Going In Style

Remake of a 1979 film about three retired workmates robbing a bank, this has a lot going for it on paper, with three veteran movie stars (Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin). But on screen, it’s terrible.

Predictable and limp, with embarrassingly awful action scenes.

Their Finest

London in the Blitz. Writer Catlin Cole (Gemma Arterton) gets a job at the Ministry of Information, and lands a role writing women’s dialogue (aka “slop” ) in a feature-length propaganda film about the Dunkirk evacuation. She has to battle against sexism and bureaucracy to be taken seriously. As well as the above, a film about making films, and about the role of women.

Nostalgic and patriotic, with some genuinely emotional moments. Convincing Welsh accent by Arterton.

*****

Ghost in the Shell

Hollywood’s first big-budget attempt at a live-action film based on Japanese anime cinema. Scarlett Johansson gives a nuanced performance as the lead character, a human whose body is destroyed in a terrorist attack but whose brain is saved and installed in a cyber-enhanced body to create a weapon to fight crime and terrorism.

Lots of ‘bullet ballet’ action scenes, but also tries to ask big questions about who and what we are.

****

Viceroy’s House

It is 1947, in Delhi. Three centuries of British rule in India is coming to an end. The last viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, is locked in negotiations with Indian leaders in a vain attempt top stop the sub-continent splitting into two separate states when the British depart.

Especially good performance by Gillian Anderson as Lady Mountbatten, but the film overall is conventional and simply competent. The themes tackled deserved something better.

***

Logan

The latest in the X-Men franchise, featuring Hugh Jackman in his third (and final?) outing as Logan/Wolverine. Tries to say some important things beyond the stabbings, slashings and decapitations.

More complex and thought-provoking than the average superhero movie. But I wish  it had been shorter, with fewer mangled corpses.

***

Moonlight

Winner of the 2016 Best Picture Oscar, it is a study of the main character through three stages in his life – neglected child, troubled gay teenager, tough drug dealer – played by three different actors.

All the actors give excellent, subdued performances, but the film’s visual quality is also memorable. I liked its stillness and silences. Some will be bored by its slow pace.

*****

Fences

Denzel Washington directs this version of the award-winning play by black American writer August Wilson. It retains the look and feel of a play; Washington avoids cinematic devices and gives Wilson’s rich dialogue centre-stage.

Washington and Viola Davis give towering performances in a study of racial prejudice, father-and-son rivalry, parental responsibility, and the way experience shapes and warps all of us.

****