Film February

Film February top image

This blog is predominantly about theatre (whether in-person or digital), but having spent considerably more time at home in the evenings over the past couple of years I’ve understandably been able to find more time for film. From March until August 2020 I watched at least one film a day that I’d never previously seen, be it a classic I’d neglected (including Tarantino Tuesdays) or a new release that couldn’t be screened in a cinema – and May 2021 became ‘Marvel May’, as I took advantage of alliteration & a few free weeks to get myself completely up-to-date with the MCU (at that point Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the two TV creations of WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier).

That was all just a personal endeavour and a way to occupy myself without making the effort to go out, but now I’m bringing it over to the blog! One new film each day, either in the cinema or at home, and an accompanying mini-review here. I’ll also be creating extra work for myself by going to several film-related theatre shows, and sharing full review posts. (I’m so glad that the only month beginning with ‘F’ also happens to be the shortest month of the year!) Expect me to be completely spent by the end of the month, but I reckon it’ll be worth it…

Rent (2005) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I think this is a musical to film adaptation that probably works best as an in-person stage show experience. There’s an energy to the rock soundtrack that doesn’t quite traverse the barrier of the screen, despite its best attempts – though I did well up at one particular moment (I’m not made of stone).

tick, tick… BOOM! (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Much more suited to a screen adaptation, as it allowed for any fantastical flight of fancy to be smoothly brought to life, marrying the theatrical production with the depiction of the main storyline. A soul-bearing performance from Andrew Garfield, and imaginative direction from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

#FilmFebruary: “We need to let go of the idea of what ‘best person for the job’ looks like in our mind”
You’ve seen the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite (or one of its many cousins) knocking about for a few years now – but what’s that all about? Do you mean to say that awards ceremonies aren’t meritocracies? Basically, yeah. And it’s not just the glitzy end of season parties that have a diversity problem; improvements still need to be made from the ground up, ensuring no one is excluded from a career in the arts due to their race, class, gender, disability, sexuality, or anything else. Enter Elliott Bornemann. Read more…

Encanto (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A magical adventure all about the importance of family. Not quite as much of a bawl-fest as its Pixar cousin Coco, but full of heart and some wonderful songs (that man Lin-Manuel Miranda again!).

Passing (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Cleverly shot in black & white to highlight how much of a construct race is, and the ambiguity that ensues. (Aesthetically it’s also quite pleasing, given that the film is set in the 1920s.) Emotionally & psychologically quite draining.

Minari (2020) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A film that is simultaneously about and not about immigration, charting a Korean-American family’s attempts to live their version of the American Dream in the 1980s by farming the land. The fracturing of Jacob & Monica’s marriage sits neatly opposite to the blossoming relationship between David and his grandma (Soonja), after an initially frosty start. A heartbreaking & heartwarming piece of cinema.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
An adaptation of a graphic novel series that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to work well as a live-action feature, but it’s just the sort of thing director Edgar Wright excels at. Lots of fun and many unexpected moments.

Photo credit: Mark Senior

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing, Dominion Theatre
“Are you having the time of your life?” Can someone remind me the name of the song that’s most associated with Dirty Dancing, as I just can’t recall it… (Says the person who tweeted the same joke before the show started, groaning all the while.) As you may have guessed, the stage version of the well-loved 1987 film has returned to the West End; it runs at the Dominion Theatre for a couple of months before heading back out on the road again. If you haven’t been to a performance, be warned – it’s a lotRead more…

Munich – The Edge of War (2022) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Predictably it’s rather white male-centric, with just bit-parts for the women, but it’s excellent storytelling – and manages to remain genuinely gripping even though we know the ultimate outcome. Some really moving moments, too (“Hoping is waiting for someone else to do it.”).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2022) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I did really enjoy it, however I wasn’t always sure of the tone they were going for; at times it felt like an out & out comedy (unless I was just laughing at evangelical Christians), but then it would veer off into straight drama. It is a fun & interesting watch, and definitely worth it for Chastain & Garfield’s performances.

Suspicion (1941) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The tension is there from the moment that the charming but irresponsible Johnnie Aysgarth cons his way into Line McLaidlaw’s first class train carriage, and only continues to ramp up as Lina’s suspicion grows over Johnnie’s capability of murder. A claustrophobic thriller.

Jaws (1975) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s interesting seeing this for the first time after you’ve just lived through a bungling government’s attempts at handling a crisis… It creates suspense perfectly, capturing the ever-growing fear & panic on Amity Island.

Uncharted (2022) ⭐️⭐️
I mean… It’s fine. Largely inoffensive, but with repetitive dialogue (say “Holy shit!” one more time, I dare you) – it clearly values the action sequences over the personal elements, and the female characters aren’t at all developed. Tom Holland does his best.

Death on the Nile (2022) ⭐️
Where to start? Now, I’m not averse to screen adaptations of books changing things up a bit, as it means readers won’t know everything that happens – it’s always nice to have a surprise in a murder mystery. But I draw the line at a moustache origin story. (Why do I get the feeling that was Branagh trying to justify the behemoth from the first film?) I’d recommend reading Agatha Christie’s novel instead.

Get Out (2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’d put off watching this film due to its horror label (that’s not really my bag), but the sociopolitical element really drew me in. It tells uncomfortable truths about the relationship between liberals & racism in a shocking & arresting way. An incredible breakthrough performance from Daniel Kaluuya, and superb direction from Jordan Peele.

#FilmFebruary: Mind the Blog’s Films To Be Buried With
I listen to a lot of list-based podcasts, consequently I’ve been trying to work out my dream meal (Off Menu), dream festival (The Line-Up), and dream pub (The Moon Under Water) for quite some time now. But as it’s #FilmFebruary, and I managed to bag a ticket for the most recent live recording of Films To Be Buried With, I thought it was about time that I committed a few film choices to the internet. There are quite a few questions in a typical episode, and I’ve come up against a few that I genuinely couldn’t think of an answer to (let alone a decent one), but I’ve done my best. I do really wish that I’d kept a list of all the films I’ve ever watched… Read more…

Prevenge (2016) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Not a classic choice for Valentine’s Day, but it worked for me! Such a fascinating premise (especially as Alice Lowe was actually pregnant during filming); it does have darkly comic touches, but it leans more heavily into the horror/thriller side of things. Could have become repetitive, but it’s just the right length, and well directed (also Lowe).

The King’s Man (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s still demonstrably part of the Kingsman franchise, with its tongue-in-cheek spy efforts and extra-dastardly villains, but it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard. Some of the action sequences are unrealistic to the extent that I found myself laughing at it, and it takes a while to get to the point. I did enjoy the triple Tom Hollander idea though.

Eternals (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s long, there’s no getting past that. But it’s worth sticking with for some interesting twists & turns, proper character development, and an injection of comedy from Kumail Nanjiani. It leaves things intriguingly poised for future films.

Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) ⭐️
I can’t really add to my verdict from the drunk tweetalong: it’s terrible. Barely any story, zero chemistry between the leads (the love triangle also didn’t work), and atrocious attempts at Irish accents. I’m glad that Walken got his ham, though.

The Shining (1980) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I can’t decide whether the score was OTT or just what the film needed – it felt like I was jumping out of my skin every few minutes. It’s almost spoiled by Shelley Duvall’s dubious work, but Jack Nicholson’s creepy performance makes it a classic.

Deadpool (2016) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As much as I’ve come to love the MCU, this irreverent take on the superhero movie hovering on its fringes is just what the doctor ordered; it’s also an important vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to pursue his ‘feud’ with Hugh Jackman. It’s absolutely outrageous, and so funny – a film I’ll definitely be revisiting in the future.

Deadpool 2 (2018) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
More of the same, really – and it gets away with doing things in its own particular style by openly acknowledging any flaws or tropes for comic effect. This is all-out entertainment that had me snort-laughing throughout (the snort-laugh doesn’t lie).

The Last Duel (2021) ⭐️⭐️
I’m going to have to write something a bit longer about this one, as it has riled me up. The headlines for now, however, are: this is not the #MeToo epic Ridley Scott thinks it is, and an all-white cast in the 2020s is inexcusable & unacceptable. The accents are all over the place, and it’s way too long. Apart from that…

Belfast (2022) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Definitely glad I overcame my usual aversion to Dornan & Branagh to give this a watch. It’s a sweet film with the constant threat posed by the Troubles hanging over it like a black cloud. Moving & feel-good, thanks in no small part to Jude Hill’s performance as Buddy. The black & white aesthetic suits it perfectly.

Photo credit: Patrick Redmond / 20th Century Studios

#FilmFebruary: Dear Mr Scott
Thank you for blaming the flop of your recent filmThe Last Duel, on millennials. It annoyed me at the time, as you had fallen into the classic trap of confusing Gen Z for millennials (those of us in the latter group are ever so slightly older) – apparently it’s easily done, but that doesn’t make it any less tiresome. In your opinion, “audiences who were brought up on these fucking cell phones” can’t cope with learning anything from sources other than Facebook. What that has to do with watching a film, I’m not sure. Read more…

King Richard (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Initially I was wary of this film, as the title hints at a man getting all the credit for his daughters’ achievements; in actual fact it acknowledges his flaws & eccentricities as much as it attests to the work Venus & Serena put into improving their game since childhood. Ultimately, it’s a heart-warming story about parents dedicating themselves to making a better life for their children – with a bit of tennis thrown in for good measure.

Cyrano (2022) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The issue with this is the source material, really. It is beautifully filmed, with some absolutely stunning backdrops and gorgeous costumes; the performances are wonderful – Peter Dinklage really knows how to tug on your heartstrings. The musical nature of it sometimes works brilliantly (Wherever I Fall is especially moving), but weirdly it’s not anachronistic enough – the little touches here & there give a glimpse of its potential. Still worth watching though.

REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre
If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge! The Musical and loved it, I’d advise you to read no further – this is not going to be pleasant. Pretty much as soon as the film came out in 2001, people were clamouring for a stage version so they could visit Baz Lurhmann’s fantastical Moulin Rouge club for real, and see the story played out in front of their very eyes. It was made for the theatre. But sometimes you should just leave things alone. Read more…

Photo credit: Matt Crockett

The Lost Daughter (2021) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stunning directorial debut is based on the book of the same name, which looks at a topic that is still ridiculously seen as taboo: the reluctant mother. It’s a psychological exploration of the lasting effects that motherhood can have on women, brilliantly portrayed by Olivia Colman in the present and Jessie Buckley in a series of flashbacks. The Greek summer setting adds a layer of hazy nostalgia & regret.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

REVIEW: The Collaboration, Young Vic
Public fascination with unexpected celebrity pairings is not a new thing; before 50 Cent and Bette Midler buddied up, two very different artists were thrown together in the hope that some extraordinary work would be produced – what resulted was a genuine connection and a friendship that would endure until their deaths, only 18 months apart. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s collaboration is what forms the basis of Anthony McCarten’s new play. Read more…

The Godfather (1972) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A masterpiece that was so worth the wait to finally watch – especially as I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen, courtesy of some 50th anniversary screenings. It’s thrilling, atmospheric, and a genuine cultural touchstone. Michael’s development shows terrific storytelling, and there’s something incredibly theatrical about the baptism scene towards the end. A true classic.

The Godfather Part II (1974) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A prequel and a sequel in one package, which somehow justifies the lengthy running time with the quality of performances and consistently engaging story. It’s fascinating to be able to compare and contrast the ways in which Vito & Michael both made their way to the top of the ‘family business’. Plus it cleared up yet more cultural references that had previously gone over my head, showing just how influential it continues to be.

The Godfather Part III (1990) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This film gets a bit of a rough draw; in pretty much any other situation it would be lauded as another brilliant contribution to the gangster genre, but it doesn’t quite hit the giddy heights of the first two films. It still manages to tread new ground, as Michael attempts to deal in exclusively legitimate business – but the violence keeps drawing him back in. By the end of the film, everything has come full circle.

Final film recommendations
I just thought I’d leave you with a list of films that I’ve enjoyed over the past year, in case you’re in need of inspiration for something to watch…

The World To Come, Boiling Point, The Power of the Dog, Annette, Free Guy, The Green Knight, SuperBob, Judas and the Black Messiah, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, Palm Springs, Pixie, Our Ladies, Cruella, People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan, Vertigo.