28 December 2015

The Angels' Share

The Angels’ Share 2012
  • Director: Ken Loach
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Paul Brannigan, Siobhan Reilly, John Henshaw, Jasmin Riggins, Roger Allam
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • John Henshaw – South Riding, Looking for Eric, Starter for 10
    • Roger Allam – Henry IV Parts One and Two, Endeavour, The Tempest (on stage at the Globe in London as well as DVD), The Woman in Black, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Queen, V for Vendetta, Tristram Shandy
  • Why? Ken Loach
  • Seen: 25 December 2015. 

A number of petty criminals, i.e. general losers, in Glasgow are sentenced to community payback. Robbie, who has been in trouble all of his short life, has a violent temper and is up for assault. He’s very close to being sentenced to prison but he gets community payback because his girlfriend, who is about to have a baby, has been a steadying influence on him.
He swears to his baby son and girlfriend that he will never be violent again.
He and his fellow community paybackers have the good fortune to work for Harry, who not only really cares about them but teaches them to appreciate whisky. Robbie proves to be a natural.
But what can Harry and a natural nose for spirits do against gang warfare and a past that won’t let Robbie go?
This is Ken Loach. It’s raw and gritty and violent at the same time as it’s a funny low-key portrayal of everyday life.
There is a suspenseful intrigue involving whisky theft and it a great pleasure to see the Scottish landscape and hear the incomprehensible but lovely Scottish dialect.  A must-see!

5 * of 5

The Island

The Island 2005
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Ewan McGregor – The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Ghost Writer, Stay, Star Wars I-III, Big Fish, Young Adam, Moulin Rouge, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
    • Scarlett Johansson – He’s Just Not that into You, The Other Boleyn Girl, In Good Company, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation
    • Djimon HounsouThe Tempest, Blood Diamond, Gladiator, Amistad
    • Sean Bean – The Lord of the Rings trilogy, North Country, Troy, Golden Eye, Equilibrium, Stormy Monday
    • Steve Buscemi – Paris je t’aime, The Sopranos, Romance and Cigarettes, Big Fish, Twenty-eight Days, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Living in Oblivion, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Billy Bathgate, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, Mystery Train
  • Why? Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson
  • Seen: Once before. Now 24 December 2015 

In a highly automated stress-, diet- and emotion-controlled futuristic community where everyone is required to be healthy and happy, the ultimate dream for all of the inmates is to win the Lottery. The prize: to move to the Island.
They have survived the contamination.
Ewan McGregor asks questions and sabotages as many rules as he can. He starts investigating and finds that everything is a lie.
The concept is quite interesting and the film is exciting and funny at times. There isn’t much room for character development but McGregor, Johansson and Buscemi do what they can. They always enhance any film they’re in.
It disintegrates into a less than likely action-chase movie and the gender stereotypes are irritating.
A masterpiece it is not. Flawed? Oh yes. Unlikely? Highly.
But likeable.

2 3/4 * of 5

21 December 2015

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Director: Stephen Chbosky
  • Based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky
  • Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Tom Savini, Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman, Joan Cusack
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Logan Lerman – Riding in Cars with Boys
    • Emma Watson – the Harry Potter films, My Week with Marilyn
    • Ezra Miller – nothing, but I hope to see more
    • Kate Walsh – Fargo, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Norm Show
    • Paul Rudd – Veronica Mars, The Cider House Rules, Romeo and Juliet, Clueless
    • Mae Whitman – Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Independence Day
    • Joan Cusack – School of Rock, High Fidelity, Runaway Bride, Cradle Will Rock, Corrina Corrina, Working Girl, Stars and Bars
  • Why? Emma Watson
  • Seen: 20 december 2015. 

Another high school film with football and homecoming and bourgeois families and pick-up trucks. But also secret homosexuality, bulimia, suicide, mental illness and sexual abuse.
It’s a very sad movie. The kids whose lives are such a mess, especially the three leads Emma Watson, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman, are terrific.
Don’t let the cute title and sweet DVD box photo fool you. It’s a very good movie. The music is good too.

4 * of 5

The Pilot's Wife

The Pilot’s Wife 2002
  • Director: Robert Markowitz
  • Based on the novel by Anita Shreve
  • Cast: Christine Lahti, Campbell Scott, Alison Pill, Kirsty Mitchell, John Heard
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Christine Lahti – Smart People, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, Out of the Ashes, Leaving Normal, Running on Empty, Housekeeping, Swing Shift
    • Campbell Scott – Music and Lyrics, Dead Again
    • Alison Pill – Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Milk, Dan in Real Life, Dear Wendy
    • Kirsty Mitchell – Case Histories
    • John Heard – The Great Debaters, The Sopranos, O, Pollock, Desert Blue, The Pelican Brief, Waterland, Awakenings, The Trip to Bountiful, After Hours
  • Why? Christine Lahti
  • Seen: 18 December 2015. 

In the opening minutes Christine Lahti’s character Kathryn is awakened in the middle of the night and informed that her husband, a pilot, and a hundred and four passengers have died in a plane crash.
In the following days of memories and arrangements, suspicious about the circumstances around the crash – maybe his fault – grow. The pilots’ union is involved, and the FBI. Secrets, double lives, betrayals emerge.
From a family drama it turns into a political thriller. Not entirely convincing it’s still quite interesting, at times even a bit exciting.
Christine Lahti, as always, gives a solid performance and the Norther Ireland coastal scenery is beautiful.

2 ½ * of 5

14 December 2015

The Hollow Crown - Henry V

The Hollow Crown – Henry V
  • Director: Thea Sharrock
  • Based on the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Julie Walters, Anton Lesser, Paul Ritter, Tom Brook, Mélanie, Thierry, Géraldine Chaplin, John Dagliesh, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Paterson Joseph, Gwilym Lee, Lambert Wilson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Tom Hiddleston – Henry IV Parts One and Two, The Deep Blue Sea, Thor, Wallander, Cranford,
    • Julie Walters – Henry IV Parts One and Two, Harry Potter 1-8, Mamma Mia, Becoming Jane, Driving Lessons, Wah-Wah, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot, Titanic Town, Intimate Relations, Prick Up Your Ears, Educating Rita
    • Anton Lesser – Endeavour, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, The Girl in the Café, Twelfth Night, King Lear,
    • Paul Ritter – Wolf Hall, Friday Night Dinner, Bletchley Circle, Great Expectations, Nowhere Boy, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Quantum of Solace, Son of Rambow, The Girl in the Café, The Libertine
    • Tom Brook – The Boat that Ricked, The Young Victoria, Hustle
    • Géraldine Chaplin – The Impossible, Jane Eyre, The Age of Innocence, Nashville, Remember My Name, Dr Zhivago
    • John Hurt – Merlin, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter, Melancholia, Brighton Rock. V for Vendetta, Manderlay, Dogville, Dead Man, Rob Roy, King Lear, The Elephant Man, Alien, I Claudius, A Man for All Seasons
    • Paterson James – Case Histories, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Rose and Maloney, The Beach
    • Gwilym Lee – The Tourist
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 12 December 2015 

Expectations are very high because of how good the first three films in this series were. And comparisons to the Branagh version are inevitable.
It promises to be an interesting evening.
The approach is much the same as in Branagh’s film. Serious and earnest, it gives an unflinching picture of the brutality of war, and how glorious and stirring words cannot change the fundamental lack of good reason to go to war. Nor can piety.
It’s not on the grand scale of the Branagh version but its deep melancholy is stirring. And what a cast. Paul Ritter as Pistol. Richard Griffiths as the Duke of Burgundy. Julie Walters, again as Mistress Quickly. Anton Lessor as Exeter. Mélanie Thierry as Princess Katherine. The characters are brought to life before our eyes.
And Tom Hiddleston. Again. Now the king. Brought to life and in the sorrowful opening and ending scene, to death. What a performance.
Expectations fulfilled.

5 * of 5

Shooting Fish

Shooting Fish 1997
  • Director: Stefan Schwartz
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Dan Futterman, Stuart Townsend, Jane Lapotoire, Tom Chadbom, Phyllis Logan, Ralph Ineson, Annette Crosbie, Dominic Mafham, Peter Capaldi, Nicholas Woodeson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Kate Beckinsale – The Aviator, The Last Days of Disco, Cold Comfort Farm, Much Ado about Nothing
    • Dan Futterman – Homicide Life on the Street, The Birdcage, Fisher King
    • Stuart Townsend – surprisingly, only this
    • Jane Lapotoire – Surviving Picasso, Antony and Cleopatra
    • Tom Chadbon– Casino Royale, Dance with a Stranger, Tess
    • Phyllis Logan – Downton Abbey, Wallander, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Secrets and Lies
    • Ralph Ineson – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I & II, Merlin, Another Year, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Macbeth Re-Told, From Hell, Spender
    • Annette Crosbie – Calendar Girls, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Richard III, Twelfth Night
    • Dominic Mafham – Humans, Rose and Maloney, Our Mutual Friend, The English Patient
    • Peter Capaldi – World War Z, Dr Who, Modigliani, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Dangerous Liaisons, Local Heros
    • Nicholas Woodeson – Mr. Turner, Skyfall, Amazing Grace, Topsy-Turvy, Great Expectations, Titanic Town, The Pelican Brief
  • Why? Enjoyed it before
  • Seen: Twice previously. Now 11 December 2015 

‘Fleecing rich guys.’ That’s the motto of nerdy science genius Jez and dyslectic smooth-talking business genius Dylan.  The film starts with them fleecing ignorant business leaders in a computer scam, back in the days when computers were in their infancy.  Their secretary, honest young Georgy, is sceptical of their methods and motives but she helps them out of the disasters that arise when their scams are revealed.
This is London in the 90’s and the film has a nostalgic post-futuristic feel to it. It’s light-weight but fun. The three stars are appealing, the scams are amusing and varied. It takes enough unexpected twists and turns to keep us guessing and it’s a sweet film all the way through. No wonder we like it.

3 ½ * of 5

7 December 2015

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady 1964
  • Director: George Cukor
  • Based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Audrey Hepburn – Wait until Dark, Charade, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Unforgiven, The Nun’s Story, Green Mansions
    • Rex Harrison – Dr Doolittle, The Yellow Rolls Royce, Cleopatra, The Ghost and Mrs Muir
    • Stanley Holloway – Hamlet, Brief Encounter
    • Gladys Cooper – Rebecca and older TV series
    • Theodore Bikel – All in the Family, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, I Want to Live, African Queen and many TV series
    • Mona Washbourne – Oh Lucky Man!, The Collector
  • Why? A classic
  • Seen: about a hundred times. Now: 4 December 2015 

The soundtrack to the Broadway play was one of the first ones my parents bought in the 60’s – 50’s? and I promise you, I know the songs by heart.
I love this film. The lyrics, the costumes, the music. Everything.
Except the ending. It should have ended after Eliza sings ‘Without You’ and leaves the room with great dignity. That’s how the play ends.
But, hey, this is a musical. And the 60’s happy love ending and all that.
Never mind. I love it.

7 ½ * of 10

My Old Lady

My Old Lady 2014
  • Director: Israel Horovitz
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Dominic Pinon, Noémie Lvovsky, Stéphane De Groodt, Stéphane Freiss
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Maggie Smith – Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Downton Abbey, the Harry Potter films, The Quartet, Becoming Jane, Keeping Mum, Ladies in Lavender, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Gosford Park, David Copperfield, Tea with Mussolini, The First Wives’ Club, Richard III, Sister Acts 1 and 2, A Room with a View, Quartet (1981), Oh What a Lovely War, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    • Kevin Kline – As You Like It, A Prairie Home Companion, Wild Wild West, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dave, The January Man, A Fish Called Wanda, Silverado, Sophie’s Choice, Hamlet, The Ice Storm, The Shakespeare Sessions
    • Kristin Scott Thomas – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Contre toi, Elle s’appelait Sarah, Nowhere Boy, The Other Boleyn Girl, Il y’a longtemps que je t’aime, Keeping Mum, Gosford Park, The English Patient, Angels and Insects, Richard III, Four Weddings and a Funeral
    • Dominic Pinon – Un long dimanche de fiancailles, Le fabulous destain d’Amélie Poulain, Alien Ressurection
  • Why? Maggie Smith
  • Seen: 28 November 2015. 

It’s one of those evenings when a Maggie Smith film is necessary for the soul. Fortunately we have a new one.
Poor Kevin Kline. To inherit a six hundred square metre apartment in Paris and Maggie Smith. Sounds good but there are complications. Maggie Smith is demanding and very strict and he has to pay her € 2400 each month for the privilege of owning the apartment (strange French system). Included in the price is being yelled at by a belligerent and angry Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith’s daughter.
Anything with these three in it would be a winner. In this complex and odd story with these three complex and odd characters – magnifique!
The story is just a little contrived and a little too feel-good at the end, but oh that acting. For that alone:

5 * of 5 

The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two 2015
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Based on Book: by Suzanna Collins
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Caflin, Jeffrey Wright
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jennifer Lawrence: The Hunger Games, Winters Bone
    • Josh Hutcherson: The Hunger Games, The Kids Are All Right, American Splendor
    • Woody Harrelson:  The Hunger Games, 2012, Battle in Seattle, No Country for Old Men, Prairie Home Companion, North Country, White Men Can’t Jump
    • Jena Malone: Contact, Into the Wild, The Soloist, Cold Mountain, The United States of Leland, Donnie Darko, Homicide Life on the Streets, Ellen Foster
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Hunger Games, The Boat that Rocked, Cold Mountain, Punch Drunk Love, Almost Famous, State and Main, Flawless, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Twister, The Scent of a Woman
    • Elizabeth Banks – The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, Catch Me If You Can, Spider Man
    • Sam Caflin – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Pillars of the Earth
    • Jeffrey Wright – The Hunger Games, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Cadillac Records, Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale, Broken Flowers, Hamlet, Homicide Life on the Streets
    • Stanley Tucci: Fortitude, The Hunger Games, Swing Vote, Maid in Manhattan, Road to Perdition, Joe Gould’s Secret, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Life Less Ordinary, The Pelican File, Billy Bathgate, Prizzi’s Honor
  • Why bought: the books and other films of course!
  • Seen: November 22, 2015 at the cinema with Hal, YW and KW 

Finally. It’s been a long wait for the finale.
This one is in 3D which is disturbing at first but after getting used to it there are effective moments, especially the scene with the flooding oil.
It starts out slow. Katniss is in shock after the end of the last film when Peeta was captured and brainwashed by the enemy. And still the war continues.
It’s suspenseful and at times extremely exciting. The effects are almost overwhelming. It’s Jennifer Lawrence’s film but all of the others are very good in their small roles.
It’s hard to rate the film on its own since it’s so much a part of the quartet. It’s impressive and well done with a satisfying ending – except for the too-sunny-meadow final shot (although that, like the rest, is faithful to the novel) – but it’s more reserved than the first three.
I’m looking forward to getting the DVD so that we can read the books and watch all four again.

4 * of 5

Sunshine 2007

Sunshine 2007
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Troy Garity, Rose Byrne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, Mark Strong
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Cillian Murphy – The Dark Knight, Transcendence, Inception, Batman Begins, Cold Mountain, Girl with the Pearl Earring, 28 Days Later
    • Michelle Yeoh – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies
    • Rose Byrne – 28 Weeks Later, Troy
    • Benedict Wong – Prometheus, Moon, Tristram Shandy, Dirty Pretty Things
    • Chris Evans – Scot Pilgrim vs the World
    • Cliff Curtis – The Fountain, Whale Rider, Training Day, Blow, Bringing Out the Dead, Once Were Warriors, The Piano
    • Mark Strong – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria, Stardust, Sunshine (the other one, with Ralph Fiennes) Fever Pitch
  • Why? Sci fi. Danny Boyle
  • Seen: 20 November 2015 

The sun us dying. Eight astronauts are sent with a bomb to get it started again.
A bit 2001 A Space Odyssey, a bit Silent Running, as bit Solaris, a bit Gravity. Better than all of them.
The dilemma – to try to rescue the previous mission? Or take the chance that this mission will succeed on its own. The survival of the human race is dependent on making the right decision.
The film is surreal, contemplative, slow-moving but quietly suspenseful.  The cast are young and appealing.  It’s a visceral and existential film, a very human high tech artistic film.
It gets a bit muddled at the end and technical problems with the DVD itself don’t help but it’s visually exciting all the way through.
Danny Boyle is amazing.

4 * of 5

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect 2012
  • Director: Jason Moore
  • Based on novel: by Mickey Rapkin
  • Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Anna Kendrick – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
    • Skylar Astin – Taking Woodstock
    • Brittany Snow – Hairspray
    • Anna Camp – The Help
    • Elizabeth Banks –all four Hunger Games, Catch Me If You Can, Spider Man
  • Why? Music, 3 * in Maltin
  • Seen: 14 November 2015 

On no. College girls and boys. Dorm roommates. And a literature professor dad who says to his sullen daughter, ‘DJ-ing is not a profession. It’s a hobby.’
And the music is a capella.  Not that I have anything against a capella but these people are really obnoxious. Or total nerds. Or both.
It’s all very cheerleader-y and sorority-fraternity-Nazi cute and the love part is about as sexy as two pieces of cardboard.
It’s a typical competition high school – sorry, college – competition rebels-go-against-the-Nazi-leader-and-win feel-good movie. Except it’s really weird.
The music is good though.

1 3/4 * of 5 

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 2013
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Idris Elba – Prometheus, Thor, The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Twenty-Eight Weeks Later, Crocodile Shoes, Absolutely Fabulous
    • Charlie Hunnam – Children of Men, Cold Mountain, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?
    • Rink Kikuchi – Norwegian Wood, Babel
    • Burn Gorman – The Dark Knight Rises, Bonekickers, Colour Me Kubrick
    • Ron Perlman – Hellboy, Happy Texas, Alien Resurrection, Romeo Is Bleeding
    • Yeardley Smith - The Big Bang Theory, Dead Like Me, Dharma and Greg
  • Why? Sci fi. It got 3 * in Maltin
  • Seen: 13 November 2015. 

After seven Fridays of watching the Harry Potter films for the fourth or fifth time we’re back to having to make a choice of what to watch. We choose this.
I have no idea what it’s about. Frankly the DVD cover doesn’t look promising.
In the first minute a very, very big monster arises from the Pacific Ocean. And then another. And another. Then there’s something about two macho brothers putting on a lot of high tech armour and going out there to fight a battle against the monsters.
Or something.
It’s awful. And pathetic.
And that’s just the seventeen-minute intro.
There’s a lot of hardware and technology and clichés. The nerdy geeky scientists add a drop or two of humour but the slobby dog negates the plus points. There is enough human interest and several of the characters are interesting enough – just barely – to hold the attention. It hovers on the borderline between ridiculous and exciting.
For a moment it doesn’t live up to my expectations of being the third or fourth worst film I’ve ever seen. I’ve grown quite fond of the Marshall (Idris Elba) and the little girl is terrific.
Then expectations start being lived up to. The silliness takes over. The destruction gets boring. I fall asleep during the final battle.
OK, not the fourth or fifth worst. But bad. Very bad.

1 ½ * of 5