Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Recent film release - 'A Royal Affair'

Superior historical drama of slice of late 18th century Danish history (and in that language) of which I knew nothing, involving affair between the reluctant queen of a naive, mentally unstable, young Danish king and that king's own free-thinking physician. Drama revolves around the power struggle between those who wish to retain their own influence in the form of a royal protectorship of the king (notably the latter's mother) and the said physician who, being in the king's trust and affection, wishes to allow the king unrestrained power under his (the physician's) influence - as well as the subterfuge employed in keeping the queen's affair secret, including the truth behind her pregnancy. 
     Absorbing film (rather long, at around 2 hours 15 mins) with an air of realism. Could easily have been a clunker but it wasn't.
  It's good to see an actor of the calibre of Mads Mikkelsen, who isn't exactly endowed with knock-me-down good looks, given a part he can really get his teeth into - and he doesn't disappoint.
     I went to this film heavy-hearted in the wake of the sad news, the subject of my previous blog. Although these thoughts were never far below the surface I was still able to appreciate the film as a worthwhile watch. In other circumstances I might have given it a slightly higher score but in terms of my own 'enjoyment' (if that is not an inappropriate word) I award it a rating of........7/10.

Just one curiosity I noticed. At one point the king's mother, suspecting the Queen's adultery, has four of the maids lined up and sternly warns them that if they withhold any information from her it will be a 'mortal sin', and then adds "You'll end up in Purgatory!". Now anyone who knows anything about Christian doctrine will realise that Purgatory is reserved for those who die with venial sin on their souls -  sinners of the 'mortal' variety are consigned to the other, lower place. A curious lapse - of translatuion or an error in the original script? Anyway, that was the only glaring mistake I noticed. Not something to get too worked up about.

Overall, a film I'd certainly recommend.

Monday, 25 June 2012

R.I.P. Paul, my dear friend of the last 52 years.

Paul's wife rang me this morning to give me the very sad news of his passing away yesterday. It still hasn't quite sunk in.
   I'd spoken to him only a week ago when I rang his mobile to hear from him that he was in hospital. (He still lived in north-east England where I come from, and where he's been settled since being an immigrant from Canada [Simcoe] when he was 13, the time I got to know him at school). When I spoke to him, as he was under the influence of sedative drugs he was struggling to explain what had happened but he had to terminate the conversation as he was about to receive some more treatment. I asked him to ring me when he was able.
     From what I could gather from his distraught wife, Mary, the principal cause of his demise was liver failure. I'll get more details later.

Paul was the most influential person in my life, outside my own  family. He was 66, one year older than me.
At school I wanted to make friends with him as we were both loners - he because, being a 'foreigner', he didn't know anybody else, and I always finding it difficult to make friends with anyone at all. I found out that he was interested in Astronomy, as I was but, even more important, that he knew a lot about classical music. I was an ignoramus on the latter subject but, because of wanting to be appreciated by him, determined at the age of 13/14 to acquire some knowledge about it, forcing myself to listen to the BBC classical music station night after night. It worked. After my tastes had settled we found we shared the same adulation of the music of J.S.Bach.
Paul was the most intelligent person I've ever known, solving mathematical problems in his head in an instant. He was also widely read in philosophy. What was alarming to me at the time was that he was a professed atheist already while we were still attending the R.C. college. (It was to take me another 10 years to see the falsity of the Church of Rome, and a further 25 years to doubt the very existence of any God, but Paul got there miles in front of me.)
      After leaving school in 1963 we saw each other every week until I left the area 12 years later, maintaining contact mainly through telephone. I've seen him on every one of my annual visits north-eastwards in recent years.
     I've only got a handful of photos of him. I took the above one a year ago, which I had posted in my blog at the time. The following couple were taken around the ages of 20/21.

2012 is turning out to be possibly the worst year of my life so far - or should that be 'the most challenging'?
It started with my being diagnosed as diabetic last January. More recently I've had the very unwelcome significant hike in the rent I must pay, forcing me to start using sacrosanct savings which had been ring-fenced away - and to be used only after my own departure. In addition the wife of one of my nephews has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing aggressive and painful radio therapy treatment - and this is bringing my sister (her mother-in-law) down, whom I'll be visiting next week. And now this massive blow of Paul's death. I hardly dare think what is coming down the line next - and the year is only halfway through!  


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Something to lift the spirits (unlike some of my recent posts)

Blackso: "Awwww! I'm so tired!"

Noodles: "Play me a lullaby".

And there's still Ginger, the 'Problem Pussy':-

He comes in every day and spends quite a bit of time here. I think he still has his proper home which he returns to now and again as he sometimes disappears for many hours at a stretch. At least that's what I want to think. I cannot afford to take on yet another cat, and besides, he's not been doctored. Even if I wanted to take him in and the owner (whoever it is), consented,  I can't afford the fees to have him done - and anyway, my landlord would be sure to put his foot down and could even insist on my parting with the other two, and that would totally devastate me.
     I suppose Ginger comes here because he gets it easy, with as much to eat as he wants, as well as receiving the ready affection from me which may be lacking in his own home. In addition, being youthful in cat years, he provides high quality entertainment with his antics in taunting, running after and jumping on Blackso and Noodles, both of whom, in their advanced adulthood, are never particularly amused.  He's such a little sweetie himself  that it's impossible to ignore him, not to say horribly cruel too.
    I'm going away for the annual visit to my sister for a few days in a couple of weeks time and have booked my own two for the cattery, but I fear that Ginger will be sitting on the window sill, pawing at the glass and wailing to come in. So what I'll have to do is to ask the chap who lives under me to keep an eye out for him and see that he gets fed occasionally with food and milk which I'll leave for him.

    These three have taken over my entire life - but they also help in a big way to make life worthwhile and more tolerable, bless their little furry paws!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Holidays? If only they knew!

I know that when people wish me '"Have a nice holiday!" after I've told them I'm going to be away for a few days, they are being polite rather than being malicious or sneering, their not being aware that I haven't had a true holiday since 1991. However, their comment still gets under my skin and I wish it didn't. It's just happened again when I told a nurse that I would be away for a short while at the start of July.

     In the years preceding my emigration to Cologne, Germany, in 1988 I used to go away on holiday breaks to various cities in Europe maybe 7 or 8 times a year - sometimes for long week-ends, sometimes for a week, occasionally for longer.  I won't hide the fact that the motivation for most of these trips was essentially for reasons of searching out sexual excitements. I'd spend a large part of the time cruising bars (mainly leather bars, especially those with 'dark rooms'), discos, saunas, parks (at night-time) and other well-known and notorious 'meeting places' - and often spend a significant part of the daylight hours catching up on sleep in my hotel room. (It was always a problem trying to synchronise my daytime naps with the times of the  room-cleaning service.) Even while living in Cologne I'd continue visiting other cities and countries with the same aim as before.
    Well, even if I had the resources to continue in that style, those days are necessarily long over. I just don't have the stamina any more that such a lifestyle demands - and besides, being now in my mid-60s, it would not only look absurd but it would be a succession of humiliating experiences in my being refused the attention I sought. (I don't think that there are that many guys around looking for a 'daddy' - and I don't want to experience the pain of finding how few there really are.)

     But it must sound like I enjoy not having had a proper holiday for long - and am even boastful about it. It seems unlikely that anyone, other than the really destitute, would be in circumstances that prevent just an odd break even once every few years. Sadly, that is indeed the case. Since returning from Germany (against my wishes) in 1991 it has been a continuous 'downer' thereafter. My only times away from the place I was living in at the time was to visit my increasingly ailing mother, which was hardly a 'relaxing' experience, though I did always love to see her. Since my mum died in 2006 my only times away now are annual visits to my sister (older than me by 9 years), taking in a drop-in to my eldest brother and his family. This also, though a change of scene, can hardly be called a 'holiday'. No, for over 21 years I've not had the opportunity to go away with the principal intention of just enjoying myself.
    For a long time many of the dreams I experience are located in the foreign haunts I used to know so well, which must only reflect an intense yearning to see them again. Though I'd only be going as a sightseer if I returned to these places now, I'd so love to re-visit those familiar places, if only to see how they've changed over two decades.
  Then, of course, there's so much of the rest of the world to explore - though one thing in particular would restrict my choice of where to go. Visiting a country where animals are used casually (for example, just drawing a cart - but particularly where it's not absolutely necessary, and, for example, in hot weather where the animal's owner is too lazy), witnessing it would cause me such sorrow that it would overshadow the rest of the time on holiday. So if I'm to avoid that, huge areas of the world must be ruled out. Seeing animals, birds, even live fish, on sale in markets with the intention that they are to be slaughtered, would give rise to such mental suffering that it would be pointless to continue with the holiday.

    But there's also so much of these small islands of my own country to explore. Not just large sections of England, but I've only ever been to Scotland twice - and that was to Edinburgh alone both times (not exactly typical of that country!). And I've never once been to Wales.
   Now I've got the cats living with me. When I do go away to visit my sister the cats are put in a cattery for four or five days, though that too causes me grief to do it. But going on holiday for a week or longer and I'd be spending more time worrying about them than enjoying myself. Pity I don't know anyone who could take care of them, but that is the case.
   Anyway, no point in thinking about the cats while there's still not the remotest chance that I'm going to need to leave them alone for a long time. A holiday is a luxury that is so unlikely - at least unless I win a substantial amount in the National Lottery. Now with my landlord putting up my rent (and which alone now takes up my entire state pension!) thinking of holidays remains, more than ever, just a 'pipe dream'.

    So, when people say to me "Have a nice holiday!", even though they are only assuming the nicest interpretation of my absence, and they certainly wouldn't intend to be deliberately rubbing salt in the wound, although I say it myself, I think I have every right to feel at least a tiny bit peeved.

Monday, 11 June 2012

New film - 'Prometheus' (seen in 3D)

I went wanting to like this. I really did.  But what I got was disappointment.
Before getting down to specifics, I freely acknowledge that I am around two generations older than the target audience, so my perspective will inevitably be skewed from a direction the source at which the film makers are not aiming.

Okay, I've always got to grin and bear it when I see spacecraft audibly rumbling across the screen. (I believe that the only science fiction film which recognised that there is no sound in space was '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Surely, after over 40 years, it's more than high time that another film bit the bullet and attempted to depict reality?) But I tried to overlook this and not let it get in the way of my 'enjoyment'.
I found the first hour of this film, frankly, tedious. The dialogue alone was more than tedious, it was occasionally risible - and not just the pseudo-scientific gobbledygook. Even 'normal' conversation was bland and unimaginative.
  Then in the second hour we get a series of grisly, sometimes ingenious, deaths - accompanied by ear-splitting sound effects and crashing, distracting music - and all brought about with no purposeful progression.
   I am an admirer of the original 'Alien' film from 1979 - with the qualification that its most suspenseful section for me is the first 3/4 hour. As the alien creature metamorphosed into a larger being I found the scare factor proportionately decreasing. Even the final section with Ripley (plus cat) alone against the alien didn't compare with what preceded the iconic 'meal scene' and the scenes immediately following it. But what this original film did have throughout was a clear sense of direction and movement towards a climax. The plot was simple and easy to comprehend - and it had shape, which 'Prometheus' lacks.
      Now - splitting hairs again. If the crew of the spacecraft had woken up after being in cryo-sleep for over two years, where had been the starting point? Certainly not Earth. Even travelling at the speed of light it takes over four years to reach the nearest star - and their destination must, presumably, have been way beyond even that.  (Maybe there had been several intermediate stopovers, to enable them to wake up and return to hibernated state again?)
        And why do we hear later that they are 'half a billion miles' from Earth. That distance would hardly take us halfway out of our own Solar System - not even as far as Saturn when it's at its closest. Was it just a throwaway phrase which we weren't supposed to take literally? Then why say 'half a billion miles' ?- why not say 50 billion, which would certainly have been nearer to where this craft was supposed to have reached? Maybe I'm being too pernickety, but you'd have thought that with such a large budget to make 'Prometheus' they might have been able to afford an astro-scientist, even an amateur, to check on their facts.
    And, by the way, why is it that in all films set on another world, gravity is always at the force of precisely 1g? Well, I suppose that the real reason for this oddity is that it would be too much trouble and too costly to attempt to replicate smaller gravity forces. However, I do look forward to seeing the first film showing human space explorers  trying to get around subject to a gravity of, say, double that on earth. (Already a number of rock-giants in other star systems have been detected with masses several multiples that of Earth.) It shouldn't be too hard to show - and it would be interesting too, with these people getting tired out easily,  lumbering about painfully, where falling objects, which might have been harmless on earth, on a more massy world have become lethal in their velocity....and so on. There is such potential here for original situations . But I fear it could be a long wait to see it happening on screen.             
              Must say that I also look forward to the time when pre-and post operative analgesics, self-applied during continuous consciousness, are so effective as to enable one to function practically normally, even immediately after really major surgical procedure which has literally eviscerated one! The extra-strenuous physical efforts required to engage in a body fight with an alien creature wouldn't present a problem either. Pity I shan't be around to see it.
              The acting I found generally satisfactory or more. (Must admit I was for some time confused by the seeming non-appearance of the wonderful Guy Pearce - then the penny dropped!) I've not yet seen Michael Fassbender give anything less than a good, sometimes remarkable, performance - and this film continues his line of accomplishments. Charlize Theron, who, with her impeccable make-up in the far depths of space - where it's still so important to look stunningly attractive to the other members of her crew - didn't appear to have her heart in the role. (Maybe she too found it all a bit silly!). There was also a number of other names in the cast with which (apart from English Rafe Spall) I wasn't familiar. They were largely pretty good, I thought.
         I did start to derive some satisfaction from spotting the conspicuous nods to other films in the 'Alien' series, particularly the original. But after a while they became distractions that seemed to be grafted onto the screenplay to create an 'in-joke'.

       Overall then, I found 'Prometheus' a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas, some not too bad, some just crackers - but the driving force of the film seemed to me to use it merely as a vehicle to show grotesqueries in non-human and part-human beings, and in manner of violence and death. All so passe! (Sorry, but how does one type an acute accent?)

                   Finally, my rating - and I'm going to be extra-generous here - a 4/10!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

New film - 'MIB III' (seen in 2D)

Not much to say about this one.

I saw the original when it was first released, but was not particularly taken by it. Think I gave MiB II a miss, though may be wrong. If I did see it it certainly didn't register. And I can't be bothered to check, which says it all!

Only went to this as was looking for a distraction from current financial woes. (Cunning, eh?  Worried about lack of money - so squander even more of it away on fripperies!)

Entertainment value for me - fairly low , but, to be honest, touching on 'moderate' now and again - though it was never sustained for more than a few moments. Quite liked Josh Brolin's dour portrayal of a younger Tommy Lee Jones character, though Will Smith's ever wise-cracking persona soon gets wearing. (Oh, and what's with all these cut-glass English accents?)

Overall, it passed the time, before having to come back to reality with a bump.

My personal rating - 3.5/10

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Hell's Bells - My landlord is putting the rent up - and by 12%!

For the last 11 months I've been living very strictly within the income provided by my Works pension + State pension - and managing to avoid dipping into my rapidly diminishing savings fund which has been kept aside specifically for:-
 (a) my burial/disposal costs so that others don't have to bear the expense (oh, and I've absolutely no plans to pop my clogs before my time is up!) - as well as
(b) a sum to have this flat professionally cleaned throughout for when the time comes to leave it - which I've promised the landlord.
Then there's also a little more on top which I've been keeping for a 'rainy day'.
Since July last year all my expenses have been cut back to the bone - apart from my single luxury of cinema once or, occasionally, twice a week. There's just no way I can contain further expenses within existing income. (I've still not even had a single holiday for 21 years!)
Money kept for a rainy day? Well, looks like it's just started raining - and, sadly, it's not raining men, so no "Hallelujah!"

   He wants to increase the rent by £60 ($92 American) per month so that it's identical with the flat under me, which is, in fact, slightly smaller than this one. When he rang me he had the impression that it would only affect me a little as he thought that I was being subsidised in whole or in part by the local Council. He seemed a bit abashed when I told him that I've been getting no help at all for the last 6 years, having had to find all the money myself. On hearing that he asked me if I could increase it by £20 for at least the time being. I couldn't really refuse. The last time he made an increase was more than 5 years ago. Besides, he hasn't been a troublesome landlord - and, very importantly, he has turned a blind eye to my having two cats even though under the tenancy agreement no pets are allowed at all. So I'm not really in a position to argue. I've just got to keep on his right side.
   So, after giving the matter some thought, I'll increase it by the £20 for a couple of months and then I'll just have to swallow hard and take the increase up to the full £60 he's asking for, even if that means going back to chipping away at my savings again.

   Of course, in these times of austerity there are plenty of people in a more desperate state than I am. It's said that so far we've experienced only about 10% of the necessary increases in prices and taxes and reductions in public services, so things are likely to get a lot, lot worse.
    Still, it's reassuring to know that when Prime Minister Cameron, sitting with his Cabinet, of whom 21 out of its 26 members are known to be millionaires, tells us that "We're all in this together!" it makes me feel sooooooo much better! 

Thursday, 31 May 2012

New film - 'Moonrise Kingdom'

If I'd written this immediately after seeing it yesterday I might have been less kind, but following a night's sleep my feelings have mellowed a bit
It's a film I might otherwise have missed on purpose as I suspected that it was going to feature two of my pet aversions on film - not only a puppy-love liaison (here between a 12 year-old scout and his inamorata of similar age) but also I was dreading, having seen previews, a number of snotty-nosed little brats - here an entire scout troop of them. I was also expecting that as there were so many children featured we'd be subject to hearing ridiculously profound bon-mots tumbling out of the mouths of these emotionally precocious 'little dears', teaching their adult peers how life ought to be lived - something which gets my back up possibly more than anything else on film..
     As it turned out, I've got to give it its due and say that my fears went largely unrealised - though the romantic liaison between the two runaways at the centre of the film did, at times, make my toes curl. (Perhaps that's because of the depiction of something I never experienced myself and to which I can't relate).
   Other than the two young leads, it's a very 'bit-part' film. Among the adult players it's only Edward Norton who, as the earnest, put-upon scoutmaster, has a part he can get his teeth into. The others just drift in and out with hardly time to make an impression. I really wanted to see Frances McDormand in a bigger role - and, even moreso, Tilda Swinton, who up to now I've only seen in highly dramatic parts, though I doubt if she, in just two briefish scenes, was on-screen for more than a total of 3 or 4 minutes. I was also interested to see Bruce Willis in restrained fashion, which he largely was. I did laugh aloud at Harvey Keitel in brief appearances so uncharacteristic of his previous works - here all pomposity, moustache and short pants.
    It's meant to be a quirky film, and so it is up to a point - though not as much as I'd liked. (For sheer, exuberant quirkiness I think the Coen Brothers films up to around the year 2000 were pretty unbeatable - though, sadly, rather less so since then).
     'Moonrise Kingdom' is often a visual delight, parts of it quite stunningly filmed through yellow-tinted lens. I was also pleased with the use of the music of Benjamin Britten as soundtrack (a first in any feature film, as far as I know) mainly using his 'Noye's Fludde', a Biblical music drama written for performance by schoolchildren. It worked well.
     This is the fifth Wes Anderson film I've seen. I thought 'The Darjeeling Ltd' had been so-so. 'Rushmore' and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' both left me somewhat baffled.  The one I actively disliked throughout was 'The Royal Tenenbaums'  - which is also, incidentally, often spoken of with high regard.

I would rate 'Moonrise Kingdom' as marginally the best of his films so far.  If there hadn't been so much attention given to the cringeing 'young love' angle I might have accorded it a higher score. But all in all, I now award it a score of  5.5/10

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

New Film - 'Albert Nobbs'

You are probably not one of the few who doesn't know that the central idea of this film is that the main role played by Glenn Close is a female character passing off her life as being that of a man. This isn't a spoiler. It's revealed within the first few minutes - if you hadn't already guessed that the distinctly creepy-looking 'man' isn't what he seems, appearing more like an inexpertly-constructed waxwork come to life rather than a flesh and blood human - with face frozen, Botox-like, into uni-expression.
   ( I'm aware that some years ago Glenn Close played this same role on the stage to great acclaim.)
    Okay, I can take the conceit and look beyond that. But it requires a mighty heave of acceptance to find that early in the film she meets another 'woman' doing exactly the same thing (small world!) with whom she has to share a room in the hotel in which s/he works as butler-cum-waiter.
                    That's all I'll say about the plot. But I would have expected most of the tension to have arisen from the situation of the Mr Nobbs character trying to avoid discovery of her true identity. I found very little suspense in this direction, though that may have just been me sitting in an almost empty cinema while the hot sun was blazing down outside.
   To be fair, the film did pick up a bit in the final 20 minutes or so. There is a short scene when both 'Mr Nobbs' and the other female/male character (played in full super-butch mode - though I didn't find her male portrayal very convincing either) put on proper women's dresses - and, curiously, they look much more like men in drag than they did as men when wearing men's clothes.
   Didn't care either for the facile 'tying-up-the-loose-ends' final scene which was too predictable and easy.
Overall, then, a disappointment for me. Feel it ought to have been better - and maybe it was so when live on stage.

            My score for 'Mr Nobbs'..................4/10.

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.