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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jan 10th  
The Homesman** (15)                  
Ipswich Film Theatre

(US 2014)

A hard-working spinster hires a wanted criminal to transport three mentally unstable women across the harsh country to care for them.
One of the best films of 2014 comes just on the cusp of the New Year, a beautiful looking Western conveying the harsh treatment of human beings, the most brutally honest Western since Unforgiven with some powerful and at times unbearable scenes and moving performances, even if it has a major narrative flaw of losing one of its central characters before the end without a proper send-off.

w: Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A. Oliver, from the novel by Glendon Swarthout
d: Tommy Lee Jones
s: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, John Lithgow, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, William Fichtner, James Spader, Meryl Streep.
ph: Rodrigo Prieto.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Jan 6th  
Birdman** (15)
Sub-title: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance 
(Odeon Colchester)

(US 2014)

A washed-up former comic book movie star suffers various personal crises in his efforts to adapt a Raymond Carver story onto the Broadway stage.

Elaborate, foul-mouthed re-working of Fellini's Eight and a Half where fantasy constantly mingles into reality, shot as one continuous story with no deliberate editing. Enjoyable and self-indulgent with variable styles of acting from an all-star cast, although a good deal of the backstage sub-plots get discarded before the end. Any similarity to Keaton's Batman is entirely coincidental.

Written by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo.

Producers: James Skotchdopole, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Arnon Milchan, John Lesher.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan.
Photography: Emmanuel Lubezki.
Music: Antonio Sanchez, Joan Valent, Victor Hernandez Stumpfhauser.
Visual Effects: Ivy Agregan, and others.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dec 30th 
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies* (12A)  
(Odeon Colchester)                           

(US/New Zealand 2014)

The slaying of lethal dragon Smaug leads to a tussle between opposing forces for the gold of Mount Gundabad.
Eventual conclusion of Jackson's hugely inflated adaptation of Tolkien's novel, made as a "prequel" to The Lord of the Rings, and displaying The Return of the King's tendency for long goodbyes, with a very long drawn out conclusion after two hours of incessant noise and action interspersed with some occasionally daring moments of character introspection, with the actors giving as best as they can against such a huge canvas.

Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Producers: Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Welsh, Peter Jackson.
Director: Peter Jackson.
Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice only), Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Billy Connolly, Ian Holm, and others.
Photography: Andrew Lesnie.
Music: Howard Shore.
Production Design: Dan Hennah.
Visual Effects Supervision: Joe Lettieri.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES. The Ring comes full circle.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dec 29th  
End of Days           

(US 1999)    

An alcoholic ex-cop battles Satan on the eve of the Millennium for a woman whose child will herald the end of days.
Schwarzenegger versus Satan, in a risible supernatural action thriller, with any moments of tension or pathos swept aside by action and special effects. So nonsensical it almost defies criticism.

Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe.
Producer: Armyan Bernstein, Bill Borden.
Director/Photography: Peter Hyams.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, Rod Steiger, C.C.H. Pounder, Udo Kier, Miriam Margolyes, Derrick O'Connor.
Music: John Debney.
Creature Effects: Stan Winston.