Mansfield 66/67 – Review

Jayne Mansfield will always be remembered as one of Hollywood ultimate icons. The blonde, curvaceous bombshell burst onto the screen in a time of Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Despite the clear similarities to Monroe, her distinctive vocals, turbulent personal life, and continued wardrobe malfunctions made her a media sensation. Yet little is known about the women behind the drama and the camera lens.

In new documentary Mansfield 66/67,  the filmmakers aim to separate the fact from the rumours. Despite an interesting perspective, archive footage and interviews with those close to her, the film is a fractured mess that never really focuses on Mansfield as a person.

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Starting with the actress’s gruesome death, the film introduces Jayne Mansfield from her blonde hair, exaggerated figure and squeaky signature noise’s. The film charts her rise to fame, her multiple relationships to her fall from stardom and later connection with Anton Levey, (Head of the Church of Satan). With legend stating that she died from a curse placed on her last partner, what was her connection to the occult and Satanism?

Directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes. The directing pair have previously worked together on Dear Mon, Love Cher. Mansfield 66/67 was made to celebrate the stars life, on the 50th anniversary of her death. The filmmakers interviewed those closest to Mansfield including director John Waters and co-star Mamie Van Doren.

The film uses footage of Mansfield from her films as well as professional and personal photographs. With her looks and screen presence its clear why she became a star as the footage is iconic and the films subject is always amazing to behold. With multiply interviews the film begins to suss-out the hearsay from the real woman.

The talking heads offer different and intimate takes on Mansfield as a person and icon and they are drastically overused. They also never feel matched to each other. The topic changes rapidly within each section and never feels like a coherent narrative.

As the film progresses, sadly, it loses sight of what the subject is and, at times, strays from Mansfield completely. The film offers no real insight to her as a person and focuses solely on the more sensationalist elements of her life and death.

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The approach taken with this documentary is indeed unique. Told in titled sections, each part is intercut with dance pieces and performances that reflect the story being told. Men in suits and women with platinum blonde wigs, appear and disappear throughout the film. This is a unique take but as the style of the documentary is already fractured, these sections only add to the disorientation.

Despite a unique look at a fascinating subject matter, the documentary fails to uncover any deepr insight into the iconic Jayne Mansfield. Even with its striking footage and interviews Mansfield 66/67 is a flat watch.

Mansfield 66/67 is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

The Shape of Water – Review

Guillermo Del Toro is a visionary filmmaker. There is no denying that: He is one of the few filmmakers out there with a particular and pretty peculiar look on the world. His films are imbued with darkness and intrigued, coloured with murky cinematography and inventive fantasy. From The Devil’s Backbone to Crimson Peek, Guillermo Del Toro is an outstanding filmmaker who believes in the powers of monsters and all that they gift to cinema. He is also bereft of an Academy Award; one that he has earned many times over.

Now he is back with romantic drama The Shape of Water, which has been making waves since it premiered at film festivals last year. Could the film finally bag him that coveted Best Director Oscar?

Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, The Shape of Water revolves around Elisa, a janitor who works in a scientific lab , cleaning up after shady and secretive experiments. Elisa is mute and speaks with hand signals, translated thorough her friends Zelda and Giles. Elisa lives a simple life above a cinema, working to a routine almost rigidly. This all changes when a sea creature is transported to the facility alongside a disgruntled and vicious Colonel. When Elisa connects with the creature, on a personal and passionate level, it becomes her mission to save him. But she’s going to need a lot of help…

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Waves of praise have been crashing onto this movie since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival. It is no wonder;  this is a magical marvel and an enthralling enchantment that is impeccably weaved. The detailed lusciousness of Del Toro’s work here is a spectacle that must be witnessed on the big screen. It oozes with magic and breathes new life into the classic culture of monster movies. Sure, at times the film follows formulaic structures and its plot is mostly predictable but the flourishes that Del Toro adds make it feel original and grand. From the hue of mystical green, making the film shimmer with a watery aesthetic constantly, to the grand set pieces that house this intimate and daring story, there is a Del Toro touch to it all. It’s a great feat, a tale of love nestled in this peculiar horror sci-fiction.

Sally Hawkins is impeccable here. We are truly blessed with Hawkins in our lives. Without dialogue, Hawkins conveys so much richness of Elisa’s plucky and rambunctious nature that is spirited throughout the film. The Academy Award nominated actress is terrific, with intricate levels of emotion and simply engaging from the moment you see her wake into her daily routine. Elisa is an enriching character who is undeterred from what her heart wants. Brave, sexually confident, and brazen in her apparent meekness, she is an undeniably fierce heroine.

Hawkins is flanked by a monstrous Michael Shannon, the endearing Octavia Spencer, the scene-stealing Michael Stuhlbarg, and the fantastic Richard Jenkins who lend their support to Elisa’s plight.  Of course, here screen partner here, the equally worldess Doug Jones, is brilliant. His Abe Sapian/Creature From the Black Lagoon costume, make-up and prosthetics, vividly bring to life this beguiling blue and curious creature. Jones is no stranger to monster portrayals and his work here is equally impressive: an innocent yet dangerous soul who finds a kindred spiritin Elisa.

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The Shape of Water is an unconventional yet timeless romantic romp here that courses through horror and action like a dew drop down a leaf. It’s delicate and dream-like; a fantastic piece deserving of the praise it was been drenched in.

The Shape of Water is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

I, Tonya – Review

You know when you see a true story that’s so bizarre that you almost can’t believe it? This is a blessing I have as someone with very little knowledge of history in any category, as it heightens many films to levels that I may not see them on if I had a single clue about it. There was no better example of this than I, Tonya.

I, Tonya is the story of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), a Portland girl forced to take up skating by her abusive mother (Allison Janney), and soon finds a passion and dedication for it. Despite her talent, she struggles to escape her white trash image, as well as dealing with her abusive husband (Sebastian Stan), the lasting effects of her mother’s cold approach to parenting, and a career shaking scandal orchestrated by her “bodyguard.”

As great as this film is, I wish it had come out in a different year; Margot Robbie was always a lock for a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, Allison Janney was always a lock for Best Supporting Actress nomination, but this film deserves so much more. It deserves nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography.

Unfortunately, this was a very stacked year.

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In any other year, I bet we’d be seeing this all across the board, but in a year as brilliant as this, it didn’t stance a chance.  I, Tonya is an exhilarating biopic that takes a surprisingly respectful approach to someone who couldn’t gain it in real life, but still manages to be honest. There’s no need to sugar coat anything, Harding’s issues are all present but they’re all rooted in much deeper issues. From the way it’s shot to its quick editing, and the fluidity of the camera, it’s a vibrant film that never stops. It holds a lot of pride and a lot of shame, and whether you like scandals/gossip or not, the drama is tantalising and impossible not to eat up. I don’t know how accurate this film is. As far as I can see, it seems pretty fair – but this has to be one of the most jacked up and slightly hilarious true stories I’ve ever seen on film. Everything regarding the character of Shawn Eckhardt is as funny as it is disturbing, and if you don’t already know the story of the Nancy Kerrigan attack, it’s worth reading up on. It’s one of the biggest scandals in American sports’ history and this film gives it the gravity and impact that it deserves.

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Beyond just being a phenomenally put together film, the performances are outstanding; some great supporting performances – particularly from Paul Walter Hauser – but it really comes down to the three central actors. Allison Janney offers something we’ve never quite seen from her. We love her comedic performances and her bit parts in dramas, but here she embodies a totally cold and detached woman, and what sells this character is her absolute refusal to every believe that she’s wrong. This is what Janney does best; bringing such stubbornness and ignorance to her character that makes her down right despicable. We’ll all be pleased to see her pick up an Oscar next year.

Sebastian Stan is beyond words brilliant, another performance that we haven’t really seen from him before; he’s irritable, psychotic, and just a down right weasel. Stan takes you through all the possible reactions to this bizarre character in all of his ups and downs, and the fact that he’s not nominated for Best Supporting Actor is absolutely criminal.

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But of course, it all comes down to our leading lady, an actress who has finally found her perfect role. Margot Robbie is very talented, but her talent has been wasted in recent films like Focus and Suicide Squad, so for her to take on a real and powerful role is not only refreshing, but reassuring. Robbie embraces the standoffish and foul mouthed nature of Harding and joins it greatly with the graceful and mesmerising talent she possessed. It’s a sympathetic and magnificent performance, and while Frances McDormand is a lock for this year’s Best Actress, I would be far too happy to see an upset.

It has some minor issues; the CGI ice skating is a little bit distracting, and the film has a weird habit of switching from narration to fourth wall breaking for no good reason. Regardless of that, I, Tonya  is an exciting, tantalising, oddly hilarious and brutally honest. It’s only February, but this is already one of the best films of the year.

I, Tonya is out DVD & Blu-Ray now!