19 August 2017

Hanna

Hanna 2011
  • Director: Joe Wright
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemying, Tom Hollander
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
    • Eric Bana – The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Other Boleyn Girl, Troy
    • Cate Blanchett – Cinderella, The Hobbit et al, Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Elizabeth the Golden Age, I’m Not There, Hot Fuzz, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, Lord of the Rings et al, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried, Elizabeth
    • Michelle Dockery – Downton Abbey, The Hollow Crown
    • Olivia Williams – The Ghost Writer, An Education, Tara Road, To Kill a King, Born Romantic, Rushmore
    • Jessica Barden – Far from the Madding Crowd
    • Jason Flemyng – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Stardust, From Hell, Rob Roy
    • Tom Hollander – About Time, In the Loop, Valkyria, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Pirates of the Caribbean, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, The Libertine, Gosford Park, Absolutely Fabulous
  • Why? Liked it the first time
  • Seen: Once before. Now 13 August 2017      

       Hanna is a young girl being raised by her father in an isolated cabin in the Arctic woods. He teachers her to hunt, defend herself against surprise attacks, speak many languages, fight and kill. She says she is ready to leave and assume her new identity.
       When she leaves the hunt will begin. Marissa Wiegler will try to kill her. The father, Erik Heller, is a rogue spy. Wiegler is the head of the CIA.
       Erik leaves first. Soldiers attack the cabin. Hanna is captured and brought in for interrogation. She asks for Marissa Wiegler.
       That’s where Hanna’s training in violence, stealth and fast thinking takes over.
       It’s exciting, futuristic, mysterious, handsomely filmed. Hanna is exceptionally well-played by young Ronan with a fascinating supporting cast. Especially good is Jessica Barden as the cheeky precocious Sophie.
       This is a most unusual spy film. James Bond, eat your heart out.

4 * of 5   


One Chance

One Chance 2013
  • Director: David Frankel
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Julie Walters, Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Stanley Townsend
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • James Corden – The Lady in the Van, Into the Woods, Doctor Who, Starter for 10, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith
    • Alexandra Roach – The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Vicious, Testament of Youth
    • Julie Walters – The Hollow Crown, Harry Potter, Mamma Mia, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Canterbury Tales, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Town, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Mackenzie Crook – Merlin, The Brothers Grimm, Finding Neverland, The Merchant of Venice, The Office
    • Colm Meaney – Parked, The Van, The Last Mohican, The Commitments
    • Jemima Rooper – What If, Lost in Austen, Kinky Boots
    • Stanley Townsend – The Hollow Crown, Quirke, Sherlock, Happy-Go-Lucky, Hustle, Inside I’m Dancing, The Libertine
  • Why? Julie Walters
  • Seen: 12 August 2017      

       One critic calls it the next Billy Elliot. I doubt it very much but if it even comes close it’s a winner.
       Wales 1985. A chubby boy, Paul, is obsessed with opera. Singing opera. His working-class mates bully him for it. OK, I’m seeing the Billy Elliotness here.
       2004. Paul grown up. Still living at home. Still obsessed with opera. His mum approves. His dad hates it.
       Paul works in a phone shop. After internet contact for a year with Julz he finally meets her. They get on very well indeed. Sadly she has to leave on the ten o’clock train so does not witness his defiance of the heckling at the local pub. He wins the talent contest and enough prize money to go to an opera school in Venice.
       As we take a tourist journey around Venice Paul prepares to sing for his hero Pavarotti. Who then tells him he’s too nervous to become an opera singer.
       Heart-broken he returns to Wales. And screws things up with Julz too.
       Billy Elliot it is not. Nowhere close. But it’s got its appeal and the cast is likeable. Julie Walters has fun being Julie Walters. Mackenzie Crook steals the show with his semi-sleazy but good-hearted phone shop manager.
       It goes on too long. The title should be ‘Three or Four Chances’. Based on a true story it may be but Billy Elliot is much more believable.

2 ½ * of 5   


6 August 2017

A Midsummer Night's Dream (RSC)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC) 1996
  • Director: Adrian Noble
  • Based on Shakespeare
  • Cast: Lindsay Duncan, Alex Jennings, Desmond Barrit, Finbar Lynch, Monica Dolan, Kevin Doyle, Daniel Evans, Emily Raymond
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Lindsay Duncan – Sherlock, About Time, Merlin, Wallander, The Hollow Crown, Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Who, Lost in Austen, Starter for Ten, Under the Tuscan Sun, Prick Up Your Ears
    • Alex Jennings – The Lady in the Van, Cranford, The Queen, Babel
    • Desmond Barrit –  Endeavour
    • Finbar Lynch – The Hollow Crown, To Kill a King
    • Monica Dolan – Wolf Hall, Never Let Me Go, King Lear, Topsy-Turvy
    • Kevin Doyle – Downton Abbey, The Libertine, Auf Wiedersehen Pet
    • Daniel Evans – Les Misérables, Doctor Who, Daniel Deronda
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: Once before. Now 30 July 2017      

       Why the boy watching and listening, through keyholes, under the table, spying on the characters and smiling? Quite unnecessary.
       I like the feisty Hippolyta/Titania (Duncan) and the short-haired Helena (Raymond).
       The tone is whimsical with lots of bubbles and wafting colourful umbrellas and flying motorcycles (pre-Hagrid).
       The best scene is, as so often, the confrontation of the four young lovers in the wood, though in this case on an empty stage with two free-standing doors, one red, the other yellow, through which they pass in and out, slamming them as they fire off their insults at break-neck speed.
       Oberon is stilted and breathy. Bottom is overdone. Some of the production borders on the annoying but much of it is very appealing. Too much is cut from the play, sadly some of the best lines. But Wall and Lion are good at the end.
       A mixed bag.

3 ½ * of 5   


17 July 2017

Absolutely Anything

Absolutely Anything 2015
  • Director: Terry Jones
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ron Riggle, Robert Bathurst, Eddie Izzard, Joanna Lumley, Meera Syal
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Simon Pegg – Star Wars the Force Awakens, The World’s End, Doctor Who, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, 24 Hour Party People
    • Kate Beckinsale – The Aviator, Serendipity, The Last Days of Disco, Shooting Fish, Cold Comfort Farm, Prince of Jutland, Much Ado About Nothing
    • Sanjeev Bhaskar –  Shakespeare Live, Unforgotten, Curry Nam Nam, Notting Hill,
    • Robert Bathurst – Downton Abbey, The Pillars of the Earth, Black Adder
    • Eddie Izzard – Valkyria, Across the Universe, Romance and Cigarettes, Velvet Goldmine, various stand-up sketches
    • Joanna Lumley – Absolutely Fabulous, Ella Enchanted, Cold Comfort Farm, Shirley Valentine, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    • Meera Syal – Shakespeare Live, Curry Nam Nam, Doctor Who, Absolutely Fabulous, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid,
  • Why? Simon Pegg
  • Seen: 16 July 2017      

       Oh no, there’s a dog in this film! At the risk of getting lots of hate comments, I don’t like dogs and usually avoid dog films like the plague. But the cast is promising and it seems to be sci-fi-ish so maybe there’s hope. And Simon Pegg is usually weird enough to counter the dogness.
       Loser-teacher-failed-author Neil (Pegg) is in love with his neighbour Catherine (Beckinsale), a TV writer who is ordered by her boss (Lumley) to diss good authors.
       Meanwhile the Intergalactic Council (or whatever it’s called, voices of the Monty Python gang) is trying to decide whether or not to destroy the human race. Neil is randomly chosen to be given magical powers to see if he uses them for good or evil. The power? Everything he says comes true. Literally.
       It freaks him out. Like the rest of us, he says a lot of things he doesn’t mean literally. When he realises he can do anything he uses his power for silly selfish reasons. Some of them backfire, some bore him. The Intergalactic Council are not impressed.
       Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End it is not. It is not so much weird as silly. And there’s too much dog. It has its funny moments though and Simon Pegg is endearing.

2 ½ * of 5   


A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1999
  • Director: Michael Hoffman
  • Based on the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Stanley Tucci, Calista Flockhart, Anna Friel, Christian Bale, Dominic West, David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Roger Rees, Max Wright, Gregory Jbara, Bill Irwin, Sam Rockwell, Bernard Hill, John Sessions
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Kevin Kline – My Old Lady, A Prairie Home Companion, Wild Wild West, The Ice Storm, Dave, The January Man, Silverado, Sophie’s Choice
    • Michell Pfeiffer – Dark Shadows, Stardust, White Oleander, I Am Sam, A Thousand Acres, To Gillian on her 37th Birthday, Wolf, The Age of Innocence, Love Field, Batman Returns, Frankie and Johnny, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mob, The Witches of Eastwick, Scarface
    • Rupert Everett – Stardust, To Kill a King, Shakespeare in Love, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Madness of King George, Dance with a Stranger
    • Stanley Tucci – Hunger Games 1-4, Fortitude, Swing Vote, Road to Perdition, A Life Less Ordinary, Life During Wartime, The Pelican Brief, Billy Bathgate, Prizzi’s Honor
    • Calista Flockhart – Quiz Show
    • Anna Friel – Our Mutual Friend
    • Christian Bale – The Dark Knight Rises, Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation, The Dark Night, I’m Not There, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Equilibrium, American Psycho, Velvet Goldmine, Little Women, Prince of Jutland, Swing Kids, Henry V
    • Dominic West – Testament of Youth, The Wire, Mona Lisa Smile, Chicago, 28 Days, Star Wars, Surviving Picasso, Richard III
    • David Strathairn – Hotel Marigold 2, The Tempest, Good Night and Good Luck, The Sopranos, A Map of the World, LA Confidential, Mother Night, Dolores Claiborne, A League of Their Own, Stars and Bars, Silkwood
    • Sophie Marceau – Les femmes de l’ombre, The World Is Not Enough, Braveheart
    • Roger Rees – Frida, Nicholas Nickleby
    • Max Wright – ALF, Norm Show, Snow Falling on Cedars, Grumpy Old Men, Reds, Playing for Time
    • Gregory Jbara – Nurse Jackie, Friends
    • Bill Irwin – Rachel Getting Married, Across the Universe, Igby Goes Down, Third Rock from the Sun
    • Sam Rockwell – Moon, Frost/Nixon, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Green Mile
    • Bernard Hill – Wolf Hall, The Kid, Valkyria, Lord of the Rings et al, Titanic, Shirley Valentine, Richard III, Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three, Gandhi, I Claudius, 
    • John Sessions – Legend, Filth, Merchant of Venice, The Gangs of New York, Henry V
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: Two or three times before. Now 15 July 2017      

       Few movies have me smiling from start to finish but this one has. One of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays – by me as well – this version skims over the darker depths of the play to revel in the colourful lavish world of fairies in late 19th century Italy.
       The whole film has a twinkle in its eye. Tucci is a delightful Puck, Kline a sensitive yearning Bottom. The confrontation amongst the four young lovers with one of Shakespeare’s most rapid-fire insult-exchanging scenes, here ending in a mud lake, is hilarious.
       But the stars of the show are the bicycles. Why Hoffman chose this era for the film I don’t know but the bicycles are a stroke of genius.

4½ * of 5   


The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts 2016
  • Director: Colm McCarthy
  • Based on the book by M R Carey
  • Cast: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Fisayo Akinade, Anamaria Marinca
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Gemma Arterton – The Boat that Rocked, Quantum of Solace, Lost in Austen
    • Glenn Close –Mars Attacks!, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Reilly, The House of Spirits, Hook, Meeting Venus,  Sarah Plain and Tall, Hamlet, Reversal of Fortune, Dangerous Liaisons, Jagged Edge, The World According to Garp
    • Paddy Considine – Macbeth, The World’s End, My Summer of Love, In America, 24 Hour Party People, Born Romantic
    • Anamaria Marinca – River, Doctor Who, Wallander
  • Why? Good book
  • Seen: 14 July 2017      

       The book is the Stockholm sci-fi book circle’s choice for August. Hal and I have now read it; we’re very curious about the film.
       In a military barracks, children are locked in cells. When they are taken out to go to school they are chained into wheelchairs, hands, head and feet strapped in while soldiers aim machine guns at them. They are not considered human. They are there as objects for scientific research. Why are these children intelligent, but also ‘hungries’, the mindless living dead infected by the fungus that has killed most of the human race?
       One of the girls, Melanie, is especially intelligent. One of the teachers, Miss Justineau,  regards the children as human and is especially fond of Melanie.
       When the base is attacked by a mob of hungries Melanie, Miss Justineau, hard-core Sgt Parker, another soldier and chief scientist Doctor Caroline Caldwell – who had just been about to dissect Melanie’s brain and who continues to refer to her as ‘the test object’ – escape in a tank.
       In constant danger from hungries, and each other, they do what they must to survive in the dying hostile world around and in London.
       Words like heart-breaking, heart-warming and humane come to mind. As well as incredibly suspenseful.
       Closely adapted to the book in the beginning it strays in the second half but finds its way back in the end. There could not be a better Melanie than young Sennia Nanua, Considine is always good, Arterton does well as Miss Justineau and this is possibly Close’s best role.
       How much one who has not read the book will get of the depth and complexity of the novel is hard to say but with the book fresh in one’s memory it holds together well. Its visual strength makes up somewhat for the severe abridgment of the novel.

4 * of 5   


10 July 2017

The Love Punch

The Love Punch 2013
  • Director: Joel Hopkins
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, Marisa Berenson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Emma Thompson – Beautiful Creatures, Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee, The Boat that Rocked, An Education, Last Chance Harvey, Brideshead Revisited, Stranger than Fiction, Angels in America, Love Actually, Wit, Primary Colours, The Winter Guest, Sense and Sensibility, The Remains of the Day, Much Ado about Nothing, Peter’s Friends, Howards End, Dead Again, Impromptu, Henry V, Fortunes of War, Tutti Frutti
    • Pierce Brosnan – A Long Way Down, The World’s End, The Ghost Writer, Mamma Mia, Seraphim Falls, James Bond, Dante’s Peak, Mars Attacks!
    • Celia Imrie – Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Doctor Who, Cranford, Nanny McPhee, Wah-Wah, Calendar Girls, Daniel Deronda, Absolutely Fabulous, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Star Wars the Phantom Menace, Hilary & Jackie, In the Bleak Midwinter, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Upstairs Downstairs
    • Timothy Spall – Mr Turner, Harry Potter, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, My House in Umbria, Nicholas Nickleby, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Topsy-Turvy, Our Mutual Friend, Hamlet, Secret and Lies, Spender, Life is Sweet, Gothic, Quadrophenia
    • Marisa Berenson – Colour Me Kubrick, Playing for Time, Cabaret
  • Why? Emma Thompson
  • Seen: 9 July 2017      

       Friends and family want ex-couple Kate and Richard to get together again. He’s possibly keen, she is not. The pop music at the start indicates a light-weight film ahead and so it is.
       Very bourgeois with golf, villas, a daughter driving her own car off to Uni. Then Richard’s company collapses, just as he retires. There has been a hostile take-over and Richard and Kate’s life savings and pensions are gone.
       Off they go to chase the villain. When he laughs them off and throws them out they decide to steal the diamond, worth tens of millions, that he has bought for his fiancée. Off they go to Cannes.
       Light-weight, slapstick, touristy. What’s enjoyable is seeing Thompson, Brosnan, Imrie and Spall so happily playing wrinkled pensioners (or almost pensioners). It is actually quite a funny spoof of a heist movie. It will win the cast no Oscars and they will not include it on their list of their best films but they seem to be having fun and the film offers an amusing ninety minutes in the company of four superb actors.

2 ½ * of 5