We’ve been home a lot the last few months, but between having Netflix for a brief six month period, and sneaking out here and there on the weekends to see a few films, I’ve amassed a few that I realised I never reviewed here. So this is kind of a brief catch-all review post.
Straight Outta Compton
A bio-pic produced by the surviving members of rap group NWA, this film tells the story of the group’s origins in Compton, LA and how their rise to fame affected their relationship with each other. I was still in primary school when they shot to fame, but I recall my friend’s older brother and his friends listening to this sort of music and being aware of this thing called rap, so watching the film was educational in a way. The fact that the members of the group had such a heavy hand in the making of it was good; it was entertaining and an interesting overview on the socioeconomic make up of Los Angeles. The cast is stellar – Ice Cube’s son plays the young version of him, and the resemblance is uncanny, even right down to the mannerisms. The soundtrack is fantastic, obviously, and it’s an entertaining two hours of late eighties/nineties nostalgia and interesting band/manager dynamics.
One major sidenote is that the film definitely glosses over some of the band members’ not so great moments, specifically Dr. Dre’s physical abuse of multiple women over the years, which is NOT COOL, and something I wasn’t aware of until after viewing the film. I can only assume that’s been done by Dr. Dre for a reason (I’m guessing “don’t let people who are unfamiliar with me or my private life know I was abusive to my partners so that they’ll still listen to my music/buy my products/watch this film”), which is dodgy as hell in my book.
I had always heard this was a great film, and I knew that Cher won the Oscar for Best Actress, so I was intrigued to see what the fuss was about. The film is a rom-com set in Brooklyn Heights, New York City, and centres around thirty seven year old widow, Loretta (Cher). Her boyfriend Johnny proposes to her at the start of the film before flying to Italy to care for his dying mother. He makes Loretta promise that while he’s away, she will contact his estranged brother Ronny and invite him to the wedding. She goes to the bakery where Ronny works, and they go upstairs to his apartment to discuss things. They end up arguing passionately, sleep together and begin an affair. The film is about a Sicilian-American family, so the characters are loud and brash and in each others’ business, which I loved. Loretta is such a no nonsense woman that I loved the sudden sidestep into the tryst with Ronny. There were a lot of laugh out loud moments, more so in the first half of the film, and Nicholas Cage as Ronny was typically him – over acted and monotone at the same time, and the ensemble cast worked effortlessly together. While I think the film’s second half wasn’t as funny or entertaining, I’m glad I watched it.
If I Stay
This the the adaptation of Gayle Forman’s bestseller of the same name, which I loved deeply from start to finish. The film was on Netflix, so I watched it in blocks when I had a bit of spare time. It’s a good adaptation of the book, and very true to the text. The actors all seem right for their parts, the set design and script all follow the book fairly closely, obviously with some things omitted for time. Ultimately, though, I just felt like the emotion that leapt off the page at me as I read the book just didn’t translate as deeply to the film. I was left wanting a little bit at the end. Whether it’s just that the prose is more emotional as prose, or the actors didn’t seem to really grasp the depth of their roles I’m not sure. Maybe a combination of the two? At any rate, this was a little bit of a disappointment for me, despite being a fairly good adaptation.
My favourite movie of 2014 was Chef, so when I saw the trailer for Burnt I was excited. Another film about delicious food, second year in a row, what luck! This film is different to Chef though. It focuses more on the personal life of world renowned, but disgraced chef, Adam Jones, a recovering addict whose self-imposed penance for his wrongdoings is to shuck one million oysters. At the start of the film, once he completes his penance, he heads to London to launch a new restaurant and obtain three Michelin stars. The plot splits its time between the restaurant opening, Adam’s battle with his demons, and his relationship with his kitchen staff. The film certainly serves up (pun SO INTENDED) beautifully plated food and showcases the planning and cooking of gourmet cuisine in a high-end restaurant, but the personal story takes up a fair amount of screen time. I felt less like this was a film about a chef who loves food (the way Chef was), and more a film about a chef who wants to prove his worth in the industry. Still an enjoyable watch with solid performances all around, nonetheless, but possibly not quite the foodie film most people are expecting to see.