Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman and Michael Potts
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Written by Ruben-Santiago Hudson
Length: 94mins

The story of blues singer Ma Rainey and her accompanying band, director George C. Wolfe draws the audience into a dramatic and tension-filled portrayal of a recording session in 1927. Covering themes of racism, ambition and power almost exclusively under one roof for the entire runtime, Wolfe’s story may be simple in terms of locations, but it’s wider considerations are much greater.

The winner of a Tony Award for his achievements as a stage director in the 90’s, Wolfe clearly still utilises similar techniques when it comes to his film direction. In the basement of a recording studio, where the band prepares for Ma Rainey’s arrival, tensions rise between leading performers Levee (Boseman) and Cutler (Domingo). Fast-paced and brilliantly written dialogue explodes between the two as their conversation ebbs and flows, with the topic at hand ranging from the way they’ll be playing a certain song to the effects of childhood trauma in what feels like a single breath.This strength is maintained throughout almost the entire runtime, with some great moments of conflict generating primarily as a result of both the dialogue and the performances. 

Speaking of performances, it’s no secret that Chadwick Boseman provides possibly the greatest acting of his career in this film. As soon as we set eyes on him within a scene, the whole film just feels more exciting and interesting. Extensive pieces of dialogue which he tackles with confidence and energy unlike any other performance I’ve seen recently create a clear sense of his character as a real person. Their fears, conflicts and loves all bring themselves to the surface just within his visual performance alone. 

It’s a testament to Boseman’s acting abilities that he is seemingly getting a little more praise than his co-star Viola Davis, as her performance within this film is brilliant as well. The characteristics of her ‘Ma Rainey’ seem to directly oppose that of Boseman’s ‘Levee,’ with the former often appearing more in control of her emotions until moments of sudden energy which reinforce her status as a character who is trying their best to maintain control of their environment.

Despite the strength of the performances in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, as well as the oftentimes well-written dialogue, it doesn’t feel like a film which will go down as one of the greats. In particular, the editing can often feel quite jarring, with a style employed which frequently changes between shots in a way that can feel unnecessary, and only stunts the dialogue which is being delivered. As well as this, moments of the story can feel unnecessary or unmotivated by the scene which it finds itself in. Of course, in real life not everything has a clear explanation, but within ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, particular storylines are sometimes not entirely explored to their full potential, whilst others reach their conclusion without warning. However, this is not to say there aren’t some incredibly thought-provoking scenes, with the final conclusion of the film being simply heartbreaking.

All in all, I would definitely recommend giving ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ a watch. It has some phenomenal performances, the music is great, and sometimes it’s just nice to see a relatively new release and imagine yourself back in the cinema.

Malcolm and Marie – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Zendaya and John David Washington
Directed by Sam Levinson
Written by Sam Levinson
Length: 106mins

A lockdown-created film by Sam Levinson, a director who’s best known for his writing and directing on ‘Euphoria,’ – a TV series that brilliantly tells the story of a drug-addicted teenager played by Zendaya, and her battle to get clean for the sake of herself and her family –  ‘Malcolm and Marie’ follows the aftermath of a director and his wife as they return home from the premiere of Malcolms (John David Washingtons) debut film which tells the story of a drug-addicted teenager, which Marie (Zendaya) struggles to come to terms with, as she believes the film is based on her life. Essentially, all you need to know going into ‘Malcolm and Marie’ is that Sam Levinson is telling an autobiographical story of his experiences creating a show like ‘Euphoria’ and releasing it to the public. 

As there aren’t too many good things to focus on with this film, I’ll try and get those out of the way to begin with. Zendaya and John David Washington both give brilliant performances, achieving the wide range of emotions that litter ‘Malcolm and Marie’ with depth and honesty. You can feel their struggle to work things out and express themselves through the way that these two actors visually perform in a more sincere and genuine way than any of the writing allows. The visuals are pretty decent too, I can understand the choice for using a black and white colour tone, but it does little to benefit the film other than to establish that this will be a fairly dramatic story. It also meets the required length of a feature film, which is a blessing or a curse depending on who you ask. 

If you read almost anyone’s reviews on this film, you will probably hear fairly negative things, and for good reason. Abandoning any sense of romanticism, Sam Levinson seems to have only created ‘Malcolm and Marie’ to complain about how critics didn’t understand his previous work, and that his success is entirely independent of anyone else, which is ironic given both how badly this film has been received, and the fact that he’s the son of a Best Picture-winning director, meaning he’s probably not as self-made as he claims. Utilising John David Washington’s character as the mouthpiece for his dissatisfaction, Levinson complicates his complaints by approaching them from a race angle, which just feels slightly strange. Of course, though not entirely advisable, ‘Malcolm and Marie’ is definitely not the first time a white writer has written about the struggles of POC, but when presenting a character that is so clearly a reflection of one’s self, Levinson just comes across as assumptious and ignorant. Perhaps the strangest part of all however, is that the topic of discussion within the film is so clearly made out to be ‘Euphoria,’ and yet that show isn’t a critical failure at all. In fact, I would probably describe it as a masterclass in storytelling around teen anxiety and drug abuse. The cinematography is perhaps the greatest of any show I’ve ever seen, and all twelve episodes push the boundaries of what TV should be. 

‘Malcolm and Marie’ is a film created under the restraints of our current COVID restrictions, which makes sense given that it’s a single-location film with relatively simplistic camerawork and lighting, as well as only two on-screen characters. Essentially just one long conversation, the film is almost entirely unsuccessful in maintaining any sort of interest or emotional investment in either of the characters or their issues. Once again, this seems unusual as only two months ago Levinson wrote and directed an hour long episode of ‘Euphoria’ which took place in almost entirely identical conditions, and was one of the greatest pieces of television made in 2020. If Levinson’s name wasn’t embarrassingly placed on the end credits of this film, I would find it very hard to believe that he had any involvement at all.

All in all, I would say to avoid watching ‘Malcolm and Marie’ There is great acting, but aside from that the gratuitous hour-and-forty-minutes runtime is nowhere near worth it. I’ve barely touched on the story, and that’s essentially because it just isn’t interesting. It’s a story that never needed telling in the way it did, and I can only hope that this is an unfortunate anomaly in Sam Levinson’s career.

Come Away – Review

Rating: PG Cast: Keira Chansa, Jordan A. Nash, David Oyelowo, Angelina Jolie, Reece Yates and Gugu Mbatha-Raw Directed by Brenda Chapman Written by Marissa Kate Goodhill Length: 94mins

Another 2020 release that went largely unnoticed was Brenda Chapman’s ‘Come Away’. A tale that imagines Peter Pan and Alice (of Wonderland) as siblings which mixes the excitement of childhood imagination with the darker issues of loss, family feud and addiction. An unusual combination for a storyline primarily aimed at children. 

It was the trailer that initially grabbed my attention. On the surface it looked like a lovely escapism piece, allowing the familiar fictional characters to be placed in a new situation and using the medium of film to open up the imaginative worlds of these characters. Unfortunately the heavy counter balance of the children’s reality made it feel a bit clunky. While aesthetically it felt like a family film, the deep sadness when a character dies followed by the, relatively realistic, reactions of the others just didn’t fit the ‘magic’ that was set up in the earlier scenes.

The cast were solid, Oyelowo and Jolie played their parental roles well; creating an authentic feel of family and the children were seemingly uninhibited by the A-list actors that surrounded them. 

While in general the plot didn’t work for me; I commend the intentions of the filmmakers. They didn’t fall into the trap of remaking old stories and you can see the heart behind a film that is clearly commenting on childhood imagination and it’s importance no matter what is going on in the real world – the trouble seems to be that other themes and issues were thrown into the mix and it got messy.

I find this film in particular really frustrating to consider, perhaps I had specific expectations when I went to watch it and they weren’t reached but I just hoped for so much more from this film. Instead of escaping from the pandemic during which it was released, I came away feeling a bit deflated. While unusual for me, I wouldn’t actually recommend this film to many people. It’s probably fine to have on in the background but the more serious topics aren’t really dealt with and the prequel elements of Peter Pan and Alice aren’t fleshed out, leaving the film as a whole feeling like it missed the mark. 

Pieces of a Woman – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia Labeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger and Benny Safdie
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Written by Kata Wéber
Length: 127mins

Now that Netflix is most likely a lot of people’s first call when it comes to watching new releases, ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ seems to have been released at the perfect time. A film filled with incredible performances and an emotionally-charged story like this may before have been seen by some people as simply another Oscar-bait release, but now that there is a lot fewer choices when it comes to new releases, ‘Pieces of a Woman’ will hopefully get the wider reception it deserves.

After a traumatic home birth, Vanessa Kirby’s character Martha Weiss is left to deal with the emotional and physical fallout of what she has experienced as a mother. Friends and mainly family come and go throughout the film, but for a large part it’s the experiences of Martha and her partner Sean (Shia Labeouf) that the film focuses on. For anyone who feels hesitant about the drama of the film, and worries that it might be too slow for them, I would simply encourage you to just watch the first five minutes. The story grabs you immediately and I would struggle to picture anyone turning the film off during its opening scenes. The main title card doesn’t appear until nearly half an hour into the film, and I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath the entire time. What director Kornél Mundruczó manages to achieve in almost one continuous take during this time is not only gripping, but also establishes key character traits that will develop and unravel throughout the rest of the film. 

‘Pieces of a Woman’ has been widely praised for the performances that litter the film, and for good reason. Vanessa Kirby’s expressions of guilt, fear and anxiety remain consistently believable and impressive throughout. Shia Labeouf plays the broken father figure brilliantly too, but in a way that feels fresh compared to previously similar roles that he is taken up before, such as his performance in 2018’s ‘Honey Boy.’ Ellen Burstyn remains one of Hollywood’s greatest treasures, playing a role that I imagine will earn her a lot of attention throughout awards season, even with her character having fairly limited screen time. More than anything ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ feels like a showcase for great acting, and everything else in the film seems as if it’s focussing on allowing these performances to shine through. 

The problem with opening a film in such a strong way like ‘Pieces of a Woman’ does, is that you have to keep the momentum going for the rest of the runtime. The fallout of the film’s opening event is essentially what carries the story for the next hour and a half, and whilst this is a necessary element of the story to tell, there are definitely some parts which feel slightly unnecessary. It’s difficult to walk the line between realism and a narrative that will provide a satisfying or poignant end to the story, and whilst one character in particular does receive a satisfying conclusion, there are definitely some ]who seem to have a large influence on the film in the first and middle act, but simply fade out by the end. 

One of the key reasons why ‘Pieces of a Woman’ is an important story in some regards, is because it allows for discussion around the topics that play out on screen. Whilst intense and gut-wrenching at times, everything that occurs is human, and has a chance of affecting any of us in our lifetime. By creating films that cover these topics, a greater understanding and willingness to talk about these things will develop, and may provide some small relief to anyone who has experienced anything similar to what happens in the film.

It might not be the most light-hearted film in the world, but I would highly recommend giving ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ a watch. There are some great things to take away if you have a keen interest in performance, and it definitely has one of the most gripping opening acts I’ve seen in a long time.

Mulan – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Yifei Liu, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Chen Tang, Doua Moua and Jimmy Wong. Directed by Niki Caro Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin Length: 115mins

Mulan is one of the cinematic victims of Covid:19, with it’s initial release set for March 2020 the film was postponed until the summer and then, much to the dismay of many cinema goers, released on Disney plus for a premium price. It follows the story of a young maiden who disguises herself as a male warrior to fight for the Imperial army in place of her ageing father.

When Disney announces a live action remake you can almost palpably hear the cries of half the audiences dismay at yet another remake, the fear of ‘ruining’ a classic whilst the rest of the audience celebrates at another reimagining of something magical that helped shape their childhood. When Mulan was announced it was very much the same. While it is perhaps a less popular animation, the original is filled with catchy songs, loveable sidekicks and a strong moral focus. With a live action remake that was poised to eliminate both the songs and the sidekicks, many were concerned that the remake would just be a waste of time. 

Niki Caro entrusted Yifei Liu with the titular role that comes with a quite a hefty responsibility. The character requires an authentic portrayal of strength, passion and heart without getting too headstrong or becoming a heroine of mythology that breaks the connection intended to inspire it’s focal audiences. Liu brilliantly takes Mulan through the process of rebellious and inexperienced through to a mature, commanding leader. I have heard some comment on the lack of heightened emotion but I think that this was a solid choice that lends itself to the action. 

Caro interweaves the story’s ancient poetic roots with nostalgic moments from the 1998 animation, but it’s very much its own artistic endeavour. You can tell Caro’s intention for this film through her choices, the focus being very much on female empowerment. The director highlights women standing up for themselves and each other and demanding that men hear and believe them. As family-friendly as it is,  the film also carries the unmistakable spirit of the #MeToo movement. This is so brilliantly done with lessons and reminders for every age group.

I’ve been really impressed with the Disney remakes so far and I surprised myself by finding Mulan topping the list as my favourite. It feels so important whilst being thoroughly entertaining, there’s a clear line between that which was included for the sake of the story and that which was included for the sake of humanity. Mulan couldn’t be more relevant, vital, and alive today. Mulan’s feminine strength was what made her an outcast in this male-dominated world, but one of the key lessons lies within the fact that Mulan can’t achieve her own full potential until she’s fully honest about her identity. It’s truly a shame that this film wasn’t able to release in cinemas, what a joy it would have been for a generation of young girls to watch and learn together. Covid:19 took away the chance for youngsters to look around a filled theatre, to see potential in the others around them as well as themselves. But hopefully the film will be seen, the lessons will be learnt and a spark of passion will be ignited with the help of this brilliant film.

“Loyal. Brave. True.”

Lovers Rock – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, Micheal Ward, Shaniqua Okwok, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Ellis George
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Steve McQueen and Courttia Newland
Length: 70mins

The first of Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ series – an anthology of films released through the BBC at the tail end of last year – ‘Lovers Rock’ is probably the closest anyones going to get to a party for the next few months. Set in London during the early 1980’s, for the entire seventy minutes of the film’s runtime, you become completely engrossed in the celebrations as they play out on screen, feeling every change in rhythm and song.

The story’s concept is fairly simple – following a few key characters as they enjoy their night out. However, the execution is entirely different, with moments of joy and intrigue being portrayed through a wide variety of film and story devices. McQueen knows exactly when to draw back from the high intensity of the party and allow characters to have more intimate moments, before bringing the sound and movement back together in a crashing wave of energy. 

McQueen has clearly shown himself as the master of either celebrating or highlighting the stories of people of colour in cinema, particularly in his 2012 release, ‘12 Years a Slave.’ The ‘Small Axe’ series looks to further explore and celebrate black culture, and whilst this will mean delving into stories of prejudice and hatred, ‘Lovers Rock’ feels like the perfect way to begin the anthology. It’s a film of pure joy and energy, and whilst there are a few cracks that show moments of bigotry and hate, for almost the entire runtime the viewer is drawn into a world of celebration. 

Everything in this film works to immerse the viewer in the party that’s taking place, with the camera gliding effortlessly from one character to the next, and the soundtrack playing one great song after another. Despite there not being too much time for overt character development, you still feel engaged in the stories of those at the party, with particular traits being shown within different people, allowing the story to feel believable throughout and preventing the audience from ever feeling as if the energy of the party has lost its momentum.

Overall, I would definitely recommend ‘Lovers Rock’ to anyone looking for something to watch. With its short runtime and joyful, high-energy story making it less of a film and more of a party in your living room – exactly the kind of thing that’s needed during a global lockdown.  

Let Him Go – Review

Rated: 15 Cast: Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Kayli Carter, Lesley Manville and Will Brittain Directed by Thomas Bezucha Written by Larry Watson (Novel) and Thomas Bezucha (screenplay) Length: 113mins

While for the majority of 2020 the cinemas were shut and films weren’t being released, a few films crept out to market during the short periods of time that they could hit the big screen. Thomas Bezucha’s Let Him Go was released towards the end of the year and, despite the draw of Kevin Costner, went widely unnoticed. A story of a retired sheriff and his wife, filled with grief after losing their son, journey through the emotional tug of whether they’re prepared to let their grandson go once their daughter in-law remarries. 

It was such an odd time of year to release this movie, while any cinemas that were open were showing festive reruns and Christmas classics it’s such a contrast to throw Let Him Go into the mix. I don’t pretend to know the complexities of getting a feature released, especially during 2020, but this just seemed like a very unusual choice. Though I’m supportive of any production company prepared to release films despite the financial implications of a pandemic in an attempt help keep the industry afloat, I fear the timing may have done this film more harm than good. 

The plot is solid, it’s peaks an interest with several possibilities of where it could go. However there was a turning point for me about two thirds in – to avoid spoilers I wont discuss it in detail but I felt like there was a moment of high emotion, the build of anticipation was brilliant, but then a choice that changed the trajectory of the plot ruined it for me. I feel like some choices to shock the audience can detract from any work of building tension, then the final third seemed unrealistic and a bit ridiculous. 

That being said, the cast of this film were faultless. I don’t say that lightly but every single character had depth and weaved through stereotypes in a way that delivered the desired effect upon it’s audiences while still creating a unique persona. While Kevin Costner was unsurprisingly brilliant and Lesley Manville created this quietly terrifying villain it was Diane Lane who shone. She was phenomenal, I love to see a flawed character that still manages to get the audience on side and can share her characters emotional journey throughout each moment of the film. 

Unfortunately, for me this film was a heavy, dark piece that was released at the wrong time of year and shot off in a direction that destroyed my interest by a choice meant to shock. It’s arguably worth watching for the character depictions, but other than that I don’t feel that it will particularly entertain, provoke thought or change the lives of it’s audiences.

Wonder Woman 1984 – Review

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Rating: 12A Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig and Robin Wright Directed by Patty Jenkins Written by Patty Jenkins, Dave Callaham and Geoff Johns Length: 151mins

Returning to the big screen for a limited audience around the world, the sequel to 2017’s hugely successful ‘Wonder Woman’ finds Gal Gadot’s character distancing herself further and further from those around her whilst the rest of the world delves further into Hollywood’s interpretation of the 80’s, with shopping malls, yoga pants and grandiose hairstyles around every corner. Appropriately, the villain of the story achieves his power through commercial greed, and in true superhero fashion, it’s only Wonder Woman who can stop him. 

Perhaps the boldest – and most marketable element of the film – is the aesthetic. This could easily be attributed to the current nostalgia-fest which plagues Hollywood, with multi-colour tinted glasses allowing for a fond recollection of the 1980’s, and all of the eccentricities which come with it. Shows like ‘Stranger Things’ have found huge success in recent years through this choice of setting, and it’s no surprise that as a result more releases are cashing in. However, the original ‘Wonder Woman’ comics date back to 1941, and the first film takes place in 1918, so it’s not entirely unbelievable that the film might take place in this decade. Through the advertising for this film, it appears as if the viewer is promised a trip back in time, and the film certainly delivers as much in the first half an hour or so, with camp dialogue and glamorous commercialism littering the story. However, by the end of the film, we’re returned to the safety of dull aesthetics and predictable settings that many superhero films seem unable to escape. The inconsistency of the visuals is not exactly detrimental to the story, but when including the setting in the actual title of the film and basing the entire marketing campaign around cliches of the 80’s, it feels as if the creators could have had a little more fun throughout the entirety of the film, rather than just going all out in the first act, and then slowly fading back into the usual superhero story.

Although some superhero films deliver much more, it’s widely agreed that the main aim of these films is to entertain. In the case of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ this is relatively accurate. At this point in cinema’s history, when superhero films are what fills the seats most at cinemas, you would imagine that the creators would feel a responsibility to try and evolve the genre as it goes on. Despite this, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ doesn’t feel as if it has anything new to offer in terms of the entertainment that it provides. Moments of action never seem especially gripping or visually impressive, and if anything, the stakes of the film feel as if they’re even lower than the first ‘Wonder Woman.’ 

The saving grace of this film undeniably comes from Pedro Pascal’s performance as Maxwell Lord, the corrupt businessman who will do anything to achieve financial domination over his competition. The charisma and twisted charm that Pascal brings to his character creates the most engaging moments of the film, with each of his scenes bringing life to a story that is ultimately fairly forgettable. 

Although this might not be the most complimentary of reviews, seeing ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ on the big screen brought back all of the charm that comes from going out to see a film in the cinema. Hopefully this is something we can all look forward to in the future, and if you have the chance to support your local cinema, you definitely should.

Mank – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey and Charles Dance Directed by David Fincher Written by Jack Fincher Length: 133mins

Over the last twenty-five years David Fincher has established himself as one of the most exciting and innovative directors working today. Known for his smooth and precise camerawork, as well as hidden CGI (his 2010 film ‘The Social Network’ featured more VFX than 2014’s ‘Godzilla’), his ability to have complete control over a scene means that everything featured in the shot is always relevant either to the story or character. As a result of this almost-obsessive approach to filmmaking, Fincher always produces high quality films which draw in the audience and tell the exact story they set out to. In his first feature film collaboration with Netflix – a name that seems to crop up more and more when talking about studios working with some of today’s greatest directors – he set out to tell the story of Herman Mankiewicz, Oscar-winning screenwriter best known for being the man behind one of cinema’s most critically acclaimed releases, ‘Citizen Kane.’

David Fincher is often known for littering his stories with strange and unusual characters. Initially working with the dregs of humanity, films such as ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Se7en’ work to explore exactly what makes these people tick, and even go as far as to portray them as the protagonist – an idea which his audiences have been known to mistake for idolisation in the past. However, as Fincher has progressed through his career, these sort of lead characters have evolved from being downright sadistic to simply a little morally corrupt. More recently, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in ‘The Social Network,’ and Ben Affleck’s performance as a lackluster husband in ‘Gone Girl’ have led us away from the grittier side of Fincher’s filmography, and more towards a character like Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz, who may not be the most considerate man in the world, but is downright saint-like when placed next to the likes of Tyler Durden or John Doe. The director is clearly obsessed with character, and I feel that this evolution of morality shows that the humanity within a corrupt person is what draws him to a script. As a result of this, ‘Mank’ feels like the next logical step. 

Written by his late father, Jack Fincher, the words ‘passion project’ may be quickly tied to the film. However, this isn’t a negative attachment at all, and in fact I would argue that the film plays into a more personal and emotional narrative than many of Fincher’s previous releases. There are no grand climaxes or overtly-terrible people featured, and instead he turns his attention to the state of America and the role that the arts play in politics – a storyline that can all too easily relate to a contemporary audience. In some ways this feels like Fincher’s least-Fincheresque film to date, but despite this, the story always has your attention and the characters never feel uninteresting or outdated. This may perhaps be a result of the combination of care which Fincher allows for each scene, as well as the strength of the performances from leads Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.

When considering the great variety and strength of Gary Oldman’s back catalogue, there was never any need to doubt that he would give anything less than a great performance in this film. His portrayal of a man who has to work to prove himself to those who hold power over him, whilst also staying true to his moral values in terms of politics and creativity is brilliantly brought to the screen, alongside a hidden layer of immorality when it comes to his private affairs. Despite all this, Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Marion Davies, the atypical 1940’s Hollywood star, might just beat out Oldman for the best performance in this film. Her frequent use of smaller, more expressive actions work perfectly both within the context of the film’s setting and the type of showmanship that was celebrated at the time, as well as providing the perfect energy for a supporting role that plays off the worn-out and cynical persona of Oldman’s character.

‘Mank’ is nothing if not authentic – the score was recorded using period appropriate microphones, many of the original locations that they used for the film were untouched since the actions of the story actually played out, the camera equipment works to perfectly capture the style of filmmaking in the 1940’s, with no colour version of the film existing. Fincher is a perfectionist, and he realises his father’s vision with extreme technical ability.

Despite all this, I would struggle to describe ‘Mank’ as anything more than a really well-made film. Perhaps it’s the protagonist’s disregard for his family life that prevents the audience from truly connecting with him, or instead the lack of any great narrative climax as a result of realistic grounding for the story. This feels like a film that may divide audiences, but will definitely bring up plenty of talking points in the future, hopefully with particularly high praise for it’s impressive technical feats and cast performances. It’s on Netflix, it’s an interesting film, definitely give it a watch if you’ve got the time.

Catch Me If You Can – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen Directed by Steven Spielberg Written by Jeff Nathanson Length: 141mins

Now that we’re into December, I’m sure many of you will be revisiting Christmas movie lists, thinking about what you might want to watch over the coming weeks. There are of course the obvious choices, with films such as ‘Love, Actually’ and ‘Home Alone’ topping such lists, but sometimes it’s the Christmas films that are a little more subtle in their inclusion of the holiday season that get forgotten about. Steven Spielberg’s 2002 release, ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ is one such film, with the seasonal influence coming from the repeating idea that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks’ characters always cross paths on Christmas eve during their continued game of cat and mouse.

Based on real events, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ follows the criminal accomplishments of Frank Abagnale Jr, a highly successful con man who had stolen millions of dollars worth of checks before he was even nineteen. Originally working a scheme under the pretence of being a Pan Am pilot, the tactics he used to con businesses only became more elaborate as he grew older, and were fuelled further by the pursuit of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks).

Steven Spielberg is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors to have ever lived, particularly in relation to his ability to turn out high-quality blockbusters year after year, having done so since the release of ‘Jaws’ in 1970, a film that is generally considered to have been one of the first blockbusters ever. He’s continued with such success all the way up to cinema hits like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ in 2011. Despite this, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how easy Spielberg makes bringing a great film together look. In ‘Catch Me If You Can’ every element of the film comes together so seamlessly that you can’t help but be drawn into the story – a practice that is found throughout Spielberg’s filmography.

With Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks leading the film, the acting is never anything less than exceptional. They both seem to be at the top of their game here, and DiCaprio in particular delivers an extremely versatile and charming performance, excellently showing the chameleon-like nature of his character. Hanks provides a level of humanity to his character that compliments the extravagance of DiCaprio excellently, and creates a dynamic between them that can range from being full of tension to extremely heartfelt. The relationship created by Spielberg is one that is full of charm, and leads the audience to wish for nothing but a happy ending.

Janusz Kaminski, the cinematographer for the film, provides smooth and precise camerawork which allows the visual storytelling to keep up with the fast and frequently changing story of ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ On top of this though, the camera seems to know exactly when it should and shouldn’t draw attention to itself, with great moments of the film being allowed to play out without the audience being drawn to the cinematography rather than the story. Of course, visually stunning films are always impressive, but Spielberg is a director who truly seems to want to tell stories in their purest form, and by working with a cinematographer who knows exactly when the camera should present itself, this is achieved brilliantly.

All in all, I would highly recommend ‘Catch Me If You Can’ at any time of year, but it works especially well as a great starting point for the holiday season, with the Christmas themes remaining understated enough for it to not be overwhelmingly festive, but apparent enough that you can starting getting into the Christmas spirit.