Days Of The Bagnold Summer – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 25 minutes, Director – Simon Bird

When his plans to visit his Dad in Florida during the summer holidays collapse at the last minute 15 year old Daniel (Earl Cave) is forced to spend six weeks with his devoted, yet drab, Mum (Monica Dolan)

If it weren’t for it being based on Joff Winterhart’s 2012 graphic novel of the same name you would be forgiven for thinking that Days Of The Bagnold Summer screenwriter Lisa Owens had recorded the genuine conversations of a 50-something year old mother and her son, and had the cast of the film perform the lines verbatim. While the central characters of the film, Daniel (Earl Cave), a 15 year old metalhead, and his devoted mum Sue (Monica Dolan), a mild-mannered, seemingly drab librarian, could easily seem like stereotypes there’s something about the accuracy of the characters, and the performances that bring them to life, that avoids caricature and instead hits some form of recognition for the audience.

Daniel finds himself lost and more out of place than usual when his plans for the summer holidays collapse and vanish in an instant when his father’s expected child prevents him from travelling to Florida to meet him – something which Daniel believes is simply down to the fact that he isn’t wanted there. Therefore he finds himself spending six weeks at home enduring both the British summer and his mum. “But we’ll have fun” she insists to little response from her baggy-clothed son. Throughout the film Daniel shows very little response to his mum’s comments and questions. He often replies with one or two word answers. Yet Cave’s performance shows the sadness and anger behind his characters often dead-pan or miserable look.

Yet, aside from this and the seeming loneliness of the two central figures there is a fair deal of humour to be found within this film. Directed by Owens’ husband Simon Bird this is a different type of comedy to what some may be used to from the star known best for his TV acting roles in The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner. There’s a light-hearted sense to the comedy that goes in hand with the equally light elements of drama that the film also introduces. Catching the conflicts and connections that surface amongst families during the British summertime. Throughout the film there are rising tensions between Sue and Daniel, both reaching a breaking point as things don’t quite go the way they would hope over the course of the quick 85 minute run-time – something which is heightened by the lingering sense of summer in the background of the film. However, their bond is still clearly shown. There’s something about these two recognisable figures that you almost instantly connect with, never laughing at them but always with the actors.

On a number of occasions the film does specialise in what’s become known as ‘cringe humour’. Lingering on the awkwardness of the interactions of the two titular Bagnold’s as they try to converse with the outside world. Predominantly this comes from the perspective of Sue as she has doorstep conversations with the excessively relaxed and easy-going mother of Daniel’s friend (played by Bird’s Friday Night Dinner co-star Tamsin Greig) or goes out on a date – to the amusing disgust of teenager Daniel. While some do come close to being so awkward that the laugh almost doesn’t quite happen there are still a number of successful hits throughout the film. None coming close to the brief appearance of Tim Key channelling the energy of Michael Scott with the cringe levels of David Brent. Luckily there are plenty of one-liner gags and interactions free from awkwardness that also provide laughs. All creating a fine blend of naturalism for the viewer to connect with, yet still managing to allow them to escape to another world that the entire collaborative team pour care and effort into creating.

This is a wonderfully upbeat and joyous piece. Celebrating families and their summer holiday struggles. Not a great deal happens throughout the film, yet it certainly avoids the dread that Daniel feels as his Mum reassures him “I’m afraid you’re stuck with boring old me for six weeks, but we’ll have fun”. Fun may not be something that this film aims for, but it certainly has cheer and enjoyment and a truly funny streak running throughout it, with a number of laugh out loud moments coming from the heartful relationship between the two fantastically performed central figures. With both lead actors bringing to life a wonderfully natural and caringly written screenplay. This is a pure joy from start to finish, and at the heart of it is a genuine, believable relationship between two almost perfectly written people.

From start to finish Days Of The Bagnold Summer is a fantastically natural thanks to a brilliant screenplay and two equally accurate central performances from Dolan and Cave, both of whom create a genuine bond and relationship that brings you into their lives and takes you along for a joyful and funny 85 minute summer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Simon Brew ‘Film Stories’ Lockdown Interview

Founder and editor of Film Stories Simon Brew kindly joins me again, this time to discuss all the work that he and Film Stories have been doing during the coronavirus lockdown, alongside the impact that this has had on the independent magazine sector, and much more.

Simon can be found through his Twitter here.
While Film Stories can be found via its Twitter account, or its website.

For those who are interested in hearing Simon’s song requests they can be heard by following the below links:
Rainbow Connection – Kermit The Frog
Cuban Pete – Jim Carrey

Nick De Semlyen ‘Wild And Crazy Guys’ Paperback Interview

Film journalist and Empire Magazine writer, and current Acting Editor, Nick De Semlyen kindly joins me to discuss the upcoming paperback release of his book Wild And Crazy Guys – which will be released on 11th June.

Nick can be found through his Twitter account. His book can be bought in both hardback and paperback form, from June 11th, here alongside through other sites; and bookshops when reopened – the paperback can be pre-ordered before its release. The audiobook can be found here.

For those who want to listen to Nick’s song requests you can find them by following the links below:
Holiday Road – Lindsey Buckingham
Party All The Time – Eddie Murphy

Tom Webb ‘The Easy Bit’ Interview

Director Tom Webb joins me to discuss the upcoming release of his feature debut, the documentary The Easy Bit – which will be released on April 29th.

The Easy Bit can be found through it’s Twitter account. The film, when released on April 29th, can be found here, it is available to pre-order before then.

If you want to listen to the songs that Tom requested they can be found here;
Happy Together – The Turtles
When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Trolls: World Tour – Review

Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 30 minutes, Directors – Walt Dhorn, David P. Smith

When Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls sets out to destroy all music, except rock, Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) ventures into new realms outside of Pop Village to stop her.

Back in 2016 Trolls taught audiences, mostly under the age of 6, to “find their happy place”. Now, four years later, the fuzzy, intensely-coloured characters – based on the once popular naked, plastic, high-haired miniature figures of the same name – return to the screen, although at this time not quite the big-screen in what has been billed on some posters as the “Happiest. Movie. Ever”. And it certainly seems as if Trolls: World Tour is aiming for that. Opening with now Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) loving her new life as royalty in Pop Village. Everything is upbeat and wonderful as everyone belts out loud pop songs in large scale musical numbers involving almost every single troll in the village – including Branch (Justin Timberlake), who found happiness and his colours at the end of the previous film, despite still be a rather pessimistic character in the sequel.

World Tour very much focuses on Poppy, Branch is sidelined as a supporting character, and almost only seems to be present because he was the lead in the first film. He has a mild storyline of wanting to admit his true feelings to Poppy, something seen in a number of sequels like this – making the world larger instead of look deeper into the one that already existed. In fact much of Trolls: World Tour seems to be based around sub-plots for the convenience of the later stages of the main storyline, or small bursts of ideas to fuel another small burst later in the film. All amongst the backdrop of sugary positivity and music.

Poppy and Branch, alongside Biggie (James Corden) and, what seems to be his pet, Mr Dinkles (Kevin Michel Richardson) – a role that seems to have been increased more than necessary because ‘James Corden’, venture into the other realms, like a stuffed-felt-based version of The Lego Movie – where different genres of music lie. From country and classical to techno and funk. All to warn the Kings and Queens of such areas that Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls is coming with her Mad Max style legion of dark rockers to obtain all the strings that help to create the different genres of music. Her aim is to be able to put them all together to play a power chord that will get rid of all music except rock, therefore creating an undivided world. Much of the reasons behind this, like a number of elements from the film, stem from cliche – something which this film suffers from a great deal. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of originality within this sequel, however that really isn’t it’s biggest downfall.

The main reason why Trolls: World Tour doesn’t succeed is down to the fact that it takes almost everything that caused a headache in the first film and turns it up to eleven. This might be alright, as was the case with the original film, for those under the age of six or seven, but perhaps not quite for the adults who will have to sit through this with them. The endlessly shouted assertions that everything is alright and happy even gets too much at times. The whole thing almost gets a bit too much and repetitive, especially when fuelled with the world by world nature of the film, with only a short interval of sub-plot to allow for a new ‘set’ to be built and the run-time to be extended.

There are some small, brief glimpses throughout the run-time that World Tour might itself pick up and become something better. Most of these moments lie within the character of Barb, the reasons behind her intentions and simply her actions, alongside the music that she and the Rock Trolls delight in – and her elderly, chair-bound father; played by Ozzy Osbourne, certainly one of the more obscure ‘how did they get them!?’ pieces of casting in a film. Yet none of this is enough to distract from the overall nature of the film, which almost seems to scream positivity in the hope that it’ll be able to distract from the cliche even for just a minute or two. And while there are moments that don’t feature mass amounts of glitter the film quickly reverts to it’s original, overly-exuberant style. If there was more to Trolls: World Tour – as was the case with the first film – then it might work and be more bearable, however it’s rather similar in its style and tone. Trying to force multiple messages through, all of which are almost obvious from the start, and heavily relying on the glaringly bright and colourful nature of the loud musical numbers, this sequel is more of a slight-step down, and certainly more of a headache, than an improvement on the first.

Even if there does seem to be a hint more story, amongst various small sub-plots and ideas, than the first Trolls: World Tour is still predominantly filled with loud, glaringly glittery and exuberant headache-inducing musical numbers that might work for young kids, but perhaps not for those who have to watch it with them, or anyone else.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Four Kids And It – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Andy De Emmony

When a couple (Paula Patton and Matthew Goode) decide to go on holiday to introduce each others children to each other the kids discover a magical creature (Michael Caine) in the sand that proceeds to grant them various wishes.

Back in 2004 E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It received a mixed, yet somewhat sub-par, when it was adapted for the big screen. Now, it’s the turn of Jacqueline Wilson’s sort of sequel to get the film treatment. Instead of a quaint countryside setting to observe and play around in with no technology in sight this modern take shows a world of phones, internet celebrities, pop music and frequent use of the Nintendo Switch. However, central protagonist Ros (Teddie Malleson-Allen) relies on books to keep her occupied, her dream is to be an author. The only other dream she seems to have is to reunite her separated parents – an idea pushed further by the people she finds herself surrounded by.

It’s the meeting that Ros and her brother have with the children of her father’s (Matthew Goode) girlfriend (Paula Patton) that begins to bring more stress and worry to her life, something which seems to be reciprocated by her opposite, Maudie (Ashley Aufderheide). As is to be expected the children don’t get on, something which only goes lightly noticed by their parents, who are too busy trying to get it off to notice anything else. Thus allowing the minors to go unoccupied to the beach where they discover a pale, hairy, easily disgruntled sand troll (somehow voiced by Michael Caine). The sand troll – who looks very much like E.T. took a tragically rough turn after leaving Elliott – reveals to the children that he can grant them any wish they want. And of course they use their wishes for their own good, despite a joke about world peace – “finally!” proclaims the creature as he begins to cast the wish before being stopped so that the children can have their real wish.

As the group begin to bond and get to know each other more Ros’ aims are still based around her own personal family life – trying to contact her Mum, who’s apparently at university, in the hope that she can get her to just meet her Dad, despite the fact that such attempts never quite work. As the storyline trundles along these tracks everything seems rather formulaic. Despite the possibilities that the film could have with the titular creature that the plot relies on there’s not a great deal done to break any barriers within Sky Cinema’s latest offering. Everything simply falls rather flat, bordering on being episodic with limp idea after limp idea. Leading to a slow feature that will likely, as has been the case with most Sky Cinema features so far, be quickly forgotten and pass to the back of the catalogue of films available on the service.

Amongst everything that’s going on the film even manages to throw Russel Brand in as antagonistic figure Tristan Trent. The owner of a grand house near to where the two families are staying. For many years he’s been aiming to find the wish granting creature to use it for his own personal gain – somehow his wish to be rich is wrong, but the children can easily wish for fame and attention. Brand’s performance certainly isn’t the hammiest of the film – and some might view him as what Jim Carrey was to Sonic The Hedgehog, while others might simply see him as just another performance in the film, in a number of ways it could simply come down to how you view Russell Brand. However, for the most part, almost every single performance is rather overdone, as if each cast member, including Caine, is just waiting for the paycheck so that they can jump into their next project – almost as if director Andy De Emmony – whose previous experience heavily lies in TV comedies such as Red Dwarf, Spitting Image and Father Ted; potentially explaining the slightly jumpy and episodic nature that the film has – and also wanted to get things in the can quickly so that he could move on himself.

There’s certainly a lot missing from Four Kids And It, including a fair deal of charm, wit and heart – meaning that the humour lacks, although most of the humour seems to rely on Patton and Goode’s adult characters never getting a moment of privacy so that they can fulfil their own ‘wishes’. And with a story that never truly comes together it simply falls, feeling rather basic and uninspired. It’s certainly not the film that’ll help to pass the time during lockdown and self-isolation – especially with the family.

The only thing that doesn’t quite feel underdone about Four Kids And It are the handful of overdone performances that lie throughout it. This is a rather lacking and uninspired feature. Despite the fantasy nature and potential, nothing is ever truly lived up to, leaving this feeling rather dull and in the end it falls flat.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Just A Little Bit Random Online Film Quiz

This is a place to find updates about the film quizzes that can be found on the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch channel. Listed below is the date and time of the next quiz, and the answer sheet for it. Teams are welcome to each quiz, as well as those on there own, or in duos, etc. Currently these quizzes are being done to help those with the current state of self-isolation and lockdown. To help some relieve the boredom, and in some cases loneliness, that such a situation can bring. There might be some further future in them at some point, will have to wait and see. Also listed below are the results of the previous quiz. This post will be updated whenever a new quiz is announced/ is coming up. Make sure to keep checking back to this page if you want to take part in a future/ upcoming quiz!

Next quiz – Sunday 20th September at 8pm

Answer sheet – Can be found by following this link

Previous quiz results (Sunday 6th September)

3rd – Ace Alliance

2nd – 2 Peepz 1 Quiz

1st – My 20 Year Quiz Hell

Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz Results

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz (again, there’s probably a better title out there somewhere). Genuinely very much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed the quiz. Thank you for all the kind comments so far too! They are truly greatly appreciated.

I may do more of these at some point in the future, so make sure to follow the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch page, or my Twitter, or just keep checking back on this blog site to find out when/ if another one is coming along. I’ll also try to make it easier (and definitely shorter), sorry about the difficulty and length issues with this one.

But, for now here are the full results of the quiz:

Honourable mention – Fried_Gold, who wasn’t able to properly send across answers

8th – Dave
and Oskar Gets Real

7th – Iconic Film Duo
and Owl Mum

6th – Leese Geese

5th – Play With My Pussies

4th – You’re A Qizzard Harry

3rd – The Pearsons

2nd – My 20 Year Quiz Hell
and Only Me!

1st – The Mole People

Thank you to everyone for taking part and congratulations to all the winners! Hopefully “see” you again if another one of these goes ahead. Thanks again!

Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz

Amongst a number of not-quite-projects that will likely never see the light of day one thing that I’ve had sat around for a while is a film quiz. As the world gradually gets put on lockdown and most people work from home and self-isolate I’ve decided to finally do something with this quiz.

On Sunday 29th March at 8pm (UK time) over on the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch channel a variety of film related topics will be covered and tested. Anyone can take part, even in a team – thanks to the wonders of Skype, Discord, Facebook and various other platforms that offer some form of video call or voice chat. If in a team you only need one person to fill out answers via this answer sheet.

While I can’t exactly ensure masses of quality this should still, hopefully, be a good time for all. Something to distract from the potential boredom of self-isolation, and for some the loneliness of it.

So, feel free to join and take part, no matter how many people are in your team, on Sunday 29th March at 8pm for the Just A Little Bit Random Self-isolation Film Quiz (there’s definitely a better, shorter title out there somewhere). Hopefully “see” you there!

Helen O’Hara – Women In The Film Industry Interview

Image Credit – Yasmine Gateau (Originally for Variety)

Film journalist and writer Helen O’Hara kindly joins me for a follow-up interview to one held two years ago to talk about the change we’ve seen in that time when it comes to the representation, acknowledgement and treatment of women in the film industry. Alongside what Hollywood might look like after Harvey Weinstein’s 23 year prison sentence, how to change the look of the representation and diversity of awards nominees and much more!

Helen is a frequent writer for Empire Magazine and can be heard regularly on the Empire Film Podcast.

She can also be found via her Twitter.

If you want to listen to the songs that Helen requested then they can be found by clicking below;
Love On Top – Beyoncé
Fooled Around And Fell In Love – Elvin Bishop