Posted by: greercn | May 23, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Explosions, chases, miles of sand and performances that respect the spirit of the old Mad Max movies are all here. Did you ever ask yourself what director George Miller might do with a massive budget? Wonder no more!

It takes a while to get used to Tom Hardy in the old Mel Gibson role. They are very different types of actors.

And Charlize Theron as Furiosa is an action woman who commands her scenes.

It’s pure genius to have the actor Hugo Keays-Byrne, who played villain Toecutter in the first 1979 movie, back here as lead villain.

In a post-apocalyptic desert world filled with evil, Max and Furiosa are thrown together. Furiosa is protecting a lot of very pretty woman and Nicholas Hoult plays a distinctive part in the mayhem that ensues.

The music, costumes, make-up and settings add to the desolate but beautiful look of it all.

I saw it in 3D at the Stratford East Picturehouse and the audience loved it. I felt 120 minutes was a bit too long, but it’s a normal length for dystopian future films, of which there are many.

Is it just me longing for a movie that shows a cheery future? Ah well. I was raised on Disney.

If you loved the old Mad Max features, you’ll adore this. It preserves the distinctive look of the originals, while adding lots of classy touches. The 3D is very special and pulls you in.

Posted by: greercn | May 23, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

Unabashedly vulgar and filled with cheap gags “Pitch Perfect 2″ is hilarious.

This stands alone, so there is no problem if you missed 2012’s “Pitch Perfect”.

American a cappella stars the Barden Bellas are back.

Banned from competition after a very public wardrobe malfunction, the only way forward for the vocal stars is to win an international contest.

What follows is guffaws which create a “Hangover” for girl power.

Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are at the heart of this and both are wonderful. Director Elizabeth Banks also has a key role, as a commentator.

If you want politically correct movies, stay away from this. My Very Intelligent Friend and I laughed out loud a lot. I feared I was leaking brain cells, given what was being said. But, oh, we both enjoyed it, as did everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

See it, if there is space in your life for brainless fun. The songs and dances are very good and it’s entertaining and full of joy.

Posted by: greercn | May 14, 2015

Spooks: The Greater Good

Once upon a time, there were lots of spies on TV. From “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” to “I Spy” to “The Avengers” (not Marvel), secret agents offered a way out of mundane life. These shows gave us excitement and luxury. The daddy of them all was and is James Bond.

Recently, spies have become thin on the ground, on small and large screens. “Spooks” – known as “MI5″ in North America – resurrected the genre and left you dizzy with wondering what had happened as each episode ended.

Fantastic actors came and went. The show killed off stars, shamelessly. Every character lived in a beautiful home, showing that spying paid well.

But it was a much more downbeat existence than that promised by earlier spy shows.

Does “Spooks” live up to viewer expectations?

It’s entertaining and Peter Firth is wonderful. Bleak times call for sad faces.

American interests are plotting to take over MI5. An evil terrorist – Arabic-speaking – is on the loose. Has Harry (Firth) turned against MI5?

New cast member Kit Harington plays Will Holloway. Harington is in “Game of Thrones”. Elyes Gabel is charismatic as Qasim the terrorist although he plays to stereotypes, throughout.

Originality was a major selling point of the TV show and there isn’t much of that on offer here.

But it all rattles along and the chases and explosions are all present and correct.

I found the beginning credits, with those peculiar square brackets, distracting and out of keeping with the rest of the story.

Tuppence Middleton, David Harewood and Tim McInnerny play key roles and are impressive. Jennifer Ehle has a great part. I wish I could stop seeing her as the ultimate Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice”. In my memory, she’s stuck in time.

My companion and I enjoyed it as did all at a very-full Stratford East Picturehouse. I was left wanting more of the quirkiness that characterised the original show.

Posted by: greercn | May 12, 2015

The Falling

Haunting, beautiful and provocative, “The Falling” is distinctive and stunning.

After watching the trailer, I feared it would be a “Picnic At Hanging Rock” copy, offering homage to female teenage tantrums.

Carol Morley has written and directed an utterly individual tale which stands alone as a very English thriller, with an original psychological and physical core.

Morley has astonishing visual power and the beauty of the countryside shimmers and threatens, in equal parts.

In 2006, she made a short film titled “The Madness of The Dance” and “The Falling” expands those ideas of mania and obsession. Concepts of alienation and loss from “Dreams Of A Life” are also here.

We are in 1969 and at school. These scenes made me remember how my school tunic used to itch. It’s all done so well you can feel the textures of the fabrics.

Abbie (Florence Pugh) and Lydia (Maisie Williams) have been best friends, but now face changes.

Writing and acting are of such a high standard. Everyone is terrific and believable, especially the young leads. Maxine Peake, Greta Scacchi and Monica Dolan have fantastic parts, but even actors with just a few lines are great.

Tracey Thorn’s voice adds to the sense of innocence and threat that winds through “The Falling”.

And it’s great to see so many women in one movie. Explorations of feminism, magic, closed communities and damage are all brought in with an exceptionally deft touch.

I loved this and you will too. It’s familiar enough in its themes to be accessible, yet pushes the viewer into feelings and thoughts. It’s a cut above most films.

Reader, I am a gushing fan and did not look at my watch, once.

Posted by: greercn | May 6, 2015

Far From The Madding Crowd

Sunlit and nature-loving, “Madding Crowd” has a few too many modern anachronisms. It’s still the best Thomas Hardy adaptation I’ve seen, on a small or large screen.

West Dorset in England looks wild and beautiful. If you have an inner continuity pedant (I do) the light outside the Boldwood house is just wrong for Dorset. A quick check reveals the house used here is in Buckinghamshire.

Historical romance has little appeal, for me. I question period details, get irritated by costume, sets and speech and become distracted by correcting these, in my head.

Liberties have been taken with fabrics, furnishings and words, here. This is set in 1870. Where is Mr Reasonably Accurate, when I need him?

Plot? Young woman inherits money and is chased by men.

An elephant in the room is that none of these actors looks or sounds anything like the people Hardy wrote. Carey Mulligan is very pretty, winsome and willful as Bathsheba Everdene. But I don’t believe her or her clothes. Did the “Hunger Games” author pay homage to Hardy, in her choice of name?

Troy needs to be absolutely gorgeous and Tom Sturridge is cute but not extraordinary. Boldwood’s Martin Sheen is full of the right kind of longing and obsession.

My big issue is with the casting of Gabriel. Matthias Schoenaerts is unbelievably handsome. Women (not just me) swoon. He’s a very fine actor, but there is no way any woman would dismiss him.

I wish I could have babies so I could have his children.

The Very Intelligent Friend I saw this with knows a lot about music (and everything else) and he was pleased with the choice of folk tunes, but wished that more of Hardy’s preferred tunes had been used here.

Director Thomas Vinterberg is great with small town gossip and he hits the community tone correctly, as he did in “The Hunt”, which is a much better film than “Madding Crowd” but lacks Schoenaerts. David Nicholls gets it right when he uses lines from Hardy, but he does stray into modern language about emotion too often. There’s too much Freud and not enough Hardy, in the words.

The music was all fine except that I wish Carey Mulligan would NOT sing in every film she is in. It is sweet parping, but no more than that. And it becomes cloying, within the first verse of anything.

See it if you, too, have a good friend who wants to see it. Otherwise, just reread the book and go visit Dorset.

Schoenaerts is in eight movies this year. I feel unbridled joy at this notion. Two down, six to go.

Posted by: greercn | May 4, 2015

John Wick

Dear Keanu,

We have the same birthday. Different years, but the same day. We are both late summer/early autumn babies.

And we share having dark hair, dark eyes and big noses. I am genetically disposed to love your movies.

“John Wick” taught me a few new instructions for living and I thought I should tell others:

1) Grief is hard to deal with.

2) Don’t kill puppies.

3) Always keep a lot of weapons under a concrete floor in your house.

4) Have the right tools to get them out, whenever you want.

5) Weird goal coins will get you in, anywhere. Where can I buy those, Keanu?

6) Innocent bystanders are okay to kill, if they get in between you and a bad guy or six.

7) A cool car is essential to a good life.

8) Ditto a beautiful home. But don’t worry if it gets messed up during a home raid. Just go out and kill.

9) The police don’t get involved if you destroy a building and about a gazillion people end up dead.

10) Relentless violence can actually become very boring to watch.

11) Ian McShane, Michael Nyqvist and Alfie Allen have good moments.

Keanu, I hope you were paid an awful lot of money and that this is doing really well at the box office. I still feel that’s 101 minutes of my life I can never get back.

Teenage boys may love this. But you, Keanu, need to make a really, really good movie soon or our special connection is over. I will change my birthday, or something.

Honey, you’re on movie star probation.

Big hugs,

Greer xxx

Posted by: greercn | May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Frenetic action packs the opening sequence, which features all the Avengers battling evil before the credits roll.

Of course, what follows is all Iron Man and Hulk’s collective fault. A quest for peace results in war.

Josh Wheedon directs and writes and the quips flow as fast as the explosions, chases and bad guys, who pile up in multiples.

You get about 10 movies in one. Curiously, it feels like a throwback to the 1970s style of “Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno”, when disaster and celebrities collided in big epics that left the viewer slightly dizzy.

Hawkeye’s home life is very different to the Marvel story, but it does offer some respite from the onslaught that is “Ultron”.

Stan Lee’s mandatory cameo sees him shouting “Excelsior” in a most satisfactory way. And there’s a rather sweet love story.

I went with a friend who had not seen Whedon’s previous “Avengers” film. He enjoyed it, although he probably wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been so insistent.

It’s 150 minutes long and will break box office records as it’s unabashedly populist.

Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L Jackson are all back. For me, there is too little of Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany have great moments and James Spader’s voice is memorable as Ultron.

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse was very packed and full of happy people.

I saw it in 2D so I will have to go back and see how 3D enhances this.

The usual end-credits teaser scene is moved up to during the credits, so you don’t have to sit through all 30 companies that added special effects to this. Characters in this don’t just try to save a city. “Ultron” employed a whole city’s worth of people.

As two more sequels are in the works, Marvel will continue to grow the movie industry.

Posted by: greercn | April 24, 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Cobain obsessives will be very happy watching this. The amount of detail about Kurt’s life, music, art and death is comprehensive. Painful to watch, the film details how the Nirvana star lived, shone and died.

Many of the stories here have been told before, but Brett Morgen has put together an impressive mix of home movies, interviews and recreations of painful moments. Animated scenes and art give strength and depth to this (mostly) sad story, set to music and words.

“Montage of Heck” is the title Kurt gave to an audio collage he made, before fame came along. It’s also an apt description of his life.

Heroin weaves its way into the picture. Brief happy moments with Courtney Love and baby Frances are shown.

Courtney and Frances approved this documentary. You wonder if Kurt’s mother really looks that much like Courtney. And parallels are drawn with how much Yoko Ono Lennon and Linda McCartney were hate figures for the fans.

It’s 145 minutes long and the camera lingers a little too long and reverently over the lyrics and art Kurt created.

Truly, it all comes down to the music. And you either believe those songs are as fresh and honest today as they were when you first heard them or you don’t.

At the Stratford East Picturehouse, everyone in the audience was singing along to all the songs. I was too.

Posted by: greercn | April 17, 2015

Dark Horse

Everyone loves an underdog story. “Dark Horse” is about how a few remarkable people in a small town in Wales decided to breed a racehorse.

It’s the engaging characters here and the very loveable horse, Dream Alliance, that grab your attention and hurtle you through a fantastic documentary.

It won the audience award at Sundance. Director and writer Louise Osmond has pulled together a mix of archive footage, reconstruction and interviews to create a memorable film.

Jan Vokes is the inspiring woman who had a dream. She enlisted 30 friends, including Howard Davies, to help fund the process.

Commentary on class exists here and the reality and ordinary nature of the real lives operate in sharp contrast to the high stakes of racing.

It all warms your heart. It was another free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse. It’s truly worth seeing and will lift your spirits and your day.

Posted by: greercn | April 17, 2015

A Little Chaos

Films about vast formal gardens are rare. “A Little Chaos” is the story behind the extraordinary work that went into building the greenery at Versailles in France, during the 17th century.

Matthias Schoenaerts is real-life leading gardener Andre Le Notre. Kate Winslet plays Sabine De Barra, who may or may not be a historical character. While they are making beautiful water features, will love bloom? What do you think?

Alan Rickman directs and stars as King Louis XIV. He reminds me of Geoffrey Rush, in this role.

If gentle historical tales with heaving bosoms and flouncy wigs are your thing, you’ll love this. They aren’t for me, but I enjoyed seeing this, as did my friends.

Having said that, it wouldn’t have appealed to us if it hadn’t been a free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse.

Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle and Helen McCrory put in good performances in minor parts.

The people, scenery and plot all mesh together well. It provoked me to go out into my garden and do stuff. That’s no Versailles, but it looks much better for the mowing and weeding I did.

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