Films and TV of the month: April + holiday plans

 

 

 

The Cannes film festival runs 14-25 May and the 2019 line-up was announced. As usual there are a bunch of filmmakers I’ve never heard of. My most anticipated films (so far) are, in no particular order:

 

Matthias & Maxime (Xavier Dolan)
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch)
A Hidden Life (previously titled “Radegund”) (Terrence Malick)
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach)
Le jeune Ahmed (Dardenne’s)
Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

 

 

 

stanley kubrick exhibition london.jpg

In other (more personal) news, I am off to the UK on a few days holiday soon and will be in the London area. Have seen many of the big attractions but want to try things I’ve not done. Despite my love of movies, I’ll probably skip the London Film Museum as you can basically look at most of the Bond in Motion tour via YouTube. Besides, I have seen a few of the cars already at the now defunct Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick.
Was hoping to see Houses of Parliament this time but is only open on Saturdays at the moment while Buckingham Palace is closed with tours for tourists between July-September. Speakers Corner in Hyde Park sounds fun but I’m not able to go on a Sunday. I was surprised to discover St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey both have an entrance fee now of approx £20 but the bigger museums are still free of charge.
Considering the image in the header of my blog, I should seek out 
Abby Road which the Beatles famously walked across. Are there any music museums in London?
My plan is to visit the Stanley Kubrick exhibition (image above) at the Design Museum in Kensington, which opened in late April. Other ideas include seeing Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and a trip to the south coast for the 1066 museum in Battle, near Hastings. Might also go to Churchill’s war rooms near Downing Street, although, again, you can see much on YouTube. Last but not least Denis’ new sci-fi film High Life is playing in cinemas so I’ll attempt to catch that when I’m over.  If you have any other suggestions of interesting things to visit in the London area, let me know! I’m still reading guide books out of a fear of missing out! 

 

 

On to the spoiler-free mini-reviews:

 

 

 

Us (2019).JPG
Us (2019) (Jordan Peele)
The ‘us and them’ aspect is clever and ambiguous, tapping into division, inequality in society, and the fear of invasion. The title Us could mean U.S. as in United States. I just wish Peele did more with his idea. Lupita Nyong’o’s creepy voice( there has been backlash as she was inspired by a vocal disability), the red outfits, and the scissors are memorable. The weakness is the plot. Not as entertaining and well-told as Get Out. I liked the score and music choices but the concept is underdeveloped. The situation we find ourselves in stagnates by not escalating beyond the battle of the two sides. Large chucks of the film take place in near darkness which made it hard to follow at times. The use of Good Vibrations can’t have been what The Beach Boys envisioned yet nevertheless an effective scene. There are a few laughs, mostly spoken by Winston Duke’s character.
I didn’t find it scary because it was so far from real life. Granted is an allegorical horror so wasn’t going for realism per se. You have to suspend your disbelief to buy into the story and I wasn’t quite able to go there. The twist (which I won’t go into) somewhat saves the movie.
Director/writer Jordan Peele is quoted: ”There’s a presumption in the industry that if black people are the leads in a film it has to be in some way about race. I wanted to show that we can push past that.”
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts (2019) (May el-Toukhy)
The best film of 2019 so far. A Danish drama which won the Audience Award at Sundance. A female director to keep an eye on for the future. Very well-acted by the entire cast and especially by Trine Dyrholm. A realistic #MeToo story that humanizes a family and shows how an inappropriate relationship gradually develops. Not a spoiler to say there’s tragedy in what’s done cannot be undone. The world needed a #MeToo film with a female as the perpetrator even though isn’t the only time it’s been done as we also have Notes on a Scandal (2006) and A Horrible Woman (2017). However these films are very different. As a Danish reviewer wrote, Queen of Hearts is harsh yet gripping.
8.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Look Away.jpg
Never Look Away (2018) (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

Nominated for an Academy Award for foreign language film at the recent Oscars. A German romantic historical drama. Loosely based on Gerhard Richter’s student life, one of the 20th century’s most admired visual artists. I did not know of him beforehand. You can tell there is a desire to create a national epic with a timeline running from the 1930s until the 1960s. The film is impressive to look at and was nominated for its cinematography. A shout out to Saskia Rosendahl who despite a supporting role manages to outshine the two leads. The story works on an educational level, I didn’t know how the Nazi’s treated the handicapped and the mentally ill. Also, the censorship issue for artists during the era is explored. As an NPR podcast noted, the film asks: Why make art? Who is it for?
However the storytelling isn’t as confident or focused as the director’s previous The Lives of Others (2006). We follow the young artist and his relationship but I sometimes felt there wasn’t enough conflict, especially in the second half. My biggest gripe is the underwritten female character Ellie Seeband. Granted the film is set in the past when women were not as liberated but for a three hour film you would expect her to have a personality and not just be a sex object. I also felt the director didn’t know how to end the film as the last scene was unsatisfying considering I’d just invested 189 minutes. The comedy aspects were a surprise, the Germans aren’t know for their sense of humor. Particularly amusing was the eccentric teacher at the art school. Never Look Away wants to be a masterpiece yet the story is lacking something, resulting in a good but not great watch.
6.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

Stan and Ollie
Stan and Ollie (2019) (Jon S. Baird)
About the final years of comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as we follow them when they are no longer as popular and trying to secure a movie deal while touring the UK performing live gigs at theatres. Perhaps not the most interesting story to tell but that is what the filmmakers decided on.
The make-up department did some great work here transforming the actors yet John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are still able to deliver emotive performances that don’t cross over into caricature. The supporting character Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda) has some funny dialogue as well.
An affectionate tribute that is not as inventive as the Laurel and Hardy classics from the past but worth a watch to see behind the mask of who they were as people. Sometimes reality was not far from fiction such as the scene when they arrive at the hotel entrance. Although I don’t know how accurate the depicted events are.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

Chimes at Midnight (1965).jpg
Chimes at Midnight (1965) (Orson Welles)

The cowardly yet boastful drunkard Falstaff (Orson Welles) has many amusing lines, and the character reminded me a little of The Other of the Wind’s attention-seeking yet sad Jake Hannaford. While Falstaff dominates the film with his wit, it’s really Prince Hal’s journey which is the most interesting, as he faces a tough decision. The Battle of Shrewsbury sequence is impressively staged. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the story as much as I had hoped. Fair play to Welles for putting his own spin on Shakespeare. Many admire the film, but the speed at which the lines are delivered made for a frustrating watch. Difficult to follow, even with subtitles. I found it too dense,  I suspect I’d have liked it better as a book. Also, you need to be familiar with the Shakespeare works the screenplay is based on to fully appreciate Welles’ film. Probably deserves a higher rating as there is rewatch value but I’m scoring it on my enjoyment.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

Battle of Britain (1969).jpg
Battle of Britain (1969) (Guy Hamilton)

By the director of Bond movie Goldfinger. Worth a look for the all-star cast and spectacular air warfare involving spitfires and the German equivalent. An important piece of history but the movie lacks variation and heart.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

23 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: April + holiday plans

  1. That is great that you are visiting London! I hope you have a great trip since all the sites you mentioned above sound great. I love exploring hidden corners of the city. Since I am so interested in the history of medicine and psychiatry/psychology one of my favourite galleries/museums is Wellcome Gallery, but I have heard that some exhibitions there are coming to an end now after more than 10 years. I love the British Museum as well, and you are right, London Film Museum in Covent Garden is not worth visiting.
    Perhaps, if you choose to see “High Life” at the Curzon Soho cinema near London’s Chinatown, we could actually be watching the movie in the same room at the same time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Looking forward to the trip. Went to The British Museum a few years ago, and saw the Mexican history area about the Mayans and Aztecs, and also the Egyptian mummies. Both with guided tours. On the way out we passed by the Rosetta Stone, which apparently took many years to decipher, and has helped scientists work out what certain ancient symbols stand for.

      Have actually never heard of the Wellcome Gallery. I will google and see what exhibitions are open when I’m there. London Film Museum is a bit misleading as it’s really a James Bond car museum
      I don’t know what you look like (anonymity) so I’d probably not notice it was you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s right. Proper film museum in London is The Cinema Museum located in Kennington, London, and it has been battling closure now for a couple of years. I am not even sure whether it is viable anymore: http://www.cinemamuseum.org.uk/
        Hmm, movie-wise, I also know there is the BFI Shop which is dedicated to film at Belvedere Road, Lambeth (Waterloo) and there is a mega shop dedicated to comics and entertainment – Forbidden Plane in Shaftesbury Avenue, which may be worth visiting. My favourite EVER DVD and music shop in UK is FOPP store – three floors, good prices and choice, located at 1 Earlham St, Covent Garden, London.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. @dbmoviesblog: Thanks for the suggestions! I will consider them before I leave. I like browsing in those kind of shops so may just do that if I am in the area.

      I went to the equivalent of London’s BFI Shop in Berlin( at Potsdamer Platz ) and found some German films I wouldn’t be able to buy in regular stores at home. The Deutsche Kinemathek is well worth a visit if you are in Berlin, a beautifully constructed museum on the history of German cinema, including Metropolis, Marlene Dietrich, etc.

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  2. Great that you’re coming to London, I’m sure you’ll have a brilliant time. I was down there a couple of months ago and discovered a lovely little unusual shop tucked away down a quiet alley (full of other lovely little unusual shops
    – Cecil Court, near Leicester Square/Covent Garden). Only a tiny room and as a shop they’d obviously like customers to buy something if possible but well worth a visit in my opinion for anyone interested in music/film/pop culture. More info here: https://pleasuresofpasttimes.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @C: Thanks for the tip. I’ll take a look at the link. sounds like a place I might like as well. There are so many undiscovered places in London which tourists miss!

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  3. The Dead Don’t Die is on my oh my god I’m so freaking excited list!!!! What a cast and one of my favourite uber babes Rosie Perez 🙂
    Love Jim Jarmusch. Fav? OOooo might be Ghost Dog. I came out the cinema with the biggest smile. Top film.
    Massively excited about new QT too. Refusing to watch the trailers for both so to know as little as possible. Can’t wait for them.

    “US” I need to see this soon as both my children have seen it. Both said it was weird lol. I’m desperate to chat about it with them. Hopefully soon.
    “Queen Of Hearts” has gone on the list.

    Hope you have a fantastic time in the UK. I too really want to go the Kubrick exhibition. On free exhibitions.
    I’ve not been yet but people keep telling me about The Wallace Collection being a real gem of a museum.
    If you have an interest in military history then Imperial War Museum and the Royal Air Force Museum are superb.
    Plus I’ll add The Photographers Gallery. I always pop in when I there.
    https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman: Agree Ghost Dog might be Jarmusch’s best. That film had everything, style, humor, heart, action,philosophy, soundtrack, you name it!

      Us is an intriguing horror and leaves room for interpretation though Queen Of Hearts hit me harder because it was closer to real life.

      Thanks, I hope so too. The Kubrick exhibition has been travelling around the world and the London stop apparently has a few new additions, including the orange car from Clockwork Orange

      The Wallace Collection looks interesting (and nice that it’s free!) .The Photographers Gallery is new to me too. Those places can be inspiring. I didn’t know you had an interest in photography. Makes sense as related to cinema

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  4. If I could afford the trip to the Kensington museum I would gladly take it. That Kubrick museum looks amazing. I enjoyed Us until the last 15 minutes and was lost after that. I know I need to see it again. Yes I too want to see the new flicks by Malick and Tarantino too.

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    1. @The Vern: i didn’t make it to Kensington palace. was in the area though and saw the Kubrick exhibition. More on that in my holiday summary later (with photos )

      The direction Us goes kind of forces you to reevaluate the whole story. The last act reminded me of Michael Jackson’s music video for Cry, both probably inspired by the 1986 Hands Across America event.

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  5. I’m excited for the festival as I will pay attention to what is happening despite the fact that I won’t do my marathon this year due to personal reasons. As for the films you’ve watched. Us I really like as well as Chimes at Midnight which I think is one of Orson Welles’ best films.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @ninvoid99: From Cannes,Portrait of a Lady on Fire is receiving positive buzz, a film I wasn’t aware of.

      Shame you won’t do your marathon this time but there’s always next year

      Chimes at Midnight was hard work. I prefer other films by Orson Welles

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      1. I will do it next year as there wasn’t any time this year. I am happy that Bong Joon-Ho won as I’m also intrigued to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire, A Hidden Life, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Then there’s Mektoub 2…. wow… I gotta know HOW bad that film is.

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  6. The only thing I’ve seen here is Us, which I enjoyed a lot more than you. I’m okay with that because I think it’s a take it or leave it kind of film. I also think that if you “take it,” then it requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate.

    Of the ones you’re looking forward to, I know of the Tarantino movie, and I definitely want to see that one. The others I’m really curious about are Matthias & Maxime (Xavier Dolan) and Parasite (Bong Joon-ho). Dolan’s Mommy is outstanding. I also love both movies I’ve seen by Joon-ho: Mother (not the JLaw movie) and The Host (not the YA book inspired movie).

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    1. @Wendell: I’m curious to rewatch Us. I liked the fact it didn’t give you all the answers. I just wish the narrative had a bit more forward momentum. But I guess that is left to our imaginations.

      Xavier Dolan’s could be good, though his last few films have not been particularly well received. I hope he’s not in decline already. As you say Mommy is great. I liked The Host by Bong Joon-ho and have the other on my list

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    1. @Sati: Us had a pretty interesting concept though the running time is too long considering the slender narrative. I guess Peele went for horror atmosphere but two hours was overboard.

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  7. I fancied Stan & Ollie, but didn’t make it to the cinema. I’ll need to look out for it when it hits DVD or streaming. Us was another I quite fancied, but can’t say I’d heard of the others – though I’ve noted Never Look Away.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing the new Jarmush and QT flicks. Probably the two I was most excited by.

    Hope you enjoy the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @J: Stan & Ollie is a sweet movie with believable performances. Not as essential as the Laurel and Hardy classics from the past though. There’s a lot of tribute right now, Rocket Man, Bohemian Rhapsody. But if you ask me can’t compete with the real thing.

      The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch) got mixed reviews from Cannes. QT’s received positive reactions so far

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed us but what ruined it for me was the silly humour. It killed the tension every time, especially the beach boys song. It was funny, but I don’t want a horror movie to be funny! I want it to scare the shit out of me! Unfortunately this didn’t come close. Some interesting observations tho at the start of that review, nice job mate.

    Enjoy your holiday!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Look forward to reading about it!

        And yeah I thought the same thing about Reele’s background, but Get Out’s humour, which there was a lot less of, was Chris’ friend so it was totally removed from the action. Here reeeeally unsettling moments are just killed by awful dialogue in the car, and that music. It was a funny moment but was in the middle of the scene and killed the tension and eeriness of it. IMO of course

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