Review: Boys State

Review: Boys State

In a world where it feels like teenage boys are running things, with silly taglines and boisterous behaviour, Boys State gives us a chance to see whether that metaphor is true as we watch what happens when 16 and 17 year olds attempt to run districts and win elections in this relevant documentary.

Run by a legion of veterans, Boys State is a week long residential camp where two make belief parties, the nationalists and federalists elect chairs and decide policies. Set in Austin, Texas, a famously conservative state, the ultimate goal of the parties is to encourage other party members to swap sides and vote for their governor.

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What I Watched This Week (9th August)

What I Watched This Week (9th August)

If this blog post is only half done, it’s because I have fully melted into liquid form while writing it. These days, the minus sixty degrees Mars temperature doesn’t quite seem so bad compared to today, and that’s where the astronaut will go in this week’s new release Proxima (2019)

Proxima is a German/French/English/Russian film about French female astronaut Sarah Loreau. In the near future, she has been chosen to go on a mission to Mars which will see her leave her daughter for 2 years. The daughter will go and live with her father. The film, which is all set on Earth, focuses on the more human struggles that mother and daughter deal with in quite an understated way. However, the whole thing felt a bit bland. The characters all feel like they’re trying too hard to remain strong and are a bit samey. There is no real warmth between mother and daughter and there wasn’t any shown before this saga. Unfortunately, this all left me a bit under invested.

Proxima — a space movie for our times | Financial Times

The whole setting, a space training camp, felt real and authentic. It was nice to look at and had an intensity about its magnitude, if a little bland. In terms of the space parts, my big issue was the American astronaut who was meant to be a friend, but instead turned out to just be a bit of a jerk.

I’m not quite sure why I really struggled to connect with this film. I really liked the dreamy soundtrack, but the characters all just felt a bit closed and one dimensional. It was an okay, solidly made film which I neither loved or hated. Three stars and you can see it in the cinema.

The Kings of Summer (2013) also suffered similar problems. This low-budget comedy film focused on three boys who decide to run away into the woods one summer and build a house to escape from their over-bearing parents. I liked the style a lot, the music and the cinematography were better than I expected, so kudos for that.

The problems were that I didn’t find it too funny (Which is a shame because Nick Offerman was the best Parks & Rec character and Kevin is always a welcome cameo in Brooklyn Nine-nine). Maybe I was grumpy because of the hot weather, but it all felt lazy. Throw in the fact that I really didn’t like the lead character and felt no sympathy for him at all and suddenly, my enjoyment of the film was limited. It improved a bit as it went on, but the bit that should be the highlight of the film, them making the house, wasn’t that enjoyable.

The Kings of Summer review – A welcome addition to the coming-of ...

As it was really well made, I’ll also give it three stars, however I will say that if you want a film about Moises Arias being stuck in a jungle with other young people, this is a much better option. If you want to give Kings of Summer a go, then it’s available on Prime.

This weekend is the Sundance London digital festival, which I was lucky enough to obtain a free pass for. This allowed me to see three previews. One is tonight, the last night one I skipped due to the weather, however I did see Friday night’s UK Premiere of Uncle Frank (2020).

While it’s not been released in the UK, I reckon it may find some audience when it is. It was a charming little story about Beth who has moved from her Southern American home to New York in the 1970’s where her Uncle, Frank is a professor. Soon she discovers that he’s gay and has a long-term partner, Wally. When Frank’s father dies, he and Betty must go back home on a road-trip as Uncle Frank confronts his identity problems.

Uncle Frank': Film Review - Variety

You know what you’re getting into. The whole film is rather predictable with every cliche in the book. However, some great performances, with Paul Bettany in particular being fantastic,make this film a pleasant watch.

It comes out in USA in November, so probably won’t be out in the UK for a few months more, however when it is out, you can choose whether to watch a 3.5 star film.

I went across to Japan to revisit the cult Battle Royale (2000). The film, based on a book, sees a class of randomly selected students punished for national rebellion and put on an island, forced to fight to the death in a last man standing situation. Sound familiar? Well it should do, because Suzanne Collins basically ripped it off for the Hunger Games. However, the Battle Royale Film is superior in every way.

Tonally, Battle Royale is much darker. The weapons are much deadlier and the kids are a lot more brutal. It’s really well made, each of the 42 characters all feel unique and well thought out, which is incredible for a 100 minute movie. I’d forgotten quite how messed up this film was, but it had me back on the edge of the my seat. It’s uncompromising, unpredictable and down right mental.

Battle Royale
What do you think?

It’s well worth a watch, even though you’ve seen Hunger Games. I’d rate it 4 stars and will say that it’s available now on BFI player or on about 80% of CEX International Film shelves.

Film Of The Week

I’ve been meaning to watch more Lee Chang Dong films, having been enthralled by Burning. This week, I finally managed to get around to Poetry (2010), a Korean film about an old lady with Alzheimer’s disease. She undertakes a poetry class in order to partially help her remember words and to achieve her dreams her younger self never achieved, thus the title.

She also has another big issue to deal with. A local girl has committed suicide and she finds out her grandson, whom she looks after, was part of a gang who raped her before her death. This gang’s parents all want to work out a financial settlement with the girl’s parents to avoid their kids going to jail. The grandmother explores the scenes of what happened and has to make the decision of whether to pay the settlement or whether to have her horrible grandson face the consequences for the action.

Poetry: a bit of a puzzle | That's How The Light Gets In

I thought this film was incredible. It kept up its themes of memory, independence and dreams throughout. It’s about trying to find beauty in dark places, even where there may be none. Some characters were cold and evil. The grandmother was pained as she had to deal with ageing and her new disease as well as her grandson. The scenes in poetry classes were calm and almost enchanting. The key reason this film worked as well as it did was the oscar-worthy performance from Yoon Jeong-Hee. She made this film her own and portrayed a deep emotional character with great under-stated dignity.

Poetry is available to purchase digitally from a good number of online stores and is worth it. It’s 4.5 stars in my book with one of the best leading performances around.

New Streaming Selects

This is the part where I give some shout-outs to great films which are newly on streaming services this week. First up is the Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game. I haven’t watched it in a few years, but remember Benedict Cumberbatch being fantastic as Alan Turing. It’s recently become available on Netflix again, so may be worth a watch.

New film: "The Imitation Game" - A riddle wrapped up in an Enigma ...

Two films in my top 20 of 2019 list both became available on streaming services this week. We The Animals tells the story of a young gay Puerto Rican boy in America who has to live in a hyper-masculine environment with his two older brothers. He is much more gentle than these two and struggles with his identity. It can be quite dark at times with themes such as domestic abuse explored. However, the film is done from the child’s perspective, similarly to the Florida Project, so you don’t see it directly as much as you’re aware it happened. It’s really impressive and intimate. This stylistically unique film is on Amazon Prime Video. (Full Review)

We the Animals - info and ticket booking, Bristol | Watershed

The film which never got the recognition it deserved last year was The Peanut Butter Falcon. This was such a shame as it is one of the best feel good films around. Zack is a young man with down syndrome who escapes the nursing home where his family has left him to go to the Saltwater Redneck wrestling school as he wants to be a pro wrestler. He teams up with Shia LeBouf’s redneck character who lost his brother and is on the run from a gang to get there before the carer at Zak’s home (Dakota Johnson) finds them. It’s a goofy road trip film, but it has so much heart and warmth. Each actor takes the film seriously and the comedic moments are funny. You laugh with the characters, not at them and it’s so nice to see an actor with down syndrome in a big role (He even won an unnominatables award). A perfect family film, it’s available now on Netflix. Go and watch it. (Full Review)

The Peanut Butter Falcon - Tyneside Cinema
What I Watched This Week: (2nd August)

What I Watched This Week: (2nd August)

It is boiling. On Friday it was 33 degrees in London, so needless to say I was in a slightly bad mood. However, it does mean that it’s unequivocally Summer. Tis the season to “make out under the docks” or to “stay out until ten o’clock” as the summer days are drifting away. However, due to everything and all that, I have been watching movies instead. What is that I hear you say? Tell me more, tell me more…

There are some “all time cinematic greats” which I totally get. These classics can be fantastic. There are others where I don’t quite get them. The Seventh Seal (1957) fits in the former camp. Set during the black plague in Sweden, we see a knight who is about to die who challenges death (Some cheap Voldemort knock off) to a game of chess over his life. From there, we see a few random groups of people go a bit paranoid as the knight and his gang walk around. As you can probably tell I wasn’t overly engaged.

The Seventh Seal | George Eastman Museum

The whole thing looked great and as the film went on, it got slightly more interesting. However, spells around the beginning were much too slow and it just didn’t reign me in. There are some smart themes here around death and hope, however, unless you’re a bit hipster and all that there isn’t much here to make me suggest you watch it. 3 stars and it’s available on BFI Player, or just watch it on Youtube

Another fairly retro film was Cairo Station (1958). The story focuses on a day in Cairo Station, where newspaper seller Qinawi falls in love and obsesses over a woman who is about to be married. As he is rejected, his obsession becomes more dangerous. Director Youssef Chahine did a really good job at making the place feel dynamic and alive with fun and varied characters.

At the start, the film feels a bit messy, but as we go on it becomes more refined leading up to a brilliantly iconic ending. The whole thing was put together well enough. It’s worthy of 3.5 stars and is available on Netflix if you want to see something slightly different. As with most old films, you can also find it on youtube.

On Friday, when it was too hot, I went to the cinema purely for the air conditioning. I watched Parasite (2019), but in black and white instead. I’ve talked about it so much on this blog and my review can be read here which basically says it’s really good.

Parasite: Black-And-White Edition Comes To The UK In July – Poster ...

It’s an excellent film which is best to go into totally blind. If you have seen it in colour, I don’t think the black and white version adds too much. You don’t get the definition of the contrasting materials, nor do you get the hot sauce pay off of the best scene in the film. If you’re desperate to watch it on the big screen again, then why not. But otherwise, I’d suggest finding the colour version where you can. Still, for the two and a half hours of air conditioning only setting me back £5, it wasn’t a waste of money.

In the current landscape of cinema, it may be the case that in hindsight Superman (1978) is one of the most important movies to have ever existed. The first big modern super hero movie has been inspiration for countless other films as well as a number of parodies.

If you don’t know the story by now, what have you been doing in life? After the planet Krypton is destroyed, Superman’s parents send him to Earth where he is adopted by a couple and he is named Clark Kent. He grows up with his powers, gets a “With great power comes great responsibility”-esque speech from his soon to die male role model and realises he can become a hero. He moves to New York, falls in love with Lois Lane and has to stop the evil mastermind Lex Luther (who looks oddly familiar).

Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) | Superman Wiki | Fandom
“I acted reasonably and responsibly like any parent would by taking that trip” – Lex Luther

Clearly my big issue with Luther is that his plan wouldn’t make any sense. He wants to reduce the supply of land in California, which would make the land more valuable. However, his plan involves killing everyone which would also reduce demand. Assuming the two shocks are of the same magnitude, that would have no effect on the land price, and that’s before risk averse people are less willing to buy there as they worry there might be another mass earthquake. Superman saved Lex from himself.

Back to the film, the whole thing was charmingly retro. The opening credits were right out of the 80’s effects budget. The soundtrack, while somewhat overbearing (A regular John Williams problem) was iconic. The characters were goofy and had no emotional depth, but that was okay. Let’s be honest, none of the super hero movies today are much better. The costumes of the Krypton people were funny and the flying effects were so outdated. However, it was made in a way which was fun and entertaining at the very least.

Superman (1978) | Where is the Nomad

My one issue was that it took a while to get started. The first 30/40 minutes were a bit slow, however once it started I was in for the ride. The end was a bit abrupt, although at 2 hours and 20 minutes that’s understandable. I was surprised it had been that long as the time had flown by. I guess that’s a testament to the film and how enjoyable it was. The whole thing was colourful and fun.

I give it 4 stars for what a fun and important game changer it was. Sure it hasn’t aged brilliantly, but for a 42 year old film, it was a good evening. It can be purchased on most of the big digital platforms.

After The Storm (2016) is Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s last film before his more famous Palme D’Or winning film Shoplifters. If you haven’t heard of Kore-Eda, he’s probably my favourite director of all time. He can essentially capture the meaning of life and family through conversation. His films are understated, but warm as you see a couple of hours of honesty and integrity. Each one is grounded in reality yet is a totally meditative experience. However, when I discuss the plot, it becomes a harder sell.

Ryota’s mother has just lost her husband and hasn’t been mourning much when Ryota comes along and essentially tries to get money from her. A private detective, who was once a promising writer, Ryota lives in a state of poverty as a result of his gambling addiction. This has lead to his wife divorcing him and taking their child away. Ryota wants to be close to his son and ex-wife, however with things as they are, this will be difficult.

After the Storm review – hardboiled family drama with a soft heart ...

For such a heavy film, the mood is rather chilled. I never felt stressed as I watched a family go through their problems. Arguments weren’t loud with things thrown, they were more real and organic. Each character was well thought out and had plenty of engaging dialogue.

One of Kore-Eda’s finest films, After the Storm is worth a watch if you can find it. It can be rented on most of the big digital stores. It’s 4.5 stars and will leave you peaceful.

Film Of The Week

This week’s FOTW is a new cinema release. With more cinemas slowly opening, hopefully you will be able to find Saint Frances (2020) playing near by. The film looks at the life of Bridget, a woman in her mid 30s who is single and lost. When she agrees to be a child minder for Frances over the summer, this six year old girl will help her find herself. Yes, it sounds corny, but in reality it’s sweet and authentic.

Saint Frances' Review: Millennial Disaffection Gets Fresh New ...

The film is really charming and talks about lots of womens issues which usually aren’t discussed on the screen. The way they’re discussed doesn’t feel forced at all and you buy into all of these characters. This is a really difficult skill to pull off, but it’s done so well.

I wrote a full review about it which you can read here. It can be rented on Curzon, or you can see it in the cinema. It’s the first good reason to go back. 4.5 stars.

Elsewhere this week

This is just a quick shout-out about new films which are newly available on streaming which I’ve seen before and are worth a mention. Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is available on BBC IPlayer. At almost three hours, it is a bit slow. However, it’s still a very good film. I had the chance to see it on Britain’s biggest IMAX screen (Which is 20*26 metres). Worth a go.

Knives Out is available on Amazon Prime. A murder mystery which wasn’t personally my cup of tea (As you can see here), however it got a lot of love from people. Cold War is out on All4. A Polish film about love that was never quite meant to be, Pawel Pawlikowski’s black and white film is a slow burnere, but is still a worthy watch.

If you liked Parasite, give Snowpiercer a go. It’s thematically very similar and is back on Amazon Prime. It’s by Bong Joon Ho and it features Chris Evans attempting to start a revoloution as part of the last of humanity on a train. If that doesn’t take your fancy, Brokeback Mountain has also arrived on Prime. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger both bring fantastic performances in a sensitive story of forbidden love.

The last recommendation is Blackkklansman, a film which picked up a lot of plaudits and an overdue oscar for Spike Lee. Ron Stallworth is an african american police man who infiltrates the KKK. Full of tension and enjoyment, this engaging plot is helped by great performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver. Well worth a watch on Netflix.

Review: Saint Frances

Review: Saint Frances

A new film release? At a cinema? Yes, it is good to be back (And I’ll also note you can stream this at home).

Cinema is more often than not portrayed from a male gaze. Is this me just being woke? No, it’s just a statement which is difficult to contest. When was the last time you watched a film in which women are women. This isn’t just a film with a female lead who acts in a man’s world, like Captain Marvel, but a film which treats them as they are. After the amazing Greta Gerwig (Ladybird, Little Women) and Celine Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Tomboy, Girlhood) I struggle to think of many top film makers who regularly make full deep female characters feel complete on screen, and even these two seldom get the audience they deserve. Maybe that’s part of the reason that Saint Frances feels like such a breath of fresh air.

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What I Watched This Week: 26th July 2020

What I Watched This Week: 26th July 2020

I honestly don’t know how much longer I will go on with these weekly summaries. As the cinemas re-open more widely and we see new films come out, my focus may revert back to them. Although with Tenet and Mulan both delayed, that may be further down the line than next week. I really hope cinemas consider this shortage of blockbusters to be an opportunity to give more independent and foreign films a chance. Advertise them a lot more and see how they go. Sure, they may not always fill up, but it’s worth a go surely, especially when the screens have such limited capacity.

Sadly, I reckon rubbish blockbusters will be given more screen time instead.

By the time this blog is posted, I will have been to the cinema three times this week. Unfortunately, my local is only open Friday-Sunday, but that’s okay. It means I have to concentrate my cinema experiences. With a variety of old classics finally available to watch, it really is an exciting opportunity to tick some off with the love of the big screen that such masterpieces deserve.

One such masterpiece which many would describe as timeless is King Kong (1933). This one I did watch at home. You know the story well now. Crew goes out to skull island, finds King Kong, brings him back to New York and havoc reigns (I’m assuming that after 87 years and countless parodies I don’t need to hide spoilers).

The first act on the boat works well. The acting and music as well as dark lighting really created a sense of tension. The foreshadowing is a bit obvious, but that’s fine. When they get to the island to rescue the girl and catch Kong, the film slows a bit for me. The effects of stop motion made me smile, but not feel any fear like I did in the first act.. The effects are clearly outdated, but that doesn’t really matter as you appreciate them. The third act in New York was great. The effects did capture the scale of the city well. Everything felt big and proper and that’s where you get your iconic shots. I was in awe by this point.

KING KONG (1933) Blu-ray Review THREE KINGS Blu-ray Review | Collider

The film really is great. I’m not to keen on giving it a rating due to the criteria I’m judging it against being harsh. I’ll give it 4 stars for the fun I had. It’s part of the silver screen classics set on BBC IPlayer and is worth your 90 minutes to see a culturally important piece.

My first cinema trip of the week was to see Goodfellas (1990), one of the Scorcese/De Niro/Pesci classics. Based on the life of Henry Hill, we watch his rise and fall as a gangster. Ray Liotta lead this film brilliantly. The dialogue was smart, everything was put together brilliantly. Pesci stole the show as always. The long single shot sequences when Hill’s operations would go smoothly were pieces of art amongst all of the hustle and bustle. The 80s rock sound track fit in perfectly.

Amazon.com: Watch GoodFellas | Prime Video

Despite all of this, my major problem was that I didn’t get invested enough in the story, although I admit that may be a personal thing. Gang movies have never been my favourite and can feel a bit samey. If I had to criticise anything in particular, the third act felt a bit under baked, once one of the characters died, leading to everything dragging. That doesn’t take away from some great shots and scenes.

This movie felt like one to appreciate more than to enjoy. I’m glad I can tick it off and if you like gang films, you’re unlikely to find a better example. I’ll give it 4 stars and plug that it’s on Netflix if you have a couple of hours.

The next day, I went to the cinema again, but this time it was to The Odyssey in St. Albans with Nick. An odd cinema with tables dowstairs and seats upstairs, but it worked and the interior design was beautiful. Anyhow, before I become a professional Cinema-hopper, lets talk about how wonderful Cinema Paradiso (1988) was.

The film follows the life of Toto, a young sicilian boy who wasn’t the writer of Africa. Toto loves watching films and going up to the projectionist booth with Alfredo who teaches him the ropes. At the same time, Toto grows up and falls in love.

Cinema Paradiso Review | Movie - Empire

This film was charming. It makes you laugh and makes you feel sad. It’s love and passion of its subject permeated. The reactions of all of the characters was contageous and you felt all of their hapiness. It really was a warm enjoyable film. The soundtrack was immense and the sicilian environment was great and welcoming, before an absolutely iconic film end. It’s known as a love letter to cinema, but I’d disagree. I’d call it a love letter to passion more widely.

It really was wonderful and was truly an appropriate film to celebrate cinemas re-opening. It was worthy of 4 stars and can be purchased on DVD and most streaming sites.

When I watched Menace II Society (1993), I really enjoyed it. The creative use of camera shots, the fun and unique characters. The brief Samuel L Jackson cameo. A 90’s hood film about growing up and getting out, you could tell from pretty early on that nobody was going to be safe after what seemed like a major player died in the first 20 minutes.

Menace II Society cast: Where are they now? - Houston Chronicle

The film’s opening scene was as great as any at establishing the two lead characters. Caine and O-dog go to buy some beer, before the latter shoots the workers for disrespecting him. Straight away, Caine’s reaction shows what type of character he is and that he’s our window into the film. At just under 100 minutes, you don’t spend long with the characters, but you learn that Caine keeps making wrong decisions, and in such a punishing environment, the consequences can be huge.

I really enjoyed the film while watching this and it had a great climax, but writing about it a few days later, it didn’t stick with me as much as I would have liked. At the time, I jotted down 4.5 stars, but now it feels closer to 4 stars as it just didn’t have the same emotional impact as Boyz N The Hood, which for my money is a significantly better and more powerful film. That’s not to say this film isen’t worth your time. It’s also available on Netflix.

When I watched Chungking Express (1994), I didn’t really feel it as much, but the more time I spent thinking about it, the more it grew on me. By Hong Kong film director Wong Kar Wai, this film focuses on two stories. In the first, a policeman has recently been dumped by his girlfriend. He pines after her, giving her a month to get back to him, before he considers his relationship expired, much like the tinned pineapples he collects. He then falls in love with this gangster who is struggling through a tough job.

56Films to Stream: CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994) - Cinema Chicago

In the second (more famous) story, another police officer is getting over the loss of his girlfriend. When a new girl called Faye working at the takeaway starts to fall for him, she starts sneaking into his apartment to help get his life back together. My big issue with the film is that they don’t spend enough time on either story and I would have rather seen a whole film on each one. It kind of makes the stories feel a bit creepy more than anything.

However, the cinematography is lush. Chungking is a very busy place and it feels crowded. Some of the directors choices feel rather 90s but that was enjoyable as it felt different. The characters were each engaging and we watch them all come to terms with their own losses and their feelings of love in their own way. It’s primarily an emotional irrational piece which has quite an improvised feel to it.

Wong Kar Wai uses the soundtrack to interesting effect. Each story has one unique song which repeats and plays more of it as the relationships develop. While it could be cheesy, I felt it was done right.

A clever, simple film about love and loss, Chungking Express is well worth your time if you can find it, although it’s not too easy to find. 4.5 stars.

Film Of The Week

For me, the sign of a great film is that it can invoke genuine emotion. Not “That’s nice” or “That’s a bit of a shame”, but genuine emotion. A true warmth within as a person discovers themselves, a hearty laugh when they have a warm humorous moment to share with you, a sense of giddy excitement as we reach a cinematic climax or a tear rolling down your cheek as the credits roll.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) certainly meets that criteria, despite being animated. Most Studio Ghibli films are wonderful pieces of art which are almost meditative. They allow you to relax and take in a magical world of imaginative wonder and keep that childish hope which slightly diminishes every day. But not Grave of the Fireflies. It’s cold and sad and no dancing cat is going to save the day.

The film is set at the end of the second world war in Japan, which is soon to surrender to America. However, these last few weeks see constant air raids. Pretty quickly in we see 14 year old Seito and his sister Setsuko’s mother die. We fear the worst as his Navy based dad doesn’t write back. We’re told from the start that these two characters die, however the film focuses on them moving into their aunt’s, although she doesn’t really want to help them and is quite nasty. They have no other family anywhere else and Seito tries his best to look after Setsuko and keep her happy. Each happy moment is filled with love, wonder and sadness, although we gradually watch the younger siblings struggle more and more.

Animation Magic Theater: Review #24 | Grave of the Fireflies

The whole film is incredible. It shows the horrific effects of war, especially on the countries which lose the wars. History is always written by the winners, but the losers have a story to tell. The red hues behind the destruction and the natural greens of the children’s world throw out a stark contrast and they beautiful symbolic nature of the fireflies in the story can be unwrapped for days.

The whole film is so incredibly sad. By the end, I had a fat tear rolling down my cheek. As I watched the film late, my dreams were sad and I woke up feeling down the next day. In retrospect this was the saddest film I’ve ever seen.

For any film to evoke that level of emotion is incredible. It’s well worthy of five stars and can be rented from a couple of the big online shops. I’m also aware of there being an English dub on youtube, but why would you dub when you can sub?

What I Watched This Week: 19th July

What I Watched This Week: 19th July

There are minor spoilers for Lynn + Lucy and for A Prophet which are hidden. To reveal them, highlight the black bars.

It’ll be a shame if my least favourite film of the week is Untouchable (2012). This is because the film isn’t bad at all. I’ve just had a good set of films. It’s in that Driving Miss Daisy/Green Book sort of genre of unlikely buddy film.

An old rich man called Phillipe can’t feel or move below his neck. He starts interviewing for a new carer. All of the candidates are interchangable boring people, then in comes Driss who is only there because he needs to interview for his benefits. Driss is from a poor background and lives with his mother and six siblings in a small flat. Anyhow, for some reason unbeknown to the audience, Phillipe hires Driss who gets to live in the mansion.

The Intouchables movie review (2012) | Roger Ebert

The rest of the film is a classic buddy film as Driss learns to take responsibility and believe in himself while Phillipe learns to have more fun and stand up for himself. You know, you’ve probably seen this sort of film a lot of times.

Sure, the film doesn’t have anything special about it, it’s emotional moments can feel superficial and they start off with a flash forward which would’ve been a much better pay-off later on. However, the film made me smile and was generally fun.

A classic easy Friday night film, Untouchable is a solid 3.5 star film which is available on Amazon Prime.

Remaining in France, I also watched A Prophet (2009) (Un Prophete), a prison drama in which we follow Malik over his six years behind bars. When we meet him, he is entering the prison. We know nothing about how he’s gotten there, so is a clean slate. Malik soon finds there is a racial divide in the prison between the Corsicans and the Muslims. Despite his Algerian heritage, he is recruited by the Corsicans to undertake a murder of a witness in the prison. From here, we see him gain confidence, go up the ranks and try to become the top person in the prison.

A Prophet (Un Prophete) | Reviews | Screen

The whole thing isn’t really a gang drama. Most of it takes place behind bars, however it does have lots of gang tropes. The cinematography was great. The colours of the prison were dull, with Malik suffering in relative darkness with his inner demons when alone, compared to when he was in more light with the leader of the Corsicans Luciani. Each character is somewhat unique and are not interchangable. They all have their own motives and remain interesting throughout.

The film isn’t as awfully gritty as it could be, but its not light either. Especially near the beginning there are some tense painful scenes. One such scene is when he’s trying to hide a razor in his gums and teeth where the pain is apparent. My biggest problem with the film is how little we know the characters. We can empaphise with them somewhat, but Malik’s motivations are somewhat clouded as he kept a closed off demeanour, alas in an environment which requires so.

The film was really good and if you enjoy crime dramas, you will like this film. I thought it was worthy of four stars and is available for free with a BFI Player Subscription.

If you haven’t read about my cinematic voyage, then what’s wrong with you. Needless to say, you can redeem yourself by reading about it here. The film I watched upon my return was in fact Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017). Based on a true story, Dunkirk looks at the story of how Britain rescued most of it’s 400,000 soldiers from France. Despite only hoping to save 30,000 in the end they saved over 300,000 in what was a miracle.

Cinematically, this was a great film to return to. The shots are big and wonderful. The sound editing was top notch and Hans Zimmer’s score, which ticked like a clock was as good a soundtrack as there is with dissonance between the instruments boosting the tension throughout. On the big screen, I found the whole thing engrossing. The acting on the whole was fine. I was glad when they killed off one character though as he was annoying me. Cillian Murphy was the best part of the film.

Why the Dunkirk Run Time is Under Two Hours

What a year 2017 was for film. Three Billboards, Shape of Water, Ladybird, Get Out and The Florida Project. This film was really good, but probably wouldn’t stack up against these as a home viewing experience. For the cinematic experience, I’d give it 4.5 stars, although it would probably be lower if I were watching it on a laptop. If you want to watch it at home, its available on Netflix, the streaming service where all the cool kids are at.

While you may not have heard of it, Wadjda (2012) is a historically significant film. The fact it exists is something to celebrate as it’s the first ever film directed by a Saudi Arabian woman. What a way to start. The film follows a 10 year old girl Wadjda, living in Riyadh. Each day she walks to school and her friend, a boy, cycles ahead of her. She becomes determined to get a bike by any means necessary.

The film is a really sweet family film. Wadjda herself is a character you can root for who wears different shoes to the other girls. She wants freedom and individuality despite the place she lives in not allowing that for women. The music and shots really give you a feel of a country you never hear much about and the reality for some people in those countries.

The director Haifaa al-Mansour doesn’t shy away from the issues either. While the biggest issue for Wadjda is that she’s told “Women don’t ride bikes”, we see a public shaming of sinners, we hear a twelve year old girl say she’s been married off to a twenty year old man and we see a man look for another bride as his wife can no longer produce him a son amongst other things. These don’t take centre stage and very much happen around Wadjda. It’s the sort of film which opens discussion instead of providing answers and allows us to look at the horrific sexism that is faced by Saudi women, but in a way where you can discuss it with your children who will predominantly see a girl who wants a bike.

This is such a smart film, looking at the problems of such a conservative society, focussing on a girl who wants to be an individual while remaining a film for the family to watch together. It’s 4.5 star worthy and is also available on Netflix and MUBI.

Film Of The Week

This week I actually went for a recent release which sadly went straight to streaming; the independent gem Lynn + Lucy (2019). Lynn and Lucy are childhood best friends. They’ve known one another for years and even now live across the road from one another in Essex (Both with strong regional dialects). Lynn was a teenage mum and Lucy has recently become a mother, so they’re back on the same page. However, after an incident happens leading to the death of Lucy’s baby, this begins to tear at their friendship as Lynn begins to question whether Lucy was at fault for the incident.

The film itself is quite an understated low budget piece. Shot in a 4:3 ratio, it means we may feel trapped within our community. It also means that the shots of Lynn and Lucy’s faces take the whole screen, showing how much they mean to one another. The acting is also incredible. Nichola Burley is great as Lucy but Roxanne Scrimshaw in her debut as Lynn steals the show.

An intimate, understated piece which feels very similar to Fish Tank in it’s style, Fyzal Boulifa’s debut film Lynn + Lucy is one of the best of the year so far, dealing with guilt, friendship and grief. It deserves at least 4.5 stars and is available for subscribers on BFI Player.

Her suspicions are raised by the community around her, whether it be her husband, daughter or new co-workers who seem to enjoy the story more than Lynn’s friendship. Even as a viewer, you never quite know how much Lucy is telling the truth and start to doubt her. Meanwhile, you also hope Lynn can begin to find herself as she seems to be making some bad company. In some ways, this film reminds me of Burning, but as less of a thriller.

Lynn + Lucy review – a devastating tale of friends disunited ...

The film itself is quite an understated low budget piece. Shot in a 4:3 ratio, it means we may feel trapped within our community. It also means that the shots of Lynn and Lucy’s faces take the whole screen, showing how much they mean to one another. The acting is also incredible. Nichola Burley is great as Lucy but Roxanne Scrimshaw in her debut as Lynn steals the show.

An intimate, understated piece which feels very similar to Fish Tank in it’s style, Fyzal Boulifa’s debut film Lynn + Lucy is one of the best of the year so far, dealing with guilt, friendship and grief. It deserves at least 4.5 stars and is available for subscribers on BFI Player.

Returning to the Cinema

Returning to the Cinema

So last night I ended my almost four month hiatus from the cinema. For some, that is a normal length of time, but for me that was quite a delay. As these establishments re-open in the coming weeks people will have to decide whether to return, so I thought I’d share my experience as part of the <0.0001% (probably) who have gone to a post-lockdown screening.

My first issue to get past was the lack of local cinema being open, so after a quick look around I found that my best option was a 1 hour and 15 minute walk to Odeon Kingston. Odeon is probably my least favourite cinema brand. I’ve not been a fan of most of their cinemas I’ve been in, but as Vue, Picturehouse, Curzon and most independents are closed, it was my only option.

My first mistake was to not bring a coat on my walk. I turned from Jim Carey’s eternal sunshine to Gene Kelly’s singing in the rain a few times, but thankfully it cooled down the air if anything. Anyhow, you don’t give a damn about that bit, so into the cinema we go.

Walking to the cinema I was rather excited. I don’t know what I expected, but the surrounding area was empty. It was 7:00PM on a Monday. I don’t know if I expected some chatter but it was less walk to Wembley with Pompey and more walking to Hungerford away for Braintree.

Bad News:

I’d booked a ticket online and had a confirmation e-mail meaning I didn’t need to go to the counter. However, I was disappointed that Odeon still made me print out a ticket at a self service counter. With a big pandemic around, I thought an e-ticket should have been enough, especially as they have them in a couple of branches. Thoughtless on Odeon’s front.

Good News:

Once I’d done that, they asked if I wanted snacks and because I’m not an inconsiderate moron, I said no (Popcorn eaters are the devils spawn. You’re in a quiet theatre eating the noisiest food known to man. Don’t be an idiot). The person at the front of the cinema asked which film and pointed me in the right direction. The auditorium was empty

The staff were all wearing plastic face shields. They looked silly, but it didn’t bother me. They were all polite and maintained a good level of social distancing.

When I got to the screen, I was told by the attendee that I could sit anywhere as long as I was 2 seats away from others. No problem as there were only 10 of us in 100 seats, only one of whom was eating sweets, but not popcorn.

Face Masks:

So at the time of writing, face masks aren’t mandatory in cinemas. I’m not sure if they have an exemption on the 24th July or not. Either way, I’ll discuss what happened in my screening yesterday. A couple of people wore them in to the cinema. I was planning to if it was busy, but as I came across literally nobody on my way to the screen I didn’t think to put one on. Again, if it were busier it would be a different scenario. In the movie itself, I had a look around and nobody was wearing one.

Exit Process:

This was one thing where it didn’t take them three years to work out how to get people to leave. On the screen, Odeon announced that a staff member would come in at the end of the film and help the leaving co-ordination. However, in reality, as there were 10 people, some left at the beginning of the credits, some mid way through and the rest at the end, with no co-ordination. Again, may be different in a busier screening. I left mid way through once half of the people had left and as I didn’t need to walk across anyone. A true modern day rebel.

Upcoming films (Or more bad news):

So, other than old re-runs what is coming up? Well Odeon showed four trailers.

First up was The Broken Heart Gallery. A story which I think was about a girl who met a guy and got a gallery space. It didn’t make much sense to be honest, didn’t look that good. Directed by Natalie Krinsky (Gossip Girl) and produced by … [checks notes] Selena Gomez.

Then they showed a trailer for Greenland. A meteor above earth didn’t split which means rocks are falling from the sky. Oh no, it’s the end of the world. Let’s find cover and randomly run from meteor showers with our family. Oh my, the horror… boo hoo. Looks rubbish.

There was a trailer for Mulan and for Tenet. However, with Trump not knowing his elbow from his backside, I can only imagine that those may both be delayed even further as America remains in lockdown.

It’s such a shame there was a great looking run of releases before lockdown Les Miserables, Rocks, Secret Garden, The Woman In The Window… Put them all on

The cinema experience

Anyhow, the film started (Dunkirk). I sat there thinking “Why have I missed this?” 10 seconds in… LOUD BULLETS OUT OF NOWHERE. I jumped slightly and the film… was… on…

What I Watched This Week (12th July)

What I Watched This Week (12th July)

One Spoiler Is Hidden For Wallflower. To Reveal It, Highlight the black box.

By the time you read this, I will have most likely gone to the cinema. I know this because I meant to write this piece on a Sunday and ran out of time and am due to go to the cinema on Monday. Quite an exciting experience, it should be a significant moment as we return to normality. Of course, I will let you know how my time in Odeon, Kingston went.

Anyhow, hopefully the film I see will be better than We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011). The basic premise of the film is that we see Kevin’s mum evaluate her life and wonder whether she’s responsible for her son carrying out a murderous rampage at the school and whether she could have stopped him. The quick answer is it wasn’t her fault because her kid was a bit of an arse all along.

We Need to Talk About Kevin movie review (2012) | Roger Ebert

I really wasn’t won over by this film. I had to take some time to work out whether I loved it or hated it. I thought about it a bit the next day before deciding it wasn’t my cup of tea. Compared to the much more chaotic “You Were Never Really Here”, this film was much more messy in its story writing. Lynne Ramsey went for artistic decisions instead of story ones. The film time shifted all over the place in an attempt to show contrast and leave you guessing what happened, although it was all rather predictable. The music was tonally dissonant and on the day I just didn’t feel the film. The primarily red colour scheme reminded me of the shining but I didn’t get it. Ezra Miller’s older Kevin seemed chilling when we first met him, but an hour later when we saw him again, he’d just lost the momentum, probably thanks to younger Kevin.

Credit where credit is due, as the mother Tilda Swinton was brilliant. This was probably the best role I’ve seen her in. Her pained character was really engaging as we saw a mother who didn’t love her child. Her interactions and quiet moments were both great and she made the film watchable.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was feeling it or not. Maybe on another day, I would have given this film 4 stars, but based on how I felt watching it at the time, I give it 2 stars. It’s widely available to buy on many of the streaming services.

I’m not going to try and rate Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010). Made by Wakaliwood, this film was Uganda’s first ever action movie. It had a budget of $200 and was made at a time of civil unrest. The film centres on soldier Captain Alex being assasinated and Kung Fu Master Bruce U. It all goes crazy as the leader of the Tiger Mafia wants his brother back, oh and everyone in Uganda knows Kung Fu. It’s great this film found an audience. It’s only available in Low Resoloution as the director assumed nobody would watch the film outside of his town and he needed to delete it to make space for the new one.

It’s brilliant fun and I’m not even going to try and rate it. It’s free on Prime Video and the Wakaliwood Youtube channel.

Now on to some really high quality films this week, I was rather apprehensive when I watched Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) after watching Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a couple of weeks ago and despising it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The film follows Charlie’s (Logan Lerman) first year in high school. We know that his friend had recently comitted suicide and that he’s had some mental issues in the past. He isn’t looking forward to high school and plans to keep his head down. However his plans change when he meets step siblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). Soon these three become close and we see Charlie’s highs and lows throughout the year.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - CINEMABLEND

At first the firm feels quite happy-sad in the same way that Sing Streets’ happy moments have a darker subtle tinge to them, however it soon feels more like Stand By Me as this group deal with their issues. From what I’ve seen from Letterboxd reviews (I don’t know how accurate they are), this is an accurate portrayal of young people’s mental health. Throughout the runtime, the film is intense. One bad moment can lead Charlie down a slippery slope in a world where everyone is dealing with their own problems.

The soundtrack was brilliant. I’m never going to complain about the use of Dexys Midnight Runners in a film and the tone of the songs matched what was going on crisply. The film was really well put together, however I had one or two issues. Firstly, I couldn’t get over it being Emma Watson playing Sam. It just felt like Emma Watson playing an Emma Watson character. Since Harry Potter, I feel like she’s never broken away from the role. She wasn’t awful, just I would have preferred a different actress.

My big issue is story related. At the end of the film is a form of twist as we find out that Charlie was assualted by his aunt as a child. With the film feeling honest, it was a shame this was hidden as some form of twist. The use of dramatic effect came at the detriment of understanding why Charlie acted the way he did in earlier scenes. The moment didn’t pay off at all, especially as it had been hinted at about 5 minutes earlier. It didn’t need to be a major part throughout the story, I just felt let down by the decision to keep it as a twist.

This didn’t stop me enjoying the film on the whole though. I thought it was a great character study which was well made and well acted. I gave it 4.5 stars and it’s available on Netflix AND Prime Video.

The weirdest film I watched this week was Anomalisa (2015). When you think stop motion, you think a man and his dog going to the moon to get some cheese. Change your perception now, as you watch a man become overwhelmed with depression and self-destructive tendencies. The film by Charlie Kauffman (Eternal Sunshine) looks at motivational speaker Michael Stone who goes to Cincinatti to give a talk. He’s obsessed with an ex, unhappy in his relationship and looking for something. For a while you hope it’s a new romance story otherwise it will be a sad story.

Anomalisa' Movie Review - Rolling Stone

The whole thing is a black comedy. I don’t really enjoy comedies mostly, but the bleakness can be profound. Thematically, the story was put together well, showing these people as oddly human yet robotic from Michael’s perspective. The rich colours felt a sham compared to such dim lighting.

As great as it was, this film is likely to be divisive. It’s very odd and quite adult in its themes. Definitely not one to watch with the parents. The main character isn’t especially likable. It didn’t affect me too much but you don’t really end up with a character to root for, more one who has a story to tell.

Anomalisa was rather messed up, but I thought it was smartly put together and a brilliant, if awkward, watch. I give it 4.5 stars. It’s currently not free on any streaming services, although is on Film4 at 1am on one morning, so likely to be on All4 by the end of the week.

Film Of The Week

There are very few film makers as epic as Akiro Kurosawa, the samurai master. SO when you give him a big budget and a camera with colour, you know you could get something special. That is what you get with Ran (1985). Based on a mix of Shakespeare’s King Lear and samurai folklore, we see a samurai retire and split his kingdom into three between his sons. However, with this want for more power corruption starts to take over as they all want more, driving their father out and turning on one another.

The whole film is like a stage play, although with a much greater scale. The war scenes are all epic. The use of colour is vivid, allowing you to work out who is part of which army. Each character has their own psych as we learn in the end that the most loyal individual to their family will prosper. The costumes were all a joy to see and the make up on the father as he slowly loses his mind. His individual performance was a stand out as he looked back on his life and his mistakes in an attempt to find redemption in a Shakespearean manner. The sound track is also fantastic in a Kurosawa-esque way.

It was epic. At 2 hours 40, I had no problem watching it in one sitting. It felt like a cumulation of all of one of the all time great director’s work. It wasn’t my favourite of his, I prefer both Rashomon and Seven Samurai, but that says more about them being masterpieces than anything. Anyway Ran is a brilliant film, an essential watch of 4.5 star calibre, it’s on BFI Player.

I finally watched Lord Of The Rings

I finally watched Lord Of The Rings

Sure, I like movies. But there are so many that I haven’t watched. Due to the linearity of time and the sheer number of films out there, I haven’t watched some shockers. Shawshank for example, Reservoir Dogs and E.T amongst many. I hadn’t watched Lord Of The Rings either. This wasn’t out of protest or an attempt to be hipster. It wasn’t that I thought I wouldn’t like them. I just never really had any interest, mainly because it would involve investing 9 hours and 20 minutes. What would it take to watch all three in a week? Well, maybe some global pandemic. Sigh, here we are. It was time to leave the shire and adventure into middle earth. Be warned, the journey was dangerous and there will be spoilers ahead.

I’ll take you through the plot, as much as I understood it (I haven’t read the books). So, after some war the big eye Souron made a ring which could make him super powerful and is a bit addictive to whoever wears it. It’s basically Crystal Meth (Apparently. I’ve never used Crystal Meth, but I did watch Breaking Bad). Anyway, Bilbo Baggins has been looking after it. He’s a hobbit. Him and Dumbledore get Frodo to go and destroy the ring which won’t affect him because he’s nice? Anyway, him, Sam, Merry, Pippin and Dumbledore go on an adventure, trying not to get killed by some knights.

Soon they pick up Aragon, who was probably scarier in Green Book than LOTR. They also get Legolas, Gimli and Boromir, who was so forgettable I had to google who he was. Boromir, more like Bore-omir. Anyway, Dumbledore dies and Bore-omir says that one doesn’t walk into Mordor. Needless to say he definitely doesn’t as he dies five minutes later.

Lord of the Rings trivia - did you spot this detail about iconic ...

Oh yes, Mordor is where the bad guys live. It’s basically Milwall, but nicer and they’re in a war with the humans and elves and dwarves. At the end of Fellowship of the ring, Frodo and Sam split off, Merry and Pippin are taken and that’s all that.

In The Two Towers, there are a whole bunch of stories happening. Frodo meets Golum, the guy who is crazy about the ring. He meets Boromir’s brother and something happens. Legolas and Aragon find out that Dumbledore is actually alive. They go to a village with a king who they save and move the town to a castle to stop Mordor killing them. Anyway, this goes on for hours before a quick battle which happens. Merry and Pippin find a tree and have really sloooooooooooooooow conversations. They flood somewhere. That’s all.

Once that was finally over (And after taking a night off in between), I took on the final frontier, The Return of the King. Picking up where we left off, Aragon and team go and fight in an epic war against the Mordor ultras. Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Golem try to get in to Mordor to destroy the ring, by throwing it into Mount Doom. The whole thing is rather epic, there is a lot of fighting, Aragon becomes King, the ring is destroyed and we all live happily ever after about an hour later.

Balancing Shadow with Frodo from Lord of the Rings : Jung

So where do I even start? Well, lets start with the first film. No doubt I will go off on tangents (I haven’t planned any structure for this post), but we should get to the end.

Fellowship of The Ring was nice I thought. It was a really well made action adventure film. It was a bit of a bog standard template, however it did so many things so well. It really reminded me of Deathly Hallows Part 1, except most things were better.

The level of exposition at the beginning thankfully hit the balance between detail and being too long. It kept my attention enough and told me exactly what I needed to know. It introduced Golem and Bilbo well.

The landscapes, oh how brilliant were they. Everything was so lushous and green, really contrasting with the darker moments of danger. Compare this to the third movie, which had my favourite tonal feel where everything seemed so much more dead and coming to the end. This film showed a real vivid and alive landscape with each scene looking varied.

Lord of the Rings' Is the Perfect Comfort in Times of Crisis | The ...

The plot was a bit convenient in places. Dumbledore would say “Oh I hope we don’t go in there”. Frodo would say “Oh, looks like we have to go in there.” Dumbledore would then groan. It got a bit silly, but for the film genre, it was fine.

The character acting was a bit hit and miss across all three films. Aragon and Dumbledore were both great, the latter somewhat redeming himself from being the worst part of Cats (Which is no mean feat). It was refreshing to see the old person not just being a wise mage, but being a key part of the action. I didn’t care much for Legolas or Baby Hagrid. They were both there and the latter was funny at times. Merry and Pippin were both enjoyable and Sam was okay, but Frodo… Ergh, what was going on there. The acting felt off. I’m not sure whether it was Elijah Wood or the script, but I just cringed at every line he said. He had so much potential. It would have been great to see the effect of the ring on him be a more prominent psychological part of the story, but it was just a background thing which even after 9 hours felt under developed.

My favourite character however was Saraman (Again, apologies if I misspelt, I don’t know much about the franchise). He was an evil personified by Christopher Lee. Unlike the eye of Sauron, he was a real and physical danger, one who could take on Dumbledore… Then he was gone. Despite being a big role in the first film, he just didn’t really ever turn up again after. It really was a shame to see the character under-utilised later on.

How Did Saruman Get So Evil in 'Lord of the Rings'? He Helps ...

But he wasn’t in the latter books Joe – Well, I don’t really care. You can adapt whats in the books to make a better movie. I didn’t see Jojo Rabbit dancing with his imaginary Hitler in Caging Skies.

The thing which lifted the first film from decent to really good had to be the soundtrack. It’s one of the best I’ve heard. The orchestral score was wonderful with the muted trumpet call for arms enough to motivate me to go through all three hours. The first film had the best soundtrack of the three by a country mile and I really felt the absence in the other two films.

The Two Towers took quite a tonal contrast. It turned into more of a war film with much darker set pieces at night. They didn’t quite get my imagination as much. Honestly, I thought this film was the weakest of all three and is probably the one I won’t bother ever watching again as it was kind of forgettable.

Firstly, I felt like there were way too many storylines happening. You had Frodo and Sam going one way, Merry and Pippin another, Dumbledore went one way, Legolas, Aragon and Hagrid went their own way. I was a little bit loss and loads of characters were introduced who I didn’t really understand either. There was too much going on and it almost reduced my investment in each story. (That’s why you should have read the books – Oh shut up).

The war scenes were much to cut constantly. The whole things were tough to focus on, especially without lighting and felt like a mess. I don’t much care for war scenes in general *cough avengers*, but this one felt messy and unrefined. The dialogue between Legolas and Hagrid just took away from any real stakes. The kill count felt amateurish and just took away any sense of danger, much like Avengers.

A Fellowship in Trouble - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ...

Each story felt laboured. Okay Frodo meets Bore-omir’s brother (Sore-omir?) but whatever. I didn’t get where he was taking him or why he was taking him. It just happened and went on for ages. Aragon et al started a fight, but I wasn’t really sure what this one was for as opposed to any other or why the stakes were especially high. There was ages before and then the fight overwhelmed. Merry, Pippin and the tree was the worst story. It was slow and dull. The pay off was lame and it meant no more Sourman.

The film didn’t look interesting, the soundtrack wasn’t as good, the pacing was off and it just didn’t intrigue me.

Return of the King however… My gosh what a spectacle of a film that was. Each bit came together beautifully, all to climax in a predictable, yet stunning way.

Lets start off by talking about Golum. He was brilliant. Andy Serkis was incredible. The psych of the character, his inner conflicts and his self monologues were all eerie and breathtaking. The script and the looks were wonderful. The big blue eyes were a thing of nightmare. In fact, all of the make up across this film especially was incredible. The orks all looked scary and the Mordor leader in the war looked bone chillingly out of Doctor Who.

The performances were all great. Even Elijah Wood gave a great performance, so did Sam. By this point, everyone knew their characters and the stakes. Everybody was invested and it was epic. Even Merry and Pippin threw some emotional weight behind what they were doing.

The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King Review | SBS Movies

As I eluded to earlier, the middle ground dead field settings worked well. They matched the film tonally, while keeping it engaging to look at. The music and everything else was on point as well.

The climax scene was high stakes. This was it. Frodo needed to lose the ring. With a tense choral soundtrack and a fight with Golem. The smoke isolating them and the lives of the others in increasing danger. We see Frodo decide to not destroy the ring before Golem comes along. They fight and both fall. Was it Frodo’s doing to destroy the ring or did he want it for himself and accidentally destroy it? It’s an ambiguous question with one interpretation being darker. We see a true reflection of him in Golem as he falls to his death happy to have the ring back, the reason he’s been following Frodo all along and we’re done.

Except we’re not. Dumbledore saves everyone before a bit of a drawn out ending. I could have lived without it, but I appreciate it was there for those who worship the books and the films. I’d lost focus as we were three hours in, but I have no interest in penalising it. If I were in the cinema, I’d have enjoyed it more I imagine.

Summary

What a brilliant set of films. Epic in scale, they were vast although not without flaw. Fellowship of the Ring was a well made action adventure film which is a good template and shows how they should be made. Helped by epic landscapes, brilliant dialogue and one of the best soundtracks in film, this really stood above so many more in the genre. 4.5 stars.

The Two Towers was slow and didn’t have much of a pay off. Some of my acting and character issues remained, lots of things were introduced which didn’t add much to the story. The war scenes were pretty poor to. It was a set-up film and not special on its own. 2.5 Stars.

Return of the King was epic. Each story element had a great pay off. Golem was even better in this film as was Frodo. The lands all looked fantastic and the war epics, while cliche were all put together really well. The climax scene was brilliant and made the nine hours worth it. This is how adventure films should be made. It really showed how average Endgame was with a focus on character’s we’d taken to heart, giving each one their own epic send off. The fact I watched the whole film without a drink break mid-way through (unlike the other two) is testament to how epic it is. This was a brilliant film well worthy of best picture. 5 stars.

All in all, this is the definitive book adaptation that we should hold all others to. A labour of love which will stand the test of time. While it took a while for the series to find its feet, when it did the pay off was brilliant.

All three films are available for free on Prime.

What I Watched This Week: 28th June

What I Watched This Week: 28th June

It’s not long until the cinemas re-open now. Already, I’m eyeing up a screening of Dunkirk at my local Odeon, although that will very much depend on Portsmouth’s football performance as it clashes with the League 1 play off final. In the meantime, there are a couple more weeks of being stuck at home, which provide an ample opportunity to watch any of these five pretty great films.

Rafiki (2018) is a Kenyan film which I unfortunately missed out on when it was released. I saw that it was on at my local Devon based art-house cinema, but instead I went to see something else (No idea what though). That is a shame because it was a really well made film.

Rafiki review – groundbreaking lesbian romance aims to change ...

Actually banned from screening in Kenya until a high court appeal, the story sees Kena and Ziki, both daughters of two election rivals, strike a friendship which morphs into a romantic relationship. In a country where LGBT relationships are still illegal, they have to keep on the down low, but this story of love and passion does make you smile. They are both pure souls who want the best for one another. Against this love is a sad backdrop of discrimination, with a focus on the religious conservatism in this area. The film doesn’t hide away from the tough reality that these characters would face.

Visually, the film is fantastic, going from neon colours to more intimate pastel colours in the quieter moments. The two leads slowly go from wearing their fathers’ political colours to wearing a similar colour. The characters both feel different and believable.

If you’re going to watch one Kenyan lesbian Romeo and Juliet-esque story this week, make sure it’s this one. Despite the story being familiar, it feels really fresh here. A film of the four-star variety, it’s free to watch on All4.

Chinese Roulette (1976) is a film so old, that it’s not just German, but West German. A tense psychological drama sees a husband and wife both go off to their secret affairs for a weekend, although both accidentally end up in their second home where they come across each other. Coincidence? I think not. Their vengeful daughter tricked them into both being in the same place. She hates them as she blames their infidelity on her illness.

Review: Chinese Roulette - Slant Magazine

The whole thing is really strange, each character has secrets and you feel unsettled. You don’t know where the film is going and the script is so well written. The acting was brilliant and under stated. Each had a unique reaction to what was going on as we reached the final game of Chinese Roulette.

It is another four star film and is available on BFI Player.

Ratatouille (2007) is a film you all know and love. It’s about a rat who loves cooking who teams up with a man to become one of the best chefs in Paris.

What can I say that hasn’t been said. It’s a beautiful film which looks great, even by today’s standards. The passion behind the food resonates. The action scenes are brilliant and high stakes without ever being threatening. The lighter jazz track when talking about food works brilliantly. The whole thing is a wonderfully put together story. This is the standard I was disappointed that Onward didn’t reach.

Ratatouille - Movies - The New York Times

I thought it was great, 4.5 stars. It’s probably available on Disney+ (Although I’m not sure as I don’t actually have Disney+).

The Hurt Locker (2008) won the best picture award on its release and Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have won the Best Directing Oscar. We follow an improvised explosive device team, lead by Jeremy Renner, in Iraq during the war as they go to diffuse bombs across Baghdad.

The film is rather tense. With long scenes playing out, disaster almost feels inevitable as the army needs to keep themselves and civilians safe. Each situation feels equally dangerous and the team can’t tell who is friend or foe.

Undercover Indies: Kathryn Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker' Blows Up ...

These scenes are where the film thrives. The scenes focussing on Renner’s character weren’t quite as interesting, although provided a little insight into what could have been. Although I imagine this is more to the credit of the rest of the movie.

I thought it was great and earns 4.5 stars. The film is available on Prime Video and free to watch for seven days on BBC IPlayer.

Film Of The Week

The great thing about films is that they can take you to places where you rarely if ever hear stories. Every person has something to share, even deep in the Amazon. Based on the diaries of two travellers, Embrace Of The Serpent (2016) provides two stories of Karamakate, the last of his tribe in the Amazon. In both he meets travellers who are looking for the rare and sacred Yakruna plant. The stories are both a couple of decades apart with the later one complementing the earlier one in an action and consequence style.

The Embrace of the Serpent • Mauricio Rivera • Senses of Cinema

Shot in Black and White, the film has a timelessness to it. Despite being based in the early 20th Century, you couldn’t tell. While I appreciate the decision for Black and White, a big part of me would have loved to have seen the colourised version of this film. The music is minimal as we rely on dialogue. The story is mysterious and entrancing. We see the effects of colonialism, greed, possession and slavery. It feels rather like Apocalypse now in the story telling.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, this piece of art was fantastic. It told a different untold story in brilliant fashion. Essential viewing, I give it 4.5 stars and recommend you watch it. It’s free on All4.