Monthly Archives: June 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster jenkins

Is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? She can act, she can sing and has won several awards. In her most recent role she is set a new challenge- to play someone who is completely devoid of talent.

Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep), a New York Socialite in 1944 New York, loves music and her passion for operatic singing is indulged by her friends and her younger hsuband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). However while Florence believes a great deal in her singing ability she is in fact-as her new pianist Cosme McNoon (Simon Helberg) quickly realises – completly tone deaf.

There’s probably another film that could be made about Florence Foster Jenkins, one that would show her less sympathetically. A more critical, less gentle film that questioned if Florence knew more about her critics than the film suggets. It may also portray Florence as someone who uses her wealth to do whatever she wants no matter her actual musical worth. But it’s doubtful that film would be anywhere near as entertaining as director Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins.

It is a bit redundant to say Streep puts in an excellent performance as Florence, after all it is Meryl Streep. Yet again she pulls off a fabulous performance working against her instincts as a good singer to play someone who has no idea how terrible a singer she really is. The scene where we hear her sing for the first time is one of the funniest scenes of the year so far. It’s not just how off tune she is either, it’s the reactions of everyone around her, particularly from Cosme (Helberg gives some great reaction shots throughout the entire movie).

Underneath the comedy there is a saddness and tragedy in Florence’s path, it is this that gives the film an added poignancy and makes Florence more than just a deluded figure of fun. While Streep is the key ingrediant in the movie her co-stars are also vital in making the film work. Grant gives one of his best performance in years, convincing as a loving husband paying off the critics in order to protect his wife while also having a mistress (Rebecca Furgeson-also great). Helberh is also very funny as the pianist who can’t believe what he has to work with.

Nowadays the likes of Florence Foster Jenkins wouldn’t be able to hide from the critics and we’d be laughing her off the stage like an audience for the X Factor. However there’s something to admire about someone who loves to sing that much. As the real Florence once said “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

Rating 4/5 – top note performances by all in this often funny, sometimes touching look at the world’s worst opera singer

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 10: The Winds of Winter

Game of Thrones S6 Episode 10

After six seasons Winter is finally here, and everything is changing in Westeros. It’s hard to know where to begin.

It’s the day of Loras Tyrell and Cersei’s trials, and Loras confesses to everything in order to get a ‘light’ sentance of giving up his wealth and his title, never allowing to marry and having to be branded by the Sparrows. As Margery watches on horrified she notices that Cersei is nowhere to be seen. Indeed while everyone else is at the Sept, Cersei is setting her plans in motion, first organising for Pycelle to be killed by Qyburn’s little ‘birds’. Quite horrifying seeing all the chidlren stabbing the old man. But thats not all she has planned.  As the Mountian prevents Tommen leaving the Red Keep you just know something really bad is going to happen and it’s not long until we relaise what that is. As Lancel looks for Cersei, he realises too late that there’s wildfire under the Sept. Margery, fearing the worst from Cersei’s late arrival tries to get everyone to leave but the High Sparrow doesn’t listen to her. As the Wildfire goes off, it destroys the Sept killing the High Sparrows, Margery (NOOOOOOOOOOO!), Loras, their father, Lancel as well as the sparrows and many inocent people.

There was speculation that Cersei had discovered the wildfire and such a weapon was never going to end well in Cersei’s hands. However she doesn’t forsee what seeing such an event will do to Tommen and in his grief he throws himself out of his window. I didn’t think Tommen would survive the season but I’m gutted Margery is dead (or is she, we didn’t see her die-but I expect she is dead). She was one of my favourite characters and I loved her relationship with her grandmother. I couldn’t even enjoy the death of the High Sparrow, and everyone knows how much I’ve been waiting for him to kick the bucket. As Jamie returns back and sees the destruction he’s just in time to see Cersei  taking the throne and so Westeros has a new Queen. God help everyone!

In Winterfell Davos finally confront Melsiandre about the fate of Shireen and makes her confess to Jon what she did. While Davos (understandably) wants her executed Jon exils her south. I think this is a smart move by Jon, as you never know when she might come in handy although surely Davos is going to have to kill her eventually in revenge for Shireen?

Meanwhile Jon and Sansa discuss the events of the battle and Jon tells Sansa that her actions saved everyone but urges her that they have to be honest with each other if they are goign to survive. He wants her to lead Winterfell as Lady Stark but Sansa tells Jon he’s just as much a Stark as she is. I love that they are trying to work together and not be involved in a power struggle. Littlefinger tries to push Sansa towards being a leader and also tells her how he dreams of being the King on the Iron Throne and wants Sansa by his side. Really Littlefinger? After all you’ve done you think she’s going to be ok with that? Naturally Sansa is not impressed though Littlefinger tells her he is still loyal to House Stark. I’m not surprised Sansa is dubious considering his history. Later Jon and Sans have a banquet with the Wildings, the Kinghts of the Vale and the Houses of the North. Jon tries to tell them that there is still a war to fight but many of the Houses are unsure whether to follow. That is until Lady Lyanna Mormont speaks up for House Stark. It was great seeing the Lords shamed by a little girl, and her words are so powerful it causes everyone to pledge loyalty to Jon, naming him the White Wolf and King of the North. It was a lovely moment seeing Jon welcomed by the other Houses considering his previous treatment of them because of his heritage. But Littlefinger is going to be a problem I can tell.

For a bit of light relief we see Sam, Gilly and baby Sam arrive at Oldtown and report at the Citdel. One of the men there mentions how they still have Mormont as the Commander of the Night Watchin their records-oh how out of date their records are! They also release White ravens to signify winter is here, news of which reaches Sansa and as she tells Jon the news a rarely seen smile spreads across his face. As he says to Sansa their dad always said it was coming! About time!

Meanwhile Walder Frey celebrates the recapture of Riverrun by holding a banquet. After everyone leaves a serving girl brings him a pie and he wonders where his sons are. As the girl repeates that his sons are here it took me a moment to realise what she meant. I think I actually gasped. That she reveals what I suspected, that Frey’s sons have been murdered and baked into his pie. She then removes her face to reveal herself to be Arya! I did not see that coming at all! I thought it would take her forever to get back. She then murders Frey. I’m glad that after all this rubbish in the House of Black and White we finally get Arya back doing what she does best-getting revenge! And what glorious revenge it is.

Bran also gets another vision back to the Tower where he saw his father searching for his sister Lyanna after the death of the Mad King. As she lays dying she gives Ned her son to look after as his basterd-the scene then cuts to Jon! One of the biggest mysteries around the series-who is Jon Snow’s mother-has now been revealed! I had heard this theory a while ago that Ned was not his father and actually belonged to his sister.  I’m not sure if it is confirmed who his father is yet though so will be interesting to see what the show reveals to us.

After the deaths of her family members Olenna Tyrell goes to Dorne looking for revenge. She also insults the Sand Snakes and puts each one in her place. It was almost worth having the Sand Snakes back for that alone. Ellaria Martell then offers an alliance and a figure emerges from the shadows-it’s only Varys brokering a deal between the two houses and Danerys against the Lannisters! With them three and Yara Greyjoy altogether it’s great to see strong women (and the Sand Snakes) coming together to see off the Lannisters. As Danerys prepares to leave Meereen I was half expecting something else to happen to stop Daenerys leaving again. But no she says goodbye to Daario, levaing him and The Second Sons behind to help keep Meereen stable as they elect their new leader (and free for Daenerys to get new alliances through marriage). She also has a great scene with Tyrion as they talk about her leaving for Westeros and then she gives him a badge, declareing him the Hand of the Queen! That was a lovely moment and you could tell Tyrion was so touched. For a second I thought he was going to hug her (which would have been well awkward). The season ends with Daenerys setting sail with her companions and armies with her and we have a great shot of the three dragons flying above. The Lannisters better watch out, Daenerys is on her way to Westeros and it’s about bloody time!

It’s going to be a long wait for next season. How will I cope?

What did you think of the episode, was it a satisfying end to the series? Were you shocked by any of the deaths? Are you surprised Daenerys has actually set sail for Westeros? Let me know in the comments below.

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X Men: Apocalypse

X-Men_-_ApocalypseThe third chapter in a trilogy is always tricky one to get right, something the teenage mutants acknowledge themselves during the third film in the X Men prequel seires. But it can’t be as bad as X Men: The Last Stand can it?

Its 1983, ten years on from the events of Days of Future Past and mutants are living alongside humans but while they are not at war they are living on a knife’s edge. When one of the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakes from centuries of slumber he is determine to lay the world to waste and start again, with himself as it’s God. It’s up to Professor X (James McAvoy) , Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and their students to stop him.

OK so Apocalypse is not as good as Days of Future Past or X2 but thankfully it’s nowhere near the flops that were The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine. Despite the influx of new characters (or returning, younger characters depending how you look at it) the film doesn’t feel overloaded and most get some good moments.

Perhaps the ones that get least development is the new mutants who become the Four horsemen working for Apocalypse aside Magneto (Micheal Fassbender – always good). Out of the three newcomers only Storm (Alexandra Shipp) has some potential. Psylock (Olivia Munn) looks cool and Angel (Ben Hardy) is great looking -apart from the dodgy 80’s hair- but aside from that they make little impact. Oscar Isaac also feels hampered under the prosthetics in what ends up being another generic supervillain, especially compared to Fassbender’s compellingly tragic anti-hero.

Lawrence’s Mystique is served better by the story this time than she was in Days of Future Past and the always dependable McAvoy shines again as Xavier. Out of the new students Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is instantly endearing and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey looks set to become an interesting addition to the team. Maybe if they do more movies they can tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline properly this time.

Action wise there are some good scenes even though the climatic scenes feature the over familiar destroying of a major city. One of the highlights of the film is the reappearance of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who once again gets a scene stealing moment as he rescuing a bunch of mutants from a building. Peters is hugely likeable and very funny in his extended role. So when will we get a solo Quicksilver movie then?

Rating 3.5/5 – fun if a tad long addition to the X Men franchise

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards

Game of Thrones S6 Episode 9

Back in my review of Season 6 Episdoe 4 I made this remark regarding the Stark and Ramsey situation “So now that the Starks are rising again surely this series is heading for the Battle of the Bastards (as no one else is calling it)”. Now we’re in Episode 9 and they’ve only gone and called the episode Battle of the Bastards! How’s that for a bit of accidental foretelling.

Anyway back to the episode itself. In Meereen Daenerys and Tyrion and try to work out how to deal with the slave masters with Daenerys wanting to go her usual route of killing everyone involved. Tyrion suggest this may not be wise though and I’m glad he brings up her father the mad King and how she once claimed she wanted to be different from him. Together him and Daenerys comes up with a new plan. After offering them the Slave Masters a chance to Surrender -which they stupidly reject- Daenerys rides Drogan who proceeds to burn the slaver’s fleet along with fellow dragons Rhaegal and Viserion. It was an amazing sight seeing the three dragons fly together (those three would very much come in handy with the fight against the White Walkers). Grey Worm then kills two of three slavers and leaves the last one to tell the tale.

Later Daenerys and Tyrion have a meeting with Theon and Yara. Considering how long it had been I had forgotten that Tyrion and Theon had met before, of course Tyrion hadn’t and what followed was quite a frosty reception between them. Not the best start for the Ironborns. However soon Daenerys and Yara agree to an alliance. Yara will give Daenerys the ships and Daenerys will help overthrow their uncle and recognise the independance of the Ironborns. But the Iron Islands will also have to stop all the raping, and pillaging that they are known for which Yara reluctantly agrees with. That will go down well with the Ironborns! I’m liking this allience and it’s good seeing the women of Game of Thrones being in positions of power.

Meanwhile the bulk of the episode is centred around the Starks battle with Ramsay, and as imagined it is as devastating and bloody as you’d expect. While before the battle the two discuss peace talks and surrenders we know it’s only going to go one way and with plenty of death. There’s an interesting scene between Jon and Sansa before the battle where Sansa berates Jon for fighting without more men and looking back, it appears she knows that Ramsay is not going to let a Stark rule Winterfell. And so as the Battle start and Rickon is set free to run to his family he is cruelly toyed with and then shot with arrows by Ramsay just before Jon reaches him. Sansa, having known Ramsay all too well seemed to know this is exactly what Ramsay would do and Jon falls into his hands by reacting impulsively and emotionally by charging at the Bolton forces. I had feared that Rickon would be killed, either off screen or during the Battle itself, and once again Ramsay’s cruellness doesn’t waver.

The resulting battle is one of the bloodiest we’ve ever seen on Game of Thrones, men are killed and bodies are all over the fields. Then when the Bolton forces surround Jon’s there is a horrible sight of a wall of bodies that everyone is stepping on, and it appears not everyone is quite dead yet! It’s a gruesome image and you worry for everyone’s safety involved. Even though I thought Jon would be safe, at a few points I was concerned that he would be killed off leaving Sanasa to lead the charge.

However the calvery arrives and, as suspected it’s Littlefinger and the Kinght’s of the Vale arriving to save the day. If there’s a slight criticism of this episode it was perhaps a bit obvious that Littlefinger and the Vale would come to the Stark’s aid, but that’s only a minor quibble. As the tide turns in Jon’s favour Ramsay retreats back to Winterfell but the gates are soon broken down by the giant Wun Wun, who is then repeatedly shot by arrows for his trouble and then shot in the eye by Ramsay finishing him off. I was sad to see the giant go. Damn you Ramsay-evil til the end! Ramsay then tries to shoot at Jon but Jon is protected by his shield and then goes to give Ramsay the beatdown of his life. And I must say this was immensely satisfying, but I’m glad it wasn’t Jon who finished him off.

So the episode ends with Sansa visiting Ramsay in his cell where Ramsay continues being his usual spiteful self. Sansa holds herself high and tells Ramsay that soon his deeds, his house and Ramsay himself will all be forgotten and nothing will be left. She then watches as his hounds enter his cell. Having earlier remarked how he had starved them for the past week, Sansa turns the tables on Ramsay for the last time and watches as his hounds devour him. She then turns away with a satisfied smile. While I absolutely detest Ramsay, he was a great villian and played so well by Iwan Rheon that it will be sad to see him go. However this feels like the right time for him to depart as I imagine the series will now focus it’s attentions on the battle for the Iron Throne and the White Walkers’ approach.

So Ramsay got the death he deserved and the Starks have Winterfell again. But while it was a fantastic episode, their win was not an euphoric moment as they have lost a lot in the victory. Having already lost the oldest brother Robb and now the youngest Stark Rickon, Sansa and Jon really need Bran and Arya back soon to make their house stronger again. Hopefully that reunion won’t be too far off. And what does the changes in the North mean for those in King’s Landing? The next episode should have interesting consequences.

What did you think of the episode? Were you happy with Ramsay’s karmic death? Were you suitably grossed out by the battle scenes? Let me know in the comments below.

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Me Before You

Me Before You Poster

A few years ago I read Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes and found myself bawling my eyes out. Now it’s been made into a film starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claffin. Will it still have the same power to make me cry?

After being suddenly let go from her work,  Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) finds herself in a new job as a carer to Will (Sam Clafin) a young man who became quadriplegic after an  accident. While initally they find it hard to get along, soon they develop a friendship that edges to beocme something more.

I really enjoyed the film and like the book it had me crying in the cinema along with quite a few other people. It also had welcome moments of warmth and humour along the way. The two leads worked well, making sure the film didn’t slide into tackiness. Clarke grounded the character of Lou to make sure she isn’t too kooky and Claffin is strong as Will,  dealing well with the comedy and romance as well as the film’s more darker subjects.

However the film does deal with issues such as euthanasia and suicide which may upset some people in the audience maybe not expecting such matters to be raised. The film has also already caused some contraversy with disability groups which has objected to the way the film implies people with disabilities are a burden. While I personally don’t feel the film was trying to send a negative message it also doesn’t have long enough to really delve into such sensitive subjects, so I can see why some people may feel like that way. On a personal note I was disapointed that some of Lou’s own backstory from the novel was left out.

Rating 4/5 – emotionally draining and saved from cheesiness by the sincere performances of it’s leads

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 8: No One

Game of Thrones S6 Episode 8

At the beginning of the episode there was a warning that the show would contain violence from the outset. Cue The Hound coming across some of the Brotherhood without Banners and proceeding to slaughter them quite viciously. It’s good to have The Hound back. He later meets more of Brotherhood including Beric and Thoros we last saw back in season three who allow The Hound to kill two of the three men who slaughtered the villagers. Then they invite The Hound to join them fighting up North against the White Walkers. What will he do?

And the violence continues as the Sparrows try to bring Cersai to see the High Sparrow. When she refuses to go and says “I choose violence”. Then the Mountain rips the head off as a Sparrow as the rest scurry away. But while Cersai wins this round she laters receives bad news as Tommen announces the date of Cersai and Loras’ trial and trial by combat is no longer allowed. A big blow for Cersai, but a conversation with Qyburn offers some hope as he confirms that the rumor they’ve discussed has much more too it. What rumor is that? Please say it’s something that will finally get rid of the High Sparrow.

Meanwhile Brienne and Podrick reach Riverrun. Podrick meets Bronn again and hilariously teaches Pod how to fight dirty. I loved their scene together and it reminds me how much fun the Tyrion, Bronn and Pod scenes use to be in the early scenes. Then Brienne and Jamie see each other and again I’m reminded how much I loved their friendship. But although they still care for each other they acknowledge the fact that they are on different sides and eventually will have to fight each other. Noooooooooo! Luckily that’s avoided this time though. Instead Jamie threatens Edmure Tully with his child’s life to betray the Blackfish. Jamie is such an interesting character, he’s developed so much since the first season where he just seemed to be a villian, and today’s episode reminds you just how ruthless he can be (and for those thinking he might not have gone through with his threat to kill Edmure’s child don’t forget that it was Jamie who pushed Bran out of the window way back in the very first episode). As for the Blackfish, he is seemingly killed off screen which is a bit anti-climactic considering the buildup. But at least Brienne and Pod escape and there’s sadness in Brienne and Jamie’s waving goodbye.

Over in Meereen Varys and Tyrion see the Red Priests spreading their Daenerys propergander. Hopefully Tryion’s deal with the fanatics goes better then it did for his sister. Varys is leaving supposedly for Westeros, which is a shame as Tyrion and Varys work so well together. But at least there’s another amusing scene between Tyrion, Missandei and Greyworm as they start drinking and attempt to tell jokes. Greyworm even cracks a smile! But then the Slavers turn up and storm the city. Cue a very worried Tyrion. But as all seem dire we see the return of a very pissed off Daenerys. Tyrion has some explaining to do!

After Arya was badly injuries last week there was speculation about whether all was what it seemed. But it appears as if Arya was that oblivious and unprepared as she walked around Braavos waiting to get stabbed. Now she must have supernatural abilities or something because in this episode not only does she survive getting multiple stab wounds she also survive jumping out of balconies and falling down several flights of stairs without breaking all her bones. I can suspend belief over a lot in this show-dragons and all, but a decent explanation for Arya miraculous healing would be nice. It does lead to a final fight between the Waif and Arya in the dark (as I predicted) and Arya bringing her head back to The House of Black and White. As the second most annoying character on the show (after the High Sparrow of course) I was happy to see the end of the Waif.It was also great to see her tell Jacqen  that”The girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell.”  I’ve been waiting a long time for her to remember for that. Now get back to Westeros Arya, you’re needed!

What did you think of the episode? Were you emotional during Brienne and Jamie’s scenes? How long will it take Arya to get home to Winterfell? Let me know in the comments below.

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Money Monster

Money_Monster_poster

Investments and Wall Street have been hot topics in Hollywood over the recent years with The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short taking real life events to the big screen. Now director Jodie Foster takes a fictionalised look at what happens when an investment goes wrong.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) hosts a popular show Money Monster giving tips of hot stocks to the viewing audience. During a live show disgruntled viewer Kyle (Jack O’Connell) manages to get into the studio and takes Gates hostage at gun point. As Kyle demands the cameras keep rolling as he asks for answers over a bad investment Gates producer Patty (Julia Roberts) tries to keep Kyle calm and Gates alive.

Considering the combined star power of Foster, Clooney and Roberts involved Money Monster is an accomplished and well produced affair. As in their previous movies together Clooney and Roberts work well together with their real life friendship flowing into a believable on screen chemistry as producer and star of Money Monster. Rising star Jack O’Connell manages to ozze charisma and raw talent as the angry but also somewhat sympathetic gunman. The central three characters are so compelling that the rest of the supporting characters fade fail to make much of an impression, apart from overwhelmed cameraman Lenny (Lenny Benito) and put upon assistant Ron (Christopher Denham) providing some comic relief.

Foster does a good build up, introducing the main players and the background to the events and when Kyle storms the studio it is a moment fills with tension. The film works best in these early stages and the action inside the studio keeps you glued to the screen. Perhaps if the whole film was set inside the studio it would have been a more thrilling, claustrophobic film. However whenever we step outside the thrills die and momentum is lost and struggles to build up again. There’s also the nagging feeling that the film is not as clever as it thinks it is and is not told in a particularly original way.

By the time we get to the last act the film feels too worthy and righteous to satisfy as an engaging thriller and its messages about evil companies are nothing new. It doesn’t help that the real bad guy of the movie is so obvious he might as well have villain tattooed on his forehead.

Rating 3/5 – solid enough but not outstanding despite a strong central trio

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