Friday, 26 October 2012

'SKYFALL'

I don't think anyone who sees this would deny that this is one of the better of the series.
In the obligatory, pre-credit chase sequence I was initially a bit put out by the filmic cliches - fruit and veg from street market stalls being crashed into, with the produce flying all over the place (it is Istanbul, after all!), a gun having run out of bullets being thrown away with a mini-second of irritation....But these are minor nags in the overall scheme of the film.
  Positive aspects of this film for me was that the arch-villain (played with mincing, deliciously-campy malevolence by the excellent Javier Bardem) as well as Judi Dench's 'M', are given far more screen time than either of these roles have had in any previous Bond film, 'M''s considerably so. The new 'Q' was a brave and unexpected move too, and a good one. Also, I don't think a previous film of this series has been set so much in this country - London (a large part of it being underground - I say no more!) and in the remote Scottish highlands.  (I now don't give away any further 'spoilers'!)
       Actually, there's not much more to say. I found it quite exciting without it gripping me tautly. There's no doubt that after Dalton's Bond (who wasn't exactly bad) followed by Brosnan (who was actually pretty good), the series since Daniel Craig took over has been given a much needed shot in the arm - and all three of his films now have been of a superior standard (though some may disagree about 'Q of S').
      Yes, for a spy thriller this one is distinctly above par - though maybe it's just me in feeling more a detached observer of the on-screen antics rather than a sense of being really involved in them.
     I'd better not say more as many will be going to see this, surely the most eagerly anticipated film of 2012, and I don't want to risk marring anyone's enjoyment by my own personal opinions.

I give 'Skyfall' a.............7/10 - and would not remotely suggest that anyone should avoid seeing it. Go!
         

Thursday, 25 October 2012

New film: 'GINGER & ROSA'

A Sally Potter film is a rarity, not only because she makes them so infrequently, but when she does, they are hardly ever given the distribution they deserve. When one is caught it is always a worthwhile experience - as is this.

    A small-scale, highly-charged family drama set in early 1960s England with, as backdrop, ban-the-bomb meetings, CND marches and the Cuban missile crisis.
     The titular teenage girls have been extremely close friends since birth. The marriage of Ginger's parents has turned sour and he (played by hottie, Alessandro Nivola - below) moves out to live alone, visited by both girls, Ginger being on better terms with him than her mother. We are given the hint early on that he is attracted to Rosa, and it's not very long before he draws her, to Ginger's horror, into an affair. The remainder of this film, sensibly at a modest 90 mins, is concerned with Ginger trying to keep hush about what she's aware is going on - until it all blows up in a climactic scene of high drama. (You might be surprised at the featuring of  two or three quite big-named actors in some of the minor roles. All in fine form.)
    I found this an affecting film, well acted, well scripted and unshowily directed.
    It's not a film for everybody - its current average score on IMDb site is just 5.8. There's very little in the way of 'action', if that's what you are looking for. But I did like it.

And here's the Alessandro Nivola I mentioned, whom I first became aware of in 'Mansfield Park' (1999), but seen all too rarely since:-

Not bad, eh?


I'm happy to give 'Ginger & Rosa' a score of................7/10

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

New film: 'THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES'

This is a really interesting documentary. I didn't know the name of one-time billionaire David Siegel until now, let alone that of his 20+ years younger, hugely bosom-enhanced, former beauty queen wife, Jaqueline. This riches-to-rags true story (his own words - 'rags' is a relative term!) is fascinating, and it may be a bit glib to take only pleasure from this parable-like tale, though that aspect is so much of the appeal.
    Near the beginning of this film, before things start going wrong big-style, the family patriarch claims credit for being the one person, more than anyone else, who had got George W. Bush elected to the presidency in 2000. At this stage he, Siegel, had been awash with dosh.
    He has a son from a previous marriage - and a further seven children (all within 10 years) with Jaqueline - also not her first marriage. This eldest son, older even than his stepmother, self-admittedly does not have a close relationship to his father, but he helps run the firm as a business partner. Of the three of them he seems the one who lives the most in reality, though there are still questions on his role - such as his mystifying continued loyalty to the firm even after the bubble burst when one would have thought he'd have wanted to seek gainful employment elsewhere.
    The Siegel fortune was founded on property and land and also, in particular, a time-share holiday apartment venture - that is, until the stock market crash of 2009. That event happens before the film is half-way through and the remainder of the documentary chronicles the family's life trying to cut corners to save on resources - or, at least, he does. She remains as dippy as ever, with her several all-white dogs and her brattish brood of spoilt kids who are used to getting anything they want, while she finds it a bit too much to be expected to cut back on her own lavish lifestyle.
     Before the crash they were in the process of constructing an addition to their 'collection' of homes - one that is modelled in scale, design, contents and sumptuousness on the royal palace at Versailles. Hearing her explain her astonishment, when told that this projected home of theirs was going to be the single largest one-family home in the entire United States, is alone worth the price of seeing the film. "We didn't mean it to be the largest - it just, you know.....'happened'!"  (Oh, how we all know how infuriating it is to be the victim of circumstance!).
    As they reduce the dimensions of their living space to something more financially viable for them, their children, their nannies and their dogs, Mr Siegel becomes more petulant in seeing that his family are not cutting back as much as he feels they should - evidenced towards the end by his explicit annoyance when his family continue to leave lights on, at which he threatens not to pay the bills and have their power cut off completely so they'd appreciate what having electricity means. She, meanwhile, goes Xmas shopping, filling up four large trolleys with gifts- including bicycles, of which the kids have a full fleet anyway! We also see the state their living areas have come down to - dog poo on the carpets and dozens of piles of the stuff on a polished floor (perhaps that was the purpose-equipped 'dogs room'?)
  The film is simultaneously both sad and funny - and with more than a dash of schadenfreude at those who, when they had untold riches, used it with such show-off profligacy, then getting their comeuppance.
    But, to be fair, David Siegel does say that he'd be okay if only someone would just give him $300 million. Meantime, the half-constructed 'palace' of Versailles remains a white elephant which no one is interested in buying while it's incomplete and also not least because the location is not necessarily where everyone else super-rich wishes to have their dream home.

          Enjoyable, I give 'The Queen of Versailles' a...........6.5/10

Monday, 22 October 2012

New film: 'ON THE ROAD'

For the most part I didn't find this very engaging. I haven't read the novel but the film was pretty much what I expected - marijuana/alcohol-induced hedonism with occasional excursions into polysexuality, constantly driving above the speed limit, and the usual 'what-a-lark!' adventures of stealing from stores. The men never really argue among themselves, unlike the women who, after being 'used' tend to be cast off with little ceremony.
    Although I did feel like nodding off now and again,  there were a few moments where it livened up, though it sometimes had nothing to do with the film - as in the brief appearances of Viggo Mortensen and the even more fleeting Steve Buscemi.
    I missed being a contemporary of the 'beat generation' by about 15 years, but even if I had been I would never have got onto that particular wavelength. It was probably being well into my 30s when I even first registered the name of Jack Kerouac. Even now it all seems a bit alien to me. Perhaps others who were rather more rebellious in their own young adulthood can identify more with the characters portrayed here, and hence appreciate the film more.

As it is, 'On the Road' gets from me a turned-down thumb score of..................4/10
  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

New film: 'LIBERAL ARTS'

It's difficult for me to be objective. The reason being that I'm absolutely smitten with the looks of this man, Josh Radnor, of whom I'd never heard until this film.
When one person not only writes, produces and directs a film, but is also the main actor who is rarely off-screen during its entire 97 minutes, it may be forgiveable to think of this as a 'vanity project' on that person's part.
But, trying to put my personal feelings aside by imagining someone in the leading role whom I did not find physically attractive at all, I think I'd still find it a charming film, but can't be absolutely sure.
Radnor plays a mid-30s academically-inclined (but temporarily unemployed?) man falling for a student only a little more than half his age. A platonic friendship develops to the point where she wishes to take it further, but he is reluctant to go there because of their age difference. That's really all one needs to know. There are a couple of quite engaging lesser characters - one, a free-spirited hippy-type guy, especially so, turning up like a benevolent genie on the college campus where much of the story takes place. 

But, doing my level best to be dispassionate about the merits of this film, like the one I saw yesterday, I will also give 'Liberal Arts' a score of .....................7/10


I had a very similar reaction of distracting infatuation when I saw the actor Tom Cullen in the film 'Weekend' (which I wrote about in my blog of 22nd Nov 2011) - but at least Josh R. is a few years older than Mr Cullen, even though the former is in the same age ratio to me (just over half my age) as he is in this film to the girl. So, like him, I'd better not think about taking our 'relationship' any further.  ;-)

Here, for anyone who also didn't know of Mr Radnor, are a few more shots of him. I wish I'd had his looks when I was in my 30s. Maybe he doesn't do anything for you. If so, that's okay. I give you permission not to feel the same 'excitement' as I do.


Monday, 15 October 2012

New film: 'RUBY SPARKS'

I wasn't sure about paying good money to see this. What I'd read about it, coupled with some negative reviews, didn't enthuse. But go I did - and, to my surprise, I actually liked it.

The idea is that a young nerdy-looking writer, after producing a hugely successful first novel, gets writer's block. He starts to dream about a 'perfect' young lady (the eponym of the film's title) which he befriends in these dreams - and he then decides to make her the subject of his next book. Soon after he starts writing about her she suddenly materialises in physical form, as someone already living with him as partner. After his initial astonishment he soon discovers that whatever qualities he writes about her she then manifests. There would have been scope here for sexual exploitation of her by his using imagination when anything he wants comes true. But though there certainly is exploitation (which is really the heart of the story), that's not quite the way it develops.

It's a good, original film (at least I hadn't met this situation before) and it has a pleasingly sharp script. There are a couple of mushy sentimental moments but they aren't lingered over, apart from the very end with a weak 'tidy-up' epilogue which, for me, diminished a bit of what had gone before.
    The cast was good - with a number of bonuses I hadn't expected. I hadn't realised that the wonderful Annette Bening would have a modest part as the writer's mother. Antonia Banderas, as the father sporting a grizzled beard, looked hotter as a 'Daddy'  than I've ever seen him. In fact I didn't realise it was him until I got back home to record my vote on IMDb site and I saw the cast list. But even hotter still, Chris Messina, who looked only slightly familiar to me, playing the film's third major character as the writer's (unlikely) married brother with a 'playboy' mentality. Two more dissimilar-looking bros it would be hard to find - he replete with sizzling male sexiness, his brother writer with all the forceful appeal of the colour beige.

           I did enjoy this film and award it a worthy........7/10

Sunday, 14 October 2012

I've now reached "All the sixes" !

      Yes, I'm clickety-click today!


Two pictures to represent my life so far. One taken recently, one a bit further back in my past. Now the question is - can you tell which is which? 





Okay, this is the answer. This one was taken yesterday...
........and this was NOT taken yesterday.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Film: 'LOOPER'

(This has been round for a couple of weeks or more but I was waiting for a cheap showing to come along which, yesterday, it did.)

The consensus among the critics I read was that one shouldn't question the scenario about this story's basic concept (travelling back in time in order to change the past and hence to alter the future), but just to go open-minded and prepare to be entertained.  So that was the frame of mind I took along.

      Well, first of all, the initial half of this tale is taken up with setting the scene (yes, I get it - now move along, please!) and for me it only seems to acquire purpose and direction after nearly an hour when Emily Blunt appears - steely, sassy and with gun in hand - more than a match for any man! (Watch out, fellas, 'cos if you go on upsetting her she's gonna blast your balls off!)
   Well, you know that when said Blunt has a fiery and envenomed first encounter with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it won't be long before they're in bed together, bonking merrily away to appropriately smoochy musical strains, and leaving me cringeing in my seat. But that was only one of the two major irritations which came about simultaneously. The other one being that there's also a young kid (let's just call him her 'son' for practical purposes) - and there are few things that rile me more on the cinema screen than a child talking with a wisdom and maturity way beyond his or her years. (It could be argued that in this case there was justification for this, but it still makes me wince.)  
     Then things get even weirder with telekinesis thrown into the already curious mix. Bruce Willis gets the film's star billing but he doesn't really have all that much to do - both in terms of screen time and acting, either enigmatically subdued or explosively angry, as he stalks his younger self (in the J.G-L in character) and goes little boy-hunting.
    I gave up on this film long before the end - and was looking at my watch more than I usually do, seriously considering walking out before it was over, but I did stay up to the final credits.
   It's a film that's doing well in the U.K. so I accept that it's probably yet another that reveals me as being well outside the range of its target audience. But I can only talk of my own personal reaction -


- which is to give 'Looper' an unimpressive score of.......3.5/10.
    
    

Sunday, 30 September 2012

New(ish) Film: 'HYSTERIA'


I loved this film!

Let's get a couple of things out of the way first.
It was actually completed in 2011 and is only now being given limited release in selected cinemas. Pity, because for me it was a tonic, and really deserves to have had a wider distribution.
.....and, yes, it features Rupert Everett - not exactly flavour of the month in the light of his recent comments opposing equal marriage. For that reason his fairly significant role here had, for me, a jarring effect which, I hope, will fade in time. (But only if he retracts and apologises).

But back to the film.
London - late 19th century. A doctor (the ever-admirable Jonathan Pryce, who always raises the standard of anything he appears in, be it on stage or on screen) runs a practice which helps its wealthy and mature lady clients (all middle-aged or more) to overcome and release their peculiarly female(!) condition of 'hysteria' due, so the theory goes, to the insufficient and too infrequent stimulation of the uterine tract. He personally employs his own manual method until, because of its popularity and with his services so much in demand, he takes on a young doctor as assistant.
With the help of his friend (Everett), the young doctor (Hugh Dancy - a bit of a hottie!) accidentally hits on the idea of turning the former's invention of an electrically-powered feather duster into (shhhhh! whisper it!) -  a VIBRATOR! The effect on the ladies is.....well, dramatic!
      The undoubted star of the film is Maggie Gyllenhall (who provides, later on, a romantic interest) as a teacher of working-class children who is also the wilful, energetic, feminist daughter of  the elder doctor. Her English accent is remarkable - upper class without being distractingly cut-glass. She holds her own with honours among a fine cast of stalwart British actors and actresses.
    The whole film is handsomely shot - and with a noticeably superior screenplay, to which I principally mean the vocabulary employed. It was a pleasure to listen to.

The film reminded me quite a bit of the 1994 Anthony Hopkins/Matthew Broderick film 'The Road to Wellville', also under-rated, I thought. (Broderick, in that, looking never hotter, before or since, with his whiskers!)

'Hysteria' encapsulates a lot of the attitudes towards women in the Victorian era (and later - even present-day), summarised neatly in a big speech by Dancy in a courtroom scene towards the end. But there were also more than a few LOL moments.
Here's just one:-
The Jonathan Pryce character is berating his young assistant about complaints he's been getting from the ladies about the latter's digital technique falling below the expected standard (due to over-use). Before actually giving him the push, he sternly admonishes him with the information.......

                    ".....and Mrs Parsons has stopped coming altogether!"


I'm happy to award 'Hysteria' a score of..............8/10.


Friday, 28 September 2012

New Film: 'HOLY MOTORS'

Kylie's appearances on the big screen are such a rarity that I don't know if I'll be around the next time it happens.
That was one of two reasons I wanted to see this. The other one being was that the premise seemed fascinatingly imaginative and bizarre.

This French language film features a Monsieur Oscar being driven around Paris in a stretch limousine, mostly during the course of one night. Every so often his elegantly but severely be-suited, more-than-middle-aged chauffeuse tells him of his next 'appointment' - at which he changes his identity with the help of all the make-up paraphernalia at hand in the vehicle - and he drops into the middle of each of a sequence of nine or ten stories. One doesn't know the whys and wherefores which led up to the situation as it is when he joins the story, all of which are also left unresolved. The stories are of varying length, one or two having a few, but not too many, chuckles - and most with a touch or rather more than a touch of the surreal. After a while I just decided to sit back and go with the flow - and to stop my mind asking questions.

Some segments worked quite well for me while others were less successful. One that stays in my mind is when Eva Mendes (wordless) is featured in a kind of 'Beauty and the Beast' story-let - and it's every bit as puzzling as the others.

Kylie appears about 2/3 through in one of the more substantial segments, lasting about 15 mins, speaking in French - except for a very downbeat song in English. It's a rather grim little tale.

I'd like to be kinder to the film. While I do like the bizarre and for that reason will often be keen to see such films twice in order to understand a bit more which I didn't get the first time round (e.g. the films of David Lynch), I have to say that this film as a whole didn't endear itself to me so much that I'd be eager to sit through it again.

Btw: We get to know at the end that the film's title refers to the name of the company owning a whole fleet of these limousines - presumably each one containing identity-changing passengers? Maybe, maybe not.

Although my instinct tells me that many film aficianados may well have a much higher opinion of this film than I have, the score it receives on my blog is a just-about-thumbs-up..............................6/10