MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – The Iron Lady (2011) — April 14, 2015

Movie Review – The Iron Lady (2011)

Movie Review – The Iron Lady (2011)

iron

Movie Synopsis:

This film recounts the early life, leadership, and declining years of Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was known as “The Iron Lady” when in power, and who led Britain through many domestic and international crises while pushing forward with a strong conservative agenda.  The film allows us to see Thatcher’s memories through the lens of her suffering from dementia in her later years, and allows us to learn more about her relationship with her husband as well.

Movie Review:

This film was a great way to review the history of the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain, and did a fair job of illustrating some of the major events that happened during that tumultuous decade in the UK and around the world.  That being said, the film did not go into a lot of detail on many of the key Thatcher initiatives, and much of that is due to the fact the writers and director preferred to focus on the issues of Thatcher’s declining health in later years.  Although this is the license of the filmmakers to determine where they want to focus, it was somewhat disappointing they focused here, because there is much of Thatcher’s earlier life and life in leadership that went unsaid, and we therefore didn’t get a full picture of this powerful female leader in the 20th century.  We did however get a somewhat detailed picture of the challenges she faced suffering from dementia, and this is certainly an important topic in today’s world.

Meryl Streep does a phenomenal job playing “The Iron Lady” and is very convincing in the role.  She shows Thatcher’s strengths – and her weaknesses – in equal measure.  Nobody is perfect, or right all the time, and Streep does a great job bringing a full picture to the role.

Supporting cast also did a fantastic job in this film, including Jim Broadbent as husband Denis Thatcher, but at the end of the day it is Streep who carried the film.  And although she did a wonderful job, at the end of the day it is still unfortunate the film left out so much of Thatcher’s decisions and actions that shaped UK and world history.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Two Days, One Night (2014) —

Movie Review – Two Days, One Night (2014)

Movie Review – Two Days, One Night (2014)

two_days

Movie Synopsis:

When Sandra is informed her job will be terminated so that the remaining staff in a small solar panel plant can receive year-end bonuses, she is given one weekend to speak to each staff member individually, and encourage them to forego their bonuses so she can keep her job.  She must try to get a majority of staff to vote in her favour on Monday morning, and she is working against the clock and against her own depression and internal stress to make her case, with the help of a close friend and her loving husband.

Movie Review:

This French film was certainly an interesting and unique premise, with a democratic like system in the workplace that creates a huge amount of tension on the employee.  (Whether it is truly believable or not is a matter of some debate.)  The film’s star, Marion Cotillard, did a great job in the main character role, as stressed, depressed, on the move Sandra, moving from place to place, speaking to co-workers and running up against all kinds of situations and obstacles.

It was often fun to see the diverse co-workers in their various scenarios and listen to their logic of why they would or would not support Sandra over their bonus pay,.  That being said, one item that detracted from the film was listening to the explanation of what she was asking them to consider, over and over again.  We heard literally the same speech of Sandra begging them for help 8 to 10 times, and it definitely became old after awhile.

Some of the writing did suffer from being repetitious.  Furthermore, the film’s lack of score or music sometimes detracted as well, and made for some silent sections.

That being said, there was some great emotion from Sandra and other characters in the film, and it was enjoyable to see some of her friends and her husband really sticking by her, despite the struggles and despite her own struggle with depression, which was well captured here, and which highlighted how stress really takes a toll on individuals.

Overall, this film had its high points and low points, and in the end is definitely worth a watch.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – The Fault in Our Stars – John Green —

Book Review – The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Book Review – The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

fault

Facts:

  •    Book: The Fault in Our Stars
  •    Author: John Green
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2012
  •    Read 318-page paperback edition in April 2015.

Book Description:

Hazel has been suffering from a serious form of cancer for some time, and a miracle drug has bought her some additional time to be with her parents and friends.  Although how much time she has, from her terminal cancer, is anyone’s guess.  Hazel doesn’t really like to go out, but her mom insists she try and act like a normal teenager.  Her regular outings to a cancer support group drive her to some annoyance, but when she meets a boy named Augustus, things change for her immensely, and her life will not be the same from here on out, as the two of them have a magical adventure, and relationship, together.

Book Review:

This novel by bestselling author John Green was a phenomenal success, and it is easy to see why.  The novel is written in such a way that you quite easily latch on to the two main characters in the story, Hazel and Augustus.  These are loveable, unique teenagers, who are suffering from cancer no less, and as such you have to feel for them, and at the same time feel inspired by their energy, creativity, and uniqueness.  The way they develop in their relationship together in some ways is similar to any two teenagers, but then they throw in jarring statements like “we don’t have time to waste” and it really makes the reader realize how different these kids are, and how mature in many ways.  So many of the quotes, ideas, and sentiments from these two teenagers really opens the eyes for readers, seeing the world from the perspective of young people who don’t have the luxury of time to waste.

Green does a fantastic job of bringing together serious and emotionally evocative lines and ideas, with some strong characters and an adventurous, romantic plot, and creating a great novel that sticks with the reader after completion.  Overall, this was an enjoyable, thoughtful read.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Annabel – Kathleen Winter — April 6, 2015

Book Review – Annabel – Kathleen Winter

Book Review – Annabel – Kathleen Winter

annabel

Facts:

  •    Book: Annabel
  •    Author: Kathleen Winter
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2011
  •    Read 462-page paperback edition in March 2015.

Book Description:

On the remote landscape of Labrador, Canada, in 1968, a child is born to Treadway and Jacinta.  However, the child is born with a secret: both male and female sex organs.  The doctors and Treadway decide to raise the child male, and Treadway names his son Wayne.  But Jacinta, and her close friend and neighbour Thomasina, feel a bond to the girl inside this male child.  And as Wayne is raised, he too feels a strange pull inside, the pull of a girl named Annabel.  As he is raised in a closed, isolated community, Wayne and his family and neighbours around him try to react and understand, when Annabel surfaces.

Book Review:

This debut novel from Kathleen Winter is absolutely stunning.  Such a powerful novel, with powerful themes and complex, multi-faceted characters.  Winter does a fantastic job portraying complex issues of intersexuality in the 1960s-1980s, and in a rural, desolate environment.

The characters in the novel are layered and textured with complexity.  Wayne grows up, slowly learning more about the choices his parents made, and having to learn, sometimes in a very lonely way, the various pieces that make him Wayne – and Annabel. Wayne’s parents, Treadway and Jacinta, are themselves complex characters, and very divergent people.  Winter does a fantastic job showing how they relate to each other, bringing up themes of loneliness and marriage in the process.  Friend and neighbour Thomasina is also a complex and unique personality that appears throughout the novel, allowing Winter to illustrate how quirky people don’t always feel at home in traditional communities.  In bringing these different characters together, and showing how they deal with stress, and how they love, Winter is able to bring to light so many wonderful themes and ideas, not only the main theme of intersexuality.

Furthermore, the plot itself is a fascinating one, with Winter able to bring to light successes, happiness, and fears of both children and adults.  Winter is able to write about the desolate setting of Labrador, as well as the city charm of St. John’s, Newfoundland.  In addition, the frightening and even disturbing scenes that occur in the novel are well written and vivid.

There are a lack of novels, even today, where the central character is an intersex individual or a transgender individual.  Winter does a fantastic job writing a powerful and emotional novel that helps fill this void.

Well done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Cinderella (2015) — April 4, 2015

Movie Review – Cinderella (2015)

Movie Review – Cinderella (2015)

cinderella

Movie Synopsis:

Cinderella’s childhood is difficult to say the least, between losing both her parents, being enslaved by her wicked step-mother, and being taunted by her step-sisters. But when an opportunity arises to go to a special ball at the palace, Cinderella’s luck may finally be changing, thanks to her spirited energy and some magic.

Movie Review:

This Disney live action remake of the classic tale is overall a pleasant success. The film itself has beautiful scenery and visual effects throughout, with the writing a good mix of action, drama, and comedy. (Although some of the comedic relief, such as the actions of the step-sisters, were a little over the top, repetitive, and/or clichéd.

Furthermore, the characterization and humanization of Cinderella is very thoughtful. Lily James does a fantastic job bringing Cinderella to life, bringing the character’s infallible kindness and spirit to the screen.

Other acting roles played by Helena Bonham Carter and Cate Blanchett are also successes.

That being said, the one thing to note in this movie is that although it was an enjoyable one to watch, nothing really set it apart from previous versions and from the tale we have come to know so well. The movie was somewhat formulaic and predictable in its script, and did not bring us anything new and interesting to the story. Unlike a recent Disney movie like Into the Woods, which did feel fresh and unique, Cinderella felt somewhat repetitive and predictable. Still something that was enjoyable, but overall, nothing special.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Alien (1979) —

Movie Review – Alien (1979)

Movie Review – Alien (1979)

alien

Movie Synopsis:

The crew of the commercial ship the Nostromo is pulled out of deep sleep and its return voyage home to earth, to investigate a sign of life on a nearby planet. However, as they begin to investigate, they realize the sign of alien life is something that is truly disturbing and dangerous.

Movie Review:

This is truly a fantastic, classic movie. This sci-fi horror film displays how to create suspense, tension, and terror without the need to resort to flashy effects that so many films do today.

The characters in this film are intense and diverse, playing off each other nicely, and demonstrating a variety of reactions and opinions that humanizes the story. There was a fair amount of dialogue between characters in the first section of the movie, and then of course the tension and suspense and horror takes over for the remainder of the film, as we learn more about the alien and we see the tension begin to take its toll on the characters in different ways.

Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, and Veronica Cartwright are fabulous in their roles, providing breakout performances.

The visual imagery and direction by Ridley Scott are flawless, and we are treated to some wonderful scenes in space, on the vessel Nostromo, and on the alien planet.

Finally, the alien is truly disturbing and frightening, with some great imagination and forethought into its design. This proves once again that effects are not required to make a frightening, suspenseful, thrilling movie experience.

Overall, this film is a fantastic science fiction / horror mix, and is the baseline by which future films have been based upon.

Well done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.