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.

Andrew’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


This post comes from Andrew of The Stop Button blog. Thank you so much Andrew for getting involved!

Million Dollar Baby


Million Dollar Baby has a somewhat significant plot twist.
Well, it actually has a couple of them. And neither comes with much
foreshadowing. A little in Paul Haggis’s script, which director
Eastwood visualizes appropriately, but they’re in the
background. The film has its larger than life story to worry
about–Clint Eastwood as a stogy old boxing trainer taking on a
female boxer, played by Hilary Swank. Except she’s not a kid.
She’s a grown woman.

The film opens without cast title cards. Immediately, it’s
very smooth. Eastwood has a gym, Morgan Freeman runs it for him. There
are assorted goings-on at the gym involving the guys training there.
It’s a great supporting cast at the gym–Jay Baruchel, Mike
Colter, Anthony Mackie–but the gym is initially just where
Eastwood hangs out, not where he interacts. So instead Freeman is
telling him the goings-on, which does fantastic setup for their
relationship throughout the film. Only when Swank arrives does
Eastwood get forced to participate and only after prodding from
Freeman.

It’s great character development, funny, sweet, sincere.
Eastwood’s very careful not to push too hard on any emotional
buttons. He makes sure the actors’ emotions are authentic and
doesn’t lay it on with the filmmaking. Tom Stern shoots
Million Dollar Baby with crispness for the daytime scenes and
sharpness with the nighttime. It works as to how the performances come
across, how Joel Cox edits them. If it weren’t for how well
Haggis’s script works, especially how it integrates
Freeman’s narration, Million Dollar Baby might just be
one of film’s finest melodramas. Well, if Eastwood–who
does a lot in Million Dollar Baby as an actor and a
director–wanted to make a melodrama.

He doesn’t though. Instead, he makes this strangely small,
while still big, character study of three people and a location and
shared experiences. Most of the film takes place in the gym.
It’s the touchstone for the characters and the audience.
Eastwood and Haggis never wax on about the hopes and dreams of the
boxers at the gym–or even Swank’s. It’s not a
meditation on the sport of boxing. It’s this devastating human
condition piece, with characters revealing depths the entire length of
the film, both through scripted dialogue and the actors’
performances. All of the acting is great; Swank is the best, but
Eastwood’s the most surprising. You never once get the feeling
Eastwood ever has an idea of what he’s going to say to
Swank.

Freeman is great too, in the film’s most “of
course” sort of way. He gets to be a bit of a mystery and has
some fun with it. He narrates and he’s never untrustworthy or
anything, he just isn’t telling his own story and it turns
out–thanks to Freeman and Haggis–it adds to the film.

Eastwood also did the music, which is sort of unsurprising and also
fantastic. The music is perfect. It’s such a strange film, this
gentle American Dream rumination, celebration, and condemnation.
It’s always sincere, never cynical, never defeatist, but never
hopeful either. Eastwood’s filmmaking is focused character
study. The music is restrained and minimal.

So many different things are going on in the film at any
moment–whether it’s Swank’s Rocky story,
Eastwood’s aging one, Freeman’s supporting mostly wry one,
Eastwood and Haggis rely heavily on that Freeman narration. He never
disappoints. Million Dollar Baby is kind of a love letter;
all of a sudden I’m wondering how the script was written with
the narration or if it was cut together later.

Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman don’t reinvent the melodrama;
they just perfect the melodramatic character study. Ably assisted by
Haggis, Stern, and Cox. Million Dollar Baby is
phenomenal.

Damien’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


And the final review from Damien at Riley On Film. Once again, a huge thank you for your posts and for your enthusiasm!

Breaking Away


Grazie for this film! In a raw spirit of the late 70’s this film inspires and entertains and brings out the humanity in me. This is a “go to” film and will be until the day I die. A masterpiece you might say.

“A small-town boy obsessed with the Italian cycling team vies for the affections of a college girl.” -IMDB

Cast
Dennis Christopher Dave
Dennis Quaid Mike
Daniel Stern Cyril
Jackie Earle Haley Moocher

Directed by
Peter Yates

Written by
Steve Tesich

Other Info
Comedy, Drama, Romance, Sport
PG
Fri 20 Jul 1979 UTC
101min
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Known for An Innocent Man, Krull and Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, Peter Yates is the accomplished director who brought this vision to life. It’s college/career coming of age film with a gritty passion not seen much in the genre.

Dennis Christopher is pure oxygen as “Dave.” His plight is the plight of every young man in American between the ages of 16 and 20. I was right there with him. Hormones make you want to hump every girl you see and explore a new universe apart from what your parents have made for you at home. He’s a guy who’s ready to take on the world but the world won’t let him yet. There is a cast of thousands besides him including: Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Jackie Earle Haley Barbara Barrie, and Paul Dooley. They are ALL in top form in telling this story and MY how young the all look in 1979.

This film is the story of Dave and his friends just out of high school with nowhere to go. Their dads were “cutters” of concrete. They feel trapped in the identity. The film is about Dave finding himself. He pretends to be Italian to get girls and portray a more preferable identity. He also races a bike. Two strategic races make a metaphor for the content the film seeks to get across. Who are you when you’re young and who can you be when you choose to break away from assigned identity.

The italian classical music in this is uplifting. Dave is one of my favorite young men filled with angst in film as well as all literature. He is remarkable to watch. I feel like he is me, at that age anyway. The bike racing, the gang of guy friends stuff, the tension from his father to get out of the house, it’s all beautiful like a rainbow landing on ones face. I can’t say enough good about this film.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This film transcends time. It’s principles and contexts are so primal and universal to growing up and finding ones way in the world that it is truly timeless. I recommend to any and all, this is a remarkable “perfect” film like only a few others I have run across.

MovieRob’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


Here’s another review from the one and only MovieRob. Once again, thank you for taking part in this blogathon, you have been an asset!

We Are Marshal


“One day, not today, not tomorrow, not this season, probably not next season either but one day, you and I are gonna wake up and suddenly we’re gonna be like every other team in every other sport where winning is everything and nothing else matters. And when that day comes, well thats, thats when we’ll honor them. ” – Jack
Number of Times Seen – 3 (25 Dec 2006, Sep 2009 and 23 May 2017)
Brief Synopsis – After a tragic airplane accident that claims the lives of the local University Football team, the members of the community and school must find a way to heal.
My Take on it – This is a movie that has moved me so much each time that I’ve seen it.
I’m personally not the biggest fan of sports, but they take the idea of a sports movie to a completely different level.
This is a story that shows how so many diverse people are affected in differing ways when their worlds are torn apart by tragedy.
The question that they all must deal with is “How can you move on after such an event.”
The why is quite clear yet I loved the way that they show us both individual and communal healing process at the same time.
They also got to show us how far reaching this event was when we got to see some distant people and places and how they deal with the idea from a respectful and mournful way.
The cast is superb and each of the stars give us a slightly different perspective to see this communal tragedy from; we get the new coach, the surviving coach, the grieving father of the star quarterback, the fiancee of a player, a surviving player and also a University official.
Each of their stories are compelling and cathartic to watch.
Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Ian McShane, Kate Mara, Anthony Mackie and David Strathairn all are wonderful n this film.
The entire healing process of these characters (and others) is quite heartfelt mainly due to the fact that although none of the individuals are on their own in the process, each must deal with different issues and most of us can relate to at least one or more of the processes along the way.
This is truly a sports film with lots of heart and might even make you shed a tear or two.
Bottom Line – Amazingly emotional film that gives us a view of sport from the heart instead of just the plays on the field. The healing process described and shown here is truly heartfelt and there are numerous scenes that really wanna make you cry.  Loved the way that they focused on some of the individuals personally affected yet showed us how the whole event affected people and places away from the town and the respect they all gave while helping the healing process. Great cast led by McConaughy, Fox, McShane, Mara, Mackie and Strathairn who help represent the diverse types of people affected by this event. Highly Recommended!
MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – During training camp, coach Lengyl tells one player to “Head slap the shit out of him” if the opposing player goes for his knees. The NCAA and NFL banned the head slap in the mid 1970’s because of the head injuries it caused. (From IMDB)
Rating – Oscar Worthy