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Film Review: Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum & Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Champion wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (Steve Carrell) as he trains for the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Olympic wrestling (not the uber camp scripted stuff) probably isn’t the most glamorous of sports in all honesty. Two men in big baby-grows and weird helmets rolling around on the floor whilst no-one is really sure of the rules isn’t exactly riveting stuff, which makes it all the more amazing just how absorbing Foxcatcher is.

But of course Foxcatcher isn’t really about wrestling. Naturally there are wrestling scenes dotted throughout the film, and some of them are superbly done, but the actual wrestling very much takes a back seat. Instead it’s the relationship between Mark and Du Pont and to a slightly lesser degree Mark’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) that is the main focus.

Foxcatcher is a film that shouts the loudest during the very quietest of moments

This gives the film a much slower pace then it might otherwise have; so slow in fact that it might turn some people off to it, but it’s a film that shouts loudest during the very quietest of moments. Director Bennett Miller keeps everything very methodical and purposeful, rarely breaking out of walking pace, yet creating something wholly absorbing.

Much of this is down to the wonderful performance of Steve Carell as the creepy, menacing John Du Pont who, whilst being almost entirely deplorable, you just want to see more of and is totally engrossing when on screen. Everything about his demeanour is unsettling, from the way he walks to how he holds himself in conversation to how clearly uneasy he is around other people.

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Carell does, however, inject just enough vulnerability into the character, stopping him from becoming too one-note. The constant search for validation and acceptance from all those around him actually make Du Pont, at times, more accessible than his chilly exterior first allows.

Mark Ruffalo is also excellent as Dave Schultz, showing the caring and attentiveness Du Pont could only dream of from a member of his family, whilst Channing Tatum does what needs to be done but rarely anything more. Tatum gives us occasional glimpses of a more nuanced character, but is largely just a canvas on which Carell can work.

Mention should also go to Greig Fraser’s cinematography which is mercilessly foreboding and chilly with even the odd horror film inflection thrown in every now and again.

The story of Schultz and Du Pont is an odd one, and much has been made of the accuracy of the film in depicting the real-life events, largely by Mark Schultz himself. The homoerotic undertones may be disputed by Schultz but they’re subtle enough to add an extra layer of intrigue to the story and depth to the characters.

Whilst wrestling might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Foxcatcher is about so much more than that, and the central performances ensure an absorbing watch from start to finish regardless of your interest in the actual subject matter.

Pros

  • Brilliant performance by Steve Carell
  • Strong performance from Mark Ruffalo
  • Hugely effective cinematography

Cons

  • A little slow paced at times

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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My Top 20 Films of 2014 – Part 2

I covered the first part of my top 20 a few days ago, and so here is part two – numbers 10 to 1 of my top films of 2014. Enjoy!

10. The Lego Movie

The lego Movie

It could have gone so very wrong. Everything about it screamed corporate cash-in but The Lego Movie actually turned out to be bloody fantastic. Poking fun at pop culture at every turn, there really is something for Lego fans young and old to revel in, and the fact that literally everything on screen is made from Lego bricks makes for a visual treat. Full review here.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

With our cinemas bursting at the seams like Hulk’s shorts with superhero films, Marvel took a massive risk bringing a relatively unknown franchise to the big screen in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it was a risk that paid off. The script was witty, the soundtrack was brilliant and most of all it was damn good fun.

8. The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

The importance of what Alan Turing did can simply not be underestimated, and neither can the barbaric treatment of him at the hands of the UK government simply because of his sexuality. The Imitation Game gives a ‘for dummies’ guide to Turing’s work and life, which is by no means a criticism, hitting most of the important points and driven by a brilliant central performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. Read a mini review here.

7. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s harrowing tale of Solomon Northup being sold into slavery isn’t an easy watch, but is an incredibly important story that is depressingly not as long ago as it should be. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a brilliant performance as Solomon, whilst the cinematography, as you’d expect from McQueen, is stunning. Read my full review here.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel couldn’t be more of a Wes Anderson film if it tried. A picture book caper stylised to its limit, it’s glorious fun from start to finish. It might be a little too frenetic and stylised for some, but fans of Anderson will lap this up, whilst it’s also brilliant to see Ralph Fiennes revelling in a comedic central performance. Read my full review.

5. Boyhood

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood took over 12 years to film, following the same characters and cast members as they grow up. It sounds a bit of a gimmick, and it could have well turned into one, but what we got instead was a wonderful study of family and growing up, not just from the viewpoint of Ellar Coltrane’s Mason as the lead, but also of all those around him. There’s something here that almost everyone will relate to. Read my review here.

4. Her

Her

The story artificial intelligence and its sentience is something that outdates cinema (probably) but very few films have covered it like Spike Jonze’s Her. It’s a world of high-waisted trousers and one that sees human interaction dying out in favour of artificial intelligence, something that doesn’t seem to improbable. Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic but it’s Scarlett Johansson as the disembodied Samantha that really steals the show. Read my full review here.

3. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler’s look at the seedy world of crime ‘journalism’ has plenty to say about our modern form of news and how we consume it. We may baulk at what Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom does but we lap it up at the same time, feeding his lust for fame and validation. Gyllenhaal’s performance is outstanding, channeling Travis Bickle whilst adding enough of his own style and menace to stand apart from De Niro’s character. Read more of my thoughts here.

2. Pride

Pride

It’s a story that almost sounds too bizarre to be true, but when a group of gay men and lesbians rocked up to a lowly Welsh village in support of the miners’ strikes it showed that we all aren’t so different. Pride tells that story and will warm even the coldest of hearts. Sure, it may be a little stereotypical and cheesy at times, but it does what it does remarkably well and is accentuated by some stellar performances. A crowd pleaser if ever there was one. Read my review here.

1. Frank

Michael Fassbender as Frank

Michael Fassbender wearing a big paper mache head – what’s there not to like?! Frank takes its inspiration from Manchester performer Frank Sidebottom who did indeed used to wear a head just like the one in the above picture. That, however, is where the similarities between the two Franks end and instead we get a fantastical tale of trying to make it big in the music industry, but with something much deeper bubbling under the surface. Michael Fassbender is phenomenal as Frank, especially considering he’s essentially acting with his body and voice, removed of all facial expressions aside from the one painted onto his fake head. It’s quirky and indie and this may put some people off, but it was the film that bewitched me the most in 2014. Read my full review of Frank here.

There we have it – my top 10 films of 2014. Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? Let me know in the comment below! Thanks very much for sticking around even though I haven’t been around as much, and hopefully see you all a bit more in 2015.

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My Top 20 Films of 2014 – Part 1

When I compiled my top 10 of 2013, I didn’t include those films that came out just in 2015 here in the UK but still featured on many people’s lists as they came out in the US in 2014 and were in the running for awards.

However, by doing that I last year, I need to include those films this time around which makes choosing a top 10 really freakin’ difficult, and rather than try and whittle them down and because i’m weak and indecisive, I decided to do a top 20 instead. I have split it into two parts, however, so it’s not a complete bore to read in one go.

You will notice that some major films aren’t here but appear in others’ lists purely because they’re out over here in 2015.

So here are numbers 20-11 of my top films of 2014…

20. Calvary

Calvary

The McDonagh brothers have a bit of a thing for black comedies (The Guard, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) but none of them are as black as Calvary. In fact, you might be hard pressed to even call it a black comedy at times, rather a drama with sprinklings of comedy here and there. Either way, it’s an absorbing tale of a good priest being threatened with his life and a brilliant performance by Brendan Gleeson. Read my review.

19. The Raid 2

The Raid 2

The Raid was a lesson in how to bring martial arts to the masses and The Raid 2 takes what the first film did so well and turns everything up to 11. The fight scenes are unbelievable, almost balletic in their choreography, and are as brutal as anything else you’ll have seen this year. Its attempts to create an interesting story miss the mark, but we’re only really here for the fights and they don’t disappoint. My review.

18. The Babadook

The Babadook

It’s always refreshing when a horror film doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares, and thankfully The Babadook steers away from these for the most part. It plays on the audience’s familiarity with the situation and mixes in elements of the uncanny to create an intriguing story, even if it does lose its way slightly in the final third. Read my mini review here.

17. Locke

Locke

Being stuck in a car with Tom Hardy may well be many people’s idea of a dream day out but his Ivan Locke is a little unhinged and we stare in fascinated horror as he does his best to stop his life falling apart around him. Hardy is the sole (on-screen) character and he carries the burden with ease, proving that he can turn his hand to just about anything. Read my full review.

16. Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davies

For me, The Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis is an easier film to admire than it is to love, but by God there’s a lot to admire. Wonderfully shot with chilly, muted tones, it’s packed full of metaphor and subtext and has some brilliant performances at its core. Not the most accessible film of the year but definitely one of the most thought provoking. Read my full review.

15. Interstellar

Black Hole in Insterstellar

Sometimes a film does some things so well that it makes you forgive the things it’s not so good at. Interstellar has some horrendous plot contrivances and some dodgy plot points, but it also has some absolutely stunning visuals and Christopher Nolan’s lofty ambition, making it simply one of the most pure cinematic experiences of the year. Read my review here.

14. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Dallas Buyer's Club

As we all know, Dallas Buyer’s Club picked up the Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto) awards at the 2014 Oscars, and for good reason. Both McConaughey’s and Leto’s performances are the heart and soul of the film and really sell this heartbreaking true story. Read my full review here.

13. Gone Girl

Gone Girl

David Fincher has built up quite the cinematography and Gone Girl is another excellent addition. It starts as a whodunnit of sorts and then however transforms into something wholly different with twists and turns lacing the narrative throughout. Affleck’s great here but Pike is even better and Fincher’s attention to detail really helps draw you in. Read my full review.

12. The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

It’s Scorsese and DiCaprio working together once again, this time on the tale of Jordan Belfort and his rise to astronomical wealth and influence on the stock market. Some fantastic performances help to pull the film through which runs about 6 weeks in length, although it still left DiCaprio waiting for that elusive Oscar. Read my review.

11. Paddington

Paddington

For film viewers of a certain age, Paddington Bear will have a certain nostalgic value, but for many he’s somewhat of an unknown. Either way, Paddington is absolutely essential family viewing. It’s utterly charming, like a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day. It also carries an important message about accepting those different to yourselves, so has plenty of substance to back up its marmalade-laced hi-jinx.

That’s numbers 20-11 of my top 20 of 2014. Let me know your thoughts below and stay tuned for my top ten of 2014 in a few days.

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Movie Review Catch Up – The Babadook, Nightcrawler & The Imitation Game

With December and Christmas bringing a sleigh-load of work with it (I realise this makes me sound like Santa Claus), I’ve not been able to get my thoughts down on some of the films I’ve seen. So here they are in one festive bundle.

The Babadook

The Babadook

A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

Being a well-known wimp when it comes to horror films, I was incredibly trepidatious about checking out Australian horror film The Babadook but it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable horror experiences I’ve had of recent years.

Rather than your common or garden jump scares that litter most modern horrors, The Babadook has a creeping sense of unease rooted in issues that many may find familiar, mixed with the supernatural and the uncanny. It’s this sense of familiarity that helps the film really get under your skin, and those who have children may well feel it hits close to home.

When stripped down there’s little here that hasn’t been done before (haunted house, possessed child, etc) and it does stray into cliche territory on occasion, but an interesting subtext surrounding depression and the brilliantly-designed Babadook monster itself help it to rise above any problems those cliches bring about.

It’s not going to reinvent the horror genre, but The Babadook is a rarity in that it actually has substance and something to say rather than just relying on trying to make your jump.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

When Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

One of the things that made David Fincher’s Gone Girl interesting was its commentary on today’s media, how it’s produced and how we consume it. However, as Gone Girl had that as something of a secondary message, it’s very much the central focus of Nightcrawler and it does it brilliantly.

In a way it’s the more serious, sinister side of Anchorman and the instant nature of 24-hour rolling news, as well as the competition between news agencies and channels. It’s a murky, morbid world, but one that we’re happy to lap up and exposes the voyeurs in many of us. It’s like slowing down in your car to get a peek at a nasty accident.

Smack bang at the centre of all this is Lou Bloom, played superbly by Jake Gyllenhaal. Lou is a clearly troubled fellow who lacks social skills, but his desire to do whatever it takes to get the right shot makes him dangerous. He’s an anti-hero of sorts and despite his major flaws, there is something sympathetic, almost admirable about the character and Gyllenhaal must take a massive amount of credit for that.

It’s not often that a film makes you appreciate such an awkward, unsettling character but Nightcrawler does just that. It’s also an interesting comment on modern news and society, and suggests that we’re just as much intrigued and fascinated by what Lou does as we are abhorred by it.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

It’s unfathomable to think what the world would have been like without Alan Turing, and yet many still don’t realise just how influential he was in ending World War II. However, what’s even less well known (and just as unfathomable) is the inhumane treatment of Turing at the hands of the UK government simply because he was gay.

The Imitation Game balances both these elements of Turing’s life and does an excellent job of hitting all the important points, which is perfect for those who have little knowledge of Turing. However, it takes very few risks and never goes into too much detail about either side of his life, which might not satisfy those wanting something a little meatier and in-depth.

What really elevates the film, though, is Benedict Cumberbatch’s brilliant performance as Alan Turing. His awkward, arrogant manner isn’t always likeable but is magnificently handled by Cumberbatch and those hailing it as a career-best performance wouldn’t be being too hyperbolic.

It does verge on the wrong side of sentimental at times, but this is more a celebration of Turing that plays to the masses rather than anything deeper and darker. If nothing else The Imitation Game will bring Turing’s story to those who weren’t previously aware of it and encourage them to dig deeper into one of the most important men of the 20th century.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl

When Nick (Ben Affleck) comes home from work to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared, a large-scale manhunt ensues. However, as evidence comes to light and secrets are revealed, Nick ends up being squarely at the centre of the investigation.

David Fincher has amassed quite the body of work, but what’s impressive is that pretty much every one of his films is admired and revered. Even films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has its fair share of fans, and so it’s no surprise that Gone Girl developed a fair amount of hype in the run up to its release.

Fortunately, for the most part, it delivers on its hype and will go down as yet another strong entry in Fincher’s filmography.

At first glance, Gone Girl is a simple whodunnit but it soon evolves into something much more (it’s difficult to go into any kind of detail without spoiling the whole thing). It becomes en examination of a marriage that seems perfectly normal on the outside but is actually anything but underneath.

A good chunk of the film is told from Amy’s point of view via a diary she kept and with each entry we learn a little more about her Nick’s relationship, all the time becoming that little bit more intriguing and eye-opening. However, as is always the case with a biased POV, it always leaves the question of just how much of this can we trust.

Ben Affleck - Gone Girl

Fincher does an excellent job of creating two distinct sides to the story, and as we’ve come to expect from him, the film is at its best when it delves that little bit deeper into the darker side of the human psyche. He paints a disturbing portrayal of middle class suburbia, and suggests that even the most seemingly grounded of people harbour deep secrets whilst happy marriages conceal darkness and can go sour very quickly. What’s also interesting is that Fincher injects a surprising amount of dark humour into the film which adds an even more unsettling edge to everything.

The film is also an interesting examination of the media and how it can manipulate the truth and push a certain agenda based on empty assumptions. As far as TV stations and newspapers are concerned, Nick is guilty until proven innocent, something that rings very true with today’s media.

Ben Affleck is a decent male lead, giving Nick just enough of a nasty side to make you question his involvement, but it’s Rosamund Pike’s Amy that really shines. In the flashbacks recounting her diary entries we see her as the ideal loving wife, although Pike somehow lets us know there’s a little more to it than that and subsequently we’re never really sure if she can be trusted. It’s a fantastic performance that makes Amy the focal point of the film despite Affleck’s Nick receiving more screen time.

 Not everything works quite so well, however, with the ending in particular feeling somewhat rushed and abrupt, leaving us abandoned in a story that feels only partly told.

Despite misgivings over the ending, Gone Girl delivers a healthy dose of intrigue and misdirection, ultimately culminating in a film that can’t help but grab your attention. It might not be in the upper echelons of Fincher’s work, but it doesn’t have to be in order to still be thoroughly entertaining.

Pros

  • Great performance from Rosamund Pike
  • Twisty, turny story
  • Fincher’s trademark great direction

Cons

  • Rushed, abrupt ending
  • Weaker supporting cast

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Quickie: The Raid 2

The Raid 2Following the events of the first raid, Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover to infiltrate a Jakarta crime syndicate.

Who’d have thought that an Indonesian martial arts film directed by a Welshman would be one of the biggest cult hits of the past few years? Gareth Evan’s The Raid has since been heralded as one of the greatest martial arts film of all time and a sequel was therefore inevitable.

The Raid 2 takes everything the original film did and turns it up to the extreme, which would usually be cause for concern, but Evans has such control over the material that it never gets out of hand and still retains pretty much everything that made the original so brilliant. The fight scenes are the film’s bread and butter and they are undeniably breathtaking. The choreography of each and very fight is almost balletic. Brutal, bloody ballet. With hammers.

One criticism levelled at the 2011 original was the lack of story. It was essentially just a series of increasingly impressive fight scenes with little connecting them. This was fine enough because the fight scenes were so good, but there’s do denying it was slightly short on narrative. Evans attempts to address that issue by shoving in some story but this is rather too convoluted in the first half of the film and almost completely abandoned in the second half, again favouring the fights over the story. It’s admirable that Evans attempts to focus more on story but it doesn’t quite work.

However, that should in no way take away from the fact that The Raid 2 is quite simply one of the best action films of recent years and one that fans of the genre will no doubt be talking about for years. Or at least until the next one comes out.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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The Homes of Middle Earth

I occasionally like to post random bits and bobs found on the internet and I thought this was pretty cool – a guide to the homes of Middle Earth as if they are for sale in an estate agents. It’s also made me that little bit more excited for the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies.

The Homes of Middle Earthsource: http://www.anglianhome.co.uk/goodtobehome/fun/homes-of-middle-earth/

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Sunday Soundtrack – Nightcall (Kavinsky)

Way back on the first Sunday Soundtrack I asked for suggestions from you lovely lot and one was from the beautiful but dangerous Tyson from Head in a Vice who suggested something from Drive, a film we both think is bloody brilliant. Now I could have chosen one of many songs from the Drive soundtrack, which I actually reviewed a while ago, but my favourite is probably Nightcall by Kavinsky. Here it is…

If you have any suggestions for a future Sunday Soundtrack entry, pop them in the comments below and I’ll hopefully get around to them eventually.

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7 of The Greatest Animated Female Characters in Film

This is a guest article from my very good friend Ruth Hartnoll who co-runs the awesome blog Crown Rules which you should definitely head over to and bask in its glory. Anyway here is Ruth’s post on her favourite animated female characters. Enjoy!

1. Kiki – Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service sees a young witch leave her parental home for her mandatory year of independent life. She travels to a distant town on a broomstick and sets up her own air courier service. She does all of this with her faithful sidekick, her cat Jiji.

This film was made in 1989 – the year I was born. In the same year Walt Disney bought out The Little Mermaid. That story sees a woman stripped of her independence and identity so that she can chase after a Prince. I think we both know who won 1989 – Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the few films where the adventure is had by a female character – for that alone she gets a firm place on my list.

3 Things That Make Kiki Great

  1. She sets up her own business and gets her own place when she’s 13
  2. She’s brave, smart and self-sufficient – all the characteristics a girl needs to get on in the world
  3. She’s not always happy and perky, like so many female characters, and she’s still brilliant

Best Scene

Kiki

The scene in the woods when she goes back to visit the female artist she happened to stumble across on one of her deliveries. The two characters talk about everything but men and they comfort each other with cocoa. What a bloody great scene that is.

2. Yzma – Emperor’s New Groove

 Yzma

There is no female character in animated cinema history that has made purple more fabulous and tyranny more appealing that Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove. She’s the villain, without falling into any of the female villain stereotypes (step mother, mother, jilted lover), and her assistant is a (loveable) muscled and stupid man.

Yzma kills it in this film. She sounds like she smokes 40 a day, could probably have her own headlining act in Vegas and she makes grey skin du jour. My love for Yzma is so paramount that when I take over the world I will have a National Yzma Day where all women can be tyrannical without reason, whilst wearing purple.

3 Things That Make Yzma Great

  1. She’s super quotable: “Pull the lever Kronk! Wrong lever! Why do we even have that lever?”
  2. She basically invented the colour purple
  3. She’s old and still as spritely as a dame

Best Scene

The potion making scene. The animation, the quips – flawless.

3. Wyldstyle (Lucy) – The Lego Movie

 Wyldstyle

Wyldstyle is the fast quipping, punky and hilarious female from 2014’s The Lego Movie. She saves the hapless Emmett on countless occasions and is always ready with an inspiring speech, flick of the hair and wrench. Man, can that girl build a spaceship-submarine-time travel machine quickly.

Side Note: I was at a wedding recently and a 6 year old boy turned to me and said his favourite character in The Lego Movie was Wyldstyle. My feminist heart filled with joy and I proceeded to tell him about the importance of female role models in children’s films. He got bored and ate some cake, but I really felt I got through to him.

3 Things That Make Wyldstyle Great:

  1. She goes after bad men because good men go after her
  2. She’s as equally funny as her male counterparts and looks a damn sight better than them to boot
  3. She’s an engineer, maverick and traveller

Best Scene

She saves Emmet and fights off a load of police whilst flying through the air, whilst constructing a getaway car, whilst finding time to flick her hair in slow mo. My kinda gal.

4. Satsuki and Mai – My Neighbour Totoro

 Satsuki & Mai

I am going to cheat and put two female characters in here, but it’s only because you can’t have one without the other. Satsuki and Mai are the central characters to Miyazaki’s most loved work; My Neighbour Totoro.

Again, Miyazaki puts the two girls at the centre of the action and shows that girls can be heroines. As the girls’ mother is ill Satsuki takes on the role of guardian, not mother, to her sister and shows that being a guardian doesn’t necessarily mean being safe – it means looking after someone, even if that might involve a bit of danger and fun. Oh and they get to spend a lot of their time with a giant, fluffy imaginary beast. I don’t know what else a film could need really.

3 Things That Make Satsuki and Mai Great

  1. They look out for each other and show a positive female relationship in action
  2. They get to run around with a giant, fluffy, ridiculous beast called Totoro and don’t question it for a second
  3. They’re both brave, adventurous and independent

Best Scene

The now more than iconic bus stop and cat bus scene. It’s a bus that’s a cat people, need you ask why I love it so much?

5. Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis

 Persepolis

Persepolis is the startlingly beautiful and autobiographical film by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a coming of age story set in 1970s Iran and shows the impact of a country run by Islamic Extremists. Marjane is less than quiet about her opinions on the new regime and is eventually sent off to Europe to live alone, all whilst she’s a teenager.

This film shows a female character in real, mortal danger and shows her unnerving and resilient nature against oppressive figures. Marjane lives abroad, educates herself and messily falls in love and we get to see all of it in its black and white glory. Persepolis is so achingly beautiful that sometimes it’s hard to take it all in at once. Just go and watch it right now.

3 Things That Make Marjane Great:

  1. She’s an out and out feminist and frequently voices her opinion even if it may get her into trouble
  2. She’s resolutely human and makes some pretty bad mistakes on the way – which is an important thing to see your heroine do
  3. She’s educated, fearless and imaginative

Best Scene

Persepolis

One of the best montages in all of film history exists in Persepolis. There’s a great part where Marjane lifts herself out of a depression and does it all to Eye of The Tiger. Genuinely funny and moving all at the same time.

6. Jesse – Toy Story 2 & 3

 Jesse

The Toy Story trilogy is my favourite trilogy of all time (fuck off Star Wars) and that is largely down to Jesse. Jesse is the spunky and boisterous cow girl that eventually steals the heart of a space man and manages to rock a plaid shirt like no other woman before her.

Toy Story was, of course, a great exercise in film franchising because you could buy all of your favourite characters as they appeared in the film. Ka-ching. If any of my friends have kids then they are getting a Jesse doll and the whole box set so they can see what it looks like to play alongside the boys and be considered an equal. Jesse for president.

3 Things That Make Jesse Great:

  1. She’s scared of rejection and has one of the best montages in Pixar’s history, then she finds all of her die hard loyal friends and has adventures with them. Yay!
  2. She’s a horse and space man whisperer (she knows about his Spanish setting, after all)
  3. She’s Calamity Jane for 90s kids

Best Scene

Jesse

The montage. Sob.

7. Young Ellie – Up

 Young Ellie  (Up)

That fucking montage. Heartbreak aside, Young Ellie is so great. She’s loud, outgoing and steals the heart of a man with a balloon and a winning smile. Fair shout. Young Ellie also demonstrates that you can suffer great loss (cue the tears) and recover to live a life filled with happiness. She didn’t get to travel, which makes me sad, but that’s part of her story – she’s the whole reason Mr Frederickson finds his bravery. What a catalyst she is.

3 Things That Make Young Ellie Great

  1. She’s loyal, brave and someone I would want to be friends with
  2. She makes a depilated house a wonderland
  3. She helps others realise their potential

Best Scene

Adventure is out there! The scene in the bedroom after Little Mr Frederickson comes back from the hospital. They tell stories under their own handmade tent. Nostalgia abound.

Ruth Hartnoll is a full time copywriter, part time queen at www.crownrules.uk and obsessive theatre & poetry enthusiast. She adores animated characters, particularly female, and encourages all women and girls to go and to have lots of naughty fun – if the boys are doing it, we can do it better. Adventure is out there! Follow Ruth on Twitter here.

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Film Review: Calvary

Calvary Film PosterFather James is an innocent, good-natured Irish priest, but his life is thrown into disarray when someone threatens to kill him during a confession.

John Michael McDonagh’s 2011 dark comedy The Guard has become a bit of a cult hit and Calvary looks set to do exactly the same. It only received a limited release at cinemas so is likely to gain most fans from home viewings, which is a bit of a shame as it’s well worthy of far more attention.

Whilst McDonagh and his brother Martin (In BrugesSeven Psychopaths) might be best known for their dark comedies, Calvary is practically pitch black in its humour, verging on straight-up drama territory. There is still some comedy in there but it largely arises from the small, individual moments and interactions between the characters rather than any major incidents.

Because it’s the script that really shines in Calvary, as is the case with practically all of the McDonaghs’ work. The plot is relatively irrelevant for large chunks, but the script is always razor sharp with plenty of satire and social commentary. It also helps that it’s masterfully delivered by Brendan Gleeson (and everyone else) who perfectly blends his compassion with anger and hurt. This is proof that Gleeson is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated actors working at the moment.

The Irish landscape also plays a big part in making the film successful, as it did with The Guard, making the area feel remote and totally isolated, as if what happens will never be uncovered by the rest of the world. Despite the wide open spaces, it makes the film feel very claustrophobic, almost Straw Dogs-like, and adds to the feeling that Father James’ fate is inevitable.

The only thing that I felt didn’t really work was that it felt a little easy to do the whole priest and child abuse angle (not a spoiler – it’s mentioned in the first scene). It’s a massive issue, but just felt a little cheap. Other than that there’s very little to criticise. Calvary will no doubt go largely unnoticed by many but it’s well worth your time if you want a film that looks superb, is on the whole magnificently written and superbly acted.

Pros

  • Wonderful script
  • Great cinematography
  • Brilliant acting, particularly from Gleeson

Cons

  • Slightly predictable in its portrayal of the clergy

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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