Wind River (Film Review) – A Superb Thriller

Wind River is a neo-western thriller written and directed by Taylor Sheridan and stars Jon Bernthal, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner. The story of the film focuses on Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker who has to work with Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), an FBI agent. We follow these two characters in their attempt to solve a murder that occurred on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Wind River

My expectation for this film was very high and the sole reason why this was the case was because of Taylor Sheridan. This is the man who was the screenwriter behind films such as Hell or High Water and Sicario. Hell or High Water is a very good film but Sicario, for me, is an amazing film and is probably the best film I saw in 2015. What struck me in both films was how brilliant the story and the dialogue was. To see Taylor Sheridan return with Wind River both as a writer and a director really interested me.

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert in Wind River

I also had some concerns though and that was mainly down to Jeremy Renner. Now, I like Jeremy Renner but I was not confident in his ability to succeed as the lead in this film. He has not blown me away as an actor. Still, my overall feeling going into Wind River was one of hope rather than trepidation. I was confident that Wind River was going to be, at the very least, a good film.

My Thoughts on Wind River

Wind River is, by a mile, the best film I have seen this year. In terms of the films written by Taylor Sheridan, I would rank it well above Hell or High Water. Sicario is a bit better but for Wind River to get close to the quality of Sicario is an immense achievement. Undoubtedly, Jeremy Renner gives the best performance of his career in this film. Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, who was also brilliant, carry Wind River with terrific lead performances that have a lot of depth.

Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner and Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert in Wind River

Indeed, the whole film is rich with story. On a surface level, the murder mystery is very interesting and Wind River does a great job at building suspense and tension to get to the revelations we crave. Still, what really intrigued me was how interconnected the stories in this film were. The murder mystery hits very close to home for Renner’s character who has gone through an extremely similar experience. He has a brilliant scene with Elizabeth Olsen where we see the pain within him.

Engaging Throughout

I never got bored during Wind River as I was always eager to learn more about the characters and their lives. Taylor Sheridan does a brilliant job in telling his story and I found both the pacing and length of Wind River to be perfect. It never drags but it never rushes either. Moreover, the superb cinematography in this film will always keep you engaged from a visual perspective. The score also impressed me and to have human dialogue interwoven into the music was a very subtle, nice addition.

Scenery including Sheep and Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert in Wind River

To be honest, I cannot find anything wrong with Wind River. I was engaged from beginning to end and it just proves how talented Taylor Sheridan is from a writing and now a directorial standpoint. Jeremy Renner has also gone up in my estimations as an actor and he proved to me that he can be successful in leading roles. If you can find some spare time, then Wind River should absolutely be a film that you see. For me, it is the best film I have seen in 2017 so far.

Patti Cake$ (Film Review) – A Modern 8 Mile

Patti Cake$ is a drama directed by Geremy Jaspar and stars Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriaty and Danielle Macdonald. The story focuses on Patricia “Dumbo” Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), a plus-sized white girl from New Jersey who is on a journey to make it as a rapper and escape from poverty.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Patti Cake$

I first heard of this film after its premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 and it got a great reception. Comparisons were made with the film 8 Mile due to its similar subject nature and praise was heaped on Danielle Macdonald for her lead performance. Indeed, it was considered to be a breakout role for her. I always want to see a film that will be inspirational and I had high hopes that Patti Cake$ would achieve this.

Danielle Macdonald as Patti, Siddharth Dhananjay as Jheri and Mamoudou Athie as Basterd in Patti Cake$

My Thoughts on Patti Cake$

Certainly, I would view Patti Cake$ as a modern version of 8 Mile. While I believe that 8 Mile is a better film, I really enjoyed Patti Cake$ and found the story to be very engaging. The main reason why Patti Cake$ delivers is because of the central performance by Danielle Macdonald. Her performance was fantastic, especially when you consider that her acting career is still in its infancy. She is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the future and I hope that Patti Cake$ will open the door for more opportunities for this actress.

The supporting characters around Danielle Macdonald were also very compelling. They served the story and the journey of Macdonald’s character extremely well. Additionally, the pacing of Patti Cake$ was just right. I was never bored during the film and the music in Patti Cake$ also helped in that regard. There were a lot of songs that were very catchy and the fact that they were original was also a bonus. It reminded me of films such as Begin Again and Sing Street which also had great, original music and it is never a bad thing to be compared to those films.

Danielle Macdonald as Patti and Siddharth Dhananjay as Jheri in Patti Cake$

Obviously, a film such as Patti Cake$ is not going to get a massive amount of publicity due to how small and independent it is compared to blockbuster films. Still, if you are looking for a compelling, inspiring story then I would absolutely recommend that you see Patti Cake$ when you can. I feel as though anyone can enjoy this film, especially if you are a fan of 8 Mile. Just do not expect Patti Cake$ to be better than 8 Mile.

Game of Thrones: Season 7 Episode 7 (Television Review) – Winter is Here

Well, here we are. We have come to the end of Season 7 of Game of Thrones. We waited such a long time for the first episode of this season of television and the season has come and gone in a flash. ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ was the title of the season finale and I would be lying if I said I was not thinking about this episode daily since the magnificent ‘Beyond the Wall’ ended. I was expecting a strong end to this season and believed that ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ would give us closure to the story arcs that needed it while, at the same time, setting the stage for Season 8 of Game of Thrones.

My Thoughts on Season 7 Episode 7 of Game of Thrones

It has been a couple of weeks since I saw ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ (sorry for the wait for this review) and I still believe that this episode was a fantastic finale to an amazing season of Game of Thrones. The episode began in King’s Landing where the meeting between Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) would take place. A lot of great character interactions took place prior to this meeting.

Jerome Flynn as Bronn and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) were reunited and this took me back to the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones where these three characters had such great chemistry with one another. Even after all there time apart, it felt like nothing had changed and it was great to see them all together again, even if they now have different allegiances.

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and The Hound (Rory McCann) were also reunited after their battle at the end of Season 4 of Game of Thrones. Obviously, both were shocked to see each other again but, after some awkward tension, they bonded over Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and it was great to see that The Hound was still looking out for her. I hope to see more of these two characters together in Season 8, especially if Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) is involved if he survived the end of ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ (more on that later).

The Dragonpit in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

The Meeting

The meeting at the Dragonpit was very tense. We saw major characters meet each other for the very first time and saw reunions which were much less loving than the ones discussed above. The main reason for this meeting was for Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to show Cersei proof of the existence of the White Walkers and call for an alliance to fight this common enemy. There were twists and turns throughout this meeting. We thought that both sides came to an understanding before Jon Snow did the honourable thing and tell the truth regarding his allegiance to Daenerys.

Needless to say, this did not go down well with either side but it fitted with how honourable yet naive Jon is as a character in Game of Thrones. Because of Jon’s stance, Tyrion tried to salvage the situation by having a private conversation with Cersei. Now, these two are not exactly siblings who love each other and the animosity that Cersei has for Tyrion really came to the forefront in this scene. Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey are arguably the two best actors in Game of Thrones and seeing them share a scene together for the first time since Season 4 was brilliant to watch. They brought so much to this episode.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

Despite the divide between Cersei and Tyrion, you can tell that they respect each other and, at the end of their conversation, you thought that they would reach an understanding, especially as Tyrion found out that Cersei is pregnant. Originally, I thought that Cersei was lying about her pregnancy but, after watching ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’, it does seem that she is legitimately pregnant. This seemed to be the driving force for Cersei to form an alliance with Daenerys to combat the White Walkers.

Cersei Always Lies

However, we found out later in ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ that she was playing everyone for fools, including Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Indeed, seeing Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) flee after seeing the White Walker was all an act. His true purpose is to sail to Essos to recruit the Golden Company who are mercenary soldiers that will serve Cersei and they will not get involved in the war against the White Walkers. Instead, her plan is to let both sides kill each other which, in her mind, will leave no one left to oppose her.

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

Evidently, she is still playing the Game of Thrones which just confirms how deranged, irrational and, to some extent, mad she has become. Her inability to see the wider picture will be her undoing and we have seen that already in the fact that her decision was the final straw for Jaime. Finally, he has left Cersei and is heading to Winterfell. In doing so, he is doing both the right thing and fulfilling the promise to fight the White Walkers. I am really interested to see his role in Season 8 of Game of Thrones.

Redemption for Theon

A character whose role in Season 8 of Game of Thrones could be very fulfilling is Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). His scene with Jon was a fantastic character moment for him, especially as it was a big factor for him to find some courage and embark on a mission to save his sister, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). While I do believe that this will lead to his death in Season 8, I am more relieved than pleased that Theon has finally regained some pride after all his deserved trials and tribulations. The journey he goes on in Season 8 of Game of Thrones could finally end his story on a heroic note.

Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

One story-line in Season 7 of Game of Thrones that ended on a fantastic note was the story at Winterfell. ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ gave us such a brilliant conclusion to this story-line since Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) finally got what he deserved; death. I have previously predicted that Littlefinger would die this season and that Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) would have a role to play in his demise. Indeed, Bran confronted Littlefinger regarding his betrayal of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) in Season 1 of Game of Thrones which put the final nail in Littlefinger’s coffin.

What Caused Littlefinger’s Demise?

For me, the key to Littlefinger’s demise was the conversation that he had with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in this episode of Game of Thrones. Littlefinger teaching Sansa about his “game” proved that Littlefinger overplayed his hand as it led Sansa to figuring out the truth. She applied the rules of the game to Littlefinger and it played into the conversation in the hall at Winterfell where she states that while she is a slow learner, she learns. She finally understood that Littlefinger was pitting her against Arya and the twist in the hall was brilliant to see.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

Obviously, Sansa made peace with Arya off-screen and they conspired with Bran to finally play Littlefinger for a fool. I have to say, seeing Littlefinger go out in such a pathetic and snivelling manner was a perfect way for this character to bow out of Game of Thrones. He finally fell off the ladder and it filled my heart with joy. Moreover, the conversation that Arya and Sansa had towards the end of ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ was also very fulfilling, especially when they were reminiscing about their father. While these two never had and never will have a close relationship, you can see that the mutual respect between them is very strong and it will be good to see these two as a united force next season.

R + L = J

Still, the only thing that we were talking about after this episode ended was the fact that R + L = J is finally 100% confirmed, i.e. Jon Snow is a Targaryen. The revelation came about once Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) arrived at Winterfell and reunited with Bran. They put their knowledge together and, in doing so, they realised that the foundation of Robert’s Rebellion was a lie and we found out that Jon Snow’s real name is Aegon Targaryen, named after Aegon the Conqueror.

Viserion Destroying The Wall in Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 The Dragon and the Wolf

Indeed, Jon is a true Targaryen and, in this sense, he has a much stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. Of course, as all of this is playing out, we see Jon and Daenerys getting together. I am confident that, once Jon discovers the truth, this will cause issues with Daenerys despite the common goal they have of defeating the White Walkers. Daenerys’ whole purpose throughout Game of Thrones has been to rule Westeros and once that is under threat, she may react in a negative way or lose purpose which could lead to her death next season.

The Wall Is Breached

While the inevitable revelation will be a huge shock to many, I hope that everyone will come together to fight the White Walkers. This better happen after seeing The Wall come down thanks to an undead Viserion at the end of ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’. While I suspected this was going to happen for quite some time, it was still awesome to see and it sets up Season 8 of Game of Thrones so well. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Season 7 was Part 1 to Season 8’s Part 2 and it just sucks that we now have to wait more than a year for the last season of Game of Thrones to arrive. Still, ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ ended this fantastic season of TV in a brilliant way.

A Ghost Story (Film Review) – Thought-Provoking and Deep

A Ghost Story is a supernatural drama directed by David Lowery and stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in the lead roles of C and M respectively. After C dies in a car accident, he comes back as a white-sheeted ghost and remains in the house that he lived in with M, his wife. However, he has become unstuck in time and he has to watch his old life slowly slip away. He embarks on a journey through memory and history while confronting the enormity of existence, love and death.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A Ghost Story

I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this film. I had not seen any trailers for A Ghost Story and my only knowledge of the film came when I saw that both Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara were in it. Casey Affleck hugely impressed me with his performance in Manchester by the Sea and I was interested to see Rooney Mara too.

I am more familiar with Kate Mara, her sister, because of her role in House of Cards. But, I have noticed the quality of Rooney Mara’s performances in films such as Carol and Lion. Seeing Casey and Rooney together really interested me. Still, again, I did not know what to expect with A Ghost Story, especially when it came to the story.

Rooney Mara as M and Casey Affleck as C in A Ghost Story

My Thoughts on A Ghost Story

I saw this film a couple of weeks ago so I have had a lot of time to think about it. Now, I mean this in a good way; A Ghost Story is the most challenging film I have seen in 2017. There is so much depth in this film and the themes which are interwoven in the story such as death, time and the meaning of life are very thought-provoking. Additionally, these themes are showcased in a very unconventional way but it still has an emotional impact.

The reason I say this is because A Ghost Story is very atmospheric and artful. The film relies on visual storytelling rather than dialogue and it is a slow burn. In fact, I was not enjoying the film during the first act. A couple of scenes in the first act were unnecessarily long and they could have been considerably trimmed. At this point in the film, I did not like it at all but everything changed after one scene.

Ghost in A Ghost Story

When It All Clicked

The scene was one that had the most dialogue in the entire film and it made me realise what the message and point of A Ghost Story was. This also helped me get used to the pacing and style of the film. Indeed, the style of the film is quite unique as Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, while both in leading roles, are secondary aspects of A Ghost Story. For me, the themes, score and fantastic cinematography of the film are much more prevalent than the characters and I was fine with this.

As the film progressed, I fell more and more in love with it. In fact, A Ghost Story impacted me so much in the end that I sat in silence for the entire credits. No film since Nocturnal Animals has had a similar impact on me. For that reason alone, it ranks amongst the best films I have seen in 2017. Nevertheless, while I ended up loving A Ghost Story, this film is not for everyone. If you go in with the right expectations, then I think you will be impacted by a sad film that will challenge you in a very good way.