Category Archives: Film

Film Critic – And Why Not

Hello Dear Reader

Film Critic – And Why Not

As soon as, ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ started, I knew I was in for a treat. That was the chosen theme music for the BBC Film series, hosted by the late Barry Norman.

Barry Norman became someone who, for me, helped expand my love of films, not just the mainstream, but why I should want to watch a certain movie. He took up the role after years as a journalist in 1972. I was not immediately taken with him I must say, but his down to earth manners and simple explaining won through.

Like many others, I wanted to know what films were due for release, was I going to be interested, would they be worth rushing to the cinema. Unlike today, there was no internet, no pushing of trailers on television. There was a rival on the other channel, aimed more at children. It was ok but Barry Norman just went those steps further.

He seemed to talk to me, not many presenters could that, just make you feel he was just telling me to watch this film or avoid that one. He had one overriding criteria, whether a film was going to last; whether new generations of cinema goers would want to watch it in 20 years time. If you look at the films he recommended in 2013, you can see the reasoning.

It became something of a need to listen to his reviews and there are a few, in particular, that stand out for me. Of course, my favorite has to be Star Wars. I knew of the film briefly from odd comic magazines but it was Barry Norman’s review that sealed. H e described it as “Two hours of sheer bliss, the ultimate in space-age fairy tales,”. Now some might have dismissed this ‘new’ space-age film as childish, Norman did not. He knew what the film business had to do, entertain.

He did this without ever speaking down to his audience, taking them into his confidence. If Barry Norman said it was good, it was good. He was not one to duck away from telling actors, producers, and the likes his views about their work. He nearly got punched by John Wayne and had Robert De Niro leave, over a comment about Tom Hanks.

Barry Norman wrote a number of books, giving his reviews on the 100 greatest films and his autobiography, ‘And Why Not’. I had the great pleasure of listening to him at the New Victoria Theatre one evening. He still held that easy-going, simple style that had the audience wanting more. Asked about his reviewing style Norman said: “I always knew that nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong in criticism. The only thing I could do was to make sure that whatever I said was what I really believed”.

Tagline:’And Why Not – That Star Wars moment. (Add the theme as well)’

Film Treat – The Princess Bride

Hello Dear Reader

Film Treat

Action! Adventure! Romance! Talking to a dear friend of mine, I discovered we both liked certain films. With great help, I decided to review a few favourite films. Given my long list, it might surprise people which ones I picked.

My first choice is the film, The Princess Bride. First published in 1973, this book covered fairy tales, fantasy, romance, adventure, romantic love, comedy, heroes, villains and yes the odd kiss. Written by William Goldman, this version is the abridged one, just the good parts according to the author. It was later turned into a film, also penned by Goldman, to become a classics that works for all.

The Princess Bride

The story is timeless one, hero and heroine, battle various odds and encounters, before finally finding happiness. It is based on a parody of Eastern European nobility centuries ago. Goldman manages to weave just about the right amount of everything in the book that translates so well on-screen.

 

The film opens with a kindly grandfather visiting his sick bedridden grandson intend on ‘cheering’ him up. The grandfather is played by none other than Colombo himself Peter Falk and his grandson, played by Fred Savage. The book, so we are told, has been passed down the generations of the family and does not have the best of starts. The grandson is reluctant at first, given the title, hoping for something with more action and certainly no kissing. However, the grandfather won’t take no for an answer and proceeds to tell the story. In the book, we join midway through with flashbacks. In the film, the Grandfather narrates with interjections from the Grandson.

It centers around two main characters, a woman called Buttercup and a farm hand called Westley. In true romantic style, Westley falls for Buttercup, responding to her every command replying “As you wish”. It is his way of saying “I love you”. Trouble appears, as Prince Humperdinck of Florian demands, to take Buttercup as his bride.

Buttercup laments the death of Westley, supposedly killed by Dread Pirate Roberts while at sea. To complicate matters further, Buttercup is kidnapped by a group of bandits, Vizzini, Fezzik (a giant) and the anti-hero turned hero, turned good guy, Inigo Montoya. They are chased by Dread Pirate Roberts, who in turn is chased by Humperdinck with his sidekick Count Tyrone Ruggen. What more could there be! Well, a lot more as this story moves effortlessly through action, comedy, and romance.

Be warned, of spoilers.

There are stories within stories, as everything unfolds revealing revenge for a death, finding of true love and a resurrection pill. Not in that order, mine you. The film contains numerous quoted lines with possible one of my top five. It is delightfully delivered each time, never overplayed, never needing to be pushed, just spoken, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”. Just reading that line makes me and many others smile. Goldman did not just concentrate on the characters, they alone are priceless, but he made sure the background shone throughout. Adeptly named places add to the humour, the Pit of Despair where a machine appears to suck the life from one of our heroes. Is all lost? Of course not! Well, for a time our hero is only mostly dead. However, in fantasy, anything can happen so long as you have the Resurrection Pill and Miracle Max. Hero restored, castle to storm and heroine to save.

It is just perfect.

The cast includes a number of well-known actors and actresses. The list is quite long and some well-known faces in disguise like that of Billy Crystal who plays Miracle Max. There are also roles for Mel Smith and Peter Cook who plays a priest with a Monty Python-like lisp. I am sure this influenced Rowen Rowan_Atkinson in Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, the actor who steals the film for me is Mandy Patinkin. As Inigo Montoya, he embodies what this adventure is about. There is a point where you think it might all be over. Fezzik (a giant played by Andre the Giant) saves the day making Montoya see that his quest for revenge is not lost. The final action sequences are pure gold, combining fencing, comedy, and romance.

A movie is the sum of its parts. Actors alone can’t always carry the plot. The writing has to be delivered believable otherwise the films lacks quality and pace. Along with an award-winning soundtrack by Mark Knopfler (he of Dire Straits a favourite band of mine), the component parts do become complete.

The Princess Bride is a true family film, to watch and just smile. If I have to give it a score, well it’s 5 out 5.

Once again, many thanks to my friend who put me straight on their favourite film.

Tagline (There is only one line to use) “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”

2015 – My review

2015 – My Review

Hello Dear Reader

Well 2015 has now passed and often people reflect on their year, a personal review you might say. I am no different than millions of others, so beware spoilers ahead. (Well for time travellers at least).

2015 has, just like many other years, been filled with ups and downs across the board. It is often thought that the downs tend to come to the fore at this point and yes there were a few scary moments. It has not been the best of times but things did pick up towards the close. One of the up’s was the pleasure of seeing Michael Palin live talking about his dairies and what he wrote about. It did make me think and yes write a blog about them. Maybe more people need to remember what a dairy is all about. Another odd good moment was a trip down memory lane to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool and yes sitting watching a lot of people waltzing around the floor. Of course there were many other good moments most of which ended up in a blog or two. I also added to my list of achievements two presentations, one for the Keele Creative writing society which I was extremely proud. Add to this a very interesting trip to Buckingham Palace, one of the afternoon BBC Proms and an evening meal surrounded by most of the cast and writers of Sherlock. Now that was different.

Normally in the past I have reviewed a few good films, so why spoil a good format!

There have been a number of blockbusters yet again and surprisingly the best was saved for last (I am sure you can guess). Here are my top films (in no order whatsoever );

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Ant-Man

Jurassic World

Spectre

Minions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Of course they are all action based adventure films and the ones I saw at the cinema. There were a few I missed, noticeably Steve Jobs, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Martian and a few more.  It seemed as if each movie, for me, kept on building towards one of the best kept secrets of 2015. In this day it was surprising to find that there was little real information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Man from UNCLE started a short series of spy movies this year, along with Bridge of Spies and Spectre. The latest James Bond movie, rounded what was a very well put together story and left at least one person with a dilemma. If you wish to read my review on this film here is the link; Spectre. The Man from UNCLE was good in the sense to tried to explain the origins of the lead characters. Will there be a squeal? Bridge of Spies was one of those films I missed which was a shame, but there is always rental.

In keeping with the past few years, hard to think there was a time before them, we had the latest two Marvel films. Ant-Man introduced us to the smallest of Marvel’s characters, while the Avengers (still no Steed) came back to battle their own demons. Both films gave us more to enjoy in this growing universe, well at least to the non-comic reading part. Again I enjoyed them for differing reasons; Ant-Man was more of a comic feel, the humour fitted well as did the story. It is always difficult to present a 60s or 70s comic version so taking the best from the whole comic range seems Marvels plan. Age of Ultron on the other hand showed that sometimes it is best not to mess about with alien technology. It will lead into a series of films that could tear the audience apart.

Minions, cute, yellow, strangely understandable at times and one of those hits that was not meant to be. Why? Well they were sort of supporting characters (even in animation) that just took off. There first movie and who knows what else will turn up, was funny predictable and ok. Also returning was the Park, Jurassic one, remember that? It was a major hit of the summer and well worth it. It combined the old with new, basically the Park opened as Hammond always wanted and of course someone decided to play God and well guess the rest. Another good escape.

So finally the film of the year. You can’t argue with facts and figures, not these. Even before the film had been shown it was breaking, cinema servers and records. I have not reviewed this film as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However I did post just one word after I watched it … Emotional. It was all that everyone has said. It did take me back and yet did not reboot as many thought. It moved forward in a logical fanshion. The sets where real, the characters believable, the effects better, the story fine, yes there might be the odd plot hole but sometimes, just sometimes you have suspend everything. It was one of the few movies I could have just sat through a second time without moving. I did in fact see it twice already and plan to see it again given the chance. Many people tend to want to find problems with any film they see, I myself see plot mistakes – take IronMan 3. However, I don’t believe in just denocensing a film just because it does not explain where character A cane from.

So what else has happened that was memorable? A number of things really including having one of my poems published in the first Keele Creative Writing anthology. Completing my first book, which is due to be published in 2016, was a major achievement. That for me, is a goal I have slowly pushed for. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and I doubt it will gain me anything other than self pride. I will be able to say  not only have I written a book but it’s a published one.

Writing has been one of the more enjoyable outlets over the past few years. I have published more blogs in 2015 than before and branched out into posting photographs and a small video. I do plan on producing another short video in 2016.

To close then. 2015 another year to talk about.

Roll on 2016.

Tagline:’Are we there yet?’

 

Spectre – My review

Dear Readers

Bond is Back

When reviewing any film I find sometimes you have to wait a time to let everything sink-in. I recently watched the latest James Bond film, Spectre. I have seen every Bond film many numerous times and can remember both the plots and memorable moments both good and bad.

After Skyfall, I thought it would be very difficult to push Bond further, in fact as Skyfall finished I did think that was a perfect end to both a good story and Daniel Craig’s time in the role, if he wanted. But both he and the franchise came back.

I am not going to give away anything from the plot that has not already been said in the media or the trailers. So down to basics, the film is very good. It takes a step further than Skyfall, which is very hard to do given its success. The opening of Spectre is one of the best I have seen in ages. It is ambitious to say the least, the action starts calmly, almost nonchalantly as we watch. With one single shot, that pace changes dramatically. It is gripping, you get drawn in, you cannot help it. Craig is Bond. Even the theme song as its place when you see it. It makes sense.

For the record here is the promotional summary of the plot. A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

The story has much more to it pushing boundaries and there are reasons. It digs deep into Fleming’s past regarding Bond. What is most interesting for me, is how Sam Medes has woven so many threads into this film. You do have to watch and listen, the clues are all there. There are so many respectful nods to past Bond stories I suspect only a few will see.

The pace of the movie is such that I had not realised the passage of time. That is the mark of a good movie. The first just flew. There are some parts everyone should be able to figure out, but you still have to watch to see if you are right. I was.

The production was at its best, the most locations visited in one movie and a couple of memories again. There is a car chase, its in the trailers, its Bond. The supporting cast does have more to do yet again. There is more of M, Moneypenny,  Tanner and Q. They do support both the story and Bond. Music to many films is now a key part and once more there is the old and the new.

Many critics will review this movie with a differing eye. For me I see these as what they are, hours of escapism, entertainment forged to please as many as possible. The one element of this Bond movie is the end. Now, I am not going to give anything away here so do not worry. We all know there is a villain in Bond movies and we do meet him. Again it is clever. But the end is what I think will cause the greatest problem not for Bond himself but for Daniel Craig. This is his fourth outing and by the looks of it the most popular. And here is what I think is the problem. The movie ends, but it also can be a start. Will Daniel Craig start the next movie? The way this one has been put together is basically to say, it took four to complete the story. So will the next story take one movie or two or more? If he starts the next would it look odd to change actors in the next? Is that what weighs on his mind?

The prior actors all had single stories in so much as how Fleming had written them. Yes, we had bad guys who popped up in other stories and one group kept on appearing but, the stories were self-contained until now. That has been partly driven by other franchises and their success, which meant Bond had to adapt.

Spectre is good in my view. There are plot holes but tell me a film which does not have at least one fault? Given some films and how they drifted from the books, this has no book to follow, like Skyfall. There are few left to be honest. Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond, along side Lea Seydoux and Christoph Waltz in the main roles. They are support from the newly promoted Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Rory Kinnear as Tanner returning to their roles.

I am sure it will do well yet again and ensure Bond will return. I would give this 4.5/5.

Tagline: ‘Is the ghost of the past the Spectre of the future?’

Spectre

Ant-Man

Hello Dear Reader

Ant-Man

Please note there are some spoilers in this review.

This is part of Marvel’s phase two of films. It introduces, as the name suggests, a man who becomes … well not an ant at least. Ant-Man is a different sort of hero in this movie. Again taken from the comic books the movie opens in the late 80s with before Avengers and Age of Ultron. Hank Pym, the creator of a drug discovers people want to be less careful than he. Deciding the only way is to quit, he attempts to hide his formula and suit from the world.

Moving forward in time to present day and a discovery that all is not well. Pym is shown work that presents him with a problem. He turns to a man apparently out of luck, a convicted cat-burglar Scott Lang who himself tried to do what he thought was right. Between the two, along with a few others, they attempt to right the wrong.

Ant-Man is one of Marvels older characters first appearing in Tales to Astonish #27 (January 1962). Hank Pym was the first Ant-Man who became a founder member of the Avengers. The title and all that went with it was handed down to others including Scott Lang, when Pym moved to take up other roles. I won’t go into everything but safe to say the character has history.

The 2015 feature film cleverly condenses the history of Ant-Man, Hank Pym, Scott Lang and places it neatly into the current Marvel film universe. Now this is slightly different to the comic universe, which is to be expected. For me the film falls between the feel of the Avengers and the wit and comic effects of Guardians of the Galaxy. The action moves the film along at what is now the accustomed Marvel pace, with hints of other movies, other characters and its own style. The actors are very believable, again well-chosen by Marvel which just adds that extra little something. It has pace, well scripted and a good sound track. All-in-all , the Marvellous package.

Ant-Man may not out gross Avengers 2 or Galaxy but it will keep Marvel on track. There is certainly much more in the pipeline. In fact within a few weeks the reboot of the Fantastic Four will hit the screen and then Civil War breaks out. Add to this Doc Strange,  X-Men Apocalypse and others, Marvel is still head and shoulders above their rival. At the moment, there seems no stopping this expanding universe.

Score: 4/5

Tagline: “The smallest hero with a big ego.”