04/02/18 Filed in: DVD
This film didn't make our Cineworld multiplex, so when the DVD appeared we decided to watch it, based on some very interesting positive reviews. It's number nine in the Guardian's top 50 films of 2017.
It is different, and I would suggest very different from any supernatural film that you may have seen. It's not horror, and to an extent it's not even spooky. And even though the ghost has a few malevolent moments, it's not really scary.
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young couple living in a bit of a shack of a home in Texas. She wants to move, and he doesn't. We only know him as C, and her as M, not that proper names are that important to the story. One night they are disturbed by the sound of somebody 'crashing' the keyboard of his piano. They cannot discover why this happened, and at this point you think it's the beginning of the ghost story. But it isn't, and all will be revealed much later.
31/01/18 Filed in: Cinema
This is a film that assaults all your emotions. Brutal in its honesty, with dark humour, and above all a superb characterisation of small-town America where everybody knows everybody else, and nobody's business can remain private for long. The lead performances are amazing, with Frances McDormand playing Mildred Hayes, a mother seeking action from the police department in respect of her brutally murdered daughter, Angela, an incident that has occurred before the film's narrative commences. In her sights is the police chief Bill Willoughby, equally well portrayed by Woody Harrelson. And working for Willoughby is Jason Dixon, a racist, intellectually challenged cop who lives with his mother, and behaves in many ways just like a child.
It has been months since the murder and the police do not appear to have made any progress on the case. While driving home one day Mildred focusses on the three almost derelict billboards along the side of the road. She has an idea to put them to good use. We next see her at the offices of the advertising company, in a small office in town, where the proprietor Red Welby is at first surprised to hear that billboards even exist. But they do, and Mildred takes out a year's contract to display her messages, paying for the first month from the proceeds of selling her estranged husband's pick up and trailer. The boards read, in sequence; "RAPED WHILE DYING"; "AND STILL NO ARRESTS?"; and "HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?" They are first noticed by Dixon, who is also less than enthralled by the fact that the man putting them up is a negro.
18/01/18 Filed in: Cinema
As a kid we didn't have anywhere near the range of toys that children have today, and there certainly weren't any computers or mobile devices. We were either cowboys with toy guns or some form of medieval character with a wooden sword, or perhaps a bow and arrow. I was very much a fan of cowboys, and of course regarded them as the heroes and the 'injuns' as the baddies. I've long since realised that this depiction in the old western movies and comics was at the very least a distortion of the truth. Hostiles is a film that unpicks that stereotype. Perhaps not as radically as Dances with Wolves, but with some superb characterisations it gets inside the people, revealing that things are never black and white, and that all members of the human race have a story to tell, and a right to be respected.
The action begins at a homestead, with the husband outside cutting timber while inside his wife schools two adorable young girls. Their idyll is destroyed when a group of marauding Comanches attack, leaving the wife, Rosalie Quaid, the only survivor with three dead children, one just a baby in arms.
We are next introduced to the battle-hardened cavalry officer, Captain Joseph J. Blocker, played by Christian Bale, who is in the final throes of rounding up some Apache warriors after a life of fighting the indians. After he arrives at Fort Berringer in New Mexico with his Apache prisoners, he is presented with an order that he feels he cannot accept. Colonel Abraham Biggs commands him to escort a former adversary, the Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk, to his ancestral lands in Montana. Yellow Hawk, played by Wes Studi, is terminally ill, and no less than the President himself has signed an order guaranteeing the Chief's safe return to Montana. Along with Yellow Hawk is his son, Black Hawk, his daughter Moon Deer, Black Hawk's wife Elk Woman, with their son, Little Bear.
09/01/18 Filed in: Cinema
After the true story of Molly's Game we followed that with another film based on actual events, the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973. I remember the news of this event at the time, but it was extremely interesting to learn the story of what was going on behind the scenes during this traumatic event.
We start with the 16-year-old Getty strolling around the streets of Rome, self assured and boldly telling the local street girls that he can look after himself. A boast soon shown to be no more than bravado as he is bundled into a van by kidnappers. We also have a narrative that tells us, that while the Gettys may look like us, they are not, and this is offered as an early explanation as to why what we are about to see shouldn't be regarded in the context of what 'normal' people would do.
This film is of course marked out by the fact that many scenes had to be reshot when Kevin Spacey was removed from the cast and replaced by Christopher Plummer. I must say, however, that Plummer for me had much more the look of the ageing Getty than Spacey, and I think the film has probably benefitted from the change. It's also remarkable that the editing was completed in such a short space of time.
09/01/18 Filed in: Cinema
After a bit of a break over Christmas we've resumed our cinema visits, the first being to see Molly's Game. Another film that is based on actual events, this time as described in the memoir written by the real Molly Bloom. Jessica Chastain takes on the role of Molly, and a fine job she does of it. She must be one of the hottest properties in Hollywood at the moment.
The film is accompanied by an ongoing narrative from Chastain as Molly, in which she describes her early life and how she ended up running one of the most exclusive high-stakes poker games in the world. As a youngster, under the somewhat bullying direction of her father, played by Kevin Costner, she rose to be a competitive skier, once ranked third in North America. Hers was a very high achieving family and she appears to have been quite rebellious.
The film shows a freak accident ending her skiing career, but this is, apparently, a bit of dramatic licence. But she did move to Los Angeles and found a job that introduced her to the world of high-stakes poker. When her misogynistic boss decides to stop paying her, because she is getting more than enough in tips from her role as hostess and game manager, she decides to invest everything in setting up her own game. Taking her ex-boss's players along with her, she builds a high-class high-stakes operation that attracts extremely wealthy individuals, including celebrities from cinema and sport.
16/12/17 Filed in: Cinema
We didn't quite make it to see this latest Star Wars film on its first day, but were there the day after.
In fairness to the effort that has gone into making this film, I am going to refrain from saying too much, although if you want to be totally surprised, then don't read on! This film works as a stand-alone piece, but of course for those of us that have watched the odyssey unfold there is so much more.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) returns, still trying to understand what it is within her that makes her different, and still trying to get Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to teach her in the ways of the Force.
The Resistance is in full retreat, with Domhnall Green playing General Hux, the evil if somewhat accident prone commander of the First Order's battle fleet. The ultimate bad guy, however, is Supreme Leader Snoke, who puts up with Hux despite his failings. Snoke is also displeased with Kylo Ren (born Ben Solo), which leads to an interesting apparent meeting of minds between Kylo Ren and Rey, all done telepathically through the Force, of course. At this point we are not sure whether Kylo Ren is turning away from the Dark Side. Subsequent events tend to support this possibility. But this is Star Wars, where plot twists and the power of the Dark Side are always going to shape events.
03/12/17 Filed in: Cinema
Of course Charles Dickens didn't invent Christmas, but his short story 'A Christmas Carol' arguably influenced people's sentiments during the festive season and changed the nature of the festival.
Dan Stevens, who infamously deserted Downton Abbey immediately after marrying Lady Mary, breaking many hearts in the process, plays Dickens. Let's hope the Abbey fans have forgiven him. Reviews would tend to indicate that they have, since although some of the more 'serious' critics have rubbished this film audience approval is high. For me it seemed less like a feature film and more of a BBC period drama, much in the fashion of Dickensian, which was broadcast in early 2016 but didn't survive for a second series.
After some very successful novels Dickens is going through a lean patch. Barnaby Rudge and Martin Chuzzlewit haven't been well received, and having moved the family into a more prestigious abode money is becoming tight. To secure an advance from his publishers he is nudged by his friend, John Foster, into committing to a new book, which he says will be about Christmas, and will be published within a very short timescale ready for the festive holiday. But he is shown as having what we would now call writers' block.
25/11/17 Filed in: Cinema
Once again we saw a film on its opening day. I can't remember watching the original match upon which this film is based, although I do recollect the news around it at the time. And I knew who won.
While Emma Stone is a good look-alike for Billie Jean King, Steve Carrell is even more of a doppelganger for Bobby Riggs. And both convey well the respective personalities and beliefs of the people they are playing. An impassioned believer in sexual equality pitted against the chauvinistic misogynist.
However, this isn't really a film about tennis. Yes, we see parts of the famous match, but you don't need to be a tennis aficionado to recognise that the tennis we see isn't consistent with Billie Jean King at the top of her game. But there's only so much an actor can do to inhabit a role. No, this is a story about King's fight for equality in the game, and a far less public battle with her own sexuality.
19/11/17 Filed in: Cinema
We saw Justice League on Friday, its release day here in the UK. I have mentioned previously that the whole superhero genre has started to wane a bit for me, basically because we've reached saturation. Deadpool was a refreshing change, Guardians of the Galaxy provided humour and great soundtracks and Wonder Woman was different because it at last gave us a female heroine. As for the rest, I'm afraid it's just more of the same. Which takes us to Justice League.
My take on the film is that is a group of superheroes looking for a plot; and what a plot. It appears that the super-villain in this case, Steppenwolf, does indeed hail from DC Comics, which surprised me as I thought the whole contrivance was verging on hallucinatory. We are introduced to the Mother Boxes, wrested from Steppenwolf in the past by the combined armies of the Olympian Gods, Amazons, Atlantians, ancient humans and Green Lanterns (an intergalactic police force, which was trailed but I didn't notice their representative in the film). The Mother Boxes must be kept apart, since if they are brought back together this would give Steppenwolf the power to conquer the Earth. To this end one is guarded by the Amazons, cue Diana Prince's involvement, one by Atlantis, cue Aquaman, and one by humans. The death of Superman has triggered the boxes to activate and Bruce Wayne is leading a quest to assemble a team to stop Steppenwolf taking over the Earth. In addition to those already mentioned, we have Barry Allen, the Flash, and Victor Stone, a Cyborg who is having trouble coming to terms with his cyborgness.
14/11/17 Filed in: Cinema
We saw this film last Friday. I knew what it was about in general terms but hadn't read anything beforehand and I didn't realise that it was in fact based on a actual events.
It is the story of a group of firefighters. Not your ordinary house fire type of firemen, but those who tackle forest fires. The elite teams in this field are called Hotshots, but the team in this film are 'Type 2s', trainee fighters, although their leader, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), aspires for them to become Hotshots. The problem is that they are part of a municipal fire department working for the city of Prescott, Arizona, and no municipal teams have ever become Hotshots. Undaunted, they set out to prove their worth.