditionalists, they prefer to play things safe. Ray raises the prospect of taking their establishment even further by franchising it but the brothers are concerned about the integrity of their restaurant as they’re made a previous attempt and it didn’t go down so well. Dick figures they’d much better control if they just have the one stand but Ray argues that he’ll do the leg work and expand their brand on the condition that any and all changes goes through the brothers’ seal of approval. From then on in, Ray searches far and wide for investors to see the potential of this future, game-changing enterprise.

Laura Dern’s Ethel Croc (Ray’s wife) is rendered housebound and for a veteran such as Dern, that could be considered unfair in terms of what she has to work with for her character. Actually that brings to mind the idea that her character is treated somewhat insignificant. She’s trapped; useless to Ray and slowly but surely their marriage is anything but fruitful. Ray isn’t the waiting kind, his persistence is exemplified by the excitement he channels to the two brothers as he describes McDonalds as the ‘new American church’. He says to a customer while enticing him with a milkshake maker “Are you familiar with the story of the chicken and the egg?”, he’s the kind to put all his eggs in one basket and just run with it. He’s outward, doesn’t keep things to himself. He looks forward, never backwards which it isn’t that surprising to learn that he comes off as somewhat cold in the end to his partners.

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Robert Siegels script is quite snappy which goes hand in hand with Robert Frazen’s sharp editing. You never feel the weight of the film’s running time. It also mirrors the energy of Ray, he wants to be ahead of everyone else. His Ethel says to him “When’s enough gonna be enough for you?” to which he replies “Why should I settle when other men won’t?”. Keaton says in an interview that we’re a fast moving society, Ray’s ‘professional leech’ of a prospector is somewhat lost on director John Lee Hancock who helmed The Blindside and Saving Mr Banks. He approached this project ambivalently on the depiction of Ray Croc, He was fond of using Keaton’s magnetism to explore the quiet and dark corners of Ray’s mind. There’s a scene towards the end that is illusioned to look like Ray’s breaking the 4th wall when he’s in fact talking to himself. It’s that self gratification that Ray embodies someone who shifty as he maybe, he’s always inspired.

The movie also touches on McDonald’s legacy by just simply looking at the name, it’s inviting and genuine. Ray understood the appeal of the name better than the brother’s did, now I admire it all the better. The Founder is a fascinating tale held together by a wickedly entertaining turn by Michael Keaton that highlights the rise of one of America’s most successful industries that’s affected our lives one way or another.

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The Lego Batman Movie Review

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I enjoyed this more than Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman combined. A minute into it I was laughing, by the end my face hurt from the length of time I was smiling at this fantastic entry in the Lego franchise.

Will Arnett’s uber macho caped crusader really enjoys his own company, for a while at least. He’s hard on crime but easy on the eye. He’s adamant that he works best solo, he cares about his legacy, he’s very much stuck in his ways. The movie makes batman face the ultimate question, ‘what happens when there’s no more crime?’, it’s the kind of question fan’s of the DC legend would talk amongst themselves in the ‘what if?’ conversation. Batman is forced to look at his own relevance to his troubled city of Gotham,  as much as he’s beloved as both Bruce Wayne and as the dark knight, he’s made surprisingly complex here. There’s an arc of him I didn’t expect which made it all the more refreshing towards the end. He also likes Jerry Maguire…..yeah that’s right, Batman likes romantic movies, not quite the way you’d expect however.

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The animation is consistently superb with such a wild, fast paced energy that you’re bound to miss the many references and jokes which in turn could add to it’s replay quality.

The voice cast is pretty stacked, Michael Cera’s Dick Grayson or Robin has the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that can barely be contained, he may just split in two of his own glee and affinity for Batman. Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred is the companion as we’ve always known him to be but done with such dry humour. Barbara Gordon is pretty much what Rosario Dawson does with many of her characters; strong willed, bad ass and the voice of reason. We also get Mariah Carey, Conan O’Brien, Zoe Kravitz, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and plenty others.

The relationship between Batman and The Joker (voiced with menacing delight by Zach Galifianakis) is lampooned in a way that’s so melodramatic that veers dangerously close to homoeroticism, something in which I’m hoping people don’t pick up on too much. For a while I was rooting for The Joker as he was made to be tenderised and underestimated more often than not. Batman makes him less significant at the fact that it’s inevitable that his plans will be foiled no matter what, even if he always gets away.

lego-batman-movie-image-2The movie has no shortage of references of the Batman universe, spoofing that of the 1966 version with Adam West, The Tim Burton flicks and The Dark Knight trilogy. Comic book aficionados can appreciate this as well as the whole family, even with the rude humour and very mild bad language afoot. It’s not confined to comic book culture either, we get those from Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and even King Kong. By the way, whoever voiced Bane in this movie, great job!

The movie is quite cute too, even when there’s guns or lasers being fired they all make ‘pew, pew’ sounds. It’s also heartfelt that unexpectedly almost brought me to tears, tears I somehow fought off. Even the horn in Batman’s batmobile is the theme tune, you know that na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na song. The closing song called ‘Friends are Family’ that has a very ‘Everything is awesome’ vibe going on that’s in it’s own right quite infectious.

After seeing this I’m officially a fan of Phil Lord and Chris Miller who directed 2014’s The Lego Movie (Chris Mckay was the animation co-director on The Lego Movie directs this feature) Even though they serve as executive producers this time round, their irresistible, light-hearted charm is certainly felt.

John Wick 2 Review

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I’m just gonna come right out and say it, John Wick 2 and it’s predecessor are two of the most accomplished and game changing action flicks of the last decade.

While the story isn’t as emotionally investing as the original, John Wick’s latest foray is a total blast. The screening I went too was pretty packed, quite few of the people there were couples as I saw it on valentines day as a preview screening. They enjoyed it as much as I did I’m sure, proven by it’s box office numbers which currently sits at over 91 million worldwide against a 40 million production budget, outdoing it’s predecessor which was at over 80 million.   

The action outdoes its predecessor by being both inventive and somehow funny, despite the grimness of the violence as John dispatches his enemies with malicious efficiency. What’s to be praised however is that director Chad Stalhelski (who was not only one of the directors of the first film, but also a stuntman on The Matrix) doesn’t cheat the audience through frantic editing in the fight scenes.

He refers to the current landscape in action filmmaking by saying that he noticed that the “editing and camerawork was more about hiding things than showing things”. It’s a response to fan’s who embraced the first film that they wanted even better action.  Stahelski recognises the demand for better action these days as he said in an interview that he wanted to make the character of John Wick better by making Reeves better, by making his training even more intense and sophisticated than before by taking him as far as he can go. 

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Reeves is pretty dedicated to his involvement in the choreography, much of it if not all of it is him and you totally buy that he can do this stuff in real life in fact. Wick’s engagement with his enemies is almost an artform, to a degree of it being almost an honor to be killed by him. 

What I really dug as well was that the goons John faces off aren’t inept, they give him a run for his money and they don’t go down easy. The time span is pretty short, no more than 2 days I’d say. There’s consistency throughout the film the damage he’s inflicted, his bruises and cuts after a while start to look like his tattoos. Speaking of the violence, you also get a real sense pain, some of it is cringe inducing actually and not done in an unnecessary manner where it doesn’t seem to fit the world that’s been depicted. 

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From the opening sequence we get the sense that there’s a one ups manship (pretty sure that word doesn’t exist) in the stuntwork as for a brief moment there’s a homage to Buster Keaton who is recognized as cinema’s greatest stuntsman. Not just Keaton, there’s a sequence in the climax that nods to Bruce Lee’s iconic ‘Enter The Dragon’. The set pieces are a mix between dark and hellish to bright and glitzy. There’s one battle in the middle that’s amongst the best I’ve seen so far this decade, it’s glorious. Our troubled hitman has risen to a mythic level, we see him at first only in silhouettes, shadows or in blurred vision. Peter Stormare’s Abram Tasarov explains the mythos and endurance of John and you see plainly the fright on his face, he’s the boogeyman after all.

John isn’t a bad guy as such, he’s just a good guy who’s done a lot of bad things. He just wants to be left alone, there’s a parallel of sorts to Michael Corleone’s “They pull me back in” scene from The Godfather III. A man of his reputation can’t possibly live a normal life when he’s lived through many extraordinary circumstances. He’s a man of a few words; he’s secluded, mysterious and somewhat warm too. He has a passive aggressive nature that makes him somewhat endearing. Can’t feel too sorry for him however, the mayhem and destruction he lays waste to his opposition is pretty brutal. The goons drop almost as quick as the bullets do. 

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Laurence Fishburne is a hoot as The Bowery King, an underground crime lord who admires John but there is certainly tension afoot between the two. I’d very much like to see Fishburne as a villain sometime soon, and if he has been in the past, it can’t of been that memorable. Not surprisingly there are references to The Matrix, done in a way thankfully that doesn’t feel forced, it’s more coincidental than anything.

Not to be overlooked is Dan Laustsen’s cinematography, it’s visually sleek with much of it’s colours being purple and black to really give an underworld kind of vibe. It shouldn’t be long till this franchise spawns a video game, especially instances of John’s cover system and proficiency with pretty much any weapon he can get his hands on.

Something my good buddy Rick mentioned was the repetitive nature of the combat. It can be exhaustive after a while seeing John subdue his enemies by flipping them over him multiple times. Still for the most part it’s enthralling to watch and it’s pretty grounded in reality even if the nature is over the top. By the end, John makes a decision that is to the point of no return and can only mean even bigger stakes for his third outing, one in which I’m pretty excited for. You ought to be to, whether you’re an action movie junkie or a dog lover, see it in a theatre near you.

 

 

A Monster Calls Review

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To be honest I wasn’t really that hyped up for this, because of how crowded January is. There was stuff I’d been looking forward to for months like Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The trailers probably didn’t do it enough justice to be honest, it looked like standard fare children’s drama

The story revolves around Conor Lawler of  around 12 years old, a young boy has the ordeal of coping with bullying at school and the impending threat of his mothers terminal cancer claiming her life. He’s encountered by an enormous humanoid tree monster who vows to tell Conor 3 stories, after then Conor must tell his story, his truth as the monster calls it which is in fact a nightmare Conor had been having for some time.

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It’s director J.A. Bayona’s intention for people to understand this film as using fantasy as a vessel to understand reality and to be brave enough to tell the truth. It’s an affecting coming of age drama with some tender moments that didn’t involve me the way I wanted it to. My biggest problem with it was I didn’t really connect with many of the characters, and that’s a shame because the story itself is fascinating. The audience I was with was invested enough as I could hear some people sobbing behind me.

The visual effects are impressive enough and the water colour sequences that are used to tell the stories told by Liam Neeson’s tree monster are wonderful. I just found the movie to be manipulative at times especially in it’s most tender moments. It’s attempts at humour fell flat for me too.

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The performances are fine for the most part, the film’s star Lewis Mcdougall really shines here especially in the films most powerful moments. Sigouney Weaver’s British accent is pretty questionable however, she was probably miscast If I’m honest. Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell provide fine work as Conor’s parents who both lend more than enough support to ease Conor’s struggle through his trying times.

Not just for kids but for those who’ve dealt with a similar circumstance with losing those to terminal illnesses, this’ll hit home for them. Emotionally I was unexpectedly distant, perhaps if I was watching this with children it would’ve hit me with the emotional power it should have. All in all I’d still recommend it, was not a waste of time for me at all.

86% based on 212 reviews

Rotten Tomatoes reads: A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre

La La Land Review

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2014’s indie hit Whiplash written and directed by Damien Chazelle was amongst my favourites of that year and had one of the most intense climaxes I’d ever seen, so I was more than excited for his next effort which has garnered much critical acclaim and awards buzz, recently making history by winning 7 Golden Globes in all the categories it was nominated for, the most for any film ever.

It lives up to the hype and then some, I’d seen the trailers numerous times and everyone I’d known who’d seen it loved and/or just enjoyed it. Unsurprisingly it’s one of my favourite movies of the year and quite possibly one of the best musicals ever made. This is an exhilarating, fun, inspiring, uber romantic tale of two people who love and admire one another off one another’s willpower and vision to achieve their dreams in the gorgeous sun drenched city of angels. Its captured beautifully with rich, vibrant, strong colours that are so arresting to the eye, its one of the best looking movies of the year.

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The story is pretty simple enough, but then again most musicals are pretty accessible by virtue of not having too much complexity in their narrative. A young aspiring actress falls for an ambitious jazz musician, but the further they both achieve success in their respective careers, the more the threat of them drifting apart as they both reach challenging decisions as to what matters most, being together or being successful in their professions.

From the get go, the movie is brimming with an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere that is just too playful and infectious to sit still to. It’s opening sequence (shot in one take by the way) is along a Los Angeles highway with people of all walks of life parading of the world renowned sunshine of LA and singing aloud their desires to gain success in Hollywood.  The dance numbers from the films choreographer Mandy Moore is immense which marries Chazelle’s kinetic, sure handed direction, and he outdoes himself even more so than Whiplash. From then on in the movie had swagger and visual eye candy, with costume and production design that is as just as lovely to look at.

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Gosling and Stone ooze movie star charisma, both giving career best performances. Their infectious interplay with one another at times seems improvised, considering this is their third on screen paring together. The love story between their characters are so genuine that you feel their plight and they both know that their meant for each other and to prosper in Hollywood. Speaking of which, the movie does a fantastic job in paying homage to classic Hollywood pf the Gene Kelly/Ginger Rogers era and uses aesthetics such as irises from the 1920’s and Cinemascope framing. don’t watch this film at home by the way, don’t wait until it’s available to stream at home, it needs to be seen on the big screen, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it a lot more. This not only made me fall in love with old Hollywood but Jazz too. I love Jazz anyway so when I knew there was a great deal of it in this movie, by default I was gonna like it to some degree. There’s a sequence where Gosling’s Sebastian makes an impassioned plea to Stone’s Mia to listen to Jazz the way he listens to it as she makes an argument of how disposable it is now, how’s mostly just background noise. This scene is reminiscent of the scene between J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher where he woefully tells Milles Teller’s Andrew Neiman of how Jazz is a dying genre.  I saved the soundtrack to my Spotify playlist and it’s great.

The cinematography is absolutely glorious, with panning, long tracking shots that embody Chazelle’s bold and skilful direction. The script by Chazelle is imbued with enthusiasm that inspires both its characters and audience to dream, no matter how many times you get pushed back. To never be easily put off, to never settle for less and lend support to those with that same spirit.

If this earns less than 8 Oscar nominations, I’ll be pretty confused. It’s a frontrunner for Best Picture and deservedly so. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, this is one of the most relatable, funny and breath-taking musicals of all time. It was an absolute pleasure and I hope it does well box office wise, the theatre I was in was packed and I can tell the audience was invested in the story. Couples ought to see it for the sheer weight of the romanticism alone, go see it people!

Rotten Tomatoes reads:

La La Land breathes new life into a bygone genre, with thrillingly assured direction, powerful performances and an irresistible excess of the heart

93% out of 281 reviews

 

Sing Street Review

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Man do i regret not watching this in theaters, this was such a good time. At the time it didn’t have much credibility for me to give it a go and i see why this was highly acclaimed upon release.

From the offset i got the feeling this was semi autobiographical for writer and director John Carney  as I could feel his passion throughout. It’s based on his experiences of his youth when he went to Synge Street Christian Brothers school in Dublin, Ireland. Just like the main protagonist Conor Lawler (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), he too formed a band except it wasn’t at the prospect of getting with a girl (as far as i know anyway). He was a bassist for his band The Frames and directed the music videos.

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It has irresistible charm and wit, with infectious music that you cant help but to hum along and bop your head to. The standout track called ‘Drive it like you stole it’ is so catchy felt timely as for me it could’ve been released in the early 2000’s, probably something Busted would’ve done in their heyday. The members of the band are pretty much nerds but they’re effortlessly cool and sure handed in what they’re doing, as young as they are. It’s really funny and awe inspiring at times, especially the exchanges between Conor and his brother Brendan played excellently by Jack Reynor.

The romance between Conor and the girl he gushes over Raphina (Lucy Boynton) is quite sweet and made me remember that it’s the subtleties and imperfections of someone that truly makes them beautiful.

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The movie does a great job in crossing over between fantasy and reality which is similar to how a music video would feel, it really has fun with it but never in a way that’s jarring. I loved hanging out with all the characters, even the school bully Barry as he has a troubled background that made it easy to connect with him.

This movie’s a love letter to 1980’s pop music and the soundtrack is pretty kick ass with the likes of Duran Duran and Joe Jackson. Even the movie’s original music material is great, i saved the soundtrack to my Spotify library immediately after it was over. I really enjoyed this, something i’d recommend to everyone but not quite something i’d watch again in the future though.

96% based on 171 reviews

Rotten Tomatoes reads: Sing Street is a feel-good musical with huge heart and irresistible optimism, and its charming cast and hummable tunes help to elevate its familiar plotting.

Passengers Review

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So i wasn’t particularly excited for this but i was a little intrigued by the star power of it’s leads and it was directed by Mortem Tyldum who helmed the excellent The Imitation Game. It’s mixed reviews didn’t put me off either and after seeing it myself i was pretty underwhelmed by it’s story and it’s two lead characters.

The trailer showcased the chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence and the movie proves that without a doubt that these two enjoy each others company. Unfortunately there isn’t anything particularly special about these two which in turn made me not care for their dilemma, they don’t really strike many notes to keep you engaged with the story. The premise is fairly reminiscent of James Cameron’s iconic Titanic. They’re doomed lovers on a voyage to a distant planet where they’re kept in hibernation for 120 years, only they wake up 90 years too soon and have to figure out a way to get back to sleep or they’ll die long before they reach their destination.

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Jennifer Lawrence is the more accomplished performer between her and Pratt, she carries this indominable spirit that would make it almost impossible for her to be completely vulnerable. Pratt does his best to imbue his Jim Parsons character with plenty of depth. The plot twist that happens in the first act is a moral dilemma that would’ve served better in the latter half of the movie which apparently in the original script was in the 3rd act. The moral dilemma is problematic to be made aware at this point because it’s quite uncomfortable to sit with for a long period of time, than again I suppose it may have ended the movie on a more sour note. The movie addresses the plot twist directly but is seemingly lenient making things justifiable when it’s just plain wrong overall. It’s somewhat of a cautionary tale to scientists who’ve considered doing such an expedition and makes me not rely on technology too much

The production design and visual effects is as great as it should be and that’s where this movie succeeds in it’s visual splendor. I saw this in 3D which didn’t really add much of the experience.

The romanticism is what carries the movie mostly and it’s not often i hear of a Sci-Fi romance thriller, but it borrows elements from The Shining and Alien that isn’t really effective.

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I’m not sure if there’s anyone as charming as Micheal Sheen, he’s a deadpan delight as the android waiter Arthur. He’s by far my favourite aspect of this movie. Laurence Fishburne is serviceable at best as the chief desk officer, Capt Gus Mancuso who aids the protagonists in a dire situation, and Andy Garcia who is barely in this movie shows up for a head scratching 5 seconds.

In the end Passengers was underwhelming for me, not terrible by any means as it has it’s moments. I’d recommend it still but don’t expect too much fulfilment.

Florence Foster Jenkins Review

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I have to say i enjoyed this a lot more than i thought i would. The director behind 2006’s The Queen and 2013’s Philomena Stephen Frears brings a delightful, warm and somewhat inspiring tale of a woman who is perhaps misguided by her peers in believing she’s a natural talent. She’s a dreamer who for a while i was wondering whether she herself knew of her to put it delicately, sub par singing ability. she was in fact tone deaf and i wasn’t sure who to feel sorry for, Florence or the people she worked with who spurred her on to sing in grand events at Carnegie Hall.

Meryl Streep for my money is the greatest actress in the world and she proves yet again of her astounding range as a performer. Her high cheekbones gives a Florence a delicate demeanour but her spirit is to be admired nonetheless, her drive is quite infectious. At some point a character says, People may say she couldn’t sing, but no one could say they she didn’t sing. Regardless I didn’t want her to stop because for better or for worse she was downright entertaining, the movie is pretty hilarious at times, almost to the point of hurting my sides. The movie has a light-hearted, somewhat farcical tone that manages to balance it’s poignant and tender moments that moved me, being the wuss that i am i was almost moved to tears at one point. Especially because of the affection Streep’s Florence and Hugh Grant’s St Clair Bayfield had for one another.

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Hugh Grant turns in what some are calling a career best performance as the devout husband and manager of Florence. I havent seen a lot of Hugh Grants filmography as much of it is romantic comedies and not a lot of them had much credibility to me, although Notting Hill and Four Weddings and A Funeral are somewhat landmarks in the genre. I thought he was really in his element as the aristocratic silver fox who has an affair with Rebecca Ferguson’s Kathleen Weatherley. His love for Florence isn’t to be disputed although for a while i wasn’t sure if he was being that forthcoming with her. They kiss each other on the cheek much of the time which is usually a sign of a breakdown of a marriage.

Simon Helberg from Big Bang Theory is terrific as pianist Cosme Mcmoon who for much of the time looks like he’s about to burst in either excitement or insanity as he’s in disbelief as to why people are encouraging her to continue singing. I felt his amazement with a face that said “what in the world?” when Florence starts singing again. Even i was asking myself how much her conductor got paid to say to her “you’ve never sounded better”.

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The movie churns out words like ‘Chum’, ‘Jiffy’ and ‘Cross’, words i haven’t heard in a long time which was quite pleasant. I especially enjoyed Alexandre Desplats jazzy score which really took me to the films time period of the 1940’s, i saved the soundtrack to my Spotify library in the end and even let the credits roll to the end to listen to it.

This was in fact one of the funniest comedies of the year for me and hopefully one i soon wont forget. I’d certainly recommend it but i doubt i’ll be getting it on Blu ray in the future

87% based on 191 reviews

Rotten Tomatoes reads: Florence Foster Jenkins makes poignant, crowd-pleasing dramedy out of its stranger-than-fiction tale — and does its subject justice with a reliably terrific turn from star Meryl Streep

Silence Review

silence-posterMartin Scorsese is one of my favourite filmmakers, along with Quentin Tarantino. They’re both at a stage of their careers where their name alone is enough to sell their material. This project I’ve known of since the back end of 2015 and even back then i was aware that this was a passion project of his, something he’d been trying to get off the ground since around the early 90’s, though in a recent interview of his he’d been given the book of which the movie is based on back in 1988.

The premise follows 2 Jesuit Portuguese priests in 1633, Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garrpe (portrayed by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver respectively) as they embark on a journey to uncharted territory in Japan to not only spread the teachings of Jesus but also uncover the whereabouts of their mentor Father Cristovao Ferreira (portrayed by Liam Neeson) who had denounced God in public after being persecuted for his affinity to Christianity.

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The performances are all great, Andrew Garfield turns in an awards worthy portrayal of a man who throughout his journey is faithfully challenged constantly and sees himself as a Christ like figure. Driver’s Francisco is the negative to Rodrigues’ positive, consistently doubtful of their quest to find their missing mentor and is perhaps the realist between the two.  Garfield brings a gentle humbleness to the role that reflects upon the rest of the pilgrims he encounters. They’re feeble and unassuming, their plight and anguish overwhelmed me  to the point where i was almost moved to tears at one point. The embrace and acceptance they had for one another inspired one another even when they’d suffered in silence for all this time.

The Japanese cast really shines here. My favourite character in the entire film is probably the most complex in the image below. His name is Kichijiro, a beady eyed, scruffy wretch of a man that has a tortured past of his own who accompanies the 2 priests who throughout is constantly at odds between them. You can’t really tell where his loyalties lie as he as much if not more than Rodrigues is conflicted of his faith. He’s one of the most multi dimensional characters i’ve seen all year and Yosuke Kubosuka’s performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Issey Ogata’s Inoue Masashige is also worthy of contention with his shark smile and dastardly snare giving him a sickening demeanour and Issey chews the scenery every time, which reminds me I really dug the costume design of the inquisitors as well

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There’s no shortage in devastation throughout the film, across the environment and the faces of the pilgrims. The persecutions were hard to watch at times, not of the violent nature, but of the pervasive nature of the security officials who seek out hidden Christians as they’re Buddhists. The film powerfully shows their hardened resolve of their devotion to Christ and how something as seemingly simple as stepping on a rock with a carved image of Jesus can free them of the ensuing torture, but in doing so, they feel they’ve disrespected and abandoned their faith entirely. It’s quite excruciating to watch Garfield break down throughout the run time, which clocks in at just under 3 hours which in the end was exhausting not because of the length but of the emotional toll it had on me. There isn’t a lot of violence which is contrary to other efforts like Casino and it never feels exploitative, Scorsese only wants to show the ugly truth.

Much of the pacing is glacial which gives it an epic quality and although the music is scored by Howard Shore (whom Scorsese worked with on The Aviator and Hugo), there’s little to no music in this whatsoever which in turn helps to not manipulate the viewers feelings . It’s reminiscent of No Country For Old Men by the Coen Bros, although because this film is intellectually challenging for audiences, it may test their patience which the screening i went to, there wasn’t much enthusiasm felt. If you’re someone who isn’t that abstract minded, you probably wont like this film compared to Scorsese’s more fast paced efforts like The Departed.

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To say that this movie is well made would be an understatement, you really feel Scorsese’s involvement with virtually every aspect of this project, considering he also has producer and writing credits too. The movie is lensed by the same director of photography from The Wolf Of Wall Street and it looks gorgeous, there’s shots that are worthy of a painting at times. Much of the scenery is foggy to give it an empty and apocalyptic nature which helped broaden the scope of the adventure. One of the most remarkable aspects of it’s cinematography is how much of the movie takes place within small, confined spaces and close ups of its characters which reflects the movies intimacy. It feels as if Scorsese has immersed himself in the characters to project their state of being to the viewer as much as possible. Much of the location setting is in small, confined spaces that makes for tighter camera angles that really make you feel the fortitude and despair for it’s characters. The camera movements are trademark Scorsese, like a scene when a character is in a cell and the camera quickly pans to the left give it that much more frustration and lonesomeness.

It’s one of the best movies of the year surely to garner Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay. It’s one of Scorsese’s most meditated efforts and one that resonated with me quite profoundly. I’d certainly recommend it and give it at least a year or so i’d watch it again, not quite one of my favourites of the year though

83% based on 184 reviews

Rotten Tomatoes reads: Silence ends Martin Scorsese’s decades-long creative quest with a thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director’s finest works.