Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Film: 'Loving Vincent'

I so much regret struggling to keep awake during this - though I must stress that it had nothing at all to do with the film itself, rather due to my body-clock which has gone totally haywire on my sleep patterns recently. If I'd maintained the desired alertness there's little doubt that I'd be rating it higher than I have.

A joint Polish/British film (in English), this is a visually unique experience - yes, it really is exactly that. Set one year after the death, a suspected suicide, of Vincent Van Gogh in 1891, a young man (Douglas Booth) has been given a sealed letter written by the late artist (Robert Gulaczyk) addressed to his younger brother, Theo, the carrier wishing to deliver it to its addressee in person, not realising that Theo Van Gogh had himself died a few months earlier. When discovering this he uses the letter as a pretext to investigate the circumstances of Vincent's demise, and in particular, the reason for the suicide, mysterious in it having taken place when witnesses say that he'd been in high spirits just before the event. He talks to a number of people who knew him or had a fleeting acquaintance.

A number of familiar names appear in the cast, among them Jerome Flynn, Chris O'Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, John Sessions - all featuring in supporting roles without major significant screen time. 

Now for the unique aspect. Most of the film consists of animated sequences, close to the painting style of Van Gogh, achieved through the hand oil-painting of some 65,000 frames by a veritable army of film artists. The results are most impressive. These sequences are interspersed with black and white nearer-reality sections which are still given an artificial hand-drawn quality. In both types of creation the identity of the actor portraying the particular character depicted wasn't always straight-forward, but that was no great loss.

The story itself is simple enough, the investigation into what caused Van Gogh to take his own life - if indeed he did. 

It's a good film, I did recognise that, at least. It also doesn't require great knowledge of the artist and his life, or indeed of his works - though the latter would help in appreciating the animations.

I think that if I'd managed to hold my attention without flagging I may have given this film a rating of perhaps '7', but I've got to judge it through my own flawed experience. I'm pretty sure that in any case I wouldn't have awarded it less than..................6.5.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Another year - and I'm still standing! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

Yes, one more lap of life's circuit achieved, and no sign of any bell indicating last lap - or did I miss it?

Sharing this date (Sun, 15th) with the excellent, younger blogger, RTG, (arteejee.blogspot.co.uk) I wish him lots and lots of happy returns for today, with a fervent wish for some alleviation of his health trials - and ditto for the latter directed towards his very own great and good wifey, Anne-Marie ('Warrior Queen') too. (frommybraintomymouth.blogspot.co.uk)

I have my own health issues, of course - who doesn't? - but must be thankful that mine are not as incapacitating as those of many are, particularly for others around my age. So, praise be to the 'gods' for that, at least so far.

Advancing into Shakespeare's sixth of life's seven ages ("the lean and slipper'd pantaloon"), I'm managing to keep body in reasonable shape and, even though saying it myself, think I look a little younger than my actual age. However, there are still the visible effects of the tripping accident, now all of 15 months ago, when I went down and bit the concrete, 're-arranging' front teeth. 
My dentist has done all she can within the National Health Service range i.e. all that is required for health reasons, but what remains yet undone is still conspicuous each time I open my mouth. Apparently, because further correction would be required purely for 'cosmetic' reasons of appearance it can only be done privately - and the cost of repairing just the one main front tooth is prohibitive, for the moment at least. 
I only mention it to excuse my failure to show my 'gnashers' in the latest pics - something I have to remember daily not to reveal whenever I'm talking to others - or just smiling. Not a pretty sight! - and so distracting for the person I'm addressing.

The pussies below are, of course, Noodles and Patchie - Noodles , the upper one in the middle pic, is causing me particular concern in that his tummy has ballooned since he took to drinking a lot of water and milk quite suddenly a couple of months ago, almost certainly due to kidney trouble. (His condition doesn't really show up in the photo.) The vet says that at his age of 15, little can be done for him. However, he doesn't appear to be suffering unduly even though when he wants to move he now has to waddle like a duck, carrying all that hog-like weight - and he's unable to jump up to anywhere, even just a foot or so, sleeping most of the day on the carpet.

These were taken just a few days ago, with apologies that they seem to be a bit fuzzy:-


So, see you again on my 72nd - though in the interim there ought also to be quite a few more film and misc blog postings. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Film: 'Blade Runner - 2049'

My verdict - overblown and, plotwise, quite dull frankly.
Laying cards on table, I do recall rather liking the 1982 original, and seeing it again some years later on TV. I liked the original Philip K. Dick novel still more. 
I'd go out of my way to see the recently released 'director's cut'  of that original version, which everyone seems to be saying is even superior to what was originally released to cinemas. 
However, this sequel I wouldn't bother with sitting through a second time, not least because at over 2.5 hours. I found myself close to nodding off more than once, and would have done were it not for the racket on the soundtrack. The final 30 mins upped still further the tedium factor for me. (Co-star Harrison Ford, reprising his character of the original, only appears 3/4 hour from the finish, otherwise it's Ryan Gosling all the way with virtually no distractions). 

I can't be bothered to summarise the plot, save that in a future L.A. Ryan Gosling is searching for a certain female who mysteriously disappeared some decades previously, and who carries with her the key to the survival of humanity. As in the first film, there's also play with the notion of which characters are truly human and which of them are mere replicants.

Many reviews comment on the visual effects, and there's no denying that they are quite spectacular, as efficiently realised as we've all come to expect nowadays. I remember the visuals of the 1982 film leaving me open-mouthed in admiration. In this new film there was no similar reaction on my part, surely a symptom of what has now become somewhat work-a-day. In fact now we more readily pick up on poor effects rather than feeling astonishment at especially good ones. 

French-Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, has made some high standard films in recent years - most notably for me 'Sicario' and 'Prisoners'. Perhaps it's something of a generation thing, but despite some superlative opinions on this latest offering, I can't put it in anything like the same class.

I'd been toying with the idea of going to see this in IMAX-3D, such was its hype, but eventually opted for the regular-sized 2D screening at a local cinema - and at less than one sixth of the combined cost of travelling to the closest Imax plus admission price. I've no regrets at having done so.................4.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Film: 'Goodbye, Christopher Robin'

First, the positive. Just about every frame is visually sumptuous. So much for that!

I never read 'Winnie the Pooh' when young and have never felt any yearning to catch up on it since. 

The biggest downside of this film for me was the little twerp of a kid (Will Tilston) playing the 8-year old title character. If a boy whose every appearance (many of them) was calculated to annoy, then a better choice could not have been made. Although it might be thought unfair to judge the acting of a kid of that age against the experienced adult actors he's working with, I'll do it anyway. I didn't think he was all that good - at least judging between the display of emotions and the words he's got to utter. I kept being conscious of a disparity between the two - with a lot of too-rapid changes from sullen moodiness to beaming smile. Oh, for pity's sake! As for the obnoxious child he was playing, well he undoubtedly fitted that to a tee. I could only marvel as to why his parents didn't take him back as being emotionally 'defective' and demand a replacement - or, far better, ask for a refund!

Current flavour-of-the-month Dohmnall Gleeson (we've just seen him briefly in 'Mother!', as well as in 'American Made') plays the young First World War- shocked A(lan).A.Milne, who's subject to debilitating flashbacks whenever there's a sudden loud report. His harsh-judging wife (Margot Robbie) is impatient for him to get on with writing, and creating something at least as remunerative as the plays he's used to writing. The arrival of their (only) child, Christopher Robin, gives his imagination a slow-burn impetus when the boy becomes old enough to start playing with his toys, a teddy bear above all, which he takes everywhere - particularly when they take walks in the woods (actually filmed in the very area of Sussex where the stories were devised, not very far from where I'm writing this) and the writer starts creating situations bringing in actual animals espied as well as made-up ones. The game of 'pooh-sticks' is invented on a wooden bridge spanning a stream. 
The boy forms a particular bond with his nanny (Kelly Macdonald) who supplies much of the warmth towards him which his mother failed to do. On a visit to London Zoo, the sight of a male bear named 'Winnie' makes a particular attraction for the boy, the personality of which the father takes up and weaves into a the world-famous story.
In the film's final 20 minutes we see the boy ten years older (Alex Lawther, a much better actor than his younger character, which is hardly surprising) and his attempt to get signed up to fight in WWII, much to his father's great consternation. 

Director Simon Curtis (who did 'My Week with Marilyn' in 2011) manages fine with material with which he obviously feel an affinity, though which is more than some of us can say.

I suppose I might have been more favourably disposed towards the film had I felt a kinship with A.A.Milne's works, but they are a foreign country to me, and are most likely to remain so. This film doesn't kindle any desire to fill the gap of my experience. 
So there you are - seen it and job done! Now then, what's next?.................5.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Film: 'Mother!'

Holy cow! A film for which the word 'excess' is not nearly big enough!
Reviews I've heard and read are being very guarded about what happens, and very rightly so. I'll follow in their wise footsteps.  

I knew that Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (a writer experiencing a 'block') play a couple in a stable relationship living in an isolated large rural house (filmed in Canada) when they have an unexpected visitor (Ed Harris) who, it's slowly revealed, has an admiration for him. He's then invited by Bardem to stay a while, much to Lawrence's reservations in allowing hospitality so readily to a total stranger. The next day and equally unexpectedly, the man's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) turns up, and is soon pushing her opinions onto Lawrence regarding the house, which she's in the process of decorating, but more disturbingly, enquiring about the couple's childlessness. She's soon talking as though she owns the place and has no compunctions about delving into the couple's personal lives. Jennifer Lawrence is completely confused about their visitors, especially the woman's unwelcome forwardness, and keeps imploring Javier Bardem to get them to leave - but for a reason she can't quite account for, he's not keen to do so. To say that things then get 'out of control' would be a bit of an understatement, so I'll reveal no more.

I was thinking that the film might turn into a four-persons chamber drama, whilst being aware that there were certain horror elements attached. Let's just say that it develops into something rather more than that!

I thought the several suspenseful sequences were exceptionally well achieved. (Down in a darkened basement with torch, alone - again!) It's a long time since I've seen a film where so many times I hardly dared keep looking at the screen, such was the extremely tense, nail-biting effect.

There have been vastly diverse opinions on the film - about equally divided between enthusiastic cheers and thumbs-down boos, the latter accompanied by some considerable laughter, which I can understand. It walks a very delicate line between serious, straight-faced horror and vastly O.T.T. effects thrown on screen, some near-comedic. Views have been expressed that it falls down badly on the side of 'tosh', which I don't really share. Echoes of the film 'Rosemary's Baby' come over loud and clear - as also Ken Russell's 'Tommy', perhaps not quite as marked.

Jennifer Lawrence carries the film with her inner conflicts and suspicions and does remarkably well in a difficult role which demands some scenes of sustained hysteria. Javier Bardem I couldn't always make out what he was saying, though I think he performed adequately in a more enigmatic part.

Director Darren Aronofsky has already made a name for himself, principally through 'Black Swan' but also 'The Wrestler', 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'Pi'. This film will further reinforce his name as being one deserving to be noticed - not always in a positive sense with this latest, it's true - but he is one it's getting impossible to ignore.

I find it impossible to dismiss this film as codswallop, as some have done, so it's clear which side of the fence I'll come down on, even though I'm unable to satisfactorily explain what on earth it's all about........................7.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Film: 'Kingsman - The Golden Circle'

On one level this is a monumentally daft film of the third in the 'Kingsman' sequence of comic-book originals - and yet I didn't find it quite the dud that many have done, my being mentally engaged for much of its extra-long 2 hours 20, which would have benefitted by being shorn of a good 50 mins. Nevertheless, it maintained what I assume is the simple and silly child-like atmosphere of its source material - namely set piece of conflict after set piece, the protagonists always ending up without a scratch against a multiple onslaught of weapons, both from humans and robots, as well as fists - and all with barely enough time in between in which to take a breath.

Colin Firth leads a roll-call of well-known names  - Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum - with a thoroughly embarrassing Elton John where, for some reason, a large part of the audience when I attended, found every one of his too many appearances super-hilarious! 
In this yarn of London-based, Secret Service, dapper men-in-suits (Taron Egerton, with Firth and Strong) are armed with a range of gadgets, which would have turned even 007 green with envy, and are struggling against nasty world-threatening drugs trader-baroness (Moore) who, from her headquarters in South America, has infected internationally, widely-used 'recreational' drugs with fatal consequences, except that she alone has enormous supplies of the antidote, the release of which depends on the American President agreeing to her wicked demands.  
The basically simple plot had a lot of heavy weather made out of it. I felt that the explanation of how Firth, after being killed off in the previous film, is 'resurrected' with this being depicted in such a fashion as though the film-makers themselves were far from convinced that it would work. Also, his regaining of his former personality was over-extended, and hence just starting to get boring.  

The CGI chaps must have had a field day in their creation of the many fights, most of which come up to the expected standard for films of today.  

This is director and writer Matthew Vaughn's second 'Kingsman' film though I did prefer his previous effort ('The Secret Service' of 2014), the second in this series, this latest one following the expected pattern. I can't see any fans of the series being especially disappointed by what he does here.

Not much else to say. Further analysis would imply that the film deserves more weighty significance than it actually does. I gave the previous 'Kingsman' feature a rating of '7'. I accord this with a .............5.5.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

It damn well IRKS me!

Why this newish craze, when asked a question to prefix every flaming answer with the word "So......"? As far as I'm aware it wasn't done even just a couple of years ago, but nowadays it seems like it's spreading like a flu virus. It happened on Radio 4's 'Today' programme this morning (on just the section I listened to) and again just now when I did a TV catch-up on the Cassini mission - and with two of the scientists involved.  Basta! Enough! Will you just CEASE! If you carry on with this nonsense I'll.......,I'll.......ooooooh! I don't know what I'm going to do! Just quit, will you! - STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!!!