“The Law Says Women Stay Home, Men Go To Work, But All People Must Be Treated Equally…”
Based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Brooklyn born and highly inspirational lawyer who during the late twentieth century spent a considerable amount of her career advocating the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality, On the Basis of Sex sees the return of Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker, Deep Impact) to the big screen after her success on television through the likes of The Leftovers. Featuring a screenplay from screenwriting debutante, Daniel Stiepleman, Leder’s movie sees Felicity Jones (Rogue One) take the leading role as the highly intellectual, if slightly sanctimonious Ginsburg, as we see her venture through the masculine dominated society of the late 1950’s and well into the radically different and more open-minded 1970’s, all the time supported by her loving husband, Martin Ginsburg, as played by the safe pair of cinematic hands which is Armie Hammer (Sorry to Bother You). With an abundance of important statements at the heart of the drama, Leder’s latest is an enjoyable and interesting gentle breeze through the politics of the era in which the narrative is set, and whilst On the Basis of Sex does indeed benefit from a excellent central performance, the substance and depth you would expect from a film tackling so many issues is inherently lacking, resulting in a popcorn piece which although is enjoyable enough, fails to hit as hard as the central character’s effect on the world today.
Beginning with an almost The Social Network sensibility as we witness Jones’ Ginsburg become enrolled in the male dominated halls of the Harvard Law School, we immediately cotton on to her stubbornness to conform to the sexist mannerisms of the school’s hierarchy, all the while attempting to balance her education with her home life as the stresses of a newborn baby and her husband’s recent cancer diagnosis threaten to derail her completely. With the opening act of the film managing to develop Ginsburg with a likeable degree of depth, the narrative then steams ahead to the 1970’s as we now see a fully rounded family unit featuring the added inclusion of the outspoken, idealist figure of Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) as Jane Ginsburg, who comes across as the ideal inspiration to her mother to finally battle against a fundamental sexist brand of political ideals. With the first ninety minutes of the movie essentially semi-effective characterisation with a side plate of knowing build-up to the final act, the concluding thirty minute court drama set pieces is actually rather well handled, even with a degree of dramatic licensing which makes Jones’ standout acting moment more pantomime than To Kill a Mockingbird, a story of which is crucially mentioned at one point in the drama. As a whole therefore, On the Basis of Sex is too low-key and safely played to be classed as a true representation to match the importance of its’ central figure, but with committed central performances and a likeable central feel to it, Leder’s return to the big screen is more than satisfactory.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You’ll Never Be The Racer You Once Were. You Can’t Turn Back The Clock, Kid, But You Can Wind It Up, Again…”
With the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis being superb recent examples of when Disney get it bang on in regards to releases from their animation platform, with the latter managing to proclaim itself as one of the few top marked films on this particular film review site, a healthy title if ever there was one, the release of Cars 3 is ultimately a bit of a downer, a sequel to one of Disney’s more middling franchises but too a film which undoubtedly will surpass many releases at the box office due to the nature of the prolonged six weeks summer holidays in which sweet-addicted children swarm your local cinema screening and make you cringe at their unwanted immaturity and annoying little booster seats. Bit harsh I know, but what we have with Cars 3 is ironically a solid entry into the ever-expanding Disney canon, a film which takes no time at all in laying the groundwork for the narrative ahead, with its’ sweet, harmless tone offering more than enough spectacle for the young at heart. whilst an effective array of jokes prove that there is more enough chewy material to satisfy the adults, even when the plot does fall into the realm of cliche and over-sentimentality at times.
Suffering from the inevitability of old age and facing the threat of newer, faster racing vehicles including the likes of the Armie Hammer voiced, Jackson Storm, Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen begins to question his suitability on the race track, and with the legendary racer potentially facing the unwanted exposure of falling into past history, McQueen teams up with Cristela Alonzo’s wannabe-racer Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper’s legendary racing trainer, Smokey, in order to get back on track and finally overcome the presence of the egotistic Storm. With flashy colours and an explosion of jet-waxed colours from beginning to end, Cars 3 ticks all the boxes in what you would expect from a Disney animation sequel aimed primarily at kids, and whilst the narrative is somewhat obvious and cringey at times from an adult point of view, the smart-witted dialogue and joyous concluding act proves that the film’s existence does hold more than just being that film that you take your kids to see. Whilst the money will keep on rolling and the spin-off merchandise will keep on selling, the concluding edge of the narrative does suggest we have seen the last of the Cars franchise for good, but with Disney not exactly shying away from a quick buck at times, you can’t take anything at face value these days.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Do You Ever Feel You’re Life Has Turned Into Something You Never Intended..?”
With only his second feature after A Single Man, designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford returns to the cinematic spectrum this month with Nocturnal Animals, a gripping, white-knuckle thriller featuring a stellar cast on top of their form and a film which not only develops the reputation of Ford as an intelligent and sophisticated filmmaker but a film which resonates with you long after you arise from your sweat-covered seat and leave the cinema. Not only is Nocturnal Animals one of the most original films of the year, it is undoubtedly one of the toughest thrillers I can remember seeing in a long time, producing scene after scene of unbearable tension all the while mixing between a wide range of genres in an effective and unashamedly top-notch fashion. With an unbelievable bunch of A-List stars such as Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and the always brilliant Michael Shannon at the film’s core, Nocturnal Animals is an essential movie for anyone tough enough to withstand its’ scorching sense of nihilistic suffering.
After receiving the first print of former husband’s latest novel “Nocturnal Animals”, fashion designer Susan Morrow (Adams) begins to delve deep into the dark and twisted story that her former lover has created, all-the-while reminiscing not only her own, personal life struggles but the way in which her relationship with former husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal) came to an end. Mixing in a somewhat Lynchian nihilism to developments as well as a wide range of thrilling yet hard-going set pieces, reminiscent of films such as Lynch’s Blue Velvet and even films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of the film’s relentless darkness, Nocturnal Animals will indeed not be for everyone, yet much like Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon earlier this year, some will revel in its’ extreme genre crossing boundaries; myself included. Whilst the film’s rather off-kilter and entirely misjudged opening title sequence prevents the movie from being anything close to perfection, Nocturnal Animals is one of the most refreshing and original movies of the year.
Overall Score: 9/10
From Russia With Love
With gun’s and gangster’s auteur Guy Ritchie seemingly popping off the radar recently, even after the release of the two Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, which let’s face it, were rather forgettable affairs in comparison to the much better BBC series, his decision to return with a cinematic release of the famous U.S television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E was a strange one to say the least. Yet after promising trailers and a superb cast including Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill, The Social Network‘s Archie Hammer, and queen of 2015, Alicia Vikander who has starred in everything this year from Ex Machina to Seventh Son, Ritchie’s latest cinematic offering was something I was rather excited for yet its’ final product ultimately is something unfortunately much more forgettable with only rare flashes of brilliance in what can only be regarded as great idea not fulfilled to its’ full potential.
After news of a potential nuclear threat is made by business mogul and suspected criminal Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), American agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) is tasked with teaming up with Russian agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) in order to combat the supposed threat, aided by Russian defector Gaby Teller whose missing father may or not be aiding such developments. With moments of sheer entertainment, particularly in regards to the banter-esque relationship between our two main heroes, and scenes of high comedic value, with the late torture scene coming first to mind, The Man From U.N.C.L.E shows signs of how Ritchie could have potentially found an overly winning formula for such a film, but is ultimately let down by an overly cliched plot, a shocking lack of overall threat, and a desire to retreat to flashbacks to spoon-feed details of the plot. A missed opportunity? Possibly, but for the time it was on, The Man From U.N.C.L.E was reasonably harmless, just not overly memorable.