Posted by: greercn | July 27, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

“Star Trek Beyond” is terrific and whooshes along through its two hours. It has weaknesses, but it is much closer to original creator Gene Roddenberry’s first season vision than any of the other movies are.

First off, the science is really cool. It builds on those transporters and warp speeds and all those lovely flying machines in a delightful way.

Secondly, the new cast have settled into believable relationships. This is helped by a script (Simon Pegg and Doug Jung) that knows when to joke and when to be serious.

Justin Lin’s direction – honed on the Fast and Furious films – ramps up the action and chase scenes. You even get a fabulous motorcycle scene.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and John Cho all reprise their parts but it’s Anton Yelchin as Chekov who grabs at your heart and makes you feel sad about his death.

Zoe Saldana is a fine action hero as Uhura but it’s Sofia Boutella as Jaylah who breathes fresh meaning and action into this.

One big weakness is Krall, the bad guy. I like Idris Elba but the costume and script do him no favours. He becomes another cartoon character who speaks bad English. I can’t figure out how such a magical actor fails to connect here.

But, all in all, it’s very enjoyable.

The very-full Stratford East Picturehouse audience all stayed quiet and enjoyed it.

If you’re a proper Trekkie, you’ll love it. If you’re a recent convert, you might miss some of the slickness of the previous two reboots. But there is a gentle and enquiring heart behind the action, here and I warmed to it as the story unfolded.

Dark and moody 3D is distracting, through the first 10 minutes but then creates very beautiful space scenes.

Forget reading about the plot before you see it. This is best seen with as little advance knowledge as possible.

Posted by: greercn | July 23, 2016

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie

“Perfectly Adequate The Movie” based on characters created for “Absolutely Fabulous” might be a more accurate title.

The best scene in this is when Saffron goes to a drag club to find out where her mother has gone. I laughed right through that.

You will need to love Absolutely Fabulous, fashion and celebrity culture a lot more than I do to get the best from this.

Jokes are repeated again and again. They are funny the first time they say a celebrity doesn’t want Edina to wear her clothes. But they are not so funny when they are reduced to a brick coming through the window, bearing the designer’s name.

I love Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. Those glorious half hours of the old TV show poked fun at celeb-mad culture and style. Unfortunately, this movie seems to reflect an age where these concerns dominate. Maybe the joke isn’t so funny, when more than half of TV shows are reality programmes?

There is a plot. Kate Moss is changing PR teams and Edina (Saunders) wants the job. You are probably intelligent enough to know that this is AbFab and Edina would never actually kill Kate Moss?

With a dizzying number of celebrity cameos, Rebel Wilson and Rylan Clark steal their scenes. Jane Horrocks has taken Bubble’s mad outfits to a whole new level of visual glee.

Despite only running at about 90 minutes, I looked at my watch a few times. This will probably work better when it’s shown on TV.

There nothing awful about this. But little is absolutely fabulous.

The Stratford East Picturehouse oohed and aahed and whispered with each cameo. I am not sure whether I am very proud or slightly ashamed of how few people I recognised.

June Whitfield is still very funny and Janette Tough shines as a fashion designer.

All the old regulars are back and we all go off to the south of France. I’d have liked a little less style and a few more giggles.

Has the moment for laughing at celebrities and fashionistas passed? Are the things we are invited to laugh at just annoyances of daily life? Or is the world news now so serious and sad that we need our laughs to be sharper, more original and warmer?

“Zoolander 2” did the same jokes, but camped them up. This movie needed to be a lot more gay to work properly.

As it is, too much of it is just a drag.

Posted by: greercn | July 21, 2016

The Secret Life Of Pets

Lots of very clever animation pulls you in. Cats, dogs and other pets are left home alone while their owners go to work. They get into trouble but are able to help each other out. That’s about it.

Brought to you by the “Despicable Me” and “Minions” team, you get a short and new film about the minions, just before the main movie starts.

What’s the plot of the main attraction? Our hero is Max who is annoyed when his owner brings home Duke. Gidget loves Max, but has never told him this. Snowball – named for the drink or for the character in “Animal Farm” – is a very aggressive rabbit with a lot of axes to grind.

The voices, script and adventures all share the charm of the characters. Nothing here will frighten small children, but the Stratford East Picturehouse audience seemed very happy while watching this.

And if you don’t know the New York City locations in real life, you’ll probably recognise them from films.

The Illumination team puts in some of quirky delights and it passes the time without lingering too long.

Posted by: greercn | July 16, 2016

When Marnie Was There

Based on a novel aimed at young adults – how often have I typed that – “When Marnie Was There” represents another triumph by Studio Ghibli. The drawing is so beautiful. Water and trees shimmer and houses glow as your eyes move through them.

A young girl, Anna, is sent to the country to help ease her asthma. She becomes fascinated by a house and meets the young girl living there. This is the first real friend she has ever had. But what is real about Marnie and what belongs in the realm of the imagination?

The less you know going in, the more you will enjoy it.

You may see it in Japanese with English subtitles. There is a very good dubbed English version which is equally worth seeing.

I have seen both and they are equally loveable. I am off to see if I can find a complete Studio Ghibli set as all these films are superb.

Joan G Robinson’s book is wonderful. Do find it and read it. It’s set in Norfolk and rather lovely.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience all loved Studio Ghibli and stayed silent and respectful, throughout. This is animation for people who think they don’t like animation.

Posted by: greercn | July 16, 2016

Elvis and Nixon

A photo of Elvis and Nixon meeting at the White House is the most frequently-ordered picture in the American National Archive. Who knew?

This film is, frankly, weird but it does have amazing performances by Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon.

You might note that neither of these guys looks remotely like the people they are portraying. Well spotted. But it’s satirical and the contrast of the two entourages is slickly done. The December, 1970 costumes and sets are not perfect, but the acting of the two leads is good enough that you are willing to forgive them.

You’ll enjoy this most if you remember Watergate and if you find irony in Elvis’ criticisms of drugs and the Beatles given that he was clearly high on prescription drugs and power.

It’s a period piece. Conspiracy buffs will be especially happy, watching this.

The North Americans at Stratford East Picturehouse – gee, we are becoming cosmopolitan as Stratford gentrifies – chatted happily about Watergate and about how this was probably the height of the power of both men.

It’s not perfect. But I enjoyed watching it. Unless you are obsessive about Elvis or Nixon, don’t let this trouble your viewing list.

Posted by: greercn | July 16, 2016

Learning To Drive

Patricia Clarkson is one of the best actresses in the world. Except for “Cairo Time”, she has rarely had the parts she deserved. In this fantastic film, she finally gets a super part.

She plays an academic writer and critic who is on the edge of divorce. She lives in New York City, but has never learned to drive. He daughter has moved to Vermont and she yearns to visit, but public transport is not an option.

Ben Kingsley plays the patient Sikh teacher. Yes, you will think of “Gandhi”, but only for a minute.

Even with this terrific ensemble, it’s Clarkson who soars above everyone else.

It’s a charming story of immigration, alienation and facing new challenges. No, it’s not really a love story. But the fabulous friendship, acting and writing here will move you and make you laugh.

There are beautifully-observed scenes about getting older, racism and loneliness. When the 90 minutes of this end, you want more. Stay through the credits. It’s worth it.

Director Isabel Coixet was approached by Clarkson and Kingsley because they said they had fun making 2008’s “Elegy”. For me, Clarkson was the best part of that movie, but I am glad it led to them making this superior film.

Sarah Kernochan has written an original script which may be too wise for younger viewers. They looked a little bored. Any woman over 40 will love this.

It was my first visit to the very beautiful Crouch End Picturehouse which is all shiny and new and gorgeous. The restaurant serves fantastic food.

I felt I had had a luxurious holiday in a marvellous place.

And it prompted several delightful conversations with friends and it warmed my heart to see this superb movie in a classy cinema.

Posted by: greercn | July 16, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Funny, clever and full of action, this reboot is worth seeing. All four female stars get great lines and enjoyable action.

The trailer does not do justice to how good this movie is.

I cannot fathom why so many others don’t like it. The original “Ghostbusters” was fun and full of Canadian content, but this version has guts, glory and girl power as well as glorious homage to the original. You even get a couple of the old stars in perfect cameos.

If you’re female and you haven’t been to the cinema for ages, I reckon you should get some women together and go see this. The young men laughed, but not nearly as long or as loudly as I did.

Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are both everywoman characters and gifted comedians.

It’s the two new stars who give this the wow factor. Leslie Jones is brilliant and is someone to watch out for. She’ll be back and she deserves a lot of great roles. Kate McKinnon is new to me but she supplies the oddball geek quotient and she’s hilarious.

Yes, I know it’s very wrong of me to enjoy the objectification of Chris Hemsworth as a dumb but handsome secretary, but just for once, surely Hollywood can take this joke?

Paul Feig directs and co-writes with Katie Dippold and she gets to play a real estate agent with great style.

Stay through the credits for an extra scene and not just to find out how much of this was filmed in and around Boston, Massachusetts and not in NYC.

Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed the ghosts, car chases, ectoplasm and the great chemistry between the actors. Laughs range from the frankly stupid to the very clever and everything about this is great fun.

Go see it. I can hardly wait for the sequel. And I will be buying the DVD and watching it again and again, like a little kid.

Posted by: greercn | June 18, 2016

The Nice Guys

A buddy movie with nostalgic charm features in this tale set in 1977 Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are really nasty people who hit a lot of folks and tell lies. And just look at the leather coats! You can hear the men make crinkling noises, as they sit.

Laughs are of the ironic and jaded variety but it’s still a snappy script. Being set in LA, gawp at the vintage cars. And the bars and homes are retro and well-created.

An opening scene is one of the best of the year. A young lad is looking at a magazine featuring nude women when a car crashes through his living room. Almost immediately, we are pushed into the first encounter between the two leads. Instant bromance does not result.

Being Hollywood, they bond and team up pretty quickly. Is there a statement here about pornography? Are leading politicians corrupt? Who murdered who and might they kill again?

Much of this is done as a straightforward shaggy dog movie. The presence of some winning child stars – especially Angourie Rice – and a Kim Basinger I did not recognise lift several scenes.

There’s a weird party and sex venues. All those old 1970s movies had at least one sex scene and the ones here are more of 2016 than they are of 1977.

Matt Bomer plays a very strange bad guy. Shane Black (Iron Man 3) directs it all with speed and style, although there are scenes that drag. And it tries to be a message movie but I can’t tell what the message might be.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed watching it. My only complaint is that I am not convinced that either of the leads is an action hero.

Both these men have pensive and anxious qualities that make or break the films they choose to be in.

And yet if Gosling and Crowe are both available at the same time, I bet there will be a sequel.

There’s a fantastic soundtrack here. I knew all the words to everything and I love all those songs. Therefore it’s fantastic.

Posted by: greercn | May 20, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Beware films bearing colons.

Marvel movies are usually terrific. This downbeat tale has super moments, but its bloated 147-minute length outstays its welcome by about 25 minutes. Many of my friends love it and believe it is the best Marvel film ever made.

But I need to make a confession. I fell asleep. Twice. Only for a few minutes, but that means my emotions were never engaged.

And they get engaged by some really awful movies. I was not tired, although I felt exhausted by the end of this film.

There is just too much going on here, for me. The Avengers are asking themselves questions. Brought to heel for causing death, they are going to be accountable to the United Nations.

Cue more explosions and more needless deaths, the viewer gets an enormous amount of 3D and CGI. And the mandatory Stan Lee cameo is rather wonderful as he asks for Tony Stank and not Stark.

It’s a pity it comes so late in the tale.

Captain America and Iron Man fall out. This requires an astonishing amount of special effects. The stand out performances are by Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Tom Holland and Paul Rudd.

Members of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse wandered in and out, buying popcorn and soft drinks. I am not clear whether they shared my frustration and irritation at this tale or whether they’d have done that anyway. I wandered out once, which is as unheard of as falling asleep twice in a movie is, for me.

Why do so many people like this? Please, enlighten me.

Posted by: greercn | May 20, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Rooms, costumes and people all look rather lovely. You’re in a hotel in 1944 New York City and then you’re in Carnegie Hall. It’s all bathed in luxury although reminders of World War 2 linger, in the shadows.

Our heroine Florence (Meryl Streep) believes she can sing, despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. Florence is rich enough that she can buy acolytes, audiences and anything she pleases. She’s even bought a devoted husband, St Clair, played by Hugh Grant, who gets to reprise his elegant cad act.

The first hour of this whooshes by, lifted by Simon Helberg as pianist Cosme McMoom. Each time Nina Arianda is on screen, as former showgirl Agnes Stark, the screen lights up. She’s fabulous and worth looking out for. Her sense of fun brings real joy to this movie.

As the story unfolds, it all depends on your sympathy moving between Florence and St Clair. Unfortunately, you wait for Agnes to come in again as, until she appears, you care much more about the lovely clothing and settings than you do about the people.

Much of this was filmed in Glasgow and Liverpool and this creates a fine substitute for 1944 New York City.

For me, the last part of the film fell a little flat. The rest of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to be enjoying it much more than I did. Maybe the trials of the delusional rich mean little to me, even when they are given touching back stories?

It’s quite a knack to sing badly. But I never warmed to Meryl Streep’s performance, nor to Florence’s sad tale.

See it if you are really into beautiful clothes or just for Nina Arandia’s performance. And watch out for Georgina Morton who has a small but significant part.

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