14 December 2016


Stalker 1979
  • Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Based on novel Picnic Roadside by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  • Cast: Aleksandr Kaydanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsin, Nikolay Grinko, Alisa Freyndlikh
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Anatoly Solonitsin – Solaris
    • Nikolay Grinko – Solaris
  • Why? A classic
  • Seen:  Once before. Now 11 December 2016 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group

             The book was a surprise. Slangy, 50’s western kitsch, only mildly interesting, mainly because of the impact it probably had when it came out in the 70’s. Aliens come to Earth then just leave, ignoring us completely. How insulting!
       In the film, it’s not even certain that the Zone was created by aliens, could just be a meteorite.  Not a good change, why did Tarkovsky do that?
       The Stalker’s wife is in despair because he’s going back into the Zone despite his promises not to. it’s illegal. He could get ten years in prison. The Author and the Professor have hired him to guide them in. They make their way through mud and run-down buildings. A town in ruins. Guards shoot at them as they enter the Zone.
       It goes on and on and on, slowly! They talk a lot but it’s almost impossible to know which one of them is speaking. Gradually we get a little of the background and the legends about the Zone.
       It’s all very mystical and atmospheric and symbolic (I suppose). There’s a room where everyone finds happiness, their deepest wish comes true. The Stalker warns them to be careful but they don’t listen.
       When I saw this the first time I was probably willing to be impressed by the mysterious and philosophical, and the Great Tarkovsky. Now, frankly, I don’t have the patience for a film that starts with a complaining hysterical wife and continues for three hours with three middle-aged men wandering about uttering supposed profundities in search of some meaning.
       It’s interesting at times but more often it’s annoyingly superficial, babbly, querulous and quasi-religious.
       We agree. The book was better. And we didn’t much like the book.

1 ½ * of 5

Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime 2009
  • Director: Todd Solondz
  • Based on novel: by no
  • Cast: Shirley Henderson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Dylan Riley Snyder, Ciarán Hinds, Paul Reubens, Emma Hinz, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Shirley Henderson – Filth, Doctor Who, Shakespeare Re-Told The Taming of the Shrew, Harry Potter, Tristram Shandy, 24 Hour Party People, Topsy-Turvy, Trainspotting, Rob Roy
    • Michael Kenneth Williams – The Road, The Wire, Gone Baby Gone, The Sopranos, Bringing Out the Dead
    • Allison Janney – The Help, Juno, The Hours, American Beauty, 10 Things I Hate about You, The Ice Storm
    • Ciarán Hinds – The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, Hustle, Margot at the Wedding, Hallam Foe, Amazing Grace, The Calendar Girls, Road to Perdition, Titanic Town, Jane Eyre, Cold Lazarus, Mary Reilly, Excalibur
    • Charlotte Rampling – Melancholia, Never Let Me Go, Great Expectations, Lemming
  • Why? sequel to Happiness
  • Seen: 9 December 2016 

Happiness was a very strange movie but I liked it. It was about anything but happiness.
If anything, this one is even weirder. I can’t find words. The opening scene: Omar (from The Wire, Williams, here called Alan) in a restaurant with his wife Moaning Myrtle of the Harry Potter films (Henderson, here called Joy). Alan tells her that he has stopped doing perverted things. Well, almost. He only does them on Sundays.
A mother (Janney) tells her ten-year-old son about her sexual arousal with a new gentleman friend.
A rough looking character (Hinds) is getting out of prison.
What is this? I don’t know if I’m meant to remember Happiness (same characters, different actors). After a while it starts coming back. Three sisters who love and hate each other. Suicide, paedophilia, homophobia. The stories weave in and out.
The cast is a mix of very good actors and the acting, for all the deliberate stiltedness and melodrama, is fascinating. The result is an odd mix of the tragic, the absurd, and the silly. For me it doesn’t quite work. But the acting is so unusual, therefore

3 * of 5


Room 2015
  • Director: Lenny Abrahamson
  • Based on book by Emma Donaghue
  • Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridges, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Brie Larson – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
    • Jacob Tremblay – Nothing yet but I expect to see more of him
    • Joan Allen – The Bourne Legacy, Pleasantville, FaceOff, The Ice Storm, In Country, Peggy Sue Got Married
    • 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? Curious, having read the book
  • Seen: 3 December 2016      

       Jack is five years old today. Ma says they’re going to make a birthday cake. Perfectly ordinary. Except that Ma and Jack are confined to a single room and are dependent on Old Nick for everything.
       Ma does her best to make life seem normal for Jack, and for him it is because he knows nothing else. He tries to make sense of what’s real (everything in Room) and what’s pretend (everything outside Room).
       Old Nick comes and goes. He demands gratitude for everything he brings them. He’s violent. He punishes them for disobeying him by cutting off the electricity.
       Ma tries to explain the world outside to Jack. ‘We can’t go on living like this, and I need your help,’ she says. She explains how she was kidnapped by Old Nick and imprisoned in his garden shed. She’s been there for seven years. She has a plan for escape.
       It’s very low-key and evenly paced. It’s an insane kidnap and rescue story, and the psychological effects on the victims are realistically and unsentimentally portrayed. It goes on too long but it’s a good adaption of the book. The acting is superb, especially by the boy Jacob Tremblay. It misses full scores because it’s more interesting than gripping.

4 * of 5   

Winter's Tale

Winter’s Tale 2014
  • Director: Akiva Goldsman
  • Based on book by Mark Helprin
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Colin Farrell – Fright Night, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, In Bruges, Daredevil,
    • Russell Crowe – Les Misérables, Robin Hood, A Good Year, A Beautiful Mind, Proof of Life, Gladiator, L.A. Confidential
    • Jessica Brown Findlay – Downton Abbey
    • William Hurt – Humans, Robin Hood, Into the Wild, A History of Violence, The Village, Changing Lanes, Sunshine, Smoke, The Accidental Tourist
    • Will Smith – I Am Legend, Wild Wild West, Men in Black, Independence Day
    • Jennifer Connelly – Creation, He’s Just Not that into You, The Day the Earth Stood Still, House of Sand and Fog, A Beautiful Mind, Pollack, Requiem for a Dream, Mulholland Falls
  • Why? The title. I know it has nothing to do with Shakespeare but it’s worth a try. Colin Farrell is good.
  • Seen: 27 November 2016      

       Destiny and magic and a long-haired Colin Farrell in New York, 2014. Sudden switch to 1895. Man, woman, child, doctor, exam, immigrants turned away. A baby left behind.
       Back and forth. A battle between good and evil, fought one life at a time.
       1916. Colin Farrell again, this time a thief, Peter (he’s the baby), running from a murderous mob, rescued by a magical white horse. Switch to Beverly, ill but her fever causes her to see radiant light everywhere. She’s alone in her mansion. Peter starts to burgle the place. She offers him tea. He falls in love. She tells him she’s dying.
       Russell Crowe is the vicious mob leader, Pearly, an agent of the devil (Will Smith).
       It’s all very romantic and magical. Exciting, violent at the end (why, oh why, these silly fistfights?) and completely unlikely. But it has its charm and it is in fact interesting and not without humour.
       It’s far from Shakespeare but it’s quite sweet. The flying white horse is cool. We could all use one of them.
3 * of 5   

28 Days Later

28 Days Later 2002
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Based on novel: by no
  • Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Leo Bill
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Cillain Murphy – Transcendence, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, The Dark Knight, Sunshine, Batman Begins, Cold Mountain, Girl with the Pearl Earring
    • Naomie Harris – Spectre, Skyfall, Small Island, Pirates of the Caribbean, 28 Days Later, White Teeth
    • Christopher Eccleston – Fortitude, Doctor Who, 28 Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Elizabeth
    • Brendan Gleeson – Edge of Tomorrow, the Harry Potter films, In Bruges, Kingdom of Heaven, The Village, Troy, Cold Mountain, Gangs of New York, Twenty-Eight Days Later, My Life So Far, The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins, Brave Heart, The Snapper
    • Megan Burns – Liam
    • Leo Bill  Mr Turner, A Long Way Down, Alice in Wonderland, Becoming Jane, Kinky Boots, Vera Drake, Gosford Perk
  • Why? cast and director
  • Seen: once before. Now 25 November 2016 

Danny Boyle can’t be accused of making the same kind of film time after time. I can’t think of any two that are alike. What they have in common is that they’re all good.
In this one animal rights activists release research chimpanzees who have been infected with rage. The quickly ensuing epidemic is quick, violent and deadly. Twenty-eight days later Jim wakes up after a bicycle crash in a deserted hospital in a deserted London.
Society is gone, nearly everyone is dead. There are a few survivors. Some are crazed and diseased and dangerous. Two uninfected, Selena and Mark, rescue him from attack.
We go from the low-key revelations of the horror to sudden attack in which Mark is infected and Selena kills him. ‘You have thirty seconds to kill an infected. Survival is all that matters.’
They set out to survive.
It’s slow-paced with eruptions of violence and suspense. This is a thoughtful, thought-provoking, believable and gripping pandemic thriller. One of the best in its genre.

4 * of 5