Blackkklansman


Viewed – 05 February 2019 online rental

An African-American cop in the 70’s infiltrates the Klu Klux Klan in a bid to expose them and prove himself at the same time.

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This movie had a strange vibe. Lead actor John David Washington stood out like a comedy actor in a straight movie who still thinks he’s in a comedy. The subject of racism and the KKK is clearly being satirised but sits uneasy with such a serious, sickening subject. This is not helped by the movie eventually throwing in shocking real-life footage to hammer home its point. Director Spike Lee has always been one of the strongest voices for black culture and black cinema but here his intentions feel misguided. The story based on a book isn’t as compelling either and I came away wondering just what had the main character achieved? Star Wars’ Adam Driver is decent as a fellow detective and performances overall are decent. Lee’s has delivered a stylish, authentic looking movie yet also fills it with some odd music cues with an overall 70’s blaxploitation feel.

Aqs a different take on the subject of racism and as a movie that certainly has some fun and intriguing moments it’s worth a watch … I just think it would have been more impactful played entirely straight.

Verdict: 3 /5

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The Mule


Viewed – 30 January 2019

The last time I watched legendary actor Clint Eastwood would probably be Gran Torino, a movie which has become one of my favourites.  So sitting down to this was with some anticipation and well, would such an actor put himself back in front of the camera again (considering he’s also a respected director) for anything less that something worthwhile?  Let’s see.

The Mule

Eastwood plays Earl, an elderly man who has spent much of his life missing out on important events with his family in favour of growing his horticulture business.  Yet when he falls on hard times and age seems to be finally taking it’s toll, he attempts to reconnect with his loved ones.  However when attending his granddaughter’s engagement party he is approached by a guy offering him the chance to make some money.  All he has to do is drive – something Earl is very experienced in.

This gently observed and absorbing story is anchored by a wonderfully nuanced performance from Eastwood who turns a self-centred, world-weary character into a loveable, charming man who’s adept at turning even the riskiest situation to his favour.  The way he gets in the good books of ruthless Mexican drug dealers, who go from threatening him to befriending him is just a joy to watch.  Add to this the growing relationship he builds with his estranged family, and I was totally invested in what was going on.  Bradley Cooper is on board as a dedicated DEA agent and Diane Weist (remember her?) plays Eastwood’s ex wife.

One character development later in the movie is a touch cliched and some ideas feel a bit out of place despite the humour intended (Eastwood and some hookers?), yet the story expertly juggles an increasingly deadly scenario with emotional and heart-felt family drama that really got in the feels.  A must watch.

Verdict:  5 /5

Leave No Trace


Viewed – 23 January 2019  online-rental

I’d only heard about this movie as being worth a watch after watching a top ten of 2018 run down by respected British movie critic Mark Kermode, and as I often like many of the movies he recommends, I thought I’d give it a shot.  This gently-paced father and daughter drama follows a troubled man (the often brilliant Ben Foster) as he attempts to live in the wilderness of a vast national park with his young daughter (newcomer Tomasin McKenzie).  However soon the authorities intervene and attempt to re-intricate them back into normal society, raising questions regarding the young girl’s welfare.

Leave No Trace

Immediately this is a very convincing depiction and I quickly began to care for the two principle leads and wanted them to be aloud to live however they wished.  After all they seemed happy in each other’s company and caring for each other’s wellbeing. However as the movie progressed  I learnt more and began to also question how they were living, and that had me glued to see how things might turn out.  Director Debra Granik has delivered a story (based on a book) that is both moving and heart-breaking primarily down to very believable performances.  I’d also hazard a guess that other characters in the movie were played by real people as themselves for that added authenticity … and it works very well indeed.  I should also mention that the cinematography on show, whilst not flashy and more documentary-style is at times beautiful.

Yes, I’d have liked for a few more things to happen; a bit more danger or repercussions and that pace is tough at times … but as a movie that gets you thinking and questioning your principles, I have to recommend this one.

Verdict:  4 /5

Stan & Ollie


Viewed – 16 January 2019  Cinema

It seems long overdue a movie being done of the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy.  I vaguely recall catching either old movies or shorts on TV as a kid and loving their rather innocent and charming approach to often slapstick humour.  Both of them had a great personality that worked well together, and seeing anything they did even now still raises more than a few chuckles.  There is something timeless about them that I think unlike many other acts like Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges, hasn’t aged all that badly.

STan & Ollie

This movie follows the comedy duo as they reunite after a period of retirement to do a tour around England and Ireland in an attempt to finance a new movie.  However following an incident during the height of their career, it soon becomes obvious there’s some bad blood between them.  Steve Coogan and John C Reilly take on the rather intimidating task of bringing such figures to life and I am both happy and amazed to say they achieve it to an incredibly uncanny level.  Coogan nails the expressions, the mannerism and even the walk of Stan Laurel and Reilly is just perfect as Hardy despite some prosthetic make up effects (which are done brilliantly).  The relationship between the two is perfectly observed, touching, a little sad but also amiable and funny.  You get a good idea who these guys really were and how they both respected each other, at times loathed each other but ultimately loved each other.  Set mostly in England you get none of the Hollywood glamour and more so the has-been stage of their lives, of two stars struggling to hold onto the magic and keep themselves relevant.  A squabbling duo of wives adds some fun personality, a money hungry agent also adds flavour and overall this is a charming and fascinating movie.

As a Laurel & Hardy fan I would have appreciated more of a glimpse into how they came to be, or just a snap shot of their fame.  The focus on the later part of their career makes for a good story that granted, tugs at the heart strings … but as much as I really enjoyed this, I came away feeling it wasn’t the full  package – especially for those unfamiliar with their legacy  Otherwise a heart-warming, funny and brilliantly acted look at two comedy legends.

Verdict:  4 /5

Thoroughbreds


Viewed – 19 November 2018. online rental

What attracted me to this was actress Anya Taylor-Joy who first impressed in the unsettling horror The Witch and was also one of the better aspects of Split. She’s quickly grown to be a go-to actress for me. So sitting down to this I was also pleased to discover that Olivia Cooke was also in this, who was great in the Bates Motel television series as well as Ready Player One.

Two high society girls, Lily & Amanda who are brought together after a time apart rekindle an unconventional friendship and soon conspire to do something that may just improve their disaffected lives. This takes it’s cue from similar mean-spirited movies like Heavenly Creatures and Heathers and portrays two troubled girls with subtlety and solid performances. Although a tad slow at first, the direction, complete with effective use of what is pretty much a single location, is what excels. One scene especially plays out with a threat of violence thats almost unbearable, and it’s brilliantly done as is a final act that left me rather shaken. It’s not a showy movie but plays cleverly with anticipation and gradually getting to know two characters, and as a result for a slow burner this packs the required punch.

I’d have liked a little more back story and the motives behind certain actions were vague at best, causing me to lack sympathy. The oddball soundtrack is also a little too bizarre to be all that effective. However, for one of those movies you may not be aware of, this is well worth checking out.

Verdict: 3.5 /5