31/12/19 Filed in: Cinema
It’s been savaged by the critics and audience figures aren’t much to shout about, but disregarding these prophets of doom we went to see Cats.
Some people seem to have been spooked by the very fact that humans were dressed as cats while still displaying obvious human physiology. Quite a weird criticism when you think what the CGI special affects have thrown at us over recent years in terms of humanoid distortions. Others simply haven’t enjoyed the film and the fact that it was re-edited shortly after release hasn’t added to its appeal.
So, what did I think? It starts slowly and without an obvious story line. Virtually all the dialogue is sung and given that the inspiration was a book of poems, it’s perhaps not surprising that this literary dialogue with the initially weak story line have not been well received. The story, which does in fact become clearer as we move forward, revolves around Victoria kitten, played absolutely delightfully by Francesca Hayward of the Royal Ballet. Petite, pretty and with a sweet voice to accompany her exquisite dancing, for me she stole the show. There are a number of other big names of course.
31/12/19 Filed in: Cinema
The ninth and if the reports are to be believed the final instalment of the episodic Star Wars saga. It needed to tie up all the loose ends, fill in the gaps and allow us finally to know how Rey fits in to the Skywalker dynasty. So, does it succeed?
Daisy Ridley is back as Rey, as is John Boyega as Finn. The First Order has been reinvigorated by the re-emergence of the deceased galactic emperor, Palpatine, who dispatches Kylo Ren to kill Rey. There is also an enormous fleet of Star Destroyers destined to eliminate the Resistance once and for all. This is in all respects the final show down.
Rey must ultimately confront Palpatine but to find him she first needs to locate a Sith Wayfinder. With Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO she sets off in the Millennium Falcon and so the adventure begins. Of course, nothing is straightforward in a Star Wars plot and we are treated to a range of exciting encounters, including a new challenge - flying stormtroopers!
13/12/19 Filed in: Cinema
A long film (144 mins) with a story that unwinds at a leisurely pace, which some might find too slow. But it's worth sticking with as each piece of the puzzle slots into place. Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) is a private detective who is on to a big thing, but he's a lot more nervous than usual. Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) and Gilbert Coney (Ethan Suplee) are his backup team as he goes to meet 'some people' in an apartment. Lionel listens in on an open phone line (this is the 1950s) while things are going down, until Frank utters the 'panic' word before being hustled out into a waiting car. Lionel and Gilbert follow in pursuit in a somewhat Laurel and Hardy-ish fashion, but loose them, only to make contact again just as Frank is shot.
Frank doesn't survive but mouths something to Lionel with his last breath, this being the starting point for Lionel to pursue his own investigation into what Frank had become involved with. Lionel suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, aggravated by stress and, as we later see, jazz music. The jazz angle relates to a club that Frank may have visited. Later Lionel discovers a link between the club and a woman community activist, Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who it transpires is at the centre of the intrigue that surrounds his investigation.
04/12/19 Filed in: Cinema
A classic Whodunnit, this film will appeal to all the amateur sleuths among you. Like any good Agatha Christie, all the clues are there. It's just a matter of spotting them.
Renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey commits suicide, or so it seems. That would probably have been the end of things if it wasn't for the fact the investigating detective and his patrolman sidekick weren't accompanied by one Benoit Blanc, a well known private detective. Blanc has been hired by an unknown party who, we assume, suspects foul play.
Harlan's body is discovered the morning after his 85th birthday party, a gathering of the whole family - naturally, as we need plenty of suspects. The following day the somewhat dysfunctional family members are interviewed one by one in classic whodunnit fashion. As things unfold we see that each of them could have a motive for murder. Indeed, nothing is as it first appears, or as it is first recounted. Unusually for this genre we learn who did it quite early in the film but, as you might expect, it ain't that simple.
26/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
Andre Davis is a cop with a reputation of tracking down and taking out cop killers, his father having been killed in the line of duty. At a review panel that clearly is seeking to accuse him of being a bit too keen to use his gun, he respectfully points out that he had never fired the first shot.
We now cut to a couple of thieves, Ray and Michael, war veterans who have been tipped off regarding a stash of cocaine in a restaurant. They know the back-door code so it seems this might be an inside job. The manager of the restaurant is inside, and having 'persuaded' him to reveal where the drugs are they are surprised to find ten times as much cocaine as they expected. They take what they can carry, but as they are making their way to the door the cops arrive. After a ferocious gun battle seven cops are dead and one is on her way to hospital fighting for her life.
Andre is put on the case, the local police captain urging him to find and take out the culprits. He is asked to team up with female officer Frankie Burns from Narcotics, and immediately comes into conflict with two pushy FBI officers, Butcho and Dugan. An early success in locating the getaway car confirms Andre's suspicion that the perpetrators were likely to be in Manhattan. He at this point asks that Manhattan Island be closed down, by closing all 21 bridges. It's not long after midnight and he's given until 5 am to catch the two men before the roads are opened again.
20/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
A film made just for me! In 1966 I was 18, car mad, and driving a Ford Prefect 100E. That will only mean something to people of a certain age with some knowledge of cars, but for anybody else suffice it to say my car was about as far removed from a Ford GT40 as it is possible to imagine. To be fair I hankered more for an E-type or a Triumph TR 4 than a GT40, both equally unrealistic dreams, but the goings on at Le Mans weren't lost on me.
This film relates how Henry Ford II was talked into joining the endurance motor racing scene and, having been rudely rebuffed by Enzo Ferrari when trying to buy into the action, decided to teach the venerable Italian a lesson. But, as Carroll Shelby (of AC Cobra fame) says when approached by a Ford executive, it's not about the money. What's more, Ford wanted to condense what should realistically have been a long term project into a rush job.
Shelby approaches his friend Ken Miles, an Englishman who races on the American circuits. Ken is a first class engineer as well as a proven racer but he has a bit of an attitude problem, seriously upsetting Ford's executive Leo Beebe before being formally introduced to him. He points out all that is wrong with the new Ford Mustang, something Beebe didn't really want to hear. This bad start will haunt Miles throughout the film.
However, after Ford's first outing to Le Mans ends badly, Shelby gets Henry Ford's ear and Miles is on the team.
14/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
This film has received generally good reviews both from critics and audiences. It is indeed a film that draws you in, while at the same time giving you much to think about in trying to understand the central character.
Luce, a given name because his adoptive mother couldn't pronounce his real name, was rescued from a life as a boy soldier in Eritrea by a professional couple, Amy and Peter. Much counselling and a lot of hard work has produced a young man who excels at just about everything. He is the pride of the school and is destined to do great things. So far, so good, but beneath his polished public persona rests a far more troubled young man.
The first cracks in the idyll start to appear when we see that all is not well between Luce and his history teacher, Harriet. Luce, of course, is extremely complimentary towards her, and she apparently so towards him, although one detects an underlying tension. Things become more difficult after Harriet asks the students to write a paper, putting themselves as the voice of a historical character. Luce choses Frantz Fanon, a French West Indian psychiatrist who was a revolutionary and who took a great interest in the psychopathology of colonisation. This alarms Harriet, who decides to check out Luce's locker, where she finds a bag of illegal fireworks.
06/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is not so much a film as an indictment of today's Britain. Sorry We Missed You lays bare the consequences of the GIG economy.
Ricky and Abbie Turner are a young couple with two children. The son Sebastian (Seb) is the epitome of an unruly teenager, while the younger daughter, Lisa, watches on as the stresses within the family build. Ricky has moved from one temporary job to another after losing his job as a result of the fallout from the financial crash in 2008. They were on the cusp of buying a new house but now live in a run-down terrace. Abbie is a carer who visits mainly the elderly, her work ethic being to treat the old ladies as if they each of them were her mum. And she is a very caring person. Life isn't easy.
The film starts with Ricky being interviewed for a job as a delivery driver. Self-employed, he feels that he can break out of the rut. He's a grafter and believes that grafting for himself will be much more rewarding than working for somebody. But as the boss at the delivery company spells out the conditions that will apply to Ricky's work with them (he will work with them, NOT for them), we realise that this is going to be a very one-sided partnership. His first problem is transport. The company will loan him a van for £65 a day, but with encouragement from a pal he reasons that it will be better to buy his own van. Unfortunately this means that Abbie must sell her little car, making her job altogether more difficult as she buses from client (she hates that word!) to client.
23/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
It's difficult to decide what's the most chilling about this story; the treatment of Katherine Gun after she blew the whistle on the intention to put pressure on UN Security Council members to support Bush's illegal war in Iraq; or the fact that the US stooped to such measures in the first place.
Gun, played brilliantly by Keira Knightly, was employed at GCHQ as a translator when an email was circulated among the staff setting out a proposed spying operation on members of the Security Council. Portrayed as a young woman who was against the war, and who from her insider knowledge knew that a lot of what was being said by Tony Blair was untrue, Gun found herself with a crisis of conscience. She decided to act, sending a copy of the email to a known anti-war activist.
At first nothing happened, which came as a relief as she was having grave doubts over what she had done. But the message eventually found its way to the Observer newspaper, and after a bit of soul-searching, and water-testing with friends in authority, it decided to publish. At this point Gun panicked, her concern being amplified when staff at GCHQ were interviewed individually. Ultimately, having witnessed her friends in the office being interrogated, and faced with a lie detector test, she owned up and was promptly arrested.
13/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
The fact that this is an Ang Lee film was reason enough to see it but unfortunately it has suffered the curse of the critics, as shown by a 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, on the other hand, give it a healthy 84%. I assume the esteemed critics were expecting more from Ang Lee, their main gripe seemingly being the lack of a strong plot.
Well, as the film is about a super assassin, Henry Brogan, being hunted down by a younger cloned version of himself, there's probably a limit to what sort of plot could be envisaged. We have Will Smith playing both roles, the magic cinematographic art of youngification being applied to very good effect. Henry co-opts a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative, Dani Zakarewski, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who he first encounters when she is posing as the boat rental clerk at a marina. She doesn't fool him for a second despite a very convincing performance.
So why was she watching him. He has retired, and his last job was to take out a target on a high speed train, who he was told was a terrorist. A window shot from nigh on 2km with the train travelling at close to 300km/hr! Come on, nobody's that good. But apparently he is. However, he finds out that he's been deceived, and the target was in fact a biochemist. This is the signal for the agency to silence him.
09/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
I didn't read about this film before going to see it and therefore didn't realise that it was dedicated to a very short period towards the end of Judy Garland's life. It starts, however, with her as a child being coached, coaxed or if one were being particularly uncharitable, bullied by Louis B. Mayer on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Her experience at that time was to shape her life, a pawn at the mercy of the all powerful entertainment industry.
And so it was that in 1969, short of money and battling to keep her children, she reluctantly agreed to perform at London's Talk Of The Town. We see a fragile woman, almost fearful of what she has agreed to do, and actually refusing to go on stage on the opening night. But Bernard Delfont has lined up Rosalyn Wilder, played by Jessie Buckley, as Judy's personal assistant. And Rosalyn isn't taking no for an answer.
Once on stage Judy the performer replaces the insecure Judy that we've just seen in the dressing room, and she wows the audience. But she is physically low, with a lifelong dependance on drugs and acute insomnia, thanks largely to her treatment back in her youth. It is in fact quite amazing how she pulls out the stops when needed. But her fragility is exposed when she agrees to do an on screen interview, the interviewer digging into areas that destabilise her emotionally. The result is a near break down on stage.
21/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
Another space adventure. This time somewhere between science fact and science fiction. Using credible space vehicles, such as vertical launched rockets, and space stations, albeit somewhat more advanced than what we have now, we are asked to look into the perhaps not too distant future. The big question for me, given the reliance on such contemporary space technology, is how did they ship all the equipment to the Moon and Mars to create those amazing bases?
Putting the credibility analysis aside, here we have a story that centres on one man, Roy McBride, who we first see working on the exterior of a space station when it is struck by an energy pulse, causing him to tumble to Earth. These energy pulses are causing havoc on Earth and having recovered from his unexpected return to the surface, Roy is summoned to a meeting. He assumes it will be a debrief, but in fact it turns out to be related to the energy pulses.
He learns that his father, H Clifford McBride, a space hero who was lost on a mission many years earlier, was experimenting with an antimatter device, and the top brass believe it is this device that is causing the energy pulses, which have the potential to destroy Earth. Roy is interviewed with a view to him journeying to Mars, where an underground facility is unaffected by the pulses, and from where he will be asked to send a message to his father. This will enable his father to be located and the antimatter device destroyed.
16/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
The trailer for this film appealed to me, and reviews have been good, with even talk of possible Oscar nominations. But I found that it dragged a bit, which seems to put me out of step with the general view. There are at least two stories here; the hustling of rich men by a group of enterprising strippers and the friendship that builds between Ramona, the star turn, and Destiny, a newcomer who is in need of somebody to guide her through the seedy business. Jennifer Lopez is hot with a capital H as Ramona while Constance Wu is well cast as the ingenue.
Everything is going swimmingly with the Wall Street boys having money to burn, although lesson one is to choose those at the top, who pay by the minute to watch Ramona and Destiny pleasure each other, although these sequences are in fact remarkably tame by present day standards. But the gravy train hits the buffers with the 2008 financial crash, resulting in business at the clubs taking a crash dive. Ramona comes up with a plan that basically involves drugging those punters that are still in the market to ensure that they spend, spend, spend, with the club and the girls both taking a cut.
04/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the formulaic Angel has Fallen, the subject of my last review, I found this film to be a breath of fresh air with a reasonably credible story line and enough suspense to keep me interested. I was, therefore, surprised to return home and find that on Rotten Tomatoes it received the same 39% from the critics as did Angel Has Fallen. There was no audience figure as it is due for release in the States in January next year. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, never one to give credit where it's not deserved, restored my faith somewhat with a three-star rating, saying however that it might have made a better episodic drama on TV.
Rosamund Pike seems to be getting a taste for action dramas, shedding her 'English Rose' persona. Here she plays FBI agent Wilcox who's been working for four years to infiltrate a Polish drug ring. The key to success is her informer, Pete Koslow, who we learn was released from a 20-year prison term after four years specifically to help the FBI. The plan is about to come to fruition with 6 kilos of heroin arriving in diplomatic pouches for onward transmission. The FBI agents are following but Pete's Polish partner changes the plan saying he has an immediate buyer. But this buyer turns out to be a cop who's way out of his depth, for which he pays the ultimate price.
03/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is not my type of film but with little choice available on the day we settled down for some formulaic action. It's the third in a trilogy that hasn't received spectacular acclaim, the original Olympus Has Fallen seemingly being the best of the bunch. Having not seen the earlier instalments I can't comment. It is, however, interesting to note that at Rotten Tomatoes while the critics can only muster 39% approval, audiences score 94%, so there are obviously a lot of people out there who found the film entertaining.
My problem with this type of film is that they always come across as special effects and fight scenes looking for a story. Here the plot starts with our secret service agent Mike Banning (the Angel) in far from tip-top shape and taking pills to keep himself going. This doesn't stop him acquitting himself admirably in simulated shoot-out staged by his friend and former fellow Army Ranger Wade Jennings, CEO of the paramilitary company Salient Globe. Salient Globe isn't doing too well as under the current President Allan Trumbull peace has broken out!
15/08/19 Filed in: Cinema
Whatever you think of Tarantino you have to admit that he makes films like no other director. The trailer sold me and I wasn't disappointed. It is 18 rated, of course, but compared with some of his earlier films the amount of blood on display is actually greatly reduced. But there is violence with the usual Tarantino comic twist, despite the severity. But this doesn't come until the end and could leave you feeling that it was entirely justified - maybe!
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are wonderfully cast as Rick Dalton, a cowboy actor whose star is waining, and Cliff Booth, Rick's long time stunt double. Two fine actors harmonising perfectly. Following a meeting with producer Marvin Schwarz, played by Al Pacino, Rick is convinced that he's a has-been. Cliff on the other hand, a truly laid-back character, remains positive.
13/08/19 Filed in: Cinema
Continuing the run of musically inspired dramas, this time it's Bruce Springsteen's music that provides the impetus for the story.
Set in Luton in 1987 we first see Javed, or Jay, as a child with his friend Matt, the M1 providing the backdrop. Next we see him as a young man and not at all happy with his life. He hasn't a girlfriend, while Matt flaunts his latest catch. But more depressingly his family is from Pakistan and his father is a strict adherent to tradition, which means that Jay has little freedom and is told by his father how he should lead his life.
College gives him his first taste of freedom; and girls. It's there that he is befriended by a young Sikh who introduces him to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. Jay finds that the words of Springsteen's songs explain the predicaments of his life and offer him a way out. Jay has always enjoyed writing, keeping a diary from a young age, and at college he indicates that he would like to be a writer when the English teacher, Ms Clay, asks her new class the question. He quickly lowers his raised hand when he sees that he's alone, but Ms Clay doesn't let it go, and when class breaks she talks to him about his ambition. Another student is listening, and this is Jay's first introduction to Eliza, who will soon become an important part of his life.
31/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
As an electrical engineer by training I of course had to see this film. Reviews have not been good, probably because the film needs to convey the technical issues that underpin the so called current war, principal among them the choice of DC (direct current) or AC (alternating current) to supply electricity.
Electrical networks were quickly developed after Thomas Edison successfully demonstrated an incandescent light bulb with a service life that made its use commercially viable. But Edison was an advocate of DC, a technically simpler system but with one major disadvantage. By using DC it was not possible to supply customers at any significant distance, thus limiting Edison to high-density city areas, and even then numerous generation stations were needed. With AC, on the other hand, it is possible to transform the voltage and thus use a higher voltage system to transmit the power. Without wanting to get too technical, the simple fact is that the higher the voltage, the lower the current required to transmit a given amount of power. And the lower the current, the further it can flow without appreciable loss of voltage. And equally important, smaller wires can be used at much lower cost.
Edison was, therefore, backing the wrong horse from the outset, but stubbornly refused to concede the point. Meanwhile, George Westinghouse, famed for the invention of the air-braking system on the railways, and heavily invested in gas distribution, became alert to the potential of electric lighting. The film tracks the development of this battle between these two men to light up America. We see Edison as totally absorbed in his inventions, with a workshop and employees helping to progress his ideas. As a husband he is shown to have been less successful. Westinghouse on the other hand is portrayed as more normal, although still a businessman looking to maximise his interests. His early attempt to work with Edison is rebuffed and what follows is a war characterised by hostility from Edison and somewhat more gracious behaviour by Westinghouse. Interested in European AC systems, Westinghouse experimented with AC generation and transformers, deciding that AC was the way forward.
18/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
Based on the trailer I wasn't in a rush to see this film, but my wife enthused about it, so off we went. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised. It's basically a fantasy rom-com that follows on the recent success of films featuring pop artists of the past. In this case it's the Beatles. But the approach is somewhat different. Here the Beatles do not exist, along with quite a few other hallmarks of the 20th century. To set up this unlikely scenario there is a metaphysical event whereby everywhere on Earth is plunged into darkness for a short while, after which history has been selectively changed. Once you suspend disbelief the result is a fun film.
But let's first go back a bit. Jack Malik is an aspiring and actually quite accomplished singer-songwriter who is constantly encouraged by Ellie, a school friend who was once bowled over by his performance at a school concert. While Ellie, a schoolteacher by day, is constantly optimistic for Jack, his lack of success is gradually eating away at his confidence. Based in Suffolk, when Ellie secures a spot at the Latitude Festival Jack is over the moon. But the reality is somewhat different as he plays to a handful of people in the Suffolk Tent. It's the final straw and he tells Ellie that it's all over as far as his music is concerned.
14/07/19 Filed in: Cinema
Where to start?
From all the recent films on offer the trailer from Midsommar seemed the most intriguing, which as things turned out was a fair assessment. There were suggestions of The Wicker Man, but I couldn't believe that it would be a direct rip-off of such a cult favourite. That being said, there are strong similarities.
This time it's Sweden, but before we arrive there we are introduced to Dani and Christian in the USA. Dani is very concerned about her sister, while boyfriend Christian is far from sympathetic. In fact a couple of his mates are trying to persuade him to ditch Dani, who they see as a bit of a pain. But things take a dramatic turn when Dani's sister finally takes the ultimate step in her downward spiral. Already traumatised, Dani then learns that Christian is off to Sweden with Josh, Mark and Pelle, who with him are studying anthropology. Pelle, who is Swedish, has invited them to Sweden to witness a once in a generation festival, which will form the basis of Josh's PHD and be of interest to the others. Although Mark in particular doesn't want Dani to come, in the circumstances Christian feels obliged to take her, she being encouraged by Pelle, an early indication that Pelle's motives might be questionable.
23/06/19 Filed in: Cinema
When a film spawns multiple sequels there is always the fear that the magic of the original will be lost. The classic example is probably The Matrix, but the Star Wars prequels also came in for a lot of criticism. But there are no such worries here, since Toy Story 4 not only continues the story, but does so with the style and panache we've all become accustomed to. It starts by revisiting the past, which worried some commentators, but this was necessary to enable anybody who hadn't seen the earlier films (are there such people) to become acquainted with certain characters, most importantly the little girl Bonnie, who inherited the toys from Andy, and Bo Peep, who was sold and so separated from Woody.
Well, Bo is back, and this time as a principal character. We also pick up some new characters. Ducky and Bunny, soft toy fairground prizes, who add to the fun immensely. Duke Caboom, a toy motorcycle stunt man, ably voiced by Keanu Reeves. And Gabby Gabby, a doll, voiced by Christina Hendricks, who's been overlooked by children because she has a broken voice box, and is consequently not very nice. With her evil-looking group of ventriloquist dummies she has her eye on Woody's voice box. And last, but by no means least, we have Forky, a toy fashioned by Bonnie at her first day of kindergarten from the contents of a trash can. The problem is that Forky thinks he's trash, and a major part of the plot revolves around Woody trying to convince him that he isn't, all of course in his perceived role as Bonnie's protector. Woody is nothing if not immensely loyal. It's all very sweet.
09/06/19 Filed in: Cinema
Following on A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Wild Rose, here we have another story intertwined with a musical score that adds so much more than just background sound. This is Elton's story, which wouldn't be complete without his music. A plain sort of boy from Pinner, with a talent for playing the piano, his music pulled him from obscurity to become an international superstar. But for someone with many unresolved emotional scars from childhood, and who was at the same time having to deal with his sexuality, it's not surprising that things started to go off the rails.
The story starts at the point where matters have come to a head. Elton has booked himself into rehab while still attired in a flamboyant stage costume, having walked out just minutes before he was due to perform. In rehab he sits in on a sort of AA group and begins by confessing to being an alcoholic, cocaine addict, sex addict and bulimic. One messed-up guy. As he recounts his life, we are taken to the relevant episodes, and so the story unfolds.
29/05/19 Filed in: Cinema
The third instalment of the John Wick saga, which starts where the previous film left off, namely with John Wick on the run, having been given an hour's grace before every hitman in the world will be after his skin. If you haven't seen the previous two instalments, then briefly John killed one Santino D'Antonio in the New York City Continental Hotel, otherwise known as a meeting place for the members of the High Table. D'Antonio had it coming, but that doesn't cut any ice with the High Table enforcers. In fact, Winston, the owner and manager of the Continental, will find himself in trouble from an Adjudicator for giving John his hour's grace.
With a $14 million bounty on his head it isn't long before his first encounter, in a public library where he is recovering some artefacts that may help him escape. But one hitman doesn't want to wait an hour, and the first fight ensues. Victorious, but injured, John seeks medical help from a clandestine medic who serves the High Table but who, to protect himself, must finish stitching John's wound before the hour is up. And the hour is indeed now up, so cue a succession of brutal encounters as John seeks out The Director, a woman from his past, who accepts one of the artefacts, a crucifix, as a ticket to give John safe passage to Casablanca. Read More…
02/05/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the fantasy of Avengers, back to reality with this very human story of a young Glaswegian country singer who believes that she should really be American, and residing in Nashville. Unfortunately her situation militates against this dream. With two young children, born before she was 18, we first see her being released from prison, where she was sent after being caught throwing drugs over the prison wall. Her mother has been minding her children, and when she returns they seem to be far more inclined to stay with their grandmother than be with their mother.
Jessie Buckley is absolutely superb as Rose-Lynn Harlan, really nailing her wild spirit and belting out the country songs. Julie Walters is equally brilliant as her long-suffering mum, who tries to persuade her daughter to forget the Nashville dream and instead take care of her children. This doesn't get off to a very good start, with her little boy clinging to his grandma as Rose tries to take him and his older sister to her flat.
28/04/19 Filed in: Cinema
Straight off, I must say that I have become a bit disenchanted with the superhero scene. Possibly it's simply a matter of too much of a good thing, or perhaps too much sameness. I certainly haven't seen all the Marvel films that led up to this finale, and it's clear that to appreciate Endgame fully you are better off knowing all that has gone before.
Reviews are overwhelmingly positive and box office receipts support the hype. But God knows how much it cost to have all the superhero actors in one film. It just had to be a success to pay its way, but I guess that they were fairly confident that it would be.
So what did I think? Certainly I had some difficulty knowing where everybody fitted in, and having not seen Infinity War was probably the biggest disadvantage. I could more or less put two and two together and get 3¾, which was good enough to enjoy the film. It's a minute over three hours, but it zips along so you won't probably notice the time. Although that said, a larger than usual number of people popped out during our viewing, presumably for comfort breaks. However, the structure of the film is such that missing a bit in the middle hardly matters. A lot of the first half is scene setting, pulling together the fallout from past events, picking up on the lives of the surviving Avengers, and devising a plot strategy that allows the less fortunate victims of Infinity War to be brought back into play.
29/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is a tricky film to review without completely spoiling it for anybody who is yet to see it. From the same stable as Get Out, it has that same unnerving quality about it. Fortunately it's squarely within the realms of horror fantasy rather than potential reality, although there are certain aspects that reflect dystopian possibilities.
It's 1986 and a couple are with their daughter at a Santa Cruz fun fare. The dad is behaving more like the child and while left to watch his daughter, he instead becomes completely absorbed by a 'bash-um' game. The daughter, Adelaide, wanders off, entering a hall of mirrors, while outside a storm brews. The power goes off, and while trying to find her way out she comes face to face with a doppelgänger of herself. We next see her reunited with her parents, but all is not well, as she is not speaking and believed to be traumatised.
22/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the hard-to-watch drama of The Escape, described in my previous review, Fisherman's Friends is a delightful tale of how a group of Cornish Fishermen became singing superstars thanks to a stag trip prank that had an unexpected outcome.
Four blokes with more money than sense arrive in the Cornish village of Port Isaac as a stag outing for Henry Montague, whose wealthy father owns a mansion nearby. The locals don't have a very high opinion of outsiders in general, and this quartet were never likely to be a great hit. An early encounter with Alwyn, a young local woman, sets the scene as the blokes meet her car bumper to bumper as they drive the wrong way down a one-way street. But this meeting is an important moment for Danny, one of the group, who immediately takes an interest in Alwyn. Back in her car, Alwyn refers to Danny as a tosser, at which her daughter asks her what's a tosser. Hang on to that as it provides a bit of humour later in the film, a film that is replete with humour and some impressive sea shanties.
20/03/19 Filed in: Amazon rental
This film didn't make it to our local Cineworld and we caught up with it streaming from Amazon. Critical reviews were strong although audiences appear to have been less enthralled. This might be because it's a film that deals with hard reality, effectively documenting the breakup of a marriage. And not a fanciful film marriage, but one that many ordinary people, and perhaps particularly women, can readily identify with. As The Spectator's review put it quite bluntly, 'It will save some marriages — or end others'.
Another reason for my interest is that it stars Gemma Arterton, who also features as one of the executive producers. My first screen encounter with Arterton was in the BBC series Tess of the D'Urbervilles, in which she played the eponymous ingénue. I hadn't read the book, despite its literary fame, and I found the story heartbreaking. Arterton's performance conveyed magnificently how Tess suffered at the hands of a young man who put his station above the feelings of this young woman, whereupon she then falls victim to an even nastier suitor.
16/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
As anyone who follows my reviews probably knows, I have of late become a bit bored with superhero movies. It's a matter of overkill, both in reality and metaphorically. But with no other enticing choice this week, and after hearing Mark Kermode give the film his blessing, off we went to see Brie Larson take on the role of Captain Marvel. Of course, that in itself was probably good reason to go since, Wonder Woman aside, female superheroes are pretty thin on the ground.
The film has been a resounding box office success despite the backlash against Larson, who had the temerity to advocate more diverse film criticism during an interview for the March 2019 edition of British Marie Claire. Citing the 'overwhelming white male representation among film critics' was never going to win her much support with dyed in the wool white males. But I doubt that worried Larson, and it would seem that there are plenty of white males out there who can imagine a world beyond that dominated by one half of the planet's population.
10/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
I really fancied this film from seeing the trailer and wasn't disappointed. But when I read the critics reviews I felt that I must have seen a different film. Some aspects of the plot were ,admittedly, probably a little far-fetched, but like any film it must steer a course between hard reality and dramatic interpretation. The central romance forms the core of the story and it is that that the critics seem most unhappy about. Personally, I saw two people thrown together, both of whom were looking for love and support, and for different reasons both were being denied these essential human needs.
Set in the total destruction of Hamburg at the end of the war, Rachael Morgan arrives to accompany her colonel husband Lewis, who is commanding the British force trying to make sense of the situation following the saturation bombing. He's a thoroughly decent chap, empathising with the German people who are struggling to make a life among the rubble of their city. Many of those around him are far less understanding, the them and us mentality still manifesting itself. Rachael is shocked by what she finds, and becomes more uneasy when they move into a grand house that is requisitioned by the army for Lewis and her. Her disquiet is caused by the presence of the German occupants, a former architect and widower, Stefan Lubert, and his stroppy daughter, Freda, who clearly resents their presence, as well as displaying some troubling characteristics of the Hitler youth.
04/03/19 Filed in: Cinema
Once again we have a film that follows actual events, this time the early life of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who takes on the patriarchal legal system in America after being rebuffed when she tries to enter the legal profession, despite excelling in her studies at both Harvard and Columbia.
Felicity Jones gives us a very credible Ginsburg while Armie Hammer plays her supportive husband, Marty. They are both at Harvard and this amplifies the unfairness of the system, since while Marty is good, Ruth, by his own definition, is head and shoulders above him in ability. He immediately secures a position after his studies, while Ruth, after many failed interviews, takes a post as professor at a Law School. Her young students are treated to an erudite exposition regarding legal bias against women, and this being Vietnam era America, she isn't short of enthusiastic support for her cause.
23/02/19 Filed in: Cinema
Another film that I knew little about before arriving at the cinema, but it has been well reviewed and is strongly considered to be a contender for the Oscars. From Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, here we have another film that explores the depth of human emotions, this time a love story between two young people in Harlem. Life isn't easy in Harlem, and when Tish finds she is pregnant with Fonny's baby, it's far from plain sailing. They are very much in love, and plan to marry, but his bible-quoting mother, along with her daughters, regard Tish as a fallen woman, and say so in no uncertain terms when invited to celebrate the news. Fonny's father puts his wife firmly in her place, very firmly, but it's not a very auspicious start for the young couple. Fortunately Tish's parents are loving and supportive, and when Tish and Fonny finally find a loft, and a landlord who doesn't turn them away because they're black, everything seems to be going to plan.
12/02/19 Filed in: Cinema
Other than having seen the trailer I knew absolutely nothing about this film before we went. So the first surprise was that it follows Shakespeare's life after he wrote his last play, that being after the loss by fire of the famous Globe Theatre in London when a prop cannon misfired. The play on at the time was Henry VIII, with the rather enigmatic alternative title of All IsTrue.
He returns home to his wife, Anne Hathaway of course, and his two daughters, Susanna and Judith. Susanna is married to a puritan and seems to be living quite a miserable life, while Judith is feisty and independent, and constantly at odds with her father. Anne, meanwhile, treats Shakespeare as a guest, given that he has been more or less absent for years. As the guest he's given the 'best bed' in the house, but not with Anne, who has the second best. Anne refers to him as husband. Amazingly we are told that Anne neither reads nor writes, so she is unable to share the works that have made her husband famous.
09/02/19 Filed in: Amazon rental
This film didn't make our local CineWorld when on release and we caught up with it on Amazon. I knew that Glenn Close was one of a number women being touted for an award, but I really knew very little about this film. The problem with reviewing it, is that the central premise of the story is a spolier too far for anybody who hasn't seen it. So on this occasion I'm going to skirt around things a bit.
Jonathan Pryce plays Joe Castleman, who early in the film receives confirmation that he is to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Much celebration ensues as he and his wife, Joan, played by Close, prepare to set off for Stockholm. But we soon get the feeling that all is not happiness and joy with Joan. This is partly explained as the film takes us back to when Joan met Joe, she a literature student and he, her professor. He recognises her talent and also falls in love with her.
08/02/19 Filed in: Cinema
Yet again with a number of good films around it was difficult to choose, but the trailer for Green Book had enticed me. I wasn't disappointed. Although there has been some criticism of the way it treats the race issue, personally I thought it was on the whole quite positive.
Mahershala Ali plays the renowned coloured pianist Doctor Donald (Don) Shirley who has planned a tour of the deep south, a very bold decision in the early 1960s. He needs a driver, and is told about Viggo Mortensen's Tony (Lip) Vallelonga, a street-wise bouncer of Italian heritage. The club where Tony works has closed for refurbishment and he needs a job, but not as a driver cum servant. But a compromise is reached and off they go. Tony is given the 'The Negro Motorist Green Book', basically a guide for coloured people contemplating touring the South. It informed you where, as a coloured person, you could go or stay and where you couldn't. Segregation is still rampant. Don plays piano as part of a trio, one of whom is Russian, although Tony decides he's German and continues to believe this throughout. Read More…
03/02/19 Filed in: Amazon Prime
We are introduced to Nathalie at her daughter's 18th birthday party. It is immediately clear that she's ill at ease. Recently divorced, her husband has turned up with his new partner, Isabelle. Younger, of course, slimmer, naturally, prettier, well not really. When Isabelle proudly announces that they are going Club-Med to the Maldives, Nathalie is furious, telling her ex that they rarely left France.
Nathalie is in fact jealous of everybody. Her daughter, who has a doting boyfriend, her best friend, who seems to have a perfect marriage, and a new young female teacher who has arrived at the college where she teaches. The jealously becomes all-consuming and leads to alienation of all around her, including a new love interest, who she throws out after accusing him of ogling her daughter. Read More…
01/02/19 Filed in: Cinema
Dick Cheney is a name I know but that's about as far as it goes. This film seeks to educate me, which indeed it did. The murky world of American politics is at best incomprehensible and at worst a cesspit of duplicity. And in Dick Cheney, if the story told in the film is to be believed, we are certainly well towards the duplicitous end of that spectrum.
In Cheney we're shown a Harvard dropout who after one last warning from his wife, Lynne, gets himself on a government intern programme, where he judiciously assigns himself to Donald Rumsfeld, another politician who operates at the wrong end of the spectrum. Loyal, astute and hungry to make good, Cheney does very well from this partnership. Distancing themselves from Nixon the two men come to the fore when Nixon resigns, Cheney becoming White House Chief of Staff and Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford. It all comes crashing down when Jimmy Carter is elected as president.
30/01/19 Filed in: Cinema
So after The Favourite, and then Colette, we have Mary Queen of Scots. Three headlining films all featuring female leads. It seems that the industry is finally getting the message that you don't need a male star to sell a film.
In this case we have Saoirse Ronan as the fiery Mary and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth. Two superb performances even if there has been some criticism regarding historical accuracy, the biggest bugbear being the meeting between the two women which is said never to have occurred. But by adding this fictitious scene it provides the opportunity to bring out the differences in character between the two women. Both needed to take great care, being surrounded by men who didn't think much of having a female queen, and among whom were those who coveted their thrones.
15/01/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is the bumper season for films as the Academy Awards draw nearer, so it is sometimes difficult to decide what to see. That said, the trailer for Colette was enough to convince me that it was one film I wouldn't miss. I must admit to knowing very little about this female author, which is an embarrassing admission considering my interest in things French.
We're introduce to Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, with her parents, in their country house. They await the arrival of Willy, the pen name of Henri Gauthier-Villars, a critic cum publisher who's on his way from Paris. All seems normal across the table as they sup tea, but after Willy has left we see Gabrielle, as she is called at this point, go out with a basket to collect blackberries, only to meet up with Willy in a barn. We next see the pair as man and wife in Paris.
13/01/19 Filed in: Cinema
This film is a very edgy comedy, with some language that may shock, and an underlying sexual theme that may surprise anyone expecting a run-of-the-mill period drama. The afternoon audience at our local Cineworld comprised mainly older people and it's my guess that quite a few left the cinema having seen a different film to what they expected. Two women actually left part way through.
Olivia Coleman plays Queen Anne, brilliantly, having already received award recognition and probably heading for more. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Abigail Masham (née Hill), a 'lady' who has fallen on hard times. Both of these supporting roles are equally deserving of recognition. Abigail is Sarah's cousin and was hoping that she could be found a position in at court, not expecting to be consigned to the bottom of the pecking order in the kitchen, where she is badly treated by the other servants.
05/01/19 Filed in: Cinema
My first review for a while after the Christmas break. It was Helen's choice and I knew very little about the film, other than it involved dolls. I hadn't read any reviews, and having since done so it seems that neither the critics nor audiences were very impressed, with some reviews being quite scathing. This could be because of the doll angle, the negative perceptions of cross-dressing or the objectification of the female characters as Barbie dolls.
Disturbingly the film is based on actual events, whereby in 2008 the principal character portrayed in the film, Mark Hogancamp, was beaten and almost killed by a group of five white supremacists who took offence when Hogencamp told them he was a cross-dresser. At the time he was a heavy drinker and said later that admitting to cross-dressing was unwise in the circumstances. After nine days in a coma and 40 days in hospital he was discharged with brain damage and post traumatic stress disorder. Unable to afford therapy, he created his own by building a ⅙ scale model of a Belgian town in his yard, and using dolls to represent himself, as Hogie, and his friends and his attackers. He photographed these dolls in action poses and it was these photographs that eventually brought his story to the attention of a wider audience. There is a Marwencol website and a book with nearly 600 of his images.