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45 Years is a British film, about a couple named Geoff and Kate Mercer, who have been married for 45 years. The story takes place over the week leading up to their anniversary party.At the beginning of the week Geoff receives a letter telling him that the body of his former girlfriend Katya, from before he ever met Kate, has been found perfectly preserved in a mountain glacier.

The news has a profound effect on Geoff, making him angry and frustrated, and in turn upsetting his wife – although he is largely oblivious to the effect it has on Kate.

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are outstanding in this understated film about a seemingly happy marriage which is thrown into a quiet and civilised crisis. It actually focuses more on the effect that Geoff’s behaviour has on Kate, than the news of Katya’s discovery upon Geoff, and Rampling’s acting is such that it is hard not to empathise with her pain and jealousy.

This is certainly not an action packed film – in one sense, not a lot happens, but so MUCH happens on Kate’s face, in her thoughts – which we sense through her expressions. It’s weirdly compelling and hard to tear your eyes away from – at least that was how I found it. So it’s bleak and sad, but also the actions of both main characters are so utterly understandable.

If you don’t need lots of action and special effects in your films, but enjoy a thoughtful character study, give this little known gem a try, and revel in acting at it’s finest.

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This under-the-radar British film delivered far more than I expected, largely due to the (always excellent) Maxine Peake in the lead role.

Peake is Charlotte, for whom a bad day – where she gets passed over for promotion – turns into an absolutely disastrous and terrifying one, when she arrives home and finds her cleaner smoking in Charlotte’s apartment. This leads to a confrontation with tragic consequences.

Things go from disastrous to even more disastrous as Charlotte desperately tries to cover her tracks, and finds herself in situations she could never have imagined, and looking after a young child – something she clearly has no experience with and no clue what she is doing. Eventually she calls her estranged sister Sarah (Christine Bottomley) to help, but things get (even more) worse with the arrival of shifty security guard Roger (Blake Harrison).

I really enjoyed this film – if enjoyed is the right word. It was certainly compelling; it shocked me right from the off, and although Charlotte was initially a deeply unsympathetic character, Peake’s performance was exemplary, and showed just how an ordinary person can end up in a horrific situation.

With a small main cast (the only other major character was the baby!) and a claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as tight pacing, this film had a lot of elements that I  really like in a movie. It is undoubtedly bleak (I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls afterwards to put me back into a lighter mood!), but it is definitely worth a watch.

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I’ve had this film on my planner for ages, and somehow never fancied watching it. But today, with a lazy day to myself, I finally took the plunge – and I have to say, it exceeded all of my expectations, made me feel every emotion, and was well….generally brilliant.

Greg (Thomas Mann) is a high schooler who is determined to avoid all the typical cliques and instead stays on the periphery of all high school groups (such as the jocks, the geeks, the stoners, etc). He doesn’t like to get close to people and his only friend – although Greg doesn’t like the word ‘friend’ so instead uses the term ‘co-worker’ – is the titular Earl (R J Cyler). The two of them spend their time making so-bad-they’re-good spoof movies such as Brew Velvet, A Sockwork Orange, Yellow Submarine Sandwich, and (my particular favourite title) 2.48pm Cowboy.

When Greg’s mother tells him he must be friends with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a schoolmate who he hardly knows and who has been diagnosed with leukaemia, he is initially reluctant, but what starts out as an awkward situation soon becomes a real connection. Earl is also drawn into the friendship.

Given that the film is narrated by Greg, and Rachel is the centre of his and Earl’s attention, it’s actually the character of Earl who I found most interesting. On the surface he seems like a bit of a slacker, but he reveals surprising depth and perception.

It’s a beautifully told story – it did make me laugh and also made me cry. Most importantly, it made me feel for all of the characters – the three main characters, Rachel’s mom Denise (played by the always brilliant Molly Shannon), even the relative small character of their teacher Mr McCarthy (Jon Bernthal). They are all believable, fully fleshed out characters. The three youngsters – all of which actors were unknown to me – were brilliant, and the supporting cast did a great job too.

I really enjoyed this film and have no hesitation in recommending it.

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I remember watching this film in the cinema, which was 26 years ago (!!) I didn’t remember much about it other than it centred on a man suffering with bi-polar disorder – and one of the first scenes, where he walks out on a piece of wood over a construction site, endangering his own life, although he clearly thinks he is invincible. Anyway, something about the film must have stuck in my memory enough to make me want to watch it again.

Richard Gere is the titular Mr Jones (we never discover his first name) whose illness means that he suffers from very extreme mood swings. He gets treatment from psychiatrist Dr Libbie Bowen, herself somewhat vulnerable after a relationship breakdown.

Mr Jones is an undoubtedly charismatic character and Dr Bowen finds herself drawn to him, despite professional ethics and personal doubts.

I enjoyed the movie on second viewing; to me, Richard Gere did seem to somewhat overplay the role, but I have no personal experience of bi-polar disorder, and reviewers who DO have such experience have said that he was brilliant, so I concede to their superior knowledge. In any event, whether he overplayed it or not, it did not detract from my interest or enjoyment. Lena Olin was excellent as Dr Bowen, and her feelings towards her patient are believable. When he is ‘up’ he is lots of fun, hugely intelligent, but also dangerously unpredictable. When he is ‘down’ he is vulnerable and introspective; it’s a heady combination.

Anne Bancroft is also in the film as Libbie’s boss, but I felt that for such a great talent, she was underused. However, Delroy Lindo was my favourite character as Mr Jones’s friend Howard. Kudos also to Lauren Tom as fellow patient Amanda Chang.

The only thing that didn’t sit right with me was the convenient Hollywood ending, which felt wrong to me and all too easy. But it’s a quick ending, and thankfully didn’t spoil the rest of the movie.

Overall, worth a watch if you are a fan of any of the actors (or watch it for Delroy Lindo’s small but excellent role), or if you have an interest in the disorder from which Mr Jones suffers.

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Year of release: 1993

Director: Mike Figgis

Writers: Eric Roth, Michael Cristofer

Main cast: Richard Gere, Lena Olin, Delroy Lindo, Tom Irwin, Lauren Tom

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This film is a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940), the hilarious film which starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Move Over Darling was originally going to be called Something’s Got to Give, and meant to star Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin. When Monroe was fired before the film was finished and Dean Martin subsequently pulled out of the project, it was rewritten for Doris Day, who starred opposite James Garner.

Ellen Arden (Day) has been missing presumed dead for five years, after a plane she was travelling on crashed into the ocean. Her husband Nick (James Garner) survived the crash, and now wants to have Ellen declared legally dead so that he can marry his new girlfriend Bianca (Polly Bergen). However – wouldn’t you just know it? – on the very day that Nick and Bianca marry, Ellen is brought home after being rescued by the Navy from the desert island she has made her home. Hoping to rekindle her marriage with Nick, she is more than a little surprised to see that there is now a new Mrs Arden…!

It’s been a while since I watched My Favorite Wife, but I remember that I really enjoyed it. Cary Grant was better than almost anyone in these kinds of slapstick roles, and Irene Dunne was always great when she played opposite him. So actors in any remake had big boots to fill – but Doris Day can pretty much do no wrong, and she is fantastic here. She sparkles with the magic she brings to all of her roles, and really shows off her talent for comedy. Similarly James Garner was really great as Nick, and the two played off each other with great chemistry. Kudos to Polly Bergen for playing the somewhat hard done to Bianca, and major props to Thelma Ritter, who played Nick’s mother, Grace Arden.

Overall, a really lovely and enjoyable film – less screwball than MFW, but just as good in it’s own way. I recommend it!

 

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I’m not entirely sure how this film slipped under my radar for so long as it is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy, but I’m glad I caught it eventually.

There are three interlinked stories – all about the connections we make online, and the consequences.

In one, a couple (Paula Patton and Alexander Skaarsgard), ostensibly together but emotionally torn apart by the death of their child, have their identity stolen, and set out to find out who is responsible, with the prime suspect being the man who Cindy has connected with on an online forum for people who are bereaved.

Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo), an outcast at his school, gets pranked by two schoolmates (Colin Ford and Aviad Bernstein), who create a fake online profile of a girl and fake a relationship with Ben, with disastrous consequences. Ben’s father Richard (Jason Bateman, great in a rare serious role) attempts to connect with Ben’s ‘girlfriend’ Jessica to see what might secrets his son was hiding, but in so doing finds himself becoming isolated from his wife.

The third story concerns a journalist (Andrea Riseborough) who is investigating a story about runaway teenage sex workers, who broadcast themselves committing indecent acts on the internet, but ends up getting too involved with the case of Kyle (Max Thieriot).

Each scenario demonstrates how online relationships can get in the way of real life relationships and cause people to disconnect from each other. At times the film is bleak – beyond bleak – and it doesn’t offer any easy answers or convenient endings – but it’s a stronger film for that. The characters are believable and in just under two hours, I came to care for a lot of them.

It’s a very relevant film with more and more people forging more and more relationships online to the expense of their real life connections – on countless occasions I have seen two people out for a meal or drink together, but both scrolling through their smartphones, and not actually speaking to each other.

If you get chance to see this hidden gem, I highly recommend it.

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For my money, Keanu Reeves is one of those actors who it is impossible to dislike. People may say he can’t act (I disagree with this) but I never hear anyone say that they don’t like him. Personally I’m interested in seeing pretty much any of his films – he’s always entertaining, picks interesting roles – and okay; on a shallow basis he’s lovely to look at.

So it’s almost disconcerting to see him playing a cold hearted serial killer here. He’s charismatic and charming, but evil to the core. James Spader is Joel Campbell, the FBI agent, who haunted by his inability to catch the man who has been killing young women in LA, moves to Chicago, where frankly he becomes a mess. Semi conscious half the time, on all kinds of medication and suffering from guilt induced migraines, his purpose is restored when Reeves’s David Griffin follows him to Chicago and continues his killing spree. The two have a symbiotic relationship – Griffin needs Campbell to notice him, and Campbell lives to catch Griffin.

The director of the film is apparently a music video director and it shows. The stylised flashbacks, the slow mo effects – they’re all here. The script too does not really contain anything groundbreaking or shocking, but nonetheless the action moves on at a decent pace, and kept me interested.

If you like thrillers, give this one a try – as long as you go in expecting an hour and a half of decent entertainment and nothing too mind-glowingly brilliant, I think you might enjoy it.

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Year of release: 200

Director: Joe Charbanic

Writers: Darcy Meyers, David Elliot, Clay Ayers

Main cast: James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei, Chris Ellis

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Genre: Thriller

Highlights: The delectable Keanu Reeves, always

Lowlights: Slightly over stylised

Overall: A pretty decent thriller and a good way to pass 90 minutes of your time

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