Showing posts with label Biography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biography. Show all posts

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Fifth Estate Movie Review

The Fifth Estate movie review, rating, trailer and photos.

Director: Bill Condon

First Release Date: 11th October 2013 (UK)

Running Time: 128 minutes

 Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Peter Capaldi, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie

"The Fifth Estate" is a film based on  real events - the 'information revolution' of the 21st Century.  It's story and content is based lossely on two books both published in 2011; Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World's Most Dangerous Website by Domscheit-Berg and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding.  It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, the man behind the WikiLeaks website and also Daniel Brühl, David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney.

The film centers around journalist Daniel Berg (Brühl). From his first encounter with Julian Assange (Cumberbatch) to the stories and secrets they revealed via WikiLeaks.  Daniel finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of activism for freedom of information.  As time goes on, cracks can be seen to form in his relationship with Julian as he finds himself in over his head going up against the biggest and most powerful governments of the time. 

Movie review of the Fifth Estate - a film about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

Half of the aspects of "The Fifth Estate" are excellent however the other half ruin the film. It is a real mix of good and bad but despite this is still a relatively okay film overall.  For anyone who has followed the news the last few years will be familiar with the story and rise of WikiLeaks - a non-profit organisation that uploads secrets, news leaks and classified truths from anonymous 'whistle blowers'.  This movie depicts to the full extent the major stories and cover-ups that WikiLeaks has leaked.  It is filled with basic content of the countless leaks they made available to the world. 

"The Fifth Estate" features a relatively well known cast but the one stand out is Cumberbatch.  With dyed white hair and an Australian accent, Cumberbatch is Assange.  He portrays Assange's, mannerisms perfectly and is extremely convincing in the title role.  Without Cumberbatch, "The Fifth Estate" would have petered out into nothing.  He really is the driving force behind any success or positive reaction that the film gains. 

The other well known actors are all okay. However, they do fall into the shadows, cast by Cumberbatch's performance.  Brühl is good as Daniel Berg and the supporting cast including Thewlis, Linney, Tucci and Peter Calpaldi are all solid but far from amazing.  In this film they define the word 'supporting'.  Not one stands out or affects the overall outcome of the film from their own performance.  

Movie review of The Fifth Estate starring Cumberbatch, Bruhl, Thewlis, Capaldi, Tucci and Linney.

It is the look, feel and directing of "The Fifth Estate" where it ultimately falls down. The content is there albeit very consuming, however director Bill Condon does well to make this understandable for the audience.  The problem is that in a way there is too much content - it does not allow for any real story or drama to occur or take place.  It is based on two books so does has room to maneuver in a story that could grab and pull the audience in yet it sticks to the rather risk-less portrayal of event after event (this happened, then this happened and so on ).  When thought about and understood in this manner "The Fifth Estate" is not a good film at all.  There seemed to be no effort to make it into an exciting film - in fact you could go as far to say this would have been better as a documentary rather than a movie. 

"The Fifth Estate" is an interesting film in two ways; firstly, the content is relatively engaging and engrossing, secondly it really is difficult to work out your own feelings about the film.  On the one hand, you have an excellent performance from Cumberbatch that is unmatched by anyone else on set, but then the general direction of the film really lets it down.  Saying this, the film is still above average but this is down rather to the true story content that the film depicts from the two books it is loosely based upon. "The Fifth Estate" is an okay film that is far from excellent. It is spearheaded by the sublime performance from Cumberbatch but with below average direction the movie equates to nothing more than a content filled, drama lacking movie. 

M+F Rating: 6/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Casino Movie Review

Movie review of Martin Scorsese's Casino starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci

Director: Martin Scorsese

First Release Date: 22nd November 1995 (US)

Running Time: 178 minutes 

Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods

"Casino" is a 1995 Martin Scorsese classic. The film has Scorsese written all over it from the script, screenplay and filming style used. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci star is this highly entertaining and quick-witted movie. 

In a time where Las Vegas is ran by gang criminals, Sam 'Ace' Rothstein (De Niro) and Nicky (Pesci), work there way into the Las Vegas scene. The gang bosses can't go to Vegas themselves so use others to filter money out. With a changing job title to avoid getting caught, Ace is the effective owner of the Tangiers Casino and is successful at doing so. Nicky has his own way of doing things and with the FBI on the prowl and Ace's wife, Ginger (Stone) very unstable, the whole mob world starts to collapse around them both. 

Movie review, trailer, rating and photos of Casino movie.

The film blasts off and captures the audience straight away.  Within minutes, events in the film engage the audience.  The movie then plays through events that lead to the beginning scene before venturing past that event. Much of "Casino" is portrayed through voice-overs by the two main characters Ace and Nicky. This way of story telling works very well in the setting that Scorsese sets up.  By providing this explanation via narration from the characters themselves, it gives the movie an alternate dimension.  It gives them a chance to explain what they are doing and the reasons why.  This is needed in a film that is just shy of three hours long and features an extensive cast with many characters and interlocking plot lines.

It is impossible to argue that De Niro and Pesci do not carry the film. As always in Scorsese movies, the general cast are great but like with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in the more recent "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), De Niro and Pesci steal the show.  Having worked with Scorsese before, both De Niro and Pesci were able to overcome the feel of familiarity and are able to make this film feel fresh and exciting.  It feels wrong to have an insight and to feel part of how the mob infiltrated Las Vegas yet so right at the same time. 

Martin Scorsese's Casino movie review

"Casino" features a great deal of violence which is at times over the top, however this is true to Scorsese's style.  Combined with the violence is the intricate story of ultimately three characters lives as they do living and at times this works well together but on the other hand they clash.  De Niro plays his character perfectly. Powerful yet so quiet and calm.  This portrays a character that holds an incredible screen presence. Pesci's character is rather different. Brash, tough and seemingly less clever, Nicky provides the more humorous scenes that make the movie even more enjoyable.

"Casino" is definitely a film that people can enjoy.  It may be a bit too graphic for some, however that does not make it a bad film by any means.  It is crafted cleverly in a way that makes an intricate movie through Scorsese's own special way of film-making.  It takes the time it needs to piece the whole plot and character sequences together without rushing any scene.  "Casino" is a great film which contains great dialect, characters and is thoroughly entertaining.

M+F Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Diana Movie Review

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

UK Release Date: 20th September 2013

Running Time: 113 minutes 

Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Cas Anvar, Geraldine James, Douglas Hodge

"Diana" is a film that was highly anticipated for one reason;  it is a movie about Diana, Princess of Wales who was tragically killed in France in 1998.  Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, "Diana" unfortunately does not do justice to the once most famous woman in the world. Despite this, the film still manages to deliver an emotional connection to the audience but even this can be attributed to the connection/remembrance to Diana herself, not the film.

The film portrays the latter years of Princess Diana's life, showing major events that occurred.  Having split from the Royal Family, Diana (Naomi Watts) looks for and finds her true love, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) a heart surgeon. They try to find a balance between their different lives and quite differing personalities. 

It was always going to be difficult for any director, cast and film to make a movie 'work' when it is going to be about Princess Diana.  Unfortunately, "Diana" is not a film that is a good portrayal of the final years of Diana's life or even a good film at all. Most things related to the film do not work or feel as if they fit it together in a way that allows the movie to flow.  It is jagged, empty and ultimately very disappointing.  

With this film, an opportunity was presented to make a very good film. However, the casting has to be questioned.  It is important to be clear here,  Naomi Watts is an good actress, however she does not present a good portrayal or representation of Diana. This is in all aspects.  Unless it is from distance, she does not look like Diana, neither does she sound like Diana.  Unfortunately, her mannerisms are not perfect and this makes the film feel unauthentic. This is nothing against Watts, but she was just not right for the role.  The portrayal and script also present Diana in a way that is not what we are accustomed to.  From watching the film you would think that Diana was  shallow. Hirschbiegel may be trying to over compensate her innocence but on the screen it does not come across this way. 

"Diana" generally feels odd.  The film starts slowly and rarely gets going.  It is interrupted throughout by too many scenes of silence which do not enable and storyline or plot to develop in a way that is watchable.  It rushes over important events nearer the end of her life and portrays her in a way that can only be described as degrading.  

The movie is definitely not what you wold expect before watching.  It does not inspire like a film about Diana should.  It is a poor attempt at making a film of the last few years of her life. The sole focus is on the relationships that defined her final years but even this is not done to great effect.  It is able to bring out an emotional response by the end of the film but this is limited.  "Diana" is unable to live up to the fame of the real person it portrays and turns out to be a very frustrating and discouraging movie.

M+F Rating: 4/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Lee Daniels' The Butler Movie Review

Lee Daniel's The Butler Movie Review, Rating, Trailer, Photos

Director: Lee Daniels

UK Release Date: 15th November 2013

Running Time: 132 minutes 

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" is a film that is based very roughly on the life of Eugene Allen, who was a butler in the White House for 34 years.  The film is not a complete recreation of his life however and certain facts are changed for the story of the film which ultimately servers a different purpose rather than just telling the life of the main character Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker).  

Cecil's life starts off like many African-American children's did in the early 1900's - on a cotton farm in the South as a slave.  Working on the fields with his mother and father until his circumstances change he becomes a slave working in the house.  Following his progress from slave to White House butler, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in America and ultimately shows the history of the Movement up until Barack Obama becomes President in 2008. 

Movie review, trailer, photos and rating of Lee Daniels' The Butler

Starring one of the largest well known cast of recent times, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" features representations of real historical figures such as Martin Luther King (Nelsan Ellis), Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Richard Nixon (John Cusack) and Lyndon B. Johnson (Lieve Schreiber).  The majority of characters are played by well known actors or musicians but the question remains as to why?  Mariah Carey plays Cecil's mother, but is seen on screen for no longer than a minute. The huge well known cast list is strange considering that most of them only hold small parts within the film.  The point here is that using these actors in small roles works in a negative way for the film as not one of them has enough time on screen to influence the movie in any specific way.  

The slow paced nature to the film helps incredibly in understanding everything that is going on but falls down in terms of providing the details that a topic of this nature deserves.  The movie highlights the key points during the Civil Rights Movement but rarely goes further than acknowledging the basic facts.  This is disappointing as the film neglects staying true to the portrayal of Eugene Allen's real life and does not justify this in its basic step by step guide of the Civil Rights Movement.  "Lee Daniel's The Butler" glosses over many important historical moments and events which if developed further could have really made an impact to the storyline of the film.

Lee Daniels' The Butler film review

The main highlight of the film is the delightful performance provided by Forest Whitaker.  Potentially the best acting performance of his career to date, Whitaker, is sublime as Cecil Gaines.  He is able to draw in the audience to his character who is easy to relate to and is  powerful in his own humbling way.  His loose portrayal of Eugene Allen is both intriguing and is perfect in keeping the audience engaged throughout the whole film.

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" is an interesting movie than is more informative than anything else.  It offers a good basic account of the key aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and features a very impressive and well deserved performance from Whitaker. Despite its slightly lackluster feel, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" is an inspiring film that will have you researching the real life story of Cecil Gaines which will direct you to Eugene Allen. It is interesting movie that you will enjoy.

M+F Rating: 7/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Iceman Movie Review

The Iceman Movie Review

Director: Ariel Vromen

UK Release Date: 7th June 2013

Running Time: 106 minutes

Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco

"The Iceman" was released in 2013 and  is the chilling true story of Richard Kuklinksi.  Kuklinski was a notorious contract killer who murdered over 100 people while his wife and children were unaware of his murderous work life.  The film depicts his story and follows his relationships with his bosses and his family.

In the film Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) is seen meeting and having to work for Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) having previously met his soon to be wife Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder). He seemingly does a good job of keeping his killing separate and secret from his family life until one day he makes a mistake.  Desperate for money, the stakes are raised as he tries to keep both of his lives separate and avoid being killed or caught by the cops. 

Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski in The Iceman
Richard Kuklinski (Shannon) in The Iceman
Photo courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

While watching this film be prepared - the story is very shocking.  Just the idea that a man could kill over 100 people and still hold down a normal family life for so long with them not having any idea is more than enough to send shivers down anyone's spine.  The true story of Kukinski is portrayed very well in the "The Iceman" but the standout aspect of the film is the acting.  Shannon delivers an incredible cold performance as Kuklinski and likewise Ryder gives a great performance as his wife, Deborah.  Liotta's role as Roy Demeo is average. It is a typical role to play for the "Goodfellas" (1990) star.  

More impressive was Chris Evans as Mr. Freezy and also David Schwimmer as Josh Rosenthal.  Both actors are unrecognizable and portray there characters very well.  Having these two in the film and with the addition of James Franco in a very short role really adds some weight the film.  The acting performances in the film really stand out and from this perspective the film is very good.

Chris Evans as Mr. Freezy in The Iceman
Mr. Freezy (Evans) in The Iceman
Photo courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

A problem with the film was that it makes the audience feel a certain way.  By the end of the film you feel an emotional tie with Kuklinski when really we should not, as quite clearly he was not a good person.  We sympathise with him and his situation by the end of the film.  We should really be symptahising with his victims, their families and his family who knew nothing about his actions.  This was one let down with the film as it made us feel something for a charcter that we did not want to feel.  Is this good film-making?  Of course, but is it the right way to portray a true story and one of this magnitude surrounded by so much death?

Overall, the film is an interesting one to watch.  Great performances from the majority of the cast make it a real pleasure to watch and it is good to see the lead in a film given to someone who is not as well known as others.  Shannon gives an inspiring performance and is backed up by the likes of Evans and Ryder.  One perfect way to describe this film is by The Guardians Peter Bradshaw who described it as "Zodiac meets Goodfellas." Unfortunately, "The Iceman" does not reach the heights of either of these films but it is by no means a disappointment. 

M+F Reviews: 7/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Behind the Candelabra Movie Review

Behind the Candelabra Movie Review

Director: Steven Soderbergh

UK Release Date: 7th June 2013

Running Time: 118 minutes

Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Eric Zuckerman, Dan Aykroyd

 "Behind the Candelabra" stars Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in roles that are both challenging and eccentric.  The good thing is, they are both excellent in their portrayals of the titular characters in the film - Liberace and Scott Thorson.  The film itself is good but does not reach the heights of the performances that both Damon and Douglas give. 

The film focusses on the relationship of Liberace (Douglas) and Scott Thorson (Damon).  The film is based on the real memoir written by Thorson called Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace which was published in 1988. The film recounts how the two of them meet and interact with each other and ends with Liberace's death.

As a film "Behind the Candelabra" is presented in a good way. It is easy to follow and portrays the story well.  The background music throughout is in true Steven Soderbergh style and similarities can be drawn between this and the films in the Oceans film series. Although this film is not billed as a comedy it can be quite amusing at times.  Firstly it is quite funny to see Douglas and Damon is the roles they play as they are so different to what they have done before, and what we are used to.  This is more so for Damon who usually plays an action based character like he does in "Elysium" (2013) and the Bourne Trilogy.

Matt Damon and Michael Douglas as Scott Thorson and Liberace in Behind the Candelabra

Staying with Damon as Scott Thorson - it really is a tremendous performance.  As we said, it is very different to what we have seen him do before but he plays the role really well and is convincing.  It is funny to see him with a face that has been modified and even by the end you are still not quite used to it but this does not take away from how good Damon is in "Behind the Candelabra". 

Equally good is Douglas as Liberace himself. A spectacular performance that is a near on perfect representation of Liberace, Douglas shows his greatness as he has done before. At first it is odd to see Douglas play a character like this but we felt more accustomed to it compared to Damon's portrayal of Thorson. 

"Behind the Candelabra" is a highly entertaining and well thought out film.  It flows relatively easy throughout and is flamboyant in each scene while featuring great acting performances provided by Douglas and Damon.  This film really depicts how loneliness can creep up on someone but does it in a way that is not obvious.  It is not something you realize while watching - but if you think in more depth about the film afterwards you realize it.  However, the film is funny, exciting and gives a good account of the life and times of Liberace and Scott Thorson. A nice watch.

M+F Rating: 7/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Rush Movie Review

Rush Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard

UK Release Date: 13th September 2013
Running Time: 123 minutes

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

"Rush" is an exhilarating film from start to finish - don't worry we will try to keep the puns to a minimum. Based on the real life rivalry, friendship and battles of Formula One drivers James Hunt and Nikki Lauder, the film begins with the start of their  racing careers going head to head in Formula Three.  The film portrays the playboy lifestyle of Hunt and the more reserved character of Lauder.

Chris Hemsworth celebrates as James Hunt in Rush

The film is very good and thoroughly enjoyable.  A large part of this is down to the acting. Chris Hemsworth is James Hunt and Daniel Brühl is Nikki Lauder.  These two really deliver top performances in the movie but they are not the only ones.  Even though the main characters are Hunt and Lauder the other minor characters help shape the film and are fundamental to the story.  In some films, these characters are not considered as important but they definitely are here and "Rush" proves this.  There are many smaller characters in the film and each one adds to the overall feel to the movie. This helps the film feel more rounded and not just a portrayal of the life of the two main characters but an opportunity to understand this time period.

Hemsworth performance as James Hunt is really spectacular.  His acting feels true and having watched real footage of Hunt, you can really see how good Hemsworth's delivery is. He easily displays the brash, overly-confident persona of Hunt perfectly.  The character is similar in ways to the confidence of Thor in the first film of the Thor franchise - "Thor" (2011).

Hemsworth was not the only standout in the film -  Brühl was just as good if not better.  For us, the character Brühl plays is the harder to portray of the two.  Convincing and serious,  Brühl really demonstrates how well he can perform and Lauder is a great character for him to be able to show his talent.  

Chri Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in Rush

What we found great about "Rush" is that anyone can watch it - you do not have to be a racing car or Formula One fanatic to enjoy the film. Ron Howard has directed the film in a way that it can appeal to all and this really makes this film stand out against other car racing films.  For instance, we are not huge Formula One fans but the film's content focused on the personalities of these two great Formula One racers rather than the cars.  Even the racing scenes themselves are appealing and convey well to the screen. 

Both Hemsworth and  Brühl do great justice in portraying these real life characters.The direction of the film is great and it is really enjoyable and thrilling to watch.  A really solid film and account of two greats, this film is a good watch.

M+F Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Captain Phillips Movie Review

Captain Phillips Movie Review

Director: Paul Greengrass

UK Release Date: 16th October 2013

Running Time: 134 minutes

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener

Having already been treated to seeing big hits like "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "12 Years a Slave" we were again lucky enough to have the chance to see "Captain Phillips".  Another one of the years biggest movies and having been nominated for 6 Academy Awards we had high expectations for the Paul Greengrass adaptation of this true story.

This true story is remarkable and centers around Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks).  He was the captain of the Maersk Alabama ship that was unarmed as it made its journey around the Cape of Africa.  Tracked and boarded by Somali pirates, Captain Phillips is taken hostage as the story reaches high tensions with the arrival of the US Navy Seals.

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
Photo courtesy of CTMG
First of all, we want to discuss the very last scene of the film (don't worry - we will not give away any plot details).  If you have seen the film then you will know what we are talking about and if you are yet to see it, when you do you will know.  It was this scene for us that really pushed "Captain Phillips" from a good film to an excellent film. This scene alone is one that would rank among Tom Hank's best ever for the quality of acting displayed. The emotion and attention to detail is perfect and really escalates the film to the next level making it stay with you after the film has finished.

The rest of the film for us was good, better than average but nothing spectacular.  It has a long build up period before the main climax and even though this is needed it is rather general and not very exciting.  This may be an after reflection because of how the film ends as there is a distinct change of pace in the film and tensions definitely rise.  This is only a minor problem but does affect our overall rating of the film.  

We have already mentioned the exceptional performance of Tom Hanks but that is not the only standout performance in the film.  Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is the main Somali pirate in the film and is by far one of the more interesting characters.  As to how true this representation of the real life Muse is , we do not know but the performance given by Barkhad Abdi is nothing short of exceptional.  He really plays the character well and throughout you get the sense of truth in the performance.  His performance shows the other the audience the 'other side' as well at times.  By this we mean that obviously the story is told from a Western perspective but at times and one scene in particular you can understand  the reasons behind why the pirates are doing what they do. 

Barkad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Photo courtesy of CTMG

"Captain Phillips" is a very good film.  It is intense, real and has a feel of authenticity about it that some other 'based on true story' films do not have.  There are great acting performances from Hanks and Barkhad Abdi that really hold the film together throughout.  It is a thrilling movie which is impressive considering that the majority of it is based at sea.  It really is a film that can grip the audiences attention and it will not be released until the very end. 

M+F Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

12 Years a Slave Review: Brutally Honest

12 Years a Slave movie logo

Director: Steve McQueen

UK Release Date: 10th January 2014

Running Time: 134 minutes

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano

What is there to say about 12 Years a Slave? The quick answer is - a lot.  I have not seen a film quite like it.  Okay, so it has been compared recently to "Django Unchained" (2012) but for me there is no comparison.  The two are totally different; "12 Years a Slave" depicts slavery for what it was; brutality, pain, death and wrongfulness. On the other hand, Django uses slavery as a vessel to tell a different story which yes, includes slaves but it is not a 'real' representation of slavery.  Having only watched the film the night before writing this review all I can think about is the movie.  But I ask myself, can I call it a movie?  It did not feel like I was watching a movie. It was a window into our dreadful past as human beings.  A representation that at times was difficult to watch and apprehend. It almost felt like a documentary rather than a movie and I think everyone should sit down and watch this film.
"I don't want to survive. I want to live." - Solomon Northup

We all know, or should do, the story of slavery in America.  We have been taught it in school, college and university but nothing will prepare you for  what"12 Years a Slave" brings to the big screen.  A powerful film fuelled by magnificent performances and quite majestic directing. 

Steve McQueen - Director

English director Steve McQueen who has a vast history with short films is responsible for the masterpiece that is "12 Years a Slave". One thing that stood out for myself was how the film was presented.  For a moment, lets ignore the actors and even storyline and look at the film itself.  The images, clips and timings were all perfect.  You could feel the change in atmosphere throughout the cinema and that happened on scenes where there was no actors, dialect or even sounds.  One shot stood out in particular - a caterpillar eating at the cotton plants in the dry hot fields.  The camera must have stayed on this shot for 30 seconds but it told so much.  It should not have made sense but in the context it did.  It portrayed the pain and suffering in an alternative way compared to a the physical violence that is so prominent in the rest of the film.

The directing in this film made it stand out because it is brave and bold.  It is different. It does what other films have been afraid to do.  A 3 minute clip of Solomon Northup, portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, hanging, only surviving by balancing on the tip of his toes brings the intensity to another level.  There were other clips as well that make you, as part of the audience feel uncomfortable and disgusted, but so they should.  We should not look away.  This happened, it was real.  It was wrong but it is also part of our history and something we should embrace and accept as being part of us so we can make sure we never allow something similar or the same to happen again.  McQueen portrays the true story of Northup magnificently, it feels honest and real. McQueen's vision for the film is so basic, he wants the audience to hold on to a thought about the film for longer than 5 minutes. Something that he surely achieves.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave


As mentioned, Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup the free man who gets captured and sold into slavery for 12 years.  An incredible performance for the actor and certainly his best to date.  He portrays Northup's innocence perfectly, displaying his despair and desperation throughout the entire film.  A truly outstanding performance, one that was perfect for the film and the story.

Michael Fassbender plays Edwin Epps the disgusting and haunting slave master.  Fassbender provides an immense performance that is so believable it is unrivaled in this film.  You can be mistaken for hating the actor himself by the end of the film he is that good. A honestly powerful performance. 

Benedict Cumberbatch's character, Master Ford, is one we can sympathize with.  Yes he is a slave owner but he respects them, he is a nice character and does his best to protect Northup.  That being said in the grand scheme of things he still was a slave owner.  Cumberbatch's own depiction of Ford is solid as is Brad Pitt's as Bass.  He turns out to be the savior in the end and Pitt does a good job in this role.

Paul Dano is Tibeats, who works for Master Ford.  He is not a nice character at all and is worse than Epps.  Dano's own portrayal of this is spot on.  A young influenced boy who only does what he does as it is all he has known growing up in the south.

Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave

"12 Years a Slave" is truly a hard hitting masterpiece that brings a past reality back to life.  This means that there are scenes that are distressful and difficult to watch (two people left and failed to return during my viewing of the film).  This is the story though and like the drug abuse portrayed in "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013) - it happened, it is real. By showing scenes that entice questions to be asked, films can tackle issues that are often left alone. One question that has been asked is 'Why now?' How come it has taken so long for a film of this sort to be made and be this brutally honest? I believe it is the right time now.  The context of the world is at a place where people feel they can watch it and accept it and this is a good thing.

"12 Years a Slave" is a film that you only need to see once but it will stay with you for a very long time.  I applaud McQueen and his team along with the actors involved for truly bringing this exceptional story to the masses.  It is a intricate film on all levels and I presume will end up coming away with some success at the Oscars. If you are still unsure as to whether you should watch this film then here are '12 Reasons to Watch Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave".'
M+F Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Monday, 3 February 2014

I'm Not There Review: An Interesting Take on an Interesting Icon

I'm Not There Logo
Director: Todd Haynes
UK Release Date: 21st December 2007
Running Time: 135 minutes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin


"I'm Not There" is a biographical drama based on the life of musician Bob Dylan.  However it is not your usual film of this sort.  Director Todd Haynes, portrays different aspects of Dylan's life by using 6 different characters.  This is where the film became very confusing as it is not really clear who is who and what throughout, with each story cutting just as it gets going for the next.  This is not just a view of ours - it is a view from Dylan himself when he was asked whether he liked the film in an interview with Rolling Stone. This does not take away from how good the film was though and it did seem to all come together by the end leaving us feeling satisfied from what we have just seen.  The film is accompanied by an incredible soundtrack with songs of Dylan's performed by him and others. 

Cate Blanchett - Jude Quinn
Blanchett plays Jude Quinn to portray what happened in Dylan's life between 1965-1966.  This story shows Quinn playing an electric guitar while playing at a folk music festival and also touring around the United Kingdom without much success. This is a representation of Dylan's life as this is what happened to him. This character also accurately represents Dylan's personality and mannerisms and this is down to the performance of Cate Blanchett. She really shows what she can do in this film and rightfully deserved the plenty of award nominations she received for best supporting actress.
I'm Not There Cat Blanchett
Christian Bale - Jack Rollins and Pastor John
Bale again shows his versatility by playing Jack Rollins and Pastor John (who is believed to be the older version of Rollins). Rollins character refers to Dylan's life just before the 'Jude Quinn' character portrayal period. It is a testament to his acoustic phase between 1963-1964. The Pastor John character refers to the re-incarnated Dylan in 1979.  Bale's performance was good - it felt like we did not get to see much of him which was a shame but what was shown was certainly not bad.
Heath Ledger - Robbie Clark
This is where it can get slightly confusing. Ledger plays Robbie Clark who is an actor. Simple enough but... Clark plays Jack Rollins in a biopic he is making. This part depicts a film within a film.  It is very clever once you get your head around it.  This character is used to show the personal life on Dylan - how his marriages came to be and subsequently broke up. Ledger gives a very powerful performance which was completed only two months before his tragic passing.  His performance as Clark truly shows how good he was. 
I'm Not There Heath Ledger
Richard Gere - Billy the Kid
Richard Gere plays a character referred to as Billy the Kid.  Gere's character is meant to show Dylan's life from the perspective of Dylan.  It shows the side of Dylan that did not want or desire the attention of the media and press.  The time period for this would be in the early 1970s.  Gere's performance is also good and the story that was portrayed was one of our more favoured ones.
Ben Whishaw - Arthur Rimbaud
This is a very interesting depiction of Dylan and can be seen as the most 'true'.  This is because Whishaw plays Arthur Rimbaud who throughout the film is answering questions from an interviewer.  All of Rimbaud's remarks and answers are real quotes that Dylan has made in his lifetime.  Again though, due to the amount of stories being told this one was
shown for a short amount of time and it would have been good to see more.
Marcus Carl Franklin - Woody Guthrie
Named after the childhood hero of Dylan, Woody Guthrie was played by Marcus Carl Franklin. This character also represents Dylan growing up and trying to understand himself and find his own identity as a person and as an artist. Franklin plays the role very well and was a pleasure to watch.
I'm Not There Marcus Carl Franklin
The film is very good although can be hard to follow.  We are Dylan fans and still struggled at times to follow what was being portrayed.  For any die hard fans this film would be incredible to watch.  However, that is not to say that people who are not fans should not watch it.  It is a great biographical film and is filmed in a different refreshing way to others and the soundtrack makes it all the more pleasant to watch.
M+F Rating: 7/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

jOBS Review: It Does Not Do Justice

jOBS Movie Logo
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
US Release Date: 16th August 2013
Running Time: 128 minutes
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, James Woods
There is a lot to say about "jOBS" the movie and unfortunately not all of it is good.  The film tells the true story of Steve Jobs, who co-founded, chaired and was CEO of Apple Inc.  A business entrepreuner, inventor and marketer - Jobs is credited for revolutionising the personal computer market and also was part of the development of some of the most popular technological devices that we have with us today.  To tell the story of a man who is clearly one of the most inspirational men to have lived in the last 50 years is a hard task for any person and we felt that "jOBS" the film did not do him justice.
It was always going to be tough. Portraying truth in film is something that has still not been mastered - by this we mean that there are different interpretations on how truth can be portrayed on the big screen and there is a whole debate that circles around the notion.  With a person like Jobs, it is sometimes easier to portray a true representation of their life because so much of it has been documented.  However, this does not always mean a film that claims to be a 'biography' or claims it is based on a true story is always is 'true.'  This is evident in Joshua Michael Stern's "jOBS" as reports hit the headlines about the credibility of the story after the film was released. It is unfortunate that such an awe inspiring story has this aroma around it. But this is the problem with portraying truth in film. Whose truth do you tell? Someone else's truth may be different to yours. But this is was makes film interesting.

jOBS Gad and Kutcher
Gad and Kutcher play Wozniak and Jobs respectively.

The film for us was a difficult one.  To review this film we had to separate the story that the film tells away from the film itself. This is because the story is not the film.  What we mean by this is that the story is true, its inspiring and shows the life of a great man, but it is not a creation of Stern's.  However, the portrayal of Job's life by Stern is and this we did not like.  The film itself has the makings to be an excellent movie.  First of all, you have excellent real characters - Steve Jobs and Apple Inc's co-founder Steve 'Woz' Wozniak. Although the film is based on Jobs - Wozniak features heavily due to his role in Apple and the friendship they had.  The problem we found was that the film did not flow. It seemed to jump around from place to place without ever settling enough for the audience to fully understand what was going on.  This meant that every time we saw Jobs, played by Ashton Kutcher, on screen, there was rarely time for him to actually connect with the other characters.  There were rarely any heavy scenes of great discussion or speech that added depth that was much needed.
This was disappointing in itself but Kutcher's performance made this film not a total flop.  We liked his portrayal of Jobs and found that he really worked well on screen.  His display of emotions, passion and frustration shone through and were actually very pleasant to watch.  It was good to see him play a more serious role compared to his usual comedic characters. Josh Gad, who played Steve Wozniak, also impressed.  On the whole, the cast were the silver lining - they each gave good performances and made the film better. 
If given the chance, you should definitely watch "jOBS." If you are unclear as to who Steve Jobs was or would like to know the story behind Apple, then this film does give a good account of that. The cast are pleasant to watch but do not expect to be knocked off your seat.  The story line is jumpy and sometimes hard to follow but you can get a good feel for the life of Steve Jobs.
M+F Rating: 6/10

jOBS Movie Trailer

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.