Due to there being a LOT of cinema trips recently, because of all the films for Oscar time, I am trying my first ROUND-UP blog of 4 films. Let me know if you like it or if it’s just too lazy!

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Rogue One

Saw it twice, finally the Star Wars prequel we all deserved. There are reams of reviews, discussion and debate out there by much cleverer people than me, so in one brief, possible SPOILERS, not very grammatically correct, sentence:

YES, brilliant characters, proper real stakes, lovely nods for the fans, Jyn was a GREAT lead, really not convinced by the uncanny valley CGI of Tarkin – Krennic was awesome baddie on his own, styling everyone 70’s yes yes yes, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me”, I love this sarcastic droid, original footage of red and gold leaders from the archive hooray, oh my GODS everybody dies that is awesomely brave WELL DONE, OH MY GOD DARTH VADER IS SO EPICALLY AWESOME WOOOOOOOWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

And one last thought, I didn’t mind the CGI Leia as it worked for that brief line, and it will be so much more poignant now we have lost the mighty wonder of Carrie Fisher, but please be careful with Leia’s legacy, Disney. She deserves the very best.

A Monster Calls

I wouldn’t have given this a full blog anyway, due to it being a bit too close to home. Just as an alert – if you know the subject, then you’re probably already aware it’s a film to bring tissues and a good friend to, but if you have nursed someone with cancer, be warned this film is strikingly accurate in that regard and can be a trigger for some things you may have forgotten. Anyway, I had reservations about it, having loved the book and worrying from the trailer it was going to be a bit too FEEL THESE THINGS FEEL THEM – where the book was subtle and brutal and beautiful – but the film was wonderful.

Lewis MacDougall as Conor is a triumph, even more so when you realise three things:

  1. Lewis is actually Scottish he never slips his accent once even when shouting
  2. He has lost his own Mum to MS in recent years, just makes your heart break a tiny bit more
  3. He spends a LOT of screen time acting next to tennis balls on sticks or Liam Neeson covered in funny dots

A brave, devastating performance showing us the best in young acting talent, one to watch.

The animation and incorporation of the stunning art from the books was quietly and deftly done. All praise to Liam Neeson for donning the silly lycra and performing motion capture rather than just providing a voice – it was worth it.

The supporting cast are solid and excellent, giving a nice framework for the two leads to play in: Felicity Jones as Mum – suddenly everywhere and deservedly so – delivers lovely work, Toby Kebbell (who I’d only previously seen in Black Mirror) is understated but entirely real as the distant Dad. Sigourney Weaver threatens the believability (I know that’s odd to say in a film about a tree monster) with her wobbly British accent but walks the line and holds us with a gorgeous performance as a Grandmother who thinks she needs to be strong and strict when really she is falling apart from losing her child.

A Monster Calls was film as catharsis for me, I had a long, deep cry – partly for Conor and partly for myself and partly for the what happens next after your ‘truth’ is spoken aloud. Visually astounding at times, the first story where the animation kicks in flips the film from starkly real to pure fantasy and I challenge anyone to find a more fitting visual representation of grief than the image of tiny Conor and the huge chasm of his nightmare as the graveyard falls away, it also delivers unexpected laughter and strength.

I would recommend seeing this on a big screen, or if you are on a small screen, please turn off your phone and the lights and immerse yourself. It is a mostly beautiful and strangely uplifting experience.

Silence

If anyone else has seen this let me know. Having studied Scorsese’s films, I was eager for this film. It was clearly going to be a personal project for him, Scorsese was lined-up to be a Catholic priest and even joined a seminary before leaving, so a film exploring the very essence of faith and the danger and power of organised religion was always going to be interesting if nothing else. My husband loathed it, declaring it over-long, boring and narrow in its viewpoint. Which I have to say is perfectly valid. I adored it for its stunning cinematography, Scorsese hallmarks (overhead shots, slow-tracking shots, voiceover) and I was genuinely hooked by the religious struggle at the centre of the film. I was immersed in the sharp contrast of long, slow, wordy scenes debating the nature of faith with the brutal, visceral torture scenes – never gratuitous but always real – and all framed by a soundtrack of nature or nothing.

The Japanese cast were uniformly excellent, particularly Yosuke Kubozuka as confession obsessed Kichijiro and the mesmerising Issei Ogata as the inquisitor. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver started well, their utter terror when landing in Japan, their shared bewilderment at the Japanese understanding of Catholicism and their clear bond was wonderful when they were together, but Garfield alone never quite convinced me. Despite every effort, I always saw his acting. Incidentally, for me he has never topped Never Let Me Go, but does seem to be in ALL THE THINGS at the moment so I watch with interest. Also a note that the Portuguese accents were pointless and really not required.

Silence was a proper dense film experience, and recommended for those with patience for Scorsese’s weighty films – when Garfield’s Jesuit priest is paraded into Nagasaki, I was instantly reminded of The Last Temptation of Christ – rather than his punchy, popular work, see Goodfellas, The Departed etc. If you like it you will get a story of an individual’s struggle with faith, stimulating questions about how religion translates, some beautiful cinematography and a feeling a claustrophobic wonder. If you dislike it you will get an overly long, fidgety film with no exploration of Japanese culture, Buddhism and Jesus appearing in the river and on the floor, hi Jesus!  I’m not sure I’d watch it again, but definitely worth it once I’d say AND husband and I talked about it for a good hour afterwards, which is always a good sign I think!

La La Land

Likely the most popular film on the list – you couldn’t mention La La Land without all those 5 STAR REVIEWS flashing through your head, and the Oscar nominations have fallen in line with the critics. And it IS a lovely film but I still don’t get the massive hype.

Good things: that sumptuous colour palette, the opening number, the closing ‘dream’ sequence, the bravery of starting as a big old school musical and then becoming a close-up, hyper-real relationship drama, the cleverness of casting only-OK singers and dancers so you never forgot they were real people, the use of real light over LA, the genius of the ending putting the reality on following your dreams but still managing to leave you smiling, Emma Stone’s costumes, Emma Stone.

Bad things: not enough big old school musical numbers, not casting true trained ‘triple-threat’ singer/dancers so we could relax and be whisked off away with memories of Fred and Ginger, Ryan Gosling.

So not really anything bad, Ryan Gosling was totally, totally fine and delivered a top class performance and my jolly word learnt all that jazz piano himself for the film #impressive –  I just don’t really GET him – please recommend me films that will change this – so that’s a totally personal one. By contrast I am deeply in love with Emma Stone and all she touches is gold as far as I am concerned, and like I wanted Natalie Portman to win the Oscar for Black Swan for one scene on the phone, I felt exactly the same with Emma Stone in this – her early audition when she is on the phone was sheer perfection and in one scene shows why she is so good.

I struggled between loving the fact that the two leads remained totally real during the musical numbers (and please don’t think I am suggesting they cannot sing or dance, because they clearly can and much better than me, but they don’t do these things as well as they ACT) and my yearning for the utter ease and joy of watching Fred and Ginger or Gene Kelly absolutely nail a complicated tap solo. In conclusion, I applauded La La Land for its real dancing, live singing and one take musical numbers, but just ONE more BIG number like the first one would have raised it way up for me.

However, I did come out humming the main song, I adored the total bravery of moments like in the planetarium, the wonderful film moments like her running from a date to the cinema, walking through the film lots, the absolute realness of the way a fight happens when they had the dinner scene, dreams coming true but not all of them. LOVELY.

I can’t think of anyone who would dislike La La Land though and maybe that is its genius – it’s enough of a musical for musical lovers and enough of a brilliant film for non-musical lovers and overall it makes you feel wonderful and open to possibilities. And you really can’t blame anyone for needing that right now, in a wicked world, some proper escapism is just the job.

Let’s have a little escape now shall we? 

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