Thursday, 24 January 2019

January 24th
Green Book
Storm Boy
The Mule

Three excellent films are reviewed today - but I'm starting to think perhaps I'm scoring too highly! For Green Book my initial reaction is to say Unmissable, while the other two are an instinctive 4 rating for me (highly recommended). But maybe I should be a touch harsher and curb my enthusiasm, as none break any new film ground, but each of them is absolutely enjoyable and really well executed -  to the max. Regardless of arbitrary scores,  you won't go wrong seeing any of these films. 

Green Book
Director: Peter Farrelly
Length: 130 min
© EOne - Mortenson and Ali may be an odd couple - 
but how well they connect
Funny, uplifting and relentlessly heartwarming, Green Book is already sure to make my Top 10 for 2019. Inspired by a true life friendship, it tells the story of African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who decides to tour the American south with his jazz trio. It's 1962 and Don feels in need of protection, so hires driver Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson), a tough Italian-American from the Bronx. The "Green Book for Negro Motorists"  will guide them to acceptable segregated hotel accommodation, but what will help them to understand each other? The film already has umpteen awards to its name, and rightly so. Ali's memorable performance as the Doc, not black enough for his people and too black for the white world, is simply breathtaking, while Mortenson is as brilliant as ever. The gradual friendship that develops between these two guys will melt your heart, while underlying themes of racism, belonging and compassion are subtly ever-present. The script feels never less than 100% authentic, peppered with poignant, witty and downright funny moments. The musical soundtrack is just too good, with blues, sixties rock and the Shirley trio's cutting edge jazz. As a homage to shared humanity, and an absolute entertainment, this is a total winner.  
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Storm Boy
Director: Shawn Seet
Length: 99 min
© Sony - prepare to get the tissues out - 
friendship and feathers feature in this delightful film
Colin Thiele's beloved book was first made into a film in 1976, and here it is again flapping its way back into our hearts. This time the story starts in the present day, where the boy Mike (aka Storm Boy) is now a Grandpa (Geoffrey Rush is the adult, Finn Little the boy). Mike's family company is about to sign a mining lease that will affect both the environment and the Aboriginal community. Mike's granddaughter Maddie earnestly opposes the deal, while her father (Mike's son) is ready to roll. Within this framework Gramps tells Maddie of his childhood years, living an isolated life with his dad, Hideaway Tom (Jai Courtney) in the Coorong wetlands of South Australia. There he adopted three baby pelicans whose mother was shot by hunters. One of those birds, Mr Percival, became a beloved pet. This is an interweaving of a heartfelt story of love, loss and environmental damage back in the old days, and love, loss and environmental damage in the present day. Some critics don't like the modern day interruption to the classic story - for me it's a reasonably smart way of getting an important message across, but the real power of the film is in the story of the boy and his feathered friend, and the boy and his father. The friendship developed between Mike, Tom and another loner, Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson), is sublimely handled. Despite the current Rush controversy, and the liberties taken with the original tale, I find this a simply beautiful film, with exquisite cinematography, a profoundly moving performance by Little, and a feel-good feathery tour-de-force from the bird department.
3.5- well recommended!

The Mule
Director: Clint Eastwood
Length: 116 min
© Roadshow - Clint is ever the master director and
a powerful screen presence
Another film "inspired" by a true story: Earl Stone is almost 90 and not popular with his family. He has spent a life more committed to his horticultural pursuits than to people. Now alone and broke he takes a driving job only to discover he has become a courier for a Mexican drug cartel. Meantime the Chicago Drug Enforcement Agency are mounting a huge drug bust campaign spearheaded by the chief (Laurence Fishburne), and his operatives Bates (Bradley Cooper) and sidekick (Michael Pena). This film is funny, poignant and, as always, a showcase for the directorial and acting talents of aging icon Eastwood, who anchors the film's plot, which could otherwise be just another drug trafficking story. The Mexican Cartel dudes vary from almost pleasant (Andy Garcia as Laton, the head honcho who lives an outrageously decadent lifestyle) to downright scary. The character of Earl, though he has done reprehensible things, is given plenty of likable idiosyncrasies by Eastwood. One could argue there's a modicum of predictability to the story, but it's terrifically entertaining, and hey - who can resist the wrinkly charm of Clint on the big screen. 
3.5 - well recommended!

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