Tag Archives: Kristen Stewart

SCREENWASH: FILM REVIEW ROUND-UP including: CHRISTINE (2016), I, TONYA (2017), LADYBIRD (2017) etc.

FILM REVIEW ROUND-UP – MARCH 2018

Rather coincidentally I have watched a number of films recently with female lead protagonists and hopefully this harks a more progressive move toward equality in leading roles. As a humanist myself I applaud any movement which proclaims and pursues empowerment and equality to every human being. For far too long people have been oppressed, including women, and we must rid the world of prejudice and negativity based on gender, race, sexuality, health, shoe size, hair colour and looks in general.

Thus, in mild tribute to yesterday’s International Women’s Day I am reviewing some very different films where female characters are to the fore. In these reviews I will consider the characters and their strengths and place in their given setting and world; as well as my own subjective appreciation of the films. As usual the marks are out of eleven.

AMERICAN HONEY (2016) – SKY CINEMA

Andrea Arnold is an incredibly talented filmmaker and her films Red Road (2006) and Fishtank (2009) were bleak, honest and brilliant representations of working class British life. In American Honey she tackles the on-the-road-under-belly-working-class representations of American life with mixed results. Sasha Lane portrays Star, a young, transient and energetic character attempting to find hope, love and money on the oily, grimy roads of the USA. She joins a rag-tag troupe of magazine sellers led by Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough, who drink, smoke pot and fuck while crossing various States! Star’s character is naïve and feisty, and as she falls for LeBeouf’s charismatic Jake, she finds her life choices coming into question. Overall, this is a beautifully shot and directed film and Arnold gets some very interesting performances from an amateur supporting cast, but the film is TOO LONG and many of the characters are just too unlikeable and stoned to care about. With editing Star’s journey could have been even more fascinating but despite some enthralling scenes I struggled to connect. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

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CHRISTINE (2016) – SKY CINEMA

Christine Chubbuck was a Sarasota TV news journalist who became infamous for an incredibly sad act she carried out live on TV. I won’t reveal what is was for fear of spoilers BUT safe to say it was not pretty. Rebecca Hall portrays this complex character with an artistic and haunted beauty; with Christine’s character totally infected by stark depression. She just does not fit in as she seeks artistic more human stories at work and clashes with her ratings-seeking boss, portrayed sympathetically by Tracy Letts. Michael C. Hall as the handsome news ‘anchor’ also tries to connect with Christine but her mood swings, paranoia and punishing work schedule pushes her away from those around her. Family, friends, and colleagues all rally round but ultimately Christine’s depression defeats her. Rebecca Hall is brilliant as Christine and this is a very absorbing, character study which sticks in the heart and mind. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

CHRISTINE

GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) – SKY CINEMA

The ubiquitous Scarlett Johansson once again takes on an impressive kick-ass futuristic female role which finds her “ghost” inserted in to a computer-powered “shell”. Despite incredible visuals and fight scenes and Scarlett again proving a dominant screen presence the film is a let-down from a narrative and script perspective. There is a decent story in there as Johansson’s Major uncovers a nefarious murder plot being carried by evil corporations (is there any other kind?); but while looking pretty and carrying some impressive special effects this is an underwhelming adaptation of the original Japanese anime cult classic. (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)

I, TONYA (2017) – CLAPHAM PICTUREHOUSE CINEMA

Tonya Harding was an incredibly talented and driven ice skater who went on to represent the USA at the Worlds and Olympics.  She was also the first American female skater to perform two triple axel jumps in the same set. However, she also surrounded herself with and married fucking idiot men who ruined, along with her poor decisions, her career. As portrayed by Margot Robbie, Tonya is a potty-mouthed, bitter, energetic, unlikeable person yet effervescent and funny. Off the ice she continually chooses to go back to her abusive husband Jeff Gilhooly (impressive Sebastian Stan); while on the ice she skates with passion, determination, and brilliance. Steven Rogers script and Craig Gillespie’s direction present the story in mockumentary form with some comedy sketch-style cutaways which on occasion take away from the emotional core. Alison Janney is formidable as Harding’s hard-faced, pushy mother. However, it is her aggression and abuse which, while creating an incredible sportsperson in Tonya, also crushes all the love from the mother-daughter relationship. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

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LADY BIRD (2017) – CLAPHAM PICTUREHOUSE CINEMA

Greta Gerwig’s very personal rites of passage character study is a breezy, touching, emotional and funny hop through the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, as she navigates from High School to College. Lady Bird is a complex representation of young womanhood as her character is irrational, bitchy, kind, irritating, neurotic and somehow kind of loveable. Saoirse Ronan, Tracy Letts, and Laurie Metcalfe excel in a great ensemble cast and Gerwig’s script begins like a train with a flurry of very quick and funny scenes involving Lady Bird, her family, school friends and objects of desire. Later, notably with Lady Bird’s strained relationship with her mother, the film tugs at the heart strings to enthralling effect. Lady Bird has received a lot of critical acclaim and deserves much praise as Gerwig shows she is going to be a directorial talent to watch out for.

(Mark: 8 out of 11)

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PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016) – NETFLIX

Another ambiguous, cerebral arthouse film from filmmaker Olivier Assayas containing both thriller and ghostly elements. The haunted Kristen Stewart plays a grief-stricken individual who is both a psychic and personal shopper. Stewart’s character Maureen is a lost soul working a job she hates searching for closure.  While attempting to connect psychically with her deceased brother she is also stalked by an unknown person or “force”. As a character study the film works very well but I would have preferred the ghostly element of the story to play out emotionally as the other story did not successfully merge for me. I guess it’s open to interpretation but it felt like the filmmaker was telling two stories which did not hold together successfully. Stewart though imbues Margaret with a cold, distanced but powerful empathy and her fear and paranoia drives the story, notably in a couple of very creepy scenes. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – MAY 2015

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – MAY 2015

I didn’t watch that many movies in May as I have been theming my viewing to British TV productions, so it was quality rather than quantity this month and with a big Antipodean feel.

As usual Marks out of Eleven follow the little review.

***MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD***

BLACK SEA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE

Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, David Threlfall, Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley and a motley crew of Russians go down into the deep, dark recesses of the black ocean in search of Nazi gold.  This effective B-movie is essentially The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) set underwater. The cast are excellent plus there are some thrilling and suspenseful scenes as greed and nationalist rivalry poisons the water amidst a series of disasters which strike the crew. This is perfect viewing for a damp Tuesday evening while eating pizza and drinking a beer.  (Mark:  7/11)

CLOUDS OF SIL MARIA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE

This is the kind of intellectual-artsy-actor-fest that middle-class viewers and critics wank themselves lyrical about in the broadsheet press and online.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the triptych of performances from Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moritz and the filmmaker Olivier Assayas tackles some interesting themes about identity, modern culture, death, aging, and the nature of performance. However, it’s pretty one-paced and has a head-scratching Bunuelian turn at the end of the second act which made no sense; I imagine that was the point.  I didn’t even care enough to be perplexed as it just washed over me on the main with neither enough drama or comedy to get my teeth into. Some beautiful vistas and scenery though.  (Mark:  6.5/11)

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) – CINEMA

Apart from the moron-head who decided to eat crisps really loudly in the seat near me during the opening 10 minutes, I really enjoyed this wonderfully shot romantic drama from impressive filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg.  Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel it stars Carey Mulligan as the fiercely independent Bathsheba who goes against the social tide of the time and attempts to run a successful farm despite the backward sexual politics.

This is a romantic period drama that even blokes can enjoy as the subject matter eschews the fluffery of Jane Austen for the harsher side of rural life.  It’s Thomas Hardy-light with a brisk 120 minutes run through the narrative as Bathsheba is courted by three men of varying social standing and characterisation.  Performances are top notch, notably from Michael Sheen as the pained William Boldwood and ever-sparkling Carey  Mulligan. Matthias Schoenaerts, a striking Belgian actor, is also outstanding as the sturdy Gabriel Oak.   (Mark:  8/11)

GALLIPOLI (1981) – BFI – CINEMA

I grew up watching this film; usually on a Sunday evening on BBC2 and when I saw it was screening at the BFI I jumped at the chance to watch it. It is a heart-wrenching World War One story concerning the Western Australian men who left their families to fight against the Turkish army during the brutal conflict.  It follows two lads portrayed by Mark Lee and cusp-of-stardom Mel Gibson who at first are rival sprinters and then brothers-in-arms as they venture overseas to fight.

The screenplay is sinewy and powerful yet with much humour,  as it builds their friendship from the outback to the trenches culminating in a truly tragic final reel. Peter Weir announced further his credentials as a filmmaker of high quality and the cinematography by Russell Boyd is a wonder.  I also loved the use of music here which employs both modern synthesized pieces from Jean-Michel Jarre and marries it to more classical compositions by Strauss and Giazotto/Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor.  This is up there with my favourite Anti-War films of all time; majestic cinema at its peak. (Mark:  11/11)

MAD MAX (1979)/MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981) – NOW TV

I watched these kinda back-to-back with my teenage son and despite their age and low budgets both films stand up to further viewings.   In fact, George Miller’s seminal violent-explosive-car-chase-revenge-punk-urban-westerns are best watched as a double bill.

In the first film Max is a hardened road cop who wants out so he can be with his young family.  The roads have become a deadly place full of psychotic punks and sociopathic maniacs who rail against society without cause or reason.  When Max is left a shell-of-a-man he goes after the gangs which done him wrong with rage-in-his-eyes and hell in his soul.  This is an awesome film with more imagination, energy and pace than most bigger-budget blockbusters.

With Max’s character established so well the second film Miller throws an Apocalyptic curveball into the mix as we find future Max — a lone road warrior (aside from his Dog) — fighting even crazier road punks over ever-decreasing amounts of petrol.  Mel Gibson really shines as the amoral leather-bound-petrol-head who gets dragged into the outback carmegeddon between a group of settlers and baddies led by the helmeted Lord Humungus.  This film rocks big-time and is one of the greatest action-come-road movies ever and one which confirmed Gibson as a major movie star of the 80s! (Double-bill Mark:  10/11)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – CINEMA

Tom Hardy takes on the iconic Max Rockatansky role in this revved-up-mega-budget-future-shooting-guitar-flame-throwing-blood-draining-crash-smash-and-burn epic.  Haunted by past failure Max drives round the wasteland trying to survive. Suddenly he’s whisked away to be a mobile blood-bank at The Citadel and used to keep the cancerous War Boys alive with his pure blood. Enter Charlize Theron’s kick-ass Furiosa who is on a mission of her own to protect those she cares for from nefarious Immortan Joe; the Citadel Overlord!

There isn’t really any plot to speak of on the Fury Road but what you get is an incredible visual feast with carnage galore and some incredible stunts in a barren yet beautiful desert setting.  Hardy and Theron share great chemistry within the action and Miller executes some mesmerising moments of dialogue-free pure cinema. One may argue that it is style-over-substance but the style IS the substance. The concepts on show such as the flame-throwing guitar; moving blood-banks; mud-people on stilts; assorted pimped-up cars and souped-up weapons are what impresses. As such George Miller proves himself a visionary filmmaker who owns the post-apocalypse on screen making it a terrifying and stunning experience.
(Mark: 9.5/11)

MR TURNER (2014) – BLU RAY

I love Mike Leigh films.  Most of them anyway.  His unique slice-of-life style is quietly confident and steady and even if not much is happening one is often awestruck by colour, mood, composition, character and performance in his work.  Indeed, Timothy Spall is on terrifically grouchy form as celebrated painter J. M. W. Turner and the supporting cast is equally brilliant.

I was mesmerized by the film’s composition and the glacial pace worked in the films’ favour as Leigh paints (sorry) an honest picture of Turner’s later years, artistic process and his relationships.  I was surprised that the old dog was quite a philanderer but then again I didn’t know much about Turner if I’m honest.  This is like walking round a beautiful-looking moving gallery and just breathing in the genius of Turner, Spall and Leigh.  (Mark:  8/11)

NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) – BLU RAY

For my full review see here: https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/?s=nightcrawler

But to recap: this is a sensational pitch black character piece that allies a powerful script with violent social satire; all glued together by an Oscar-worthy lead performance from the ever-excellent actor Jake Gyllenthaal.   Indeed, he should have got AT LEAST a nomination for his performance as news-media-ladder-crawler sociopathic Lou Bloom.  On re-watch this film is just as powerful and I was in awe of the incredible script, great acting, cutting direction and black humour throughout.  Highly recommended.  (Mark:  10/11)

OUIJA (2014) – BLU RAY

This film is a terrible movie; probably the worst I’ve seen all year.  It follows a vague Final Destination structure as a series of college kids are wiped out by a demonic force that has “escaped” a Ouija Board. There are no redeeming qualities whatsoever and the most interesting fact I can tell you is that the original Ouija Board was in fact a game.  No, I didn’t know that either. Yeah, and the rights to the board game were owned by Parker Brothers and now Hasbro.  It was only in 1930s/40s onwards America that it was used by occultists and spiritualists. Who knows: perhaps people will one day be contacting the ‘other side’ using Transformers? You never know on this crazy planet!  (Mark 1/11)