29 February 2016

Ex Machina

Ex Machina 2015
  • Director: Alex Garland
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Alicia Vikander – Testament of Youth
    • Domhnall Gleeson –About Time, Star Wars the Force Awakens, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1and 2, True Grit, Never Let Me Go
    • Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars the Force Awakens, Robin Hood
  • Why? Alicia Vikander, sci-fi
  • Seen:  26 February 2016      

       What a change from Testament of Youth for Vikander. And for Ron Weasley’s oldest brother. And I didn’t even recognise Llewyn Davis until I read the credits on the DVD box.
       Computer geek Caleb (Gleeson) is recruited into participating in an AI experiment in an isolated ultra-modern research centre in a mountain wilderness under the leadership of creepy Nathan (Isaac). Caleb is essentially a prisoner as he has signed away his freedom. His job is to test the AI Ava (Vikander) to see how convincingly human she is.
       In a slow deliberate pace with banal and cryptic dialog an intrigue of love, sexuality, genius, oppression and manipulation between humans and AIs becomes a growing nightmare for Caleb. He thinks he knows what he’s doing but things are not what they seem.
       With this trio of actors it has to be a strong film. And it is. It’s an intelligent, provocative, beautiful and complex thriller. And it’s another film that is lifted from the very good to the even better by the cast.

4 ½ * of 5

PS And Vikander won her Oscar. Congratulations!

22 February 2016

Into the Woods

Into the Woods 2014
  • Director: Rob Marshall
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, James Corden, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Simon Russell Beale, Billy Magnusson, Mackenzie Mauzy, Annette Crosbie, Chris Pine, Frances de la Tour
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Johnny Depp – Mortdecai, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, Life’s Too Short, The Rum Diary, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, Rango, The Tourist, Alice in Wonderland, Public Enemies, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Libertine, Finding Neverland, Secret Window, Once upon a Time in Mexico, From Hell, Blow, Chocolat, Before Night Falls, The Man Who Cried, Sleepy Hollow, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Ninth Gate, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brave, Donnie Brasco, Nick of Time, Dead Man, Don Juan DeMarco, Ed Wood, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Benny and Joon, Arizona Dream, Edward Scissorhands, Cry Baby, Platoon, Slow Burn, Nightmare on Elm Street  
    • Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning, Dan in Real Life, The Jane Austin Book Club, My Summer of Love
    • Meryl Streep  Mamma Mia, A Prairie Home Companion, Angels in America, The Hours, Music of the Heart, Marvin’s Room, The Bridges of Madison County, The House of the Spirits, Defending Your Life, Postcards from the Edge, Ironweed, Out of Africa, Sophie’s Choice, Silkwood, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Kramer vs Kramer, Deer Hunter, Holocaust, Julia
    • Anna Kendrick – Pitch Perfect, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Twilight
    • Daniel Huttlestone – Les Misérables
    • James Corden – Starter for 10, Little Britain, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith
    • Christine Baranski – The Big Bang Theory, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Bulworth, Third Rock from the Sun, Reversal of Fortune, Playing for Time
    • Simon Russell Beale – The Hollow Crown Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, This England, My Week with Marilyn, The Deep Blue Sea, Hamlet, Orlando
    • Annette Crosbie – William and Mary, Calendar Girls, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Oliver Twist, Shooting Fish, Pericles Prince of Tyre, Richard III, Twelfth Night
    • Frances de la Tour – Vicious, Hugo, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, The Book of Eli, Cold Lazarus
  • Why? Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt
  • Seen:  19 February 2016      

       One continues to hope that Johnny Depp will be in a good movie again soon. It has been a while. Could this be the one? On the plus side: a good cast. Possibly the fact that it is a musical. That could be on the minus side as well and the fact that it’s a fairy tale.
       It’s actually a mix of fairy tales: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood. Who all start with a song. ‘I wish.’
       What’s this?  I like it! Clever, funny, dramatic, great music. It reminds me of the music to Sweeney Todd. Ah, it’s Stephen Sondheim. No wonder.
       Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. Oh, cool.
       A baker and his wife (Emily Blunt) have been cursed by the witch next door (Meryl Streep) to be childless. To break the curse, they must fetch a red cape, a golden slipper, hair as yellow as corn and a white cow. Thus the four fairy tales are intertwined.
       The fairy tales work themselves out. And then the film takes an unexpected twist. And then another. And then another.
       What can I say? I’m under its spell from start to finish. Johnny Depp’s role is very small but he’s classic Johnny Depp. Welcome back!

4 * of 5

15 February 2016

About Time

About Time 2013
  • Director: Richard Curtis
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordery, Joshua McGuire, Tom Hollander, Tom Hughes, Richard E. Grant (uncredited), Richard Griffiths (uncredited)
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Domhnall Gleeson – Star Wars the Force Awakens, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1and 2, True Grit, Never Let Me Go
    • Rachel McAdams – Sherlock Holmes a Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes, The Time Travellers Wife, Slings and Arrows
    • Bill Nighy – Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Girl in the Café, The Boat that Rocked, Valkyria, Hot Fuzz, Notes on a Scandal, The Constant Gardener, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead, Love Actually, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Kiss Me Kate
    • Lydia Wilson – South Riding, Never Let Me Go
    • Lindsay Duncan – The Hollow Crown Richard II, Merlin, Wallander, Alice in Wonderland, Lost in Austen, Under the Tuscan Sun, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Prick Up Your Ears
    • Richard Cordery – Mr Turner, Les Misérables, Lorenzo’s Oil
    • Joshua McGuire – Mr Turner
    • Tom Hollander – The Invisible Woman, Hanna, Gracie, The Soloist, In the Loop, Valkyria, Pirates of the Caribbean, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, The Libertine, Gosford Park, Absolutely Fabulous
    • Tom Hughes – Dancing on the Edge, The Hollow Crown Richard II
  • Why? Bill Nighy
  • Seen:  12 February 2016      

       Two things of interest: this film is on an IMDb list of the best love films of all times. And Domhnall Gleeson is Ron Weasley’s oldest brother Bill.
       And it’s about time travel. Cool.
       Bill Nighy is Bill Nighy and I so love Bill Nighy.
       I like many of the cast. Lindsay Duncan is always good and Domhnall Gleeson is very appealing.
       It’s a bit too cosy for me but the cast pull it together quite well so even though it’s not on my list of the best love films ever made it’s worth seeing.

3 * of 5

8 February 2016

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis 2013
  • Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Cassella, Jeanine Serralles, Adam Driver, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Oscar Isaac – Star Wars the Force Awakens, Robin Hood
    • Carey Mulligan – Far from the Madding Crowd, The Great Gatsby, Never Let Me Go, Public Enemies, An Education
    • Justin Timberlake – first time
    • Ethan Phillips – The Island
    • Robin Bartlett – Shutter Island, Postcards from the Edge, Moonstruck, Sophie’s Choice, Playing for Time
    • Max Cassella – The Sopranos, Ed Wood
    • Jeanine Serralles – Two Lovers, Across the Universe
    • Adam Driver – Star Wars the Force Awakens, Tracks
    • John Goodman – Dancing on the Edge, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, My First Mister, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, Arachnophobia, Sea of Love, Punchline, Arizona Junior
    • F. Murray Abraham – Lethal Weapon, Amadeus, Scarface
  • Why? The Coen brothers
  • Seen:  5 February 2016      

       It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Coen brothers movie. I think the most recent one was Burn After Reading. It was hilarious. Fargo is an all-time favourite. Also hilarious.
       This one doesn’t look like a comedy. It’s about folk music in Greenwich Village in the early 60’s. Very Dylan-esque. How funny is that?
       It starts with a folk song about hanging. And then the singer is beat up by an unknown assailant. Not funny at all.
       Well, in Fargo the violence was funny in its way. And in this one there’s a runaway cat. That’s quite funny.
       It has the Coen absurdity and everydayness and gallery of odd characters and the same kind of loser hero. Llewyn Davis is real loser. He’s a failure as a folk musician, a brother, a lover, a friend and a cat minder.
       Oscar Isaac is good as the sad and sullen singer. The whole cast is excellent in their bizarre roles.
       It’s a dreary meandering film about a dreary meandering life. But it’s the Coen brothers and as always, I end up caring.

4 * of 5

PS Dylan shows up at the end.

1 February 2016

Man of Steel

Man of Steel 2013
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Based on book: no, but the comic book
  • Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Henry Cavill – Stardust
    • Amy Adams – Sunshine Cleaning, Tenacious D, Junebug, Catch Me If You Can
    • Michael Shannon – Take Shelter, 8 Mile, Groundhog Day
    • Diane Lane – Under the Tuscan Sun, The Glass House, The Perfect Storm, Streets of Fire, Rumble Fish
    • Russell Crowe – Les Misérables, Robin Hood, A Good Year, A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, L.A. Confidential
    • Kevin Costner – Black or White, Swing Vote, Rumor Has It, The Postman, A Perfect World, Bodyguard, JFK, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Silverado, Stacy’s Knights
    • Laurence Fishburne – Contagion, Bobby, A for Akeelah, The Matrix Trilogy, Mystic River, Othello, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Boyz n the Hood, The Color Purple, Rumble Fish, Apocalypse
  • Why? I’ve got a soft spot for Superman
  • Seen:  29 January 2016      

       In the ‘50’s I’d hurry home from school and run down the road to watch Superman on my grandfather’s television. Decades later came the Christopher Reeve versions and Hal and I watched them on our own TV. I liked them too.
       Russell Crowe as baby Superman’s father. Promising!
       We know the story. The planet Krypton destroys itself, the boy who is to become Superman is sent to Earth. The first nineteen minutes of the film is a dramatic elaboration of this.
       Earth. A gorgeous hunk named Clark has flashbacks of a troubled childhood with loving adoptive parents. The young adult Clark rescues people then disappears. Enter Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Lois Lane who quickly discovers that Clark is an alien.
       It’s pretentious and spectacular, sentimental and clichéd. And existentially philosophical. It’s moralistic, quasi-religious and romantic. An interesting mix.  The Christian references are amusing. They’re probably meant to be serious and meaningful.
       It’s at least half an hour too long and the Star Wars battle goes on forever. The mass destruction gets boring as do the fistfights. Ho hum. All those male muscles.
       Still it’s an interesting take on the old comic book. Do I hate it? Love it? Both!

3 * of 5