FILM OF THE WEEK
THE GREAT ESCAPER
It is great to see the iconic Glenda Jackson and Michael Caine back together for the first time since Joseph Losey’s 1975 THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN. This story is based on true events which take place during the summer of 2014.
Bernie Jordan and his loving wife Rene are now living in a comfortable care home in Hove, not far from Brighton beach. 89-year-old Bernard is itching to cross the channel and join his fellow war veterans on a beach in Normandy to commemorate their fallen friends at the D-Day Landings’ 70th anniversary. When the nurse at the care home tells the deeply disappointed Bernard that there is no room left for the organised trip to France, he decides to make his own way across the channel. Thankfully Rene his loyal wife for 60 years encourages him to do so…
Oliver Parker’s efficient direction allows his actors to shine and is a real joy seeing these two great actors sharing a winning chemistry and relishing their intelligent dialogue. There are also some strong flashback sequences when the two protagonists (now played by Will Fletcher and Laura Marcus) were young and very much in love during the war.
It is a simple, gentle film with no big surprises, but it is the grace and dignity of the performances that lifts it up and makes this a must see!
The brilliant Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal delivers the performance of his career in this true story about Saúl Armendariz, the gay wrestler from El Paso, who became an international phenomenon after he reinvented himself as the “exotico” character Cassandro. Roger Ross Williams co-wrote the engaging screenplay with David Teague and directs with style the life of Cassandro, whose flamboyant style both in the ring as well as in private life earned him the name of “Liberace of Lucha Libre”.
There some brilliantly choreographed wrestling sequences, where Bernal is performing most of his stunts. Cassandro’s story is fascinating and if you wanted to know more about his life try and see Marie Losier’s excellent 2018 documentary CASSANDRO, THE EXOTICO! Bernal inhabits the role magnificently and is certainly a front runner for the forthcoming award season. A real treat! (Amazon Prime)
Writer/director Gareth Edwards made a huge splash with his debut feature MONSTERS back in 2010 before he hit the big time with GODZILLA and ROGUE ONE. Now he delivers one of the most original sci-fi features of recent years, a futuristic action thriller where the humans are fighting a brutal war against the forces of artificial intelligence.
Joshua (John David Washington) is an ex-special forces agent still haunted by memories of his loving wife Maya (Gemma Chen), who mysteriously disappeared some time ago. He is now recruited to find and kill the Creator, the person responsible for developing a weapon to destroy the enemy but also mankind…
Washington is very effective as the determined protagonist and so is Alison Janney as the hard as nails Colonel Howell, but the real revelation is newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles, as the Alphie, the enigmatic AI child.
It is quite refreshing to see an original sci-fi blockbuster that is not a sequel or another part of a tired franchise.
CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY
Zoltan Korda’s groundbreaking 1951 black and white classic is now available on DVD in a sparkling new 4K restoration. The film is based on Alan Payton’s novel which takes place in South Africa during its horrific apartheid. The story follows Kumalo (Canada Lee), a Zulu priest who travels from his small rural village to Johannesburg in search of his missing son. But to his horror he discovers that his son is now a petty criminal and to make matters even worse he is accused of shooting a white man…
It is a miraculous and daring achievement for Korda and his cast, especially his black actors, who travelled to South Africa during the peak of apartheid. Payton has written a passionate, urgent story about his country and this film adaptation is one of the first international films to be made in South Africa. The eclectic cast also includes Sidney Poitier in one of his first roles before he became an Oscar-winning legend.
A must for your collection! (Blu-ray from StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics)
THE WONDERFUL LIFE OF HENRY SUGAR
Another wacky comedy from the master of dead pan Wes Anderon and another Roald Dahl adaptation following his THE AMAZING MR FOX. This is based on Dahl’s short novel and the writer himself (played with much gusto by Ralph Fiennes) acts as the narrator. He talks about Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), a wealthy man addicted to gambling, and who, after reading a doctor’s report, becomes intrigued by one of his patients in India – The man who sees Without Using his Eyes…
Anderson’s great ensemble of actors also includes Ben Kingsley as the Indian patient with supernatural powers. It is all crazy stuff with terrific, magical designs that highlight the madness of it all! (Netflix)
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