Archive | Films

Mini Film Review: Polite Society

Polite Society film poster
Polite Society film poster

If you mix themes from films on topics including teenage coming of age & fantasy worldviews, rebellion against cultural norms, arranged marriage pressures, social commentary, and secondary school friendships and drama, you have to do it well to nail it. As an aside, you also decide to make it funny.

That’s what Nida Manzoor does with Polite Society. I loved it, and GLOL’d several times. The undercover gym scene is fabulous. As are all the nods to other films and genres.

It’s a keeper. I’ll be back to see it again, and I’ll buy it on iTunes. Go see it.

Favourite Films Seen in 2022

I watched 68 new (or recent) film releases during 2022. Broken down across cinema and home streaming as follows:

Seen in cinema: 29. Seen via home streaming: 39.

The complete list of all 68 is on my New Film Releases Seen in 2022 page.

My favourites are listed below, along with what I said about them on social media. Any film that got a rating of 9 or 10 ⭐️ makes the end-of-year favourites list. They are not listed in order of preference but rather in the order I saw them.

CODA film poster
5th February - CODA. 10/10.
🖥 Via AppleTV+ on AppleTV.

All the good things I heard about CODA were true. It is an exceptional film. A brilliant cast, a great story, beautifully shot, a fabulous score, and songs. I’m only sorry I didn’t see it at the cinema. A must-see film. I got salty sea spray in my eyes at the end.

Update: I also got to see CODA in the Strand cinema on the 19th of April after it was rereleased due to winning the Academy Award for best picture.

The Worst Person In The World film poster
23rd March - The Worst Person In The World. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex Cinema Dundonald.

The Worst Person in the World is a tremendous film. Renate Reinsve is brilliant as the lead. Her character Julie can’t see things through. I so related to that. As anyone who knows me will attest I’m like that. I also related to the mushrooms trip, a story for another time!

Everything Everywhere All at Once film poster
13th May - Everything Everywhere All at Once. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex Cinema Dundonald.

I loved Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s quirky, manic, nods to plenty of other films, has a message I fully endorse, and entropy gets a shout-out in the credits song. What’s not to like.

The Novice film poster
7th May - The Novice. 9/10.
🖥 via Apple Store Rental on AppleTV.

The Novice film is superb. It’s a brutalist study of obsessive drive to be the best in the things you do. Brutalist in the architecture of the campus and the intense training. Isabelle Fuhrman is remarkable as the lead. Amy Forsyth is great as support. The music and videography are brill.

Top Gun Maverick film poster
27th May - Top Gun: Maverick. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex MAXX Dundonald.

I enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick way more than I expected. A lot more. It’s formulaic, has plot beats where you’d expect them, and a predictable ending. But it doesn’t matter. It’s visually stunning. The flight scenes are incredible. And it’s not jingoistic. Thankfully!

See it on the biggest screen you can.

The Valet film poster
20th May - The Valet. 10/10.
🖥 via Disney+ on AppleTV.

I really enjoyed The Valet film. It’s a story about how people are just people at the end of the day. Irrespective of what circles of society they move in. You can be rich and still be alone. It’s a love letter to people who too often get treated as invisible by others. Recommended. Eugenio Derbez and Samara Weaving are ace in lead roles. The supporting cast is good as well. Streaming now on Disney+ in the Uk and Hulu in the USA (and Canada I assume). I upped my rating from 9 to 10 after repeated viewings. Fuller review published here.

The Quiet Girl film poster
1st September - The Quiet Girl. 10/10.
🖥 via Apple Store Rental on AppleTV.

Holy moly. The Quiet Girl is definitely on my favourite films of the year list. It’s a remarkable work. Catherine Clinch is brilliant in the title role of Cáit. Andrew Bennett and Carrie Crowley are also superb. It’s a subtle story about grief, loss, and new connections. A must-watch film.

See How They Run film poster
10th September - See How They Run. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex Dundonald.

I laughed out loud a lot watching See How They Run. So did many others. I emerged into the afternoon sun with a huge grin. It’s fantastic. Very noir in places. With a gumshoe-like detective. Saoirse Ronan is comedy gold as the constable. Some bits have a Wes Anderson vibe. I suspect I’ll be at the cinema to see it again soon. So good 😘 

Narrator: He was. The next day. It was just as good the second time!

Don't Worry Darling film poster
23rd September - Don't Worry Darling. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex MAXX Dundonald.

Don’t Worry Darling is right smack in the sweet spot of Sci-fi stories I like. Think “what’s behind the facade of small-town America” novels. I can’t say more without spoilers. Suffice to say that I loved it. It looks fab. The Dolby sound is fantastic. The cast is great. See it.

She Said film poster
26th November - She Said. 9/10.
🎥 in Omniplex Dundonald.

She said is a fantastic film. It tells the story of the reporters (and managers) at The New York Times who investigated and published the story about Harvey Weinstein’s manipulation and sexual harassment of young women in his company and actresses on film projects. The story ignited the #metoo movement and led to the trial, conviction, and imprisonment of Weinstein. The film is done brilliantly. I loved it and had pesky New York Times print run dust in my eyes three times. Easily one of my films of the year.

The Valet (2022) Film Review and Thoughts

Sometimes when I watch a film it just clicks, and I get into it on an emotional level. Whether this happens is related to my mood and state of mind at the time of watching. I can’t predict when it’ll happen or what type of film it’ll happen with. Someone could probably research why it happens and deduce some answers, but I’ll just go with it and be thankful.

The Valet film poster
The Valet.
My Rating:

The latest film that reached into my brain and tickled all the right places is The Valet (2022), released in May on Hulu, Disney+, and other Disney-owned streaming services. I don’t think it got a cinema release beyond a premier. This lack of cinema release probably means it won’t get much industry and awards buzz later this year. This is a shame, as I think it should. It will definitely be on my favourite films of 2022 list. It’s a remake of a 2006 French film with the same name.

The Headline Plot

The plot for The Valet is pretty simple on the surface. The logline on IMDb says: A movie star enlists a parking valet at a Beverly Hills restaurant to pose as her lover to cover for her relationship with a married man. 

The story is a lot deeper than this synopsis suggests. It has important things to say about multiculturalism, family, immigrant experiences, the job-based class divide, people driving the service economy, high-profile success, and the loneliness that anyone can experience irrespective of their background, success, and current status in society. The story is set in Los Angeles and is told via characters who are successful in the film industry and real estate sectors, alongside others who work in the service and retail sectors that underpins almost all modern life.

In the text below, I’ll dig deeper into the plot and highlight some of the things I love about the film in a VERY SPOILER-HEAVY way. So if you haven’t watched the film yet, you should do that before reading on. 

Bottom line: I loved The Valet, and it’s now one of my favourite films.

Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) is a successful and famous film star who has a new film about to be released. As she says later in the film, her face is one of the most recognisable in the world. This is evidenced early in the film when we see giant billboards advertising her perfume brand, plus other billboards and posters for her new Amelia Earhart film. These billboards are often seen with others promoting the services of Ronnie the Realtor. This conjunction plays a significant part in the plot. Ronnie the Realtor’s advertising on bus stop seats directly leads to Olivia first meeting Antonio Flores (Eugenio Derbez), the eponymous valet. More on this later.

Olivia is in a relationship with wealthy married real estate businessman Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield). He has been promising to leave his wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt) for a year. As a result, Olivia and Vincent have to meet via clandestine methods to stop their relationship from becoming public. Vincent can’t risk letting Kathryn know as she and her father have a controlling stake in the real estate business and would force him out if there was a divorce. Olivia can’t risk news of her involvement with a married man becoming public. Her fledgling film production company is focused on telling empowering women’s stories, and a clandestine affair doesn’t fit that narrative. Olivia decides that she has had enough of the secret relationship on the night of her and Vincent’s first anniversary. She leaves the hotel where they met and orders a ride-share pickup at the front, where some paparazzi photographers have gathered.

At the same time, Antonio is riding past the front of the hotel on his bicycle. He gets distracted by a bus stop bench with an advertisement and picture of Ronnie the Realtor, as his ex-wife had previously told him that she was in a new relationship with him. This causes him to crash into the back of the car waiting to collect Olivia in front of the hotel. The commotion that results from this accident attracts the attention of a photographer. He takes a picture of Olivia and Vincent (who had followed Olivia out), with Antonio captured in the background.

This picture is sold to celebrity gossip sites and published with a tagline saying that Olivia Allan and Vincent Royce were seen having a lover’s spat. Vincent lies to his wife and tells her that the argument was between Olivia and the other guy in the picture — Antonio. Unsurprisingly she is sceptical about this. Vincent tells all this to Daniel, his corporate lawyer. Daniel (Alex Fernandez) has the idea that they could make Vincent’s lie to Kathryn seem genuine if they find the other guy in the photo and get Olivia to pretend to be going out with him. Antonio agrees to this to get the money his ex-wife needs to complete a college course. He hopes to use it to get back into her good books and rekindle their relationship. Olivia agrees to do it to stop a scandal overshadowing her upcoming Earhart film release. And to divert the bad publicity and impact it might have on the potential sale of her production company.

This is about Olivia's Journey

While the film’s title is The Valet, I think this is Olivia’s story and how she changes over time. The bulk of the film plays out as the two very different worlds that Olivia and Antonio inhabit collide. These interactions are not played for cheap laughs, but rather the story and the message the film conveys are a celebration of people from all walks of life, family ties, immigrant stories, and to highlight that success doesn’t guarantee happiness or good relationships. You can be rich and still be alone, just as easily as you can if you are a service worker like a valet or a janitor. It’s a love letter to people who too often get treated as invisible by others.

Olivia has what many would consider a perfect life. She is famous, very successful, and lives in an archetypical house in the Hollywood hills. But as her character outlines later in the film, she has no real friends beyond the people that she pays. Such as her assistant Amanda (Tiana Okoye) and her publicist Jennifer (Katie Carpenter). She is estranged from her family and in a relationship with a married man who is most likely lying to her about his plan to leave his current wife. There is genuine pathos in the part of the film where Olivia confides all this to Antonio. In addition, the stress associated with ensuring the success of her production company affects Olivia. We see in the film that quite a few people are working in her office, and they all rely on her success for their jobs.

It’s evident that Olivia is lonely despite her professional success. Indeed, it’s probably because of her success and the professional bubble she has built around herself to further her film career.

When Worlds Collide

Part of the ongoing deception to convince everyone that Olivia and Antonio are dating involves them attending the premier of the Earhart film. This is so stressful for Olivia that she has too many “happy pills” and champagne to calm her nerves. The unexpected attendance of Vincent and Kathryn does not help her stress levels at the premier. This is part of Kathryn’s attempt to expose the lie of Olivia and Antonio’s relationship as she suspects it is a cover.

Olivia’s over-indulgence at the film premier leads to Antonio having to take her home to his apartment as he doesn’t know her address and can’t use the limo they came in in order to avoid pictures being taken of Olivia drunk. The following day there is a crowd of people in Antonio’s kitchen who have come to see the famous film star. Olivia is persuaded to have breakfast with them while waiting for Amanda to arrive and take her home. During this time, she sees the loving relationships in Antonio’s extended family and his mum’s relationship with their Korean landlord. This highlights the very different interactions that she has with people. During this breakfast, Antonio’s son invites her to attend his school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which he plays Lysander.

When the reviews for the Earhart premier are published, the film is well received and deemed a great success. Olivia attempts to arrange to meet with Amanda, Jennifer, and then Vincent, but all three have other plans, and Olivia is left alone again. She decides to go to the school play and spends more time with Antonio’s family and co-workers. At the end of the night, she asks if she can stay in his apartment again rather than go home to an empty house.

I like that Olivia and Antonio don’t hook up and become a couple, but rather their interactions result in them becoming friends after a few bumpy episodes that you’ll know from the film.

Supporting Cast Add Depth to the Film

Several subplots and many other characters get reasonably constructed story arcs during the runtime. I think these add to the overall feel and enjoyment of the story. For example, Antonio’s Valet parking colleagues (one of whom is fretting about deportation), the detectives forming a buddy relationship, Antonio’s extended family, Mr Kim’s Korean family, people campaigning to stop the gentrification of their neighbourhood by Vincent’s development company, the usually unseen kitchen staff who see hope for themselves after Antonio is featured in the news with Olivia, and the team in Olivia’s production company. Their faces and reactions as she freaks out when the paparazzi picture is first published are priceless.

Ian Robinson’s Weekly Digest – 12th September 2021

A bubbling lave pool at the volcano in Iceland
Image © Green Iceland Vid via YouTube

Another Weekly Digest with things that caught my interest this week. With new music, mini-reviews of the two new films I saw, and some security, science, and culture stuff. Let me know via Twitter if you have any comments.

Ian Robinson’s Weekly Digest – 5th September 2021

Chromosome Graphic from Quanta Magazine
© Samuel Velasco/Quanta Magazine

A slight change to the format in this week’s digest. I’m going embed more Tweets and other content (like from IMDb) going forward. Making it an actual review of stuff I’ve posted to Twitter and elsewhere each week.

Ian Robinson’s Weekly Digest – 9th May 2021

Sound engineer at a mixing desk
Sound recording studio mixing desk, sound engineer or music producer working at new song

Another music heavy weekly post. There has been a lot of good music releases in there last few weeks. A silver lining of musicians not being able to tour? Who knows. In any event, it’s great! This weeks post also has seven other items if the music doesn’t interest you.