Category Archives: Film & TV

Review The Death of Stalin by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

This movies creators probably had the same thought that Stanley Kubrick had while making Dr. Strangelove. That though the basic facts are real and the subject, as well as the consequences are serious, when you say it out loud, it’s pretty funny.

The movie opens in 1953 where Russia has won the war and is securely under the control of Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) who is simultaneously adored and feared by the people. To be his enemy or even be considered to be one mean your name goes on a list and when your name goes on the list you get executed. One night while an orchestra is being performed Stalin phones up the venue and orders that he be sent a recording of the performance, being that it wasn’t being recorded the guests must be seated and the musicians must play again.

At his palace Stalin is having a boys night of food, drinks and cowboy movies. His company is Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russel Beale). All act more like workmates joining each-other at the local bar rather than officials that are there to run a country. At the end of the night the men go home, all quite drunk, to their wives and hoping that none of them has done anything to anger Stalin. During the night Stalin listens to the orchestra recording and stars convulsing then collapses. The next morning the maid finds him and so the real madness begins.

With his death it sends the men into a battle for both power and ego. They race and debate on who should takeover head office, who’ll be allowed to drive off first, one implements a policy that the other doesn’t like so they revoke it just out of spite despite the terrible repercussions.

Adding the the comedic element is the fact that nobody cares about the real life characters accents. Throughout the cast is plenty of American and British actors and they are all playing Russians and that doesn’t matter in the slightest, they speak how the actors speak.

While all their squabbling is reaching it’s heights in comes marching Georgy Zhukov. With an entire chest of medals, tolerating none of their juvenile behaviour and speaking up to no one. Jason Isaacs completely has fun with the character, sinking his teeth into the dialogue and taking a big bite out of whatever scene he’s in. One of the best parts of the movie.

This is a fun costume drama that embellishes on certain facts about what really happened and shows the pettiness that men can be capable of when the highest position of power is in-front of them they’ll sink to any depths. There is only one joke really, these men are petty, but they find enough variations that the movie is never a drag. There are  about three solid laughs to have in it, during the rest of the movie you will be smiling.

Jonathan Evans

Review Happy Death Day by Jonathan Evans

Happy Death Day is a black comedy with pieces of a genuine horror mixed in, essentially Groundhog Day meets Halloween. From that you can already guess the main problem with the movie, it lacks a distinct personality. It is quite good at times and blunt at others but the overall product has a tonal problem that leaves you coming out of it not sure with what you just saw.

It opens with a girl named Theresa waking up in a college dorm room, she is hungover and can barely remember the night before, she goes about her day and things happen that establish that shes popular but not very nice. It is also her birthday, which she doesn’t want people to know or acknowledge herself. She heads out for the night, while on her way a figure appears and stabs her to death. She then wakes at the start of the day and must relive the day of her murder over and over again.

Jessica Rothe plays Theresa. She fulfills everything that the script requires her to do well. She screams very high and loudly, she comes off like a spoiled rich kid, there are other moments that call for her to be funny etc. She does a solid job in the movie.

The killer is dressed entirely in black with a cartoon baby face mask. A good design that is both distinctive and easily recognisable. It may become iconic and then again it might not, but credit goes to creating an easily registrable visual.

With any kind of teen movie as well and having a plot where repetition is a main theme naturally there is a montage sequence. It is stuff like this that clashes with the overall movie. Are we meant to always be laughing or genuinely feel frightened for out main character? At the start we do, then it becomes a case of “ow dang it!” then near the climax we’re meant to feel for her again.

This is a spoiler free review but I will say that the two main questions I had while watching the movie were (obviously) how is all of this happening? And how does the killer seem to always magically track her down? We get answers to none of these.

The concept is fine and the execution is good at times as well. However it’s stereotypical portrayal of teens and suffering from either not knowing what it wants to be or wanting to be too many things it becomes pieces of a solid work rather than a whole. If there are no better offers at the cinema then it isn’t a waste, but is also only worth one watch.

Jonathan Evans

Review Thor Ragnarok by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Let me tell you about a man named Jack Kirby. He worked in the comic book industry for most of his life. He made history when he and Stan Lee created The Fantastic Four together, from then on he co-created or created so many other characters I wont even try listing them. He propelled the medium of comics to feats of wild, cosmic scale ideas, that with the tools of paper and pen you could say and show the vastness images humanly conceivable. He had his own style that he continued to refine and produced so much work on a seemingly nonstop basis. He is probably one of the most influential figure for the medium of comics and the genre of superheros.

Thor Ragnarok operates, more than any other MARVEL movie like something Kirby would have created. It packs in so many ideas and visuals, it crackles with the enthusiasm of putting so many different kinds of characters, lines and images into a great vision.

Writer director Taika Waititi is a man with a unique gift for comedy and story telling. His previous two movies which I’ve seen are What We Do in the Shadows was an amazingly fresh take on vampires and Hunt For The Wilderpeople was one of the most original, well-made and hilarious movies that I’ve seen in a while. Here he inserts his unique brand of humor and also adopts most of the things we’ve come to expect from these MARVEL movies. Expect many quips.

Entering the picture is Hela, played by living screen legend Cate Blanchette. This is the role where she definitely has had the most fun in. She is a larger than life character that who’s nature is a big reveal for the Thor franchise and is easily one of the most powerful adversaries in all the movies. Since Loki the MARVEL movies now have another really engaging villain for their roster.

In this movie Heimdall, played by Idris Elba finally gets to play a more important part of the story. Elba is still not used to his full potential but at least it is more deserving of an actor of his caliber.

Due to plot reasons Thor is transported to the planet of Sakaar, when there its two obvious main influences shine. The first being Kirby, with it’s varied colours and designs using circles and blocky lines that resemble the circuitry of a computer chip. The other it’s science fiction movies of the eighties.

Another reinforcement of having the eighties as their influence is the music. Mark Mothersbaugh creates a synth rock score like something John Carpenter might have created. As well as the most perfect use of Led Zeppelins The Immigrant Song.

They really did find their perfect star for Thor. Chris Hemsworth comes with the muscle, hair and chiseled jaw that artist have drawn Thor to look like but he himself also has so much charm and is able to absolutely deliver a joke. To look at he’s Thor and he is him in performance as well.

A shaky first act and some other emotional moments that probably go by too fast so you don’t truly get absorbed into them are such minor complaints that they are hardly worth dwelling on. This is is crazed mad vision brought to life by a filmmaker who knows their craft and was given a budget to see it through. It is a glorious, unashamed baroque rock n’ roll nerd painting.

 

Review, Spamalot, Exeter Northcott Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

If anyone is anyone from the ages of 20 and above, it is unlikely that you did not grow up with Monty Python and their slapstick, intelligent humour. Despite the Python’s Holy Grail making its debut on our screens in 1975, their comedy and genius sketches have become not only legendary but with the ability to never age, becoming a deep part of British culture.

To bring something so acclaimed to the stage must be daunting, however with the input of Python’s own Eric Idle and original Holy Grail score writer, John DuPrez, what we see on television is brought to live performance with every bit of silliness and pizzazz as the original.

The performers themselves took on every character with perfect recognition of the originals, to uncanny resemblances of John Cleese in King Arthur particularly, making us feel as if the Python’s were really in the room. To bring such simple comedic tricks that often are hidden on television, the performers perfection in timing and perfectly rehearsed actions and movements, made us see a performance that left little to critique in what could be improved upon.

Fun was poked at the status that the performance found itself in – as a live musical number with little to hide in special effects. Songs were created about how romantic songs lead to a kiss or how an actress had been off stage for too long and her annoyance at this. Special effects weren’t trying to be hidden and clever, but became satirical and obvious, creating humour in not only our views of musical theatre but adding to the key approach that the Python’s take to comedy.

What really made this production special was the interaction with the audience. We were not left behind or made to watch but our knowledge engaged us in the action – singing along to well-known tunes, laughing uncontrollably at the same jokes that never get old, and cheers from the crowd at favourite character entrances and scenes from the original sketch. Even a slight moment of corpse-ing from the performers did not take away from the fun – personally I love a moment when performers slightly lose track. To me it makes them human but also shows how much they enjoy the performance themselves, and such as in this case, it never destroys the audience’s belief but creates more humour for them.

Spamalot is a well-constructed and brilliant production, bringing the 1970’s humour of the Python’s to new audiences but also revoking comedy for the older fans; modernising the production to fit current situations yet somehow keeping the original essence of The Holy Grail, this performance is a triumph.

 

 

Review: The Death of Stalin watched at Chapter Cinema Studio.

(4 / 5)

Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin pokes  irreverent fun at the likely sense of paranoia and ambition surrounding the demise of the tyrant and is hysterically funny.  

Production Details

 

Directed by Armando Iannucci

Written by Armando Iannucci et al

Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov; Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalin; Olga Kurylenko as Maria Yudina; Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev; Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin; Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov; Paddy Considine as Comrade Andryev; Richard Brake as Tarasov;  Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov; Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria; Paul Whitehouse as Anastas Mikoyan; Jonathan Aris as Mezhnikov; Dermot Crowley as Kaganovich

Country: France and the UK

Time: 106 minutes

Cert: 15 for strong language throughout and infrequent scenes of strong violence

Story of The Death of Stalin

The film is based upon the French Graphic novel La mort de Staline, which depicts the final days of Stalin and the upheaval occasioned by the death of Josef Stalin in 1953,  amongst leading members of the  Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The film shouldn’t be taken as a statement of historical fact, although in many ways it is surprisingly accurate.

Stalin’s court of the Red Tsar was so grotesquely idiosyncratic that it contained within its morose heart a strong vein of absurdity. If you want real history, go to a history book not a film, especially not a comedy. But surprisingly, the details are excellent: the khaki facade and wood panelling of Stalin’s mansion, the line of phones, the Packard limousines, the white summer suit of Malenkov. Yes, there are mistakes: the NKVD secret police was then the MGB; most of the titles are wrong. Molotov,
Mikoyan and Beria had all been sacked as ministers of foreign, trade and internal affairs four — or, in Beria’s case, eight — years earlier, and so on, but none of that matters.

Extracted from an article by Simon Sebag Montefiore featured in the Culture Magazine of the Sunday Times ( September 24 2017).

The film start with a supremely funny episode where the Russian pianist Maria Yudina is playing the achingly beautiful 3rd movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 which is being played on Russian State Radio. A phone call from Stalin to the director says he wants a recording of the concert just as it has finished. Of course, the concert has not been recorded, and as the orchestra and audience disperse, the direct frantically recalls them so that they can do part of the concert again, this time recording it. By now, the conductor has had an accident involving a blow to the head, the pianist will only play for a large sum of money and a team is sent out to the streets of Moscow to shanghai anybody they can find to fill the gaps in the audience and create a sufficient level of applause. Of course, the people that are brought in are the last you would expect at a classical concert, the dregs and low class of Moscow society. An eminent conductor is himself kidnapped from his bed to conduct and he turns up attired in dressing gown and pyjamas.

The pianist, has managed to sneak in a defamatory note within the record sleeve of the now recorded performance, which, when read by Stalin causes a cerebral hemorrhage subsequentally leading to his death.

Ludicrous as this seems, it does have an element of truth. Maria Yudina was playing this very Mozart piece in 1944, (not 1953 as in the film), at a concert live on Soviet,  radio when Stalin so taken by the performance, asked for a recording. However, as it was a live recording, it didn’t exist. So Maria was dragged out of her bed in the middle of the night and a makeshift small orchestra was assembled and the recording was made during the small hours with the one pressed copy going to Stalin.

It just goes to show that even the most coarsest of Georgian dictators can have the most supreme taste in music.

Maria’s sending of the note is totally fictitious and potentially libelous excepting the fact that she has been dead for forty seven years. This storyline does feature in the graphic novel and has been transferred to the film.

The director has cleverly adapted this truthful event into the plot of the story recognising its comedic potential. This is a prime example of Armando Ianucci’s supreme eye for comic material based on elements of fact.

The Script

The script maintains a high level of wit throughout; or at least, until the harder edged final twenty minutes. An abundance of highly amusing lines pervade throughout. I particularly liked the line uttered by Steve Buscemi’s Nikita Khrushchev when given the dubious honour of managing the state funeral of Stalin.

Whilst his assistant is making Stalin as beautiful that a dead dictator can be, he complains, insisting he hurries things alone,  that He isn’t Clark Gable.

Incidentally, Gable was one of Stalin’s favourite actors.

There is anoter scene which comes straight out of Monty Python, and I don’t write that just because Michael Palin appears in it. Beria has kept his wife secretly in prison and Palin’s character Molotov, trying to ingratiate himself with the all-powerful spymaster and head of security, when his wife’s name comes up refers to her as a treacherous spy and other extremely abusive terms, not knowing that Beria has released his spouse who is standing just behind the door but not in Molotov’s view. Beria and Khrushchev knowing about the presence are increasingly getting more and more uncomfortable so Beria, to save further embarrassment announces her presence, so that when she walks in Molotov greets her with effusive affection in the total opposite manner that he had second before showed.

The Cast

If ever a more talented comedic ensemble class has been out together for a film in recent years, I would like to know about it. The talent on display is breathtaking. Mostly British, there are a couple of notable exceptions including the brilliant Steve Buscemi, Is there a better character actor in film today? Simon Russell Beale might be the one more likely to win awards for his portrayal of the brilliant, ruthless and ultimately dead Beria. He carries the right balance of playing an evil man but in a comedic way.

Andrea Riseborough is brilliant as Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, becoming more and more paranoid due to Steve Buscemi’s Krushchev insistence that he will protect her in the aftermath of her father’s demise, when she had been previously unaware that she needed to be protected in the first place.

Rupert Friend as Svetlana’s crazed brother Vasily, is extremely funny, especially when it comes to composing and delivering his late father’s eulogy.

For me, the pick is Jason Isaacs, who doesn’t appear until half way through the film. However the wait is worth it. His portrayal steps right out of the graphic novel. He is totally OTT playing General  Georgy Zhukov with a broad northern accent and no-nonsense approach to all things militaristic. This is actually very close to the characteristics of the real life General – excepting he wasn’t a Lancastrian.

I could go on because there are other brilliant caricatures in this film.

Summary

This is the funniest film that I have seen in years. Admittedly, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but unlike so many other films of this genre, although it is totally OTT,  Ianucci manages to keep matters from getting out of control. The cast seem to have been enjoying making the movies as well as filmgoers receive it, which is usually a good sign. I recommend this unreservedly to those of you who like Ianucci’s work, (Veep), Monty Python fans and the films of Wes Anderson.

Critical Response

It has been received overwhelmingly positively and has a score of 7.7 on IMDB and a 96% approval rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Trivia

A principal location used for The Death of Stalin is  “Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, West Kensington, London. This property which nowadays stores artificats from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, was used as “The Circus” in the 2011 adaptation of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy.

The film may well be banned in Russia, although it has a distributor in that country. n September 2017, a high-ranking official in the Russian Ministry of Culture said the Russian authorities were considering a ban on the film, which, he alleged, could be part of a “western plot to destabilise Russia by causing rifts in society.” That line could come right out of this film.

Official Trailer 

 

For listings at Chapter please go to

https://www.chapter.org/death-stalin-15

It plays until 9th November

Roger Barrington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review My Little Pony The Movie by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

Probably to the shock and awe of everyone when we got another iteration of the My Little Pony franchise it’s standard of quality was higher than we expected but it also gathered a large audience from not just little girls but boys and not little boys elderly men. They are known as Bronies, so the show had an extra audience that they probably didn’t count on. I know about this because I am one.

Our main group of characters are (bare with me, these names are real I swear) Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) the book smart but also neurotic and worrisome, Applejack (Ashleigh Ball) the hardworking, salt of the earth type, Rainbow Dash (Also voiced by Ball) the hot-headed enthusiastic one, Pinkie-Pie (Andrea Libman) the colorful, bouncing, party obsessed funny one, Fluttershy (Also voiced by Libman) the shy, delicate one who will be the last one to start or join a fight, Rarity (Tabitha St. Garmain) the fashion obsessed fussy one and finally is Spike (Cathy Weseluck) the little dragon who is always there for support. These are the typical archetypes that we’ve come to know for a group dynamic but they work here because they’re still distinctive from the other archetypes, few are as mad and fast talking as Pinkie Pie, or quite as intricately paranoid as Twilight. Reusing a formula is OK as long as you make it distinctive, which they do here, so there’s still something to connect and remember.

For the plot our group is gathered together for a special celebration, all is happy and going fine but a dark cloud approaches and from it emerge invaders that take the castle. Our heroes escape and now need to travel the lands and find allies.

The animation is an upgrade from the show, having much wider and detailed range of expressions from the characters as well as wider shots along with more sweeping movements from the camera. None of this is able to compete with Disney, Dreamworks or Ghibli but who says it has to? The show has its own style and it gets more effort put into it here.

This is is up there with one of the most vividly colourful movies I’ve ever seen (equal with Trolls). There is every single bright colour used here, from primary’s to others like turquoises, fuchsia and creams. But it never becomes saturated because each character has their main colour and the backgrounds are distinct so even if you squint you will know who is who. This is a good use of the tool.

This is a musical adventure. Though I must say that the songs are the weakest part of the movie. I can’t recall one of them from memory. They play at moments of plot-points or to expediently have a character tell you a lot about them. They may have other young fans singing them and buying the soundtrack but these aren’t the high-points of the movie.

For the big screen they gathered celebrity casting as you’d expect. The names are impressive with names like Zoe Saldana, Liev Shreiber and Michael Pena as-well as others. But they all fill their roles very well and are not distracting. These are actors that know how to be behind the microphone and create a character using only their vocals. Probably the biggest is super star Sia, essentially playing herself as a big musical star.

The main antagonist Tempest is easily the best part of the movie. Her darker colours contrast the others as-well as the world. The animators clearly put in effort with her facial expressions, most prominently her eyebrows. Emily Blunt puts on an American accent flawlessly and enjoys sinking her teeth into this no-nonsense, very fearsome threat.

For young children this movie will definitely entertain as well as comes with basic but fundamental lessons. For the older fans (which do exist) they will be glad to see their characters on the big screen in a bigger scenario. But the true appeal of the movie is probably what got young girls and older males to become fans, it has a distinct and undeniable charm.

Hanazuki Review

The opening short for this movie is a journey of colour, imagination and friendship. it is actually doing all the movie seeks to do and does it better.

It is instantly accessible, charming beyond belief and tells a full story. I would be glad to see this again as well as have it shown to children.

(5 / 5)

Review The LEGO Ninjago Movie by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

I am shocked that an obvious big budget toy commercial are able to create such fun and well made (pun intended) movies. The LEGO Movie was number one on the year it was released and earlier this year I had a blast watching The LEGO Batman Movie. Now we have another and surprise I’m excited for it.

After an introductory opening sequence in live action we are transported to a LEGO constructed world and the city of Ninjago, where on a regular basis (daily) evil forces merge from a nearby volcano and attempt to conquer it, lead by the all black, four armed Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Luckily for the cities inhabitants there is a group of ninjas with giant mech’s to fight and win against them.

In the forefront is the Green Ninja, Lloyd (Dave Franco), Red Ninja (Michael Pena), Blue Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), Silver Ninja (Abbi Jackson), Black Ninja (Fred Armisen) and the White Ninja (Zack Woods) who’s probably a robot for some reason. They all have their special power and design of giant robot as well as distinguishing personality but as the movie goes on they get lost amongst other things. The ninjas are revered by the towns people but it turns out that in his civilian life Llyod is Garmadon’s son (da-da-dah!). This leads to regular hate, blame and judgement from nearly all the other civilians.

Another character is Master Wu played by legendary martial arts star Jackie Chan. This is doubtless the role where Chan is having the most fun, how can he not when he is given a script with so many funny lines. He is the martial arts master that teaches the ninjas how to better themselves. But he comes out with either too blunt or too cryptic ways of going bout it. He is also amazing at laying the flute.

All the other movies have had the initial presentation of a crazy colourful world with comedy at a fast passe. However through the watching it is revealed that there is an emotional center to it that ties the movie together. Here it is the father son relationship between Lloyd and Garmadon. About how a father and son can become astray and the outward devastation that can cause. It’s just presented with larger than life scenarios and jokes tying it together and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The comedy is very tongue-in-cheek and that is the overall style that these movies have adopted. Having their source material and playing within it but never be beyond poking fun of the world or archetypes they have.

The animation still embraces the limitations of the real plastic of the LEGO pieces however they allow themselves some more lapses than the other movies animation. They unhinge the arms from their sockets, squash some other pieces and have water instead of a vast amount of moving blue pieces. It’s a valid artistic choice to make but the previous movies commitment to the real limitations was so impressive that this somehow feel like a letdown.

Something I feel is a drawback for the movie is that it doesn’t have much access to as many resources as the previous LEGO movies did. The first had the entirety of the franchises that LEGO has worked with and Batman had not just the Dark Knight but a a bunch of other DC lore to bring in.

Even if this isn’t as good as the other two movies to come out this ones still fun with a lot of talent and enthusiasm put into it. There is so much creativity put into the setting it up  and has an emotional core that ties it all together.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review The Snowman by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

The snow covers the entire land, only in scenes that take place indoors is it nowhere to be seen. People dress in thick coats to try and  be as warm as possible. If something was as cold on the inside as the environment, it would be a snowman. Like in Fargo or even directors Tomas Alfredson’s previous movie Let the Right One In, the snow itself is more than just a setting, it is a character itself. It plays into the theme of the movie, of a cold world where only the strong can survive.

This is one of the most disturbing murder mysteries you’ll see (along with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). It shows you just enough visually to make you wince and cut away at the right time so make up the worse bits yourself. This is the world it seeks to show and it stands by its very harsh mentality and images.

The premise is basic, someone is going around killing women. Before or after the act a snowman is built.  This is their calling card, or signature. Whoever it is they are always watching the main characters and seem to be unaffected by the cold. Taking up the case is Detective Harry Hole (played by Michael Fassbender)which seems to be the best cure for his hangover.

Detective Harry Hole is one of those rugged detective characters that’s good at their job but a very dysfunctional human being in nearly every other category. He drinks and forgets personal obligations, though not so bad as other portrays of this type of character. He clearly wants to do right and when he forgets he feels bad, it’s just that he priorities the job more. You can see someone like Bogart take this role if it was made a few decades ago. Fassbender fill’s the role very well, you are able to see and understand that this man (like Sherlock Holmes) lives for the case, he needs to wrap his brain around these twisted acts of violence, because if he doesn’t he falls into the bottle.

The average, or at least less keen eyed movie watcher will probably let some scenes go by without thinking twice. However if so do you will pick up on some leaps in realism. Some things like where does the killer go exactly? Or isn’t the timing a little to convenient? And some other things that simply allow things to happen.

Through the use of them I have a feeling that the movie seeks to make Snowmen scary, at least the ones here. Snowmen just aren’t, they do their best, actually giving them minimal features so they can be easily registered and more invoke the feeling for the act of the killer rather than the snowmen themselves. They are an effective icon for the movie, both while it plays and for it’s promotion.

I was able to predict the identity of the killer, is this a negative to the movie? Well in a mystery it isn’t about being able to hide who it is, it’s about telling a good story. Millions of people will most likely see the movie and some of those people will at least guess correctly, that’s just statistically likely. A good writer isn’t trying to trick you, they’re trying to engross you. While watching you will understand the characters and their points of view of the world and the reveal does add up. So it’s fine.

Leaps in logic can be forgiven if the overall product can suck you in. This movie has very good acting and crisp cinematography as well truly creating a scene of the cold environment that the characters inhabit. Everything’s sturdily constructed, allowing for some blank spaces. In terms of modern Gothic mystery’s this one is quite well made.

 

Review Goodbye Christopher Robin by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin is, at the start, about the rejuvenating ability that thinking as a child can help people through dark times and then becomes about the corruption of success and fame.

We are introduced to A.A. Milne (Domnhnall Gleeson) who has survived the First World War but is shell shocked and angry at the world. He lives rather comfortably in London with his wife Daphne (Margo Robbie) but he cannot get over the trauma, he introduces one of his plays but the spotlight reminds him of the lights in the trenches and cannot get through it. In his disgruntled state he decides to move his wife and son (Will Tilston) out to the country.

Whilst there Milne seems to be much more interested in woodwork and walking rather than writing. Daphne grows ever more bored and frustrated so she leaves for some city time, coinciding with her leaving the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) must also go for three days to see to her sickly mother. So now its just the two of them.

During the time they are away it falls on Milne to step up and take care of his son. He is not the most patient man so they have tension in deciding what breakfast to make and him needing quite. But he gets sucked into the world his son creates with his stuffed toys. We then hear other names and phrases and can connect the dots that these elements will be used to tell the tale we all know.

He of course writes it down and is a tremendous success. But with success comes fame so he is constantly being called and asked to make appearances. Even Milne, who wrote the book is always asked about his son. Public appearances, signings, interviews all in abundance. He can hardly go anywhere and not be recognized. Even in their country home people come looking for him.

Being that this is about the behind the scenes story of a popular work of fiction I couldn’t help but think of Finding Neverland and Saving Mr Banks. Out of all of these movies the best one is Finding Neverland but this is also a different movie. It shows the damaging effects of too much fame for someone that cant handle it.

This is a very handsomely shot movie with attention to detail in the living areas, wardrobe and the sunlight having a truly golden quality to it.

The movies message is a simple one and the story of what when on with the people behind the material is interesting. A few moments of cool transitions, attractive production value and very solid performances help make it more worth seeing it those elements weren’t there.

 

Review Blade Runner 2049 by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

 

The images and themes of Blade Runner are some of the most iconic in movie and even pop-culture history. They have influences and been ripped off so many times and yet there’s still nothing quite like the original. Whether a sequel was necessary or wanted is now irrelevant, it’s here and the story now continues.

I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of the original movie. I ‘ve seen it three times, I like hearing analysis of it and talking about it and it is undeniably influential and amazing to look at, but frankly actually sitting down and seeing the movie play-out has never given me a thrill.

We get a black screen where writing comes up informing us of the essential information we need to know going into the movie. Replicants are synthetically grown humans that developed their own humanity, they rebelled but a new company has emerged which makes Replicants that obey absolutely, the old models are still running around Earth so there are still agents that hunt them, which are still called Blade Runners. The  first shot, as the original, is with the opening of an eye. Who eye? It does not matter. We then see a flying car hover above a grey landscape, where eventually there’s some kind of farming land. The car lands and a man gets out, he enters the house and waits for it’s owner (Dave Bautista), through a series of questions it’s obvious that he is a Blade Runner here to “retire” this runaway Replicant.

The Replicant fights back, slamming him through a wall but he is stronger than him. Yes this Blade Runner is a Replicant. The Replicants name is K (Ryan Gosling). Before he heads back he finds a buried box under a dead tree and number carved into them that have meaning for K.

Being that he’s not human most of his emotions are subdued, for a large portion of the movie Gosling is rather stone-faced throughout it. That’s fine because there are other  more expressive characters that keep the energy alive, his real effort goes into his body movement, being sleek and efficient. However you can still see the glimmers of the thoughts that are going on under the surface that come out in little eye movements or furrowing of his brow. Plus there is a scene in which he comes to a realisation about himself and without going over the top delivers an amazing reaction. For this, I believe it is one of his best performances.

Something I applaud this movie for is it’s very little amount of action. There are hand-to-hand sequences and a shootout scene or two but this movie really relies on creating images, atmosphere and provoking deeper questions. Science Fiction isn’t supposed to simply entertain you with things going bang and flashing lights, its meant to give you ideas.

Blade Runner has never been a typical science fiction movie. It was more like an existential Film Noir set in the future. It had a lonely man wandering the streets of a dark city and asked questions about what makes us human. This is still that movie.

In the directors chair is not Ridley Scott but Denis Villeneuve. He made Arrival last year which really impressed me so I had no objections to him taking the realms on another science fiction movie. He has clearly done his research for what this world is like. He and cinematographer Roger Daekins have created the same dark, rainy world lit with headlights and advertisements, as well as a few other images that will most likely become classic. Whats striking is the way many scenes are composed with the minimal amount of detail and only a few shapes to help fill in what they are. Take a shot where its mostly black but a few coloured lights help us register that there is a car behind the character.

Someone else that’s taking over is Hans Zimmer and Benjamine Wallfisch on the music where it was previously handled by Vangelis. They have a frame to work within and I believe to sounds like the original. For the big city shots it’s your traditional piece you would expect to hear but there are other moments where the characters dwell on other things and it becomes a deep meditation. They use electronic instruments but create an organic sound with them.

I have no idea how well this movie will be received by the public or by other critics. I also cannot guess how successful it will do at the box-office or with the fans of the original. But I do admire the visuals and the technical achievements put into this movie. I remember some of the shots very clearly and the feeling of the atmosphere it created. It shows a world far off in the future where technology is capable of so many things but the greatest question man faces is within themselves.