Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)

mowgli-legend-jungle-netflix-movie-review-2018Director: Andy Serkis

Genre: Drama, Adventure

Runtime: 105 Minutes

Main Cast: Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Naomie Harris, Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan

Plot: We all know this plot by now, right? Mowgli is a human child, raised by wolves, hunted down by the mean tiger Shere Khan, struggling with his own identity.

My Thoughts: It feels like years ago now that both Disney and Andy Serkis announced they were both doing a live-action Jungle Book movie…in the same year. What was up with that? At least as time went on they sorted the scheduling out a little better, although I’d completely forgotten about Serkis’ version until I got a notification on my Netflix account. Whoops!

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is much darker than both Disney versions, and that’s both its greatest strength and weakness. It stands out from the crowd, but I’m not sure who the target audience is here. It’s way too dark for the young ones, and do us grown-ups really need to watch another retelling of the same story?

I think the movie got better as it went on, the start was quite dull. Also, kudos goes to both Rohan Chand for playing an excellent Mowgli, and to Benedict Cumberbatch for being the perfect Shere Khan without really having to do anything. My bottom line here is if you never see Mowgli, you’re not missing out on anything, although there are much worse ways to spend your time, too.

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Best Bit: Baby Mowgli is just the cutest little thing in the entire movie. However, my Mum brain wouldn’t switch off and I started to think about how on Earth those wolves actually raised him. How do you warm up a bottle of formula in the jungle?!

Worst Bit: I haven’t looked this up but I’m guessing because this is Andy Serkis’ movie, motion capture was used for the animals. I’m not saying it was bad quality at all, but it just made the animals look a bit off, somehow. Shere Khan in particular…his face was all kinds of weird?

Fun Trivia: The original Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is actually an anthology of separate tales, with Mowgli’s story being just one of them. This is one of the few adaptations that reflects this, being titled simply Mowgli instead of The Jungle Book.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 elephant tusks…and you better keep them hidden too because let me tell you right now – elephants hold a mean grudge!

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Beautiful Boy (2018)

beautiful-boy-movie-poster-review-2018Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Genre: Drama, Biography

Runtime: 111 Minutes

Main Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kue Lawrence

Plot: Beautiful Boy is a movie based on a pair of best selling memoirs written by father and son David and Nic Sheff, chronicling the experiences of Nic’s drug addiction, recovery and relapse, and the effects on himself and his family.

My Thoughts: So this was Monday night’s ODEON Screen Unseen movie! I’ve come to learn that the cryptic clues they give out always point to a movie they know everyone is hyped to see – when really it isn’t! I’m sure they’d angled their clues for A Simple Favor to make it seem it would be Bohemian Rhapsody, and every clue this time around could easily point to Glass. Thing is – Screen Unseen movies are always the lesser known movies regular movie-goers would skip, so it was never really going to be Glass.

Still, when the screen came up with Beautiful Boy, it was funny to hear the groans by several people, and then we had a few walkouts. I still find that odd, if you’ve come out to see a secret screening, are you not willing to give whatever’s shown a go?

Anyway! Gosh, this was a tough watch. It’s the perfect movie for this kind of screening because as much as I’ve been looking forward to seeing Carell and Chalamet’s performances, I just can’t get excited about the movie itself. Can anyone be excited about a movie like this?

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As I knew they would be, the performances were exceptional. I’ve been a huge fan of Carell since The Office, and I never thought he would be doing such serious and hard-hitting roles after! It suits him though. The main thing that didn’t sit well with me though was I never found myself invested in the characters enough, and I don’t know why. It also feels much longer than it’s runtime.

Best Bit: In the first part of the movie there are a few times that father and son embrace and say ‘everything’ to each other. I knew there would be a moment that we would find out when and my heart exploded into a million little pieces.

Worst Bit: Honestly, there’s no moment in the movie that I would deem ‘bad’. There are several scenes that are tough to watch for sure though.

Fun Trivia: The real Nic Sheff stated in a Q & A that the drawing book that David, Steve Carell in the movie finds of his son’s addiction struggles was drawn by Nic’s real-life half-brother Jasper Sheff.

My Rating: I can’t think of something funny to use as my rating that isn’t wildly inappropriate, so Beautiful Boy gets a very sensible 3 and a half stars from me.

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

the-ballad-buster-scruggs-netflix-posterDirector: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Western

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, David Krumholtz

Plot: An anthology movie comprised of six different stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

My Thoughts: Despite it being a Netflix release, I was so excited to see The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I’ve never hated a Coen brothers movie (although I’ve enjoyed some more than others) and the trailer was hilarious. It’s a long-ass movie but knowing it was split into six stories eased my mind a little. I’ve always been a fidget!

The first segment with Buster Scruggs is nothing short of a masterpiece. I was laughing from start to finish. My husband was trying to play World of Warcraft and cursed me as he shut his game down thinking he had found his new all-time-favourite movie. The comedic timing, the crazy action, the musical numbers, ugh! Just perfect. And then it ended, and it dawned on me that Buster Scruggs was only a very minor part of this movie.

Maybe that revelation tainted it for me, but from there I just grew more and more bored with each of the other stories. They still had some great moments, but it felt like I was watching a whole lot of nothing before being rewarded with those short glimpses of brilliance. Each story also felt longer than the one before it, making the whole thing feel about 3 hours long.

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I think I’m probably in the minority here though, and I can absolutely see why most people loved it. I guess I was expecting the whole thing to be as crazy and funny as the first segment, and I set myself up for disappointment. One thing I will say though, the cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. I paid more attention to the landscape than what the characters were doing half the time.

Best Bit: The way Buster Scruggs killed the guy at the cards table was just epic. It was that perfect mix of shock and humour that makes you jump and laugh at the same time. Then the musical number that followed. Heck, I need to watch that segment again…and again!

Worst Bit: There’s no moment in particular, but I can’t comment on the sixth and final story at all because my brain had completely switched off by that point, and I was playing the Disney Emoji game on my phone instead, trying to unlock Darth Vader. (I got him)

Fun Trivia: The poker hand that Buster Scruggs refuses to play, two pair aces and eights, is infamously known as the “dead man’s hand” as it was reportedly the hand-drawn to Wild Bill Hickok before he was shot and killed.

My Rating: 2 and a half clever chickens who can answer simple math questions.

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The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

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Director: David Lowery

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 93 Minutes

Main Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, Keith Carradine, Elisabeth Moss

Plot: The real-life story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), including his amazing escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to a long string of heists that followed. Chasing Forrest down is Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who is fascinated by both Forrest and his crimes.

My Thoughts: I got to see The Old Man & the Gun over a month in advance of its December 2018 release in the UK, thanks to ODEON’s Screen Unseen. They release 4 ridiculously cryptic clues in the run-up, although it’s reasonably easy to whittle down what few movies it could be based on release dates alone. This time though, I was so convinced it was going to be Widows (2018) that I would have offered to reimburse everyone’s tickets if it wasn’t. Not only was I wrong, but it was also a movie I had never even heard about!

This, however, led to my first completely blind cinema showing which was pretty exciting. I just wish I had loved the movie more than I did. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fascinating movie, and I can’t believe that it’s a true story. It’s just…for a movie all about bank robberies…it was kind of dull!

I’m just not the target audience for this at all. I’m sure Robert Redford fans will have an amazing time, and rightly so, he puts in an excellent performance, but it was just too quiet and understated for me. When it finished, I heard the man next to me turn to his cinema buddy and say “I really liked that. It was a nice movie.” I think he summed it up perfectly – this is a nice movie.

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Best Bit: The bemused faces on Forrest’s victims as they recount the crime, commenting on how much of a gentleman he was and how happy he looked made me chuckle every single time. That, and the ending got a laugh out of everyone in the room too.

Worst Bit: Not necessarily a bad moment but when John hands Forrest a $100 bill I couldn’t understand why. Was it the same bill that Forrest left a note for John on? It didn’t look the same. Was he simply paying him back, settling their debt? I don’t know!

Fun Trivia: In an interview he gave during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Robert Redford talked about this comedic film being a good note to end on, since the actor wanted his “last acting job to be fun.”

My Rating: 2 and a half $100 bills from me. Are they blank, or do they have a note on? You tell me!

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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

bohemian-rhapsody-movie-poster-review-2018Director: Bryan Singer

Genre: Biography, Music, Drama

Runtime: 134 Minutes

Main Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aiden Gillan, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker, Meneka Das, Ace Bhatti

Plot: The real-life story of how the legendary rock band Queen came to be, starting with how they got together and ending with their epic performance at Live Aid in 1985.

My Thoughts: Sometimes I’m the worst English lass in history. I don’t drink tea (only herbal), I’ve never watched Downton Abbey or Doctor Who, and I’m not a Queen fan. I do eat biscuits and complain about the weather though, that’s the only thing keeping me on this odd little island I guess.

Anyway I digress, but I wanted to make the point that I’m coming at this movie knowing nothing about Queen apart from the lyrics to no less than 5 of their songs. I can’t speak for how well Rami played Freddie Mercury, because I’ve never watched a performance of his – but in a way, I think that’s why I was so set on watching Bohemian Rhapsody, I wanted to know Queen’s story.

Due to me mixing up screen times, my old blogging bestie Jenna and I ended up having to watch the movie in IMAX – and oh boy am I glad we did. (My husband will be laughing to himself reading this because I rarely shut up about how much I love IMAX. It’s amazing, ok?!) If the room was emptier we would have been up on our feet stomping and clapping for We Will Rock You, it was a brilliant experience.

I really enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody anyway, and I drove home playing the album on the loudest volume my car could take before it started vibrating. I dig what Queen stand (stood?) for, and it’s amazing what the band achieved. I can’t help but feel some of the story along the way has been dramatised (maybe it hasn’t – who am I to judge?) and I felt the focus of the story lost its way around the half-way mark, but those are my only real complaints.

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Best Bit: The Live Aid concert for sure. By that point, I’d been converted into a fan and with the IMAX surround sound, it really gave me quite a thrill!

Worst Bit: Paul. Everything about him. Was his part in the Queen story exaggerated for the movie? I don’t know – but he was a venomous snake. May his phone be forever on low battery.

Fun Trivia: Sacha Baron Cohen was the original choice to play Freddie Mercury. He left the project due to creative differences with the band’s guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The deal with Baron Cohen fell apart after May voiced upset after finding that the project would only be a biopic of Freddie Mercury and not the rest of Queen. May felt that it should focus on the other members and the aftermath of Mercury’s death. He also voiced his negative opinion of the casting choice of Baron Cohen, whom he felt was too much of a comedic actor who wouldn’t do Mercury justice in drama.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 of Freddie Mercury’s cats. Did he have 4, or 5? I can only remember that tabby one that gave the best dirty looks.

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First Man (2018)

first-man-movie-poster-review-2018Director: Damien Chazelle

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Runtime: 141 Minutes

Main Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Hamilton, Ciarán Hinds, Pablo Schreiber

Plot: The real-life story behind Neil Armstrong, and how he found himself leading the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon on 20th July 1969.

My Thoughts: Not gonna lie, I had to really push myself to go and see First Man. It had great reviews, it’s directed by the amazing Damien Chazelle, it stars Ryan Gosling, it’s in the running for the Oscars – it was ticking so many boxes for me. But it’s a long movie, and it’s a subject I honestly don’t have much interest in. As usual, I’m really glad I went in the end!

First Man probably takes 3rd place in Damien Chazelle’s movies for me, but it’s still a fantastic movie. I didn’t expect it to have so many ‘space-y’ moments, and the opening in particular quite literally took my breath away. Then you have the heartbreaking family moments that had me openly sobbing in the middle of the room – not embarrassing at all. So – it almost takes the dramatic elements of Whiplash (2014) and the heart-crushing elements of La La Land (2016).

Ryan Gosling was great throughout in a calm, and fairly quiet role, with a much bigger personality bubbling on the surface. I don’t know Neil Armstrong at all well enough to know how well Gosling matches up, but still. Claire Foy didn’t get as many moments as I thought she would, but the scene where she tells Neil to explain to his kids that there’s a chance he won’t survive the mission was powerful as hell.

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Best Bit: No surprises here, but the best moment was watching Neil first walk on the moon. Especially when you find out what he brought with him…I felt it coming and I was a wreck! A moment that I wish I’d been able to witness in IMAX to be honest.

Worst Bit: Not a ‘bit’ in particular, but it felt like the first hour or so raced by, and then the pacing fell to a snail pace, which really doesn’t help when the movie is 20 minutes too long to begin with!

Fun Trivia: In the breakfast scene just before Apollo 11 launched, the artist sketching Armstrong is Chris Calle, son of the NASA artist Paul Calle. Chris was playing his father who actually sketched the crew that morning.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 wooden-beaded bracelets…don’t make me explain why…*sobs*.

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A Star Is Born (2018)

a-star-is-born-movie-review-2018Director: Bradley Cooper

Genre: Romance, Music, Drama

Runtime: 135 Minutes

Main Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Bonnie Somerville, Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Harney, Rebecca Field, Rafi Gavron, William Belli, Anthony Ramos

Plot: After one of his shows, Jackson Maine meets and falls for struggling musician Ally, who already gave up on her dreams of being in the spotlight. Jackson coaxes her back into it but as her career finally takes off, Jackson’s personal issues put a strain on their whirlwind romance.

My Thoughts: Apologies in advance for any typos in this post, it’ll be because I’m still SOBBING over this movie. I’ve been so excited to see this and I was gutted to miss out on the advanced screening I got an invite for, so I pretty much raced to the cinema on opening night to see it. Sometimes you just know a movie is going to be great, and I wasn’t wrong here.

I don’t even know where to start. This is Bradley Cooper at his very best (and he’s already amazing) but Lady Gaga? Lady goshdarn Gaga absolutely steals the show. I don’t know enough about them to know if she’s in the running for an Oscar but if it were up to me she would have one! I haven’t had my heart shattered by a movie since La La Land, and now I don’t know if it will ever recover.

For such a long movie the time just flies by, definitely helped by the amazing soundtrack. Annoyingly it wasn’t released onto Spotify until yesterday so I’ve had to put up with playing Shallow on repeat on YouTube until then. It’s got to at least get a nomination for Best Original Song, right? Is it an original song, or was it in the original movie this is a remake of? I’ll have to look it up.

I thought I knew where the story was going. I really did think I had it all worked out, and I wasn’t mad because the movie is so well made it would have been forgivable, but then I had the rug pulled out from under me. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, that’s for sure. The only thing that kept me from curling up in a ball in the cinema was the lady behind me loudly bawling her eyes out. I hope she’s doing ok!

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Best Bit: Jackson Maine and Ally performing Shallow together on stage for the first time. It’s not even my favourite song (that award goes to Always Remember Us This Way) but it’s such a beautiful moment and gave me goosebumps.

Worst Bit: The final song. Not because it was a bad song, or even a bad moment, but that was the hardest part to watch. I was so sad I felt a little sick.

Fun Trivia: For his role as Jackson Maine, Bradley Cooper was taught to play guitar by Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson. The pair hung out in Cooper’s basement almost every night for a year so that Cooper could learn how to perform and present himself like a musician. Cooper is backed by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real for his stage performances. Veteran dialect coach Tim Monich worked for several months with Cooper to help him better flesh out his vocal singing range.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 fake boobs that Jackson Maine will sign for you if you ask him nicely!

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