Film Screening 21st February, 2014

Poster for Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine 

7:30 PM, 21st February, 2014

  • M
  • 98 mins
  • 2013
  • Woody Allen
  • Woody Allen
  • Cate Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins

The quality of Woody Allen’s films in recent years has been variable. But, in a film which has been described as ‘the best thing he has done in years’, a highly-credentialed cast assembles for a new take on Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” – and it proves Woody can still hit the mark.

Cate Blanchett, along with a number of other actors who have been associated with “Streetcar” in the past, perform brilliantly in this dramatic story of flawed characters and personalities who have within them the seeds of their own self-destruction.

The story is told in flashback through the eyes of Jasmine French (Blanchett), looking back on a life of luxury and loss. She is a wealthy socialite from New York married to Hal (Baldwin), who regularly showers her with expensive gifts. But the silver lining drops out of the cloud and the presents dry up when Hal, a financial high-flyer, is disgraced for committing fraud.

Jasmine moves in with her sister Ginger (Hawkins) in an apartment in a poor part of San Francisco and struggles ineffectively to adapt to her changed, impoverished circumstances. Ginger also lost money because of the fraud perpetrated by Hal but does not resent her sister.

Some critics say Allen has made the most resonant film of his later years and Cate Blanchett’s performance, leading a cast of very believable characters, is ‘jaw-dropping’.

This is a film which provides everything movie-goers look for. It is engaging, entertaining and stimulating.

John Rogers

Poster for The Butler

The Butler 

9:18 PM, 21st February, 2014

  • M
  • 132 mins
  • 2013
  • Lee Daniels
  • Danny Strong
  • Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Alan Rickman

Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) has been the Chief Butler for eight consecutive US presidents, from Eisenhower to Reagan. Not a bad career transition for the son of cotton-picking Deep South slaves. Throughout Gaines’s time at The White House, America is moving through the hard slog of The Civil Rights Movement’s struggle, with its victories and cruel defeats. Not only is this observed through his Commanders-In-Chief, but Gaines’s own family feel the pressure of the times, with one son going off to war and another partaking in the more radical movements (Freedom Riders, Black Panthers).

Essentially a history lesson on 80 years of African-American culture, The Butler also boasts some solid performances throughout. Most significant is Oprah Winfrey as Gaines’s wife Gloria (she reminds us that she was an Oscar-nominated actress before she became the ruler of the chat shows). Whitaker is stoically solid as the central cypher, and some of the standouts in the large supporting cast are Jane Fonda (as Nancy Reagan), Vanessa Redgrave (as a kindly slave owner), Robin Williams (as Eisenhower), Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard (as Gaines’s work colleague and family friend respectively).

Director Lee Daniels has proven himself to be a talented director with his two previous movies (Precious and The Paperboy) and he continues his good run here.

Travis Cragg