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Pride

It’s 1984, Joe (played by George MacKay) celebrates his 20th birthday at home in Bromley with his parents. They give him a birthday cake and a gift. But he’s got somewhere else to be so he races out of the house and catches a train to London. He emerges from the station and timidly joins his first Gay Pride march. He meets a group of gay men and their lesbian friend Steph (by Faye Marsay). They nickname him “Bromley” and take him into their fold. The group’s informal leader is Mark (by Ben Schnetzer) who’s never short of a few words and won’t back down from a fight when he feels strongly about a cause. This time, Mark’s heard about the strike involving the National Union of Mineworkers and the difficulties the miners face, seemingly being bullied by the Thatcher government. He sees strong alignment with his own group’s experience being gays and lesbians trying to fit in to society, so he takes up their cause. The group meets at a Soho bookshop run by the eldest in the group, Jonathan (by Dominic West) and his Welsh partner Gethin (by Andrew Scott). They set up “LGSM” – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and start to raise money for the cause. They gain some notoriety then pick out the Welsh village of Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley to be the recipients of their efforts. The group makes contact with village representative, Dai (by Paddy Considine), who invites them to visit the village in person. Some villagers welcome them warmly, but most are not ready for the “gays” and clearly show their displeasure. Undaunted, Mark and LGSM continue to raise funds and awareness of the miners’ situation grows. The villagers are hard to convince and Mark gradually loses faith in his work. Will the villagers eventually see the good in what the group are doing, or will the efforts fall on mostly deaf ears and be wasted? …

This is an entertaining and compelling movie. The script and performances are marvellous thanks to a very strong cast and a well written screenplay. The village characters are wonderful – there are several, but I’d particularly mention Cliff (by Bill Nighy), Sian (by Jessica Gunning) and Hefina (by Imelda Staunton). The “gays” are lovely and the people in the village are portrayed authentically. It’s a very enjoyable movie, with wonderful lines of dialogue, particularly by the Welsh villagers. Several important messages come through too – speak up for what you believe in … be who you are … believe in yourself … loyalty runs deep … It’s inspired by a true story, which makes it even better. The movie is very well regarded and in the 2014 awards season it received the Ghent International Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Film and the Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm award. In the 2015 awards season it received a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. Imelda Staunton received Best Supporting Actress from the British Independent Film Awards, and they awarded Andrew Scott with Best Supporting Actor; the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) awarded it the Dorian Award for LGBTQ Film of the Year and Unsung Film of the Year. Well done everyone.

Made in 2014. Directed by Matthew Warchus

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Love Punch

Richard Jones (played by Pierce Brosnan) has worked long and hard to establish his company and to set up himself and his (now ex-) wife Kate (by Emma Thompson) for their retirement. Although they’re divorced, they are still in regular contact as they share parenting of their two almost grown-up children, Sophie (by Tuppence Middleton) and Tim (by Tim Morton). On the brink of retirement and staring a secure financial future right in the face, Richard is devastated when he realises his retirement fund has been lost in a shonky business transaction. He and Kate confront the perpetrator – young French upstart entrepreneur Garde (by Patrice Cols) but we won’t listen to their pleads. They vow to get the money back and embark on an ambitious plan. But they need help – so they enlist the support of their long-time friends and neighbours Jerry (by Timothy Spall) and Penelope (by Celia Imrie). All they have to do is get to France, sneak into one of the functions held by Garde and his fiancé Manon (by Louise Bourgoin), carry out the plan – then sneak out again. All without a single hitch. Easy ….

This movie sounds good on paper, but … sorry – it falls so far short it’s embarrassing. It may be described as a comedy, but really it’s laughable. The backdrop of Paris and then the south of France is lovely, but forced. The unlikely plot is just silly and the performances reek of “we’re still good – we’re not getting too old for this kind of role …” so the outcome makes them all look cringingly awful. The best performance by a long way is Timothy Spall – he is entertaining as neighbour Jerry who reveals he’s been more than just an ordinary guy in his younger years. However, perhaps it’s in the direction but Pierce Brosnan looks like he’s is trying to pretend he’s still “got it” as a James Bond-type character – but it doesn’t work. Emma Thompson is not good either and her liaison with a younger man as part of the story is just not necessary. The whole thing wraps up so tidily in the end it just becomes tedious. Overall, with this one I’d say, don’t bother.

Made in 2013. Directed by Joel Hopkins

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Movies

 

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Broken

Skunk (played by Charlie Booty, Lily James and Eloise Laurence) has grown up well beyond her 11 years. Her mother left her father, Archie (by Tim Roth) a few years back and he has done his best to bring her up, along with her brother, Jed (by Bill Milner) ever since. Kasia (by Zana Marjanovic) lives in and sees to the children’s needs. She manages to find the time to have her own life in the house as well. They all live in North London in close quarters with their neighbours. The families in the street all have their challenges, but they try to put a brave face on it for the rest of the world. Since she was born, Skunk has never been in the best of health and Archie keeps a pretty close eye on her – so she sometimes doesn’t get outside much. One day, she is watching the street from her bedroom and sees her neighbour, Rick (by Robert Emms) get assaulted by another neighbour, Bob Oswald (by Rory Kinnear). She rushes to help Rick and befriends him. She doesn’t realise Rick suffers from mental illness so she doesn’t really understand his quirky behaviour. The street is thrown into chaos as the assault is exposed and other neighbours start to get involved too. Skunk tries to keep her own life fairly straighforward, but there’s always such a lot going on areound her – at home, at school, with friends … and all she wants is to be happy …

What a remarkable movie this is. “Broken” is quite accurate for this ensemble of characters. It starts off innocently enough but soon the viewer becomes intrigued with Skunk and her world. This girl has dealt with a lot and she is quite worldly-wise, but innocent at the same time. The street is a microcosm of general society – there’s unhappiness, disappointment, delight, excitement, anxiety, voilence and joy all within these tiny homes. As Skunk, Eloise Laurence’s performance is very good, she is quite believable as this girl growing up and experiencing the world for the first time. Robert Emms’ performance as Rick is superb – that would have been such a challenging role to portray and he has done very well. The very unpredictable and violent Bob Oswald is played to frightening perfection by Rory Kinnear and in 2012 he won Best Supporting Actor in the British Independent Film Awards for this work. This is a street where you want to be very sure who your neighbours are and (more importantly) what they are thinking. It’s a movie where nobody is particularly happy, but it’s good. It’s based on a novel by Daniel Clay and it won the Best British Independent Film in the British Independent Film Awards of 2012.

Made in 2012. Directed by Rufus Norris.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Angela’s Ashes

It’s the 1930s and Frankie McCourt (played by Joe Breen) is five years old. His family has recently come to New York from Ireland to escape the poverty and find a new life. But things in America are not quite as easy as Frankie’s father Malachy (by Robert Carlyle) and mother Angela (by Emily Watson) had hoped – jobs are hard to come by, food is scarce and there is no money at all. So they reluctantly return to Limerick, knowing the hardship they will face there too. Malachy is Irish, but he is from Belfast in “the North”, so Angela’s family, particularly her mother Grandma Sheehan (by Ronnie Masterson) and her sister Aggie (by Pauline McLynn) never accept him into their lives, constantly belittling him directly and referring to him as “dirty, good-for-nothing and stupid”. Angela is loyal to Malachy, but he can’t hold down a job and finds a good friend in alcohol. Any money that comes Malachy’s way gets spent on beer long before Angela or the children see it, so the family survive on charity and handouts. Life in the slums is depressing, filthy, damp and utterly soul-destroying. To add to this, Frankie’s childhood is punctuated with trauma and sadness as the “consumption” claims his siblings one after the other. As a schoolboy, Frankie (by Ciaran Owens) sees his much-adored father rely more and more heavily on drinking and he becomes more and more of a disappointment to the entire family – but in the face of this Angela tries as best she can to keep them together. As he grows into a teenager, Frankie (by Michael Legge) meets Theresa (by Kerry Condon) and learns about girls, love and the real ways of the world. This drives his ambition to leave the gloom and sadness of the slums and make a new start in America.

This is a dramatization of Frank McCourt`s best-selling autobiography “Angela’s Ashes”. It beautifully tells Frankie’s stories with schoolboy candour, grim honesty and wry humour – but it’s pretty long and there is enough content here to make a television series. Performances are very good – particularly Robert Carlyle as the curious Malachy – I never quite understand why he’s not more motivated to do better in his life; and Emily Watson – she is very good as Angela, worn down by the endless disappointments in her life, but driven by her love for her children. The three males who play Frankie at each age are very strong, ably supported by the three who play his brother Malachy Jr (Shane Murray-Corcoran, Devon Murray and Peter Halpin) – they are great and the work of all the children is excellent for people so young. For me though, whilst the drama is well told, the emotion in the piece misses the mark. This is really just like any television family drama – and I am not even clear why the biography is called “Angela’s Ashes” – did I miss something?  Angela is not dead at any stage throughout the movie … perhaps it is an obtuse reference to the tradition of Catholic Lent, Ash Wednesday … I am not sure,  I’d say wait for it on television.

Made in 1999. Directed by Alan Parker.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Movies

 

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A Room With a View

Its the early 1900’s – Lucy Honeychurch (played by Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone, cousin Charlotte Bartlett (by Maggie Smith) are on holidays in Tuscany. They are a little affronted by the state of their rooms – imagine being in Florence, in a room without a view! Honestly, it’s not befitting at all for such well-heeled English women … and it just will not do! Two English gentleman guests in the establishment, Mr Emerson (by Denholm Elliott) and his son George (by Julian Sands) gallantly offer to swap their rooms with the women, but Charlotte won’t hear of it … and so begins the visit to Italy and the sequence of events that introduces the young Lucy to a series of fascinating characters and the ways of the adult world. Back in England, Lucy spends happy times with her family – mother Marian (by Rosemary Leach) and her brother Freddy (by Rupert Graves). They host a parade of visitors, including the fellow guests from their holiday in Florence. Then Lucy is courted by Cecil Vyse (by Daniel Day Lewis) and she spends a confused summer trying to understand her feelings and manage the expectations of her family and society in general …. all she wants to do is please her family, marry well and hopefully be happy …. that shouldn’t be so difficult, should it?

This is an exquisite movie; the production is lavish and the audience is expertly taken right into Edwardian life, the art and culture of Florence and the stunning Tuscan countryside. You can almost sense the warmth in the sun, taste the grapes and breathe in lungs full of fresh Italian country air … Helen Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as the young Lucy, with marvellous and faultless support from Maggie Smith, Rosemary Leach, Judi Dench, Daniel Day Lewis and Denholm Elliott – one can hardly imagine anything going wrong with this stellar and gold-plated cast. Both Denholm Elliott and Maggie Smith were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for their work by the Academy. Of course, there is absolutely no surprise that in 1986 the production won Academy Awards (Oscars) for Art Direction, Set Decoration, Costumes and Screenplay. The score is marvellous – it features the heavenly Puccini aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” performed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa … another perfect addition to this ensemble and another component that adds to the atmosphere of the entire piece. It’s wonderful … just enjoy it.

Made in 1985. Directed by James Ivory.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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Incendiary

Lenny (played by Nicholas Greaves) has a very happy life. He loves his football team – Arsenal – loves his best friend, Rabbit, and loves having fun with his Mum and Dad (by Michelle Williams and Ed Hughes). Lenny’s just four years old and the family live a basic existence in an ex-Council flat in a London tower block. One night Lenny’s dad, a policeman, goes out to work – he’s part of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Bomb Disposal squad. As Lenny’s already in bed and sleeping, his Mum goes to the pub for a drink. She meets smart-mouthed young journalist, Jasper Black (by Ewan McGregor) and they get chatting. She ends up going home with him and against her better judgement, she sleeps with him. He’s well off and lives in a very tidy, Georgian terrace right opposite her block of flats. She is racked with guilt, but inexplicably attracted to him. They bump into each other a few times in the neighbourhood and then on May Day Lenny and his dad go to see Arsenal play at home in North London, so they get it together once again. But this time it’s different … a terrorist attack strikes the Arsenal football ground during the game, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Lenny and his dad are never seen again and his mum must try to piece her devastated life back together ….

This is a interesting movie – it puts the viewer right in the midst of this family and their daily challenges, just to live. Their life is tough, they struggle to make ends meet and the only joy in their life comes from their son Lenny. Michelle Williams is excellent as the grief stricken young Mum (we never find out her name) and she really makes you believe she is experiencing the whole range of emotions that come with grief. It’s excellent. Ewan McGregor plays that same real character he does so well – here he is a scruffy, smart, rich guy with a super cool, fast car – so that would have been fun. There are twists and turns, emotional ups and downs and some challenging moral issues to think about as you watch. It’s good. Sharon Maguire has done well – the footage surrounding the terrorist attack would have been difficult, given the recent real life events in London at the time the movie was made. This is a dramatisation of the novel of the same name by Chris Cleave.

Made in 2008. Directed by Sharon Maguire

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Movies

 

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Spider

Dennis Clegg (played by Ralph Fiennes), nicknamed “Spider” by his mother years ago, is returning to the community after spending time in a mental institution. He suffers with acute schizophrenia and has been a resident in such establishments for the past 20 years. He has not yet truly recovered, but is well enough to manage himself in the outside world. On this day, he travels to the city by train and finds his way through a grubby, rundown, industrial part of town to his halfway house. He’s scruffily dressed and has little in the way of belongings, so blends into the environment pretty easily. The halfway house Manager is Mrs Wilkinson (by Lynn Redgrave), an ill-tempered, nosey woman who treats all her house-guests gruffly. In his new surroundings, Spider is beset by memories from his childhood – his interactions with his mother Yvonne (by Miranda Richardson), his father Bill (by Gabriel Byrne) and his father’s mistress (also by Miranda Richardson). He constantly scribbles in his notebook and mumbles as he settles himself into a daily life. In Spider’s suffering mind, the memories start to blend with present day real events and we watch as Spider gradually loses his grip on reality once again ….

This is a stunning movie – rich in emotion and psychological intrigue.  The directorship is excellent and the design is dark, which echoes the world Spider experiences. I would say this is the best I have ever seen Ralph Fiennes in his portrayal of the troubled Spider. The characrerisation is stunning, he inhabits the role of this broken man marvellously. Another great performance is from Miranda Richardson – it would have been a challenge (and probably an exciting experience) to play two such starkly contrasting roles – as Spider’s mother, and as his father’s wanton mistress. The mood of the film is mysterious and frighening, and the camerawork captures the mood very well.  In the 2003 season, the movie won several awards internationally and was nominated for many more – it is based on the novel by Patrick McGrath,

Made in 2002. Directed by David Cronenberg

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Movies

 

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