Archive for the ‘Film reviews’ Category

Fisherman’s Friends

Posted: April 18, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Chris Foggin. Starring Daniel Mays, James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton.

11040078-6814059-image-a-53_1552663589716

When jaded music exec Danny (Mays) accompanies his friends on a stag weekend Cornwall, the group chance upon an acapella male singing group composed of fisherman living in the scenic village of Port Isaac. The group sing sea shanties and May’s boss, Troy (Noel Clarke sporting a slightly odd accent) convinces Danny that the group could be a hit, and leaves him behind in Port Isaac to sign them up.

Little realising that Troy is playing a prank, Danny begins to try and woo the group, called the Fisherman’s Friends, but this doesn’t prove easy, especially when one of their number, Jim (Purefoy) is a cantankerous sort who distrusts outsiders. Danny perseveres and takes up residence in the bed and breakfast run by Jim’s daughter Alwyn (Middleton).

Initially disdainful of village life, Danny grows fond of Port Isaac and Alwyn, but can he get the girl and make Fisherman’s Friends a hit against all the odds?

Well, what do you think?

At the beginning the film happily informs you that this is based on a true story, and it is, up to a point, although quite a bit of artistic licence has been taken because as far as I can tell there were no burned out record execs involved, but hey it said based on, right.

Fisherman’s Friends can be viewed as a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, or as a cynical and cheesy attempt to cash in on a heart-warming tale of adversity and unlikely success, and how you react to the film might depend on which side of the fence you fall. For me I think the film, at times, manages to be both. It’s machine tooled to tug your heartstrings, and successful city boy learns to appreciate a simpler life is hardly an original story, nor is band of ordinary blokes become a success (just replace the sea shanties with brass bands or male stripping) and yet somehow Fisherman’s Friends enchanted me more than it annoyed me.

Maybe it’s a good cast, solid direction, a decent script and great locations, or maybe it just caught me on the right day, but I liked it.

153814736-f26ea27c-5f4f-441a-b182-4f3edc7db31f

Mays makes for a slightly unlikely romantic lead, but he does dodgy wide-boy and befuddled man child equally well, and his romance with Alwyn feels natural. Middleton sells the stubborn single mum to a tee, even if you sort of wish she’d been given a bit more to do, but she has nice interplay with both Mays and Purefoy, and really in many ways Purefoy is the star of the show as the grizzled and grumpy alpha male of the Fisherman’s Friends. The rest of the cast are good and the actual Fisherman’s Friends all cameo which lends authenticity to the musical numbers.

Yes it’s predictable, yes it jettisons realism in favour of noble Cornish stereotypes, and yes it’s probably a touch too long—it does drag a little which given the running time is a little worrying—with a few scenes that could have easily been trimmed, but it’s heart’s in the right place, its cast are engaging and it made me laugh far more than I expected it to.

I just have one question…

What should we do with the drunken sailor?

DfKgV6gW0AAfaPU.jpg

Advertisements

Shazam!

Posted: April 17, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by David F. Sandberg. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer.

Capture

When he was a small child, 14 year old Billy Batson (Angel) got separated from his mother at the fair and he’s been searching for her ever since, running away from countless foster homes and using all manner of dubious methods to try and track his mom down.

After a run in with the police he’s placed in a group foster home run by former foster kids Victor and Rosa (The Walking Dead’s Cooper Adams and Marta Milans). He initially balks at the family atmosphere, but does make friends with Freddy (Grazer) a disabled boy who’s the same age as him.

After a run in with some bullies at school, Billy escapes on the subway, but finds himself yanked into another world where an aged magician named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) on the verge of dying confers magical powers on Billy. He’s been searching for a worthy champion for many years, but he has no more time to search.

After saying the wizard’s name Billy is transformed into an adult superhero version of himself (Levi) complete with hokey costume. Back in the real world Billy learns he can switch between forms simply by uttering the word “Shazam!” and once he confides in Freddy the two begin to have fun with the fact that not only does Billy have super powers now, but he’s also an adult which might be even more useful to a couple of teenage boys.

The trouble is, Billy isn’t the only super powered guy in town, Doctor Thaddeus Sivana (Strong) failed Shazam’s tests when he was a boy and has coveted the wizard’s power ever since. Now, imbued with the power of the seven deadly sins in demonic form, he want’s Billy’s power, and he’ll do anything to get it. Can Billy justify Shazam’s faith in him?

shazam!-trailer-gq-1

It feels like DC have been playing catchup with Marvel in the film stakes for years, and whilst Man of Steel was ok, and Wonder Woman genuinely good, they’ve produced some absolute stinkers (I’m looking at you Suicide Squad)  and some overly pretentious, bloated “epics” featuring Batman and Superman. So when it was announced that their latest superhero film was going to be Shazam!, there was a slight suspicion the powers that be at DC might have gone nuts.

Or maybe they’ve come to their senses, because Shazam! Is a joyous hoot from start to finish, with a smart script, great performances and genuine heart. I probably haven’t had this much sheer fun at the cinema since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle came out.

In so many ways this film is a throwback to a bygone era. It might not be set in the 1980s, but be under no illusions, this is a film that could have quite easily been made in that decade. There’s flashes of The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and, most obviously, Big (watch out for a lovely little homage to that film) plus the Philadelphia setting lends itself to some Rocky homages too.

In some respects it’s amazing it works, the premise is as hokey as the titular hero’s costume (I say titular but he’s never actually referred to as Shazam, and fun fact, back in ye olden days he was actually Captain Marvel) and this could have gone off the rails in so many ways. Make the kids younger and it would have been even sillier, make them older and too much teen angst would have got in the way, but in targeting that 14/15 year old not quite on the cusp of adulthood sweet spot, director Sandberg and screenwriter Henry Gayden have created a story that appeals to all ages.

As Billy’s adult alter ego Levi is of course the star of the show, channelling his inner man  child to accurately portray how a teenage boy might well act upon finding himself in a super ripped adult body that comes complete with a suite of super powers, but he never overdoes things—again you can see how certain actors might have ruined the part.

As his foil, Strong is smart enough to know just how much scenery to chew whilst still allowing Dr Sivana to be a larger than life nemesis.

Shazam-Asher-Angel-Birthday-DC.jpg

Really though, it’s the child actors who make this. As Billy, Angel shows true pathos as a boy damaged by his abandonment, desperate to belong but too proud to let himself become part of any new family when he’s still searching for his birth mother. The real standout though is Grazer as the smart and sassy kid who could effortlessly step into a film like Goonies and look right at home. A comic book nerd who’s living with a disability he’s enraptured with his new super powered buddy, but this also means he begins to become disillusioned with him. Grazer’s greatest strength however is that he seamlessly partners up with both Angel and Levi, selling the illusion that they’re the same person.

The script is sharp and smart without ever feeling the need to be too adult, in many ways this film is closer in tone to Deadpool than anything else, if you extracted most of the swearing and violence of course. Which isn’t to say Shazam! never ventures into darker places, it just doesn’t hang around too long when it does.

I’ve heard some complaints that the film is too long, but I didn’t find it so. Maybe the final showdown goes on a tad too long, and threatens to get a little too preposterous, but I’m clutching at straws to find fault with this film. Laugh out loud funny, with a great cast and excitement aplenty this may not give us anything startlingly new, it may not be deep and meaningful, it isn’t the best film of the year, and it may play a little like it was written in 1987, but for sheer unapologetic enjoyment this is 10 out of 10.

Role on Shazam!2…

maxresdefault.jpg

Us

Posted: March 31, 2019 in Film reviews, horror, science fiction
Tags:

Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker.

us_movie_the_tethered_explained.jpg

In 1986 Adelaide Thomas holidays in Santa Cruz with her parents. One evening she wanders away from the boardwalk and enters a hall of mirrors where she encounters her doppelgänger. The experience is so traumatising that for a time she becomes mute and has to undergo therapy.

In the present-day Adelaide (Nyong’o) returns to Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Duke) daughter Zora (Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Alex). Adelaide is nervous, still haunted by events that happened as a child, but she tries to put these aside and enjoy the trip. Once there they meet up with their friends Kitty and Josh (Moss and Heidecker) and their twin daughters.

When Jason gets lost on the beach Adelaide panics. That night she explains to Gabe about her childhood trauma. He’s convinced that all she saw was her own reflection, but then the children tell them there’s a family standing in the driveway. It soon becomes clear that the family in the driveway are their doppelgängers, and they’re very, very angry…

 

In 2017 Peele’s Get Out took everyone by surprise, a smart satire that was made for peanuts yet made millions. It was Peele’s directorial debut and it immediately cemented his reputation as both a writer and director. It was clear he’d have no trouble securing the green light for any kind of follow up he wanted, and people were eager to see what he’d do next, certainly I was. I had a few issues with Get Out, it was smidgen too funny in places underscoring the dread, but on the whole it was great; original and with something to say about race.

us-movie-1553126874.jpgSad to say therefore that I came out of Us a little disappointed. If Get Out was a taut, clever film that mostly balanced scares and laughs, Us is a sprawling mess that often veers too far towards comedy and was rarely as creepy as it could have been, worst than this though, where Get Out had a great central idea and ran with it, Us feels too much like Peele has thrown as many ideas as he can against a wall, and whilst some of them stick, too many slide down to the floor.

One can’t fault the cast however, and each of them is excellent in dual roles, especially Nyong’o and Wright Joseph, with Nyong’o doing most of the heavy lifting as the leader of the ‘Tethered’. She’s superb, and they really do feel like different people, a loving mother and a malevolent attacker.

Some of the funniest moments in Get Out came courtesy of Lil Rel Howery’s TSA agent Rod, and in Us, Winston Duke takes on a similar role. He’s very funny, of course its debatable whether he should be quite as funny as he is, and that’s part of the problem with the film, because at times its so funny that it does kind of undercut the tension. Take the moment the family start comparing kill scores for example. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need that in horror, it’s just here it’s all very broad, and much like Rod in Get Out, at times it feels like Gabe is in a different film.

As a side note if they ever decide to gender swap the Joker, Elisabeth Moss has to be considered!

us_movie_references_jordan_peele_influences.jpg

Peele has a good eye, and there’s some good imagery at work here, lots of reflections and use of shadows to reinforce the notion of duality, he directs humour very well and he does direct some creepy moments; that said it says something when probably the creepiest moment in the film is in the first ten minutes when young Adelaide visits the hall of mirrors. Peele can also clearly write well, his dialogue and characterisations feel real. The problem is the plot, and whilst it’s a curious thing to say, this is a film that gives us too much information, but at the same time too little. Peele’s said he has a whole mythology created for the world of the Tethered, and this clearly shows, but in trying to show off some of this mythology, whilst maintaining an air of mystery, the film falls between two stools.

There’s some disturbing imagery on view in the world of the Tethered, but by showing it Peele prompts more questions that he then provides answers for (where do the jumpsuits and scissors come from, how can people survive just on rabbit, how do the Tethered know exactly where to find their above ground doubles?) and the longer the film goes on the more preposterous it becomes and the more you have to suspend your disbelief. Suspending disbelief is something I do quite well, I’m a sci-fi/horror fan so it comes with the territory, but Peele demands too much and the final act really did have me saying “seriously?” That said one of the central twists is nicely done and does work.

jordan-peele-us-movie-first-trailer-01-320x180It is intriguing, and Peele does clearly have something to say about the American underclass rising up—and it’s surely no surprise that they wear red, there’s a clear allusion to Trump supporters here, and Us also means US, but whilst this might have worked well as a 45 minute Twilight Zone style episode (and I’m still looking forward to Peele’s TZ reboot) that gets in and out before you have time to consider the ramifications, at almost two hours this film gives you far too much time to think and notice plot holes.

I didn’t hate it, and I will watch it again, knowing what kind of film it is going in might mean it goes up in my estimation, but on first viewing it’s ok but nothing special. There could have been a creepier, tauter film here. Less is more, but in the case of Us I’m afraid More is less.

 

Captain Marvel

Posted: March 19, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law.

captain-marvel-plane

Far from Earth, on the Kree home world of Hela, Starforce member Vers (Larson) struggles with curious visions of her past, she also struggles to control the special abilities she possesses. Her mentor Yon-Rogg (Law) tries to help her channel this power.

During a mission to rescue an undercover operative Vers is captured by Skulls, shapeshifting aliens who are the sworn enemy of the Kree. The Skrull leader Talos (Mendelsohn) subjects Vers to a memory probe, dredging up memories of a woman named Dr. Wendy Lawson (Benning). Vers escapes from her captors and steals a fighter. She flies to the nearest planet, which turns out to be Earth. Fearing Earth will be infiltrated by Skrulls, Vers attempts to stop Talos and his soldiers, and in the process runs into SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Gregg). When Vers and Fury team up, the trail to Dr. Wendy Lawson also leads to a missing air force pilot named Carol Danvers, who looks a lot like Vers…

Captain-Marvel-Mind-Wipe-Kree.jpg

And so, more than a decade after the Marvel Cinematic Universe got started, we finally get a female led Marvel superhero film. Sadly it isn’t a Black Widow film, but hey, maybe one day. Not for the first time in recent years, Captain Marvel arrives with a whole heap of online trash talk, in the same way the Ghostbusters reboot and Wonder Woman did, and it’s a shame some men can’t accept a woman in a title role but hey, quality usually wins out, as it did with Wonder Woman, and already Captain Marvel seems to be a huge hit. Nice going misogynists!

Captain Marvel arrives in the slot that last year gave us Black Panther, and whilst I don’t think it’s as good as Black Panther, it’s still a hugely enjoyable film from a stable that, lets be honest, rarely slips up these days. Unlike Black Panther, Captain Marvel isn’t an epic tale, it’s something altogether more personal, but that’s no bad thing, and it’s nice that Marvel are shaking things up a little, let’s be honest, we’re going to have plenty of city smashing come Avengers Endgame.

The film has an important message about female empowerment, but also has something to say about refugees, and it’s nice when a film surprises you, and in several respects Captain Marvel did. Are the girl power elements a trifle heavy handed at times, maybe, or maybe that’s just how I saw it as a bloke, did they ever overshadow the story, or my enjoyment? Not at all, in fact No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl playing over a fight scene just made it more impressive.

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)Anyone who’s seen Larson in anything knows how good an actress she is, but she’s also embraced the physicality of the role, training for nine months and it shows, and her performance is interesting because Danvers isn’t some unrealistically perfect character, she’s flawed. Larson seems to be channelling more than a hint of Tom Cruise circa Top Gun, and much like Maverick, Danvers is something of a renegade, a fly by the sear of your pants, impetuous, fools rush in kind of character, and occasionally she’s a little annoying, but in a good way; it proves she’s real.

The Top Gun comparisons don’t end there of course, given there’s a cat named Goose who damn near steals the film!

Jackson’s been playing Nick Fury for a while now, but it must be challenging having to play a character who’s 25 years younger! The de-aging effects used on Jackson (and Gregg) are eerily good. There was a moment, when both men first show up, when it seemed jarring, but frankly after a minute or two I forgot I wasn’t just watching Samuel L Jackson circa 1995, and Jackson gives one of his most engaging performances for quite some time. This Nick Fury’s a lot of fun, and Jackson and Larson bounce off each other so well that you’d sign up for another buddy movie in a flash.

samuel-l-jackson-nick-fury-1552637633

Mendelsohn is also very good, Talos has a lot of the film’s finnier moments, and it’s credit to Mendelsohn that he imbues Talos with so much character, not always easy under so much latex (just ask Christopher Eccleston). It’s nice to see Benning in a dual role, and Law is impressively stoic. As Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau, Lashana Lynch is good value, and injects much needed humanity into the film, because she’s the one we can relate to. There’s also Hounsou and Pace reprising their roles from the first Guardians of the Galaxy films, and of course as a fan of Marvel Agents of SHIELD it’s always nice to see Clark Gregg, even if his de-aging never seems quite as convincing as Jackson’s.

Culture_CaptainMarvel_Skrulls

The special effects are top notch, and the film’s very funny, with Larson, Jackson, Mendelsohn and, er, the cat getting most of the funny stuff. Where it falls down somewhat is in the plot. There’s a lot jammed into the film, especially in the opening scenes where we’re in space, dealing with aliens with crazy names. This can work, just see Guardians of the Galaxy, but for me, this part of the film struggled. Luckily Danvers is soon on Earth and her buddy/buddy romp with Jackson can get started.

The 90s setting is overdone on occasion, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with pagers and painfully slow computers, and the 90s soundtrack is very nicely put together.

If I have a problem with Captain Marvel it’s the same issue I have with most incredibly powerful superheroes (see also Superman) in that once she embraces her gifts near the end she seems a little too powerful, but that’s just me, I prefer my heroes more vulnerable (Spidey, Bats, Black Widow etc) I’m also hoping Marvel haven’t chosen now to spring her on us just so she can thwart Thanos in a month’s time.

All in all, this maybe isn’t quite the classic some are claiming it to be, but that doesn’t stop it being a hugely enjoyable romp, featuring characters I can’t wait to see more of.

Goose is gonna be in Avengers Endgame, right?

Oh, and stay right to the end of the credits. It’s a throwaway joke but still a very funny one.

Marvel(lous)

Capture

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Posted: February 16, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Mike Mitchell. Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Tiffany Haddish.

lego_movie_2-_still_6_-_publicity-h_2019

After the events of the first film, Finn has won the right to play with his dad’s Lego, but the caveat is that his younger sister Bianca has to as well.

Inside the Lego universe the city of Bricksburg is attacked by giant Duplo invaders. As the years pass these attacks continue, to the point where Bricksburg becomes post-apocalyptic wasteland named Apocalypseburg, and all things cute and colourful are frowned upon lest they draw down the invaders. The only one who hasn’t changed is Emmet (Pratt) who retains his upbeat, everything is awesome attitude, much to the despair of his friend Lucy (Banks). When he builds a cute dream house out in the desert Lucy fears this will attract another attack. Emmet is worried about a dream he’s had about an apocalyptic event named “Our-Mom-Ageddon”.

When a Duplo attack, led by General Sweet Mayhem (Brooklyn 99’s Stephanie Beatriz) rains destruction on Apocalypseburg, Lucy blames Emmet. Mayhem kidnaps Lucy, along with Batman (Arnett) and others to take back to the Systar System where a marriage is planned.

Untitled12.jpg

Emmet tries to rally support but no one will help him, so he heads for the Systar System alone. He doesn’t get very far before encountering difficulties, but is saved by rugged action hero Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) who offers to help, and encourages Emmet to become less of a doormat.

Meanwhile in the Systar System a portentous marriage edges ever closer, as does the threat of Our-Mom-Ageddon. Can Emmet and Lucy save the day, or is it time to put aside childish things?

 

The original Lego movie was a surprise hit, so surprising that I have to admit that I didn’t see it at the cinema. With a wry script, great animation and a decent cast it rose above it’s lame toy tie in potential to becomes a hugely enjoyable film. Since then we’re had the excellent Lego Batman film and the Lego Ninjago Movie, so the first thing to say is that obviously the surprise element of the first film’s assuredly gone this time, so it’s to its credit that the film is still as enjoyable and funny as it is, a sequel that’s overall as good as the first film, albeit one that’s not as good in some areas but better in others. So the plot is a trifle more contrived and convoluted, but on the upside the slightly mawkish ‘real world’ element of the first film is softened somewhat, mostly down to a great cameo appearance.

Setting aside the animation and the voice cast, the true architects, master builders if you will, of this film are writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and I can’t help but wonder what their Solo would have looked like. The film’s is chock full of wit and great dialogue, and manages to impart a good message about tolerance for others’ ideas without tripping into clunky, He-Man style moralising.

Untitled1Pratt is good in a duel role, Banks is excellent and Haddish is wonderfully sinister Watevra Wa-Nabi, shape shifting alien queen. Yet again it’s Arnett who threatens to steal the show as Batman though.

The visuals are amazing, although as with the other Lego films, sometimes there’s so much going on that it can get a touch overawing and cluttered, as with the other Lego movies, it’s a film that will benefit from multiple viewings because there’ll be loads of visual jokes you miss the first time around; in particular I loved Rex Dangervest’s raptor buddies (complete with amusing subtitles.)

Visually overpowering at times, and the shift when you have to reappraise everything you’ve seen so far doesn’t quite hang together well enough, but this is a film with its heart in the right place, it looks gorgeous and oozes wit. Throw in a voice cast at the top of their game and everything is still awesome because this is a film that fits together as well as Lego bricks.  I don’t really see where they can take this with a third entry however.

Untitled

 

Glass

Posted: February 2, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson and Samuel L. Jackson.

glass

What the Beastie Boys look like now will shock you!

Since being nicknamed ‘The Horde’, the multitude of personalities that inhabit Kevin Wendall Crumb (McAvoy) have kidnapped four cheerleaders, and plan to sacrifice them to Kevin’s ultimate personality, the inhumanly strong entity known as ‘The Beast’. On his trail however is vigilante David Dunn (Willis), a man with his own special powers, he is incredibly strong and can sense the guilt in people he touches. When he brushes past Kevin (who’s possessed by 9 year old Hedwig at the time) David sees the girls chained up. David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) who acts as his support via radio, manages to identify the building David saw in his vision.

David arrives in time to save the girls, and then confronts the Beast, but when the police arrive both David and Kevin are arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital where Elijah Price (Jackson) the man who caused the original train crash that David was the only survivor of, and a man who named himself Mr Glass due to his brittle bones, is also a resident.

Soon David, Kevin and Elijah meet Dr Ellie Staple (Paulson) a psychiatrist who specialises is delusions of grandeur, and very specifically people with the delusion of being superheroes. Ellie explains she has just a few days to convince the men that their belief is a delusion, or else surgery will be required.

Can Ellie convince the three that they’re not superpowered after all, or has she made a huge miscalculation that could cost thousands of lives?

MV5BYThjNGI1YTctNDI4Yi00NzdkLTk2ZWItZWUzMzdjMDE2ODZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXRodW1ibmFpbC1pbml0aWFsaXplcg@@._V1_

With a tiny budget Die Hard 6 had to rely on John McClane fighting terrorists in a single room

And so we reach the finale of a curious trilogy that began way back in 2000 with Unbreakable (arguably Shyamalan’s best film) and unexpectedly continued via the surprise 2017 hit Split. Of course, Split was only a very loose sequel to Unbreakable, with little more than a Willis cameo to tie it all together, but Glass works much better as a sequel to both films.

Shyamalan is a divisive director. The Sixth Sense is very good, but did set the tone for him producing genre pictures complete with a shocking (or not) twist, and the law of diminishing returns kicked in, which each film ending up with a sillier resolution than the last. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Signs, or The Village, but they were films that fell apart if you gave them much thought. Shyamalan also generated complaints of pretentiousness with The Lady and the Water. For me the nadir was The Happening, a hilarious film, but one that, given its subject matter, really shouldn’t have been so laugh out loud funny. Even at his most ludicrous I had faith in Shyamalan to deliver chills (think Haley Joel Osment menaced by ghosts in his apartment, or Bryce Dallas Howard stalked through the woods), but the Happening wasn’t remotely scary. Soon Shyamalan was reduced to directing for hire. The Visit in 2015 garnered some good reviews, but it was Split that really got people talking again, and which prompted Glass.

It’s a curious film, one that does harken back somewhat to Shyamalan’s earlier work, but one that’s too flawed to be anywhere near as good as something like the Sixth Sense or Unbreakable. The gap between the first and second film doesn’t help (for example I’d forgotten about David’s water related vulnerability) and at times some of the acting and dialogue is very clunky, and there are some curious narrative choices into the bargain.

And yet I liked it. No it isn’t perfect, and yes it’s probably at its strongest in the middle portion of the film, but kudos to Shyamalan for giving us something a little different, even if it never feels quite as good as it should be. And you know, I didn’t see the twist (and yes there is one, of course) coming, which is something else in its favour.

Review-GlassAs with Split the strongest part of the film is McAvoy. It must be an actor’s dream to play so many different characters within the same film, and credit must be given to Shyamalan as writer and director here as well. Sure some of the personalities seem ropier than others, but on the whole it’s a masterful acting display, especially given that he often has to seamlessly switch between characters in the same scene, and given that he has to be capable of being both sympathetic victim, and monstrous predator by turn. Surely sooner or later the guy’s going to have to win an Oscar?

It’s nice to see Willis back, and it’s nice to see him not just phoning it in, and if he seems a bit peripheral at times I don’t think it’s Willis’ fault that Shyamalan clearly wants to play more with the villains. I do wish he’d had more of a role to play however, but it is nice to see him giving a damn again.

Jackson does that thing, as with Django, of making you remember there was a time before he just played Samuel L Jackson. Elijah is terrifyingly intelligent, and scarily manipulative, and as with McAvoy he does make you feel a smidgen of sympathy for the character—the flashback to him as a child is incredibly wince inducing.

image2

I’m a big fan of Sarah Paulson and she does the best she can with what could have been a very two-dimensional role. She’s such a good actress that she does manage to play Staple as warm caregiver one moment, and cold clinician the next.

Also returning from Split is Anya Taylor-Joy, who has an important role to play, but really serves as little more than a plot point, as do Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph and Charlayne Woodard returning as Elijah’s mum.

It’s mostly well shot, although some of the camera work intended to put us in the middle to fight scenes felt jarring. Its biggest problem though is scale. In trying to make an epic superhero film on an indie budget the result can’t hep but come off as somewhat underwhelming, especially when we’re teased a far more spectacular finale than we actually get. Sure, Shyamalan made it work in Unbreakable, but that was almost twenty years ago, before Marvel, DC, Fox etc gave us a plethora of big budget superhero films, and before the genre was really given a self-referential makeover. In 2000 Unbreakable was something different, in 2019 Glass is far less unique, and even feels a trifle hackneyed in places.

But despite that it’s enjoyable enough hokum, and though it’s not the sequel to Unbreakable I’d hoped for, I for one am glad we finally got one.

maxresdefault

McAvoy’s got a crush on you!

Stan & Ollie

Posted: January 24, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Jon S. Baird. Starring Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson.

stan-and-ollie

In 1937, and at the height of their fame Stan Laurel (Coogan) and Oliver “Babe” Hardy (Reilly) struggle with their boss Hal Roach over their contracts. Stan wants the two of them to jump ship and get a new deal somewhere else, but whilst his contract is up for renewal, Babe is tied to Roach and chooses instead to allow himself to be paired with another comic in a film about an elephant, much to Stan’s dismay, and, although the two will eventually reunite, this causes friction between them.

In 1953, and with their glory days far behind them, the duo embark on a music hall tour of Britain in order to make some money whilst they work on new material for a Robin Hood film. Whilst the tour is initially greeted by lukewarm crowds, after prompting by their promoter Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones) and despite Babe’s obvious health issues, the two agree to a gruelling series of public appearances, and the crowds improve.

Joined by their wives Lucille Hardy (Henderson) and Ida Laurel (Arianda) the tour continues to be a success, but with Babe’s health an issue, and increasing uncertainty over the future of the movie, old wounds reopen and fractures in the partnership are created that may never be healed.

static1.squarespace.com

The tour takes its toll

Let’s get the “negatives” out of the way first. This isn’t a film that will surprise you, there are no twists, not even an antagonist really, unless age or the fickle nature of fame count. It’s a lean film that at times feels a trifle lightweight.

All of that is true, but none of that stops Stan & Ollie from being truly glorious.

I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy on the telly with my dad, he loved them to bits and so it has to be said that I was perhaps predisposed to love this film anyway, but I think it could have failed miserably if it hadn’t been made with a good heart, and this film clearly was. It glorifies Laurel and Hardy without ever deifying them. They’re flawed men, each with their vices, and each with failed marriages in their wake, yet they’re both fully rounded, believable character you can empathise with, and they clearly have great affection for each other, despite, as they say, being two men who were just thrown together by Hal Roach because one was fat and the other skinny.

Coogan and Reilly are superb. Their mannerisms are spot on, and their chemistry is joyful to behold. Of the two I think Coogan shades it, if only because Reilly is ever so slightly hampered by his prosthetics at times, whilst Coogan has a bit more freedom, but much like the originals, it wouldn’t matter how good one was if the other wasn’t up to snuff, and this is a film of partnerships—and not just the partnership between Stan and Ollie, there’s also the partnership of Stan and Ida, and Babe and Lucille, and in fact the pairing of Lucille and Ida, and however good Coogan and Reilly are, and however much this is their film, credit must go to Henderson and  Arianda for their performances because both women are excellent, each playing a woman fiercely loyal to her husband, and fiercely dismissive of the other,  and frankly if someone wanted to make a prequel from the perspective of their ocean crossing to get to England, with the two women sparring the whole time, I’d pay good money to see it.

2_7_7_1295277_stanollie_927374

Two double acts for the price of one.

The direction and set design are wonderful, evoking 1950s’ Britain to a tee, and whilst probably lost on US audiences, the running gag about Norman Wisdom did make me laugh, and this is a film full of laughs, albeit many of them are very gentle, and quite melancholic.

The script is touching without ever veering towards oversentimentality, and it really sneaks up on you. I didn’t expect to be fighting back tears at the end, but blimey if this film didn’t hit me everywhere it counted, and I only wish my dad could have seen it. I think he’d have liked it too.

Funny, sad, sweet and just plain beautiful, this is a loving tribute to a great double act. Sure, it could have been longer, but then so could Stan and Ollie’s career, and as the axiom goes, always leave them wanting more…

Unit stills photography