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.

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”.

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