Posted by: greercn | March 19, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

Fans of John C. Reilly’s amazing and eccentric performances will be thrilled by how he lifts this tale.

Kong is rather magnificent, but – disappointingly – this is a war movie rather than a big monster movie.

You get lots of large creatures and very creepy settings. The lines are meant to be meaningful. Most of the actors play soldiers leaving active service in Vietnam in 1973.

Super songs from the 1960s and 1970s will thrill those of a certain (older) age, during the early scenes.

We meet our stars, who include Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston.

All the people here are disappointingly wooden, except for Reilly and Samuel L Jackson. Even John Goodman has little to do, other than Say Lines That Should Be Important.

Is it worth seeing? Is it just another title with a colon?

I enjoyed it. I prefer other versions of the Kong stories, but this was okay. It has moments that are genuinely scary.

But you never really care about what will happen to any of the people, other than Reilly. And I wanted Kong – always King Kong, to me – to live a long life and be okay.

One positive note is that you never go anywhere near New York City. So that, at least, is progress.

Posted by: greercn | March 19, 2017

Viceroy’s House

Did you know your life was lacking an English-language Bollywood film? It was an absence and now that’s been fixed.

“Viceroy’s House” is terrific and moving entertainment. It has flaws, but its many touches of laughter, romance and moral ambiguity all enhance the experience.

That Bollywood feel slips a little, during the second half. But all of it zaps by, very quickly.

I didn’t want to see this. A friend said it was like “Downton Abbey” and – apart from the WW1 episodes – I find Doownton tedious and overly-obsessed with the “upstairs” part of “Upstairs, Downstairs”

Director Gurinder Chadha is best known for “Bend It Like Beckham”. She has a grandparent who had a child die during the partition of India. In all, fourteen million people were displaced and a million more died.

As the last Viceroy of India, Hugh Bonneville does a good job in the part of Mountbatten. Gillian Anderson is Lady Mountbatten and has one of the most cut crystal English voices possible.

Both look terrific in those costumes and they bring fine notes of self-doubt to this.

I’ve been told that accusations of anti-Muslim ideas were made against this film. I think it marks out the divisions between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs without ascribing right or wrong to anyone.

Although the English rulers don’t emerge as perfect heroes, you get a sense of the terrible decisions made, when India won independence.

In the love story, the late Om Puri has far too little screen time, as the dad. I could have used about an hour more of him.

Huma Qureshi plays his daughter and she glows with energy. Manish Dayal is the young man who loves her but faces the barrier of being from another religion. I cared about what would happen to this young couple.

Denzil Smith was astonishing as Jinnah, the first leader of Pakistan.

Of the other performances – all of which are at least good – Simon Callow’s stood out.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to enjoy it and it leaves you thinking. I spent some time reading up on the history of India and Pakistan. If it brings more people to read about the actual events of 1947, that’s a good thing.

It’s a version of history for those who like costume drama and , yet, will be enjoyed by those of us who just remain fascinated by history.

Posted by: greercn | March 9, 2017

Logan

“Logan” is a really excellent film. Hugh Jackman plays Logan/Wolverine with grace and style and lifts this far above its Marvel Comics origin.

It’s a thoughtful story about getting older and protecting those you love. It feels like a fantastic old Western and, indeed, the main characters are shown watching “Shane”.

James Mangold directs and co-writes and it’s deep and original to watch.

In 2029, Logan, Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Logan are living off-grid, in Mexico. Few mutants remain. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) looks after them.

A young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) needs help. Will she get to where she needs to be? Or, will the bad guys catch her and kill her?

The road trip part of this is just delightful to watch. All 137 minutes whizzed by and left me longing for more.

It’s very violent and the first word is the “F” word. There’s a lot of swearing.

But it’s the most satisfying and thoughtful Marvel movie I have ever seen. Even those who are unfamiliar with the characters and do not share my affection for Marvel will find much to love.

Hugh Jackman is in almost every scene and he carries this exceptionally well. He ought to get an Oscar nomination for this extraordinary performance.

There is no Stan Lee cameo and there’s no teaser trailer, after the credits, so don’t wait for either of those.

Posted by: greercn | March 9, 2017

Trespass Against Us

Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender are great actors. A staff member at Stratford East Picturehouse remarked that Fassbender is a good actor who is in a lot of bad films.

How did this movie get selected for the Toronto Film Festival? It seems too slight for TIFF.

Not to mention the problem that the traveller community is depicted as being car-stealing castle-robbing police-baiting truants. Why have I heard no complaints about that?

Filmed in Hertfordshire but set (partly)on the world’s ugliest caravan park in a really nasty-looking town, I lost myself in the accents. What are those things Gleeson and Fassbender are doing with their voices? Is that supposed to be Gloucester?

Almost everyone else – even Fassbender’s kids – stay in a zone between British received pronunciation and irritable vowel syndrome.

The plot – I use the term loosely – is about Chad (Fassbender) trying to go straight, after a life of crime, joyriding and smoking. His Dad, Colby (Gleeson, in full head lion mode) keeps pushing him into more robberies.

Chad is married to Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and they have two adorable children. Marshal and the kids will be in much better films, in the future. As will Anastasia Hille, who has a great moment.

Many fantastic British actors are also here. I hope they were well paid. The cast lifts it above the total turkey level.

Downbeat, albeit quite funny at times, nothing here makes great sense. At least it’s not terribly long, at 109 minutes.

The Chemical Brothers did the music and that is very good.

Maybe it didn’t trespass against me.

But if I were a traveller, I’d be hopping mad with fury. Lovers of dogs, chickens and other creatures may enjoy the animals and the scenes set in lovely countryside.

Everyone else, stay away. I saw it so you could be saved the trouble.

You’re welcome.

Posted by: greercn | March 4, 2017

Moonlight

Mahershala Ali deserves his Oscar. His role as Juan is incredibly powerful. He owns every scene he’s in.

And Barry Jenkins directs this Tarell Alvin McCraney script with his own additions and flourishes and those work just fine. People, settings, the ocean and even a diner all shimmer with beauty.

I’d argue that “Arrival”, “Lion” or “Fences” would be just as worthy a Best Picture Oscar winner. Much as I enjoyed watching and hearing “Moonlight”, there are a few elephants in the room.

Chiron is a lead character who mumbles, through all three of the actors that play him. Yes, that’s valid for a shy character but just a tad difficult when you are the watcher, straining to hear what he says.

And for a movie that manages to have no white characters – bravo – and centres on growing up and being gay and poor and Black – again, bravo, why is there so little sex? Drugs abound, references to sex are here, but the one (!) sex scene is just a little lame.

With so much passion in the script, that seems an odd oversight. I’d argue that sex is entirely necessary to the plot, yet it’s almost absent.

My memory of Liberty City, where this is set, is that everyone has something to say about race, sex and drugs. They are equally savvy about poor housing, politicians, policing and white privilege.

Visually stunning though “Moonlight” is, that music can overwhelm it, at times. It’s odd that the music is so perfect, during key scenes, yet takes over too much, at other key scenes.

Everyone’s clothes are beautifully ironed, even when they are passing out on drugs. I have no idea why that annoys me so very much, but it does.

Naomie Harris is fine as Chiron’s mother but I think Janelle Monae, as Juan’s girlfriend, puts on one of the best performances of the year. How was she not nominated for an Oscar?

There is so much I love in this movie. The screening I went to, at Stratford East Picturehouse, was packed and full of entranced viewers.

To sum up, the emperor is wearing way too many clothes. Ironed and brand new clothes. And all the artistic brilliance on show here fails to move me to ignore those details.

Posted by: greercn | March 2, 2017

Lion

Lost children pull at your heart and represent any parent’s worst fears. “Lion” is a beautiful and true story of a young boy who goes missing.

Saroo is out with his big brother when he ends up on a train that takes him 1,000 miles from home. Stranded in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), he ends up struggling to survive in a place where he doesn’t speak the language.

The first hour is full of young Sunny Pawar’s magical acting and elegiac cinematography by Greig Fraser (“Rogue One” and “Foxcatcher”). In that early section, the words are in Hindi and Bengali, with subtitles.

Director Garth Davis showed us equivalent feats of beauty in “Top Of The Lake” and his distinctive style pulls you in.

Dev Patel takes over as the young adult Saroo. The enormous intensity of the first half is a bit lost as we are pulled between an enormous advertisement for Google Earth and portentous music that sometimes overwhelms the delicate tone and gorgeous visuals.

But it’s a terrific story and people were sniffling as the last section unfolded. The Stratford East Picturehouse audience was very moved.

Did I feel manipulated? Of course I did. But Nicole Kidman – who I just don’t like – is absolutely splendid and I finally see the point of her career.

David Wenham, Deepti Naval and Rooney Mara are also just great.

And Dev Patel has done nothing as grand as this since “Slumdog Millionaire”.

“Lion” has grossed £43 million on a $12 millon budget and the Weinstein Company needs that lift to the coffers.

Australia’s tourist board may wish to use some scenes to sell how beautiful Tasmania is. I have been flicking through travel websites so don’t underestimate the power of those locations.

Do stay through the credits for a rather moving additional dedication.

And Google Saroo Brierley after you see it because his story and book are extraordinary.

Try not to look up too much about it before you go see it. The less you know, the more joy you will get from this.

After seeing it, I had very vivid dreams of my own childhood.

Posted by: greercn | February 27, 2017

Hidden Figures

NASA space flights always lifted my spirits, when I was very young. Watching the landing on the Moon was a highlight of my teenage years.

But mathematics and sciences were always hard work. “X” remained as unknown to me at the end of high-school Algebra as it was in the beginning. Somehow, my memory got me through the exams.

I wish I’d seen this film when I was very young. It tells the story of three amazing women who led NASA work on calculations and computing.

“Hidden Figures” is a clever title, highlighting how hidden these women achievers were and the actual numbers that are buried behind the calculations.

This movie makes numbers sexy.

Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae are superb. Henson and Monae should have had Oscar nominations, at least. Although Amy Adams also has reasons to be unhappy about being overlooked, despite producing two great performances in other movies.

I was annoyed by the need to create the “good White man” in creating Kevin Costner’s character. Rather than rushing to the “coloured” bathroom, couldn’t he just have insisted the nearest bathroom be for everyone?

And would a mathematician really have been allowed to carry classified documents between buildings?

A few other details are annoyingly wrong. But Theodore Melfi directs very well, keeping everything moving along nicely.

In real life, everyone used the same facilities. White people didn’t “save” their Black employees. Black people pushed their way up on sheer merit.

I’ll bet these women got paid a lot less than the White employees, as well.

But it’s still all very entertaining, funny and heart-warming. Read up on the real stories as they are very inspiring.

Pharrell Williams has written some catchy songs for this.

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse all really enjoyed it.

Posted by: greercn | February 27, 2017

Fences

Moving, difficult and very funny in equal parts, August Wilson’s play “Fences” is an entertaining movie.

Denzel Washington stars and directs with great style and the whole ensemble is terrific.

Viola Davis earns her Oscar. I’m not sure why this is a “supporting” rather than “leading” award, as she is in most scenes.

At a very long 139 minutes, I feared that I’d lose feeling in the lower half of my body. But it’s all so engrossing and deep that I only peeked at my watch once, during the middle bit.

Denzel plays Troy who works as a garbage collector, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He longs to be a driver but no Black man has achieved that, in the 1950s

His friend and co-worker Bono – a really splendid Stephen McKinley Henderson – is Troy’s closest friend.

Brother Gabriel is given another extraordinary and nuanced performance by Mykelti Williamson.

There isn’t a bad performance here. Young Saniyya Sidney could easily have won as Oscar as she lights up the screen.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse adored it and applauded as the end credits rolled.

Seeing more working class characters on screen is a very positive development in this year’s movies.

Intelligent food for thought along with great guffaws makes this a must see film. August Wilson died in 2005, at the tragically young age of 60.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for this. It made me think and smile.

Posted by: greercn | February 17, 2017

T2 Trainspotting

The initial warning runs “very strong language, strong sex and drug misuse”. So far, so promising.

And the sequel to Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” might have taken 20 years to get to us, but it’s still full of high-octane action and sardonic laughs.

Based on Irvine Welsh’s “Porno”, it reunites Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie. The friends since early childhood fell out when Renton ran away with £16,000 of stolen money that was meant to be split four ways.

We meet up with them 20 years later when Sick Boy – now back to Simon – gets involved with dodgy pornography and blackmail schemes.

It lacks the social commentary of “Trainspotting” but it plays to the dark uncertainties of our time.

“Very strong language” is much what you hear in a pub on a Saturday night. “Strong sex” is really rather weak. And that “drug misuse” is of shiny and healthy people playing with a few illegal substances.

Homage is paid to the original. Kelly Macdonald is woefully underused as a successful lawyer who is required by one of the characters, for legal reasons.

Ewan MacGregor is back as Renton, Jonny Lee Miller is Sick Boy (Simon), Robert Carlyle is the even more psychotic Begbie and Ewen Bremner’s Spud has the heart, soul and sadness that become very moving, as the story unfolds.

Just when you’re annoyed at the lack of women, Anjela Nedyalkova takes over key plots. You think you know where her prostitute character Veronika is going, then this woman’s great acting makes you rethink the whole movie. I think she has an amazing future in film. The camera loves her.

She does so much with a woefully underwritten part.

Because “T2” is about friendship, revenge, macho posturing and youthful hopes gone wrong you might think, in theory, there isn’t much here for girls. Yet, I found a hidden and positive female view, here.

There are timely warnings about protecting your PIN number and guffaws of the wry and hopeless variety. There is also a lot that made me laugh out loud, as did others at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Long ago, I loved Welsh and Boyle and loved the Scottish intelligence and the dynamism in that team. And, of course, the music is just sublime for anyone who ever loved a good rave in an empty warehouse or field.

Oops. I am showing my age. This is a very entertaining film. If you are okay with swearing, violence, odd sex and drug use, you’ll enjoy this. Otherwise, just skip it.

Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker

Oh, Mr Christian Grey, you have begun to bore me. I can handle almost anything at the movies, except being bored.

Fortunately, I was with someone who loves the books and the films. Enthusiasm is contagious and I know these books are very successful. Mamma Porn. Who knew that was a thing? E. L. James found a niche and has sold 70 million copies of this three-part saga.

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for many years, E. L. James wrote books about millionaire Christian Grey, who has a taste for kinky sex and youthful Anastasia Steele, who he teaches about BDSM-lite.

I did suffer from lingerie envy. There is some gorgeous underwear on display, here. And the clothes are lovely.

Frankly, the sex is of the vanilla and dull variety. You see a lot of Dakota Johnson’s breasts but very little of her nether regions nor, indeed, of Jamie Dornan’s – erm – bits.

It’s all a bit phoned in. You find yourself wondering what has happened to Kim Basinger’s face? Why is Ana’s boss so strange? Why are Christian’s ex-girlfriends so keen on him when he is boring in bed?

I will never get this series. But lovely homes, offices, clothes and lingerie all perk up my attention span.

And being with someone who gets it and likes it – in a Stratford East Picturehouse full of fans – makes me think I will probably see the next film, in the hope of something interesting and/or sexy happening.

Stay through the first part of the credits. There is a teaser trailer for the next film.

That may be the most teasing you will get, in this series.

The success of this franchise relies on a lot of women having a lot of lousy sexual encounters. Oh dear. How sad.

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