Review: January 2020
Movie Of The Month
In a strong month, I’m giving this title to Sam Mendes World War I drama 1917. It’s a simple set up, 2 young soldiers, played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, are given a mission to take a message to a battalion who is about to attack but will be walking into a trap. And that’s it, two guys walking. There are hurdles along the way of course and plenty of tension as they try and complete the task. The film looks and sounds gorgeous and features some excellent cameos from Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden. What makes the film really special is the much-publicised filming method, with the effect of one continuous take. Knowing about it makes you much more aware of the camera than you normally would be as you follow all its movement. I don’t know if it will have the same impact on repeat viewings but certainly, in the cinema, it was very powerful.
The Gentleman – If you think 2 hours of gangsters saying “f**k” and “c**t” a lot is entertaining, and I do, this is the film for you.
JoJo Rabbit – Taika Waititi directs and stars in this World War 2 film that generally plays as a comedy before hitting you with an emotional gut punch. If you’ve seen it read more about it here
Just Mercy – Given the heavyweight cast, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson, I’m surprised this real-life drama hasn’t got more attention. Jordan plays a lawyer dedicating himself to helping people on Death Row, such as the character portrayed by Foxx. The kind of film to make you realise how lucky you are.
Bad Boys For Life – Will Smith just oozes coolness doesn’t he? This is exactly what you’d expect, some over the top action and plenty of laughs.
The Personal History Of David Copperfield – Despite feeling slow and meandering this is a quirky and whimsical movie. At times it’s very funny and features a splendid cast.
Performance Of The Month
Charlie Hunnam in The Gentleman. Not a name I was familiar with (his major role up to now was in the TV show Sons Of Anarchy) but was very impressed here. He plays Ray, the number 2 to Matthew McConaughey’s crime boss, who does a little bit of everything. He’s the fixer, the organiser and the occasional hard man. Bouncing off Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell in much flashier roles Hunnam holds his own, bringing a quiet authority to the role.
Ensemble Of The Month
Bombshell. Three A-list actresses, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie lead the cast but actually have little screentime together. All get a chance to shine and show a mixture of resilience and vulnerability when put in a horrible situation. John Lithgow is all sleaze as their boss and Kate McKinnon has fun as Robbie’s sidekick. Add in small but important parts for Connie Britten and Allison Janney and you have a top-notch line-up.
Preview: February 2020
For me, it’s Birds Of Prey which is released on February 7th. DC movies have a history of being hit and miss and though Robbie’s first outing as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad falls in the miss category I thought Quinn was the most interesting character so it has that going for it. I like Margot Robbie. I like Ewan McGregor. I like comic book movies as a genre. There are reasons to be hopeful.
It’s a busy month, I’m particularly looking forward to
Parasite (Feb 7th) – It’s been out for ages in the US and has been getting rave reviews and is the first South Korean film to get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars
Underwater (Feb 7th) – Sci-fi horror set underwater starring Kristen Stewart. Sold.
Sonic The Hedgehog (Feb 14th) – Growing up there was a fierce rivalry between Nintendo and Sega which often seemed to boil down to Mario vs Sonic. I was in the Mario camp. In big screen terms, Mario debuted years ago. It wasn’t memorable so Sonic doesn’t have a lot to live up to but game to screen is tricky and there’s already been controversy over the design so plenty of intrigue here.
Dark Waters (Feb 28th) – Mark Ruffalo abandons the green suit for a legal drama, playing a lawyer taking on a giant company that is causing harm.
Downhill (Feb 28th) – New Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks after a skiing holiday.
Also this month, The Oscars are happening, that’s Sunday, February 9th. It’s debatable how important they are. There’s already controversy over what has and hasn’t been nominated and no doubt they’ll be more on the night over the choice of winners. Film enjoyment is so subjective I’m not sure an Oscar win should sway anyone’s opinion but rightly or wrongly it is seen as a sign of prestige and will add a few dollars at the box office if winners are still showing. It is important in keeping cinema in the spotlight and reaching people who maybe aren’t avid moviegoers. If it encourages people to get out and see more movies then that can only be a good thing.
It’s 10 years since Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island was released. Scorsese is so prolific that this one seems to have bee forgotten a little. At the time adaptations of Dennis Lehane novels were all the rage, this was the third after the excellent Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone. This was the fourth collaboration between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio with Leo playing a US Marshal investigating a psychiatric facility housed on Shutter Island. He is joined by Mark Ruffalo as his partner, Michelle Williams as his wife and Ben Kingsley and Max Von Sydow as island employees. The stormy island setting makes for a creepy and atmospheric setting and it’s well worth a watch.
A famous date in the movie calendar, it is, of course, Groundhog Day! The day where a small rodent predicts whether winter will continue or spring will come early. Bill Murray, at his deadpan best, plays Phil Connors who covers the event for local television. He goes through a rollercoaster of emotions as he realises he is reliving the same day over and over again. It is a film that gets better and better with every watch. This is one of my all-time favourite pieces of dialogue, Phil, noting something is not quite right heads downstairs in the B&B he is staying in and is greeted by the hostess…
“Do you ever have deja vu, Mrs Lancaster”
“I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen”
Each month we’ll finish with a top 5, this month it’s legendary music maestro John Williams who celebrates his 88th birthday on February 8th. Whether its menace, suspense, wonder or hope, his scores have added so much to so many movies, here’s 5 of his best
- The Imperial March (The Empire Strikes Back)
- Main Title and First Victim (Jaws)
- Jurassic Park Theme (Jurassic Park)
- Raiders March (Raiders Of The Lost Ark)
- Superman Theme (Superman)
Go give them a listen!
And that’s a wrap.
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