Posted by: greercn | May 20, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Beware films bearing colons.

Marvel movies are usually terrific. This downbeat tale has super moments, but its bloated 147-minute length outstays its welcome by about 25 minutes. Many of my friends love it and believe it is the best Marvel film ever made.

But I need to make a confession. I fell asleep. Twice. Only for a few minutes, but that means my emotions were never engaged.

And they get engaged by some really awful movies. I was not tired, although I felt exhausted by the end of this film.

There is just too much going on here, for me. The Avengers are asking themselves questions. Brought to heel for causing death, they are going to be accountable to the United Nations.

Cue more explosions and more needless deaths, the viewer gets an enormous amount of 3D and CGI. And the mandatory Stan Lee cameo is rather wonderful as he asks for Tony Stank and not Stark.

It’s a pity it comes so late in the tale.

Captain America and Iron Man fall out. This requires an astonishing amount of special effects. The stand out performances are by Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Tom Holland and Paul Rudd.

Members of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse wandered in and out, buying popcorn and soft drinks. I am not clear whether they shared my frustration and irritation at this tale or whether they’d have done that anyway. I wandered out once, which is as unheard of as falling asleep twice in a movie is, for me.

Why do so many people like this? Please, enlighten me.

Posted by: greercn | May 20, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Rooms, costumes and people all look rather lovely. You’re in a hotel in 1944 New York City and then you’re in Carnegie Hall. It’s all bathed in luxury although reminders of World War 2 linger, in the shadows.

Our heroine Florence (Meryl Streep) believes she can sing, despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. Florence is rich enough that she can buy acolytes, audiences and anything she pleases. She’s even bought a devoted husband, St Clair, played by Hugh Grant, who gets to reprise his elegant cad act.

The first hour of this whooshes by, lifted by Simon Helberg as pianist Cosme McMoom. Each time Nina Arianda is on screen, as former showgirl Agnes Stark, the screen lights up. She’s fabulous and worth looking out for. Her sense of fun brings real joy to this movie.

As the story unfolds, it all depends on your sympathy moving between Florence and St Clair. Unfortunately, you wait for Agnes to come in again as, until she appears, you care much more about the lovely clothing and settings than you do about the people.

Much of this was filmed in Glasgow and Liverpool and this creates a fine substitute for 1944 New York City.

For me, the last part of the film fell a little flat. The rest of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to be enjoying it much more than I did. Maybe the trials of the delusional rich mean little to me, even when they are given touching back stories?

It’s quite a knack to sing badly. But I never warmed to Meryl Streep’s performance, nor to Florence’s sad tale.

See it if you are really into beautiful clothes or just for Nina Arandia’s performance. And watch out for Georgina Morton who has a small but significant part.

Posted by: greercn | April 27, 2016

Eye In The Sky

With Alan Rickman’s last performance, a glorious role for Helen Mirren and a topical lethal drone plot, I really wanted to like this movie. And it’s perfectly likeable and moves along quickly.

It’s supposed to be a thriller and I was never thrilled.

And it’s hard to love. Your emotions are manipulated in a really obvious way. And that’s annoying. Much of this – and it’s all given away in the trailer – depends on the viewer valuing a very cute child more than the actual and potential harm done by terrorists.

Say what? Isn’t this like that old tale of Little Nell tied to the train tracks? On steroids?

Barkhad Abdi is great as a secret agent in Kenya. You root for him and, for me, his scenes work best.

Mirren is just fine, as a General but Rickman falls a bit flat, here. I usually think he’s wonderful.

Gavin Hood’s direction is taut and the aerial scenes are nicely contrasted to the land-based shots.

The very full Stratford East Picturehouse audience all loved it. They oohed and aahed.

I peeked at my watch quite a lot and felt the moral questions about whether drone use for bombing can ever be ethical were skimmed over rather than given detailed consideration.

Politicians come across as blithering idiots and the armed forces are the good guys. And Alan Rickman does get the best line in the whole thing. And I won’t tell you what that is.

You’ll probably warm to it more than I did. Everyone I have discussed it with seems to think it’s really special.

Posted by: greercn | April 26, 2016

The Jungle Book

When I was a child, Walt Disney offered the most magical movie experiences possible. I loved “The Sword In The Stone” and “Mary Poppins” best, even though both offered annoying and inaccurate versions of British life.

My daughter was born in the age of home videos and she watched the Disney videos again and again. By the time she was four, I knew all the words to all the songs.

And “Bare Necessities” is one of the best songs in the charming 1967 animation that’s loosely adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s book.

So I felt no need for a live/CGI/3D remake of a DVD that didn’t survive the last cull. I had no enthusiasm about seeing this, at all.

And yet it’s quite lovely. Young Neel Sethi is terrific as Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves in the jungle.

The usual celebrity voices are all present and correct. And you do get the “Bare Necessities”, which is good.

It’s only one hour and 45 minutes long and the time goes by quickly. Mostly aimed at kids who love animal stories, the accompanying adults all enjoyed and appreciated it. Stratford East Picturehouse was absolutely packed.

Some of the threatening scenes are a little bit much for those of a sensitive disposition. That category includes me. I looked away a few times.

It’s Neel Sethi’s mature and physical performance that makes this feel so very intimate and warm. It’s visually beautiful and you will enjoy the quality of what you see. I liked it very much.

Posted by: greercn | April 3, 2016


Also known as “Zootopia”, “Zootropolis” is as charming and involving as any Disney movie ever made. It’s worth seeing just for the utterly adorable sloths. But all the characters are compelling and the story pulls you in, from the first frame.

Young Judy Hopps has always wanted to be in the police. The only problem is that she’s a very tiny rabbit and most police officers are big. Also, Judy Hopps is prey and the predators are normally in charge.

So, bunny copy Judy joins up with fox Nick Wilde. In this world in which prey and predators co-exist uneasily, can this alliance work?

It’s Walt Disney’s studio. What do you think?

I absolutely love this movie and the sloth-centric trailer gives you no idea of quite how good it is. A heartwarming tale of ambition and partnership is told against a background of crime-solving and big city life.

It’s a great way to start a conversation about differences when you speak with children. But it’s also a superb movie to see, all by yourself.

I recommend this to everyone, of all ages. It offered me more pure joy than I’ve had in the cinema in all of 2016, so far.

Watch out for the animated Shakira, Tommy Chong and Idris Elba. Their characters steal scenes and will crease you up with laughter.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Batemen voice the two leads. They must have had a lot of fun with their great lines and characters.

Posted by: greercn | April 3, 2016

Eddie the Eagle

British feelgood movies – such as “The Full Monty” – warm your heart and offer a triumph by the underdog, against all odds.

Truth? Who needs the truth?

In fact, while Edwards captured hearts at the ski jumping events at Calgary in 1988 and is still seen as the embodiment of the amateur Olympian, he was no bumbling fool. He was an expert skier who suffered to become an expert ski jumper. His real story is more inspiring than the tale told in the film.

But Dexter Fletcher directs with great control and style and Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman give wonderful performances, as Edwards and as his coach.

Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Tim McInnerney and Edvin Endre all have superb lines and gorgeous moments.

This was shown as a free preview for members of Stratford East Picturehouse. The very-full audience adored it, as did I.

Entertaining, joyful and full of love, you can’t go wrong seeing this. Even if watching the sport events doesn’t thrill you, the quality of the acting, directing and the script will pull you in.

It’s a film you can take your granny to without any fear. It’s all reassuring and inspiring and as soothing as a strong English cup of tea, on a cold day.

Posted by: greercn | April 3, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Very young men love this. It features a lot of the gloomy images of video games and follows those plot patterns.

Even older gamers will probably delight in a battle between superheroes that features 3D out of the darkest rain storm you ever got stuck in.

I found it plodding and heavy and checked my watch every few of the seemingly interminable two hours and 31 minutes. I’d take off the 3D glasses at times, but it was just as dark and gloomy and it became fuzzy. So I put the glasses back on. I made that last a few minutes, just to provide myself with some amusement.

Meanwhile, the men between 18 and 29 were all sporting over-awed and joyful expressions. Same movie but they had very different reactions.

Maybe if I liked Zack Snyder better, I’d have felt more love? Perhaps if I had enjoyed “Man of Steel” more, this would have been enjoyable?

A lot of terrific actors have great moments. Amy Adams is a super Lois Lane and Diane Lane is a fabulous Martha Kent. Ben Affleck is utterly wonderful and brooding as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. Henry Cavill is a convincingly American Superman and Clark Kent.

Gal Gadot steals every scene she is in, as Wonder Woman. But there is very little of her, here.

Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne and Holly Hunter seem to have wandered in from another and much better film.

But the guys at the Stratford East Picturehouse all utterly loved it. They were practically drooling popcorn during the action scenes. Watching them was a great deal more entertaining than watching the screen.

There may be sequels. I will skip them. How do you know if you will enjoy this? Are you male? Are you young or just plain immature.

Go see it. You’ll enjoy the huge amount spent on special effects. I just wish a few more writers had been employed in making the plot and script truly engaging.

Posted by: greercn | March 24, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

Our Dragon Warrior, Po has come back. He finds his father but must defeat an evil bad guy.

That’s about it, but all of this is drawn and animated so very beautifully that you will enjoy it.

It may be too frightening for very young children, but all adults who like animation will be overjoyed by the smart and sassy script.

And you don’t have to have seen “1” or “2” as this movie stands alone. You will leave the cinema with a slight craving for dumplings.

Of all the famous voices, Jack Black, David Cross and J.K. Simmons bring the most zest to this. Unlike many films from DreamWorks, there aren’t really great female role models here.

But it’s all rather joyful and positive. And you don’t need the excuse of small children to love the journey this takes you away on.

Posted by: greercn | March 24, 2016


Despite the lure of Tom Hiddleston’s almost-naked body and many other moments of artistic loveliness, I am left feeling that these 119 minutes of “High-Rise” were stolen from me, never to return.

Orgy scenes fail to be sexy. Scenes of panic lack any real emotional punch.

Philosophical points abound. The high-rise is clearly a metaphor for our modern dystopia. Civilisation is crumbling and the poor suffer more than the rich, although everyone will endure a bad time.

Our Tom is Dr Laing – shades of our favourite psychologist. It looks like the 1970s and ghastly textures and walls abound. Even the posh penthouse feels like a soft-porn fantasy from the days when every movie had to have a sex scene.

Based on the book by J.G. Ballard, Ben Wheatley directs. Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss and Luke Evans are among the stars who perform enthusiastically.

Was there a story there, asked one woman as she left the cinema. Electricity is cut off, there’s a death and supplies run out.

It’s all great art, but it failed to move me or any of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse. You would have to love Wheatley an awful lot to get anything out of this. I do try and find something to love in every movie, but I was bored, after the first 15 minutes. I noticed others leaving.

Gee, I wish I’d joined them.

Posted by: greercn | March 13, 2016

London Has Fallen

Gerard Butler fires and reloads a lot of guns. He runs a lot. You or I would look a bit concerned, but Gerard just looks cool.

This movie is exactly what you would expect it to be. Is “Olympus Has Fallen” one of your guilty pleasures? Yes, me too.

And this follows as logically as any preposterous sequel might.

Plot? You want plot?

Presidential bodyguard Gerard and his best buddy, the President (Aaron Eckhart, hamming it up and being adorably worth protecting) fly off to London, England for a funeral. Lots of London landmarks get blown up. World leaders die.

Will President Aaron survive? Will Gerard save him? Oh, come on, did you even ask the question? Gerard has a “Bruce Willis and I are both invincible” clause written into every contract.

The marvellous Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman are almost thrown away, although they have moments. Charlotte Riley and Melissa Leo fare a little better. Alon Aboutboul is the main bad guy.

But this isn’t about the smaller parts. It’s about the two leads. And it’s a big action movie with everything here getting blown up, driven and shot at.

It all takes a while to get going. You get back stories.

So many Bulgarian and British companies did CGI and 3D work that I gave up counting them up, during the end credits. Thousands of Bulgarians were employed to help create this. Bless their hearts.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed this. The Stratford East Picturehouse was full of people who wanted a restful holiday from their brains, as did we.

If you like big action films with few brain cells required, this is for you. It’s not clever or innovative. It’s just enormous fun to watch the big action sequences.

And I respect how many people were employed in blowing up the digitally-recreated London.

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