Friday, 26 April 2013

Film: 'LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED'.

Two Danish film within four days - and this is a curious one.

Appearing rather oddly among a non-English speaking cast, Pierce Brosnan plays the widowed father of a prospective groom, travelling to picture-postcard rural Italy for his son's wedding where (actually at the airport) he is 'bumped into' by the wife-to-be's mother, whom he didn't know, on the way to the same destination. (Only in films!). She (red dress, above) is recovering from post-mastectomy chemo-therapy - and has only just been shocked when discovering her husband in delicto flagrante with a young female employee from his workplace. This husband turns up at the wedding venue, actually bringing along his 'affair'. Therein lie the tensions of this gathering which provide the film's dramatic impetus. But something major occurs two-thirds of the way through (which I hadn't foreseen), which skews events and shifts the central focus from the wedding event to the burgeoning relationship between the Brosnan character and the mother, Trine Dyrholm  - who is really very good indeed, with a lovely smile covering up her inner suffering on the two subjects of her cancer fears and her husband's infidelity.

Brosnan speaks only English, though appearing to understand all the Danish (a lot of it) addressed to him. Although in the role as father he does acquit himself quite well, displaying a spectrum of emotions, I can't help feeling he is a distraction in what is essentially a drama of two families. I think if a Danish actor had been used it would have been a stronger film, though I suppose Brosnan was brought in in the hope that he would give the film a better chance on the international market.
The 'event' two-thirds through, which I mentioned, left me a bit dumbfounded initially, as I thought it was a bit flip and cliched for 2013, but it was handled competently enough and succeeded in re-focussing the story onto the two main participants.

Btw: A strange co-incidence. A few days ago, Mitch @ http://mitchellismoving.blogspot.co.uk  posted a blog which included Dean Martin's song 'That's Amore', about which I added a fairly substantial comment. I don't think I'd heard that song since my first and only viewing of 'Moonstruck' in 1987, when it was used over the opening credits. Would you believe that at the start of this new film we once again hear Mr Martin crooning, to the lilting waltz, the words "When the moon hits your eye like a big piece of pie (sic) - that's amore!" Spooky!

I quite liked this film, though more in a sense of 'it ought to have been even better', but it was still quite good entertainment. Usually when my opinion changes from what I thought immediately following seeing a film to the morning after, it's a case of increasing regard for it. This time it's gone the other way. Nevertheless I'd still give it a slightly more than adequate...................6/10

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Film: 'ROBOT & FRANK'

By the time this film first hit our main screens a few weeks ago I'd seen the trailer so many times that any minimal interest I'd had in it had virtually evaporated. But as it's now latterly been shown, for us 'oldies', in a single cheapo local screening, I thought "Why not?"

Frank Langella plays a one-time burglar and (still) incorrigible shoplifter who's done time for his crimes and is now living alone and starting to develop dementia. Set in the 'near future', his concerned middle-aged son presents him with a servant-robot to do all his daily chores for him and to offer advice about his health and nudge him with reminders. He is, predictably, initially hostile to its interference but soon realises that he may be able to use the robot, who apparently doesn't have any moral qualms, to revive his former criminal 'profession'. Romantic interest is provided by the always very watchable Susan Sarandon as a librarian former flame of his - and who, incidentally, looks nothing like the 20+ years older than she was in 'Thelma & Louise'.

It's a slight, rather quaint film, which is precisely where it was undoubtedly aimed. A few minor chuckles along the way, with one or two little excitements, but nothing more than that. I wasn't bored, though I did find myself longing for something a bit more profound, while fully aware that this was the wrong place to look for it.  Considering that the admission price was only a little more than half of what it would have been first time round I'm not complaining. Also, it comes in at just under 90 minutes - a point very much in its favour.

In terms of personal 'enjoyment', a fraction better than 'fair'...............5.5



Monday, 22 April 2013

Film: 'JAGTEN' / 'THE HUNT'

Arresting, disturbing and scarily believable Danish film.

Mads Mikkelsen (of whom I too had never heard until his villain-turn in 'Casino Royale') plays the sole male teacher in a small nursery where one of the few attending children is his best friend's 5-year old daughter. One day she tries to give him a small gift but he, thinking it would be inappropriate to accept it, gently suggests she ought to give it to one of the little boys instead. The girl, not understanding the reason for his refusal, takes revenge by telling the nursery head that he has exposed himself to her. Of course at her age she has no notion of the potential consequences. The head's initial scepticism gnaws at her until she feels she has to confront him, while the girl maintains the lie - at least until it's too late when even her retraction isn't believed, most of all by the girl's own parents who, unable to accept that their daughter could have told an untruth, convince her that what she said she saw was real. You can probably guess the trajectory the story takes, and you'd be right. Ostracism, police, open hostility - word gets round the town where both he and his teenage son (of an estranged and hostile wife) are not even allowed to enter their local foodstore. The other young kids at the nursery, hearing the story, join in the conspiracy, saying that the teacher has also abused them. If I also say that the latter has a much-loved pet dog - well, I don't think there's any need to go into further detail.

This is a modest but brilliantly effective film which I don't hesitate to recommend. Its power is in the totally credible situation where we all wonder how many lives have been destroyed by lies generating circumstances which snowball out of control. [Even worse (if that's possible) would be cases where older children, who are aware of consequences, decide to bring down an adult they dislike - though that's not the case here].
Acting is uniformly of a very high standard. It's also a refreshing 'plus' to see a film where we are asked to empathise with a character who doesn't own classic 'good looks'. (We know from the moment of the lie that he is innocent, so it's not a 'spoiler'.)
A couple of moments of discomfort for me personally was seeing a deer actually being shot (near the start of the film) - and, in rather more prolonged form, witnessing the fate of the aforementioned dog. (I always wonder how they do this on film - seeing a dog which is lively and happy, then later...... Surely they don't do the unthinkable, even if that 'unthinkable' is cheaper and far less trouble to achieve? I don't wish to dwell on it.)  Also, the cavalier attitude and merriment of the male hunting party - as well as the teacher's son's coming-of-age when he is allowed to join that party - was difficult for me to take, though that of course is the reason for their having such a group in the first place.
But if I divorce my difficulties on this aspect, which most of this film's viewers will either not share or are able to dismiss such feelings easier than I can, I have to say that this is a very accomplished film which I would urge anyone to see.

A highly deserving..............................8/10.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Catnaps - the sleep of the just?

A few minutes ago I couldn't resist capturing the look on Ginger's face of 'innocent sleep' (the little devil!) - and then quickly went round the others, all here and all within two minutes. The prevailing light and sleeping poses of Blackso, Noodles and Patchy didn't quite win over those of Ginger's portrait, but they're all within the same brief period of time.  


If only my own sleep was as undisturbed as this fearless foursome seem to be enjoying.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Distressing confrontation regarding my cats.

It's a marvel that the post I made this morning on my latest film seen was comprehensible. I was shaking when I wrote it - and even now, nine hours later, my heart is still thumping like mad.

Every day for the last twelve years or more I've let Blackso outside, early mornings usually between 5 and 6, through the front door downstairs after his breakfast, then bring him back in half an hour later for 'seconds' and then let him out again. No problem. Until now.
As I was letting him out this morning the guy in the downstairs flat pulled his door open, stood there red-faced and barked "D'you have any idea what f*ckin' time this is!" I said, taken aback, that I did know. "I've just about had enough of you and your f*ckin' cats. Every f*ckin' morning you wake me up. Just because you don't work do you think that no one else does? Did you know that you're not allowed to have pets? I'm going to report you to the landlord." I said that the landlord knew I had cats. He ignored that. "I'm going to see to it that you have to f*ckin' get rid of them!" He ranted on for a couple more minutes in similar vein while I stood there silent and gobsmacked. Then he retreated back inside, slamming the door so hard that the whole house shook. I couldn't believe what had just happened. I came back upstairs and sat paralyzed, until I had to go out for my review appointment with the diabetes nurse. (Latest prognosis results are good, though my thoughts during the session were very far away).

This downstairs neighbour is a little younger than me with a face that says he's lived a lot. I think he looks considerably older than he is. Separated from his wife, who still visits him here weekly, together with their daughter, maybe about 10 years old. Evidence from his bin, which I put out every week for both of us, is that he's a hardened drinker.

On returning from the nurse I knew I couldn't just leave things as they were but had to try to move forward. So I wrote out a long note to him, basically saying that I've never had complaints before from the previous five tenants (including two working couples), but that as he's genuinely disturbed by my routine I'll have to get Blackso to learn to use the back window, (though how, now at the age of 13, he can learn that, I don't know).But I also managed to put a bit of a sting in the tail. I asked him to let me know from what time in the morning I can be allowed to use my own door. A bit cheeky but I needed to get a dig in somehow. I went on further, among other things pointing out that the landlord had, in fact, permitted the previous tenant in his flat to own a large dog. After checking that I was satisfied with my effort I left the note downstairs in the hall for him.
About an hour later I heard a knocking on my door. The transformation was immense. He was profusely apologetic about what he'd said to me. He'd been wound up by the young guys in the house next door making so much noise throughout the night depriving him of sleep. (I hadn't heard them.) He was sorry he'd threatened me about the cats, knew how much they meant to me and knew that I regarded them as my 'children'. He said he had no real intention to report me. He was determined to find out who owned the house next door so he could to report them. (I think the guys actually own that house themselves!) He begged me, in spite of what he'd said, not to change my routine. But he also went further and said that he could hear every step I made in this flat above him - he knew when I went to bed and could even hear me snoring. I wish he hadn't said all that. It's news to me and it's now made me acutely aware of every move I make here.
Despite his insistence I dare not uses the front door again at that early hour. He is the kind of person who I suspect could well have had a violent past and I don't want him to be charging out at me, knife in hand. Blackso will just have to go out through the back window - and if he doesn't work out that he can also come back in that way at anytime I'll just have to leave him sitting outside on the garden wall looking up longingly for me to go down and carry him in. The worst thing I can imagine happening is not just the chap complaining about me to the landlord, but if he does anything to the cats themselves - or makes me have to give them up. In the latter cases I just don't know what I'll do, but I'm pretty sure it will be something drastic.

So that's the position as at now. How it'll develop I don't know. I just wish I could scoop up all (4?) of my pussies and go and live with them in an isolated house somewhere.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Film: 'THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES'

Reasonably effective drama - in three parts of roughly equal length.
First, involving Ryan Gosling, as a stunt motorbike rider, simmering like a volcano ready to erupt violently at the slightest provocation, allured into robbing a bank and quickly getting a taste for it and embarking on a robbery spree so that he can support his estranged lover and their one year-old son..
Second, Bradley Cooper as an honest policeman who unknowingly gets pulled into a corrupt cop circle - and who then extricates himself by framing others, while not averse to pulling a fast one himself to advance his career.
The third segment, 15 years on from the last, mainly concerns the now teenage sons of the main characters in the first two parts, from whence disturbing consequences follow.

I found it quite an unsettling film, which it was surely intended to be, never knowing which way it would turn. Hardly anyone in the current generation of film big-names can simmer as dangerously as Ryan Gosling, and this he does to perfection here. With him around I was quite concerned for the welfare of a dog which features in a little of this first part, but it turned out that there was no need to worry.
The connection between the first and second parts is incidental but it turns out to be a strategic one, coming to fruition in the third and, for me, the weakest part. Bradley Cooper, plays his inner-conflicted yet risk-taking part every bit as well as Gosling. Eva Green does well to hold the three parts together.

There has been a significant number of recent films which have come and gone but which I badly wanted to see but, through circumstances, I wasn't able to attend. When I saw the reviews of this one I felt it could be something remarkable so I really had to make a super-human effort to go, despite having to limp over a mile X 2, and only returning at dusk. In the event, although feeling that it was pretty good, it hadn't quite merited all the strain and pain I'd put into seeing it. But I'm reasonably satisfied that, at the very least, my curiosity was satisfied................................6.5/10

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

SassyBear lookalike - at least to me. What do you think?

I've been fascinated by a TV programme, 'The Great British Sewing Bee' - now just past its second week - which I wouldn't have bothered to watch were it not that one of the contestants, Stuart, has for me more than a passing resemblance to our own renowned and much loved blogger, Sean, aka 'SassyBear' @ http://idleeyesandadormy.com

Each week the the object is to give the contestants two or three tailoring tasks to produce, within a limited amount of time, as near a finished article of clothing as they can, which is then judged by two professionals. The series began last week with eight contestants, and two of them were eliminated and two more yesterday. They've been asked to come up with dresses, frocks, blouses, patch pockets on a skirt - and one of yesterday's tasks was to produce a pair of man's trousers. Stuart has now made the final four, though in each of the two weeks to date he was pretty sure that he'd be asked to leave (as indeed was I), but he's still hanging in there. He lives with his male partner in North Yorkshire, the part of the world where I myself grew up. He's attractively slightly camp, without it being in-yer-face, and he's as cute as a button. Whether he'll last beyond next week I'm not sure, but if he does get the boot, then, as all my interest will have dissipated, I'm not even going to bother to see who wins the competition outright.

So, is it only me who sees a strong resemblance between and S/b? However, I dare say that those who know Sean personally may well be less likely to see any similarity.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Film: 'A LATE QUARTET'

A slight preamble. Just before going into the cinema for this film I heard on my Walkman (yes, I still use one!) the news of the death of Thatcher. In the small-screen auditorium, before the lights went down I announced it to the audience of 25-30, which certainly got them buzzing - just as the film was about to start (heh heh!) - though I hadn't intended for that to happen.

Now the film:-


'The Fugue Quartet' -

1st violin: Mark Ivanir
2nd violin: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Viola: Catherine Keener
Cello: Christopher Walken


A film depicting, as far as I know, completely uncharted territory - at least I can't think of another which plays the internal personal dynamics of a group of players in a classical chamber group. (It's a subject I've often pondered on - even while a concert which I'm attending is progressing!)

The background against which the story is set is the string quartet's preparation for a concert including the  late C# minor Quartet of Beethoven Op. 131. (I was a bit afraid that the familiarity of the music would be distracting, especially when it is broken up into small segments which just suddenly stop. In the event it wasn't really so, though it might be an advantage in not knowing this particular work).

The engine of the film starts going early on with cellist Christopher Walken (in a perfectly understated role) announcing that he is showing symptoms of the onset of Parkinson's and that for the sake of the survival of the quartet the other members ought to start thinking about finding a replacement. Hoffman and Keener are  married with a violin-playing daughter and skeletons start tumbling out between the three of them. Meantime Mark Ivanir (a name I didn't know before, but quite a hottie with his facial scruff) tries to maintain his position playing lead violin against the growing resentment of Hoffman (here a big, blonde, bearded bear of a figure) who wants a turn at being first violinist. A couple of affairs take place and, when discovered, reactions are predictable, though understandable. There's even a scene of high farce, where the comedy is quite unlike the remainder of the film.
    I generally liked it. The film isn't consistently on an even keel. There are hysterical emotional outbursts, but it surely wasn't intended to be all on one contemplative level. Acting from all members of the cast could hardly have been bettered. But I think I was most impressed by story's originality of conception, and that is indeed a rarity these days.
   The final scene in the concert hall was almost unbearably affecting. It was so well executed that it made me very nearly forgive some of the possibly misplaced soap-opera emotional excesses that had gone before.

A worthwhile watch without a doubt, and quite a 'brave' film..........................7/10
    





                                                      

Friday, 5 April 2013

Film: 'DANS LA MAISON'

A delightful, light-touch, mystery-comedy from Francois Ozon who seems to have a growing knack of coming up with films of intriguing, original storylines which lodge in the memory long afterwards.

Fabrice Luchini plays a rather dull and bored schoolteacher whose interest in his work is suddenly aroused when one of his teenage pupils presents him with a particularly well-written essay of how he has wheedled himself into the family home of a classmate under the pretext of helping him with his maths difficulties. He ends his composition with the words "A suivre" (to be continued), picking it up later with what turns out to be a whole series of instalments, hooking not only the teacher but his art-gallery manager wife, the always marvellous Kristin Scott Thomas (who now seems to be appearing with more regularity in French language films than English). He shows her the first essay, ostensibly because of his pupil's superior use of language and very soon her curiosity is also aroused. She too is drawn into the drama of what the boy is up to, each instalment leaving on a 'cliff-hanger' as the pupil describes how he begins, not only to snoop around his friend's house whilst leaving him to do maths exercises, but also to eavesdrop on the conversations of the latter's parents. The teacher and wife are constantly wondering if what the pupil says he did actually happened - and so are we. Then the teacher gets so involved that when there's threat that the boy might have to stop helping his friend he intervenes to do something borderline criminal so that he'll be allowed to carry on as before. It takes a serious turn or two as the intruding youth gets ever-closer to the mother, both physically and emotionally, but I think these are justified as they serve to point up the amusing parts by giving the story some shadow in its light-hearted approach. And it all ends in really the only way it could, leaving me with a satisfying, though appropriately incomplete, smile.

It's a film that doesn't go for the really big laughs or the grand gestures. Maybe those which puzzle the audience into wondering the difference between truth and reality have become very voguish now, but this one plays it with a neat, confident touch. 
As in several of Ozon's films there is a bit of gay angle to part of the storyline (here quite slight), though it does afford the 'excuse' for a quite sudden and gratuitous, very brief homophobic put-down, something I always find particularly wounding, though maybe that's just me. 

A very worthwhile film and, with the exception of 'Cloud Atlas' (and maybe 'Lincoln') my most enjoyed film of this year so far..................................7.5/10


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Film: 'TRANCE'

(It's been longer than it should have been since my last seen film. In the interval a number have come and gone which I'd like to have seen. A major reason for missing them was preferring not to venture out during our prevailing weather, this having been our coldest March for 50 years, with nightly frosts and daytime temps still scarcely above freezing. And there's still no sign of the end of it!)


Any Danny Boyle film is an 'event' - he of 'Shallow Grave', 'Trainspotting', '28 Days Later', 'Slumdog Millionaire', '127 Hours' as well as, of course, last year's Olympic Games opening ceremony.
This latest of his has had a somewhat cooler reception than some of those I've mentioned, at least among those critics I've seen. I would tend to concur with them.

James McAvoy (of whom, must admit, I'm not particularly an admirer) plays an auctioneer who is involved with a criminal gang to steal a Goya from public auction rooms while an auction is in progress. During the crime he receives a knock on the head which renders him incapable of remembering what he's done with the painting. The gang leader (Vincent Cassel in convincingly 'nasty' mode) after a violent preamble, decides to send him to a hypnotherapist to recover his memory of the object's location.

As so often recently I did find the first 2/3 of this film very entertaining. The premise was simple and unusual. But then the convolutions start, the big revelation being that McAvoy's character's recollection of the crime and the reasons for it were not as he thought they were. The past is re-written in hindsight for his benefit as well as for our own. I suppose the film's intention is to have the audience gasping with the surprises, though I dare say that many people will have guessed the 'biggie' reveal before I did. I just found them increasingly irritating. It's yet another of the spate of films where reality and happenings in the mind are deliberately ambiguous or confused, a feature which has become a bit of a cliche now.
I found the fault of this film lies more with the writers than with Boyle himself, who can be guaranteed to provide slick direction, always with frenetic energy. He's one of those few directors who never bores me. But in this film he's going along with a storyline which I felt that even he was only half-convinced by. (There are, predictably, a number of very violent moments, though all very brief).

A bit of a disappointment, then. As I write this, the average score on IMDb site is 7.7, so clearly many others have a higher opinion of it than I have, my rating being a..................