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Somers Town-DVD Review 06/12/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Black & white, British, Comedy, Drama, Light Drama, Movies.
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Somers Town (British) 2008

Nominated, Best Actor (Turgoose); Best British Independent Film; Best Director (Meadows); Best Screenplay (Paul Fraser), British Independent Film Awards
Winner, Young British Performer of the Year (Turgoose), London Critics Circle Film Awards
Winner, Best Actors Award, (Turgoose and Jagiello), Tribeca Film Festival

From Film Movement
Directed by Shane Meadows
Starring Thomas Turgoose and Piotr Jagiello

A friendship develops between two misfit teenage boys in London. Tomo (Turgoose) is a runaway from the Midlands; Marek (Jagiello) is a Polish emigrant who speaks halting English. Both share the experience of first love, for a French waitress who handles the two boys’ infatuation with understanding.

A humorous and charming short film, effectively shot in black and white. For Turgoose, this is a change of pace from one of his previous films, the much grittier This is England. Both he and Jagiello were recognized for their performances in Somers Town (see above).

70min. Unrated.

For more info:
Somers Town

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In Bruges-DVD Review *** 06/02/2011

Posted by Films to consider in British, Dark Comedy, Dark Drama, Irish film, Movies.
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In Bruges (British/Irish) 2008

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Best Performance-Comedy (Farrell), Golden Globes
Nominated, Best Writing-Screenplay (McDonagh), Academy Awards
Winner, Best Screenplay (McDonagh), BAFTA Awards
Winner, Best International Film; Best Script for Film (McDonagh); Nominated, Best Actor (Farrell); Best Actor (Gleeson); Best Screenplay (McDonagh), Irish Film and Television Awards

Directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes

When new hitman Ray (Farrell) accidentally kills a little boy on his very first job, he and his mentor Ken (Gleeson) get sent to the Belgian city of Bruges to lay low. As they await word from their boss, Harry Waters (Fiennes), Ken tries to get Ray to appreciate the medieval beauty of the city.

A dark story about guilt and redemption mixed in with a great deal of dark comedy, witty dialogue, and a fair amount of bloody violence. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are funny as an unlikely pair of hitmen, and Ralph Fiennes is creepy as a cold-blooded killer who pretends to show consideration for someone he’s about to do in.

Favorite lines (there were many):
Ray says to Ken, “I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

Be sure to watch “A Boat Trip Around Bruges” in the DVD’s Special Features for a look at this lovely city.

107 min. Rated R. Bloody violence, drug use, and strong language.

For more info:
In Bruges

State of Play-DVD Review *** 02/03/2011

Posted by Films to consider in BBC, British, Suspense, Television.
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STATE OF PLAY (British) 2003

Among other awards and nominations:
Won, Best Actor (Nighy); Best Sound (Fiction/Entertainment); Best Editing (Fiction/Entertainment), BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts
Nominated, Best Acto (Morrissey); Best Drama-Serial; Best Original Television Music; Best Photography and Lighting, BAFTA

Directed by David Yates; written by Paul Abbott
Starring David Morrissey, James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, John Simm, Kelly MacDonald

A BBC television mini-series presentation consisting of six episodes that are each nearly one hour long, so not suitable for one sitting unless you’re snowed in and have a lot of snacks handy.

No spoilers here: Some reporters for the newspaper The Herald start investigating a story about a woman who apparently fell to her death on the London Underground at the same time they are looking into what seems like a drug-related shooting of a teen. Soon they become embroiled in a tale that includes murder, sex, and politics, a combination that builds, taking many twists and turns, and lasts until a very satisfying conclusion.

A great cast that worked well together, and music that added to the suspense, excitement, and pacing of the story. Director Yates later was chosen to direct the final films of the Harry Potter series. Supposedly writer Abbott began but then abandoned a follow-up story.

The series was adapted as a film starring Russell Crowe, which was released in the U.S. in 2009. This was not as well-received as the television series, but it does get good reviews on Amazon, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. One criticism seems to be that there are a few plot twists that don’t make much sense in the movie. I haven’t seen this film, but there were no such problems with the story in the mini-series.

350 min. Six episodes. Unrated.

For more info:
State of Play (BBC Miniseries)

For info about the 2009 film:
State of Play (2009)

Brick Lane-DVD Review 01/31/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, Bengali/Bangladeshi language film, British, Emotional Drama, Indian language film, Movies, Romance.
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Brick Lane (Indian/Bangladeshi/British) 2007

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Alfred Dunhill Award for New Talent, London Film Festival
Official Selection, Telluride Film Festival; Toronto International Film Festival
Winner, CICAE Award (Gavron), San Sebastian International Film Festival

Directed by Sarah Gavron; based on the novel by Monica Ali
Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee as Nazneen, Christopher Simpson as Karim, and Satish Kaushik as Chanu

In the 1980s, Nazneen, a young Bangladeshi woman, enters into an arranged marriage with Chanu, a staid and traditional older man, and leaves her home and her sister to live in the Brick Lane section of London. Sixteen years later, Chanu wants to move back to Bangladesh for a job, but their two daughters are happy being part of the surrounding culture. Nazneen, meanwhile, has met and fallen in love with Karim, a handsome younger man who is active in local political causes. Although she does not want to marry him, Nazneen comes to realize that she is where she belongs and must tell her husband so.

An intimate look at a woman who finds her own inner strength and makes some tough decisions to live on her own. A beautiful musical score by Jocelyn Pook (I especially loved Adam’s lullaby) adds much to the film.

102 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Brick Lane

About A Boy-DVD Review 01/20/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, British, Comedy, Drama, Movies, Romance.
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About a Boy (British) 2002

Among other awards and nominations:
Nominated, Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay, Academy Awards
Nominated, Best Motion Picture; Best Actor-Comedy (Grant), Golden Globes
Winner, Best British Actor (Grant), Empire Awards (UK)
Nominated, Best Supporting Actress (Collette), BAFTA Awards

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Nick Hornby
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult and Rachel Weisz

A Hugh Grant movie that I really liked. His performance went beyond his usual charmingly amusing and seemed natural and genuine. The addition of Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult to the cast also had something to do with it.

Will Freeman (Grant) is a single guy who’s living on the royalties from his father’s one-hit Christmas song. All of his friends have settled down and are urging him to do the same but Will still wants to play the field. Coming up with a devious new scheme to meet women, he joins SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) where he pretends to have a two-year-old son. He inadvertently meets Marcus (Hoult), a 12-year-old boy who is always getting bullied at school. When Marcus’s mother (Collette) tries to commit suicide, Will gets more involved than he wants to.

I would definitely watch this film a second time, which is unusual for a romantic comedy. This film has some more serious moments with the storyline of Marcus and his mother, but along with that there are plenty of very funny scenes.

102 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
About a Boy (Full Screen Edition)

Notes On A Scandal-DVD Review 12/28/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, British, Movies, Psychological Suspense.
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Notes on a Scandal (British) 2006

Directed by Richard Eyre
Starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy
Based on a novel by Zoe Heller

Among other wins and nominations:
Nominated, Best Score; Best Lead Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett); Best Adapted Screenplay, Academy Awards
Nominated, Best Lead Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett); Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
Nominated, Best Thriller Film; Best Actress (Dench); Best supporting Actress (Blanchett), Saturn Award, Academy of Scuience Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, USA
Winner, Teddy Audience Award (Eyre), Berlin International Festival

Two of my favorite actresses play off each other very well in this suspenseful psychological thriller. Dame Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett, a spinster teacher nearing the age of retirement. Her main pastime outside the classroom is writing what she thinks about other people in a daily journal. She becomes fascinated with the new art teacher, Sheba Hart (Blanchett), a young woman she thinks might be too vulnerable to survive the tough school setting. Barbara befriends Sheba, then becomes obsessed with her. Eventually she discovers something about Sheba that she can use against her.

Each woman is living in her own dream world, with no thought for the consequences their actions will have on others. An outstandingly creepy performance by Dench and an equally creepy (but for a different reason) performance by Blanchett. And Bill Nighy suits the role of Blanchett’s laidback husband very well.

Favorite line: Barbara, about to make events take a turn, serves tea while saying, “I think the kettle’s boiled.”

92 min. Rated R. Rough language and sexual content.

For DVD info:
Notes on a Scandal

Last Chance Harvey-DVD Review 12/18/2010

Posted by Films to consider in American, British, Movies, Romance.
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Last Chance Harvey (American/British) 2008

Nominated, Best Actor (Hoffman); Best Actress (Thompson), Golden Globes

Written and directed by Joel Hopkins
Starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson

I promise that the following review does not contain the words “charming” or “bumbling;” feel free to insert them wherever you see fit.

Harvey Shine (Hoffman) is an aging advertising jingle writer about to be sent out to pasture. Long-divorced and not very involved with his daughter’s life, he travels to England to attend her wedding. By chance he meets Kate Walker, a never-married airport employee whose personal life revolves around helping her mother deal with her problems.

Harvey becomes smitten with Kate and starts to pursue her. The result is a love story that will probably appeal most to those of a certain age. As Harvey and Kate consider the possibility of a romantic relationship, Hoffman and Thompson seem very comfortable acting as a couple, making for an enjoyable (but not overly-compelling) story.

Although the movie’s usually listed as a romantic comedy, expect more smiles than outright laughs.

93 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Last Chance Harvey

Man On Wire-DVD Review 09/09/2010

Posted by Films to consider in British, Documentary, French language film, Movies.
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Man On Wire (British/French) 2008

Winner, Jury Prize and Audience Award for World Documentary, Sundance Film Festival

Based on Phillipe Petit’s autobiographical book, To Reach the Clouds.
Directed by James Marsh.

The film’s title refers to the police report filed when Phillipe Petit, a charismatic and amazingly agile young Frenchman, crossed between the tops of the two World Trade Center towers in the early hours of August 7, 1974.

There might be those for whom this film is too difficult to watch, considering the events to come, but the feat stands as part of the history of the structures. The towers beckoned to Petit, and he (as he makes convincingly clear) could not help but respond.

The story is astonishing – not just the daring and unbelievable feat itself, but how it happened. Nothing about the plan seemed very organized, especially considering the possible outcome.

The documentary is narrated mostly by Petit and interspersed with present-day reactions from those who helped him. Petit liked to be in the limelight, and there is much original footage shot by one of his small and motley crew. As a result, viewers get an up-close look at the crossing. Petit spent nearly one hour up on that wire. And he wasn’t just walking back and forth. Incroyable!

Footage of previous highwire crossings and street performances reveal a good deal about Petit’s personality. The very short children’s animation in the Special Features gives a clearer picture of what he and his assistants were actually trying to accomplish during their preparations; this sometimes gets a little murky in the main film.

94 min. Rated PG-13.

For more about Petit’s book:
To Reach the Clouds

For a children’s book about Phillipe Petit by Mordicai Gerstein:
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

For info about the DVD:
Man on Wire

Venus-DVD Review 09/05/2010

Posted by Films to consider in British, Comedy, Light Drama, Movies.
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Venus (British) 2006

Winner, Best Supporting Actor (Phillips), British Independent Film Awards
Nominated, Best Actor-Drama (O’Toole), Golden Globes; also Screen Actors Guild
Nominated, Best Actor (O’Toole); Best Supporting Actress (Redgrave); Best Promising Newcomer (Whittaker); Best Screenplay, British Independent Film Awards

Starring Peter O”Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, and Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by Roger Michell

A charming and funny story about an aging actor as he falls in love for the last time. Maurice (O’Toole) meets Jessie (Whittaker), the young great-niece of his best friend Ian (Phillips), when she arrives in town to care for Ian. Jessie’s smart-mouthed but vulnerable attitude immediately (and obviously) attracts Maurice; she grudgingly agrees to his gestures of friendship. Although she makes it clear there is no chance for a romance between them, there is a chance for a love story of sorts.

The film takes good advantage of many opportunities for laughs and smiles, both about aging and about the differences (and similarities) between generations. One of my favorite scenes takes place in a cafe when Maurice and Ian, two lifelong friends, attempt a knock-down fight with each other and get kicked out.

95 min. Rated R. Adult themes.

Fore more info:
Venus

The Constant Gardener-DVD Review 08/22/2010

Posted by Films to consider in African/Kenyan language film, British, Movies, Suspense.
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The Constant Gardener (British/Kenyan) 2005

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Best supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz); Nominee, Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Original Score; Best Film Editing, Academy Awards
Nominee, Best Motion Picture (Drama); Best Director; Best Performance by a Supporting Actress (Weisz), Golden Globes

Directed by Fernando Meirelles; based on the novel by John LeCarre
Starring Ralph Fiennes as Justin Quayle, Rachel Weisz as Tessa, and Hubert Koundé as Dr. Arnold Bluhm

What starts out as a romance between staid government official Justin Quayle and the fiery Tessa turns into a pretty good suspense story when the couple marries and moves to Kenya. There Justin is a “representative for aid effectiveness.” His activist wife starts helping a local doctor and soon discovers that a drug company is using “expendable” patients for their clinical trials.

Tessa’s made to pay for her refusal to accept things as they are, while her husband made to suspect her of being unfaithful to him. He eventually figures out what’s really going on. It takes him a while because he’s always busy tending to his garden. The ending worked for me.

The film was shot in Africa, with beautiful natural scenery and heartbreaking views of life there. Meirelles also co-directed City of God, a film about Rio de Janeiro’s ghetto, which is on my own list for future viewing.

129 min. Rated R.

For more info:
The Constant Gardener (Full Screen)

For John LeCarre’s novel:
The Constant Gardener: A Novel