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.

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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.

Posted by: greercn | November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

Sitting through the two hours and 10 minutes of this offered 11 chances to peek at my watch. I love the modern reinventions of Marvel. Thor and Hulk were key parts of my youth. I should adore this, but I don’t.

Bits of it are really wonderful. This may be the best Stan Lee cameo ever. It’s during Thor’s haircut. It will stay in your mind.

With so much money spent on special effects, you’d think I’d just be gasping at the spaceships, explosions, fires and big monsters.

And those are great. But I longed for the story, character and meaning of other Marvel tales. I’d almost forgotten it, minutes after the final credits rolled.

Tessa Thompson is terrific. Idris Elba has moving moments. Chris Hemsworth brings huge energy and an excellent level of fitness to the role.

There are some laughs but these are of the corny and annoying kind. It was just me and a teenage boy laughing out loud, at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

Cate Blanchett is the villain and she’s okay. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki doesn’t have much to do. Jeff Goldblum is funny.

It’s a tale for young boys and for men who don’t want to grow up. The rest of us should just watch the trailer. Has Marvel given up on its adult fans and decided the teenage boys are the only ones they want to appeal to?

And it’s November 2018 and the only three movies that stay in my head are “Wind River”, “The Other Side Of Hope” and “Mindhorn”. I may have to produce a top five films list rather than a top ten.

Posted by: greercn | October 28, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

“Denis, Denis, I’m so in love with you…” Blondie

“In these shoes? No way!” Kirsty MacColl

With a soundtrack that drills into your head, banging away like the sounds in an MRI machine, everything about this wants to be Very Important.

Denis Villeneuve is a genius director. And he’s from Quebec and everything he does thrills me and reminds me of Montreal.

And yet, while I enjoyed the two hours and 44 minutes of this, it left me feeling a little flat, afterwards. The original “Blade Runner” movie was a slow burner, for me and I didn’t love it until the fourth viewing.

Frankly, dear reader, I wanted to see the original “Blade Runner” again. And I wanted to reread Philip K Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”.

I kept noticing how annoying the shoes are. All the women wear these weird and clicking high heels. In the future, you are as wrecked by your shoes as you were in the 1950s.

Characters in this – apart from Ryan Gosling (a Canadian from the west) and Harrison Ford (a grumpy American) have that definitive Montreal accent. It’s neither English nor French. It doesn’t matter where you came from. You sound slightly staccato and foreign.

K (Ryan Gosling, reprising much of what he did in “Drive”) stumbles on a secret when he’s chasing down Sapper Morton. In this part, Dave Bautista is all too briefly on screen.

Advertising signs and writing in different languages makes you hope this will be like “Arrival” and bring a deeper message.

There’s a sort of sex scene that’s almost sexy, but not quite.

By the time you get to Harrison Ford (and Elvis Presley), origami and animals join with other reminders of the film this is the sequel to.

Jared Leto appears to be in an entirely different movie. This role was meant to go to David Bowie.

Carla Juri is Dr Ana and her scenes are very moving.

But is anything important being said about being human, survival and how we deal with each other?

Will the future really be this annoying and empty?

Mainly, I am disappointed that so little of its dystopian vision stays with me, other than enormous rooms and flying transport. And I am not sure that view will change. I will see it again. Too many others will make me and urge me to reconsider my lack of deeper reaction.

Denis, I am still in love with your vision and your flair. But I hate those shoes. Even the strongest women might find it hard to do anything meaningful if what’s on their feet makes them hobble and grimace in pain.

Posted by: greercn | October 3, 2017

Victoria and Abdul

It’s imperfect history, but Judi Dench’s delightful reprise of her role in “Mrs Brown” has many lovely and funny moments.

Queen Victoria is old. She has reigned forever. She’s tired, grumpy and bored.

Enter Abdul Karim who cheers up and charms Victoria. He is played by Ali Fazal who has joy and energy and everything his queen lacks.

Ali Fazal is a terrific actor. He never looks outclassed by Judi Dench.

Eddie Izzard is very good as the Prince of Wales and he has amazing scenes. Adeel Akhtar has touching moments as Mohammed, who accompanies Abdul to England.

Tim Pigott-Smith died in April 2017 so his performance reminds us of why he will be missed.

As Puccini. Simon Callow is hilarious.

Director Stephen Frears directs well and the one hour and 52 minutes go by quickly. Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed watching it and laughed appreciatively at the funny bits.

If you do see it – and it’s not normally my choice of viewing = do look up the real story, afterwards. As always, truth is stranger and much more interesting than fiction.

As anti-racist stories go, this has its message. And women who are getting older are rare in movies, as central characters.

There are laudable aims here and it all works, within its limits.

If you like looking at palaces, banquets and royal scenes, this is for you.

Posted by: greercn | September 25, 2017

Wind River

Film Noir is the wrong description of this. Given the sheer amounts of snowy storms, this is a Film Noir et Blanc. That’s black and white, in French. It is a colour film, but the crime is viewed through sheets of pristine snow.

If you love crime thrillers, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s probably the best film I’ve seen this year.

Violent scenes are essential to the plot, but do avoid seeing this if you can’t handle those.

Jeremy Renner is terrific as Cory Lambert. He works as a tracker in the snow of Wyoming.

Taylor Sheridan (writer of “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”) directs and writes. He gets the best performances seen on screen from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. who plays an FBI agent called in to help solve the mystery behind the death of a young First Nations woman who lived on the Wind River Reservation.

Kelly Asbille is particularly impressive in her scenes that tell the story of the young woman who has died.

So much here is utterly beautiful. The snowmobile riding through the mountains hypnotises the viewer.

Then, the next scene repels and shocks you.

Jon Bernthal, Graham Greene, Apesanahkwat and Julia Jones stand out in an incredibly good ensemble.

Twists and turns are genuinely shocking and the story will draw you in and move you.

Without being overtly political, there is justified anger here at the plight of America’s First Nations.

If it’s actually true that rapes of First Nation women are not recorded as a category in America, that’s astonishing and disgusting when all other categories are recorded.

Individualism, pain, discrimination and natural beauty are all key to this.

You have to see it. If you can stomach the violence, I can promise you that you won’t see anything better this year.

Posted by: greercn | September 25, 2017

God’s Own Country

“God’s Own Country” wears its art on its sleeve. Animal husbandry, gay sex and farm solitude are key to this story.

It’s grim up north. If you’re stuck holding a farm together after your dad got ill and you’re secretly gay, those glowering skies don’t help your mood.

Early on, director Francis Lee has a gorgeous slow shot of a black and white bird that’s stuck in a cage, pushing at one side and then the other.

Many other scenes are very lovely, in Lee’s debut. I wanted to love it, but I ended up liking it.

Johnny Saxby (played by Josh O’Connor) holds his life together with binge drinking, angry sex and vomit, in equal measures.

Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is a seasonal farm worker who has a deft line in tenderness with new-born lambs.

Ian Hart plays Johnny’s dad and Gemma Jones plays his granny. I was a little confused as I assumed they were a couple, until Johnny called her “Granny”. Jones doesn’t look old enough to be Hart’s mother. I’ve looked up their birth dates and she is old enough.

Since women start getting grandmother parts in films at about the age of 40, I shouldn’t be surprised.

There’s sex with muddy marks and sex in mud that leaves no muddy marks. The one hour and 44 minutes go by very quickly.

Maybe you’ll love it. It’s a worthwhile story and an enjoyable and different take on farming and love.

Music and photography are excellent and each of the performances has a special tenderness.

I should love it. I will go away and tell myself off for having insufficient depth.

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