The Banshees of Inisherin, 2022 - ★★★★

Martin McDonagh's latest is sad, hilarious, tragic, and true. Or feels like it could be true, even if some of the decisions characters make are baffling, to say nothing of gruesome.

On a rugged, beautiful island off the coast of Ireland in 1923, with the civil war going on on the mainland, two friends fall out. Or rather, one says he doesn't like the other any more. A whole sequence of events flow out from this simple, almost child-like choice.

The funniest part happens when one of them goes to confession.But that's only to be expected: confession's a pretty funny kind of thing, when you think about it.

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Barry Lyndon, 1975 - ★★★½

I had never seen this Kubrick film, and it was a little hard to get my head around it as a comedy. Which it kind of is, though I've also seen it described as a drama, and it has elements of both. Tragedy too.

It's a strange one. Beautifully shot, many scenes composed like paintings, and a great score. I mostly enjoyed it, but it's definitely not up there with 2001, in Kubrick's work.

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Molly's Game, 2017 - ★★★½

Aaron Sorkin not quite at his best. Decent film, based on the memoir of Molly Bloom. Who is nothing to do with Ulysses, but parents who either were huge James Joyce fans, or had no knowledge of him whatsoever. I lean toward the latter.

She nearly becomes an Olympic skier, but is put out of action by injury. She falls into helping to run a poker game for extremely rich people. Takes it over and it becomes even bigger, even richer.

Even more dangerous. The mob gets involved. The FBI get involved.

Great dialogue, as you'd expect, but mostly presented by characters who are seated, rather than walking at high speed. Perhaps playing poker while walking at high speed would have improved the whole thing.

Not bad, though.

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All the President's Men, 1976 - ★★★½

I read the book years ago, and of course knew the broad outlines of the Watergate story. This was a good dramatisation of it.

Or rather, of part of it. Because its ending is weird and disappointing. Just when things are really starting to ramp up, it seems, and political dominoes are going to fall, we get a teleprinter like you used to get at the end of Grandstand on a Saturday, when you were waiting for Doctor Who.

And it prints out a summary of who was convicted and what sentences they got.

And that's it. We're done.

A very deflating ending, I felt.

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We're No Angels, 1955 - ★★½

Daft wee film — a Christmas film, I was surprised to realise — from 1955 in which Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov or two of three prisoners who’ve escaped on Devil’s Island. 

Their escapades are odd, and the ending is not quite as predictable as I expected. 

An odd one, but enjoyable enough.

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V for Vendetta, 2005 - ★★½

Reasonable filmic conversion of the graphic novel. It doesn’t really do a lot with it, but it’s fine.

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Easy A, 2010 - ★★★

Another US high-school comedy. Not a John Hughes 80s one, but one that makes explicit reference in-universe to things like The Breakfast Club. It's a pretty good example of the genre.

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Baby Driver, 2017 - ★★★★

I saw this at the cinema when it came out back in 2017. Loved it then. Loved it even more now. Incredible soundtrack, amazing (daft) car chases. Crime.

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A Room with a View, 1985 - ★★½

It's an old Merchant-Ivory period piece. Pleasant enough, but kind of stilted in places. In part. some of that may be deliberate, to reflect the buttoned-up nature of the times, but it's hard to say.

Amusingly, the image that's shown as I type this on Letterboxd — which may or may not be the image that accompanies the post when it reaches my blog — is from the very last scene of the film, if I'm not mistaken. An odd choice.

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Pitch Perfect, 2012 - ★★★½

Fun story about competitive acapella singers at a US university.

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Miss Sloane, 2016 - ★★★

Decent story about a US lobbyist who takes on the support of a bill to restrict some tiny amount of gun rights. She quits one company and moves to a smaller one to do it.

An absurdly fanciful ending, sadly. The sadness is in American society, not the film.

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The Velvet Underground, 2021 - ★★★★

There's a lot to like here if you're already a fan — or at least, have some interest. Probably not too much if neither of those apply.

It has interviews with those who are still with us (or who were when it was made). Not just John Cale, Moe Tucker, Doug Yule, but members of Andy Warhol's Factory crew (the 'Superstars'), like Mary Woronov and Gerard Malanga.

I'd like to have heard more of the songs, especially the less well-known ones, and seen more footage of them, such as there is. It uses the documentary style that just films people speaking and edits those interviews together. That has a certain power, but I feel it might have helped to have a narrative, a voiceover elaborating on the story.

Recommended, though.

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Withnail & I, 1987 - ★★★★

Long time since I saw this, so all I remembered really were the quotable bits ('We've gone on holiday by accident!')

The high dinginess and run-down state of Britain as the sixties ran down is skilfully evoked. It's very male, though. The only female character is the woman in the tearoom who refuses to serve our heroes. If that's the right word.

It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but it has aged surprisingly well.

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13th, 2016 - ★★★½

A documentary about the prison-industrial complex, this is a tough watch. The title comes from the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. While abolishing slavery, that amendment also allowed for slavery to continue — at least for those incarcerated for a crime.

Tough, as I say, but it should be seen.

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Legally Blonde, 2001 - ★★★

We’ve been enjoying the more recent work of Reece Witherspoon lately, in The Morning Show and Big Little Lies, so it was interesting to go back to see her in her younger days. 

It’s a fun enough film. There were no surprises, in part because I’ve seen the live musical, but mainly because it’s not the kind of film that offers surprises.

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Nomadland, 2020 - ★★★½

The scenery is bleak, and the setup is sad, but in the end this movie is neither. Frances McDormand's character may have lost her home, job, and even town — she comes from a company town called Empire, which is closed down when the business fails — but she finds companionship along the road.

Sometimes that companionship is herself: she is someone who is happy in their own company, and that's okay. She lives in her van. She's not homeless, 'just houseless,' as she says.

I spent parts of this film wondering if something terrible was going to happen, but it's not that kind of story at all. The worst thing happened before the start, and all the rest is — just life. There's no plot to speak of, but that's okay too.

And though the scenery is bleak, it's also beautiful.

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Don't Look Up, 2021 - ★★★½

Fun, if bleak, satire about the end of the world. Two astronomers try to get people — though mainly a Trump-esque US administration — to believe that a civilisation-ending comet is on course for Earth. With predictable results.

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Lost at Christmas, 2020 - ★★★

That strangest of things, a Scottish Christmas film. A very low budget, fun enough, story about two people meeting on Christmas Eve and getting stranded in a lonely inn in Glencoe.

Clare Grogan features in a very small part. Even though there is singing, she doesn't sing, which is a shame.

And for a seasonal Doctor Who connection, both Sylvester McCoy and Frazer Hines are also in it.

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Mary Poppins Returns, 2018 - ★★★½

Fun sequel to a Disney classic. Good songs, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Probably not as memorable as the original.

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'Spider-Man: No Way Home, 2021 - ★★★★'

Pretty good follow-on from the earlier Spider-Man films. My daughter tells me ‘All the fan theories were right.’ I wasn’t aware of them, so I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone. 

Turned out Doctor Strange (long my favourite Marvel character) wasn’t being quite as idiotic as I’d thought from the trailer, so that was good. Sets things up nicely for his next film.

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'The Beatles: Get Back, 2021 - ★★★★★'

I already wrote about watching the first part, but the whole thing is just as fantastic.

The middle episode does feel like it has some 'middle volume of a trilogy' longueurs. It definitely dips a bit. But that reflects the state of the band at the time. They're trying to bounce back from George walking out and returning, they've moved from the Twickenham warehouse to a new studio in their Apple HQ, and they're rethinking the whole project.

They're contemplating what it's all about.

The third part leads up to the famous rooftop live performance, which is glorious, and delightfully presented with split-screen images showing interviews with people in the street below and two bobbies coming in with 'Thirty complaints about noise.'

I wrote before that this is only for the true fan, but I think the third part would work even if you only have a passing interest.

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The French Dispatch, 2021 - ★★★★

Wes Anderson's latest is a wild romp, slightly incoherent at times -- or, not incoherent, exactly but confusing in a good way. Until you realise afterwards that it did all hang together and make sense.

It tells the tale -- several tales -- of the eponymous fictional magazine, which is loosely based on The New Yorker. Here, it is a supplement to a Kansas newspaper, published from a city in France.

There are four stories, wrapped in a framing sequence of the editor-in-chief dying and his will saying that the magazine should cease publication.

There's chaos, slapstick, wild events, and Anderson's usual painterly visuals. It's loads of fun.

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No Country for Old Men, 2007 - ★★½

This film is infuriating. It reminded me of Shallow Grave, at least at the start, in this way: if you find a load of money that's obviously come from a drug deal gone wrong, or otherwise somehow involved in organised crime, there is one thing you should not do. That is try it keep it all, to run away with it or hide it, and expect to survive the wrath of the criminals.

The safest thing, of course, is to just walk away from it all and call the cops. But if you must get into it, then obviously what you should do is take some of the money. Not a lot. Say, 10%. An amount that the gangsters might plausibly accept as having gone missing during the the shootout, or whatever. Leave the rest, call the cops, and let them handle the aftermath. You might get away with it.

Here, the main character does exactly the wrong thing. What's worse, in story terms, is that from the start we have no one to identify with: no character who is obviously the 'hero,' if you like. No one to root for. Because it all starts off without us having any particular reason to root for Llewelyn. And as it goes on, and we do start to want him to make it — if only because the focus is mainly on him — he continues to annoyingly make terrible choices.

Worse still -- and spoilers ahead -- worse still, his story is just dropped on the floor. He doesn't even get the respect of us seeing his end. The narrative hands over to a secondary character (though to be fair, that character, the sheriff, is the first character we meet, if only in voiceover).

And the end is just... nothing. 

It is by far my least favourite Coen brothers film.

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The Matrix Revolutions, 2003 - ★★★½

If only in the interest of being ready for the new one, it's worth being up to date with this. But actually it's a much better film than I remembered.

Sure, the Zion battle scenes go on for much too long, and the overall story is not entirely coherent; but it's much more coherent than I remembered, and just that much better. In the sense that it sits well with the second one, which I loved when it came out.

Neither of them is as good, as effective, as the first on its own, of course, but the whole ends up being more of a cohesive trilogy than I thought. XKCD notwithstanding.

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