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.

 

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant. (Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

As the snow falls heavily on the skyscrapers and streets of New York City, writer Lee Israel suddenly finds herself without any financial security when she is fired from her job. Israel has talent but finds it impossible to make money from it, which pushes her towards the criminal activity of fabricating celebrity letters. The film is based on Israel’s 2008 memoir with the same name, in which she explained more about her path towards literary forgery.

Israel’s arrogance is palpable from the very start of the film, something actress Melissa McCarthy portrays genuinely. She doesn’t like anyone except her cat, who she seems to have great affection for. The love of her life. Although she appears in almost every scene of the film, it never gets boring. Her character is fascinating, even more so as it is based on a real writer. Israel doesn’t care about what others think of her, not in the slightest. She is fully herself. As she meets her extravagant drinking partner Jack Hock, played by Richard E. Grant, they explore the world of fabrication together. Grant is very convincing and entertaining and I specifically like their growing friendship that seems to make Israel find a little bit of joy in a world that she normally despises.

The director, Marielle Heller, managed to demonstrate Israel’s journey well – from the moment the downward spiral began with her money issues, all the way to her criminal career’s downfall. Despite its sadness, the film has many humorous moments. I found myself laughing out loud together with other viewers at the cinema at several parts. It was a very enjoyable watch and made me interested in reading the book. I think I will.

Watch the trailer below.

Film Review: Ralph Breaks The Internet

While not an instant classic, this sequel to Wreck It Ralph defies expectations simply by being “surprisingly not terrible”.

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ralph Breaks The Internet

It’s a strange thing, being a grown man and going to watch a kid’s movie on your own. Still, I’ve managed to apply a critical eye and not simply lurk around the theatre, looking creepy.

The plot of Ralph Breaks The Internet follows essentially what the title says. Our hero Ralph, a lovable 80s arcade game villain, journeys to the internet with his feisty young accomplice Vanellope to save the latter’s arcade cabinet (which is in need of spare parts). They find what they need on eBay, there’s some shenanigans, they get the thing, there’s yet more shenanigans, and then some minor peril ensues as Ralph’s best intentions go awry. However, everything ends well and leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling inside. If that’s a spoiler for you, there’s a few Disney classics you’ll need a peek at before you read the rest of this.

The film mostly takes place inside a fictionalised version of the internet, so the humour centres around internet culture, memes and social media. This is an incredibly difficult kind of joke, as it needs to be incredibly up-to-date. More so than any movie that has spent two years in production has any right to be. Yet, they actually manage it. There’s still a few bits of banter that really would’ve been funnier six years ago when the first one came out, but for the most part the in-jokes and references are pretty on the ball. One particularly notable scene from the trailers involving all the various Disney princesses is actually a great laugh.

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Promotional movie poster

I think the way they manage to not entirely miss the punchline with all the internet humour is by not delving too deep into online culture. They do cover a lot of interesting points – the viciousness of comment sections, viral videos, even the highly illegal “Dark Web” – but there’s always more references you can make when you’re talking about the internet. Doing that, however, would just create some horrifying remake of The Emoji Movie. Instead, the writers have shone the light back onto the characters themselves for most of the jokes, and made a lot of self-referential jabs about Disney movies. Looking back is a good theme, I suppose, for what is Walt Disney Studios’ first theatrical sequel since 2011 – the one you’re thinking of when you see that fact and go “Really?” is either a Pixar movie or was straight-to-DVD.

While I seem positive here, I am being very generous with the term “entertaining”. It’s a great movie to watch with gullible, easily distracted children, or to put on for a couple hours while you play with your phone. You can (and should!) tilt your head up every so often to enjoy the odd sequence but the film doesn’t overly grab you. It’s also pretty long: nearly two hours, and this is supposed to be a kids movie. My attention span isn’t even that long, let alone that of the standard pre-pubescent cinema goer. There’s laughs, but it seems like it mostly just appeals to the hard-core Wreck It Ralph fan –  if that’s even a thing.

See movie times for Ralph Breaks The Internet here. 

Forty years of Filmhouse

Since the first electronic television was created in 1927, people have gradually become used to enjoying the entertainment of motion picture at home. Good for some, but has also forced many cinemas to be in a continuous battle to remain up and running.

In the following 90 years, the introduction of VHS, cable channels, digital TV online streaming devices such as Netflix and Now TV have added pressure to the already crowded industry.

A look at Edinburgh’s cinema history alone is a demonstration of this struggle: a city which has seen over 70 cinemas open their doors, has also seen dozens of them shut up shop, and now hosts just nine public picture houses.

Filmhouse is a success story amongst the tales of failure and closures. On October 9th, the cinema will celebrate its 40-year anniversary, and this at a time when it remains as busy as it ever was.

80s crowds

Scorsese on stage

Credits to Filmhouse

Four decades ago, on the same day in 1978, the entity called Filmhouse was first launched. Starting from its very first screening, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, the 1972 German film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the cinema has made strong curatorial decisions and has since then has become a household name for film lovers in search of alternative and foreign films.

Housed at 88 Lothian Road, it is the only cinema in Edinburgh which is registered as a charity, which means none of the money spent within the cinema goes to film distributors or big production companies.

Michael Hunter, marketing officer at Filmhouse, explains how this sets the institution aside from others: “All the money spent here, be it at the bar or at the cinema, goes back into the charity as a donation, for programming great films and organising learning opportunities in Edinburgh.”

However, this doesn’t mean Filmhouse has slackened in its creativity or relies solely on its position as a charity. It has instead become a prime example of how cinemas can stand out and attract new audiences in an age where many people don’t see the point of exiting their cosy living rooms just to see a film.

The cinema is best known in the city as the official home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), which takes place for two weeks in June every year. The world’s longest continually-running film festival screens hundreds of films ranging in genres and length and was attended by an audience of over 50,000 people in 2018.

Yet it may be the dedication to proving film can be more than just entertainment and its more specialist festivals (Filmhouse currently hosts 13) which include versatile and eclectic programmes, that make Filmhouse stand out from all other cinemas in Edinburgh.

Unlike the limited selection of films on online streaming platforms and the Hollywood-centric films shown on TV time and time again, Filmhouse digs deep into motion picture archives and screens films which are relevant and relate to current topics.

It houses the Take One Action festival over the course of two weeks in September, showcasing the stories of (small) people making big changes in the world, from female right-wing activists in Greece to victims of the Franco dictatorship seeking justice, to encourage its audience to be the change it wants to see.

For 13 years, the Africa in Motion festival screens films highlighting creative stories from across the African continent which would otherwise not be accessible to most audiences as home and offers a look into worlds very different from our own.

Head of Filmhouse, Rod White, explains how the organisation of such festivals contribute to the continued success of the cinema: “All the festivals we work with exist within their own communities and connect us with audiences we might struggle to attract. We could not be as international and as diverse as we are without them.”

By hosting these festivals, the cinema is also able to challenge viewers to consider the power of film as a media more than any other cinema in the city, or even in the country.

To mark its 40th anniversary, Filmhouse put together a line-up of classics and notable films taken from the programmes of every year since its doors opened, with prices reflecting the prices at the time. Starting in 2016 and finishing up with the film showed at the first public viewing at the cinema in 1978 today with Gertrude, for just £1.

Looking forward to the next 40 years, Michael hopes Filmhouse can continue doing what it has been since 1978: “Filmhouse is great because we offer things you can’t find elsewhere. As long as we can, we want to keep doing what we are doing, and we just want to keep showing films that we believe in.”

 

 

 

Podcast: Advances in cinema

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Picture of Edinburgh Filmhouse. Photo credit to Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Recently, the mobile network EE launched a competition for a community to win a “Cinema in the Sky” experience.

With popcorn delivered by drones, and the screen 100 feet in the air, is this an experience cinema-goers would like?

For EN4News Podcast, Joanna Hampson, Michaella Wheatley, and Calum Wilson discuss the advances cinema has made in past years and will make in the future.

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