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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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5 Flights Up

It’s the mid 1970’s … Alex Carver (played by Morgan Freeman) carries his new wife Ruth (by Diane Keaton) over the threshold of their new apartment. It’s in a dodgy part of Brooklyn, it’s run-down and up five flights of stairs with no elevator, but it’s home. Alex, an artist, makes himself a perfect studio in the bright spare bedroom and Ruth, a teacher, fills the rest of their living space with books. Since then, they’ve made a very happy and settled life for themselves and love the neighbourhood. These days, it’s starting to get very trendy to live in Brooklyn and Alex and Ruth realise their lovely apartment may be an attractive investment for young buyers wanting to move into the area. Besides, time is marching on and those five flights of stairs are a challenge for them both these days – as well as their little dog, Dorothy. Although they are now both retired, Ruth and Alex still love their life together – Alex has his art and still actively paints, while Ruth loves her books. They are still deeply love with each other too. Ruth’s sister had some health problems last year and her real estate agent niece, Lily Portman (by Cynthia Nixon), has since taken on the task to list Alex and Ruth’s property to remove them from the “five flights of stairs”. Alex and Ruth are interested to see what their property might be worth on the market so they go along with Lily’s plans. They open their beloved home to interested buyers and watch with dismay as strangers trudge critically through their apartment. At the same time, Dorothy undergoes some expensive surgery at the animal hospital. Ruth and Alex go apartment hunting in Manhattan, where they actually find something they like and can afford. Maybe a move isn’t such a bad idea after all?

This is a very sweet movie. As artist Alex, Morgan Freeman is strong and thoughtful – which makes him a very interesting character. As young Alex, Korey Jackson is very nice. Similarly, Diane Keaton brings her best quirky and lovable performance to the role of Ruth – she has marvellous style and is a sweet caring person. The “nerdy” young Ruth is very well portrayed by Claire van der Boom. It is also great to see both Cynthia Nixon and Carrie Preston here. Nixon has the relentlessly positive real estate agent Lily, down to a tee – she’s perfect for it. For me, Carrie Preston has most recently been seen in television’s “The Good Wife”, and she is just as likeable here as Miriam Carswell, Lily’s peer and would-be competitor in the New York City real estate game. The movie has been released in the UK as “Ruth and Alex” – it’s based on the novel Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment. It’s not deep or terribly meaningful, but it’s a good movie. It has been awarded in the 2016 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards as the Best Grownup Love Story and that’s true. I enjoyed it.

Made in 2014. Directed by Richard Loncraine.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Dressmaker

Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (played by Kate Winslet) is a slave to glamour. She’s besotted with expensive fabrics and stylish textiles and her haute couture creations have established her as a big name in the society design salons of Paris. But now, with her sewing machine under her arm, she’s come back to her small home town in rural Australia. Her memories have drawn her back as there are things she must put right. She trudges up the dirt track to her childhood home and finds her mother, Molly (by Judy Davis), dishevelled, down on her luck and in poor health. The house itself is in a sorry state of repair too. But the town hasn’t changed – the residents are all just as eccentric, judgmental and hypocritical as they always were. With long memories and holding their grudges forever, these people just never change. But they all have secrets too – and Tilly’s determined to right the wrongs of the past one way or another. One by one, she reconnects with her ex-neighbours – the effeminate Sergeant Farrat (by Hugo Weaving), the storekeepers – Alvin Pratt (by Shane Jacobson) and his wife Muriel (by Rebecca Gibney), their daughter Gertrude (by Sarah Snook) and the town simpleton – Barney McSwiney (by Gyton Grantley). The people do their best to go about their daily drudgery, but Tilly’s created a literally “colourful” distraction and it’s hard to ignore her. When she is courted by Barney’s brother, Teddy McSwiney (by Liam Hemsworth), Tilly is taken by surprise when she discovers feelings she thought were long buried beneath her guilt and shame. What was once a town scandal is slowly starting to unravel and the truth is coming out, once and for all, with all the people who told all the lies being found out along the way …

This is a delightful and entertaining movie. It’s a gentle comedy that offers several wonderful cameo performances by people who’ve been in much higher bankrolled films than this. Every character is unique and portrayed wonderfully by a member of the very strong ensemble cast – it’s full of surprises. Several notables are almost unrecognisable in these roles and they don’t seem to care – as Tilly’s mother, Molly, Judy Davis is wrinkled and downright grouchy for most of the movie; Gyton Grantley is endearing and heart-warming as Barney; Hugo Weaving plays the cross-dressing policeman to perfection and Shane Jacobsen’s absolutely made to play Alvin Pratt. I can’t go past the total eye-candy Liam Hemsworth provides either … just saying. There’s so many great performances amongst the cast it’s really unfair to pick out only a few. It’s a bit like “Under Milkwood” where the town boasts so many fascinating characters, each with a curious story in their own right. You will no doubt enjoy the Pettymans – Evan (by Shane Bourne) and Marigold (by Alison Whyte), along with the wonderful characters presented by Barry Otto, Sarah Snook, Julia Blake and Kerry Fox. It is based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham , “The Dressmaker”. Rightly so, during the 2015-16 award season the movie has been recognised by the Australian Film Critics Association with a People’s Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film and gives individual awards for best Actress (Kate Winslet), Supporting Actor (Hugo Weaving), Supporting Actress (Judy Davis) and Screenplay (Jocelyn Moorhouse and PJ Hogan); the Australian Film Institute gives best Lead Actress (Kate Winslet), Supporting Actress (Judy Davis) Supporting Actor (Hugo Weaving) and Costume Design (Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson). The Australian Screen Sound Guild recognises it for best achievement in Sound Mixing and the Film Critics Circle of Australia awards Judy Davis with Best Actress – Supporting Role; along with Kate Winslet for Best Actress. Just enjoy it.

Made in 2015. Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse

 

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Intern

Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Niro) has lived in New York City his entire life. He was born here, met and married the love of his life here, raised his family here and had a successful career here – all in these familiar streets. Now, aged 70 and having recently lost his wife of over forty years, he’s trying his best to make the most of retirement. His family are nearby and he sees them often, he has a few friends and keeps active daily – but something’s still missing. He spots an advert for a “Senior Intern” at an online fashion organisation and decides to give it a go. The innovative business is only 18 months old and is growing quickly. It has all the features of a modern, dynamic organisation – open plan offices, relaxed dress code, flexible working, in-house masseuse – and their Intern Program welcomes candidates of any age. So Ben figures – why not?  Their founder, Jules Ostin (by Ann Hathaway), is a one-woman show, so at first Ben – feeling like an invisible fish out of water – struggles to find his place. But he can see that having this totally focussed leader and after such rapid growth, the staff and their approach can do with some tweaks here and there. Slowly he starts to forge a place for himself in the organisation, get to know his colleagues and uncover the truth … that Jules’ does actually have a softer side. But … will this Internship work out? … or are his ways just too old-fashioned to fit into a professional life any more?

This is a sweet movie. As Ben, Robert De Niro is lovely. He’s unassuming and totally endearing in this role. He works with Anne Hathaway very well. Renee Russo’s role as corporate masseuse, Fiona, is just right – there’s not too much made of her role, but just enough for it to add to the story. The fellow interns are great too – best of all is Davis, played so well (perhaps he was just being himself …) by Zack Pearlman. Overall, it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours and is a very easy movie to watch.

Made in 2015. Directed by Nancy Meyers.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Martian

On a routine space expedition to Mars, a ground crew are on their final research mission when a fierce storm lashes the planet’s surface. The team of astronauts, severely buffeted by the relentless gales, manage to scramble back to their craft. They watch in horror as one of their crew members, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), is blasted hundreds of metres out of sight by the high winds. Assuming he has been killed, Commander Melissa Lewis (by Jessica Chastain) departs the surface of Mars to preserve the lives of her remaining crew. They start their journey home to Earth. Several hours later when the storm has passed, Watney now lies on the calm Mars ground. He regains consciousness and slowly realises he has been left behind on Mars … alone. Now what should he do?  … Left on this inhospitable barren planet, does anyone even know he’s alive?  … How will he survive?  … Will anyone ever come back for him?

This is an entertaining and well-made movie. Once the viewer realises it’s not supposed to be a serious sci-fi, but more a light-hearted drama (almost comedy) made as an adventure story, the whole experience is enjoyable. As Astronaut Mark Watney, Matt Damon is perfectly cast as this highly intelligent, but realistic and practical botanist who’s left to use his every ounce of instinct and ingenuity to figure out a way to survive. He’s got to be smart, as there’s a whole station of highly advanced technical equipment to operate and there’s fundamental mathematics and science to be applied to this survival situation. His co-stars add interest and intrigue to the story – I love that there are some strong, smart women in driving roles – Jessica Chastain is our courageous and innovative Commander Lewis; Kristen Wiig is the digital satellite expert at NASA; and Kate Mara as the crew’s technology whizz. Our resident “Mars” expert at NASA Ground Control is Vincent Kapoor, played very well by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the necessary political animal is NASA Director Teddy Sanders, by Jeff Daniels, who must navigate the stakeholders to get what he needs to keep the space crew alive, the media at bay and the political climate positive. It’s good to see Sean Bean here as NASA’s Mitch Henderson (and not a bad guy for once), he hasn’t been around much lately. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story, supported well by a great script and good soundtrack – how timely to note that David Bowie’s “Starman” is used very well in this, along with several other songs from a time gone by. Quite deservedly, the movie won the 2016 AFI Award for “Movie of the Year” and it made no. 5 in the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) 2015 “Top 10 Films”. It also won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture and Matt Damon for Best Actor. In the 2016 Academy Awards (Oscars) it was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year and in both the Oscars and the BAFTA’s nominations were for Matt Damon (Leading Actor), Writing, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. It is based on the book “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Very well done.

Made in 2015. Directed by Ridley Scott.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Movies

 

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Danny Collins

Danny Collins (played by Al Pacino) has the world at his feet. His audience has aged with him and they’re still just as loyal as ever. They loved his songs in the 70’s and Danny became a huge pop star – and that’s all they want to hear now, so he delivers it for them, night after night. Danny’s lived the high life every day since his hey-day  … heck, he can afford it, so why not? But he’s done it to the detriment of his personal life – after three failed marriages, the latest to blonde-bombshell Sophie (by Katarina Cas), his only real friend is his manager, Frank Grubman (by Christopher Plummer). Frank dutifully books big tours for Danny, his audiences attend in their droves and the money rolls in. Then one day, Frank reveals a 40 year old letter that John Lennon wrote to Danny, which was unknown until a few months ago. This sparks a need in Danny to seek out his estranged family and try to make amends for decisions he made in his life – perhaps also to discover who Danny Collins really is?

This is a sweet movie – made more so because it’s based on a true story … well sort of, it’s actually about a letter to Steve Tilston. But the audience is clear about that from the outset – in a nod to the Cohen Brothers’ way of opening a movie. I found it a bit bizarre to see Al Pacino in a singing role, but once I got over that I found the actual story very nice. As Danny Collins, Al Pacino is the right fit – a hard drinking, hard living, drug taking, rough-around-the-edges kind of guy with a warm heart. His manager, Frank Grubman is beautifully played by Christopher Plummer and the young Donnelly family – father Tom (by Bobby Cannavale), mother Samantha Leigh (by Jennifer Garner) and little Hope (by Giselle Eisenberg) are all great. The gem in the movie is Annette Bening – as the demure and straight-laced Mary Sinclair, the foil to Danny Collins’ garish persona, she is lovely. It’s not a block-buster, nor is it a deeply emotive drama, but it’s a nice movie.

Made in 2015. Directed by Dan Fogelman.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Movies

 

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And So It Goes

Oren Little (played by Michael Douglas) is trying to sell his house. It’s a grand mansion, in a beautiful town on sprawling marvellous grounds. It used to be his home, until his dear wife died a couple of years ago after a battle with cancer. Now he can’t bear to be there. As a real estate agent, he knows the market, so he’s holding out for the best price he can get. These days he lives in a small holiday home nearby and exists for his own purposes. He’s become self-centred and gruff towards the outside world – he’s not strong on tact and doesn’t think about others’ feelings in the slightest. Most people have lost their patience with him and think he’s just a grouchy old so-and-so. As soon as his house is sold, he’s moving to a quiet part of Vermont to retire – and that can’t come soon enough. One day out of the blue, he’s suddenly saddled with Sarah (by Sterling Jerins) – his 9 year old granddaughter that he never knew he had. Now what’s he supposed to do? He relies on the goodwill of his tiresome neighbour, Leah (by Diane Keaton), who thankfully has a sensitive and loving nature, so she takes Sarah under her wing. Through his interactions with both Leah and Sarah, the world suddenly comes back into focus for Oren as he realises that there’s still some sweetness in life and some happiness to experience.

I didn’t have high hopes for this movie. I’d seen reviews that it was completely awful – but I was very pleasantly surprised. The mood is as relaxed as the setting – a lovely holiday town with a great lifestyle and beautiful properties. Oren Little is not a very nice person and Michael Douglas depicts him well. Diane Keaton’s character is sweet and kind-hearted – this fits well with Diane’s performance – but to hear her sing for the first time is a revelation to me – who knew? She’s a very enjoyable singer. It’s interesting – I’m not sure if it’s by design or by luck – but to watch Michael Douglas’ wardrobe, style and look get progressively more appealing – he gets well groomed, stylish and somehow younger looking as his character warms up and becomes more pleasant … I guess this is part of the Director’s plan. Some have said that Rob Reiner’s appearance in the movie is a mistake and he’s just awful, but I think that’s the idea – his character, Artie, is cringe-worthy, yes, but that’s appropriate for the story. There are two gems in this too – first, Frances Sternhagen’s character, Claire, is a breath of fresh air – she pulls no punches with Oren; second – the cameo by Frankie Valli – that’s almost uncredited, but still great to see. Overall, this is an enjoyable, sweet movie.

Made in 2014. Directed by Rob Reiner

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Movies

 

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