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

Oscars 2016 – a few thoughts


DiCaprio OScars

Well the big night came and went.  I’ll admit I’m increasingly disinterested in awards ceremonies these days, be it movies or music or any kind as usually it’s more about money and big companies backing certain nominees and much less about actual deserving talent.  The Oscars is no different.  However, it was good to see that finally after years of being snubbed, Leonardo DiCaprio got his gong.  Did The Revenant  give him that role that finally deserved an Oscar?  Not necessarily in my opinion as his turns in such movies as The Departed, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and even Wolf of Wall Street have all been superior I’d say especially from an acting point of view.  The Revenant was more a physical performance and less showy or obvious, but maybe that’s what it takes – or like many Oscar winner who have been widely snubbed in the past … it was simply DiCaprio’s turn.

Surprised to see Spotlight get Best Picture considering the controversial subject matter, but glad it did and with a strong cast it’s one for my must see list.

Sam Smith’s The Writings On The Wall got Best Original Song?  My only theory is it must have been a limp list of nominees, because although I enjoyed Spectre quite a bit, that was one of the most cringe-worthy Bond themes I’ve ever heard.  But it’s Sam Smith and it’s Bond so we all know the movie studio and the record label paid big bucks to get it on every Academy judge’s list.Alejandro Inarritu

Again Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction for The Revenant was probably the real star of that movie however and he is much deserving of Best Director.  Is that two years in a row now?  Impressive.

For once I agree with Inside Out getting the Oscar.  Too many years have Pixar been the go-to studio for the awards, an easy and honestly lazy nod whilst movies from less prominent, less famed studios get ignored (Studio Ghibli especially deserve more recognition).  But at least this time it was a particularly good Pixar effort.

Not surprised to see Mad Max: Fury Road sweep up in the technical and make-up/costume stakes…if it was for the look alone I’d have awarded that movie a 5, but it didn’t impress me as much as other reviewers beyond it’s incredible visuals.

Full details of who won what can be found HERE.

Top Ten 2015


Well dear readers, it’s finally here … following is a countdown of my Ten favourite movies I watched in 2015.  Do take into consideration some may be older than the past twelve months…

Drum roll…

10.

John Wick

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Keanu proved he still had it in the action movie stakes (and seemingly doesn’t age).  A tongue-in cheek script and stylish direction proved a simple revenge thriller done very well indeed was all I needed also.

9.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

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Studio Ghibli does it again, with a beautiful water-colour art style and an enchanting Japanese fable and heart warming characters.

8.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

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Cruise can still do the seemingly impossible and with chases, gadgets and Simon Pegg, this made for the best summer event flick of the year for me.

7.

Ex_Machina

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There is still room for genuine science-fiction with this thought-provoking study of artificial intelligence.  The sort of movie that would have made Stanley Kubrick proud.

6.

American Sniper

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Proving yet again he’s as good behind the camera as in front, Clint Eastwood delivers a powerful true story with a career best Bradley Cooper.

5.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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My introduction to Wes Anderson and one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long while, and Ralph Fiennes is just sublime.

4.

Interstellar

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Mind-boggling it may be but Christopher Nolan’s space epic is full of wonder, awe and ideas that left me floored.

3.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

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It may deliver too much fan-service but sets up enough firm foundations of its own and captures the spirit of the movies missing since Jedi, that it’s difficult to fault.

2.

Inside Out

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Pixar bounce back, after slight stumbles and deliver a truly heart-warming, ideas-packed event of a movie that genuinely touched and surprised me.

1.

Birdman

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Not that director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu needed to prove his skill, yet this wondrously inventive and yet simple movie impressed and dazzled me with it’s concept and originality with a brilliant Michael Keaton as the icing on the cake.  A movie for fans who truly love movies and movie-making.


Well that was my countdown for 2015.  What were some of your favourites?  Feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll see you all in 2016.  Bye for now…

Craig.

Still Alice


Viewed – 25 July 0215  pay-per-view

Few can argue the versatility and sheer talent of actress Julianne Moore who I think has come on leaps and bounds over the years to become the new Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren.  This award winning drama could also be the pinnacle of her career so far.

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Moore plays Alice, a college professor who is diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease, a rare onset of the illness considering she’s only 50.  With her husband and two daughters around for support we watch as the symptoms gradually get worse and worse and she struggles to cope in her life as the person she’s always been gradually slips away.  It’s a hard hitting subject make no mistake, and is portrayed well if you know anything about the disease.  My mother used to work with elderly patients suffering from the disease so as I watched the film with her she marvelled at how accurate it all was.  Moore is simply amazing and heart-breaking, expressing every little detail of frustration and bewilderment as she starts to forget things or lose track of what she’s doing or where she is.   Alec Baldwin is decent as her husband but the casting of two of the blandest actresses currently working (Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart) as Alice’s daughters let’s the side down somewhat as they struggle to convey such strong emotions on expression-free, personality-free faces.  Honestly, does Stewart only have one look no matter what she is saying?

Above all else though this is Julianne Moore’s gig and she’s every bit worthy of those Oscar and Golden Globe nods.  The movie portrays a very cruel disease intelligently, finding room for humour amongst the despair and I came away surprised at how much the story moved me.

Verdict:  4 /5

Oscars 2015


I’ve not really taken much interest in the Academy Awards this year, as I am getting increasingly underwhelmed by award ceremonies of late where it’s always the same names and the same kinds of movies getting nominated let alone winning anything.  However on taking a casual glance at this year’s winners, I feel pleasantly surprised to see some deserving names getting mentioned.

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I was wanting to see Birdman for a while but haven’t yet got around to it.  At first I was intrigued as it was a come back vehicle for Michael Keaton, then I heard it was directed by 21 Grams auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  So I am equally happy to report that the movie grabbed Best Picture along with a Best Director nod for Alejandro.  In some of the other categories I was not surprised to see who won, such as Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawkins in The Theory Of Everything … typical Oscar fair but I hear it’s an amazing performance.  I was also pleased to see J K Simmons getting Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash – not overly familiar with the movie but he has always been a very underrated actor.  I was surprised to see Patricia Arquette getting Best Supporting Actress – thinking this actress, her appearance in Boardwalk Empire aside, was a bit of a has-been.  So very pleased for her also.  I am also a growing fan of Julianne Moore so was happy to see her get the Best Actress nod for Still Alice, even though I’m not familiar with that film.

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One disappointment I did have was that once again, the Best Animated Feature Film went to a big budget Hollywood animation (Big Hero 6), and the also nominated Studio Ghibli movie The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya was snubbed – but, I haven’t seen either so that’s just a personal gripe.  Yet I was happy to see that The Grand Budapest Hotel did fairly well in the production design, music and costume categories, even if I’d have loved it to get Best Picture.

For a full list of who won what, Click Here.