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THE FAVOURITE (2018) – My rating: 9.5/10

The Favourite is a period piece and a comedy-drama directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. It is a co-production by producers in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Set in the early 18th century, the story examines the relationship between two cousins vying to be court favourites of Queen Anne. The American Film Institute selected The Favourite as one of its top 10 films of 2018. Among other accolades, the film received five Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. My favorite category (no pun intended) of motion pictures to watch is a period piece. I’m more than glad I got to see The Favourite — It was brilliant.

In 1708, Britain is at war with France and a somewhat weakened Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is on the throne. Having been ill for some time, Queen Anne is frail and shows little interest in governing, instead she races ducks and plays with her 17 rabbits, each of which represents a child she has lost over the years. Her confidante, adviser and furtive lover, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough, effectively rules the country through her influence on the eccentric Queen. Sarah’s efforts to control Anne are undermined only by Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), a Tory Member of Parliament and the 1st Earl of Oxford, who as a landowner, argues against a doubling of property taxes proposed in order to fund the war.  Life is good for Sarah.

****  SPOILERS BELOW  ****

Change comes when Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), Sarah’s impoverished younger cousin, arrives at Court in search of employment. Abigail’s standing is tainted by her father, who gambled away his good name and lost his daughter to a German in a card game. Abigail is initially forced to do menial work as a scullery maid in the palace, but after seeing the Queen’s condition, she fines an opportunity to ingratiate herself with Sarah and eventually, Queen Anne herself. Sarah picks herbs from the garden and formulates a paste to heal the Queen’s inflamed legs. Though she is initially punished by Sarah for her presumptuous actions, Sarah relents when she realises the remedy does ease the Queen’s suffering. In gratitude, Sarah makes Abigail her lady of the bedchamber.  In the meanwhile, Harley approaches Abigail, hoping to use her as a spy in order to find out what Sarah’s schemes are and figure out a way to circumvent her authority. Abigail initially rebuffs him, but soon she becomes aware of the secret lesbian relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah.

At this point the fun really begins, Sarah vs  Abigail vs Queen Anne.  I cannot say enough about the goings on in The Favourite palace.  I was thoroughly entertained.  I haven’t seen a period piece as lively, clever and as well executed since the 1988 movie, Dangerous Liaisons.  I don’t want to give away the whole movie, so I’ll stop here and hope that you will see it for yourself.  It’s no wonder The Favourite won so many awards and nominations, it’s brilliant.  There are quite a few twist and turns that you won’t see coming.  Who will win the controlling position between Sarah and Abigail?  My only criticism is the ending, which left me a little confused.  I would have liked the final action defined so that what was happening would be perfectly clear and not ambiguous or left to the imagination. At any rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Favourite takes home a few Oscars.  BTW: Olivia Colman won the Golden Globe for Best Actress — Check it Out!

[The Favourite is Oscar nominated for Best:  Picture, Actress, 2 Supporting Actress nominations, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Custome Design and Film Editing] 

 

LA LA LAND (2016) – My rating: 7.5/10

lalalandWhile I love musicals, I didn’t think La La Land was the fabulous movie I had heard it was going to be.  It’s a love story with a clever title and a clever twist. It’s mostly uplifting and gives you “warm fuzzies” throughout the film. Mia (Emma Stone) meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) for the first time on a crowded highway, each going to their respective destinations. She flips the bird at him for his reckless driving and he keeps it moving. After continuously running into each other, they decide it’s time to strike up a real conversation. They become friends, then lovers — and so the romance begins. Mia is an aspiring actress that can’t seem to land a role and Sebastian is a jazz keyboardist who can’t seem to get his career on the right track. She continues to get turned down at every audition she tries out for and he gets fired as a piano  player at a popular night club and lounge on Christmas Eve by the manager, Bill (J. K. Simmons). Desperate for work, Sebastian takes on a position with a rock band that doesn’t play any jazz. He hates it but it’s a job. Eventually, Sebastian runs into a friend, Keith (John Legend) who has a jazz band featuring a new sound, Keith defines as modern jazz. Reluctant to join, Sebastian finally gives in and begins to throw himself into this very successful band.  He abandons his dream of owning his own jazz night club where he plays endless jazz into the wee hours of the night.  Sebastian’s objective is to save jazz music, as it is beginning to die out.  Mia, on the other hand decides to write and perform in a one woman play.  She feels it will be her only chance at becoming a star actress.  Their hopes and dreams, which are all embodied around their professions, are light years away from each other.

The movie picks up when John Legend comes on board because the music gets better and the dialogue becomes more alive.  Mia and Sebastian actually begin too share meaningful conversations and discover they have a dilemma.  La La Land doesn’t have a huge cast, plus Emma and Ryan, who have several song and dance scenes, are not the greatest singers in the world but they are excellent actors.

If La La Land had not been nominated for an Oscar, I probably would have waited for the Blu-Ray/DVD release.  La La Land is a decent story with good acting and good music however, I’ve seen and am use to much better.  BTW:  the La stands for Los Angeles (where the film mostly took place), the second La represents a fantasy world, hence the term la la land.  I recommend the movie to those who really like musicals as I somewhat liked it myself, I just didn’t find it to be “all that” fantastic!

[La La Land is nominated for 14 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music: Original Score, Music: Original Song (for 2 songs), Production Design, Sound Mixing and Writing: Original Screenplay]

 

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ALOHA (2015) – My rating: 7/10

AlohaWhat an unusual, pleasant, romantic comedy. Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor who returns to Hawaii to organize a traditional blessing for a new pedestrian gate on behalf of his new employer, billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), who intends to develop nearby land into a space center. After enjoying a celebrated military career that ended because of shadowy deals in Afghanistan, a now disillusioned Brian is tasked with negotiating a deal with the Hawaiian Natives and supporting Carson’s launch of a privately-funded satellite. Brian’s mission is complicated by his former girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams), now married to a very nice guy named Woody, (John Krasinski) plus they have two children but still carries a torch for Brian, and his idealistic Air Force liaison, Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), whose wide-eyed fascination with space and spunky character has drawn her to him as well as reminds him of his own childhood sense of wonder. Brian and Allison attend a Christmas party given by Carson, where General Dixon (Alec Baldwin), who practically loathes Brian, tells him not to screw up the deal with the Hawaiians. During the party, Brian becomes more attracted to Allison, who is having fun dancing with Carson. After the party, relationships among other things start to get very complicated.
To recap, there’s Brian; two women (Captain Allison, who he’s falling for and a former girlfriend, Tracy, who’s married with two children, General Dixon, who can’t stand Brian, the new billionaire employer, Carson, who is deceiving Brian and his old Hawaiian Native friends that he is deceiving (except, he doesn’t know that) and the realization that his new relationship with Allison may not be in her best interest.)

There is so much more to this plot, which is considered a box office bomb. I found the movie funny and interesting. Not the best and not a must see. Now that it’s on DVD, you can’t go wrong. Aloha is a little silly but mainly a very cute story with a few surprises.

BIRDMAN (2014) – My rating: 8.5/10

BirdmanBirdman tells a powerful story about a has been, washed up actor who was renown as a super hero called The Birdman.  Michael Keaton (The Birdman/Riggan Thomas) played the heck out of this role.  Riggan, a father and divorcee is feeling the pain of age and abandonment of a once robust and exciting crowd, known as his world,  and so decides to show the world that after 20 years, he’s not washed up but a big time Broadway theater director putting on a play of the short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” that was written over 60 years ago.  Everything was going south, mostly because he hadn’t cast a good enough actor in the lead role.  In comes Ed Norton, who saves the day with his super talented acting abilities.  Of course, extraordinary comes with a price.  Between Riggen’s screw-up of a daughter (Sam) played by Emma Stone, the critic (Tabitha) played by Lindsay Duncan,  who could render his play it’s doomsday exit on the very first day and Ed Norton’s shenanigans, Riggan has his hands full — perhaps more full than he can handle.  Birdman is an extremely well acted movie with a touch of crazy that makes for an entertaining day at the cinema.  Naomi Watts (Lesley) gave a brilliant performance as the love interest for Ed Norton and the lead actress in the play.  I don’t want to reveal anything that would be considered a spoiler so I’ll just say the ending was my only pet peeve.  Things were not clear enough for me but I loved that I could use my imagination.  It’s possible that Birdman could get an Oscar nod.  Since this movie has flown under the radar, it’ll be out on DVD soon.  Pick it up and see what I’m talking about — it’s worth your time.

[BIRDMAN is nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Sound Editing, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay (writing)]

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) – My rating: 8/10

TheAmazingSpiderman2I wasn’t thrilled when they started making my beloved Spiderman movies with someone other than Toby MaGuire.  Not being into the comic book scene, I was very surprised and confused when they remade Spiderman instead of continuing where the last Spiderman movie left off. This surprise sort of clouded my judgement towards the new Spider-man series making me very unhappy with the new film.  I’ve since had time to adjust and see the errs of my ways.   Little did I know Spiderman is a trilogy.   I went into the Spider-Man 2 movie with great expectations.  I knew a lot of fans were not too excited about the movie after seeing it but I forged on with my new attitude anyway.  Oddly, I don’t agree with the fans who didn’t think  much of Spider-Man 2.  I think it was fantastic.  It was more true to the comic book story (which I read up on) and it had lots of action and endless special effects.  Hollywood threw everything at Peter Parker, including the kitchen sink.  I like the added original comic book character of Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone and I love Sally Field as Aunt May.  I even like Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-Man.  TAMN2 had all the usual bells and whistles; villains like Harry Osborn/The Green Goblin played by Dane Dehaan, who wants Spiderman dead, the unresolved death of Peter Parker’s parents, Oscorp powers that be cover-ups and always a new and different super-villain struggling for power.   In this case, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Eletro was quite convincing as an invisible person who finally gets noticed, albeit in a bad way.  I couldn’t see anything not to like, as this movie wasn’t any different than other Spider-Man movies.  Lots of destruction, action, romance and special effects.  There’s so much going on in this movie, you won’t have time to be bored or uninterested.  Some say Peter Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy is corny and cheesy but I disagree.  I guess it’s a personal call — you’ll have to decide for yourself.  TASM2 is worth seeing on the big screen and runs 2 hours and 22 minutes.  I found the movie very entertaining.