Tag Archives: true story

A Street Cat Named Bob

One Big Issue

Cats. You have to love them right? Not a day that goes past in my office without someone uttering the words “ah fuck it, I’m just going to watch some lol-cat videos”. Who can blame them.

Even if you don’t like cats you have admit that seeing these regal looking animals with buckets of self-assurance get stuck in between blinds or terrified by cucumbers that it is hilarious. If you don’t laugh at lol-cat videos then inside you are dead… or a dog.

Unfortunately A Street Cat Named Bob is not a lol-cat video. Instead it’s the true story of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) who was a homeless drug addict who found a stray cat. The cat gave him something to live for and helped turn his life around and even led to a book about his life.

The film positions itself as a feel good film and manages to achieve that target with relative ease although I do not believe that this is thanks to any particular craftsmanship from director Roger Spottiswoode.

$8m was the budget for this film which is really cheap. That’s not necessarily a problem. I mean look at Desperado ($7m) or Moon ($5m), both great films shot on low budgets. The problem is that A Street Cat Named Bob is noticeably low budget.

The cinematography is uninspired at best and doesn’t emphasise some of the emotions that the viewer should be feeling throughout James’ journey, whether it be hope at getting himself back on his feet, despair at living on the street or joy because of… well cats!

I’m not sure you would want to watch this as a family film though, I mean it does deal with drug addiction and the withdrawal symptoms of coming off heroine as well as homelessness. If you take your kids to see it then you might have to explain how we, as a people, are complicit in homelessness and also what it means to get high as shit and what the hell an ‘OD’ is.

Probably quite awkward subjects to talk the little ones through yet it’s not particularly aimed at adults either because there is little dramatisation to the events. What you are left with is a middle of the road film that is akin to the X-Factor. Sort of family friendly, non-offensive.

That’s actually unfair because I’d watch this over the X-Factor any day. Treadaway is easily likeable in his portrayal of Bowen and (assuming it really is his voice) provides a touching soundtrack thanks to his daily busking activities. Then there is Bob. He wears a scarf. It’s very cute!

I liked A Street Cat Named Bob but it’s not a must-see film. The story arc is a literal rags to riches true tale that also features a cat – of course this will be a feel good film. This feeling hasn’t been crafted through any particular cinematic skill or vision and for me; that is the film’s Big Issue.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Feel good film
+ Nice soundtrack
+ Cats!


– Not really a family film – not really for adults
– Low budget
– Poor cinematography

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Deepwater Horizon

True Lies

Remember the millennium? Loads of weird shit happened. One thing that happened was that BP changed their logo to be a green and yellow geometric symbol. I realise that’s not weird in itself but it was meant to represent green energy, plant life and the sun; mother natures all powerful life-giver.

Remember 2010? That massive oil spill in the gulf of Mexico? One of the biggest man made ecological disasters and one that destroyed acres of marine life was dismissed as an accident at first. Only after an official inquiry did it become fully apparent that it was actually crude negligence and the ever expanding chase for profits by highly flammable cockwombles at BP that caused this all powerful life-taker.

Suddenly their logo seems weird right?!

Deepwater Horizon is the origin story of this disaster focusing on the moments leading up to when it all went sideways.. and upside down… and generally very, very explodey!!

I actually met someone who worked on an oil rig and he showed me a picture of the view from his office window which was “some sort of outlet” but really it looked like the flamethrower scene from True Lies.

Deepwater horizon makes that picture look like a tealight because these flames go big. Really big. So big that it makes me thankful that the biggest hazard in my job is bad posture and RSI. It’s really quite spectacular and makes you realise that being in the middle of such of an event would be unfathomably scary. A nightmare of epic proportions.

I guess it’s lucky then that the people on the rig had Hercules on board to save everyone. Sorry, that was meant to be Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) not Hercules. It is a bit weird that the film is so Mike-centric because it seems highly unlikely that this one electrical engineer could preempt disaster, search for missing people switch on backup generators and be the last person to leave the rig… by jumping from the helipad.

It all seems highly dramatised and like it wasn’t corroborated by anyone else: “yeah, then I  totally tore a door off the wall with my bare hands and err… I surfed down the lava fields to safety! Oh and I totally shot all the bad guys on the way”.

I dunno. I wasn’t there. Maybe the film is actually highly accurate. Maybe it wasn’t. In the end it didn’t really matter because Marky Mark is as entertaining to watch as ever but adds to overall Hollywood gloss.

On the flip side is Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and Vidrine (John Malkovich. Russell nails his role as the loveable but grizzled safety officer and Malkovich competently plays the voice of the corporation and help keep the film at least partly grounded.

I guess there is always a trade off though in this sort of film. Either you aim for entertainment by impressive visuals and maybe bend the truth here or there or you expose the lies of the real life even in a scathing critique of big oil and capitalism. Deepwater opts for the former and does a competent job of it but part of me still wishes they stuck more of a finger up at BP.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Explodey bits
+ Kurt Russell
+ Overall very entertaining


– Wahlberg’s character
– Seems overly dramatised
– Could have stuck up another finger to BP

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Eddie the Eagle

White Men Can Jump

Eddie the Eagle focuses on the story of Britain’s first Olympic ski-jumper. It’s an enduring legend because he only qualified for the 1988 Olympics due to technicalities in the entry requirement.

In this respect it’s almost like if your cat qualified for the pole vault because Eddie (Taron Egerton) proceeded to come last in all his events by a comfortable margin.

British people love an underdog story. My late aunt would always root for the least likely of heroes and I somehow have hazy memories of Eddie even though I was barely “house trained” when he competed.

If there is one thing that British people love more than an underdog it is an eccentric underdog and Eddie is just this. Taron Egerton manages to enliven Eddie Edwards as a character by some fantastic facial expressions and mannerisms.

As an audience we are given every reason to get behind him. His dad constantly tells him he is not good enough. The same happens with the Olympics committee. He stands out for drinking milk instead of alcohol in bars, he’s not well off and sometimes dresses like he crashed into a 1980’s charity shop.

Eddie has to face a lot of personal criticism and his answer comes from his unwavering determination and dedication to his sport. In an age of cyber bullying where those who don’t fit in are irrationally and relentlessly shunned someone who overcomes this in such a positive way is instantly adorable.

What isn’t quite so adorable is Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) who, in real life, is just words on paper. Apparently he is an approximation of both of Eddie’s coaches and whilst Jackman is enjoyable to watch his role felt obviously staged.

There are attempts to push character progression for Peary but all of it feels too convenient and too staged when compared to bizarre nature of Eddie’s ascension to fame.

One of the unexpected benefits of writing reviews such as this piece of nonsense is that I get to learn things too. Reading up on “true stories” often leads me down a Wikipedia hole that can sometimes turn up facts that can be more interesting than the actual film.

It would be remiss of me to omit Matti Nykanan who was considered to be the best in world at the time. Edvin Endre plays the rather sane and wisely Finnish ski-jumper but after the 90’s he became more famous for drink, drugs, womanising and pop music… oh, he also stabbed someone after losing at a finger pulling contest! Holy shitballs!

Anyway, whilst Jackman’s character may feel like a failure by writers Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton to produce more than “generic fictional male” the inter-character dialogue is smart and witty, especially since it’s their first writing credits.

Eddie the Eagle, for better or worse, comes with all the expectations of a sports underdog story and is comparable to the likes of Cool Runnings. At times it’s genuinely funny and at others it’s genuinely touching. I think it’s well worth a watch but then again; I am British.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Great underdog story
+ Taron Egerton
+ Funny


– Bronson Peary as coach

– Exactly what you’d expect from an underdog story

 

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The Finest Hours

SS Incomprehensible

Listed below is a short excerpt from the script but don’t worry – it’s 100% spoiler free. In fact I’ll even hide the names of who said what to make it even more spoiler free:

A: “Ain’t nobuhd nah grun omble th sanbar”
B: “Sees m’ jar and tey arhg prrpl ah nee”
A: “It’s serrrcie! Yernbie kar’n bunk. Finuhk ayar layee”

Powerful, powerful stuff. Sure, it’s incomprehensible but I’m sure it would be powerful if I could understand what the fuck they were on about.

This is one of the biggest issues with The Finest hours is that a quarter of the lines are mumbled with as much comprehension as Sylvester Stallone waking up from general anaesthetics. It really does make it difficult to understand the nuance or drama in any given scene.

This problem is only compounded by some poor audio editing. You will find some lines are definitely spoken well but are drowned out by the whooshing of water or general engine noises or the sound of the pumps on the sinking SS Pendleton.

You could argue that this adds to the authenticity of the film and to be fair; if someone was complaining about elocution when you were on half a tanker that’s slowly sinking into a cold sea, in the midst of a storm, with no radio communication, then you would rightfully tie an anvil to the morons head, jam a sign where the sun doesn’t shine saying “Dear sharks… enjoy” and throw him the hell overboard.

Yet, this is a film and it’s purpose is to evoke drama and emotion from you and a key part of that is knowing what people are saying.

Apart from the above the only other thing that I found as a turn off was the over-usage of CGI. Normally I don’t have an issue with heavy CGI usage but water is notoriously difficult to get right and in turn makes it difficult to suspend your disbelief accordingly.

Still, these are relatively minor complaints when taking the film as a whole because it’s not a bad little story of human perseverance, camaraderie and subverting pre-conceptions and prejudices.

A key example here is Chris Pine’s character; Bernie Webber, who is quiet, subdued and nervously plays by the book at all times. I have to admit, it’s wasn’t exactly a gripping character but it was really good to see Chris Pine differentiate himself that annoyingly handsome dude that he is so often cast to play.

There are two other examples of this with Holliday Grainger playing Miriam Webber; this film’s most enigmatic character, who is a strong and outspoken female during the good old days where women where chained to the kitchen. The other such example is Ray Sybert played by Casey Affleck who is a lonesome engineer on the sinking SS Pendleton.

What this film does is gradually champion the introverted and downtrodden until they become heroes in everybody’s eyes. Those who were bullish before have to give up their pride and admit they are wrong and let’s face it; this world needs more humility.

I was quite surprised that the part of this film I enjoyed the most was not a daring and dramatic rescue but human interactions instead. Whilst this film has its share of problems it’s certainly not a disaster on the scale of the SS Pendleton,  2015’s The Fantastic Four or err… my face, but neither will it be the finest 2 hours of your life.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Heart-warming story
+ Chris Pine playing someone vulnerable
+ Underdog story

– Poor sound mixing
– Mumbled lines
– CGI

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Spotlight

Page 6 News

I have a problem. OK, sure, I have many problems but one in particular is going to see films about historical events. Specifically; events that, if they were people, they would barely have learnt to stop soiling themselves.

Spotlight features a story that is barely older than a few years so if you are unaware of the story then you must have been on a trip to the moon because Spotlight focuses on the well told story systemic child abuse within the church.

Unlike The Big Short which I thought was fantastic, Spotlight doesn’t put any sort of fun or innovative twist on storytelling instead deciding to go down the route of what feels like a very factual and honest portrayal of the effort needed to uncover this story.

Unfortunately the effort to uncover the story is not what I find fascinating about this scandal and I actually left the cinema not entirely sure who did what, why or when because the script name-drops so many people that its often hard to keep track of.

These name drops are mainly of various priests, lawyers, police, government officials and PR. If they mixed in bankers and salesmen then this would be a real minefield of high-grade arseholes. The sparkliest glitter covered turds of humanity.

Perhaps this is just my bias against said professions but it would have been nice if the film was a bit more fiercely critical about those who perpetually covered up child abuse. I was expecting for the film to unashamedly bash the bishops – for want of a better term – but instead, Spotlight is a piece of film-making that shies away from controversy in favour of building characters in an admittedly unbiased and balanced manner.

If you look at it from this perspective then it is a really good film. Michael Keaton is excellent as Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson – the head of Spotlight reporting division in the Boston Globe but for me it was Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes) as an earnest yet determined reporter who was the highlight.

Ruffalo only manages to steal the show by feeding off the co-stars. With a supporting cast that stars Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci it’s very hard for this not to be a well acted film.

Let’s go back to my original hang-up about “historical” films. The Big Short was also only yesterday, hell we are still feeling the fallout from the economic collapse today – vital emergency services are being screwed even as I write this. Anyway, the majority of us mere mortals, the ants that are scrabbling in the dirt, don’t/didn’t understand why and how the hell the meltdown happened in the first place.

In stark contrast though; Spotlight, I believe, is well understood. Sure, I had no idea it was one small team called Spotlight in the basement of a Boston newspaper that uncovered the information but the wider picture is obvious: Caught fiddy kiddling, swept under carpet.

Yup, got it, remember it well. Don’t need a film about it – at least not now.

Even so, there are a few really great moments that coincide with breakthrough moments of the investigation. Bolstered by the excellent cast these such moments make the film worth watching.

Spotlight seems like the weakest entry in the Oscar race. It’s told in a way that is heavy on facts but often low in subjective emotion and style. The message of the film is not scathing enough to amend or re-affirm your perception of a scandal that doesn’t need to be re-told this soon. Like the priests under investigation, Spotlight takes something that is young yet full of promise and gets it’s hand on it before it’s ready!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Mark Ruffalo
+ Great Supporting Cast
+ The few a-ha moments


– Too soon
– Focuses on the uninteresting part of the story
– Not as critical as I would have liked

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Bridge of Spies

Political Intriguing but Not Enthralling

Films are not just a product; a specific piece of art created at a specific point in time, they also have the ability to tell us something about the era in which they were made. If this statement is considered debatable then Bridge of Spies is a pretty convincing argument for it being true.

To put this into context let me detail the film’s plot.

It’s the height of the cold war. The American public are bombarded with propaganda; communism is attacking the American way of life and the enemy is already inside, hiding in plain sight. This fear is proven as a reality as Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Russian spy, is captured.

Here we are in 2015 being bombarded by propaganda about the dangers of ISIS and how Islam is threatening our way of life. The enemy is already here with local sympathisers carrying out attacks in the name of ISIS so we should all feel scared right!?

James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance lawyer who is approached by the government officials asking him to represent Abel as a semi-reputable lawyer. The trial is meant to be an open and shut case, a tick in the box as a symbol of democracy if nothing else. Donovan is the voice of reason in the midst of war fever doing his best to play by the rules that make his nation great. Even when that fails he pushes for the death sentence to be avoided.

Today the government are all to ready to sidestep the values that they claim to believe in the pursuit of war and profiteering. You only need to look at David Cameron claiming that Russia bombing Syria would radicalise more people, only to feverishly argue for bombing Syria a month or so later, to know that ideology is easily wavered in such times.

Donovan’s foresight pays off as an American spy is captured in Russia. A like for like trade is proposed but of course the US and Russian governments cannot be seen to be working together because co-operation would be terrible right? In order to negotiate the trade Donovan has to travel to a Berlin where a large wall is segregating the populace.

A wall? Isn’t that the main policy of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?

There is more to Bridge of Spies than just a social commentary on history repeating itself. The acting is excellent from start to finish. Normally I find Hanks pretty dull but actually I found him quite captivating and dynamic in Bridge of Spies.

It’s Mark Rylance who steals the show even though his role is a supporting one. The Russian spy gives a sum total of zero fucks to all the commotion going on around him so it’s hard not to like him. It’s not like he is arrogant or cocky, at some point Abel accepted that he will likely be caught and face an uncomfortable final chair so he is totally un-fazed when it comes true.

Would it help if the scripting was also very good? It would. In fact, it did. The Coens and Matthew Charman providing just enough variation of dialogue – an occasional laugh here and the odd swear word there – keeps your interest all through the film.

Unfortunately the word ‘interesting’ is the most apt descriptor for Bridge of Spies. It is undoubtedly a fascinating true story but it’s not riveting. I think what it all boils down to is that it feels like Spielberg being Spielberg which is a little too safe. Too much of a known quantity.

I’m glad I saw Bridge of Spies because it’s certainly well crafted, especially when juxatposed with the events that are happening in middle east right now, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to watch again. If you can’t relate to Donovan as a character then there is precious little else to go on so this cold war drama won’t be everyone’s warm cup of tea.

Go See

  • Social commentary
  • Well written
  • Well acted

Avoid

  • Interesting but not hugely entertaining
  • Limited replay factor
  • A safe Spielberg film

Overall

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Suffragette

Rights, Camera, Faction

As a male I am all too aware that women are always right. Even when they believe Ray Winstone’s name to be Ray Mears or claim that a scorpian is a lobster: women are ALWAYS right.

As a rational human I am amazed to find out that women have only had the vote (in the UK) since 1918 and that was only certain women. It was only 1928 that all women have had the right to vote. It is truly mind-boggling that it is such a recent event.

My Grandma was probably somewhere near the first generation born into Britain where voting was just the norm. She wouldn’t have had to fight for something that seems so basic by today’s standards yet there were people – not much older than her – who would have had to do just that.

I believe that everyone should vote. Even if it’s just to slap a big ol’ “None” across the ballot and a strike through next to all those muppets names. Even so I genuinely had no idea that the right to vote is known as Suffrage. It’s kind of ironic that through suffrage we often get to suffer egotistical idiots for at least 4 years. Anyway; the Suffragettes, as you can probably guess, refers to women who have to fight for their right to party… in a polling booth. The film Suffragette is a based on a true story following exactly this plight.

The main focus of the film is on Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) who is an unassuming worker at a cleaning workhouse. Maud has no interest in being a suffragette until she crosses paths with Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff). From here on she becomes more politically active and more radicalised.

The film charts the journey of her changing beliefs and morals and how these start to shape her own world simply by the consequences of her actions.

She looses her job, her husband, her home and her only child but with the exception of her child none of these are dramatised to good effect. She finds a new job working at the headquarters for the women’s vote campaign, her husband and home is replaced by a family of suffragettes so I felt emotionally detached from her struggle.

Even the loss of her child is underplayed. When the child is sent to a foster home Maud tells her child to always remember his mother’s name. Now, given she is the lead character and this is based on true events you would expect a flash card before the credits to say Maud Never saw here son again or something to that effect. Nope. Nothing. How about the last scene showing her child grown up being proud of his real mother. Nope. Nothing.

What we do get to see at the end of the film is a real film clip from a procession that was made for one of the suffragettes. This isn’t for Maud though. Instead the procession is for Maggie Miller (Grace Stottor) who plays a bit part for 80% of the film. It’s so bizarre that we don’t get to know more about her character and yet here she is at the end of the film as a key character?!

The best character for me though was Edith Ellen (Helena Bonham Carter) who works at a local pharmacy and is a key figure in the women’s rights movement. Edith is clever and quietly confident. She wears the trousers in her marriage not through being domineering but by earning the respect of her husband and therefore his sympathy and endless loyalty to her cause.

Possibly my favourite aspect of the film is its location. There are lots of old terraces and old Victorian factory buildings that really bring the turn off the century to life. There is one shot particular of some washing strung up between buildings that I would have been chuffed to have i taken as a photograph.

The worst part however was how it shies away from showing any violence. I understand that this is a film and at an older audience but with a lack of emotional attachment I think a bit odd shock value would have worked well.

It’s a shame that this film doesn’t feel as important as it’s subject matter. Although it has a number of things that it does well I just didn’t find it as gripping or dramatic as I had hoped which left me emotionally cold. I am, of course, wrong on my opinion here though as the woman next to me in the cinema was crying like a baby and as we know; women are never wrong!

 

Go See

  • For educational value
  • Excellent setting
  • Helena Bonham Carter

Avoid

  • Under dramatised
  • Pulls it’s punches when dealing with violence
  • Confusing characters

Overall

3-stars