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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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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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – Movie Review

TL;DR – While there are some moments where it excels, the overall story never clicked with me, leading to many frustrations.    

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

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

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review

When it comes to films that have had been waylaid by the behind the scenes issues, I can think none have been so publicly shown like this since maybe Justice League. Its main star was fired and replaced after one day of shooting. Another was arrested a week out from release, all while the series creator dug themselves deeper into the hole one Tweet after another. It is such a debacle that many of my colleagues are not covering the film, which I respect. But given that we are looking at the movie today, I have to say that now I have seen it, our official opinion is … eh.

So to set the scene, at the end of the last film, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) managed to make his case against the muggles and move a lot of Wizards and Witches to his side. One of these was Jacob Kowalski’s (Dan Fogler) love interest Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol). Now while Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald can’t move against each other, they still make plans. One of which was sending Newt (Eddie Redmayne) out to help a sacred magical animal. However, Credence (Ezra Miller) kills the mother and steals the child, dramatically improving Grindelwald’s position. Unless, of course, there happens to be a pair of twins.

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The King’s Man – Movie Review

TL;DR – A war film that does not know what it wants to say about war   

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ subscription that viewed this film.

The King’s Man. Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

The King’s Man Review

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the first entry into this universe with Kingsman: The Secret Service. I even liked the follow-up Kingsman: The Golden Circle, though I may be alone on that front. So when I heard that there was going to be a prequel, I was interested but also concerned because revisionist histories can land like a thud. And after watching it all, I’m still not sure.

So to set the scene, we open in South Africa, 1902 with Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and his wife Emily Oxford (Alexandra Maria Lara) arriving at British Concentration Camp during the Boer War. They were inspecting the facilities for the Red Cross and meeting Lord Herbert Kitchener (Charles Dance) when a sniper kills Emily in the crossfire. 12-years later, the world is careening towards war because a mysterious force is pulling strings behind the scenes, pushing King George of Britain (Tom Hollander), Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany (Tom Hollander) and Tsar Nicholas of Russia (Tom Hollander) into conflict.

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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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Last Night in Soho – Movie Review

TL;DR – Well Last Night In Soho is a film that threatens to go off the rails at any moment yet somehow manages to hold on just by its fingertips   

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene, but there are images during the credits

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

Warning – This film depicts scenes of abuse

Warning – This film features sequences with flashing lights

Last Night in Soho. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Last Night in Soho Review

Some directors out there have built up such a strong reputation that you know you will be checking out their next film no matter the genre/tone/story. For me, one of those directors is Edgar Wright, who has never once bored me with one of his films. Indeed, we have already gotten his take on a talking-heads documentary this year with The Sparks Brothers, and I was not going to turn down the chance to see two new films from him in the one year. I will say that this is a film that is best seen with as little information as possible, so if you are intrigued, you may want to stop reading here.

So to set the scene, Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) lives in rural Cornwell but has always dreamed of being a major fashion designer in London. She is obsessed with the style of the 1960s and capturing that time in her work. It was good news for Ellie when she got accepted into the London College of Fashion; thus, she made the long trip into the big city. After some interesting interactions with her roommate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), Ellie moves into a bed/sit in Goodge Place being rented out by Ms Collins (Diana Rigg). This old lady had owned the property for decades. It is perfect for Ellie, but as she sleeps, she visits an apparition from the past, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a singer and dancer in 1960s London. 

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No Time to Die – Movie Review

TL;DR – A solid ending for Daniel Craig’s run as Bond, giving James the most to play with as the world explodes around him.     

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

No Time to Die. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

No Time to Die Review

Well, it has been a long time, getting from there to here. Eighteen months since it was meant to be released, and Bond is finally making its return. Part of me was concerned that we would never get to see the film out in the real, another part of me was concerned given how Spectre turned out, but here we are. There is always a trepidation going into the film where you know it is an actor’s last. Thankfully, I should not have been concerned because this film almost knocks off Skyfall as my favourite of the Craig era.  

So to set the scene, we open in the middle of the Norwegian winter as a young girl (Coline Defaud) is looking after her sick mother (Mathilde Bourbin). As she is cleaning up a spill, she sees a man in the window wearing a mask. He is here to kill Mr White, but his family is an excellent second choice since he is not there. In the present, Bond (Daniel Craig) and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) are enjoying their retirement travelling down the Italian coastline arriving at the town of Matera. Swann is concerned that James keeps looking over his shoulder, but that seems fortuitous given that soon bullets start ringing out across the countryside. 

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The Sparks Brothers – Movie Review

TL;DR – An absurd story of an equally odd yet compelling bad that survived many different seismic changes.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

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

The Sparks Brothers. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Sparks Brothers Review

To be honest, when  I heard the pitch of a documentary about a band that has been both hugely influential but also under the radar? Well, I didn’t know quite what to think about it? Then you find out that Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver fame was directing it, and well, then you go from unsure to very interested in a moment, and I am glad that I did.

So to set the scene, we open all the way at the start, where brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael growing up in California. Then coming together after college to form the band Sparks after a couple of failed starts. From here, they would put out some well-received but not as popular albums until someone in their record had the idea “let’s try them in England”, and the story snowballs from there. Now I should say that my screening was interrupted by a fire alarm, which may have influenced my thoughts on the film, but given the documentary style, there was a moment at the start when I thought the warnings were some sort of immersive element, so I think it was fine.

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Emma – Movie Review

TL;DR – Charmingly silly, yet deeply compelling    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Awards:

Nominated: Beautiful Cinematography, Stunning Costumes, Most Fun, Exquisite Musical Score & Fascinating Worldbuilding

Emma. Image Credit: Universal.

Emma Review

It has been said of me lately that I have been rather a bit dismissive of the old works of writers like Jane Austen. Well, in my attempt to catch up on some of the films I missed in 2020, I thought it would be the perfect time to remedy this, a little.

In England’s Regency-era, a local matchmaker has made her latest match in the rural countryside village of Highbury. Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) has set up her governess Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan) and local widower Mr Weston (Rupert Graves). She loves the game, and her latest intrigue is Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) who brings her into a confrontation with George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), a friend and yet sometimes rival.

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Death to 2020 – Movie Review

TL;DR – A mockumentary that tries to walk the line between entertaining and informative and often fails even before it stops its narrative to do an ad for Netflix halfway through.    

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene

Death to 2020. Image Credit: Netflix.

Death to 2020 Review

I don’t think it is a controversial statement to say that 2020 has been a crap year on many fronts. It was so bad that I forgot some of the bad things that happened only to be reminded of them tonight. When a documentary film titled Death to 2020 comes along … well you have my attention, even when you find out it is a mockumentary that could still be good if executed well. However, I am not sure this one stuck the landing.

Death to 2020 starts in an interesting place because it is a documentary presented by actors playing roles. Right from the start, there is an interesting juxtaposition between reality and fiction as Laurence Fishburne’s calm tones narrate the coming calamity. This kind of set up gives you a lot of potential because it removes you slightly from the material, giving you avenues for comedy and introspection. However, that is a tricky line to walk, and frankly, this film slipped off that edge on multiple occasions.

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