8 December 2017.
PADDINGTON 2 ****
Here’s a super fun Christmas gift – fuzzy, warm entertainment for the whole family! With delightful English humor to boot.
Cute little Paddington bear is back, so happy in his cozy London home with the Brown family, who have taken him into their hearts. We get to see his very origins, when Aunt Lucy saved him as a baby from the river rapids in a faraway forest, like a bear Moses, plucked from the reeds…You would want to take this teddy home too.
The plot is about an antique gift for his beloved Aunty that gets stolen, a huge London treasure hunt, a hilarious stint in a quirky prison, a multifaceted Hugh Grant as the bad guy (who is so much better as a character actor than he was as a clichéd leading man), and lots of good feelings spread by our trusty bear. Good comedy is not easy to achieve, though the British seem to have a knack for it, with director Paul King even surpassing his first Paddington, and versatile Irish actor Brendan Gleeson (last in “Alone in Berlin”) a hoot as the prison chef!
You’ll go home with a huge smile on your face, and will keep laughing while remembering bits of the film – for instance, the pink prison outfits!
ULTIMOS DIAS EN LA HABANA ***1/2 (vo Spanish)
Two men live together in a large, dilapidated flat in Havana. Miguel has a menial job as a dishwasher in a restaurant while he takes care of Diego who is bed-ridden with an advanced case of AIDS.
This delicate film by Havana-born director Fernando Perez (“La Vida es Silbar”) is a peek into the everyday life of so many Cubans who live as best they can in this proud but unfortunate country.
Perez juxtaposes the two men, so different yet fast friends who seem like brothers, to show the dual facets of his country: Miguel is sombre, dissatisfied and dreaming to fly off to the U.S.; Diego, despite his illness, has a passion for life and a rage to live every moment fully.
And then there are the various neighbors and family, old and young, with their own joys and heartaches – warm, friendly, and ever helpful, even down to a passing gay prostitute.
This is a tender salute to his compatriots who are survivors, whatever their dreams or character.
LES GARDIENNES ** (vo French)
The grand cinematography of this film has scenes that recall Van Gogh, Caillebotte, Monet, touches of Vermeer and some of the style of Bergman’s films, indeed impressive. But all that stern beauty cannot make up for the slow drudgery of the story and its dull mood.
Two women, mother and daughter (Natalie Baye and Laura Smet – her real-life daughter), are taking care of their farm while the men are off at war – 1915, WWI. Times are hard and the waiting is long and heavy between the soldiers’ visits home. You get the picture.
Unfortunately, Xavier Beauvois’ latest work does not measure up to his masterpiece, “Des Hommes et des Dieux” (Of Gods and Men). But with his talent, we look forward to his next endeavor.
SANTA & CIE *1/2 (vo French)
There have been too many of these Santa tales, and this is not up there with the best. It has too much of a fake Hollywood feel to it, rather than French charm and humor. Too bad, for Alain Chabat often comes up with good comedies. The kids might enjoy it, although the pace seems too slow for them and the theme redundant. See Paddington instead.
I originally saw this at the Venice film festival this past September where it was being touted in grand style with George Clooney as director, Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac as actors, plus the Coen brothers supplying the scenario. What more could one want? Everyone was frothing at the mouth with anticipation.
Well, this is one of the nastiest, most deplorable films I’ve ever seen. Between a cheating, murderous family scheme and a town rising in racial hatred in the late 1950s, it’s a tangled mess. Each character is so rotten and each situation so sick, that there is no respite from the evil. Even the usual Coen humor and brilliance feel despicable.
What was Clooney thinking? After all, he has directed some fine films, such as “Good Night, and Good Luck” and the very political “The Ides of March”. Is it age, marriage or having twins that drove the good man to this…?!
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.