/ April film thread

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019

Free Solo. 9/10
I don't watch a lot of climbing documentary features, I see some short ones at Best of Kendal and Best of Banff programmes, and have found the few longer "single-topic" ones I've seen, to be a bit indulgent (e.g. Houlding's Baffin Island one)
However, the 100 minutes of Free Solo were almost all incredibly well selected from what must have been hundreds of hours of footage. Being picky, I would say that a few bits were clearly staged for camera or at least the participants were playing to the camera (e.g. Alex looking quickly left and right for a receptacle, before drinking his soup straight from the pan), but hey it gave it a bit of humour and levity anyway. 
Obviously the film has been discussed a lot on here and I have very little to add. Two things I got from it that I haven't noticed discussed were:

every person involved, came out of it very well. Alex, Jimmy, Mikey, Sanni, all of them. Maybe someone on the editing team was being very kind

they paid JUST the right amount of lip-service to the whole "is Alex's brain wired abnormally?" question, seemingly knowing that this film was going to reach a wider audience beyond just enthusiasts, but also knowing that a lot of enthusiasts have already read or seen plenty of stuff about this aspect. I think it was just about 6 minutes of the whole film, which was fair. 

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aln - on 28 Mar 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

It's still March!

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019

Fighting With My Family
5.5/10, maybe 6/10
Fairly pedestrian effort at a mini-biopic of minor British female wrestling star "Paige", that doesn't quite know whether it wants to be comedic, dramatic, melodramatic, accurate etc.
I thought the more interesting story was that of the brother who remained in England. This film seems to be getting a lot more plaudits than it deserves. For my part, I am baffled that for two years running, Lena Headey has taken a minor role in a daft little British comedy-drama about wrestling (and I've seen them both at the cinema! Last year she had a cameo in Walk Like A Panther, which was a bit more fun than this film)

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019
In reply to aln:

> It's still March!

Well observed. However, it's always the case that stuff posted beyond the 25th of the month on these threads, gets missed. And you know how much I love the "sound" of my own "voice". 

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aln - on 28 Mar 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Thanks! I read the thread right up to the end of the month. Not sure about the comment about liking the sound of your own voice, have I said that? I might have but I don't remember doing it.

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019
In reply to aln:

>  Not sure about the comment about liking the sound of your own voice, have I said that? I might have but I don't remember doing it.

Oh it wasn't particularly directed at anyone. It's true though!

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aln - on 28 Mar 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

It may be so. I like your voice and your film reviews. Anyway, enough of the mutual love-in, carry on....

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019

Captain Marvel. 

There are some pretty minor spoilers in this by necessity. 

To keep Gordon Stainforth happy, I am not putting a score on this film. 
Actually that's not for Gordon's sake but because it's a very tricky one to quantify. 

In summary this film is an imperfect joy, seemingly much misunderstood and with many aspects being totally underappreciated. 

I watched it twice. First time round, I had that feeling that I've had with films like It Follows and Happy Death Day, where they were really enjoyable but had enough flaws to force me to be honest and say they were far from perfect. Second time round, I was a bit more forgiving (especially as two shots that I thought were egregiously bad, turned out just to be fast editing that made me miss a detail)

Starting with the bad:
 There are inconsistencies of tone even within the same character in the same scene (notably there seem to be some later insert shots of Brie Larson smiling/smirking that feel like they were slotted in from reshoots and don't really fit the tone of the scene).

The whole film is in English as the aliens use universal translators so that makes sense on Earth but not several galaxies away - however, we overlook this elsewhere in the MCU I suppose. But what was odd is that they are familiar with colloquialisms like "jazz hands". It's a bit jarring.

The first hour feels a little bit muddled but A THING happens halfway through that turns it around massively and makes that first hour make more sense. 

I am not sure that they really used the mid-1990s setting as cleverly as they could, I certainly enjoyed some of the comedy throwbacks (pagers, waiting for a file to load onto a computer off a CD, the appalling handling of American sedans of the 1990s) and the music but that's not part of the narrative and by the time it is used to soundtrack dramatic action scenes as if the whole thing is an expensive pop video, it takes you out of the film a little. 

Certain technical details of certain action scenes might have you scratching your head a little. 

And away from the bad, but just a comment to come back to later. A lot of people are complaining that the lead character is unlikeable, smug, immature, and gives you nothing to root for as she is pretty much omnipotent nearly from the start. This is an interesting point....see later. 


And onto the good. 
1) It is visually spectacular, almost all the effects are seamless and beautiful, and it seems to brighten up and get more colourful as the film progresses. I don't know how many visuals were lifted direct from the comics, but regardless of who created stuff first, there is some great imagination going on here. 
2) The narrative is a neat straightforward story, deftly told. It doesn't get bogged down with extraneous characters like some of the ensemble pieces in the MCU (although I did think they did a great job with Avengers: Infinity War)
3) Brie Larson is superb, she absolutely nails a surprisingly (and not obviously) complex role
4) The humour is good
5) the support cast is great


And on point 3, going back to my comment between the bad points and the good....

This is not your typical "origin" story like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr Strange etc. It's like an origin story told backward. The titular Captain Marvel (who is never called this in the film, she is plain Carol Danvers) is in possession of all her powers already at the start of the film albeit with some sort of restriction applied. This is why people complain that you never worry about her in peril. But what is overlooked is that she is a young confused amnesiac with hints of major PTSD, and minor Stockholm Syndrome connected to a feeling of "not belonging" and a feeling that she's been taken away from another home (this is all in the first scenes, no spoilers). When a sense of possible massive betrayal hits her as memories of a past life start to clarify, it hits her hard and increases her "directionlessness", leaving her to rely on a sense of morality in order to choose a "side" to fight for (* see endnote). This arguably isn't explored in proper depth in the film and might be why it gets overlooked, but it's why they needed an actress of Brie Larson's calibre to pull it off. 

And another couple of aspects that I'm really surprised haven't set the Internet ablaze....
Minor spoilers


There is absolutely no romance in this film. Not even a hint of it. Aside from one major supporting player having a wife, relationships are not touched upon. Another major character has a daughter but the absent father is not even mentioned. Prurient fanboys might like to imagine a minor hint of lesbianism but that's a stretch. 
I found this interesting - nearly all the other MCU major players have a thing going on (Black Widow / Hulk, Tony Stark / Pepper, Hawkeye / Hawkeye's wife, Thor / Jane, Ant-Man has his ex-wife, Dr Strange is attached, Spider-Man is after that girl MJ, Peter Quill / Gamora, Black Panther and Nakia had a bit of a thing, arguably Captain America hasn't had a look-in yet but he was close to Peggy and I wonder if Agent 23 will come back). 
There is not a hint of ANYTHING not only around Carol Danvers, but also around all characters, in Captain Marvel. 
Further to this, there's also no sexualisation of any characters. What's the iconic image of Wonder Woman? Sexy athletic woman in brass bikini, short dress and high boots. Black Widow starts in Avengers: Assemble in her underwear and mostly is seen in very tight sexy figure-hugging black outfits and being rather sultry. 
I'm not sure that in Captain Marvel we even see any bare skin on Carol aside from face, hands and feet. Always covered up. Admittedly sometimes in some form-fitting space combat uniform get-up, but she doesn't vamp it up like Black Widow. It's proper "girl next door" stuff. 


* and finally. It hit me last week that this film has a lot in common with The Long Kiss Goodnight!
See aforementioned "lead character is an amnesiac woman whose memories start to come back, things get a bit violent, she turns out to be a kickass superwoman with ace combat skills unsure of which side she was originally meant to be on". Plus it's set in 1996 and features an Oscar-winning actresses sharing banter and wisecracks with Samuel L Jackson

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Blue Straggler - on 28 Mar 2019

"Us" (2019) 
6/10
Jordan Peele's next feature film after the incredibly well-received "Get Out", sees him somewhat resting on his own laurels. The trailer made me think "I hope this is a bit better than the classy M Night Shymalan knock-off that it appears to be".
Well, it WAS a bit better but only because he's also knocking off Wes Craven's Reagan allegory "The People Under the Stairs", massively. 
It still gets a decent score because it's well shot and the performances are great, especially Lupita N'Yongo in the lead. 
But it's one of those films that, like (say) Seven Psycopaths, makes you think that if it were even half as clever as it seems to think it is, it would be great. But it's not even that. A wasted opportunity. Also Peele tries to ape that "The Cabin in the Woods" trick where the whole thing is actually given away in the pre-credits scene, but it is done so blatantly that I just watched the opening credits thinking "are we meant to already be thinking that THIS THING has happened and this'll be the narrative, or is Jordan Peele trying to do a The Cabin in the Woods type trick? Either way, it's going to distract me for the whole film!"

You're better off watching the 2010 remake of The Crazies which isn't the same story but has the same feel to it, only done much better and more honestly (in that it is an official remake of something)

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Blue Straggler - on 01 Apr 2019

Dumbo (2019)
4/10
As expected, a fairly redundant adaptation. Gets some points for some good central performances - Farrell, DeVito, Green and Keaton are all on fine form. But Dumbo himself pretty much remains a pathetic creature and isn't given much chance to shine or even become adorable - he's more pitiable. At nearly 2 hours long it's simply unengaging - despite the good performances, the characters are all ciphers and you could pretty much take any two of them out of the story without affecting anything. 
Also for a major film of this sort in 2019, the CGI was ropey at times. 

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wercat on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

This is my nomination:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1zCj3Tltxw

Very seasonal

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Blue Straggler - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to wercat:

Can you write what it is, so people are not forced into an embedded YouTube click, please?

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1poundSOCKS - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Free Solo. 9/10

The only thing I found disappointing was the segment about free soloists who are now deceased. And failing to mention that 3 of the 5 didn't die soloing. People not in the know might well have assumed that. They must have know it was misleading, not something you want in a documentary.

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Blue Straggler - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Good point. I knew there were some more specific things stopping me from declaring a higher score, and yes that was one such thing. Thanks 

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wercat on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

OK -

This is my nomination:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1zCj3Tltxw

Very seasonal, very nicely edited sequences made into a film showing Blackbirds nesting, and the raising of young blackbirds to the point of leaving the nest in only a few days.

I could not stop watching once I started.

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Offwidth - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

A sad but optimistic tale of the life of 5 teenage girls seeking freedom in a conservative turkish family that is forced into escalating restrictive measures to stop them straying. Beautifully filmed and naturally acted. Highly recommended.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mustang_2015

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Tom V - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

A very good film but I only see it as optimistic in the same sense as Fish Tank and Katie Says Goodbye where life is such a shithole that the least bit of a let up is seen as a positive outcome. 

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Blue Straggler - on 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Tom V:

The end of Fish Tank didn't feel particularly optimistic to me! I realise that your post is not about the ending though. 

Post edited at 23:53
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Tom V - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

That was my point and there's a Fish Tank spoiler coming up:

Running off with a young  Irish traveller would not be seen as a step up for anyone except those in the direst of circumstances. It's a measure of the miserable lives led where endings like that can be viewed by some people as optimistic. I feel similarly about the two Turkish girls and to some extent about Katie.

(and what a revelation Olivia Cooke was for me)

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Blue Straggler - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Tom V:

Thanks for mentioning Olivia Cooke, as I had never heard of Katie Says Goodbye, I'm not sure how that passed me by as I do kind of follow Cooke's career! I'll look out for it. 

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Tom V - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Never heard of her before and was astounded to find out that she comes from Oldham,

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Blue Straggler - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> Never heard of her before and was astounded to find out that she comes from Oldham,

You've got some fun catching-up to do then!
Surprised you'd not heard of her from one or more of the following:
Ready Player One, Bates Motel, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, The Limehouse Golem, Thoroughbreds.

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Neil Henson - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> > Free Solo. 9/10

> The only thing I found disappointing was the segment about free soloists who are now deceased. And failing to mention that 3 of the 5 didn't die soloing. People not in the know might well have assumed that. They must have know it was misleading, not something you want in a documentary.


I must admit I hadn't realised that. But in a similar vein I did cringe at the statement in the film that only 0.01% (can't remember the exact number) of climbers free solo. How on earth do you quantify that meaningless statistic?

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Tom V - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I gave Ready Player One the "I Saw the Light" treatment and I've seen Thoroughbreds but it's only your mention of it that makes me realise it's the same actress.

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1poundSOCKS - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Neil Henson:

> But in a similar vein I did cringe at the statement in the film that only 0.01% (can't remember the exact number) of climbers free solo. How on earth do you quantify that meaningless statistic?

Cringeworthy. One for the non-climbers.

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Blue Straggler - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> I gave Ready Player One the "I Saw the Light" treatment

Is that "turning it off after trying it as an in-flight movie"?

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Tom V - on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

More or less but in the comfort of my own armchair.

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Tom V - on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Sisters Brothers.

The book was rather offbeat so I wasn't surprised to find a good degree of quirkiness in the film. 

Good performances from all four leads and some fine photography. 

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Andy Clarke - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

A Private War: 7/10. I don't think this has yet had the UKC Film Thread treatment, but apologies if it has. I caught up with it on a recent flight back from Australia. It's a heartfelt biopic telling the story of Marie Colvin, the famously fearless and eye-patched Sunday Times war correspondent who died in Homs, Syria in 2012 and whom I think the Assad regime has recently been charged with having murdered, by deliberately shelling civilian targets. Colvin was the only Western reporter who had dared to stay there and she paid the ultimate price. Rosamund Pike gives an extremely strong central performance as Colvin, convincingly presenting her drive to tell the stories of those brutalised by war, along with her internal conflicts and her struggle with PTSD, self-medicating with alcohol. Her powerful acting rises above some occasionally cliched dialogue and she does a superb rendition of Colvin's distinctive voice. Jamie Dornan gives good support as her photographer, Paul Conroy - though his scouse accent didn't seem as convincing! The film's other great strong point is its graphic presentation of the dreadful suffering which Colvin's subjects undergo - it speaks passionately for the victims of war. Well worth watching.

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Andy Clarke - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Goodland: 8/10. Another one courtesy of Emirates in-flight entertainment. On limited release in the States in 2018, I'm not sure this has even had a UK release - if so, it passed me by. It's a tense, tightly-plotted and scripted noir-ish thriller set in a small forgotten Kansas town. The corpse of a drifter is discovered on the edge of town  (death by combine harvester!) on the same day that a mysterious photographer arrives and books a week at the seedy, run-down motel, ostensibly taking shots of the town for a forthcoming book. The stranger arouses all sorts of interest from the locals - not least from flirtatious young Ida, dreaming of escape. I presume this was a low-budget labour of love for the writer /director Josh Doke but I thought it was well-crafted and engaging. I was particularly impressed by the cinematography - some superbly atmospheric evocations of the claustrophobic small town and the contrastingly vast landscape. It moves fast and keeps you guessing as the ultimately quite complex plot unfolds, though some might find the ending unsatisfyingly abrupt. I've no doubt over-scored this, as it ticks all my boxes: low-budget indie, noir thriller, small town Americana... but it's certainly worth 90 minutes of your time if it crops up on Netflicks.

Post edited at 07:49
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Mick B - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy Clarke:

This is a good companion to A Private War, (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/sep/09/under-the-wire-documentary-review-marie-colvin).

Was on iplayer a few weeks ago.

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Offwidth - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Mick B:

My latest...

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/phoenix_2015

Still as good after a second watch: a complex post war tragedy about love and treachery with the central character a jewess who had been rescued from the camps.  I thought I had recommended this before but couldn't find where.

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Blue Straggler - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy Clarke:

Thanks, sounds excellent and I’d never heard of it

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Tom V - on 06 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Watched it last year and thought the ending one of the absolute best of any film. 

(Spoilt a bit by  being niggled all the way through about where I'd seen Hoss before and just as it finished I remembered - "Homeland.)

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Blue Straggler - on 08 Apr 2019

Almost Famous
8.5/10

This was last week's "Mystery Movie" at my local independent cinema. 
You probably all know this film but just in case - it's writer-director Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical (but all fictionalised characters aside from Lester Bangs) tale of when he was a very very young new writer on Rolling Stone and assigned to tour with a rock band and chronicle their goings-on. It's a gentle affectionate film with a mostly comedic tone to it. 

I saw it on its original release nearly 20 years ago, when all the media attention was on Kate Hudson and her "dead cert shoo-in" for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars (she lost to Marcia Gay Harden)
At that time I thought this film was a 6.5/10 at best, it seemed awfully sugar-coated and family-friendly, shying away from properly depicting what I imagine were some really sordid goings-on in the early-mid 1970s, in order to be a bit more family-friendly. 
Now, I think "fair enough". Crowe is telling his own real story from his point of view back then, meaning that at that time he was probably sheltered from some of the more sordid stuff. 
It IS a Cameron Crowe film though, which means that yes it is a bit cheesy and obvious and mawkish and manipulative, but these elements all work in its favour and the acting is all pretty damn good, especially Billy Crudup. Frances McDormand is a bit over-the-top and shrill but that's the only real sour note. 

A successful revisit to a popular modern near-classic. 

 

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Blue Straggler - on 09 Apr 2019

Pet Sematary (2019)
3.5/10
Barely worth writing about. I liked last year's adaptation of Stephen King's "It", and Pet Sematary had an interesting choice of leads (the always watchable Jason Clarke, and the offbeat, niche Amy Seimetz probably best known for Upstream Colour)

In retrospect, I think they were simply "available"
I don't know the novel and never saw the film from 1990 but the new trailer gives quite a lot away on this film. Looked passable. 

It's crap. Huge plot holes, inconsistencies in character attitude and behaviour, and some of the worst editing, some of the worst obvious "horror film - something is about to HAPPEN" musical cues, and some of the worst night-time cinematography I've ever seen. It gets some points for the acting, notably Seimetz who really rises above the material, and the finale is reasonably well done (although bordering on "Orphan" territory, "Orphan being that utterly ridiculous Peter Sarsgaard / Vera Farmiga film from about 2009)

Basically - don't bother. 

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Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Of interest to film buffs? As I said on another thread a couple of days ago, I'll be talking this afternoon at 4.00pm on BBC Radio 4 (The Film Programme) about my work for Stanley Kubrick as the music editor on The Shining. It'll be repeated on Sunday evening. Plus, they said they'll be putting a longer version out on their website as a podcast.

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Blue Straggler - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Thanks for the reminder Gordon. I won't be able to catch this today as I have a teleconference tutorial but I'll listen on iPlayer tomorrow hopefully.

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Offwidth - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Missed your posts but heard most of this on the way home... thinking that sounds like Gordon, and then Kubrick was mentioned and it was confirmed ... Radio 4 at its best.

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Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Thanks. It's very strange hearing one's own voice on the radio! They did a good editing job. The interview lasted for over and hour. I now see that the podcast of it that can be downloaded from the R4 website is 49 minutes long and my part in it is three times longer. I'm about to listen to it with Freda. 

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Offwidth - on 11 Apr 2019
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Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I've just listened to this longer version now. My section more than twice as long as in the broadcast, and runs from 13:19 to 39:36. I'm glad the quite long bit about the 30s music playing during Jack and Grady in the 'red bathroom' scene has been added.

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Blue Straggler - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Missing Link. 
9/10

Went in to see this with fairly low expectations and almost zero knowledge of the premise (aside from that it is some sort of buddy comedy with a Victorian or Edwardian-era British explorer, and that it is a Laika production)
Laika is the animation studio that specialises in stop-motion and does it with greater intricacy and - dare I say it - craftsmanship, than Aardman. They made Coraline, Boxtrolls, Paranorman, and Kubo & the Two Strings. I admit I could not get into Boxtrolls, loved Paranorman more for the comedy than the visuals, "admired" Kubo more for the craftsmanship than the storytelling, and can't really judge Coraline because I didn't watch it properly at the time but I did notice a unique style to it. 

So I am not some Laika fanboy, and Missing Link has an uninspiring title and doesn't seem to be getting much of a promotional push. 

But it's nearly PERFECT!
Absolutely beautiful to look at, with some very inventive action set-pieces, and it does that "standard story formula" almost perfectly (create likeable characters, give them obstacles, see them overcome those obstacles and learn life lessons along the way). 
Nitpickers might dissect that last comment given that maybe we have no reason to root for the protagonist etc etc but let's keep it simple, it's a story for children. 
I won't go into the plot aside from saying that it's not quite as predictable as expected. You can probably pick it up from the trailer (which I have not seen) or a brief synopsis elsewhere. 
This film really only loses out on a 10/10 because the female co-lead is not used well at all and might as well not be in the film. 
Aside from the visuals, this film's strengths are: characters, story, dialogue, action, humour, pathos. That's a good hand of strengths. 
Laika's best BY FAR.

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Blue Straggler - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Of interest to film buffs? As I said on another thread a couple of days ago, I'll be talking this afternoon at 4.00pm on BBC Radio 4 (The Film Programme) about my work for Stanley Kubrick as the music editor on The Shining. It'll be repeated on Sunday evening. Plus, they said they'll be putting a longer version out on their website as a podcast.

Gordon, thanks for this, very interesting. Thanks for making the journey to do the interview. 

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Gordon Stainforth - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Well thank you for your kind comment. I really enjoyed doing it. The people interviewing me were of a very high calibre.

Post edited at 11:26
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Blue Straggler - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Eighth Grade. 
9.5/10

A lovely, humble, tiny film that doesn't try to offer anything new and is all the better for it. Actor/comedian Bo Burnham makes his directorial debut from his own original screenplay, and in theory the film doesn't sound appealing as there are so many similar stories already on film - basically a snapshot portrait of a few weeks in the life of a shy awkward young teenager at the end of eighth grade (this is American, where eighth grade is the final year of "middle school" or "junior high", so these are 13-14-year-olds transitioning into "high school" 14-18). 
Burnham interestingly doesn't go for a "cinema verite" style, he's not shy to have stylishly composed shots throughout (there is one static scene toward the end that is incongruously cinematic). 
The film is anchored by an amazing central performance from Elsie Fisher as Kayla, who is almost invisible at school and gives herself a little release by making Instagram "advice" videos about "being yourself", "being confident" etc which only serve to show how unconfident and non-worldy-wise she really is herself (and she has barely any audience there). Fisher is in every scene of the film (not always in shot but always present). 
The tone is of light comedy drama, with plenty of recognisable "cringe" scenes, although it starts to take a darker turn with a horribly tense and squirm-inducing incident that is played for just the right amount of time. 
It only loses a half point for seemingly trying too hard to make no reference (unless I missed it?) to the absence of Kayla's mother. Otherwise it's perfect. 
Also a nice original musical score from Anna Meredith, which is the reason I've heard of this film at all. 
Saw at a preview screening at Cineworld, I don't know if this means it's getting a wide release. I hope so. 

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Andy Clarke - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Wild Rose: 7/10. Jesse Buckley blazes like a flame-haired comet through this engaging feelgood fable about a young Glaswegian who dreams of becoming a country singer. She stars as the eponymous Rose, fresh out of prison and with two young children to care for, yet still clinging to her dream of making it in Nashville. It's a fizzing, charismatic turn, well matched by a very fine contrasting performance by Julie Walters as her often exasperated mother. Buckley also boasts an excellent voice. If you're into Country - and if you're not, you don't know what you're missing - the soundtrack of standards and originals is quite a treat. Some of the songs were co-written by Buckley and Nicole Taylor, the screenwriter, who obviously knows and loves the genre. (I guess the title was deliberately taken from the short-lived all-female Country band of that name.) The backing band also features some luminaries of the Scottish music scene. Rose has the famous Harlan Howard definition of Country tattooed on her arm: three chords and the truth. The film follows her struggle to live by this in the context of her own life. Some will no doubt criticise it for being sentimental, but in the context of Country I feel this is something of a category mistake! I thought it earned its uplifting ending. And if you haven't got a lump in your throat by this point, then Country really isn't the music for you.

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Blue Straggler - on 12 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy Clarke:

I would be interested in this film if it weren’t for one aspect. Julie Walters. I don’t know why it is but I just can’t really beat watching her !

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Blue Straggler - on 13 Apr 2019
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Autocorrect failed me badly there. I can’t BEAR watching Walters 

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Blue Straggler - on 17 Apr 2019

Shazam!
6/10
Watchable but way overlong, takes over 45 minutes to get going, is saved by Zachary Levi's performance, doesn't feel like it belongs in the same universe as Suicide Squad, Batman, Superman, Justice League, Aquaman. It's basically a muddled cross between Big, Superman, and Chronicle. The rest you can get from the trailer - it was OK but I don't want to spend much time or space writing it.

Hellboy (2019)
A surprising 7.5/10. No classic but it does what it says on the tin and was certainly more fun and more even in tone than was Shazam. 
For clarity, I never saw the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy films with Ron Perlman in the title role so I have no blind loyalty to them and no reference point (also have never read the comics). I am vaguely aware of what it's all about. 
This new one does spend a few minutes on a flashback to Hellboy's origins but it is in no way an origin story. Indeed, it throws the audience straight into some action as if this is a direct sequel to some non-existent original, and seems to expect at least a tiny bit of awareness of the character. I managed. It continues to treat the audience with a fair bit of intelligence throughout, actually. David Harbour who I've never heard of, was great in the title role but it's Milla Jovovich who really surprised me in this - I know she CAN act when she feels like it (e.g. The Claim) but that seems to be a rare occurrence and I expected her to be phoning this one in. She was actually really good in a fairly well written, well rounded, complex villainess role. She seemed be channeling a cross between Cate Blanchett's Hela and Cate Blanchett's Galadriel, and pulling it off! So, yeah, I liked it. 

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Blue Straggler - on 17 Apr 2019

Another exception, reviewing something not seen at the cinema. My second DVD viewing of Lukas Moodyson's 2009 film "Mammoth", his first in the English language. I've never seen any of his other films although I do keep meaning to, especially his breakthrough Lilya 4 Ever. Anyway enough digression. 

Those with sharp memories may remember that I think Michelle Williams is in a league of her own, the greatest screen actress there is currently, bar none. Possibly all-time greatest. She's the only reason I ever watched Mammoth in the first place, I haven't seen it for a while but elements of it stuck with me and I always had the feeling that it could be her finest work. I also had the fear that the film might not be as good as I remembered. 

What a bonus, it's amazing. I have no reason not to score it 10/10

Little synopsis as it's an obscure film - Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal play two affluent New-Yorkers, she's an expert emergency-room surgeon, he's a computer-gaming multi-millionaire. They are a happy couple with a daughter, but they seem to be total workaholics who barely see each other or the girl (they have a huge swanky apartment and a live-in nanny who seems to do ALL the childcare). But they all seem likeable. 
Bernal has to go on a business trip to Thailand for a few days and ends up with nothing to do, he's not needed at the long meetings and just has to sign some stuff off at the end, so he decides against cooping himself in a hotel room, and goes to spend a few days alone in a beach hut on a tourist island. 
Williams is at work trying to save a particularly gory case, some kid bleeding all over the place. 
Running parallel to this is the nanny's story - she has been sent to work in New York by her overbearing mother who remains back in the Philippines doing not so great a job of raising the nanny's own two children who miss their mother but are being told that she is making good money for their futures (the nanny also wishes to return to her boys)
So, it's all very slight. Some more dramatic plot elements do come into it but I won't detail them here. 
But upon this thin framework, Moodyson has hung a dense and detailed canvas, a portrait of the less positive aspects of humanity, not just the decadent affluent west (the title Mammoth refers to a $3000 pen given to Bernal as a bonus, with a mammoth ivory inlay) but also the other end of society, the poor shack dwellers in the Philippines, and by inference, everything in between. 
I said the characters seem likeable if workaholic. Moodyson doesn't particularly judge, he's not bashing you over the head with morals etc, but to be honest the kindest you can say for any of them aside from the nanny and the children, is that they are selfish without realising it. 
By the end you certainly feel emotionally drained but in a very good way. 
And I still think it's Williams' finest work so far  

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Blue Straggler - on 17:49 Wed
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Greta. 3.5/10

A faintly embarrassing effort, an unnecessary throwback to that odd late 80s/early 90s genre "yuppies in peril". 
This one sells itself as something classier, maybe a DePalma-esque psychological thriller. With credentials such as Neil Jordan directing, and Isabelle Huppert in the titular lead role with support from the always-reliable and versatile Chloe Grace Moretz, this was promising. To be fair I knew very little about it, going in. The names drew me in. 

It's rubbish. It's about as good as the nadir of the yuppies-in-peril genre, "Pacific Heights"(*), complete with made-up laws rendering the police helpless. Other cliches are in there too, you've seen them all before and this film does nothing clever with them. It's almost like a spoof, made twenty-five years too late and with no laughs. It gets a few points for a decently made finale and for the acting, although poor Maika Monroe had NO chance of making anything good out of her most lumpen share of the dialogue. 


* that was the one where Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine take in a lodger, psychotic Michael Keaton, who proceeds to terrorise them for no particular reason, and the law is somehow on his side as a lodger has more rights than the homeowners....ridiculous piffle all round. 

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Offwidth - on 19:54 Wed
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I thought Pacific Heights was almost satire on middle class insecurities and well worth a watch albeit for reasons other than the makers probably intended. 

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Blue Straggler - on 20:02 Wed
In reply to Offwidth:

All those films seemed borderline satire/comedy but I fear that they were meant to be serious. Single White Female, Unlawful Entry etc etc

I make special exception for The Hand that Rocks the Cradle as it is so deliriously deranged that you can’t help but love it and invent drinking games around it and wonder why it has not been made into a campy musical. And it was made by Curtis Hanson who went on to do LA Confidential. And it remains the only film in which breastfeeding is used as a weapon. It’s bloody great. 

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Blue Straggler - on 20:03 Wed
In reply to Offwidth:

Feel free to enjoy Pacific Heights for the right or wrong reasons but just don’t watch Greta! 

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