14/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
This film has received generally good reviews both from critics and audiences. It is indeed a film that draws you in, while at the same time giving you much to think about in trying to understand the central character.
Luce, a given name because his adoptive mother couldn't pronounce his real name, was rescued from a life as a boy soldier in Eritrea by a professional couple, Amy and Peter. Much counselling and a lot of hard work has produced a young man who excels at just about everything. He is the pride of the school and is destined to do great things. So far, so good, but beneath his polished public persona rests a far more troubled young man.
The first cracks in the idyll start to appear when we see that all is not well between Luce and his history teacher, Harriet. Luce, of course, is extremely complimentary towards her, and she apparently so towards him, although one detects an underlying tension. Things become more difficult after Harriet asks the students to write a paper, putting themselves as the voice of a historical character. Luce choses Frantz Fanon, a French West Indian psychiatrist who was a revolutionary and who took a great interest in the psychopathology of colonisation. This alarms Harriet, who decides to check out Luce's locker, where she finds a bag of illegal fireworks.
06/11/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is not so much a film as an indictment of today's Britain. Sorry We Missed You lays bare the consequences of the GIG economy.
Ricky and Abbie Turner are a young couple with two children. The son Sebastian (Seb) is the epitome of an unruly teenager, while the younger daughter, Lisa, watches on as the stresses within the family build. Ricky has moved from one temporary job to another after losing his job as a result of the fallout from the financial crash in 2008. They were on the cusp of buying a new house but now live in a run-down terrace. Abbie is a carer who visits mainly the elderly, her work ethic being to treat the old ladies as if they each of them were her mum. And she is a very caring person. Life isn't easy.
The film starts with Ricky being interviewed for a job as a delivery driver. Self-employed, he feels that he can break out of the rut. He's a grafter and believes that grafting for himself will be much more rewarding than working for somebody. But as the boss at the delivery company spells out the conditions that will apply to Ricky's work with them (he will work with them, NOT for them), we realise that this is going to be a very one-sided partnership. His first problem is transport. The company will loan him a van for £65 a day, but with encouragement from a pal he reasons that it will be better to buy his own van. Unfortunately this means that Abbie must sell her little car, making her job altogether more difficult as she buses from client (she hates that word!) to client.
23/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
It's difficult to decide what's the most chilling about this story; the treatment of Katherine Gun after she blew the whistle on the intention to put pressure on UN Security Council members to support Bush's illegal war in Iraq; or the fact that the US stooped to such measures in the first place.
Gun, played brilliantly by Keira Knightly, was employed at GCHQ as a translator when an email was circulated among the staff setting out a proposed spying operation on members of the Security Council. Portrayed as a young woman who was against the war, and who from her insider knowledge knew that a lot of what was being said by Tony Blair was untrue, Gun found herself with a crisis of conscience. She decided to act, sending a copy of the email to a known anti-war activist.
At first nothing happened, which came as a relief as she was having grave doubts over what she had done. But the message eventually found its way to the Observer newspaper, and after a bit of soul-searching, and water-testing with friends in authority, it decided to publish. At this point Gun panicked, her concern being amplified when staff at GCHQ were interviewed individually. Ultimately, having witnessed her friends in the office being interrogated, and faced with a lie detector test, she owned up and was promptly arrested.
13/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
The fact that this is an Ang Lee film was reason enough to see it but unfortunately it has suffered the curse of the critics, as shown by a 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, on the other hand, give it a healthy 84%. I assume the esteemed critics were expecting more from Ang Lee, their main gripe seemingly being the lack of a strong plot.
Well, as the film is about a super assassin, Henry Brogan, being hunted down by a younger cloned version of himself, there's probably a limit to what sort of plot could be envisaged. We have Will Smith playing both roles, the magic cinematographic art of youngification being applied to very good effect. Henry co-opts a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative, Dani Zakarewski, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who he first encounters when she is posing as the boat rental clerk at a marina. She doesn't fool him for a second despite a very convincing performance.
So why was she watching him. He has retired, and his last job was to take out a target on a high speed train, who he was told was a terrorist. A window shot from nigh on 2km with the train travelling at close to 300km/hr! Come on, nobody's that good. But apparently he is. However, he finds out that he's been deceived, and the target was in fact a biochemist. This is the signal for the agency to silence him.
09/10/19 Filed in: Cinema
I didn't read about this film before going to see it and therefore didn't realise that it was dedicated to a very short period towards the end of Judy Garland's life. It starts, however, with her as a child being coached, coaxed or if one were being particularly uncharitable, bullied by Louis B. Mayer on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Her experience at that time was to shape her life, a pawn at the mercy of the all powerful entertainment industry.
And so it was that in 1969, short of money and battling to keep her children, she reluctantly agreed to perform at London's Talk Of The Town. We see a fragile woman, almost fearful of what she has agreed to do, and actually refusing to go on stage on the opening night. But Bernard Delfont has lined up Rosalyn Wilder, played by Jessie Buckley, as Judy's personal assistant. And Rosalyn isn't taking no for an answer.
Once on stage Judy the performer replaces the insecure Judy that we've just seen in the dressing room, and she wows the audience. But she is physically low, with a lifelong dependance on drugs and acute insomnia, thanks largely to her treatment back in her youth. It is in fact quite amazing how she pulls out the stops when needed. But her fragility is exposed when she agrees to do an on screen interview, the interviewer digging into areas that destabilise her emotionally. The result is a near break down on stage.
21/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
Another space adventure. This time somewhere between science fact and science fiction. Using credible space vehicles, such as vertical launched rockets, and space stations, albeit somewhat more advanced than what we have now, we are asked to look into the perhaps not too distant future. The big question for me, given the reliance on such contemporary space technology, is how did they ship all the equipment to the Moon and Mars to create those amazing bases?
Putting the credibility analysis aside, here we have a story that centres on one man, Roy McBride, who we first see working on the exterior of a space station when it is struck by an energy pulse, causing him to tumble to Earth. These energy pulses are causing havoc on Earth and having recovered from his unexpected return to the surface, Roy is summoned to a meeting. He assumes it will be a debrief, but in fact it turns out to be related to the energy pulses.
He learns that his father, H Clifford McBride, a space hero who was lost on a mission many years earlier, was experimenting with an antimatter device, and the top brass believe it is this device that is causing the energy pulses, which have the potential to destroy Earth. Roy is interviewed with a view to him journeying to Mars, where an underground facility is unaffected by the pulses, and from where he will be asked to send a message to his father. This will enable his father to be located and the antimatter device destroyed.
16/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
The trailer for this film appealed to me, and reviews have been good, with even talk of possible Oscar nominations. But I found that it dragged a bit, which seems to put me out of step with the general view. There are at least two stories here; the hustling of rich men by a group of enterprising strippers and the friendship that builds between Ramona, the star turn, and Destiny, a newcomer who is in need of somebody to guide her through the seedy business. Jennifer Lopez is hot with a capital H as Ramona while Constance Wu is well cast as the ingenue.
Everything is going swimmingly with the Wall Street boys having money to burn, although lesson one is to choose those at the top, who pay by the minute to watch Ramona and Destiny pleasure each other, although these sequences are in fact remarkably tame by present day standards. But the gravy train hits the buffers with the 2008 financial crash, resulting in business at the clubs taking a crash dive. Ramona comes up with a plan that basically involves drugging those punters that are still in the market to ensure that they spend, spend, spend, with the club and the girls both taking a cut.
04/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
After the formulaic Angel has Fallen, the subject of my last review, I found this film to be a breath of fresh air with a reasonably credible story line and enough suspense to keep me interested. I was, therefore, surprised to return home and find that on Rotten Tomatoes it received the same 39% from the critics as did Angel Has Fallen. There was no audience figure as it is due for release in the States in January next year. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, never one to give credit where it's not deserved, restored my faith somewhat with a three-star rating, saying however that it might have made a better episodic drama on TV.
Rosamund Pike seems to be getting a taste for action dramas, shedding her 'English Rose' persona. Here she plays FBI agent Wilcox who's been working for four years to infiltrate a Polish drug ring. The key to success is her informer, Pete Koslow, who we learn was released from a 20-year prison term after four years specifically to help the FBI. The plan is about to come to fruition with 6 kilos of heroin arriving in diplomatic pouches for onward transmission. The FBI agents are following but Pete's Polish partner changes the plan saying he has an immediate buyer. But this buyer turns out to be a cop who's way out of his depth, for which he pays the ultimate price.
03/09/19 Filed in: Cinema
This is not my type of film but with little choice available on the day we settled down for some formulaic action. It's the third in a trilogy that hasn't received spectacular acclaim, the original Olympus Has Fallen seemingly being the best of the bunch. Having not seen the earlier instalments I can't comment. It is, however, interesting to note that at Rotten Tomatoes while the critics can only muster 39% approval, audiences score 94%, so there are obviously a lot of people out there who found the film entertaining.
My problem with this type of film is that they always come across as special effects and fight scenes looking for a story. Here the plot starts with our secret service agent Mike Banning (the Angel) in far from tip-top shape and taking pills to keep himself going. This doesn't stop him acquitting himself admirably in simulated shoot-out staged by his friend and former fellow Army Ranger Wade Jennings, CEO of the paramilitary company Salient Globe. Salient Globe isn't doing too well as under the current President Allan Trumbull peace has broken out!
15/08/19 Filed in: Cinema
Whatever you think of Tarantino you have to admit that he makes films like no other director. The trailer sold me and I wasn't disappointed. It is 18 rated, of course, but compared with some of his earlier films the amount of blood on display is actually greatly reduced. But there is violence with the usual Tarantino comic twist, despite the severity. But this doesn't come until the end and could leave you feeling that it was entirely justified - maybe!
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are wonderfully cast as Rick Dalton, a cowboy actor whose star is waining, and Cliff Booth, Rick's long time stunt double. Two fine actors harmonising perfectly. Following a meeting with producer Marvin Schwarz, played by Al Pacino, Rick is convinced that he's a has-been. Cliff on the other hand, a truly laid-back character, remains positive.