‘THEIR FINEST’ REVIEW AND ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’S TRAILER PLAYS A DIFFERENT TUNE’ AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

Heavy1A little over a month ago my wife won free tickets to a preview screening of Their Finest. She kindly let me go as her guest and I am now grateful to say that my review of the film has been finally published online at HEAVY Magazine’s website.

It’s a great little film that will move you featuring a strong female lead, meta humour about narrative construction and the film industry all set amidst The Blitz during World War II.

You can read more of my thoughts about it here https://heavymag.com.au/film-review-their-finest/#.WQCg0o21vIU

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In the mean time I also wrote a piece about the use of songs in recent film trailers. This was inspired by the recent release of the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok making use of the fantastic and fantastically appropriate Led Zeppelin track Immigrant Song. I was lucky enough that Heavy Magazine also published this. You can check out that post here https://heavymag.com.au/film-news-thor-ragnaroks-trailer-plays-a-different-tune/#.WQCgo421vIU

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I am very grateful to have had these posts published on their website.

Thank you all who take the time to click onto another page and read the reviews published elsewhere. I really appreciate it. To my fellow Aussies and any Kiwi readers, I hope you had a good ANZAC Day.

-Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken

The Absurdly Appropriately Titled ‘About Time’

 

Richard Curtis was recently on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
The two of them go back a bit to when Ferguson was large alcoholic comedian and Curtis was the writer of the Blackadder and Mr Bean TV series.

Surprisingly their patter was strained. Ferguson made jokes at his own expense about times when he was suffering from his disease. Curtis at one point said I believe quite genuinely “I’m so happy to see you doing so well.”

Curtis understood the need to be funny on the late night talk show but he couldn’t trivialise the depths Ferguson had recovered from nor the heights he had scaled since. It revealed a part of his nature that has been evident in his work since the beginning. Curtis can do funny but he is quite prepared to acknowledge the harshness of life as he did in the interview and as he has in his work.

Curtis was the writer or arguably the best romantic comedies of the past two decades, certainly of those from Great Britain.  Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting Hill and Love Actually all contain themes of courtship and the trend continues in his new film About Time. Curtis has publicly stated this could be the last romantic comedy he directs. Like Clint Eastwood’s last western Unforgiven, Curtis approaches this film as if to make a final point on the sub-genre that he helped establish. Domhnall Gleeson plays a young man who on his 21st birthday is told by his father that the men in the family can travel through time to any moment in their lives. They just go hide in an enclosed dark space (preferably a closet ) and concentrate really hard. Tim decides he will use this gift to find love. We follow him as he falls in love with the lovable Mary played by Rachel McAdams. Their courtship takes up the first third of the movie and the hook of the trailers has had Domhnall doing over awkward date mistakes. Stuff up the first time you have sex. Go back and do it again. Say the wrong thing when meeting the in-laws for the first time. Go back and do it again.

These scenes contain the bulk of the wit that the British writer has shown in abundance ever since the Blackadder series. Yet Curtis as hinted at by his interview with Ferguson is aware of the tragedy or pathos of life as well in his work. . ‘Four Weddings’ as it is often shortened to, after all also had A Funeral. After making us laugh all throughout Blackadder Goes Forth with over the top characters the series ended with a poignant reflection of what happened to so many on the Western Front all those years ago.

His most ‘ROMCOM’ romantic comedy Notting Hill still has a close friend to Hugh Grant’s lead confined to a wheel chair following an accident.

His ensemble masterpiece Love Actually features several people recovering from or tempted by adultery and the human cost this entails. Not to mention a father and son grieving over a premature death and a sister making sacrifices in her private life to be there for her brother who needs her. Life is not pub fist fights, spectacular cross country road trips and Vegas skydiving. Instead of being full of James Bond derring do life’s most dramatic incidents can be car accidents and hospital visits that can knock the trajectory of our destinies away from us. His heroes and heroines don’t kiss for the first time in front of the Eiffel tower but in a back street of Notting Hill or a small cafe in Spain and it’s just as spectacular and romantic because it’s our lives.

The film is a Richard Curtis film as we’ve come to expect but by adding an unusual sci-fi element of time travel Curtis now in the middle of middle age goes deeper.

Here even before the courtship of Tim and Mary we are introduced to the family and given the set up for pay offs later on. The pathos will go deeper this time because we see the whole journey. The zany free spirited sister Kit Kat played by Lydia Wilson  for example may be zany for more than one reason and it could be masking deep hurt. On The Late Late Show Curtis casually remarked “It’s about the meaning of life.” masking the accuracy and profoundness of this statement.

The film gives way gradually to what happens after you fall in love. When you build a life with someone and have children. Children are of course the rebirth of the line that you are linked to through your parents. As the circle of life rolls over one must give way to the other. All of that is on show in About Time…yes people there will be a wedding and a funeral.

McAdams is one of the most wonderful actresses working in Hollywood today but she’s been stuck as the love interest too much ever since The Notebook. (A great turn in career comedy Morning Glory playing off two vets in Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton rather than her love interest failed to register with audiences). Notable exceptions include when Woody Allen invited her to play against type in Midnight in Paris and when she held her own against Sherlock Holmes.

Here she is the girl again, super cute and a little feisty but she gets to play new notes as a Mum and see the warmth in her as she sits next to her sister in law and agrees she needs to make a change to her life.

Domhnall Gleeson is so subtle in his performance here that you may take for granted how easily he slides from awkward teen to concerned brother to doting father. He provides voice over narration that never oversells anything and yet easily recognises the beats of our hearts. It is because of him that we feel this family of his is just like our own. We may not recognise every personality type but we do recognise the love they share for each other.

You will laugh out loud as Tim slyly comments of another would be suitor being a dick literally minutes of screen time after we have seen him distressed in an alternate time line after being usurped by this man as her established boyfriend.

Yet notice how his stern and yet frightened gaze directed at his sister’s boyfriend is years away from the boy who squirts sunscreen all over the back of a girl he is trying to woo.

I have no doubt the time loops and logic are inconsistent as the film goes on. But to the people who would look to dissect I say wholeheartedly I couldn’t give a shit. The time travel element is a story device more than anything else. Logic aside there are some neat touches, one is despite Tim’s special power he cannot always get the outcomes that he wants. An obvious one  is if somebody doesn’t like him his power can do little to change that as displayed early on. However notice later on Mary tells him not to scamper off during a crisis. It hints that Mary is no fool and while she remains out of his time travelling some things are still becoming obvious. It’s a legitimate question to ask how can this man have this ability and not come clean with his significant other about it but watch the film and see Tim’s ultimate decision about time travelling and you may get why.

I never once felt this film didn’t present their relationship as equal, grown up and complex despite a scence where yes McAdams tries on twenty dresses before going with the first one. By the way the first would’ve been my pick too.

One montage shows the central couple in the first bloom of love walking through their local train station throughout various days. In one shot she twirls around as he holds her hand. Later we see frustration spilling out from within them and at each other after one of their kids has torn up a project for work. Late night dates will give way to people being grumpily woken up following nights apart because someone has something ‘reaaallly’ important they need to discuss with you. The fumbling of first time sex will give way years later to jokes about whether it should be done tonight or not.

My God we do twirl around in those first few heady days but because of that a hand being held all that time later at a funeral by the same person lets us know of a different passion, a different love but one just as powerful and far more lasting. We are all twirling around train stations at some point, before holding hands in backyards and on beaches as the day goes by. Smiling without having to say a word. Maybe even on instinct spinning once more because you remember. Because some feelings don’t leave us.

One more thing. Bill Nighy who Curtis made a massive star out of with Love Actually here plays the father. Perhaps to right the wrong from The Boat That Rocked a film that touched upon fathers and sons but failed to choose Nighy to be the father nor to nail nearly as wonderful a depiction of that theme as this film does. I’m not giving anything away to tell you that the central relationship of this film is arguably not really between Gleeson and McAdams.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do.

This is one of the year’s best.