Archives for 2020 | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews

The Photograph


The Photograph

A film that divides its time between a romance in the past and one in the present, the former effectively giving rise to the latter.

Christina Eames, a famous New York photographer, has recently died. Michael Brock, who is preparing an article on her, visits Isaac Jefferson in Louisiana, a friend of Christina when she was younger. He is the subject of 'The Photograph' that gives this film its title. Meanwhile, Christina's daughter, Mae, is seen opening a safe deposit box in which she finds two envelopes, one a letter to her from her mother, the other to her father. The instructions are that she must read her letter first, for reasons that will become obvious.

Michael Brock's research leads him to meet Mae, who is an assistant curator at the Queens Museum, and the two soon start to show signs of attraction to one another. And as the film periodically goes back to her mother's past, we see the other love story, but one that was abruptly cut short. Mae's relationship with her mother wasn't good, but as the story unfolds, and her mother's story is revealed, she begins to understand why her mother was as she was. And her mother's letter will reveal that she had held a secret throughout her life, a secret that will change Mae's life forever.

So we get two love stories for the price of one, impressive cinematography and a jazzy score. And Michael's brother, Kyle, is quite a laugh. The reviews haven't been overwhelmingly great but don't let that put you off.


Roger Ebert review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 73%: Audiences 81%


Dark Waters


Dark Waters

Mark Ruffalo, who stars in this true life story, is an environmental activist. He could, therefore, live this role, both in terms of acting and of playing out his real life emotions. It's the story of lawyer Rob Bilott's 20-year battle against one of the most powerful companies in America - DuPont. What makes it exceptional, is that Bilott was a corporate lawyer employed to represent companies like DuPont.

He embarked on this epic struggle as a result of being contacted by a farmer, Wilber Tennant, from Parkersburg, West Virginia - cue well known song! The farmer knew Bilott's grandmother in Parkersburg. Bilott at first tried to refer Tennant to a local lawyer but when he discovered the scale of Tennant's losses - 190 cows - he realised that something very sinister was going on.

The case outlives Tennant, who along with many other people in the town becomes ill and dies of cancer. It all revolves around a chemical, referred to in DuPont documents as PFOA. It transpires that this chemical is in fact the basis of Teflon™, a product that, along with its derivatives, makes DuPont a fortune. Unfortunately it also kills animals and people, a fact that DuPont fights hard to disguise. But Bilott knows the game and uses DuPont's own research against them.

This is a long film (126 minutes) and is paced quite slowly. But it's engrossing. It was unnerving to read at the end that PFOA can today be found in all living organisms and 99% of humans!

Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 90%: Audiences 95%



Emma


Emma

This period drama invites us to imagine what life was like for the well-to-do in the days of Jane Austen, whose books have been the go-to read for so many women over the years. For many, therefore, Emma needs no introduction. A wealthy young woman with too much time on her hands who delights in organising the love lives of her friends. However, her meddling doesn't always result in the outcome that she envisaged. In fact one could say it causes more harm than good.

It appears that Austen set out to make Emma an unlikeable heroine and Anya Taylor-Joy in this adaptation does a good job of playing out Austen's wishes. She has a humble companion, Harriet Smith, who is in awe of her. Harriet is humiliated when Emma's matchmaking proves to be a cruel illusion, while her true love had previously been rejected on the basis of Emma's poisoned advice.

But there is also much humour. Emma's father, played by Bill Nighy provides much of it. Miranda Hart as the annoying Miss Bates also brings some wry smiles until, that is, Emma delivers what is probably her most hurtful retort of the film. And, of course, there is romance. Emma, despite her dismissal of any interest in male suitors, proves not to be immune from cupid's arrow. Well, it is Jane Austen after all!

Sumptuously filmed.

Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 85%: Audiences 76%


Parasite


Parasite

It won the four Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director, but as a film it is very difficult to categorise. And, as the director Bong Joon-ho said during an acceptance speech, "Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles … be introduced to so many more amazing films", something that regrettably many people can't manage. It's also a film that would be ruined by spoilers or indeed by sharing too much.

Drama, certainly; comedy, if you appreciate comédie noire; a statement on society, rich vs poor; and a tale of survival even if that leads to some rather unfortunate outcomes. Apparently it has been described by its creator as "a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains", which perhaps sums things up nicely. All the characters are absorbing in their different ways and they all deliver superb performances.

As they say, "just go see!"

Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 99%: Audiences 92%


The Rhythm Section


The Rhythm Section

I think it's fair to say that this film hasn't been that well received, the Rotten Tomatoes critics being particularly scathing. The normally stunning Blake Lively gets dirty as Stephanie, a young woman who's fallen into drugs and prostitution seemingly to punish herself for the loss of her family in a plane crash. When a reporter confronts her as a 'client', only to tell her that her family's plane was in fact brought down by a bomb, this sets her on a path of retribution. Aided by Jude Law as Ian Boyd, B, an ex-MI6 officer, against all the odds she hones herself into a trained, if a still a bit naive, assassin.

As with all such films there is a need to stretch belief a bit, but that said there is some impressive action, including brutal fight scenes and a scary car chase filmed entirely from within the car, making it feel very realistic and unstaged. If you're happy with a spoiler check out director Reed Morano narrating this sequence. Stephanie finds out that cold-blooded killing is more difficult than she thought and so places herself in danger, but as the awfulness of those she's pursuing starts to sink in, she hardens herself to the task.


Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 27%: Audiences 43%


Queen & Slim


Queen & Slim

Yet another film depicting the blatant racism towards black people that exists in parts of America, where police can harass and sometimes kill with apparently few repercussions. Here we have a young black couple returning from their first date, who have the misfortune to be stopped by a police officer who is just looking for an excuse to arrest them. They are law-abiding people, she in particular being defence a lawyer. But that cuts no ice with the cop. When he draws his gun the scene is set for these two innocents to become 'most wanted' criminals, said to be armed and dangerous.

What follows is their attempt to flee, aided along the way by the black community who have had no difficulty in discerning that the couple are in no way the real villains. The broadcast video from police officer's car camera tells them all they need to know about where the blame lies. Along the way their shared fear draws them closer together, and a love story emerges. Shades of Bonnie & Clyde, although our couple certainly aren't natural killers.

Superb performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, supported by an impressive ensemble cast.

Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 83%: Audiences 92%


The Personal History of David Copperfield


The Personal History of David Copperfield

An interesting and extremely amusing adaptation of the famous Dickens' novel in which David Copperfield himself narrates his life story. It's a mixture of theatre and film that starts with him addressing a theatre audience before walking through the back scenery into the room where his mother is about to give birth to him. And so it continues through his eventful life. This is a film marked out by the magnificent performances from the assembled cast with marvellous characterisations of which I'm sure Dickens himself would have be proud. Dev Patel as Copperfield adds to his already impressive filmography.


Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 95%: no audience score, American release May 2020


Just Mercy


Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson is a black Harvard law graduate and social activist who is determined to make a difference. By deciding to work in the racial melting pot that's Alabama he couldn't have taken on a more difficult role. The film concentrates on the case of 'Johnny D' McMillian, a death row prisoner convicted of a crime he didn't commit. But the white community needs someone to blame and the police and law enforcement officers are determined to appease them, no matter that it requires lies and witness manipulation to do so.

A powerful film with faultless performances from Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx, with Brie Larson as the plucky local activist who can't believe her luck when a Harvard lawyer offers his services to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Guardian review
IMDb
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 84%: Audiences 99%

No more full reviews

I have written my last full review.

Analytics suggest that there are very few visits to these reviews and as I have produced them to help people decide whether or not to see a film, the fact that hardly anybody is looking at them sort of defeats the purpose. I post a notice of each review to Twitter and while some 80 -100+ people view each Tweet, typically no more than one or two actually interact with it and visit this site.

I get some pleasure from blogging, and writing in general, but at the end of the day if one is only talking to oneself there isn't much point.

A further factor is that I have become involved in quite a few things of late, to the extent that everything got a bit too much at the end of last year and I went down with shingles. I took this as a wake-up call to de-stress a bit, and discontinuing these reviews is one little step towards this, as it's one less thing to do.

I shall continue reviewing French films and these can be read on my French at 60 website.

It's been a good run, eight years of a wide range of films, 338 in total. I shall of course continue to go to the cinema and will post details of the films, by way a diary, with just brief comments. There are dozens of professional reviews out there should you want to get a more detailed viewpoint.

1917


1917

This is a film that must be seen at the cinema. It's all about the cinematography, taking what is quite a simple plot and drawing you in because of the completely immersive nature of the filming. It is, quite simply, one continuous shot, and if you take time while watching to ask yourself, 'How did they take that shot', you will realise just how amazing the end result is. This video gives you a flavour of what was involved.


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Little Women


Little Women

According to my wife, Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women is a book that all young girls read, although perhaps not so much these days as reading has to some extent gone out of fashion. However, the indications are that around 70% of people who have gone to see this film are women, many of whom no doubt read the novel as their younger selves. It is certainly a women's film but one that men should certainly watch since the dismissive attitudes towards women in the late 19th Century are still evident in certain quarters today.

I had seen a TV adaptation previously so the plot was already familiar, but the film employs the now quite common time shifting approach rather than a pure chronological timeline. This adds to the experience as it provides more context but may confuse if you are not already familiar with the story.

The casting is superb. Saoirse Ronan is the fiercely independent 'I'm never going to marry' Jo, Emma Watson plays the elder and more conventional sister Meg, Florence Pugh is, in her view, the 'downtrodden' Amy and Eliza Scanlen is sweet Beth, the youngest and certainly most likeable of the four. In the mansion across the field we have Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, or to give him his proper name Theodore Laurence, an indulged young man who adores Jo and who is accepted into the sister's intimate theatre group that perform Jo's plays in the attic. Laura Dern is mum, while dad is off fighting in the civil war.

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