*NEW* A STREET CAT NAMED BOB REVIEW *NEW*

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An easygoing feel good flick with stellar turns from the two leads.

Based on the international best selling book. The true story of how James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a busker and recovering drug addict, had his life transformed when he met a stray ginger cat (Bob).

Ironically, despite that synopsis, I didn’t realise until the opening credits that this was based on a true story. The grim opening sequence gave a hard look into life on the streets with Bowen busking for his next meal (or his next fix).

We watched him sleep rough on a sheet of cardboard in the pouring rain. Rummaging through skips and bins for scraps while fighting back the withdrawal from his drug addiction.

There was even a cringe inducing scene in which the poor chap literally sang for his dinner in a cafe. Just because he was 12p short.

Luke Treadaway is an underrated actor. I enjoyed his turn in Fortitude. It was good to see him get a leading role. He played the part well. He hadn’t got a bad voice either. A cross between Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons.

BUT there wasn’t as much singing as I thought. I expected something a little more in the lines of Once. However, Satellite Moments (Light Up The Sky) was a catchy tune and stand out track.

Director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies) and writers Tim John and Maria Nation got the right balance. In all fairness, if it wasn’t for the overdose sequence, this could have passed as a PG. It wasn’t graphic or violent BUT still hit home.

Darren Evans (My Mad Fat Diary) was quite good as Baz. The relentless junkie desperate for another fix. It was a surprisingly dark opener as Bowen overdosed in a stolen car.

However, our troubled hero gets a second chance in the form of a ginger mog.

There wasn’t enough of Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) as Val. The social worker taking a big gamble on the stumbling drug addict. Refusing to accept Bowen’s excuses BUT desperate to see him make the program.

The film delved into the housing benefits scheme and provided a better insight into the workings behind the Big Issue sellers. I didn’t realise the rules and the various territories. Eye opening.

It was a little cheesy once Bob was thrown into the mix BUT they made an entertaining pair as they both got into all sorts of scraps.

The POV perspectives from Bob did get a little silly. It may have lightened up the serious tone of James’ rehabilitation BUT we didn’t need to see everything James was showing Bob. A friendly visit from a mouse delivered a fitting nod to Tom and Jerry.

The introduction of Bob also introduced aspects of James’ life that he thought were done. Most notably in a blossoming romance with the ditsy super vegan Betty (Ruta Gedmintas).

It was a bit of a change from slaying vampires in The Strain for Gedmintas. She was very good as the enthusiastic veggie. Desperate to help all creatures. Volunteering at a local vet despite being allergic to animals. The pair had great chemistry.

I just wish there was more exploration of James’ relationship with his father (Anthony Head – Buffy the Vampire Slayer). You felt sorry for James as he tried to keep clean and build bridges much to his step mother’s disapproval.

BUT of course, the road to recovery is never easy. This had more of a TV movie feel to the piece BUT it had just enough heart and charm to stand on its own two feet (or paws). Especially after some of the entries hitting the Xmas schedules (Say no more).

It wasn’t quite as hard hitting as I had expected. By all means, it was still very watchable with some endearing moments as we went through the highs and lows BUT if you were expecting Inside Llewyn Davis meets Trainspotting, you might be left disappointed.

Ruth Sheen (Another Year) was completely wasted in her role as Elsie, the friendly passer by who becomes a fan of Bob.

I still can’t believe this was a true story. It was a charming little film that left a nice message and a cheesy smile (Including a passing cameo from Bowen himself).

If that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.

3/5

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MR TURNER REVIEW

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Well, this didn’t turn me into a fan but a stand out performance from Spall certainly kept me going.

Mike Leigh takes his paintbrush to the canvas to paint the last 25 years of the great, if eccentric J.M.W (Joseph Mallard William) Turner.

I loved Leigh’s earlier efforts; Life is Sweet, Vera Drake and Another Year. However, I still found them a little overhyped. Good examinations of family, class and society but a little long at the tooth.

From the elongated if haunting opening sequence, I knew what I was in for. One of Turner’s most famous works slowly materialising and consuming the screen.

This is followed by a slow burning but beautifully captured picturesque pastoral Dutch countryside sequence as we watch Turner paint a windmill.

A wonderfully shot but slow burning examination of one man’s genius. The cinematography by Dick Pope has been commended and rightly so. A feast for the eyes.

I was not familiar with the works of Mr Turner. Firstly, I’m not a big art lover. But watching the process that he took in mastering his craft was an interesting process.

But with such genius, comes many flaws. At first, I was frowning at Spall’s delivery. Reduced to grunting and grimacing for the first part of the film. I wasn’t sure whether I liked the man.

A social outcast if ever there was one. Loved by a housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson) he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually. He isolates a family he fathered out of wedlock with a scene stealing turn, by regular Leigh stalwart, Ruth Sheen as Sarah Danby.

He virtually denies their existence and doesn’t even ask of their welfare. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of Sheen or enough conflict for me. Leigh paints a rounded portrayal of Turner, capturing him at his best (or most eccentric) and his worst; he actually had himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm.

His relationship with his father (Paul Jesson) was done well and it added a little humanity to this strangely alien painter; completely out of touch with etiquette. Painting a picture of an aristocrat and openly spitting on the canvas to provide a better finish.

Jesson and Spall were a great pairing. I rate Timothy Spall quite highly and despite the character, I couldn’t stop watching him. A sterling performance.

The props and detail were perfect. I’m not an art lover but some of the paintings were outstanding. The Victorian dialect was a little undecipherable at first but you soon get the gist. It helped that I had studied Victorian literature back in sixth form (Oohh err). Didn’t expect to have to remember that.

I didn’t realise that Turner was both celebrated and reviled by the public and royalty. The open mockery regarding his final works was incredibly harsh. People made plays questioning that he had lost his sight if he thought he could regard such a painting as art.

When Turner does get painting and shares his views of his work, you don’t see a cantankerous recluse with questionable morals, you see a genius with an eye for detail.

An interesting scene in which at the Royal Academy of Arts, Turner appears to ruin another member’s work by smearing a red spot in the middle of the ocean. However, once Turner finishes, you notice that he has painted a buoy.

One relationship I felt was also captured quite well was between Turner and the seaside landlady, Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey). Bailey and Spall had great chemistry and I felt for the pair. I didn’t approve of the fact that they had to live incognito in Chelsea.

Look at me. Didn’t approve. I’m more Victorian than I thought. A sign of the times.

The 150 minute pace was debatable. I felt that parts dragged and that the film meandered along the waves Turner painted.

At its best, a beautifully shot travel diary as a renowned painter travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy and visits brothels.

At its worst, a meandering pretentious if rounded biopic on an eccentric Victorian womaniser. The cast do their best BUT with the people Leigh had at his fingertips, I just wish more was made out of them.

Renowned TV actors reduced to bitty ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameos; James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley), Karl Johnson, Ruby Bentall (both Lark Rise to Candleford) and Lee Ingleby (Inspector George Gently).

This really is an acquired taste. Very much like the works of Mr Turner. If you’re an avid fan of Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall and the artist Mr Turner, then this is for you.

But for newcomers of any of the above, this may not be the best starter.

3/5