Wild (2014) Film Review

Cheryl (Reece Witherspoon) has had a tough life – single mother who died quite young, going off the rails, drugs and sex and a failed marriage – and so she walks across American on her own to find herself. That sounds a bit glib, but that’s kind of it.

There will be people who find this inspiring. Apparently, the book is amazingly inspiring. I thought it was good. The problem was that it’s almost impossible for a film of nearly two hours to properly capture such a big event. Yes, I got that she was tired and made mistakes and was injured and was alone and had a terrible life, but I didn’t really feel it. The way the flashbacks were cut in was nice, kept the flow. I think it is a very good movie. I just didn’t really like it.

Wild was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Reese Witherspoon) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Laura Dern), for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Reese Witherspoon) and a BAFTA for Best Leading Actress (Reese Witherspoon).

 

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Trumbo (2015) Film Review

Remember the days when you couldn’t have a differing political stance to those in power or you were considered a danger? When speaking out could risk your job, your livelihood, your life? (Yeah, it does sound like something that could indeed be happening again, all this fear and anger… but I step back).

So, Dalton Tumbo (Bryan Cranston) was a Hollywood screenwriter and a communist. By this, he subscribed to the American communist party and believed in the idea of people supporting each other and a different system to that which America was (and still is) functioning under. He organised protest for increased pay for those working in the film industry until, under the House of Un-American Activities, he and eleven other screenwriters were imprisoned. Things got tough, and Trumbo and his mates had to start working using pseudonyms until the winds changed.

It’s a fascinating film. Showing Trumbo not only as a leader amongst his peers and a family man, but also as a self-centred prick who could not see the contradictions in his own life and existence. And who loved working in the bath – what a man!

Bryan Cranston was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role.

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Their Finest (2016) Film Review

It’s World War 2 in the UK and moral is low. The retreat from Dunkirk has just happened, where hundreds of civilian boats sailed the channel to rescue as many retreating British soldiers, and it looks like things will get worse. One of the ways that the government looks to make people feel better is through entertainment, in particular, films. However their recent attempts have failed. Enter: Tom Buckley (Sam Calflin), a screenwriter who hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to help with the “slop” (women’s dialogue). They have a plot, they just need to impress the bigwigs, and find a way to get it made.

I loved this. I cried throughout (I’m a massive sook in movies, and this is set in a war, and so there are a lot of not great things happening, and it set me off a heap). The cast is fabulous, with the most wonderful performance from the always fabulous Bill Nighy, and it’s been an age since I’ve seen Richard E. Grant getting a decent role. Watch it. Do.

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The Nice Guys (2016) Film Review

Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a private investigator who is also a bit of a stand over man. After beating Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to stop him investigating a missing girl, it turns out Healy needs his help to find that very girl. Along with March’s awesome teenage daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), they find themselves trapsing their way through Hollywood parties and all kinds of conspiracy to figure it out.

This should have been so much better. It’s a decent script with great twists, it’s a top cast, it just doesn’t quite get there. Perhaps it is because it was written and directed by Shane Black – looking over his writing credits, he’s a brilliant man – many of my favourite films including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Long Kiss Goodnight – but perhaps he shouldn’t direct as well? I don’t know what it is that makes this fall short, but it does.

 

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Fences (2016) Film Review

Based on the award wining stage play, Fences follows the lives of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) in their working class existence of 1950s Pittsburgh. They have to deal with the changing world, along with Troy being the most annoying character – and by this, I mean that he feels that the world has treated him bad and will not allow himself to see anyone elses point of view.

I think it would have been an amazing play. I think all of the actors in this film would have been incredible onstage in these roles – looking at Wikipedia, Washington and Davis starred in the remake of the 1983 play on Broadway in 2010 and both won Tonys for their performances. For me, the film does work, but really as a filmed version of the play – which is wonderful for all of us who didn’t get to Broadway to see the remake.

Viola Davis won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences, and the film was nominated for Oscars Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington) and Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson, nominated posthumously). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Denzel Washington) and won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis.

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Finding Dory (2016) Film Review

Remember Dory, the dippy fish who helped Marlin find his son in Finding Nemo? Ever wonder where she came from? Well, wonder no more. Here’s her origin story, and it’s so much fun. As a small fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who has a memory condition, got lost. Now that Nemo (Hayden Rolence)has been found and returned home, oops! Dory’s gotten lost again. This time, it’s not her parents but Nemo and Marlin(Albert Brooks) who are looking for her, and helping her to find her way home. And gradually, she starts to remember things.

Slight issue, and this is an odd one. But if she has had a mental condition which means that she cannot form new memories and she’s had it since birth, then why can it suddenly start coming back? I suppose at least they didn’t give her a real human condition, but it does annoy me that sometimes it seems like films are sending the message that hey, while it’s fine for you to have a particular disability, if you try real hard, you can overcome it. Apart from the fact that for so many conditions, no, you can’t just try hard to change, it suggests that all those people who suffer the condition just aren’t trying hard enough, and that’s bullshit. Oops, didn’t think this movie review would get me into sweary land. Maybe I need to not expect films to be better than they are.

Finding Dory was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

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Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) Film Review

I remember hearing about this woman on This American Life some time ago – she could not sing one iota, but contributed hugely to the arts scene in New York and put on shows that would have the audience dying to laugh. There is a recording, and she is appalling. And I’ve always wondered – was it cruelty that people allowed her to be ridiculed like this? Or was it right that she should do what she loved regardless? Were her friends and those around her kind to protect her or cruel to allow her to put herself in such humiliating positions?

This film didn’t help. It’s a good film, with a magnificent performance by Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins, and there are many ways in which I feel that this woman was let down by all those who should have been protecting her – in the same way that we see modern figures like Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse let down by those who should be protecting them. Of course, talent is the big different between these later figures and Jenkins – but nonetheless, they have all been ridiculed in many ways.

I found this a difficult film to enjoy because Jenkins, while ridiculous, seems very inncocent, and it just seemed cruel. But was it? Can someone else please watch it and let me know how they felt?

Meryl Streep was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins and the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design as well as Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Hugh Grant), Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Meryl Streep) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Simon Helberg). It won a BAFTA for Best Make Up/Hair and was nominated for Best Leading Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Grant) and Best Costume Design.

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