Film Review: Bad Education

Cory Finley’s sophomore picture Bad Education is a well-crafted exploration of deception. Hugh Jackman delivers an outstanding performance.

Dr Frank Tassone is superintendent of New York’s Roslyn School District, and has turned the high school into one of the top performing public schools in the country. However, a malfeasance scandal threatens the school’s reputation…

Based on real events, Bad Education is a darkly comic drama. Written by Mike Makowsky, Finley’s second feature focuses on malfeasance at a school district. This perhaps does not sound like the most gripping of subjects, yet becomes multi-layered and consequential in Finley’s capable hands. 

The narrative takes a little while to get going, whilst the context and main players are introduced. One of the highlights of Bad Education is that it is unclear where the plot will go, particularly after a significant revelation. 

Makowsky and Finley flesh out the main characters in a methodical fashion. It is unclear exactly how important certain characters will be to begin with, and Finley keeps viewers guessing. One of the film’s strongest points is its depiction of protagonist Frank. The director is careful in his depiction, slowly peeling back the layers, and shifting audience perception. It is expertly executed.

In focusing on this incident, Finley explores a number of themes. Key to the film is responsibility, accountability, and deception. Like Thoroughbreds, Bad Education is concerned with the nature of sociopathy, and the wider impact it has. The setting works as a microcosm to address larger problems in society as a whole. Some of the dialogue later in the film gives pause for thought. 

Bad Education is darkly humorous, yet knows when to be serious. Finley wisely holds back, and is often restrained in terms of comedy.  This works well to assert the gravitas of the incident, as well as the mindset of the protagonist.  

Hugh Jackman delivers a superb performance as Frank; one of the best of his career. He is as convincing as the charmer as well as the deceiver. Allison Janney is also wonderful, and steals several scenes. Geraldine Viswanathan offers a good turn as Rachel.

Bad Education is great character study, and an entertaining watch. Finley certainly knows his craft. 

Bad Education is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Previews: Captain America: Civil War Posters, and more!

Plenty of blockbusters in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including Captain America: Civil War posters, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence and more…

Captain America: Civil War Posters

Captain America: Civil War poster

Are you #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan? These new Captain America: Civil War posters highlight the division in the Avengers. Captain America: Civil War is as much a follow-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron as it is to 2014’s superlative Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and a host of other Marvel stars, Captain America: Civil War hits UK screens on 29th April 2016.

Captain America: Civil War Iron Man

Welcome To Me Trailer

Welcome To Me is about a lottery winner who decides to spend her winnings on creating her own talkshow. Kristen Wiig stars at the winner inspired by Oprah Winfrey, and the film also stars James Marsden, Wes Bentley and Joan Cusack. Welcome To Me will be released in cinemas and on Sky Store on 25th March 2016.


X-Men: Apocalypse Poster

X-Men: Apocalypse Poster

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto leads the four horsemen of the apocalypse in this new poster for X-Men: Apocalypse. The film sees the return of familiar characters from previous instalment as well as new additions played by Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner and others. X-Men: Apocalypse blasts onto UK screens on 18th May 2016.

Florence Foster Jenkins Trailer

Florence Foster Jenkins star Meryl Streep as the New York heiress. She has a desire to sing, but her voice does not live up to her concert-hall aspirations. Also starring Hugh Grant, the film is directed by Stephen Frears. Florence Foster Jenkins is released in cinemas on 6th May 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children First Look


Well this looks mildly terrifying. Here is one of the first images released from Tim Burton’s upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Based on the bestselling novel, the film stars Eva Green, Allison Janney, and Samuel L. Jackson. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will be released in UK cinemas in Autumn 2016.

Demolition Trailer

Demolition is about a successful investment banker who struggles to cope after the tragic death of his wife. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper. Directed by Dallas Buyers Club helmer Jean-Marc Valleé, Demolition hits UK cinemas on 29th April 2016.

Independence Day: Resurgence Poster

IDR Poster

Here is a new poster for the delayed sequel Independence Day: Resurgence. The film is set twenty years after the original, and sees the return of director Roland Emmerich and cast members Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Vivica A. Fox. Independence Day: Resurgence launches on UK screens on 23rd June 2016.

Film Review: The Way Way Back


Comedy drama The Way Way Back is entertaining and occasionally touching. Viewers are unlikely to feel short changed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s film.

14-year-old Duncan goes on a summer holiday with his mum, her boyfriend Trent, and Trent’s daughter. Duncan is painfully shy, and an easy target for the overbearing Trent. Finding it difficult to fit in, Duncan finds solace at the local water park…

The Way Way Back is a coming of age story which gradually endears itself to viewers. The film is not astoundingly inventive, but the characters and narrative is well crafted enough to keep the audience watching.

The central character Duncan is an underdog. It is easy for viewers to sympathise with the shy and awkward protagonist. Duncan is at times cringe-inducing in his awkwardness, but this makes him more likeable as an underdog. He is a well-written protagonist; it is this which makes viewers root for him.

Other characters in The Way Way Back are given enough flesh for the audience to buy into them. Pam is elicits both frustration and sympathy, while Owen is loveable. The secondary narrative strands have been given enough thought as to appear authentic complements to the main story.

The tone of The Way Way Back easily switches from humorous situations to moments that are sad or genuinely touching. The skill of Faxon and Rash’s writing and directing is that they keep the focus on the characters.

Toni Collette is believable as Pam, while Liam James is fantastically cast as Duncan. It is refreshing to see Steve Carell in a more nefarious role, and Allison Janney is superb. Sam Rockwell is incredibly charismatic as Owen.

The Way Way Back is a story of identity and confidence. The beauty of the film is that it makes it impossible not to smile.

Film Review: Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts is a warm and engaging comedy drama. The themes that Josh Radnor’s film covers are almost universally applicable.

Jesse is a thirty-something admissions officer living in New York. When he is invited to his old professor’s retirement dinner at his alma mater, Jesse is keen to attend. There he meets Elizabeth, a young undergraduate who is an acquaintance of the professor. Jesse and Elizabeth have a mutual interest in one another other, despite the age gap…

Josh Radnor, who writes, directs and stars in Liberal Arts, appears to know his subject area well. There is a level of insight that shines through the entire film. The script is great, with its humour and involving exchanges. The characters are all well written. Radnor has a flair for creating interesting and authentic characters of all ages.

Liberal Arts will be particularly pertinent to those who graduate from university a few years ago. Nevertheless, the broader theme of age and ageing will be applicable to the widest remit. It is not difficult to identify with Jesse, who does not quite feel his age. There is also some solace in the learned professor’s pearls of wisdom. The beauty of Liberal Arts is the way it depicts all of the main characters as struggling with this. The well-crafted dialogue and characters with depth ensure that viewers will find resonance on some level.

The setting of Liberal Arts is what seems to be the quintessential American campus. It is easy to see why protagonist Jesse would feel such a sense of nostalgia about a place like this. The references to literature are amusing throughout the film. The camera work is controlled, and the film features a good use of music.

Josh Radnor plays Jesse perfectly as the likeable bookish protagonist. Elizabeth Olsen is strong as ever as Elizabeth, while Richard Jenkins brings both humour and acute sadness as Peter. Zac Efron steps out of his comfort zone in a welcome manner, while Allison Janney is great as the aloof Professor Judith.

Liberal Arts simultaneously considers the social impact of literary escapism and the anxieties of ageing in a way that is thoughtful, authentic and amusing. Josh Radnor’s film is highly recommended.

Liberal Arts is being screened at Sundance London, which runs from 26-29th April 2012.