Posted by: greercn | February 6, 2018


Honey, I shrunk (some of the) adults could be an alternative title.

It starts off being a look at the environment and a way of being gentler with the earth. The Norwegian scientists find a way to make people very small. Is it too much to hope there will be some of the ghastly smells described in the book of “Gulliver’s Travels”?

Yes, it is. With dizzying speed, it’s reduced to a plot of greed. You need a lot less money when you’re very tiny, so you can live like a king.

There are occasional attempts to remember the planet, but these are lost in consumer stuff and reckless partying.

If that sounds like it will be really entertaining, it isn’t. Real peril is nowhere, except for some unlucky political activists who get shrunk against their will. And they get to live in slums, away from the golden developments of the rich. Worse, the only work available to them is cleaning for the wealthy.

Matt Damon is charming and folksy, but he never hits the sublime height of his turn in “The Martian”. Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier have great moments, but they pile on the ham a little too thick.

Hong Chau is engaging, but I cannot believe an intelligent activist would still speak such broken English after years of living in the language.

Niecy Nash has a very funny scene and there are times when the satire and visual gags work well.

Alexander Payne’s direction is sturdy and keeps the whole moving along, but it never feels as glorious or moving as other movies of his do.

You get glimpses of a much better and more profound tale, but these are only fleeting.

It was a free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse and it passed the time, on a Sunday morning.

But I don’t think any of it will stay with me. Keeping to safe plot and script levels lessened its impact.

Posted by: greercn | January 25, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Swearing and violence run through this movie. If you can’t handle unrelenting amounts of both, stay away.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (“3B”) needs to be abbreviated as I am tired of typing movie titles with colons and commas in them.

“3B” features extraordinary performances from Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, but there is much to disturb the viewer, during the film and after the credits roll.

“Get Out” is a superior film about racism in America. “Ebbing, Missouri” does not exist and Sylva, North Carolina (filming location) looks nothing like anywhere in Missouri.

So much casual racism, violence, misogyny and anger are slammed out, frame by frame. There are lots of lines to laugh at, but these are not belly laughs or guffaws.

It starts well. Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is a grieving mother. Her daughter was raped and murdered, seven months earlier. Believing the police have given up, she buys three vacant billboards so as to provoke the police into investigating further.

Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is dying. Harrelson is superb. His wife, Anne (Abbie Cornish) is at least 20 years younger than him. So far, so Woody Allen. But Cornish’s accent ranges across England from Surbiton to South London, with an occasional voice borrowed from “Gone With The Wind”. She jars and overacts terribly, within a brilliant and talented ensemble.

Dixon (Rockwell) is a racist who lives with his monstrous mother, Momma Dixon. Sandy Martin does what she can with her truly dreadful lines. I suppose these are meant to explain where Dixon’s attitudes come from.

As Dixon, Rockwell does the excellent job that he has done in so many roles, without the acclaim he is currently receiving. I wish I didn’t feel that conservative Americans are loving this movie for all the wrong reasons.

Martin McDonagh is a director and writer I adore and I have followed his work through theatre and film credits. My theory is that, given his Irish and English heritage, many of the attitudes on show in “3B” are exaggerated forms of those visible in Irish small town life.

These are not so loud or violent, in Ireland. But lots felt familiar to me, from spending time in Ireland.

Even the interfering priest in “3B” feels like he belongs in another and more Irish film. Nick Searcy is convincing.

It’s off that so many of the attitudes on show here just don’t fit well into Missouri or North Carolina or into small town life in the USA. I guess critics and Academy members live in New York and Los Angeles and really don’t care about this.

Caleb Landry Jones is great. Peter Dinklage, Amanda Warren and Lucas Hedges have superb moments.

All the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse loved it, except for me.

You’d best see it as it will win every award possible at the Oscars. Hopefully, it’s not just me having my doubts about whether “3B” is as great as so many believe it is. I shall go forth and Google and see if anyone else agrees with me.

Posted by: greercn | January 25, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With Luke Skywalker and General Leia wearing clothes from the Hobbit pile of dowdy rejects, there’s a grim and downbeat tone to this that makes you forget what an impact this franchise once had.

Luke, Leia and Han channelled being regular folks, but they exuded Hollywood glamour, in space. You could laugh at Leia’s hair, in that first movie, but Carrie Fisher charmed the viewer by being a princess, a fighter and an approachable being.

Mark Hamill came under fire for saying this was “not his Luke Skywalker”. He retracted that statement, but he should have stuck by it, because it’s true.

Hollywood has always been just awful at dealing with older women. You get to be a granny, a monster or just plain invisible. This can never be Carrie Fisher’s last performance. That must be her fabulous performance in TV’s “Catastrophe”. In that she looks gorgeous and sounds great. In “Jedi”, she looks tired and she mumbles.

It starts so well. There’s a big battle scene that hits all the right notes and features great action.

Then, you sit on an island with Grumpy Luke and Rey. And you sit. And you wonder how long has passed since you last changed your seating position. And you’re grateful that there’s an empty seat on either side of you, so you can twist and turn and fidget.

By the time you get back to the action, you wonder if you could quietly leave. No, you must stay and see this through. So you do.

Crammed full of characters, this is much too long. Half an hour could have been cut without compromising the plot.

Rian Johnson directs and writes and he really tries to pay homage to every Star Wars character and theme there ever was.

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and Andy Serkis all have good moments. But, reader, I was bored, except for the early moments and the last scenes. Laura Dern and Gwendoline Christie are not given enough to do.

Kelly Marie Tran and Benicio Del Toro appear to be in another (and much better) film.

Most of the Stratford East Picturehouse audience looked like they were having a lot more fun than I was and I had time to observe, while following the plot and snapping back to attention when Carrie Fisher was on screen.

There are lots of points worth discussing, but I don’t want to write any spoilers. I know better than to go see the next film in what will doubtless be an unending franchise.

Moments of greatness exist here, but these are only moments.

Posted by: greercn | January 12, 2018

The Greatest Showman

Hugh Jackman is an amazing actor, singer and dancer. His charisma could create a new power source. This movie is a treat for the senses and will appeal to anyone who has ever been thrilled by the circus.

P.T. Barnum rises from nothing to marry his true love. Michelle Williams lifts Charity Barnum beyond sweetness and light and injects grit and great dancing to the role.

Meanwhile, Barnum builds a circus team, including Zac Efron and Zendaya. Those two light up every scene they are in.

Rebecca Ferguson is terrific as Jenny Lind.

All the songs here are lovely. It’s great to hear original music that you hum when you leave the cinema.

My friend and I really liked this, as did the Stratford East Picturehouse audience.

Having read up on the life of Barnum, there are many other movies that could be made about his remarkable life.

For now, this is a cheerful film with sufficient depth and pain to remind you how human we all are.

Jackman deserves to win a lot of awards for this. I hope he does.

Posted by: greercn | January 12, 2018

Pitch Perfect 3

Do! Re! Mi! Fa! So! La! Ti Do!

Park your brain at the cinema entrance. It will just get in the way if you take it in. Truly it’s best to just relax and enjoy the ride.

Maybe hum a little. Everyone else did.

The Barden Bellas are an a cappella singing group (no instruments but voices, if you’ve never seen “Glee” or “Pitch Perfect”). Graduation has brought gloom to the lives of these young women.

An opportunity arrives allowing the Bellas to reunite in Europe (Yurp) and cheer America’s soldiers as they battle for a prize.

It will help if you know who DJ Khaled is.

An excursion into an old episode of TV’s “Miami Vice” jars the last 30 minutes into a very different movie. That lifted the story at exactly the point at which I was getting a little bored.

I enjoyed it as did my friend. The songs are fun and the enthusiasm here is warming, on a cold day. Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed it and tapped toes and sang along.

Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are the stars, but it’s nice to see a movie that’s just so full of women.

Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins provide comic commentary. John Lithgow is meant to be Australian and while he is always entertaining, his accent drifts across several continents.

All three of the “Pitch” movies work best when fun costumes and glorious singing rule the screen.

Posted by: greercn | December 29, 2017

Top 10 Movies of 2017

A few great movies came out in a year that was full of lousy movies. I considered doing a top 5 list. Perhaps it was possible to do a list of films that wasted my time?

Yet a list of 10 terrific stories that entranced me finally emerged. To make the top 5, images need to have stayed in my head. The less I peeked at my watch, the more engaged I was. Here are my choices.

1) Wind River

Part thriller and part Western, this tribute to First Nations in a snowy landscape is everything I wished for. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are extraordinary and are working with a fantastic cast and crew. Political and wearing its big heart on its sleeve, I saw it 3 times and Taylor Sheridan’s writing and directing moved me more with each viewing. It’s very violent, but a must-see if you can handle that.

2) Paddington 2

Hugh Grant gives a superb performance in a film with a glorious cast and story. If you’re not slightly teary at the end, you have no soul.

3) The Death Of Stalin

Armando Iannucci co-writes and directs a raucous comedy, imagining the aftermath of the death of Stalin. Simon Russell Beale’s Beria shines out in a cast that reads like a Who’s Who of British and American talent.

4) The Other Side of Hope

Aki Kaurismaki is the best director in the world. This gem looks at a Syrian refugee to Finland and his friendship with the owner of a bar restaurant. Full of insight and joy, the meaning shines out despite the subtitles.

5) Call Me By Your Name

James Ivory’s script (based on Andre Aciman’s novel) is delicately directed by Luca Guadagnino. Part gay love story and part coming of age, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer create beautiful characters in a beautiful place. There are no bad performances here but the best moment goes to Michael Stuhlbarg. You’ll know it when you see it.

6) Mindhorn

Julian Barratt co-wrote and stars in this hilarious story about a TV detective of the 1980s who must resurrect his character to negotiate with a killer o the Isle of Man. It’s preposterous and gorgeous, while paying homage to 1980s TV shows. A wonderful cast, great scenery and very funny lines and scenes lift this to greatness.

7) Logan

Hugh Jackman is Logan who has become old and tired. A Marvel X-Men story of real depth and style that grabbed me from its first frame. The action and plot are just fine. The musings on old age run deeper than you might imagine. It’s very violent and yet surprisingly tender and caring.

8) Girls Trip

Vulgar and fabulous. Four old friends go to New Orleans and swear and challenge each other and themselves. There’s not much here for men or for those who can’t deal with a lot of swearing and “Bridesmaids” levels of pranks. I loved seeing this and laughed a lot.

9) A Monster Calls

A young boy has to deal with his mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. He has strange dreams. The dream images are beautifully drawn and the acting and writing are superb.

10) Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Jamie Bell and Annette Bening have sizzling chemistry. Just for once, this (based on a) true story features a younger man and a much older women. It will make you look up all of Gloria Grahame’s films. This is a worthwhile activity.

Just missed the cut but worth viewing are Bladerunner 2049, God’s Own Country, The Florida Project and T2: Trainspotting.

A Very Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading, subscribing and commenting. And a big thank you to Stratford East Picturehouse and their helpful and knowledgeable staff.

Posted by: greercn | December 28, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

Kenneth Branagh takes on this old Agatha Christie story that has its focus on a murder on the luxurious Orient Express train.

Does he bring anything to this that Sidney Lumet didn’t do in his 1974 version of this tale?

It’s all very pretty. Jerusalem looks lovely as does Istanbul.

And some of those long views from just under the ceilings of the railway carriages towards the suspects are really sensational.

Costumes, train details and all the snow are absolutely gorgeous.

Branagh is just physically wrong as Hercule Poirot, but you forget that within 20 minutes of the opening scene.

The all-star cast features terrific performances. For me, Johnny Depp and Willem Dafoe stand out although this is a very talented ensemble and Branagh is able to give each of them a moment to shine in.

It went on slightly too long. If you’ve missed it, don’t worry. It will be on TV very soon.

Twists and turns have been added so you will be surprised, even if you know the story well.

I liked it. It gave my brain a little holiday, which I welcomed.

Posted by: greercn | December 28, 2017

Happy End

Michael Haneke is a brilliant director but you may feel a very cold wind blowing through you, as you watch his movies. It’s a good thing they didn’t give out nooses at the exit to his “Amour” as up to half of us looked like we’d lost the will to live.

Haneke regular Jean-Louis Trintignant is Georges, the patriarch of a huge and dysfunctional family in Calais in northern France. You probably already know that Calais is the frontline for refugees from all over the world who are trying to get into Britain.

The family lives in a beautiful home. Most of his extended family get to live in this lovely house. Nobody ever stops to say how lucky they are to live there.

Isabelle Huppert, as daughter Anne, is running the family business. Her brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) is busy dealing with crises in his own second family as his wife has just had a baby and his disturbed daughter Eve (Fantine Harduin, who is fantastic) has just moved in, because her mother is in hospital.

You’ll get more out of this if your French is good although I only twice corrected the subtitles.

In Haneke’s bleak emotional landscapes, you’re better off knowing very little about the plot. Animal lovers will object to the fate of the hamster.

Family servants and refugees play key roles, as does social media. Early scenes of covert filming and secret conversations may mean that Haneke believes we are losing our closeness due to our lives online.

The cinematography, music and settings are all very beautiful. Yet there is an anger here about society’s failure to take responsibility for its most poor and sad.

Haneke might also be suggesting we’re not that great at looking after our own families and friends.

It’s a good movie with lofty ideas. Just don’t expect to come out humming. See it with somebody you respect as you’ll want to describe the thoughts and concepts the film plays with. Or, you might just want to go and look online for houses for sale in Calais.

Posted by: greercn | November 23, 2017

Paddington 2

What a wonderful movie this is. It stands alone so you don’t have to have seen the 2014 film, even though that was my number 1 movie of the year.

“Paddington 2” has the charm, warmth and wit of its prequel and quite a lot extra, as well.

Hugh Grant gives a memorable performance as failed actor/bad guy Phoenix Buchanan. He should win a best supporting actor Oscar for this magnificent and very physical turn.

The whole ensemble is a who’s who of great British actors and it’s full of glorious moments. With an ending that’s the most satisfying of the year, you may even find a tear or two forming, as the final credits roll.

It takes a few minutes to get going. But once it leaps into action, it’s full of wry comments, physical comedy and glorious moments with marmalade.

Very young children may be disturbed by some of the threats to Paddington, although these pass quickly.

Funny moments outnumber the sad and I can’t think of when I have seen so many adults leave the cinema so very satisfied.

The less you know about the plot, the better. I enjoyed being surprised and warmed. Although I did have a craving for marmalade and I don’t much like marmalade.

Posted by: greercn | November 14, 2017

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

It’s the fizzing chemistry between Annette Bening and Jamie Bell that lifts this movie to the glorious heights it achieves.

The love story at the heart of this is between an older Hollywood actress and a young man starting out in show business. And it’s based on Peter Turner’s true experience of dating Gloria Grahame, an Oscar winner who dreamed of Royal Shakespeare Company stardom but ended up playing in theatres in Watford and Lancaster.

Gloria Grahame stood up to the studios and suffered for her stance. Equally, her complex personal life gave the bosses excuses to fire her. Do watch any movie she is in. She’s magnificent.

Bening is inspiring and captures that mix of looks, charm and acting skill that allowed Grahame to own and light up the screen.

An early scene, featuring her and Bell dancing, is just terrific to watch. Just this once, I believed him as a romantic lead and forgot about little Billy’s ballet dancing.

London and Liverpool between 1979 and 1981 were very different to how they are now. Paul McGuigan’s excellent direction meant that I was nostalgic about two cities that I didn’t much enjoy being in, at the time.

Turner’s family home shows the great warmth of Liverpool, then and now. Truly, Liverpudlians are the friendliest, of the English. Peter Turner was one of nine children who were part of his loving and supportive family.

Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham are believable and wonderful as Peter’s parents. Stephen Graham is super as Peter’s brother.

It’s one of those beautiful little stories about close families and romantic love. It’s good to see an older woman and a younger man, given how many Hollywood movies are about twentysomething girls and very old men.

Acting features here and there are opportunities to note terrific actors pretending to be acting parts. It feels real, warm and honest, even though events are compressed for visual impact, rather than absolutely true.

You can enjoy this as a clever and rather meta comment on acting, family and love or you can just sit back and enjoy Matt Greenhalgh’s brilliant script based on Turner’s book.

It was a free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse and it was packed. Audience members laughed and sniffed in sadness at the correct places.

Lots of great performances will delight you. I warn you that you should stay away if you have been dealing with physical illness. Those scenes may feel too raw and true.

But I loved this. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. California and New York City scenes seem to highlight the joys of Liverpool. Really.

It offers a terrific love story, homage to Gloria Grahame and delightful performances directed tightly and written crisply.

And it’s an acting masterclass. Bell and Walters share a true family feeling. But it’s Bening and Bell and their easy movement and joyful and sad story that will stay with you.

It’s only the second non-Bond movie Eon has ever made. Let’s hope they dig up more such treasures and bring them to our cinemas.

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