Joker

Word on the street has always been the mainstay of many a movie’s success. Lately social media has played a part helping many a film and tv programmes too. Then fake media came along and people grew sceptical again. Good. A little scepticism is a healthy thing, so says FilmFridays.

This movie has been hailed not only on the street, social media and gossip columns it has also gained interest in the current awards season, garnering nominations and trophies. Most recently the Golden Globes gong for Best Actor and today BAFTA announcing eleven nominations.

This prequel about Batman’s most popular nemesis is dull because it is so predicatable. We all know what he becomes. So how did he get there? This film starts with him already brow beaten and depressed with a medical condition that makes him laugh when he’s stressed out. My opinions of Joaquin Phoenix as pseudo weirdo are quickly confirmed with his insane tearful cackling that is meant to convince us that his performance draws on something deep – the clichéd recipe for a gritty in ya face actor. However after 3 minutes it just feels like a stuck record reminiscent of the “laughter bag” that looped over and over when Nicholson’s Joker finally hit the pavement.

In a nutshell, this film could and should have just been 20 minutes long. I’m sure diehard Batman fans will love the retelling with nuanced differences rather like a Shakespeare fan will enjoy their umpteenth viewing of yet another fucking production of Hamlet (yes I went there). But my viewing, for example, was not enriched by seeing the ubiquitous scene of Batman’s parents being killed AGAIN (how many Batman films have that scene?). It all felt rather repetitious and unoriginal.

Overrated.

Posted in 2019, BAFTA's 2020, Oscar's 2020 | Tagged as: , | Leave a comment

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Back in 1977 when the first Star Wars film came out they were showing it at the Ruislip Embassy, now a McDonalds. It was a one screen cinema, with tatty old theatre seating plus an upstairs section for an additional price. The screen was standard 16:9 but I’m not sure the theatre was equipped with Dolby 5.1, just standard stereo (not a selected theatre) There was smoking and non-smoking. The former sat on the auditorium left whilst the latter on the right. Refreshments included opal fruits, kiora cordial drinks and choc ices. Alas, being just 4 years old, I was too young to attend the picture.
Now in 2020, I’m 46 and the final instalment of the Star Wars saga has finally been released. The Vue cinema had recliner seats, the picture quality is 8k and the Dolby Surround is impeccable. The snacks still aren’t up to much and cost me almost twice the price of the seat.

I’m about 3 weeks late seeing this film and steering clear of spoilers has been hard. The numerous Star Wars related trailers that precede the film don’t do much to reward my efforts with some spoiling the visual impact of some of the best bits.

However the film proves to hit the spot several times. Without delving too deep and risk giving spoilers myself, there are treats for newbies and diehard fans alike. For me I love a good laser gun fight on, what are, pristine spaceships (fed up of post Alien grunginess). The same with spaceship battles though these got me quite disorientated at times, though I might blame my age for that. And some appearances from past characters, not least the much publicised posthumous appearance from the late Carrie Fisher (Princess/General Leia) which is a mixture of unused footage from the previous episode and computer simulation which is better quality than that used in Star Wars:Rogue One.

It’s always a challenge to film a sequel or “the difficult second album”. However nothing in film history has required anyone to film the ninth and final chapter in an epic saga that has taken 42 years to produce, that has created a massive (can’t even use the word cult for this one) international following and spans generations of audience all of whom have entrenched opinions on the subject. That job fell to director JJ Abrams. Whilst this film screams some amazing performances, it is he who wins my admiration and respect for succeeding on one of the hardest projects ever anticpated, so hard that even creator George Lucas coouldn’t attempt it.
It was well worth the wait and Star Wars wins a full score with 6 stars!

Posted in 2020

Halloween (2018)

Ok so forget Halloween’s 2-5, The Curse Of Michael Myers, H2O, Resurrection and the two Rob Zombie versions. This one is the real, actual, genuine sequel. Of course timed to coincide with the original’s 40th anniversary and therefore the 50th anniversary of original slaughter of his sister. Who’s sister? Why the infamous Michael Myers (of Wayne’s World fame – joke) He with the darkest eyes, the devils eyes – as Donald Pleasance put it so chillingly.

The film doesn’t just give a nod to the original but tries desperately to recreate the original’s recipe. The title’s are the same font and colour. Myers at the start of the film is in a mental hospital and escapes, with the eerie moment of a crashed bus and lots of mental patients walking around in the dark like zombies reminiscent of the first film. There’s even a moment later when the tables are turned and it’s Laurie who fall backwards out of a window to the ground only for Myers to look down and she’s gone! Other parts of the film seem to resemble other films. When we meet Laurie for the first time in 40 years she lives in a self made fortress and has seemed to turn into Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, awaiting the inevitable return of her nemesis. And when they show up, despite all preparations, she seems unready for the encounter and falls to pieces quite quickly. Myers fleets inconsistently from stomping slow Frankenstein to Ninja who can flit from a to b in an effortless flash without, it seems, even triggering security lights.

Cliches aside there are some great moments, my favourite was a long continuous shot containing some imaginatively shot deaths including a knife through the back of the neck. And of course there are plenty of tableau shots of Myers topped with the chilling chords and sounds of Carpenters original score, though I can appreciate that these are quite sentimental moments for the die hard fans.

It would have been a crime for the 40th anniversary to have passed without some acknowledgment and certainly this film won’t disappoint the fans. The original didn’t have a Hollywood budget and was subsequently shot with imagination and passion. The same passion is evident here though the imagination gets diluted by the numerous wanna-be films, spin-offs and television shows that have followed in massive numbers since the success of the original film. The result is a lack of originality, a victim of it’s own success.

Posted in 2018, Halloween

A Quiet Place

In a post apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in total silence to hide from monsters with ultra sensitive hearing. It’s ok for one of them who is already deaf but not so much for their youngest who, as a demonstration of how dangerous this world is, gets eaten in the first 5 minutes of the film. Hardly a spoiler as this clip was shown in all the promos. But what a promo! Start a story like that and I’m hooked.

The film follows them one year later where they have settled into a customised way of life. Chutney and pickled vegetables line their kitchen, they have electricity, cctv and a soundproof basement. Just as well as they also have a new baby on the way. Hang on, I hear you cry. How can  the wife have a baby and keep it quiet from these monsters? Well, quite.

Not since Alien have I seen such a great film full of suspense and pathos. The superb debut from John Krasinski starring himself (do you know how difficult it is to be in something AND direct it too?) and real life wife Emily Blunt has the whole gamut. Great predator monsters whom we don’t really know anything about and who remain enigmatic right up to the end. And a fantastic supporting cast with hats off to Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. And a haunting score from Marco Beltrami.

If like me, you’d heard good reports about this film then, like me, follow it up by watching it. You won’t be disappointed it.

Posted in 2018, DVD

Hidden Figures

I’ve always been a bit of an astronut and so it was a no brainer to check out the film that is one of this years Academy contenders. Based on a true story, Hidden Figures tells the story of three scientists – Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). They work at NASA and the former Johnson is a “computer” who backs up and check data of a highly mathematical nature. Vaughn is an unofficial Supervisor and Jackson an aspiring engineer. However, this is 1961 and not only are they female but they are also African-American at the height of the US’s apartheid. So for the best part of the film they are banging their heads against the brickwall of racist bigotry that was prevalent in its time. However they fight on with heads held high and show their worth, Johnson especially who successfully helps with the co-ordinates that help put the first US man into space and would ultimately help put a man on the moon and get the Space Shuttle program underway!

The film has three themes. The first is racism and their struggle to overcome its unforgiving grip on their lives. The theme is heavily played, perhaps over egging it, but the dignity of the women to rise above it did help temper this as did the other two themes. Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) uses his authority to leverage some rest-bite from the bigotries of fellow scientists such as Paul Stafford (badly cast as Jim Parsons – sorry the guy will always be Sheldon Cooper and has been paid handsomely paid for this career suicide) and Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) the bitch boss who eventually yet slightly reluctantly finds redemption and ends up liking the “coloureds” – all a bit corny that!

The second theme was their lives, community and interaction with each other. This was beautiful and included a lovely romantic storyline (yes I usually hate romance) for widowed Johnson who finds love a second time around in Col Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali – aka Remy from House Of Cards) Nice to to be informed at the end of the movie that they spent 57 years together!

And the final theme is the whole Space Race thing. This for me was the fun bit. Not too dumbed down yet not over my head either. Gave a real pace to the film as well as a feeling of involvement. And the nice blend of effects and old authentic footage is a credit to director/writer Theodore Melfi.

Ultimately this is a feel good film. The genre of African-American has certainly become a theme in the Academy awards in recent years and one can’t help cynically wondering if it was made for the awards. However, given the politics that have surface in the last 12 months, its also a poignant and chilling reminder that history can easily repeat itself.

Posted in 2016, 2017, Oscar's 2017, Oscars, Uncategorized

Arrival

Ever since Metropolis, a great Hollywood mainstay has been aliens from another planet. There are films like ET, Men In Black or Super8 that see it naively with a child’s perspective. There are the sinister visitations such as Independence Day or War Of The Worlds which have a more apocalyptic, threatening feel. And there are those films that inspire awe with the transcendentalism of two alien species, the human being one. And it is this category, along with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Contact that this film belongs. Indeed I was convinced this film would be very similar to the latter.

It’s concept was straight forward. Weird shaped pods appear in a dozen places around the world. The reaction of humankind everywhere is the usual Smörgåsbord of cliches – panic, awe, looting, macho gun-ho-ness and hippy acceptance. Basically everything that was covered in Morons From Outer Space. But luckily the film doesn’t dwell too much on that. Instead our protagonist is an ex-mother Louise Banks (Amy Adams), haunted by the premature death of her daughter from cancer (not a spoiler, we find out in the first 5 minutes of the film) and who has since lost herself in her work as a universal languages expert. She is commandeered by the US army, along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), to meet the aliens and decipher what they want.

And despite the film developing into complex dimensions beyond our mortal understandings, it doesn’t loose its audience, unlike Contact, and that’s what makes it enjoyable. Indeed director Denis Villeneuve takes us on what feels like an educational and exciting journey without, if you’ll pardon the pun, alienating his audience. The result leaves you with a satisfying feeling that you somehow partook in the venture yourself and doesn’t leave you feeling baffled and shortchanged. Villeneuve is up for Best Director on the 26th Feb – the nomination is worthy though I doubt he’ll win given his competition and lack of buzz about the film generally.

If I had to be critical I would pick out Forest Whitaker who, for a Hollywood name, brought little to a role that could easily have gone to a lesser known actor.

 

Posted in 2016, 2017, Oscar's 2017

Jason Bourne

Yes, it’s been more than a while since the last film review. I haven’t been to the cinema since the new Star Wars last December. So I was hoping for a treat when I booked to see the new Jason Bourne film titled…”Jason Bourne”

Jason Bourne #2After the Bourne trilogy, Damon famously stated he would not return as Bourne saying “We have ridden that horse as far as we can.” Anyway, that wasn’t to be and he’s back. We join Bourne who’s still on the run from the CIA and trying hard to find the backstory of his father who was involved in something shady that involved grainy flashbacks and ultimately a rather predictable rendezvous with a car bomb in the sepia-laden Far East. There is a smell of corruption withhin the Agency in the form of Robert Dewey played by the wrinkly, watchable, yet minimally expressive Tommy Lee Jones. And there is an Agent Starling sort called Heather Lee, (played by Alicia Vikander) a CIA Cyber Ops Division banging her head against the chauvinistic, patriarchal top brass in suits, clichés straight out of Working Girl.

A fan of the trilogy, I found this film was quite light on storyline. Without the run up of a thorough backstory that a trilogy provides, it was unable to develop the complex intricacies of the earlier films, leaving the story quite two dimensional and feeling like an additional after thought many years later. I remember the famous end credits used to symbolise the twists and turns one experienced with the plot. This film deserved nothing more complex than a bus map! Consequently it relied heavily on the action sequences. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, the action is always chases! There were 3 major car chases and quite a lot of “running through a crowd” chases. Remember the ubiquitous sex and cigarette scenes of the 80’s and 90’s. Well, the car chase has become just as much of a cliché. Other than a burning car in one of the chases, there was no fresh or original angle that other franchises (such as Bond) feature in their films.

Jason Bourne #1And the script wasn’t up to much either. One line that made me smart was from Heather Lee about Bourne. “He’s seen things. He knows things.” Don’t get too technical will you! And that pretty much epitomised the blandness of the script.

The film was ok, for an afternoon out of the house. But shouldn’t have been a Bourne film as it let the trilogy down. Sorry.

Yes I’m back and as ruthless as ever. 

Posted in 2016

Kingsmen – The Secret Service

Kingsman-#2Anyone who is old enough to remember life before the internet can probably remember a time when James Bond films were fairly formulaic (as I explained in my review of Skyfall) But of late, the movies have matured and become more complex, leaving some pining for the good old days.
Enter Kingsmen The Secret Service – a fairly camp rendition of the romantic MI5 we all wished did exist. Kingsmen is a tailors on Savile Row, but enter the right dressing room and you descend to a private underground station with a sophisticated bullet train that whisks you off to a Manor House hidden in the countryside where secret service recruits are trained. Once training is complete another dressing room at Kingsmen will show you an arsenal of high tech weapons and gadgetry – a room where Q branch meets GQ magazine!
Heading the cast is smarmy but deadly Oscar winner Colin Firth, supported by Michael Caine. Unknown Taron Egerton plays the young delinquent fostered by Firth to be trained to high MI5 standards through a quick montage. The stakes are high as in the background Samuel L Jackson, fresh from a spate of poor career choices (Big Game, Kite, Barely Lethal….heard of them? No?), plans to conquer the world by getting everyone to beat each other up when a SIM card activates a sound that sends them mental.
Kingsmen-#1Yes the whole film is camp as tits and very tongue in cheek. Even some of the special effects are poorly executed (the worst in the opening titles, risky). Yet surprisingly the whole film is compelling and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable. The highlight without doubt is a fight sequence in a church involving Firth and for its imagination, choreography and direction should receive an award for….best…fight? Amazing stuff.
And like some films, be sure to watch the credits as it’s not as over as you may think. A sequel will be inevitable given this films popularity and will be a challenge to top.

Kingsman: The Secret Service [Blu-ray]

Posted in 2014, DVD

The Inbetweeners 2

The Inbetweeners 2 #3I can’t believe it was just over 3 years ago when I reviewed the first Inbetweeners movie. It appeared to be a suitable finale to what was a very popular TV series on UK’s Channel 4. And the film had been a huge success. Then there was rumour and speculation – there was going to be another? But surely they’d have graduated from Uni by now? (Thankfully, the “gap year” saves the mathematical dilemma here) Would it be a sequel too far, outstaying its welcome, desperate to relive some of those golden moments? I held my breath a little before watching this movie.
Well, the characters had moved on and if the first film was a coming of age movie, this was the coming of reality of age. We find our heroes a little jaded by their life experiences, even a little resigned to the anticlimax their new paths had taken them. Will is still the social outcast at Uni, Simon is completely under the thumb of his psychotic girlfriend and Neil still ponders life’s agonizing quandaries such as “How long after a poo do you have to wait before you can have sex?”. They then get an invite from Jay to come to Australia where he is spending his gap year in his inimitable fantasy world of orgies and more orgies. Of course it’s bollocks! But they all go a-travelling down-under for a 3 week holiday and that’s the film in a nutshell.
Everyone I’ve spoken to who has not seen the film voiced the same reservations I mentioned previously. Those who have seen the film, myself now included, found it hilarious. Comedy films by and large come from America and are rarely funny. It’s probably cos I’m British, but Brit-Coms are often hilarious as proved by this film and the recent Alan Partridge film. This month also saw an announcement from Ricky Gervais that he’ll be reprising his role as David Brent next year in a mockumentary film – immediately the alarm bells sounded but maybe, as my reactions to this film proved, those worries are unfounded.
The Inbetweeners 2 #2I also have a confession. Despite my glorious review of the first film, I see I only gave it 3 stars. That must have been the film snob in me. So I’ll make amends with a slightly exaggerated rating this time round in its favour! Great, silly, immature fun!

Buy The Inbetweeners 2 [Blu-ray] [2014]

Posted in 2014, DVD

Intersteller

Intersteller #1These days when you watch a trailer you more or less see a mini version of the whole film. Indeed the trailer for this film makes the film look rather plain and I was in two minds whether to go and see it. (After all, you may have noticed that since fatherhood at the start of the year reviews have been few and scarce and there’s a good reason for that – ask any new parent, they’ll tell you. Needless to say, today I got to go to the cinema and so I had my pick of the films!) The running time, 2hrs and 50m, was nearly enough to put me off completely. But I was going to see it on IMAX – Sci-Fi looks great on that doesn’t it? Though my apprehension wasn’t helped by memories of my midnight trip to see Prometheus at the Southbank IMAX which, whilst enjoyable in the wee hours, was tainted by the protests of Scott fans who thought he had ruined the franchise big time like The Phantom Menace. But this is Christopher Nolan! OK – let’s give it a whirl. I’m glad I did.

So Earth appears to be dying. Crops are suffering severely with blight, dust storms are rampant and scientist reckon life for humankind is doomed after the current young generation. Ex-NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is called to fly a special space mission to seek a new habitat for humankind to emigrate to. The journey is epic and will require a small section in stasis and a jaunt through a wormhole just to the right of Saturn. But Cooper leaves behind his son Tom and his daughter Murph (kept sounding like Smurf – “that’s Murph!”) and the latter is proper pissed off about him leaving. Indeed, there are no spoilers here because I’ve more or less recounted the trailer. But thankfully, that is only the first hour of the film. The rest is superb, but you’ll probably be asking why?

Intersteller #3The great thing about this film is that despite being set slightly in the future, everything seems plausible and well thought out. There is no dreadful ambiguity as there is in other films such as Contact (also starring McConaughey) or Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey. We follow the main character through absolutely every minute of his experience and get to share, feel and live it with him. The worlds have this plausibility too yet also contain a few surprises – like frozen clouds or mountains on the horizon that aren’t what they seem (proper “That’s no moon, it’s a Space Station” moment)

There are some interesting, yet successful casting choices in this film too including John Lithgow (who stayed on the 3rd Rock from the Sun) and, as you’d expect in a Nolan film, Batman veterans David Gyasi, Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway. The ubiquitous droids, in this case TARS, CASE and KIPP, were bizarre to say the least. They had amazingly natural voices and were highly intelligent including settings for wit and honesty! Yet I’ve never seen a clunkier droid since V.I.N.C.E.N.T. in cult flop The Black Hole. But this only added to the overall feasibility and therefore sense of realism. And it’s this realism which is key to bridging our imagination in any SciFi film, and many films fail at it. Great care appears to have been taken to address this factor and it is very much to the film’s credit!

I’m gonna stick my neck out here and categorise the review on this site under the BAFTA and Oscar category for 2015 – I’ll be very surprised if some aspect doesn’t get a nomination for one of them!

Posted in 2014, BAFTA's 2015, Oscar's 2015, Uncategorized | Tagged as: , , ,