12 February 2018

From Time to Time


From Time to Time 2009
  • Director: Julian Fellowes
  • Based on the novel by Lucy M. Boston
  • Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Etel, Pauline Collins, Timothy Spall, Eliza Bennett, Dominic West, Douglas Booth, Hugh Bonneville, Harriet Walter, Kwayedza Kureya, Carice van Houten
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Maggie Smith – Lady in the Van, My Old Lady, Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Downton Abbey, the Harry Potter films, The Quartet, Becoming Jane, Keeping Mum, Ladies in Lavender, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Gosford Park, David Copperfield, Tea with Mussolini, The First Wives’ Club, Richard III, Sister Acts 1 and 2, A Room with a View, Quartet (1981), Oh What a Lovely War, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    • Alex Etel – Cranford, Millions
    • Pauline Collins – Quartet, Merlin, Doctor Who, Bleak House, Shirley Valentine, Upstairs Downstairs
    • Timothy Spall – Alice in Wonderland, Mr Turner, The Love Punch, Ginger and Rosa, Harry Potter, The King’s Speech, Sweeney Todd, Auf Wierdersehen Pet, My House in Umbria, All or Nothing, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Topsy-Turvy, Our Mutual Friend, Hamlet, Secret’s and Lies, Spender, Life Is Sweet, Gothic, Quadrophenia
    • Dominic West – Genius, Testament of Youth, The Wire, Mona Lisa’s Smile, Chicago, 28 Days, Star Wars, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Surviving Picasso, Richard III
    • Douglas Booth – Jupiter Ascending, Pillars of the Earth
    • Hugh Bonneville – The Hollow Crown, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Lost in Austen, Bonekickers, Daniel Deronda, Notting Hill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    • Carice van Houten – Repo Men, Valkyrie
    • Harriet Walter – Star Wars the Force Awakens, London Spy, Downton Abbey, The Young Victoria, Atonement, Babel, Bright Young Things, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Sense and Sensibility
  • Why? Maggie Smith
  • Seen: 11 February 2018      
       Tolly (Etel) is thirteen years old and arrives at his grandmother’s (Smith) country estate as the war is ending. His father is missing in action. Most assume he is dead but not Tolly.
       He explores the old mansion and asks a lot of questions about their ancestors of his grandmother, the old free-spoken housekeeper (Collins) and groundskeeper (Spall). Then he starts seeing ghosts. His grandmother is not at all surprised.
       The story goes back to the 19th century. Tolly’s great-something grandfather (Bonneville), a sea captain, brings back a runaway slave Jacob (Kureya) to be companion and friend to his blind daughter Susan (Bennett), whose mother (van Houten) and brother Seton (Booth) are not well pleased. Seton and the butler (West) are sadistic bullies. Jacob, Susan and the servants are at their mercy and Tolly is powerless to help them because only Susan knows he’s there. But then Jacob and a servant girl see him and he’s now able to help them.
       I hadn’t expected a ghost story but find that I quite enjoy it

3 ½ * of 5 (the extra ½ is just because I love Maggie Smith and she gets 5* as always.



The Holiday


The Holiday 2006
  • Director: Nancy Meyers
  • Based on the novel: no
  • Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns, Sarah Parish
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Cameron Diaz – In Her Shoes, Gangs of New York, Being John Malkovich, A Life Less Ordinary, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Feeling Minnesota
    • Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, Hugo, Contagion, Repo Men, Sherlock Holmes, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Sleuth, Breaking and Entering, The Aviator, Closer, Alfie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Cold Mountain, Road to Perdition, eXistenZ, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Gattaca, Wilde
    • Kate Winslet – Contagion, Mildred Pierce, The Reader, Little Children, Romance & Cigarette, Extras, Finding Neverland, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Life of David Gale, Hideous Kinky, Titanic, Hamlet, Jude, Sense and Sensibility
    • Jack Black – Be Kind Rewind, Margot at the Wedding, King Kong, School of Rock, High Fidelity, Cradle Will Rock, Mars Attacks, Dead Man Walking, X Files, Tenacious D
    • Rufus Sewell – The Tourist, The Pillars of the Earth, Amazing Grace, Paris je t’aime, The Taming of the Shrew Re-told, The Knight’s Tale, Hamlet, Cold Comfort Farm, Middlemarch
    • Eli Wallach – The Ghost Writer, The Misfits
    • Edward Burns – Saving Private Ryan, She’s the One
    • Sarah Parish – The Pillars of the Earth, Merlin, Doctor Who, Much Ado About Nothing Re-told, Blackpool, Kiss Me Kate
  • Why? Jude Law
  • Seen: Once before. Now 10 February 2018      

       Romantic comedies are not my cup of tea, but Jude Law is, and Jack Black is good too and I don’t mind Cameron Diaz or Kate Winslet.
       London. Daily Telegraph journalist Iris (Winslet) is unhappily and unrequitedly in love with colleague Jasper (Sewell) who gets engaged to another woman at the staff Christmas party.
       LA. Trailer film maker Amanda (Diaz) throws out her boyfriend and he points out that that’s what she does, breaks up with boyfriends.
       They find each other via internet and emails and switch houses for the Christmas holidays. Charming rustic English cottage. Ultra-modern Hollywood mansion.
       Miles (Black), colleague to Amanda’s boyfriend, drops by to pick up something, finds Iris.
       Graham (Law), Iris’s brother, shows up drunk, at sister’s cottage, finds Amanda.
       Surprise, surprise, things happen.
       It’s just a romantic comedy. But Jude Law makes it worth watching. And the quick little Dustin Hoffman cameo gives it a little boost.

3* of 5



Wanted


Wanted 2008
  • Director: Timur Bekmambetov
  • Based on the novel: no
  • Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Mark Warren, Terence Stamp, Lorna Scott, David O’Hara
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • James McAvoy – Filth, The Last Station, Atonement, Becoming Jane, Starter for Ten, Macbeth Retold, Inside I’m Dancing, Bright Young Things
    • Angelina Jolie – The Tourist, Changeling, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Girl Interrupted
    • Morgan Freeman – Transcendence, The Dark Knight Rises, Invictus, The Dark Knight, Gone Baby Gone, Batman Begins, Million Dollar Baby, Bruce Almighty, Levity, Along Came a Spider, Nurse Betty, Amistad, Moll Flanders, Seven, The Shawshank Redemption, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Driving Miss Daisy, Eyewitness
    • Mark Warren – Hustle, Doctor Who, Colour Me Kubrick, Shine
    • Terence Stamp – A Song for Marion, Valkyrie, Star Wars I, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Superman II, Superman, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Collector, Billy Budd
    • Lorna Scott – My First Mister, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Third Rock from the Sun, What’s Love Got to Do with It
    • David O’Hara – Harry Potter, The Kid, Hotel Rwanda
  • Why? James McAvoy
  • Seen: Once before. Now 9 February 2018      

       Account manager, that’s nerdy Wesley Gibson’s (McAvoy) job title. He considers himself the most insignificant asshole of the 21st century. He takes medication for his anxiety attacks. His girlfriend is shagging his best friend. He’s bullied by his sadistic boss Janice (Scott).
       Then a thousand-year-old Fraternity of assassins, in the form of sexy automatic weapon toting Fox (Jolie), informs him in a supermarket (which she proceeds to shoot into smithereens) that his father, who had abandoned him when he was a week old, had now been assassinated and Wesley’s job is now to assassinate the assassin.
       After a wild car chase Wesley is brought to a textile factory where the Fraternity has its headquarters. There leader Sloan (Freeman) shows him that he has superpowers that will make him the best assassin.
       He’s still nerdy but he gets to like the idea. So Fox and Repairman (Warren) teach him, violently, to be an assassin.
       It’s silly and violent and macho and there are too many car chases. But it’s also fun and funny and exciting and the cast is good. On a Friday evening with a gin and tonic in hand and a few unexpected twists it’s

3* of 5


5 February 2018

Solaris


Solaris 1972
  • Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem
  • Cast: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Yuri Yärvet, Anatoly Solonitsyn
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in: none of them
  • Why? A classic
  • Seen: once before. Now 4 February 2018 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group.

      
       The book is flawed but fascinating. The film has a lot to live up to and the beginning does not bode well. Why doesn’t it start on the space station? Already in the first scene there are too many people for the three-peopled (five if you count the ghosts or whatever they are) book. And far too much Earth nature.
       No, no, no, this is not Solaris! Why this endless journey on an anonymous city motorway? Forty minutes into the film and the main character has yet to get to the space station.
       I protest! I think I’ll just stop watching this boring and wrong film and read the book again.
       OK. I watched the whole film. And when he finally got to the space station it started following the book. Sort of. Psychologist Kelvin finds only two survivors on this research station. The mysterious ocean on the planet Solaris causes them to have guests. Living figments of their memories. Kelvin’s dead (suicide) wife comes to him. Actually she - here called Hari for some reason though in the book she’s called Rheya, meaningless changes like this are irritating – is more interesting in the film than in the book (until the semi-pornographic regeneration scene). Snout (Snow in the book), the cynical researcher-astronaut, is good too.
       But it’s so-o-o-o slo-o-o-ow! There’s too much Earth and not enough Solaris. Almost nothing really about the main character, the ocean. 
       It’s pretentious without capturing the book’s interesting existential philosophy. Tarkovsky is boringly self-indulgent and would do well to kill many of his darlings.
       It’s better than his unbearably pretentious Stalker but not as much better as I had hoped. It actually makes me want to see the George Clooney version.
       Since I – for some inexplicable reason – gave Stalker 2* (I remember it as a 1*) I’ll have to give this

2 ½ * of 5 (my companions disagree! YW: 3+* and Hal: 4 ½ *)


Imperium


Imperium 2016
  • Director: Daniel Ragussis
  • Based on story by Michael German
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Sam Trammell, Devin Druid
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Daniel Radcliffe – What If, The Woman in Black, Harry Potter 1-8, December Boys, Extras, David Copperfield
    • Toni Collette – A Long Way Down, Mental, Fright Night, The Dead Girl, Little Miss Sunshine, In Her Shoes, The Hours, About a Boy, Changing Lanes, Hotel Splendide, Velvet Goldmine, Muriel’s Wedding
  • Why? Toni Collette, Daniel Radcliffe
  • Seen: 2 February 2018      

       Nate (Radcliffe) is a nerdy Arabic-speaking FBI agent. Angela (Collette) is an out-spoken gum-chewing FBI agent. They both have credible American accents here. She’s out to get a right wing white supremacist movement that is now planning to use nuclear weapons in the race war it’s about to start. She recruits Nate to infiltrate the movement. Despite the danger and his doubts, he shaves his head, studies racist texts, practices his undercover story with the very knowledgeable and demanding Angela and goes undercover.
       He acquits himself well in his first meeting with some very sincere, very scary, Nazis. He gets to know skin heads, barbecuing loving dads, cupcake baking mums, Aryan warriors with posters of Jesus (do white supremacist ultra-fundamental Christians know that Jesus was a Jew?), nature loving vegetarians – white supremacists one and all.
       Undercover work, especially with these people, is lonely and scary. Secret meetings with Angela help. Until the case falls apart. Then they get another chance to expose, catch and put away the racist war mongers.
       Well, it’s a movie and the good guys win. Let’s just hope, despite Trump and his army of fanatical white supremacists, that the good guys win in reality too.
       A nuanced, thought-provoking and well-acted film.

4* of 5


29 January 2018

United


United 2011
  • Director: James Strong
  • Based on a true story
  • Cast: David Tennant, Jack O’Connell, Sam Caflin, Melanie Hill, Kate Ashfield
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • David Tennant – Doctor Who, The Escape Artist, Fright Night, The Decoy Bride, Hamlet, The Catherine Tate Show, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Blackpool, Bright Young Things, Jude, Takin’ Over the Asylum
    • Jack O’Connell – This Is England
    • Sam Caflin – Their Finest, Huntsman Winter’s War, Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pillars of the Earth
    • Melanie Hill – Merlin, Star Dust, From Hell, Crocodile Shoes, Brassed Off, Spender, Auf Wierdersehen Pet
    • Kate Ashfield – The Kid, Shaun of the Dead, Late Night Shopping
  • Why? David Tennant
  • Seen: 27 January 2018      

       Manchester United is a young fighting football team in the 50’s, coached by Jimmy Murphy (Tennant), hard driving but well liked by the team. He still misses playing. The team wins and wins, the sensation of England and Europe.
       Then there’s a bizarre plane crash in Munich.
       Jimmy, for unexplained reasons was not with them. He flies to Munich to deal with the dead and mourn with the survivors. Then returns to England to do the impossible. Get together a new team. By Saturday. Manchester United must not die.
       In some ways it’s a typical feisty-underdog-team-in-adversity-triumphs but it is rather slow and low keyed and this plus the cast, with David Tennant in the lead, raise it above the genre’s usual sentimental banality.

4* of 5


Their Finest


Their Finest 2016
  • Director: Lone Scherfig
  • Based on the novel by Liss Evans
  • Cast: Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin, Richard E. Grant, Henry Goodman, Rachel Stirling, Jack Huston, Amanda Root, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irons
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Gemma Arterton – The Girl with All the Gifts, Song for Marion, The Boat that Rocked, Quantum of Solace, Lost in Austen
    • Bill Nighy – Hotel Marigold 1 & 2, About Time, The World’s End, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, The Boat that Rock, Valkyrie, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hot Fuzz, Notes on a Scandal, Gideon’s Daughter, The Constant Gardener, The Girl in the Café, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead, Love Actually, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Kiss Me Kate
    • Sam Claflin – Huntsman Winter’s War, Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pillars of the Earth
    • Richard E. Grant – About Time, Doctor Who, Colour Me Kubrick, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Twelfth Night, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke, Absolutely Fabulous, Withnail & I
    • Henry Goodman – London Spy, Woman in Gold, Taking Woodstock, Colour Me Kubrick, The Merchant of Venice, Notting Hill, Cold Lazarus, Mary Reilly
    • Rachel Stirling – Bletchley Circle, Doctor Who, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Young Victoria
    • Jack Huston – Not Fade Away, Factory Girl
    • Amanda Root – Sherlock, Rose and Maloney, Little Britain, A Touch of Frost, Daniel Deronda, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith, Jane Eyre, The Man Who Cried
    • Eddie Marsan – River, Filth, The World’s End, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, Happy-Go-Lucky, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, Vera Drake, 21 Grams, Gangs of New York
    • Helen McCrory – Skyfall, Hugo, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Flashbacks, Becoming Jane Austen, The Queen, Hotel Splendide
    • Jeremy Irons – Beautiful Creatures, The Hollow Crown, Kingdom of Heaven, Being Julia, The Merchant of Venice, Longitude, The House of Spirits, Waterland, Kafka, Reversal of Fortune, Brideshead Revisited, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • Why? Bill Nighy
  • Seen: 26 January 2018      

       London during the war is always interesting. This one takes place in 1940. What is needed is a good propaganda film and it is thought that a woman’s angle would be good. Catrin Cole (Arterton), a secretary, is hired. Her husband Ellis (Huston), an artist whose work is considered by the war office to be too brutal, isn’t pleased. Nor is she welcomed by the studio, especially the snobbish out-of-work actor Ambrose Hilliard (Nighy).
       Catrin is caught in an air raid and her husband wants her to go home to Wales, not only for her safety but because he can’t afford to keep the flat. He resents the money she makes.
       She perseveres. She has office intrigues, distortion of truth, and male chauvinism to deal with.
       Ambrose is loath to play an old drunken uncle in the film Catrin and her team are creating but he has no choice.
       This rather odd, meandering film is lifted by a cast of the British best in small roles. They’re all very good but as always Nighy, whose role isn’t small, dominates every scene he’s in. And the behind the scenes of movie making are interesting.
       It’s a movie that grows.
      

4 * of 5