Posted by: greercn | April 1, 2015

Seventh Son

Jeff Bridges’ character Master Gregory swallowed a frog that had inhaled Sean Connery’s voice and dropped it by an octave. And there are adorable-looking people that turn into monsters of the Godzilla-lite variety.

This may be all that stays with you after seeing “Seventh Son”.

Young Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) follows the Master as an apprentice to confront and end evil. He gets help from his mother (Olivia Williams as Mam Ward) and from a lovely young woman Alice (Alicia Vikander).

Master Gregory? Mam Ward? Are we in olde times or rural Ireland? Julianne Moore (Mother Malkin) and Djimon Honsou (Radu) are among the baddies out to kill the master and his apprentice.

If you like fantasy and monsters, there’s good stuff to watch here. Lots of CGI makes for BIG monsters and the scenery is mostly British Columbia in Canada, so it’s all rather beautiful.

But that voice of Jeff Bridges. Who thought that would be a good idea! Why oh why?

Despite these complaints and (inevitably) based on a young adult novel that will never make it onto my reading list, I still enjoyed the experience of watching this movie.

All of the many, many production houses that made these creatures provided employment for many talented artists.

Which is good.

Posted by: greercn | March 30, 2015

Insurgent

Breathless action and sumptuous scifi visuals lift “Insurgent” and make it fun to watch.

The sequel to “Divergent”, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her army. It’s all based on a dystopian young adult book series by Veronica Roth.

At 119 minutes, the only long moments are the times when Tris and Four stop to hug and talk about their feelings. These provided a rare slowing down of the pace.

Naomi Watts is here as Four’s estranged mother and adds a lot of depth and spark to the film. There is thought about the factions, the factionless, a mysterious object in Jeanine’s possession and possible futures.

Yet the viewer is then whooshed through another chase or charmed by the 3D and CGI on offer, just as a concept is discussed.

I went with a friend who has not seen “Divergent” nor anything in 3D. He enjoyed it too.

Everyone watching at Stratford East Picturehouse stayed silent through the film, but started chatting afterwards. The ideas on offer about the various factions and the future lead to great conversations.

Shailene Woodley is becoming a truly great actress and she owns just about every scene.

There is so much shameless pandering to audience preferences here, which is just fine with me.

When the final scenes come, you want to know what happens next.

Posted by: greercn | March 20, 2015

X+Y

“X+Y” is utterly memorable. If a big American studio had made this, it would have been horribly sentimental and lingered on endless hushed conversations. As it is, “X+Y” is full of glorious insights and warmth and has a truly British spirit and understatement.

It’s based on a 2007 documentary about two young men with genius level mathematics but social awkwardness, due to autism.

“Beautiful Young Minds” brought out the stories of Jos and Daniel in their quest to be selected for the International Mathematics Olympiad. Morgan Matthews directed that and he brings the same skill to this film.

Edward Baker-Close plays the young Nathan – based on Daniel – while the older character is played by Asa Butterfield. Baker-Close is very moving as the younger Nathan and there is a seamless transition to Butterfield taking over the role.

Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan and Martin McCann are all superb. Jo Yang, Jake Davies and Alexa Davies have truly beautiful moments as the young competitors.

This film celebrates difference and does so by being unashamedly intellectual, while entertaining the viewer.

Twists and turns keep the viewer’s attention. I might argue that James Graham’s ending to this is weaker than that of the documentary but I can understand the need to add some extra drama.

Do see it. My companion and I really enjoyed it. If you know a lot about mathematics, there are quite a lot of in-jokes that you will appreciate.

Several of the viewers at the Stratford East Picturehouse were in tears, at the end. My eyes were dry, but I was very moved by this super film.

Posted by: greercn | March 16, 2015

Suite Française

Every bit of “Suite” harks back to another and gentler time. There is death, drama and Nazi-occupied France, but it’s the sweet and plausible love story that will get under your skin.

Michelle Williams is Lucile, a bored young wife forced to live with her mother-in-law, played by a terrific Kristin Scott Thomas. Lucile’s husband is absent and out of contact and the two very different women have an uneasy alliance.

Into their lives comes the nicest and most gorgeous actor ever to play a Nazi officer. Matthias Schoenaerts (“Bullhead” and “Rust and Bone”) is billeted in the house and the actor’s portrayal of Bruno von Falk is terrific.

The mood, lighting and music all add to the extraordinary atmosphere of 1940 France, although it was filmed in Marville, Belgium.

If you’ve read the book, you may be annoyed by some of the liberties taken with key scenes. Yet the whole feels so very satisfactory to watch that you forget these changes until well after the final scene.

The end credits use the original manuscript to touching effect.

Sam Riley and Ruth Wilson are among the many actors who enhance the sense of period and place.

It reminded me of why I love old films so much as it captures a softer tone than modern and more graphic films do.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience all enjoyed it.

Posted by: greercn | March 12, 2015

Chappie

The South Africa tourist board will never use these images to lure visitors to Johannesburg. And don’t go to the future. It’s best to stay in the present.

Those are just two of the messages blasting out at you from “Chappie”. Crammed-in concepts and themes include the nature of human consciousness, safety of robot police, parenting skills and fear of crime.

Part Robocop with dollops of crime, tattoos, piercings and weird science, this is Neill Blomkamp’s (“District 9″ and “Elysium”) very entertaining and thought-provoking take on Artificial Intelligence (AI) possibilities.

His big set piece explosions and gun battles are all present here too, along with an awful lot of swearing.

Dev Patel puts in a great performance as Deon, the inventor of “Chappie”. He works for a private company that supplies police robots to the Johannesburg police, in the very near future.

Hugh Jackman plays his sinister rival and Sigourney Weaver is the corporate boss. Sharlto Copley is the voice and movement of “Chappie”.

The corporate world is presented in sharp contrast to the crime world, represented by lots of people who escaped from “Mad Max” but mainly by South African rappers Die Antwoord, Ninja and Yolandi Visser. As you asked, Die Antwoord means “the answer”, in Afrikaans.

Blomkamp is from Johannesburg but has lived in Canada since he was a teenager. He wrote the script with his writing partner and wife, Terri Tatchell who brought so much to “District 9″ that was missing from “Elysium”, from which she was absent.

My companion and I thoroughly enjoyed it and had a lively discussion about all the ideas stuffed into the movie, after we saw it.

It’s a film that will probably annoy most critics as it buzzes to and fro in many different directions.

You really should see it. In the future, it will be seen as a great scifi classic.

As it’s a Sony/Columbia movie, you get lots of Sony gadgets, instead of that other company with the fruit logo who seem to own every computer and phone in the world, when you’re at the movies.

As a bonus for reading this far, I’m throwing in Blomkamp’s 2004 short film “Tetra Vaal”, which formed the basis of this. Sharp-eyed viewers will note the company name in the film is Tetravaal.

Posted by: greercn | March 11, 2015

Still Alice

Harrowing and hard to watch, “Still Alice” tells the story of an academic expert in linguistics who is hit by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance in the leading role is beautifully nuanced and profoundly affecting.

Based on a Lisa Genova book, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmorland wrote and directed this work of love. Expertise shines through and the credits show an impressive number of medical leaders advised on this.

One camera shot will break your heart. Alice is standing and trying to figure out where she is. The image keeps a tight focus on her face as everything around her fades away and blurs.

All of the actors here put in fine turns. Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish are all great.

The emotions are perfect, but certain facts annoyed me. Surely a professor would spell “grammar” correctly on her computer files? Is this just the most impossibly perfect marriage, family and job combination ever shown?

Wouldn’t the family experience some financial hardship alongside this disease?

But these are minor quibbles with a sensational film that details the disease while affirming life.

I saw it at a packed Stratford East PIcturehouse free screening for members. If you can stomach the rawness and difficulty of the subject matter, see it.

Posted by: greercn | March 5, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Dev Patel holds his own when placed next to any of the all-star British cast. Even when Richard Gere strolls in, it’s Dev who commands the scene. He’s only 25 and he’s already a big star. It’s a good thing he’s so charming or his success would be sickening.

This sequel picks up eight months after the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened. Maggie Smith and the gang are all back. The film opens in San Diego and the very funny script gets some new laughs out of old jokes.

The we are whizzed back to Jaipur and the Indian sun and warmth virtually give you a fix of Vitamin D.

Even if you haven’t seen the first film (and my companion hadn’t), this story stands by itself.

Sonny (Patel) wants to expand his care home with a difference empire. He has his eye on a second hotel. But he’s getting married to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and is distracted.

Very effective Bollywood touches lift this story to greatness. A slick script (Ol Parker) and direction (John Madden) mean there is something for everyone.

Unlike most movies, it’s squarely aimed at the older folk. The idea of a new lease of life in retirement is seductive and with Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle and Smith and Gere along for the ride, the acting is superb.

Lillette Dubey, Tamsin Greig, Shazad Latif, Rajesh Tailang and David Strathairn all have heart-warming scenes.

But this is Dev Patel’s movie and he keeps every eye on him, when he is on screen.

You’ll think you know what the next twist is. You may or may not be correct.

Stratford East Picturehouse was absolutely packed full of happy people who were over 60 and don’t often go to the cinema.

Everybody loved it. You’ll love it.

Posted by: greercn | March 5, 2015

Focus

“Focus” is a crime caper movie set in lovely locations and it’s fun to watch.

Will Smith and Margot Robbie are both stars who have good looks, presence and great comic timing. The supporting cast features outstanding performances from Gerald McRaney, B D Wong, Rodrigo Santoro and Adrian Martinez.

The plot is centred around conman Nicky (Smith) who takes apprentice Jess (Robbie) under his crooked wing.

We zap between New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Buenos Aires. It makes crime look like it pays.

Amoral but beautiful people, superb locations and good performances make it pass by quickly, although the energy seems to flag in the middle section.

But it’s a popcorn movie and won’t last long in your mind.

Posted by: greercn | March 5, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey

Lust will not be the deadly sin you will feel when you watch this. Envy? Yes. The locations, clothes, vehicles and stuff are all just marvellous.

Dakota Johnson is a very beautiful and charismatic actress and she will star in much better films.

Jamie Dornan was key to the success of the TV series “The Fall” and he can be remarkable. In “50”, he just looks unhappy to be there.

But the success of this movie must be based on whether it’s sexy or not. And it’s just not sexy.

I found my mind wandering to how many computers with that fruit logo they could fit into one scene. I started counting products placed and thought about who made the terrific clothes.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction feels wooden. It’s also artsy, but not in a good way. I saw it with my daughter and I’d feared this might be an uncomfortable situation, for both of us.

Perish the thought! We laughed and laughed, which made it all very enjoyable, but not in the way the director intended.

Apparently, more of these films will be made as there are three books.

The apartment is for sale for $2 million US. That’s minus the infamous Red Room. You’ll get lovely views of Seattle.

Look, I like a good sex scene. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any in “50”.

Posted by: greercn | February 14, 2015

Inherent Vice

A new genre has been invented. It’s not a whodunnit or a mystery or a thriller. This is a bona fide what-on-earth-is-going-on-here-anyway-it.

Based on a 2009 book by Thomas Pynchon, it’s straight out nuts, breathless and surprising, from the very first scene.

Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) is a 1970 detective who smokes a lot of marijuana. He lives on the beach in Los Angeles. His ex (Katherine Waterston) asks him to find her new boyfriend, who has disappeared and it may be because of his wife or his wife’s boyfriend.

Confused? You are just at the beginning of this convoluted and very long movie. Paul Thomas Anderson directs and scripts this funny yet serious stoner fantasy with even less clarity than “The Master” offered.

The feel of 1970 – when Anderson was just born – is awesome. Movies without smart phones and laptops are always welcome and you could probably get wrecked just by watching this and trying to work out what’s happening to whom, why and where.

Surreal and speedy, you get whizzed along with a wide cast of wonderfully-named people through the shaggiest of shaggy dog tales. Everyone is called “Japonica” or “Shasta” and the straightest character of all – it’s the fuzz, man – is called Bigfoot. Bigfoot is played straight by a glorious Josh Brolin.

It’s an enjoyable film which keeps up its weird 1970 drug-laden feel. Images stay in my head, but I am a long way from figuring out what happened, when, why or how it ends. I am puzzled, as was the very-full Stratford East Picturehouse audience.

If you miss 1970s values, this is a good movie to watch. I now have a slightly better chance of getting through a Thomas Pynchon book since I long to know what happened in “Inherent Vice”. Mind you, I might not end up any the wiser.

Inherent vice means that something has a fault that will come out, inevitably. The example used in the film is that chocolate will always melt. It’s used in insurance and law to mean a fault or feature that needs to be factored in. Clear? No, me neither.

The star-studded cast all look like they are having a blast. Original and sunlit, it looks good and has a wonderful soundtrack.

Just writing about it leaves you sounding slightly alternative and medicated.

It’s a far out trip. Peace out, man.

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