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Friday, 3 July 2020

Review Round-up: Floor Is Lava; I Am Heath Ledger; Eurovision Song Contest - The Story of Fire Saga

Floor Is Lava (2020): There's a certain subset of physical game shows that I love because they hit a certain a sweet-spot in my Dungeons & Dragons-primed brain.

Seen through a certain gamesmastery-lens, the challenges of Floor is Lava, the latest such show from Netflix, could easily be upscaled to a roleplaying dungeon adventure setting.

Inspired by the game all kids (and a lot of students) have played at some time - even if they called it something else - the challenge is to circumvent a room without treading on the floor. Because "the floor is lava".

The gameshow has obviously supersized the contest, filling a room with gallons of bubbling orange juice (substituting for real lava) and an array of quirky furniture, depending on the theme of the room.

With each show being its own competition (tteams competing for a $10,000 prize), the creators are free to change things up every so often, so sometimes it's only two teams competing, instead of three, and sometimes the teams have two members instead of three.

There is, of course,nothing funnier than seeing people fall over and Floor Is Lava has this in spades, whether slipping on a wet landing surface, misjudging a jump etc.

Some of the faceplants look incredibly painful and I'm genuinely surprised that we haven't heard about people being seriously injured.

If the show has a downside, it's the painful earnestness - or aggravating laddishness - of some of the more extroverted contestants, but these, thankfully, are in a minority.

I Am Heath Ledger (2017): In my time as a local reporter, I wrote enough obituaries to see I Am Heath Ledger for what it is.

A loving homage to the incredibly talented actor, rather than a deep dive documentary, this 90-minute movie profiles a "force of nature" that burned brightly, but feared his own mortality.

Interwoven with Heath Ledger's own words and emotional testimony from his friends and family, we are introduced to an incredibly gifted actor, photographer, artist, chess prodigy, film maker, musician, who was constantly 'on'.

It seems that when he wasn't "in character" for a film role, his brain wouldn't shut down and he was always conjuring up fresh ideas.

An engine of creativity, rather than a Joker-esque "agent of chaos", he truly wanted to suck out the marrow of life, do everything, and do it to the best of his ability, while supporting and encouraging his friends.

But, because of this, he also hardly slept and that led to his being prescribed sleeping tablets, which would ultimately be his downfall.

Although the film skims through his acting roles, it notes his change in approach after the success of A Knight's Tale, and how he didn't welcome limelight, but rather wanted to focus on the craft of film making.

In a similar vein to the heartbreaking Love, Antosha, this is another example of a talent lost way too soon, because of a tragic accident (Ledger accidentally overdosed on prescription sleeping tablets in 2008, after finishing filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus).

However, in trying to be upbeat and positive, I Am Heath Ledger doesn't quite connect, or feel as rounded, as that other movie.

Eurovision Song Contest - The Story of Fire Saga (2020): When Icelandic wannabe pop stars Fire Saga - Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) - are chosen as their homelands entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, Lars sees this as an opportunity to prove to his miserable father, Erick (Pierce Brosnan) that he is not a laughing stock.

Sigrit just sees it as a chance to cement her lifelong feelings for Lars, but she doesn't count on the interference of the charming Russian contestant, Alexander Lemtov (Legion's Dan Stevens), whose interest in her may be more than just mind-games.

Throw in some great pop tunes and quirky moments of unexpected Icelandic folklore, and you've got a mildly entertaining, if clichéd, underdog story.

As a long-time fan of Eurovision, I have to say I was delighted that Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele's script doesn't take the piss out of the contest.

In fact, it's clearly been heavily researched, as the film captures the delightful madness of the contest perfectly, even if the technical minutiae isn't always quite right.

The script is peppered with perceptive one-liners about the beloved contest, and ultimately finds redemption for all the main characters.

While I'm not sure if the film truly captures the campness of Eurovision, there's plenty of snippets of songs, and all of these could easily be entries in the real contest.

But where the film stumbles is that at two hours it's way too long, and feels it, and the tone seems peculiarly uneven - including a throwaway murder that has no consequences.

The whole sequence when Lars storms out and goes home (the low point that serves as the turning point into the film's third act) is preposterous, relying, as it does, on us accepting the fact that no one would talk to Lars about the one thing that needs to be said until he is out on a fishing boat.

A patchy comedy, with some heart-warming brilliance in the elements directly connected to the song contest, The Story of Fire Saga is let down by some meandering padding along the way.

If nothing else, I would hope Will Ferrell's film generates more interest in the actual contest from potential fans on the other side of The Pond.

Eurovision Song Contest - The Story of Fire Saga can be found on Netflix.

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