film review

REVIEW: The Greatest (2009)

Struggling to cope with their son Bennett’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) death, Allen (Pierce Brosnan) and Grace’s (Susan Sarandon) world is shaken again when Rose (Carey Mulligan) shows up on their doorstep three months pregnant with their son’s child.

The Greatest is all about grief and how people deal with it in different ways. Allen refuses to speak about Bennett while Grace is single-minded in her mission to find out everything there is to know about her son’s death, rewatching the CCTV footage and talking to nurses and doctors about the night Bennett died. Both parents are so caught up in their grief, or in Allen’s case trying to ignore it, that they almost forget sbout their younger son Ryan (Johnny Simmons) who’s also struggling. Rose is also grieving for a love that has been brutally cut short but she has their child to think of. Sometimes Rose appears more level-headed than Grace and Allen put together.

The Greatest might be a bit predictable but the story is told with such sincerity that you can’t hold the usual genre tropes against it. This story of grief and hope is sometimes like a punch to your emotions and that’s down to the very talented cast. You feel all their pain and Carey Mulligan shows in one of her early film roles what a skilled young actress she is. The Greatest is well worth a watch. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

In Victorian England, independent and headstrong farm owner Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors, sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), successful and mature bachelor Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen), and Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge).

Far from the Madding Crowd is a beautiful film, in every sense of the word. The cinematography really shows of the beauty of the British countryside, as well as how beautiful the cast is. The music is gorgeous, emotive and very fitting to the story. The story itself is captivating and for an adaptation of a nineteenth century novel it’s almost surprisingly modern in how Everdene is presented as an independent young woman.

The film never really does what you expect with these characters – unless you’ve read the book of course. You expect there to be strong antagonism between Boldwood and Oak but you see they respect each other and the role they each play in Everdene’s life. The three suitors all have good and bad points and it’s clear to see why Everdene may want to be with one over another, or not be tied to one man at all.

Carey Mulligan is a fantastic lead, often giving a very subtle performance, and the whole cast is brilliant – the chemistry between Mulligan and Schoenaerts is electric. The scenes between them two were by far my favourite as they navigate the roles they play in each other’s lives.

Far from the Madding Crowd is a gorgeous film with compelling and understandable characters. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Top bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is called in to protect hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who must testify at the International Court of Justice to put away war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). With Dukhovich’s men on their tail, they have to work together to get there on time, if they don’t kill each other first.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a lot of fun. There’s fewer laughs in the first 15mins compared to the rest of the film so I was a bit uncertain to start with but once it had set up who’s who the film sped along at almost breakneck speed.

For a film that’s two hours long, it really doesn’t feel it. It goes from one action sequence to the next, and while there are moments when there’s a lull in the action, it allows for funny conversations between Bryce and Kincaid. These sometimes aim to be touching, with Kincaid talking about how much he loves his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), but they verge on being cringey sometimes though they’re nearly always funny. The conversations and banter between the two really show how good their chemistry is between Reynolds and Jackson. Them two being an unlikely team is what really works in this film. Bryce and Kincaid push each other’s buttons and they both grow while still both being good with their fists and a gun. They’re the kind of characters that are polar opposites and who like to think they don’t need any help, but they really do and that’s where the humour comes.

My initial Twitter review of The Hitman’s Bodyguard was “it’s ridiculously fun and stupidly funny” and to be honest that’s the best way to describe it. It’s over the top and ridiculous, with a lot of laugh out loud moments and some great shootouts, fights and car chases. All this stuff mixed together and with great chemistry between the unlikely duo makes for a good time at the cinema (or in front of the TV if you wait for the DVD). 4/5.

REVIEW: Carrie Pilby (2017)

Nineteen-year-old Carrie (Bel Powley) struggles to make sense of the world and be happy as she tries to deal with an absent father (Gabriel Byrne), her higher than average IQ and the fact she doesn’t really like to leave her apartment.

Carrie is super smart and honest and that means she doesn’t always get along with people who she tends to find have the opposite traits. She’s a nineteen-year-old who thinks she knows everything and is pretty confident in who she is, but that doesn’t mean she’s always right. Carrie is a compelling yet sometimes frustrating character because of that – she likes to give the impression she’s all grown up but then she can have a childish attitude to somethings. I liked that about her. She’s the quirky, adorkable lead we’ve seen before but Powley plays her in a way that makes her feel more real.

Her relationship with her psychiatrist Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane) is great and their scenes are often funny yet touching. Powley and Lane bounce off each other really well.

There’s humour in Carrie’s escapades as she tries to complete a list of goals set by Petrov, some of it doesn’t always land but it’s sweet and fun and it all helps Carrie to grow and be more aware of how lucky her situation is.

While Carrie Pilby is an indie film that’s typical of the rom-com, coming-of-age genre, director Susan Johnson puts together a tracking shot on the streets of Manhattan as Carrie and her neighbour Cy (William Moseley) take a walk on Christmas Eve. It makes their conversation feel so natural as they get to know each other and, as the viewer, you get to see a different side to Carrie.

Carrie Pilby is a fun, coming-of-age drama with a wonderful lead in Bel Powley. 3/5.

REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

When a dark force threatens Alpha, a vast structure home to thousands of different species, Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) must race to find those responsible to not just safeguard Alpha, but the future of the entire universe.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a wonderful example of adventurous sci-fi. The opening credit sequence is so full of hope, wonder, as people from all corners of the galaxy coming together to share technology and knowledge and that is really the epitome of what sci-fi should be. It’s a weird and vibrant film, the costumes, the sets, everything just pops from the screen. The special effects and creature designs in this film are gorgeous. Honestly, it’s like a feast for the eyes, so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. For instance, there’s so much to see as a spaceship manoeuvres around Alpha that everything can seem like a blur. That being said, when things are more static and you can appreciate how good the CGI is and how there’s so many different creatures, it’s truly wonderful. The sequence in the market, which is like a miniature heist, is an inventive and standout moment.

The human characters are pretty much your typical clichés and while you don’t really get to learn a lot about the alien creatures, besides shapeshifter Bubble (Rihanna), they tend to be more interesting than the humans. In the first scene between them, there’s some clunky exposition where you learn everything you need to know about Valerian and Laureline from a conversation where they point out each other’s flaws and backstories. Exposition continues to often be on the heavy-handed side but when there’s so much to see and appreciate about the environment this story is set in, that it doesn’t really matter too much.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a fast-paced, visual extravaganza that’s a lot of fun. It has its faults but overall, it’s kind of delightful in how much it loves being big and bold. 3/5.

REVIEW: Message from the King (2016)

South African Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) arrives in Los Angeles to find his missing sister who appears to have gotten involved with the criminal underworld.

Boseman gives a solid performance as a guy who’s more than capable to take on anyone and anything thrown at him on his mission for justice. King is a smart man and has an aura of control that brings him to the attention of pretty much anyone he encounters.

The plot moves slowly in this film as there’s a lot of layers to this criminal underworld King dives into. With a lot of layers comes a lot of characters including major players Wentworth (Luke Evans) and Preston (Alfred Molina). Wentworth is more interesting of the two as he’s the middle man who knows everyone and attempts to deal with any potential problems.

The fight sequences are brutal and on the most part they are well-shot and easy to follow. They are also rather bloody and King is not afraid to be violent to get the information he wants.

Message from the King is an average crime thriller that’s only real notable achievement is having a great lead in Chadwick Boseman. 3/5.

REVIEW: Miss Meadows (2014)

Prim and proper elementary school teacher Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) moonlights as a vigilante, but her quest for justice gets put in danger when she becomes involved with the local Sheriff (James Badge Dale).

Miss Meadows looks more like a 1950’s housewife than a killer and the two juxtaposed together can be shocking and unsettling. Miss Meadows has old-fashioned values and all the children in her class seem to love her but knowing what she’s really like makes her interactions with the children feel a bit weird. She’s lovely and kind but through her there’s a steely core.

Katie Holmes gives a good performance here. Throughout the film you start to see the different layers of Miss Meadows, why she does what she does with little to no remorse and how she can be so smiley but deadly. The romance between Miss Meadows and the Sheriff works really well, these two people who are technically on opposites sides of the law come together and Holmes and Dale have good chemistry.

Miss Meadows is a bit of an odd film. It’s sweet yet bloody, and Miss Meadows is an interesting character. There’s often a dark sense of humour about it all which doesn’t always work but it does make for a weirdly captivating film. 3/5.