Category Archives: Musical

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) Review

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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Time: 94 Minutes
Cast:
Viola Davis as Ma Rainey
Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green
Glynn Turman as Toledo
Colman Domingo as Cutler
Michael Potts as Slow Drag
Director: George C. Wolfe

Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player (Chadwick Boseman), and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable “Mother of the Blues”. Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.

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I had heard about Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for some time as it was gaining awards attention, especially with its two lead performers Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Both are great actors, so I was looking forward to their performances alone. Aside from that I didn’t really know what to expect from the movie. While it does suffer the same problem as most movies adapted from plays, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is quite good on the whole.

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First of all, it should be known going into the movie that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based off a play from August Wilson. You can really feel that it’s based off a play pretty early on when watching it. Not only is it very dialogue based, with some big and extended monologues at times, the movie also spans over the course of one afternoon during a recording session, and is generally set in just one location. For the first 30 minutes of the film, you might find the pacing a bit slow, and it is indeed slow. After the first act or so though, you might get into it though, that’s what happened with me. At its core, the movie is a contained and subtle character study. I’m not familiar with the play so I can’t comment on how much is taken from play, but either way the film is well written, especially with the dialogue. There are long stretches of dialogue, and while thankfully I was interested in hearing them play out, there are parts where I’m not quite as interested and it dragged for me. Generally though, I found myself engaged throughout. Runtime is just over 90 minutes, which was probably the right length although if you’re not as invested it’s going to feel much longer for you. With that said, while the movie does have a lot of themes throughout including systemic discrimination and racial tensions, if the film was a bit longer it would’ve been able to flesh out its themes a bit more.

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For all the solid writing and decent direction, the performances were the highlight of the movie for me, and that’ll be the same for most people who watch it. The main stars are Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Davis as you’d expect, really gives it her all, she’s a powerhouse and has such a huge onscreen and offscreen presence. As Ma Rainey, this is practically an acting showcase for her. Davis isn’t the only actor delivering an outstanding performance in this movie. Chadwick Boseman sadly passed away in 2020, and this will be his last performance of his career. Everyone who has seen the movie have declared this to be a career best from him, and its definitely warranted. And yes, make no mistake, the movie may be called Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but it’s more like Ma Rainey and Levee (the name of Boseman’s character). Boseman’s performance was raw, tough, free, dynamic and liberated, and he brings a lot of passion to the role. The character is larger than life for sure, but there’s a lot of emotional depth to him too. His character had a lot to him, and eventually more becomes revealed about him as the film progresses. Boseman particularly has some great monologues, some of the best monologues in the whole movie, and those moments really stood out. Despite those two main performances being in the forefront, the supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked either, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts deliver some great work here. The whole cast really does play off each other very well, which is needed with it being a dialogue and character driven movie.

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George C. Wolfe directs this movie, and overall I thought his work here was good enough. If you couldn’t tell already from the writing and the dialogue that it’s based off a play, you can definitely tell that by the way it was filmed and directed. The sets are limited, but the production design, makeup and costumes are detailed and accurate to the time. One could say that the cinematography and camerawork is unremarkable, but it’s simple, vibrant and effective, and catches the right moments. It really does firmly place you at the setting of the movie. Also, while it could’ve been more stylish and stand out more, it is a step above most films based off plays. The music or lack thereof drives the plot forward, and so naturally the music is handled very well too.

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As I said before, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has the typical issues from other plays turned into movies, including pacing, some of the way the dialogue is handled, and some of the direction. On the whole though it is good. I think that it won’t work for everyone, even just for the structure. However I highly recommend that people watch it for the performances alone, especially with phenomenal work from Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.

Sound of Metal (2020) Review

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Sound of Metal

Time: 101 Minutes
Cast:
Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone
Olivia Cooke as Lou
Paul Raci as Joe
Lauren Ridloff as Diane
Mathieu Amalric as Richard Berger
Director: Darius Marder

A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

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I heard of Sound of Metal more recently, I knew it was about a metal drummer who loses his hearing, and it starred Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke, both of whom are great actors whose work I’m always interested in. I also heard that the movie was great going into it, but it really caught me by surprise how fantastic it turned out to be.

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Now you could say that the movie is structured in a predictable way, and in some ways you’d be right. There aren’t huge surprises and in some ways, it does follow a familiar narrative arc of someone’s journey of self discovery and acceptance with their new circumstances, but it doesn’t play out in the same way that you would expect. The whole story really feels real and pulls you in, and you really get invested with everything that is happening with the main character. Much of the movie is Ruben coming to terms with his situation, and that part is handled so well. The writing overall is thoughtful, sensitive and very impactful, and it never feels heavy handed. There’s a genuine and down to earth rawness through which hooks you in emotionally, which is one of the key parts to why it really sticks with you. One of the most best films I recall seeing in recent memory when it comes to examining a character dealing with a sudden handicap, and it’s an insightful and respectful delve into a world that most people don’t really know much about. It refrains from big ‘dramatic’ moments, preferring to focus on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments, that has you constantly engaged. The last moments of the film are heart-breaking and uplifting all at once, resulting in a perfect ending for the story.

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The acting is amazing all round. As lead character Ruben, Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances of 2020. I’ve seen him in a number of things, from Nightcrawler back in 2014, to his previous career best performance in The Night Of. Sound of Metal however has Ahmed’s best performance of his career. He is so believable and naturalistic on his part, conveying so much with his eyes and body language. It’s really his movie throughout, and it is one of the most well realised performances of the year. Olivia Cooke is great too as Ruben’s girlfriend whose also part of the same band as him when he finds himself losing his hearing. With this character, Cooke really conveyed how Ruben’s hearing loss also greatly affected her too. She’s not in the movie a ton, but she’s fantastic in the scenes she’s in, one of her best performances. Another heartfelt and great performance worth noting is from Paul Raci as Joe, who is a counsellor at the deaf community that Ruben finds himself in.

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The movie is directed by Darius Marder, this is his directorial debut and it’s a great one at that. The sound mixing is one of the highlighted aspects of the movie, particularly how it plays with sound and especially when it comes to what Ruben can or can’t hear. It often shows two different scenarios that it switches between, one which shows a normal sound one from a third person view, and the muted or distorted sound through Ruben’s perspective. It’s incredibly effective.

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Sound of Metal is an emotional and heart-warming yet incredibly genuine drama, powerfully led by great performances (including a career best Riz Ahmed) and is very well made. It’s one of the best films of 2020 and I highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can.

Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020) Review

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Bill & Ted Face the Music

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]  Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Theodore “Ted” Logan
Alex Winter as William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq.
Kristen Schaal as Kelly
Samara Weaving as Theadora “Thea” Preston
Brigette Lundy-Paine as Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan
William Sadler as the Grim Reaper
Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy
Erinn Hayes as Princess Elizabeth Logan
Jayma Mays as Princess Joanna Preston
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Beck Bennett as Officer Deacon Logan
Kid Cudi as himself
Amy Stoch as Missy
Holland Taylor as The Great Leader
Jillian Bell as Dr. Taylor Wood
Director: Dean Parisot

The ruler of the future tells best friends Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) they must compose a new song to save life as we know it. But instead of writing it, they decide to travel through time to steal it from their older selves. Meanwhile, their young daughters devise their own musical scheme to help their fathers bring harmony to the universe.

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I watched the first two Bill and Ted movies (and rewatched in the case of Excellent Adventure) recently, they were quite enjoyable if flawed movies from the 80s and 90s. With the third instalment released in 2020, I was wondering about how it would be. With an almost 30 year gap since the previous movie, I had no idea how it would turn out, especially as those movies felt like they were very much of their time. Bill & Ted Face of the Music actually turned out to be pretty good, and better than I was expecting.

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There is a worry about reboots (even though it’s the third instalment here), especially with franchises where the last movies came out a long time ago. You’d expect that it would just retread familiar territory and be a cash grab ultimately. However it captures the charm of Bill & Ted, while providing enough stuff to make it fresh and unique on it’s own right instead of just rehashing the first two movies. It not only delivers on the original’s heart and spirit, it also pushes the story further, more than I expected it. It keeps the DNA of the original two movies intact but have an incredibly heartfelt story to go with it. Like with the past movies, they are at the right length at 90 minutes, is very fast paced, and it just really works well. It’s also got quite a lot of good humour that works quite well.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their iconic roles of Bill & Ted, and even after nearly 30 years later, they still have the charisma and chemistry which made the characters so great in the first place. They aren’t the only main characters in this movie, there’s also Samara Weaving and Bridgette Lundy-Paine who play Bill & Ted’s daughters. Their dynamic was also great and they embody that same spirit of their fathers, and it’s great when they are all together onscreen. William Sadler return as Death from Bogus Journey, once again he stole every scene he was in. The rest of the cast are good too, Anthony Carrigan was also a standout among the supporting cast.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music is directed by Dean Parisot, the direction is serviceable and is good enough for the movie to work. The visual effects in the first two movies weren’t that good, and that’s mostly because of it being the 80s and 90s so they can still be enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way. While the effects here are a little better, they are a bit average, and the colour palette overall is rather drab and boring at times. The composed music is also rather standard blockbuster music, which pales in contrast to the previous soundtracks.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music was quite enjoyable for me, capturing the charm and fun of the first two movies while feeling updated for today in all the right ways. If you didn’t like any of the other Bill & Ted movies, it’s not worth checking out. However as someone who does like the movies, I was pleasantly surprised by it, it really was a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. If you haven’t watched any of the Bill & Ted movies, I at least recommend giving Excellent Adventure a viewing, it’s a classic for a reason.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1988) Review

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Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Ted “Theodore” Logan
Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esq.
George Carlin as Rufus
Terry Camilleri as Napoleon Bonaparte
Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
Tony Steedman as Socrates
Rod Loomis as Sigmund Freud
Al Leong as Genghis Khan
Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
Clifford David as Ludwig van Beethoven
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Bernie Casey as Mr. Ryan
Director: Stephen Herek

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail their history class, which means Ted would be sent to military school. They receive help from Rufus (George Carlin), a traveler from a future where their band is the foundation for a perfect society. With the use of Rufus’ time machine, Bill and Ted travel to various points in history, returning with important figures to help them complete their final history presentation.

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I watched the first Bill and Ted a long time ago in history class in school, I remember it being quite silly yet fun. With the third movie out this year, I decided to watch the first two movies of the trilogy beforehand. Having seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure again, I don’t think it is great or anything, and it definitely has its problems. However it is very entertaining, and a cult classic for sure.

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At 90 minutes long, Excellent Adventure is quite fun to watch, it definitely helps that the movie is very fast paced. One of the things that I was guessing going back into this rewatch was that it probably hasn’t aged very well, and for a large part that’s the case. There are some elements that don’t hold up especially today (it’s very much a movie of the 80s), and some of the jokes fall flat. With that said, some of the jokes actually do still work quite well and are funny. In fact some of the jokes are so dumb that they actually kind of work. It is quite a dumb, cheesy and goofy movie, it’s really contrived and is a bit of a mess (some sequences are better than others). However it embraces that, and it’s not really a movie where you focus a lot on the action. It throws all theoretical logic of time travel out the window, and that was to the movie’s benefit for sure. It’s simple, light hearted, enjoyable and a fun time. It was particularly fun watching the historical figures interact with and react to many things in the present.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves play titular characters Bill and Ted, and they are pretty much the highlights of the movie, sharing some great onscreen chemistry together. Their characters are kind of dumb but at the same time good intentioned characters, and they are quite endearing and likable. Keanu Reeves is particularly fun as Ted, in his first of many iconic roles. George Carlin also worked in his part as Rufus the time traveller (although wasn’t in the movie that much), as did the actors playing the historical figures that Bill and Ted come across.

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Stephen Herek directs this movie, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is very much a movie of the times, that being the late 80s, especially when it comes to the soundtrack and the CGI. The CGI isn’t exactly terrible, just quite dated. Though if you go in expecting that, it’s not really a problem. I will say though that the direction is just fine but it could’ve gone a little further or stand out more than it actually did.

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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is often known as being one of the all time best (or at least most iconic) 80s comedies for a reason. With a great cast, quotable dialogue, inventive and funny scenarios, it was quite a lot of fun and I’m glad I revisited it. While it is very much dated and isn’t anything beyond decent, I do think it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already. Having not seen any of the follow ups to Excellent Adventure as of yet, I’m interested to see how they turned out.

Blinded by the Light (2019) Review

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Blinded by the Light

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Viveik Kalra as Javed
Kulvinder Ghir as Malik
Meera Ganatra as Noor
Nell Williams as Eliza
Aaron Phagura as Roops
Dean-Charles Chapman as Matt
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels between the singer’s powerful lyrics and his own working-class environment. Springsteen’s melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice and follow his dreams.

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I remember seeing a trailer for Blinded By the Light when I was watching Yesterday in the cinema, and like that movie, it looked like a quirky dramedy with a popular band/artist playing a big part of the plot (in this case it being Bruce Springsteen instead of The Beatles). I really wasn’t sure what to expect, it looked fun but also seemed a little too cheesy for its own good, nonetheless I was curious enough to want to check it out. Having seen it, I’d say that it was pretty good, there are parts that aren’t so great and it is absolutely cliché for sure, but the acting is good and I generally enjoyed it on my one viewing of the movie.

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Blinded by the Light is a pretty upbeat and lighthearted movie, and while I wasn’t really invested in the story and characters, and it was rather predictable, I was entertained enough with what I watched that it wasn’t too much of a problem. It can be rather cheesy to say the least, it’s not to the point where I was cringing or anything, but it can get a little much at some moments, and I know that some people just wouldn’t be able to handle them. I do think the movie loses focus at times with what it was trying to be, getting caught up with its love of Bruce Springsteen, especially in the first half. The second half is where the movie really picks up, the story focuses up and it all comes together by the end.

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Viveik Kalra is the lead of Blinded by the Light and he does very well on his part, he has to lead much of the movie by himself and generally he does well. The supporting cast also work on their parts. I had no idea that Hayley Atwell was in this movie going in, she’s actually not in many scenes but she is quite good as a teacher of the main character. There’s also a romance between Kalra’s character and Nell Williams’s character, both actors do well enough with their acting, but the whole relationship just feels sort of sudden and a bit unbelievable. You can just follow along and tolerate it however.

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This is the first film I saw from Gurinder Chadha, but she did a good job directing this movie. With the amount of times that music (specifically that of Bruce Springsteen) plays a part in the movie, you’d expect the transitions and montages featuring said music and all that to fit with the film well, and thankfully that’s the case here. They are pretty fun to watch, even if they are over the top and silly.

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Blinded by the Light was a fun, upbeat yet cheesy and cliché movie, which I thought was decent enough for one viewing. It’s nothing great but it was directed well, and the acting was quite good. If you’re wondering whether if you’d like the movie, I recommend just watching the trailer as it is pretty representative of the movie. If it seemed like it’s something you’d be interested in, I’d say to check it out. As for me, I’m glad that I decided to see it, but it’s probably not something I would watch again.

Wild Rose (2019) Review

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Wild Rose

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan
Julie Walters as Marion
Sophie Okonedo as Susannah
Director: Tom Harper

Fresh out of prison, a Scottish woman (Jessie Buckley) juggles her job and two children while pursuing her dream of becoming a country music star. She soon gets her chance when she travels to Nashville, Tenn., on a life-changing journey to discover her true voice.

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I only heard of Wild Rose very recently. The main reason I came to hear of it was that the most recent BAFTAs nominated and then awarded Best Actress to the movie’s lead actress Jessie Buckley. Looking into the movie, I heard that it was pretty good and so I decided to go see it for myself. It’s a decent movie for sure, with Buckley’s performance elevating it immensely.

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First and foremost, the story isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before. There’s nothing really bad about the movie but it does hit many cliché plot beats, and that could annoy some people who were hoping for something more fresh. It is quite enjoyable to watch though, and there is a heart behind it all as it also touches upon the idea of pursuing one’s ambitions, and the cost that comes with that. I will say that even if you’re not into country music, that won’t be a problem at all, you’ll be fine with it for this movie at least. At an hour and 40 minutes it goes for as long as it needs to be, although there are some times where the pacing drags and maybe it could’ve cut down up to 10 minutes from the runtime.

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Jessie Buckley is really the star of the whole movie and she does a fantastic job. Looking at the character of Rose-Lynn on paper, she needed to be played by someone who could’ve pulled her off. Rose-Lynn is very flawed to say the least and maybe even unlikable and unsympathetic, but Buckley still somehow manages to make you tolerate and even root for her at points, as she tries to achieve her dream. She goes on a standard character arc, but Buckley’s performance really elevated so much of the character and the movie. Her vocal performances of the music are fantastic as well, and it definitely makes sense knowing that she’s actually a professional singer too. Definitely expect her to be in a lot more movies after this. Julie Walters also does well in a supporting role as Rose’s mother, and she also gets some moments of her own to shine, especially with the scenes between her and Jessie. There’s also Sophie Okonedo who plays her role well as a rich woman that Rose-Lynn begins works for early on, and then has a friend in. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast but they all play their parts well too.

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Wild Rose is directed reasonably well by Tom Harper, it’s shot and edited well and all that. It’s not directed badly or even blandly, but it’s nothing special really, it feels like there could’ve been something a little more than what was given here. With that said, the cinematography during some of the performance scenes particularly stands out as being really good. The music was pretty good too, and it certainly helps when a lot of the songs are performed by Jessie Buckley, who as I said has a very strong and powerful voice.

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On its own, Wild Rose is a pretty decent movie. It’s directed pretty well, the script is good (if familiar), and features a couple solid supporting performances. However, it’s Jessie Buckley’s excellent star making lead performance that makes it one to definitely check out. It may not be something you haven’t seen before but it’s crowd pleaser, it’s got a lot of good things to it, and is worth seeing.

New York, New York (1977) Review

Time: 165 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Liza Minnelli as Francine Evans
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Doyle
Creator: Martin Scorsese

The day WWII ends, Jimmy (Robert De Niro), a selfish and smooth-talking musician, meets Francine (Liza Minnelli), a lounge singer. From that moment on, their relationship grows into love as they struggle with their careers and aim for the top.

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I remember seeing this movie among Martin Scorsese’s filmography as a musical, and I was kind of curious as to what that was like. Going in however I basically had no idea what to expect, except that Robert De Niro was in it and at some point the song New York, New York would feature. Let’s just say that the movie didn’t work out so great.

New York, New York is really long at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long and that’s unnecessarily long. I get that Scorsese movies are often lengthy, but this was overkill. There are parts that had my attention but then it drags in others. There was a lot of improvisation with the dialogue, especially in the scenes between the two leads. While at times it was good, in others it became incredibly messy and unfocussed. There is an overt issue with the movie, in that I get the impression that parts of New York, New York is a deconstruction of these types of movies. While it’s at least good to know that this is deliberate, it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie, especially how much of it seems like a full on tribute to these types of movies. Credit where credit is due, the ending is actually pretty effective and worked very well for the movie. Side note but it is weird how much La La Land seemed to have taken from this movie.

Between the two leads, Liza Minnelli stands out the most and she was really good here, especially in the scenes where she sings and performs. This movie actually introduced me to Minnelli as I hadn’t seen her in anything before, and that’s actually one of the biggest positives I got from watching New York, New York. Now for Robert De Niro and his character… I should just preface this saying that he successfully and completely embodies the character as it was written. The problem is that it just so happens to be one of the most unlikable lead characters I’ve seen in a while. I get that it was on purpose but they succeeded a little too well. From the very beginning you get that vibe from him, and unfortunately he doesn’t improve over the course of the movie. I’m not kidding when I say that his character of Jimmy is more hateable than De Niro’s other characters from Scorsese movies, Travis Bickle, Jake LaMotta, Rupert Pupkin, Max Cady, etc. It’s worse when he’s paired with Minnelli’s character. Again, thankfully much of the way that it’s handled does seem very deliberate, so the toxic relationship between the two isn’t incredibly misguided or anything, it’s on purpose. I guess you’ve seen plenty of relationships where the couple are polar opposites of each other, yet they somehow work as a couple and you can buy that. But here you just have no idea why she would be attracted to him, in their first scenes she’s just as annoyed at him as we are and over time they somehow end up being together. In the scenes they share together when they’re not performing, you just want her to get away from him. I’ve talked a lot about this character in this review but he’s very much a major annoyance. Still, I guess that’s partially a testament to De Niro’s performance here, he’s fantastically convincing in the role, in fact he was probably too good. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast but they play their parts okay enough.

You can see Martin Scorsese’s direction in the sense of how well it’s all handled and looks, however it does seem like much of his style is heavily inspired by other similar films in the genre. There’s actually not much to say about his direction here, it’s as good as musical from the 70s should be. As you can expect, when the music sections are very good, unfortunately they’re not as prominent as you’d think or hope for. However there is a pretty prominent music section towards the last act with Liza Minnelli, so it’s worth sticking around for that. When the movie embraces the musical aspects of the movie, it actually really shines.

New York, New York is very clearly not one of Scorsese’s best. Although I do admire what he was going for, overall I’m just going to remember it as an ambitious experiment that just didn’t work out that well. Despite some good acting, direction and music, the deconstructional take on musicals just didn’t work tonally, it’s way too long, and one of the lead characters ruins much of the movie. It’s not a must see, along with Who’s that Knocking at My Door and Boxcar Bertha, I file this under ‘watch only if you’re a Martin Scorsese completionist’. You really aren’t missing much if you don’t see this.

Yesterday (2019) Review

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Himesh Patel as Jack Malik
Lily James as Ellie Appleton
Kate McKinnon as Debra Hammer
Ed Sheeran as himself
Director: Danny Boyle

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James). After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes on overnight sensation with a little help from his agent.

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I heard about this movie for a little while, what I knew was that it involved The Beatles and had Lily James. It feels like a strange movie for Boyle to make, yet from the trailers seemed like a simple but fun movie to watch. Having seen it, it’s definitely not one of his better movies, and it doesn’t even have the same energy displayed in the trailer. Yet it is enjoyable for what it is, I had a good time watching it.

Yesterday isn’t really great and has some issues. There isn’t a lot of depth given to the story, though I wasn’t expecting much really. As it turns out, The Beatles aren’t the only thing that disappeared from history. With that said, there is no explanation as to why they disappeared from existence, nor is there any explanation for why the main character is like the only person to remember them. The movie also doesn’t really take advantage of the premise, it’s like you could swap The Beatles with any iconic music group like Queen or The Rolling Stones, and would basically get the same effect, outside of some different references. It’s very clear that the romance is the focus, and in that most of the movie works fine enough, it’s just that it feels very familiar and simple. The movie certainly works a lot better when viewed as a romantic comedy, so definitely go into it expecting that. It’s got a light tone and is perfectly watchable, though at a little under 2 hours feels slightly long.

Most of the cast play their roles very well. Himesh Patel is the lead in this movie, I’ve never seen him in anything else and this appears to be a breakout role for him, he plays the role really well. Lily James shines as always, the two of them share good chemistry, though we don’t really see enough of them together. Ed Sheeran is in the movie as himself for more than just a cameo, he’s actually a noticeable part of the plot. Let’s just say that if you don’t like him then I don’t think you’ll like the amount of screentime that he gets. Kate McKinnon’s character is a very cartoonish agent who’s only interested in money and all that, but McKinnon elevates the role quite a bit and manages to make her work and genuinely entertaining whenever she’s on screen.

Danny Boyle is directing, and you really get the feeling that he’s really limited by the whole romantic comedy genre. It’s about as well directed as it could possibly be and he does his best to add some of his style to the movie. We only get like brief scenes focussing on the music but when it’s there it’s good as expected, it’s The Beatles after all.

This isn’t among Danny Boyle’s best movies, it really doesn’t take advantage of its entertaining premise as much as it could’ve and doesn’t do quite enough to make it stand out among the rest of the genre. However, if you like a light hearted romantic comedy, Yesterday is worth giving a watch. Boyle does the best with what he has, and both Patel and James are likable leads. Just don’t expect much more than that.

Rocketman (2019) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Taron Egerton as Elton John
Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin
Richard Madden as John Reid
Bryce Dallas Howard as Sheila Eileen
Director: Dexter Fletcher

A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s (Taron Egerton) breakthrough years.

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Rocketman was a movie I was looking forward to. Although I was only recently getting into Elton John’s music, I’ve liked what I heard from him, and with the likes of Taron Egerton involved (and the trailers looking pretty good), I was curious about it. If there was one thing that had me slightly worried, it was Bohemian Rhapsody last year. While I liked the movie when I saw it, much of its flaws and failures became apparent to me over time, and now it’s just a wasted opportunity and a misfire. With yet another music biopic focussing on another musical icon, I was a little nervous about how it would turn out (directed by Dexter Fletcher, who did the reshoots of Bohemian Rhapsody), despite it looking good. Thankfully I can say that Rocketman is pretty much the anthesis of Bohemian Rhapsody.

While I don’t want to spend much of the review comparing this and Bohemian Rhapsody, it really just emphasises what Rocketman does so well. Both movies had the artists involved in the making of them, but while Bohemian Rhapsody was very clean and sanitised (particularly with the portrayal of the alive band members), Rocketman seems genuine and raw and doesn’t filter what happened. This is definitely not a PG-13 movie and I’m glad that’s the case. Elton John was involved in the movie but he seemed to give the filmmakers the reign to what they want to portray his story, warts and all. It covers a lot of the bad choices he’s made and the things that he goes through, without feeling like there is some kind of judgement of him throughout. While I don’t know his story outside of the movie, I can tell that there’s probably some bits that aren’t entirely accurate (like most biopics). However, you get the feeling that thematically it nails his story. For example, at certain points they play his music during segments, even songs that weren’t even made at those certain points in his life yet, but it works surprisingly perfectly for those particular moments. With it being a fantastical story, they can play around with things like that. Within the first few minutes you know what sort of movie you are in for. Rocketman is 2 hours long and on the whole I liked what we got in that runtime. It’s a little slow to begin with as it starts out in Elton’s childhood, but it picks up as it goes along. Despite its unique take on a biopic, it does admittedly follow some of the familiar biopic beats, however it’s the way that it handles these moments that allow you to overlook them.

Taron Egerton is fantastic as Elton John. Not only is it him actually singing (and doing it greatly), but he just embodies Elton John so well as a person and it doesn’t come across as just an impression. Egerton had a pretty good start to his career, with his breakout role in Kingsman, followed up by movies like Eddie the Eagle, but this is his best performance yet. It would be an absolute surprise if he didn’t get any awards attention, and it would be well deserved (and no, I don’t think I’ll be changing my mind like I did with Bohemian Rhapsody). The rest of the supporting cast work really well, Jamie Bell as Elton’s songwriter Bernie, Richard Madden as Elton’s manager (who also appeared in Bohemian Rhapsody, played there by Aiden Gillen instead) and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother.

Dexter Fletcher directed this movie very well, he’s got a great handle on everything. It goes without saying that Elton John’s music definitely elevates things but it’s not just that it’s Taron performing these songs in concert scenes, they use them in a great way in the movie. It doesn’t rely on recognisable songs to get the audience to like the movie, it actually fits the scenes they appear in very well. The aforementioned fantasy sequences are also shot really well, visually stunning. It’s much more surreal than a typical biopic, and it was definitely a risk but it definitely paid off, there was no other way to do a Elton John biopic justice. When I say this movie is a musical, I’m not just saying that because it has a lot of music. At some points there are choreographed moments where multiple people are singing Elton John songs (not just Taron), that look right out of a classic musical. In that, it’s definitely best that you see this on the big screen because it’s a real experience.

Rocketman does justice to Elton John in such a great way and was way better than I thought it would be. It’s a really entertaining experience of a movie, very well directed and Taron Egerton is tremendous. Even if you were really off put by Bohemian Rhapsody or are just on the whole not a big fan of music biopics, I still think you should give it a chance. If you’re a fan of Elton John, I recommend you checking it out and even if you’re not familiar with him I still think there’s quite a bit in the movie that you’ll like.

Her Smell (2019) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Cast:
Elisabeth Moss as Becky Something
Amber Heard as Zelda E. Zekiel
Cara Delevingne as Cassie
Dan Stevens as Danny Something
Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell
Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff
Ashley Benson as Roxie
Eric Stoltz as Howard Goodman
Virginia Madsen as Ania Adamcyzk
Dylan Gelula as Dottie O.Z.
Director: Alex Ross Perry

Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is a ’90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy all-female trio Something She. Now she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom. When Becky’s chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.

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I heard about this movie a little while ago, mainly the cast, the premise and that it was shown at the TIFF film festival and received some good reviews. Outside of that, I didn’t know what I was really in for. Her Smell is what I’ve heard people say it is, chaotic, grimy and hard to watch at times. However, it is still really good, led by a really great performance by Elisabeth Moss.

Much of the structure of this movie is quite similar to Steve Jobs, and apparently writer/director Alex Ross Perry had said that it really was an inspiration for the structure here. Her Smell is very dialogue based, focussing on 5 particular moments with main character Becky over the course of 10 years. Getting this out of the way, it’s not an easy movie to watch, the primary reason being the main character Becky herself, who is currently on a downward spiral. With this being a dialogue driven movie, the dialogue itself would need to be well written and it definitely was. As good as the writing and acting was, for a while I didn’t really know what I would think about the movie. However, it finally worked for me when it came around to the last third of the movie, the more uncomfortable aspects seems to go away and isn’t as in your face. It really showed a different side of the lead character, which improved the overall movie. The whole movie really was emotionally genuine and very well put together. I didn’t know this going in, but Her Smell really is a reverse rise and fall story, and in that it suceeds. You could also see the last third as like a reward for being able to endure the first two third of the movie. This movie is long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes long and you really feel the length, I feel like it was a little too long and it might’ve been better if 15 minutes or so were cut out.

I haven’t seen Elizabeth Moss in much, I’ve heard of her from Mad Men and The Handmaiden’s Tale but I haven’t seen them. After seeing Her Smell however, I can tell that she is very talented, because her performance here is truly amazing. This movie is really riding on her and she’s fantastic, very offputting at yet times, yet raw, complex and all around incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year this still ends up being one of the best performances of 2019. The supporting cast don’t get the focus that Moss does, but they still are quite good in their parts. Dan Stevens, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard, Ashley Benson, Eric Stoltz and others may not be the focus of the movie, but they all do some really great work here and make themselves stand out even when Moss is the forefront of the whole movie.

This is the first film by Alex Ross Perry that I’ve seen, and he’s directed this film quite well. I’ve seen some people say that the way this movie looks is reminiscent of a Gaspar Noe film (without the extreme violence and sex of course) and I can see the comparisons, yet it’s done in a way that it feels like its own thing and not copying other films. It’s very close up and intimate with the characters, really making you feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable (at least for the first half), even when nothing extreme is going on. For a film focussing on a punk rocker, there isn’t a ton of focus on the music over the course of the movie, however when it’s there (whether it’s the soundtrack by Keegan Dewitt or the music that’s actually played), it is great and adds a lot to the movie.

Her Smell is not a movie that will work for everyone. For 2 thirds of the movie, it’s a very visceral experience and I can see how some people would find a large portion of the film to be obnoxious. However it’s a very well written and directed character study that works extremely well for what it is, and it all comes together at the end. I’d say that you should see it at the very least for Elizabeth Moss’s extraordinary performance, it really needs to be seen.