Darkest Hour

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGDarkest Hour

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Anthony McCarten

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Lisa Bruce, Douglas Urbanski

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup and Ben Mendelsohn.

Set over the course of four weeks in 1940, Darkest Hour is based on the true story of Winston Churchill and the immense burden he carried as newly-appointed Prime Minister when Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe.

It’s a critical time in history.  A decision must be made to either fight in another world war against all odds, the Germans surrounding the entire British army on the shores of Dunkirk – or to negotiate with a madman.

The fight on Dunkirk is fresh in the minds of film enthusiasts after the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s memorable, ‘not-a-war movie’, Dunkirk.

Darkest Hour shows a different version of WWII, focussing on the same time in history yet here the story unfolds not on the ground – the soldiers dodging bullets or falling into the icy waters – here, we follow the men making the decisions and observe the politics and strategies of war held behind closed doors.  And with Churchill, sometimes the most important conversation taken on the telephone behind the door of the lavatory.

Darkest Hour is based on the beginnings of WWII, yes, but the story is about the man – Winston Churchill and all his flaws.  A man who has never taken the tube (well, only once during the strikes), a man whose wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) finds him intolerable but loves him anyway.  And no matter his power or position will always know him as, Piggy.

Churchill never gives up, and it’s precisely his flaws that give him the strength to succeed.

Gary Oldman is every bit deserving of his recent Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.  See his acceptance speech here.

As Winston Churchill, Oldman’s barely recognisable as he embraces the part and becomes every bit the British Prime Minister affecting all the required mannerisms of the mumbling, alcoholic, cigar smoking, yet brilliant mind and oration of the man.

Ben Mendelsohn finally gets to be the good guy, here as King George VI.  Not the regal performance of Colin Firth in, The King’s Speech (2010) but suiting the tone of the film better with the gritty human nature of the characters used for amusement amongst all the seriousness of the story.

And there’s not many tricks here – director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina) keeping any effects subtle with a sometimes lofty birds-eye-view to convey the overall feeling of politicians seeing the population as small parts to be manuvered for the greater good.

Mostly, this is a character-driven film, focussing on the dialogue and emotion of those who discuss the fortunes of thousands of lives.  We, as an audience, get a window into the world of Churchill as he weighs the cost; to ultimately decide no cost is too much – there is only perseverance to fight until the very end.

So, for all Churchill’s flaws, we are shown true grit and the character required when the world ceases to make sense.  And can the man speak!  The real pleasure of the film watching Churchill use his words to win over a nation, his famous speeches delivered by the believable performance of Gary Oldman.

Would I watch the film again?  Probably not.  This isn’t a thriller that keeps you on the edge, this is a stirring education and insight into just how close we came to losing our freedom.

All The Money In The World

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+All The Money In The World

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

 Written by:  David Scarpa based on the book by John Pearson          

Produced by: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin J. Walsh

Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg. 

When a movie such as this is labelled ‘Inspired by True Events’ I can’t stop my mind constantly evaluating which of the events portrayed are true and which are pure speculation.

In this case the basic facts are that Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is an American-born British industrialist who negotiated a series of lucrative oil leases with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was declared the richest American in 1957.

On 10th July 1973, Paul, his grandson, (Charlie Plummer- no relation), then age 16, was kidnapped off the streets of Rome. Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) spends the rest of the film negotiating with a grandfather reluctant to pay the demanded ransom.

The film is based on a book on the Gettys written by John Pearson and this adaption from book to film does cause some narrative problems.

Although the kidnapping occurs very early in the film, a series of flashbacks quickly follow in succession, each dated to supply the necessary biographical information about the family’s background. I found this constant interruption of the main narrative quite disconcerting.

This is a film that moves slowly despite the potential for drama of a kidnapping. The tension is muted, crisscrossing between scenes of Paul and the kidnappers and his mother’s increasingly frustrated attempts to convince his grandfather to ‘pay up.’ It is only in the last half hour that the adrenalin really starts pumping.

Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams give solid if somewhat pallid performances with Williams reprising the mood of her role as Alma, wife of Ennis Del Mar, in Brokeback Mountain – all stoic endurance.

Surprisingly, moments of emotion are few and far between and unexpectedly more often between the young Paul and Cinquanta, one of the Calabrian captors (played convincingly by Romain Duris), who does what he can to make the captivity endurable.

What intrigued David Scarpa, the scriptwriter, about the story were the psychological aspects, how “the obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money.”

This is a visually beautiful film from Dariusz Wolski, (Director of Photography) renowned for each of the first four films in the record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The Italian landscapes fairly hum with an erotic energy and the lush interiors of the Getty mansions with their shadowy corners and opulent décor are more like scenes captured from the Old Masters that hang on the Getty walls.

The film however, exists in the shadow of that space where art and life often collide. Originally, Kevin Spacey, transformed by elaborate make-up and prosthetics, played the iconic tycoon. But when many men came forward alleging that the actor had sexually abused them, Christopher Plummer was hastily signed on as the replacement.

Many scenes had to be re-shot and interestingly Michelle Williams re-shot all her scenes with Plummer, refusing to accept recompense in solidarity with all those who had allegedly been abused by show business luminaries.

Perhaps this unfortunate interruption of reality goes part way to explain some of the film’s deficiencies and its rushed feeling. Sometimes the action verges on melodrama, especially in the several scenes where paparazzi on steroids surge like locusts around the Getty entourage or the one thousand newspapers delivered by Gail to Getty senior to capture his attention, swirl about him like snow. Nothing subtle here.

In the end Getty senior is a somewhat clichéd portrayal, the lonely old rich tycoon without no attempt to understand the causes of his rigid personality. There’s a deeper story here somewhere but unfortunately it’s tricky to find, much like the Getty ransom.

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Pitch Perfect 3

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPitch Perfect 3

Directed by: Trish Sie

Story by: Kay Cannon

Produced by: Paul Brooks, p.g.a, Max Handelman, p.g.a, Elizabeth Banks, p.g.a

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp with Jan Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.

Firstly, I admit to being a Pitch Perfect novice.  In fact, a novice to any musical – I really don’t get it and find the idea cheesy: go watch a film clip if that’s what you want.

But, I can be open-minded and am a sucker for a good joke.  And thankfully, Pitch Perfect 3 had more going for it than sometimes out-of-sync, 20-something-year-olds, having their first life-crisis viewed through a soft-focus lens.

Producers Paul Brooks of Gold Circle and Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks of Brownstone Production have returned after the huge success of the previous Pitch Perfect instalments which made more than $400 million at the global box office.

Writer Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two films of the series, has also joined the team, sharing screenplay credit with Mike White – this time bringing more music and action to the final reunion of the Bellas.Pitch Perfect 3

The story so far shows the girls post-graduation from Barden, embracing their new careers as personal trainers and vet nurses, producers of hip hop artists (where I admit the over-produced version Beca makes to improve a track called, Bend Over was worse than the supposed bad original: picking on the authentic, yo!) to the (speaking of authentic) Fat Amy Winehouse with Rebel Wilson still bringing it with those facial expressions and dead-pan delivery of the disgusting that’s funny cause she’s so cute.

But the girls don’t feel like they’re winning in life-after-college, so when they get an invite for a reunion of the Bellas, they can’t wait to get back on stage again.

And the singing is good.  If the lip syncing was sometimes very bad.

Pitch Perfect 3

Rudy Rose joins the cast in the attempt-to-be-cool villain and lead singer in a band called Evermoist, which competes against the Bellas in a USO tour that involves playing in front of army boys.  Add country band Saddle Up and DJ Dragon Nuts and DJ Looney, the Bellas get their much needed competition, that really becomes more about signing a contract with DJ Khaled, AKA Bill – the simplified name, Billy kinda cracking me up with the script adding some odd-ball humour.  As did Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee) with her truly random behaviour…

It wasn’t until Beca tells Theo (the music exec and key part of DJ Khaled’s crew, so a big deal regarding the competition) that he looks like a turtle, and then to face-off the awkward moment, that I really started to get into the film.

So, really, I think the idea is to have so many different characters with unique personalities, so the audience will identify with at least one?

But what they all have in common is they look like they’re having a good time.

This is a high-energy movie where some noise in the audience is all part of the experience.

The best and most believable performance had to come from competitor’s Saddle Up, also a band in real life and the DJs were pretty good (also real-life musicians – Trinidad James and DJ Looney).  But jeez, I did not get into the Evermoist crew.  But I guess that’s the point, being the villains and all.   Still…

So anyway, the Bellas get back together and jet-set around the world in this USO tour, when suddenly Fat Amy’s long-lost Dad (John Lithgow) finds her in Europe (having been banned from the US for his criminal activities).  And I have to admit, Lithgow pulls off a pretty decent Aussie accent.

So that adds a few twists to an otherwise musical about the usual friendship/finding love formula.

What can I say, a musical, yes, but with some good comedy and odd-ball random moments thrown in for the non-musical fan.

Pitch Perfect 3 was quickly forgotten but fun while it lasted.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MStar Wars: The Last Jedi

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas

Music by: John Williams

Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Billie Laurd, Joonas Suotamo, Amanda Lawrence, Jimmy Vee, Brian Herring and Dave Chapman.  

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the best episode of Star Wars made to date…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) is epic people!

This film has everything: fantasy, drama and conflict and betrayal and action with lightsaber fights that last just long enough…

And I was surprisingly emotional through-out the film with General (Princess) Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) filmed and thankfully not animated so she looked so real and so there.

It was such a pleasure to see Carrie Fisher up on the big screen for the final time… See what I mean about emotional?!Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director and writer, Rian Johnson has spent a lot of time getting the detail of the story right.  There’s new characters mixed with old that keep the story interesting with the familiar and the excitement of seeing new critters adding to the lightness and wonder of this visual story.

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

And I liked how the film was set both in space and on land – the effects of space fantastic on the big screen and the grounding of seeing the ocean crash into rocks and the salty sand of the desert kicking up red dust visually surprising.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The island where the previous episode, The Force Awakens, leaves us with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is expanded upon, the thought put into the vastness of the landscape impressive with new sea creatures and those cute Porgs (that look like a cross between a penguin and a puffin) alongside old favourites like Chewbacca.

This episode sees the story unfold around the never ceasing Resistance as they fight The First Order led by Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis) as he takes hold of the universe.  The final threads of the Resistance making that final last stand with Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking the return of the equally resistant Luke Skywalker hiding on his island after losing all faith when his student and best friend and sister’s son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turns to the Dark Side.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Adam Driver has really grown into his role as Kylo Ren (the highlight for me) – the film taking time to explore this new character, making him as deep and fascinating as Darth Vader.

But like life, there’s dark and there’s light.  There’s good and bad in everyone – the conflict of the Force in Luke and Rey and Kylo adding to an otherwise action and suspenseful film.

And, for me, the most suspenseful Star Wars so far.

The Last Jedi is a further exploration into the Dark Side giving this episode a sharper edge and depth – the fantasy element making the story more griping and thought-provoking than the usual Sci-Fi weight of the previous instalments.

And the timing of the story was perfect.  The twists in the tale, many.

Prepare for an epic experience: it’s a long one (2h 33m) but well worth the journey.

Paddington 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: GPaddington 2

Directed by: Paul King

Produced by: David Heyman

Written by: Paul King and Simon Farnaby

‘Paddington Bear’ created by: Michael Bond

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi with Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

Sans nephew and not having seen the original Paddington (2014) – well, only bits on the cable TV that I caught watching with a patient at (my other life) work; both of us agreeing the film looking surprisingly good and Paddington The Bear textured and lovely: I wasn’t sure what to expect with Paddington 2.

But when a premier ends with applause from the audience and finding a grin on my face with added moments of laughing-out-loud, you know you’re on to a winner.

‘Stop that stunning sister!’ Yells Barry (Simon Farnaby – also co-writer!), the vice deputy security guard of St Paul’s Cathedral, as the villain-of-many-disguises, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) escapes capture disguised as a nun.

There’s something about that British humour here that just tickles.  And Hugh Grant cast as the has-been actor (now famous for starring in dog commercials) is hilarious.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is the sequel to the hugely successful 2014 Paddington – a world wide hit and the most successful non-US family film of all time.

Based on the children’s books written by Michael Bond, Paddington 2 is a fitting tribute to Bond who passed away this year aged 91.

Producer David Heyman has re-united the Paddington team with Paul King at the forefront as director and co-writer – and they’ve all brought their A-game.

From the delightful costumes from designer Lindy Hemming (seriously, I spent half the movie laughing at Phoenix-the-villain’s outfits, socks pulled to knees over breeches included) to the intricacies of the set surprising and clever (production designer Gary Williamson) reminiscent of the Harry Potter movies but with the bright lights of a carnival and a jail shown like a stage set with the jungle of Peru growing through the floor boards.

And of course, Paddington – the texture of his fur making him appear so realistic.Paddington 2

Yet, the story did have glaring holes that is so incredibly un-realistic with the movie about Paddington unjustly being incarcerated for stealing a pop-up book from an antique store for 10 years: really?!

But this is a kid’s movie and when the pop-up book rises to fill the screen and to have Paddington running through the scenes of the book’s pages, any thought of unreality is overwhelmed with wonder.

And there’s some beautiful characters here – the film isn’t all about Paddington.

There’s Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson a personal favourite actor of mine), the shaggy dog, the Brown family and the neighbours living on the same street who all have their own story, used not just as a backstory for Paddington, but to also circle back into the film making each character worthwhile and needed giving that satisfying feeling of completeness while adding a layer to the themes of acceptance and finding the good in everyone you meet.

I’m still grinning replaying the moments, even if I’m not a fan of marmalade.

 

The Disaster Artist

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: M

Directed by: James FrancoThe Disaster Artist

Screenplay by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Based on the book: “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Produced by: James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver

Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer and Sugar Lyn Beard.

James Franco: “For this movie to play in cities around the world means there is something more going on than just an espically bad movie that’s fun to laugh at with a group of people. ‘The Room’ is unique because of Tommy Wiseau, who put his whole heart into his project. ‘The Room’ has what other bad movies don’t have, which is pure passion.”

Based on the true story and book written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is about the making of, The Room, AKA the, Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.

Director and star, James Franco embraces the role of Tommy Wiseau – a man who embodies the saying, that Truth (or here, a man) really is stranger than fiction.

Beginning in San Francisco, two aspiring actors, Tommy (not Tom) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meet in acting class: Greg, shy and nervous and Tommy, filled with unrelenting self-confidence… And no talent.  Together, they make an odd yet perfect team.The Disaster Artist

Making a pact to become movie stars (just like James Dean), they move to LA to make the big time.

Tommy, has an apartment in LA and a seemingly endless pit of money where to this day, no one knows the source, nor where he really comes from.  Tommy claims he’s from New Orleans but sporting a Slavic accent he can’t disguise, it’s hard to believe.  He’s a mystery.

What can be believed is his passion.

After being constantly rejected by Hollywood, Tommy decides to create his own film, starring himself as the hero while also writing and directing the disaster that becomes, The Room.

Acting, writing, anything creative, really – it’s just so hard to become successful yet so many people try.  As producer J.J. Abrams says to Tommy, Just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.

It’s heart breaking because we’ve all been there at some point – seeing the want turn into a caricature of ourselves.  Most give up.  Not Tommy.

It’s funny.  Tommy’s funny because he wants it so bad.  And the beauty of the film is the ability to be able to laugh at what the weight of the obsession turns people into: ‘It’s human behaviour’.  That’s what Tommy wants to show the world.  His own unique view of what it is to be human.

James’ performance as Tommy gives that perfect balance of a unique strangeness with insight into a demanding yet warm heart.

Not that the script writers had to go far for material.  It’s all there, even down to the side-by-side shots of the original movie versus the remake of the same scenes just to show how incredibly bad, The Room really is.

I had a great time watching this film – the story hilarious and full of heart and well-cast with James and brother Dave showing the bromance between the two unlikely friends of Tommy and Greg.  And the clever way the film was put together, blending the original with the remake, just added to the fun (make sure to stay until after the credits!).

Only in Hollywood could you find a guy like Tommy – although he’s from New Orleans, right?!

Wonder

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGWonder

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Produced by: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman

Screenplay by: Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad and Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin.

How would you feel if your appearance caused strangers to gawp, freeze in horror or avert their eyes, so they could pretend they couldn’t see you?

This is Augie Pullman’s world, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial deformities, about to enter school for the first time. At the school gates with his fiercely loving family, Mum, Isabella (Julia Roberts), Dad, Nate (Owen Wilson) and his teenage sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), Augie hesitates to remove his final shield of anonymity, a space helmet, his final buffer between him, and a schoolyard full of staring children.

Augie accepts that he is different, he just wishes everybody else didn’t have such a hard time with the way he looks.

Based on a New York Times bestseller, Wonder addresses today’s appearance driven culture where one is quick to judge another without making time to look beneath the surface.Wonder

Director Stephen Chbosky refuses to demonize the surface appearance of his characters by using film to shoot Augie and all those in his orbit through multiple viewpoints.

With multiple viewpoints Chbosky chooses not to minimize the severity of Augie’s facial differences, or the value society places on physical appearance.

One stand out scene is in Chbosky’s multiple viewpoint rendering of the bully, Julian, (Bryce Gheisar).

When Julian is called into the Headmaster, Mr Tushman’s (Mandy Patinkin) office to account for allegedly photo shopping Augie as deformed out of their class photo, we are stunned and moved to compassion as Julian’s mother interrupts and presents an unexpected layer to this scene. Julian’s mother unapologetically declares that she photo shopped Augie out as she was sick of her visitors concentrating on the deformed kid in the photo and not seeing her son.Wonder

As Julian’s parent storm out of Mr Tushman’s office, Julian turns back to apologise. As a child with an innocent heart he knows he has done wrong and is genuinely sorry. Without recrimination only heartfelt sadness Mr Tush says, ‘I know you are son’.

There is a lot of heart and transformation within this film and a lot of unbridled joy.

I was captivated by the effervescent joy and connection between Augie and his family.

This is a family everyone would want to be part of. A family whose joy is not metered or seeking approval from anything external to themselves. A family who celebrate each other and their unique differences.

Via says to Augie, ‘Why blend in when you were born to stand out’.

And it is Augie’s self-acceptance that transforms the lives of everyone in this story and everyone watching.

Wonder penetrates as a film about the self-acceptance of our differences and how the choices we make define and expose our truest character.

When we don’t accept ourselves it is easy to judge and put down those who are different from us. Our judgements never define those we judge, they define us.

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