16 October 2017

Gideon's Daughter

Gideon’s Daughter 2005
  • Director: Stephen Poliakoff
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Miranda Richardson, Robert Lindsay, Ronni Ancona, Tom Hardy, Tom Goodman-Hill, Joanna Page
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Bill Nighy – Hotel Marigold 1 & 2, The World’s End, About Time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1, Doctor Who, The Boat that Rocked, Valkyria, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hot Fuzz, Notes on a Scandal, The Constant Gardener, The Girl in the Café, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Kiss Me Kate, Longitude
    • Emily Blunt – Snow White the Winter’s War, Into the Woods, Edge of Tomorrow, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning, Dan in Real Life, The Jane Austen Book Club, My Summer of Love
    • Miranda Richardson – Testament of Youth, Harry Potter, Young Victoria, Paris je t’aime, Wah-Wah, Absolutely Fabulous, The Hours, Spider, Get Carter, Sleepy Hollow, Black Adder, Kansas City, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Dance with a Stranger
    • Robert Lindsay – Extras, Absolutely Fabulous, The Office, Much Ado about Nothing, King Lear, Cymbeline, All’s Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night
    • Tom Hardy – Legend, Mad Max Fury Road, The Dark Night Rises, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Inception
    • Tom Goodman-Hill – Humans, The Hollow Crown, Case Histories, Hustle, Doctor Who, The Office
    • Joanna Page – Doctor Who, Love Actually, From Hell, Very Annie Mary
  • Why? Bill Nighy
  • Seen: 13 October 2017      

       It seems that Gideon (Nighy) is a PR guru doing huge things like the Queen’s millennium do and celebrity-studded premières while his pale daughter Natasha (Blunt) looks on in boredom. He’s drawn into the crusade of a violent fanatic trying to force the local council into taking the blame for his young son’s death.
       Then it seems that Natasha hates her father and is going to run off to South America.
       Gideon’s image-making services are very much in demand by the rich and powerful. He seeks escape and finds it with Stella (Richardson), the ex-wife of the fanatic, i.e. the mother of the dead boy. She works night at a local supermarket because she can’t bear to go to sleep.
       All of this is being narrated by Sneath (Lindsay) who is dictating his memoirs, in his pyjamas, to a young woman from a secretarial agency.
       What an odd meandering film. The acting is good – I expected nothing less with this cast – and there are some strong emotional moments. Quite a unique film, in fact.

4 * of 5   


Angels Crest

Angels Crest 2011
  • Director: John Crowley
  • Based on the book by Leslie Schwartz
  • Cast: Thomas Dekker, Mira Sorvino, Lynn Collins, Elizabeth McGovern, Kate Walsh
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Mira Sorvino – Lulu on the Bridge, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Beautiful Girls
    • Lynn Collins – Lake House, Merchant of Venice
    • Elizabeth McGovern – Woman in Gold, Downton Abbey, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, If Not for You, Racing for the Moon, Ragtime
    • Kate Walsh – Fargo, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Norm Show, Homicide Life on the Street
  • Why? Elizabeth McGovern
  • Seen: 8 October 2017      

       A little boy disappears from his young father Ethan’s pickup in a wintery mountain forest. The townspeople search. Tensions, conflicts, accusations arise quickly and when the boy is found dead the father is charged with the boy’s death. The townspeople are divided – guilty or not guilty?
       It’s a story of grief, dysfunctional families, estrangements, bitterness, violence – suppressed or almost – loyalty and betrayal.
       There are too many characters to keep straight and too much jumping from one story line to another for the viewer to become really involved. Like all films and books about small isolated towns it makes me feel claustrophobic. It’s very dramatic though and the natural setting – the Rocky Mountains? Alaska? – is sensational.
       And McGovern proves once again that she can put genuine depth into a wide variety of characters, this time as a kind, naïve lesbian, light years away from the Ladies Whatsit in Downton Abbey and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding and the stern judge in the recently seen Woman in Gold.

3 * of 5   


9 October 2017

Brooklyn

Brooklyn
  • Director: John Crowley
  • Based on the book by Colm Tóibín
  • Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emery Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Saoirse Ronan – Atonement, Hanna
    • Domhnall Gleeson – Star Wars the Force Awakens, Ex Machina, About Time, Harry Potter, True Grit, Never Let Me Go
    • Julie Walters – The Hollow Crown, Harry Potter, Mamma Mia, One Chance, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Canterbury Tales, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Town, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Jim Broadbent – Lady in the Van, Filth, the Harry Potter films, Another Year, The Young Victoria, Vera Drake, Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Topsy-Turvy, Little Voice, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Richard III, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Black Adder, Brazil
  • Why? Good book, Saoirse Ronan
  • Seen: 7 October 2017 with YW and Hal in our read-book-see-film group      

       Eilis leaves her beloved sister Rose, her mother and her small Irish town and immigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950’s.
       Quiet, shy Eilis has a difficult time with small talk and glamour, both of which are demanded of her in Brooklyn. She lives for letters from home. She starts night school to become a bookkeeper and helps her sponsor Father Flood serve Christmas dinner to lonely old Irish labourers who built America but now have nothing. Her homesickness is severe. Then she meets Tony.
       Hal asked, ‘How are they going to make a film of this book? Nothing happens!’
       That’s its strength. The quiet joys and sorrows of immigration, of trying to find a new identity, a new home, of being torn between two worlds, of naivety and being caught up by one’s own cowardly secrets are carried by a strong cast and meticulous period settings and clothing. Ronan is unrecognisable as the young killer spy Hanna but just as good as Eilis. Julie Walters steals the show as the acerbic eccentrically religious warm-hearted boarding house landlady.

3 ½ * of 5   



Moon

Moon
  • Director: Duncan Jones
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (voice), Dominique McElligot
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Sam Rockwell – Frost/Nixon, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Green Mile, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Dominique McElligot – Not Fade Away
    • Kevin Spacey – The Life of David Gale, The United States of Leland, The Shipping News, Pay It Forward, American Beauty, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, L.A. Confidential, Seven, The Usual Suspects, Glengarry Glen Ross, Working Girl
  • Why? Liked it the first time
  • Seen: Once before. Now 1 October 2017      

       Sam Bell (Rockwell) has a three-year-contract on a lunar mining base. He’s alone with the kind and understanding computer/robot Gerty (Spacey’s voice) to talk to. He has two weeks left and he’s very edgy. His communication with his wife on Earth is one-way because the communications tower is not functioning.
       He putters about. Time passes slowly. Strange things start happening. Hallucinations or…? Accidents, Gerty becoming evasive…
       Then he discovers an injured man by one of the mines. It seems to be…Sam Bell. There are two of them. One has been there a week. The other, three years minus the two weeks. The new one tells the old one they are clones. The new one tells the old one he’s not going home, his wife isn’t still there, and they probably aren’t the only two clones on the base. The company uses clones because it’s cheaper than training new workers.
       It’s sad, suspenseful, imaginative, believable, disturbing. It’s a quiet gem of a film.

4 * of 5  


Genius

Genius
  • Director: Michael Grandage
  • Based on the book by A Scott Berg
  • Cast: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce, Dominic West
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Colin Firth – Before I Go to Sleep, The Railway Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King’s Speech, Mamma Mia, Then She Found Me, Nanny McPhee, Love Actually, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Shakespeare in Love, A Thousand Acres, Fever Pitch, The English Patient, Pride and Prejudice
    • Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, Hugo, Contagion, Repo Men, Sherlock Holmes, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Sleuth, The Holiday, The Aviator, Closer, Alfie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Colm Mountain, Road to Perdition, eXistenZ, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Gattaca, Wilde
    • Nicole Kidman – Before I Go to Sleep, The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole, Nine, Australia, Margot at the Wedding, Fur, Birth, The Interpreter, The Human Stain, Cold Mountain, Dogville, The Hours, Birthday Girl, The Others, Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Batman Forever, Billy Bathgate
    • Laura Linney – Jindabyne, Driving Lessons, The Squid and the Whale, Love Actually, Mystic River, Dave
    • Guy Pearce – Prometheus, The King’s Speech, The Road, Factory Girl, A Slipping Down Life, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
    • Dominic West – Testament of Youth, The Wire, Mona Lisa’s Smile, Chicago, 28 Days, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Surviving Picasso, Richard III
  • Why? the cast
  • Seen: 29 September 2017      

       For this evening’s film Hal requested something ‘thoughtful’. This one ought to do it.
       1929. Charles Scribner’s Publishing. Perkins (Firth) is asked to read a very thick single-spaced manuscript by someone called Thomas Wolfe.
       Perkins takes it home with him. He seems enthralled by a rather boring text while his daughters and wife flitter about him. Back at the office Wolfe (Law) shows up and is told his book is going to be published. Look Homeward Angel. It becomes a best-seller.
       An odd friendship develops between egocentric, loud-mouthed rather obnoxious Wolfe and straight-laced, reserved patriarch Perkins. Perkins’s wife (Linney) is also an author and actor who is ignored by both Perkins and Wolfe. Wolfe’s mistress Aline Bernstein (Kidman) is bitter and resentful of Perkins for taking over Wolfe, for whom she has given up everything.
       Even with the glimpses into the publishing world of the 1930’s and brief meetings with Fitzgerald and Hemingway and even with this cast, it’s boring. Although when the women start demanding respect it gets a bit more interesting. There is however no pleasure in watching these two male chauvinist megalomaniacs.
       The acting is good and I suppose the film could be called thoughtful but I am not inspired to read Wolfe’s novels.

2 ½ * of 5  


1 October 2017

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Based on E Randal Schoenberg’s memoirs
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Charles Dance, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce, Henry Goodman, Ben Miles
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Helen Mirren – Shakespeare Live, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Brighton Rock, The Tempest, The Queen, Calendar Girls, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, Gosford Park, Last Orders, Some Mother’s Son, Prime Suspect, The Madness of King George, The Prince of Jutland, Mosquito Coast, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Excalibur, As You Like It, O Lucky Man!
    • Daniel Brühl – Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum, Ladies in Lavender, Good-bye Lenin
    • Katie Holmes – Batman Begins
    • Charles Dance – Merlin, Starter for 10, Bleak House, Gosford Park, Hilary & Jackie, Alien 3,
    • Elizabeth McGovern – Downton Abbey, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, If Not for You, Racing for the Moon, Ragtime
    • Jonathan Pryce – Wolf Hall, The Merchant of Venice (on stage at the Globe), Under Milkwood, Cranford, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Brothers Grimm, Very Annie Mary, Tomorrow Never Dies, Evita, The Age of Innocence, Glengarry Glen Ross, Brazil, Timon of Athens, Voyage of the Damned
    • Henry Goodman – London Spy, Taking Woodstock, Colour Me Kubrick, Notting Hill, Cold Lazarus, Mary Reilly
    • Ben Miles – The Hollow Crown, Under the Greenwood Tree, V for Vendetta, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
  • Why? Helen Mirren, Elizabeth McGovern
  • Seen: 24 September 2017      

       1998. Los Angeles. Maria (Mirren) is at her sister’s funeral.
       Back in time. Maria’s aunt Adele was painted by Gustave Klimt. The painting was stolen by the Nazis. Maria wants it back and talks a young lawyer, Randy (Reynolds) into getting involved. She’s bossy, fussy and imperious.  He’s a struggling, newly unemployed, recently failed lawyer, grandson to the composer Schönberg and married with a baby.
       Maria decides to face her ghosts in the country that murdered her family and returns to Vienna with Randy. Another flashback. Maria and her husband escape from Vienna. It’s very dramatic. More low-key but also dramatic is the battle over the return of Klimt’s ‘Women in Gold’ to Maria. Austria claims it as a national treasure and refuses to give it back.
       Mirren is magnificent as the aging Maria. The glimpses into the chilling 1930’s and cold bureaucracy and patriotism of modern Austria are well done. The film’s weak point is the bland and unconvincing Reynolds as the increasingly obsessed and sensitive lawyer. McGovern and Pryce add almost enough pizzazz to their small roles to make up for it but then it becomes a bit too sentimental in the end.
       Still, it’s an interesting film about an interesting historical phenomenon.
        
3 ½ * of 5   


John Wick

John Wick 2014
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Based on the book: no
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Mikael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Lance Reddick
  • 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, Speed, Much Ado About Nothing, Dracula, My Own Private Idaho, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dangerous Liaisons
    • Mikael Nyqvist – Luftslottet som sprängdes, Flickan som lekte med elden, Män som hatar kvinnor, Den bästa av mödrar, Grabben i graven bredvid, Reuter & Skoog, Tillsammans
    • Alfie Allen – The Kid, Flashbacks of a Fool, The Other Boleyn Girl, Atonement, Elizabeth
    • Willem Dafoe – Mr Bean’s Holiday, Paris je t’aime, American Dreamz, Manderlay, The Aviator, Once upon a Time in Mexico, American Psycho, eXistenZ, Lulu on the Bridge, The English Patient, Wild at Heart, Cry-Baby, Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Is Burning, The Last Temptation of Christ, Platoon, Streets of Fire
    • Lance Reddick – Fringe, The Wire, The Siege
  • Why? Keanu Reeves and Mikael Nyqvist
  • Seen: 22 September 2017      

       Sweden was recently saddened by the news that Mikael Nyqvist had died, only 56 years old. He’s greatly missed in the theatre and film world of Sweden. Movies about hitmen are not my favourites (with the exception of Léon) but for Nyqvist’s and Reeves’s sake I want to see this.
       Car thieves, murdered dogs, Russian mafia. Cocky young Iosef (Allen) steals the wrong car and kills the wrong dog, as his father, Mafia leader Viggo (Nyqvist) informs him. John Wick (Reeves), former associate, recently widowed, now enemy, still unbeatable killer.
       It’s all very macho. The only women are a few glimpses of Wick’s beautiful, then dying, then dead wife, and a few seconds of lightly clad nightclub guests, some hookers and a couple of vampy assassins.
       It’s raw and violent and after the 30th or 40th shooting I’m bored to tears. Far from Reeves’s best film, much less Nyqvist’s. Nyqvist does well in this uncharacteristic role and that adds a star or so to the rating. That and some of the photography work. Otherwise, not a good film. Why in the world did they bother with sequels?      

2 * of 5  


Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
  • Director: Donald Rice
  • Based on the book by Julia Strachey
  • Cast: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Ellie Kendrick, Zoë Tapper, Joanna Hole, Mackenzie Crook, Fenella Woolgar, Julian Wadham, Barbara Flynn
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy, The Tempest, Brideshead Revisited, Doctor Who
    • Luke Treadaway – Fortitude, The Hollow Crown, Vicious
    • Elizabeth McGovern – Downton Abbey, If Not for You, Racing for the Moon, Ragtime
    • Ellie Kendrick – An Education
    • Zoë Tapper – Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Re-Told, Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky
    • Mackenzie Crook – One Chance, Merlin, The Brothers Grimm, Finding Neverland, The Merchant of Venice, The Office
    • Fenella Woolgar – Mr Turner, Case Histories, Doctor Who, Wah-Wah, Vera Drake, Bright Young Things
    • Julian Wadham – Downton Abbey, Wah-Wah, Inspector Lynley, A Touch of Frost, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, The English Patient, The Madness of King George, Middlemarch
    • Barbara Flynn – Cranford, Inspector Lynley, A Family at War
  • Why? Elizabeth McGovern
  • Seen: 15 September 2017      

       For not liking weddings in real life I’ve seen several surprisingly good films about wedding – Margot at the Wedding, Rachel Getting Married and a real favourite Muriel’s Wedding. We’ll soon see if this one can compare. Having Mackenzie Crook in it is a good sign and Felicity Jones isn’t bad either. Even the title is odd enough to be intriguing.
       It starts very Downton Abbey-ish. In the 1930’s on the day of a wedding. The bride Dolly (Jones) is clearly not a happy blushing bride. She is in fact a throwing up and rum-swigging bride hiding in her room.
       There are an awful lot of people in this miniature Downton Abbey mansion, as well as flashbacks. I suppose all will come clear. What soon is clear is that Dolly is marrying the wrong man.
       There isn’t much substance to the story. A lot of dithering people on the wedding day, a lot of golden memories of how Dolly and Joseph (Treadaway), not the husband-to-be, fall in love. One wonders a bit impatiently why she isn’t marrying him.
       McGovern as mother of the bride is not the wise calm Lady Whatsit of Downton Abbey but a rather foolish, not altogether nice, widow. She plays the part well. Sadly Crook has a tiny role, but again, he does it well.
       There are too many people and there isn’t enough happening to be emotionally involving but it’s an enjoyable film and there is a bit of drama towards the end. If it’s not of the same calibre as the three mentioned above I do like watching these actors and there are two more plusses – the wedding itself is off-screen and it rains on the garden party afterwards (I’m so mean).

3 * of 5


11 September 2017

Intimate Relations

Intimate Relations 1996
  • Director: Philip Goodhew
  • Based on book: no but on a true story
  • Cast: Julie Walters, Rupert Graves, Matthew Walker, Laura Sadler, Holly Aird, Les Dennis, Elizabeth McKechnie, Amanda Holden, Nicholas Hoult
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Julie Walters – The Hollow Crown, Harry Potter, Mamma Mia, One Chance, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Canterbury Tales, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Town, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Rupert Graves – Sherlock, Last Tango in Halifax, Doctor Who, Wallander, V for Vendetta, Mrs Dalloway, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Madness of King George, A Handful of Dust, The Fortunes of War, A Room with a View
    • Holly Aird – Unforgotten, Fever Pitch
    • Amanda Holden – Britain’s Got Talent, Kiss Me Kate, Curry Nam Nam
    • Nicholas Hoult – Mad Max Fury Road, Wallander, Wah-Wah, About a Boy
  • Why? Julie Walters.
  • Seen: Once before. Now 8 September 2017      

       It’s been a very long time since we first saw this film and I don’t remember what it’s about but I remember been very moved by it and I’ve been looking for it for a long time. Now, finally.
       Frowsy, middle-aged Marjorie with a 13-year-old daughter Joyce and Stanley, a husband who makes unwelcome amorous demands, takes in a lodger, a young sailor, Harold Guppie. She insists he call her Mum.
       But when she comes into his room, and his bed, it’s not a mum she wants to be to him. At first he rejects her then succumbs to her seduction. As time goes by Joyce pursues him too.
       Harold starts to realise what a mess he’s in. He turns nasty, joins the army and gets a new girlfriend.
       Mum doesn’t like that. Pathetically pleading letters mixed with blackmail bring Harold back into the fold.
       What unpleasant, pathetic people. Can this possibly end well for anyone? Of course not.
       From absurd comedy it transforms into absurd tragedy. That’s why I like it. And because of the strong cast as well.

3 ½ * of 5



4 September 2017

Gattaca

Gattaca 1997
  • Director: Andrew Niccol
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Loren Dean, Gore Vidal
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ethan Hawke – Before Sunset, Tape, Hamlet, Snow Falling on Cedars, Before Sunrise, Reality Bites, Waterland, Dead Poets Society
    • Uma Thurman – Kill Bill 1 & 2, Hysterical Blindness, Tape, Les Misérables, Beautiful Girls, Pulp Fiction, Dangerous Liaisons,
    • Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, Hugo, Contagion, Repo Men, Sherlock Holmes, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Sleuth, The Holiday, Breaking and Entering, The Aviator, Closer, Alfie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Cold Mountain, Road to Perdition, eXistenZ
    • Alan Arkin – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Sunshine Cleaning, Little Miss Sunshine, Grosse Pointe Blank, Mother Night, Glengarry Glen Ross, Edward Scissorhands, Catch 22, Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming
    • Loren Dean – Billy Bathgate
    • Gore Vidal – Igby Goes Down
  • Why? Interesting subject. Good cast.
  • Seen: Once before. Now 2 September 2017      

       The not-too-distant future, we are told. Solemnly suited men and women – Jerome Morrow (Hawke) and Irene (Thurman) amongst them – enter the space centre Gattaca. Jerome is chosen to take part on a year-long mission to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
       It’s just that, unlike everyone else at Gattaca, Jerome is genetically In-valid, fated to die young. He’s actually a janitor at the centre, his name is Vincent, he’s a space nerd, and he is now ‘disappeared’, having illegally obtained the genetic identity of the crippled, bitter and alcoholic Vincent Morrow (Law).
       Then the mission director is murdered and Irene is ordered to help with the investigation though she too is genetically engineered (legitimately) and she too wants to go on the mission. She finds an eyelash near the murder scene. Vincent’s. So now he’s a murder suspect.
       It’s an intelligent, suspensefully low-key sci fi detective film. Two problems. It’s maybe a little too low-key though it picks up towards the end. And I wish Thurman’s character had been given less femme fatale-ness and more depth as a scientist. They don’t even give her a surname. Thurman does, of course, a very good acting job with what she’s given. As do they all.
       Third problem. Melodramatic then drawn-out ending.
       But well worth seeing.

3 * of 5 (Hal gave it 4)


Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite 2004
  • Director: Jared Hess
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Hayley Duff
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Tina Majorino – Veronica Mars
  • Why? Recommended by friends AS and AS.
  • Seen: 1 September 2017      

       For some reason, we got to talking about Idaho and how little one knows about this state. Potatoes. That’s about it for me.
       Oh yes, and My Own Private Idaho. Which led to this recommendation by AS and AS. They promised weird humour. Right. Just our cup of tea.
       Clever beginning credits. Then nerd kid, Napoleon Dynamite himself (Heder). He’s a high school student with frizzy ginger hair, half-closed bespectacled eyes, slack half-open mouth, big nose, big teeth and a petulant, angry, spaced out attitude who draws fantasy worlds. Completely and utterly uncool. And he’s the normal one in this oddest of movies.
       If it’s about anything I haven’t figured it out after half an hour.
       Maybe lost dreams, loneliness, nerdiness, friendship. Cruelty and kindness.
       It makes My Own Private Idaho look like a normal movie, and sorry Idahoans, it does not inspire me to move to Idaho.
       But it is weirdly, strangely…funny? Sweet? Sad? Appealing?
       All of the above.

4 * of 5


28 August 2017

The Last Days of Disco

The Last Days of Disco 1998
  • Director: Whit Stillman
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Mackenzie Astin, Matt Keeslar, Robert Sean Leonard
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Chloë Sevigny – Zodiac, Broken Flowers, Manderlay, Dogville, American Psycho, A Map of the World
    • Kate Beckinsale – Absolutely Anything, The Aviator, Serendipity, Shooting Fish, Cold Comfort Farm, Prince of Jutland, Much Ado About Nothing
    • Chris Eigeman – Fringe, Maid in Manhattan, Homicide Life on the Street
    • Robert Sean Leonard – The Painted House, Much Ado About Nothing, Swing Kids, Dead Poets Society
  • Why? Remember it being interesting
  • Seen: Once before. Now 26 August 2017      

       It must be confessed. I have never been to a disco. I have never tried to get into a disco. I have never wanted to go to a disco.
       Twenty minutes into the film, I still don’t want to. Yuppie angst, meaningless talk, bitchy friends, sexual pursuit… but ‘The Tide Is High’ is a good song.
       Next day at work. Lawyers, publishers, advertisers.
       Forty minutes into the film. Is this an allegory on how meaningless and absurd life is? Or just the American yuppie business world of the 80’s? Still, these pathetic young people are appealing in their way. Beckinsale is good as the bitchy friend/roommate/colleague but truthfully, Sevigny creeps me out.
       What it needs to be a really good film is a British cast, a British director and a London setting, but that would probably defeat the purpose and besides, it’s not without interest as it is.

3 * of 5 (Hal gave it 4)


Song for Marion

Song for Marion 2012
  • Director: Paul Andrew Williams
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Orla Hill
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Terence Stamp – Valkyria, Wanted, Dead Fish, Star Wars I, The Limey, The Adventures of Pricilla Queen of the Desert, Superman I & 2, Far From the Madding Crowd, Billy Bud
    • Gemma Arteron – The Girl with All the Gifts, The Boat that Rocked, Quantum of Solace, Lost in Austen
    • Vanessa Redgrave – The Butler, Coriolanus, Atonement, The Pledge, Girl Interrupted, Cradle Will Rock, Lulu on the Bridge, Mrs Dalloway, Wilde, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, House of the Spirits, Howards End, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Prick Up Your Ears, Playing for Time, Julia, Out of Season, The Devils, Oh What a Lovely War, Isadora, Camelot
    • Anne Reid – Last Tango in Halifax, Doctor Who, Hot Fuzz, Bleak House, Rose and Maloney, Liam
    • 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? Christopher Eccleston, Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp
  • Seen: 20 August 2017      

       A feel-good film about pensioners who sing. Now that should be just the ticket for this evening. And what a cast.
       Marion (Redgrave) sings in a pensioners’ choir. Her husband Arthur (Stamp) doesn’t approve because it’s too much for her. She’s dying of cancer.
       Not so very feel-good. Depressing is the word. Depressingly realistic.
       OK, she’s going to die. He’s going to discover singing.
       Will I be able to endure this? I need cheering up, not cheering down. Of course, tear-jerkers can be good for the soul so maybe I’ll endure.
       Right. Eighty minutes later. The tears have been jerked and everyone is feeling pretty good.

3 ½ * of 5   


Continuum

Continuum 2013 (aka I’ll Follow You Down)
  • Director: Richie Mehta
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Haley Joel Osment, Victor Garber, Susanna Fournier
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Gillian Anderson – The Fall, X-Files, War and Peace, Great Expectations, Tristram Shandy
    • Rufus Sewell – The Tourist, The Pillars of the Earth, The Holiday, Paris je t’aime, The Taming of a Shrew, The Knight’s Tale, Hamlet, Cold Comfort Farm, Middlemarch
    • Haley Joel Osment – Pay It Forward, The Sixth Sense
    • Victor Garber – Stargate Universe, Milk, Legally Blond, Titanic, The First Wives Club, Sleepless in Seattle
    • Susanna Fournier – X-Men Days of Future Past
  • Why? Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell
  • Seen: 19 August 2017      

       Loving father and scientist Gabriel (Sewell) leaves wife Marika (Anderson) and son Erol (Osment when the boy grows up) for a conference, to return soon. He doesn’t. He simply disappears.
       Twelve years later, Erol is grown up and a genius. Marika is still mourning. Marika’s father, also a scientist, discovers that Gabriel had found a wormhole to a parallel universe and got stuck there. He asks Erol for help in finding Gabriel and bringing him back. Erol is loath to do it but his mother is falling apart.
       So he does.
       For being a sci fi film this is low-key intensity about relationships with some interesting moral dilemmas.
       The logic is a bit murky - but I suppose wormholes and parallel universes would be - and not completely convincing. But it’s interesting, unspectacularly intelligent and well-acted.

3 * of 5   


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