Monday 15 May 2023

A Good Person (2023)

I think we all know by now that Florence Pugh can do no wrong and here she is again, stealing the show in a virtual double-header with Morgan Freeman. The film is a creation of comedy actor-turned-writer/director Zach Braff and what a splendid job he has done with a beautifully crafted and moving story.

Having suggested that it's a two-header, I have to back-track a little and admit that the whole cast have done fine jobs in their roles, but most of the screen time has been engulfed by Pugh and Morgan. Florence Pugh (Don't Worry Darling, Midsommer, The Wonder) plays Allison who is about to be married to Nathan (Chinaza Urch), to whom she is deeply committed and in love. Soul Mates stuff. There's a tragic accident while she's driving a car, she wakes up in a hospital bed to find out all about it - and we leap forward a year.

There were two passengers in the accident - Nathan's sister and brother-in-law - and as we pick up the story with Allison living with her mum, it's clear that Nathan and her are no long an item. Morgan Freeman (Transcendence, Se7en, Outbreak) plays Nathan's dad, Daniel, who is an ex-soldier and long-term police officer with a drink problem. Drink problems and addiction becomes the theme of this film. Allison, a year on, is addicted to prescription pain-killers and will do pretty much anything to get them, once the doctor stops prescribing.

Grandad Daniel is living with Ryan (Celeste O'Connor) the 16 year-old niece of Nathan - now with no mum. Daniel is not making a very good job of it, but he is making a good job of keeping his drinking in check, with the help of local AA/NA group - which he is attending one day when Allison turns up to start her recovery. Daniel privately holds her responsible for the death of his daughter, but faces his greatest challenge now that she's turned up, forgiving her and keeping himself on the straight and narrow - whilst also trying to regain the trust of son Nathan, with whom he has had a difficult past.

Daniel and Allison, over time, form an unlikely bond/friendship which has its ups and downs, good and bad, challenging and smooth. The chemistry between the two of them works really well on screen and we're treated to a masterclass in acting. As I said earlier, the pair of them steal the show with phenomenally powerful performances, gut-wrenching scene after gripping emotional sequence. It would take a cold-hearted viewer not to shed a tear at the very least. But it's not soppy and holds its line with intelligence and class in terms of acting, storytelling and direction.

We now enter the meat of the film which is very much about harrowing grief, loss, recovery, relationships, abuse through alcohol, forgiveness, hopelessness, addiction, helplessness, guilt and regret. Although a central part of the production is about addiction, it's also very much about lives destroyed by events - to some degree outside of the control of the characters. The film tries to inject some humour, too, but even then - the audience sees it through the eyes of the characters' destruction.

I won't give away any of the outcomes of course, and there are one or two eventualities which I think could have been done differently, but that's not what this is really about. It's just so smart and incredibly well imagined, scripted, delivered and so very dramatic. You might have worked out by now that I'm hugely impressed! Pugh and Morgan are superb throughout and this has to be, so far in 2023, my Film of the Year. With 7 months to go, it could be usurped, but it's gonna' take some beating. Treat yourself.

Sunday 7 May 2023

Black Crab (2022)

Continuing with my Noomi Rapace appreciation flow, my next stop was this Swedish post-apocalyptic yarn about a group of soldiers who are picked for a mission (because they are good ice-skaters) in the midst of an all-out war between two sides. They had to be good ice-skaters because it was the only way to deliver a potentially war-ending package to where it needs to be - over the ice-covered landscape of northern Europe.

We start off in the thick of chaos and violence in which Noomi's character, Edh, loses track of her daughter, with whom she's travelling in a car. People with guns are indiscriminately shooting anything that moves in the midst of a huge traffic jam. We then cut to a train, where Edh is plucked from a war-torn carriage and whisked off for the mission by the military. She's clearly not only a mother, but also a trained soldier. As well as a good ice-skater!

We then join the crack team, who are given the items in question, and sent off to skate to where it needs to go across that frozen sea. They are likely to be picked off by the enemy, so much travelling is done when it's dark and resting when light. You don't need to belong to Mensa to work out that the mysterious package is not quite all it seems and that the military are possibly covering some agenda up, so unknown to the team! Amongst the adventures en route, various members of the team suddenly become less like soldiers and more like free-thinking individuals, taking moral stands about war and the fete of humanity, forgetting that they're under orders.

Relatively inexperienced director/writer Adam Berg holds the reins here and provides us with a fairly decent thriller with some suspense, violence and action thrown in as we spend most of the time with the team, on a kind of road-trip. On ice! There's some lovely scenery on offer so the cinematographer was able to cash in and make that look fairly good when it wasn't night. Though even when it was, the use of lighting, especially on and through the ice, was nicely done). There's also set considerations, with crumbling cities and barren urban landscapes which looked convincing enough too.

Noomi Rapace (Stockholm, Lamb, The Secrets We Keep, You Won't Be Alone) leads the fairly capable-looking cast who are able to keep up - and in many instances, perform convincingly. So, plenty of people shooting other people, fighting, knifework, spurting blood, explosions and general Bond-style nastiness to thrill the action-seeking folk. Not very intellectually challenging throughout, though, so don't come looking for that! The final scenes feel very much like a Bond film! Noomi is the star of course and she does an excellent job though I don't think she needed to try very hard. She's an excellent actress and many people appreciate her talent, but this is a payday job!

It's an enjoyable ride for the best part of two hours and generally the time flies along. Don't try too hard to think about it all, just enjoy the thrills! It's subtitled, dubbed or whatever, so take your pick. Worth a look, for sure, even if nobody will be winning many awards.

Friday 5 May 2023

You Won't Be Alone (2022)

In my quest to watch anything with Noomi Rapace in it, I came across this film and ended up rather enjoying it. However, it's a bit bizarre! If you thought Lamb (her film from 2021) was a bit odd, this surpasses it as probably the strangest film I've seen in the last couple of years! But hang on in there.

Putting Noomi's involvement into perspective, she's only actually in for about 15 minutes as she plays the part of one of the people whose bodies our central character jumps into, driven by a ruthless witch in 19th century Macedonia! And there I paint a sharp picture of the story one is getting into here! It's a story of witches and simple folk living in fear of such things in a village in the countryside, working together to feed themselves from the land, avoiding the plague and just surviving.

Apart from Noomi Rapace (Stockholm, Lamb, The Secrets We Keep) I haven't seen much of the other actors - Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Europa Report, Fury) being the two main leads. Everyone seems to be very engaged with what is going on though and performing very well. Director/writer Goran Stolevski comes from Macedonia, though seems to have lived most of his life in Australia. He holds things together pretty well and makes the most of things visually with some very nice leadership in terms of continuity, images, shooting, lighting and set.

The film is a horror really, but it's more shocking for the audience in terms of gore and the characters with supernatural powers making a bloody mess of much of what they come in contact with. Adult humans, animals, babies - nobody gets a pass and it is a little gruesome at times. There's also some nudity and sexual scenes thrown in just in case the aforementioned wasn't quite enough to get an X-rating!

Anyway, we join the story with a severely deformed-by-fire witch hustling in on a lady (minding her own business) who has just had a child. The witch tries to snatch it but mother swiftly takes action to prevent this - at least until the child is 16. In order to keep the witch's wrinkled hands off it, she puts her in a cavern and leaves her there, attending to her needs every few days bringing her supplies etc. For 16 years she sees nobody and has no socialisation of any sort. Mother is hoping the witch has forgotten, when her child is 16, or that she doesn't know where she hid her. But of course witches know everything and she rocks up for her reward as agreed.

The witch then oversees the life of the girl (Biliana, Alice Englert) but they soon fall out as Biliana wants a normal life. She ain't going to get it though and via various gruesome and barbaric acts, she flits between various living creatures (one being Bosilka, Noomi Rapace) when they're either dead anyway or by killing them first! She then 'transforms' into their being (by removing their innards and putting them into herself) and tries to take over living their lives for them - usually with disastrous results as she has no idea how to behave socially or any other way, having been stuck in a cave all her life!

I think you get the idea. It's all fairly involved and you need to watch closely to keep up with what's going on, how things develop and to make sense of the outcome. I think I did - just about! Biliana has to learn things the hard way and through her adventures and misery, she does so. We get a snapshot of their world, too, full of male dominance leading to violence towards women generally, cultural superstition, the importance of family bonds, relationships and love. It feels very much like a fairy tale often, except the fairy seems missing and is replaced with witches! Think Merlin. Kind of. Or perhaps Rumpelstiltskin!

Finally, Biliana is trying hard to break away from the burned old witch and as we head towards the climax, showdown, a High Noon in the making, we find out if Biliana's good intentions and trapped existence conquers the evil of the old witch! Yes, it's that old good vs evil battle again! I'm sure that I've probably missed out on a lot of the metaphors and parallels which I should have picked up, so maybe I'll watch it again. It's subtitled/dubbed but actually there's not a huge amount of dialogue overall and I thought it was a very interesting film, a little slow in parts, but well worth seeking out and getting stuck into!

Monday 1 May 2023

Last Sentinel (2023)

We're about 40 years into the future here and global warming has raised the level of the earth's water to such an extent that there's only two bits of land left - and the two 'countries' are at war. Inevitably! The setting for this film is a rig in the middle of the two, which is occupied and maintained by 4 military personnel on rotation, two years at a time.

We join the action as the 'monthly' storm is due, facilitating a potential haul of fish in their nets as they wait for their relief crew, now 3 months late and no word. There's very limited communication with the outside world (on some strangely outdated-looking equipment for the future) and the whole film is set onboard the knackered, old rig and a couple of vessels around it. The storm is raging and we get to see a few minutes of special effects as the huge waves head for the rig.

They seem to be in charge of some nuclear-bomb-looking device, which two of them have keys to activate, should the need arise. It's not really very clear what this is, what it's for or what they intend to do with it - and under what circumstances. There is a suggestion that this simply destroys what's left of the earth if detonated and so both sides in the war want it for themselves, presumably as a deterrent. Anyway, the crew have a procedure to follow under certain conditions and to detonate it. It seems that one of those conditions is simply not being able to communicate by radio with each other whilst investigating a boat floating past one day!

It's very slow, we get to know the four players (or at least we think we do) and as the film moves along it is indeed clear that all is not as it seems. People have hidden agendas, maybe not quite what the seem to be and there are twists and turns which come along to keep the audience on their toes. Or at least, not falling asleep! Director Tanel Toom (Truth and Justice) keeps thing chugging along (a bit faster might be better, at the expense of getting the audience feeling the isolation and boredom that the crew might feel) and does a decent enough job pulling together some good cinematography and the best he can from the actors.

Kate Bosworth (Barbarian, Superman Returns, Still Alice) plays the lead as Corporal Cassidy working under the command of Thomas Kretschmann (A Taxi Driver, Stalingrad, Valkyrie, U-571, The Pianist) as Sergeant Hendrichs. They are supposed to be in charge but as we will see, splinters (leading to some inconsistencies) do appear in the structure of that. The other two crew members are Privates. Lucien Laviscount (Coronation Street, Trollied) as Sullivan (who is having a fling with Cassidy on the quiet) and Martin McCann (The Survivalist, 71) as Baines. As I said, the acting is of a good standard, but it fails to lift this film much above the feeling of a B-Movie to be honest.

The purpose/message of the film I guess is a warning about climate change and what the world might end up being if we don't pull our socks up, but it's all pretty lame and shallow, slow-moving and fairly forgettable. Maybe they should have done what Amazon Studios did with The Rig and turned it into more of a TV series. Don't get me wrong - it's worth the watch, but it just ain't gripping as a storyline and the material everyone has to work with doesn't raise it above the routine. Focus on the acting, directing and visuals.

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of April 2023

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 742 - Essential Ecosystem
Saturday 1st April
Steve and I natter this week about the Fold4 again, me with the honeymoon over but he, still having a cracking time with his! I'm back on Pixel, Moto and Sony whilst he plays with his Apple stuff! Loads more, including a drop-in from Mark Ellis, the YouTuber.

Projector Room
Episode 135 - Winnie the Cocaine Bear!
Wednesday 5th April
The team is back again with another roundup of all things film, cinema and TV so why not join Gareth, Allan and I as we highlight the gems and filter the Fool's Gold! Dick Van Dyke takes centre-stage in Themed Treats, The Glory is in Private Screening, we have a bear-themed Main Feature and even a chance to break out a GameBoy!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 743 - A Duo of Smartphones
Saturday 8th April
Steve and I are joined this week by Scott Brady again as we natter for an hour about what he's been using, Duos, Pixels, Folds, Ultras, Pros and loads of other stuff too, including compact phones and an odd so-called upgrade from Moto!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 9th April
Gareth and I are here again offering your our weekend thoughts on all things tech as we tinker! Asus ROG Ally, Sega Nomad, Sony ZV-E1, Lenovo Legion, Pixel Tablet, Sony WF-C700N, Marshall, PlayStation Q, Data Frog, TikTok, Vivaldi and loads more!

Whatever Works
Episode 184 - Sock Stop Tater Tots!
Thursday 13th April
Aidan and I are back again to taunt you with another hour of chaos and fun as we consider Whatever Works in our lives and yours! Power and cats, Hobos and urine, Dungeons and Dragons, smokin' hot food and loads more besides. Pull up a Chaise Longue and break out the popcorn!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 15th April
Steve and I are here this week with one of our Catch-Up editions with no guest as we clear the backlog of goodies! Loads of stuff with Duos, Pixels, Folds, Flips, ROG, Android Beta, Nearby Share, Geofencing and oodles more, so get stuck in!

Projector Room
Episode 136 - Vanishing Luck
Wednesday 19th April
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of our thoughts (and yours) on all things film, cinema and TV. Loads of goodies as usual from 1932 to 2024! Sigourney Weaver is our Themed Treat, we see How It Ends (or rather don't) in Private Screening, enjoy some great pic(k)s in The Main Feature and look forward to what's Coming Soon. All good stuff, available from all the usual places, so do join us for an hour. Or two!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 745 - A Samsung Special
Thursday 20th April
Steve and I are joined again by Mark Swidler and his brother Lee from Detroit. They're both big Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra users, so yes, that's the focus of this show. Great chat covering loads of stuff, so do tune in.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 23rd April
Gareth and I are joined by Ricky West this week again as we toss over this week's tech trinkets! New Pixels coming, we consider a clever ring and tongue-taps, plenty of gaming, NSFW art generation, Bionic Reading, Sega gets Angry over Birds and we fit in a visit to Bedrock!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 746 - Re-inspired by Hinges
Saturday 29th April
The Authenticated Episode! Jim Fowl is guest of honour this week as Steve and I chat with him about folding phones, new and old. We reminisce a while, look to the future some and dwell in the present even more.

Perfect Days (2023)

This Wim Wenders (Paris, Taxas, The American Friend) film is a moving and beautifully created character study depicting the everyday life of...