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The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years
The Beatles are one of the most famous influential bands in history, between 1960 to 1970, the British rock from Liverpool conquered the world with Beatlemania, writing and performing several enduring classic songs. I heard about this documentary film while it was playing in cinemas, I was most interested to find out more about them, directed by Ron Howard (Splash, A Beautiful Mind, Rush, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Pavarotti). Basically, this film examines the "Fab Four" during their touring years from 1962 to 1966, from their performances at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966. This includes 250 concerts in Britain, America and worldwide, at least 134 songs in their back catalogue, and seven Number One albums (Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, Beatles for Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver) (five albums followed after their final performance: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let It Be). Band members John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr and George Harrison are seen onstage and up-close in various archive interviews, on the numerous stages, in the recording studio, and during the making of their features films, A Hard Day's Night, and Help! The film includes surprisingly underused newsreel footage, and previously unseen fan-shot footage. There are obvious modern edits to footage to improve image, sound and colour quality, but the screaming is the real deal
(including teenage fans crying and fainting during performances). The film is very well edited, features some of the best songs from the band during these years, and it really does show how the band become era-defining superstars, a most satisfactory musical documentary. With interviews from surviving band members Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Ringo Starr, archive interviews of John Lennon and George Harrison, with contributions from Richard Curtis, Eddie Izzard, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, Richard Lester (director of A Hard Day's Night, and Help!) and Sigourney Weaver (famously caught on camera during a concert). Featuring hit songs like "Can't Buy Me Love", "Roll Over Beethoven", "A Hard Day's Night", "Help!", "She Loves Me", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and "Twist and Shout". It won the Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera), and Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera), and it was nominated for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming, and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Documentary. Very good!
I was excited about this upcoming war movie for the various trailers and behind-the-clips shown about two months before its release, then it was getting a lot of attention during Awards Season, so I made sure to see it on a big IMAX screen, from Golden Globe winning, and Oscar and BAFTA nominated director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Skyfall). Basically, during the First World War in April 1917, the German army has pulled back from a sector of the Western Front in the north of France. General Erinmore (Colin Firth) briefs two young British soldiers Lance Corporal, Blake (Game of Thrones' Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (Sunshine on Leith's George MacKay). Aerial reconnaissance has confirmed that the Germans are not retreating but have made a tactical withdrawal to their new Hindenburg Line, where they are waiting to overwhelm the attacking British with artillery. With field telephone lines cut, Blake and Schofield are ordered to hand-deliver a message to the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, calling off their planned attack, which might cost the lives of 1,600 men including Blake's brother Joseph (Bodyguard's Richard Madden). Schofield and Blake cross no man's land and reach the abandoned German trenches. These turn out to contain tripwires, and a rat triggers a planted bomb. The ensuing explosion almost kills Schofield, but Blake manages to dig him out. They arrive at an abandoned farmhouse, where they witness a dogfight (an aerial battle). The German plane plunges into the farm and Schofield and Blake save the pilot from burning. Schofield proposes to mercy kill him, having severe injuries, but Blake has Schofield fetch water for the pilot. The pilot stabs Blake and is shot dead by Schofield, who comforts Blake as he dies, promising to complete the mission. Schofield is picked up by a passing British unit, led by Captain Smith (Mark Strong). A destroyed bridge near the bombed-out village, Écoust-Saint-Mein, prevents lorries from crossing. So, Schofield crosses the remnants of the bridge alone. A German sniper across the river in an abandoned house tries to attack him. Schofield tracks down and kills the sniper, only to be knocked out by a ricocheting bullet. It is night when Schofield regains consciousness. He walks through the nearby ruins, when he is spotted by and fired at by a German soldier. Schofield stumbles into the hiding place of a French woman with a baby. She treats his wounds, and he gives her his canned food and his canteen filled with milk from the farm. Schofield leaves and is again spotted by two German soldiers. He strangles one and pushes the one that is too inebriated to stop him. Other soldiers chase him, but he escapes by jumping into a river. Schofield reaches the Battalion as the British attack is due to begin. He fails to stop the start of the attack, so he sprints across the battlefield, after realising that the trenches are too full of soldiers for him to make it to the commander in time. He forces his way into meeting Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) and shows the letter, and the attack is called off. Schofield then locates Joseph, who was among the first attacking wave but is unhurt, and delivers the news of Blake's death. Joseph is upset but thanks Schofield for his efforts. Schofield asks to write to Blake's mother to tell her about Blake's heroics, to which Joseph agrees. Schofield walks away and rests under a nearby tree. It ends with Schofield looking at photos of his loved ones, his two young daughters and a wife at home. Also starring Spectre's Andrew Scott as Lieutenant Leslie, Plus One's Daniel Mays as Sergeant Sanders, Killing Eve's Adrian Scarborough as Major Hepburn, Richard McCabe as Colonel Collins and Billy Postlethwaite, Pete's son as NCO Harvey. The cast are all impressive, the locations, costumes and period detail are authentic and fantastic, but it is the direction by Mendes, camerawork and choreography that deserves the most praise. Movies like Rope, Silent House, and Birdman have used the "one shot" technique, filming continuously for long periods, and making near-unnoticeable edits, apart from the obvious fade to black, it is almost impossible to spot the edits, it really plunges the viewer into brutality and horror of the war, a moving and breathlessly effective epic war drama. It is nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Original Screenplay for Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Music (Original Score) for Thomas Newman, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, it is nominated the BAFTAs for Best Film, Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Original Music, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Make Up/Hair, Best Sound and Best Special Visual Effects, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama, and it was nominated Best Original Score. Very good!
Little Women (2019)
The original novel by Louisa May Alcott, released as two volumes in 1868 and 1869, is an enduring classic, and has produced a good number of film adaptations. There were two silent films in 1917 and 1918, was the 1933 Katharine Hepburn (first sound) version, there was the 1949 Elizabeth Taylor/Janet (first colour) version, there was the 1994 Winona Ryder/Kirsten Dunst/Claire Danes version, and there was the 2018 modern day take to celebrate the novel's 150th anniversary. With Awards Season coming up, this seventh feature film adaptation was being tipped for a few award gongs, directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird). Basically, set in the nineteenth century, it sees the struggles and adventures of the four March sisters, going backwards and forwards in time. In 1868, Josephine "Jo" March (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Saoirse Ronan) is a teacher in New York City. She goes to an editor, Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), he confirms he will publish her work, subject to considerable editing. Her sister Amy (Oscar and BAFTA nominated Florence Pugh), in Paris with their wealthy Aunt March (Meryl Streep), sees childhood friend Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) and invites him to a party. At the party she is angry at his drunken behavior. Meanwhile, Jo meets with Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), a professor infatuated with her, and he gives her constructive criticism of her work. Afterward, Jo gets a letter saying that her younger sister Elizabeth "Beth" (Eliza Scanlen) has gotten sicker, so she returns home. In 1861, in Concord, Massachusetts, Jo and her older sister Margaret "Meg" (Emma Watson) go to a party where Jo meets Laurie, the grandson of their neighbour Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper). On Christmas morning, their mother, affectionately called Marmee (Laura Dern) persuades the girls to give their breakfast to their poor neighbour, Mrs. Hummel (Sasha Frolova). Upon returning home, the girls are surprised to find their table full of food, provided by Mr. Laurence, and a letter from their father fighting in the Civil War. Jo visits their Aunt March, who invites Jo to Europe with her. Amy is invited in by Laurie, following a school punishment for misbehaving in class, before her family comes to take her home. When Meg, Jo, Laurie and John Brooke (James Norton), Laurie's tutor, go out one night, an angry and jealous Amy burns Jo's writings, upsetting Jo. Amy attempts to apologise but to no avail. The next morning Amy chases Jo, ice skating with Laurie. Amy breaks through the ice and almost drowns but is saved Jo and Laurie. That night, Jo expresses guilt over what happened to Amy. Mr. Laurence's grumpy nature is softened upon meeting Beth, he learns of her musical talent and offers her the use of his grand piano. In the present, Laurie visits Amy to apologise for his behaviour at the party. Later, he urges Amy not to marry Fred Vaughn (Dash Barber), but to marry him instead. She turns him down, thinking she is the second choice, after Jo, she also turns down a proposal from Fred, only to learn that Laurie has left for London. In the past, Marmee is informed that their father is ill from the war in Washington, D.C. Jo sells her hair in order to help their mother travel to care for him. Beth is given the piano from Mr. Laurence, but contracts scarlet fever from an infant, part of a family of poor people she was helping. Amy, who has not had the disease before, is sent to Aunt March. Marmee comes home early when Beth gets worse, but she recovers in time for Christmas, with their father surprising the girls returning home. On Meg's wedding day Jo tries to convince her to run away, but Meg tells her she is happy getting married. Aunt March announces her trip to Europe but decides to take Amy instead of Jo. After the wedding, Laurie admits his feelings for Jo, but she insists she does not feel the same way. In the present, Beth's condition worsens, and she eventually dies. Later, Marmee reveals a devastated Amy was returning home with a sick Aunt March. Jo wonders whether she was too quick in turning Laurie down and writes him a letter. On their way back, Amy tells Laurie she turned down Fred's proposal. The two kiss and later marry on the journey home. Returning home, Laurie catches up with Jo and they agree to just be friends. Outside, Jo throws away the letter she wrote for Laurie. The next day, Jo begins writing a novel based on the lives of her and her sisters. She sends the first chapters to Mr. Dashwood, and Bhaer turns up at the March house on his way to California to teach. In New York, Mr. Dashwood was unimpressed, but his daughters found the chapters of Jo's book and ask how it ends. He agrees to publish the book, as long as Jo amends her ending so that the main character will marry. Jo then chases after Bhaer and stops him from going to California. She negotiates copyright and royalties with Mr. Dashwood. Later, Jo has opened a school in Aunt March's house, who gave it to her after she died. Her book has been printed, titled Little Women. Also starring Jayne Houdyshell as Hannah. Ronan gives a trailblazing performance as the tomboyish sister, Pugh is splendid as the aspiring artist sister, Watson and Scanlen are fine, and there is good support from Chalamet, Streep, Dern, Cooper and others. The past versions did the story in linear order, this version going backwards and forwards in time does put a new spin on things, the script is fresh and does embrace the source material well, it is charming and has a splendid use of colour and costumes, a memorable and worthwhile coming-of-age period drama. It is nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay for Greta Gerwig, Best Costume Design and Best Music (Original Score) for Alexandre Desplat, it is nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Music and Best Costume Design, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Good!
Little Women (1994)
The original novel by Louisa May Alcott, released as two volumes in 1868 and 1869, is an enduring classic, and has produced a good number of film adaptations. Following 1917 and 1918 silent films, the 1933 (first sound) version, and the 1949 (first colour) version, this is fifth feature film adaptation, a star-studded version I had seen once before in college, directed by Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Charlotte Gray). Basically, in nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts, it sees the struggles and adventures of the four March sisters: Josephine "Jo" (Oscar nominated Winona Ryder), Amy (Kirsten Dunst), Margaret "Meg" (Trini Alvarado) and Elizabeth "Beth" (Claire Danes) growing up during and after the American Civil War. With their father (Matthew Walker) away serving in the Union Army, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother Abigail, affectionately called Marmee (Susan Sarandon). The Marches live in a state of genteel poverty, and they escape some of their problems performing in plays written by Jo in their attic theatre. Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. John Laurence (John Neville), whose grandson Theodore, nicknamed "Laurie" (Christian Bale), moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family, particularly Jo. Mr. Laurence's grumpy nature is softened upon meeting Beth, he learns of her musical talent and offers her the use of his grand piano. Meg falls in love with Laurie's tutor John Brooke (Eric Stoltz). One day, an angry and jealous Amy burns Jo's writings, upsetting Jo. Amy attempts to apologise but to no avail. The next morning Amy chases Jo, ice skating with Laurie. Amy breaks through the ice and almost drowns but is saved Jo and Laurie. That night, Jo expresses guilt over what happened to Amy. When Mr. March is wounded in the war, Jo sells her hair so that Marmee can purchase a train ticket to travel to Washington, D.C. and nurse him back to health. Beth continues Marmee's visits to a struggling immigrant family in order to provide them food and firewood. During this time, she contracts scarlet fever from the family's infant. Meg and Jo, who both previously survived scarlet fever, send Amy away to live in safety with their Aunt March (Sister Act's Mary Wickes). Laurie promises Amy to kiss her before she dies should she become ill herself. Before Beth became ill, Jo had been Aunt March's companion for several years, and hopes to travel with her to Europe. When Beth's condition worsens, Marmee is summoned home and nurses her to recovery just in time for Christmas, but she has become weaker. Mr. Laurence gives his daughter's piano to Beth, Meg accepts John Brooke's proposal and Mr. March surprises his family by returning home from the war. Four years later, Meg and John marry, and Beth's health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college, proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realising she thinks of him more as a friend, she refuses his offer. Jo later has further disappointment when Aunt March decides to take Amy (Samantha Mathis) with her to Europe instead of Jo. Amy now works as aunt's companion and Aunt March wishes for Amy to further her training as an artist in Europe. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her to write better stories. In Europe, Amy is reunited with Laurie, she is disappointed to find he has become dissolute and irresponsible. He later leaves Amy a letter asking her to wait for him while he works in London for his grandfather and makes himself worthy of her. Jo is summoned home to care for Beth, who has suffered the lingering effects of the illness that has plagued her. A saddened Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twin girls. A letter from Amy informs the family that Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain with her in Europe. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth's death and mentions Amy unable to come home. Jo is surprised and eventually delight when Laurie and Amy return home together and are married. Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with a printed copy of her manuscript, but when he mistakenly believes Jo has married Laurie, he departs to catch a train to the West, where he is to become a teacher. Jo runs after him and explains the misunderstanding. When she begs him not to leave, he proposes marriage and she happily accepts. Also starring Florence Paterson as Hannah and Alan Robertson as Dr. Bangs. Ryder gives a marvellous performance as the confident tomboyish young woman, Dunst is adorable, Danes proves herself an up-and-coming talent, Alvarado and Mathis are fine, and there is great support from Sarandon, Byrne and others. I will agree with the critics that this is perhaps a less memorable adaptation of the story, and perhaps the first part (before Mathis swaps with Dunst) is more enjoyable, but the characters and the talented cast make it watchable, an alright coming-of-age period drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Costume Design, and Best Music, Original Score for Thomas Newman, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Costume Design. It was number 65 on The 100 Greatest Family Films. Worth watching!
Little Women (1949)
The original novel by Louisa May Alcott, released as two volumes in 1868 and 1869, is an enduring classic, and has produced a good number of film adaptations. Following 1917 and 1918 silent films, and the 1933 (first sound) version, this is the fourth feature film adaptation, the first in colour, directed by Mervyn LeRoy (Little Caesar, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Mister Roberts, Gypsy). Basically, in nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts, during and after the American Civil War, it sees the struggles and adventures of the four March sisters: Josephine "Jo" (June Allyson), Amy (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), Margaret "Meg" (Janet Leigh) and Elizabeth "Beth" (Margaret O'Brien), and their mother, affectionately known as Marmee (Mary Astor). The Marches live in a state of genteel poverty, as several years earlier their father (Leon Ames) lost the family's fortune to an unscrupulous businessman. While Mr. March serves in the Union Army, Marmee holds the family together and teaches the girls the importance of giving to those less fortunate than themselves, especially during the upcoming Christmas season. Spoiled and vain Amy often moans about the family's lack of material wealth and social status, but tomboyish Jo, an aspiring writer, keeps everyone entertained with her stories. The youngest March daughter, the shy and sensitive Beth, helps Jo with her productions, on often plays on the out-of-tune piano. The spirited Jo seeks companionship, she strikes up a friendship with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (Peter Lawford), the grandson of the cantankerous neighbour James Laurence (C. Aubrey Smith). Mr. Laurence is impressed with Jo's forthrightness and her beneficial effect on the brooding Laurie, that he invites the March sisters to a fancy-dress ball at his grand house. At the ball, Meg is courted by John Brooke (Richard Stapley), Laurie's tutor, and Jo consents to dance with Laurie while Amy and Beth watch everything from the staircase. Mr. Laurence's grumpy nature is softened upon meeting Beth, who reminds him of his beloved granddaughter who passed away, he learns of her musical talent, he offers her the use of his grand piano. The beautiful evening ends on a sour note, however, when Amy and Beth overhear the snobbish Mrs. Gardiner (Isabel Randolph) and her daughter gossiping about Marmee. As the weeks pass, Laurie's affection for Jo grows, but Jo claims that she loves him as a friend and will never marry him. Meanwhile, Jo worries that the bond between the sisters will be broken if Meg pursues her feelings and marries Mr. Brooke, she attempts to discourage her. When Spring comes, Marmee receives word that Mr. March has been wounded and sent to an Army hospital in Washington, D.C. The girls are left in the care of wealthy Aunt March (Lucile Watson), but they struggle to get by, forcing Jo to cut off her beautiful locks and sell them. While carrying out Marmee's work for the poor in her absence, Beth contracts scarlet fever, and the distressed and frightened sisters realise how much they depend upon Marmee. Beth's fever breaks, and Marmee returns, with Laurie arranging a surprise return by Mr. March. A few months later, Meg marries Mr. Brooke and Laurie asks Jo to marry him, but she turns him down, explaining that she is uncomfortable in high society and wishes to devote her life to writing. The disappointed Laurie leaves for Europe, and Jo, saddened by losing both him and Meg, moves to New York to pursue her career, while living in a boarding house. Jo meets German tutor Professor Bhaer (Rossano Brazzi), who introduces her to art museums and the opera. Jo bursts into tears when Bhaer criticizes her work and is hurt when Aunt March takes Amy instead of her on a trip to Europe. After consoling Jo, with whom he has fallen in love, Professor Bhaer advises her to write from her heart. Jo decides to return home where she is needed, for Beth has become deathly ill. Jo stays in the nearly empty March household and cares for the brave Beth who suffers without complaint. After Beth's death, Jo writes a novel expressing her grief, while Meg, now a mother of twins, gently informs Jo that Laurie and Amy have fallen in love in Europe and are to be married. Although Jo is happy for the couple, she realises for the first time how lonely she is and how much she wishes to be loved. A few weeks later, married Laurie and Amy return, and the Marches joyfully celebrate the family's reunion. Professor Bhaer interrupts the festivities and arrives with Jo's novel, which he has had published. But Bhaer mistakenly assumes that Jo has married her friend Laurie and politely declines his invitation to join the party and departs. Jo catches up to him and confirms his mistake, the two embrace and he proposes marriage. Jo happily accepts, then leads her future husband back to the warmth of the house, where her family awaits them. Also starring Elizabeth Patterson as Hannah, Harry Davenport as Dr. Barnes and Ellen Corby as Sophie. Allyson does very well as the boyish sister, Taylor and Leigh are also very good, and O'Brien is fine, it is fair to say that the source material is probably more stern than this movie suggests, but there is nothing wrong with charming the audience with great performances and a fabulous use of colourful costumes and sets, a most worthwhile coming-of-age period drama. It won the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and it was nominated for Best Cinematography. Good!
Little Women (1933)
The original novel by Louisa May Alcott, released as two volumes in 1868 and 1869, is an enduring classic, and has produced a good number of film adaptations. Following two silent films, released in 1917 and 1918, this was the first sound version of the story, in black-and-white, from Oscar nominated director George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, Born Yesterday, A Star Is Born, My Fair Lady). Basically, in nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts, during and after the American Civil War, it sees the struggles and adventures of the four March sisters and their mother. The four sisters: Josephine "Jo" (Katharine Hepburn), Amy (Joan Bennett), Margaret "Meg" (Frances Dee) and Elizabeth "Beth" (Jean Parker), and their mother, affectionately known as Marmee (Spring Byington), await the return of their father (Samuel S. Hinds), who serves in the Union Army. Jo is a spirited tomboy who dreams of becoming a famous author, and she writes plays for her sisters to perform for the local children. Amy is pretty but selfish, Meg works as a governess, and sensitive Beth practices on her clavichord, an aging instrument sorely in need of tuning. The girls meet Laurie (Douglass Montgomery), who has come to live with his grandfather, Mr. Laurence (Henry Stephenson), the Marches' wealthy next-door neighbour. The Laurences invite them to a lavish party, where Meg meets Laurie's tutor, John Brooke (John Lodge). During the next few months John courts Meg, Jo's first short story becomes published, and Beth often takes advantage of Mr. Laurence's offer for her to practice on his piano. Marmee learns that, following an injury, her husband is recuperating in a hospital in Washington, D.C. While she goes to Washington to care for him, the girls are left in the care of wealthy Aunt March (Edna May Oliver). During her absence Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbour's baby. She recovers, but her condition is much weaker. The March parents return home in time for the Christmas holiday. Meg marries John, while Jo rejects Laurie when he confesses his love for her. When he snubs her in return, Jo moves to New York City to live in a boarding house and to pursue her writing career. There she meets impoverished German linguist Professor Bhaer (Paul Lukas). With his help and encouragement Jo improves her writing, and she resolves her confused feelings about Laurie. Beth becomes feeble and is near death, so Jo returns to Concord to be with her and her family during this time. After Beth dies, a grieving Jo learns that Amy, who accompanied Aunt March to Europe, fell in love with and is now married to Laurie. Upon their return, Jo is happy for Laurie and Amy, indicating everything turned out as it was always meant to. Professor Bhaer then arrives from New York City, he brings Jo's manuscript for Little Women, which is soon to be published. Professor Bhaer confesses his love to Jo, proposes, and she accepts, being welcomed to the family. Also starring Harry Beresford as Doctor Bangs. Hepburn, in her fourth role, and following her first of four Oscar wins, is on terrific form as the boyish sister, it seems she is more focused than Bennett, Dee and Parker as the other three sisters. It is a very simple story of four young women, from childhood to adulthood, going through good times, hard times and tragedy, but always having love and support for each other, a most worthwhile coming-of-age period drama. It won the Oscar for Best Writing, Adaptation, and it was nominated for Best Picture. Good!
There was so much backlash and negativity surrounding this star-studded movie, based on the popular stage musical from Lord Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, when the trailer was released, mainly because of the nightmarish CGI effects, plot and tone. Having watched the 1998 straight-to-video release, I was most interested to compare to the regular costume/makeup stage version, or just to see how bad it really was. Based on the poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables, The Danish Girl). Basically, young white Victoria (introducing Francesca Hayward) is dropped in the streets of London by her owner in the middle of the night. Alley cats surround her, introducing themselves as the "Jellicles" ("Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"). Among the cats are shy magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) who develops a crush on Victoria, the loyal Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild), snooty queens Cassandra (Mette Towley) and Demeter (Daniela Norman). The cats take Victoria under their wing, telling how the different cats are named ("The Naming of Cats"), and the hype surrounding the Jellicle Ball ("The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball"), an annual ceremony where cats compete for the "Jellicle choice", the chance to go to the Heaviside Layer (presumably like Heaven) to be granted a new life. One by one, the competitors are introduced and express their contributions to the community. Large domestic tabby cat Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) ("The Old Gumbie Cat") teaches mice and cockroaches various activities. The Rum Tum Tugger (singer Jason Derulo) ("The Rum Tum Tugger") is a flirtatious tom cat who riles up the others doing whatever he wants. Gentleman cat Bustopher Jones (James Corden) ("Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town") boasts about his weight and shares his garbage scraps, he wishes to become thin again in his new life. Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae), a tidy ginger cat who is unofficially in charge of the railway ("Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat"). Elderly threatre cat Gus (Sir Ian McKellen) - short for Asparagus - tells about some of the biggest roles in history ("Gus: The Theatre Cat"). Also lingering about London, scaring all other cats, is the villainous stray Macavity (Idris Elba) who kidnaps some of the contestants to be made the Jellicle Choice by default. Victoria also happens to meet the mischievous twins Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) and Rumpleteazer (Naoimh Morgan) who enjoy causing trouble and messing with things in human homes ("Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer"). Mr. Mistoffelees comes to rescue Victoria, when the twins leave her tangled up. They return to the group, just in time to see the arrival of the tribe's wise and beloved matriarch Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench) ("Old Deuteronomy"). The Jellicle Ball commences inside the abandoned Egyptian Theatre ("The Jellicle Ball"). Victoria is welcomed and dances a ballet solo in the moonlight. But she is distracted by Cassandra harassing Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), a former member of the tribe who was banished. Victoria relates to Grizabella's feelings of abandonment ("Beautiful Ghosts"). Old Deuteronomy witnesses the interaction between them and assures Victoria that she can become a Jellicle herself in time. The Ball is interrupted by femme fatale Bombalurina (singer Taylor Swift), who performs a song and dance number dedicated to Macavity ("Macavity: The Mystery Cat"): a distraction to incapacitate the party. Macavity arrives, demanding to be made the Jellicle Choice. Old Deuteronomy refuses to do so and is subsequently kidnapped and placed with Macavity's other victims. The Jellicles recuperate and are distraught over their leader's disappearance, Victoria suggests that Mr. Mistoffelees use his powers to conjure Old Deuteronomy back ("Magical Mr. Mistoffelees"). He tries a few times, eventually making Old Deuteronomy reappear. The cats rejoice and praise Mr. Mistoffeles; he and Victoria dance together and become mates. Meanwhile, Jennyanydots frees herself and the other cats kidnapped by Macavity. Grizabella returns to the Egyptian. Victoria shows her support and urges her to sing her true feelings. Grizabella proceeds to sing a passionate ballad about her mistakes, her former glory, and her beauty ("Memory"), she touches the hearts of the cats. Old Deuteronomy names Grizabella the Jellicle Choice and sends her off to the Heaviside Layer ("The Journey to the Heaviside Layer") in a chandelier, floating like a hot air balloon. Macavity leaps onto a rope from the chandelier in a last attempt to reach the Heaviside Layer, but falls onto Nelson's Column. The Jellicles reunite, perched on a lion statue they watch Grizabella ascend as the morning sun rises. After the congregation disperses, Old Deutoronomy welcomes Victoria to the tribe and gives a closing speech to the audience ("The Ad-dressing of Cats"). Also starring Ray Winstone as Growltiger aka the Terror of the Thames, Freya Rowley as Jellylorum, Bluey Robinson as Alonzo. There are no complaints about greats like Dench and McKellen, and fantastic voices like Hudson and Swift, while newcomer Hayward is alright, Corden is fine, Elba is too pantomime villain, and Derulo is annoying. The first half of the film is disturbing and dire, it gets only slightly bearable by the point Dench comes onscreen, with the more memorable, heartstring tugging and oh-so clever song and dance routines in the second half. The problem with the film is indeed the look and tone of it, it's almost too dark, and the CGI to make the actors furry un-feline like creatures is awful, costumes and painted faces like the original stage show would have been better. It isn't the most awful thing I've ever seen, but it's certainly not one of the best, a disappointing musical fantasy. It was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Original Song for "Beautiful Ghosts". Adequate!
I know the titles of a few musicals from Lord Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and The Phantom of the Opera, and this is one that I had always heard about, including one or two of the songs, but never watched. There was so much backlash and negativity surrounding the star-studded 2019 movie, mainly because of the nightmarish CGI effects, plot and tone. But before I was going to consider watching it, I was always going to watch the original stage version, and I already knew about this 1998 straight-to-video release, filmed at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Based on the poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, from music video director David Mallet (David Bowie: "Ashes to Ashes", Boomtown Rats: "I Don't Like Mondays", Billy Idol: "White Wedding", Queen: "I Want to Break Free"). Basically, a tribe of cats called the Jellicles gather at night ("Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"), and they explain to the audience how the different cats of the tribe are named ("The Naming of Cats"). They signal the beginning of the Jellicle Ball ("The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball"). The main narrator, Munkustrap (Michael Gruber), explains that tonight is the "Jellicle choice", one of the cats is chosen to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer (presumably like Heaven). One by one, the contenders for this choice are introduced and perform. Jennyanydots (Susie McKenna) is a large tabby cat who lazes around all day ("The Old Gumbie Cat"), but at night becomes active, teaching mice and cockroaches various activities. The very fickle and unappeasable Rum Tum Tugger (EastEnders' John Partridge) makes his extravagant entrance ("The Rum Tum Tugger"), and there is no one can tell him what he can and cannot do. Grizabella (Elaine Paige), a shabby old grey cat, stumbles out wanting to be reconciled, all other cats back away in fear and disgust, and explain her unfortunate state ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). After Grizabella leaves, the very fat gentleman cat Bustopher Jones (James Barron) appears, ("Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town"), he wishes to become thin again in his new life. The cats are startled by a loud crash, when a pair of near-identical mischievous petty burglar cats appear, Mungojerrie (Drew Varley) and Rumpleteazer (Jo Gibb) ("Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer"), before being confronted. Finally, the Jellicle patriarch, Old Deuteronomy (The Nightmare Before Christmas's Ken Page), arrives before the tribe ("Old Deuteronomy"). He is a wise old cat who "has lived many lives" and is tasked with choosing which Jellicle will go to the Heaviside Layer every year. A play is put on for Old Deuteronomy ("The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles"). The cats are wary of "most wanted" cat Macavity, but after a false alarm the main celebrations begin ("The Jellicle Ball"). During the Ball, Grizabella reappears and is once again shunned by the other cats, while Old Deuteronomy looks on sadly. After the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy contemplates "what happiness is", referring to Grizabella. The other cats do not understand, so Jemima (Veerle Casteleyn) tells it in simpler terms ("The Moments of Happiness"). Formerly famous actor cat Gus (Sir John Mills) - short for Asparagus - shuffles forward as the next cat to be introduced ("Gus: The Theatre Cat"), accompanied by Jellylorum (Susan Jane Tanner), his caretaker, who tells of his exploits. Gus tells the story about the pirate captain Growltiger aka the Terror of the Thames ("Growltiger's Last Stand"), one of his finest roles. After Gus exits, Skimbleshanks (Geoffrey Garratt) is in the corner ("Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat"), he is unofficially in charge of the night train to Glasgow. Suddenly, Macavity (Bryn Walters) appears, he is the so-called "Napoleon of Crime" who always manages to evade the authorities. Macavity's henchmen capture Old Deuteronomy. As Munkustrap and his troop give chase, Demeter (Aeva May) and Bombalurina (Rosemarie Ford) explain what they know about Macavity ("Macavity: The Mystery Cat"). The villain appears again in disguise, the rest of the tribe begin to gang up and surround him, but escapes in the confusion as the lights go out. The Rum Tum Tugger calls upon the magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Jacob Brent) for help ("Magical Mr. Mistoffelees"). He displays his magical powers in a dance solo and uses them to restore the lights and bring back Old Deuteronomy. Now, the Jellicle Choice can be made. Before Old Deuteronomy announces his decision, Grizabella returns to the junkyard, and he allows her to address the gathering ("Memory"). With acceptance and encouragement from Jemima and Victoria (Phyllida Crowley Smith), her appeal succeeds and she is chosen to be the one to go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new Jellicle life ("The Journey to the Heaviside Layer"). Grizabella is carried away into the sky. Finally, Old Deuteronomy gives his closing speech to the audience ("The Ad-dressing of Cats") and the show ends. Also starring Tony Timberlake as Asparagus, Dancing on Ice's Jason Gardiner as Alonzo, Frank Thompson as Rumpus Cat and Rebecca Parker as Cassandra. At least three or four of the numbers are memorable, tugging at the heartstrings or are just oh-so cleverly put to music, the story just about flows well, and the performances of Paige, Partridge, Mills, Page and Gruber are good. This is how the new movie should have been done, not covering the actors in hideous computer-generated fur, just dressing them up and painting their faces, the production of this is terrific, and the choreography is splendid, no fluffs or flaws to be seen here, a satisfactory musical fantasy. Worth watching!
The Gentlemen (2019)
When it comes to films directed by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch), they can be hit and misses, with big misses including Swept Away, Revolver, Sherlock Holmes, and King Arthur, but the trailer for this film looked worth a try, even just for the star of Four Wedding and Love Actually playing completely against his usual type. Basically, American businessman Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) has formed a highly profitable marijuana empire in London and across England. The drugs kingpin is looking to cash out his business, and when the words gets out, several schemes, bribes and blackmails are triggered in an attempt to steal his domain. It is reported that Pearson has been shot dead, and private eye and aspiring screenwriter Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is employed by a newspaper to investigate. He visits Pearson's right-hand man Ray (Nicholas Nickleby's Charlie Hunnam) and threatens to expose the empire, he tells a full-length detailed backstory of the origins of the business, up until the present. This includes the many hidden marijuana plantations across the countryside, and Pearson's wife Rosalind (Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery) being part of key decisions. Fletcher also details the many characters behind the scenes, including Coach (Colin Farrell), or trying to take it away, including Dry Eye (Henry Golding). The British crime underworld is close to exposure, but all is not as it seems, and Pearson may not actually be dead. Also starring Jeremy Strong as Cannabis King Matthew, Eddie Marsan as Mike, Jason Wong and Phuc and Jordan Long as Barman. McConaughey gives a good performance as the yank head honcho, there is good support from Hunnam, Dockery and Golding, but this film is pretty much taken by Grant, who with his cockney accent, goatee beard and sunglasses outshines all. It is nice of Ritchie to return his geezers gangsters and guns origins, but let's be honest, it is a bit of a rehash of what we've seen before, the dialogue is witty, there are amusing moments, and the editing is clever, but overall it just feels meh, an average action crime drama. Okay!
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
I was instantly attracted to this film the first time I saw the trailer, and I had a feeling it was going to have a Marmite reaction, audiences would either love it and go with it, or hate it, written and directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok). Basically, Johannes "Jojo" Betzler (Golden Globe nominated Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten-year-old boy living in Nazi Germany during the later stages of World War II with his mother, Rosie (BAFTA nominated Scarlett Johansson). His father is missing in action on serving on the Italian Front and his older sister Inge recently died of influenza. Jojo, who seems very passionate about Nazism, often talks with his imaginary friend, a supportive but childish version of Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). Jojo and his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) attend a Hitler Youth training camp, run by the one-eyed Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). When Jojo is ordered to kill a rabbit by older Hitler Youth members, he cannot bring himself to do it, and runs off crying being taunted by the other boys, calling him "Jojo Rabbit". After a pep talk from Adolf, Jojo returns and throws a hand grenade without permission. It bounces off a tree and explodes at his feet, leaving him with facial scars and a slight limp. After Jojo recovers, Rosie asks Klenzendorf, demoted after the incident, to make her son feel included despite his injuries. Jojo is given small tasks such as spreading propaganda leaflets throughout town and collecting scrap metal for the war effort. Alone at home one day, Jojo discovers a teenage Jewish girl hiding upstairs, Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie), also his sister's former classmate. Jojo threatens to turn her over to the Gestapo, but Elsa warns that his mother would be killed for hiding her. He agrees to keep her safe, on the condition she reveals her "Jew secrets" so he can write a book for Klenzendorf, which amuses him. Elsa plays along and makes up stories that Jews have special powers, such as mind-reading. Jojo is angry with his mother for hiding a Jew, accusing her of being unpatriotic. Rosie dismisses his accusations; she believes that positivity and optimism are the best ways to be free of oppression. Jojo continues to interrogate Elsa, learning she has a boyfriend called Nathan with whom she wants to reunite when the war is over. Having potential feelings for her himself, Jojo forges a letter from "Nathan" which claims that he has found someone else and wants to break up with Elsa. Jojo feels guilty seeing her cry, and writes another letter retracting the first one, and argues with Adolf when he suggests Elsa is a monster. Later, while collecting metal, Jojo spots his mother leaving a "free Germany" message in town. Jojo is home one day when the Gestapo, led by Captain Deertz (Stephen Merchant), visit his house. Elsa reveals herself, pretending to be his sister Inge, their suspicions seem to be subsided when she confirms her birthday from memory. But Elsa realises she recited the wrong date, and that Klenzendorf, who also happened to arrive at the house during the visit, covered for her, she is confident she will be found out. Later that day, Jojo finds his mother has been hanged in the town square. Devastated, he returns home and tries to stab Elsa, but she comforts him when he breaks down. Jojo runs into Yorki, now a soldier, who tells him Hitler has committed suicide and that the Allies are closing in. A battle rages in the town, during which Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson), arming and sacrificing children, is killed in an explosion. As the American and Soviet forces arrive, several Germans are captured, including a wounded Klenzendorf, who sacrifices himself to allow a captured Jojo to escape. The soldiers expel Jojo as Klenzendorf claims he is a Jew; he runs away as shots are heard. Jojo runs home, he wants to stop Elsa from leaving, so he lies, tells her that Germany won the war. Jojo gives her a "new" letter from Nathan, claiming that he and Jojo have found a way to smuggle her to Paris. Elsa confesses that her boyfriend died the previous year. Jojo tells her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him in a "little brother" way. The imaginary Hitler confronts Jojo for siding with Elsa, and Jojo kicks him out the window. Jojo takes Elsa outside, where she realises the Allies have won after seeing American soldiers. She slaps Jojo in the face for lying, and then they dance in the street. Also starring Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen as Finkel. Griffin Davis is a fantastic new young talent, Johansson is really good in her short time onscreen, the support of Rockwell, Wilson and Merchant are also great, and Waititi almost steals the show as the immature imaginary Nazi dictator the boy talks to. This works really well, seeing the war from the point-of-view of a child who is unaware of the full magnitude of it, obviously there is serious material, including anti-Semitism and the Nazi dictatorship, but it is funny and pokes fun where it can, not for everyone, but for me an enjoyable satirical wartime comedy-drama. It is nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Music for Michael Giacchino, Best Editing, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Very good!
Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
Jumanji: The Next Level
The original movie is a childhood favourite of mine, and the reboot movie (almost a sequel as well), Welcome to the Jungle, was actually good fun, and was one of the highest-grossing films of the year, so naturally the makers followed with a direct sequel, directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher). Basically, three years after entering the video game Jumanji, Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff), Anthony "Fridge" Johnson (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner), and Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) lead different lives, but plan to reunite in Brantford. Spencer has become depressed, since he and Martha are having complications in their relationship, and he feels he has no purpose. Spencer contemplates returning to Jumanji and spends his first night looking over the broken video-game system he held onto. The following day, his friends visit his home, meeting with Spencer's grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito), who is recovering from hip surgery, and Eddie's former friend Milo Walker (Danny Glover), who is visiting for an unknown reason. The group search the house for Spencer and find the Jumanji game repaired in the basement. Realising Spencer returned to the game, his friends decide to follow him. The game malfunctions when starting up, sucking in only Fridge and Martha, along with Eddie and Milo. Inside the game, Martha finds herself as her avatar Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), but Fridge has become Bethany's avatar Professor Professor Sheldon 'Shelly' Oberon (Jack Black), while Eddie is Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, also producing) and Milo is Franklin 'Mouse' Finbar (Kevin Hart). After instructing Eddie and Milo on the game's rules, the group encounter non-player character Nigel Billingsley (Rhys Darby), the game's guide, who reveals that Jumanji is suffering from a massive drought. To leave the game, the group must recover the "Falcon's Heart" - a magical necklace stolen by warlord Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) - which can end the drought if brought before sunlight and uttering "Jumanji". The group are transported to a desert called the Dunes, and narrowly escape a flock of pursuing ostriches. Bethany meanwhile finds fellow Jumanji player Alex Vreeke (Colin Hanks) for help to enter the game and help her friends. Inside the game, the group find Spencer, who has become a new avatar, skilled thief Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina), who agrees to help them after blaming himself for their predicament. The group face new challenges and problems whilst escaping the Dunes and collect a needed in-game item called a Jumanji Berry. Whilst obtaining the fruit, Fridge and Martha discover a pool of green glowing water that allows them to exchange their avatars. On the journey, Eddie and Milo bicker, it is revealed their friendship ended when Milo sold a diner they owned behind Eddie's back, forcing him into retirement. The group next encounter a perilous series of broken hanging bridges, whilst being pursued by an aggressive troop of mandrills. They soon become reunited with Alex, as his avatar Jefferson 'Seaplane' McDonough (Nick Jonas), and Bethany, operating a new avatar called Cyclone - a black horse that can only be understood by Finbar. After leaving the Dunes, the party find a river with the same glowing green water, allowing Spencer, Bethany, and Fridge to become their original avatars, while Eddie and Milo end up as Ming and Cyclone respectively. Shortly after changing characters, Jurgen and his mercenaries capture the group and brings them to his fortress. Escaping captivity, Spencer and chases after Jurgen to his airship, while the others distract his men. Jurgen is too strong for Spencer, but then he realises he has a weakness, the Jumanji Berry, which incapacitates him and sends him plummeting to his death. Discovering Cyclone has retractable wings, Eddie and Milo work together to rescue Spencer and bring the recovered Falcon's Heart to the sun, calling out "Jumanji", ending the drought and completing the game. The necklace is given to Nigel for safekeeping, but the group are surprised when Milo wants to stay behind. Eddie learned that Milo was dying of cancer, hence why he wanted to make amends, they reconcile before Milo flies away. Upon returning to the real world, Spencer and his grandfather play video games together, while Eddie returns to his old diner and longs to work as a manager, with his grandson and his friends turning up to enjoy a meal together. But the game may not be over, as a Heater Repair Man (Lamorne Morris) is drawn to the video game system, and a flock of ostriches suddenly rush past the diner. Also starring John Ross Bowie as Cavendish, Massi Furlan as Switchblade, Marin Hinkle as Spencer's Mom, Bebe Neuwirth as Nora Shepherd and Dania Ramirez as Flame. As before, Johnson and Gillan kick butt, and Black and Hart provide the laughs, DeVito and Glover give the film some heart, and Awkwafina is a good new addition. It feels like almost exactly the same story as before though, there are not quite enough dangerous jungle creatures like the original, and it again relies more on the jokes, at least there are some reasonably exciting sequences with good special effects, not a bad action adventure comedy. Worth watching!
Office Christmas Party (2016)
Office Christmas Party
Many people will admit to doing embarrassing things at an office Christmas party, so it is the perfect subject for a deliberately over-the-top festive comedy film, and it makes sense to have an ensemble cast, directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, The Switch). Basically, Zenotek is a cut-throat technology firm, the Chicago branch's Chief Technical Officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), is finalising his divorce. The company has failed to meet its quarterly quota, and interim CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) is threatening to lay off staff, cut bonuses, cancel the annual Christmas party, and perhaps even shut down the branch. Her brother, branch manager Clay (T.J. Miller), is desperate to keep his staff. Josh and Clay, along with head of tech, Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn), propose partnering with financial giant Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), to save the struggling company. Walter is pleased with the pitch, but concerned with another recent branch closure at Zenotek, and feels the company is more about the budget than their people. Clay invites him to their Christmas party in hopes of showing him that their company is in good standing. Before leaving town, Carol offers Josh a position at her New York headquarters to which he declines. Clay funds a highly excessive Christmas party, much to the annoyance of Mary (Kate McKinnon), the head of Human Resources. Joel (Sam Richardson) is the evening's DJ, but the party struggles to pick up even with Tracey inviting Chicago Bulls player Jimmy Butler as a friend. Throughout the party, various employees cut loose: Nate (Karan Soni) tries to impress his colleagues Tim (Andrew Leeds) and Drew (Oliver Cooper) by hiring an escort named Savannah (Abbey Lee) to pretend to be his girlfriend; Clay's assistant and single-mom Allison (Vanessa Bayer) attempts to hook up with new hire Fred (Randall Park); and customer service supervisor Jeremy (Rob Corddry) cuts loose on the dance floor with Mary, whom he previously despised. Josh and Tracey get stuck on the roof and nearly kiss before Jeremy interrupts them. While initially reluctant, Walter is inadvertently doused with cocaine when it is accidentally fed into a snow machine and succumbs to his free-spirited nature. Clay wins over Walter's business, and the celebration gradually grows more chaotic as employees begin partaking in orgies, damaging company property, and doing drugs. Carol's flight is cancelled due to weather, and she rushes back to the office when she hears about the party from an Uber driver, who took people to the party. Though Carol is initially impressed with receiving Walter's business, Walter injures himself attempting to swing off a balcony after a conversation with Clay, and is later discovered to have been fired from his firm after his sudden business closure, making the proposed contract meaningless and leaving Zenotek helpless. Carol decides then and there to shut down the branch. She also reminds Josh about the job offer aloud to everyone, especially Clay, although he didn't accept it, the surrounding employees angrily shun him. Clay leaves to find another party and rushes off with Savannah's emotionally unstable pimp, Trina (Jillian Bell), who is more interested in robbing Clay of his wealth that he is actually keeping on his person. Josh, Tracey, Mary, and Carol race off to save Clay. One of the guests learns that the branch is being terminated and convinces everyone to throw out and destroy all the company equipment and burn everything in sight, forcing security guard Carla (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) to stop the unruly, now destructive and rebellious party. Clay with Trina's group and Josh with his group end up in a car chase together, and a near attempt at a jump over an open bridge gap. Both end up crashing into each other and causing a power outage across the entire city. Trina and Savannah are arrested for their crimes, while Clay is taken to the hospital. In the wake of the internet blackout, Tracey realises how to run a new innovation she's been working on for several years that combines internet Wi-Fi with wired connections through the city's power grid, which had previously failed due to real-world interference of the existing internet signals. They race back to the destroyed office to set up her tech, and when it works, internet is restored to Chicago. This new innovation saves the jobs of the entire team, with Clay apologising for how his father treated Carol. Walter, in the same hospital as Clay, agrees to join the team, while Josh and Tracey kiss share a kiss in the ruins of their office. Jeremy opens up to Mary, and Nate and Allison agree to go on a date. The whole group meets Carol and Clay as he's released from the hospital, and they all go out for breakfast, driving recklessly on the way. Also starring Jamie Chung as Meghan, Chloe Wepper as Kelsey, Matt Walsh as Ezra, Ben Falcone as Doctor, Fortune Feimster as Lonny and Michael Tourek as Alexei. Bateman, Aniston, Miller, McKinnon, Corddry and the other recognisable stars all play their parts, there is not very much in the way of a story or plot, but it doesn't matter, it is all about the chaotic behaviour as the staff get drunk and high, engaging in embarrassing and humiliating behaviour, there is even the traditional photocopying of body parts, it is likeable enough, a reasonably funny seasonal comedy. Worth watching!
Bad Santa 2 (2016)
Bad Santa 2
The first film was a good punch in the face for the usual sentimental feel-good festive movies, but I don't think anybody was expecting, or even wanting, a sequel, but it happened, and I had a feeling it wasn't going to work before I had even watched it, directed by Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, Just Like Heaven). Basically, set thirteen years after the previous events, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is now working as a valet driver for a country club, he is still depressed, and he is again addicted to sex and alcohol. He tries to hang himself to death but is interrupted by a visit Thurman "The Kid" Merman (Brett Kelly), who has turned twenty-one and works at a sandwich shop. Thurman's father has abandoned him, and his grandmother has passed away two years before, so Willie is the closest thing to family he has left. Thurman delivers a package to Willie, it contains a large sum of cash, from Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), his former partner who has been released from jail. Marcus, expressing sincere remorse for betraying Willie, tells Willie there is a new money-making opportunity in Chicago, that could be worth millions. Willie reluctantly agrees, while unsuccessfully trying to help Thurman lose his virginity before he leaves for Chicago. When they arrive, Willie is annoyed to find out the scheme involves a children's charity, but much more so that their partner is Willie's estranged mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates). Willie reluctantly agrees, as Sunny is suffering from Parkinson's Disease, though he secretly makes a deal with Marcus to cut Sunny out when the time comes. Willie is forced to dress as Santa Claus once again, he ends up getting arrested after getting into a fight with another man dressed as Santa (Mike Starr), mistaking him for being a paedophile. Willie is bailed out by the charity's founders, Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks). She initially wants to fire Willie for his bad behaviour, but he agrees to attend AA (alcoholics anonymous) meetings with her. Diane's husband Regent (Ryan Hansen), who also runs the charity and is cheating on Diane with his secretary, orders his head security guard Dorfman (Jeff Skowron) to track and follow Willie, becoming suspicious of how much time he's spending with Diane. Meanwhile, Marcus tries to obtain the keys to Regent's office where the charity's safe is kept, by seducing security guard Gina De Luca (Jenny Zigrino), but finds she is "high maintenance". Elsewhere, Willie starts a sexual relationship with Diane, and he and Sunny start to bond, especially when the two of them rob a mansion together posing as Santa and Mrs. Claus. As they bond over their takings, Sunny gives Willie a gun so he can take revenge on Marcus, despite Willie's insistence that Marcus has changed. Thurman has tracked Willie and arrives in Chicago. Willie at first considers leaving him at a laundromat but soon takes him to the shelter at the charity. Thurman ends up joining the children's choir, they will perform a concert on the same night as the planned heist. Willie approaches Gina himself, they have sex in the bathroom of a bar, and he obtains the keys. It is the night of the performance and the robbery, Willie manages to catch Thurman singing, which makes the kid very happy. As Willie cracks the safe, Marcus is about to betray him again, but Regent and Dorfman catch them in the act. However, Sunny reveals she is betraying them both, telling Willie the bullets in the gun she gave him are blanks before shooting Marcus. She tries to escape by disappearing into a crowd of people dressed as Santa at an outdoor party with Willie, Regent and Dorfman chasing her. Willie catches her and attempts to take the bag of stolen cash by saying the kids need it more. In their struggle, the bag is torn open and the money flies into the crowd. Enraged, Sunny attempts to shoot Willie again, but hits Thurman jumps in the path of the bullet and gets hit in his behind. Both Sunny and Willie are arrested, but Willie is not charged for helping to catch Sunny. While he recovers, Willie is visited in the hospital by Diane who wakes him up with a handjob. He later takes a job as a janitor at the charity, goes to visit Thurman and accepts him as family. Willie also visits an injured Marcus, "tea bagging" him and posting pictures of this on Instagram, as revenge against Marcus. Also starring Octavia Spencer as Opal. Thornton is still swearing and boozing constantly, but it's not as good as before, Cox as the "elf" sidekick is okay, Kelly as the slow-witted teenage "kid" is odd rather than cute, and Bates throws herself into the role of the equally rude mother, but she is almost out of place. The first film is a cult favourite with its deadpan humour, digs at the Christmas stuff and constant profanity and deadpan humour, unfortunately this sequel doesn't quite hit the mark, I did titter sometimes, but overall it is a relatively disappointing seasonal comedy. Adequate!
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
Disney acquiring Lucasfilm was a great decision, the first of the new space saga sequel movies The Force Awakens was brilliant, and the second film The Last Jedi was also fantastic, and after 42 years since the release of the original Star Wars, this was the final film of the franchise, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, Super 8). Basically, a threat of revenge has been received from Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), assumed to be dead years ago. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), having obtained a Sith wayfinder device on the planet Mustafar, finds the Emperor on the uncharted planet Exegol. The Emperor reveals that he created Snoke as a puppet to control the First Order and lure Kylo to the Dark Side. Palpatine then releases a secret fleet of Star Destroyers and tells Kylo to find and kill Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is continuing her Jedi training, with the help of Resistance leader General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). A spy within the First Order has delivered information, which Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) say reveals Palpatine's location on Exegol. Rey meanwhile learns from notes left by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) about a Sith wayfinder can lead them there. Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), BB-8, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) depart in the Millennium Falcon for the planet Pasana to find an ally as recommended by Leia. There, they find Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), who points them in the direction of the wayfinder's last suspected location. Kylo learns where Rey is through their Force bond and travels there with his warrior subordinates, the Knights of Ren. Rey and the others discover the remains of the assassin Ochi of Bestoon (Liam Cook), his ship and droid, and a dagger inscribed with Sith text, which C-3PO's programming forbids him from translating. The First Order captures the Falcon, Chewbacca, and the dagger. Rey tries to save Chewbacca, but accidentally destroys a First Order transport with Force lightning. The group escape in Ochi's ship, assuming that Chewbacca is dead. Poe suggests traveling to Kijimi to have the Sith text extracted from C-3PO's memory. C-3Po's memory is wiped in the process, but coordinates reveal that a wayfinder is on Kef Bir. Rey senses that Chewbacca is alive, and the group mounts a rescue mission. While Kylo searches for Rey, the group infiltrates his Star Destroyer with the help of Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), an old acquaintance of Poe's. Rey recovers the dagger and has visions of her mother (Jodie Comer) and father (Billy Howle) being killed with it. Kylo informs her that she is Palpatine's granddaughter; he reveals that Ochi was ordered by the Sith lord to recover Rey as a child, but she was hidden by her parents for her protection on Jakku. General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) saves Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca from execution, revealing himself to be the spy. He lets them escape on the Falcon but is executed by General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) for treason. The group arrives on Kef Bir. Resistance sympathiser Jannah (Naomi Ackie) leads them to the remains of the second Death Star, where the wayfinder is located. Finn is surprised to find out that, like himself, Jannah is also a former stormtrooper, and was one of many deserters. Kylo tracks them down, destroys Rey's wayfinder and asks her to join him to go against Palpatine. Leia is dying, before passing away she calls to Kylo through the Force, distracting him as he duels with Rey, who impales him. Sensing Leia's death, Rey heals Kylo using the Force and takes his ship. She returns to Ahch-To, where the Force spirit of Luke encourages Rey to face Palpatine and gives her Leia's lightsaber. Rey uses the wayfinder in Kylo's ship to make her way to Exegol. After healing, Kylo talks to the spirit of his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), after which he throws away his lightsaber and reclaims his identity as Ben Solo. The Resistance then see the planet Kijimi obliterated by a Star Destroyer equipped with a super laser. At the Resistance base, R2-D2 (Hassan Taj and Lee Towersey) restores C-3PO's memory upon the group's return. The Resistance follows Rey's coordinates to Exegol, where she confronts Palpatine. The Emperor wants her to kill him, being his relative he wants to transfer his spirit into her body. Lando brings reinforcements from across the galaxy to join the battle against Palapatine's army, the Last Order. Ben overpowers the Knights of Ren and joins Rey. Palpatine drains the pair's power to rejuvenate himself. He attacks the Resistance fleet with Force lightning and incapacitates Ben. Rey is weakened, she hears the voices of past Jedi, who lend her their strength. Ben revives Rey by transferring his life force into her; they kiss and Ben dies, becoming one with the Force, along with the body of his mother Leia. The remainder of Palpatine's armada are successful destroyed by the Resistance. As the Resistance celebrates, Rey visits the abandoned home of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine. She buries the Skywalker lightsabers, having built her own. A passerby asks her name; she replies, "Rey Skywalker". Also starring Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, composer John Williams as Oma Tres and Mary Poppins Returns' Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Soldier, with the voices of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Andy Serkis as Snoke, Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Ewan McGregor as the younger Obi Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness as the older Obi Wan Kenobi, Frank Oz as Yoda, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kannan Jarus and Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn. The appearances of Hamill, Ford and Fisher (through unused footage from The Force Awakens) are good, Boyega and Isaac are great as the heroes, and McDiarmid returning as the sinister Emperor is welcome, but I agree with critics that this film pretty much belongs to Ridley and Driver, delivering the key moments that will bring the show to a close. I will be honest and say that this finale to the saga is almost the same quality as Return of the Jedi, very enjoyable, but just that tiny something missing, perhaps it is lacking a little emotionally. However, you cannot ignore the spectacular battle sequences, the brilliant special effects and the well-paced action, all together it is a terrific worthwhile science-fiction fantasy action adventure. Star Wars was number 24 on The 100 Greatest Pop Culture Icons. Very good!
Black Christmas (2019)
The original 1974 film is a pretty good classic scary movie, and the 2006 version was much more violent and lively, the trailer for the 2019 remake looked like it could be entertaining, I wrongly decided to leave reading the reviews until after I watched it. Basically, while walking home, Hawthorne College student Lindsey (Lucy Currey) is impaled with an icicle by three masked figures. The rest of Hawthorne College is preparing for the Christmas holiday break. Student Riley Stone (Imogen Poots) struggles to move on after being raped by AKO fraternity president Brian Huntley (Ryan McIntyre), only her close friends believe her. Her sorority sisters Kris Presley (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), Jesse Bradford (Brittany O'Grady), and Helena Ritterhouse (Madeleine Adams) are taking part in the AKO talent show with a dance choreographed by Riley. Meanwhile, university founder Calvin Hawthorne is now considered by many as a notorious misogynist, there is a petition for his bust to be removed from the main building. Following another petition, lecturer Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) is fired due to his refusal to teach books written by women. These decisions have caused anger from the AKO fraternity towards Kris who orchestrated these petitions. Riley learns that Brian will be back in town, she is supported by friendly boy Landon (Caleb Eberhardt) from the AKO fraternity who takes a liking to her. At the AKO fraternity, Riley catches a glimpse of a strange ritual involving new pledges for AKO and a black goo leaking out of the Calvin Hawthorne bust. Riley then intervenes when a tipsy Helena is about to be sexually assaulted by one of the frat boys, she sends her home. Riley takes Helena's place in the talent show and seeing Brian they perform a song with her sorority sisters outing him as a rapist. The girls leave in high spirits and Riley bonds with Landon. Meanwhile back at the MKE house, Helena is abducted by Lindsey's attacker. The next day the girls start to receive threatening direct messages from a Calvin Hawthorne account. Meanwhile, sorority sister Fran (Nathalie Morris) is also killed by the masked man. Riley alerts campus security concerned about Helena when she disappears. After a strange encounter with Gelson outside the AKO fraternity, Riley bumps into him, and spots a list of the MKE girls among some papers he dropped. Marty and her boyfriend Nate (Simon Mead) have an argument and kick him out of the house. While Riley and Kris argue about Kris uploading the talent show video online and Riley now fears retaliation from members of the fraternity. Jesse goes to the attic to get some Christmas lights and is murdered, her body left in the attic. Riley, Kris, and Marty receive more threatening messages before being attacked by an assailant with a bow and arrow who injures Marty. The girls lock themselves in a room and Riley goes to retrieve her phone, while Kris goes to the attic to warn Jesse and discovers her body. Nate returns to the house and is promptly murdered. Riley uses a car to kill the masked attacker, but then two other masked men attacker her, Kris and Marty. Riley and Kris are given time to hide, while a gravely wounded Marty dies from her injuries. The pair overpower and kill the attacker, they are alarmed at the fact they are covered in black goo and not blood. Riley identifies that she saw at the ritual and is alarmed by a strange look in the pledge's eyes. Riley and Kris escape the house in Nate's car and Riley theorises that Hawthorne dabbled in black magic, she thinks she is responsible for the killings via his bust and the black goo it emitted. Riley demands they go to the AKO fraternity to fight rather than go to the police, and she meets with Landon who joins her. Many sorority sisters are also being attacked by other AKO pledges and need rescuing. At the AKO house, Riley witnesses the Hawthrone bust leak the black goo before finding Helena, alive and held captive. She rescues Helena before Riley is betrayed by her and knocked unconscious by an AKO member. Riley awakens to be confronted by Gelson, Brian, and the AKO frat boys who have hypnotised Landon into becoming part of their cult. Gelson explains that after Kris forced the bust's relocation to the fraternity, they discovered Hawthorne's plan, involving a spell and the black goo, to keep unruly women in check. The goo allows the spirit of Hawthorne to possess the fraternity's pledges and send them out to murder any women that step out of line. It is also revealed that Helena has been secretly working with the fraternity and stole several items from her sisters, allowing those possessed to easily locate their targets. One of the pledges murders Helena despite her willingness to be a "good woman". Riley plans to attack Brian, who is part of the cult, at this moment Kris and Lindsey's surviving sorority sisters enter and fight the fraternity. Riley overpowers and kills Brian, and then smashes the Hawthorne bust. Kris sets Gelson on fire and the women and Landon escape, the other frat brothers are locked inside and left to burn to death. Riley and the traumatised group watch the frat house burn down. Also starring Ben Black as Phil McIllaney and Zoë Robins as Oona. The performances are cliched, especially Elwes who is a ridiculously naff misogynistic tutor villain, the only thing that remains loyal to the original is a character suffocated with a plastic bag, but sinister phone calls are replaced with texts. The kills are reasonably violent, but come too slowly, the attempts to create tension and jump scares do not work, and the addition of a fraternity cult killing the young women is really stupid, I definitely preferred the 2006 version to this rubbish, a boring and uninteresting slasher horror. Pretty poor!
Frozen II (2019)
The first Frozen was a global success, and the Oscar winning "Let It Go" and other songs from the film became instant earworms, it was inevitable for Disney to make a sequel in the hope of recapturing the same magic, and it came six years later. Basically, as children, Anna (Hadley Gannaway) and Elsa (Mattea Conforti) were told a story by their father, King Agnarr of Arendelle (Alfred Molina), about their grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto), establishing a treaty with the neighbouring tribe of Northuldra by building a dam in their homeland, the Enchanted Forest. However, Runeard dies following a fight between the two sides. The elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air of the forest are enraged by the battle. The spirits disappear and everyone in the Enchanted Forest are trapped by a wall of mist. Agnarr barely escaped with the help of an unknown saviour. Three years since her coronation, Elsa (Idina Menzel) celebrates autumn in Arendelle with Anna (Kristen Bell), Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad), Kristoff the ice harvester (Jonathan Groff), and Kristoff's reindeer Sven. Elsa has been hearing a mysterious voice calling out to her, she follows it and unintentionally awakens the elemental spirits, who disrupt the kingdom, forcing everyone in the kingdom to evacuate. Grand Pabbie (Ciarán Hinds), leader of the colony of Trolls, arrives at Arendelle and says that they must set things right by discovering the truth about the kingdom's past. Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven embark to the Enchanted Forest, following the mysterious voice. Elsa uses her power to part the mist, but the air spirit sweeps them all into a tornado. Elsa stops it, forming a set of ice sculptures. The formed sculptures are images from their father's past, and it is revealed that their mother, Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood), was his saviour. They encounter the Northuldra and a troop of Arendellian soldiers who are still in conflict with one another before the fire spirit appears. The fire spirit is an agitated magical salamander, which Elsa manages to calm down. Elsa and Anna arrange a truce between the soldiers and the Northuldra and learn of the existence of a fifth spirit who will unite people and the magic of nature. Elsa, Anna and Olaf continue to head north, leaving Kristoff and Sven behind. They find a map to a route to Ahtohallan, a mythical river that may hold the answers to the past. Elsa sends Anna and Olaf away to safety and continues alone. She encounters and tames the water spirit Nøkk, who guards the sea to Ahtohallan. Reaching Ahtohallan, Elsa discovers that the voice calling to her was her mother; that her powers were gifted by nature because of Iduna's selfless act of saving Agnarr; and that Elsa herself is the fifth spirit. Elsa then learns that the dam was built as a ruse to reduce resources from Northuldra because of King Runeard's dislike of the tribe's connection with magic and intention to become part of his kingdom. Elsa learns King Runeard was the one who initiated the conflict by killing the leader of the Northuldra. Elsa sends the word to Anna, but ventures into the most dangerous part of Ahtohallan, becoming frozen, and in turn causing Olaf to fade away. Anna receives Elsa's message and concludes that the dam must be destroyed for peace to be restored. Anna finds and awakens the gigantic earth spirits and lures them to the dam. The giants hurl boulders, aiming at Anna, destroying the dam, sending a flood towards the kingdom. Elsa thaws out and returns to Arendelle, diverting the flood and saving the kingdom. The wall of mist disappears, peace between the tribes is restored, and the sisters and revived Olaf are reunited. Kristoff, having longed to do so for some time, finally manages to ask Anna to marry him and she accepts. Elsa explains that she and Anna are now the bridge between the people and the magical spirits. Anna becomes the new Queen of Arendelle, while Elsa becomes the protector of the Enchanted Forest, regularly visiting Arendelle. Also starring Black Panther's Sterling K. Brown as Mattias, Martha Plimpton as Yelena, Jason Ritter as Ryder and Alan Tudyk as Guard / Northuldra Leader / Arendellian Soldier / Duke of Weselton. The voice casting is all good, the animation is fantastic, it is a reasonably charming story, and at least two of the songs are instant hits, "Into the Unknown" and "Show Yourself". I will admit the story is not quite as engaging as the previous film, and not all the songs are earworms like before, but children will have fun, there are some memorable moments, it certainly isn't a bad film, a worthwhile animated adventure. Good!
Black Christmas (2006)
I didn't realise until the upcoming 2019 remake that there was already a previous remake of the underrated 1974 scary movie that almost wrote the rulebook of slasher conventions, so obviously I had to see this 2006 version before the new one. Basically, Billy Edward Lenz (Cainan Wiebe) was born with severe jaundice, causing his skin to be bright yellow. He was constantly abused by his hateful mother Constance (Karin Konoval). With the help of her lover, Constance murders Billy's father, Frank (Peter Wilds), on Christmas Eve 1975 and buries his body in the house's crawlspace. To prevent Billy from talking, she imprisons him in the attic. Years later, Constance wants to conceive another child, but her boyfriend impotent. Constance goes to the attic and rapes twelve-year-old Billy, and she gives birth to their daughter, Agnes (Christina Crivici), nine months later. On Christmas Day 1991, Billy escapes from the attic and disfigures eight-year-old Agnes by gouging out her eye. He then brutally murders his mother and her lover. He is caught by police eating cookies made out of his mother's flesh and is sent to a mental asylum. Fifteen years later, on Christmas Eve, Billy (Robert Mann), now 35, escapes from his cell and heads to his former home, now a sorority house for Delta Alpha Kappa at Clemson University outside Boston. At the house, Clair Crosby (Leela Savasta), one of the sorority girls, is murdered in her bedroom by an unknown figure. Meanwhile, Megan Helms (Jessica Harmon) hears noises and goes up to the attic to investigate. She finds Clair's body in a rocking chair, Megan is attacked and killed by the same assailant, suffocated with a plastic bag. The other sorority sisters, Kelli Presley (Katie Cassidy), Melissa Kitt (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Michelle Trachtenberg), Heather Fitzgerald (Die Hard 4.0's Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dana Mathis (Lost in Space's Lacey Chabert) and Lauren Hannon (Insomnia's Crystal Lowe), and their housemother Barbara "Ms. Mac" MacHenry (Andrea Martin) are gathered in the living room. They receive a threatening call from a stranger. Clair's half-sister Leigh Colvin (Final Destination's Kristen Cloke) arrives at the house, searching for her. The withdrawn Eve Agnew (Kathleen Kole) presents Heather with a glass unicorn before leaving the sorority house to go home for the holidays. Meanwhile, Kelli's boyfriend, Kyle Autry (Oliver Hudson), arrives but is kicked out when Kelli discovers a sex tape between him and Megan. When the lights suddenly go out, Dana goes to investigates, she is dragged underneath the crawlspace by the figure and killed with a garden fork. In the house, the girls subsequently receive a call from Dana's cell phone. While searching for Dana outside, they find Eve's severed head in her car. They call the police, but they are unable to arrive due to a snowstorm. Kelli, Melissa and Leigh decide to stay inside the house whilst Heather and Mrs. Mac flee. Heather is murdered in the car, and Mrs. Mac is impaled by a falling icicle. While Kelli and Leigh descend to the garage, Melissa is attacked and killed by an assailant with a pair of ice skates. Kelli and Leigh return upstairs and find Lauren's eyeless corpse in bed. Kyle returns to the house, and the three go to investigate the attic. Kyle climbs the ladder and is dragged into the attic and stabbed to death. The killer is revealed to be an adult Agnes (Dean Friss), while a grown-up Billy also appears in the attic. The siblings attack Kelli, while the others are knocked into the empty space between the walls of the house. Kelli and Leigh manage to escape before they start a fire in the house, leaving Billy and Agnes to burn to death. Kelli and Leigh recover at the hospital, but Billy and Agnes, partially burned, appear and attack them. Leigh is killed, while Agnes tries to attack Kelli, but she uses a defibrillator and kills Agnes. Moments later, Billy enters and chases Kelli to the stairwell. They briefly fight, it ends when Kelli pushes Billy off the balcony and he is impaled on the tip of a Christmas, finally killing him and ending the reign of terror. Also starring Peter Wilds as Frank Lenz and Michael Adamthwaite as Santa. Cassidy, Winstead, Chabert, Trachtenberg and the other actresses playing the sorority sisters all add their own feistiness and flair to their part. This modern version is the same concept, from the threatening phone calls to the suffocation with the bag, the backstory of the killer is an interesting addition, there is much more bloody violence than before, with some black comedy included, including gauged-out eyeballs as tree baubles, there is a small part of me that almost preferred this to the original, a worthwhile slasher horror. Good!
Last Christmas (2019)
I heard that Emma Thompson was making a movie based on the music of George Michael and Wham! months and months ago. The trailer for this movie looked like it could go on to become an instant Christmas classic, like a new Love Actually. But there were mixed reviews, but I chanced it anyway, written by Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, Bridget Jones's Baby), directed by Paul Feig (Grounded, Bridesmaids, Spy). Basically, Katarina "Kate" (Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke) works a dead-end job as an elf at an all year round Christmas ornament shop in Central London. While at work she notices a man outside staring upwards. She initially shuns him, but they strike up a conversation, she learns his name is Tom (Crazy Rich Asians' Henry Golding). Kate has a habit of making bad decisions and has recently become homeless after being thrown out by her flatmate. She has aspirations to become a singer but is unsuccessful in her recent audition. Kate sees Tom again and they go for a walk, where he charms her with his bizarre observations of London. The next morning, she discovers that she forgot to lock up the shop, leading to a break-in. Her boss, referred to as "Santa" (Michelle Yeoh), is most disappointed in her, saying that she has changed from the charismatic and friendly person she used to be. Kate isolates herself and is forced to return to her parents' home. Yugoslavian immigrants, her mother, Petra (Emma Thompson), suffers from depression and her father, Ivan (Boris Isakovic), a former lawyer, now works as a taxi driver. Kate hates her mother, who cherishes her while ignoring her sister Marta (Lydia Leonard), a successful lawyer. Kate begins spending more time with Tom, who rides a bike and volunteers at a homeless shelter. She looks for Tom, who doesn't keep a phone, leaving it in the cupboard, and often disappears for days at a time. Kate was initially critiquing Tom for working at the homeless shelter, begins helping there in the hope of running into him, but the staff have never met him. While celebrating Marta's promotion, Kate inadvertently outs Marta as a lesbian in a long-term relationship. She then runs into Tom, who takes her back to his apartment. Kate reveals that a year earlier she was seriously ill and had to have a heart transplant. Kate says she feels half dead and questions whether she has the talent to make it as a performer. After opening up to Tom, Kate tries to initiate sex, but he declines. After spending the night with Tom, Kate starts to improve her life, taking care of her body, setting up Santa with a Danish man (Peter Mygind) who loves Christmas like she does, apologising to Marta and her girlfriend, and busking singing Christmas songs to raise money for the shelter. After a few days she runs into Tom again, but he shuts down the idea of a relationship, she walks away thinking he does not truly love her. Nevertheless, Kate continues to try to do good in her daily life. Later, wanting to make amends, Kate returns to Tom's apartment, but an estate agent reveals it is for sale, as the previous owner died in a bicycle accident a year ago. Finding his phone in the cupboard, Kate realises that Tom was the organ donor whose heart is now inside her, and that all their interactions were hallucinations. Kate returns to a small garden, she encounters Tom's ghost, he says his heart will always belong to her. Kate organises a Christmas talent show for the people at the shelter and invites all her friends, new and old, Santa and the Danish man and her entire family. Kate performs a solo the Wham! song "Last Christmas", during which flashbacks of her so-called "encounters" with Tom are seem, then the curtain raises, and she is joined by the band of performers. Later, Kate and the family celebrate Christmas together joined by Alba (Jade Anouka), Marta's girlfriend, for the first time. The Christmas celebrations end and it is summer, Kate is looking visibly healthier, sitting in the garden on a bench with a plaque with Tom's name and birth and death years. Kate is happy and smiles, and follows Tom's advice, to always look up. Also starring Patti LuPone as Joyce, Rebecca Root as Dr. Addis, Sue Perkins as Ice Show Director, Peter Serafinowicz as Theatre Producer, Rob Delaney as Theatre Director and Amit Shah as Andy. Clarke gives a charming performance and does have a nice singing voice, Golding is more strange than seductive as the mystery man, the chemistry between them isn't too bad. The lyrics "last Christmas I gave you my heart" are taken very literally, this is the main plot of the film, otherwise it is full of scenes with "Heal the Pain", "Too Funky", "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Fastlove" and of course the title song playing in the background. Unfortunately, this film is a bit all over the place, the sentimental stuff is often hit and miss, the homelessness and charitable stuff sort of works, there a hilarious discussion of the difference between "penis" and "dick", otherwise most of the laughs are average, it is often odd and clichéd, and the ghost twist is daft, overall it is a predictable, silly and disappointing seasonal romantic comedy. Adequate!
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Crazy Rich Asians
This film positive reviews, including from film critic Mark Kermode, and then I found out it was put in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, so I was definitely going to get straight on it, directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3D, Now You See Me 2). Basically, Rachel Chu (Hustlers' Golden Globe nominated Constance Wu), an American-born Chinese New York University economics professor, is travelling with her boyfriend, Nicholas "Nick" Young (Henry Golding) to his hometown of Singapore for his best friend's wedding. Rachel is surprised when they are taken into first class on the flight, and Nick tells her that his family are very wealthy. In Singapore, Rachel visits her college friend Peik Lin (The Farewell's Awkwafina and her family, they are shocked when she tells them she is dating Nick Young. Peik Lin reveals that Nick's family is extremely rich and famous and are members of high society. At a dinner party at the Young estate, brining Peik Lin with her, Nick introduces Rachel to his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh). Also attending is Nick's cousin Astrid (Humans' Gemma Chan), who discovers that her husband Michael (Pierre Png), who comes from a humbler background, has been having an affair. Rachel senses that Eleanor dislikes her. At the bachelorette party for bride Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno), Rachel meets Nick's former girlfriend Amanda "Mandy" Ling (Jing Lusi), who hints Rachel may not be able to integrate into such a high-class family with her lower background. The other girls deem Rachel a gold-digger, she is devastated to find her hotel room vandalised by them, but Astrid comforts her. Nick attends the bachelor party for groom Colin Khoo (Chris Pang), he tells his best friend that he plans to propose to Rachel. Colin expresses his concern about the trouble it will cause, with Nick expected to stay in Singapore to run his family's corporation and Rachel loving her job in New York, and the difference in their statuses. Nick apologises to Rachel for not telling her who he really was and takes her to make jiaozi dumplings with his family. During dinner, Eleanor recounts the sacrifices she made for the Young family and makes digs at Rachel for her American background. Eleanor privately tells Rachel that she will never be enough for Nick or his family. Peik Lin convinces Rachel to stand up to Eleanor and earn her respect. On the day of the wedding, Astrid confronts Michael about his affair; Michael says he unhappy and there is a large financial disparity between them. During the wedding reception, Eleanor and Nick's grandmother Shang Su Yi "Ah Ma" (Lisa Lu) privately confront Rachel and Nick. Eleanor reveals she hired a private investigator. The investigation findings revealed that Rachel's father is alive, and she was conceived through an adulterous affair, Rachel's mother Kerry (Tan Kheng Hua) abandoned her husband and fled to the United States. They demand that Nick stop seeing Rachel for fear of a scandal, and Rachel is stunned, as Kerry had told her that her father was dead. She flees and stays with Peik Lin, becoming depressed and unwilling to speak to Nick. Kerry arrives in Singapore, explaining that her husband was abusive, she was surprised to find out she was pregnant, and she fled with baby Rachel fearing that her husband would kill them. Kerry reveals that Nick was the one who had called her to Singapore and urges Rachel to talk to him. When they meet, Nick apologises and proposes to Rachel, saying that he is willing to leave his family behind to be with her. Rachel arranges to meet Eleanor at a mahjong parlor, they play a game and Rachel reveals that she declined Nick's proposal so his relationship with his family would not be ruined. Rachel tells Eleanor she hopes Nick will marry someone "good enough" for her, and it will be because of a selfless act on her part, a girl Eleanor looks down upon. Meanwhile, Astrid leaves Michael, telling him his ego, insecurities, and unwillingness to make the marriage work has caused it. Rachel and Kerry board a flight back to New York City at Singapore Changi Airport. Nick boards the plane, he reveals his mother has given her blessing, and proposes marriage with her ring. In tears, Rachel accepts, and they stay in Singapore and have an engagement party. There, Eleanor nods at Rachel in acknowledgment, having finally earned her respect, and Astrid and her ex-boyfriend Charlie Wu (Harry Shum Jr.) spot each other. Also starring The Hangover's Ken Jeong as Wye Mun Goh, Jimmy O. Yang as Bernard Tai, Ronny Chieng as Eddie Cheng, Remy Hii as Alistair Cheng, Nico Santos as Oliver T'sien, Carmen Soo as Francesca Shaw, Fiona Xie as Kitty Pong, Victoria Loke as Fiona Cheng, Janice Koh as Felicity Young and Selena Tan as Alix Young. Wu is splendid as the working-class New Yorker who has to contend with tradition and expectation, Golding is likeable as the good-looking son and heir to a huge family fortune, Yeoh is a terrific choice as the villainous disapproving mother, and many of the cast members create charming characters. This film breaks boundaries for a Hollywood production, having a predominantly Asian cast, it is a very modern Cinderella style story, full of vibrant colour, I agree it gets a little carried away showing the lavish luxury lifestyle, but it features tasty looking meal sequences, wonderful costumes, and many wonderful locations, and it makes you laugh and feel good, a satisfying romantic comedy. It was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Very good!
Y tu mamá también (2001)
And Your Mother Too
This Mexican film is one formerly featured as an entry in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, obviously I was interested already because of this, and the fact that it was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (A Little Princess, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, Gravity, Roma) made it even more appealing. Basically, teenage best friends Julio Zapata (Amores Perros star Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (The Terminal's Diego Luna) have their respective girlfriends leave for a trip to Italy. Without their girlfriends to have sex with, the two boys take the opportunity to live as bachelors. At a wedding, they meet Luisa (Pan's Labyrinth's Maribel Verdú), the wife of Tenoch's cousin, Alejandro 'Jano' Montes de Oca (Juan Carlos Remolina). Trying to impress Luisa, the boys talk about a fictitious, secluded beach called Boca del Cielo ("Heaven's Mouth"). The boys invite her to join them, but she initially declines an invitation to accompany them. Later, following a visit to a doctor, she receives a phone call from a drunken Jano, who tearfully confesses that he cheated on her. The next day, Luisa calls Tenoch and asks if their offer to accompany them to the beach is still available. Although Julio and Tenoch have no idea where they will go, the three set off, driving through rural Mexico. They talk about their relationships and sexual experiences to pass the time: the boys boasting about exploits, and Luisa talks about Jano and recalls her first love who died. When they stop for the night, Luisa leaves a tearful message on Jano's answering machine telling him that she has left him. Tenoch finds her crying, Luisa seduces him, and the two have sex. Julio sees them through the open door, upset he walks away. Afterward, Julio tells Tenoch he had sex with Tenoch's girlfriend. Luisa notices the tension between the boys the next morning, so she has sex with Julio to equalize their perceived status. An upset Tenoch then reveals that he has had sex with Julio's girlfriend. Julio and Tenoch start fighting but stop when Luisa threatens to leave them. Driving along the coast, they chance upon an isolated beach that is actually called Boca del Cielo. Making camp there, they begin to relax and enjoy the ocean, along with a local family. Luisa makes another phone call to Jano, bidding him an affectionate but final farewell. That evening, Luisa, Julio, and Tenoch drink to excess and joke about their sexual transgressions. The boys admit to frequently having sex with each other's girlfriends. Julio adds that he had sex with Tenoch's mother, but it is unclear if he is being serious. The three of them dance together sensually, Luisa kneels between the boys and stimulates them both, while the boys embrace and kiss each other passionately. The next morning, the boys wake up naked together. Tenoch goes outside to vomit, and the boys are eager to return home. The narrator (Daniel Giménez Cacho) says that their journey back was quiet and uneventful, and that Luisa stayed behind to explore the nearby coves. When they returned, Tenoch and Julio broke up with their girlfriends and stopped spending time together. A year later, in a chance encounter in Mexico City, Tenoch and Julio have coffee together. They awkwardly catch up on each other's lives. Tenoch informs Julio that Luisa died of cancer a month after their trip, she was aware of her diagnosis during their time together. Before leaving, Tenoch tells Julio he will see him again; however, the narrator reveals that this interaction is their last meeting. Also starring Marta Aura as Enriqueta 'Queta' Allende, Diana Bracho as Silvia Allende de Iturbide, Emilio Echevarría as Miguel Iturbide, Verónica Langer as María Eugenia Calles de Huerta and Arturo Ríos as Esteban Morelos. Bernal and Luna as the testosterone filled boys do well, and Verdú as their middle-aged companion is alright, this film was previously described as being a foreign language version of something like Road Trip or American Pie, I can see why, it is a mix of a road movie with amusing sexual stuff, there is a fair amount of nudity, masturbation and sex scenes, and lots of naughty conversation, besides all this the scenery of Mexico is good, all in all it is a reasonable erotic coming-of-age drama. Worth watching!
Knives Out (2019)
We all love a good whodunit, the most famous sleuths like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple deducing a murderer from an A-list cast of suspects, well, now comes this modern day movie in the same league, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick Lane, Looper, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Last Jedi). Basically, wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is celebrating his 85th birthday and invites his family to his mansion for his party. The next morning, Harlan's housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) finds him dead, apparently having slit his own throat. An anonymous figure hires private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to investigate. Blanc learns that Harlan had alienated many of the family: : he had threatened to expose his son-in-law Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) for having an affair; cut off the allowance of his daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) for stealing money, meant for the tuition for his granddaughter Megan "Meg" (Katherine Langford); fired his youngest son Walter "Walt" (Michael Shannon) from his publishing company; and cut his lazy grandson Ransom (Chris Evans) out of his will. Flashbacks reveal that after the party Harlan's nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) accidentally injected Harlan with a fatal dose of morphine. Minutes from death, Harlan told Marta how to avoid suspicion, making it appear he was still alive after she had driven home, then he slit his own throat. Because Marta cannot lie without vomiting, she avoids answering the questions of Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield), but Blanc asks her to assist in his investigation. As they search the property, Marta attempts to conceal evidence, but is only partially successful. The family, including Harlan's eldest daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), is shocked to hear from Harlan's lawyer Alan Stevens (Frank Oz) that Harlan left everything to Marta. They turn on her, but Ransom helps her escape. Ransom tricks Marta into confessing to him but offers to help her in exchange for his share of the inheritance. The other Thrombeys realize that, under the slayer rule, Marta will lose the inheritance if she killed Harlan, but Blanc tells them that they all are still suspects. They try to persuade Marta to renounce her inheritance. Marta receives a blackmail note with a partial photocopy of Harlan's toxicology report. She and Ransom drive to the medical examiner's office, but it has been destroyed in a fire. Marta receives an email with a time and address to meet the blackmailer. Blanc spots her and Ransom, the police catch and arrest Random, while Blanc tells Marta that Wanetta "Great Nana" Thrombey (K Callan), Harlan's mother, saw Ransom climbing down from Harlan's upstairs rooms on the night of his death. Marta goes to the address in the email and discovers Fran drugged. Marta confesses everything to Blanc, but Ransom has already informed on her. At the house, Marta finds Fran had the copy of the full toxicology report. Marta is about to confess everything to the family, but Blanc stops after finding something missing in the report. He brings Marta, Ransom and the police to a room to reveal his deductions. Ransom learned that Harlan was leaving everything to Marta, so he swapped the contents of Marta's medication vials so she would kill Harlan with an overdose, so she would not gain the inheritance. However, Marta, an experienced nurse, administered the correct medicine without reading the labels. After the death was reported as suicide, Ransom anonymously hired Blanc to discover Marta's guilt. Fran later witnesses Ransom swapping the vials back and sent him the blackmail note. Realising that Marta had given Harlan the correct medication, Ransom passed on the blackmail note to Marta, removing the address and time. He burned down the medical examiner's office to destroy the evidence of Marta's innocence and burned Fran's copy of the toxicology report. He drugged Fran with morphine and emailed her location to Marta, planning to frame Marta for Fran's murder. Marta receives a call from the hospital and says that Fran is alive. Believing that Fran will implicate him, Ransom angrily confesses, and vows revenge. Marta vomits on Ransom; she lied that Fran had survived, and tricked Ransom into confessing. In anger, he grabs a knife from the wall to attack and kill her, but discovers it is a retractable stage knife. Ransom is taken into custody, while Marta watches him and the Thrombey family members from the balcony of what is now her mansion. Also starring Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey, Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner, Riki Lindhome as Donna Thrombey, M. Emmet Walsh as Mr. Proofroc, Marlene Forte as Mrs. Cabrera and Shyrley Rodriguez as Alicia Cabrera, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a voice cameo as Detective Hardrock. Craig is likeably comical as the detective from the Deep South (he sounds like Foghorn Leghorn lol), and other cast members like Curtis, Collette and Armas look like they are having a blast, Evans get some of the best lines throwing insults. The whodunit is a well-trodden genre, but with the addition of a witty script and some deadpan humour along the way, this is a terrific refreshing take on it, I admit you have to really concentrate to get the concluding twist, but I'd like to see a follow-up, overall an entertaining murder mystery. Very good!
21 Bridges (2019)
I liked the look of this B-movie from the trailer, it had a good cast and looked action-packed, and Mark Kermode said good things on BBC News The Film Review, so I went along with it, directed by Brian Kirk (My Boy Jack, Game of Thrones, Great Expectations). Basically, one night, two small-time criminals and former war veterans Michael Trujillo (Stephan James) and Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) ransack a winery and steal several kilograms of cocaine hidden in the basement. The heist goes wrong when they realise there is more cocaine than they were expecting, and the police are called and surround them. They are forced into a shootout where Ray guns down the officers. Michael chastises Ray for putting them in jeopardy. Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman, also producing), a successful law enforcer working for the NYPD, who struggles with the legacy of his deceased police officer father, is assigned to the case. Davis has earned a reputation for hunting down and killing "cop killers," but he is not comfortable with this label, and claims they were all in self-defence. Narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) is assigned as Davis' partner. Davis and Burns come into conflict with FBI agents Butchco (Obi Abili) and Dugan (Andy Truschinski), who attempt to take over the case. With the reluctant approval of the Deputy Mayor Mott (Morocco Omari), the FBI, and precinct head, Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons), Davis asks for Manhattan to be locked down. This includes all twenty-one bridges going in and out of the island, although they are given until only 5:00am to catch the criminals. Now on the run, Ray and Michael meet their liaison, Bush (Louis Cancelmi), to persuade their handler to give them a bigger cut in exchange for their identities changed for their escape. They are given more money and their fixer, Adi (Alexander Siddig), gives them new identities and tells them to depart for Miami the next morning. Davis and Burns manage to identify Ray, Michael, and Bush in the resulting investigation. Bush is gunned down by Butchco and Dugan when they get there first. Davis becomes suspicious as a police force led by Lieutenant Kelly (Darren Lipari) quickly managed to locate Adi's apartment. Adi is mortally wounded by the policemen but manages to give Michael two flash drives before Michael and Ray escape. Davis and Burns manage to catch up to Michael and Ray; after accidentally killing a civilian, Ray is mortally wounded by Davis. Michael then holds Burns at gunpoint and tells Davis about the drives and how suspicious everything is before escaping. Burns is angry with Davis for letting Michael escape, despite his reputation for killing those who murder cops. Michael breaks into a guest's hotel room, unlocks the contents of the drive and finds evidence that McKenna's precinct was involved in the drug trafficking and earning profits for it. After another chase where Michael abandons his money, Davis manages to corner him in a subway train and convinces him to surrender, promising to keep him alive. Michael is suddenly shot by Burns, who claims that she thought Michael was still holding Davis at gunpoint. Michael secretly hands the drives and their passwords to Davis before dying. As the police arrive at the scene, David sees from her phone that Burns contacted Kelly before Ali's apartment was raided. The next morning, McKenna arrives at his home to find Davis holding him at gunpoint, having found out the contents in the drives. McKenna tries to reason that officers were struggling with measly pay, forcing them to go into drug trafficking, but Davis is not convinced. Butchco, Dugan, and Kelly, who were all on McKenna's payroll, appear and open fire. In the fight, Davis kills them all, including McKenna, who refused to surrender. Burns, who is also allied with McKenna, then appears from behind and holds Davis at gunpoint. Davis manages to convince her to surrender after revealing that he had already leaked the information online and that he doesn't want her daughter to live without her mother should she get a life sentence for killing him. In the aftermath, Davis hands in the drives, and solemnly drives off on one of New York's bridges in the sunset. Also starring Keith David as Deputy Chief Spencer, Victoria Cartagena as Yolanda and Gary Carr as Hawk. Boseman does well in the lead, Miller puts on an interesting New Yorker accent but is very good, James is well cast as one of the two criminals, and Simmons does well in his moments. It is a pretty standard thing, a robbery gone wrong with two crooks on the run and the cops chasing them, the shoot-out and chase sequences are really engaging, unfortunately the corrupt cops stuff is a little confusing and slow things down, overall though this is a reasonable crime action thriller. Worth watching!
We are used to seeing Arnie flexing his muscles in action and thriller movies, but this was a dramatic departure for him, to do a scary movie of sorts, it was rated well, and it sounded interesting. Basically, in a post-apocalyptic near future in Midwestern United States, following an outbreak of a disease turning people into cannibalistic zombies, called the Necroambulist virus, society is barely under control. Many victims who have been caught in the pandemic, have been placed in quarantine in a hospital for the infected, those bitten by the zombies. Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) calls her father from a broken city under curfew; she tells him she should not seek her and that she loves him. Despite her warning, Maggie's father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) searches two weeks for her, finding her in a hospital, after she was bitten on the arm. Wade's friend Dr. Vern Kaplan (Jodie Moore) releases Maggie to spend her last days with Wade and her family. Her stepmother Caroline (Joely Richardson) asks Wade to take Maggie's younger half-siblings Bobby and Molly (Aidan and Carsen Flowers) to her sister's house to keep them safe. Maggie withdraws from her family, struggling to cope with her hopeless situation and torn about contacting her friends. Despite having no physical pain, she is terrified and despairs over her deteriorating body. Wade has killed other zombies when they have appeared, with no remorse, but despite concerns from friends, he has no intention of killing his own daughter. Friends tell Wade of their own situations where loved ones became infected, and the authorities are patrolling, looking for any people who are diseased. A doctor warns Wade that Maggie's condition is worsening quickly, leaving him three eventual options: she can be quarantined, which Wade refuses; Wade can administer at home the same euthanasia injection offered in quarantine, which he's warned is painful; or Wade can "make it quick" himself. Wade and Maggie make the most of their remaining days, reminiscing about Maggie's deceased mother. Despite Maggie's physical deterioration (she's woken by maggots wriggling in her dying arm) she struggles to maintain normality. Caroline realises in horror that Maggie starts to smell human flesh as food, and Maggie one day confesses to helping a trapped fox in the woods but could not help but attack and eat it. Caroline leaves and urges Wade it's time Maggie is taken away. Two officers arrive and Wade fights one of them before Maggie appears, assuring them she has not yet turned. The sympathetic sheriff leaves Wade with a warning that he'd better decide what to do with her before they next come to check on Maggie. Wade and Maggie have a heart-to-heart, she begs him to promise that he will "make it stop" before she grows worse. Later, Wade sits alone with his shotgun, still unable to use it. He pretends to sleep when Maggie approaches, her skin now grey and her eyes blackened. She lingers over, on the edge of self-control, and kisses him on the forearm. It ends when Wade places a shell into the shotgun, and Maggie has walked outside, climbed onto the roof and jumps off, with her final memories rushing through her eyes. Also starring Douglas M. Griffin as Ray, J.D. Evermore as Holt, Rachel Whitman Groves as Bonnie and Bryce Romero as Trent. Schwarzenegger proves himself as a good character with this sensitive, and Breslin does well as a teenage girl trying to be normal but is slowly turning into a ravenous monster, this is definitely different to most other zombie movies, it is not a road movie, a load of blood spattering and trying to find the cure, it is a sombre tone and something that pulls at the heart strings a bit, not a bad horror drama. Worth watching!
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Le Mans '66
In America this movie is titled Ford vs. Ferrari, that is essentially the big hook of the film, but film critic Mark Kermode said in his review that this is very similar to Rush, in that the characters come first, and the cars come second (or some people say the other way around). From the trailer I saw I was definitely going to watch it at the cinema, directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Knight and Day, Logan). Basically, in1963, Ford Motor Company Vice President Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) proposes to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to purchase the cash-strapped Ferrari in order to boost their car sales by participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) walks away from the deal, after Fiat offer a more lucrative deal that allows him to retain his ownership of Scuderia Ferrari. Henry II is furious and orders his racing division to build a car to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. For this task, Iacocca hires Shelby American owner and retired racing driver Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), he won Le Mans in 1959, he was forced to stop due to his heart condition. In turn, Shelby enlists the help of Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a hot-tempered British racer and struggling mechanic. Shelby and Miles test the Ford GT40 Mk I prototype at Los Angeles International Airport, finding all its design flaws and making the necessary improvements until it is ready to race. Ford do not see Miles as their ideal driver, due to his abrasive attitude, they opt to send Phil Hill (James Tyler Paulson) and Bruce McLaren (Benjamin Rigby) to the 1964 Le Mans instead. As predicted by Miles, none of the Ford vehicles finish the race. While Henry II sees this as a humiliating defeat, Shelby explains that the GT40 reached higher speeds than Ferrari, instilling fear in them on the Mulsanne straight, before it broke down. Shelby and Miles continue development on the GT40 Mk II, but Miles is nearly killed when the car's brakes fail during testing. In 1966, Ford Senior Vice President Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) takes over the racing division and intends again to continue the program without Miles. But Shelby gives Henry II a ride in the car and wages his own company on the line to convince him that if Miles wins the 24 Hours of Daytona, he will be allowed to race at Le Mans. Shelby American enters Daytona, but Beebe has a second Ford entered with NASCAR team Holman-Moody supporting it. While the Holman-Moody team has quicker pit stops, Shelby has Miles push his car to the limit, resulting in him winning the race. At the 1966 Le Mans, Miles struggles with a faulty door during the first lap, team engineer Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon) fixes the door, bashing it with a mallet. Miles catches up with the Ferraris and begins to set lap records. His wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and son Peter (A Quiet Place's Noah Jupe) watch and listen to the action as it unfolds.
Miles. While racing with Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini (Francesco Bauco), Miles experiences another brake failure, but the system is replaced during his pit stop. Enzo Ferrari protests the move, but Shelby convinces the race officials that the brake change is legal. Miles and Bandini once again duel on the Mulsanne Straight, but Bandini's engine blows, and Ferrari are completely eliminated from the race. With three Ford teams in the top-three positions, Beebe orders Shelby to have Miles slow down for the other two Fords to catch up with him and provide the press with a three-car photo finish. Miles is initially against this decision, continuing to set new lap records near the end of the race, but decides to let Ford have their way on the final lap. Ultimately, McLaren is declared the winner on a technicality, but Miles is grateful to Shelby for giving him the opportunity to race at Le Mans. Ultimately, McLaren is declared the winner on a technicality, as one of their cars crossed the finish line just ahead. Although devastated by this decision, Miles is grateful to Shelby for giving him the opportunity to race at Le Mans. Two months after Le Mans, Miles is testing the J-car at Riverside International Raceway, Miles experiences another brake failure and is killed in the resulting crash. Six months later, Shelby pays Miles' family a visit, Mollie watches as he gives Peter a wrench that Miles threw at him before winning an SCCA race at Willow Springs in 1963. Ford would continue its winning streak at Le Mans in 1967, 1968, and 1969, becoming the only American manufacturer to win the prestigious race. Miles was posthumously inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. Also starring JJ Field as Roy Lunn, Jack McMullen as Charlie Agapiou, Benjamin Rigby as Bruce McLaren, Alex Gurney as Dan Gurney (playing his own father) and Ben Collins (formerly The Stig in Top Gear) as Denny Hulme. Damon as the man putting everything into making the winning vehicle and Bale as the loose cannon British racer unafraid to say whatever he thinks are both perfectly cast. It is most interesting true story, corporate company Ford wanting to regain their mojo by winning the 24-hour race, conflicting with the maverick petrolheads, fantastic chalk-and-cheese characters. You grow to like the characters in the slower moments, then you go to breakneck speed in the twists and turns of the racetracks, the race sequences are indeed fast paced with nail-biting crashes, all fantastically edited and with terrific sound design, overall it is an exciting and most enjoyable sports drama. Very good!
The Good Liar (2019)
The Good Liar
I saw the trailer, read a little into it, and obviously the leading stars appealed to me, but then I saw film critic Mark Kermode talking about it, he said it is "preposterous tosh", "makes no sense" and is "ridiculous nonsense", but I decided to take a chance on it, having heard some positive things said about it too, directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls, Beauty and the Beast). Basically, single Roy Courtnay (Sir Ian McKellen) and widowed Betty McLeish (Dame Helen Mirren) are silver surfers who both fib when filling in their online profiles, about drinking and smoking, and giving themselves different names. After talking to each other for some time, they arrange a meeting in a restaurant. Roy and Betty both admit to giving themselves fake names, but both seem to enjoy each other's company and agree to meet again. It is revealed that Roy is a long-time con artist who, along with his business partner Vincent (Jim Carter), manipulates people into giving him access to their finances through a string of deception and false identities. Betty, his latest target, is a former history teacher at Oxford who lost her husband a year ago and has savings in excess of two million pounds. Pretending to have a knee injury, Roy manipulates Betty into allowing him to stay at her house. Simultaneously, Roy and Vincent run an investment scam, using fake Russian investors and a sharing of accounts using keypads connected to a bank. One of the fake Russians, actually a Polish butcher, demands bigger cut, Roy has other thugs break the butcher's hand with a meat tenderiser. Realizing he has been robbed, one of the fake Russian men follows Roy during a date with Betty, and Roy escapes into Charing Cross tube station, pushing him in front of a train. Betty has her health deteriorating, with a series of minor strokes, that may kill her within a year. Betty insists with Roy they take a European holiday together. Roy is reluctant, but agrees, and they begin in Berlin. In Berlin, Betty's grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) speaks in German, which Roy appears to understand, and then claims he doesn't. Stephen takes the couple to a flat Roy obviously recognises, he reveals that, according to Soviet records, 'Roy Courtnay', a young British Army officer, was killed there in 1948 by a Nazi war criminal he was tracking. Roy explains that he is actually Hans Taub, Roy's German translator, he stole Roy's identity so that he could leave Germany and reinvent himself. Betty accepts his explanation and dismisses Stephen's objections. Soon afterwards, Roy and Betty, with the help of Vincent, transfer their money into the joint account, using keypads and a shared password. After leaving Betty and returning to his flat, Roy discovers that he no longer has the keypad to access the account. Roy returns to Betty's house to reclaim it, only to find Betty waiting for him and that all the house furniture, ornaments and other contents have been removed. Betty sits holding a keypad and threatens to take away £50,000 from Roy every time he lies, she smirks watching him squirming. She reveals that she has been lying to him the whole time, about her medical condition, her lifestyle and her identity; her real name is Lili, and she and Roy have met before. In a flashback to 1943, it is revealed that they met as German teenagers. Hans tutored her in English, until a humiliating encounter with her sisters drove Hans to rape Lili and accuse her father of treason. Her father was executed, her mother was traumatised and committed suicide, and days before Adolf Hitler's death, her sisters were killed in a bomb explosion. Lili made her way to England after the war. Stephen is actually the partner of Lili's real grandson, he managed to track Roy/Hans through his criminal history. Lili confirmed his identity matching his DNA, a piece of his hair contained in a locked she kept matching a piece of hair she cut recently from Roy. Vincent has betrayed Roy after being confronted with Lili's knowledge of their crimes. Having taken Roy's money, leaving him only £100, Lili prepares to leave. Roy attacks her, until she fends him off, and outside the house he is confronted by a man from an earlier con, and the Polish butcher. Weeks later, Roy is in hospital; the assault caused him to have a stroke, leaving him virtually immobile and mute, but still able to hear. Elsewhere, Lili is shown living happily with her extended family, still slightly haunted from her distant past. Also starring Mark Lewis Jones as Bryn, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Vlad, Laurie Davidson as Hans Taub (1948), Phil Dunster as Roy Courtnay (1948), Spike White as Hans Taub (1943) and Nell Williams as Lili. McKellen is charming and despicable, and Mirren seems naïve and innocent, but may hold the cards, you can tell both actors are having lots of fun together, Tovey and Carter offer good support as well. I admit the characters are not perhaps fully believable, the fake companionship plot is bit up-and-down, the con artists stuff works well, the twists along the way are a mixed bag, and the final twist of who "the good liar" of the title really is at first is a bit random, until the facts are explained, I agree it is bit hard to swallow, but it is a reasonably alright crime thriller. Okay!