David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) – Film Review

Title: David Brent: Life on the Road

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Mandeep Dhillon

Director: Ricky Gervais

Genres: Comedy, British Sit-Com, Comedy, Mockumentary

Rating: 3/5


I’m not the biggest television watcher. I usually find things on Netflix, or on iPlayer catchup. But when it comes to actual sitting-down-television watching, it’s not really my thing. However, there is one thing that I love, and would happily sit down to watch, and that is good British comedy. Harking back to The Two Ronnies, Open david-brent-lor-main-posterAll Hours, Only Fools and Horses and Steptoe and Son, British situation comedys (sitcoms) will guarantee to put a smile on my face, and provide an easy and funny watching experience.

But there is one series that I have watched time after time again, and that is the 2001-2003 BBC mockumentary series, The Office. Following a fictional paper merchants, and the day-to-day life of its employees, The Office has a host of lovable and hilarious characters. But, to me, there is one standout character. And that is the irritating manager, David Brent.

Ricky Gervais’ character of the hapless, hilarious and dreadfully un-PC office manager garnered legions of fans, who tuned in weekly to see his antics, and after The Office finished its run, fans were left with a hole in their lives.

However, when it was announced that Gervais would bring his character back to life in a feature length film, there were mixed reactions. However, after seeing it last week, I was pleased to say that the film felt fresh, but with all the charm of The Office.

Over ten years have passed since we last left David Brent. And now, the middle-aged and largely friendless rep has decided that he wants one last hurrah into the music world, and re-visit the music world of his youth. Bringing back his old (with none of the original members) band, Foregone Conclusion, Brent finances an ill-fated tour around the South East, and lives out his dream of pop stardom.

Overall, I’d say this film was a light-hearted, laugh out loud journey. It was never meant to be serious, nor did David Brent necessarily have to change as a character. He was always going to have this vein of being un-PC, yet in this film we do see more of a sensitive side to Brent. His dealings with mental health issue, loneliness and romance were always brushed off in a typical funny manner, yet felt very personal if you explore it.

For me, the songs were the funniest parts, as the lyrics were so offensive that they couldn’t work in any other scenario other than with David Brent. The humour was often light, off-handed comments that almost make you double take, and the storyline was quite sweet in the way that Brent never stopped believing or dreaming.

What I was very happy about is the fact that the jokes were all fresh material, and it wasn’t a compilation from the series. Unfortunately, as I stated in my Absolutely Fabulous review, this happened in that film, and felt very disappointing.

The David Brent movie isn’t meant to be hard-hitting movie, and may not appeal to fans of the show who found David Brent irritating, but I found it funny and lighthearted.

The film is out now.life-on-the-road

 

 

 

Suicide Squad (2016) – Film Review.

Title: Suicide Squad

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara

Director: David Ayer

Genres: Superhero, Action, Comic Book, DC Extended Universe, Comic Book Adaptation

Rating: 3.5/5


It came on the coat tails of Batman Vs Superman, and gave audiences the taste of a film that was going to be manic, bright, ridiculous and villainous.

With excellent trailers, a cast that is not to sniggered at, and the first reincarnation of the Joker since Heath Ledger’s chilling performance, Suicide Squad was supposed to b1e DC’s resurrection from heavily panned movies and critical reviews.

However, despite it giving some kick-ass moments, it failed to live up to expectations.

Originally a storyline that few outside of the comic book readership would have heard of, Suicide Squad tells the story of a motely group of imprisoned super villains who have been forced to be part of a fighting task force and work to reduce their prison sentences. Starring Deadshot (Smith) as the world’s best gunslinger and assassin; Harley Quinn (Robbie) deranged ex-psychiatrist and girlfriend of The Joker; Diablo (Hernandez) pyrokinetic gangster; Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje cannibalistic crocodile, and bank thief Captain Boomerang (Courtney), the team have to fight against otherworldly creatures for the government, whilst always actively trying to rebel against the authority that imprisons them.

Excitement rose throughout the release of the trailers and teasers, and there was thousands of questions that comic book fans had to ask. What was Leto’s Joker going to be like? How was Robbie going to portray Harley Quinn in her first full-length live action cinematic debut? Was it going to be light-hearted, dark, somber, violent? How many backstories would feature? Is this going to be a continuation of the Batman Vs Superman line, or be entirely different? So on and so on.

So what did I like about the movie/what was done well? The cast and the acting were very strong throughout. There was chemistry between the cast that was obvious to the audience, and I thought they gelled well together. Despite some of the Squad’s characters not being explored (Killer Croc, Boomarang etc), they still made a good addition and impact within the narrative. Will Smith’s Deadshot was strong, as he was shown to have arrogance and loathing towards the authority that imprisoned him, whilst showing his strong paternal love towards his daughter. Diablo was also a favourite, as he is shown initially to be remorseful over his actions, yet when he warms up to the Squad, he considers them to be the family that he lost. A very sympathetic character in my mind. But for me, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a favourite.SUICIDE SQUAD

With her backstory glazed over, the audience wanted more, and when we saw the transformation from the straight-laced Dr Harleen Quinzel to the manic Harley Quinn, I was very impressed with Robbie’s acting ability. Harley Quinn was un-hinged yet still self-aware of who she was, and her love for the Joker and contempt for the mission in hand. This made her character feel multi-dimensional, as she is not just the film’s sex appeal and Joker’s sidekick, but significantly more. She is shown to be completely bad-ass with baseball bat, yet possesses an angel face and dressed as a crazy cheerlander mixing with a circus performer. Harley Quinn certainly made an impact. ,

I’m also very interested in Jared Leto’s Joker. With plenty of boastful interviews about never breaking character throughout filming, and employing method acting constantly, Leto dedicated a lot of time and energy to portraying his Joker, yet we didn’t really see that. The Joker was a minor character in this story, and with around 15 minutes of screen time during the entire film, he isn’t given enough time to
make a real impact. However, I found his gangster apparel and mafia vibe to be tiresome. To me, The Joker is a solitary and lone figure that largely works above the regular villains. Leto makes him far more ‘Mob Boss’ rather than ‘Crazed Clown’. However, I am excited to see if he is explored more in further films.

However, to me the film fell down the pit that Batman Vs Superman did. There was a lot happening, but not a lot of plot, and what plot was there felt very disjointed and full of holes. The way it has been edited together felt choppy and disjointed, and there were some odd flashbacks and films over the film that didn’t really make sense. There was an initial plot line that seemed completely pointless, and the main drama was largely brushed over, and only resolved in the last third.

However, DC has learned from the heavily-panned Batman Vs. Superman by incorporating some lighthearted and comedic moments, which did relieve the drama slightly.

Despite this being a film full of villains, the main antagonist was The Enchantress. However, I didn’t think Cara Delevingne could cope with the character. The Enchantress was supposed to be an all power ancient spirit of a witch and completely evil, yet the actress just couldn’t grasp the severity of the character. If you want chilling villainy, look at Ledger’s The Joker, or Anthony Hopkins Hannibal. She just didn’t make an impact as The Enchantress, or the witch’s vessel, June Moon. She just felt weak to me, which made the final fight scene a bit lacklustre.

If you watched the trailers and read all the hype about Suicide Squad, you may be slightly disappointed. Harley Quinn was a real highlight, but the film itself was confusing, convoluted and not as crazy as we wanted it to be. Unfortunately, DC promised something big, but it still fell beneath expectations. However, if you want a film about crazed psychopaths trying to work together, with weird situations and hilarity ensuing, go and see the film. I found it be enjoyable, but don’t look too much into it.

Suicide Squad is in cinemas now.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie! (2016) – Film Review

Title: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks

Director: Mandie Fletcher

Genres: Comedy, Fashion, British Comedy, Sitcom

Rating: 3/5


For the last few months, all that the British newspapers seem to have been reporting on is the EU Referendum, post-Brexit slump, horrific acts of terrorism, and football hooliganism. And quite rightly so. But in a climate where every newspaper seems to boom out doom-and-gloom news, it is no wonder that light-hearted comedy is needed. And with the release of the eagerly anticipated Absolutely Fabulous movie on July 1st, this could’ve been the breath of ridiculousness that we all needed.
As a fan of the original series (which aired before my birth), I was so excited when principle filming started, and when the trailer came out with all the glitz and silliness of a typical Ab Fab style, it promised to be exciting what we all hoped it to be – A feature length Patsy and Edie adventure. However, when I saw it, I’m not going to lie, I was slightly disappointed.3600
The movie starts off in typical Edie-and-Patsy montage of ridiculousness. After crashing a Giles Deacon show during Fashion Week, we see Patsy and Edie inadvertently walking down the runway, before crashing and pushing celebrities off the coveted front row. So already I was giggling, and this was before anything was said.

Edie and Patsy have declared that ’60 is the new 40’ but for Edie in particular, her life seems to be in a downward style. After losing out on a book deal for her memoirs, as well as rapidly dropping clients, Edie’s PR agency is rapidly losing out on money and public interest. However, it is revealed that Kate Moss (a.k.a ‘Her Skinniness’) is in desperate need for a PR Agent, and Edie jumps at the chance to represent her. However, at a party, Edie accidentally pushes Kate off a railing and into the Thames, never to be seen again.

Suddenly Edie is wanted for murder, and with a jail sentence looming, she and Patsy flee to the South of France to find a sugar daddy to help them fund their new life. The Absolutely Fabulous Movie is ultimately an adventure of silliness, ridiculous fashion featuring our favourite trainwrecks.

So what did I love about the movie? Well, the fashions were absolutely amazing. With the host of designer clothes, the wardrobe department of the movie have managed to pick the most outrageous and colourful for Edie and Patsy and transformed them into something that almost seems satirical towards the extremity of some designer labels. The premise of the story was also good. ‘Killing Kate Moss’ was always going to make for an intriguing storyline, and with Edie and Patsy jetsetting off to Cannes and the South of France, it screamed old-age glamour.absolutely_fabulous_0

I also loved all celebrity cameos. With Lulu and Emma Bunton still appearing to be long-suffering versions of themselves, Rebel Wilson playing the worst flight attendant in history and John Hamm revealing that Patsy took his virginity, the film was ridiculous in how many celebrities were cast and happy to play outlandish versions of themselves.

But what let me down for this film was the script. When watching it, it felt tired, stretched and, to me, was just a rehash and reminder of their original jokes that made television gold when they were initially released. There was very little new material, and for the brilliant comedic writing of Jennifer Saunders, I was disappointed. However, the chemistry and characters of Edie and Patsy never failed, and neither did the power duo of Saunders and Lumley. They kept the film going when it felt too dry, and it was wonderful to see them together again.

I did like how it revamped Absolutely Fabulous, and brought Edie and Patsy screaming and kicking into the world of Twitter, social media and hashtags, but there is always going to be difficulty when bringing British sitcoms to the big-screen, as they work so well as half-hour segments, rather than rambling two hour ones. However, it was wonderful to see our two favourite drunks again. It was Edie’s and Patsy’s last hurrah, and for a post-Brexit Britain, it was the hurrah we needed.

Overall, a lighthearted romp that will please fans of the original sitcom, but don’t expect it to be too groundbreaking.

The film is in cinemas now.

 

Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company 2016 Production) – Theatre Review.

Title: Hamlet

Cast: Paapa Essiedu, Marcus Griffiths, Tanya Moodie, Cyril Nri, Natalie Simpson, Clarence Smith, Ewart James Walters, James Cooney, Bethan Cullinane.

Director: Simon Godwin

Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


As I’ve said before, being an English student has given me the opportunity to watch dozens of adaptations, performances, reimaginations and versions of William Shakespeare’s plays. Howevhamlet_production_photos_march_2016_2016_photo_by_manuel_harlan_c_rsc_187355-tmb-img-820er, when I had the privilege to watch the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, I felt like I was watching something entirely new and entirely different.

Although still set nominally in Denmark, the play gives us something new and takes on a west African flavour. With cultural heritage and identity crisis at its core, Hamlet is first shown at his graduation ceremony oversees, but the death of his father makes him rush home to a country that he now feels completely lost in. And with the subsequent marriage of his mother to his father’s brother (later revealed his father’s power-hungry murderer), Hamlet is completely lost in the Danish court.

For the first time in RSC’s 55-year history, the titular character of Hamlet was given to a black actor. And what a marvel he has turned out to be. Paapa Essiedu shone with all the poise and calm of a seasoned actor, but with the young age of 25 and a baby-face to match, it is clear that this young man will become something of a success story in the coming years. When he spoke the immortal and well-loved soliloquy starting with ‘To be or not to be’, it was then we saw the once-suited and smart Prince turn into something new. We watch as tears roll down his face, his eyes half-closed and as though the words are tumbling from his mind. It is then we see Hamlet’s descent into madness and despair.

The cast were all beautifully selected, and fit in their respective roles well. We see Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (portrayed by Tanya Moodie) fall from a dignified and regal queen, into a shell-shocked mess, and Natalie Simpson’s Ophelia is sweet, suitably sassy and cocky in the first half, but distressingly unhinged towards the end. Edward James Walters also gave a chilling performance as the Ghost, as he rose in a mist of dry ice and traditional African costume, and Clarence Smith’s Claudius was sleek and well mannered. However, one of my personal favourite’s was definitely the portrayal of Polonius. Cyril Nr'Hamlet' Play directed by Simon Godwin performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, UKi has given Polonius a new breath of life, by making him somewhat of a court jester, as well as a scatty and fussy parent.

With Hamlet, so much has been done with it in the past, it may have been challenging to breath new life into this timeless play. However, with a thrilling soundtrack of drums, limb-jerking dancing and graffiti, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet is visceral, raw and gives us a rising star who doesn’t so much as shine but blaze as our mercurial Dane.

Hamlet is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until August 13th. Book now, or see it live at participating cinemas. Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company website for dates.

 

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) – Film Review

Title: Alice Through The Looking-Glass

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Director: James Bobin

Genres: Action, Adventure, Disney, Fantasy, Book-to-Film Adaptation, Gothic

Rating: 3/5


As you can tell by the title of this blog, this particular reviewer has an affinity to Alice in Wonderland. I was named after that book, and have had it as part of my literary life as much as any other childhood book.

When Tim Burton released his 2010 reimagination of Lewis Carroll’s tale, I fell in love with how he took the original characters and put his own unique spin on what would happen if Alice grew up and returned to Underland (incorrectly named ‘Wonderland’ by the child Alice), and I assumed there would be a Looking Glass sequel. So when I saw it in the cialice_through_the_looking_glass_film_posternema with my boyfriend last week, I went in with all the expectations and knowledge from the book, but unfortunately came out a little disappointed.

We find Alice a few years after we left her in Burton’s original film. After rejecting Hamish’s marriage proposal and becoming a sea captain of her father’s ship, The Wonder, Alice has explored Asia and returns to England with a head full of plans, reports and expectations. However, her whole world comes crashing to a halt when she finds her mother in a perilous financial state, with the loss of her home and the ship looming thanks to the efforts of her daughter’s jilted suitor.

But as usual, Underland beckons, and Alice manages to find another Narnia-esque portal through a disused mirror. Alice soons tumbles back into the world of her childhood adventures, but she soons releases that all is not well in the magical land. The Mad Hatter seems to be in a depressive slump and falling farther and farther into madness, thanks to the memories of his deceased family, and Alice is dispatched to travel back through time and save his family from their brutal slaying by the Jabberwocky.

But in order to do so, Alice has to deal with Time. And Time isn’t just a abstract concept in this film, but an actual half human/half robotic demigod, whose prize possession is the exact thing Alice needs to steal to complete her mission.

The audience is then treated to a series of different time periods and origin stories. The Mad Hatter is shown as a young boy and then a fresh-faced youth who is the black sheep of his austere hatting family, and we are given new reasons for the Red Queen’s swollen head and her hatred for her sister. And through a series of incidents, Alice has to save the hatter, mend time as well as save her mother.

So, what did I think of the film? Well, like I’ve said, I adored the first film. I really enjoyed the cast (I still do in this film), love the setting and beauty of the CGI and imagination of Underland (I still do), and I really liked the dynamic and chemistry of the characters and how they interact. But this film was lacking something. Maybe due to the fact that Burton was only a producer and not the director of Looking Glass, but this film didn’t have the sparkle and zazz of the 2010 film.

The plot was busy, and wasn’t particularly strong in the plot points. The whole idea of Time was good, and I loved the setting of the clock and the visual element of that, but I didn’t necessarily think the Hatter’s family needing an origin story, and there wasn’t a need to alter time lines. However, I did enjoy seeing the young Red and White Queen, and where their quarrels and differences came from. null

I also loved the smaller details of the films, such as Time having creations he called seconds, which turned into minutes, and why the Red Queen was so keen to cut peoples heads off. But I did feel that it was slightly jumbled and too busy for one film.

The characters were also good, with the memorable cast of Johnny Depp playing a ditzy yet loveable Mad Hatter, and Mia Wasikowka’s Alice being a proper no nonsense and tomboyish version young woman. Sacha Baron Cohen’s personification of the robotic, German-accented Time was also a refreshing and comical feature, and there was real poignancy and emotion of hearing the late Alan Rickman’s voice as Absolem.

But all in all, I felt that despite it being an overall entertaining, light-hearted romp in Underland, this film was really missing something. It didn’t have the gothic beauty of Burton’s original film, nor was it particularly strong in plot wise or story wise. It just felt a bit distracting, colourful and all over the place. Which is shame.

In the words of the Mad Hatter from the first film, ‘You were much more… muchier. You’ve lost your muchness’.

 

The Jungle Book (2016) – Film Review.

Title: The Jungle Book

Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito.

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Drama, Disney, Adventure

Rating: 4.5/5


In the past few years, we have been lucky enough to see some of the  ol’ Disney favourites being remade and rejigged for a newer audience. Alice in Wonderland has, and is still having, the Tim Burton treatment, whilst Cinderella and our favourite baddie Maleficient have been given live-action counterparts and new movies to entrathe-jungle-book-heronce audience back into the cinema seats. And when it was announced that they were going to be doing the same with The Jungle Book, I was so excited. As somebody with younger siblings, I’ve watched The Jungle Book a lot, and still find the story and songs as charming and whimsical as the day I first watched it. And as time passed, and a star-studded cast was announced to be playing my favourite animal roles, my excitement grew. And boy, did this film not disappoint.

Adapated from the 1894 collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book tells the story of the orphaned Mowgli, who was raised from a very young age by a wolf pack in the jungle. Despite considering himself a wolf, and feeling right at home with his adoptive family, Mowgli’s life is turned upside when a threat from the fearsome and rengade tiger, Shere Khan, forces him to flee the jungle and join the human village. Assisted by his friends, Bagheera the panther and Baloo, the bear,  Mowgli is sent on a journey of finding out who he is, and who is is capable of becoming.

What I love about this remake is despite going into the film already familiar with the plot, it never lost its magical feel. The original 1967 movie was the last time Walt Disney gave a movie his personal touch,, and there is something masterful about that film that spans generations. But this new version only updates this feeling. Gone is the old-fashioned animatioTHE JUNGLE BOOKn, and it has been replaced with state-of-the art technology and CGI. The animals looked hyper real, and the songs (despite being radically cut down to only including ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘I Wanna Be Like You’) feel natural and not just like another Disney musical. The story had relatively the same storyline, but with a new plot development including Shere Khan and the leader of the wolf pack, Akela, the film creates new and ingenous twists on the familiar story.Also, by using some of Kipling’s later stories, such as with the addition of the the Water Truce, along with The Law of the Jungle poem, it really gave the first part of the film a literary and emotional tie to Kipling.

The cast were utterly fantastic and fiting for the characters they spoke for, but what really stole the show for me was Idris Elba’s Shere Khan. The old villianous tiger has been reimagined to far more bloodthirsty and dangerous, and Elba’s smooth and sometimes arrogant tones really add something to the tiger. Both Scarlett Johansson, in her memorising portrayal of the nefarious Kaa, and Bill Murray for his rendition of the mellow ursine Baloo won high praise from me. Lupita Nyong’o’s gentleness and maternal warmth brings a dignity to Raksha, the mother wolf. And without the cool wisdom of seasoned thespian Ben Kingsley, Mowgli’s guide through the jungle, Bagheera the panther, would have fallen short.441210-shere-khan-the-jungle-book

But be warned, this film is not for children, or the faint hearted. Despite only being rated a PG, the film has got some dark points, and with the detail of the CGI, the animals feel more realistic. Tigers have become tigers, and not just cartoon characters. So, this isn’t going to be a film you take a six-year-old to see.

But all in all, a fantastic rendition of Disney’s classic masterpiece, and if this is anything to go by, I’m very excited to see what the next live-action adaptation is going to be like.

The Jungle Book is out now!

The Hateful Eight (2015) – Film Review

Title: The Hateful Eight

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kirk Russell, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, James Parks

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Genre: American Western, Mystery, Murder-Mystery

Rating: 4.5/5


 

To me, to this day, there is only one director whose films I will actively go and watch in the cinema. Yes, I love plenty of other directors and producers – Baz Luhrmann, Danny Boyle, Tom Hooper, are just a few – but when it comes to physically going to the cinema, buying popcorn and a ticket and just staring up at the screen for hours on end, there is only one director that I will properly do that for. And that is Quentin Tarantino.

the-hateful-eight-poster1To me, his blend of extreme violence, long tracking shots, lengthy monologues and the Mexican stand-off just makes for a story of epic proportions. I could rewatch every Tarantino film, and still feel like it was the first time. So, I was unbearably excited to finally go and see his newest, and coincidentally, his eighth film, The Hateful Eight. And with a stellar cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kirk Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen and Walton Goggins, what more was there not to love?

Set in the blisteringly cold and mountainous Wyoming post-American Civil War, the film is divided into chapters – not unlike that of Kill Bill and other Tarantino films – and the first two chapters focus on a stagecoach ride. Its inhabitants are two bounty hunters, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and Jon Ruth (Russell); and Ruth’s prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Leigh), as they all venture out towards the fictional town of Red Rock. Both are delivering their bounty’s – Warren’s being a motely group of dead criminals tied to the roof of the coach, whilst Ruth’s being that of the very-much alive Domergue. In the second chapter, the audience meets an ex ‘Lost-Causer’ military man, Chris Mannix (Goggins), who is also journeying to Red Rock to become the new sheriff.

However, as the weather worsens, and a blizzard threatens to overwhelm the stage coach, the motley crew are forced into stopping at a roadside inn called Minnie’s Haberdashery. And it is there where we meet the rest of the cast. They’re Joe Gage (Madsen), a solitary cattle-hand; Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), a highly charismatic hangman; Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a retired Confederate general; and Bob (Demián Bichir), a Mexican handyman and the haberdashery’s temporary caretaker.hatefuleight

And it is whilst these strangers are trapped together does it become obvious that there is something nefarious going on. Ruth believes that there is somebody working to secure the release of Domergue, and in a style that is very reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, we have a group of gun-slinging strangers who all distrust each other, but remain trapped in one small location. And this is where Tarantino is at his most comfortable and creative.

This film doesn’t disappoint in a lot of instances. We’ve got the fail-safe Tarantino-esque monologues and sweeping bits of dialogue that Samuel L. Jackson performs with such gusto and feeling. The cast equally have their own amazing strengths – Roth gives the comic relief that is sometimes needed in such a tense environment, whilst Goggins delivers the perfect ‘Gone-with-the-wind-highly-racist-Southern-deserter’ role with conviction, that you find him both disgraceful, yet pitiful. And as the only real strong female role in the entire film, Leigh deserves all the credit for making her Domergue the most unladylike and lowlife murderess going.

The film is tense to the point of breaking. It continues to ramp up the pressure, and you know, as a viewer, that there is going to be a snapping point. But Tarantino keeps twisting and turning in his story-telling, so much so that you don’t know exactly when or how the facade will break. But, with the addition of the superb soundtrack, composed by Ennio Morricone – his first Western soundtrack in 35 years – the tension became almost unbearable in some places.

So yes, I did absolutely love it. I find Tarantino’s use of the one room and intimate setting to be one that would always work. And it has. But to me, this film did feel like an accumulation, and sort of celebration of his other work, whether it was supposed to or not. As it did have all the elements of the rest of his films, the Hateful Eight could seem slightly disappointing to some, as it didn’t have much originality. With a black bounty hunter and severe racial tension coming straight from the world of Django, and the group of betraying strangers being something out of Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight does just about hold its own in terms of the rest of his films, but maybe next time, we need to go back to the non-linear storylines of Pulp Fiction, and put this Old Western vibe to bed.

But with a brilliant and always entertaining cast, a director who always pushes it to the limit, and a storyline that is full of tension and gore, this film is so distinctive, it just had to be a Tarantino movie. And to me, that quintessential trope is always going to be a winner.

(Disclaimer – This film is rated an 18/R – and depicts very graphic scenes of violence, profane language and having elements of sex and nudity. If you are at all squeamish or could get offended or triggered by such events, I would suggest you steer clear. Information all taken off the IMDb’s Parental Guide)

 

 

 

The Danish Girl (2016) – Film Review

Title: The Danish Girl

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, and Sebastian Kochs

Director: Tom Hooper

Genre: Biography, Drama, Costume Drama, LGBTQIA Film, Historical Drama

Rating: 4/5


In the last couple of years, the LGBTQIA community have had some of their most positive media representation yet. With hit television shows, the-danish-girl-eddie-redmaynemovies, television presenters, media stars and political triumphs under their belt, it seems that the world has finally seemed to turn a corner in acceptance and love of a group of people that was so badly treated and downtrodden for decades.

And through all this, the transgender community has gone from strength to strength with people such as  Laverne Cox, Ian Harvie and Caitlyn Jenner highlighting the issues that so many have pushed under the carpet, and giving all the silent masses a voice in which to be heard by.

But before all this, there was a single woman. A figure of great significance, and a figure that, until now, has only been known by few. And that was Lili Elbe. Artist’s muse, haunting beauty, and born under the name Einar Wegener, Elbe was one of the pioneers of gender reassignment surgery, and remains a cultural icon to the transgender community today. And now, in 2016, Lili’s tale has come to life in a decadent film, directed by the acclaimed Tom Hooper and starring Academy Award -winning Eddie Redmayne and Golden Globe nominee Alicia Vikander.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Einar and Gerda Wegener. Depicted as a bohemian and happily married couple living in Copenhagen in the early 1900s, the couple both worked as artists, but originally at different levels of success. Whilst Einar was highly successful in his paintings of bleak landscapes, Gerda was struggling to get people to notice her portraits. And it is one of these portrait sittings where Einar’s life seems to have a revolutionary and remarkable turning point. When the Wegener’s mutual friend, a beautiful ballet dancer a711955211nd socialite Ulla (portrayed by Amber Heard) fails to turn up for her sitting, Gerda persuades Einar to step in and wear stockings and ballet shoes to give Gerda a point of reference. It is then the audience notices that Einar changes. It’s both a visible and emotional realisation for Einar, and maybe one he had never experienced before.

And following this turning point, the audience witnesses the blossoming of Lili through Einar, and how, despite initially Lili becomes a welcome muse for Gerda, the transition of Einar-to-Lili fully becomes a source of tension and ultimately a breakdown of marriage between the Wegener’s.The rest of the film then shows Lili deciding to go ahead with the pioneering surgery. And it is then we witness one of the most perfectly spoken lines of script in the film. Whilst speaking to her doctor, Lili says in a nervous manner, ‘I believe I am a woman’, and Gerda follows up, in a calm and assured voice ‘I believe it too’. To me, this acknowledgement of Gerda’s is one of the most positive reactions. In agreeing with Lili, Gerda shuts the door on Einar, and lets Lili become the woman she always wanted to be. And it was really one of those catch-in-the-throat moments that makes you fall further in love with Gerda.

The acting in this film is superb in my opinion. I realise there has been strife over the fact that Hooper did cast a cisgender man to play a transgender role, as well as blatant historical inaccuracies, but to me, I felt Redmayne played the part of Lili and Einar equally well.

In Einar, we saw a sensitive, caring husband whose struggles with his true self are shown to be both heart-wrenching and completely painful at time, and with Lili we see a shy and initially retiring woman who does rise from the ashes, and just wants to live her life as the woman she can has danishgirl1-xlargefinally become. What I did love about Redmayne’s performance was the obvious soul searching he does as Einar to become Lili. He spends a lot of time perfecting how he thinks a woman should move, how she sits and gestures with her hands, and also just how to be, subconsciously. There is pain when there needs to be, and there is also glee and realisation. And, as Golden Globe and Oscar season approaches, I would not be surprised if we see nominations and awards left right and centre.

But for me, it was Vikander who brought the house down. Before this, I hadn’t seen Vikander in much. But in this film she blew me away. She plays the feisty Gerda in such a dazzling manner. She’s flirty, outrageous, daring and loving at the beginning of the film, and as she watches her husband disappear and Lili to come to prominance, we see her lose some of her old self and seem to grow up in a way. She shows grief, dismay and anger for ‘the loss’ of Einar, but then support and resilience in living and supporting Lili. Without realising it, she even helps Einar make Lili the woman she wants to be, as in a touching montage, she is shown how a woman should walk, what clothes to wear and how to move. Vikander’s Gerda was always there as a pillar of support, and we do feel sympathy for her marriage breakdown, but also admiration for her strength.

The movie was also decadent in its filming and taste. With beautiful costuming, backdrop, visual effects and filming, the film is typical of Hooper’s lush and almost costume drama-y touch. But sometimes it felt as though the backdrops did distract from the actual action.

But all in all, I was thoroughly impressed with this film. Yes, sometimes it did feel slightly costume drama, and unlike Hopper’s brilliant The King’s Speech, there was moments when the drama did fall slightly short. But Redmayne’s acting, along with the force-to-be-reckoned-with Vikander more than made up for it. All in all, a movie to see.

But what do you think? What were your thoughts on a cisgender man playing such an iconic transgender role? Does Vikander deserve an Academy Award? Let me know in the comments.

The Danish Girl is out now.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella – Book Review.

Title: Shopaholic to the Rescue

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Chick-Lit, Humour, Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Comedy


OK,’ says Luke calmly. ‘Don’t panic’

Don’t panic? Luke is saying ‘Don’t panic’? No. Nooooo. This is all wrong. My husband never says ‘Don’t panic’. If he’s saying ‘Dont panic,’ then what he really means is: ‘There’s every good reason to panic.’ 

God, now I’m panicking.

For about for about six years now, I’ve been buying, reading and rereading Sophie Kinsella’s book saga ‘The Shopaholic Series’. As a teenage girl, these novels were the perfect read for those stressful times between school, exams and then college. And now, as a twenty-one year old, this series still holds a great deal of sway over my life, as I begin to emphasise with struggles in love, work and shopping. And in the last few weeks, Kinsella published the ninth book in the series ‘Shopaholic to the Rescue’, and the minute I opened the first page, and saw those opening emails, and immortal words which make up every beginning of these books ‘Ok. Don’t panic’, I fell back into the world of Becky Bloomwood nee Brandon, and her lovable and crazy life.

Overall, the series follows Becky as she deals with falling in love, marriages, families, children, friendship, housing issues , and all of this alongside a pretty serious, yet hilarious shopping addiction. And before I get into the review, I would thoroughly recommend that you read the entire series before this one – as it does follow a pretty straight forward plot throughout, and with the changes in Becky’s life, such as family dramas and the introduction of new characters, you would need to know how they wound up in this particular scenario. And in the ninth book, we find Becky taking on her biggest and most elaborate challenge yet.

After Kinsella, in Shopaholic to the Stars, left her in LA, with her relationship with her best friend, husband and career up in turmult, we pick up when Becky decides that a rescue mission is in order. And who is she rescuing?
Her father Graham, and her best friend’s husband Tarquin, who both vanish after Graham arrives from England to track down some old friend’s, and tags Tarquin along for the ride. However, despite assuring them all that they are all fine, Becky decides that the only possible solution is to hire a RV, drive the family from LA to Las Vegas and hunt down the missing men. But when she arrives in Las Vegas, Becky and her family get more than they bargained for, and are thrown for a loop when secrets from the past get dug up, and in typical Bloomwood fashion, not everything is as it appears.

So, for the ninth (and possible last) book in the series, Kinsella brings all the big guns out. Getting all the loved, and loathed characters together for one big American adventure was a sweet touch, as we got to see how they would all interact together, and some old faces even came back from the first books to play crucial parts. Kinsella’s writing of Becky hasn’t changed much in the years she’s been writing, which doesn’t limit the Shopaholic world in the slighest, but improve it. Becky, through all the ups and downs of the last few books, is still the young girl we all fell in love with. She still worries about spending, about her family, about Suze and about Alicia Bitch-Longlegs, and she still comes up with all the harebrained schemes that made her so lovable in the first place. The interactions between all the characters are familiar and comforting, and Becky once again triumphs in the end. However, what I did like was that nothing is entirely perfect in Becky’s life. She has some issues that seem entirely truthful, and frank to be able to touch some readers in a personal way, and she doesn’t skirt over them.

As story goes, it was a light-hearted romp full of very familiar (good familiar) scenarios, and nothing seemed too manic or impossible. The scheme that Becky pulls off is very typical ‘her’ style, but doesn’t seem that repetitive, or impossible. However, I should say that perhaps Kinsella should hang up the Shopaholic series for now. To be honest, after this book (which is a continuation of the story that she wrote in Shopaholic to the Stars) there doesn’t seem much to write about anymore. This books seems to be the perfect ending for Becky’s saga, and despite not wanting her to go and to continue to have more madcap ideas, if Kinsella continues on, it could just lose its sparkle and just be one of those series that you want to end.

The writing isn’t complex or challenging at all, but very personal and almost diary-esque. I’ve always thought Kinsella excelled at this particular type, and she uses it frequently in other stories. However, I must say that I’ve fallen out of love with Kinsella’s other books in the last few years, and it’s only been Becky that I’ve solidly stuck with. But that could just be my tastes changing.

So for a ending for the Shopaholic series, I’d say this is a fitting, well-done and proper conclusion. The story, the characters, and the essence of the plot is the same you fell in love with eight books previous, and the read is totally chick-lit, totally girly, and totally feel-good.

But please, let me know if you’ve enjoyed the series!

Links:

To buy the book – Amazon/Waterstones

To visit Kinsella’s website – Click Here 

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan and Phil – Book Review

Title: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire

Author: Dan Howell and Phil Lester

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, YouTuber World, Online Presence, Social Media, Celebrity Culture, Arts and Entertainment, Popular Culture


‘This book is us taking our favourite parts from that swirling universe on the internet and trapping it in something physical. Something we can hold and touch and keep in our houses, so that long into the future we can all look back and remember who these Dan and Phil guys were and what they did.’

In the past couple of years, the culture of YouTube has properly exploded into the public consciousness, and made the successful and popular YouTubers into sort of mini-celebrities. And from this, these YouTubers have been able to release all different types of merchandise – such as clothing lines, makeup collections and even short films. But there is one thing that the majority of these vloggers have done, and that is to release books.
So, whether they be self-help, fictional, lifestyle or even graphic novels, these books constantly hit the top of the bestseller charts, and make the YouTubers grow in popularity. And that is no different when I bought and read ‘The Amazing Book is Not on Fire’ by Dan (danisnotonfire) Howell and Phil (AmazingPhil) Lester.
Now, with a joint audience of over 10 million subscribers, as well as a highly succesful Radio 1 show, flatmates and best friends Dan and Phil both have their own, independent channels, but frequently collaborate together. So it made sense that when the chance to release a book came around, they decided to chronicle their world together. And with over 220 coloured, and highly detailed pages, The Amazing Book is Not on Fire or TABINOF is a good companion to fans of either YouTuber.

The book follows Dan and Phil through their entire lives, starting from birth through to finishing in the last year or so. With interviews, behind-the-scene photos, rambling stories, diary extracts, stories from their YouTube endeavours, drawings of their old apartments, quizzes, anecdotes, pictures, doodles, fanfiction entries, and even a second dedicated to their Sims character, this book really is a smorgasbord of goodies that will make any fan of the two vloggers devour eagerly. This book also has really interesting sections about how to become a YouTuber, and delivers handy hints for any aspiring creators, as well as being visually well-thought out, and designed in a way that will appeal to all ages. As Dan and Phil have fans that range from young teens to older people, this book isn’t offensive, nor does it act like it is serious. It is simply, as the front page states it to be, ‘The World of Dan and Phil’. One of my favourite sections were the University experiences, as it is well-documented that Dan dropped out, but it was interesting to read about Phil’s experiences and how he went on to get a Masters. I also enjoyed the Japanese section of the book. and the apartment tours.

What I liked about this book is that it really can be read at different times, and you can start at different points. With no strict order, this book isn’t confusing or challenging, and I appreciate that as a older viewer of both Dan and Phil, I can see how younger fans may enjoy and take from it. It also isn’t repetitive, and there is a plenty of variety, and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into it. This really is a perfect companion to Dan and Phil’s video, as it has a equal balance between both vloggers and both channel contents, as well as having their joint work chronicled. With little side stories, such as ‘What Happened in Vegas’ and ‘The Time We Met One Direction’, this books fills in some of the blanks that have been left on Dan and Phil’s channels, and really makes you get into their world without seeming too boring, or too same-y.

I must say that this book is strictly for die-hard and pretty intense fans of Dan and Phil. I have watched both of them for years, and received the book as a gift, and to me, this book was something that I found interesting, but may have not bought it for myself. Despite liking both their channels, I didn’t really need to go into their world in such a way. So, be warned. You will have to know a lot about Dan and Phil to really appreciate this book in its entirety. I also think this book was directed towards a younger audience, as the whole feel of the book gave off that impression. It wasn’t hard-hitting, it wasn’t intense, and it wasn’t shocking. It was just sweet, fairly cool and very much ‘Dan-and-Phil’. But as a gift for a younger fan, I would think it would be the ideal present.

So, yes. I found The Amazing Book is Not on Fire to be exactly what it was promised to be. A good companion to the highly successful duo that is Dan and Phil, a guide to their world, and just a good, easy book to read or gift to somebody.

But please, let me know if you’ve read the book, and whether you like it!

Links:

To buy the book – Amazon/Waterstones

To subscribe to Dan – Click Here

To subscribe to Phil – Click Here

The Dan and Phil Shop – Click Here