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Film Review: Fighting with My Family

“Good Morning, Wrestling Nerds. This Is Where We See Whether Or Not You Get To Go On The WWE…”

With an absolute absence of knowledge pertaining to anything slightly resembling the world of wrestling, with my own views regarding the slightly absurd money making machine something of which I might just keep restrained for this particular review, it’s fair to say that Fighting With My Family is the type of rags-to-riches true story which from an outsiders point of view, would have to spoon feed me the rise of Saraya “Paige” Bevis, the Norwich born, heavy metal loving hard-ass who became the youngest wrestling champion ever at the age of twenty one. Written and directed by the immediately recognisable figure of Stephen Merchant (The Office, Logan) and backed financially by WWE Studios, whos previous endeavours include erm, The Scorpion King and Leprechaun: Origins to name a few, Fighting With My Family takes the cliched, formulaic approach to bringing the story of Paige to the big screen, and whilst such genre conventions force the underlying narrative to be more than overly predictable, even for someone without knowing the wrestling back story heading in, Merchant’s movie succeeds due to other elements elsewhere, with warm, interesting characters and a charming, likeable sensibility pushing his movie into what can only be regarded as just a damn fine, if overly cheesy, time at the flicks.

With the superbly talented Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) taking the leading role as Paige, her iconic accent and emo-inflicted personality immediately offers an element of depth thanks to a central performance which manages to completely immerse you in the journey she undertakes from the rocky roads of Norfolk to the absurdity of the big stage in the sun soaked shores of America. Whilst the film revels in portraying the ills of a Rocky style training camp and the drill sergeant-esque manner from a rather finely tuned supporting performance from Vince Vaughn (Brawl in Cell Block 99) as Paige’s talent scout and mentor, Merchant never seems to forget the core family unit which Paige leaves behind back home, and whilst Pugh is undoubtedly the leading star, the screenplay also balances the effect her newly found fame has on her brother, Zak, as portrayed by Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) whose dreams of capturing the world’s imagination on the biggest platform available are soon crushed as he watches his younger sibling take the road to stardom instead. With scene stealing supporting comedic roles from the always reliable Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Fighting With My Family of course oozes saccharin sweetness and cheesy sentimentality, but when a film is made with enough heart and soul to bypass such flaws, the end result is and hour and forty minutes of good old fashioned lovey-dovey entertainment, even with some rather egoistic cameos from Dwayne Johnson.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

“Are You Not Lisbeth Salander, The Righter Of Wrongs? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? The Girl Who Hurts Men Who Hurt Women..?

With the rather lacklustre attempt to revitalise Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy to an American audience after the success of the Noomi Rapace starring Swedish set of movies back in 2009, the David Fincher adaptation of The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in 2011 was planned as a kickstarter for a fresh release of English speaking crime movies focusing on the intertwining lives of both journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and vigilante hacker, Lisbeth Salander. With the subsequent Fincher movies placed on indefinite hold in the years that followed, The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes to cinema with a brand new director, a new batch of actors and a script based on a novel by Swedish author, David Lagercrantz, who has subsequently continued the works of Larsson who sadly passed away before the original movies came into fruition. Directed by Fede Álvarez, famous for the rather entertaining one-two of the The Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, and featuring the wonderfully agile Claire Foy (First Man) in the lead role, the latest Salander-led adventure unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of the Uruguayan’s previous two features, lacking the panache and darkened style which seeped through Fincher’s adaptation whilst failing to offer anything new to a series which seems to have already sailed past its’ sell by date.

If remembered for anything, Larsson’s writing contained subject matter which teetered on the edge of bad taste, combining sexualised violence with a brutal sense of hardened realism evidenced rather memorably in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in which Salander’s rapist is punished by rather extravagant if justified means, and even with Álvarez at the helm, a filmmaker not exactly new to the world of cinematic nastiness, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels surprisingly tame as it manages to come across as a near 12A rather version of the franchise with no signature grit or substance, emphasises by a bland, overly sterile tone seeping through with no effective levels of tension or threat whatsoever. With a screenplay which centres on long lost sisters, nuclear disaster and a central hacking superhero who seems to have breathed in the James Bond effect of being completely invincible, there have been episodes of Doctor Who which have been more believable, and even with Foy in the lead role at least attempting to bring some sort gravitas to the role with the familiar funky hairstyle and stern, wet flanneled look slapped across her face, she is ultimately let down by sloppy and lazy writing which leaves her well and truly behind her predecessors in terms of overall effectiveness in her portrayal of Salander. With a brilliant supporting cast including the likes of Sylvia Hoeks and Vicky Krieps being rather wasted considering their equally memorable roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Phantom Thread respectively, their brief appearances only resulted in wishing the film would end as soon as possible in order to go and revisit those particular movies which in terms of cinematic levels of excellence, are in a different universe completely.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Logan

“Nature Made Me A Freak. Man Made Me A Weapon, And God Made It Last Too Long…”

With the monumental success of Marvel’s Deadpool last year, the inevitably of a sudden spike in similarly R-Rated comic-based movies was somewhat unavoidable, with Suicide Squad being the first to match the all-swearing, all-shooting red guy in terms of regressing to a somewhat more “adult” nature with naughty swear words and a level of sexual awareness which was unbeknown to the vast majority of audiences who simply couldn’t believe a film could actually be made, let alone be a success. Whilst Deadpool was a middling critical success, Suicide Squad on the other hand was a film which at the time seemed no more than a utter disappointment, yet in almost six months retrospective can only be regarded as an utter, utter clanger. Attempting to establish themselves as the leading figure of recent R-Rated superhero adaptations this week is Logan, a continuation of the X-Men/Wolverine movie franchise directed by James Mangold, famous for movies such as Walk The Line, 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, and of course starring Hugh Jackman in a leading role which since 2000 has arguably been his most iconic and eye-catching amongst the many X-Men movies which have graced our screens over the last 17 years. Most impressively, Logan is indeed the movie everyone wanted since the film first began to play its’ cards in pre-production, but more importantly, it is the film the superhero genre needed. Forget Deadpool, Logan is the ultra-adult, ultra-violent and swear-tastic Marvel film we’ve all been waiting for.

Set in 2029, an elderly Wolverine strives for survival in the heat of the Mexican border alongside a severely ill Professor X within a world in which the mutant race has all but been wiped out with no sign of a mutant birth in over 20 years in a Children of Men style world crisis. After colliding into the life of young Laura however, Logan is forced to battle his demons and seek closure not only from his own life and the past he most desperately is seeking to leave behind, but for the future of mutants entirely. With Logan being released half way through the week, my view count of the movie has already hit the lofty heights of two, resulting in a much more aligned opinion of a movie in which hype and excitement has once again preceded its’ release. With the parallels between Logan and Deadpool almost inevitable, the difference between the two is astronomical in terms of tone and overall satisfaction levels with the former being a hard-hitting tale of age and loss and the latter just an open canvas for a silly, albeit moderately enjoyable, teenage fantasy of sex, violence and breaking of the fourth wall. Logan is the type of movie in which pain is transposed from screen to audience, with the sharp swoosh of Wolverine’s claws being as piercing as they are deadly, resulting in a wide array of foes and enemies which are violently massacred in jaw-dropping moments of action which bring to mind everything from Kill Bill to The Raid.

One of the main questions arising from the release of Logan however is why has it taken this long to finally see a Wolverine this exciting and deadly? With Hugh Jackman on top-form almost every time he kicks into the character of Wolverine, the foresight of witnessing a rip-roaring Logan in his prime is mouthwatering to say the least and although Mangold’s movie does indeed mark the end for both Jackman’s portrayal of the iconic character and Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Logan is the melancholic, character-based superhero movie no one was really expecting, yet a movie which makes crystal clear sense in regards to a conclusion for characters which have graced our screens for nearly two decades. Whilst not exactly The Dark Knight in terms of overall superhero greatness, Logan is a surprisingly powerful Westernised drama which just happens to feature mutants. Obviously Jackman deserves to take the plaudits for his conflicted and degrading portrayal of the titular hero, but kudos too belongs to Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen whose ambiguity and bad-assery threatens to steal the limelight away from her elder counterparts. Logan is excellent, there are no two ways about it, with the second viewing only increasing the levels of enjoyment of which the film secretes throughout a running time which simply flies by. A fitting end for one of the most iconic big-screen characters of this millennium so far, Logan is brill. That cross turn bro, that cross turn.

Overall Score: 8/10