04/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the formulaic Angel has Fallen, the subject of my last review, I found this film to be a breath of fresh air with a reasonably credible story line and enough suspense to keep me interested. I was, therefore, surprised to return home and find that on Rotten Tomatoes it received the same 39% from the critics as did Angel Has Fallen. There was no audience figure as it is due for release in the States in January next year. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, never one to give credit where it's not deserved, restored my faith somewhat with a three-star rating, saying however that it might have made a better episodic drama on TV.
Rosamund Pike seems to be getting a taste for action dramas, shedding her 'English Rose' persona. Here she plays FBI agent Wilcox who's been working for four years to infiltrate a Polish drug ring. The key to success is her informer, Pete Koslow, who we learn was released from a 20-year prison term after four years specifically to help the FBI. The plan is about to come to fruition with 6 kilos of heroin arriving in diplomatic pouches for onward transmission. The FBI agents are following but Pete's Polish partner changes the plan saying he has an immediate buyer. But this buyer turns out to be a cop who's way out of his depth, for which he pays the ultimate price.
03/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is not my type of film but with little choice available on the day we settled down for some formulaic action. It's the third in a trilogy that hasn't received spectacular acclaim, the original Olympus Has Fallen seemingly being the best of the bunch. Having not seen the earlier instalments I can't comment. It is, however, interesting to note that at Rotten Tomatoes while the critics can only muster 39% approval, audiences score 94%, so there are obviously a lot of people out there who found the film entertaining.
My problem with this type of film is that they always come across as special effects and fight scenes looking for a story. Here the plot starts with our secret service agent Mike Banning (the Angel) in far from tip-top shape and taking pills to keep himself going. This doesn't stop him acquitting himself admirably in simulated shoot-out staged by his friend and former fellow Army Ranger Wade Jennings, CEO of the paramilitary company Salient Globe. Salient Globe isn't doing too well as under the current President Allan Trumbull peace has broken out!
15/08/19 Filed in: Cinema
Whatever you think of Tarantino you have to admit that he makes films like no other director. The trailer sold me and I wasn't disappointed. It is 18 rated, of course, but compared with some of his earlier films the amount of blood on display is actually greatly reduced. But there is violence with the usual Tarantino comic twist, despite the severity. But this doesn't come until the end and could leave you feeling that it was entirely justified - maybe!
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are wonderfully cast as Rick Dalton, a cowboy actor whose star is waining, and Cliff Booth, Rick's long time stunt double. Two fine actors harmonising perfectly. Following a meeting with producer Marvin Schwarz, played by Al Pacino, Rick is convinced that he's a has-been. Cliff on the other hand, a truly laid-back character, remains positive.
13/08/19 Filed in: Cinema
Continuing the run of musically inspired dramas, this time it's Bruce Springsteen's music that provides the impetus for the story.
Set in Luton in 1987 we first see Javed, or Jay, as a child with his friend Matt, the M1 providing the backdrop. Next we see him as a young man and not at all happy with his life. He hasn't a girlfriend, while Matt flaunts his latest catch. But more depressingly his family is from Pakistan and his father is a strict adherent to tradition, which means that Jay has little freedom and is told by his father how he should lead his life.
College gives him his first taste of freedom; and girls. It's there that he is befriended by a young Sikh who introduces him to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. Jay finds that the words of Springsteen's songs explain the predicaments of his life and offer him a way out. Jay has always enjoyed writing, keeping a diary from a young age, and at college he indicates that he would like to be a writer when the English teacher, Ms Clay, asks her new class the question. He quickly lowers his raised hand when he sees that he's alone, but Ms Clay doesn't let it go, and when class breaks she talks to him about his ambition. Another student is listening, and this is Jay's first introduction to Eliza, who will soon become an important part of his life.
31/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
As an electrical engineer by training I of course had to see this film. Reviews have not been good, probably because the film needs to convey the technical issues that underpin the so called current war, principal among them the choice of DC (direct current) or AC (alternating current) to supply electricity.
Electrical networks were quickly developed after Thomas Edison successfully demonstrated an incandescent light bulb with a service life that made its use commercially viable. But Edison was an advocate of DC, a technically simpler system but with one major disadvantage. By using DC it was not possible to supply customers at any significant distance, thus limiting Edison to high-density city areas, and even then numerous generation stations were needed. With AC, on the other hand, it is possible to transform the voltage and thus use a higher voltage system to transmit the power. Without wanting to get too technical, the simple fact is that the higher the voltage, the lower the current required to transmit a given amount of power. And the lower the current, the further it can flow without appreciable loss of voltage. And equally important, smaller wires can be used at much lower cost.
Edison was, therefore, backing the wrong horse from the outset, but stubbornly refused to concede the point. Meanwhile, George Westinghouse, famed for the invention of the air-braking system on the railways, and heavily invested in gas distribution, became alert to the potential of electric lighting. The film tracks the development of this battle between these two men to light up America. We see Edison as totally absorbed in his inventions, with a workshop and employees helping to progress his ideas. As a husband he is shown to have been less successful. Westinghouse on the other hand is portrayed as more normal, although still a businessman looking to maximise his interests. His early attempt to work with Edison is rebuffed and what follows is a war characterised by hostility from Edison and somewhat more gracious behaviour by Westinghouse. Interested in European AC systems, Westinghouse experimented with AC generation and transformers, deciding that AC was the way forward.
18/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
Based on the trailer I wasn't in a rush to see this film, but my wife enthused about it, so off we went. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised. It's basically a fantasy rom-com that follows on the recent success of films featuring pop artists of the past. In this case it's the Beatles. But the approach is somewhat different. Here the Beatles do not exist, along with quite a few other hallmarks of the 20th century. To set up this unlikely scenario there is a metaphysical event whereby everywhere on Earth is plunged into darkness for a short while, after which history has been selectively changed. Once you suspend disbelief the result is a fun film.
But let's first go back a bit. Jack Malik is an aspiring and actually quite accomplished singer-songwriter who is constantly encouraged by Ellie, a school friend who was once bowled over by his performance at a school concert. While Ellie, a schoolteacher by day, is constantly optimistic for Jack, his lack of success is gradually eating away at his confidence. Based in Suffolk, when Ellie secures a spot at the Latitude Festival Jack is over the moon. But the reality is somewhat different as he plays to a handful of people in the Suffolk Tent. It's the final straw and he tells Ellie that it's all over as far as his music is concerned.
14/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
Where to start?
From all the recent films on offer the trailer from Midsommar seemed the most intriguing, which as things turned out was a fair assessment. There were suggestions of The Wicker Man, but I couldn't believe that it would be a direct rip-off of such a cult favourite. That being said, there are strong similarities.
This time it's Sweden, but before we arrive there we are introduced to Dani and Christian in the USA. Dani is very concerned about her sister, while boyfriend Christian is far from sympathetic. In fact a couple of his mates are trying to persuade him to ditch Dani, who they see as a bit of a pain. But things take a dramatic turn when Dani's sister finally takes the ultimate step in her downward spiral. Already traumatised, Dani then learns that Christian is off to Sweden with Josh, Mark and Pelle, who with him are studying anthropology. Pelle, who is Swedish, has invited them to Sweden to witness a once in a generation festival, which will form the basis of Josh's PHD and be of interest to the others. Although Mark in particular doesn't want Dani to come, in the circumstances Christian feels obliged to take her, she being encouraged by Pelle, an early indication that Pelle's motives might be questionable.
23/06/19 Filed in: Cinema
When a film spawns multiple sequels there is always the fear that the magic of the original will be lost. The classic example is probably The Matrix, but the Star Wars prequels also came in for a lot of criticism. But there are no such worries here, since Toy Story 4 not only continues the story, but does so with the style and panache we've all become accustomed to. It starts by revisiting the past, which worried some commentators, but this was necessary to enable anybody who hadn't seen the earlier films (are there such people) to become acquainted with certain characters, most importantly the little girl Bonnie, who inherited the toys from Andy, and Bo Peep, who was sold and so separated from Woody.
Well, Bo is back, and this time as a principal character. We also pick up some new characters. Ducky and Bunny, soft toy fairground prizes, who add to the fun immensely. Duke Caboom, a toy motorcycle stunt man, ably voiced by Keanu Reeves. And Gabby Gabby, a doll, voiced by Christina Hendricks, who's been overlooked by children because she has a broken voice box, and is consequently not very nice. With her evil-looking group of ventriloquist dummies she has her eye on Woody's voice box. And last, but by no means least, we have Forky, a toy fashioned by Bonnie at her first day of kindergarten from the contents of a trash can. The problem is that Forky thinks he's trash, and a major part of the plot revolves around Woody trying to convince him that he isn't, all of course in his perceived role as Bonnie's protector. Woody is nothing if not immensely loyal. It's all very sweet.
09/06/19 Filed in: Cinema
Following on A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Wild Rose, here we have another story intertwined with a musical score that adds so much more than just background sound. This is Elton's story, which wouldn't be complete without his music. A plain sort of boy from Pinner, with a talent for playing the piano, his music pulled him from obscurity to become an international superstar. But for someone with many unresolved emotional scars from childhood, and who was at the same time having to deal with his sexuality, it's not surprising that things started to go off the rails.
The story starts at the point where matters have come to a head. Elton has booked himself into rehab while still attired in a flamboyant stage costume, having walked out just minutes before he was due to perform. In rehab he sits in on a sort of AA group and begins by confessing to being an alcoholic, cocaine addict, sex addict and bulimic. One messed-up guy. As he recounts his life, we are taken to the relevant episodes, and so the story unfolds.
29/05/19 Filed in: Cinema
The third instalment of the John Wick saga, which starts where the previous film left off, namely with John Wick on the run, having been given an hour's grace before every hitman in the world will be after his skin. If you haven't seen the previous two instalments, then briefly John killed one Santino D'Antonio in the New York City Continental Hotel, otherwise known as a meeting place for the members of the High Table. D'Antonio had it coming, but that doesn't cut any ice with the High Table enforcers. In fact, Winston, the owner and manager of the Continental, will find himself in trouble from an Adjudicator for giving John his hour's grace.
With a $14 million bounty on his head it isn't long before his first encounter, in a public library where he is recovering some artefacts that may help him escape. But one hitman doesn't want to wait an hour, and the first fight ensues. Victorious, but injured, John seeks medical help from a clandestine medic who serves the High Table but who, to protect himself, must finish stitching John's wound before the hour is up. And the hour is indeed now up, so cue a succession of brutal encounters as John seeks out The Director, a woman from his past, who accepts one of the artefacts, a crucifix, as a ticket to give John safe passage to Casablanca. Read More…