Review – Brooklyn (2015)

Merry merry and good cheer all around, I hope you’ve had a lovely few days if you celebrated Christmas. I’ve got a real gem of a movie for you to catch during the holidays, one that makes you feel the range of emotions from sadness to joy without having to succumb to the smarminess of Love Actually and other seasonal staples.


Brooklyn is the story of Eilis, a young Irish girl going nowhere fast in a small town in 1950’s Ireland. With the help of her sister, she manages to secure a job and a place to live in Brooklyn, New York, so she packs up what little is left of her life and travels by boat to New York. Although she has a boarding house to live in and a decent job, her first few months are marred by an unrelenting homesickness. She corresponds with her sister via letters and each one reminds her of what she left behind, even if it didn’t seem like much at the time.

The local Irish priest enrols her in bookkeeping classes, where she excels and begins to find some of her own identity, separate from who she was in Ireland. Then, one evening, she meets Tony, an Italian-American, and with this meeting her life in Brooklyn really begins to change. However, just as their relationship seems to come into itself, tragedy strikes at home and Eilis is forced to return to Ireland for a period. Here, she finds she now has the opportunities she never had before she left and she must decide where to make a life for herself.

Not long in to the movie, one of my companions asked me “I wonder where this story is going?” The thing is, Brooklyn is not a movie with a high concept plot that has you at the edge of your seat. If that is the kind of story you are after, you should be prepared to be disappointed. But I urge you to watch it nonetheless.

If you do give it a go, rather than at the edge of your seat, you should find yourself completely immersed in a certain, critical period of time in a young person’s life. With outstanding performances by Saoirse Ronan (Eilis) and Emory Cohen (Tony) you feel so invested in these characters that you are at a bit of a loss when the movie finishes. I already knew Ronan to be a formidable actress, with a face that’s like a canvas for emotions, but Cohen really came out of nowhere. He plays Tony with just the right amount of charm, yet there is also an awkwardness and sincerity to him which makes him endearingly vulnerable. I lost count of the amount of times I just wanted to reach through the screen and hug both of them.


And before you think this is “just” a love story, let me correct you straight away. Brooklyn is a highly relatable portrayal of what it means to leave behind the place you came from and create a life for yourself elsewhere. As someone who has lived outside of my own country of birth for almost half my life, and have had to start over in different countries several times, Eilis’ anguish was like a stab in the heart to me. The confusion you feel when you move some place new, the rootlessness, the loneliness; Brooklyn brings all of these aspects beautifully to the screen thanks to its measured script and engaging performances. I imagine that people will relate even if they only ever moved from a small town to the nearest big city.

Lastly, the film is absolutely stunning in its cinematography (DP is Yves Bélanger, also known for Wild and Dallas Buyers Club), art direction, costume design and make-up. It will leave you aching for the 1950’s, even if it means giving up your iPhone, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and various civil and human rights you take for granted now.


Brooklyn is a true delight, the kind of film you will happily watch again and again, just to spend some more time with its characters. If you come away from this movie with anything less than a broad smile and a warm fuzzy feeling inside, I’d love to hear from you and confirm you aren’t, in actual fact, some grumpy unicorn.

Trailer Tuesdays – The Legend of Tarzan; The BFG

Trailer Tuesdays is a regular feature where I look at recent trailers to get an idea of what we can expect of movie releases in the future. Today, as it’s almost Christmas, I thought: “Why not two, instead of one?” – the same attitude I have towards mince pies, roast potatoes and glasses of mulled wine.

So we shall start off with The Legend of Tarzan; a sizeable blockbuster coming out in summer 2016.

There is a lot going on in this trailer, but very little of it is storyline. A quick Google search reveals that this movie takes place some time after Tarzan has moved to England with Jane. He goes back to the Congo on a trade mission but things don’t go as planned due to the interference of the film’s villain, a Belgian Captain played by Christoph Waltz.

Did you get any of that from the trailer? Yeah, me neither. Never mind, the trailer does look gorgeous, ditto Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan.

The director is David Yates who is most famous for having directed several Harry Potter movies. I myself have little to no knowledge of the Harry Potter movies, so I don’t know what to expect from him. I am a bit concerned that Yates has another big movie on the cards for next year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as that’s a lot of work for any director.

My other main concern, as with anything Tarzan-related, is will they be able to avoid the blatant racism of the source material? I’m getting some Heart of Darkness vibes with the masses of ominous, faceless  “natives”  and I hope that’s just due to the trailer being so superficial.

One of the best books I read recently was King Leopold’s Ghost, which covers the atrocities of the Belgians in the Congo, and it would be truly amazing if Waltz character isn’t just some moustache-twirling movie villain, but a factually based representation of the numerous Belgian officials who managed to completely de-humanise a people.

If the movie is able to follow through on the stunning visuals, recognise the ludicrousness of its own roots and portray its African characters with depth and multitudes, I think this has the opportunity to be a rip-roaring ride.

Next up is the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG:

If you don’t know the story then, firstly, shame on you. Secondly, it’s about a little girl living in an orphanage, who happens to see a giant one night and is then abducted by him to his homeland, Giant Country.

We’re big fans of The BFG in our household and have tackled some long road trips giggling along to the story’s “whizzpopping”, “snozzcumber” and “frobscottle” all the way, so this is one I’m already emotionally invested in.

The BFG is directed by Steven Spielberg and I believe I have seen a film or two by this young upstart before. Although I haven’t adored every single Spielberg film, you can’t deny the man’s experience and craft, so this movie already has a great foundation.

And from what we see in the trailer, I’m really excited. The short glimpses of the giant are breathtaking; I think it’s a real challenge to make a character like him come to life on screen. We’ll have to wait and see what he looks like in full. It’s only a teaser trailer, so there unfortunately isn’t much material to judge it on. However, knowing the special touch that Spielberg has with movies which focus on good old fashioned adventure and childhood wonder – I’m thinking more E.T. than Hook here – I’m rather optimistic.

That’s it for today! Let me know what trailers you’ve seen recently that have left you giddy or groaning.



Review – The Gift (2015)

A few months ago, I wrote about my love of trailers and the ability they have to build a movie up or sometimes tear it down, before we’ve even seen the finished product. At the time, I was particularly interested in the reaction I had had to watching the trailer for The Gift and the reviews I had read that suggested my initial reaction was way off.

Well, I have now finally watched The Gift and, yes, the trailer does not adequately represent the quality of the movie, whether by design or accident I don’t know.


The movie introduces us to the married couple Simon and Robyn, who have recently moved back to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles due to a Simon’s new job. Shortly after moving in to their beautiful new home, they bump into an old class mate of Simon’s, Gordon or “Gordo”. Gordon seems really excited to have reconnected with Simon, Simon seems superficially friendly and not terribly interested, and Robyn, who from the get go has an air of loneliness and melancholy around her, seems pleased to have met a friendly soul in a new place.

Gordon begins dropping by their house unannounced, always bringing gifts. These visits leave Simon increasingly agitated, which only befuddles Robyn. She sees Gordon as kind but misunderstood, Simon relishes in telling her stories of how he was called “Gordo the Weirdo” in school and gets annoyed when Robyn doesn’t find these stories amusing. There is tension in this marriage already and it only gets exasperated by their differing reactions to Gordon’s visits.


Finally, during one awkward night when they have been invited to have dinner with Gordon, Simon loses patience and tells Gordon in no uncertain terms to stay away from them. At this point, we’ve all watched enough of these thrillers to think “Ooooooh, you’ve gone ‘n done it now Simon!”

Sure enough, after that, weird and disturbing things start happening in and around their house.

I’m not going to say too much more about the plot in order to save some of the mystery and enjoyment of watching it. Safe to say is that what follows is a depiction of a deeply flawed and unequal marriage, and an interesting if somewhat superficial look at how the misdeeds we commit against others can have far reaching, long lasting effects.

The movie is really well crafted and far better than you would expect for a first time director. Joel Edgerton wrote and directed the film and took on the role of Gordon. That’s some serious multi-tasking! His portrayal of Gordon is spot-on, treading a very fine balance between benign awkwardness and creepy, leaning ever so slightly towards either of those qualities whenever the script calls for it.


The cinematography is superb, not a total surprise as the DP is Eduard Grau, who also worked on A Single Man and other great movies. There’s is a certain aesthetic throughout the film and particularly the scenes shot in and outside of Robyn and Simon’s house are so well composed. There are lines dividing the screen in key scenes, panes of glass suggesting the presence of someone looking in, it looks beautiful but cold and lonely too; the whole house is a physical embodiment of the physiological issues the characters are going through.

This also brings me to one of the other excellent qualities of the movie; it is surprisingly scary! We were four people watching it, and three of us jumped in our seats and YELPED several times during the movie. It got my heart racing more than any horror movie I’ve watched this year.

Now I’m going to say some things about the storyline I didn’t enjoy so much, and it may get mildly spoiler, very mildly.

The less successful aspect of The Gift, for me, is to do with the Simon’s character and his past with Gordon.

Simon is a really terrible person. We see glimpses of this from early on, and when it is revealed later on just how awful he is, it’s no big surprise. However, the fact that he is clearly just rotten to the core takes the edge off the story for me a bit. I think the plot would have worked better had Simon been someone more relatable. Not a good man, but a flawed one who had done things that were just close enough to our own lapses that we would cringe. It may not be the intention of the movie to make us look inwards and reflect on the small (and big) cruelties we may have committed ourselves, I just think the movie would have been more powerful had it tried to. Without it, the story is really more a story of a bad man being really bad and finally having bad things happen to him.


I know a lot of people didn’t like the ending, found it exploitative and unnecessary. Personally, I think the ending worked. I did not see it coming and it left me thinking for a while afterwards about what I believed had happened, what seemed the more likely scenario, where the characters would go after that etc. I enjoy movies where the last five minutes forces you to rethink the whole movie and run through scenes in your mind. Did you see what you think you saw? What did you leave out because you were focusing elsewhere? You have to go back and pick up the trail of breadcrumbs because you walked straight past them the first time.

The Gift gets a resounding thumbs up from me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Joel Egerton comes up with next. If this is his beginning, I think he will have really great things to show us in the future.

Trailer Tuesdays – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Despite having proclaimed my love of trailers a million times before, both here and elsewhere, it still amazes me that we have reached a stage where trailers get trailers of their own, sneak peaks, world premieres, sequels and what have you. I’m not complaining, I just thought I was the only one crazy enough to enjoy trailers that much.

And so we have been presented with trailer #2 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, after a teaser trailer was released a few days previously.

I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of sitting through a Zack Snyder movie isn’t really something that excites me. I followed the steady stream of news about the production of the movie with a mix of disinterest and pity: “Aw, look at those folks trying to simultaneously outdo Marvel AND recapture the greatness that was Nolan’s Batman, cute!” Although it was refreshing to hear of the inclusion of Wonder Woman, I had little hope for her story getting the treatment it deserves.

All that being said…..Holy sh*t Batman, this trailer looks amazing!

Firstly, we have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne having a little verbal sparring match, which I found delightfully bitchy. The short clips of their heroic acts also sets the scene nicely for their differences so there’s an instant understanding of how these two could end up disliking each other so much.


Is it me or are Super’s nostrils flaring?

Then we meet Lex Luthor and start to see how he plays a part in orchestrating the animosity between Superman and Batman. He seems nervous, bordering on unhinged, but you have moments of him talking  that suggests he has a plan and he’s in control. There’s a lot of scowling from our superheroes, explosions, chases and general epicness.


Okay, guess Superman’s in da house!

Essentially, what has given me hope for this movie is that it seems like it might be funny; witty even. It’s refreshing as Man of Steel left little room for laughs. Yes, Marvel has done the funny super hero thing for ages now, so it probably won’t be long before that’s as unpopular as the ubiquitous origin story. But I can only take so much action before I need a good chuckle, so I say keep it coming. I look forward to seeing two big, strong men squabbling, it reminds me of some of the most enjoyable scenes from that other recent Henry Cavill movie, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And then, of course, when the two enemies find themselves in a spot of bother, and it looks like they are both about to be obliterated, BOOM:


Wonder Woman saves the day! I love this part of the trailer and the little exchange Batman and Superman have afterwards to try to make sense of what has just happened. I don’t for one minute think this means Wonder Woman will be a truly awesome female superhero, but I will at least refrain from writing her, and the movie, off as I had already started to do.

I don’t know yet if this will be a masterpiece, but I will watch it and that is all the work a trailer needs to do right?