*NEW* MACBETH REVIEW *NEW*

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I think I’d rather fill my mind with scorpions than sit through this again.

Despite a powerhouse performance by Fassbender, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of the renowned Shakespearean play didn’t quite do it for me.

Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland (David Thewlis). Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Fassbender (Steve Jobs) was brilliant. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the iconic role of the demented King. This adaptation brought back school boy nostalgia. Unfortunately NOT in a good way. Macbeth is certainly not the best Shakespearean play to break into for a newbie. This only reminded me of what an arduous chore it was to analyse and decipher the soliloquies back in GCSE English just to get the gist of what was going on.

Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography was sublime. It really made the murky Scottish back drop a sight to see. After a strong and graphic opening with the Thane claiming victory on the battlefield, the film soon set off on a snail’s pace. The elongated panning shots. The long stares. I could feel my eyes drooping.

Maybe I wasn’t as much of a fan as I thought. I preferred Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet. An overtly lavish and grandiose affair BUT at least it was riveting and mesmerizing. For a story of betrayal, greed and madness, not a lot happened. A lot of the gruesome stuff was told in the horribly droll speeches and never shown. That’s not to say I need gore to keep my attention BUT it was incredibly hard going, dull and drawn out.

As much as Fassbender’s performance kept things watchable, I felt Roman Polanski’s 1971 version tackled the subject matter a lot better and was much more engaging and accessible. The screenwriters tried to make little changes BUT it just didn’t work. The witches’ coven, for example. I always remember there being three. Instead we have an ensemble of women and children. BUT what was the relevance? None, apparently. Even more ironic when only three of them spoke.

Paddy Considine (Dead Man’s Shoes) wasn’t in this enough as Banquo. His absence was sorely missed in this lifeless affair. David Thewlis (Seven Years in Tibet) had the easiest job going as Duncan. He didn’t do a bad job for the two scenes he featured in.

Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) was the perfect choice for Lady Macbeth. A role I hoped she would sink her teeth into BUT she was far too passive and weak. I always perceived Lady Macbeth as this devious and influential mastermind. BUT in this adaptation, she did absolutely nothing. A shame. I’m not sure whether it was the writers or Cotillard’s interpretation of the role BUT it didn’t work and she didn’t deliver the lines with enough conviction.

It was strange to see Sean Harris (Prometheus) as a good guy. BUT his demeanour and performance as MacDuff made me root for Macbeth more. By the end of the play, I knew Macbeth had lost it. BUT whether it was down to a lack of chemistry from Harris or too much charisma from Fassbender, the drawn out combat sequence was a real challenge as my loyalty was already decided NOT torn.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to wash my hands clean of this mess. Tough viewing. Any newbies thinking of trying to approach Shakespeare on the big screen may want to steer clear. This is one for the die hards.

2.5/5

PRIDE REVIEW

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A film that should have taken more pride in it’s story and cast. Solidly acted, well written but a case of hype helping an easygoing biopic that seemed to hinder as it reached it’s conclusion.

To be honest, I think it may be a sign of the time. Despite it’s subject matter appearing “controversial”, it seems to be showing that we are very much past that era. The fact that nowadays a film like this can be viewed and received positively says it all. I know I wasn’t around during that period and I can certainly empathize. But I’ll never really know what these groups truly went through. Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford capture that perfectly and there are endearing moments as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group suffer the scrutiny of the miners as they try and show their genuine support.

An attempt to publicise their beliefs soon becomes so much more once they meet the mining community and realise that despite conflicting sexualities, the groups very much share something in common and unite in a time of desperation, anger and torment. My main issue is that the film deals with it far too lightly and for it’s all hype, I wasn’t really laughing that much nor did I shed a tear.

At times, the story felt like it was going through the motions. It’s tough to stick to a true story without exaggerating certain facts to make a little more drama. However, I feel maybe a little more could have been exaggerated to justify the 120 minute length. When I saw the trailer, I expected an OTT, feel-good laugh a minute British dramedy. It certainly ends uplifting and brings the odd chuckle but most of them are revealed in the heavily flogged trailers. If you’re lucky then the jokes will certainly be fresh to you.

One thing I will definitely commend is the cast of British talent at Warchus and Beresford’s disposal. It was a surprise to see ol’ McNulty from The Wire in drag. Dominic West plays the role perfectly, balancing it with the right level of camp and heart. Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton are, to be expected, superb taking roles with completely different temperaments. Nighy’s deadpan but gentle Cliff to Staunton’s domineering outspoken chairman Hefina. Paddy Considine played Dai brilliantly. A complete change from his more introverted and volatile roles (Dead Man Shoes being a personal favourite).

The film also gave opportunities for up and coming actors. Ben Schnetzer was fantastic as group leader Mark. He is one to watch and has made a huge transformation from his supporting role in the highly enjoyable The Book Thief. He certainly carries the group in their time of peril and indeed the film. Jessica Gunning’s performance as the ambitious Sian was also worth noting. She has been around on the UK TV circuit for a while now and was most memorable for her small role in Great Night Out. She certainly proved that she can take a bigger role and deliver just as much gusto.

Menna Trussler was superb and in scene stealing form as the gullible and naïve Gwen. A loveable sweetheart whose intentions are in the right place, even if they may have come out the wrong way. “Where are my gays? I’ve missed them”, as well as her bizarre questions that she wanted rectifying after hearing from a friend down the market. She certainly delivered the one liners. Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) was finally able to make an impression once his character was allowed to open up. A meeting with his mothers after years of being shunned seemed like a missed opportunity that was dealt with far too easily and quickly for my liking. Faye Marsay (Fresh Meat) was very good as Steph, the only lesbian in the group.

Joseph Gilgun played the role incredibly straight faced, which made a change after his role as Rudy in Misfits. However, you really wanted him to have some of that eccentricity as his character is hardly memorable. Liz White (or Annie from Life on Mars) played the role of Dai’s supporting wife as well as she could but is somehow pushed into the background.

With respect to the miners, Warchus and Beresford do not portray them as oafish or as naïve as you first anticipated from the trailers. Beresford has established an array of well rounded characters that stand out and are easily relatable to. At Pride’s heart it is still a story of two groups of people that were being shunned and downtrodden by the public, the papers and the government (most importantly). The AIDS propaganda campaign. The red band coverage of the miners’ strike. It was a surprise to believe that the majority of the events did happen and as the credits appeared over each character explaining what happened after this unifying moment, there were some surprisingly revelations which did hit home.

The soundtrack was brilliant and really ignited that nostalgia for the 80s. Well acted, well written, bit long at the tooth but . . .

For all the hype, the best British film of the year? En par with The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliott? A film that will stand time and be remembered in the future. Not to me, I’m afraid pet.

3.5/5 Still one of the better ones but for it’s all hype, falls short for me and could have been more. Worth a gander most definitely.

BLUE RUIN REVIEW

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It’s always the films that you expect to do nothing that surprise you. I went in fearing the worst (my usual stance these days) and was rewarded. This time it’s with a hard boiled, gritty Deep Southern revenge flick. That being said, it’s not without its flaws but worth a watch. Just has enough to stay afloat among the swamp of bottomless flops that have flooded our local cinemas.

At its best, it mixes the darkly comical moments of No Country of Old Men with a splash of Dead Man’s Shoes. At its worst, you can’t help but feel I could be watching either of those two films instead.

Here we follow Macon Blair as a mysterious hobo wandering the desolate harbour, salvaging scraps from bins and seeking shelter in a battered up blue car. It makes for an intriguing, if slow, opening as all the usual questions pop up; why is he in this state? What happened? The general point of a film.

However, his strange and sheltered existence is soon turned upside down as he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. I won’t divulge too much and spoil the story as I have tended to do when I rant. This is hardly a film to rant about. Praise, more like. But basically by trying to do what’s right, our hero inevitably puts himself in even more trouble by upsetting a nasty family deep South.

His transition from a hapless hobo to a calculated killer is very well done and well acted. Blair is a likeable lead, even if his character is a little strange. A stumbling nervous individual. His initial first kill came as a shock because you honestly thought he wasn’t going to do it or balls it up, which he nearly did. At times, it does make for infuriating viewing because at times his character makes so many stupid decisions that you are practically (well literally in my case) yelling at the screen; “Don’t do that!”, “Pick the weapon up”, “Don’t go in that room”. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Unfortunately, at times the film is left to Blair a little too much and his character doesn’t have enough charisma to carry it in parts. The supporting cast are limited and bar a few exceptions are hardly memorable. When Blair is on the run or staking out his hunters, the suspense is executed perfectly. A brilliant scene in which Blair hides out in his sister’s home for his supposed captors is fantastic and nail-bitingly tense. It almost became a a dark take on Home Alone. An opportunity involving Blair and a garden tool was horribly wasted.

When Blair finally gets to deal with his estranged sister (Amy Hargreaves – Homeland) does make for good viewing as we get to see a little more into his past. The pair work well together and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more on that side of the story. The actual villains in this piece are very stocky and generic, bar Kevin Kolack who was delightfully snidey and creepy. A nasty addition that was heavily wasted as his counterparts were very weak, stereotypical and . . . weak, mainly. The other stand out performance was Blair’s gun-toting old high school chum Ben (Devin Ratray). Devin Ratray. Ring a bell? No? It’s only Buzz from Home Alone. I kid you not. Couldn’t believe it. A good performance with a darkly comical encounter that broke up the slackening pace.

It’s stuttering pace is relieved by solid, suspenseful moments but I have seen this sort of story line done a lot better before. However, it’s not all bad and definitely worth an investment. Blair’s transition is very good and the final moments make for brutal if predictable viewing as one man’s search for redemption leads him into more chaos that will require even more redemption.  3/5

Currently ranks #78 out of 177!