28 March 2016

August Osage County

August Osage County
  • Directors: John Wells
  • Based on the play by Tracy Letts
  • Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Misty Upham
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Meryl Streep – Into the Woods, 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
    • Julia Roberts – Closer, Mona Lisa’s Smile, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Erin Brockovich, Runaway Bride, Notting Hill, The Conspiracy Theory, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Michael Collins, Mary Reilly, The Pelican Brief, Hook, Sleeping with the Enemy, Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias
    • Chris Cooper – The Tempest, The Bourne Identity, American Beauty, October Sky, Matewan
    • Ewan McGregor – Perfect Sense, Mortdecai, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Ghost Writer, Stay, Star Wars I-III, Big Fish, Young Adam, Moulin Rouge, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
    • Margo Martindale – Paris je t’aime, Million Dollar Baby, The Human Stain, The Hours, 28 Days, Homicide Life on the Streets, Practical Magic, Marvin’s Room, Dead Man Walking
    • Sam Shepard – The Pledge, Hamlet, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Pelican Brief, Steel Magnolias
    • Dermot Mulroney – Burn After Reading, Undertow, Friends, About Schmidt, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Kansas City, Living in Oblivion
    • Julianne Nicholson – nothing but I’d like to
    • Juliette Lewis – The Darwin Awards, Hysterical Blindness, Strange Days, After Hours, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo Is Bleeding
    • Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine
    • Benedict Cumberbatch - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Creation, The Other Boleyn Girl, Atonement, Amazing Grace, Starter for 10, To Kill a King
    • Misty Upham – Frozen River, Auf Wiedersehen Pet
  • Why? the cast
  • Seen:  26 March 2016      

       Meryl Streep takes pills. Her husband Sam Shepard drinks and quotes T.S. Eliot. She’s a wreck, foul-mouthed, racist, aggressive and dying of cancer. He functions after a fashion but early in the film he kills himself.
       The family gathers at the Oklahoma homestead. Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor have marital problems. Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale have been married nearly forty years and one wonders how he, a nice enough guy, can stand her; she’s as bad as her sister Meryl Streep. Juliette Lewis shows up with her umpteenth man Steve who drives a red sports car and attempts to maul Robert and McGregor’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Cooper and Martindale’s wimpy cowed son Benedict Cumberbatch is involved with the third sister Julianne Nicholson. They’re cousins. Or so they believe.
       Guilt trips, manipulation, viciousness, favouritism. Everybody is so mean, except those who are the recipients of the meanness. They all have their secrets and demons. It’s horrible. And fascinating. Meryl Streep has never been better and the rest aren’t far behind. Streep and Roberts got Oscar nominations (Jennifer Lawrence and Ann Hathaway won).
       It’s a very good film. And very hard to take.

4 * of 5

The Eagle

The Eagle
  • Director: Kevin Macdonald
  • Based on book by Rosemary Sutcliff.
  • Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Paul Ritter
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Channing Tatum – Jupiter Ascending, Public Enemies, Battle in Seattle
    • Jamie Bell – Filth, Jane Eyre, Defiance, Hallam Foe, King Kong, Dear Wendy, Undertow, Billy Elliot
    • Paul Ritter –Wolf Hall, Friday Night Dinner, Bletchley Circle, The Hollow Crown, Great Expectations, Nowhere Boy, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Quantum of Solace, Son of Rambow, The Girl in the Café, The Libertine
  • Why? Jamie Bell
  • Seen:  25 March 2016      

       Little Billy Elliot just turned thirty the other day. And has played all kinds of interesting roles since his enormous breakthrough.
       Roman Britain. Aha. Hadrian’s Wall. Very interesting.
       Or not? As usual I fall asleep during the battle, which takes place in the first twenty minutes. The hero, Channing Tatum, is noble, brave, earnest, loyal….and dull.
       Jamie Bell is a slave, Esca, who refuses to fight. Gallant Marcus (Tatum) saves his life. Esca reluctantly becomes his slave.
       Tatum and his uncle Donald Sutherland are annoyingly American as are others in the cast.
       Honour and eagles and macho men. Ho hum.
       Alone Marcus and Esca start off to rescue the stolen Eagle, important symbol of Rome, heading north to the Picts. I’ve always liked the Picts. Maybe now it will become interesting. At least the landscape is impressive. It does indeed become more interesting when they meet the Picts. It’s a bit dreamy and mystical.
       It’s a great pity that they cast Channing Tatum in the lead. He’s probably a very nice person but on the screen he has zero charisma. Jamie Bell goes a long way in raising the charisma quotient but he can’t do everything.
       It’s a very odd film with a muddled rambling story. With its historical conflict it could have been very good. As it is Jamie Bell is its main strength.

2 ½ * of 5

21 March 2016


Mental 2012
  • Director: P.J. Hogan
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Toni Collette, Anthony LaPlagia, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gibney, Nicole Freeman, Chelsea Bennett, Bethany Whitmore, Lily Sullivan, Malorie O’Neill, Kerry Fox
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Toni Collette – Dead Girl, Fright Night, Little Miss Sunshine, In Her Shoes, The Hours, About a Boy, Changing Lanes, Hotel Splendide, The Sixth Sense, Velvet Goldmine, Muriel’s Wedding
    • Anthony LaPlagia – Lantana, The Client
    • Liev Schreibner – The Butler, Every Day, Taking Woodstock, Repo Men, Defiance, Kate and Leopold, Hamlet
    • Kerry Fox –Bright Star, Black and White, Shallow Grave, An Angel at My Table
    • Caroline Goodall – Schindler’s List, Hook
    • Deborah Mailman – Rabbit-Proof Fence
  • Why? Toni Collette
  • Seen:  18 March 2016      

       Another popular film theme. Nannies. This begins with an absurd Sound of Music rendition in an Australian suburb where the neighbours keep their driveway tidy with a toothbrush.
       From the maker of Muriel’s Wedding in which the protagonist is obsessed with ABBA, here we have a daft mum obsessed with The Sound of Music. She has a gang of daughters, each more neurotic than the next and utterly embarrassed by their mother. The whole cast are crazy.
       When mum ends up in a mental hospital the desperate dad, who is running for re-election as mayor and can’t remember his daughters’ names, picks up a hitchhiker who looks like a biker moll and has a murderous dog.  Toni Collette.
       Mary Poppins? Maria von Trapp? Not exactly.
       Actually…exactly. She gives the girls confidence and courage to fight against conformity. The old formula.
       Toni Collette is always excellent, the girls are quirky and make us care about them. There’s darkness and violence and humour. Mary Poppins with a past. Maria von Trapp with a knife and a pit-bull.
       It’s not a feel-good movie. The ending is funny though. Mental. But funny.

3 * of 5

14 March 2016

Summer in February

Summer in February 2013
  • Director: Christopher Menaul
  • Based on novel by Jonathan Smith
  • Cast: Dan Stevens, Emily Browning, Dominic Cooper, Mia Austen, Hattie Morahan, Max Deacon, Shaun Dingwall, Michael Maloney, Nicholas Farrell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction
    • Dan Stevens – Downton Abbey
    • Emily Browning – Ned Kelly
    • Dominic Cooper – Starter for 10, My Week with Marilyn, An Education, Mamma Mia
    • Hattie Morahan – Bletchley Circle
    • Max Dreacon – Flashbacks of a Fool
    • Shaun Dingwall The Young Victoria, Colour Me Kubrick
    • Nicholas Farrell – Testament of Youth, Amazing Grace, Driving Lessons, Sex Chips & Rock’n’Roll, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, In the Bleak Midwinter, Othello
    • Michael Maloney – The Young Victoria, Bonekickers, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Hamlet, In the Bleak Midwinter, Hamlet, Henry V
  • Why? The book was recommended by HC whom we met in Penzance last year
  • Seen: 12 March 2016 with friend YW in our read-book-see-movie group 

The best part of the book was the Cornish setting. Also interesting was the artists’ colony in the area where we spent a week in May last year.
The movie is well adapted from the book but that doesn’t help so much. I thoroughly dislike the artist A.J. Munnings but I assume that was deliberate on the author’s part, and in the role Dominic Cooper is just as obnoxious. Dan Stevens is just as noble and handsome and dull as he is in Downton Abbey and makes the character Gilbert as uninteresting as he is in the book.  Emily Browning as Florence moves me not at all and sadly the movie makes even less use than the book of what could have been interesting class and gender confrontations. Instead it’s just a love triangle. A boring one at that, with not a spark of chemistry amongst the three of them.
Nicholas Farrell and Michael Maloney always add quality to their films and this is a quality film, but…boring. The landscapes and seascapes and villages and interiors and Cornwall itself are all stunning but how could they not be?
They’re not enough. The subject and times are of interest. I’m sorry I don’t like the film more.

2 ½ * of 5

A Life Less Ordinary

A Life Less Ordinary 1997
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo, Dan Heydaya, Stan Tucci, Ian McNiece, Ian Holm
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ewan McGregor – Perfect Sense, Mortdecai, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Ghost Writer, Stay, Star Wars I-III, Big Fish, Young Adam, Moulin Rouge, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
    • Cameron Diaz – The Holiday, In Her Shoes, Gangs of New York, Being John Malkovich, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Feeling Minnesota
    • Holly Hunter – Top of the Lake, Levity, Moonlight Mile, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Crash, The Firm, The Piano, Broadcast News, Raising Arizona, Swing Shift
    • Delroy Lindo – Exonerated, Cider House Rules, Feeling Minnesota, Get Shorty, Clockers, Malcolm X
    • Dan Heydaya – Mulholland Drive, Homicide Life on the Streets, Alien Resurrection, Marvin’s Room, The Ex-Wives’ Club, Clueless, The Usual Suspects, Hill Street Blues, Benny and Joon, Joe and the Volcano
    • Stan Tucci - Fortitude, The Hunger Games, Swing Vote, Maid in Manhattan, Road to Perdition, Joe Gould’s Secret, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Pelican File, Billy Bathgate, Prizzi’s Honor
    • Ian McNiece – Valkyria, From Hell, Longitude, David Copperfield, 84 Charing Cross Road, Nicholas Nickleby
    • Ian Holm – The Hobbit etc, The Aviator, Day after Tomorrow, From Hell, eXistenZ, The Fifth Element, The Madness of King George, Frankenstein, Kafka, Hamlet, Henry V, Dance with a Stranger, Brazil, Alien, Holocaust, O What a Lovely War
  • Why? Ewan McGregor
  • Seen:  Once before. Now 11 March 2016      

       Stories of angels coming down to earth to interfere in human affairs are not uncommon and they are surprisingly often quite enjoyable.
       This one has a pressured Gabriel under orders from above sending two agents – oops, angels – Jackson and O’Reilly to earth to bring together a perfect loving couple who will stay together till death do them part. If they fail they’ll be evicted from heaven and turned into mortals.
       Enter loser Robert (McGregor) who has just lost his cleaning job and girlfriend, and spoiled rich daughter Celine (Diaz) to an unsavoury millionaire (Holm).
       Robert takes Celine hostage and….
       Jackson: ‘Are they in love yet?’
       O’Reilly: ‘Not yet.’
       It’s funny with plenty of laugh-out-loud lines. The plot and story development has enough unexpected twists to keep the interest alive and the characters are quirky and likeable.
       It does go on a bit but the cast carries it all the way through. It’s a perfect (almost) feel-good-on-a-Friday-evening-with-a-drink-or-two movie. Thank you, Danny Boyle.

4 * of 5

7 March 2016

Perfect Sense

Perfect Sense 2011
  • Director: David Mackenzie
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen, Denis Lawson, Ewen Bremner,
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ewan McGregor – Mortdecai, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Ghost Writer, Stay, Star Wars I-III, Big Fish, Young Adam, Moulin Rouge, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave
    • Eva Green – Dark Shadows, Casino Royale, Kingdom of Heaven
    • Connie Nielsen – Battle in Seattle, Gladiator, Rushmore
    • Denis Lawson – Hustle, Enid, Bleak House, Return of the Jedi, Local Hero, Rock Follies. Star Wars
    • Ewen Bremner – Hallam Foe, Trainspotting, Naked
  • Why? Ewan McGregor
  • Seen:  4 March 2016      

       The symptoms: the loss of the sense of smell and overwhelming grief and remorse. Worldwide.
       But it’s not a catastrophe film. It’s a love story. Chef Michael meets epidemiologist Susan as the pandemic spreads and worsens. They both fall ill - loss of smell, grief, remorse.
       Life goes on. ‘You get used to it.’ No smell = no memories. Then the symptoms become more extreme. Temporary madness, followed by guilt over the madness. Then the sense of taste goes. But. ‘Life goes on.’
       Life goes on. And then the hearing disappears. Deafness. Rage. Hatred and panic. Globally.
       The world as we know it is ending. Maybe. Life goes on.
       What a film. What a performance by McGregor and Green and everyone. With intelligence and sensitivity, we are shown a world in disintegration.
       But life goes on.

4 ½ * of 5