Tuesday, 26 December 2017

December 27 2017
Call Me by your Name
Sami Blood
Just to be Sure
The Greatest Showman

Firstly (belated) merry Christmas and festive season to my readers, or merry whatever else you are or are not celebrating! (How politically correct is that?) 
The big Boxing Day releases are out now, and I've managed to preview five of them (still waiting to see Downsizing and Coco). The good news is, while some are outstanding, they are all worth a look. 
So, here goes . . .  (and again stay tuned to my best of lists in the next few days!)

Call Me by your Name
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Length: 130 min
© Sony - new special friendships formed over 
dredged-up antiques 
This is a delicate and touching coming-of-age story which is already generating plenty of awards buzz. 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) spends summers with his family in northern Italy. When his father's handsome new research assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) turns up, everyone in town, male and female is attracted to him. But it is the special connection between Oliver and Elio that will change the younger man's life. The words slow and languid keep coming into my head, as this movie celebrates first erotic awakenings and everything that is sensuous about summer holidays, (especially an Italian summer). The film is at once subtle, erotic, romantic, and exquisitely beautiful. The way all the relationships are handled feels totally authentic, as does the lovely open and loving relationship between Elio and his parents. There's a stunning synergy between the Greco-Roman ruins Elio's Dad studies, and the near perfect physicality of Armie Hammer. Anyone who remembers their first heartache had better take plenty of tissues.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Sami Blood
Director: Amanda Kernell
Length: 110 min
Exclusive to ACMI
© ACMI -  heartfelt telling of a close-to-home story of 
racial intolerance
Once known as Lapplanders, the Sami are the indigenous people of Sweden. In this beautifully told story, we meet 14-year-old Ella Marje, and her little sister, who are sent by their nomadic reindeer herding family in Sweden to a Sami boarding school, where the children are forced to learn Swedish and forbidden to speak their own tongue. The story is alarmingly resonant for issues of our own stolen generations, and the nuanced layers and themes in the plot are powerfully portrayed and executed. Starting with Ella Marje as an old lady, we backtrack her life and see the distressing effects of being caught between worlds, and the challenges of reconciling a life where you have denied your heritage because of always being persecuted. Why wonderful  and important films like this don't get a broader release I'll never know. Catch it while you can at ACMI. 
4 - highly recommended!

Director: Andy Serkis
Length: 117 min
© Transmission - A surprisingly feel good film 
about polio
Andy Serkis (of Golum fame) takes the directorial chair for his debut film, based on the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), who, in the late 1950s, contracted polio at the age of 28. His devoted wife Diana (Claire Foy) is determined, against all medical advice, to bring Robin out of hospital, where he lives only with the help of a respirator, to home. There, with the love and support of friends and inventors, Robin proves you don't have to be a victim, and polio doesn't have to stop you leading a long and fulfilling life. I enjoyed this film, mostly because stories of this nature are always inspiring, and I learned much about what happened in that era that gave hope to so many. I must add that the film possibly takes gross liberties, as I found it somewhat hard to believe that people facing such enormous challenges could be so relentlessly upbeat! As with many period pieces the film recreates the era nicely, acting is generally solid (with a bit too much grinning from Garfield?), and it's a nice tribute from Robin's son (as producer) to a father with guts and determination.  
3 - recommended !

Just to be Sure
Director: Carine Tardieu
Length: 100 min
© Palace - aah, the French know just how to do
this sort of film. 
Erwan (Francois Damien) defuses mines for a living. When his daughter Juliette is expecting a baby as a single mum, certain medical tests reveal that Erwan and his supposed father are not a biological match. So begins Erwan's hunt for his real father, and the discovery of the gorgeous Anna (Cecile de France) who may or may not be related to him. Facing psychological landmines in real life makes for an enjoyable, typically Gallic story, which breaks no filmic barriers but is a lot of good fun. The two "fathers", Bastien and Joseph, are sympathetic and appealing characters, as is the younger, somewhat dorky Didier who desperately wishes to be father to Juliette's child. In fact all the characters in this film are truly likeable, and the always fabulous de France is as good as ever as the self-assured, outspoken Anna. Underneath the mild humour is a strong theme of what it means to be a father, and relationships of blood as opposed to those of circumstance. This is sweet, and rather touching, holiday viewing.
3.5 - well recommended !

The Greatest Showman
Director: Michael Gracey
Length: 105 min
© Fox - Hugh Jackman sings and dances up a storm
in a sweet old-fashioned musical 
PT Barnum is a name inextricably bound up with the circus. Hugh Jackman takes on the role with alacrity in this return to the musical comedy genre, in a film that is at once entertaining, handsome, and has divided critics down the middle. Indeed, we get little insight into the man under all the bluster and self-proclaimed "humbug", but this is definitely Jackman's film in terms of the pizzazz, singing and dancing he brings to his larger-than-life role. The plot tries to bring home-spun wisdom about accepting everyone as they are, as Barnum goes in to bat for his collection of so-called "freaks" who populate first his exploitative human museum, and then his circus, while making him a truckload of money. From the dwarf, to the conjoined twins, the Bearded Lady, albino and more, this mob sing and dance up a storm worthy of films like Fame. The songs (anachronistically modern) are all strong and memorable, while the choreography is terrifically synched with on-screen action and sound. Michelle Williams plays Barnum's long-suffering wife, with Rebecca Ferguson as opera singer Jenny Lund, whose tour promotion Barnum hoped would bring him respectability.  With Zac Efron as Barnum's business partner and Zendaya as glam trapeze artist, the good-looking quotient is ramped up. Yes, people may be cynical about this lavish production which probably plays fast and loose with the truth, but if you give yourself over and just enjoy it, there's plenty of fun to be had.  
3 - recommended!

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