Sunday, 2 December 2018

Review: The Dark Knight

Do you remember when superhero movies used to be slightly camp, even comedic?  Nolan's take on the Batman played a decent part in getting us to treat our comic book heroes rather more seriously.

Rewatching The Dark Knight I'm struck by how grounded it is.  Most of the action feels plausible as does the psychologies and psychopathies of the principle characters. The dialogue too is serviceable rather than occupying the hyperreal.

The canvas in which universal themes like corruption, weakness and sacrifice are explored is anything but though.

Verdict: Epic and game changing

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Review: The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark

It's a wonder I haven't read Tomlinson's children's classic before. I was given this as part of a book exchange for Christmas at my local book group (on strict instructions to return it safely to its owner as it was a cherished favourite within their family).

It's a very Ronseal kind of book as it is indeed the story of Plop, a young barn owl who would rather be a Day Bird than a Night one - and how they overcome their fear of darkness.

The result is a short read which has quite a lot of charm, and provides plenty of opportunities for audience participation if you are reading it aloud.

I may even read it to my night owl missus who is also afraid of the dark...

Verdict: Cute and funny

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Review: Guarding Tess

Cage and MacLaine are not two actors I would have put together in a movie.  This isn't a bad movie, but it's not a remarkable one either.  There's a few nice moments of comic tension between Cage's bodyguard and MacLaine's President's wife, but were this not free on Prime I'd have asked for my money back. 

For the most of the film, I was baffled why Cage was cast in it – and then it came – the Cage moment. The Cage moment is so utterly unexpected, and transforms the film from a mildly diverting comedy to something rather darker and so making it a two tone rather than monotone film.

Verdict: Mildly diverting. 

Review: Lady Bird

This is a charming coming of age movie which unusually isn’t wholly told from the teen’s perspective.  It'll won't rival Clueless as my favourite teen movie, but it has a lot of warmth and the dialogue feels authentic and smart.  I particularly liked that it wasn't overly daft or angst ridden. There's no high drama here either. 

Ronan as Lady Bird looks slightly too old for the part in some scenes, but easily convinces in others. Her long suffering parents - Letts & Metcalf - are excellent and both dealing with their own life changes. 

I did also enjoy the period detail of the turn of the millennium. Weird that I feel nostalgic about, but things did feel simpler and in some ways better without the ubiquity of connected multi-function mobile devices. 

Verdict: Lively coming of age drama. 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Review: A Star is Born

Good modern adaptation of this classic story.  We know Gaga can sing, but it also turns out she can act too - and actually rather well.  While the romance is lightly told, I was always convinced of the relationship between her and Cooper's character.  They have great chemistry.

Jackson's path of self destruction is as hard to watch as Ally's rise to fame is invigorating.  And that's perhaps the one problem with this movie - it finishes on a down note.

The musical numbers are well staged and I liked some of the cynicism behind what it takes to make someone a star.

Verdict: A classic story worth revisiting. 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Review: A Bear Named Winnie

Amazon seems to be making it harder to find prime movies on the Fire stick nowadays and the missus wanted a thriller she hadn't seen (it seems like she's pretty much watched everything on Prime), but wasn't scary.

Somehow, we stumbled upon A Bear Named Winnie. And just to be clear, this is not a thriller.  Instead, it's a fairly gentle retelling of a "true" story about how Winnie the Pooh came to get his name. Apparently, it turns out he was named about a real bear in London Zoo - and the story of how Winnie came to be in London Zoo is the focus of the film.

It's an interesting story with a few minor points of drama and the two bears used in filming are extremely cute. I spent much of the film wondering just how they'd got them to be so tame and well trained as well as envying Fassbender for spending a movie working with a bear.

One word on the Amazon Prime copy, it's pretty blurry looking.

Verdict: Touching tale with cute bear action. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

Review: They Shall Not Grow Old

I have mixed feelings about Peter Jackson's attempt to make the testimony and footage from the first World War more accessible to modern audiences through colourisation, CGI, sound effects and even 3D.  The "restoration" is only partly successful to my eyes. For example, the blurry slow motion segments rather than adding pathos and drama only serve to make the production sag and the colourisation  - particularly the uniform washes of skin colour - can never be mistaken for reality.

More concerning is the juxtaposition of still photos of corpses with close ups of people who resemble them in group photographs - and the use of unrestored clips of black and white silent footage with a clattering projector soundtrack belies the fact that silent film can look very good indeed when sensitively restored and played at the right frame rate.

But it's not without merit, the colorisation highlights details like poppies growing on a grass verge or camouflage patterns on tanks which I would have certainly missed otherwise.  The foley effects add real atmosphere to the first hand accounts of survivors.  The story itself remains a powerful one, and the close is really strong.

Verdict: A worthy experiment