Monday, 19 August 2019

Film: 'Once Upon a Time ......in Hollywood'

Quentin Tarantino's new film (Final one? Yet again?) was, at just 20 mins shy of three hours long, something of an endurance test for me. It wouldn't have mattered so much if the first couple of hours had been really gripping -  or even plain moderately interesting - but, apart from a very few moments of wry humour plus a little dash of violence (most of which is reserved for the final twenty minutes, and fairly graphic, as is only to be expected from Tarantino), I found it all something of a drag. 
The set-up is okay, quite original as far as I know, but hardly substantial enough to sustain interest for a period of what is longer than a lot of other entire feature films. 

!969, mainly in Hollywood - fading film star (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose usual screen appearances as sharp-shooter cowboy is now reduced to guest slot appearances on TV. He and his stand-in stunt double (Brad Pitt) are practically joined at the hip, mooching around, drinking their idle time away in fraternal amity (and both smoking like chimneys), living in plush Hollywood celebrity-area residences. Pitt's character lives with his dog next door to director Roman Polanski's and his wife, film star Sharon Tate's, spacious home (she played by Margot Robbie). The film starts a few months before and leads up to the time of the Charles Manson 'Helter Skelter' murders. We recall from the news at the time of a group of Manson's 'hippy' followers, high on drugs, who'd got into Polanski's house (he himself being in Europe at the time), committing several grisly murders including that of the heavily pregnant Sharon Tate. I'll say no more on that score.

Although Margot Robbie as Tate gets third place billing, she doesn't really have that much to do. Probably her longest scene is when she goes alone into a cinema to watch, with great pride and satisfaction, one of her own films, pleased at the positive response to her screen appearances by the surrounding audience.

I am a fan of Tarantino's films but I'd definitely say that this is his weakest one of all, not exactly a good one to go out on if that is what is intended. Overall, it's nowhere near as violent as his other films and though I was tensing myself up expecting to see a finale of major bloodbath dimensions when it came he didn't go quite as far over the top as I was anticipating. 
A major compression of the film by reducing its playing time by one full hour would, in my opinion, not go amiss. It can take it, and there'd be the gain of taking out those many intervals of ennui. However, yet again (as you can see by ratings from other sites) my view is not widely shared, so in disagreeing with how I feel you'd be part of a majority. 
Oh, and by the way, Brad Pitt's dog doesn't come to any serious harm - only some rather cruel teasing...............6.

(IMDb...............8.2 / Rott. Toms..........3.77/5 )


Monday, 12 August 2019

Film: 'Blinded by the Light'

Here we have yet another in what has become a sequence of films revolving around pop music of decades past.  This time, however improbable (though based on a true story), it concerns a 16/17-year old student  (Viveik Kaira) in a Pakistani family living in Luton  (one of the large British towns with the highest proportion of Asian-origin population) in 1987 with an obsession for the songs of....... Bruce Springsteen (yes, really!)  It's based on the true life experience of Sarfraz Mansoor, who, in recent years, has become quite well known in British media circles - and whom, I do believe I very briefly encountered (amiably) in Luton in the early 90s, though he won't recall it.

Director is Gurinder Chadha who has created a notable niche for herself in British-Asian based films in the last two dozen or so years - 'Bhaji on the Beach', 'Bride and Prejudice', 'Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging'  - and her best known to date, 2002's likeable 'Bend it like Beckham'.  

In this film, with a talent for writing articles and poems, the young aspiring writer is floating directionless under the concerned eye of his strict Muslim father (Kulvinder Ghir) who wants him to have a steady, reliable job with regular income, and with whom he lives along with his keeping-head-down mother and socially aware teenage sister, superficially conformist.  At college he meets a young Sikh (Aaron Phagura) who introduces him to the songs of Springsteen - and which brings him to a 'lightbulb' moment!   
All this is set against a very evident background of Mrs Thatcher's divisive premiership in a town where, in particular, anti-Asian prejudice is rife (though basically anything non-white English) seen through racist graffiti on homes, openly hostile conduct, intimidating presence of the National Front (now morphed into the 'English Defence League') and some appalling and disgusting behaviour from the latter and their sympathisers.

The young man's epiphanous moment of awareness of Springsteen's lyrics is during the hurricane night of October 1987, when he puts on a tape he'd been given - a night when I, living in Oxford at the time and not having heard the warnings, had simply slept through those hours of the strongest and most destructive winds to hit Britain in a century!
Springsteen's lyrics (seen floating on-screen and swirling round his head, which is just as well as I found them not easy to decipher by ear alone) give him the confidence to acquire a regular girlfriend (Nell Williams) the untypical daughter of hoity-toity Tory parents.  

Much of the drama of the story lies in the conflict between father and son over the latter's writing ambitions, his down-to-earth father preferring to see his son in a secure, steady-income occupation, the situation being exacerbated by the father himself being laid off with hundreds of others from the nearby car-making plant, leaving the mother as the family's sole bread-winner through her home sewing work. Of course the young man continues to aspire towards his own dreams, encouraged by his sympathetic college tutor (Hayley Atwell).   

I thought the first hour of this two hour film (too long by at least 20 mins) was first-class. Then it not only sags conspicuously but gets very bleak with a drastic mood change when racial matters come right to the fore. Also I felt let down by, despite it being true story-based, how in predictably filmic style, the conflict between father and son is finally resolved by the cheesiest of developments when the father comes round to seeing his own error - something we've witnessed countless times on film before  - and in revelatory mode he turns into being proud of his son's achievements, accepting him as a talented writer. Wince-inducing stuff!  

Overall I did like the film. If it hadn't been based on reality I'd have laughingly dismissed the unlikely premise of a young Pakistani kid being so influenced by Springsteen, a singer who was already considered as getting 'past it' at the time this film is set. But given how it is I must accept that this was near to what actually had happened.

I wish I could have rated this film higher but that over-extended second half did have some nasty edges to it, and that unbelievably banal ending devalued much of what had gone before. Still, by no means a bad watch........6.5.

(IMDb...........6.2 / Rott.Toms (critics only)............7.4 )





Monday, 5 August 2019

Film: 'The Current War'

I found this an oddity, and not a terribly satisfactory one either.
As far as I know it's virgin territory for this particular story in the cinema - the competition between Thomas A. Edison, played by Benedict Cumbersome (sorry, couldn't resist!) and one George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as to which of them would be the one to install a nationwide system of electric power in the U.S.A. 
One particularly unsavoury feature I wasn't expecting is that an inordinate proportion of the film deals with who would design the first electric chair for capital punishment.  Eventually we see not only the first 'occupier' of that means of execution but, leading up to it, a demonstration of a horse being electrocuted.  All this was a prequel to my leaving the cinema with a nasty aftertaste lingering.   If this kind of thing simply washes over you, fine, but I was left almost wishing I hadn't seen the film.   

It's an exceedingly busy feature with very few shots lasting more than, perhaps, five seconds.  If this was a technique to insure against one getting bored it didn't work in my case as, despite its visual flitting here and there like a hyper-active butterfly, it was peculiarly stodgy in a convoluted story which quickly lost me and my interest.
The rivalry between the two men is so bitter throughout that I was only surprised they didn't challenge each other to a duel.  There's also some betrayal in what passes between the respective assistants of both of them in stealing each other's secrets, all making for a thorough unpleasantness with frayed tempers on display,   Cumberbatch's Edison being the more cerebral of the two, and feeling particularly hard done by as the film progresses.  Both the latter and Shannon as Westinghouse represent two towering intellects burning up with jealousy against the other in a strangely stolid film. 
As nearly all of the action takes place before widespread electricity is in use, much of it involves inadequate gas-lit scenes, not always easy to decipher.

During the film I had the leisure to ask myself what was wrong with it to explain my lack of engagement.  I thought at first that it might be the screenplay, though listening carefully, that aspect wasn't especially weak. 
The photography was generally good or very good, befitting of the subject matter, with some impressive vistas now and again. 
I failed to pin down the fault other than identifying the underlying repugnance I had towards certain aspects of the story which I've mentioned earlier, so my partiality may be at least some way to blame.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has made a few cinema features before but nothing to have got him especially noticed.  Maybe he was trying too hard with this one with all those tricksy visuals?  I don't know. I only throw out the thought.

I don't think it's a film to warm to.  Might be useful as an historical representation of a little-documented episode, little represented at least in popular culture.  And was this matter of creating an electric chair truthfully so pivotal as this film seems to imply?  

Not a film I can whole-heartedly recommend, though others may differ from my very personal appraisal.  I can safely say that I for one won't be watching it again...............5. 

(IMDb..................6.2 / Rott.Toms (critics only)......31% )

Monday, 29 July 2019

Film: 'The Keeper' / 'Trautmann'

Here's yet another film I would have allowed to pass were it not that I'm still trying to make a dash for the 'finish line' of 5,000 films, and anyway it now being the school hols there's precious little else on right now which seems deserving of the expense and effort. It transpired, though, that given the (to me) uninspiring subject matter - football - this might have been considerably worse than it was.

The name of Bert Trautmann remains familiar to me because it was in my pre-teen years (mid-1950s) that he was oft talked of in glowing terms by my soccer-mad brothers. I retain the fact that he was a renowned and internationally acclaimed goalkeeper of great distinction, though which team he played for I couldn't have said. Still less did I know that not only was he German, but he'd actually fought on the Nazi side until captured in early 1946 - and was held at a prisoner-of-war camp in Lancashire until his talent as player was spotted and he was let out to play in a local team then returned to incarceration - eventually being signed up in 1949 to play as goalie in the top division for none other than Manchester City. 

The rather likeable German actor David Kross plays the title character in this largely German production (99% in English), which starts at the end of WWII and follows his 'discovery' as a footballing marvel, from where his career takes off, very gradually at first, then right up to his playing in the 1956 FA Cup Final at Wembley when he suffered a broken neck yet continued to play on heroically in indescribable agony, ensuring his team's victory of 3-1 against Birmingham City. But what I was completely oblivious about, then being but a young boy myself, was the hostility he received from all directions right through almost until that Wembley game, because of his invidious war record, which he tried to play down ("I had no choice!") though he did carry a particular baggage (or two) of guilt through certain of his experiences. 
When he became a national figure so did the outcry about his allowing to participate at all become a nationwide clamour, fed by media hostility whipping up unforgiving anti-German sentiment. Some scenes illustrating this really did make me cringe, though in the post-war climate of the time such might be considered as more understandable than had war been not so recent.

While he still plays for the local team Trautmann falls for the daughter (Freya Mavor) of the local team manager (John Henshaw) who'd spotted him, her initial cold, even hostile, responses (she having lost relatives in the war) finally melting until he marries her, yet still not telling his bride the full story of his war-service.
It was when he was in hospital recovering from his broken neck injury that he undergoes a family tragedy which marks both him and his wife for life.

I really didn't think I was going to like this at all. The very fact that I quite did so means that real addicts of the game are likely to get more out of it even than I did.
Bavarian director Marcus Rosenmuller doesn't hold back in depicting nasty aspects of Trautmann's fellow Germans in the war as well as the anti-German British sentiments in the decade following the war's end. He does manage to play it all quite even-handedly in a film which gallops along with very few 'boring bits'. However, maybe two hours is stretching it a bit, though even so I got the feeling that more was being left out rather than an excessive amount being put in.
I was surprised to find out that Trautmann himself died only six years ago at the age of 89.

Not at all a bad film, then, though I think you well might need a good reason to be wanting to see it in the first place.................6.

( IMDb...........7.2 / Rott. Toms...........4.5 / 5 )






Monday, 22 July 2019

Film: 'Armstrong';

(If there's really someone around who doesn't recognise the name or photo, this film is about Neil A.)
After yesterday's viewing here's another film related to the current 50th anniversary which I might have let pass me by, but as I'm now within spitting distance of the pre-determined tally after which I start to wind down my cinema-going frequency, thought "Might as well!" just to get there all the sooner. 

This film will be of most value to those who know little about the man though I gleaned nothing new of major import, certainly no revelatory facts.
Armstrong's own words are voiced through the warm, agreeable tones of Harrison Ford.
It's an impressive, fairly comprehensive overview of the subject's life from his birth in 1930 up to his death in 2012 - including a fair bit about his pre-astronaut days, then onto his training up to the moon landing and a further section on his post-space years, including his hardships in dealing with fame and the effect on his family. There's considerable contribution from his then wife, Janet, who died shortly before the release of this film. There are also generous contemporary inserts from his two sons. 
Although his divorce in 1994 is covered there's strangely no mention of his second marriage to Carol. 
Quite a bit of home movie footage is shown of his family when his children were infants - including a daughter who died of a brain tumour at the age of three, something I hadn't known. 

If the film's intention was to inform and to fill in what might otherwise have been no more than a sketchy knowledge of the man's life then director David Fairhead has succeeded admirably.   
But I think that the less you know then, obviously, the more you'll get out of this film - and you really have to be sufficiently interested in the man in the first place............6.

(IMDb......................7.2 / Rott. Toms.........N/A )

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Film: 'Apollo 11'

In other circumstances I would have given this a miss because, although I'm an Astronomy nerd and have been since a boy of nine (yes, I can date it that precisely, almost down to the actual day) I've really had more than my fill of programmes celebrating the event of 50 years ago this very day, having watched the landing live at my then age of 22, and seen so many replays of that truly momentous event over the decades that I've long since found the subject positively boring. I often still think that if I have to once more watch that "One small step for man......." clip I'll go mad! (It is, of course featured here too - but how could it not be?) 
But this was also an opportunity to try to wash away some of the diabolical effect of the cinematic experience I had four days ago, which was the subject of my previous posting. To expunge the memory entirely would be my earnest wish - it's still making mental waves in me (waves, note, not ripples!) both day and night - but as that's not going to be possible, I hope that this might at least dilute the horrible recollection of it. 

This film was much better than I thought it would be, with many as-it-happens shots I'd not seen before - and nor had most people it seems. It moves along at snappy pace, much of the 8-day mission telescoped considerably into digestible, yet flowing, segments, such that its 90-odd minutes fly by. Without complex scientific explanations, and with little pre-mission talk, it focuses on the visuals as well as personal interchanges of the crew of Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins with Houston control - and the entirely male team of scientists and operatives on the ground, at least I didn't see one single female among them (I believe this has been significantly 'corrected' since that time). The un-narrated film manages to be both moving and exciting despite our knowing what happens. The film footage is quite magnificent and I wish there'd be a convenient chance here to have watched it on IMAX screen.

Director Todd Douglas Miller has done a sterling job and this is a first class and convenient encapsulation of that wondrous venture............7.

(IMDB..................8.3 / Rott. Toms.......N/A )

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Film: 'Midsommar'

Every so often a film comes along of such disturbing effect that it shakes you to the core. Such was this for me - and I never want to see another which does the like. I'm sure there'd be those who can laugh it off and forget it. Lucky them, I say! For me, nightmare material!


So where to begin? 
I'll just set up the situation and say no more. Four American friends, including the only female (Florence Pugh) who has just lost her parents and tags along half-heartedly, fly to northern Sweden (though shot in Hungary) to visit a rural community, perhaps 70-80 strong, celebrating the Summer solstice in 'Midnight Sun' land where one of their brothers is a member. Everyone permanently dresses in white - dresses, robes etc, sometimes bedecked with flowers - and they engage in various rituals, occasionally involving singing and dancing. Communal meals are strictly programmed. At first this visiting group are just spectators, but they get drawn in and at least two of them get involved in serious infractions of the community rules, with consequences which are only fully horrifically demonstrated in the closing scenes. Can't go further - and anyway, I don't want to think about it.

There are clear resonances with the 1973 film 'The Wicker Man' which soon became and remains a cult favourite. (I saw that film in the days when there were two films on the programme, and it was the supporting film to the deservedly highly regarded 'Don't Look Now').
But this present film takes it well beyond 'Wicker Man' level - with several grisly and very powerful shocks, both unexpected and those you can see coming, yet I just had to keep my eyes on the screen, it really was that compelling, dammit!
There is, by the way, one particular bizarre episode (in an entire film of 'bizarres') approaching the conclusion which raised more than a few sniggers in the audience. But the building up of tension throughout the film was, I must admit, quite masterful - leading up to a predictably horrifying climax.

Words are not coming easy and I don't want to spoil things for anyone reading this and yet dares to see it, though everyone's reaction varies such that the effect it had on me won't be shared by others who do venture towards it. It really got under my skin. 

Director (and writer) is Ari Aster who was also responsible for the generally highly praised 'Hereditary' of last year for which I didn't much care. In my view 'Midsommar' is a much more 'successful' feature, if I may use that word.

To do my duty in awarding this a rating I've got to take a deep breath and stand back, judging what I've just seen as dispassionately as I can manage, though that is being a huge task. Okay, just to get it over with, and wishing I could scrub this infernal experience from my trembling memory...................7.


(IMDb.............7.7 / Rott.Toms..........3.4 / 5 )






Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Film: 'Vita & Virginia'

Watching a close-on-two-hours arty/intellectual film sitting with just four others in a 500-seat cinema on a hot, cloudless-skied afternoon was not exactly conducive to appreciating or merely just enjoying this. However, I had a pre-booked ticket so go I went. It wasn't long after it began when I was struggling to keep my eyes from shutting.

Early 1920s, London - and Vita-Sackville West (member of the 'Bloomsbury set' of dilettantes - played here by Gemma Arterton) wishes to ingratiate herself with author Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and puts herself in the writer's presence. They hit it off and you don't have to wait that long before they're away together and engaging in some rumpy-pumpy, the suspecting Woolf husband aware of his wife's inclinations. while Vita has more of a carefree, butterfly persona. Social gatherings abound with much lah-di-dah talk, most of which I found quite uninteresting. The film leads up to Woolf's writing of what was to be regarded as her masterwork, 'Orlando', the gender-fluid title character being based on Vita, evincing disapproving noises from certain quarters. 
I think it helps maybe a bit if you're familiar with the novel 'Orlando' - there's also the 1992 film with Tilda Swinton in the title role. That book and 'To the Lighthouse' are the only novels of V.Woolf which I've read.

I found the film, notwithstanding the inauspicious conditions I watched it in, quite non-captivating, even boring. It took all my effort to keep my eyelids up.
A curious, rather exasperating, feature is that most of the indoor scenes (very little shot outside) are dimly lit (often candlelight), washing out what little colour there is. That also didn't help much in maintaining interest. 

I've no doubt that the intentions of the film (director Chanya Button) were honourable, but dear me, it was a slog! However, as I infer, I might have had a higher opinion of it had I watched it in better circumstances where attention to the screen was not distracted by the unfavourable conditions. I think it's really one for fans of that period and of Virginia Woolf in particular.............4.5.

(IMDb..............5.3 - Rott.Toms (critics only)................5.42/10)




Film: 'The Dead Don't Die'

Jim Jarmush is one of a small, select number of directors whose films I'll go out of my way to see - though in his case there are not nearly enough of them. With an ultra-dry sense of humour which accords well with what I've been told is my own, you either 'get him' or you don't - and the audience I saw this with clearly did, I'm happy to say. Bit disappointing, then, that although this film did have its moments (at least two LOLs for me) I wouldn't class this as one of his more successful efforts.

The Earth's axis has tilted a bit further on its side due to man's polar fracking, which plays havoc with daylight hours. This causes the buried dead to resurrect out of their graves as human-flesh eating zombies (but of course!) - actually globally, though here we're just seeing the first manifestations of the phenomenon in small town Centerville (filmed in NY state) where Bill Murray and Adam Driver are peacefully cruising around looking for signs of trouble in Sleepytown, first encountering a forest-dwelling, luxuriantly bearded hermit (Tom Waits - dreadfully underused) whose hostile reception convinces them to leave him alone to his own devices.  The third member of the town's entire police team is Chloe Sevigny, holed up in the offices looking after communications. Other miscellaneous residents include Steve Buscemi (wearing a "Make America White Again" cap) and Danny Glover, meeting up for coffee in the only cafe for miles around - and Tilda Swinton as a Scottish, Buddhist-meditating, sword-wielding, funeral parlour owner.

When the (un)dead start making their presences known in grisly fashion the three cops are totally at a loss to know how to deal with this situation, phone and radio reception to the outside world being made unreliable by the new global conditions. Having ascertained how to dispose of the unwelcome resurrected invaders ("Kill the head!") they are soon overwhelmed by the numbers involved while wood-hermit Tom Waits has little else to do but watch unfolding events from afar, usually through binoculars. Incidentally, it's curious that very nearly all the zombies are middle aged at oldest, a strangely high proportion being young adults, adolescents or even children. So why did they all die so young in the first place? Won't spend any more time thinking about that.

There are some of Jarmush's trademark deadpan deliveries and exchanges to keep us amused, with Bill Murray getting increasingly frustrated at Adam Driver's pearls of wisdom being plucked out of nowhere - and a bizarre episode near the end when the Tilda Swinton character is.....erm....'taken away'. 

It's fairly enjoyable stuff, but I did leave wanting more. I needed an 'oomph' factor which never really came. However, as an unusual diversion from standard fayre I'd rate it as just about passing muster............6.5.

(IMDb......................6 / Rott. Toms..............2.61/5 )

  

Monday, 8 July 2019

Film: 'Yesterday'

To enjoy this to the utmost it will help enormously if you're an admirer of Beatles' songs. 
In an original and very good idea with plenty of mileage in it, Himesh Patel (in his first cinema feature) plays a supermarket worker on the East Anglian coast. He's an aspiring solo rock singer in his own time, unappreciated and downcast, when he has a traffic accident at the exact same moment that there's a global power shutdown, waking up in hospital to be supported by his girlfriend (Lily James) and much all-round sympathy. Resuming his role as guitar-playing singer he's astonished to find out that through some worldwide time quirk the existence of the Beatles and all their output has been erased from history. (Lest you think as I did, why just the Beatles?, I must reveal that though the film turns on this singular omission there are other features of the past that have also vanished from collective memory). So, on realising this particular absence, he starts playing that group's repertoire, passing the songs off as his own compositions, and he quickly gets noticed and lauded, first locally, then nationally and very soon worldwide. One of his early noticers and admirers is Ed Sheeran in a 'jolly good sport' cameo - quite effective actually - guiding him into recording studio. His fame takes him to L.A. with appearances on T.V. and live on stage in front of many thousands, all in tune with his status of overnight international sensation. Meanwhile his girlfriend becomes ever more bewildered by his experience and understandably feels a significant alienation between the two of them. I'd thought that he might get increasingly disillusioned by the fraud he was perpetrating, known only to himself (or was it?) and decide to own up and.......  
But not knowing for sure how this tale could end, my guess being that another global power shutdown would revert the world to a Beatles-awareness state with its universal amnesia now transferred to Patel's bogus claims, while he returned to his independent struggles as before. That a rather cheesily predictable final act takes place may have been a bit of a let-down, which was preceded by a couple of unexpected.....insertions, rather than 'turns', one of them bordering on the outrageous. But so what - it's a fantasy film!

To have as director none other than Danny Boyle himself, whose films, even the less successful ones, can never be ignored, is a fine capture, and he rarely reaches for the obvious, keeping up a cracking pace all through. And to complete the twin behind-the-camera achievement, it's a screenplay (and story co-author) by the one and only Richard Curtis ('Notting Hill', 'Four Weddings' 'Love Actually') who only betrays here his sometimes tendency to reach for cloying sentiment in the final minutes.

If you're not as enamoured of Beatles' songs as some of us are I can offer you the slight comfort that none are performed entirely, while many of them are in mere snatches.  

I enjoyed this a lot, its close on two-hours length flying by, largely because we didn't know what would happen next - and we cared!
A nifty and satisfying piece of cinema................7.5.


(IMDb.............7.1 / Rott. Toms...........4.33/5 )



Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Film: 'Sometimes, Always, Never'

How long can I prevail before having to resort to the word 'quirky'? Not long at all, it seems.

A riddle of a film, highly stylised in parts - purposeful back projections as well as unexpected camera angles and lighting - all of which I could buy into, not without some degree of pleasure, though I feel it could well drive some people up the wall.

Stalwart of British films (usually rom-coms), Bill Nighy, is a shop-owning tailor with a mania for playing Scrabble, now reflecting on his missing elder son who'd disappeared some years previously after walking out of the house in a huff following an argument over a game of such with his father. Having ascertained near the film's start that a body he's been called to identify is, after all, not that of his errant son, during a Scrabble game he's currently playing on his phone it suddenly dawns on him that this one of his internet opponents could be that very same vanished family member. He visits his other son, also a mature adult (Sam Riley), who likewise wants to know what became of his brother, though there's an emotional distance between father and this younger son.
Another couple (Jenny Agutter and Tim McInnerny) also have a body to identify, and they pop up every now and again with an incidental connection to the Nighy character.

The film's strange title refers to suit-wearing dress etiquette relating to the standard three jacket buttons and, top to bottom, whether they should be buttoned or no. (News to me too!)  

One can't deny that it's a strange kind of film, quite unusual, though none the worse for being so. Nighy himself untypically plays a rather introverted, restrained and pensive character, and is as good as he always is. 

This is director Carl Hunter's first full length feature film (though he's in his 50s), and could well be a foretaste of more films to come in this genre of curiosity. I hope so. Though I did indeed enjoy it to a degree, I'd only watch it again in order to fill in some of the several holes in the story with which I was puzzled. 
The film was shot, apparently. on the Irish Sea coast of Lancashire and around York.

Something a bit different. then, which will give adequate satisfaction to some, though others may well be inclined towards being dismissive of it................6.5.

(IMDb..........7.1 / Rott. Toms (critics only).........also 7.1 ) 


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Film: 'Late Night'

I thought this had some possibilities. It definitely had its moments, though not too many, but it did get bogged down in treacle just once too often, nearly all in the latter half.

In New York, Emma Thompson is the host of a late night TV talk show of some years standing, though now in a rut, as the ratings show. It's only just dawned on her(!) that her writing team consists of eight or so white men, all at or near middle age, so she decides to shake things up by employing a woman, any woman, to join the team (cue Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay) whose arrival is the opportunity for some rather predictable and lame jokes in the way of her initially assumed, being female, to be a low-level office worker. She has next to no experience of comedy writing though she does possess a fertile mind and imagination, and before very long she creates a favourable impression with the TV host. Thompson is something of a cold-hearted despot, firing members of her team almost on a whim, but her own vulnerability comes to the fore when she's told that she is to be replaced on her own show - and this affects her deeply and the only one she can really lean on is Kaling, who suggests what she might do to counter the replacement threat. Although Thompson herself is too elevated to realise it she needs the help of this confidante and only appreciates Kaling's true value at a late stage.  
Thompson's own understanding husband (John Lithgow) now retired and suffering the onset of Parkinson's, remains at home watching his wife's changing TV persona.

I'd not heard of Canadian Mindy Kaling before and I don't think she'd be widely recognised on this side. Her script is functional enough without setting the world alight, but what I did find with her is that she has a tendency to garble her self-penned lines - often starting a sentence at comprehensible pace and then accelerating as though she can't wait to get all her words out, resulting in my thinking "What?". The contrast with Emma Thompson's speech is extraordinary, where every syllable is clear is a bell whether loud or soft, high or low - a lesson in how it should be done. 

As I say at the start, it does get sentimental at times though those episodes are not as overbearing as they might have been.
Director Nisha Ganatra has a lot of television to her name as well as a little work on short features, a few of which might have been seen in the odd cinema. This appears to be her first major cinema
feature and it's not in any way a poor contribution - though I do get the sensation that it didn't quite hit home in the punchy way for which I was hoping................6.

(IMDb................6.4 / Rott.Toms............3.98/5 )

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Film: 'Sunset'

If this isn't the first film I've seen in the Hungarian language then I don't recall when or which was. 
Set in Budapest 1913, in the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it's a story of a daughter of the wealthy married owners of a one time large and renowned hat store, both of whom died (murdered?) in a fire when she was a baby of two years old. She applies for a job in the very same store her parents owned and on giving her name she's met by direct hostility from all sides, current owners and staff - but she's not deterred, wanting answers to her many questions. 
Trouble is, though in some ways this is quite a compelling film at least visually, I had so many queries as to what exactly was going on that I was well and truly lost for much of the time. I don't mind in the least those films that require the watcher to join the dots themselves to make sense of the storyline but in my case the dots were just too far apart to make for plausibility. It could well be that essential information as furnished in the subtitles was lacking, but I've no way of ascertaining that. 
The young woman at the centre of the film is played by Budapest-born Juli Jakab, who maintains for much of the film a commendable equable temperament despite the many animosities aimed at her. There are a few violent scenes, most verbal but some physical too. 
A curious feature is that there are a number of scenes which are so darkly lit, sometimes from back  (surely on purpose?) that one cannot see faces, so one, me specifically, doesn't know who they are. I assume that this was to give an 'arty' effect. If so it backfired, only giving rise to needless extra questions when I had so many without them anyway.

Director Laszlo Nemes, best (and only) known for his 'Son of Saul', not seen by me, directs with assurance here but if his idea is that any intelligent film-goer should be able to follow this then I must disappoint him, unless it's me who's particularly dim.

I can see how this might be rated a superior film but by being more nonplussed than I'd need to be for coming down on that side I can't make that leap. I might well have moved my rating up by a further half point were it not so, but reflecting my confusion I have to settle for a more lowly...........5.5.

(IMDb...........6.5 / Rott Toms........3.57/5 )

Monday, 17 June 2019

Film: 'Gloria Bell'

Immensely satisfying re-make of Chilean film of six years ago (titled simply 'Gloria') which I didn't see, with same director, Sebastian Lelio - and now with Julianne Moore in the very central title role, appearing in every single scene - and she is pitch-perfect casting. 

Shot in L.A. and, later, Las Vegas, insurance operative Moore, in her late 50s, is a divorcee of 10 years - with an adult son and daughter in their own homes. While not actively looking for a partner she uses her independence by frequently going out to retro bars, 80s music, where she regularly gets up on the dance floor alone. It's on one of these visits that she and the more recently divorced John Turturro (long time since I last saw him on screen) meet and hit it off, embarking on a romance. A feature of this film is frequent use of the mobile phone, his frequent ties still to his daughters soon making her uncomfortable when she feels this distraction means she's not getting the attention she wants, most tellingly in his not mentioning her existence to his girls. But it works both ways. When the two of them go to her son's to celebrate his birthday, Turturro feels that he is being cold-shouldered by her and, not standing for it anymore, leaves the party without telling anyone. Their on-off affair reaches another climax for a similar reason later in the film.  

I enjoyed this immensely, not a duff note in the whole film, with Moore required to go through a whole gamut of emotions, much of which is unexpressed, but rather written on her visage. She's also often shown driving while singing along with hits from her favourite decade. 
The film is intelligently realised too. The director knows full well that most of the audience is savvy enough to follow what's going on without having to have it spelt out.

A film about adults told from an adult's perspective. Not too much to ask for is it? Then why can't we have plenty more of them?........7.5.

(IMDb................6.5 / Rott. Toms..............2.73 / 5)




Thursday, 13 June 2019

Film:'Booksmart'

Paying the price for giving credence to numerous reviews full of praise rather than heeding my inner voice, this was as dire a cinema experience as I've had all year. On the surface it's the kind of film I'd normally steer clear from by a mile - worldly-wise kids (in this case two female teenagers on the eve of graduation) spouting forth attitudes regarding life and relationships of such perspicacity that they'd do credit to an adult of two or three times their own years. 
In the event I was saved from much of my apprehension in that a lot of the dialogue, which I assume was intended to be quick-fire zany, was quite incomprehensible, delivered far too fast for me to grasp, at times in highly excited, even hysterical-yelling measure. How this film has received such warm notices is far beyond me.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are the two central characters who regret having 'wasted' so much time in their high school years (filmed in L.A.) in successfully working towards high grades when they could have been having fun, sex, going to parties and drinking and drugging themselves silly. So they determine to catch up on what they missed out on in one spectacular blow-out, essentially compressed into the one day and night on the eve of their graduation. Oh, what fun!

Their school chums are worlds away from the time I was at school. Gender fluidity is 'in' and most definitely 'cool' . As if to illustrate how tolerant things have become one could hardly move for ultra-camp young men flamboyantly sashaying their way from one group to the next over the dance floor  - or were they really all men? What the hell! This is 2019 when simply everything goes! No hostility in sight - not even one raised eyebrow!

The ear-splitting (for much of the time) soundtrack reflected the prevailing sense of hedonism, with intelligent conversation virtually outlawed, and most likely would have been indecipherable in any case. 

Director Olivia Wilde (who has a considerable record as actress though in no roles which I can recall enough to have made an impression) here directs her first full-length feature. If her future projects are anything like this one I'd rather that she gave up now.

My negative opinion of the film is, I'm sure, a generation thing. Don't ask me what my couple of rating points are for - I'm blowed if I know. Maybe I just don't want to be seen as unkind.................2

(IMDb................7.5 / Rott Toms.........3.98/5 )


Monday, 10 June 2019

Film: 'Aladdin'

Just about all reviews seem to draw comparison with the 1992 animation of the story with Robin Williams voicing the Genie. That I can spare you as I never saw the earlier film - though we've all seen on T.V. clips of extracts of Williams' unique, madcap contribution. There's no doubt that Will Smith had a formidable act to follow and to do it without showing a conspicuous indebtedness to his predecessor - and I must say that he largely achieves that feat. However........
The early part of the film and the scenes sans Genie (who only appears getting on for an hour into this two-hours plus feature) are awfully stretched out and, frankly, I found dull, save for a couple of very lively and impressive big-scale song and dance sequences. As for the romance between Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and the Princess (Naomi Scott) I felt no convincing charge at all between them. Why he should fall for, on just her very first appearance, such a nose-in-the-air, supercilious young woman is beyond me. I can only think that for him physical attractiveness is everything - but it is, after all, a 'fairy tale' of sorts so we're not in the authenticity game. The villain of the peace (Marwan Kenzari - hot!), who tries to wrest the magic lamp from Aladdin is by far the most interesting character - well, after Smith's Genie.
The Genie's appearances themselves are rather amusing, witty in quick-change visuals rather than in verbal repartee. But his presences are so limelight-stealing that whenever he was gone I was longing for his return, and there the film kept sagging. 
Something I could have done without is the crashingly overwhelming music backing score which all but obliterates the words which the characters are trying to sing. (In Aladdin's first song I couldn't catch one single word!). And it's not just the songs, the unnecessary score sometimes covers up the dialogue too. 

I was drawn to seeing this mainly because I thought having Guy Ritchie at the helm was an interesting prospect, and there is indeed a lot of his trademark rapid cut technique resulting in some very busy chase sequences. But it wasn't sufficient to carry the film for me. 

I think this will be best enjoyed by Will Smith fans (amongst whom I wouldn't count myself especially) - but also those familiar with the cartoon of 27 years ago and they want to see if this version measures up to it or exceeds it. I have no idea if all the original songs are here (there actually aren't that many of them anyway). 
The film has its moments to be sure - and a lot of the visuals are quite as spectacular as one would hope to find in a fantasy story - but I didn't experience anything that special enough to lodge it in my memory cells for any appreciable time.
And yet again, my own views are at odds with general favourable opinion. Too bad.................4.5.

(IMDb.................7.4 / Rott.Toms................4.59/5 )





Thursday, 6 June 2019

Film: 'Rocketman'

Most impressive, busy and raucous film of Elton John's (as played by Taron Egerton) life, from his boyhood showing early composing talent, up to and through his fame years revealing ever-turbulent relationships, including sexuality, right up to, though not quite confirming, his control with professional help of his multiple addictions, principally drink, drugs and sex. (His long and continuing abstinences are confirmed in the final captions). However the film is less of a biopic than a re-imagining of key moments, times in which he's always in conflict with those around him (including both parents) yet amongst it all managing to produce some of the most memorable melodies in all pop music, nearly entirely inspired by the words of his regular lyricist, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell - in a role much more substantial than I was expecting). 
His songs, often truncated, are inserted at given, non-predictable points in non-chronological order (which is wise), many of which are extravagantly performed by not only Egerton using his own voice (an extraordinary imitation) but other cast members too, and sometimes enlarged by multi-numbered singing and dancing groups. It reminded me a lot of Ken Russell's flighty creations, whose unique eye-popping style of crazy and florid excesses suits the songs admirably. (The real Elton did, of course, make a cameo appearance in Russell's 'Tommy' [on stilts and in giant bovver boots!] to sing 'Pinball Wizard' which is also performed in this film.)

Casting is all very sound - Richard Madden as his first manager (and lover), Bryce Dallas Howard as his uncaring mother, Steven Mackintosh his regimentally strict father - plus the ever dependable Stephen Graham as sweary record producer, Dick James (who used to be a household name in the 60s and 70s), short-tempered and demanding. But it's Jamie Bell who makes a really mighty impression as Taupin, a figure whose name all of Elton's fame will know, but have, like myself, scant knowledge of the part he played in his partner's career. This film, even if one accepts that it's not the literal truth of what happened, does help to flesh out a man who has been, almost purposefully, invisible. I liked that aspect a lot. 


The framework of the film is E.J., ready dressed in red angel get-up when he'd been due to go on stage, crashing in on an A.A. group at Parklands institution, Ca, where he joins the circle of other addicts and starts relating his back story. The film keeps returning to this group after each of the episodes portrayed, which is satisfactory enough as a device, these 'interludes' not slowing down the highly eventful drama at all.

We do see his short-lived, for-appearances-sake marriage to Renate, but the episode is despatched with little fuss.

Much has been said about the Russian 'version' of this film being shorn by over five minutes, and a most crucial few minutes, thus taking out all the several references to homosexuality, an action over which Elton himself has perfectly justifiably made known his displeasure. Having just seen the film intact I can only think that what they've done is to remove the heart of the film - all references to and displays of gayness are strategic to Elton's character and it's a tragic illustration of the state of things in that sad country where, if any mention of gays is made at all it has to be negative, otherwise it's regarded as 'propaganda' and therefore 'criminal'! They've even taken the thoroughly mean-spirited measure of removing from the final captions mention of Elton's husband, David Furnish. I do hope that the millions of Elton fans over there are aware of what has happened. 

Incidentally Furnish is one of the film's co-producers and E.J. himself one of the executive producers - though I got no sense of any interference from them to sanitise his troubles or, until the concluding captions, to make E.J. into someone heroically battling through his hardships. It's a human and vulnerable Elton we are presented with. 

Director Dexter Fletcher ('Sunshine on Leith', plus finishing off 'Bohemian Rhapsody' after director Bryan Singer had been fired) does an incredible job here. I'd go so far as to argue that he is the true star of this enterprise, and hope he gets recognition for this marvellous achievement come awards time.  

Before I saw this film I'd had doubts about Taron Egerton who, in just the trailer, wasn't quite successfully looking the part in the way that Rami Malek captured Freddy Mercury spot on. If he still lacks here the last ounce of visual authenticity there is absolutely no doubt that his singing imitation is phenomenal. And as an actor in this he has to cover a wide spectrum of moods and he does it all very finely, including reflecting many moments of unspoken inner turmoil, so no complaints on those grounds.  

I can't imagine any Elton fans missing this film and, equally, can't imagine many being disappointed. I wasn't - quite the reverse, in fact. I hadn't honestly expected it to be an early contender for inclusion in my Top Ten of the year, but it's up there. If you're intrigued or even just wavering, do go. It's a riot!..............8.


(IMDb...................7.7 / Rott.Toms.........4.4/5 )






  

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Film: 'High Life'

Too many distressing images and moments, some really grisly, in this set-in-space tale for me to say that I 'enjoyed' it - a few of which, though brief, involved dogs. As ever, anything involving animals suffering cuts particularly deep with me, though there'll be others who can put such behind them with greater ease. That aside, I had a pervading feeling that the film was attempting to be profound, presenting a mystifying set-up and denouement covering what was ultimately rather hollow.


Robert Pattinson is one of a motley bunch of travellers spending years en route (one-way) to a black hole, at a speed close to that of light, relaying information back to Earth on what they witness and encounter. They are a curious lot and it's never fully explained why they come to be passengers, it looking like a kind of sentence for committing some crimes? Pattinson has a baby daughter as co-traveller, clearly born recently on the voyage (the mother? I don't know) who consumes much of his attention which he shares with the cultivation of an on-board garden  (in the manner of the 1972 film 'Silent Running'). Also on board and mysteriously caring for (and exploiting?) the 'passengers' physical attributes is medic/nurse/scientist Juliette Binoche who has some degree of authority over the others.
There's a fair bit of sexual activity of a kind (including an attempted rape), something which is rarely, if ever, addressed in space films, though it's a reasonable inclusion given the long periods of time involved - though none of it is particularly 'pleasant'. Of course with a number of passengers forced to live in close proximity to each other for interminable lengths there are incidents of friction between them, occasionally turning to physical violence.

It's not a big-budget film. The few scenes in outer space look fairly routine, nothing special, the essence of the drama being the psychological interplay between characters.

Director (and co-writer) is the French Claire Denis, my age and with a considerable back catalogue, none of whose films I believe I've ever seen. She also has a minor acting role in this film. If you ever thought that a female director, especially a 73-year old, would be liable to go easy on the violence, think not so. Denis proves that when it comes to portraying brutality and blood-letting action she is every bit as capable of not holding back as any other. 

This is obviously intended to be a hard-hitting film. If it is then too many questions got in the way for me to appreciate it, in addition to those distractingly upsetting scenes, making me wish I hadn't been to pay to see it. But it's competent enough and I'm sure there'll be those who thought "Wow". Just don't count me among them.................5.

(IMDb...............6 / Rott Toms............3/5)

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Film: 'Long Shot'

Intermittently amusing 'odd couple' comedy, the 'odd' being 'very' - she (Charlize Theron), currently Secretary of State aspiring to be the first female American President, he (Seth Rogan) an oafish, unkempt former newspaper reporter, recently become unemployed. 
It requires an enormous stretch of credibility to accept that her outward persona as poised, elegant, capable, reliable and professional could fall for this plain-speaking, careless of appearance, bushy-bearded, down-to-earth younger man, but this being a comedy, it happens when their eyes meet across a crowded room, she then discovering him to be someone she knew when he was barely adolescent. She takes him on initially as speech writer, there being understandable considerable consternation from her close staff at their proximity and developing rapport. He accompanies her as part of her entourage on overseas travels, his presence becoming increasingly evident to all - and meantime their personal relationship deepens.  

It's full of rapid talk, much of it being too fast for me to catch, though some in the audience could, and found it very funny. In fact the whole film was generally better received than what I could muster for it, though I must say that it did maintain a fair entertainment level even if I could have done without the soppy ending.

Incidentally the film's opening scene, atypical of the rest, was something which I found teetered on the very edge of sheer unpleasantness. I suppose its inclusion was as an antidote for, and to point up, the comedy which follows.

Director Jonathan Levine has yet to become a well-known name. The success so far of this film may well be impetus in that direction............6.

(IMDb................7.2 / Rott Toms...............7.1 )

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Film: 'John Wick - Chapter 3: Parabellum'

I never saw Chapters 1 & 2, not even recalling them coming out - but if I had would it have made any difference? Probably not. 

Although in this one I hadn't the foggiest idea of what was going on other than gang upon gang of hit men desperate to put out Keanu ('Frozen Face') Reeves' lights,  can't see this appealing to any but aficianados of bone-crunchingly violent combat - and there's quite a number of them here to 'savour'. all pretty extended - guns (shootings directly in face and skull from two inches away), blades (of various sorts) and fists/feet, just about everything is covered - and with all combatants, including 'Frozen Face', getting up time after time no matter what the injuries, resilient as zombies -  comic book stuff. If this is your 'thing' you won't come out feeling short-changed in this two-hours-plus film. However, if you were hoping, like I was, to see some intelligent content and context you are more liable to conclude it as being just an empty, repetitive, ho-hum show. 
Quite why actors of the calibre of Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburn, Anjelica Houston and Ian McShane decided to get involved in this forgettable mess, is an enigma. I can only assume they needed the dosh.

Director is stuntman Chad Stahelski, whose only other claim to 'fame' is also having directed the first two chapters of this same franchise. I see no reason to think that this latest addition is any different in nature from those earlier two - and there's the clear indication at the end of this film that there's going to be yet another chapter (which I must remember to miss!) But just look at the ratings others are giving this low-level disorder! I'd sooner sit through the whole four hours of Eurovision again - including Madonna! Pah!...............3.

(IMDb......................8.2 / Rott.Toms...........4.5/5 )











Saturday, 18 May 2019

Eurovision Song Contest 2019 - Oh, what a circus, oh what a no-show!


And this year's major controversy is........


Maybe my screen had been too small to pick out that two of Madonna's backing dancers revealed (briefly) Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs, this year's contest being held in Tel Aviv amid calls for a boycott, calls which eventually had close to nil effect. More of Madge in a mo.

Winner, the Netherlands. I'm pleased for the country, claiming its first victory in 44 years, bewildered as to why this song should have won - a plaintive ballad (stressing the plain!) with minimal, actually no stage effects. But there you are. What do I know? :-




The U.K., true to its form of recent decades, came last (out of 26), and that by some margin, the only injustice being that it didn't share the wooden spoon with 15 other songs to which I had also given a rating of 1 out of 5. After hearing it now five or six times I still cannot recall thee British entry one bit. You have to feel sorry for the plucky effort of 21-year old newly discovered 'talent' Michael Rice - or do I care? Not really:-

Second came Italy followed by Russia, another two which didn't impress me much - with Switzerland coming fourth - and in fifth place, the only one of the Top 5 which I rated at all, my placing of it being third, Norway:-


For much of the voting time what looked to be a front-runner was North Macedonia but, thank Heavens, fading right out of view as a result of its indifferent public support:-

And then the most talked about entry, Australia, with its coloratura soprano perched on a pole and swinging, as it were, in the wind, reminding one - okay, well me - of an horrific medieval punishment where the unfortunate victim of torture is impaled with a pole up his/her fundament and hoisted aloft for passers-by to gawp at and be considered lucky that it wasn't themselves who was up there. 

For a while during the run-up the song was beginning to grow on me, but then it struck - what song? Apart from the admittedly arresting 'hook' of the singer with the filigree vocals there was nothing much else to it, at least nothing I could recall. Maybe the idea of giving it such a spectacular presentation would mean that voters would be so transfixed by the visuals they'd overlook the non-entity of the song itself. It came in 9th place.

And I've got to put my cards on the table by revealing my own choices. I placed the toyshop-sweet and gently unassuming Denmark entry first - simple, non-derivative and memorable, it deserved far better than its moderately respectable 12th place :- 

In at second I'd have given it to the entertaining and catchy San Marino entry, but who, almost as bad as his turn in the semis, was hampered by a rasping, occasionally off-key voice, so unlike the professional video put out beforehand. Considering the reception he got, clearly a popular act, it was an injustice to see him languish ultimately in 20th place:-

And third, as I say above, I placed Norway.


During the interval we had the dubious pleasure of being presented with five previous winners singing each other's songs, a display to the eyes which one may, or may not, wish to embed in ones consciousness:-
You just may recognise on left a previous Austrian winner, Conchita Wurst, and second from right, Israel's 1998 winner, Dana International. 


Now to Madonna - and just what on earth was she wearing? Or is 'wearing' not a term which accurately describes what she threw on? Looking every inch like a granny who wants to show that she's still 'with it' (and that eyepatch, goodness me!) her first appearance where she was 'borderline' (yay!) rude, she made no effort to disguise the fact that she didn't want to be interviewed, probably because it was time wasted in not displaying her 'talent'. When it came to her star turn 'moment', commencing with an underwhelming presentation of her wonderful 'Like a Prayer' and surrounded by be-cowled, quasi- monk, backers, it segued into a brilliant display track from her new album 'Madame X' which more than made up for her lacklustre opening section. She showed what she's still capable of which, on this evidence, is one of extremes:-


The quartet of presenters were as maddening as ever, perhaps even moreso this year. So many "Are you READY?"s when we'd been on the edge of our seats for minutes on end! And when the 41 countries introduced their panels' votes in turn, one of those presenters kept greeting each one with a "Goodnight"! Wasn't there anyone who could be bothered to even tell him?

And thus it went. This year was not one that will be memorable to me for positive reasons, but is there ever a year that is? There'll be the regular calls from British sources saying that the U.K. should pull out of this annual display of mediocre rubbish because the world, and specifically anti-Brexit Europe(!), always fails to appreciate what amazing and superior talent 'we' possess!  Hmmmm! So will run comments from those who never watch Eurovision and detest the very idea of it anyway ("Those damned foreigners!")  - those who've never been bitten by the bug which dictates just how compelling this so-called 'nonsense' really is. Despite all the nay-sayers, I still declare - Long Live Eurovision!    


See y'all next year in Clogland!



Film: 'Woman at War'

This is probably the first Icelandic feature film I've ever seen - there are hardly opportunities to see many of them anyway (if there are 'many', that is, which I doubt!) - and it's certainly the first I'm aware of being almost entirely in that language.

It's largely filmed with that bleak, barren and rugged landscape as backdrop, and it's always also interesting to get glimpses of the streets of Reykjavik, a city we too rarely see at all.

Haildora Geirhardosdottir has a double acting role - the primary one as a middle-aged and single eco-warrior, acting self-handedly in sabotaging an aluminium plant by repeatedly bringing down power lines, a position she occupies in secret whilst maintaining a front of being an adult choir mistress - and then as her twin sister who is a student of Eastern philosophy and meditation about to embark on a period of self-discovery at an Indian ashram. 
Whilst in the middle of her active anti-factory campaigning, the first woman hears that an application she made some years before to become a foster mother for an orphaned Ukrainian child has been successful and she is offered the chance to take a four-year old girl from that country. Now faced with the dilemma to accept the child or to cease her campaigning efforts she comes to an arrangement with her twin sister.

It's a compelling story, made yet more interesting by the infrequently viewed country in which she operates. A large part of the latter section of the film concerns her trying to outwit and outrun the police pursuits closing in on her, involving her having to shoot down the spy-drones they employ to investigate ground-level  signs of life.
There are one or two light comedic touches as, for instance , the police keeping after the same hapless Spanish young man whom they suspect as being the culprit of the attacks. 
A feature of the film is how a trio of male musicians (usually keyboard, tuba plus percussion) keep appearing as background to scenes without explanation as to why they are there, or sometimes woven right into the scenes - a kind of 'musical' Greek chorus, if you will, though 'music' is not to be taken too literally. Also appearing, though less frequently, is another trio, this time of young Ukrainian women in their national dress, though I've no idea what they were singing about.

Near the film's end something happens which I personally felt undermined all what had happened before, though reading reviews, few others felt the same way. It struck me as lazy and, perhaps, predictable, though that was the only point at which I felt a bit let down. Incidentally we only actually see the little girl right near the end in a flood-stricken Ukraine.  
Director is native Icelander Benedikt Erlingsson.

An unusual story which, had it been set in another country and/or had it been in English, I don't think would have been nearly as attractive as it's managed to be. I liked it................7.

(IMDb................7.6 / Rott. Toms.......4.4/5 )