Monday, 1 September 2014

Film: 'Lucy'

Further to my blog of yesterday in which I told of the situation of my computer workability being precarious, well it still remains so though I've managed to find a 'sticking-plaster' solution. How long it will hold remains to be seen. Truth is, I badly need a new computer but current financial conditions make that impossible - or even finding just a professional short-term solution. So as long as this position persists, please don't be surprised if I 'disappear' without notice. If I can see it coming I'll do my best to give due warning, though as we all know, things seem to go down rather suddenly.

'Lucy' is a strange film, not without some merit, though it does seem to fall in love with itself in the final parts.

The increasingly impressive Scarlett Johansson (whom I actively disliked when I first noticed her in 'Lost in Translation' - not any more) plays a reluctant drug mule for a Japanese criminal gang forced into the role in Tokyo by an exploitative acquaintance. She displays her initial vulnerability convincingly well, but when the bag sewn into her abdomen bursts (she is the only female of four similar mules) the effects of the drug (actually used in small doses in pregnancies) affects her brain and gives her superhuman powers, including telekinesis, telepathy and even, eventually, physical metamorphosis. Meantime, Morgan Freeman, whose appearances have become a watchword for 'wisdom', keeps popping up in the midst of giving a lecture on the effects of humans using more than the usual capacity of their cerebral powers - currently about 20%, we're told. The effects of the drugs on Johansson become more spectacular as the percentage grows on its way to an ultimate goal of utilising 100% of the brain's potential.

It's a pretty violent film with some grisly scenes. I think too much effort was given into putting a scientific rationale into what was happening to Johannson. Of course with such a fantastical story it needs at least the bare bones of explanation, but I think it got bogged down in its own theorising. It might have worked better if they'd trusted the audience to just go along with it 'for the ride' rather than keep giving stodgy little sermons.
As for the final scenes, director Luc Besson, who has made a fair number of watchable films in his long career, many of which are in the more 'popular' vein, looks as though he was trying to show how clever he can be with his tricksy cinematic effects, which are, it must be said, not at all bad - and with more than one nod to Stanley Kubrick - though, frankly, I could have done without a certain 'Creation of Adam' moment.

I found 'Lucy' a bit better than merely passable entertainment, though far from being exceptional.......5.5.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Computer problems again! - so if I should fall silent......

Just thought I ought to post to say that if I disappear for a while it's because my computer is playing its merry tricks once more. Thought I'd better post that 'news' while I can because any silence now after my last blog might lead some to think that something dreadful has happened - which may well be the case, but only on a technological level. Otherwise health is okay and continuing to recover. See y'all later when I can get this ruddy thing fixed.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

"DIZZY. I'm so DIZZY my head is spinning, like a whirlpool it never ends......"

The plan is/was to go to Brighton today to see 'Deux Jours, Une Nuit', but since yesterday afternoon been feeling strangely dizzy. It started yesterday morning when I felt light-headed rather than giddy but it's changed since then. Had hoped that a good night's sleep would clear it but, although did get good sleep, felt much the same way since getting up, having to occasionally hold onto bannister, radiators etc in order to negotiate my way safely about. Feeding five cats simultaneously  (my two residents plus three regular visitors) first thing this morning was tricky and slow (sorely testing their non-existent patience), carefully avoiding treading on paws or tails, and getting a clawing into the bargain should I fail.

I've got a doctor's appointment for next Wed and am loath to do anything before then as this year I'm in danger of getting a reputation for time-wasting - nor do I want to go to A & E yet again for the same reason.

Don't know what brought it about. Don't think it's connected to my fall, now two and half weeks ago. Maybe something to do with the medication for high B.P. and diabetes (type 2) - but why so suddenly? Checked on the internet and the possible causes of dizziness are so many it's useless to make a guess, which could well be off the mark anyway.

The last thing I need is yet another keeling over, most dangerously outside on the road again, and most especially before my arm has completely healed. So don't know whether it's worth risking it just to see a film for which there'll be another chance to see next week anyway, even though I'd prefer it done and out of the way.

So at the moment thinking it'll be wiser to stay indoors unless going out is unavoidable, at least until realising the hope that it might clear.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Film: 'INTO THE STORM'

Okay. Should be able to get this out of the way in a few sentences.
If you like visceral thrills this is for you. The effects are consistently nothing less than breathtakingly impressive. During the film's course (Director: Steven Quale) I had leisure to muse how well this would have fitted into the series of all those disaster films of the 1970s, only at that time one was wondering how they 'did it' (though it often showed). Now we do know how they 'do it' and the effects are as seamlessly perfect as one could wish.

As to the flimsy storyline, mainly centred on a group of storm-chasers, well it's only an excuse in order to display the astonishing visual pyrotechnics (and sound too) which is the film's raison d'etre, and consequently one doesn't have a chance to sympathise much with any of the characters. It's not helped by a dull, predictable script, though the people caught up in the conditions are not intended to be much more than ciphers. Richard Armitage, as a college vice-principal is particularly colourless. He has a teenage son who resents his father's seeming lack of interest in him. The rest of the cast is a motley collection, including a couple of regulation, irritating, cocky characters who consider themselves untouchable and whom one wills to get their comeuppance - quickly.
A chain of tornados hits the town of Silverton, Oklahoma, progressing in strength and ending with the awesome spectacle of funnels combining to create the monster of them all.
I was half-expecting at the film's end to hear some sermonising words, or a final caption, on facing up to the perils of climate change, from which, it seems, there's practically no escape now, but we were spared that.

I actually wasn't going to see this film but Ron @ http://retiredindelaware.blogspot.co.uk/ enjoyed it in the manner of a sort of fairground ride (some of which which he'd been experiencing in Toronto around the time) so I went along myself - and that's precisely what it's like. If it was to be rated for special effects alone it must score highly, but it's one of those disposable films with little substance, and I don't think it's pretending to be any more than that. So as an all-round experience I award it a fairly lowly, but not entirely dismissive.................4/10

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Film: '(MR MORGAN'S) LAST LOVE'.

This had an American release towards the end of last year under the title 'Last Love', so we Europeans get a delayed release - not a good sign for a German film in English with some subtitled French dialogue.

Michael Caine, appearing in nearly every scene, gives a sturdy performance (some reviewers disagree) as a retired, recently widowed, American professor resident in Paris. He's slowed down by advancing years, and dotes continually on the memory of his deceased wife, who makes occasional appearances in his imagination.
His mundane, spiritless life is enlivened by a chance encounter and subsequent acquaintance with a 20s-something dance instructor (Clemence Poesy) who, recognising his solitude, invites him to come along to her classes (cha-cha and line-dancing). This development could have been cheesy but it doesn't really come over like that.
An event brings Caine's son and daughter over from America (Justin Kirk and, in a small role, the impressively versatile Gillian Anderson), the former in marriage difficulties, who witnesses the, by now, deep platonic friendship between his father and a girl possibly a third of his age, and has serious misgivings about the latter's motives in getting so close.

One cannot avoid mentioning Michael Caine's attempt at an American accent, so self-consciously forced and so far off the mark as to be distracting. Accents were never his strong suit - even English ones from outside London. It makes me wonder why director and writer Sandra Nettelbeck didn't make the character an Englishman, or got an American actor to play the part. However, it's always a pleasure to see Caine on screen in what has got to be the sunset of a deservedly illustrious career.

It would have been easy to have turned this film into a sentimental mush. There is sentiment, certainly - the story demands it. But for the most part it manages to avoid being totally overwhelmed by mawkishness.
It's a needlessly over-long film - and approaching the final sections something happens which made me sit up, saying - "Oh no! Really?" This not only weakened the drama but seemed to provide an excuse for adding a further 10 minutes or so onto a film which now ends up being close on two hours long. A stronger finished product would have emerged by having had the courage of applying scissors.

There are a a few unnecessary postcard-y views of what everyone already knows is one of the most photogenic cities in the entire world. (He can even see you-know-what from his flat!)

Not a bad film, then, but one feels it ought to have been better - and, despite my reservation re his accent, I did like Michael Caine's performance a lot...........................5.5

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Film: 'THE ROVER'

So, after the recent unfortunate picture-going hiatus, and still narked about having missed a particular couple of films I was keen to see, business is resumed.

This atmospheric thriller, set in the Australian outback, has long, broody sequences punctuated by high-level violence, mostly with guns.
Set in some not-too-distant future ("ten years after the collapse" - we're not told what this 'collapse' was) it's a lawless world, only the rarely seen army trying to impose some sort of civility. The land we see is very sparsely populated, and quite different from a 'Mad Max' scenario.

Guy Pearce, whom I would not have recognised behind his grizzled, unkempt beard had I not known, plays some kind of gruff drifter who, when he stops for liquid top-up at some remote ramshackle hospitality, has his old car stolen from under his nose by a trio of no-gooders. There then ensues a chase to recover it, he picking up on his way the wounded brother (James Pattinson) of one of the thieves in order to help trace the threesome.
The Pearce character is not a 'victim' with whom one can readily sympathise. He does his own killings with no remorse - some needlessly out of convenience rather than 'necessity' such as self-defence. He's also one hell of a crack shot to boot.

The long sections in which little seems to happen I did find very effective. We know that when the inevitable violence breaks out it will be brutal. The bleak, silent landscape is most impressively captured.
I can well imagine some viewers finding the film on the slow side, willing the action to arrive, but I found that when the latter did happen, the contrast between it and the quieter scenes surrounding it heightened the drama.

However, I do have one major reservation, and it's a regular one from me - viz the indecipherability of much of the dialogue. A great deal of the conversation, though sparse, is slurred and under the breath. (Broad Aussie accents didn't help in this connection either, though I wouldn't stress it as a difficulty). It's okay for the actors, the director (David Michod) and the film crew - they know what the characters are saying. But we don't. What comes out of their mouths is the first time we are hearing it, and it's important to us in imparting information to enable us to follow what's going on. A lot of the time I had to guess, only to be proved wrong later. (I was particularly thrown by the relationship between  the Pearce character and the thief's brother). I'm sure it's not my own hearing that's at fault. I don't know how the cast can hear what each other is saying, especially when they're standing 20 feet apart yet talking in what seems like whispers or sleep-mumbling. In real life one of them would be exclaiming "Eh? What did you say?"

So that's my only serious complaint. I think I'd have enjoyed the film a lot more had I been able to follow the plot which, otherwise, ought to have been simple enough, but it became confusing for me. It's a a shame because in other respects 'The Rover' has a great deal going for it............................6.5

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Re-reading the 'classics' (for the last time?) - James Joyce's 'Ulysses'.

My cinema-going being suspended due (with enormous regret) to 'circumstances' it has enabled me to finish this 700+ pager in shorter time than I'd have otherwise managed.

This was my fourth reading, first time being in 1972, most recent being 1997, and it's number three in my venture to re-read as many of the established 'classics' as I can before my lights are switched off - which I want to think won't be by myself, unless it's my own decision.

The first book in my enjoyable task was Orwell's '1984', which I did a blog about in June. Then I read Hardy's 'Jude the Obscure', which I liked more than my previous two readings, and which I didn't post a blog about.
Now comes the third, and as with the other two, it's another one I've been savouring through a leisurely read and, consequently, getting more out of it than previous encounters.

This hefty novel, first published in 1922, has retained right up to the present day, at least part of its notoriety. The initial outrage was largely based on some 'earthy' language and sexual descriptions, resulting in condemnations and even burnings of early editions. But that was and is a hopelessly myopic and distorted view of an evident (at least to some of us) masterpiece. A number of authors, I believe, would cite this as their favourite novel of all, Anthony Burgess being just one of them. It would be very high on my list too. Anyway, the sexual aspect is but a minor part of the entity, its inclusion having been an obvious sitting target for those who'd do anything to prevent others reading of what they, the condemners, disapprove.

All the action takes place on just one day in Dublin, 16th June 1904, the anniversary of that day now being widely known in Ireland as 'Bloomsday'. It follows the conversations and meanderings of, mainly, two characters, Stephen Dedalus and his friend Leopold Bloom (whose root-Jewishness is sometimes pertinent) - but also featuring the latter's wife, Molly.
Much of the language is discursive and whole sections of the work are written in varying styles - straight narrative, entitled short sections, theatrical script, Q & A and, perhaps most famously, Molly's long monologue over the closing pages (in my edition, over 40 pages) of non-stop 'stream of consciousness' without punctuation (so no sentence endings) over life, death, men, relationships, sex, child-bearing - and much more.
The novel is, by turns, melancholic, comical, reflective, abstruse, gently irreverent (notably to the Catholic Church), political, mundane and fabulous (in the manner of a beast of myth), yet by confining all the action to a mere 24 hours within specific Dublin localities it remains self-contained without over-reaching itself.

It's not an easy read. It requires attention, which is no bad thing. It's not a novel one can let 'wash over one'.
There are parallels, so I read, with the Greek mythical hero of the title, with correspondences in the characters encountered, but, due to my ignorance of that subject, I missed them. But it wasn't important. If the work is given due concentration it repays its dividends in a big way.

I hope I get a chance to read it a fifth time. But I do seriously think that for anyone who has a feeling for good literature but who hasn't yet experienced this work, then 'Ulysses' has got to be compulsory reading