Romy Shiller

Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Mr. Robot Season 1

In review, Television on January 26, 2016 at 11:26 am


Mr. Robot: is an American drama–thriller television series created by Sam Esmail. It stars Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a cybrersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder social and clinical depression. Alderson is recruited by an insurrectionary anarchist known as “Mr. Robot”, played by Christian Slater, to join a group of hacktivists. The group aims to cancel all debts by attacking the large corporation E Corp. The pilot premiered on multiple online and video on demand services on May 27, 2015, and was renewed for a second season before the first season premiered on USA Network on June 24, 2015. Mr. Robot has received critical acclaim and has been nominated for multiple awards, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. [from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

The series follows Elliot Alderson, a young man living in New York City, who works at the cybersecurity company Allsafe as a security engineer. Constantly struggling with social anxiety disorder and clinical depression, Elliot’s thought process seems heavily influenced by paranoia and delusion. He connects to people by hacking them, which often leads him to act as a cyber-vigilante. He is recruited by a mysterious insurrectionary anarchist known as Mr. Robot, and joins his team of hacktivists known as fsociety. One of their missions is to cancel all debts by taking down one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp (which Elliot perceives as Evil Corp), which also happens to be Allsafe’s biggest client. [from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Wowwowwowwowwowwow etc. Mr. Robot won all these awards at the Golden Globes so I decided to download it. It’s about computer hacking and is so dark, twisty, and smart I’m surprised anyone watches it let alone gives it awards. Wow. CINEMABLEND.COM says; ‘It’s damn near perfect!’ I agree. It is unlike any TV show I’ve ever seen and trust me, I’ve seen many. Because it is so critical of mainstream society, I really am surprised that the mainstream award-shows give this show acclaim.

Our lead character [Rami Malek as Elliot] is delusional and because the world we see is filtered through his sensibility we are left wondering what’s real. One’s expectations for accurate representation have to be left at the door. You just have to go with it and if you want any conventional explanation, that isn’t going to happen. Interview confirms, ‘Elliot Alderson is an unreliable narrator—a paranoid, loner hacker who suffers from hallucinations and is addicted to morphine—but he is our only option when it comes to Mr. Robot. Everything we see, everything we are told comes from Elliot, and conspiracy theories about what is and isn’t real are abundant.img-rami-malek_095652453621

The acting is phenomenal. Rami Malek is the perfect choice for Elliot. Physically he looks frail and emotionally he plays fragility with brilliance. He has a very complex character: brilliant, tortured, addicted to morphine, angry at the world… Interview says, ‘Malek’s performance gives Elliot depth; he isn’t just a series of quirks and tics, an amalgamation of traits that sit somewhere on the autism spectrum. Elliot is aware that he is hovering somewhere near the edge, and wants desperately to be normal. ‘slater

Christian Slater plays Mr. Robot and already has weird undertones. As a leader of a fringe, anarchist hacking group he is more than believable. Slater tells Rolling Stone “I just want to keep taking chances, I want to do things that scare the hell out of me.”Portia+Doubleday+Long+Hairstyles+Long+Wavy+2pmt_3eeaCOx

Portia Doubleday plays Angela and is way more than Elliot’s love-interest. She is smart, balsy and loyal. I imagine that playing a complex female character is quite rewarding and is very rare. She tells The Hollywood Reporter, “There’s so much that goes on, especially with Angela, because I think she that she’s consistently transitioning. Even from the pilot until the fifth episode, so much changes.” Majorly.

The aesthetic is gritty, grimy, grungy, dirty and most colours are muted. The word ‘consistency’ keeps coming to my mind. There is a seamless quality between the aesthetic and story. The disorder of Elliot’s mind is reflected in the world of the story. I did some research and found this: Vox says, Its visual aesthetic is almost deliberately confrontational and in your face… But that aesthetic also gives the show an overriding feeling of coherence and thematic unity that exists in few brand new shows.’ I was right!

On Metacritic, Neverminding says; it’s hard to believe this is a USA show. The cinematography and production quality are top notch. The subject matter might not be accessible to everyone, but for those of us who have been waiting for a show centered around modern technology without it falling into laughable “for dummies” level dialogue, it’s pretty much perfect.

It’s one thing to give society the middle finger and another to do it in such an intelligent way. The anarchy in this film uses technology against itself and never dumbs down. It doesn’t take its audience as morons – it does not pander or explain anything. Corporate greed is taken to task. Buying into popular belief structures is also criticized and while Elliot may be crazy, the world we live in seems crazier.

Hacking people is Elliot’s way to get to know them. Hacking in this case is like the show Twin Peaks in that we see what’s underneath the surface stuff. Often Elliot discovers that which is ugly and disturbing but it is real and honest, you know? Wired says; There are many types of hackers, and many motivations for hacking. But one of the things Mr. Robot really nails is the portrayal of a certain type of hacker who hacks to make sense of the world and connect to it.

Hacking is his primary mechanism for controlling a world that he feels powerless to control and for making connections in a world in which he feels disconnected. “What do normal people do when they get sad? They reach out to friends or family,” he says as he huddles in his apartment crying. “That’s not an option [for me].”

Mental anguish and drug addiction is linked to childhood trauma here. Again it may be harsh and ugly but it is real. Needless to say this is not a happy, shiny or veiled world. It is painful – the complete opposite of escapism. If TV is your drug or your escape from the world you will not like this show – guaranteed. says; While the show has definite Fight Club undertones (which is one of the reasons I love it), it does manage to depict a more realistic version of a paranoid schizophrenic than the 1999 cult classic. In Fight Club, the character with schizophrenia is depicted as an aggressor, when in real life, schizophrenia can have an almost dulling effect on the individual.

Rollingstone notes that Sam Esmail, who wrote and directed the 2014 sci-fi romance Comet, created Mr. Robot and no one in the cast knows exactly where they are going to take this story.

Esmail warns that the upcoming installment of the show will be darker. He tells Entertainment Weekly that the upcoming season will focus on Elliot’s backstory and give an insight into why he formed fsociety.

I cannot stress enough to you, how phenomenal this television show is. If you have not seen Mr. Robot – do.

You can see the whole of the first season on Amazon Prime Video.

Mr. Robot – Some Awards


Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama


Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television

2016 – Christian Slater


Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Drama Series 2016

Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series

2016 – Rami Malek

Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

2016 – Christian Slatermr_robot_fuck_society



In Film, review on November 10, 2015 at 8:44 am

About: [from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia] Spy is a 2015 American action comedy film written and directed by Paul Feig. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, and Jude Law, the film follows the transformation of desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy) into a field agent who attempts to foil the black market sale of a suitcase nuke.

Distributed by 20th Century and produced by Feigo Entertainment and Chernin Entertainment, the film was theatrically released on June 5, 2015. Upon release, the film received critical acclaim and has grossed over $236 million worldwide.

Plot: Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a desk-bound CIA analyst guiding her partner Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) on a mission to Varna from a CIA office in the Washington, D.C. area. Fine accidentally kills Tihomir Boyanov without first finding a suitcase nuke whose location is known only to Boyanov. Meanwhile, the agency learns that Boyanov’s daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne) might know the location of her father’s device, so they send Fine to infiltrate her home. However, Rayna shoots Fine dead while Susan watches online. Rayna knows the identities of all the agency’s top agents, including Fine and Rick Ford (Jason Statham). Susan, who is unknown to Rayna, volunteers to become a field agent, and her boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), agrees. Ford quits in disgust over Susan being chosen for the assignment.

I kind of can’t believe that I didn’t review this film when it came out in theatres. It is on DVD now so I saw it again. Yup. It’s really good. A send-up of the Bond flicks it centres on a woman who a) doesn’t fit the Bond-girl stereotype or spy b) is the epitome of the anti-spy. Even Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has expectations… she has a spy-name ready ‘in case.’ They do not let her use it. As The Daily Mail notes; She would like a sexy alias, but having been handed a distressingly prosaic one — Carol Jenkins — she is sent to Paris, then Rome and Budapest, where she proves herself unexpectedly adept at grappling with nasty heavies at the tops of high buildings.

Susan Cooper gets a generic name like her ‘actual’ name and her cool spy-gadgets are concealed in hemorrhoid wipes, stool softener and a rape whistle. Her spy-watch has a photo-face of the film Beaches. The film capitalizes on the single, big woman stereotype and then subverts it. Wow.

Her disguises are unglamorous and she is given a short, curled, un-sleek, grey wig to wear. Her second disguise is that of a cat-lady who has pictures of her TEN cats. When she goes ‘rogue’ she dyes her natural hair darker and wears a glamorous black dress. As a plus-sized woman this is significant. She is reframing beauty and glamour for bigger women in general, not just in film.

Susan Cooper’s ‘real’ life mirrors her dowdy disguises. Bradley Fine (Jude Law) gives her a diamond ring box that has a cupcake pendant and not her obvious hope for a ring. He asks her to pick up his dry-cleaning and to fire his gardener.

Writer/Director Paul Feig says in The Mary SueI’m a fan of spy movies, I’m a fan of most of the James Bond movies and Bourne movies. But I think Casino Royale was the biggest influence on me, because it was when James Bond had come back from being silly and over-gadgetry. Bond got pretty crazy for many years, starting with Roger Moore, and those movies are super fun to watch, but I’m a fan of the original books that Fleming wrote, and Bond was a pretty dark character. It wasn’t about the gadgets; it was about him living by his wits.

As The Daily Mail says, this film is sometimes an uproarious, American-flavoured pastiche of the James Bond films, Spy opens with a deliciously daft pre-credits sequence in which CIA super-agent Bradley Fine, confronting a terrorist over the location of a hidden nuclear bomb, loses control of his trigger finger following a sudden onset of hay fever.

Melissa McCarthy acquired movie star fame as the overweight sidekick in the 2011 hit Bridesmaids, which was followed up by Identity Thief and The Heat.

She tells the Daily Mail that to play a CIA field agent in Spy, Melissa McCarthy had to exercise more than her comedy. The 44-year-old actress told Live With Kelly and Michael that she also had to put in some hard hours at the gym.

‘I studied martial arts for two months,’ the Gilmore Girls vet said. ‘Turns out I like doing stunts.’

Susan Cooper guides the Jude Law character initially. The Daily Mail says that through his earpiece, and sophisticated satellite technology, she can guide Fine through most perilous situations. But when he meets his match in the chilly but exquisite form of Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), conspiring in the inevitable plot to hold the world to ransom, it is Cooper herself who must replace him in the field.

He is so Bond. The Guardian notes that while he’s never had the chance to actually play James Bond, despite rumours that he’s been in the running, Jude Law’s turn in Spy shows that he would make a convincingly slick secret agent.

It’s a smallish role for the actor, who has been enjoying a bit of a comeback of late with roles in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dom Hemingway and Black Sea, all suggesting he’s breaking free of his pretty–boy shackles and seeking a more varied set of roles.

Rather like the recent Kingsman: The Secret Service, Paul Feig’s highly entertaining film derives much of its comedy from a combination of everyday life, with its mundane issues and challenges, and the glamorous, dangerous world of international espionage. Thus, a secret agent who needs his antihistamines, and a CIA control room in Virginia afflicted with a serious pest-control problem.

This film is REALLY good! Rent it!


In Fantasy, Film, review on November 10, 2015 at 8:40 am

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.


Director:  Daniel Barnz
Writers:  Daniel Barnz (screenplay), Alex Flinn (novel)
Stars: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen

Okay. I want to be upfront about this. I have a problem with fairytales, especially Beauty and the Beast. I also take issue with certain representations of high school in film.  I find representations of youth that are idealized, unbelievable usually. Maybe another reviewer won’t filter this film through the same sieve.

Plot: A modern-day take on the “Beauty and the Beast” tale where a New York teen is transformed into a hideous monster in order to find true love.

It’s nice for guys in fairytales because they can be ugly but the girl has to be a beauty. Imagine if the Vanessa Hudgens character in this film was ‘ugly’. I don’t think so. (and if you think that Fiona in Shrek breaks this mold think again.) In my article Ogre-Drag I say, Women are often with “less desirable” partners, especially in fairytales. Women are supposed to be good looking. Take Beauty and the Beast, for example. A beautiful woman can be with a beast. She cannot be the beast if he is good looking.”

I’m all for recognizing beauty on the inside but usual depictions of this are flawed (The transformative television show Glee challenges conventional representation). See, if the film simply focused on inner beauty that would be great but gender is at issue here. Not only that, but Vanessa Hudgens resonates with the High School Musical films where teenagers are expected to look a certain way – oh, don’t get me started.

In my book You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It is the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (Shiller, p. 23.)

So, Vanessa Hudgens’ character Lindy says that she prefers substance over style but she doesn’t do the cursing, a witch does.  There is a tradition here.  “Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wicked, ugly witch in Stardust on a quest for beauty and eternal youth.” I do not think that Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) is ugly but Kyle does. So, again, the “ugly” person does the apparently bad thing.

In the traditional fairytale Belle (means ‘beauty’ in French) satisfies her father’s dept by willingly living in a palace governed by a beast. At the end of the story her absence almost kills the beast and she cries upon returning. Realizing that she loves him her tears transform him into a handsome prince. She agrees to marry him.

In this film, Kyle Kingsbury is rich, handsome, and popular. He runs for the president of his high school ’green’ committee but he has no interest in the environment – it will just look good on his transcript. His slogan is ‘embrace the suck’. He says that how you look is proportional to how you are treated. He says that it sucks to be ugly. Kyle is ugly on the inside.

As a mean joke he asks this girl Kendra to a dance he already has a date for. Kendra reveals herself to be a witch and punishes him for his cruelty by condemning him to live as a beast. A girl, Lindy, he met before his transformation falls in love with the “beast.”

Two things interfered with my expectations. First, I thought that the “beast” was hot, and actually better looking than before. See preppy, clean-cut boys are not my thing. I dated someone for two years that looked very much like the beast in this film. Secondly, I identified with the beast in terms of transformation. Now each of these things is worthy of an article but I’ll stay on track – I think.

Okay, back to the first…a good-looking beast. In high-school, if you wear a long black coat, like Neo in The Matrix, you probably have a gun and want to shoot people. If you are different in any way you are shunned.  In many ways this film reinforces that it is better to be the ‘same’ – not fringe.  I wanted the beast to stay as-is but that’s not the fairytale. As in Titanic we know what to expect. The beast goes back to being the pretty-boy. But with a heart to match – he is nice now.

This Beauty and Beast theme is repeated a lot in films in different ways for example, in Titanic it is rich vs. poor. In Tootsie it is the real vs. fake. In City of Angels it is human vs angel. etc.  It might seem harsh and a woman I saw the film with asked me ‘if I could JUST watch a movie’. I guess that critical analysis will always be a part of it. I cannot put myself on hold.

It is hard for me to see this film in a different light. I looked to reviews and found the following: “The film tries desperately to be an homage to the fairytales that came before it. In many ways, it succeeds, but this off-putting hybrid of accepting society, yet deforming it with Aesop Fable logic just doesn’t work. The characters are like viruses attacking an immune system, and as virtuously as the white blood cells fight them off, something never quite feels right.”

There seems to be a problem with this movie. If you like fairytales you still might have an issue with this film. If you idealize high school it follows a prescription but…

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online

Mad Max: Fury Road

In Film, review on September 7, 2015 at 8:36 am

 best mad max


ABOUT: Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2015 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed, produced, and co-written by George Miller, and the fourth film of Miller’s Mad Max franchise. The first film of the franchise in 30 years, Fury Road stars Tom Hardy as ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky, who replaces Mel Gibson in the title role, along with Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keayes-Byrne.

The film is set in a future desert wasteland where gasoline and water are scarce commodities, with Max (Hardy) joining forces with Imperator Furiosa (Theron) to flee from cult leader Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) and his army in an armoured tanker truck, which leads to a lengthy road battle. The film had its world premiere on 7 May 2015 at the TCL Chinese Theatre. It began wide theatrical release on 14 May 2015, including an out-of-competition screening at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. Critics have praised the film for its acting, screenplay, action sequences, stunts, and direction.

PLOT: Set in the future after a nuclear war, the world is a desert wasteland and civilization has collapsed. Max, a survivor, is captured by the War Boys, the army of tyrannical cult leader Immortal Joe. Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for the sick War Boy Nux. Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa drives her heavily-armored War Rig to collect gasoline. When Furiosa begins driving off route, Joe realizes that his five wives – women specially selected for breeding – are gone. Joe leads his entire army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.

This genre is certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. It is a mixture: post-apocalyptic Cirque de Soleil, Heavy-Metal music video, hardcore slice and dice. The world of this film was consistent, visually phenomenal and very entertaining. It was a very good film. The story itself had many layers including girl-power.

I wanted to check it out again, so I waited for the DVD to come out.

In Hit Fix, Charlize Theron says she’s affected by teenage girls love of Furiosa in ‘Fury Road’ which still elicits passionate responses from fans, media and the director’s peers in the movie industry three months after its release. 

One of the most talked about aspects of the film isn’t Max himself (sorry Tom Hardy), but Theron’s raw performance as Furiosa.  The character has inspired many women (including a large contingent of teenage girls) and handicapped viewers as well.

charlizeTheron says, “I think what has really affected me is the word of mouth what you hear from people, especially people with young girls,” It’s really overwhelming and just really nice and really nice when you can have your work translate into that matter.

I keep thinking that Furiosa is the evolution of the type of character played by Linda Hamilton [Sarah Connor] in the Terminator movies [Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)]. Hamilton’s buff arms were a symbol of strength and determination and will. They were revolutionary. Furiosa’s lack of an arm speaks to the same thing. You know, I taught a film course once upon a time, and I would really have used this film to show how certain female characters evolve – I would.

Our lead female character, Furiosa, is a disabled warrior. She has a major ‘flirtation’ with Max. She is represented as desirable and sexy despite her disability. How friggin’ cool is that?

Theron is rumored to be returning as Furiosa in “Mad Max: The Wasteland.”  In the meantime, she’s wrapped Sean Penn’s “The Last Face” with Javier Bardem and reprises her role as Ravenna in “The Huntsman” opposite Chris Hemsworth and Emily Blunt.

tom hardy

Tom Hardy as ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky says; “It was daunting [and] a bit intimidating to step into an iconic character’s role and shoes,” Hardy admitted to ET Online.

When the first Mad Max hit theaters in 1979, it was a fresh-faced Mel Gibson who embodied the post-apocalyptic badass. Gibson would go on to reprise the role in ’81 and ’85 for the film’s sequels, Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome.

Hardy says; “Mel is iconic. And he’s Max, and that’s it, I won’t argue with that, that’s brilliant,” Hardy added. “But on this outing, George has had 30-something years worth of reinvestment in a world that he created. And he asked me to come along and play his Max for him. And I’m not gonna say no, am I?”

Anyhoo, the wives were eye-candy rebels. It is one thing to be labeled a ‘breeder’ and another to own one’s choice to breed. I love the idea of being very sexy and determining when to have sex.

The film had no gay characters or people of colour. Aside from some homo-erotic moments between some males, the relationships were of a heterosexual nature. The film did not break any sexuality rules, which, in my opinion, would have been very revolutionary.

This world is white. Rate Your Music says, [In] the history of heavy metal – white people playing angry music … there’s mostly white male listeners. Don’t get me started…

millerWarner Bros. Director GEORGE MILLER on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “MAD MAX: FURY ROAD,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The film was directed and created by George Miller. The Los Angeles Daily News says; When the 70-year-old made the first movie in 1979, he just wanted to make a car-chase film. B-movie fast car/crazy crash-centric movies were fairly common in the late 1970s, including the dystopian future of “Death Race 2000” made in 1975.

“The Japanese saw [the original “Mad Max”] as a samurai film. The French thought of it as a Western on wheels,” says Miller. So when he made “The Road Warrior” in 1981, the apocalyptic world he created “was much more deliberate, more explicit. It was about the oil crisis and wars.”

Since then, the filmmaker has seen “Mad Max” elements in music videos, video games, manga and animation, and, of course, other movies. Coming back to the story — “I was reluctant to let it go” — Miller has been able to go further both in the story and technically.

This film is worth seeing and contained by a specific aesthetic. It is stylish and does not deviate from stereotypes of sexuality or colour. Empowered women and minorities though, rock my world.

The Age of Adaline

In Film, review, Romance on May 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm


ABOUT: The Age of Adaline (also known as simply Adaline) is a 2015 American epic romance fantasy film directed by Lee Toland Krieger and written by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvdor Paskowitz. The film stars Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew, Harrison Ford, and Ellen Burstyn.

Synopsis: Adaline [Blake Lively] is a beautiful young woman who suffers an accident that changes her life forever. She has remained 29 years old for nearly 8 decades. She lives her life running away, not letting anyone get too close to her or know her secret, not letting herself fall in love.

The Guardian comments, Age of Adalineyou should know: this is Harrison Ford’s best performance in 22 years. You have to go all the way back to The Fugitive to find a film that made better use of one of cinema’s bigger icons. That really wasn’t what I was expecting when I went into this mid-budget, gushy fantasy-romance flick. Vulture says, Ford is better than he’s been in ages, and it’s nice to have him back; it’s nice to see him smile again.

Vanity Fair comments, Huisman doesn’t really register beyond being a handsome plot device, but Ford, so improbably turning up in this movie at all, does some of the best work we’ve seen from him in a long while. He approaches his emotional scenes with a rigor usually reserved for his physical acting.

Actually, Harrison Ford was so much better than the rest of the cast, which shows us that really good acting can help a film. I mean the film was sweet, straightforward and nice. The voice-over made me want to strangle someone but apart from that, no violence here. If the film was innovative in any way, I might have liked it. It wasn’t horrible – just bland. Ford had a gravitas and sincerity about him. He was textured and layered. His subtleties revealed so much about his character. Really excellent performance.

Pop Sugar says; Harrison Ford plays an old friend of Adaline’s, and when we flash back to the younger version of his character, William, meeting Adaline, you’ll swear it’s really Harrison Ford 40 years ago. But it’s not — it’s up-and-coming star Anthony Ingruber, who looks and sounds so much like Ford it’s mind-boggling. Turns out, Ingruber has been doing impressions of celebrities on YouTube for years, not limited to just Ford.

Anthony Ingruber is good and probably worth a look-see on Youtube.

The L.A. Times says, Lively has not always received positive notices for her acting. “Gossip Girl” wasn’t exactly a critical darling, and some of the movies she’s been best in — small indies like “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” and “Hick” — weren’t widely seen. But she would like to be taken seriously as an actress — an ambition that became clear with her small role as a Boston hooker opposite Ben Affleck in 2010’s “The Town.”

Unfortunately, I cannot imagine that this film will help her image. She lacked depth, complexity and nuance in this film. After noting Ford’s exquisite performance I kept thinking that another actress might have been a wiser casting choice. Lively is nice to look at but lacks acting chops.

Director Lee Toland Krieger, whose previous films The Vicious Kind and Celeste & Jesse Forever displayed both an elegant sense of atmosphere and focused performances, has fun jumping among the decades, and he does a solid job keeping the tone just playful enough that we don’t ask too many questions of the silly premise.

Collider says about director Lee Toland Krieg; There’s a determined quality to the shot selection, an almost arm’s length remove to the emotional beats of the picture that lends itself to combating its more saccharine impulses.

Yes, the shots are very clean and standard. They mirror the film…very straightforward, nothing controversial or different. While the premise of the film is interesting – no aging – the film itself is not unique at all. The premise of ‘no aging’ is familiar and popular in Vampire and Zombie flicks. There is certainly a precedent for this premise, which is manifest well or not.

I might have wanted an edgier film. Lose the voice over. Show, don’t tell. Make alternate casting choices. See this film if you do not want to be challenged. Actually, you might want to check out Harrison Ford.

My Gallbladder Surgery – A Review

In About, General, review on March 19, 2015 at 9:09 am


Well, this is self-indulgent. On March 13 I had the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is called a cholecystectomy. My symptoms went way beyond the gallstones they found. I won’t disgust you with tales of nausea and vomiting nor will I scare you with late night emergency ambulance rides… I ended up not being able to eat oil, mayonnaise, margarine etc. No alcohol either – so no beer, wine or champagne for me! *sigh*

The challenge of being creative with fruits and vegetables wore off – quickly. Actually, I might write a cookbook now. I am a non-dairy vegetarian so I was severely restricted. I also do not eat tomatoes or tomato-sauce because I have acid-reflux. I can’t be the only one limited generally though… I’m almost a Vegan but with other limitations. My veggie stews and soups rock.

It was more than simply inconvenient to keep my gallbladder – it was dangerous. The threat of infection and another attack was ominous. I mean sure it was hard to give up cooking with oil and no mayo sandwiches but it could be done. I am not a fan of general anesthesia at all but the serious nature of my condition became apparent.

I was superstitiously worried that my surgery was scheduled for a Friday the 13th so I took to Facebook where many friends mentioned that the number 13 was very lucky for me. *phew* Sometimes social-media kicks butt.

So, about a week before my surgery I found lung-expanding exercises on-line and I started using ye old stationary bike. If it weren’t for this gallbladder thing I’d be in wicked shape! If I had to do anesthesia, I’d be prepared. They had wanted to do emergency surgery when I went to the hospital in late January – I would not let them. Now I could be physically and mentally ready. Maybe it was foolish to wait but I’m glad that I did. For me it was in keeping with who I was. [I am not advocating my personal choice for anyone else.]

At the pre-op clinic I was able to discuss my surgery with a nurse, a doctor and an anesthesiologist. I had done the physical tests when I was hospitalized in January so it was relatively quick. I was given the ‘all-clear’ for surgery.

At the pre-op clinic I was given a booklet, which included what to bring to the hospital. I checked what I already had like toothpaste, and went to a pharmacy.

There was a suspenseful nature to the whole thing. They would only know if I would have laparoscopic surgery or open surgery once they started. Yikes. Open Surgery would be much more painful afterwards and take longer to recover from. Laparoscopic surgery might be too complicated because I have a brain shunt threaded into an abdominal cavity. Crapcrapcrap. After much doctor deliberation I had laparoscopic surgery.

I had to get to the hospital 2 hours before my surgery.

My surgery was delayed for 10 hours because they had to deal with an emergency. I had no breakfast, lunch or dinner because when you have general anesthesia you’re not allowed to eat and initially I stopped eating for my planned hour. My blood sugar fell, they had to give me intravenous fluids and I was going to go home but they were suddenly ready for me.

They wheeled me into the operating room. I was not apprehensive in the least. As a matter of fact, when my stretcher rolled past my parents I told THEM not to worry.

After the operation I woke up in a postoperative ward where they took my vital signs… I was discharged 2 days later and haven’t felt this good in years.

*I’d like to thank Arleen Solomon Rotchin for the idea for this article.


In Film, review on February 13, 2015 at 9:01 am

Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne [The Theory of Everything]


Best Actress – Patricia Arquette [Boyhood]


Best Director – Alejandro González Iñárritu: Birdman [or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]


Best Film – Under the Skin


Best Music – “Only Lovers Left Alive” soundtrack


Best Fight Scene – Birdman [or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]

Best Comic Book Movie –
X-Men: Days of Future Past


Best Horror Movie – Only Lovers Left Alive


Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film – Under the Skin


Best Animated Film – The Lego Movie


Worst Performance – Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, Immortals) in “Dracula Untold”


Most WTF Moment – Castration ‘therapy’ in “Imitation Game”


Hero – Stephen Hawking


ROMY SHILLER is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.Twitter: @RomyShiller
Facebook: Romy Shiller
‘Shiller Articles’ blog: [an archive of older reviews]


Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

In Drama, Fantasy, Film, review on December 13, 2014 at 4:01 pm


About: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a 2014 American black comedy film co-written, produced, and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The film stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts.

Plot: Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played the superhero Birdman in three blockbuster movies, before leaving the multi-billion-dollar franchise. More than 20 years after Birdman, Riggan wants to reinvent his career by writing, directing, and starring in a play, an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is produced by Riggan’s best friend/lawyer Jake (Galifianakis), and stars Riggan’s girlfriend Laura (Riseborough), first-time-Broadway-actress Lesley (Watts), and Mike (Norton). Riggan’s daughter Sam (Stone), a recovering drug addict, serves as his spunky, bedraggled assistant. In order to afford Mike as a replacement actor (after Riggan supposedly tries to kill the first actor by causing a spotlight to fall on him during a rehearsal), Riggan refinances a house that should belong to his daughter, Sam, rendering him flat broke. Throughout all of this, Riggan from time to time hears his voice as Birdman either mocking or bolstering him; he also performs small feats of telekinesis and levitation when he is alone.

I liked this film but it is a wee bit pretentious. I am generally a fan of films that push the boundaries of cinema. The thing is, even within difference there is a spectrum of good and bad. Birdman falls right in the middle. I liked that I read the French philosopher Roland Barthes [mentioned in the film], I liked that I knew that a homeless man was reciting Shakespeare, I liked that I knew that some of the drumbeats were ‘diagetic’ but at the same time I was like, so? None of these things were necessary, you didn’t need to recognize any of this – It was more like a wink to those in the know and that, my friends, is pretentious to me.

We review many films here that are action or fantasy or started out in comic books etc. so it is very interesting to see the angst of an actor who made oodles of money in a big action/fantasy blockbuster but who wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.

The story is interesting in that it emphasizes ‘reality.’ These are actors in a drama about actors in a drama. Notions of fantasy vs. reality are underscored by Riggan who played Birdman and might be a superhero or not. Edward Norton, as a Method actor, lives his role. Emma Stone, plays a drug addict, which calls into question her perspective etc.

The behind-the-scenes perspective and wonky personalities of celebrities or actors are priceless really. There is an unflattering commentary on reviewers and journalists. In Time magazine, the director Alejandro Gonzalez claims that the portrayal is not personal but “true to the universe of the film.” He says; … the critic represents what he has been fearing all this time, which is to be judged. And I think that in the theater scene, it’s not a secret that a few people have the power to finish a production. It’s a reality and everyone knows it. It’s almost like a dictatorship, represented by Lindsay Duncan playing a critic who has enormous power and incredible disrespect for what Riggan Thomson represents. She tells him she hates him and what he represents — they are polar opposites. What she says to him is right, and it’s powerful.

Entertainment Weekly says; the 63-year-old actor [Michael Keaton] plays the former star of a superhero franchise, now begging for a comeback. It’s a role that seems custom-crafted for the guy who used to be Batman, and the kind of mesmerizing meta-performance that milks Oscar votes. But Keaton isn’t buying (or selling) that story.

I too thought of the similarities, briefly, but they just didn’t stick. Keaton says, “In terms of the parallels, I’ve never related less to a character than Riggan.” I guess that I resonated with the difference.

Anyhoo, we spend much of the film listening to the voice of Birdman, who is our hero’s inner monologue. This voice is contentious because we don’t know if it really exits apart from Riggan’s imagination. He also displays remarkable physical feats. No one sees these feats and when his manager walks in on one, we still are uncertain about the manager’s perspective. Maybe others are not allowed to witness these feats…

Edward Norton co-stars in “Birdman” as a prima donna actor who joins Riggan’s play as a last minute replacement. Emma Stone plays Riggan’s rehabbed daughter. She is an angry waif with an attitude. They are brilliant.

After seeing that most of the cast, the director and the film have been nominated for many awards, I am in complete agreement.

St. Vincent

In Comedy, Drama, Film, review on November 8, 2014 at 10:38 am


ABOUT: St. Vincent is an American comedy-drama film written and directed by Theodore Melfi, making his feature film debut. The film stars Bill Murray as the title character with Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, and Naomi Watts.

Plot: Vincent, a drunken, gambling war veteran retiree, gets recruited by his new single-mom neighbor Maggie to watch over her small grown 12-year-old son Oliver. Vincent’s ideas of after-school activities involve racetracks and strip clubs, but eventually the mismatched pair begin to help each other grow up.

Bill Murray. Wow – as usual. He might win many awards for this film. This film might win several awards too. It did come in second place for “People’s Choice Award for Best Film” at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was straightforward in that it did nothing to challenge narrative or the act of watching cinema – so, it was extremely good for the genre. Speaking of genre this film is a dramedy but because there usually is not a blend category, most award shows will probably categorize this film as a comedy.

The Web Magazine, Splitsider recounts a story from The Wall Street Journal: Ted Melfi got Bill Murray to star in his debut feature film St. Vincent, and it’s just as strange and amazing as you might expect a Murray casting story to be. After getting access to Murray’s famous 1-800 number and leaving messages for months, Melfi says he finally got a response from Murray’s lawyer with a request from Murray for a one-page letter regarding the project. A few weeks later, Melfi was driving and got a call from Murray himself:

“Listen,” Mr. Murray said. “I read your script, and I think it’s great—and who are you? I don’t Google people, so tell me about yourself.”

They went on a drive and ate grilled cheese and voila! The directing was excellent and I’m sure that good acting helped. Naomi Watts plays a pregnant, Slavic, stripper/’lady of the night’ – fantastic.

Naomi WattsSteven Zeitchik McClatchy Newspapers says, In fact, when Watts, 46, was first sent the “St. Vincent” script she thought she was being considered for the part that went to Melissa McCarthy. “I mean, that was the Naomi part, so I just assumed that’s what I’d be asked to do.” That role, incidentally, is of an embattled single mother.

She won the funnier part, though, and wound up even doing some improv, particularly in scenes where she looks to get under the skin of Murray’s curmudgeon. “I was going all out, and possibly too far at times,” she told The Los Angeles Times at the Toronto International Film Festival. “But it was new territory and I just wanted to bust out. I felt like I’d been in chains, like I was a wild animal getting out of this cage.”

When a new neighbour (McCarthy) moves in next door, [Murray] forms an unlikely bond with her young son (Jaeden Lieberher).

TV Showbiz notes that Melissa McCarthy has certainly come a long way since her Gilmore Girls days.

The breakout star of 2011 smash hit Bridesmaids is not only starring in sitcom Mike & Molly, which was recently picked up for a fourth season, but she has a plethora of movie roles keeping her busy.

She is very good but in this film her role is minor. The upside is her move into the dramatic instead of the comic. This was a very smart move for her, in my opinion.


Murray was most recently seen in The Monuments Men.

The friendship between the man and boy felt familiar. Rolling Stone magazine says, Murray plays the title role in Déjà vu Vincent: a Vietnam vet with a weakness for booze and gambling. He becomes the cantankerous baby sitter for the kid next door, in a relationship that feels like a reprise of 1979’s Meatballs, if Murray’s counselor character, Tripper Harrison, had a few decades of hard living under his belt.

Yeah, it may have felt déjà vu but it was really different here. Anyhoo, we mainly have a story about a young boy, who needs a father figure and ends up befriending a cranky older man who bets at the race-track, drinks, hangs out with a prostitute etc. Not a role model by conventional standards but this man has a heart of gold. He pays for the prostitute’s ultra-sound and teaches the young boy to defend himself. Also, he’s Bill Murray so…

There is a lot of strength and compassion in this film. There is a necessary warning against judgement and preconception. What might appear offensive hides an alternate way of being.

Gone Girl: A Commentary

In 3rd Wave Feminism, book, Drama, Film, review on October 12, 2014 at 11:43 am


(The following commentary of Gone Girl (2014) contains a necessary plot spoiler. If you’re planning to see the film and have no knowledge of the plot, perhaps read this afterwards. – RS)

About: Gone Girl is an American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher. It was adapted by Gillian Flynn from her 2012 novel of the same name. It stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon.

Oh, people will be divided here – no question, but the ideas in Gone Girl are much bigger than me and require a defender. So, here we go. I had absolutely no intention of reviewing this film because Piers McCarthy already did – REVIEW  so I just wanted to see Fincher’s new work.

Plot: On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Pike) is missing. Her disappearance creates a media frenzy, and his awkward behavior and lies surrounding the marriage are interpreted by the media and public as characteristics of a sociopath, implicating him for her apparent murder. Flashback sequences told from Amy’s perspective reveal the disintegration of their once-happy marriage.

On one level, a cinematic one, you know; direction, editing, style, casting, acting…. Gone Girl is very good and that is why I am going to call this a dangerous film. It is dangerous to create a female lead character that lies about domestic abuse. It is dangerous to show that cameras lie about rape. We live in a world where a football player beats up his wife on camera.

Mail Online says, “Baltimore Ravens terminate contract of running back Ray Rice after he was caught on camera punching fiancée in lift.” He plead ‘Not Guilty.’ He was caught on camera punching her -Yup.

The Guardian reports, “It is easier to believe that a woman “provoked” catastrophic violence from a supposedly otherwise peaceful man than it is to come to terms with the fact that a well-liked public figure is abusive. It is easier to conceive Palmer as an accomplice in her own beating …” Their words, not mine. Sounds like the film, kind of…

‘But a woman wrote it!’ So? Are women outside of cultural influence? ESPN says that Janay Palmer married Ray Rice soon after the violent incident.

The marriage came one day after Rice was indicted by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault for striking Palmer unconscious. She publicly defends him. He punched her until she was unconscious! Yup.

‘But it is based on an existing novel!’ There is a choice here to bring it to a wider audience.

‘It’s only a film, you need to chill!’ Sure – when there is no more domestic abuse, when there is no more rape, when women are not scared to come forward about being assaulted and then called liars – I’ll chill.

Obviously, it is very good to create strong female leads but when our lead is a lying, crazy, murderous, sociopath it is not good. Calling women crazy liars is old-school and a part of our current thought-process, unfortunately. The Monthly, from Australia says; What does it say about us, in a society where domestic violence and rape are actually on the rise, that Gone Girl is so popular? I think it says that we still want to keep assuring ourselves that when women talk about rape and violence, they are making it up. That we are lying, scheming bitches. In one of the film’s closing scenes, Nick slams Amy’s head against the bedroom wall in frustration at her continued hold over him. We are invited, quietly, to wonder if he might be justified in doing so. And that makes me feel crazy. 

A Disney princess is not the answer. We need to see realistic, strong, competent and flawed female characters. I want layers, complexity – not clichés or stereotypes. ‘But Gone Girl is a great film!’ On one level yes but ideologically and culturally – no.

It is very hard to find a review that sees the blatant misogyny in this film. I found a great one in The Guardian – it is even critical of Affleck who directed, produced and starred in the Academy Award-winning film Argo, and will be taking on the role of Batman in 2016: For Affleck, some relation to reality is clearly important. So why doesn’t that apply to domestic and sexual violence? Admittedly Affleck’s character in Gone Girl – he plays the husband, Nick Dunne – is particularly bone-headed, but the actor isn’t, so why didn’t he demand a disclaimer? Affleck wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the US had clean hands in events such as its historic support for the Shah of Iran, but recycling the most egregious myths about gender-based violence is, apparently, another matter.

The Monthly says, Gone Girl fails as a crime thriller in part because it is far too long … It is impossible to discuss the plot without giving the game away, but I’m going to do it because the architecture of the story is bound up with its misogyny, so here goes: Amy faked it all. She faked her disappearance and murder because she resents her husband’s selfishness and dependency, and it turns out that this isn’t the first time she’s brought a good man down.

In the words of an ex-boyfriend, “She’s graduated from faking rape to faking murder.”

The twists in this film hinge on important social commentary. This film underscores ideology and dangerously reinforces the idea that rape and domestic violence victims lie. It may be ‘just a film’ but it is a mirror too.