Swallow (2020) – Review

An IFC Films Picture, Written and Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

Swallow is an experimental and bizarre film that slowly reveals its purpose in an effective and interesting way. 

The film is a stylised body horror that plays out in a slow burn manner, making me feel that if this had been released by A24 many more people would’ve been viewing this as an elevated horror on the level of something like Midsommar. 

The way the main character tries to deal with significant past trauma, by mysteriously swallowing objects, cleverly explores how people try to take control of their lives in any way possible, especially when that control has been taken away in all other aspects of their life. 

Haley Bennett, who I have been a fan of since discovering her in ‘The Girl on the Train’ in 2016, finally gets her breakout lead performance here.

Here she absolutely carries the film and gives a very powerful performance as a woman fighting to maintain her sanity as her mental state begins to crumble. I doubt it will, but I really feel this is a performance people should remember when awards season comes around next year.

Rating = 4/5

Harley Quinn (2019) – TV Review

This is truly the perfect Harley Quinn series. It features almost every character Harley could come into contact with, it captures the heart of the character perfectly, and it is non stop fun, that acts as the perfect companion piece to the equally brilliant ‘Birds of Prey’.

Both the show and the film start with Harley breaking up with Joker, but in the show she ends up partnering with more villains (particularly Poison Ivy, who she has great chemistry with but as yet, no sexual relationship here). She amasses a hilarious team that features Clayface, King Shark and Dr Psycho, who all shine throughout the season.

Batman, Joker, and Gordon all have important and often hilarious supporting roles, and numerous other DC characters pop up throughout.

The show is packed full of swearing, violence and adult situations, and it is all the better for it. I would love to see Catwoman added to the mix and to see this version of the Gotham City Sirens.

As much as I love Margot Robbie and think she is a perfect live action Harley, I am glad she didn’t voice the role here as Kaley Cuoco is able to bring something different and equally interesting to the character. Her Harley is packed full of energy, humour, rage, and mischief. She is perfect in this role and it is one hell of a follow up to ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

The whole cast, from Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, and all the others, do absolutely brilliant work, bringing fresh and yet comic book accurate portrayals to these iconic characters.

The finale was explosive and we have a huge amount of possibilities for Season 2, which launches very soon on 3rd April. I can’t wait!

Rating = 4/5

Dark Waters (2019) – Review

A Universal Picture, Written by Mario Correa, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Directed by Todd Haynes.

This is a film that unfortunately got lost in the awards race last year, but deserved much more, because it is an incredibly stirring story about one of the greatest (and least known about) scandal’s in human history. 

The scale of the human and environmental tragedy this scandal caused is impossible to even comprehend, and it’s shocking more people do not know about it. 

Director Todd Haynes tells this story in a very procedural manner which works to highlight the struggle this case caused and allows the audience to properly understand what is happening at all times, but this lack of visual and narrative flair may have been something of a factor to why it didn’t feature more in last seasons awards race.  

It features a brilliantly restrained and thoughtful performance from Mark Ruffalo, an actor who many now take for granted since his MCU work, but who consistently turns in strong performances in films like this. 

He is ably backed up by a powerful and underrated supporting turn from Oscar winner Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins also shines when he is able to let loose. 

The most important thing this film does is shine a light on this scandal for people to see, and allow them to appreciate what heroes like Rob Bilott are doing on a daily basis.

Rating = 4/5

What to watch this week in Film and TV (9th-15th March)

This is a new weekly feature where I will highlight 5 films or TV shows that are launching in the UK this week. It is set to be a slightly slow week but there are still some stand outs.

The Hunt – 11th March

The film that was delayed almost six months due to its content involving gun violence, this controversial blumhouse film features a stacked cast including the likes of Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Glenn Howerton, and Hilary Swank.

Breeders – 12th March

Martin Freeman stars (and co-created) this Sky One comedy about parents of young children, struggling to cope with the life they now find themselves living. Freeman is a British TV legend at this point and hopefully this can be another one to add to the collection.

Bacurau – 13th March

Described as a ‘weird western film’, this Brazilian movie won the Jury prize at last years Cannes film festival, the same festival that also awarded Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire, so it is in very good company.

Lost Girls – 13th March

This Netflix drama revolves around a mother trying to continue the search for her missing daughter, and in the process uncovers a sprawling set of crimes committed by the ‘Long Island Serial Killer’. It stars Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, and Lola Kirke.

Belgravia – 15th March

Julian Fellows, the creator and writer of Downton Abbey, returns with another historical period drama for ITV, with the plot beginning two days before the battle of Waterloo. Tasmin Greig, Philip Glenister, and Alice Eve are among the leads.

Black Widow – Trailer 2

Disney and Marvel have released the second and presumably final full length trailer for Cate Shortland’s Black Widow, the first Disney MCU film in over a year since the release of Avengers: Endgame (Spider-Man: Far From Home was released by Sony).

This trailer continues to present the film as stylised sounds thriller revolving around the family of Black Widow and her finally confronting her past, as she comes up against the villain Taskmaster.

The action set pieces look really good and is the first time since ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (arguably their best ever film) that the MCU has embraced this genre.

One of the things I am most interested in here are the performances, and I am hoping this incredibly talented cast (Scar Jo, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz etc) are given enough to do and really express themselves.

Florence Pugh in particular seems to be doing interesting work and I can’t wait to see her career continue to go into the stratosphere.

The film will indeed launch worldwide on 1st May, with seemingly no delay due to the Corona Virus, and it will be interesting to see how it performs.

Radioactive (2020) – Review

A StudioCanal Picture, Written by Jack Thorne, Directed by Marjane Satrapi.

I managed to see an advanced screening of this film, on International Women’s Day no less, and it was perfectly fitting for such a day, the celebrate the lives and work of the Curie family, and Madam Curie in particular. 

The first half of this film plays as an entirely watchable but very run of the mill biopic about the wife and husband team who fell in love and also discovered two entirely new particles, winning a Nobel prize and essentially introducing the world to radioactivity. 

It is at around this point that the film changes, Marie Curie suffers a great loss, and the film transforms. It then becomes a non-linear and visually fascinating portrait of not just this remarkable woman and her life, but of the potential pitfalls of genius. We are presented with sequences depicting how radiation has been used for great good (treating cancer) and great evil (atomic bomb) throughout time, and the film and its protagonists really struggle with whether the discovery is worth it all. 

It revealed fascinating layers to the legend of Marie Curie, including not just the two Nobel prizes she won, but also that later in her life she, along with her daughter (who also won a Nobel prize) turned her talents to saving countless lives in WWI. 

Rosamund Pike is truly magnificent in the lead role, proving yet again she is one of the most transformative actors of her generation. She is also offered amble support by the likes of Sam Riley and Anya Taylor-Joy. 

The story of the Curies is so interlaced with the idea of radioactivity that it is impossible to separate them, and this film cleverly acts as a story about both. 

Rating = 3.5/5

*In the Q&A after the film, hosted by Edith Bowman, and featuring Pike, Riley, and director Marjane Satrapi (who is a unique and entertaining presence) offered even deeper insight into the passion that went into making this film. 

Spenser Confidential (2020) – Review

A Netflix Original Picture, Written by Sean O’Keefe, Brian Helgeland, Directed by Peter Berg.

This film is packed full of every possible cliche you could imagine, and is exactly what you expect from a Mark Wahlberg action-comedy from ​Netflix. It’s watchable and the causal viewer is even likely to enjoy it, especially if you like Wahlberg. 

I do like him, but I think he’s a much better actor than he often chooses to be, and his films with Peter Berg are continuing to decrease in quality with every entry. 

This is the most bizarre ensemble I’ve seen in a long time, with everyone from Winston Duke to Alan Arkin to Post Malone popping up throughout, but the surprise stand out is comedian Iliza Schlesinger. She brings a real energy to the scenes she is in, and is not only funny but holds her own in the acting department opposite Wahlberg. 

Plot point for plot point you can predict how this film would play out, but it seems to be surprisingly low budget (at least it appears that way) so if it is a big hit for the streamer, we can almost guarantee Marky Mark has found himself another franchise.

Rating = 2.5/5

The Trip to Greece (2020) – TV Review

This is apparently the final entry in ‘The Trip’ series and it is a very enjoyable and surprisingly somber ending. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s Odyssey through Greece gives the chance for the audience to sample some stunning views, hilarious interactions, and interesting moments of self reflection.

The premise of two men, playing versions of themselves, travelling skeins places; eating, drinking, and doing impressions, doesn’t necessarily sound thrilling, but when it is Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, especially when they have the sort of quick witted chemistry that these two do. 

Released as a series in the UK but edited together as a film in many other places, this isn’t particularly must-see content, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable light entertainment, and I am sad to see ‘The Trip’ end. 

Rating = 3.5/5

The Death of Stalin (2017) – Review

A Entertainment One Picture, Written by Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Directed by Armando Iannucci.

Armando Iannucci is one of the best comedy and satire writers of recent times, with hits ranging from I’m Alan Partridge to The Thick Of It and Veep. With all this in mind, he is perfectly suited to tackling this story and he thrives at doing so. 

His satire is bit tingly strong, his one liners memorable, and his direction providing a real energy to the film. It tackles a potentially very difficult story and hits the ground running almost immediately, letting the viewer know they are in safe hands. 

The cast is a remarkably talented ensemble who all deliver strong performances. The biggest stand outs for me were Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, and Rupert Friend. It was a joy to watch the whole cast play off each other. 

While this isn’t one of Iannucci’s finest works, it’s still a very strong film that further adds to the view many hold of him being one of the true comedy greats.

Rating = 3.5/5

The Batman – The Batsuit and Batmobile Reveal

Matt Reeves has revealed our best look yet as Robert Pattinson’s Batman, and our first look at his Batmobile. This is sure to break twitter and I personally think it looks fascinating.

The shots are incredibly moody and match the noir tone we are all looking forward to see from Reeves’ The Batman. Pattinson himself looks striking in the suit, a thinner Batman than usual but one that still looks like a symbol that would strike fear in the hearts of criminals. I can’t wait to see more from this film.

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