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   



4 July 2017

Blade Runner

Blade Runner 1987 (1991 version, director’s cut)
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Based on the book by Philip K Dick
  • Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Darryl Hannah, Edward James Olmos, M Emmet Walsh, William Sanderson, Brion James
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Harrison Ford – Star Wars the Force Awakens, The Fugitive, Presumed Innocence, Working Girl, The Mosquito Coast, Witness, The Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, American Graffiti
    • Rutger Hauer – Batman Begins, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Dark Knight, Babel
    • Darryl Hannah – Kill Bill 1 & 2, Steel Magnolias, Clan of the Cave Bear
    • Edward James Olmos – Selena, Stand and Deliver, Hill Street Blues
    • M Emmet Walsh – Wild Wild West, X Files, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Romeo &Juliet, Raising Arizona, Silkwood, Alice’s Restaurant
    • William Sanderson – Dharma and Greg, X Files
  • Why? Interesting enough film
  • Seen: Twice before. Now 1 July 2017      

       Thirty-five years. Unloved, they say, when it was released, Blade Runner has become a classic. What I remember is only that it was somewhat interesting but not what it’s about. Something futuristic and chaotic.
       Oh yes, bad robots. In 2019. Oh wow, that’s only two years away. I don’t think we’re in for a robot rebellion, nor do we have any off-world slaves as yet. Why didn’t he make it 2219? Or 2319? Did 2019 really seem so far in the future back then?
       Deckard (Ford) is a Blade Runner, a cop who hunts and kills murderous rebellious robots. Deck himself is a rebel, a macho arrogant loner. I dislike him instantly.
       The robots are indistinguishable from humans. Their memories are fake, implanted.
       It reminds me of Stalker – more colour, more people, gaudy instead of bleak, but stilted and slow, impenetrable and pretentious. For all the drama and romance and violence it’s not very memorable. Which is why I don’t remember it though I’ve seen it twice before.
       But it’s visually aesthetic and the basic premise of robots wanting to be human is a good one. In a few years’ time I’ll probably say, ‘Oh yes. I don’t remember it so well but I remember that there was something somewhat interesting about it.’
       The music is good. But the movie could have been and should have been much better.

2 * of 5   


26 June 2017

The Hole

The Hole 2009
  • Director: Joe Dante
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Quinn Lord
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Chris Massoglia – nothing yet
    • Haley Bennett – nothing yet
    • Nathan Gamble – The Dark Knight, Babel
    • Bruce Dern – The Glass House, Coming Home, The King of Marvin Gardens, Silent Running, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Run for Your Life, The Fugitive, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Marnie
  • Why? Bought this by mistake, thinking it was something else
  • Seen: 24 June 2017      
       Dane is sullen over having to move – once again, this time from Brooklyn – to a new town – small! – and takes it out on his little brother Lucas. His interest is caught by the neighbour girl Julie.
       The three of them find a hole in the cellar floor. A seriously deep and bottomless hole. In the night something comes up out of the hole and scary things start happening.
       Is this a kids’ movie? If I was a kid I’d be really scared. I’m not a kid and I’m scared anyway!
       What a fortunate mistake. A good scary movie. The three kids are believable and likeable. The three young actors are appealing, especially Gamble as Lucas. I hope to see them in other films.

3 * of 5   


Racing with the Moon

Racing with the Moon 1984
  • Director: Richard Benjamin
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Elizabeth McGovern, Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage, John Karlen, Rutanya Alda
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Sean Penn – The Tree of Life, Milk, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, 21 Grams, Mystic River, Pauly Shore Is Dead, I Am Sam, Before Night Falls, The Thin Red Line, The Game, She’s So Lovely, Dead Man Walking, Carlito’s Way, Shanghai Surprise, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    • Elizabeth McGovern – Downton Abbey, If Not for You, Ragtime
    • Nicholas Cage – Matchstick Men, The Family Man, Bringing Out the Dead, Face/Off, The Rock, Red Rock West, Wild at Heart, Moonstruck, Arizona Junior, Peggy Sue Got Married, Rumble Fish, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Why? Elizabeth McGovern, Sean Penn
  • Seen: Once before. Now 23 June 2017      

       Long before she became Mrs Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern was in a very funny sit-com that I believe was called If Not for You. This film is another of her obscure gems. That is, she’s a gem. The film isn’t, if I remember correctly.
       Christmas, 1942, California. Seventeen-year-old Henry (Penn) is a reluctant classical piano player. He prefers jazz. He works in a bowling alley, risking his hands in resetting the pins. He gets into fights with snooty rich kids at the bowling alley.
       He falls for Caddie, the girl who sells movie tickets and works in the public library. Because she lives in a mansion he believes she is rich, but she’s the daughter of the maid.
       They fall in love. What a surprise. It’s not much of a story and the characters aren’t very interesting. Henry’s friend Nicky (Cage) is simply obnoxious. Henry and Nicky are due to ship out with the marines in a few weeks but it’s hard to be worried.
       The film tries but the result is banal, pretentious and clichéd. Young Penn and McGovern rescue it from complete oblivion.

2 * of 5  (Hal gave it 4)


Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation 2003
  • Director: Sofia Coppola
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Akiko Takeshita, Catherine Lambert, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Bill Murray – Moonrise Kingdom, Darjeeling Limited, Broken Flowers, The Royal Tenenbaums, Hamlet, Cradle Will Rock, Rushmore, Ed Wood, Groundhog Day, What about Bob?, Little Shop of Horrors, Ghostbusters, Tootsie
    • Scarlett Johansson – He’s Just Not That Into You, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Prestige, The Island, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Manny & Lo
    • Giovanni Ribisi – The Rum Diary, Public Enemies, The Dead Girl, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Cold Mountain, Friends, The Gift, Saving Private Ryan, SubUrbia, The X Files
  • Why? Scarlett Johansson
  • Seen: Once before. Now 10 June 2017      

       A prize-winning movie but the first time I saw it I was disappointed. I didn’t understand the hype. Maybe I’ll be more into it this time.
       Tokyo. Weary Bob Harris (Murray) is welcomed by smiling Japanese hotel staff. He’s a famous movie star. Sleepless in his room he gets faxes from his wife about missed birthdays and shelf choices. He’s in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey advert. The Japanese director babbles long-winded instructions. The translator translates a few words.
       Left alone by her hard-working photographer husband (Ribisi), Charlotte (Johansson), a Yale philosophy graduate, wanders around Tokyo. Alone, unhappy and bored.
       Bob and Charlotte are both insomniacs. They meet, finally, in the hotel bar. Several awkward encounters follow.
       It’s all very sensitive about two lost souls in a foreign country. Two lost souls searching for a meaning in their lives.
       It’s always a pleasure to watch Johansson being subtly expressive but what a boring movie. Even the glimpses into modern Japan don’t lift it much. I still don’t get the hype. But it does have a classy tone.
      
2 * of 5   


What If?

What If? 2013
  • Director: Michael Dawse
  • Based on the play by T.J. Dawe
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Megan Park, Mackenzie Davis, Rafe Spall
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Daniel Radcliffe – The Woman in Black, Harry Potter 1-7, December Boys, Extras, David Copperfield
    • Zoe Kazan – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
    • Adam Driver – Star Wars the Force Awakens, Tracks, Inside Llewyn Davis
    • Rafe Spall – The World’s End, Life of Pi, Prometheus, Hot Fuzz, A Good Year, Shaun of the Dead
  • Why? Daniel Radcliffe
  • Seen: 4 June 2017      

       Sometimes we need something lightweight. I’m usually not interested in romantic comedies but one half of the couple is Daniel Radcliffe after all.
       Wallace has been heartbroken and isolated for more than a year and lives with his sister and a little nephew. Chantry is an animator and has a boyfriend. Wallace and Chantry meet at a party neither is enjoying and they connect.
       Chantry and her boyfriend really love each other and have been together for five years. Wallace is not over Megan. So Chantry and Wallace are just friends. They can be just friends, right?
       Well, what do you think?
       It’s very talky and they talk so fast it’s hard to keep up at times. But it’s quite funny with sharp non-mushy dialogue. Predictable but surprisingly likeable.
       Or maybe not so surprisingly.  It is Daniel Radcliffe after all.

3 ½ * of 5   


2 June 2017

Speed

Speed 1994
  • Director: Jan de Bont
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton, Glenn Plummer, Hawthorne James, Carlos Carrasco
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Keanu Reeves – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The House by the Lake, A Scanner Darkly, The Matrix Trilogy, Sweet November, The Gift, Feeling Minnesota, A Walk in the Clouds, Johnny Mnomic, Much Ado About Nothing, Dracula, My Own Private Idaho, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dangerous Liaisons
    • Sandra Bullock – Gravity, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The House by the Lake, Crash, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Twenty-Eight Days, Practical Magic, While You Were Sleeping
    • Dennis Hopper – Swing Vote, The Night We Called It a Day, EDtv, True Romance, Red Rock West, The Indian Runner, Rumble Fish, Apocalypse Now, Easy Rider
    • Jeff Daniels – Good Night and Good Luck, The Squid and the Whale, The Hours, Pleasantville, Terms of Endearment, Ragtime
    • Joe Morton – X Files, The Astronaut’s Wife, Homicide Life on the Streets, Crossroads
    • Glenn Plummer – Day after Tomorrow, Strange Days, Frankie & Johnny
    • Hawthorne James – Roswell, Hill Street Blues, Amistad, The Doors, The Colour Purple
    • Carlos Carrasco – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  • Why? Good film
  • Seen: Two or three times previously. Now 28 May 2017

             If memory serves me correctly, this film introduced us to Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. We’ve been fans ever since.
       In the first minute we meet Dennis Hopper, a terrorist demanding $3 mil to release people he’s got trapped in an elevator. Jack (Reeves) to the rescue with partner Harry (Daniels).
       Twenty-two minutes of nail-biting suspense. And that’s before the bus.
       The bus. Dennis Hopper has rigged it so that if the bus goes slower than 50 mph the bomb will explode. No nails left to bite, I move to my knuckles.
       It’s really just one long car chase and completely unbelievable and I hate car chase movies. But Reeves and Bullock are so appealing and it’s just so exciting that I forgive it.

3 * of 5   


Léon

Léon 1994
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Jean Reno – Avis de mistral (My summer in Provence), Hustle, Les visiteurs, Nikita, Le grand bleu
    • Natalie Portman – Thor, Black Swan, The other Boleyn Girl, Darjeeling Limited, Paris je t’aime, V for Vendetta, Star Wars, Closer, Cold Mountain, Anywhere but Here, Mars Attacks!, Beautiful Girls
    • Gary Oldman – The Dark Knight Rises, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter, The Book of Eli, The Dark Knight, Friends, The Fifth Element, Immortal Beloved, Romeo Is Bleeding, True Romance, Dracula, JFK, State of Grace, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Prick Up Your Ears, Sid and Nancy, Meantime
    • Danny Aiello – The Closer, Do the Right Thing, The January Man, Moonstruck
  • Why? Besson. Oldman. Very good film
  • Seen: Two or three times previously. Now 27 May 2017

             Assassins are not cool. I mean, come on, they kill people for money. That is really not OK.
       Why then is Léon so cool? Must be the round shades and the black coat and the too short trouser legs. And the houseplant. And his friendship with the young Mathilda, the neighbour girl who lives with her drug dealing dad, hooker mum, abusive older sister and beloved little brother.
       Social realism on a high excitement level.
       Pill-popping, poetic, Beethoven-loving, totally insane Gary Oldman murders Mathilda’s family while she’s at the supermarket. Léon takes her in. She finds out he’s a hitman and thinks that’s cool. She offers to do his housekeeping if he teaches her to be a hitman so she can kill the men who killed her brother. Léon says no. A lot of good that does. She may be a little girl but she’s a tough, fast-talking, street smart charmer.
       The film is tender, funny and complex. And exciting.
       Jean Reno is perfect as the vulnerable, ruthless, kind illiterate Léon. Gary Oldman is a brilliant mad villain as only Gary Oldman can be. Young Natalie Portman is incredible in the star-making role.

5 * of 5   


Legend

Legend 2015
  • Director: Brian Helgeland
  • Based on the book by John Pearson
  • Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Tara Fitzgerald, Nicholas Farrell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Tom Hardy – Mad Max Fury Road, Flood, The Dark Knight Rises, Soldier Sailor Tinker Spy, Inception
    • Emily Browning – Summer in February, Ned Kelly,
    • Colin Morgan – Humans, The Fall, The Living and the Dead, The Huntsman Winter’s War, The Laughing King, Testament of Youth, The Tempest (on stage at the Globe and the filmed version), Quirke, Merlin, Island, Parked, The Catherine Tate Show, Doctor Who
    • Christopher Eccleston – Fortitude, Doctor Who, 28 Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Elizabeth, Jude, Shallow Grave
    • David Thewlis – Macbeth, The Theory of Everything, Harry Potter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Kingdom of Heaven, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, The Big Lebowski, Naked, Life Is Sweet
    • Tara Fitzgerald – Rose and Maloney, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Brassed Off
    • Nicholas Farrell – Mortdecai, Testament of Youth, Summer in February, Amazing Grace, Driving Lessons, Sex Chips and Rock’n’Roll, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Othello, In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Why? Colin Morgan
  • Seen: 25 May 2017

             As a rule I don’t like gangster films but this is London and Colin Morgan has a small role so I’ll give it a try.
       Oh look, Christopher Eccleston is in it too. A cop. Colin Morgan is Frank, chauffeur to Reggie Kray, one of the gangster twins. And brother to Frances, who marries Reggie.
       Oh look, Nicholas Farrell is in it too. A psychiatrist who lies, from fear, saying that Ron Kray is sane though he’s barking mad, or as Farrell puts it in sober medical terms, ‘off his fucking rocker.’
       Oh look, the actor who plays Endeavor is in it too. And Tara Fitzgerald, as Frank and Frances’s mother. And David Thewlis.
       It’s confusing but interesting.  London and the East End of the 60’s are lovingly portrayed and the psychological study of the two twins – the cheeky, charming, violent business gangster Reggie, and the psychopathically murderous but also charming Ron – is well played by Hardy in his best role so far. Everyone ensnared and enthralled in the twins’ web are well portrayed by Browning, Morgan and the rest – all actors who deliver as they always do.
       The music is good as well – both the live music and the background 60’s hits.
       For a gangster film it’s quite good. But it’s still a gangster film.

3 ½ * of 5   


22 May 2017

Flood

Flood 2007
  • Director: Tony Mitchell
  • Based on the book by Richard Doyle
  • Cast: Robert Carlyle, Jessalyn Gilsig, Tom Courtney, Joanne Whalley, David Suchet, Nigel Planer, Tom Hardy, David Hayman
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Robert Carlyle – Stargate Universe, Stone of Destiny, 28 weeks later, Hitler, Black and White, Beach, The World Is Not Enough, The Full Monty, Carla’s Song, Trainspotting, Go Now, Riff-raff
    • Tom Courtney – Quartet, Last Orders, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Doctor Zhivago, The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner
    • Joanne Whalley – Wolf Hall, Dance with a Stranger
    • Daivd Suchet – The Hollow Crown, Great Expectations, A Perfect Murder
    • Nigel Planer – Bright Young Things, Black Adder
    • Tom Hardy – Mad Max Fury Road, The Dark Knight Rises, Soldier Sailor Tinker Spy, Inception
    • David Hayman – London Spy, Macbeth, The Hollow Crown, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, My Name is Joe, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Rob Roy, Sid and Nancy
  • Why? Robert Carlyle
  • Seen: 20 May 2017

       A London disaster film with Robert Carlyle. Just what I need after a time away from movie-watching.
       As floods and storms ravage Scotland, London looks bright and sunny but disaster is rapidly approaching.
       A family drama – Tom Courtney who is estranged from his son Robert Carlyle who is estranged from his wife Jessalyn Gilsig, all experts in flood control – weaves in and out as catastrophe rushes towards London.
       Too exciting. Can’t write. Back later.
       … The suspense is unrelenting. It seems entirely realistic. How can they film this? The personal dramas are far too close to the sentimental but these are British actors, most of them recognised from dozens of other roles. They can handle it but the writing could have been better.
       The biggest star is London.

3 ½ * of 5   


Jude

Jude 1996
  • Director: Michael Winterbottom
  • Based on the book by Thomas Hardy
  • Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet, Liam Cunningham, Rachel Griffiths
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Christopher Eccleston – Fortitude, Doctor Who, 28 Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Elizabeth, Shallow Grave
    • Kate Winslet – Contagion, The Reader, The Holiday, Little Children, Romance and Cigarettes, Extras, Finding Neverland, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hideous Kinky, Titanic, Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility
    • Liam Cunningham – Doctor Who, Merlin,
    • Rachel Griffiths – Six Feet Under, Ned Kelly, Very Annie Mary, Blow, Hilary & Jackie, Muriel’s Wedding
  • Why? Christopher Eccleston and the novel
  • Seen: 26 March 2017 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group      

       In my next life I’m going to be a movie director making movies in England. This one starts with outstandingly beautiful black and white Wessex landscapes.
       I love this novel. It’s the tragic story of Jude, a poor country stonemason who aspires to become a scholar. Class rigidity puts unsurmountable obstacles in his way. Youthful foolish passion for Arabella locks him into late 19th century gender prison. He marries, is separated from his wife, meets the love of his life, Sue. Because he can’t marry her she marries another. In defiance of conventional morality Sue and Jude live together. It does not go well. None of Jude’s dreams are achieved.
       The novel is an impassioned protest against religion and marriage. Jude is ruled by naïve passions, Sue by intellectual questioning.
       Eccleston does a very strong Jude. Griffiths is good as Arabella, though too thin. Winslet has her moments but is too 1990’s to portray the truly radical but innocent 1880’s Sue. A small detail perhaps but having Sue smoke cigarettes doesn’t work at all. Explicit sex scenes jar badly with the novel’s supressed and agonised passion. Other odd directorial choices make this film less good than it should be. The beautifully done scenes of the landscapes and towns are not enough to evoke the atmosphere of Hardy’s bleak and pessimistic novel, nor the depth and complexity of the characters.
       It was a happy surprise to see David Tennant (the tenth Doctor Who after Eccleston’s Nine) pop up in a very short scene as a scholar but even that is not enough to make this film the masterpiece that the novel is.
       The last twenty minutes are strong but not at all like the novel.
       The scenery as a separate entity and Eccleston as Jude get 5 * but the film as a whole

2 ½ * of 5   




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