Sunday, 21 May 2017

May 25 2017 and a couple of subsequent weeks:  
A Bag of Marbles - out now
Norman: Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer - releases May 25
Handsome Devil - releases May 25
Hounds of Love- releases June 1
20th Century Women - releases June 1
Kedi - releases June 15
Whitney  - Can I Be Me - releases June 15 

The blogger is taking a break - this means that, along with May 25's  releases (reviewed here early), any other films that will release in my absence that I have already seen are also featured here. And may I say what a wonderful selection of films they are - all recommendable, and mostly almost unmissable! I will have to do a huge catch up later, as some top-shelf stuff is coming out - Dunkirk, Churchhill, The Promise, Graduation, Sense of an Ending  . . . the list goes on.  Back on deck in about 5 weeks time, meantime here are seven to keep you out of mischief! 

A Bag of Marbles
Out now - Lido and Classic cinemas
Director: Christian Duguay
Length: 110 min
© A rip-your-heart out Holocaust story of a family,
especially the two younger brothers, who
battled to survive in Nazi-occupied France
Catch this while you can. Yet another true story from WW2, it tells of two young brothers Maurice and Joseph who are sent away from their family to fend for themselves in an attempt to save them from the Nazi persecution of Parisian Jews. They live on their wits, learning to lie and stand up for themselves, hoping all the time to be eventually reunited with their parents and two older brothers. The story brings a continual lump to the throat but never gets sentimental, and as a portrayal of family solidarity it is stirring. Performances by the kids and adults are uniformly excellent, the scenery of the high mountains in the south of France, and of Nice, is beautiful, and it is one of the most moving stories I've seen in a long while.  
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended! 

Handsome Devil
Releases May 25
Director: John Butler
Length: 95 min
© Rialto  - friends discover their own distinctive voice
in this sweet Irish boarding school story.
Ned is a sensitive, music loving red-headed outsider, sent to a Dublin boarding school where rugby is worshipped. He is bullied mercilessly, and when his new roommate comes along, Ned fears the worst as Connor is the archetypal handsome rugby player. But, encouraged by their teacher Mr Sherry, whose mantra is "find your own voice", the boys form a tentative friendship based around their love of guitar. This is a sweet, funny and unassuming film, which tackles issues of bullying, sexual identity, homophobia and friendship in a way that brings few surprises. The lead actors are terrific and the movie entertains, albeit in a sometimes overly saccharine style.  
3 - recommended! 

The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer 
Releases May 25
Director: Joseph Cedar
Length: 118 min
© Becker - Richard Gere in one of his best performances
as nebbish Norman
Yiddish is such a rich language, and it has many words to describe the character of Norman Oppenheimer - a schwitser, a macher, a nebbisch and ultimately a mensch! Norman (Richard Gere) is a wanna-be, a guy who fancies himself as a "solutions engineer", someone who connects people with each other to make deals. Trouble is Norman is a bit of a perseverant nobody, and his unassuming, scruffy appearance makes him an enigma and a nuisance to those he meets. When he runs into the Deputy Trade Minister of Israel Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) in New York, a tentative friendship ensues. Years later when Eshel becomes Israeli Prime Minister, Norman's star rises  . . . for a while. This is a sometimes funny, sometimes pathos-filled tale that is intelligently scripted and sports one of Gere's best performances to date. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Steve Buscemi are among the strong supporting cast. There is a strong Jewish sensibility to the film, but it is also universally human - about a small guy who, despite all, is at heart a mensch - a truly worthy person!
4 - wholeheartedly recommended!

20th Century Women
Releases June 1
Director: Mike Mills
Length: 119 min
© EOne - A great ensemble cast in a warm and witty
film from the feminist era. 
Writer/director Mills gave us one of my fave films, Beginners. He's back with this delightful, somewhat quirky film which he describes as a love-letter to the women who raised him. Single mum, Dorothea (Annette Bening) is raising son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) alone, except that there's a lot of input from Julie (Elle Fanning), a rebellious neighbour, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a punk gal who rents a room in Dorothea's house, as does William (Billy Cruddup). It's 1979, a time of rising feminism, and the sort of values the three women instill in Jamie, are in fact a bonus for his later life.  With a Best Actress nomination for Annette Bening and a Best Screenplay nom for Wills, this film has strong creds and should entertain men and women alike.   
4 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Hounds of Love
Releases June 1
Director: Ben Young
Length: 108 min
© Impressive genre film-making reminding us
not to take lifts from strangers!
Perth - 1987: A young teenager Vicky, walking alone at night, accepts a lift from a couple, only to be taken captive in their home. Loosely based on a number of crimes of this nature, Hounds is no easy watch, but within the genre of psychopath-thriller, it is impressively well made. No surprise that both lead female actors have already won festival awards, as has the debut director. Stephen Curry is chillingly menacing as psychopath John White. Although the plot deals with nasty subject matter there are salient points about women who escape abusive homes only to end up in relationships where they are both perpetrator and victim themselves. It is also a reminder that behind the seemingly peaceful  facade of suburban doors we really have no idea what goes on. Apart from a few gratuitous slo-mo scenes, the direction is taut and the tension at times is almost unbearable, but cleverly cuts away to give the audience a respite - smart film-making.       
4 - a score for the film-making qualities - I can't tell you to see it unless you are into the genre or an avid follower of Aussie film - it's so disturbing!

Releases June 15
Director: Ceyda Torun
Length: 119 min
© Hi Gloss - Endearing film with subtext about life itself
What a novel idea - to reflect the life of a city and its inhabitants through their love and care for street cats. In Istanbul cats are almost a cultural symbol, and the many strays that are neither wild nor pet seem to evoke a lot of love and philosophising from the various residents who have bonded with them. We meet seven particular cats, and their human friends, and hear about their personalities, and what effect each has had on the human's life. The cinematography is glorious, employing drones above the city, "cat-cams" to follow the felines into small spaces, and all manner of angles and closeups to show the cats to their best advantage. This is neither sentimental nor cloying - it is endearing, amusing, at times whimsical and totally entertaining. The musical background is also part of the enjoyment in evoking the alluring city. A must for cat-lovers, and even those who aren't!  
4 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Whitney - Can I Be Me?
Releases June 15
Director: Nick Broomfield
Length: 111 min
© Rialto - a searingly honest look at a talented,
troubled singing legend
I walked away from this documentary thinking how sad - what a waste of a stunning talent, and all because of the usual suspects - drugs and alcohol, coupled with low self-esteem! This impressive doco looks at the life of the late singer Whitney Houston, who, had one of the most amazing vocal ranges ever, and achieved more awards and  number one hits than you can shake a stick at! The film explores her life from the early years of singing in the church choir, and traces her spectacular rise, followed by her tragic demise. There are many revealing interviews with friends and colleagues, an exploration of the nature of her relationship with closest friend Robyn (and how the possible gay nature of that was covered up and probably led Whitney to despair), along with her disastrous marriage to bad-boy singer Bobby Brown who only added alcohol to her already drug-addicted life. With extraordinary clips of that brilliant voice in action, frank behind the scenes looks at the life behind the spotlight, and an overview of a time when the pop world wanted to make a black singer for the white world, this is a great piece of documentary making.  
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

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