The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Personal History of David Copperfield Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The cast is incredibly diverse in terms of race, without this affecting the plot at all, a perfect example of how to cast representatively even in the most classic of stories.’

Director: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie & Peter Capaldi

Synopsis: A comedic, diverse retelling of the classic Dickens story, this film follows the life of David Copperfield, written in his own words as a supposedly fictional story for publishing. We follow the story from the moment he is born, in a rags-to-riches (and back and forth again) style tale, following his happy childhood, his less happy factory employment and his escape from it, and all of the eccentric people who he meets along the way, writing down words and lessons from every one of them in his box of papers – the only possession he carries throughout his entire lifetime.

Review: As someone who hasn’t actually read the original story, this film portrayed a tale I was previously unfamiliar with, beautifully. The cast is incredibly diverse in terms of race, without this affecting the plot at all, a perfect example of how to cast representatively even in the most classic of stories, and each part is played wonderfully – both the ones you love and hate! It also adds a comedic twist to the story, making each character as much of a caricature as possible while still retaining the plot, and each one is complex and has times in which you both like and dislike them. A story which may seem to have far too many twists and turns, at first, becomes believable, and relatable, due to the performances of the actors involved. Overall, the film is absolutely brilliant and definitely a recommended watch!

The Personal History of David Copperfield is currently available on Prime Video. It was rated PG by the BBFC.

The Secret History

The Secret History Book Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The most impressive aspect of this book was that despite how incredibly unlikeable every single character was, I was still completely engrossed by the story.’

Author: Donna Tartt

Synopsis: Arrogant teenager Richard Papen makes the decision to move to an elite New England college on the spur of the moment. When he arrives, he falls in with a curious group of classics students who appear to be set apart from the rest. But when he unearths their secrets, his life takes on an entirely new meaning.

Review: The Secret History follows the story of Richard Papen, a snobbish young scholar, dissatisfied with his dull town in California. He makes the spontaneous decision to move to Hampden College in New England, where he hopes to find a sense of purpose in his life. There, he is intrigued by a group of outcast students who seem to be almost revered by their peers. Taught solely by an enigmatic classics professor Julian, their mysterious Greek lessons are a source of fascination for Richard. After abandoning his previous subjects and joining their exclusive lessons, he befriends this group of misfits: exceptionally clever but reclusive Henry, secretive Francis, charming twins Charles and Camilla, and Bunny, a jokester who is also strangely deceptive. At first Richard enjoys his new surroundings, but after a tragedy occurs their lives are changed profoundly.

The most impressive aspect of this book was that despite how incredibly unlikeable every single character was, I was still completely engrossed by the story. The protagonist is clearly written to be despised by the reader: Richard Papen is arrogant, snobbish and self-absorbed, and the other characters are equally despicable, some rude and some downright prejudiced. However, despite this, the novel still manages to be completely absorbing, and it is no wonder that Donna Tartt’s novel is so widely recognised as a masterpiece. The only aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy as much was Julian’s character. It was implied at first that their professor’s influence would be an extremely significant part of the story, but in actual fact he only appeared in a handful of scenes. I felt that his teaching style and supposedly controversial opinions could have been developed further, and this would have given more meaning to the students’ decisions. But despite this, The Secret History was an incredibly atmospheric and engaging read that I would highly recommend.

The Secret History is available at all good book retailer, including Waterstones in St Neots.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before:

Always and Forever Review

by M. Lowe

Rating: 2 out of 5.

‘The film missed every opportunity to create even a crumb of drama. It felt like watching a feature length montage of its deleted scenes.’

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo & Anna Cathcart

Synopsis: The third and final instalment of Netflix’s ‘To All The Boys’ series follows Lara-Jean and Peter as they navigate their relationship through college applications in their last year of high school.

Review: I was honestly a little conflicted about this movie, having enjoyed the first two. Was it an appropriate ending to the franchise? Yes. Did watching it fill me with excitement? Not in the slightest.

The reason I took issue with this movie was largely due to its lack of any, and all, conflict. It seems that I wasted nearly two hours of my life waiting for something (anything) to happen. To no avail. The film missed every opportunity to create even a crumb of drama. It felt like watching a feature length montage of its deleted scenes. Perhaps I should have expected this level of tedium from a title like Always and Forever: that’s pretty much how long I felt it lasted. And I’m shocked to say so, but by the halfway mark I was practically willing Lara-Jean and Peter (who I had once loved together) to break up, just to provide some action. If someone had told me beforehand that I would have to sit through Noah Centineo’s victory dancing more than once in a two-hour period I’m not sure that I would have even bothered watching.

I do understand – however – that for fans of the original trilogy, it must have been a satisfying and true-to-the-book adaptation. As can be said for the first two, the visuals of this movie were very aesthetically pleasing. The opening scene was particularly beautiful (set in Greem Café, Seoul) and I felt that the cartoonish style emulated Lara-Jean’s fairy-tale expectations of love. The saving grace of the film was probably Lara-Jean’s younger sister, Kitty, who had a love interest of her own this time around. I enjoyed her witty dialogue and sardonic attitude throughout: it acted as a refreshing contrast to Lara-Jean’s sweet nature. I also must admit that while the sheer volume of couple scenes was truly unbearable, there were individual moments that I did find cute. The performances of both Centineo and Condor each led me to believe that they were in fact a real couple in love.

I wouldn’t bring this film up in conversation, but fans of the books and viewers of the last two films will undoubtedly find Always and Forever a charming ending to the beloved series.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever is now available on Netflix and was rated 13+.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘This show can be summed up in one word: unpredictable.’

Creator: Steve Lightfoot

Cast: Simona Brown, Eve Hewson, Tom Bateman & Robert Aramayo

Synopsis: Behind Her Eyes follows the story of Louise, a woman who meets, and falls for, a man new to her area in a bar – a man who turns out to be her new, married boss. Louise, who only days later literally bumps into his wife Adele, has to lead a double life in the eyes of each of them, while discovering Adele’s disturbed history and strange lucid dreaming abilities, to work out what has made their seemingly perfect marriage so fractured for the two of them.

Review: This show can be summed up in one word: unpredictable. Every episode seems to bring multiple new revelations for each character, and it is incredibly hard to form opinions on any character as more and more of their history is revealed through Adele’s flashbacks. While this may be confusing to begin with, once the ever-changing perspective is accepted, the amazingly written story is revealed, full of amazing character construction and backstory. Every single character second-guesses each other, leading the audience to do the same and never be quite sure who to trust, which makes for an exhilarating watch. The two stories that play out the same time – Louise’s experience with the Ferguson couple, and Adele’s memories of her life with Rob in rehab – help build up the story and let the audience make their own guesses, while still never revealing enough for the fantastic, shocking ending to be predictable. This show, in only six episodes, creates an astounding story unlike anything else, bridging the gap between dreams and reality to make anyone’s head spin in the best way.

Behind Her Eyes is currently streaming on Netflix and is rated 15.


Twist Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 2 out of 5.

‘the acting leaves much to be desired, without much emotion or feeling – it appears that the relationships between the characters have been overlooked in order to force in more action, such as the many free-running scenes’

Director: Martin Owen

Starring: Raff Law, Rita Ora, Lena Headey & Michael Caine

Synopsis: This modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist tells the story of orphan and graffiti artist, known by his surname of Twist, being taken into a gang of those similar to him, trying to do good for their leader, Fagin, using their criminal skills and knowledge. Twist has to assist his newfound family in enacting revenge on Fagin’s old art dealer partner, all while falling for Red, his fellow gang member, and trying to rescue her from the grasp of her abusive girlfriend and ringleader Sikes.

Review: When looking at the premise for this film, it certainly seems intriguing – a modern retelling of a much-loved story designed to tell of the lives of a group of orphans who become a family in spite of the way their lives have turned out. In a way, the plot is well-executed, with effortless diversity – changing the characters of Dodger and Sikes to women, as well as having both a gay and bisexual character, certainly makes for a more representative, up-to-date story. However, the acting leaves much to be desired, without much emotion or feeling – it appears that the relationships between the characters have been overlooked in order to force in more action, such as the many free-running scenes and unrealistic number of runs from the same policeman. Even with well-known, well-respected actors such as Michael Caine, the plot becomes jerky and all tension is removed as the plot appears to be sped up for the sake of getting to the ending. The decision to have the one gay couple in the movie as a toxic, abusive relationship also feels strange, as if Red “escaping” from Sikes and falling in love with Oliver has some underlying message. Overall, this film absolutely had the potential to be inspiring and representative, a perfect retelling to this generation of a classic story, but it ended up feeling rushed and incomplete, leaving an underwhelmed audience.

Twist is currently available on Sky Cinema and was rated 12 by the BBFC.


1917 Review

by K. Ralls

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘The iconic long shot of protagonist, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), running in No Man’s Land which illustrates how lethal World War 1 is and the danger these soldiers put themselves through.’

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Colin Firth & Andrew Scott

Synopsis: Set in April 1917, on the Western Front, two British soldiers are assigned a tremendously life-threatening task to deliver an urgent message that will stop 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trap, being caught amongst lethal enemy territory.

Review: 1917 is a very successful film, winning numerous prestigious awards, including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and seven British Academy Film Awards. Rightly so – this film excels in terms of cinematography, mise-en-scene and the score, conveying the harsh reality of World War 1 while also creating an emotional experience for the audience.

The main aspect of 1917 that stood out for me was the incredible cinematography – more specifically the tracking shots that take up the vast majority of the film with the camera tracking behind or in front of the actors. This has a huge effect on us as an audience as it makes us feel as though we are part of the action – this is particularly effective in war films as they are a reality and convey authenticity. Not only that but 1917 is filmed as if it is one extraordinary tracking single take, again, making us as an audience feel as though we are part of the action. The tracking single-take style is especially important in this film as it captures the environment of the characters which is vital as the mise-en-scene – particularly the setting – has a huge impact in 1917.

The film has true to life, authentic mise-en-scene throughout, including the dominating, dull, earthly toned colours, the realistic setting of the trenches and battlefields and conventional props of war films, including guns and explosions. This mise-en-scene is vital as it represents genuine circumstances of the war. The dull colours paired with explosions and action encapsulates the harsh reality of young soldiers in World War 1. Especially, the iconic long shot of protagonist, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), running in No Man’s Land which illustrates how lethal World War 1 is and the danger these soldiers put themselves through. The lighting is a focal point of the film. With a lot of the story taking place at night and the lack of artificial lighting, every aspect of natural lighting and radiance stands out and gives an eerie effect to the film. The natural lighting is used to give maximum realism for this film.

The score, by Thomas Newman, is one of the most celebrated aspects of 1917. The orchestral score, which was nominated for best original score at the Oscars, conveys just the right emotion in the audience. From slow, melancholic string instruments in the film’s opening scenes to an intense and exceptional score during the climax of the film, the soundtrack holds back and peaks at the right points.

Overall, this film was extremely enjoyable. The use of the incredible tracking shots and the feel of single-take evokes an authentic, realism within the film that touches the audience in a dismal way. The mise-en-scene captures the harsh reality of a soldier in World War 1 and the score evokes the sorrowful and tense emotions achieved through the highs and lows of the music.

1917 is currently streaming on Prime Video and was rated 15 by the BBFC.

The Light Between the Oceans

The Light Between The Oceans Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 3 out of 5.

‘Although her character was redeemed somewhat by the end of the film, I felt this could have been explored slightly further.’

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander & Rachel Weisz

Synopsis: War veteran Tom moves to the lonely island of Janus to take up a new position as lighthouse-keeper. He falls in love with local girl Isabel, but when they adopt a baby who is lost at sea, their lives begin to fall apart.

Review: Tom Sherbourne, a war veteran, is given the opportunity to become the new lighthouse-keeper of Janus not long after the end of the Great War. He falls in love with local free-spirited Isabel, and they soon get married and move to the lighthouse together. However it soon appears Isabel’s spirit is being crushed after several miscarriages that cast a cloud over the young couples’ life. One day, a boat washes up on the island containing a dead man and a seemingly new-born baby who has miraculously survived. In her longing for a child, Isabel persuades Tom to pass off the baby as their own daughter. But when the girl’s biological mother enters their lives they must make a huge decision about the future of their family.

Even though some scenes were touching, this film in general was not my favourite. I felt that there was not enough chemistry between the two protagonists, and this was partly due to how quickly the plot moved at the start. Isabel and Tom only had one short scene together before they were suddenly getting married, which didn’t leave any time for their relationship to properly develop.

Isabel’s character also leaves the viewer with mixed feelings. I did empathise with her greatly after her miscarriages, these scenes were some of the best in the film and were completely heart-breaking. However, she became quite unlikeable the more the story progressed. Even though it is understandable how badly she wants a baby, Isabel basically forces Tom into keeping the girl instead of handing her in to the authorities, without a thought for her potential biological mother. Even when Tom takes the blame for her when their secret is eventually discovered, she only resents him for telling the truth and doing the right thing. Although her character was redeemed somewhat by the end of the film, I felt this could have been explored slightly further. Despite this, the film does effectively show how complicated family situations can become, but I think many viewers would agree that Isabel was not a totally innocent character.

Even though some plot points were rushed and I actually found Hannah and Frank’s  backstory far more engaging than the Sherbournes’, the cinematography was beautiful and several scenes were heartfelt and emotional. Viewers who enjoy historical fiction and romance may enjoy this film, but personally I would not watch it again.

The Light Between the Oceans is currently streaming on BBC iPlayer and was rated a 12 by the BBFC.

The Crown (Season 4)

The Crown (Season 4) Review

by. M. Lowe

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘I had to keep reminding myself that this was merely an interpretation of events and not absolute truth.’

Creator: Peter Morgan

Cast: Emma Corrin, Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor & Gillian Anderson

Summary: We continue to follow the journey of Elizabeth II through her reign as Queen. This season introduces the long-anticipated characters of Lady Diana (Emma Corrin) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) who both take centre stage.

Review: The fourth season of The Crown was my first encounter with the series, and I was a little hesitant at the prospect of watching a historical re-enactment of events that I’d already heard mentioned a dozen times over the dinner table. I needn’t have worried: this was pure, unadulterated entertainment. The richly dressed sets and freshness of the performances distracted me entirely from my vague knowledge of the events as they unfolded. I was glued to my screen.

This was the second time around for many of the cast members, and despite now playing less significant parts in the story, they were able to add more comic elements to their characters. At times – however – I would have found it refreshing to see more of the Queen’s perspective on affairs. After all, she quite literally is the Crown, and I was a little upset that she was side-lined by her younger co-stars. Having said this, it is perhaps only through her lack of insight, that the full extent of the Queen’s alienation from the British public at the time was able to be explored. Hollow smiles of reassurance, disposable gloves worn to greet the nation, and such clear favouritism of Prince Andrew; it was difficult to warm to the Queen.

It’s safe to say that the only people perhaps not looking forward to the fourth season of The Crown were Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who might have resigned to believing that time would simply eclipse some of the public’s apparent disdain for them. Not so fast. With the inevitable introduction of Lady Diana, I – little acquainted with the storyline which would ensue – found myself absolutely seething at the actions of this abhorred couple. Bumbling Charles. Cackling Camilla. I had to keep reminding myself that this was merely an interpretation of events and not absolute truth; otherwise, my faith in the future of Britain’s monarchy might have been lost completely.

Despite our first encounter with Diana being through the lens of Prince Charles, the audience instantly knows who we’re rooting for. I was pleased that Emma Corrin was cast in this role, as she brought a youthfulness to Diana that hinted at the almost predatory nature of this doomed relationship. The costume department really did an excellent job at merging Diana’s historically accurate wardrobe with custom-made pieces to convey her fashion evolution throughout her decaying marriage. When she was unable to express herself in words, she rebelled with striking colours and revealing cuts that put the stuffy wardrobe of the rest of the family to shame. I felt that this foreshadowed her exit from the palace.

I found myself empathising with Margaret Thatcher quite a lot during the series. It’s testimony to Gillian Anderson’s exquisite performance that Thatcher – who had once been little more than an ‘ism’ to me – became human. And, yes, she actually did speak like that. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of her relationship with the Queen. The theatrical curtseying and passive aggressive meetings were particularly amusing. On a more sincere note, I was incredibly touched by the Queen’s gift of an Order of Merit which neatly concluded the rather abrupt end to Thatcher’s time in office.

Ultimately The Crown was a superbly entertaining watch, and regardless of your stance on the monarchy, you will certainly find yourself rooting for each character at some point in the series.

The Crown (Season 4) is currently available on Netflix and was rated 16+.

We Can Be Heroes

We Can Be Heroes Review

by M. Fraser

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘We Can Be Heroes is the perfect family movie and lots of fun to watch.’

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Christian Slater, YaYa Gosselin, Akira Akbar, Pedro Pascal, Sung Kang, Boyd Holbrook, and Haley Reinhart.

Synopsis: When alien invaders kidnap Earth’s superheroes, their children must team up and learn to work together if they want to save their parents and the world.

Review: We Can Be Heroes is a fantastic family movie, filled with fantasy and adventure. The story starts off on Earth with a team of superheroes, all with incredible powers. However, when a massive alien army attack, the heroes are captured, leaving Earth defenceless. It’s up to their children to save the world now but can they get past the strict Ms. Granada?

What follows is an exciting adventure, full of twists and turns, lots of aliens and a no-nonsense grandma!

I think the combination of unique abilities amongst the children provided never-ending laughter and enjoyment throughout the movie, in particular Slo-Mo, who can never seem to catch up to the rest of them. I also especially enjoyed the humorous scenes involving Guppy, the young daughter of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. She is an entertaining character and, with impressive powers and typical toddler behaviour making her one of the funniest characters in the movie.

One of my favourite scenes was when the children started training with their unusual coach. The children quickly learn how to control their powers even better and how to fight the aliens. However, they were still unsynchronized and argued a lot.

As expected, the movie’s finale turns into a massive, epic battle between the children and the aliens. With all the heroes using amazing powers and coming together as a team, they seemed unstoppable. The twins, Rewind and Fast Forward finally stop arguing and by combining their powers, they drastically help their friends.  It’s an amazing scene, which shows how much the children have progressed and grown since the beginning of the movie.

It’s a brilliant movie with one of the most diverse casts I’ve ever seen and I’m certain that this movie will inspire many young children to achieve their dreams, no matter what obstacles are in their way.                                                     

To conclude, We Can Be Heroes is the perfect family movie and lots of fun to watch.

We Can Be Heroes is now available on Netflix and was rated PG by the BBFC.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘A great example of an incredibly successful adaptation of a novel; it keeps the message of the book whilst altering enough things to make it work as a motion picture.’

Director: Mark Herman

Cast: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga & Jack Scanlon

Synopsis: Bruno, the son of a Nazi soldier, moves with his family from their home in Berlin to the countryside. Whilst exploring his new surroundings, Bruno befriends a Jewish boy named Shmuel who he meets across a barbed-wire fence.

Review: The story opens with the protagonist, a young boy named Bruno, playing with his friends near his home in Berlin during the Second World War. We learn that his father is a soldier who he, his mother and his sister think the world of. When his father is promoted, the family leave their home in Berlin and move to an ominous looking house in the German countryside. Bruno and his sister are lonely at first, as the only entertainment are lessons with a strict professor and a tyre swing in the drab yard, but soon Bruno begins to explore his surroundings beyond the garden. He soon befriends a boy his age, named Shmuel, who lives on what appears to be a nearby farm, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. However, soon his parents are arguing, and his sister has become a completely different person, leading Bruno and Shmuel to hatch a daring plan to meet properly face-to-face.

This was one of the most thought-provoking and emotional films, I have ever experienced. The details that Herman includes to really make the viewer think which combined with the excellent acting and cinematography create an outstanding movie that is completely worth the praise it has received. It is also a great example of an incredibly successful adaptation of a novel; it keeps the message of the book whilst altering enough things to make it work as a motion picture.

The tone of this film perfectly encapsulates the horror of the Second World War, and combined with the innocence of a young child’s outlook on life makes the heart-breaking message of the film even more painful. From the very beginning this mood is established, with the powerful scene of Bruno and his friends running past a group of people being arrested by Nazi soldiers, completely oblivious to the horrors on their doorstep. This is one of the most memorable images that sticks in the viewer’s head from the start. Overall, although this film handled an incredibly serious topic, I would highly recommend it.

The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas is currently available on BBC iPlayer and was rated 12 by the BBFC.