Monday 28 March 2022

Nico - BFI Flare

 

Understated stories where the plot is minimal, the characters are few but the message and heart of the film speaks volumes don’t tend to get as much attention. A story like Nico is one that has probably happened to many people and to see it on screen portrayed in such a way is heart-breaking but it is a story that needs to be told. 
 
Nico is a free-spirited geriatric nurse living in Berlin. She spends her free time drinking and partying with her best friend Rosa. One night, after attending a party in the park, Nico is victim to a brutal xenophobic attack, leaving her unconscious and later hospitalised. Once back on her feet she is determined to not be left in that position again so she takes up karate lessons. But as she becomes more involved with learning this new art, she distances herself from Rosa and even her clients notice she is not the same happy and cheerful as woman anymore.

Full review over at Filmhounds HERE

Friday 25 March 2022

Death on the Nile

 


SPOILERS ALERT

Despite the fact that the Kenneth Branagh is not the best Poirot, his first Agatha Christie adaptation of the famous Orient Express murder, was actually very entertaining. This was thanks to the intriguing casting and great suspect characters, Branagh himself was just there to orchestrate the whole thing. It came as no surprise that another story featuring his version of Poirot would be made, along with another set of interesting characters and a star-studded cast. Death on the Nile also seemed like a likely choice, with an exotic setting, this time in the sun and desert as well as cross overs with suspects. But, unlike the first film which was over dramatic in places and strayed from the point only but a few times, Death on the Nile is a convoluted, over dramatized, over reaching, entertaining but very flawed film. 

While on holiday in Egypt, Poirot becomes part of a wedding party for the recently married heiress Linnet Ridgeway to Simon Doyle. The small an intimate party is made up of friends and close family of Linnet’s and famous jazz singer Salome Otterbourne providing entertainment. But there is an air of scandal as Simon was actually engaged to Linnet’s school friend Jacqueline before she ‘stole’ him away. Jacqueline now stalks the happy couple in hopes of ruining their honeymoon. When the wedding party moves to the river, boarding a steamer, the Karnak, the tension heightens, especially when Jacqueline also appears on board. But the real shock is when Linnet is found murdered in her bed, everyone is a suspect.

For those who don’t know the original story, it’s a shame as it was fine the way it played out. The other adaptations follow the original plot and still create a thrilling and exciting story. The audience coming in and watching this film with fresh might still be able to see the issues that don’t flow properly. But my guess is that if you don’t know what Branagh has ruined, you might not care as much. But again, it’s a shame as the original was better and could easily have been brought to the screen. The fault doesn’t just lie with Branagh by with screenwriter Michael Green also, who wrote both adaptations.

The only commendable part of the many changes that Branagh made was the casting, which is excellent all round. The Armie Hammer’s controversy aside of course, as the film was shot before that broke, there was nothing they could do about it. But the casting alone is the only improvement.

With adaptations, there is always room for change, but it’s about how much change and whether is it justified is the question. Branagh and Green’s changes include, changing all but three characters stories, some motives, some background stories and even moulding two characters into one. The other major changes to the film which greatly impact the story was adding in a brand-new side plot that about his friend, Bouc (made up character) and his relationship with Rosalie Otterbourne. Bouc is the third person murdered which is obviously not in the book. It is there to try and create an emotional punch and connection to Poirot, unnecessary. Another big change is the opening which sees a younger Poirot on the front lines of World War I in the trenches and gives us a reason as to why he has such a huge moustache. He also gives Poirot a lover, another huge hint that Branagh and Green are taking liberties with Christie’s character. All these changes don’t make the film better. Luckily the core characters and the murderers remain the same with the same plot which works perfectly.

Getting past the parts that really don’t work, the film is once again, like the first, entertaining and the scenery is breath taking. The parts that are real anyway. The fun period drama thriller does indulge in excellent costume and d├ęcor, it’s a feast for the eyes. But the intricate details are lacking and Branagh’s Poirot just becomes very difficult to watch. Thankfully the cast of suspects are dynamic enough to makes the film bearable. But you can’t help but think there was so many missed opportunities.

There is still hope that with the impending next film in the franchise that Branagh will tone down the Poirot over dramatics and focus more on the keeping to and being faithful to a plot. There was speculation about the next title. In the film Poirot mentions retirement and The Death of Roger Ackroyd sprang to mind, but it had been announced that the next film will take place in post-war Venice and be adapted from a lesser-known novel. So this screams not faithful adaptation to be honest.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Cop Secret - BFI Flare


We all know the genre action thriller featuring two cops or agents, working together to bring down the powerful violent criminal wreaking havoc through a city. We know it so well from years of Hollywood spinning out these stories time over time. Rarely do we get a taste from outside the studios and from around the globe. Iceland may seem like an unlikely location for such a film, usually exporting low key comedies and art house films. But Cop Secret, based on a fake trailer, directed by an ex-Footballer, is a hilarious brilliantly underplayed action-comedy romance.

Full review over at Filmhounds HERE.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

The Novice - BFI Flare

 
Alex is in her freshman year at college, she works hard to be the best. When she decides to sign up for the college rowing team, she becomes determined to become the best novice and make the varsity team. Alex likes a challenge, having majored in a subject she doesn’t initially excel in, she soon lets her rowing obsession take over. Her friends and girlfriend, even her school work is left behind as she propels herself further into her obsessive and damaging behaviour to the point, she can’t think of anything else. 

Full review over at Filmhounds HERE

Friday 18 March 2022

Boulevard! A Hollywood Story - BFI Flare

 

Sunset Boulevard was one of the stories that Hollywood told about itself, not hiding the fact about how difficult it was to make it in the business and how it was when you were no longer in the spotlight. Gloria Swanson was perfectly cast as the forgotten film star, Norma Desmond, who falls in love with the younger screenwriter Joe who she hires to edit the script for the film that would be her return. The role was also very much close home for Swanson for she had been a famous silent film star and had seen roles dry up over the years as she aged. Sunset Boulevard should have been her grand come back. But after the release, the roles just weren’t there. In another part of town, actor Richard Stapley had had enough with bit parts and along with his partner Dickie Hughes, had started work on a musical. Thinking Swanson would be perfect they reached out to her but instead of wanting to do something new, she proposed a musical version of Sunset Boulevard.

Full review is on Filmhounds HERE.

Monday 14 March 2022

The Batman

I ended up writing a 1000 word essay about Joker and although The Batman is not meant to be in the same story, I can’t help but mention the former film. I also can't promise that I won't write another 1000 words. It caused drastic discord not only amongst waring critics but with the greater audience as well. But seeing the latest form of the Dark Knight himself has taken very dark turns and creating a whole new version for fans and newcomers alike, Joker needs to be mentioned.

When Joker came out, there was promise that this was going be a darker take on the character. Christopher Nolan’s trilogy also had this promise attached. But now, we have an even darker take. The thing is, Batman has always been dark, that is the character’s nature. With the film plunged into complete darkness, night, for 90% of the film, there is no way to escape this darkness. No matter what film about Batman is released, it will always be dark. 

For those are who are familiar with DC Comics nocturnal vigilante, Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, the character needs no introduction. For those who don’t, he is a millionaire, sometimes playing the rich playboy persona as a cover for his crime fighting antics at night. Orphaned at a young age when his parents were murdered in front of him, he still relives that trauma. He lives with his confidant, his father figure and butler, Alfred Pennyworth and sometimes romances various women with varying ridiculous names. He has many arch nemesis, but The Joker is his ultimate. You could go as far to say that their relationship is one of the most famous in superhero-villain history. 

Unlike Batman Begins, Matt Reeves’ film does not take us to the beginnings, thankfully, as I think we’ve seen enough origin stories to last us a few decades. Instead, we see Bruce Wayne already in full swing of his Batman alter ego. He already has an established and rather trusting relationship with Detective Jim Gordon as the famed signal in the sky is up and running, warning criminals in the eternal crime ridden city of Gotham that the Batman is watching. However, unlike any other version of Batman we’ve seen, Bruce Wayne isn’t the sometime playboy or an active member of Wayne Enterprises, here he is a recluse. He barely steps into daylight and only ever speaks to Alfred and housekeeper, Dory, unless he’s wearing his mask, his social circle opens up. This is one way Reeves’ vision is true to the film’s darker nature. 
 
Usually, the golden rule is not to overload your superhero film with too many villains. But in the case of the famed rogue’s gallery and the intertwining characters that inhabit Gotham, there is no way around this multiple villain issue. With the TV series proving that the more villains you have, the better, having a few of them show up is good idea. Also, as proved by Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, you don’t have to play The Joker card immediately, you can wait. Having The Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler all show up in the film was actually a brilliant idea. Firstly, The Penguin is in his gangster persona which makes him a far more intriguing character, also, he’s not centre stage which means he can appear later. Catwoman, aka Selina Kyle, isn’t even called by her villain’s name, mainly because she never she was a true villain. She is part accomplice and has her own storyline that doesn’t overcrowd the main one. Choosing The Riddler as the starting point villain, again, was a superb idea. With his violence and bloody murders and his mind games and his threat to reveal secrets that would destroy everything is perfect for the dark tone of this version. All three famous villains are perfectly cast, some unrecognisable, all play important parts and none over shadow each other. Everything is in line. The mafia man himself Carmine Falcone, who is treated like the real mayor of the city, doesn’t really wear a mask but a metaphorical one and he comes across as more menacing than any of the other, well, maybe not The Riddler as he is terrifying on social media. John Turturro plays Falcone with such glee and menace, he is a definite high point in the film and again, excellent casting. 

Having the story play out like a crime thriller is exciting and sickening at the same time. For those who have missed the gritty blood-soaked thrillers that use be released in cinemas, this will satisfy your desire. Solving puzzles, riddles and codes, The Batman takes us back the sleuthing days of Batman and not just about stopping a massive attack. These clues and deadly crimes are intricate and well thought out, its entertaining and are far more interesting than watching Bruce brood over a woman or his dead parents. Robert Pattinson is a decent Batman or should I say, Vengeance. He is quiet and calculating and has a strange impact on the screen. I know there some are other who still think of him as that guy from Twilight, despite him playing many other interesting characters over the years. He is not a full-fledged bat yet which means, there is always room for growth which is how he plays it, making sure that we know, he’s not done yet. 

The only downsides to this whole film is the running time, it doesn’t need to be 3 hours long. With the many slow motion takes, this could have been cut down. But other that, the cliches of it constantly raining in this city and that that there is only a couple of scenes in daylight, the rest of the film is in darkness, always at night. This just plays into the fact the film is really hammering home that this is a darker version than previously seen. 

 With the promise of a sequel and the mention of possible villains such as Hush, Mr Freeze and the Court of Owls appearing gives hope that this won’t be like the current superhero films we have out now. This is a strange breath of fresh air amongst the rest, much like how Joker was or at least meant to be.

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Agatha & Agatha



Its’s International Women’s Day and I really wanted to celebrate this year, having missed out last year and deciding not to join in with online events, I was all Zoom-ed out. In fact, I don’t think I did anything the year before. Unfortunately, due to working from home, it’s difficult to get to any outside event at a decent time and I haven’t been proactive enough for the online events. So, this is my small tribute on IWD. 

Having been burnt out for a few months (still am) I’ve been kept sane through murder mysteries of the cosy crime variety as my other favourite, crime thrillers, was getting to me. I have been watching my favourite Agatha Christie adaptations and listening (and reading) M.C. Beaton’s series, Agatha Raisin, a PR genius turned private detective after moving to the Cotswolds. These two avenues have been a comfort and entertainment. Some new stories, some I’ve heard, watch, read many times over and don’t get bored of. 

After revisiting the David Suchet series of Poirot and the ITV series of Miss Marple, I also rewatched the BBC adaptation of The ABC Murders and I must admit, John Malkovich was a pretty decent Poirot. I also finally watched Death on the Nile (1978) which turned out to be the most faithful adaptation, complete again with an all-star cast. If anyone loves cosy crime and hasn’t yet read/listening to an Agatha Raisin, I highly recommend any of the books. Alas author M.C.Beaton died in 2019 and the latest books have been written with another author who hasn’t quite got the same flare as Beaton. If you prefer audiobooks, Penelope Keith is superb as the reader of all the books, or if you prefer to watch your cosy crimes, there is an adaptation with 4 series with Ashley Jensen as Mrs Raisin. 

This is really a thank you to Agatha and Agatha for getting me through the last few months. Also, a nod to World Book Day last week with the all the writers (mostly women) whose work I’ve been reading over the last year. Hope you’re all celebrating in your own ways.