REVIEW: NEVER LET ME GO

CAST

Keira Knightley (The Hole)
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-man)
Izzy Meikle-Small (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Ella Purnell (Kick-Ass 2)
Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia)
Sally Hawkins (Godzilla)
Andrea Riseborough (Birdman)
Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)

The film begins with on-screen captions explaining that a medical breakthrough in 1952 has permitted the human lifespan to be extended beyond 100 years. It is narrated by 28-year-old Kathy H as she reminisces about her childhood at a boarding school called Hailsham, as well as her adult life after leaving the school. The first act of the film depicts the young Kathy, along with her friends Tommy and Ruth, spending their childhood at Hailsham in the late 1970s. The students are encouraged to create artwork, and their best work gets into The Gallery run by a mysterious woman known only as Madame. One day, a new teacher, Miss Lucy quietly informs the students of their fate; they are destined to be organ donors and will die, or “complete”, in their early adulthood. Shortly afterward she is sacked by the headmistress, Miss Emily for sharing this revelation with the children. As time passes, Kathy falls in love with Tommy, but Ruth and Tommy begin a relationship and stay together throughout the rest of their time at Hailsham.In the second act, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, now teenagers, are rehoused in cottages on a farm in 1985. They are permitted to leave the grounds on day trips, but are resigned to their eventual fate. At the farm, they meet former pupils of schools similar to theirs, and it is revealed that they are all clones. They also hear rumours of the possibility of “deferral” – a temporary reprieve from organ donation for donors who are in love and can prove it. Tommy becomes convinced that The Gallery at Hailsham was intended to look into their souls and that artwork sent to The Gallery will be able to confirm true love where it is present. The relationship between Tommy and Ruth becomes sexual, and jealousy causes Kathy and Ruth to break their friendship. The lonely Kathy leaves and becomes a “carer” – a clone who is given a temporary reprieve from donation as a reward for supporting and comforting donors as they are made to give up their organs. Tommy and Ruth’s relationship ends.In the third and final act, 10 years later, Kathy is still working as a carer, and has watched many clones gradually die as their organs are harvested. Kathy, who has not seen Ruth or Tommy since the farm, discovers Ruth, frail after two donations. They find Tommy, who is also weakened by his donations, and drive to the sea. There, Ruth admits that she did not love Tommy, and only seduced him because she was afraid to be alone. She is consumed with guilt and has been searching for a way to help Tommy and Kathy. She believes that the rumours of “deferral” are true, and has found the address of the gallery owner, Madame from Hailsham, who she thinks may grant deferrals to couples in love. Ruth dies on the operating table shortly afterward.Kathy and Tommy finally begin a relationship. Tommy explains to Kathy that he has been creating art in the hope that it will aid deferral. He and Kathy drive to visit Madame, who lives with the headmistress of Hailsham. The two teachers tell them that there is no such thing as deferral, and that Tommy’s artworks will not help him. They explain that the purpose of The Gallery was not to look into their souls but to investigate whether the “all but human” clones even have souls at all; Hailsham was the last place to consider the ethical implications of the donor scheme. As they take in the news on their return journey, Tommy breaks down in an explosion of rage and frustration, and he and Kathy cling to each other in grief. The film ends with Tommy dying on the operating table. Kathy is left alone, waiting for her donations which will begin in a month. Contemplating the ruins of her childhood, she asks in voice-over whether her fate is really any different from the people who will receive her organs: after all, “we all complete”.This is an excellent film, one of the best of the 2010, and not to be missed by those who appreciate depth and literary quality.

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: GODZILLA (2014)

CAST

Aaron Taylor-Johnston (Kick-Ass 1 & 2)
Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Carson Bolde (Mansfield Path)
Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
David Strathairn (Lincoln)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kevan Ohtsji (Dreamcatcher)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Ty Olsson (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Peter Shinkoda (Daredevil)
Jill Teed (X-Men 2)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Aaron Pearl (Man of Steel)

In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton unearthed in a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe’s son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown, and he persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data while discovering that the zone is not toxic. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant’s ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, which traveled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub’s nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure and destroy the monsters. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden Gate Bridge. The male MUTO steals the warhead and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as “King of the Monsters – savior of our city?”.It’s a good solid and well made big screen action disaster monster movie that deserves multiple viewings.

 

REVIEW: STAR WARS – EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

CAST

Ewan McGregor (Cassandra’s Dream)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Jake Lloyd (Jingle All The Way)
Ian McDiarmid (Margaret)
Pernilla August (Search)
Samuel J. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Oliver Ford Davies (Johnny English)
Hugh Quarshie (Highlander)
Ahmed Best (Poolboy)
Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie)
Kenny Baker (Labyrinth)
Frank Oz (Sesame Street)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon)
Ray Park (Heroes)
Warwick Davis (Willow)
Celia Imrie (Our Zoo)
Dominic West (300)
Keira Knightley (King Arthur)
Peter Seafinowicz (Spy)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Sally Hawkins (Paddington)

Supreme Chancellor Valorum, leader of the Galactic Republic, dispatches Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to negotiate with the Trade Federation leadership to end a blockade of battleships around the planet Naboo. Darth Sidious, a Sith Lord and the Trade Federation’s secret adviser, orders Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray to kill the Jedi and invade Naboo with an army of battle droids. The Jedi flee to Naboo, where Qui-Gon saves Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks from being killed during the invasion. Indebted to the Jedi, Jar Jar leads them to an underwater Gungan city. The Jedi try but fail to persuade the Gungan leader, Boss Nass, into helping the people of Naboo, though they are able to obtain transportation to Theed, the capital city on the surface. They rescue Queen Amidala, the ruler of the Naboo people, and escape the planet on her royal starship, which is damaged as they pass the Federation blockade.

Amidala’s ship is unable to sustain its hyperdrive and lands for repairs on the desert planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, astromech droid R2-D2, and Amidala (in disguise as a handmaiden) visit the settlement of Mos Espa to buy new parts at a junk shop. There they meet the shop’s owner Watto and his nine-year-old slave Anakin Skywalker, who is a gifted pilot and engineer, and has created a protocol droid called C-3PO. Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force within Anakin and is convinced that he is the “chosen one” of Jedi prophecy who will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon wagers Anakin’s freedom with Watto in a Podrace, which Anakin wins. Anakin joins the group to be trained as a Jedi, leaving his mother Shmi behind. En route to their repaired starship, Qui-Gon enters a brief lightsaber duel with Darth Maul, Darth Sidious’ Sith apprentice who was sent to capture Amidala.

The Jedi escort Amidala to the Republic capital planet Coruscant so she can plead her people’s case to Chancellor Valorum in the Galactic Senate. Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council to train Anakin as a Jedi, but the Council are concerned that Anakin is vulnerable to the dark side of the Force and decline. Undaunted, Qui-Gon vows to train Anakin himself. Meanwhile, Naboo senator Palpatine persuades Amidala to make a vote of no confidence in Valorum to elect a more capable chancellor to resolve the crisis on Naboo. Though she pushes for the vote, Amidala grows frustrated with the corruption in the Senate and decides to return to Naboo with the Jedi.

On Naboo, Padmé reveals herself to the Gungans as Queen Amidala and persuades them into an alliance against the Trade Federation. Jar Jar leads his people in a battle against the droid army while Padmé leads the hunt for Gunray in Theed. In a starship hangar, Anakin enters a vacant starfighter and inadvertently triggers its autopilot, joining the battle against the Federation droid control ship in space. Anakin ventures into the ship and destroys it from within, deactivating the droid army. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul, who mortally wounds Qui-Gon before being bisected by Obi-Wan. As he dies, Qui-Gon asks Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Subsequently, Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor and Gunray is arrested. The Jedi Council promotes Obi-Wan to Jedi knighthood and reluctantly accepts Anakin as Obi-Wan’s apprentice. At a festive ceremony, Padmé presents a gift of appreciation and friendship to the Gungans.I always felt it grossly unfair that many Star Wars fans are quick to denounce The Phantom Menace as the worst Star Wars film in the entire saga. I suppose in a certain aspect they are right: in every set of slightly different things, there statistically always has to be a best and a worst one. However “worst” doesn’t necessarily mean terrible. Each Star Wars film is still above and beyond in terms of budget, quality and entertainment, most other sci-fi films out there.  I can summarize that The Phantom Menace serves as a solid opener to one of the greatest sci-fi film series ever made, and does a good job setting the scene and introducing the characters who we’ll be spending a lot of time with and watching them develop over the coming films, while at the same time also serving as a workable and enjoyable film in its own right.

REVIEW: CASSANDRA’S DREAM

CAST

Ewan McGregor (Star Wars – Episode I)
Colin Farrell (Intermission)
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
Tom Wikinson (Batman Begins)
Andrew Howard (Agents of Shield)
Ashley Madekwe (Venus)
Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
Clare Higgins (Hellraiser)
Tamzin Outhwaite (Eastenders)

Brothers Terry (Colin Farrell) and Ian (Ewan McGregor), who live in South London, were raised by a weak father Brian (John Benfield) who runs a restaurant, and a strong mother Dorothy (Clare Higgins) who taught her sons to look up to their uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson), a successful plastic surgeon and businessman.cassandras-dream-640x360The brothers buy a sailboat at an oddly low price, despite its near pristine condition. They name it Cassandra’s Dream, after a greyhound that won Terry the money to buy the boat. Knowing nothing of Greek mythology, they are unaware of the ominous antecedents of this name—the ancient prophetess Cassandra, whose prophecies of doom went unheeded by those around her. While driving home from a day’s sailing in a borrowed car, Ian crosses paths with beautiful actress Angela Stark (Hayley Atwell), with whom he becomes infatuated.Terry has a gambling addiction that sinks him deeper in debt. Ian wishes to invest in hotels in California to finance a new life with Angela. To overcome their financial issues, they ask Howard for help. He agrees to help them, but asks for a favor in return: they must murder someone for him. Howard faces imprisonment for unspecified crimes and his future is threatened by Martin Burns (Phil Davis), a former business partner who plans to testify against him. Howard asks his nephews to get rid of Burns, and in return he will reward them financially. After initial reluctance, the brothers agree. They make two zip guns, untraceable and easily destroyed. Lying in wait in Burns’ home, their plan is foiled when Burns arrives with a woman. Their resolve shaken, they leave and agree to commit the murder the next day.

The next day, they succeed in carrying out the murder and later destroy the guns. Ian is content to move on as if nothing happened, but Terry is consumed by guilt and begins abusing alcohol and other drugs. His behavior frightens his fiancée (Sally Hawkins), who tells Ian about the situation and that Terry believes he has killed someone. After Terry confides that he wants to turn himself in to the police, Ian goes to Howard for advice. They agree there is no alternative but to get rid of Terry. Ian plans to poison Terry during an outing on the boat. Ian can’t bring himself to kill his own brother, and attacks him in a fit of rage. In the chaos, Terry knocks Ian down the steps into the cabin, killing him.

The boat is later discovered adrift by the police, and the audience learns that Terry snapped and drowned himself after killing his brother. The last shot is of Cassandra’s Dream, still in beautiful condition despite the tragedies it set in motion.

Really good drama from woody Allen that shows his versatility and ability at writing drama. Definitely worth a watch even if you’re not a woody Allen fan.