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

Phil’s retro movie this week, is the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, directed by Mimi Leder.

The plot goes like this :-

A rogue Russian Spetznaz unit led by Russian General Aleksandr Kodoroff, (Aleksandr Baluev) has hi-jacked a train of 10 nuclear warheads which were on the way to being decommissioned. They crash the train into an oncoming passenger train and have rigged up a warhead to detonate just after the crash, killing herds of people and delaying any investigation.

The explosion attracts the attention of the US Govt, and Dr.Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) a White House Nuclear expert is given the job to investigate. She believes Chechen terrorists are to blame. As she is explaining this in a briefing to military and intelligence personel, she is interrupted by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (George Clooney) a Special Forces soldier in the US Army, who suggests that the explosion was a diversion to hided the hi-jacking of the other warheads. He’s proved right when he has a conversation with his Rissian pal Colonel, Dimitri Vertikoff (Armin Muella-Stahl) his counterpart in the FSB (the unit that came after the KGB).

Devoe is seconded to help Kelly as her military liaison, which she’s not all that pleased about. But the pair must work together to find out what’s going on and why.

That’s it for spoilers sakes, even if it’s old, if you haven’t seen it it’s best to go in fresh.

I kept thinking oh this is a bit cliché throughout the movie, but of course it wasn’t cliché at all back in 1997 when it came out. At first I thought the pair would start out disliking each other and end up romancing all over the shop, but thankfully Mimi Leder didn’t go down that road. They work together very well to get to the end of the movie.

What did strike me is that Kelly is supposed to be Devoe’s boss, but really he takes charge and she follows his suggestion. I suppose it was too much to ask George Clooney to constantly be ordered around by a woman :D.

A well thought out action movie, with good performances from all involved, but just a tad dated by today’s standards.

A Fraggle rating of Good Enough.

On to my Saturday night movie. And I chose the Netflix commissioned movie The King (2019) set in the 15th century and designated an “epic historical romantic war drama”!! As regular readers know, of late we have been reviewing Scottish ‘history’ movies, where history has been adulterated unashamedly by the producers/directors/writers et al of The Outlaw King, Braveheart, and Rob Roy. They have outdone themselves in this case. The movie is firstly based on Shakespear’s ‘Henriad’ – several works about Kings but in this case Henry IV parts 1 & 2 and Henry V. Shakespear’s dramas themselves are ahistorical, he made up a shed load of history, non-existant characters and completely changed the characteristics of the main protagonists. The historians of the 16th Century took him to task, though I don’t suppose for one minute he was bothered! Not only have the filmakers in present day taken Shakespears inaccuracies and biases and incorporated them into this movie, they’ve also been inaccurate of the plays! A double whammy for today’s historians who must have been either weeping into their claret or laughing their tits off.

Directed by David Michôd, who co-wrote it with Joel Edgerton who is in it too, it stars Timotheé Chalamat as King Henry V of England. It covers his life prior to being King, then becoming King and his war with France, we’re talking the Siege of Harfleur, and the Battle of Agincourt. (Azincourt by Bernard Cromwell a great read BTW!) I’m not going to do spoilers, but will say I wish the revised history was the reality. It is an absolutely gorgeous film to watch. Although it’s set in the 15th century the themes it covers are still contemporary, coming of age, Daddy issues, abuse of power, Shakespear was good at disecting characters and Michôd has run well with that. The movie looks like I imagine medieval times to look like, and the costumes were very well done. Michôd employed Jane Petrie for the task, (she also did costumes for The Outlaw King) a well respected Emmy award winner for her work on The Crown costumes and very committed to getting things right.

Nick Jeffries, an actual armorer created authentic suits of arms, worn for dialogue scenes, which were also duplicated into flexible polyurethane for action sequences. The chainmail, albeit made from a lighter metal for film, is legit, too.

The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw (great name!) is wonderful. A lot of the scenes indoors looked like oil paintings, and he uses light beautifully. The Agincourt scenes were incredible, great camera work and a lot of mud.

Chalamat is only 24 years old, but already known for some excellent work, and he has no trouble carrying this movie and making Hal, as he’s nicknamed, believable. Edgerton plays Hal’s trusty friend and advisor Falstaff, another Shakespearean creation. Robert Pattison plays the Dauphin and what a performance. Here are all the stoic serious English and in comes Pattinson, a fancy French fop giggling and making jokes. His froothy French accent has been commented on but he based it on the people who dress him at Dior! Ben Mendelsohn is seedily great as the unkempt Henry IV. Lily Rose-Depp is an up and coming young actress and does well at playing Catherine of Valois, and I’m sure her accent is perfect being the daughter of Vanessa Paradis. Her Dad is Johnny Depp of course, let’s hope the bat-shit crazy gene wasn’t passed on.

All in all a spectacular movie, lovingly filmed, wonderfully acted. Forget the historical inaccuracies, forget Shakespear, this is NOT a documentary. Lose yourself in medieval England and France, and enjoy some superb craftmanship by all involved in the making of The King.

Fraggle rating :- Bloody Brilliant!