biopic

REVIEW: My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) struggles with a difficult family life with a manic mother (Anne Heche) and a father (Dallas Roberts) who doesn’t understand him. As he tries to navigate high school and his teenage years, it solely becomes clear he doesn’t fit in with his peers.

My Friend Dahmer is a study of the teenage Jeffrey Dahmer, before he became one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Lynch gives a great performance as the shy yet unnerving young Dahmer. From his mannerisms to how he moves, everything about him seems not quite right. Add his fascination with disintegrating roadkill with acid and poor social skills it’s a captivating yet unsettling performance.

Dahmer is a loner and doesn’t have any friends until Derf (Alex Wolff), Mike (Harrison Holzer) and Neil (Tommy Nelson) start to include him and make a Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club. Though can they really be called friends when they seem to manipulate him and like the infamy of being associated with him brings rather than who he is? With his so called friends and his parents who don’t take a real interest in him, the film offers a kind of nature vs nurture debate.

My Friend Dahmer blends the weird, creepy and darkly comedic incredibly well. It’s unsettling as you see Dahmer become more and more distant and angry as he tries to deal with his life, but then there’s sudden moments of humour, with situations that you probably really shouldn’t be laughing at.

My Friend Dahmer is a chilling insight into the life of a young killer. Lynch gives a captivating performance and with its blend of dark humour and suspense, it is definitely worth watching. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Hidden Figures (2016)

hidden-figures-posterThe true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians including Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who played a vital part in NASA during the early years of the American space programme.

Each of the three leads are brilliant in their roles. They feel like friends who laugh together and support each other but they are also so incredibly smart. Their chemistry is palpable. Katherine is a human computer and can figure out maths that hasn’t even been invented yet, Dorothy is wise enough to get ahead of the game, learn things like IBM computing and make her and her colleagues invaluable to NASA, and Mary wants to be an engineer and while her boss, a Polish Jew, can see her potential, she fights when every door seems to be shut in her face.

The supporting cast is great too. Jim Parsons’ Paul Stafford is one of the mathematicians who doesn’t like Katherine is smarter than him and just about every other man in the room, Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian Mitchell is Dorothy’s boss and Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison is in charge of the division that works out how to put a man in space and bring him down again.

Hidden Figures isn’t a particularly surprising film as it has the same standard formula just about any true story film has – but that doesn’t diminish how brilliant it is. Hidden Figures knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t need huge twists because the history and these women’s lives are interesting enough.

On a purely aesthetic level Hidden Figures is a beautiful-looking movie. The costumes, hair and makeup are brilliant and the soundtrack is full of catchy songs from Pharrell Williams and Mary J. Blige. The score reunites Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer and they produce music that’s exciting and heartfelt and fits the time period and the film itself wonderfully.

Hidden Figures celebrates those who history, and society, tends to overlook and shows the power of perseverance and friendship. It is amazing to see a film with three African-American leads who are masters in their field. It’s an inspiring yet also frustrating when you see what these women had to put up with, yet they still wanted to be a part of something amazing and contributed to NASA’s success. Hidden Figures will leave you with a huge smile on your face but along the way you may shed some tears, both happy and sad, and it’s really a great, crowd-pleasing movie. 5/5.

REVIEW: Jackie (2016)

jackie-movie-posterFollowing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) must fight through the grief and trauma to console her children and to define her husband’s legacy.

Jackie isn’t a particularly linear story. It starts with Mrs Kennedy talking to a journalist (Billy Crudup) about how she wants her husband to be remembered and the film jumps back and forth to the past, the future, and her current interview with a journalist. While some events seen are easy to place, others you don’t really realise when they are happening till the end of the film.

The score in Jackie is very noticeable, which for some may work while for others may not. It’s a very loud, orchestral score that doesn’t always seem to fit with the action on screen. That being said, at times the crescendo of music does seem to reflect Jackie Kennedy’s inner turmoil.

Natalie Portman’s performance really is phenomenal and she does deserve any award recognition she may get. There’s many shots just focusing in on her face or of her wandering the corridors of the White House and you can see without words the pain, anger and loss she’s feeling. Peter Sarsgaard also gives a great performance as Bobby Kennedy and he and Portman’s chemistry as two people united by grief is captivating. Make no doubt about it though, this is Portman’s film.

Jackie is definitely one of those films that feels like a well-made and traditionally “good” film and while I can appreciate it for that, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It’s a beautifully shot film and all the costumes and make up look top-notch but at its heart is a few weeks of a woman’s life as she struggles to put her life back together. I feel Jackie certainly earns the critical acclaim it has gotten so far but it wasn’t for me. Though if you have a great interest in the Kennedy’s, then Jackie is probably the film for you. 3/5.

REVIEW: Sully (2016)

sully-movie-posterThe story of Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), an American pilot who, along with his crew, became a hero after being forced to land a plane on the Hudson River in order to save the 155 souls on board.

The way this story is told is different to what one might expect. The film makes you wait, for what can feel like an excruciating long time, to see the full sequence of the plane coming down onto the Hudson. There’s snippets of flashbacks throughout the film, complimenting what’s happening in the present as Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) try and make sense of what happened, but you have to wait to the final act to see it all come together.

The sequence of the plane coming down is dynamic and thrilling and the special effects are top notch. The sequence, along with the whole film really, brings you that pleasure of seeing people being competent at their jobs and keeping their heads in a crisis. The aftermath of the water landing shows the best people have to offer with everyone pulling together and shows how regular tour boats came to the rescue.

Sully is an incredible true story and seeing the events in the air and learning about the hearings Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles had to attend to prove they made the right decision is great. Director Clint Eastwood allows the true events to speak for themselves and manages to avoid most clichés often seen in autobiographical films. Sully is a polished film with a great performances and Tom Hanks is on fine form as always. 4/5.

REVIEW: A United Kingdom (2016)

a-united-kingdom-posterWhen Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the throne of Botswana, falls in love with and marries Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London it causes an international stir. Together they have to fight for their love and for Seretse’s right to be King of his country.

A film like A United Kingdom sinks or swims on its lead performers and their chemistry but luckily Pike and Oyelowo feel like such a believable couple. From the first moment they meet, you can believe they’re falling in love and their relationship grows stronger throughout the film as they each encounter bigotry from both their families.

Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport) and Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton) are the British bureaucrats who have interests in Botswana and who rules it. They are the faces of British politics in A United Kingdom and are as smarmy and conniving as you’d expect them to be. They believe they know all and know better than the people of Botswana and it’s a pleasure to see them proven wrong.

Naledi Khama’s (Terry Pheto) relationship with her brother and her sister-in-law Ruth is an unexpected delight. Naledi is as against their marriage, and Ruth in particular, just like anyone else to begin with but as their story progresses, Naledi and Ruth learn to work together and gain an understanding of one another. Seeing female characters put aside their differences and work together is always a delight. They become strong allies and each use their power and status to try and do the best for the people of Botswana.

A United Kingdom is an incredible true story that really should be more common knowledge. Not only is it a wonderful love story about love conquering all, but it’s about politics and international relations and racial tensions in Britain and around the world. It is also a beautiful film and the cinematography of both London and Botswana is stunning. It is seriously a very nice-looking film, and the contrasts between England and Botswana work so well together but it never makes one inferior to the other.

A United Kingdom is a wonderful film with some brilliant performances. It might make such a true and powerful story more like a fairy tale but that almost adds to the romance. 4/5.

REVIEW: W.E. (2011)

WE film poster madonnaThe story of the affair between American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) is a back drop to Wally Winthrop’s (Abbie Cornish) own unhappy marriage as she spends her time looking at a collection of items related to Wallis Simpson.

W.E. bounces back and forth between Wallis Simpson’s and Prince Edward’s affair and marriage in the 1930’s and to 1998 where Wally is in an abusive marriage to William (Richard Coyle) a distant man who spends more time working at the hospital than with his wife and when he does see her, he verbally and physically attacks. Wally loses herself in the world of Wallis Simpson and spends her days in an auction house looking at all this memorabilia, there she meets Russian security guard Evgeni (Oscar Isaac) and they strike up an unlikely friendship.

If W.E. had been solely focussed on Wallis Simpson’s story, it might have been a half decent film. Unfortunately it keeps returning to Wally and her obsession with Wallis Simpson which is bordering on the ridiculous in 1998 who you don’t find yourself caring about at all. Back in the 1930’s there’s a few moments that are interesting like any scene featuring Prince George (Lawrence Fox) and Elizabeth (Natalie Dormer) are nice and it’s great seeing their relationship and their relationship with Edward and Wallis. (more…)

REVIEW: Spotlight (2015)

spotlight movie posterThe true story of how journalists at the Boston Globe exposed the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

When the Boston Globe’s new editor Marty Baron (Live Schreiber) takes over, he tasks the papers investigative team Spotlight to look into claims that the Catholic Church knew about child abuse by priests and had covered it up for decades. This starts a somewhat hesitant investigation to begin with – Boston has a large Catholic populace and the Church is a powerful entity – but as they begin meeting victims of abuse and a lawyer (Stanley Tucci) who will keep fighting for the victims, they realise that they have discovered something huge.

Spotlight is truly an ensemble film. There is no real lead as these journalists are a team, fighting for the same cause. You believe that these people have been working with each other for years and understand how each other tick. Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) is the head of the team who knows some of the top dogs that might have been involved with the cover-up while Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) looks out for the victims and wants them to know how important their stories are. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) gets increasingly more passionate about justice as the case progresses and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) is the guy who looks for minute details to make sure the story is water-tight. They all give great performances as people who are often shocked and dismayed by what they uncover.

The way Spotlight is shot and the lack of showy performances makes it sometimes feel like a documentary, that you are watching these real people struggle with their findings and their desire to expose the truth. The script should be commended as well, there’s no quips and there’s only one real loud argument but that doesn’t stop the film from being captivating.

Spotlight does a great job of not sensationalising this chilling story. It shows that the legwork of investigative journalism often takes months of research and interviews but that doesn’t make it any less tense and thrilling. It also doesn’t talk down to the audience, it expects you to keep track of all these people they’re investigating and talking to and to make the connections yourself.

Spotlight is a gripping and important true story that everyone should see. 5/5.