Film Review: The Glass Castle

Director and co-writer Destiny Daniel Cretton’s The Glass Castle is an engaging watch, thanks to its good performances and good storytelling.

Jeanette has an unconventional childhood. As an adult about to introduce her partner to her parents, Jeanette reflects on her upbringing with her eccentric artist mother and her alcoholic father…

Based on Writer Jeanette Walls’s memoirs, The Glass Castle focuses on the unusual childhood of the author, and in particular the relationship she has with her father. The film shows both the positive and negative of Jeanette’s upbringing, and the impact this has on her adult life.

The film commences with Jeanette as an adult in the late 1980s. It then diverges into two main strands; the story of the protagonist’s upbringing, and her current relationship with her family. Her childhood is explored through a series of lengthy flashbacks, at the same time as her present-day story progresses. This style of storytelling works well. Aspects of Jeanette’s childhood are revealed gradually. Some of these are genuinely horrendous, whilst others provide humour or simply a very human experience.

A prevailing theme of the film is the many shades of the characters. The film does not offer easy protagonists and antagonists, instead offering characters that are nuanced and difficult to categorise. A prominent message is that the vast majority of people are neither holy good or bad but sit on a spectrum. Whilst Jeanette’s parents are undoubtedly neglectful, they are not portrayed as villains, but complex characters with their own issues.

Brie Larson delvers a solid performance as the adult Jeanette. Ella Anderson is great as the young version of the character. Woody Harrleson is strong and lively as Rex. He is ably supported by Naomi Watts.

The final third of the film misses the pep of earlier sequences. Nevertheless, The Glass Castle is successful in its depiction of characters who are both frustrating and empathetic.

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: While We’re Young

While We're Young

Noah Baumbach’s comedy While We’re Young is amusing, engaging, and speaks about the modern condition without ever appearing cacophonous in its social commentary.

Josh and Cornelia are a  long-time married couple in their forties. When a young couple enter their lives, Josh and Cornelia’s world is affected by the influx of youth…

Writer-director Noah Baumbach has produced perhaps his most accomplished work to date with While We’re Young. The film is funny, absorbing, and meditates on modern society in a disarming fashion. The set up of While We’re Young works well to briskly establish the lifestyle of the two protagonists, so that the change brought in by Jamie and Darby seems fresh and exhilarating. Baumbach utilises support characters effectively in marking this change.

Viewers are invited to identify with Josh in the whirlwind of change that he encounters. His excitement is understandable, as is his increasing apprehension. While We’re Young‘s script functions well to reveal characters in a way that is natural yet interesting.

The humour in While We’re Young works exceptionally well. There is comedy to be found in all manner of aspects, from the situations that arise to the cultural references. Baumbach’s script is very amusing, and the direction lends itself to comedy.

Performances in the film are great. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts have good chemistry, and interact in a way which seems very natural. Adam Driver is finely cast as Jamie, whilst Amanda Seyfried brings the necessary perkiness to Darby.

While We’re Young is a meditation on the concept of youth and ageing. There will be plenty in the film for all ages of adult to identify with. Youth is posited as both exotic and fearsome in Baumbach’s film, and this is executed in a way that resonates. The issue of having children is dealt with in a way that feels thoroughly modern and retains a sense of humour.

While We’re Young is a satisfying comedy that shows a convincing understanding of ageing in the contemporary world. Highly recommended viewing.

Trailer Round-Up

It’s all about the Avengers: Age of Ultron latest trailer this week, but there is plenty more besides…

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The latest trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron looks ever so exciting. The film has a tough act to follow with the success of its predecessor, but from this trailer it looks up to the job. Avengers: Age of Ultron launches on to the big screens on 23rd April 2015 in the UK.

Mr Holmes

Mr Holmes offers a different take on the famous detective. Ian McKellen plays an older Sherlock Holmes, retired and living in a remote farmhouse, who tackles an unsolved mystery. Mr Holmes is out on UK screens on 19th June 2015.

While We’re Young

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young sees the writer-director team up with Ben Stiller again. Also starring Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried, While We’re Young focuses on a middle-aged couple and the disruption in their lives caused by a younger couple. The film is released in UK cinemas on 3rd April 2015.

The Face of an Angel

Inspired by the killing of British student Meredith Kercher in Italy, The Face of an Angel examines the obsession with violent stories, whether fictional or real. Michael Winterbottom’s film, starring Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Brühl, is out in UK cinemas on 27th March 2015.

The Salvation

Mads Mikkelsen is the protagonist in western The Salvation. Also starring Eva Green and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the film focuses on a man who avengers his family, and the consequences of this. The Salvation hits UK screens on 17th April 2015.

Film Review: J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar offers flashes of greatness, but ultimately is weighed down by its flaws. The film is interesting, but fails to satisfy.

J. Edgar Hoover became the first director of the FBI. After a quick rise in through the ranks of the Bureau of Investigation, Hoover’s successes were well publicised. Although he was the face of crime fighting in America, J. Edgar held secrets of his own…

Director Clint Eastwood seemingly has good intentions with J. Edgar, but comes up short. The film appears as if it will be told in flashback format at first. However, the film frequently jumps from the present day to different periods in history. Given the lack of immediate information regarding the setting, it may take viewers a few moments to identify the era and event in different scenes. In one sense, covering most of Hoover’s career offers a suitable biopic of the life of a prolific character. Nevertheless, Eastwood may have done better to explore a handful of key events in more detail, rather than the constant jumping from decade to decade and back again.

Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay is uneven. There are some good scenes between J. Edgar and long-time confidant Clyde, which explore the close relationship between the pair. Likewise, some of the scenes with Hoover and his mother give some context to his later behaviour. However, there is an over reliance upon grand posturing dialogue, perhaps to mask J. Edgar‘s lack of substance at times. Moreover, some scenes are awkwardly written, while others seem surplus to requirement. The film could have also been trimmed to under two hours, which would have made for a more enjoyable picture overall.

Performances in J. Edgar are good for the most part. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a strong performance as the title character. It will be surprising if DiCaprio does not receive an Oscar nomination for this performance. Armie Hammer is also solid, however both he and DiCaprio are hindered by some cumbersome prosthetics. The prosthetics used on Hammer in particular seem to alter him far too drastically. Naomi Watts is suitably cast in a minor role, while Jeffrey Donovan’s impersonation of Robert Kennedy is so abysmal it seems like a parody.

The costumes in J. Edgar are fantastic. The art direction is also great in producing the authenticity of the period settings. Hoover was an intriguing character, it is a shame that J. Edgar is not better executed.

J Edgar Posters

Leonardo DiCaprio looks angry in these new posters for J Edgar. A quick Google search informs me that J Edgar Hoover did not really look like DiCaprio when he was younger. I have no doubt, however, that the actor will give a powerful performance. J Edgar is directed by Clint Eastwood and also stars Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench. This one has Oscar nominations written all over it. J Edgar is released in cinemas on 20th January 2012.

Dream House Trailer

Dream House stars Daniel Craig, his new wife Rachel Weisz, as well as Naomi Watts. The film looks creepy. From the trailer above, Dream House could be one of those very outlandish suspense thrillers. However, the calibre of the main cast suggests more quality than this. With The Awakening released around the same time, it seems November is the month for chills. Dream House is out 25th November 2011.

Film Review: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not one of Woody Allen’s finest films. Considering the writer-director’s cinematic flair however, the film is still a cut above many other comedy romances.

After forty years of marriage, Alfie leaves his wife Helena to pursue a younger lifestyle and a younger woman. Meanwhile, their daughter Sally longs to start a family but is having marital problems with her husband, struggling writer Greg. Each of the four encounters new people, which leads to trouble…

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger lacks the charm of some of Allen’s earlier efforts, such as Manhattan Murder Mystery. Nevertheless, the film is still amusing and engaging. Characters are well written, if not always likeable, and the incidents that occur offer humour as well as contemplation.

Allen centres the action on a family, and their liaisons with others. It is very much an ensemble piece, with the four main characters wrangling for screen time with the assorted extras. Some of these side characters appear a little one dimensional, but add comedy and drama to proceedings.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as witty as some of Woody Allen’s best scripts. Humour is present however, and it is mostly generated through Helena and the minor characters. There is no distinct Woody Allen character, such as Boris in Whatever Works. Instead, a number of the characters take on the writer-director’s typical neuroses. Most prominent of these is Helena, who likes a drink and appears highly-strung. Elsewhere, Roy is the writer struggling with self-confidence, and attracted to a beautiful young woman. It is perhaps because of this absence of the singular recognisable Allen archetype that the film fails to enamour in the same way as the filmmaker’s best films. It is this character type that often brings the wit, which would explain why You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as consistently funny as you would hope.

Allen’s other London-based movies have not been that well received. However, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger fares better than the previous movies set in the city. The film paints a fairly romanticised picture of London; the locations featured are in the more attractive areas of the city. This is not unexpected as gritty realism is not something Allen is known for.

Performances from the cast are excellent overall, and the casting is spot on. Gemma Jones as Helena stands out in particular, while Naomi Watts is convincing as Sally. Lucy Punch is suitably over the top as Charmaine.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an enjoyable movie, which is underscored by a layer of quiet contemplation. It is definitely worth a watch, even if it is not the film Woody Allen fans were hoping for.

Film Review: Fair Game

Fair Game may well be one of those incidences where the real life story is actually more interesting than the film depiction. The bustling start fizzles, giving way to more sluggish proceedings for the rest of the film.

Valerie Plame is an undercover CIA agent living with her former ambassador husband Joe Wilson and their young twins. Joe is asked to go to Niger to investigate a possible of a uranium deal with Saddam Hussein. Joe reports back that the sale did not occur, but George W. Bush’s administration uses it as justification to go to war with Iraq. When Joe speaks out publicly, Valerie’s identity is leaked…

The problem with a cinematic adaptation of recent historical events is that most of the audience will remember how the real events played out. This can work as an appeal of the film; people who were intrigued by events may want to see a dramatisation. Nevertheless, when such incidents have been widely reported, others may have little interest in a story they already are very familiar with.

Fair Game combines feature-film drama with real news footage from the time. This interspersing of the fictional and the factual goes some way to grounding the drama in reality. Writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (basing their screenplay on books by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame) amalgamate the political with the personal. Rather than just a chain of events, Fair Game illuminates the impact of the revelation on Plame, and how this affects the relationship she has with her family. In trying to provide this very personal angle to the story, filmmakers are only partially successful. The strain the events have on Plame and Wilson is clear, however these scenes are not particularly gripping.

Perhaps most interesting in Fair Game is the subplot featuring Plame’s on-going cases. The film insinuates that many are placed in danger by Plame’s sudden removal from duties. As Fair Game concentrates on Plame and Wilson however, these cases are pushed by the wayside. It is a shame, as these strands offered the most intrigue and tension.

Naomi Watts offers a competent performance as Valerie Plame. Sean Penn is also capable, although the role of the impassioned, righteous individual is very typical of his choice of role.

Ultimately it is Doug Liman’s lackadaisical direction that lets Fair Game down. The film should have offered more tension and more momentum. In this case, the interesting story has not translated into an interesting film.