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   


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   





10 February 2017

Lady Jane

Lady Jane 1986
  • Director: Trevor Nunn
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Cary Elwes, John Wood, Michael Horden, Jane Lapotaire, Patrick Stewart
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Helena Bonham Carter – The Lone Ranger, Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Dark Shadows, Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter, Toast, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Enid, Terminator Salvation, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Conversations with Other Women, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Fight Club, Keep the Aspidistras Flying, Twelfth Night, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Howards End, Hamlet, A Room with a View
    • Cary Elwes – Ella Enchanted, The X Files, Cradle Will Rock, Kiss the Girls, Twister
    • John Wood – Chocolat, Longitude, Jane Eyre, The Madness of King George, Orlando
    • Michael Horden – Middlemarch, Cymbeline, Gandhi, King Lear, Ivanhoe, All’s Well that Ends Well, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, How I Won the War, The Yellow Rolls Royce, Cleopatra
    • Jane Lapotaire – Shooting Fish, Surviving Picasso, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra
    • Patrick Stewart – The Hollow Crown Richard II, The X Men Days of Future Past, Hamlet, Extras, X Men, Star Trek (one of them, I don’t remember which), Excalibur, Hamlet, I Claudius
  • Why? HBC and the subject
  • Seen: 29 January 2017      

       Having just read The Children of England by Alison Weir about the three children of Henry VIII it’s fitting to finally watch this film that has been waiting on the shelf for some time.
       When Henry died his heir Edward was nine years old. He was quite a strong king for all that but he inconveniently died at the age of fifteen. He was a fervent protestant and his supporters were determined to keep his fanatically Catholic half-sister Mary from the throne. They chose fifteen-year-old Jane Grey, a shy, scholarly, well-educated girl with cruel, ambitious and manipulative parents.
       But I’m getting ahead of myself.
       The film starts with Jane and Edward being friends, with Jane being warned by Catholic Princess Mary to take care. Some of the intrigues are revealed. Jane is married off to the Duke of Northumberland, the drunken, brawling, stupid Guilford, against her vehement protests, but only after being whipped into submission by her mother. Even her friend the king tells her she must marry Guilford.
       So they marry. Neither is happy about it but then they get to know each other. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. This romantic bit is highly unhistorical. And Guilford was, in reality, hardly the class-conscious revolutionary portrayed here.
       Edward dies and to her horror Jane finds that she has been manipulated into becoming queen.
       She decides to take advantage of it to promote her protestant beliefs but neither the people nor Mary are pleased. Mary raises an army. Jane is queen for nine days. Then Mary is proclaimed queen and Jane is confined to the Tower.
       The movie is too long and far too romantic. Nevertheless, it is quite an interesting portrayal of this short dramatic parenthesis in Tudor history. A very young Bonham Carter is already showing her vast acting skills.
      
3 * of 5   




V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta (2005)
  • Director: James McTeigue
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Pigott- Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam, Ben Miles, Sinead Cusack, Guy Henry
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Natalie Portman – Thor, Black Swan, The Other Boleyn Girl, Paris je t’aime, Star Wars I-II-III, Closer, Cold Mountain, Anywhere but Here, Mars Attacks!, Léon
    • Hugo Weaving – The Hobbit, Cloud Atlas, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
    • John Hurt – Doctor Who, Snowpiercer, Merlin, The Hollow Crown, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter 1-8, Melancholia, Brighton Rock, Manderlay, Dogville, Contact, Dead Man, Roby Roy, King Lear, The Elephant Man, Alien, I Claudius
    • Stephen Rea – The Butcher Boy, Fever Pitch, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, Life Is Sweet
    • Stephen Fry – The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Extras, Tristram Shandy, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, Longitude, Black Adder, Cold Comfort Farm, Jeeves and Wooster, A Fish Called Wanda
    • Tim Pigott-Smith – Simon Schama’s Shakespeare, Alice in Wonderland, Quantum of Solace, Gangs of New York, The Remains of the Day, Measure for Measure
    • Rupert Graves – Last Tango in Halifax, Dr Who, Mrs Dalloway, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Intimate Relations, The Madness of King George, A Handful of Dust, A Room with a View
    • Roger Allam – Endeavour, The Lady in the Van, The Tempest (on stage at the Globe and the filmed production of it), Simon Schama’s Shakespeare, The Angel’s Share, The Woman in Black, Pirates of the Caribbean, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, The Catherine Tate Show, The Queen, Tristram Shandy, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
    • Ben Miles – The Hollow Crown, Under the Greenwood Tree, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying,
    • Sinead Cusack – Twelfth Night
    • Guy Henry – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2, Creation, Wallander, Lost in Austen, Extras, starter for 10, Hustle, Bright Young Things, Lady Jane
  • Why? a good movie
  • Seen: Once previously. Now 28 January 2017      

       Sadly we have been reached by the news that John Hurt has died. Such a great loss. In his memory we have chosen this film for the evening.
       It starts however with Roger Allam as a fanatic Christian Muslim-hating, homophobic TV celebrity, ‘the Voice of London’…how close to grim reality is that in the mad world of today?
       Evey (Portman) ventures out after curfew in a totalitarian London. She is abused by the police and rescued by a masked hero who is called a terrorist by John Hurt, the dictator. The masked hero calls himself V.
       Evey works as an errand girl for a BBC-like institution and gets caught up in V’s vendetta. V: ‘There’s something terrible wrong with this country. People should not be afraid of their governments.’
       While watching we have to remind ourselves that this is pretend. But the society V is fighting against is chillingly like the one Trump is rapidly creating.
       The cast is from Britain’s elite, the story is intelligent, the dialogue scholarly, the characters complex. And there are a lot of references to Shakespeare. It goes on too long and it’s confusing at times. The lone tortured hero is violently overdone and the love story is unnecessary. The political message won’t really hold up to much scrutiny despite the meticulous set-up. But it’s clever, funny, exciting and grim. The end is very dramatic.
       John Hurt, you do an outstandingly evil dictator. We first saw you as Caligula. But I will remember you most gratefully and affectionately for your Mr Ollivander and Kilgarrah. Thank you.

4 * of 5   




Cockneys vs Zombies

Cockneys vs Zombies 2012
  • Director: Matthias Hoene
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Gary Beadle, Michelle Ryan, Harry Treadaway, Georgia King, Honor Blackman, Alan Ford, Tony Gardner
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Gary Beadle – Hustle, Absolutely Fabulous, Wit, Absolute Beginners
    • Michelle Ryan – Doctor Who, Merlin
    • Harry Treadaway – The Lone Ranger, Fish Tank, Control
    • Georgia King – Vicious, Merlin
    • Honor Blackman – Colour Me Kubrick, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Virgin and the Gypsy, Goldfinger, The Avengers
    • Tony Gardner – Last Tango in Halifax
  • Why? The title
  • Seen: 27 January 2017      

       With a title like that, this has to be a sombre, serious, sober film, like. Intellectual, yeah?
       A small gang of Cockney first-time-ever robbers are going to rob a bank to get money to save their grandfather’s pensioners’ home. The robbery goes badly and hostages are taken. Zombies attack the pensioners but some of them resist, barricading themselves into the kitchen. The East End is sealed off. There are zombies everywhere. Three of our intrepid gangsters set off, fighting the zombies, to rescue granddad and friends.
       As expected. Sombre, serious, sober, intellectual…not. It’s gruesome, gory, bloody and almost funny. And just a little scary. And even sad.
       With some linguistic lessons in Cockney rhyming thrown in. Hurrah for East End Cockney patriotism!
       ‘This is the weirdest day in my life,’ says Katy, bank robber and zombie killer. Oh, really?
       Well, folks, it’s a zombie film. It’s not Shaun of the Dead but it’s quite entertaining.
      
2 1/3 * of 5   




24 January 2017

In This World

In This World 2002
  • Director: Michael Winterbottom
  • Based on book: no, but on reality
  • Cast: Jamal Udin Torabi, Enayatullah
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • None of them
  • Why? It sounded good.
  • Seen: 22 January 2017      

       A camp of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 2002. Enayat and his younger cousin Jamal are handed over, with a load of money, to smugglers with the intention of getting them to London.
       Jamal is a cheerful, affectionate, smart kid who appreciates the beauty of nature and speaks English. Through desert, mountain, sandstorms, in lorries, coaches, through towns and military outposts, they make their way to Iran. Who can they trust?
       They get help from good people. They get taken by bad people.
       The very lack of drama, the calm resigned acceptance of every situation, the stamina and weariness but dogged perseverance of their journey make this quiet semi-documentary film the stuff of quiet every day drama of millions of refugees.
       We’ve seen the news reports. Here we get to know individuals. Two boys. One makes it to London. One doesn’t.
       There are more than 65 million refugees in the world today. Only the tiniest fraction of them come to Europe. https://donate.unhcr.org/int-en/general-eur/?set_country=INT

4 * of 5.  


Jumper

Jumper 2008
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Diane Lane, Michael Rooker
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Hayden Christensen – Factory Girl, Star Wars II and III, Virgin Suicides
    • Jamie Bell – Filth, Snowpiercer, Jane Eyre, The Eagle, Defiance, Hallam Foe, King Kong, Dear Wendy, Undertow, Billy Elliot
    • Samuel L. Jackson – Inglourious Basterds, 1408, Extras, Kill Bill 2, Star Wars Attack of the Clones, Changing Lanes, Star Wars the Phantom Menace, The Red Violin, The Negotiator, Jackie Brown, Long Kiss Goodnight, A Time to Kill, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Jurassic Park, Lethal Weapon, Jungle Fever, Mo’ Better Blues, Sea of Love, Do the Right Thing, Coming to America, Ragtime
    • Diane Lane – Man of Steel, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Glass House, The Perfect Storm, Streets of Fire, Rumble Fish
    • Michael Rooker – JFK, Sea of Love, Mississippi Burning, The Fugitive, Light of Day
  • Why? Jamie Bell
  • Seen: Once before. Now 20 January 2017      

       Teenaged David is a bullied loser who suddenly discovers he has the ability to teleport. He’s a jumper. He robs banks, grows up and goes to find his teenage heart throb. Jumper killer Roland (Jackson) is out to get him. Another jumper, Griffin (Bell) observes all this. He’s out to get the jumper killers. He and David become reluctant partners.
       There’s a lot of jumping round the world. It’s all very macho with a weepy damsel. David to Griffin: ‘Save her, kill him and we’re done!’
       It’s a very thin story and the hero is stupid but it’s exciting, sort of. And Jamie Bell is fun to see as a gritty cynical tough guy. But both he and Jackson deserve a better film.

2* of 5