History Is About To Change

Wash Westmoreland

Keira Knightley
Dominic West
Denise Gough
Eleanor Tomlinson

Set during the late years of the 19th century, we are introduced to Gabrielle Colette [Knightley], a country girl who weds notorious Parisian libertine and critic Henry Gauthier-Villars [West] who writes under the pseudonym Willy. Admittedly, Henry does not actually do a great deal of writing himself and merely employs a staff of ghost writers, allowing him to generate simple concepts for development and then sell the Willy brand. During a dry spell, Henry charges his young wife to write about her childhood experiences. In doing so, the ‘Claudine’ series is born and a best-selling movement sweeps France as women everywhere see something of themselves in Claudine. As success grows, Henry’s methods of extracting pages from Colette turn more abusive and Colette finds herself both exploring different types of relationships and discovers a burning desire to define herself outside of her husband’s shadow.

I will admit, I was only loosely familiar with Colette’s work, outside of the fact that her novel Gigi was adapted into the 1958 film of the same name. And yet, when you hear about her experiences and learn about this bombastic, headstrong, larger than life individual who was way ahead of her time, its evident she warrants more international prestige. As such, this is a daunting role for any actor but Keira Knightley constructs a changing, multifaceted performance, not only as a fantastic portrayal of someone aging from girl to woman but a wonderful and very real-feeling representation of an individual discovering who they truly are and the confidence they attain from it. A lot of this has been done through subtle gestures and physicality as Colette starts the film with a shrinking almost apologetic nervousness before adopting more self-assurance and typically masculine postures. But while Colette shifts and grows, Willy is unchanging, he starts out a brute and ends a brute, the only difference is that we, as the audience, learn with Colette over time that this is neither acceptable nor necessary. And this could have very easily been played up to extreme, quite literal, moustache-twirling villainy (as it was in Big Eyes) but there is a vitally important level of charm and charisma in West’s performance that explains how he was able to manipulate Colette for so long and so flagrantly abusively without either Colette or the audience completely turning on him until the story requires it.

It goes without saying that any period drama has a level of production above most others. Of course costume, hair, make-up, sets and locations are all vital components on any film but for a period film they bring their own set of unique challenges. More than that, Colette spans through a handful of formative decades which require the architectural and fashion styles to evolve with the passing time. While this could have the potential to feel jarring or clumsy, Westmoreland’s decisions to subtly morph the contents of Willy and Colette’s flat, merely introducing new elements rather than completely overhauling the whole space, to introduce new characters organically and having Thomas Adès’ beautiful score gently traverse through the musical trends of the time, adopting rising styles and themes of the day, allow the film to flow pleasingly from start to finish.

One of the only real negatives I could observe is that this is very much a film of lead and co-lead. No matter the gravity or import on the story, the supporting roles are confined to simply that. This is a combination of the usual factors of timing and pacing but also, as Colette herself becomes more willful and independent, to shine too brightly a light on those around her would rob the character of her own agency. Furthermore, the film also falls into the semi-risky trappings of telling a significant story about one of France’s most celebrated authors in English with English actors. And yet, reflective of our times and audience inclinations, without these, it may not get the spotlight it rightly deserves – after all, this film was initially scripted back in 2001 and has been in production hell for the better part of a decade and a half.

One of the many frustrations of glacial progress is seeing that we have already had prominent examples throughout our history yet the same battles are still being fought. Thankfully it feels like mainstream western society has had a bit of a renaissance with both the LGBTQ+ community and gender equality; subsequently, this won’t be the last film to address the unseen heroes and trail blazers of the past and as long as these stories continue to be told with skill and passion, hopefully lasting societal change can be made.

Release Date:
11th January 2019

The Scene To Look Out For:
About a third of the way into the movie, Colette and her fellow factory writer (as Willy’s ghost writers were known) are visiting a rather curious type of mime called a cantomime, wherein a male mime artist very skillfully lip-syncs a sung performance with elaborate gestures. It felt like a key turning point for the story as we see not only a form of theatricality that thrilled our heroine but also a nice little parallel of the film itself. Here we are shown a very impressive front-facing act from a man but in fairness, the genuine talent is from the woman singing the aria next to him, while everyone present applauds just the surface output despite knowing the truth of the matter.

Notable Characters:
There is no doubt that this is a film with an exceptional lead performance from Knightley. It will very likely earn her several nominations and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few lofty awards are sent her way (and deservedly so). But I was genuinely taken by the attention to diversity of the cast. This is Paris in the turn of the 20th century, a hub of life and activity and colonial influence. Over the decades, we have white-washed the past, presenting an inaccurate mono-ethnic presence, so to see so many people of colour in positions of success and sufficiency in a European period film was very rewarding.

Highlighted Quote:
“I will continue to pursue this because I want to”

In A Few Words:
“A stunningly crafted and superbly acted tale of a pioneer who should imbue others with assuredness and pride”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #223

[07 October 2018]

Winning Team:
The Shawshank Confusion
Genre – Andy Dufresne, Deckard, Harry Potter and Hellboy escape prison through a hole behind a Star Wars poster

Runners Up:
Genre – A Mayan poster artist must draw art in order to save his failing civilisation
Desperately Seeking Struzan
Genre – Documentary covering Hollywood’s rush to make all movie posters look like the successful ones for Star Wars and Indiana Jones
Desperately Seeking Film Knowledge
Genre – a noir classic about two time travellers who end up in 2018 at a film quiz in Norwich totally clueless as to what’s going on
A Star Is Drawn
Genre – Animated family film
A Star Wars Is Born
Genre – A space opera with signing! Hard drinking country singer Han Solo’s life is changed forever when he meets Like Skywalker, a beautiful young Jedi singer in the Mos Eisley cantina
Loft In Transition
Genre – Bill Murray has a midlife crisis and travels the world with his photo albums and Christmas decorations
The (Not So) Incredibles
Genre – Superhero
Fellowship Of The Onion Ring
Genre – Comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Inglourious Basterds took its title from which 1978 film?
2. What colour are the Na’vi in Avatar?
3. What is the name of Sherlock Holmes’ partner, played by Jude Law, in the 2009 Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes?
4. Who voiced the role of Baloo in 2016’s The Jungle Book?
5. Jyn Erso is the lead character in which Star Wars film?
6. The Theory Of Everything is a biopic about which individual?
7. Who played the lead role in Roland Emmerich’s 2012?
8. Maleficent was released in which year?
9. Up There, I’m Super and Blame Canada are songs from which film?
10. Who directed The Breakfast Club?

ROUND II: Filming [Drew Struzan Special]
1. What is the title of the sequel to Blade Runner? Blade Runner 2? Blade Runner 2019? Blade Runner 2049?
2. The following quote is from which film, “All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap and an old rock hammer damn near worn down to the nub”? Out Of Sight? The Shawshank Redemption? Escape From Alcatraz?
3. Which Indiana Jones film is set in 1935? Raiders Of The Lost Ark? Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom? Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade?
4. What is the name of Smollett’s ship in Muppet Treasure Island? Hispaniola? Henrietta? Pequod?
5. What was the nickname given to the electric chair in The Green Mile? The Hot Seat? Big Smoky? Old Sparky?
6. What is the name of the leader of the lost boys in Hook? Rufio? Ace? Pockets? [bonus point for naming who Peter puts in charge at the end of Hook]
RUFIO [Thud Butt]
7. Which 90s pulp comic hero adaptation features a hero nicknamed “the man who never dies”? The Rocketeer? The Shadow? The Phantom?
8. Where do the goonies get their name from in The Goonies? From the school mascot named Goon? Local Oregon slang for children? Their houses are located in an area called the Goon Docks?
9. The following quote is from which film, “There is no good and evil. There is only power and those too weak to seek it”? Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone? Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets? Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban?
10. At the start of The Crocodile Hunter, the MGM lion is replaced with a crocodile. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Les Miserables takes place over how many years?
SEVENTEEN (1815-1832)
2. What two films did Steven Spielberg direct in 2005? (one point per correct answer)
3. Which actor played the lead antagonist in Fast & Furious 6?
LUKE EVANS (Owen Shaw)
4. The following is a quote from which film, ” What’s your boggle, friend?”?
5. What is the name of the film in which Will Smith plays a professional dating consultant, trying to help Kevin James?
6. Tai Lung, Mr Ping and Grand Master Oogway are characters in which film?
7. What is the subtitle of the fourth Police Academy film?
8. Which film starred Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart and Imogen Poots?
9. In Coming To America, Prince Akeem Joffer decides to leave Africa and travel to the US on which birthday?
10. How many dream levels are featured in the main heist at the end of Inception?
FOUR (rainy van chase / hotel / snow fortress / limbo)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following did not appear in The Cannonball Run? Jackie Chan? Jane Fonda? Dean Martin?
2. What was the title of the 1987 live-action He-Man film? He-Man? Heroes Of Grayskull? Masters Of The Universe?
3. *Batteries Not Included was released in which year? 1981? 1987? 1994?
4. The club, Ray’s Boom Boom Room, is featured in which Eddie Murphy film? Life? Dreamgirls? Harlem Nights?
5. Harry And The Hendersons was released as what in the UK? The Missing Link? Bigfoot And The Hendersons? Meet Harry?
6. What is the name of Kurt Russell’s character in Big Trouble In Little China? Jack Burton? John Ruth? Stephen McCaffrey?
7. What instrument is Daryl playing while performing his duet with Jane in The Witches Of Eastwick? Saxophone? Violin? Piano?
8. What action is used in The Sting to show that people are in on the con? Tipping your hat? Stroking your chin? Tapping your nose?
9. The following quote is from which film, “My partner is a belligerent asshole with his back up against a wall.. and now, so am I”? Drive? LA Confidential? Wall Street?
10. A theatrical sequel to 1996’s Casper was cancelled at the last minute due to new 20th Century Fox executives feeling family films about the supernatural were corrupting children. True or False?
FALSE (two direct to video sequels were released)

Screenshots: A Few Good Men / Margin Call / Beavis And Butt-Head Do America / Ghost
Poster: St Elmo’s Fire
Actor: Demi Moore


The World Has Enough Superheroes

Reuben Fleischer

Tom Hardy
Riz Ahmed
Michelle Williams

Returning from a deep space reconnaissance mission, the Life Foundation shuttle is returning to earth with four alien specimens on board. On re-entry the ship crashes with only one astronaut surviving. The head of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake [Ahmed], employs his considerable resources to procure the samples and begin live-subject trials as soon as possible. At the same time we are introduced to Eddie Brock [Hardy], an investigative reporter who loses his job and fiancée (lawyer Anne Weying [Williams]) after he turns a fluff-piece interview with Drake into an attack on his illegal human experiments. After one of the Life Foundation’s key scientists tips Eddie off, he infiltrates the facility and comes into contact with one of the alien samples which begins talking to him and dictating his drives and actions.

Stumbling out of the cinema, as the film burps up its mismatched post-credit sequences, it is immediately apparent that Venom is such a bizarre entity. On one hand it is a typical 2010s example of a weak franchise launcher that bloviates about its importance and grand plans before passing out wheezing, “I can’t go on.” And on the other it is such a throwback to the pre-cinematic universe craze of the late 90s/early 2000s, where any comic property would be adapted with one big (white male) star, an underdeveloped disposable villain, poorly defined love interest, fleeting underwhelming CGI and a score packed with riffing guitars. It is simultaneously both 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2015’s Fantastic Four without being as arguably competent as the former or as laughably imbalanced as the latter.

One thing, however, is abundantly clear and that is the lack of room or time for anyone other than Tom Hardy. Now, I’m not saying that as a dig at the lead, simply highlighting that the script gives us little to no insight into any of the supports; their lives, motivations, backgrounds, none of it is considered to matter. From the get-go Eddie Brock is sold to us as this frankly inhuman cliché. He’s charming, altruistic, tenacious, generous, kind, roguish and an all-round catch. I know this because the opening prologue stuffs it down my throat like a 1950s Disney princess entrance wherein every character (human or otherwise) chirps how pretty the main character is. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if, as he strolled down the street petting dogs and chatting to security guards about the wellbeing of their kids, everyone around him uproariously burst into a chorus of “that handsome man, that talented man, that marvellous Eddie Brock” before whip-panning to Tom Hardy clicking his heels and shouting “Whoo! That’s me.” And yet, when we actually get down to him proving himself, he’s a fucking terrible reporter who blunders his way through both interviews and investigations and a completely untrustworthy partner who opens his fiancée’s confidential emails. Then, to top it all off, he gets infected by an alien symbiotic parasite that is constantly talking about eating people. And yet Hardy’s dual-performance is probably the only good thing about this movie. Despite being absurd and an excuse for another set of voices to the acting scrapbook, the interactions between Eddie and Venom are surprisingly entertaining and visually amusing, which seems counterintuitive but once you settle in to the odd ambience of the film, it almost becomes fitting.

Unfortunately, the supports don’t get nearly as much attention. We have a range of insubstantial individuals but let’s start with the non-villain, Carlton Drake. Riz Ahmed has already proved himself a fantastic actor but he is given nothing to work with. Drake is an admittedly driven and passionate scientific mind who seemingly has mankind’s interests at heart but his methods are callous, unorthodox and without heart. And that’s all I can tell you. He is obsessed with furthering the species but there is absolutely no inkling of why or what drew him down this path. He is merely evil for the fact the film requires it of him. The other lead support is Michelle Williams but I’ll mention her more later but outside of that we have brief appearances from Jenny Slate and Reid Scott who feel as wasted as Judy Greer in things like Jurassic World and Ant-Man, which is genuinely criminal.

A cast heavy with comedic actors is far from unusual for Reuben Fleischer – the man cut his teeth on Zombieland and made a glorious success of it – but much like Gangster Squad, so much of the creative qualities that made Fleischer’s debut so enjoyable and entertaining are all but absent. The pacing and editing are appalling, the script is shockingly flat, the narrative flow feels hole-punched and erratic, leaping from one plot point to another and there is an uncomfortable unintentional comedy running throughout that creates such a tonal unease. Not to mention the fact that it’s a solid hour before Venom properly turns up. With such jumbled asymmetry, it’s hardly surprising that the film’s own internal logic is one of the first victims. From the start we are told so much about the alien entities in heavy expository info dumps from their strengths, weaknesses, bonding habits and abilities; none of which is retained as the continuity shifts to meet the action’s quota. It also robs the film of any actual urgency as Eddie is practically invincible and even if he were to perish, it wouldn’t really change our feelings about him or the fate of this earth – which, apparently, is in significant jeopardy.

This whole endeavour could be labelled as a waste of potential but the truth of Venom is that any adaptation is doomed to fail because while most people feel they love the character, there isn’t a great deal to actually enjoy. A large, snarling, boisterous creation that exists as a parallel to Spider-Man but doesn’t really work as effectively without that adversarial clash. And while I will acknowledge that the Flash Thompson/Venom covert-ops storylines from the comics are pretty decent, this is not what we have been offered and while the franchise may eventually make its way there, I feel it will fall by the side of the road alongside the corpse of Tom Cruise after he rode off into the sunset at the end of The Mummy.

Release Date:
5th October 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
This is a film littered with really stupid moments and two in particular stood out for me. During Eddie and Dr Skirth’s clandestine break-in at the Life Foundation, Skirth reveals to Brock that the symbotic being is of extra-terrestrial origin. Naturally, Brock laughs this off by dismissively saying, “What are we talking about, aliens!? ET phone home?” To which Skirth deadpans a confirmation. While the transitional scene furthers next to nothing, the real insight is the possibility that Tom Hardy has never watched ET because his impression of ET (a very distinct voice and quote) is delivered in the most peculiar way, as if Hardy said on the day, “That’s a dumb voice, I can do better.. also it’ll be another unique voice for my scrapbook.” The other moment is when Anne’s boyfriend Dan (a surgeon with the power to give MRIs to people who don’t appear to have any medical insurance) is explaining the negative effects of the symbiote to Brock, stating “Your heart has atrophied” which is a maddening phrase because the second the organism keeping Eddie alive departs his body, he would be dead. But as stated earlier, that man is invincible.

Notable Characters:
Michelle Williams is an exceptionally talented actor and the only real saving grace of this film is that she’s only in it for a limited period of time. The script gives her so little to do and introduces her as both naïve and fickle as well as ruthless and headstrong in a mishmash of persona types that should give audiences whiplash but she has so little agency that the shifts are inconsequential and presented as irrelevant. The only thing I kept thinking is how many terrible agents must be working out there because Williams coming off the back of All The Money In The World and landing in this shit is just as poor a decision as Naomie Harris going from Moonlight to Rampage.

Highlighted Quote:
“Such poor design.. human beings”

In A Few Words:
“Somehow both extremely dull and erratically busy, Venom is a mess of a concoction that struggles constantly to define what it is and what it could be”

Total Score: