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Sherman's March (1985)
I found and remembered this title from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I did not find many reviews by critics for this film, but I was hoping for something interesting. Basically it was supposed to be a film about the effects of General William T. Sherman's "March to the Sea" during the American Civil War. But filmmaker Ross McElwee is filmed constantly being side-tracked by various women in his life. He recently experienced a traumatic breakup prior to filming, it is hard for him to separate professional and personal concerns. So, this film is much more about McElwee's experiences with women, love, romance and religion. But there is also a little discussion about nuclear holocaust in the Cold War and the legacy and complexity of General Sherman's own life. The film follows a repetitive narrative pattern, with McElwee becoming enamoured with many women, developing feelings for them. But despite his commitment to follow them through many of their pursuits, including one who may work in a movie alongside Burt Reynolds, his romantic feelings are dashed. It seems to be much more a personal essay, an autobiographical mixed with only a little of the subject originally suggested, but you could argue that there is both fact and fiction, from the way it plays out. This film did well at the Sundance Film Festival, and has gained something of a cult audience, it may not be commercial, and it may be perhaps too long, at 2 and a half hours, but it is a fairly intriguing sidestep from the usual films of this kind, not a bad documentary. Worth watching!
Ghost Stories (2017)
I had seen a number of teaser trailers for this British scary movie a couple of months before its release, it is based on the hugely successful stage show, I was looking forward to it very much, written and directed by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (creative consultant to illusionist Derren Brown). Basically set in the 1970s, Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) is a specialist exposing phony psychics and fraudulent supernatural shenanigans on his own television show, he wants to stop people's lives being ruined by superstition. His scepticism is put to the test when he receives an invitation from famed paranormal investigator Charles Cameron, who inspired him as a child. Cameron has been missing for decades, he is now living alone in poverty in a caravan, the old man wants Goodman to investigate three unsolved incidents of supposedly real supernatural ghost sightings. The first case is of night watchman Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), his wife died of cancer, and he feels guilty that he stopped visiting his daughter, who suffers from locked-in syndrome. Matthews claims he was haunted by the spirit of a little girl while he was working in a disused asylum for women. The second case is of teenager Simon Rifkind (The End of the F***ing World's Alex Lawther), who is obsessed with the occult and has a poor relationship with his parents. Rifkind says that one night he was driving, the car broke down after hitting something, he claims to have seen the Devil in the woods. Goodman is unsettled by this second ghost story, but believes each case has an obvious rational explanation, he believes the victims imagined their experiences, based on their own neuroses. The third case is of City financier Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), who was plagued by a poltergeist while awaiting the birth of his child. Priddle claims that the ghost of his wife appeared to him as she died giving birth to what is implied as an inhuman child, after finishing his story, whilst calming talking to Goodman, he suddenly commits suicide with a shotgun. Goodman returns to Cameron, who tears a latex mask off his face, revealing himself to be Priddle, Goodman believes he has been part of an elaborate hoax. But then reality breaks down altogether, when Priddle tears away the caravan wall to lead him through a door, transporting them back in time to Goodman's childhood. When Goodman was a child (Samuel Bottomley), he watched two bullies entice a mentally disabled boy into a drain, where he died of an asthma attack, Goodman has felt guilty for years of not rescuing him. The decaying corpse of the bullied boy appears, tormenting Goodman and eventually leading him to a hospital bed, forcing him to lie down, and forcing his finger into his mouth, Goodman screams and begs not to let this, supposedly recurring, incident happen again. In the real world, Goodman is comatose in a hospital with tubes in his mouth, he is suffering from locked-in syndrome following a failed a suicide attempt. All the characters and events are inspired by staff and objects in the hospital, the doctors believe, wrongly, he has no knowledge of his situation, and predict he has little chance of recovery. Also starring Derren Brown as Betty, Jill Halfpenny as Peggy Van Rhys. Nyman is good as the TV supernatural debunker, and Freeman, Lawther and especially Whitehouse are great as the victims, this is not so much a comedy, although there are comedians in the cast, there are small amusing moments, it is trying much more to be scary, with some fair jump scares, it throws some curveballs along the way and is fairly unsettling, an interesting horror. Good!
The Kid Brother (1927)
The Kid Brother
I am a big fan of the famous silent movie stars Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and Sir Charlie Chaplin, but I knew there was one star of the silent movies I had not seen, I found this, one of his most acclaimed pictures, in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Basically in the farming town of Hickoryville, the Hickorys are a respected family, but patriarch Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) and his strong sons Leo (Leo Willis) and Olin (Olin Francis) have little respect for the youngest son, the bespectacled, clumsy and naïve Harold (Harold Lloyd). He is often neglected by his family, given the domestic duties, and not included in important matters either at the farm or in the town. One day, when Jim, Leo and Olin go to an important town meeting, Harold is left alone, for amusement he puts on his father's gun and badge. He is mistaken for being the sheriff by ruthless traveling medicine showman 'Flash' Farrell (Eddie Boland), he talks Harold into permitting him, strongman Sandoni (Constantine Romanoff) and dancer Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston) perform. Mary is trying to avoid the unwanted attentions of Sandoni, she and Harold spend some time together, and they become attracted to each other. When Jim finds out Harold authorised the medicine show, he orders Harold to shut down the performance, Harold tries, but ends up being tricked and tied up. Harold's sworn enemy, town bully Hank Hooper (Ralph Yearsley), pelts him and accidentally starts a fire that consumes the medicine show wagon. Harold invites Mary to spend the night at his family home, he does not get permission to do so from his father, and he uses hit wits to overcome his bigger brothers, however Mrs. Hooper and her son Hank show up and take her with them. The next day, the town is celebrating, as Jim is handing over funds raised by the residents to help build a dam to a state official, however the money is gone. Jim strongly believes Farrell and Sandoni are responsible, but Sam Hooper (Frank Lanning) accuses Jim of the theft. Jim sends Leo and Olin, but not Harold, after them, when they return emptyhanded, Jim has been tied up, and there is talk of lynching. Harold confesses to Mary his unintentional deception, he is not the man she thought he was, but she tells him he has faith in him. Hank accuses Mary of being involved in the robbery, Harold fights back when some men grab her, only to have Harold knock him unconscious and set him adrift in a boat. Harold wakes up when the boat reaches an abandoned, beached ship, aboard the ship he finds the real thieves. Sandoni and Farrell argue over the division of the loot, with the strongman eventually disposing of the medicine man, then Sandoni spots Harold and chases him all over the ship. Harold eventually manages to outdo the strongman and races back to town with his prisoner and the money to save his father. Jim is impressed with Harold, saying "Son, you're a real Hickory", Hank stands in the way of him and Mary walking away, but Harold musters up the courage to fight his nemesis and beat him up. I had only previously seen Lloyd in the famous image of him hanging from a clock, from Safety Last!, he is a very good physical comedian, I will admit I did not follow all elements of the story, but it did not matter, as the slapstick and sight gags were funny, it is a worthwhile silent comedy. Very good!
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place
I first saw the poster for this movie and had my guesses what the title would mean, then I saw the teaser trailer, and my guesses were confirmed with the words "If they hear you, they hunt you", I was looking forward to this scary movie. Basically in the year 2020, most of humanity has been wiped out by a species of blind alien creatures with incredible hearing ability, which they use to hunt their prey. The Abbott family, husband (John Krasinski, also directing, and Blunt's real-life husband), wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), sons Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward), and deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), survive by scavenging for supplies, walking on soft sand paths barefoot, and communicating non-verbally in sign language. Lee notices Beau desiring a toy space shuttle but warns him that it is too noisy and will attract the creatures, however Regan retrieve the toy, and restores its batteries, on their way, Beau activates the toy, attracting one of the creatures, and resulting in his death. A year later, the family are living on their farm, Regan still struggles with the guilt of her brother's death, and Evelyn is heavily pregnant and nearing her due date. Lee repairs Regan's cochlear implant, but it fails to restore her hearing, later Lee takes Marcus to a river to go fishing, despite his fear and Regan begging to go instead. Regan is dejected and goes to Beau's grave and stays there overnight, while Lee explains to Marcus that they are safe as long as there are louder noises to drown out their movements and sounds. Meanwhile, Evelyn is going into labour, while making her way to the basement she steps onto a loose nail, in agony, she accidentally knocks over a glass picture frame, alerting a nearby creature. Evelyn warns Lee and Marcus of danger by flipping the outside light system from white to red, while struggling to remain silent during contractions. Arriving at the farm, Lee instructs Marcus to create a diversion while Lee runs to find Evelyn, just as she screams in agony, the creature is distracted by the loud of fireworks exploding. Lee finds Evelyn hiding in the bathroom with her new-born son, the fireworks stop, they narrowly avoid another attack when he takes them to a specially-modified soundproof basement. Evelyn begs Lee to go and find the children in the cornfield, he obeys, Evelyn falls asleep, when she wakes up she discovers the room is flooded with water from a leaking pipe, and a creature is in pursuit. Regan runs back to the farm, she and Marcus hide on top of the grain silo, lighting a fire to attract their father's attention, but a hatch door gives way and Marcus falls in, Regan jumps in and they save each other from sinking into the corn, and they avoid a creature attack hiding underneath the fallen door. Regan's repaired cochlear implant reacts to the proximity of the creature, it emits a piercingly loud high-frequency sound that drives the creature away, the children escape the silo and reunite with their father. The creature returns, Lee attacks it with an axe while Regan and Marcus hide in a pickup truck, Lee is wounded, and Marcus inadvertently shouts, attracting the creature to attack the truck. Lee uses sign language to communicate his love for the children before sacrificing himself, he screams, and the creature kills him, the children roll the truck down a hill to escape and reunite with Evelyn and the baby. Regan had never been allowed into the basement, there she sees her father's notes on the creatures, with three confirmed in the area, she also finds his experimentation with different ear implants, and radio and security camera monitors. When the creature returns to invade the basement, Regan places the boosted cochlear implant next to a microphone, magnifying the feedback to ward off the creature, it is painfully disoriented. The creature exposes its flesh beneath its armoured head, making it vulnerable to a gunshot blast from Evelyn, the security monitors show the other two confirmed creatures approaching, with the newly acquired knowledge of the creatures' weakness, Evelyn and the children prepare to fight back. Also starring Leon Russom as Man in the woods. This really is a clever premise for a scary movie, the characters having to stay completely quiet to survive and avoid the sound-sensitive monsters, the sound design is splendid, and the score by Marco Beltrami, the tension is so effective that the entire cinema audience remained silent when I went to see it, and the creatures are gruesome, a brilliant horror. Very good!
Let's be honest, the actual title of this movie is Cock Blockers, this is made obvious by the rooster above the title word, we all know what "cock blocking" is, this movie uses that premise for comic effect, and it looked right up my street, the directorial debut of Pitch Perfect writer Kay Cannon. Basically on the day of prom, Julie (Kathryn Newton) shares with her best friends Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) that she plans to lose her virginity to boyfriend Austin (Graham Phillips). Kayla immediately pledges she will do the same, a casual sexual encounter with her lab partner and school drug cook Connor (Miles Robbins), and Sam, a closeted lesbian confused about her feelings, reluctantly agrees to the pact, going with chubby, Fedora-wearing Chad (Jimmy Bellinger). Julie's mother Lisa (Leslie Mann) puts on a pre-party for the parents and kids, Kayla's father Mitchell (wrestler John Cena) arrives and notes that Lisa has evaded his attempts to catch up. Sam's free-spirited father Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), who divorced from her mother after his infidelity, arrives in a limousine for the girls and pledges to make this the best night of her life, the girls head to prom and text each other about the sex pact. Back home, Julie has left her laptop open, with her messaging, Mitchell and Lisa hear the notifications, Hunter helps them decipher the emoji codes and they realise the girls' pact. Lisa and Mitchell rush to "cock block" their daughters, Hunter tries to stop them, sharing that he knows Sam is gay. Hunter knows that getting with Chad is just part of Sam's confusion, but at the first party, he sees her force herself to kiss Chad, wanting to protect his daughter from making a mistake, he joins Lisa and Mitchell's crusade. As they follow the girls from party to party, it becomes clear that each of the parents have unresolved problems behind their motivation. Mitchell is overprotective and in denial over his daughter's sexuality, thinking she needs protecting from certain men. Hunter feels guilty for neglecting Sam following his bitter separation from her mother, it was actually her that cheated on him. Single mother Lisa is struggling to let go of her only child, she hoped her daughter would want to go to the University of Chicago, she is in denial over her true plans to go with Austin to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). After a car chase between the parents and limo driver Rudy (Colton Dunn), it culminates with an angry phone call between Lisa and her daughter, Julie claims she is not following Austin to UCLA, it is the furthest she can get from her imposing mother. A drunk Sam goes to bed with Chad, but decides she does not want sex after all, Chad caught up in the moment prematurely ejaculates. Kayla and Connor find a room together, but she also changes her mind about her flippant attitude to her virginity, she and Connor mutually agree to get to know each other better. The parents arrive, Mitch storms into numerous hotel rooms trying to find Kayla, he throws Connor through the wall, Kayla is initially angry, but she is touched by her father's good intentions, she says she does not need protecting and has taught herself everything about protecting herself. Sam and Hunter share a tender moment, he reveals he wanted to give her the best night he could to make up for his neglect, she officially comes out to her father, he is moved to be the first person she told, she suggests they have a photo together, but he says he can remember the moment without one. Lisa sneaks into Julie and Austin's room, determined to stop them from having sex, she is forced to hide under the bed, but she is moved by how much they truly love each other, she sneaks out of the hotel room unnoticed and leaves them alone. Lisa and Mitchell have a drink at the bar, she promises to keep in touch with him more, they also let Hunter join them, acknowledging his emotional pain of being ostracized. Later that night, the girls share their prom night experiences, Sam decides (from her father's advice) to come out, Julie and Kayla are extremely supportive, Sam then has a romantic kiss with her crush Angelica (Ramona Young), and the crowd enjoy the rest of the night. Three months later, Julie and Lisa have reconciled, Julie goes off to college, with Sam and Kayla driving her to California, as they drive away, Lisa notices that Julie has added her to their group text. Lisa, Hunter and Mitchell read the messages together, then they decipher the emojis, they are planning to use marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, as the three parents run for the car, the girls reveal this is a prank and text a final "I love you" to them. Also starring Gina Gershon as Cathy, Office Space's Gary Cole as Ron, June Diane Raphael as Brenda, Sarayu Blue as Marcie and Hannibal Buress as Frank. Cena, Mann and Barinholtz are perfectly cast as the parents who evolve from their stereotypes into substantially more immature than their kids, and Newton, Viswanathan and Adlon are equally terrific as the smart and idiosyncratic teenage females. You could see this as almost the complete opposite to American Pie, with female characters making a pact to have sex before the end of high school, but obviously the parents on their tails trying to stop adds a new dimension. As you'd expect with a movie like this, there are gross-out moments, I did burst out with laughter in many moments, especially the "chugging" scene, and Mann's hysterical escape from the hotel room, but there is also good moments of sincerity and sweetness, all in all it is a fun and enjoyable sex comedy. Very good!
The Silent Child (2017)
The Silent Child
There was a fair amount of media attention surrounding this twenty-minute short film, not just because of the choice for casting, but also because of its makers, with headlines reading "from Hollyoaks to Hollywood", due to its success during Awards Season, directed by former Hollyoaks actors Chris Overton. Based on real events, set in rural England, profoundly deaf 4-year-old Libby (Maisie Sly) lives in a world of silence with her middle-class mother Sue (Rachel Fielding) and father Paul (Philip York), her family go about their daily business, and leave her sad staring at the television. Fresh faced and caring social worker Joanne (former Hollyoaks actress Rachel Shenton, also writing) comes into her life, to help and teach her to communicate with others, as she only understands people through lip reading. In a short space of time, Libby begins to open up and connect with the world around her, Joanne teaches her to communicate through sign language, and their relationship blossoms. But hassled mother Sue sees them spending a lot of time together playing and going places, she is envious of their relationship, Joanne receives a phone call from Sue, telling her she and Paul think speech therapy will be a better option. Joanne is heartbroken, she goes to see Libby one last time at her school, through the fence and the playground, they sign language that they love each other, and Joanne leaves. The film ends with important information: "90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. Over 78% of deaf children attend mainstream school with no specialist support in place. Deafness is not a learning difficulty. With the right support, a deaf child can do exactly the same as a hearing child. We hope this film contributes in the fight for sign language to be recognised in every school across the globe." Also starring Anna Barry as Nancy, Sam Rees as Seb and Annie Cusselle as Pip. Shenton is really good as the saint-like social worker, but it is the beautiful portrayal of Sly, who is deaf in real life, that makes the story all the more authentic. Overton and Shenton specifically wanted to cast a real deaf child, this is ultimately a message movie, seeing how deafness can affect anybody, and what should really be done to help, it is clever in its use of subtitles, including when it is coloured to signify signing, it was fantastic to get an Academy Award nomination, and it was the righteous and deserved surprise winner, a terrific short drama film. It won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Very good!
Isle of Dogs (2018)
Isle of Dogs
I knew I was going to love this movie as soon as I saw the trailer, not just because I love movies featuring stop-motion, e.g. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Chicken Run, but also I am a fan of director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and he did such a good job with his previous animation movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, so I couldn't wait. Basically in a dystopian near-future Japan, a dog flu virus, known as "snout fever", has spread throughout the canine population. In Megasaki City, authoritarian and dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) signs a decree, banishing all dogs to Trash Island, despite scientist Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) insisting he is close to finding a cure. The first dog to be transported to Trash Island is Spots (Liev Schreiber), who belonged to Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor. Six months later, hundreds of dogs are now living on Trash Island, going through the different stages of the virus symptoms, including deterioration, starvation, insomnia, tiredness, rage and much. Among the many dogs on the island, there is a pack of five dogs - Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and their leader, Chief (Bryan Cranston). They are surprised by the crash-landing of a plane, it is Atari, who has run away from home, landing on Trash Island to find Spots, they decide to help Atari in his search, although former stray Chief is reluctant to fraternize with humans. Initially Atari and the dogs believe Spots is dead, seeing his cage lock failed to open upon arrival, in fact there was a mix-up, and Spots may be alive elsewhere on the island. After an altercation with a rescue team sent by Kobayashi to retrieve Atari, after meeting a female purebreed named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), Chief has a change of heart and decides to accompany Atari and company on their search. They seek advice from sage dogs Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham) and Oracle (Tilda Swinton), who claim to see visions, in fact they get their information from television, the two dogs inform the group there is a rumour of a tribe of cannibalistic dogs on an isolated part of the island. Meanwhile, Professor Watanabe has found the cure to the virus and all its main ailments, but he is poisoned by Mayor Kobayashi, so the dogs will remain on the island. Foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) suspects a conspiracy and begins to investigate, confronting assistant scientist and Watanable's former cohort Yoko Ono (Yoko Ono), who confirms Tracy's suspicions and gives her the last remaining dose of the cure. During the journey, Atari and Chief are separated from the others, Atari washes Chief, turning from dirty black to his original white-coloured fur, he is the same breed as Spots, implying they may be brothers. Chief reveals he was once a house pet, forced out of his home after regretfully attacking his master out of fear, they reunite with the group and locate the isolated tribe, who are not actually cannibals, and they are ambushed by Kobayashi's men again. Spots arrives with a small army of dogs, they help them fend off the assailants, it is revealed in flashbacks that Spots was rescued on arrival by the tribe, and became their leader, Spots also confirms that he and Chief are brothers, and asks to transfer his protection duties for Atari to him. An owl arrives, revealing that Kobayashi plans to exterminate all dogs on Trash Island when he is imminently re-elected, Atari and the dog tribe decide to return to Megasaki City to attempt to prevent this. At Kobayashi's election ceremony, he prepares to give the order for the extermination, but Tracy presents her evidence of his corruption and the existence of the cure, Atari and the dogs arrive and confirm the cure works. Kobayashi has a change of heart, but his right-hand man Major Domo (Akira Takayama) insists the extermination should be seen through, a fight breaks out, during which the button is pressed, but the poison backfires on the captors instead, Tracy's friend helped. During the fight, Atari and Spots are gravely injured, Atari's only remaining kidney fails, but Kobayashi admits to his mistakes, he donates his own to save the boy's life. By election law, mayoral control of the city passes to Atari, he decrees that dogs be allowed to reintegrate into society, Tracy and Atari become a couple, and Chief reunites with Nutmeg and takes up the role of bodyguard for Atari. Spots is presumed dead, in fact he recovered from his injuries, and is secretly raising a family under the Kobayashi Manor. Also starring Frances McDormand as Interpreter Nelson, Harvey Keitel as Gondo, Ken Watanabe as Head Surgeon, Short Circuit's Fisher Stevens as Scrap, Anjelica Huston as Mute Poodle and Courtney B. Vance as The Narrator. The all-star voices are all chosen well for the malnourished mutts living on the rubbish-tip island, it is a very interesting story, filled with poignancy, there are some good laughs along the way, the style of the movie pays homage to dystopian vision like Akira, it serves as a celebration of Japanese culture, and has a great score by Alexandre Desplat. There are some surprisingly adult moments, including filleting a salmon for preparation of sushi, and a bloody operation, it may be slightly dark and disturbing for younger viewers, and there are snobby people that criticize the Western interpretation of Eastern civilisation, but it is a fantastically quirky and inventive animated comedy drama. Very good!
Ready Player One (2018)
Ready Player One
When I saw the trailer for this movie, I was fascinated by the amount of pop culture characters and references I could spot, reading more into it, it looked and sounded like something right up my street, so I went to the cinema with high expectations, directed by Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, The BFG). Basically in the year 2045, much of Earth has become slum-like cities, so most of the population escape the desolation, entering the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where they can be and do whatever they want, engaging in numerous activities for work, education and entertainment. The brilliant and eccentric creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), passed away a year ago, before his death he left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS hidden within the immersive realm. There is a worldwide contest called Anorak's Quest, that Halliday designed to find a worthy heir, the first to find the Easter Egg, finding the three keys and following the clues, will inherit the wealth, and gain full ownership of the OASIS, among other gifts. This has garnered thousands to play the game, including "Gunters" ("egg hunters"), and video game conglomerate and virtual reality manufacturer Innovative Online Industries (IOI), its CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) has a mass army of players known as Sixers (due to their six-digit identification) seeking to claim the prize. However, to date, no one has managed to finish the first quest, a vehicle race across an ever-shifting version of New York City, because when you are killed in the game world, you will lose everything you have earned in your character progression. In the slums of Columbus, Ohio, living with his aunt, is an orphaned Gunter, 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), in the OASIS his avatar is Parzival, his best friend is male avatar Aech (Lena Waithe), who serves as a virtual mechanic, he later befriends well-known player Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), he saves her from being "zeroed out" by King Kong. Wade decides to study the virtual OASIS library and archives to learn about Halliday's personal life, hoping to find a hint to finish the race, he watches footage of Halliday regretfully accepting the resignation of his partner Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg), Wade notices Halliday saying to "go backwards really fast, as fast as you can". So at the next race, Wade reverses from the start line, finding a hidden, safe path beneath the race track, going under all the obstructions, including Kong, he reaches the finish line and gains the first key from Anorak, Halliday's avatar, and a clue to the next quest, Aech and Art3mis, as well as players Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao) also follow the path to finishing, and the appear atop the global scoreboards, becoming known as the "High Five". IOI takes interest in them, desiring to learn their real-life identities, then bounty hunter i-R0k (T.J. Miller) overhears Wade tell Art3mis his real name, so Sorrento approaches Wade and attempts to convince him to join IOI to solve Anorak's Quest, but Wade refuses. Sorrento retaliates and has his assistant F'Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) attack Wade's slum, killing Wade's aunt Alice (Susan Lynch) and her boyfriend Rick (Ralph Ineson), while Wade is rescued by Art3mis' real-life friends and taken to a Gunter hideout, where he meets Art3mis' player, Samantha Cook. Working together, Wade and Samantha look at more archive footage of Halliday, they discover that Halliday and Morrow fell out because Halliday once dated Kira (Perdita Weeks), who later became Morrow's wife, then in the OASIS, Wade wins a bet with The Curator, Morrow's avatar, and gains access to Kira's memories, leading to the second quest, as well as a special reward. Using the clue of a creator who hated his own work, they work out that they have to enter the world of The Shining, the Stanley Kubrick movie, hated by the creator of the original book, Stephen King, surviving this horror realm, the High Five each earn the second key and the clue to the final quest, which is located in Castle Anorak on Planet Doom. Zandor discovers the Gunter hideout and kidnaps Samantha, while Wade is rescued by the real-life players of Aech aka Helen, Daito and Sho, back in the OASIS they learn that IOI has erected a gigantic forcefield blocking access to the castle. Wade sends a message to all OASIS players about the activities of IOI, convincing many to join them to fight against IOI and the Sixers. Aech, Daito, and Sho lead the army of players, while Samantha is able to cause a distraction and shut down the field, allowing Wade to access inside Castle Anorak, where he sees that Sixers have found the Atari room. Sixers are trying to determine which Atari 2600 game was Halliday's favourite, choosing and completing the wrong one leads to one being zeroed out, Sorrento and Wade recognise the right game is Adventure, but Sixers who successfully complete the game are still zeroed out. Sorrento activates the Cataclyst, which zeroes out all players on Planet Doom, but the Curator's reward is revealed to be an extra life, allowing Wade's avatar to survive and continue the quest. Wade deduces that the goal is not to win Adventure, but to find its own Easter Egg, upon doing so, he is given the last key, Wade uses the three keys to open a gate in the castle. When it opens he is congratulated by Anorak, who presents Wade with a contract to sign, but Wade recognises it as the one Morrow signed on his termination, he turns it down, the avatar of Anorak transforms into a projection of Halliday, who reveals that this was a final test, one that centred on his biggest regret in life. Halliday shows Wade the Big Red Button, which will wipe out the OASIS, if he feels that is for the best, and awards him with the Easter Egg, transferring control of the OASIS to Wade, he questions if the projection of Halliday is actually him and is he is really dead. In the end, Sorrento and Zandor are arrested, IOI is heavily restructured, Wade opts to share the OASIS fortune with the other members of the High Five, Morrow offers his consultation for a small fee, the High Five decide to have the OASIS shut down for two days in a week, to coax people to spend more time in the real world, while Wade and Samantha start a romantic relationship and move in together. Also starring Clare Higgins as Mrs. Gilmore and Black Panther's Letitia Wright as Reb (Safe House). Pop culture references featured and mentioned that I recognised and spotted included: Spider-Man, King Kong, Freddy Krueger, The Iron Giant, the DeLorean time machine from Back from the Future, KITT from Knight Rider, The A-Team, Batman, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park, King Kong, TRON, Last Action Hero, Stars Wars, Alien, Beetlejuice, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Superman, Star Trek, Michael Jackson: Thriller, The Shining, Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, Chucky the killer doll, RoboCop, Godzilla, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but there are plenty more. The performances are all good, especially Sheridan as the young hero, and Mendelsohn relishes being the corporate villain, for many this could be considered "nerd porn", something for all the geeks who love to spot all the recognisable things in the worlds of movies, television, music and games, but at the heart of it, there are also fantastic characters you actually care about, a terrific engaging story, and brilliant special effects to bring the chases, battles and action sequences to life, it only has slight predictability, there is something for everyone, a fabulously vibrant, fun and enjoyable science-fiction adventure. Good!
Vidas Secas (1963)
Vidas Secas (Barren Lives)
This Brazilian film appears in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I couldn't find a proper written review by critics, but it did get a positive rating, I was hoping for something worthwhile. Basically in the Northeast of Brazil, an impoverished family: the father Fabiano (Átila Iório), the mother Sinhá Vitória (Maria Ribeiro), and their two children and a dog called Baleia, wander the dry barren land, in search of better place for food, work and a home. They struggle to earn a living when they take a job for a wealthy rancher (Joffre Soares) overseeing the livestock, then they find an abandoned house which they move into. Their fortunes do begin to take an upward turn, but the father is duped into a card game with a crooked local policeman, soon an argument breaks out, and he ends up being beaten up by the cop. Despite being the victim of this injustice, the man believes in law in order, and makes no protest about the incident. Drought and misery force the man and his family to move on from the ranch and find elsewhere to earn their living. The film is very slow paced and has very little dialogue, the most memorable sequences are the family walking in the dry landscapes, I can't see it as the kind of film I would watch a second time, but I can see reasons why it is considered mentionable, all in all it is a fairly interesting drama. Worth watching, at least once!
O Pagador de Promessas (1962)
O Pagador de Promessas (Keeper of Promises) (The Given Word)
I found this Brazilian film included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, it is based on a famous stage play, it sounded like an interesting story, and was well rated by critics, so I looked forward to trying it. Basically Zé do Burro (Leonardo Villar) is a landowner from Nordeste, he has only one worldly possession, his best friend, a donkey named Nicholas, who he considers to have a soul. One day, the donkey is seriously wounded and falls deathly ill, out of despair, during a Candomblé session, dedicated to the goddess Yansan, Zé vows to carry a cross as large as Christ's, to the altar of the Saint Bárbara Church in Salvador, Bahia. After his donkey does recover from his illness, Zé builds a large cross with his own hands and tools, and begins his journey on foot to Bahia, accompanied by his wife Rosa (Glória Menezes). Zé arrives outside the steps of the church, which is closed, he is forced to wait for it to open, local pimp Bonitão (Geraldo Del Rey) is the only person to come and greet them, he offers to take Rosa to a small hotel, while Zé keeps his promises and stays with the cross. The local priest Father Olavo (Dionísio Azevedo) greets Zé on the steps, he is surprised but satisfied with the faith shown by him, until the detail that the promise had been done in a Candomblé session comes up in conversation. The priest berates Zé for impiety, believing his pledge and reasons behind it are "pagan", and forbids him from entering the church, soon many people attempt to manipulate the innocent and naïve Zé. The local Candomblé worshippers want to use him as a leader against the discrimination they suffer from the Roman Catholic Church, and sensationalist newspapers transform his promise to give away his land into a "communist". A crowd surrounds the church steps, the police are called by the zealots, when Zé tries to force the door to the church using the cross as a battering-ram, they order him to leave, but he faces up to them. Then a brawl breaks out, a gunshot is heard, the crowd cease fighting when they see that it is Zé who has been shot by the police, to prevent his way into the church. Zé-do-Burro lies dead by his cross, it's then that the black community, Candomblé worshippers, take his body, put him on the cross, and carry him inside the church to the altar of his favourite saint, they are unopposed by the priest or anyone. Also starring Norma Bengell as Marly, the prostitute, Othon Bastos as the Reporter and Antônio Pitanga as Coca, the capoeira player. This black-and-white picture is a really powerful story, a simple man making a religious vow who will not rest until it is done, having to contend with the impoverished people questioning whether his intentions are truly for God, as well as corruption and political issues, and the hounding of the media, a brilliantly provocative, fascinating and gripping drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (the Brazilian and South American film to be nominated). Very good!
When Award Shows Go Horribly Wrong
When I read about this documentary programme advertised, I recognised a couple of the things mentioned that would be included, and I had my guesses of what else may be included, so I was really looking forward to watching. Basically the show was a three hour collection of clips, focusing on the mostly negative moments on televised awards shows, including at ceremonies for film, television, music, comedy, fashion, honouring real people and their actions, pageants, on the red carpet and backstage and much more. These moments included live mistakes and mishaps, embarrassing incidents, presenters and winners going wrong, accidents and shocks, incidents causing controversy and much more, in Britain and/or around the world.
Award ceremony red carpets going wrong included: Jools Holland tripping over at the GQ Awards, he got up and did a bow to style it out; and Loose Women presenter Kaye Adams flashed her white bra and knickers in an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in a photo at the Pride of Britain Awards. Award show presenters going wrong included: Gemma Collins presenting an award to Love Island at the BBC Radio 1's Teen Awards falling through the stage trap door hole; Rosamund Pike with Dominic Cooper struggling when presenting an award at the BAFTAs when the autocue goes wrong, and Rosamund almost reveals the winner before the nominees are shown; and Lucille Ball cannot read without her glasses and picks up the wrong card at The Emmy Awards, and Milton Burl runs onstage with a drinking glass for her to read through. Live award show moments included: Richard and Judy going onstage for an award at the National Television Awards, Richard thinks the audience want him to do an Ali G impression, oblivious that Judy has her bra (boobs) exposed; Madonna performing live at The BRIT Awards suffers a wardrobe malfunction when she is pulled offstage by her cape down a set of stairs, she continues singing, and the lyrics ironically reflect what happened, e.g. "let me fall down", "lift me up", "I'm gonna carry on"; and Samantha Fox presenting the BRITs with Fleetwood Mac frontman Mick Fleetwood, they were an odd couple with little chemistry, things kept going wrong, including the autocue failing because an elderly hard-of-hearing operator, they announced The Four Tops coming onstage and Boy George came on instead, and an award having no nominations given before the reveal. Movie stars going wrong at award ceremonies included: Will Ferrell was presented the Comedic Genius award at The MTV Movie Awards, but his speech was interrupted by Aubrey Plaza running onstage trying to take the award from him, the words #TheToDoList were written on her chest, she was escorted out by security, this was apparently a publicity stunt for her new movie; Britt Ekland fell over and was carried onstage when called to present an award at The Kerrang! magazine awards, she had slipped on a piece of melon and broke her ankle and wrist; and Sir Roger Moore and Liv Ullman presenting the Oscar for Best Leading Actor to Marlon Brando for The Godfather, Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather went onstage to refuse the award on his behalf, a political statement in protest for the treatment of American Indians in the film industry. Other award shows going wrong included: James Corden host and award presenter Sir Patrick Stewart having an onstage spat at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards that got very personal, award winner Zoe Saldana tried to smooth it over; Sir Nigel Hawthorne accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Alan Bennett at The British Comedy Awards being interrupted by a drunk Caroline Aherne shouting; and a member of Fine Young Cannibals throwing a pot of yogurt over Matt Bianco's head at the French MIDEM awards show. Backstage and onstage moments included: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson interviewed David Walliams at the British Comedy Awards afterparty, she mentioned her dress having a slit, Walliams replied her having "a lovely slit"; Only Fools and Horses won an award at the Comedy Awards, Uncle Albert actor Buster Merryfield fell over walking to the stage, and suffered a gash to the head; and unpredictable comedy star Michael Barrymore came out as gay, he was presented Best Entertainment Presenter at the Comedy Awards by openly gay Dale Winton, Barrymore thought this was a dig, he pulled the plug of the autocue and threw it offstage, the anarchy caused the producers to take the show to an ad break. More award shows going wrong included: Limp Bizkit beat Rage Against the Machine for the Best Rock Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards, Rage member Tim Commerford climbs on stage and up an onstage structure in protest, attempting to shake it down, the show was taken to a break, and Commerford was arrested and pleaded guilty for disorderly conduct; The International Indian Film Academy Awards, celebrating Bollywood, held in Toronto, Canada, had a stage invader running onstage begging Shah Rukh to become an actor, grabbing his sore leg; and the Miss World pageant started to attract criticism by its 20th year as women's rights was becoming prominent, when Bob Hope hosted there were objects thrown at him, women were protesting for feminism, many of the protestors were arrested and fined, audience ratings reduced over the years, the show was dropped, made a comeback, was dropped again, and it now only appears on terrestrial TV. Further shows going wrong included: talent agent Shep Gordon was presented an award at The Hollywood Film Awards by a drunken Johnny Depp, he could hardly string a sentence together, the producers eventually cut to the VT; Jeremy Beadle presenting an award at The British Comedy Awards dressed in a circus ringmaster, host Jonathan Ross makes jokes that he looks like a waiter, Beadle is not happy being roasted and is defensive, and then was rude towards Ross; and Madonna was interviewed by Kurt Loder backstage after winning an award at the MTV VMAs, they are interrupted by a drunken Courtney Love throwing her compact mirror, Loder invites her to join them despite Madonna against it, it becomes uncomfortable and Madonna tries to remain calm, eventually she walks off, Courtney continues the car crash TV, and she falls off the chair. Movie award ceremonies going wrong included: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was chosen to host the Academy Awards (Oscars), but the opening song "We Saw Your Boobs", about famous actresses that have done topless scenes, was inappropriate and belittling towards actresses (including Naomi Watts and Charlize Theron, who were shocked and offended); Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presenting the Best Picture award at the Oscars were given the wrong envelope, La La Land was read out and its cast and crew went onstage, as speeches were being made a producer announced the mistake, Moonlight was the actual winner, this moment has been dubbed "envelopegate"; Sammy Davis Jr. was presenting two awards at the Oscars, he read out the winner for the wrong category, he made a joke about his race that smoothed over the mistake, he then reads the nominees for the next award, which he had already revealed; David Niven was hosting the Oscars, a male streaker (photographer Robert Opel) ran onstage behind him, Niven owned the moment and made a joke about "stripping off and showing his shortcomings", Elizabeth Taylor also made a joke that it was "a hard act to follow"; and Christine Lahti won at the Golden Globes, but she was not in her seat, a friend came onstage to collect the award on her behalf, Robin Williams also runs up and does some comedy to fill the time, Lahti eventually came up after being in the toilet. The last award shows going wrong included: Brazil's Miss Gay Awards winner Ava Simoes was interviewed after being crowned, her crown and wig are torn off her head by jealous loser Miss Sao Paulo, it turns into a big fight in the crowd; and the Grammy Awards afterparties are in swing, Sir Paul McCartney and Woody Harrelson tried to get into the Grammy afterparty hosted by Mark Ronson, but they are unrecognised and turned away by the bouncer, in fact they were at Tyga's afterparty at the wrong nightclub.
I had my guesses what award show moments would be included, the bad ones, the funny ones and the awkward ones, I always enjoy the nostalgia seeing these moments again, but it was good to learn about those I did not know, and the serious stuff as well, overall it was an interesting and watchable documentary.
Narrated by Julian Clary, with contributions from Kaye Adams, Chizzy Akudolu, Peter Andre, Jade Avia (DJ), award show announcer Trish Bertram, Jo Caulfield, The X Factor's Janet Devlin, Sandra Dickinson, The X Factor's Jahmene Douglas, Samantha Fox, The X Factor's Luke Friend, Rezzy Ghadjar, Don't Try This at Home's Paul Hendy, Leee John, Lesley Joseph, film critic James King, Amanda Lamb, Jessica Martin, music journalist Fraser McAlpine, The X Factor's Emily Middlemas, Brother Beyond's Nathan Moore, radio presenter Reece Parkinson, Tricia Penrose, Anna Ryder Richardson, Nadia Sawalha, Jessica-Jane Stafford, Claire Sweeney, Hugo Taylor, Rick Wakeman, Mark Webster and Toyah Willcox. Very good!
When Comedy Goes Horribly Wrong
When I read about this documentary programme advertised, I recognised a couple of the things mentioned that would be included, and I had my guesses of what else may be included, so I was really looking forward to watching. Basically the show was a three hour collection of clips, focusing on the mostly negative moments on televised shows featuring comedy, including sketch shows, comedy panel shows, stand-up comedy, topical comedy shows, during chat shows, during talent shows, during awards shows, in social media, in interviews and much more. These moments included unfunny material, dated humour, careers ruined or shows dropped, tasteless or inappropriate material that caused controversy, accidents and mistakes and much more, in Britain and/or around the world.
Comedy shows going wrong included: Russell Howard breaking his finger leaning on a stunt chair on Russell Howard's Good News. More comedy going wrong included: Katherine Ryan making a joke about testing products on Filipino children on Mock the Week that gained complaints; Australia's Got Talent contestant Jordan Paris stealing the jokes of Lee Mack for his audition, then bombing with his own material on the live shows; and Hale & Pace criticised for making a "tasteless" joke about cruelty to animals using a microwaved cat. Careers sabotaged or ruined by comedy included: Craig David upset by his spoof rubber mask character (played by Leigh Francis) on Bo' Selecta!, his career went downward for years, but he made a successful comeback, and he and Francis reconciled; and Bernard Manning openly admitting he is racist on The Mrs. Merton Show and making further offensive comments. Other comedy going wrong included: James Corden making bad taste jokes about Harvey Weinstein too soon after the sexual harassment scandal had made the news; Daniel O'Reilly aka Dapper Laughs receiving complaints for being misogynistic and promoting a rape culture, then he made the comment "she's gagging for a rape" to a woman in the audience, he was dropped and went on Newsnight to apologise; and The Benny Hill Show went out of date and smutty, alternative comedy was making waves in the 80s, his show was cancelled, and he died a year later. Other comedy stuff going wrong included: the style of comedy in Little & Large was getting outdated, the duo was sacked, they went around the country performing onstage, but they had to stop due to Large's illness; a car crashing into a lake stunt for the sitcom Tom, Dick and Harriet went wrong when the actors got caught in the sinking vehicle. The line between funny and bad taste was crossed with stuff including: Kathy Griffin causing controversy and getting abuse for a joke using a bloody decapitated head of President Donald Trump; and Van Banter and his sidekick ADRTV doing pranks on the public for YouTube, but one person almost pulls out a knife when getting angered. Comedy comebacks and routines going wrong included: Steve Hofstetter cannot make a comeback during stand-up after a heckler mentions being a widow; and Adam Hunter had a comedy booking for a wedding, posted on YouTube, posing as the minster and roasting everyone, but his material was inappropriate, almost cruel, and he could have been beaten up. Comedy also talked about included: Nine Network's Today anchor Karl Stefanovic interviewing the Dali Lama and bombing with a stupid pizza joke, saying "can you make me one with everything"; The Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes attempted stand-up comedy, but caused controversy with an outburst, telling a heckler she hopes they get raped; and Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump sees Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino failing to create any laughs, he was saved by Jeffrey Ross, The Situation said to Trump "you should run for President". Television comedy going wrong included: Tony Hancock stopped doing live broadcasts of Hancock's Half Hour after numerous props fell apart; and Duncan Norvelle got close to hosting gameshow Blind Date, he filmed a pilot (originally titled It's a Hoot!), he captured the audience, but he was not chosen, considered "too camp", Cilla Black got it. Jokes going wrong included: Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show made a joke about a shortage of toilet paper, it caused a surge of panic buying with shoppers buying toilet paper, causing a real three-week shortage, the joke was taken literally.
I had my guesses what comedy moments would be included, the bad ones, the funny or unfunny ones and the awkward ones, I always enjoy the nostalgia seeing these moments again, but it was good to learn about those I did not know, and the serious stuff as well, overall it was an interesting and watchable documentary.
Narrated by Julian Clary, with contributions from Stephen Bailey, Vas Blackwood, Bob Carolgees (Spit the dog puppeteer), Paul Coia, Hal Cruttenden, Freddie Davies, Bobby Davro, Tim Dixon, Andrew Doyle, Annabel Giles, Angie Greaves, Debbie Greenwood, Michael Haskins, Hattie Hayridge, Bec Hill, Steve Hofstetter, Jay Hollingsworth, Adam Hunter, Ty Jeffries (Lionel's son), Ross King, Eddie Large, George Layton, Helen Lederer, Carry On star Valerie Leon, Syd Little, The Office's Ewen MacIntosh, Don Maclean, Ruth Madoc, comedy writers Paul Minnet & Brian Leveson, Duncan Norvelle ("chase me"), Daniel O'Reilly (Dapper Laughs), Bill Oddie, Ian Ogilvy, Nicholas Parsons, Billy Pearce, Gail Porter, Kate Robbins, Crissy Rock, Robert Ross, Arthur Smith, Stacey Soloman, Chris Stark (Virtually Famous), stuntman Rocky Taylor, The Benny Hill Show's Sue Upton and Adrian Walsh. Very good!
The original 1982 movie, an adaptation of the Broadway hit, based on the popular comic strip, is fun and worthwhile enough, this contemporary remake sees the title character going from red-headed moppet to an African American child with a big afro hairdo, I was willing to give it a chance, produced by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, directed by Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits). Basically in Harlem, Manhattan Island, New York City, Annie Bennett (Golden Globe nominated Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in foster care with several other girls under the care of Colleen Hannigan (Razzie nominated Cameron Diaz), a bitter former singer taking the benefits, who spends most of her time drinking. Annie spends Fridays waiting outside Domani's restaurant, hoping her parents will return, as promised on a receipt note. One day, a city inspector checks on Hannigan's treatment of the girls, she sees her social security number on his form, and goes to find information, but she learns nothing she does not already know about herself. Annie saves a Shiba Inu dog from bullies, she steps out into the road, but is saved by mogul William Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who is running for mayor. Stacks' campaign manager Guy Danlily (Bobby Cannavale) tells him the rescue was caught on video and has gone viral, boosting his popularity, Guy convinces Stacks to take Annie in, to live with him, in a scheme to boost his campaign. Annie enjoys her new surroundings, and makes friends with many staff members, including Stacks' assistant Grace Farrell (Rose Byrne), and she adopts the dog from earlier, naming her Sandy. Bonding with Annie, Stacks reveals he never really knew his father, due to his work commitments, but believed he could understand him if he worked as hard, Annie also helps Stacks and Grace realise their romantic feelings for each other. Annie requests Stacks take her and her friends from Miss Hannigan's foster home to a movie premiere, Stacks is at first disinterested in the movie, but becomes a fan, along with Grace, Annie also insist they go to the after-movie party. Annie's friends are returned home, Annie then shows Grace her Friday routine of waiting for her parents; Grace sympathises and agrees to keep this secret from Stacks. At Hannigan's foster home, the girls accidentally wake her up; Hannigan snaps at them, saying rich people are not nice and will ditch anyone they don't like anymore, recalling her past, in a drunken state she recalls her former music career. Annie is asked to read a speech at a charity event, she runs out, revealing she cannot read, despite being 10 years old and attending school, Stacks decides to find a special-ed teacher for Annie, but Guy believes she will only hinder the mayoral campaign. Teaming up with Hannigan, Guy plans to find imposters to pose as Annie's parents, so that Stacks appears to have found them, to boost his popularity and win, Guy and Hannigan will share the payment. However, Guy plans to dump Annie back into the system following the election, with no care for her wellbeing, by the point Hannigan is having second thoughts, the imposters have already kidnapped Annie. Hannigan tells Stacks about the plan, Guy is fired, and Stacks, Grace, Hannigan and the girls board a helicopter to chase the getaway car. Annie is mistaken in thinking that Stacks arranged her kidnapping, the kidnappers assumed he paid them, not Guy, when she is rescued, she refuses to believe him that he had no knowledge of the scheme. To prove his innocence and he truly cares for Annie, Stacks announces to the press that he is quitting the mayoral race, and Annie helps Grace and Stacks admit their love for each other, all three of them dance and sing happily. Later, Annie announces the opening of the "Stacks Literacy Centre", to help children like her learn how to read, everyone sings her song "Tomorrow", Hannigan attempts to sing, only to be stopped. Also starring Lost's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Nash, David Zayas as Lou, Dorian Missick as Annie's "Dad" and Tracie Thoms as Annie's "Mom". Wallis is suited to the leading role, she is both cute and confident, Diaz is nowhere near as memorable as Carol Burnett, and Foxx is adequate as the cynical billionaire won round by the youngster. It sticks to the same sort of plot, girl brought in to change a rich man's reputation and wins him round, only differences are she is an orphan in foster care rather than an orphanage, and everything is more modern, including the use of technology to assist characters. "Hard Knock Life" and the other original songs you are still just about able to sing along to, but it is a bit haphazard, the script is predictable, the choreography is not as slick, and the use of more vibrant colours is distracting, it is a fair but slightly sloppy musical. It was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Original Song for "Opportunity", and it won the Razzie for Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel. Okay!
When I heard about this British film, I knew it was LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) related, and critics described it as tapping the same formula as The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, I was looking forward to it. Based on a true story, in the summer of 1984, at the time of the miners' strike, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is a gay activist, joining the Gay Pride Parade in London, and 20-year-old student Joe Cooper (Sunshine on Leith's George MacKay) from Bromley is exploring his own sexuality, he watches the parade, before becoming part of it. Soon enough Joe joins a small group of Gay and Lesbian activists led by Mark, they plan their protests and actions from bookstore Gay's the Word, run by gay couple Gethin Roberts (Spectre's Andrew Scott) and Jonathan Blake (Dominic West). Mark says that the gay community are not being harassed by the police as much, because the miners are their new targets, with many police officers violently arresting and beating them, and just like the gay community, the public and government are hostile towards them, and the subject of smear campaigns from the tabloid newspapers. Mark announces the formation of "Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" to help raise money, many activists refuse to join, because of past experiences of discrimination and aggression from miners against the gay community. Therefore, LGSM consists of "six gays and a dyke", they start raising money immediately, and Joe is their official photographer, their actions prove successful. The National Union of Mineworkers however is reluctant to accept their support, worrying about associating with a gay group. Frustrated with the lack of response, the activists instead go directly to a mining village, they choose Onllwyn, a small mining village in Wales. They are excited to have money raised by the LGSM accepted, but spokesperson Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine) comes to London, where he discovers they are a gay and lesbian group, he admits to never meeting gay people before, to which Mark responds he has never met a miner before. Dai quickly realises the importance of the alliance between the two communities, he is asked to give a speech at the local hall, the gay and lesbian crowd are sceptical and hostile at first, but with an eloquent speech, he wins their hearts and minds. Siân James (Jessica Gunning), starting volunteering at the community centre, overhears the Women's Support Group debating whether to invite LGSM to their village, despite her husband Martin (Rhodri Meilir) urging her not to make herself stand up, she speaks out to invite the LGSM, and she becomes a member of the Women's Support Group. It is soon clear some are unwilling to let the gays come over, Maureen Barry (Lisa Palfrey) vehemently opposes the gay and lesbian support. When the LGSM arrive in Onllwyn, they are met by a silent and hostile crowd, and Mark's clumsy speech does not improve the situation, with many walking out. The next day, the LGSM are taken sightseeing around the countryside by Siân and Cliff Barry (Bill Nighy), in the distance they see police arresting more miners, a form of harassment against the miners, Jonathan says to Siân they are doing it unlawfully. The miners celebrate their release at the community centre, following Siân barging into the police office to demand they be freed, most miners now regard the LGSM as allies. That evening at the community centre, the gays and lesbians feel the sense of community among the villagers, letting go of their own prejudices against the miners, Mark announces that the LGSM will organise a spectacular fundraising event, to make the government meet the miners' demands, but there is no idea yet. Maureen Barry, bitter about the miners and support groups embracing the gays and lesbians, contacts a tabloid about the LGSM, the next day the police show up, and The National Union of Miners urges the Onllwyn support group to sever ties with the LGSM. Mark and the group read the newspaper headline, being called "perverts", they decide to adopt this term, and create a music festival event, titled "Pits and Perverts", taking place at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town. At first no record label is willing to have their artists play at the festival, but eventually they secure Bronski Beat, members of the Men's and Women's Support Groups from Onllwyn and other villagers show their interest and come to London, and the festival is a huge success. The next day there is supposed to be a meeting, but when it is rescheduled, and the LGSM arrive late, ties with the support groups are severed, Cliff and Martin, lacking the eloquence of Dai, could not stand up for them. Siân and the other women confront Maureen, she believes the LGSM were only supporting the miners for their own gay rights agenda, but Siân shows the thousands raised by at the festival, they use it to buy a red van, driven by Hefina (BAFTA nominated Imelda Staunton), to transport the miners to protest rallies. In March 1985, the Miners' Strike ends, the miners of Onllwyn go back, Joe sees them off, Mark has alienated himself from the LGSM, after a personal crisis over his fear of contracting HIV, he confronts Joe about hiding his homosexuality from his parents, Joe eventually confronts his parents and makes his own choice to leave them. The LGSM and Lesbians Against Pit Closures attend the 1985 Gay Pride Parade, the LGSM are disappointed at first about not being allowed political signs, but the red van shows up, and several of the villagers join to support them. The parade organisers tell them to go to the front, as there are too many people, including hundreds led by the National Union of Mineworkers. In the end, in 1986 the Labour Party incorporated rights for gays and lesbians in their party programme, due to pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers, and the end text says what many of the characters did next. Also starring This Is England's Joseph Gilgun as Mike, Matthew Flynn as Tony Cooper, Freddie Fox as Jeff Cole, Liz White as Margaret Donovan, Monica Dolan as Marion Cooper, Harry Potter's Jessie Cave as Zoe and Russell Tovey as Tim. The cast are all well chosen for their parts, with many of these kinds of films, it is funny, moving and dramatic in the rights places, it has a great witty script full of terrific one-liners, a splendid soundtrack of songs, and it has many feel-good moments in amongst the realistic and powerful serious points, all together it is an enjoyable historical comedy drama. It won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for writer Stephen Beresford and producer David Livingstone, and it was nominated for Best British Film, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical. Very good!
I saw this documentary film listed on Netflix, it sounded very interesting, and then came Awards Season, where it did very well, so I was definitely going to watch it. Basically writer and director Bryan Fogel explores illegal doping in the world of sports, the most famous example being cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of all his Tour de France titles after confessing to Oprah Winfrey of using performance enhancing drugs throughout his career. Fogel explores the option of doping to win an amateur cycling race, with the help of Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory. Dr. Rodchenkov creates a plan for Fogel to take banned performance-enhancing drugs in a way that will evade detection from drug-testing, during his training, Fogel and he become friends. Then allegations begin to emerge of a state-sponsored Olympic doping program in Russia, Fogel realizes that Rodchenkov is in danger of being "silenced" by the Russian government, he has fly to Los Angeles for his protection. Using Rodchenkov's knowledge of the doping program, they speak to the U.S. Department of Justice, and the New York Times, alleging that Russia has conspired to cheat in the Olympics for decades. This includes the mention of the Russian team's embarrassing performance during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver prompting them to ramp up operations, and the conspiracy that urine samples containing evidence of steroids were switched with clean samples to evade positive detection during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dr. Rodchenkov provides spreadsheets, discs, e-mails, and more incriminating evidence of Russian involvement, forcing the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee to investigate. Following independent investigations, the claims are confirmed, and Rodchenkov is placed in protective custody, his lawyer Jim Walden describes the doctor having death threats and the suspicious deaths of two of his associates. In the end, the conspiracies and negative press continue to swarm all major sporting events and athletes, the Russian government continue to deny any involvement with the program, the World Cup 2020 will be held in Russia, with the final taking place in Moscow, and Grigory Rodchenkov remains in protective custody. What starts out as a standard experiment of steroid testing to improve performance becomes a fearful situation, the director and his scientist acquaintance become part of a dangerous geopolitical scandal, it is both an interesting and quite scary exposure documentary thriller. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Documentary. Good!
I was probably instantly attracted to seeing this film from the unusual but clever title, I read more about it as it got closer to its release date, and then there were positive comments from critics, so hoped for something good, Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape; Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, Side Effects). Basically Sawyer Valentini (The Crown's Claire Foy) is a bright but troubled businesswoman, she has become successful in her new position and maintains healthy relationships with her co-workers. But she has become distant from her mother Angela (Amy Irving) since moving away, it is revealed that she actually moved to escape a stalker who had been terrorising her for two years. Sawyer seeks a support group for victims of harassment, she has an initial consultation at the local hospital, during which she confesses that she has contemplated suicide in the past. Sawyer is given documents to sign, she is confused when she is asked to hand over her belongings and change into a hospital gown, Nurse Boles (Polly McKie) tells her that she has signed a consent form, committing her to spend 24 hours in the hospital's psychiatric ward. Sawyer calls the police, but they are unwilling to intervene, as they get calls like hers all the time, her situation is worsened when she has an aggressive argument with fellow patient Violet (Juno Temple), and she attacks an orderly, mistaking them for her stalker, her stay is upgraded to a week. Sawyer is horrified to discover that one of the orderlies is her stalker, David Strine (Joshua Leonard), he has obtained a job at the asylum to get close to her, her outbursts and protesting cause her to be considered mentally unstable, so she is repeatedly sedated and given drugs. At one point, David intentionally gives her an overdose of pills, causing her to become disorientated and violent, the nurse notices to error, but does not recognise that it was deliberate. Sawyer is cold towards the orderlies and other patients, but she warms to recovering opiate addict Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharaoh), he knows that the hospital and its parent company are committing clinically sane people to extort money from insurance companies. Sawyer tells how she met David, it was whilst working with an Alzheimer's patient when she volunteered at a hospice facility, David was his son, when David's father died, he became obsessed with Sawyer, fanatically texting her and even breaking into her house. Nate has a smuggled cell phone that Sawyer notices him using, he allows her to use it to call her mother, Angela is determined to help her daughter get out. But the police, and her lawyer, are unwilling to help, due to the consent form, it is suggested they wait for the week to end, after which the hospital are legally obliged to release her. David notices Nate and Sawyer spending time together, during the night David knocks Nate unconscious and tortures him in the basement, before injecting and killing him with an overdose of fentanyl. The orderlies believe Nate's death was caused by his drug addiction, David taunts Sawyer, sending her images of the bloodied Nate, in another act of aggression she scolds Violet with hot coffee, she is placed in solitary confinement. While in solitary, Sawyer is repeatedly visited by David, she is initially aggressive towards him, berating and mocking him for his lack of sexual experience and unrealistic fantasies about them being together, this causes him to break down in tears, and he attempts to strangle her. On his next visit, David tells Sawyer that he hacked into the hospital's computer system with false information, they believe that she has been released, he suggests that they should run away together to a log cabin he has renovated. Seeing an opportunity to escape, Sawyer convinces David to have sex with Violet in front of her to prove himself, he drugs Violet and brings her to solitary, Sawyer grabs Violet's contraband weapon and stabs David, she flees, while David in rage breaks Violet's neck. Sawyer escapes the hospital, but David catches up, knocks her out and puts her in the car trunk, along with the corpse of Angela, who he killed earlier. Sawyer manages to break out and escape, David catches up again and breaks her ankle with a hammer, but Sawyer managed to grab her mother's crucifix, she stabs David in the eye with it, and finally cuts his throat. The police eventually show up, they realise that David had been using a stolen identity after finding the corpse of the man he killed to gain access to the hospital, and it is revealed that Nate was an undercover investigative journalist, his notebook detailing criminal activities lead to the arrests of the staff. Six months later, Sawyer has recovered and is having lunch with a colleague, but then she sees a man she thinks is David sitting at another table in the restaurant, she grabs a knife and approaches, but realises she is delusional, she runs out, she glances behind and it ends on a freeze frame, clearly her nightmares will continue. Also starring Aimee Mullins as Ashley Brighterhouse, Sarah Stiles as Jill and Matt Damon as Detective Ferguson. Foy does give a great performance and is the best thing about the film, being sarcastic and occasionally nasty, in a good way, special mention should go to the terrific support of Temple as a wild-child patient, and the cameo from Damon is a bit daft and badly timed. Mark Kermode made comparisons to the Samuel Fuller classic Shock Corridor, I can see why, being set in a mental institution, it starts out as fairly plausible and intriguing, you do feel sympathy for the leading character, then it just goes far-fetched and over the top, I wanted to like it a bit more, overall it is a very average psychological horror thriller. Okay!
Gun Crazy (1950)
I found this classic film listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I was very excited to read that this film was the influence for works such as Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers, I definitely wasn't going to miss it, written by then blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, and MacKinlay Kantor. Basically 14-year-old Bart Tare (Tom Thumb's Russ Tamblyn) has had a fascination with guns since he was a child, he is caught robbing a hardware store and stealing a gun. Despite the testimony of his friends Dave (David Bair) and Clyde (Paul Frison), his older sister Ruby (Anabel Shaw) and others that he would never harm anything or anybody, he is sent to reform school by a sympathetic Judge Willoughby (Morris Carnovsky). A flashback reveals that a seven-year-old Bart (Mickey Little) killed a young chick with a BB gun, he is a good shot with a pistol, but he is hesitant to harm anyone with guns, he returns home following reform school, and a stint in the Army teaching marksmanship. Bart (John Dall), Dave (Nedrick Young) and Clyde (Harry Lewis) go to a traveling carnival in town, Bart challenges sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) to a contest and wins. Annie gets Bart a job working with the carnival, and becomes smitten with her, their boss Packett (Berry Kroeger) is filled with jealousy, he wants Annie for himself. Packett tries to force himself on Annie, Bart enter and shoots the mirror, angered Packett fires them both, they leave together. The couple get married and embark on a happy honeymoon, but their money runs out, Annie gives Bart a dilemma: join her in a life of crime or she will leave him. They hold up stores and gas stations, but the money does not last long, one day they are chased by a police car, Annie tells Bart to shoot the policeman driving, but he hesitates and becomes disoriented, ultimately, he shoots the tyres and they escape. Later that day, Bart prevents Annie from shooting and killing a grocer that they have just robbed, they have now been identified to national newspapers as robbers and murderers. Bart tells Annie he is done with a life of crime, but Annie persuades him to take on one last robbery, so they can leave the country and begin a life of peace and comfort. They manage to get themselves jobs in a meat processing plant and make detailed plans, they later holdup the office, a secretary pulls the burglar alarm, Annie shoots her dead, and from the car, she also kills a security guard. The two are supposed to split up for a couple of months to minimize the chances of both being caught, but neither can bear to be separated from the other, they soon become targets in an FBI manhunt, but they manage to evade state-wide dragnet and escape to California. Bart arranges for passage to Mexico, but the FBI track down by the serial numbers of bills from the meat plant, they are forced to flee and leave the loot behind, they jump on a train, knowing that roadblocks are everywhere, and go to the house of Bart's sister Ruby. Bart's friend, now a sheriff, notices that Ruby's children are not at school and that her house curtains have been drawn, he informs Bart's other friend, now a newspaper reporter, the two go to see Bart and plead with him to give himself are Annie up. Instead, the couple flee into the mountains, where they used to go camping together, police dogs pursue them, but they are exhausted with the lack of air. The next morning, they are surrounded as they hide in reed grass, in the dense fog, Dave and Clyde approach and try to save their lives, Bart sees Annie preparing to gun them down, he shoots her and in in turn killed by the police. Also starring Trevor Bardette as Sheriff Boston, Stanley Prager as Bluey-Bluey, Virginia Farmer as Miss Wynn and Anne O'Neal as Miss Augustine Sifert. Dall is good as the gun-fixated man led astray, Cummins is equally good as the smouldering and psychotic femme fatale, they make a great sinister couple, it is tightly drawn story and plot, there are many exciting sequences, and it has all the right ingredients you expect from a movie in this category, a minor masterpiece film noir. Very good!
The Quiet Earth (1985)
The Quiet Earth
I read more about this film after I found it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, movies like The Omega Man had already succeeded with the "last man on earth" plot, so it was not an original concept, but it didn't stop this film from New Zealand being made. Basically on a normal winter morning in July in Hamilton, New Zealand the sky is darkened for a moment, and a sudden red light surrounded by darkness is seen. Scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) works for Delenco, part of an international consortium working on "Project Flashlight", an experiment to create a global energy grid. He wakes to find no radio broadcasts, and getting dressed and driving around, he finds the city is completely deserted, and a plane crash wreckage with no bodies. Zac investigates his underground laboratory at Delenco, a monitor displays the message "Project Flashlight Complete", the disappearance of humanity coincides with the moment Flashlight was activated, he is lucky to escape the lab as a security breaks causes a fire. Zac broadcasts a repeating radio broadcast, referring to the crucial malfunction as "The Effect", he is asking for any survivors to contact him, first at his home, then at a large millionaire's mansion. As the days pass, his state deteriorates, he at first embraces the fact that he is the only man in the world, feeling exhilaration as he does whatever he wants, including causing his own mischief and havoc, but slowly he returns to despair. Eventually he breaks down altogether, assembling cardboard cut-outs of famous people (including Adolf Hitler, Elizabeth II, and Pope John Paul II) and declaring himself as "President of this Quiet Earth", and shooting up a church, he contemplates suicide with a shotgun, but changes his mind witnessing an explosion caused by his own destructiveness. Zac settles into a more normal routine, but he is surprised when a woman named Joanne (Alison Routledge) suddenly turns up at his doorstep, he is relieved to have company, he is attracted to her, and after a few days they do have sex. They decide to scour the countryside together to find other survivors, and on the outskirts of the city, they find a third survivor, a large Maori man named Api (Pete Smith). The three determine why they survived: at the instant of The Effect, they were all at the moment of death - Api was drowning, Joanne was electrocuted by a faulty hairdryer, and Zac had overdosed on pills attempting suicide, Zac feels guilty as he knew the experiment carried serious dangers. A love triangle develops, but Zac is more concerned about his observations about the Earth, the Sun's output is fluctuating, Zac fears the Effect will occur again, and decides to destroy the Deleco facility in an attempt to stop it. The three put their differences aside to drive a truck full of explosives to the installation, only stopped when Zac determines there is high radiation emanating from the plant. Zac goes to town to retrieve a remote control device that can send the truck into the facility, while he is gone, Api and Joanne have sex, Api doubts that Zac's device will work and says he will sacrifice himself and drive the truck. But then Zac reappears in the truck, he drives the truck onto the weakened roof of the underground laboratory, it collapses, as the effect is reaching a maximum, he triggers the explosives. Once again, a red light is seen surrounded by the dark tunnel, Zac finds himself lying face down on a beach, strange cloud formations, resembling waterspouts, rise out of the ocean, as he walks to the water's edge, an enormous ringed planet slowly appears over the horizon. Lawrence carries the first third of the film alone with a beguiling performance, Routledge and Smith are average, so it is a scientific error that caused everyone to be wiped out, it is faultless in capturing the feel of loneliness and eerie dystopia in the early scenes, and the solo man enjoying himself without guilt and interference is interesting to watch, it is when the other two appear it gets a bit predictable, but it is a really worthwhile science-fiction thriller. Good!
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Call Me by Your Name
This was one of the movies mentioned a lot during Awards Season, I remember it mainly for its slightly confusing title, but it did make sense once I actually watched it, from BAFTA nominated director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). Basically set in the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Jewish American-Italian boy Elio Perlman (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Timothée Chalamet) lives with mother Annella (Amira Casar) and father Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) in the countryside in northern Italy. His father, a professor of archaeology, invites 24-year-old Jewish American graduate student Oliver (The Lone Ranger's Golden Globe nominated Armie Hammer) to live with his family to help with his academic paperwork. Elio is an introspective bibliophile and musical prodigy, he finds little in common with Oliver's carefree and exuberant personality and resents him taking his bedroom for the duration of his stay. Elio spends a lot of the summer reading books and hanging out with his girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel), and to his annoyance, Oliver is attracted to one of the local girls. Elio and Oliver do eventually spend some time together, what starts as a good friendship slowly emerges into a seductive courtship, as they go on walks, swim together, and accompany Mr. Perlman on an archaeological trip. Although Elio has a sexual relationship with Marzia, he finds himself increasingly attracted to Oliver, he sneaks into his room one night to smell his clothing, and then thinks about him while masturbating. Elio subtly confesses his feelings to Oliver during a trip to the post office, but Oliver tells him he should not act on them, however later that day they share a kiss, but Oliver is reluctant to go any further, the pair subsequently get distant over the next few days. Oliver responds to a note left by Elio, asking him to meet him at midnight, Elio spends the day with Marzia, all the while longing to see Oliver. Finally, at midnight, Elio approaches Oliver on the patio, they make love for the first time, over the next few days they grow closer, having sex frequently and keeping their relationship a secret, in bed Oliver says to Elio, "Call me by your name and I'll call you by mine". They become more intimate both physically and emotionally, on one occasion, Elio ejaculates into an apricot that he has split open, and when Oliver discovers it, he takes a bite of the fruit in front of a humiliated Elio, who begs him not to, Elio is completely smitten with Oliver and starts avoiding Marzia. Oliver's stay is coming to an end, he and Elio are overcome by uncertainty and longing, Elio's parents are aware of a bond between them, they suggest taking a trip to Bergamo together before Oliver has to return to America, they spend three romantic days together. Oliver boards a train to return to America, Elio is heartbroken, he encounters a sympathetic Marzia, who still wants to be his friend, Mr. Perlman sees how miserable his son is, he tells him he was aware of Elio's affair with Oliver. Mr. Perlman confesses to having gotten close to his own love affair with a friend in his youth, and urges Elio to find pleasure in the grief, he says true love like Elio and Oliver shared is rare. During Hanukkah, Elio receives a phone call from Oliver, he tells him that he is engaged to be married, and they call each other by their names a final time, after the phone call, a pained Elio sits by the fireplace, many emotions cross his face as the people in the background prepare a holiday dinner. Also starring Victoire Du Bois as Chiara, Vanda Capriolo as Mafalda and Antonio Rimoldi as Anchiese. Chalamet gives a terrific performance as the clever and talented virginal teenager, Hammer is equally good as the visiting and confidently attractive intern, their relationship is believable, it is a nice simple story of gay eroticism unfolding, it has a witty script, and the Italian scenery is beautiful, an enjoyable coming-of-age drama. It won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory, and it was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Original Song for "Mystery of Love", it won the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it was nominated for Best Film, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Very good!
La maman et la putain (1973)
La Maman et la Putain (The Mother and the Whore)
I found this French film listed in the book 1001 Movies You Movies You Must See Before You Die, I remembered both because of the memorable title, and the fact that it was one of the longest films, at three and half hours long, I was hoping it would be worthwhile. Basically in Paris, unemployed young man Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud), who has memories of the civil unrest during May 1968. He is trying to persuade his former love Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten) to marry him, Gilberte instead chooses to marry another man, Alexandre meanwhile is involved with a live-in girlfriend called Marie (Bernadette Lafont). At the highly popular Les Deux Magots one day, Alexandre tries an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile with Gilberte, there he meets Polish French twenty-something nurse Veronika (Françoise Lebrun), she is highly promiscuous and makes advances towards him. During the summer of 1972, Alexandre and Marie are naked in bed together in their apartment, when Veronika visits, Marie lets her in, Veronika insults both of them, but acknowledges she is not pure herself. The three begin a ménage à trois (household of three), a domestic arrangement for the three of them to have a sexual relationship with each other and sleep in the same bed. Veronika assures Alexandre she and Marie both love him and tell him to be happier with his situation and life. Although Marie maintains her indifference to Alexandre's affairs, she quickly changes her mind when she sees how close he getting to Veronika, Marie and Alexandre grow estranged. The three of them sit together, Veronika tries to reassure Marie about her looks and body, she tearfully speaks about her belief that no women are truly whores, and that love is meaningless unless a child is produced. Also starring Jacques Renard as Alexandre's Friend. Léaud gives a good performance as the womanising lothario, it is a pretty simple story of a man who can manipulate two women into loving him, one a good nurturing woman, the other a woman who turns to prostitution, it is very long, but there are some fairly memorable scenes, and it does represent the sexual revolution of the time well, all together it is a worthwhile drama. Very good!
Beiqíng chéngshì (1989)
A City of Sadness
I would never have heard about this Taiwanese film if I hadn't found it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I hoped it would be a title that deserved its placement, directed by Hsiao-Hsien Hou (A Time to Live, a Time to Die; The Puppetmaster). Basically it takes place during a crucial moment in Taiwanese history between 1945, Emperor Hirohito announces Japan's surrender following 50 years of Japanese colonial rule, and the arrival of Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists four years later. Set in a coastal town not far from Taipei, it depicts the experiences of the Lin family, specifically in the lives of four brothers during the February 28 Incident. The eldest brother Wen-heung (Sung Young Chen) is a translator, he awaits the birth of his child and begins trading in the post-war black market. The second middle brother Wen-leung (Jack Kao) is a soldier, he suffers a traumatic brain injury whilst in prison during the war and is thought to have died in the Philippines. The youngest brother Wen-ching (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who is both deaf and mute, works as a photographer, he suffers a nervous breakdown in Shanghai. With the brothers getting involved with complex issues, including drug dealers, the authorities and leftist guerrillas of the time, it will all inevitably end in the family's destruction. It is a simple of a troubled family that will all make choices that will lead to tragedy, I got confused whether there were three or four brothers, and it did get confusing when having to also read subtitles, but the scenery was nice to look at, and it certainly look authentic with the setting, an interesting enough historical drama. Good!
Les roseaux sauvages (1994)
Les Roseaux Sauvages (Wild Reeds)
I found out about this French film because I remember seeing the title in the numerous editions of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, it was almost a contender in the Oscars category for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was nominated, I was looking forward to trying it. Basically set in southwest France in 1962, shy young man François Forestier (Gaël Morel) from the lower middle class is working towards his high school diploma. He spends most of time talking about movies and literature with his best friend Maïté Alvarez (Élodie Bouchez), whose mother Madame Alvarez (Michèle Moretti) is François's French teacher, she and her son are communists. At the boarding school, François becomes acquainted with immigrant farmers' son Serge Bartolo (Stéphane Rideau), they join in the dormitory at night for a chat and are drawn into an erotic relationship. François discovers his homosexuality and develops a deep attraction for Serge, who had only acted out of curiosity. Maïté is disappointed when he confides in her about his feelings, she encourages him to come out of the closet, Serge becomes increasingly interested in her, but Maïté is not interested in anybody. Serge's brother Pierre (Eric Kreikenmayer) dies while serving in the army in Algeria, and Maïté's mother suffers a nervous breakdown, then Algerian-born French exile Henri Mariani (Frédéric Gorny) aggravates boarding school and political conflicts. Henri is obsessed with events in Algeria and supports the OAS (Organisation armée secrete, meaning Secret Army Organisation), which opposes Algerian independence and defends the rights of French settlers there. Henri treats François with no sympathy and tells him bluntly to confess to his homosexuality, his political stance provokes Serge's hatred, Henri finally engages Maïté as they give in to their mutual attraction. Each character develops through the course of the film, repeatedly shifting from stubborn positions to more flexible appreciations of their circumstances. Also starring Jacques Nolot as Monsieur Morelli, Nathalie Vignes as Irène, Michel Ruhl as Monsieur Cassagne and Fatia Maite as Aicha Morelli. This is a complex story about war, class, sexuality and responsibility, I did find it hard to keep up with everything going on, but it was great to watch for the beautiful French countryside and other shimmering images, a worthwhile drama. Good!
I heard about this film once or twice during its release in cinemas, I later found out about the good cast in it, and it did look and sound interesting, so I gave it a chance. Based on a true story, and inspired by the 1779 painting of the title character, Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was born in 1761, the natural daughter of enslaved African woman Maria Belle from the West Indies, and British Royal Navy officer Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). After Dido's mother's dies in 1765, Captain Lindsay takes her from the West Indies slums and entrusts her to his uncle William Murray (Tom Wilkinson), 1st Earl of Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, and his wife Elizabeth (Emily Watson), who live in the estate Kenwood House, in Hampstead outside London. Lord and Lady Mansfield raise Dido as a free gentlewoman, along with their niece Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon), who came to live with them after her mother died and her father remarried. The two cousins reach adulthood, an oil portrait is commissioned, but Dido is unhappy sitting for it, worried she will portrayed as a black servant, rather than as an aristocrat. Dido's father dies and leaves her a generous sum of £2,000 a year, enough to make her an heiress, in contrast, Lady Elizabeth will have no income from her father, as his son from his new wife will become sole heir. A coming-out to society party is arranged for Elizabeth, but Lord and Lady Mansfield believe no gentleman will agree to marry Dido because of her mixed-race status. Lord Mansfield agrees to take a vicar's son, John Davinier (Sam Reid), into an apprenticeship for law, he becomes part of the Zong massacre case, this was the mass killing of 133 African slaves by the crew of the British slave ship Zong. During preparations for the court case, John gets very close to Dido, because of his interest in the cause of the abolitionists, Lord Mansfield tells him not to see her anymore, and ends his apprenticeship. Dido's aunts, Lady Mansfield, and her sister Lady Mary Murray (Penelope Wilton), seek to steer Dido into an engagement with Oliver Ashford (James Norton), younger brother of the bigoted James Ashford (Harry Potter's Tom Felton). James starts courting Elizabeth, but stops when he realises she has no inheritance, with no fortune Oliver proposes to Dido and she accepts, but she continues to see John, James takes Dido aside and says she will disgrace his family's name, then insults and manhandles her. Dido later tells Elizabeth of his true character and says she will give her part of her inheritance to help her find a new match, Lord Mansfield finds out about Dido and John seeing each other and confronts them, John professes his love for her, and later Dido meets with Oliver and breaks off their engagement. Dido is relieved when the oil painting is revealed, she is shown as Elizabeth's equal, she tells Lord Mansfield this proves that convention can be defied, he is ruling over the Zong case, he sees John and Dido outside the court, he says that she can only marry a gentleman, so reinstates John's apprenticeship, so he can become a lawyer. Dido and John share a kiss, acknowledging their romantic feelings, they went on to get married and had three children together, Elizabeth also married and had children, and their painting hangs at Scone Palace in Scotland, the birthplace of Lord Mansfield. Also starring Miranda Richardson as Lady Ashford, Alex Jennings as Lord Ashford, Lauren Julien-Box as Young Dido and Cara Jenkins as Young Elizabeth. Mbatha-Raw gives a good leading performance as the mixed-race aristocrat, taken from the slums into a life of luxury, the supporting cast including Wilkinson, Felton and Norton do well also, it is essentially a story examining aristocracy overcame racism of the time, and a simple men and women of wealth courting with great costumes, all in all it is a reasonably interesting period drama. Worth watching!
Tomb Raider (2018)
The original 1996 video game was a big hit, then it was turned into a stinker of a movie with Angelina Jolie (and a pointless sequel followed), then in 2013 the makers of the game reinvented the lead character and her origins, that is what is brought to life in this reboot to the franchise. Basically Lara Croft (The Danish Girl's Alicia Vikander) is the daughter of eccentric adventurer Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), since his disappearance she has become an independent woman, working as a bike courier. She is arrested following a bike accident involving a police car, she is bailed by her father's business partner Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas), she warns Lara that if she does not claim her father's inheritance, the family estate will be sold off. She reluctantly attends a meeting with Mr. Yaffe (Derek Jacobi), an associate at Croft Holdings, to sign the documents, but before she does so he gives her a puzzle box her father showed her. Lara solves it, it has a photo, and a clue that she deciphers, it leads her to a secret room, activated at her father's wall gravestone, inside she finds her father's hidden office. Lara watches a pre-recorded message from Richard, detailing his research into Himiko, the mythical Queen of Yamatai who was said to command the power over life and death, Richard warns Lara to destroy all of his research, but Lara decides not to, so she can investigate further. Lara travels to Hong Kong, Richard's last known location, she finds and hires Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), captain of the ship Endurance, to sail into the Devil's Sea to the island of Yamatai. The ship capsizes in a violent storm, Lara is knocked unconscious and washed ashore, she is revived by Mathias Vogel (The Hateful Eight's Walton Goggins), leader of an expedition to locate Himiko's tomb, funded by shadowy organisation Trinity, seeking to harness and weaponize Himiko's power. Lara is taken prisoner by Vogel, who claims he killed her father, and intends to use Richard's research to continue the expedition. Lara escape with the help of Lu Ren, who also survived the storm, he has been put to work with the local fishermen digging for Himiko's tomb, Lara evades capture, but is badly injured in the process. She passes out from her injuries, but regains consciousness, she is forced to kill a Trinity guard when she is nearly discovered, then she follows a mysterious figure wandering the island, Lara is shocked to discover it is her father. Lara convinces Richard that she is real, he treats her injuries, he is upset that she did not listen to his instructions to destroy his research, despite his protesting, Lara sets off to recover it from Vogel's camp. Lara reunites with Lu Ren, they set up a series of distractions for the guards, allowing her to infiltrate the camp and recover her father's research, Richard has followed, and identifies the opening to Himiko's tomb, he is captured by Vogel, who persuades Lara to open it. The party navigate a series of booby traps and locate Himiko's sarcophagus, two Trinity soldiers attempt to remove her corpse, but become infected by her "power", which is actually a potent disease that causes immediate bodily disintegration triggered by mere physical contact. Vogel concludes that Himiko's body cannot be removed, he settles on detaching a finger, placing it in a pouch, Lara and Richard overpower the remaining soldiers, but Vogel escapes, and Richard becomes infected. Knowing there is no cure, Richard proposes destroying Himiko's tomb to prevent the virus spreading worldwide, Lara is heartbroken that she will lose her father again, but agrees, chasing after Vogel, as Richard sets off a bomb, killing himself and sealing the tomb. Lara confronts Vogel and they fight, she force-feeds him Himiko's finger and kicks him down a deep chasm as the infection takes over, she is rescued by Lu Ren and the fishermen, they commandeer a Trinity helicopter to escape Yamatai. Lara returns to London, where she signs the documents formally accepting her inheritance, then she inadvertently discovers that Trinity's front company is actually owned by Croft Holdings, proceeding to further investigate Trinity. Lara suspects Ana Miller is one of Trinity's agents who manipulated her into accepting her inheritance in order to have her sign over control of business operations, having seen Trinity's ruthlessness first-hand, she prepares for her next adventure to thwart their future plans, buying two Glocks from pawn shop owner and gun salesman Max (Nick Frost) and his wife Pamela (Jaime Winstone). Also starring Hannah John-Kamen as Sophie and Alexandre Willaume as Lieutenant. Vikander is a good choice, not just because she is beautiful and looks just like the revamped game version of the character, but she is much more humanistic and obviously toughens up as it goes along, the support of West and Scott Thomas are fine as well. The story is much more thought out this time around, working as both an origins story, and a good excuse to have Indiana Jones style exploring, there are some thrilling moments, it is very likely there will be more to come, an entertaining enough action adventure. Worth watching!
Lady Bird (2017)
Clips of this movie were shown on television many times throughout Awards Season, it looked like a quirky kind of film, not the usual kind to receive big award nominations, it also marked the Oscar nominated directorial debut for actress Greta Gerwig. Basically in 2002, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Golden Globe winning, and Oscar and BAFTA nominated Saoirse Ronan) is a senior student at an all-girls Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. Lady Bird longs to attend an Ivy League college in "a city with culture", but her family is struggling financially, and her mother Marion (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Laurie Metcalf) tells her she is ungrateful for what she has. Lady Bird and her best friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein) join their school theatre program, where Lady Bird meets Danny O'Neill (Lucas Hedges) from a neighboring all-boys Catholic high school, they both audition for the schools' joint fall production of Merrilly We Roll Along. They develop a romantic relationship, her mother is disappointed when Lady Bird joins Danny's family for Thanksgiving dinner, but their relationship ends when Lady Bird discovers Danny kissing a boy in the bathroom. From the insistence of her mother, Lady Bird finds a job working in a coffee shop, there she meets young musician Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet), they begin a romantic relationship, and she and Julie drift apart. Popular girl Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush) is reprimanded by teacher Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) for wearing a short skirt, Lady Bird suggests she and Jenna bond by vandalising the Sister's car, but she gives her home address as being that of Danny's grandmother's home to appear wealthy. Lady Bird is given a role in the disjointed spring production of The Tempest, despite this she drops out of the theatre program. At the coffee shop, Lady Bird reunites with Danny, consoling him as he expresses his struggle to come out as gay. After Kyle tells Lady Bird he is a virgin, she loses her virginity to him, but he later denies saying this. Jenna discovers that Lady Bird lies about her address, while Lady Bird discovers that her father Larry (Tracy Letts) has lost his job and has been battling depression for most of his life. Lady Bird begins applying to East Coast colleges, despite her mother insisting that the family cannot afford it, she is overjoyed when she discovers she has been placed on the wait list for a New York college. Lady Bird sets out for her high school prom with Kyle, Jenna, and her boyfriend, but they decide to go to a party instead, Lady Bird asks them to drop her off at Julie's house, there the two rekindle their friendship and go to the prom together. After Lady Bird's graduation, her mother discovers her applying for out-of-state colleges behind her back and stops talking to her. On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird's father shares a cupcake with her, he assures her that he and her mother still love each other, he jokes they will not get a divorce because they cannot afford it. To celebrate reaching legal age, Lady Bird buys a pack of cigarettes, a scratch card, and an issue of Playgirl, she takes and passes her driving test, and she redecorates her bedroom. Lady Bird learns that she has bee accepted to the New York college, she can afford the tuition with financial aid and the help of her father. Her mother refuses to see her off at the airport, she does have a change of heart and drives back, but by then Lady Bird has already left. In New York, Lady Bird finds thoughtful letters written by her mother, salvaged by her father, and she decides to start using her birth name again. After leaving hospital, following a night of heavy drinking at the party, she chances upon a Sunday Catholic mass, then calls home, speaking as Christine and leaving an apologetic message for her mother. Also starring Fences' Stephen McKinley Henderson as Father Leviatch, Jake McDorman as Mr. Bruno, Laura Marano as Diana Greenway and Jordan Rodrigues as Miguel McPherson. Ronan does an impeccable American accent and with her dyed red hair is a fantastic representation of a flawed teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood, and Metcalf is terrific as the equally flawed mother who only wants the best for her daughter. The film goes through pretty much every motion a teenage girl would when approaching legal age, the difficult relationship between mother and daughter is one of the big draws in the story, and the script is witty and endearing, it is not afraid to show eccentricity and be unconventional, a likeable coming-of-age comedy drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Original Screenplay for Greta Gerwig, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and it was nominated for Best Screenplay. Very good!