Posted by: greercn | August 30, 2014

Two Days, One Night (deux jours, une nuit)

I want to love the Dardenne brothers. They’re Belgian and they grew up where my granny lived. They use those lovely Belgian expressions that prompt memories of the best of my childhood. I really ought to appreciate their movies.

Yes, they make great art and their films are deep and meaningful. It probably makes me just a little shallow that this small gem bored me, just a little.

Marion Cotillard is Sandra, who will lose her job if she can’t convince her colleagues to give up on getting a bonus. They all have blue collar jobs that are insecure.

So, she spends the weekend trying to beg them to vote for her to stay in her job. She’s depressed and has had time off work because of this.

Fabrizio Rongione is Sandra’s husband. He’s beleaguered and trying to cope with work, kids and a depressed wife who is overdoing her medication.

If you’ve watched anything else from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, you aren’t holding your breath for a happy ending.

Yes, it’s great art. But it’s a little too close to the bone to be enjoyable. Super direction, performances and settings. I longed for just a tiny bit of glitz. Or hope. Or joy.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience appreciated it and stayed quiet. Perhaps I have seen so many movies that my attention span has shrunk.

Posted by: greercn | August 30, 2014

Lucy

A new Luc Besson film comes out featuring exotic locations, Scarlett Johansson and a plot that channels “Limitless” and the okay bits of “Midnight Express”? What’s not to like?

“Lucy” starts in Taipei in Taiwan and the early scenes echo the patented Besson mix of the extraordinary and the mundane that made “The Fifth Element” such a joy. There are echoes of “La Femme Nikita” here too.

Traces of the themes of “Alice In Wonderland” abound here too, albeit the drug traffic themes dominate this tale. The Taiwan tourism authorities won’t be using this film for promotion at all.

The less you know about this going in, the more you will just sit and enjoy the style, pace and action. Johansson has made interesting choices this year and “Lucy” shows off her exceptional ability to rivet your eyes to the screen.

Morgan Freeman, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Min-sik Choi have great scenes but it’s Amr Waked who shines here, almost as much as Johansson does.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience oohed and aahed a lot. If you like Besson’s distinctive style, you’ll adore this movie. Even if you don’t, you’ll be talking about it afterwards.

Posted by: greercn | August 24, 2014

The Keeper Of Lost Causes (Kvinden i buret)

A very creepy, thoughtful and intelligent Scandi-noir thriller kept a huge audience in absolute silence at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

Poised in the same landscape as “The Bridge” and “The Wire” but sharing its cold-cases plot with “New Tricks”, I had to shield my eyes and peak through my fingers at key plot points.

In Danish with English subtitles, the cast and crew turned a brief 97-minute running time into an edge-of-your-seat fest.

I haven’t read the books this film is based on, but I will now as the Department Q setting is terrific.

You can argue about the traumas caused to all the key characters and the depiction of the Muslim detective, but you’ll want to see the next film, planned for next year.

See it, if your stomach can take painful depictions of violence and suffering, along with excellent characters and plotting.

Posted by: greercn | August 23, 2014

Hector And the Search For Happiness

Except for “Paul”, that loveable road trip with an alien being – and “24 Hour Party People”, I fail to enjoy Simon Pegg. He has that boyish charm that I hate. Laddish adolescent behaviour fails to amuse me, in movies and in real life.

Further, “Hector” had been described to me as similar to “Eat, Pray, Love” which is the movie I hate most in the whole world, ever.

Honestly, I hate very little other than rudeness, cruelty, warmongering and people who lie.

A guy who works at Stratford East Picturehouse caught be in an especially bad mood after “Expendables 3″ (shudder; what’s expendable is the whole film) and he said he had really enjoyed “Hector”.

And so I went to see it and I really enjoyed it, too. Simon Pegg is meant to be annoying, in this part, so he’s an excellent choice.

Simon plays Hector, a psychiatrist who decides to travel and seek what makes people happy.

A lot of Hector’s travels reminded me of the bits of the recent “Walter Mitty” movie that I liked.

Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette and Christopher Plummer have glorious scenes that are fun to watch. Stellan Skargard and Jean Reno play memorable bad guys.

In smaller roles, Ming Zhao, Togo Igawa and Barry Atsma add breadth to the tale.

It’s all very English and understated. The script is funny and quirky and kept my attention. Americans, best skip this. It’s a pleasure for fans of lightly-worn irony.

Do see it and enjoy an intelligent romcom with broad and very British humour. The Stratford East Picturehouse audience all really liked it. It’s based on a book I will never read and neither will you.

Posted by: greercn | August 19, 2014

The Expendables 3

I loved the first two films in this series. But the third one? Not so much.

It feels like a recipe. Inhale “The Raid” one and two, add BIG stunts and then add motorcycles. Everybody loves motorcycle stunts, right?

With Sly, Arnie, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and so many A-list stars, this should be a winner.

So, why did I fall asleep while Kelsey Grammar was speaking? I NEVER fall asleep during movies.

Yet, reader, I did. I almost missed that BIG motorcycle stunt. Shame on me.

Antonio Banderas is the only stand out, being in an entirely different film. Okay, Mel and Sly have their moments, but these are only moments.

I was in an exceptionally bad mood. I had a bad day and I was looking to love this and the entire Stratford East Picturehouse audience. They were lukewarm so that didn’t wake me up.

Catch up on “4”. There will be a “4”. Then, we can forget “3”.

Posted by: greercn | August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel movies are terrific and “Guardians of the Galaxy” is absolutely wonderful. It’s entertaining to watch and has a story with funny lines and a great big heart.

It does not start well. The mother has to die before the kid can go off to outer space and claim his rightful place as Starlord. Then, you go whooshing through the sky as action scene after action scene offers bigger and bigger special effects.

The last 20 minutes of the whopping 120-minute run offers just about the best and most original action I have seen this year. This is exciting and innovative big blockbuster summer fare at its best. No wonder it owns the box office, wherever it opens.

Just for once, the 3D isn’t dark and gloomy but promotes lots of new and big battles and explosions with bits of light coming at the viewer from every part of the screen. It’s sumptuous to see. There is so much detail and I really want to see it again, just to appreciate the work done by more than 43 companies on the 3D, CGI and astonishing effects.

It’s science fiction. In the future, the existence of the world depends on five criminals.

Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana are terrific as the leads. The creatures are all amazing too. Yes, there are hints of “Star Wars”, “Alien” and other space franchises. But I can hardly wait to buy the DVD and watch it, again and again.

With a particularly cheesy soundtrack, the music will make you smile.

The early evening screening at Stratford East Picturehouse was very full. Everyone there adored it.

I went with a friend who is a fellow Marvel fan and another friend who is not such a fan. They both really liked it, too.

You know enough to stay after the credits for the bonus scene, don’t you? See it. It’s just the best film this year.

Posted by: greercn | August 5, 2014

All This Mayhem

Skateboarding always looks like such fun. When I watch it, I see effortless grace and feel the pleasure of others gliding along and up and getting close to flying.

When I try it, it looks a little more like Bambi on the ice. Bruised knees play quite a big part in my attempts.

So a movie about excellent skateboarders who became the world’s best, despite a background of poverty, appealed to me. And it was a free screening for members of the Stratford East Picturehouse.

You get the vicarious thrills but you also get a much deeper film than you might expect. The Pappas brothers – Tas and Ben – rose from a poor suburb of Melbourne, Australia to conquer the USA. Who knew Melbourne had poor people? “Neighbours” – a glossy Aussie soap set in Melbourne that launched the career of Kylie Minogue – lied to me.

It’s a very moving tale of two exceptionally close brothers who got to the top on sheer hard work. It also tells a great deal about the perils of fame and fortune. Don’t go see this if you are uncomfortable about watching the casual use of illegal drugs.

But if you possibly can, see this. It’s honest and independent film-making at its best. Real and emotional, only those with hearts of stone could fail to be moved by this.

Everybody who watched it with me really enjoyed it. It’s a little movie that hits big heights, on the skateboards and in the feelings it provokes.

Posted by: greercn | July 24, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Why does Caesar – leader of the apes – wear makeup that makes him look like he’s supporting England in international football? That white background and red stripe are the colours worn by fans who had their hopes crushed in Brazil last month.

Within a few scenes, Caesar has lost the face paint. His apes have settled near San Francisco, although most of this was filmed in Louisiana. It’s a post-apocalyptic world. People have (almost) been wiped out by “simian flu”, which is really the drug devised and discussed in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

Human beings need power – the electricity kind – so a small group of humans venture to an old dam, hoping to get lights, communications and computers working again in the ruined remains of San Francisco.

This puts them in the middle of the ape encampment.

Most apes and most humans want peace. Do some want an excuse for war? Of course they do.

“Dawn” starts slowly, with Caesar’s family and world shown in detail. It’s a lush world, with multiple levels and personalities. There is lots of terrific CGI.

When the war comes, it’s startling and visually extraordinary. Filmed in ways that combine the classic Western and the war movie, you could get vertigo just from watching a few scenes here.

It’s a great movie. The plot zooms along. The 130 minutes could have been slimmed down to 110 by cutting a few of those lingering “I care for you” moments that cloy and add nothing to the story

You don’t have to have seen “Rise” to get this. It would be nice if writer Pierre Boulle was given more credit, since it’s his 1963 book that first explored the ideas here. He’s been dead since 1994, so he probably won’t sue, but his credit here is an afterthought.

I saw it in a fairly full Stratford East Picturehouse and the audience stayed quiet and respectful, although I did see phones flash “on” during some of those lengthy emotional moments.

I went with a friend who normally doesn’t like this type of film and he said he enjoyed it. He hadn’t seen “Rise”, either.

Matt Reeves directs efficiently, the soundtrack is good and Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke give good performances as the main humans.

Andy Serkis is effective as Caesar, although it’s the makeup and CGI teams who deserve the biggest plaudits.

See it. I saw it in 2D, purely for the lightness of the screen, comparatively. I imagine the 3D is wonderful, albeit dark.

Posted by: greercn | July 11, 2014

Walking On Sunshine

http://youtu.be/7wSzBGZwWD4

This bouncy and joyful film is mostly for girls, but boys who have to sit through it on a date will find much to like here.

The plot offers no significant breakthroughs. It’s a romcom and a musical and I’ll bet that makes many of you shudder.

Two sisters are in Italy for the wedding of one of them. It turns out the groom had a happy fling with the sister he isn’t marrying three years before the marriage.

Can everything end happily ever after? It’s a romcom and a musical. What do you think?

Frothy and gorgeous, the opening airport scene sets the feelgood theme for the rest of the action.

The only big star names here are Greg Wise (yes, I know, I had to look him up on Wiki) and Leona Lewis (great singer) and you’ll be humming the great and familiar 1980s hits as you leave the cinema.

If you’re a Brit, you might also notice that Katy Brand is in this and she is very funny.

You’ll enjoy all the (brief) 97 minutes of this and will be left wanting to visit all the lovely Italian locations.

Unless you’re a grinch. If you are, just stay away. There is no place for you here.

This is for the diehard lovers of romcoms and those who just want to have fun and mindless joy.

Posted by: greercn | June 17, 2014

Jersey Boys

Dear Clint Eastwood,
You were my first serious crush, when you were Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide”. Truly, I have loved you through the westerns, all of Dirty Harry and I follow your stellar directing career. I avidly await each new and brave choice. Really, I adore you.
“Gran Torino” is just terrific. “Letters From Iwo Jima” is the best war movie. “Hereafter” is moving and epic.
I feel certain that if we ever met, you would love me as I have loved you, all these long and unrequited years.
Clint, are you testing me?
“Jersey Boys” is one of my most-loved musicals. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons performed the soundtrack of my childhood and those songs still make me smile.
So why is this film such a mess?
The young actors are unknown to me, but they are all clearly talented.
Christopher Walken needs to do very little but be in the film to make me happy.
The trouble with “Jersey Boys” is that it can’t decide whether it wants to be a musical or a talkfest.
Too many people interrupt songs to explain what they are doing.
Why? Give us the whole song, please.
The dramatic scenes just didn’t make me feel much and I am close to tears when I see them in the stage version.
Clint, I feel our special bond is in danger.
What on earth were you thinking of, telling one of the most wonderful stories in such a curiously unengaging way?
Darling, you are on probation. Please, please do something else that delights me. Soon.
Love and hugs, always (but maybe not forever)
Greer xxxx

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