Monday, 26 June 2017

June 27th 2017
I'm BACK!!
The Promise

Howdy doody folks! I'm back from the US of A!! Rested (sort of) and ready to attack the film reviewing once more. Of course it's a game of catch-up, with those films I'm reviewing here having possibly already been seen by your good selves. But I should get back on track in a short while, I hope!

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Length: 105 min
© Transmission - Brian Cox gives his all as
the legendary Winston Churchill
I'm no history buff, so can't tell you if this film is true to the facts, but what impresses me is the calibre of the performances, especially Brian Cox as the beleaguered British PM, drinking, depressed and tormented by past war experiences. As the Allies plan for D-Day, Winston is vehemently opposed to the plan, yet painfully aware of his duty to inspire the people and support the war. This is an interesting portrayal of the weaknesses and strengths of a man seen by many as a rock, and apparently strongly propped up by his wife Clem, admirably portrayed by Miranda Richardson. Despite having a somewhat theatrical approach to the film-making, there was plenty to engage me in this story that goes behind the legend.
3.5 - recommended! 

The Promise
Director: Terry George
Length: 134 min
© entertainment One - a disturbing piece of history
reminding us that the world never seems to learn
From the director of Hotel Rwanda comes another film about genocide, this time the Armenian genocide, still denied to this day by the Turks. Oscar Isaac plays Mikael, a medical student whose life is thrown into chaos when the Turks begin deporting and murdering Armenians. To complicate matters, he falls in love with Ana, (Charlotte le Bon) the girlfriend of American reporter Chris (Christian Bale). Even though it breaks no film-making barriers, this is a handsome film, beautifully acted and movingly told, and I must confess to its upsetting me profoundly. Somehow, in this modern era of ongoing ethnic hatred and endless war, The Promise feels just as relevant as ever. As a mix of romantic drama, framed by elements of history, it works well as a thought-provoking cinematic experience.     
3.5 - recommended! 

Director: Benedict Andrews
Length: 94 min
© Madman - victim confronts abuser in this 
morally ambiguous story
Based upon the play Blackbird, Una treads into territory many viewers will find confronting. As a 13-year-old, Una (Ruby Stokes) ran away with Ray, (Ben Mendelson), an older neighbor upon whom she had a crush. He served time for statutory rape. Now as an adult Una (Rooney Mara) seeks out her abuser to confront him, an act which threatens to derail his life. While this may have worked well as a play, there is something disjointed and troublesome about the film. Certainly the three leads handle their roles well, (especially young Stokes), yet I find an unexpected emotional hole and a certain lack of credibility in the execution.Visually the film is a stand-out, but the strangely industrial setting of Ray's work place gives rise to a heap of extraneous goings-on that seem to detract from the dynamic between the protagonists. The moral issues explored are, as in all stories of this nature, disturbing and at times ambivalent. Una is thought-provoking and intriguing in parts, but not a totally satisfying watch. (Having said that, Rotten Tomatoes critics rave about it!)   
2.5 - maybe!

A couple of golden oldies!
Watching films on a plane is not an ideal way to do it, but I revisited a couple of superb films from years gone by.
If you get the chance to catch 'em, don't hesitate. 

Crazy Heart (2009)
Jeff Bridges plays washed-up alcoholic country and western singer Bad Blake. His life is turned around when a young journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) comes to interview him. This is emotionally affecting stuff at its max. Bridges does all his own musical work, as does Colin Farrell in his smaller role. It's the sort of film that cuts to the heart of the human experience - love, loss, redemption, lost chances - all the great movie ingredients - plus a truckload of great music and a cute kid!

Heat (1995)

Michael Mann's  film is a gripping ride from go to whoa. With top acting from Al Pacino as a driven cop, and Robert de Niro as the driven crim he relentlessly pursues, Heat is no ordinary cops 'n' robbers film.  The character development and  emphasis on the private lives and self-destructive emotions of both characters is an essential element to making this a stand-out film. All the support cast are superb, and this is a must-see for lovers of the genre.