Archives for 2016 | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews

Kilburnlad

Comme un Avion

My latest French film viewing on Amazon Prime. It fascinates me how the English titles of French films are often far removed from the original French. In this case 'Comme un Avion' becomes 'The Sweet Escape'. I can see the reasoning behind each, the change presumably reflecting the distributors take on the different cultures.

Comme un Avion

Michel dreams of being an airmail pilot and spends quite a lot of time walking around with a model plane in his hand simulating flying. Thus you can see where Comme un Avion (as a plane) comes from. Despite being bought flying lessons for his birthday, one suspects that he realises that he will never be an aviator, so when he spots an advert on line for a kayak, his attention is immediately drawn to the similarities of cruising along in a plane and cruising along in a kayak. So he buys the kayak and plans a self-sufficient adventure, having had no training other than practising by walking around on his roof terrace with the frame of the kayak suspended about him as he pretends to paddle.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

We recorded this film a considerable time ago as it had received very good reviews, although I didn't know much about the story. Yesterday evening we finally got around to watching it.

It is said to be a response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster although the setting is fictional. It is certainly an unusual film that verges on fantasy, but I've no doubt that there are bayou communities in Louisiana that exist in such poverty and are at such risk from rising sea levels.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The star of the film is Hushpuppy, brilliantly played by Quvenzhané Wallis, who was 6 at the time of the filming. At the age of 9 she became the youngest Best Actress nominee in the history of the Oscars. In the film she lives with her father, Wink, in a ramshackle home raised above the ground in deference to the constant risk of flooding. Wink and Hushpuppy seem to have a fraught relationship as they literally just survive in the hostile environment, not that either of them complains too much. Their neighbours are equally bizarre, although apparently reasonably content with their way of life. As if things aren't difficult enough, a major storm is forecast and everybody makes preparations as best they can, although in the aftermath the raised homes prove to be largely inadequate against the freak weather.

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Les Anarchistes

I'm back to watching French films on Amazon Prime while I'm on my exercise bike. I've had a break while I watched Season 3 of Arrow, which quite frankly has started to become a bit too daft as they try to develop new plot lines. Everyone's turning into a superhero of sorts!

Anyway, back to Les Anarchistes. As the Guardian reviewer said, "…. a film that couldn’t be any more French if it tried." It opened the Canne's Critics Week in 2015. Set in Paris in 1899, Jean Albertini is a normal policeman who is taken aside by a superior and asked to infiltrate an anarchists' group. He gets himself a job at the nail factory, a hellish sort of place where the workers have plenty to grumble about, and where members of the group are employed. He strikes up a particular friendship with Elisée Mayer, after 'saving' him during a police raid, which itself was a set-up to enable Jean to prove his loyalty to the group.

Les Anarchistes

While Elisée clearly trusts Jean, other members of the group are less sure. Elisée seems not to be in the best of health, and his girlfriend, Judith, soon starts to develop an interest in Jean, feelings that Jean willingly reciprocates. We therefore have the classic dilemma of the infiltrator having split loyalties between his police role and his feelings for Judith.

The anarchists exploits become more and more daring, while Jean continues to feed intelligence to his superior. We see Jean becoming concerned as he is obliged to participate in criminality and at one point asks to be taken off the case, a request that is firmly rejected. The dichotomy has to come to an end and as you may imagine there isn't a clean solution.

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Allied

Today's film was Allied, with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Brad's break up with Angelina and rumours about an affair with Ms Cotillard have sort of overshadowed this film, and reviews have certainly been mixed. Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian was scathing about the lack of chemistry between them, although I suppose it depends on how you define chemistry. As operatives working behind enemy lines at the beginning of the film you would expect a certain amount of distrust between them, but the relationship seemed to warm up nicely as things progressed.

Allied

After a daring assassination in German occupied Casablanca the pair, Max Vatan and Marianne Beauséjour return to London to marry, after awaiting the outcome of a positive vetting for Marianne. Everything is domestic bliss until Max is summoned to meet an intelligence officer, whereupon he is told that his wife may not in fact be who he thinks she is. In fact she may be working for the Germans. Max will not accept this and proceeds to ignore orders in his quest to prove her innocence. This unfortunately doesn't have the outcome that he was hoping for, but it doesn't diminish his feelings for her.

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A United Kingdom


A United Kingdom

We saw this film last week but I've only just got around to writing the review. Based on a true story it tells of a romance between a young coloured man, Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo, who was studying in Britain after the war, and an English office worker, Ruth Williams, played by Rosamund Pike. This in itself marked them out for attention in the late 40s, but when it transpired that the young man was in fact the heir to the African kingdom of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) it wasn't just their families and the local racists that they needed to worry about. The British Government effectively forbade the marriage, being under pressure from South Africa, which was at that time entering the apartheid regime. They married anyway and there followed a struggle against the full force of the British government and the cultural expectations of Seretse's people in Bechuanaland.

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By the Sea

As the review in the Guardian says, "only a star of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s immense clout could get a film like By the Sea made." It stars Jolie and her (now estranged) husband, Brad Pitt, as Vanessa and Roland, a couple whose marriage is not in a good place. Vanessa is constantly morose, for reasons that are only revealed well into the film. While Roland is a writer. They've travelled to the south of France ostensibly, it would appear, to inspire Roland in writing a new book. He seems to do far more drinking than writing, having established a friendship of sorts with the local bar owner, who himself is still mourning the loss of his wife. His love for his departed wife contrasts starkly with the state of Roland and Vanessa's relationship.

By the Sea

A lot of the very sparse dialogue is in French, and given that I could hardly hear the softly muttered English dialogue at times, subtitles were indispensable. The film moves at a pedestrian pace, with the first half hour or more seeming to comprise of Roland going to the bar, Vanessa reclining on the bed or the balcony, and the two of them constantly at odds. Things change, however, when a newly married French couple occupy the adjacent room. By chance Vanessa found a peep-hole giving a view of the couple's bedroom and it isn't long before she is spying on them. One assumes she is envious of their relationship rather than looking for titillation. At the same time she is sure that Roland wants to have sex with the young woman, although there's absolutely nothing to substantiate her accusations.

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A Street Cat Named Bob

We went to see this film on Wednesday. Helen, who watches a lot more films than I do, had mopped up most of the titles that were screening this week but had given this one a miss. I quite fancied it, and I'm pleased that I decided to go.

A Street Cat Named Bob

Based on a true story, and following a very successful book, the film recounts the story of James Bowen, a recovering drug addict who lives rough and earns money busking around Covent Garden. After succumbing to temptation when offered heroin by an associate he almost dies, and this episode convinces him that he must kick the habit. With the help of his support worker Val, played by Joanne Froggatt, he is given a flat where he is visited by a ginger cat. After unsuccessfully trying to find the owner, he adopts the animal, or should I say that the cat adopts him. It follows him to the bus as he sets off for a day's busking. After this, the cat becomes his constant companion and is extremely popular with the public, leading to a welcome uplift to his takings.

Early in their relationship the cat returns injured, which serves as an introduction to a neighbour, Betty, who is a volunteer at a local vet. James ends up spending his food money on the vets' fee and so begins the close relationship between him and the cat, who he has named Bob at Betty's suggestion. James also clearly has feelings for Betty, which are repressed because he doesn't want her to learn he is a junkie. Betty's brother died of an overdose.

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Today's film at the Wimblington Film Club, which I run along with a woman from the village, was Florence Foster Jenkins. I missed this film while it was on at the cinema, so today it was as new to me as it was to our audience at the film club.

Florence Foster Jenkins

It is a delightful film, a comedy tinged with sadness. The marvellous Meryl Streep plays Florence, an heiress with a passion for music, having trained as a concert pianist but been unable to pursue her dream. As a wealthy woman in New York she sponsors many people in the arts, and at times is clearly duped by them. No more so than by her vocal coach, Carlo Edwards, the assistant director at the Metropolitan Opera. Florence dearly wants to sing opera, and believes that she has a good voice, which unfortunately isn't the case. But Carlo, happy to be well paid, assures Florence that she is singing beautifully.

Supporting Florence, and ensuring that she is not embarrassed by performing outside of a very select band of people, is her husband, St. Clair Bayfield, played by Hugh Grant. He is a far from successful actor, but dotes on Florence, even though he lives in a separate apartment and has a woman friend. We are led to believe that Florence is happy with this arrangement, but it's perhaps more a matter of 'what she doesn't know won't hurt her.' Assisting Florence is her new pianist, Cosmé McMoon, who at first is incredulous at Florence's singing, until St. Clair 'explains things' to him.

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Nocturnal Animals

I went to see this film knowing next to nothing about it. It's a tricky film to review because it would be wrong to give too much away. The power of the film is in the way it unfolds, and it's one of those films that requires you interpret what's going on. My interpretation may not be the same as yours.

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As the intro starts we see a number of extremely obese women, naked all bar majorette hats and epaulets, a not too pleasant scene, and one that makes you think what an earth is this film about. We soon learn that these women are art exhibits in a gallery where we're introduced to Susan Morrow, the art gallery owner played by Amy Adams. Susan is married to Hutton, and it's soon apparent that all is not well with their marriage, and Hutton's emotions are in any event elsewhere.

This is Susan's second marriage, her first husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, being an entirely different character to Hutton. Edward is a writer and Susan receives a manuscript from him entitled Nocturnal Animals. The book is dedicated to her and Nocturnal Animal was a nickname he used for her. At the same time as she starts to read the manuscript she becomes aware of Hutton's possible infidelity. She finds the novel devastating, and as she reads we see the story of the novel unfold as a separate story within a story, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing a husband, Tony Hastings, and Isla Fisher, whose appearance is easily confused with Amy Adams, playing his wife Laura. They and their daughter endure horrific treatment after being run off the road during the night by three men.

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A Bigger Splash

Helen bought a couple of DVDs this week, one of which was this film. We watched it yesterday evening.

A Bigger Splash

A bit of research informs me that it is a remake of Jacques Deray's 1969 psychological thriller, La Piscine (The Swimming Pool). Certainly the swimming pool features strongly, particularly at the end.

It has a main cast of four. Tilda Swinton plays Marianne, a famous rock star who is taking time out with her partner, Paul, played by Matthias Schoenarts. Marianne is under orders not to speak as she tries to recover her voice. Their tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Harry, brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes, a record producer who was once Mariannes lover, and who brings with him his daughter Penelope, played by Dakota Johnson of 50 Shades of Grey fame.

The frisson generated by the arrival of Harry and his daughter is immediate. He obviously isn't over Marianne, while Penelope has immediate eyes for Paul. To say Harry is over the top is an understatement. He never stops talking, is hyperactive, seems worryingly interested in his daughter and has a habit of stripping off for the pool, never mind everybody's presence. Meanwhile Paul remains reserved but is clearly uneasy. We learn that Harry actually introduced him to Marianne.

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The Accountant

Today we saw The Accountant with Ben Affleck playing Christian Wolff, an autistic maths genius who has a sideline in assassinations.

The Accountant

There is a bit of jumping about between his childhood and the present, which is to help to explain why he is as he is. He and his 'normal' brother were brought up in a military family, with a father who pushed aside professional help and instead elected to teach the boys to survive, which included punishing martial arts training. Judging by what comes later, there was a fair amount of special forces training involved as well.

Wolff's small accountancy firm is a cover for his multi-national exploits that involve helping some very unsavoury people. He receives his instructions from a mysterious woman over the phone. She informs him that people "are looking for him", and suggests a more low-key assignment at a company developing advanced prothetic limbs. This assignment in fact turns out to be anything but low-key. Contracted to investigate anomalies discovered by Dana, a young woman from the company's accounts department (played by Anna Kendrick), he does what he's good at and finds a major accountancy discrepancy. This results in an executive of the company meeting an untimely end. Dana is then targeted and the sister of the company's owner doesn't last long either.

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

It's a while now since I went to the cinema but Wednesday we saw the second Jack Reacher film with Tom Cruise. The reviews aren't good, citing silliness and preposterousness, to name but two. Well, such adjectives can easily be applied to the vast majority of films that reach our screens these days, so what's new?

We start with the scene that has featured on shows that have previewed this film. Reacher, sitting in a diner, has taken down a group of bad guys involved in people smuggling and the local sheriff arrives threatening to put Jack away for a long time. Cue a phone ringing and military police cars screaming to a halt outside, with the sheriff now in cuffs and being taken away.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

This opening is nothing more than a cameo leading in to the main story, which starts when Reacher contacts Major Susan Turner (who it seems took over his post in the army) after his little fracas in the diner. They flirt over the phone and arrange to meet, but when Reacher arrives at her office he finds that she has been arrested on a charge of espionage, which of course he doesn't believe. In pursuing the truth he soon finds that there is a wall of silence. The attorney representing Major Turner meets a sticky end after talking to him, and Reacher is then charged with the murder. A conspiracy is obviously afoot that all began after two of Major Turner's troops were murdered in Afghanistan. And she is now at risk, prompting Reacher to escape his own custody and take her with him.

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Deep Water Horizon

We saw Deep water Horizon today, a film that has received favourable reviews. BP don't come out of it very well at all, as we already knew from the media coverage at the time. The tension builds in the film until you're not actually sure exactly what's going to happen, or when, quite an achievement by the director considering it's an incident that received so much coverage.

Mark Wahlberg plays a central role, as the chief electrical technician, and his story links back to what it must have been like for the relatives back at home. This provides a human storyline that would have been replicated in many family homes. Of course, 11 members of the team never came back.

Deep Water Horizon

This was a trial drilling prior to setting up a working rig and we see the BP managers eager to get past the trial stage and put the rig to work, to the extent that safety checks were curtailed and fears of a pressure build up were dismissed as a 'glitch' in the measurements. We all know what happened, but the film adds substance to that with some incredible effects as the rig first suffers a blowback and then catches fire. There are some captions to explain some of the technical details but knowing a little bit about how drilling rigs work will add the understanding of what unraveled.

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The Free State of Jones

Today we saw The Free State of Jones, a drama set during the American Civil War. It stars Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, a man who walked away from the civil war conflict to set up a community of like-minded people, including a number of former slaves. The reviews have been mixed, some professional critics having a problem with the fact that it's "yet another" black slavery story told from a white perspective. Audiences, meanwhile, see-saw between thinking it to be brilliant, to believing that it is too long, has too many sub plots and is too slow. I enjoyed it, if for nothing else that it showed once more the struggle that then existed, and still exists to this day, for African Americans seeking equality in society.

The Free State of Jones

A young kinsman of Knight is killed during a battle, and this is the catalyst for him deserting, albeit initially solely to return his son's body home. Having been branded a deserter there's no going back and after escaping a posse with chase dogs he is helped to a refuge in the Mississippi swamps, where he meets former slaves. Meanwhile the confederate soldiers are taking food and livestock from farming families and Knight's support for them transforms him and his group from being merely a nuisance into a perceived threat to the confederacy. His group grows as he convinces them that the real enemy are the land owners, whose sons are not conscripted. "We are fighting a war for their cotton".

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Eddie the Eagle

I didn't catch Eddie the Eagle at the cinema but we chose it for our monthly film at the Wimblington Film Club. After a few 'heavier' titles this film was just what our audience needed, and judging by the spontaneous applause at the end, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Eddie the Eagle

I remember Eddie the Eagle as an unlikely olympian who caught the public's imagination by coming last, a very British attitude. It was interesting, therefore, to watch this film and learn the full story, which I accept may have been somewhat dramatised in the film.

The desire of Eddie from a young age to become an olympian was both inspiring and humorous in equal measure. With support from his mother, but absolutely none from his father, he tries a range of sports until he actually gains some expertise at dry slope skiing. Hoping to be selected for the British downhill team he is to be disappointed because, as the story is told, his face didn't fit.

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Martyrs

The Telegraph's headline for the review of this film is "Why Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs is the greatest horror film of the 21st century". Meanwhile other critics have not been impressed, the Observer dismissing it with only two lines. It is probably the most horrific film I have ever watched.

Martyrs

It's difficult to review as any spoilers will make watching it almost pointless, unless you just want to witness the horror. It starts with a young girl, Lucy, managing to escape from painful captivity in an abandoned building. She is sent to a Catholic orphanage where she is befriended by Anna, who quickly realises that her quiet new friend is haunted by her experience, believing that monsters are attacking her.

The film moves on and the girls are now young women. Lucy believes that she has tracked down her tormentor from the days of her incarceration and dispenses summary justice to the woman and her family. She contacts Anna and at this point, about half way through the film, one doesn't really know what is going to happen next. What does happen is both surprising and shocking, and the second part of the film reveals why Lucy was taken as a child, and this time it is Anna who is to suffer.

As with many horror films religion plays a part, a big part in fact, but not perhaps in the way you may imagine. This is religion at its most fundamental, reminiscent of medieval times, where its proponents seek the ultimate truth and are prepared to inflict great suffering to satisfy their curiosity. And when the truth is extracted? Watch the film, but not if you are of a nervous disposition.

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The Legend of Tarzan

As someone who read all the Tarzan books when young, and was a member of the Tarzan Club (yes, it did exist), any new take on him is obligatory viewing. The critics have not been impressed but audience satisfaction at Rotten Tomatoes is higher.

The Legend of Tarzan

As I've already said, I start off biased, and found the film to be enjoyable enough. After a plot-setting beginning, we move to London where Lord Greystoke (Tarzan) has been accepted back in society after coming out of the jungle. He is asked to return to Africa as a representative of the British government to meet an envoy of King Leopold II of the Belgians, the said envoy being the dastardly Léon Rom who has set the whole thing up to capture Tarzan. The plot setting at the beginning explains why.

Tarzan, however, expects foul play and leaves the ship early making his way overland to meet friendly natives. Unfortunately Rom and his mercenaries anticipate Tarzan's plan and make their way to the village, where Tarzan evades capture, but sees his Jane taken away. Thus the plot is set for a Tarzan saves Jane adventure.

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Potiche

In the list of French films on Amazon Prime, Potiche has figured large for quite a while now, so I thought I should give it a try. Une potiche is a decorated porcelain vase, but in familiar language it can mean a trophy wife.

Potiche

Catherine Deneuve plays Madame Suzanne Pujol, the trophy wife in this French comedy. Set in the 70s, Mme Pujol sits at home while her husband, Robert, runs the family umbrella business, a business started by Suzanne's late father. Robert is a mean-minded boss, a philanderer, and treats his wife as a know-nothing. They have two adult children, Joëlle, who is unhappy in her marriage and as uncompromising as her father, and Laurent, who is a left wing idealist.

Robert's management style has led to a strike and his bombastic attempts to resolve it have laid him low, requiring him to convalesce. It unexpectedly falls to Suzanne to meet the strikers and try to resolve matters. She seeks the help of the mayor, and member of parliament, Maurice Babin (played by Gérard Depardieu), there being a 'connection' between them. He paves the way and her conciliatory approach, treating the workers almost as family, soon wins their trust. Laurent is co-opted to use his design skills to enhance the product range while Joëlle also gets a job, but doesn't quite accept the new philosophies - her father's daughter, as they say.

It all moves along with much humour and careful attention to the period in which it is set. Delightful, in fact.

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Chaos

Chaost
Back to the exercise bike and another French film, this time Chaos.
I'm not sure how to categorise this film. In parts it's quite brutal, but I think it passes as a comedie noire.

The film opens with a bourgeois couple, Paul and Hélène, he a totally self-absorbed business man, and she the working wife who takes care of everything else. They are dashing off somewhere when a woman runs down the middle of the road towards their car screaming for them to open the door. Paul promptly locks it, and the three men chasing the woman proceed to beat her mercilessly, leaving a bloodstain on the car's windscreen and her in the gutter. Hélène wants to get out and help, but Paul's having nothing of it, his priority being to drive to the nearest carwash.

Hélène is haunted by what has happened and finds out to which hospital the woman was taken, where she pretends to be a friend. The woman, Noémie (aka Malika) is in a coma, suffers a cardiac arrest and the medical staff can't say whether she will be partially paralysed. Hélène talks the hospital staff into allowing her to stay at the hospital, where she devotes herself to helping Noémie recover. It's a slow job, and not helped when the thugs find out that their victim is alive, and make an attempt to abduct her. Hélène, however, turns out to be quite a resourceful protector, and after a second attempt to abduct Noémie, Hélène spirits her off to her mother-in-law's. (The mother-in-law's relationship with her son, Hélène's husband, is another subplot.)

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Barbecue

Back to the exercise bike and therefore back to watching French films on Amazon Prime.

The latest was Barbecue, a lightweight comedy that has hardly inspired the critics. Lambert Wilson who plays the lead character, Antoine Chevalier, is singled out for doing a good job in a lacklustre film.

So what did I think?

Well it wasn't all that bad. It made me laugh and I found the characters a lot more believable than in some Hollywood light comedies.

Barbecue


Laurent - Baptiste - Olivia - Yves - Antoine - Jean-Michel



Antoine, the vain, philandering scion of a family firm, is someone who has done all the right things to keep healthy, but suffers a heart attack during a fun run just before his 50th birthday. When his surgeon gives him advice on following a healthy lifestyle, he replies that he had already done all that, and look what happened. So he decides instead to leave work, eat the wrong things, drink more and smoke when he feels like it, much to the annoyance of his doctor wife, Véronique.

The film revolves around three couples and a single friend, Jean-Michel. They were at college together and meet up regularly, the barbecue title of the film referring to the opening sequence when they are enjoying one of their get-togethers.

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Learning to Drive

I read an article in which Ben Kingsley was extolling the virtues of women directors, citing his experience in the recently released film Learning to Drive. He said: “I do feel that it is through the prism, the lens, the perspective of the female eye – the loving female eye – that a man is almost given permission to be vulnerable." This analysis intrigued me and today we went to see the film.

Kingsley plays a Sikh, Darwan Singh Tur, who is a driving instructor by day and a taxi driver by night. One evening he is hailed down by a man who is being pursued by an extremely angry wife, and both get in the cab. The man is Ted, who has just told his wife, Wendy, that he's leaving her for another woman. Ted doesn't stay in the cab that long and Singh Tur drives Wendy home. He later finds that she has left a package in the cab.

Learning to Drive

Wendy's daughter is working on a farm and, having informed her mother that this time Ted won't be coming back (he had strayed previously), asks her mum to visit her at the farm. But Wendy can't drive, cue Singh Tur returning the package and Wendy asking him to give her driving lessons.

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The Nice Guys

We saw this film today. I knew nothing about it prior to getting to the cinema, so no preconceptions. Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a guy who gets paid to lean on people, while Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a more conventional private detective who has an eye to making money from some gullible clients. Angourie Rice, meanwhile, play's Holland's daughter, Holly, and plays her very well indeed. She has a bit of a young Jodie Foster about her.

The Nice Guys - image 1

Healy and March find themselves interested professionally in the same woman, Amelia Kuttner, who not only turns out to be extremely illusive, but also part of an intrigue involving a porn movie, some shady dealings in the Detroit automotive industry and, we eventually find out, is the daughter of the Justice Secretary, Judith Kuttner. And our two anti-heroes soon discover that they're not the only ones looking for Amelia, there being some extremely unsavoury types also in the chase.

This film revolves around the chemistry between Healy and March and I must say it's superb. The humour comes thick and fast, as the 'non-detective' Healy continually keeps the often tipsy 'real detective' March on track, although the latter sometimes does come up with the goods, but there are also times when he loses his way.

The Nice Guys - image 2

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Alice Through the Looking Glass

We saw this film on the day of its release, after returning from holiday. I hadn't seen Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, so I can't make comparisons, but it seems that the critics feel that the earlier film was far better. Perhaps not having seen the 'better' film allowed me more latitude but I didn't find this latest Alice film at all bad. I've never read the book, but understand that the film bears absolutely no similarity to it.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

The story revolves around time, personified quite brilliantly in my view by Sacha Baron Cohen. The Mad Hatter, played once again by Johnny Depp, is in terminal decline following the discovery of his first hat, which he made as a child for his father, and which he thought had perished along with his family at the hands of the Red Queen, Iracebeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter. The fact that the hat survived has convinced him that his family did not perish, but nobody will believe him, not even Alice. Alice, the White Queen and the creatures of Wonderland hatch a plot to help him.

The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) tells Alice that there is a way, but it is dangerous. She must go back in time to try to change the events that led to the Hatter's family's demise. In this quest she encounters Time, and steals his Chronosphere, a time machine that will allow her to try to alter past events, but which unfortunately is also needed to keep universal time, and thus everything dependant upon it ticking along hunky dory. Time, the embodiment that is, pursues her.

Alice soon finds that affecting past events is less easy than she may have thought, and in the end it is the Red Queen who, having stolen the Chronosphere, actually changes the past - with disastrous consequences.

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Money Monster

We also saw this film in Nice while its debut took place at Cannes. Directed by Jodie Foster and starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, this was a very different type of film to Café Society, which we had seen a few days earlier. Again it was Version Original (VO), with English dialogue and French subtitles.

Money Monster refers to a TV show whose star is Lee Gates (George Clooney), a financial guru who gives tips on where people should invest their money. No doubt there are TV shows in America that are as embarrassing as was portrayed in this film (and there may even be some in Britain), but the fatuousness of it turned me off from the start. I felt embarrassed for Clooney having to play the role.

Money Monster

Fortunately a turn of events interrupted the stupidity when a punter, who had lost everything following a Money Monster sure-fire tip, turns up in the studio armed and straps a suicide vest on Gates. Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), the show's producer, continues to communicate with Gates through his earpiece, offering advice and trying to calm things down.

What follows is an interesting if somewhat unbelievable story line whereby the punter, Kyle Budwell, attempts to get Gates to explain what had caused the 'glitch' in the trading algorithm that had resulted in the drop in share value at IBIS, and thus his loss. IBIS CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) has gone missing as Patty desperately tries to get information from the company.

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Café Society

We had the privilege of seeing this film on its opening day at Cannes, but we weren't that privileged, as we saw it along the coast in Nice. Second best perhaps but still a bit of a coup. It was shown with original English dialogue and French subtitles, which was in itself interesting for me, as I compared how things were expressed in two languages that share so many words but are at the same time so different.

Café Society

Set in 1930s Hollywood, Phil Stern is the movie executive trying to keep a number of balls in the air when he is asked to find a job for his sister's boy, Bobby. When his sister Rose calls, Phil answers "Rose?" in apparent ignorance of who she is, which sort of sets the scene. Rose's life is a million miles divorced from Phil's, while Ben, Bobby's brother is a budding gangster.

Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby plays the naive New Yorker very well, his introduction to Hollywood being an arranged date with a hooker, a novice Jewish hooker no less, and the resulting encounter is very amusing. Bobby soon becomes enchanted with Phil's assistant, Vonnie (Veronica), played by Kristen Stewart. Love blossoms but there's a complication, a big complication, and they split.

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Alléluia

Back to the Amazon Prime movies and the latest was Alléluia, a Belgian made French language film. It's been on my watchlist for a while, but I had avoided it up to now as it looked a bit sinister. My suspicions in this respect proved to be correct.

Alléluia

Michel is a serial womaniser who charms his way into relationships for the sexual experience and then to con money out of his victims. Gloria, who works in a morgue, is his latest conquest, and he leaves her after extracting money for a fictitious shoe company that he invented for the purpose. But Gloria isn't like the rest, she tracks him down and rather than take him to task, proposes that he continues with his exploits while staying with her as his true partner. This was always doomed to fail, and it does spectacularly.

Michel then woos and marries Marguerite, a lovely jolly woman who believes Gloria to be Michel's sister, although she soon begins to worry about their level of sibling intimacy. The foreplay before relieving Marguerite of her money naturally involves sex, at which point Gloria completely loses it. What follows is shocking in the extreme, be warned.

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Bastille Day

When I saw the trailer for Bastille Day it appealed to me, so yesterday we went to see it. The reviews haven't been tremendous but the mix for me was just about right. Set in Paris, with the French speaking French, it provided plenty of action as well as an opportunity to try to understand what was being said - there were of course subtitles.

Idris Elba plays a somewhat rogue CIA officer, Sean Briar, who's on the case of an apparent terrorist bomber whose face has been captured on CCTV. The said bomber, Michael Mason, is however no more than a very proficient pick pocket who happened to 'lift' a bag from the actual bomber, a distraught young French woman, Zoe, who had become embroiled in something far more sinister than she had realised.

Bastille Day

It's difficult to review this film without giving away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say that everything isn't what it seems where the bombers are concerned. Briar soon suspects this, and sets out on what is effectively an unauthorised one-man campaign to track down the suspects, but he must first co-opt Mason and find the now petrified Zoe who's in hiding. The trio form an unlikely alliance as they pit themselves against a very dangerous and well resourced enemy.

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The Huntsman: Winter's War

I very rarely read reviews before going to see a film, instead relying on the trailer, which I accept can itself be misleading. If I had read reviews for todays film, The Huntsman: Winter's War, I might have not bothered to go. For example, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, normally a reliable critic, was taken to write:

"It is the follow-up that nobody much wanted to the film that nobody much liked, resulting in something even more visually elaborate and boring, and about which the number of tosses that can be reasonably given is lower than ever."

Meanwhile the critics at Rotten Tomatoes managed to muster 16% approval.

These reviews must influence people as bizarrely we were the only two people in the auditorium, although the rather nice weather may have also been an influence.

The Huntsman: Winter's War

So what did I think of the film? Well, it had three redeeming features, namely Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, the last mentioned doing a good impression of Zena Warrior Princess. Three extremely attractive women and good actors to boot. And for the women, Chris Hemsworth, who I believe quickens a pulse or two.

The story is based around Snow White, although she doesn't appear, and draws also on Narnia, with Emily Blunt, as Freya, becoming the Snow Queen. Charlize Theron as the wicked Ravenna is, well, quite wicked, bringing out the evil side of her sister Freya, who up until then had been a nice person.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Back to the cinema after the school holidays and this week it was the epic battle between these two superheroes. I was intrigued on two levels: firstly, why two good guys should fight and, secondly, how Batman, despite his abilities, could hope to take on an indestructible opponent.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The answer to both conundrums becomes clear as we are shown the destruction of Metropolis as a result of the earlier battle between Superman and the evil Zod, which leaves Batman highly distrustful of Superman, who he feels would be able at any time to wreak havoc, should he so choose. Add to this the devilish scheming of Lex Luther, who I thought was interestingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, whose aim is to set the two crime fighters against each other. Then we have, of course, a large chunk of Kryptonite, the final leveller in the battle that was to ensue.

In this film Batman's suit is more like armour and he certainly comes across as a much meaner figure than in earlier films, his demeanour matching his outfit. Superman is much nicer, his relationship with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) being sort of out in the open on this occasion. In fact his rescuing of Lois early on in the story turns out to be the result of a Lex Luther plot that is part of the grand plan to undermine Superman's public persona.

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Grand Central

Because we're puppy sitting, which entails a couple of walks a day, I haven't been on the exercise bike much, and as a result I haven't been watching French films, which I usually do while exercising.

I did, however, manage to finish watching Grand Central. A 'Central' in French is a power station, and Grand Central is a nuclear plant. An unlikely setting for a story of romance, but in the hands of the French female director/screenwriter Rebecca Zlotowski it works.

Gary, played by Tahar Rahim (Un Prophet), is a casual worker looking for a job. The interview for the power station is no more than a formality, as there aren't that many people who want to work in highly radioactive areas. He joins a team led by Toni (Denis Ménochet) and is soon introduced to Toni's fiancé, Karole (Léa Seydoux), who has a novel way of showing Gary what over exposure to radioactivity is like. At their first meeting, before he knows who she is, she kisses him passionately while explaining that he is probably feeling fear, blurred vision, head spinning, legs shaking - and that's just a small dose! An interesting analogy. Of course, the inevitable happens, as Gary and Karole start an affair.

Grand Central

The film concentrates on the close group of workers who exist almost outside normal society. Gary appears uneasy when he's with Toni, presumably because of guilt, but he ends up rescuing Toni after his airline becomes detached, resulting in Gary receiving a high dose of radiation when he removes his protective gloves. I wasn't sure at one point whether Gary was contemplating letting Toni suffocate, and I felt that Toni also harboured the same fear.

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Risen

Our film at the cinema this week was Risen, a story recounting the events between Christ's crucifixion and his subsequent rising. A sort of sequel to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which I didn't see. I'm by no means religious, and this choice of film was more to do with the alternatives on offer being less appealing. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Risen

The consensus seems to be that it is a far more soft-centred film than The Passion, and certainly once an early battle scene and the aftermath of the crucifixion were out of the way, the film was more about love and wonderment than blood and gore.

Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius, a Roman tribune who is at the beck and call of Pontius Pilote, played by Peter Firth. Pontius, as we know, was responsible for the Nazerine's crucifixion, and now he wants Clavius to clear up the mess. In particular they are worried by the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) said he would rise again, and both Pontius and the Jewish elders are very anxious that the body is not taken by the disciples as a way of 'proving' this prophecy. But, of course, the body does disappear, and Clavius is charged with finding it.

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Suzanne

My French film season continues courtesy of Amazon Prime. This week the film was Suzanne, the story of a young woman's life from childhood, albeit that the film jumps large periods of time as her story unfolds.

I didn't know what to expect from this film. It starts at a children's dance show where Suzanne is with her father, watching her elder sister, Maria. We soon learn that their mum has died young, although we never learn why. The father, Nicolas, an HGV driver, is doing his best to bring up the two girls. At first Maria appears to be the 'wild child', but it is Suzanne who becomes pregnant and has the child, much to her father's shame.

Suzanne

Suzanne then meet Julien and he becomes the centre of her life, to the extent that she leaves her child, Charlie, with her father. But Charlie is taken into the care of foster parents as Nicolas's job means he is away from home for long periods.

Next we jump to a court hearing, where Suzanne is charged with theft and assault in relation to acts carried out with Julien, who fled justice and left her to carry the can. She is sentenced to five years in prison. While her father becomes almost estranged, her sister continues to support her.

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Hail, Caesar!

On Wednesday we saw Hail Caesar. It was my choice, as I hoped it would be as good as Oh Brother Where Art Thou, an earlier Cohen Brothers film, also with George Clooney, which I really enjoyed.

Set in 1950s Hollywood, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is Capitol Picture's studio 'fixer', sorting out a range of problems that the stars manage to get themselves into. The studio's biggest production is Hail Caesar, starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) but skullduggery is afoot as a couple of extras drug and kidnap Whitlock, whisking him off to 'The Future'. The 'Future' in question is a group of communists intent on reshaping the future by taking on capitalism, starting with Capitol Pictures.

Hail, Caesar!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the studios Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is making the drama Merrily We Dance, and is given a new lead actor in the shape of Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), straight from the set of a cowboy film, the singing cowboy role being his only claim to fame thus far. I was greatly impressed by his gun-spinning and horse riding skills, but unfortunately they didn't transfer very well to the set of Laurentz's drama. Watch out for Doyle's struggle pronouncing Laurentz's name, not helped by the similarity between his first and second names.

Scarlett Johansson pops up as DeeAnna Moran, an Esther Williams type character, who looks a lot more elegant than she sounds. And we have Channing Tatum performing a classic Hollywood song and dance number as Burt Gurney, who turns out to be not all that he seems.

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En Équilibre

Another French film from Amazon Prime. This time a love story but far from conventional.

Marc Guermont is a stunt horseman who is seriously injured during a scene. The take involves the horse and rider falling but after successfully doing this the horse, Othello, stamps on Marc's spine having been spooked by a dog. As a consequence he is left a T10 paraplegic.

Florence Kernel is the insurance assessor sent to settle his claim. Marc had already 'thrown out' the previous assessor when he had arrived at the hospital, and Florence had been sent to try a more gentle approach. But Marc felt that he was being short-changed and refused an early settlement. Florence, meanwhile, seemed to be beguiled by Marc's philosophy of life. A classical music lover, he questioned why she hadn't pursued her ambition to be a concert pianist, and this left her questioning her current life.

En Équilibre

She had clearly developed strong feelings for Marc and one is left with the impression that her marriage and family were no longer satisfying her. She is taken off Marc's case, as the company wants a fast settlement, and it stops his interim payments to pressurise him. Florence takes the unusual step of recommending a lawyer, an old college friend, and Marc realises that her interest in him perhaps extends beyond the professional-client relationship.

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Secret in Their Eyes

This was our film choice this Wednesday. A competent enough crime drama with an impressive cast, so I was surprised to read some fairly downbeat reviews. It seems that the film is a remake of an Oscar-winning Argentine thriller from 2009 and the general consensus is that the original was far better. Having not seen it I can't offer an opinion.

Secret in Their Eyes

The film is set 13 years after the murder of the daughter of a district attorney investigator, Jess, who is played by Julia Roberts, in a rather un-glam part. Ray, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, was as an FBI counter-terrorism investigator at the time, and a good friend of Jess, and has returned to the office because he thinks he has tracked down the murderer. He is there to convince Claire, another co-investigator at the time of the murder, to re-open the case, Claire now being the assistant district attorney.

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Une histoire d'amour

Working through the Amazon Prime list of French films I came to this one. It's very dark and certainly not easy to follow. Reviews were poor and I can see why. It was the debut feature from actress-turned-filmmaker Hélène Fillières and based on a novel by Régis Jauffret -- itself inspired by the murder of financial tycoon Edouard Stern.

Une histoire d'amour

There are really only three characters, who we simply know as the banker, the young woman and, although it isn't clear who he is at first, her husband. The young woman is played by Laetitia Casta, a sultry brunette, while her husband is far from young. She is having a relationship with the banker, who's a masochist and not a very nice person. Her husband is fully aware but I wasn't quite clear about her and his motives, other than perhaps a promised $1m gift.

The title translates as "A Love Story", but there doesn't appear to be much love about. She plays the dominatrix, reversing their real life roles where he is all powerful and she is the slave. Some of the scenes are extremely sensual but certainly not loving. All along he either refers to her as a pute (whore) or a muse, while she seems to be strangely attracted to him. Although I've not read or seen Fifty Shades of Grey, from what I've heard there are probably some similarities with this story. The film jumps about in time and you certainly have to pay attention and concentrate quite hard to fill in the gaps.

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Deadpool

We saw Deadpool at the cinema today. Every so often a film comes along that is truly different, and I believe that Deadpool deserves this accolade. Yes, it's a superhero story; yes, it involves lots of shoot-em-up and beat-em-up moments; yes, there are lots of (amazing) stunts. So what's different? Well, this is almost a send-up of the genre, it is very funny, and the 'good' guy is at the same time pretty mean.

Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool), who renamed himself after a sweepstake that bet on the likelihood of who was going to die first out of a group mercenaries that offered protection to woman for money. After starting a passionate romance with Copycat, played by the gorgeous Morena Baccarin (Brody's wife in Homeland), he finds out that he has terminal cancer and takes up an offer of a cure that involves him mutating, à la X-men. His 'doctor' is Ajax, a really mean piece of work, who relishes inflicting pain, spurred on by Wilson's refusal to stop joshing him.

The cure has some rather unpleasant side effects but Wilson, who has now named himself Deadpool, has become almost indestructible. He sets off to find Ajax believing that he can help him undo the unwanted effects of the treatment. He travels by taxi to his showdown, which sort of sums up the non super hero aspects of this film. The showdown itself is a feast of amazing slow-mo photography as vehicles and people are spread all over the freeway. Things are interrupted by the arrival of a couple from the X-men stable, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who don't exactly agree with Deadpool's approach.

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Chic

Helen spotted this film on my Amazon Prime watch list, where I had added a number of French films without paying too much attention as to what they were about. As this one has a fashion theme, it appealed to her, and I didn't mind as I could listen to the French. As it happens the 'French' was tricky to put it mildly, much of it delivered at speed and hardly text book.

Chic

The story is whimsical, reflecting perhaps the fashion industry. Alicia Ricosi, played by Fanny Ardent, is a top fashion designer who's in the doldrums after a break up with her beau. Her assistant, Heléne, is given the job by the fashion house manager, Alan, of restoring Alicia's interest in her work by finding her a new man. This fails miserably, but by chance Alicia meets up with Heléne's Breton landscape gardner, who Heléne has in fact recently fired, and he proves to be the muse that Alicia has been looking for - two artistic types, if you get the drift.

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Pauline à la plage

Yet another French film from Amazon Prime. Made in 1983, I found the acting a bit wooden, but given that the Rotten Tomatoes review awards it 100% from the critics (87% audience), who am I to judge?

I believe that the acclaim for the film probably rests with the fame of its director, Éric Rohmer, described by the Daily Telegraph after his death in 2010 as "the most durable film-maker of the French New Wave", and with his characterisation of the four principal people.

Pauline à la plage

Pauline arrives with her older cousin Marion at the family holiday home on the coast of north-west France. They soon meet up with an ex boyfriend of Marion, Pierre, who is clearly overjoyed to see her again, and hopes to renew their partnership. But Marion has other ideas, and is soon involved with Henri, an older man who is clearly a bit of a womaniser, and to whom Pierre takes an instant dislike.

Pauline, meanwhile, is observing all of this, while having also struck up a friendship with a local lad, Sylvain. Marion's not too keen on Sylvain, while at the same time she is pursuing what is clearly an affair with Henri that's going nowhere. Her advice to Pauline is, therefore, somewhat hypocritical, and doesn't carry much weight.

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Spotlight

We saw Spotlight today, the story of how the Boston Globe Newspaper exposed widespread child abuse by Catholic priests.

Spotlight

A new editor at the paper picks up on the story and asks the Spotlight investigative team to take it on. The team is at first reluctant to put aside its existing investigation, but once on the case they find that what at first appeared to be a story about a few priests, unfolds to implicate the Catholic Church right up to the highest levels of authority.

The Church exercised a great influence in Boston, and the reporters faced a wall of silence and obstruction when trying to investigate the facts. However, gradually witnesses were prepared to talk, and hard work revealed evidence of the widespread nature of the abuse, this being contained in the annual registers of priests that showed how certain individuals were frequently moved around, implying a 'clean up' operation in the wake of their misdemeanours.

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La Jalousie

Today's Amazon Prime film was a bit more challenging than the comedy I reported on yesterday.

Set in Paris, and filmed in extremely contrasty black and white, I believe it fits the genre referred to as New Wave.

La Jalousie

It begins with Louis leaving his partner, Clothilde, with whom he has a daughter, Charlotte, to start a new relationship with Claudia. He and Claudia are both actors, although Claudia isn't working and is somewhat depressed because of this. They live in a garret, which while may sound very romantic, is actually depressing for Claudia who wants something better. Louis says he loves Claudia and can't live without her, although this doesn't stop him flirting with a woman at the theatre where he is working, nor with a woman in the cinema. Meanwhile Claudia seems even less interested in a monogamous relationship, casually picking someone up in a bar.

The film's title is fitting, as Clothilde is jealous, for obvious reasons, while both Louis and Claudia exhibit feelings of jealousy, each it seems suspecting the other of infidelity. That was my reading of the situation but I may have got it wrong.

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Une Heure de Tranquillité

Michel finds a rare jazz album at the flea market and can't wait to get back to the flat to listen to it. For the next 80 minutes everything that could happen to stop him listening to his album does.

Une Heure de Tranquillité

His wife, Nathalie, has something important to tell him (she had been unfaithful) but he doesn't want to hear it. The Polish builders, who turn out to be Portuguese, flood a room, as well as the apartment underneath. Michel's son is housing illegal immigrants in the maids' quarters upstairs. The flooded neighbour redirects party guests to Michel's apartment. Oh, and Nathalie's best friend arrives to confess to having an affair with Michel. What does a man have to do to listen to his record?

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The Big Short

This week's cinema film (as distinct from Amazon Prime) was The Big Short. It started a bit strangely, with a narrative approach, and at first I wasn't too sure about it. But as things unfolded it became clear that the film needed to explain some fairly complicated financial practices while at the same time making itself entertaining. In this respect I feel it achieved its aim, allowing us to laugh at times during what is a very sombre revelation.

I doubt anybody isn't aware that there was a financial meltdown in 2007/8, and those of us who don't believe the Tory mantra that it was all Labour's fault, recognise that it was a result of a total meltdown in the American property market.

The Big Short

Basically, the banks and associated financial whizz kids sold mortgages to people who could hardly afford them, and who would in due course be hit with increased repayments that they almost certainly wouldn't be able to afford. (A fact lost to many in the current long run of low interest rates.) By mixing these 'sub-prime' mortgages with better quality products the risk that they posed were hidden, but unfortunately as the number of better quality products decreased the contents of these mortgage packages became more and more toxic. The film describes these shenanigans by way of some nice little cameos that use analogies to make the point.

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La Proie (The Prey)

I was so keen to see the end of this film that I prolonged my exercise bike session until it had finished. Well over an hour and a half. I normally watch a film over two sessions.

This was another Amazon Prime offering and I must say that the French films that I've watched on Prime so far have all been very good. This was no exception.

La Proie (The Prey)

Franck Adrien, a convicted bank robber, shares a cell with John-Louis Maurel, who's been accused of rape but professes his innocence. Adrien is the only one who knows where the bank heist loot is hidden and a group of other prisoners are intent on making him reveal where it's hidden. With the collusion of the guards Adrien is continually physically harassed by these prisoners.

Maurel is also a victim of harassment, but in his case because of his crime. At one point Adrien defends him, and when it transpires that Maurel is to be released, because his accuser has supposedly retracted her evidence, Adrien asks him to convey a message to his wife, this being a coded message that will allow her to find the loot.

Maurel, however, is far from innocent, and he and his wife collude to abscond with Adrien's young daughter, illegally adopting her as their own child, while also making off with the bank money. Adrien is visited by a former gendarme who tells him of his fears about Maurel being a serial sex offender and worried for his family's safety, Adrien escapes prison and sets out to find Maurel.

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The Revenant

Our cinema film this week was The Revenant. My choice and I'm pleased that we went to see it.

Set in 1823, in the unsettled wilderness of what now is the Dakotas, it's a brutal film depicting the lives of frontiersmen hunting for pelts. The local indians are hostile and the story effectively starts when a raiding party attacks the hunters. The effectiveness of the bow and arrows against single shot rifles and pistols is graphically displayed as the 'white men' are cut down, resorting to escape by boat as the indians overwhelm them.

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the group's guide, who is accompanied by his son, the product of a relationship with an indian woman who had previously been killed. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) doesn't think a lot of Glass, especially when Glass insists that the group abandon their boat and take an overland return journey to the safety of the fort.

On the way Glass is savaged by a grizzly bear and seriously injured. After at first trying to stretcher Glass it is decided that the group should split, with the captain leading the returning group and Fitzgerald remaining with Glass and his son, along with the young Jim Bridger. It doesn't end well.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Yet another film from Amazon Prime, this time an adaptation of Jacques Tardi's comic book series. So it's certainly on the light side, you could even say silly, but it has a strong pedigree being a film by Luc Besson.

The cinematography seems almost to simulate a graphic strip, to the extent that when the film started I wasn't sure if it was real or animated, although this confusion didn't last long.

This film is pure comedy. The eponymous heroin is an author with a twin sister who suffered a serious injury during a tennis match, leaving her in bed on a drip with a hat pin though her head. I'm sure such an injury would be fatal but this is a fantasy, so stay with it.

Adèle, who should be in Peru researching her new book, is in fact in Egypt to recover the mummy of the doctor to the Pharos, whom she believes could help her sister. The small problem of the mummy being long since deceased is to be overcome with the help of a 'mad' scientist who has already resurrected a pterodactyl from its egg in a Paris museum; so a mummy should be easy.

Unfortunately the pterodactyl is causing mayhem, including the death of a politician and his mistress, so the scientist has been arrested and sentenced to death. Such problems are not insurmountable for Adèle, who embarks on a succession of hare-brain schemes to release the scientist, after her appeal to the French president fails, spectacularly! The president's dog is called Nelson, which rather amused me.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

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Les Adoptés

I'm gradually working my way through the French films that are free to view on Amazon Prime. The latest was Les Adoptés. Mélanie Laurent, who co-wrote the screenplay, directs and stars in this film. Not surprisingly, it's a film with a very female perspective.

Les Adoptés

Perhaps I'm biased, but French films seem to get under the skin of personal relationships far more convincingly than many American ones. Lisa (Mélanie Laurent), a single mum with a little boy, has an adopted sister, Marine (Marie Denarnaud), and the two of them enjoy a close relationship more symptomatic of twins than of a sister and an adopted sister. When Marine falls in love with Alex (Denis Ménochet) this relationship is destabilised, and Lisa takes a dislike to Alex. Their mother, Millie (Clémentine Célarié) is the voice of reason as the two sisters struggle to come to terms with a new set of emotions.

Marine and Alex go through a bit of a bad patch but make up, only for tragedy to strike. With Marine hospitalised, and in a serious condition, Lisa and Alex gradually warm to each other, Alex becoming a sort of a father figure for Lisa's son, Léo, brilliantly played by Théodore Maquet-Foucher.

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Belle & Sébastien

Belle & Sébastien is my latest viewing on Amazon Prime. This is a beautiful French film with the absolutely stunning backdrop of the French Alps.

The film starts with the young boy, Sébastien, and his adoptive grandfather, César, walking in the mountains. The initial views are breathtaking. César is searching for 'The Beast', a feral dog suspected of killing sheep. Other hunters from the village, lower down the mountain, shoot a deer, leaving its fawn on a precarious ledge. What follows is a vertiginous scene where César lowers Sébastian over the edge to recover the fawn. It made me feel quite queazy.

Belle & Sébastien

Sébastien roams the mountains at will, seemingly in preference to school, and it isn't long before 'The Beast', a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, and he meet up. The dog, which is wary of adults, forms a bond with the child, and Sébastien does everything he can to protect his new friend.

All this is taking place during the Second World War and German soldiers are posted in the village, their orders being to catch Jews, who they suspect are being led across the mountains to Switzerland by the local doctor, Guillaume.

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Joy

I'm a bit late with my film review this week, having seen Joy on Wednesday.

Yet again Jennifer Lawrence delivers a fine performance as Joy Mangano, the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, and who went on to become a self-made millionaire with a business empire.

Joy

The film has actually received mixed reviews, although most credit Lawrence even if criticising other elements of the film. She has been nominated for an Oscar making her the youngest actor to ever receive four Oscar nominations.

The beginning of the film depicts a chaotic family with Joy holding everything together. Her divorced mother watches the same soap every day, Joy's ex husband, Tony, lives in the basement, her half-sister Peggy is antagonistic to her, and her dad has just 'been returned' by his girlfriend. Her grandmother, who encourages her to follow her dreams, is probably the only 'normal' person in the household.

Dad finds a new girlfriend, Trudy, a wealthy Italian widow, and everybody is invited on to her former husband's yacht. There is a 'no red wine' rule, to protect the deck, but Joy's Ex charms Trudy into allowing him to bring a crate on board. As a result of this, for reasons you can probably guess, Joy, a natural inventor, ends up turning her mind to designing a mop that doesn't need to be wrung out by hand.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No golf today as the course is waterlogged, and closed. So we went to see Star Wars. By waiting a bit we benefitted from the cinema not being packed to the gunnels.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I've tried to avoid seeing spoilers but it's been difficult. I already knew, for example, that the director had returned to the formula that took the first three Star Wars films into cult status. I wasn't surprised, therefore, when the familiar scrolling text appeared at the beginning, nor was I surprised by all the nods, some subtle and some less so, to the originals.

I was a bit worried by the fact that they were bringing Han and Leia back, but in the event they fitted the story line while adding to the nostalgia. The meeting up in the vastness of space of Han and his beloved Millennium Falcon seemed a tad too coincidental, but it was of course necessary.

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were relative unknowns when the first Star Wars film launched, and this has been repeated with Daisy Ridley, as Rey, and John Boyega, as Finn, both of whom are great finds. Rey is shaping up to be a worthy bearer of The Force as we inevitably go into the next productions. Perfect casting in fact. The mystery, of course, is why she can summon The Force, and there is already much speculation over this. But I think we all know that she's related to somebody from the earlier films, even if we don't know who at this stage. Again this mimics the original stories.

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In the Heart of the Sea

My first visit to the cinema in 2016 and we saw In the Heart of the Sea.

In the Heart of the Sea

The film is based on Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 non-fiction book of the same name, about the sinking of the American whaling ship Essex in 1820, an event that inspired the novel Moby-Dick.

Herman Melville, the subsequent author of Moby Dick, visits Thomas Nickerson, the last survivor of the whaleship Essex's last voyage. Nickerson has previously refused to discuss with anybody the events of that voyage, and it's only when his wife intervenes that he agrees to do so.

As he recounts the story, the film takes us back to that fateful voyage. Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is first mate to Captain George Pollard. Chase is an experienced whaler who had been promised his own captaincy, only to be denied by the parachuting in of Pollard, from an established whaling family. There is animosity from the off, which nearly costs them the ship fairly early into the voyage. After an early success they stop off in Ecuador, where a Spanish captain recounts visiting 'Offshore Grounds' some 2000 miles away, but where his ship was destroyed by a white whale. This is scoffed at as a 'mariner's tale' by the crew of the Essex and they set off to find the whales.

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The Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart

After La Fée, my latest viewing on Amazon Prime, the French film La prochaine fois je viserai le coeur, brings everything down to earth with a bump.

Based on a true story, it tells of a gendarme, Franck Neuhart, who doubles as a serial killer.

It's a disturbing film, featuring a killer who selects young women at random and executes them. His approach is to pick them up, it seemingly being quite common for young college girls to hitch lifts home, and then shoot them in the car and dump their bodies by the roadside. He doesn't assault them beforehand, his motive seemingly being simply to murder them. He uses stolen cars, which he abandons after the crime. And he writes little missives to the Gendarmerie, where he works, anonymously explaining his actions.

The Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart

The rivalry between the police and the gendarmes (they are different forces in France) is displayed, the former regarding the latter as what we would probably term country bobbies, not a patch on the city forces.

Franck is clearly mentally disturbed, and when he starts a relationship with the young woman who does his laundry, Sophie, one fears the worst. But he seems to have feelings for her and his conflicted emotions are clearly on display.

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La Fée

Another French film, but one that I find extremely difficult to review. It's a combination of fantasy, love and slapstick comedy. The notes on the DVD refer to burlesque comedy and physical comedy. Do you get the gist?

La Fée - image 1

Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, a couple in real life, play Dom and Fiona, having directed the film with Bruno Romey, who plays the visually challenged patron of the L'Amour Flou (Fuzzy Love) café.

Dom works in a hotel and one evening Fiona comes in and announces she's a fairy, and grants him three wishes. The first is for a scooter (he has a very unreliable bike) and the second is for petrol to keep it running. After Fiona carries out an interesting variation of the Heimlich manoeuvre on Dom, who gets the top of a tomato ketchup bottle stuck in his throat (you need to watch the film to see why), Dom falls asleep, and wakes up in the morning to find a scooter in the hotel foyer. Later Fiona gives him the key to a petrol storage tank in the nearby refinery. And so a romance is kindled.

La Fée - image 2

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