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Film Review: On the Basis of Sex

“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

Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

“This Is Not A Place For A Priest, Father. You Shouldn’t Be Here…”

Written and directed by the excellent Drew Goddard, the mind behind the likes of Cabin in the Woods and Netflix’s first season of Daredevil, Bad Times at the El Royale bundles together an abundance of top-notch actors within the confines of a script which mixes together an Agatha Christie-esque air of neo-noir mystery with a very obvious nod to the quirky and wordy works of Quentin Tarantino. Set in the dying embers of the late 1960’s, the majority of the action takes place within the lifeless, unkempt eeriness of the titular hotel, one straddled with history and echoes of a previous life involving the rich and famous but now suffering from a lack of custom primarily due to a newly founded inactive liquor license. As soon as the film’s colourful band of characters slowly check themselves in however, the presence of the murky collection of cats including Jeff Bridge’s (Hell or High Water) Catholic Priest, Donald “Doc” O’Kelly, Dakota Johnson’s (Fifty Shades Freed) rebellious young Emily and Jon Hamm’s (Tag) travelling vacuum salesman, Seymour Sullivan, result in the mysteries of the hotel and the secrets of its’ guest’s unraveling with particularly violent and menacing ends.

Whilst Goddard has proven to be successful in the past with work which has always remained entertaining and interesting, even if at times not exactly for everyone, Bad Times at the El Royale is unfortunately the American’s first cinematic turkey, an excruciatingly overlong and plodding mess of a movie which although begins in intriguing fashion, fails to warrant almost two and a half hours worth of your time as it drags its’ way towards a finish line without any real sense of purpose or point. Whilst the film does boast a healthy selection of well-executed dialogue heavy set pieces alongside excellent central performances from the likes of Bridges and Cynthia Erivo’s wandering soul singer, Darlene Sweet, as the film crosses over the hour mark, the over-reliance on wasteful backstory and wandering narrative stretches result in a painful longing for the action to come to some sort of meaningful end. Enter Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Infinity War), whose appearance come the ninety minute mark as a curly haired, spiritually baffling and overzealous cross between Charles Manson and Jim Morrison, meant the film then decides to go on for another excruciating forty five minutes, concluding with a soppy and rather weak attempt at humanising a particularly annoying character and then finally ending with a final gasp of saintly praise as I left my seat and headed to the exit. Whilst not totally awful, Bad Times at the El Royale is a simple case of style over substance and made me check IMDB pretty quickly to see if an editor was actually hired at all to do a decent job. On inspection, Lisa Lassek, you are in my bad books.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

“This Is The Way The World Ends…”

With Guillermo del Toro joyously arriving home earlier this month with a couple of Academy Awards in his back pocket for The Shape of Water, his latest rousing critical success is brought somewhat back down to earth with the release of Pacific Rim Uprising, a sequel to del Toro’s 2013 ridiculously silly action gargantuan which in all fairness, is more painfully cheesy than entertaining, and a film which brings to mind the middling rough patch the Mexican seemingly went through before this year’s resounding return to form. Swapping the director’s chair for a producing role however, the job of taking hold of the unnecessary sequel falls to Steven S. DeKnight of Daredevil Season One fame, undeniably the strongest Marvel/Netflix release to date, whose big-screen debut features John Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Jake Pentecost, son of the legendary General Stacker Pentecost as portrayed by Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarok) in the first film, who swaps his life of thieving and black market dealings for a return to the fold in line with the Jaeger program after a fresh threat arises from the destructive, otherworldly Kaiju. With awful dialogue, a woeful lack of emotional investment and endless, mind-numbing overblown action set pieces, Uprising is unsurprisingly utter tosh, and even when some of the characters at times threaten to make the film more interesting than it should be, it’s plain to see that the main function of DeKnight’s cinematic debut is of course, solely monetary.

Whilst the first feature was just straightforward, unadulterated nonsense with an added layer of awfulness due to Charlie Hunnam’s vacuous leading character, the performances of both Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi meant that the film was at least likeable to a certain degree, and with the latter one of the more interesting returning characters added to the fold once again, her particular narrative strand within Uprising is systemic to the problems of the film. Far too many times are new and returning characters given so little to do in terms of engaging character development that when the film does eventually heed to the wishes of its’ true and fundamental natures in the form of CGI-engulfed action sequences, not one audience member actually really cares who does what and who makes it out alive. With it becoming patently clear that any movie touched by the woeful “talent” of both Charlie Day (Fist Fight) and Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad) is destined to be labelled as god-awful, Uprising does at least benefit from a committed, cockney-fuelled performance from the ever-charismatic Boyega and a runtime which improves on the staggeringly long length of its’ predecessor, but with a concluding act which makes Man of Steel look like a Woody Allen movie and a jarring post-credits sequence which makes you roll your eyes in utter condemnation of the movie’s future possibilities, Uprising doesn’t totally suck, it’s just the type of movie you watch with a blank expression and let it leave your consciousness as soon as its’ over. If you stay awake that is.

Overall Score: 4/10