Posted by: greercn | April 27, 2017

Their Finest

Gemma Arterton finally gets a movie role that allows her to glow in and to own every scene. She shows such fire and dignity that you never take your eyes off her.

Sam Claflin is very moving and different from how we have seen him before. Bill Nighy is funny, driven and utterly convincing.

The story is set in World War 2. Arterton plays Catrin Cole who is brought into writing film dialogue aimed at women. The goal is to get American women to convince their men to join in the war.

Based on a book titled “Their Finest Hour And A Half”, this story could have been slimmed down to the standard 90 minutes of 1940s films.

Much of it is directed crisply, but Lone Scherfig permits a few scenes to linger a few minutes past their ideal length. Those scenes about Cole’s marriage added little to the tale.

Jeremy Irons and Rachael Stirling have great moments. Henry Goodman and Eddie Marsan lift the comedy level and make the shocking twists all the more startling.

It’s a terrific ensemble. There are a few continuity glitches in the 1940s sets – some windows and clothes are just too modern – but the old device of setting a film within a film allows the viewer to appreciate the contribution of the women of World War 2.

Deft points are made about propaganda and its impact.

Stratford East Picturehouse was very full and the viewers enjoyed it, although I noticed they got restless at the same times I started stretching and peeking at my watch.

The friend I went with enjoyed it unconditionally and does not share my doubts.

Arterton is now a big star and I will go see anything she is in. The success of “Their Finest” proves that we have a limitless appetite for movies about World War 2.

Posted by: greercn | April 27, 2017

The Fate Of The Furious (Fast and Furious 8)

People who do the stunts are the real heroes of this franchise.

Either you love these movies or you wish to ignore them. There is no middle ground on this.

I adore each one and look forward to the next. Vin Diesel still convinces as an action hero. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham bring a new energy and life to these stories of outlaw gangs with fast cars.

Charlize Theron is a very engaging villain. She makes corny lines become dramatic threats.

Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood shine as the lawmen and Nathalie Emmanuel has a few lovely moments.

F. Gary Gray brings high-octane energy to directing and he manages to keep all the key elements, while giving it all a new twist.

Stratford East Picturehouse was packed, even during the third week of FF8’s release.

Of course, it’s all preposterous. From the street race in Cuba through to the Arctic chase, nothing makes sense.

Suspend your logical and critical facilities. Sit through the endless list of those who did the stunts and the special effects.

I love it and can hardly wait for FF9. The homage to Paul Walker here is dignified and catches you by surprise.

The team making this keep it all zipping along. And the music is terrific.

Posted by: greercn | April 27, 2017

The Boss Baby

Alec Baldwin brings his distinctive voice to this animated tale of sibling rivalry and management techniques.

The story is about how young Tim gets a new brother who is a fully-formed manager, complete with suit and briefcase. His parents don’t see the baby as a threat. But Tim sees danger in this new member of the family.

There are insights into family dynamics and sibling rivalry and there are deft swipes at the language of business.

I laughed a lot. Even the fart joke is very funny.

The disruptions brought by a new baby, pictures of adorable puppies and Elvis impersonators form the basis of the plot.

Don’t look for depth, here. It’s another of those animations that the adults will get more out of than the kids.

At just over an hour and a half, it’s delightful. Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouse was smiling and laughing.

It might be too much for the youngest children, but older kids will appreciate the humour and style of this. DreamWorks has made a very enjoyable film with great characters and positive messages.

Posted by: greercn | April 27, 2017

The Lost City of Z

Z, when there are several of them, means sleeping and you might find yourself snoozing at times during this much too long movie.

It’s all very beautiful and the images shimmer with light. But that’s not enough to keep your attention from wandering.

The story should have engaged my emotions more than it did. Real-life Amazon explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) becomes convinced that an advanced civilisation can be found in South America. Hunnam brings physical energy to the part and the movie starts well.

Sienna Miller plays the wife he leaves behind, for years at a time, in the early 20th century. We keep being told how strong she is. Most of the time, she just waits at home.

Occasionally, she gets a line or a part of a scene.

But this tale is all about the boys who were the early explorers. Robert Pattinson gets a few interesting moments but the whole show is stolen by veteran actor Franco Nero. I wish he had been on screen for longer.

Early exploration of the Amazon must have been a lot more compelling than it looks here.

Period detail is deftly done, but the slowness of the pace may dull your interest.

I’d actually like to see this on TV. I think it might be a much better movie, on a smaller screen.

Posted by: greercn | March 30, 2017

Elle

Isabelle Huppert commands the screen throughout “Elle”. Her character, Michele, owns a video game company. She’s also the daughter of a serial killer.

And she’s been raped, but decides not to report it as her father’s crimes have already brought her into the public eye, with negative results.

I thought this would be unbelievable difficult to watch. Horrible scenes play into deep fears.

But this is Paul Verhoeven – I am not a fan – so “Elle” is never less than stylish and detailed, even when it’s nasty.

It’s in French, but the English subtitles are very good.

There are lots of great performances here, but Huppert manages to outshine them all. She is an extraordinary actress and lifts what should be voyeuristic and sad to the realm of artistry.

Based on the 2012 novel “Oh” by Philippe Djian, the film’s themes explore power, revenge and relationships.

A very-full Stratford East Picturehouse audience seemed far more relaxed than I was about viewing this.

I jumped a few times.

If you have a strong stomach for violence, Huppert’s performance is worth seeing. I’m very glad I didn’t see it late at night as it would have given me nightmares.

Stunning apartments, beautiful outdoor locations and fabulous clothing all feature here.

There are a few holes in the plot. Describing those would give too many spoilers, but I’d welcome a chance to discuss them with others who have seen it.

Posted by: greercn | March 30, 2017

Get Out

Couples who manage despite differences should be applauded rather than being dumped into a horror film.

“Get Out” is clever, funny, wry and occasionally grisly. Horror is not my preferred genre, but my Very Intelligent Friend said I should see it and I trust him.

It’s essential viewing for those who care about race and can handle the icky bits and quite a lot of swearing. It opens with violence and key scenes feature blood and pain.

Daniel Kaluuya is superb as Chris Washington. His white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) takes him home to meet her parents, who live in a creepy suburb.

Their car hits a deer on the trip. Curiously, “Elle” features a similar scene.

Jordan Peele directs and writes an original and distinctive thriller, with sufficient horror elements to earn that R rating, which means kids under 15 will be anxious to see it. I’d have snuck in, somehow, when I was 12.

Apart from Kaluuya – who has a perfect American accent, despite being British – the best performance is LilRey Howery as Rod. He has the funniest lines and fantastic scenes.

Catherine Keener is fine as Rose’s mother and Bradley Whitford shines as the dad. Caleb Landry Jones brings more creepiness to Jeremy, Rose’s brother.

Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel and Lakeith Stanfield all have great moments.

“Get Out” has many savage indictments of white liberal attitudes. A super script is enhanced by a great score, which is mostly by Michael Abels.

If you can stand the horror scenes, do see it. Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouses loved it. White people laughed a lot less than the mostly-black audience, but then that’s to be expected.

Relationships across race differences can be tough. “Get Out” crams in a bunch of skilled commentary on that, while being very entertaining.

Jordan Peele is a director and writer to watch out for, in the future.

Posted by: greercn | March 28, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Disney animations have massive and lasting popularity. Two hit live shows have come out of “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast”. The Disney DVDs sell in huge numbers.

A new trend of making humans, hyped up by CGI and 3D, where once there were charming animations brings mixed blessings.

“Jungle Book” was an okay remake, but I missed the cartoon Baloo. Very little matches the joy of watching that bear sing “Bare Necessities”.

Emma Watson is fine as Belle, the bookish girl and Beauty of the title, who meets the beast. Kevin Kline is quite affecting as Belle’s widowed dad and he benefits from looking like his animated counterpart.

Dan Stevens looks a lot more interesting and compelling as the Beast than he does as a human.

The so-called gay plot brings nothing that will trouble anyone. I would have had no idea it was a gay plot if I hadn’t been told.

Josh Gad as LeFou and Luke Evans as Gaston are almost cartoons, despite being human.

Scenes are here that terrified the youngest children, who screamed out in a fully-packed Stratford East Picturehouse. I was hiding behind my daughter’s shoulder, a few times. How is this PG?

And the best song from the live show – “When We’re Human Again” – isn’t here and three new songs are shoehorned in that don’t really fit, for me.

I missed Angela Lansbury’s gorgeous speaking and singing voice, as Mrs Potts.

Hattie Morahan is terrific, in a smaller part. And the flashbacks to Belle’s early life are very moving.

There are vast numbers of celebrity voices.

The enchanted castle, objects and rose effects are all wonderful. Using this castle in the beginning credits, instead of the Disney castle, worked really well.

A shade of gold that I will call Trump embellishes many objects and clothes.

For me, it’s an okay movie instead of a great movie. But my daughter loved it and she said she will buy the DVD, as soon as it comes out.

Director Bill Condon goes for sentimental choices and these worked a lot better for the others watching than they worked for me.

Jean Cocteau’s version of this story still moves me more than any other version.

But this new Disney version will be commercially successful, everywhere. Subtlety is not appreciated nor is it highly-prized, on screen. Pity.

But I did appreciate being part of a big audience that loved every minute of this (too long) movie. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Posted by: greercn | March 19, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

Fans of John C. Reilly’s amazing and eccentric performances will be thrilled by how he lifts this tale.

Kong is rather magnificent, but – disappointingly – this is a war movie rather than a big monster movie.

You get lots of large creatures and very creepy settings. The lines are meant to be meaningful. Most of the actors play soldiers leaving active service in Vietnam in 1973.

Super songs from the 1960s and 1970s will thrill those of a certain (older) age, during the early scenes.

We meet our stars, who include Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston.

All the people here are disappointingly wooden, except for Reilly and Samuel L Jackson. Even John Goodman has little to do, other than Say Lines That Should Be Important.

Is it worth seeing? Is it just another title with a colon?

I enjoyed it. I prefer other versions of the Kong stories, but this was okay. It has moments that are genuinely scary.

But you never really care about what will happen to any of the people, other than Reilly. And I wanted Kong – always King Kong, to me – to live a long life and be okay.

One positive note is that you never go anywhere near New York City. So that, at least, is progress.

Posted by: greercn | March 19, 2017

Viceroy’s House

Did you know your life was lacking an English-language Bollywood film? It was an absence and now that’s been fixed.

“Viceroy’s House” is terrific and moving entertainment. It has flaws, but its many touches of laughter, romance and moral ambiguity all enhance the experience.

That Bollywood feel slips a little, during the second half. But all of it zaps by, very quickly.

I didn’t want to see this. A friend said it was like “Downton Abbey” and – apart from the WW1 episodes – I find Doownton tedious and overly-obsessed with the “upstairs” part of “Upstairs, Downstairs”

Director Gurinder Chadha is best known for “Bend It Like Beckham”. She has a grandparent who had a child die during the partition of India. In all, fourteen million people were displaced and a million more died.

As the last Viceroy of India, Hugh Bonneville does a good job in the part of Mountbatten. Gillian Anderson is Lady Mountbatten and has one of the most cut crystal English voices possible.

Both look terrific in those costumes and they bring fine notes of self-doubt to this.

I’ve been told that accusations of anti-Muslim ideas were made against this film. I think it marks out the divisions between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs without ascribing right or wrong to anyone.

Although the English rulers don’t emerge as perfect heroes, you get a sense of the terrible decisions made, when India won independence.

In the love story, the late Om Puri has far too little screen time, as the dad. I could have used about an hour more of him.

Huma Qureshi plays his daughter and she glows with energy. Manish Dayal is the young man who loves her but faces the barrier of being from another religion. I cared about what would happen to this young couple.

Denzil Smith was astonishing as Jinnah, the first leader of Pakistan.

Of the other performances – all of which are at least good – Simon Callow’s stood out.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to enjoy it and it leaves you thinking. I spent some time reading up on the history of India and Pakistan. If it brings more people to read about the actual events of 1947, that’s a good thing.

It’s a version of history for those who like costume drama and , yet, will be enjoyed by those of us who just remain fascinated by history.

Posted by: greercn | March 9, 2017

Logan

“Logan” is a really excellent film. Hugh Jackman plays Logan/Wolverine with grace and style and lifts this far above its Marvel Comics origin.

It’s a thoughtful story about getting older and protecting those you love. It feels like a fantastic old Western and, indeed, the main characters are shown watching “Shane”.

James Mangold directs and co-writes and it’s deep and original to watch.

In 2029, Logan, Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Logan are living off-grid, in Mexico. Few mutants remain. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) looks after them.

A young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) needs help. Will she get to where she needs to be? Or, will the bad guys catch her and kill her?

The road trip part of this is just delightful to watch. All 137 minutes whizzed by and left me longing for more.

It’s very violent and the first word is the “F” word. There’s a lot of swearing.

But it’s the most satisfying and thoughtful Marvel movie I have ever seen. Even those who are unfamiliar with the characters and do not share my affection for Marvel will find much to love.

Hugh Jackman is in almost every scene and he carries this exceptionally well. He ought to get an Oscar nomination for this extraordinary performance.

There is no Stan Lee cameo and there’s no teaser trailer, after the credits, so don’t wait for either of those.

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