Out Now – 21st November 2014

The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Oh my days. Katniss is back. The first half of the final third of the Hunger Games trilogy (plus one) is here and everyone is thoroughly excited. As for plot? Katniss becomes a symbol for the rebellion against the Capitol and tries to save Peeta from the grip of President Snow. If this doesn’t immediately make sense you might need to do some homework.

Get on Up
A music biopic about the life and rhymes of James Brown. Expect a real rock and roll lifestyle; sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, and swearing. But all in a nice 12A fashion.

The Homesman
Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars in a feminist western about a woman travelling across America. Her journey will take five weeks as transports three insane women to Iowa. I don’t necessarily understand the plot but reviews are good and a female lead in a western is a rare thing.

My Old Lady
An English/French comedy/drama so mediocre and harmless that my review bores me a little. Maggie Smith is mean and then sweet to some people if you need that gap filling now Downton is on a break.

What We Do in the Shadows
Finally a comedy to get properly excited about. Co-written and co-directed by one half of Flight of the Conchords (YAY) and the guy who directed the American remake of The Inbetweeners (BOO) we have a mockumentary about three vampires who share a flat. It might not sound like much but the reviews are almost embarrassingly positive and stars are being thrown around in a generous fashion. Let’s go!

No Good Deed
Idris Elba plays an unstable escaped convict who terrorises a woman and her children. Not a lot of laughs to be had here and a step down for the man who recently played Mandela and won none of the awards for his trouble.

Happy Ending
Bollywood romantic comedy about a writer trying to write a Bollywood script in a Hollywood style in Hollywood. Can’t wait for the sequel set in Dollywood.

Winter Sleep
On the plus side this Turkish drama about a former actor running a hotel during a snowstorm won the Palme d’Or this year so is guaranteed to have all manner of artistic merit. On the minus side the film is over three hours long and not everyone has the spare time or patience for that.

Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy
Thai drama based on a Twitter feed. Sounds terrible but is apparently a timeless coming of age story. For your consideration as an alternative to the mainstream and the fêted.

My Old Lady – LFF Review

My Old Lady

New Yorker Mathias (Kevin Kline) has inherited a large Parisian apartment from his estranged, and now deceased, father. Having driven his life into the ground this windfall comes at a time where a large lump sum are all that stands between Mathias and ruin. Sadly a bizarre French law means that the apartment’s former owner and current tenant Mathilde (Maggie Smith) has the right to live in Mathias’ new property until she dies. On top of this the bankrupt American must pay her a monthly maintenance or forfeit the entire abode. With nowhere else to go Mathias rents a room in his own apartment and lives with Mathilde and her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) while he judges how long Mathilde has left to live and whether he can possibly sell the place while it remains tied up in the strange Parisian legal bind.

Hilarity ensues.

For the most part My Old Lady features just this cast of three and rarely strays too far from the all important apartment. The plot is driven by plenty of dialogue, the acting is delivered with a little too much vigour, and the machinations of the story get a little contrived towards the end. All of this should scream one thing to you; the theatre. Indeed with its modest headcount, singular setting, and final act revelations My Old Lady does very little to disguise the fact that it started life on the stage in a play by the film’s director Israel Horovitz. When a play is adapted well it can make for great cinematic fare equally as lauded as its original incarnation. When done badly a big screen adaptation can feel stale and unconvincing; the melodrama that was captivating on stage not translating so well on-screen.

My Old Lady 2

For the most part Horovitz does not seem to have done much to make My Old Lady justify a conversion to film. There is nothing contained within the adaptation that could not have been performed on stage any less easily and the style of direction is one without flair or excitement. It is hard to see what filming his play has added to its story and why he felt the need to do so.

The film, and presumably the play, is perfectly pleasant. Not quite as many laughs as I had been led to expect but a funny and charming story is there to be enjoyed. Maggie Smith gives her trademark performance as a snippy but loveable aging matriarch and is as enjoyable to watch as always. Kristin Scott Thomas gives a tender edge to her role as the indignant daughter and Kevin Kline slightly over-eggs his performance as the boorish American disrupting the lives of incredibly English Parisians. The experience of watching My Old Lady is one of bemusement and mild unrest. Nothing too exciting happens, a few laughs are had, and then it ends without ever fully convincing.

Not a bad film but not spectacular either. My Old Lady is a film to be watched on a rainy weekend afternoon with a blanket keeping you warm.

My Old Lady has a UK release date of 21st November 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Mike Nichols 1931 – 2014

Mike Nichols

6th November 1931 – 19th November 2014

“A movie is like a person. Either you trust it or you don’t.”

Out Now – 14th November 2014

Life Itself

Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!
The horrendous Nativity series is now officially a trilogy. What next for this Coventry-based Christmas caper? I cannot bring myself to even imagine what the plot might be. Bonus points to the writers for referencing a popular film from over a decade ago in the title.

The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Alan Turing in a film that brings his story to the big screen but doesn’t quite do it justice. I kinda liked it.

The Drop
Another good but not great film in the form of a thriller starring Tom Hardy as a bartender embroiled in gang business. I saw it, enjoyed it, and have no reason to see it again.

Redirected
Action comedy starring Vinnie Jones about four criminals who end up in Eastern Europe having all manner of 18 certificate mishaps. I haven’t seen Vinnie Jones in a European romp since the golden days of Euro Trip.

Life Itself
Documentary exploring the life, career, and sad passing of the world’s most popular film critic Roger Ebert. Lots of good reviews from critics hoping that one day a film this good is made about them too.

Third Person
An impressive looking cast star in a series of intertwining stories about love set across the globe. Writer/director Paul Haggis has won many Oscars but this film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 24%. When you remember that one of his Oscars was for Crash suddenly the quality of Third Person isn’t such a surprise.

Diplomacy
“A historical drama that depicts the relationship between Dietrich von Choltitz, the German military governor of occupied Paris, and Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling.” This week is a very strange week at the cinema.

We Are the Giant
“Since late 2010, more than a dozen nations have experienced popular uprisings that have collectively been called the Arab Spring. Protests, buoyed by predominantly young participants and social-media organizing, have exposed repression and led to regime changes. What does it mean to take part in a collective action that has the potential to unseat dictators and bring previously undreamed-of freedoms to a people?” If nothing else this week has plenty of films that defy me trying to simplify their narratives.

Grand Central – DVD Review

Grand Central

Gary (Tahar Rahim) is a young man looking for a job, somewhere to sleep, and people to connect with. With no qualifications to his name Gary starts working at a nuclear power plant and living with his fellow workers. By day he is risking being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation but by night he finally has a community to share his time with. His colleagues may be rough around the edges but they are good company and you need to be able to rely on one another when working in such a dangerous environment. Before starting his new job Gary is introduced to the symptoms of radiation poisoning by his co-worker Karole (Léa Seydoux) who jokingly gives him a passionate kiss while her boyfriend Toni (Denis Ménochet) watches and laughs.

It would seem that Gary has finally found everything he is looking for but that wouldn’t make a satisfying drama now would it? After one particularly sexually charged car ride Gary finds himself flung into a passionate affair with Karole. What started as a one-off develops into something a little more as Gary falls deeper and deeper in love with his friend’s girlfriend. As the intensity of his passion rises so does his recklessness as Gary ignores protocols at the power plant that ensure his safety but might separate him from the object of his desire. It is unclear what will be Gary’s ultimate downfall; his dangerous job or his dangerous love life.

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Director Rebecca Zlotowski has created a film of simmering tension and an atmosphere in which the audience is constantly unsure of when the house of cards will come tumbling down. In the harsh industrial setting of the power plant Gary and his coworkers are covered from head to toe as any exposed skin increases the danger of radiation. When Gary and Karole are together they are completely exposed but in the fields where their affair takes place everything feels completely safe. Back at camp the two lovers are clothed but vulnerable; in danger should their indiscretion be discovered. Only when the pair are alone together can the audience relax as any other time death and discovery are a misstep away. Their love for one another is simple, primal, and somehow naive and innocent. In amongst tall grass and away from the dangers elsewhere Gary and Karole can be themselves and feel safe with one another. A relationship forged in passion turns tender and all the more intimate.

Seydoux and Rahim are a superb pair. Both give layered performances that allow them to behave foolishly without losing sympathy. Seydoux are Karole gives a particularly conflicted performance as a woman in love with one man but in lust with another while Rahim plays Gary as a man driven almost mad by desire. Grand Central as a result is a tense and sexy drama about how quickly one can become infected by love for another and how decisions made in the height of passion may not always serve you well. At times a little over the top and humourless Grand Central is nonetheless incredibly watchable and a great display of modern French filmmaking.

Grand Central is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 10th November 2014.