*NEW* THE QUIET MAN REVIEW *NEW*

A Ford/Wayne collaboration that wasn’t a Western?

A retired American boxer (John Wayne) returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds love in the form of a fiery redhead (Maureen O’Hara).

Easy going, comical, perfect Sunday viewing. Is this really from the man who gave us The Searchers?

“This is Ireland, Sean”.

Once I got over the fact that this wasn’t a Western, I was happy to bask in the charming silliness and Winston C. Hoch’s lavish (Oscar winning) cinematography.

The fantastic tracking shots complimenting the picturesque and idyllic Irish countryside.

The use of bright colours really livened the piece. Even in the dimly lit church sequences, you could notice a considerable difference. Adding to the easygoing feel.

It was fun to see The Duke lighten up. Delivering another charismatic performance as he dealt with the eclectic and nosy Irish community. A running gag about the latest fad, “a sleeping bag” delivered the laughs.

The corny exchanges and Victor Young’s cheesy score should have been laughable BUT thankfully it only added to its charm. I mean, give it a break. The film is (at time of writing) 66 years old?! BUT unfortunately NOT all classics can age as gracefully.

Maureen O’Hara (Another Ford stalwart) was brilliant as the fiery but head strong Mary Kate Danaher. A real match for the stubborn boxer. And what a voice as well! Singing several songs throughout the film.

Their inevitable romance was engaging enough. Thanks to fantastic chemistry and an underrated supporting cast as the pair toyed the “Will-they’won’t-they?” spiel.

The courtship sequence was highly entertaining. Especially when they had Barry Fitzgerald’s drunken Michaleen Oge Flynn as chaperone. Hilarious. With a horse in tow that conveniently always seemed to lead him back to the pub no matter where he went.

Despite its corniness and charm, the Ford Western tropes were still very much there; the saloon brawl, the love interest, the bitter feuds, the reluctant call to heroism, the Duke on horseback.

And Ford wasn’t afraid to break the rose tinted atmosphere. Unleashing an unexpected flashback to Wayne’s boxing days (executed in a haunting black and white sequence). Dark and almost out of place. The real reason for his return?

I never realised The Quiet Man featured this infamous kiss scene.

 

A scene that inspired another iconic film . . .

Nerd! I hear you say. BUT nothing like a good meta textual reference to tick the boxes.

The humour was well written. Even if it might have stretched the stereotypes a tad. Most notably on the gambling priest. The opening sequence said it all as a pair of train conductors broke out into fisticuffs after Sean (Wayne) simply asked for directions. Setting the tone, the characters and the fun that lay in store.

BUT of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy as Mary Kate raised the bar every time Sean met her demands and members of the community threw spanners in the works by refusing to sell his childhood home.

However, the themes on community and, most importantly, honour were handled well as Sean had to restore Mary Kate’s reputation and receive her arrogant brother’s blessing.

Leading to one of the longest and most comical fist fights I’ve seen. Seriously, it was like something out of a cartoon with every villager involved at one point!

It may be a little dated and the pace does test in places (Ford spending a little too much time on those beautiful landscapes) BUT it still holds and makes for enjoyable Sunday viewing.

3/5

A UNITED KINGDOM REVIEW

A Very Good Film.

Two stellar turns and a surprising true story makes this one to watch.

The story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil.

Hazaar! Rejoice! A film I actually enjoyed!

The film chugged along at an easy going pace as the couple first met and the inevitable romance ensued. Dancing the night away and playing jazz LPs.

It wasn’t long before Seretse revealed his royal bloodline and put Ruth in an impossible position. I really felt for the pair as they suffered abuse, judgement and ridicule from their friends and family. And that was just from Britain!

Danny from Spooks has come a long way. I’ve always found Oyelowo an underrated actor BUT if he keeps delivering performances like this, it won’t be long before he bags an Oscar.

That speech alone with the kgotla (a public meeting, community council or traditional law court of a Botswana village) was something else. Goosebumps. You really felt for him. A man torn between the love of his life and his duty to his people.

“You belong with the whites and even they don’t want you”.

In all fairness, you felt just as much for Ruth as she faced public scrutiny on both continents. Even the South Africans refused to help her during a particular difficult period of her pregnancy after collapsing in the shanty town.

I couldn’t believe the red tape and hypocrisy of it all as Seretse battled exile and banishment by the British government from his own country.

And who better to play the slimy hypocritical British bureaucrats than Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean?! Jack Davenport was particularly brilliant as the delightfully smug diplomat Alistair Canning.

Accusing the pair of sabotaging the plans of the British Government. Plans that involved illegal mineral digging!

There was a decent supporting cast at the helm. I couldn’t believe ol’ Rodders Nicholas Lyndhurst was in this as Ruth’s intolerant father. Laura Carmichael (Little Edith from Downton Abbey) played the shy little sis well.

It helped that Oyelowo and Pike had fantastic chemistry as Seretse and Ruth’s relationship was put to the test. The racial tension could have been cut with a knife. I couldn’t believe how many times Seretse was called back and forth to Britain to stand trail for his exile leaving a heavily pregnant Ruth struggling in Botswana.

I was mortified at how Churchill (Well, his “advisors”) handled Seretse’s situation. Promising to send the troubled king home if the party won the 1951 election; only to banish him from returning home after winning office.

Of course this is a drama and you have to take the facts with a pinch of salt. BUT this story made me want to know more.

I was engrossed and engaged. There was even a little lump in the throat when Seretse missed the birth of his own child and had to talk to his baby over the phone. The tide turning as Seretse’s uncle publicly shared his disapproval of Ruth. Demanding that he abdicate.

Everything riding on one speech. One last chance to prove his dedication to his wife, to his uncle and his people. It was a nice touch in the closing credits when archive footage was shown of the pair.

I can’t believe this nearly slipped my radar. I’m surprised that there wasn’t more of a buzz around this film. Shame.

It wasn’t without its imperfections BUT you can’t fault an endearing and wonderfully acted little drama. Worth your attention.

3.5/5

*NEW* BLACK PANTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Not in my top 3 Marvel but a good watch all the same.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider (Michael B. Jordan) who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Overhyped, maybe? Overrated . . . Now that’s pushing it.

As much as I commended Tom Holland’s scene stealing Spidey cameo in Captain America: Civil War, there was another actor I was looking forward to getting the full feature treatment.

And that was Chadwick Boseman.

He was brilliant. A charismatic presence that managed to make that seemingly silly cat costume look bad ass.

I loved how director Ryan Coogler and co introduced the team and explored T’Challa’s origins without making it seem like another origin movie. The dynamic set and a brief history of the mysterious Wakanda providing a context. No messing about.

Unfortunately not being a comic book fan, I didn’t realise the real source of T’Challa’s powers.

It skimmed over the events of Civil War for those who might not be as keen with their Marvel movies (But then why would you be watching this one?). Quickly establishing what T’Challa has been up to.

The cultural element certainly made this stand out or else BP would have been like any other Marvel film. The other world visuals were like something out of The Lion King.

Breathtaking. That GIF really doesn’t do it justice. The futuristic cityscape of Wakanda was a feast for the eyes. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography was sublime. Aided by an impressive soundtrack featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.

I really couldn’t fault the cast.

I have to commend the women in the film. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Nakia. An activist desperate to save the world and not fall into tradition, despite her feelings for the prince. She had great chemistry with Boseman and made that inevitable romance much more bearable.

Leticia Wright (Humans) was entertaining as the excitable techy sis. Her initial encounters with her brother were a little too cheesy BUT she won me over. Especially when she got to play with all her new toys.

The gadgets were impressive. From BP’s ultra-strong body armour to the virtual controlled car simulation that delivered some action packed set pieces.

Angela Bassett’s turn as Ramonda left little to be desired. Anyone could have played her. BUT she was nowhere near as disappointing as Forest Whitaker’s contribution to the mix. Just when I thought his supporting turn in Rogue One was bad . . . Sheesh.

Michionne from The Walking Dead was the scene stealer for me. Dania Gurira was brilliant. Her fight sequences packed a punch and her stern demeanour delivered the odd chuckle as T’Challa’s long suffering bodyguard Okoye.

The best Marvel villain?

Not for me. But Michael B. Jordan was a domineering presence (Seriously the dude was hench) and you did feel for his anguish once we learned a little more of his backstory. He even managed to make a ridiculous name like Killmonger seem menacing.

He chewed up every scene he was in. A worthy adversary to the newly appointed King.

I was disappointed at Daniel Kaluuya’s small role. I expected the Get Out star to have more of a presence. The Oscar nominee did his best BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was more impressed with Andy Serkis. He lapped up the role with aplomb. A total maniac with his South African accent pinned down. Martin Freeman didn’t do too badly but I felt his part was a cameo that overstayed its welcome. The longer he stayed, the more awkward he stuck out.

BUT thankfully there was one inevitable gratuitous cameo that will never overstay its welcome. Hint, hint.

It was engaging, action packed and full of heart BUT by the closing act, the CGI felt as rushed as the finale. After all the build-up, things seemed to run out of steam and got a little chaotic.

From the hype, I expected a little more. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still exhilarating to watch BUT I couldn’t help but laugh when Mecha rhinos erupted into the already overcrowded battlefield. The effects got a little messy with the eclectic mix of colours clashing and things coming to a ridiculous close.

Marvel have mastered a winning formula; a perfect balance of humour, action and character and despite BP’s stumbles, it was still a solid entry and I look forward to more adventures in Wakanda.

It goes without saying (BUT I’m saying it anyway); please stay for the credits. There are TWO teasers if people are hungry for some Infinity War teasers.

3/5

*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5

*NEW* WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW *NEW*

The best one of the bunch?

Let’s ask our pal Caesar . . .

Not quite. BUT a decent effort all the same.

After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar (Andy Serkis) wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

I remember my reaction when I heard that the Planet of the Apes franchise was being rebooted/remade (again). It was very similar to ol’ Caesar’s.

However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a welcome addition. I was completely surprised and engrossed. Completely caught up in the origin story of the super intelligent ape.

BUT Dawn of the Apes on the other hand . . . NOT so much. A complete misfire. Bar Caesar’s fractious relationship with the ultra-violent Koba, I felt the sequel was hampered by poor pacing and a flimsy plot line.

Needless to say, I was a little anxious on watching War. Wondering if it would suffer the same flaws and ruin what could have been an impressive trilogy. Luckily, I’m not saying that today.

A visual masterpiece.

Andy Serkis was fantastic. How the hell that man hasn’t received an award for all the work he’s done surprises me (I mean, come on. Gollum, Kong and now Caesar!).

It takes a lot more than wearing a green leotard and making monkey noises to bring life to these creatures.

The movements, the expressions. I know it’s CGI BUT for two to three hours, you could almost believe they were real. The effects were impeccable. The detail. They deserve an Oscar nod for that alone.

The first person PoV perspective as Caesar makes his introduction was brilliant. All his various monkey brethren bowing down and raising their hands in respect to their leader.

The slow burning pace actually worked for the (majority of the) film and allowed the characters to develop quite nicely as Caesar fought against the advancing troops. Desperate not to cause a war. Only wanting to exist in peace.

BUT of course, the humans have another plan in mind. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t expect as Caesar seeks vengeance.

However, his clan won’t let him go it alone. And what a bunch of characters. Or should I say monkeys? Maurice the orangutan. Caesar’s overbearing conscience and protector. Forever keeping the angry ape in check.

There was such a great dynamic between the group. I loved how the conversations flicked back and forth from sign language to talking.

With Caesar as the only ape that can speak. Or so he thought . . .

Steve Zahn, take a bow! Sorry, Mr Serkis BUT there was one little chap that nearly stole the show and that was Bad Ape.

It was at the 90 minute marker that I could feel my patience wading BUT once Bad Ape made his introduction. I was back in the mix.

A loner chimp that escaped one of the compounds during the start of the outbreak. Picking up words in order to survive.

A much needed comic relief to the sombre affair as he struggles to understand why Caesar would want to face the Colonel.

I could easily watch a Maurice/Bad Ape spin-off. Those two were a fantastic duo.

Things took a more interesting turn when Caesar and co stumbled across a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller). Flagging up all sorts of questions; why can’t she speak? A side effect of the virus? Will Caesar show mercy?

And what a game changing performance from Woody Harrelson. I wasn’t sure if the Cheers star would be able to pull it off BUT once Caesar and The Colonel come face to face, I was on tenterhooks.

There was a striking contrast that developed between these two stubborn leaders as they fought for their kind. Both suffering losses.

BUT the Colonel (or Colonel Kurtz as I call him) was a man truly on the verge. Deluded in his own mission for finding the cure by wiping out all the apes.

The action set pieces were exhilarating to watch. I just wish the length could have been cut by 30 minutes. The elongated Great Escape style compound sequence was too drawn out for my liking.

There was only so much of Caesar wallowing in self-loathing that I could take.

Don’t get me wrong, it set up a fiery finale BUT after all the build up, it all ended a bit flat. Almost abruptly.

It was a fitting one BUT I still had questions that were hinted in the other efforts. For those who have seen it, I will impose my SPOILERIFIC question further down.

I don’t think it goes without saying that you might need to watch Rise and Dawn to appreciate the little nods.

BUT in all fairness, my mate got the gist and he chose to watch this one without seeing the others. So take your pick.

It may have fell short of Rise BUT this was still a riveting visual masterstroke with some stellar turns. One of the better ones.

3.5/5

I was just glad that I fought the urge not to sing this little gem.

 

NOW *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* After Rise introduced the Liberty 1 expedition (Well, Icarus 1 – a reference to Heston’s spaceship in the original Planet of the Apes), will that still fit into this story line? Is there going to be another one? The girl was called Nova. A hint, maybe?

*NEW* SING REVIEW *NEW*

Easy going toe-tapping fun.

In a city of humanoid animals, a crafty koala’s (Matthew McConaughey) attempt to save his theatre with a singing competition becomes grander than he anticipates even as its finalists’ find that their lives will never be the same.

I don’t know why the family put this on (considering our youngest is now 23) but I’m glad they did. A much needed tonic after all the hard hitting super serious Oscar flicks.

The cast were fantastic. I actually didn’t believe that all of them sang. I skimmed through the credits to double check (and for the awesome soundtrack listings).

Of course, a killer soundtrack is crucial in a singing competition and Joby Talbot selected some great choices. I did NOT expect to hear a chimp singing Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.

Or open the show with Kanye West’s Flashing Lights. Seriously, I wanted to revisit the albums on my iPod right there and then BUT I digress.

Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the bumbling Buster Moon. Desperate to save the theatre that his father bought him and spurned his love for the arts. Swindling and squeezing every penny he could.

Until that wonderful light bulb moment. A singing competition. With a cash prize. However, one silly typo from his scatty secretary Judith and that strapped for cash prize changed from $1,000 to $100,000!

Cue one mad little movie.

It was silly BUT entertaining fun that left me smiling. Funny, charming and one for the whole family.

You could argue that all the characters were loosely strung together around the American Idol style competition. BUT you could relate to them all in one way or the other.

Reese Witherspoon was brilliant as Rosita, the frustrated pig housewife desperate to break free from her hum drum routine. I knew she could belt out the tracks. Let’s not forget she won an Oscar for Walk The Line.

Any excuse for Seth MacFarlane to belt out the Sinatra tracks and he’s there. Always slipping a croon-sesh into Family Guy whenever he can. He marvelled as Mike the mouse. The mini street hustler out to earn a quick buck.

My future wife (I hear she’s divorced now) Scarlett Johansson nailed it as Ash, the punky porcupine desperate to sing her own songs instead of the generic tripe that everyone keeps forcing her to play or her moronic boyfriend’s metallic nonsense.

Her reaction when Buster suggested she sang Carly Rae Jepsen was great!

I couldn’t believe Eddie the Eagle could sing. Taron Egerton continues to surprise. He was brilliant as Johnny. The kid chimp desperate to break away from the life of crime to become a singer.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) was on top form as Johnny’s mobster monkey dad (appropriately titled) Big Daddy. Completely oblivious to his son’s desires and determined for one last score.

I wasn’t familiar with Tori Kelly. Only that she had a duet with Michael Buble once. BUT she had one hell of a voice and played the part of Meena, the stage shy elephant perfectly.

I know, an elephant with stage fright. The mind boggles.

The animation was excellent and there were genuine moments where I laughed out loud. All I’ll say is car wash. That and a nervous buffalo with flatulence.

The supporting cast were on fine form featuring the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Saunders, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones and Rhea Perlman. The list goes on.

It’s corny, cheesy BUT easygoing. A lot better than the disappointingly droll Trolls.

It did the job and killed the time.

3/5

*NEW* CAPTAIN FANTASTIC REVIEW *NEW*

It really was fantastic.

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

I wasn’t sure from the bizarre opening sequence whether I was going to like the whole Bear Grylls/Swiss Family Robinson vibe to the piece BUT by the end, I was completely won over.

Endearing, entertaining and heartbreaking. A feel good family film in the most dysfunctional way possible. This might even rival Little Miss Sunshine.

I couldn’t believe that this was penned and directed by that creepy guy from Big Love.

Matt Ross delivers a heartwarming story that tackles grief, rites of passage and the woes of the modern society brilliantly.

The unorthodox upbringing may raise a few eyebrows but it almost worked. A strict regime of self defense, intellectual discussions and living off the land is something that I couldn’t even muster (Let alone the majority of the younger generation).

Their campfire Kumbaya may have been a little corny BUT it established a crazy but close-knit family unit hidden in a nirvana away from the real world. Or was it?

There was a quirky and easygoing feel to the piece and with all the crazy get up they were wearing, you could have mistaken it for a Wes Anderson flick!

No?

It wasn’t long before tragic news forced the family to emerge from their natural habitat. And this was where it won me over.

The cast were perfectly chosen. The only one that grated against me was Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton). As much as you could feel for the poor lad, his incessant screaming and temper tantrums really got on my wick.

George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith/Pride) was very good as the socially awkward Bo secretly applying for college behind his father’s back.

I loved all the contrasts and social commentary; “Why is everyone fat? Are they sick?” There were some witty one liners as Ben and co. couldn’t believe the obesity and mindless brainwashing from the merciless corporations on the masses.

“You would rather celebrate a magical fictitious elf over a living humanitarian who did so much for our human rights?”

I loved the comparison of parenting styles when Ben visited his sister’s family. Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms) and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) were brilliant. Not enough of them in my opinion.

It was hilarious when Ben showed off his children’s knowledge on The Bill of Rights while his sister’s kids were too busy with their heads in their phones or X-Boxes.

The journey was mad BUT entertaining as the family made out they were bible bashers just to evade a curious copper’s questions about the kids’ truancy.

I was startled at Ben educating his youngest on sex, rape and capitalism. Mental. Even crazier when he faked a seizure in a supermarket for OPERATION SAVE THE FOOD so the clan could fill their boots.

The last 30 minutes was where it really hit home when Ben decides to gatecrash his wife’s funeral despite his father-in-law’s wishes.

Virgo Mortensen deserved the Oscar nod. You could see beneath all that intellectual sparring that there was a tormented man struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. Unsure what to do.

Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) was superb as the angry father in law. Blaming Ben for taking his daughter and grandchildren away from him. Deluding them into believing this way of life was acceptable.

BUT as much as you were impressed by the kids’ education and survival instincts, they were completely lost when it came to social interaction and as the story progressed, you realised that they might not be as into the idea as their grief-stricken father.

Things reaching boiling point when Bo finally decides to talk about his college application as Ben begins to re-evaluate himself.

I should have known with Alex Somers orchestrating the score that Sigur Ros’ Jonsi would pop up in this. A wonderful soundtrack.

I was pleasantly surprised and even on second viewing, it still had me through the highs and lows. 

A heartfelt, engaging family drama that is worthy of your attention.

4/5 Just!