15 January 2017

Enemy Mine

Enemy Mine 1985
  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Based on short story by Barry Longyear
  • Cast: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gosset Jr
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Dennis Quaid – Smart People, American Dreamz, Day After Tomorrow, Far from Heaven, Postcards from the Edge, Great Balls of Fire, Caveman
  • Why? Sounded interesting
  • Seen: 13 January 2017      

       Humans battle Draks (male and female in the same body) in space over resources. Human bomber pilot Willis crash lands on a planet and finds there a Drak. Wills stalks the Drak with intent to kill but the Drak outsmarts him. Willis is stupid, arrogant, irritating and racist. The Drak is smart, funny and more human than the human.
       A spoof? A comedy? A parody? An adventure story? A social commentary?
       The planet is hostile. They have to cooperate to survive and take turns saving each other’s lives, while arguing violently over who started the war and whose fault everything is.
       It turns out that the Drak is pregnant.
       What a strange movie. At moments it has the feel of a 50’s musical (not one of the good ones). At times it’s an anti-racist fable. It’s full of pathetic clichés, badly written lines and bad acting. It has some interesting ideas and takes a few unexpected turns.
       From 0 * at the beginning it seems to have crawled up a bit but it’s far too long and it ends with one of those stupid fist fights that directors can’t seem to resist.

1 ½ * of 5   


Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away
  • Director: David Chase
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: John Magaro, Jack Huston, James Gandolfini, Bella Heathcote, Dominique McElligott
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Jack Huston – Factory Girl
    • James Gandolfini – In the Loop, The Sopranos, Romance & Cigarettes, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Get Shorty, True Romance
    • Bella Heathcote  – Dark Shadows
    • William H. Macy – Cake, The Lincoln Lawyer, Bobby, The Cooler, State and Main, Happy Texas, Pleasantville, Boogie Nights, Fargo, The Client, Benny and Joon
  • Why? James Gandolfini, 60’s music
  • Seen: 8 January 2017      

       The assassination of JFK. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley on American TV. Aspiring rock groups. Teen angst, unrequited love. Coming back after the first term at college with long hair, enraging the overweight, chain smoking, homophobic racist working class dad. Smoking grass.
       Talk about a walk down memory lane. All those 60’s songs! Flashes of the LPs we all knew and loved. A little Vietnam War. A little civil rights movement. Leadbelly. Burl Ives.
       This is such a cavalcade of 60’s nostalgia that I don’t know what the story is. It’s full of clichés and not terribly interesting. Gandolfini lifts it a bit in his few scenes though he isn’t given much to work with.
       The music is good but then with the E Street Band people involved it bloody well should be.

2 ½ * of 5   


X Men Days of Future Past

X Men: Days of Future Past 2014
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables, Australia, The Fountain, Kate & Leopold, X Men
    • James McAvoy – Filth, Wanted, Atonement, Becoming Jane, Starter for 10, Shakespeare Retold Macbeth, Inside I’m Dancing, Bright Young Things, White Teeth
    • Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games 1-4, Winter’s Bone
    • Michael Fassbender – Macbeth, Prometheus, Jane Eyre, Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank, Hunger
    • Halle Berry – Cloud Atlas, Things We Lost in the Fire, Monster’s Ball, X Men, Bulworth, Jungle Fever
    • Ellen Page – Inception, Smart People, Juno
    • Peter Dinklage -  Station Agent, Human Nature
    • Ian McKellan – Vicious, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, Richard III, Six Degrees of Separation, Cold Comfort Farm, The Ballad of Little Jo, Macbeth
    • Patrick Stewart – The Hollow Crown Richard II, Hamlet, Extras, X Men, Star Trek (one of them, I don’t remember which), Excalibur, Hamlet, I Claudius
  • Why? Oh, why not? And James McAvoy is in it
  • Seen: 30 December 2016      

       Oh, how we love our superheroes and supervillains! News flash, people, if we want the world to be saved we have to do it ourselves, from the enemy who doesn’t have superpowers, just money and great skill in the manipulation of people’s fears, and in many cases vast ignorance.
       But let’s pretend that a) watching movies like this can be inspiring and b) they give us rest and entertainment so that we can regain the energy to take up the fight again.
       Fans of the X Men films would probably not find this as confusing as I do but I do sort of remember the first one so some of it makes a sort of sense. Going back in time, to the 70’s to prevent…etc., meeting all the X men (and women) before they were X.
       Too long! Too long!
       But amusing at times, and dramatic. Inspiring? Not in the least. Entertaining? Somewhat. Have I regained energy so that I can fight the fight tomorrow? Hardly.
       But I like James McAvoy.
      
2 ½  * of 5   


Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep 2014
  • Director: Rowan Joffe
  • Based on book by S J Watson
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Nicole Kidman  The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole, Nine, Australia, Margot at the Wedding, Fur, Cold Mountain, The Human Stain, Dogville, The Hours, Birthday Girl, Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Billy Barthgate
    • Colin Firth – Railway Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King’s Speech, Genova, Then She Found Me, Nanny McPhee, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, Girl with Pearl Earring, My Life So Far, Shakespeare in Love, A Thousand Acres, Fever Pitch, The English Patient
    • Mark Strong – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Eagle, Young Victoria, Robin Hood, Flashbacks of a Fool, Stardust, Sunshine, Sunshine (the other one), Fever Pitch
    • Anne-Marie Duff – Nowhere Boy, Notes on a Scandal, The Magdalena Sisters
  • Why? Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth
  • Seen: 16 December 2016      

       Good title for one who tends to doze off during the Friday evening film. This one ought to keep me awake…
       Christine received severe head injuries in a car crash and every morning she wakes up with no memory of her husband, the loving Ben, or their 14-year-old marriage. Or anything else. Every morning is a blank with no memory of anything, including the previous day.
       Unknown to Ben a neuropsychologist, Dr Nasch, is trying to treat Christine for her amnesia. He has told her it wasn’t an accident. She was attacked and beaten. The doctor tells her to keep a journal. She does, and in it she writes, ‘Don’t trust Ben,’ though she doesn’t remember why.
       We watch as every day flashes of memory come to her – of a friend, Claire, of a child.  Ben tells her Claire left her after the accident. That their son died, eight years old.
       She remembers the attack but was it Ben? Or Dr Nasch? Which one should she fear? Which one should she love? Is the man she wakes up with every morning even her husband Ben?
       It gets quite scary and the acting is good. It’s decent Friday evening fare and I didn’t doze off.
      
2 ½ * of 5   



14 December 2016

Stalker

Stalker 1979
  • Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Based on novel Picnic Roadside by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  • Cast: Aleksandr Kaydanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsin, Nikolay Grinko, Alisa Freyndlikh
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Anatoly Solonitsin – Solaris
    • Nikolay Grinko – Solaris
  • Why? A classic
  • Seen:  Once before. Now 11 December 2016 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group

             The book was a surprise. Slangy, 50’s western kitsch, only mildly interesting, mainly because of the impact it probably had when it came out in the 70’s. Aliens come to Earth then just leave, ignoring us completely. How insulting!
       In the film, it’s not even certain that the Zone was created by aliens, could just be a meteorite.  Not a good change, why did Tarkovsky do that?
       The Stalker’s wife is in despair because he’s going back into the Zone despite his promises not to. it’s illegal. He could get ten years in prison. The Author and the Professor have hired him to guide them in. They make their way through mud and run-down buildings. A town in ruins. Guards shoot at them as they enter the Zone.
       It goes on and on and on, slowly! They talk a lot but it’s almost impossible to know which one of them is speaking. Gradually we get a little of the background and the legends about the Zone.
       It’s all very mystical and atmospheric and symbolic (I suppose). There’s a room where everyone finds happiness, their deepest wish comes true. The Stalker warns them to be careful but they don’t listen.
       When I saw this the first time I was probably willing to be impressed by the mysterious and philosophical, and the Great Tarkovsky. Now, frankly, I don’t have the patience for a film that starts with a complaining hysterical wife and continues for three hours with three middle-aged men wandering about uttering supposed profundities in search of some meaning.
       It’s interesting at times but more often it’s annoyingly superficial, babbly, querulous and quasi-religious.
       We agree. The book was better. And we didn’t much like the book.

1 ½ * of 5


Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime 2009
  • Director: Todd Solondz
  • Based on novel: by no
  • Cast: Shirley Henderson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Dylan Riley Snyder, Ciarán Hinds, Paul Reubens, Emma Hinz, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Shirley Henderson – Filth, Doctor Who, Shakespeare Re-Told The Taming of the Shrew, Harry Potter, Tristram Shandy, 24 Hour Party People, Topsy-Turvy, Trainspotting, Rob Roy
    • Michael Kenneth Williams – The Road, The Wire, Gone Baby Gone, The Sopranos, Bringing Out the Dead
    • Allison Janney – The Help, Juno, The Hours, American Beauty, 10 Things I Hate about You, The Ice Storm
    • Ciarán Hinds – The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, Hustle, Margot at the Wedding, Hallam Foe, Amazing Grace, The Calendar Girls, Road to Perdition, Titanic Town, Jane Eyre, Cold Lazarus, Mary Reilly, Excalibur
    • Charlotte Rampling – Melancholia, Never Let Me Go, Great Expectations, Lemming
  • Why? sequel to Happiness
  • Seen: 9 December 2016 

Happiness was a very strange movie but I liked it. It was about anything but happiness.
If anything, this one is even weirder. I can’t find words. The opening scene: Omar (from The Wire, Williams, here called Alan) in a restaurant with his wife Moaning Myrtle of the Harry Potter films (Henderson, here called Joy). Alan tells her that he has stopped doing perverted things. Well, almost. He only does them on Sundays.
A mother (Janney) tells her ten-year-old son about her sexual arousal with a new gentleman friend.
A rough looking character (Hinds) is getting out of prison.
What is this? I don’t know if I’m meant to remember Happiness (same characters, different actors). After a while it starts coming back. Three sisters who love and hate each other. Suicide, paedophilia, homophobia. The stories weave in and out.
The cast is a mix of very good actors and the acting, for all the deliberate stiltedness and melodrama, is fascinating. The result is an odd mix of the tragic, the absurd, and the silly. For me it doesn’t quite work. But the acting is so unusual, therefore


3 * of 5

Room

Room 2015
  • Director: Lenny Abrahamson
  • Based on book by Emma Donaghue
  • Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridges, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Brie Larson – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
    • Jacob Tremblay – Nothing yet but I expect to see more of him
    • Joan Allen – The Bourne Legacy, Pleasantville, FaceOff, The Ice Storm, In Country, Peggy Sue Got Married
    • William H. Macy – Cake, The Lincoln Lawyer, Bobby, The Cooler, State and Main, Happy Texas, Pleasantville, Boogie Nights, Fargo, The Client, Benny and Joon
  • Why? Curious, having read the book
  • Seen: 3 December 2016      

       Jack is five years old today. Ma says they’re going to make a birthday cake. Perfectly ordinary. Except that Ma and Jack are confined to a single room and are dependent on Old Nick for everything.
       Ma does her best to make life seem normal for Jack, and for him it is because he knows nothing else. He tries to make sense of what’s real (everything in Room) and what’s pretend (everything outside Room).
       Old Nick comes and goes. He demands gratitude for everything he brings them. He’s violent. He punishes them for disobeying him by cutting off the electricity.
       Ma tries to explain the world outside to Jack. ‘We can’t go on living like this, and I need your help,’ she says. She explains how she was kidnapped by Old Nick and imprisoned in his garden shed. She’s been there for seven years. She has a plan for escape.
       It’s very low-key and evenly paced. It’s an insane kidnap and rescue story, and the psychological effects on the victims are realistically and unsentimentally portrayed. It goes on too long but it’s a good adaption of the book. The acting is superb, especially by the boy Jacob Tremblay. It misses full scores because it’s more interesting than gripping.

4 * of 5