Film: Black Panther

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Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther

I’m a reluctant super hero movie attendee. But the pressure was building for me to go to Black Panther this week. And the critics are giving it a thumbs up. And audiences are raving about it. But what was I to make of Marvel’s latest flick? It’s better than most in the genre. It’ll be hard for me to add anything to the chatter out there but here goes. The acting was really good. I single out three in particular for praise: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Andy Serkis. The bad guys in particular are really bad. As it should be. The screen play is tight. But I have a small gripe – I would have liked to see more screen time devoted to Oakland, California. And last but not least, the costumes are incredible. I’m not talking about Black Panther’s ‘cat suit’ but the support cast’s threads in Wakanda. There most certainly needs to be plenty of awards handed out for best costume design. Of local note in Wellywood – good cinema attendances and film is popular with kids. I’m not sure I’ll go to a sequel of Black Panther when it comes. But super hero fans are no doubt going to support this franchise given it’s quality.

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Film: Lady Bird

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Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and Beanie Feldstein as “Julie”

A Catholic school girl’s coming of age story. Sounds niche or narrow focused doesn’t it? Perhaps. Depending on your demographic it could be tough for me to convince you this film is a good one. Lady Bird is a sophisticated story about sexuality, first love, a sometimes harsh mother and a girl’s journey to find independence from both Church and family. Let me repeat here: it’s a good one. And it will be a strong contender at the Oscars. You may have seen Saoirse Ronan before on screen in say, Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lovely Bones’. Her portrayal as the oft surly and fiercely independent Lady Bird is one for the ages. Backed up with a mint screen play and directing from Greta Gerwig. And I’m picking Greta for best director at the Academy Awards. Yep – my neck is on the line here. Lady Bird will be a winner. The cinema last night for our viewing was packed out – with mostly women. Not many guys in attendance. It’s not a guy’s flick at first glance. But if I may appeal to all the men out there, be a charmer and take your missus. She wants to see Lady Bird. And trust me when I say, as a guy, the story resonates with us too. You will totally get it. Whether you are a father of a teenager or you remember your high school days. Lady Bird is a highly recommended from me.

Film: I, Tonya

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Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding

Oh pleeeease! Cry me a river, Tonya Harding. You blame your mom [a real bitch by the way]. You blame your ex husband [a nasty bastard]. Yet I still struggle to find sympathy for you. And more importantly the truth in this cesspit of an actual real life story. But the film known as I, Tonya is brilliant. Even though I’m wont to trash talk the former ice skating queen herself, this biopic is quite the experience. Because Margo Robbie, the queen of the resting bitch face, plays another bat shit crazy girl. Albeit, minus the baseball bat and Harley Quin’s hammer. Margot reaches a whole other level in this film and is worthy of accolades. But it’s Allison Janney who plays the mother of all ‘cows’ who is probably going to bring home an Uncle Oscar. It’s scary to think that I knew women like Harding’s mother. And I can’t praise enough Allison’s portrayal of her. I’m having a good run of seeing top notch films at the moment and I urge you all to give this movie a go. Without a doubt Tonya is a victim herself of some really shit people around her at the time of the infamous knee capping. So I’ll soften my attitude toward her a little. But spare a thought for Nancy Kerrigan – the true victim in this tawdry affair. Has she seen the film? I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.

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Allison Janney as LaVona Fay Golden, Harding’s mother

Film: The Shape of Water

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Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito meets her new love interest.

If kinky inter-species sex appeals to you then this film is a winner. That was most unkind. Still, don’t even think about taking your kids to this one. It’ll likely be R16 in most places anyhow. Never the less, this creature feature may end up being a winner at the Oscars. Personally I don’t think it will take out any big categories [you can slap me later if I’m wrong]. But it is a very, very good movie. Given how I started this piece so negatively you may have thought I’m gonna slam Guillermo del Toro’s latest creation. You are wrong. It’s a masterpiece. I loved it start to finish. Here’s why: casting/acting, a succinct screen play, the film noir look and feel, and finally some well timed horror elements. I already said this film is not for children. It’s an adult film about lonely misfits, a story tinged with sadness and told sensitively. Some bill it as a re-imagining of the 1954 Creature From The Black Lagoon. Perhaps it is. It could even be considered a sequel of sorts. But don’t freak out if you haven’t seen that original black and white monster film. Let me encourage you to give the new one a go. Get yourself to The Shape Of Water at your local multiplex even if it’s not something you would normally take in. It’s time to be adventurous. I rate it highly and you are sure not to be disappointed. It’s being critically acclaimed across the board and I’m on that band wagon. This flick is sure to become a cult classic.

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Michael Shannon as the villain, Colonel Richard Strickland

 

Film: Darkest Hour

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Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

Let me begin by saying Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the dear old duffer is par excellence. We know Winston Churchill was a deeply flawed man with a chequered career including presiding over the disastrous Gallipoli campaign during WW1. That he was chosen to replace the cowardly Neville Chamberlain is remarkable. And it is a remarkable film that I just watched covering the transition of power from one man to the other. There have been a several attempts at the Churchillian biopic down the years but Darkest Hour has become my favorite. And I forgive the two old geezers down the front of the cinema for snoring 20 minutes into the film. They were quickly dispatched with sharp elbows from their wives. It’s perhaps my fault for going to see this flick on pensioners’ day. And the cinema was almost sold out with the grey hair brigade. That director Joe Wright’s efforts has a big appeal to the over 60 y/o crowd is undeniable. But I do hope younger people find their way into screenings. And I hope Gary is a front runner at the Oscars. Go see this film on the big screen people.

Film: The Post

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Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Kay Graham

The Post is a film you have to be wide awake while watching. Without wanting to make it sound like a movie your high school teacher might have made you watch in History class, one does need to pay attention. This is not a bad thing. A rich screen play is brought to life by two heavy weights in acting: the venerable Hanks and Streep. Totally convincing in their portrayals, we learn about a newspaper that took on a US president and an administration wanting to keep their dirty laundry out of the public eye. Sound familiar? One can’t help but draw parallels between The Post’s battle with Nixon and modern media outlets troubles with Trump. I don’t think the ‘Don’ will like this Spielberg film. But then again, it is unlikely he will make an effort to watch it. I’m glad I did and I urge you, dear readers to get tix to this flick. But don’t take anyone with you that’s prone to nodding off. No, it’s not boring – quite the opposite. But it is dialogue heavy. Call me a nerd but I like this sort of thing. The Post is a thumbs up from me. Now lets see how it goes at the Oscars…

Film: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon and Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes

A queue out the door, a sold out cinema & unlucky latecomers being turned away. Remarkable turnout and incredible is the film known as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. An incendiary story about a mother’s rage at the lack of progress by the local police force in finding the person[s] responsible for her daughter’s grisly murder. Billed by some as a dark comedy, this label is not entirely correct. For sure there are some droll moments and dry humor is sprinkled about. But there are some serious themes and scenes that are not for the faint hearted. Some vulnerable persons should probably keep away from this movie as suicide and rape are dealt with in the story. I found it to be a very serious film that operates on multiple levels. My partner hated it. She found it disturbing overall and commented that the victim [Mildred’s daughter] was not given enough focus in the screen play including lack of details surrounding the murder. This is a reasonable comment but there in lies the crux of the issue – no one was giving the deceased enough attention and that the case had gone cold after only seven months infuriated the mother, culminating in her taking out three billboard adverts in order to shame the authorities back into action. I think I’ll leave it at that so as not to give away any spoilers. For what it’s worth, I’m picking this film for best picture at the Academy Awards. And Frances McDormand for best actress. I loved Three Billboards, some of you will hate it, but please keep an open mind and see it on the big screen if you can. Wherever you are, also consider getting your tix in advance so you don’t get caught out on the night should your viewing get sold out.

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Woody Harrelson as Sheriff Bill Willoughby

Film: The Greatest Showman

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Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle and Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum

Firstly, happy New Year everyone! In New Zealand it’s already new year’s day so seeing my first film for 2018 was a top priority. And I made a good choice with this big, loud, brassy musical about P T Barnum. Don’t listen to the critics, it’s really good. Hugh sings and dances his way from nothing to something and in the process teaches us about diversity, falls from graces, and rising from the ashes. With a little help from his pal Zac Efron who acts as a kind of voice of reason in his role as play-wright come business partner Phillip Caryle. While the screen play is not historically accurate, it captures well enough the spirit and essence of Barnum’s enterprise. So if you’re hung over from last night’s revelries, down some aspirin, eat a greasy breakfast then shell out for some tix to the greatest show at the cinema today. Indulge in a couple of hours of escapism. This film is an A+ from me and a make sure you see it on the big screen.

Film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Porgs!!!

Star Wars films are still the only ones that make me all tingly when the opening music starts and the crawl [text] begins scrolling up the screen. Seriously, no other movies come close in total anticipation and excitement. So I put on my Darth Vader T shirt [much to the annoyance of my partner] and headed out to our local cinema on Boxing Day. And several hours later the disappointment was so great I needed to self medicate with liquor. Please don’t hate me, but The Last Jedi might be the last time I go to Star Wars on the big screen. It was really boring. My partner fell asleep. I struggled to stay engaged and kept checking my watch. Act 1 was bad enough but when Finn and Rose get to ‘Canto Bight’, the casino planet, I slapped my forehead. Come on Rian Johnson, had you been inspired with a recent visit to Las Vegas or Macau prior to developing this dreck? This is not Star Wars. I don’t want to see ‘horse racing’ and slot machines. This is lazy writing and I hope you never get the reins again. So in-addition to boring it’s embarrassing. However, Act 3 on the mining planet of Crait is fine as long as I ignore the crystal cats or whatever they’re known as. The only new animals I really like are the Porgs [pictured above]. Their interactions with Chewbacca are quite funny and frankly everytime these guys were on screen I was happy. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a wait for it to come to TV/DVD. If you’ve got kids I’m sure they’d enjoy the film but adult Star Wars fans will be waiting and hoping the Han Solo spin off is better.

Film: Better Watch Out

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Xmas Horror: Better Watch Out

Better watch out? I say better to give it a miss. I’ll get to why in a moment. People warned me that mixing Christmas and Horror is way out of order. I know, I know. But I’m a horror fan so not attending this film would have been out of the question. It looked intriguing from the trailers and a brumal Christmas from those of us that live in the antipodes is always a draw card. I had every hope that this Chris Peckover movie would be the perfect end to a stellar year in the genre. But it was not to be. This flick is actually in contention for worst horror of 2017. That’s right. It was pure dreck. The only thing more horrifying than the actual movie itself was the alarming conversation by a pair of weirdo ladies in the row behind me before the opening scene. Several times I almost got up and left because it was so shit. But I hung in there to the end. I’ve never walked out before but did briefly consider asking for my money back from the box office. By now you will have gathered I’ll not be recommending this film to you. Not on the big screen, not on TV nor the DVD bargain bin at your local department store. I’ve watched it so you will never have to. Have a Merry Christmas everyone!