Online commentator, reviewer and raconteur Steve Gray joins Kailey and Dan on the line from Hamilton, New Zealand, to help review Reese Witherspoon in Wild, Julianne Moore in Still Alice and Johnny Depp in Mortdecai. Steve also has top TV watching tips for 2015 including Adam Curtis’ Bitter Lake.
As is so often the case at this time of year (usually related to 48 Hours commitments) I am a little behind on my reviewing. This weekend I caught up on a lot the actual watching (although apologies to John Davies who sent me a screener of Remembrance that I haven’t yet sat down and watched) so now I will try and rustle up another one of my trademark collections of “Capsule Reviews of Questionable Utility”.
Of all the movies I’ve seen so far this year, Linklater, Delpy and Hawke’s Before Midnight (after three movies I think it’s fair to credit authorship severally) is the one that has stuck in my brain the longest. In it, we catch up with the lovers from Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) as they reach the end of an idyllic vacation in Greece. Hawke’s Jesse is wondering whether he should try and spend more time with his teenage son who lives with his mother in the States. Delpy’s Celine is about to start a dream job back in Paris where they currently reside with their two adorable daughters.
They are at a crossroads but, as the film makes clear, when are we ever not? Delpy is magnificent, creating a wondrous, beautiful, insecure, infuriating and righteous woman who is simultaneously proud and frustrated at the role she has found herself playing. Watching her I was thinking about a couple of relationships of mine that I ended. Maybe I was a little bit hasty. Maybe I wasn’t really listening.
We’re at that time of year when the big studios role out blockbuster after blockbuster so that Americans looking to escape the stifling heat will choose to find comfort in cinema air-conditioning and we in New Zealand hope that the cinemas are warmer than our lounge rooms.
Apart from the Spielberg/Abrams collaboration Super 8 (next week, folks) all of the biggies this season are either sequels or comic book adaptations, demonstrating that despite all indications the bottom of the barrel hasn’t quite been scraped yet.
After three X‑Men films and a horrendous Wolverine spin-off Marvel/Fox have gone back to the beginning in the now traditional franchise re-boot strategy perfected by Batman and stuffed up completely by Bryan Singer with Superman Returns.
It’s 1962 and the Cold War is heating up. In Oxford a smarmy super-intelligent booze-hound (James McAvoy) is scoring with girls thanks to his ability to read minds. The CIA asks him for some help unravelling the mystery of some unexplained phenomena in Las Vegas and is perturbed to discover they get his freaky mind control powers as well as his analysis – and his “sister” Raven (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone) who has the ability to change shape at will.
Genius filmmaker Mike Leigh has been on a bit of an up and down streak in recent years. 2002’s All or Nothing was wonderful, Vera Drake (2004) I found frustratingly unwatchable and, most recently, Happy-Go-Lucky seemed too thin – beneath his significant talents – and yet, despite not liking it very much, I find myself thinking about Happy-Go-Lucky quite often. And that’s Leigh’s skill – he gets under your skin even when you resist.
Another Year is his latest film and it’s terribly good. It’s Secrets and Lies good, that good, despite having no plot to speak of. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen (Leigh regulars) play Tom and Gerri, a happily married couple who seem to be surrounded by people who simply aren’t as good at coping with life – Lesley Manville’s Mary, a highly strung, alcoholic, work colleague of Sheen’s who turns up to embarrass herself in their kitchen periodically; Tom’s old university buddy Ken played by Peter Wight (overweight, depressed, lonely, also alcoholic); Tom’s taciturn widower brother Ronnie (David Bradley). They all drift into and out of Tom and Gerri’s welcoming suburban kitchen while tea is made and drunk and banalities are spoken.