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.

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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.

Posted by: greercn | August 31, 2017

The Limehouse Golem

This very entertaining mystery was shown at a free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse.

Peter Ackroyd wrote the novel and Jane Goldman has adapted it for the screen.

Originally, Alan Rickman was meant to have the lead role of Inspector Kildare. Rickman had to withdraw, due to ill health and – sadly – died.

Bill Nighy is very compelling here and keeps the viewer’s attention.

Olivia Cooke excels as music hall star Lizzie Cree. I first noticed her in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” in which she was terrific.

Cooke’s performance here must put her into the top rank of British actresses. She’s wonderful.

Young actress Amelia Crouch is astonishing as the young Lizzie and Keeley Forsyth has a terrific scene as Lizzie’s mother.

Maria Valverde, Douglas Booth and Eddie Marsan have superb scenes.

Juan Carlos Medina directs and he preserves a sense of threat, poverty and music hall joys, all of which are essential to this story.

It all looks rather dark and grimy and is set in east London in the 1880s. The comparative light and warmth of the music hall setting offer a great contrast.

Various historical figures are turned into characters here, to good effect. You get Karl Marx, George Gissing and Dan Leno, albeit as imagined.

If you love libraries, you’ll adore the recreation of the old British Library here.

Most of the time, Nighy and Cooke who dominate the action.

Hopefully, you haven’t read the book so you’ll get to gasp a few times, as did many of the audience at this screening.

The violence is graphic and may trouble those who are squeamish.

I enjoyed it. I have reservations, but telling you about those would offer spoilers.

You should see it. Then, we can discuss my issues with this perfectly entertaining English murder mystery.

Posted by: greercn | August 30, 2017

Girls Trip

Are you okay with vulgarity? Do you find “Bridesmaids” and the “Hangover” movies very funny?

You’re in the same territory, here.

I never heard of Tiffany Haddish but she is the funniest of all, in this. And she stands out when she is on screen, even with Queen Latifah, Regina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Four old friends from university go off to New Orleans. Will the tensions between them be resolved? And can the sad singletons among them find love?

Answering those questions takes salty language, vulgar situations and for me, much laughter.

The mostly-female audience at the Stratford East Picturehouse all enjoyed it and giggled throughout.

It’s great to see a movie that features four strong black women and one in which the occasional white person is just peripheral.

But Kate Walsh has a few moments that made me laugh out loud.

The supporting cast is terrific and features a whole lot of celebrity cameos.

I could have done with fewer mentions of God, but I think that’s now mandatory in American films.

It all slows a little, in the middle but then revs up towards a satisfactory resolution. And it’s only two hours and two minutes long.

Afterwards, the only thing that troubled me was trying to suppress the urge to add an apostrophe to the poster for “Girls Trip”.

Posted by: greercn | August 30, 2017

Atomic Blonde

“Atomic Blonde” thinks it has an Important Message. Pretty, violent and stylish moments float by. A female secret agent played by Charlize Theron should rivet your attention to the screen. Often, she does.

But believing you have something BIG To Say and actually having it are two different things. This empress spy has many new clothes of the fabulous variety.

Yet the plot feels dizzyingly contrived and detailed and you wish you had games on your phone, like the others do in the screening.

A long take fight scene is brutal and endless. So why did I think of the old “Batman” cartoons and long for “pow”, “biff” and “pow” to appear on the screen?

It’s based on a graphic novel – groan – called “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston. It won’t trouble my reading list although I am sure it is just grand.

Plot? We are in Berlin in 1989 and the Wall is coming down. Spies are dying. Theron is meant to be playing a British spy but her accent lingers between American and South African, with a few clipped bits.

Fortunately, you’re not here for the talking.

Is it feminist? Both Theron and Sofia Boutella have great moments. I long to see Boutella in a good movie since she lights up her scenes in bad ones. I failed to review “The Mummy” as I fell asleep when she wasn’t on screen.

James McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman and Eddie Marsan have moments. Goodman has lost a lot of weight and now looks slightly pleated.

It will undoubtedly have a big impact on fashion design. Expect those sharp coats and high heels with spikes to be everywhere on the runways, next year.

Sadly, “Atomic Blonde” is just not a very good movie. It’s not terrible and it’s not too long.

Music, cinematography and style are in charge, here to the detriment of the plot. As a big plus, there is a sex scene. There have been way too few of those in this summer’s movie and I hope this sets a trend. Oh, how I miss the mandatory sex scene all new films used to have.

Others at the Stratford East Picturehouse enjoyed a variety of games on their phones, during stretches when nothing happened. They snapped their heads back to the screen during the fight scenes and during the sex scene.

I had high hopes, going in. If this is the future of feminism, at least it has gorgeous clothes, hair and cosmetics that could kill you with a single flick of mascara.

Posted by: greercn | August 17, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

It starts so well. Swirling space effects – with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing – as different species meet. There are glorious details. You anticipate the magic of Luc Besson is about to thrill your senses, just as “The Fifth Element” reinvented science fiction.

Not so fast. Hold on. After those first minutes wow you, you’re on a beach with Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. Cara is to acting what Pinocchio is to wood. She is very pretty and wears her costumes beautifully. But she is a blank slate with great hair, eyebrows and bone structure, in that modern and slightly anorexic way.

Dane has had marvellous indie performances, most notably in “The Place Beyond The Pines”. But here? Cheesy blockbuster lines need an Arnie or a Bruce Willis to spit them out, with attitude. Dane mumbles.

What’s the deal with Cara bending and ducking so much? Ah. Cara and Dane are the same height, but she needs to look much shorter. I am reminded of being told about an actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood who had a wooden box to stand on so that he’d look taller than his leading ladies. It’s not good that I am thinking of this, as I watch.

Then, just as you’re thinking “give Dane and Cara a chance. This is Luc. He hired them for a reason. Surely that’s not a symptom of his male menopause?”

Irritation does not linger for long. You’re then thrown around on a gentle peaceful planet with characters who combine the incredible “Avatar” characters with heroin chic. The sand on the beach looks fat, compared to them.

Why the improbably stupid subtitle, which should be “Valerian and the Improbably Long Subtitle that Makes No Sense”. At least they didn’t annoy me with a colon.

The French comics were called “Valerian and Laureline”. But anyone can see that Cara’s Laureline fails to earn a name in the title.

Given that Bruce and Arnie are too old, who should have played the male lead? Tom Hardy or John Boyega could have owned this.

Rihanna totally steals the movie. Your mind has wandered, but snaps back as she entertains and acts so well. If only she, Elisabeth Moss, MyAnna Buring or Janelle Monae had played the lead in this. As I am watching, my mind wanders towards other possible leads that would have made this a fantastic film.

Clive Owen is always terrific, but you get the feeling that he has phoned in this performance. He’s menacing, but it’s all one note.

People at the Stratford East Picturehouse were restless. The light of apps and games flashed from their phones.

I will buy the DVD. There are so many gorgeous special effects and I’d like to fast forward through the scenes with the two leads to focus on the incredibly imaginative planet colours and shapes. Much is magical to look at.

It feels like Luc Besson has been browbeaten by Hollywood to tone down his essential French reworking of a French series of comics.

Hollywood, you should be ashamed. You made me suffer through 2 hours and 17 minutes, searching for the 90 minutes of sheer beauty.

I can’t even bear the idea that this bloated $177 million budget was all down to Luc. I want to blame bad choices in Hollywood. Please, let me be right on this?

And I can never see anything with Dane or Cara in it without thinking of high school chemistry and how that can go horribly wrong, when there is no chemistry at all.

Apparently, my high school teacher was right. Life and movies without chemistry might as well not exist.

I came to see a glorious and original and very French scifi epic. I left wanting lots more Rihanna. Rihanna rocks.

Posted by: greercn | August 1, 2017

Baby Driver

That sound you hear at the end of this movie is the progress of feminism being ground under the wheels of a fast car. Both the women in this cast are cartoons and they simply fold into girly gravel.

The car chase at the start of this is just terrific. The guy who came in late with the popcorn as he slowly walked across the whole row in front of me is very lucky I didn’t kick him.

Ansel Elgort is the baby of the title. Baby is an excellent driver, which makes him useful to bad guys planning bank heists.

Music is key to the action. Baby listens to a variety of really great music.

So, if the car stunts are fabulous and the tunes sizzle, why does this go into reverse as soon as the characters get out of their cars?

Perhaps the “one last bank job” theme has been done to death. If you watch movies, you know it’s always that last job that creates new problems.

CJ Jones is just terrific as Baby’s relative. Relatives are relative, after all. The actor is deaf, in real life and the scenes between him and Baby ring true.

Lily James as Debra and Elza Gonzalez as Darling play ornamental parts. Both are very pretty. Darling gets to wear great clothes. Debra has a few inconsequential lines.

Kevin Spacey is usually terrific but he seems to be phoning in this performance. And Jamie Foxx appears to be in a completely different film, channeling Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”.

Jon Hamm and Jon Berthal are just fine.

Unless you love fast cars and faster music (and I do) there is very little to attract women to this tale.

It’s all the more puzzling in that Edgar Wright makes wonderful and very funny movies. This appears to be aimed squarely and cynically at young men who buy popcorn. I expected more plot and meaning.

Should you see it? How do you feel about women being occasional and purely decorative? Is there space in your life for purely random action scenes?

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse perked up when the cars were racing, but slumped back during the talking while playing with guns scenes.

Watch the trailer. If you love that, you will enjoy this. And I liked it, but didn’t love it as much as I expected to. I felt like I’d dropped into a 1950s bank heist movie, with those values.

Posted by: greercn | July 27, 2017

Despicable Me 3

All the adorable elements are here. Gru! Lucy! The kids! Pharrell Williams!

Minions and their superb language either seal the deal for you, or you’re shaking your head and muttering something about movies for children.

As a recent Facebook quiz proved – because we all know that Facebook quizzes are always accurate – I am 15-years-old.

No, I am actually most old but I am a little too in touch with my inner child. So there.

The adults were laughing more than their kids, at the Stratford East Picturehouse. The boys laughed at the minions and the girls laughed at the unicorns.

Bring on another movie about the minions, please. And when will “Despicable Me 4” be along?

If you don’t feel like that and you don’t adore 1980s pop music or Pharrell Williams, just stay away. There is nothing for you here.

For the rest of us, yay!

Posted by: greercn | July 27, 2017

The Big Sick

Are you ready for a joke about 9/11? One’s on offer, here.

How you react to that will determine whether you love or hate this movie.

Aimed at millennials, a clash of cultures and work as a comedian are key strands.

You should stay away if you have recently had any medical dramas. The hospital scenes are airbrushed for the squeamish, but the emotions they provoke may feel like too much.

Based on a real story, the plot is basically boy meets girl, problems result, girl gets sick and is this love and will it triumph?

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote their own story and while Kumail plays himself, Zoe Kazan acts the part of Emily.

I saw it at a free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse and the young crowd all warmed to it. Still, you could see the little lights of Candy Crush as some of the l-o-n-g scenes in the middle of this two-hour film slowed down the pace. Otherwise, the audience slurped their drinks and crunched their popcorn but did not speak at the same time. This, readers, is respect at the movies.

Holly Hunter, Adeel Akhtar and Ray Romano have great scenes. Everyone in this is very good, although you may note that feminism is not high up on the agenda.

It’s nice to see a rom-com with an edge that’s aimed at youth, without it straying into young adult territory.

I might argue that the sex is antiseptic and the values are middle-class American and that both the young protagonists are shielded by rich parents. Who else but the young rich could possibly get movies made, in the current economic climate/

Despite misgivings about the class bias and lazy racism on show, many of the jokes and scenes were entertaining.

With a few qualifications, I liked it.

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