Tag Archives: Danny Boyle

Beatlemania, revisited in Danny Boyle’s YESTERDAY

YESTERDAY. Country, UK, Russia. Director: Danny Boyle. Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Sarah Lancashire, Camila Rutherford, Robert Carlyle. Screenwriters Jack Barth, Richard Curtis. Language: English. Runtime: 116 minutes. Venue: C Newport Mall, Jersey City, NJ. Rating: C+

So you’re a musician, just shy from being a busker, and you’re trying to make it in a world filled with performers of all shapes and sizes, styles and talents. No one, except your only fan, wants to hear you, and you’re left to marinate in an uncertain future and working as a non-entity in a factory just to make ends meet.

That’s the reality of Jack (Himesh Patel), who’s life seems to be destined to hit a brick wall and stay there until Fate, or the Gods, if you will, decides to play a little joke on him. One night upon returning home from yet another disappointment, the planet experiences a massive, global blackout. Jack gets hit by a bus. When he recovers from his ordeal, he performs Yesterday to his friends who, while loving the tune, do not recognize it or The Beatles. At all.

It slowly dawns on him and he confirms during a Google search… The Beatles have never existed. There is no trace of any song from their catalogue, no mention of John, Paul, George, or Ringo. Nothing. That, of course, leads Jack to discover, that if The Beatles never were, neither were bands that based their sound on them — for example, Oasis.

So what’s a man to do? Can it be called plagiarism if Jack ‘steals’ the songs from a group that never existed? Jack never gives this a second thought — and neither it seems, does the movie — and allows that Jack begin performing Beatles tunes that he has, through sheer memory, brought back. He becomes a local sensation, even securing a spot aside Ed Sheeran who becomes a mentor. And then America beckons under the guise of a greedy exec (played to comic perfection by Kate McKinnon) shamelessly approaching Jack to make money “and secure herself another house.” Jack, who’s struggled all his life, can’t but take the offer and face “The Americanization of Jack” while singing songs that aren’t his, all the time wondering how long can the jig last before it’s discovered his performance is a sham.

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Also, In many ways, the whole premise of the world hitting a weird fugue is merely a backdrop for Boyle to tell a sunny romantic love story between a boy and a girl who are meant to be together (and it helps that both Himesh Patel and Lily James are perfectly cast; he as the unwilling, passive rock star; she as the woman who knows him best). It just takes some gentle prodding from the blackout-turned-catalyst and the man himself, John Lennon (Robert Carlyle) in a much-needed emotional scene.

T2 TRAINSPOTTING

T2 –  TRAINSPOTTING / TRAINSPOTTING
UK
Director: Danny Boyle
Runtime: 117 minutes
Language: English

Trainspotting:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

T2:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It’s almost impossible to review Danny Boyle’s sequel to his breakthrough 1996 movie Trainspotting without inevitably having to mention it because almost everything that happens in T2 (loosely based on Irvine Walsh’s novel Porno) is a direct sequence of the events that shaped the story of four deadbeat friends living in poverty in Edinbrugh whose sole escape is through heroin, music, and bar fights. I will say, as good as the T2 is, it falls just a shade short of achieving the kind of cinematic lightning that its predecessor obtained and I’ll tell you why.

Sometimes writers get a bit enamored by the characters they create.  No. Let me rephrase that: many authors get enamored by their characters and wind up including them in other stories, spin-offs, you see one character making a cameo in another unrelated story. Stephen King is one of the most notorious users of characters that show up in different installments, and then you have the works of JK Rowling, Anais Nin, and many, many others. Walsh’s novel was such an event in the 90s that it seemed to encapsulate where the drug-infused 80s went to.

But, because Trainspotting the novel (and the movie as well) ends in an act of theft and leaves the whole story in a sort of cliffhanger it was only appropriate that a follow up be created. Enter Porno, which Danny Boyle used as an inspiration for his new movie. For Boyle it seems, returning to the movie that made him an international name (his 1994 thriller Shallow Grave was merely the tip of the iceberg, and what a tip — sharp and nasty) was perhaps almost predictable after the relative fizzle of the bloated Steve Jobs, and from the opening shot, similar to the original, complete with the inclusion of Iggy Pop’s signature song Lust for Life (which alongside Underworld’s Born Slippy make up the themes of both movies, although the latter only makes an ethereal appearance), and the frenetic action that initiates the entire story as Begbie (Robert Carlyle) makes his escape from jail, it’s clear that Boyle is in territory he knows well.

Even so, T2, despite its use of freeze frame, lurid colors, chase sequences, is still very observational, giving you insights into its foursome, where they left off from the previous movie, where they are now. Begbie, as I mentioned, hasn’t changed much — jail has made him even more vicious, but then again, he was stiffed a chunk of money from a drug deal, money that Renton (Ewan McGregor) stole in a moment of either incredible lucidity or incredible insanity (although he did give Spud (Ewan Bremner) his share because of his overall innocence of character. Sick Boy (Jonne Lee Miller) wants revenge, but it turns out, maybe he doesn’t want it that much. Enter another deal involving the creation of a club, but before that happens, the story meanders here and there, slowly regrouping everyone (except Begbie; he runs into Renton in a hilarious bathroom sequence reminiscent of the first movie). Their reunion doesn’t come without some recriminations of the past — there are accusations and recriminations from past mistakes, but T2 essentially overcomes all this with a sense of camaraderie that is impossible to destroy.

Where Trainspotting reveled in music and hedonism for the sake of it, T2 comes across a bit more sedate, even a little sad despite its technical flourish and high energy. There are no awkward sex scenes ending in a scat-fest, and there is nothing as sublimely grotesque as the blissed out adventure Renton experiences in the “worst toilet in Scotland, ever” (and if you haven’t seen it, just make sure you’re not eating when you do), no crawling babies falling from the sky, and there is somewhat less directorial whimsy than in the first. The women from the first Trainspotting are virtually absent in T2, making only tiny appearances that seem to be mainly to anchor both movies even when it could do just fine with the four main characters. In a nutshell, T2 comes off as a worthy sequel to Trainspotting, one that brings all the characters to a close (and makes the hilarious allegation that Spud may be the actual author of both stories). I still prefer the original, where a scrawny Ewan McGregor spoke of choosing life, and broke a habit in a hellish sequence in order to do so.