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   


Another World

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

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




6 March 2017

A Hard Day's Night

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

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

5* of 5   


Help!

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

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

       4* of 5