Brain on Fire


Viewed – 04 July 2018  Netflix

It would be easy for some to pass off this Netflix original movie as just another TV-movie style ‘illness of the week’ effort … but that would be doing it a disservice. A powerful and gripping true story that has the always likeable Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays plucky young reporter Susannah who is living the dream; ideal job, the musician boyfriend and all.  That is until some strange symptoms rear their head sending her into a downward spiral.

Brain On Fire

With the ‘mystery illness’ at the centre and thoroughly believable performances not only from Moretz who delivers possibly a career best, but also a support cast that includes the often underrated Carrie Ann Moss as her mother … this made me feel so affected not just by Susannah’s struggle but also that of her estranged parents, boyfriend and work colleagues.  Watching a family come together but also feel so helpless was utterly heart-breaking.

With solid direction from relative newcomer Gerard Barrett and particularly effective use of sound to portray some of Susannah’s symptoms – this is one of those movies best approached knowing little about it and letting the mystery unfold.  The only negative remains a somewhat sugar-coated ending that glosses over certain struggles. However, for a woefully dismissed movie critically, I have to say ignore such opinions and give this little gem your immediate attention.

Verdict:  4 /5

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The Theory Of Everything


Viewed – 16 May 2015  Pay-per-view

I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t heard of acclaimed Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.  The Cambridge University graduate turned Professor has gained numerous awards through a lengthy career specializing in the theory of time and the universe and how it all began etc., whilst at the same time battling the muscle wasting neurological disorder motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He has certainly become a huge inspiration to many, finding fame and achieving many things whilst battling the impossible.

the theory of everything

So a movie of his life has been long overdue and with an Oscar nod for Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal, going into this my expectations were high.  The story focuses on his latter years at Cambridge University and around the time he first began to experience the symptoms of the disease whilst also meeting and falling in love with his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones).  I was surprised how quickly the movie portrays the disease. It goes from a hand not working, to falling down to being on sticks to being in a wheelchair incredibly fast, and it has to be said my emotional investment took a hit as a result.  I’d expected more of a gradual deterioration which I’m sure would have been the case.  Add to this a slightly unflattering turn from Felicity Jones causing Jane occasionally to seem cold and put-out rather than the loving, yet struggling spouse I’d imagine she was.  Her friendship / affection for an organist at her church however does at least add some depth.  So we come to Redmayne, who is nothing short of superb; his deeply affecting performance right on the nail, to the point of being uncanny, capturing much of the real man’s quirks and charm as well as his agony.  It reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot.

Shortcomings aside, director James Marsh has made a very elegant and quite beautiful movie out of a difficult subject.  Although glossing over much of the darker times, he delivers a gentle, yet no less moving and engrossing story that does the famed Professor a real honour.

Verdict:  4 /5

Dallas Buyers Club


Viewed – 13 August 2013  DVD

One of the big movies to come out of the awards season, nabbing itself three academy awards (including best actor).  Matthew Mcconaughey plays arrogant, Texan womaniser Ron, who discovers he has HIV following a trip to the hospital.  Narrow-minded and in denial, he goes on a journey of self discovery after the docs give him 30 days to live.   Soon he realises the drug that is being offered to patients is more harmful than good, and goes about seeking alternatives, that haven’t gone through the approval process.  Hence forth he sets up the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, where for a monthly fee, people can get the necessary medicines, that he brings back from Mexico, Japan etc.  Along the way he meets a fellow HIV sufferer and transvestite, who goes into business with him and the two form an unlikely bond.

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Firstly this is an incredible physical performance from Mcconaughey, who’s weight loss for the role is nothing short of scary.  Adding to his presence is a bold and motor-mouth performance you might expect from him, making an at first unpleasant guy into someone you genuinely care for.  Supporting him is Jennifer (the best lips in Hollywood) Garner as a sympathetic doctor, and also Jared Leto, stepping into the limelight from a career of thankless roles.  I would have liked more detail on Leto’s character as he was the more likable performance, and the subtle bond between the two leads could have done with that one emotional punch you normally get from such ‘tragic’ dramas … especially towards the end.  Garner as a sort of love interest is under-written also.  However this remains a showcase for the talent of Mcconaughey and the true shocking lengths an actor can go to to deliver a very convincing portrayal.  It’s something to behold, I can tell you.  The same should also be said for Leto who delivers a similar physical shock-factor.

The movie sort of glosses over some of the finer details surrounding the illness, with death seemingly left to your imagination.  However as a daring and harrowing tale of a still scary virus, and the ignorance of government and hospitals where money seems more important than lives – this one will leaving you thinking for quite a while.

Verdict:  4 /5