Suffragette (2015) Review

Suffragette (2015)

Directed by Sarah Gavron

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

My Opinion:

I went to a movie with the hubby the other day and I really needed to go to one since I hadn’t been to one in months and I was having major withdrawal. There weren’t a lot to choose from (I’m not really a Bond fan and The Peanuts Movie doesn’t come out in the UK until the end of December. Grr!! I’m not happy about that!). Anyway, I fully admit that I don’t often feel like watching a “heavy” film but Suffragette was the only thing showing at a time that worked out for us. 

Well, I’m glad I saw it because I thought it was really good. I’m quite sure it will end up in my Top Ten Movies Of 2015 when I make the final list. I’ve seen some “meh” reviews of it on the blogs here but I didn’t feel that way about it at all.

I’ll also admit this right now: I’ve never had much of an interest in “history”. I can understand why some people do but it was always one of my least favorite subjects in school and you’re unlikely to find me ever watching the History Channel. The past is the past – I’m more interested in the present and the future. So I of course knew of the Suffragettes although I didn’t know a lot of specifics. I definitely have even more of an appreciation for what these women did after seeing this movie, though, which to me should be the point of movies about important historical events.

I’m aware that Carey Mulligan’s character and story are fictional & I think that may be part of the reason why this movie isn’t being praised quite as much as historical dramas which are based on completely true stories. I have no issues with some fictional characters, though, as long as the story is told well. Mulligan’s character is an amalgamation of the many nameless women who, at great personal cost, fought for something they believed in.

Would I have been a Suffragette? Would I have dared to speak up at a time when a woman questioning things as simple as why she wasn’t allowed to vote yet was expected to follow the law or why she got less pay than a man doing the exact same job could lead to a beating by police, time in prison, torture if she chose to go on a hunger strike, and the possibility that employers, friends & loved ones (both male & female) would turn their backs on her just for questioning these very basic rights that we take for granted nowadays? No – I wouldn’t have been a Suffragette. I’m the type who doesn’t even speak up for herself now in 2015 so I have a tremendous amount of respect for these women who did so at at time when it was downright dangerous to ask for equality. These are the women who young girls should be looking up to (I discussed the basics of this movie with my own daughter after watching it). It breaks my heart that more girls know the names of each useless Kardashi-thingy than a name like Emmeline Pankhurst.

I’m not going to act like I knew much, though, as I already said that I never had much of an interest in history. So while I knew about Pankhurst, I’ll admit that I knew nothing about the other real-life female character in this movie (Emily Wilding Davison). Hubby had a good giggle when he leaned over & said “you’re the only person in this cinema who doesn’t know what’s about to happen, aren’t you?” when her big moment came. Yep! What can I say? I got a typical 80’s American history education. 😉

So as a movie-blogger and not a history-blogger, I have to say that I thought the actresses in Suffragette were all fantastic. Streep plays Pankhurst but it’s an even smaller role than I was expecting (I think she had no more than ten minutes of screen time). She was, of course, her usual Streep-y self. She’s always great & I also love her in real life. She’s feisty! She’s always speaking out about her beliefs so it’s no surprise that she would play someone like Pankhurst. The same goes for Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the exact sort of character you’d expect in Suffragette. I’ve never considered myself a fan of hers but the truth is that she’s an excellent actress and another one that I have respect for in real life (she’s a feisty one too – I probably like strong, feisty women because I’m such a pushover myself).

Finally, the characters played by both Anne-Marie Duff & Carey Mulligan were based on the many working class Suffragettes who found it very hard to fight for a cause while also trying just to survive & make a living for their families. Both actresses were fantastic and I was happy to see Mulligan in a great role again. I was such a big fan of hers after that Doctor Who episode Blink but then she seemed to play the same characters over & over (her excruciatingly dull Daisy in The Great Gatsby drove me nuts, but that may be more the fault of how that character was written). 

I suppose I especially liked Mulligan in this as I could relate to her character, who kind of inadvertently gets involved in a cause she’s not sure she wants to be a part of due to the ramifications and the fact that she has a son she loves & has to take care of. We know about the more public figures such as Pankhurst but it’s hard to imagine the sacrifices these working class women made, especially when even a peaceful protest could land them in jail for days, hurting the family who depended on their meager wages. Mulligan may be one of the fictional characters but she felt the most “real” to me. Bravery isn’t always bold & brash – as much as I’d love to be an educated & ass-kicking character like Bonham Carter’s, there are more women in this world who are like Mulligan’s character & I’d be happy to see her understated performance get an Oscar nomination.

I did do a tiny bit of reading about the real women after watching Suffragette (this is a really good article about some of the real women who inspired the characters in the movie: Biography.com).

My favorite story is that Helena Bonham Carter’s character is a combination of a husband & wife team who fought for women to get the vote (Barbara Ayrton Gould and her husband Gerald) and a woman who knew martial arts & taught the Suffragettes jiu-jitsu to defend themselves and to protect the leaders of the movement (which became known as “suffrajitsu” according to the above article. I love that!). This woman was named Edith Garrud and Bonham Carter was inspired by her & had her character named Edith in her honor. I want to learn suffrajitsu! That’s awesome. 🙂

Have a look at the above article if, like me, you’re not much of a history buff. I know I really should do more reading about the real-life Suffrage movement as I do find women’s rights throughout history to be quite fascinating (mainly due to the fact that I find it just plain confusing why all human beings, to this day, still aren’t all treated equally). The film ends with statistics showing the years in which women earned the right to vote in various countries and it’s shocking just how recent a lot of those dates were (never mind the places where they still aren’t allowed to vote even now). As far as this movie goes, I think it does its job in bringing attention to a still important topic as, to me, Suffragette is just as much about everyone’s basic human rights as it is about women being able to vote. I know not everyone loved it but this movie gets my vote.

My Rating: 8/10

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The Deer Hunter (1978) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. Thanks for all the reviews, Mark! 🙂 Now let’s hear what he has to say about The Deer Hunter, IMDB rank 134 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Michael Cimino.
Screenplay: Deric Washburn.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, John Savage, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Rutanya Alda, Shirley Stoler, Pierre Segui, Joe Grifasi, Somsak Sengvilai.

Released in 1978, only three years after the official end of the Vietnam war, Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” seemed as if it may have been too soon for the American psyche. It was a surprising box-office hit but was also one of the most controversial, major theatrical releases about America’s involvement in the war. It went on to receive 9 Academy Award nominations (winning 5 – including Best Picture and Best Director). Despite this, the backlash was pretty vehement. It received criticism from the likes of Jane Fonda and John Wayne – who in his last public appearance had to present it with it’s Best Picture award even though he wasn’t fond of the film. These criticisms came in many forms but for as many critics as it had, there were also a great number who considered it to be another American classic.

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Michael (Robert DeNiro), Stevie (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken) are among a group of friends who live and work in the steel mill town of Clairton, Pennsylvania. They spend their time getting drunk and going deer hunting before they are enlisted in the airborne infantry of Vietnam. What was once a slow-paced and fun-filled life is shoved into the stark reality of warfare and how their experiences change their lives forever.

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Clocking in at just over three hours, “The Deer Hunter” is a film of length. However, it’s one that never overstays it’s welcome as Cimino wisely works within a three act structure – book-ending the war with marriage and death. He may take his time and linger long on shots but it never gets boring. To view it as simply another Vietnam film is to entirely miss the point also. If it is to be viewed in any way, it should be as a commentary on American disillusionment and it’s loss of innocence at this time. It’s intention is not to focus on the war itself but on the aftermath and the impact war can have on the lives of ordinary working people. In fact, the scenes that take place in Vietnam only amount to a very small portion of the film, overall. Ultimately, it’s a character study that’s only heightened by the 50 minute wedding sequence at the beginning of the film. Many grumble about this being too indulgent but it’s integral that we get to know these characters in order to fully understand them. It’s during the wedding reception that they come across a Green Beret who has just finished his Tour of Duty; they buy him a drink and take offence when all he has to tell them about the war is… “Fuck it!“. This perfectly sums up the naïveté of these young men as they seem to have a romanticised idea of war and have absolutely no idea of what is to become them.

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Following this, a bunch of them go on a deer hunting trip where we again see the dynamic of the group and get to know each of them more personally. Suddenly, we are thrust into the chaos of Vietnam and it’s not before long that the films iconic and controversial Russian roulette scene takes place. This is a scene that has received much criticism in not only being claimed as inaccurate – as there was no evidence to suggest that any such atrocities took place during the conflict – but for being racist in it’s sadistic stereotype of the Viet Cong captors. These criticisms are justifiable to an extent but, personally, I think the critics have taken it far too literally. If viewed as a metaphor for the senselessness of war and the inhumanity of man during wartime struggles then it’s entirety fitting to the films themes and says more about an initiation into manhood. It was literally minutes before this powerful scene that DeNiro’s Michael and Walken’s Nick were discussing how a deer should be killed with “one shot” and now (ironically) they must face a similar fate. This game of chance is the catalyst that changes the dynamic of the three principle characters (the other being John Savage’s Stevie) and further adds to the character development that was so playfully and innocently displayed in the opening wedding sequence or the camaraderie of the deer hunt. It’s purpose is not to be racist but to capture the extreme pressure that soldiers face in conflict. In the film’s final act, some of them return home only to realise that they’re traumatised as they struggle to fit back into society. There have been claims that it doesn’t take an overly pro or anti stance towards the conflict but I struggle to see how. This was one was of the first films to challenge the perspective on Vietnam. The likes of Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” were praised for such honesty and I believe this deserves the same credibility.

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“The Deer Hunter” is, undoubtedly, epic filmmaking and despite your political interpretation, there’s no denying the power of it’s emotionally devastating narrative. It’s unlikely that Cimino will be able to deliver a work of this magnitude ever again. He tried (and many would say failed) in 1980 with “Heaven’s Gate” (bankrupting United Artists Studios in the process) but his scope and ambition here deserves the utmost respect. So too does the work of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for his astounding ability to capture both the expansive landscapes of Pennsylvania and the war ravaged mountainous villages of Vietnam. The actors are also very strong and committed throughout. This would be the last performance of the great John Cazale – before his untimely death to cancer – and the first notable one from Meryl Streep, who brings a touching vulnerability to her supporting role. Walken (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar) is a marvel and deservedly made a name for himself in the process. As good as they are, though, it’s DeNiro who anchors the film in a enigmatic display of stoicism. Another deserved Oscar nomination came his way and even though this is a film that many omit from DeNiro’s plethora of magnificent performances throughout the 70’s and 80’s, it happens to be one of his strongest and most unsung. DeNiro apparently described his role as one of the most physical and exhausting that he’s ever done, and it’s easy to see why; the emotional, physical and mental abuse that he seems to be suffering is perfectly and gruellingly displayed onscreen.

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The 1970’s are well known for producing some of the finest experiences in cinema and “The Deer Hunter” can, proudly, consider itself one of them. It’s marvellously structured, harrowingly vivid and so grand and ambitious that it thoroughly deserves it’s epic status. Truly one of the best of it’s decade.

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Mark Walker

Into The Woods (2014) Review

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Into The Woods (2014)

Directed by Rob Marshall

Based on Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine

Starring:
Meryl Streep
Emily Blunt
James Corden
Anna Kendrick
Chris Pine
Tracey Ullman
Christine Baranski
Johnny Depp

Running time: 124 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and “Rapunzel”, the film is a fantasy genre crossover centered on a childless couple, who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch. Ultimately though, the characters are forced to rectify the consequences of their actions.

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My Opinion:

I hated Into The Woods. I don’t want to do one of my bitchy reviews, though, so I’ll keep this short because I don’t need some crazy person telling me I’m on drugs for hating something (this happened recently on my review of Oz The Great And Powerful – gotta love those trolls). 😉

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I know nothing whatsoever of the Into The Woods musical. I didn’t know the story in the slightest or any of the songs before watching the movie. And, after seeing the movie, I STILL don’t know any of the songs. Why? Because they’re boring! Usually you get at least one song stuck in your head after a musical. Honestly – I couldn’t tell you how even one of them goes now & I only saw this two days ago. At least a couple of the songs in Les Misérables were catchy even if I just wanted that damn movie to end (and for Anne Hathaway’s character to just shut up and die).

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Speaking of just wanting a movie to end, I felt that way through the second half of Into The Woods. It’s just over 2 hours long but it really did feel like I’d been sitting there twice that long. For anyone who knows the story, there’s an “end” about three quarters of the way through. I was SO happy it seemed to be ending. But then it just went on. And on. And on. Then, when it finally ended, I didn’t feel like we actually got a good resolution for anyone. The story seemed to have no clear point. What was the “moral” of the whole thing?? Some people learned their lessons (sort of) and some didn’t. So many loose ends were left. I just felt like the whole story was messy, confusing and, well, quite stupid. THAT’S the best they could do with a bunch of Grimms’ fairy tales?! It’s pretty bad when Shrek kicks your sorry fairy tale ass and is far more clever (and I’m not really a fan of Shrek – I think those movies are highly overrated).

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Did I say this would be short & non-bitchy? Damn. Well, a few things weren’t bad. James Corden, Anna Kendrick & especially Emily Blunt were all pretty good & felt right for their roles. They almost made up for how much Johnny Depp & Chris Pine sucked, I suppose. Meryl Streep was fine, but, come on – an Oscar nomination for THAT? What a joke. (I’m writing this before the Oscars – hopefully she didn’t win). I like her, though – it’s just funny how the Academy feels the need to nominate her every year for whatever she happened to be in. God I hated that Little Red Riding Hood bitch! And Jack (of Beanstalk fame) felt about as pointless as Little Red Riding Hood’s character. The Big Bad Wolf pedophile thing went a little too far over the line and, seriously – who were we meant to actually care about in this movie as the characters are all pretty hateful? I guess the baker & his wife, which makes the ending even more ridiculous. Shit – this was meant to be the paragraph where I wasn’t bitchy. I suppose the costumes were nice? What we could see of them, at least, as it’s so dark in those stupid woods.

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Summary:

Unlike Into The Woods, I know it’s time to finish as I’m just going on & on in the same way the film did. I didn’t go into this with high or low expectations so it can’t be blamed on that and I’m also not anti-musical as there are plenty that I do like. However, when it’s a musical I do expect at least a couple good songs that I’ll be humming afterwards. Being a movie fan first, though, I’d have at least liked a story & characters that I cared about since the songs were so bland. I wasn’t expecting to not like either element of Into The Woods.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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The Giver (2014) Review

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The Giver (2014)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Based on The Giver by Lois Lowry

Starring:
Jeff Bridges
Meryl Streep
Brenton Thwaites
Alexander Skarsgård
Odeya Rush
Katie Holmes
Taylor Swift

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Jonas is an 11 (soon to be 12) year old boy in a future where there is no war, suffering or pain. He and his family unit follow strict rules within their community including things such as the precision of language and the sharing of feelings and dreams. Everyone is assigned a role in life at the Ceremony of Twelve and no one is more surprised than Jonas when, at his ceremony, he’s selected as the next Receiver of Memory. During his training, he starts to discover that his community may not be as perfect as it seems.

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My Opinion:

I’ve just read & reviewed this book HERE (and was lazy & used my same plot synopsis). As always, THE BOOK IS BETTER! I mean, sometimes the film adaptations are okay. However, I was really disappointed with this one so, seriously – please read the book if you have any interest in this story! It’s a quick read. They changed A LOT of details for the movie & made a fairly simple story too over complicated.

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As yet another teenage dystopian film, The Giver is okay. It will probably seem boring to teens, though, as it’s not exactly as exciting or action packed as The Hunger Games. I knew they’d do this but it still pissed me off – they added loads of action that wasn’t in the book and gave small characters WAY bigger and more important roles (Meryl Streep’s character has a small part at the start of the book then you never hear from her again plus the two friends aren’t all that significant). It annoyed me as it’s so obvious they’re trying to compete with Divergent, etc, but the book is a lot more subtle and I think the story works much better without all the movie’s added drama (and romance that every teen film seems to require).

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Okay – Focus! Just talk about the movie…

Let’s see – I did like the Pleasantville black & white thing with added bits of color as the story went on. Don’t think that’s a spoiler as it’s obvious from the trailers (yes, it’s that way in the book too). I was looking forward to that aspect (I did love that in Pleasantville) but I didn’t think the movie handled it quite right all the time. The boy isn’t at all what I pictured & they changed an important thing about his looks as described in the book. Jeff Bridges is okay but more “gruff” and bitter than I’d expected. I hated Katie Holmes’ character and hated how they turned it into a story more about Jonas & his two friends whereas in the book the focus is much more on his family unit & the child they’re taking care of (Gabriel). Dammit! This is impossible. I clearly can’t discuss this movie without constantly comparing it to the book. I give up. JUST READ THE BOOK! 🙂

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Summary:

The Giver has a simple yet powerful story that I felt got lost in all the extra scenes they somehow felt necessary to add into the movie to keep teenage audiences interested. Give teenagers a LITTLE credit & don’t just assume they can’t think for themselves. The movie takes the one main theme & shoves it down the viewers’ throats whereas the book presents things in a way that gives the reader the ability to make up their own mind about things. I feel that the movie leaves no room for discussion afterwards and the ending of the movie is a big disappointment compared to the excellent ending in the book. I really have no idea what to rate this movie as, if I’d NOT read the book, I think I’d have quite enjoyed it. However, knowing that the story is told in a much better way in the book does annoy me. Hmm. The movie is decent enough, I guess. Just do me a favor & read the book first? Please??

My Rating: 6/10

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Sorry – this was a rubbish post! I was actually planning on taking a short break from blogging & leaving My Top Ten Carpets & Rugs In Movies as my last post for a while. Go read that HERE instead – that was fun to put together! I’ll start up the reviews again through October with as many horror movies & scary films as I can manage. 🙂