We’ve seen a few movies since my last update, so I’ll rattle through them.
Sound of Metal ~ spoilers here.
Firstly I’d been waiting since 2019 to see Sound of Metal (2019), which was on Amazon Prime back then but only just got to the UK site this year. Was it worth the wait? Well yes to a certain degree. Directed and written by Darius Marder, it stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben a metal drummer in a duo with his guitarist/singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). They travel around America in a camper van, doing gigs along the way. Ruben loses his hearing due to noise damage, and through visiting a doctor finds out that he can only make out 20–30 percent of words he hears and that his hearing will deteriorate rapidly. Though cochlea implants could help him, the cost of them without insurance is prohibitive. He ends up in a shelter for deaf people, after Lou insists they stop playing and get him some help, he is also a recovering drug addict. Lou isn’t allowed to stay with him and he is initially hostile to the leader of the shelter Joe (Paul Raci) but eventually learns sign language and is an assett to the kids in the shelter. But Ruben just wants to hear again and sells his van, and all his music equipment in order to go and get the cochlea implants. After he has them, the shelter won’t have him anymore, so he goes and visits Lou at her fathers house, and it’s apparent that the implants are not as perfect as normal hearing, and his relationship with Lou is over, but not acrimoniously.
This was a tour de force performance from Riz Ahmed, and he is just brilliant to watch, he spent 2 months learning how to drum, another two learning sign language, and the soundtrack has it so that we (don’t) hear what he (doesn’t) hear, which is quite an unusual experience. A lot of the actors in the shelter are genuinely deaf which makes the movie very believable. I have a few issues with the hearing treatment part of the movie. Firstly, hearing aids should have been the first port of call to get him used to digital sound, before even going for implants. Secondly it isn’t explained to him that implants can’t give you back normal hearing, consequently when he has them switched on they sound awful and he isn’t happy, but the lady switching them on doesn’t give him any info on how they improve over time as you get used to them, and doesn’t really tune them properly at all. He isn’t given any follow up appointments for re-tuning, infact the whole process you go through once you have implants is cut out so it really wasn’t a good advert for them. But on the whole an interesting take on things, and we really enjoyed it.
Fraggle rating:- Interesting, different, and a powerhouse performance from Ahmed.
Final Stand or The Last Frontier (2020)
Phil’s latest war movie. Not sure why it has two different titles but we watched it as The Final Stand, again on Amazon Prime. It’s made by, and acted by a lot of Russian people with impossible names, actually written and directed by directed by Vadim Shmelyov. It is based on a true story and covers the heroic exploits of the Podolsk cadets in the Battle of Moscow in 1941. 3,500 cadets were in training at Podolsk to become excellent commanders with sufficient expertise in the art of war. In ’41 when the Germans were on the way to Moscow, the cadets were deployed to slow them down, whilst the General Headquarters relocate the military reserves. The Russians have a way with movies, the heroes are always heroic and self sacrificing, and there is always a sentimental romance. But these cadets really were heroic, doing a lot of damage to the German forces, and buying time with their lives, only 1/3 of them survived,which enabled the Russians to get their forces into place for the defence of Moscow. The script was a bit hokey if the subtitles are to be believed, but the actors gave it their all, and the action scenes are amazing.
Fraggle rating:- definitely one for the afficionado’s of war movies.
The Straight Story (1999) (recommended by Pete ~ link to his review here. )
In 1994, a chap named Alvin Straight, a WW2 veteran travelled from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion Wisconsin by means of a motorised John Deere lawn mower, to visit his brother who’d had a stroke. This he did as his legs and eyes were too impaired for him to receive a driver’s license. David Lynch decided to make a movie about it all, and what a beautiful piece of cinema he gave us. That’s the plot in a nutshell, but Alvin’s journey is epic. He meets people along the way who help him out when things go wrong with his lawn mower, he gives advice to a hitchhiker and a cycling group he meets along the way, and the scenery is filmed wonderfully. Richard Farnsworth took the part of Alvin in spite of being terminally ill with metastatic prostate cancer, and the paralysis of his legs we see in the movies is not acting, that’s real, but he had so much admiration for Alvin he determined to get through it, and it is a great piece of acting. Farnsworth committed suicide a year later at the age of 80. Sissy Spacek plays his daughter Rose, a lovely woman but a couple of cans short of a six pack in the brain department, and Harry Dean Stanton plays Lyle, Alvin’s brother, though he’s only in it for a few seconds in the last scene.
Fraggle rating:- absolutely brilliant, a quiet, deep and entrancing movie and quite unlike any of Lynch’s other movies.
The 800 (2020)
Another war movie from Phil, this time made and acted by a lot of Chinese people with impossible names. I think this is my fave war movie ever, as it has such a strange setting. Again based on real events it covers the defence of the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai in 1937 during the second Sino-Japanese war. The Imperial Japanes Army invaded Shanghai and after 3 months of holding them at bay, the Chinese army had to retreat before they became encircled. The Generalissimo of China Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the 524th Regiment of the under-equipped 88th Division of the National Revolutionary Army to stay behind and defend the warehouse. Led by Lt.Col. Xie Jinyuan, (Du Chun), 452 young officers and soldiers, were left facing 20,000 troops of the 3rd Japanese Imperial Army. This suicide mission was decided upon to boost the morale of the Chinese people after they had lost Beijing and most of Shanghai, and also to help spur on support from the allies who could see the battle going on as they were in the International zone just over the river from the Warehouse.
And this was what made the film quite amazing. I didn’t know about concession zones, and if you want to know about them here’s the wiki link but basically it meant that part of Shanghai was under USA & UK jurisdiction so the Japanese would leave that area alone so as not to upset them when they were only at war with China. The film showed the soldiers in the warehouse going through hell, whilst over the river are nightclubs, cafés et al and newpaper reporters filming the goings on happening in front of them. It’s a bit of a heart wrenching movie, and the juxtaposition of the ‘normal’ side and ‘war’ side is used very effectively by director Guan Hu. Great action scenes, a bit of over acting here and there, but nothing that detracts from the movie.
Fraggle Rating :- another must-see for military history/war movie buffs.
Mile 22 (2018) no spoilers
This movie is the 4th collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg. They make a good team! This is an action thriller, involving Russian spies, Indonesian Police, and lots of bullets and car chases and Iko Uwais who makes great use of his stunt/martial art/fight choreography skills playing the part of Li Noor, a policeman who may not be what he seems. Whalberg plays James SIlva, who heads a clandestine elite CIA task force. His boss is played by John Malkovich as James Bishop, and his team consists of Alice Kerr, played by Lauren Cohan who is liberated from being Maggie in The Walking Dead TV show and shows some respectable kick-assery qualities. The other team mates are expendable actors. It’s high tech, fast action and a fairly convoluted plot. I can’t say I felt any emotional attachment to the characters but it was a better choice then my other option which was going to be ‘Without Remorse’ which is getting hammered by all who’ve seen it. Thanks to Ol’10 for the advice on that decision!
Fraggle Rating:- Action ahoy, but best to be sober to follow the plot.
So that’s it for now. Stay tooned though, I’ll be back 😘