Connect with us

Film Reviews

Film Review: Philomena

Philomena is a wonderful, moving, surprisingly funny film.

Published

on

A wonderful, moving, surprisingly funny film.

Based on Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 novel The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, this latest feature from director Stephen Frears (The Queen) is at times heartbreaking, but perfectly balanced by a deep streak of humour. The comedic element shouldn’t be a surprise due to the involvement of Steve Coogan, who co-wrote and stars, but that it’s so prominent in such an emotional story, and that it works so well, is.

First of all this is a gripping story, with twists, turns and emotional blows along the way. The film begins with former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who’s just been unceremoniously fired from his Government press job. While considering writing books on Russian history, Sixsmith happens to meet the titular Philomena (Judi Dench) through her daughter, and learns the story that she’s kept a secret for 50 years, but can’t any longer: how a one off tryst as a teenager in Ireland led to a pregnant Philomena being abandoned by her father in a convent. There she was pressed into working in slave like conditions, giving up all rights to her child for the great sin he felt she had committed. She could only see her son for an hour a day, until he as taken away all-together, adopted by a wealthy couple.

Sixsmith had initially brushed off the idea of just another ‘human interest story’, but after hearing it is keen to pursue a tale involving lost children and ‘evil nuns’. At first it’s more for his and his publishers sake than of desire to help Philomena, but this changes as he and Philomena undertake a journey that takes them to Ireland, America and eventually the truth about the son that was taken from her.

The real heart of the film is Judi Dench’s Philomena. It’s a very powerful portrait that mixes deep-seated shame, regret and guilt with charm, courage, and a desire for the truth, not revenge. Coogan’s performance, while less impactful, is equally important, showing his quality as a dramatic actor that many would have not seen in him before. Philomena and Sixsmith make an odd pair, he the atheistic, worldly, somewhat amoral ex-political spin doctor; she the old working class woman who still clings to her faith and is astounded at the sight of little chocolates on pillows, but the chemistry between Dench and Coogan is marvelous, almost effortless. Frears directs simply but smartly, foregrounding the actors and the dialogue, and his weaving of time periods is fairly seamless, the use of old film giving the flash backs an expressive quality, which is excellently supported by Alexandre Desplat’s evocative London Symphony Orchestra-performed score.

While Alan Partridge will forever be Steve Coogan’s greatest creation, this funny, moving and at times angry film is right up there as his best work on page and screen, aided by a superb performance from Judi Dench.

PHILOMENA
Director: 
Stephen Frears
Starring:
 Steve Coogan, Judi Dench
Written by: 
Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Distributor: 
Hopscotch

Film Reviews

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a splendid coda to the Avengers

Save the world, save the girl?

Published

on

Spider-Man

Where do you go after Avengers: Endgame? The finale to an 11-year journey was always going to be a heavy exhale. But with much of the story finding conclusion, it was only natural that the next chapter would be something a little lighter, less fraught but still tense with importance. The question of responsibility and the burden of carrying it has been a fundamental principle of being a superhero in this universe, a burden that only continues in the final film of this phase. So where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go after Endgame? Well, on holiday of course. Spider-Man: Far From Home is not only a splendid film but a nice coda to the biggest cinematic undertaking we’ve seen in recent history.

You can find Spider-Man: Far From Home nestled in the cinematic landscape somewhere between Iron Man 3 and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, really solidifying himself as this generation’s best Spider-Man) is Clark Griswolding himself across Europe to chase the heart of MJ (Zendaya). As a bumbling 16-year-old who only wants to find the girl, his romance is cut a little short by the expected Marvel cinematic tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from our arachnid hero. Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Mysterio is a concerted effort; a cross between Tony Stark’s wise but too cool tutelage and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin (take that how you will). As the carnage across Europe unfolds, the film becomes a well-balanced juxtapositioning of the kind of humor we’ve found appealing within in the MCU and action and adventure that doesn’t become overly burdensome or heavy. Far From Home keeps things light and breezy, but you never forget the stakes or think that this is just a tacked on fling after the events of Endgame.

The cast are well rounded and the addition of Marvel players we’ve come to love (Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, Spider-Man sidekick Ned, and both Nick Fury and Maria Hill) makes it hit with almost the same gravitas as the previous films. But more importantly, they never make the film feel like an overstuffed mess that plagued outings like Age of Ultron. The pace is engaging, and as the story unfolds amongst the smoke and mirrors, you can’t help but feel a kind of comic book happiness that you felt through Homecoming. It’s charming, it’s earnest, it’s funny, and at times, doesn’t take itself too seriously (Spider-Man video game in-joke included!). Plus it has those little moments that while may have been written for fans, will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a touching moment, and good filmmaking. While the death of Tony Stark looms large within the narrative of the film, it doesn’t become baggage- but rather the catalyst for growth within Parker and helps propel the story to its conclusion.

However, one can’t help but feel that the continued presence of Tony Stark, and the reminder that he is gone, really does give this universe a sense of finality. If you stay for the end-credits (both scenes), you’ll know that Marvel has plans both big and small in the coming years. Far From Home is both the end and the beginning in a sense. It’s a nice coda to Endgame, and for some, probably a good place to step away from the past 11 years. Far From Home is also continued proof that heart and the desire to do good doesn’t always have to follow the same tired script. Save the world, lose the girl? Maybe not this time.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Colbie Smulders, Marisa Tomei
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Run time: 129 minutes

Continue Reading

Film Reviews

Film Review: Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film.

Published

on

Murder Mystery is the next film in the long line of terrible Adam Sandler films distributed by Netflix. At this point we’re not sure that Netflix actually watches these movies before they put them on their service but here we are. Murder Mystery, like many of the recent Sandler-helmed flicks, seem less like movies than they do lavish holidays that Adam Sandler and friends go on where filming of random skits tied together loosely by some semblance of narrative occurs. Much of the film is slapped together with the kind of duct-tape storytelling you’d find in all those mediocre SNL movies.

There is star quality though. Jennifer Aniston is back, after working alongside Sandler in 2011’s equally terrible Just Go With It, and they’ve roped in some pretty prominent names, including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit), Gemma Arterton, and a happily cashing in his check Terrence Stamp. What happens can be best described as stupid Cluedo, or more blatantly, a dumb Murder On the Orient Express where Sandler and Aniston’s characters, a bumbling New York cop and hair dresser, stumble upon a high-stakes inheritance-grab murder mystery where absurd things happen. It never makes much sense but the biggest problems with these movies are not so much the cartoony skits (Sandler’s cop is so bad at shooting his gun that when he does, it’s a cartoon-like hail of bullets missing their target), but just the insanely unbelievable characters that fill these movies. It’s OK to suspend belief, but at this point, you don’t believe for one second any of the characters would exist in real life or that any of them act like actual humans do. There is also no shortage of cartoon bozos: Fat New York cop sidekick? Check. Buffoony Inspector Clouseau French detective? Check. Overly Spanish Spanish guy? Check. Ali G Indian guy? Check. Even Gemma Arterton’s Jessica Rabbit-esque character would make Jessica Rabbit shake her head in disbelief. At least Rob Schneider isn’t in it.

Is it funny? No, but there are actually some moments worth a chuckle. And that’s already better than Sandler’s previous Netflix outings. Murder Mystery’s jokes are mostly at the expense of the exaggerated caricatures and Sandler’s goofy self, but for the most part, its pretty bereft of humor. To make matters worse, the film has that cheap Netflix sheen to it that makes it even more of a TV movie than it already is. In the end, the movie is such a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off that the end scene literally shows the Orient Express train. Unironically too.

Netflix’s has a serious movie problem- one that we’ve talked about before. Murder Mystery, is no different. You can’t fault Sandler for continuing down this path. Same goes for Aniston. Both have more than established their craft over the years that at times, you can’t help but feel envious of the position they’re in. So what if they just want to put their feet up, cash in a nice pay check, and enjoy the nice sights? Who wouldn’t?

Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film, but it’s what happens when we’ve given this much clout to Netflix. Spielberg had a point when he said Netflix movies shouldn’t be competing for Oscars. It is not only because they eschew theatrical traditions, but it should also be because they’re crap. And not even in the Spielberg Artificial Intelligence sense of being an average movie- but in the Lifetime channel level of crap. So really, when you think about, Murder Mystery is all our fault.

Continue Reading

Popular Things