Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies DVD Review: Paddington 2 (2017).

Bear faced brilliance.


I never went to see “Paddington 2” at the cinema when it came out. Well, it’s a kids film isn’t it?  And my grandkids I thought… well, their probably a bit too young for the long haul on this one.  But – after catching up with it recently on a transatlantic flight – I’m sorry I missed it. For it is brilliant in its own way. 

Having not seen the first “Paddington”, also directed by Paul King, there is a useful little flashback to the Peruvian origins of the little chap before we pitch into the plot proper. Paddington (voiced by Ben Wishaw, “Spectre“) has nicely settled down to life with The Brown’s in their London home and is a well-loved member of the community (well, well loved that is by everyone except the cranky Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi, “Dr Who“, “World War Z“).  But he longs to buy his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton, “Finding Your Feet“) a special birthday present – a pop-up book of London scenes that he’s seen in a local antique shop. But for that he needs a lot of cash, and so proceeds to earn it through a variety of different jobs. 

Bucket, ladder: what could possibly go wrong? (Source: Heyday Films)

However, fading actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins“, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“) also shows an unhealty interest in the book and, after it disappears from the shop with Paddington’s paw prints all over the scene, the poor bear finds himself on the wrong side of the law.

A pop-up book with a hidden secret. Source: Heyday Films

This is a continually inventive movie, which rockets along with truly impressive verve and panache from scene to scene. As a particular example of this, an animated walk through the pop-up book is marvellously done: a tribute to the 2D retro nature (even in those days!) of the TV animation of the 70’s that will go over the heads of younger viewers. There are plenty of slapstick scenes – notably of Paddington trying window cleaning, and his job in a barber’s shop – which will not only delight younger children but also made this 57 year old laugh out loud too!  The prison sequence also delights, with a laundry blunder by the bear leading into a comical showdown with the prison’s chief poisoner, sorry, head chef played by Brendan Gleeson (“Alone in Berlin“, “Live By Night“).

Vision AND sound! Paddington with incarcerated friends, including Brendan Gleeson (centre).

The cast all seem to revel in their parts, with Hugh Bonneville (“Viceroy’s House“, “The Monuments Men“) energetic as Mr Brown and Oscar runner-up (surely!) Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water“) very chirpy as Mrs Brown. All of the residents of Windsor Gardens are a who’s who of UK film and TV, and each cameo has a lovely little tale behind it:  Julie Walters (“Brooklyn“) as Mrs Bird, the Brown’s help; Sanjeev Bhaskar as Dr Jafri, forever nearly locking himself out; Miss Kitts (Jessica Hynes) and the crusty Colonel Lancaster (Ben Miller) in a ‘will they/won’t they’ potential romance. Elsewhere, Jim Broadbent (“Bridget Jones Baby“, “Eddie the Eagle“) is great as the antique store owner; Tom Conti adds both gravitas and humour as Judge Biggleswade and Richard Ayoade (“The Double“) is very funny as a forensic expert.

The Brown family: from left; Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville); Jonathan (Samuel Joslin); Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins); Mrs Bird (Julie Walters); and Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris).

Head and shoulders above all of them though is Hugh Grant who is just outstandingly good as the puffed-up and self-important ham-actor. His Best Supporting Actor nomination for a BAFTA was surprising, but having seen the film so very much deserved. Hang around in the end credits for his last words of the film which are cornily hilarious!  One can only hope that Phoenix Buchanen returns for Paddington 3.

A career best… Hugh Grant as the devilishly slippery Phoenix Buchanan.

I would have thought that some of the scenes towards the end of the film, particularly one where Paddington seems doomed to a watery end, might be a little frightening for younger viewers. Thank heavens Sally Hawkins has gills! 🙂

Overall, this is a movie I would gladly watch again, with or without kids. In a movie landscape that is pretty devoid of good comedy, here is a movie that really did make me laugh out loud.

Fad Rating: FFFFf

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies ‘DVD’ Review: Spielberg (2017).

On making Drew Barrymore cry.

spielberg poster

“Spielberg” is an HBO-produced documentary by documentarian Susan Lacy. You’ll never guess who the subject is?! 

Steven Spielberg is a product of one of the most surprising revolutions in Hollywood in the late 70’s: one of a set of wunderkind directors alongside such luminaries as George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorcese.  These men (only men, it should be noted!) were ready to cock a snook at Hollywood’s traditional studio system to break rules (case in point, Star Wars’ lack of opening credits) and move cinema into the format that would last to this day. 

As this excellent documentary makes clear, Spielberg was one of the least rebellious of the movie-brats. Even though (astoundingly) he blagged himself a production office at Universal (after hiding during the Tram Tour toilet stop!), his path to the top was through hard graft on multiple Universal TV shows, after recognition of his talents by Universal exec Sidney Sheinberg who speaks in the film. 

The master of the frame composition. The young Spielberg learns his craft. (Source: HBO).

Before we get to that stage of his life, we cover his childhood back-story as a reluctant Jew living in a non-Jewish neighbourhood, driven to fill his time with tormenting his sisters and movie-making with a Super 8 camera. Scenes of home videos, photos and his early attempts at special effects are all fascinating. The impact of his Bohemian mother Leah and workaholic father Arnold, and particularly the very surprising relationship breakdown that happened between them, go a long way to explain the constant return to ‘father issues’ in many of his films such as “E.T.”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Hook” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. 

Spielberg on Spielberg. (Source: HBO).

The majority of the film though settles down into a roughly chronological review of the highlights of his movie career, with particular emphasis justly being placed on some of the key watershed moments in that career.  Most of his films get at least a mention, but “Jaws”, “E.T.”, “Schindler’s List”, “The Color Purple”, “Jurassic Park”, “Munich” and “Empire of the Sun” get more focus. It is such a wonderful trip down my cinematic memory lane. I also forget just what cinematic majesty and craftsmanship is present in these films: I just hope that at some point this will get a Blu-Ray or DVD release so it can be properly appreciated (rather than viewing it on a tiny airplane screen which is how I watched this): the combination of film clips in here is breathtaking. 

A big kid at heart. Spielberg giving direction to Henry Thomas in the finale of E.T. (which even as a short clip in the documentary still has the ability to make me cry like a baby!) (Source: Universal/Everett Collection)

As might be expected for a documentary about the great director, there is plenty of ‘behind the camera’ footage on show, some of which is fascinating. Spielberg could always get the very best performances out of the youngsters on set, from Cary Guffey (“Toys!!”) in “Close Encounters” to a heartbreaking scene where he reduces the young Drew Barrymore to howls of emotion in “E.T.”.  A master at work.

All of the movie scenes are accompanied by new interview footage from Spielberg himself, as well as warm platitudes from many of the luminaries he has worked with in the past. Directors involved include many of the the directors referenced above, as well as those modern directors influenced by him such as J.J. Abrams; his go-to cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond and Janusz Kaminski; his ‘go-to’ composer John Williams; and stars including his go-to ‘everyman’ Richard Dreyfuss, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Bob Balaban, Tom Hanks, Opray Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Dustin Hoffman and James Brolin. Some of these comments are useful and insightful; some are just fairly meaningless sound bites that add nothing to the film. What all the comments are though is almost all uniformly positive. 

Pulling out a gut reaction. Drew Barrymore and a dying alien. (Source: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment).

And that’s my only criticism of the film. Like me, Susan Lacy is clearly a big fan. It is probably quite hard to find anyone who isn’t…. but perhaps Ms Lacy should have tried a bit harder! There is only limited focus on his big comedy flop of 1979, “1941”, and no mention at all of his lowest WW grossing film “Always”.  And there are only a few contributors – notably film critic Janet Maslin – who are willing to stick their head above the parapet and prod into Spielberg’s weaknesses; ostensibly his tendency to veer to the sentimental and away from harder issues: the omitted “Color Purple” ‘mirror scene’ being a case in point.  

Director Susan Lacy with her icon at the premiere. (Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America)

This is a recommended watch for Spielberg fans. On the eve of the launch of his latest – “Ready Player One”, a film that I am personally dubious about from the trailer – it’s a great insight into the life and works of the great man. It could though have cut a slightly harder and more critical edge.  

Fad Rating:  FFFF.



Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Tomb Raider (2018).

A tremendously energetic and fun video game spin-off.

TR-posterIn this #TimesUp  year, reviewing a film like “Tomb Raider” is just asking for trouble! So where shall I start digging my shallow grave?

Let’s start with the video game… “Tomb Raider” is of course the original video game phenomenon that started in 1993, featuring Lara Croft: someone that teenagers across the land mastur…. did their homework alongside in bedrooms up and down the land. Beauty; athleticism; a fierce independence; unfeasibly large breasts; ridiculously impossible leaps:  in this film reboot, Alicia Vikander’s Lara differs from this ideal in just one respect.  And before the  Dora Milaje smash through my windows and drag me off for incarceration on Mysogeny Island, I’ll point out that this is OBVIOUSLY the least important omission!  🙂

For this film is good… very good.  

“I’M SORRY….?  WHAT DID YOU SAY DR BOB??”  “But this is a film about a VIDEO GAME! … They are all uniformly s****e!”

Beauty, brains and talent: the GB Olympic team will likely be calling.

I know – I can barely bring myself to admit it. But this one really is good.  Most of this is down to the reason I was looking forward so much to this one.  Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina“; “The Danish Girl“; “The Light Between Oceans“) is such a class act, and here she is so much more than just a one-dimensional action hero. She hurts, she mourns, she feels guilt, she’s vulnerable. And it’s all there on her face. Great acting skill. She also kicks ass like no woman on film since Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow“! 

Don’t you just hate it when you drop a bag of flour in your kitchen?

The story by Evan Daugherty and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (with Alastair Siddons adding to the screenplay) rockets off in great style with a “fox and hounds” bike chase around the City of London which is brilliantly done and sets up Croft’s character with the minimum of tedious back story. Switch to the main story and Lara is struggling to face the fact that her father (Dominic West, “Money Monster“), seen in flashback, is finally dead after going off to Japan seven years previously in search of the legendary tomb of ancient sorceress Queen Himiko. The Croft corp. COO (Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour“) persuades Lara its time to sign the necessary papers, but on the verge of this act the lawyer Mr Yaffe (Derek Jacobi, “Murder on the Orient Express“) lets a significant cat out of the bag and sets Lara off on the trail of her long-dead father’s original mission.

In happier times. Daddy (Dominic West) goes off on yet another trip from Croft Manor.

It’s a rollercoaster ride that’s really well done. But I reckon the writers should have named Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas and Menno Meyjes as co-collaborators, for the film plagerises terribly from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. In two or three places, the similarities are shocking!  As in the best of Lucas traditions though there are some breathtaking set-pieces, with the best of them staged at the top of a raging waterfall that’s just plane ridiculous! (Even if it plagerises blatantly from “The Lost World”!).  

English and patient. Kristin Scott Thomas as the guiding hand at the Croft corporation.

The movie’s tremendous to look at too, with cinematography by George Richmond (“Kingsman“; “Eddie the Eagle“) and (aside from a dodgy helicopter effect) good special effect by Max Poolman (“District 9”) and his team.

My one criticism would be that Vogel – the chief villain, played by Walton Goggins (“The Hateful Eight“) – is rather too unremittingly evil to have two sweetly smiling young children in his desk photo. One can only hope he faces a nasty demise! 

Never trust a guy with a beard. Walton Goggins, a bit over the top as the villain of the piece.

The film is directed by Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, in what looks to be his first “non-Norwegian” film.  Roar by name; roar by nature!  He does a great job.  An early “summer blockbuster” actioner that gets two thumbs up from me. What a pleasant surprise!  

Fad Rating: FFFF.


Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Love, Simon (2018).

Time to Exhale.


I saw this as a Cineworld “Secret Unlimited Screening” event (for non-UK readers, Cineworld is one of the main movie-theater chains), so went in – like the majority of the audience I suspect – predicting early sight of Lara Croft in skin tight shorts!  This was a bit different!  A secret screening is an interesting concept, and really tests the metal of a film in engaging its audience early.  This one failed to some degree, with seven people (I was counting) walking out in the first 10 minutes.  (To be fair on those seven, the film’s first 20 minutes are rather laborious; and to be fair on the film, this was a pretty full auditorium so as a percentage drop out it was low).

Teen heartthrob Nick Robinson (the older brother from “Jurassic World“) plays the eponymous hero who has a well-buried secret: he’s gay. Growing up in Pleasantville (I almost expected someone to yell “Cat!” and the fire brigade turn up) he feels unable to come out to either his high-school friends or his loving family (“Apple pie cooling on the window-sill anyone?”). But striking up an email relationship with another closeted male from the same high school – nicknamed “Blue” – allows him to explore his feelings about his sexuality and fall in love all at the same time. But neither coming out or love run terribly smoothly for Simon…

Happy families. From left, Nick Robinson, Talitha Bateman, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel.

I am forty years adrift from being able to directly relate to the stresses and strains of modern high-school life (though I AM still 17 on the inside people!)  But even to me, this film doesn’t feel like it should be set in the present day. While it needs to be for its tweeting and blogging story-line, surely there are few backwaters in either America or Western Europe where gay people have to stay so silent? An 80’s or early 90’s setting would, I think, have worked so much better.  (Ironically, its not his gay-ness or otherwise that his friends get upset by, but something far more fundamental in the human condition).

Definitely set in the present day.

That aside, this is a sweet and ultimately quite engaging film that I’m sure will be a big hit with a teenage audience. While for me it didn’t come close to ticking all of the coming-of-age boxes that the inestimable “Lady Bird” did, it does cover old ground in a new and refreshing way, and I’m sure it WILL be very helpful for many gay people in getting the courage to come out. Times are different today, but I still can imagine few things requiring more bravery than declaring you are gay to your parents and closest friends (even though, deep down, they surely already suspect).

So, it’s sweet, but also for me (although far from its target audience) rather flat. As a comedy drama, the moments of comedy are few and far between, with only one or two of the lines making me chuckle rather than smile. A quiet auditorium is not a good sign for a film with “Comedy” in its imdb description. It does however occasionally break through with something memorable:  a full on college “La La Land” scene (“Not that gay” – LoL) is a case in point. And all of the scenes featuring comedy actress Natasha Rothwell as drama teacher Ms Allbright add much needed energy and humour to the film.

Someone should tell him… regardless of gender preference, sex is never going to work like this.

Of the teen actors, Robinson is fine but it is Katherine Langford as Simon’s friend Leah who stood out for me. Talitha Eliana Bateman (“The 5th Wave“; looking a whole lot younger than her 16 years!) is also impressive as Simon’s culinary sister Nora. Simon’s parents are played by Jennifer Garner (“Dallas Buyers Club“) and Josh Duhamel (a new one on me… he’s been in the “Transformers” films apparently). 

Simon says walk this way. From left, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Nich Robinson, Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford.

The screenplay is by movie virgins Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, and is a slightly patchy affair. There are scenes that worked well (a cringe inducing sports stadium scene for example) but other times where it seems to be trying too hard for T-shirt captions…. a line from Ethan (Clark Moore) about hate crime was a “Ye-what?” moment.

Some of the characters really don’t quite work either:  Tony Hale (so memorable as the useless PA in “Veep”) plays almost a school-ified version of Stephen Stucker’s Johnny from “Airplane”.  Perhaps that would work as some sort of whacky hall monitor guy…  but it transpires that he is the headmaster. No, I don’t think so.

A bit OTT. Veep’s Tony Hale as the principal with a surfeit of bonhomie.

So, in summary, after a bit of a bumpy start, its a pleasant watch that culminates in a feel-good ending.  Feel good, that is, providing you have liberal views:  I can’t see it pleasing many Trump supporters. I also can’t see it getting a cinema release in Gambia or Nigeria, though God only knows they could use one.  I was going to give this one FFF, but as I applaud both the theme its trying to promote and for bringing something fresh to the screen… 

Fad Rating: FFFf.


Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Finding Your Feet (2018).

Foot tapping and Tear Jerking.


There are some films whose trailers really don’t properly represent their contents. The trailer for the new ‘grey-pound’ film “Finding Your Feet” promised a light hearted and witty foray into an elderly dance-club. And, yes, you get some laughs. But it’s very much a bitter sweet comedy, and the bitterness is ladled on by the bucketload leading to more tears than smiles through the majority of the running time.

Dodgy dancing. The crinklies put on a show in Rome. (Source: Eclipse Films)

Sandra (Imelda Staunton, “Pride“) – now Lady Sandra, after her husband’s latest knighthood – is in a predictable, sex-free but reasonably happy marriage to legal beagle Mike (John Sessions, “Denial“, “Florence Foster Jenkins“) when her world is shaken to its core on discovering that Mike has been having a five-year affair with her best friend Pamela (Josie Lawrence). Moving in with her Bohemian sister Bif (Celia Imrie, “Bridget Jones Baby“), she struggles to integrate into her decidedly lower class lifestyle and find common ground with Bif’s dance club friends Charlie (Timothy Spall, “Denial“, “Mr Turner”), Ted (David Hayman) and Jackie (Joanna Lumley, “The Wolf of Wall Street“).

Can Sandra turn her downward spiral around and find love and happiness again? Well, the posters scream “The Feel Good Film of the Year” so you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the answer to that! But it’s a bumpy journey for sure. 

Charlie (Timothy Spall) and Sandra (Imelda Staunton) enjoying a London milk shake. But what EXACTLY is that guy in the background wearing?? (Source: Eclipse Films)

Getting all the acting honours is Timothy Spall, who is far too good to be buried away in this small British rom com. To watch him do “ordinary bloke doing ordinary things” is an absolute delight. He adds class and distinction to every scene he’s in, especially for those concerned with his truly tragic and upsetting back-story. Running a close second is Celia Imrie who has a wicked smile off to perfection and adds a lot of emotional depth to her performance:  and she needs the range, since she too is on a pretty emotional journey through the second half of the film.

John Sessions and Josie Lawrence – old compatriots of course from the original version of TV’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway” – also deliver marvellous cameo performances, as does Phoebe Nicholls (“The Elephant Man”, “Downton Abbey”) as the tennis playing friend Janet.  

Whose Line is it next? Josie Lawrence, John Sessions and Imelda Staunton. (Source: Eclipse Films)

Less convincing for me was Imelda Staunton, particularly in the first half of the film:  for me she never quite pulls off the icy cold emotional wreck of Sandra, but is much better once the thaw has set in.

The film is written by Meg Leonard (in a debut script) and Nick Moorcroft (who did the “St Trinians” scripts). And there are some funny lines in there, although it has to be said that there are not enough of them. The majority of the best ones in fact are in the trailer, never bettered by Joanna Lumley’s zinger…. “My last marriage ended for religious reasons…. he thought he was God and I didn’t”! There’s not much more room for comic lines, since the rest of the script is stuffed with the dramatic outcomes from various flavours of old-age malady. Fortunately I was one of the younger members of the generally grey-haired audience, but for those further up the scale it must have been like staring into the void!

Ah, Roma. Many British films have spiced up their screenplay by sticking in a foreign trip, and this is no exception. This actually works quite well. (Source: Eclipse Films)

The film will win no awards for choreography, since the dance scenes are gloriously inept and out of sync.  But this all rather adds to the charm of the piece. 

This regular morning dip into the grimy and leaf covered Serpentine must puzzle the hell out of American viewers. #crazybrits. (Source: Eclipse Films)

Directed by Richard Loncraine, director of the equally forgettable Brit-flick “Wimbledon” and the rather more memorable “Brimstone and Treacle”, this is as Douglas Adams would have said “Mostly Harmless”:  a film that most over-50’s will find a pleasant way to spend two hours. But go in expecting a drama with comic moments, rather than the hilarious comedy predicted by the trailer, and you will be better prepared.

(I should comment that the rating below is my view: my illustrious wife declared it a triumphant chick-flick and gave it FFFFf).

Fad Rating: FFF.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Red Sparrow (2018).

Good Lord!  How much sex and violence is acceptable for a UK-15 film?

red sparrow poster

I recognise that it’s a “thing” that I get into periodic ‘ruts’ of ranting about particular aspects of cinema. But it’s not spoilers in trailers this time! No, the most recent rut I’ve been in is concerned with the correctness or otherwise of the BBFC’s rating of UK 15-certificate films, which seems to have been the rating of every cinema film I’ve seen recently! In my view both “Phantom Thread” and “Lady Bird” should both have firmly been 12A’s to attract a broader teenage audience.  But here’s a case on the other side of the balance. 

Atomic Blonde 2.

“Red Sparrow”, the latest film from “Hunger Games” director Francis Lawrence, has Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy“, “mother!“) as Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballerina, who after a horrific accident (cringe) is forced to serve the State in order to keep her mother (Joely Richardson, “101 Dalmations”) in their Bolshoi-funded apartment and with the necessary medical treatment. She is sent to a spy “whore school”, ruled over by “matron” (Charlotte Rampling), to learn how to use sexual and psychological means to ‘get in the pants’ (and therefore the minds) of foreign targets. 

Always elegant. Charlotte Rampling back on our screens as “Matron”.

And she turns out to be very good and – without nepotism of course, given that her creepy uncle Egorov ( Matthias Schoenaerts, “Far From The Madding Crowd“) is high up in the special services – she is sent on a mission to Budapest to try to uncover a high profile mole, who’s CIA handler is Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton,  “The Great Gatsby“, “Black Mass“).  Supervising Egorov’s operation are his two line managers General Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“) and Zakharov (Ciarán Hinds, “Harry Potter”).  Sucked into a web of intrigue, Dominika needs to use all her skills and charms to complete her mission… which equates to keeping herself and her mother alive.

Now on the tarmac, Joel really wans’t looking forward to his Ryanair flight.

This is an extremely uneven film. In places it is quite brilliant, particularly the twist in the ending which leaves you thinking (like “Life“) that the film is actually better than it was. In fact – subject to a couple of severe reservations discussed below – the script by  Justin Haythe (“A Cure for Wellness“) and based on a book by Jason Matthews, is quite sharp. But – man – in its direction the film seriously takes its time. In my book, a film needs to have a pretty good reason to extend its stay past 2 hours, and this outstays its welcome by an extra 20 minutes. Many of the scenes are protracted – leisurely walks across streets etc. – for no particularly good reason.

Pwoaahh – look at those. (I’m referring of course to Joel Edgerton’s buns in those speedos).

And so to those major reservations:  the sex and the violence.

I’m no prude when it comes to sex, but some of the scenes in the ‘whore school’ left me feeling like this was less about a “Times Up” initiative of empowering women and more about providing an array of sordid titillation on the screen that just help entrench mysoginistic views about women. (Did anyone else hear Kenneth Williams saying “Oooooh, matron” to Charlotte Rampling’s character?)  There were men and women attending this training camp, but did we see – later in the film – any of the men subjecting themselves to sexual humiliation or subjugation in the field:  no, we did not. I love a really good erotic film… but this just left me feeling dirty and used.

Who wants to go to the f***ing party? No one seems to have remembered to bring a bottle.

And then there’s the violence. I’m definitely not a fan of the sort of violent-porn of the “Saw” type of films, but heavens – if there was a reason to make this an 18 certificate it was the violence involved. Violent rape, a vicious revenge attack, extreme torture, skinning alive:  was there nothing in here that the censors thought, “hang on a minute, perhaps I don’t want a 15 year old seeing this”. I have seldom seen and heard more flinching and whimpering from women in a cinema audience than during this film. If you are adversely affected by screen violence, this is really one best to avoid.

“The Cold War hasn’t ended – it has splintered into thousands of dangerous pieces” intones the matron. Similarly, this film has potential but splinters into many pieces, some good but far more sharp and dangerous. With similarities in tone and content to “Atomic Blonde“, there’s a good ‘post cold war’ spy film in here trying to get out. Unfortunately, it never quite gets both legs over the wall.         

Fad Rating:  FFF.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Awards Special: 2018 Oscars – Will Win / Should Win / Did Win!

Of Mermen and Billboards. 


It’s that time of year where my credibility at putting pen to paper in this blog is put to the ultimate test:  picking the winners of tonight’s Oscars!  (By the way, is it the “2018 Oscars” because it’s held in 2018, or should it be the “2017 Oscars” because it is featuring 2017 films?  I’m never sure!)

Flushed with success with my 14 out of 19 score at the BAFTAs, here we go. As goes with tradition, I’ll go with a “Will Win” and “Should Win” assessments, updated during Sunday’s show with the “Did Win” nominee in red.  In (green and parentheses) are the films I never got to catch during 2017… my bad.  (I should colour “Call Me By Your Name” in amber, since I have only got to see half of it on a plane!)

(By the way, for another excellent review of the main Oscar runners and riders, done in a clever “Head vs Heart” manner, check out Amy’s excellent article at Oh! That Film Blog here).

My final score for the night was 16 out of 19, which beats my BAFTA attempt, so very happy with that! 


Source:  Fox Searchlight

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Will Win:            The Shape of Water
Should Win:      Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Did Win:              The Shape of Water

Wow!  What a good year this has been at the movies! 

To add a bit of intrigue to the night, last night the Film Independant Spirit Award gave their ‘Best Feature’ award to “Get Out”.  “So what” you might say?  Just that they have predicted the Best Film Oscar for each of the last four years… even the outsider “Moonlight” from last year! 

But aside from this troubling wrinkle, I would have thought that this is surely a two-horse race between “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water”…. and it’s difficult to call.  My head would suggest that the romanticism of an old-Hollywood style movie like “The Shape of Water” will win over the cynicism of “Billboards”.  But thinking of what happened with “Envelope-gate” and “La La Land“/”Moonlight“, could this deliver the same surprise as we saw at the BAFTAs? 

I think the telling factor here is that Martin McDonagh has been criminally overlooked for a Best Director nod. The Oscar statistics show that in 62 cases out of the 89 awards, the Best Director has matched the Best Picture…. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I’d be surprised if there has EVER been a year where the Best Director wasn’t even nominated.  This feels COMPLETELY BIZARRE! 

I preferred “Three Billboards”, but very happy that “The Shape of Water” won.  


Source: Working Title Films

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-LewisPhantom Thread
Daniel KaluuyaGet Out
Gary OldmanDarkest Hour
Denzel Washington – (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Will Win:            Gary Oldman
Should Win:       Daniel Day-Lewis
Did Win:              Gary Oldman.

Part of me would love to see Kaluuya win, to see how crazy his acceptance speech would be! But I think this will be Oldman’s night, despite Day-Lewis putting in for me the performance of the year in “Phantom Thread”. The surprise for me on the list is Denzel Washington, in a film which seems to be pretty well invisible.

Another British win… well done to Gary Oldman for his “glorious prize”.  


Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Willem Dafoe – (The Florida Project)
Woody HarrelsonThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard JenkinsThe Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – (All the Money in the World)
Sam RockwellThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will Win:            Sam Rockwell
Should Win:       Sam Rockwell
Did Win:              Sam Rockwell

Frustratingly, I’m two short in this category and I know there is a lot of love for Willem Dafoe here.  I would also rate Richard Jenkins up there for this one.  But the performance of the year that I saw would be Sam Rockwell.

As expected.  Good speech! 


Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sally HawkinsThe Shape of Water
Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie I, Tonya
Saoirse RonanLady Bird
Meryl StreepThe Post

Will Win:            Frances McDormand
Should Win:      Frances McDormand
Did Win:             Frances McDormand

What an incredibly strong category this year!  Only Meryl Streep seems to hit a wrong note (no “Florence Foster Jenkins” pun intended) by being in the list.  This is surely the year for Frances McDormand – I’d give it to her just for her foul mouthed tirade at the news reporter through the car window!


Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment

Mary J. Blige – (Mudbound)
Allison JanneyI, Tonya
Lesley ManvillePhantom Thread
Laurie MetcalfLady Bird
Octavia SpencerThe Shape of Water

Will Win:            Allison Janney
Should Win:      Allison Janney
Did Win:             Allison Janney.

Janney is surely the favourite for this, although Manville and Metcalf are also both truly excellent.



Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro

Will Win:           Guillermo del Toro
Should Win:      Guillermo del Toro
Did Win:            Guillermo del Toro

This is the bonkers one…. where is Martin McDonagh?


Source: Pixar

(The Boss Baby)
(Loving Vincent)

Will Win:            Coco
Should Win:      Coco
Did Win:             Coco

I know, I know… how can I possibly call this one when I’ve only seen one of the films?  Just go and see Coco… you’ll know.

Fabulous!  Remember Me! 


Call Me
Source: Frenesy Film Company

Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory
(The Disaster Artist) – Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan – Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin
(Mudbound) – Virgil Williams, Dee Rees

Will Win:            Call me By Your Name.
Should Win:      Logan
Did Win:            Call me By Your Name.

I’m two short in this category, so a bit blind, but gut tells me that James Ivory will get this as he did for the BAFTA’s.   But I would personally love to see “Logan” recognized for its completely different and innovative approach to a Marvel movie.


Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Big Sick –  Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

Will Win:           Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win:      Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Did Win:             Get Out.

For some of the most quotable lines of the movie year.

Well, that’s the first big surprise for me of the night… well done to Jordan Peele though… its a memorable film.  Could this perhaps get Best Film now…?? 


Twentieth Century Fox

Mighty River(Mudbound) – Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
Mystery of Love” (Call Me by Your Name) – Sufjan Stevens
Remember Me,” (Coco) – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Stand Up for Something(Marshall) – Diane Warren, Lonnie R. Lynn
This is Me,” (The Greatest Showman) – Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Will Win:           “This is Me”
Should Win:      “This is Me”
Did Win:              “Remember Me”

Two short again!  But I’ve at least now listened to all of these, and my heart still goes with “This is Me” for its sheer drive and energy.

Well… that’s a surprise…. love this song, but I really though “The Greatest Showman” would rule here.


Source:  Fox Searchlight
 *Production Design  **Set Decoration

Beauty and the Beast – Sarah Greenwood*, Katie Spencer**
Blade Runner 2049 – Dennis Gassner*, Alessandra Querzola**
Darkest Hour – Sarah Greenwood*, Katie Spencer**
Dunkirk – Nathan Crowley*, Gary Fettis**
The Shape of Water – Paul Denham Austerberry*, Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin**

Will Win:           The Shape of Water
Should Win:      The Shape of Water
Did Win:            The Shape of Water

The detail present in “The Shape of Water” is just breathtaking.  I would have thought this would be a shoe-in.  (But I’ve been wrong before!)

Yes!  So pleased for this one.  And all for a budget of $19.4 million…! 


Source: Scott Free Productions

Blade Runner 2049 – Roger A. Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
(Mudbound) – Rachel Morrison, 
The Shape of Water – Dan Laustsen

Will Win:          Blade Runner 2049
Should Win:     Blade Runner 2049
Did Win:            Blade Runner 2049 

14th time lucky?  Surely Mr Deakins at last deserves the statuette this time around.

Fabulous… at long last for a maestro of lighting and mood.  Go Brits! 


Source: Focus Features

Beauty and the Beast –  Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour – Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread – Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water Luis Sequeira
Victoria & Abdul – Consolata Boyle

Will Win:          Phantom Thread
Should Win:     Phantom Thread
Did Win:            Phantom Thread

A film about fashion design in the 50’s.  Yes, I think so.


Source: Syncopy

Baby Driver – Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049 – Mark Mangini and Theo Green
Dunkirk – Richard King and Alex Gibson
The Shape of Water – Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

Again I find it bizarre that sound gets two awards, when there are loads of potential categories (“Best Stunt Work” would be great wouldn’t it?) that are overlooked.  And I struggle with the technical distinction between the two.  “Dunkirk” may be in with a shot at this one, but this is something of a guess.  For me, “Baby Driver” has the sharpest editing, both picture and sound, in film this year.

Will Win:          Dunkirk
Should Win:    Baby Driver
Did Win:           Dunkirk

A good guess! When you see clips, the sound undeniably stands out as impressive.


Source: Syncopy.

Baby Driver – Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
Blade Runner 2049 – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
Dunkirk – Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten
The Shape of Water – Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

Will Win:          Dunkirk
Should Win:    Baby Driver
Did Win:           Dunkirk

The sound design in “Dunkirk” was excellent, and it won the overall BAFTA for sound.  But I would personally not wish it to win in this category, since I found a lot of the dialogue in “Dunkirk” difficult to hear.

Recognized for sound, if nothing else this evening.



Dunkirk – Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread – Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water – Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Carter Burwell

Will Win:         The Shape of Water
Should Win:    The Shape of Water
Did Win:          The Shape of Water

Odds would be that John Williams in his 90’s will win the Oscar for his last Star Wars score… but not this one! I think this will be a second win (after “The Grand Budapest Hotel“) for Alexandre Desplat with his lovely score.

As I expected.  A great and moving score.


Source: Scott Free Productions

Blade Runner 2049 – John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
(Kong: Skull Island) – Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
War for the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Will Win:         Blade Runner 2049
Should Win:    War for the Planet of the Apes
Did Win:          Blade Runner 2049

A surprise for me that “Kong” is there instead of the more subtle but magnificent “Shape of Water”.  But I think Blade Runner will get it.

And it did.


Source: Sony Pictures.

Baby Driver – Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
Dunkirk – Lee Smith
I, Tonya – Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory

Will Win:         Baby Driver
Should Win:    Baby Driver
Did Win:           Dunkirk

I’m hoping the Oscars will follow the BAFTA lead on this one.


Source: Working Title Films

Darkest Hour – Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
Victoria & Abdul – Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
(Wonder) – Arjen Tuiten

Will Win:         Darkest Hour
Should Win:    Darkest Hour
Did Win:           Darkest Hour

“Gary Oldman IS Winston Churchill” should have screamed the posters…. Kazuhiro Tsuji is the guy responsible, and I think likely to pick up the award for his efforts.

The Basement… the Categories where I have yet to see a single film, so I won’t predict anything for these….


Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
Faces Places –  Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
Icarus – Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan
Last Men In Aleppo – Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
Strong Island – Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

Did Win:           Icarus.


Edith+Eddie – Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 – Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e) – Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills – Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop – Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Did Win:          Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405.


A Fantastic Woman, Chile – Directed by Sebastián Lelio
The Insult, Lebanon – Directed by Ziad Doueiri
Loveless, Russia – Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
On Body and Soul, Hungary – Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
The Square, Sweden – Directed by Ruben Östlund

Did Win:        A Fantastic Woman.


Dear Basketball – Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant
Garden Party – Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
Negative Space – Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
Lou – Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
Revolting Rhymes – Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Did Win:           Dear Basketball.


DeKalb Elementary – Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O’Clock – Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
The Silent Child – Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote (All of Us) – Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen
My Nephew Emmett – Kevin Wilson, Jr.

Did Win:          The Silent Child

Yes!!!  Go UK!!  Congrats to the engaged couple of writer Rachel Shenton and director Chris Overton!!

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Lady Bird (2018).

“What if this is the best version”.  


When did you grow up? I am now 57, and I’m still “working towards”! I remember distinctly though at the age of 16 thinking “I’ve got there”. And then again at 18. And then again at 21. And then again at 25….  There is something sweet about the certainty of youth that only life’s ultimate experiences can roughen the edges of.

“Lady Bird”, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, features one such teen who thinks she knows it all. Looking and acting for all the world like a 15 year old (something that Margot Robbie really can’t pull off in “I, Tonya”) Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson who has the given name (“I gave the name to myself”) of ‘Lady Bird’. She is struggling with a lot of issues: an unreasonable and overbearing (parents: read ‘perfectly reasonably but firm’) mother (Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne”); the issues of puberty and young love; the constrictions of a Catholic school she despises; and her inability to perform to the grades she needs to get into a college of her choice. That choice being on the East coast as far away from the backwater of Sacremento (“the mid-west of California” – LoL) as she can get.

Dreaming of their perfect house. Danny (Lucas Hedges) and “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan). (Source: Scott Rudin Productions / Entertainment 360 / IAC Films)

Love comes in the form of two serial male fixations: the gorgeous and artistic Danny (Lucas Hedges, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “Manchester By The Sea”) and the aloof and enigmatic Kyle (Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”).

Aisle be having this. Christine engaged in petty larceny. (Source: Scott Rudin Productions / Entertainment 360 / IAC Films)

This is a near perfect coming of age film. The plot, while fairly superficial and covering ground well-trodden before, fully engages you and makes the running time just fly by. And there is just so much talent on show.  The script by Gerwig is chocker-block full of great and memorable lines; Ronan is pitch-perfect as the irascible and cock-sure teen; Tracy Letts (“The Post“) is magnificent in the less showy role as the “good cop” dad, struggling invisibly with his own demons; and Metcalf gives an Oscar-nominated performance that really should give Alison Janney a run for her money… a drive away from an airport conveys just perfectly every college-age parent’s emotional low-point.

Proud parents: Tracy Letts and Laurie Metcalf. (Source: Scott Rudin Productions / Entertainment 360 / IAC Films)

Where perhaps the film overplays its hand a bit is in the “wrong side of the tracks” line.  The household while struggling is by no means trailer-park poor (compare and contrast with “I, Tonya”):  perhaps this is the depths of financial desperation found in Sacremento?  But I doubt it… there still seems to be money available for fancy cowgirl outfits.

Having a good year in the Oscar spotlight: Timothée Chalamet as Kyle. (Source: Scott Rudin Productions / Entertainment 360 / IAC Films)

Which leads me to the rating, which seems to have been a common rant in the last few weeks. I would have thought that there was nothing like this film to turn the mirror of reasonableness on a young teen, perhaps helping them to treat their parents better, work harder for college or make better choices. Yet it has a UK 15 certificate. And for what?  There is a full frontal male photo-spread in “Playgirl” (I want to say “it’s a penis, get over it”, but if forced I would have frankly just snipped the 50 milliseconds out to get the lower rating).  And there are a few (only a few) F- and C- words.  I have the same problem here as with “Phantom Thread” – here is a high-class film that a young teen audience would absolutely love to see. I think the BBFC have got it wrong again here.

Please keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. (Source: Scott Rudin Productions / Entertainment 360 / IAC Films)

I cannot recommend this film enough: a tale of teenage life love and resolution that is hard to beat. Possibly one of the best coming of age tales I’ve ever seen.  On the basis that it looks like I will never get to see “Call Me By Your Name” – the only major one I’ve missed – before this Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, what a great way to round off my Oscar-viewing season.

Fad Rating: FFFFF.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: I, Tonya (2018).

Some Darwin award winners.

ITonya poster

Man, I personally found this one to be an exceedingly uncomfortable watch.

“I, Tonya” is cleverly filmed as a pseudo-documentary, featuring re-enactments of the real-life interviews of most of the participants in this true-life drama. I recently bitterly criticised some film critics for spoiling the story of Donald Crowhurst, the subject of the recent “The Mercy”. But I was about to do exactly the same here, *assuming* that you all know the lurid tale of the rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan that led up to an ‘event’ in 1994 that shocked the world. And of course, many of you younger folk don’t know: case in point my 26 year old son who I went to see this with, and who went into the story blissfully blind of the drama about to unfold.  So I will try to keep this review spoiler-free.

A moment of triumph and adulation for Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). (Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment).

Playing Tonya from a (not very credible!) 15 years old to her mid-20’s is Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Suicide Squad”) in what is a BAFTA and Oscar nominated performance. And for good reason:  the performance is raw, visceral and disturbing in reflecting a victim who still thinks everything at heart is her own fault.

Also BAFTA and Oscar nominated is Allison Janney (“The Girl on the Train”) as Tonya’s obnoxious chain-smoking mother LaVona. Janney is truly terrifying as the mother who abuses her daughter both physically and mentally in a driven attempt to make her the best ice-skater in the world.

Chain smoking her way to an oxygen cylinder. The remarkable Ms Janney and parrot friend. (Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment).

Victims seem to attract abusers, and Tonya is surrounded by people who are just plain bad for her: notably her husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan, “The Martian”, “Captain America: Winter Soldier”) and his slimy and pitifully self-deluded friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser). The end credits video footage of the real-life players show just how well these parts were cast.

The abusive Jeff (Sebastian Stan) and the utter sleaze ball that is Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser). (Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment).

Why so uncomfortable to watch? There is a significant degree of domestic abuse featured in the film, both in terms of LaVona on her child and Jeff on his wife. This is something I abhor in general, having been brought up to believe it is never EVER acceptable to lay a hand on a woman. To have these cowardly individuals sensationalised in the movie I found to be really upsetting. I strongly feel, for this reason alone, that the film should have had an 18 certificate. Violence in film should be related to the context as well as the severity. (Note that this is in stark contrast to my comments of recent BBFC decisions to make “Phantom Thread” and “Lady Bird” 15-certificates when I believe they should have been 12A).

The film is executed extremely well, with 4:3 framing for the staged interviews, and ice skating scenes that seamlessly cut between the professional clearly doing the stunts and Robbie (who must also be a half decent skater too).  The soundtrack is nicely littered – “Guardians of the Galaxy” style – with classic hits of the early 90’s.

Astonishing acting. Robbie in a justly Oscar-nominated performance. (Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment).

To think that this story actually unfolded in this way is nothing short of astounding… but it did!  There is an astonishing video clip here (#spoilers) of the run up to, and the immediate aftermath of, the Kerrigan incident. I came out of the film with a deep feeling of sadness for Harding (at least, as portrayed) and utter disgust that the villains of this piece could be a) so cruel and out of control and b) so utterly stupid. These are individuals who really should have been sterilised to stop them polluting the gene pool any further.

The two fifteen year olds (yeah, right!) getting it on. (Source: Clubhouse Pictures / LuckyChap Entertainment).

Written by Steven Rogers (“Stepmom”) and directed by Australian Craig Gillespie, there is no doubting that this is a powerful film: played to an absolutely silent and gripped Saturday night cinema audience. And it has truly dynamite performances from Allison Janney and Margot Robbie. But be warned that you’ll need a strong stomach to go and see it without being affected by it afterwards. It’s a mental keeper.

Fad Rating:  FFFF.  

(The trailer clearly has a lot of detail about the “event” itself that you might wish to avoid if you are blissfully ignorant).

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Black Panther (2018).

Black Ops.


There was a joke on the internet the other day that made me laugh and laugh. Virtually the only white people in “Black Panther” are the Hobbit/LOTR stars Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis…. they are the Tolkein white guys!  It’s actually getting to feel quite isolating as an ‘average white guy’ at the movies! After a plethora of #SheDo films about empowered women, now comes the first black-centred Marvel film… stuffed full of powerful women too!

The setting is the hidden African kingdom of Wakanda, where due to an abundance of a an all-powerful mineral called McGuffinite… so, sorry, Vibranium… the leaders have made their city a technological marvel and developed all sorts of ad tech to help the people keep their goats well and weave their baskets better (there are a few odd scenes in this film!).  T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) succeeds his father T’Chaka (John Kani) to become the king and adopt the role of The Black Panther, being bestowed superhero powers by drinking a glass of Ribena.

Choosing the dress for the Oscars… thank heavens the #TimesUp movement is still active. (Source: Marvel Studios)

But it emerges that T’Chaka has a dark secret in the form of  Eric Killmonger (Michael B Jordan, “Creed“) who is determined to muscle in on the king-stuff. ‘It never rains but it pours’, and the whole of Wakanda’s secrets are in danger of being exposed by the antics of the vicious South African mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, “War For The Planet Of The Apes“), trying to get his hands on vibranium to sell on to CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies“, “The World’s End“).

After “Thor: Ragnarok“, this is back to the more seriously-played end of the superhero spectrum: there are a few jokes but it’s not overtly played for comedy. Holding the film together are some sterling performances from the ensemble cast with Michael B Jordan very good as the villain of the piece. Adding to the significant black girl power in the film are Angela Bassett (“London Has Fallen“) as the queen mother; Danai Gurira (“Wonder Woman“) as the leader of the Dora Milaje: the all-female king’s guard; and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave“, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“) as the spy and love interest Nakia. But the star performance for me, and one I found absolutely spot-on as a role model for young people, was Letitia Wright (“The Commuter“) as Shuri, the king’s chief scientist. She is absolutely radiant, adding beauty, rude gestures and energy to every scene she is in.

Man of the moment Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out“) also adds to his movie-cred as a conflicted courtier.

Black Panther
#fiercewomen (Source: Marvel Studios)

On the white side of the shop Andy Serkis has enormous fun as Klaue and I really wanted to see more of his character than I did. Martin Freeman feels rather lightweight and under-used, and I couldn’t quite get past his dodgy American accent.

In terms of storyline, the film is a hotch-potch of plots from multiple other films, with “The Lion King” featuring strongly (but almost in reverse!). But that’s no crime, when the Shakespearean-style narrative is good, and interpolating the strongly emotional story into the Marvel universe works well.

Boys, boys! Didn’t your mother tell you to never fight on the railway tracks? (Source: Marvel Studios)

Where I felt a little uncomfortable is the element of racism – that is, racism *against* white people – reflected in the story.  If there was a movie plot centred (basically) on the topic of whites killing blacks and taking control of every black-controlled country in the world (yes, I know, I’m British and we have historically been there!) then there would be justified uproar, and the film would be shunned.

Forest Whitaker… at Disneyland, but not. (Source: Marvel Studios)

In the technical department, I had real problems with some of the effects employed. Starting with a dodgy ‘aircraft’ shadow, things nose-dive with an astonishingly poor waterfall scene with Forest Whitaker (“Rogue One“, “Arrival“) as Zuri, green-screened against some Disneyworld cascades and hundreds of cut and pasted tribesmen randomly inserted onto the cliffs. Almost matching that is a studio-set scene in a jungle clearing, where if feels they could hardly have bothered to take the plants out of their pots. Think “Daktari” quality (kids, ask your parents/grandparents).

Dodgy as hell effects. (You know I’ll feel really bad now if I find they really did build a cliff and put all those people on it!) (Source: Marvel Studios)

But overall, the film, directed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed“), is a high-energy and uniquely different take on Marvel that absolutely pays off. And it is without doubt an important movie in moving the black agenda forward into properly mainstream cinema.

Fad Rating: FFFf.