20 March 2017

Hair

Hair 1979
  • Director: Milos Forman
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, Don Dacus, Cheryl Barnes
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • John Savage – The Thin Red Line, The X Files, Do the Right Thing, Deer Hunter
    • Treat Williams – 127 Hours
    • Beverly D’Angelo – American History X, Edie & Pen, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Slow Burn, National Lampoon’s European Vacation
    • Annie Golden – Twelve Monkeys, Desperately Seeking Susan
  • Why? A must have
  • Seen: At least four times on stage, the film 5 or 6 times, now 11 March 2017      

       The first time I saw the play was in San Francisco in 1969. Most recently Hal and I saw it in Stockholm at Stadsteatern a few years ago with friends. A few weeks later we gathered in front of our TV to watch the film. For us the 5th or 6th time, for others the first. Each stage production is special. The film is special.
       Claud Hooper Bukowski, a hick from Oklahoma on his way to Vietnam via NYC, is brought under the enchantment of a group of draft card burning hippies, as is the rich girl Sheila. They’re both shocked and fascinated by the free-spirited rebelliousness of the hippies.
       The film is an extravaganza of dance and music, a feast for the eye and ear. It’s funny, political, sad, dramatic and filled with classic cinematic moments: Berger dancing on the banquet table singing ‘I Got Life’ at Sheila’s debut party. ‘Hair’ - straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied, angled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied – in a ‘Jailhouse Rock’ type celebration. The recruitment officers singing ‘Black Boys White Boys’.  Cheryl Barnes singing ‘Easy to Be Hard’ to Hud on the street – what a voice!
          The hallucinated wedding is long and boring and I will never forgive Forman for cutting ‘What a piece of work is man.’
           Or maybe I will. The scene with Berger marching into the cavernous black hole of the plane singing, ‘I believe in God and I believe that God believes in Claud, that’s me,’ – oh yes, I forgive Forman. What a heart-breaking scene.
            And the wars go on. In 2107.     

7* of 7   




Stories of Lost Souls

Stories of Lost Souls 2005
  • Director: different ones
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Jason Acuña, Paul Bettany, Cate Blanchett, Illeana Douglas, Michael Gambon, James Gandolfini, Darryl Hannah, Jeff Goldblum, Hugh Jackman, Kiera Knightley, Joanna Lumley, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Andy Serkis
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Paul Bettany – Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Tourist, Creation, Young Victoria, Dogville, A Beautiful Mind, A Knight’s Tale,
    • Cate Blanchett – Cinderella, The Hobbit, Hannah, Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Elizabeth The Golden Age, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, Lord of the Rings, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried, Elizabeth
    • Illeana Douglas – Factory Girl, Six Feet Under, Happy Texas
    • Michael Gambon – Harry Potter, The Hollow Crown, Fortitude, Quirke, The Quartet, Doctor Who, The King’s Speech, Brideshead Revisited, Cranford, Amazing Grace, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Angels in America, Gosford Park, Longitude, Sleepy Hollow, Mary Reilly
    • James Gandolfini – Not Fade Away, In the Loop, The Sopranos, Romance & Cigarettes, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Get Shorty, True Romance
    • Darryl Hannah – Kill Bill 1&2, Grumpy Old Men, Clan of the Cave Bear, Blade Runner
    • Jeff Goldblum – Mortdecai, Igby Goes Down, Independence Day, Jurassic Park, The Fly, Silverado, Nashville
    • Hugh Jackman – X Men Days of Future Past, Les Misérables, X Men, Australia, The Fountain
    • Kiera Knightley – Never Let Me Go, Atonement, Pirates of the Caribbean, Love Actually
    • Joanna Lumley – Absolutely Fabulous, Ella Enchanted, Cold Comfort Farm, Shirley Valentine, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio – The Perfect Storm, My Life So Far, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Class Action, The January Man
    • Andy Serkis – The Hobbit, Brighton Rock, King Kong, Lord of the Rings, 24 Hour Party People, Topsy-Turvy, Career Girls, Prince of Jutland
  • Why? Good cast
  • Seen: 10 March 2017      

       Having no idea what to expect of this we soon discover that it is simply a collection of short stories, filmed by different directors in different years. They have no connection whatsoever to each other.
       We have a handsome dwarf who murders his neighbour and steals his legs to become tall for the woman he secretly adores (and stalks). This one is creepy. We have an apparently rich con man who succeeds in stealing a laptop in the lobby of a fancy hotel. There is a queue to last minute tickets to the theatre in which they all become friends, and former TV stars who work in a supermarket and put on performances for the customers, some of whom are fans.  We attend a New Year’s party and witness the disintegration of a neurotic alcoholic visiting her neurotic mother. And finally, another drunk who wakes up in an apartment stripped of all its furniture and believes his wife has left him, taking everything.
       And that’s the film. All of the stories are well directed and well-acted – just look at the cast and you will see why. I wonder though who collected the films and put them on a DVD. I’m glad they did.

4* of 5   


Another World

Another World 2014
  • Director: Eitan Reuvan
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Zach Cohen, Susanne Gschwendtner, Davina Kevelson, Carl McCrystal
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Carl McCrystal – Hustle, Doctor Who, The World Is Not Enough
  • Why? Sounded good. Got several prizes.
  • Seen: 3 March 2017      

       ‘You wake up one day and everyone around you is a blood-thirsty zombie and you’re not curious. Why?’
       ‘No. Just kill them, keep running and hiding, and survive.’
       These aren’t direct quotes but they sum up the conflict between the scientist and the soldier, both zombie killers.
       Enter, running, fleeing, two somewhat scantily clad good-looking young women, one a doctor, the other her sister or daughter or something.
       The narrator, a mysterious radio voice they all listen to, ponders the source of the pandemic as the four survive the first day. And the second. And the third.
       How do we end up watching so many zombie films? I thought this was an other-planet sci-fi or something.
       Quotes from Genesis, political and philosophical chat between the zombie-killing. Question: where do they get the endless supply of bullets? Petrol for the cars?
       Jerky, illogical scene changes, stilted dialogue, annoying gender stereotypes, boring in spite of all the running and shooting and drama – in comparison Cockneys vs Zombies is a masterpiece.
       It has some valid philosophical basis but as Hal puts it, ‘The script is dead.’ The ending has a nice twist but there are too many illogical holes to work.
      
1 ½ * of 5   




6 March 2017

A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day’s Night 1964
  • Director: Richard Lester
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Victor Spinetti, Wilfrid Brambell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • John Lennon – Help!, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour, How I Won the War
    • Paul McCartney – Help!, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • Ringo Starr – Caveman, Candy, Help!, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • George Harrison – Help!,  Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • Victor Spinetti – Voyage of the Damned, Magical Mystery Tour, Help!
  • Why? The Beatles
  • Seen: About 20 times (seriously). Now: 24 February 2017      

       ‘Turn left at Greenland.’ ‘Stop being taller than me.’ ‘She looks more like him than I do.’ ‘They’re dead grotty.’ ‘A bloomin’ book.’ All classic quotes, some of which I use regularly myself to this day.
       The story is minimal. The lads are on their way to London – on a train! The Beatles on a train! – for a live TV program, accompanied by Paul’s trouble-making granddad (‘Me other one.’) They go to a nightclub but are rounded up by their minders Norm and Shake and brought back to the hotel to answer their fan mail. Everywhere they go they’re chased by screaming fans. Ringo feels bullied by the others and Granddad manipulates his inferiority complex so that he wanders off. But he comes back and the TV program is aired. All is well.
       It’s just a film about the Beatles being clever, witty, irreverent, doing everything they can to escape the pressure and demands. And playing their music. ‘Don’t Bother Me.’ ‘All My Loving.’ ‘If I Fell.’
       Slapstick, absurd, charming. I’m sure all these words found their way into the reviews back then. It was considered fresh and innovative.
       So innocent. So simple. So long ago. If only they had known what they had ahead of them.

5* of 5   


Help!

Help! 1965
  • Director: Richard Lester
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, Leo McKern
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
  • John Lennon – A Hard Day’s Night, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour, How I Won the War
    • Paul McCartney – A Hard Day’s Night, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • Ringo Starr – Caveman, Candy, A Hard Day’s Night, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • George Harrison – A Hard Day’s Night, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour
    • Eleanor Bron – Absolutely Fabulous, Women in Love, Alfie
    • Victor Spinetti – Voyage of the Damned, Magical Mystery Tour, A Hard Day’s Night
    • Leo McKern – King Lear, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Our Mutual Friend, A Man for All Seasons, Moll Flanders
  • Why? The Beatles
  • Seen: 10-15 times. Now: 17 February 2017      

       The first time I saw this I had just seen the Beatles in concert. August 1965. Yes, I was one of the screaming girls.
       Many years ago! Now it’s been a while since seeing it. It’s time. And I am really curious. It’s been a long time since I screamed for the Beatles and I don’t often listen to their music, but occasionally the mood hits me.
       It’s such a stupid story. Ringo has been sent a ring by a fan, the sacrificial ring of a quasi-Indian sect. They chase the Beatles round the world together with a mad scientist.
       Stupid story or not the Beatles and everyone else are very funny. It’s loaded with details. Don’t even blink! Or you’ll miss something good.
       It’s so very British. So very Beatle-y. It’s just an excuse for the Beatles to be the Beatles (or at least the image of the Beatles created at the time) while playing at James Bond with some very good British actors – Eleanor Bron and Leo McKern to name two. And of course to play songs that became classics – ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’, ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘I Need You’, and ‘Help!’ of course.
       It goes on just a little too long and the gender stereotypes are so 60’s but never mind.

       4* of 5   





10 February 2017

Lady Jane

Lady Jane 1986
  • Director: Trevor Nunn
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Cary Elwes, John Wood, Michael Horden, Jane Lapotaire, Patrick Stewart
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Helena Bonham Carter – The Lone Ranger, Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Dark Shadows, Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter, Toast, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Enid, Terminator Salvation, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Conversations with Other Women, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Fight Club, Keep the Aspidistras Flying, Twelfth Night, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Howards End, Hamlet, A Room with a View
    • Cary Elwes – Ella Enchanted, The X Files, Cradle Will Rock, Kiss the Girls, Twister
    • John Wood – Chocolat, Longitude, Jane Eyre, The Madness of King George, Orlando
    • Michael Horden – Middlemarch, Cymbeline, Gandhi, King Lear, Ivanhoe, All’s Well that Ends Well, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, How I Won the War, The Yellow Rolls Royce, Cleopatra
    • Jane Lapotaire – Shooting Fish, Surviving Picasso, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra
    • Patrick Stewart – The Hollow Crown Richard II, The X Men Days of Future Past, Hamlet, Extras, X Men, Star Trek (one of them, I don’t remember which), Excalibur, Hamlet, I Claudius
  • Why? HBC and the subject
  • Seen: 29 January 2017      

       Having just read The Children of England by Alison Weir about the three children of Henry VIII it’s fitting to finally watch this film that has been waiting on the shelf for some time.
       When Henry died his heir Edward was nine years old. He was quite a strong king for all that but he inconveniently died at the age of fifteen. He was a fervent protestant and his supporters were determined to keep his fanatically Catholic half-sister Mary from the throne. They chose fifteen-year-old Jane Grey, a shy, scholarly, well-educated girl with cruel, ambitious and manipulative parents.
       But I’m getting ahead of myself.
       The film starts with Jane and Edward being friends, with Jane being warned by Catholic Princess Mary to take care. Some of the intrigues are revealed. Jane is married off to the Duke of Northumberland, the drunken, brawling, stupid Guilford, against her vehement protests, but only after being whipped into submission by her mother. Even her friend the king tells her she must marry Guilford.
       So they marry. Neither is happy about it but then they get to know each other. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. This romantic bit is highly unhistorical. And Guilford was, in reality, hardly the class-conscious revolutionary portrayed here.
       Edward dies and to her horror Jane finds that she has been manipulated into becoming queen.
       She decides to take advantage of it to promote her protestant beliefs but neither the people nor Mary are pleased. Mary raises an army. Jane is queen for nine days. Then Mary is proclaimed queen and Jane is confined to the Tower.
       The movie is too long and far too romantic. Nevertheless, it is quite an interesting portrayal of this short dramatic parenthesis in Tudor history. A very young Bonham Carter is already showing her vast acting skills.
      
3 * of 5   




V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta (2005)
  • Director: James McTeigue
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Pigott- Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam, Ben Miles, Sinead Cusack, Guy Henry
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Natalie Portman – Thor, Black Swan, The Other Boleyn Girl, Paris je t’aime, Star Wars I-II-III, Closer, Cold Mountain, Anywhere but Here, Mars Attacks!, Léon
    • Hugo Weaving – The Hobbit, Cloud Atlas, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
    • John Hurt – Doctor Who, Snowpiercer, Merlin, The Hollow Crown, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter 1-8, Melancholia, Brighton Rock, Manderlay, Dogville, Contact, Dead Man, Roby Roy, King Lear, The Elephant Man, Alien, I Claudius
    • Stephen Rea – The Butcher Boy, Fever Pitch, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, Life Is Sweet
    • Stephen Fry – The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Extras, Tristram Shandy, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, Longitude, Black Adder, Cold Comfort Farm, Jeeves and Wooster, A Fish Called Wanda
    • Tim Pigott-Smith – Simon Schama’s Shakespeare, Alice in Wonderland, Quantum of Solace, Gangs of New York, The Remains of the Day, Measure for Measure
    • Rupert Graves – Last Tango in Halifax, Dr Who, Mrs Dalloway, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Intimate Relations, The Madness of King George, A Handful of Dust, A Room with a View
    • Roger Allam – Endeavour, The Lady in the Van, The Tempest (on stage at the Globe and the filmed production of it), Simon Schama’s Shakespeare, The Angel’s Share, The Woman in Black, Pirates of the Caribbean, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, The Catherine Tate Show, The Queen, Tristram Shandy, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
    • Ben Miles – The Hollow Crown, Under the Greenwood Tree, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying,
    • Sinead Cusack – Twelfth Night
    • Guy Henry – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2, Creation, Wallander, Lost in Austen, Extras, starter for 10, Hustle, Bright Young Things, Lady Jane
  • Why? a good movie
  • Seen: Once previously. Now 28 January 2017      

       Sadly we have been reached by the news that John Hurt has died. Such a great loss. In his memory we have chosen this film for the evening.
       It starts however with Roger Allam as a fanatic Christian Muslim-hating, homophobic TV celebrity, ‘the Voice of London’…how close to grim reality is that in the mad world of today?
       Evey (Portman) ventures out after curfew in a totalitarian London. She is abused by the police and rescued by a masked hero who is called a terrorist by John Hurt, the dictator. The masked hero calls himself V.
       Evey works as an errand girl for a BBC-like institution and gets caught up in V’s vendetta. V: ‘There’s something terrible wrong with this country. People should not be afraid of their governments.’
       While watching we have to remind ourselves that this is pretend. But the society V is fighting against is chillingly like the one Trump is rapidly creating.
       The cast is from Britain’s elite, the story is intelligent, the dialogue scholarly, the characters complex. And there are a lot of references to Shakespeare. It goes on too long and it’s confusing at times. The lone tortured hero is violently overdone and the love story is unnecessary. The political message won’t really hold up to much scrutiny despite the meticulous set-up. But it’s clever, funny, exciting and grim. The end is very dramatic.
       John Hurt, you do an outstandingly evil dictator. We first saw you as Caligula. But I will remember you most gratefully and affectionately for your Mr Ollivander and Kilgarrah. Thank you.

4 * of 5