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A couple of weeks ago I saw King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer take on the legend.  While not as bad as has been reported (I actually enjoyed it) it was all a little pointless.  An over told story that more often than not disappoints on screen.  The worst of the film was trying to shoehorn elements of the legend into the directors vision.  Surely it would have been better to tell a new original dark ages story?  Even better tell a real one. William Marshal coat of arms

The battle of Lincoln (or to be precise the second battle of Lincoln) took place on 20 may 1217 between the forces of Henry III of England (an eleven year old child at the time) and (the future) Louise VIII of France.  The child kings forces were led by his Regent William Marshal.  The 70 year old Marshal was reported to be at the centre of the action and fought fiercely despite his age, this helped cement his reputation as the “best knight that ever lived”, a eulogy originally bestowed by the English Cardinal Stephen Langton.  Marshal’s was successful and set the ensured that Henry reigned for another fifty years and preventing the future king of France from taking the English throne. The battle of Lincoln

William Marshal, grew up during The Anarchy in the 12th century, and was held hostage by King Steven to help ensure the loyalty of his farther John Marshal.  He went on to spend his adolescence in Normandy in the household of William de Tancarville.  In 1168 while in his early 20’s he earned Royal Favour, he was involved in and ultimately injured and captured in a skirmish following an ambush.  Before injury and capture he fought fierce rearguard action allowing the escape of some of the party. His bravery help earn him favour with his captors who fed him and dressed his would.   His ransom was paid by Eleanor of Aquitaine (Queen consort of Henry II of England) resulting in him rejoining the court of King Henry II. heath ledger a knight's tale

He went on to receive the title of Earl of Pembroke through marriage.  He spent many years as champion tournament competitor, and was an inspiration for Heath Ledger’s character, William Thatcher, in the movie A Knight’s Tale.tomb of William Marshal

In 1216, he was appointed Regent and protector for the nine-year-old Henry III, and regent of the kingdom.  He continued in the role until his death three years later.  He was invested into the order of the Knights Templar on his deathbed and was subsequently buried in the Temple Church in London, his tomb remains there to this day.

This is a brief snapshot of an incredible life, and surely one that deserves a movie. 

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

That’s right, spring is giving way to some and with it the multiplexes are filling with a shit mix of blockbuster sequels and kids movies.  Interesting movies are being released but less and less of them are finding their way to the big cinema chains.  My cinema attendance has already begun to tail off, but don’t worry, there are still one or two gems still coming out:  

Lady MacBeth – Don’t be confused by the title, this isn’t about the wife of the eponymous antihero of the Scottish play.  William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut is based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s play.  Transposed to nineteenth century England it has been referred to as Victorian noir.  Florence Pugh who impressed a couple of years ago with a supporting  role in the excelled The Falling is front and centre and in just about every scene, she doesn’t disappoint, neither does the film. Gripping and beautiful and directed with as confidence that belies the directors inexperience. Lady MacBeth

Lowriders – A family drama set against a backdrop of street art and the lowrider car culture in East Los Angeles.  Some of the dialogue is a little clunky and the acting a little wooden, but the family drama is compelling and the story is solid.  Lowriders

Sleepless – Scoot McNairy, Michelle Monaghan and Dermot Mulroney are all good in supporting roles.  The normally reliable Jamie Foxx is terrible in the lead, it as if you can see him acting like a poor salesman selling a lie.  The plot is filled with endless twists, turns and reveals, everyone you see coming.  The concept isn’t bad, maybe with a better director it could have been OK. Sleepless

Unlocked – You may as well cut and paste the review above.  Like Sleepless, this movie has a good cast: Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich who are all OK, and a weak link, in this case Orlando Bloom.  Bloom has a London accent to rival  Dick Van Dyke, this is more concerning considering Bloom was born about fifty miles outside London unlike the Missouri born American.  In case you are wondering, there are just as many twists and turns as above, and you will see them coming! Rapace deserves so much more. Unlocked

Miss Sloane – Having seemed to come out of nowhere less than a decade ago, Jessica Chastain has become just about the best actress of her generation.  This criminally overlooked film is one of her best performances.  The direction is taught with the two and bit hour runtime flying by.  The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mark Strong. Miss Sloane

Alien: Covanant – Have you ever seen a great film, where a weaker writer/director has devalued the original art?  There are many examples, Alien: Covanant is something far worse.  Alien director Ridley Scott hasn’t made a pointless pondering mess of a prequel Alien, he has made two.  I am sad to report this is as bad as Prometheus.  One positive, Michael Fassbender is good.Alien Covanant

Colossal – I am not going to say anything about the plot to this movie, just watch it and if you can do so without reading anything about it or seeing the trailer even better.  Not the film I was expecting but excellent none the less.  Anne Hathaway’s best performance since the brilliant Rachel Getting Married. Colossal

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer take on the legend of King Arthur is surprisingly not bad. Charlie Hunnam is pretty good in the leading role, the rest of the cast are also solid.  The modern street dialogue isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, Richie’s style as seen on the Sherlock Homes movies serves the action quite well, the week CGI and ridicules set pieces don’t.  It’s a mess but it has some good moments and it isn’t boring.  King Arthur Legend of the Sword

I have two contenders for Movie of the Month in what is probably the toughest choice I have ever had to make for this segment.  I don’t always pick the best movie, the first movie of the month went to one that presently surpassed me as I liked it after expecting to hate it.  When I can’t make a choice I tend to go with one of, or a combination of two philosophies: which am I most looking forward to seeing again, and which exceeded my expectations the most?  This doesn’t work here: I want to see them both again and they both exceeded my expectations, one had mixed reviews and the other I knew little about.  For that reason, I think for the first time, I am going to drop the Highlander tagline and pick two movies of the month: Lady MacBeth and Miss Sloane. Movie of the month may 2017

The movie podcast, Filmspotting recently ran a poll asking if you were to choose a film based purely on its star which would you choose.  For this they chose four actresses born in 1990: Jennifer Lawrence, Margot Robbie, Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson.  The results weren’t surprising.

  • Jennifer Lawrence 38.46%.
  • Kristen Stewart 37.67%.
  • Emma Watson 12.67%.
  • Margot Robbie 11.20%

Jennifer Lawrence: With an Oscar and three further nominations under her belt, as well as two massive franchises, X-Men and The Hunger Games, Lawrence is the biggest star on the list.  Winter’s Bone her breakthrough part and first Oscar nomination remain her best performance. Jennifer Lawrence

Kristen Stewart: Like most people, I first saw Stewart in  Panic Room.  He big break came with The Twilight Saga.  She made other films between the Twilight movies and made interesting choices including Adventureland and The Runaways.  The interesting movies continued after Twilight most significantly two Olivier Assayas movies: Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. Kristen Stewart

Emma Watson: Watson had no screen credits prior to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  She only made a couple of films during the Potter years.  Post potter her most interesting film is The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  She has ensured her ongoing fame thanks to a starring role in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast, the first movie to top $1billion this year.Emma Watson

Margot Robbie: I first saw Robbie in the short lived TV show Pan Am.  The program had enough of interest to deserve more than its single 14 episode series.  She next appeared in a small but significant part in The Wolf of Wall Street.  She proved her acting ability and comic timing in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Legend of Tarzan and Focus.  Her most significant role is that of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.  This is something of a double edged sword;  She was the best part of the film but was clearly objectified.  A star-making part that will require her work hard to avoid typecasting in future. margot robbie

My vote went to Kristen Stewart who continues to make interesting choices and excels in them.  

A conversation about the recent movie Ghost in the Shell got me thinking about Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga; Battle Angel Alita that I heard about last year.  It appears we have more than a year to go until the release of Alita: Battle Angel next July.  I am intrigued by the idea of the master of low budget independent genre movies making a $200 million film produced by the king of excess James Cameron.  In checking on the release date for that movie I spotted a film directed by Rodriguez that I knew nothing about. Battle Angel Alita

Surprised that a Robert Rodriguez film had come out totally under my radar I checked the release information; released on 18 November 2015 and only in France, I did a double take, the release date was actually listed as 18 November 2115.  I looked further, the IMDB synopsis reads: “The content of this film is currently a secret, due to be revealed only when the title is released in 2115.”  The film is stored in a safe with a time lock set to open in 2015.100 years movie

It appears the film made in 2015 by Rodriguez was commissioned by Rémy Martin owner of the Louis XIII Cognac brand.  As mentioned above there is no clue about plot.  After a quick hunt around the internet, I have no idea what the film is about, how long it is how it is going to be preserved for 100 years.  Although nothing definitive there are a few clues. A line from an interview with star John Malkovich suggests it will be “a short film”.  There are three trailers, they however don’t actually show any footage from the film, just imagine how the world will look when the safe opens. The trailers suggest that it will be stored on film in a tin, the way many believe is still the best way to preserve film.  Although this could just be for the aesthetic of the trailer.

The somewhat mundane thing of how the film will be preserved and viewed is what interests me the most about the project.  If I wanted to ensure a classic film, lets for augments sake say Casablanca (not quite 100 years old, it actually celebrates its 75 anniversary, this year) is kept safe for future generations, how would I do it.  In the documentary Side by Side (2012) Martin Scorseese talks about film, whether it be old celluloid film or modern polyester film stock being the best way to preserve films.  As mentioned if you leave a hard drive un-booted for a prolonged period, it won’t work.  It is worth mentioning at this point, that Scorseese is the founder of The Film Foundation, an American based non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation as well as the exhibition of restored classic films.  As also mentioned in Side by Side, I believe diversity is the way to go.  If a film is stored on several types of film, including in print and negative form as well as digitally, it stands the best chance of survival.  As well as an archive that may hold prints or masters of Casablanca, it must be held in various formats by TV companies and distributers who have sold it in one format or another, as well as all the versions people have at home on VHS, Laser Disc, DVD and Bluray.  All this suggests the film will survive, it doesn’t answer the question, how do you preserve a film in a safe for 100 years.  Are there backup copies? Does Robert Rodriguez have a copy that he throws on for a secret screening when his friends come around? Martin Scorsese side by side

We don’t know who has seen it but we have an idea of who will see it; Rémy Martin have produced One thousand tickets/invitations, made of metal to ensure they survive the 100 years.  Recipients are encouraged to pass these tickets to their decedents.  It isn’t clear who these recipients are but they certainly include Malkovich and Rodriguez.  What will happen to the tickets, will people keep them and lovingly pass them on, or will they be forgotten.  Will it be the hottest ticket in France in 2015 with people auctioning their ticket to the highest bidder?   100 years tickets

How much will cinema have changed in 100 years.  It is impossible to say, but we can see how much or how little it has changed in the last 100.  Two significant films of 2015 are: The Birth of a Nation (1915) by D.W. Griffith and Les vampires (1915) by Louis Feuillade.  Two films both extremely dated and surprisingly modern in certain ways.

I am more intrigued wondering who has actually seen the film what it is actually about!  And if you are wondering, I won’t be drinking any Louis XIII cognac, I don’t particularly like brandy and there is the small matter of the £2,500 a bottle price tag. 

Ten screenings in April resulted in a hugely varied month:

Raw: After her first taste of meat a vegetarian develops an unusual taste for meat.  More visceral than gory, it is one of the most uncomfortable to watch films I have ever seen.   In a strange way I really enjoyed it. Raw

Table 19: A group of interesting characters played by some great actors find themselves on the worst table at a wedding.  Anna Kendrick is always worth watching but the script just isn’t funny enough. table19

Fast and Furious 8: The most bonkers instalment of the franchise to date, very silly but great fun. Jason Statham is brilliant but Charlize Theron is wasted. The-Fate-of-the-Furious

The Handmaiden: Chan-wook Park’s adaptation of Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith.  The setting is moved from Victorian England to occupied Korea.  The film looks amazing and has a plot that twists and turns in a most satisfying way. The Handmaiden

I Am Not Your Negro: Samuel L. Jackson narrates the words on James Baldwin from an unfinished manuscript telling the story of race relations in America.   Particularly focussing on the killing of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, it is powerful, thoughtful and informative movie. Author James Baldwin

The Belko Experiment: The employees of an American company based in Columbia are locked in their office block and told to kill each other.  Sold as social experiment asking the audience how they would react, the film is actually just a bloody horror thriller.    Enjoyable enough but totally disposable entry into the sub-genre, Battle Royale remains the high watermark. The Belko Experiment

Rules Don’t Apply: Warren Beatty’s first film in a very long time is a light comedy drama based on the middle years of Howard Hughes.  Told from the point of view of two of his employees played by Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins.  Charming if a little lightweight. Rules Don't Apply

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The original Guardians of the Galaxy was the most fun movie in the MCU.  This first sequel has lost none of its fun but it has forgotten to include the simple matter of a plot.   Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Their Finest: based on Lissa Evans novel Their Finest Hour and a Half about a the mating of a fictional British propaganda film during World War II.  The whose who of British talent is led by an excellent  Gemma Arterton. The film finds a perfect balance between comedy and drama and is always just the right side of sentimentality. Their Finest Hour and A Half Directed by Lone Sherfig

Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome:  Having already seen my favourite film of 2105 twice on the big screen, once in IMAX 3D and once in regular 2D. I went back to see it a third time, in black and white.  This monochrome edition is far more than just the regular movie with the colour setting on your TV turned down, this is a real black and white movie.  Is it better in colour or black and white?  I’m not sure, it somehow makes no difference, and is totally different, all at the same time.   It’s a great movie either way!Mad Max Fury Road Black & Chrome

Raw has made my shortlist for the best films of the year to date but misses out on the top spot, movie of the month is: The Handmaiden. The Handmaiden poster

a long time agoThere has been lots of talk about where the Star Wars saga should go.  I was skeptical about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and if it were a good idea, ultimately it turned out to be fantastic.  The as yet untitled Han Solo movie is a step further.  Firstly to make a young Han Solo movie it requires a new young actor to plan Han Solo, if you have to do it, Alden Ehrenreich is a good choice, but do they have to do it?  Is Han Solo’s past not best left a mystery?  It is clear why Disney want to make the film; existing properties are the vain of gold that the studio are most expert at tapping, the value of this vein is greatly increased by the addition of an A list character from the franchise.  So where does the franchise go from here? han solo movie cast

Around the time of the original release of Return of the Jedi, I remember an interview with George Lucas where he spoke of a nine film series.  The original trilogy followed by two further trilogies, one prequel, on sequel.  By the time the prequels came out Lucas had changed his tune suggesting that he was too old to make any further films beyond the second trilogy and furthermore, there was only ever going to be two trilogies, the original and the prequel series telling the story of the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. star_wars_episode_one_the_phantom_menace_ver1

As luck and a strange twist of fate, or to be more honest money would have it, we are now getting the third trilogy.  But what next? to quote Winston Churchill (hopefully correctly) “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning”.  So what next, after the Han Solo movie and episodes VII and IX?  There has been constant suggestions of a Boba Fett movie, I am not sure why, he has never been an interesting character.  There is however a whole universe and a thousand generations of stories to be told!

A notable thing about original story is the time in which they are set.  The fight for good and evil, light and dark is told over three films, each set over no more than a few days, this works for the original films but will not work with an origin story.  The second and third prequels stretch the idea to tell their storey over a longer period, this is to their detriment. So back to those thousand generations.  The original conversation between Ben/Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker tells us so much of the Star Wars universe, in some ways too much as George Lucas had to retcon so much of it to fit the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi into the mythology, this was even before he started rewriting everything to make the prequels work.  But there remains one statement from Obi-Wan Kenobi still untouched of diluted:

“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic… before the dark times… before the empire.”luke and obi wan

How long is a thousand generations and what stories could be told?  Best guess, a thousand generations is around 20,000 to 25,000 years.  The stories are endless, You could start with the origin of the Jedi and the start of the battle between light and dark.  This however could be too much of a religious allegory , far better would be individual stories of turning points in the battle.  These could be told in a single stories or trilogies.

The possibilities are endless.  Where and when did the Jedi begin?  Was this a time before intergalactic travel and set on a single planet?  Would you tell the story of The First Jedi?  Who came first, The Jedi or The Sith?  Did one begin as a balance to the other, or did they start out as the same thing and one broke away over disagreements on the use of the force.  I like the idea of a story of a young apprentice learning the ways of the force with his master, only to discover that they are the bad guys not the good guys, we the audience should realise this before the apprentice but not before long before.  The final act would be the apprentices own personal battle between good and evil as he/she has to choose between what they have always known and what they now understand to be right.  Both the prequels and The Force Awakens suggest young Jedi are taught as a collective before been taken on by a master, is there room for a Jedi high-school movie? Jedi are presented as little monk like, how about the story of the first female Jedi? What about Yoda origin story, or even better a story of a power struggle on the Jedi council with a young Yoda as new, headstrong and less wise character than we know.yoda and younglins

As mentioned, the possibilities are endless, I am sure Disney have both the quality and quantity of writers to be able to think up more and better ideas than me, I just hope they do it, I want to hear a thousand generations of Jedi stories.

How did we get here?  Sixteen years ago The Fast and the Furious was the type of mid budget film that we don’t see much of these days.  It cost around $40million to make and took just over $200million at the worldwide boxoffice. Certainly enough earn a sequel, but seven ever growing sequels, did anyone see that coming? the fate of the furious submarine

The Fast and the Furious (2001): The modest (in comparison to later films) movie started out as a magazine article “Racer X”, about groups who got together to illegally race customised Japanese cars late at night on New York streets.  The story was expanded by adding the plot of Point Break with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel taking over the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze parts.The fast and the furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): Leaving the rest of the original cast behind, and sticking with Paul Walker’s undercover cop.  This film introduces Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) who become mainstays of the later films.  Roman starts out as s tough ex-con, in later films he has become the comic relief of the series and not the tough guy.  The budget nearly doubled that of the first film but the boxoffice was only up a fraction.2-fast-2-furious-2003-movie-poster

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): Dropping the entire cast of the first two movies (almost). Looking everyone of his 24 years, Lucas Black plays a 17 year old high school student sent to live with his U.S. Navy officer farther in Tokyo.  There he gets involved with drift racing and the Yakuza.  Although Black does make an apearence in a later film he didn’t become part of the “family”.  Han Lue (Sung Kang) however, did!  For reasons that you will understand if you have seen the film, the introduction of Han into later films needs a little crow-baring to fit the continuity.  Vin Diesel returns in a cameo pointing the way forward.  The weakest performing movie both taken as overall boxoffice and return on investment.the fast and the furious tokyo drift movie poster

Fast & Furious (2009): The “family” are back together, original cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodríguez and Jordana Brewster all return and are joined by Sung Kang in his second film.  The film also introduces new family member Gisele Yashar played by future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.  Following the dip in performance the fledgling franchise was experiencing, the budget did not go up from the $85million spent on the previous film, and when adjusted for inflation was actually less than the $76million budget of the second film.  It took nearly $365million, over double the previous film.fast and furious

Fast Five (2011): Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Sung Kang and Jordana Brewster all return, as does Gal Gadot, Ludacris  and the new more comic version of Tyrese Gibson return from the second film.  The turning point of the franchise where things stated to get sill also saw the introduction of Luke Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson and Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) who has a significant part in the latest film.  I am not sure if Universal made a conscious decision to turn the franchise into a high octane heist movie.  I am not sure if they have ever confirmed or denied it, but the was a suggestion it was based on a script that started out as a sequel to the Italian Job remake (2003).  It is totally ridicules, but great fun, probably the high watermark for the franchise.  With the new direction the studio backed the franchise with a budget of $125million.  They were rewarded with a boxoffice of nearly $600million.fast five

Fast & Furious 6 (2013): Continuing the globetrotting high octane heist movie of Fast Five the “family” are back on the right side of the law for a while.  All the main cast from the previouse film return along with Michelle Rodriguez whose character Letty Ortiz returns from the dead.  Gina Carano also join the cast possibly for the sole reason to fight with Michelle Rodriguez.  Luke Evans plays villain Owen Shaw with Jason Statham appearing in a post credit sting as his brother.  The budget went up to $160million and returned nearly $800million.Fast & Furious 6

Furious 7 (2015): Following the events of the previous film, the “family” are back home in LA having being given amnesty for their past crimes.  Until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) shows up after revenge for what happened to his brother.  This is all mixed in with a convoluted plot about a computerised McGuffin.  Don’t worry Kurt Russell is on hand as Mr. Nobody aka, Basil Exposition to explain everything.  Nathalie Emmanuel joins the family as Ramsey, a British computer “hacktivist” who is integral to the McGuffin.  The cast also features Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey.  By far the biggest movie of the franchise so far, the budget had swelled to $190million but the world boxoffice exceeded $1.5billion, or to put it another way ten times what Tokyo Drift made.  It is ranked 6th in the all time world boxoffice (before any adjustments for inflation), it was the third highrst grossing film of 2015 coming behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World but beating Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It isn’t all good news, as has been well publicised, Paul Walker was killed before the end of productionFurious 7

The Fate of the Furious: And so we come to the eight film in the franchise.  There was certainly a gear change at number five, but the series hasn’t so much changed, but it has evolved or morphed over time.  While placing the first and the most recent films alongside each other in isolation would look strange, the transition makes sense in a bonkers Hollywood way.  Charlize Theron is the main antagonist Cipher, a little like Blofeld in Spectre is revealed to be behind everything, not quite, but you get the idea!  In the franchises biggest Retcon, bigger than bringing Letty back from the dead, Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is now a good guy.  No bad thing, as he is the best thing in the movie, closely followed by Helen Mirren playing his mom.  Yes, I did say Dame Helen Mirren as The Stath’s mom, complete with an “alright gov’nor” cockney villain accent.  I have made a bit of a joke about the “family” in films, this is because it is the ongoing theme of the movies, the thing that keeps this group together is that they are a family.  However who is left of the ordinal family? Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has obviously been written out.  Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) is mentioned but is now with Brian and their own family, so all that remains of the original family is Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz.the fate of the furious poster

What next?: No post credit stings to show us the way, Charlize Theron’s Cipher is still alive so expect her back, but what of the Toretto Family?

Original members:

  • Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
  • Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)

Long term members:

  • Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)
  • Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges)

New members:

  • Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)
  • Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

Possible future members:

  • Eric Reisner / Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood)
  • Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)