The Queen’s Corgi ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

The Queen’s Corgi has it all as far as family films go – it’s a fast-paced animation with a story my five year old could easily follow. There’s plenty of comedy for the adults plus many well-known voices playing the characters too.

The storyline revolves around Rex, he’s a Corgi puppy purchased as a gift by Prince Phillip for the Queen. Rex quickly becomes the Queen’s pride and joy, overtaking the other three Corgis in Her Majesty’s affections. Charlie, a particularly pompous Corgi at the palace spies an opportunity to take his rival’s place. He makes a grand show of being Rex’s best friend while simultaneously plotting his downfall. When Donald and Melania Trump visit the Palace with their precocious pampered pooch, Mitzi – Rex is happy to take Charlie’s suggestion of doing a runner when his disastrous ‘date’ with Mitzi ends in him biting the President. Charlie’s malicious actions leave Rex for dead, however little does Charlie know that the Queen’s top dog is alive and trying to survive in a dog pound. It’s there that he falls in love, faces a bully and makes lifelong friends.

It’s a wonderfully watchable movie with heart, humour and superb characterisation. Julie Walters is remarkable as the Queen, she sounds just like her the majority of the time and the moments where it’s obvious it’s Walters playing the role add an extra dimension to the character. Tom Courtenay is a fine choice for the Duke of Edinburgh. Jack Whitehall gives energy and verve to the role of Rex, while Sheridan Smith is instantly recognisable as Wanda – the love interest from the pound, she even has the opportunity to sing! Ray Winstone couldn’t be more perfect as Tyson the bully boy of the pound who organises fight club (that nobody talks about!). Sarah Hadland is on point as Mitzi the glamour dog who’s on the look out for a mate on the presidential visit. Matt Lucas is exceptional as Charlie, I had no idea I was him voicing the character! If you’re looking for mimics of course you come to Jon Culshaw and Debra Stephenson to play the Trumps and indeed they voice two of the dogs too.

It’s a fantastic way of getting the kids out the house and keeping the entertained at the cinema. I could watch it again and again and it certainly kept my school holidaying child happy!

To visit Malvern Cinemas click here: https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/venue/cinema/

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part ~ Malvern Cinemas

Everything is awesome…. correction, everything WAS awesome, but there’s a sickly sweet and rather girlie influx of blocks who want to take over the world, specifically Bricksburg. Or do they? It’s time for the Lego Movie 2 folks!

Emmet is back, dreaming of owning his dream house and living there with Lucy aka Wildstyle and seemingly untroubled by the latest turn of events which is triggered by Finn’s younger sister, Bianca taking some of his Lego into the basement to play with. What transpires is Emmet and Lucy’s world colliding with a glittery universe they’re fearful of – with General Sweet Mayhem arriving to escort them to see Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi of the Systar System. The Queen wants to marry their leader, although they’re not sure who that is. Of course, Batman is on hand to offer himself as the leader and he’s having his usual ‘feud’ with Superman, a glittery Superman!

With Lucy ‘kidnapped’ by General Sweet Mayhem along with their other friends, Emmet turns his dream house into a spaceship to rescue them and is thrilled to meet Rex Dangervest who arrives to help him. As Lucy continues to resist the brainwashing she perceives to be occurring around her and wonders if she’ll ever see Emmet again – the race is on for Batman to marry Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi before Armomageddon.

There’s some top tunes, superb graphics and an extremely witty script packed full of sarcastic asides which might go over the young viewers’ heads but certainly weren’t missed by the adults in the cinema! The sequel is certainly as good a watch as the first and has something to offer all ages.

In summary… Everything IS Awesome! Go see Lego Movie 2!!

If you want to visit Malvern Cinemas, check out their listings here: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/

Crucible of the Vampire ~ Film Review

The title itself suggests that there’s a historical genre in store, however it gives little away as to the light erotic LGBT content. It’s a film packed with overt horror, underlying messages, a slightly unstable storyline perhaps yet it’s entertaining and gripping in equal measure. The characters are all purposeful and well-rounded which helps to move the action along in a dark, not entirely vampire-driven film set in Shropshire.

The backstory of the sorcerer’s dark conjuring of the female vampire shows him casting his spell on the owner of a country mansion in the year 1807. At the heart of the story is a character called Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch) – she’s investigating the truth behind the legend of the crucible and is therefore sent to the mansion by her University Professor. Isabelle is your archetypal young woman who’s blissfully unaware of the horrors awaiting her and is easily taken in. She’s a virgin, therefore she’s just the sort of meat the inhabitants of the mansion are looking for.

Karl (Larry Rew) is the owner, he’s almost a caricature of villainy. His wife, Evelyn (Babette Barat) is almost too over the top in her politeness. Their daughter, Scarlet (Florence Cady) is the most openly ‘delighted’ by the visitor. The introductions set the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also a fairly innocuous gardener whom it’s wise not to take your eye off – played by Neil Morrissey.

Crucible of the Vampire is a hybrid of Hammer Horror and horror comedy Dark Shadows – from my perspective. There are elements that set out to scare and other scenes I can’t quite take seriously. However it’s a compelling watch with a strong cast and Director/Co-Writer Iain Ross-McNamee has certainly embodied an interesting niche.

Crucible of the Vampire is available on Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray) from Screenbound Pictures. 

Borg vs. McEnroe – Film Review

The rivalry between tennis greats Björn Borg and John McEnroe was one for the ages and it was no doubt made for theatre. Here were two of the sport’s finest — both immensely talented and massively driven by the pursuit of greatness. But one, McEnroe, was fierce and volcanic; the other, Borg, was suave yet stoic. They were fire and ice, perfect dance partners for the sport of tennis.

That rivalry is the one Borg vs. McEnroe revisits over three decades later. Directed by Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, Borg vs. McEnroe is a biographical sports drama that chronicles what is arguably one of the sporting world’s fiercest — and most evenly matched — rivalries. The biopic revisits a compelling clash of titans, and it does so with aplomb (though it is not without its flaws).

Borg vs. McEnroe illuminates the essence of Borg (played by Sverrir Gudnason), whose ice-like demeanour concealed an inner cauldron fuelled by a burning desire to win and a manic obsession for detail. The Guardian notes that Gudnason is remarkable in this biopic, and that is a accurate observation. The Swedish actor recreates in compelling detail everything that made his compatriot a tennis legend, and in doing so nearly steals all the thunder from Shia LaBeouf, his equally talented co-star.

LaBeouf doesn’t disappoint either as McEnroe. The biopic redefines McEnroe’s character, making a case that the American’s gifts were also his curse. McEnroe has been widely reviled for his hot-headed, tantrum-throwing ways, but Borg vs. McEnroe contextualises this volcanic temper. It wasn’t so much that McEnroe was forever full of vitriol; rather, his outbursts were manifestations of his own burning desire to win and his own manic obsession for detail. To this end, Pederson juxtaposes the two icons in a different light far apart from the fire vs. ice comparisons. The film’s message, it seems, is this: Despite their outward differences both players have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Those commonalities, in turn, are what made this Borg vs. McEnroe the rivalry that it was.

If anything, though, LaBeouf, despite his riveting performance, is left underused, and not by his own doing. The Independent’s review of the biopic rues this very same aspect, noting how Ronnie Sandahl’s screenplay hands the lion’s share of screen time to Gudnason. It is not a bad call per se, especially given Gudnason’s own spotlight-stealing greatness; but LaBeouf himself boasts acting pedigree, and he sure could have used more screen time.

Now, for the match point: Borg vs. McEnroe is an ace of a film, with a climax that artfully recreates the epic 1980 Wimbledon finals between the two icons. This biopic is an enthralling look-back at a tête-à-tête that remains the standard bearer for a sport that has had plenty of rivalries. The most recent of these rivalries, in the estimation of tennis great Pete Sampras, is the one between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, whom Sampras says “carried the torch for a couple of years” — in much the same fashion that Borg and McEnroe did from 1978 to 1981. Ranked 1 and 3 in Coral’s list of highest earning tennis players, Federer and Nadal have faced off 38 times (16 times more than Borg-McEnroe), with 24 of those showdowns for a championship.

While the Telegraph’s Charlie Eccleshare hails Federer-Nadal as one of the sport’s greatest rivalries, making a strong case that the two “have taken tennis to new heights,” the film thinks otherwise. Borg vs. McEnroe illustrates how the rivalry between Borg and McEnroe was one of a kind, and sheds light on what made it the true greatest rivalry in tennis.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Guest Post from Mary Williams

The Changeling ~ Five Scary Moments

The 1980 incarnation of the spectacular chiller thriller The Changeling was released on Blu-ray on 20 August this year and it’s lost none of it’s appealing jump-a-minute drama – in fact it’s even more horror-tastic than I remember.

It’s a movie that has been described by King of horror, Stephen King as a film that has scared him personally “A child’s ball bouncing down a flight of stairs was enough to scare the daylights out of me” quotes King, and I have to agree with him. The subtlety of suggestion is one of the film’s many strengths.

The story follows central character, John Russell (George C. Scott) as he starts a new life in the wake of the tragic death of his wife and daughter in a car crash.

To choose the top five scariest moments to get into the Halloween ‘spirit’ is easy! There are five stand out scenes that have me racing for the back of the sofa, so without further ado:

Watery Grave

The apparition of a boy in the bath tub – I find it horrific on every level. From the way the scene is shot to the implications, it sets the tone.

Audio Disturbance

The voice of the spirit (Joseph Carmichael) heard over audio during a séance is psychologically disturbing. It’s quite clear and that makes it all the more effective!

The Chase

When Claire Norman from the historical society is chased down the stairs by a wheelchair, the horror ups its game again, and this is towards the climax of the film too. Given the year of the movie’s production it feels all the scarier in the first incarnation too.

Tune in…

To end a film on the note of a lullaby from a music box, given that the storyline revolves around the murder of a six year old boy, absolutely messes with my mind! It’s actually one of the most chilling scenes of the movie as it’s not entirely overt and extremely suggestive.

For the full review of the film, check this out from my viewing this summer: The Changeling

Purchase your copy of The Changeling here:

The Music of Silence ~ Film Review

Star rating: *****

As a newly converted Opera fan, The Music of Silence was of particular interest to me, especially as it charts the story of internationally renowned tenor, Andrea Bocelli. His spectacular vocals can be heard providing the soundtrack to this life affirming biopic which promises to leave the viewer feeling that the sky’s the limit. You don’t have to be a classical music fan to find the heart of this story to be a touching and important message.

Toby Sebastian (well known for his role in Game of Thrones) plays Andrea and he’s glorious, such perceptive casting and it’s easy to forget that he’s not personally singing. We learn that Andrea was born Amos Bardi, he was almost completely blind from birth. However, it’s while he’s away at a ‘school’ for the visually impaired that he loses his sight entirely following a tragic accident. It’s such a heart wrenching moment and yet with prior knowledge that he has carved such a fantastically successful career as a tenor, one feels quite a short-lived fear for his younger self, that’s the rub with already knowing the end I suppose. Although, as a fan of biographies, I was fascinated by the transitions and challenges he faced to live his dream of being a serious Opera singer.

It’s beautifully directed by Michael Radford and the locations used to punctuate the story are quite breath-taking and extremely atmospheric. The use of Bocelli’s voice is the icing on the cake as we learn that the journey this extraordinarily talented man has travelled has culminated in determination and a Maestro (played by Antonio Banderas) with a similar goal. What a stunning relationship that is to behold!

Give this a try because you’ll be surprisingly drawn into and engaged by the life of a living legend.

The Music of Silence arrives on DVD and Digital 29 October 2018: The Music of Silence

 

 

 

The Amityville Horror ~ Five Scary Moments

Halloween is creeping around the corner, so what better excuse do you need than to turn the lights off, light the pumpkins and get ready for a fright in front of a classic horror movie? The Amityville Horror is one of those classics, it’s spawned many sequels and spin-offs and I always feel there’s a part of this film’s content and format in every good scary movie.

With a first class cast including James Brolin, it’s a must-see and should have a place on everyone’s Halloween hit list.

Synopsis: When George and Kathy Lutz and their children move to Amityville Long Island they believe they have found the perfect family home. But the house has a shocking history and within its walls a demonic presence lies in wait that will turn the Lutz’s lives into a living nightmare.

Sounds like a scare-fest? Here are my top five scariest moments in The Amityville Horror

  • The first alert for me that this is going to be a frightening ride is when the babysitter (Amy Wright) is locked in the bedroom closet and it seems like nobody has done it, it’s just ‘happened’. She’s supposed to be taking care of the Kathy’s (Margot Kidder) daughter Amy (Natasha Ryan) and I spent the whole fall-out of that scenario waiting for something to happen to Amy.
  • Amy’s pretend friend Jody gave me the chills, the supposed nature of the imaginary buddy is sinister in the extreme. Jody’s introduction is one of the key points of the film for me.
  • Red eyes outside Amy’s bedroom! Kathy spots them and they are enough to make any horror aficionado jump!
  • Kathy’s nightmares about the details of the killings that took place take in the house they’re living on take the scare-factor to another level. It’s clever because it’s gritty stuff, yet engaging on some level too. Although at that point I’d be running for the hills.
  • The music has to be one of the vital tone setters and ‘game changers’ for me, the accompaniment to the paranormal activity is the epitome of evil. One of the best horror soundtracks. Lalo Schifrin composed for the film and there’s an interview with him on the new Blu-ray edition of the movie.

Do you want to add The Amityville Horror to your Halloween horror must-watch list? Grab a copy on Blu-ray:

 

Il Postino (The Postman) ~ Film Review

Star rating: *****

A movie which conveys so many aspects of life as well as a myriad of emotions all in one fairly simple, straight forward storyline. Michael Radford’s film, first released in 1994. With a glorious Italian setting for company, there couldn’t be a more picturesque backdrop for such a romantically driven cinematic piece. It’s easy to see why this is an award-winning film, the intricacy of every scene is exceptional.

We watch the story unfold through the eyes of fisherman, Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi) who has instantly become ‘obsessed’ with a well-known poet, Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret). Pablo has moved to the island Mario inhabits (which is situated just off the coast of Naples) under exile. An unlikely friendship develops between the pair, with Mario taking a job as postman so that he can deliver letters to the man who has such a way with words and indeed, the ladies! Mario has his eye on Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) so he’s seeking Pablo’s help to turn her head.

There’s gentle humour combined with a real passion running through the thread of the piece and the chemistry between Troisi and Noiret adds an extra dimension to the idyllic and believable tale. While Maria Grazia Cucinotta epitomises elegance and grace. It’s easy to see why Mario wants to woo her, it’s only lack of education standing in his way and smothering his confidence.

Watching the restored version certainly enhances the viewing experience, as would be expected and with such spectacular views to soak up, it’s certainly worth watching Il Postino on either Blu-ray or DVD in the duel edition which has just been released. Click the image below to get your copy:

The Krays: Dead Man Walking ~ Film Review

Star rating: ****

Inspired by true events, the shocking story of London’s most feared and notorious brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray as they break Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’ Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison in December 1966.

With a cast chock-full of famous faces, this film promises to lead the viewer into a grisly past and with stellar performances, a gritty storyline and atmospheric locations – it does not disappoint.

The violently gripping tale takes place over a period of twelve days after Frank (Josh Myers) has been ‘released’ by the Krays, he’s under close surveillance from Albert Donoghue (Chris Ellison) and Lisa Prescott (Rita Simons), the latter is bait to keep the ‘madman’s’ temper under control but he’s losing patience due to the no-show from Ronnie (Nathanjohn Carter).

The film doesn’t concentrate on the Kray twins particularly, honing in on the character of Frank and giving opportunity for Rita Simons to showcase her extraordinary talent as she takes on the role of hostess keeping the escapee under control exceptionally. Carter as Ronnie with Marc Pickering as Reggie are believable and sinister as the lords of the underworld, each one stereotypical according to what we already know about their respective characters. I enjoyed the fact that the story didn’t revolve around them as the subtleties of their personas could be observed.

It’s not a period during the Krays’ reign that I have dwelled on before, therefore I found it a challenging and thought-provoking story and whilst factual it remained as entertaining as any first class crime drama. Although films of this brutal genre are not necessarily my usual choice, which may have clouded my view at certain intervals throughout the movie, as a piece of dramatic cinematography it’s a masterpiece.

Get hold of a copy on DVD or via 4Digital through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:

http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/discanddigital/

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