*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

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*NEW* MISS YOU ALREADY REVIEW *NEW*

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This cheesy little flick is one not to miss.

The friendship between two life-long girlfriends (Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore) is put to the test when one starts a family and the other falls ill.

The incredibly cheesy opening sequence didn’t set high hopes for me as we skimmed through the early years of Jess and Milly’s friendship. I wasn’t sure if my inner cynic would be able to tolerate the fluffy melodrama. Especially after watching Milly’s ‘rockstar’ wedding. However, that all changed when Milly received her diagnosis.

It was a sobering punch as we watched the doctor break the news. This completely changed the tone of the film and made for an easygoing, heartfelt and well acted drama. Collette and Barrymore were a great pairing.

The subject matter was dealt with very well. We witness Milly undergoing chemotherapy and see the toll that it takes on her body. It was a slow burning transition as the pair are all smiles and giggles through the initial sessions.

The wig sequence was a funny but touching moment. Frances De La Tour was very good in her surprisingly small role as the make up artist. Collette actually shaved her hair off for the film. Although the film offered a fluffier and funnier side to the treatment, it also showed how testing such a disease can be.

It’s always harder when family are involved. Dominic Cooper was very good as Milly’s spouse, Kit. He had great chemistry with Collette and certainly delivered a mature turn. Their relationship is soon put to the test as Kit is unable to be intimate with Milly after the chemo. The situation with the children was handled delicately. The little cartoon that Milly shows her kids to explain the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of chemotherapy was very clever.

We can relate to Milly’s struggle to try and remain sexy as her hair is starting to fall out. Desperate to keep smiling as the injections become more painful. BUT you can also despise her selfishness as she expects everyone to put their lives on hold to indulge her every whim. One particular example being an overnight taxi trek from London to the Moors.

You also feel for Jess who is desperately trying to have a baby. When she finally gets the news she’s waiting for, she is soon afraid to rub in her happiness to her best friend whose world has turned upside down.

I couldn’t believe that Tyson Ritter, the lead singer of All American Rejects was in this?! He didn’t do too bad a job with the acting as the flirty bartender.

It was also strange to see Paddy Considine in a semi-serious role after all the intense indie flicks that he has featured in. He had good chemistry with Barrymore and managed to make some of the sillier moments between them that more watchable. Especially during Barrymore’s pregnancy. Talk about cheese. No spoilers, I promise.

Jacqueline Bisset’s performance (The Deep) as Milly’s mum was a mixed bag for me. She wasn’t really as funny or as engaging as the other characters. For all the hype and in-jokes, I expected her to make more of an impression. Shame.

It was all done with a light touch BUT that still doesn’t hide what a terrible disease cancer can be and no matter how many times you’ve seen the ending, it still hits home. The closing moments certainly made for a teary finale.

Well acted, well done.

3/5

CHILD 44 REVIEW

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Tipped to be the biggest flop of 2015. An unjustified tag line may be undeserved but this clunky affair still leaves a lot to be desired.

A disgraced member of the military police (Hardy) investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Tom Hardy was superb. A powerhouse performance. He carried the film and was the only actor to deliver a convincing accent and keep in character.

The opening 30 minutes zipped along. If anything a little too quickly. We watch Hardy’s Leo Demidov climbing through the ranks from an orphan on the run to a decorated war veteran.

I expected more of a relationship between Hardy and Mark Lewis Jones’ Tortoise (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) but it didn’t really surmount to anything. He takes Leo in as a surrogate son but as soon as we are caught up to date, his character is pushed into the background. A shame.

Joel Kinnaman was actually quite impressive. He played the green eyed Vasili very well. A coward forever lurking in Leo’s shadow. A nutter hell bent on taking his anger on those beneath him.

His punishment on a family of farmers for hiding a suspected fugitive was relentless. However, there was a highly comical and OTT cornfield punch up between Hardy and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of The Apes) that killed the tension and suspense.

BUT an interesting development soon put things on the right track as Leo’s wife (Noomi Rapace) is accused of giving secrets to the British embassy.

For the first hour, I kept thinking to myself; “Where does the child killer story come into this?” It felt like a different film. Two story lines meshed into one and neither really came off.

I was more interested in Leo’s exile after refusing to give up his wife. Noomi Rapace and Hardy reunite yet again after their pairing in The Drop. They had good chemistry and certainly kept things watchable.

The exile sequence was compelling. I was happy to see more of that factory town situation. Leo reduced to the equivalent of a PCSO. While Rapace’s Raisa, a fully qualified teacher, is purposely made a cleaner at the school.

I was intrigued with the Stalin ideology that was enforced in the 50s. “There is no murder in paradise”. The deluded belief that no one kills in Soviet Russia was baffling. Those who opposed any ideals were removed either temporarily to these slum towns or permanently.

The child killer subplot finally arrives and it was interesting (To begin with). The killer sneaking around the tracks like Jack the Ripper. A cloak and cane being the only things we see as each child is picked off one by one. BUT it soon became a mindless walk through with terrible red herrings. It was sloppily put together and didn’t fit in.

The spluttering pace did test me. At a whopping 137 minutes, the film dragged. It seemed to be a case of all or nothing. In one scene we have an exhilarating escape attempt on a train as the couple evade capture. The next; mindless exposition. Boring forensic information delivered with no conviction or interest.

The killer is revealed to the audience too early on which kills any tension. And when we finally get the answers, I was left wanting. The film suggested that there was a bigger conspiracy at play with Leo being stopped at every possible opportunity. Was the killer within their own ranks? Oh no.

The conspiracy was that Vasili wanted Leo’s position and was jealous that his wife was not with him instead. That’s it. Leo had so many opportunities to dispose of Vasili and he refused. By the end, you were yelling, “Get rid!”. Foolish.

Gary Oldman didn’t make much of an impression at all. A talented actor reduced to an unmemorable role. He also seemed to forget he was Russian. His accent dipping in and out. It didn’t help that his character was built up to be a crucial figure in the case. But he was non-existent. Merely threatening Leo to stay out of his way and then allowing to do as he pleased.

While Leo was pursuing the killer, Oldman’s General Nesterov was just consoling the grieving families. And then he disappeared. Only popping back up in the closing credits to explain what he did after this daunting case. Not a lot afterwards, either. A waste of an actor.

I had to agree with someone that said the cast were doing their best Borat impressions. It was incredibly off-putting. But that’s Hollywood for you. Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) was the biggest culprit. Terrible. Paddy Considine did as well as he could with the role but he didn’t really get to shine until the closing act.

After a lumbering middle act, the last 20 minutes was suspenseful, intense and ridiculously violent. Hardy goes through more soldiers than Rambo. His mud wrestling battle with a foe was unbelievably hilarious.

And as the film came to its abrupt close, there were plot points that just left me scratching my head. People being bumped off left, right and centre and without any real explanation or reason.

A wasted opportunity. When I last checked the box office records, Child 44 had taken $600,000 a $35 million budget.

A little harsh. It wasn’t all bad. But they took a gamble with a huge ensemble that didn’t deliver with a premise that was half baked. And penciling it in during the Avengers release was a big mistake.

Clunky, overlong, hammy. This may have been adapted from a best selling novel but I’m not certainly venturing out to my local book shop to purchase a copy.

The cons outweighed the suspenseful action sequences and charisma of the talented Mr Hardy.

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.