With the Covid-19 situation we have obviously not been going to the cinema. We have watched films on TV, often older ones available free to subscribers on Amazon Prime. I haven't posted reviews for these as I kind of feel that they don't count! I have, however, continued to post short reviews of French films that I've watched on Prime. See my 'Bonjour' page at French at 60 for details.
When we saw that Summerland was available from the Amazon Store, and not showing at our recently reopened CineWorld, we splashed out (£15.99) and bought it on rental. No doubt the price will drop in time but we couldn't wait.
Besides being a wonderful film it is, as suggested by Mark Kermode, "…just the tonic we need in times of turmoil." What's more it stars Gemma Arterton, who melted my heart long ago in the BBC TV production of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
In Summerland she plays Alice Lamb, a woman living alone by the coast who writes books based on her detailed research into folk tales. The local children believe her to be a witch and the adults don't have a great deal of time for her either. But she seems to relish her reputation, or at the very least not care. The film begins with her as an older woman, played superbly by Penelope Wilton, her character seemingly having not mellowed with age. But the bulk of the story takes place during the Second World War, with fine details for the period setting.
Alice's life is disrupted when she is presented with an evacuee, Frank, from London. After every attempt to refuse to have him, she finally agrees he can stay for a week while they find an alternative family to care for him. After a period of basically ignoring Frank his easy-going manner starts to melt her enmity, and she shares with him a secret from her past that she assumes might shock him. But it doesn't. And it is now that we learn more about her past, and of a love affair that left her distraught. She knows that the knowledge of this affair would almost certainly further alienate her from the locals. But just as Alice and Frank start to form a bond, events conspire to undermine their fragile relationship.
And then she discovers something in Frank's possessions that changes everything!
A very tender film.
Mark Kermode review
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 75%: Audiences 70%
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.
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.
We hope to see the new Blade Runner film later this week so yesterday evening we watched the original 1982 movie. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the original film is that the setting is 2019. The Sci Fi imagination clearly saw a lot more technical progress being achieved in respect of flying cars, while portraying Los Angeles as decayed and dystopian. And it never seems to stop raining.
Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a retired blade runner, a specialist police officer who hunts down replicants. These are bioengineered androids that are confined to off-world colonies, but are unwelcome back on Earth, thus the need for blade runners. Deckard is forced out of retirement to track down four such replicants, these being highly advanced and difficult to distinguish from humans. There is a test that will reveal a replicant, but these advanced models have embedded memories and can be quite difficult to identify. An attempt to do so with one of this group, Leon, ends rather badly for another blade runner.
Personal Shopper competed for the Palme d"Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. We were in Nice at the time and saw a couple of 'Cannes' films at local cinemas, but not this one. It is now on Amazon for rental at £1.99, so we viewed it on Thursday evening. All I knew about it was that Kristen Stewart plays a personal shopper, and that there was a psychological mystery aspect.
Set mainly in Paris, Maureen Cartwright, the shopper, is first introduced to us as she arrives at an old house, accompanied by another woman. She is left there alone, and the place is quite spooky. It transpires it is the house where Maureen's brother lived, the woman who accompanied her there being her brother's girlfriend, Lara. Her brother, who was her twin, is dead. The reason for being in the house is that potential buyers want go be sure that it is free from evil spirits, but Maureen also would like to try to make contact with her brother. Both he and Maureen believed themselves to be mediums, each having promised to try to make contact in the event of the other's death. It appears that her brother, Lewis, was more convinced of the medium thing than Maureen, who seems at times to be somewhat ambivalent. She does encounter a spirit, but it isn't Lewis, and once the spirit has left her job there is done.
Amazon was offering a £1.99 rental on this film, which I missed at the cinema. In fact with a discount coupon it only cost me £0.99. So was it worth the money?
Originally a Japanese manga series the film is certainly futuristic with gigantic holographic images permeating the city. Cybernetic technology is mainstream and it seems that it is difficult to distinguish between completely 'real' people and those who have been enhanced to a greater or lesser degree using cybernetics. Scarlett Johansson plays Mira Killian, the ultimate cybernetic hybrid in that the only organic part of her is her brain. She is led to believe that she was rebuilt after her parents were killed in a cyberterrorist attack. Juliette Binoche plays Dr Ouelet, the designer who is responsible for Mira's development, and who is very protective of her. Dr Ouelet's boss, Hanka CEO Cutter, is however far less emotionally attached and thinks only of the business benefits that will flow from the project.
As a major in the anti-terrorist bureau Section 9, Mira is know simply as the Major. She receives orders from Chief Daisuke Aramaki, who speaks in Japanese (I assume) throughout, while Mira and everybody else reply in English. The anti-terrorist team intervene in an attack on a Hanka business conference where Mira destroys a mechanical geisha, after which she learns that the geisha had been hacked by an unknown entity, known as Kuze. In an attempt to track down this entity she breaks the rules and 'dives' into the geisha's AI. She has to be disconnected when the entity attempts a counter-hack, but she learns enough to set her on its trail.