Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies DVD Review: Table 19 (2017).

Mean spirited and atrocious.

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I really hated this film. There. BOOM. Got it off my chest. 

It all starts so promisingly, with a scene of Anna Kendrick (“The Accountant“, who can be a very good actress) rejecting a wedding invitation; then accepting it; then burning it; then blowing it out; then posting it. I laughed. This was a rarity. There are about five more smile-worthy moments in the movie, most of which are delivered by Stephen Merchant.

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The best thing in the film: Stephen Merchant as Walter Thimble.

Anna plays Eloise who was SUPPOSED to be maid-of-honour at her best friend’s wedding, but then broke up – messily – with her brother (the best man). She stubbornly attends the wedding in a posh hotel and finds herself on “Table 19” – a socially unfavourable location, full of a bunch of misfits that everyone expected to say “no” but didn’t; a molly-coddled and awkward teen (Tony Revolori, “Spider-man: Homecoming“) with the single goal of getting laid; “The Kepps” – a bickering married couple (Lisa Kudrow (“The Girl on the Train“, “Friends”) and Craig Robinson (“Hot Tub Time Machine”)); a convicted fraudster serving his sentence in an open prison ( Stephen Merchant, “Logan“) and a druggie former nanny of the bride (June Squibb, “In and Out”).

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A long way from anywhere. The view from Table 19. (To be honest, I’ve known worse!)

The fundamental problem with the movie is that Jeffrey Blitz’s script (he also directs) is not only not very funny, but it is so fundamentally focused on the greedy and needy nature of the table’s American reprobates that at every turn it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Their motives are all utterly selfish and there’s an “if we get away with it, then that’s fine” attitude that pervades the plot.

The nadir for me happens when – after trashing (albeit accidently) a key part of the wedding they are attending, they cover their selfish backsides by (deliberately) trashing the same key part of another wedding going on in the same hotel.

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Everyone laughing but me. Shameful.

This is kind of positioned as a “revenge” sort of thing, but (in analysis) no wrong seems to have actually been done: its just another misunderstanding of the self-obsessed Eloise.

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Anna Kendrick, getting the wrong idea with wedding-crasher hunk Huck (Thomas Cocquerel).

The Kepp’s story is also sad and selfish rather than comedic, and the resolution of this (and in fact all of the other sub-stories) for a nicely gift-wrapped ending is just saccharine and vomit-inducing. 

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OK, so this bit was quite funny. But even better when Stephen Merchant ran with it as a running joke.

This is a wedding present that should have come with a label in big red writing:  “DO NOT OPEN“.

Fad Rating: Ff.

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Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies DVD Review: A United Kingdom (2016).

“In to Africa”.

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I managed to miss this film when it was first shown at the end of 2016.  And what a shame as it would have UNDOUBTEDLY made my “Films of the Year” list.  

Directed by Amma Asante (“Belle”) this is the true tale of a real-life fairy story, featuring a handsome prince and his love, who can never be his princess thanks to the Machievellian schemings of court-do-gooders and bureaucrats. 

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Ringing the changes: wedding bells for Seretse and Ruth signal trouble ahead.

The prince in this case is Seretse Kham (David Oyelowo, “Selma“) , heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who meets and falls in love with a lowly white Lloyd’s of London clerk Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl“, “The World’s End“). The plot has many parallels with that of another film from earlier this year:  “Loving” with Ruth Negga and Joel Egerton. As an inter-racial couple in 1947 this is taboo enough, but the fact that Kham is soon to be king in a country bordering the apartheid tinderkeg that is South Africa blows the affair up to be a diplomatic crisis.

Concern in the corridors of power for Prime Minister Atlee (Anton Lesser) being faced up to by the couple’s supporter – a young Anthony Wedgewood Benn (Jack Lowden).

Defying the officials he marries his true love, driving a wedge between both his own uncle (Vusi Kunene ) and sister (Terry Pheto) and making Ruth an outcast in both countries. As things turn from bad to worse, can true love conquer all their adversities?

Just everything about this film delights. Oyelowo and Pike – always a safe pair of hands – add real emotional depth to their roles. Their relationship feels natural and loving without either of them trying too hard. The estrangement of Ruth from her parents (particularly her father played by Nicholas Lyndhurst) is truly touching. 

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The glory of an African sunset and a couple that know how to laugh together.

Another star turn is Harry Potter alumni Tom Felton, playing Rufus Lancaster – a weaselly and very unpleasant local official. I have a prediction…. that in 30 year’s time, the young Potter actor that will be the ‘Ian McKellen of his day’ (that is, a world recognized great actor… not necessarily gay!) will be Felton.  

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Trying to keep the British end-up as the Empire decays: Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport, “Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton).

Sam McCurdy (“The Descent”) delivers cinematography of Africa that is vibrant (to be fair, for anyone lucky enough to visit Africa will know, cameras just love the place) and the John Barry-esque music by Patrick Doyle (“Murder on the Orient Express“) is pitch perfect for the mood.

When it says “Based on a true story” it means it: the real family.

A beautifully crafted film that older viewers will just love. 

Fad Rating: FFFFF.

Posted in Film Review

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

“We will bore them on the beaches”.

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“Churchill” tells the story of the great leader’s extreme opposition to “Operation Overlord”, the Eisenhower-led invasion of Normandy in 1944 that ultimately led – more by luck that judgement perhaps – to the fall of the Third Reich in the following year.

I’m not a historian but am married to one, so know the importance of “sources” in the pursuit of “truth”: one man’s terrorist is after all another man’s freedom fighter from a different perspective. Some sources on the internet (here for example) certainly suggest the The British (led by Churchill as Prime Minister) might have sensibly promoted the acceleration of the Italian campaign to reach Berlin rather than the far riskier Channel crossing.

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Recognising at last the role that poles played in WW2.

This film however paints Churchill as a man demonised by his decision to send young men to their deaths in the fateful Gallipoli beach landings of World War One, with this – rather than a sensible strategic one – being the primary reason for opposing the Normandy landings. To further paint him as a bumbling old fool that is “worked around” by his peers strikes you as borderline libellous.

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Not a happy chap. Brian Cox, impressive but wasted as the great man.

So the film’s script, by novice Alex von Tunzelmann, immediately set the wrong tone with me, and the undeniably strong performances of Brian Cox (“The Bourne Identity”) as Churchill and the wonderful Miranda Richardson (“Harry Potter” and the soon to be released “Stronger”) as Clemmie can’t fill the gap.

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Rita Skeeter Clemmie scene-stealer. Miranda Richardson as Churchill’s long-suffering wife.

Besides anything else, diretor Jonathan Teplitzky (“The Railway Man”) delivers a piece so  dull and lifeless, and with so much brooding, that its not remotely enjoyable. You think the introduction of a bullied secretary – Ms Garrett (Ella Purnell) – with a strong personal connection to ‘Overlord’ will add dramatic colour? But this angle too seems to go nowhere in particular.

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In danger of getting typecast. Ella Purnell struggling to keep up with Churchill’s dictation.

There are many tales of the Normandy landings that are fascinating, over and above the dramatic sweep of “The Longest Day” (which is surely well overdue for a remake?) and Spielberg’s fictionalisation of the Niland brothers in “Saving Private Ryan”. How about the 2 out of 29 American amphibious tanks that reached Omaha beach after ignoring British advice to not launch so far from shore in rough seas? 

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Famous for giving passer’s by two fingers. After all, we’ve all had some level of road rage.

So, as a film, it might be “worthy”. But I didn’t remotely believe the depiction of Churchill and it astonished me that such a rivetingly exciting period of British history could deliver a film that bored me. So, sorry, can’t recommend this one. Perhaps Joe Wright will have a better go with Gary Oldman as Churchill in “Darkest Hour”… 

Fad Rating: FF.

 

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies DVD Review: Get Out (2017).

“It really doesn’t matter if you’re ‘Black or White”.

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Due to a mixture of holiday, work commitments and sickness (I would not wish to inflict my bronchial cough on ANY cinema audience for a while) I haven’t been to the cinema in over a month… shocking. But it has given me a chance to catch up on some of the films in 2017 (and a few from last year) that I hadn’t got to see. So this will be the first of a series of such “DVD” reviews.

“Get Out” was written and directed by Jordan Peele and was his directorial debut. And a hot item on his resume it is too.

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A remake of “Meet the parents”.

Daniel Kaluuya (“Sicario”) plays African-American Chris Washington who, nervously, takes a trip ‘upstate’ to meet the parents of his cute white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). The parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford, best known as Josh Lyman from “The West Wing”) and Missy (Catherine Keener, “ Captain Phillips”), are extremely welcoming.

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Offering Lymon-aid in a white house? The almost unrecognisable Bradley Whitford as the welcoming potential father-in-law.

But the weekend coincides with an “annual gathering” of family and friends, and events quickly take a left turn into “The Twilight Zone”, with anti-smoking hypnosis and a bizarre game of Bingo where the win is so substantial that playing becomes a ‘no brainer’. Can Chris ‘Get Out’, with his mind still intact, before it’s too late?

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Badge of dishour. Chris and Rose get pulled over.

This is a really clever script by Peele. The film baits you into thinking this is some redneck-inter-racial-revenge flick, but actually the colour of the skin is almost irrelevant. (Or is it? This angle is left deliciously vague). Some of the filming is spectacularly creepy, with the hypnosis scene being reminiscent to me of the excellent “Under The Skin”. And never has a teaspoon in a cup of tea been a more devastating weapon.

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Washington out of control. Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris who gets an eye-wateringly hot cup of tea.

I seemed to have talked at length this year in this blog on the subject of the “physics of horror”: the story elements hanging together in a satisfying – albeit sometimes in an unbelievable – way. “Get Out” delivers this to perfection, keeping its powder dry until the closing moments of the film before delivering a series of satisfying “Ah!” relevatory moments.

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The maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel): wired on too much coffee?

While the ‘physics’ of the film is good the ‘biology’ is bonkers, featuring a plot point from the terrible first episode of the 3rd season of the original “Star Trek” (if you can be bothered to look that up!). But I’ll forgive this, parking my incredulity, to salute what I think is one of the year’s most novel and impressive low-budget indie horror films.

Fad Rating: FFFF.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

You’ll never guess who dunnit…

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There’s a big problem with Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 filming of the Hercule Poirot-based murder mystery…. and that’s the 1974 Sidney Lumet classic featuring Albert Finney in the starring role. For that film was so memorable – at least, the “who” of the “whodunnit” (no spoilers here) was so memorable – that any remake is likely to be tarnished by that knowledge. If you go into this film blissfully unaware of the plot, you are a lucky man/woman. For this is a classic Agatha Christie yarn.

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Deliciously cranky. Dame Judi didn’t have far to travel from her Surrey home for this assignment! With Olivia Coleman.

The irascible, borderline OCD, but undeniably great Belgian detective, Poirot, is dragged around the world by grateful police forces to help solve unsolvable crimes. After solving a case in Jerusalem, Poirot is called back to the UK with his mode of transport being the famous Orient Express. Trapped in the mountains by an avalanche, a murder is committed and with multiple suspects and a plethora of clues it is up to Poirot to solve the case.

Branagh enjoys himself enormously as Poirot, sporting the most distractingly magnificent facial hair since Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Gangs of New York”. The moustache must have had its own trailer and make-up team!

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A moustache to remember: Kenneth Branagh as the hirsute Belgian detective Poirot.

Above all, the film is glorious to look at, featuring a rich and exotic colour palette that is reminiscent of the early colour films of the 40’s.  Cinematography was by Haris Zambarloukos (“Mamma Mia” and who also collaborated with Branagh on “Thor) with lots of innovative “ceiling down” shots and artful point-of-view takes that might be annoying to some but which I consider as deserving of Oscar/BAFTA nominations.

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Full of Eastern promise. The delicious cinematography of Haris Zambarloukos comes to the fore as the Orient Express steams out of Istanbul.

The pictures are accompanied by a lush score by Patrick Doyle (who also scored Branagh’s “Thor”).  Hats off also to the special effects crew, who made the alpine bridge scenes look decidedly more alpine than where they were actually filmed (on a specially made bridge in the Surrey Hills!).

All these technical elements combine to make the film’s early stages look and feel truly epic.

And the cast… what a cast!  Dame Judi Dench (“Victoria and Abdul“); Olivia Coleman (“The Lobster“); Johnny Depp (“Black Mass“); Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens“);  Penélope Cruz (“Zoolander 2“); Josh Gad (Olaf!); Derek Jacobi (“I, Claudius”); Willem Dafoe (“The Great Wall“) and Michelle Pfeiffer (“mother!“).  A real case again of an “oh, it’s you” film again at the cinema – when’s the last time we saw that? 

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A cast to die for: from left to right, Olivia Coleman, Josh Gad, Dame Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Leslie Odom Jnr, Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp.

It’s also great to see young Lucy Boynton, so magnificent in last year’s excellent “Sing Street“, getting an A-list role as the twitchy and disturbed countess. 

With all these ingredients in the pot, it should be great, right?  Unfortunately, in my view, no, not quite. The film’s opening momentum is really not maintained by the screenplay by Michael Green (“Blade Runner 2049“; “Logan“). At heart, it’s a fairly static and “stagey” piece at best, set as it is on the rather claustrophobic train (just three carriages… on the Orient Express… really?). But the tale is made even more static by the train’s derailment in the snow. Branagh and Green try to sex up the action where they can, but there are lengthy passages of fairly repetitive dialogue. One encounter in particular between Branagh and Depp seems to last interminably: you wonder if the problem was that the director wasn’t always looking on to yell “Cut”! 

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Still sexy as hell at nearly sixty: Michelle Pfeiffer, not yet a pin-cushion, on the train to nowhere.

All this leads to the “revelation” of the murderer as being a bit of an anticlimactic “thank heavens for that” rather than the gasping denouement it should have been. (Perhaps this would be different if you didn’t know the twist).

However, these reservations aside, it’s an enjoyable night out at the flicks, although a bit of a disappointment from the level of expectation I had for it. I can’t be too grumpy about it, given it’s a return to good old-fashioned yarn-spinning at the cinema, with great visuals and an epic cast. And that has to be good news.

For sure, Branagh does make for an amusing and engaging Poirot, even if his dialogue did need some ‘tuning in’ to. There was a suggestion at the end of the film that we might be seeing his return in “Death on the Nile” – the most lush and decorous of Peter Ustinov’s outings – which I would certainly welcome. He will have to find another 10 A-list stars though to decorate the boat, which will be a challenge for casting! 

Fad Rating : FFFf.

 

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies DVD Review: The Circle (2017).

Social Media involvement in political manipulation?  Don’t be ridiculous! 

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Set in the near future “The Circle” tells a horror story of the social media age involving an omnipotent American corporate, pitched somewhere between being Facebook-like and Google-like (note, lawyers, I just said “like”!) Emma Watson (“Beauty and the Beast“) plays young intern Mae who, partly through the aid of family friend Annie (Karen Gillan, “Guardians of the Galaxy“, “Doctor Who”) but mostly through her own aptitude, lands a foothold job in customer services for the company. With the lush corporate campus fast becoming home, Mae is quickly singled out as having “executive potential” by the charismatic CEO Bailey (Tom Hanks, “Bridge of Spies“) and his more taciturn sidekick Stenton (US comedian Patton Oswalt). 

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In happier times, Annie (the always good-value Karen Gillan) shows Mae the ropes.

Progressively brainwashed into believing the company’s intrusive snooping (a favourite motto is “Secrets are Lies”) is all for ‘the greater good’, Mae champions the cause until a tragedy rocks her world and her company beliefs to the core.

Whenever I watch a film I tend to form my own opinion first before checking out what the ‘general public’ on IMDB think. In this case, I must confess to being a bit surprised at our divergence of views: a lot of people clearly hated this movie whereas I confess that I found it very entertaining. Certainly with the alleged role of Russia in influencing elections around the world via social media, the film is most certainly topical! Many reviewers seemed quite upset that Watson’s character is such a ‘doormat’, in that her views are so easily manipulated by the corporate machine. But not every woman – as indeed every man – can or should be a Joan of Arc style role model in every film: why should they be? 

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Hanks, Watson and Oswalt try to square The Circle.

I actually found her indoctrination into “the Circle way” as quite convincing, especially a creepy scene where two corporate lackies (Cho Smith and Amir Talai) say that they’re not checking up on Mae’s social life, but….  Watson enjoys extending her post-Potter repertoire well, but the talented John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens“) is completely wasted in his role as Ty; the Wozniak-like genious behind The Circle’s technology. The script gives him very little to do other than stand around and look grumpy.

A wasted John Boyega with Emma Watson.

The film is sad in being the last movie appearance of the great Bill Paxton (“Apollo 13”) who plays Mae’s sick father and who died of complications following heart surgery two months before the film’s release (the film is dedicated “For Bill”). Tragically, Mae’s mother in the film, actress Glenn Headly (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) also died suddenly at the age of 62, also due to heart problems, a couple of months after the film’s release. It’s surprising the film doesn’t have a “curse of The Circle” tag on it.

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A pleasant but demanding workplace: The Circle’s Californian campus.

The film was directed by James Ponsoldt, who also wrote the screenplay with novel-writer Dave Eggers (“Away We Go”). I particularly liked the on-screen use of captioning (posts) which was reminiscent to me of last year’s “Nerve“, a B-movie film I rated highly that also had a string social media theme.

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There’s a whole lotta poking going on: on-screen posting illustrates well the inanity of social media comment.

While the ending of the film is a bit twee – a movie definition of “being hoisted by your own petard” – it’s overall a thought provoking piece sufficiently close to the truth as to where society is going to raise the hairs on your neck.

Fad Rating: FFFf.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Guaranteeing a “safe passage through the anus”!

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I’m neither a Marvel fan, nor (in particular) a Thor fan….. but I have to admit “Thor: Ragnarok” was brilliant from beginning to end.  

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been travelling the universe in search of… stuff… (I neither remember nor care)… but returns to his home planet of Asgard with a dire warning of impending ‘Raganrok’:  this being the ‘End of Days’ for Asgard. But he finds the court engaged in serious leisure time!

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“Shave and a hair cut… two stripes”

Things go from bad to worse when Hela (Cate Blanchett, “Carol“) – someone with more than a passing relationship to Thor – arrives with a mission to assume the throne. Teamed uncomfortably with half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, “High Rise”), the brothers get cast millions of light years away to a planet lorded over by a ‘grand master’ (a lovely performance, that I will leave anonymous here) who pits new gladiators in an arena against his latest champion. You’ll never guess who his champion is?  Well, OK (cos the trailer gives it away)… he’s big and green! 

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The grand master’s champion. Opponents are green with envy.

The film’s script is hilarious. It generates an enormous volume of entertainment with laugh-out loud moments throughout; the unforseen involvement of other Marvel characters; some startling cameos all mixed with the usual brand of spectacular fights and action. Some of the action is surprising: a real eye-opener you might say.

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Tessa Thompson as the Valkyrie in full flight.

The lead cast (Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Blanchett and Ruffalo) all perform admirably and are joined by heavyweight cameos from Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”) and Idris Elba (“Bastille Day“) reprising their roles from “Thor: The Dark World”. Particularly impressive is Tessa Thompson (“Creed“) as Thor’s Valkyrie warrior side-kick and Karl Urban (“Star Trek: Into Darkness“) as the turn-coat Asgardian Skurge.

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The real McCoy. Karl Urban as the Skurge of Asgard.

Directed by young New Zealander Taika Waititi (behind last year’s successful indie hit “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) it’s a breath of fresh air for the Thor franchise, more similar to the style of “Guardians of the Galaxy” rather than the previous films in the series. Waititi also saves all the best comedy lines for himself as the ‘rock warrior’ character Korg: his New Zealand twang delivering just side-splitting dialogue.  

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Hela may be a super-villain, but she still hasn’t learned to hold a hammer by the right end.

As with most Marvel films, its a little bit flabby in places, running to 130 minutes: some of the dialogue, particularly scenes between Hemsworth and Ruffalo, feel like they needed tightening up in the editing suite. This time of course includes the scrolling of endless teams of visual effect artists in the closing titles which – naturally – 90% of the audience stay for to see if there are any “monkeys“.  In fact,there are two: one fairly early on; the other right at the end. (To be honest, I thought neither of them was particularly worth waiting for).  

However overall the movie is highly recommended for a fun night out at the cinema.

Fad Rating:  FFFF. 

I am normally highly critical of trailers for giving too much of the film away… but in this case, it’s pretty good at keeping its powder dry: it has a few spoilers, but they are subliminal.  This is a film best viewed cold… if someone tries to tell you the surprises, cut them off quick!

 

 

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Snowman (2017).

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“We’re trudging through the slush”.

Unlike its animated namesake, “The Snowman” is not a good film. Frustratingly it has all the right ingredients:

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That sinking feeling when you realise you’ve been drinking all night and its too late for bed before work.

And while these elements congeal in the snow together quite well as vignettes, the whole film jerks from vignette to vignette in a most unsatisfactory way. I haven’t read the book (which might be much better) but the inclusion in the (terrible!) trailers of key scenes that never made the final cut (where was the fire for example?, the fish? the man trap?) implied to me that the director (Tomas Alfredson, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) and screenwriting team – Peter Straughan (also “Tinker, Tailor”), Hossein Amini (“The Two Faces of January“) and Søren Sveistrup (TV’s “The Killing”) – either didn’t have (or didn’t agree on) the direction they wanted the film to go in.

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Arve Stop (J.K. Simmons) and Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson) having a “Weinstein moment” at the hotel.

Nesbø (and indeed most crime writers these days) litter their work with damaged cops….  you have to question whether the detective application form has a mandatory check-box with “alcoholic and borderline psycho” on it!. This film is no exception. Fassbender plays Nesbø’s master sleuth Harry Hole: an alcoholic insomniac well off the rails between homicide cases. “If only Oslo had a higher murder rate” bemoans his boss (Ronan Vibert). He joins forces with newby officer Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), who has her fair share of mental demons to fight, in investigating a series of missing person/murder cases. The duo unearth a link between the cases – all happen when the snow starts to fall and to particular types of women, with the protagonist leaving a snowman at the scene.

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One of the cuter snowmen… they get worse… much worse.

The plot is highly formulaic – I guessed who the killer was within about 20 minutes. But what makes this movie stand out, for all the wrong reasons, is that it has one of the most stupid, vacuous, flaccid, inane, ridiculous … (add 50 other thesaurus entries)… endings imaginable. My mouth actually gaped in astonishment!

There are also a surprisingly large number of loose ends you ponder after the film ends:  why the “Snowman”‘s fixation with Harry?; what was with the “Vetlesen cleaner” subplot? How is Star Trek transportation possible in Norway? (But wait… “Telemark”… “Teleport”…. coincidence????? 🙂 )

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Val Kilmer was being employed by Oslo airport to keep the birds off the runway.

On the plus side, there is some lovely Norwegian drone cinematography – (by Australian Dion Beebe (“Edge of Tomorrow“) – that immediately made me put “travel by winter train from Oslo to Bergen” on my life-map. The music by Marco Beltrami (“Logan“) is also effective and suitably Hitchcockian.

If you like your films gory, this one is definitely for you, with some pretty graphic content that (for those who like to cover their eyes) is cut to so quickly by editors Thelma Schoonmaker (“The Wolf of Wall Street“) and Claire Simpson (“Far From The Madding Crowd“) that your hands won’t have time to leave your lap! I remember this being a feature of a previous Nesbø adaptation (the much better “Headhunters” from 2011) but here it goes into overdrive.

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One of my favourite actresses – Rebecca Ferguson, curiously playing much “younger” in this film than she appears in her previous hits.

Overall this was a rather disappointing effort that was heading for a FFf rating. But just because of that ending I’m knocking a whole extra Fad off!

Fad Rating: Ff.

(I described the trailers above as “terrible” so I’d advise you not watch it if possible before seeing the film. I’ve chosen the better (US) one below, but it still gives too many spoilers, ploughing on like a buffalo in a china shop. As I’ve ranted before, the art of ‘teaser trailers’ is becoming a lost one… sigh.)

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Death of Stalin (2017).

Death…. Torture…. Child Abuse….  LOL??

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Armando Iannucci is most familiar to TV audiences on both sides of the pond for his cutting political satire of the likes of “Veep” and “The Thick of It”, with his only previous foray into directing movies being “In the Loop”:  a spin-off of the latter series.  Lovers of his work will know that he sails very close to the wind on many occasions, such that  watching can be more of a squirm-fest than enjoyment.

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Rupert Friend (centre) tries to deliver a eulogy to his father against winged opposition. With (from left to right) Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi and Simon Russell Beale.

It should come as no surprise then that his new film – “The Death of Stalin” – follows that same pattern, but transposed into the anarchic and violent world of 1950’s Russia. Based on a French comic strip, the film tells the farcical goings on surrounding the last days of the great dictator in 1953. Stalin keeps distributing his “lists” of undesirables, most of who will meet unpleasant ends before the end of the night. But as Stalin suddenly shuffles off his mortal coil, the race is on among his fellow commissariat members as to who will ultimately succeed him.

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Stalin…. Going… but not forgotten.

The constitution dictates that Georgy Malenkov (an excellently vacillating Jeffrey Tambor) secedes but, as a weak man, the job is clearly soon going to become vacant again and spy-chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) and Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) are jostling for position.  (No spoilers, but you’ll never guess who wins!).  Colleagues including Molotov (Michael Palin) and Mikoyan (Paul Whitehouse) need to decide who to side with as the machinations around Stalin’s funeral become more and more desperate.

The film starts extremely strongly with the ever-excellent Paddy Considine (“Pride”) playing a Radio Russia producer tasked with recording a classical concert, featuring piano virtuoso Maria Yudina (Olga Kurylenko, “Quantum of Solace”). A definition of paranoia in action!

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Great fingering. Olga Kurylenko as Yudina, with more than a hand in the way the evening’s events will unfold.

We then descend into the chaos of Stalin’s Russia, with mass torture and execution colouring the comedy from dark-grey to charcoal-black in turns. There is definitely comedy gold in there:  Khrushchev’s translation of his drunken scribblings from the night before (of things that Stalin found funny and – more importantly – things he didn’t) being a high point for me. Stalin’s children Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough, “Nocturnal Animals”) and Vasily (Rupert Friend, “Homeland”) add knockabout humour to offset the darker elements, and army chief Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs, “Harry Potter”) is a riot with a no-nonsense North-of-England accent. 

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Brass Eye: Jason Isaacs as the army chief from somewhere just north of Wigan.

Production values are universally excellent, with great locations, great sets and a screen populated with enough extras to make the crowd scenes all appear realistic.

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Another broad Yorkshire accent: (the almost unknown) Adrian McLoughlin delivers an hysterical speaking voice as Stalin.

The film absolutely held my interest and was thorougly entertaining, but the comedy is just so dark in places it leaves you on edge throughout. The writing is also patchy at times, with some of the lines falling to the ground as heavily as the dispatched Gulag residents.

It’s not going to be for everyone, with significant violence and gruesome scenes, but go along with the black comic theme and this is a film that delivers rewards.

Fad Rating: FFFF.

 

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).

Vaughn and Golding cross the pond to deliver more of the same.

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You would probably need to be living under a rock not to know that “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is the follow-up film to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s highly successful 2015 offering “Kingsman: The Secret Service”: a raucous, violent and rude entry into the spy-caper genre. And the sequel is more of the same: why mess with a crowd-pleasing formula?

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Into Cambodia, and Eggsy is on another case: or rather another case is on Eggsy.

The fledgling agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton (“Eddie the Eagle“), curiously called “Eggy” at various points in the film for reasons I didn’t understand) is now the new “Galahad” following the demise in the first film of the original, played by Colin Firth (“Magic in the Moonlight“, “Bridget Jones’ Baby“). But just as he’s getting into his stride the whole Kingsman organisation, now headed by Michael Gambon (“Harry Potter”) as Arthur , is ripped apart by an evil drugs cartel called “The Golden Circle” headed by smiling but deadly Poppy (Juliane Moore, “Still Alice”).

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Charlie (Edward Holcroft) getting rearmed by Poppy (Julianne Moore).

Eggsy and Lancelot (Mark Strong, “Miss Sloane“) in desperation turn to Statesman – the US equivalent organisation – and together with some surprising allies set out to defeat the evil plot to poison all casual drug users.

Subtle this film certainly is not, featuring brash and absurdly unrealistic action scenes that are 90% CGI but – for me at least – enormous fun to watch. As with the first film (and I’m thinking of the grotesquely violent church scene here) the action moves however from ‘edgy’ to “over-the-top/offensive” at times. The ‘burger scene’ and (particularly) the ‘Glastonbury incident’ are the standout moments for all the wrong reasons. I have a theory about how these *might* have come about…


One Mann’s Movies Showcase Theatre

The scene: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Golding are working “The Golden Circle” script at Goldman’s English home.

Vaughn: “OK, so Eggsy is in the tent with Clara and needs to plant the tracking device on her.”

Goldman’s husband Jonathan Ross sticks his head round the door.

Ross: “Hey Guys, I’ve an idea about that. I was on the phone to Wussell Bwand and we came up with a GWEAT idea.”

Vaughn: (rolling his eyes, mutters to himself): “Oh God, not again…”

Ross: “We thought that Eggsy could use his finger to stick the tracker right up her – ahem – ‘lady canal’ and… and… here’s the really great bit… the camera’s gonna be his finger. A camera up the muff! It’ll be weally weally funny!”

Vaughn: “But Jonathan…”.

Goldman nudges him hard.

Goldman (whispering): “Just let it go Matthew… you know what he’s like if he doesn’t get at least a couple of his ideas into the film”.


You can only hope a stunt vagina was used for this scene, else Poppy Delavigne (older sister of Cara) is going to find it very hard to find credible future work. One can only guess what tasteful interlude is being planned for Kingsman 3 – – a prostate-based tracker perhaps?

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Poppy Delavigne, striking a “forward” pose in a Glastonbury tent.

The film works best when the core team of Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and Colin Firth (yes, Colin Firth!) are together. Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water“), Channing Tatum (“Foxcatcher“) and Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) all turn up as key members of ‘Statesman’ – adding star power but not a lot else – together with Pedro Pascal (“The Great Wall“) as ‘Whiskey’…. who I expected to be someone equally famous behind the moustache but wasn’t!

There’s also a very entertaining cameo from a star (no spoilers from me) whose foul-mouthed tirades I found very funny, and who also has the funniest line in the film (playing off one of the most controversial elements of the first film). It’s fair to say though that others I’ve spoken to didn’t think this appearance fitted the film at all. 

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Charlie (Edward Holcroft) getting rearmed by Poppy (Julianne Moore).

Julianne Moore makes for an entertaining – if less than credible – villain, as does Bruce Greenwood (“Star Trek: Into Darkness”) as a barely disguised Trump. None of the motivations of the bad ‘uns however support any scrutiny whatsoever: this is very much a “park your brain at the door” film.

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Hanna Alström stars again as the Swedish princess Tilde: helping Eggsy to keep the British end up.

I really shouldn’t enjoy this crass, brash, brainless movie fast-food… and I know many have hated it! But my guilty secret is that I really did like it – one of the best nights of unadulterated escapist fun I’ve had since “Baby Driver”. Classy it’s certainly NOT, but I enjoyed this just as much as the original.

Fad Rating: FFFf.