Tom Cruise produced and stars in Jack Reacher: Never Go back, the second instalment in the Lee Child spy franchise. Reacher is accused of murder then his trusted friend Turner (Cobie Smulders) is arrested. He must get to the bottom of a government / military conspiracy to clear their names and that means facing heat from all directions. He’s in top form strategically and physically but they are too so it’s a fair fight. And then he comes to believe he has a fifteen year old daughter somewhere out there. The stunt and action packed spy v spy tale’s final chapter takes place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and it’s down to the wire. It’s all fine but the action is dragged out and the mano-a-mano is endless and altogether the films too long. On the bright side, Tom’s 54 and doing his own stunts and newcomer Danika Yarosh as his putative daughter is outstanding.
Ewan McGregor directed and stars in American Pastoral, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth novel about an all-American WASP family dealing with social change in the 60’s. The revolution hits home when suddenly their daughter played by Dakota Fanning disappears, is believed to have joined a radical activist movement and planted a bomb. She disavows her parents and heads underground. Jennifer Connelly as her mother feels strangely free, relieved of the burden of having her in the house, but McGregor’s father goes nearly berserk with grief. He begins a years’ long search for her. Roth shows the dark side of America’s sweeping transformation in the 60s’ politically, socially, and the fact that it was never the same again. The parents’ values became outmoded and love wasn’t enough. The world was changing too fast.
Josh Wiggins, Sophie Nélisse, Bill Paxton and Colm Feore star in Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams a moody, heartbreaking story about a couple of abused teenagers who have had enough. Josh is an unpaid slave on his father’s farm whose movements and social habits are limited so he can help save the family from ruin. Sophie’s character has been sexually abused by her father, the local policeman, since the death of her mother some years prior. The kids meet in a local forest and form a bond and an alliance so when Josh finds a stash of money marked “police evidence” in her father’s barn, they can plot their escape. They make a run for it with her psycho dad in hot pursuit. It is nerve rattling and unsettling. And yet all the while they’re experiencing the first blush of love. The actors are terrific (you should see Feore as the evil other cop) it and takes its own time. It looks beautiful, shot in the wilderness and farmland around Sudbury.
The People vs. Fritz Bauer is a fact-based drama about a homosexual Jewish lawyer who was send to a concentration camp during WWII and miraculously survived. In 1958 he returns to Germany to ferret out ex-Nazi officials for trial but gets little co-operation. There seems to be a lingering anti-Semitism in the air, and at the time, homosexuality was illegal. His persistence and iron will keep him going despite being told to retire because of his age and health possibly by those who wish to stop him. His loyal aide has a vaguely interesting arc about being married but frequenting transvestite clubs for sex. The story’s interesting enough, but the execution is lifeless, dull with oddly harsh lighting and cinematography in boxy, sterile offices, with little to relieve the Brutalist visual tension. In all, a good story but a dull film, a wasted opportunity. It stars Rüdiger Klink, Burghart Klaußner and Andrej Kaminsky.
Howard’s End won three Oscars and nine nominations in 1992 and has just been restored in 4K to mark its 25th anniversary. And what a treat! The Merchant Ivory masterpiece stars Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Redgrave in a domestic drama based on the book by E.M. Forster. Like many great English novels set at the turn of the last century, it is obsessed with class, inheritance, social behaviour and hiding one’s true intent. The script is witty and rich and the performances are so beautifully of the era, mannered and mesmerising. This is a special film that is “timeless” because it observes human behaviour so well and we don’t change that much from century to century.
Joe Strummer of The Clash may be the dazzle of London Town but a young boy is the hero. It’s a coming of age story about the eleven year old thrust into the role of man of the house when his taxi-driver father is hospitalised and his addict mother is nowhere to be found. He takes over his father’s business and drives his cab dressed as a woman so people won’t realise how young he is. One of his clients is an amiable, wealthy punk rocker who takes a liking to him. The boy is responsible for everything now and he’s desperate – there is no food for him and his little sister, no money to pay the bills, they are evicted and the cab’s reclaimed. He keeps all of this from his father and locates his mother living in a flop house. She’s in no condition to help so he looks for the punk rocker who turns out to be Joe Strummer. Maybe he can help. London Town stars Jonathan Rhys Myers as Strummer, Natascha McElhone as the other and winning newcomer Daniel Huttlestone. On VOD.
Autumn Lights is a beautifully shot romantic melodrama about an American (Guy Kent) living in remote seaside farmhouse in Iceland. His girlfriend breaks up with him moments before drowning herself. A day or two later, he meets four attractive locals who invite him for dinner parties but he keeps his story secret. Naturally things in the group become sexual fast and he was astonishingly quick to fall in love with one of the women, a Jezebel type who soon dominates the film. She is manipulative, cunning and selfish and the men swarm around her. The American is hard to read and says little, preferring to listen to others sour their hearts out. Like the cuckolded husband. The scenery is breathtaking – seascapes, mountains, forests, the works. The Icelandic architecture brings nature right into the homes which in turn blend into the scenery. That’s the best part of the movie. Its 24-hour daylight when the film takes place is unsettling. The film is strong, then inert and can’t sustain itself.
Amazon Prime’s series Good Girls Revolt set in the “Newsweek” style magazine in 1969 is a revelation. The newsroom is abuzz as Charlie Manson’s about to be indicted and three people have just been stabbed and one died at an outdoor music festival in Altamont, California. The titular girls (pardon me) are researchers, eager newbies risking everything for their stories, including their private lives, to create the stories the reporters, all male, will front. The “girls” think they’re being given short shrift but the openly 70’s style newsroom sexism and they are ready to rebel. They deal with old school newsroom politics, rivalries, inappropriate relationships and personalities. The soundtrack is fabulous, rare Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly, The Doors, Bob Dylan and more. There’s a little gratuitous newsroom sex but the best part is the presence of figures in the zeitgeist then and now, like Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter playing bright young whippersnapper Nora Efron. Also starring are Anna Camp, Genevieve Angelson and Hunter Parrish.
Cineplex Scary Classics presents cult and classic horror films for the Hallowe’en season now and into November. Go to www.cineplex.com for details.
The Birds – October 17, 2016 In this 1963 cult classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues her love interest to a small Northern California town on a whim. Soon after she arrives, chaos ensues as birds start viciously attacking people.
Young Frankenstein – October 17-20, 2016 Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson is desperate to distance himself from the evil legend of his family, and travels to Transylvania for answers. He discovers Dr. Frankenstein’s lab and private journals in which he learns how to reanimate a dead body. The 1974 horror comedy is brilliantly black and white.
Scream – October 28-31, 2016. Sidney and her pals are the victims of a phone prankster who may be a homicidal maniac in the 1996 slasher horror favourite. A local reporter played with élan by Courtney Cox, won’t take no for an answer in her desire to crack the case.
London’s National Theatre Live Frankenstein October 28-31, 2016 and November 2, an encore starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Doctor and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and then vice versa. They alternated roles!
Lavender – November 4-10, 2016 After losing her memory a psychiatrist suggests a young woman return to her childhood home where she discovers she may have murdered a family she never knew she had.
From Dusk Till Dawn – November 6 & 9, 2016 In this 1996 action horror film, two violent criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by bloodthirsty vampires.