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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What I’ve been watching in April/May…

TV

11.22.63

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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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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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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Minions the movie – giggles and lighthearted fun

From the opening shot of the Universal logo, but with accompanying music sung by a chorus of minions, I was giggling. Minions is one of those animated movies that is as much of a guilty pleasure for parents – and indeed those without children like me – as it is a hit with the kids.

In the brilliant Geoffrey Rush-narrated opening, we see the minions from their dawn as single-celled organisms who follow the biggest, meanest fish around, to T. rex groupies, to accidental caveman assassins. This is wonderful, playing with the goofiness and silliness of a whole flock of minions in a clever tour through history.

Then when the plot proper begins, with the minions hiding out in an Antarctic cave, the yellow rascals are depressed without an evil master to serve. Kevin decides to take one for the team and go out and find a villain and hippie-ish Stuart and childlike Bob (along with his ever-present teddy bear) are along for the ride.

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Movie Review of 2014

In the year the McConaissance was confirmed and Annie turned hip-hop, cinemas kept the superhero movement going and The Interview was pulled, there were lots of great movies to choose from, as well as the usual cringefests. Here is my little review of the best and a little of the worst.

Firstly, the year’s superhero movies. Without doubt, the best of the lot was Guardians of the Galaxy. Chris Pratt came into his own with smooth dance moves and abs, and somehow he’s still only the film’s second most-loved star – after Groot of course, as played by Vin Diesel whose voice is only heard in different iterations of ‘I am Groot’. Who knew a tree could show so many emotions? Call it a Star Wars wannabe if you must, but that doesn’t reduce Guardians’ might.

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Top 5 Found Footage Movies

Found footage movies have steadily grown in popularity over the past twenty five years or so. It’s not an easy genre to do well, as it requires a clever reason to explain why the characters are filming in the first place, there could easily be a disconnection between the main character (or whoever’s filming) and the audience, and it even creates nausea in some filmgoers if filmed too turbulently.

The Blair Witch Project is often acclaimed as the best and first of these types of movies, but I’m here to proclaim that it was not all that great; it’s just remembered for being the first really famous one and being very innovative, especially with its amazing budget to earnings ratio. It often tops list of this kind, but I was unimpressed with how slowly it moved and how small the final payoff was. Some argue that this all builds tension like only psychological horrors do, but that ignores the fact that there is just very little plot and no other film genres would be allowed to get away with this. I understand why we are never allowed to see the threat, but when the majority of what happens is just noises and rocks appearing it loses its impact somewhat; this film somehow made eighty minutes seem like two and a half hours.

So, ignoring the one that people usually include, here are my top five found footage movies; if there are any others you’d include, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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