KARAOKE? YEAH BABY!

Spontaneously bursting into song, that’s what it’s all about. By ‘it’ I mean random and unexpected musical scenes in films. They are like little rays of cinematic sunshine.

And, like all good moments of music that you experience in your life, a lot of these will have stayed with you as fond memories; for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the songs in A Life Less Ordinary and Empire Records. Continue reading KARAOKE? YEAH BABY!

FRANK: WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRANGER

A man wearing a giant fake head. A band full of oddballs, real oddballs. Is this a film about those characters we meet in life – if we’re lucky enough – that exist at the edges of normal?

Based on the real life experiences of writer Jon Ronson, Frank starts with Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless wannabe musician who, through a chance encounter with a band manager, gets to play keyboard in the supremely odd band with an unpronounceable name, headed by front-man Frank (Michael Fassbender). Job interview: ‘Can you play C, F and G? You’re in.’ Continue reading FRANK: WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRANGER

NAMING QUEEN SONGS IN FILM… DON’T STOP ME NOW

Everyone loves a bit of Queen right? In tribute to their musical greatness I thought I’d highlight a few moments they’ve contributed to cinema.

Whether – like the first two in the list below – they were responsible for almost the film’s entire soundtrack, or one of their songs were used in a particular scene, a bit of Queen goes a long way. Continue reading NAMING QUEEN SONGS IN FILM… DON’T STOP ME NOW

RIP DAVID BOWIE: YOU REMIND ME OF THE BABE

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know… David Bowie died today finally losing his battle with cancer aged 69, and tributes flooded the internet because, despite what most of us like to think, Bowie was a freak. An oddity.

And we’re all odd freaks too (most of us), so we loved that he allowed us to embrace that. Simply put, he showed us the way – through his music, acting and constant reinvention. He took us to the heavens and the stars helping us expand our thinking, and he naval-gazed in his quieter moments, causing us to reflect inward and question ourselves. Continue reading RIP DAVID BOWIE: YOU REMIND ME OF THE BABE

MAGIC MIKE XXL: STRIPPERS ON A ROAD TRIP

Bow… bow, wow, wow. When Genuwine’s Pony kicks in you know you’re watching Magic Mike. Sometimes certain songs coupled with certain scenes elevate an entire film and glue it firmly to our memories. Such was the case three years ago.

Directed by Steven Soderburgh at the time in almost a documentary style, Magic Mike was a funny old beast. It was less about stripping and more male bonding; how these guys actually live and are part of a tribe. Like The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke but with more nudity. (Actually, scratch that, they’ve both got naked guys aplenty.) It focused on character too; so if it were mere titillation we wouldn’t have this sequel now. Continue reading MAGIC MIKE XXL: STRIPPERS ON A ROAD TRIP

AMY: THE GIRL WITH DEMONS THAT WERE JUST TOO DARK TO OVERCOME

From great pain comes great genius. And let’s not muck about, Amy Winehouse, the gobby girl from North London, the unassuming jazz singer, had both in buckets.

This documentary – directed by Asif Kapadia, the man who brought us Senna a few years back – charts her life through mostly previously unseen footage in a compelling and deeply affecting way.

I’ll say from the outset I was – and still am – a big fan.

I loved her music, that unique and beguiling voice, the darkness she carried that came out in her lyrics and – this may seem callous but – I cannot think of another artist that, if they died, I’d be that cut up about. There was obviously something about her that spoke to me. Continue reading AMY: THE GIRL WITH DEMONS THAT WERE JUST TOO DARK TO OVERCOME

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW: NEW FRANCHISE?

Guy Ritchie is like… so hot right now. At least, it seems so, after his career had hit a little blip right before the Sherlock Holmes films put him back on the map.

Then for his next trick he thought he’d turn his hand to the spy genre, specifically resurrecting a nostalgically adored ’60s TV show, The Man from UNCLE. Remembered fondly by those of a certain age, utterly unknown to those younger than that.

But no matter. Whether you’re young or old(er) most of us can get on board with a sexy cast dressed in gorgeous clothing, their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks as they swan around the globe foiling evil plots. Can’t we? Continue reading THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW: NEW FRANCHISE?

INSIDE OUT: A SAD, SORROWFUL JOY

American psychologist Paul Ekman pioneered the study of human emotions creating an atlas of thousands of emotions. These can be boiled down into seven: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.

For Disney Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, we start with the basics.

A child, Riley, is born. In her head she experiences her first emotion and Joy (Amy Poehler) steps into the void. A bubbly, bouncy, excitable character who controls a console in Riley’s head dictating how she reacts to any given situation. She’s quickly joined by Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Thus making up five of Ekman’s seven key emotions (surprise and contempt not making the cut being similar to anger and disgust I imagine, and for the film’s sake, seven are too many characters). Continue reading INSIDE OUT: A SAD, SORROWFUL JOY

LEGEND: HARDY GIVES US BOTH BARRELS

Ronnie and Reggie. They almost sound sweet don’t they? Like Bill and Ben the flower pot men. But they’re not. Far from it. Ronald and Reginald Kray were possibly the scariest two brothers you could hope to meet (or pray not to meet) in London in the ’50s and ’60s. Born identical twins in 1933, they worked their way up the organised crime ladder to become owners of nightclubs and casinos, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, politicans and high society types alike. Continue reading LEGEND: HARDY GIVES US BOTH BARRELS

SPECTRE: MENDES DOES BOND’S GREATEST HITS

Poor old Sam Mendes. In some ways he’s a victim of his own success. Skyfall broke a billion at the box office so it was a tough act to follow. Particularly if that act was yourself.

But Dan and Sam formed a superb working relationship on Skyfall, so why wouldn’t they roll the dice again? And roll they did, upping the stakes by introducing the shadowy organisation SPECTRE, helmed by the Bond franchise’s favourite go-to bad guy, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).

For SPECTRE we start in Mexico in an impressive Day of the Dead sequence which sees Bond bring his usual suave and swagger to proceedings. A solid opener. Continue reading SPECTRE: MENDES DOES BOND’S GREATEST HITS

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 REVIEW

There’s an anecdote Elijah Wood tells about how Jack Nicholson walked out of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King because he thought it had ended – and that there were too many endings. In some ways it feels like Mockingjay – Part 2 has taken a leaf out of LOTR’s playbook, either in terms of stretching something into two when it really should have remained as one, or by attempting to milk the ending of Part 2 for all it’s worth. Either way, I didn’t buy it. Continue reading HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 REVIEW

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW

Is it acceptable for a 33-year-old man to well up multiple times during this film? Probably not, but it happened. It was bound to happen. I mean, from the opening shot of the logo I was struggling to hold it together. Perhaps because I’ve now finished work and it’s been a long year, but it’s more than that, it’s Star Wars. And we’re all hoping beyond hope that J.J. Abrams will give us something good and help take away the pain of the last lot of films. Continue reading STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW

JOY: LAWRENCE ADDS STRINGS TO HER BOW

Let’s say, in some other reality, Jennifer Lawrence hadn’t met David O. Russell and her career had (thus far) just been built upon an impressively gritty debut (Winter’s Bone) and a teen action franchise (Hunger Games), would we hold her in such high regard?

I rather doubt it. And this really isn’t a dig, but it’s fair to say her collaboration with writer-director David O. Russell over three films now (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and now Joy) have hugely elevated her career – in terms of dramatic credentials – and evolved her talent as one of Hollywood’s top actresses. Continue reading JOY: LAWRENCE ADDS STRINGS TO HER BOW