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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The Death of Stalin – Exploring the Past

TL;DR – A farcical look at the reality of when an inept leader dies and leaves a vacuum to be filled.     

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

The Death of Stalin. Image Credit: Madman.

The Death of Stalin Review

Way back in the before times, I had planned to see The Death of Stalin in cinemas, with a planned double session. However, after being emotionally obliterated by Gurrumul, that got put on hold and very came to fruition. I have kept meaning to watch it since then, but now given I have some time thanks to the current state of the world, I thought it would be the perfect time to dive in.  

In 1953, Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) was ruling the country with an iron fist, killing all those who oppose or even annoy him. There is a raucous almost frat house feel around dinner as Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale). While this jocularity goes on, Stalin requests the recording of a concerto performance he just heard on Radio Moscow, one small problem. No one recorded it. Chaos erupts as Yuri Andreyev (Paddy Considine) tries to record the performance, while buses round people up across the city. It would be the worst time for something to happen to Stalin, but as the title of the film suggests that is what happens because pianist Maria Yudina (Olga Kurylenko) slipped a note of sedition into the recording. As Stalin read it, he suffers a cerebral haemorrhage and becomes paralysed, and no one comes to his aid till morning.

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The Gentlemen – Movie Review

TL;DR – A fascinating and engaging story filled with great performances and many yikes moments     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

TL;DR – A fascinating and engaging story filled with great performances and many yikes moments     

The Gentlemen. Image Credit: STXfilms.

Review

When you sign up to watch a Guy Ritchie film, you sort of know what you are going to get yourself into as he has a very specific style. It is one that is a very flash in the pan, but with a lot more substance than similar filmmakers. On the whole, I do tend to enjoy his style of filmmaking and the stories he focuses on because at the very least they will be entertaining. Well let’s dive into his latest that I was not able to catch in cinemas given ‘waves hands around’, but I am looking forward to now.     

So to set the scene, we open with Michael ‘Mickey’ Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) walking into a pub he owns ordering a pint and a pickled egg and phoning his wife Rosalind ‘Ros’ Pearson (Michelle Dockery). Only to find out there is someone unknown in the house with her which is just the moment that someone puts a bullet in the back of his head. Jump to Raymond ‘Ray’ Smith (Charlie Hunnam) arriving at his home only to find general sleazeball and private instigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) waiting for him with a story and a demand for 20 million dollars. A tale of a bad man who wants to get into the world of legitimacy from a world of danger and it goes about as well as you can expect.      

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Movie Review – The Windermere Children

TL;DR – A deeply emotional and confronting film that looks at the aftermath of trauma and how you can walk back from it.   

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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

Awards:

Nominated: The Emotion.

The Windermere Children. Image Credit: Fremantle.

Review

There are those moments in life where we get to see the full depths of human cruelty and few moments have exemplified it more than the Holocaust. It was a moment where human depravity was industrialised and weaponised in the endeavour to exterminate an entire race. Today we explore a film that deals with the aftermath and trauma through the eyes of the children that survived it.     

So to set the scene, we open in on a bus full of children as they make their way through the British countryside at night. The bus is full of children refugees rescued from Holocaust camps. One thousand children brought from the camps to Brittan and 300 of them came to Calgarth Estate on the shores of Lake Windermere. As they arrive, there is a real fear that they have swapped one camp of despair for another. Their families are likely all dead, and all of them have suffered travesties that make every dog a threat and food something you hide when you can. They only have funding for four months to help them with their trauma, which is not enough time given everything they had gone through.

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Exploring the Past – Stardust (2007)

TL;DR – A pure fun ride from start to finish, the kind that leaves a smile on your face for a time after you finish watching it.   

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

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

Stardust. Image Credit: Paramount.

Review

There are some films out that that you can only watch once and then there are those that you can watch any time someone suggests it. Today we are looking at the latter, a film that is full of joy from start to finish.

So to set the scene, in the 1800s in Great Brittan there was a little town called Wall. It was a mostly unremarkable little hamlet bar for one odd feature an old wall that runs along its boundary that has an old man (David Kelly) guarding the only opening. Well, one day a young man from the village call Dunstan Thorn (Ben Barnes) decided to go see what was on the other side of the wall. Here he found a marketplace full of bizarre creatures for sale and also servant girl (Kate Magowan) enslaved to an evil witch Ditchwater Sal (Melanie Hill). It was almost a fever dream until nine months later when a baby arrived at Dunstan’s door. Eighteen years later and the young boy Tristan (Charlie Cox) is now grown up and trying to court Victoria (Sienna Miller) when he makes a suggestion that he chases down a falling star and brings it back as proof of his affections. The only problem is that the Star fell across the wall in Stormhold, the star is not an it but a she in Yvaine (Claire Danes), and also Stormhold’s king (Peter O’Toole) has just died and the remaining heirs are trying to track down the necklace that brought Yvaine crashing to the ground, and also also, there is a witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is very interested that a new star has fallen because she would very much like to cut out its heart and eat it.

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TV Review – Sex Education: Season 2

TL;DR – This is a show that deals with sex and sexuality in a very frank and refreshing way which you will find endlessly engaging or very off-putting

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Sex Education: Season 2. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

There are some shows that are irreverent for no reason other than the fact that cheap humour gets looks, so pitching your show at the lowest common denominator is a good business model. The crassness has no reason to be there bar being a punchline for people to awkwardly laugh about. However, once in a while you get a show that goes through all the different sex jokes you can have, and indeed it starts with a montage about someone discovering masturbation, however, not once is it about playing it low but instead, it finds a voice for those who don’t quite know how to express each other.

So to set the scene, at the end of last season everything at Moordale Secondary School was in a state of flux with Adam (Connor Swindells) being sent away to military school, Maeve (Emma Mackey) has been expelled, and while Otis (Asa Butterfield) final finds someone to love him back with Ola (Patricia Allison) but it comes at the expense of his one true love Maeve. In the time since Otis has discovered how to achieve release, Maeve has started work in a local mall to get by, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) has developed a crush on the new kid Rahim (Sami Outalbali), and Otis’ mum Jean (Gillian Anderson) is still seeing Ola’s father Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt) even though they had told their kids that they had broken up. Which is the perfect storm for a chlamydia outbreak to cause the school to fall into a state of chaos. Now we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there may be some [SPOILERS] ahead.

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Movie Review – 1917

TL;DR – This is a film that captures you in the first frame and does not let you go until the ending credits start scrawling     

Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars

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

Awards

Nominated: Explosive Action, Beautiful Cinematography, All The Tension & Exquisite Musical Score
Winner: Beautiful Cinematography & Exquisite Musical Score

1917. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

Sometimes you go into to see a film and you have no idea that what you are about to watch has been almost tailored just for you. In this case, we have a war film, about just two characters, presented as if it was all filmed in one take. If I was explaining to you what would be the perfect film for me this would not be far off. I bring this up to put some context down before we dive into the world of explosions, gun shots, and every trench under the sun.

So to set the scene, we are in the heights of World War One on the front lines in France, with Germany and their allies on one side and Brittan and their allies on the other. This is trench warfare and every centimetre of territory has been won through a considerable loss of life. It is here where one day Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is roused from his sleep and asked to go on a mission with Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) by General Erinmore (Colin Firth). For you see, overnight the German forces have retreated and many commanders believe that they have them on the run. However, it is actually a ruse, the Germans have just retreated to a more fortified line and they are leading those chasing them into a trap. The boy’s mission is to cross into no-man’s land, travel through enemy controlled territory so they can make it to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) in time to call off the attack and save 1600 lives. Now due to the nature of the film and that it has a staggered release date across the world, I am going to be a bit more cautious with my examples so as to not spoil anything.

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Movie Review – Official Secrets

TL;DR – A powerful exploration of what happens when all the institutions that are meant to protect us from abuse of power fail   

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

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

Official Secrets. Image Credit: Universal.

Review

There are films that are perfectly timed in their release, sometimes it is the world shifting around you, sometimes you get lucky and just so happen to be shining a light on something that is about to come to the foreground, and sometimes it is always good to be reminded of speaking truth to power. Well, today we get a film that does all three of those as it explores the absolute mess that was the justifications for the Iraq War. A mess that America, UK, Australia, and others found themselves in through no one’s fault but their own.

So to set the scene, in 2003 the world was on the cusp of war as America in the wake of September 11 has set its sights on a new foe Iraq. Not happy to just sit and wait for the weapon inspectors to do their jobs, they were placing enormous pressure on the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution allowing the war. As this is happening, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) was working in the UK’s signal intelligence agency GCHQ as a translator, when she receives a memo from her superiors asking them to support NSA efforts to pressure UNSC diplomates to vote for the war. As this goes against her job and is quite possibly illegal, she takes a copy of the memo and gives it to a trusted friend to see if it is as bad as she thought it was, and well it was.

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