Monday, 23 July 2012

Recent film release: 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

At the outset I ought to say that in order to catch this film at under half the usual admission price I saw it at a morning showing, in 2D, and on a less-than-large cinema screen. Clearly, then, it wouldn't have the visual 'punch' that it was intended to have. But as I'm not one easily swayed by effects which are essentially only just so much froth, it did enable me to view the film the better for precisely what it was - at least that's what I want to think.
   I wasn't more than moderately entertained - though, on the other hand, never really bored. What I thought there was a shortage of was humour, only occurring in two short scenes, the second such, very brief. To carry off comic-book heroes successfully, I think there has to be a large tongue-in-cheek element. When it takes itself too seriously it all becomes rather ponderous.

Andrew Garfield was at least adequate for the part. Everyone says he makes a better go of the portrayal than Tobey Maguire did, and I wouldn't disagree. Pity that the estimable Martin Sheen, rarely seen on the cinema screen now, should have his character disposed of so early in the film. But Sally Field as his widow was good - as was Rhys Ifans. Shame also that the film seemed to degenerate into a Spiderman v Godzilla-type monster for so much of the final part, with all the expected technical effects thrown at the screen, to which I can only say "So what?".
   Btw: Was it just me or did I miss it? Was a major strand of the plot left unresolved - or was that being kept back for the next instalment? Maybe my attention wavered at a critical moment.

All in all, not too bad, but not really a film to lodge long in the memory.

So, with that heavily-qualified endorsement, I award this Spider-Man a score of................5/10.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Recent film release: 'Killer Joe'

Unlike my previous posting for a film which I wasn't too sure about, no such thoughts here. I can categorise this one easily. I really liked this film, which was a pleasant surprise as I'd gone somewhat apprehensively, following the qualified reviews I'd seen.
William Friedkin has certainly made some landmark films in his long career ('The Exorcist', 'The French Connection', 'Cruising') and though this one is unlikely to lodge as permanently in the memory as some of them it's in no way a mean achievement.
It's the second film in a row I've seen featuring Matthew McConaughey in a lead role, here playing a corrupt cop, scarily unhinged and violent, who's called on to perform a contract killing so that the family can claim inheritance moneys. The whole scheme unravels in suspicions and deceits culminating in a particularly bloody, extended final scene - but on the way the tensions are punctuated by some amusing, deadpan one-liners delivered in sardonic style. The film retained my interest throughout its 100 minutes.
(I could, however, have done without the several scenes featuring a barking dog, leashed up in pouring rain. Even though no harm comes to it, I was all the time prepared to wince and have to look away.)
   So, being one of my infrequent recommendations, I award it...........7.5/10.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Recent film release: 'Magic Mike'

Feel very ambiguous about this film. Truth to tell, I suppose I only give it the benefit of the doubt because it's a Soderbergh film, whose previous efforts I've usually liked, or even liked a lot - otherwise I might have branded this one as 'DISlikeable'.
Revolving around a male-stripper (for women) group which takes on a new....erm.... member, the latter starting out as a reluctant participant, though soon finding his stride, and thus (predictably) shifting the group's own internal dynamics - and all presided over by the surprisingly impressive Matthew McConaughey, strutting about like a know-it-all peacock.
Several of the group's striptease acts are shown, all skilfully choreographed - and with them having bodies to die for - though I must mention that in none are their pouches/thongs finally removed. Even aside from that they are not exactly The Village People, being aggressively hetero, though the unacknowledged hint of homo-eroticism wouldn't escape most people.
  I found the film largely a vacuous experience while watching it, not being able to sympathise with any of the characters - and yet, this morning after, certain scenes are still buzzing around the brain. Perhaps I'll have to wait for the memory to settle down.
                In the meantime, reflecting my ambivalent feelings, I award it a score of - 5/10.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Recent film release: 'Woody Allen: A Documentary'

I imagine that very few of those who do not count themselves as Allen aficianados will fork out money to see this. It's practically a hagiography, long at 2 hours, and less a documentary than a succession of talking heads -  Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese and Allen's own sister, as well as Woody Allen himself, being among the most prominent - all interspersed with brief excerpts (some very brief)  from about half the films he has directed. It told me very little that I didn't already know. In fact I can't think of a single thing right now. And yet..........I really liked it a lot!
     The acrimonious split with Mia Farrow is acknowledged with more than just a passing nod, when I was expecting it to be ignored or just glossed over. Pity that Farrow herself wasn't willing to talk about her working experiences with him when several of his films which she starred in rank among his very best.
   I shouldn't think that people who don't care for his films will be as absorbed as I was. I've always been a very enthusiastic fan, having seen nearly every single one of  the 40+ films he's directed on the cinema screen when they were first released. His films really are that much of a big deal for me. (The sole one which, so far, has got away was the 2002 'Hollywood Ending' - and I've only ever seen the 2006 'Scoop' on TV.)
I'm willing to accept that his films vary in quality, but even at their worst (at least according to critics and other viewers) I've never found a single one of them at all boring - and, furthermore, there isn't one which I wouldn't watch again - several of them time after time. Apart from the very early 'slapstick'-type films, they are all very 'wordy'. Dialogue is paramount. One hardly looks to Allen for 'action', but it's the high-quality, highly-charged - and often funny - conversation which I've come to expect from him and he very nearly always delivers.

So, the score from this particularWoody Allen admirer? - at least 7.5/10 (even going on 7.75!)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Return to 'normality'

Got back yesterday from my annual few days away to visit my sister and her hubby, with whom I stayed - plus a visit to my elder surviving bro and his wifey. Also took in funeral (by fortuitous timing) of my late friend who was my mental sparring partner and stimulus of the last 52 years.
   Funeral was okay as funerals go. Refreshingly, a humanist one, with the crematorium chapel cross having been removed. About 80 people there, but I'd only known his brother (younger by 3 years) - and his wife whom I'd only met twice before, the last time being 35 years ago. Shocked by how much she'd visibly aged. She was quite a beauty when I'd briefly known her, but now she has completely grey hair and is already walking with a pronounced stoop, although she's several years younger than I am. Sad.
   Not knowing anyone outside family I sat alone on bench at back but was pleasantly surprised to hear my name being one of only two mentioned in the address other than immediate family. (Apart from Mary and his brother no one else would have known who I was). Paul leaves two sons, 25 and 30, whom I'd never seen before. Both as yet unmarried but he confided to me that he thinks the younger one, who's not at all bad-looking (with goatee-type beard), might be gay. 
   'Ceremony' began with my choice of the playing of the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recording of the 'Et in Spiritum Sanctum' from the Bach B minor Mass, which I knew Paul particularly loved - as I do.

Guests were invited to convene at a certain pub afterwards for a 'wake celebration' but, having a phobia for such social functions - even worse when I don't know anybody else - I made my excuses and left.
  Anyway, so that's over and done with.

My sister and her large family (sons and daughter, all of whom are grandparents themselves) have a number of important issues in their lives at the moment, as I have, (when aren't there any?) so it's hardly been a relaxing time.
   I wanted to be left alone with my thoughts for a while. So the day after the funeral I took a train some 40 miles away to an area of the North Yorkshire moors where we used to holiday for three consecutive years when I was a boy of around 9 to 11. In that steam-train-age of yesteryear, going a distance which these days would be considered no further than one's own doorstep was an enormous adventure. Here are some pics, including self looking very serious and almost alarmed - and the farmhouse we used to stay at. The hills around it were where I and my two younger brothers would play and whoop, running up and down hills with no trouble at all. Now I can barely walk up those same slopes, needing to halt every few steps to recover some puff.
  The deluge of rain we've been having since Spring hasn't left this part of the country unaffected either. Walking off road was an unpleasantly squelchy business. However, it all looks lush and green - very photogenically picturesque.

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.