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…
02/05/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the fantasy of Avengers, back to reality with this very human story of a young Glaswegian country singer who believes that she should really be American, and residing in Nashville. Unfortunately her situation militates against this dream. With two young children, born before she was 18, we first see her being released from prison, where she was sent after being caught throwing drugs over the prison wall. Her mother has been minding her children, and when she returns they seem to be far more inclined to stay with their grandmother than be with their mother.
Jessie Buckley is absolutely superb as Rose-Lynn Harlan, really nailing her wild spirit and belting out the country songs. Julie Walters is equally brilliant as her long-suffering mum, who tries to persuade her daughter to forget the Nashville dream and instead take care of her children. This doesn't get off to a very good start, with her little boy clinging to his grandma as Rose tries to take him and his older sister to her flat.
28/04/19 Filed in: Cinema
Straight off, I must say that I have become a bit disenchanted with the superhero scene. Possibly it's simply a matter of too much of a good thing, or perhaps too much sameness. I certainly haven't seen all the Marvel films that led up to this finale, and it's clear that to appreciate Endgame fully you are better off knowing all that has gone before.
Reviews are overwhelmingly positive and box office receipts support the hype. But God knows how much it cost to have all the superhero actors in one film. It just had to be a success to pay its way, but I guess that they were fairly confident that it would be.
So what did I think? Certainly I had some difficulty knowing where everybody fitted in, and having not seen Infinity War was probably the biggest disadvantage. I could more or less put two and two together and get 3¾, which was good enough to enjoy the film. It's a minute over three hours, but it zips along so you won't probably notice the time. Although that said, a larger than usual number of people popped out during our viewing, presumably for comfort breaks. However, the structure of the film is such that missing a bit in the middle hardly matters. A lot of the first half is scene setting, pulling together the fallout from past events, picking up on the lives of the surviving Avengers, and devising a plot strategy that allows the less fortunate victims of Infinity War to be brought back into play.
29/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is a tricky film to review without completely spoiling it for anybody who is yet to see it. From the same stable as Get Out, it has that same unnerving quality about it. Fortunately it's squarely within the realms of horror fantasy rather than potential reality, although there are certain aspects that reflect dystopian possibilities.
It's 1986 and a couple are with their daughter at a Santa Cruz fun fare. The dad is behaving more like the child and while left to watch his daughter, he instead becomes completely absorbed by a 'bash-um' game. The daughter, Adelaide, wanders off, entering a hall of mirrors, while outside a storm brews. The power goes off, and while trying to find her way out she comes face to face with a doppelgänger of herself. We next see her reunited with her parents, but all is not well, as she is not speaking and believed to be traumatised.
22/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the hard-to-watch drama of The Escape, described in my previous review, Fisherman's Friends is a delightful tale of how a group of Cornish Fishermen became singing superstars thanks to a stag trip prank that had an unexpected outcome.
Four blokes with more money than sense arrive in the Cornish village of Port Isaac as a stag outing for Henry Montague, whose wealthy father owns a mansion nearby. The locals don't have a very high opinion of outsiders in general, and this quartet were never likely to be a great hit. An early encounter with Alwyn, a young local woman, sets the scene as the blokes meet her car bumper to bumper as they drive the wrong way down a one-way street. But this meeting is an important moment for Danny, one of the group, who immediately takes an interest in Alwyn. Back in her car, Alwyn refers to Danny as a tosser, at which her daughter asks her what's a tosser. Hang on to that as it provides a bit of humour later in the film, a film that is replete with humour and some impressive sea shanties.
20/03/19 Filed in: Amazon rental
This film didn't make it to our local Cineworld and we caught up with it streaming from Amazon. Critical reviews were strong although audiences appear to have been less enthralled. This might be because it's a film that deals with hard reality, effectively documenting the breakup of a marriage. And not a fanciful film marriage, but one that many ordinary people, and perhaps particularly women, can readily identify with. As The Spectator's review put it quite bluntly, 'It will save some marriages — or end others'.
Another reason for my interest is that it stars Gemma Arterton, who also features as one of the executive producers. My first screen encounter with Arterton was in the BBC series Tess of the D'Urbervilles, in which she played the eponymous ingénue. I hadn't read the book, despite its literary fame, and I found the story heartbreaking. Arterton's performance conveyed magnificently how Tess suffered at the hands of a young man who put his station above the feelings of this young woman, whereupon she then falls victim to an even nastier suitor.