Princess Cyd (Film) Review

The last film of Feminist February and as far as I’m concerned we’ve signed off with a bang. A slow and subtle Indie bang but a bang nonetheless.

And, last week’s bland sniffle-fest aside, I think this month has been a success.

*Spoilers*

Princess Cyd (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin visits her novelist aunt in Chicago over the summer.

My Review

We begin Princess Cyd with a 911 recording played over the opening credits, depicting the death of a woman while her child is in the house. This is a blunt introduction to the character of Cyd Loughlin, who we meet 16 years later as a young adult.

Cyd has been sent by her depressed father to stay with her aunt Miranda, the novelist sister of Cyd’s late mother. Miranda has not seen or heard much from Cyd since she was a small child and since she lost her mother so is a little nervous about how things will go. She’s also very comfortable in her own routine.

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When Cyd first arrives, both the women are very polite and although there’s some nervousness, Cyd is curious and asks a lot of questions. While Miranda is an open book, some of the topics broached take her outside her comfort zone. She embraces this though and starts to relax in her niece’s company. Cyd challenges Miranda’s religious beliefs, her sex life and the way she leads her solitary (but not lonely) life. This shakes Miranda up, forcing her to look inward.

Cyd is quite taken with the idea of Miranda and her friend Anthony (James Vincent Meredith) getting it on but Miranda insists this isn’t on the cards. Anyway, Anthony is sort of married.

And while Cyd is settling into her new (temporary) life in Chicago, she meets Katie in a coffee shop and there’s an immediate spark. During a literary gathering at Miranda’s home, Cyd also bonds with Ridley (Matthew Quattrocki). She disappears into a bedroom with him and this causes some mild consternation between our new housemates, even though she doesn’t bang him.

Miranda swears she’s not going to be the person who nags Cyd about her life choices but when Cyd makes a snarky comment about her aunt substituting sex with food, Miranda lets her have it.

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It is not a handicap to have one thing, but not another. To be one way, and not another. We are different shapes and ways, and our happiness is unique. There are no rules of balance. ~ Miranda Ruth

Katie meanwhile finds herself in an awful situation at home and is rescued by Cyd and Miranda. Miranda is kind and understanding, something both young women need and she welcomes Katie into the fold without question. Cyd and Katie get closer and closer; as do niece and aunt. Basically, this is what life looks like without the interference of arsehole men. Even nice ones are not needed here – and as Cyd prepares to go back to her own life, Miranda has her own decisions to make.

What will she decide?

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My Thoughts

Ultimately, this is the sweet tale of a young woman reconnecting with her mother through someone who knew and loved her too, while fulfilling her own need. It’s about the craving for maternal love and it is a love story in many ways, just one of your unconventional, familial ones.

The performances are realistic, warm and convincing – and all three women are likable. At no time is Cyd the destructive mess you might expect her to be, though she has a fucking right. She might be direct at times but she means well. She seems wiser than her sixteen years.

Don’t come into this expecting a rip-roaring ride, because you definitely won’t get that. What you will get is a beautiful rumination on adolescence and learning to do you.

My Rating

4.5 – Gentle and sweet.

What does my very own princess think of this one? Would she let it stay the summer or send it back to daddy? Find out here.

Until next year my pretties #feministfebruary.

The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman (2017)

Directed by: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson

IMDB Synopsis

Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

*Minor spoilers*

OMG!

I have to admit that I avoided this film until the very last minute because I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was something in Michelle William’s cheesy grin in the trailer or the fact I wasn’t in a ‘musical mood’ – but I had no intention of seeing it.

Then I changed my mind and booked a ticket to see it straight after work. It had been a head-fucky kind of week full of training and my friend Amy came with me. I cried all the way through it to the very end.

It’s just so – feel good. The songs are amazing, the choreography is stunning – Zac Efron is a total fox and there’s the most gorgeous bearded lady. Its message – that everybody should be proud of who they are, well it’s right up my street. I’ve now seen it twice at the cinema, and one of those was a sing-along version.

Colour me obsessed.

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TGS tells the rags to riches story of P.T Barnum (Jackman), the visionary and Original Circus G. Supported by his insanely chill wife, Charity (Williams) he first purchases an old curiosity museum that doesn’t set the world on fire – then turns it into something altogether more interesting.

While I wouldn’t call what he has a full on freak show, the F word is one that is thrown around a lot by the ever-increasing anti-circus picket line. Really what Barnum has is a collection of talented and unique individuals who have been rejected by society. Unfortunately, Barnum’s head is turned when he meets the regal opera singer Jenny Lind (Ferguson) and, finally accepted by high society, he begins to believe his own hype as a showbiz big wig.

BIG MISTAKE.

Running parallel to the rise and fall of Barnum’s big tent empire, is the challenging love story between well-to-do playwright Phillip Carlyle (Efron) and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Anne is poor and black – and Posh Victorian NYC isn’t down with mixed-race relationships thankyouverymuch. Phillip therefore must make a serious decision about his future if he’s to be with the one he loves – and that’s after he’s made a life-changing decision about his career, too. There are a couple of scenes between the Zendaya and Efron that blew me away, particularly during their song Rewrite the Stars.

In addition, I love every scene containing the so-called freaks, particularly Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle). She’s electrifying. The talent recruitment montage is great and I love the Hugh Jackman/Zac Efron bar scene more than life.

Every single song on the soundtrack is gorgeous, particularly Jenny Lind’s Never Enough (actually sung by Rebecca Allred). Mostly, I just like that a musical with such a positive message can still draw a crowd, it feels old-school and fun.

The Academy may have turned a blind eye except for Best Achievement in Music for the anthem This is Me but that’s okay. As much as I love the Oscars, sometimes it’s word on the street that’s the best reward you can get.

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My Rating

5/5.

It’s only late February and already two 5 Star films on the blog. See the second one here.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones

IMDB Synopsis

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

*Minor spoilers*

Hype is a dangerous thing, as Andy used to say – or something along those lines. But it is – and I’m not sure this beautiful, whimsical fairy tale quite lives up to it much as it pains me to say.

Elisa and Zelda are cleaners at a top secret government laboratory. They’ve been friends for years, comfortable and happy together in their familiar routine. Elisa lives alone, in a crumbling tenement block where she also adheres to her own rituals, everything just so. She also lives next door to her BFF, closeted Giles, a struggling commercial artist who she likes to take care of.

One day Elisa (Hawkins) and Zelda (Spencer) become inadvertently involved in some secretive goings on that change all of their lives forever. There are goodies and baddies here, spies and monsters – but above all there is love and sometimes that’s all you need. Am I right?

The Shape of Water is lovely. Certain segments are pure magic and the performances are really something. That Sally Hawkins can convey so much without uttering a word is sensational. I’ve had a soft spot for her since she played Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky. Octavia is also flawless and the women’s chemistry is touching.

Shannon is text book Michael Shannon and I liked it, though I found I was less impressed that I usually am. Perhaps because he can play a role like this with his eyes closed – or because I’ve seen him do it so many times before? In direct contrast, the nervous babbling of Giles (Jenkins) works so well. He’s a coward who takes a giant leap of faith because he loves his friend, he is flawed and he is understanding – and Richard Jenkins is adorbs too.

The story itself isn’t that complex and I’m not going to go into it too much. I think if you’re reading this you already have a gist of what it’s all about. I came into the viewing knowing not much about the plot which may have helped me – I just wanted to be wowed.

My issue is with the pacing, with the length of the film and with some of the more talky elements. I wanted to spend more time with Amphibian Man, marveling at his perfect fishy butt. We get a lot of fish man action, don’t get me wrong but I wanted less old white Russians sitting around tables discussing him and more HIM.

Fish Face for the record is beautiful (and opens quite the discussion about whether one would do it with a fish under the same circumstances). The monster work is brilliant in terms of makeup and aesthetic, while Doug Jones’ lanky (yet graceful) presence is as good as ever.

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Oh, and the opening scene is pure Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It could have been ripped directly from Delicatessen – which is a good thing, I’m not adverse to a little (or a lot of) homage. I was also pleasantly surprised that although this is all about the love story, it’s also pretty hot. For all the whimsy, it’s also sexy and there’s a distinct darkness too.

All in all, this experience was strong but not exceptional.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Black Panther

Black Panther (2018)

Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke

IMDB Synopsis

T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

*Minor spoilers*

First off, I have no clue how I’m supposed to get all my thoughts about this film down coherently. I loved it. I loved it more than any other Marvel movie I’ve seen, that’s for sure.

While I watched, I had similar feelings to those I had while finally seeing Wonder Woman for the first time – it just blew me away.

So T’Challa (Boseman) finds himself freshly crowned King of Wakanda following the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War (at the hands of brain-washed super soldier Bucky Barnes). He’s a fine replacement with his feet firmly on the ground, which is surprising given all the adventures he’s been on recently with his new buddies.

The various friendly (and not so) factions of Wakanda are for the most part happy with this new appointment and they all plan to get on peacefully with life in the technologically advanced (and aesthetically mind-blowing) Wakanda.

Well, that would make for a very short and cheerful Marvel vehicle if that was that, so you’ll be relieved to note that there is a bad guy lurking on the outskirts, the mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis: 100% would bang). Klaue (CLAW!) has got hold of some cheeky Vibranium, the precious metal used to power the whole of Wakanda – and he’s looking to weaponise that shit. Backed by a small crew, Klaue is wreaking havoc much to the dismay of T’Challa and his council.

Pushed to do something about Klaue, particularly by buddy W’Kabi (Kaluuya) whose father was killed by this maniac, the new King rounds up his own team: the mighty General Okoye (Gurira) and spy/crush Nakia (Nyong’o). Teched up to the nines by T’Challa’s precocious sister Shiri (Black Museum‘s Letitia Wright) how can they fail? But there are obstacles along the way, guys – massive, stressful obstacles.

Will the rightful King overcome them, protect the throne, get the girl and above all, do the right thing by his people? I’d say get up THIS SECOND, go to your local picture house and find out for yourselves.

Black Panther is beautiful to look at obviously. The insanely advanced Wakanda is stunning, something to truly marvel at (lol) but it’s not just about the scale, it’s about the colours, the framing, the COSTUMING – the costuming is wonderful, authentic looking and practical. Once again I am reminded of the incredible achievements of the Wonder Woman costume department and it’s very moving to witness practical and attractive (yet not hyper-sexualised) armor worn by the women in battle.

Obviously I have to mention how female this film is, how equal rights and awesome it is that King T’Challa has his back covered by a bunch of women. How the General of his army is a woman and how the whole of Wakanda is powered by his genius younger sister. T’Challa is influenced by the ideals of his true love, a female spy and warrior, who’s first concern is to help those with less than they have themselves – even as he is offering her the world to stay by his side.

The cast in an unbelievable collection of talent, from Angela Fucking Basset to my favourite, Daniel ‘Tealeaf’ Kaluuya. I love the holy trinity of women too, they’re everything.

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And while Black Panther is not the first black superhero we’ve ever seen (uh hello? Blade?), on this scale with this cast it is awe-inspiring to witness. Though it shouldn’t be a big deal in 2018 that we’re finally getting a main-stream film with a predominantly black cast rooted in black culture and the black experience – it fucking is.

My Rating

5/5.

Irreplaceable You (Film) Review

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Is there anything more baller than fixing up your loved one with his next love interest before you pass on? I think not. It might be a bit dubious given freedom of choice but the thought is there.

This is the premise we’re faced with this week and I’ll warn you, this is not an easy watch, especially if you have a frame of reference around The Big C. I know, right, who hasn’t? Here we go.

Irreplaceable You (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

A couple who have known each other since 8 are destined to be together until death do them apart.

My Review

This is not a film that would have interested me that much had Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon not been in it. It was the bit with the support group that sold this to me in the trailer and I’m not sorry. It’s as sweet and weepy as expected. Is it breaking molds and pissing all over boundaries? It is not but I can’t expect that of all films, all the time.

Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (Michiel Huisman, Daenerys’ fuck piece in Game of Thrones) have been together since they were kids. They’re destined to be together basically and everything is amazing until they mistake a tumor growing inside Abbie for a foetus. That’s right, that old bastard malignant cancer has come to devastate yet another set of lives and there’s little anybody can do.

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Of course Abbie is gutted but she gets on with treatment as best she can. She bonds with her nurse Dominic in the treatment suite (Timothy Simons) and joins a local support group, run by Mitch (Steve Coogan). Here she meets a band of unlikely allies; Glass Half Full Kate (McKinnon), Myron (Walken), Mean Phil and some others. She also learns that crocheting is a metaphor for… getting on with shit? Death?

At first our protagonist is not keen to mingle in this new environment but after a few choice words from Myron, she decides to return. A solid friendship is also born between this unlikely pair and honestly, it’s one of the best things about the film.

During a conversation however, about how Sam is likely to go through a slut phase when Abbie is gone, an idea is conceived: Abbie will pick her replacement now, saving him the job. Our girl is convinced her man is going to be such a hot commodity that he won’t stand a chance against the women of the world – and that his inexperience with the opposite sex will not serve him well either. Oh ye of little faith.

In a distinctly un-feminist montage, Abbie interviews a whole slew of supposedly unsuitable ladies she’s stalked in Tinder, deeming none of them right for Sam. They’re all either too mental or attached to their cats for Sam but then she meets cute barista Sally who wholeheartedly embraces this unorthodox plan and even helps Abbie out a couple of times. That there’s a bit of an unexpected spark between Sam and Sally when they meet does not go unnoticed by Abbie or us, the dear viewer.

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Well, as with any cutesy plan, a flaw usually comes along to derail it and in this scenario it’s Sam himself. Horrified that Abbie thinks so little of him being able to take care of business himself, he gets mad and says something hurtful he can’t take back. The pair start to show signs of strain and decide to spend some time apart.

In this time, Abbie suffers a great loss and makes a couple of life-changing decisions for herself. What will become of our lovers, The Plan and everyone close to Abbie? Well, you know the drill.

My Thoughts

You know right away how this one ends up, so there’s no will she/won’t she. Despite its depressing outcome it has some minor laughs and both leads are likeable if a little bland.

As mentioned, the supporting characters are the ones that keep this engine ticking over. I really found Glass Half Full Kate’s honest monologue touching and relateable. Her world view is basically the same as mine and if she was a real person I would have grabbed her in a bear hug and never let go.

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Cancer fucking sucks and it ruins lives. It take our loved ones without prejudice and I hate it but being able to talk about death and loss and love , well it’s healthy and real. Unavoidable some might say. But it’s the love and the light and all the cliches that are what matters ultimately and this is what the film says. Again, no surprises just a nice film with some good bits.

My Rating

3/5. Pass the tissues.

What did my Queen think of this one? Would she meet it in group or run away never to return again? Find out here.

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Ageing

I posted this on Instagram late Saturday night in a moment of candidness and it got quite a heartwarming response. So I thought, why not share it here? It’s one of the things I think of the most at the moment, the relentless passing of time and how it affects my self-esteem.

I know it’s not something I can stop and I know we all feel this way from time to time, or will feel that way, it’s just a subject close to my heart. So sue me.

IMG_20180217_221136_012You know something? It’s hard getting older. It’s nice getting older but it’s also incredibly hard to come to terms with the fact that you’re not the young sprite you used to be. I’m insecure about being over ten years older than a lot of the people in my life but I like the variety and I feel more energetic and lucky to be able to learn from them too, I would never change it.

I mention my age a lot like a proper grandma but I wouldn’t change it. I’m mostly comfortable in my own skin and it’s so important to embrace who you are. I got to this place via a hundred funny stories, some loss, hardship and good old-fashioned love. Not to mention with (a lot) of help from my friends. Life is amazing and beautiful and it’s mainly down to the people you surround yourself with.

I wouldn’t change a thing, for all the tea in China. And I really love tea. ❤

What are your thoughts?

A Fantastic Woman

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes

IMDB Synopsis

Marina, a transsexual woman who works as waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.

*Mild Spoilers*

When Marina’s (Vega) older lover passes away suddenly, she finds she has more than just grief to contend with. People are mostly unsympathetic to her suffering given the ‘nature’ of the relationship and are shits about everything, from kicking her out of the home she knows to leaving her out of the funeral plans.

While Marina holds down her waitressing job and gets on with life as best she can, she is needled by the behaviour of Orlando’s ex-wife and family, who want her out of the picture as soon as possible. While there is some empathy shown by Orlando’s brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), he doesn’t rail against the others enough to make things easier for our heroine.

When supposed assistance comes in the form of a female police officer, things still do not change and Marina is put in a very vulnerable situation indeed. In the meantime, she’s found a mysterious locker key in Orlando’s car that is causing her minor intrigue. Maybe it holds a secret?

Vega is incredible in the role and it isn’t hard to understand why this is up for the Best Film in a Foreign Language Academy Award. But, while it is very moving, the films starts slowly. Marina walks around a lot.

The film’s strength is in the hands of its lead, who is mesmerising to watch, even when stomping around the city. Marina has a quiet strength that guides her through all the turmoil but she is not unaffected, simply resigned to an unacceptable attitude towards who she is. She is subjected to humiliation on a regular basis, forced to shield herself from the shouted insults of bigots – and treated like a second class citizen, just for loving someone.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. ~ Marina Vidal

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A Fantastic Woman is prone to flights of fancy, which work well in contrast to the more ordinary scenes of Marina at work or, yes, walking about. I personally found myself roused by the more surreal moments, including a very simplistic wander through the city against an increasingly strong wind. Marina finds herself braced against the strength of the gale, symbolic, non?

There’s also a stunning scene in the club where Marina does a dance number with a horde of backing dancers. The effect is beautiful and powerful. I’m here always for a jolt of unreality to shake things up.

This film is a tragedy but it’s also hopeful. Marina doesn’t back down where some of us might and she realises being able to say goodbye to a loved one is a human right. Why should she go quietly anyway – or feel any shame for making her lover happy before his death? Or, for that matter, for who she is?

What she goes through seriously sucks but you can’t keep a good woman down for long.

My Rating

3.5/5.

My Funny Valentine

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I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I despise this holiday. Valentine’s is the suckiest of all the special occasions, without a doubt. It tricks you into thinking that the things that really don’t matter matter – the red foil covered chocolates, the roses and the dinners, and I’m mad at it for that.

But Cupid already knows my views so I’ll spare you another year of rambling on about it. This year I think it’s much more important to acknowledge the most valuable long-term relationship you will ever have – the one you have with your fine self.

We live a long time (for the most part), a whole life in the company of one person we simply can’t avoid – so it’s vital we try and get along. Easier said than done though, innit? When we’re battling our demons, juggling stress and social anxiety – comparing ourselves to others on Instagram. It’s exhausting adding self-love to the list of things we ‘should’ be doing – and sometimes even that rhetoric is flawed. Like, love yourself please but not too much. 

I say, do your best – do what makes you feel good and better. Whether that’s hanging with your Galentine’s, eating nice food – you get the drift. I think I’d be much more comfortable with St. Valentine’s birthday if it was about that instead.

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As for my evening, I’ve been out for coffee and a gossip with a new friend, eaten roast chicken and we’re now watching Valentine (2001) because I’m in the mood for pretty people being picked off one by one by a vengeful cupid. You?

Happy Valentine’s Day, whatever you’re up to.

💖💖💖

Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Directed by: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

IMDB Synopsis

Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.

*Spoilers*

I’m going to crack on with this review without ranting about the central relationship too much. Take it as read that I hate the control element (in and out of the red room) and I find it difficult to watch (but not enough to avoid the films altogether clearly). It’s not clever or cute, it’s just straight up abuse.

We follow on from the events of Fifty Shades Darker (2016) as Christian and Anastasia tie the knot after their whirlwind romance. The wedding is a lavish yet tasteful affair (obvs) and the couple enjoy a cheeky little Parisian honeymoon shortly thereafter.

Things piss me off ten minutes into their newlywed montage when Christian gets shitty because Ana takes off her bikini top ON THE BEACH. His concern that everybody will be staring at his wife’s tits greatly flatters her, considering there are hundreds of equally fit women in the vicinity but whatever.

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Even though Christian acts like a buffoon, this is not the reason their trip is cut short, oh no. Ana’s stalker is back and causing mischief back in Seattle.

Oh my!

Back on home turf things are far from smooth sailing for the Greys but there’s always time for a quick rut. While the couple deal with the mystery of their stalker buddy and what the fuck he wants, they also argue about having kids and Anastasia’s general wilfulness. Get it girl.

How though, seriously do you marry a man without knowing his stance on having children first, Ana? I mean, it seems like kind of an important thing. Just me?

The sex itself seems hotter than before but it’s still repetitive af. Like, there’s not really that much variety. In fact genuinely the sexiest scene in the movie is the one in which Ana finally gets to drive the car home – and she gets to out drive the person tailing them.

My main beef with the film is this, in no particular order:

  • Why is Christian always so mad at Ana? (Rhetorical question). They’ve spent at least 50% of their relationship in a fight. It’s exhausting to watch, imagine being in it.
  • When Ana almost gets kidnapped and her husband victim shames her.
  • The scene when Christian Grey’s housekeeper tells Ana it’s time she starts thinking about how she’s going to run the house. Isn’t that your job, bitch? Also, she has a full-time job, why aren’t you saying the same thing to Mister Grey?
  • Christian Grey being all jealous about other men looking at Ana and yet still hiring THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN to be her personal bodyguard?
  • While we’re on the subject of Smithers or whatever, is he the worst security detail of all time? “Meet me in the library” wasn’t even a particularly inspired red herring and yet…
  • Rita Ora. Bore off, love.

The story line is ridiculously contrived, half-arsed and plain stupid but I didn’t hate this movie as much as I thought I would. There’s a butt-plug scene that’s quite amusing and I’d be lying if I said I’m not a sucker for Anastasia’s luxury upgrade. Her wardrobe is TDF!

It’s all very predictable and convenient but Foley ties it up nicely with a skip down memory lane. I almost got emotional until I remembered I don’t really care and I hate Christian.

PS. If I got ‘punished’ every time I rolled my eyes in a day, I wouldn’t be able to walk straight.

My Rating

2/5.

Queen of Katwe (Film) Review

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I’m not above admitting that sports movies are not the one for me. Especially chess movies. And yet here I am, gasping and weeping and cheering in all the right places as our 14-year-old heroine kicks the arse of a woman twice her age at the beautiful game. GO PHIONA!

A fine choice by Jill for Feminist Film Week.

*Spoilers*

Queen of Katwe (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

My Review

Phiona Mutesi (Madina Malwanga) lives with her family in the slums of Katwe, Uganda. Times are fucking tough and she’s expected, along with her brother Brian (Martin Kabanza), to get out there and help earn the money to keep them fed and housed.

One day Brian gets talking with a local football coach Robert (David Oyelowo) who notices him sitting on the sidelines of a match being played by the other boys. Brian is adamant that football is dangerous and therefore not something he’s up for. Coach Robert mentions another game that might be more his speed, especially when utilised to drift rich city boys out of their gold watches. Yes, he’s talking about chess – bet you never thought of it in such glamorous terms?

Brian goes along to the local youth center to learn how to play under Robert’s tutelage. Shortly afterwards, Phiona follows and at first is mocked by the other children for her less than hygienic appearance. Girl’s been working, you pricks, cut her some slack. Much to Robert’s delight, Phiona doesn’t run away, instead she beats down the instigator of the teasing and returns the next day freshly showered and ready to learn.

Over the course of several years Phiona proves herself to be a talented and forward-thinking player, able to think eight moves ahead, something only the very great masters are capable of. Shit isn’t easy in Katwe though, not for anyone, not even coach himself.

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Robert earns peanuts teaching sports to underprivileged kids and is ashamed his Engineering degree still doesn’t make him the main breadwinner in his family. His lovely school-teacher wife and baby love him though and frankly, Sara (Esther Tebandeke) is a saint. She embraces Phiona immediately and teaches her to read the chess books Robert has in his collection. The couple get both Brian and Phiona into school on scholarships – and are probably the greatest living humans on this planet.

Phiona’s mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong’o) is a ferocious tigress, struggling to keep her family afloat without resorting to prostituting herself like some of the other ladies in the village. (I’d have cracked on day one personally). She’s also at loggerheads with her stubborn eldest daughter Night, who has run off with the local bad boy.

Nakku is torn between letting her daughter grab opportunity where it’s presented – and being a stone cold realist. And when Phiona, fresh from a string of successes in various tournaments starts showing signs of cockiness, she is eager to shut it down. Will she come round to Phiona’s dreams or will she put her foot down once and for all?

Will Phiona perform as well as she thinks she will in big competition or is it too soon for her? And will the family ever settle in their own home, no longer dependent on the tolerance of indifferent landlords?

Only one way to find out!

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My Thoughts

Sometimes it’s just really nice to watch a feel-good movie. Films like this often pass me by because I prefer my entertainment a little grimier, but I guess the whole point of collaborating with a partner is to try things I wouldn’t normally and I was pleased with this.

A Disney movie, this was always going to be on the wholesome side but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an edge. Lupita is a highlight for me, she is such a star. Malwanga too carries this film with such tenacity that you’re continually rooting for her. I love the chemistry between all the kids in fact.

My Rating

3.5/5. Check flipping mate!

What does the Queen of My Heart think of this one? Would she take it to competition or throw the board in the river? Find out here.