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   



Ever After

Ever After 1998
  • Director: Andy Tennant
  • Based loosely on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
  • Cast: Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Megan Dodds, Melanie Lynsky, Timothy West, Judy Parfitt, Jeroen Krabbé, Lee Ingleby
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Drew Barrymore  He’s Just Not that Into You, Music and Lyrics, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Riding in Cars with Boys, Donnie Darko, The Wedding Singer, E.T.
    • Anjelica Huston – Darjeeling Limited, Seraphim Falls, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grifters, A Handful of Dust, Prizzi’s Honour, Spinal Tap
    • Dougray Scott – My Week with Marilyn, To Kill a King
    • Patrick Godfrey – Mr Turner, Les Misérables, Remains of the Day, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Clockwise, A Room with a View, Pericles Prince of Tyre
    • Melanie Lynsky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Heavenly Creatures
    • Judy Parfitt – Girl with the Pearl Earring, Wilde, Delores Claiborne
    • Jeroen Krabbé – Immortal Beloved, The Fugitive
    • Lee Ingleby – Mr Turner, Quirke, Hustle, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Why? Originally? I don’t remember. Now, chosen for our read-book-see-film group.
  • Seen: Once before. Now 15 January with Hal and YW.      

       It must be very difficult to cast the role of Cinderella because I’ve never seen a good one. Barrymore is no exception. She is remarkably wrong for this rewritten role as a thinking, outspoken young woman named Danielle. The prince is better. He’s just handsome enough, he longs for freedom and helps hopeless wayfarers, one of whom just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci.
       It’s an altogether livelier version of the fairy tale with a touch of class struggle and feminism. One of the sisters is a loser and therefore quite likeable. The wicked step-mother in Huston’s interpretation is not so much wicked as self-centred, grasping and pitiful, but she overdoes the arched eyebrow and insinuating glances.
       It’s an enjoyable and intelligent version of Cinderella with some complex and credible characters. And what a clever ending with Leonardo saving the day. No fairy godmother necessary!

3 * of 5   

PS Has anyone noticed how much Drew Barrymore looks like Stephen Fry?




Across the Universe

Across the Universe 2007
  • Director: Julie Taymor
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy, T.V. Carpio, Joe Cocker, Bono, Eddie Izzard
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Evan Rachel Wood – The Wrestler
    • Jim Sturgess – Cloud Atlas, The Other Boleyn Girl
    • Joe Anderson – Control, Becoming Jane, Copying Beethoven
    • Eddie Izzard – Valkyria, Romance & Cigarettes, Velvet Goldmine, his shows
  • Why? The Beatles!
  • Seen: 3-4 times previously. Now: 14 January 2017      

       A story woven together from the lyrics of Beatle songs – why didn’t I think of that? Never mind. Taymor did it and what a film it is. Jude, from Liverpool, goes to the US to find his father and finds himself involved in the anti-war movement. There’s a love story as well, surprise, surprise, with Lucy. It’s a good story with a nice mix of Liverpudlian working class and New England Ivy League and Greenwich Village in the 60’s but let’s get to the songs, just a few of the film’s best bits:
  • ‘Let It Be’ sung by a black kid in the midst of the Detroit race riots
  • Joe Cocker and the people of NY doing ‘Come Together’ as Jojo arrives in the city
  • Prudence coming through the bathroom window
  • ‘I Want You’ by the recruiting machine/soldiers out to get Max
  • ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ with strawberry bombs in Vietnam
  • ‘Oh Darling’ as Sadie and Joho break up
  • ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ with a ward of wounded and dying soldiers and a madly dancing priest
  • ‘All You Need Is Love’ on the roof top.

       The psychedelic trips go on too long (though Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite is fun) and Wood is too bland and anonymous to be interesting as Lucy.
       Like Taymor’s two Shakespeare films this one is flawed but powerful and clever. I already want to see it again.
      
4 ½  * of 5   




15 January 2017

Enemy Mine

Enemy Mine 1985
  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Based on short story by Barry Longyear
  • Cast: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gosset Jr
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Dennis Quaid – Smart People, American Dreamz, Day After Tomorrow, Far from Heaven, Postcards from the Edge, Great Balls of Fire, Caveman
  • Why? Sounded interesting
  • Seen: 13 January 2017      

       Humans battle Draks (male and female in the same body) in space over resources. Human bomber pilot Willis crash lands on a planet and finds there a Drak. Wills stalks the Drak with intent to kill but the Drak outsmarts him. Willis is stupid, arrogant, irritating and racist. The Drak is smart, funny and more human than the human.
       A spoof? A comedy? A parody? An adventure story? A social commentary?
       The planet is hostile. They have to cooperate to survive and take turns saving each other’s lives, while arguing violently over who started the war and whose fault everything is.
       It turns out that the Drak is pregnant.
       What a strange movie. At moments it has the feel of a 50’s musical (not one of the good ones). At times it’s an anti-racist fable. It’s full of pathetic clichés, badly written lines and bad acting. It has some interesting ideas and takes a few unexpected turns.
       From 0 * at the beginning it seems to have crawled up a bit but it’s far too long and it ends with one of those stupid fist fights that directors can’t seem to resist.

1 ½ * of 5   


Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away
  • Director: David Chase
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: John Magaro, Jack Huston, James Gandolfini, Bella Heathcote, Dominique McElligott
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Jack Huston – Factory Girl
    • James Gandolfini – In the Loop, The Sopranos, Romance & Cigarettes, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Get Shorty, True Romance
    • Bella Heathcote  – Dark Shadows
    • William H. Macy – Cake, The Lincoln Lawyer, Bobby, The Cooler, State and Main, Happy Texas, Pleasantville, Boogie Nights, Fargo, The Client, Benny and Joon
  • Why? James Gandolfini, 60’s music
  • Seen: 8 January 2017      

       The assassination of JFK. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley on American TV. Aspiring rock groups. Teen angst, unrequited love. Coming back after the first term at college with long hair, enraging the overweight, chain smoking, homophobic racist working class dad. Smoking grass.
       Talk about a walk down memory lane. All those 60’s songs! Flashes of the LPs we all knew and loved. A little Vietnam War. A little civil rights movement. Leadbelly. Burl Ives.
       This is such a cavalcade of 60’s nostalgia that I don’t know what the story is. It’s full of clichés and not terribly interesting. Gandolfini lifts it a bit in his few scenes though he isn’t given much to work with.
       The music is good but then with the E Street Band people involved it bloody well should be.

2 ½ * of 5   


X Men Days of Future Past

X Men: Days of Future Past 2014
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables, Australia, The Fountain, Kate & Leopold, X Men
    • James McAvoy – Filth, Wanted, Atonement, Becoming Jane, Starter for 10, Shakespeare Retold Macbeth, Inside I’m Dancing, Bright Young Things, White Teeth
    • Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games 1-4, Winter’s Bone
    • Michael Fassbender – Macbeth, Prometheus, Jane Eyre, Inglourious Basterds, Fish Tank, Hunger
    • Halle Berry – Cloud Atlas, Things We Lost in the Fire, Monster’s Ball, X Men, Bulworth, Jungle Fever
    • Ellen Page – Inception, Smart People, Juno
    • Peter Dinklage -  Station Agent, Human Nature
    • Ian McKellan – Vicious, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, Richard III, Six Degrees of Separation, Cold Comfort Farm, The Ballad of Little Jo, Macbeth
    • Patrick Stewart – The Hollow Crown Richard II, Hamlet, Extras, X Men, Star Trek (one of them, I don’t remember which), Excalibur, Hamlet, I Claudius
  • Why? Oh, why not? And James McAvoy is in it
  • Seen: 30 December 2016      

       Oh, how we love our superheroes and supervillains! News flash, people, if we want the world to be saved we have to do it ourselves, from the enemy who doesn’t have superpowers, just money and great skill in the manipulation of people’s fears, and in many cases vast ignorance.
       But let’s pretend that a) watching movies like this can be inspiring and b) they give us rest and entertainment so that we can regain the energy to take up the fight again.
       Fans of the X Men films would probably not find this as confusing as I do but I do sort of remember the first one so some of it makes a sort of sense. Going back in time, to the 70’s to prevent…etc., meeting all the X men (and women) before they were X.
       Too long! Too long!
       But amusing at times, and dramatic. Inspiring? Not in the least. Entertaining? Somewhat. Have I regained energy so that I can fight the fight tomorrow? Hardly.
       But I like James McAvoy.
      
2 ½  * of 5   


Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep 2014
  • Director: Rowan Joffe
  • Based on book by S J Watson
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Nicole Kidman  The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole, Nine, Australia, Margot at the Wedding, Fur, Cold Mountain, The Human Stain, Dogville, The Hours, Birthday Girl, Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Billy Barthgate
    • Colin Firth – Railway Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King’s Speech, Genova, Then She Found Me, Nanny McPhee, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, Girl with Pearl Earring, My Life So Far, Shakespeare in Love, A Thousand Acres, Fever Pitch, The English Patient
    • Mark Strong – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Eagle, Young Victoria, Robin Hood, Flashbacks of a Fool, Stardust, Sunshine, Sunshine (the other one), Fever Pitch
    • Anne-Marie Duff – Nowhere Boy, Notes on a Scandal, The Magdalena Sisters
  • Why? Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth
  • Seen: 16 December 2016      

       Good title for one who tends to doze off during the Friday evening film. This one ought to keep me awake…
       Christine received severe head injuries in a car crash and every morning she wakes up with no memory of her husband, the loving Ben, or their 14-year-old marriage. Or anything else. Every morning is a blank with no memory of anything, including the previous day.
       Unknown to Ben a neuropsychologist, Dr Nasch, is trying to treat Christine for her amnesia. He has told her it wasn’t an accident. She was attacked and beaten. The doctor tells her to keep a journal. She does, and in it she writes, ‘Don’t trust Ben,’ though she doesn’t remember why.
       We watch as every day flashes of memory come to her – of a friend, Claire, of a child.  Ben tells her Claire left her after the accident. That their son died, eight years old.
       She remembers the attack but was it Ben? Or Dr Nasch? Which one should she fear? Which one should she love? Is the man she wakes up with every morning even her husband Ben?
       It gets quite scary and the acting is good. It’s decent Friday evening fare and I didn’t doze off.
      
2 ½ * of 5