Podcast: Our favourite female characters

In this podcast, Liam Mackay, Bryce Arthur, Jade du Preez and Olivia Hill discuss their favourite favourite female characters in film.

You can also check out our movie and TV news round-up here!

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s directorial debut brings us the inspiring story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Written, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and based on the memoir of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a young boy and his fight to save his village from a devastating famine.

Set in the early 2000s in Malawi, we meet William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba), a young boy living with his family near the rural village of Wimbe. The Kamkwambas are a family of farmers and it’s clear from the start that times are hard. William’s father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works tirelessly in the fields each day and the family are struggling to pay William’s school fees. However, things take a turn for the worse when the village crops fail due to a horrendous drought. Many are forced to leave to avoid starvation, and the Kamkwambas are left desperate after they are robbed of their remaining grain stores.

Although William gets banned from school because his parents have been unable to pay the sufficient fees, he persuades his science teacher (who is interested in William’s sister) to allow him access to the school library. Towards the beginning of the film, we learn that William runs a small business fixing radios for people in his village and has a keen interest in electronics, but it’s at the library he learns about energy and wind power. After reading in the library and rummaging in the local scrap yard, he soon becomes convinced that he can save his village from hunger by building a windmill to help power a water pump to support the crops.

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Maxwell Simba plays William Kamkwamba in new Netflix release, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (Credit: Netflix)

The film is a fantastic directorial debut from Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is visually stunning and succeeds in immersing the audience into the lives of the struggling Wimbe villagers. Ejiofor’s performance as William’s father is just as impressive. Although he has nasty traits, his facial expressions and the emotion in his eyes helps the audience connect with the character. You grow to care about Trywell and understand he is under a tremendous amount of strain to try to provide for his family.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic, but the standout performance comes from Maxwell Simba’s portrayal of William. Simba shows just as much raw emotion as veteran actor Ejiofor’s character, and this is Simba’s film debut. Apart from a few short scenes, the movie is essentially told from William’s perspective, giving Simba a tremendous task of guiding the audience through the narrative, but he executes this perfectly. In each and every scene, you can sense William’s drive and passion, even when those around him don’t necessarily believe in his ambition. It’s truly inspiring: you want to see him succeed and prove everyone wrong.

Despite the convincing performances from the cast, the film does have a pacing issue. There are several scenes and plot points that could have been shortened or left out entirely. For example, William’s sister and her ongoing relationship with William’s teacher features quite heavily but there isn’t much of a pay-off. It may have been more interesting to see this plot line replaced with additional scenes with the village chief, Chief Wimbe, played by Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). However, since the film is based on a true story, it’s difficult to comment on what should and shouldn’t have been included.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is by no means a perfect film and it’s not one I will be rushing back to watch immediately. But the emotional performances from the cast make it memorable and Chiwetel Ejiofor has triumphed with his directorial debut.

You can check out the trailer for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind below.

Read more of Olivia’s film reviews here:

Paddleton

Vice

 

Entertainment review: March 8th

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the new Game of Thrones season 8 trailer and the latest releases.

EN4 News Movie and TV Round-up

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the Oscars and the latest movie releases.

For more discussion on the Oscars, check out our Oscars reflection podcast here.

You can also check out Michaella Wheatley’s review of Fighting with my Family, or Olivia Hill’s review of Netflix’s Paddleton.

Podcast: Oscars reflection

The red carpet was rolled out for the Oscars last weekend for the biggest night in film. Olivia Hill, Liam Mackay and Paul Sinclair discuss all the night’s events in our Oscars reflection podcast.


One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy

Read another EN4News Oscars piece here.

And check out our Oscars nominations podcast to see if we got anything right!

Painting outside the lines

If pieces of art go against the social norm, do they make us see the world in a new light?

There are few things in the world that allow us to express ourselves the way that the arts do. Art has an uncanny ability to make us feel empowered, accepted and less alone.

Arguably, the best thing about art is that it has the ability to inspire us. It makes us feel something and can help us turn feeling into action. It can drive us, motivate us, spur us on to act.

Mavericks in Literature

Tracy Chevalier‘s collection of short stories is entitled Reader, I Married Him – inspired by the most famous line in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. The conclusion to the collection reflects on one of history’s first stories to defy social expectations.

Set in 1847, the heroine Jane Eyre is an impoverished orphan with no other family who, by the end of the novel, becomes a governess, the underdog who rises from the dirt. In the 19th century women had little power to determine their own future, so you would expect the line to go “Reader, he married me,” or even “We got married.” But this story sees Jane making the choice to spend her life with Rochester and be the driving force of her own life.

To celebrate and remind people of that self-determination and going against social norms, Chevalier created a collection of short stories from this generation that have the same effect of encouraging people to strive for change (To buy the book, click here).

Reader I Married him by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier’s collection of short stories Reader, I Married Him (Credit: The Borough Press)

Illustrated Rebellion

In modern times, new platforms are supporting artists going against society’s expectations. Kidmograph, also known as Gustavo Torres, is an Argentinian video artist, illustrator, and art director who tackles social issues through his art.

He makes Matrix-style GIFs and music videos that sit between both the digital world and reality whilst denying to commit to either. It reflects on modern day society and how people live their lives in part in the ‘real’ world whilst the other half is stuck in the virtual one.

Musical insurgents

Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes lyrics speak even louder. The politically charged anti-Trump anthem Land of the Free by The Killers touches on a variety of important issues currently happening the US.

The second bridge of the song opens with the powerful line “but if you’re the wrong colour skin (I’m standing, crying), you grow up looking over both your shoulders,” referring to the ongoing race issue in America, and reflecting on topics discussed in last year’s Blackkklansman by filmmaker Spike Lee, who created the music video and is an outspoken critic of President Trump.

The song refers to Trump’s plans to build a wall segregating North America and Mexico, and addresses gun violence and school shootings:

“So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons do we have to have to put in the ground before we just break down and face it: we got a problem with guns?”

Film Review: Fighting with my Family

 

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Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) fights to become a wrestler in Fighting with my Family (Credit: IMDb)

It’s not surprising that this underdog story is a bit wobbly on the ropes, but the cast of Fighting with my Family pack a mean punch.

Straight off the bat, or should it be “straight after the bell”, wrestling is centre stage. The pros – The Rock, Hulk Hogan and John Cena – are seen in action on a TV screen. A young boy replicates their moves until the channel is suddenly changed by his younger sister.

In retaliation, the boy attempts to get his sister in a headlock. His actions are fumbled, but he is quickly corrected when his dad enters the living room. The girl is then challenged to get out of her brother’s hold when their mum follows through the door.

This is the Knight family.

Saraya Knight, played by Outlaw King’s Florence Pugh, is the only daughter of a wrestling-obsessed family from Norwich, England. The movie follows Saraya through her fight to become a wrestler for the WWE, where she becomes ‘Paige’ in the ring (spoiler: she’s a massive fan of the programme Charmed).

The film passes as a sports movie, but the quirky theatrics that come with professional wrestling – otherwise referred to as “soap opera in spandex” – puts a new spin on the somewhat overplayed underdog plot.

Throughout the film, the audience constantly question whether Saraya truly does want to become a wrestler, or if she is just following the dreams of her parents (played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey) and brother (Jack Lowden). Her training is definitely tough – 4,000 miles from home in America, with no friends and no family around – but the Knight’s close-knit bond puts up a fight to see Saraya through.

The heartwarming family-feel to the film is even more apparent in the closing credits featuring home videos of the Knight family. It becomes clear that Stephen Merchant, who wrote and directed the movie, did not create this energetic ensemble in his mind and that it is reflective of a true story.

Fighting with my Family is in cinemas now – find a showing near you here.

 

Film Review: Paddleton

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Mark Duplass and Ray Romano bond over a game of ‘paddleton’ in new Netflix drama (Credit: Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

Netflix’s new bromance drama, Paddleton, will have you chuckling and reaching for the tissues at the same time.

Recently released on Netflix following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of the month, Paddleton follows best friends Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano). The two face significant changes in their lives when they find out Michael has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The two embark on a journey together after Michael decides he wants to take life-ending drugs before his illness becomes too painful, and asks Andy to join him on a ‘road trip’ to purchase the medication to help him end his life. Although Andy is hesitant at first and continues to struggle to come to terms with Michael’s decision throughout the film, he accepts his friend’s choice and the two go on a strange, yet sort of beautiful journey.

Directed by Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay), Paddleton provides us with a refreshing take on ‘bromances’. We are often led to believe in film and television there is something funny or amusing about two men having a bromance. That there is something weird or abnormal about grown men having close platonic friendships. But Paddleton debunks this idea and shows us it is completely normal and healthy for two grown men to have a close, meaningful friendship with one another.

In Paddleton, Michael and Andy are essentially the most important people in each other’s lives. They’re neighbours, they eat together, they talk about work, they bond over watching kung fu movies every night and they play ‘paddleton’ with together. (Paddleton is similar to squash, but the ball has to bounce off the wall and land in a barrel).

But despite the pleasing friendship between the two leads, there is no escaping the serious subject matter explored in the film. The concept of ‘assisted dying’ has been examined a number of times in film and television over the years; perhaps most recently in Louis Theroux’s Altered States documentary, Choosing Death which sparked a lot of conversations online. It’s not an easy topic to digest and many people have conflicted feelings about the matter, but Paddleton manages to tackle the upsetting elements of the film in a sensitive manner and the interjections of comedy between Duplass and Romano ensure the narrative isn’t too heavy.

Ray Romano and Mark Duplass complement each other perfectly. Although neither character is particularly talkative, the dialogue is engaging and their conversations are amusing and believable. The level of comedy fades appropriately as the movie goes on, and towards the end of the film the interactions between Michael and Andy are raw and emotional.

The performances by both leads were exceptional but I was particularly impressed with Romano. We may perhaps be used to seeing Ray Romano in comedic roles. I for one remember watching Everybody Loves Raymond every morning before school. But Romano has shown more and more he is an actor with range. His performance in Michael Showalter’s Academy Award winning 2017 film, The Big Sickwas touching, memorable and entirely believable, so it’s exciting to see him take on a similar role in Paddleton.

This film is in no way revolutionary and it is not something I could watch again and again. The pacing is slow at times and nothing particularly special happens until the very end of the film. In fact, some may argue that the majority of the movie is largely insignificant. But Paddleton is a film I would recommend. It’s simple, but has a powerful message about the importance of friendship that we can all relate to.

You can watch the trailer for Paddleton below.

To read another of Olivia’s Netflix reviews, click here.

2019 BAFTA Nominees

The 72nd British Academy Film Awards will take place this Sunday, February 10th.

The Favourite leads with 12 nominations, followed by Roma and A Star is Born, which are both up for 7 awards.

Here’s a look at the key nominees:

 

You can find a full list of nominees for all awards here.

Albert Finney, celebrated British actor, dies aged 82

Albert Finney has died today after a short illness aged 82.

The Salford-born actor rose to fame in Britain’s film industry during the 60s, establishing his career. He was nominated for five Oscars, four times as best actor and once for best supporting actor.

The actor was offered a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000 for his contributions to cinema. He turned down both, calling them “a disease which perpetuates snobbery.”

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Albert Finney: 9th May 1936 – 8th February 2019

Finney earned a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, learning his trade alongside the likes of Alan Bates and Peter O’Toole.

Finney was first cast in small TV film roles such as She Stoops to Conquer (1956).

Arguably his most prominent role was in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960).

The late actor disappeared from screens after starring in The Bourne Ultimatum and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead in 2007 while he battled with cancer. After successful treatment, he went on to star in The Bourne Legacy and Skyfall in 2012.

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