Not the 365 ~ movies,cats,Spring etc

Thought I’d do a little catch up as I’ve been busy with the 365 over on the Universe Blog and I just know y’all are missing my Movie Monday reviews. We are still watching movies, so I’m going to do quick dash through what I thought about them.

Dead Presidents 1995 and Phil’s choice as he had it on DVD and I hadn’t seen it. Starring Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodrigues, N’Bushe Wright and Bokeem Woodbine. It’s based partly on the real-life experiences of Haywood T. Kirkland (aka Ari S. Merretazon), whose true story was detailed in the book  Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry, it chronicles the life of Anthony Curtis (Tate) and covers him from high school to the vietnam war and then home again to where he and his pals rob a bank. A well made film focussing on the experences of black veterans, well acted and paced, co-written, produced, and directed by Allan and Albert Hughes with skill and obvious passion. I imagine Spike Lee watched this and made notes for his Da 5 Bloods movie. I enjoyed this one much more. Fraggle Rating: underated and well worth seeing.

The Mule 2018. Clint Eastwood produces and directs from a script by Nick Schenk. Also based on the true story of a New York times article by Sam Dolnick “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” about a WW2 veteran called Leo Sharp who became a drug courier for the cartel in his 80’s. Well this was fun, Clint has still got it and commands the screen even though he’s in his dotage now. Not sure how but he looks good even with that many wrinkles. Anyway it’s his movie though he’s ably assisted by Bradly Cooper on his tail as Colin Bates a D.E.A agent, Michael Pêna as Bates sidekick Trevino, Dianne Wiest as Clint’s estranged wife and a fairly small part for Lawrence Fishburn as Bates’s supervisor. Fraggle rating: Top Notch, especially for Eastwood fans.

The Alamo 2004. I’m sure someone out there will say this isn’t as good as the original Alamo movie made in 1960 starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett (perleeze 🙄🥴 blerk, I do NOT like John Wayne one bit) but Phil wanted the 2004 version as he really liked it so that’s what we did. No need to explain the plot I think, but just in case. In the 1830’s Texas had a revolution, small groups of Texians (that’s what they were called back then) gathered at a little town on the Mexican border called San Antonio where the Alamo compound is, and the Mexican army under the President Santa Anna came and killed them all. Dennis Quade plays Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton ~ Davy Crockett, Jason Patrick ~Jim Bowie and Patrick Wilson as William B Travis. I enjoyed this, the characters are well drawn and acted, and John Lee Hancock directs with a steady hand, giving the main characters room to breath. It’s a good history lesson too as we are ‘doing’ American History documentaries at the minute and it all ties in. Fraggle Rating: Good +++

Aquaman 2018. A D.C superhero movie that I hadn’t got round to. Well I have now and it wasn’t totally great, however it does have good points. Firstly it is stunningly beautiful to look at. The CGI under sea world building is easily as good as Avatar which sprang to mind straight away. Jason Momoa who plays him is well, how to put it, built like a brick s**t house as my Mum used to say, has a twinkle in his eye and gave a committed performance, as did Amber Heard as Princess Mera of Atlantis who wants to stop her brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson again) from going to war with humans and needs Aquaman (named Arthur Curry of all things) to step up, return to Atlantis and save the world. William Dafoe is phoning in a performance as the Vizier of Atlantis, and Nicole Kidman looks entirely out of place as a renegade queen who escapes atlantis, washes up at a lighthouse where the keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues her, falls in love with her, impregnates her and then shortly after has to be a single parent after Atlantian soldiers come to take her back to marry whoever she ran away from. Also Dolph Lundgren is in the mix as an ally King to King Orm. There’s plot holes, a daft script and some dodgy dialogue, BUT this is one of D.C’s more light hearted movies after the darkness of Batman et al, and it was a blast from start to brilliant finish. Fraggle Rating: A mixed bag but well worth seeing.

That’s it for movies!

As most of you who follow this blog also follow the Universe blog, you already know I’m doing a 365 weekly post over there, but other life still goes on of course, and I take photo’s of that along the way. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here, and Phil’s lovely daughter popped over with an afternoon tea for Phil and I to enjoy for the day. So nice of her to do this.

Afternoon tea. And dinner. And sandwiches for work the next day!

We still have Sophie’s cats! It’s been over 3 months now and Sophie isn’t back until at least the end of May/beginning of June so we have a ways to go yet. They are a pain in the arse and a total joy depending on what mood they are in, and I can’t resist taking pictures of them.

Sofa Day
Vinnie in default position
For two of these shots I had to get the stepladder out to retrieve her 🙄
looking for mischief.
ready for action

I’ve been enjoying having a few non rainy days and getting out to take photo’s for the 365, and also found other things along the way.

Swans on the muddy day!
Target Rocks, South Shields
Badass Crow

I found these fragments on the coast. I think it’s a letter of heartbreak, or castigation, I can’t make it all out, but it’s on a broken plate or something. Strange.

broken

The hedgehogs have woken up and are visiting every night now, but we’ve also had a little one that visits during the day, so managed to get a couple of shots.

Lucy

Hedgehogs are not usually out during the day, and this one is quite small, but she appears to be well, eating, drinking and running about well, so we are not too worried.

And finally, Spring is happening, at last, and soon the Happy Eater tree will do it’s glorious display, I can’t wait for warmer times!

Springading!

The Wednesday Western ~ 17th Feb 2021

It’s been a while since we did one, but the new Tom Hanks movie is billed as such, and we watched this on Netflix at the weekend. News of The World (2020) directed by Paul Greengrass and based on a novel by Paulette Giles, is set in 1870, during the reparation years following the Civil War. The plot is actually quite simple and straightforward. Hanks plays Jefferson Kyle Kidd  a former Captain in the Confederate Army, who now travels from town to town reading the local and global new to people in church halls or saloons and they pay 10 cents to come and hear him. On one of his travels he comes across an upturned wagon and a hanged black soldier and then in the bushes finds a young white girl (Helena Zengel) who is wearing Native Indian clothes and can’t speak a word of English. Her name turns out to be Johanna, and she was captured by the Kiowa when she was very young after her family were killed, and now she has lost her Kiowa family. Kidd takes her to a Union station to see about getting her back to an aunt and uncle from her previous life but they can’t help. Kidd decides he has to take her himself. It’s a 400 mile trek so that’s a bit of a PIA for him, but he can work the towns along the way.

So basically we have here a Western road movie, and the focus is on the relationship between Kidd and Johanna. Hanks embodies the weariness of Kidd, his eyesight is failing and he has been away from his wife for a long time, but he is stoic and stable and kind. Zengel has been rightly lauded for her performance in the movie. Johanna is sad, sulky, feisty, scared, smart, vulnerable and good hearted, and Zengel shows it all in her expressions and in her eyes. Both Zengel and Hanks build their respective characters slowly up to a great relationship. Initially their inability to communicate makes that a difficulty, but bit by bit they get there. It’s not a slow film though, Greengrass balances out the relationship building with the action at a steady pace. There’s plenty of stuff to sort out along the journey. Kidd and Johanna have to work together to overcome several instances, and there are shoot outs, criminals, racist militia and the destruction of their transport all conspiring to prevent them reaching the relatives farm. Even then all is not necessarily well.

We really enjoyed this movie. Having done documentaries and movies on the civil war recently, we got more out of it as we knew about the dreadful times of the reparation, and there are some scenes at the beginning of the movie that touch upon the resentment that still endured between the Union and Confederate peoples. Filmed in New Mexico, the landscapes and scenery are stunning, miles of beautiful landscapes and Greengrass uses it well. The supporting cast all do a great job, but this is a Hanks and Zengler movie, the old and the new, and a combination well worth watching.

Fraggle Rating. Top Notch.

Monday Movies – 15th Feb 2021

Having come across Kate Hudson in last week’s Deepwater Horizon Phil’s retro movie this week is Almost Famous (2000) A semi-autobigraphical movie written and directed by Crowe, who based it on his experiences as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone magazine. It starred Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand and Patrick Fujit.

It’s 1969 and Fujit plays child prodigy William Miller, a misfit at school, and with a bonkers mother (McDormand) a professor who has led Billy to believe he’s 12 yrs old when he’s actually 11. She has banned rock music and pop culture in the house believing it has a negative effect on children, and her high handedness leads Billy’s sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) to leave home and become an air stewardess. She leaves Billy her collection of rock music albums.

On to 1973 and influenced by the music Anita left him, 15yr old Billy aspires to be a rock-music journalist and writes papers for underground magazines. He is offered $35 by rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to review a Black Sabbath Concert, and from this point on Billy ends up writing for Rolling Stone (who don’t know how old he is).

Based on Crowes experiences on tour with Led Zeppelin, Poco, The Eagles, Lynrd Skynrd, The Allman Brothers etc where he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his musical hero’s, Billy’s journey takes him on tour with a band called Stillwater, and the accompanying ‘band aids’, a euphemism for groupies, led by Penny Lane, (Hudson) and incorporating Anna Paquin as Polexia Aphrodisia (based on real life Penny Lane Trumball and her group of female promoters who called themselves the “Flying Garter Girls Group”).

We’ve seen this movie a few times now, and it never gets old or disappoints. There’s actually very little rock music in it, as it’s all about the characters. The tensions in the band between the lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and the lead singer, Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), the relationships between Penny and Russell, Penny and Billy, Billy and Russell.. It’s expansive, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s hopeful and it’s one of our favourite movies ever.

This will appeal to you if you were into music as a teenager, especially in the 70’s, and a true fan of any band, if you are nostalgic for going to gigs, reading the music press, sticking posters of your favourite band/singer on the wall, if you’re a parent of a teenager, if you were in a band in your younger years. Hudson is smart and sexy in Penny’s skin, Fujit is spot on as a clever but awkward teenager, finding his way through the highs and lows of being on the road. Crudup embodies the part of a rock god sometimes on, sometimes off the rails. Frances McDormand was great as the overbearing mother untying her apron strings, a small part she doesn’t over-egg. Seymour Hoffman also has a small but impactful part as the jaded rock musician.

Fraggle Rating: A complete joy of a movie, bloody brilliant.

This is the last Monday Movie post for the forseeable future, I have a few things going on I need to give more time to, so this is one of the things that has to give way for now. I hope those of you who read some of my posts went on to see and enjoy some of the movies I wrote about, or at least enjoyed reading about them.

Monday Movies ~ 8th February 2021

Phil’s choice this week is another based-on-a-true-story movie, this time an oil rig disaster, Deepwater Horizon (2016). Directed by Peter Berg, it’s produced and stars Mark Wahlberg and also Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodrigues and Kate Hudson.

The Deepwater Horizon event happened in 2010 as the rig is getting ready to drill off the Louisiana coast. When Chief Electronics Technician Michael “Mike” Williams (Wahlberg) and Offshore Installation Manager James “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Russell) land on the rig after 3 weeks shore leave, they find out, and are not happy about workers assigned to test the integrity of recently completed cement work being sent home before they carried out a cement integrity test, on the orders of BP rig supervisors Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland). They’re trying to save money and the drilling start is already 43 days overdue. Jimmy rips Vidrine a new one, and demands integrity tests to be carried out before he’ll allow the drilling to go ahead. What he doesn’t know is that the cement is breaking up, and the integrity pressure tests makes matters worse. Eventually, the whole lot fails and sets a chain of events in motion that leads to the rig blowing up spectacularly, and the sad loss of 11 of the crew on the rig.

This was a really well done movie. It could have been exploitative but Berg’s direction is spot on, showing the panic and gruesome ordeals the crew have to go through as well as picking out the heroism and sacrifice of some of them. Wahlberg has come in for a fair bit of criticism in his career but he plays this straight and does a cracking job. The script gives him and his colleagues working men’s banter and it all feels really natural. Kate Hudson as Mike’s wife Felicia has a smaller part, a fair bit of it Skyping on the computer screen Mike has in his workroom, but is integral to giving the audience an emotional attachment. They wise~crack and tease each other mercilessly but the love shines through. Kurt Russell is as cool as always, and does the steely eyed bossman Mr.Jimmy proud. There’s an amazing scene when he’s blown out of the shower and flung around his quarters when the blowout happens, and the make-up department must’ve had a field day with his face to show his injuries. Malkovich as the snidey cost cutting Vidrine makes you want to punch his lights out, but he does have a strange accent I couldn’t place. The camera work was stupendous and cinematographer Enrique Chediak pulled out all the stops to film all the chain reaction pieces and then the final explosions.

The blowout and subsequent explosions are crafted well with no obvious CGI though there must have been some. I do know they made a ginormous set 85% scale recreation of the rig inside a giant two-and-a-half million gallon water tank to make it feel realistic. Of course they did Hollywood it up a bit, in the movie Mike rescues Andrea Fleytas (Rodrigues) the rig’s Dynamic Position Operator, and they jump off the top of the rig into the sea to escape the burning deck (upon which no boy stood 🤪🥴) when in real life just Mike jumped, Andrea had fallen out of a descending life raft into the sea. But Mike Williams was a big part of getting the movie done right and on the set as a consultant. Whatever liberties they did take, the survivors and families were happy with the result, and Berg emphasised that he was focussing on the men who were just doing their jobs. The bad decisions made by the BP men are not glossed over, and at the end of the movie we are informed that Vidrine and Kaluza were the only two people prosecuted for their actions and were charged with eleven cases of manslaughter. In reading newspaper articles about movie versus reality, the movie makes a good guys bad guys situation between Transocean – the company that lease the rig to BP, and BP itself, but in real life there were faults on both sides, it wasn’t so black and white. You also see clips of the testimony of the real Mike Williams and at the very end a notice saying “the blowout lasted for 87 days, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.” I think at the time more was made of the dreadful oil pollution and loss of fishermens livelihoods etc than the actual people who were on the rig, and this film redresses the balance a bit and gives testament to the heroics of the men who saved their fellow workers.

Fraggle Rating: A must see.

Our second movie is also based on a true story, and is Netflix’s The Dig (2021). Directed by Simon Stone, it tells the story of the 1939 excavation of buriel mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the incredible anglo-saxon treasure trove of grave goods, as well as a buried ship. It is an amazing story and as a Time Team addict I’d been looking forward to this, though did wonder if it would be boring for Phil.

The wonderful Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty, a widowed landowner in Suffolk who hires Basil Brown Ralph Fiennes, to excavate some hilly mounds on her land. Basil takes the job after a bit of salary wrangling. He accidentally gets buried in one whilst digging when a trench collapses on him, and is dug out by Edith and her servants and survives. He starts another mound and finds iron rivets from a ship, which means the site would have been for someone of great importance, your average Joe doesn’t get a ship’s buriel on land! In the meantime, whilst Basil is getting his rivet checked out, Edith is off to London for a hospital appointment, and it turns out her heart is severely damaged from having rheumatic fever as a child, and she’s not long for this world. She keeps it quiet, but looks progressively ill throughout the movie. A prominent local archaeologist James Reid Moir (Paul Ready) wants to get in on the dig and Edith sends him packing, but when news of the discovery gets out, Charles Philips, (Ken Stott) a Cambridge archeologist turns up and requisitions the dig by order of the Office of Works as the dig is now of National Importance. Philips brings in a team including Peggy Piggot (Lily James) who in spite of being taken on because she is small and light, finds the first anglo-saxon treasures, and Basil finds a Roman gold coin. Philips wants to send the treasure to the British Museum, but in effect Edith owns it all, and she decides to keep it safe at her home, bearing in mind the war is just beginning, and London is likely to be bombed. In the end she does decide to gift it to the museum with the provisor that Basil gets the credit for the find.

That’s about all you need to know plot wise. It sounds dull but it really wasn’t at all, Phil thought it was brilliant so that’s my yardstick. The beauty of this movie is the how Stone moves the story forwards at a gentle pace yet keeps your attention. Mulligan and Fiennes give their characters a connection, a love of place, the past and the future and a mutual respect. A tiny hint of a romance that could have been if circumstances were different, and passes. Basil’s wife May is his stalwart supporter and though a small part Monica Dolan makes a good impact on the movie. Basil is gruff, taciturn and proud, but suffused with the need to dig into the earth and find the past, Edith is sharp, intelligent and had been thwarted from attending University by her father, and Mulligan shows her deteriorating health with dignity. Edith has a son Robert (Archie Barnes) who’s a sparky little lad who takes a shine to Basil which is reciprocated. There’s a side romance that didn’t really need to happen, Peggy and Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) have a one night stand as Peggy’s husband Stuart (Ben Chapman) is having what I assume is a bromance with one of the other diggers, but it doesn’t last long as Rory has to join the RAF the next morning. It didn’t happen in real life at all. But that’s my only gripe really, it’s beautifully filmed, and England looks gorgeous through Mike Ely’s cinematography. Lovely soundtrack by Stefan Gregory that underpins but never overwhelms the movie.

I did wonder why they never show the amazing treasures found in the grave, only a glimpse here and there. But the more I thought about it this movie wasn’t about the treasure, it was about the people who made it happen and their desire for history and knowledge.

Fraggle Rating: Bloody Brilliant.

Further reading: I’ve followed a Professor of Archaeology’s blog for a long time, Professor Howard has a brilliant blog and often relates TV programmes such as Walking Dead, The Last Kingdom, Vikings and others to mortuary practices in real life archaeology. He wrote about this movie here, and did a much more indepth review of it with a lot of thought provoking comment. Worth a read if you’re a nerd like me. 🙂

If you’d like to see the actual treasures they found, the National Geographic has some good photo’s and a brilliant one of the ship, HERE.

Monday Movies ~ 1st Feb 2021 (1)

Our first offering this week comes from Phil, who wanted to re-visit Hacksaw Ridge (2016). It’s a biographical war movie and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, an American 7th day adventist who signs up to join the US Army and ends up being the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour for deeds above and beyond the call of duty as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa.

The plot starts out showing the family circumstances of the Doss family. We briefly go back in time to 1925 in Virginia where they live, and Desmond (Andrew Garfield) nearly kills his younger brother during a rough play fight. His Mom Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) is supportive and loving, but his father Tom (Hugo Weaving) rules with a whip, and is suffering from PTSD from the 1st WW as he lost all his pals he went to war with. 15 years later and Desmond takes an injured man to hospital where he meets his future wife, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), a nurse, and he becomes interested in medical matters. They get engaged to be married just before he signs up for the army after the attack on Pearl Harbour to serve as an army medic. He arrives in Fort Jackson to undergo basic training, and at first all goes well as he excels physically, but then it comes to weapon training and he refuses to have anything to do with a gun, and also refuses to train on Saturdays as that’s his religious thing to do. Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughan) Doss’s platoon commander, and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) try to have him discharged for psychiatric reasons but after seeing a shrink it’s determined that his religious beliefs don’t amount to a mental illness. Doss carries on with his training but has become a pariah to the rest of the trainees. Howell and Glover give him onerous extra duties and the trainees beat him up badly one night trying to get him to leave of his own accord, but he refuses to name his attackers and carries on regardless.

At the end of basic training the platoon are given leave, and Des is supposed to be going home to marry Dorothy, but instead he is arrested for insubordination for not doing the weapons training and put in a cell. Glover and Howell try and convince him to plead guilty so he can leave the army without charge, but he refuses to compromise his beliefs. During the subsequent court marshall, his Dad bursts in with a letter to the court from a Brigadier General who was Dad’s commanding officer in WW1. The letter informs the court that Desmonds pacifism is defended by the US constitution, so the charges are dropped, Desmond and Dorothy get married, then he’s shipped off to the Pacific theatre with the 77th Infantry Division. His unit ends up on the Maeda Escarpment otherwise known as Hacksaw Ridge, where, during the initial fighting, he saves the life of one of the guys he trained with, Smitty (Luke Bracier). The next morning the Japanese launch a huge counter-attack and the Americans have to fall back. Smitty is killed and many of the platoon are injured on the battlefield including Sergeant Howell. The rest of them make it down the cliffs but Desmond stays behind and rescues the injured giys one at a time, lowering them down by rope and praying to save ‘just one more’ each time he returns to find another injured soldier. All in all he rescues 75 men. The unit below are amazed at how many are being sent down. The next day Desmond rescues Howell and they both escape from the Ridge. Captain Glover apologises to Desmond for thinking him a coward, and tells him that the men won’t go back up there unless Desmond goes with them, of course he agrees, but not until he’s finished his Sabbath prayers. With reinforcements they return to the ridge and they push the Japanese back. Some of them pretend to surrender but it’s an ambush and Desmond deflects grenades away from Glover but is hit by shrapnel himself, and then lowered back to base. At the end the movie shows photo’s of Desmond receiving the Medal of Honour from President Truman.

This was an amazing movie and I didn’t mention at the start that this was directed by Mel Gibson. What a tour de force by him. He used minimal visual effects preferring to keep things as real as possible. Andrew Garfield (arguably the worst spiderman ever) put his heart and soul into this and wonderfully conveyed the essence of Desmond. There’s an interview with Desmond on the bluray extras and he seemed such a lovely guy, but we already know that from watching Garfield’s performance. Teresa Palmer is becoming one of my favourite actresses, recently saw her in Cut Bank and Message from the King and she always aces the part, here she is feisty, sweet and luminous. Vaughan and Worthington don’t put a foot wrong. I think actors tend to rise to the occasion in true war stories, they certainly did here. Weaving and Griffiths only had small parts, but owned them well.

Fraggle Rating: Bloody Brilliant.

Monday Movies ~ 25th January

Our first movie this week is Phil’s choice. The Angel (2018) an Israeli/American spy thriller. Directed by Ariel Vroman. It’s based on a non-fiction book telling the true story of Israeli spy Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian Official of very high rank.

The background to the movie, is the 6 day war of 1967 when Israel conquered large areas of land including the previously Egyptian land of the Sinai dessert.

Our movie starts in 1973, when we see Ashraf (Marwan Kenzari) fly into Rome airport with suitcases that can’t be searched as he has diplomatic immunity. Outside the airport. he meets a couple of Arab terrorists and delivers to them the suitcases and we see they contain a couple of RPG’s. We leave that scene just as the terrorists are about to fire the rockets at a commercial airliner leaving for Israel. We then go back to 1970 when Ashraf is living and studying at a university in London. He is married to Mona (Maisa Abd Elhadi), the daughter of President Nasser (Waleed F. Zuaiter) , (who doesn’t like Ashraf one bit) and they have a son. At a family dinner Ashraf and Nasser disagree on how to proceed with the Israeli conflict, with Ashraf advocating diplomacy with the help of America as peace-brokers, and Nasser believing that would upset the Russians who support them. Ashraf overhears Nasser telling Mona she should divorce her husband. He is angry and humiliated and it gets worse when he finds out that Nasser, who pays for the couple to live in London, is having him followed when photo’s of him on a night out drinking and dancing with an actress, Diana Ellis (Hannah Ware) are sent to Mona. In a fit of pique he decides to telephone the Israeli embassy and give information to the ambassador, Michael Comey, but whoever answers the phone won’t put him through unless he gives his name. He reluctantly does so, but then still is given the bums rush, so he hangs up. Ashraf and his family are recalled to Cairo when Nasser dies, and Anwar Sadat (Sasson Gabai) becomes president. Ashraf works his way up the political ladder to become his right hand man.

The Israelis have not forgotten about him though, and back in London reach out to him. He’s given a Mossad handler, Alex (Toby Kebbell) and that’s where I’ll stop for spoiler sakes. The rest of the movie is about his relationship with Mossad, and the informations that he gives to them regarding Egypts plans to reclaim the Sinai.

This was a fascinating movie. Very well done, very well acted by all concerned, and they didn’t mess about with history, though the double-agent part is unsubstantiated. Not shown in the movie, the real Ashraf died in a fall from his 5th floor appartment in London, and was at least the third Egyptian living in London to die under similar circumstances, all of whom had ties with the Egyptian security services. He is the only man to be recognized as a national hero in both Israel and Egypt.

Fraggle rating: Very good and fascinating spy thriller based on real events.

My choice this week has been brought about by our recent spate of lady action heroines. In ‘Ava’ a couple of weeks ago we saw Geena Davis as the Mother of Jessica Chastain’s Ava, and was reminded of a greatly enjoyable movie she starred in back in the day, ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ (1996). Released 25 years ago and also starring Samuel L Jackson it was directed by Renny Harlin who knew a thing or two about action having done Die hard 2 in 1990 and Cliffhanger in ’93. The plot revolves around Davis’ character Samantha Caine, who suffers from amnesia having been washed ashore 2 months pregnant 8 years prior. She has a chap and a little girl and is a schoolteacher in a small town. Although she’s paid P.I’s to try and find her old self, nothing has turned up so far, and she’s now down to the cheapest one she can afford Mitch Hennesy (SLJ). Then she is spotted on TV as part of a Christmas parade, and recognised by some bad guys, at the same time as Hennesy’s assistant comes up with some information that can help find out who Samantha Caine really is. Hennesy and the bad guys turn up to Sam’s house at the same time and off we go with lots of action and derring-do. No spoilers for this one, in spite of it’s age it’s much more fun to go in blind. This is a cracking action movie, and has held up as well as if not better than some of todays offerings. They didn’t have as much CGI back then so a lot of the explosions and stunts are done for real. The cast obviously had a blast making it, with Brian Cox, Patrick Malahide, David Morse and Craig Bierko having substantial parts, but are they good guys or are they bad guys? Mostly though it’s Davis and Jackson who you keep your eyes on. There’s a great chemistry between them and the dialogue is snappy, cool and funny. The 2nd half movie is set in Niagara Falls so some pretty cool scenes of them along the way. All in all a good way to spend a couple of hours. Don’t just take my word though, SLJ has stated that The Long Kiss Goodnight is his favorite movie to watch which he has been in!

Fraggle Rating: Bliddy Great!

Monday Movies~18th January 2021

Our first movie this week, is the last of the Civil War movies, at least for now, and this week we did Gettysburg (1993) as the follow on from Gods and Generals a couple of weeks ago. Written and directed by Robert F Maxwell and based on the book The Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, this movie was a lot better I have to say. No silly women or dying kids, and no-one praying every two minutes. Martin Sheen plays Robert E Lee this time, and has a bigger part than Duvall did in G&G’s. I think Duvall would have been a better choice for this one as well, but it doesn’t really matter, this is a history lesson of a movie and it’s done very well by all concerned. Jeff Daniels again plays Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, Tom Berenger plays General James Longstreet, reluctant to send men to their deaths unecessarily. Stephen Lang is back this time as the gung-ho Major General George Pickett, a big change from his god-bothering Stonewall Jackson in G&G’s and Sam Shepherd has a short appearance as Brigadier General Buford. All in all the acting was better, and the battle scenes were just phenomenal. It’s said that the barrage laid down by the confederates on the 3rd day of the battle was the largest ever in history, I reckon it must have been the largest in movie making history too. They must have gathered up all the old canon in the USA to do the scenes. Some of the action was allowed to be filmed on the actual Gettysburg Battlefield, including the scenes at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top and thousands of Civil War re-enactors volunteered their time to get to Gettysburg and take part in the battle. The organisation and choreography of those scenes is staggering. They must have had a blast! The cinematography by Kees Van Oostrum is amazing, and the soundtrack by Randy Edelman adds much to the atmosphere throughout the movie. Again we did this over 2 nights as the extended version is 4 hrs long, but I got through it a lot easier than Gods and Generals, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My only quibble is the false facial hair! Berenger sported a beard and sideburns that Larry the Lion would be proud of and Jeff Daniels had a fair old Wally Walrus moustach going on 🤣

Fraggle Rating ~ Top notch history lesson.

On to the next movie and this is Netflix’s Outside the Wire (2021) directed by Mikael Häfström and starring Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris. It’s labelled sci-fi as it’s set in 2036 and involves robots a bit. I’ll try not to do spoilers as it’s so new. Eastern Europe is having a bit of a war and some Ukranian fanatics are trying to bring the Ukraine back into Russia, à la Soviet Union. The Ukranians are called Krasnys, led by Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) and are backed by Russia. There is a resistance force of led by Sofiya (Emily Beecham) who runs an orphanage. The US Army is deployed as a peacekeeping force, and consists of regular soldiers as well as ‘gumps’ robotic soldiers. A team of them is ambushed by the Krasnys, and Lt.Thomas Harp, (Idris) a drone operator back in the US disobeys orders and fires a Hellfire missile in a drone strike against a suspected enemy launcher, killing two of the Marines but saving the remaining 38. As punishment he’s deployed to Camp Nathaniel in the same area as he’s never been in combat. He is assigned to Captain Leo, who reveals himself to be a cyborg,  a highly advanced and experimental android soldier, with the capacity for feeling pain, and emotions. Leo is going to take Harp outside the confines of the camp to deliver vaccines to a refugee camp, but really he is looking for Kovak who is trying to get control of cold war nuclear silo’s.

I had thought that this would be another reverse buddy movie, where 2 guys don’t like each other but end up besties, but that didn’t happen. There are a few twists along the way which is why I don’t want to do spoilers. It’s a well made movie, and tries to make itself more than just action, by having the two main characters wrestling with some big questions about the future of modern warfare. Anthony Mackie is coming out from under The Avengers cabal, and does well enough here as an eccentric wanna-be human, though his script is a little off in places. His physicality from being the Falcon Avenger stands him in very good stead. Damson Idris takes his character from an up-his-own-arse arrogant knob to a chastened more decent human being and they play off each other very well.

Fraggle Rating: Thoughtful action movie, worth a watch.

We managed to squeeze in a third movie this week. What Happened To Monday (2017) is another action sci-fi, this time directed by Tommy Wirkola and starring Noomi Rapace, Glen Close and Willem Dafoe. It’s a somewhat bonkers plot, with more than a couple of holes in it, but great fun to watch. Noomi plays 7 identical sisters in a future where people are only allowed one child, because the world is well over populated and running out of food and resources. Siblings get sent ostensibly for cryofreezing until such time as the population thins out when they can be woken up again. Glen Close plays the politician and leader who thought of this solution. Dafoe is the grandfather who raises the girls and gives each of them the names of weekdays, Monday to Sunday. Each child is allowed out on the same day as her name, and when she returns must share all the info (which is recorded on a special bracelet) so the next girl is equipped to take over for her turn outside. They all share the same DNA and persona of one girl named Karen Settman so when they are scanned at security points it doesn’t matter which one of them it is. The movie covers a bit of the sisters childhood, and then we get to see the 7 Noomi’s living in their apartment, running a company which Grandad helped them set up. They all have different hairdo’s and colours and different personalities and after the initial set up, one day Monday goes out to work at the company and doesn’t come back home. The other 6 have to find out what’s going on. That’s it for spoilers. Noomi does so well at action and yet again ends up in some rather outlandish fights, having to do 7 of them at once must have been fun! Glen Close doesn’t have a huge part but she’s competant when she’s on screen, this isn’t Oscar fodder by any stretch. Marwan Kenzari adds the love interest Adrian Knowles, a security guard Monday has been seeing and keeping quiet about. The futuristic tech is cool, mirrors that flag up your skin’s dehydration levels or blemishes, and bracelets that hold all your details (like a cross between Apple watch and a fitbit). WIlliam Dafoe disappears a third of the way into the movie and we never find out why or what happened to him, and you do wonder how he managed to keep 7 babies fed and nappied without anyone noticing but that’s a couple of holes you can easily skip over.

Fraggle Rating: An epic fun filled Noomi-fest!

Monday Movies ~ 11th Jan 2021

We had a break from wars this week and decided to go with action movies.

Although I’d read lukewarm reviews of the action movie Ava (2020) it had some good names attached to it, and we were up for some silliness, so decided to give it a go. It seems that all actresses have to now be an action hero at some point in their careers, Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, Noomi Rapace, Scarlett Johanson et al doing it for the girls, and now Jessica Chastain enters the genre as Ava. Unfortunately the lukewarm reviews hit the mark, and in spite of big names, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, the story is hackneyed and the script clichéd.

I won’t do spoilers but the plot is nothing we haven’t seen before, a black ops operative (Chastain) has a dodgy past of drugs and alcoholism after being in the Special Forces, and the head honcho of the black ops she works for (Farrell) organises to have her killed off. The movie is about how they try, and how she foils them. In fairness, Chastain holds you to the movie, that girl can act, and she does well with the kick-assery too. Farrell and Malkovich look like they’re having fun anyway so all is not lost. There’s a family side issue involving Ava’s ex-boyfriend Michael (played by the oddly named Common) who is now dating and impregnating her sister Judy (Jess Weixler). Ava’s mother is played by Geena Davis, herself a kick~ass assassin in the far better ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’. The movie was written by Matthew Newton, who I think might have watched too many Jason Bourn movies, and directed by Tate Taylor who at least managed to make everything look good.

Fraggle Rating: Left a lot to be desired, but it was OK.

Our second movie this week was Phil’s choice from the Netflix catalogue, and he went for A Message from The King (2016) a revenge action thriller starring Chadwick Boseman. Directed by Fabrice du Welz from a screenplay by Stephen Cornwell and Oliver Butcher.

Again no spoilers but the basic plot is that Boseman playing Jacob King, travels to Los Angeles after receiving a cryptic phone message from his sister Bianca, who lives there, asking for help as she’s in trouble. When he gets there he can’t find her, and in trying to do so infiltrates a seedy cabal of underground and elite members.

Boseman is intense here, moody, mean when necessary, and employs a bicycle chain to good effect when dealing with the hoodlums he comes across. Teresa Palmer plays Kelly a care worn single mother who lives in the next cheap-motel room to King, working in a supermarket and turning tricks at the motel to make ends meet, and brings pathos and strength to what could have been a clichéd character but is elevated by Palmer’s ministrations. Luke Evans plays Paul Wentworth a well heeled dentist, with the right amount of smarminess and superiority and Alfred Molina takes the part of Mike Preston, a gay movie producer with a penchant for young boys, but that did seem a bit of a cariacture.

There’s a fair amount of violence and a bit of gore, they’re not going for a John Wicks feel here. The story does become a bit befuddled and required a few pauses for us to discuss what was going on. The relationship that develops between Kelly and King is the only bright spark in an otherwise dark, seedy yet stylish neo-noir movie. And it is beautifully filmed, Monica Lenczewska in charge of the cinematography with Beatrice Sisul editing, as a photographer I thought the colour grading was quite stunning.

Fraggle Rating: Norra Lorra Laffs.

Monday Movies ~4th January 2021

For Phil’s choice this week we are back to the Civil War and the movie Gods and Generals (2003) directed by Ronald F Maxwell. The movie is based on novel of the same name by Jeffrey Shaara, and is part of a trilogy of books, a prequel to the 1st book, The Killer Angels by Jeff’s Dad Michael regarding Gettysburg which also became a movie (we will be doing that too), and the 3rd book The Last Full Measure, which followed on from Gettysburg but wasn’t made into a movie. The movie company in their wisdom, decided to do Gettysburg first out of order, and it did very well at the box office, then Gods and Generals was released and didn’t do well at all, so the last book in the series wasn’t taken up.

Anyway, we are watching the first two in the correct order.

AT 4 & 1/2 hrs for the extended version, Gods and Generals is a long haul, so we did it over two nights. Not much point in doing the plot, Civil War history is huge, and if you’re from the USA you must surely have done it in school, and if not, it’s too big to go into here. Suffice to say this covers the time from when Robert E Lee resigns from the Union Army to take charge of the Confederate forces, covering Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Moss Neck, and through to the Battle of Chancellorsville and the death of Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s right hand man. Robert Duvall takes the part of Lee, and Stephen Lang of Thomas Jackson.

It’s a huge movie, with extended battle scenes, and set talky pieces inbetween. The battle scenes are meticulously planned and shown. They don’t show much blood and gore, nothing like Private Ryan and the like, but still manage to convey the absolute horror and scariness that men must feel when walking into a barrage of artillery and gunfire. It reminded me of the scenes of going over the top during The Somme in WW1. The stupidity and lack of tactical prowess shown by the Generals making the decisions on the Union side is sharply defined.

The movie focuses a lot on the doings of General Stonewall Jackson who is shown to be a sharp cookie, if a little OTT with ardent religious fervour in the movie. Military historians regard Jackson as one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S history, so maybe all his prayers and exhortations to the divine served him, and the Confederates well. At least until he was shot by his own men in a case of mistaken identity.

Robert Duvall is his usual self, and portrays the gravitas of Lee well, along with his skills as a tactician. Jeff Daniels is employed for the Union side, playing Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and delivering the full speech of Caesars crossing of the Rubicon to his regiment of soldiers, which seemed a bit mad but hey, it’s hollywood.

The whole film feels like it was made in the 1950’s with stilted speechifying and cheesy sentimentality inbetween some epic but bloodless battles. The slavery part of the war is not shown and barely mentioned, though the odd black person is shown being treated nicely by the whites they are with and now and again one gets a starry look in their eyes and wishes they were free. Any Southern homestead has happy looking slaves! Every man is a good guy, and all the women are angelic, every soldier is told to ‘do your duty’, and they do, getting massacred in the process (Union) or cheering a resounding victory (Confederates). The movie feels very sympathetic to the Confederates and focuses on their grievances about losing their independance, and keeps well away from the emancipation of the slaves. Maybe that comes up more in the books, or will when we watch the next installment, Gettysburg. But neither does it diss the Union either.

Part of the movie was given over to the actor John Wilkes Booth, played by Chris Connor, who is shown to be a popular actor in his day, fawned over by simpering ladies, as he is very handsome. He refuses to let President Lincoln and his Missis come back stage to meet him after they see him in a play, “You may tell that tyrant, that destroyer of civil liberties, that war monger, that I am in dispose,” he tells the stagehand who asks him if Lincoln can come back, before changing his mind to have the stagehand tell the President that he had already left for the evening. So his pro-South credentials are established.

Having watched a few documentaries now on the Civil War, I found it hard to really like this movie. Apart from the battles, it was clichéd and saccharine. Duvall didn’t really feature much so no great depth to his interpretation of Lee, just an heroic resignation speech at the beginning of the movie. Most of the movie concerned Stonewall Jackson, and Lang certainly gave himself to the part.

Fraggle Rating: On the whole, a worthy watch for anyone interested in the Civil War. Great uniform details and cinematography at least.

Monday Movies ~ 28/12/2020 (2)

Our second movie from last week is Netflix’s The Midnight Sky (2020). Based on a book (which I haven’t read so can’t compare) Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It is directed by and stars George Clooney.

Set in 2049 Clooney plays a scientist, Augustine Lofthouse, who has worked for most of his life in finding habitable planets so that humanity can expand, and there are various missions either planned or already out in space looking for these planets. Unfortunately something cataclysmic has happened on our world and bit by bit massive radiation is spreading through Earths atmosphere, and no-one is surviving it. Lofthouse stays behind in the Arctic, which will be the last place for the radiation to reach, whilst his colleagues are evacuated to go and be with their families. We never find out how the apocalypse started, but there is a hint that it’s our fault.

Lofhouse finds out that the spaceship Æther is the only outstanding mission in space and is on it’s way home, after finding one of Lofthouse’s planets suitable for human beings, and he is trying to contact them to tell them what’s happened and not to come back. However, his radio antenna is too weak to reach the ship. There is a more powerful antenna higher up in the arctic and he has to try and get to it to save the Æther.

That’s about it for spoilers. This was a quiet yet compelling movie, with a fair few crises for the characters to go through. The Arctic scenes were filmed in Iceland and a blizzard scene was filmed in 50-mile-per-hour winds with temperatures at 40 below zero and I give Clooney top marks for not using CGI and being authentic. The space scenes were done in the studio (obviously- even Clooney doesn’t have a spaceship!) and by necessity used CGI for the Spaceship but it was done really well. One particular scene has an injured crew member in the airlock and.. oh! no spoilers but it is amazing to watch.

The acting was great, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir play the crew of the Æther with conflicting feelings regarding their options once they know about Earth, and a special mention to Caoilinn Springall a little girl who has a just about non-speaking part but can emote with her eyes with the best of them. Clooney plays his character old and tired and ill, he needs regular dialysis, and he does look harrowed and knackered. It’s a poignant performance from him and he does it well.

I really liked this movie, for it’s cinematography, it’s acting and the questions it throws up about humanity. It has a grim premise, but not without a little hope. There is a slightly cheesy twist at the end of the story which I did see coming, but it didn’t spoil things, just made me glad for the story that I was right.

Fraggle Rating: A win for George!

Monday Movies ~ 28/12/2020 (1)

Phil and I don’t do Christmas movies. I made an exception for Kurt Russell last year in The Christmas Chronicles, but did it on my own whilst ironing, and Kurt just about got away with it, but I don’t think Phil would have coped. This year, with it being all Corona-ry and doom and gloom we thought oh what the heck, lets have a bit of fun on Christmas day and do a Christmas movie. Off to Amazon Prime where (sadly) we chose Fatman (2020) written and directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms and starring Mel Gibson as Chris Cringle, aka Santa.

I’m not recommending this movie so there are spoilers, skip it if you intend to watch it.

The movie is billed as a dark comedy action film, and I can’t argue with that, it’s dark in places, funny in places and has a fair amount of action in places, but none of it gels with any coherence.

The plot has Chris Cringle living on a farm in Alaska near a town called North Peak. He runs a Christmas present shop and lives with his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and in a large underground workshop a herd of elves work at producing the Christmas presents. Chris’s income is declining due to children becoming more vicious (he comes home after delivering presents with a shotgun wound in his side). The government have an interest share in Chris’s business and 2 of their agents come to visit him with a military guy, Captain Jacobs (Robert Bockstael) in tow. They want Chris to take on a 2 month contract with the military to build parts for their F35 (I think) fighter jets. He’s not happy about it but needs the money so eventually agrees. The army turn up with security perimeters and the like to safe guard the work.

Next up we are looking at the life of young Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) a rotten little rich kid whose father is away with his girlfriend in the Bahamas whilst Billy is at his lavish residence with a poorly Grandmother and a couple of maids. Billy has won his school’s invention competition every year so far, but this year becomes the runner-up to a girl classmate. Billy forges his grandma’s signature onto blank cheques in order to pay Johnathan Miller (Walton Goggins) his personal hit-man who works in a toy store. He pays him to intimidate the girl into telling the school she cheated at making her invention so she has to give her 1st place ribbon back, and Billy then gets the 1st place. Santa (as anyone who listens to Bruce Springsteen will know) knows if you’ve been bad or good so you better be good for goodness sake, and the rules are if a kid is bad he gets a lump of coal instead of a present. Well Billy gets his lump of coal and is not a happy Bunny at all. He gets on the phone to the hitman and contracts him to kill Santa. Miller is quite happy to accept the contract as he was let down by Santa when he was a young boy and wanted his dead parents brought back to life, which Santa couldn’t do.

Miller can’t find out where Santa lives as it’s all kept very secret, but eventually he tracks him down after shooting a few post office workers to get the information. He infiltrates the farm, killing most of the US Army guards and gets into the workshop. One of the elves discovers him and raises the alarm whilst Captain Jacobs evacuates the other elves just before Miller blows up the workshop. By now Santa has got his clothes on (he’d been having a canoodle with the Missis) and comes out to face off against Miller. There’s a shoot out that ends up with Santa and Miller both dead.

Then we go back to Billy, who is just about to poison his Grandma as she’s discovered someone has been taking money from her account and it won’t be long before she finds out it was Billy. But before he can accomplish this, up turns Mr and Mrs Cringle, because, as we all know, Santa is immortal, and therefore wasn’t dead, though looked pretty bad with an eye missing and using crutches. Chris gives Billy a stern talking to and warns him that if he returns to his evil ways, Santa will come back for him.

Chris and Ruth go home and start rebuilding the workshop with renewed enthusiasm. The End.

So Fraggle, & Mr.Fraggle what’s wrong with it?

Firstly. Phil wasn’t keen on the title, Fatman.. not a nice thing to call anyone and doesn’t fill you with festive cheer really, and Mel Gibson might be stocky, but he isn’t really fat, so it doesn’t even make any sense.

Secondly, the Army need a bunch of elves to make some sort of circuit board for the fighter jet? What exactly they were making isn’t really made clear, and it isn’t anything at all to do with magic so really they could have continued to have the circuit boards made by Exception PCB, who currently manufacture them for the USA’s F35’s in Gloucestershire, south west England. However, it is a Chinese owned company so maybe the Americans are pulling out of that- not sure, none of this is explained in the movie.

Thirdly. The army made the elves cut off the bells from their pointy shoes (I gasped in horror at this dear reader!) so as not to set off the army metal detectors, but a lone hitman manages to get in with shed loads of metal weaponry and takes out all the US Army soldiers, of which there are a fair few. Really doesn’t say much about the capabilities of the soldiers. We could not believe they’d be so useless, the metal detector obviously doesn’t work anyway and they didn’t have surveillance cameras or equipment so they could see what was going on and form a defence strategy. Poor show by the U.S.Army.

Fourthly, what is this movie trying to say? That kids aren’t excited by Christmas/Santa anymore so just want to shoot him down all the time? Not in our family that’s for sure. My grandkids were buzzing about it all. That if you can’t find enough work to support yourself best join the army? Not if they’re this useless I think. Be good or you’ll die? Clearly not true, plenty of bad men surviving in the world today.

Fifthly, Billy hasn’t seen his father in months and Dad is spending Christmas with his girfriend in the Bahamas. No mention of a mother so Billy lives with his kindly but wheelchair bound, oxygen snooting grandma. He is in a lush grand house and has servants who he is quite rude to. No parental guidance or chastisement here, no love or family normalcy, the kid is neglected and growing up feral even though he’s in a guilded cage. So Santa scares the bejesus out of him, doesn’t take any of his circumstances into consideration or try to help him become a better person, or at least put things in motion to help him, just threatens him to be good or else. It doesn’t work like that. He should at least get in touch with social services.

Sixthly, if your parents had died when you were a kid, would you really hold a grudge against Santa for 41 years for not resurrecting them for you and become a hitman? or would you have come to terms with it somewhere along the way and done the best you could with your life? No brainer there folks.

Seventhly, only a very brief scene with a couple of reindeer in their stable, and no sleigh being pulled through the sky by Rudolf and his fellow Reindeer!! Sorry but that is just plain wrong. And quite unforgiveable I think.

Can’t complain about the acting, Mel does a good job of being morose and depressed about how life is going, and is a serious badass Santa with guns. Jean-Baptiste is his calm and moderating wife. Goggins (seriously man, couldn’t you have picked a better screen-name??) is on the right side of cold blooded yet demented killer and the elves are super cute. The snowy scenery is nice, and there is a non-destructive instantly forgettable soundtrack. A bit like the movie really.

Fraggle Rating: Blerk. Watch The Christmas Chronicles instead.

Monday Movies ~ 21/12/2020

There’s been a fair amount of hype, and a lot of good reviews for our Monday movie slot this week, which is the 2020 Netflix movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. (For any reader living under a rock, Black Bottom is a song & dance, and not Ma Rainey’s own derrière ~ no nudity here folks).

The movie is based on the 1982 play of the same name, by August Wilson, which in turn is based upon the real blues singer Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey (1882-1939). The play is part of a series of 10 plays by Wilson known as The Pittsburg Cycle chronicling 20th-century African-American experience. The producer of the movie, Denzil Washington had made a deal with HBO to produce all ten plays, and he started with Fences, in which he starred with Viola Davis in 2013, but since then the deal has been re-arranged with Netflix, so here we are with the first of the subsequent 9.

This movie, directed by George C Wolfe also stars Viola Davis in the titular rôle, but co-starring Chadwick Boseman as the trumpeter in the band. As I’m sure most readers will know, Boseman died earlier this year from colon cancer at the ridiculous age of 42, during the post production stage of this movie, and this, his last rôle has been lauded as his best.

The movie is set in a Chicago recording studio in 1927, Ma’s band turn up to rehearsal, Cutler (Colman Domingo) is the leader and trombonist, Toledo (Glynn Turman) the philosophising piano player, Slow Drag (Michael Potts) the double bass player, and Boseman as the talented but tormented Levee Green. During the rehearsal room scenes, tensions rise between the band and Green and we find out about his horrific back story. When Ma arrives (crashing her car driven by her young nephew in the process) we meet a formidable woman, who won’t do things the way her manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and the studio owner Mel Sturdyvant (Johnny Coyne) want her to do, and is also at loggerheads with Levee Green over his wanting to update the songs she sings to a more modern beat. It doesn’t help matters that Levee has the hots for Ma’s girlfriend Dussie Mae – and she for him. It also naffs everyone off when Ma wants her nephew Sylvester (Dusan Brown) to do the introduction to the Black Bottlom song, as he stutters, and ruins several takes before getting it right.

The movie is all about the characters, and mainly of Rainey and Green. Davis is superb as Rainey, she’s feisty and domineering yet the hard life and hard won fame put the steel in her backbone to overcome any vulnerability, and it’s all there to see in Davis’ eyes. Boseman is on fire, quick~smart, edgy, passionate yet with an underlying torment that finally breaks through in the last 1/3 of the movie.

Davis and Boseman give power house performances, ably accompanied by the supporting cast, but you can’t take your eyes of either of them when they’re doing their thing. The movie though isn’t really like watching a movie, it is more like a stage play itself, not really flowing organically but in acts, 1, 2 and 3. The long impassioned speeches that would be right in a play somehow don’t sit so well in a movie, the set pieces apparent and clunky. The third act delivers a tragedy that felt contrived in spite of the acting ability but the end scene (which wasn’t in the play itself) punches home how black artists were exploited by white gatekeepers, the underlying thread which runs throughout the length of this story.

Fraggle Rating: Super acting, could have done better with the adaptation.