Saturday, 13 July 2019

Coming Home (1978)

"...If I have one issue with Coming Home it is with Ashby’s use of soundtrack, and even then I feel divided. Foregoing score music for an incredibly spot on and enjoyable mix of artists from the mid to late ’60s (The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield etc) is not unusual for a Vietnam war movie but, in Ashby’s decision to have such tracks appear under virtually every other scene, it can feel a little intrusive and somewhat like ‘Now That’s What I Call The Tet Offensive!’.  It’s a little bit of an overload really; within the first ten minutes we have heard The Stones’s Out of Time, followed by Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel, and then The Beatles’ Hey Jude. Later, there’s scarcely a minute that goes by between The Stones tracks Ruby Tuesday and Sympathy For the Devil, and unusually, Ashby often plays these songs in full, straddling several scenes. I love these songs (I’m a massive Stones fan for a start) but it does sometimes feel invasive and distracting – almost as if you’re trying to watch a movie whilst listening to an album at the same time..."

Read my full review at The Geek Show

Friday, 12 July 2019

Yesterday (2019)

Went to the cinema last week to see Yesterday. Bit mad to see Lily James eating a bag of crisps in Upper Crust, Lime Street station if I'm being honest, but it's good to see her using pub etiquette with crisps at least: remember kids, always split the bag for sharing.

To be fair, as Yesterday is a bit of a mad film, it's only right I guess to see James sat in a surprisingly busy Upper Crust - seriously no one really goes in there. Yesterday is a film that asks us to invest in a world where The Beatles, Oasis ("that figures"), Coca Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter do not exist (I'd only be happy about the last one) but Ed Sheeran and James fucking Corden do. Hmm. It's also a world that would have you believe that a total goddess like Lily James could spend around a decade of her life fancying Himesh Patel and he'd be completely oblivious. Hmm, again. 

What would you do if you woke up to find that The Beatles were expunged from memory and you had some musical ability of your own? That's the question that Yesterday, the new film from director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis, posits. It's an interesting premise of course: indeed you could argue it's not an original one either; the '90s BBC sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart saw Nicholas Lyndhurst stumble upon an alleyway that allowed him to travel back in time to WWII London (think Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris - actually why haven't Goodnight's Sweetheart's writers Marks and Gran sued anyone for stealing their ideas yet?)  whereupon, and among other things, he proceeds to pass songs by The Beatles off as his own. And that's exactly what Patel's struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik does here, gaining worldwide acclaim and recognition as a result and dressing more and more like a late '60s Paul McCartney along the way.

What's really interesting about Yesterday is the fact that it's a collaboration between two men arguably responsible for two of the biggest and most distinctive British films of the 1990s; Richard Curtis of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Danny Boyle of Trainspotting. Back then it would have been impossible to imagine mixing those two styles or to even predict that those two would ever work together. But now, possibly at a time in their creative lives where they are less groundbreaking, more comfortable and sedate (ie they're middle-aged), it actually seems like a serviceable fit. As a fan of both men - but equally one who is aware of their individual flaws - I was pleased to see that Yesterday brings out only the best of their work. Curtis has lost some of the icky and troublesomely misogynistic aspects of his screenwriting (although you could argue that the whole central relationship is of course built on a lie), whilst Boyle tones down some of his more out there visual flourishes to let the story breathe; with only the odd Dutch angle and a case of captionitis surviving this restraint. His love of mirrors and/or reflections, a motif that appears in all his films, is nicely showcased during the introduction of Ed Sheeran -  his face obscured by the swirling glass of the Malik's front door until you realise that yes, that really is Ed Sheeran. Fair play to the man for agreeing to get on board with a script that pokes so much fun at him too. I especially liked the criticism Joel Fry's character (essentially Curtis dusting down the guileless Spike character from Notting Hill) makes to his face about his rapping; "Ginger rap? That's crap". And you know, it's a perfectly acceptable performance from the ginger one too. What I really liked about Yesterday though was the way in which it asked its audience to consider a world where you'd never heard a Beatles track. How would you react and what would you feel when you did? Arguably this is a sensation that only my parents generation can actually appreciate. 

For all its intriguing premise though, at the heart of Yesterday is the familiar story of a man enduring several highs and lows before realising that what he really needs in life - the love of a good woman - has been right under his nose the whole time. To that extent, the film really does just belong to Patel and James, and whilst there is good support from the likes of Kate McKinnon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal and a lovely, though all too brief, couple of appearances from the mighty Sarah Lancashire, these supporting roles are all rather underwritten and make little impact. Speaking of the cast, my advice is to go into this as blind as possible too, because there's also an uncredited cameo from someone towards the end that utterly melted me. 

Interesting and ironic tidbit; Justin Edwards who plays the Russian who, who along with Himesh Patel and Sarah Lancashire, is just one of the only three people in the world not to be affected by this international amnesia, is married to the comedian Lucy Porter who claims that Paul McCartney stole the melody of Mull of Kintyre from her father, passing it off as his own.

Also, I really like that poster.

Out On Blue Six: The Doobie Brothers

One of the highlights of TV recently (indeed perhaps this year) was Katie Puckrik's wonderful two-part BBC4 music documentary I Can Go For That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock

Here's Puckrik on that prime slice of what has become known as Yacht Rock, What a Fool Believes "One hundred percent, bouncy-head yacht. It's got Michael McDonald, with his lovely, comforting furry vocals; it's got this bouncy, happy beat, this intro, and he's singing about being a fool. He's goofed up again and yet, he's yearning. What a Fool Believes"

It's the track with the definitive 'Doobie Bounce' which helped shape the whole genre of this music from 1979 onwards.

More music docs from Katie Puckrik please, BBC! She was clearly living her best life making this, and so were we watching it.

End Transmission

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

RIP Rip Torn

It's been a terrible day for the news of deaths in showbusiness, as it has also been revealed that Hollywood actor Rip Torn has died at the age of 88.

For my generation, Torn was perhaps best known for his roles as Zed in the first two Men in Black movies and for Emmy award winning turn as producer Artie in The Larry Sanders Show. But Torn's career stretched across seven decades and included not only an Oscar nomination in 1983 for the film Cross Creek but also cult acclaim for his role in Nic Roeg's 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth alongside David Bowie.

Born Elmore Rual Torn Jr in Texas, 1931 Torn moved to New York in the 1950s to study at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg. A prolific stage actor, Torn earned himself a Tony nomination in 1960 for the original production of the Tennesse Williams play Sweet Bird of Youth. He reprised his acclaimed role as Tom Finley Jr in the 1962 film version.Other film credits included Pork Chop Hill, A Face in the Crowd, the biblical epic King of Kings in which he played Judas, The Cincinnati Kid, Payday, Crazy Joe, Maidstone, Airplane II, The Beastmaster, Robocop 3, Disney's Hercules, Freddy Got Fingered and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. 

A disagreement with Dennis Hopper led to Torn being replaced by Jack Nicholson in the film Easy Rider. In 1994, Hopper alleged on a chat show that Torn's dismissal came about when Torn had pulled a knife on him. Torn immediately filed a lawsuit, arguing that he was the victim and that it was actually Hopper who had pulled the knife on him. A judge ruled in Torn's favour and ordered Hopper to pay damages. Whatever the circumstances, Torn would often be the first to admit he was difficult and prone to 'irascibility' and this came to a head in 2010 when intoxicated and carrying a weapon, Torn broke into a bank in Connecticut. Pleading guilty to the charges, Torn was sentenced to a two and a half year suspended sentence and three years probation.


RIP Michael Sleggs

Very sad to hear that This Country star Michael Sleggs has died at the age of thirty-three.

Cirencester born Sleggs starred in the hit BBC comedy series as the hapless and inoffensive Michael 'Slugs' Slugette, a role written specifically for him by its stars Daisy May and Charlie Cooper. In the show, Slugs had terminal cancer and had drawn up a bucket list that included playing Laser Quest. In real life, Sleggs had beaten cancer as a teenager, but suffered terribly with ill health, including a series of strokes, poor mobility and heart failure. It was this latter illness that has taken him so prematurely.


RIP Freddie Jones

One of my favourite character actors, a legend of British film and television, Freddie Jones has sadly died following a short illness at the age of 91.

As an actor Jones seemed to specifically corner the market in terrifying and disturbing a generation of youngsters in the 1970s and '80s through his appearances in the likes of Children of the Stones, Hammer films such as Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Satanic Rites of Dracula, as well as guest roles in many examples of cult television. In later years, Jones became a cuddly, twinkly grandfather figure in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale, making his final appearance as Sandy Thomas in the show last year when, he claimed, he 'could do longer justify staying'.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, Jones spent ten years of his life working as a laboratory assistant with a firm making ceramic products before turning his hobby in amateur dramatics into a successful career on stage and screen. A regular, favourite actor of David Lynch, Jones appeared in his films The Elephant Man, Dune and Wild at Heart. Other film credits included the Clint Eastwood movie Firefox, Young Sherlock Holmes, Firestarter, The Black Cauldron, Krull, House!, Comrades, Zulu Dawn, Accident, The Man Who Haunted Himself, Far From the Madding Crowd, and most recently opposite his son Freddie Jones in By Our Selves. Memorable TV credits included Pennies from Heaven, the Adrian Mole series and Mr Wroe's Virgins.