Bridge Of Spies

The period is the late 1950’s in America and the Cold War paranoia is at it’s height and people believe that it is only a matter of time before the “Reds drop one on us ” to coin a phrase.

A suspected Russian spy is cornered by the C.I.A in Brooklyn and brought to trial. Here we meet James Donovan ( Tom Hanks ) who is asked to defend Rudolf Abel ( Mark Rylance ) in his spying trial. I will have to reveal a plot point here to continue the review – he is found guilty, but this happens to be a true story so I am not revealing anything that did not happen in real life, sorry folks.

Now the action moves to 70,000 feet about Soviet territory and we find US pilot Gary Powers hurtling towards the ground, being captured and being put into a showtrial by the Russian state for espionage. At the same time in East Berlin we find a young American Yale economics student quite literally behind enemy lines as the Berlin wall is built and closed behind him, trapping him there and he finds himself being arrested and thrown in jail by the East German authorities.

James Donovan is now called on again to make the swap. The Americans want their pilot back and the Russians want their spy back, but neither side can be seen talking directly to each other. This now turns the story into a game of brinkmanship – a real life game of chess, who will make the first move ? Further complicated by James’s insistence to get back both the pilot and the young student. This gets both the East German authorities and the American C.I.A’s backs up and the Russians aren’t exactly too thrilled about the idea of  a 2 for 1 swap either.

What will happen next would be to give away the ending but just to say that director Steven Spielberg is on top form here and both the main actors give strong performances that might be worthy of an Oscar or two next Spring.

Although there is a bigger story being told here, it is at it’s heart a one man story about James Donovan, a good man put in a difficult situation and will he do the right thing ? It is not the first time this style of sory has been told by Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List being another example.

A great story,well told and gripping. My cinema audience made no sound while watching it which is always the sign of a really good movie story.

 

 

 

 

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Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part II

Firstly before I get started with this review, let me say I think the filmmakers should have kept this movie as a single part rather than splitting it into two parts. I think it would have made for a much tighter story. Ok that’s my little rant over now back to business as they say.

We literally pick up where left off at the end of this movie with Peeta (Josh Hutchinson) still suffering from the after effects of being ripped from the Panem capital city.

Katniss Everdeen ( Jennifer Lawrence ) now realises that the day of facing her nemesis President Snow can be delayed no longer and that she must gather her followers and emerge from the relative safety of their underground lair in District 13 and need to confront him in person if their revolution is to have any chance of success. After delivering a hammer blow to the Panem forces, she sets off in the direction of the city to liberate the citizens of the city and free the greater Panem.

Though Peeta has not fully recovered from his brainwashing, he is brought along,all be it in shackles. Gale ( Liam Hemsworth ) and Fennick join Katniss and they head off on their mission.

I won’t spoil what happens to them along the way but just to say that their choice to move underground to escape the pursuing Panem forces quite literally comes back to bite them and this creates one of the most tense sections of the movie.

Of all the YA ( Young Adult ) adaptations that are out there right now and Hunger Games has never been afraid to get quite dark and nihilistic and this current movie certainly follows this template. Every other YA adaptation will be forever measured against this series of movies and up to now most of them have been found wanting.

Although an often reluctant beacon of hope for those in Panem who want to overthrow President Snow, Katniss as before steps up to the plate when the occasion calls for it and after a battle of epic and truly terrifying proportions once they finally reach the capital in which Katniss is injured, she wakes up to find that the rebellion have succeeded but at a terrible cost to her personally and to the children of Panem.

I won’t spoil the final ending but just to outline that she comes to realise that just because the rebellion has succeeded does not mean that newly discovered peace and what comes after will be any easier to live with which requires her to act again to save Panem.

I had said this before at the start of the review that this story could have told in one part rather than two and this I think is the weak point of the movie It can leave you feeling at certain times feeling that a few scenes have been include to pad the story out to fill the extra running time which is a shame as it should have more of a sprint. Maybe that’s just me you may feel differently. Still worthy of checking out though to see how the story brings together all those sub-stories that have been leading up to this point.

Steve Jobs

Are a user of Apple products ?  Even if you are not don’t let that dissuade from checking out this movie.

This movie is not a strict biopic more an interpretation of events that happened in the life of Steve Jobs and as a result it does not follow a strict timeline in his life.

The movie is based on a book by Walter Issacson, adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, but actually plays out more like a three act play and it was filmed like this in cronological order. Each part takes about 40 mins to play out and then moves on.

Part one looks at the launch of the Macintosh PC in 1984,part two looks the NExT PC in 1988 and the last part examines the launch of the iMac in 1998. This device is used to hang the rest of the script on in each part. If you are very observant you may notice that the film’s look improves and becomes more crisp and clear as each part moves on.

This is not unique to Steve Jobs, but sometimes your frustration that people do not by into your vision, can makes others think that you are hard to work with. That’s the issue when some, paint you as a visionary and a genius. You find yourself throughout the movie both admiring the man for his genius but also frustrated with him for the way he treats those closest to him.

Does Michael Fassbender portray Steve Jobs strictly, well no but he is no less impressive because of that. Come to think of it all the actors are on top form in this movie and relish in the meaty script they have been handed, especially Kate Winslet who portrays his ‘ Work Wife ‘ Joanna Hoffman the marketing executive for Apple and NExT. Seth Rogan who normally tackles much lighter role is impressive as Steve Wosniak his friend and co-founder of Apple and creator of the Apple II and this also creates the most conflict between the two men, as Steve refuses to acknowledge this work and the part it played in the creation of the Macintosh PC which came after the Apple II. Another scenes of note are the interactions between Steve his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and his interaction with his daughter Lisa.

This movie has sadly been withdrawn from a lot American screens, due to poor box office performance figures about a month ago when this movie was released there. This is a shame and don’t let this fact put you off going to this movie, I for one urge you to go and see this movie as at least one of the performances will appear at next year’s Oscars. Even if your knowledge of Steve Jobs is small, a movie that is definitely worth checking out.

P.s In case you were wondering the NExT PC has no connection to the store chain of the same name, that’s just a co-incidence.

Brooklyn

Just let me say if Saoirse Ronan does not get some sort of award for her performance of Eilis, then I will eat my hat and you can call me on that if she does’nt.

It would have been very easy in a less experienced actress’s hands that this movie may have been more than overly sweet than a coffee with more than one too many spoons of sugar in it. Thankfully Saoirse Ronan manages to walk this particular tightrope quite well.

This movie is based on Colin Toibin’s book of the same name which has been adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby.

We find Eilis working in a shop in small town Ireland for a lady called ‘ Nettles ‘ Kelly who earned this nickname from people in the town and never has a moniker been more accurate – she can cut you down to size with a word or a look. Eilis however decides to take up an offer of a job in New York which has been offered to her. She heads off to New York but at first finds the experience very hard and suffers terribly from homesickness and has trouble fitting into New York life.

She then crosses paths with a young Italian boy Tony played by Emory Cohen and suddenly it is like that scene in the Wizard Of Oz where everything changes from black and white to technicolor, she comes out of her shell and finds that she has found her place in the world. There is a great turn by Julie Walters as Mrs Kehoe as the woman who she stays with while in New York and mention should be made also of Jim Broadbent as a Brooklyn priest.

Just as things are slotting into place for Eilis in New York, she is yanked back to Ireland due to a family tragedy and on her return she finds that life back in Ireland is not quite as grim as she remembered and she comes across Jim Farrell played by Domhnall Gleeson while back in Ireland. It appears that both lives on either side of the Atlantic will work out well and she is torn and has a decision to make and what decision will she make ?

This story is not the Angela’s Ashes view of Ireland but a much more gentle, maybe even a misty eyed view of life in Ireland but despite yourself you will find that it is one that you will warm to and I think that this is very much down to Saoirse Ronan’s nuanced acting, I for one can’t wait to see what she does next as she has yet to put a foot wrong in her choices of roles and this movie is going to be a calling card for those who have yet to have come across her acting talent.

I can see that this movie is destined to be repeated more than once it moves to the small screen and I will probably watching it again and again every time it is shown.

Spectre

It doesn’t happen that often but there are certain movies that moviegoers will go to regardless of what reviewers or critics may say. I think that the new upcoming Star Wars movie maybe another case in point.

So how to review this movie, James Bond is fairly unique in film history and I maybe open to correction but Sherlock Holmes maybe the only other fictional character that has had more movies made about him. I suppose it is probably easier to measure this current offering by what came before and maybe then only restricting it further to Daniel Craig’s term in the role.Each actor that has inhabited the role has put their own unique stamp on it and are very much set in the time that they were made. The 1960’s Bond being a very different beast to the current incumbent.

Well I have to say that this particular movie has one of the best opening scenes in Bond for a long number of years and gives us probably one of the longest tracking shots I have seen as we follow Bond over the roofs of Mexico City, he is there to assassinate a rich Italian who is involved with a shadowy criminal organisation, who are they ?

Fast forward across the globe to the eternal city of Rome where we see Bond appear at the funeral of the man he has just assassinated and encounters his widow Lucia Sciarra portrayed by Italian actress Monica Belucci. Kudos to director Sam Mendes for not going the younger eye candy route and casting as it turns out the oldest actress to inhabit a Bond woman role.

After finding out more out about this shadowy organisation and who is at it’s heart, he is persued  through the streets of Rome by what I imagine is one of the largest henchmen I have seen in a long time. Bond manages to escape the clutches of the henchman however and we next find him in Austria encountering the daughter of someone who was a previous nemesis. Madeline Swann played expertly by French actress Lea Seydoux. Madeline is cut from a different cloth from many Bond women that have come before and is every inch Bond’s equal.

They both persue the head of Spectre, that shadowy criminal organisation who James Bond has now identified and who is the person behind the organisation – Oberhauser ( Christoph Waltz ) who James knew in an earlier life.But is that his real name ? It also turns out that those who came before are also involved with Spectre.

Whereas the first Daniel Craig outing was a stripped back affair, this current one is reintroducing us to those Bond stallworths which you will instantly recognise and there is quite a few gentle nods to previous James Bond movies and none the less enjoyable for that. Q, M and Moneypenny who are given more to do this in this movie compared to previous one are nearly in a sub – movie with a storyline that mirrors Bond’s exploits.

I for one preferred this movie to Skyfall, you may disagree. We all have our favorites. But sorry Sam Smith this current Bond song will not stick long in my memory !!

Crimson Peak

As Mia Wasikowska’s character says in the movie ” This is a book with ghosts in it ” about a book she is writing and that I think that aptly describes this movie best. It is probably less likely that you will jump up in your seat, squirm maybe even peak through your fingers every now and again.

This movie is not intended to scare you, more draw you into the horrific world that main two protaganists have created, the ghosts and there a few, are more portents of doom for Edith ( Mia Wasikowska’s ) rather than malevolent spirits intent on doing her harm.

Edith is living in pre first world war Brooklyn New York. She is living alone with her father in the family home after her mother passed in a family tragedy some years ago. She has caught the eye of Dr. Alan McMichael ( Charlie Hunnam ) but at present Edith sees him more as a friend . Enter Lucille Sharpe ( Jessica Chastain ) and Thomas Sharpe ( Tom Hiddleston ) who prevail upon Edith’s father to invest in their mining machine as they feel his company will invest in them due to the fact that this is how he gained his fortune.

While her father decides not to invest in their machine after doing some digging into Lucille’s and Thomas’s past. Edith begin to fall in love with Thomas after he has made advances towards her and they eventually marry and head home to Thomas’s home in England after her father passes away in mysterious circumstances.

To say that this house is creepy is an understatement and has borrowed from many houses of horror that have come before. Guillermo Del Toro the director is a past master at creating a visual treat for the eyes as well as also appealing to horror fans and it shows. This movie is beautifully realised as befits Del Toro’s previous back catalogue, and I am sure that it would take a few watchings of this movie to notice all the attention to detail that has gone into this horror.

To tell you more I think would spoil the movie but just to say that this is not the first time that Lucille and Thomas have drawn others into their web who have not escaped as Edith comes to realise as the movie moves on.

If you are a fan of true gothic creepyness and horror you will not be dissappointed, it is as I have said before a treat for the senses. Maybe just make sure as you head home that it is not in the dark as this movie will stick with you, ” What’s that behind me ” , quickens pace !!

#MOVIES V REAL LIFE

Well it has come to pass that this week a milestone has been reached, on the 21st of October this year,we go Back To The Future.

Those with long memories will remember that Doc Brown brings Marty Mc Fly into the future in the end of the first of the movie trilogy.

Can it really be that long since I first saw that first movie !!

When the film-makers have looked into our near future, how many things did they get right. Well while some things always come to pass just naturally due to the progression of technology, other things get inspired by movies that we see and books that we read. So while we have yet to have a rubbish fusion fuelled car, don’t stop dreaming film-makers you continue to inspire us !!