Film Review – LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Image result for last christmas 2019LAST CHRISTMAS (UK/USA, 2019) ***
     Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Calamity Films / Feigco Entertainment / Perfect World Pictures / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 8 November 2019 (USA), 15 November 2019 (UK); Running Time: 103m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: DXL RAW; Film Process: DXL RAW (8K); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate sex references, language.
     Director: Paul Feig; Writer: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings (based on a story by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise); Executive Producer: Sarah Bradshaw; Producer: Erik Baiers, Jessie Henderson, David Livingstone, Emma Thompson; Associate Producer: Simon Halfon; Director of Photography: John Schwartzman; Music Composer: Theodore Shapiro; Film Editor: Brent White; Casting Director: Alice Searby, Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still, Richard Hardy; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus; Make-up: Pippa Woods; Sound: James Mather; Special Effects: Michael Dawson; Visual Effects: Scott Dougherty.
     Cast: Emilia Clarke (Kate), Henry Golding (Tom), Michelle Yeoh (Santa), Emma Thompson (Petra), Lydia Leonard (Marta), Patti LuPone (Joyce), Ingrid Oliver (Police Woman Crowley), Laura Evelyn (Police Woman Churchill), Rebecca Root (Dr. Addis), Sue Perkins (Ice Show Director), Boris Isakovic (Ivan), Maxim Baldry (Ed), Bilal Zafar (Oscar), Michael Addo (Fit Looking Guy), Peter Mygind (The Dane aka ‘Boy’), Rob Delaney (Theater Director), Peter Serafinowicz (Theater Producer), Sara Powell (Casting Director), Ritu Arya (Jenna), Ansu Kabia (Rufus), Fabien Frankel (Fabien), Angela Wynter (Ice Show Casting Director), Ben Owen-Jones (Danny), David Hargreaves (Arthur), Joe Blakemore (Army ‘Tom’), Calvin Demba (Nathan), Anna Calder-Marshall (Dora), Amit Shah (Andy).
     Synopsis: Kate is a young woman subscribed to bad decisions. Her last date with disaster? That of having accepted to work as Santa’s elf for a department store. However, she meets Tom there. Her life takes a new turn. For Kate, it seems too good to be true.
    Comment: A largely tick-box Christmas movie played out against the music of George Michael and Wham makes for diverting entertainment. Thompson and Kimmings’ script crams in all the traditional smarts of the modern-day rom-com whilst offering a twist late in proceedings that is the one genuinely surprising moment. Clarke tries hard, perhaps too hard, in the lead role and as a result, her character struggles for empathy from the audience. Thompson delivers a funny turn as her Yugoslavian mother, but their implied conflict is too easily resolved. Yeoh also scores as the dedicated Christmas store manager where Clarke works as an assistant. The songs are timeless and significantly add to the feel of the movie. Ultimately, despite its final twist, this feels like it wants to be a traditional seasonal feelgood movie to which the occasional political messaging comes across a bit off-key.

Film Review – SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

Image result for solo a star wars storySolo: A Star Wars Story (2018; USA; Colour; 135m) ***½  d. Ron Howard; w. Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan; ph. Bradford Young; m. John Powell.  Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Richard Dixon, Joonas Suotamo, Sarah-Stephanie, Deepak Anand, Slim Khezri, Ian Kenny, Douglas Robson, Omar Alboukharey, Sean Gislingham, Nathaniel Lonsdale. During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. Whilst this STAR WARS spin-off offers nothing particularly new or surprising, considering its troubled production history it remains a surprisingly consistently entertaining adventure. Ehrenreich displays the same roguish charisma as essayed by Harrison Ford and Glover also scores as Lando Calrissian. The action set pieces are effective and avoid the stilted choreography of recent efforts. Whilst the story itself may lack the gravitas and mysticism of its parent, it makes for more simple-minded fun. Although originally brought on board to complete the film after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been dismissed due to creative differences, it was widely reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the movie. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – ME BEFORE YOU (2016)

Me Before You (2016; USA; Colour; 110m) ∗∗∗  d. Thea Sharrock; w. Jojo Moyes, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber; ph. Remi Adefarasin; m. Craig Armstrong.  Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Matthew Lewis, Charles Dance, Vanessa Kirby, Jenna Coleman, Janet McTeer, Brendan Coyle, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Hannah Flynn, Amber Elizabeth, Stephen Peacocke, Alexander Cooper, Richard Gouldin, Tony Paul West, Joanna Lumley. A relationship develops between a young quadriplegic man and the young woman employed to provide him with companionship. Populist approach to a sensitive subject may jar at times, but there’s no doubting the charming performances of Clarke and Claflin. The BRIDGET JONES crowd will find much to enjoy here, but those looking for a more serious approach will be left with a hollow feeling. Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes. [12]