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LFF 2020 Review: Shirley



London Film Festival has begun and there’s a lot of good stuff available now and coming your way over the next week. The 64th BFI London Film Festival is all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres are available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Shirley (2020) tells the story of novelist Shirley Jackson, played incredibly by The Invisible Man’s Elisabeth Moss looking for inspiration for her next book. Shirley and her English professor husband played by Michael Stuhlbarg take in a young couple (Odessa Young and Logan Lerman).

The arrival of this new younger couple reveals Shirley’s much more cruel side and the film mixes the limits of biopic and fiction to show the vicious forces that feed creativity.

“I’m a witch, didn’t anyone tell you?”

Whilst Shirley isn’t a bad film, it is mainly fuelled by the performances. Elisabeth Moss is having a great year with her excellent lead performances in The Invisible Man back in February before cinemas closed and now in Shirley. Young, Lerman and Stuhlbarg are also great and it’s these performances that bring this film up and provide it with something worth watching.

The film isn’t entirely truthful to real life and it’s here where the film falls down a little. If you’re watching a film that’s about a real person there’s mainly two things you would want from it. For it to be factual, or for it to be entertaining. And because Shirley departs from the truth quite a bit, this film is neither. It’s not particularly factual and it’s not the most entertaining film either. It’s great to marvel at the performances on screen but the journey the film takes us on just doesn’t really amount to anything.

“Let’s pray for a boy. The world is too cruel to girls.”

The film is quite slow going which is a shame as the trailers and marketing for this film make it look like it was going to be a thriller, filled with suspense. And it’s not just the slow pace that stops there from being any thrills. A lot of the film and the dialogue revolves around academics which is never a particularly thrilling topic and so the film manages to make what looked like a thriller, into a dull drama, fuelled only by the strong performances from Moss and the supporting cast.


Overall, Shirley is a perfectly competent film with good performances however, the way that the film changes a lot of the real-life details means the film struggles to provide anything factual about Shirley Jackson’s life and on top of this the film struggles to provide much entertainment- particularly as the trailers made it look like a suspense-filled thriller.


Shirley is released in U.K. cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on October 30th

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Infinite | A Michael Bay Imitation Film

Infinite Desperately Wants to Impress With its Style, But Has No Substance.



Paramount wanted to get ahead in the streaming game with Paramount+ but made the novice mistake of selling most of their titles, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to other streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix instead of…I don’t know…growing their own. With barely any content left and keeping their big tentpole releases such as A Quiet Place: Part II and Top Gun: Maverick in cinemas, Paramount is finally saying “Ahhhhhh! I get it!” after every other major streaming service, especially Disney+ and HBO Max, used the pandemic as a pretext to grow their subscriber base. However, having sold most of its upcoming films to other streaming services, the studio only seems to have duds in the hopes of growing its subscriber base. Enter Antoine Fuqua’s latest film, Infinite, which strangely never feels like something the director of such visceral action pictures like Training Day, Bait, Tears of the Sun, Shooter, Brooklyn’s Finest, and The Equalizer, but Fuqua desperately wanting to emulate Michael Bay’s signature style.

There’s only one problem, however: even if you want to do Bayhem, and you intend to replicate it as accurately as you can, there’s a sole filmmaker that can do it right—and that’s Bay himself. But it doesn’t matter for Fuqua; he starts his overtly aestheticized action amazingly quickly, with an upbeat car chase staged to the rhythms of Campfire’s Legends Never Die, with Heinrich Treadway (Dylan O’Brien) being pursued by Bathurst (Rupert Friend), who looks for a thingamajig aptly named “The Egg” (because it’s shaped like an egg, of course!), which has the power of destroying…the entire world (how original!). Treadway dies without giving away The Egg’s location. Suddenly, a man named Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) wakes up from his Treadway nightmare. We progressively learn that McCauley has schizophrenia who constantly remembers things from past lives he seemed to have never experienced before. He is what the “Believers” call “Infinites,” whose souls constantly get reincarnated inside a different body. He is quickly apprehended by Bathurst (now played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) after using a hand-crafted sword in a drug deal gone bad. His “life” changes drastically once Evan learns that he possesses Treadway’s soul and must reawaken his memory to quickly find The Egg before Bathurst does and destroys the entire world.

Infinite,' starring Mark Wahlberg & Chiwetel Ejiofor, debuts on Paramount+

Let’s be honest: movies that center on thingamajigs (or MacGuffins as academics would call them) are amazingly tiresome and can only go so far before it veers off in predictable territory. Thankfully, Fuqua’s emulation of Bayhem makes many of its central action setpieces move at a somewhat entertaining pace. The car chase at the beginning involving Dylan O’Brien’s Treadway is filled with Bay’s rapid editing and an over-reliance on a moving camera that always, and I mean, always acts like a paintbrush to produce a copious, almost gratuitous amount of flashy style. And by flashy style, I mean excessive use of slow-motion, flares, and explosions or low-angles during 1-on-1 fight sequences. The explosions in this film are particularly reminiscent of Bay’s pictures, though not as big in scale, but produce the same cathartic effect. One scene in which Evan and Nora (Sophie Cookson) try to run away from Bathurst’s robotic henchmen inside a buggy has a precise explosion that, in its staging of using slow-motion at a pinpoint moment, feels as if it’s been directed by Bay. I mean, heck, if the end credits said “Directed by Michael Bay” instead of Antoine Fuqua, I’d believe it.

INFINITE (2021) Movie Trailer: Mark Wahlberg's Past Lives are Unlocked by a  Secret Society in Antoine Fuqua's Scifi Film | FilmBook

By doing this, Fuqua prevents the film from being a total dud than it is, since the script is filled with so many ineptitudes on:

  1. The world of the Infinites. The difference between the “believers” and “nihilists” is barely explained in two throwaway lines that almost feel unimportant. I can only explain the nihilists, who want all life to cease existing so they can stop reincarnating themselves, which adds a weird ineptitude on:
  2. Bathurst’s motivations. He wants to stop reincarnating himself and has developed a bullet that prevents believers from doing so. Ok, so if you’ve developed a bullet that grants your sole motivation…why not shoot yourself with it instead of bringing the entire world down with you? I’m sorry, but we never know the why behind Bathurst’s plan to destroy the world, aside from the overly used “humans are stupid, so I guess I need to bring them down with me” line, after torturing Toby Jones’ character by shoving…*checks notes*…honey down his mouth…interesting.

These two main problems falter its extremely stylized action for a sci-fi picture that’s as smart as Mark Wahlberg’s previous tenure in that genre…with Michael Bay in Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Last Knight. Hell, here’s another thing: if you would’ve told me that this is set in the world of Transformers that Wahlberg reprised his role as Cade Yeager through a new alter-ego, who now has the memories of somebody else (through unbeknownst reasons), then guess what? I would’ve believed it too. Wahlberg’s performance is no different than his exploration of the Transformers universe: half-charm, half-cluelessness, which equates to accepting every preposterous explanation on “Infinites” as “fact” and tagging along with people he’s never seen before and pretend everything’ll be fine, even if he is now tasked to save the entire world, in the same sense he had to do it (twice!) with the Autobots.

Infinite review: Mark Wahlberg relives past action movies in this soulless  flick - CNET

His character progression starts by being the only character that asks questions to the Infinites, who will then explain the film’s facile and underdeveloped plot in hackneyed detail, until he becomes the hero we deserve, but didn’t know we needed, as he uses a sword à la Morpheus from The Matrix Reloaded to bring down an entire plane and fight with Bathurst in the air, without any parachute, in the craziest, most bewildering action scene I’ve seen that defies all sense of logic and paints their characters as God-like mythic figures since The Fast and the Furious franchise said “no more logic” when Dom Toretto destroyed a parking lot with his feet.

Speaking of Bathurst, Chiwetel Ejiofor, a usual powerhouse, is completely miscast here and delivers his worst performance to date with an indescribable accent that makes everything about his antagonistic presence feel terribly cartoonish and over-the-top. He’ll refine his antagonist chops, most likely in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I truly hope he’ll return to a more natural state of acting as he did as Mordo in Scott Derrickson’s 2016 film (or even when he compellingly portrayed Scar in the 2019 remake of The Lion King), instead of doing whatever the hell he’s doing here. I can barely explain, or comprehend, if you will, what Ejiofor even attempted to do in Infinite to render his antagonist menacing…but it clearly didn’t work and made every scene he’s in feel unintentionally hilarious. Look at the scene in which he tortures Toby Jones with honey and how he tries to make his awfully written lines serious and menacing and yet does the exact opposite. It’s quite a feat to see, but it needs to be forgotten sooner rather than later.

Infinite (2021) - IMDb

This is probably why Paramount dropped Infinite on a streaming service no one is subscribed to, so it can be easily forgotten and buried inside an ever-growing algorithm that “curates” films on content rather than quality. While Infinite contains a hefty number of fun action sequences that imitate Michael Bay’s unmatched style, it, unfortunately, does not overshadow its terribly facile and underdeveloped plot and caricatural lead performances from Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor. If you’re a fan of Antoine Fuqua, you won’t watch this and go through his previous films instead, which would be for the better. Let’s hope his remake of The Guilty, set to release later this year on Netflix, will be better than Infinite (spoiler: it likely will).

Infinite is now available to stream on Paramount+.

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Tribeca Film Festival | See for Me Review



There’s something about home invasion films that usually makes them so thrilling and so engaging. They normally create such an immense level of tension and suspense and then they usually maintain that tension pretty much throughout the entire runtime. Usually. Unfortunately See for Me is an exception to that and despite a really promising premise with a lot of potential, it somehow falls flat and is devoid of any tension or suspense whatsoever.

Sophie is a blind former-skier that’s cat sitting for someone in a huge, secluded mansion. However, three thieves break in thinking no one’s home to empty a safe hidden in the house. Sophie must defend herself using a new app called ‘See for Me’ that connects her to a sighted person who can provide help in order to increase her chances of survival. She connects to an army veteran names Kelly who helps Sophie defend herself against the home invaders.

Based on the premise alone there’s a lot of potential in this idea and its sounds really strong. Whilst it’s not exactly new ground with other films like Don’t Breathe (2016) and Hush (2016) treading similar territory, it’s still a compelling idea. However, See for Me doesn’t really do anything new or exciting. In fact, what it does try to do differently ends up falling flat and failing.

The main character Sophie is not particularly likeable. She holds a bitterness towards everyone and as a result we never quite know where her allegiances lie. At first she’s going to steal an expensive bottle of wine from the house she’s cat-sitting in, then she decides to team-up with the robbers and she’s constantly making decisions and changing her mind and it just doesn’t seem very convincing why she’s doing these things. She’s changing her story, switching sides and she’s never particularly interesting to watch.

That’s at no fault of the actors as the performances here are all actually pretty solid and it’s very refreshing that Skyler Davenport, who plays Sophie, is visually impaired. Not only does she give a very good performance, but in terms of diversity and representation, this is definitely a win.

Unfortunately See for Me is lacking in any tension whatsoever despite a promising set up and the final film is fairly bland and dull which is very disappointing and makes for an uninspiring watch.


See for Me premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

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In the Heights | The Summer Movie We All Need Right Now



Sometimes you watch a film, and you just can’t help but sit there for the entire time with a huge grin on your face. In the Heights is exactly that sort of film. It grabs you immediately with a huge song and dance and for the next two hours and twenty minutes it keeps you on a high with great music, exciting dance scenes as well as lots of emotion and a compelling story. This is exactly the sort of film we need right now and exactly the sort of film to get people back in the cinema. If you don’t want to see big flashy dance sequences on the biggest screen you can, and hear Lin-Manuel Miranda’s incredible songs on a great sound system, then I don’t know what else would get you back in a cinema.

In the Heights has a fairly simple set-up and it tells the story of Usnavi (played by Anthony Ramos) who runs a corner shop in Washington Heights in New York. But Usnavi has a dream of returning to the Dominican Republic. Everyone else in Washington Heights has their own dreams too and we meet a few other characters in the community and watch them as they strive to realise their dreams.

It’s a film that’s so bright and full of life. Its spirit is absolutely infectious that it makes you want to get out of your seat and start dancing around the cinema. At the very least it will have you tapping your foot or nodding your head along to the amazing songs. There are multiple big, musical numbers that do a phenomenal job of drawing you in and completely immersing you in the world of the film. One of the standout songs, “96,000” takes place in a swimming pool and took over two days to shoot and 500 extras. It’s really incredible how well put together all of the musical numbers are. The scale is huge with so many extras and so many people dancing but they all look so well-polished and they’re all absolutely flawless.

The music and the energy of the film is enough to convince you that the movies are back. In the Heights is the very definition of a fun, summer movie. But there’s so much more to it too. The characters are all fascinating and absorbing. It’s a celebration of the Latinx experience and Latinx communities. Even though all the characters have their own struggles, the film has such a feel-good sense to it because of the strong notion of community felt throughout. Together they can all triumph and rise above the struggles they’re facing.

Every single element of this film is absolutely spot on. The music’s great, the characters are sharp and feel real. The cinematography is also gorgeous and matches the wonderful dance choreography to make the musical numbers just outstanding. And it all comes together through the film’s editing and the sound editing leaving the finished product so well-polished and flawless. At 143 minutes long there are a few moments where you do start to notice the runtime but there are already 8 songs missing from the stage musical and trying to cut even more out of the film might have ruined the incredible energy and momentum that it has.

In the Heights is the summer movie we all need right now to truly prove that the big screen is back. See it on the biggest cinema screen you can and then go home and listen to the soundtrack on repeat for the next month. It’s fun, energetic, vibrant and one of the best cinema experiences you’ll have all year.


In the Heights is out now in the US and in UK cinemas on June 18th.

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