23rd Apr2017

Their Finest (Film)

by timbaros
Their Finest Hour and A Half Directed by Lone Sherfig

Their Finest Hour and A Half
Directed by Lone Sherfig

A film about London in 1940 during The Blitz is finally being released in theatres – Their Finest – a year and a half after principal photography began and 6 months after it had it’s European premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2016.

I’m not entirely sure why it has taken this long for the film to finally make it into the cinemas – it’s not a bad movie, but it’s also not a great movie.

Their Finest details a motley crew of screenwriters tasked with writing a script for a film that would hopefully lift up Britain’s flagging spirits during WWII as well as inspire America to enter the war. That’s a lot of responsibility for three people to take on, in a film based on the 2009 novel by Lissa Evans. Gemma Arterton’s character Catrin Cole (based on a real woman, Diana Morgan, who wrote for Ealing Studios) actually has no screenwriting experience, but she’s basically just looking for a paycheck to help her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston) pay the bills. But she gets more than what she bargained for when she’s hired by the British Ministry of Information to assist Tom Buckley (a very good Sam Claflin) on a film script. Winston Churchill tells them that they need to write a story that will inspire the nation, and so they write a propaganda film amidst all that is happening in Europe. But it’s Bill Nighy as the leading man of their film (playing Ambrose Hillard) who steals the movie. He’s wonderful and witty and oh so debonair when he’s on set in the making of the movie within the movie, and he’s wonderful off the set when he’s telling jokes to the rest of the cast and crew, and tender and fatherly when he is giving advice to Catrin. But all is not ok in her life, she catches her husband cheating on her on one of her few visits she makes to their home, and her and Buckley realize they have more in common with each other than just putting words to paper. Set this all against the backdrop of WWII and what you’ve got is a classic in the making.

But Their Finest is not quite a classic. Some of the scenes look a bit staged, not very realistic for a film that relies on the portrayal of London during the Bliz. Arterton is fine and lights up the screen with her beautiful face, and Claflin is very handsome as her mentor, but director Lone Scherfing (who directed the wonderful An Education with Carey Mulligan) along with a script by Gaby Chiappe, don’t quite make it 100% believable. Production values are fine, costumes wonderful and the score very dramatic when it needs to be, but it’s Nighy that you will remember – he’s deserving of nominations for this film – but the film itself not so much.

06th Dec2014

Made in Dagenham – Theatre

by timbaros

Made-In-Dagenham-2-Photo-Credit-Alex-James-1Gemma Arterton is terrific as a mother of two small children who rally her co-workers to strike for equal pay in the West End’s newist musical Made in Dagenham.

Rita O’Grady (Arterton) works in a Ford factory in Dagenham along with some very colorful co-workers. These include tiny Sandra (Sophie Isaacs) who has a huge singing voice, wanna be airline pilot Cass (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), and sassy Barbara (Sophie Louise-Dunn).

Management at the factory have deemed the women unskilled workers, which means lower and not equal pay, and they are not happy about it. So Rita becomes the unexpected spokeswoman for the group, affecting her relationship with her husband Eddie (Adrian Der Gregorian), who is not happy that his wife is practically never home now to mind him and their adorable two small kids.

Rita is mentored by union rep Connie (Isla Blair), but when she gets sick, it’s up to Rita to attend official union meetings, meet government officials, and, ultimately, to speak at the Trade Union Conference, is at the end of the show.

Made in Dagenham doesn’t veer too far away from the film of the same name that was released in 2010. But the film worked much better as it was able to take the story to a real factory, to show the women protesting outdoors, to meetings in government building, making the era that it represents (the late 1960’s) more realistic. There are quite a few faults with this musical stage version: a plot about Rita’s son being caned in school goes nowhere, jokes by Mark Hadfield playing a buffoonish Prime Minister Harold Wilson are so bad – and mostly misogynistic, and Isaacs, who has such an amazing singing voice, only gets to sing one song in the beginning of the show, and she is wasted during an awful bit in the show that is supposed to be a car commercial. And the American boss of Ford (Steve Furst) is portrayed as a singing cowboy, complete with cowboy hat and and a good ole U.S.A. song called, appropriately enough, ‘This is America,’ just plain awful.

However, Rupert Gould’s sets are amazing. The reproduction of a car factory is always in motion, down to the very minor details, including the nuts and bolts that go into the cars. The acting by the whole cast is very good, but what they are given to work with is a musical with not one memorable song (music by David Arnold), and a book (by Richard Bean) that doesn’t have much of a story.

30th Sep2013

Runner Runner – Film

by timbaros

images-2Justin Timberlake is a Princeton college student who is addicted to online poker and loses quit a lot of money, while Ben Affleck is the site’s corrupt owner, in the new film Runner Runner.

Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) thinks he is an expert at online gambling. He earns his tuition money this way, gambling for himself and helping others to gamble. He still needs lots more money to pay off his tuition bill ($60,000). The Dean of his college tells him to clean up act in 24 hours or he’s going to be kicked out of school. Furst decides to gamble the $17,000 he currently has by betting it all on the site. It’s a risk that goes the wrong way for him as he loses all the money. Confident that the site he is playing on, Midnight Black, is fixed, he flies down to Costa Rica where he is able to locate the owner, a suave and cool Ivan Block (Affleck) and tries to get his gambling losses back. Block takes a liking to the young and very smart man and offers him a job on the spot, a job that would entail Furst being his right hand man, with promises of lots of money and living the good life in what initially appears to be paradise. Little does Furst know that Block also wants him to do his dirty work, which includes dealing with lots of shady characters in the gambling underworld. The plot picks up speed as the FBI corners Furst to demand that he helps them bring down Block or that he will be charged with a felony for his gambling in school. The next day Furst discovers that the whole operation is a ponzi scheme and realizes that his role in the operation is to take the fall for if, and when, Block flees the country. Meanwhile, Block’s ex-girlfriend Rebecca Shafran (a beautiful Gemma Arterton), falls for Furst and things get a bit complicated when they enter into a relationship. With the officials in cahoots with Block, and with Furst starting to feel the walls around him closing in, he needs to figure out who he can trust and what he needs to do to separate himself from the business, and from Block.

Timberlake is a real movie star. He is excellent as the young man caught up in web of deceit and corruption. Though it is hard to believe that the 33-year old singer/actor/dancer/everything man is a Princeton college student, Timberlake can and does hold the movie from beginning to end. Affleck is perfect as the oily, slimy rich internet kingpin, unshaven, he exudes mystery and we are quite sure that what we see is what we get. Arterton, last seen in Byzantium, is very good as the love interest, once in love with Block and then falling quickly for Furst. Feeling at times like a television movie/series (Miami Vice, CSI Miami), and at times predictable and unbelievable, Runner Runner, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) is a fast paced crime drama thriller that never drags, is quickly edited, and great to look at.