A Star Is Born (Film/Movie Review) – An Early Oscar Contender

A Star Is Born is a musical romantic drama directed, produced and co-wrote by Bradley Cooper. This film is the third remake of the original 1937 movie of the same name and it stars Anthony Ramos, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chapelle, Sam Elliot, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Gaga and Cooper play the lead roles of Ally and Jackson Maine respectively.

The story of A Star Is Born focuses on Jackson Maine, a popular, established but hard-drinking musician whose is on a downward spiral. He meets Ally, a young, undiscovered singer who he sees a lot of potential in. The two develop a romantic relationship as Jackson attempts to bring Ally into the spotlight and make her a star in the music industry.

My Expectation For A Star Is Born

Any film that receives universal acclaim coming out of a premiere at any film festival is going to grab my attention and raise my expectations. A Star Is Born was praised to a degree that I had not seen since La La Land.

With this in mind, I had to be careful with my hopes for this movie because of La La Land. Indeed, La La Land was a film which I thought was good but I was left slightly underwhelmed by it. This was because there was a difference between the critical reaction, which deemed it to be one of the best movies of the decade so far, and the actual quality of that film in my eyes.

Instead of going into A Star Is Born thinking that it was going to be a phenomenal movie, I believed that it would just be a good film. Nothing more, nothing less. I was interested to see how capable Bradley Cooper would be as a first-time director and for me to see Lady Gaga as an actress for the first time would be fascinating to experience.

Every review for A Star Is Born proclaimed that it was a guarantee for a Best Picture nomination at the 2019 Oscars. Whether I would come to this same conclusion was a difficult thing to predict given how, to some extent, I was burned by La La Land.

My Thoughts On A Star Is Born

My cinematic experience with A Star Is Born was a bit tainted because I unknowingly went into a screening for the Hard of Hearing which meant that there were subtitles. Consequently, it was harder to focus on the film when there were lines of dialogue coming up on the bottom of the screen, sometimes before the words had actually been spoken.

Still, that slight annoyance did not to do much to deter how much I liked the movie and the more I think about A Star Is Born, the more I like it. It is a very good film flowing with heart and soul thanks to brilliant performances and superb songs.

It is early days in this Oscar season and there are still plenty of movies to see in the coming months. However, I would be extremely surprised if Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Harris do not end up getting nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively.

They are all exceptional in A Star Is Born and the emotional impact this film has, especially in the third act, is solely down to how great the relationships are. The chemistry between both Cooper/Gaga and Cooper/Harris are the foundation for the success of this movie.

Bradley Cooper deserves a lot of credit for this as it is not an easy thing to do, especially in a film that is your directorial debut. Because of this, he has a chance of getting an Oscar nomination for Best Director too.

The Music In A Star Is Born

Clearly, in a movie like A Star Is Born, the quality of the music is going to be incredibly important for the quality of the film and, as I previously stated, the songs in A Star Is Born are superb. Indeed, I would have no problem if ‘Maybe It’s Time’, ‘Shallow’, ‘Always Remember Us This Way’, ‘Is That Alright?’ and ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ made up all the nominations for Best Original Song at the 2019 Oscars.

That is not going to happen though. For me, ‘Shallow’ and ‘Always Remember Us This Way’ were the standout songs in A Star Is Born and every time that Ally sings in this movie, I defy anyone to not be enraptured and swept away in the story.

I also liked the commentary on the modern music industry in this film as we see an artist like Ally slowly become a product rather than a storyteller. It made for some interesting story beats and character moments.

My Final Thoughts On A Star Is Born

If I had to pick out faults in A Star Is Born, I would say that the pacing is a bit inconsistent and there was one important story moment for Ally and Jackson that came out of nowhere and it felt a bit rushed. This slightly sullied the quality of the story in this film but not to a degree where it severely lessened my overall admiration for it.

I am confident in saying that A Star Is Born is an early contender for a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Nonetheless, it is too soon to say that it will win and/or if it is my personal choice to win Best Picture because there are still plenty more films to come out in the coming months that could also be Oscar contenders.

All I will say is that I find it unlikely that someone watches A Star Is Born and does not at least think the film is decent because there is a lot to admire in it.

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American Animals (Film/Movie Review) – A Fantastic + Unique Surprise

American Animals is a crime drama written and directed by Bart Layton which stars Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters. The film is based on the true story of a library heist that occurred in Lexington, Kentucky at Transylvania University in 2004.

My Expectation For American Animals

I never knew that this movie even existed until Matt Knost of The Top10 Show raved about it on a recent instalment of that podcast which he co-hosts with John Rocha. I decided to give American Animals a shot based on his adulation for it and I went into this film knowing nothing about it.

I had seen no trailers, knew none of the cast members by name or the true story on which this movie was based on. Sometimes, when this happens, the film in question can be a nice surprise in terms of its quality and I hoped that, as a bare minimum, I would be entertained by American Animals.

My Thoughts On American Animals

American Animals really surprised me with its quality and it is one of the most unique films I have seen in 2018 and possibly ever. I am so glad I went into this movie blind because it was the best possible thing for my experience with it. Indeed, knowing nothing about the real story made the plot of this film so much more interesting and compelling than if I knew specific details about the actual library heist that took place.

Undoubtedly, the thing I loved about American Animals the most was how, in a lot of ways, it was more of a documentary than a film based on a true story. Indeed, the young men who committed the library heist in real-life were interviewed for this movie and this footage was interwoven into the narrative of American Animals. This storytelling device was highly effective on a comedic, dramatic and thematic level.

I could not recollect any movie I had seen before this one that had told a story in this way which made American Animals a really different experience and I hope this storytelling device is used in more movies going forward. The way the narrative in American Animals was told also helped me to connect to the main characters and relate to all of them in a big way despite knowing that what they were doing was wrong. This was particularly the case for Warren (Evan Peters).

My Final Thoughts on American Animals

Ultimately, this all blended together in a hard-hitting way with the film’s sobering, philosophical ending. When American Animals had ended and the credits were rolling, I was struggling to think of any major, glaring flaws with it. If I had to be overly critical, I would say that it is not consistent with its pacing. Some parts of the movie flow better than others but this is a pretty minuscule nit-pick in the grand scheme of things.

It certainly does nothing to majorly detract from the quality of a great film. I hope American Animals is experienced by as large an audience as possible because films this unique in its storytelling as American Animals deserve it.

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BlacKkKlansman (Film/Movie Review) – A Must-See Story

BlacKkKlansman is a biographical drama directed by Spike Lee which is based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman that was written by Ron Stallworth. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth alongside a cast of Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Corey Hawkins, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier and Adam Driver.

The story of the film takes place in Colorado Springs in the late 1970s and follows Ron Stallworth. Stallworth is the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs police department. He decides to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

My Expectations For BlacKkKlansman

Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and Inside Man are Spike Lee joints that a lot of film fans, myself included, hold in high regard. However, one could make a strong argument that, since Inside Man, Spike Lee has released a number of films that have not hit the same level of quality as those aforementioned movies.

This is why I was delighted when many film critics, who have a much stronger grasp on Spike Lee’s filmography than I do, stated that BlacKkKlansman was one of Spike Lee’s best directorial efforts in years. The reviews for BlacKkKlansman have been so good that it made me believe that I could potentially watch a contender for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars. I was really looking forward to see this movie so I could find out whether this would be the case.

If BlacKkKlansman was good enough to be an awards contender in my eyes, then it had a chance of eclipsing Malcolm X as being the best Spike Lee joint I have seen so far. Moreover, seeing if John David Washington could continue what his father, Denzel Washington, brilliantly established with Spike Lee decades ago when it came to a collaborative relationship would be fascinating to see.

Additionally, Adam Driver is, of course, going to draw me into any movie he is in given his quality as an actor. I had high hopes for BlacKkKlansman and I was confident that a powerful and timely story would be told with this movie.

My Thoughts On BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is a film that everyone needs to see. This is great work by Spike Lee. While it slightly suffers from slow pacing and, in turn, does not have the huge rewatchability of Malcolm X or Inside Man, it absolutely has the similar power and impact of Do The Right Thing at various times throughout its running time.

One of the big strengths of the movie is how it is able to seamlessly blend comedy and drama. Still, while there is humour in BlacKkKlansman, I was not laughing out loud because I treated this film very seriously due to its significant social and political messages/themes which were deeply embedded in its story.

I can definitely see BlacKkKlansman being a contender at the 2019 Oscars in categories such as Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It may also get some attention for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor. Certainly, Adam Driver delivers, as he always does, a great performance and John David Washington, based on this film alone, is a natural when it comes to acting, like his father.

I also believe that thanks to the incredibly powerful ending, BlacKkKlansman will stay with the people who see it for a long time and it should do because this film is important. The larger the amount of people who see this movie, the better. With that in mind, I urge you to see BlacKkKlansman as soon as you can. I do not believe that any film which has come out so far in 2018 has been more relevant and timelier to see as this great Spike Lee joint.

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GLOW Season 2 (Television Review) – Very Good But I Prefer Season 1

It is always a great feeling when a season of television comes out of nowhere and surprises you in the best way possible with its heart and fun tone and that is exactly what Season 1 of GLOW did. While I did not think it was a masterpiece that a lot of people proclaimed it to be, it was a fun show to watch. I really liked the 30-minute, 10-episode structure of Season 1 and I was looking forward to seeing more of the same with Season 2.

My hopes for Season 2 were considerably raised when I saw a lot of reviews stating that this season was an improvement over the first. This is not an easy feat for any show to achieve and the glowing reviews gave me a lot of confidence in Season 2 of GLOW to expand upon and improve on what made Season 1 such an easy, enjoyable watch.

My Thoughts on Season 2 of GLOW

In my opinion, Season 2 of GLOW was very good. At times, it was even better than Season 1 but, overall, I prefer Season 1 to Season 2. This was largely down to an absolute disgrace of an episode in Season 2 but before I bash on that particular episode, let me first talk about how, for me, GLOW is stronger as a television show when it leans into its dramatic beats rather than its comedic. The drama and more grounded, human aspects in Season 2 were more compelling and I liked what the show was dealing with dramatically more than it was doing from a comedic sense.

Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling GLOW Season 2

Indeed, none of the jokes were really side-splitting. Throughout Season 2, I was only lightly chuckling at a lot of the jokes and the majority of them came whenever Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) was involved. That was not a bad thing as Marc Maron is, just like Season 1, the best thing about Season 2 of GLOW. However, for a comedy-drama, both of these things really need to deliver and sadly, while the dramatic elements in Season 2 are done well, the comedy fell short for me in this season of GLOW.

The highlights when it came to the drama in Season 2 of GLOW include episodes such as Episode 4 (‘Mother of All Matches’) which dealt with the theme of family through characters such as Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Tammé (Kia Stevens). Episodes 5-7 (‘Perverts Are People, Too’, ‘Work the Leg’ and ‘Nothing Shattered’) were the best of Season 2 of GLOW when it came to drama because of the development of the relationship between Debbie and Ruth (Alison Brie).

#MeToo

Clearly, they do not have the best relationship after Ruth’s affair with Debbie’s husband and everything came to a head as these episodes progressed. In ‘Perverts Are People, Too’, Ruth has a #MeToo moment with Tom Grant (Paul Fitzgerald), the President of the TV network that airs GLOW. Ruth leaves before anything worse happens to her but it was such an uncomfortable scene to watch and it was a timely episode of television which dealt with a serious subject matter in a way that will have an impact on you.

Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder in GLOW Season 2

Clearly, this moment has massive ramifications. GLOW gets a worse time-slot and this led to an intense scene between Debbie and Ruth about what Ruth went through. The response given by Debbie is horrible and this scene would not have been as powerful as it was without the fantastic acting given by Betty Gilpin and Alison Brie. Little did I know that this acting would be topped my an even more emotionally charged scene between Debbie and Ruth in ‘Nothing Shattered’.

Indeed, this episode dealt with the ramifications of ‘Work the Leg’ where Debbie, in a moment of rage towards Ruth, broke Ruth’s ankle during a wrestling match. In ‘Nothing Shattered’, where Ruth is lying on a hospital bed, things come to a head between Ruth and Debbie in a brutally intense moment. They let everything out and, for me, Episodes 5-7 were the pinnacle of Season 2 and GLOW in general. It signalled an upward trend in the quality of Season 2 and I could not wait for Episode 8 (‘The Good Twin’).

Episode 8 Sucks But Season 2 Ends Strong

Sadly, Season 2 came to a screeching halt with its eighth episode which was utter garbage. This episode was an actual in-world episode of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and I was dumfounded with how completely unnecessary this episode was. Literally, all you have to do is just skip to the last moments of this episode where Justine (Britt Baron), Sam’s daughter, is seen by her mother on the television.

Chris Lowell as Bash and Betty Gilpin as Debbie in GLOW Season 2

This is the only important thing that happens in ‘The Good Twin’. The rest is just unbearable to watch and that episode immediately brought Season 2 to a place where it fell below Season 1 in terms of quality. Thankfully, Episodes 9 and 10 (‘Rosalie’ and ‘Every Potato Has A Receipt’) put Season 2 of GLOW back on track. Both of these episodes made me excited to see a third season of this show which would seemingly take place in Las Vegas.

Indeed, in ‘Every Potato Has A Receipt’, we see that GLOW is on the verge of being cancelled but the show is being pitched to new networks in the hope that GLOW can live on. Sadly, this does not happen but Ray (Horatio Sanz), a strip club owner that Sam met at Justine’s school dance in ‘Rosalie’ (Yeah, I know that sounds creepy but Ray was not being a pervert, he was just being a chaperone for his daughter), proposes that GLOW should be a live show in Las Vegas.

Ruth and Sam

The final scene of Season 2 shows everyone on a bus heading to Las Vegas and we see Ruth looking uncertain about the future. To me, this partly stems down to what happened in the last two episodes of Season 2 when it came to Ruth and Sam. As I mentioned earlier, Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia remains my favourite thing about GLOW. All of the comedy that works in GLOW comes from him and I really like his relationship with Ruth.

Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder and Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia in GLOW Season 2

Indeed, in ‘Work the Leg’, Ruth also confides to Sam about what happened with Tom Grant and why that was the reason GLOW got a worse timeslot. Sam has the complete opposite reaction to Debbie when Ruth tells him what happened. He praises Ruth for what she did and he goes on to vandalise Tom Grant’s car which further solidified my belief that Sam is the MVP of GLOW and his moments with Ruth in Season 2 are a big part of that.

Whether it is in the first episode of Season 2 (‘Viking Funeral’) where they are talking in Sam’s car or in ‘Work the Leg’ where Sam tells Ruth that she is irreplaceable to him despite her broken ankle, these two always have great moments together that elevate the show. Yet, Ruth and Sam’s relationship may now be a bit more awkward after what happened in ‘Rosalie’ where, at Justine’s high-school dance, Sam and Ruth slow-dance and Sam tries to make a move on Ruth which she rejects.

My Final Thoughts on Season 2 of GLOW

This has set up a potentially fascinating dynamic for Season 3, especially as Ruth is now romantically involved with Russell (Victor Quinaz), a cameraman who worked with Sam. I look forward to see how the things which were established in Season 2 play out next season.

Betty Gilpin as Debbie and Alison Brie as Ruth wrestling in GLOW Season 2

On the whole, I liked Season 2 of GLOW a lot but the awful eighth episode really brought it down for me which was a shame because, without that episode, Season 2 may have surpassed Season 1 in terms of overall quality. Unfortunately, it did not but I am eager to see Season 3 of GLOW when it comes out which I guess would be sometime in 2019.

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The Shape of Water (Film Review) – Well-Made But Not Best Picture Worthy

The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama directed by Guillermo del Toro which stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins. The story of the film takes place in Baltimore in 1962 and focuses on Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute who works as a custodian at a government laboratory where experiments are being conducted on a humanoid-amphibian named The Asset (Doug Jones). Elisa befriends the creature and their relationship develops into something much more than a friendship.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Shape of Water

I would consider myself to be well above what a casual film fan is. I have seen a lot of films over the years but even I will acknowledge that I have a lot of gaps when it comes to films I need to see. This is certainly the case when it comes to films made by Guillermo del Toro. Before seeing The Shape of Water, I had never seen a Guillermo del Toro film. While this is a shocking statement for those of you who are die-hard fans of this director, this reality only increased my excitement to see this film. I treated The Shape of Water as an event because it would be the first Guillermo del Toro film I would see.

Moreover, the unanimous praise The Shape of Water had been getting from film critics and fans quickly made this film one of my most anticipated films since Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I could not wait to see what looked like a highly original story in a film which has been nominated for and won numerous awards. Indeed, it won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. The cast for The Shape of Water looked great on paper too which cemented my belief that everything was in place for this film to be amazing.

Doug Jones as The Asset and Sally Hawkins as Elisa in The Shape of Water

My Thoughts on The Shape of Water

My expectations were high and, sadly, not fully met. I liked The Shape of Water but it is one of a vast number of good films that I have no real inclination to see again. I was not as emotionally moved as I wanted to be by the story. Still, I would be lying if I said that you cannot admire many things about this film. The truth is that you can, especially from a technical level.

Certainly, technical elements of The Shape of Water such as the production design and cinematography were absolutely fantastic. The score by Alexandre Desplat was very good too and it felt like its own character within the film. All of this made The Shape of Water feel very atmospheric which I appreciated.

The Performances in The Shape of Water

The performances were another stellar quality of The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins gave a unique lead performance and made it look easy when it came to communicating without speech. One scene she had with Richard Jenkins’ character about The Asset and her connection to him was a real highlight in this regard.

Richard Jenkins as Giles and Doug Jones as The Asset in The Shape of Water

Still, my favourite performances in the film were given by Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon. Jenkins provided needed moments of levity with his character’s dry sense of humour and I really liked his relationship with Sally Hawkins’ character. Michael Shannon gave a completely different type of performance to Jenkins but he was incredibly captivating nonetheless. Make no mistake, Michael Shannon is terrifying in The Shape of Water, especially as the film progresses to its conclusion.

My Final Thoughts on The Shape of Water

Thanks to the technical qualities and performances in The Shape of Water, I was never bored during my viewing experience. The film always had fluid momentum and purpose. Yet, at the same time, I was not blown away from an emotional viewpoint when it came to the story.

As such, I have to put The Shape of Water in the same group with other films such as Phantom ThreadCall Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as films not worthy of their nominations for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. I appreciate The Shape of Water more than I actually like it. In the end, it is a good film but I was not as emotionally affected as others were by it and I am not in a huge rush to watch the film again.

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Phantom Thread (Film Review) – Strange and Unrewarding

Phantom Thread is a drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis in what is, supposedly, his final performance as an actor before he retires. The cast of the film also includes Brian Gleeson, Harriet Sansom Harris, Camilla Rutherford, Richard Graham, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville.

The story of Phantom Thread is set in 1950s London and focuses on Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a dressmaker who falls in love with waitress Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps). However, the relationship they have swings from affection to detachment throughout the film due to their differences.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Phantom Thread

Any film with Daniel Day-Lewis is going to interest me. I mentioned in my review of The Post that Meryl Streep is the best actress of all-time. I can make a similar argument in regards to Daniel Day-Lewis being the best actor of all-time. He has been nominated for six Oscars in the category of Best Actor and is the only male actor to ever garner three wins in that category. This is an outstanding achievement given how difficult is to get nominated for an Oscar, let alone win one.

Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson and Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

In every film I have seen Daniel Day-Lewis in, he gives outstanding performances and the best of these performances was in There Will Be Blood. That film was also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson so to have these two reunite for Phantom Thread was an exciting prospect me. Phantom Thread was, to some, a surprise nomination for Best Picture. Out of all the nominees for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, only The Post has made me feel as though it was a film deserving of its nomination. I hoped that Phantom Thread would do the same.

My Thoughts on Phantom Thread

My feeling after seeing Phantom Thread was one of disappointment. I did not really like this film that much. It is not a terrible film but I do not believe it is a film which, on the whole, is that good either. Good elements, however, do exist within Phantom Thread. For one, the performances are superb.

While I do believe that this is the least captivating performance Daniel Day-Lewis has given in any film I have seen him in, he was great in Phantom Thread as were Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. They all managed to convey the subtle toxicity within this film quite well, especially in the relationships between the characters which were completely messed up.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson in Phantom Thread

The score in Phantom Thread, which was composed by Jonny Greenwood, was very good and I was surprised at how prevalent it was throughout the film. It seemed as though it was continuous, like it never ended which was something that impressed me. The production value in this film was its biggest quality in my opinion. I absolutely believed that I was living in London’s fashion scene during the 1950s. It was a technical quality of Phantom Thread I was mesmerised by.

The Negative Aspects of Phantom Thread

Nevertheless, all of the good elements in Phantom Thread did not alleviate the amount of problems I have with the film. For one, the story of the film failed to rivet me from beginning to end. I have to put the blame on the pacing and editing for this. The editing was noticeably sudden at times which affected how well the film flowed and the pacing was too slow for a film as long as Phantom Thread.

While surprising moments of humour kept me slightly engaged in what, for me, were the more ponderous scenes and sequences in Phantom Thread, I could not help becoming more bored by what was happening onscreen as the film progressed. I also felt that the ending of Phantom Thread was completely unearned. It did not sit right with me and I was sitting during the credits thinking “WTF?”.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

I was not loving Phantom Thread before its final moments and what occurred at the end just cemented this film as being a let-down. Again, Phantom Thread is, for me, another Best Picture nominee from the 2018 Oscars which is not worthy of its nomination. Certain elements of the film are deserving of praise but, as a whole, the film failed to deliver. As such, I cannot recommend Phantom Thread as a film that needs to be seen immediately.

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Molly’s Game (Film Review) – A Great Directorial Debut For Aaron Sorkin

Molly’s Game is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. This memoir was written by Molly Bloom who is played by Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game.

The film also stars Jeremy Strong, Joe Keery, Claire Rankin, Graham Greene, Bill Camp, Chris O’Dowd, Brian D’Arcy James, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner and Idris Elba. The story of Molly’s Game focuses on Molly Bloom. She establishes an underground poker empire for Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, athletes and even the Russian mafia. Molly becomes the target of an FBI investigation due to her illegal acts within this business venture. She enlists the help of lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Molly’s Game

A film such as Molly’s Game is made for me. For one, I love biopics. Indeed, biopics such as Gandhi, Schindler’s List, Malcolm X and Goodfellas are some of my all-time favourite films. Additionally, any biopic related to crime provides a great opportunity for someone to delve into a gritty, complex story. If you had to choose a screenwriter for Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin is a great choice.

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

While probably most famous for his television work with The West Wing, that was not my introduction to Aaron Sorkin. Instead, it was his work in the film industry that alerted me to his talent as a screenwriter. The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Moneyball and Charlie Wilson’s War made me realise that Sorkin is a cut above a lot of the screenwriters working today. Molly’s Game actually marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. This also peaked my interest in the film.

Still, what really sealed the deal to make Molly’s Game an absolute must see for me was the cast. Clearly, casting Kevin Costner, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba is guaranteed to elevate any film. They all have presence on-screen and have consistently proved to be extremely talented actors. Literally, how could this film be bad? It did not seem possible. I was steadfast in my belief that Molly’s Game would be fantastic.

My Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I was right to think this way. Molly’s Game is absolutely phenomenal. I was mesmerised by the story and the acting from beginning to end. For me, the star of the film is Aaron Sorkin. His writing in the film is fantastic and it gives the film momentum and purpose. The pacing in Molly’s Game was superb and that was mainly down to how quick Sorkin’s dialogue in the film was. It also made a lot of the character interactions in the film very intriguing and gripping.

Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

Still, you need great performances from your cast for these scenes to be as enthralling as they are. Thankfully, everyone is great in Molly’s Game and the standout is Jessica Chastain. As it stands right now, she would be guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Best Actress if I had a say. She always brings her best to every film I see her in and this is no different in Molly’s Game. She was masterful in this film. She also had electric chemistry with Idris Elba and their scenes were amongst the best in the film.

Yet, the best scene in Molly’s Game was the one between Jessica Chastain and Kevin Costner. Costner’s role in the film is quite minimal. However, when he is on screen, he has presence. This is no more apparent than his scene with Chastain towards the end of the film. That scene between father and daughter is just sublime and I do not want to give away what happens. All I will say is that certain things which are established in the film come full circle in this scene. When it does, it is very emotional for the characters that Costner and Chastain play in Molly’s Game.

My Final Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I found the character of Molly to be very complex. Jessica Chastain beautifully portrays the depth in this strong-willed character who evokes power and vulnerability in a believable, compelling way. In a lot of ways, the compelling elements of the story in Molly’s Game were ripe for Aaron Sorkin to explore and flesh out. He did this to such a brilliant degree that Molly’s Game is a film that I believe, even at this very early stage, will rank amongst the best films I will see in 2018.

Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

I love Molly’s Game. Because the film was first released in 2017, it is eligible for nominations at the Oscars. I pray that it is recognised, especially in the acting categories. At a minimum, it should be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Molly’s Game is the first film I have seen in this Oscar season since Blade Runner 2049 that made me think it deserves a lot of Oscar nominations. I hope the film is appreciated by Academy voters to the extent that I do. Moreover, I hope you love the film as much as I do once you see it. You must see Molly’s Game as soon as you can. I do not believe that you will regret seeing this film.

Stronger (Film Review) – A Moving Performance By Jake Gyllenhaal

Stronger is a biographical drama directed by David Gordon Green. The film stars Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson, Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman who loses his legs at the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. After this horrific event, Bauman must adapt to his new life with the help of Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Simultaneously, he struggles to cope with PTSD and depression from the terrorist attack he was a victim of.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Stronger

Stronger quickly became one of my most anticipated films to see during award season because of Jake Gyllenhaal. Without a doubt, he is one of my favourite actors working today. He has brought his best to every film that I have seen him in. Moreover, I find it remarkable that he did not receive Oscar nominations for his work in Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Because of my adoration for his work, I expected nothing less than a stellar performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, the emotional source material he was working with provided a great opportunity for him to showcase his range as an actor. Buzz around Stronger has been high since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival back in September 2017. I hoped that the film would live up to the hype.

My Thoughts on Stronger

Stronger is an emotional film which, at is core, has a powerful central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Once again, he proves his talent as an actor and that he is one of the best working today. While likely that, once again, he will probably go unnoticed when it comes to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, his work in Stronger should not be forgotten.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley in Stronger

Aside from an individual standpoint, Jake Gyllenhaal also works well off the performance given by Tatiana Maslany in Stronger. I liked the complexity of the relationship their characters had. It was anything but straightforward when it came to their commitment for one another. Indeed, one scene where Jeff completely loses it in a car with her and they berate each other showcased this. It also showed the ability of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as actors when it came to portraying raw emotion.

Stronger Is Never Brash, Crude Or A Cliché

Yet, Jake Gyllenhaal is also great in the more understated moments of his performance. This is very apparent when he showcases the depression and PTSD his character is going through that seem to be ignored by his family. In fact, I would argue that the majority of Stronger is very understated. It is never brash and the film takes its time but it is engaging throughout.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Stronger is never over the top or clichéd either. Certainly, it would be very easy for this story to be told in a less mature way. However, Stronger is very mature which makes the more graphic scenes that much more affecting. Indeed, a scene which brutally depicts the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing is very tough to watch. Moreover, having that scene intertwine with seeing Jeff Bauman at his lowest point of recovery was heart-breaking. He was reliving that traumatic experience in a horrible situation and it was not easy to watch.

Due to the tough, depressing subject matter, I will not be eager to watch Stronger multiple times. However, it is a film you need to see just for the magnificent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal alone. Moreover, the film does showcase the human spirit, especially with its ending which leaves you with a feeling of hope. While I do not feel that Stronger will get a lot of award recognition, it does rank amongst the more emotionally affecting films I have seen in 2017.

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.

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.