Friday, October 24, 2014


The 1980s were a stormy time throughout the world but especially in the United Kingdom. With Margaret Thatcher in power, many opposed her government's decisions and she made many enemies throughout her eleven-year reign (and up to her death last year). In a tumultuous time like the eighties, enemies are bound to be made.

One of Thatcher's enemies during this time was the National Union of Mineworkers, thanks to her government's decision to reduce the mining industry. Matthew Warchus' Pride focuses on a group of gay and lesbian activists who raise money to help the miners. Their efforts send them to a Welsh village, resulting in an unusual alliance.

Pride is one of those films that will clearly be called a crowd-pleaser. But unlike some other films that are called the same thing, Pride is actually that the whole time. From beginning to end, the film is an absolute delight. Even when the going gets rough, you're still rooting for them.

With any great British film, the cast is fantastic. The names are amongst the likes of the silver screen (Imelda Stauton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine), the TV screen (Dominic West, Joseph Gilgun, Andrew Scott) and all those in between. And every single one of them is great.

Pride is simply a film that everyone should see. Not just because of the quality writing and acting but also because of its depiction of people (well, most people) as open and accepting. It's also a world we should be living in rather than the hate-filled prejudicial society we live in now.

My Rating: *****

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Imitation Game

Ever since his big break in Sherlock four years ago (and once or twice before then), Benedict Cumberbatch has specialized a particular role: the flawed genius. The brilliant mind who earns equal praise and contempt from his peers for his intelligence and arrogance, the latter ultimately leading to his downfall. Is it typecasting? Perhaps, but you can't deny he's good at the role.

He continues this trend in Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked Germany's enigma code during World War II. Like many of his other roles, Cumberbatch just radiates an energy unlike any other actor working today. You simply can't take your eyes off him when he's onscreen.

It wasn't arrogance that brought Turing down but rather his lifestyle. (Turing had the misfortune of living in a time where homosexuality was a criminal offence.) But the film doesn't dwell too much on Turing's private life as it does with his achievements, which is both a positive (one shouldn't be judged on their sexual preference) and a negative (opinions on sexuality were much different 60-70 years ago than they are now).

Like several of his last few films, Cumberbatch is alongside an impressive roster of actors. Among some of them are Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Rory Kinnear. They're all good, but Knightley's easily the best of them. Most of her past roles have her as only prim and genteel. Here, she has a much more well-rounded role. (And this is coming from someone not overly fond of her, mind you.)

Although cold in some scenes, The Imitation Game stays mostly consistent throughout. The acting and directing are very good, and Alexandre Desplat's score is simply gorgeous. (Very reminiscent of his work for Atonement.) Though flawed, the film shines a light on a man who was praised in secret and condemned for all to see.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bad Education

Lies, temptation and betrayal. These are the three things that make for any film noir. Then again, they could also be applied to any good drama. (Seriously, go watch Gone Girl if you don't think that's true.)

Pedro Almodovar often uses those elements for his films but none more so than Bad Education. A throwback to the noirs of days past, the film shows how even if you know someone, you don't really know them.

Like many of Almodovar's films, Bad Education features the occasional throwaway line that becomes crucial later on in the film. And with this being a tribute to film noirs, this Almodovar trademark becomes all the more relevant. It's a small detail, perhaps, but it's one worth mentioning.

And also like Almodovar's other work, Bad Education focuses on the powers of sex and cinema, To some, they're just casual hobbies. But to the characters of Bad Education, they have a form of healing. Strange forms of solace, perhaps, but they can work well to the right people.

Bad Education is definitely one of those films where the main theme is looks can be deceiving. Everyone wears a mask to those around them. It's only a matter of time before those masks begin to slip off.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, October 5, 2014


If there's one thing that's never completely perfect, it's marriage. Sure, the early years might seem perfect, but it's never that way as time wears on. Because after all, who are you really married to?

That's a theme that's been in countless works of fiction, the most recent entry being Gone Girl. It's easily one of the acidic depictions of marriage ever captured. Seriously, you thought George and Martha form Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had a toxic union.

Gillian Flynn's novel is just dripping with hatred and contempt. Usually that's a trait for perhaps either a lone scene or even a character. But for a whole novel? That is a daring move. (A Jane Austen quote comes to mind: "I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.")

Apart from a few tweaks here and there (some scenes/minor characters removed, minor details altered), Flynn keeps the viciousness very much alive in David Fincher's adaptation. And as expected from any Fincher film, the cast is sublime. Everything about the film is so deliciously wicked, but nothing can top Flynn's script. (Oh, and Rosamund Pike's performance.)

But which of the two reigns supreme? The novel is very good (even though some might think otherwise) though Flynn manages to improve it for the film. But both are fine works in their own right, so choosing is a bit hard. (Thankfully, not too hard.)

What's worth checking out?: The movie.