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Grace of Monaco

It’s 1956 and Grace Kelly has made a worldwide name for herself as a beautiful and talented Hollywood movie star. She stuns the world when she suddenly announces she will leave her movie career for love – she marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco and becomes Her Serene Highness the Princess Grace of Monaco. The couple have children soon after their marriage and by the early 1960’s the Prince and Princess have welcomed Prince Albert and then Princess Caroline to the family. Grace finds it difficult to adjust to life in the tiny French Principality and she has failed to build the confidence and engagement of her community. This becomes complicated when a significant political crisis arises between Monaco and France. The future of Monaco teeters and they are on the verge of a wholesale French invasion. With her marriage on shaky ground, her Monaco community viewing her with suspicion and the world waiting for her to fail in her most public of assignments, she must summon all the determination and confidence she can to show she is made of strong stuff and is the right woman for this, her most significant role ever.

This is an interesting movie, but it’s not at all what I expected. There is very little soap opera here and even less about the lifestyle, gowns, luxuries and foibles of royal life. The drama is squarely focussed on the difficulty young and inexperienced Grace Kelly had in gaining the acceptance of the Monaco community at the time – and on the politics of the months during the political crisis between French President Charles De Gaulle and Prince Rainier III. Depending on how much of it is true, it’s fascinating to see the roles and influence of personalities around at the time – Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas feature strongly, as does Alfred Hitchcock and Father Francis Tucker. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s quite watchable.

Made in 2014. Directed by Olivier Dahan.

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Posted by on October 30, 2014 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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Reservoir Dogs

Victor Vega (played by Michael Madsen) has completed the ultimate act of loyalty – he took a four year rap for his last job when he stayed silent about “the family” after his arrest. When he gets out, family boss Joe Cabot (by Lawrence Tierney) rewards him with a well paying easy job. A team of six, led by Joe’s son Nice Guy Eddie (by Chris Penn) will pull off the ultimate heist, knock over a jewellery store for their diamonds. The team is slick, but they don’t know each other – and no names mentioned – Victor (to be known as Mr Blonde) will team up with Joe’s good men – Mr White (by Harvey Keitel), Mr Brown (by Quentin Tarantino), Mr Blue (by Edward Bunker), Mr Pink (by Steve Buscemi) and Mr Orange (by Tim Roth). The job goes down, but there’s a problem … as soon as they hit the store, the alarm goes off and the cops arrive within seconds … people are shot, there’s blood everywhere, the guys disperse in panic …. what’s going on? … did someone rat to the cops?

This movie is such fun – from the outset it’s clear that this is no ordinary team of crooks … their black suits (never rumpled) and their deep discussion over a coffee is about pop music  … what’s Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” song really about? … is so ridiculous – these tough guys, deeply involved in this debate – it’s really well done. This level of comedy, beautifully balanced with the drama and violence, is the hallmark of Quentin Tarantino’s style. This one is beautifully made and is the first of many to follow by him and others who admire his work – “Pulp Fiction” (of course), “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” by Guy Ritchie, “Get Shorty” by Barry Sonnenfeld etc. etc. … all excellent and all because Tarantino blazed the trail for them with this one. As his first work, Tarantino was richly rewarded both as a newcomer and as a masterful director. In 1992 alone, he received the Prix Tournage from the Avignon Film Festival, Best Director from the Catalonian International Film Festival, the Bronze Horse from the Stockholm Film Festival and the International Critics’ Award from the Toronto International Film Festival, then came the Yubari International Film Festival in 1993 and the Newcomer of the Year from the London Critics Circle Film Awards in 1994. For their work too, in 1993 Steve Buscemi won the Best Supporting Male award from the Independent Spirit Awards and Harvey Keitel won the Best Foreign Actor award from the Sant Jordi Awards. It’s fun and the performances are marvellous … enjoy …

Made in 1992. Directed by Quentin Tarantino

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Movies

 

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Arbitrage

Arbitrage: In finance. the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices.

Robert Miller (played by Richard Gere) has always been an astute and successful entrepreneur, money just seems to be attracted to him. He is now a high profile New York businessman and he and his wife Ellen (by Susan Sarandon) are much admired philanthropists amongst New York society. From the outside, the world sees he has a stable and very happy family and his company is a rock solid operation, with his daughter Brooke (by Brit Marling) employed as the Chief Finance Officer, to manage day to day funds management functions. Unfortunately, the house of cards starts to crumble when a huge loan comes due that relies on a now shaky-looking high risk deal, then Robert’s extra marital life is at risk of exposure after he is involved in a car accident with a beautiful French art dealer, Julie Cote (by Letitia Casta). Detective Michael Bryer (by Tim Roth) starts to sniff around and shake up Robert’s life. Time is running out and he can’t risk any publicity until he seals the deal, or he will lose everything ……

This is a good contemporary drama with a strong cast. The timing is done well and the story unfolds nicely. I’d have liked to see more of Susan Sarandon’s character, wife Ellen, but she does come into her own in the closing stages of the movie. Tim Roth and Richard Gere are both great, but for me the best performance is by Nate Parker who plays Jimmy Grant, a young guy caught up in Miller’s high stakes games. In 2012, Parker was nominated for a Black Reel Award as best supporting actor for this performance. Richard Gere was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance here too – this role with such confidence, arrogance and courage of conviction is perfect for him. Well done, a good piece.

Made in 2012. Directed by Nicholas Jarecki

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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