The Only Living Boy in New York

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MThe Only Living Boy in New York

Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

Written by: Allan Loeb (21, The Space Between Us, Just Go with It)

Producers: Albert Berger, Jeff Bridges, John Fogel, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Ron Yerxa

Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh

Starring: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges, Kiersey Clemons.

When Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) bemoans the fact he hasn’t done much in his twenty-something years, his new-found mentor, writer W F Gerald (Jeff Bridges) reminds him, ‘You’ve had sex with your father’s mistress. I’d say that’s something.’

And that’s sort of this film in a nutshell.

Fragile relationships, forbidden love and flawed characters.

Sadly, despite the stellar cast, this is also a flawed movie. Part The Graduate, part Barfly, The Only Living Boy in New York does not reach the heights of either of those films – but to be fair, not too many films do.

That’s not to say this film is to be avoided, there’s plenty to keep one interested for the duration.The Only Living Boy in New York

Jeff Bridges is clearly enjoying the chance to get down and grungy; the presence of Lou Reed (through music and references) adds to the New York feel; Cynthia Nixon as Thomas’ mother and Ethan’s (Pierce Brosnan) wife is nicely understated, and there is obviously other eye candy for most audience members (Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemons).

Thomas, a college graduate, discovers his father, Ethan, is having an affair with a beautiful colleague, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). He decides to follow her and, somehow, for some reason, and with little resistance from either of them, they too sleep together.

At the same time, Thomas’s best friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) announces she’s dropped her muso boyfriend, obviously in the hope of taking her platonic relationship with Thomas to the next stage.

Everyone has decisions to make: unfortunately it’s pretty much the same decision for all of them – who to choose?

The only other substantial revelation/surprise comes toward the end but most will see it coming from a long way away.The Only Living Boy in New York

One of the main reasons this film does not reach the heights it could have is that it’s hard to feel much for pretentious, cliched, wealthy publishing types.

Their actions are those of New York aristocrats bored with life but lacking the wherewithal to expand their interests outside their circle of influence. They could do anything: travel the world, climb Everest, skydive – anything they want; but they choose to wallow in their own dissatisfaction.

So while there is enough interest to follow their story, one does so with little sympathy for any of them. ‘Wake up guys and smell the flowers’, that’s if flowers grow in New York.

Interestingly, with the actors he had to work with, and the context of the story, Marc Webb fails to make the most of the sexual chemistry that should have oozed off the screen.

On balance, a film that, with more subtlety and nuances, could have been a ‘must see’ but that still has enough to provide for a pleasant ninety minutes to fill – so long as you’re not expecting the class, style and substance of The Graduate.

Song To Song

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MSong To Song

Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezk

Produced by: Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Lykke Li, Val Kilmer.

Song To Song is a series of moments captured up close and pieced together to create a love story.

There’s minimal dialogue with the thread woven by the voice-overs of the main characters: BV (Ryan Gosling), Cook (Michael Fassbender), Faye (Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman).

I had to find my way out of you, to life.

It wasn’t an easy film to watch as the many moments are made through different shots, angles and movement, switching perspectives to show light casting shadows, to leaves swirling in water; the affection of lovers through hands intertwined, socked feet being bitten, a smile or thoughts voiced-over a stare.

I tried to be kind.   It only made me colder.

Director and writer Terrence Malick has reached for the stars with this film.  Creating something aesthetically beautiful but also self-conscious.

The poetic narration of the characters worked well with imagery but the dialogue spoken felt fake and forced.Song To Song

It was like the camera was left to roll, then all the good bits taken and edited into a story that was decided later.

By making a film this way, there’s natural moments of wonder and laughter but it also felt like the actors were self-aware.

Ryan Gosling shone as BV – the warmth of this nature and ready grin making me almost jealous of Rooney Mara as Faye.  I really didn’t like her character at the beginning of the film – that coy, little girl act, grating.

But as the film progressed, I was immersed into the story gaining a better understanding of the character, Faye.

The film’s loosely based on BV making a record deal with the super successful and rich party-boy, Cook.Song To Song

They travel around (with Faye in toe, of course) to places like Mexico and many other different houses and spaces including music festivals.

There’s cameo appearances from the likes of Anthony Keidis, Iggy Pop and Pattie Smith as themselves.  Yet, BV, Cook and Faye kept in character (somewhat), trying to keep that loose storyline – the narrative sacrificed to include some cool footage into the film.

I’m all for the aesthetics but it made some parts of the film unnecessary as the fluidity of the story was lost to include the beautiful and poetic.

Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman make an appearance on the fringes of the film, the story losing itself amongst other people, only to find itself again with BV and Faye, making the journey moving, annoying, boring and sometimes completely absorbing.

It’s a different kind of movie.  I think the film has taken itself too seriously and yet, not seriously enough.

Malick has created a film like an art installation.  Like Andy Warhol filming actresses while interviewing them as they did whatever they wanted as long as it was interesting.  There’s the same feel here.  But revolving around the theme of sex and love – some parts worked, some didn’t.

I appreciated the reach and push made of this stellar cast.  I just wish it didn’t feel so pretentious.

Products from Amazon.com

The Big Sick

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Michael ShowalterThe Big Sick

Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel

Writers: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V Gordon

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, and one of my most vivid memories is leaving the cinema after seeing When Harry Met Sally (1989), with a silly grin plastered on my face, knowing I had seen something really special. Critical praise has been similarly heaped on a new romantic comedy, The Big Sick, and I had high hopes I would experience that earlier euphoria again. I really wanted to like this movie a lot, but perhaps being older, or the film being set in a grittier, grungier, dimly lit world, The Big Sick didn’t give me a similar case of the warm and fuzzies.  It’s still worth watching, however, because it is generally entertaining, thoughtful, and with a positive message.

Based loosely on the real-life romance of an interracial couple, The Big Sick’s rom-com vibe is set within a broader comedic setting. It has some laugh out loud moments, combined with revealing insights into what it is to be part of a family, whether that family hails from North Carolina or Pakistan. The pacing seemed to drag at times, however, with some scenes drawn out or not really necessary to the plot (which reflects the number of rewrites the script underwent).The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Fist Fight) plays a likable variation of himself, while his romantic partner Emily is played with raw honesty by actress Zoe Kazan, who is also a playwright (unlike the real Emily who is a therapist). Neither character wants to get into a relationship, with Kumail living by a rule not to see someone longer than for two days. Despite this, he and Emily cannot help themselves and start keeping company. He spends most of his free time at a comedy club where he has a stand-up routine that isn’t very good, surrounded by three buddies who just happen to be his real life fellow comics and friends.

Set against this aimless lifestyle of friends, alcohol, sex and Uber driving, Kumail has another, separate life that involves his Pakistani family who keep trying to find him “a nice Pakistani girl” to marry. Not surprisingly, Kumail isn’t a fan of entering into an arranged marriage, having taken to the American way of life whole-heartedly.

Some of the most amusing scenes in this other life include Kumail’s family dinners, with young Pakistani women who just happen to drop in as they were “in the neighbourhood” (despite the family living in a cul-de-sac). Kumail keeps these women’s photos in a cigar box for no particular reason, and many of them try to attract his interest by watching things he likes, such as The X-Files.The Big Sick

The first part of the movie focuses on Kumail and Emily’s budding relationship, and their sudden break-up because Kumail admits he cannot see a future with her due to his parents’ opposition. It’s only when Emily becomes gravely ill that Kumail realises what is important, and that he must choose his own future rather than one dictated by his family.

We also meet Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter with an almost impenetrable accent) and Terry (Ray Romano), who provide a sharp contrast with their prickly tension and over-protectiveness. Both parents’ growing fondness towards the young man who broke their daughter’s heart is depicted convincingly.

While not as hilarious as the trailer promises, The Big Sick still has a big heart and, like Kumail’s courtship of Emily, may slowly insinuate its way under your skin. Worth seeing at least once, if only for Kumail’s often artless reactions to other people’s conversations.

A Ghost Story

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: David Lowery A Ghost Story

Producers: Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey

Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo

Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

A Ghost Story invites us into the tender space of young love shared by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and the tragic aftermath of grief as a fatal car crash leaves C dead and transformed as a ghost throughout the movie.

Landlocked by love in one state of being and one place, C remains beneath a sad and forlorn sheet with cut out holes for eyes, to witness time and his lover change without him.

Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Aint Them Bodies Saints) had been wanting to tell a ghost story for years with the classic iconography of the bed-sheet ghost and with Affleck as no ordinary ghost he achieves that.

Lowery sets the visual tone that this is not a traditional motion picture by shooting the film in the 1:33 aspect ratio, meaning the image width is only slightly greater than its height.  This film technique enabled Lowery to create a towering presence of the shrouded ghost, a still and dominating presence within each scene.A Ghost Story

The cinematography is pared back with the glare and grit of everyday realism and it is in the familiar and the known that Lowery captures us.
Through doorframes – a fascination of Lowery’s – both dark and functional, they frame Affleck and Mara in ordinary rooms of no import, but it is in their lack of adornment where the intimate confrontations and revelatory keypoints are revealed without massive movement or violence.

There is something to a movie with long stretches bereft of dialogue, we remain in the stillness as the ghost does and without distraction we sink further into the tragedy of love lost without goodbye and time moving forward where the loved one occupies no space only in memory.

In an unforgettable scene, Mara’s luminous distinctive features convey all the profound grief you thought you’d need dialogue for. In isolation, she stuffs an entire family size chocolate pie in a single four-minute take. The body of food is ill equipped to replace her loss of C.

In a later scene, we witness the profound pathos of love and of lost hearts craving connection through the ghost’s presence.A Ghost StoryA Ghost Story

When M finally leaves their home, she embeds a lover’s note into a door frame. The repetitious scratching by a ghost without hands is both tragic and beautiful and as he seeks to unearth the note oblivious to the passage of time without him, we are reminded his sense of identity is derived from his attachment as the beloved.

As I left the cinema I was unsure how I felt about the movie and had to sit with it for a while – in fact a few days – as I stepped out into the noise and the bustle of my ordinary world.

I felt haunted by the film’s imagery of tender grieving and the paradox of grieving a love torn apart by unforeseen tragedy and the living with love separated from the adored one.

Through the art of film Lowery poses the aesthetic as a response of grief and catastrophe.

A Ghost Story penetrates as a poignant reminder that the blessing of our good luck is to sit in witness to an event that is possible to each of us.

Our shared humanity wants to vouch safe the journey of love and for it not to leave us ill-prepared for the space that remains in the absence of the loved one.

Baby Driver

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: Edgar WrightBaby Driver

Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

If you’re going to open a film with a car chase, there’s nothing better than synchronising the action to, The John Spencer Blues Explosion.

Now this band brings back some memories – not burn-outs or car chases but I did manage to maroon my VC Commodore on a boulder out on a backroad near Byron Bay.  What a road trip; the music in the tape deck including the, John Spencer.  So, I was already grinning when the opening of Baby Driver exploded onto the screen.

What I didn’t expect was the huge part the sound track played in this film.  Almost to the point of being a musical with the stylised drama and overacting that somehow fit because all the moves were in time to some cool track.  See sound track here…

Baby Driver

Obviously the film’s about a driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort).  Who’s managed to get himself into the debt of a criminal mastermind, Doc (Kevin Spacey) who puts crews together to do jobs like rob banks – any Job that requires a driver, Baby gets called.  And like his name there’s something sweet about the guy.

Baby Driver is an interesting blend with this sweetness potentially turning the film into cheese.  But director and screenwriter Edgar Wright has replicated the same tone of comedy and romance and music as his previous films (think, Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013)) but then adding action, reining in all the elements so one didn’t take over from the other but instead complimented: the romance being the motivation; the action creating adrenaline; the comedy for that bit of relief…  Along with camera shots completely in tune with the soundtrack to make a very entertaining film that felt different because of that tone of sweet.

And the love story added a nice touch.  From an absolute kick arse driver opening up to the most amazing car chases I’ve seen on screen to the love Baby finds with the waitress, Debora who dreams of, ‘heading west on 20 in a car I can’t afford, with a plan I don’t have’.

It’s a match made in heaven.Baby Driver

And I really liked the cast here – the character, Baby, needing a strong, likable performance from Ansel Elgort to get away with those dance moves which he did when he could make cars dance the same way.  And Lily James as Debora (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)) reminded me of the late Brittany Murphy which made me a little sad.

I loved seeing Jon Hamm as the bad arse Buddy.  And Kevin Spacey as the master criminal, added a little grounding.

With initial concern about the title, Baby Driver (I mean, what the?!  Baby?!  How cheesy is that!), I get the tone after seeing the film: that 50s vibe coming through with the setting of the diner and Debora the waitress wearing those old-style outfits with a classic openness of character you’d expect from earlier times with no cynicism in sight.  I get it.

So, not the action/thriller I was expecting, instead, Baby Driver’s kinda cool, without being slick.

Beauty and the Beast

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Beauty and the Best

Director: Bill Condon

Producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

Based on: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Music: Alan Menken (composer), Howard Ashman (lyricist), new material by Tim Rice

Starring: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (Lefou), with Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Stanley Tucci (Cadenza), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette)

Watching the live action re-make of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which has been successfully updated without losing the original’s charm, the first thought that occurred to me was why has it taken so long to make this film?

The new version is vibrant, entertaining, full of catchy songs, impressively realistic sets and gorgeous costumes plus energetic choreography, making the transition from animation to live action most effectively.

I watched the original version again after seeing the new film, and aside from a few lines of dialogue or moments of visual humour not being retained, the live action version works better because it provides the opportunity to create beautiful costumes and sets, and enlarge the number of performers in crowd scenes.

There are also new songs, which have transformed some characters from stereotypes to convincing individuals.

I particularly loved the Beast’s new song “Evermore” (sung with throbbing undertones by Beast Dan Stevens during the film and less heroically by Josh Groban over the end credits).Beauty and the Beast

The townspeople clearly indicate their opinion of Belle as being odd in the rousing song “Belle”, which is how it was originally, but apparently the actress Emma Watson wanted Belle to be more in keeping with modern feminist portrayals so her independent streak seems stronger and she has added talents beyond being just a supportive daughter.

Although Emma Watson is not a strong singer, her solemnity and occasional hints of humour allow her to carry off her role with conviction, as she shows bravery and selflessness and is more than a match for the moody yet fascinating Beast.

A few scenes have been added or extended which help make Belle and the Beast’s burgeoning love seem more convincing as they go from being “barely even friends” to something more.

The updated screenplay has fixed a few plot-holes, including how long the curse has been in place. There is also an underlying urgency to end the curse because of the long-term effect it may have on the Beast’s servants, who have been animated beautifully, making me long to buy some of the merchandise.

Beauty and the Beast

The servants’ rendition of “Be our guest” is an absolute showstopper, this time with the added benefit of wonderful special effects and a fuller-bodied orchestra and chorus.

The villain Gaston is played with relish by Luke Evans, who is fêted during the boisterous tavern scene by faithful sidekick Lefou (a delightful Josh Gad). Gaston’s penchant for antler décor and his skill at “expectorating” are still laugh-inducing but he doesn’t appear as two-dimensional now, despite still being vain and self-centred. Ironically his inflated ego marks him as more “monstrous”, making him a far greater beast than the titular one.

A lot has been said about Gaston’s sidekick LeFou, who was an under-developed bumbling fool before, but who is now given depth, partly through his implied sexual orientation.

It’s pleasing to see Disney is trying to reflect modern-day sensibilities, while the racial diversity amongst the townspeople and servants at the castle is also refreshing.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and could barely resist humming along.

This version has refreshed and updated the original film without losing any of its enduring appeal, and no one should be “gloomy or complaining” about the result.

A visual and aural delight for young and old.

Fifty Shades Darker

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: James FoleyFifty Shades Darker

Producers: Michael De Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti

Based on the novel by: E L James

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Soundtrack score: Danny Elfman

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora

The second film in the Fifty Shades series, based on the novel Fifty Shades Darker by E L James, is lame, tame and generally depressing, especially when compared with Fifty Shades of Grey, which had some lighter moments associated with the excitement of first love.

The second film was like watching a Mills & Boon telemovie with a wanna-be feisty heroine, brooding hero, and situations where the characters are forced to admit How Much They Mean to Each Other, set amidst a backdrop of obscene wealth (why are the heroes never accountants?).

Originally an e-novel loosely inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades of Grey ended with heroine Anastasia Steele (perky breasted Dakota Johnson) breaking up with gloomy yet ripped businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she couldn’t be the “submissive” he needed.

In Fifty Shades Darker she now claims “things are different”, deliberately teasing Christian and trying to seduce him in the Red Room, totally negating the strong stand she took earlier.Fifty Shades Darker

The Fifty Shades books and films have been criticised for glamorising domestic violence and abusive relationships. The books certainly depicted Christian as being oppressive, sexually deviant and overbearingly bossy, whereas the films portray him more as a once-victimised and still vulnerable person who has to be in control, and who probably just needs a good woman’s love to redeem him.

I don’t find the criticisms about emotional/physical abuse valid because Ana returns here of her own free will, makes conditions and often instigates the sexual interludes with Christian, who says that although he desires the kinky stuff, he needs her more. She seems compelled to test his resolve by deliberately encouraging him in sexual activities that are like awkwardly shot soft porn but curiously lack any arousing power, and which interrupt the actual story, such as it is.

Christian’s work life barely gets screen time (how does he make all that money?), while we’re supposed to believe Ana is a gifted business woman because she pitches one idea breathily at a board meeting to publish “new” writers instead of just established ones, which is received as though no-one had ever thought of it before.

Fifty Shades Darker has quality production values, beautiful cinematography (by John Schwartzman) of mountains and rain-slicked city streets, and a bopping soundtrack. There are established actors in minor roles, including Christian’s adoptive mother (a dignified Marcia Gay Harden), and his former Dominant, Elena (a well preserved but wasted Kim Basinger), but other characters from the first film barely register.Fifty Shades Darker

A former Submissive (Bella Heathcote) stalks Ana and appears to pose a threat that is resolved too quickly. The villain here is Ana’s former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who in one hilarious scene produces a printed photo of one he took earlier on his phone, just so he can evilly burn a hole through Christian’s face as a sign of future revenge in the third film.

Subtlety, credibility and entertainment are not hallmarks of this film, although there are some unintentional laughs. For sexual titillation watch the Sylvia Kristel version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), while for brooding romance you can’t beat Jane Eyre (Orson Welles version, 1943).