Sophie's Choice

Category: Watch

Review: Hacksaw Ridge packs a punch. 

After 10 years of a shamed exile from Hollywood, Mel Gibson returns with 8 oscar nods following the true story of Desmond Doss – the first conscientious objector to be awarded a medal of honour. 

The film opens 16 years previous, the Doss brothers are play fighting, Desmond hits his brothers head with a brick nearly killing him. In floods of tears Desmond helplessly stares at the 10 commandments “Though shall not kill”. 16 years later, Doss has a untameable desire to join the army, he wants to join as a medic, there is one problem; Doss is a pacifist and his beliefs don’t allow him to touch a gun. Obviously this is not going to go down well in the military. 

The first half of the film is Desmond Doss fighting his way through the joining process to allow him to fight without using arms – he gets bullied by his fellow soldiers who think he is a coward. His Sergeant even attempts to force him to leave. However after a court ruling – Doss can go to war without arms and he is sent to fight for Okinawa in Japan. 


This is when Gibson brings true form into action. His take on frontline warfare packs a punch – it’s extremely violent and graphic. There’s rats eating decaying bodies (gross). My heart was racing throughout the entire first battle scene – I honestly thought I was having a mild anxiety attack. It’s gorey, grim and grisely, exactly what it would of been like in real life. Doss helplessly runs from wounded soldier to wounded soldier attempting to administer medical treatment, obviously with guns firing and flame torches blazing that would be difficult. However it is when the US are forced to retreat that Doss works his pacifist magic. Alone on Hacksaw, Doss saves the lives of 70 injured soldiers by lowering them down the cliff edge, he looks to God “Please God let me save one more”, he saves a few Japanese soldiers (this guy?!). This brought complete admiration to my eyes for this man. 

Andrew Garfield played the part magnificently, he has this Forrest Gump feel to him – he’s a little bit geeky, a painfully awkward demeanour and a goofy smile, I warmed to him instantly. The supporting acts were brilliant, Hugo Weaving as his pained father suffering from survivors guilt. Theresa Palmer as his wife who stuck through him throughout. I was also impressed with Vince Vaughn, obviously he brought along some comedic substance. 


My only issue with the film was how the Japanese were portrayed. They were painted as evil soldiers, the bad guys and the Americans were the heroes. The Japanese soldiers were simply fighting for their own country and their beliefs just as much as the US. I feel the patriotic Americans would be thinking “WE RULE”. Sigh.  

Aside from that the morals were beautifully drawn. Always stick by what you believe in, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The clips of the real life Desmond Doss were an excellent touch, this really brought it home that this man was a true hero who we should all look up to. 

Line of Duty Finale Review: Who killed The Caddy?

Line of Duty series 3 finally delivered its secrets (well most of them) with two incredibly intense interrogations scenes (which I swear had my heart rate doubled), then followed by a cop-on-cop foot chase, which even DC Fleming breathes “I’m too knackered to run”.

The first of those eyeballing scenes was a 23 minute interview with DS Arnott who was arrested for the murder of DI Denton (who made one final blood soaked reprisal), Arnott starts off with the confidence of an innocent man who is gradually degraded by the lies and strategic calculations of our favourite villain DS “Dot” Cotton. It’s a brutal mental cage fighting match, that also tears at your heart strings for the innocence ripped away from DS Arnott.

However, we start to see some hope in the form of DC Fleming, who quietly scribbles away and makes some intense eyebrow movements, a seed of doubt is planted. The tables finally turn (literally) for DI Cotton, who is then brought in for another 20+ minute interrogation. Does this come across boring? Absolutely not, I have never been so captivated from watching a “ping pong” style interrogation, with body language and eye glaces that filled my living room with such intensity. The walls finally seem to be caving in on DI Cotton, and finally the actions kicks off – DI Cotton makes his final plea, with a text “Urgent exit required” and then we’re faced with an armed DC Fleming in hot pursuit of “The Caddy”. 

Kate came into her own in the finale as she played the action heroine

I think we all knew it was time for The Caddy to get his comeuppance, and he did in true gentry style taking multiple bullets for his soft spot DC Fleming. But not with one last act of honesty, in his dying declaration, he gave up the act and indicated former Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank’s involvement with the pedophile ring. But we were left with so many burning questions… who was driving the getaway car? Who was the masked gunman that shot The Caddy? I really hope we don’t have to wait another two years, I just don’t have the patience.

The acting has been impeccable and you can see why it has been crowned BBC2 most succesful drama in 15 years. Line of Duty captivates you, envelopes you and is plausible to the point of reality and that is completely down to the main cast; Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston, alongside Daniel Mays short lived performance and of course Keeley Hawes harrowing and domineering class act. A major thank you to Jed Mercurio’s astonishing story telling and John Sticklands direction. It really has been the pinnacle of police drama.

As the credits rolled, the nation was left wondering, what now? But fear not, did you watch post credits… ?

 

Oh boy…

Rise of The Midlands – Raised by Wolves returns!

Imagine a lower class mother of 6 children, unplugging the £29.99 a month internet followed by 3…2…1 a haul of teenagers in horror to which she replies “Are you questioning my austerity policies?” “Are you Corbyning me?”.

For those who are already fans of the show, you should know exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, Wednesday night we saw the return of Raised by Wolves, the hit comedy penned by sisters Caitlin and Caz Moran. For those who haven’t seen the show, Raised by Wolves is a loose account of the Moran sisters youth in Wolverhampton transcended into modern day. The show focuses on sisters (based on the Moran sisters), Germaine and Aretha Garry with their younger siblings led by unconventional “matriarch” mother ‘Della’.

So with the internet unplugged, Della’s children are decamped to the local library to use the communal computers manned by a sleeping OAP security guard what followed, left me in fits of laughter. Germaine dancing and sexually teasing a young school boy with a book about chlamydia in her hand, who then subsequently asks her out on a date (they stand at a bus stop where Germaine rubs his nipples and ferociously kisses him).

This is why I love Raised by Wolves, there aren’t many sit-coms that approach poverty so matter-of-factly (it’s no Shameles), i.e. Della going to the “poor woman’s Ikea” (which is a rich woman’s skip). Credit to the Moran sisters, the dialogue is so fantastically written, sounding true to life, it really feels like this was important to them when writing the show.

Della is the winner for me in the episode (and properly for the entire of the first series), she is so subtly funny with her one liners; “I’m incredibly even tempered, am I not?” she says so deadpan to ‘Grampy’ when he questions her anger outbursts. Big appreciation for her character. (NOTE: The Moran sisters said she is a combination of Linda Hamilton and Clint Eastwood)

Series 1 was very funny, unusual and absorbing. It was something that as an audience we hadn’t seen, well, since Shameless. However, this episode the characters feel more human and better formed. It was an excellent introduction to the series, which I cannot wait for. It’s great to have the well-scripted, hilarious, true to life series back.

This has strengthened my love for my favourite funny lady; Caitlin Moran.

 

 

Black Mass

Scott Coopers Black Mass has been heavily labelled as Johnny Depp’s big comeback, although I don’t think he went that far away as everyone is making out. A career as productive as Depp’s he is bound to have some dry spells (The Lone Ranger) . However, in Black Mass, Depp successfully carries this big, brash horribly watchable true-life crime drama which has valid insights into the political roots of 1970’s Boston gangsterism.

Depp plays Irish-American Boston wise guy James “Whitey” Bulger, leader of The Winter Hill Gang who’s murderous, racketeering and other criminal activities heyday was in the late 1970’s. With his slicked back hair and lizard blue eyes, Depp’s Bulger is a fully paid up sociopath.

Politically supported by his Massachusetts State Senator brother, Billy Bulger, is played smugly by Benedict Cumberpatch who adopts the ‘cat-that-got-the-cream’ gleefully. Billy can only really be described as the political wing of Whitey’s organisation.

Conveniently, Whitey’s best friend is John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who is an ambitious FBI agent who gives Whitey immunity of prosecution is exchange for valuable intel regarding the Italian Mob. But as murder, drugs and IRA weapon smuggling become a federal embarrassment, Whitey soon becomes more of a liability than an asset, his closeness to Connolly brings the Bureau into despair and  disrepute.

Edgerton steals the show for me, with his bullish bravado and walking that ever so thin line between police and criminality, when watching his performance you know what his fate will hold without having any prior knowledge to the real life outcome. You see his character transform from ambitious FBI federal agent to thugish, wife neglecting traitor.

Yet the talented females of the film such as Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson and Julianne Nicolson are completely sidelines by the boy’s own affairs which really didn’t sit right with me. I felt that it left little room for high calibre female input, disappointingly.

Depp is barely recognisable with his prosthetic nose, artificial receding hairline, replacement eyebrows, fake rotting teeth and a topcoat of sickly green make-up. All this artificial work felt unnecessary, perhaps it was to enhance the evilness of Whitey and his monstrous activities yet I found it more distracting, I kept wondering whether his nose was going to fall off in all his close-ups. Take Jack Nicolson in The Departed, his character was heavily influenced by Whitey Bulger, yet all he inherited was slicked back hair and a strong goatee.

In all fairness, Depp commits to the character very well and truthfully that you can envision how truly evil Whitey was, I felt no likability towards him. Compared to Tom Hardy’s portrayal of The Cray Twins in Legends, where I couldn’t help like and root for them. There is no good in sociopath Whitey Bulger.

All in all Scott Coopers has done a good job at portraying the true grittiness and criminal underbelly of Boston in the late 70’s and is heavily complimented by a colourful supporting ensemble from Kevin Bacon, Peter Saarsguard and Corey Stoll.

 

 

 

This is England ’90 Episode 2 – “Summer”

“We had a year of happiness”

Shane Meadows awarding winning drama continues with a skillful balance of light and dark.

Episode two opens again with the secret weapon that is Harvey (played by Michael Socha), with his laugh out loud comedy (“It’s a f**king bag inside a bag dude”) and his charming, charismatic presence that is difficult not to love. It could be said he is the new Woody, leading the new youth group on the convoy to a rave in a wood.

It’s the summer of love, rave culture is taking England by full storm and Meadows delivers sunshine and happiness. He shoots and scores for big bouncing laughs and is delivered perfectly with the support of Flip and Higgy (even though Joe Dempsies underplayed and quietly funny idiocy is far more effective than Perry Fitzpatrick’s more obvious antics).

However all this happiness feels sickeningly temporary, as viewers we are waiting for the inevitable turn and we are all pretty certain it is going to be in the form of “stuggling” Kelly. Chanel Cresswell gives a superb performance as Kelly. She was never a central character in the original film and previous series but it is evident that her character is the first to crack and will serve as a catalyst for the impending doom to face the clan. Kelly is stuggling with life with the cloud of her abusive father following her around. She tried to subside this struggle with a unhealthy dosage of drugs, alcohol and barely consenting sex with very questionable men. A massive praise to Chanel Cresswl who does a good job and portraying this difficult and uncomfortable material. We also see a surprisingly and emotional transition from Gadget who drops his dopey, hapless persona to a friend who tries to hard to reach Kelly but fails, this shows beautifully how Meadows gives his characters a new dimension.


It is evident there is a divide in the group. The youths (Kelly, Trev, Harvey, Gadget, Shaun) all seem lost and are struggling to find their place in the world. And the adults (Lol, Milky, Woody) all seems to play happy families by holding a family BBQ with under cooked chicken, ghetto blasters and arm wrestles. There some parts of that scene which I think were over played but on a whole portrayed what is seemingly a normal existence.

Shaun is the winner again for me in this episode, We can see that he is burying his feelings and is struggling to cope with his inability to manage his depression. There was a beautiful scene between Shaun and a 47 year old travelling hippy woman where he really opens up about the loss of his father and his difficulty in connecting with his Mum. It all feels so real that he truly is a lost teenager not knowing what path to take. And it is so easily relatable we’ve all had teenage angst so worse than others.

The descent into darkness is fast approaching, the happy nirvana bliss turns into something difficult to watch, with Kelly unable to handle herself, being coaxed into taking smack and subsequently being taking advantage of. The whole scene becomes uncomfortable to watch, Kelly’s pain and struggle is all too real – “Gadget, I’m a slag”. And this is all before Combo’s return which could replicate the result of a nuclear apocalypse( which we know is pending as he calls Lol expressing his concerns over where to live with his parole appoaching).

The only let down so far me is the portrayal of the aftermath of Combo’s vicious attack on Milky we have yet to see how this really effected him. But I’m sure there will be some sort of show down between the pair. “Summer” ends with an electrifying shot of Combo (played by Stephen Graham) looking out of his cell window awaiting his release.

Stephen Graham in This Is England '90

With a sneak peek into the next episode “Autumn” it is evident that the darkness has arrived and falling upon everyone like leaves to the ground. Can’t wait.

This is England ’90 – “Spring” Episode One

“Erect yourselves” – Shane Meadows award winning drama returns for it’s final series set 7 years after our first encounter with the group of disaffected youths. The former ‘skinheads’ wave goodbye to Maggie and give a warm hello to tie dye, bucket hats and acid house.

Episode one “Spring” (the series is split into 4 episodes, each one set in a different season) sees things looking up for the whole gang. Lol and Woody who were last seen sobbing in a chapel hospital are playing happy families, Michael Socha playing the cheeky chap drug dealer Harvey is hilariously blunt who tells a group of goths “to drink some blood”, Gadget hasn’t lost any of his charm, Kelly and Trev are still best mates and seemed to have put their past haunted by Kelly’s dad Mick behind them. It seems the only person who isn’t part of the happy club is poor Shaun. Shaun was last seen hopelessly wallowing over his break up from Michelle “Smell” in This is England ’88 and two years later he is still desperately trying to hide his sadness but seriously failing. Shaun played by Thomas Turgoose was the winner for me in this episode, his performance was compelling, his pain appeared so raw and so very real. Part of me just wanted to slide into the TV and tell him it’s not.

This episode starts the same way as This is England ’86, with a positive, comedic vibe taking president. However it all feels very ironic, especially when Milky states “Don’t worry, good times will come again”, a tongue in cheek comment when the lads find out there are no chips left over from the local primary school where Lol works. I felt a slight sadness, as I know that if this series is to go by the previous, this positive, happy, euphoric time will not last.

Complimented with a trailer for the episodes to come, I personally cannot wait for the return of Stephen Graham’s character “Combo” who was last seen taking the wrap for Lol who emotionally bludgeoned her rapist father to death with a hammer.

The direction from Meadows is perfection and his ability to capture life in the ’90’s for the working class is second to none. Beautifully soundtracked with “Madchester” inspired music pulsating in the background and a haze of cigarettes, alcohol, glow sticks and bongs, I cannot wait for next Sunday already and it has totally reincarnated my love for Stone Roses and Happy Monday’s.

Jupiter Ascending: Descending quickly into disappointment

From the creators of The Matrix trilogy, the Wachowkis deliver another visually pleasing, action packed watch, but failing to deliver any sort of substantial plot line which left me constantly saying “Wait, what?”

The Wachowkis are extremely ambitious film makers, which is an attribute that has led them to their highs and lows throughout their career. However at the top of their game they have given us some outstanding masterpieces such as the first Matrix and the underrated Cloud Atlas, so it was at no surprise that their next installment would be highly anticipated. So it’s at great sadness that Jupiter Ascending failed at being anything close to a masterpiece.

The film goes a little something like this (courtesy of Warner Bros)

From the streets of Chicago to the far-flung galaxies whirling through space, “Jupiter Ascending” tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, with signs predicting she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along-her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

The plot seems to be the biggest bug bearer with me. Don’t get me wrong, visually it has Waschowki all over it, almost like an art piece. But it seems that this time they have neglected the plot. It starts out promising with a good enough premise focusing on a young woman discovering that there is more to life than she thought, but as the film goes on the narrative only goes on to be more muddled. At the end of the first hour I actually said to myself “I don’t have a clue what is going on, and I don’t really care that much”. The temptation to turn it off (which is a big deal for me, I never bail half way through a film) was at its peak, after a tea refreshment I continue to dull my brain and sacrifice more brain cells.

With an unfollowable plot at its core, the characters are left one dimensional with a plot they didn’t seem to understand. When watching the film we should be deeply involved with Jupiters journey, cheering her along the way as she fights the baddies and wins her right to inherit earth, but instead she’s left under developed and lost in the hyperbolic and length action sequences constantly being rescued by Channing Tatums half wolf half albino Caine on his really annoying anti gravity roller skates (they are really annoying!!!!). Credit to Mila Kunis on her take on Jupiter Jones, and it really does show that she is a half decent actress.

With over exaggerated style and absolutely no substance. It really boils down to a film with no personality and just kind of annoying. The only character you sort of believe is Kunis with her starting naivety to developing strong willingness which is massively ironic as Tatum was chosen for his charisma (which there is non of in this). Eddie Redmayne goes from his outstanding oscar winning Theory of Everything, to Theory of nothing playing Balem, (Jupiters alien brother who wants Earth for himself) who is deeply aggravating with his breathy voice and mummy boy screams.

With an all star ensemble, ridiculously confusing plot and strong visuals, I spent the majority of the film bored, annoyed at the Wachowkis and just thinking, this is just terrible.

However there is one positive element to this film…. SEAN BEAN LIVES TO SEE THE END OF A FILM!