4 hours ago
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
I'd heard of neither director/writer Jeremy Saulnier nor of principal actor Macon Blair who carries the entire weight of the film and is, in fact, hardly off-screen at all.
Little, if any, background information is provided when we see the unkempt and straggly-bearded Blair at the start, apparently a hobo leading an aimless life in small-town Virginia. When he learns that someone who killed both his parents is about to be released from prison he's determined to exact revenge, which he does but without thought that he himself would then become a target as a consequence. Undergoing a radical transformation by having a shave and tidy-up, it's then a matter of his awaiting and being prepared for his pursuers before he becomes their victim, while also attempting to secure the safety of those near him who could additionally be targeted for further vengeance
It's a simple but suspenseful tale. He learns, as do we, of the motive behind the murders which started off this chain of events. There were at least two points in the story where I was reminded, bizarrely, of 'Home Alone' and, more pertinently, 'Straw Dogs'.
Macon Blair takes on the central role brilliantly and credibly, conveying well his internal struggles between self-preservation and the utter distaste for his necessary actions.
At a sensible ninety minutes this film shows yet again that one doesn't need a sprawling discourse of epic length nor a bank-busting budget to deliver good quality entertainment. Well recommended, though one does need to have a strong stomach for more than one of the happenings............................7.5.
Wednesday, 30 April 2014
It wasn't long into the film before I was struggling to evince some sense out of what was going on, the reason being that much of the expository scene-setting dialogue is delivered in dialogue that's little more than mumble-talk. More on this later.
Johnny Depp is joined by a trio of British stalwarts, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy and Paul Bettany, with Morgan Freeman also along for the ride.
Wally Pfister take's the director's helm, having past form on contributions as Director of Photography on such fine films as 'Inception' and 'Memento' among others.
Depp is a leading scientist in the subject of artificial intelligence, with ambitions to create a virtual brainless mind without limits on knowledge and mental capabilities. He's shot by.....who? Religious fanatic? Luddite? Political enemy? Science rival? All becomes clear in time......or it ought to have done. The good doctor dies shortly after, but not before his wife, Hall, downloads all that's in his conscious and subconscious mind. For the major part of the film Depp only appears on computer screens as his consciousness is resurrected and he's once again able to communicate with the physical world, despite the fact that his body has been cremated, giving instructions as to what to do next to further his wishes. (We'll gloss over the question of the whereabouts of the camera which shows his talking, after-life face.)
The plot goes into lengthy development of an idea to regenerate physical injuries, which confused me. And who exactly is this mysterious gang kidnapping Depp's colleague (Bettany), and trying to find out all about the project? Do they want the secrets for themselves or to destroy it all? Search me! There's some, what I take to be, unexpected changes of allegiance between the main players but by then I'd given up caring.
Freeman (not playing God) is always a significant presence on screen, but doesn't really have much to do here. Maybe they wanted to give the film some added weight, which on the whole he does supply.
There's quite a bit of computer-image trickery during the entire course of the film, but nothing that we haven't seen before.
Yes, while the film was playing I was wondering when this now common practice of indecipherable mumbling began. I think it was about 20 years ago. In films up to then it was a rarity to have an actor mouthing incomprehensible words. Now it seems like they are being told "Don't worry. Just say the line any old way and the mike will pick it up." They are wrong. It's just total indolence on the part of actor, director, sound engineer et al.
It might be thought that at my age (67) my hearing will be failing and giving me a problem that younger people may not have. That may well be true to some extent, though it doesn't explain why it's only in the cinema that I have problems in deciphering conversations at all. In everyday life, never. If in reality people talked to me at the sound level I experience in contemporary films I'd be saying "Eh? What did you say?" all the time. But I never have to.
So I may be misjudging this by not having taken on board all one had been intended to take. But whereas yesterday's film was just plain daft and justified the low rating I gave it, with 'Transcendence' I'm willing to concede that at least part of the 'fault' may have been my own and that it's really a better film than I give it credit for. Having said that, it's still the case that a fair score which reflects my own level of 'enjoyment' would be..............3.5/10
Tuesday, 29 April 2014
This film was actually released here a few weeks ago but I'd forgotten about the risibly absurd premise that the story is based on. If I'd recalled what had been said I'd probably have thought twice, but I caught it today on a screening obviously intended to mop up mugs like me who hadn't seen it up to now. And - oh dear!
Kate Winslet, divorced mother of a 12(?)-year-old son, on a routine shopping trip is approached by escaped convict Josh Brolin in a store. (Cue a bit of 'regulation' shop-lifting!) He, bleeding a bit and with leg injured by his escape jump out of a window, implies threat to her accompanying son if she doesn't drive him away (to her house!) in order to rest his leg "just for a few hours". To be fair, she puts on all the concern, apprehension and fear which the script calls for, especially when he discloses that he's on the run from a sentence for murder. All this happens in the first ten minutes.
Well, I was going to say "to cut a long story short" but you don't really have to wait that long before he's moved in, helping around the house, mending the car, giving the son baseball tips - even ironing, for goodness sake! But all that's as nothing compared with his showing both mother and son how to make........a peach pie! So is that the apex of his talents? Not by a long chalk! Before you can say "Bossa Nova!", gammy leg notwithstanding ('scuse the pun), he's teaching her how to dance! You'll have gathered that by now the scales have long since fallen from her eyes and she sees him for the fine and caring specimen of manhood that he is. One assumes that by now or very soon they are bonking with gay abandon. (True love sure works in mysterious ways!) Thankfully we are spared the sight of any such bed scene, which would surely have been accompanied by sultry, sexy, saxophone sounds, though I'd bet such a scene finished up on the cutting room floor - where nearly all the rest of this shameless farrago deserved to be. While they're watching TV there's a flash warning about her 'guest', telling all to be alert to this convict who's escaped from an 18-year murder sentence. But is she deterred while she lovingly rests her head on his shoulder. Not a bit of it! (What's the odd murder between friends?) How about another dance?
Of course his presence in the house has to be kept scrupulously under wraps, with police on the streets and his mug-shot nailed to trees - while all the while the son is, understandably, far from happy at the developing relationship.
I must, however, give due positive regard to a few minutes towards the end of the film where director Ivan Reitman (the good 'Juno' + 'Thank You For Smoking' among his worthier credits) really cranks up the suspense most effectively. Unfortunately, this is soon dissipated in an extended epilogue over several scenes, long outstaying its welcome. I wanted to scream "Yes, we get it. Now let it GO!!!"
It would have been nice to say that one could just forget the ludicrous notion that the Winslet character would so easily fall for a sinister, convicted murderer to the extent of 'shielding' him from due justice, and just get on with enjoying the rest of the film. But there's no getting away from it. Their situation looms large in every single scene so you're not allowed to forget it.
Nothing else to say, really. Don't know why I'm giving it this score - let's just say it's for those suspenseful few minutes near the close ....................................2/10
Monday, 28 April 2014
I knew next to nothing of the person behind the universally-recognised name in the world of fashion so, gleaning from some reviews of this film (none of which seemed to be positively glowing with praise - at least the ones I read) it was largely an education for me.
Pierre Niney plays the bespectacled eponymous role, a spoilt kid with a short fuse from the very start. Guillaume Gallienne is his lover/assistant-cum-manager who, for me, had much more on-screen magnetism than Niney. This created a void at the film's heart which I felt - the question as to why so many, male and female alike, found YSL so fascinating and, indeed, attractive? Surely not just because of his rapidly-acquired wealth? Can only have been his artistic talent, then.
The pair of them get hitched up very near the beginning and from there on it's a chain of tiffs and fights, some of it physical, arising from their jealousies and infidelities (both sides).
It took me a bit aback to see it, but I suppose the very matter-of-fact acceptance of homosexuality in that milieu in late 1950s/60s Paris would be well documented. Apart from YSL relating how he was beaten up over being gay (which we don't see) and which contributed to his emotional fragility and volatility, there is no open hostility to him for that reason in the fashion world he inhabits. In fact there seems to be an all-pervading air of poly-sexuality!
We see some of his fashion shows, given with sumptuosity and flair. For me these were actually more interesting and watchable than the story of his life. Paris itself, and the Ile Saint-Louis in particular, looks lovely.
Btw: Though knowing hardly anything about fashion myself I do like to watch designers in action - as in the TV shows of Gok Wan, Trinny and Susannah (alas, gone from our TV screens) - and, oh, how I miss 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'! It's the utter confidence displayed in decisions that just floors me every time, not giving a fig as to what others think. Especially with 'Queer Eye', I was just amazed at the certitude of their opinions while they were yet so young. I wouldn't have had the guts to openly disagree! There's a touch of that particular aspect in this film too. But I digress. (A bit of daydreaming!)
I reckon that YSL delivers what it was intended to but I shouldn't imagine it will be active in my memory for very long. But I never really got bored - I was just waiting for the next fashion show............5.5
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
There's only the one on-screen character and soon after the start he is driving for the entire time in this admirably concise 85 min film. Some have said that it wasn't as involving as it ought to have been, though I was totally engrossed.
In this film by director/writer Steven Knight (previous writing includes the high standard 'Dirty Pretty Things') the ever-dependable Tom Hardy is construction manager Ivan Locke travelling from his workplace in Birmingham to London in order to be with a woman at a crisis and to whom he feels he owes his presence, this despite the fact that he's needed at work in a few hours where there's to be an epic-scale, multi-lorry delivery of cement mix and where his attendance is absolutely crucial. Added to this, his wife and two sons are eagerly expecting him home, particularly this evening. The film shows his juggling with these three allegiances through a hands-free phone and trying, with great difficulty, to smooth the reactions of utter disbelief and horror from his work colleagues and wife when he reveals that he won't be with them. All the attention is on the behind-the wheel Locke and his mental struggles and frustration, while the woman in London (of whom his wife did not know anything) also keeps ringing him to plead his attendance. It's gripping drama. I didn't look at my watch once.
I've just two cavils about this film, neither of them too serious. The first is that his occasional talking to an invisible and silent hallucinatory figure of his late father sitting in a back seat of the car doesn't quite work as well as the phone calls, perhaps because he's essentially talking to himself, whereas on the phone it's obviously all dialogues. But these occasions aren't many and none of them are extended. And they do give a kind of context to the situation he finds himself in.
Then also, I'm not quite sure why it was decided to make the film in widescreen. I think a screen of regular, 'normal' ratio might have worked better, highlighting the claustrophobic aspect of being in the enclosed and inescapable space of a car the whole time. (There are just occasional glimpses of other motorway traffic).
I might add that by the end of the film not all threads have been tied up. The film takes place, more or less, in 'real time' or near enough - and anyway, life is never such that clear-cut endings all occur simultaneously.
All in all a fine, satisfying achievement...................8
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Based on a Dostoyevsky short story, it tells of a meek, mild-mannered, compliant, put-upon employee in a government office, Simon James, who suddenly finds that his doppelganger, named James Simon, has started working in the same establishment - physically identical, even wearing the same clothes. However, the new arrival owns a totally opposite personality - assertive, extrovert, super-confident - and, unlike himself, knows and demonstrates what it takes to wow the women, including the young co-worker with whom S.J. is infatuated though he's hopelessly unsuccessful in his attentions. J.S. shows how it's done.
Although variations on this idea have been seen on film before what I don't think I've seen until now is that the major conceit here is that no one else mentions or perceives the fact that the two are identical, even when they appear together. Each of them is treated by other staff members according to his own manner and expectations, one admired and accommodated, the other slighted and ignored. It's an interesting and insightful notion, namely that one's demeanour invites reactions appropriate to it, be it deference, admiration, rudeness, curt dismissal or whatever.
Set in a world not far removed from that of Terry Gilliam's accomplished 'Brazil' (1985), it all takes place at night in artificial light, mainly in sepia tint with occasional flashes of blue. The whole appearance is sombre which befits its going to some very dark places, a major area visited being that of suicide, though there are also brief instances of comedy to lighten the mood. The drama hinges on the rivalry between the two with S.J's growing envy and exasperation with J.S's easy manner, provoking him into drastic action. However, it's not a story with simple resolutions. Questions are purposely left hanging on the air which suits the cryptic narrative.
Jesse Eisenberg plays the two leads. The impish Wallace Shawn is S.J.'s office superior and there's a sprinkling of fairly well-known British actors in lesser roles. (I didn't recognise Sally Hawkins.)
Director and co-writer Richard Ayoade who has worked both on-screen on British TV for some years now as well as having a string of writing and directing credits to his name, now adds a significant entry to his record.
If I'd been of more receptive frame of mind I might have given this a higher score but, even so, I do recognise that this is solid piece of entertainment.................................7.
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
I went to see the film because I understand that the book by Veronica Roth is of some significance in contemporary fiction, though I haven't read it.
Something in the film's favour is that among director Neil Burger's credits is his accomplishment of the rewarding 'Limitless' (2011) as well as the reasonable 'The Illusionist' of five years prior to that.
A Shailene Woodley (new name to me) plays the lead, the 'Divergent' of the title, who discovers in the initial categorising of recruits (much less fun than Hogwart's 'Sorting Hat') that she doesn't fall naturally into any of the categories, though after the initial procedure they are allowed to choose their group themselves, disregarding their test results if they wish. However, once a decision is made it is irreversible. She chooses the 'Dauntless' group, in charge of law enforcement with a training programme full of derring-do tasks. However, anyone known to be 'divergent' in any faction is regarded as a threat to order and society and must be eliminated. So, wise girl, she keeps her self-discovery to herself. She has to prove to others in her group that she has cojones. Anyone who doesn't come up to scratch in training and the obstacle-course of tests and trials is dismissed from the group, cast out with uncertain and unpleasant fate. So does she pass muster and give 'em hell? By golly she does!
There's familial loyalties to consider (both her parents and a brother), and within her group, female friendship and a smattering of (inconsummated) romance.
Kate Winslet makes occasional briefish appearances as some kind of high-ranking supervisor/manageress, steely ice-queen at times but also with a caring heart, at least as long as it doesn't interfere with her duties. She's very strict about rooting out 'divergents' but doesn't suss out that she spends a lot of her limited time on screen talking to one.
In spite of what I've just said I didn't find this rather over-long film completely devoid of entertainment value. It was a bit better than I expected, though ultimately a shallow experience which I'll be forgetting in a trice. I don't know if it does justice to the source book. If it does it doesn't exactly make me want to read it - and I shan't be first in the queue to see any film sequels....................................5/10.
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
John Michael McDonagh, who gave us the greatly enjoyable 'In Bruges' (2008), not only directs this modest-budget, cracker of a film but employs one of the principal three actors of that film, Brendan Gleeson, this time playing an ageing, world-weary parish priest with feet of clay, in a village on the north-west coast of Ireland.
The film starts with what must surely be one of the most 'sit-up-and-listen' lines ever heard on film. We see Gleeson thinking to take confession from a disembodied male voice on the other side of the grille, only for the latter immediately to reveal that between the ages of seven and twelve he'd been sexually abused by a now-deceased priest - and that, whether or not Gleeson's priest was ever guilty of similar offences, he was going to take vengeance by killing him at a certain time several days hence at a certain place. All this happens in the first two minutes or so in which we see only Gleeson's face making perplexed and futile interjections, though maintaining self-control. It's an opening that really grabs by the throat - and hardly lets go.
Throughout the film we don't know if the priest knows for sure who is his threatened murderer, or even if he suspects who it could be. He confides what happened only to his companion parish priest who, because the sacrament of Penance hadn't actually been administered, opens up the possibility of pursuing the matter with the local police. But exactly whom the threat came from isn't the nub of the film. Gleeson's priest goes about his routine while screen captions remind us, day by day, that 'zero-hour' is approaching. In his daily minstrations he meets up with other locals, many of whom, despite having taken Holy Communion from him at the start, treat him with everything from disregard to contempt. The full horror of widespread child abuse in the Catholic Church is by now well known and, as representing that institution, he is being targeted, full face on, with the locals' hatred. He only has one genuine friend in the village, an elderly writer, and only two beings for whom he has true affection - his adult daughter (he was widowed before taking Holy Orders) and his dog.
There are a good eight or nine other motley characters (such a variety in one small village!) any one of which could be his potential murderer but, as I say, this is not the engine that drives the film along. However, when it came to the big 'reveal' in the last minutes, if I'd been asked to guess the identity of the intended killer I would have been wrong!
The script is superior in all respects. Hardly a word is wasted - though my personal quibble is that some of the Irish accents have such strong brogue that I wasn't always able to follow what was being said, particularly near the start, though that became less of a problem with time. Maybe it's a case of getting 'tuned in' to it.
And I also, regretfully, have to mention one additional thing. On one of the radio reviews I heard, someone mentioned that the priest loses "someone....er, something that he loved." He'd let the cat out of the bag about the fate of what was most likely to be a pet - and so it turned out to be (though not a cat). It happens as late as three-quarters through the film so for the first hour I'd been steeling myself for the moment, ready to look away from the screen. In the event it lasted for no more than a few seconds. But even so I wish it hadn't been there. (Why do they keep on doing this?)
Brendan Gleeson is amazing in the film's pivotal role and should, by rights, be seriously considered for an Oscar, though I'd imagine that the film's probable limited outlets for screenings would make it rather unlikely. But he does bring out the priest's inner turmoil, doubts and irascibility to perfection. It's both a mental and physical performance, one of the very best I've seen in a long time, completely convincing. It's vastly to the film's credit that, despite the paedophilia angle as well as the priest's own foibles, from the start it has the audience's sympathy on his side. Remarkable.
The wild, rugged and breathtaking landscape and Atlantic coast of that part of the island is also something rarely seen on the screen.
I see that this film doesn't open in America until August but I'd advise anyone, if they can't see it now, to jot down the title and give it a view when they can. Powerful stuff...............................8
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
An entirely new problem I had this morning was on this blog-site of mine where, instead of showing the blogs of everyone I follow, with their recent postings in chronological order, I was only getting the blogs of Dr Spo of SpoReflections. I don't know why his blog should have been picked out from the score or so for which I do look out. (I'm not complaining about that!) But I could only retrieve everyone else's blogs by deleting his name (hopefully, very temporarily) from my blog-list. (Dr Spo, if you're reading this I'll have to follow you by a special daily search until the problem goes away.)
Btw: A nephew of mine has gone in for the latest, 'Windows 8.1' but is having the world's own trouble which, he says, is causing widespread difficulties all over the place. But he lives 300 miles away and I have no one on hand to advise me what hardware and software to opt for and how to transfer my current files to the new contraption.
Anyway, if I go off-radar, this is the most likely reason. Just sayin'.
Now just to get any blog-readers bang up-to-date on other matters:-
I actually haven't seen any since my last posting of a fortnight ago because, frankly, there's been hardly anything at all which sounds worth seeing, at least to me.
I've been warned off 'Captain America'. Then 'Noah', from what I've read, is so dreadful I thought it might be worth going to see just for a laugh, but I'm not keen on spending money needlessly. Might see 'Divergent' next week, but not all that eager on yet another 'Hunger Games' type of thing.
The only film still playing I'd like to have seen is 'The Double'. However, showing times are frustratingly inconvenient though yet might manage it. And I am looking forward to seeing 'Calvary' in a week or two. But apart from that, nothing on the horizon, I think. But should I see anything which I'm still able to blog about I will do.
I was immensely gratified to have received so many messages of sympathy for the distressing discovery of my dear little ginger friend in my previous post. Naturally I realise that it's something we all have to go through - observing or being conscious of the death of others, humans or creatures, is an unavoidable aspect of life itself and we all have to take our 'turns' at experiencing it, some more than others.
But, as if to rub salt in the wound, Ginger's owner (the very same who made a veiled threat to me that I was to stop feeding Ginger), when it came to 'claiming' the poor thing, denied that the cat was his, saying that his own cat is ginger all over whereas Ginger was ginger and white.What a nerve! I know all the cats in this vicinity and there just is not another entirely ginger one around here. (Unless he keeps it 'imprisoned', but in that case why did he threaten me?). I reckon he's just trying to avoid the charge from the local council for removing Ginger who, I understand, is kept in a freezer awaiting claim for a few days, before being disposed of in whatever way they do it. But it's very sad that the owner, whom I haven't spoken to personally since it happened, now rejects his own 'child'.
And yet another tragic pussy-tale. I mentioned briefly in one of my responses to a comment in my last post that I was being visited every single day for the last two or three weeks by a 'new' little tortie which, I was pretty sure, was expecting kittens. Suddenly it's stopped coming - the last time was just two day's following my discovery of Ginger. Although I was, of course, dreading this little mum-to-be having its litter in my flat, its abrupt disappearance makes me feel the worst might have happened. It was very affectionate, and trusted me deeply, which is why she was coming here regularly, sleeping and sitting looking out of the window. None of the other cats took against her presence in the slightest. I fear she may well have been put down, though I'd still love her to re-appear without that swollen belly. I even fear that she might have come from the same home as Mr Nasty who's taken the opportunity to draw a line under his present pets. If so I only hope he doesn't have any more, but I fear he might yet cause further trouble in the future.
As if there wasn't already enough happening in my life I'm just getting over the heaviest cold and persistent cough I've had in what must be something like twenty years or more. At least I hope it's on the way out. It's been a monster. Eyes and nose streaming, hacking cough through the nights with lungs wheezing like a rusty old squeeze-box. Oh, it's been a trial! Started when, having had a callous removed from the sole of one of my feet which has been troubling me for over a year and prevented my regular morning jogging (not done since Summer 2012) I took to resuming it, trying to build up gradually. Unfortunately, despite the recent mild weather, the early morning climate appears to have disagreed with the attempt and that triggered the malaise. (All my life I've been particularly vulnerable around the neck/throat area. Strange how everyone seems to have their own particular physical 'Achilles Heel', though in my case it was much higher up.)
Anyway, as long as there isn't a relapse, I should be in the pink again in a few days time, fingers crossed.
So that's the situation, gentle readers. I don't often post on matters concerning my own life so I trust this quite lengthy entry should make up for past absences. It may be a long time before the next one.
I'll keep on using this prehistoric apparatus for as long as I can (the computer, I mean, not my body!) and post any film reviews I can before it all blows up in my face. I'll also keep commenting on your own blogs for as long as it allows.
So, if I do do a David Copperfield, don't fret. I'll get back somehow, though it could take a little while, and I'll see you on 'the other side'.