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The White Crow (2018)
Like no other
Ralph Fiennes manages to steer a somewhat tortuous journey through Nureyev's early life and then his dance career up to the time of his defection to the West. At times, the story arc is rather confused by the constant flips between past and 'present'. Nevertheless, we soon see that precedents for Nureyev's life choices prove interesting in themselves. Dancing by Oleg Ivenko is evocative of the great man himself. A downside of the almost documentary style treatment is that Nureyev's adult professional dance career is compressed and reduced in importance such that when we reach the key point of the film we are nonplussed as to why this particular dancer is the subject of so much controversy, closely watched by KGB agents and feted by professional dancers we've never heard of. Beautiful script by David Hare, lovely cinematography, well chosen actors but in total, a mite too uneven to be perfection. Viewers should also note that there was an earlier docudrama entitled 'Rudolph Nureyev- Dance to Freedom', 2015, from which White Crow appears to filch its story arc. In truth, Nureyev is far more of an enigma than either film suggests.
Todos lo saben (2018)
And only one speaks out...
In order to get to a point where the story really begins to play out, there is a very long and unfocused backstory introduction. We don't really know what we are supposed to be taking note of. We feel like a fly on the wall, or indeed the drone filming the family wedding...too distant to be engaged in the real actions. We are given a few mis-directions and red herrings, not that we could ever work this out to begin with. We start to believe that a teenage girl has set up a huge scam. This is preposterous but we do so anyway. One character does suspect the truth and is alone in speaking out. Everyone else tip toes about keeping the secrets everyone else also knows. The victims are ultimately the ones who try to make amends. It's a sad tale where no one wins. A subtle and well made film of toxic family closeness.
The Favourite (2018)
IMDB refused to allow my earlier review - all I did was refer to some information recorded in the IMDB listing information for this title. Go have a look. I warned against thinking this as an entertainment. I retain that view. Ms Coleman deserved her Oscar, but not because this is a good film. Do not waste your money or time going to see this. It will NEVER be screened on TV because of its content. Take that as a big hint.
Becoming a person
What is a human life worth? For some, too many in fact, the answer is nothing. The teenage boy in this tale knows he is 'nothing', nothing to his parents, to his society and in Lebanese law. Nevertheless, he takes charge of what he can and tries valliantly to save his closest sister from the kind of future their own mother has lived. He fails and falls into another hell-hole of grinding poverty and alienation only to be given caring responsibilities for the undocumented child of an undocumented immigrant from Ethiopia. The boy has one outstanding trait, compassion for the lost child. He suffers hideous deprivations to keep this child alive and relatively safe. He doesn't know about the cataclysmic events that are playing out around him. All is pain. It is a marvel that anyone in this story can bear to go on. They do and the chaos just keeps going. This is a very powerful and eloquent film. It depicts the Lebanon but this same story is playing out in countries all over the world. Like the boy, all we have the hang on to is hope.
All Is True (2018)
Sentimental revision of history
Here we are again. Let's take some real historical characters and rewrite their lives to fit with our modern day sensibilities. I'd rather 'fictionalised' characters were put into these stories but then, the audiences would have to think. Thinking is too hard, apparently. We instead have to be given a right thorough wash over with emote. There's only crying to be done with this rather morose film. We're missing all those other feelings that give us a nip. Marginal intellect engaged, hankies used, mood altered. I guess that will have to do.
The right woman at the right time
In the great scheme of things, 200 years isn't a long time. In terms of recognising women as fully fledged human beings equal to males, it is far too long. Hurrah for farsighted people like President Carter who enabled the race and gender equality process to begin in earnest. Hurrah hurrah for the The Notorious RBG. Without her, the plight of all disadvantaged people would be as though stuck in the dark ages. This biopic skims rapidly through the great landmark actions that RBG promoted. It's a great testament to her and all those who have worked for the same aims. All men and women are the 'same' and deserve to be treated equally. Recommended viewing for all.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Danger in the family
For those of us without too much classical music knowledge, the music and dancing at the beginning is a bit of a challenge. It turns out this is 'The Merry Widow Waltz' and thus, those knowing viewers are already one step ahead in this game of cat and mouse. Watching this as a complete ignoramus, one is put in exactly the same position as young Charlie and the rest of the Newton family. They don't know they are harboring a dangerous man, and wouldn't (don't) believe anyone who would say anything bad about their jolly, outgoing and personable relative. Hitchcock has managed to depict the true horror of finding out truths no-one else will believe and knowing that someone really has it in for you at the same time. Irrespective of how old this film is, it really does pack a punch and deserves to be in one's top ten of classic films.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Inventive expose of corporate exploitation
In addressing directly the racism experienced by black people in a white dominated society, this film manages to expose the mendacity and inhumane motives of those corporate mammoths we cannot avoid in all our daily lives. This is achieved in the most inventive of ways using overdubbing, dream sequencing, 'realised' split-screening, fabulous music and excellent dialogue. All the characters are believable...down to the satyr like creatures the big corp is developing. There's so much to pay attention to one must at first just accept the whole and go with it. Far from being preachy and dull, this really is an uplifting film. Beautifully executed from script, cinematography to acting. I want to see it again.
Manbiki kazoku (2018)
Imagine yourself on the margins of economic well being. You're jammed into very small living quarters with barely an inch to yourself. Your work is unskilled and insecure. Your life lacks most of the things everyone else seems to take for granted. Nevertheless, you do have some, if small, control in the way you live your life. In the absence of blood family you choose an odd collection of other people similarly dispossessed. You have a kind of happiness and non-judgmental regard from those companions. Fortified, you begin to supplement your thin earnings with shop lifting. This becomes an exciting little game that you then begin to teach to a couple of child waifs and strays you take into your care. They delight you and they love you. Perfect, hey? We know it isn't. We watch unsurprised when the whole venture starts to unravel. Love lives on though. Even the thief is honest. This film is a compassionate treatment of a difficult subject. It is a little rough around the edges but a satisfying entertainment nevertheless.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
It's the wild West. Watch your back!
You will as likely as not really like some of the characters in this set of stories. Trouble is, that won't save them. There's also a good chance you'll miss some of the film because you're hiding behind your hands. It's scary, it's gruesome, it's funny, it's sad. Are you coming or are you going? You'll be on the edge of your seat, stuffed at the back of your seat. You'll definitely be awake - though you may feel like this is a nightmare!. Oh, brilliant stuff by the Coens and wonderful acting and wonderful cinematography. Back to Blood Simple quality story telling. Well done....Obviously, this isn't for everyone. Those others... this IS for you.
Lost plot hash-up
Eee by eck as like. What a bleedin shambles. For hours you sit through interminable mock-northern twangyness trying to fathom where this rambling dross is going. You know it has to have some scenes from 'Peterloo' - the massacre that occurred on 16th August 1819 when several tens of thousands of people went to St Peter's Field Manchester to hear Orator Hunt speak on the urgent need for parliamentary reform. In this film, you won't learn why this outdoor meeting was turned into a bloodbath even if you do pick up some names to bandy about. Look folks, following the French Wars, ending with Waterloo in 1815, England's working class found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They were experiencing unprecedented deprivations caused by failed harvests, taxation, the loss of work (the introduction of factories and mechanization amongst other insults. They had no representation in parliament where decisions affecting their lives were made. What could they do? In other places there had been riots (East Anglia and Spa Fields 1816) machine breaking (Nottingham and Leicester), marches on London and the Pentrich rising, there had been blasphemy and sedition in the gutter press stirring muck and murk. Peterloo was extraordinary in that the populace had gone specifically without anything resembling a weapon...no walking sticks, no missiles etc. They had nothing with which to defend themselves. It was organised as a family friendly event to which even a band of 150 women paraded their supportive banners. So, what Mike Leigh presents us is a mish-mash of individual incidents that fail to convey the true depth and seriousness of the situation. Trite dialogue includes stupidities such as when, looking at her sleeping child, Maxine Peake's character says "In 1900 she'll be 85". FFS, it is supposed to be 1819, the people think their futures are lost. They're only just in the first fifth of their own new century. What a stupid thing to have a character say. After sitting through more stupidities of this nature, we finally get to see a re-enactment of the massacre. By this time we've learnt how to identify the people who are going to get cut down. The whole shambles is a travesty of what really happened. In reality, the yeomen knew by name the people they harangued. What you don't see is the merchants and factory owners who took it upon themselves to cause the devastation and provoke the yeomen into committing atrocities over and above the hundreds of wounds and injuries suffered by those trapped in the calamitous rout . Suddenly the film ends...what? It is what happened after the massacre that really is of significance but, we don't find anything out about that, the Six Acts or the galvanizing of class warfare. This film is tripe. Give it a miss.
The Wife (2017)
Wooden characterisation needs a "King maker"
The entire story arc for this movie is so obvious you needn't bother wondering whether your predictions are going to be right from the first five minutes. Yes, she is the writer. Yes, he does die. Yes, the boy child seeks only his father's approval and fails to get it (and that approval is not worth tuppence anyway). So, there you have it, now what do you do with your time whilst you watch this predictable story play out? You find fault with the script. You find fault with the characterisations. You marvel at Glenn Close's ability to make something positively credible from unpromising dialogue and stage direction. You feel physically sick by Jonathan Pryce's character or the gross oik he is supposed to be playing. You feel like you could have written a better screenplay yourself but you're no co-dependent like The Wife. You leave the cinema. Oh well, another fine opportunity wasted.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Style over substance
Despite the actor, writer and director big hitters, this presentation manages to lose audience interest just part way in. We all know of Jobs' difficult reputation but his portrayal here provides neither realistic nor believable story telling. Here we are presented a man who goes into a funk the moment someone acts, thinks, or speaks their own truth. Thus, we are led to believe Jobs thinks he is god and cannot be crossed. Instead of creating light he has it extinguished, makes computers look like sharks and refuses to acknowledge the numerous slights and hurts he unnecessarily causes to all around him...oh, apart from his big funders. Similarly, this film casts no light on the man and his motives, trashes the reputations of bystanders and leaves you gnashing your teeth for having wasted your time and money.
Missing role model
Agnes, the dutiful, competent wife of complacent, auto-shop owner Louie, ministers to the gathering supposedly there to celebrate her birthday. There seems to be very little celebrated...she's made her own cake, lights the candles herself and carries the damn thing into the room so that everyone can sing happy birthday and watch her blow out the candles before returning to their own separate conversations etc. Great (not). She doesn't even receive gifts that she wants or are 'age appropriate'. The fact that one is an iPhone is the first indication we have that this is set in the present day...up to then, it could have been anytime 1930's to 1950's. This is the first puzzle. We do learn later that Agnes lost her mother young and thus has no proper marital role model as the wife and mother. She hardly knows who she is but is compliant, uncomplaining and long suffering. Puzzle sets out to show her blossoming self-awareness. She takes her cues about a potential different future for herself by paying close attention to the smallest details in the interactions she has with new people. A beautiful film marred only by the unrealistic portrayal of puzzle gaming...there is a distinct lack of speed! Nevertheless, a worthwhile treatment of middle age female psychological growth.
Zimna wojna (2018)
Inexplicable sexual hunger
There is a lot to commend in this depiction of the post world war rebuilding of lives and traditions. Not least are the singing and dancing performances that form the backdrop to the fated romance between the pianist and his beau of do-we-believe-it dubious background. This is, perhaps, a symbol of general everyday misogyny -the woman's talent is minimized? Hard to tell because the story arc is not easy to follow with too-long-held black blank screen breaks performing that necessary trope of story-telling aka 'Meanwhile, back at the ranch'. We don't really get to see why the two lovers are so dedicated to each other, or why they have little or no compunction in having serious relationships with other people. A mystery the viewer has to fill with their own day-dreaming, as with adding colour. It is a shame that, throughout, we are restricted to black and white visuals. A fault that is repeated in the rather two dimensional story telling. Entertaining enough but far from perfect.
It is a shame that the creative genius of this consummate artist and craftsman is so shabbily depicted. We are given tantalizing glimpses of the man himself as well as his chief advocator, promoter and friend, Isabella Blow. We are presented odd interviews with people who had been present at certain points in McQueen's life. In fact, there is little other than the actual filmed footage that we could not have read about in the catalogues and articles published for the posthumous shows that have been staged of his work since. We are not taken, visually or in discussion, to the very down at heel East London where he grew up. The connection with Isabella's wearing of McQueen's creations as day-wear and the fact she wore the heels down on her designer shoes seems never to be noticed. She 'inhabited' McQueen's designs to such an extent that McQueen's devastation on her suicide (referenced in this film as death from illness) is almost as inevitable as his own death. If you have LAM initials (Lee Alexander McQueen) and you go into a trade noted for its ephemeral, disposable products, you won't find the idea of nihilism and self-destruction much of a surprise. McQueen tattooed mannequin hand-arm lines on his wrists - come on, he's telling you everything and you still miss it! McQueen said he wanted to empower women - by giving them armor. We know he did this in several ways, sometimes literally with breast-plates. What the clips in this film do show, however, is slightly at odds with the narrative. It is claimed his focus, once working with a garment was 100%. Well, look out for the clip where he is working on alterations to a piece worn by a model whose bottom half is naked. McQueen is conscious of where the camera is being directed and looks quickly to camera to tell the cameraman to move the focus up....that is, to protect the female model's modesty. That, more than anything else, tells you the nature of the man and, why the people connected to him interviewed in this presentation are still hurting with grief.
Too much ham
If you are determined to find silly films romantic and engaging nothing I am about to tell you will matter. If, however, you need your entertainment to convince and engage you this half-baked presentation will cause you nothing but irritation and exasperation. Lilly James as Juliet manages to pout and flounce like a four-year old dress-up princess. Her skills in acting are in repeating learned lines and nothing else. Other, better actors, in this presentation also put in poor performances. This perhaps suggests the actors' disengagement with the script and direction. They would certainly be aware of the glaring mistakes being made in depicting war-time occupied Guernsey. Not surprising when female authored work is converted into a vapid and stupid screenplay by ignorant men. This ignorance extends to some gross visual mistakes. Have you ever seen a rack of pork? No, you haven't and, more to the point, no farm boy or country bumpkin would make the mistake of cooking the whole part of a pig carcass that is usually made into bacon as a joint of meat. This is what we are presented with here though! There were other, in fact a whole host of stupid mistakes caused by those involved not seeking accurate historical references or seeking the honest guidance of those who know. Give this dire rubbish a miss.
Funny Cow (2017)
Double sided sword of abuse
Funny Cow is the insulting name given to the young woman who dreams of becoming a stand-up comedienne. She is funny and funny-peculiar. Not surprising as she has an alcoholic, neglectful and depressed mother and a foul mouthed and physically abusive father. The odd thing is that, even at a young age, Funny Cow knows her family situation is not normal. She learns effective methods to disarm the violence meted out against her - and it is the first thing she asks of the old comedian she tries to emulate. How do you rise up over the abuse? This is indeed a very interesting question and one we see Funny Cow address. However, she is still too funny-peculiar for the average person to learn much...but perhaps they should try. All the actresses playing Funny Cow at her various ages manage to merge seamlessly. Well cast, well directed and some fine acting. Only one person threatens to upstage these ladies and that is Diane Morgan whose exposure in the lead role of Cunk on Britain makes us want to see more of her here. No, it's not a funny film but, it does have some lovely one-liners. Just enough humour to compensate for the very sad tales this film depicts.
Cunk on Britain (2018)
Spears her targets every time
Cunk, smart arse that she is, nevertheless learns along with us the real meanings of some of those mysterious places and events littering our history books. Asking facile questions of real historians is very revealing. We discover some who not only know their stuff but are also amused by Cunk's novel approach. More often than not though, we see some stuffed shirts getting quietly shirty over the lines of inquiry taken. We're sniggering in the back row over this skewering. Love it and Diane Morgan's portrayal of the ubiqitous walking talking history head we know from tv history progs.
Nothing to lose
Casting for this film is spot on, starting with Jean Reno as the ruthless contract killer, through incredibly young Portman as the orphaned girl, to Oldman as the psychopathic and evil cop. The hitman cares only for his killing skill, a potted plant (a prayer plant, I think) and the dreamy and imaginative routines in film musicals. The girl is lost, or a lost cause, both in her own eyes and those of her abusive family. Only her little brother 'loves her' and he is taken from her in the most brutal of fashions. The hitman can't help observing the whole nasty episode but is too knowing to involve himself, except, the girl has already tugged his heart-strings.
Script and performances help to create a truly chilling tale perfectly (well nearly!) captured by Besson's direction. In the end it is a real tear jerker though we doubt anyone has the least redeeming quality as all seem hell-bent.
The Square (2017)
Here is the meeting place of intolerance, mysogengy, arrogance, avarice, revenge, greed and an overabundance of ideas over practical solutions. Christian is the self-satisfied vector revealing these facets of the square. The anonymous woman, child and men he tramples over bite back in thoughtful, reasoned appeals but primate-like, Christian is insensible to their points of view. There is a gorilla in the picture, invisible to all, just as in the well known psychological experiement. A real and man-made primate appear but these are the harmless ones. Christian hardly redeems himself even after conscience and tough lessons kick in. You'll need a bunch of brain cells, awareness as to the nuances of the politically correct sensibility and feel for Swedish humour to get the most out of this film. A meaty film likely to reward a second viewing.
Finding Your Feet (2017)
Mildly sweet, sour and bitter & all forms of endings
Uplifting this is not. If you go to see this, think of it as a documentary of all the crap life events you will be only too familiar with the older you are. Seen from this perspective the mildly smile-worthy incidents provide a welcome break. Unfortunately, you will be encouraged to regard it as an upbeat movie for the world weary. The cast are well chosen but a few are a little type-cast thus providing nothing novel for us watching whilst enabling the actors to perform on autopilot. Imelda Staunton manages the most imaginative performance with some beautifully observed facial expressions. Such a shame this film misses any mark. It felt like weekday afternoon TV filler.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Clunky psycho relationship flick
There comes a point in this film when you want one of the characters to murder one of the others. You know it will never happen as this whole venture is a clunky depiction of the narcissist-co-dependent dance. It fails on a number of fronts to get this dynamic true to form whilst needing it to carry the story. What the screenplay said in print clearly does not come over very well with the writer also directing. This film needs a better eye for visual story making than you'll find here. There is just one stunningly outstanding portrayal and that is provided by Lesley Manville as the sister of the 'great man'. The tailoring/sewing however is a complete joke. A miss in my view.
The Post (2017)
Gutenburg's press was quicker
This film plays like a parody of the parody soap "Acorn Antiques". Streep is a shoe-in for Babs, with stiff necked, robotic movements and speech without mouth movement, posed for minutes before 'action' is started. Very very very poor direction. In fact, there are too many 'tableaux' of posed actors waiting for the go sign and then spouting the most ridiculous crap of no significance. Hanks, bless him, plays the Mrs Overall character with aplomb. Perhaps he was conned by the importance of the story this film ought to be telling....you know, press freedom, democratic government...a certain amount of truth etc. But no, we get God-awful John Williams brass-blowing noise over an amateurish treatment of the very mature newsprint industry. Do you really think it takes a compositor minutes to create a line of type? The press rolls in readiness for the final pages folks...not as in this depiction where everything is stationary until the lead story is cleared. As for the script, no no no no no no no. Mrs Graham cannot have gone from fragile woman who seems like she'll wet her pants if she speaks up to determined upholder of press freedom in the blink of an eye. Crap film. Give it a miss.
Trio of red hoardings with effing
You are warned at the beginning about the bad language and violence in this film. The language makes for a very realistic portrayal of small town life in the back of beyond. The violence will take you by surprise, even when you correctly predict what is about to happen. This is quite a feat and worthy of credit for the achievement. McDormand provides a thoughtfully expressed depiction of the kind of disenchanted, sad, mad and determined woman the murder victim's mother could likely be in such a real life situation like her character's. She nails it throughout, never missing a beat. There are amusing interludes sprinkled throughout...and completely necessary to keep us believing the story. It is indeed an interesting story but it does terminate a couple of scenes too early. Mildred does not realise she is going to confront the man who threatened her in her shop, her ex police dept buddy doesn't know she's met the man he suspects is involved in murdering Mildred's daughter. We don't get to see either. I expect a sequel at the very least!