Ham, A Musical Memoir: An Ode To The Past

HAM: A Musical Memoir is a biographical, comedy, musical film directed by Andrew Putschoegl. The film serves to tell the story of Sam Harris’ rise to fame.

This is a very effecting film, in multiple sense of the word. While watching it I became fascinated with this persons rise to stardom, not only was I rooting for them I also became invested in them as a person.

During my time with the film I was frequently smiling, also there were quite a large amount of laughs to be had over the run time as well; not laugh out loud sorts of laughs but definitely a few strong chuckles. Moreover, the complexity of this film’s emotion transitions comedy and becomes something more. Quite a few times while watching I could feel the film pulling on my heart strings, I found the character plight effecting, the film did not need to be overt in this, it never felt manipulative with its emotional delivery, yet it had a strong impact.
I also enjoyed the musical elements of this film I thought they worked well and added a nice flavour to the standard biopic format. I think in many ways this film seems destined to change the format of the biopic genre as a whole or at least pump some fresh blood into it, as it takes the best elements of something like Rocketman and distils them into a more refined product.

Overall, a must watch, it will make you laugh it will make you cry and most importantly it is a great way to kill a few hours.

Pros.

It is funny

It nails the emotion

I was invested in the story

The musical elements work well

Cons.

The first act is quite slow

4/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Joy: The Rather Obvious Decline Of Robert DeNiro

Joy is a biographical drama film directed by David O’ Russell, the plot is based on the real-life story of the Queen of QVC Joy Mangano and her rise from struggling poverty to take the business world by storm.

This film is a very engrossing watch, you become fascinated by Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), and her mop business and begin to form an emotional attachment over the course of the film: one that desperately makes you want to see her succeed.

Was Lawrence’s performance worthy of an Oscar nod, no it wasn’t. She was an affable lead and one that was easy to root for, but another actor could have been just as good in the part at no point did I think she made the part her own as a result of this she would be easily replaceable.

I think the best scenes in the film were between Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (who played the head of the QVC network), I think though they only had a few short scenes together over the course of the film their on-screen chemistry was so strong that it stole the show.

On a different note as much as I love Robert DeNiro, I almost found him to be a distraction her with his overly hammy performance often taking me out of the film.

Another issue I have with this film is that it is bloated and could have been better served by a tighter edit.

Overall, an engaging and interesting film, however also one that received more praise then it deserved.

Pros.

The engaging narrative

Cooper and Lawrence have great chemistry

The personal connection you develop for the character

Cons.

Lawrence is interchangeable

DeNiro is too over the top

It has pacing issues

3/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Man Who Invented Christmas: Lay Off The Hallucinogens Charlie

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a Christmas themed biographical drama film focusing on Charles Dickins (Dan Stevens) as he creates his classic Christmas novel A Christmas Carol, we see the trials and tribulations that lead to one of the best-selling books of all time.

I enjoyed the presentation of this film, I thought the blending of standard biopic elements and more out there fantasy elements, as he talks and interacts with his own characters, was quite an inspired choice as it allowed the film to feel fresh and not like just another biopic.

Stevens was serviceable in the role; he can convey both sides of Dickens as a character and does a good job of making the character seem whole and rounded rather than a caricature. He is the best of the cast, though that is not a tall order as a lot of the other actors are bland and forgettable.

I thought the film had pacing issues and included a number of side plots and other stories that should have been cut, I understand the film was trying to show the motivations and scars of Dickins himself, but they could have done it in a more concise and audience friendly way, as it stands certain parts are far too exposition heavy.

Overall, through the choice of how it presents its story and its characters this film feels slightly above the standard biopic and is enjoyable, however a mostly bland cast and a few pacing issues stop it of being great.

Pros.

The fantasy and reality aspects

Stevens

It feels like a well-considered Christmas film

Cons.

The wider cast are bland

It has pacing issues

It goes too far in trying to explain what drives Dickins and relies too heavily on exposition

2.5/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Never Be Done, The Richard Glen Lett Story: A True Inspiration

Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story is a Canadian documentary film based on real events. The plot follows the fall of one of Canada’s most beloved comics at the hands of drug and alcohol abuse, and also how he managed to come back from his darkest point and turn his life around.

Inspiring, is a word that gets tossed around a lot. Often people use it either hyperbolic-ally or falsely when talking about feel good films they have seen, as few films are truly inspiring; though I suppose different films are inspiring to different people. However, this is one of the few films I would truly use that word to describe.

This film is a roller-coaster of emotions we go from dizzying heights, to soul crushing lows and all the while we follow this man and his struggle. The film does not shy away from showing the unpleasant side of addiction, in fact it displays it in all its infamy and for that I applaud it. Due to this we form a real bond with Richard as well feel like we are right there along with him.

I have to say this film brought me close to tears a number of times, it is not for the light of heart, or the easy to tears as there are some really harrowing moments here. The tears, I believe are proof of how much you end up caring about this man and his struggles.

Overall, this is a beautifully made film that is honest and raw and leaves you with a lot to consider afterwards.

Pros.

The beautiful message

The journey

The connection we form

The emotional impact

It is not afraid to show the dark side of addiction

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke  

A United Kingdom: One Of Africa’s Greatest Romance’s

A United Kingdom is a British biographical romance drama film directed by Amma Asante. The plot follows the real-life story of Sir Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) Khama, a king to be who defied the world and married a common English women. Their love was met with hate and strife at damn near every turn, but they kept fighting.

I think this film is a triumph, it was sweet, compelling, and also infuriating and a bit sickening at times. Film’s like this highlight how far as a society we have come, but also how much further we have to go.

I found the romance between Oyelowo and Pike to be entirely believable, they had a strong chemistry that carried throughout the film. Both actors gave incredibly good performance with Oyelowo’s maybe taking the cake. The part when he is speaking to his people and trying to convince them why he has brought an English woman to be there Queen and he has tears rolling down his face is nothing short of powerful.

My one complaint of the film would be that it has pacing issues, as is often the case with biographical film, I understand that it has a lot of history to tell as it doesn’t want to leave anything out, but it feels a lot longer than 111 minutes.  

Overall, a strong film that you need to watch. The love on display is compelling and proves that if we are ever to overcome hate we must all embrace the love we have for each other.

Pros.

Believable chemistry

David Oyelowo

Rosamund Pike

Powerful and effecting

Cons.

It feels much longer than it actually is

4/5

Reviewed by Luke    

Jungle: Lost In The Wilderness

Jungle is a biopic survival film directed by Greg McLean. The plot follows young Israeli explorer Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), who gets stranded alone in the amazon for three week, the film details his fight to stay alive.

This is a harrowing film especially towards the end when you can see the physical and mental tole the whole ordeal has had on Yossi; it makes you question just how much the human spirit can endure. Adding to that when it is revealed that Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), was not who he said he was and that he had taken other people out to the jungle before, with said people never coming back, it adds a whole chilling other tone to the film.

I think for his part Radcliffe is trying his best, he gives a strong performance especially with the physicality of it but is limited by a weak script. That would be my fundamental problem with this film, the way it is structed and set out from a writing sense. The bit up until Yossi is left behind feels like it goes on for ten years, it is painfully dull and takes up far too much of the film. Likewise the actual survival parts of the film, the interesting bits, feels far too short almost rushed.

Overall, I can only recommend the last half an hour of this film, as that is the only bit that is compelling and interesting. The rest feels torturously slow and drawn out being crippled by poor writing.

Pros.

Radcliffe

The very real feel of the survival parts of the film/ the physical transformation

Cons.

It is incredibly slow

The writing is bad

There is only half an hour of the film that is interesting

1.5/5

Reviewed by Luke    

Lucy In The Sky: The Reason Why Noah Hawley’s Star Trek Film Is ‘On Hold’

Lucy In The Sky is a drama film directed by Noah Hawley. The plot follows Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman), an astronaut who has a great deal of trouble returning to normal life on earth.

This film is the definition of the word pretentious; Hawley thinks that by using some cool transitions and fancy cuts that he can disguise the fact that he has a stinker of a film on his hands. I found the smugness or more aptly the self-importance of this film to be incredibly off-putting. I like Hawley’s TV projects, but yeah this bad, put your Star Trek film on indefinite hold kind of bad.

Portman is okay, she is clearly trying a lot with her performance, but her character come off right from the start of the film as loathsome. The film goes out of its way to try and make her sympathetic, but she just not. By the end of the film you want her to go to prison, she deserves it.

The worst crime of this film is how long it feels, yes it is on for just over two hours which is already quite long, but it feels double that. A lot of the section just feel needless drawn out as though they’re trying to kill time.

Overall, this may be the worst film of Natalie Portman’s career

Pros.

The artsy transitions are cool for five minutes

Cons.

It is boring

The lead is incredibly unlikable

It is smug and in your face with it

It has severe pacing issues

0.5/5

Reviewed by Luke     

Radioactive: Science’s Double Edged Sword

Radioactive is a historical biopic directed by Marjane Satrapi. The plot recounts the life of famed scientist Marie Sklodowska-Curie, or as the world came to know her Madame Curie, (Rosamund Pike). We see her first breakthroughs, the romance with the love of her life (who was also her scientific partner), and her coming to realise the incredibly harmful side effects of her science changing discovery.

Much like the other Rosamund Pike biopic that I covered recently, A Private War, this is not a cheery watch. It is very informative, and you learn a great deal, even if the film is a little ham-fisted with these ‘lessons’, but yeah maybe you will want to watch something a bit happier once you’re done.

What I mean when I am talking about these ham-fisted lessons, is this film throws everything it can at you to show how destructive radium in its many forms can be; it shows you Hiroshima, it shows you Chernobyl it is very in your face with it. It does show to a much lesser degree the positive impact that Curie’s discovery has had on society, but it gets buried under all the negativity. I understand, the point was probably to show that all scientific discoveries can be both good and bad, but it feels uneven.

Rosamund Pike proves her chameleon like nature once again and becomes unrecognisable sinking into the character. Phenomenal stuff. Her fellow cast mate Anya Taylor-Joy however sticks out like a sore thumb as Curie’s daughter. She doesn’t feel like she exists in that time period, it feels like someone acting, which isn’t a good thing.

Overall, a reverting watch if a little upsetting. Pike once again shines bright.

Pros.

Captivating

Pike

Cons.

It is very sad

Taylor-Joy sticks out

The commentary is a little one-sided

2.5/5

Reviewed by Luke    

A Private War: Horrors Need To Be Seen

A Private War is a biography drama film directed by Matthew Heineman. The film recounts the last years of celebrated war correspondent Marie Colvin’s life, as she becomes consumed by the need to be on the front line and show the horrors of war, a need that leads to her death. It is a true story.

Before, we get into this I just want to say that this film is unrepentantly bleak, you will leave this film feeling sad and possibly angry, but that proves why you need to see it. The issues raised herein are very real and are still happening right now, human evil is alive and flourishing.

This is a very powerful film that has a lot to say, it show us how these journalists are risking their lives to show us the truth about wars all around the world. It shows us the horrific human cost of war, which often has thousands of innocent victims.

Rosamund Pike is giving the performance of her career as Marie, she plays the character as a woman possessed, she desperately needs to leave the war correspondent lifestyle behind, but crucially she can’t. Pike is one of the finest character actors currently working and this film hammers that point home.

Overall, not a film that will make you feel happy and not one that everyone will enjoy, but a very impactful film with a many valid points. I recommend it.

Pros.

It is upfront and doesn’t shy away from the truth

Rosamund Pike

It is very affecting; it will haunt you for a while after you watch it.

Shines a light on someone you might not know much about.

Cons.

It is a very hard watch.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

First Man: One Small Step To Get My Money Back

First Man is a biopic historical film directed by Damien Chazelle. The plot shows the life of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), as he loses his daughter and enters the space program that would eventually lead him to the Moon. Chazelle has said he wanted this film to dive into Armstrong as a person rather than focus entirely on the Moon Landing.

So, I applaud Chazelle for not wanting to focus on the Moon Landing and instead wanting to focus on Armstrong as a person. I thought this film was at its strongest when it was showing these intimate character moments. Gosling mostly caries these scenes well and treats them with the significance they deserve, thought there are a few times when I thought he needed to emote more. His facial acting was hit and miss throughout the film.

My biggest issue with this film is how long it is. This film does not need to be two hour and twenty minutes, it does not justify that length. The film feels overly indulgent, it stretches out scenes that could be over in a few minute and worst of all, a good two thirds of the scenes especially in the second act feel like filler as the big Lunar landing is saved until the end.

Overall, I think the studio gave Chazelle too much leeway because of the success of La La Land as a result he made a bloated film that might have strong moments of well-done character study but is as a whole, boring.

Pros.

Not focusing on the Moon Landing

The drama and the personal moments.

Cons.

Gosling’s facial acting is off point

There is too much bloat

It is in desperate need of a tighter edit.

2/5

Reviewed by Luke