Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Film: 'WADJDA'

I'd really wanted to like this well-received film more, but my hoped-for pleasure was distracted most of the time, though it was not the fault of the film itself.
This is a film remarkable for being made in Saudi Arabia by a Saudi Arabian woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, as both director and writer - perhaps a small but not insignificant indication that that essentially closed-society country may be starting to shed something of its insularity.

The main strand concerns the titular schoolgirl who sets her heart on buying a bicycle - in the first place in order to race her young boy pal, the two of whom share a playfully joshing friendship. Riding a bicycle is considered an unacceptable thing to do for a young girl (or, indeed, for any female) in this patriarchal society where the conduct of females is severely constrained.
The part of the story concerning the bicycle doesn't actually overwhelm the film. Several other strands are in play, mainly the girl's education where the (female) teachers, inside the school, wear westernized dress and hair-styles (as does the girl's mother at home) but when they go outside all have to be shapelessly black-robed from head to foot (girls with head covered), with just the letter-box slit for the eyes, and sometimes not even that. And it's this part that really got me distracted. There was nothing in the film we didn't already know about, but seeing how women have to conduct themselves, under pain of law, when non-familial men may be nearby got to me, especially as here when it's presented as an 'incidental' of no great argument in an otherwise quite admirable film. (When I get angry I'm unable to externalise it, even when there's the opportunity to do so. I always leave it seething inside which, I know, is unhealthy - and I found myself doing this during a large part of this film).
Compounding this, the schoolgirl, in order to acquire money to purchase the bike, decides to take part in a school competition for knowledge of and recitation from the Qur'an. I suppose this is not very different from my own schooldays when we were forced to learn the Catechism by heart and be tested on it by a (usually cantankerous) priest, ever eager to pounce on the slightest error. But seeing the same thing going on again with children at a vulnerable age brought up my anger once more. But, as I say, we all know it goes on right now in many parts of the world. (Incidentally, for years I've been reading a page from the Qur'an daily, as well as a chapter from the Bible - though both, I must stress, not for devotional reasons - rather the reverse, in fact.)

Another strand of the story concerns the girl's mother at home - glamorous, once she's discarded her outside-wear black robes - and the cooled relationship with her husband who's on the search to take a second wife. He is also 'westernised', (plays TV games) and actually does not appear to be an unreasonable guy, at least on the surface..

The film, I suppose, takes a predictable path - with one rather unexpected (to me) 'blip' towards the end.
But overall, it was satisfactory.
If I'd been able to detach my own feelings and just sit back and watch it dispassionately I might have appreciated it more than I did. But even so, it gets from me a quite reasonable, though unspectacular, score of...........................6.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Royal baby? More like Royal BALONEY!

Re; the final paragraph below: 
Before anyone reads this post, I must point out that since writing it yesterday a number of my followers have commented that they had doubts about what I say below regarding Prince Andrew becoming first in line of succession if Charles pre-deceases the Queen. I am indebted to Andrew Brown (comments below) who pinpointed the evidence to show exactly how I was wrong - and that in the mid 18th century there had been the case of George III who succeeded his grandfather after his own father, Prince Frederick, died before his father George II, the crown thus leaping over a generation.
With this error now pointed out, I leave the article intact as I wrote it. My humble apologies for not having thoroughly checked the facts beforehand. (And Peter, why did you ever tell me that porky-pie? - which I believed!)

Oh, spare us all this "Awwwww - coo-coo - three cheers - royal gun salutes - I'm-crying-with-joy" flapdoodle!  I've already had more than enough of channel switching, thank you.

While being mildly republican, I'm in no way bellicosely anti-monarchist - at least not while Her Maj clings on. That may well change when the Prince-in-waiting-ever-so-long ascends to the royal throne. I think I'm right in saying that no British/English monarch in history will have been at such an age as he will be when he does eventually take over.
This new sprog could well be a middle-aged man by the time his turn comes, by which time there'll have been plenty of opportunity for him to have been inculcated into all the jolly-hockey-sticks life of the privileged, he'll long since have been 'blooded' into his first experience at the noble 'sport' of fox-hunting (oh, what spiffing fun!), very likely have been induced into the hush-hush exclusively male world of freemasonry - and, no doubt, gained his valorously-earned stripes in the armed forces, having risen, (by his own, unassisted, sheer dogged efforts, no doubt), to a rank of considerable seniority. Well, good for him. Hurrah!

 But will it happen? Oh, we do all hope so!

(I repeat here, the following paragraph is factually incorrect. Andrew will not become heir apparent. S-o-r-r-r-r-y!) 
Although everybody must want Chas to live until he's 150 (at least), it is by no means certain that he will outlive his mum. (The Queen's own mother saw her 101st.) But (and perish the thought!) suppose.....just suppose..... there were to be an 'accident' - for example, the lovely Camilla crossing her legs at an unfortunate moment, and thus most tragically breaking her husband's neck - then the succession would pass, not to William, as even most British people (ignorant of their own history) assume it would, but to the eldest son of the previous monarch, not the eldest grandson - so Andrew would become king. The order of succession would be turned almost on its head. Andrew would be succeeded by his daughters, then by their children, if any - then would follow Edward ("He's not gay!") and his two children - then, Princess Anne (if she's still around) followed by her children.........and only after all that motley group would come William, followed, finally, by yesterday's arrival, who'd now be way down on the succession list. So, Charles honey, an awful lot hangs on your survival - and if you were to pop your clogs before 'mummy' does, an awful lot of people are not just going to be surprised and disappointed, but damn near outraged!


Of course I only posit a possibility of what could happen. Might be interesting times ahead!

 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Film: 'SUMMER IN FEBRUARY'

Moderately interesting true-story dramatisation of brief, tempestuous marriage of 'renowned' English painter, A.J. Munnings. (Who? Yes, me neither.)
Set in Cornwall in period just prior to WWI, the emphasis is on the painter's bloated sense of self-worth (mainly in painting women and horses), his put-downs of his wife's artistic efforts and of modern art in general, his philandering, and the doubts of his spouse-to-be regarding him even before the wedding day.
A love-triangle provides the engine for this tale, the 'interloper' being a soldier acquaintance to whom she is more attracted, with tragic results.

Dominic Cooper plays the artist effectively. When he appears in unkempt state he can provide, for me, quite an attractive 'piece of rough', though in this film that aspect of his presence is tempered by his often having a cigarette in his mouth, something I personally always find a put-off.
I didn't know any of the other main actors, though I was familiar with a couple of them in the lesser roles. Emily Browning as the female love interest is excellent. In fact all the acting is of a high order - but special mention must be made of the savagely beautiful Cornish coast. I only wish we could have had an extended scene or two there rather than fleeting shots. Photography was superb. (More than once, it got me thinking of Daphne Du Maurier's precocious masterpiece, 'Rebecca'.)

By no means a bad film, though also nothing to write home about. It might have assisted my appreciation if I'd known of, or even heard of, the artist and his milieu.................................6.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Aaaargh! 'Wordpress' so annoying! Can't make comments on three blogger-pals' posts.

(Written two days later than main post below - Problem now resolved. See my own comment at end.)


This is the fourth consecutive day when I've wrestled with this.
At the moment there are three blogs involved which I studiously follow and like to comment on:-

Spo-Reflections @ http://sporeflections.wordpress.com/

Stephen Chapman @ http://sfchapman.wordpress.com/

Tai Huu Le's Blog @ http://lehuutai.wordpress.com/

All these have 'Wordpress' in common, though I don't know why, up to last week, I could post comments without any further ado. Now, when I try to do the same they just don't register. I can type out a comment and press the 'post comment' key, then it disappears. (I don't have the alternatives of  Twitter or Facebook accounts)

I've tried to register with Wordpress but it seems that some years ago I must have set up an account - and now can't locate the password. Recovering it from WP has been virtually impossible. When I try to register anew it tells me they've already got a 'Raybeard' - and when I indicate that I can't find the password it's not sending notification to my nominated primary e-mail account - or any of them - to allow me to recover the p/w or to process a new one! After a little while all this mucking about gets me locked out of WP for at least half an hour at a time. Frustration is high!  

So, until I can resolve this, I seem unable to communicate with these three through their blogs (though I do have e-mail addresses as a last resort). I'd be interested to know if anyone else who follows any or all of these bloggers has encountered the situation of just recently having to sign in to Wordpress to make a comment. What I can't understand is "why now?" when before it wasn't necessary.

Meantime all I can do is to keep trying - and using up needless computer time. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!! 

Btw: Dr Spo/Stephen/Tai - despite this hiccup I am still reading your blogs! 


Added following day: Oh hell! Now there's another one, a fourth! - http://harpersvalley.wordpress.com/ - How on earth do I overcome this problem? I've got the need to 'converse'. If I can't I'll burst!

 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Film: 'NOW YOU SEE ME'

Confounding my own low expectations, having read a number of dismissive reviews (one critic calling it 'The Illusionist' for dummies!) I found this great fun.

Including a big-name, pleasingly watchable cast that takes in Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine (somewhat underused, sadly), and not forgetting newer kid-on-the-block, Dave Franco, it tells of a quartet of illusionists who play 'Robin Hood' in stealing huge sums of money through bank heists as part of their act, and distributing it to more 'deserving' members of the public attending their shows. The F.B.I. and Interpol get involved early on and from then on it's a cat-and-four-mice game, with a twist practically every few minutes, until it comes to the big final reveal, in which I'd failed to foresee the eventual actual joker-in-the-pack.
    Of course if one thinks deeply about what one sees I dare say little of it stands up to rigorous scrutiny. It's a very flash and slick film, with many jump cuts, some of them leaping so far that it would be futile to attempt rationalisation. Like a live conjuring act I think it's much more enjoyable if one doesn't keep asking "How did they do that?" but you just sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is, barely letting up on the viscerally-felt momentum from the very start.
It's made in wide-screen so it could be that much of the impact will be lessened when seeing it on TV or computer. But it's one of those films that takes delight in playing games with the audience, so on that score alone it ought to carry some of the fun over. Of course there'll be those who see it and who'll gleefully point out holes in the storyline, and for that reason will talk down the worth of this film. I wouldn't argue that there aren't any such lapses but all I can say is that it kept me entertained for the entire nearly two hours' length. So, being honest as regards to my own enjoyment quotient, and despite a risk of making some blog readers aghast, I award 'Now You See Me' a highly satisfying rating of ......8/10.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Film: 'A FIELD IN ENGLAND'

Despite my fondness for quirky, even bizarre, films, this  oddity really perplexed me.

                      Opening simultaneously in certain cinemas, on DVD, and on TV last weekend (at a time too late for me to watch), this monochromatically-filmed tale of weird goings-on during the 17th century English Civil War is set entirely in the open, in the titular small area, played by an all-male (largely little-known) cast of actors, representing a motley handful of army deserters who are captured by an alchemist and his accomplice, and who are then forced to search for an assumed buried treasure.
A number of grisly, violent actions are scattered throughout the film, though I don't think of them any lasts for more than one second of screen time.

The special weirdness of this film is manifested by occasional unexplained statuesque poses, a small degree of religious fervour, hallucinatory episodes bordering on horror (which never actually materialises and which, I take it, originates from the ingesting of wild mushrooms found), and manifestations of physical resurrection. It's an odd mix indeed.
If it hadn't been for the tightly scripted and precise dialogue (commendably clearly delivered) I'd have thought at several points that the film-makers had 'lost the plot' and were pushing haphazardly onwards not sure themselves of what was going to happen, none of which is finally resolved.

I really liked a particular previous effort of director David Wheatley. His 2011 'Sightseers', (a quirkily amusing account of serial-killing!) finished in my Top 10 of that year. For that reason I was looking forward to this, especially since the reviews I've seen have been generally favourable. But I just didn't 'get it', though I'm willing to concede that the fault may be mine. 

A disappointment, then, though not a grave one. Still interesting enough to hold the attention, I dare say that others may well get more out of it than I did...........5.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Film: 'THE BLING RING'

A not entirely uninteresting film, apparently based on a true story, of five odiously-attituded, pot-smoking, coke-snorting youngsters in L.A. who assume that the entire world exists only for them, and who have no compunctions about breaking into the homes of 'celebrities' (using that term in a very wide sense) such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, while they're away - and then rummaging through their lavishly and ridiculously overstocked wardrobes, making off with items of clothing, jewellery, handbags, watches etc to either keep for themselves or to sell for significant monetary gain. If this film really reflects the absurd ease with which they enter the empty premises - in one case by merely sliding open an unlocked and unalarmed glass door -  then the victim must only shoulder at least part of the blame her/himself.
I found this criminal quintet so dislikeable that, were I an advocate of c.p. (apart from in very specific and well-defined circumstances) I could cheerfully have given each of them a darned good slap. Had to remain to the end of this sensibly short (90 mins) film because I was yearning to see these loathsome juveniles get their richly deserved comeuppance, which they did, though it wasn't anything like as severe as I would have liked. (The Emma Watson's character's closing speech about how the experience has improved her self-realisation and knowledge is hilarious.)

Sofia Coppola has got herself quite a reputation for coming up with films which are off-the-beaten-track, and deserves great credit for doing so. But, because they are deemed not to have mass appeal, they usually get only selected showings, with the result that I have not had the opportunity to see more of her films than the few which I have. But those I have viewed are hardly ever boring, this one qualifying too.

Not bad entertainment - and certainly an unusual story. I award it a.........................5.5

Sunday, 30 June 2013

I present my 'Sleepy Quartet in A flat'

Going away tomorrow for annual visit to my sis - who's recently become a great-grandmother for the fourth time over. I always emphasise that this yearly travel is more a matter of fulfilling the familial obligation of staying in touch rather than it being a holiday. My last genuine hol was now 22 years ago.

Blackso and Noodles will, as usual, be delivered to kennels - which they'll loathe, Noodles will be bellowing his head off during the 20-minute taxi ride, while Blackso will put up with it in grumpy silence.

For my absence this time last year Ginger was fed outside by 'Mr Nasty' from the flat below me but, since the major confrontation between us a couple of months ago, I'm in no mood to ask him again. So I've asked the young ladies next door to do it. (Exactly what are the relationships there? Wink wink!). But despite their assistance, Ginger's got such a loud cry that my single greatest concern while away is that he's going to be sitting outside my kitchen window wailing loudly to be let in, and maybe making himself a nuisance to the near neighbourhood. But can't put him in the kennels because he hasn't been registered with a vet. I've still no idea where he came from - possibly was kicked out as a kitten - and he's the only one of my regular visitors who hasn't been neutered. (I can't afford to get him done, even if I knew that it was okay, or to get him on the books of a vet.) He seems to have taken it for granted that this is his home now, coming in several times a day to be fed, and spending much of his sleep time here too.

Patchy is the latest to have taken up 'assumed residence' here, also coming in every day for meals and sleeping here. However, in his case I not only know where his proper home is, but only last week I happened to pass the house when the owners  were coming out. I told them about Patchy settliing in with me but it seems that he does still occasionally visit his real home as well. He is just one of several 'rescued' cats they've taken in. Presumably it was too crowded for him! So I'm not too worried that he'll have somewhere other than my place to go to and be fed and to sleep.

So here are the players:-

My dear and faithful friend, Blackso, the most affectionate of them. Now must be at least 14 years old (in human years-equivalent that's got to be even older than I am.) though, unlike me, showing hardly any signs of ageing. Always been healthy, never been sick, he's been an absolute treasure for 1/5 of my entire life.



Noodles, the 'distant' one, will be about 11 or 12. He's the only one who will not sit in my lap, and he complains whenever he's picked up. My sole function seems to be to provide his food on demand, which is more often than for any of the others. But I still think he's a sweetie, putting his aloofness down to his original owners' likely failure to have shown him proper affection.



Ginger, the 'problem' pussy. He's by far the youngest of the four - not much more than a couple of years, I reckon, though also the one with the loudest cry. He does love to be stroked and cuddled, and is very probably not getting that treatment from anyone else. I'm afraid he's going to be making his presence known outside my kitchen window tomorrow and ensuing days.


....and Patchy, who's the biggest (and fattest!) - and who just barged his way in to take up residency a few months ago, as though he were boss. But, being a 'community cat' with several options of where to go, including his original home, at least he won't  be suffering in my absence, though more than likely he'll be annoyed at my thoughtless disappearing.


So even though I don't leave until tomorrow morning, mainly because of Ginger my mind won't rest until I'm back towards the end of the week And then I'm going to have some serious blog-reading catch-up to do.















Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Film: 'WORLD WAR Z' (in 3D)

I was really fearing that this was going to be a bit of a bummer. But it was not to be so.

Didn't start very well for me when discovered at the box office that, despite it being 'Bargain Tuesday', despite my claiming Senior Citizen discount, and despite my taking my own 3D specs, the ticket still came to more than twice the price I'd paid for yesterday's 3D 'Man of Steel'. So by the time I'd got myself ensconced I was seething inwardly (I don't have money to burn!) and only hadn't turned back to come home because I'd travelled 12 miles to get there.

Unfortunately my inner resentment took my mind off the first part of the film - though the opening scene was quite 'sit-up-and-watch-this' stuff. Then my mind wandered as to whether, when I got back home, today's dinner should be a Waitrose Potato and Leek flan (with pre-prepared salad and tinned new pots) or should I have Quorn sausages? (The latter eventually won out).
When I did start taking notice of what was going on in front of me, on the cinema's biggest of its eight screens, I started longing for Romero's 1979 'Dawn of the Dead' - or even 'Shaun of the Dead'. But when the scene shifted to Jerusalem I got back to my senses. It became rather good. The aerial shots, especially, were very impressive, with the 'undead' moving at the speed of an athlete at full sprint, and clambering on top of each other like ants overdosed on Red Bull. This was followed by a relatively short scene in a plane, which was another darned good one. Then onto science labs in Wales, of all places (sorry, J.G., no slur intended!) - and good and tense it continued to be, right to the film's end. Pity about the comforting, though brief, homily-epilogue from Mr Pitt which, I assume, was intended as a sort of "Don't have nightmares!" message for the parting audience.

So, surprisingly, not at all bad. I do wish I'd paid more attention to the earlier part of the film, but even so, unlike John Gray of 'Going Gently' in his recent review ( http://disasterfilm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/world-war-z.html ) I didn't need anything, Scotch egg or fried egg sarnie, to cheer me up afterwards.

'World War Z' is hardly a 'great' film but it certainly provided entertainment for me - and I think that if my mind hadn't been elsewhere earlier on then I may have given it a slightly higher rating. As it is, the minimum I can award it is a better than so-so.......................6/10 


Film: 'MAN OF STEEL' (in 3D)

Where's all the fun gone?

Austere, over-earnest, ear-splitting (what's new?), sprawling take on story of Superman's genesis - shot, in large part, in harsh, metallic tints. A damn serious business this is!

Henry Cavill just about acceptable as the po-faced hero, with Russell Crowe his extra-terrestrial Dad, annoyingly popping up with alarming frequency, post-death like Lazarus, complete with cut-glass Professor Higgins articulation and 'propah' English accent..

Very little light and shade in this version. I badly missed comic touches of Clark Kent gaucheries in his 'mortal' Daily Planet reporter persona, as well as the pantomime villainy of a Lex Luthor - though there is the strong hint of at least the former of these in a sequel. If a further film does transpire, boy, are they stringing this out! Anyway, to let the cloak and tights-clad Steel-man have even a hint of a humorous side in any future projects he'd have to be a very different creature from the strait-laced character he is here.

Having said all that, I did find that this film occasionally prodded my mind into a state of wakefulness - or perhaps that was merely the effect on my bombarded tympani. 

Maybe it would be an advantage to have little or no knowledge of the original Superman of comic fame. I still remember avidly reading the comics in the 1950s, getting a weekly dose of exciting tingles at his 'save-the-world' feats. I also recall, in that same medium, his be-spectacled, superficially naive, alter ego - and his flirty (not too much - we were just boys!) exchanges with Lois Lane.
I did like the 1978 Christopher Reeve film, which captured his dual nature remarkably well - something which is all but absent here, sacrificed at the expense of huge-scale special effects and noise. So boring!

I'm not aware of any reviews which are spitting out superlatives, but as at this moment I see on the IMDb site that the average score given by viewers is a hefty '8'. Good for anyone who enjoys it more than I did. I wouldn't wish to decry anyone who derives a lot of pleasure from it. Not for the first (or last time) am I 'out of the loop', though it was hardly aimed for the likes of me.
Even though it's only a few hours since I saw it, the experience has already faded far more than my memory of the film of 35 years ago.

I offer 'Man of Steel' a just less than money's worth..........................4/10