REVIEW: LAYER CAKE

CAST

Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Sienna Miller (Factory Girl)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises)
Kenneth Cranham (Maleficent)
George Harris (The Interpreter)
Jamie Foreman (Ironclad)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)
Ben Whishaw (Bright Star)
Sally Hawkins (The Painted Vell)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)
Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)
Matt Ryan (Constantine)
Tamer Hassan (Batman Begins)

An unnamed man—appearing in the end credits only as XXXX—is a London underworld figure who has established himself in the cocaine business as one of the city’s biggest suppliers, whilst presenting himself as a figure with legal business operations. Considering himself a businessman and a patient person, he leaves the darker aspects of the business to his henchman Morty, who had previously spent 10 years in prison for murder. Once he has earned enough to ensure his long-term financial security, XXXX plans to retire.

Approaching this point, his retirement plans go wrong when his powerful supplier Jimmy Price instructs XXXX to track down Charlie, the teenaged daughter of Price’s associate, Eddie Temple, who has fled a rehabilitation centre along with her drug-addicted boyfriend. To track her down, XXXX enlists the help of two con men known as Cody and Tiptoes. To the frustration of XXXX, the boyfriend is found dead and Charlie has apparently been kidnapped, although no ransom has been demanded.

At the same time, Price instructs XXXX to organise the purchase and distribution of one million ecstasy tablets from a low-level gangster styling himself as “The Duke”. XXXX does not know the pills had been stolen from a gang of Serbian war criminals based in the Netherlands, and who have been in hiding since the Yugoslav Wars and are now large-scale drug producers.

Meanwhile, XXXX encounters the Duke’s nephew Sidney at a bar and becomes attracted to his disillusioned girlfriend Tammy. XXXX tries to broker the sale of the ecstasy pills to Liverpool gangsters Trevor and Shanks, but they refuse, informing him of the drugs’ purloined nature and of the fact that the Serbs have sent an assassin, known as Dragan, to find the pills and kill those responsible for their theft. Because the Duke had mentioned XXXX’s name to the Serbs beforehand, he, too, is now in danger. Members of the Duke’s gang soon start turning up dead and the Duke himself goes missing.

XXXX arranges a tryst with Tammy, but before it can be consummated, he is kidnapped by henchmen of Eddie Temple (the father of Charlie). Temple informs him that Jimmy had lost £13 million in a failed investment in Africa and is now hoping to sell the pills to recoup his losses. He demands instead that XXXX sell the pills to him, and plays him a recording indicating that Jimmy has been a long-term informant for Scotland Yard and intends to betray XXXX to the police as soon as the deal is done, planning to gain clemency from the deal and also take away XXXX’s wealth.

A furious XXXX shoots and kills Jimmy at his home, but does so with a gun that Gene, Jimmy’s henchman, had used to commit a prior murder, putting both himself and Gene in danger. XXXX then discovers that his accountant, to whom Jimmy had referred him, has embezzled all of his money and disappeared. Gene and Morty, after being given evidence of Jimmy’s snitching, acknowledge XXXX as the new acting boss and show him the corpse of the Duke, whom Gene had killed along with Duke’s girlfriend, Slasher, when the latter threatened to alert the police about the pills.

To recoup something from the fiasco, XXXX tips the police off about the Duke’s hideout, who then conduct a raid. XXXX is intentionally present during the raid to feign purchasing the pills from the Duke’s crew, and Dragan, who has been following XXXX, watches the raid from afar as the police confiscate the drugs and as XXXX and Duke’s crew escape. Meanwhile, XXXX has arranged for Cody and Tiptoes to con the raiding police unit out of the pills. XXXX delivers the severed head of the Duke to Dragan as a peace offering, who reports back to his Serbian boss that the police have seized the drugs. Cody and Tiptoes return the drugs to XXXX in exchange for a fee. However, when he attempts to sell them to Eddie Temple at the latter’s bonded warehouse, Temple’s henchmen rob his crew of the drugs at gunpoint. To end XXXX’s faux assignment given by Jimmy, Temple reveals that he has put Charlie back into rehab.

To satisfy him, Temple then gives XXXX a “welcome to the layer cake” in the form of a membership to the Stoke Park Country Club of which he is a member and Jimmy was. Expecting betrayal, XXXX successfully arranges for Trevor, Shanks, and young Dizzy to steal the drugs back from Temple’s men. The gang assembles for lunch at the Stoke Park Club, honoring XXXX their new boss. However, he demurs, stating his intention to stick to his planned retirement. When leaving the club with Tammy, mentally running through the names of his fellow murdered businessmen, he is shot by a heart-broken Sidney. XXXX collapses bleeding, and the film ends with him twitching on the club’s front steps and thinking of his possible imminent death.Layer Cake is definitely not for all types. Those of you who do stick around through the reveals and character developments, I can assure you that the payoff is worth the investment.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: PADDINGTON 2

 

CAST

Ben Whishaw (Skyfall)
Hugh Bonneville (Downtown Abbey)
Sally Hawkins (Godzilla)
Madeleine Harris (The White Queen)
Hugh Grant (About A Boy)
Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart)
Julie Walters (Brooklyn)
Imelda Staunton (Maleficent)
Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)
Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)
Joanna Lumley (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Ben Miller (Johnny English)
Jessica Hynes (Burke and Hare)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Eileen Atkins (Wild Target)
Richard Ayoade (The Watch)

Paddington 2 (2017)Paddington, having settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, has become popular in his community, offering people emotional support in various ways. To purchase a unique pop-up book of London in Samuel Gruber’s antique shop for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington performs several odd jobs and saves his wages, but the book is stolen. Paddington gives chase, but the culprit escapes, and Paddington is framed and arrested. Although Mr Gruber and the Browns do not believe that Paddington stole the book, with no evidence that the thief existed, Paddington is wrongfully convicted and jailed. The thief soon returns home, and is revealed to be Phoenix Buchanan, an egotistical actor who lives opposite the Browns.Paddington 2 (2017)Whilst in prison, Paddington befriends many of the inmates, including the short-tempered chef Nuckles, who hires Paddington, impressed by his marmalade sandwich recipe. The Browns work to clear Paddington’s name, putting up sketches of the thief. Buchanan begins using the pop-up book to locate a series of clues within London’s famous landmarks, which he believes will unveil the location of a secret treasure. During their efforts to prove Paddington’s innocence, the Browns encounter a fortune teller who informs them that the stolen book leads to the hidden fortune of the original author.Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, and Samuel Joslin in Paddington 2 (2017)With Paddington inside, the prison is a much livelier place, but Paddington struggles to remain positive when the Browns are unable to prove his innocence. Becoming convinced that Buchanan is the culprit, the Browns look for the stolen book inside his house. They find a secret attic where Buchanan’s various costumes are stashed, as well as the book itself. Before they can act further, Buchanan returns home and suspects something is wrong. Meanwhile, the Browns have missed a prison visit with Paddington, causing Paddington to believe that the Browns have forgotten all about him.Paddington 2 (2017)Paddington soon takes part in a prison break alongside several other inmates, including Nuckles, who promises to aid in proving his innocence but promptly abandons the idea in order to leave the country as a free man, inviting Paddington to come with him. Paddington refuses and, whilst roaming the streets and avoiding the police, uses a public telephone to contact the Browns, who assert that Buchanan is the real culprit. To catch him, they arrange to meet at Paddington Station, where a train carrying the supposed location of the hidden fortune is due to leave shortly.Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2 (2017)Paddington reaches the station and makes it onto the train just as it leaves – the Browns begin their pursuit in another steam train at the opposite platform. When caught up, Henry Brown and Mrs. Bird board the other train and confront Buchanan, who overwhelms them and makes good his initial escape. Paddington is left stranded in the train’s rear carriage which Buchanan severs the coupling for, leaving it to crash into a nearby river. Mary Brown tries to rescue Paddington but struggles to open the locked carriage; she is soon assisted by Nuckles and the other inmates, who have a change of heart and decide to help Paddington as promised. Eventually, Henry knocks out Buchanan just as he tries to access the so called treasure, and he is promptly taken into custody.Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2 (2017)Paddington, now declared innocent, becomes very ill after the events, slipping into a short three day coma yet recovering well once waking up on Aunt Lucy’s birthday. With the book taken in as evidence by the police, Paddington is left disappointed that he was unable to get Lucy a present as promised, though soon discovers the Browns, with the help of various other people in the neighborhood, made sure Lucy could come to London and see it for herself. When answering the door to her, Paddington rushes up and hugs her, wishing her a happy birthday. Meanwhile, Buchanan is sentenced to ten years in prison. Six months later, he is shown to be putting his history as a performer to further use, hosting shows for the inmates and providing entertainment throughout the building.Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2 (2017)Thoroughly recommended to anybody who wants to see 100 minutes of family friendly fun that isn’t either sickly sweet or too dark for youngsters and still thoroughly watchable to adults too. Great fun and a worthy sequel to one of the best British films in recent years.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: PADDINGTON

CAST

Ben Whishaw (Skyfall)
Hugh Bonneville (Downtown Abbey)
Sally Hawkins (Godzilla)
Madeleine Harris (The White Queen)
Nicole Kidman (The Others)
Julie Walters (Brooklyn)
Imelda Staunton (Maleficent)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)
Matt Lucas (Alice In Wonderland)
Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who)
Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)
Alice Lowe (Prevenge)

In the deep jungles of darkest Peru, British geographer Montgomery Clyde happens upon a previously unknown species of bear. He is about to shoot it to take back a specimen to England when another bear playfully takes his gun away. He learns that this family of bears is intelligent and can learn English, and that they have a deep appetite for marmalade. He names them Lucy and Pastuzo. As he departs, he throws his hat to Pastuzo and tells the bears that they are always welcome should they wish to go to London.Several years later, the two bears are living in harmony with their nephew when an earthquake strikes their home, forcing them to seek shelter underground. Distracted and upset at the loss of his home, Pastuzo is unable to reach the shelter in time. He is presumed dead, with his hat being found the next day by his nephew. Aunt Lucy encourages her nephew to go and find solace in London, and stows him away on a cargo ship, after which she says she will move into the Home for Retired Bears.The young bear reaches London, but fails to find a home. He is taken in briefly by the Brown family. Mary Brown, the mother and a story illustrator, names him Paddington, after the station where they found him. Henry Brown, the father and a devoted risk analyst, who doesn’t believe a word of why he’s here, is adamant that Paddington stay only one night while they find a place for him to live permanently. Paddington causes a series of accidents across the house, further isolating himself from the Browns.Paddington thinks he can find a home with the explorer who found his aunt and uncle, but does not know his name. Mrs. Brown takes Paddington to Mr. Gruber, an antique shop owner who discovers that the hat bears the stamp of the Geographers Guild, but the Guild says that it never sent a member to explore darkest Peru. With the help of Mr. Brown, who refuses to let the family help him, Paddington infiltrates the Geographers Guild archives and discovers an expedition to Peru was undertaken by Montgomery Clyde. He uses the city’s phone books to track the addresses of all the “M Clyde”s in London.Meanwhile, the sadistic museum taxidermist Director Millicent Clyde, later revealed to be the explorer’s daughter, captures, kills, and stuffs exotic animals to house in the Natural History Museum. When she becomes aware of Paddington, she immediately sets out to hunt him down. The Brown family departs for the day, leaving Paddington home alone. Scheming with the Browns’ nosy neighbor Mr. Curry who is in love with her, Millicent sneaks in and attempts to capture Paddington; he manages to defend himself, but inadvertently starts a fire in the kitchen in the process. Disbelieving Paddington’s statement of Millicent’s capture attempt, the Browns, mainly Henry, state that he must move into a new home as soon as possible.Feeling unwanted at the Browns, Paddington leaves and attempts to track down Montgomery Clyde himself. He finally locates the house, only to learn that Clyde passed away years ago, and that Millicent resents her father for losing his job and membership with the museum; out of a change of heart, he refused to bring a valuable Peruvian bear specimen home, even though it would have made his family wealthy. Millicent is determined to succeed where her father failed and capture a Peruvian bear so she can become rich and famous herself. She tranquilizes Paddington and prepares to stuff him, but when Mr. Curry discovers her true intentions, he informs the Brown family and they rush to save Paddington. They rescue him, and Paddington subdues Millicent by throwing at her a marmalade sandwich his uncle left in his hat for emergencies, which attracts a huge flock of pigeons, distracting her, as family relative and housekeeper Mrs. Bird opens a roof hatch and inadvertently pushes her off the roof, trapping her on a flagpole.In the aftermath, the Browns adopt Paddington into their family and Millicent is sentenced to community service at the petting zoo her father opened after he lost his job. Paddington writes to Aunt Lucy saying he is happy and has finally found a home.Paddington is truly hilarious and heart-warming with a story that is so rich and compelling. And I would recommend Paddington to anyone.

REVIEW: THE DANISH GIRL

CAST

Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them)
Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son)
Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow)
Ben Whishaw (Paddington)
Amber Heard (Drive Angry)
Sebastian Koch (Homeland)
Pip Torrens (The Iron Lady)

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (2015)In mid-1920s Copenhagen, portrait artist Gerda Wegener asks her husband, popular landscape artist Einar Wegener, to stand in for a female model who is late to come to their flat to pose for a painting she’s working on.The act of posing as a female figure unmasks Einar’s life-long identification as a woman, who names herself Lili Elbe. This sets off a progression, first tentative and then irreversible, of leaving behind the identity as Einar, which she has struggled to maintain all her life. This takes place as both Lili and Gerda relocate to Paris; Gerda’s portraits of Lili in her feminine state attract serious attention from art dealers in a way that her previous portraiture had not. It is there that Gerda tracks down art dealer Hans Axgil, a childhood friend of Lili (whom Lili had kissed when they were young). Hans and Gerda’s mutual attraction is a challenge, as Gerda is navigating her changing relationship to Lili; but Hans’ long-time friendship with and affection for Lili cause him to be supportive of both Lili and Gerda.Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl (2015)As Lili’s continued existence presenting as male becomes too much to bear, she starts to seek help from psychologists, but none yields any result, and, in one instance, almost leads her into being committed to an asylum. Eventually, at Hans’s recommendation, Lili and Gerda meet Dr. Kurt Warnekros. Dr. Warnekros explains that he has met several people like her, who are physically male but identify as female, and proposes a new, innovative and controversial solution: male to female sex reassignment surgery. This would entail a two-part procedure that involves first removing Lili’s external genitalia and then, after a period of recovery, fashioning a vagina. He warns Lili and Gerda that it is a very dangerous operation that has never been attempted before, and Lili would be one of the first to undergo it. Lili immediately agrees and, soon after, travels to Germany to begin the surgery.Lili eventually dies of complications from the surgery. The film ends with Gerda and Hans on a hilltop back in Denmark, in front of the five trees Lili had painted. The scarf that Lili had originally given Gerda, and that had subsequently been given back and forth several times, is carried away on the wind, dancing.Because of the subject matter in The Danish Girl I wasn’t sure this was going to be a film that I would particularly like but I need not have have worried because I thought this was a fascinating movie that justified it’s plaudits. This is the story of Danish artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) who realised that despite being born a man he is really a woman and that woman is called Lile. Although Redmayne will quite obviously get all the praise for his role as Lile but I think the outstanding performance of this film comes from Alicia Vikander who plays his wife. As an actor she is exposed unlike Redmayne who has the make up to hide behind. Instead of being about Lile this film for me is more about the love of his wife who will do anything to make her husband happy. Even if that means losing him. in the process.