The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Udûn – TV Review

TL;DR – Could I see some of the plot points of this episode coming? Yes. Did that stop it from ripping my heart out? No, it did not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.

Adar looks over his armies.

The Rings of Power Review

When watching a show or movie, you never quite know when something will connect with you, like really connect with you. Will a story pierce your heart like a barbed arrow and break through even the most hardened layer of cynicism? After not gelling with last week’s Partings, I wondered if the series was running out of steam with me, but nothing prepared me for today.  

So to set the scene, the orcs had completely surrounded Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) and the remaining townsfolk in the watchtower of Ostirith. However, as Adar (Joseph Mawle) and the Orcs storm the watchtower, they find it empty. Well, almost empty. But while this delays the Orcs, the townsfolk know that soon the horde will be upon them and sure enough, in the distance, torches glow. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.    

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Great Wave – TV Review

TL;DR – This is an episode with joy and tears, warmth and horror, action and romance, and warnings for the future

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.

Queen regent Míriel walks towards the sounds of crushing water.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review

When they announced that Amazon would commission a new Lord of the Rings prequel series, many people [including myself] doubted if they could pull it off. Especially when it was revealed just what they could work with given the limited window their licence gave them. However, as I sit back from watching the fourth episode, it has become clear that those concerns were misplaced because few episodes of televisionthis year have moved me as much as this one did today.

So to set the scene, in Adar, we were introduced to the island kingdom of Númenor. A land was once given to man by the Elves, but a land that Elves are now unwelcome, something that Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) discovers first-hand when she is brought there by Elendil (Lloyd Owen). However, there is something behind Númenor’s reluctance, which haunts the dreams of the queen regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). However, things are going from bad to worse in the Southlands because the orcs have returned and are capturing people to dig their tunnels. Still, as Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) stands in chains, he looks in horror as the leader of the orcs is an elf called Adar (Joseph Mawle). Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.   

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6 Festivals – Movie Review

TL;DR – A transcendent exploration of music, youth, and the times in our lives where the two powerfully intersect.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Paramount+ service that viewed this film.

Warning – contains scenes that may cause distress.

Utopia Valley, Central Coast, NSW, New Year's Eve.

6 Festivals Review

When people write stories about young people, they often look back to their own lives as inspiration. But there becomes a disconnect between setting something in the now based on a feeling from the past. This issue can lead to outdated films before they even make it to the screen. Well, today, we look at a movie that avoids those pitfalls by focusing on the very real and now.

So to set the scene, we open on a small rowboat in the middle of the river as three friends, James (Rory Potter), Maxie (Rasmus King), and Summer (Yasmin Honeychurch), drink wine out of a box and sing Powderfinger’s My Happiness. They are using the boat to sneak into the Utopia Valley music festival on the central coast of Australia’s New South Wales. But they are soon rumbled by the cops and have to do a quick fence jump to get in. The festival is a riot, right up until the cops catch up with them, and James is forced to reveal that he has cancer. Knowing that he can use his cancer as a good excuse, the three convince James’s mum Sue (Briony Williams), to take them to the Big Pineapple festival and more, as they try to hit six festivals in a row.     

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The Phantom of the Open – Movie Review

TL;DR – It is an absolute delight. Mark Rylance completely encapsulates the character bringing warmth and nuisance to the role. Overall, I found the film to be an utter delight and filled with charm from start to finish.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.

Maurice reveals his golf clothes under his work uniform like superman.

The Phantom of the Open Review

One of the best parts of this recent biopic resurgence has been discovering stories about people I had never heard about before. I am not much of a golf person, so while I knew the British Open was a thing that existed, I had not heard about one of the quirks in its history. However, cast Mark Rylance in your film, and you already have me on board, and what a delight it was.  
                          
So to set the scene, Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) was born in Barrow-in-Furness on the coast of northern England and much like his father before him, he was destined to work in the local shipyards until he was carried out on a box. But when he met Jean (Sally Hawkins), he knew his life would be focused on her and, eventually, his three children, Michael (Jake Davies) and the twins Gene (Christian Lees) and James (Jonah Lees). However, as the shipyard looks to be nationalised and Maurice has a genuine chance of getting a redundancy, he has to look to what he wants to do for his future. Well, one night, while watching the TV, he sees a game of golf being played and thought he’d have a crack at that and give the British Open a try.

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Top Gun: Maverick – Movie Review

TL;DR – A glorious sequel from start to finish, filled with heart-pounding adrenalin and a boost to the more dramatic parts of the script.    

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid to see this film

A Jet over the desert.

Top Gun: Maverick Review

Two different reactions can happen when you try a sequel decades after the first film. The first is that you are trying to capture something whose time has passed, and you can’t walk back into that world. The second is that they tap into a nostalgia that is there and use it to propel them forward. Today we look at a film that lands with the latter as it soars across the screen. Because Top Gun: Maverick fixes those elements that did not work in the first film and then takes what did work and amps it up to 11.                           

So to set the scene, it has been decades since the first Top Gun, and after flying planes in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and both Iraq’s Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) now works as a test pilot for experimental jets in the Mojave Desert. When told that his unit is about to be shut down because Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) thinks that drones are the future. Well, one illicit test later and intervention of Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), Maverick is not grounded, but instead, he is sent back to Top Gun to be a teacher. Because they need to undertake a perilous mission, and only Maverick can teach them. The only issue is that one of the possible recruits for this potential suicide mission is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late radar co-pilot.   

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Downton Abbey: A New Era – Movie Review

TL;DR – While it does suffer from pacing issues when it finds its grove, it becomes a true delight    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: A New Era Review

As we said back in our review of the first Downton Abbey film, I have never watched any of the TV Show that is the basis for these films. It was a pop-culture phenomenon, so even without watching, you picked up things like one character’s untimely death via car crash after visiting his newborn son. With that in mind, I am approaching these films and these reviews as someone who has not seen the supporting show and thus present how it works or does not work for those who have not watched the show.

So to set the scene, we open with a wedding as Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) as the whole family comes to share in the nuptials. However, as they return to Downton, Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his daughter Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) are called into a meeting with Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) and her lawyer. For you see, Violet has inherited a villa in the south of France in a surprising and disputed way. Half the household makes the trip down south to work this all out. Meanwhile, those who stayed back at the Abbey must contend with the mansion being used as a location site for a film. It is a big imposition, but the appearance of Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and enough money to fix the roof help ease the pain.

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Cyrano – Movie Review

TL;DR – While there are some hard turns throughout this film, it is a true delight when it soars.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Cyrano. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Cyrano Review

For me personally, I don’t need a film to be perfect. It can be filled with flaws, but as long as it still reaches me emotionally, that is fine. That emotion can be joy, sadness, wonder, or even anger. Today we look at just such a film that enraptured me in places and frustrated me in others.

So to set the scene, we open in France, which has been at war for an age. Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is getting ready to be taken to the theatre by De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), a man she does not love, but he paid for the tickets. The theatre was a joy right up until a voice calls out from the shadows decrying the leading actor. The voice head of The Guards and childhood friend of Roxanne, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage). Cyrano is profoundly in love with Roxanne but has never declared his intentions. Later that night, Roxanne’s attendant Marie (Monica Dolan) invites Cyrano to a private meeting with Roxanne. Cyrano is ecstatic, but this is short-lived when she asks him to look out for her love Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Christian doesn’t know how to confess his love for Roxanne, so Cyrano makes a deal. He will write romantic prose for Roxanne but under the name of Christian.   

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Belfast – Movie Review

TL;DR – A delightful film that has the ability to surprise you with its emotional content, even when you know it is coming.    

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Belfast. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Belfast Review

When I trace my lineage back in time, half of me comes from Ireland and the other half from England, which makes any film set in Northern Ireland this odd combination of interests and concern. I honestly did not know what to expect when I walked into the cinema, which was for the best as I got sucked into this narrative and world.

So to set the scene, on the 15th of August 1969, it was a quiet day in the suburbs of Belfast. Ma (Caitríona Balfe) calls out across the street for Buddy (Jude Hill) that it is time to come home for dinner. As the request gets passed up the road, Buddy comes galloping home only to crash into a riot in progress. As the violence increases, a barricade is put up on the street, and Pa (Jamie Dornan) comes rushing home from overseas because soon, the family will have to make some hard choices.   

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Station Eleven – TV Review

TL;DR – This stunningly beautiful show is about the connections we make and how love can triumph even in the darkest of worlds.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Stan subscription that viewed this series.

Station Eleven. Image Credit: Stan.

Station Eleven Review

I came into Station Eleven not knowing anything really about what I was getting myself into. I had heard vague mentions that it was pretty good, and I knew it was post-apocalyptic, but not much more than that. So I was completely unaware that I would inhale this show in the space of a week and everything about it. It has been a long while since a show has affected me like this, and goodness, what a ride it was.

So to set the scene, one night in Chicago, Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel) is seeing to opening night of the play King Lear. However, halfway through, something odd happens on stage and star Arthur Leander (Gael García Bernal) collapses on stage. Jeevan rushes to help, but Arthur dies of a heart attack. As chaos erupts around him, Jeevan finds one of the child actors, Kirsten (Matilda Lawler), has been forgotten, so he offers to walk her home. But after finding no one home at Kirsten’s house, Jeevan got a call from his sister (Tiya Sircar), that works at the hospital. The flu spreading across Europe is not usual. The death rate was 999 in 1000, and a kid had arrived in Chicago from Moscow that day. The flu is here, and it will rip through the population in 24 hours. Jeevan has to get supplies and head to his brother Fred’s (Nabhaan Rizwan) apartment, don’t talk to anyone because society is about to collapse. Just one problem, what does he do with Kirsten? Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.     

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Minari – Movie Review

TL;DR – It captures a snapshot of a life so perfectly that it is almost difficult to watch sometimes because you feel like a voyeur eavesdropping on someone else’s life.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Stan subscription that viewed this movie.

Minari. Image Credit: Madman Films.

Minari Review

Some films you can tell are works of personal nature because of the breath intimacy at every turn. You feel it in the story, the world, and the characters. This makes it a more intimate film, but it also can be more challenging to watch. Today we look at a movie that might be the most personal film I have ever seen that wasn’t a direct autobiography.

So to set the scene, in the 1980s, the Yi family make the trek inland from California to Arkansas. Jacob (Steven Yeun) picked the house because of the land, but his wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) is less than impressed that Jacob bought a trailer and not a house. Jacob wants the land to be a farmer to grow Korean crops for the diaspora, while Monica is fearful that they are too far away from the cities as their son David (Alan Kim) has a heart problem. Things get better/worse when Monica’s mum Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) arrives to watch David and his sister Anne (Noel Kate Cho) as Monica and Jacob spend their days sexing chickens in a local factory.  

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