Dead Poets Society (1989)

Director: Peter Weir Cast: Robin Williams and a load of nondescript teenage boys

A new English teacher arrives at an exclusive boys’ boarding school and introduces a new way of learning that’s a break from their usual stuffy academia. However, his unusual style doesn’t go down well with everyone.

So after a conversation with a friend in which I stated I thought I’d seen most Robin Williams films, and then proceeded to be corrected when my friend listed off all the ones I haven’t seen, I’m trying to work through his full repertoire. To be honest it probably just feels like I’ve seen all his films as I’ve watched Hook about 3 billion times- but I don’t think I’ll be watching Dead Poets Society quite as many times.

Call me uncultured but I just thought this film was so unbearably dull. I came for the Robin Williams, but I felt like he was barely in it. The scarce bits he was in were enjoyable (funny, but he also does serious very well), but they were interspersed with excruciating scenes about tedious teenage boys, none of whose name I can remember or identify because they all look the same and have no outstanding traits of note, apart for possibly the main two. Even those main two I just didn’t care about- it’s not that they were unlikeable, I just didn’t find them interesting or compelling characters.

I won’t spoil the main climax of the movie, but I thought it was out of place and, to be honest, unrealistic. It was just so over-the-top as a reaction to something that was really not that bad, and I just couldn’t help but think “get over it, you overprivileged nob head”. But, you know, maybe I’m just missing something as the film was an Oscar winner after all (Best Screenplay).

I didn’t like this film (can you tell?) but not because it’s badly made or anything, it just didn’t float my boat. I feel like it’s the sort of film my mum would watch while she’s doing the ironing. Just meh.

2.5 stars 


I, Tonya (2017)

Director: Craig Gillespie Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson

Based on real-life interviews with the main protagonists, I, Tonya charts the story of US figure skater Tonya Harding from her early days in the sport to the 1994 Winter Olympics and the controversy surrounding an incident with her main rival. The film explores the abusive relationships she has with both her mother and husband, and how she faces different treatment and judgment because if her “white trash” background.

I had wanted to see this movie because from the trailer it looked like a dark comedy, which is a type of movie I love. However, after watching it I wouldn’t define it as such and I’d say the comedy element is almost accidental, as the whole thing is based on real testimonies so nothing is supposed to be funny- that’s just how it was. There’s actually a disclaimer at the start of the film saying that it’s based on real interviews, totally “without irony”, which I think is important to bear in mind throughout the film as you watch the ridiculousness of the tragedy unfold. This is actually how the real-life people say that the events unfolded, which makes it even more surreal.

The whole story is really very sad, and I liked how the film doesn’t really try to portray the characters as good or bad, but they all have elements of both so that the audience can decide for themselves. I imagine most people will fall on the side of Tonya, but I found her husband Jeff and her mother to have some good qualities too, meaning they weren’t all bad.

I thought Margot Robbie was excellent in this, and while I agree that Frances McDormand was the right choice to win the Oscar for Best Actress, I think this was the best film I’ve seen Margot Robbie in. I was very convinced by her character and I thought she portrayed Tonya’s anguish and disappointment really well. Allison Janney did win Best Supporting Actress- she’s not in the films loads but she is good in it, and I think she had one of those “Oscar moments” when she explains to Tonya why she treats her like she does and compares it to the relationship she had with her own mother.

The film is quite sweary and the storyline most certainly is not family appropriate, but it’s a good drama so I think a lot of people wold enjoy it. As far as Oscar films go it’s not too heavy and pretentious, so definitely at the easier-to-view end of things. Plus, the soundtrack is really good

4 stars

Get Out (2017)

Director: Jordan Peele Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Lil Rel Howery

An African American man heads to his white girlfriend’s parents’ house for the weekend to meet them for the first time. Although he’s uneasy about it his girlfriend assures him it’ll be fine, but he ends up being right for being concerned as things get weird pretty quickly- although not quite in the way he thought.

I’ve wanted to see Get Out for such a long time, but was a wally and for some reason never got around to it when it was at the cinema. I am now the proud owner of the DVD (yes, an actual physical DVD) so can enjoy it at my leisure from now on. I’ve always found Jordan Peele really funny and I was intrigued to see a serious film from him (I’m also pleased to see Daniel Kaluuya aka Posh Kenneth from Skins has made it to Hollywood). The plot is really original and goes against a lot of typical horror movie cliches, which made it all the more tense as I had no idea how everything was going to pan out. While it’s a horror movie it’s not packed with the usual jump scares, but the general atmosphere is totally creepy and the ominous feeling throughout is what makes it truly scary.

The racial element of the film also gives it a topical angle, which I really liked from a film of this genre. Usually horror movies are an hour and half of entertainment and that’s it, but Get Out does make you think and is a clever but subtle way of considering race relations in the US. It doesn’t smack you over the head with it in a super politicised way, but the issues are ever-present; you could probably watch this film and ignore the social commentary element of it and just enjoy it at face-value, but there are brief moments or lines throughout the film that really can make you think.

I would recommend this film even to people who don’t usually like horror, as it’s almost more of a thriller than a horror. There are some lighter moments so it’s not totally serious throughout, but as I mentioned the overall atmosphere of the film has a big impact and very tense. I really enjoyed it and I hope that Jordan Peele makes more films like this- hopefully his Oscar win for Original Screenplay from this will spur him on.

4 stars

Rocky (1976)

rockyDirector: John G. Avildsen Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith

A down-on-his-luck amateur boxer from Philadelphia, Rocky Balboa, is selected as the challenger to a heavyweight champion when he visits the city. While the champion’s team plan on an easy victory mostly for entertainment, they are surprised when Rocky seems to be taking it seriously.

With an upcoming trip to Philadelphia planned, I thought I’d better watch the most famous movie set in the city, especially given that aside from the Liberty Bell the most famous attraction there is the “Rocky Steps”. I’d never really considered watching Rocky as it just never really crossed my radar for one reason or another, apart from the iconic montage scene. I really enjoyed it in the end though, and it’s got me successfully pumped up for when I take my photo at the top of the steps in a few month’s time (don’t think I’ll be running up though).

The plot is pretty basic- sympathetic good guy gets a shot at making his name, and when no one thinks he can do it he surprises them all. But it really plays on the feeling that we’ve all been there- perhaps not quite as extreme as Rocky’s situation, but the feeling that when nothing’s going right you’ve got to take any opportunities that are given to you, and you’ve got to try your hardest even if you might not succeed. The film doesn’t make a secret of playing on this angle, as the fight organisers intentionally go with the “American Dream” theme to promote the event, but Rocky is written as an effectively appealing and relatable character to make it not seem sappy. Certainly don’t think it’s just a film about boxing, or a stereotypical sports movie. Boxing is just the backdrop to the human relationships and trials of life.

I would definitely recommend this movie to, to be honest, anyone. It’s not full of laughs or action, but as I say it’s relatable and moving, and while it’s serious it’s not hard to watch. I would also say it’s fairly family-friendly- obviously it involves fighting but not really “violence”. I’m just annoyed I waited so long to watch it!

5 stars