Posted by: greercn | February 17, 2017

T2 Trainspotting

The initial warning runs “very strong language, strong sex and drug misuse”. So far, so promising.

And the sequel to Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” might have taken 20 years to get to us, but it’s still full of high-octane action and sardonic laughs.

Based on Irvine Welsh’s “Porno”, it reunites Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie. The friends since early childhood fell out when Renton ran away with £16,000 of stolen money that was meant to be split four ways.

We meet up with them 20 years later when Sick Boy – now back to Simon – gets involved with dodgy pornography and blackmail schemes.

It lacks the social commentary of “Trainspotting” but it plays to the dark uncertainties of our time.

“Very strong language” is much what you hear in a pub on a Saturday night. “Strong sex” is really rather weak. And that “drug misuse” is of shiny and healthy people playing with a few illegal substances.

Homage is paid to the original. Kelly Macdonald is woefully underused as a successful lawyer who is required by one of the characters, for legal reasons.

Ewan MacGregor is back as Renton, Jonny Lee Miller is Sick Boy (Simon), Robert Carlyle is the even more psychotic Begbie and Ewen Bremner’s Spud has the heart, soul and sadness that become very moving, as the story unfolds.

Just when you’re annoyed at the lack of women, Anjela Nedyalkova takes over key plots. You think you know where her prostitute character Veronika is going, then this woman’s great acting makes you rethink the whole movie. I think she has an amazing future in film. The camera loves her.

She does so much with a woefully underwritten part.

Because “T2” is about friendship, revenge, macho posturing and youthful hopes gone wrong you might think, in theory, there isn’t much here for girls. Yet, I found a hidden and positive female view, here.

There are timely warnings about protecting your PIN number and guffaws of the wry and hopeless variety. There is also a lot that made me laugh out loud, as did others at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Long ago, I loved Welsh and Boyle and loved the Scottish intelligence and the dynamism in that team. And, of course, the music is just sublime for anyone who ever loved a good rave in an empty warehouse or field.

Oops. I am showing my age. This is a very entertaining film. If you are okay with swearing, violence, odd sex and drug use, you’ll enjoy this. Otherwise, just skip it.

Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker

Oh, Mr Christian Grey, you have begun to bore me. I can handle almost anything at the movies, except being bored.

Fortunately, I was with someone who loves the books and the films. Enthusiasm is contagious and I know these books are very successful. Mamma Porn. Who knew that was a thing? E. L. James found a niche and has sold 70 million copies of this three-part saga.

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for many years, E. L. James wrote books about millionaire Christian Grey, who has a taste for kinky sex and youthful Anastasia Steele, who he teaches about BDSM-lite.

I did suffer from lingerie envy. There is some gorgeous underwear on display, here. And the clothes are lovely.

Frankly, the sex is of the vanilla and dull variety. You see a lot of Dakota Johnson’s breasts but very little of her nether regions nor, indeed, of Jamie Dornan’s – erm – bits.

It’s all a bit phoned in. You find yourself wondering what has happened to Kim Basinger’s face? Why is Ana’s boss so strange? Why are Christian’s ex-girlfriends so keen on him when he is boring in bed?

I will never get this series. But lovely homes, offices, clothes and lingerie all perk up my attention span.

And being with someone who gets it and likes it – in a Stratford East Picturehouse full of fans – makes me think I will probably see the next film, in the hope of something interesting and/or sexy happening.

Stay through the first part of the credits. There is a teaser trailer for the next film.

That may be the most teasing you will get, in this series.

The success of this franchise relies on a lot of women having a lot of lousy sexual encounters. Oh dear. How sad.

Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

Fans of nuance and understatement should look away now. Mel Gibson doesn’t do those.

“Hacksaw Ridge” tells you again and again that war is hell. Faceless enemies get slaughtered as much as the good guys do.

We start off simply enough. Child actor Darcy Bryce plays the young Desmond Doss, growing up poor with a violent father. Dad is played by a splendidly sinister Hugo Weaving.

Andrew Garfield is the older Doss while Teresa Palmer is his love interest.

Doss was a conscientious objector who signed up for World War Two, with surprising results. The less you know going into this, the better.

Apart from the absolute lack of subtlety, it’s quite a compelling story. Garfield shows how Doss struggles and the various army people are all shown as people with different characteristics.

At two hours and 19 minutes, it’s a long watch and 20 minutes or so could have gone, without losing anything of importance. But it’s a good war movie with a less-known story and my attention only strayed to my watch a couple of times.

Stratford East Picturehouse was very full. There were more men than women, but everyone paid attention to the story on the screen.

There are philosophical questions posed, but this is quite a religious war film and I am not completely comfortable with the way I felt that the message clobbered me, again and again.

But Gibson is an entertainer and he knows how to keep things rolling along, as a director.

Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2017

Loving

True stories can become tedious viewing, especially when you know everything about the actual facts. Here, the historic love story of Richard and Mildred Loving is at the heart of this entertaining movie.

Their case went all the way to the American Supreme Court and made marriage legal between races.

Richard and Mildred lived in Virginia, where they couldn’t marry. They drove to Washington D.C. and tied the knot before driving home and getting into trouble with the law.

It seemed appropriate to watch “Loving” on February 14th.

Jeff Nichols directs and never drifts into overly sentimental territory.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga do a fine job as the two leads. Marton Csokas is terrific as the sinister sheriff who appears to delight in enforcing the law.

Michael Shannon is a regular in Nichols’s films and he appears here as Life magazine photographer Grey Villet.

The whole ensemble features very good performances. Scenes of beautiful cars and racing offer light relief.

It’s good to be reminded of the credible way the ACLU took on this case and forced all the states to accept interracial marriage.

Stratford East Picturehouse was very packed and all seemed to enjoy the film.

Posted by: greercn | February 15, 2017

Sing

Charming animated characters make this more fun to watch than the average jukebox musical is.

A typing error pushes the prize of a singing competition up to $100,000. The theatre owner – voiced by Matthew McConaughey – faces many problems.

It’s from Illumination Entertainment who released “Despicable Me” and “The Secret Life Of Pets” and have the adorable minions on their logo.

“Sing” never hits the heights of those movies, but it’s lovely and has a lot of fun moments. There’s a new Stevie Wonder song called “Faith”. It’s not his best work, but his playfulness and Ariana Grande’s voice add joy. Here’s the video for that, featuring chaacters from “Sing”.

Younger children may be scared by scenes of characters being threatened. And a few slightly raunchy musical numbers might raise questions.

Watch this with your kids. They probably see much worse on their video games.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience enjoyed it although the older people laughed a lot more than the children did.

Quite a lot of old standard pop songs are thrown in and they are all performed well.

The message, such as it is, goes along the lines of “follow your dreams”.

“Sing 2” is already being made.

Posted by: greercn | January 24, 2017

La La Land

Hollywood is in love with itself so a movie about Hollywood will always do well. “La La Land” is a new musical based on the idea that Hollywood success is ultimate success.

The trouble with this premise is neither of the gorgeous and delightful leads can sing or dance. They purr along and move fine, but the emperor has no clothes.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are beautiful to look at. And they toddle along in perfect formation, as in a music video.

But they aren’t Debbie Reynolds or Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. You may find a small rebellious part of you going “yeah, right, I could do that song and dance”.

They don’t appear to be passionate about each other. They seem to be two great friends out on a day trip, together.

That’s the elephant in the room. Two delightful and charming leads sing and dance perfectly adequately. But I longed to be wowed by the musical routines and after an extraordinary beginning, I never really was.

Is director and writer Damien Chazelle, who made the brilliant “Whiplash”, trying to tell us that merely capable singers and dancers can be stars, in Hollywood?

“La La Land” is a perfectly pleasant musical with scenes of depth and truth. The last 20 minutes feel real and haunting.

But the 2 hour and 13 minute running time is just too long.

It will win a lot of awards. Lots of people will love it. Most critics will adore it as it harks back to an older, gentler movie business.

And Gosling did really learn to play piano well, so that’s impressive.

It’s all about Sebastian (Gosling) being an aspiring jazz musician and Mia (Emma Stone) wanting to act and, maybe, write.

J.K. Simmons and John Legend shine in small roles. And there are very good musicians, singers and dancers on offer in the ensemble.

Everyone else at Stratford East Picturehouse loved it much more than I did. They were humming the songs and I can’t remember one.

There is wonderful whimsy in scenes set among the stars and the costumes and locations will please viewers. Even I was overjoyed at how very lovely it all is. Struggle has never looked so beautiful and glossy.

Posted by: greercn | January 22, 2017

Jackie

Pablo Larrain is a genius. I love almost all his movies and I look forward to his originality and changing of film conventions, whenever he bring out a new film. His point of view is unique.

But taking on the Jackie Kennedy story? During the week of the assassination of her husband?

All Americans of a certain age and probably many people everywhere know exactly where they were when President John Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

Watching his dignified widow handle her grief, in public, was astonishing. My teachers cried, which would have seemed impossible to me, before I saw it.

In “Jackie”, you get two different stories. One is the framing device, in which Jackie answers questions from a journalist played by Billy Crudup. Never named, he is probably based on Theodore H. White. Crudup is great, as is everyone in this.

Natalie Portman carries this with a layered and brilliant performance. Your eyes stay on her, throughout.

What is most extraordinary is that I remember that voice and that face and yet Portman looks nothing like the real-life Jackie. And you forget that, very quickly, as you are drawn in.

The second story includes detailed flashbacks to the assassination and funeral and time spent during happier days.

The impact of this death on the whole world is shown in contrast to the private feelings of the lead character.

Noah Oppenheim’s script is very good and it’s a refreshing one hour and 40 minutes long. I could have watched more.

While Portman owns the screen, Greta Gerwig and Peter Sarsgaard stand out.

Mica Levi’s soundtrack is lovely, but can be intrusive.

The beautiful theme to “Camelot” accompanies a poignant scene.

Many older people at the Stratford East Picturehouse were in tears. I was surprised by this and didn’t cry.

If Larrain or the Kennedy story fascinates you, do see it.

Posted by: greercn | January 22, 2017

Manchester By The Sea

An extraordinary performance by Casey Affleck pulls at your heart. Lee Chandler has grown up being less successful and easy-going than his brother, Joe. Now, Lee is a janitor in Boston, USA and suffers from anxiety and anger issues.

His daily duties are observed. Then, Joe dies and Lee is named as guardian to Patrick, Joe’s son.

Kenneth Lonergan writes and directs this and uses its gorgeous Cape Ann setting as a character. When you are out to sea, with the fisherman or walking through the neighbourhood, you feel you are there.

With so many superb performances in the film, C.J. Wilson stands out as family friend George.

And Michelle Williams is terrific and very moving as Lee’s ex-wife.

Lucas Hedges is Joe’s son Patrick and he manages to pull you into his grief and concerns.

Kyle Chandler as Joe is as likeable and warm as his brother Lee is spiky and difficult.

Casey Affleck manages the deft trick of making the viewer understand how troubled Lee is while still making you wish well to the character.

At two hours and 17 minutes, it’s a long watch and the whole family story unfolds slowly and shifts between flashbacks and the present day.

There are times when scenes feel more theatrical but there is an understatement here, too.

Music is occasionally intrusive, but enhances the sense of place.

Cape Ann is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and it’s refreshing to see a story of working-class lives that celebrates ordinary people living off fishing.

Rarely have regular lives been so celebrated by a big Hollywood movie.

Others at the Stratford East Picturehouse were in tears. I wiped away one or two tears, but didn’t want to miss a single one of the fabulous images here.

Original and engrossing, skip this if you are recently bereaved. Otherwise, do see it.

Posted by: greercn | January 15, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Huge action scenes and reminders of all the great people and creatures in the older Star Wars movies meant that I enjoyed this much more than I expected to.

Felicity Jones is superb as the heroine in a hurry to save many worlds. Diego Luna is also great.

Somehow, the plot manages to pander to the tastes of those who only really liked “Star Wars” and the two sequels as well as to those who liked the clone wars stuff.

Director Gareth Edwards aims this squarely at the fans. You could literally hear people saying ooh and ahh as each character, robot or situation reminded us of other movies in the franchise, just before we were zoomed off to another scene on another planet.

I found it helpful that I knew nothing of the plot as the film started. Afterwards, I read everything I could to identify references that others cheered, but I had forgotten about.

Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker and Jimmy Smits are the standouts in a terrific ensemble.

The two hours and 13 minutes running time felt a bit stretched out, in the middle, but the last sequence was just wonderful and left me longing for more.

Truly, the Force is strong, in this film.

Posted by: greercn | January 15, 2017

A Monster Calls

Intriguing and full of beautiful animation and art, “A Monster Calls” is based on a Young Adult novel about a boy who is dealing with his mother’s treatment for cancer.

Sigourney Weaver is extraordinary as the boy’s grandmother while Lewis MacDougall gives a very moving performance as Conor, the boy.

Liam Neeson’s distinctive voice gives weight to the remarkable tree monster who visits Conor. Is the monster real? Or are the illness, bullying at school and difficult relationships with both his father and grandmother driving him to bad dreams?

Felicity Jones plays the mother, but she doesn’t have much to do, except in flashback scenes to happier times.

Yes, your emotions are manipulated as they are by so many films. But the quality of the art and the original ideas on offer here make it intriguing to watch.

It wins bonus points for being a refreshing watch that’s under two hours long.

If you’re interested in art, there are many visual joys here.

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse all appeared to be very moved by it, as was I.

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