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

REVIEW: Strangeways, Here We Come

Here we have a movie that has been roundly panned by the (mainly) London bubble of reviewers. Indeed, the Guardian gave it just one *.

Lets have a proper look…

OK, I’ll freely admit, this movie isn’t going to bother any award ceremonies, but if it had been set in Hoxton, Brixton or any of the London “sink” estates, then the plaudits would be gushing, but outside of the London media darling bubble, the film is being enjoyed by pretty much everyone who goes to see it.

It’s a good laugh. What more do you want from 90 minutes of movie?

Its written to please an audience, not reviewers. I’ve lived in Salford, as well as on council estates across the North, and can testify that there isn’t a single character in this film that couldn’t be found on any estate, anywhere in the North of England.

Writer Chris Green knows his audience, and knows the area that the film is set. So complaining that they are caricatures in “implausible situations”  tells me that the writer has never set foot, never mind lived, on such an estate.

I enjoyed this, and so did the rest of the audience at Salford Arts theatre, where this film ended its run tonight with two showings.

As I say, it wont be winning any Oscars, but it is what it is, a bit of fun, set on an estate where people deal drugs, loan sharks are bas***ds who deserve a good kicking and people take drugs at weekend parties to escape the mundane boring life that Austerity Britain has become.

If you cant go into see this (or any piece of art) with an open mind, don’t bother, but I assure you that if you do, you will have a laugh.

It wont be a belly laugh for the full 90 minutes, but you will smirk, laugh out loud at times and leave with a smile plastered across your face.

If you want gritty, indy art house, look elsewhere. This film is aimed at the working class it portrays, maybe larger than life, but then, how else are they supposed to be played?

Ignore the mainstream media critics. What do they actually know about life on a council estate?

More than likely nothing, or if they did, they’ve long ago moved into middle class mediocrity and are denying their past…

Me?

3*/5

REVIEW: MNIB The Glitch

Sometimes, great music appears on your radar from unexpected places.

That’s what happened with “The Glitch” by Manchester act MNIB.

I found myself chatting with a new work colleague when he happened to mention he was an artist, so, naturally, being a journalist, I asked him what he made and lo and behold, MNIB (My Name Is Billal) was on my radar and my playlists.

I have to say, as someone whose musical tastes have a broad range, I didn’t expect to be as blown away as I was.

Northern grime never sounded so good. Dropping onto my Spotify list via MNIB himself, each track is short, sweet and stings like a short jab from Golovkin.

The Glitch may well be explicit and not easy listening in front of your maiden aunt, but its as Mancunian as Oasis, and as hardcore as any other act you’ll hear.

Stand out tracks include “Save some belly”, “Dog Fight” and “The Glitch”, but for me the longer track of “No Stopping You” really hit the spot.

An album that looks both out and is introspective at the same time, MNIB delights in his ability to use expletives not to shock, but to actually put his point across in a manner that makes the album really jump out. Lyrically, it can sound a bit passe at times, but the quality of the production and the maturity of the writing makes it an easy flaw to overlook.

This could have so easily veered into self parody, but it straddles a line, and although not a colossus, it’s certainly an album you’ll enjoy listening to again, unlike some other acts you’ll discover.

 

MNIB Wants YOU

MNIB Wants YOU

I’ll certainly be keeping an ear out for other tracks, and, even if I can’t play it in front of some of the more easily upset members of the household, its worth keeping on Spotify for those hours when I’m alone in the car…

Lionman (Footlights theatre, GM Fringe 2018)

Fringe theatre is, by its very nature, meant to challenge its audience. Lionman, from Dapertutto, at the Footlights theatre, Media City is certainly that.

Challenging.

Starring Tom Hardman as Leonard and Cameron Jones as pretty much everyone else, this is a piece of physical theatre the likes of which you probably don’t see often enough outside of fringe.

From the surreal outset, we follow Leonard as he attempts to complete his screen play, fall in love with the woman upstairs, fight the man in the flat below and all the while there is so little dialogue, you are drawn ever closer to the edge of your seat to see just how Hardman manages these feats of physical theatre.

The use of multimedia is brilliant. From the opening mashup to the awards ceremony, the technical aspects of the show could easily detract from whats going on elsewhere on stage, but its a credit to technician Leon Hardman and sound designer Kris W Laudrum that they add to the actors presence, and don’t overpower the piece.

The lighting is subtly muted, and the staging for such a physical piece works wonders. Sometimes less truly is more. I have no idea how long the performers have rehearsed this, but they hit every mark and made it seem so easy.

 

Footlights, Lionman, GM Fringe

Lionman

It may be a cliche, but this really was a work that made you stop and wonder at times.

The scene where Leonard and the neighbour rewind after a lengthy fight is so well done, that both actors deserved an ovation just for that.

Hardman must come off stage every night both physically and mentally drained! How he’s managed an entire week of shows is a testament to his skills as an actor.

There are dream sequences, which Leonard thinks are real, an awards ceremony that actually IS real and an off stage love interest who has no idea our hero even exists.

Even Casablanca gets a look in.

I went into this only having the preview on the GM Fringe website, so had very little as to what to expect.

I came away from the show filled with admiration for the lead, and the whole crew that they could so easily draw an audience into the world of Leonard so fully and with such aplomb as to leave me feeling as breathless as the performers must have been as they took their bows.

In the end, our hero appears to overcome everything that stands in his way, but at what cost?

 

Lionman runs for the next two nights at Footlights theatre, Kansas Avenue, Media City, Salford.

4*/5 Easily a must see piece of work from a promising new company.