An African American cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s is hard to believe, but this is the plot of this film from Spike Lee. Ron Stallworth always wanted to be a cop, so he applies to the all-white Colorado Springs police force and convinces his interviewers to take him on, beautifully coiffed afro and all. His inauspicious start in the records archive soon starts to demoralise him, so he requests a transfer to the detectives. At first denied (surprise, surprise!), an opportunity arises when the department wants somebody to go under cover at a meeting being addressed by Kwame Ture, a national civil rights leader. This goes well, and also introduces Ron to Patrice Dumas, whose afro outdoes Ron's. She's president of the black students' union and becomes Ron's ongoing love interest.
Sitting with the detectives, and flush with his success at the civil rights rally, Ron spots an advert from the Ku Klux Klan for new members. So he phones the number and speaks to Walter, convincing him of his anti-black credentials. A meeting is arranged. Of course Ron can't go, for obvious reasons, but Flip Zimmerman, one of his fellow detectives, agrees to do the 'meetings', while Ron handles the telephone conversations. The fact that their voices are different, and that Zimmerman is a non-practising Jew, making him as much a target of the Klan as Ron, just adds to the mix of tension and humour.
I didn't see the original Ant-Man film and am far from up to date with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so some of the plot references were no doubt lost on me. It appears that Ant-Man didn't emerge from Captain America: Civil War exactly smelling of roses, and he is constantly reminded of this during the film. His previous bad judgement has, however, resulted in him, as his normal persona Scott Lang, being held under house arrest with an electronic tag, where he seems quite content, especially when playing with his daughter Cassie. And, what's more, he only has days to go before the tag will be removed.
Enter Dr Hank Pym, or to be more precise, his daughter Hope, aka The Wasp. Pym is a scientist at the forefront of quantum physics, which those of you who saw the previous film probably already know. He and his wife, Janet, were pioneers on the ant-person scene, and in one 'save-the-world' exploit Janet reduced herself into the sub-molecular world and consequently became trapped in the sub-atomic quantum realm. Back to Scott, who has a very vivid dream featuring both Janet and a young Hope. Pym and Hope recognise this as possible quantum entanglement (reading up on quantum physics may help you here) between Scott and Janet, proving that she is still alive. So Wasp kidnaps Scott, who is far from happy as it could violate his parole. But Scott and Hope have a bit of a thing going, so he's probably not totally unhappy.
This film is categorised as a comedy, and for the first half one can believe it is. But as things progress it becomes very cynical and while comic elements remain, the unfolding events are far from funny. It is based quite closely on the novel Les Bottes Rouge by Franz Bartelt.
The title is a play on words from the title of the poem ‘Le Dormeur du val’, penned by Arthur Rimbaud in 1870. Rimbaud was born in Charleville-Mézières, a town on the River Meuse close to the Belgian border and the setting for this film. The film’s director, Manual Sanchez, was inspired by this poem, and another by Rimbaud entitled Ophélie, and you will see the clear influence of the latter from the image above.
I first saw this film when I was staying near Paris in 2014. At that time my French wasn't up to understanding much of the dialogue, although the story is so self-evident that it almost didn't matter. I awaited the day that an English subtitled version would appear, but it seems that it never did, save for some unofficial downloads or separate subtitle files that can be found on the internet. One can, however, find an English subtitled trailer (below), perhaps made in readiness for something that never happened.
With my French now much improved, I bought a copy of the DVD with French subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (sourds et malentendants). This certainly allowed me to understand a great deal more of what was being said but, as I've found in the past, the subtitles often didn't correspond precisely with the spoken words. This leaves you simultaneously trying to understand effectively two streams of French, which isn't easy. Needless to say, there was still quite a bit of dialogue not completely understood.
It seems that the film never officially made it across the water to Britain and America because English speaking audience "would never allow themselves these days to laugh at blacks, Jews or Asians." Our loss, as this is an extremely funny film.
I haven't a great deal more to add to my original review, which is itself quite short. I was going to say that if you have good French comprehension don't miss it but, on reflection, if that is the case I guess you've probably already seen it, as it went down a storm in France.
A delightful French comedy-drama set in the forests of Solonge, where the director Nicolas Vanier grew up on a family farm. This film is a treat for anybody who enjoys nature in addition to telling a heart-warming story.
The film begins in 1927 Paris, where after the war there are a lot of orphans. A woman named Célestine arrives at an orphanage where she is asked if she would take a young boy named Paul, who was originally from the area in Solonge where she lives. She is reluctant, and we detect that this boy features in her past, although we do not learn any more at this stage. She is introduced to Paul, and seeing the conditions in the orphanage, and how he is treated, her compassion overrules her reticence.
When they arrive back at Sologne we see that Célestine is in service to the local Count. Her husband, Borel, is the gamekeeper on the Count's estate. She introduces Paul as her cousin's son, which tells us that his real identity is best kept secret. He isn't there long before he learns of Totoche, the local poacher, characterised superbly by François Cluzet. Borel's main objective in life is to entrap Totoche in the act, this being all the more amusing since Totoche has a thing going with Célestine, who acts as an advanced warning of Borel's plans. Initially Totache wants nothing to do with Paul, but after Paul rescue's his dog from the river, the two gradually become friends, with Paul lapping up Totoche's immense knowledge of the life of the forest. As a drama this film could easily double as a nature documentary.
The Marvel franchise has been ruthlessly marketed in recent times (this film is the seventeenth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and one suspects that film companies and directors realise that the ubiquity of the genre will ultimately wane the audiences' interest. So we have things like Deadpool, the anti-hero, and Guardians of the Galaxy, a sublime mix of humour and a fantastic soundtrack, that offer audiences something different, with some success. This line of thinking has now permeated into the Thor brand with this latest offering, wherein Chris Hemsworth as Thor reveals his comic abilities, while the remainder of the cast play it as much for laughs as for serious intent. And it works.
We kick off with Thor enchained and at first we think he's addressing us, by way of narrative, but we soon see that in fact it is Surtur the fire dragon to whom he's speaking. In good comic book fashion his seemingly impossible plight is merely a temporary diversion awaiting the arrival of his famous Hammer. But before this happens Surtur spells out the forthcoming demise of Asgard at his hands, once he reunites his crown with the city's eternal flame. This prophecy, which goes by the name of Ragnarok, has a short life once Thor gets to work, but keep it in mind!
We had a choice of three films at the cinema yesterday: Flatliners, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Home again. I really didn't fancy Flatliners and was put off Christopher Robin by the Guardian review. So we went for Home Again.
Reese Witherspoon stars in what is an archetypical American RomCom. She plays a single mum, Alice Kinney, with two children, who has moved back to her late father's house in LA, leaving an estranged husband in New York where he is 'always busy' with his music business. As single mums go she isn't doing too badly. The house is drop-dead gorgeous and her chosen profession is to be an interior designer. Hardly up against it, although the eldest daughter, Isabel, is suffering a bit of a confidence crisis.
We are also introduced to a male trio, Harry, Teddy and George, who are ambitious fledgling film makers looking for an intro to the industry, and financial backing to launch their first movie. Worlds collide, literally, when Harry bumps into Alice, who's on a girls night out to celebrate her birthday. Despite the age difference, 40 v 27, Harry is immediately taken with Alice, and the boys and girls get together for the rest of the evening, all ending up back at Alice's. Harry and Alice's relationship is well on the way to being consummated when Harry's alcoholic excesses catch up with him, requiring a rush to the bathroom. That sort of put a damper on things.
Mon Oncle, starring and directed by Jacques Tati, is a classic of French cinema that also won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958. I knew of it, but not very much about it, so everything came as a surprise when I started watching. At first I thought it was a silent movie, since although there was a very lively soundtrack nobody was speaking, or at least when they did speak it was for the most part inaudible. As things developed there were snatches of clearer dialogue, but I was left with the impression that Tati wanted to convey everything from the action. There is a Chaplin feel to the film.
My other surprise was what appeared to be a major American influence. The plot involves a plastics factory that produces tubes, and Monsieur Arpel is the manager, who arrives every day in his large American car. And he isn't the only one driving such a car, as shots of the traffic show that most people are driving similar vehicles. Whether that was representative of this period in France, I don't know. Monsieur and Madame Arpel live in an ultra modern house, which is very un-French, with a geometric garden, minimal furniture and an automated kitchen that would have been extremely futuristic in 1958. Meanwhile everything around them is very French. A small town with run-down houses, a market and a tabac with les hommes passing the time of day drinking coffee or beer.
Judi Dench once again plays Queen Victoria in this light and amusing story of how the ageing Queen became quite enchanted with a young Indian man, who had come to present a gift from India as part of the sovereign's Golden Jubilee. The film is inspired by a true story, although the leading credits do append the word 'mostly' after the 'based on true events' slogan.
There is no doubt, however, that Abdul became a very close confidant of the Queen, and she rewarded him handsomely as a result. This didn't go down well with the royal household, and much of the film's humour arises from the reaction of the assembled dignitaries who watch on in disgust as this low-born Indian receives the Queen's closest attention. Victoria's Albert had died many years earlier, and her friendship with John Brown, the subject of Dench's other outing as Victoria, was sorely missed after he also died. Abdul filled this void.
I don't know what things are like behind the scenes in a French hospital, but you get the feeling when watching this film that it is perhaps a fairly accurate portrayal. The fact that the director, Thomas Lilti, is a medical doctor, goes a long way to explaining why this may be the case. There's quite a lot of black humour as the staff joke about a range of medical issues, along with some serious partying, such activities serving as a pressure release valve for staff working under a lot of stress with at times inadequate resources.
The English title is Diary of a Doctor, which is fitting as it follows a junior intern, Benjamin, who arrives for his first stint at the hospital full of confidence. The fact that his father is a senior doctor at the same hospital turns out to be more of a liability than a blessing, but Benjamin is keen to impress. He soon meets up with Abdel, an Algerian doctor who is interning at the hospital as his qualifications are not accepted in France. But it soon becomes clear that Abdul has the benefit of experience, something Benjamin is lacking.
It's been a while since I viewed a French language film from Amazon Prime, basically because for various reasons I haven't been using my exercise bike, and that's when I watch these films. I had been working through a watch list and had more or less exhausted it, this latest film being one of only a few unwatched. Intuitively I had a less than enthusiastic feel for it, and as it turns out my intuition was spot on. It's received poor reviews and according to Wikipédia (France) it only lasted a month on cinema screens after release. The opening sequence suggest that the film may turn out to be a bit of a song and dance affair, but this is purely a confusing distraction.
Alex Lutz plays the lead role. I knew nothing of him but it appears that he is well-known for a highly successful one-man theatre show, as well as being an actor and producer. For this film he sits in the director's chair for the first time, metaphorically of course as he is present most of the time on screen. This is yet another male mid-life crisis story but in this case we have three males, Lutz as Alexandre Ludon, his work mate Jeff, and a schoolfriend from the past, Thibaut. Alexandre and Jeff work for a large multinational and are bored with their lives. This manifests itself in childlike behaviour that is, quite frankly, too silly for words: infantile, in fact. Their wives, Carole and Cécile respectively, provide the sanity - quelle surprise! Carole is undergoing IVF treatment and Alexandre appears to have no understanding of what this means for her, his empathy quotient being somewhere just above zero. Jeff seems more switched on at home, but is certainly less so at work, where his behaviour verges on slapstick.
The name 'Five' isn't an English translation, but the original French title, which is a bit surprising.
The plot is a bit daft, as is much of the film. But it's meant to be a comedy and is indeed amusing. The language is coarse at times, probably more so if I could understand this very informal French. Subtitles tend to anglicise this type of speech, probably cleaning things up in the process.
Basically we have five friends, Samuel, Timothée, Vadim, Julia and Nestor, who have been together since childhood and always dreamed of sharing a place together. This dream materialises when Samuel offers to pay half the rent of a desirable apartment. Samuel's father thinks his son is at medical school and supports him financially on this basis. However, Samuel has a desire to be an actor and spends his time at theatre rehearsals, where he falls for the exquisitely French Maïa. Everything comes crashing down when Samuel goes to a garden party with his father and is called upon to treat a man who has collapsed. It soon becomes clear that he has no medical training whatsoever, cue for his father to cut him off, both physically and financially.
A bonus trip to the cinema this week while I was waiting for some work to be done on the car at Bury St Edmunds. I had seen the trailer for Free Fire, which showed a shoot-out in a derelict factory. What I didn't expect was that said shoot-out would be the whole film! Amazing as it may seem, this hour and a half film depicts one gun battle in the form of a black comedy.
Set in 1978, Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) have set up an arms deal between some IRA men and a gun dealer. Frank and Chris are the IRA chaps, who are meeting Vernon, a South African dressed in a loud 'Saville Row' suit. Each side have their helpers. Frank has Stevo, a zoned-out druggie, and Bernie. Things are going reasonably smoothly, despite the weapons not being as expected. "I'm not a pizza delivery service" says Vernon, when told that the rifles weren't the ones ordered. The money has been counted by Vernon's efficient sidekick, Martin, and everything is go, but then Harry, one of Vernon's team, recognises Stevo as the person he had fought with the previous evening, and all hell breaks loose.
The one-liners in this film come thick and fast, with the natural Irish humour mixed in with Vernon's equally funny retorts. But the 'little disagreement' between the two guys, thought to have been calmed, takes on a more serious aspect when shots are fired. And so the fire fight starts, with everybody drawing weapons and seemingly shooting at everybody else. To add to the mayhem, Martin, by way of insurance, has two more shooters outside, who subsequently arrive and start adding to the outright confusion.
Another whimsical French comedy with a somewhat improbable plot, but that doesn't really matter. François and Charlotte run a gourmet hotel and restaurant, but while François is fixated on attaining his first Michelin star, Charlotte is feeling neglected. Charlotte's sister Pascale appears to be an almost permanent fixture, as well as being somewhat of an embarrassment with her devil-may-care approach to life. Early in the film we have the low point of François forgetting Charlotte's birthday and then trying to make amends with a rapidly conjured cake and a rendition of happy birthday from the staff. Charlotte is not impressed.
Into this already strained relationship comes Alex, Charlotte's former husband who was thought to have died in a tsunami. This clearly brings with it a few problems. First, there is the fact that as Alex isn't dead, he remains Charlotte's husband, nullifying her marriage to François. Second, and arguably more of a problem, is that Alex still legally owns the hotel, even though it was rebuilt and its image completely transformed after Alex disappeared. Third, and perhaps the biggest problem of all, is that Charlotte appears to be gravitating towards Alex and away from François. However, François reluctantly agrees to give Alex a room, allowing him continuing access to Charlotte. Full board, you might say, which is the literal translation of the French title.
Antoine is a seriously depressed singer with a rock band and the film begins with him walking out of that life, literally. Unskilled, and of a somewhat sullen disposition, he finds it difficult to find and hold down a job. A woman at the job centre (agence d'intérim) suggests a job as a caretaker (guardien) at an apartment block, which comes with accommodation. He gets the job, not as a result of his interview which is far from sparkling, but because the landlord's wife, Mathilde, played by Catherine Deneuve, takes a rather instant liking to him. Mathilde, as it turns out, is also depressed, worrying herself awake at nights because of a growing crack in one of the walls.
Antione and Mathilde are thus somewhat like souls, and as he struggles with life, not helped by drinking and taking drugs, she becomes more and more obsessed with the state of the building. A particularly annoying tenant, Laurent, is continually bothering Antoine, while another young man, Stéphane, who also lives in one of the flats, presents problems by storing a number of probably stolen bicycles in the courtyard, one of Laurent's bugbears. Then Lev arrives, selling self-help books on meditation, and Antoine, feeling sorry for him, ends up allowing him to stay in the storeroom. Lev has a dog, and the night time barking becomes another source of complaints from Laurent. Thus Antoine's desire to have a quiet life turns out not to be realised. The comedy aspect of this film lies in these many interactions.
Constance is in Paris to study, her parents being market traders in Orléans. There is a piano in the flat that's strictly off limits to Constance, which is a pity since she plays. We learn that her music teacher in Orléans discouraged her, thus her attempt to study academically, a forlorn attempt as it turns out when she fails her examinations. We also learn that Henri's wife, long deceased, played, thus Henri's sensitivity on the matter. During a visit by Henri's son, Paul, his wife, Valerie, asks Constance to play the piano. Henri relents in the circumstances but as Constance plays Henri is moved to tears, but he realises that Constance has talent.
Henri doesn't like Valerie and plots a devilish scheme to get Paul to realise that she isn't the woman for him. Henri asks Constance to seduce Paul. Not to the point of anything serious happening, but to make him realise that there are better choices for him. Constance doesn't want to do this, but a bit of less than gentle persuasion by Henri, along the lines of "if you don't do it you must leave', causes Constance to play along with the scheme. It turns out to be a bit too successful as Paul falls for Constance (who wouldn't?), while his wife leaves him and starts divorce proceedings.
Paul-André is a businessman who in making lots of money from software development burnt himself out. He now lives in a palatial if somewhat boring mansion with his butler, appearing to be constantly morose although denying that is the case. Violette is a single mum with two children and has just been released from remand after assaulting a supermarket security guard, who caught her stealing a chicken to feed her family. She is broke and under threat of losing her children to care. Interviewed on TV she makes a heartfelt appeal about the importance of the family and not wanting to lose her children.
Paul-André catches this interview and has the brilliant idea of helping Violette, by paying her debts and renting her family. As I've said, the plot is improbable. His reason is that he wants to experience having a family before committing to have his own. Having dispensed with the assurance that he is not looking for a relationship with Violette, a contract is drawn up for a three-month trial. Violette insists, however, that he lives with them. So we see Paul-André leaving his mansion to move into a house that has the appearance of a shanty.
Dismissed from the Bolshoi orchestra thirty years earlier, for hiring Jewish musicians, Andrei Filipov has a cleaning job at the Bolshoi but his mind is still on the stage, conducting his beloved music. By chance he intercepts a fax from Paris inviting the Bolshoi to perform at the Châtelet Theatre and at that moment decides to reconstitute his old orchestra and go to Paris impersonating the Bolshoi. Getting the musicians back together is no easy task and neither is finding a manager and backer. At times one feels the whole venture is going to fall apart, particularly when we find out that none of the musicians has a valid passport. However, Gypsy friends are at hand, and we witness the musicians lining up in the airport departure hall with their photographs from the photo kiosk, as the Gypsies stick the photos in each 'new' passport and officially stamp it. The interest of an inquisitive police officer is soon dealt with!
We arrive in Paris about halfway through the film, where a prominent violin soloist, Anne-Marie Jacquet, has been requested to play Tchaikovsky's violin concerto with the orchestra. The reason for this choice becomes apparent when we learn that there is history between soloist's manager, Guylène, and Filipov, and that Anne-Marie has a history of which she has never been made aware. The disorganisation that prevailed before the group left Moscow doesn't improve on its arrival in Paris. In fact, once each of them is given some money in advance, they disappear on the town and don't turn up for the first rehearsal. Things are not looking good.
I remember seeing the trailer at the cinema so had an inkling about the story. It's based on a John le Carré novel, so the pedigree was good.
The prologue treats us to some shady goings on involving the Russian mafia, leading to gangland executions of an apparently respectable family. This cues the main story involving Dima, a mafia money man who has become a target of his new boss, The Prince, and seeks a way to protect his family from what he sees as the inevitable outcome. To do this he befriends an innocent holiday maker, Perry, who's on holiday in Morocco with his barrister wife, Gail, she being rather too involved in her work and leaving Perry to his own devices. Dima sees Perry as an incorruptible 'good man' and entrusts him to carry information back to MI6 in Britain, as a trade for the safety of Dima's family. Unfortunately the mafia has a highly placed politician in Britain that can thwart these plans, but a tenacious MI6 agent, Hector, is prepared to ignore his superiors' orders and pursue Dima's offer. He co-opts Perry and Gail who at first are reluctant to agree to help, but as time passes Perry, and then Gail, begin to feel sympathy for Dima, despite his mafia connections and his violent background.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
There is a lot of humour, continuous in fact, and near the mark in places, but for me much of it was just a bit too daft. Of course I laughed, but the plot, which started reasonably sanely, descends into farce. Perhaps that was intentional.
Basically we have the successful sister, Maura, and the life disaster, Kate. Mayhem breaks out when they find out that their parents are selling the family home. Maura is merely distraught but Kate goes berserk. A plot is hatched for a final party in the house, their parents having already sold it and vacated.
Well you can probably guess what happens, and then some!
As I say, a bit too daft for me, but the reviews weren't terrible, probably on the strength of Fey and Poehler, who have a very large following. But for me this is one of the few 'thumbs-down' films I've seen this year.
Maggie Smith plays Miss Shepherd and I must admit that after watching her I can't imagine anybody else in the role. Superb is no exaggeration. Alex Jennings meanwhile is equally good as Alan Bennett. The device of physically portraying Bennett as the two parts of his character, namely the person and the author, is very clever. The film is above all a character study, and from this flows a continuous stream of humour.
While the other residents of the street wish that the lady and her van would move on, Bennett helps her, albeit reluctantly at first. The exchange between Bennett and the social worker over his role as her 'carer' is hilarious. As the film progresses we learn more about Miss Shepherd, if indeed that is her name. Her story is a sad one. Once a gifted concert pianist, her life was changed by her time in a convent, and then by an incident that leads her to believe she is a fugitive from the law. Add in a blackmailer, and her constant need to confess her sins, and we start to understand why she is as she is.
Alex, with the help of his sister and her husband, operate a rather unusual business. Basically they break up relationships, which may sound somewhat harsh, but we're led to believe that it's only where the woman is at risk of marrying somebody unsuitable. Needless to say somebody, usually the woman's father, pays them to perform this service.
His ultimate challenge arrives in the form of Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) who is hopelessly in love with her soon to be husband, a rather boring Englishman - from a French perspective, if you want boring in a love-related scenario, I guess casting an English bloke doesn't need much thought!
Castella is a rich but lonely business man. He is negotiating a deal that obviously exposes him to possible danger, so everywhere he goes he is accompanied by a bodyguard and his chauffeur. As a subplot said bodyguard and chauffeur become involved with a young woman in the local brasserie. The chauffeur having slept with her in the past, a fact he has completely forgotten when she reminds him of it. Meanwhile the bodyguard is far more worldly wise and soon forms a relationship with her.
Castella has also hired a 'sharp' college boy type as an assistant to help him with his 'big deal'. He rubs Castella up the wrong way while also suggesting to him that he should learn English to help in his business dealings.
Clara, an English teacher, is interviewed and promptly discounted, but a little later Castella comes across her again as an actress and is completely mesmerised by her performance in Racine's "Bérénice". From this point on he endeavours to meet her, breaking into her social circle, where he is politely ridiculed. Meanwhile his relationship with his wife, which had already become distant, is failing completely, her main emotional interest seeming to be her dog.
It carries on nicely from the earlier film, with our agent upsetting just about everybody and surviving not from any innate skill but from sheer luck and help from his often incredulous partners.
In this outing he's off to Rio to recover microfilms from an ex Nazi, which contain the names of French collaborators. He's told that he has been selected because he's the 'best', which he immodestly acknowledges, but we later find out that there is a more compelling reason.
Posing as a reporter on holiday, which of course nobody believes, he ends up with Mossad agents who want to get the said Nazi back to Israel for trial. In the earlier film the Muslims were the recipients of his insults, whereas this time it's the Jews. He, of course, doesn't actually realise he is insulting people.
One of the reviews on the DVD case for this film says: "Une comédie délicate, enlevée et drôle", which I think describes it quite nicely.
In Paris, in the 60s, Jean-Louis, a stockbroker, and his wife Suzanne live in a grand apartment. Above, on the sixth floor, there are a group of Spanish house maids (les bonnes) who might as well not exist as far as Jean-Louis and Suzanne are concerned.
But when their French maid is dismissed (Suzanne and her didn't get on after the death of Jean-Louis' mother) Suzanne is introduced to the fact that she can find a Spanish maid, and she takes on trial the recently arrived Maria. With a bit of clandestine help from her friends on the sixth floor, the young Maria makes a good impression, and is duly appointed.
Jean-Louis soon becomes infatuated with Maria. His wife suspects something is going on, but misses the obvious and mistakenly accuses her husband of having an affair with an attractive new female client. He choses to admit to this imaginary affair rather than to his real feelings for Maria. Suzanne duly kicks him out.
This is a spoof of the spy film genre and draws heavily from the early Bond films. Jean Dujardin plays the Bond-type character, interestingly named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath. His female co-star is played by Bérénice Bejo, and those of you who take an interest in such things will recognise this duo from the Oscar winning silent film of 2011, The Artist.
Hubert is, of course, God's gift to women and has no respect whatsoever for the religion of the local people, as shown by his silencing of the Muezzin, whose call to prayer wakes him up on his first morning in Cairo. He bumbles along and through sheer happenstance "saves the Middle East".
I enjoyed The Martian. It's really a story within a story. The first is the stranding of an astronaut on Mars, and his ultimate rescue. This part of the plot is pure Hollywood, with some highly unlikely decisions and manoeuvres, and of course some nail-biting suspense at the end of it all. That said, the science wasn't too unbelievable.
The other story, within the main story, is that of how the astronaut sets about surviving faced with a prolonged stay on Mars. This is fascinating as it involves a lot of applied science, and mathematics, and as such is a great advert to young people who may not have appreciated what science has to offer. OK, some of the 'solutions' perhaps stretch things a bit, but it's all based on genuine science.
There are internet reviews of the accuracy of the science [1 : 2], which are worth reading. The general consensus is that the only thing that was highly improbable was the storm that caused the the astronaut to be left behind. Martian atmosphere is so thin that a storm with such devastating effects couldn't really occur. This was clearly a necessary bending of the science in order to create the stranding scenario, and can be forgiven. On the other hand, if such a storm could exist it would have made short work of the air lock repair that used plastic sheeting and duct tape, something I found to be a bit far-fetched. I certainly wouldn't have been comfortable sitting there with only this temporary repair between me and the Martian atmosphere.
The East End of London of the 60s is nicely portrayed, the film starting with Reggie taking tea out to two coppers who are sitting in a Ford watching the house. Taking tea and taking the piss.
The story is related by Frances Shea, Reggie's eventual girlfriend, who tries in vain to get him to 'go straight'. This not only ends in failure, but also in tragedy.
While Reggie is mean, Ronnie is mentally deranged. The story throughout is that of Reggie trying to keep his brother in check, largely unsuccessfully. It seems that their dominance was for a time almost absolute. They were for a while literally untouchable. But Ronnie eventually oversteps the mark by murdering a rival, causing the police to reopen investigations that were previously dropped because of political pressure - Ronnie Kray having implicated senior political figures into his activities.
It's basically a romantic comedy and the admittedly small audience at the midday screening we attended was certainly predominantly female, two of whom left halfway through the film. I assume that they expected something different.
For a RomCom it doesn't start very romantically. Amy's character, who's also called Amy, is a non committing kind of girl who certainly doesn't seem to be looking for true love - just sex. This is the result of an indoctrination by her father that we witness at the very beginning of the film, although her sister seems to have survived it unscathed. If the Rom bit was missing at the start, the Com bit is full on from the off, and doesn't really let up.
Amy works as a feature writer for a magazine, her hard-headed boss, Dianna, being played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton, although I didn't actually recognise her and only realised it was her when the credits rolled. It's the typical American 'Media' office, or at least typical of the sort of office portrayed in films. I suppose offices like these do exist, where people sit around and propose outlandish ideas but are never seen actually doing any real work.
Last week we saw Spy. The trailer enticed me, and I'm not sorry I chose to see it. It's a comedy and succeeds completely as such. Melissa McCarthy is to my mind quite brilliant in the role of agent Susan Cooper (Coop) who, having for a long time having been kept in the 'back room', is given the opportunity to get out in the field. She is given express instructions only to observe and report, but as you can probably guess that that doesn't quite work out.
Following the success of the first hotel the natural plot line was for expansion. Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) duly go to America to try to secure backing. This opening sequence with Dev enjoying himself in his Mustang cruising along Route 66 is well done, the interview with the prospective backers being particularly amusing. The whole film is of course amusing and makes for good entertainment.
I must admit these films make India look very appealing and I would think there may be quite a few people out there of a certain age who feel that a real-life Exotic Hotel experience might be just the thing for them. Life can of course be somewhat less romantic than fiction but I could see the attraction.
Very humorous from the off, it's an object lesson in how not to judge a person without knowing a reasonable amount about them. Vincent, superficially a rebellious, hard drinking, irascible, untidy and unkempt loner, is disguising a more complex person. To say more would be a spoiler.
It is set in Paris and having spent April in Paris last year and this, it certainly brought back some memories. The story revolves around 'un viager', a quaint French idiosyncrasy whereby one can buy a property with a sitting tenant at significantly reduced cost, the rub being that you, the now owner, have to pay the tenant a monthly amount up until their death.
Mathias (Kevin Kline) has inherited such a property, but unfortunately he hadn't acquainted himself with the concept of le viager, and was expecting to sell up and make a small fortune. Mathilde Girard (the Old Lady played by Maggie Smith) is 92 but expected to live a lot longer. So Mathias, who's broke, finds himself in debt. Life then becomes even more complicated when Chloé Girard (Kristen Scott Thomas) appears on the scene, a feisty woman who doesn't take to Mathias.
This film was very, very funny, even if I couldn't understand a lot of the dialogue.
A bourgeois Catholic couple have four daughters who one by one marry men of different faiths, much to the consternation of their parents. After three such marriages it's the turn of the last unmarried daughter, and the parents rejoice to learn that she's marrying a Catholic. But their elation is short lived.
The cinema was packed and the audience were almost delirious with laughter. Of course, I didn't get all the subtle language-based comedy, but the visual comedy was more than enough to keep me laughing.
The film basically tells the story of how Walt Disney, after years of endeavour, finally managed to convince the doubting author of Mary Poppins, P L Travers, to release the film rights for her series of popular children's novels. Travers didn't want her characters trivialised by the 'Disney' treatment and it appears that she was a very difficult person to convince. In fact she was a very difficult person, full stop.
What was a surprise, for me anyway, was the back-story. The character of Mary Poppins was, it seems, created from Travers' childhood experience as a young girl growing up in Australia. The quintessentially English author was, therefore, actually Australian, but she had put that part of her life behind her; or had she?
I found this to be a lovely film. Perhaps a bit too sweet for some, but I was enchanted by Rose (Déborah François) and enjoyed the mix of emotion and humour. And, for a change, I actually was able to understand quite a bit of the French. Not enough to have enjoyed it without subtitles but enough to be able to compare what they actually said with what the subtitle editor came up with.
It has been compared in some respects with The Artist. The Guardian review made the following observation:
Where The Artist was a black-and-white homage to the American silent cinema of the 1920s that was shattered by the coming of sound, Populaire is a love letter to the under-appreciated Hollywood movies of the 1950s, with a wonderful feeling for the textures of Technicolor.
If you like French films it's well worth seeing.
Lightweight, and probably a bit too long, this film was a bit too stupid even for me. OK, there were some good comedy lines but the whole thing was pretty preposterous.
The bit where the ageing magician, Rance Holloway produced a dove out of a salt cellar was impressive if entirely unlikely. Jim Carrey, as the alternative face of modern magic, was completely off the wall, which for him is nothing unusual.
I can't say that I would recommend it but if you want to switch off your brain for 100 minutes then by all means go along and chill out.
Basically a comedy but wrapped up in a beautifully crafted story of the relationship between Arthur (Terence Stamp) and his terminally ill wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave).
I've had a liking for Gemma Arterton ever since seeing her as Tess in the BBC production of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Her role in this film as Elizabeth, the music teacher, was made for her.
It's in the same genre as Quartet, but for me was more convincing. And don't forget the tissues. A comedy it may be but the emotions are raw.
There were certainly some good laughs, many of the cringing variety. The visit to the marriage counsellor was particularly funny. It was a film that certainly didn't need super concentration.
Spoiler alert - don't read below the clip if you don't want the ending spoiled.
What I couldn't quite get, however, is while Nat (the wife) ultimately ends up with her American, Chloe (the husband's ex-girlfriend) deserved an awful lot more than to end up back with this all-time a***hole. So what was supposed to be the 'dream' ending didn't work for me.
The reviews have been mixed but I guess we must be easily pleased as we found it a very enjoyable film. Despite being directed by an American (Dustin Hoffman) it is in my opinion quintessentially English, with a predominantly British cast including Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Pauline Collins.
It's definitely going on the list of films to show at the village film club.
I didn't expect a great deal of it but must admit to being pleasantly surprised.
Definitely in the 'feel good' movie category, with some really good singing, lots of humour and, of course, romance. Plus the Vietnam war as a side-show. Basically The Commitments meets Good Morning, Vietnam.
The reviews have been generally good and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
And it's based on a true story.