A-Z Challenge – update 3


Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.

La La Land

Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.

I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.

Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

The Favourite


Viewed – 23 January 2020 Blu-ray

Sometimes a movie peaks one’s interest for no particular reason. I guess I wanted to see this just because of its intriguing concept and the fact it had good word of mouth. That Olivia Coleman Oscar nod didn’t go ignored either. So what’s it about? In the early 18th century, Queen Anne (Coleman) reigns during a war with the French, and is dutifully aided by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). However when a maiden, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace, the equilibrium is upset as she begins to court the Queen’s favour and a fierce rivalry ensues.

This reminded me of that other costume drama classic Dangerous Liaisons, with its similarly mean-spirited characters and manipulative behaviour. Similarly this is also rather sexy and interwoven some strong language amongst its often entertaining, quirky dialogue. Olivia Coleman may have got all the attention for her performance but I found her portrayal overly pathetic and silly, that whilst fascinating was far from award-winning in my opinion. Weisz is suitably bitchy, sexually-ambiguous and enjoyable but next to Emma Stone’s more interesting, conniving character she comes off second best. Yes, Stone is the stand out here, subtle, layered and just fun to watch with more of a character ark than those that surround her.

With expected lavish production and costumes, despite occasional bizarre camera techniques (were those fish-eye lenses entirely necessary?) this was a joy to look at. The movie’s not quite as daring or provocative as it could have been and where it goes is rather disappointing … whereas I had expected a dramatic, possibly shocking conclusion. Worth checking out though.

Verdict: Good

La La Land


Viewed – 20 May 2017  Blu-ray

Probably the most celebrated movie of the last twelve months that swept up at each award ceremony, gaining Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes a plenty.  I must admit I was intrigued and have always enjoyed a good musical.  This stars Emma Stone as a young woman with a dream of becoming an actress who waits tables at a cafe on the Warner Brothers studio back lot.  At the same time we have Ryan Gosling’s talented Jazz pianist trying to make a name for himself with dreams of opening his own, old-school Jazz bar.   These two strangers it seems, are destined to meet and so we have what appears to be a classic Hollywood love story, peppered with the occasional grand song and dance routine.

La La Land

A nostalgic homage to Hollywood of old, ala Rogers & Hammerstein or Doris Day musicals but with a contemporary setting.  Should work wonders, huh?  Well … the problem here is, these two actors lacked chemistry and their central love story, going from disliking, to tolerating, to falling in love etc. just didn’t engage … I just didn’t really get caught up in any of it.  Every time you’d expect some convincing emotion or actual depth to their relationship, they’d break into a dance routine or a song instead.  I’m sure it’s all meant to be symbolic but it just made their relationship ‘meh’ at best.  This is not helped by some very vague story details and forgettable supporting characters (Stone has a boyfriend at one stage…not that you’d remember him).  Thankfully the movie is packed with eye-catching dance routines, at times stunning visuals, great choreography and colourful costumes.  However along with forgettable actual songs (nothing really stands out) and principle leads you feel are better off not being together … something has gone horribly wrong. 

The movie saves itself somewhat in the closing moments and the final interactions between Gosling and Stone are quite touching.  Both stars are also very good, proving themselves capable singers (with Stone especially having a fantastic solo moment) … however with such a focus on re-creating a bygone era and less focus on delivering an engaging story, I felt this ultimately failed.  Worth watching for Gosling and Stone and some great dance numbers, just don’t fall for the hype.

Verdict:  3 /5

Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

Birdman_2014-8

This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5