This month Simon reviews three very different films...including the one which won Julianne Moore 'Best Actress' at this year's Oscars.
Rating 8/10 15 120 mins
This is not a documentary film about how dog food is made. Chappie is the name given to a robot who has been created to be a sentient being. Although Chappie has the body of a ‘man’ robot, he has the mind of a child and very quickly goes off the rails as he comes under the influence of a pair of gangsters. Chappie is set in South Africa and it has much of the quirky charm that was in Neill Blomkamp’s earlier science fiction film, District 9. There it was aliens who were the marginalised – a clear metaphor for the position of Blacks in the townships. Here it is the robot who is the one who is abused and who is manipulated by unscrupulous humans. There is much to be explored here about the Creator sharing in the life of the creature and if the viewer can see beyond the violence and strong language, Chappie could be the basis of some good discussions.
Rating 8½/10 12A 101 mins
Julianne Moore won this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the role of Professor Alice Howland. Alice is an academic in the fields of linguistics and communication and so when she develops early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, added to her heart-breaking decline is that disease affects the very aspects of her personality in which she is an expert. She and her family deal with her condition in different ways – Alice uses her smart phone to look up things that she has forgotten, one daughter reads her poetry, while her husband turns his back on her. Moore’s performance stands out, but there are also great turns from Alec Baldwin as the husband and Kristen Stewart as the poetry-reading daughter. The title of the film is a cry in the dark that despite her advancing disease, she remains the person she is/was. The reality seemed to be less hopeful and dementia in all its forms remains a challenge to the Church and to our ideas concerning human identity.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Rating 7½/10 PG 122 mins
The original Marigold Hotel film was a great success and particularly appealed to those of a certain age who perhaps felt under represented in films. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows the same formula as the first with all the cast – with the exception of the character who died in the first film – having returned, along with Richard Gere and Tamsin Grieg. The plot has less depth that that of the first film, the characters’ live having been explored extensively then. So we are left with more of the same – not that this is necessarily a bad thing – and it has proved hugely popular once again. Richard Gere’s name rather stands out amongst the geriatric British actors and actresses, but sadly age has caught up with him and he fitted in surprisingly well.