Category Archives: Movies

Sully

 

Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, about US Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles.


Review

Given that the events here actually happened, it’s a surprisingly tense and suspenseful film. Of course it’s all in the way you do it, and Clint Eastwood really knows how to direct. The film starts after the events of the landing. Flashbacks during the hearing show how everything happened. Worth the wait and for those not familiar with the story, will provide a satisfying ending.

 

Alan Turing Test

Alan Turing

The Imitation Game is a 2014 American historical drama thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a screenplay by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (previously adapted as the stage play and BBC drama Breaking the Code). It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as real-life British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who decrypted German intelligence codes for the British government during World War II.


Review
I had seen the the Alan Turing story in a BBC production from years ago. This film brought him to mainstream prominence, mainly due to the popular Cumberbatch playing the title role. Keira Knightley seem miscast and to young to be playing Joan Clarke. It’s Cumberbatch’s performance that really makes the film work. Turing is an introverted and arrogant genius, always finding it difficult to get on with his co-workers.

The film is told in three timelines. The main narrative is of his time at Bletchley Park, from initial employment to the cracking of the enigma codes. The second timeline is after the war and covers his arrest and treatment for homosexuality. The final narrative is of his school days and the impact of his closest friendship. This is film that received numerous awards and accolades, and deserved them all.

 

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

is a 2015 science fiction psychological thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut, and produced by Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich. It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander, and revolves around a programmer invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid.


Review

This is a very slick and sexy re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It looks great and is well acted. The problem is that despite its pondering on themes  of ‘what is human’, in the final act it resorts to a predictable ending. This story has been told since the beginning of science fiction and the film doesn’t add much to those than have gone before.

 

Ben Hur

Ben-Hur is a 2016 American epic historical action drama adventure film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. It is the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace following the 1907 silent film, the 1925 silent film, the Academy Award-winning 1959 film and the 2003 animated film of the same name. It has been termed a “re-adaptation”, “reimagining” and “new interpretation” of the novel. The film stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, Haluk Bilginer and Rodrigo Santoro.

Ben-Hur received generally negative reviews from critics and bombed financially having grossed just $41 million worldwide against its $100 million budget.


Review
This film came at at a good time, as I was reading Jeremy Robinson’s ‘The Didymus Contingency’ at the same time. The book covers the same period, Rome about 30AD. It’s a big budget film ($100m) and it shows in the scope of locations and sets. However it could have done with a bit more spent on the script. There are times it feels a bit too modern in tone and language.

Morgan Freeman is the only actor I know in the cast. His role is to move to his mark and make important proclamations to us and other characters. Toby Kebbel is better as Messala than Jack Huston is as Judah Ben-Hur. The best parts of the film was the two big action sequences, one during a sea battle and the famous chariot racing at the end.

The film has been labelled as a ‘bomb’, bringing in just $41m (so far). The reason probably being the relatively unknown actors and a script that didn’t have much impact. Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is still the best film depicting this era. This film is just OK and gets a 3/5.

 

Brave

Brave is a 2012 American 3D computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and co-directed by Steve Purcell. The story is by Chapman, with the screenplay by Andrews, Purcell, Chapman and Irene Mecchi.

Chapman became Pixar’s first female director of a feature-length film. The film was produced by Katherine Sarafian, with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter as executive producers.


Review.

I have heard some rather average reviews of this film. However I loved it and think it’s one of the best of the Pixar films. Given that it’s a story about the relationship between a mother and daughter; I’m not the target audience for this film. However it gets everything right. There is great comedy, from slapstick to character moments. Then in the second half when things turn dark and dramatic there is some really engaging and emotional scenes.

It’s a great film.

Our Kind of Traitor

 

Our Kind of Traitor is a 2016 British spy thriller film directed by Susanna White and written by Hossein Amini, adapted from John le Carré’s novel of the same name. Starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, and Alicia von Rittberg, the film was released in the United Kingdom on 13 May 2016 by Lionsgate.


Review:
A tense and slowly paced thriller that relies on plot and character motivations rather that stunts and effects. Ewan McGregor and Damian Lewis are the stars, with Lewis adopting a rather strange buttoned down accent. Like other LeCarre thriller it focuses on international banking and its corrupting influence in the modern world.

One other name I did recognize was Mark Gatiss, who is also a novelist. I had read his Dr Who book ‘Nightshade’.

Cast

 

Paris Monsters

A Monster in Paris (French: Un monstre à Paris) is a 2011 French 3D computer-animated musical comedy fantasy adventure film directed by Bibo Bergeron, produced by Luc Besson, written by Stéphane Kazandjian, distributed by EuropaCorp Distribution, features the voices of Sean Lennon, Vanessa Paradis, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston, Madeline Zima, Matthew Géczy, Jay Harrington, Catherine O’Hara, and Bob Balaban and based on a story he wrote. Some aspects of the film are (very loosely) based on Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. It was released on 12 October 2011.


Review

Wonderful film full of charm, music and a double romance. The animation is smooth and graceful and really makes the characters come to life. There are also elements of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’.  Recommended.

Bourne Again

Jason Bourne is a 2016 American spy action thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass and co-written by Greengrass and the film’s editor, Christopher Rouse. It is the fifth installment of the Bourne film series and the direct sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Matt Damon reprises his role as the main character, former CIA assassin and psychogenic amnesiac Jason Bourne. In the film, Bourne tries to uncover hidden truths about his past, now remembering who he truly is. The film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles and Riz Ahmed.


Review:

The plot doesn’t really matter in this movie as it’s not that good. There is something about Jason revealing his past and a social media company involved with the CIA.

It’s also an excuse for Bourne and co to visit various locations around the world. There is a long chase sequence at the beginning of the film involving motorbikes. It would be good if you could follow the action but it seems to be necessary to  cut to people watching cameras and narrating the action. What happened to Show Don’t Tell ?

Then there is the shaky camerawork. It’s on during action sequences, conversations and even when just looking at a cellphone. And it’s annoying – very annoying.

For this reason this is just an average movie. Not much of a plot, little understanding of character motivations and backgrounds but lots of action, crashes and an overwhelming soundtrack.

 

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy (1875)

The novel was published in serial installments from 1875 to 1877 in the periodical ‘The Russian Messenger’. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment therefore, the novel’s first complete appearance was in book form in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Anna Karenina recounts St. Petersburg aristocrat Anna Karenina’s life story at the backdrop of the late-19th-century feudal Russian society. Having considered War and Peace not a novel, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it “flawless as a work of art.” His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style,” and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written.” The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 poll of 125 contemporary authors in Time, which declared that Anna Karenina is the “greatest book ever written.”


After reading ‘War and Peace’ on a Palm Pilot over the 2008 winter, I had anticipated also reading this novel. However the public broadcast of the 2012 film by Joe Wright was an alternative and shorter means of absorbing the story.

A lot of the story takes place on in a theatre, with actors changing the scenery between each scene. It’s a device not seen before and at first is a novelty but soon becomes distracting.

The best part of the film is the production design, costumes and score. The music really takes over at times, making the film a visual and audio feast for the senses. However the main problem is the story. This is surprising given the screenplay by Tom Stoppard. There is never a sense of involvement with characters. Their backgrounds and motivations are not clear and the result is that the story comes across as a cheap melodrama.

Having red War and Peace, I know that Tolstoy put more into his books than this. Maybe the story would be better told as a miniseries. There have already been seven TV adaptions, so maybe one of these is better than the film.

In the end this film it was a case of style over substance and after an hour it became boring and I gave up.

Recommendation: Read ‘War and Peace’

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond is a 2016 American science fiction action film directed by Justin Lin from a screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung.
It is the thirteenth film in the Star Trek film franchise and the third installment in the reboot series after Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles as Captain James T. Kirk and Commander Spock, with Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin reprising their roles from the previous films, with Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joining the cast.

This is one big flashy eye candy of a movie. It moves along at a good pace, only slowing down for the humorous interactions between Scotty and Bones. But ultimately it’s about a big baddie and how the crew of the Enterprise take him down. For this reason it’s very forgettable and doesn’t have any of the SciFi themes that previous Star Trek stories took on (with varying success) . For this reason it gets a 3/5.