Black Mirror series 5 review

Another year, another bleak foray into the existential dread of the nature of the human condition. Although, this time, things seem a little different. Perhaps showrunner Charlie Brooker has discovered inner peace, or at least a substance based substitute, because Black Mirror series five is perhaps the franchise’s most optimistic and bright outing yet.

Continuing on Netflix following six expectedly dark episodes and one bizarre and disappointing AR experiment that Bandersnatched expectations and threw them down the loo, series five provides a comparatively conservative three episodes. The viewing order is seemingly random, so I’ll briefly break each down in the order I was shown; Striking Vipers, Smithereens, and finally Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too.

Reflecting on the three as a whole, there are two major differences when compared to previous series. Firstly; less of a reliance on future technology for narrative devices. Unlike the memory chips, cookies, and robot dogs of past series’, this edition could almost be considered contemporary. Facebook (sorry, Smithereens) and VR games are the targets of Brooker’s cutting ire instead. Of course, there is some tech that goes beyond the realm of current possibility, mainly within Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too, but instead of being horrifying and dread inducing, it’s just a bit too silly to believe. That said, this is the same series that tried to sell us on a prison-torture theme park, so make of that what you will.

That leads me nicely onto difference number two; tone. Historically, and especially during its initial Channel Four run, Black Mirror has taken an almost laughably bleak view of modern / future life via desperately depressing scripts. Horrifically dark twist endings would flirt with almost absurdist finales that would make even the grimmest Twilight Zone epilogue look like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. Not so in series five. While only one of the three endings could be considered ‘happy,’ another is certainly optimistic, and the final one is ambiguous, but admittedly, more traditionally ‘Brookerish’.

Striking Vipers 

Striking Vipers is about two dudes shagging as Street Fighter characters while telling themselves that ‘it’s not cheating’ (life hack fellas – if you’re hiding it from them, it’s cheating). Alright, so there’s more to it than that. The question of sexuality is probably the most underdeveloped aspect, and LGBTQ+ viewers will likely be disappointed to see how glossed over this conversation is, as it essentially amounts to ‘no homo.’ The VR concept is novel, and I’m always game for a conversation that encourages video games to be viewed as an art form worthy of intellectual discussion (as well as scantily clad fighters with fire punches), but the social commentary just doesn’t hit the mark here.

It should go without saying that all three episodes are shot real nicely, maintaining the washed out Black Mirror colour palette that gives the series its own identity. Performance wise, it was lovely to see nobody’s favourite Avenger Anthony Mackie show off some proper acting chops. He’s great, and I’d love to see him in more things. Overall, Striking Vipers is a beautifully filmed episode with great moments, but an ultimately undercooked script.

***

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Smithereens 

So this is the best one, without question. The commentary about the out of control state of social media, as well as how damn effective it is at keeping your personal data, to the point where it does a better job than the police, is terrifyingly on point. Andrew Scott is absolutely sublime here. He brings a genuine frustration that is so absolute, so severe, yet mathematical in nature. You don’t know what he’ll do next, and his performance combined with the tight script will have you on pins for the sixty five minute run time.

Other performances are equally excellent. I particularly enjoyed Topher Grace as a would-be Mark Zuckerberg, Billy Bauer. What could’ve easily been a one note villain becomes a sympathetic and almost likeable pawn of his own making, which was a great twist. One tiny gripe; the woman playing the lead British Police Officer was just…not good or convincing? Did no one pick up on this? Her intonation was all over the place, and the direction wasn’t strong enough to iron this element out. Luckily every other actor puts in the work and the result is a tense, brutal episode, that, while ultimately ambiguous, comes the closest to the quintessential shock and suspense that only Black Mirror can deliver.

*****

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Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too

Yikes. At the polar opposite of Smithereens comes Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too. Not only the weakest in the series, but a contender for worst Black Mirror thing, ever. It’s between this and Bandersnatch, because boy, this one was a tough slog.

There’s a great script in here somewhere. If the focus had been on Ashley O (Miley Cyrus), and the toxic relationship with her (hilariously) evil Aunt, we could’ve had some ace commentary about the music industry, corporate greed, and the breakdown of strained family relationships. Instead, we focus on two plucky sisters who learn the value of sisterhood via a talking, swearing Hannah Montana doll. It’s a mess. The Ashley doll is bafflingly played for comedy and the result is a haphazard, tonally inconsistent romp that ends (perhaps appropriately considering the lead) with a finale ripped straight from a Disney Channel movie.

That said, the performances delivered, cinematography choices, and editing are all on point. Miley Cyrus gives a surprisingly subdued, genuine performance that lets you empathise with Ashley’s situation. It’s just a shame that this well developed characterisation ultimately devolves into Pizza Delivery costumes / generic baddies / rat robots / doll road trip / crashing a virtual pop concert / forming a punk super group. Don’t hate me for spoilers, I’ve saved you an hour of your life.

**

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Overall, Black Mirror series five is the very definition of a mixed bag. Smithereens is instant classic and one of my personal favourites, with its realistic commentary that doesn’t veer off into absurdism, grounded by an exceptional lead performance from Scott. Then Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too is essentially well filmed trash that not only jumps the shark but proceeds to come back on a hoverboard, slaps the shark in the face, call its mum a dirty word, then jump over it all over again. Striking Vipers sits somewhere in the middle of the scale of badness, but the muddled script and message make me lean towards it being on the worse end.

I do, however, prefer the small episode release model though as it allows me to appreciate each episode properly and thoroughly. With series four, I find myself forgetting the specifics, as well as episode names, so I’m game for tighter series’ moving forward.

If history is anything to go by, one thing is for sure; Mr. Brooker pays attention to what people say. The main complaint on the twittersphere has been the lighter tone, so if his Netflix overloads allow it, I’d expect the inevitable season six to pile on the macabre scripts to make up for what could in hindsight be a breath of levity before we properly dive into the pits of despair.

★★★

Rocketman (2019) review

If the last ten years were the age of the superhero film, perhaps we’re moving into the era of the music biopic. Rocketman follows the tumultuous and often difficult life of Reginald Dwight, better known as the most famous British solo artist of all time, Sir Elton John. While liberties are undoubtedly taken with the truth for the sake of a compelling narrative structure, the heart is in the right place.  And boy does this film have heart to spare. This, combined with innovative camera work and a stunning soundtrack, make Rocketman something really special.

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Biopics can have a tendency to be a little formulaic, predictable. They flirt with both the drama and documentary genres, steering clear of anything creatively bold, filmmaking wise. In a refreshing twist, however, this film is as flamboyant and brave as the man himself. Combining the drama and musical genres is nothing short of genius and the bombastic broadway dance numbers that take a 180 turn into formalist filmmaking are as exciting as they are frequent. All of the cast are able to have a stab at re-vamped classics alongside the bafflingly excellent Taron Egerton, which keeps things varied. These formalist elements extend to bizarre trip sequences that manipulate time and space to evoke the feeling of a drug addled mind, while concurrently taking us on a masterful musical voyage.

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The cast is wonderful. Egerton leads the charge as a truly believable and unapologetically angry Elton, hitting every emotional beat with an electricity that strikes you through the screen. Richard Madden may as well be twirling his non existent moustache for how evil he plays manager John Reid, but his initial suave charm just about makes it work. Slightly more questionable is Bryce Dallas Howard as John’s mother, who not only doesn’t seem to age, but also acts a little too ditzy, so when the big emotional confrontation comes in the third act, it falls a tad flat.

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Overall though, Rocketman is phenomenal. The soundtrack provides beautiful re-orchestrations of so many hits, performed incredibly by the shockingly amazing at-singing Egerton. The writing is spot on, hitting the key beats of John’s life while not shying away from his demons. The dialogue is both witty and appropriately dramatic, yet it somehow feels organic and real. Finally, and most wonderfully, is the brilliant cinematography, editing and sound design. This is a technically fantastic film, bearing a strong resemblance to the innovative shots and transitions of La La Land, which is certainly no bad thing. Don’t let the sun go down on this incredible flick, and make sure you come back for several viewings.

★★★★

The Greatest Showman (2017) review

On paper, the life of circus producer P.T Barnum must have seemed to be perfect fodder for a biopic movie. The man epitomises the American dream of self success and is renown world wide for popularising the modern circus and turning it into a viable business venture. He is also well known, however, for sensationalising and exploiting his performers, exposing their deformities and quirks to the paying public, popularising the common ‘freak show’, popular during the 1800s. ‘The Greatest Showman’ pushes the term ‘loosely based on’ to its limit with a derivative plot so full of clichés that even a Disney adaption might blush at this adaption. This of course, is less of a problem for animated offerings such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ based on obscure literature, whereas this film tries to present a warped version of events of people who lived and breathed only a few hundred years ago. The irony of exploiting the story of a man who notoriously exploited others for profit, for profit is not wasted.

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Director Michael Gracey makes his debut and despite a very weak script, manages to make the film highly appealing to watch through a strong visual style, quick and integrated scene transitions and a glorious colour palette that evokes the feeling of a broadway musical. While the characters and story are all paper thin, the movie at least has a highly appealing tone and look to it; the choreography, costume design and sets are all fantastic and a feast for the eyes. What Gracey lacks in character development and narrative structure, he makes up for with gorgeous cinematography and a fast pace. The brevity of scenes acts as both a detriment and a benefit to the film: on the one hand, the characters are allowed no time to just breathe and develop thus feeling more like singing and dancing puppets as opposed to real people. However, the breakneck pace does mean that very few scenes are dull or uninteresting as the film is constantly throwing a new set, song or Hugh Jackman riding an elephant (?) at us.

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Though the cast have very little to work with the weak script, most deliver serviceable performances. Hugh Jackman is unsurprising though ultimately likeable as Barnum. Zac Efron and Zendaya also deliver fairly warm performances as the typical ‘star crossed lovers’ sub plot. The rest of the cast are all fine, but just fine. There are no terrible performances but nothing that will be remembered a few hours after watching. However, as performers of song and dance, they are faultless. The choreography and songs are loud and bombastic with high energy vocals and dance steps being spot on from the entire cast. Most Broadway musical loves will likely adore this movie, as the ‘showy’ aspects entirely hit the mark. However, if you’re a musical lover looking for something that has both fantastic songs and show-stopping numbers to compliment an engaging story, you might leave disappointed- ‘Les Miserables’ this is not.

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In this sense, I find myself quite conflicted about ‘The Greatest Showman.’ I listen to at least one song from the soundtrack every day and find the whole score incredibly appealing and exciting. The songs are expertly crafted with clever lyrics that tell a story through a song (which every musical song should do, but so many fail to) and crucially, they are all memorable and catchy. I find myself humming ‘The other side’ far more often than I should. So then why don’t I love this movie? Why wasn’t it one of my favourites from 2017? I think its because it feels transparent and shallow. The filmmakers are trying to create a big, bombastic musical and have chosen the flimsy narrative of Barnum purely due to the array of striking visuals and characters that the story can lend to a musical. I get it, but it means that the film ends up with very little heart as a result. Character motivations are blurry at best and despite shying away from Barnum’s more capitalist and obliquitous ways of exploiting people for money, when they actually do touch on his treatment of the performers, the movie has no idea what it wants us to think of Barnum. Its the classic end of second act slump where the lead is at his lowest, however its not because of his realisation of how he’s treated the performers, its because his wife has left him. The performers just forgive him and start singing the (admittedly exceptional) ‘From now on’ and all is very, very quickly forgiven for some reason.

So all in all, ‘The Greatest Showman’ has completely polarised me; I both love and dislike it. The songs are fantastic and are up there with some of the modern greats like ‘Book of Mormon’ or ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ But as a story, it is beyond weak and flimsy. Creating an uplifting story about the man who famously popularised freak shows and said ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’ is bold enough, but the creation of fake and supposedly important people in his life like Phillip Carlyle (Efron) is pretty shallow. Putting any historical inaccuracies aside, the film just doesn’t have very engaging characters. Jenny Tunt, Charity Barnum and even P.T himself are just not very well developed and are one note caricatures rather than feeling like real people like say, Jean Valjean does. However, its still worth seeing and is a spectacle in terms of visuals and especially in terms of songs- the soundtrack really is fantastic. If you go in expecting a flashy performance of excellent songs with equally excellent choreography and just treat the plot as a means to an end to go from song to song, there is enjoyment to be found. A shame however, that such incredible music is weighed down by such an underwhelming plot.

★★★

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) review

To quote a great fictional man, ‘there was an idea.’ Never has a movie quote been so appropriate in the context of an idea within its universe and the production of said universe in real life. The idea of establishing four lesser known comic book characters in their own movies that would be largely alien to a mainstream blockbuster audience only to bring them together in one singular event seemed to beg for disaster. But, in hindsight, what almost feels like projecting, the watchful one working eye of Nick Fury in universe and Kevin Feige in our reality both knew that this was a winning idea. As we know 2012’s ‘The Avengers’ was a sensational hit and quickly rose to become the third highest grossing film of all time. So what’s more mad than trying to set up a superhero film that juggles six protagonists, a functioning narrative and an effective villain? Well, how about throwing twenty plus main characters, a narrative that follows three different groups across the galaxy and a totally fresh villain that has no prior film establishment (I’m not counting three minutes in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ as extensive character building). If ‘The Avengers’ was a gamble, then ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is Marvel throwing everything, quite literally, onto the table. With the exception of one shrinking Paul Rudd and a confused normal man who wondered onto set with a bow and arrow for some reason, literally everyone is present here. 

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So, big question: is it any good? Quite amazingly, by some alignment of the stars and the moons (we probably have Thanos to thank for that), this movie somehow manages to live up to the hype and also pay appropriate respect and homage to its previous ten year long legacy. Feige makes a decision worthy of the intellects of Bruce Banner, Shrui and Tony Stark combined by giving directing reigns over to the Russo Brothers, whose previous work for Marvel includes ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Captain America: Civil War’, otherwise known as two movies that are in literally everybody’s ‘Top five MCU films’ lists. The meandering pace, bizarre villain choices and tangents to set up for solo films from Whedon’s underwhelming ‘Age of Ultron’ are firmly abolished here, with the focus being where it should be: Josh Brolin’s Thanos. It has been an excellent year for Marvel villains, as they once again learn from past mistakes and give the ‘Mad Titan’ exactly the right amount of screen time and backstory necessary to make him thoroughly compelling and simultaneously hateable. The true mark of a great villain relies on two things; An understanding (not to be confused with agreement) of their motivations and an incredible on screen presence. The combination of the writing and Josh Brolin’s breath-taking performance achieve this in spades; I genuinely feared for the lives of my favourite characters whenever they came into contact with him.

Though the story is firmly told from the viewpoint of Thanos, the obvious appeal of the movie for any fanboy such as myself comes from the sheer number of heroes in one flick. In the hands of less competent directors, combining the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Avengers and the numerous subsequent heroes and side characters could’ve been more of a disaster than the DC movie universe (cheap shot, sorry.) Thankfully, all of your fAvengersInfinityWaravourite heroes are represented and almost all of them have witty lines and adequate roles to play to drive the story forward. That said, not all heroes are created equally and if I had one criticism, it would be a little too much reliance on the Guardians of the Galaxy and not quite enough love for the likes of core Avengers ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Captain America.’ This is of course a super minor nit-pick and with the state of the universe at the end of the film, I’m sure they’ll have much more prevalence in next years as of yet untitled ‘Avengers 4.’ But we’ll get to that ending later. My other nit-pick regards the generic evil henchmen- ‘The Black Order’ As you might expect, they don’t receive a huge amount of development and despite being pretty tough, are killed off without much consequence. As I say, another minor point as the main villain is so engaging and there is so, so much going on, but I feel that a bit more personality wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

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So if those are my two tiny problems, what did I like about the film? Honestly, nearly everything else. The now well established cast bring their ‘A game’ here, with everyone (except Elizabeth Olsen’s ‘Sokovian’ accent) being on point. Stand outs include Chris Hemsworth as Thor, who honestly just gets better in every movie he’s in. He not only nails the dramatic moments, but his comedic timing rivals even the greatest stand up artists at this point. ‘Sweet Rabbit’ is my new favourite thing and his interactions with the Guardians in general made the Marvel fan boy in my squeal with excitement as well as laugh. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is also amazing here. I was one of the few not actually sold by ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’, but I’m totally on board following a soul destroyingly real death scene. Move over Toby; I have a new favourite Spidey. As I said, there are too many other characters to give individual praise to, but the interactions between our favourite characters weaved in with that trademark Marvel wit, make this a surprisingly humorous affair to begin with, that slowly sits you down and rips out your heart as it brutally murders your childhood heroes… 

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…we best start talking about that ending then. Despite a few early deaths, things seemed all good in the hood for most of the cast and I thought we’d wrap things up with Thanos in some intergalactic prison, with the emotional weight coming from the (very well done and suitably respectful and brutal) deaths of Loki, Gamora and Vision. Not so. After Thor stabs Thanos and he smirks with a reply of ‘you should’ve aimed for the head’, I knew this wasn’t going to be a happy ending. Thanos savagely rips the mind stone from Vision’s head and achieves his goal of wiping out half of the population of the universe. Yep; an MCU movie where the villain wins, without question. The death toll is more akin to the kind of body count Jason Vorehees or Michael Myers (not Austin Powers) tend to rack up; Star Lord, Groot, Drax, Mantis, Black Panther, Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Dr. Strange and even poor Spiderman are all kaput. The movie then ends on a dour note of hopelessness with a cliff-hanger more enticing than ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ It punches you in the gut and is the only Marvel movie to end with a solemn, quiet credits soundtrack to signify the severity of the situation. Now while that is all bleak, it is slightly undercut by the fact that the Marvel diary has already confirmed: ‘Guardians 3’, ‘Spiderman 2’, and ‘Black Panther 2’ post ‘Avengers 4.’ So while I’m sure no one seriously think these flagship characters were dead for good, it does slightly undercut the emotional weight of the scene. While Spidey’s death genuinely nearly got a tear out of me, I was at the same time relieved as I knew that meant this is likely to be undone. It leaves us in an interesting place though, as the remaining Avengers (by no accident) are the core members from phase one with the addition of Rhodey, a few Wakandans and one angry ‘Sweet Rabbit.’ The focus will undoubtedly be on the original team in the follow up and I for one, can’t wait for next summer to see the real conclusion.

 

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It should also be noted that this movie doesn’t waste time introducing newbies to the franchise; quite frankly it doesn’t have the time. It fully expects its audience to be up to date and have knowledge of all previous 18 (!) movies. This also applies to character development as the key dynamics between Tony Stark and Peter Parker for instance are far more compelling with the established relationship from previous flicks. I realise I’ve spent a lot of time talking about plot and not much else in this review, but its such an overwhelming experience that I feel a splurge of information from my brain is the best approach. Taking my fanboy hat off for a second though, it is worth noting the phenomenal production values and stylistic choices. The visuals are more ambitious than any film prior; even the insane, ‘Inception’ style visuals of ‘Dr. Strange’ are dwarfed by one cosmic set piece after another, with the effects highlight being an entire moon being lobbed at Iron Man. I was also very pleased to see the return of Alan Silverstri as composer, who has been absent from the MCU since ‘The Avengers.’ As the composer of easily the most iconic tune in the franchise, it was great to hear his bold, heroic, hype inducing score make a triumphant return here to signal strong character moments. This, balanced with the ominous drone composed as the theme for Thanos really added a lot of weight to the film. One minor (very nerdy) nit-pick, is that I would’ve loved to have heard a reprise of Tyler Bates’ equally excellent motif for the Guardians of the Galaxy when they made their appearance. Motifs are severely lacking in the MCU and it would’ve been equally good to have heard the familiar fanfares for Iron Man and Captain America established previously.

So in conclusion, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is about as amazing a comic book movie that you could ask for. It felt like a true crossover ‘event comic’ come to life. While I still feel that ‘The Dark Knight’, with its compelling themes, complex characters and Oscar worthy acting will always reign supreme as the greatest comic book movie, this movie achieves the seemingly impossible task of juggling so many characters, bringing the pages of a comic book to life and, perhaps most impressively of all, being a satisfying first part of a conclusion to ten years of hype. While it won’t make any great shakes in the Oscars or as a piece of high brow cinema, it isn’t trying to. It knows what it is; a smart action blockbuster and a reward for comic book fans everywhere who have followed and supported Marvel eagerly for the past ten years. Now they have the equally daunting task of finding a satisfying way to conclude this monster of a story. But with Feige, the Russo brothers and the rest of Marvel Studios at the helm, I have every faith that it will just as exhilarating, hilarious and satisfying as this was.

★★★★★

Also pleeeeease, please can this film beat ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ at the box office? I’d kill to see the look on James Cameron’s pretentious, smug, comic book hating face.

Wonder Boys (2000) review

Wonder Boys is a charming and likeable comedy-drama with an all-star cast that examines the pressures to replicate success after a killer hit and how we can find ourselves resting on our laurels in all aspects of our lives. It unfortunately panned at the box office (twice!) but from a critical point of view, it’s an absolute delight. It takes an irreverent and amused approach to the career of both a university lecturer and a writer and paints an exaggerated picture of what that world consists of (weed smoking, party attending, dog shooting etc) pulling it all together for a close, intimate story that leaves the audience feeling good, but not at the cost of cheapening the established drama.

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Michael Douglas gives perhaps the performance of his lifetime in the lead role, with supporting actors Robert Downey Jr, Tobey Maguire and Katie Holmes all giving stellar performances. Despite excessive character development for Douglas and Maguire’s characters, the supporting cast sometimes come off a little shallow. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Holmes’ character, Hannah, exists purely as a hurdle for Douglas to overcome and is presented as a little bit of a stereotypical, horny university student who fancies her lecturer for his brains. Similarly, many of the female roles here do seem designed to act as character development for their male counterparts. This is the only real critique of the film I have and, to be fair, it stems more from the source material, rather than this adaptation.

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From a filmmaking point of view however, everything is perfectly executed. The pace moves along nicely and trims the fat of some of the less important scenes of the novel that have little purpose other than to show the lead character’s own lack of direction. The soundtrack is beautifully eclectic and uses the directors own favourite artist, Bob Dylan, to emphasise some of the film’s most emotionally charged moments, or in some cases, the calm directly after these moments. Finally, the cinematography is equally excellent. The cold winter setting allows for some beautiful shots in the snow that give the film an almost fantasy or folklore tale. As the antics of the characters get more outrageous and the stakes get higher and higher, the cinematography matches this and quick editing techniques are used throughout to give the film a really unique, art house style feel.

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In review, I completely fell in love with ‘Wonder Boys.’ The acting from Michael Douglas is simply flawless. Both Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr are excellent in their respective roles and appropriately convey the emotions both outlandish and subtle that their characters are going through. The narrative is simply wonderful despite slightly side-lining most of the females, even relegating one to a completely unseen character! Nevertheless, it’s a true and honest tale of a person regaining direction in their life and putting aside their issues, excuses and procrastinations to truly prioritise what matters.

★★★★

 

Falling Down (1993) review

‘Falling Down’ is a thriller starring Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall and directed by Joel Schumacher. It revolves around Douglas’ character, William Foster, credited as ‘D-FENS’ for reasons that become clear once you’ve watched the picture, as the archetypical ‘angry white male’ in the process of a dangerous mental breakdown, climaxing after years of pent up rage at society, consumerism and the government. The film has strong social and political messages throughout, showing Schumacher and writer Ebbe Roe’s own problems with 90’s America that also paints a depressingly allegorical world to the one we see today with Trump’s presidency. In particular, Schumacher’s homosexuality and the prejudice he received can be clearly seen allegorically in the scene in the gun store.

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‘Falling Down’ is a genius piece of cinema where every element of the picture is in service to either driving the tone, narrative or message forward and it does so with masterful efficiency. The opening shot for example, gives us the sense of discomfort and annoyance that Foster is feeling, before we even know what kind of man he is and what he’ll be doing. It immediately gets the audience on board with the protagonist with masterful quick paced editing, close up shots and uncomfortable music choices (wonderfully scored by James Newton Howard) to invest us. This is then subverted when we discover what an unstable, angry, ignorant and bitter man our protagonist really is and leaves us our own bitter taste for supporting him. That said, we can find our own sense of embarrassing euphoria when he commits an act that puts an unpleasant member of society in their place, despite how questionable his actions are. We hate Foster for the pain he causes his wife and family, but simultaneously celebrate it when he calls out all of the things wrong with society, be it a deceptively marketed burger, or the riches afforded to a superficial career path like a plastic surgeon.

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Thankfully, we have the sensational Robert Duvall to keep us grounded, whose performance is wonderful and warm. In the repulsive presentation of the dystopia that is L.A, Duvall, as well as his police partner, Foster’s wife and daughter, present the few shreds of mortality in this otherwise polluted landscape. This an incredibly well devised picture that has meaning behind every shot and can be analysed to death. In terms of the acting, it’s sensational. Michael Douglas is captivating and hypnotic as Foster, presenting an often-monotone face that explodes into rage fuelled monologues and a sardonic sense of humour that makes you feel guilty for laughing. The supporting cast is good, but many characters, especially those in the police station are one note stereotypes, present only to further show the degenerative nature of the city that has already been hammered home many times. I see the intention, but more grounded supporting characters could’ve given a slightly more realistic tone, potentially making the actions of Foster hit even harder.

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Overall, ‘Falling Down’ is a masterpiece of cinema. It’s not exactly a ‘stick it on for a nice Sunday afternoon’ kind of film and the ending hits hard, but in terms of translating the messages and meaning presented to the audience via acting, cinematography, music and editing, it hits the mark every time. It’s powerful and will have you debating a multitude of social issues after watching it. My main question was, how the hell did Schumacher craft such a masterpiece of cinema and simultaneously be responsible for the travesties of cinema that are ‘Batman Forever’ and ‘Batman and Robin’? Truly one of life’s mysteries.

★★★★★

 

The Lego Batman movie (2017) review

As a 24-year-old man-child, I love Lego. I also love Batman and am a massive fan of almost all interpretations, yes, I can even tolerate ‘Batfleck’. Thus, I was excited to see what the team behind the surprisingly deep and hilarious ‘Lego Movie’ could do with the caped crusader. I was not disappointed. I haven’t laughed so hard at a film in a long time and whether you’re a long time Batman fan like me, or a casual viewer, there is plenty of enjoyment to be found for kids and adults alike in this clever, fast paced adventure-comedy.

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This movie loves to bask in self-referential humour at the expense of both properties, pulling off almost all of its jokes seamlessly. Jokes about being made of Lego, satire of wider pop culture and most amazingly of all; in jokes relating to Batman’s history on the big screen. In no world should a Batman movie with both the serious, gritty Tom Hardy interpretation of Bane and the shark repellent bat spray from the 60’s be allowed to exist. And yet ‘The Lego Batman movie’ makes it happen by creating an atmosphere that is driven purely by fun and sheer escapism. In a genius move, it also reinvigorates a tired, traditional Batman plot involving the inability to accept support and translate it in a way that is far more emotionally affective than most prior interpretations on the big screen (I’m looking at you, Joel Schumacher).

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The voice cast is extensive, eclectic and random but totally works for this kind of film. There are far too many to name, but clear frontrunners are Will Arnett, who hilariously and overtly parodies the Christian Bale style voice, a common criticism of the newer versions of the Dark Knight. I also never knew how much I needed Michael Cera as Robin. The dude is just side splittingly hilarious in every scene he’s in. Zach Galifianakis is passable as the Joker, but doesn’t give quite the large enough presence to play the crown prince of crime, coming off a little too subdued. ‘Subdued’ is not a word I ever thought I’d use to describe Zach Galifianakis. The wider supporting cast is also tremendous, though I’m hasty to comment on anything due to it drifting into spoiler territory. Just remember how many franchises Lego have available to them and imagine the most insane plot. It’s probably not as mental, yet hilarious, as this movie’s.

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Though it worked within the context of the picture, the soundtrack isn’t to my taste and mainly consists of cheesy current pop songs, or cheesy covers of older pop songs. However, they are consistent with the equally cheesy and ridiculous tone of the movie, so the soundtrack gets a pass. As a Bat-fan, I would’ve liked some orchestral allusions to the work of Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer or Shirley Walker as well as the iconic 1966 tv show theme, though I’m probably just being greedy at this point.

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In review, ‘The Lego Batman movie’ achieves what it sets out to do in spades. It’s a celebration of the entire history of the caped crusader acknowledging even the most obscure elements of the Dark Knight’s past. It perfectly satirises the darker renaissance of the post-Burton world, while also paying tribute to it. Perhaps the funniest film of last year, it relies on a sharp wit, a bright, colourful visual style that is a feast to the eyes and a brilliant use of the various intellectual properties available to Lego. It’s highly recommended to viewers of any age, but in particular to long time Batman fans who aren’t above poking fun at the sillier elements of their favourite hero.

★★★★

 

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