Pete’s Dragon (2016) a film review. 

Director: David Lowery

Running time: 1 hour 42mins. 

Cast : Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban. 

Young Pete is orphaned as a 5 year old while on a woodland trip and he is brought up Tarzan style by a dragon. Disney’s live action version update is well cast and I was a little shocked to see Robert Redford acting in this, when it’s already got Bryce Dallas Howard as a woodland ranger called Grace. Grace discovers Pete as he’s been living in the woodland for many years. A child couldn’t have survived so long alone so who helped him? 

We know it’s a dragon but the adult in me was often questioning the logic how he would have survived even with a dragon, even one who could fly, breathe fire and turn invisible. 

The dragon is more of a hairy green puppy but that said it’s pretty seamless as it blends into the live action. I was impressed with how I couldn’t notice a jarring join. Oakes Fegley is Pete and he himself handles the role just fine it’s just that he’s written to not know what a balloon is after not having seen one for six years, or Windows for that matter. 

There were a bunch of moments like that where my logic struggled with the plausibility. But then I only had to look at my sons face as we rooted for Karl Urban not to locate ‘Elliot’ the large furry pal. 

The way that Pete seems to imprint on Elliot is never fully explained and yet there’s an undeniable bond. Which made it all the more surprising when Pete too easily adopts a human family life for a spell mid movie and seems to have moved on from his winged friend. 

Naturally the movie has a varnish of schmaltz and family lessons of unity to teach. But it kept me guessing as to the outcome. Would Pete choose returning to humanity or believe Elliot to be his family now? 

Would he ever get a haircut? What did Elliot eat? 

There are pulls at the heartstrings and moments of elation which make for a gentle journey for all the family to enjoy. A magical tale for those of us who still know what it is to want to own our own Falkor from THE NEVERENDING STORY. 

Speaking of similar films, the feral boy motif flys too close to Tarzan and The Jungle Book plus How To Train Your Dragon is still up and running. So it’s not exactly fresh ground. But I preferred this to The BFG. 

Family values in a family film, Disney playing to their strengths. 

C Whitehouse 2016. 

The BFG (2016) film review 

Director: Stephen Spielberg 

Running time : 2 hours. 

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton , Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall. 

 If I didn’t already know that this version was directed by Stephen Spielberg, then I’d have struggled to tell. His finger prints are maybe on some shot framing on a scene or two but outside of that I’d say this could’ve been anyone. The Big Friendly Giant himself, played by Mark Rylance, is recognisable in the face as the actor himself and the effects are done in a way which is reminiscent of the Robert Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol from 2009. To be honest I expected a much more cutting edge CGI which I may struggle to believe was CGI at all. Sure it’s very good but when you see Ruby Barnhill playing young Sophie it high lit the gap between real and unreal for me. Sophie as a character and the BFG also surprised me because I didn’t wholly like either of them. Sophie seemed like a little brat with a chip on her shoulder. The source book is pretty simplistic in its story telling and that was felt on the film as long over running scenes such as meeting (person omitted) stretched my patients and that of my son. With so few things happening in general I kind of lost interest in parts.  

The opening stealth skills of the BFG showed skill and imagination but these moments faded out eventually. Although the scenes were shot looking like they could happen in the Harry Potter universe, there was little else in common with that much better family outing. When you realise you are enjoying the villains more than the heroes then you know you’re not properly invested. 

I left a little let down to be honest but there’s just enough to get you through till the end. 

CWhitehouse 2016

Where To Invade Next 2016 (KFC Screening 17th July) 

Director: Michael Moore

Running time: Michael Moore…..oh no, 2 hours. 

Cast: Michael Moore

I became aware of Michael Moore in 2007 when BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE was getting good reviews. The man himself seemed to be this force of nature for good. But subsequent films of his painted him as a bit of a token trouble causer just trying to find another hit. He’s a professional nuisance, a fly in the ointment by trade who has become the face of the supposed hidden truths of America. But what I do like about him is that I come away from his films having learnt so much in a relatively short space of time. I knew nothing of the USA health service until SICKO for example. 

This latest offering of his has a somewhat misleading title. Where Moore normally has his documentary style of filmmaking put him at the feet of unfair business giants as he barks up their trouser legs, this one seems to have him grabbing at straws. He has no real flag to wave over anything in particular. But I felt that was a strength actually. The basis for this movie, rather than highlighting everything which is wrong with America, is to travel the world and showcase the things which other countries do really really well, in the hope of claiming the idea as his own and taking it home to implement there. It’s a positive feeling movie which is joyous in tone and yet still open our eyed what else is going on in the world. Again I learnt some have amazing stuff along the way in a concise and well edited two hours. There’s no through point as such but it’s still entertaining to be taught how other places run so differently. 

Moore, looking older and tired, seems to be enjoying this new positive exploration too and it’s got a good balance of the dark history of the states and the bright futures of the foreign lands he visits. There’s his dry delivery over the top of course, guiding you through the facts and representing them with handy animations and graphs so as not to lose you as we are dealt facts which seem too good to be actually true. 

This is a breezy lesson In how much of the world has its head screwed on better than we do. It’s all about priority amongst humans and not capitalism. I was surprised about how much levity there www to be had at the heads of Michael Moore and I welcome more light hearted work from him in the future. 

C Whitehouse. 2016   

Independence Day: Resurgence  (Film Review)(2016) 

Director: Rolland Emmerich

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Liam Helmsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, Sela Ward, Willam Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg. 
Nobody looks back at the first Independence Day movie and thinks it was a masterpiece. But as for spectacle and a huge dollop of dumb action, where Will Smith punches an alien and a crop spraying drunk helps defeat the invasion, we got enough of what we wanted from it. This too late follow up has no Will Smith but in his place we get a handful of spare change to try and plug the hole. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park even though that’s the wrong franchise. Bill Pullman is back as patriotic monologue spouting ex president. Judd Hirsch is back as favour to Rolland Emmerich. Plus Brent Spiner is back as cheap nerd actor. On top of this, because in all honesty , who cares about them, is B-list Hemsworth Liam, oh. 

 Playing Will Smith’s son is Jessie T. Usher (WHOOOOOooooooo????) and William ‘I’ve got gambling debts to pay’ Fichtner as lead dramatic army man. But it’s Maika Monroe of the excellent The Guest and It Follows, who I forgive. She’s coming up in her career and even though this is pretty pants, it’s good for her resume. Now all the actors are jobbing actors who come along and do exactly what’s asked of them. The problem is its blue print, by the numbers, seen it before, route one dross. 

In fact everything is 70%. The script, “that’ll do”, CGI, “that’ll do”, cast level, “that’ll do” and on and on. Patriotic speech times five. Heroic deed times three. Pointless characters to just fill running time times ten. 
And yet, knowing that it feels like a pilot for the Independence Day tv series and yet still isn’t as good as say Battlestar Galactica tv series, does still have its merits. It has half a dozen ‘money shots’ which on a show reel would look impressive. But the film as a whole hits it’s heights at ‘OK’ and its lows at ‘Jeez, how small is this world that everyone can randomly fall at their family’s feet at the exact moment even if they were briefly on another planet’. 

The science is totally wrong. There’s no g -force, no emotional weight, no ‘stop and see if they are friendly before blasting them’. No sense, no …will smith. The sets are glaringly obvious, in a Star Trek 1970’s way. Throw some sand down and lean on a fake rock level of cheap. 

BUT I did enjoy the final beasty in the latter half even though that too was recognisable in design. It has Aliens, Spaceships, Guns and Jeff Goldblum, therefore it’s got some worth. 

Like when all you want is a dirty sweaty burger from the back of a van even though it has no nutritional value, this movie fills a certain type of hole. Albeit a cheap one. And to practically bait the audience with a franchise carrot has got to be commended. 
C Whitehouse 2016

Marley (2012) 

Director: Kevin Macdonald 

Running Time: 2 hours 24 minutes 
Whenever I here a song by Bob Marley, one thing comes to mind. Turn it off. But I must also state that I don’t dislike anything about it either. It just barely registers as music to my ears and is instantly forgotten. 
I have never had cause to find out about the man who was Bob Marley because I’m not political and our paths never crossed. 
But what I do like is watching a programme or a documentary about something which I know nothing about and learning something. 
I find most documentaries about musicians or people who are creative very enjoyable and generally inspirational. So because this film was out at the cinema I made myself go. 
I was glad that I did. Kevin Macdonald who had previously directed ‘The Last King Of Scotland’ and ‘Touching The Void’ does a good job with the task of piecing together a progressive collage of a journey from Marley’s days in Trench Town , through his early days and benefit gigs, right up to his death in 1981. There is candid talking heads featuring close family members and band mates and footage from various concerts and interviews. Marley himself is painted as he was in life, totally focused on his cause and an unashamed romantic beneath his shy exterior. 

I was taken in by the film immediately because I love listening to African accents and it taught me a lot about Rastafarianism which I knew nothing about prior to this movie. I came away knowing how Reggae was formed and it’s message of peace between everyone on the planet. The family talk frankly about the events which clouded their enjoyment sometimes whilst on tour with this small man who had a large persona. 
It also documents an operation on his toe that seems inconsequential to begin with but becomes important later on. 
The film was surprisingly long I felt, as a non reggae fan especially. The music went through me and was forgotten the instant the credits rolled. I am not a new fan of the music but I have a huge amount of respect for the man himself. I will never hear his music again without thinking good of him and his cause. 
This was a pleasure that I am really glad I watched. So if you like Bob Marley and his music then you should love this.

C Whitehouse 2016 

The Lady In The Van (2015)

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Running time: 1 hour 44 mins 

Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent 

I would say this film is a delightful portrayal of an incident which was supposed to last a short period but escalated for years. Alan Bennett, played brilliantly by Alex Jennings takes pity of ‘Miss Sheperd, also played brilliantly by Maggie Smith, who is a bag lady but owner of a van, who bothers a street in Camden where Bennett lives. Rather than being a good deed doer, Bennett’s offer to let the lady park in his driveway is in fact to stop her getting in the way of his writing. 

Yes, that relationship, if that’s what you can call it, is fractured and amusing but really I more enjoyed the ‘other’ Alan who is his writer self, who is also portrayed on screen by the same actor. He talks to his other self as an inner voice personified. It’s engaging and light hearted but there’s the sense of sadness in the lady’s past as we uncover and piece together a surprising past. 

I really enjoyed this little film and enjoyed my first dip into the world of Bennett.
C Whitehouse 

Film Review Of : The Conjouring 2: The Enfield Case (2016) 

Director : James Wan 

Running time: 2 hours 14 mins 

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Simon McBurney, Simon Delaney, Franke Potente, 
As a part time paranormal investigator, I had much more of an interest in this Enfield Case as it’s possibly the uk’s best known case. The recent tv three parter with Timothy Spall as intrepid investigator Maurice Grosse reignited people’s fascination with the case of a poltergeist energy which attached itself to one young girl and spoke through her on tape, even though a girls throat is incapable of making such deep tones. It’s a classic piece of evidence. 

To see James Wan deliver this tale had great possibilities for me. But being a horror film lover I also suffer from being too knowing about the music cues and other well trodden clues which ruin most scary movies for me. The first Conjouring was enjoyable to me but I never jumped or really felt uneasy in my seat while most of the audience had a great roller coaster ride. 

So to have The Conjouring 2 give me shivers in a few parts made me love this movie. Sure enough there are some failings such as the Crooked man which seems more Guillermo del toro than J.Wan. but with so many different types of scare tactics, there’s always something coming along which is likely to hit the spot and tap into your fears. The Warrens are back (which to be honest, I didn’t know had any hand in the case) plus the Marilyn Manson looking dude resembling the demon from Insidious albeit dressed as a nun this time. The use of shadow is exemplary and there are at least a couple of scares which I was left gleeful over. There child actors appear wooden a little until you see what the actual children were like in life- odd, out of it, and practically disturbed by events. All the cast do a good job but special merit must go to Simon McBurney as Maurice Grosse in a role which he nails as this unique man. 

There is probably half the movie which you could class as pure Hollywood polish just added to entertain but I was impressed at the details of the case which were implemented especially the neighbours over the road and the police who witnessed activity first hand. 

This is the best ghost story horror I’ve seen in many a year and I’ve watched everyone which I can get my hand on. 

I see this as a classic. 

C Whitehouse (Whitehouse Investigations) 2016 

Film review of The Secret Life Of Pets (2016)

Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney.

Running time : 90 minutes 

Cast: Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, Louis CK, Steve Coogan. 
You would think that animated buddy animal movies had run their course by now after endless successes and failures. It’s a tried and tested formula which keeps getting churned out numerous times each and every year. This movie still manages to seem ambitious though which I was pleasantly surprised by. MINIONS director Chris Renaud plus now co director Yarrow Cheney (Minions art director) have done a great job of having a large group of characters who mostly run as a pack, voiced by some great voice artists of recent years, continue to deliver fresh jokes across a 90 minute running time while taking in an array of locations without becoming over complicated. 

The script is sparky and yet well trodden, but I found myself having a new found appreciation for the level of texture animation on show. Water, particles, wet fur, shadows and all other manner of once tricky effects now seem to be just as manageable as the easy plastic looks of the humanoid characters of the 90’s movies such as Toy Story. Now although my top film of this kind remains BOLT and my favourite animal led comedy animation is still THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, I have you’ve credit to PETS for juggling so many factors with a great confidence. The trailer has a bunch of gags which are easily thrown away because it’s only a small portion of the jokes provided. 

The voice cast are delightful together and everyone has their moment. The action whips along at a satisfying pace and I cared about the animals and felt their individual personalities. 

I classify this experience in the pleasant surprise category. 
C whitehouse 2016. 

KFC SCREENING : Film review of The Lobster (2015) showing June 19th 

Director: Yorgas Lanthimos 

Running Time: 2 hours. 

Cast: Colin Farrell, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, John C Reilly, Michael Smiley, Ben Whishaw, Rachel Weisz

The Lobster is set in a near future world where the rules decree that it’s unacceptable to be single. All couples are pretty much kept separately and anyone who becomes single has to go to The Hotel. Once at The Hotel, the single people have 45 days to find a partner or they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. Of course not every single person goes willingly. Those ‘loners’ hide in the deep forests where they are hunted by the single folk of The Hotel so that they can win a day of extra life as a human, per kill. Darkly comical and yet played straight, The Lobster is a wonderful and quirky film which reminds me in tone of A Clockwork Orange. Colin Farrell leads a great cast of talented actors who all play ‘characters’ who are fully fledged oddballs. John C Reilly has a speech impediment and is almost playing it straight as are Ben Whishaw and Olivia Colman who bring their talent to the project. It’s an amusing piece of work and you can see it shining a light on society today which is obsessed with celebrity couples especially and the worth of their supposed true love which the media indulge in. Colin Farrell especially, acts brilliantly as a desperate man dumped by his wife for another man. His only friend left is his dog. I loved this film, especially second time knowing the dark tone to come. There’s a narration which is a mystery for much of the film and a score of stark classical notes which feeds into the brooding menace of The Hotel if you should break the rules. 
A twisted comedy drama which would be at home amongst Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series.

C Whitehouse 

Film Review of TAXI TEHRAN (2015)

Director: Jafar Panahi

Running time: 82 mins 

Jafar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker who has been banned from making films by his own government. Jafar says this just makes him more passionate, hence this, his third film while banned. Panahi plays a version of himself as a taxi driver getting a list of fares around the city and recording them with dash cams to make his secret film. This was inspired by him doing it for real on his mobile phone first. There is a defiant streak to this film as unknown actors play the clients and speak freely about their city. The film is entirely set within the cab and reminded me a little of Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. So here’s a dip into a society different from ours in the UK albeit with the same rebellious spirit.
SHOWING SUNDAY 15th May at Picture House, Keighley

C whitehouse