Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Polish Gem

Wonderful’ – Margaret Pomeranz

Winner of five European Film Awards, ‘Cold War’ certainly has the critics swooning.

A swooning, searing film.’ – the Observer

Whether or not it will gain director Paweł Pawlikowski his second Oscar remains to be seen, but it is a stunner.


The movie is crafted in glorious, atmospheric black and white; every shot of figure or landscape a feast for the eye. It has a glow, an aura of radiance and as well, at times, sublime bleakness. It’s the height of the cinematic art.

It opens in a wintry rural Poland overrun by mud and communist operatives. Our hero, middle-aged Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), is searching the villages in the back blocks for authentic Polish folk music. He and his team assemble a bevy of hopefuls in a decrepit country house and proceed to audition them. He soon becomes smitten by a young performer, Zula (Joanna Kulig), who naturally makes the cut and goes on to perform glorious heritage music and dance for the masses in the big cities. But the authenticity is soon compromised when the powers-to-be decide to piggyback onto the troupe’s popularity for propaganda purposes. Feeling compromised, Wiktor resolves to flee to the West with Zula at his side, but at the last moment she demurs and goes on to find fame on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain.

cold w

Over the next decades their relationship splutters on as their lives take a wholly different course, his in the cafes of Paris, hers in the Russian dominated nations of Europe. Occasionally their schedules come together and they continue on where they left off – but these are entirely brief encounters. Then Wiktor decides he must have her, regardless of the cost – and what a cost it is.

The director packs so much into the 88 minute running length, with ‘Cold War’ featuring in many of the ‘best ofs’ for 2018. I am sure it’ll be in mine for this mint new year. Already it has stolen the show at Cannes. Almost as remarkable as the look of the piece is the soundtrack – from earthy folk to Wiktor’s jazz ensemble in Paris to the start of rock ‘n’ roll. To see Zula’s exuberant response to the latter – well, I almost swooned too. This alone is almost worth the entrance price. See it if you can.


Trailer for ‘Cold War’ =

The December Lull

The big guns are coming. They had been held back until Boxing Day and are now almost ready to burst out into the megaplexes down to the art houses all over. Myself, I’m looking forward to ‘Colette’, ‘Vice’, Cold War’ and ‘The Favoutite’ in particular. Let’s trust 2019 is a great year for the movies (just like this past one). Still, there were films of merit to be had pre-Christmas, in December. I moseyed off to the State to see a couple.

Now, unlike ‘Juliet Naked’, be warned that ‘Normandy Nude’ does incorporate actors naked, as we clearly see in the opening scene. But it is sparse, fleeting and benign – think a slightly more explicit version of ‘Calendar Girls’ and you get the picture. Its major attraction is the presence of Francois Cluzet, star of ‘The Intouchables’ and the perfectly realised ‘The Country Doctor’. In the hands of the director of ‘The Women on the 6th Floor’ (Phillipe Guay) the combination should be a real winner. Whilst ‘Normandy Nude’ doesn’t reach the heights of that esteemed trio, it is still quite a blissful way to spend time in front of the big screen for lovers of Frenchiness.


Cluzet plays Mayor Bulbuzard, the political head of a struggling French rural community trying to come up with ways of attracting the attention of big city types to the woes of the countryside. As luck would have it, renowned American photographer Newman (Toby Jones), a specialist in mass naked shootings a la Spencer Tunnick, is just passing through. In doing so he spies a field he considers just perfect for one of his nude extravaganzas, so he and the mayor conspire to make it happen. That will certainly gain the tiny burb’s plight some publicity, but if only he can convince all his fellow townspeople to shed their clothing in unison for the cause.

Not all are liberal enough to meet the challenge – how’s he to convince them? Adding another impediment to the disrobing is that the exact ownership of said verdant field is in dispute.


Of course we would expect all the problems to be resolved and Newman to be clicking away at a largish amount of exposed flesh, but it’s not quite as Hollywood as that. It is Tinsel Town, though, in the number of rustic stereotypes it delivers, but there is a warmth to ‘NN’ that counters that. It doesn’t set the film world on fire for any reason – but I still found it most engaging.

As is ‘Puzzle’. Now my son Richard, when it comes to the business of piecing together complicated jigsaw puzzles, is a whizz. But he’s got nothing on Kelly Macdonald’s Agnes. In the appropriately titled ‘Puzzle’, she discovers she is a super-whizz.


Ms Macdonald’s career hasn’t exactly set the film world on fire either, but she’s a solid enough thesp as many of us who viewed her performance across a number of seasons of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ can attest to. She’s perfect for the understated role here. This is a slow burn of a movie, so if you’re after something that goes at the speed of the digital age, this is not for you. Still, it’s not without its nuanced joys, such as the role performed by Irrfan Khan as a rich emigre and Agnes’ eventual partner in speed jigsawing competitions. Will he become her preferred bed partner as well; preferred to stolid mechanic hubby Robert (David Denman)?


Now sadly, because I was perhaps not paying close enough attention in the opening stanzas of the movie, I did miss the significance of it’s concluding scene. But in response to the question as to whether the humble jigsaw puzzle can change one’s life for the better, at least we receive an answer to that. How? Well, you’ll just have to spend some time in the slow lane and see it.

Trailer for ‘Normandy Nude’ =

Trailer for Puzzle =

Dire, Appalling, Abhorrent

The three adjectives forming the title do not, by a long shot, go far enough. They cannot begin to describe the impact domestic violence is having on lives. Despite community outrage and the dollars being thrown at the problem, the reprehensible injuries and death of women and children seem to continue unabated. The statistics are horrifying – and this French film, ‘Custody’, shows that we are not alone in Australia with it – it’s a world-wide scourge.

The movie opens with a presentable mother and father putting their cases for and against extended visiting rights, to the dad, for their young eleven year old son. Initially it is difficult to decide between the two arguments, but one person obviously isn’t telling the truth. There is no common ground. She, Miriam (Léa Drucker), complains of his constant threats and the effect they are having on the boy, but ex-hubby, Antoine (Denis Ménochet), denies it all. Of course he loves Julien (Thomas Gioria) and wouldn’t dream of doing anything to hurt the lad.


The judge is hampered by lack of evidence but obviously errs on the side of caution, imposing limits on the access. With Antoine’s reaction we, though, are soon privy to the heart of the matter. Quite simply, the father soon emerges as a brute. The judge was right to be wary of him. He’s a self-centred prick and he cannot control his anger at the slight done to him by the law. He intends to circumnavigate it, regardless of the cost. Poor Julien is between a rock and a hard place. He detests being with his dad, but failing to abet the odious father, he knows, would have dire consequences, not only for himself, but also Miriam.


Writer/director Xavier Legrand has taken a sledgehammer approach to this offering and at times I found it almost impossible to watch the big screen. There’s no subtlety here – the father’s revenge is full on. He’s a violent bastard. It’s no spoiler alert to say we are spared a truly shattering ending – the tale is shattering enough. We know, though, that for all too many there is no escaping a wronged man’s wrath.

The film has won, deservedly, many gongs at festivals around the world. Kudos must go to the three main performers – Ménochet’s role must have been particularly demanding. All three are unflinching in their bravery so as to call even more attention to the plight of battered wives and kiddies.


What else comes out of this is admiration for those who (wo)man the phones as the calls of the often helpless victims come in. These are the wonderful people who have to keep their heads and offer advice as the world of the woman or child on the other end begins to come crashing down. Then there are the first responders, dashing off to the incident, never quite knowing what pieces they’ll have to pick up when the destination is reached. If they’re too late, it can be catastrophic.

Because Legrand doesn’t shy away in presenting this slice of wretchedness it’ll stick in my mind for a long, long time. It will also be on my list of the year’s best. There must be a way. There simply must.

Trailer for the movie =

Cést la Vie It’s Juliet Naked

There’s no nudity to be had here – just letting you know.

A French offering at the State, ‘Cést la Vie’ has an impressive pedigree coming, as it does, from the makers of ‘The Intouchables’. Their new product isn’t, sadly, in the same league, but it’s still a feel good attraction, popular in its homeland and a worth a look-see from those of us enamoured of the film industry from the nation that has been a major innovator. Max, played by audience favourite Jean-Pierre Baci, is a wedding wrangler. When he takes charge of the nuptials, with his motley crew in a massive chateau, well then a disaster or two can be expected. His cause isn’t help by his off-sider (Suzanne Clément) also being his love interest. She’s none to happy that she cannot disentangle him from his missus. Then, as the wedding progresses, to add another element to the mix, the bride decides that one of said crew is a much better prospect than hubby to be. How will Max steer the ship through these very dangerous waters?


This movie does keep you entertained enough for you to remain in your seat as everything goes pear-shaped. We expect, though, that someone will eventually step up to the plate and save the day, but it is hard to imagine just who is capable of doing so from the wedding party or its servants. JeanPaul Rouve does an engaging turn as the exasperating official photographer and Benjamin Lavernhe stands out from the other supports revelling in his role the obnoxious groom. No wonder she preferred the other fellow. But the overall package is slight, doesn’t really gel and certainly will not linger.

Now, from across the Channel, ‘Juliet Naked’ has had a bit of a rough time with the critics but, for me, anything with Nick Hornby’s imprint on it is worth a gander. I enjoyed the novel and to my mind the film does do it justice. Rose Byrne is quite luminous as Annie, a woman frustrated beyond belief with her middle aged dick of a boyfriend, Duncan. Played by Chris O’Dowd (so brilliant in roles such as ‘The IT Crowd’, ‘The Sapphires’ and more recently, the superb ‘Get Shorty’ on Stan), here he’s obsessed with reclusive (in a Rodriguez sort of way) American warbler Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). Through a series of unlikely events Annie is mysteriously sent a tape of his, in Duncan’s view, classic album ‘Juliet’- in unplugged format, thus the ‘Naked’ of the title. The fallout from this, and the singer’s resultant visit, virtually means their tenuous relationship is all but over.


With both the Easybeats and the Kinks in the soundtrack, there is much to like from this Jesse Peretz helmed UK effort. Perhaps it is a tad predictable, mining the stereotypes associated with small town England without shame. Byrne is definitely the star turn in all of that. With O’Dowd we have have seen it all before and he does become somewhat wearing, but Hawke is okay as the woebegone singer. The long line of progeny he has already produced would make him, you would think, a no go area, but Annie is unfazed. This offering lacks the spark to set it apart, but it was a comfortable’, cruisy way to spend part of a winter’s afternoon. I came away humming ‘Waterloo Sunset’. That’s no bad thing.

Trailer for ‘Cést la Vie’ =

Trailer for ‘Juliet Naked’=

Both Sides of the Channel

On the English side the pace was glacial, it truly was. Sometimes a ponderous gait is not a negative and ‘The Bookshop’ did have its pluses. Any movie featuring Bill Nighy is worth consideration and this film also demonstrates that nothing much changes with the world – that the you and me types will always be shat on from great heights as soon as we poke our heads above the ramparts. In the class wars, only the high and mighty win out. Hollywood, in fact all cinema, thrives in the little guy/gal overcoming this supposition, but that’s not reality, is it? Would it happen in this offering from Old Blighty?

The little East Anglian village of Hardborough, in 1959, seemed ripe for a bookshop. A semi-derelict building on the high street, known locally as simply the Old House, seemed the perfect location. As Florence (Emily Mortimer in a performance that requires little more than going through the motions) gets its development underway, it comes to the attention of the ville’s queen-pin, Violet. Playing her is American actress Patricia Clarkson and I was looking forward to seeing her in action again after her stealing the show in ‘The Party’. Here she’s the chief villain of the piece, but her role is muted and colourless in comparison. The lady of the manor once thought that the Old House would be perfect as an artistic hub, a drawcard for the town. But she’d done little about it. When Florence comes on the scene the notion is revitalised and Violet suddenly takes it on herself to try and thwart Florence at every step. At first the shop owner does okay selling books. She finds she has an ally in Mr Edmund Brundish (Nighy) who comes to her aid, initially, when she has to decide whether or not to stock the controversial ‘Lolita’. They come down soon the side of definitely, although her largish order seems a tad extreme for a place so small. But it wasn’t fault with the garnering of product to sell that threatens to do her in. Violet, when her machinations to ruin Florence have all been batted away, hits on the idea of backing someone to open up in opposition. Will this be the ploy that brings the uppity Florence to heel?

There’s a hint of romantic spark between the widow Florence and the reclusive Brundish. Will that ease the bookseller’s pain at the loss of her husband? This is real ‘Heartbeat’ territory in the village cast it throws up – but, unfortunately, without the whimsy. The big question is – will we have a ‘Heartbeat’ ending? Based on an award winning book by Penelope Fitzgerald, it takes an eternity to get there. When it came I found I didn’t really care.

Crossing to the French side, ‘Aurore’ is a different kettle of fish altogether. We’re almost immediately smitten by Agnes Jaoui in her eponymous role here. It will almost certainly be recalled as her signature outing. She’s no classic beauty, to be sure, but there is just something about Aurore. It helps, of course, that she’s French and we’re increasingly attracted to the bewitching woman as her platform gets its narrative underway. There’s a certain earthy sexiness about her; a mature woman and distinctively stunning. She’s battling to make ends meet, a boss who wants her to be even more sexy, a hubby divorcing her and hot flushes indicating ‘change-of-life’. Oh yes, she’s about to become a grandmother too and she’s not really sure she knows what to think about that.

I know I’m a sucker for anything French and romantic, but I adored this film. Just when Aurore’s life couldn’t get any more complicated along comes not one, but two men who vie, in various ways, for her attention. The fact that sparking the flame doesn’t come easy for all men is not shied away from in this movie either – a rarity in this industry that sees older men bedding younger damsels at the drop of a hat.

Writer and director Blandine Lenoir has created a fine feature keeping it real and believable in contrast to so much that is light, fluffy, sudsy and totally too good to be true in rom-com land. ‘Aurore’ has received critical plaudits around the world, largely due to the lead’s performance, although Pascale Arbillot, as her sidekick Mano, for many of her hit and miss adventures, deserves kudos as well. Now there’s a dame with front.

I could have stayed with ‘Aurore’, her family, mates and wannabe lovers for much longer. Seeing this must have you leaving the cinema ready to take on the world with renewed vigor. The Brits, even with Nighy, were left in her wake. Far too long-winded about the tale it had to tell. Sound familiar?

Trailer for ‘The Bookshop’ =

Trailer for ‘Aurore’ =

Two Days – Two State Visits

For a while, nothing. Then, all of a sudden, there was a plethora of enticing new movies airing at the State – in my eyes of course. So obviously my usual routine of a movie a week would have to be upped. I triaged these releases according to the amount of staying power they would have at the venue. ‘Chappaquiddick’ had the least number of screenings per day, so it was my obvious first choice.

This is an offering for my generation. When I was chatting to my beautiful savvy daughter about it, the strange word meant little to her. She’d vaguely heard of the small island off the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard, that playground for the rich and famous, but had little notion of it’s significance for the career of the scion of the most notable American political family of the latter half of last century. On it an event occurred, on the same day that man first walked on the moon, that would similarly reverberate down through the decades. And questions remain unanswered. Was he or wasn’t he in a relationship with Mary Jo Kopechne? How hard did he try to save her? Just why did it take him so long to contact authorities? Mary Jo (Kate Mara) was a promising campaign operative still grieving the loss of Teddy Kennedy’s big brother Bobby. As a result of her losing her life that night, when Edward Kennedy drove off the bridge, plunging into a creek on the island, his quest to follow a brother into the White House was over. He served the nation well the following decades, but he could never make up for that deed.

Jason Clarke is quite convincing as the presidential hopeful and we have fine performances from Ed Helms and Bruce Dern in their roles, particularly the latter as father Joe. John Curran’s re-imaging is absorbing enough, but he gets it very wrong in one sequence. When the Democratic Party’s big guns gather to spin Kennedy out of his mess, the overly choreographed reactions to each of Teddy’s revelations, seemingly played for laughs, were so out of kilter as to be jarring. That lost it points for this viewer. After the Dallas assassination and Robert’s murder, Chappaquiddick marked the final death knell of Camelot continuing for the USA. What the big brothers promised, little bro threw away finally and forever.

And there’s a touch of ‘ Chappaquiddick’ in ‘Tully’ to which I accompanied my lovely lady the following day – as well as a hint of ‘The Shape of Water’. There’s a vast difference between the world of America’s political elite and that of Marlo (Charlize Theron) and her family. She, at movie’s start, has one on the way, but is already struggling with an autistic son and a put upon daughter. Hubby, a loving but somewhat disengaged character, is submerged by his work and tiredness. Marlo doesn’t get a break with her son struggling at school and her lack of energy. She can’t even manage to put decent food on the table. She’s definitely in need of a circuit breaker and along it comes, once a newborn is released from the womb. Her rich brother provides her with a night nanny (MacKenzie Davis) – something I didn’t know existed and who are evidently life-savers for well-to-do US mums. The nanny takes control of the situation as Marlo starts to get her life back.

This is an excellent offering, a tribute to writer Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman and their lead actress in a role low on glamour but high on spunk.

As the relationship between Marlo and her night help, Tully, develops, an uneasy feeling emerges that something isn’t quite right. But when the saga takes a very unexpected turn, it still comes as a shock. What were the clues along the way? This is what Leigh and I chatted about as we drove home in the aftermath.

Theron is marvellous and I enjoyed Ron Livingston as the dad Drew. This is billed as a comedy and there is some dark humour, but it’s much, much more than that. See it if you can.

There are more movies to get to at the State in the weeks ahead before I go north. I’ve my fingers crossed I can manage to see them all. I am back there today.

Trailer for ‘Chappaquiddick’ =

Trailer for ‘Tully’ =

A Feast of Winton

Is Tim Winton our greatest living author? With his latest print offering a case could be mounted for this accolade. His Australianness makes him unique, particularly when he comes up with such use of the vernacular, in such crude poetic glory, as in ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’. It’s up there with ‘The Riders’ and ‘Dirt Music’; its Jackson (Jaxie) Clackton with Scully, Luther Fox and the denizens of ‘Cloudstreet’. This outback centred stunner will linger long in the synapses. After the relative disappointment of ‘Eyrie’ and his memoirs, for this fan, our GLA is back on song.

Just as we can celebrate this, we can also re-celebrate ‘Breath’ anew. His 2008 publication sang of the sea, the coastal littoral and some of the mystique of surfing culture. Simon Baker’s directoral debut for the big screen has bought this Winton work back to life – and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

The movie takes us to a surfers’ paradise, but as far removed from sun blasted beaches as it is possible to be. Set around Denmark, on the south coast of WA, I do not think the sun settled once, for the duration of the film, on the bleached hair and kombis of this part of the surfing landscape. There, like my own island, could be considered as part of the Australian sport’s new frontier. Pikelet (Samson Coulter) and Loonie (Ben Spence) are in their early teens, just putting their toe in the water as far as this recreational outlet is concerned. Along comes former surfing god Sando, Baker himself, as their mentor – and he’s full of it. He’s a bit of a dick, actually, as he challenges the lads’ manhood, virtually forcing them to take on monster breaks that would make any parent shake in their boots at – if they knew. Loonie, as his name suggests, is up for anything and knows no fear, but the far more reticent Pikelet isn’t so swayed by Sando’s reputation (just who did leave those old surfing mags lying around?) and bullshit.

Sando has a missus. Eva, a former skiing champ, is recovering from a possible career ending accident on the piste. She is a distant and dissatisfied figure, clearly not all that enamoured of Sando’s big-noting to the boys. When he pisses off to Indonesia, the susceptible Loonie in tow, Eva seduces the at-a-loss Pikelet. He starts to see the world, as a result, from a different perspective and begins to become the man, we suspect, neither Loonie or Sando could ever be. Although the sex aspect caused some minor gnashing of teeth, it was tastefully handled by Baker.

The brooding coastline, capable of producing maelstroms with little notice; the surfing under grey and always foreboding skies, were a masterful, evocative aspect of both the book and film. At times, though, the lack of acting chops by the two young thesps – they were chosen for their looks and prowess in the swell – is on show. As well, the movie almost outlasted my bladder – there could have been a bit more judicious editing. But it is a worthy match to the great man’s own words – and as a bonus the writer himself is the adult narrating voice of Pikelet.

And his words don’t get much better than in ‘The Shepherds Hut’. With young Clackton he has gifted us a character for the ages. With verbal brilliance the author takes us on a journey with Jaxie to the great beyond of nothingness that outwardly are the West Australian deserts. Inwardly, Winton’s wordsmithery makes them come alive, giving up their primal burnished beauty, becoming the exact opposite.

Winton’s hard done by, but bush savvy, hero flees out into the scrub when he discovers his violent excuse for a piece of shit father squashed and lifeless under the Hilux. He calls his obnoxious old man Captain Wankbag and has had a lifetime of being belted mercilessly by him. It’s a fact well known around the blowfly blown community that’s the pair’s home. His mother, similarly pummelled by the vicious Sid, has, perhaps thankfully, succumbed to cancer a while back. The old bastard is the town’s provider of meat – to call him a butcher would denigrate that profession – and is therefore tolerated despite his unpalatable ways. Jaxie knows a suspicious eye will be placed on his culpability for what occurred to the scumbag beneath the ute, so off he goes. Besides, there is a solitary shining light in his life and she lives in another blighted collection of buildings on up the road a fair distance. He knows he must avoid civilisation at all costs, but he’s woefully under-prepared for a bush bash, although he is at peace with the lie of the land and that must count for something.

Even so, he’s on his last legs when he encounters the wonderfully monikered Fintan MacGillis. He’s a mystery, seemingly biblically banished to the arid wastelands to largely live off the land, as barren as it is. He is slowly addling-up through loneliness. But such is their collective predicament, when Jaxie comes across him, they very soon discover they are in dire need of what the other can give. The worn, fat ex-priest has a hut – and that’s salvation for the boy. But can the unlikely duo cope with such a harsh, unforgiving environment and survive, given its about to give up a few secrets?

Like the best of Winton ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’ compels; it mesmerises in a way akin to the mirages on the salt lake that is close company to the shanty the two protagonists share in wary proximity. It’s a truly beautiful work, even in its brutality and brutal language. It tells us there has to be hope – there just has to be.

The author’s FaceBook page =

Trailer for ‘Breath’ =


According to my dictionary, the word ‘party’ has two succinct definitions – a) ‘a social gathering of invited guests involving eating, drinking and entertainment’; with b) a formally constituted political group that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in government.’ Each definition, in varying ways, is relevant to a pair of movies I have viewed in recent weeks.

The initial offering, at first look, slotted cosily in with the second definition, but there was a fair amount of partying going on as well. The Communist Party of Russia was thrown into turmoil with the demise of a dictator on the 5th of March, 1953. Who was to step into his giant footsteps was the question that had to be resolved in the first of the duo of features, ‘The Death of Stalin’? Could it be the bumbling, stumbling Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), the scheming master manipulator Khrushchev (a glorious Steve Buscemi) or the sinister, positively evil Beria (Simon Russell)? There would be no smooth transition here – it’d be even worse than the back stabbing that’s gone on at federal level here. In Russia it’s deadly. For the purposes of this movie it becomes high farce in guise; the actors seemingly having a ball with the gallows humour involved. It’s been reported as being Pythonesque, but it could never reach those absurd heights. For these guys human life is a mere plaything, taken away at a whim as their goon squads venture out each evening with their lists of candidates to expunge from society. If you were a fan of ‘The Thick of It’ you’d probably love this as it came from the same makers. I wasn’t. I didn’t.

Yep, the team under the direction of Armando Iannucci milk the situation for all it was worth and there were performances to relish, nonetheless than that from Jason Isaacs as the strutting alpha-male Marshall Zhukov, capable of making all the aforementioned quake in their boots. Rupert Friend is wonderfully over the top as Stalin’s mad as a hatter son; with Andrea Riseborough as his very, very worried daughter.

The movie had its fans amongst the critics, but there were few laughs in the audience I shared the viewing with. As the end approached the levity disappeared completely and I felt mild revulsion at the path it took. Perhaps it was the film coming to the conclusion that it was no laughing matter after all. I thought the whole thing went a step too far pushing the envelope of taste. It really, overall, didn’t hit the spot.

And it was some party in ‘The Party’, with the newly promoted spokesperson for health for her party, Janet (Kristen Scott Thomas), deciding to gather a few of her mates together to celebrate. As she bustles about the kitchen – no uber-deliveries for this dame – her hubby Bill (Timothy Spall), the epitome of sad-sackdom, is fiddling around with his music apparatus and looking decidedly out of sorts. It’s all up close and personal the way the movie is shot – warts and all in glorious black and white. Stratton and Sandra Hall both awarded this offering four stars and I heartily concur. Its humour is black as too, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Acerbic American guest April (Patricia Clarkson) is the outing’s scene stealer with her cliché driven partner, Gottfriedd (Bruno Ganz), not far behind her in the hilarity stakes. There’s a lesbian couple with an announcement. Martha (Cherry Jones) is not so sure about it, but the much younger Jinny (Emily Mortimer) can’t wait to let the cat out of the bag. Cillian Murphy has a boisterous time as a coke-snorting financial manager, ready to create mayhem with his concealed gun. And just where is his wife?

Finally Bill emerges from his funk to make an announcement of his own – the mother of all announcements and as the repercussions flow we have the party from hell and the answer as to why Tom is packing a pistol. Yep, it’s great fun.

Although the guests at Janet’s party might not have turned out to be the best of company for her, they certainly were for us the viewing audience. We just hope we never attend a soirée remotely like it. I suspect her tenure at the top end of party politics will be short lived.

Trailer for ‘The Death of Stalin’ =

Trailer for ‘The Party’ =

Stuff Up for a Gem

I knew nothing of the book, except it’d been a huge seller. The only review I’d glanced at for movie version had been luke warm, so it really wasn’t on my radar to see. I arrived at the State in time for what I did want to view in plenty of time, or so I thought. A closer examination of their guide soon informed me I had my days mixed up for the flick I desired to watch, so I had to substitute another or the trip into NoHo would have been wasted. I perused the other offerings and the only one remotely viable was ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. ‘Ah, well.’ I thought, ‘How bad can it be?’

Not too shabby at all, as it turned out. In its first stanza this Mike Newell period piece takes us to wartime Britain and the German occupation of the Channel Isles. Already I was was gritting my teeth at the tweeness of it as we were introduced to a stereotypical mix of rustic types. All too often, for my taste, this had been the case with a recent range of movies from the era. But, as it moved on to immediate post-conflict London and we meet Juliet (Lily James – making quite a name for herself since her Downton Days), a successful writer with an American beau (Glen Powell), the movie gets into its stride and I find I am quite taken with it. Through correspondence with a certain Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), from the eponymous island, Juliet feels compelled to visit there. What follows is her slow but engrossing, for her and the viewer, unravelling of events that occurred during the occupation. Many of the islanders are struggling to recover from their tribulations at the hands of the enemy. And although she’s spoken for, recently engaged to the Yank, she becomes more and more drawn to the correspondent, a Guernsey pig farmer. And, in case you were wondering, the ending is all Hollywood, making all the old darlings watching it with me sigh in delight. They lapped the whole shebang up, as I did. I guess, given the same people who worked on the ‘Marigold Hotel’ franchise watched over this offering too, it was to be expected. Newell, after all, has gifted us ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

The tweeness remained throughout, but I can live with a certain amount of twee if it is a good yarn, This, I am happy to report, delivers that in spades. There were enticing support performances from actors of the calibre of Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Penelope Wilton (Downton again) and Tom Courtney. It’s just so lovely, lovely, gladdening the heart. See it if you can.

Trailer for the movie =

Gorgeous Awkwardness

Irish-American (born in the Bronx, but residing in County Wicklow) actress Saoirse Ronan is not your typical Hollywood beauty. She is too angular and plain of face for that, but god she is so stunnng. Already having lit up screens in fare such as ‘Atonement’ (2007) and ‘Brooklyn’ (2015), she comes of age with the titular role in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’. She won a Globe for it but missed out on the golden man due to the stiff opposition. The movie, too, as a whole, is a lovely piece of work. If we cast our minds back to Gerwig’s own seminal ‘Frances Ha’, we get the tone of her directorial debut, set in Ms G’s home town, Sacramento. This burb is portrayed in the movie as a nothing place, only good for escaping from.

As with ‘Frances Ha’, the film is a creeper. This indie doesn’t hook from the get-go, but takes hold by sleuth, gradually immersing one in an ordinary world – ordinary but luminous.

Christine McPherson has rechristened herself Lady Bird. She’s a high school senior ripe for the escaping, or so she thinks. She has little hesitation in ditching her best mate (Beanie Feldstein) to be included in her school’s cool clique and she’s not above telling a few porkies to grease her way. Several boyfriends (Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet) come and go as well. Almost as good as the lead is Laurie Metcalf (nominated for best supporting actor) as mum Marion, a woman at times driven to despair by her daughter. Calm dad (Tracey Letts) is a treat. I don’t think I dozed off at any stage, but there were a couple of aspects in the story that confused me – the provenance of Christine’s brother, for instance, as well as what actually became of the teacher/priest? But, overall, I loved this movie as Lady Bird battles to free herself from a second rate life, in her eyes, to attack the bright lights of the big city of her choice full on. Does she make a go of it? You’ll love finding out.

Trailer for the Movie –