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Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
A tender-hearted but wryly observed comedy drama
It is Kathleen's deeply touching performance that holds the centre of this movie. The central conceit of "If I knew then what I know now" is nothing new (it wasn't in 1986 when this movie came out either) but what strikes me as unusual about the film, is the way the central characters foibles are presented with so little judgement, the reflection seeming to be just that youth has its follies., and so it seems does experience. With love, all is forgivable and everything can be overcome. Hardly a new perspective, and were it not for the wry script and well defined and beautifully played performances the story might be an overblown, twee nostalgia fest. But it's not. It speaks to the pain of disappointment in ones life, to things that might have been, to pain and loss and love and maturity and life's experience with an edge. Not coarsely, not by screaming at the audience, but through some truly tender moments, such Peggy Sue hearing her late grandmothers voice on the telephone, or coming to the aid of those she didn't understand so well as a girl. Turner is an intelligent actress (sadly underused for the last twenty years) capable of taking the audience deep into her characters own heart and mind, and when she gave this Oscar nominated performance she was possibly at the height of her career.
Johnny Frenchman (1945)
A window into another era
Other reviewers have detailed the plot of this marvellous little film, I watched it this morning where it was shown on UK television on the London Live channel (who have lately started to schedule a lot of little seen British films from the 40s and 50s). Story review aside, the film is a window on lost ways of life, lost communities, cultures, and unlike an historical pic, these worlds were extant as the film was made (though at the very end of their time). A curious insight into pre war local/international rivalries in fishing communities that straddled the channel for 100s of years. The War changes everything in the picture, as in life it seems to have brought to an end centuries of tradition (such as wearing local costume for the Brettoniers). I cannot leave off without saying how wonderful Francoise Rosy is. She brings a life to the picture that makes it fresh decades after it might have been forgotten. truly interesting and entertaining.
The Middle (2009)
Underrated show with outstanding performances
Similarly to the other great show that starred Patricia Heaton (Everybody loves Raymond) the premise - family sitcom- seems so thin and predictable that it's perhaps unsurprising that the show and its stars haven't received the accolades they should. The writing is sharp and character specific, and all the leafs are outstanding. Patricia Heaton holds the whole thing and proves herself to be up there with Lucy! But as befits a show for the 21st century, this show also has depth and connects with reality. I can't recommend it highly enough. If Ms Heaton and Ms Sher don't win Emmys, there's no justice. I'm already starting to worry it will finish!!!!!
Inside Out (2015)
Astonishingly imaginative and quite beautiful to behold
Perhaps all children imagine themselves as machines managed internally by various mini engineers? I know I did, helped along by the ' Numbskulls' comic strip in my 'Beezer', 'Topper' or 'Whizzer and Chips' comics back in the 60s and 70s! In any case the latest Disney/Pixar effort proves the enduring appeal of this childhood conceit and affirms the greatness of the imagineers behind the now singular studio. Imagination runs riot as we explore the emotional development of a human girl, the early scenes give insight not just to the plot of the movie itself, but also into the flight of imagination that the imagineers are going to take us on during the next 90 minutes. At times the pictures are gorgeously beautiful and the thought behind them so detailed and finalised ...... the way the 'Emotions/characters' have fuzzy almost gaseous edges, reminding me of the nature of life at such high resolution is a stroke of pure genius! Credit to producers who grounded the films leading cipher (Riley, the little girl in whose head we journey) in a modern reality far from the Disney princess model, but who resisted the urge to reference ephemeral cultural memes (making the movie more likely to survive being 'dated' and less narrowly culturally American, than it might otherwise have been (and some other recent similar releases have been). The psychological development rationale for the characters journeys to 'HQ' are sometimes a little convoluted and not followed through, and in the second half of the movie this could lead to disengagement with the plot and the emotional heart line. But the pay off at the end is as warm and touching as one might hope and has come to expect from the imagineers, so all is well. Positioned well for a sequel (and after Toy Story 4, why not?) it's a ride I would take again and again. Beautiful, warm, touching and potentially timeless.
The Book of Esther (2013)
Utterly dreadful in almost every way
I should admit at the outset that this is the first review I've ever posted for a movie that I haven't watched all the way through....but I figured if I have given it 40 minutes and see no redeeming features, I earned the right subject to full disclosure. Clearly developed without the insight of any Christiam theologians, and with an eye on 'accessibility', this has translated to the barest bones of the Bible story being presented like a US daytime soap opera, as if made by Disneys TV unit. Production values are low, but the 'look' of all the actors (especially the titular character) is pure valley girl gloss. If the faux 'gloss' of modern hair stylings, make up etc is an attempt at higher production values, it only serves to underscore the shallowness of thought behind the production. The bible story has the bones of a cruel plot, slavery etc, and it's a story worth telling, but it needs a real director and someone who doesn't equate the Bubke with 'family fare'! So bad it was funny, my personal high (low) point was the screeching English actress playing the Queen, who managed to appear quite young but also dreadfully surgically altered in the way normally confined to US actresses, all cat eyes and wide mouths. She really stood out as the worst of a dreadful dreadful bunch. Save yourselves, run far and run fast...
One Chance (2013)
Unfairly overlooked little gem
This movie came and went so fast, partly I suspect because we've all had our fill of reality TV, on TV! At least we seem to wish to avoid it at the movies. In fact this film is not about reality TV, it's a much bigger and more engaging piece, a real romance,talent and ambition, bullying, and the insidious way people support it, depending upon whose the bully. It's also about drive, hard knocks, mean spiritedness and redemptive love. Excellent performances from the two leads.. Paul Potts life really was leading up to X Afactor before X Factor ever existed...there was always going to be a 'One a Chance'. Highly recommended.
Vera: Old Wounds (2015)
Revisionist claptrap undermines Vera as a drama
This episode while brilliantly acted, and well plotted, suffers from a recurrent theme of leftist revisionism of recent history, in particular The Miners Strike. I.e Miners= 'fighting for their lives'. Police = Thatchers attack dogs. Unfortunately it makes for boring viewing because the essentials of a whodunnit are that we can't guess just by the profession of the character. It also fails to chime with Vera's usual character that she is the mouthpiece for this inaccurate and incomplete retelling of the conflict. I wonder if the writer is even old enough to have any direct experience, even memory of the actual events, not because that is needed to tell the story, but because I note the tone and it fits with the reductive view of the 1980s, Thatcher, Britain and British politics, popular with people under 40, I.e. That the decade was all about greed and selfishness. Such is and has been the power of the leftist view in media and entertainment. It's dull.
Effie Gray (2014)
Scandal, what Scandal?
In some places billed as a story of a terrible scandal, the film fails to deliver on that promise in any way. The 'facts' of the story that are on display in this film are all those that may have led up to scandal, but nothing here tells of what happened when (if) it broke! Lit as if it all took place in midwinter in the half light, I can only guess at the costumes and the sets as mostly o just saw pale faces in a sea of shadows. It is very slowly plotted, taking at least 30 minutes to get going, and the music drags it down even further into dullness, but the real shame of the film is its failure to make any real attempt to understand anyone except Effie herself. If the allegations the film makes are true (e.g. Mrs Ruskin senior was a poisoner) it's something that deserves more than the cardboard cutout that Julie Walters was given to play by way of an explanation. One expects licence in a 'based on a real life story' story (!) but it had the feel of a few bare facts knitted together with 90% fiction, which is a strange mix. I confess to not knowing how much was true and how much was Emma's own imagination, but it certainly felt like Victoria n morality and mores crudely put through the mincer of modern ideas. Badly done Emma, badly done!
Great if you are 8!
I took my eight year old nephew to see this movie, and from the moment Oaddington himself appeared, he was transfixed. Often roaring with laughter, watching him was without doubt proof of the effectiveness of the film with what I presume is its target audience. For me the story, with a text book villainess, was at odds with the original Paddington stories and made it too generic to be really engaging. One of those films that was well done but lacked any real freshness or (surprisingly given the basic premise) and real quirkiness or originality. No Mary Poppins. Although a big success, I can't imagine it lingering and becoming a real favourite. Ephemeral.
Deux jours, une nuit (2014)
NOT a dreary and depressing story! Who knew?
The early scenes of this movie have all the hallmarks of a certain kind of 'French' cinema! Whether that's your taste or not, don't presume that this film will take you on that well trodden journey (slow, insightful, careful, depressing....) Mrs Bya has been clinically depressed, she may be still, but just as she is ready to try going back to work she finds her job seriously at risk, her patient and loving husband pushes her to fight for it, to engage with the world more actively, and over two intense days with many ups and towns, she does so. The conceit is simple, her colleagues have voted for Mrs Bya to lose her job in order that they receive a much needed bonus in these hard times. Mrs Bya must meet with them all over the weekend, before a second vote on Monday morning, and try to persuade them to vote in her favour. What ensues is a journey towards happiness, a reflection on the necessity of grasping at the good in life. In other hands it might have seemed trite, a paean to 'positiveity' (led by the husbands hand) but a mature understanding of depression and its peculiar irrationalities and a deeply wrought performance from Cotillard combine with a recognition of the complexity of human experience, and a fundamental leaning towards a belief in the good of most people, lead to an ultimately uplifting pay off that is as real as any cinema verite, and certainly much more real than all the dreary dystopian future stories we are subjected to by young directors today. Leave the theatre feeling good.