Posted by: greercn | October 12, 2014

’71

A gripping thriller signals the arrival of Jack O’Connell (“Starred Up”) as an A-list talent. He is in almost every scene and you can’t take your eyes off him.

Gary Hook (O’Connell) is a young soldier who is sent to Belfast in 1971. He gets separated from his regiment. Most of the film is about his struggle for survival in an ordinary-looking set of streets in which residents threaten him with death and help him out, in equal measures.

Directed by TV veteran Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke, fear and alienation are the big themes exposed by O’Connell’s facial expressions. Demange has the knack of grabbing your attention from the first scene.

This is an excellent film which is curiously non-political, although the viewer is never in doubt about what’s happening.

With an ensemble supporting cast – young Corey McKinley and Richard Dormer are among those who nearly steal scenes – it’s really wonderful to see so much expressed in physical movement and reactions, enhanced by a very good script.

All the period details look accurate. You can almost smell the pubs and living rooms.

Music and camera angles enhance the sense of threat and danger. And you are left wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, as deeper questions are asked about the nature of right and wrong.

The three people I spoke with at the Stratford East Picturehouse agreed with me that it is one of the best films of 2014.

I had no expectations going in – the trailer isn’t great – but this is a terrific and engrossing movie.

Posted by: greercn | October 5, 2014

Gone Girl

Feminism has died. There was no funeral, nor was there an obituary. There it was, alive and well and sitting at a dinner party, making cogent points when all of a sudden, it died.

That’s the main message I take from “Gone Girl”.

It’s based on a bestselling book by Gillian Flynn and I haven’t read that book. Flynn wrote the script and it’s compelling, whizzing along through its twists and turns and pulling the viewer in.

Ben Affleck is impressive, although he will never be my favourite actor. He doesn’t need me. He has everyone else in the world plus Matt Damon and Jennifer Garner thinking he is wonderful.

Rosamund Pike gives a very special performance. Again, she’s usually on the “meh” level for me, but she is great here.

All of the supporting cast are fantastic and all have great moments.

David Fincher is a terrific director and he gives this modern film noir edge and class, if a tad too much darkness.

The soundtrack features new songs co-written by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross. These are chilling and rather lovely.

Without giving away the key two twists, I can’t begin to explain to you my despair at how feminism is dead, according to this plot. Feminism and marriage both seem like bleak places to live, in this brave new world.

It’s a very involving film and all 150 minutes passed quickly at the Stratford East Picturehouse. I thoroughly enjoyed it, while I was at the cinema.

But afterwards, it hit me like a brick on the head. Feminism had died. And marriage offered no compensating hope of submissive joy.

See it, especially if you haven’t read the book and don’t know the plot. Raise a glass to feminism, wherever it is. Then, get drunk and eat a lot of chocolate.

Posted by: greercn | September 20, 2014

Bicycle

This delightful British documentary has an appeal for cyclists, but will warm everyone with its charm and style.

Three different strands are followed. The rather wonderful history of bicycle manufacture and design is fascinating. Recent Olympic victories have made us all more aware of excellence in the sport.

And stories of ordinary people and great champions are really wonderful and entertaining.

It’s the kind of unique and very English documentary that I adore, pulling me in with facts, feelings and individual tales of triumph and failure.

Stratford East Picturehouse ran a special screening. I had the great pleasure of spending time with producer Pip Piper. A lively audience question and answer session followed and I chaired it. I learned as much from the questions as I did from the answers.

See it. It will be out on DVD very soon. If you’re my friend, you may be getting this for Christmas. You can thank me then.

Posted by: greercn | September 20, 2014

Pride

Every minute of this terrific film is graced with wit and beauty. Original and adorable, each performance is warming and pitch perfect.

A London-based group of gay and lesbian activists decides to support a small Welsh village that is struck by hard times during the 1980s strike by the miners.

Yes, it’s an odd premise for a feelgood fest. But it works because the ensemble of knowns (Bill Nighy, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton) and unknowns build a seamless tale and bring to life a compelling and true story.

To create something joyful from a grim time in recent history is a real achievement.

See it. You’ll love it.

Posted by: greercn | September 20, 2014

Before I Go To Sleep

Moments of real suspense grab the viewer. Wow, you think, this is going to be “Memento” but classy.

Sadly, the early premise of the amnesiac who wakes up with no memory, day after day, becomes a tedious “Groundhog Day” with fewer laughs than either movie it reminds you of. Perhaps if I had forgotten those two vastly superior films with the same theme, I’d have enjoyed it more.

When did such downbeat movies become the norm? With Nicole Kidman (less annoying and whisper/whiny than usual), Colin Firth, Mark Strong and the ever-glorious Anne-Marie Duff, this is based on an “international, best-selling” novel and should be gripping.

I spotted the central big twist about 10 minutes in. If you don’t, you’ll get more than I did from this.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience gasped at the right places. I kept peeking at my watch.

The Boy really liked it, but he’s a Nicole Kidman fan. “Before I Go To Sleep” left me fighting to stay awake. Still, it’s all stylish and sinister and better than many movies I have seen of late.

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”.

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