Category Archives: film

FILM REVIEW: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Having been in the pipeline for several years, Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke, finally makes it to the big screen. Based on John Guy’s biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, with a screenplay adapted by Beau Willimon, the film sees last year’s best actress contenders, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, star together at last, even if it’s just in one scene that has historical purists all riled up.

After becoming Queen of France at age sixteen, and then a widow at just eighteen, Mary Stuart (Ronan) returns to Scotland to reclaim her throne. However, England and Scotland fall under the rule of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), and so the scrambling begins.

What ensues is what can best be described as an absolute clusterf**k. Not in terms of the film per se, but rather more representative of the shitstorm that is the monarchy system, particularly in 1569. The storyline is somewhat difficult to follow because of the sheer absurdity of it all – who should marry who, who should screw over who, who should actually screw who. Perhaps history buffs will have a better chance of understanding, but then again, the film seems to have produced a lot of anger about its historical inaccuracies, so perhaps nobody wins.mary queen of scots poster

While it is a period film, Mary Queen of Scots sets itself apart as a contemporary film, particularly with the inclusion of queer supporting characters as well as its sex scenes. The main characters are women, though not surprisingly for the time, despite their strength of character and their supposed power, they still get their shit dictated by a group of men. Supportive female friendships are portrayed between the queens and their ladies in waiting, while the men do all the bitching and manipulating.

Ronan and Robbie are naturally exceptional in the lead roles, their one scene together the clear highlight of the film as their contradictory feelings for each other – fear, admiration, spite, and love – are all apparent. It’s a shame we only get to see them together for a few minutes. Guy Pearce, David Tennant, and Gemma Chan have small roles, as well as a host of other lesser known actors, but they all pale in comparison to the women we’ve come to see.

The stunning Margot Robbie uglies it up again under a mountain of make-up and prosthetics, in stark contrast to Saoirse Ronan’s naturally beautiful Mary. The hair and make-up is Oscar-worthy, along with Alexandra Byrne’s costumes. It’s not, however, the best sign when as a viewer you find yourself contemplating how much time royalty spent getting their hair done in the morning, instead of the complexities of British history. It’s a gorgeous film starring gorgeous and talented actresses but its plot, much like how Mary ended up, is a bit of a mess. Props to Rourke who attempted to portray a trueish story, but Mary Queen of Scots suffers in its close proximity to the recent release of The Favourite, which is the far superior choice if you want to see royalty portrayed on screen in an entertaining fashion.

3 stars

This review was first published on 14th January 2019 at Film Blerg.

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TOP 10 of 2018

2018 wasn’t the greatest year for film but there were still a few worthwhile watches in the mix. As reported over on Film Blerg here are my top 10 for the year, along with some special mentions. Continue reading TOP 10 of 2018

FILM REVIEW: Eighth Grade (2018)

For the third year running, the New Year brings us another terrific film centred on a teenage girl. Last year it was Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, in 2017 it was Hailee Steinfeld in Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen. In 2019 it’s Bo Burham’s Eighth Grade. And that a man has managed to capture the awkwardness of a teenage girl so brilliantly is astounding. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Eighth Grade (2018)

FILM REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Few can deny the timeless appeal of the original Mary Poppins. Led by the legendary Julie Andrews in her feature debut, the 1964 classic boasted a much-loved soundtrack by the Sherman brothers, some of the most memorable dance sequences ever seen on screen, and of course, animated dancing penguins. As portrayed in 2013’s Saving Mr Banks, Poppins’ creator, P.L. Travers, was pursued by Walt Disney for the rights to the film for over twenty years, and was not at all happy with the end product when it did eventually come to fruition. Travers rejected the concept for a film sequel in the 1980s, and acquiesced to the stage musical adaptation (which premiered in 2004, eight years after her death) on the grounds that no one from the original film – the Sherman Brothers in particular – be involved. Fast forward to 2018, a whopping fifty-four years since the original magic, and Poppins is back on screen. The sequel was approved by Travers’ estate but one can only assume she would not be thrilled; the penguins are back and they’re dancing on her grave. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

FILM REVIEW: Second Act (2018)

Christmas approaches and with it, a slew of feel-good films. Some good, some bad, some utter catastrophes. Second Act, directed by Peter Segal, falls into the latter category as a film so farcical it’s embarrassing.

Maya (Jennifer Lopez) is incensed after she loses out on a promotion at work that goes to an educated douche. On her birthday she makes a wish that she lived in a world where “street smarts equal book smarts”. And honestly if the film had taken that explicitly magical route, it would have been better for it. Instead, her best friend’s cyber-savvy son overhears, makes her a fake CV and Facebook page, and sends in an application on her behalf to a top finance firm. She has a five minute interview and she’s hired, despite not even appearing to check beforehand what the job was for. Because it’s just that easy you guys. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Second Act (2018)

FILM REVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Following an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids back in 2012, Melissa McCarthy is getting Oscar buzz again for her starring role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? based on the memoir by Lee Israel.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) was a celebrity biographer who was down on her luck after poor sales and a lack of support from her agent (Jane Curtin). With not even enough money to pay for her cat’s vet bills, a chance find by Lee sparks an idea about how she can make money from her writing: create fake letters by literary greats and actors and sell them to collectors. The film, directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, does a thorough job in setting this up well so that we can empathise with Lee’s criminal actions – her cat is sick, her apartment is flea-ridden, she can’t afford a coat. Not to mention that her victims, for the most part, aren’t exactly the most likeable characters. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

FILM REVIEW: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Following the success of his short film Zombie Musical in 2011, the late Ryan McHenry(responsible for the ‘Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal’ vines) began developing a feature length version for his debut. He sadly passed away in 2015 while the film, co-written with Alan McDonald, was still under development. John McPhail was brought in as director and Anna and the Apocalypse was completed. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)