Not a fat lot of Room for improvement with this one

After spending the past five years locked away in a kidnapper’s shed, a little boy and his mother finally get out and are able to reacquaint themselves with the world.
When she was seventeen, Joy Newson (Brie Larson) was kidnapped on her way home from school. For seven years she was held hostage by her kidnapper in his garden shed, and gave birth to his child, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), after two years in captivity. Joy and Jack survived together for five years in the shed, until one day Joy decided the time had come where they had an opportunity to get out. She constructs an escape plan which heavily involves her son, and when the mission is completed, the two, especially Jack, find that things on the outside are more different than they expected. 

I’d heard that Room was supposed to be a phenomenal watch, and I had also heard that it had brought a tear to the eyes of many viewers. To be honest, I’m surprised that it has taken me until now to see the film, but I will say that after finally seeing it, that wait has been well worth it. I will also say that the film manage to stir up emotions within myself that I was not even sure existed. If you’re in the mood for a full on ugly cry, this is probably a film you should consider.

There are some incredibly powerful performances in Room, brought to you by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The two of them got the whole mother/son dynamic perfect, and it felt like a really authentic relationship for the entire time you were watching them. Larson nailed the patience needed by Joy whilst she was locked in the shed, and the innocence shown by Jacob Tremblay as Jack towards the idea of a huge world outside of his own existence was clear to see. I found that it was Tremblay’s performance that provoked the greatest reaction from me at various points throughout the film (one such point was when he set eyes on a real dog for the first time, I’m still not over it). However, the scene where Joy was reunited with her father for the first time since she disappeared was also a significant one for me, and once again, tissues were needed.

I have to whole-heartedly praise Emma Donoghue for her writing of both the novel and the screenplay, and with that I also take my hat off to whoever had the idea of keeping the same writer for both. The emotions that are brought to the surface by the characters she created are like a punch in the face. There is no escaping them, meaning even the most hardened non-criers such as myself find themselves reduced to tear stained ruins by the end of the film.

Director Lenny Abrahamson did a fantastic job with the making of this film. I’ve read about all the struggles that were presented to the cast and crew by the task of filming such a huge proportion of the film in the confines of the shed that Joy and Jack were kept in. It does not sound as though the first month of filming was a breeze. However, I think Abrahamson’s belief in the story was shown by his persistence and determination that they would succeed in filming those scenes within those four walls, which, if you are aware of it, I think gives you even greater faith in the film as you watch it.

So, would I recommend Room? Well, it’s not remotely like anything that I’ve personally watched before, nor has any other film made me such an emotional wreck on numerous occasions before. The performances are on a new level altogether (I forgot to mention it, but Larson won a Best Actress Oscar for her part, although I’m sure you already knew that), and really work to bring to life the feelings that the script is absolutely sodden with. I’ve already been recommending it to people, and I wouldn’t think twice about sitting down to watch it again myself. 

Wonder Woman has given the DCEU a new lease of life

Diana, princess of the Amazons and trained warrior, discovers her full powers and true destiny fighting a war in the outside world.
Diana (Gal Gadot), princess of the Amazons, was raised on a sheltered island. She spent her time being trained to become an unconquerable warrior, although the hope had been that she would never have to use her skills. When army pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the secluded island one day, he brings news of a war to end all wars. Convinced that the war is the work of Aries, the god of war, Diana decides to use all she has learnt in a bid to take down Aries and put an end to the fighting, and in doing so, she discovers more about herself than she ever knew existed.

Besides the blogathon that has been taking place, normal service hasn’t really been occurring here for a while – blame the final round of exams I was having to take. However, it would appear that school has officially ended, and so have the exams, which means one thing; I am back. It seemed only right to mark the occasion with a couple of new releases, and to properly kick things off I bring you my review of Wonder Woman. People have made a big fuss of this film for good reason. It is an incredibly empowering film that had such an effect on my best friend that it brought her to tears at least four times. 

I can’t say that I’ve seen any other versions of Wonder Woman besides this one, so I have nothing to compare Gal Gadot’s outing as the heroine to. However, what I can say is that her portrayal of Diana is up there with Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft as one of my favourite female heroes to have graced the big screen. What I liked so much about the character was she was very human. The events that she witnessed deeply affected her, and Gadot made this so obvious to the audience. It honestly was so good to watch a female lead saving the world without her feeling the need to hide her emotions from her male counterparts so as to be taken seriously. She kicked ass quite spectacularly as well, we cannot forget that.

For me, since watching Chris Pine in Hell Or High Water, I’ve welcomed his presence in films with open arms. His performance was Steve was excellent, and what made it so was that it didn’t in anyway overpower Gadot’s Diana. In fact, it was very complementary of it, and this became apparent in the series of exchanges that took place between Steve and Diana throughout the film. I personally struggle to picture anyone else in the role because Pine has a subtlety about him as an actor that I think means he quite often goes under the radar with audiences and directors. Besides the Star Trek franchise, he’s not been in many huge films, and it is this quality possessed by him that meant he worked so well in the role here.

The next thing I have to talk about is the wonderfully crafted fight scenes, and the very effective use of selective slow motion. It really helped take the fighting to another level, and allowed us all to revel in Wonder Woman’s fierce physical prowess. Rather than the most impressive moves being over and done with in a fraction a second, everything was slowed down right at the pinnacle, letting the audience just bask in all it’s glory. I think this was a terrifically smart move on director Patty Jenkins behalf, as was much of what she did with the film. She knew what she wanted to achieve with this film, and she most certainly succeeded from where I’m standing.

So, you might have guessed it already, but I was very pleased with Wonder Woman. If anyone was to ask me, much of it’s success has been down to the fact that it was very much left to the girls – a female director, a brilliant lead actress, and a series of male stars who seemed to realise that this wasn’t their film, if you understand where I’m coming from. I also think it’s fair to say that Wonder Woman has allowed DC the opportunity to give us a few more films and hopefully turn things around for their comic universe. However, regardless of whatever happens, I reckon Wonder Woman will stand alone as a landmark film for the simple fact that it was quality cinema for everyone to enjoy that happened to be led by women – something that doesn’t seem to happen often enough. However, things might start to change following this (fingers-crossed!).

And, finally, the final of the Play To The Whistle Blogathon!

Over the past month, myself and Josh from Reffing Movies have been hosting our little Play To The Whistle Blogathon. We wanted our blogathon to stand out from all the others that have taken place, and so we introduced a slightly competitive element after Josh had a wonderful idea (really, I can take no credit for it!). 

Well, after numerous Twitter polls, we have a winner. I am delighted to say that Robb from Red Bezzle Brand has come out on top as the victor in this blogathon with his glorious review of The Wrestler. It was touch and go for a while as to who of the four finalists would reign victorious, but in the end, he won fair and square. Robb’ review of The Wrestler was fantastic, and if you haven’t already, I’d suggest you check out more of his work over at his site.

Many thanks as well to everyone else who took part in the blogathon. You all know who you are and I am not lying when I say that the whole thing would not have been possible without you. I am so happy you all took part and I hope that if ever host something like this again, you’d all rejoin me (I won’t speak on Josh’s behalf but I think he’d *hopefully* say the same thing).

And finally, I would like to thank my co-host/creative director in this project, the Movie Referee himself. Josh, I was thrilled to find a fellow rugby fan in the film reviewing world, and it was this that had me think you would be the ideal partner in crime for this venture as I’d planned to tie it in with the Lions Tour. Thanks for helping out, and going along with whatever mad plans got made right at the very beginning that never quite materialised. As Vinnie Jones once said, it’s been emotional.

Right, I think I’ve dragged this thing out long enough now, don’t you? Until the next blogathon, folks, take care!

You won’t want to make a quick getaway from Baby Driver

A coerced getaway driver finds himself caught up in a heist that is doomed to fail.
For a while, Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been the getaway driver of choice for Doc (Kevin Spacey), who considers him a lucky charm. Baby has undertaken a series of jobs which have all been successful, with little interference from the law. However, he didn’t get into that line of work by choice, and with his debts almost paid off, it’s not long before Baby will be a free man. Unfortunately though, the true nature of the contract he entered into with Doc soon becomes clear when Baby is called out of retirement, and the life of his new-found love, Debora (Lily James), is threatened. With this at stake, Baby agrees to take on a heist with Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), and it is set to be the biggest job ever pulled off, meaning the risks are higher than ever before too.

Set to be possibly THE biggest blockbuster of the summer, if not this year, is Edgar Wright’s latest project, Baby Driver. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this film, with the hype reaching it’s peak this week. All I can say is this film is a real crowd pleaser – there is something for everyone dotted throughout the action, the comedy and the teensy-weensy bit of romance, so I cannot recommend it enough. However, I must say that this conclusion was only reached based largely upon the second half of the film purely because that was the part of the film I was fully tuned into due to an incident that occurred at the start of the film (but we won’t go into that because this is a review of the film, not of my experience at the cinema). All I’ll say is if you don’t feel I’m doing the film complete justice with this review, please forgive me.

The mix of characters in the film is brilliant. There’s a number of different personalities that make every scene in the film enjoyable to watch. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t find Baby to be the most exciting character in the film, but I found that in the scenes where he really came alive, Ansel Elgort nailed the performance. Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey, so you know his character is going to be wonderful to watch anyway, and he fully delivered as Doc, who I likened to Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs with the way he planned the jobs and kept everyone in check. Jamie Foxx also did as was expected of him as Bats, who waded in with a considerable amount of ego. Surprisingly enough, I also was quite a fan of Lily James’ character, who clearly was prepared to do anything for Baby. My favourite character has to be Buddy though, who was brought to us by the delightful Jon Hamm. People may or may not know by now, but I love a good villain, and he ended up being just that. 

There are some huge chase scenes to be found throughout Baby Driver (as you’d perhaps hope), and I know for a fact that there was definitely one that lasted for the best part of five minutes where I sat forward in my chair, mouth wide open, holding my breath with my eyes glued to the screen. It was fantastic! That, of course, wasn’t the only chase in the film, but for me it was the most memorable, and most certainly the one that got the adrenaline flowing.

Edgar Wright has done a very good job with this film. As I said to start with, this will suit the broadest of audiences because it is such a mixed bag. Personally, I think the highlights were the perfectly choreographed chase scenes (yep, those again) and the more comedic moments that also frequented the film. It was genuinely very funny in a number of places in a way that I think would survive multiple watches. Such a mixture kept the film feeling fresh for the entirety of it’s duration, so watching it didn’t feel like a huge endeavour, and the time flew by.

All in all, I can only side with those people who are tipping this to be one of the films of the year. Baby Driver proved to be a highly entertaining ride, even after the situation that occurred at the beginning which we shall not speak of. I may have to have a second viewing of the film in order to get the full experience and in order to provide you with a review that will give a truer reflection of what I thought. In the meantime, all I can say is you should probably seriously consider seeing Baby Driver at some point before it leaves cinemas, although I think it’ll get a good run given the majorly positive response it has received.

Gill’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon

Here we have a review from Gill from Real Weegie Midget Reviews. She has recently taken on a new venture called 2 Quirky Cats with Catherine of Thoughts And All Sorts. I wish you the best of luck for that project, and thank you for sending this post my way.

Eddie The Eagle

A feel good biopic of Eddie Edwards, the beloved British Olympic ski jumper who reached the height of fame in the 1988 Olympics.
So Darlin’ husband raided the local DVD hire shop and came back with a couple of Huge Hugh Jackman movies. One was a major disappointment, the other was a surprising delight. The former film being a Superhero movie, X-Men Apocalypse (2016) which was yet another of their origin films (yawn) which lasted hours but felt like days. Luckily my perceptive husband realised that I too was flagging after the first two hours and riffed the rest of the movie. This made it much more bearable, as did spotting Jackman and Stan Lee in their appearances, which have to be their least fun ever. The established cast also seemed to be getting lethargic too. Michael Fassbender appeared to resort to hamming it up Shakespearean style and Jennifer Lawrence looked like she was pissed off with everyone. All the time. Period. The younger cast were more enthusiastic but maybe its just because they were cast in a Marvel movie. Yay! (?)
The latter film was the now reviewed sports biopic, Eddie the Eagle (2016) which to my relief was labelled a comedy-drama. This film starts in 1973, with young 10-year-old Eddie Edwards telling his mum (Jo Hartley) he’s made his best time ever in holding his breath underwater. He then says he’s going to represent this skill in the Olympics. His mother (Jo Hartley) is happy for him and encourages him in his dream. Conversely, his dad Terry (Keith Allen) is more cynical dismissing it as an Olympic obsession and not a real career. It is revealed that young Edwards has a physical disability in his knees which he slowly recovers from over the next five years. After attempting a variety of sports as a teenager, the hapless clumsy kid fails in all. Then after spying an outdoor ski ramp, Edwards changes his goal to appear in the winter Olympics. His dad wants him to give up his dream and be a plasterer.
Then flashforward to 1987, Edwards changes into Taron Egerton and is one of several hopefuls for the downhill Olympic ski team. He doesn’t qualify due to the snobbish Olympic selector holding Edwards’ working class upbringing against him over his obvious talent. So the determined Edwards leaves for Germany to further his goal, which now is to better the British record made 60 years previously for ski jumping. There he is given free bed in lodging by the kindly bar lady of the ski centre but is mocked by the other professional skiers including his Finnish idol. He meets the snow groomer, Bronson Peary who is played – in a delightful slow panning up shot – is revealed as Hugh Jackman. It is revealed that Peary was an Olympian ski jumper and the protegé of a famous skier, Warren Sharp (a clue to this actor’s identity later). Peary is now bitter having left this sport after a disagreement with Sharp, with a drinking problem but a sardonic sense of humour luckily lost on Eddie. However a lovely bromance between the two develop after a bar fight, Peary reluctantly coaches Eddie with the aim to help him qualify for the Olympics in an upcoming qualifying session…
The reminder of the film can be revealed in the usual ways but I would certainly recommend it. Watching this feel good movie, with Jackman taking a well deserved break from being Wolverine and the infectious enthusiasm of him and his co-star Egerton this was like a breath of fresh air. Egerton – who I last saw in Legend (2015) as Ronnie Kray’s pretty boy boyfriend – was unrecognisable. He totally transformed himself from boy band extra into Edwards by almost gurning throughout and with Edward’s 1980s spectacles propped annoyingly on his nose. Jackman had some delightful dry comic lines and quips which made his Peary character more and more endearing as the film progressed. There was also a lovely scene with both these actors where on coaching Edwards, Peary explains the technique as making love to his favourite actress with an indirect reference to a some movies from the 1980s. This leads to Peary demonstrating his pre and post orgasmic technique – waiting for the mash-up of this and the famous When Harry Met Sally (1989)’s scene – and catching Edwards in a jump – reminiscent of Dirty Dancing (1987). It was nice to see a few nods to other movies such as Cool Runnings (1993) and movies of the Northern working class boy wins parental pride ilk in namely Billy Elliot (2000).
The more awful fashions of the 1980s were evident, until this film I’d forgotten about the garish jumpers and their colours from this time, Jo Hartley’s wardrobe was exceptionally tastlessly 1980s but with her enthusiastic performance as his supportive mother even outshone them. The fashions were accompanied by a feel good 1980s soundtrack with new and old songs from many 1980s acts. The film surprises you from all angles – and that doesn’t just include the terrific camera shots as you see the view from some bloody high ski jumps – with a couple of cameos, a Flying Finn and a Norwegian coach ably played by Rune Temt. However, Darlin’ husband felt in line with the more bizarre casting choice not mentioned, he should have been played Will Ferrell who this Norwegian coincidentally resembled.  The film engages you from the start – despite the familiarity of the story – as young Eddie aims to reach the heights of Olympic glory until reaches the pinnacle of his success. His enthusiasm and determination for a British Record as to him it truly was the taking part in the Olympics more than the Gold medal that he was interested in. It is important to remember, this is another film based on a true story with a couple of fictional characters with one being a Huge, Hugh part and one a Walken cameo.

Weeper Rating:  /10
Handsqueeze Rating:            /10
Hulk Rating:      /10
Bonus Trailer:  Yes

Anand’s Second Cap For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon

Anand from For The Love Of Movies sent in two reviews for this blogathon. Here is the second. Thank you again for your contributions Anand.

Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams is one of the great cinematic experiences of my lifetime. Its length gives a good sense of the passing time and lets us feel an intimacy towards the hopes and aspirations of its characters. Although a documentary, Hoop Reams has more of a cinematic appeal because of the intrigue factor missing in most of the documentaries.

The tale is of two African-Americans William Gates and Arthur Agee who aspire to become NBA champions. As the tale progresses, the two tales oscillate between being poles apart and morphing into one another. This is a classic underdog story which hasn’t lost its appeal since it was released in 1994. It may be because of the gritty realism in Steve James’ storytelling. He doesn’t shoot with any preconceived ideas, as if to project it as an emotional drama or underdog story, he just lets wheels of fate work its motions and captures it unadulterated. Hoop Dreams is more of two characters realizing how easy it is to dream and how distant the dreams actually are.

The underlying theme also explores the American education system and its flaws and how its structure forces poverty-ridden kids to continue to live in the rut and monotony of life. The coaches and relatives win our hearts with their pragmatic testimonies, where they express their insecurities about the dreams of William and Arthur, yet never let these insecurities transpire before them.

Both William and Arthur never became NBA champions. William became a pastor while Arthur started his own clothing line. The movie, therefore misses the third act, where the character finally tastes sweet success. And good for the viewers too, for it gives a message that most sports movies seem to skip out on, that just because someone doesn’t make it to the top, it doesn’t give us an excuse to not remember them. It is broken dreams and aspirations that make a sport rather than the success stories.

Darren’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon

Darren of Movie Reviews 101 is yet another critic extraordinaire to take part in this little blogathon. It’s been great having you onboard Darren, thanks for taking part!

The Fan

Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Phoef Sutton (Screenplay) Peter Abrahams (Book)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Patti D’Arbanville

Plot: An all star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

Verdict: Enjoyable Thriller

Story: The Fan starts as baseball MVP Bobby Rayburn (Snipes) joins to San Francisco Giants on a lucrative contract to be the highest paid player in the league. We also meet diehard baseball fan Gil Renard (De Niro) who is over the moon with the latest signing believing his team could go all the way this year but is on his last legs in his job as a salesman.
When Gil’s life starts crashing around him, he loses his job, gets a restraining order from his kid and even his beloved team isn’t performing he starts to reach into dark places. On the field, Bobby isn’t reaching to levels of expectation with Primo (Del Toro) outshining him in the games, with this we see how both men are not having the best time in their lives.
When Gil becomes obsessed with trying to help Bobby find his form, things take a dark turn with potentially deadly consequences.

Thoughts on The Fan

Characters/Performance – Gil is a true extreme diehard sports fan, he makes sport, in this case baseball the most important part of his life. He has been struggling with his job and family life which has pushed him over the edge. Bobby is the typical arrogant overpaid sports star who believes he can walk into any team and become the star attraction, when things don’t go his way, he struggles with the fan backlash when he hits a slump.
Performance wise, Robert De Niro is fantastic in this role with the final third of the film showing all of his skills on the psychotic levels. Wesley Snipes also brings the cocky sports persona from White Men Can’t Jump to the next level with his performance. The rest of the cast are all great, with always reliable performances from John Leguizamo and Benicio Del Toro
Story – We all know how certain fans can go to the extremes when it comes to supporting their team, we all know how the star player can sometimes find themselves getting the fans turn on them. So what happens when a fan goes too far, what happens when a star breaks his slump for his own change rather than because of the fan? Well this shows us just what could happen and in a very stylish way.
Action/Sports – The action is mostly based on the suspense of the film with the sports drama side coming from how the extreme fans can act.
Settings – San Francisco is the most part for the setting which shows us how difficult it could be to get by, the difference between sports players and fans as well as the amount of people an average person could blend into.
Final Thoughts – This is one of the most interesting twists on sports drama, seeing the extremes we could see a fan go to for a player and a team. This does start slightly slow but I do feel that helps build the characters for the final third of the film.

Overall: Great sports drama that has the intensity needed for the story.