22 JUMP STREET
CASTLE IN ITALY
EDGE OF TOMORROW
FACE OF LOVE
FAULT IN OUR STARS, The
GRACE OF MONACO
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
ONCE MY MOTHER
ROCK THE CASBAH/ ROCK BA-CASBA
SEDUCED AND ABANDONED
TRIP TO ITALY, The
TWO FACES OF JANUARY
UNDER THE SKIN
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
YVES SAINT LAURENT
22 JUMP STREET
US, 2014, 116 minutes, Colour.
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, the Lucas Brothers, Caroline Aaron.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
They’ve moved across the street, away from the Korean church and now to a Vietnamese church where the statue of a Vietnamese Sacred Heart is prominent. But that is the most religious thing about this film, a sequel to 21 Jump Street which was, in turn, a movie version of the very popular television series of the same name which starred Johnny Depp.
The sequel is as good as, perhaps better, than 21 Jump Street. It is consistently amusing, sophomoric humour as someone remarked, but clever sophomoric humour. There is also a case for the often inept partnership between Schmidt and Jenco, undercover as brothers, almost parallel to their infiltrating a high school in search of drug dealers in the first film, but this time they have the advantage of being sent to College – and quite a few humorous sequences as they try out various courses in which they are not successful. This is done on purpose – and there is an urgent recommendation that audiences stay through the final credit sequences where sequel on sequel on sequel on sequel is suggested, the various institutes of learning where the duo could infiltrate and perfect their police work!
The film opens with one of those continuity sections as they do on television, the plot so far… And then the move to 22 Jump Street, with a glance across the street and a big sign with 23! As they go into the new quarters, they remark that their chief’s glass office looks like a cube of ice. And there is Ice Cube, grim as ever, calling them to account and sending them to College and later has an overwrought tantrum while having dinner with them. There is a new drug on the loose, Whyphy, and they have to track down the source of the drug because a young woman has died from an overdose.
Off they go to hold up a group of dealers, with Peter Stormare yet again a villain, only to find that the dealing is not with drugs but with special species, including an octopus that jumps onto the face of Schmidt, Jonah Hill.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum obviously enjoyed working together in the first film, and they have perfected their act, their combination, collaboration and timing. We have seen Jonah Hill do this kind of thing before, jokes about his size, his physical inabilities, his serious-mindedness, especially in his course at college as well as tracking down criminals. Channing Tatum, Jenko, plays straightman to Hill but it soon emerges that Tatum has a sense of humour, does deadpan very well, as well as many physical stunts. Is recruited for the college football team and is a great success, making friends with the star player and his rather rough associate, easy suspects for the drug dealing.
They have tracked down a student who lived opposite the dead woman and Schmidt forms a sexual relationship with her – and there is an unexpected and funny twist when he meets the girl’s father. She has allowed the dead woman’s roommate to move in, a deadpan and rather annoying and blunt-spoken young woman. We are glad when she moves out of the picture, but she does return.
There are football matches, a lot of attention given to a crowded Spring Break in Mexico, and various college shenanigans that young audiences will be familiar with and enjoy from many student vacation films.
However, the case is solved. Schmidt has an elaborate fist fight that he ways is the most uncomfortable he has ever had; there are car chases, highly effective stunt work, twists in the plot – and, all the time, continuous humour, some of it crude, some of its sophomoric, some of it both. Having made allowances for this, 22 Jump Street keeps a smile on the face of the audience, indulges expectations for action, and should prove a holiday hit.
Australia, 2013, 92 minutes, Colour.
Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Benjamin Winspear.
Directed by Jennifer Kent.
The first question is probably who is or what is The Babadook.
It turns out to be the character, charcoal black, in a book called Mister Babadook, the choice of the little boy in this film for some bedtime reading. He is six years old, has a propensity for monsters, a fascination and yet fear, checking in his cupboards before he goes to sleep as to whether any monsters are in his room.
His same Sam, played with extraordinary precocity and intensity by Noah Wiseman. He tells us that his father was killed in a car accident while taking his mother to the hospital for his birth, a sad thing that his birthday coincides with the death day of his father. His mother, Amelia, manages with him, loving him but finding him exasperating. She has a job in a hospital and relies on her sister, Clare, who has a daughter, Ruby, to mind Sam when things are difficult. Amelia is played by Essie Davis who gives an expert and powerful performance, ranging from normal to haunted and terrified.
Thus far, a different but ordinary life in suburban Adelaide.
Then comes the moment when Sam wants his mother to read Mister Babadook to him. This leads to some fears for the Sam, who becomes preoccupied with him, even setting up clothes and hat on the wall that look like him. The story also has quite an effect on his mother.
Amelia, in fact, is quite worn out and susceptible to fear. And the presence of the Babadook preys on her. The question is raised as to what is happening to her. Is anything happening in reality or is Amelia experiencing hallucinations, wild imagination, even projecting her fears on to her son onto others. The audience watches her collapse with apprehension, wondering what is really happening, listening to her change of voice, listening to her changes in personality, concerned about what is happening to Sam because of this behaviour.
So, it can be said, that The Babadook works well in the genre of hauntings and mental deterioration as well as a story of a child in some peril.
Jennifer Kent is a first time feature director and has done a very effective job of creating atmosphere as well as expert delineation of character. She doesn’t tie everything up clearly by the end, allowing an audience to wonder about what really happened and whether it really happened.
US, 2014, 116 minutes, Colour.
Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Terry crews,
Directed by Frank Coraci.
Who would have thought? Adam Sandler in a film that is geared towards a family audience, no coarse language - well, more than a little innuendo, but generally of the PG style. Perhaps he is making reparation for films like That’s My Boy Grown-ups 2.
While this is a take-it-or- leave-it kind of comedy, it is a pleasant enough outing for most of the family, for the undemanding audience. Critics tend to be unkind to Adam Sandler, dismissing his broad and sometimes crass comedy, dismissing his popular entertainments – as if they were meant to be serious dramas as if that was what was intended by these films rather than simply being a pleasing pastime.
At the opening, we see Drew Barrymore as Lauren, a divorcee trying to cope with two sometimes impossible boys at home. She is on a blind date, doing a favour for a friend, with Jim, Adam Sandler, and the date is not going well at all, no chemistry between them. She arranges for a phone call citing an emergency at home so that she can escape – only for him to do the same before she does!
Lauren’s partner is about to be engaged to Jim’s boss but is not looking forward to taking on five children. they have bookings for a holiday, for blended families, in the South African resort in City. Laura and Jim both get the idea of taking up the ticket – and both finally families find themselves in South Africa. On the one hand, there are all the clashes that we might expect but there are also episodes, especially with the children, where Lauren and Jim start to bury the hatchet. He becomes a pacifying funnel the-figure for the two boys. She is a listener for the girls, arranging a makeover for the older girl who was always mistaken for a boy, not wanting to take the place of their dead mother, with the middle girl constantly talking to the presence of her mother, making places in the table…
There are the expected sequences with the animals – and some jokes with them as well.
The film does serve as a promotion for this resort – but, it is very American in its extrovertedly heads extra vertically affluent style, an intrusive singing and dance combo being rather alienating with their frequent performances, and plenty of PG-rated look at raucousness and innuendo. One of the difficulties in looking at the sequences is that the Americans confine themselves to live within the resort and the game Park, no real acknowledgement of the 20th century history in South Africa and apartheid, the injustices of the period and the changes since. Blended is not meant to be a lecture, but it would have been strengthened by acknowledges South African realities instead of touristic fly-in, fly out.
While the outcome might be predictable, it does not take the quite predictable road, things being complicated when the two families return home. But, this is a film from families and so it ends very nicely. Interesting to notice that many critics, with their intense dislike of Adam Sandler, are unable to acknowledge this rather toned-down film for a broad undemanding audience.
A CASTLE IN ITALY
France, 2013, minutes, Colour.
Valeria Tedeschi Bruni, Louis Garrell, Filippo Timi, Marisa Tedeschi Bruni, Xavier Beauvois, Ande Wilms, Silvio Orlando.
Directed by Valeria Tedeschi Bruni.
Castle in Italy is a French drama, very French, with touches of the Italian. It was written and directed by actress Valeria Tedeschi Bruni. Much of the plot is drawn from the actress’ own life, her own mother portraying her mother in this film, her relationship with an actor, Louis Gaerrell in real life as well is here on the screen, her brother who died of AIDS.
The film will probably appeal to those who like French drama. However, here the characters are rather unlikeable, given the erratic moods of the heroine herself. She portrays Louise - she has been an actress but not performing for 10 years, taking time off for herself. As the film opens, she is participating in the chant of a group of monks, shades of Of Gods and Men, whose director, Xavier Beauvois, acts in this film, portraying a friend of the family, fallen on hard times and begging for money, disrupting a funeral at the end of the film.
Louise, hurrying to the railway station meets the actor wandering in the woods after take in a film directed by his father. They exchange phone numbers and when the actress returns to the city, they begin an affair. It is complicated by the age of Louise who is desperate to have a child and undergoes some IVF treatments, the actor, to his distaste, persuaded to provide sperm. There is a bizarre, very Italianate scene, when Louise goes to a convent to sit on a special chair of a nun venerated there but jealously guarded by an extremely severe nun who interrogates people about their faith and their mass-going. Louise desperately breaks through to sit on the chair before being evicted. There is also a desperate scene in the clinic where an indifferent nurse does not listen to Louise’s anxiety about a wrong tag on her arm. She does become pregnant and is very happy until a miscarriage and the breakdown of the relationship.
And the Castle of the title? It belongs to the family and there is need to sell the Castle for financial reasons or, to lease it to the locals, where the Mayor wants it to become something of a resort for visitors. Mother and daughter agree to the selling of their prized Breughel painting, which upsets the brother who is against any sale.
With the personal ups and downs of the characters, there is often change of moods, especially when the brother dies and during his funeral and in the subsequent gathering of people at the Castle where an old tree that has died is dug out and a new tree, quite huge, is planted in its place – symbol of the change from the old to the new and the future?
The film seems to be a collection of episodes about the characters rather than a well-thought-out screenplay and personal drama.
EDGE OF TOMORROW
US/UK, 2014, 113 minutes, Colour.
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Bill Paxton.
Directed by Doug Liman.
If you are not a computer games player, give Edge of Tomorrow about 20 minutes and then you may enjoy it more than you expected. Those first 20 minutes are military minutes, aliens invading Earth, worldwide military trying to contain the invasion, troops coming from Asia towards Europe, troops moving across the English Channel towards France which has been devastated (some grim views of a destroyed Paris) as have other countries of Europe.
This is a Tom Cruise science fiction (his 2013 Oblivion was very interesting and enjoyable). He is Cage, an American in London, a PR man, who is commanded by the general (Brendan Gleeson) to go to the front. He refuses, but is arrested and sent to the military base where he is given the rough treatment, called maggot, put down, clad in huge armour, put on a plane where he has to drop with others, a bit like an airborne D- Day, on the Normandy beaches. When he lands, he confronts the Alpha Alien, and is killed. But he does not die, rather, in a scenario like Groundhog Day, he lands again at the military base and goes through the process again, again, again and again.
Each time he makes a bit more progress in his mission. The key is that he meets Rita, named The Angel of Verdun, because of her heroism in the battle there (echoes of World War I). Her photo appears on the side of London buses to promote patriotism and for recruiting. Cage encounters her during his mission and she tells him to contact her when he goes back to start again. He does so and she puts him through his paces so that he is well-trained to continue with the mission, accompanying her. She has had the same experience as he but has lost her powers whereas he still has – to confront the Alpha Alien. They are helped by an eccentric but visionary scientist (Noah Taylor).
This may sound more than far-fetched. But, the screenplay is well-written, Cruise develops his character from reluctant PR man to very fit combat soldier and Emily Blunt, as Rita, can stand her ground against Cage as well as with him.
Most of the film develops the further steps in the narrative, step-by-step, returning to the start again and again, knowing better how to deal with the further steps until there is a confrontation, with rather spectacular special effects, between Cage and the Alpha Alien.
The film is geared towards the science-fiction and futuristic scenario film fans and should satisfy them – and, most of the critics around the world, liked it.
THE FACE OF LOVE
US, 2014, 92 minutes, Colour.
Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams, Jess Weixler, Amy Brenneman.
Directed by Arie Posin.
The movie marketers tell us that the main audience for films is the 18 to 25 group and that most films are geared to this niche. This may be true Hollywood but is not true of many of the international industries. And it is definitely not true for this film. This is cinema for seniors, especially the over 60s (the age of the three principal actors in this film).
All during this film, audiences might be wondering why it has this generic title. Whose face? What kind of love? But, wondering in patience, will discover that it has quite a specific meaning and throws light on the later part of the film.
The film begins with grief, Nicky (Annette Bening) mourning the death of her husband who had gone swimming and, as she walks on the beach, finding his body. She loved her husband intensely and cannot come to grips with his death. It is clear that she has no closure in her grief.
5 years pass. Nicky seems to have recovered, has a good relationship with her daughter, Summer, who goes to study in Seattle. She also has a good relationship with Roger (Robin Williams), a good friend of her late husband and a neighbour. They talk together, have meals together but Nicky does not realise the crush that Roger has on her. He is a quiet personality and does not reveal his love until later.
The important part of the film occurs when Nicky goes into a museum which she used to visit with her husband but has neglected in the last five years. Suddenly she sees a man who resembles her husband, follows him, googles him to find that he is an artist and an art teacher. She intrudes into his class, but discusses with him the possibility of some personal tuition. He agrees.
The audience notices the resemblance immediately. And the artist, Tom, is played by Ed Harris who played the part of the husband briefly at the beginning of the film. He falls in love with Nicky and thinks he has found the right woman in his life. He still keeps contact with his former wife (Amy Brenneman) who is supportive him of him, especially because of his weak heart and her concern about his health.
With the similarities of face in the two men, we realise that this could be the meaning of the title. Nicky and Tom relate well together, begin a relationship, he very happy, she seemingly happy but slipping (intensely) sometimes into memories of her husband. This all comes to a head because she has not revealed all this to Tom and her daughter, suddenly visiting, becomes semi-hysterical as she sees Tom and realises what her mother is doing. Roger is also uneasy about what Kicky is doing.
Nicky wants an idyllic visit to Mexico, to relive the experiences with her husband, failing to realise the impact for Tom – while the audience is wishing her to tell him the truth.
While this is a romantic story, it does not quite end as we might have liked or expected and the culmination of the film is at an exhibition of Tom’s paintings, a number of which portrayed Nicky, one of them called The Face of Love.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
US, 2014, 126 minutes, Colour.
Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Directed by Josh Boone.
No, this is not a Shakespeare film of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers, nor the version of Julius Caesar where the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves. This is a film version of the very popular novel by John Green, designed for Young Adult reading. The book is a bestseller and this film has done very well at the box office.
It is a story about cancer.
Hazel is a teenager who was diagnosed with serious disease at the age of 13, making it difficult for her to breathe normally, requiring her to have a canister of oxygen which she has to take with her everywhere, and the connection to her lungs through her nose. She is generally a cheerful character, strong-minded, strong-willed, acknowledging her illness and its effect, and the potential shortness of her life. She has devoted parents, feels that sometimes they mother her over much. However, she does have some touches of cynicism.
To please her parents, Hazel goes to a support group, not finding it very helpful, but listening to a young man, Isaac, who has already lost an eye and is about to lose the other, talking about his love for a girl called Monica who will support him (she doesn’t). But Hazel is also interested in his friend, Gus (Ansel Elgort) who suffers from leukaemia. He states that his one desire is oblivion and she reacts strongly against him. She talks to him after the meeting and they click, going out for walks together, talking, finding each other congenial. While she is short and strong-minded, he is rather tall, gawky, and an optimist with a perennial smile.
A lot of the action centres on a book that Hazel has read and lends to Gus. He is impressed, they talk about it, and she confesses that she has written to the author asking about life after the novel ends – but has had no reply. Gus emails the author, who lives in Amsterdam, and he replies. They decide that it would be wonderful to go to visit him in Amsterdam. After a lapse in health, and the doctors warning against it, the two go to Amsterdam with Hazel’s mother (Laura Dern).
Just as we might have thought that the film was becoming a touch sentimental, the visit to the author is actually a disaster, an interesting grumpy and grouchy performance from Willem Dafoe. The film and its impact gets a little tricky when the couple decide to visit the Anne Frank House, some commentators feeling that this demeans Anne Frank and the Holocaust by making a comparison with her fate and that of the terminally ill with cancer. Anne Frank herself, probably, would be far more sympathetic. They listen to her words, her experience of confinement and impending death. The young couple take heart from her story.
Since death is inevitable for both of the characters, the audience is not surprised when one of them dies and the effect that this has on the one remaining. Gus has been an enthusiastic supporter of making a mark in the world whereas Hazel says that it is enough to love one person.
This is not the type of film that is geared to an older audience. It is clearly targeted to the Young Adult audience and their experience of life and death, limited as it is because of simply being young. Judging by the box office, the younger audiences do identify with the characters and appreciate experiencing their lives and deaths.
Ireland, 2014, 105 minutes, Colour.
Michael Fassbender, Domnhall Gleeson, Maggie Gylenhaal, Scoot Mc Nairy, Tess Harper, Francois Civil, Carla Azar.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
A papier mache head? Actor Michael Fassbender hidden within this head? Leading a band? Composing music? Who is this character called Frank?
The writer of this film is Jon Ronson who, decades ago, was urgently requested to join in a band and play keyboard. The leader of the band, with the stage name of Frank Sidebottom, did wear a papier mache head, a kind of joke, concealing his identity but enabling him to do all kinds of things to entertain an audience. (This film is dedicated to him, Chris Sievey.).
While Frank certainly engages audience attention, the main character is Jon (reliving the screenwriters experience but with quite a number of changes in tone). The film opens with Jhn talking to himself, actually trying to compose songs which he does, walking, in the bus, in his room upstairs. But he also has an office job. He is played very effectively by Domnhall Gleeson.
At a club, he encounters Frank and his head and the smiling face drawn on the papier mache. He also encounters the PR man for the band, recovering the body of the dead keyboard player from the river. Jon receives a phone call at work and, thinking he is going for just one performance, he accepts the invitation to go and play keyboard. What happens is rather different. He is invited to go with the band to a retreat where they will practice and perfect the music that they want to record. Which takes almost a year – as evidenced by the very bearded Jon.
The bank is an eclectic lot. The PR man used to play keyboard and goes along the suicide path of his predecessor. Ominous for Jon. But, by this time, Jon has become a much stronger character, standing his ground, contributing to the music, becoming friendly with Frank but criticised and alienated from the other members, a Frenchman, a female drummer and a woman who looks perpetually unhappy, ready to attack at any moment, protective of Frank, Clara, played by Maggie Gylenhaal. Her unpredictable interactions with Jon range from severe and critical to open and sexual.
Ordinary audiences may be wondering about the music, whether it is the genuine article is or whether it is a weird concoction with nowhere to go.
And we keep wondering about Frank and whether he will remove his head. At one stage Jon thinks he will and takes a peak in the shower, but Frank is protecting his head in the shower with plastic.
All throughout the film there are visuals of words on screen, messages on Twitter, a growing number of people following Jon and his descriptions of what is happening with the band. There are also references to You Tube which has been placing videos of the activities of the band sent by Jon. This leads Frank to be persuaded that they should go to the United States from Ireland and go to a festival in Texas.
They do go, and they do get on stage, with Jon having persuaded Frank to tone down his experimental style for more easily accessible music and songs. But, with division in the group, Frank disappears.
The last part of the film has John tracking down Frank, going to visit his family, hearing some of the explanations, seeing Frank himself and understanding his mental condition.
The film is, to say the least, offbeat. Michael Fassbender does a good job of using his body language to communicate his character, despite his artificial head, and also sings well. It is an interesting tour-de-force of a performance, different from the many menacing characters Fassbender has been playing. Domnhall Gleeson reminds us that he is also a rising star.
The film was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, an interesting Irish director, with offbeat comedies like Adam and Paul, Garage, and a serious exploration of young adult responsibilities in What Richard Did.
Canada, 2013, 104 minutes, Colour.
Gabrielle Marion- Rivard, Alexandre Landry, Melissa Desormeaux -Poulin.
Directed by Louise Archimbault.
Canada’s official entry for the Oscar for Best Film in a Foreign Language.
Gabrielle is a vivacious young woman. We initially seeing her and a choir – but there is something different about the choir, some of the members have Down Syndrome, and others have difficulty in attentiveness. The choirmaster, a dedicated young man, has difficulties in co-ordinating their efforts.
This is a choir that belongs to a residence for mentally-impaired adults. And Gabrielle is one of these. It is intriguing to discover that the actress portraying Gabrielle, Gabrielle Marion- Rivard, herself has mental difficulties.
The film offers an opportunity for the group at the centre and in the choir to be affirmed in performance, in their characters and in interactions during the film. It is also an opportunity for Gabrielle Marion- Rivard to give a striking performance, credible, sympathetic, at times exasperating, and a chance for audiences to look and listen as well as appreciate and understand.
Gabrielle is 22, has a busy mother who is involved with a Symphony Orchestra but is cared for by her older sister, Sophie, a kind and understanding woman who nevertheless has a life of her own, especially with a partner who is working in India with a children’s choir – and whom we see via their Skype communications. Gabrielle is not able to manage by herself but feels a great need for some kind of independence, a chance to have a place of her own so that she can be herself and cope.
A significant part of the film involves this quest by Gabrielle, staying with her sister, looking out the window at people getting into the bus, coming downstairs and imitating them, trying to find her way to a pet shop where Martin, with whom she has fallen in love, works part-time. But he is not there and in her attempts to get home becomes quite bewildered and lost. It is particularly dangerous for Gabrielle because she is diabetic.
The other major theme of the film is about relationships, love, and possibilities of sexuality and partnerships for those at the centre. Martin is a pleasant young man, a soloist in the choir, attracted to Gabrielle. They are caught several times together and Martin’s mother is very upset and withdraws Martin from the centre. This has repercussions for the choir rehearsals because the group is training to perform publicly during a music festival in Montréal.
The film is matter-of-fact about the sexuality issues, the members on the staff of the centre being very direct in language and questions of Gabrielle and Martin. As it raises questions for Martin’s mother, it also raises questions for the audience, the nature of the relationship, the possibilities for the future, issues of pregnancy and parenthood. But the film does not want to solve these problems, rather, it shows a temporary encounter and leaves the rest to the audience as the concert is in progress and both Gabrielle and Martin happily sing.
Non- Canadian audiences will not be familiar with the real-life singer, Robert Charlebois, who agrees to sing with the choir, some of his own songs (which have some eyebrow-raising lyrics), comes to their rehearsals and happily performs with them as the culmination of the film.
There is great humanity in this film, not shirking the difficulties, especially for Gabrielle having to say goodbye to her sister as she goes overseas, indicating how difficult it is for Gabrielle to live by herself, having some accidents as she attempts cooking, with the realisation that there must be some supervision, but in the most affirming and supportive way possible.
Ireland, 2013, 104 minutes, Colour.
Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran.
Directed by Lisa Barros D’ Sa and Glen Leyburn.
On the whole, audiences will receive many good vibrations while watching this film. This reviewer saw it with only one other person in the cinema preview and really wished that there were more people present, sharing their vibrations. On the whole, it is a feel-good film though it is set in many difficult days in Belfast of the 1960s and 1970s and during the Troubles.
This is the story of a Belfast man, who considered himself the best DJ in Belfast in the 1960s. His name is Terri Hooley, who also acted as a consultant for the film. He is played with quite some exuberance by Richard Dormer, bringing this character with all his strengths and his many flaws to quite vivid life.
Terri worked in a Belfast club but customers were in decline. With his growing awareness of the punk music movement, he was interested in promoting local bands, holding auditions, giving the players opportunities, inviting audiences, making records, and trying to promote them, even going to the BBC where he was not particularly well received although famous music DJ, John Peel, was supportive.
There are fantasy sequences in the film, especially with Terri’s childhood, imagining himself flying in his garden, the home where his communistic father, who stood for Parliament, very often and was always defeated, trying to inculcate a socialist awareness in his son. He was not particularly impressed when Terri had the brainwave of starting up a shop, a music shop, in central Belfast. The name of the shop was Good Vibrations. For many years, it was the centre of musical sales and activities and promotions.
Terri thought that music, especially the punk music of the period would attract young people and transcend the divisions of politics and hatred. To some extent, he was right.
The other important thing in his life was his meeting his wife, dancing with her, proposing, the hardships of their life together, his investing her savings in his enterprises, her supporting him despite so much exasperation. But, Terri also led a comparatively wild life, music being all rather than clear economics and accounts, running the risk of squandering his capital, always in view of his music dream.
This had some bad consequences on his marriage, his drinking, even his inability to hold his young baby with his trembling hands.
Yet, he persevered with his vision, was supportive of many musicians and groups, enjoyed promoting them, even despite threats of sectarian boycotting and disturbances in Belfast. There is a powerful supportive concert in Belfast at the end, Terri making his mark.
The film is enjoyable in its way, Richard Dormer’s performance being most impressive, and, in the context of Irish troubles, an affirmation of the message: make music not war.
GRACE OF MONACO
US/France, 2014, 102 minutes, Colour.
Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Paz Vega, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lindsay, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Sommerville, Nicholas Farrell, Jeanne Balibar, Roger Ashton- Griffiths.
Directed by Oliver Dahan.
It is somewhat embarrassing for a reviewer to say that this film was enjoyable, embarrassing in the face of almost universal critical condemnation. But, I found it both interesting and enjoyable. Perhaps this is because of the presence of Grace Kelly in one’s consciousness and in her films, memories of seeing the films at the time, remembering the occasion of her wedding. Maybe those not familiar with Grace Kelly or her films will see this as something of a fiction which they can take or leave. In fact, the film does begin with a statement that, while it is based on events, it is a fictional interpretation.
The film shows the build-up to the 1956 wedding of Grace Kelly with Prince Rainier of Monaco, with some footage of the actual ceremony itself shown later. Most of the action takes place in 1961-1962.
For Princess Grace herself, there was the dilemma of whether she should go back to Hollywood and appear in of Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie. At the beginning of this film, Hitchcock himself comes to Monaco to discuss the role with his friend, Gracie, leaves a script with her which she studies, and rehearses a number of ways to interpret a sequence in front of her mirror. The issue becomes political, whether the people of Monaco, wary of their American princess, would approve of her going back to Hollywood, and whether European royalty would approve of the same thing. This leads the film into the political issues of the period.
At this time, President De Gaulle was waging war in Algeria and needed finances for this war effort. One of the ways for doing this, along with a number of other political reasons and financial issues, was to impose taxes on independent Monaco. The small nation itself was financially strapped and could not afford the taxes. Rainier was offering a number of French companies tax havens in his country, while so many French visited Monaco for its financial benefits in the casinos. Rainier himself, while marrying an American, was very strong on the traditions of the Grimaldi family, ruling in Monaco since the 13th century. He had somewhat stern European expectations of women and wives.
The film shows Grace with two of her children, the tensions with her husband, the issue of Marnie and her status in Monaco. Negotiations for the wedding, in this very Catholic principality, were entrusted to the American priest, Father Francis Tucker. He played a significant role in Monaco. He was Grace’s confidante, especially urging her to acknowledge the role she had to play as wife, mother and Princess of Monaco, role-playing and acting if she must. He also urged her to study the protocols and rules and regulations as well as perfect her French and her style and poise.
The drama of the film, apart from the relationship between husband and wife, is how to deal with De Gaulle and a blockade against Monaco. In the screenplay, Grace uses her shrewdness to attract the aristocratic women of Monaco and their work for the Red Cross to hold a ball to which she invited world leaders – and De Gaulle accepted. (The ball took place in October 1962 at the time of the Cuban crisis for the United States and at the time of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.)
The political intrigue is interesting even if the solution is probably simplified and glamorised.
But, so much of the interest in the film is in Nicole Kidman’s performance as Princess Grace. Some critics have complained that Nicole Kidman does not look like Princess Grace or act like her but, I was happily convinced to accept her. Tim Roth is an interesting choice for Rainier, seem mostly in preoccupation about his political situation. Frank Langella is quietly persuasive as Father Tucker. Parker Posey does severity personified as the regulator of protocols within the Palace – and caught up in an interesting subplot as to whether somebody in the Palace was undermining the family and negotiating with De Gaulle. Derek Jacobi gives a rather enthusiastically camp performance as the count who instructs the Princess in the ways of protocol.
Of course, the film looks very good, with scenes of the city itself, the Palace, the beautiful Mediterranean coastal cliffs. And, those with an eye to fashion, will be looking at all the creations for Nicole Kidman.
Audiences may have forgotten, but Cheryl Ladd appeared long since in a film entitled, Grace Kelly (1983), allegedly approved just before her death, a film that ends with the wedding. Comparisons have been also made with Diana, with Naomi Watts impersonating the Princess. I would prefer this film.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
US, 2014, 102 minutes, Colour.
Voices of: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchette, America Ferrara, Djimon Hounsou, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, Kristin Wiig, Christopher Mintz- Plasse.
Directed by Dean De Blois.
How to Training your Dragon was a very entertaining animated film of 2010. It had colour, it had verve, it had interesting characters and plenty of action, Dragon flights included. It was set in the Viking island of Berk, ruled by Stoick the Vast, voiced by Gerard Butler, and focused on his young, less than bulky, less than Vast, son, Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel. It is time for an entertaining sequel.
There was a lightness in humour about the first film, retained for the second, but in the context which is somewhat darker, somewhat grimmer.
Stoick is still there, wanting his son to take over as Chief, but Hiccup is reluctant, comparing himself to his father and finding himself wanting. Nevertheless, he and his faithful dragon, Toothless, so prominent in the first film, take joy flights and hang-gliding escapades, discovering a far country of rock and glacial ice. They also discover Dragon Hunters who have to deliver to an overall ruler, Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou. Stoick tells Hiccup the story of Drago and his attempts at Viking dominance. Clearly, battlelines will be drawn, especially when it is discovered the Drago has a whole host of captive dragons.
But the big surprise is that Hiccup discovers his mother, Valka, voiced by Cate Blanchett. She has been missing for over 20 years, thought dead – and her return brings great joy, and happy reminiscences, for Stoick, and a whole new dimension of family for Hiccup.
Hiccup has a plan to defeat Drago but believes in peaceful negotiations rather than battles. Perhaps it is inevitable that battles ensue in a confrontation with Drago with some heroism for both Hiccup and Toothless (who has been captured, used by Drago, with Hiccup having to do some kind of psychological hypnotic therapy to return Toothless’s consciousness to normal).
The film opens with the young people of Berk involved in rather Quidditch-type dragon races through the air – and finishes with them after the adventure.
Lots of interesting characters, especially Hiccup’s girlfriend, Astrid, voiced by America Ferrara, and the various friends who sound like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz- Plasse, Kristin Wiig.
No objections to further Berk adventures and more dragon-training!
THE LAST IMPRESARIO
Australia, 2014, 85 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Gracie Otto.
It is Greta Scacchi, early in this film, who says that Michael White is the most famous person you have never heard of. This lively documentary is an attempt to make him known, now that he is almost 80, has had a stroke, and has not been involved in his impresario work of producing and financing theatre, films, the arts for many years.
And who is Michael White and is it worthwhile a film being made about his life?
His parents were refugees from central Europe, and he was born in 1935. An asthmatic, he was sent to boarding school in Switzerland, a lonely experience, although he says it gave him a broader international outlook. By the 1960s, he became interested in promoting experimental theatre in London, which continued during the 1960s, especially the swinging 60s, where he was swinging along with the most energetic of the clubbers, drinkers, drug-takers.
White took risks in promoting plays, clashing with the quite censorious Lord Chamberlain’s office at the period. One of his greatest risks was the financing of Kenneth Tynan’s Oh Calcutta, the musical review which put nudity on the stage. However, frequently during the film the camera’s panning of a wall in his office shows a large panel with the posters of many, very many, plays that he put on, including some pieces by Barry Humphries (and Barry Humphries recalls the failure of his show, Housewife Superstar, on Broadway in the 1970s).
In fact, this is a film with myriad talking heads, all talking very personally, all warm in their admiration of Michael White and what he achieved as well as their own relationships with him. Some of the interviewees are Naomi Watts, Kate Moss, John Cleese, Anna Wintour, Yoko Ono. This jigsaw of personal testimonies does build up quite a portrait. It includes the background of his two marriages, his relationship with Australian media personality Lyndall Hobbs, interviews with his children and their interpretations of their father. Particularly helpful are the scenes with his first wife, Jill, who obviously has a great liking for her former husband – they divorced in 1972 – and has helped him in his illness.
The Last Impresario is a very well researched, documented and edited documentary. The film draws on more documentary material, photographs, video material as well as the interviews than might have been expected. The project was initiated by actress, Gracie Otto (Barry Otto’s daughter, Miranda Otto sister). She came across Michael White at the Cannes film Festival, a Festival he had attended every year since 1968. She found him at parties, meeting celebrities and decided to ask questions. She has a very blunt style in asking questions, which he comments on at one stage as being very Australian, and with her brother metallic voice, it is a wonder that he agreed to allow her to film him and make the film. but, she has persevered and put together quite an impressive portrait.
For those interested in British theatre and film, with extensions to Broadway, the film serves as a useful overview from the 1960s to the present. There is more detail than might have been anticipated. And this aspect of the historical overview is very enjoyable, entertaining.
But, having said that, one wonders about White himself. For those fond of meeting the rich and famous (though on a world level he is not so famous and, with the rather generous supporting of the arts and allowing himself to be swindled, especially in the case of the rights to The Rocky Horror Show, not too rich), this is a celebrity experience. But whether ordinary people would be interested in this life or even in meeting him, might be another matter.
US, 2014, 97 minutes, Colour.
Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville, Brenton Thwaites, Janet Mc Teer.
Directed by Robert Stromberg.
This is a Disney film which gives credit to the classic 1950s animation film, Sleeping Beauty, as well as to the fairytale by Charles Perrault. But, this story of the wicked witch who cursed Sleeping Beauty does not unfold in the way that we might have anticipated.
The film could well have been made as animation, and very effective at that. The imaginative talent here has worked on quite extraordinary production design, especially the interiors of the Palace, of the huge wall of trees and thorns which separate two kingdoms, and the general backgrounds of good and happiness as well as of evil. A lot of attention has been given to costume design as well as make up. The film looks quite striking.
The name… Maleficent has overtones of evil. However, to our surprise, Maleficent is seen initially as a little girl, a fairy in the land of fairies. She is bright, vivacious, and though there are no rules in this wonderful land, she is seen as a leader by the animated creatures. One day she encounters a little boy, Stefan, who is stealing from the kingdom. However, the two become friends, talking, exploring, enjoying each other’s company.
When Maleficent grows up, she is an imposing presence because she is played by Angelina Jolie at her most commanding, beautiful, with a seemingly sculpted face (and prominent cheekbones), with extraordinary large and powerful wings. Once more, she encounters Stefan, and, after a long time, the friendship is renewed.
In the meantime, there is a narrative, recounting the events in the fairy tale style. It is spoken by Janet Mc Teer. She indicates that all will not be well.
The way that it is explained is that Stefan is ambitious (or, once a thief, always a thief). The old King, so aggressive against the beautiful land of the fairies, wanting to incorporate it into his own kingdom goes to war with the fairies, but now he is dying. There are candidates for the throne – and Stefan wants to be the successor. In a way that you will have to see with a cruel and deceitful manoeuvre, he does become King at the expense of Maleficent. This means that he has made himself a mighty enemy. For the rest of the film, the enmity is dramatised, Maleficent becoming truly maleficent.
In the way familiar from the fairytale, she curses Stefan’s daughter. She is to live to the age of 16 and then to go into a deep sleep, only to be awakened by a kiss of true love, Maleficent remembering that Stefane’s kiss was not true love at all.
The Princess, Aurora, is entrusted to 3 small fairies who come to human life (played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville) and who care for her until she comes of age. As she grows up, she is played delightfully by Elle Fanning. Maleficent always keeps an eye on Aurora, getting to know her, talking with her, still seemingly so stern but her heart mellowing – and Aurora calls her her fairy godmother.
This is certainly a variation from the original story but so is the solution. Indeed, Prince Charming (Brenton Thwaites) arrives, searching for the castle and is dismayed to see the young woman whom he had encountered in the woods transformed into the deep sleep.
There is a nice surprise at the kiss of true love. But, there has to be a final confrontation between King Stefan and Maleficent, a battle of wits, suffering and pain, the defeat of evil, an act of heroism on the part of Aurora, and a happy ending that we would not quite have anticipated.
Which means that Maleficent is good to look at, imaginative, quite an entertaining film, a surprising film, a film that is tantalising to watch – with the overall presence of the imposing Angelina Jolie.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
US, 2014, 116 minutes, Colour.
Seth Mc Farlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson.
Directed by Seth Mc Farlane.
Audiences fond of westerns will remember many ways that they have seen people die in the West – but may find it difficult to reach 100 let alone 1,000,000. While there are many and varied ways here, a lot of them unexpected and funny in a brutal kind of way, in this film, we realise it is just an arresting entitled to entice people into see the film.
Older audiences and those with a sense of movie history may be thinking of Mel Brooks’ ground-breaking satire, Blazing Saddles, from 1974. It really broke through expectations, using the familiar conventions and cliches of the Western and overturning them, especially for the black sheriff of the town and jokes on racial prejudice at the time (just over 10 years after the March on Washington and the speeches of Martin Luther King). There was a lot of crude humour which audiences might have been surprised at but laughed at, and might still do when they think of baked beans!
40 years on, the spirit of satire is still alive, but so much of it, especially in stand-up comedy on stage and on television is geared towards the crass, the crude, no limit on bodily function jokes. This is pervasive in this film where some of the jokes are funny (especially about moustaches and Stephen Foster's song) but a number of them are unpleasantly crass.
It is all the work of Seth Mc Farlane, who has had great success on television with his two series, Family Man and American Dad. He was the host of the Oscars in 2013. But, for moviegoers, he is best-known for his very satiric and funny (and crude) story of a boy and his best friend, a teddy bear, who grows up into a character who would be more than at home on Saturday Night Live or in comedy clubs. Mc Farlane voiced the bear, Ted.
Well, here is again, all bright and smiley, as Albert the sheep farmer, a rather laid back fellow, who would seem more at home in the 21st century than in the 19th century. There is a back story, later in the film, when our hero is picked up by Indians and does some initiation ceremonies with them, particularly with their hallucinatory drugs, he thinking that all on the plate being handed round was for him. And so, back he goes into his fantasy past, even to his birth, even to a visit from a surprisingly rough-mouthed Abraham Lincoln to the school, the influence of his father who continually criticises him gruffly…
But all this stemmed from his trying to defend a young woman in a bar brawl. She is played by Charlize Theron who warms to him and his good manners and gallantry, even at the county fair. Here she shows her ability with the gun, intimidating the villain in the town, Foy the pharmacist, (Neal Patrick Harris allowing himself to be the butt, literally, of an extended bodily function joke stolen from the film Bridesmaids). He has stolen Albert’s wife (Amanda Seyfried) who is a vain young thing that he is well rid of.
The pharmacist is not the only villain of the film. We have already seen a vicious gunslinger and his gang in action. And Charlize Theron has been his wife since she was nine. He is played by Liam Neeson, who must also be a good sport to be the literal butt of a flower joke.
This description of the plot action gives, hopefully, an indication of the kind of humour, the kind of treatment, the more 21st century open satire. For those who have seen Blazing Saddles, and enjoyed its anarchic Mel Brooks’ jokes, Million Ways will probably come in as a second-best. Not probably! (Although the Django-getting-revenge ending is something of a classic.)
Palestine, 2013, 96 minutes.
Adam Bakri, Leem Lubani, Samer Bisharat.
Directed by Hani Abu- Assad.
Some years ago, Nazareth-born Arab director, Hany Abu Assaad, made a very powerful film about Palestine called Paradise Now. He took the audience into a Palestinian village and introduced them to various families, especially to young men who have committed themselves to be suicide-bombers. It showed the making of videos explaining their motivation for their sacrifice, their getting through into Israel, and the decision of one not to carry on with the mission while the other did. It was a cinematic introduction to the world of suicide-bombers.
In this film, Omar, a Palestinian, is seen immediately climbing over the wall which divides Israel from Palestine. He is a young baker, who is wanting to visit a young girl, still at school, to whom he is attracted. He also wants to meet her brother, Tarek, a friend from childhood, who is involved in plans to target Israelis. A third man, Amjad, has also been a friend from childhood.
The three plan to ambush an Israeli and kill him. When they do confront their victim, decisions have to be made as to who will do the actual shooting, a personal dilemma. Soon, on the is pursued, especially in his wall-climbing, and chased through the town. When he is caught, he is tortured, is interrogated, and experiences something of a brainwashing though he thinks he is resistant to it. His interrogator uses methods familiar as good-cop, bad-cop, threatening Omar and then engaging with him rather personally. Omar experiences prison which also has its influence on his outlook.
On his release, the interrogators have an expectation that he will supply information to them. He does not want to, but feels the pressure. This is complicated when he finds that his girlfriend suspects that he is an informer and begins a liaison with his friend Amjad.
The interrogator keeps in touch with, Omar who is also approached by local Palestinian authorities who know quite a deal about him and want information from him.
This is sometimes powerful story of contemporary young man in a most difficult situation, with his traditions and loyalties, with the experience of Israeli occupation and dangerous environments, and the possibilities for his own life and future, prospects which are continually under threat.
ONCE MY MOTHER
Australia, 2013, 96 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Sophia Turkewicz.
Once My Mother is a very moving documentary, a story of a daughter discovering the truth about her mother, a mother whom she had resented for a long part of her life.
Sophia Turkewicz made a name for herself as a film director in the 1970s and 1980s, especially with the perceptive film about Polish migrants to Australia, Silver City, which drew on her own experience and that of her mother. With this documentary, she makes a journey back into her past, back into the life of Helen, her mother, revealing quite an extraordinary story of a young Polish woman at the time of World War II.
The film opens with Sophia’s mother unable to care for herself and residing in a home for the elderly, with touches of dementia coming on. Sophia engages in conversation with her mother and takes her back into the past. What follows reveals, especially in her early years, hardships in life: work on a farm with relatives in Poland, leaving the farm at an early age and moving to the precarious existence in the city, being taken and transferred to a gulag, released after the war, going to the United Kingdom where she had choices as to where she might go. She chose to go to what is now Zambia, living in a tent camp for refugees, finally deciding to move to Australia, to Adelaide, where she had to work hard for a living, place her daughter to board in an orphanage (one of the main causes of the daughter-mother resentment), finally marrying and settling and living a long life.
It was in Lusaka that she met an Italian man, became pregnant, gave birth to Sophia, but the man was repatriated to Italy.
In 1977, Sophia began a film story about her mother, and Once My Mother uses footage of that period, a younger, vigorous Helen, talking to camera, gradually revealing aspects of her story, her experiences in the camp in Africa, the hard work in Adelaide and her regrets about her daughter boarding, her settling down.
But it was literally following in her mother’s footsteps that brought home to Sophia the difficult life that her mother had experienced. Sophia visits the farm in Poland, meet friends and hears about conditions at the time. An African visit. And, finally going to Italy, meeting her father who did not know about her, meeting his longtime wife and their children, her siblings, and experience of joy.
While the film is a memoir, a tribute to the difficult life of her mother, it is also a healing of memories for Sophia herself. The audience is invited in to share this life, learn something of a life that is so different from theirs, experience the regrets and resentments, experience the healing and reconciliation.
Australia, 2014, 104 minutes, Colour.
Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, David Field, Scoot Mc Nairy, Gillian Jones.
Directed by David Michod.
In more recent years, there have been many futuristic films set to some kind of apocalyptic crisis, films like Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow, again with Tom Cruise and aliens attacks and combat. There have been other futuristic films with bleak-looking countryside which has been devastated, like Book of Eli and The Road. Guy Pearce appeared as a character in the latter. He now wanders the Australian countryside in The Rover.
The catastrophe which is background to The Rover is not quite the apocalyptic disaster of previous films. And it is not explained except to say that it had happened 10 years earlier. We don’t know what has happened in cities because all the action is in the South Australian countryside and the Flinders Ranges, houses in the small towns, stores with limited good, goods, and petrol and other stocks barricaded behind guarded small openings. There is not a great population, most people just sitting around, wary of strangers, ready with guns.
The Rover is the second film of celebrated director, David Michod, hailed for his initial film, Animal Kingdom. He doesn’t choose easy subjects, or comforting subjects -definitely not here.
We first see Eric (Pearce), driving out to this desolate land. The Rover relies very strongly on Guy Pearce’s screen presence, intense and rugged, furrowed face, straggling beard, often staring into the middle distance while the camera stays on him for quite a long time, giving the audience the opportunity to try to read his mind and feelings. While his character remains fairly mysterious, the amount of time we concentrate on him means that we identify with him.
While Eric is trying to buy something in the store, a group of three men whom we have seen bickering with each other in a truck, argue and crash outside the store. They quickly steal Eric’s car and drive off. Eric takes their truck and goes in pursuit, to little avail.
Eric tries more peaceful confrontation but is bashed and left by the roadside where he is discovered by a strange character, Rey (Robert Pattinson far from his Twilight vampire existence), the brother of one of the men in the truck who have left him wounded and for dead.
The two go on a quest to find the men and the car. On the way they meet just a few people, a friendly doctor who takes care of Rey’s wounds, a strange settlement where a young boy teenage boys seems to be available for passers-by, pimped by his stern grandmother, sitting knitting in a rocking chair. Some of the people they pass are trigger-happy, some not, and many of them do not survive. There is a store selling petrol, a precious commodity barricaded under the counter with a demand for American cash rather than Australian notes.
As the two travel along, there is some kind of communication, but it soon emerges that Rey (an American with an accent that is sometimes hard to decipher) is mentally handicapped, shrewd but slow, with Eric wary of him, but supporting him.
Ultimately, the pair catch up with the trio and it does not spoil the film to say that there is gunplay.
In so many ways, this is a very pessimistic film, grim about human nature, picturing a survival, not so much of the fittest, since so many are not fit at all. But, there are some emotional moments at the end of the film, with Eric and his response to Rey and the revelation of why he came out into the desert in the first place.
This is not a crowd-pleaser. Rather, it is a film for those who admire cinema, engrossing plots, interesting characters – and touches of the unexpected.
SEDUCED AND ABANDONED
US, 2013, 95 minutes, Colour.
Alec Baldwin, James Toback, Bernardo Bertollucci, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Diane Kruger, Berenice Bejo, Ryan Gosling, James Caan, Ari Lerner, Mark Damon.
Directed by James Toback.
Seduced and Abandoned is a film that will appeal only to film buffs – and there are many. Audiences will need to know a lot of the people who appear, not just the popular actors but also something of the directors and producers. It may be possible to learn from this film, but it is filled with so much detail and presuppositions that the audience will know what the protagonists are talking about, the careers of many presented and the clips from their films.
To that extent, the film is something of an indulgence for cinema buffs.
The film is something of a documentary, something of a fiction, something of a mockumentary. The basic premise has Alec Baldwin wanting to get back into his film career after many seasons of television’s 30 Rock. He joins up with director, James Toback, to watch the screening in New York of Bertollucci’s Last Tango in Paris. The pair get the brainwave of redoing this theme in a contemporary 21st-century setting, possibly the Middle East, possibly Iraq, a Last Tango in Tikrit.
Toback is the more optimistic as they set off the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 to seek financial backers for the project. Baldwin is far more sanguine, setting the bar fairly low.
The film was interesting and entertaining, especially when the pair go to visit producers like the prolific Mark Damon and Avi Lerner. They suggest some estimates as to how much money could be invested. Baldwin is to be the star but they have already talked with Neve Campbell and promised her a role in the film. But, she is not considered big and bankable – and sometimes neither is Baldwin himself. So, there are all kinds of speculations about the film, the plot, changing plot details, introducing a big star and putting Neve Campbell in the more supporting role, suggestions about where it should be filmed. And the producers are not really all that keen on investing a great deal of money.
Where the film is really interesting for film buffs is in the interviewing of four prominent directors, seeing clips from their films, listening to the directors explaining their career, the opportunities, what happened during their careers, their hopes and ambitions. Bernardo Bertollucci is the veteran, in a wheelchair with back trouble which prevented him from filming for 10 years, but reminiscing about his friendship with Pasolini, working as his assistant, and, especially, working with Marlon Brando in Last Tango (with several clips, some rather jolting seen in isolation). Roman Polanski is interesting in his talk about Poland, his training, his early films, the making of Rosemary’s baby, of Chinatown. Francis Ford Coppola talks, of course, about The Godfather and about Apocalypse Now. He seems to have lost some edge and infusing is about making films.
Martin Scorsese is always interesting, his rapid-fire speech getting through a lot of material in a short time, mentioning once again his time and study of the priesthood and the religious dimensions of his career in film.
There are also some stars who were in Cannes at the time, Berenice Bejo from The Artist who hosted the awards at the Festival, with Ryan Gosling more articulate than might be expected, James Caan and his reminiscing about his career and opportunities, Diane Kruger offered a role in the new film but graciously putting it on hold until she examines the script.
And all of this to the background of the city of Cannes, the beauty, the sea, the market, the razzle-dazzle, the red carpet.
For those not in the know about the movies, probably best left. For those in the know about the movies, an entertaining indulgence.
THE TRIP TO ITALY
UK, 2014, 105 minutes, Colour.
Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Who would not want to go on a trip to Italy? And, one might suppose, that after seeing this film quite a number of members of the audience will definitely have Italy very high on their places to visit.
This is a particular trip, similar to the one that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon took some years ago around the northern areas of England, travelling together, stopovers at hotels, visiting historic sites, but mainly going to restaurants where they enjoyed the culinary delights of the area and Brydon was, allegedly, writing up articles for a newspaper.
Well, the newspaper has commissioned him again and he invites Steve Coogan, who is a touch reluctant, to join him on a trip around Italy. People might think that scenic England is beautiful but most of us would have to admit just how beautiful Italy and its different regions are. In this film, the duo visit Piemonte, the Ligurian coast, Tuscany, Rome and its environs, Naples and Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It is picture postcard material – but photographed vividly alive and beautiful.
If you are a gourmet, you may well enjoy the meals – although the film does not delay over them, perhaps the duo are too absorbed by the sites. In the first film, Steve Coogan had a loose kind of tongue and a roving eye. This time, he is more concerned about his teenage son back at home in London and, eventually, inviting him to join the trip. It is Brydon who has the roving eye now, taking up with an attractive woman on a boat, later wondering whether he should renew the acquaintance and asking the advice of a close friend, somewhat concerned as he is about his behaviour and his family.
Perhaps it needs to be pointed out that this is all fiction – probably an opportunity for Coogan to portray a more controlled man than before and for Brydon to fictitiously break out.
Audiences of the first film may remember the imitations of Michael Caine, especially from his being in Batman. They are back again plus many, many more, most of them very amusing, the two of them being excellent mimics and impersonators. There are also some comparisons about their careers, Brydon getting an opportunity to go to LA for a film directed by Michael Mann, Coogan talking about his career and its extent. Some of this is fictitious, some of it true.
This is an easy kind of film to watch, entertaining while it is up there on the screen, wondering at the beauty of Italy, interest in the presentation of the meals (it is noticeable that all the chefs presented are male!), entertainment in listening to the two stars.
Nobody would mind if there were another film which opened up another country, its scenery and its culinary interests.
UNDER THE SKIN
UK, 2013, 107 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer.
This is a film which is very interesting to think about and talk about after seeing it, perhaps more so than while watching it. It is an artfully made film, certainly designed for an outhouse audience rather than a popular audience who might be quickly bewildered by its style and themes.
The skin is that of Scarlett Johansson, once the child actor in films like The Horse Whisperer, moving to significant adult roles in Lost in Translation, more lately having a mixed career in The I am Man and The avengers films.
In 2013, she was a significant presence in Her, a character not seen on screen but only heard, the voice for a computerised robot, designed as a companion for a man who invested in this kind of technology. This time she is, initially, a strange woman who seems to assume the identity of another woman and then is seen driving a van through the streets of Glasgow. She keeps asking people the way, ordinary men in the street, some of whom respond, getting to get into the van, with lustful intentions which are then seen to be extraordinarily frustrated, becoming surreal as they work in as they walk into a viscous pool and are destroyed. No explanations given. The audience is left to wonder about the relationships between men and women, about seduction, about willingness to be seduced, about lost and sexuality, about the destructive woman.
While this seems eerie and sometimes unreal, there are many scenes of life in Glasgow, contemporary, shops and supermarkets, and discussion about the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence.
There is an interlude at a beach, where Scarlett Johansson sees a couple in difficulties in the water, and attempted rescue and failure, and the discussion with a man from the Czech Republic – man who seems ordinary and sincere, but doomed in his encounter. Another interlude involves her asking directions from a man with a disfigured head and face, reminiscent of the elephant man. She interrogates him about his life, loneliness, sexual desires, sympathetically seducing him, but with different results.
We are still wondering who this woman is. There is also a mysterious rider on a motorbike who seems to be controlling her. the drama moves on a little when she goes on a bus into the Scottish countryside, which are sympathetic man who takes her in, takes her shopping, has a more restrained sexual encounter with her. In the woods, she encounters a range who seem sympathetic at first but their encounter has dire consequences.
When it is revealed what is under the skin, it is an alien woman, visually renders reminiscent of mystique in the X-men series.
As the film is based on a novel which, according to readers, has the elements of the film, it takes many of them in a different direction, leaving much of the novel’s social commentary about life and work in Scotland. Under the Skin focuses just on the woman, her predatory and destructive behaviour, and leaves audiences to ponder all of this, male and female stereotypes and transcending them, and what is, ultimately, alien behaviour.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
US, 2014, 131 minutes, Colour.
James Mc Avoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian Mc Kellen, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Omar Sy, Shawn Ashmore. Evan Peters, Halle Berry, Lucas Till, Michael Lerner, Bingning Fan, Anna Paquin, Famke Jansen, James Marsden, Brian Cox, Kelsey Grammar.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
With a time-tangle title like this, it is not a surprise to find that time travel is a central part of the plot. This also offers the opportunity to see Charles Xavier the younger (James Mc Avoy) and older (Patrick Stewart) as well is Magneto the younger (Michael Fassbender) and older (Ian Mc Kellen) – life in a futuristic 21st century and then back in 1974.
Things are not going well in our future world. Machines have been invented to combat the Mutants. And they are winning. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto join forces and deliberate on who is the best person to send back into the past. With the popularity of so many sequels and the development of the character and adventures of Wolverine, it is not a particularly difficult choice. And off Hugh Jackman goes in the time machine to try to resolve the problems of the early 1970s.
The problem concerns Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who has something of the truth of the new machines to challenge the mutants and is on a mission to find the Professor (Peter Dinklage) who had the ear of American military officials but has lost favour with his theories and expenses.
The first mission is to release Magneto from prison, the highest security guarded prison, with a character called Quicksilver who does the judge job with expertise – but, Magneto unleashed, is a dangerous presence in the world, using his extraordinary powers to contract front government officials even on the lawn of the White House. Also has extraordinary shape-shifting powers, becoming ordinary people in the crowd taking on the presence of Richard Nixon or of Mystique.
Needless to say, this film offers quite a number of opportunities for extraordinary special effects. As with all the X- Men films, great attention is given to these effects.
In case audiences with long memories, back to 1970, are wondering about President Nixon, from this film it seems that President Nixon had much more to worry about than Watergate.
While Wolverine is doing his best back in the 1970s, matters are getting worse in the future, so in the latter part of the film, a great deal of attention and effects are given to the Mutants, with the introductions some new ones, to the battle with the enemies.
While the film resolves its problems, another sequel is on the way – the large box-office and the success of this particular chapter has ensured.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
France, 2013, 105 minutes, Colour.
Pierre Niney, Guillaume Galliene, Charlotte Le Bon, Laura Smet.
Directed by Jalil Lespert.
Yves Saint Laurent was one of the best-known names in the world of fashion in the latter part of the 20th century, working in the industry from 1957, dying in 2008.
He is gaining quite some cinema interest because there was a documentary film made about him, L ’Amour Fou, something of a tribute from his partner, Peter Berge, but highlighting the main features of his life and career. Along with the present film under review, there is another film of the same name with Gaspar Ulliel in the title role.
This biopic is interesting when it gives some background to Saint Laurent’s background, his growing up in Algeria, his roots both in Algeria and in France, his work in Paris, especially becoming assistant to the then celebrated Christian Dior. Though young, he was inventive in his imagination, his visualising of shapes and designs, his inspiration in the geometry of designing dresses, his use of colour, and his talent for creativity.
At first, he seems a rather shy young man, nevertheless eager to succeed in his chosen career. The film reveals his crisis about being drafted for serving in the French military in the early 1960s in the Algerian war. At first reluctant, he was interviewed by the press and criticised. He decided to register but was soon found to have tendencies towards depression and was temporarily placed in an institution. He was fired by the boss of the company – but, with the help of an astute lawyer, and a pay out, he was able to found his own house of design. And he continued with this over the decades.
For those who are interested in and enjoy fashion, a great deal of attention is given in the film to the various shows, especially the bright shapes in the mid-1960s, the darker images of the early 1970s, the influence of Russia in the mid-1970s.
The film shows his meeting with Peter Berge, their long-term relationship, and Peter Berge’s custody of the Saint Laurent’s heritage, his fashion work as well as their large collection of artwork.
But, for a lot of the film, the audience becomes something of a voyeur audience, with a touch of the Peeping Tom, in being drawn into the designer’s private life, his sexual activities, his seeming recklessness, his infatuations and betrayals, his moods and eccentricities. He was not always a very nice person. We are offered a lot of information, visualised, that we probably did not need to know.
Which means that for those interested in the designer’s career, it is better to recommend the documentary rather than this more prurient look into his life.