In 1972 Aretha Franklin went back to her roots to record her gospel album, Amazing Grace, live at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Fascinatingly this concert film was originally scheduled to release the same year, but due to difficulties syncing the audio tracks with the visual print, Warner Bros relegated it to the vault. Now almost fifty years later, following her death in 2018, Franklin's family arranged the film's release.
Amazing Grace puts the star in the star spangled banner. Initially directed by none other than Sydney Pollack (with Alan Elliot applying the finishing touches) this hair-raising documentary has so much soul and energy. The authenticity of the production perfectly captures Mrs Franklin's enormous presence, not that anybody could really contain her glory and gusto.
Franklin's vocals shoot straight through your heart like a silver bullet. Pollack throws you straight into the dripping heat of the swaying church hall, but more importantly demonstrates the unity and spirit her performance brings - something that is indeed cause for celebration. Ultimately, this is a movie all about experience: with lots of shimmy and shake - Amazing Grace flaunts one of america's finest talents. Even if it is just 88 minutes of pure singing...
Does anybody remember that corny 80's comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? No, I don't think anybody does. Alas in the era of deplorable cash grabbing, MGM has given the flick a modern feminist makeover. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as con artists, one low on rent, one worth a million, who team up to take down the men that have done them wrong.
Plenty dirty and rotten but with no true scoundrels in sight - this excruciating reboot will hustle you out of your money. Producing the same sensation as having bleach poured directly into your eyes The Hustle robs you blind. It's unfathomable that this movie actually exists - led by British comedian Chris Addison - I have never seen a film fail so spectacularly when attempting to produce any form of enjoyment. The jokes are so painfully unfunny that you begin to wonder which children's book they swiped them from.
Hathaway is the worst she has ever been here, the Oscar-winning actress adopts this bizarre British accent that is so over-the-top. As for Wilson - she literally plays the exact same role we have seen her in time and time again. These performances, along with the diabolical script makes this one of the most catastrophic movies I've ever seen.
With all that being said, I must draw your attention to the one redeeming feature of The Hustle. My auntie Kristina Anna Hagström is a fantastic artist and MGM had the pleasure of using one of her sculptures in the movie! Kristina has a striking and unique vision, forget the movie and check out her wonderful work:
It's Scotland, in 1994 - the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act has just been passed which declared it illegal to have gatherings around music, wholly or predominately characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats. We follow two teenage boys from different sides of the tracks - Robert (Brain Ferguson) from a middle-class family and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) growing up with violent older brother Les. They risk everything to attend an illegal rave, hoping for the best night of their boring lives.
Beats is a stirring and potent coming-of-age tale. Brian Welsh's exceptional cinematography and stark black and white pallet functions as a bleak backdrop to the boys' dull lives - whilst ironically rejecting the vibrant strobe connotations of the title. Beats truthfully conveys the economic decline and political unease of the period. Welsh takes an extremely unembellished glance at two adolescents who each struggle with their class and social status.
At first his approach is a tad wooden, the family meal in the dinning room feels awkward and staged. Robert comes from a fairly privileged background, his family is preparing to move to a swankier new housing estate. In different circumstances we have Spanner - a reckless but misunderstood joker who lives with his abusive and criminal brother. Welsh beautifully conveys this sense of nature vs nurture - we see Robert uncomfortably stepping outside his sheltered life alongside street wise Spanner who faces prejudice and extreme violence - in one particularly tense scene in which his face his held directly above a burning cooker. Integrally, the dynamic between Robert and Spanner is marvellously authentic.
The only colour on display is when the two take drugs at an illegal rave; mimicking the ultra trippy Jupiter landing scene in 2001 - this moment is immensely disorientating but freeing for the lead characters. A real unexpected gem that came from nowhere.
Beats is an absolute rave.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
The original John Wick was a thrilling success, even if it coasted on its dark style. From David Leitch - who later went on to direct Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 - its bona fide thriller formula was given a fresh coat of paint with inventive choreography and hand to hand combat. We were even more surprised when Chapter 2 came out, and followed - possibly improved - upon its predecessor.
Ammunition restocked, guns reloaded - we cut to our third instalment in the John Wick franchise. After killing a member of the high table - this super-assassin is on the run, with a $14 million bounty on his head. Wick is no longer slick. The bullets jam fatally in the chamber, bringing this sequel to a jolting stop. Returning director Chad Stahelski demonstrates his clear influence as an ex-hollywood stuntman; the choreography starts fairly excitingly but soon turns repetitive and exhausting. It's as if the film has a set list of various stunts which loop for the entire film. Whereas the previous episodes have used carefully composed action sequences to its advantage - Parabellum will make you out of breath due to tiredness rather than excitement. Even the violence becomes ridiculously gratouitous.
However, Stahelski does showcase his own gorgeous aesthetic. Whether it's the pouring rain agasint the neon billboards of Times Square or the mystical blue skies and golden sand dunes of Casablanca. Parabellum might just be the most visually entrancing entry in the series. Furthermore, there are some brilliant action scenes: an exillerating motorbike chase and a very creative one-take shoot out which is very remincent of video game style combat. Keanu Reveas is always superb in these types of roles but the same can not be said for his co-stars. Despite having the best gimmick with two man-eating alsatians - Halle Berry's character is dreadful, creating further sucpion as to why the actress is no longer active.
Hopefully this is the closing chapter for the John Wick trilogy. There are some moments of artistic flourish, and Parabellum isn't without its exciting moments - but crucially the sharp editing which has been one of the series' strongest selling points, is wasted here for generic action and superflous violence.
John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.