Red Joan (2018) Movie Review

Director: Trevor Nunn

Writer: Lindsay Shapero (Screenplay) Jennie Rooney (Novel)

Starring: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Nina Sosanya, Laurence Spellman, Nicola Sloane, Tereza Srbova, Freddie Gaminara, Tom Hughes, Stephen Campbell Moore

Plot: The story of Joan Stanley (Dame Judi Dench), who was exposed as the K.G.B.’s longest-serving British spy.

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: So Dull

Story: Red Joan starts when elderly lady Joan (Dench) gets arrested with the suspicion of treason for release secrets over years, since 1939, to 2000. This takes Joan back to her younger self (Cookson) who met people in her time at Oxford, including Sonya (Srbova) and Leo (Hughes) who put her in connection with a KGB connection.

After university Joan starts working for Max (Campbell Moore) who has been development nuclear weapons, a role she must keep secret, despite the number of people that came looking to get secrets out of her including her love Leo and former student William.

Thoughts on Red Joan

Characters – Joan is an elderly lady arrested and charged with treason, she must remember her life which saw her working on England’s own nuclear defence, while being friends with Russians, making it appear like she might have been playing both side, she must tell her story to see if she is guilty or not. Leo is the Russian that Joan has fallen in love with, he only turns up when she needs something, making it clear that he is trying to learn more about her role, using his charm to get information. Max is the person that hires Joan, gives her a chance in a male world of science to show her own brilliance, he will push for her greatest to be seen by the world.

PerformancesJudi Dench does seem wasted in this role, she does her best with what little she has to work with, it just would have been nice to see more. When it comes to the rest of the cast, they all struggle to make any impact in the story.

StoryThe story here follows an elderly lady accused of treason and dive into her past to learn the truth. This sounds like it should be a very interesting thriller, but soon turns into a romantic based movie, which seems to imply that Joan only helped the people who she seems to love, it has so much potential to be a much more interesting story, only for it to come up very short and just being bland and forgettable.

BiopicThe biopic side of the film is meant to show what happened in Joan’s early life only for it to be more about her love life than anything else.

SettingsThe film does re-create the locations that you would have imagined seeing for the 40s and 50s timeline.


Scene of the Movie – Press Conference.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too much pointless love.

Final Thoughts This is a really disappointing biopic thriller that just doesn’t get close to the levels it could do, leaving us feeling like we should be getting a lot more out of the material.

Overall: Disappointing.

JT LeRoy (2018) Movie Review

Director: Justin Kelly

Writer: Justin Kelly, Savannah Knoop (Screenplay)

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Jim Sturgess, Diane Kruger, Kelvin Harrison Jr, James Jagger

Plot: A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.


Tagline – Based on the incredible true lie

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Quirky

Story: JT LeRoy starts when Savannah (Stewart) moves to San Francisco to move in with her brother Geoff (Sturgess) and his partner Laura (Dern), the couple have a band, with Laura having her own book written by her alter ego JT LeRoy, with the book starting to get a bigger following.

Laura wants to make more for JT, which sees her turn to Savannah to dress up in public for photoshoots before getting more involved with social occasion, right up to a movie being made about him, with Savannah struggling with the extra attentions of being somebody else.

Thoughts on JT LeRoy

Characters – Savannah moves to San Francisco to start a new life, with her brother giving her a place to start, she just wants a normal life there, but this doesn’t happen, when she gets talking into pretending to being the secret author of her sisters-in-law’s book, a man that the world wants to meet. She does struggle with this, but does enjoy the bigger social experience becoming more confident as the fake author. Laura is the real author that created a persona to be the real author, she has been the voice before for interviews, but never the person, pushing Savannah into become the author for her. Geoff is the brother to Savannah who offers her a place to live and introduces the two, he doesn’t want Savannah to feel pressure into doing anything she doesn’t want too. Eva is the celebrity that wants to meet JT, she host parties and gets closer to her.

PerformancesKristen Stewart is great in this leading role, she shows the confliction her character is caught up in during the film. Laura Dern shows us just how desperate for fame some people will be in life, while the rest of the cast do nothing wrong through the film, working well with the main two members of the cast.

StoryThe story here follows a young woman that gets talked into becoming a version of an author her sister-in-law created and how the world starts to spiral out of control. This does show us all about trying to make the most out of life, giving the audience what they want with the illusion of what they want in life to give them the happiness they need. Outside of the world the characters are trying to find their own identity in life, which is always good to see learning about one’s identity.

BiopicThe biopic shows how Savannah thought she was walking into one life, only to have the whole thing turned on its head for her, showing how she was stuck in the middle of helping people and being herself.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us different party environments that Savannah ends up attending, it shows us how her life was different and each trip was something new for her.


Scene of the Movie – The reading.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Laura is a mostly annoying character, not down to the performance though.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting look at how celebrity is created, how people will want their own versions of people no matter what the truth is.

Overall: Celebrity Illusions.

American Fighter (2020) Movie Review

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Writer: Carl Morris, Shaun Paul Piccinino (Screenplay)

Starring: Tommy Flanagan, Sean Patrick Flanery, Christina Moore, Allison Paige, John Dubey, Anna Zielinksi, George Kosturos

Plot: A desperate teenager is forced into the dangerous world of underground fighting to win enough money to save his ailing mother. He finds out what he’s made of in the face of these violent hungry competitors.

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Underground Rocky

Story: American Fighter starts as Ali Jahani (Kosturos) a college wrestling student whose parents are coming to America before an incident sees his father killed and his mother stuck in Iran, with no help from the embassy, Ali needs to turn to other methods, one which sees needing to make money quickly.

Ali’s best friend and roommate Ryan (Craig) introduces Ali to illegal underground fighting, under McClellen (Flanagan) who will offer him the money he needs to get his mother to America.

Thoughts on American Fighter

Characters – Ali Jahani is an Iranian that has earnt a scholarship to a US college with his wrestling skills. His parents are due to join him only for that to come crashing down around him when his father is executed and his mother is stranded in Iran, needing medical treatment. Ali must make big money quickly to get his mother other out, which sees him shining in underground fighting, until he risks too much, he will stop at nothing. Ryan is the roommate introduces Ali to the underground fighting scene, he will help get the money, but is aware of what could happen with the wrong decision. McClellen is the runner of the illegal fights, he will offer fair odds, but if he sees a chance to make big money himself, he will take advantage of anyone who gets too good in his eyes. Duke is the drunk handler, he prepares the fighters both before and after the matches, he sees Ali with potential, wanting to fight for the right reasons and offers to help him, risking his position under McClellen.

PerformancesGeorge Kosturos in the leading role is good through the film, he handles the fighting well, while bring realism to the emotional side of the film. Tommy Flanagan is great as the promotor of the fights, he always makes us feel like he is a dirty character in the world. Sean Patrick Flannery brings us the man who has lost everything, that will help someone as his own way to recover from his past.

StoryThe story here follows a college student from Iran that is waiting for his parents coming only to learn he will need to make a large amount of money, which will see him needing to turn to illegal fights to make quick money. This is meant to be based on a true story and does follow the path of someone needing that would help him through illegal fights, it shows him needing to start up against tougher opponents, risking more to make more money. It does follow the same ideas of any of the inspirational fighting movie without needing to do too much to hit home on these ideas.

BiopicThe biopic side of the film shows the difficult situation that Ali and how he will do anything, we don’t get the complete story of what happened next though.

SettingsThe film does use the settings to show us how the fights are contained within the dark buildings away from the world, next to the college setting which should be filled with hope.


Scene of the Movie – The final fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The romance storyline feels like we don’t need it.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book inspirational fighting movie, showing one man that will need to fight against the odds for the greater good, it is an easy watch, though it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Overall: Enjoyable.

Signature Entertainment presents American Fighter on Digital HD from July 20th

Hamilton (2020) Movie Review

Director: Thomas Kail

Writer: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Screenplay)

Starring: Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Chris Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Plot: The real life of one of America’s foremost founding fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Captured live on Broadway from the Richard Rodgers Theater with the original Broadway cast.

Runtime: 2 Hours 40 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Beautiful

Story: Hamilton starts as Alexander Hamilton (Miranda) arrives in the middle of the Revolutionary War, where he finds himself as the righthand man to George Washington (Jackson), as they look to gain their freedom from King George (Groff). Alexander is a fighter and finds it hard to step away from the conflict, despite his marriage to Eliza (Soo) and his growing family wanting him to leave the conflict behind.

After the war Alexander is assigned to join George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (Diggs) to try and find a solution to rebuild the country, which only brings more clashes between the men.

Thoughts on Hamilton

Final Thoughts This is a stage version of the largely popular musical Hamilton, one that brings a new look at home the independence of America happened, be it from escaping England’s hold and tries to build themselves are their own country, without the leadership in place. You will need to know the basics of American history before going in, even if this does bring spins to certain parts. When it comes to the music involved, we do get some brilliant songs, that do help cover the weaker songs involved, with the whole cast getting their moment to shine in the musical moments. This is one of the musical that does bring a full range of music, which does have the traditional styles, mixed with the modern music that makes you unsure on what each song will bring you. The opening song isn’t as hooking as many musicals, but once you are past that one, you could find yourself swept away in the play.

Overall: Magical Musical.

Tobey Maguire Weekend – Pawn Sacrifice (2014) Movie Review

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Steven Knight (Screenplay) Stephen J Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Steven Knight (Story)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Lily Rabe, Edward Zinoviev, Alexandre Gorchkov

Plot: Set during the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers and his own struggles as he challenges the Soviet Empire.


Tagline – In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his madness.

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Chess Made Interesting

Story: Pawn Sacrifice starts as a young Bobby Fischer grows up learning chess, his reputation grows and before long he becomes the champion of America. Not happy with just winning in America Bobby (Maguire) wants to become the youngest world champion and take on the Russian players with the world champion Boris Spassky (Schreiber).

After learning how the Russians play, Bobby storms out of the game, knowing he wouldn’t get a chance to win, Paul Marshall (Stuhlbarg) and priest Father Bill Lombardy (Sarsgaard) agree to work with Bobby to put his name back on the map, to one get the showdown with the champion Boris.

Thoughts on Pawn Sacrifice

Characters – Bobby Fischer is an American chess prodigy, he has proven himself in America and wants to conquer the world, it doesn’t take long before he starts learning about the corruption within the game, which will hold him back, he does make himself difficult to work with, always believing he is being bugged by the Russians, storming out at certain moments, his determination to have thing done a certain done the right way, does make things more complicated for his future in the sport. It is clear that Bobby is dealing with a lot of mental issues, which don’t get dealt with properly. Boris Spassky is the Russian Grand Master, current World Champion, that like Bobby is being controlled by his handlers, he just wants to prove himself against the best, which means facing Bobby in whichever style of game possible. Paul Marshall is the man that brings Bobby back to the game, he becomes his manager, making thing happen for the player, however difficult Bobby is to work with.

PerformancesTobey Maguire is wonderful in the leading role, this is one of the movies which does seem to be one of the finally screen appearances in years, which is a shame because of how talented he is. Liev Schreiber is great to watch as the rival chess player, with the fellow supporting cast, Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Sarsgaard both giving strong performances.

StoryThe story here follows the rise of chess genius Bobby Fischer as he deals with his own mental health when trying to break down the Russian dominance in the world of chess to become the new world champion. This is an interesting story because it does show how conflicted Bobby was when it came to the game of chess, he did want to become champion, but being in the middle of the cold war, only built up the tension between the nations playing the game too. If we were going to look to learn the full Bobby Fischer story, we will be left disappointed because his life because even more fascinating after the big championship match.

BiopicThe biopic side of this film only shows the build up to the big championship match, where the two heavyweights will come to face each other, instead of the more interesting later steps of his life.

SettingsThe film does show us just how many different locations that could be bugged that would cause the problems for Bobby.


Scene of the Movie – The chess matches.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could learn so much more about Bobby’s life after this big match.

Final Thoughts This is an enjoyable thriller about chess, who would have thought of this beforehand. Tobey Maguire is great to watch through the film.

Overall: Interesting Chess Thriller.