Monday, 28 May 2012

Recent film releases - catch-up

As my good and loyal blog-follower, Paul, has suggested, in future I'll try to post my personal reviews on recent cinema-viewed films shortly after I see them, rather than cover them all together in a monthly blog - by which time they could well have disappeared from the cinema circuit. So I've already got a fair number to talk about since I last wrote.

This one was, for me, the best of the most recent bunch:-

My ratings, out of 10 (which, by the way, no film has EVER got!) in order of seeing:-

The Avengers/Marvel Avengers Assemble.................4.5

Monsieur Lazhar........................................................6.5

Beloved (Les Bien-Aimes)............................................2                        (for which I did an extensive blog on 16th May)

La Soeur de Mozart.....................................................5

John Who Lives at Home............................................5


The Dictator...............................................................5.5 

The Avengers - (Given the longer, clumsy title, above, in the U.K. to avoid confusion with the marvellous 1960s TV series - and the much-belated offshoot and critics/public-panned feature film of 1998 - despite which, I actually quite liked - with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery.)
    I'm not the best person to ask about films featuring comic book heroes. It's a speciality into which I can't tune - well, apart from Batman and, maybe, Superman. Having said that, I thought the script quite sharp with some dry wit, the fights were good - and the appearances of Robert D. Jnr and Mark ('Woofy') Ruffalo kept me awake. On a relatively minor point,  there did come a point when I was saying to myself "If I once more hear that word 'Tesseract'  then I'm-a-gonna walk out!"  However, I remained in my seat.
On the whole,  just passable entertainment for me - though after the experience, easily forgotten.

Monsieur Lazhar- Unassuming school drama set in French-speaking Montreal involving Algerian refugee, fleeing persecution in his home country, taking over class following suicide of its previous female teachers. Politically astute and doesn't pull any punches - especially concerning immigration - and with recognition of today's knotty problem of non-familial adults prohibited from touching children, even just to give comfort. Held my interest throughout.

Mozart's Sister - (My third French language film in succession - including 'Les Bien-Aimes).
Story which fleshes out and considerably adds to the known facts about Mozart's performing and composing sibling, elder than 10-year-old Wolfy by 5/6 years but her having to give way to her father's preference, because of her sex, in focussing on exhibiting the talents of her brattish (only slightly in this film) and precocious younger brother rather than showing off her own abilities. Mainly concerns part of a performing tour, visiting the Royal Court at Versailles, using the preposterous but intriguing notion that the Dauphin (the future Louis XVI) finding out that, unknown to her parents, she is masquerading as a young man for her talents to be better appreciated, who then connives with her cross-dressing. Quite liked it but all the time felt that it was done with a too-heavy touch. The costumes and locations are, as one might expect, magnificent.

John Who Lives At Home - Involving two disparate 30-something brothers, starting amiable enough with at least a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. But then around 2/3 through something melodramatic happens and it turns all serious - and ends with a cloying cosiness where everyone is reconciled and happy. Includes a conspicuously imported, though not-too-overplayed Lesbian dimension for a couple of characters. One of the best features is that the film plays at a crisp under-80 minutes - and it passed that time fairly nicely.

Blackthorn - This was a surprise for me, moreso because I'm not a great fan of the Western genre - if one counts Bolivia in the early 20th century as being included in that category. Taking as its premise that Butch Cassidy survived the shoot-out - which was depicted at the end of the 1969 Newman/Redford film - and survived in South America as a horse-trader. It follows him in his final years (with rather too many unnecessary flashbacks?) in league with, and falling out with, a bounty-hunter (Eduardo Noriega looking so damn sexy!). Before I went to the cinema I was concerned about the use of horses and seeing their suffering. But nearly all of it (and there isn't too much) is off-screen. (Just how do they obtain a carcase when they want to show a dead horse, especially if we've seen what looks to be like that same horse previously alive? Sorry, I'm not going to go there!) Glorious scenery, lavishly and stunningly photographed. Acting pretty good throughout. But I'm mystified and dismayed that this film has obtained an average score on IMDb site of only 6.6 as I write this. And there are unkind comments there too on the storyline and the film itself. But all I can say is that I liked it. In fact it's my best film of the last few weeks.

The Dictator - Return to outright comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen, so good in 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Hugo', though this time, with the film being fully scripted, without the sense of danger that characterised his previous incarnations featuring extemporised situations with real-life gullible dupes. (Yes, I dare say that I myself would probably have been taken in too.)
      I found at least the first 20 minutes of this film so barren of laughs that I thought it was going nowhere fast. "More bite!" I wanted to shout. But then I started to sit up in the manner of - "Did he really  say what I thought he said?" Subsequently there were more more moments like that. In fact the film improved as it went on - a film in which double-entendres are banished, but the character just comes out and 'unintentionally', or on purpose, says it full-on . (What we might, in a bygone day, have termed 'Smut'!). But I regularly did find some of the lines funny. Of course it's all a huge piss-take, most of it at the expense of conservative attitudes and hypocrisies, inconsistencies and double standards. But it was fair enough. I get the feeling that when it comes on TV and I watch it again I'll get more out of it the second time round.


Right, that's got my films up-to-date. Let's see if I can manage in future to write my views as I see them, ideally one at a time, but no more than a couple together. We'll see how it goes.


  1. Blackthorn looks very interesting and I'll keep an eye out for it.

    You won't catch me paying money to see The Dictator anytime soon. If I may be slightly indelicate, I think Cohen is a dick. There I said it. And I won't be rewarding his selfish marketing antics by seeing his films.

  2. I don't entirely disagree with you re SBC, Cubby. His method of comedy seems to be based on the idea that 'shock/outrage = funny', which has become such a lazy way of raising a laugh. That's why I think he's better when he reins himself back. Having said that, I do think there are just enough genuinely hilarious moments in this latest film of his to make a viewing worthwhile - and I'm sure there were more which I missed.

    But do give 'Blackthorn' a go. It's only a pity that I can't easily find out what you think about a film which I've mentioned when you yourself see it some time later.

  3. I placed "Blackthorn" on my 'to see list' based on your rating. Most of the time, you tend to get the new films before we do. I was surprised to find that this isn't true with "Blackthorn." Apparently, the film was released here last year and never made the theaters, but went straight to VOD. It is now available on Netflix Streaming. SO tonight, I will be in front of my television watching it. At least, I don't have to wait for it to open here.

    This weekend, I have plans to see "The Dictator." Most of the time I love SBC especially when he takes on this politically correct society and pushes a few buttons. I am also eager to see "Monsieur Lazhar." Hope it opens soon.

    1. Paul, unless you've got one of those huge plasma screens (and from the sound of it you haven't - and neither have I), much of the enjoyment of the film's huge vistas will inevitably be lost. Though I still think it will be a worthwhile watch - despite the sniffy remarks and low scores on IMDb. I'm keen to know your own verdict which I hope you'll post here.

      In 'The Dictator' you'll especially enjoy SBC's final big speech of the film. That in particular got me in stitches and I'll be very surprised if you are not highly amused too.
      Btw: There was advice here for the audience to sit through the final credits. If you want a further few chuckles I'd recommend you not to race for the entrance. Nothing really screamingly funny, but it notches up further that 'feel good' factor.

      I'll expect you to be favourable about 'M. Lazhar' also. If and when you see, please post up your thought - not necessarily on this particular blog but maybe on my most recent one at the time.

  4. I enjoy your movie reviews. I particularly like hearing about the movies I don't intend to see; somehow I like to know what they are about, but not enough to go see them, apparently.

    1. You sound like me, Dr Spo. I also like to read reviews of films which I know I will not see because of lack of interest in the subject matter - or, more usually these days than in former times, because lack of finance forces me to be more discriminatory on which films are chosen to be seen.