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This month Simon reviews a Disney spectacular, the seventh in the Fast and Furious series, and a comedy with a rather odd premise.
Rating 8/10 U 113 mins
No explanation of the plot is necessary, because this latest live action version of the Cinderella story directed by Kenneth Branagh is just as you would expect it to be. Branagh has assembled a terrific cast, including Helena Bonham Carter and Cate Blanchett as the Fairy Godmother and the Wicked Stepmother respectively. Downton Abbey’s Lily James is a charming Cinders and the obligatory Game of Thrones actor – in this case it’s Richard Madden – plays Prince Charming. There isn’t a lot new here, but what there is is done really well. There are also some good quotations to carry away from the film. Cinderella’s mother’s dying charge to her daughter is to “have courage and be kind”, which sounds almost biblical. The Fairy Godmother also comments of Cinders, that she "doesn’t see the world as it is, but as how it could be". And there doesn’t seem a lot wrong with that.
Fast and Furious 7
Rating 7½/10 12A 137 mins
People sometimes talk about guilty pleasures and one of this writer’s might be the Fast and Furious franchise. These films tend to have a fairly slim plot, ridiculous car chases and stunts, but they also have a heart. The team of fast car drivers who seem to shift easily from one side of the law to the other, see themselves as family. They embody a sense of community that even spills over into their having a common religious life. There is also a sense of decency – honour amongst thieves? There were also 230 cars wrecked in the making of F&F7. Jason Statham is the latest addition to the cast – as bad guy Deckard Shaw – a particularly nasty piece of work who (spoiler alert!) wasn’t bumped off at the end and so is likely to reappear. This is the last F&F that the late Paul Walker filmed and the final scenes were re-cut to allow his character to exit the series, but also for the cast to say farewell to the actor.
While We're Young
Rating 8½/10 15 97 mins
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a childless 40-something couple who become mildly obsessed with a super-cool couple in their twenties. It is an odd premise, but it works really well. It is both very funny and profoundly sad as Stiller’s character – a documentary film-maker – realises that his career has stalled and his life is unfulfilled. As a sideline, WWY also has something interesting to say about how documentaries are made and how much the film-makers own message should influence the detached recording of events. This might be the start of a discussion about how the Gospels came to be written. WWY is a film that will resonate with anyone in the middle of life and might make you look at how you are living yours.