Film Review: MY GENERATION (UK 2017) ***

My Generation Poster
Trailer

The cultural revolution that occurred in the 1960s England is explored in this documentary.

Director:

David Batty

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”  These are the unmistakable words that belong to actor Michael Caine, made more famous by Steve Coogan when he does his Michael Caine impersonation in Michael Winterbottom’s films THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO SPAIN.  These words are uttered and shown with the clip from Peter Collinson’s 1969 heist movie THE ITALIAN JOB the film MY GENERATION in this very entertaining documentary narrated by Caine himself begins.

The good old days.  This is a phrase many use but are these really the good old days.  Michael Cain questions the period of the 60’s – the period after the War, after the blitz and when food rations took effect.  With poverty, unemployment, are these really the good old times?  It takes the then generation, as Caine narrates to make a change.  Caine claims himself at the age of 33 then, to be the grandfather of that generation.

The title MY GENERATION is taken from the song by the English rock band The Who, which became a hit and one of their most recognizable songs.  The song was released in 1965 has been said to have “encapsulated the angst of being a teenager,” and has been characterized as a “nod to the mod counterculture”.

The doc is extremely watchable and entertaining for several reason, the foremost being the film references.  Everyone loves the movies, especially in the 60’s.  But as Caine narrates, the films were made on Dukes and Duchesses and the upper class, followed by a clip of a David Niven film with him wearing a top hat.  The film goes on to the David Lean’s classic BRIEF ENCOUNTER where the characters now speak as the working class English do.  This is the love story of the last meeting between Trevor Howard and Cilia Johnson, a film most film aficionados are familiar with.

Doc is revealed in acts.  Act 1: Something in the Air.  The song says it.  “We all have to get it together now!”  Act 2: I Feel Free. and Act 3: Always not what it Seems

The film’s best segment is the collection of montages of what is wrong with the world (the riots, the atomic bomb, the Vietnam War) played on screen to the tune of the Rolling Stones song “I can Get No satisfaction”.  Caine emphasizes the influence of bands of the 60’s – the Stones, the WHO and of course, the Beatles.

This is typical British school boy mentality.  When the old guard tells the boys not to do it, the boys always find away to do it.

MY GENERATION are the young of the 60’s.  They are the pop stars, the models, the photographers and Cockney at that.  Models given screen time include Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy shot by photographers like David Bailey.  The film attacks the class system particularly the upper classes.  While celebrating the young, Caine makes his point against drug use, that became rampant in the 60’s particularly marijuana and LSD.

Overall, MY GENERATION offers a good nostalgic look at the 60’s, particularly 60’s London.  Wonder if there would be making docs on the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and if they do, who would be narrating?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFxwkToatSg

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Film Review: DEAR DICTATOR (USA 2016) ***1/2

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Dear Dictator Poster
Trailer

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.

 

DEAR DICTATOR has an usual and outrageous premise for its script.  Dictator teaches school girl how to deal with the ‘mean girls’ in her school while initiating a revolution on his own island.

When political turmoil forces a British-Caribbean dictator to flee his island nation, he seeks refuge and hides with a rebellious teenage girl in suburban America, and ends up teaching the young teen how to start a revolution and overthrow the “mean girls” in her high school.  The sparks really fly when General Anton Vincent (Michael Caine) actually appears to Tatiana (Odeya Rush).  “Don’t worry, mom!  He is not a creepy child molester.  He is just a Dictator!”  Tatiana re-assures her mother after she finds him in the closet, thinking she has hidden Danny there.  Other subplots like the one with the mother (Katie Holmes) trying to make it with her employee, dentist (Seth Green) also works the humour favourably.

Despite the highly unbelievable plot, the script makes no effort to make it more credible, which is a good thing.  The film takes it that everything as a given and totally believable and even takes things several steps further.

The film also works primarily due to the comedic performance of veteran British actor Michael Caine.  Caine seldom does comedy, but when he does he can be really funny, as he proved in his role as the father of Austin Powers, Nigel Powers in GOLDMEMBER.   I still remember his classic line in that movie “There are only two people I do not like in this world – the racists and the Dutch.”  The reason Caine is so funny is that he takes all the writing dead seriously, delivering the lines as if his life depends on it.  The result is the over-the-top humour that suits most of the writing in this film.  The film has a preposterous over-the-top premise and Caine makes it work.  And work well.  It is good to see Caine take on a variety of different roles and not old fart roles like a seniors trying to have sex or fall in love.  Other comedians Seth Green and Jason Biggs as Mr. Spines are also funny.

The film also contains many messages as well, and hilariously delivered at that.  The film pokes fun at America as the General criticizes Americans saying:” You eat and eat until you cannot speak anymore.”   He even convinces Tatiana that she has the power to change her school.  Also the General teaches her to diffuse factions as they rule by “fear or love”.

The film contains many quotable lines.  Besides Hamlet’s “Conscience makes cowards of us all”, there is the General Anton quote: “I am a rebel, I keep going until I am stopped!”

Another surprise is the film’s serious tone.  General Anton’ speech to Tatiana about doing what’s right despite hurting the ones one loves should be taken with a pinch of salt.

A smaller budget comedy that is well delivered because everyone is convinced that the material works, ends up entertaining and hilarious for audiences as well.  Many, many laugh-out loud moments.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drbcXMdfNkA

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Movie Review: NOW YOU SEE ME 2

now_you_see_me_2NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Jon M. Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman

Review by Gilbert Seah

NOW YOU SEE ME 2, the sequel to the unexpected hit NOW YOU SEE ME has the same 4 horsemen return for another round of magic trickery to astound audiences, whether they love magic or not.

Except for Lizzy Caplan taking over the female role from Isla Fisher, most of the original cast returns. Jesse Eisenberg plays the main role of Daniel “Danny” Atlas, the group leader followed by Woody Harrelson as Chase, Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, Caplan as Lula and Mark Ruffalo as the FBI mole. There are two sets of bad guys here. One is the FBI – a favourite target organization hated by (most) Americans and non-Americas alike. The other is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) an unethical magnate that the Horsemen want to expose for unethical tactics, together with his father, Arthur Tresslr (Michael Caine).

Performances are key to a movie like this. It is not surprising for the filmmakers to assemble such an an impressive cast, all of whom inject sufficient seriousness and energy into the venture. But Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER) looks ill at ease at playing a bad guy as does Michael Caine.

The magic tricks performed in the film are especially outlandish. The are also performed really quickly with the solutions provided ever quicker. When the horsemen first appear again in public, they chose the most famous venues in London such as Trafalgar Square. The tricks include making rain disappear and people transported by plane. But the trickery is explained with the solution often so simple. The disappearing rain is accomplished through rain machines and strobe lights.

The best trick on display involves the horsemen forced to flee from their enemy. They leap off a rooftop through a chute and land up in China. If this act appears impossible, the revelation of how this occurs illustrates the power of imagination in a script that writer Ed Solomon constantly impresses. Though the film runs more than 2 hours, it is too long even though one hardly feels it.

Just as magic often uses doubles, the script cleverly adds a component of Merritt’s evil twin brother, again played by Harrelson, hamming it out the best he can in two different roles.

The business aspect of the film? NOW YOU SEE ME 2 hopes to pull in some big bucks for the flailing Lionsgate, the studio responsible for HUNGER GAMES and the TWILIGHT films, now in dire need of a big hit after the shares took a plunge last earnings session after a drop in quarterly revenue. But the bottom line is that this film provides just more of the same tricks – nothing more, nothing less. The first film was a surprise hit taking the box-office by storm. Lionsgate has lumped a larger amount of $90 million into the sequel, a sort of ‘we need a hit regardless of expense’. The film is up against stiff competition with WARCRAFT and CONJURING 2 both opening this same weekend. Looks like Lionsgate needs some magic on its own.