Film Friday #238

Amy (2015)

This documentary follows the life of late singer Amy Winehouse from her discovery, through her stratospheric rise to fame, the media’s obsessive interest in her life and ultimate tragic death from overdose at twenty-seven. making use of mobile phone and home videos, official footage, interviews and voice overs from Amy’s friends and family director Asif Kapaidia attempts to pose the question of whether Amy’s death was inevitable or whether pressure from those closest to her along with intense media scrutiny pushed her over the edge. To some extent he is successful but so much of Amy’s story played out so openly in the media after her explosion of popularity following the release of Back to Black that if feels a bit like you’ve seen it all before. Where Kapaidia definitely does succeed is in making the audience wonder what would have been next from Amy if she had not succumbed to the disease of addiction and continued to explore and refine her considerable musical talent. it also helps to gain an understanding of just how personal and raw her lyrics were with the focus always completely on self-expression and a kind of release of her demons rather than any desire for stardom or commercial success. A fitting if unoriginal tribute to this iconic superstar. 3.5/5


Sometimes Amy felt like her life was just one long YouTube video

Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

It is almost impossible to review this documentary about the life and death of Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, without comparing and contrasting it with Amy. There are striking similarities between the two stars. Both were twenty-seven when they died, both succumbed to addiction, chose partners that fueled their unhealthy lifestyles, had no desire for fame, were prolific and very personal lyricists and felt rejected by society. Where Montage of Heck succeeds in a way that Amy does not is by using Cobain’s art and notebooks to help the audience feel like they are gaining insight into his mind in a completely new way. By randomly interspersing live footage, home videos and graphic retellings of Kurt’s life with bits and pieces of his drawings and scribblings, director Brett Morgen does an excellent job of creating the chaos that one imagines was going on in his mind all the time. Although I was just a little too young to really be a fan of Nirvana before Kurt’s death he was a ubiquitous figure in my teens with his image ever present on t-shirts, postcards, posters and magazine covers. At the time I don’t think I ever wondered what he might have made of this post-humous popularity but now in the hindsight of having seen Montage of Heck I can imagine that he would have hated it and he probably would have hated being scrutinised in the way that he is here but I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy watching such a refreshing documentary. 4/5


Box beside table – a furniture trend for twenty-somethings the world over

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Inspired by true life events Fruitvale Station follows the last twenty-four hours of  Bay Area resident, Oscar Grant’s (Michael B Jordan) life before he was shot and killed by the police. Oscar is no angel. he’s cheated on his partner, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), he’s done time, he has a quick temper and he’s recently lost his job due to lateness. On the other hand he loves his family, he’s a kind and generous person and he’s desperate to turn his life around. However all of this is reduced to nothing when he is apprehended by the police on New Years Eve after a minor involvement in a train brawl. While Fruitvale Station  is very much Grant’s story there is definitely a wider message about police brutality and stereotyping of people of colour by law enforcement. Throughout the film one regularly wonders how much of Grant’s life circumstances are created by his environment rather than his character. Jordan gives an intense and stirring performance playing a man who really just wants to provide for his young daughter and give himself a better life and he is ably supported by Diaz and Octavia Spencer who plays his mother. My only criticism is that director, Ryan Coogler is sometimes incapable of resisting the urge to overplay his hand and some scenes where Oscar interacts with his daughter and with an injured dog are played out purely to tug on the heartstrings and prove that he is a good guy. It’s unnecessary. His compassion and desire to help those around him is obvious without these occasional forays into melodrama. Overall though this is a film likely to make you angry more than anything else and that’s a good thing. I think both Coogler and Jordan have exciting careers ahead of them. 3.5/5


What do you mean neck tattoos are now a punishable offence?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been best friends and magical partners since they were children and they have an extremely successful show on the Las Vegas Strip where they perform the same illusions night after night to packed audiences. Behind the scenes things are not as happy as they look though. Burt has turned into a terrible primadonna and both performers are bored senseless with doing the same thing. When street magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) turns up and wows audiences by basically torturing himself Burt and Anton try to up their game with disastrous consequences that not only destroy their partnership but also get them fired. Now they’ll have to figure out a way to rediscover their love for magic as well as rebuilding their relationship if they’re going to have any chance of a future. If there was ever a film that could be accused of taking a potentially brilliant cast (which also includes Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin) and pissing it up the wall this is it. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is supposed to be a comedy but it’s woefully unfunny and even at only 110 minutes long it feels endless. Avoid at all costs. 0/5

Burt suddenly realised he'd accidentally raided a 90 year old prostitute's wardrobe

Burt suddenly realised he’d accidentally raided a 90 year old prostitute’s wardrobe


  1. theipc

    I love you but I never want to see ANY of these movies EVER.

    1. abbiosbiston

      Because I love you I think you have definitely made the right choice.

      1. theipc

        Soft high fives!

        1. abbiosbiston

          All around!

  2. I haven’t seen any of these except Wonderstone and I agree, it wasn’t the greatest

    1. abbiosbiston

      It feels like seriously squandered potential!

  3. Oy, I like Steve Carell but that Burt movie looks horrid so I definitely will avoid at all cost. As for the Amy Winehouse biopic, I don’t know hardly anything about her but I might still give it a watch at some point.

    1. abbiosbiston

      It’s absolutely awful. I love him so much in The Office and this was just embarrassing.

      Amy is an interesting character. I think it would be a better watch actually if you knew less about her.

  4. Great reviews, Abbi! Ugh… I have no interest in the Wonderstone thing. Glad I avoided it! I may watch the documentaries at some point even though I wasn’t a fan of either artist. The Cobain one sounds interesting. Fruitvale Station is one I’ve been meaning to watch, though – I’ll check that one out. 🙂

    1. abbiosbiston

      Do not watch the Wonderstone one. It’s depressingly unfunny. I don’t think you have to be a Cobain fan to enjoy Montage of Heck. He was a very unique individual and he’s fascinating in his own right.

  5. Nice job with the reviews, sorry you subjected yourself to blah films.

    1. abbiosbiston

      Thanks! I think you have to take the blah with the awesome to appreciate the difference.

  6. I really liked Senna so really disappointed the film is a letdown. I was too young for Cobain too. But both he, and later 2-Pac, were all over the place in terms of t-shirts etc and obviously connected with people. I do like Carell in The Office too, but he does tend to pick some duds in terms of films. Great piece as always Abbi 🙂

    1. abbiosbiston

      Thanks, Alex! It’s fascinating how some people capture so many hearts and minds and become icons. Somehow it’s always the ones who die young.

      1. When I was younger it was always James Dean that came to mind, but there are so many more. I guess you just have to be grateful that they had time to share their outrageous talent, if only for a short time.

  7. Nice post. Very curious about Amy. I’m a fan of Winehouse, and hers has been one of few “celebrity” deaths that have actually made me sad, Will continue to skip Wonderstone. And I did see Fruitvale Station, wasn’t a fan.

    1. abbiosbiston

      If you’re a fan I think you’ll enjoy Amy but also find it truly heartbreaking.

      What didn’t you like about Fruitvale Station? I think it’s been overhyped but I enjoyed the performances.

      1. Amy’s definitely on my “to-watch” list. And about Fruitvale, I just found it hard to connect with, emotionally

  8. […] Rain Man The Sting & Die Hard To Kill A Mockingbird All Quiet On The Western Front Leon & Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels The Hobbit Life Is Beautiful Into The Wild Terminator 2 All About Eve The Seventh Seal The Elephant Man 2001: A Space Odyssey The Pianist Shutter Island […]

  9. LOL that last one of yours! Wow, looks terrible.

    I have been wondering about watching that Cobain documentary. You have made me want to check it out.

    1. abbiosbiston

      It was horrendous. I would recommend it only to someone with severe insomnia.

      I think you’d enjoy the Cobain documentary. It’s presented in a very unique way.

  10. wonderstone was truly horrible. Not interested in seeing either doc, but I liked Fruitvale. It was definitely interesting!

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