New Year’s Day took us to the movies to see The Favourite, a saga of love, rivalry and power, based loosely on the intimate relationship between a sickly and brattish Queen Anne (the last of the Stuarts) and a scheming Svengali-like Lady Sarah Churchill. We anticipated a restoration-style bawdy romp as promised by the trailers and pre-publicity. Instead we got a suffocating tale of court intrigue that plodded on for an age. Bawdy it was, with ripe language, racy dialogue and a few scenes which left little to the imagination. But, on the whole, the film was more darkly disturbing than black comedy, accompanied by a clanging score sounding like a death knell. Despite some great lines, superb acting (Norwich’s very own Olivia Coleman as the volatile queen definitely deserves a handful of gongs), palatial sets, evocative period detail, lavish costumes and gravity-defying wigs, the experience left us punch-drunk. We needed a drink afterwards.
There’s no better way to spend Boxing Day than a trip to the flicks, especially when it’s to see the long-awaited sequel to a classic. Liam and I saw the original Mary Poppins as little ‘uns (though not together, obviously) and it was the child in us both that spit-spotted us to Cinema City to see Mary Poppins Returns. In fact, Liam was virtually hyperventilating along the way. Sequels are so often disappointing, even more so when competing with rose-tinted memories of the distant past. Expectations were high and expectations were exceeded. The film is every bit as magical, charming, melodic and whimsical as the original. Kids of a certain age will be mesmerised, and subtle references to the first film will keep the nostalgic grown-ups happy too. As the closing credits rolled, applause rippled through the crowd. By all accounts, PL Travis, the author of the Mary Poppins books, hated the Disney treatment of the first film so no doubt she wouldn’t approve of the sequel either. But I hope Julie Andrews likes her able successor, Emily Blunt – practically perfect in every way, I say. I feel a barrow-load of gongs coming on.
‘I’m going to see A Star is Born,’ said a colleague of Liam’s. ‘It’s supposed to be brilliant,’ she gushed. ‘Have you seen the original, you know, the one with Barbra Streisand?’
‘That’s not the original’ he replied.
Liam was right. Ms Streisand and her dodgy seventies curly perm was not the first. That honour goes to the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. Then there was the more famous remake – the 1954 musical with Judy Garland and England’s very own James Mason. And who could forget the 2013 Bollywood incarnation? No, I didn’t see it either.
Image courtesy of The Atlantic
Now it’s been rolled out again, this time with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the leads. Reviews have been star-bright and Liam’s a sucker for a gay icon – Garland, Streisand, Gaga (though I’m not sure about Gaynor, unless it’s Gloria, of course). Naturally, we couldn’t resist.
It’s a well-trodden plot – a maelstrom of passion and torment as girl on the way up mates with boy on the way down – so no need to recount it here. But was it worth the ticket price?
Well, sort of. Both leads are excellent and Lady Gaga lets it go with both barrels but the film is way too long, the dialogue way too mumbly and the script way too sweary. I’m no prude and I’ve been known to utter the odd profanity myself but, really, there’s no need to say f*ck with every other word. It dulls the effect, especially for a weepy. It left me unmoved. What would Judy say?
‘Mamma Mia!’ is silly singalong foot-tapping ABBA-fest, a huge block of cheesiness that leaves a warm glow inside like a sugary bowl of Ready Brek. It’s one the most successful British films ever. So what about the sequel, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’? Often sequels are rubbish. This one, though, is right on the money, money, money. The one liners are sharper, the flares wider, the platforms higher, the sequins flashier. The cast had a ball and so did we. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the end.
We took our seats at Cinema City for Nothing Like a Dame, a film that captures four great thespian dames – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins – in conversation. We had great expectations and we weren’t disappointed. All the director had to do was point the camera, say ‘action’, sit back and watch them rock. And rock they did with gossipy warmth, wit and insight, humour, naughtiness and modesty – without a hint of the pompous luvviness you might expect from these titans of the stage. It really hit me when I released that Joan Plowright, who could out-act anyone with just a look, is now blind. I had no idea. Despite this, the film was a voyeuristic joy, and it was a privilege to see it.
And so, in the best pansies tradition, here’s the trailer…
Middle England or middle America? Imelda Staunton or Frances McDormand? Who could choose? Not us, so we did both.
First up, Imelda was finding her feet in Finding Your Feet, ably supported by a sterling cast of foot-tapping veterans. The trailer doesn’t really do justice to this winter warmer of knobs and snobs, free love and last chances. Charming, witty, a little bit sad and very, very British, I’m so glad I didn’t let the underpowered promo put me off.
And what can anyone say about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? I’ll leave it to Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post who wrote…
The film is as dark as they come, a pitch-black, often laceratingly funny look at human nature at its most nasty, brutish and dim-witted.
Amen to that. Frances McDormand bristles with benign menace and the film is pitilessly brilliant, blurring the lines between right and wrong. Oh, and there’s an awful lot of swearing in it too. Here’s the trailer. Best change channels now if you’re offended by the C word.