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.

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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.

Posted by: greercn | November 13, 2017

The Florida Project

To find one child actor who isn’t annoying is a great achievement. To find three? That’s genius.

Sean Baker has cemented the high status he earned with “Tangerine” by creating this endearing look at the lives of children living in a cheap motel near Walt Disney World.

The Florida Project is the name Walt Disney gave to his plan for a theme park near Orlando.

Given that this movie is set during a summer among the poorest families, there is irony in the title. Disney tourists and their bounty are only incidental to the difficult lives of the film’s protagonists.

Young Moonie (Brooklynn Prince) runs wild with friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto). All three are outstanding, as is Bria Vanaite as Halley, Moonie’s mother.

Every performance is charming and full of mischief.

The only big name here is Willem Dafoe who does his best acting work ever as the caretaker/manager of the dilapidated motel.

Relationships and situations feel very real and raw.

My only quibble is how clean and ironed everyone looks. My encounters with the wretched and poor of Florida make me believe that the clothes, hair and fresh faces of the motel residents all seem to be a little contrived.

But that’s minor, compared to the impact of this story on the viewer.

It was shown at a free screening for members of the Stratford East Picturehouse. About half of us loved it while the other half felt it wasn’t for them.

Popular movies dealing with poverty and childhood are rare. This one has charm and beauty, among the difficult lives of the families here.

Posted by: greercn | November 13, 2017

Call Me By Your Name

Shimmering, sensual and utterly entrancing, “Call Me By Your Name” will draw you in and wrap you up in its warmth and charm.

Luca Guadagnino has created an extraordinary film where the music, mix of languages, angles of sunshine and water all create a hypnotic spell.

The warning of “strong sex” comes up first. No full frontal images are shown, but the sexy scenes are real and rather beautiful.

It’s gay and yet it’s not. There is a scene with a peach that is risky and original.

Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is 17-years-old and is on holiday in a beautiful house in the northern Italian countryside. His parents are happy and active.

Dad’s research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives and causes a stir among the beautiful people of the area. Hammer acts vulnerability, control and natural joy in his best performance to date.

Elio’s long-term girlfriend/old friend is Marzia and Esther Garrel makes you feel her pain.

Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Cassar are very endearing, as Elio’s parents.

Everybody looks gorgeous and the hair is all massive and beautiful manes. Please, can I be Italian, now?

Even an old wooden ladder in a bedroom looks artfully chic.

At Stratford East Picturehouse, you could hear the sighs in the very packed cinema. So much of this just makes you catch your breath with the beauty of each scene.

I could quibble with the ending, but the two hours and 12 minutes flew by.

Go see it. It’s a feast for the senses.

Posted by: greercn | November 3, 2017

The Death Of Stalin

Lots of swearing and vulgar jokes make this one to avoid for those who are sensitive.

Everyone else should run to the cinema and see this. It’s hilarious.

The words “based on a French graphic novel” put me off. But I am very glad that I saw it.

Expect to learn absolutely nothing about the death of Stalin. It happened in 1953. Lots of books will give you versions of the facts.

What’s on offer here is deft political analysis of power grabbing. Director and co-writer Armando Iannucci has a super ear for the absurd and the writing team of four men created a punchy script.

It’s terrifically funny. Of the outstanding ensemble, Simon Russell Beale shines out as Beria with a superb performance. He isn’t on the poster that advertises this film. I cannot imagine why not.

Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend and Steve Buscemi all have glorious moments.

There aren’t a lot of great parts for women in this tale, but Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough do the best they can with the lines they are given. Did I mention there are four male writers?

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse giggled and guffawed a lot, as did I.

In these times, we need to laugh about politics a lot more than we do. “The Death Of Stalin” offers rare comic relief, in a grim world.

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