Fighting With My Family (2019) Review

Fighting With My Family (2019)

Directed & Written by Stephen Merchant

Based on The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family

Starring: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment.

My Opinion:

Wow. I enjoyed this film waaay more than I was expecting! First of all, I better point out that I’m not a wrestling fan whatsoever and have zero knowledge in that field. So I enjoyed this as a really fun piece of entertainment, however close to the true story this movie may be. I have no idea but I’m sure the rise to fame wasn’t quite as simple as portrayed (but movies always exaggerate that). I see this is based on a documentary about the same people (The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family) so I’m sure that’s worth watching if you’re a wrestling fan and want something that’s going to be more factual.


I have to say that I was never a fan of The Rock but, for some odd reason, my daughter loves him. So he’s really grown on me as I’ve now been forced to watch so many of his movies. Well, FYI: He’s hardly in this but that doesn’t hurt the film in the slightest. This story is about the female pro wrestler (Saraya “Paige” Knight) and her (very British!) wrestling family. The Rock does have a (quite cheesy) cameo but the family are a riot and their story was so bizarrely heartwarming (for a family that regularly bodyslam the shit out of each other). Seriously – as someone who’s very rarely a fan of comedy in movies these days, I have to say I laughed (or at least smiled) quite a lot throughout this film. Especially during scenes involving the parents, played by Lena Headey & Nick Frost. They were hilarious. Give me Headey’s character in this over Cersei! I’d love to see her two characters in the ring together. I think Cersei would have her ass kicked.

I really think this is one of those movies that has something for everyone. It’s a great family film, though not for kids too young due to some saucy language (which isn’t something that bothers me since I have a potty mouth). The family are funny yet lovable and you can tell that they’re very close. There’s some jealousy when one of them becomes a big star but the family never come across as fake and nothing feels over the top: They feel like a slightly bonkers but real family who could be living next door to you. You can tell they have a true passion for what they love, which any viewer can relate to whether or not they share that same interest in wrestling. Lovers of sports as well as haters of sports (like me) should all get something out of this movie. It was also great seeing a typical British community portrayed in the film and seeing how wrestling brought them together. I had no knowledge of this film beforehand so the English setting (in the beginning) was a pleasant surprise. What can I say? I really enjoyed this film! About a family of wrestlers!!! Huh.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Dredd (2012) Review

Dredd (2012)

Directed by Pete Travis

Screenplay by Alex Garland

Based on Judge Dredd by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra

Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey, Domhnall Gleeson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Karl Urban stars as Judge Dredd, a law enforcer given the power of judge, jury and executioner in a vast, dystopic metropolis called Mega-City One that lies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Dredd and his apprentice partner, Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), are forced to bring order to a 200-storey high-rise block of flats and deal with its resident drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

My Opinion:

I finally watched this movie for three reasons:

1) I loved Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and noticed after seeing it that he’d also written the screenplay for Dredd (as well as two other favorites, 28 Days Later & Sunshine)

2) I’m a big fan of a little movie called Hardware (as some of you well know) which, like Judge Dredd, comes from the comic book 2000 AD and

3) I was also a big fan of Anthrax in my teen years and they had a song about Judge Dredd (called I Am The Law) so I was always curious about the character as Anthrax always sang about cool shit.

Oh – and before I start this review, I better give a shout-out to Mike of Screenkicker for finally doing as I said and watching Hardware the other night. Thanks for the running commentary on Twitter as you watched my awesome recommendation, Mike! πŸ˜‰

I’ve been getting a little sick of all the comic book movies in recent years. I go to them, yes, and I’ve enjoyed the majority of them. They always make for good “popcorn” movies but I can’t say they ever really end up being all-time favorites of mine (although I did love Guardians Of The Galaxy). I even get a little bored with the Avengers, especially when they stick them all in one movie together. Superhero overload!

However, this I quite liked. The dystopian setting and the ultra-violence in Dredd is such a far cry from the likes of the glossy & pretty Marvel films (and Thor’s beautiful hair. and non-hairy butt). It’s weird as I don’t normally like extreme violence but, sometimes, I can stomach it if I think it suits a film and its mood. In the case of Dredd, it works. I hated Sin City. I hated Kick-Ass. I liked Dredd.

As usual with these kind of films, I have ZERO knowledge of the comic book so I can’t compare them but I do know that fans were a million times happier with this version than with the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film (which I have no interest in ever seeing as it looks cheesy as hell). I can’t say I fully bought into the character of Judge Dredd in this, though, as it was more the overall look & mood of the film that worked for me. But this movie does have me interested in knowing more about Dredd’s world as well as knowing more about Judge Dredd himself since there’s unfortunately very little development of the title character.

My favorite bits of the film were the “Slo-Mo” sequences in which we saw the action & excessive violence in slow motion (the way in which those who take the hallucinogenic Slo-Mo drug in the film would see things). These scenes were quite beautiful in a way & I liked that they looked like comic book panels (such as in the above photo). From what I read, Alex Garland helped work on these scenes and spent a very long time getting them just right. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a sequel as Dredd did poorly at the box office but, after proving himself with Ex Machina, I’d love to see a Dredd sequel directed by Garland.

Obviously, I did really enjoy Dredd but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t have its issues. It’s a very flawed film in some ways. I know they chose to focus on just one story instead of an origin story or one that’s more about Judge Dredd himself and, while I did like the Slo-Mo/Ma-Ma drug lord story, I certainly can’t say I know much more about the character of Dredd or his world after this film. Heck, I’d say I don’t know any more about Judge Dredd now than I already knew from that Anthrax song I mentioned.

As I said above, there’s also very little character development of not only Dredd but of all the characters so it was hard to care about any of them. I did like Dredd’s female partner in this but she’s not given a lot to do and ends up a bit too “damsel in distress” for my liking. Things like Mad Max: Fury Road have proven that you can have women who kick ass! Lena Headey is fine as a fairly predictable victim turned villain while Karl Urban is also a decent enough Dredd but, to be honest, someone else could’ve played the character and it wouldn’t have made much difference to this film (except Stallone!). The most sympathetic character was the one played by Domhnall Gleeson (below), who is used very cruelly by Ma-Ma. And I have to say I had no clue that was Domhnall Gleeson until the end credits. Guess his Garland connection landed him the role in Ex Machina! (And I’ll be seeing Gleeson later tonight in…. what’s it called again? Oh yeah – The Force Awakens?) πŸ˜‰

Summary:

I enjoyed Dredd quite a bit despite its flaws. It’s far from perfect but if you just want a kick-ass, ultra-violent action movie with some style, you won’t be disappointed. If you want something deep or strong characters you’ll buy into, this may not be the film for you. I have to say that my husband and I like a lot of the same movies but when we disagree, we really disagree, and he was very disappointed with this film. I do think you’d either love this one or hate it.

I love anything post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian so this movie’s world suits me just fine. The only comics/graphic novels that I’ve ever read are Watchmen & Tank Girl plus I really liked the V For Vendetta film (although I’ve not read that). I guess I’m just more of a fan of dystopian British sci-fi comics than the slick & glossy American ones. Maybe I just need to get more sun? That’s why the British dystopian thing works so well – the writers aren’t getting any sun! Because, seriously – England is dreary. I can’t imagine someone being able to create Judge Dredd in California!

As for movies based on stories in 2000 AD, however, I have to say that Hardware did it better than Dredd did and on a FAR smaller budget. I liked Dredd a lot and would love to see a sequel where we learn much more about the character but I do wish the film was a little better overall. It does kick ass, though. 

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of The Force Awakens! Hopefully. I’ll be very very tired….. πŸ™‚

The Purge (2013) Review

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The Purge

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring:

Ethan Hawke
Lena Headey
Max Burkholder
Adelaide Kane
Edwin Hodge
Rhys Wakefield
Tony Oller
Arija Bareikis

Plot Synopsis:

In 2022 America, all crime is legal for one night of every year. Unemployment & the crime rate are at an all time low thanks to this annual 12-hour period, known as The Purge, when people are allowed the opportunity to get out all their aggressions.

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My Opinion:

First of all, it actually wasn’t until looking for the images to use in this review that I saw the poster saying “from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister”. I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand because I’d have skipped The Purge. Luckily, it’s better than those. Paranormal Activity was… Meh. Sinister actually started out very promising and I found it pretty creepy at first but then it got extremely stupid & left me very pissed off. The Purge has the same eerie feel & tension that the start of Sinister has but manages to maintain that throughout the whole film.

I enjoyed this movie more than I was expecting. It’s kind of a weird one, though – it’s somewhere in between “suspenseful thriller” (like Panic Room but nowhere near as good) and “horror” (like The Strangers – it felt VERY similar to this movie). I can see people not liking The Purge if they’re expecting it to fit nicely into just one of those two categories. It’s actually considered “science fiction”, however – I guess as it takes place in a dystopian future? It just doesn’t feel like “the future” as it’s only nine years from now so I guess that’s why it doesn’t feel like science fiction. (Did you notice how I used the word “dystopian” there? Look at me using big words & stuff!). πŸ™‚

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I’m not sure what to say now. I’m not entirely sure why I liked this film. I went to it only because I heard what it was about and really liked the concept. With so many sequels and remakes and the rehashing of the same old stories over and over again these days, it was great to hear about a movie plot that felt like a fresh new idea (although I’m sure it’s been done somewhere?). All crime legal for one night- It’s a great concept for a film! Very simple yet with SO many possibilities. There were so many ways this movie could have played out. Is it as good as its concept? No, unfortunately not. It tries to demonstrate the (obvious) moral implications involved in people going around and doing any horrible thing they desire for one night each year. But it never really manages to be “deep”. The Purge feels like a wasted opportunity – a high concept that’s not explored in depth. However, I did still enjoy it. I mean, it’s only 85 minutes and it’s from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister – you’re not going to get something too deep & meaningful. As long as you don’t go to it expecting that, you might enjoy it. It’s a popcorn movie that happens to have good original concept. I think this is one of those that’s easier to discuss by breaking it down into the “good” and “not so good” bits.

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The Good:

– The concept

– The moral implications involved in a night of purging (although only touched on a little bit in this film)

– The creepy masks & the “baddies”. I’m not going to go into the plot too much as I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible. The trailer gives away a lot more about this movie so I can say the story centers on one family (Ethan Hawke & Lena Headey and their son & daughter) in their secured home on the night of The Purge and the people who are trying to enter their house. The masks were creepy. There’s just something about faceless strangers committing acts of evil – I find that frightening. Yes, it’s VERY similar to The Strangers, which I liked but I know not everyone did. If you liked that, you might like The Purge.

– The doll’s head. It’s creepy. What’s creepier than people in masks? Freaking DOLLS.

– The “haves” vs the “have nots”. Naturally, in a future where a night of legalized crime exists, it’s those who have the money to arm themselves and secure their homes who have the least to worry about. Again, though, this is something that could have been explored more fully but I thought they did a decent enough job of getting this point across in 85 minutes.

– The suspense. It’s pretty good through the whole film. Things are always pretty tense.

– The boy looked like Skrillex. Especially when wearing his glasses. (Can’t find a picture with the glasses).

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The Not So Good:

– A great concept not explored in depth

– A few things were WAY too obvious and predictable. But I can’t discuss them without spoilers.

– The daughter is unnecessarily in her school uniform (with the shortest school uniform skirt EVER) the entire time. (And the male readers are now wondering why this is listed under “not so good”. Lol). Because, like the underwear scene in Into Darkness, it doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for it.

– The characters of the central family & their neighbors. They just came across as very “sheltered” from the realities of the nights of The Purge (other than the son who actually questions things a little). I know the point is that they’re rich so they don’t have to worry about it. It’s not their “problem”. But this is only nine years from now. It just seems a bit weird that The Purge has been so readily accepted as a necessary thing. It just didn’t feel QUITE like how people would actually behave if this was reality. (But the scary thing is that I may be wrong). I think this movie probably would have worked a bit better set a little further into the future.

– The genre.The feeling that the movie doesn’t quite know where it “fits”. Thriller? Horror? Science fiction? I just feel like, in the right hands, this concept could have been turned into an absolutely brilliant film. It makes me wish the central idea could be reused and turned into a suspenseful thriller that also explores all the moral issues. Done by David Fincher? I think he could make something great out of this. Christopher Nolan? Heck… Maybe even Lars Von Trier – he’d make something interesting out of this concept. (Look at me trying to sound like a smart film person – I think I’ve only ever seen one Lars Von Trier film. Lol!). Cronenberg might be a good one too… Oh, he’d make an awesome movie out of this. Dammit – I want someone to completely remake this now!

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Summary:

The Purge is a movie with an excellent concept that’s never fully explored in depth. It feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity but is still enjoyable enough as a simple 85 minute popcorn flick. There are moments that are actually pretty tense & frightening and I stayed gripped until the end. It doesn’t quite know which genre it’s aiming for or maybe even what kind of an audience it’s aiming for, though. Some will like it, some will hate it. I enjoyed it quite a bit even though I was a little disappointed when thinking about how great the movie COULD have been in different hands. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but I would if I thought it was someone’s sort of thing. But I’d definitely recommend going to it with an open mind and not expecting to learn anything deep and meaningful about the human condition that we don’t all already know.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Rating upped after watching the final film, The Purge: Election Year, as I think this is a very solid trilogy & the first two films have gone up even more in my estimation.

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