Film Review – YESTERDAY (2019)

YESTERDAY (2019, UK) ***
Romance, Music, Fantasy
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Etalon Film / Working Title Films; d. Danny Boyle; w. Richard Curtis (based on a story by Richard Curtis and Jack Barth); pr. Bernard Bellew, Tim Bevan, Danny Boyle, Richard Curtis, Eric Fellner, Matthew James Wilkinson; ph. Christopher Ross (Colour. D-Cinema (Digital Cinema Package DCP) (also Dolby Atmos version), DCP (CGS version) (also Dolby Atmos version), DCP (Dolby Vision + Atmos). CGS (CGS version),Digital Intermediate, Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Redcode RAW (8K) (source format). 2.39:1); m. Daniel Pemberton; ed. Jon Harris; pd. Patrick Rolfe, Moin Uddin; ad. James Wakefield; rel. 4 May 2019 (USA), 20 June 2019 (UK); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 116m.
cast: Himesh Patel (Jack Malik), Lily James (Ellie Appleton), Joel Fry (Rocky), Ed Sheeran (Ed Sheeran), Kate McKinnon (Debra Hammer), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Jed Malik), Meera Syal (Sheila Malik), Harry Michell (Nick), Sophia Di Martino (Carol), Ellise Chappell (Lucy), Justin Edwards (Leo (Russian Stranger)), Sarah Lancashire (Liz (Liverpool Stranger)), Alexander Arnold (Gavin), Lamorne Morris (Head of Marketing), Vincent Franklin (Brian), Karl Theobald (Terry), Camilla Rutherford (Hilary), Michael Kiwanuka (Michael Kiwanuka), James Corden (James Corden), Robert Carlyle (John Lennon (uncredited)).
Patel gives a winning performance as a struggling musician who is involved in a road accident and wakes up to find no-one has heard of The Beatles. Seeing his opportunity, he uses their songs to bring him success but along the way reconciles his newfound stardom with the loss of his keenest supporter from prior to the accident (James). This is Richard Curtis by-the-numbers, but despite its predictability and lack of depth there is much to like. Patel’s self-effacing and unlikely musician is a character the audience can care about as is James as his childhood sweetheart. Sheeran is game in a large support role and McKinnon is the epitome of corporate greed. Where Curtis misses the mark as a writer is in his lack of willingness to explore the frankly manipulative premise to its fullest potential, making it feel like the gimmick it is to hang familiar romcom tropes from. Boyle directs anonymously and lets the characters breathe and the feelgood factor is high. The songs are ultimately what we remember the most and they are, of course, outstanding.

TV Review – THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (2019)

Image result for the war of the worlds bbcTHE WAR OF THE WORLDS (UK, 2019) **½
      Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment; Production Company: Mammoth Screen / British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Creasun Media American; Release Date: 17, 24 November & 1 December 2019; Running Time: 3 x 60m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Stereo; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Craig Viveiros; Writer: Peter Harness (based on the novel by H.G. Wells; Producer: Betsan Morris Evans; Executive Producer:Jamie Brown, Peter Harness, Minglu Ma, Preethi Mavahalli, Damien Timmer, Craig Viveiros; Director of Photography: James Friend; Music Composer: Russ Davies; Film Editor: Adam Bosman, Josh Mallalieu; Production Designer: Pat Campbell; Casting: Karen Lindsay-Stewart; Costumes: Howard Burden; Make-up: Amy Stewart; Sound: Jonathan Seale; Special Effects Supervisor: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects Supervisor: Stephen Coren, Sally Goldberg, Ivor Middleton.
      Cast: Eleanor Tomlinson (Amy), Robert Carlyle (Ogilvy), Rafe Spall (George), Jonathan Aris (Priest), Rupert Graves (Frederick), Woody Norman (George Junior), Nicholas Le Prevost (Chamberlain), Susan Wooldridge (Mrs. Elphinstone), Taliyah Blair (Lillian), Reid Anderson (Stall Holder), Philip Gascoyne (Navy Officer), Charles De’Ath (Greaves), Joey Batey (Henderson), Sam Benjamin (Salesman), Freya Allan (Mary), Christopher Hatherall (Naval Lieutenant), Daniel Cerqueira (Stent), Aisling Jarrett-Gavin (Lucy), Bradley Cottrell (Newspaper Boy), Harry Melling (Artilleryman), Kieron Bimpson (Captain), Cokey Falkow (Army Officer), Milo Twomey (Sergeant Major), Michele Donockley (Red Planet Survivor).
      Synopsis: Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale – the first alien invasion story in literature – follows George (Spall) and his partner Amy (Tomlinson) as they attempt to defy society and start a life together. The War of the Worlds tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.
      Comment: This adaptation of H.G.Wells’ classic novel plays loose with its source material and clumsily attempts to invent its own allegorical agenda with references to British colonialism. Rather than follow the novel’s linear narrative we jump between scenes set during the invasion and three years after into a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter scenes only serve to slow the narrative and remove any fluidity and excitement that the invasion generates. Split across three hour-long episodes, the story feels overly stretched despite the occasional excitements and moments of tension. Tomlinson is good as the heroine who is conflicted between her bravery and responsibility to her unborn child. Spall is also okay as an everyman out of his depth. Carlyle, however, is wasted in a role that largely consigns him to the periphery of the action. What lets the production down is the writing, which is often stilted and provides a totally unsatisfying conclusion which clumsily attempts to be symbolic. Viveiros struggles to lift the material and settles for long moments of slow-motion action and introspection, which further dilute some of the set pieces. Technical attributes, however, are pretty good for the limited TV budget.

TV Review – CRACKER: TO BE A SOMEBODY (1994)

Image result for cracker to be a somebody castCRACKER: TO BE A SOMEBODY (TV) (UK, 1994) *****
      Distributor: ITV – Independent Television; Production Company: A&E Television Networks / Granada Television; Release Date: 10, 17 & 24 October 1994; Running Time: 148m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Tim Fywell; Writer: Jimmy McGovern; Executive Producer: Sally Head; Producer: Paul Abbott; Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg; Music Composer: David Ferguson; Film Editor: Edward Mansell; Casting Director: Gail Stevens; Production Designer: Stephen Fineren; Art Director: David Butterworth.
      Cast: Robbie Coltrane (Fitz), Barbara Flynn (Judith Fitzgerald), Christopher Eccleston (D.C.I. Bilborough), Geraldine Somerville (D.S. Penhaligon), Lorcan Cranitch (D.S. Beck), Robert Carlyle (Albie), Ricky Tomlinson (D.C.I. Wise), Beth Goddard (Clare Moody), Colin Tierney (Harriman), Edward Peel (Chief Superintendent), Tracy Gillman (Jill), Isobel Middleton (Catriona Bilborough), Wil Johnson (Skelton), Badi Uzzaman (Shahid Ali), Kim Vithana (Razia Ali), Kieran O’Brien (Mark), Glyn Grain (Professor Nolan), John Henshaw (Quarry Foreman), Tess Thomson (Katie), Paul Copley (Pathologist).
      Synopsis: A working class man, distraught at the recent death of his father, impulsively becomes a skinhead and murders a Pakistani shopkeeper over a perceived insult.
      Comment: First story of the second series of Cracker is perhaps the best example of the show. It’s an absorbing study of one man’s disintegration through anger and hatred and Carlyle delivers a superb performance in the central role. The link to the Hillsborough disaster is a theme close to writer McGovern’s heart and he uses both direct references and the symbolism of Albie’s paranoia to make a strong point around the injustices of its portrayal in the media. Coltrane is again superb as Fitz, a character that is tailor-made for his world-weary cynicism. The resonant script is also laced with dark humour and all the regular cast have gotten to grips with their characters. The result is a top-class psychological crime thriller.