Catfight - DVD Review

'The commitment by Anne Heche and Sandra Oh in throwing themselves into their respective roles mean that Catfight's catfights are anything but exercises in pussyfooting'.

As the picture above might suggest, the three pivotal fight scenes in Catfight are anything but stereotypical 'handbags at dawn' affairs you might expect to see between two female characters in a more mainstream offering. Instead, writer and director Onur Turkel makes his trio of tussles no-holds-barred punch-ups straight out of the violent animated shorts of the Tex Avery era. Fists are launched at faces, weapons come into play, each blow is punctuated by overblown cartoon-style sound effects, whilst the action is regularly set to a cheery and instantly recognisable soundtrack; Catfight might contain the best use of The Stars And Stripes Forever yet committed to screen.

The fight scenes are amongst the film's most successful sequences for a few reasons. Perhaps top of the list is that Turkel wisely limits himself to three, using each to clearly define the close of an act within Catfight's narrative. It allows each to hit home fully as the enjoyably brutal sequence that it is, concentrating the film's most extreme moments and ensuring each feels satisfyingly realised. The choreography is on the whole well done, and the commitment by Anne Heche and Sandra Oh in throwing themselves into their respective roles mean that Catfight's catfights are anything but exercises in pussyfooting.

Away from its violent set pieces, however, the film falters a lot more noticeably. Taken as a whole, this is a fairly straightforward satire of contemporary America, one which Turkel's script rarely lacks the sharpness to make incisive or funny enough. There are moments here which work well - a group of gallery patrons mistaking the start of Veronica (Oh) and Ashley's (Heche) second bout for a performance piece is particularly well-executed - but there are also far too many which are too blunt. The inclusion of a Saturday Night Live style comedy show being watched by characters at several points throughout could have worked nicely, but instead feels like a ropily written framing device for the background story about a war the US is waging against "the Middle East".

Turkel's decision not to make this politically skewed towards either the left or the right is admirable, but it also leaves his film with very few people to genuinely root for. Both well-to-do housewife Veronica and self-righteous artist Ashley are for much of the film consistently unlikeable, and few of the characters outside of the central pair are developed enough to make up for this. The one exception here is Sally (Ariel Kavoussi), Ashley's continually put-upon assistant whose arc is arguably the most satisfying on offer.




Catfight is released on UK Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on Monday 24th April 2017.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

The end of La La Land (or is it?)

With SPOILERS regarding the finale of La La Land.


Whenever I think back to La La Land, I think of its finale.

When I think about why that is, the options are myriad.

It could be, for example, that the end is not a cacophony of conflict resolution, delivered at warp speed and deafening volume. La La Land as a whole has that going for it. To paraphrase someone on the Empire Podcast recently: there are only so many times you can get satisfaction out of seeing Spiderman save New York.

It could also be that despite the fact that La La Land introduces the expected, honking start of that conflict at the beginning of the third act, as per the Romance rule book, it does not wash over it come the conclusion. That was - is - refreshing. To see a major film that does not conclude (or does it?) with its two leads waltzing - literally or figuratively - into the sunset was the most welcome of surprises on offer.

Though all of those reasons are valid reasons to love La La Land's finish, I think I've figured out mine.

The end of La La Land understands, references and reminds you that what you have just watched is a film, indestructible and beautiful for all time. It suggests alternative fictions to the fictions you have just seen, because, in a fiction, that's entirely possible. You can almost see it pressing the 'rewind' button itself to take the tape (ask your parents) back to the beginning and happier times.

It isn't just brave of plot; it is brave of form. La La Land is, of course, a musical, with scant contact with reality. But that's no bad thing and it knows it. In many of the articles around the time of the film's release, critics suggested that it was what we needed at the moment. A break. A couple of hours out of realism and reality. For once the popular opinion couldn't have been more accurate. The film's finale gives cathartic satisfaction by drawing attention to the medium's impermanence. In doing this, it also secures the film's timelessness.

Because ultimately that is the power of cinema. The power to rewind and revisit; reimagine and reshape. Your favourites will always be there; always in love, or not, as you see fit. Chazelle and his film understand all of this.

King Kong doesn't exist and has been killed, but is still there. The Vietnam war wasn't as Robin Williams deejayed it, yet it is again. President Nixon is still in power, ready to be brought down by Woodward and Bernstein.

And the romance of La La Land isn't over.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Taboo: Series One - TV Review

'There are only so many gravelly line deliveries and guttural rumblings you can tolerate before you just want to offer Delaney a lozenge and tell him to speak up a bit'.

Your overall enjoyment of Taboo is likely to come down to a combination of two things: how far you're happy to engross yourself in the series' grim and grimy version of Regency era London without worrying too much about what's actually going on; and how far you're able to tolerate yet another growly and incoherent performance by Tom Hardy.

For me, unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions was: not very far at all. As James Keziah Delany, Hardy is arguably less growly and incoherent as he was in both Lawless and The Revenant, but his performance here is still distinctly positioned towards that end of the spectrum and it's starting to get a bit tiresome. There are only so many gravelly line deliveries and guttural rumblings you can tolerate before you just want to offer Delaney a lozenge and tell him to speak up a bit.

Whilst Hardy's performance may not be for everyone, at least it's consistent. The version of 19th Century London he inhabits is far less so, veering from unsettling horror to broad parody, sometimes within the same episode. Mark Gatiss' prosthetics-heavy caricature of the Prince Regent typifies the flaws of the latter, feeling like a rejected character from The League Of Gentlemen who's wandered into the series uninvited. The script too lacks consistency, clearly aiming for gritty period drama but too often sounding like it was written by a thirteen-year-old boy who's just discovered a whole set of swearwords he can't wait to use. This is Pulp Dickens, taking in everything that's good and bad about such an idea, but with the elements that don't work ultimately outweighing those that do.

The plot is all over the place, taking eight episodes to tell a story that could easily have been covered in four and still have had room for a couple of the relatively more successful deviations. Instead we have a garbled mish-mash of politics, murder, gunpowder and witchcraft which, by the final episode, have largely all been eschewed for brainless action sequences anyway. The secondary storylines offer little consolation: a subplot involving James' half-sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) and her increasingly unpleasant husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall) is initially one of the most intriguing threads Taboo has to offer, only to transform into one of the most frustrating once it reaches its limp and unsatisfying conclusion.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

The Founder - Cinema Review

'The moments in the script which allow Keaton to truly bring Kroc's indomitable ruthlessness to life are too few, but when they arrive the actor makes the most of them'.

In successfully bringing the lives of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to the big screen in The Social Network and, er, Steve Jobs respectively, both David Fincher and Danny Boyle did what many considered nigh on impossible: they made the stories behind Facebook and Apple not only interesting, but thrilling. As a film focused on how another of the most recognisable corporate brands of the last hundred years took the first steps to becoming the burger-peddling behemoth it is today, comparisons between Fincher and Boyle's films and John Lee Hancock's McDonald's origin story The Founder are both entirely appropriate and utterly inevitable.

It's a shame then that Hancock not only fails to achieve the same level of tension and engagement throughout the majority of his film, but seems relatively unaware of The Founder's position amongst the recent spate of big business biopics. The Social Network and Steve Jobs worked because the directors recognised that attempting to put the whole of these stories on screen simply wasn't viable. Hancock in fact has form for taking just this approach to the relationship between Walt Disney and P. L. Travers in the excellent Saving Mr. Banks.

The bulk of The Founder takes place over seven years during the 1950s and 1960s, but the length of time covered isn't the issue. Steve Jobs covered more than twice that period, but did so in a way which captured the essence of its subject through focusing on a handful of key moments in intensive detail. Hancock too achieved the same level of precision in his handling of Disney and Travers, but falls dispiritingly short of that high mark here. The director's routine and linear execution is his critical failing: a number of characters and elements are left regrettably underdeveloped - not least Ray Kroc's (Michael Keaton) relationship with his wife Ethel (Laura Dern), a subplot all but forgotten about come the halfway point and which gives Dern criminally little to do.

Whilst Keaton never delivers the post-Birdman and Spotlight powerhouse turn many will have expected, he portrays Kroc compellingly, believably and - perhaps most importantly - without the need to ever turn the entrepreneur into a pantomime villain. The moments in the script which allow Keaton to truly bring Kroc's indomitable ruthlessness to life are too few, but when they arrive the actor makes the most of them. Of equal importance here are John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman as McDonald brothers Mac and Dick respectively, deftly providing the understated old-world honesty as a counterpoint to Kroc's modern and unashamedly devious approach to both business and life in general.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back - Online Review

'The minor crimes here read like a regular rap sheet of your common variety B-movie, which, for a time, this resembles more closely than it may previously have been possible to believe.'

Jack Reacher and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back had exactly the same budget, according to the data held by IMDb. What that creates is a fascinating case study in the difference changing key personnel can make to your end production. If only Paramount had changed but one of their director, writer and cinematographer for the series. You would have had as close as it is possible to get to an objective celluloid case study but, alas, with such creative changes en masse it is hard to know where to lay the blame for this offering.

Never Go Back's major crime is that it feels remarkably cheap. Sure, visual quality does not always represent overall quality, but when something looks like a Sunday evening serial (think: Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D quality) it's hard to reflect that everyone is trying their hardest. If Never Go Back was a business card, signifying the quality of the business it represented, it would be a cheaply laminated, stained piece of cardboard, with faint crayon scribbles attempting to convey the key information.

The minor crimes here read like a regular rap sheet of your common variety B-movie, which, for a time, this resembles more closely than it may previously have been possible to believe. The script and story meander all over the place, taking in a junkie ex-consultant and sundry other characters who seem to have ill-defined missives to contribute to a plot which feels as vacant as Reacher's stare. The movement between acts is largely accomplished via a heavy dose of new character Sam's (Danika Yarosh) whining and poor choices and lots of Reacher (Tom Cruise) and Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) running across open areas, doing their best impersonation of Robert Langdon and assorted sidekicks. It rarely feels purposeful. It almost always feel like woeful filler.

Whilst Cruise can sell sub-par material he really needs support to do so. Smulders does not advance her big screen credentials, Yarosh's character is too thinly sketched to pass judgement (but she does herself no favours) and villain Patrick Heusinger manages to out-Jai Courtney, Jai Courtney. It's a far cry from the original's boast of Cruise, Werner Herzog, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo. The casting director seems to have changed too so I guess you can add another variable to the science experiment.

There are few redeeming features. The typical 'nameless man' Reacher introduction is nice and for a time the movement is probably just about fast enough to convince you something is happening that's worthwhile. But too soon after that you're treated to a terrible montage of Reacher's awkward wooing of Turner. Then, later, you're being reintroduced to Espin (Aldis Hodge) and realising you were meant to be interested in him, before being offered the aforementioned least convincing junkie of all time, followed by a plot that's not far behind that description. It's amateur hour and, whatever your thoughts on the first Reacher, you at least can't accuse the 2012 Reacher offering of that.




Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was streaming via TalkTalk TV Store.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Yes, Logan has romance, but it's a romance that strangles its emotional core

SPOILER WARNING. The below article spoils significant plot points which occur late on in Logan.


Logan, at time of writing, is the forty-sixth best film in existence, according to the IMDb's Top 250 list. Though an impressive superhero offering, it is difficult to craft an academically sound argument which supports that lofty placing.

For a start, much of the impressive nature of Logan is due to its reverence for film form past, rather than invention of film future. James Mangold's offering is indelibly linked to George Stevens' 1953 Western Shane (not on the Top 250), directly so, in a scene where Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen) watch the film in a hotel room.

The scene and the characters pine not necessarily for the time the film depicts, but certainly for the time in which it was produced and so, by extension, do Logan and Mangold. The story goes that Logan exists because Hugh Jackman would only agree to a final outing as the iconic X-Man Wolverine if he and Mangold were granted the right to make an R-rated version of the character. Jackman, it has been suggested, took a pay cut to enable the film to exist, presumably from many millions of dollars to just a few handfuls of million. There was an undoubted desire here to make a film with old-fashioned values, an adult version of the superhero yarn.

There is romance in all of that. Who can deny that the dust-pocked imagery throughout Logan calls to mind the Western. That Boyd Holbrook's black-clad, moustache-twirling villain is an accurate avatar of evil ranchers past. There is even a scene in which some general no-goods manage to turn off the water supply. Yes, that's right: they've poisoned the well Tommy.

Logan succeeds in what it sets out to do. It's a farewell to the Wolverine character from Jackman, posted in the style of film clearly he and the director are interested in and which Wolverine marries well to.

But for all of that romance, Logan is a film which lacks heart, confusing the Wolverine character's conflict in the process.



The repeated line from Shane throughout Logan deals with the status of being a killer. 'Joey, there's no living with... with a killing', Shane famously tells the obligatory young boy, with a name ending in 'y'. 'There's no going back from one. Right or wrong, it's a brand. A brand sticks.'

The idea transposed to Logan is that he is struggling morally with the wars fought, the battles won, the scars gained. Again, without a doubt, that appears to be true of the character, who is struggling to heal properly, possibly out of a lack of will as much as a lack of physical ability. There is reference to something poisoning Logan throughout the film and it is possible that that something is as much mental as physical.

But for all of the success of that arc and the exploration of the same, Logan misses the boat on something more significant. Throughout the X-Men series, Logan has pined for connection. Sometimes he has said that he doesn't want it. Other times he has followed that through with actions. But the surrogate family of Professor X and his school has remained and Logan has remained within it; sometime 'father' to Rogue, want-to-be-'husband' to Jean Gray.

Logan gives Logan the closest glimpse yet of what true family looks like, with the reveal that Laura is his daughter. It should be a jumping off place for Logan's inner desires realised, a glimpse at his true self.

And yet, Mangold keeps Laura at a distance. The character is used to explore the violence at the heart of Logan, rather than the warmth. At the film's conclusion, where Logan sacrifices himself to save Laura and her friends, the younger character addressing the older for the final time is meant to signal the waterworks, but she has been kept so removed from him throughout that the link just isn't there. The 'bonding' exercise for these two characters has involved stabbing multiple bad guys in the head, rather than anything more emotionally significant.

And that, really, is the film's problem. It is satisfyingly gritty, peddling a lovely line in Western-influenced violence. But it is also a cold and removed send off, for a character we have always known has hidden emotional depths. The depths remain untouched, whilst his violent nature gets a full airing. The film wants you to believe that it is braver and more adult than its contemporaries, but it pursues only the obvious; the crowd-pleasing and the viscerally satisfying. It has romance for all of these things but not, it seems for the character's heart.

In the film's other emotional apex, Charles gives a speech about how much he cares about Logan and their time together. But Logan isn't there, even though Charles thinks he is. It's a metaphor for the film's exploration of the character. There's something here, but it's not quite the real Logan, the Logan that really would have been a revelation on screen.



By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Moonlight - Cinema Review

'Yes, this is a portrait of a homosexual African-American man, but at its core Moonlight is about a human being struggling to find his place amongst other human beings'.

After its success at this year's Oscars, Moonlight's importance in cinema history is now unquestionably set in stone. In winning Best Picture, Barry Jenkins' film became the first with an entirely black cast to do so. Earlier on in the night, Mahershala Ali received the award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, becoming the first ever Muslim winner of an acting Oscar. Nonetheless, it should perhaps go without saying that the qualities of being 'important' and of being 'good' do not necessarily go hand in hand in the world of film. A flawed and only partially successful film can still be considered historic in what it attempts, just as a film that is both entertaining and expertly made might offer little of significance beneath this craft. Truly exceptional films excel in both of these areas; Moonlight is one of these films.

Much has been made - and rightly so - of Jenkins' nuanced depiction of both the black and gay communities in America, and in particular of where these two circles overlap. But what elevates Moonlight further still is the universality it achieves. Race and sexuality are undeniably pivotal, but Jenkins effortlessly avoids making his film solely a platform for addressing issues. Yes, this is a portrait of a homosexual African-American man, but at its core Moonlight is about a human being struggling to find his place amongst other human beings. This is a love story and a realist drama and a family saga and more told through carefully selected chapters, and Jenkins succeeds in crafting each in soaring, emotional fashion.

Jenkins' film might more accurately be described as a triptych than a portrait, offering three distinct episodes in the life of Chiron with three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) playing the character across the film. Spending the entire running time in any of the three periods would surely have proven to be a pleasure, so it initially seems a shame that Jenkins decides to lift us out of one to move to another. But with each third as strong as it proves to be, Moonlight's whole satisfyingly becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

The abrupt disappearance of a key early character sits uncomfortably at first, until you realise that this is exactly the sensation Jenkins wants you to feel, because that's exactly how Chiron feels about their absence too. The characterisation of Chiron in the final third also jars initially, feeling as though Rhodes could be playing a different role altogether; but once again, Jenkins justifies his fearless decision-making at precisely the right time and it pays off infinitely. Even when it appears to take potential missteps, Moonlight not only overcomes these but transforms them into undeniable strengths.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.