Saturday, December 2, 2017

The man who invented Christmas

Director: Bharat Nalluri

Starring: Dan Stephens, Christopher Plumber, Morfydd Clark, Jonathan Pryce, Justin Edwards, Roisin Whelan

Charles Dickens (Dan Stephens) is a young writer who has enjoyed great success with Oliver Twist but has hit a writer’s block. Now in desperate need to recover from several flops and facing impending insolvency, he must come up with a winning idea for his next book. Accompanied with his good-humoured friend and unpaid literary agent, John Forster (Justin Edwards), they endeavour to survive. In a moment of defiant madness, Dickens promises his publisher he will come up with a Christmas book which is six weeks away. Drawing on inspiration from his dark childhood and interweaving them with real-life events, and his dreams and hallucinations, he invents Scrooge (Christopher Plumber), who with a host of characters, help him write A Christmas Carol. This is a charming and watchable Christmas film full of great performances from a sterling cast. A must for all but will interest all Dickens fans for it is full of Easter eggs.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

American Made

Director: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Caleb Landry Jones.

Based loosely on a true story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an adventurer come drug smuggler caught up in the Iran-Contra Scheme of the 70s-80s. The pilot is unwittingly recruited by US dirty trick brigade to ferry ‘cargos’ between the US and the Medellin drug cartel. At a time in history when the lines of good and bad, right and wrong become blurred Seal helps the US Authorities whilst prospering as a smuggler transporting weapons to the guerrillas and in turn bringing back narcotics to the US. Inevitably things fall apart but not before Seal, the family man, tries to deal with the changing events much of which are out of his control. A good performance by Cruise makes this black comedy enjoyable as he portrays a man trying desperately to deal with the absurdity of the situation.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Director: Joel Hopkins
Starring: Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson,James Norton, James Smythe

This is a gentle feel good love story based on a true story of Harry Hallowes and set in modern London. Emily Walters (Diane Keaton), is a widow struggling with debt after the demise of her philandering husband. Concerned friends and son (James Norton) try to help her but only after she meets Donald (Brendan Gleeson), a bad-tempered hermit living in a handmade shack on wooded Hampstead Heath, does her life change for the good. The mismatched pair bond as they work to protect Donald’s living quarters from being repossessed. Despite the on-screen chemistry between the two leading actors a weak script prevents this film from becoming a classic English comedy. At 103 minutes the movie is overlong, but a good support cast, particularly from James Smythe, as a creepy Lothario, makes it all worth watching.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Trip to Spain

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon

Neither Steve Coogan nor Rob Bryson are my most favourite actors although I accept they are very good, but just not my cup of tea. I did enjoy ‘Philomena’, otherwise not been overly impressed with their body of work. Now, it is me and both these guys are undoubtedly talented and on their third ‘trip’ movie. Coogan, now a film star based in New York, teams up with the London based Bryson on a commissioned tour through rural Spain savouring the culinary delights of selective restaurants for their respective newspapers. Not much different from their previous adventures but their ability to continue a barrage of humorous self-deprecation within the simple plots which marry both truth and fiction brilliantly is truly engaging. Sometimes you imagine a punch up almost imminent, but the likeable companions keep it light, breezy and very amusing throughout. I defy you to tell when the two are acting or improvising. The travelogue is complemented by strikingly beautiful scenery and, of course, food to make your mouth water. I did enjoy this movie.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Zookeeper's Wife

Director: Niki Caro
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Bruhl

A brave couple use their Warsaw Zoo to harbour escaped Jews from the Getto. Inspired by real-life couple Antonina and Jan Zabinski (Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh), who were members of Polish high society that clandestinely, outwitted Hitler’s zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), when their zoo is depleted of animals and occupied by a garrison of troops. This is an atmospheric movie with excellent cinematography, especially of the animals distressed by the initial invasion. The film has its moments however, the narrative is somewhat disjointed in places and the real human drama not always to the forefront. Sweet and sour, this is not Schindler’s List, although the gravitas of the story makes is worthy of comparison. Worth watching and could be up for some awards.