Category Archives: History

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) Review

https25253A25252F25252Fcdn.sanity.io25252Fimages25252Fxq1bjtf425252Fproduction25252F215304dadf60436d9cb59cefd3ac4067c51916fb-6000x4000-1

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Lord Macbeth
Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth
Corey Hawkins as Macduff
Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan
Harry Melling as Malcolm
Director: Joel Coen

A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland. His ambitious wife will do anything to support him in his plans of seizing power.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

There are already plenty of adaptations of Macbeth out there, and it’s a little hard for me to get into any movies based on Williams Shakespeare’s work (mainly because of the dialogue). However, Joel Coen taking on the material had me highly anticipating his Macbeth movie, along with adding actors like Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. The Tragedy of Macbeth is an atmospheric, and moody Shakespeare adaptation, and with strong performances and direction.

TragedyOfMacbeth_MacbethLooksUp

There’s not really much to say about Macbeth’s writing since its still very much Shakespeare’s classic play. With that comes with the same confusing Shakespeare language and unless you’re very familiar with that kind of speech, it would probably be a problem for you. So if you’re going to watch it, its either best to watch it with subtitles on, or read up about the play beforehand to know what was happening. It was great getting to watch the movie in cinemas, but I do admit that I wished I had subtitles on. Thankfully, I knew the general plot having watched the 2015 Macbeth movie so I had an idea of where everything was going. I didn’t understand what was being said most of the time, but I expected that when I willingly watched a Macbeth movie. There really wasn’t anything new brought to the story thematically, it’s just the distinct style, but I guess that’s all that was needed.

image

There is a great cast involved. Denzel Washington is fantastic as Macbeth and delivers a powerhouse of a performance. Masterful, compelling, and a great on screen presence, its one of his best acting works I’ve seen from him. Frances McDormand is also really good as Lady Macbeth, she is in great command of every scene she’s in. Kathryn Hunter is also notable in her croaking, contortionist turn as the three witches, she is incredible in her scenes. Other actors like Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, and Harry Melling also play their parts very well, but its Washington, McDormand and Hunter that stand out the most.

NYFF-2021-Film-Review-The-Tragedy-of-Macbeth-Weird-Sisters

As said before, Joel Coen directs this, and The Tragedy of Macbeth is very different from anything that the Coen brothers have done before. Its very bold and unconventional, it’s a technical marvel and one of the biggest strengths of the movie.  The presentation is haunting, and the world portrayed here is very off kilter. The cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel is easily one of the best from 2021. In a way it is very minimalist but incredibly effective. You get caught up in its gorgeous black and white photography, with the German expressionism inspired and brutalist look, along with the 4:3 framing making the film feel very contained. The lighting, dense shadows, and the use of fog and smoke go towards giving it a haunting atmosphere. The sets are classic and old school, it felt like stage play sets with grandiose buildings. The editing is simple yet effective, and the transitions are seamless. The sound design is striking, and the score works incredibly well for the tone of the movie. An impressive part of the movie is that it manages to be both theatrical and cinematic. On a cinematic level it goes into the surreal with the memorable imagery. Yet it also works on a theatrical level, aspects like the dialogue heavy interactions, the long monologues, characters entering and exiting scenes, they all work together.

1634582933996_1256x707_thumbnail

The Tragedy of Macbeth is very much an art film and a Shakespeare movie, so it definitely isn’t for everyone. But if you know what you’re getting into, I’d say that it is well worth a watch. It’s a superb technical achievement from the direction, cinematography and editing, and it has some excellent performances, especially from Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Kathryn Hunter. At the very least, it stands out as the Coens’ most distinct works.

Titane (2021) Review

rsz_titane_photo_2carole_bethuel

Titane

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sex scenes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Agathe Rousselle as Alexia
Vincent Lindon as Vincent
Garance Marillier as Justine
Laïs Salameh as Rayane
Director: Julia Ducournau

Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) suffers a terrible skull injury and has a titanium plate fitted into her head. When she gets out of the hospital, she rejects her parents and embraces passionately the car that almost killed her. She meets Vincent (Vincent Lindon). Vincent is a tortured man who tries to preserve his strength by injecting steroids into his aging body. Will they find a way to deal with their emotional problems?

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard that Titane was the Palme d’Or winner, which definitely got my attention. I soon learnt that the director was Julia Ducournau, who previously made Raw, a movie that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. I watched it and found it to be an incredible film, and it only increased my anticipation for her next movie. Having seen Titane, I can confirm that it is amazing, even if it’s not for everyone.

titane-1

I won’t spoil the movie, much of it is worth going into yourself. It is hard to describe without saying too much, but I’ll do my best. However, I’d say that part of the premise is that a serial killer with a titanium plate in her head has sex with a car and finds herself pregnant. Of course the movie is more than just that but if your interest switched off after learning that, then chances are this movie might not be for you. The direction the story goes in is genuinely interesting though, and one worth experiencing for yourself. The first 30-40 minutes are very brutal and gruesome, and body horror is a present part throughout. However I expected that, pregnancy by car aside. It’s the second two thirds that caught me off guard, the second half is comparatively less grotesque and that’s where you find out what the movie is about. The script is original and ambitious, and I was invested in the story. The movie is certainly insane, unsettling and unnerving, and it takes influence from the likes of David Cronenberg (especially his 1996 film Crash). Despite many of the scenes in the movie, Julia Ducournau isn’t interested in ramping up the gore and being outwardly disturbing (outside of maybe the first act). The writing is very sincere, disarmingly sweet, and bizarrely beautiful. It was more profound and emotionally resonant than I was expecting. There’s a lot to take away from the movie and analyse. However I can tell from this one viewing that Titane was about family, abandonment and acceptance in its strangest form. Identity is also a big part, especially gender identity and gender fluidity. The movie does a great job at juggling multiple different tones and themes. As for issues, the first act and the rest of the movie does feel quite disjointed, mainly with how different they feel in tone. It doesn’t have a focused central idea like Raw did, and so its initially quite hard to figure out where the story is going. I do get the feeling it would improve on repeat viewing (but only if you really wanted to watch it again).

1752271498_683_0_3414_2048_1600x0_80_0_0_51090b41f1fa8262a08a2065bd2e496c

The performances are great, and it mostly comes down to the main two lead characters who are very fleshed out. Agathe Rousselle plays the main character of Alexia. At first she’s really not a character you start to like, especially given that she’s a serial killer who at first seems to stab anyone she meets. However you sympathise with her by the end, mainly in the second half. Helping this is a memorable, transformative, and committed performance from Rousselle, particularly impressive given that this is her first performance. Vincent Lindon is equally great as the captain of a firehouse who is also a father who’s lost his son. His performance is effectively restrained and sensitive, and his scenes with Rousselle are fantastic.

1AgocSYPYvqJEomw2Ob6

Julia Ducournau has once again shown herself to be an outstanding director. On a technical level, Titane is a massive step up from Raw, and that movie was already greatly directed. The cinematography and camerawork are amazing, visually striking with some very memorable imagery throughout. The sound design is rich and the score from Jim Williams (Possessor and Raw) is eerie and effective. The film is unflinching when it comes to the scenes of gore and violence, and the effects were impressive.

Brody-Titane

Titane will certainly be one of the most memorable and talked about films of the year. It will definitely alienate many people because of the graphic content and bizarreness. However I found it to be an intriguing mix of body horror and heartfelt drama, with excellent writing and direction, and great performances from the leads. Amongst my favourite films from 2021.

The Last Duel (2021) Review

Brody-TheLastDuel

The Last Duel

Time:  153 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes, offensive language, rape & cruelty
Cast:
Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges
Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris
Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges
Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon
Director: Ridley Scott

Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) is a squire whose intelligence and eloquence makes him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Le Gris viciously assaults Carrouges’ wife (Jodie Comer), she steps forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy. The ensuing trial by combat, a gruelling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

The Last Duel was a movie I was looking forward to. It’s a medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would be involved with writing the script (their first writing collaboration since Good Will Hunting) along with being some of the main actors alongside Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The only issue going in was the premise of the movie, and it seemed like it could be completely mishandled, especially with the topic of rape being front and centre. It was a lot better than I was expecting, and I’d even consider The Last Duel to be one of my favourite movies of the year.

the-last-duel-jodie-comer-marguerite-de-carrouges-1626801414

The writing from Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck is great. First of all, the plot structure of the script is worth mentioning. This movie has been compared to Rashomon for good reason, we see much of the events of the plot from three different perspectives. The first segment follows Jean (Matt Damon), and for me this was the weakest segment. In all fairness it did have a lot working against it. It felt awkward as it’s the first perspective we see, it is setting up and establishing a lot of characters and the setting, it’s a bit slow, and it’s not as interesting as the other sections. I do feel that it would probably improve on rewatches, but then again, most people who watch this movie won’t be particularly inclined to watch it again. It’s when you get onto the second segment following Jacques (Adam Driver) where it really picks up, as it adds more layers to the events and overall story. It’s at that point that you realise that some of the events in that segment differ from Jean’s perspective, some subtle, some major, whether it be the performances or the dialogue, and it’s cleverly done. The second and third segments also sometimes repeat scenes but its usually to show the differences, and as a result they are much better paced and more interesting. However what makes the movie work is the third segment, following the perspective of Marguerite (Jodie Comer). That’s the section where everything comes together. First of all, I like how they establish that Comer’s perspective isn’t just her perspective, but also the absolute truth of what happened. It’s by far the most emotional and impactful segment of the film. Everything becomes clear, it displays the pride and the ego of the two duellists, and shows everything that Marguerite had to go through., The Last Duel is about rape, sexual assault and misogyny, and that by itself makes it a hard movie to watch (and you do see a rape scene in the second and third perspectives), but for what it’s worth, I thought that these tough subject matters was handled carefully. Despite building towards it the whole film, the titular duel is not portrayed as a glorious battle, in the context it is shown as two men really battling over their pride and egos. This movie is long at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I thought that it earns its long runtime and uses it very well.

0x0

The acting is great, and everyone does well at playing their parts. First and foremost, this is Jodie Comer’s movie. It might not feel that way at first in the first two segments. However when it gets to her segment, she is incredible and delivers a really powerful performance. Matt Damon and Adam Driver play the two duellists. Out of the main 4 actors, Damon is probably the weakest and most out of place in the film, but I still think he was good (questionable accent aside). Adam Driver is great as always and was very convincing in his part. A scene stealer is surprisingly a blonde Ben Affleck in a supporting role as a count. He’s really funny and memorable and injects a lot of humour into this movie in his screentime.

THE LAST DUEL

Ridley Scott directs this film really well but that’s to be expected, it’s certainly strong on a technical level. The cinematography is beautiful and fitting for the tone of the movie. I was particularly impressed with the editing, mainly with how they portrayed the repeated events from different perspectives. The production design and costumes are effective and authentic, placing you right in the time period. There are battle scenes outside of the whole final duel which they are excellently brutal and grimy, probably the most graphic battle scenes that Scott has ever done. However its clear that most of these are only there long enough to establish that the battles happen, with most of them lasting 1-2 minutes. When it does come to the final battle, it is truly tense, brutal and fantastically done. From the choreography to the camerawork, it ends the film on a really high note. The music from Harry Gregson-Williams is also solid, really fitting the movie.

THE LAST DUEL

An amazing, dark, brutal and uncomfortable medieval drama, The Last Duel was way better than I thought it would be. The script is great with an effective narrative structure, it is directed incredibly well, and features some outstanding performances, especially from Jodie Comer. It is definitely not an easy movie to watch by any means, and isn’t one of Scott’s most rewatchable movies. However, it is great and along with it being one of 2021’s best, I think I consider it to be one of Ridley Scott’s all-time best films. It’s unfortunate that it seems to be bombing at the box office, I do really think it is worth checking out if you haven’t already.

The Courier (2021) Review

00109

The Courier

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne
Merab Ninidze as Colonel Oleg Penkovsky
Rachel Brosnahan as Emily Donovan
Jessie Buckley as Sheila Wynne
Angus Wright as Dickie Franks
Director: Dominic Cooke

The true story of a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer (Merab Ninidze) hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard some good things about The Courier. It was a cold war spy thriller that had a good cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch leading the movie, and it looked goo from the trailer, so I was interested in checking it out. The Courier was a conventional but solid true story spy thriller that is well worth a watch.

_methode_times_prod_web_bin_4bfff686-fb67-11eb-a4b2-2beac56e810c

The Courier is the true story of a salesman turned spy during the Cold War in the early 1960s, and while I know that some people might not be interested in the movie by that description alone, I think the movie is quite accessible on the whole. It keeps things simple, by not getting bogged down by all the details and spy jargon, it makes the movie more streamlined and enjoyable to watch. Along with that, the pacing works quite well. It’s not fast paced by any means; it is on the slower side but done in a thoughtful way that slowly builds up the tension. However, it is also faster than expected considering movies of this specific genre, and doesn’t outstay its welcome, at a runtime of an hour and 50 minutes long. I found the story to be quite interesting, and the script itself was well written. It was clever, witty, it has the right amount of humour and seriousness throughout to make it entertaining to watch, and the dramatic beats worked for me. It does seem to repeating itself to a degree for most of the movie, until it changes into being something different in the third act, which I thought was strong. The friendship between the lead character (played by Cumberbatch) and the Russian spy, two people on the opposite side of the political divide, was particularly compelling to watch. Definitely one of the strongest aspects of the movie. The Courier is a cold war thriller, and as that doesn’t really do anything special to break the mould. It is conventional and similar to other movies about wartime unsung heroes that are intended snag Oscar nominations. However, I was still invested the entire time, so that wasn’t a problem for me.

dcfe0561-4399-4a0e-8231-afc4c3d3de7c

The acting is a shining point in the movie. First of all, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role as the salesman who becomes a spy. This is his best performance since the Imitation Game, and for the most part, he is quite understated. His performance doesn’t just fall back into his bag of snarky tricks as in Sherlock Holmes or many of his other roles. His performance is nuanced and believable, and he particularly shines in the final act. Another great and heartfelt performance is from Merab Ninidze as the Russian spy, working at the same level as Cumberbatch. Some of the acting elevated a lot of their material, both Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan are in rather thankless roles but do a lot to make up for it. Buckley particularly plays the stock role of “wife who worries about husband” in this sort of movie, however gives a lot in her scenes.

0009

Dominic Cooke’s direction is pretty solid. It is very well shot and has a nice sharp look to it, with some excellent lighting. The costumes and production designs work for the time period as expected, and there’s a great and suspenseful score from Abel Korzeniowski. If there are any flaws in terms of the technical level, it’s the editing, especially in the first half. Occasionally it feels like its cutting short some of the scenes.

MV5BYjFlZTUyZmItNDFhNy00ZmZmLWIwNTgtNTJjNzI1YTEyMzFmXkEyXkFqcGdeQWRvb2xpbmhk._V1_

As far as “based on a real story” Oscar Bait movies set in the Cold War era goes, The Courier is on the more exciting end. Clearly a lot of the movie was handled with care, the story is familiar and conventional but compelling and interesting nonetheless, it’s well shot, and the performances are great, particularly from Cumberbatch, Ninidze and Buckley. I think it’s worth checking out.

The Dig (2021) Review

mibKr3c

The Dig

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty
Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown
Lily James as Peggy Piggott
Johnny Flynn as Rory Lomax
Ben Chaplin as Stuart Piggott
Ken Stott as Charles Phillips
Archie Barnes as Robert Pretty
Monica Dolan as May Brown
Director: Simon Stone

In the late 1930s, wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires amateur archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to investigate the mounds on her property in England. He and his team discover a ship from the Dark Ages while digging up a burial ground.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I first heard about The Dig on Netflix as it was one of their movies, it was a movie about digging up something important around World War II, but I wanted to watch because of the cast which includes Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes. Having finally seen it, I can say that it’s nothing that memorable and it’s mostly just okay, but for what it is, a British period drama based on a true story, it’s made fairly well.

200759_1348636.jpg.2000x1333_q95_crop-smart_upscale

The script for The Dig is rather simple and it was a typical historical film based on a true story. There’s very little surprising or astonishing, and the character beats are predictable. It’s not that nothing of significance happens in this film considering the prospect of finding something important, as well as everything that the characters go through in their own lives. However the stakes feel pretty mild, The Dig is more of an easy, contemplative and laid back experience. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a simple story from the past, and to a degree I respect that. It does cover a real-life story that is interesting mainly for history and archelogy buffs. Even though I’m not an archelogy buff and it didn’t feel like much happened in the story, I thought it was compelling enough, and it had its emotional moments. During the whole first half, I was interested with the characters, and their storylines and how they developed. Where some problems start appearing is in the second half where it loses its focus once it expands beyond the main cast of Mulligan and Fiennes, Fiennes particularly becomes a secondary character. The second half overstays its welcome and introduces some unwelcome subplots, more on that later. Something that most viewers will feel is that the movie moves a little bit slower than it needed to. It certainly felt a little too slow for me to be completely gripped with the story. Some scenes feel unnecessarily long and drag on for quite some time, and despite an hour and 52 minutes not being an extremely long runtime, it does feel a little tedious at times. It certainly isn’t helped by the occasionally dragging pacing. The subplots introduced in the second half were a bit too much, one that comes to mind instantly was a love triangle subplot involving Lily James and Johnny Flynn. It didn’t really add anything to the story, just forced melodrama. After watching the movie I looked up what happened in real life and it turns out the film does take some creative liberties and particularly changes up some key details about the characters. Without getting too into it here, these decisions actually made the movie worse despite the intentions to make things more dramatic and interesting. Unsurprisingly, that aforementioned love triangle was one of the creative liberties taken, in fact much of what happened with Lily James’s character’s story in the movie didn’t happen in real life.

1620227453-Veliko-iskopavanje

The cast will be the main draw for most people who watch The Dig, and in fairness there are some really talented actors involved. The main cast are great with Ralph Fiennes as the weathered and capable excavator, and Carey Mulligan as the main landowner whose land is being dug up. Supporting cast was good including Lily James and Johnny Flynn, even the young actor who plays Carey Mulligan’s son.

The Dig

The direction from Simon Stone is also pretty good. First of all, it has some fantastic cinematography, really capturing the English countryside’s sights with its glorious wide shots and sweeping camera movements. It even felt like a Terrence Malick movie at times. The production values are strong with the set design and costume design capturing the time period well. Finally the piano score is great, dreamy and relaxing, it really matches the tone of the movie well.

thedig-lede

It does feel like some potential of the Dig was wasted considering the premise and story, and it’s a pretty forgettable movie unfortunately. However for what it’s worth, I think it’s a decent movie. The cast and the directing certainly elevate it quite a lot, and I’m glad I watched it. It is a movie that I would have playing in the background more than actively watching, but it’s an okay movie, and one worth checking out if you like the cast involved or if you’re interested in historical movies.

All the President’s Men (1976) Review

Orlando-Goldman

All the President's Men

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward
Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein
Jack Warden as Harry M. Rosenfeld
Martin Balsam as Howard Simons
Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Director: Alan J. Pakula

During the 1972 elections, two reporters’ investigation sheds light on the controversial Watergate scandal that compels President Richard Nixon to resign from his post..

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

I’ve always known All the President’s Men as being “the one movie about Watergate”, and I remembered holding off on watching it because it was long, it was from the 70s and I didn’t know if I would be as into it despite the acclaim. However I did watch it, and was surprised at how good it was on pretty much every front.

2P970yRzlnxRgjrpLC8OAgiaIZ37jei7

All the President’s Men is about the journalistic approach to the story, with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in pursuit of the news story. The layers of the story are peeled back as the film goes on, revealing the truths about the Watergate Scandal. The writing is great and it really was key to the movie working. It is definitely a slow burn, so you do need to know that going in, but thankfully I found the story very compelling to follow. The scope of this story is large, and the script deserves a lot of credit for making this complex and dry tale accessible and easy to follow for audiences. At the same time, it approaches the subject matter without needlessly adding subplots or other aspects to spice up the movie. It almost plays like a detective story at times more so than a journalism story, and manages to mix dry fact with intrigue perfectly, making sure that we are engaged and never lose the plot. It really lets the audience feel like they’re putting together the pieces along with Woodward and Bernstein. The constant stream of information can occasionally be a little much, but the fact that it is quite accurate to true events and you can understand most of it is impressive. It is a procedural for sure, but probably one of the best procedural films ever. It does feel authentic in both the discoveries made as well as the journalistic process, and I like the amount of detail in what is said and what is shown on screen. For example, you get to see the way that Woodward and Bernstein play out how they try to get certain pieces of information, and how they interact with the people they are questioning; very well done and fascinating to watch. Every scene truly means something and has a reason for being there, despite the long runtime. A lot of the movie is dialogue and its great, especially with the deliveries from the cast. It keeps your attention for the entire runtime and each conversation is right to the point. The film is also surprisingly thrilling to watch at times, despite it being a movie about journalism. If there’s a criticism I have with the movie, it’s that the ending is a little too abrupt, that’s it though.

image

The acting from everyone is also great, but it’s the two leads who drive the story and stand out the most. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are incredible and invested in their roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and share great chemistry together. You get completely wrapped up in their motivations and they feel very natural in their parts, never overselling it. The supporting cast including Jack Warden, Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook also do work well in their parts.

Film-All-the-Presidents-Men-Photo-Courtesy-of-Warner-Bros.

The movie is directed by Alan J. Pakula, and his work here is great, covering this story as effectively as possible with lots of visual and audio details in every scene. The cinematography conveys the scope and size of the story, with everything from landscape shots to shots of a simple phone call looking really good. The editing is quite efficient and gets you wrapped up in the story even with all the details being thrown at you. Pakula’s direction also does well as helping you feel the paranoia that the main characters feel as the story continues.

image (1)

All the President’s Men is an astonishingly well made film, efficiently directed, greatly performed by its cast, and with a fantastic script which makes what could’ve been a boring and dull movie, into an engaging and intriguing experience. Even though most of us already know what happens at the end, it was still compelling to watch this whole story play out. For sure one of the best movies about journalism.

Small Axe: Mangrove (2020) Review

4283

Mangrove

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-LeCointe
Malachi Kirby as Darcus Howe
Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow
Rochenda Sandall as Barbara Beese
Alex Jennings as Judge Edward Clarke
Jack Lowden as Ian Macdonald
Director: Steve McQueen

Mangrove tells this true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behavior motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard a lot about Small Axe. It is an anthology of 5 movies focussing on different stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the 60s to the 80s. This anthology has been very well received very well by a lot of people. In addition to that, director Steve McQueen, whose past work consists of Widows, 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Hunger, helms all 5 movies. So natural, I was interested in watching them. The first movie in Small Axe is Mangrove, and after watching it, I want to check out what McQueen did with the other movies in the anthology because it was great.

small-axe-mangrove-1

The movie is about a group of nine Black British protesters accused of inciting riot after demonstrating against police brutality and race-driven hatred committed by the Metropolitan police in the restaurant named Mangrove. The first half of the movie shows the build up, and the second half ends up being a courtroom drama. It is a smaller scale yet compelling story of a community together fighting for their human rights, and the bond established just from one neighbourhood restaurant. Steve McQueen wastes no time in showing how messy the 1970 trial was in a very thought provoking and cohesive manner, and we’ve come to expect that from him at this point. McQueen is such a talent and gives a great examination of the themes and subject matters he covers in all of his movies. It really sheds light on a true story about harassment by police and further illustrates that the struggle for justice in these matters is a global issue. It’s a very powerful movie, the raw power and emotion, as well as the rage inducing storyline that is portrayed throughout is fantastic and compelling to watch, and quickly draws you into this daunting time period. Mangrove is a testament to how relevant matters of racial prejudice, systemic disenfranchisement and institutional bullying and brutality really are, even today. The movie is over 2 hours long, and while I was invested throughout, I did feel like the script could’ve been a bit tighter, mainly with the first half. It does take a while to get to the trial, as we are introduced the people and the Mangrove itself. The buildup was a bit slow to me and probably could’ve been shortened a bit, but it’s an undeniably important section of the story that needed to be here.

19mangrove1-superJumbo-v2

The cast are all great, with all the performances working in the film’s favour. Letitia Wright plays British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, and gives arguably her best performance to date. Among the other best performances of the film for me were from Shaun Parkes (who plays the owner of the Mangrove, and Darcus Howe, who particularly gets to shine in the courtroom scenes.

mangrove-courtroom

Steve McQueen once again has done some great work here. The cinematography, set pieces, production design, editing and the direction of actors are all on point here. I will say that it is way less flashy and is fairly subdued compared to Steve McQueen’s past work especially as it was more of a character study, but there’s some great shots and camerawork nonetheless.

sa-mangrovebkgd

Mangrove is a well crafted and passionate historical drama. The cast are great and shine with their performances and Steve McQueen’s work as writer and director are strong, telling a true life story of people trying to fight for their rights. Definitely watch Mangrove as soon whenever you can, it was great and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other entries in the Small Axe anthology are like.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

6c5f9a7b-5dd9-4752-8ad8-cdea1a94dba6-Black_Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

Jesse-Plemons-and-LaKeith-Stanfield-Shake-Hands-in-Judas-and-the-Black-Messiah

The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

Judas-and-the-Black-Messiah (1)

Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

00judas-1-superJumbo-v3

Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

Hamilton (2020) Review

Hamilton-Movie-Cast-and-Li-Manuel-Miranda

Hamilton

Time: 160 Minutes
Cast:
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler
Jonathan Groff as King George III
Christopher Jackson as George Washington
Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison
Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton
Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail

The original Broadway production of the award-winning musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), first secretary of the treasury, blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway styles, filmed from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about the acclaimed musical Hamilton for some time. Outside of one song however, I really didn’t know much about it, aside from it being about the founding fathers and Lin-Manuel Miranda being the person who created it. With one of the showings being put on Disney+ however, I knew I should probably watch it and see for myself if it worked for me. I’m glad to say that it very much did work for me, and I had a great time with it.

merlin_166357551_689f9e24-de35-4942-b692-804cf3b47da5-superJumbo

Reviewing Hamilton is a bit weird, I’m essentially reviewing a musical, and it’s not even a film adaptation. However, I’ll try my best. I’m not an American History expert, according to some people the musical is accurate in terms of what happens, but I won’t judge it on that level. Though I think the casting and the fact that it is a Broadway musical should automatically give an indication that this probably shouldn’t be taken as being 100% accurate, and shouldn’t be the prime source of education about the founding fathers of America. It is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and it is a long running story, a lot of things happen over the course of the musical, it even has some actors playing more than one character. As overwhelming as it was going into it blind, especially as someone who didn’t really know what to expect, I was pretty invested throughout. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it becomes surprisingly emotional at points. By the end I was quite satisfied with what I had watched.

hamilton_025_477bf355

The whole cast of actors do very well in their part in both acting and when it came to singing. The creator of the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the lead of Alexander Hamilton and does well on his part. I knew about Miranda from other things, with Mary Poppins Returns and His Dark Materials, but I think he did a good job here. I will say that his singing wasn’t the best, especially when compared to the others in the cast, but more than makes it up for his acting, especially in the latter half of the film. There were a few actors who really stood out, Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom were particularly outstanding in their parts of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jonathan Groff was only in a few scenes but was fantastic as King George III, a hilarious and entertaining performance that was very memorable in his onscreen moments.

0_t7k2_j2y56jGRl_Y

A big part of the movie is the music, and I thought it was really good. It is one of those musicals where every line is singing, but they pulled it off. A musical about the founding fathers doesn’t sound particularly like it’s prime music material. However the songs are pretty great (there are so many of them too), well written, and there was a lot of genres mixed in including rap, hip hop, jazz and Broadway, and it made the music and overall musical stand out and very entertaining. I’ve only watched the movie/musical once, but with every song on this from this first viewing, I found all of them to be very solid. Production values are top notch too, the choreography was great, and I can imagine it would’ve been a blast watching it in the theatre. In terms of the filming for the movie on Disney+, the direction from Thomas Kail was handled well, and really captured the show as best as possible.

hamilton-2020

I really had no idea if I would like Hamilton going in, but I found it enjoyable, entertaining, and I was engaged from beginning to end. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s worth seeing it for yourselves, and by experiencing it first on the Disney+ version, you won’t have to pay money to buy tickets to watch it in person. I will say that I’m not sure how I’d feel about it on a rewatch, this is just from the one viewing and it was a lot to take in as it was. However, I think it’s really good and I’m glad I saw it.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) Review

The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Strong coarse language
Cast:
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Deale
Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman
Daniel Flaherty as John Froines
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz
Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark
Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman
John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger
Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden
Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner
Mark Rylance as William Kunstler
Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis
Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin
Director: Aaron Sorkin

The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The Trial of the Chicago 7 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. The cast alone had my interest, with the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Eddie Redmayne and more involved. Then there’s the writer and director Aaron Sorkin, who’s the writer behind fantastic scripts for The Social Network and Steve Jobs. Not only that, but the event it’s based on has a lot of potential for a great movie, with it being quite significant and infamous. This film had been in development for quite some time, Sorkin wrote the script in 2007 and it had been passed around to other directors before finally he decided to direct it himself. The Trial of the Chicago 7 ended up being a really great movie and I loved watching it from beginning to end.

Trial-of-the-Chicago-7-Embed01

One of the strongest parts of the film no surprise is Aaron Sorkin’s script. It has all the things you’d expect from his writing, snappy and captivating dialogue, a fast pace, and memorable moments. I was actively captivated throughout, Sorkin does very well at locking you in with what’s happening from beginning to end. Much of the movie is a courtroom drama, and this certainly ranks among the best courtroom dramas from recent years. There are some very strong parallels to current events with regard to protests, police brutality and the like (even when the story takes place in the late 60s), and there are many impactful moments. You can get quite frustrated with some of what happens during the trial, and this really showed the movie’s effectiveness. Some people have complained about Sorkin’s ‘Sorkinisms’ in this movie, with some of the dialogue choices and especially with how he chose to represent certain events on screen, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get some of the criticisms. There are definitely moments that didn’t happen like that in real life. The ending especially is such a feel good ending that might actually be too much for some people, it’s one of those scenes from biopics where you don’t even need to read up on the real life events to tell that it never happened. I would’ve liked to have seen a darker and more accurate representation of events for sure. Then again this is Sorkin, and we’ve come to expect this from him.

mbrxpd9usdmt6jdg65pa-1280x721

There’s a massive ensemble cast for this movie, and everyone is great on their parts. I’ll start with my favourites from the film. Sacha Baron Cohen and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II were the scene-stealers for me. Yahya particularly had such a screen presence and does so much in his screentime, I just wish we got more scenes of him because he was truly fantastic. Another standout performance was from Mark Rylance, who is also great as the lawyer defending the Chicago 7. Eddie Redmayne plays really the lead of the movie, he’s the character who goes through the most development over the course of the movie. It’s certainly a different performance from him, but it’s a surprisingly effective performance, and particularly plays off Cohen very well. The rest of the Chicago 7 were acted well by actors like John Caroll Lynch and Jeremy Strong. Other performances were also great, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the federal prosecutor, Michael Keaton as an attorney general in an important role later in the story, as well as Frank Langella as the judge.

1600882039_The-True-Story-Behind-‘The-Trial-of-the-Chicago-7-scaled

As many people will say, Aaron Sorkin the writer is way better than Aaron Sorkin the director. I did like his first film Molly’s Game, but it showed that he still had a way to go as a filmmaker. His work on Trial of the Chicago 7 is definitely a step above his first movie. The strongest part of the movie on a technical level is the editing, which really works in favour of the script. This is particularly the case in the opening 10 minutes which efficiently sets up and explains so many things that happened prior to the event that sparked the trial. Additionally in the script there are many flashforward and flashback scenes, and while it could’ve been disorientating, Sorkin really pulled it off and made it effective. With all that being said, whenever Sorkin’s scripts are made into movies by top tier directors like David Fincher and Danny Boyle, they brought the scripts to another level to create fantastic films. If Trial of the Chicago 7 was given to someone of that caliber, it probably would’ve been even better. Still, I would say the direction was good. The score by Daniel Pemberton is also good, not amongst his all time best work, but it worked really well for this movie.

Netflix-The-Trial-Of-The-Chicago-7-1

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is currently one of my favourite movies of the year. It felt like an inspiring courtroom thriller made in the 90s, and I mean that in the best way possible. The timely, entertaining and engaging story, the fantastic script and outstanding acting alone makes it really worth watching.