The Best Of… Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is pretty much regarded as the Queen of Acting (Acting? Everything. Queen of Everything.) Performing since 1971, she has gifted the world with humour, emotion, power, and nuance. Ranging from a refugee to a witch, a prime minister to a magazine executive, Streep is a daring and intellectual actress who consistently monopolises acting awards because she is just that good (if, albeit, it gets tiresome seeing her name so much.)

Anyway, to celebrate the release of The Post, in which is stars alongside Tom Hanks as a powerful newspaper editor, we’re going to skim her huge portfolio and try and come up with exactly five films of hers that we love.

Honourable Mentions: While we’re sure we’re missing loads, we feel bad for missing The Hours (2002) and her Academy Award winning films Kramer vs Kramer (1980) and The Iron Lady (2012) because we wanted to go for films from every decade (and try to be little bit different in our choices. Our….Sophie’s Choices.)

The Deer Hunter (1978)

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Earning her first Oscar nomination at 28, Streep’s performance in  Michael Cimino, as the central love interest for Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro’s afflicted war veterans. Her gifted performance as an abused woman suffering from the consequence of war. Streep wrote most of her lines and gave a tremendous performance. Though filmming was marred with tragedy, her terminally ill boyfriend of the time John Cazale died after shooting was complete.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

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Earning Streep’s second Academy Award (she has three, and like, a buttload of nominations,) and this time in Best Leading Actress category. Of course, we’re going to include Sophie’s Choice here. Of course. The utterly traumatic and absolutely shattering, Alan J. Pakula’s film about a Polish immigrant struggling between her two lovers is a painful film about the ramifications of WW2. Streep is delicate, passionate, and crushing with tones of a sorrow-fillled humanity ebbing for forgiveness. That moment in which you figure out exactly where the title comes from is a sob-inducing and sobering scene.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

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The ultimate guilty pleasure: a film that is trashy as it is brilliant and regular viewing in my household since I was three. Streep stars alongside Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis in a movie about sparring women who thwart death with a special potion that makes them look young. While we’re way passed the point of enjoying female rivalry (especially over the nerdy looking Willis,) this humours dark comedy as a gumption about it. Especially when Hawn and Streep are straight up murdering one another all the time.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

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Though Streep is a household name across the world, she certainly is perhaps most beloved in The Devil Wears Prada even if she is very reviled in it. There’s a really underhand assertion that successful women have to be bitches or ignore their personal lives to get in their high-powered position but, regardless, Streep as the cool and calmly collected but devastatingly insulting Miranda Priestly, editor of a high fashion magazine, is a brilliant performance in this witty film co-written by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna (it is important to us that we mention this fact.)

August: Osage Country (2012)

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This vicious and violent movie about the damage of family secrets is a very underappreciated movie considering it contains Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the late Sam Shepard. The film, based on on award-winning play, revolves around patriarch Beverly Weston who commits suicide and his feuding dysfunctional family gather. Streep plays Violet, a particularly brutal matriarch, suffering from cancer which she cures with pills and alcohol. Her brand of torture is verbal, taking down everyone in her path with a vile tongue and, despicable nature is palpable. Streep takes this awful creature and adds a layer of sympathy and pity that fleshes her out beyond this villain. It’s a quaking and tremendous performance that’s matched by Roberts’ runaway daughter who spars with her regularly.  A terrific film that needs more recognition.

The Post is out now! 

Beast of Burden – Brand New Trailer!

Daniel Radcliffe is certainly going down the best route to make sure he isn’t associated with Harry Potter. I mean, how far do you have to go to prove that you are a not your most famous character? As far as a drug mule?

That’s his role in upcoming flick Beast of Burden. The film revolves around a man who has to smuggle drugs in order to save the life of his wife.

This looks interesting and it’ll be good to see Radcliffe further his impressive resume. What do you think?

Beast of Burden is out later this year!

The Best of…Tom Hanks

I’m still convinced that Tom Hanks is the light that shines in this eerie world; the man is pure joy. A delightful screen presence who can do no wrong no matter what the script, Hanks has been a favourite for many years, and now he’s back on our screens with frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg in the historical drama The Post. As such, it’s time to take a look at the man’s best work. Condensing it to five is no easy feat…

Honourable Mentions: Apollo 13, The Green Mile, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own, Cast Away, and as good as it may be, we’re gonna leave Forrest Gump in the honourable mentions because there are just far more interesting films to talk about.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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Kicking us off is the first Hanks/Spielberg combination that to this day is still regarded as one of the greatest war films of all time. Saving Private Ryan famously starts with an exhilarating and breathtaking sequence on Omaha beach and though there are many who think the films loses steam once this scene is over, especially considering it’s extended run time, but what follows is very much an emotional and reflective experience with an exceptional leading performance from Hanks. And hey, it’s a hell of a lot better than Shakespeare in Love…

The Toy Story Trilogy (1995 – 2010)

Image result for toy story 3 cast Up next is one of the most beloved franchises of all time; the first two Toy Story films are among the best animated films ever made, offering a beautiful presentation of the heights of imagination that come with being a child. Hanks and Tim Allen are simply unforgettable in their voice roles as Woody and Buzz, with a great supporting cast behind them. The films are hilarious, heartbreaking – The second one in particular  and full of wonder, and though the third instalment doesn’t quite live up to it’s predecessors, it’s a worthy entry at least.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

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Is it controversial these days to say that this is the best Spielberg movie? The pair’s second collaboration was a biopic of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo Dicpario) and the FBI agent desperate to catch him (Hanks), and if it’s not his best, it’s easily in the top five. Catch Me If You Can is slick and stylish but also endearing and one of the most interesting biopics made. A sharp screenplay, excellent direction and while Hanks is good in his supporting role, this is Dicpario’s show all over. Of all the Oscar nominations he got and didn’t win, I’m still astounded that he wasn’t even nominated here for what is easily his best performance.

Big (1988)

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Now, it’s time for some pure joy; Penny Marshall’s 1988 hit told the story of Josh Baskin, a young boy dismayed at his height who makes a wish on an eerie carnival machine and, low and behold, he wakes up the next day as a fully grown Tom Hanks, which I’m sure is a dream for absolutely everyone but sadly just not achievable in our stupid real world. Now an adult, Josh takes his childlike wonder to a grown up life, and it’s one of the best feel good films ever made. Hanks is terrific in his first Oscar nominated role, perfectly capturing the essence of a child plunged into a mature world, and while some have pointed out the darker implications of the film’s events, it’s impossible to describe many of this film’s most famous moments as pure glee.

Philadelphia (1993)

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Let’s be clear on something, I have no issues with Forrest Gump; in the years following his success, many have changed their minds on the 1994 Best Picture winner and it’s now a fairly hated film among many. Whilst I could never agree it’s a bad film, I could also never agree that it’s his best. Many lists charting Hanks’ top films usually have Forrest right at the top, but I’d say it was the film that earned Hanks his first Oscar that should be in that spot. In 1993, the late great Jonathan Demme brought us a spectacular film in Philadelphia, the story of a gay lawyer discriminated against by his superiors when he contracts AIDS, and his legal fight against them to prove they sabotaged him in light of it. Philadelphia was among the first films to draw attention to AIDS and homophobia, and to this day I insist it should be played in schools on the subject of discrimination. It is a beautiful though heartbreaking film featuring what is easily the best performance Hanks’ career, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the best in film history. The scene in which he translates opera to his lawyer is overwhelming; much like the film as a whole, it’s crushing and enticing, and Hanks is on another level entirely. If you haven’t already, make sure you check this one out.


What are your favourites? 
The Post is out now! 

Django Unchained – 5 Years On

Winner of Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, Django Unchained was met with a flurry of success. Now five years on, we look at what made the film so popular!

There is no denting that Quentin Tarantino is an artist. His craft may be punchy scripts, dark humour, long haul films and ultra-violence but he is an artist nonetheless. That being said, here he presents his masterpiece, Django Unchained

Set two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained follows a slave (our titular character played by Jamie Foxx) who is freed by a dentist cum bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz. In order for that freedom, Django must help Schultz find The Brittle Brothers. An unlikely friendship is built and Schultz agrees to help Django free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from cruel plantation owner Calvin D Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio,) leaving whatever trail in their wake.

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This western, a clear homage to brilliant but brutal films such as Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, is filled to the brim with everything a movie lover would want and more.

The acting is of the highest standards: Jamie Foxx plays it soft as the dignified Django and as his character develops, so does he. It’s an intriguing story and Foxx pulls us in to it, coaxing us to feel his pain and soon urging to taste his vengeance.

But as well as Foxx does, he is simply outdone by Christoph Waltz as the ever eloquent German Dr Schultz. Tarantino admitted that he wrote the part for Waltz and that is clear throughout. Only Waltz could wrap his tongue around such funny dark stuff and deliver an outstanding performance. Much like his turn as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds (though certainly a different side of the coin,) Waltz is by far the most magnetic figure up there. Waltz’ charm, charisma and scene stealing lines are just many of the reasons why he is nominated for gold. At the points he isn’t in the film, you actually miss him.

The list of alluring performances doesn’t end there. DiCaprio, in his first completely villainous role ever, is just brilliant as Calvin D Candie. He switches so aptly from the bad but lovable fool to the dark and frightening master. One scene involving a skull and a hammer does intimidate and DiCaprio does not falter. He is of course supported in that villainy by Tarantino legend Samuel L. Jackson, whose bumbling old house keeper Steven is so atrocious and vile. In fact, even the smallest of parts within this movie are grand (except maybe Tarantino’s cameo.)

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That’s because Tarantino’s screenplay and direction are just that good. Every fine detail within this movie is thoroughly thought out. He times everything to perfection.  He utilises epic scenery and grand vantage points as well as transporting us effectively to the era. There is violence but it is so outrageous that it fits perfectly into the film. The story-line is fresh and full of unforgettable scenes that will leave your heart racing and goose-bumps raised. Like many Tarantino films before, you will soon be quoting as soon as you leave the cinemas. He keeps the laughs plenty; you’ll be extremely high strung to find the scene with bumbling Klu Klux Klan members anything but funny. (Even if the scene seems poignant now)

Yes, there needed to be more Kerry Washington and her presence does provoke criticism of violence against women. Yes, the timing could be shaved.  And yes, it is extremely self-indulgent.

But that is the art of Tarantino. And Tarantino is a fantasist. He delves deep into the heart of all of us and takes that bridled and chained anger and dares show it on the big screen. He gives us a route to escapism that we never thought of because we aren’t allowed to. He knows just exactly how to deliver and what bones to pick. Django took months of painful preparation and the finish product is near perfection. Here Tarantino excels. And because of this, he is one of the greatest artists of our time.

And to that Mr Tarantino, I tip my hat.

Happy Birthday Django Unchained! 

The Commuter – Review

Liam Neeson recently announced that his days as an action star are over, presumably wanting to return to the kind of more highbrow fare he became famous for – Schindler’s List, Michael Collins, etc. Nevertheless, he’s back in cinemas to beat up the bad guys one more time this weekend in The Commuter, which mixes a Hitchcock-esque mystery with the kind of ass-kicking action Neeson has made a name for himself with over the past decade.

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Michael MacCauley (Neeson) is a businessman who travels in and out of New York every day to work, accompanied on his commute every day by the same familiar faces. On the day MacCauley loses his job, he’s approached on his journey home by an unfamiliar woman (Vera Farmiga) who offers him $100k if he can identify someone on the train “who does not belong” and place a tracker on their bag. She tells him $25k is in the bathroom and that he only has a certain amount of time to identify the person, then leaves the train. MacCauley heads to the bathroom where he finds the money and realises the woman was serious. Then the phone calls begin…

The Commuter stands above other similar Neeson fare – and other train-set action films for that matter (Source Code, Under Siege 2, etc) – by actually having a strong story which is the focus of the film, rather than just Neeson tracking down bad guys and fighting and shooting them. Sure, there is action here, but it’s certainly not the centre of the film (the first fight scene occurs around the halfway mark), and this definitely works to its advantage. Things do get a bit OTT at times in the final third, although for the most part the story and action work well together. This is director Jaume Collet-Serra’s third film with Neeson (their plane-set thriller Non-Stop has similarities with this) and certainly the one with the strongest story. The mystery at the heart of the film takes plenty of twists and turns, helping things remain engaging and often leading quite naturally to the action scenes, which don’t feel shoehorned in.

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MacCauley is an ex-cop and has no problem fighting off assailants, but is also a quick-thinking, determined man who must use his wits as often as his fists. Neeson’s already proven himself a great dramatic actor and here seems to enjoy playing a character with a bit more depth than Bryan Mills from the Taken trilogy. The supporting cast are also generally very good – Farmiga doesn’t have an awful lot of screen time but nails the mysterious element of her character, however rising Brit star (and recent BAFTA nominee) Florence Pugh is underused in a role as a fellow passenger on the train that gives her little to do, as is Sam Neill as a cop who worked alongside Neeson on the force. This isn’t really the kind of film you watch for the performances, although it would have been nice for Pugh and Neill’s roles to have had more to them – both are fantastic actors and their strengths aren’t utilised here.

If you’re looking for something original and thought-provoking you’re better off looking elsewhere, however The Commuter is certainly entertaining and provides the kind of thrills Neeson’s fans go to his films for, along with an engrossing mystery that keeps things chugging along. If this is Neeson’s action swansong, it’s a pretty good bang to go out on.

The Commuter is out 12th January