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January 2020 film thread

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 Blue Straggler 01 Jan 2020

starting on 1 Jan!

Little Women (2019)

7/10

Longer review tomorrow but for now can I ask whether in the novels Little Women and Good Wives, Jo March is such a one-note, egotistical, pretentious, judgemental and selfish character, or is this something that Greta Gerwig’s adaptation brought to it? 

I was “Team Amy” straight away! 

1
 HB1 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

To be fair Jo was the one who "wrote" the book. Maybe she needed to have those characteristics you seem so quick to scorn! It was a far better adaptation than the 1994 offering. I told Mrs B afterwards that I'm not going to the next one (I would however probably be in my late nineties, so might enjoy a little outing!)

 Blue Straggler 02 Jan 2020
In reply to HB1:

I realised this morning that a lot of Greta Gerwig's characters, either in her own writing/directing projects OR even in just straight acting roles, are, if not downright UNLIKEABLE, at least don't give you much reason to root for them. So - having not read the novels OR seen any other adaptation, I do wonder if Greta brought a bit of this into Jo. 
I did think the film was good but that 7/10 (as opposed to higher) does reflect some narrative flaws which I think we can blame Gerwig for. For example, I got no notion that Jo had any particularly positive thoughts toward Laurie, until near the end of the film when they hit us with flashbacks of hitherto unseen frolics. 

Flo-Pu stole the show. 

 kamala 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Not seen the film, but from the book if you'd listed those characteristics (egotistical, pretentious, selfish) and asked which character, I would have said they described Amy perfectly. She does at least have the excuse of being young, so some self-centredness may be expected, but she's the least likeable of the girls in my opinion.

But much of the point of the book is about how the girls "improve" their character so if any main character is "one-note" and unchanged throughout the film, I'd say it's a significant failure. Or, since interpretation is such a variable thing, perhaps the film-maker really did read Jo as completely the opposite sort of person to how I read her. 

The book is very much of its time, and the standard the girls are held to is a self-sacrificing, traditional home-making, religious standard which might well jar on a modern audience. There's a level of moralising and attempts to mould character which today's audience is unused to and which could come across as being judgemental, though Jo is definitely not its biggest exponent.

Jo in the book is very aware of the ways in which she is lacking and tries hard to fix herself. Her flaws, for example, include a hot temper - which is a fair enough problem to work on. But her other main flaw is being an outright tomboy: far from being pretentious, she wants to "read and ride and run", and the book works to tame her to a more "womanly" standard of caring for clothes and being better at housework. As you can imagine this doesn't sit terribly well with at least one present-day reader! 

All that said, the book is such a gentle picture of a loving family, there's enough nuance in the drawn characters, and Jo is let off the leash to have just enough jolly unladylike fun, that I actually quite like it. 

To HB1: sounds like you've not read the book? I'd say in it Jo doesn't have any of those characteristics except an occasional tendency to preach: see above.

 kamala 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Just seen this - and yes, it sounds like Gerwig has done the story no favours. In the book Laurie's warm relationship with the girls and especially Jo is threaded throughout the story and develops very naturally.

 Blue Straggler 02 Jan 2020
In reply to kamala:

Thanks for your great posts. To be fair on Gerwig I maybe exaggerated my language a bit to make a point. Toned down version, Jo’s virtual piety and “martyrdom” felt ultimately self-serving. I get that Amy is meant to be seen as the selfish one who gets everything handed to her on a plate but at least from a modern viewpoint she had her head screwed on right and was honest about everything, from the burning of Jo’s manuscript, to her artistic endeavours and indeed her imminent marriage to Fred. 

It is possible that my current micro-obsession with Flo-Pu who plays Amy, has coloured my judgement! 

 aln 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Isn't there a version of this with vampires or zombies or something? 

In reply to aln:

There's a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I quite enjoyed it - but it bombed at the box office. 

 aln 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

Ah, thanks, that was what I was thinking of.

 Blue Straggler 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I never posted the promised "longer review" because a lot of it came out in later posts. 

However:

Little Women (2019)
7/10

I don't know the source material aside from a vague awareness gleaned over the years, that it is to do with four sisters in 19th century America having no exciting adventures, being neither poor nor horribly wealthy, just really getting on with life and growing from girlhood to womanhood.
I got the impression whilst watching Greta Gerwig's adaptation, that actually some familiarity with the novel was assumed, because despite the 2h15m running time, there seemed to be some gaps in the narrative, not helped by a seemingly random flashback structure with only caption early on in the film, and many of the characters' appearances really not changing much across a seven year timespan despite some of them ageing from 14 to 21. Florence Pugh as Amy was a handy indicator because at least young Amy had different hair (also Florence Pugh was the absolute acting standout in this film, to the extent that I wanted the story to be more about Amy than about the - as presented in this adaptation - boring pious tedious Jo).
I won't go on about the story, a lot of you know it, and anyway I don't like to do plot spoilers etc. 
It rambles along amiably until the last half hour when it starts to drag. 
It is sumptuously shot and there are some truly nice cinematographic compositions. 
All the performances are good, although Meryl Streep does seem to be phoning it in with a glorified extended cameo, or maybe it is just that her character is a bit of caricature of the eccentric spinster.  
Aside from Pugh, I'd say the equally reliable Timothee Chalamet is noteworthy. Saoirse Ronan as Jo is fine but honestly this character doesn't give an actress much to work with. 
I do wonder whether Gerwig's adaptation has deliberately made Jo March a bit of a "protagonist who gives us little to root for"; when you look at Gerwig's previous creations (e.g. Frances Ha, Mistress America, Lady Bird) this theme is in all those leads...

Worth watching anyway. 

 BnB 06 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

On successive nights on Amazon video:

Uber-classic Sunset Boulevard which inspired me to re-watch the film that plays it ample homage 

Mulholland Drive, looking and sounding even better 20 years after its conception.

It's fun looking for scenes in common and musing about other tributes in Lynch's work to the Billy Wilder masterpiece.

These mark highpoints in their respective centuries. A score out of ten would be superfluous.

 John2 06 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Phew, there was I thinking that Jo was the modern character in the story who made a life for herself rather than being married to a man in a Jane Austenish way as her aunt wanted for Amy. I assumed that that was the point of making the film at this moment in history.

 Blue Straggler 06 Jan 2020
In reply to John2:

> Phew, there was I thinking that Jo was the modern character in the story who made a life for herself rather than being married to a man in a Jane Austenish way as her aunt wanted for Amy. I assumed that that was the point of making the film at this moment in history.

Possibly! I just didn't feel that it really came across particularly strongly or adeptly in this version. It could be that I totally misread the whole thing, but sure I did GET that aspect.  Fair comment though, thanks. 

 Blue Straggler 06 Jan 2020
In reply to BnB:

Thanks, I do keep thinking "must watch Mulholland Drive again" (I have seen Sunset Boulevard sufficient times and more importantly don't currently own a copy!)

 John2 06 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

This has prompted a little thought on my part. I had never before realised what a monumental achievement it was for Jane Austen to forge one of the greatest careers as an English novelist while writing novels about the impossibility of a woman hoping for anything other than marriage to a wealthy man. Later still Mary-Anne Evans, the author of what many think of as the greatest novel in the English language, thought it necessary to write under the name George Eliot because she did not think a woman writer would be taken seriously. As did Amantine Dupin (George Sand).

 Blue Straggler 06 Jan 2020
In reply to John2:

Off on a tangent, although back on film, I watched Whit Stillman's adaptation of Austen's short story "Lady Susan", the film called "Love and Friendship" last night, for a second time. Very very good and if familiar with Stillman's work, you might think that the arch dialogue was his. Nope. All straight from the Austen, so I am told. Very sharp and funny!

 Tom V 06 Jan 2020
In reply to John2:

Not forgetting Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

In reply to Tom V:

I've always found it interesting that England's first great female author, Aphra Benn, made no attempt to hide her gender and was in fact passionate and public in her advocacy of female writers. In recognition of her bravery, male critics spent the next couple of centuries consigning her to obscurity! 

 Tom V 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Blue Ruin (2013).

Very good low budget revenge thriller written, produced and acted by unknowns.

 Blue Straggler 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Gentlemen.

A surprising 7.5/10. The trailer suggested to me that this would be either very funny, or very dire. I took a punt....

Seems that Guy Ritchie has taken on board that his attempts to kick-start franchises in the wake of the second Sherlock Holmes film being a bit of a dud (see: The Man From U.N.C.L.E, King Arthur) are failures, and he's taken a look at what people expect from a Guy Ritchie film, and what people LIKE.....and concluded that a return to the mockney gangsterism of Lock, Stock.. and Snatch, is the way forward. 
Whilst at the same time embracing his "slightly discount Brit Tarantino" tag wholeheartedly. And I say good on him. 

The Gentlemen is simply a fun film. The actual plot, twists and double-crosses included, is reasonably inconsequential. Other reviews have accurately mentioned that it is as much a film about cinema itself, as it is an actual story. The story and caper are fun enough but are really just a canvas onto which some cleverly played ciphers/stereotypes are painted. So there's your typical "Mr Big", your up-and-coming challengers, Mr Big's stalwart loyal right-hand man, the comic-relief henchmen, and the sometime-unreliable narrator.

I really enjoyed it despite it being clearly pitched at adolescents  

I would have scored it a bit higher but the niggles are:
Michelle Dockery was so obviously being told to act like Gemma Arterton (as in, it looked like they really wanted Gemma Arterton for the female lead). Not since Annette Bening clearly being told to BE Melanie Griffith in The Grifters, have I seen this so blatantly
Matthew McConaughey was fine but the writing/structure around his character was peculiar, he was just sort of IN it
It was a bit overlong, there were obvious pointless scene extensions that could have been trimmed, and a scene chasing some kids down went on far too long and could almost have been cut entirely. 

Otherwise, great fun mainly for the performances - Hugh Grant camping it up in some of his finest work alongside Paddington 2 and American Dreamz, Charlie Hunnam managing to be funny whilst being the "straightman", and - sadly in not much more than an extended cameo - Colin Farrell was hilarious. 
 

 Tom V 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I didn't know that about The Grifters. Now I've just read that Huston only accepted her part after MG had quit, having initially turned it down.

 Blue Straggler 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Blimey, I never knew it as a fact, it was only my opinion from watching it (and, I guess, knowing the relative star power of Griffith and Bening at that time). 

That film never worked for me because for some insane reason they decided to make Huston look about 15 years older than she really was, which seemed odd for a screenplay that has everyone commenting on how surprised they are that she is John Cusack's mother. 
Also it suffered as a "grift" movie in the immediate wake of the smaller-scale, smaller-release but superior House of Games. And it is really hard now to watch Bening in it, so clearly trying to be Melanie Griffith! I can't imagine it was any easier way back in 1990 either. 



edit - regarding The Gentlemen, I just read that Kate Beckinsale actually started shooting but parted ways with the production after 2 days. I still see more Gemma Arterton in Dockery's performance and appearance though. 

Post edited at 12:06
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Just rewatched The Lobster (2015). Got to be one of the best films of the the 2010s - and maybe even better on a second watch when you know what you're getting yourself in for. For anyone who hasn't seen it, and has a taste for rather strange and very dark humour, it's unmissable. Fantastic soundtrack too, used to magnificent effect. Fantastic.

 Blue Straggler 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I loved it on a second view. I truly don’t understand the popular critical view that it loses its way in the second half. I loved how the second half mirrored the first, in a bit of an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” way. Farrell’s deliberately stilted performance was bang on target and WHAT A CAST! Olivia Colman and John C Reilly and Rachel Weisz for your Oscar clout. Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw for your James Bond. Jessica Barden and Ashley Jensen for your cool TV connections. That’s just off the top of my head...

 Babika 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

+1 for The Gentlemen

Went last night and I thought it was good fun as well. Especially liked the bit where they're trying to explain that you can't shove cannabis farms all over the countryside because of the ramblers and the right to roam.

Best not to go if you're upset by the C word though

In reply to Blue Straggler:

1917: 9/10. A gripping piece of storytelling from director Sam Mendes and bravura camerawork from cinematographer Roger Deakins makes for an unrelentingly tense and immersive experience as we journey through the nightmare hallucinatory landscapes of the First World War. I don't think I've been so pinned back in my seat since the first half hour or so of Bladerunner 2049, another piece of Deakins genius. And there are some visual and dramatic shocks that are genuinely physical in their impact. The film follows two young soldiers on a desperate mission to get a message across a supposedly deserted no man's land to prevent a planned British attack into the jaws of a German trap. As has been well trailed it all takes place in one continuous shot (obviously with some extremely hard to spot digital stitching together) - so that we often feel we're running with the two young men, looking over their shoulders. It's a brilliantly effective technique. A fine score by Mendes favourite Thomas Newman accentuates the tension. The desolate trench landscape of mud and bodies and rats is recreated in shocking detail, with some clever disorientation as the camera zooms and pans from grisly detail to panorama. Spiked gun barrels blossom like black metal flowers. But equally striking is a life or death pursuit through a labyrinthine ruined town lit by apocalyptic flares and flames, or the dreadful pre-attack beauty of lines of white chalk trenches in the early morning sun. In amongst the nerve-shredding there is plenty for connoisseurs of classically English stiff upper lipping to enjoy. I'd be very surprised if this excellent movie doesn't continue to scoop up awards.

 Blue Straggler 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Hands up if you have seen “Cats”

[puts hand up tentatively]

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I loved how the second half mirrored the first, in a bit of an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” way.

Me too - I thought one of the funniest lines was "We dance alone. That's why we only listen to electronic music".

Have you seen any of Lanthimos' other films? 

 Tom V 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

What We Had.

Not the sort of film I usually watch but very well made and Hilary Swank and  Michael Shannon  are as good as I've ever seen them.

 Blue Straggler 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Me too - I thought one of the funniest lines was "We dance alone. That's why we only listen to electronic music".

> Have you seen any of Lanthimos' other films? 

Yes, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (just as offbeat but without the humour) and The Favourite which I liked a lot but only because I’d seen those other two. I said at the time that anyone who hadn’t seen The Lobster or at least read some reviews, would get a rude awakening watching The Favourite. 
 

I have yet to see his calling-card, Dogtooth 

 Blue Straggler 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Here we go then. 


Cats (2019)

4/10

I had the same problem reviewing The Greatest Showman two years ago - musicals just are not a genre that appeals to me and under normal circumstances I would not have gone to see Cats. However, the rubbernecker in me was intrigued by the "cat"astrophic reception it has received. I kind of wanted to see a trainwreck of a film. The trailer, which I only managed to see once, actually did revulse me. 

And yet....it didn't seem that horrendous to me. Sure, 4/10 is not a good score but it's not like it's 0/10!

I don't know if I was being slightly soft on it because I have had three weeks of reading about how it was virtually unwatchable. 

All my criticisms of it are in line with everything you must have already heard, but mine are milder:
 - the costuming or appearance of the characters. Human faces and humanoid movement but covered in cat fur, some naked, some wearing clothes, and one wearing a fake cat suit that unzips to reveal a clothed cat underneath. Yes, freaky, but I gather that it's in keeping with the stage show and honestly you soon sort of got used to it (apart from Idris Elba and Judi Dench
- the CGI, the jerky movements, heads not seeming to move in sync with bodies. Actually having got used to the overall appearance of the thing, I didn't really notice this. I was in a bit of a food coma after a roast Sunday lunch in the pub though!
- the total lack of story and it just being two hours of different cats being introduced and then not really doing anything. Yes. I think there is three minutes of story in this. It's about 1h20m of wittering on about being a Jellicle and the head Jellicle cat making a big deal about selecting a new Jellicle for something or other, and it goes on and on, like "I'll invite you to the Jellicle ball where Old Deuteronomy will make her announcement", "Oh hi I am Old Deuteronomy, I will make an announcment", "Look, look, it's Old Deuteronomy, she'll make her announcement at the Jellicle ball" on and on and on and it is never very clear what it is that is being announced aside from selecting a cat. HOWEVER. Isn't this the template for most musicals? Look at Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for instance. So AS AN ADAPTATION OF AN EXISTING MUSICAL I don't think the film has done anything too wrong here, aside from actually having been made
- related to point three, the running time. Easily could have been 25 minutes shorter. 
- Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger was baffling, I don't know if it is the character or writing, or his performance, but he always looked like his character was leading to some big reveal, like he was up to something, as he was every cosying up to all the "good" cats with a scheming look in his eyes, but then nothing came of it


Where it was surprisingly positive.....
Only about 3 minutes of James Corden
The railway cat song was quite good (and I really don't like musicals)
Judi Dench was really surprisingly tolerable, I usually can't stand her mannered performances but she suited this
Laurie Davidson as Mr Misteffoles
and special mention to Francesca Hayward as Victoria, who seemed to "get" what the film was - barely a word from her but just facial reactions to the crazy visuals going on all over. 

It wasn't unwatchable, I won't watch it again and 4/10 is not exactly a recommendation, but it didn't make me angry, it didn't freak me out, I didn't feel a need to walk out...
If it was something you were thinking of seeing because maybe you like the musical stage show, I wouldn't be put off by the massive mockery and lambasting. 

I saw three or four worse films in the cinema last year alone (Tulip Fever, Stuber, The Aeronauts and Colette)

 

 Blue Straggler 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I saw three or four worse films in the cinema last year alone (Tulip Fever, Stuber, The Aeronauts and Colette)

Let’s swap Colette for Yesterday. I’d forgotten Yesterday. 

 Sean Kelly 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

I used to know a guy who fought with the Gloucester's in Korea, but was one of the lucky ones that got away when his regiment were all but wiped out on the Imjin River. He showed me a photographic record of his regiment in the First World War and after flicking through the pages like you do, I can still remember one picture that really described what it must of been like at the front. Again it was 1917 and the image of a landscape shattered by battle. But then you suddenly notice a dead horse...50 feet up a splintered tree! It makes you think...

 Blue Straggler 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Let’s swap Colette for Yesterday. I’d forgotten Yesterday. 

Oh and we can add Greta to the list of “proper films I saw at the cinema in 2019 which are worse than Cats”. I think Greta was the worst of 2019 actually (my other post on this topic concluded that it was Stuber but on reflection it’s Greta) 

 Offwidth 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

On Cats, you seem to be avoiding a main point on why Llyod Webber stuff gets so much critical flack. It's not so much that it's terrible, it's more the inevitable middle classes mass migrations to see it, as if it's great art.

Post edited at 11:36
 Blue Straggler 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

None of that has anything to do with the film as seen in the cinema. It is a bit of cultural elitism, and I don’t particularly say that pejoratively. 

Post edited at 12:09
 Blue Straggler 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

The 2004 film of Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera didn’t get this level of flak, nor did the 1996-7(?) film of his Evita. I don’t think it is any perception of Lloyd-Webber as such, that has caused the 2019 film of Cats to be so lambasted. It is the costuming and the lack of story (and lack of many memorable songs - I mean it uses “Memories” twice, so even they knew they were floundering )

Post edited at 11:58
 Offwidth 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I think you're wrong there, there is often a snobbery to those who deem to judge artistic quality and some will get carried away when a chance to 'put the boot in' on a persistent theatrical offender arises. The other films were good and given cinema is more 'low-brow' they didn't provide that much an opportunity.

I am defending your score here.

Post edited at 12:18
 Blue Straggler 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Have you not contradicted yourself in a single post? "Persistent theatrical offender" and "the other films were good"? 

I can't think of a film that has been treated in the same way as Cats, since Battlefield Earth - and sure that one was nigh-on unwatchable (I lasted 20 minutes but only on DVD) and before that, perhaps Ishtar (which is watchable, just not actually funny and the high budget is not reflected in what we see on screen). In both those cases, as in Cats, I agree that a mob mentality kicked in. But I do not think it has anything to do with Lloyd-Webber fans/theatre-goers kidding themselves that they are sophisticated opera experts, nor the mob using a film to attack these hypothetical deluded Lloyd-Webber fans. That is what it looks like you were saying in your first reply; maybe I have misunderstood you, it was a bit vague. 


edit - 
Just recently (and by coincidence this was the film before which I first saw the trailer for Cats which was my first introduction to the fact that Cats had been made), Charlie's Angels fared badly but did NOT get the kicking that Cats has had. It's a handy reference as it is a "beloved" bit of source material going back 40 years, so a major release...but the world just politely said "yeah, bit crap, no thanks", rather than "OMIGOD WHY WHY, MAKE IT STOP LOL"

Post edited at 12:23
 Offwidth 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I think you are mistaking critcal opinion for my opinion. To be clear I expect critics are being a bit unfair. I've not seen the film and won't be trying to.

 Hat Dude 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

1917 just didn't do it for me; perhaps I was expecting too much after the glowing reviews but I came out of the cinema feeling a bit disappointed, for me parts of it were very good but there were flaws.

It is easy to get hung up on technical details and be a bit nit picking particularly if you have studied  WW1 and I do try to put that aside. I will point however to what I consider a plot hole which jarred with me; Schofield is fully immersed in the river for quite a time  before finding the Devonshire Regiment, yet very shortly afterwards he is bone dry and delivers a completely dry letter to Colonel MacKenzie.

 Blue Straggler 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Hat Dude:

Oh dear. 

Weirdly, the only major film I've ever seen in which a character immersed in water doesn't magically dry off within minutes, is The Saint starring Val Kilmer. 


It's almost like it's a deliberate joke done by all film-makers, like inserting a Wilhelm Scream or a Lewton bus. It was addressed amusingly in The Last Action Hero, but then everyone just went back to business-as-usual. The most egregious example is at the end of the so-bad-it-is-brilliant "Orphan", when Vera Farmiga is fighting the antagonist including full immersion in icy water and taking a few stabs to her shoulders and upper back, and then MINUTES LATER iirc is nearly bone dry, standing around drinking cocoa and laughing with the police  

 Blue Straggler 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Hat Dude:

Thanks for your comments on 1917. Funnily enough I was already not expecting the promised awesomeness, because a) Sam Mendes and b) gimmick. 

It still looks like a brilliant cinematic experience and I look forward to it, and I'll probably give it a high score but it already doesn't look anywhere near a 10/10 

 Hat Dude 17 Jan 2020
 Blue Straggler 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Hat Dude:

Fair enough. Certainly, if you're looking for consistently credible plot, you'll be disappointed. I did try to give a clue to this aspect by describing it as 'hallucinatory nightmare.' For instance, the airplane incident isn't really believable - but it doesn't half make you jump back in your seat! And I rather doubt there are such precipitous waterfalls anywhere on the rivers of Belgium/Northern France...

 Blue Straggler 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> And I rather doubt there are such precipitous waterfalls anywhere on the rivers of Belgium/Northern France...

This film sounds appalling!  

 Hat Dude 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

>  And I rather doubt there are such precipitous waterfalls anywhere on the rivers of Belgium/Northern France...

I was thinking the same as I watched

 Blue Straggler 18 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> Fair enough. Certainly, if you're looking for consistently credible plot, you'll be disappointed. I did try to give a clue to this aspect by describing it as 'hallucinatory nightmare.' For instance, the airplane incident isn't really believable - but it doesn't half make you jump back in your seat! And I rather doubt there are such precipitous waterfalls anywhere on the rivers of Belgium/Northern France...

Seen it now and it almost comes across as a superhero movie!

 Tony the Blade 19 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I also saw 1917 last night, I look forward to your review.

 Blue Straggler 19 Jan 2020
In reply to Tony the Blade:

I’m going to hold off for a week and give more people a chance to see it 

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Seen it now and it almost comes across as a superhero movie!


Sadly, there's no shortage of material if they want to make a number of sequels!

 Blue Straggler 19 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> Sadly, there's no shortage of material if they want to make a number of sequels!

They can only make one. 1918! They should have thought of that if they were going for the franchise  

 Offwidth 19 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

An unusual recommendation from me: a 'sort of romance' with a co-focus on the soul of making music. Far from faultless or original but charming all the same.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/begin_again_2013

Plus a cute NZ coming of age comedy...silly and mawkish  but somehow it works. 

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hunt_for_the_wilderpeople

Post edited at 23:45
 Blue Straggler 20 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I sort of enjoyed Begin Again, against all expectations, instinct and common sense. 
However I could not help feeling that it was more than a bit contrived and convenient (storywise) almost as if the whole thing were a fantasy. And as soon as it was over, I'd pretty much forgotten it. Which isn't a terrible criticism, a film can just be an escape for a couple of hours and it's allowed to be inconsequential fluff. I HATED "Once", so this was a sort of improvement on that. Presumably it was the success of Once, that attracted that top-level cast for Begin Again. 

I didn't find Hunt for the Wilderpeople very mawkish. Yes, a little bit toward the end (and also predictable) which is maybe emphasised by its contrast to the broad comedy that has come before. 

In reply to Blue Straggler:

I loved Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and last night saw Waititi's latest film, Jojo Rabbit. Which is equally brilliant but even more daring in its extreme humour (of a particular type). The satire is so extreme that it comes perilously close to collapsing at times into bathos, but never does (imo). It is almost as if Waititi has invented a new form of satire ... it's certainly not quite like any film I've seen before, though it has elements of Chaplin's Great Dictator, Kubrick's Dr Strangelove and Brooks' The Producers. It is a film that people will take either way, either loving or hating it. Sniffy, humourless Peter Bradshaw hated it, giving it one star. He completely missed the main point (the very clever premise) that the whole story, like H for the Wilderpeople, is seen through a child's eyes. For me it worked. At a completely different level, I find Waititi superb cinematographically, he is a master of the art form, and the sound track, particularly, is outstanding. It will be interesting to see what others here make of it.

 Blue Straggler 20 Jan 2020
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Good to hear that I am once again in disagreement with Peter Bradshaw and in agreement with you. I am not sure I'd go as far as "almost...inventing a new form of satire" but it was very good. I wrote about on the December thread which was a bit daft as the film was not on general release at that time, so here is a copy-and-paste. 

Jojo Rabbit, 8.5/10

Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, What We Do In the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok) adapts a novel I've not heard of, to very good effect. Comparisons to another recent adaptation "The Death of Stalin" are inevitable and fair, and hopefully complimentary. 
The trailer plays it as slapstick but the actual film does intersperse the silliness with plenty of well timed reminders of the horrors of the Second World War. 
(the premise is that our main character, a 10.5-year-old German boy, is struggling to grow up and fit in, excluded from the Hitler Youth by injury, and finds that his mother is harbouring an older Jewish girl). 
It is a strong story which does not spoon-feed the audience, the serious dialogue is wonderful, the comedy aspects are well done, and the two lead performances from Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin "Leave No Trace" McKenzie are spot on. Sam Rockwell does his (not unwelcome) Sam Rockwell routine, and Scarlett Johansson is rather good as the boy's sometimes mysterious mother. 
It does feel a little overlong at times and I am not sure whether "imaginary friend Hitler" really works that well - he's certainly in it more than I would have liked.

But overall very good stuff. A fair few reviews criticise it for pulling its punches, for being a bit toothless. I didn't feel this at all. 

General release in early January (I saw a preview)

In reply to Blue Straggler:

We seem to be in complete agreement on this. Your detailed review, in the points it makes, is very similar to one I might have written. Agree that it is as good as Death of Stalin, in a different way. Like you, the only criticisms i have are about the 'imaginary friend Hitler' (perhaps another actor, not the director, might have been able to pull it off ... but possibly the film would have worked just as well without it), and being slightly overlength (there were one or two strangely redundant scenes that had little to do with the story). As you say though, the reviews that said it pulled its punches are ridiculous. It certainly didn't pull its punch when JoJo kicked Hitler out of the window at the end

 Phil79 20 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

+ 1 for 1917.

Definitely worth a watch. The Wayfaring Stranger scene is haunting.

 Blue Straggler 21 Jan 2020

Bombshell. 

For some odd reason I am not inclined to give this a "marks out of ten" score, nothing to do with the film, just don't fancy it today. 

The film is very good and I am afraid it is going to get overlooked at least in the UK, as 1917 and David Copperfield will be drawing the attention (and Bombshell is quite an American story)

It's also incredibly topical and timely and politically charged (which probably puts Charlize Theron, possibly in her best performance  in years, out of the running in the Oscars). This is the story of the bringing-down of Roger Ailes who created and ran Fox News, on charges of sexual harrassment and misconduct.

Considering the sensitive subject matter and a complex tale weaving several narratives, it is incredibly watchable thanks to a breezy(*) screenplay by Charles Randolph, someone who knows how to pure exposition in dialogue without it sounding clunky (see: The Big Short). Superb performances from the ENTIRE ensemble cast, not just the three star leads, and deft editing. Plus one thing I really liked was that Jay Roach's directing was unintrusive and not showy - probably a deliberate move as it is a film about television and almost feels like it's been shot as television. 

Actually due to the marketing of this film as being "from the writer of The Big Short", I held off from seeing it at the weekend as I thought it was going to be as dense and detailed as that film and perhaps The Big Short's director Adam McKay's next one "Vice". Both great films but a bit demanding. Bombshell is less demanding for sure. 

My only little criticism is that it spends so long on the set-up, bringing us up to speed on the "toxic masculinity" mise-en-scene by using Megyn Kelly's infamous television interview with Donald Trump, that you can start to think that the film is going to be about Trump-bashing. Then Trump is of course sidelined and it becomes about Ailes. I think this aspect could have been better paced. This is a minor niggle though. 

 Pedro50 21 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Bombshell. 

Yes I saw it on it's UK release date. Four people in the cinema. Well worth seeing as above. 

 Blue Straggler 21 Jan 2020
In reply to Pedro50:

> Bombshell. 

> Yes I saw it on it's UK release date. Four people in the cinema. Well worth seeing as above. 

Oh God yeah I forgot to comment on the audience, aside from saying I fear the film might get overlooked. 

There were three of us in the cinema. Admittedly it was a Monday night but still....

Weirdly when I booked it online, where I have to allocate myself a seat, there were about 8 booked seats. So 5 people didn't turn up (possibly "Unlimited pass" holders who booked it and then got sidetracked and don't care cos it doesn't cost them any extra to not show up) but that seems a high proportion!)

 Tom V 21 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

"Can You Ever Forgive Me".

Weird but true tale about literary fraud, well acted.

Best thing about it though was the singing of Jeri Southern over the opening credits, new to me but stands comparison to Peggy Lee.

 Blue Straggler 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

That film could have been good...but wasn’t 

1
 Tom V 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I agree; in spite of my "well acted" comment I was surprised at the nominations.

 Blue Straggler 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> I agree; in spite of my "well acted" comment I was surprised at the nominations.

Grant was great, I'll "grant" the film that. 
But an unengaging minor story doesn't work as a film unless you at least have some sympathy for the lead characters. It was just dreary. I think I gave it a generous 5.5/10 because the period setting was spot on, and Grant was good, and for the first half of the film you had some hope that it would blossom into something engaging...

 Blue Straggler 22 Jan 2020
In reply to BnB:

> On successive nights on Amazon video:

> It's fun looking for scenes in common and musing about other tributes in Lynch's work to the Billy Wilder masterpiece.

Which other tributes to Sunset Boulevard exist in Lynch’s work? I am interested ! Without stretching things too far, that is (eg I would not include Twin Peaks starting with a major character dead, as Laura does not narrate Twin Peaks) 

 BnB 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Which other tributes to Sunset Boulevard exist in Lynch’s work? I am interested ! Without stretching things too far, that is (eg I would not include Twin Peaks starting with a major character dead, as Laura does not narrate Twin Peaks) 

Gordon Cole is the name of the prop manager who repeatedly calls to secure the loan of Desmond's car for the studio. It is also the name of the character played by Lynch in Twin Peaks

Apparently he screened Sunset Boulevard to the crew just before they shot Eraserhead.

The Lost Girl's prayer in Inland Empire ""Cast out this wicked dream that has seized my heart," is a quote from the silent movie footage of Norma Desmond and the scene is a clear copy.

Have you come up with any more in the mean time?

 Blue Straggler 22 Jan 2020
In reply to BnB:

Afraid not; I have seen Sunset Boulevard three times including once at the cinema but not at all in the past twenty years and I haven’t studied it. Also to my shame (as I have owned it for ages) I have not yet watched Inland Empire.

I know his references to Otto Preminger’s Laura (Twin Peaks Laura being a murdered woman around whom the plot is based, and the Mynah bird being called Waldo) 

 Offwidth 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/love_and_friendship

A delightfully funny film. I often feel Austen's qualities can get rather lost in the period decor and plot when converted to movies but just the opposite here. Some of the sharpest wit I've seen for a while in a movie and, as you say, straight from the writer's quill.

 Blue Straggler 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I thought Beckinsale was worth an Oscar nomination in Love and Friendship

 Blue Straggler 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I thought Beckinsale was worth an Oscar nomination in Love and Friendship

I'd certainly have given her one. 

 Tom V 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

What Did Jack Do?

Short David Lynch piece where a detective interviews a monkey accused of murder, although the little fellow's relationship with a chicken comes under just as much scrutiny.

It's only 17 minutes and has left me smiling anyway. Probably go down well in Hartlepool, too,

 Offwidth 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

She was superb.

From last night another impressive film: .a strange mix of genres with John Goodman on top form as an increasingly menacing survivalist. The twist at the end could have gone so badly wrong but worked for me ...a black humour joy.   

 https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10_cloverfield_lane

 Blue Straggler 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

It’s rare that a Mary Elizabeth Winstead film is uninteresting. When I first saw her (in Emilio Estevez’s 2006 film “Bobby” I incorrectly predicted REALLY big things for her; whilst she seems to be doing “ok” she sadly remains rather B-list when she should be in the Rachel McAdams league).

I  thought 10 Cloverfield Lane was far superior to the original Cloverfield film. 

Post edited at 08:52
 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

1917. Minor spoilers within, but nothing that will ruin the plot and story. 

I saw this more than a week ago but have held off on posting a review as I think it might be unpopular. 

This is a decent film. It is not the masterpiece that many are calling it, and I lay the blame for this entirely at the door of Sam Mendes and his rather childish big ego. There is no avoiding the "gimmick" that this film is set up to look almost as if it was a filmed in a single long shot. Even if you'd somehow missed the hype around this, you'll notice it in the first ten minutes. 
Not only does this fail to enhance the dramatic tension, it actually DISTRACTS from it as you either marvel at how they did it, or try to see the joins (quite a few easy-to-spot cuts in the first 15 minutes but happily I was then able to stop being so distracted and just try to enjoy the film).

The first long shot of Schofield and Blake, for instance, as they walk "against the flow" along the remarkably clean trench populated with remarkably clean well-groomed soldiers indulging in a remarkable array of "tick-box" trench activities (reading, writing a letter, shaving, rolling a cigarette) is a prime example of this. I've seen a critic of Werner Herzog describe Herzog's big follies as "cinematic masturbation". Mendes is taking this to new levels here. 

The real problem, however, with the "pretend it is two long shots", is that it condenses the timeline far too much. This would work OK if the film were more clearly presented as a sort of "dreamlike impossibility" (like the famous 6 minute tracking shot in Atonement, where James McAvoy kind of sees every aspect of the Second World War, all on one beach) but 1917 seems to want us to buy into it being tense and visceral. It's like an ill-advised mash-up of The Revenant and Darren Aronofsky's "mother!". 
A previous poster mentioned the "hallucinatory nightmare" aspect of it, and I'd been looking forward to that, but I didn't quite feel it. I just wish it had been one or the other (i.e. play it straight, or play it surreal). Sebastian Schipper managed to make his genuine one-shot feature film, Victoria, (2015) really use the gimmick to its benefit - the story was wafer thin but you did feel the momentum of it well enough, it did add some tension, without distraction.


Minor spoilers here....the film is 2 hours long, Blake and Schofield have to travel, iirc, 9 miles. From the lighting it appears to start at midday. By the time they are at a burning building it looks maybe late afternoon. A dusk scene in town. Then a proper time break of unknown length, and it is pitch black. I thought this was maybe midnight but after around 30 minutes of screentime, it is broad daylight again. with a sun apparently so bright and hot that it can completely dry off a heavy woolen coat that's been immersed in a cold river (a previous poster mentioned this). Again, fine if it is meant to be presented as fantasy (and maybe it is, given that our protagonist has the self-healing powers of Wolverine from the X-Men). 

Some positives. The cinematography is outstanding and despite my misgivings, I have to admit the choreography in the long shots does work well (I just would have preferred the gimmick to be removed, and allow some sensible cuts but still have fun with a few ten minute shots, similar to what Inarritu did with Birdman and The Revenant). George Mackay who is on screen for virtually the entire film, is brilliant - managing to actually act as well as make sure he's in the right place all the time in the long shots. It does have some gripping scenes too. 

Sadly the other main actor, Dean-Charles Chapman as Blake, is borderline awful. I had my suspicions even in the trailer as we see the two salute, and Blake looks to his right nervously. 
I maybe shouldn't blame Chapman, as there is another massive flaw to the film. The dialogue. My goodness, what an example of badly done, unsubtle exposition. Almost every line is there to handhold the audience through facts and figures about the war. Another distraction.

All that said, it's still good! 6.5/10. A whole 2.5 points higher than what I gave to Cats, so that's nice. 
 

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020

Ooh I have to say one more positive thing about 1917, and it is a surprising one as it is something I don't tend to like.

The Thomas Newman score is intrusive but in a weirdly very good way (I say "weird" because I remember finding the score in Joker to be too intrusive and spoiling the film).

Post edited at 11:07
 cb294 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I just saw that on TV and did not get it at all.

CB

 Tom V 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Square.

Excellent satirical piece , great to look at and very funny in places, worrying in others.

Its winning of the Palme D'Or a couple of years ago produced a fair degree of incredulity among critics but it's definitely worth a watch if you have 2 hours 20 mins to spare. Took me most of the film to realise the lead role was played by the new BBC Dracula. 

In reply to cb294:

> I just saw that on TV and did not get it at all.

Yeah. Not really aimed at Arnie fans ;) 

In reply to Tom V:

> The Square.

On my list. Have you seen Force Majeure, same director? Absolutely tremendous.

 Tom V 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

No, my first experience of him. Found it trawling through the Netflix "Critically Acclaimed" section.

Now I've just read the synopsis of Force Majeur it reminds me of a novel I've read but can't put a name or author to. Substitute plane crash for avalanche.

 cb294 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

OK, fair point....

I "get" the Arnie films, that's easy, they are brainless entertainment, just like watching the footie.

I also like serious films that try to convey a message or explore some aspect of the human condition, and I love science fiction (both films and books) especially when they are "serious" and not simply Cowboys and Indians in Space.

This one went right past me, though. No idea what that was about.

CB

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> On my list. Have you seen Force Majeure, same director? Absolutely tremendous.

I liked Force Majeure. I remember The Square coming out and it didn't appeal so much. 

They have just remade Force Majeure. Starring Will Ferrell and Julia-Louis Dreyfus! Hopefully they won't layer on the comedy too much - I really liked the relative proportions of comedy and drama in Force Majeure. 

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> Now I've just read the synopsis of Force Majeur it reminds me of a novel I've read but can't put a name or author to. Substitute plane crash for avalanche.

Reminded me of numerous Italian and Greek ferry and cruise ship captains who abandon the sinking ship "to better co-ordinate any rescues" 

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

> I just saw that on TV and did not get it at all.

I love The Lobster but I am aware that its style will just be annoying to some - the stilted line delivery etc. 

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> Now I've just read the synopsis of Force Majeur it reminds me of a novel I've read but can't put a name or author to. Substitute plane crash for avalanche.

Is it "The Survivor" by James Herbert?

 Tom V 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

No it's much more modern - husband and wife in (light ) plane crash in sea, he thinks she's dead so saves himself but she lives......

Edit: It's not After the Crash or Before the Fall

Post edited at 18:10
 Tom V 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

"The Blasphemer" by Nigel Farndale, excellent read, as is his later "The Road Between Us".

 Mark Edwards 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I found 1917 quite a good film but a few things did niggle me. After the event in the bunker – no major injuries and they could both hear immediately afterwards. I don’t think so. How come the farmhouse so close to the front line was still standing? Was the artilleries range really that limited? The people Scho met after the plane crash – how did they get their vehicles across no man’s land?

On the plus side, the segment where they slid down into the monster crater. The camera seems to traverse across the middle of the puddle. I thought that was nicely done.

The other big plus this weekend was finding that there was a series 4 of The Expanse. OK, it wasn’t great but looks like the start of another story arc. Am looking forward to see where that goes.

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> They have just remade Force Majeure. Starring Will Ferrell and Julia-Louis Dreyfus! Hopefully they won't layer on the comedy too much - I really liked the relative proportions of comedy and drama in Force Majeure. 

I think most people would disagree about where, and indeed if, there was comedy in the film. I did find it hilarious, sort of - only one part of me was laughing, and the rest of me was distraught! I have no idea why anyone would want to remake it, except like Funny Games, to do it note-for-note to get rid of of the subtitles.

In reply to cb294:

> I also like serious films that try to convey a message or explore some aspect of the human condition

The Lobster is a cruel assassination of all our society's ideas about romantic relationships. But then it goes one better, and turns on those who reject romance, and assassinates them too!  Genius.

 Blue Straggler 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mark Edwards:

My review was already lengthy and I didn’t want to give away too much so I spared the details of all the niggles (amusingly my phone just tried to autocorrect this to Biggles, it must know what we are writing about) but yes to all the above. This is exactly why it should have been played more “unreal”. Eg aside from being able to walk and hear ok, Schofield’s face and mouth and eyes recover very quickly from being filled with powdered limestone! You’d have stinging red eyes for a whole day! Etc etc etc 

but he is a superhero! Healing powers of Wolverine and time-shifting abilities of Dr Strange 

Post edited at 22:48
 Blue Straggler 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Parasite (2019)
Last year's Palme D'Or winner is reaching wide release carried on a wave of adulation and major awards nominations and wins aplenty. 
From Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho, who has been internationally acclaimed and celebrated for well over a decade, since his breakthrough major feature "The Host" caught a lot of attention. Personally I didn't engage with The Host, it felt very uneven in tone, an uneasy mix of black comedy and actual "monster horror" which didn't work well for me, however I put it down to "cultural differences" at the time (and my failing to understand the Korean approach). I haven't seen Bong's other work despite Snowpiercer and Okja getting quite wide releases. 

I rather liked Parasite but have somewhat mixed feelings about it, it is an odd one to form an opinion on.

I went to see this with zero knowledge of the story. Overall it seems intended as a depiction of huge disparities in class, as a poverty-stricken family gradually insert themselves into the home and lives of an incredibly wealthy family. It feels sometimes like a much better version of Jordan Peele's disappointing "Us". Plenty of black comedy and a nice balance to the characters - Bong has not made the poor family particularly saintly, nor has he made the rich family into caricatured snobs. I really liked this aspect, FOR A WHILE. 
Where it started to fall down for me a little, was in the last 30 minutes. Again (as per The Host) I wonder if this is my problem (cultural differences). The black comedy is mostly turned off, and a conventional film would ramp up sympathy for one of the households, and you might come away from the film feeling that you've seen some development and perhaps been delivered a narrative message. Maybe Bong is being bold in not spoon-feeding us a conventional narrative like that, but I felt a little short-changed (and the film IS overlong). It seems to aim for a rather poetic ending that reminded me of the beautiful coda to Spike Lee's "The 25th Hour", but it didn't quite work here. There are a couple of minor plot niggles too but I won't detail them.

HOWEVER I'll stick with my "I rather liked it". For a relatively simple story, the ensemble acting is exquisite and the cinematography and editing are first rate, as is the dialogue. Well worth a look but not quite the thought-provoking masterpiece that some are claiming. 
7.5/10
 

 Offwidth 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Snowpiercer is free to view on film4 tomorrow evening (I've set it to record as its our group boulder and pub night )

Watched All is Lost last night which was fabulous minimalistic movie that was only a little spoilt by the ending.  I'd say it's of special interest to nearly all climbers as it both celebrates the endurance of the human spirit when facing risk alone and illustrates how urgent decisions can cascade into deep trouble when in risky suroundings. 

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/all_is_lost_2013

 Blue Straggler 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

What I liked most about the minimalism in All Is Lost, was the total lack of back story for the lead character, leaving the audience to choose whether they particularly want to feel sympathetic. 

One of my "films of the year" for 2019 was a very different solo sailing film, Styx. Definitely see it if you get a chance. Seems like obvious fare for film4. 


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