Nashville

This review was originally written as part of my USA Road Trip at French Toast Sunday.

In Nashville, Tennessee, the birth-place of country music, several story arcs cross paths and words over 5 days, leading up to a big musical celebration and presidential election rally.N1 Continue reading

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Magnolia

In the San Fernando Valley, a selection seemingly disconnected group of people are going through some fairly heavy moments in their live. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is dying in bed, being cared for by his nurse Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is tasked with finding Earl’s estranged son. Earl’s much-younger trophy wife, Linda (Julianne Moore), is struggling to deal with the imminent death of her husband. Officer Jim (John C. Reilly) is called to investigate a disturbance, which leads to a potential murder case. Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is a genius child contestant on the TV Game Show What Do Kids Know?, and is just a few days away from breaking that show’s record of most consecutive wins. Jimmy Gator hosts the show, and has done for decades, but has just been diagnosed with cancer, with just months to live. Jimmy’s daughter, Claudia (Melora Walters), has a difficult relationship with her father, as well as a cocaine habit and various other issues in her life, whilst Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a former child star contestant on the aforementioned TV show, has seen his fame squandered and life thrown in turmoil when he loses his job at an electronics store. Finally, Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) runs a self-help seminar on men who wish to be more successful with ladies. Mid-show, he gives an interview to a reporter (April Grace) that doesn’t necessarily go as he plans. All these stories, and more besides, will become interwoven over the course of the film’s next 24 hours.
Jimmy-Gator-magnolia-31608103-1600-900 Continue reading

The Blues Brothers

No, you’re not seeing things. Hell has not frozen over, a pig did not just fly past the window and Paul W. S. Anderson did not just make a good film, I have written a post. I honestly cannot explain why I haven’t written anything for the past 2 months (2 months? Sheesh, sorry), but rest assured I have been steadily watching films, I’ve handwritten a bunch of posts and just haven’t gotten round to typing them up, so hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll catch up with the 60-odd films you’re all dying to read about.
So, here we go. The Blues Brothers, a 9-piece rhythm and blues band fronted by brothers ‘Joliet’ Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) started life as a sketch on American comedy show Saturday Night Live, who’ve had something of a chequered history with sketch to screen adaptations. For every Wayne’s World there’s an It’s Pat, Coneheads or A Night at the Roxbury, but it all kicked off with the Brothers Blue, an undeniable stone cold classic, with a supremely quotable script, dead-on performances and more cameos than Belushi’s eaten hot dinners. Everybody from Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker shows up to belt out a number whilst Jake and Elwood set out on a mission from Gahd to get their band back together and raise the $5,000 dollars required to save the orphanage they grew up in. On the way they are hunted by the police, led by John Candy’s plaid-clad detective, rival band the Good Ol’ Boys, a group of Illinois Nazis, the army and Carrie Fisher’s flame thrower toting vengeful ex. With so much going on it would be understandable for the central stars to stick to their sketched personas, but both give it their all, especially Belushi, whose absence couldn’t be replaced by the trio of John Goodman, Joe Morton and a little kid when the ill-advised Blues Brothers 2000 rolled around. Above all, the film never loses its sense of fun, even with a two-hour plus run time unpopular with traditional comedies. A high level of farce – the brothers are remarkably blasé about the level of destruction around them, at one point strolling away unharmed from an exploding building –  helps to retain the silliness, and the soundtrack deserves a place in everyone’s music collection.
Choose film 9/10