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.

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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

The Amazing Spider-Man 2


Viewed – 13 September 2014  DVD

The last movie, rebooting a franchise that had reached a dead-end after the lacklustre Spider-Man 3, was a decent if somewhat uninspiring outing for the web crawler, helped it has to be said by solid casting and some good action.  This time around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still juggling his on/off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), trying to hold down a job as a photographer (er, only hinted at) and his responsibilities as a super-hero.  However the mystery behind his parent’s disappearance still looms and a new enemy in the shape of an ignored, put-upon scientist (Jamie Foxx) turned electricity consumed super-villain ‘electro’ arrives on the scene.

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Plenty going on in this sequel.  Again Garfield is good as Parker/Spider-Man although his snively / arrogant double-act grates sometimes.  Stone on the other hand is again perfect, even if she doesn’t get much more to do than threaten to run away to England.  Sally Field as Aunt May seems to have stepped up her presence however in the absence of Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, and we also get Harry Osborne (a diverting Dane DeHaan), former best friend turned megalomaniac beneficiary of Oscorp.  As always for this kind of thing the sequel seems over-complicated but makes for some great action and superb effects work (apart from some dubious swinging through New York bits that looked better in 2001).  Foxx is good as Electro even if his character is quite the cliché, but overall there was a somewhat childish tone with too many moments of poking fun at our hero (the fireman’s helmet bit?).

It’s hard not to wish this had turned out differently … towards the end it really hit it’s stride, offering up some surprises as well as the (albeit predictable) character-ark of Harry Osborne.  Yet this was still good entertainment, despite suffering from the usual sequel / trilogy trappings.  Roll on The Amazing Spider-Man 3 then.

Verdict:  3 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

christoph waltz

Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.