Movie – War Horse


I’m not as fond of animals as most but I love this film. It starts with the story of young Albert, the son of a hard on his luck Devon farmer who buys a young thoroughbred horse at an auction instead of plough horse that he desperately needed, mostly to spite his wealthy landlord that is also bidding.

The film traces where the horse, Joey, goes so it’s a long film. Firstly, Albert is determined to train the horse to plough the fields to prevent the family losing their farm/livelihood. In the next instance to war as a Captain’s ride, mainly as a rainstorm ruins the field and the horse has to be sold to pay off debts to the landlord.

Joey goes through many escapades that have me gripping my seat and occasionally reaching for a tissue especially the hard ship endured when he gets taken over by German command after a brutal battle but there are also touching scenes of a young French girl befriending him and his new pal, another horse he trained with for military manoeuvres.

Finally the story moves forward to an age when Albert can enlist and so I’m at the edge of my seat again to see when (surely it’s only a matter of time) the two are re-united.

It may have standard film clichés to tug at every heart string you possess but it’s a great watch, indeed, for all the family.

8/10

Smile factor 8/10

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Movie: The Way Back

There has been nothing on for weeks, not even a decent Christmas film so I’ve decided I’m going to see at least one film this bank holiday weekend.

Obviously there is the smattering of expected kiddie movies – none especially Christmassy, the unwatchable Rom-Com and two prison break out movies. None of these in my faves box but I go for ‘The Way Back’.

If it’s about the journey after the break out and it’s a 12a so how gruesome can it be? I imagined it to be more about the friendships forming over weeks and months of trekking across the world so I was not disappointed. In fact it is thankfully even less gory than I feared.

Based on a true story, it’s about a group of convicts, mostly those who have been set up and wrongly accused in the break out of world war 2. What I always find amazing in these films as they all have native names, Polish, American, Russian etc and speak with accents but they all speak in perfect English and communicate well together. However I say that having just come back from a week in Italy and being able to communicate just fine, them in Italian and me in English.

That should not detract from what is very good film, all the more so because it’s based on real happenings (the book, ‘The Long Walk’). The Pole, (Jim Sturgess) is new at the prison in Siberia. ‘It’s not the guns and guards that keep you imprisoned here, its nature’ says the guard referring to the extreme cold not to mention wild animals outside the prison confines.

It’s not long before the new boy is leading the escape, amidst repeated hallucinations of seeing his front door back home in Poland. He is forced to take bad boy real Russian criminal (Colin Farrell) although handy as he is the only on with a knife but partners up with the token American (Ed Harris – brilliant). Seven of them set out to escape harsh Siberia but how many make it through to Nepal and then onto India?

Mark Strong was apparently in it? Didn’t see him and I’m pretty sure they still rolled him out to do promotional interviews. An ace actor.

‘The Way Back’ is a really well made film that may be a tad too long (133 minutes) but has you at the edge of your seat most of the time.

I’m only marking it down half point as it’s not my kind of film but it is good.

7½/10 

 Smile factor 2/10 (the odd joke)


Movie – Unstoppable

I had no idea what this movie was about before I saw it but…..

I know, I start so many reviews like that but it’s most often the case when I see a preview, especially when it’s a last minute decision. To top it all we were a few minutes late but thankfully, they let us in.

So all I know is that Denzel Washington is in it. The opening scenes (that I saw) had him driving a train begrudging the young upstart who has just started; he now has to work with.

My first instinct, that this is going to be like ‘Speed’, which I’ve never seen is not entirely correct. Apparently this is based on real life events about a runaway, un-manned train that is clearly heading into danger unless someone stops it. For ‘someone’ read ‘Denzel Washington’.

There isn’t anyone on the train (that’s the point) so there are no passengers in danger, more the dangerous goods on board and the populated towns that the train is heading furiously through.

The twists (oh I love those twists) include the conflict between the widowed veteran train engineer with teenage daughters working at Hooters to get through college and the newbie (Chris Pine) with a recently estranged wife and child. Then there’s the corporate suits who don’t want the publicity from a forced derailment and the [operations manager] (Rosario Dawson) who thinks that’s a bad decision.

Of course they were wrong and by now the media are following the train along with Denzel and co.
A surprisingly good movie but I never understood why someone couldn’t just jump out of helicopter onto the train and climb to the front.
7½/10 Smile factor 8/10

Movie – Machete

So Steven Seagal has taken a break from real-life law enforcing to make another film.
He has second billing but it’s pretty clear from his first appearance that this time he’s not here to save the world; he’s here to take it for himself.

This has to be the most gratuitous violent film I have seen for some time but in a good way, if that makes sense.
I didn’t reach this conclusion at the time but since seeing it, it reminds me of all that’s great about KickAss. The opening credits are straight out of a superhero movie and yes it’s ludicrously violent but tongue in cheek; heads roll, limbs break, no-one, I mean no-one can be trusted as co-workers turn on their own in a nanosecond and everyone gets killed – whether in the way or just, well just there.

Because it’s made by boys (I’m assuming here rather than reporting on any research) the ladies take comfort in not having to get fully dressed in the mornings but can run about in their underwear toting guns and knives, safe in the knowledge that their hair and makeup is perfect as they go about killing anyone who crosses their path.

The plot? Oh there is one; the bad guys are led by a Texan senator (Robert De Niro) who is in bed with a host of baddies determined to keep out immigrants from Mexico into America. That’s America, a nation made completely of immigrants.
Some of the baddies (Steven Seagal) are immigrants themselves so for them the motive is business; control who comes in and out, with what and claim a larger profit from illegal trading.

The good guys include the ridiculously rough looking former agent (Danny Trejo) left for dead who teams up with the ridiculously stunning immigrations agent (Jessica Alba) (much better with dark hair and a Mexican tan but what do I know).
Machete is hilarious but not because it’s full one liners but just because its, well, ridiculous
7½/10 Smile factor 8½/10

Movie – Another Year

After the disappointment of ‘The Kids are All Right’, I’m looking forward to a nice, sweet film with some quirky British humour.
I got it with this Mike Leigh trademark production.
On a side note, this is the sort of film that many Americans just don’t get; it’s not full of people who are young or particularly beautiful so there goes Hollywood. However, every character is interesting and the film has lots of good humour, despite an often grim story line.
The story centres on a happy middle aged, middle class couple (Tom & Gerri – yes really) heading towards retirement. He an engineer (‘he digs holes’) and she a counsellor. The film opens with her counselling a depressed mother and I was fearful that the whole story will centre on this but it speedily moves to jollier moments.
For one, they have been waiting for, their son, an only child to find a girlfriend and settle down. He looks like being a sad sap but soon becomes cool, with a new perfect girlfriend in tow.
They find joy in their allotment every spare minute they get and in entertaining, particularly a single friend from the doctor’s office where the Gerri works.
Then there are the downbeat moments such as when said single friend appears to lose the limited marbles she has and when they suffer an unexpected family bereavement.
Jim Broadbent heads a fine cast as one half of the happy couple seemingly surrounded by singletons rather than other smug marrieds and dealing with life’s every day ups and downs in as jovial spirit as possible.
I love it.
Go see if you want to be shown how to be happy with your fantastic lot or to strive for more.
8/10
Smile factor 8½/10

Movie – The Town

Perhaps the American folk are right in saying this is the worse year for films; the theory is that the films out this year were put into production around 2008 when the banking world collapsed and nearly took us all with it.

I’m extra thankful then for The Town released this year.

I understand it to be the first time Ben Affleck has both directed and starred in a film, although he directed the haunting Gone Baby Gone, in the same close-up style. One job must be hard enough so I can’t envisage being both in front of and behind the camera.

The Town is ‘Charlestown’, a suburb of Boston where generations of bank robbers apparently reside. Affleck’s character Doug MacRay, is the leader of one such criminal gang and whereas he stops at the point of any violence, his right hand man, best buddy Jem (Jeremy Renner) is not so timid.

On what’s proposed as their last ‘hit’, Jem decides to kidnap the bank manager Claire for no apparent reason other than he seemingly can.

Thereby begins the twist early in the tale; they think she may be able to recognise them and Doug is duly dispatched to ‘make sure she doesn’t’. His idea is to start up a relationship of sorts so we have the bank robber that kidnapped the bank manager dating her.

As you can imagine there is more to this story with a mix of the larger criminal fraternity including Fergie the Florist (Pete Postlethwaite), the police, the FBI and family members all throwing their weight into what Doug should do next.

There are a few frustrating moments in the film but on reflection, these just serve to keep me on the end of my seat, waiting for the next move.

Very clever indeed.

8/10

Smile factor 7/10 for a few well planned jokes.