Comedy, Films, Five Star Rating, Friday Film Chat, Writing

Friday Film Chat on ‘The Lady in the Van’ DVD (May Contain Spoilers)

lady in the van

 

Usually I go to the cinema on Thursday’s, but this week I wasn’t able to go. So this week’s ‘Friday Film Chat’ will be about a film I saw, about a week ago.

Actually, it was the second time I had seen this film. I originally watched this film when it came out in the cinema in 2015. I enjoyed it then, but was intrigued to see if I would enjoy this more on another viewing.

The plot tells the true story of a woman named Miss Shepard, who parks her van outside of the playwright Alan Bennett’s and stays there for 15 years. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? I can assure you, that this film is wonderfully quirky.

As time goes on, Alan discovers more about Miss Shepard despite his attempts to rid her from his driveway. He finds out that she had once played piano in a promenade concert, had tried to train as a nun but was kicked out for playing music in the convent and also, despite appearances, that she is learned woman.

What he doesn’t know, is the real reason she lives in the van in first place. She on the run from the law.

I love the gentle humour in this film. I think Maggie Smith does a wonderful job at making this unlikeable character well, likeable and Alex Jennings is uncanny as Alan Bennett. In fact during the end credits, the real Alan Bennett makes an appearance and the likeness is quite spooky.

As a writer myself, I could totally identify the two Alans featured in this film.  A writer’s mind is often divided into two, so the film had one Alan who carried out the duties of real life, whilst the other Alan spent the day writing. I loved the interactions between the two and it gave a great insight, on how a writer’s mind works.

The neighbours added a great deal to the story. The neighbourhood in which Alan lives in is quite affluent, so the different reactions to Miss Shepard parking her van in the street were quite amusing. This film makes an interesting comment on the British class system, because some of the neighbours see Miss Shepard as an insect that needs to be squashed quickly, in order to to protect the neighbourhood’s reputation, others see her as way to prove themselves as ‘Good Samaritans’, despite Miss Shepard’s protests against their home cooked meals and their children’s recorder recitals outside of her van. Only Alan and another neighbour, Ursula, really treat her as a human being.

It’s a bit of a geeky fact, but whilst watching this film I was delighted to see that the principal cast of ‘The History Boys’ (minus Richard Griffiths), made a cameo during this film. It was a nice nod to one of Bennett’s most popular works.

You don’t have to be familiar with Alan Bennett in order to enjoy this film, though. I think it’s lack of shiny special effects and wealth of brilliant characters make this film a gem to watch. I highly recommend it.

My Rating *****

Have you watched this film? What did you think of it?

 

 

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Action, Comic/Book Adaptation, Films, Four Star Rating, Friday Film Chat, Reviewing

Friday Film Chat about ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ (Contains Spoilers)

 

Spider-Man_Homecoming_poster

 

I love the Marvel Film Universe. With the exception of Wonder Woman, who is within DC Comics, I’ve always favoured films and TV programmes featuring Marvel characters such as The Incredible Hulk, X-Men and Spiderman.

Spiderman’ is my favourite film franchise but also for me, the most problematic. Why? you may ask.

Well it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed any of the ‘Spiderman’ films, but what has frustrated me is the fact that with every new actor who has taken on Spiderman (Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and now British actor Tom Holland), this has meant a re-telling of the story of how Peter Parker becomes Spiderman.

Andrew Garfield’s take on the origins of Spiderman actually worked very well in my opinion, better than Tobey Maguire’s, but when it was announced that Andrew Garfield was no longer reprising the role, my heart sank at the thought of another rehash of the same, old, story.

‘Spiderman:Homecoming’ was a pleasant surprise. The film already assumes that you know about the pesky spider biting Peter Parker, thus giving him his Spidey sense. So the story starts, at the point where he is getting used to his relatively new powers.

The timeline of the story has also been pushed back. to show a 15. Instead of a Peter Parkers, who is just about to go off to college, as in the previous films, Peter is now 15.

This version of Peter is a nerd, who lives with his Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei) and loves nothing more than building Lego Death Stars with his best friend, the hilarious Ned and taking part in Academic Decathalons. Their relationship throughout the film is warm and extremely funny. It is one of the things that I like best about this film.

Obviously this doesn’t make Peter very popular and he is often bullied by a teen called ‘Flash’ (not sure if this is a reference to ‘The Flash’ of DC comics).

Despite his nerdy appearance, Peter has a secret identity and holds a secret crush on Liz, a little known character who appears in the ‘Spiderman’ comics.

This film doesn’t just feature Spiderman though. Peter’s main concern throughout the film, is whether he can prove his worth to Tony Stark AKA Iron Man, so that he can join ‘The Avengers’. He also investigates and tries to defeat The Vulture, who likes to get gun happy with crazy alien weaponry, played by Michael Keaton.

What I liked about this film was its fresh, exciting approach to the franchise. It didn’t feel like something I had completely seen before. British actor Tom Holland does a fantastic job at playing a teenage, slightly awkward Peter Parker. I’m also relieved that his american accent was pretty decent. One of the things I hate most in films, is when an actors can not pull off a decent accent, different from their own (I can just about forgive Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney accent in ‘Mary Poppins’).

There are only two small criticisms that I would like to make about the film. Firstly, I felt like this film felt a tad too long. This film lasts 2 hours and 13 minutes, which is pretty standard for most Marvel films. However, the last 20 minutes dragged for me. This is probably because it felt like it was going to end, but then we were presented with a twist, which kicked things off again.

Another observation I made in this film, was that at 53, Marisa Tomei was a very youthful looking Aunt May. So much so, that it felt like she was more Peter’s older sister, than his aunt. She provides the only background for Peter in this film.

It was surprising that neither Peter’s parents nor Uncle Ben were particularly mentioned in this film. It makes me sad to think that the writers of this film, decided not to include the close relationship which Peter had with his uncle which was an important emotive element within the previous ‘Spiderman’ films.

Being a fan of Marvel in general, I think that my review was always going to be slightly biased towards the positive. However, I think if you enjoy films packed with action and comedy, then you will enjoy ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’, regardless of whether you have seen the previous ‘Spiderman’ films or not.

My Rating 4/5

Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?