Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb 27th  

(US 2013)                                      

In the semi-future a divorced computer nerd falls in love with a computer operating system who helps him improve himself.
Oddly touching and quite absorbing (for its 2-hour length) modern romance for the Internet generation, done with complete sympathy for its central characters.

Written and Directed by: Spike Jonze.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice only), Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Brian Cox (voice only).
Photography: Hoyte van Hoytema.
Music: Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett.
Production Design: K.K. Barrett.

+ Samantha Morton was originally the voice of 'Samantha', but was replaced in post-production by Scarlett Johansson

Monday, February 23, 2015

Feb 20th   
The Epic of Everest*       

(GB 1924)                          
Explorers' Films. 90m. bw. silent    

The filmed record of Mallory's noble attempt at climbing Mount Everest, done as a home movie by the explorers with heavy subtitle exposition but fascinating early used of zoom cameras at high altitudes, although big screens are required to see the tiny dots in the distance that were Mallory and Irvine, with of course added poignancy given the ultimate outcome.

Produced/Photography by: J.B. Noel.

Music (2013): Simon Fisher Turner.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Feb 11th      
American Friends**      

(GB 1991)                                      

An Oxford don befriends two American women on holiday in the Swiss Alps, at potential risk to his own career.
Slight romantic travelogue, based on Palin's great grandfather, with tiny elements of his Pythonesque humour simmering underneath, but gradually absorbs as a quite moving character drama. See also East of Ipswich, from the same team.

Written by: Michael Palin, Tristram Powell.
Producers: Patrick Cassavetti, Steve Abbott.
Director: Tristram Powell.
Starring: Michael Palin, Trini Alvarado, Connie Booth, Alfred Molina, Alun Armstrong, David Calder, Robert Eddison, Bryan Pringle, Jimmy Jewel.
Photography: Philip Bonham-Carter.
Music: Georges Delerue.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jan 29th 
The Thing from Another World**    
aka: The Thing

(US 1951)                                  

An alien spaceship crashes in the frozen Arctic, and its sole survivor is preserved but thaws out to terrorize a small outpost of USAF-led scientists.
Shivering through January with this atmospheric but rather talky and ultimately tame sci-fi horror (certainly when compared with the more horrific 80s remake), one of the first of the flying saucer craze of the 1950s, with strong elements of Howard Hawks (who produces and most likely had a strong hand in the direction).

Written by: Charles Lederer, based on the story "Who Goes There" by J.W. Campbell Jnr.
Producer: Howard Hawks.
Director: Christian Nyby.
Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Margaret Sheridan, Douglas Spencer, Bill Self, James Arness (fleetingly, as the Thing).
Photography: Russell Harlan.
Music: Dmitri Tiomkin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Jan 21st  

(Jap 1950)            

A bandit rapes the wife of a Samurai who is later also killed, but the story has a different slant to it when told from various different viewpoints.
Fascinating landmark drama by Kurosawa, a typically quirky effort about dishonesty and the fallibility of different human beings when witnesses to the same event. Kurosawa uses his camera vibrantly in the earlier flashbacks, then settles into something more sedate and typically Japanese as the drama develops (and is re-told.) Ultimately it doesn't hang together, but that's the point.

w, d: Akira Kurosawa, based on the novel "Inside a Bush" by Ryonosuke Akutagawa.
s: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda.
ph: Kazuo Matsuyama.
m: Takashi Matsuyama.

Preceded by:
Tom and Jerry in 
Safety Second*
(US 1950. 7m.; d: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera; p: Fred Quimby.)

RASHOMON (1950). Is this the girl (Machiko Kyo) hiding behind the bandit (Toshiro Mifune) who has just raped her out of shame, or secret pleasure? In that sense, Kurosawa could be saying something about Japan's own guilty conscience when it embraced Westernisation in the 1950s against its own traditionalism.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jan 20th   
Testament of Youth** (12A)    
(Odeon Colchester)

(GB 2014)

Promising Oxford student Vera Brittain loses most of her loved ones during World War I and becomes a nurse at the Front to connect with them.
A suitable centenary commemoration, a powerful WWI weepie where the camera lovingly craves the young heroes in sensual fashion until the inevitable darkening of the war into the narrative, with some filmic nods to The Big Parade, Gallipoli and Gone with the Wind (the yard full of wounded bodies), without ever unnecessary straying into anti-war cliches.

d: James Kent
s: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Colin Morgan, Anna Chancellor, Joanna Scalon, Jonathan Bailey, Nicholas Farrell.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Jan 13th  
Into the Woods* (PG)            
Odeon Colchester

(GB/US 2014)

A childless couple, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood etc. have their dreams come true but their lives afterward are far from happy ever after.
Disappointing adaptation of Sondheim's musical, not his most ideal of material with average numbers sung spiritedly by stars with very little screen chemistry, accompanied by annoying child co-stars, shot in rather poor colour. By and large, it remains an experience better enjoyed on the stage than the screen.

d: Rob Marshall
s: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Annette Crosbie, Simon Russell Beale, Frances de la Tour.