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I suppose you'd have to call this a biopic about Siegfried Sassoon although it isn't a typical biopic. We start in familiar territory as Sassoon publicly calls out the Establishment on the way WW1 is being conducted, resulting in threats of Court Martial and a possible firing squad. He has influential friends, though, and rather to his annoyance, is deemed to have suffered a breakdown and sent to Craiglockhart and the nice Dr Rivers whom we know from Pat Barker's novels. There he meets Wilfred Owen ('Grammar school accent'!). The two become friends and sweethearts but Owen is sent back to the front and his death.Then we encounter post-war London and the Bright Young Things with their tiresomely glib and flip conversation. Sassoon has his heart broken by the caddish Ivor Novello. After a number of more or less unsatisfactory love affairs he decides to marry Hester who is well aware that he is gay.We get flash forwards to his older age, where he is played by Peter Capaldi sporting a rather odd accent/voice. He seems like a completely different person. The marriage hasn't been happy, he doesn't get on with his son, he's cross about not getting a knighthood and converting to Catholicism.I have mixed feelings about this film. It's too long, the Bright Young Things are just annoying and there's a lot of slightly comical name-dropping ('Have you met T E Lawrence?'). There is good real footage of WW1, though, often with Sassoon's and Owen's poetry voiced over them. Worth seeing.

Susan Kelly ● 83d

Well I suspect this kaleidoscope performance by Michelle Yeoh (made to look exceptionally drab for the title role) will be unlike any other films you will see this year!Playing the owner of a USA based coin operated laundrette with a wheelchair bound father who seems able to walk when hungry or angry; a lesbian daughter who argues with her all the time and a husband who seems to be devoted to his wife but worries about divorcing from her, the film sets off at a frenetic pace. That pace continues as she attends an IRS tax audit (the tax auditor played by a barely recognisable Jamie Lee Curtis) from when matters start spinning out of control.The film reminds you in concept of Christopher Nolan's "Inception" with its thrusting at a headlong pace into and through different parallel multi-universes science fiction style, in showing the different lives Yeoh could have lived. Thankfully this is done at such a pace and in comedic manner that while you wonder at times what the storyline actually is, it all dashes by!Endless parodying and pastiches of other well known films (many Asian and science fiction) and drawing on Yeoh's own prior Kung Fu films experience for fight sequences, the film never lets up. Half the dialogue is in Chinese and the film seems to have co-directors (one American (Daniel Scheinert) and one Chinese (Daniel Kwan) which has added to this mix.Inevitably at over two hours the film feels by the end as being a bit too long (oh for the old days of 90 minute features!) and in the last section winding down, since it is nigh impossible to maintain the initial opening pace. What I found surprising is that this is apparently a major US box office breakout film belatedly making it to UK screens, probably helped in the US by keeping a PG15 rating as some judicious editing in certain sequences shows.

Joe Conneely ● 88d

1961. Newcastle. Kempton Bunton (a name you could not make up) is a curmudgeonly old man who finds it hard to hold down a job while his long-suffering wife Dolly goes out cleaning for a local Councillor. The shadow of a dead daughter lies over the family. Kempton refuses to pay his TV licence (even serving 13 days for it) and believes that they should be free to pensioners and war widows. When his campaign gets nowhere, he takes a couple of days in London and steals a portrait of the Duke of Wellington which the National Gallery has just paid £140,000 for.The police are convinced that they're dealing with an international criminal gang, not Victor Meldrew's dad. He sends letters asking for a ransom of £140,000 to be used for charitable purposes but they're dismissed as the work of a crank. An unforeseen snag causes him to walk into the Gallery and return it.At the trial he pleads not guilty, pointing out that there has to be an intention permanently to deprive someone of their goods for it to be theft.I had seen the trailer numerous times and went along expecting it to be a bit lame but to pass the time on a cold Sunday afternoon in February. In fact, it's a delight. I loved the period details, from the Adventures of Robin Hood in black and white on the illicit telly, to the packaged goods in the corner shop. Some nice CGI inserts Kempton into genuine footage of London in 1961. It's also good to see glamorous Helen Mirren playing a dowdy old woman, looking every minute of her real age for once. Speaking of which, the Buntons are meant to be about 60. I know people aged more quickly 60 years ago, but still.

Susan Kelly ● 170d

Brave choice for Acton One Cinema to open New Year with? Have to admit though that the 15-30 time showing I attended today was well attended so I hope their decision is well rewarded.The film is shot in black and white and in Academy smaller screen ratio so felt to me initially like a BBC TV Shakespeare play screening from the '60s/'70s. But this is 21st century so the sets and special effects plus music are much more impressive. It still came across as a stage set play and while  these look like a German surrealist film at times (think Cabinet of Dr Caligari etc) the film is shot wide in mock landscapes or close ups in the castle scenes.Thankfully there is no attempt to do Scottish accents the many nationality actors involved keeping their natural voices including Brendan Gleeson with his Irish brogue. Stand out performance for me was Frances McDormand who has apparently played the role of Lady Macbeth on the stage. Denzel Washington did not seem to convey very convincingly the descent into madness caused by his murderous actions but the adaptation(written by Joel Coen of Coen Bros. fame) is aimed at moving the story along so the largely unknown to me supporting cast help cover the cracks. Special mention to Kathryn Hunter who courtesy of CGI plays all of the 3 witches very memorably.The end titles where it states Joel Coen directed and wrote the script based on the play by William Shakespeare (yet most of the famous speeches in the play were still used) brought a smile to my face!

Joe Conneely ● 225d