The Black Emperor of Broadway – Movie Review

TL;DR – A look at a revolutionary figure in Broadway’s past and the layers of oppression he had to go through to get where he did.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Warning – Extensive use of blackface

The Black Emperor of Broadway. Image Credit: Vision Films.

Review

If there is one large blind spot in my art history, it is Broadway. I didn’t come from a musical theatre background, so any introduction to this world is welcome. Today we look at a film that explores this through the life of Charles Sidney Gilpin one of its first Black stars. I should say that before we dive in as a bit of a warning that this is a film very much set in the 1920s and the language and depictions used in the movie are consistent with that time which may be difficult for some viewers.

So to set the scene, Charles Sidney Gilpin (Shaun Parkes) is working in a blackface minstrel show that goes around entertaining white people at parties. He hates the work and tries to get a job a legitimate actor which is difficult in a time when few roles are written for black men, and white people in blackface perform most of them. That chance finally comes when noted play write Eugene O’Neill (John Hensley) writes his newest play The Emperor Jones about a leader of Haiti and he wants Charles for the role.

Continue reading

Escape From Pretoria – Movie Review

TL;DR – A exploration of tension when one wrong step can be fatal.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Escape From Pretoria. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Review

One of the things I like the most about cinema is when they let me know of stories that I have previously been unaware of. As well as this, I have seen a lot of prison break films in my time, some fictional, some real, some ‘we think this is how they did it’, and I have always found them fascinating. Well, today we get to explore both of these with Escape From Pretoria.

So to set the scene, we open in the heart of apartheid South Africa with accrual footage of the time. It is here where we are introduced to Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) who work setting up leaflet bombs for the African National Congress or ANC. One day after a successful campaign, they are captured by the police and sentenced to twelve and eight years in the all-white political prisoner’s prison in Pretoria. While in Pretoria jail they meet Denis Goldberg (Ian Hart) who was put on trial with Nelson Mandela and fellow prisoner Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter). They dream of escaping, but how do you do that when you are locked behind several feet of steel?    

Continue reading

Movie Review – The Windermere Children

TL;DR – A deeply emotional and confronting film that looks at the aftermath of trauma and how you can walk back from it.    

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Windermere Children. Image Credit: Fremantle.

Review

There are those moments in life where we get to see the full depths of human cruelty and few moments have exemplified it more than the Holocaust. It was a moment where human depravity was industrialised and weaponised in the endeavour to exterminate an entire race. Today we explore a film that deals with the aftermath and trauma through the eyes of the children that survived it.     

So to set the scene, we open in on a bus full of children as they make their way through the British countryside at night. The bus is full of children refugees rescued from Holocaust camps. One thousand children brought from the camps to Brittan and 300 of them came to Calgarth Estate on the shores of Lake Windermere. As they arrive, there is a real fear that they have swapped one camp of despair for another. Their families are likely all dead, and all of them have suffered travesties that make every dog a threat and food something you hide when you can. They only have funding for four months to help them with their trauma, which is not enough time given everything they had gone through.

Continue reading

TV Review – The Great: Season 1

TL;DR – This is a truly bizarre but entirely compelling show, that blends fiction and reality with a deft hand   

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

The Great. Image Credit: Stan.

Review

A couple of years ago there was this odd film that exploded into the world out of nowhere, it was an exploration of Queen Anne full of intrigue and irreverence. When something like that blasts out into the world you try to find out what the creators will do next, so when I heard the latest series around Catherine the Great was writing by Tony McNamara one of the writers of The Favourite I had to give it a watch and it was a good choice.    

So to set the scene, Catherine (Elle Fanning) is a starry-eyed young noble who has had the fortune to be matched with the current Emperor of Russia, Peter III (Nicholas Hoult). She brings him a branch as a present of her love, living in this world of fantasy right up until the local archbishop ‘Archie’ (Adam Godley) checked to see if she was still a virgin. The realities of the Russian court were nothing like she had thought, with violence and bitterness at every turn. Still, she found comfort in her maid Marial (Phoebe Fox), the odd wisdom of Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), and the books of Orlo (Sacha Dhawan). Maybe she could find a place here in this strange land … or maybe yet, could not this strange land bend to her will. Now we will be looking at the series as a whole and as such there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.  

Continue reading

Movie Review – Dark Waters

TL;DR – A film that comes at you like the rising tide, slow at first and then before you know it you have become overwhelmed     

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Dark Waters. Image Credit: Universal Studios.

Review


Having grown up in the era of Erin Brockovich, I am hard-wired to like a good biopic, especially one where someone takes down a major corporation that should have known better. Well, today we get to see a film that does pretty much all of that and does it very well indeed.

So to set the scene, we open back in the 1970s as a bunch of kids go skinny dipping in a lake in Parkersburg, West Virginia only to get shoed away from the site by men from the DuPont Corporation in a boat firing foam at a residue building up on the surface. Sometime later, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) has just been made a partner in the Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm when he is interrupted in a meeting by Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) an old friend of Robert’s grandmother. He has a problem with his farm, ever since DuPont built a rubbish tip next door to his property all of his cattle have been dying of odd diseases. Robert is reluctant to intercede but he makes a trip out to Parkersburg and finds things are not what they seem.

Continue reading

Movie Review – Official Secrets

TL;DR – A powerful exploration of what happens when all the institutions that are meant to protect us from abuse of power fail   

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Official Secrets. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

There are films that are perfectly timed in their release, sometimes it is the world shifting around you, sometimes you get lucky and just so happen to be shining a light on something that is about to come to the foreground, and sometimes it is always good to be reminded of speaking truth to power. Well, today we get a film that does all three of those as it explores the absolute mess that was the justifications for the Iraq War. A mess that America, UK, Australia, and others found themselves in through no one’s fault but their own.

So to set the scene, in 2003 the world was on the cusp of war as America in the wake of September 11 has set its sights on a new foe Iraq. Not happy to just sit and wait for the weapon inspectors to do their jobs, they were placing enormous pressure on the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution allowing the war. As this is happening, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) was working in the UK’s signal intelligence agency GCHQ as a translator, when she receives a memo from her superiors asking them to support NSA efforts to pressure UNSC diplomates to vote for the war. As this goes against her job and is quite possibly illegal, she takes a copy of the memo and gives it to a trusted friend to see if it is as bad as she thought it was, and well it was.

Continue reading

Movie Review – The Laundromat

TL;DR – A film with good intentions that nevertheless ends up talking down to its audience rather than empowering them as it is trying to do.    

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Laundromat. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

I think it is a good description of the world at the moment that a couple of years ago one of the biggest leaks of information that changed how we look at the entire banking sector and we have kind of forgotten about it. The Panama Papers was this huge revelation but it is almost surprising that we have not seen anyone try to encapsulate it in media form before now. Well, today we look at a film that does just that, in a weird, slightly absurdist way.

So to set the scene, we open in on Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) who along with her husband Joe (James Cromwell) is starting the celebrations of their wedding anniversary by taking a boat tour of a local lake. Tragedy strikes when Captain Richard Paris (Robert Patrick) misses a rogue wave and is not able to turn the boat in time causing it to capsize killing Joe and many others. Ellen’s grief is amplified when they find out while the boat tour company thought they were insured, it was all fraud, a fake company, based out of a shell corporation, hidden behind a trust. Leading her down the well of how the wealthy hide their money.

Continue reading

Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name

TL;DR – A film that reveals in performances even as you sit almost in shock with what they are covering     

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Dolemite Is My Name. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

Comebacks are such a difficult thing to pull off because they rarely work, especially when you jumping into a genre that you have not been in for an age. However, if you are you need to commit fully and today we get to see a film that does just that. Full with powerful performances even as you go “They did not just say that!”.  

So to set the scene, in the 1970s Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is a failed record star who now spends his days working at a record store and his nights MCing at a local club. He wants to succeed but he has never had a break. Well one day when he is shoeing one of the local homeless men (Ron Cephas Jones) from the store, he listens to one of his stories and finds his moment, a comedy record. From there things take off for Rudy is now Dolemite and nobody be messing with him.

Continue reading

Movie Review – The Farewell (Bié Gàosù Tā, 別告訴她)

TL;DR – A truly emotional work of film that affected me in ways film rarely does.     

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The Farewell (Bié Gàosù Tā, 別告訴她). Image Credit: A24.

Review

Wow, just wow, I thought I had some handle on how this film was going to affect me when I walked in, but I had no idea. I didn’t know I would be tearing up in the first five minutes and that it would not stop until the credits rolled. It is a film like this that shows the power of the medium to tell stories that can affect us on our deepest human level.

So to set the scene, Billi (Awkwafina) is struggling to find her place in the world after failing to get the fellowship that she was after. While at her parents to use their washing machine she notices that her mother Jian (Diana Lin) and father Haiyan (Tzi Ma) are acting odd. Wounding the worse, Billi discovers that her beloved Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer, but also that the family has decided not to tell her. Using a wedding as an excuse the whole family is going over to China in part to say goodbye without actually saying goodbye.       

Continue reading

Exploring the Past – Into the Wild (2007)

TL;DR –.A really frustrating film that nevertheless sucks you in and leaves you heartbroken. 

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Into the Wild. Image Credit: Paramount.

Review

Well, last night I noticed Into the Wild had come onto Netflix. I had heard some good things about it a couple of years ago and I thought it would be a nice relaxing film to put on before going to bed. Oh wow, did I ever get that wrong.

So to set the scene, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) gets dropped off on an Alaskan trail and walks into the wilderness a lot less prepared than maybe he should have. Ignoring the concerns from the guy that dropped him off he begins the march into the wilds of the north until he finds an abandoned bus and uses that as a base of operation. When then jump two years into the past and see why it is Christopher set off on this journey.

Continue reading