Suffragette

In century-ago London, women are getting angry. They want the right to vote but it is not forthcoming. They make noise. They create chaos. They get attention.

Suffragette, a grim tale of Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) and her cohorts, shows the actions taken to get government leaders to acknowledge their demands. When Maud witnesses suffragettes throwing rocks to break store windows, she gets fired up and joins in.

She works in a laundry, where she and other female coworkers are subject to verbal and physical abuse by their male bosses. These men are not happy with her activism. She’s married with a young son at home. But her involvement in the cause leads to the breakup of her family and, ultimately, incarceration. (Ben Whishaw is Mr. Watts.)

While the film is inspired by real-life events, most of the characters including Maud Watts are fictional. Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) is a real person who is the leader of the movement. Because Pankhurst lives her life in hiding, Streep’s presence in the movie is fleetingly brief. Other women in the cast include Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Natalie Press and Romola Garai.

Like certain other period films, Suffragette is generally devoid of color. Clothing is mostly black and white, settings are dark and poorly lighted and sepia tones are occasionally employed by director Sarah Gavron. (The film was written by a woman, Abi Morgan.)

It’s always great to see Brendan Gleason in a movie; in Suffragette he’s a police inspector who has several conversations with Maud. He’s concerned that the movement will generate a martyr, perhaps from the hunger strike Maud stages while in prison. In the end, it is a martyr who becomes a touchstone for change in women’s suffrage in the U.K.

Sadly, Suffragette disappoints on many levels. The second-class status of women is plainly stated but the depths of anguish this condition causes in not deeply explored. Compared to, say, Norma Rae or Selma, Suffragette fails to build empathy for those who are beaten down. Feminists may experience strong emotional connections to these characters, but it’s likely a general audience will not.

Then again, I am a male. As Maud Watts points out, half the people in the world are female. I found the storytelling less than compelling but, hey, women sometimes have different viewpoints from men. (Editor’s note: “sometimes?????”) Certainly, women’s rights is an important issue, but I call Suffragette a nice try that falls short.

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Burnt

The world’s obsession with food and the people who cook creatively has led to the third film in 18 months about a chef seeking acclaim and/or redemption. After last year’s Chef and The Hundred Foot Journey, here comes Burnt.

Liked the 2014 films, Burnt is filled with “food porn,” beautiful images of food that will make you hungry. The story is standard fare about overcoming life challenges, learning to trust others, etc.

Most people, when they hit bottom and then get a new chance, come back humbled and grateful. Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is not most people.

After a flameout in Paris, the acclaimed chef returns to Europe clean and sober, yes, but still arrogant. He chastises a rookie cook for being humble and even coaches the kid to get an attitude and say, “F.U.” to his cooking rivals.

He manages to line up a restaurant in London and even puts his name on it, Adam Jones at The Langham. He is a talented tyrant who demands perfection. “If it’s not perfect, throw it out” is his guidance.

Complicating his comeback attempt is a debt Jones owes. A pair of thugs hovering in the wings promise serious damage if Jones doesn’t pay off what he owes for all the drugs he consumed in Paris.

Opening night is a disaster. Slowly, things get better. Is it because of Jones’ intimidation of his kitchen staff or despite it?

After the thugs administer the inevitable beating, Jones bravely heads back to the kitchen. Michelin reps are spotted in the dining room. Their food is so bad it gets sent back. Jones has a breakdown.

Helene (Sienna Miller) is a kitchen staffer who provides Jones’ romantic interest. Their chemistry simmers but rarely reaches the boiling point. (Could it be because of her awful haircut?) Emma Thompson plays a London doctor who Jones visits for drug testing. She dispenses motherly advice along with good cheer. Alicia Vikander is a face from Jones’ Paris past who appears at an opportune moment.

Those of us who love dining at great restaurants rarely go behind the scenes into the kitchens except via TV cooking shows. In Burnt, we get to see Adam Jones in his sparkling clean, beautifully equipped kitchen with plenty of staff to make sure his dishes are perfect. As industry personnel know, when a kitchen is humming smoothly, it’s a beautiful thing.

Burnt challenges audiences to root for Bradley Cooper’s character, whose charm is somewhat muted by his raging ego. If you can embrace Adam Jones and his comeback attempt, you’re more likely to enjoy Burnt.

Skyfall

“Skyfall” is the best of the James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig and one of the better Bond films of the entire 50-year series. The action, the locations and the characters are engaging from the first frame to the last.

It starts with an incredible chase scene that involves motorbikes on Istanbul rooftops and hand-to-hand combat atop a moving train. Bond is trying to grab a computer drive that contains the identities of several agents who have infiltrated terrorist gangs. He fails.

He goes to Shanghai—which looks gorgeous in an establishing shot—to get the drive and gets into more hand-to-hand combat. In a stylistic shot from director Sam Mendes, part of the battle is fought in the upper stories of a high rise, in silhouette against the night sky.

Next on the Bond “Skyfall” tour is Macau, in coastal China, near Hong Kong. Here he meets a mysterious woman who takes him to meet Raoul Silver, played with panache by a blonde-haired Javier Bardim. Silver may be the first gay Bond villain. Turns out he’s a former British agent who was captured by the Chinese and has now become a cyber terrorist.

Bond returns Silva to London but, dang it, he escapes and more bad things happen. Bond retreats to his boyhood home in Scotland. He purposely leaves a trail to lure Silva for their ultimate face off.

Among the film’s other characters and actors: The great Judi Dench as M; a new Q, a young geek of a guy, played by Ben Whishaw; Albert Finney as the gamekeeper of the Scottish estate; Ralph Fiennes as a British government official with authority over the spy agency.

There are a couple of nods to the Bond of days gone by, including the use of a classic sports car with special weaponry. And, Miss Moneypenny is back. And while we don’t hear Bond proscribe his preferred technique, we do hear him tell the bartender, “Perfect,” when his drink is poured from… a shaker.

“Skyfall” lacks a classic Bond babe but introduces an attractive, flirty woman we can hope to see in future 007 films.

Despite being a tad too long, “Skyfall” will thrill you and entertain you. If you are a Bond fan to any degree, this is a “must-see.”

“Deep Blue Sea”—(Melancholy, Baby)

“Deep Blue Sea” reminds me of those late 30’s movies my wife loves to watch on AMC and TCM: It’s slow. It has a small core of key players. It greatly resembles a stage play.

Actually, “Deep Blue Sea” was a stage play! It debuted in London in 1952 and came to Broadway a year later. The movie stars Rachel Weisz as a young woman married to an older man. He is a wealthy London judge. They have a nice life but she wants passion. Her mother-in-law advises her that “restrained enthusiasm” is preferable to passion.

She finds passion with a younger man, a military pilot. She leaves the older guy, moves in with the younger guy, but he (the younger guy) is not quite ready to settle down. He still wants to party in bars, instead of spending all his time with Rachel. This makes her gloomy.

Will she go back to the older guy? Will she follow the younger guy across the ocean? Will she kill herself? No spoilers here!

Director Terrence Davies has turned in a movie that has many stylish shots, including those at the beginning and end of the narrative that frame the film.

Tom Hiddleston plays the younger guy. Simon Russell Beale plays the judge. They’re good, but this is Rachel Weisz’s movie.

If you want an antidote for loud, fast-paced movies with plots that are hard to follow, check out “Deep Blue Sea.” It’s more about the characters and their needs and desires than it is about the plot. And it’s slow. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Rated “R” for a nude scene. Opening date for “Deep Blue Sea” has been pushed back to Friday, April 20 at the Plaza Frontenac Theatre.