Posted by: greercn | October 9, 2015

A Walk In The Woods

“A Walk In The Woods” is at its best when the gentle chemistry between Robert Redford and Nick Nolte highlights their affectionate friendship and the issues of getting older.

It’s based on a Bill Bryson book. Everyone I ever met in the whole world ever adore’s Bryson’s travel writing. Except me. Sorry. Very sorry.

Why? I can’t figure it out. I have theories. It might be true that I find his writing full of middle-class privilege and constant joy in himself.

Truly, I should be more tolerant. And my Very Intelligent Friend wanted to see it, so we did.

It’s entertaining enough and not too long. You get to see some beautiful bits of the Appalachian Trail. Giggles come when the guys get stuck in a sudden snow storm and when they fall, onto a ledge.

They conspire to escape the attention of annoying hiker Kristen Schaal. Emma Thompson and Mary Steenburgen are both almost thrown away in their respective roles as amazingly saintly women.

Unpleasant sections poke fun at larger people. Why? I guess Hollywood hates fatness and had to throw in some hate.

Given that Bryson was in his 40s when he decided to do this 2,000 mile hike, I am not sure why Hollywood went for much older actors.

Oh, probably because they are big stars and they’ve only made one movie together, ever.

So just park your brain, ignore the petty prejudice on offer here and gawp at sensational views of America.

Redford and Nolte are stars for many reasons and both have great presence.

The very full Stratford East Picturehouse audience was made up of older people who all enjoyed it.

I’m glad I saw it. Redford gets more interesting in his choices of roles, as he ages.

It’s not a must see movie, but it’s entertaining enough and it all looks very pretty.

Posted by: greercn | October 5, 2015

The Martian

A funny and entertaining script, glorious settings and super acting make this a gorgeous film to watch and hear.

At the heart of it is Matt Damon’s performance as stranded astronaut Mark Watney. Much of the movie depends on Damon alone and his entertaining everyman character carries that weight.

Meanwhile, the other astronauts Watney went to Mars with assume their friend is dead. There’s been an accident and Watney is forced to find a way to survive, without help.

NASA assistance and accurate science are big plus points in this tale. My Very Intelligent Friend questions the gravity and the structure of the dust storm and accident event that leave Watney alone on Mars and I am told that is better explained in Andy Weir’s book.

At 140 minutes, it’s very long but is entertaining enough that you don’t feel that length.

The people back home and the rest of the astronauts in space all provide lovely examples of ensemble acting. The performances that stay in my mind are those of Chiwetel Ejiofur, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover. Glover steals every scene he’s in.

Drew Goddard wrote the intelligent and funny script. He also scripted “The Cabin In The Woods”, which I loved.

Finally, I get to see a movie that will definitely make my Top 10 of 2015 list.

The less you know about the plot when you go in, the better off you are. The last half hour is genuinely thrilling and looks wonderful.

If you have a choice, 2D might be better than 3D. The 3D added very little and made it look dark.

But you have to go see it. Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse loved it, as did I and my Very Intelligent Friend.

It will be talked about for a long time to come and it sets a new and high standard in how to do a gripping film about space. Ridley Scott’s directing mojo is back and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Posted by: greercn | September 23, 2015


It just fails to climb to the highest heights of emotion. This is a shame, as bits of it are very beautiful and make you want to go climbing.

I once had a conversation with a friend who asked if I wanted to climb Everest. This seemed a tad ambitious, as we were walking up Mount Royal in Montreal. And you should know that climbing Mount Royal is inadequate preparation for climbing in the Alps or the Rockies, let alone the world’s tallest peak. (At least, above sea level).

After a bit of thought, I said I’d like to be able to say I’d climbed Everest, because it’s an impressive achievement. But I was and am certain that I am attached to life, my fingers, my toes and my nose and one of these might disappear if I aimed that high.

In “Everest”, a bunch of climbers pay more than $60,000 US to get escorted up to the top. It’s 1996. Any climber knows a few didn’t make it home.

So, it should be touching. Early scenes, set in the United States and Nepal, grip the viewer.

The cinema at Stratford East Picturehouse was very cold, so we huddled into our coats. Okay, it wasn’t THAT cold, but we weren’t warm.

The big sudden storm that comes out of nowhere should keep you on the edge of your seat. But the movie is two hours long and that storm just goes on and on, coming and going.

Of course, you want to know who makes it and who doesn’t. There is a cast of stars and unknowns who all look good as they are climbing. And the last 10 minutes of the movie tugs at your heart.

And yet, the main message you’re left with is that climbing Everest is a very dangerous thing to do. And I knew that, all those years ago, climbing Mount Royal.

Good music and stunning photography give this tale depth and emotion. But with too much crammed in here, you only focus on the characters for a few minutes, before you’re whisked away to another part of the mountain.

For me, watching this felt (mostly) like an uphill climb. It’s better to talk about having done it than to actually do it.

Posted by: greercn | September 17, 2015


Tom Hardy plays both the Kray twins. Ronnie and Reggie were notorious East End of London gangsters who ruled the underworld during the 1950s and 1960s.

They rose from the boxing rings to great levels of club ownership and control. At a time when life was hard and most people were poor, they brought a bit of high living to the area.

I live in the East End. There is a great movie to be made about the real-life Krays. This isn’t it and neither is the Martin and Gary Kemp biopic of 1990.

But “Legend” does feature an absolutely amazing performance by Tom Hardy, who is fantastic. I have no idea who he is playing – not the Krays – but it’s fun to watch him being whoever he is, here.

Everything looks great – living rooms are almost painted on the screen with love and they are full of correct period detail. Clubs ooze style and beautiful people.

The love story between Reggie and Frances (Emily Browning) is sweetly portrayed, albeit not very accurately. That tale is at the centre of this film.

Lots of people are still alive who knew the Krays and I’ve heard stories from people who worked for them. The Krays were terribly violent yet they are still loved around here as Robin Hood figures who brought a lot of good to others, as long as you didn’t cross them.

The casting is wonderful, with Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri and David Thewlis all having great moments. Jane Wood is almost thrown away as mother Violet Kray and that’s just plain wrong.

Stratford East Picturehouse was very full and the 130-minute running time felt about 20 minutes too long.

It’s entertaining and has lots of detail that will please American audiences as you get the Mafia thrown into the mix. A few good lines about government scandals and then-illegal homosexuality are also provocative and interesting.

But the Krays? Legend? No. Please can someone make an accurate film about the Krays? The true stories are much more interesting and screen-worthy than these attempts to lure Oscar to British actors.

Posted by: greercn | September 14, 2015


Viewers of a sensitive disposition should stay away. Anyone else will have a whale of a time watching this beautifully-written and directed film about teenagers in Inglewood, Los Angeles.

Malcolm – played by Shameik Moore who is a true star – has normal teenage concerns about high school, university, friends and growing up. His mother works hard and his father has vanished, long ago. His best friends are terrific. Tony Revolori as Jib (Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are both very charming and compelling.

Zoe Kravitz and Chanel Iman stand out, in small but significant roles.

Writer and director Rick Famuyima has made a rare treat of a movie. I loved every minute and laughed, held my breath and felt each character’s pain, in equal measures.

But here’s a note of caution. Bad language, casual drug use, violence, unpunished theft, nudity and sexual scenes are all essential to the plot, but may put off a percentage of the population.

It all feels very real and true to life. Of course, I am grateful it’s not true to my life.

Our young heroes get involved in a drugs deal gone wrong. Their response to this is original and tricky.

My Very Intelligent Friend and I both adored watching it and stayed attentive through the whole thing. Very few movies keep you present, all the way through. This grabs you from the first scene and never lets you go. Images stay in my head.

Pharrell Williams has composed a few new songs and the soundtrack is terrific, in the hip hop genre.

I haven’t seen any of this fine young director’s other movies, but I will seek them out as he has the knack of making relevant social commentary while providing engrossing entertainment.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse loved it, apart from a few people who left as they were unable to handle the content, which is very raw. I think this is going to be one of my favourite movies of 2015.

Posted by: greercn | September 4, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

Black people talk about race, often. They have to do so. White preconceptions have negative effects. The controversy around the reaction to the simplicity and clarity of the #blacklivesmatter campaign shows this.

White people talk about race when a black person joins them. Then, the conversation switches to how non-racist/anti-racist the white person is.

Both previous paragraphs are too general to be fully true. But they are mostly true.

I am aware of the privilege of being white and older. I don’t get stopped by the police. It’s pointless for me to ramble on about being a woman, an outsider and creative. I am absolutely certain I would face much more terrible challenges if I were a young and black man living in Compton, Los Angeles.

Many years ago I wrote an ill-advised piece dismissing the then-new Grandmaster Flash album and extolling the virtues of Prince and UB40. I got slapped down, in print by a young black man named Ancel Martinez. He and I met and I had a light bulb moment when he insisted I listen to “The Message” and “White Lines” again. I love to learn and I got the lesson.

Truly, I had no idea why rap mattered. By the time N.W.A. and Public Enemy came along, I got it, loud and clear. I was even an early adopter of Eminem.

It must have been very strange for the people who sold me records. It must have been even odder for the mostly-black audience at the Stratford East Picturehouse to have this white woman knowing all the words to all the N.W.A. songs, while we were watching “Straight Outta Compton”, which is the story of N.W.A.. (I sang quietly and at the very back).

I wish that the Rodney King incident was isolated and in the past. But events this summer have proved that institutional racism has a profound effect, even now.

“Straight Outta Compton” glosses over the misogyny, violence and angry words of N.W.A. But it tells a story you have to see, especially if you are white.

These guys got out of the ghetto. They made it, as entertainers. Some of their lyrics make me wince, but they rage with a truth so bright and fierce, you’ll have to get the message.

White people have to start caring and talking about race. It’s the only way change will happen. See this movie. It’s relevant. We are all products of the challenges we face, when we are very young.

There can be no equality of the powerful do not fight for the rights of the powerless. Yes, if you are white, this story will make you uncomfortable.

Good. We should all be furious about the situations black people deal with.

Posted by: greercn | September 4, 2015


Computer games and obsession with them are a bit outside my experience. Some of the best people I know are lifetime serious gamers. I respect them. All the kids I know play games, all the time.

I get drafted in to play Call of Duty, now and then and I comply with a smile, much as I used to when Donkey Kong and its ilk took over the 1980s.

So, “Pixels” shouldn’t be enjoyable. And I only went to see it because there was nothing else on I hadn’t seen. And the times fit in with my day.

I laughed, loud and often. It’s a hilarious comedy about an attack from outer space, based on a misconception by the aliens.

We start in 1982 with a video game competition. Excellent points are made about high school and about celebrity.

Fast forward thirty plus years and we are under attack. Those old gamer heroes are required, or earth will be wiped out.

Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage are hilarious. Michelle Monaghan made me rock with giggles. There are two sentences I thought I would never write.

Many very funny performances and lines fill this film. Chris Columbus directs in frenetic style.

You have never seen Madonna or Hall and Oates as terrifying? You will, now.

There’s a scene with cars – Minis – that will make you think of “The Italian Job” on steroids.

But it’s the loving graphics and the very special animation that you’ll adore. It’s probably best for those who remember the older games of the 1980s, but any gamer will appreciate this.

This non-gamer enjoyed every silly minute. I saw it in 2D but I am certain the 3D is very special. Dare I hope for a sequel?

Posted by: greercn | September 4, 2015

45 Years

Hooray! Older people talk, walk, dance, hug and kiss! Who knew that was possible, at the cinema this year?

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay bring amazing presence and charm to this movie about a couple, during the week before their wedding anniversary party.

There are hurdles. They were meant to have a big 40th celebration, but problems intervened.

That’s all the plot you need to know. The twists and turns here are best experienced while watching, as the characters go through the events.

English countryside weather and conversation about climate change are key to the intimate feel director and co-writer Danny Haigh achieves.

It’s based on an Andrew Constantine short story I haven’t read.

But this film depends on the grace and skill of Rampling and Courtenay’s faces and bodies. How fabulous it is to see a whole story on screen that accepts that life doesn’t end at 30.

One scene of Rampling watching old slides – slides – will move you very much.

This is an intelligent and thoughtful tale of getting older. I could argue that the one sex scene plays to popular misconceptions about age, but I’ll have that conversation with other people who have seen this.

The free preview for members of Stratford East Picturehouse was very full and it attracted a refreshing number of people over the age of 50.

If you like your screen stories atmospheric, beautifully-acted, thoughtful and independent, you’ll find this very satisfactory to watch.

Posted by: greercn | August 31, 2015

Mistress America

It was my Very Intelligent Friend’s idea to go see this. He liked “While We’re Young” much more than I did.

Noah Baumbach is just a little too wry and hip for me to love his movies. I like them, but not a whole lot.

Then, Baumbach goes and makes this amazing film which I utterly love but my Friend laughs out loud way less often than I do. Hmmnn.

Why? Well, there’s a lot more here for girls to love than there is for boys. The main story is about a friendship between two women. And these days, that’s radical.

Lola Kirke plays Tracy, a university student in New York City who seeks out her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote this with Baumbach).

Greta Gerwig is an extraordinary comedian who owns every scene with rare physical glee.

Unless you’re a guy.

Brooke has a variety of jobs, levels of annoyance and scores to settle. Tracy decides to help her.

College, car trips, success and Greenwich, Connecticut all get lovingly mocked. How do you get to be an effective woman in Manhattan, or anywhere? If that question intrigues you, you’ll enjoy every wonderful line.

The supporting cast, sets and music all work to move the story forward.

The women were all laughing way more than the men, at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

I think it’s terrific and very funny. You may not agree and that’s okay.

Why is it called “Mistress America”? I have theories based on intuition, but I may never know for sure.

Posted by: greercn | August 19, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

They lost THRUSH. THRUSH was the evil spy network that tried to destroy U.N.C.L.E. Boy, do I miss THRUSH.

As the biggest fan of the old series that ran in the 1960s, this was the blockbuster I wanted to see the most, this summer.

It’s a good movie, but it has flaws. As a prequel – yawn – it just doesn’t fit with the old characters.

Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo misses the suave and wry charm of Robert Vaughn’s acting, but has brawn and a pout of great verve.

Armie Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin lacks David McCallum’s beatnik posture and dress. Hammer seems to be on an anger management binge, while McCallum was a love god for most of my teenage friends. I can’t see that fate in Armie’s future.

Unusually – I was always contrary – my favourite was Mr Waverly, played by Leo G. Carroll. Hugh Grant is wonderful. I missed Leo, but only for a second. Hugh Grant is getting better and better with every picture he makes.

Alicia Vikander is the obligatory female sidekick and she sure can kick. She wears the fashion well, too. Elizabeth Debicki is a good bad gal.

Huge plaudits should go to the set and costume designers as even the phones look real, given we are in the 1960s.

And the plot is okay. You may find the idea that an American and a Russian spy must unite to save the world from nuclear doom plot to be just a tad familiar. On the other hand, it’s a good premise.

Excellent chases, decent explosions and great escapes are all present and correct.

And the 120-minute running time only has a few saggy bits.

The problem is that director Guy Ritchie and his team of writers lack subtlety. Too much that was winsome and adorable, in the original, is just plain bashed, here.

I shudder to think what they might make of the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. I am amusing myself thinking of who might play her. And in these modern times, she’ll probably be The Woman, which will be more correct but a lot less fun.

Everyone at the very-packed Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed it, as did I and my Very Intelligent Friend.

Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic and wonderful theme in barely used here, which is a real pity.

So, big kudos on style. May the inevitable sequel have a bit more substance.

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