Review – Molly’s Game

A film I’ve had my eye on for a while now is Molly’s Game. This one takes a look at the life of ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom, who made millions off the back of illicit poker games in LA and New York.

Well, I really liked it. Some of the thoughts I’ve seen haven’t been quite so complimentary towards this film, but while it had it’s flaws, none of these posed any major issue for me, which isn’t bad considering this is the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. I thought it told a great story about a woman who learned all she could about something and then made a life for herself out of it. Fair enough, as time went by, the dream fell apart a bit, but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m saying. If I’m completely honest, I personally found Molly’s Game as empowering, if not more so than Wonder Woman thanks to the film’s glorious protagonist.

Jessica Chastain is going to win an Oscar one day. Whether it’ll be for her performance as Molly Bloom, however, I’m not sure. She was delightful as the character, and I think she made it clear that the games were not about greed for Molly – at least, that wasn’t the sole motive. Chastain really humanised her and made it easy for you to not only like her, but to also admire what she achieved. I’d love to see some Academy recognition for her here, but I don’t think the film has had quite enough momentum behind it in order for her to get it.

Idris Elba actually played a blinder here as Charlie Jeffery. I say that as though I think the man’s a terrible actor – he absolutely is not. However, I don’t think he gets the same kind of quality roles on the big screen as he does on TV. With this film though, I think Elba put in what I suspect could very well be one of this year’s most underrated performances (an early shout, I know). He had some mega scenes as Charlie that showcased his talents superbly.

It was nice to see Kevin Costner back in a good film. I’ve got bit of a soft spot for the guy seeing as he played Robin Hood in one of my favourite childhood films. Him and Chastain shared one of my favourite scenes in the whole movie – one that has come under fire massively from some viewers. Yes, you have to question how he came to find Molly in New York as he did, but if you can get past that I think you can truly appreciate what a wonderful scene the two shared.

At the heart of this film is a fascinating true story. The mind boggles as to who some of the people involved in these games were. Some theories have emerged and I’ve a few suspicions of my own as to who may have taken part in Molly’s games, but part of the magic of this film is that the way it presents some of it’s characters does allow you to speculate quite a bit.

People who aren’t poker players (like myself) might fear that the film could go over their heads if it delves too deeply into the rules of the game. I didn’t find my lack of poker knowledge to be a huge disadvantage, although there was the odd scene where I got slightly lost. Nonetheless, I would urge you not to be put off if you think the same thing might happen to you – it really didn’t make much difference to my experience of the film.

I have to say that Molly’s Game is a winner for me. Chastain proves to us once again what a monster talent she is, and Elba gifts us with a dark horse performance. Both of these pair together to tell an intriguing story that held my attention from start to finish. Sorkin has done a wonderful job with his directorial debut, and I’d be very interested to see what he brings to us in future.

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Top Of The Lake is a top show


When a pregnant twelve year old girl seemingly tries to drown herself in a lake and then goes missing, New Zealand police must track her down and work out who the father of the baby is.
Tui Mitchum (Jacqueline Joe) is found standing in a freezing lake one morning whilst a school bus is passing. She’s taken straight to the school nurse, who is shocked to discover that Tui is pregnant. Tui is taken to the local police station where she is interviewed by Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) and then taken home, only to disappear shortly after. Robin knows that time is not on Tui’s side, and nor are the weather conditions. She must fight to find Tui as soon as possible, whilst also confronting some of her own demons from her past.

Top Of The Lake is a show that felt like it took the world by storm when it first aired in 2013. There seemed to be an awful lot of people kicking up a fuss about it when it premiered on BBC2 back then. It would seem that I am quite late in only jumping on the bandwagon with this one now. However, I’ve finally watched the show, and I have to say that whilst I was quite impressed by it, I can’t quite figure out why Top Of The Lake heralded such a dramatic response from people as I thought it was good, but not exactly mind-blowing.

I liked most of the characters in the show, and I thought the performances that went into them were pretty decent. Elisabeth Moss had a fair old crack at a New Zealand accent so at least the show didn’t fall on it’s face there. She played a good part as Robin. I liked the strength she showed, but also the fragility that lay not far beneath the surface of her character. 

David Wenham played Al Parker. He was the top dog at the police station that was the hub for the investigation. There was something dodgy about him from the start, but the way Wenham played Al meant that you kind of kept coming back to the idea that he might actually be an okay guy. It was hard to gage exactly what side he was on throughout the whole series, and then things took a real turn in the final 20 minutes of the last episode that confirmed who he was was. I liked Wenham’s performance all the way through because I never really knew where I stood with his character, and I personally think that’s always a good feeling for an audience to experience.

Alongside the characters, the main story was one of the strongest elements of the show for me. There were a few twists that I think worked really well and didn’t feel as though they had just been thrown in for the sake of being there. One thing that did cause me an issue was the subplot involving the womens’ cult. That didn’t come together as well for me as some of the other subplots did. I didn’t really see where that fit into the rest of the show, and I think it could easily have been discarded. However, it didn’t detract from the rest of the show, so I won’t complain too much.

One last thing I would like to mention is the scenery. It’s something that has a place in a lot of TV and film productions that take place in New Zealand, but it’s always so beautiful. In this show, it kind of became another character as well because so much of the investigation at the heart of the story hinged on the environment. It’s not hard to see why so many films choose to shoot there because it is glorious to look at.

So, Top Of The Lake – would I recommend it? I think so. It was a good TV show – definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen on the BBC lately (let’s face it, the last few years has seen a lot of absolutely garbage come from them) – and it felt really solidly made. I do believe that China Girl, the second season, will be as good as this one. It doesn’t feel like a fluke, if that makes sense. Anyway, if you haven’t seen Top Of The Lake and have a gap in your TV schedule, give it a bash. 

The Walking Dead got off to a decent start


A sheriff wakes up from a coma to find the world in ruins after an outbreak of some sort of disease.
Whilst on duty one day, Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and left in a coma. After some time, he comes round only to find that the world has changed beyond all recognition. Something that can only be described as a zombie apocalypse has occurred, and it’s not long before he finds himself in another spot of bother. Thankfully, there are other survivors, who Rick teams up with in a bid to survive.

I’m a bit behind on this one, but I’ve just recently started watching The Walking Dead. I’ve got the first season out of the way, and so far I’m liking it. There’s a good bit of action to be had, and it’s also very funny in places. The characters that I’ve been introduced to so far have shown a lot of promise, and I’m now eager to see where things go from here.

There hasn’t really been a stand out character for me yet. Obviously we have our hero in Rick, but I think he’s fairly standard so far. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how his relationships with some of the other characters develop as there’s already some tensions growing. I think that Andrew Lincoln has presented Rick well with his performance. It’s clear that a lot of emotion is bubbling away under the surface, and so I’m definitely very interested to see where things go from here on out. Norman Reedus’ character Daryl has definitely been the most entertaining so far – I do love those loose cannon types! What I like about him is you cannot tell what he’s going to do next, which always makes for a decent amount of unpredictability. One thing for certain, however, is that there is a lot more to come with all of these characters, so I’m watching this space for now.

The story has also been set up nicely. With this being the first season, there’s not a huge amount that it really delved into, but it has created a number of possible plot lines that I’m hoping will be explored further down the line. For example, the mysterious disappearance of Merle Dixon (who I was very surprised to see was played by Michael Rooker) is one I need closure on. I don’t believe for one minute that I’ve seen or heard the last of that. Then there’s also the tensions between Rick, his missus and his old partner Shane. I’m just glad to see there’s plenty of potential for where the show could go now, and so I can’t wait to get my hands on season 2.

A big shoutout goes out to the make-up department on this show. The zombies looked good! I’ve seen a few zombie films and I think these ones have looked the best out of all of them. There was something about them that made them seem a bit more undead than the others, and the noises they made were better too. After reading a little bit about the show’s production, I discovered that there is such thing as a Walker School, which would probably explain why these zombies were a cut above the rest.

All in all, my first experience of The Walking Dead has been a good one. This pilot season has set up the seasons to come very well, and there’s been enough hints given regarding what sort of things might be to come to capture my attention for a while long yet. I’m interested to see how the characters and their relationships develop, and to see who else they gather along the way. All I have to do now is find myself a copy of season 2 on DVD…

The long-awaited Kingsman sequel and why Elton John is a national treasure

When an attack wipes out nearly all of Kingsman, those left behind must join forces with another similar organisation in order to catch the culprits.
After Kingsman HQ is destroyed, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) have to call upon some extra help to find those behind the attack. Introducing Statesman, a sister organisation to Kingsman based in the U.S. They head over there, and it’s not long before they a few surprising discoveries. First of all, they find Harry Hart (Colin Firth) alive and fairly well. They also learn that there’s a new criminal mastermind holding the world hostage, and, of course, it is their job to put a stop to that. The two sides come together in an effort to save the world, and remain wonderfully stylish throughout.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a film we’ve all been looking forward to for quite some time, has finally arrived. Was it worth the wait? I’d say so. I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching it. It had all the fun and flair the first film had, and then some, plus a few extra bonuses as well.
I love Taron Egerton. I just think he’s lovely. He always looks so good as Eggsy, and he’s really great in the role. I think he nails the working class elements of his character, especially when it comes to many of the funnier moments in the film. It probably sounds really stupid but I love how he makes you believe his character has never forgotten where he’s come from. There’s a level of integrity that always shines through and it’s just a really nice thing to see.
All the other characters and performances were just as much fun the second time round. This goes for those we’d met before, plus those we were only just introduced to. Julianne Moore was a great villain as Poppy, and in all fairness, she had a point with what she was saying about the drugs industry. I thought the person she gave her character was brilliant because she seemed so sweet and innocent but really she was just… deranged. Her character was well in keeping with the Kingsman style and she was a great addition to the cast.
Some people have complained about how over-the-top this film turned out to be. The whole point of Kingsman is to basically just rip all those spy films that have taken themselves too seriously over the years to shreds. It is a spoof franchise, and if you can’t go overboard in this case then when can you? The reason I love these films, and why so many others do is because they’re super loud, ferociously entertaining, and everyone involved – whether that’s the actors, the film crew or the audience – has tremendous fun with them. Look at Elton John, for God’s sake. How brilliant was he? I’d said prior to the film that I hoped we’d see the Tiaras And Tantrums version of him in the film and I was not wrong. He was easily one the best things in this because he clearly embraced it and just totally got into it. I walked out of the cinema just thinking what a lad he was for throwing himself into the film with such gusto. I was well impressed!
The action was 10x bigger in this second outing, and as you might have gathered by now, I was all for it. The fight sequences looked amazing every time, and I fully appreciate the amount of choreography that must have gone into each one. They were just something I’d sit in awe of whenever they happened, and they definitely are one of the things that make the Kingsman films so special for me.
All in all, I have to recommend The Golden Circle. It was a fantastic watch, especially on the big screen I saw it on. The characters were brilliant, and the action was as gloriously OTT as I had hoped it would be. The cheeky comedy laced throughout was also wonderful, and Elton John was exactly who I wanted him to be in the film. I’d definitely say you need to see this film is you’re a fan of the first film. Ignore what some people are saying because this is terrific fun that is not to be missed.

My take on mother! (there may be spoilers, although I have tried to avoid them)


A couple’s blissful existence is disrupted when two strangers come to stay at their home.
I think that’s as far as I’m going to go with my synopsis of mother!. I feel as though if I go on to describe what happened in any more depth than that I may spoil it for people, and that is the last thing want to do, believe me. It’s a funny old film this – I left the cinema not having much idea of what I had just been subjected to for the past two hours, but after thinking long and hard about the film for the rest of the afternoon, I think I finally got it.

Neither of the two main performances here were what I’d expected. I watched the film because Javier Bardem was in it, and I’m a huge fan of his work. For some reason, I had thought he was going to be bit of a villain, but he wasn’t. Saying that, however, I wouldn’t have said he was exactly a good guy either. When you begin to understand the symbolism in the film, I think that this kind of portrayal of Bardem’s character was the best way to play it, because we do question whether or not the figure who he is possibly playing in the film is actually good. I’ve now just realised that a lot of what I say in this review is probably not actually going to make sense (if anything I say in any of my reviews ever does). Jennifer Lawrence also played a character that we generally wouldn’t have her down for. Lawrence has become known for playing strong female leads. In this, she was very meek for the most part, but gradually she got back to her usual self until in the end, she decided she’d had enough and destroyed everything. Both were good performances, but I’m not convinced they were my favourites from either actor.

On the surface, this entire film looks like a complete mess, I’m not going to deny that. As I said, I didn’t know what to think for a good while after the film. However, once you accept that everything in the film is symbolic (I think, anyway), you can hopefully start to make sense of it. I’m not going to go into every little detail, but if I say that Bardem’s character is supposed to be a metaphor for God you’ll hopefully begin to see what the whole thing is getting at, or at least what I thought it was getting at. The film is swimming in religious connotations, and maybe because of this it comes across as pretentious. But when you think about it, religion itself also tends to be that way inclined, so I think it is one of those rare occasions where a film’s own pretentiousness has worked for it.

In all fairness, I think mother! was sold short by the trailers – it’s not the film trailers make it out to be. It also was not as horrific as I had expected, although, granted, something does get eaten in the film that will mean you’ll never view baby back ribs in the same way again. There were definitely horror elements, but I think to pin this one down solely as a horror film doesn’t work.

Overall, mother! is a very strange film that will most likely mean nothing to anyone who takes what they watch at face value. As a result, this probably isn’t one for everybody, especially casual cinema goers. However, if you have patience and are willing to think about what everything actually means and represents after watching the film, you might find that you like it quite a lot. I for one was certainly not sure how to feel about spending £11 on seeing this film for the first couple or three hours after seeing it, but after a while, things clicked into place and I’ve now come to the conclusion that it was actually very impressive. Of course, that’s not to say that if you do get it, you’ll love it, but it definitely helped me to appreciate it on a whole other level.
If you’ve seen mother!, let me know what you thought – I think it’s a film that’s going to start some interesting conversations, and I really would love to hear what your impression was.

It will float your boat


A group of bullied school kids spend their summer investigating the disappearances of a series of local children.In October 1988, Ben’s (Jaeden Lieberher) littler brother went missing, and was never found. The following summer, a number of other kids start to go missing, and Ben is not able to ignore It (Bill Skarsgård) . He and his friends (all played by some cracking performers) join together to see what’s been going on, only It has his eyes on them first.

What. A. Film. I am a very happy person right now. It was brilliant! I’m finally able to say that I like horror films when they’re done right, and this thing didn’t put a foot wrong. I would honestly have not problem paying to see the film again this week.

The kids in this film were all brilliant. I loved all the characters, and the way each actor captured their own was really great to see. There was none of that cheesy, over-egged acting that can sometimes happen with younger performers, and that had been one of my main concerns after deciding to see the film. They each really understood the eccentricities and oddities of their roles, for example, Jaeden Lieberher nailed Ben’s stutter, and Finn Wolfhard got Richie’s ballsiness down to a T. I was also a huge fan of Sophia Lillis as Beverly. She fitted right in with the lads and wasn’t afraid to be different, and I really liked that. There was, of course, Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise too. He was excellent, getting the two elements of his character just right – the childlike side of him was hugely contrasted by the less friendlier moments, and both complimented each other really, really well. 

As I said at the start, this is a film that I’d happily pay to see again at the cinema. I think the atmosphere helped me to get into the film, but the other thing that worked well was the fact that I thought that It was actually scary. There’s a lot of shockers that happen – I’ve not read the book and I avoided trailers like the plague so had no idea what to expect. People who’ve been reading my stuff for a while will know I’m a jumper, and this film well and truly got me… many times. As always, it was a mix of the moments Stevie Wonder could see coming and those that were not as expected that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was very effective at building tension, but also at counteracting it with some massive anticlimaxes that persuaded you to let your guard down for a second. 

Alongside the horror though, there was plenty of humour, but not in the way that turned it into a comedy horror (I’d have felt quite let down had that have been the case). It was a style of humour that I can’t put a word to to describe, but I can say that it properly fitted the coming-of-age nature of the story and cast. Again, it helped to break the tension at points so you got a nice change in pace and it kept the film feeling fresh.

On the whole, I can’t recommend It enough. This is a film that has given be greater confidence in horrors, and has me very excited for a sequel that we better get sooner rather than later. I loved the characters, and thought the overall style of the film was spot on. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say this could be the best film I’ve seen so far this year, which is saying something.

Trust Me… it’s worth watching


When a nurse is fired for whistle-blowing, she has to take drastic action to provide for her and her daughter.
Catherine Hardacre (Jodie Whittaker) was a good nurse in a crumbling healthcare system. However, whilst trying to carry out her duties with integrity, she rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and this eventually cost her her job. In a bid to prove herself, she steals the identity of an old friend and poses as a doctor in Edinburgh, away from her home town of Sheffield, with the big question being this – how long can she survive in the huge lie she’s spun?

When I saw that the BBC was bringing out yet another medical drama, I rolled my eyes so hard that they nearly fell out of my head. I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, my mum had said the words, ‘Oh, that could be quite good,’ which basically translates to, ‘We’re watching that whether you like it or not,’ so I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. However, as much as it pains me to say it, mum did us a favour with this one. It was actually quite a bit better than I thought it would be, which has been a hard thing to say with new BBC dramas of late.

Doctor Who fans have a lot to look forward to if Jodie Whittaker is half as good as the Time Lord as she was as Cath here. You got a real sense of the desperation her character was experiencing, and this got better as time went by and the whole lie she was living unraveled. I liked the other characters who were placed into her story too. Andy Brenner and Brigette Rayne, played by Emun Elliott and Sharon Small respectively, both piled the pressure onto Cath, and were two figures who I think really enhanced the story. They were well written into it, and that is probably one of the things that made this show as good as it was.

The characters weren’t the only thing that was well written. The actual storyline itself was very good, and ratcheted up the tension nicely. There were so many things that could’ve gone wrong for Cath, and it was because of this that you could never be sure of when things were going to come crashing down for her. The short run of the show (which consisted only of four hour-long episodes) massively helped this side of things. This allowed so much scope for when exactly Cath could be found because it would’ve been very easy to make a story to fit. It was nice for them to not drag the show out until viewers zoned out for once.

On the whole, I enjoyed watching Trust Me. It was a lot better than I had thought it was going to be. This was largely down to the wonderful lead performance, but also the terrific writing that went into creating this show. Not only did it make for great prime time viewing, but with a bit of luck it has marked a turning point for the BBC after a string of productions that have been less than brilliant. If you didn’t catch the show, I’d recommend you rectify that as soon as possible because it was well worth seeing.