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By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2019 03:46PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 7

This month we check out new releases YESTERDAY (from Danny Boyle), THE KING (from David Michôd), HAIL SATAN? (from Penny Lane) and BOOKSMART (from Olivia Wilde).

Scroll down to read the reviews:

Yesterday (2019) Dir. Danny Boyle

Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik in this musical fantasy where a guitar-playing shelf-stacker becomes the only person in the world to remember that The Beatles existed after he survives a bike-crash during a global blackout. The screenplay by Richard Curtis is suitably nimble and light-hearted and after discovering his predicament, Jack decides to take credit for the infamous songs of the Fab-Four’s back catalogue. The more than likeable Lily James plays Jack’s friend and possible love interest Ellie, and she helps him cut a demo of their greatest hits. With audiences going wild for the classic tracks, Jack’s career rushes to worldwide stardom with Ed Sheeran appearing as himself and a ruthless Kate McKinnon as Hollywood music manager Debra Hammer. Probably biased (and certainly a film for fans) my love for The Beatles definitely helped my enjoyment, as the film plays with the song titles, famous stories, the background of the band's music and we even get to visit their hometown of Liverpool. The support cast are also good, especially Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal as Jack’s parents who barely listen as he plays “his" new song "Let It Be" in the family front room. With over half of the budget reportedly going on the rights to The Beatles’ songs, every penny has been well spent with the tracks, and a score incorporating their various melodies, bringing joy and sadness in equal measure. With fun and jokey performances, heartfelt (and maybe schmaltzy at times) storytelling as well as the obligatory but still legendary music, everything comes together in this captivating comedy.


The King (2019) Dir. David Michôd

Back at University I did a course called Shakespeare on Screen and ever since I have been somewhat obsessed by how the Bard’s work has been adapted for movies. And so hopes were high for medieval drama The King which is inspired by Henry IV: Part 1, Henry IV: Part 2 and Henry V. With gorgeous cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, this Netflix period piece had all the fascinating elements of a deep dive into royal politics and war. However, despite a great start whereby the playboy Henry, Prince of Wales (Timothée Chalamet) reluctantly but successfully succeeds his war-mongering father, the film quickly veers into mind-numbingly dull drama and tediousness. The support is great, Joel Edgerton as Falstaff brings a lot of charm, Robert Pattinson as The Dauphin of France is a sleazy delight and Sean Harris is solid as the duplicitous William Gascoigne. However, the carbuncle-growing pace and lacklustre dialogue slows down every dramatic development of the plot to a complete standstill. As Henry eventually succumbs to the war merchants who desire the King to show his strength, the film STILL doesn’t draw your attention - wasting as it does every possibly interesting plot point. Stick with Olivier and Branagh for the definitive Henry V takes and avoid this wearisome run-though of Willy’s work.


Hail Satan? (2019) Dir. Penny Lane

A documentary about The Satanic Temple seems ripe for a warts-and-all exposé on the demonic practices of its debauched members but prepare yourself to be very surprised with new film Hail Satan?. The film opens with the background to the temple’s inception and the subsequent negative media coverage. From the 70s, the “satanic panic” labelled members outcasts at best – and murderers and abusers at worst. However, the film’s politics are much more centred on its tolerance and fight for religious freedoms. After a Ten Commandments monument is set up on State grounds in Arkansas, the group, led by Lucien Greaves (not his real name, and also his “real” name is not his real name), take steps to advocate the separation of church and state. This is done in the main by suggesting their statue of Baphomet (a goat-headed, angel-winged demon) should also be placed on the grounds to maintain impartiality. And more revealing, the film shows that far from the religious extremists that is suggested by its name, the group are dripping in self-conscious irony, media-awareness and tolerance of alternative lifestyles. Although the film shows some internal rifts within the temple's leadership, from after school clubs to the cleaning of beaches, the diverse members in fact commit themselves to well-thought out political and eco causes. At 95 minutes, Hail Satan? doesn’t overstay its welcome and disputes the spurious claims heaped upon the temple whilst exposing the hypocrisy of certain elements of far-right Christianity.


Booksmart (2019) Dir. Olivia Wilde

What a year it’s been for Olivia Wilde who starred in the fantastic A Vigilante earlier in 2019 (our review) and now in her directorial debut has delivered a more than pleasurable film about the anxieties of growing up. Beanie Feldstein is amusing as the studious Molly whilst her best friend is Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). After overhearing some gossip in the school bathroom, Molly comes to the conclusion they haven’t had enough fun before they go off to college. Convincing Amy they should attend a party the night before graduation, the two head off on an evening of adventure. With a sensitive, yet hilarious, journey into teen angst, sexuality, popularity and school chaos, Booksmart balances some coarseness with an emotional heft that is incredibly satisfying. At times, the film hits the beats of the similarly structured Superbad (2007) with the protagonists criss-crossing the city in search of a party whilst getting caught up with the cops, strangers and illicit substances. However, the two leads are simply wonderful and some off-the-wall sequences on a boat, at a murder mystery party and as toy dolls are a giddy joy. A poignant and affecting conclusion and some believable drama throughout, the balance of laughs and moving scenes were affecting and even the support cast bring real entertainment to their (sometimes exaggerated) roles. An impressive film, Feldstein and Dever bring real empathy and believability to their characters - whilst being hilarious at the same time - and Booksmart comes highly recommended as a fun night out for all.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jan 9 2018 07:05PM

Good Time (2017) Dir. Ben and Josh Safdie

Robert Pattinson plays career criminal Constantine "Connie" Nikas who ropes his mentally disabled brother, Nick, into a bank heist in this new film from brothers Ben and Josh Safdie. Good Time was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and the film throws us straight into the brothers’ troublesome schemes. Their plans almost immediately go wrong as their ill-gotten gains from their robbery are tarnished when their bag explodes tainting the money (and them) in pink dye.

Whilst planning their getaway, Pattinson’s brother panics when confronted by cops and before long he is held in custody whilst Pattinson himself escapes leaving his brother to face jail. In prison, his brother is beaten and ends up in bandages in hospital.

Famed for Twilight and a stint in Harry Potter, both which I’m hardly a fan of, Pattinson has attempted to move away from those two infamous franchises with a choice of weird and wonderful indie flicks. Admirable though they may have been, I was no fan of fare such as Cosmopolis (2012, Cronenberg) but he is a great screen presence here and I’d go as far to say this is the most accessible of his post-Twilight films

Pattinson’s Connie then hatches a plan to break out his brother from the hospital but the slightly dull middle sequence is livened with a pulp-y twist straight from the pages of a ludicrous Dan Brown novel. Whilst the crime story has few unique elements – most of which are culled from better movies – the electronic score sounds akin to the eerie music from Stranger Things and is a great addition which provides far more atmosphere than most contemporary soundtracks.

More specifically, in this genre, there is a musical similarity to Drive (2011), whilst a long sequence in an amusement park to find a secret stash was visually inventive with its over-stylised Suspiria-esque lighting adding even more feeling. The ingenious use of the haunted house attraction allowed a fun night time chase to take place with Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips appearing as a brave security guard.

Stylistically, with the extreme lighting, the neon streets, the digital music and even Pattinson’s dyed blonde hair, it evokes some sense of Blade Runner. Stick with me on this. The Rutger Hauer hair and constant digital aural accompaniment gives the film a satisfying ambience and it’s worth noting the excellent performance of Ben Safdie in the supporting role of Connie’s brother Nick. He gives a tender and sympathetic performance in a film full of selfish thugs and his understated and quiet delivery is one of the film’s highlights and provides its much needed heart.

With that all said, is it much more than a good genre flick? Not particularly. Despite its soundtrack and gorgeous lighting, the film hits most of the brawny beats expected but with top performances and seedy sequences, you can do far worse than this movie. Bringing slick street cool to a standard thriller story, Good Time is solid without being stupendous but fans of dark crime flicks will find themselves having more of a great, rather than good, time.


Midlands Movies Mike

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