Thursday, 16 February 2017

February 16 2017:  
Hidden Figures
The Great Wall

One more Oscar nominee releases this week and is my pick of the bunch - Hidden Figures. It probably borders on unmissable! The other two see me fence sitting a bit - lots to like and lots to pick fault with, but both will have an audience.

Hidden Figures
Director:Theodore Melfi
Length: 127 min
© 20th Century Fox - an inspiring and uplifting story
told with intelligence and  pizzazz!
Little did the world know that when those men at male-dominated NASA were in the space race with the Russians to get an astronaut into orbit, three Afro-American women were critical to getting the job done! When I saw the trailer for the film I feared it could be formulaic, BUT was I wrong! This is a story to uplift, inspire and put a smile on your face. The plot recalls a time when it was a double-negative to be a woman, and black, so the achievements of these three NASA employees are even more remarkable. Taraji P Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a maths prodigy, Octavia Spencer is Dorothy Vaughan, who helmed the computer programming team, and Janelle Monae is Mary Jackson, who fought a legal case to be allowed to study engineering. Their performances are uniformly wonderful, the story completely engaging, and an added plus is the impressive performance from Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, NASA head, and voice for equal rights within his organisation.  

4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Director: Martin Scorsese
Length: 161 min
© Transmission - thought-provoking, long, visually stunning - 
the film asks are we praying to silence? 
Acclaimed director Scorsese is a staunch Catholic and has wanted to remake this Japanese film for nearly 30 years. Silence is based upon a Japanese novel about two Portugese priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver)  who go to Japan searching for one of their number (Liam Neeson) who seems to have disappeared. It is 1633, Christianity is outlawed in the country, and the Japanese are mercilessly persecuting Christians with as much cruelty as they can muster. I am quite ambivalent about this film - on the one hand I feel Scorsese has over-indulged his penchant for religious navel-gazing, resulting in an overly long film that relies too much on its intellectual messages at the expense of allowing the audience to become emotionally involved. On the upside, Silence is a thought-provoking examination of faith, denial, martyrdom and missionary zeal, and is so exquisitely shot it's up for a Best Cinematography Oscar. It is very different from such similarly-themed films as Black Robe and The Mission, but for Scorsese fans and for those who enjoy exploring issues of faith, it should definitely be seen.  

3.5 - Recommended!
For a full review from Bernard Hemingway go to:

The Great Wall
Director: Zhang Yimou
Length: 103 min
© Universal - William, archer extraordinaire, battles the
 fearsome dinosaur-like Taoties.
William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are mercenaries who travel to China in the late 1200s, searching for gunpowder. They end up at a military outpost atop the Great Wall of China, only to find themselves caught up in a battle to protect civilisation against an attack by monstrous creatures known as Taoties. For a director who made such stunning films as Raise the Red Lantern, Hero and House of Flying Daggers this is a bit of comedown. Like these early films, TGW has several scenes that are visually jaw-dropping and in which vibrant colour, frantic action and cool special effects marry perfectly. But underneath all this the plot is a bit of a hotch-potch - a morph between a monster movie, a Chinese martial arts film, with an overall Game of Thrones feel. The monsters are so totally horrific there is no way any humans would have been left alive, but what the hell - it's a movie! I must confess to being entertained (perhaps I was just in the mood for a true popcorn flick). Matt Damon is always a pleasant screen presence, and in this instance an excellent action hero to complement the strong female general. 

2.5 - maybe!

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