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Dunkirk (2017)
Tea and Jam Sandwiches - The Dunkirk Spirit
22 July 2017
I am Dunkirk crazy. I have seen it twice, including the world premier release at 7:15am, where I got a free Dunkirk t-shirt as a first showing promotion for IMAX.

The first two viewings were due to booking a later showing which had a relatively poorer seat near the front, so I booked the early morning one with a better seat as I was d e s p e r a t e to see it ASAP.

I now have tickets to see it twice more, again on IMAX 70 I just love it so much. So thrilling, so visceral.

I was crying, cheering, proud, anxious, relieved: the whole gamut of emotions. I needed oxygen.

The splendid soundtrack was almost Metallica on speed with a syncopy similar to a heart rate beating faster and faster. My pulse was off the stratosphere.

I did feel a bit nauseous at the hand-held camera jogging along with the guys running across the beach, and although I dare say it is a clever technique and quite deliberate, some of the out-of-focus shots of background forces personnel were annoying.

Harry Styles cuts a convincing figure as a young soldier although Fionn Whitehead (pronounced: 'Finn', apparently) steals the show with his serious expression and the guy in the boat in the red jumper, Peter, 'the Captain's son', played by Tom Glynn- Carney, is just so polite, handsome and British, I wanted to hug him - I have a crush! - and his dad, a stubborn irascible Welshman is brilliant with his quiet deadpan determination.

It's amazing to discover that this is a 'first movie' for Fionn Whitehead and Tom Glynn-Carney, as well as Harry Styles. What great casting. Fionn comes across as a young glowering Tom Courtney, Harry, a rebellious James Dean/Mick Jagger type and Tom an affable Cliff Richard (as in Summer Holiday).

The upper-class airman on the boat sounds like an American trying to put on a posh British accent. It is, in fact, Cillian Murphy, who I found out later, hails from Ireland. It was the way he said, 'Yacht', that gave it away.

It was obvious Harry Styles is not RADA trained as his diction is poor and I struggled to understand what he was saying, although I got it (well, almost all of it) the second time round. He over-acted as well, but being a good actor comes with time.

The soundtrack goes right through you, you really have to see it at volume 11 with the screen in your face.

It is worth the extra five pounds or so to see it on IMAX, so I urge you to see it before it's too late and all you have is the DVD download or the edited TV film with commercial breaks.

Take an afternoon or morning off work - the evening sessions are all sold out - and just go see. Even if you have to sit in the front row at the end, beg steal or borrow and see it well.

I love this film with all my heart. It is the best film EVER. made.

Despite my minor moans above, I would still have given it an eleven, given half a chance.

At both showings, people spontaneously applauded at the end.
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Great array of apes, Well-costumed, Draws on sensitive issues
13 July 2017
I enjoy Planet of the Ape films - the idea of our supposed primitive ancestors - but for the missing link - doing battle with Homo sapiens, is indeed imaginative.

I like the array of Apes, from an orang-utan - who looks a bit like the Orange Dear Leader - through to some splendid silver back, ginger and 'winter' gorillas with pointed heads and looking as lovable as London Zoo's Guy the Gorilla.

Amazing to see them on horseback brandishing weapons.

I don't like the semi-chimp-semi-Dobby character - spoilt the film to bring in such a joke figure - but overall, the costuming is superb.

It's nice to see it isn't just one action scene after another, as is so typical these days, but a gentle slow development of plot and characters.

A hint of racism as the Homo sapiens bring the Apes into slavery and force them into hard labour, cutting rocks and a chain gang. Caesar leads the revolt against it, and confronts the baddie Colonel, a complete psychopath who thinks nothing of killing his own men and family members, and suddenly we get a blast of Jimi Hendrix soundtrack!

This is all very smashing, but the comparison with Black struggles is unmistakable.

For this, and because it is a little over-long, I can only manage seven stars.

One of the better films this year so far.
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Classic Kaurismäki - Dry humour, existential, hugely warming
29 May 2017
Syrian refuge Khaled arrives by sheer chance in Finland from war- torn Aleppo. We follow him as his application for asylum is processed. He is befriended by an Iraqi refuge at the refuge centre, and his journey in Finland begins here.

The officials are coldly efficient - with flashes of humanity - in a kafkaesque depiction of meaningless application of migration laws.

At the same time, Finnish businessman, Waldemar Wikström, buys a business and the two - very different - worlds of the main characters collide.

The humour is dry, the Finnish 'tango' (ballad-singing) music is wonderful, I absolutely loved it. It is worth seeing the film for this alone.

It is a super 'feel good' film, without the viewer quite being able to put a finger on why this is so.

It is the sheer humanity of it.
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12 May 2017
Like so many films these days - usually children's films - this one was just one 'adventure-packed' sketch after another. Most of it was just time-filler, the sort of thing students do in an exam in an attempt to give a full answer (also known as 'waffle').

The monsters reminded me of Dobby from Harry Potter, mixed in with Prometheus-cum-the earlier Alien films. It ended up like a Jurassic Park scream fest, chased by monsters movie. Very dark, little plot, poor ending. What is it about being chased that appeals to film directors so much? -YAWN-

One had a sense of déjà vu, of having seen it all before.

We had the clichéd baddie with the stereotyped posh English accent (Christopher Lee-style), which actually was good, as I had difficulty understanding some of the American accents.

It could have been good, but came across as Fassbender in love with himself, with his narcissistic gazing at his equally pretentious doppelganger facsimile.

From having an air of excitement and anticipation that this would be a great movie, I was soon bored and disappointed.

It's clear from the ending that a sequel is planned.

How cynical!

One point for the English accent and one for the colonization plot.
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Wonderful poignant happy/sad film
8 May 2017
I was welling up with tears over this film. It is so emotionally connected.

I particularly loved the Swedish-style landscape. Made me feel incredibly homesick for Finland as it looks a lot like our farmstead, with the red barns, pine forests and lots of open spaces with the nearest neighbours a decent distance away.

The key male character, Ethan Montogomery was melded seamlessly with credible actors as he grew up and 'came of age'. However, this isn't properly a 'coming of age' film. Hey, it's a film about a dog, Bailey.

Bailey, Bailey, Bailey.
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Lady Macbeth (I) (2016)
4 May 2017
Some of the camera shots were superb. However, it was over-stylised to the extent of becoming pretentious. For example, there is one scene where Katherine is portrayed in a beautiful royal blue dress just sitting on a period piece sofa for an interminable length of time. I loved the antique furniture settings, but as for the content of the film itself: urgh!

It quickly went downhill with touches of Downton Abbey and no redeeming features at all.

I didn't like the story line, which I thought was the height of bad taste and darkness just for the sake of being 'dark'.

One scene was so depraved (not sex) I was disgusted, as there was no point to it.

Four stars because of the great setting.
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It's King Kong - meets Jurassic Park - meets Hacksaw Ridge - meets Any Film With Peculiar Beasts.
10 March 2017
A King Kong theme can never go wrong. However, despite the visual effects - I saw it in 3-D - I never really engaged with any of the characters, apart from the Richard Attenborough-style mad doctor.

It is a familiar pattern of one action scene after another. Whilst this may enthrall young audiences, I actually found it quite boring and over-long.

In all, it was King Kong - meets Jurassic Park - meets Hacksaw Ridge - meets Any Film With Peculiar Beasts.

I scored it seven as I LOVE King Kong, and the concept of a primitive olde-worlde island covered in the skulls of prehistoric monsters appeals to me greatly. The primitive tribe is an excellent example of costume and makeup. The beautiful Japanese girl should have had more of a leading role than having to play support to the tired female-in-distress wearing the skimpiest clothing in the lookalike style of Laura Dern.

It's a rehash of all the Kong films you ever saw. Storyline could have been better. Soundtrack is a 70's style 'Good Morning Veitnam'.
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Fences (2016)
*There are no superlatives to describe just how excellent this film is.*
17 February 2017
How lovely to see a film with *proper* dialogue and excellent diction. It is, of course, adapted from a Broadway play, so works hard to make every word count. In that respect it reminds me of 'West Side Story' or 'Casablanca' - lots of memorable lines that one will never tire of hearing.

"How come you don't like me?"

"I don't have to like you!"

(Not a spoiler as this classic exchange is in the trailer.)

It was a nice surprise not to feel my heart sink, as I realise I can barely understand a word the cast are saying in most films these days, as they mumble incomprehensible one-liners - for example, Nicole Kidman in 'Lion' (nonetheless a great film) - it restored my faith in the American accent and that it is not a completely different language needing subtitles.

Viola Davis delivers an absolutely stunning performance. I cannot understand how in the BAFTA ceremony she only got 'best supporting actress', as she is far superior to Emma Stone in La-La-Land, who got 'best actress'.

It's a super, super drama. The father and son conflict is acted out superbly. There are no superlatives to describe just how excellent this film is.
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Dull, boring, had to fight to keep awake
2 November 2016
This film was really tiresome. Clichéd plot, dreadful soundtrack. Lots of loud whacks and 'kapows' every time someone threw a punch, and there were lots of them. Lots of people running after other people, in ridiculous 'super hero' legs-up style. NO-ONE runs like that in real life.

There is NO WAY that fourteen-year old girl part was fourteen - the actress looked nothing like a young girl, no matter how many times she pulled teenage-style faces.

Worst of all, being a Tom Cruise production, starring Tom Cruise, we got to see an awful lot of close up shots of...Tom Cruise. Talk about vanity! His chubby aging face kept taking centre screen constantly. yes, Tom, we know you have a beautiful face, but it added nothing at all to the plot of the film and was simply...boring.

I had to fight very hard to keep my eyes open.

Clint Eastwood on the other hand directs superb movies and manages to sustain a good plot.

Tom Cruise, do take some lessons from Clint.
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Making a Murderer (2015– )
Evil Incarnate
22 October 2016
Just finished watching the 'Making a Murderer' series, before my free subscription runs out. I looked up google afterwards, and surprise surprise Kathleen Zellner is now cashing in on it. IMV Steven Avery is certainly evil incarnate, getting his slow-witted 16-year old nephew to allegedly rape that poor young woman. Sure the police acted unethically, taking advantage of Dassey's naive gullible nature, but Avery deserves to be locked up for life (with regular parole reviews, as we are civilised, after all). Can't believe he has three ex-fiances. the first one,Jodi, was a true psycho if I ever saw one, with that half smile on her face the whole time.

It certainly was compelling viewing, although I had to force myself to continue after episode three, as it was clear the defence were clutching at straws and completely railroaded the trial to focus on the police instead of the murder.

The defence even highlighted the prosecutor's 'sexting' scandal, years after the case, which had little to do with the trial.

I felt sorry for Avery's Mom, and Dassey's Mom. They seemed the only normal people in that family.

Sorry to be behind in all this, but now Netflix are making 'series 2' featuring... Kathleen Zellner..At least we now know where Amanda Knox got her ideas from in carefully building up her phoney, 'wrongful conviction' claim, all carefully concocted and scripted. .'The new episodes will feature Avery's new lawyer Kathleen Zellner as she takes on the case. The news of season two was confirmed in a joint statement by two of the people behind the series, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos.'

Innocence fraud fatigue kicks in, sorry.
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Sustained Horror
21 October 2016
A young woman wakes up on the forest floor, there is a full moon. The soundtrack quickens as she runs through the forest.

How did she get here? What has happened to her memory?

It is artful the way the directors have built in the menace. The pounding soundtrack, the dawning realisation. Is it real, or is it something else?

The ending is brilliant.

It is the type of film you have to watch twice to make sense of it.

The line about Stephen King is pretty silly, though.

The film is successful in that the cinematography, although simple and low budget, uses light and shade to nerve-tingling effect. There are one or two particularly stunning heart-stopping moments.

I love the Scandinavian angle and imaginative story line.
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A rollicking good fun psychological thriller.
6 October 2016
A rollicking good fun psychological thriller. Like many thrillers, the story is very silly indeed, but hey, great cinematography, atmospheric, great use of lighting and the technique of cameo-ing the faces of the main characters, Rachel, Anna and Megan. The facial shots reminded me of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls and Nico, for some reason.

I haven't read the book as I had read a disparaging review in the London LITERARY REVIEW OF BOOKS scathing of 'women in distress'-type films, such as 'Gone Girl' (I hated 'Gone Girl').

Yet, I couldn't wait to see this. The lead role as Rachel has a very good haunted expressive face. Much time is spent staring mournfully ahead or out of train windows.

Excellent casting.
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Amanda Knox (2016)
The Truth Hides its Face
1 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The film presents itself as a 'neutral objective' documentary of the events surrounding the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007 and the consequent acquittal of the accused pair, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

The directors, Blackhurst and McGinn, and producer, Stephen Robert Morse, claim they gave it the title, as it became 'all about her'. This is part of the case they wish to put to the viewer, that the pair were only convicted because of the prurient press interest – as represented by 'villain hack for the DAILY MAIL', Nick Pisa, a cockney 'wide boy' who giggles as he describes his excitement of a "girl-on-girl' crime (which it was, given both Meredith and Amanda are female) and arch villain, the mad Roman Catholic prosecutor, Guiliano Mignini, supposedly obsessed with good and evil, Sherlock Holmes and who took a dislike to Amanda Knox, victimising her because he considered her immoral.

What they do not tell you is that they were longtime campaigners for 'Free Amanda Knox', since at least 2010.

The truth hides its face in this documentary.

The directors claim in their promotional material and supporting 'blurb' they went to great pains to ensure balance and to 'let the protagonists speak for themselves'. These claims given the above, are less than candid. In addition, the film promotes only facts that support their fervently biased views.

How then is the deception carried out?

There are several techniques to engage an audience, not dissimilar to a novel, film or memoir.

1. Make the narrator likable

In the Amanda Knox film, this is done by showing clips of Amanda's and Raffaele's younger days. This is not done for the other defendant, Rudy. we are reminded that Amanda and Raffaele are warm people who were once cute kids. This encourages the viewer to empathise with the subject of the documentary.

We even see Amanda and Raffaele seeming to flirt with each other, each lighting up and smiling as they recall fond memories of the other during their brief affair.

3 Be selective in what you tell the viewer

We are not told about Amanda's previous disturbing short stories about murder and rape, nor about Raffaele's wayward behaviour that caused his father to threaten to put him into rehab. He bragged of his drug taking on social media and posted bizarre images of himself dressed as a maniac wielding a meat cleaver.

The viewer is not informed of Raffaele's obsession with knives and vast collection. If this had been mentioned, Nick Pisa's observation that the knife pricks below Meredith's chin showed she had been taunted and tortured with a knife, would make more sense to the viewer.

There are many salient and incriminating facts and evidence, which the directors leave out completely. Thus, we are only informed of the knife and the bra clasp, but not of the luminol-enhanced footprints of the pair, nor Raffaele's presumed footprint in Meredith's blood on the bathmat.

We are shown the same diagram, more than once, of Rudy's eight circled biological spots with just one for Raffaele, and none for Amanda, when the truth is, there was more DNA evidence found of Amanda at the murder scene than Rudy.

So, we the viewer are led to believe the 'evidence' is flimsy against Amanda and Raffaele and are encouraged to believe there is much more against Rudy.

We are told more than once, 'the DNA evidence of the knife and bra clasp is crucial'.

4. Appeal to Authority

Here DNA scientists, Conti and Vecchiotti appear; the pair proclaim the DNA of the bra clasp and the knife were contaminated and therefore, the 'result of Meredith's DNA on the blade and Raffaele's on the bra clasp is inconclusive.'

The directors conceal from the viewer that the court (Hellmann) who commissioned them was later expunged by the Supreme Court and Vecchiotti and Conti heavily criticised as, 'intellectually dishonest'.

5. Adopt an Anti-Hero

The anti-hero for the filmmakers is Rudy Guede. We are reminded about how his damning evidence is more prolific than Raffaele's or Amanda's. We are reminded that 'evidence still points to Rudy's guilt', whilst the couple are 'exonerated'. This in itself is untrue, as the pair were NOT exonerated. They were acquitted due to insufficient evidence, the US equivalent of the conviction being 'vacated', or the Scottish Law, 'not proved'. At no time did the Supreme Court declare the pair 'innocent', yet the filmmakers constantly claim they were.

6 Lead the viewer to the epiphany

This is a technique popular with Hollywood filmmakers who churn out popular 'feel good' movies. The feel good 'happy ending' here is that the baddie, that is Rudy, remains the only guilty party and, victory, the heroes, Amanda and Raffaele are vindicated.

The next step is to ask, 'How did this happen?'

The viewer is invited to look to the other villains of the piece, Mignini and Pisa. We are encouraged to hate them, and 'boo and hiss'.

And thus, the viewer goes away with the filmmaker's intended message, 'Amanda and Raffaele are innocent', 'exonerated', 'vindicated' 'there was no evidence' and that they suffered 'a miscarriage of justice.

The viewer goes a way with a 'feel good' feeling that right has prevailed over wrong.

The Reality

The real life reality, as usual, is very different from the idealised Disney vision, as set out by Blackhurst and McGinn.

There is nothing wrong in holding an opinion, of course. The question is, is it an honest one? I would argue, no.

'Amanda Knox' 2016, is not honest, transparent or even ethical.

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