Tag Archives: CInema

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

I knew I wouldn’t get on well with this. The trailer failed to get my juices flowing and I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the CGI’d central character, Alita (Rosa Salazar). In fact, Alita was the least distracting thing about the film and I have healthy respect for the way she’s animated.

Glynn really wanted to see and enjoy this, so with no expectation (on my part), we took Date Night to the Odeon. While this film wasn’t my favourite – and actually made me scoff a few times because it was so awkward – I enjoyed some of the spectacle. Everything is CGI’d to the hilt and it’s an impressive world built from scratch.

The year is 2563 and a world war know as “The Fall” has left the Earth devastated. We find ourselves in Iron City which is nothing more really than a massive junk yard. Times are tough here and it’s made all the more difficult by the looming sky city of Zalem, which is placed directly over Iron City.

The poor (fiscally and physically) residents of IC are overshadowed by the obscene wealth of Zalem every day of their lives. Some long to beg, steal or borrow their way up there by any means necessary. One day, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) is scavenging an actual junk yard when he finds the healthy head and brain of a female cyborg. He brings her home, gives her a body and a heart – and names her “Alita”.

Alita quickly adapts to her new life but she has little recollection of where she came from. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a normal teenage girl who happens to be a cyborg. When she meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), he opens up her world view all the more. But Alita isn’t just a normal teenage girl and it soon becomes apparent that whatever she is, she’s a warrior. She has incredible survival instincts and is an expert in an ancient martial art.

This comes in handy when she finds out Dyson is moonlighting as a Hunter-Warrior (bounty hunter) and she gets to help him take down some lowly criminals.

Alas, this puts Alita on everyone’s map and not in a good way as she upsets the order of things, pissing off not only the criminal underworld but also the Hunter-Warrior community. All this runs alongside the national spectacle of Motorball, an all-consuming sport that everyone seems to love. Obviously she’s a natural at that too.

And there’s a helluva a lot more to it than that. The film looks good if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for two hours. The action is satisfying too but it just doesn’t have much of a soul. When it comes down to it, Alita is the best character in it and I think it’s because of her enthusiasm. Both Mahershala Ali (as gang boss Vector) and Jennifer Connelly (as Dyson’s ex-wife Chiren) are wasted. Waltz seems to phone it in. Ed Skrein‘s shady Hunter-Warrior Zapan is horrible –  and the central teen romance is cringe-worthy AF.

While Alita has every right to the ordinary aspects of life, I could have done without the YA romance. Hugo is as terrible as Zapan and I didn’t care for him at all. But you know, as I type this I realise there’s more to like than dislike so maybe you’ll like it more than I did. It’s not a total disaster after all, just not my cup of tea.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

Things aren’t going great for Lee Israel. Once a lauded writer, her last book – a biography of Estée Lauder – has been a commercial and critical flop. Her agent is avoiding her calls, she’s behind on her rent and she’s just been let go from her job.

Struggling to stay afloat and keep her sick cat from death’s door, Lee sells a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to a local bookseller. Coincidentally, while researching her pet project, another biography this time on Fanny Brice, she finds a letter from Brice to an unknown recipient. Lee sells this to the same bookseller, a lovely woman called Anna (Dolly Wells).

Something Anna says gets Lee to thinking, if the letter contained better content it would no doubt be worth more. An idea is born and Lee begins to forge letters from some of the most prolific deceased writers of all time – Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker – embellishing little details to make them seem more realistic and interesting.

This soon becomes quite the booming business and Lee’s damn good at it. Unfortunately, after one of her Noël Coward letters is sent to a collector who once knew him, it draws suspicion for its openness about his sexuality. Coward was not one to talk so freely about his gayness. In an attempt to keep a low profile and still bring in the coin, Lee calls in a favour from her new friend, drug dealer Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) who agrees to sell the letters for her.

But how long can the pair keep it up when the world of literary collectibles (and the FBI) are on high alert?

I adored this. McCarthy is wonderful as Lee, a woman with immense talent and a drink problem. I find her situation unbearably sad and as things unravel – and she revisits old wounds AND turns away from new opportunities, it hurts to watch. One particular scene made me cry like a baby and it wasn’t dramatic at all, just supremely relatable.

The friendship between Jack and Lee is also lovely if incredibly tempestuous. Jack’s flamboyance contrasts well with Lee’s reluctance to add any sort of colour or frippery to her life. She’s a no-nonsense broad with a mission and has little time for other people, while he’s determined to rinse every ounce of joy out of life before it’s too late – and damn the consequences.

But there are always consequences, aren’t there? – and our pair are about to learn them. I can’t imagine anyone not having a good time with Jack and Lee but it’s a must for any fan of literature and masses of gumption. Loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Escape Room

Escape Room (2019)

Escape rooms have been having their moment for some time now, so it’s no surprise that this concept horror has come along at just the right time to cash in. Cynical though that sounds – and if you see this film for yourself you’ll understand – I did have fun with it.

A collection of seemingly random strangers are mysteriously teamed together to break out of a series of rooms – each one slightly worse than the last. The rag tag bunch includes the burnout, the businessman, the former soldier and the student. You know the drill.

As you’d expect there are tensions as their personalities are thrown together under high pressure but really there’s only ever going to be one way to get through it and that’s to work together.

Can they do enough to survive?

Well, there’s nothing brand new about the premise but the escape room element at least breathes a little life into this format. As our new acquaintances use their loaves to solve puzzles and unlock doors, they begin to realise that there’s nothing random about any of it – and they might have more in common than they first thought.

Each room is deeply creative and stressful and I really enjoyed the constant change of scenery. While Escape Room is reminiscent of the Final Destination and Saw films, I kind of like that about it. To a point I enjoy both franchises and this looks set to start one of its own.

The ending is clunky as fuck and there are a couple of truly ridiculous moments (but of course) but overall I enjoyed this far more than expected.

It’s good to see True Blood ‘s beautiful Deborah Ann Woll again as Amanda but otherwise, maybe with the exception of smarty pants student Zoey (Taylor Russell), I didn’t really care about any of them very much. Which I’m afraid made the fun deaths even more enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Green Book

Green Book (2018)

While there aren’t really many surprises here, certainly in terms of structure (we’ve all seen this narrative before: two very different people are thrown together and gradually, against all odds, become firm friends). I don’t care about that if it’s done well and boy is this done well.

You get the impression, and I’ve read a few things to this effect, that some of the elements are embellished for creative license but that’s to be expected. In the film adaptation of my life you can be confident I’ll be exaggerating the fudge out of most of my experiences.

I found this a really pleasant and lovely viewing experience. I’m fact, another solo cinema-goer, who just happened to sit himself in front of me, guffawed all the way through the film and it made me smile a lot. That kind of cinematic joy is infectious and one of the things I enjoy the most about the movies.

Green Book is very funny in the broadest sense and the central performances are truly magical. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali bounce off each other delightfully and their chemistry is palpable. MA is one of my favourite working actors today with an energy that commands the screen, even in lesser works like Alita: Battle Angel (review coming soon) and I’ll drink up anything he appears in. As classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley he treads the line perfectly between sad and haughty, a refined and cultured gentleman with a profound loneliness to him.

Tony Lip (Mortensen) in contrast is a brash Italian-American with a potty mouth and dubious views – but maybe also a heart of gold. His ignorance is not acceptable but he’s open to personal growth even if he wouldn’t admit it. When he finds himself temporarily out of work, he has little choice but to take Dr. Shirley’s job offer – to drive him around the deep South as he embarks on his piano tour. With the permission of his lovely wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini), Tony hits the road with his new associate – with mixed results.

The title comes from the green book thrust into Tony’s hands by Dr Shirley’s record company – a black traveller’s resource outlining all the motels and hotels that accept black guests. It’s bleak af and not something I knew existed (in my own white ignorance).

Of course the pair start off rocky (with vastly different views and opinions) but as the tagline confirms, from this trip a true friendship is born and I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved every single minute of it.

It’s classic Oscar bait (and obviously a strong contender for this year’s Best Picture) and although I’d love Black Panther to win out of principle (it won’t) and The Favourite (just because it is the best film in this category that I’ve seen) – it’s definitely up there.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

The Bookshop

It’s Feminist Feb on the Collab, y’all and it’s pretty much my favourite month of any year apart from Halloween. This means lots of strong and courageous women being strong and courageous all over the place like goddamn Queens. Something I will always be here for.

Alas, I’m not sure about my first pick for February. It undoubtedly encompasses the spirit of this month, however it was also deeply dreary and for this I am sorry, Jill.

The Bookshop (2018)

Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) is a widow living in a small East Anglian village in 1959. Against all advice and perhaps common sense, she decides to open a bookshop on the high street. It’s a lovely notion but you get the idea that not many of the locals are big readers, with the exception of the reclusive Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy).

This doesn’t dissuade her from her #goals however and she’s even less inclined to give up when local lady, the politically connected Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) decides to start messing with her. Florence stands tall against an onslaught of annoying obstacles, all thrown her way by Violet who has her heart set on the old house-turned-bookshop. In Violet’s opinion, there are much better uses for the property than a lowly bookshop – namely an arts centre. You get the impression that V just wants to make life difficult for Florence and I can’t blame her, small time life seems rather dull.

Luckily, Florence finds an unlikely friend, cheerleader (and potential love interest?) in the gruff Mr Brundish. Brundish is a massive reader and Florence quickly gets into his good books (lolll) by sending him poetry and other assorted tomes. The two bond when Flo asks Brundish to read Lolita and tell her if it’s any good (spoiler: it is).

She wants to sell it in her shop but worries it might be too risqué for the villagers (spoiler: it does get her in trouble with Violet) . When Brundish invites Flo to tea, an invitation that V and her husband, the General have been vying for for years, their friendship grows. And so does V’s rage.

Brundish btw is the victim of village gossip, a widower (or is he?) who lost his wife in a variety of creative and brutal ways. Fortunately, Florence’s appearance in his life affords him the opportunity to be truthful about who he really is – and the real story ain’t half as fun.

I guess the main question here is: will the bookshop succeed?

Well, I love love love the premise and I love that this gives us a strong female protagonist of a different kind. She’s not a sassy, finger-clicking broad. She’s wall-flowery. However, she will not be moved and she’s not frightened to take on the glamorous (and bitchy) Violet, not for a minute. This examines a different type of strength, the quiet type that doesn’t feel the need to shout about it every five minutes. This is important. It also looks at female competition by pitting two very different women against one another.

Unfortunately, there was quite a lot about it that grated on my nerves. First off the narrator. I get what they were going for but for god’s sake can we not? Anyone viewing a movie like this probably has the basic grasp of narrative, so don’t bother. Florence is realllllllly boring, like she has no oomph and although I don’t doubt she’s strong at the core I do wish she had a little more personality (which might be contradictory to what I’ve just outlined above). I suppose this is a period piece so I can’t expect her to be going around sassing everyone out as it wasn’t the done thing in 50’s England but still. I would have liked her to be less of a wet blanket around her friends at least.

Bill Nighy’s character is sweet but I don’t buy the fact that Florence would be tempted to get romantically involved with him, even if he is Bill Nighy. There’s an awkward encounter on the beach and it was so cringey. There’s also not nearly enough of delicious Violet which smarts, frankly. Patricia Clarkson is an absolute legend.

There is interesting potential support in the form of Frances Barber and James Lance but I didn’t find myself getting attached to anyone. Something really dark happens which was emotional and even more emotional when Florence reacts to it but all in all this is just a very bland experience.

Christine (Honor Kneafsey), the child that Florence misguidedly hires to work in her shop is about the only character I thought had any chutzpah and maybe that’s because she does something absolutely crazy at the end of the film that I admire, in a Liza ‘Left-eye’ Lopez kind of way. The ending is actually very dramatic and it saves the movie for me.

Apart from all that I can definitely see myself running a bookshop somewhere remote. And you’re damn right I’d stock 250 copies of Lolita.

⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my love think of this one? Is she a fan of The Bookshop or would she campaign to have it shut down using any means necessary? Find out here.

P.S. I’m told by a reliable source (Jill) that our FOUR YEAR Blog Collab anniversary comes up on the 16th of Feb. This is longer than most of my adult relationships and some of my friendships and I cannot believe it. To celebrate, I’ll write something but also, we’ll be returning to our original posting day of Sunday. Over the years due to other commitments (and sometimes, my laziness) we have put it back further and further. No more!

So I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do, and if not – it doesn’t matter one bit… because we love it.

Mary Shelley

This movie would be a good contender for Feminist February so I’m almost pissed I didn’t save it. However, it was interesting to get an insight into the life of such an interesting writer, the creator of one of the most horrifying and also sympathetic horror characters of all time.

*Spoilers*

Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a 16-year-old woman with a penchant for horror. A writer whenever she can be, she is somewhat stifled by the responsibilities of home, by her step-mother (go figure) and by the death of her mother, a wanton hussy who left the family home to embark on a live-in threesome and then pegged it. Her father tends to take the side of his horrible wife, even against his own daughter and he also critiques her writing, telling her she has to find her own voice. Gee, I sure hope she does…!

Mary has a step-sister (I think) called Claire (Bel Powley) who adores her and there might be a younger brother somewhere in the background too. Mary’s step-mother Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt) is a professional shit-stirrer and many times I found myself shouting the C Word at the screen when she was on it. She ribs our girl about her mother’s slutty ways and this gets Mary temporarily ejected from the family home, sent away to stay with a cousin (?) in Ireland.

The cousin, Isabel Baxter (Maisie Williams) is fun and Mary begins to enjoy her life away from home and her family. Not least because here she meets the young poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), a serious charmer and all-round hot piece. As Mary and Shelley begin to nuture the spark between them, Mary is called home to deal with an emergency – the serious illness of her sister, Claire.

Mary returns home to find Claire has been faking her sickness just to get her sister home and I would have slapped her damn face for doing that to me. Mary is a little more understanding and able to handle it even better when Shelley appears on her doorstep, under the guise of being apprentice to Mary’s father, also a writer. The pair are able to pick up where they left off which is all well and good until Mary is approached by Shelley’s wife and young daughter in the street. Mrs Shelley tells her to stay away from her man or she’ll cut a bitch – and Mary denies all romantic interest in Shelley, which we all know is a goddamn lie.

Later, Shelley states that they are married in name only (that old chestnut) and that the marriage was nothing like what he’d signed up for. Mary is talked around quickly by Shelley because she wants to be but her family are outraged that Shelley would shirk his responsibilities to his wife and child so easily. Mary’s father tells her that if she sees him again then she is dead to him and – ooops – guess who she chooses?

When the time comes, Mary runs away and Claire begs her to go too. So the girls and Shelley disappear into their new life which lacks the grandeur both of them were expecting. It is free and sexy though and the girls are able to indulge their desires, e.g. drinking wine and shagging. Eventually the trio move to a house though things are still far from idyllic. Shelley is a struggling writer who has a deal but isn’t delivering the goods, they’re poor and struggling and then Mary falls pregnant. Added to this, the couple have a fight when Mary declines the sexual advances of one of Shelley’s buds. It becomes clear that Shelley has quite an open-mind when it comes to the topic of monogamy, while Mary is a one man kind of gal. They fight about who each of them believed the other to be and there is also a strong suggestion that Shelley is also schtupping Claire (though as far as I recall this is never confirmed).

Mary has the baby, Clara and all is well for a time until she passes away. Baby Clara is sickly anyway but during a mad dash from the home in the middle of the night (I think the trio are running away from creditors or the landlord), Clara catches a chill. I fully blame Shelley for this needless death and Mary’s subsequent grieving.

Claire begins shagging Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) who invites them all to his home for a fancy retreat and Mary meets a kind (and fit) doctor who seems to dig her. Shelley gets jealous about this chemistry and throws his weight about, or is this a delayed response to the news he receives that his wife has killed herself? Either way he’s a dick. Byron too is a shit to Claire who is up the duff with his child. The take home here is ditch the zeros and go your own way, girls.

During the course of the film we are given glimpses of Mary’s interest in science and while they’re staying with Byron, the group go to a TED Talk about bringing people back to life via a spooky looking machine. Following this, a seed is planting in Mary’s mind and a monster is born. You know to which ‘monster’ I refer.

Mary of course writes Frankenstein which is an exceptional work but is not taken seriously by the publisher on Mary’s return because you guessed it, she is a lowly woman and books by women do not sell. Also, the publisher dick implies that Shelley wrote it anyway. Lo! – Shelley in the end gets the credit for Mary’s masterpiece and she is so angry they split up.

Will he do the right thing in the end and will Mary reconcile with her father? More importantly will she gain the recognition she so richly deserves for her work? Well, most of us have picked up a copy of the book with her name on the cover so that one might be a no-brainer but it’s still nice to have an insight into how this comes about.

Well, I might not have paid particular attention to the details but I did enjoy this period piece. Elle Fanning is always a delight and I presume she does Mary Shelley justice. I don’t like any of the male figures, except maybe the kindly doctor and that’s the point. This is about Mary and her journey to liberation. It’s about being taken seriously as a member of the fairer sex and of staying true to her own principles. Mary holds her head high despite the reputation she gains from being with Shelley and the shadow of who her mother was and what she did.

I love the book Frankenstein and the themes it explores – I will be picking it up again soon.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my heroine think of this one? Would she keep this one reanimated or refuse to publish it? Find out here.

 

Suspiria

Suspiria (2018)

While I half fucking loved this and half hated it, I do believe this is one of the most interesting films of the year and therefore a success in my eyes. The remake of Dario Argento‘s 1977 original is completely different to its counterpart, in style and in conclusion but it’s still beautiful and grating.

I can safely say that Suspiria (1977) is one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I’ve ever had and yet it will stick in my mind forever. Much like a lot of Argento’s imagery – but this version is not by Argento so let’s park him here.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino (most recently of Call Me by Your Name), Suspiria Reloaded is also an acquired taste. The film follows ambitious dancer (Dakota Johnson) to a world-renowned (and freaky deaky) dance company and as she settles into the flow of the place, under the stern eye of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), shit starts to get weird. Like seriously weird and at times incoherent and psychedelic. It’s really better if you just watch it and draw your own conclusions.

There are moments of sheer horror that have stuck with me (looking at you bendy woman in the mirrored dance studio) but there are also parts that feel really flabby. I’m referring to the story arc belonging to Dr. Josef Klemperer (also played by Swinton), a grieving psychotherapist with a missing wife.

I guess the novelty of Swinton playing multiple characters (she also appears as Helena Markos) is interesting but it also jars on me. I wondered why I couldn’t connect to Klemperer before I knew it was Tilda in prosthetics and now I understand it. Dakota Johnson does a decent job as Susie Bannion but there are a couple of scenes I think don’t work for her. Mia Goth meanwhile is lovely, commanding attention whenever she’s onscreen.

Again, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of horror, even if you’re not because there’s a lot to love here. It’s odd and abstract and compelling for the most part – and I most definitely need another viewing.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen Guadagnino’s Suspiria? What are your thoughts?