What I’ve been watching in January

La La Land

1Although I’ll happily acknowledge its faults, I was still taken in by La La Land, like so many others. I was almost put off in the first scene by some dizzying and relentless camerawork which actually made me feel a bit queasy. Thankfully, things calmed down and, although the whirling long shots returned on occasion, I was able to sit back and enjoy the songs.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for days – I love all the songs and the beautiful instrumental themes, made all the more impressive by the fact Ryan Gosling learnt jazz piano for the film. He and Emma Stone are wonderful together, yet again, and though the story can be rather bittersweet it is a totally joyful ride. I’d happily watch this again very soon.

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Movie Review: Sully

Although it’s not out in the UK until December, I saw an advanced screening of Sully while I was in New Zealand and am now happy to rave about it back home.

Sully’s central drama is the 2009 emergency water landing on the Hudson River of US Airways Flight 1549 by pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the subsequent investigation into the event.


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What I’ve been watching in April/May…



I’ve been a Stephen King fan for many years, but I haven’t actually read this book yet (there’s a copy from the Waterloo book market in a pile next to my bed). I unusually decided it would be fine to go ahead and watch the TV show first, mostly because I’d heard good things coming over from America and also because of the involvement of James Franco, JJ Abrams and King himself.

The show follows Franco as he goes back in time through an anomalous time portal to try and save JFK from assassination and hopefully change the world for the better. I’m happy to say I found it totally gripping and addictive, unbelievably tense in places, and also incredibly well acted. I loved it so much that now I really want to read the book just so I can live through that intense plot again.

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Captain America: Civil War – why I’m Team Iron Man

CW_Poster_01Since Iron Man launched the Marvel Universe as we know it in 2008, 10 more MCU movies have built up to this moment: Captain America: Civil War.

After the destruction brought down upon various cities during The Avengers’ battles with bad guys – New York in The Avengers and Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron to name but two – Tony Stark (Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr) begins to feel guilty as he is accosted by the mother of a bright young man killed when a building was dropped on him. And so Tony advocates the Sokovia Accords, a bill endorsed by the United Nations which would control when The Avengers are utilised.

However Steve Rogers (Captain America/Chris Evans) takes umbrage with the removal of free choice for The Avengers in their missions and refuses to sign. The division becomes more pronounced when he helps wanted fugitive and childhood best friend Bucky (the Winter Soldier/Sebastian Stan), ending up with two teams of Avengers going at it, each believing they are right.

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Deadpool: Gory superhero fun

Deadpool is not your normal superhero movie. It’s a 15, for one thing. Warning: the amount of blood and gore certainly justifies that!

It’s also more juvenile and cheeky (read: crude) than most. I’ve seen this as a criticism in many reviews, but although it’s not the most enjoyable thing about the film, it doesn’t mar it as much as many have said. These jokes are a presence in the movie but don’t really take away from everything else great that’s going on.

And what’s going on is that Ryan Reynolds, People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2010 as meta-referenced in the movie, plays Wade Wilson. Wilson becomes extremely un-handsome when he gets terminal cancer in his liver, lungs, prostrate and brain and is tempted into an underground lab where he is promised he will be cured and turned into a superhero. But, as he later finds out, it’s more like super slave…

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Spotlight – Worthy Award-Winner

As a journalist, Spotlight is inspirational. For a non-journo, I suspect it is just as fascinating and perhaps scarier as they can see how hard it can be to tell such an important truth.

The film follows the Boston Globe’s investigative team of four, Spotlight, during 2001 as they are assigned a new story by the paper’s incoming editor, a hard-lined Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). That story is the Catholic Church’s decades-long systematic cover-up of child abuse by priests in Boston.

They start thinking small, just a handful of priests, but each new discovery is a shock, even knowing what we know today. This means that despite the fairly static, small-scale nature of the film, the emotional twists and turns are riveting. It is impossible not to be swept along in the disgust and outrage felt by the characters.

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Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Hateful-Eight-posterThe Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, is a masterpiece of the slow build.

Every lingering shot and slow conversation in Act One pays off in the second, and then some. And although the long running time could be cut down by losing some of the seemingly endless panning shots, it all adds to the tentative, uneasy mood which is lovingly cultivated over the course of three hours.

We begin by following two bounty hunters, played by Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell, who are each heading to Red Rock with their haul, dead and alive respectfully. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren bargains for a place on John Ruth (Russell)’s stagecoach to escape the blizzard that’s chasing them. Along with Ruth’s prisoner, murderess Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and Red Rock’s new sheriff (Walton Goggins) who also needs a ride, they stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out the weather.

There, they meet an offbeat group including growly and moody Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), eccentric English hangman Oswaldo Mobray (a brilliant Tim Roth), Mexican Bob who’s running the place (Demian Bichir), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), who fuels some racially-charged tension.

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Trainwreck – Movie Review

Trainwreck-PosterAmy Schumer has spent the last year or so making a name for herself in America as a female comedian who is not afraid to take down the classic traps and tropes into which female models/actresses/comedians often fall or are forced. Aside from the odd internet video, she has kept a relatively low profile in the UK until now, possibly because her style is often a bit too crude or brash for a genteel British taste.

Trainwreck is her big breakthrough and, thanks to the support of many supporting actors and guest stars, it largely works and makes a comedic impact.

The film follows Amy (Schumer) who sleeps around, having had it drilled into her head by her father that ‘monogamy isn’t realistic’, and works at a slightly sleazy men’s magazine. But her life is flipped upside down when she meets good guy sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader) and has to work out how to play the nice girlfriend part.

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Inside Out – joyful and conceptual but not Pixar’s best

Inside_Out_Character_Poster_JoyInside Out has been heralded by some critics as the best Pixar film yet, big words indeed, and many others claim to have weeped through it on a scale to match Up and Toy Story 3.

However, although it is a joyful film, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed, especially after hearing these rave reviews.

The film follows Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, five emotions inside the head of 11-year-old Riley and their quest to keep her happy during a big move from Minnesota to San Francisco.

The actions of the emotions directly impact on Riley and our viewpoint continually switches between her mind and her real life, but all of the film’s best moments happen inside her head.

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Ant-Man: Small scale, big fun

bf_payoff_1-sht_v8_lgIt’s unsurprising but absolutely fine that Ant-Man has had Marvel’s lowest US opening weekend since 2008 and The Incredible Hulk. I mean, what were you expecting? Ant-Man is not an Avenger, most people have never heard of him before and Paul Rudd, while loveable, is not a huge blockbuster star and indeed many of his films have been average romcoms. But none of this diminishes or denies that Ant-Man is actually just brilliant fun.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a ne’er-do-well master thief just out of prison and desperate to reconnect with his daughter. Meanwhile scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is scared into action after discovering his former protégé (Darren Cross) is preparing to sell potentially very dangerous technology that enables the suit wearer to shrink to the size of an ant. Cue paths crossing, micro-sized battles and several tongue-in-cheek Avengers references.

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