Finding Your Feet ****

Finding your feet is a lovely little film, in the English tradition of light domestic stories told with emotion and humour.

Full of British TV and Film stars, most notably Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Hayman, Celia Imrie, and Joanna Lumley.

It is produced and directed by even more of our great British talented people, including those behind the wonderful A Street Cat Named Bob just last year.

The plot encompasses loss in many forms and also survival from those losses.  It also features the best death scene ever, certainly the way I would like to go.

It is told with great kindness for the characters.  There are no big villains, although some are very cruel by their unthinking actions, eventually to be saved.

Happy endings for every character; a feeling of having been hugged for the audience.

I can imagine watching this film again at home over Christmas in front of a warm fire with cosy slippers and a nice glass of sherry.

A well earned 4 out of 5 stars.

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Red Sparrow ***

Red Sparrow is a very contemporary play set against the rising threat of Russian expansionism. The cold war of old has been re-kindled but old spy craft is still a primary tool used against the West.

Enter Jennifer Lawrence as one of the nails used by the Russian hammer against, in this case, the Americans.

The story continues with great pace and gusto that gives the initial impression of being an exciting and gripping story. However, this is no Le Carré or Deighton story. There is no light and dark in the characters. The bad guys are all super-bad and the good guys could almost be wearing white hats.

The viewer is kept guessing about the true motivations of Miss Lawrence’s character till the end, but you can see within the early scenes who is going to lose the most.

Red Sparrow 2On top of this plot is laid a visual assault of violence, gore and sex that is unprecedented in my experience in the legitimate cinema. Many scenes were bordering on the pornographic both in violence and nudity.

This may be artistically justifiable, indeed the presence of several A-List actors would indicate they felt it was justified, but not for me.

This would have benefited from clearer story telling, deeper characterisation and less visual exploitation.

Just 3 out of five stars.

 

The Shape Of Water ****

The Shape of Water is an adult fairy tale, of monsters and lovers, sacrifice and hatred.

We are taken to the post WW2 anti-communist paranoid America, coloured with a dark palate, giving an impression of an old gothic horror.

Emotions are all ramped up to the maximum with no time for nuance or subtlety.

Thankfully the plot moves quickly as a result and the 2 hour 3 minute duration flies as quickly.

This film is probably the director Guillermo Del Toro’s best work (I haven’t seen them all so cannot be certain).

The performances by actors Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones are all excellent.

I would particularly pick out Doug Jones who inhabits the central creature around which the story revolves. He brings the full range of emotions to his character without benefit of language, purely by his body language, which shines through his latex prosthetic body. (You may have seen him recently in Star Trek: Discovery, similarly cloaked in alien costume.)

As the story reached the ultimate and predictable conclusion, I felt this to have been a satisfying experience.

This will not be everybody’s cup of tea; indeed I resisted seeing it until after its Bafta success.

It is well worth 4 out of five stars.

Darkest Hour *****

Darkest Hour is the story of the few days when Winston Spencer Churchill became Prime Minister to the end of the Dunkirk evacuation.

I found this to be one of the most enjoyable history lessons I have ever experienced.

The political machinations show that anything we see from Westminster now is nothing new.

The hype surrounding Gary Oldman’s performance is well founded, as he produces a totally convincing image of the great orator.

An outstanding technical and artistic cast supports Oldman. Together they produce a near documentary recreation of real events.

If you collect DVDs, I would recommend pairing this film with Dunkirk as a perfect evenings viewing.

This film scores on all measures that I use to rate films and fully deserves its 5 stars.

The Post *****

The Post (The Washington Post) is a thriller set in the immediate pre-Watergate Washington of Richard Nixon.

The story is set in the newsroom of the Washington Post.

Driving the story is the relationship between the Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep characters.

Steven Spielberg expertly crafts tension into what could have been simply a tale of talking heads.

There are no adrenalin pumping murders, violence or heart pounding chases. What you do get is a very invigorating work out for your brain following the intricacies of the plot.

Indeed I would say it ranks alongside masterpieces such as The West Wing and All The Presidents Men.

I found this to be an intelligent political drama and thriller, which left me feeling very satisfied.

Strongly recommended with 5 out of five stars.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri *****

Three Billboards is an intriguing tale about a mother unable to come to terms with the murder of her daughter and the failure of the local police to solve the crime.

We are given a brief history of the offence and the events surrounding it but, the true story is about a mothers drive for justice and what that costs her and her remaining family.  The title refers to the method she chooses to put a firework under the local sheriff after 7 months of apparent inaction.

Casual violence and abuse of authority punctuates the various intertwined family histories to give a grim picture of modern day life in the southern United States.  Life in rural Missouri is dominated by casual extreme violence, racial and gender hatred, abuse of power and ignorance.

The performances throughout this film are very belieable.  The three lead actors, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, will be recognised from their previous films and television roles but their combined performances are so good you totally see them as the characters.

By the end of the film there is redemption for some and sadness for others.  Nobody leaves this tale unscarred by the events.

A remarkable and enjoyable film worth 5 out of five stars.

The Greatest Showman ****

The Greatest Showmsn is a musical biopic about the life of legendary showman P T Barnum.

It is a delightful example of a modern musical, with toe tapping melodies and memorable lyrics. I must owe an apology to those sitting near me as my feet started tapping and head bobbing along to the music, within seconds of the start. It is very infectious and in many respects excellent.

The story rattles along, compressing years into the space of a song, taking our hero from down and out to successful family man by very clever visual clues.

Hugh Jackman appears to be born for this role. He leads a remarkable cast through triumph and disaster to hope and fortune.

Its only flaw is that the story is told through very rose tinted story.

Totally ignored are the darker aspects of Barnum and the world he inhabited.

That is not surprising as this is designed as a mass-market audience pleaser, which it is, most triumphantly.

This film is worth at least 4 stars out of five, only falling short of five due to the lack of salt to balance the sugar.