Posted by: greercn | December 8, 2016

A United Kingdom

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike sparkle in this incredibly enjoyable film. The real-life love story of the leader of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and his white English wife sparked a political scandal, in Africa and in England, during the 1940s and 1950s.

Curiously, although I knew a lot about the story – and David and Rosamund look nothing like the people they portray – I still got an awful lot out of this and never even peeked at my watch.

Amma Asante is an extraordinary director with an artist’s gentle touch. Her “Belle” was moving, but “A United Kingdom” also tells an important chapter in history in a very entertaining way.

Filming in Botswana and using local actors adds to the viewer’s feeling of seeing a real rather than a fictional situation.

The two leads own their scenes, but I was most impressed by Vusi Kunene, who has such strength in his part.

“A United Kingdom” is one of the nicest history lessons ever. From dismal post-war London to the machinations of politics, it grabbed my attention and kept it.

Curiously, some of the facts were changed and I am puzzled. If it bothers you – and if you know what I am talking about – please comment and we can be nerdy.

Considering the enormous and positive changes this couple brought to Botswana, it’s impossible to imagine that they faced so much opposition, at home and in England, just because she was white and he was black.

Everyone at a very-full Stratford East Picturehouse seemed utterly in love with it. It’s an extraordinary movie and will definitely make my Top 10 of the Year list.

I want to see it again. And I want Asante to make many more beautiful and engrossing films. Please, could you make more movies more often?

Posted by: greercn | December 8, 2016

Allied

Paramount has inhaled “Casablanca” – an infinitely superior movie – and put Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in gorgeous clothes that they get to wear at very pretty places.

Both these actors are so good-looking and charismatic that you may get cross when mundane pimples dare to intrude on their faces. Really. How rude.

It’s World War II. Brad is dropped into Morocco. He meets Marion. They have a special secret mission.

The trailer offers so many spoilers that you should skip watching that. Or maybe just skip this film?

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse oohed and aahed and you do feel surrounded by a general aura of gorgeousness, while you are watching this.

London during wartime looks yummy. And the weather and air raids never stop Marion from wafting around in the same fabulous kimono-style robe she wore in Casablanca. It’s odd that everyone else is wrapped in wool.

If you are addicted to WW2 stories and/or adore Brad and/or Marion or you are obsessed by Brangelina, you’ll find much to enjoy here.

There is quite a sexy sex scene, but you might have fallen asleep during the rather long section leading up to it. Despite all this, you never get a sense of sizzling romance between the two leads. They appear to be great friends, even as they say loving words.

So, I never really believed the love story. But those pretty pictures will stay in my mind.

A lot of it was filmed in the Canary Islands. Robert Zemeckis directs several outstanding action scenes. Don Burgess takes cinematography to new heights.

And references to Quebec and Canada will amuse those who seek out such things.

Lots of terrific actors are here, in smaller parts. But you really don’t look anywhere else, except at the two leads.

Posted by: greercn | November 23, 2016

Arrival

Amy Adams gives the best performance of the year as a linguist who is called on to communicate with aliens.

Denis Villeneuve makes extraordinary and original films and “Arrival” highlights communication, nationalism and paranoia. All of this feels relevant to our troubled times.

The less you know about the story going in, the better off you will be. You should experience the shock, awe and twists of this without background information.

Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker stand out in a great cast.

Ted Chiang’s amazing “Story of Your Life” won a bunch of awards in 1999 and 2000. I am sorry I read it then as it meant I knew too much about the story, going in.

That meant I could concentrate on Amy Adam’s mesmeric control of the screen. She is truly extraordinary.

It was filmed in locations in Quebec that I know well, and that enhanced my enjoyment. One of my friends noticed that the academic office of the linguist in the film is a bit light on books, compared to my linguist father’s former office. Fair enough, but nobody ever had as many books as my dad. Not even me.

Go see it. Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouse adored it. And so did I.

Posted by: greercn | November 23, 2016

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford can make murder look very pretty. This may not be a good thing.

Ford is the designer who made the almost perfect “A Single Man”. The screen and script glowed with new ideas. I love that movie.

I wanted to love this, but didn’t. Amy Adams is magnificent and you really can’t look anywhere else when she is on screen. Every facial movement is perfectly timed. Each word radiates meaning. I liked her better in “Arrival”, but she is utterly amazing, here.

It’s wonderful to see a mature woman own two extraodinary films, in one year. How rare is that? Adams has come a very long way since “Enchanted”.

As an art gallery owner, Susan (Adams) seems to have a perfect life. We learn, very early on, that appearances can be deceptive.

Her former husband, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, has written a book and dedicated it to his ex-wife. This is where the cracks in the plot start to show.

Ford has chosen to create a much more violent, angry and misogynistic tale than that told by Austin Wright in “Tony and Susan”, the very good book on which this is based.

Michael Shannon shines as the eccentric Texas detective. Laura Linney is terrific as Susan’s mother. Many of the cast have great moments.

But I was uncomfortable and had to look away, too often. This movie enjoys its horrific violence. I felt that everyone else at the Stratford East Picturehouse was having a really good time, watching this. I very nearly left, twice, but persisted to the end.

On the plus side, the opening credits and scenes are among the most original and hypnotic scenes I have ever seen.

I need to talk about the ending with somebody. Let me know what you feel, when you’ve seen it.

If Tom Ford was out to shock me, he did a good job.

Posted by: greercn | November 23, 2016

The Accountant

Accountants can be murderers, especially when they work for criminals? Who knew?

People with Asperger’s syndrome may find it easier to kill others. Again, who knew?

This is all nonsense, but “The Accountant” presents a completely crazy view of the world. It’s hard to tell whether accountancy and autism are being made more attractive or just plain belonging to an imaginary film universe.

Ben Affleck is compelling to watch as Christian, a mathematical prodigy with limited people skills. Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow are also very good in their significant parts.

Robert C. Treveiler packs an emotional punch in his scenes as the dad to young Christian. But the conclusions drawn from these early scenes make no sense. No spoilers here, but the audience is manipulated, and this limits the impact it may have on you.

For me, this worked much better when it was in action mode. Be warned that it is very violent.

The audience at the Stratford East Picturehouse all enjoyed this much more than I did, as did my friend who is an accountant.

But I felt there were too many impossibilities on offer here. And what I was watching did not compel me to suspend my disbelief.

I really believe that the vast majority of accountants and of people with Asperger’s do not kill.

If you can stomach lots of violence, there is a great deal that is original here and there are great performances by all the actors.

Posted by: greercn | November 14, 2016

The Origin Of Violence (L’Origine de la violence)

Elie Chouraqui is a director who brings great insight and depth to any project. His movies tell stories that get under your skin.

“The Origin Of Violence” has its focus on a young French Catholic academic, Nathan Weber, who learns that he may have a Jewish relative. His attempts to confront his father create strong and moving scenes that will resonate with everyone who ever had a problem with a family secret.

Stanley Weber has great presence, is a terrific actor and looks very handsome. He carries the story and does so in style.

English subtitling of this French-language film is okay, but misses the full meaning of the original.

So many great performances go into creating this big family drama. There are laughs on offer, but this French and German co-production never shies away from the realities of French complicity in the Holocaust.

And at nearly two hours, it’s slightly too long, although I can’t imagine what they would have cut out. The time goes by quickly.

My ear friend Sheila has been volunteering at the Jewish Film Festival and she got me a free ticket. We both enjoyed it and had a great conversation about the issues it raises, while we were on the way home.

It’s based on a novel by Fabrice Humbert, which I haven’t read

Richard Berry, Cesar Chouraqui (who earned this role), Jean Sorel, Michel Bouquet and Jeanne Cremer are terrific but everyone in this does a very good job.

It will be shown again tomorrow in Didsbury (November 15th, Cineworld, 8.30pm) and in London (November 20th, Regent Street Cinema, 4pm) and it’s a must for fans of intelligent and compassionate French film.

The Jewish Film Festival runs until November 20th.

Posted by: greercn | November 4, 2016

Doctor Strange

Fizzing with physical energy, superb performances and extraordinary special effects, “Doctor Strange” pulls you into the world of the arrogant surgeon from the first scene.

With a spectacular car crash and a full-on performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, you almost forget his iconic “Sherlock”. Strange requires an American accent and Benedict delivers that perfectly.

Borrowing from “Inception”, the Harry Potter series and assorted Marvel tricks and treats, you don’t need to be a Marvel fan to enjoy the high-octane ride that’s delivered here.

Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams are all great. Mads Mikkelsen isn’t the strongest villain in the Marvel world, but he looks good and moves menacingly. He delivers key lines with a real sense of threat.

Stan Lee has a stunning cameo. I loved watching this. Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse oohed and aahed.

So why do I have reservations about it?

It’s the fact that Marvel has opted for placating the China market by erasing Tibet from the story.

Marvel used to be an edgy haven of oddball ideas. The team proved comics could have different ideas. Stan Lee wrote stories that resonated with the hippie generation and millennials and Steve Ditko’s pictures are iconic and distinctive, in Doctor Strange’s story.

Tilda Swinton is just fine as the Ancient One, but she isn’t from Tibet, is she? And that wouldn’t matter – Celtic female mysticism is fine – but altering the action to Nepal seems to be a commercial choice to avoid Chinese censorship.

I just feel a little disappointed that Marvel has gone this way. And I have had three conversations with others who feel the same way.

Marvel, you’ve made another fine movie. And you’ll have big ticket profits in China.

We just thought you were better than that.

Posted by: greercn | November 4, 2016

Train To Busan

A Korean zombie/horror movie that’s mostly set on a train is fun to watch. Zombie/horror has never looked like such fun, nor should it be so engrossing.

The storytelling here is masterful. Is it about a plague? Is it describing social and political change? Is there a feminist bias within the tale?

For nearly two hours, I was on the edge of my seat at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

London-based viewers will lose a few minutes being startled by how clean and shiny the trains and the stations are.

Writer and director Sang-ho Yeon has created a visually startling and original film.

All the actors are great but 10-year-old Soo-an Kim is onscreen in every shot and her energy and enthusiasm are as believable as her cries and screams. She keeps up with much older and more experienced actors. She has a great future.

Yoo Gong and Yu-mi Jeong have acted together before and they have a real chemistry. Dong-seok Ma brings martial arts skills to his scenes and is a joy to watch.

The whole cast is terrific. The cosmetic blood should get its own credit.

Very enjoyable to watch, I am not converted to the zombie/horror genre. But I will look out for anything that is put on screen by this fascinating team. Sang-ho Yeon is a director and writer to look out for.

Posted by: greercn | November 4, 2016

Storks

Spoiler alert: Storks never brought babies. Babies come from their parents, with mothers doing most of the hard work of delivery.

And you shouldn’t leave a baby near a pack of wolves. Just don’t do that.

“Storks” is very charming and has gorgeous animation. It’s aimed at younger children, but it amused me. Granted, I am easily amused.

Junior is a stork who delivers packages after storks diversified away from the baby business.

Hunter is the big stork boss and he intends to hand over the company to Junior. Human young woman Tulip and Junior go on a quest to deliver a baby that has been ordered in error.

All the voices are good, but Steven Kramer Glickman steals his scenes as Pigeon Toady. Andy Samberg voices Junior with gusto. Jennifer Aniston and Kelsey Grammer are here, as voices.

I liked the landscapes, the creatures and the wolves. And the human family awaiting the baby provides a sharply-observed lesson on the nature of family.

Older kids will be restless. I looked at my watch a few times but the 1 hour and 27 minutes running time means the movie passes by quite quickly.

If the DVD comes out for Christmas, it would make a good present for the under-10 age group. And you can watch it and hug the little ones through the two slightly frightening bits, for kiddies.

Posted by: greercn | November 1, 2016

Picturehouse Winner – We Rise

A fabulous short film has won the Picturehouse Members’ competition. It’s inspiring and lovely.

Rosie Baldwin has chosen a music group from Eastbourne as the subject of her piece. We see Delta Seven in a few different situations.

I can hardly wait to see what Rosie makes next. She has an amazing artistic sense of direction and says so much, in just a few minutes.

You really should see this on a big screen. It’s playing at most Picturehouses.

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