REVIEW: Green Book (2018)

With a couple of days to go before the Oscars ceremony, Andrew Riley looks at one of the front runners for the top award. Green Book.

I’ve been a fan of Viggo Mortensen going back as far as “A History of Violence”.

Yes, he’d appeared in many films before then, but when he took that lead role, he was transformed into a lead actor of real presence. From then on, in this writers opinion, he’s grown and grown into one of the finest lead actors.

We see him here share the screen with Mahershala Ali, who has grown into a leading actor, as a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Based on a true story, it shines from start to finish as one of THE films of the last 12 months.

As they get to know each other throughout the eight weeks of the tour, we see each of them come to change. In one opening scene, we see Mortensen pick up two glasses that have been used by a pair of coloured workmen in his home and put them into the bin, rather than wash them and use them himself.

Yes, he’s prejudiced, but so is the pianist played by Ali.

Almost an outcast from his own race, because he’s been pampered in the New York glitterati who fawn over his playing and has never really suffered some of the racism people of his colour have had to put up with.

Neither fish nor fowl, he struggles to be accepted as he tours the deep south during the ’60s.

This is not helped when the Dr is caught In flagrante delicto with a white gentleman in a hotel pool, the Dr can’t quite believe that Tony is as good as his word in dealing with any situations that come up without judging him for his sexuality or race.

As the pair travel from concert to concert, Mortensen and Ali gradually begin to respect and change and grow into each others company, the Dr helping Tony write his letters to his wife that he promised to send her from the road, and Tony turning down an offer of better pay from some wise guys to stay with the Dr.

What we have here is a buddy movie for the 21st century. It’s a superb piece of work, and the direction by Peter Farrelly is fantastic. The interplay between the two leads is subtle and handled so very well.

Take two opposites, lock them in a car with each other for two months, add in the deeply ingrained racism of the time, and you see that both are struggling to make their own way in the world.

It’s easy to see why this is one of the favourites for Oscar glory.

Prejudice abounds across the tour, and as stoically as Ali tries to brave it out, eventually, something has to give.

This film is easily one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Would I put money on it winning the Oscar?

No, I think Roma has that sewn up.

What it does show is why when people like Jussie Smollett should never work in the industry again after his “stunt”.

5*/5*

 

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REVIEW: Robin Hood (2018)

I have a couple of friends who are in the acting business. I call it a business, because that is exactly what it is, a business.

You may deride acting as a non-job, but without it, we would pretty much have no entertainment industry, no TV, film, adverts, waiting staff or theatre.

For me, I’d have very little to write about other than sports, and that really would be a drag.

I know people who get upset because it feels like every other movie is a superhero movie, and that every other theatre show is a revival.

Now, Robin Hood.

Another revival/reboot?

Going back to my childhood, you had Michael Praed in the 1984 show.

Hot on its heels came Robin Hood: Men in Tights and of course, who could forget Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. After that, we’ve had another TV show and Russell Crowe had a go at a Nottingham accent (and failed) in 2010.

Now we’ve had another reboot/revival.

Robin Hood 2018 though is a very well thought out and modern take on the myth of the men of the greensward. The current go to English actor of his generation, Taron Egerton takes the titular role, and also has Jamie Foxx in the role of the Moor known as Yahya / John.

It would be very easy to get upset at the shortcuts this movie takes with historical fact, but come on, IT’S A MOVIE!

If you’re looking for a movie that will take your mind off of Brexit, austerity, and all the other stuff that’s going in un the UK today, here it is.

Just short of two hours of fun.

You get Ben Mendelsohn as a very good Sheriff, Paul Anderson as the most menacing Guy of Gisbourne and Eve Hewson as Marion.

Also, worth a mention is Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.

Yes, this film plays fast and loose with the myth, but please remember, it is a myth.

Robin Hood is also no superhero.

Suspend your disbelief, sit back, grab some popcorn and crack open a bottle of whatever takes your fancy.

Without spoilers, the ending allows for a sequel, and I for one, hope that Egerton and Co. find time in their schedule to make one because this is a reboot that might just have enough legs for a trilogy.

4*/5

Andrew Riley interviews…Episode one

The first in a series of informal interviews with local artists sees Andrew at Salford Arts Theatre to chat to Scott T. Berry.

 

 

REVIEW: Film stars Don’t die in Liverpool

I can honestly say that until this film crossed my path, I’d never (probably like a lot of my generation) heard of Gloria Grahame, Oscar winner and star of both stage and screen, let alone seen her work, but despite its saccharine look back at her love affair with author and actor Peter Turner (on whose book this film is based), there is a real grittiness underlying the film that Annette Benning (Grahame) and Jamie Bell (Turner) try so hard to show, but despite the best efforts of a wonderful ensemble that includes Kenneth Cranham, Julie Walters and Stephen Graham, the film never really gets into the real lives of a couple who were separated by close to 30 years (The couple met when she was fifty-four and he was twenty-six).

Suffering from late stage cancer, Graham runs back into the arms of her younger lover, ostensibly saying she is ill, but eventually, having to admit the truth about her cancer.

Turner is torn between what to do for the best, for both Gloria and his family. His mother is due to fly to Australia to see her other son and Gloria is denying her illness, and is insistent that Peter shouldn’t tell her family back in the USA.

It would have been easy to gloss over the family and how they react to having Grahame under their roof, but in Julie Walters as the matriarch, and Cranham as the slightly downtrodden father, we see just how Grahame’s illness and her request to live with the family of Turner affects them, as well as him watching her die in their spare room.

The scenes where Bell is dealing with Grahame on screen alone are touching, but you feel there is always more to be found and yet never shown on screen.

The film jumps backwards and forwards  far too often for my liking, and this detracts from a story that deserves to be told, if not in a more linear sense, then certainly in a slightly more structured vein than that offered by Director Paul McGuigan.

The clumsy way the break up of our main protagonists is dealt with is particularly tough to watch, certainly seeing the same scene from two different sides is a bit messy, given that we see how it was designed by Grahame to sent Turner back to further his career at the expense of their relationship.

Flitting between Liverpool, New York and California cant have been an easy task for any director, but the film manages to do it clumsily in my opinion, and to the detriment of the story trying to be told under heavy handed direction.

Benning shines in her role as the faded star, while Bell really dotes on Grahame, doing everything he can to make her final days as comfortable as possible, even taking her to the stage of the Liverpool Playhouse to perform Romeo and Juliet alone together.

On the whole, its a very basic movie.

Thats not to say it’s not a good movie, it is, but given its source material, it could have been better. It’s what my wife describes as “one of those” particularly British movies she can enjoy on an afternoon off, she compared it to Brassed Off in that respect.

There was love in this movie, but not in the places you’d expect. I wanted to love this film, but can’t.

Its not a movie I’ll be rushing out to buy, but I’ll certainly be looking for a copy of Turner’s book on which it’s based, as I think I’ll learn more about the couple there than this film can ever hope to show.

3*