Moana (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh


Directors: Ron Clements, Don Hall
Writers: Jared Bush (screenplay), Ron Clements (story by)
Stars: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

Disney’s latest animated movie is a charming, enjoyable, oceanic-musical and fun take on Polynesian culture. Moana is the newest addition in a long line of ‘princess’ movies from the company, though the titular protagonist would protest at such aspersions against her.

Beginning with a lore building backstory come legend, courtesy of Gramma Tala (Rachel House), on the heroics and mysterious disappearance of Maui after his stealing of Te Fiti’s heart. We are then given a short, but incredibly adorable scene with a young Moana who, even as a sprightly toddler, seems fascinated with the ocean and it appears to call to her too. The small, jade coloured heart, briefly entering her grasp as the ocean peels back before her to offer a stunning, aquarium style view at passing by sea life. Her father Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), quickly retrieves his young daughter, however, and Where We Are, the first of many catchy songs, kicks in whilst a montage of an ever older Moana trying her best to escape the island and continually being thwarted by her increasingly exasperated father plays out.

Following the short montage, a now older Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is seen reluctantly carrying out her duties as the chieftains daughter, but all the while still harbouring a strong desire to be out on the ocean. Her father has imposed a ban on leaving the lagoon that surrounds Motonui and refuses to lax it even as the crops are failing and fish population is dropping dramatically. Moana attempts to leave the island, with it almost ending in disaster, but it’s not until she has a glimpse at her people’s ancestry via a vision, in a hidden cave, full of boats that she becomes positive that her destiny lies beyond the island. And she is given the encouragement required when Gramma Tala, her grandmother, who was always prompting her to follow these desires, is suddenly struck down and on her death bed, tells her to leave quickly.

Singing the ear worm inducing, How Far I’ll Go, she successfully navigates her way out of the lagoon and heads on her quest to find Maui and restore the heart of Te Fiti. It doesn’t take her long to find him either, after her ship capsizes in a heavy storm, both Moana and the idiotic, crazy rooster who unwittingly got dragged into the whole affair, wash up on a desert island. Initially she curses her luck and berates the ocean for its lack of help, but then the realisation suddenly dawns that the island she’s ended up on is inhabited by the Demi-god himself. Maui (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), as it turns out is rather full of himself and after singing the equally catchy, You’re Welcome, a song dedicated to all his acts of heroism and seeming unselfish deeds, he quickly locks a temporarily befuddled Moana in a cave, before attempting a quick escape. Ignoring his conscience, which manifests itself in the form of a mini Maui tattoo on his chest, he sets off. Moana is not to be outdone this easily, however, escaping the cave and finally ending up on the boat with the aid of the ocean after Maui threw her off a few times.

What follows is a fairly linear adventure, but there’s more than enough excitement and the pacing is such that there’s rarely, if ever, a dull moment to be had, which is no mean feat in a film centred on a small craft in the middle of an ocean. There’s a thrilling run in with crazy, coconut pirates, swinging on ropes from all angles, and travelling on ships which have more than a passing resemblance to the towering vehicles seen in Mad Max. A tense battle to retrieve Maui’s magical hook with Tamatoa (Jermaine Clement), a huge jewel encrusted crab with a penchant for shiny objects, at the bottom of the ocean and who taunts the listless looking Demi-god whilst singing the Bowie tribute, Shiny. And finally, an epic showdown (or should I say two showdowns?) with Te ka; a huge, lava creature that desires the heart for itself and stalks the entrance to the island, denying access.

There’s a couple of standouts in this film, namely Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. Moana wasn’t your archetypical Disney princess by any means and Cravalho brought the independent and empowered, young character to life beautifully. Johnson delivers one of the best performances I’ve seen from him as the immensely likeable and charming Maui, and his character has the most development over the course of the film too. Initially giving off arrogant, obstinate vibes, we are given an insight into his past and witness him go through a crisis in confidence as he struggles to regain his shapeshifting powers (there’s plenty of laughs to be had at his failed attempts), before his bullish temperament softens and he regains his powers to help Moana complete her quest. Jermaine Clement’s brief part as Tamatoa is decent and his scene is a highlight, whilst Temuera Morrison and Rachel House are strong early on as Chief Tui and Gramma Tala. Shout out to Alan Tudyk as Hei Hei the Rooster too. The character obviously doesn’t have any spoken parts, but it’s mere presence is great and the antics it got up to were hilarious.

Visually, the film is an absolute masterpiece. The standout moments for me were the battle with the Kakamora, the beautiful looking water and the sentient wave which popped up in times of need or hilarity, the little mini Maui tattoo and the absolutely beautiful scene with Tamatoa on the ocean floor, with the wondrously luminous algae. I thought Disney did a fantastic and respectful job of portraying the Polynesian culture. Musically, the songs were catchy, well written and fitted the mood perfectly throughout. Kudos to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Disney seems to have developed a real knack recently for having strong, leading, female characters that standout on their own merit without any need for a romantic element and they’ve managed it again here. John Musker and Ron Clements are no strangers to damn good Disney films either (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) and the inspiration from those two films in particular can definitely be felt here. Overall I enjoyed the film. I’m not the biggest musical fan in the world and animation isn’t a genre I tend to be drawn to either, but Moana is a beautifully crafted film and well worthy of a watch.


The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh


Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Mark Monroe, P.G. Morgan (story consultant)
Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

A highly entertaining, upbeat, nostalgic trip back to the height of Beatlemania in the early half of the 1960s. Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years is a documentary from Ron Howard profiling the stratospheric rise of The Beatles, and as the title suggests, primarily focusing on their short, but ultimately pioneering touring career.

Beginning in 1963 with ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ taking the charts by storm and the band landing to a huge, expectant crowd in New York City. It goes over old ground initially for a super fan like myself, who’s seen the Anthology, focusing on their Ed Sullivan appearances and brief nine day tour of the US. McCartney’s comment, “By the end it was quite complicated, but at the beginning it was quite simple” is an early indicator that the deeper intricacies of their relationships and antics will not be delved into in any great detail. As an official Apple release though, I wouldn’t have expected anything else. There is some interesting commentary provided, however, with a different perspective of the Beatlemania portrayed. Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, Larry King and several other guests tell their personal stories and the effect the Fab Four had on their lives. Whoopi somewhat shockingly mentioning that “they were colourless and fucking amazing”.

There’s the briefest of looks at the bands troubled manager, Brian Epstein, described as ‘Liverpool class’ and one of the main factors in their early fame. In audio excerpts from old footage, he discusses the bands initial scruffy appearance, factoring it down to their youth, before Paul reminisces about them being taken to a tailor for new suits, mentioning that “the suits were the simplest idea, they made us one person. A four headed monster.” It’s perhaps not surprising then that the combination of catchy beat music, matching suits, iconic haircuts and rapier sharp, Liverpudlian wit made them a real force of nature, propelling them to the forefront of pop culture. The Fab Fours propensity for sarcastic, one liners and comedic timing, shown in all it’s glory, most times in response to inquisitive foreigners probing questions, helped them connect with the rebellious, anti-establishment views of 1960s youth culture, particularly in the US.

Howard then firmly brings the attention back to the bands touring and live shows. Starting off in relatively small venues that are absolute packed to the rafters with screaming, hysterical girls, it’s here that the boys futile attempts to be heard over the ear piercing, pubescent, din quickly becomes an omnipresent struggle. The hysteria isn’t being contained to inside the venues either with a report shown of hundreds being left devastated in queues stretching back half a mile and a news bulletin about 240 fans being crushed outside in the desperation to see the four wondrous lads from Britain flashing across the screen. The police at the time were unable to handle the bustling crowds, which had reached an unprecedented level, not likely to be seen again in the modern era. Beatlemania transcended the racial barrier too and with the civil rights movement waging and segregation still very much a regular occurrence, The Beatles weren’t afraid to voice their disgust on the matter, demanding that no segregation be in place during their Gaterbowl concert or the show would be cancelled. African-American historian, Kitty Oliver, shared a very poignant memory of being part of a mixed crowd and all of them sharing their love of one thing together for the first time in her life.

Yet despite their growing popularity on the back of their first successful film, A Hard Days Night, and the continuing mania surrounding them, the question on everyones lips in 1964 was still “when will the bubble burst?” Dick Lester, the director of the aforementioned film, summed this uncertainty up with his recollection of the rush to get the film out in case the popularity faded. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that The Beatles were nowhere near being done in 1964 and it wasn’t long until their second film, Help, was released. The band were slightly less enthusiastic during their second experience of making a film, however, despite having their demands of flying to the exotic Bahamas to film granted and being high on pot for much of the production.

As the documentary progresses into 1965 and begins following both the bands maturing musicality and mentality, we see them return once again to the US, this time selling out stadiums. The Beatles essentially led the way for future bands with the first massive stadium tour, which brought the obvious financial rewards and also more problems. The struggle to be heard was becoming a greater issue as the venue size increased, with the screaming masses engulfing them to the point were Ringo was forced to keep time by watching the frontmen. The culmination of this historical tour was the Shea Stadium concert in New York, playing to a sold out, 60,000 capacity. Even with specially designed 100 watt Vox amps, the sound issue remained and the horrible, thin, distant sound played from the stadium PA system was barely worth the admission fee. This amongst many other growing issues was what signalled the beginning of the end for The Beatles as an active touring band. Although, they continued touring, completing a worldwide trip to far flung places like Manila and Australia, their creative talent were stagnating with the inability to hear themselves play and the excessive demands on their time was becoming tiresome.

And so when the ‘Beatles are bigger than Christ’ remark from Lennon was published completely out of context stateside, the endgame was sped up significantly. Sure they still played to 80% full stadiums on the subsequent tour, but with the growing threats of violence in a not long, post-assassinated JFK, USA and with the amateurish nature of the touring arrangements, discontent between the band was reaching boiling point. This was further exacerbated by their abandoning of simpler melodic song structures, turning to more experimental sounds that weren’t easy to replicate live. The final properly live concert came at the end of the very same tour at Candlestick Park and there’s some fascinating new footage served up of this concert. There’s a very cool little montage that flies through their recording years following a short look at the recording and release of Sgt. Peppers, and the documentary ends with the rooftop concert on top of their Savile Row office building.

As a massive Beatles fan, I loved this documentary. Did it share anything new that blew my mind? Not for the most part, no. It did however give a different perspective on a few things and there was enough new footage and photos, not to mention some excellently restored film in there to keep me happy. The sound was pretty phenomenal too. I liked the pacing of the whole thing, with it never dipping at any point and although I’ve heard most of the archival interviews from Lennon and Harrison, the new tidbits from Paul and Ringo were decent enough. I highly recommend this to anybody that loves or is interested in The Beatles.

The Good Neighbour (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Kasra Farahani
Writers: Mark Bianculli,  Jeff Richard
Stars: James Caan,  Logan Miller,  Keir Gilchrist

This Movie reminded me of the 2007 film Disturbia starring Shia LaBeouf and Robert Zemekis’ What Lies Beneath (2000), Both are very fine movies that blend the suspense genre elements and have good directing, acting and editing and The Good Neighbour is a good example of this standard at a lower budget.

Sean (Keir Gilchrist) who has the technical expertise and the equipment at his disposal thanks to his father’s wealth. Ethan (Logan Miller) is Sean’s friend who has the fortitude and ingenuity and interest in social behaviour.

Both Sean and Ethan undertake a social psychological experiment, and use the neighbour across the street Harold Grainey (James Caan) as their unknowing subject. For their experiment, they equip the Harold’s home with numerous hidden cameras and electrical devices in order to manipulate the home appliances, fixtures, gadgets and such. They are then able to remotely control and view everything that occurs.

After weeks of the manipulating experiments, Sean and Ethan soon realise watching Harold on the hidden cameras that he has unusual habits and routines that sets their minds racing. Harold has a basement securely locked from the outside, and spends hours down there making the two boys starting to think there is more to Harold than meets the eye. Also Harold’s behaviour and no fear towards the extreme tactics by the boys to convince him his house is haunted alarms them, and one particular experiment sends Harold into an unpredictably violent and destructive rage with a pick axe.

Sean begins to regret conducting the experiment and wants to abandon the project, whilst Ethan is even more determined that Harold Grainey is hiding a dark secret in his basement.

I have to say at this point that the antics of Sean and Ethan are very sinister, this is mostly shown in the motives of Ethan. He keeps trying to manipulate Harold and we soon begin to learn that this has more to do with revenge more than his study into human behaviour. It’s also revealed that there is a history between Mr. Grainey and Ethan’s family and Ethan’s bias toward the old man only fuels his speculation that Harold is up to something awful.

The movie flits back and forth throughout with scene segments in a courtroom (This signifies that the “experiment” didn’t go to plan) where a prosecutor speaks to and interrogates a variety of witnesses to the stand.

The characters I felt both Sean and Ethan to be unlikeable, especially Ethan who I found to be to be truly despicable. Sean on the other hand I didn’t like because although he had a conscience, he was practically unable to think for himself and was very easily manipulated by Ethan, which is surprising as Sean is supposed to be the brains behind the operation and also has his eyes on MIT.

The character of Ethan’s mother Caroline (Laura Innes) is so oblivious at time on what he son and his friend are up for hours upon hours at a time that is unbelievable.

James Caan who is a magnificent actor plays Mr. Grainey as a mean and lonely old man that by the end of the movie you are supposed to sympathise with but I felt the storytelling portrayed him the other way for most of the time for the audience to feel sorry for him at the films climax (which is to be fair a very gripping scene)

Kasra Farahani is more known in the business for his work mostly as a concept artist in many bigger budgeted movies. Farahani’s work as a Director shows this is his first full feature with two shorts in the can and a pending project called “Tilt” scheduled for this year. I would have to say that the storyline is compelling thanks to writers Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard but character development is lacking as previously mentioned and in particular with the two main characters.

Overall The Good Neighbour serves to remind to us you should never judge a book by it’s cover and that we all live in our own perceptions of the facts. I would recommend you give the movie a viewing as the storyline will engross and engaged you.

A Monster Calls (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin


Director: J.A. Bayona
Writers: Patrick Ness (screenplay), Patrick Ness (based upon the novel written by)
Stars: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones

A rare dark fantasy drama which gives a huge amount of credit to its intended young audience with its bleak subject matter and brooding overtones. An beautifully illustrated allegory of torment, heartache and acceptance.

Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) lives a complicated life filled with school bullies, his estranged father (Kebbell), a stern grandmother (Weaver) and his loving mother( Jones) who is battling cancer. One ordinary night, at 12.07, his world is ripped apart by a tree Monster who crashes into his life to tell him he will tell him three stories over the next few nights and, at the end of the third story, Conor must reciprocate by telling the Monster his story – the truth behind his nightmares.

On the night of the first story (again at 12.07) the Monster tells Conor a fable of an old King who married a beautiful young woman who the Royal subjects believe, upon the King’s death, poisoned him to take the throne for herself and stop the King’s grandson Prince from ruling. The Prince and a young farm girl run away together and fall asleep under an old yew tree (the Monster). When the Prince awakes he finds his love murdered and tells the people that it must have been the new Queen who killed his beloved and that she’s a witch. He rallies the townsfolk to overthrow the Queen and the Monster joins the mob but, instead of killing the Queen, he rescues her and takes her to a faraway place to live her life in peace. Conor is furious that the Monster would rescue such an evil murderess and demands to know why he would save her. The Monster then tells him that she didn’t murder the King, that it he simply died of old age and it was the Prince who killed the farm girl to incite hatred for the Queen, thus ensuring his succession to the throne. Conor is confused as to what point the Monster is trying to make.

Conor’s seemingly cold and unkind Grandma wants to take Conor away from his mum to live with her, a scenario which the strong-willed Conor will do anything to avoid. Not that this affects Conor, of course. Conor’s mother is not getting better. In fact, she’s becoming sicker and she’s not responding to new treatments. Against Conor’s wishes, he is moved to his Grandma’s house to stay for a few days. His father, who lives in L.A. with his second wife and Conor’s half sister, returns to help his son through this demanding time in the boy’s life. When Conor challenges his dad as to why he can’t come to live with him and his new family in L.A., he gets a less than satisfactory response. Money is tight, there isn’t enough room, Conor shouldn’t be uprooted from his friends and family etc. And Conor, as usual, stoically takes it on the chin.

The Monster visits on the second night and continues with his promise of a second story. An apothecary, he tells Conor, spends his time curing and ailing the sick with his old-fashioned remedies made from herbs and flowers. He also covets a yew tree to use in his potions, which is on private ground. A local parson denounces the old healer’s medicines and encourages his followers to reject the archaic brews and potions, but not before his two young daughters become sick. The parson begs the apothecary to help cure his daughters, after all other avenues have been explored. The healer, bitter that his business has been driven away, initially rejects to parson’s pleas until he is promised the old yew tree, the most prized of all healing ingredients, to use in his future concoctions and also deliver his parishioners as customers. Even with this promise the apothecary says he can’t help and the two young girls die. The tree awakes and destroys the parson’s house as punishment for denying the apothecary’s way of life yet turning to him for help in his time of need and abandoning his own beliefs in the process. The apothecary, while greedy in his practices, knew that without the parson’s belief in either way of life the

medicine wouldn’t have worked. Belief is half the cure, the Monster tells Conor. An increasingly frustrated Conor is becoming tired with these increasingly tedious and pointless stories.

While the Monster is visiting Conor, he encourages the boy to embrace his anger and, in doing so, Conor wrecks his Grandma’s front room and her cherished family heirloom, a grandfather clock. When she returns to witness the devastation, she silently surveys the room is shock. A visibly distraught Conor follows his Grandma out the room to discover she’s retreated to her daughter’s old bedroom, crying. It’s here we witness Conor’s realisation that the recent events are having an effect on everyone, not just him. He is beginning to see his mother as his Grandma’s daughter and, through a subsequent conversation with his father, someone who had dreams of going to art college, someone who was once loved by a man and that life doesn’t always work out in a way that results in happy-ever-after.

From here we see the rest of the story evolve in such a poignant way. Conor continues to be bullied. He continues to act out. He continues to learn that his mother, father and Grandma don’t have the answers to impossible questions. And the Monster returns with his third and final story. Above all we see Conor learn that life is messy.

A Monster Calls isn’t the Iron Giant, Baymax from Big Hero 6 or the terminator in T2. This isn’t a story about an inanimate object or lifeless robot that’s transformed into a seemingly sentient being to help out a kid going through a tough time in his life. The Monster is an allegory and the riddle-like stories he tells are about tough choices in an interminable situation. He isn’t an emotionless substitute for a teddy bear. The Monster is a very clever plot device used to convey the confusion, fear and rage felt in the hopelessness of misery and heartache.

Liam Neeson channels his Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia, but without the sentimentality. His rich, almost alarming, voice lends itself perfectly to the role of the tree that comes to life to act as a guide to a young boy embarking on a horrible journey. The CGI itself is rather petrifying and petrified, and inspires the overall tone of the film. He’s less Groot, more a terrifying, haunted Halloween tree that owls usually perch upon while witches screech past.

Lewis MacDougall’s performance is simply beautiful. His ability to convey hostility, irritation and anger and, then seamlessly, break your heart with the deftest of expression is wondrous. He seems to conduct every one of Conor’s emotions like a beacon and express them flawlessly at will with no effort. It would be criminal to express admiration for his abilities and mention his young age, as if one had to do with the other. He’s not talented despite his age. He’s just extremely talented and it will be interesting to see what he can do in the future.

Felicity Jones has shown her ability to play strong women. Here, we get a glimpse of her portraying someone who shows a different kind of strength, avoiding self-pity and still teaching her son invaluable lessons.

Toby Kebbell is lovely as the dad who doesn’t always know how to get it right. Kebbell delivers a solid performance as someone who really tries his best for his boy.

Sigourney Weaver is amazing. While her quintessentially generic English accent may be a tad questionable here, her performance is not. She excels as the seemingly impenetrable grandmother but, in actual fact, just has an impossible time trying to remain strong for her daughter and grandson while

reflecting on everything she has to lose. Weaver delights as the woman who struggles with the responsibility of stoicism.

J.A. Bayona gives us a tremendous film, written by (as based on the book of) the excellent Patrick Ness. Bayona conveys a sense of hope, almost misleadingly, through a film with such dark subject matter for its intended audience. But he pulls it off entirely, giving us an entertaining and endearing film that’s a pleasure to watch. Jurassic World 2 will be interesting.

A Monster Calls delivers where other films may have bailed and gave us the happiness and closure we crave. It’s extremely dark but also incredibly moving and funny in its own little awkward way. The movie is an allegory for grief, but there’s also an argument to say it’s a parable for adolescence itself. It’s confusing, painful, awkward but has a great amount of joy as well. It’s a hugely enjoyable movie and thrives because it doesn’t trivialise its content.

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh


Director: Ricky Gervais
Writer: Ricky Gervais
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Rob Jarvis, Abbie Murphy

David Brent: Life on the Road is a spin-off come sequel to ‘The Office’, the critically acclaimed show which originally spawned the character. It’s been thirteen years since we were last properly introduced to Mr. Brent and he’s been through some rough times, which have included a mental breakdown and a Prozac addiction. He’s apparently learned nothing from his previous mistakes and jumps into yet another documentary, chronicling the latest chapter of his life.

Opening to the sound of ‘A Life on the Road’, we’re reintroduced to the current day Brent, as he goes about his business as a sales rep for the Slough based Lavichem. Inviting cameras into his life once again, he enters his new office environment where the new ensemble of work colleagues are also introduced. There’s Karen; the bored looking receptionist; Pauline, a distant admirer who works in an adjoining room of the main office; Jezza, the bald, arrogant, office bully and finally Nigel; a Gareth clone and fellow joker come buddy. It doesn’t take long for the focus of his latest documentary to emerge, with Brent speaking to his boss, requesting three weeks leave and plowing a sizeable portion of his pension into one final attempt at pursuing a career in music.

The group of session musicians forming his ‘Forgone Conclusion’ mark II band make it blatantly obvious they dislike his company, kicking him off the tour bus that he paid for and forcing him to follow behind in his ‘Insignia’, whilst sound engineer Dan (Tom Basden) and long suffering rapper acquaintance Dom (Doc Brown) merely tolerate him. Brent hasn’t changed a bit either and his early struggles to organise a tour that doesn’t escape the boundaries of Berkshire were an amusing throwback to what made the Office such a hit, often facing similar struggles in the managerial role during his time at Wernham Hogg. Some of his interactions with the band, including an excruciatingly long, lingering moment at a dressing room door, and his blissful ignorance at some of his contentious songs lyrics were equal parts hilarious and cringeworthy.

The tour starts awfully with the band opening to an empty venue; with a frantic Brent demanding that people be let in for free to avoid playing to nobody. Things don’t improve much in the subsequent gigs. The band are thoroughly fed up, whilst Dan can’t understand the need for remaining on the road, with the venues at times being closer to his home than the hotels. Brent is still full of optimism, however, and with a packed student gig on the horizon, he employs a publicist to promote them, somehow finding time for a ridiculous photo shoot and a disastrous radio appearance that devolves into a game of ‘pie or sausage’. The student night goes exactly as you’d expect. Brent’s decision to open with a cringe inducing, ill advised, joke about his audience being lazy perhaps not being the wisest of decisions. As the tour progresses, money slowly but surely begins to run out, culminating with David and Dom having to share a hotel room. This inevitably leads to some hilarity as the latter questions the lyrical choices of the former during the penning of Native American, an ode to the oppressed indigenous people of the US, which features lyrically genius lines such as “soars like an eagle, sinks like a pelican”.

We’re given an illuminating insight into the lonely persona of David when, feeling envious and just a little bit left out at the ease of which his fellow band members seem to be pulling members of the opposite sex,  he sets about finding a partner of his own. What follows is a painfully awkward night with two women he takes back to his shared hotel room, following a desperate opportunistic meeting at a cash line outside one of the gig venues. The astonishingly dull women are clearly using him to raid champagne and snacks from the rooms fridge, with poor Brent left to foot the bill.

It’s around this point too that Don’t Make Fun of the Disabled’s gets an airing to a dumbfounded audience, with a wheelchair bound man present, that Brent seems to dedicate the song to. The band are seen commenting in talking head interviews that they’ve never been more embarrassed. David is in no mood for giving up his dream however and contacts a record company, who subsequently send a talent spotter to the next gig. The representative walks out midway through the first song, impressed with Dom’s brief cameo, but unsurprisingly, completely disinterested in Brent who opens with a reggae number. Said reggae inspired song involving the following, “Black people aren’t crazy, fat people aren’t lazy, and dwarfs aren’t babies”. David hits his lowest ebb from a personal stance at this stage. Beginning with him demanding that Dom ask the band to drink with him after the gig, commenting that he’s paying them after all, and ending with the band requesting a £25 hourly fee for the pleasure. The fact he actually agrees to this ridiculous request is a saddening example of his overwhelming desire to be liked.

As the tour enters its final stages with the penultimate gig taking place at a ‘Battle of Bands’ event. Only two fans turn up for Foregone Conclusion, which forces them to open. Brent sings Native American which unsurprisingly flops, but Dom who refuses to go on stage wearing a ridiculous costume, gets a chance to shine afterwards and takes it. The same talent spotter from earlier approaches him afterwards and invites him in for a session. A slightly jealous, downhearted looking Brent feigns disinterest in Dom’s big break, though still tries to squeeze his way into a potential record deal as his manager. Dom quickly kicks this idea to the curb. There’s a poignant moment between Dan and David prior to the final gig, involving a touching discussion between the pair, after the band is priced out of a snow machine for the final performance. Dan attempts to restore David’s rock bottom confidence, telling him that he likes him and not to spend anymore money. There’s a final heartwarming moment when Dan surprises the latter with snow during his final Christmas themed song.

There’s a few strong performances at show here. Gervais has the role of Brent and all the awkward, nervous, quirkiness that comes with it down to a fine art and there’s no greater character in a mockumentary style film. It’s perhaps no surprise then that he’s the standout performer here. Tom Bennett plays the role of Nigel, the complete goof ball and comedy, office sidekick very impressively too. Dan portrayed by Tom Basden is a like modern substitute for Tim Canterbury, a thoroughly decent man driven to distraction with Brent’s antics and the clear voice of reason throughout the disastrous tour. He delivers a quietly, strong performance as the sound engineer. Finally, Jo Hartley provided a romantic element as Pauline, the neighbour, work colleague and shy admirer of Brent. Shout out to Doc Brown who returns as the talented, young, charismatic rapper. First seen performing in Equality Street alongside Gervais during a Comic Relief skit, his character very effectively plays off the much older Brent and there’s many humorous moments between the two.

Brent is a tragic character in many ways, harbouring an insatiable lust for popularity and success, regularly using humour as a defence mechanism against his deep rooted insecurities. Gervais wants you to feel sorry for a character that continually gets kicked in the nuts and ostracised by a more brutal, unforgiving modern day society, even more so since the Office over a decade ago. Which is why you can’t help but connect with the man on some level, much like Dom and Dan do, despite being incredibly grating at times. His almost toddler-esque optimism for life and never say die attitude to pursuing his dreams is endearing. This is perfectly encapsulated when the distant session musicians perform a 360 to share a beer with him at the end and his work colleagues come to his defence when the bullying Jezza, a very Finch like character, takes sarcastic shots at Brent following his return to work. There’s a slightly soppy, but necessary, ending with David finally noticing/responding to Pauline’s clear interest in him and inviting her out for a coffee at Costa. This perhaps signalling a new found maturity and acceptance of his life as it is.

Ultimately, as a massive fan of the Office and Gervais, I enjoyed this film. Fans of either will enjoy this. If you dislike Ricky Gervais or weren’t particularly fond of the Office then I’d suggest giving this one a miss.

I Am Your Father (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Directors: Toni Bestard, Marcos Cabotá
Writers: Toni Bestard, Marcos Cabotá
Stars: David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Jeremy Bulloch, Ben Burtt, Gary Kurtz

I Am Your Father is a documentary about actor David Prowse’s career in film and in particular the Hammer Horror films and the man behind the mask of the biggest movie villain in cinematic history, Darth Vader in the Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977-1983)

In the climate unmasking scene of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), classically trained actor Sebastian Shaw, who was 78 years old at the time played the face of the man behind the mask, Anakin Skywalker. Much to the horror of David Prowse who believes he was being used on another set deliberately during Shaw’s portrayal of The Chosen One, the one who would bring balance to the force.

In fact when the rumours circulated within the studio, Prowse who had worked up to this point believing one day he would be the one in the suit being unmasked, couldn’t sleep that night worrying about someone coming in to fill his shoes at the last moment after waiting nearly six years for this moment.

Now Lucas has always stated that he never intended to use Prowse’s Voice or Face for the portrayal of Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker. We will never know if he did in fact mention these two important pieces of information to the man in the suit, but judging by Prowse’s words in this documentary the news of another actor was a bombshell to him.

I felt Prowse had long accepted that the voice of the Sith Lord was being handed over to the legendary James Earl Jones to match the sound of the respirator effect in Vader’s breathing shortly after post production began on Star Wars (Episode IV: A  New Hope) and was clinging onto the bigger reveal sometime down the line.

I Am Your Father’s Director teases the audience that he intends reshooting the scene with Prowse restored to the role of the dying Vader / Anakin on the second Death Star, with permission from Prowse to take part in the reshoot and of course Lucasfilm to allow him to inter slice his scenes into a fan version. Prowse agreed, even in his old age and discomforting posture like stance wantedto do the scene.

You can’t help but feel for the man and can also understand his willingness to recreate something he felt was robbed of him 30 years plus earlier.

The Documentary also shows Prowse’s rise to fame as the man who always has his face covered in prosthetics or masks as most directors hired him for his stature being a professional bodybuilder who trained the legendary Christopher Reeves in preparation for Superman: The Movie (1978) in Reeves own word describes Prowse as the man who took a twig like guy and built him up to be the man of steel.

Even playing roles like Frankenstein and just as famous for his strict workout regimes Prowse came across as a Gentleman and showed a softer side to his character portraying The Green Cross Code Man (a safety campaign that ran with David Prowse from 1975 To 1990 by the National Road Safety Committee) and in between shooting his Vader scenes.

Personally that is how I remember David Prowse from those Safety campaigns outwith Star Wars. It reassured me as a young child that the menacing man in the black suit was in fact a good guy whenever I was frightened when I heard that respiratory breathing.

To date Prowse has never been invited on to the official gathering of Star Wars (Celebration) as a panel guest by Lucasfilm. There are a few instances in the documentary about the floundering relationship between Prowse, Lucas and Lucasfilm involving alleged leaks to the press during production of Episode V and VI which Prowse has always strongly denied and admitted it effects him to this day.

The documentary starred many guests including original trilogy producers Gary Kurtz and Robert Watts and The Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno who all gave good in depth interviews and weren’t afraid to give their opinion on Prowse’s relationship with Lucasfilm. Also interviews by the late Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Sound Designer Ben Burtt inputted also but I felt they were a bit more conservative in their views on the subject as they still have a big part to play in the Star Wars family.

The I Am Your Father documentary very nearly shows part of the scene that was reshot with Prowse, but cuts away before fans of the actor are treated to what they have dreamed of seeing since 1983.

Lucasfilm did not give permission to film to Inter slice this sequence. But directors Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá went ahead anyway as they believed with David Prowse now aged 81 that there wouldn’t be many chances left to pull this off.

Maybe one day Lucasfilm will permit the public being able to see this sequence, even just to see David Prowse fulfilling his dream as Anakin Skywalker and more importantly maybe one day in the not so distant future we will see David Prowse invited on to the Celebration stage. We can only HOPE.

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