La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2017)

What's it about? Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) find the path of true love doesn't run smooth when they meet, dance and sing through their relationship together. It's a musical in case you hadn't heard.


Is it any good? It would take a hard heart not to fall for the charms of La La Land. Alas, it seems I have just such a heart. I found it good, but not great. Being a homage to classic musicals from Hollywood's past, as well as a general love letter to the movies in general, it's obviously gone down well in Hollywood and looks likely to walk off with Best Picture at this year's Oscars. It's clearly an accomplished film, so why didn't I like it more? Let's start with the good stuff. It's book-ended by two excellent musical sequences, kicking off in ambitious fashion with a colourful song-and-dance number filmed in one take during a rush-hour traffic jam, and finishing with a wonderful epilogue, a bittersweet swirl of imagery and music which encapsulates the whole film. The problem lies in the rather baggy middle section, during which nothing much happens to make us really invest in the two lead characters. Mia is tolerable, but despite the undoubted charm of Gosling, Sebastian in particular comes across as a bit of a, well, dickhead. And who could warm to someone who doesn't like A-ha's Take on Me? Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. After all, in a movie-world filled with sequels and CGI, it is encouraging to see someone like Chazelle trying to recapture the timeless appeal of those old movies, when talented performers could sing, dance and act with consummate ease. But therein lies part of the problem. I've seen the musicals which inspired this, and this doesn't really have songs, dancing or singing as memorable as those (although main theme City of Stars has grown on me after a few listens). Stone and Gosling make an appealing couple, dance well and can hold a note, but Fred and Ginger they ain't. That may make me sound ancient, but I'm justified in not being all bound for La La Land.



Anything else I should know? Well, I guess you may want to know about those old movies which inspired this? Indeed, if La La Land makes people check them out, it will have done its job well. Stuff like Singin' in the Rain, Top Hat, An American in Paris are clear influences on the early parts of the film, whilst Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg inspires the more melancholy moments. Elsewhere, non-musical movies like Casablanca and Rebel Without a Cause are name-checked, whilst there's a few blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments which nod to other classics, like The Red Balloon and The Big Heat. Articles here and here can fill you in more on these. Or you can read exactly why Sebastian is not such a catch in a funny article here.

What does the Fonz think? Still worth a jazz hand.

A Girly Double Bill

Still catching up with 2016, this time in the company of some lovely girls...


The Girl with all the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, 2016), adapted by Mike Carey from his own best-selling novel, is another zombie apocalypse film. But wait! Don't run away screaming - this actually has risked bringing some brains to the table. Here, the zombies are created by a parasitic fungal infection which turns them into flesh-eating 'Hungries', whilst deep in a military bunker surviving humans attempt to find a cure by experimenting on children who exhibit partial immunity to the infection. When the bunker is breached, no-nonsense soldier (Paddy Considine), sympathetic teacher (Gemma Arterton) and committed scientist (Glenn Close) end up forming an uneasy alliance with the titular girl (newcomer Sennia Nenua, more than holding her own against her co-stars) as they try to get to safety. Comparisons with 28 Days Later are inevitable, but this is lighter on the action, preferring instead to blend in a more cerebral Day of the Triffids vibe and a bit of commentary on humanity and evolution which gives it a distinct identity. It doesn't really have any big scares, but the performances are good and there's impressive production values given its small budget. Add in an eerie score from Cristobal Tapia de Veer and we have an effective little horror whose brains haven't got entirely eaten.


In contrast, The Girl on the Train (Tate Taylor, 2016) also adapted from a best-selling novel, is a rather brain-dead affair. This time, Emily Blunt is the titular girl, a voyeuristic train commuter who might be a key witness in a murder. Trouble is, she's also a raging alcoholic and can't remember what happened, or if she herself was involved. The set up is fine, but it soon gets derailed by Taylor's inability to capture the fractured timelines and differing perspectives from the book, meaning the various reveals can be seen coming down the tracks a mile off. That said, although I only watched it last night, this morning I only have a few vague and muddled memories of Blunt being quite good, and some gratuitous nudity (in the film, not me personally). Everything else is forgotten. And I wasn't even drinking.



Happy New Year

So, 2016. That was a bit mental, eh?
Seems only fitting that the film we at The Fast Picture Show enjoyed most this year was Bone Tomahawk, which itself went a bit mental at times.

"Did you hear some guy voted us Best Film of the Year?"
"Let's kill him"

You can read my review here - it hasn't shown up on enough Top 10 lists so give it some love.

Also, here's a video of Chewbacca from Star Wars singing Silent Night because......2016.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!



The Festive Film Quiz : Resurgence

If the bulging bag (*snigger*) in the The Fast Picture Show offices is anything to go by, it seems anticipation for the Festive Film Quiz is at fever-pitch as we draw close to the big day! 
Now a permanent fixture in the run-up to Christmas along with Black Friday, lights in the streets and making a tit of yourself at the work Christmas party, it's back for an incredible 4th year to tax those brain cells as they percolate in a soup of alcohol and goose fat. 
As in days of yore there are 80 points at stake, but  absolutely no prizes, as I had to use the prize money to pay for the damage at the work Christmas party. And the impending lawsuits. But no-one wants to hear about those sordid details, except the tabloids, so on with the Quiz!!!

Disclaimer: The Fast Picture Show accepts no responsibility for any quiz-related arguments that result in name-calling, finger-pointing, hair-pulling, food-fights, fist-fights, sobbing in the toilets, dredging up of old family feuds, revelations of true parentage, or any incidents which result in injury, coma or death.

"Oh FFS!! Maybe if I close my eyes and wish hard, this guy will
stop with these bloody quizzes."

Round 1: The Christmas Round
The following are quotes from films set at Christmas time. Simply identify the film. 
If you’re reading these out aloud, careful with the NSFW one. 
  1. “They're watching Snow White. And they love it!”
  2. “You sit on a throne of lies!”
  3. "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho."
  4. “Now, come on, get your clothes on, and we'll stroll up to my car and get... Oh, I'm sorry. I'll stroll. You fly.”
  5. “When I was growing up, if we wanted a jacuzzi, we had to fart in the tub.”
  6. “The bitch hit me with a toaster!”
  7. “Things are fucked up at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus caught me fucking her sister, now I'm out on my ass.”
  8. “There's only 365 days left until next Halloween!”

Round 2: In Recent Memory
Even Dory with her short-term memory loss could get these. Why can’t you?

  1. Which 1977 Disney animation received a live-action remake this year?
  2. Wisecracking character Wade Wilson was better known this year as….? 
  3. What won best film at the Oscars in 2016?
  4. What was Zootropolis called in the US?
  5. The fifth official film in the Jason Bourne series was released. What was it called?
  6. According to the film title, who owned a Home for Peculiar Children?
  7. What sort of guys were Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling this year?
  8. Which independent New Zealand film starring Sam Neill was the surprise hit of the year?
Round 3: Colon Examination
Didn’t do so well above? Here’s a second chance. The plague of the colon in film titles continues unabated. Each of the examples below are half titles from 2016 releases. Simply bend over and identify what words are missing from before the colon :

  1.  : Civil War
  2.  : Resurgence 
  3.  : Apocalypse
  4.  : Dawn of Justice
  5.  : Supersonic
  6.  : Never Go Back
  7.  : Out of the Shadows
  8.  : Election Year
Round 4: The Connections Round!

  1. Who connects Paycheck, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall, Minority Report.
  2. Who comes next? Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, ……….?
  3. Child star of The Exorcist, the director of The Terminator, Radagast’s colour, Peter Parker’s Aunt. What’s the political connection?
  4. What character have the following actors in common? Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Errol Flynn. 
  5. Fantastic, America, Phillips, Underpants. What military rank?
  6. Vincent van Gogh, Colonel Dax, Chuck Tatum, Doc Holliday. What actor are we talking about?
  7. What have 10 Things I Hate About You, Chimes at Midnight, Forbidden Planet and West Side Story got in common?
  8. Brace yourself, we’re heading into Police Academy territory, so no laughing. What comes next? Their First Assignment, Back in Training, Citizens on Patrol, ……
"Yep. They're all dead."
Round 5: I See Dead People!
2016 made a fair attempt to wipe out most of the world's population, including some of Hollywood’s great and good. For each of the films below, name the featured actor who died this year.

  1. Young Frankenstein
  2. The Lord of the Rings
  3. Graffiti Bridge
  4. The Prestige
  5. Green Room
  6. Eye in the Sky
  7. Star Wars
  8. The Magnificent Seven
Round 6: Gogglebox
Many TV series make the jump to the big screen. But not all of then share the same name. Which TV shows were the following films based on, or inspired by?

  1. Fire Walk With Me
  2. The Naked Gun
  3. Serenity
  4. In the Loop
  5. Guest House Paradiso
  6. And Now for Something Completely Different
  7. Head!
  8. Sgt. Bilko

"I'm gonna bomb ISIS and grab pussy,but first I'm gonna win, win, win this quiz."
Round 7: Yessir Mr President!
2016 seen a complete clown take on the role of US President. But in which film was the US President played by….

  1. Michael Douglas
  2. Peter Sellers
  3. Harrison Ford
  4. Donald Pleasance
  5. Bill Pullman
  6. Jack Nicholson
  7. Daniel Day-Lewis
  8. Josh Brolin


Round 8: The Music Round
Each of the following films are about a famous musician. For a mahoosive TWO (2) points in each case, name the musician and the person who played them in the film. 
For arbitrary extra points sing the title song loudly and badly to your assembled family.

  1. Walk the Line
  2. What’s Love Got to Do With it?
  3. Coal Miner’s Daughter
  4. Great Balls of Fire
  5. La Bamba
  6. Beyond the Sea
  7. I Saw the Light
  8. Get on Up!
Round 9: The bastard-hard-either-you-know-it-or-you-don’t Round.

  1. Only two people have won both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. Name them both.
  2. Starting with Snow White (1937) and finishing with Moana (2016), how many animated feature films has Disney animation made?
  3. Likewise, starting with Iron Man and finishing with Dr Strange, how many films exist so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise?
  4. What is the highest-grossing foreign film (ie not in the English language) of all time in the US? 
  5. Something happened on Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies in 2015 which hadn’t happened for any of his films since The Color Purple in 1985. What was it?
  6. Which of Martin Scorsese’s movies has most uses of the ‘F-word’? (Not Feck, the bad F-word. You know the one I mean)
  7. Dhallywood refers to the film industry of which country?
  8. The Power of Love in 1922 is generally considered to be the first film released in what format?
Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? Stop fighting amongst yourselves and let’s see how you got on. Then you can get back to fighting.






ANSWERS


The Christmas Round

  1. Gremlins
  2. Elf
  3. Die Hard
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life
  5. Trading Places
  6. Scrooged
  7. Bad Santa
  8. The Nightmare Before Christmas


In Recent Memory

  1. Pete’s Dragon
  2. Deadpool 
  3. the Revenant
  4. Zootopia
  5. Jason Bourne
  6. Miss Peregrine
  7. The Nice Guys
  8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Colon Examination

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Independence Day : Resurgence 
  3. X-Men : Apocalypse
  4. Superman v Batman : Dawn of Justice
  5. Oasis : Supersonic
  6. Jack Reacher : Never Go Back
  7. Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles : Out of the Shadows
  8. The Purge : Election Year


The Connections Round!

  1. All films based on stories by Philip K. Dick
  2. Brie Larsen (winners of last 4 Best Actress Oscars)
  3. Linda Blair, James Cameron, Radagast the Brown, Aunt May. Blair, Cameron, Brown, May were the last 4 UK prime ministers
  4. Robin Hood  
  5. Captain
  6. Kirk Douglas (in Lust for Life, Paths of Glory, Ace in the Hole, Gunfight at the OK Corral)
  7. All based on Shakespeare Plays (respectively The Taming of the Shrew, Henry IV, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet)
  8. Assignment Miami Beach. Entries 2 -5 in the series. If you got that, be ashamed, be very ashamed.


I See Dead People!

  1. Gene Wilder
  2. Christopher Lee
  3. Prince
  4. David Bowie
  5. Anton Yelchin
  6. Alan Rickman
  7. Kenny Baker 
  8. Robert Vaughan


Gogglebox 

  1. Twin Peaks
  2. Police Squad!
  3. Firefly
  4. The Thick of It
  5. Bottom
  6. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  7. The Monkees
  8. The Phil Silvers Show


Yessir, Mr President!

  1. The American President
  2. Dr Strangelove
  3. Air Force One
  4. Escape from New York
  5. Independence Day (and its sequel, if we’re being pedantic)
  6. Mars Attacks!
  7. Lincoln
  8. W

The Music Round

  1. Johnny Cash, played by Joaquin Phoenix
  2. Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett
  3. Loretta Lynn, played by Sissy Spacek
  4. Jerry Lee Lewis, played by Dennis Quaid
  5. Richie Valens, played by Lou Diamond Phillips
  6. Bobby Darin, played by Kevin Spacey
  7. Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston
  8. James Brown, played by Chadwick Boseman


The bastard-hard-either-you-know-it-or-you-don’t Round.

  1. George Bernard Shaw (Nobel Prize for Literature, Best Screenplay for Pygmalion) and as of this year, Bob Dylan (Nobel Prize for Literature and Best Original Song ‘Things Have changed’ for Wonder Boys)
  2. Moana is the 56th official animated Disney film.
  3. Dr Strange was the 14th official MCU film.
  4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  5. John Williams did not provide the score.
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street with 506! Fucking hell!
  7. Bangladesh – the word created from Dhaka and Hollywood
  8. It was the first 3-D to be released to a general audience



HOW DID YOU DO?



You guys finished? Or you hungry for more?
If so, you can view previous instalments of the Festive Film Quiz 
here and here and here.


Meanwhile, I'm off to meet Dean Martin for spot of festive fishing.
We did it last year too and caught some eels
One was really big and I said 'Dean' what sort of eel is this?"

And he said...




"THAT'S A MORAY"

"I see what you did there.....
....I'll allow it."

Practice that - you know you're going to wheel that one out over the hols.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

2016 Catch-up Triple Bill #4

Battering through a few more missed films from 2016 before a combination of tiredness and food-induced apathy strikes me down.

I found Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2016) a rather hollow portrait of the genius businessman (or was he?) and I didn't much like it, despite the obvious talent involved. Eschewing the standard biopic format, it uses three key business launches (the Apple Mac, the failed NeXT computer and the iMac) to compare and contrast Jobs' success at business with his failure at relationships. As usual, Aaron Sorkin's snappy dialogue makes everyone sound much cooler and articulate than I suspect they actually were, but it's nowhere near as engaging or dramatic as his similar work on The Social Network. There's also a sense that what made Jobs tick is slightly retrofitted to fit the legend - even allowing for dramatic license, it never rang true for me. It's an upgrade from the previous Steve Jobs film (Jobs with Ashton Kutchner), but it still has major glitches.



Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar, 2016) is a tale told in flashback about a middle-aged woman living in Madrid who harbours great pain from her past. There's a distinct touch of Hitchcock in this typically colourful melodrama from Almodóvar, from the strangers meeting on a train, to a Mrs Danvers character, to a mysterious disapperance, to the Herrman-esque score. But this is warmer than Hitchcock; a perceptive exploration of (maternal) guilt, family relationships, love, grief and missed opportunities, anchored by two superb performances from Emma Suarez and the gorgeous Adriana Ugarte as the old and young Julieta respectively. However, for me it lacked the emotional wallop of Almodóvar's best work and I felt a little frustrated by the oblique ending. Still, it's proof, if more were needed, that Almodóvar remains the foremost male writer of strong female roles in contemporary cinema.


Strange Occurrences in Small Irish Village (Aoife Kelleher, 2016) is a documentary about the curious case of Knock, a small town in the West of Ireland where 15 villagers apparently witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879, an event which has shaped the fortunes of the place ever since. For many Irish people, it is a place of devotion and pilgrimage, drawing over a million pilgrims a year to pray, confess and hope for miracle cures. At the same time, for many others it is a place of ridicule and amusement, an uneasy reminder of how much the Irish population is still in thrall to the Catholic Church. Thus it would be easy for the film to be cynical about the place, whilst some of the quirky details means the shadow of Fr. Ted is never far away. However, Kelleher's film is respectful, allowing a range of contributors their say and revealing some of the background workings of the place, which range from very savvy to borderline mad. Ultimately, judgement is left up to the viewer and whilst it's unlikely to change anyone's mind on the place one way or the other, it's an interesting, topical film about how the Church is attempting to adapt in these increasingly secular times.