Victoria and Abdul (2017)

Director: Stephen Frears

Writer: Lee Hall (Screenplay) Shrabani Basu (Book)

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Olivia Williams, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar

 

Plot: Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.


Tagline – History’s most unlikely friendship

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enlightening Historical Moment

 

Story: Victoria and Abdul starts as Abdul Karim (Fazal) and Mohammed (Akhtar) are selected to travel from India to England to present Queen Victoria (Dench) with a gift from the Indian Empire. When Queen Victoria sees something in Abdul, sees becomes friends with him, learning about the Indian culture in a way she could never understand from the English textbook.

While their relationship becoming the talk of the palace, they even start to question whether it is good for her, but the relationship gives Queen Victoria a chance to express the lost loves of her life, a face she could never have on front of her subjects.

 

Thoughts on Victoria and Abdul

 

Characters – Queen Victoria is the elderly Queen of England, Albert has passed on, her children have their own lives and now she goes for countless routines of meeting different people, with most people almost waiting for her to die. When she befriends Abdul she gets a new lease for life and she looks to embrace the Indian culture. Abdul is a clerk from India, he gets selected to present Queen Victoria a gift, he soon finds himself being her closest aid, teaching her about the Indian culture, causing a potential rift in the royal household. He treats Queen Victoria like a person rather than a royal figure which is what helps her enjoy her later life.

PerformancesJudi Dench is fantastic in the leading role, bringing us a performance that could rival her Mrs Brown performance as Queen Victoria too. Ali Fazal is brilliant in the partnership role with Dench, he helps give the light to the role that at times is treated with racial hate. The supporting cast across the board is great too showing all the different levels people treated outsiders.

StoryThe story follows the later years Queen Victoria who became friends with an Indian clerk against the will of rest of the palace. We see how this gave her a new lease for life if only for a couple of years. The story that history wanted you to forget about becomes a fascinating watch because like most interesting moments in history they have faced being erased.

Biopic/HistoryQueen Victoria was one of the great known members of the royal family, the former longest ruling monarch, she had many stories and this is another one that shows us what she was like.

SettingsThe settings all feel authentic for the time showing us what it was like for Abdul to learn the new culture.


Scene of the Movie –
You will respect Abdul speech.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The end while following history is frustrating to see.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great history lesson on the iconic leader of the country. It has two wonderful performances and enough charm to enjoy for everybody watching.

 

Overall: Enjoyable historical film.

Rating

 

 

 

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Molly’s Game (2017)

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Writer: Aaron Sorkin (Screenplay) Molly Bloom (Book)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, J.C. MacKenzie

 

Plot: The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.


Runtime: 2 Hour 20 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Overly Long

 

Story: Molly’s Game starts as we learn how the Olympic dream of Molly Bloom (Chastain) are shattered due to a freak accident, broke and moving away from her demanding father Larry (Costner) to moves to LA. In what becomes a trend in this movie we see the FBI raid Molly’s apartment laying on new charges to her for running illegal poker games with the mobs.

Needing to clear her name again Molly recruits lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Elba) as we learn how she started as small time secretary and turned into secret poker game mogul for the elite, movie stars, athletes and business tycoons alike. We learn mostly how she must clear her name from any illegal activities.  

 

Thoughts on Molly’s Game

 

Characters – Molly Bloom is our narrator, our story telling, she has been branded the Poker Princess. She tells us the whole story how she has gone from just being a hostess to becoming the owner and leader of the secret poker game for the social elite, she won’t give up the names of her clients even if she could to get off any criminal offences. Charlie Jaffey is the lawyer who reluctantly takes the case, he knows she could be defended and challenges her to take a plea, while showing similar characteristics to Molly’s own father. We get to meet plenty of characters along the way who have played in the game, each with their own sub-stories.

PerformancesJessica Chastain is great in this leading role showing she is one of the best actresses in the business today, Idris Elba is strong in the supporting role, but not being his fault, I would have liked an extra dimension to his character. The rest of the cast are good without being great through the film.

StoryThe story follows Molly’s rise and fall in the secret poker playing world, how it starts with celebrities and soon turns into mobsters. We jump around different times as she is telling the story to Charlie, but there is a lot of rinse repeat when it comes to the poker events which only leads us to get tired of, this is a new player, he came from this place and has this much money, he is this level of poker player. I found myself thinking that we didn’t care too much about Molly’s story, she barely does anything that illegal, she just offers people with too much money a chance to lose it to other players.

BiopicThis is something we have been seeing a lot in Hollywood now a days, we follow a person that did something minor that wouldn’t effect most people that seems to think it is a story we want to see, even if the story isn’t that interesting.

SettingsThe settings show us the high life the characters we have been living in, this shows us how secretive the game was to the people involved.


Scene of the Movie –
Charlie snaps in a briefing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does seem to repeat what we have seen before.

Final ThoughtsThis wasn’t on the level it could be, we have a character in Molly we don’t really care about because most of the characters we meet here are on the high-life just spending money most people could never see. The performances are the strength in the movie.

 

Overall: Not the best biopic you will see.

Rating

 

 

Mountains May Depart (2017)

Director: Zhangke Jia

Writer: Zhangke Jia (Screenplay)

Starring: Tao Zhao, Yi Zhang, Jing Dong Liang, Zijian Dong, Sylvia Chang, Sanming Han

 

Plot: The life of Tao, and those close to her, is explored in three different time periods: 1999, 2014, and 2025.


Runtime: 2 Hours 11 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Heart-Breakingly Wonderful

 

Story: Mountains May Depart starts in 1999, two friends Jinsheng (Zhang) and Liangzi (Liang) are both in love with their friend Tao (Zhao), though both are from very different backgrounds, Jinsheng is set for a successful career as the owner of the mine, while Liangzi is set to work around the mines.

When Tao chooses Jinsheng to marry, it is the friendship with Liangzi that must suffer as he becomes distant from the two forcing him to leave, Jinsheng and Tao starting a family.

We move to the 2014 where Liangzi is still a miner, he has a family of his own now, but he is sick, needing to borrow money for his treatment, needing to return to his old friends. We continue to follow our three characters stories focusing on Tao mostly in the year 2025 to see how things change, but friendship can hold people together even with decades apart.

 

Thoughts on Mountains May Depart

 

Characters – Tao is the central character we follow, we see how she must choose between two friends, knowing she would leave one broken. In the middle chapter of the story we see how her life hasn’t gone as planned, separated from husband and worse, her son. This is a wonderfully created character, that must go through so many different emotions, make choices that will break her, but are right for the people in her life. Jinsheng is the successful businessman that won Tao’s heart, only to divorce her moving away from her life with their child. Liangzi is the other friend, the manual worker that is never going to get out of the mining world. He leaves a broken man only to return with his own family, sick in need of support from his friends.

PerformancesTao Zhao in the leading role gives us a brilliant performance, we feel each emotion she must go through, the difficulty she shows in the decisions she makes. Jing Dong Liang is the next best performer over the three leads, you can see his heartbreak and desperation in his character. Yi Zhang is great too, but I feel we didn’t get to see enough of his characters motivation through the film. the supporting cast are all fantastic too, we see the difficult decisions they must make to find their way.

StoryThe story follows Tao in three different years of her life, the first is just after university, the second is the death of her father and her child going to a new country, the third is the direction her life went after that moment. We do also follow other characters through the different stages of their lives, be it the two friends and the son that doesn’t know where to take his life. This movie could easily have comparisons to ‘Lion’ which does have a different reason for the separate, but the time jumps do show us the difficult for the child and the parents.

RomanceThe romance in the film shows the decision Tao must make, the consequences and the path her son takes without her, for the most part this is more about the drama of the choices Tao and her friends make over the romantic side of things.

SettingsThe settings show us the different worlds our characters are living in, moving to and the lives people can have.


Scene of the Movie –
Trip home with young Dollar.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not knowing what happened to Liangzi.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wonderful drama that shows us the difficult decisions that needed to be made from these characters, they seem to be the right ones but the hardest to make.

 

Overall: Brilliant drama that will play on the emotions.

Rating

 

 

Jamie Marks is Dead (2014)

Director: Carter Smith

Writer: Carter Smith (Screenplay) Christopher Barzak (Novel)

Starring: Morgan Saylor, Noah Silver, Cameron Monaghan, Brett DelBuono, Fred Tolliver Jr, Ronen Rubinstein, Liv Tyler, Judy Greer

 

Plot: In a wintry small town, the body of a teenager named Jamie Marks is found by the river. Adam, the star of his cross-country team, becomes fascinated with Jamie-a boy nobody really knew or interacted with, except occasionally to bully him. When Jamie’s ghost begins to appear both to Adam and Gracie, the classmate who discovered the body, Adam is caught between two worlds. He has a budding romance with Gracie, but he also feels a deep connection to Jamie, who brings him closer to the world of the undead.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Interesting Drama

 

Story: Jamie Marks is Dead starts with the discovery of Jamie Marks (Silver) body in a riverine in the small town he is from, bullied by most, it is Adam (Monaghan) who looks back at his brief memories of his time with Jamie wanting to pay respect to where he was discovered, where he meets Gracie (Saylor) the girl who found the body.

When Adam becomes friends with Gracie the pair start to get visits from the ghost of Jamie which drives Adam’s interest into what happened to him leading him down the narrow road between life and death as he is left to question his own sexuality and uncover the mystery surrounding Jamie’s death.

 

Thoughts on Jamie Marks is Dead

 

Characters/PerformanceAdam is the star runner at his high school, he keeps to himself without getting involved in being or conducting any bullying. He gets drawn to what happened to one of the victims of the bullying as he hits the awkward age where he must discover his own sexuality. Gracie is the one friend Adam finds himself having, she is also a lonely character that is seeing the ghost of Jamie too but not on the same level as Adam. She does also give the warnings about getting to know the ghost can be. Jamie is the bullied school boy who ends up dead, he returns as a ghost to show Adam a way through life getting him to help solve his murder or the mystery surround his death.

The performance are all good from the main actors, they help unfold the story for us in a way that keeps us interested in seeing where it will go.

StoryThe story does follow on high school student that is trying to figure out who he is, be it in life, he sexuality and his draw towards a recent death in the town. Looking at how it all unfolds we get elements of the ghosts of our past guiding us to the answers that seem easiest rather than the ones we need to see. This is slow moving at time but does keep you full attention to just what will happen.

SettingsThe small town settings is always good for the dramas as it shows how the town can show us just how cruel people can be and how easily the stories can spread.

Final ThoughtsThis is a film that is good for what it is telling us, we have a good story, good acting and a meaningful message.

 

Overall: Drama that keeps your attention without being edge of your seat.

Rating

 

 

Brigsby Bear (2017)

Director: Dave McCary

Writer: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney (Screenplay)

Starring: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Micheala Watkins, Jane Adams

 

Plot: Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself.


Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Delightful Charming

 

Story: Brigsby Bear starts as we meet James (Mooney) a young man living in an underground bunker with his parents Ted (Hamill) & April (Adams), he is learning advance maths with his only entertainment coming from a children’s show Brigsby Bear.

This world comes crashing down when the police invade the compound rescuing James who doesn’t even know the truth about his life, Detective Vogel (Kinnear) had been leading the investigation, but he must let James’s real parents Greg (Walsh) & Louise (Watkins) guide him in the real world. In the real world Brigsby Bear doesn’t exist though, making James the only person to have ever seen the show.

James decides to try and continue the story of Brigsby Bear by introducing him to the world as he searches for his place in the world that he has never experienced before.

 

Thoughts on Brigsby Bear

 

Characters – James was raised in an underground bunker away from the world with only one show to keep him occupied. James learns the world for the first time as a young adult, he only wants to continue the show which gains a cult following on the internet, learning to be part of the world is the hardest part for James. Greg and Louise are the parents that spent 25-years looking for James and must adapt to the fact he has only known one life growing up. Ted is the man that kept James in the bunker, he and his wife kidnapped a baby of James raising him for themselves. Emily is the doctor that is trying to help James through his problems, she tries to push him to escape his illusion of that world. Detective Vogel is the lead investigator on the case and is open to accepting the problems in James’ views of the world.

PerformancesKyle Mooney is fantastic in this leading role, he has the innocence about his character with the idea of not knowing where he should be in the world too. Greg Kinnear is good as the detective with a heart and no backstory too. The rest of the cast are good as they never take the spotlight of Mooney’s performance.

StoryThe story follows one young man thrown into the world after years of being kept captive by a couple learning everything he did know was in fact fake. The only way James can continue in this new world would be to continue the Brigsby story because he simply isn’t prepared for what the world has to offer. This shows how people can focus on one thing in life to make sure they can get through times of need and just how important the creative process is.

ComedyThe comedy in this movie is charming and entertaining throughout working with the dramatic side of the story.

SettingsThe film doesn’t have any iconic settings but the places we find the story unfolding are hugely entertaining and important to James learning the world.


Scene of the Movie –
The Movie.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The help James gets seems almost non-existent.

Final ThoughtsThis is a delightfully charming movie that entertains throughout. We have a story that does keep us happy throughout.

 

Overall: Must watch delight.

Rating