Saturday, 30 December 2017

Post-Christmas Assessment

Well I wasn't wrong. The most enjoyable film I watched over the holidays was indeed "Shaun the Sheep Movie" -- I must be a big baby at heart. Short enough to not outstay its welcome, it is full of great visual humour and sight gags to keep the adults in the audience amused. With no audible dialogue other than grunting and 'baaas' plus the occasional song lyrics from the well-chosen musical score, it lives up to the gold standard of the best of the Aardman Animations' productions. It's a jolly treat for all the family -- a re-watchable classic.

As for Sky Premiere's 'big' movies from the 23rd to the 26th, all were certainly watchable but none reached the same level of enjoyment. Of the four I was least attuned to "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" which was as whizz-bang eye-candy as the first film in the series but not particularly engaging. Similarly "The Lego Batman Movie" was full of visual style and all about Batman needing to find family and love; some critics place it amongst the best of the Batman flicks but I think that's taking things a little too far. After the first amazing Lego movie the originality of the concept of a Lego world is no longer fresh or surprising. As for the live-action "Beauty and the Beast" -- a fairly faithful translation of the original animation -- it was a little too long and too busy to replace the original (to say nothing of the classic Cocteau version) in my affections. Emma Watson looks pretty as Belle and makes a good stab at singing the tunes with her slightly reedy voice (but in the 'olden days' she would have been dubbed by Marni Nixon!) I was surprised however by how strong-voiced Dan Stevens' Beast and Luke Evans' very hissible villain are, as are the rest of the cast including those voicing normally inanimate objects -- Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, The set decoration and costuming were top-notch and will probably feature in next year's Academy Award nominations.

That leaves "Hidden Figures" rather surprisingly as the most interesting film of the four, even if I was not expecting the tale of black women at NASA to be overly life-affirming -- which it was. Taraji P Henson is always a proficient and engaging actress and the charismatic Octavia Spencer is never less than watchable (don't miss her in Del Toro's "The Shape of Water" when it comes your way). I was unfamiliar with the third of the lead trio, Janelle Monae, but apart from being very pretty she also proves herself a fine actress. Even Kevin Costner whom I normally watch through clenched teeth is likeable and strong in his role. I have no idea how accurately the film renders the true facts of their breakthrough and how much was 'black-washed' to coin a phrase, but the movie is very well done.

Just a brief word on the eight-part  "Feud: Bette and Joan" which I am half-way through watching. Again I suspect that some of the 'facts' have been manoeuvred for dramatic effect, but the end product is very engaging. Susan Sarandon as Bette and Jessica Lange as Joan are both better looking than the originals but they do a seamless job of evoking the two actresses in their make-up and mannerisms. I'm particularly amused by Bette constantly addressing Crawford as Lucille (her original and best-forgotten first name) or occasionally 'Crawfish'.

Although I didn't mention it sooner, the best time I've had at the movies this month was with "Paddington 2" which I caught at the cinema a few weeks back. I found it every bit as droll and charming as the first flick, but may have actually preferred the sequel since Hugh Grant makes a far more amusing villain than Nicole Kidman. In fact it's one of his best movie roles ever -- be sure to stay for the end of the back credits!

All that's left now is to wish for a happy, healthy and peaceful 2018 for all of us. Amen.
Post a Comment