“This is a true story, but except for my own, I’ve changed all the names and I’ve done my best to obscure identities for reasons that’ll become clear.”
Directed by Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game centers on the real-life memoirs of Molly Bloom, the “poker princess” who rubbed shoulders with Hollywood’s elite while hosting underground games in the basement of clubs and at the homes of her wealthy clients. It’s a poker movie that appeals to the masses, and while the action often takes place at the tables, it’s Molly’s life that is the focal point of the film.
Released in December 2017, Molly’s Game is a story of feminine power and ruthless intelligence, and any viewer who didn’t know better would think they were watching complete fiction. But director Sorkin, who won an Academy Award for directing The Social Network, as well as being well-known for screenwriting plays such as A Few Good Men, sticks closely to Bloom’s memoirs, in addition to drawing on his interviews. What we get is as close to an accurate account of Molly Bloom’s life, and even the seemingly sensationalized moments involving death threats from Russian mobsters draw right from Bloom’s own accounts. Continue reading “Film Review: Molly’s Game “
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite offers up a thoroughly human approach to history and three cracking performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz
“Don’t shout at me, I am the Queen”
It may seem like casting directors have forgotten that there are other actresses available alongside Olivia Colman but when the work she produces is this irresistible, you can’t help but indulge them. But though she is being pushed as the lead of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, it is important to note that she eagerly shares that spotlight with both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.
Which is unique enough for Hollywood in general, never mind a mainstream historical film. But here, Lanthimos completely upends convention to produce something unique, compelling and utterly significant. The history of Queen Anne’s reign may be less of an unknown quantity to recent theatregoers although nothing there will have prepared anyone for the affecting and effective novelty of this approach. Continue reading “Film Review: The Favourite (2018)”
On Chesil Beach proves a most painful watch indeed
“Minor seventh might be better”
Dominic Cooke’s theatrical résumé includes such triumphs as Follies and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom so a measure of anticipation about his feature film debut was surely not unexpected. But I should have remembered he was also responsible for the challenges of The Low Road and In The Republic of Happiness and for me, it was to this end of the scale that On Chesil Beach tips.
An adaptation of Ian McEwan’s 2007 novella by the man himself, we’re in the world of classic 1960s English sexual repression. New graduates Edward and Florence come together in a theoretically perfect courtship but when they come together disastrously in marriage, their sexual inexperience on their Dorset honeymoon proves utterly and completely life-changing. Continue reading “Film Review: On Chesil Beach (2017)”
I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life
“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”
In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above.
Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”
54 years is quite the wait for a sequel but Mary Poppins Returns is full of nostalgic sweetness and charm
“Are you sure this is quite safe?
‘Not in the slightest. Ready!'”
54 years is quite the wait for a sequel but the sweetness and charm with which Mary Poppins Returns lands on our screens makes it pretty much worth it. It’s a film that does more than wrap you up in a warm blanket of nostalgia, it tucks you in, throws another log on the fire and makes you a steaming hot chocolate (no marshmallows though!).
Set 30 years after the much cherished original, the story (by David Magee, Rob Marshall and John DeLuca based off of PL Travers’s original tales) sees us rejoin Cherry Tree Lane where the adult Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lives with his young family (Pixie Davies, Nathaniel Saleh and Joel Dawson). But much like the other long-held sequel of the year, a sadness fills the house for a mother has died. And Michael’s artistic inclinations and part-time job at the bank aren’t bringing in enough to keep them from repossession. Who could possibly save the day…? Continue reading “Film Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)”
Despite that title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society proves unremarkable in its gentle cosiness
“Everyone lost someone in this war”
Directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha from the novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really ought to have hit the spot for me. Women-heavy wartime story – check, a cast including Lily James and Katharine Parkinson – check, and a title you can’t help but misremember.
But it never really clicks into gear as greater than the sum of these parts, sticking at a tone of gently cosy which is never offensive, but rarely remarkable with it. Set just after the end of the Second World War in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who becomes fascinated by the experience of the residents on the island of Guernsey which, lest we forget, was under German occupation. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)”
Who needs Shakespeare when you have William Oldroyd and Alice Birch to give us a chillingly excellent Lady Macbeth
“I’d rather stop you breathing than have you doubt how I feel”
Based on the book Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Nikolai Leskov, William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is a ferocious debut film and written by Alice Birch (no stranger to theatregoers but also making a feature debut here), it is a remarkably forward-thinking piece for that old hoary chestnut that is the British period drama.
Layering in intersectional notions of race and class, not shying away from domestic abuse and violence, it is probably safe to say it is unlike any other film you’ve seen that is set in 1865 England. Trapped into a stifling marriage with a disinterested man with a domineering father and a dour isolated estate in the North East, Katherine resolves not to let this be the sum total of her life. Continue reading “Film Review: Lady Macbeth (2017)”
With Sheila Atim playing both Viola and Sebastian, this film of Twelfth Night has many a highlight even if it is ultimately overlong
“You will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard”
As a debut for both Shanty Productions and Adam Smethurst as screenwriter and director, this Twelfth Night is an intriguing thing. At a more than healthy 2 hours 45 minutes, its slavish adherence to the text can feel like a bit of a challenge as it occasionally feels like it is moving at a glacial pace. On the other hand, it has Sheila Atim doing double duty as shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian and so it proves a great showcase for her.
Filmed over a single month in West Sussex on an economical budget, this contemporary imagining of Shakespeare’s tale of mistaken identities and affections gone haywire benefits from some astute casting. Shalini Peiris’s Olivia is younger than the average but it’s a choice that makes sense of her impetuous nature, and leaning into Antony Bunsee’s experience makes for a compelling Malvolio, the unlikeliness of any relationship between them all the more stark for once. Continue reading “Film Review: Twelfth Night (2018)”
A savagely dark comedy from Iceland, Under the Tree/Undir trénu is a film to look out for
“It had nothing to do with emotion”
Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s Under the Tree (or Undir trénu in his natice Icelandic) is proof that there’s nothing so dangerous as suburbia, no matter which country you’re in. A wickedly dark, sharply comic and tensely plotted film, it scorches through the false comfort of liberal pretensions about loving your neighbour and suggests something far more unsettling about human nature.
The first crack in the veneer comes from afar. Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir’s Agnes walks in on Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson’s Atli having a hand shandy to an old sex tape of him and another woman. With nowhere left to go when she kicks him out, he moves back in with his parents in their suburban home. They are otherwise distracted though by a long-simmering dispute with their neighbours about a tree that casts a shadow over some prime sunbathing real estate. Continue reading “Film Review: Under the Tree (2017)”
Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling is a haunting film debut, and a grim one too
“There’s nothing for you here anymore”
Eee, it’s grim to be a farmer in the UK right now, if we’re to believe what we see in the cinema. At least in Yorkshire, there’s the chance of some hot gay sex but in Somerset, things look decidedly worse with not even that relief as an option.
Writer/director Hope Dickson Leach finds something more desperate in the unforgiving land of the Somerset levels, as she explores the fracturing of a family farm in the aftermath of the death of the son and heir. Trainee vet Clover returns for the funeral of her brother but is shocked at what she discovers.
Continue reading “Film Review: The Levelling (2016)”