Posted by: greercn | November 25, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

It’s always sad to say goodbye to old friends. It’s good to remember the best in people, places and movie franchises. Sadly, Part 2 has far too much talking and not nearly enough action.

I will miss looking forward to these movies, but not as much as I would have if “Mockingjay” had been made into one film, instead of two.

When the big chases and explosion happen, it’s great to watch. But there’s just far too few of those huge set pieces that made the first film so compelling.

Jennifer Lawrence is effective as ever. Her Katniss is an iconic character. “Mockingjay” is a book about revolution and retribution. Yet watching the events on screen feels like being on a long train ride with multiple delays.

Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson have grand moments, but the story only feels truly alive and compelling when Woody Harrelson is on screen. Julianne Moore and Donald Sutherland’s characters feel stuck on one note and even Philip Seymour Hoffman fails to up the emotional ante.

At 137 minutes, it’s a very long and I looked at my watch about every ten minutes. The last fifteen minutes felt like they lasted forever.

Sam Claflin and Mahershala Ali get too little time on screen. You may note that the trailer features almost all there is of them.

It lapses into “what to do about Peeta” chatter and that’s just not very interesting.

The big battles are beautifully done and it’s all great to look at.

I just wish more of the substance of “Mockingjay” had been used. I really wanted this movie to offer a brilliant ending. When it all just fizzled out, I felt disappointed.

Posted by: greercn | November 25, 2015

Love Is The Perfect Crime (L’Amour Est Un Crime Parfait)

A superb electronic soundtrack and a terrific cast help to lift this very classy thriller. Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu direct this dark and engaging French mystery, setting the film in and around Lausanne and the surrounding Alps.

Marc (Mathieu Amalric) teaches creative writing and has affairs with his students. Barbara (Marion Duval) has gone missing and Marc may – or may not – have anything to do with this disappearance.

Marianne (Karin Viard) is Marc’s sister and they share a home. Enter Anna (Maiwenn), Barbara’s stepmother, who comes to the university looking for answers.

Marc is in trouble and colleague Richard (Denis Podalydes) tries to help. Sara Forestier is student Annie and she wants a little more from Marc than private lessons.

The magnificence of the Alps and the modern university reflect the light and dark in a tale that keeps your attention through every twist and turn.

Based on the novel “Incendies” by Philippe Dijan, the Larrieu brothers ask questions about the nature of reality, writing and relationships. With full frontal nudity for all the leads, exposure and concealment are key themes.

Amalric is outstanding in a cast of stars who all have their big moments on screen.

Discover Tuesdays allows Picturehouse to feature offbeat films that might pass you by. But I’ve never seen a dud movie, in this series. At worst, I’ve been provoked into thinking about the issues raised.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing tale and all at the Stratford East Picturehouse liked it. The subtitles are very good and it’s worth seeing.

Posted by: greercn | November 18, 2015

The Lady In The Van

One homeless woman is given a strong voice and a troubling back story in Alan Bennett’s profoundly touching film. Maggie Smith’s performance is no nuanced and real that you feel you are in the van with her, through key scenes.

Alex Jennings gives such an extraordinary performance as Bennett that it’s quite shocking when the real Bennett shows up. It almost feels like the actual person is an intruder, rather than the writer.

Bennett has written some amazing plays, including “The History Boys” but he does point out his own failings in “The Lady In The Van”. Much of his stuff makes me think of people with improbably tiny tea cups saying slightly clever things that verge on bitchiness and self-hate. When his writing works, it’s full of insight. Yet it can be uncomfortable to watch and hear his words.

Almost everything in the delightful “Lady” works. Apart from two superb leads, the touching presence of Bennett’s mother and the description of her problems acts as a contrast to Mary Shepherd’s (Smith’s) issues. Gwen Taylor is superb as Bennett’s mother.

Frances de la Tour and Jim Broadbent are excellent, in smaller parts. The whole cast reads like a who’s who of British theatre.

As time went by, Bennett and Miss Shepherd formed a bond. Well-meaning social workers and other professionals come and go, on screen. We get insight into Miss Shepherd’s past. Bennett cares about his unorthodox guest, but his uncertainty about what to do is a constant.

Clare Hammond has a tough task in portraying the younger Shepherd, but she is up to the job and is very moving.

It can be a bit theatrical and there are some stage effects that might annoy you.

But, all in all, it’s a film that says something new and important about being homeless and about the nature of creativity. It’s very entertaining and it will make you think.

I haven’t read Bennett’s book, but I will now.

The absolutely full Stratford East Picturehouse audience enjoyed it, as did my Very Intelligent Friend. And I forgot that the term “lady” in the title annoyed me. Why not “woman”? Never mind. This is a lovely movie.

Posted by: greercn | November 11, 2015

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse

Splattered body parts and Boy Scout tips may distract you from that missing apostrophe, in the title.

Boys who love “Zombieland” and “The Cabin In The Woods” will enjoy this, but I laughed long and hard, as did my Very Intelligent Friend. It was his idea to go see this and we are not natural zombie fans. Wry and gritty stories are usually more my speed.

And yet, the avalanche of childish and vulgar jokes, endless sight gags and a brilliant and breathless cast make this huge fun to watch. It won’t win Oscars, but it kept our attention, throughout.

Director Christopher Landon has a knack for putting the viewer in the middle of the action. And he’s really good at making your viewpoint move from slightly above to below to off centre, from the scene. Watching chases up staircases and trampolines could give you vertigo.

Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan are the Scouts but Sarah Dumont plays a cocktail waitress who can really handle herself. It’s good to see a young woman lead key sections of the film.

Dumont has a great future as a comic actress.

David Koechner and Cloris Leachman have screamingly funny roles.

Plot? Oh, it really doesn’t matter. Okay, zombies threaten a small town. Our Scouts get left behind, after the evacuation. Is a science company responsible for the surge of the undead? Who knows?

Just get involved in the glorious sight gags, frenetic chases and endless gore and you’ll be happy.

We saw it at the Stratford East Picturehouse. It’s an original take on the genre and deserves to do well.

Truly, this is most enjoyable. It will gain me no points for credibility, but it’s terrific. Although I feel I must start carrying apostrophes with me, just in case.

Posted by: greercn | November 9, 2015


Denis Villeneuve’s thriller “Sicario” grabs your full attention in the first minute and never lets you go, until the last breathless scene is done. Even then, images stay in your head.

The war on drugs waged by the American security agencies against the Mexican dealers forms the central plot. Emily Blunt plays the everywoman character who follows Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin into dangerous and morally ambiguous territory.

Daniel Kaluuya and Victor Garber are both utterly terrific, in smaller parts.

Of course, this material has been covered before. But Blunt brings us right into the heart of the action. We feel what is happening through her responses.

Villeneuve is an expert at creating suspense and tension. Every bit of the music, look and acting in this is designed to provoke us and make us take a stand.

Taylor Sheridan’s script allows the visuals to dominate the story. Roger Deakins did the photography for Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” and his work here makes me feel slightly less annoyed that they are remaking “Bladerunner” together. Maybe that will be okay?

Johann Johannsson has written a creepy soundtrack. Honestly, the tunes are more chilling than you might imagine.

At 120 minutes, it’s a long, tense ride. But you’ll be talking about the choices here long after the credits roll. And I really like the way that Villeneuve makes you think and react, even when you’re whooshing along the road in an epic car chase.

I have two serious concerns. I fear there may be an anti-Mexican attitude at work here and I dislike the way an attempted rape scene is depicted.

Villeneuve pushes the viewer way beyond a comfort zone. Is he going too far here, to make his point? And I can see several points here but are they different enough from what we know?

I love to think. And “Sicario” gives me plenty of food for thought and conversation.

Posted by: greercn | November 9, 2015


Watching “Brooklyn” is like watching those old matinee movies that used to be on TV, when I was a kid. I almost expected Donna Reed to pop up from behind the sofa.

With a script by Nick Hornby and based on a Colm Toibin book, the dialogue can be snappy. And it all looks gorgeous, with Ireland being green and pleasant and Montreal standing in for Brooklyn, in the 1950s.

Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent are glorious and in full ham acting mode. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson are both handsome and effective as the two love interests.

But it’s Saoirse Ronan who is in every scene and – if you don’t love her face and figure – stay away. And, yes, she does look and dress rather like Donna Reed did, in those afternoon movies.

Young Eilis (Ronan) moves from Wexford to Brooklyn. She’s homesick. There is a point being made here about the restricted choices of Ireland set against the infinite possibility of New York.

Costumes, shops and homes are all very lovely.

I wanted to love it. Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse free screening for members sighed and appeared to be enraptured by it.

It’s enjoyable enough, but it feels like watching a story that’s been told very often, in books and films.

The music is superb.

Still, if you fancy a few hours in the 1950s, do go see it. You’ll probably love it. Everybody else does.

Posted by: greercn | November 5, 2015

The Lobster

That iconic Surrealist image of Salvador Dali’s use of a lobster on a telephone may get stuck in your head.

Yorgos Lanthimos made “Alps” and “Dogtooth” so you are back in his familiar but weird territory of alternative families, odd animals and bending of truths.

A star-studded cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw lead this. Did this get made before or after “SPECTRE”? I have this odd and amusing image in my head of Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw sitting around with Daniel Craig (who is married to Rachel Weisz) all trying to figure out what “The Lobster” might mean.

We are in a dystopian future. People need to be in couples, or they will be turned into the animal of their choice. They are on a timer, in their quest for a mate and in a nice hotel. We get lots of glimpses of the gorgeous Kerry, Ireland coast.

The first sequence of a woman getting out of a car and killing a donkey is over quickly and never referred to again. Jacqueline Adams is the actress and the production designer of this film.

The hotel sequences are fun and pull you in.

Then, you are in the city and in the forest and that’s about when I started looking at my watch. As for the ending – I won’t spoil it for you – it’s beyond surreal and into the land of puzzling.

Yes, it’s a work of great art. Yes, all the performers are fantastically committed to looking weird, acting oddly and delivering their peculiar lines with gusto.

There is depth here, but I have no idea what it is. I am off to look at Dali images and going to try and figure it all out.

Or, I may go out for a drink.

My Very Intelligent Friend was as puzzled as I was. Oh, he had theories. I have theories.

Stratford East Picturehouse was very full and I tried to listen to conversation afterwards, in the hope of enlightenment. But all they were talking about was how Colin Farrell didn’t look as pretty as he usually does.

I’m just off to seek out a nice romcom and ease my brain. Anyone who has any sensible idea of what on earth “The Lobster” might mean, please get in touch.

Posted by: greercn | November 5, 2015

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

With a German title that translates as “every man for himself and God against them all”, this is an important film that sets out the themes of most of Werner Herzog’s work.

I went to see it at the Leytonstone Film Club monthly screening. They are back after a break for the refurbishment of their usual home at the Leytonstone Library. Fortunately, that lovely room they use has kept its character.

“Kaspar Hauser” is based on a true story of a semi-savage man who was found in Nuremberg, Germany in 1828. Kaspar has been held in chains, for mysterious reasons.

Herzog uses this tale to describe German society. Even after 40 years, Herzog’s questions about outsiders, normality, societal expectations and the nature of human life feel as fresh and relevant as ever.

It’s fun and whizzes through its 110-minute running time. At the end, I wanted a few minutes more.

Despite its intellectual and philosophical stances, it’s just a terrific story.

If you know a little German, you get more out of it although the subtitles are good. The name “Kathe” is not the same as “Kathy”, but most of my quibbles with the subtitles are very minor.

It’s glorious to see an intelligent European movie in the company of others who love film. If you missed this, you missed a treat and really ought to seek it out.

Here’s the link if you want to know more:

Keep an eye on their website or sign up to get alerts of their next screenings. The movies they show are all worth seeing.

Posted by: greercn | November 3, 2015


Bond films bring impossibly gorgeous places, people and cars to our lives. Gadgets, guns and action are all present and correct in “SPECTRE”. But is it a good film? And how does it compare to gloomfest “Skyfall”?

Filming the first five minutes must have brought Mexico City to a standstill. This is one of the best and most exciting starts to any movie in this franchise. It’s up there with Grace Jones jumping off the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a brilliant beginning.

Director Sam Mendes has to make it go dark. It’s his thing. So, very soon we are in gloomy light in Rome and tucked inside an Austrian cottage. We have to feel claustrophobic, or it wouldn’t be Sam’s movie.

Box office receipts say this is the most successful Bond ever. Daniel Craig is terrific and Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux ratchet up the glamour and style.

Both Craig and Mendes say this will be their last Bond movie. And I do want to see this impossible long (148 minutes) film again, so they have succeeded in creating a compelling story.

And it’s a much better tale than that told in “Skyfall”.

Ian Fleming created SPECTRE as he believed that Bond’s traditional enemy, the Russians, would soon be replaced by a more sinister and international threat to freedom. Given modern news events, he was prescient.

There are lots of nods to other Bond films and Dave Bautista, Jesper Christiensen and Christoph Waltz are good as baddies, with Bautista standing out most.

Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes and Andrew Scott all have superb scenes. Stephanie Sigman is super, too.

But I am tired of Bond movies feeling the need to be modern and relevant. I liked the old-style movies better. Yes, I know that’s heresy, but there are quite enough films that remind me of the gloomy reality of modern life.

So, a hugely-packed Stratford East Picturehouse, my Very Intelligent Friend and I all enjoyed it immensely.

Now, can somebody make a Bond film that’s bathed in light? Please?

Posted by: greercn | November 3, 2015

Crimson Peak

Gothic horrors and assorted terrific ghosts feature in Guillermo del Toro’s most accessible and mainstream movie to date. Fear creeps in, as we follow Mia Wasikowska’s innocent character Edith being pulled into Thomas Sharpe’s sinister plans.

Tom Hiddleston plays the bad guy with charm who comes to Buffalo. Sharpe sweeps Edith off her feet. Despite warnings from the ghost of her mother, Edith goes to live in an isolated castle in the north of England, with Thomas and his creepy sister (Jessica Chastain).

I found “Crimson Peak” quite frightening, although my Very Intelligent Friend scoffed gently when I whimpered.

There aren’t enough of the great monsters, even for me. Within minutes of the start of this two-hour movie, you get a good idea of what’s going to happen.

And yet, the music, sets and special effects make all this feel gorgeous and different. Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver both have excellent scenes as they struggle to get Edith away from Thomas.

Notes of optimism and distinctive music lift this from the ordinary chiller. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it is enjoyable and inventive.

Toronto’s Casa Loma – I love this place – features, as does Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle. The north of England never gets that bright sunlight in the winter, so Canadians who love to spot Ontario settings will enjoy spotting familiar places.

I liked the period detail, the atmosphere created and the chase scenes. I think this would be perfect to watch on a small screen, although the cinema made the most of the grand settings.

Still, I could have done with more of the ghosts. But the Stratford East Picturehouse audience oohed and aahed and it was an interesting, albeit predictable story.

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