La La Land

I don’t like musicals. But I like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone so I had to witness La La Land for myself. Gosling plays the jazz piano player hoping to open his own jazz club and Stone plays aspiring actress list in the audition process and cafe work.  

The movie features all the stuff about musicals which make my skin crawl, such as sudden singing and dancing, swinging round lampposts and synchronised footwork whilst sitting in a bench. 

And yet, I found this film so warm and charming that none of it bothers me. Like sitting in a warm bath of emotion. 

Stone shows her remarkable acting abilities as she auditions, turning from happy to upset in a fraction of moments. Gosling simmers with charisma as he follows his dream. 

The two don’t necessarily convince me as a couple to look at but again, none of that spoilt my enjoyment. Many of the scenes backdrops are picture postcard worthy and even the music actually had me getting swept along with them. 
I loved the ending too, although some audience members seemed perplexed. 

Life doesn’t always wrap up neatly and neither should movies. 
A success on my eyes.   

C Whitehouse 2017

A Monster Calls (2017)

Watching J A Bayona’s directing of A Moneter Calls had me thinking I must’ve known his work from The Babadook since the two films both centre around a single mum, a boy and illustrations. But in fact Bayona is responsible for The Orphanage not The Babadook. 

Here we find Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who is differing from a recurring nightmare of losing his mother. Sadly when he wakes up, he remembers that he really is losing his mother to a terminal illness for which the various treatments aren’t working and time is running out. Sigourney Weaver plays the grandma of the boy who is the possible future of Conor if his mother does slip away. 

Weaver plays her almost like some wicked witch and adds to Conor’s issues. As if that’s not enough he’s getting bullied at school every day. 
Whether the approaching tree giant played by Liam Neeson is an embodiment of a mental breakdown or not is unclear but the tree man says he will visit Conor four times. The first three, to tell three stories and the forth time will be for Conor to tell the truth about his nightmare. 

On first glance this looks like the BFG done for young teens as a tale of coping with cancer. 

But it’s too upsetting for children – and adults really. Felicity Jones has the role of mum in an ever diminishing image of a dying mother. 

The visuals are fantastical enough before the tales told by The Monster are illustrated in a wash of imaginative watercolours. Live action meets cgi meets animation. It’s a work of art in many ways. 

The emotional punch is something you’re constantly trying to avoid as you watch but when the end of the movie comes it’s difficult to keep your emotions in check for much longer. This film is for the child in us all as adults. The one that screams inside for their parents when times get hard. 

Impressive but tough. 

Assassins Creed (2016)

On the one hand I was weary because this video game adaptation may be as disappointing as most game to film journeys but surely with actors of the caliber of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson, all would be well. The plot of the game and film centres around a machine called The Animus which sends your mind back down your bloodline to centuries ago to a time is Assassins who are protecting the maguffin of the moment. This time it’s the Apple Of Eden which contains mans free will itself, or something. None of that matters one iota. Fassbender, against his will is thrust back in a series of almost VR sessions to a time when his ancestor fought to protect the Apple from Masons. Again, it really doesn’t matter. All you get is nods to the games rooftop running and jumping down far to deliver knife blows to some unlucky guy below. Then fight after fight in a dust swarmed cityscape while also paralleling with Fassbender, shirtless in The Animus, synced with the fight. Cotillard looks on as the almost ghostly echoes of the battle is echoed in front of modern day 

Fassbender. It’s the same as the game plays. All seems well at first until it gets repetitive and you realise you don’t care who gets the apple. I looked at my watch at the one hour mark and wished I was playing the game myself before remembering that I pad never stuck any of the games out to the end either.

The picture is good but just so repetitive. 

It’s bloodless but violent all the way through plus has one F Bomb which made the 12a rating seem questionable as my 8 year old lapped it up. 

fassbender really gives it his commitment acting wise though. I can’t fault him. 

I think it just eventually meanders. 

C Whitehouse 

Jack Reacher 2 (2016) 

Director: Edward Zwick

Running time: 2 hours 

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh. 

Lee Child’s Reacher novels do great business and even enjoy success in their fans re reading them over and over. The casting of shorty Tom Cruise playing the six foot odd tall behemoth didn’t effect my enjoyment at all since Cruise manages to play Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible really well without anyone called him tiny. Jack Reacher is slightly different to Hunt in that he is much more willing to keep his mental calculations of a situation low key. We see Reacher surrounded by thugs in an alley and he’s already predicted how the fight is likely to play out. This is similar to Sherlocks mind games but here it’s sepia toned so we understand his thoughts first rather than deeds. 

Reacher is pulled back into his past military band of brothers as a female major is suddenly thrown in jail and he smells a rat. Plus he has the additional headache of a teenage girl whose mother is claiming he is the father. 

This felt much closer to the book version as it showed more psychological mechanics than fisty cuffs , although bones do get broken along the way even after the owners are given an option to change their mind on attacking. 

I enjoyed this movie along with the first one and I liked the additional look into his mind and his emotions once the teenager appears. Action wise we have an assassin type of bad guy who is paid to silence Jack but naturally that is no easy scheme and one which results in a fight. I’ll happily watch a bunch of other sequels as long as Cruise is up for it. 

C Whitehouse 

Doctor Strange (2016) 

Director: Scott Dereckson

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chieetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson, Tilda Swinton. 

The fact that Avengers Assemble worked at all was a miracle. To balance so many characters and effects with one of them being a CGI character known as The Hulk seamlessly with the other humans is just a feat of staggering proportions. Then ramping things up with Captain America The Winter Soldier through to Ant-Man, which I didn’t appreciate until third or forth viewing which led to Civil War and on it goes as I’m amazed anew. Can things get better or have we reached a summit? 

Enter Benedict Cumberbatch as big headed egotist neuroscientist Stephen Strange. Doctor Tony Stark if you will but deserving of his self belief. As origins go it’s a bit different to the merely having powers bestowed upon you. These powers are going to have to be learnt and earned. 

The Ancient One is played by Tilda Swinton who is fine because of her otherworldly looks but plays it pretty darn straight if you ask me, smug in her world weariness over years of time having passed. 

It’s no spoiler to say that this movie is about magic for the most part as Strange embraces new spells in beautifully visualised ways. That is where the movie plays its ace. The effects and designs are incredible as they take INCEPTION’s images and run with them. I found it breathtaking as its throws in 2001’s star bridge and mixes a kaleidoscope of Esher like visuals until the images represent things your tiny brain can’t fathom.  

It’s weaknesses are the standard movie complaints such as the female characters just being accessories for the males -Rachel McAdams and the villains who are in turn played by Mads Mikkelson as fallen sorcerer who is just ‘man in a bad mood’ and then the Big Bad ???? – who I won’t name, but who’s design just evokes all recent looming Marvel overlords with a deep voice. 

But I absolutely thought it was amazing. I’ve enjoyed director Scott Derrickson’s horror writings such as Sinister, Exorcism Of Emily Rose and even Deliver Is From Evil although this is worlds apart from those. I was quite shocked at how brilliant I thought it was. 

For me, this is a new high and I’m excited about where this will lead. The post credit scene did nothing to heighten that anticipation. I just thought ‘whatever’. 

So this gets a double thumbs up on all fronts and can’t wait to see it again. 

C Whitehouse 2016

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Perculiar Children (2016) 

Director: Tim Burton

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Elle Purnell, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, Rupert Everett, Chris O’Dowd.

A group of special powered children stay hidden in a time loop in a Welsh village and Jacob (Asa Butterfield) follows the trail to meet them after believing his grandfathers bedtime stories are maybe true. Tim Burtons finger prints are light enough to allow the books material to shine for itself. A great supporting cast surround the children and make this movie something special but maybe not as X-men like as I expected. I really really enjoyed this film. Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Chris O’Dowd and Terence Stamp show that it’s something worth their time in a mix of the magical hidden in the mundane. This could’ve been Pans Labyrinth in different hands yet I was left with more questions than answers where some characters were concerned which makes me want a sequel. It’s actually quite scary in places due to the eyeball eating Hollowghasts and the odd swear thrown in but that puts it alongside the Harry Potter series. Having read the book which includes intermittent photos from Jacob’s grandfather, I felt the film merged that aspect well as it also uses photo images to entice the boy into a world of wonder. 

Wonderful childlike escapism. 

C Whitehouse 2016

Bridget Jones Baby (2016)

Director: Sharon Maguire

Running Time: 2 hours 

Cast: Renee Zellwegger, Colin Forth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones. 

Bridget Jones returns to the big screen with a new set of problems. Life is selling her short as usual but in the space of a week she beds two men and finds herself pregnant. One of the males is an American billionaire called Jack played by Patrick Dempsey (who is 24th down the cast list on imdb) and the other is,well, Colin Firth. But who is the father of the unborn child? There you have the crux of the story but happily hanging on the bones of an idea is a very humorous and sweary story of a clumsy woman trying to juggle her work life and her new found pregnancy while dealing with various stages of pregnancy. There’s an awkwardness as Mr Darcy returns on the scene just by happenstance and rivalry between the two potential fathers raising emotions for all. While mostly funny, I also felt touched by the love for the baby angle and especially the two fathers feelings for wanting to be there for Bridget and baby. Naturally the males butt horns as the jockey for position and this echoes the first outing as well as This Means War which had two men battling over Reece Witherspoon. I was afraid that this may be fluffy girly nonsense but it isn’t that at all. I enjoyed Bridget’s company and her accent was surprisingly good too. It felt good to see the female take on the role of the hapless lead rather than the male and although it runs the same confident path of a Richard Curtis movie, it never went saccharine. In short, I can’t knock it. I’d happily sit through another like that but not like the second Bridget Jones. Supporting cast such as Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Shirley Henderson also make this an easy watch whether you’ve been dying to watch it or are simply being pulled along. 

C Whitehouse . 2016

Kubo and the two strings (2016) 

Director: Travis Knight

Running time: 1 hour 45 mins

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron. 

Laika studios have done it again. After the wobble (in my opinion) that was The Boxtrolls, the magic is captured again as this far eastern flavoured tale of a split apart family, delights both the eye and heart. 

The boy Kubo learns he must acquire a magical armour if he is to survive his aunts and grandfather as they seek his other eye, the first which they took when he was a baby. That brings me to the darkness at its heart and it’s been the same since Coraline where eyes were swapped for buttons. 

It’s as though these films are made for adults who are kids at heart firstly and then made acceptable for young ones to view if they can handle it. 

The use of origami is masterful and no doubt painstakingly recreated. The Laika humour is peppered throughout and is brilliantly delivered by Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes and Charlize Theron and not forgetting Art Parkinson as Kubo. 

The evil aunt sisters are voiced by Rooney Mara and are like something from Clive Barkers horror novels. 

In short I loved it. But I still love Paranorman and Coraline more. 

The themes of death and revenge are not played for a kiddie crowd but delivered in black and white touching any audience member who has dealt with a dying family member and bringing tears of understanding. 

Just a beautifully constructed piece of storytelling and yet one that the whole family will take something from. 

C Whitehouse 2016

The Danish Girl (2016) Showing Sunday 18th September 

Director: Tom Hooper 

Running time: 2 hours 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw.

Tom Hooper once again makes a film which I assume I won’t like and yet I’m proven wrong. First it was The Kings Speech, now it’s Thee Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne was fabulous in Hawking and yet terrible in Jupiter Ascending. Thankfully he is very good as Einer Wegener who is asked to help out for his wife Gerda, played by Alicia Vikander, as a model who can’t make the final sitting, in order for Gerda to complete her life painting. The feel of the stockings and dress hems and lace awakens something buried deep inside him. This gives birth to a female version of his character who, with Gerda’s help, brings Lilly to life. Soon enough though, Lilly is around more than Einer and when Gerda tries to ask for her husband back, it seems there’s little of him to show. Based on one of the earliest accounts of a transgender operation, this is an emotional roller coaster and one which will have you debating with yourself and others what the right thing to do is. I felt Einer’s plight and struggle early on but began to feel strongly for Gerda too until you just want both to have their way. 

To be honest, Redmayne often looks like man in dress and lipstick, while other times he emotes femininity convincingly while not just simply mincing about the place. While Einer and Lilly are strongly portrayed, it’s Vikander’s 

Journey that I was pulled along with. Two strong actors who at times felt as though they were in a play to me rather than a movie. 

But there’s a weight to the choices made here as you invest in the couple. Also the movie touches on the doctors who analyse Einer and come up with some frightening conclusions. 

An important portrayal of a huge step in changes in society which is nowadays much much less of an issue. While it’s important to be yourself and you have that right, what cost to those around you and does your desire outweigh theirs? 

C Whitehouse 2016

Finding Dory (2016) film review. 

Director: Andrew Stanton

Running Time: 1 hour 37. 

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Hayden Rolence, Dianne Keaton, Eugene Levy. 

Pixar are back on top form after the oddity of Monsters University and Cars 2 (and in my opinion Toy Story 3) proved that they find sequels much more of a challenge. Andrew Stanton shows his strengths through story telling as this tender, charming and slightly sad movie plays with its audience like an old friend returning. Dory’s story naturally concentrates on her short term memory loss and her bright and cheery persona. You think she’s cute as an adult? Wait to see her as a kid! Nemo and Marlin are involved in this tale and the original movie even plays out again for a minute near the start. There are a small handful of repeat characters from Nemo’s adventure but that makes sense because of the micro society in which the fish live. But the story pulls our little team across the ocean again but this time it’s the lure of Dory’s parents which sets the journey in motion. The title Finding Dory is a tad misleading but all for the better as its good to not expect what’s coming. There’s a new star in town too as Hank the Septopus boosts the movie action as he interacts with Dory whilst on his own great adventure. Naturally the animation and writing is great but taking centre stage is the emotion. This movie has a melancholy tone because we feel deeply for our cheery blue star and care about her when she’s sad. Haters may say it plays too closely to Finding Nemo in the progression of deep sea to action set pieces to similar climax locations but I felt it all made sense. Nice use of Pixar voice favourites and good use of a big cinema star as herself which I didn’t see on the horizon. 

The heartfelt plight of Dory and the different types of sea life and their set personalities makes for a lovely sequel to enjoy again and again. 

Pixar may have submerged momentarily but here they float once again to the top. 

C Whitehouse 2016