Thursday, 11 August 2016

Film: 'The Commune' ('Kollektivet')

If you're in a bleak mood, you'll find precious little cheer to uplift you in this (subtitled) Danish film.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg who managed the highly commendable 2015 version of 'Far from the Madding Crowd', this is a film which is darker and heavier than I'd hoped for.

Set in the 1970s in a town north of Copenhagen, a married couple at the high end of middle age (Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen - she a TV newsreader, he a University lecturer), wish to move with their 14-year old daughter into the very same house in which he'd grown up as a child. But it's now a house that's far too big for just the three of them, with the rent and upkeep costs being unaffordable. So a friend is invited to join them as a live-in to help enable them to pay their way. Then another friend is similarly invited, then another couple (with a 7-year old son suffering from, a heart condition and who's convinced that he's not going to survive beyond nine years old)....and so on. In the end there are ten individuals living together. 
Tensions simmering under the surface are largely (but not always) kept under control. However, the dynamics of the group are changed radically when the lecturer embarks on an affair with one of his much younger, though more mature, female students (24 years old). When he tells his wife (his daughter having accidentally found them together) she puts a brave face on it and, superficially at least, allows him to carry on with his new partner with her blessing - eventually the new woman joining the commune too.
But of course it can't continue long like that, the wife getting removed from her TV role after 'losing it' on-screen, then getting a bit drunk and turning up home at the communal meal where truths start getting told.  

The ensemble casting in this film is of a high order, even if some of the characters didn't have full credibility to me. I could have done with some lighter episodes to relieve the pervading heavy atmosphere but they weren't much in evidence. In fact the entire film struck me as being over-serious, at times quite hard-going. Despite that, and the fact that the film is needlessly prolonged at just short of two hours length, I wasn't terribly bored, even if I didn't want to stay in the company of this group longer than I had to. Not really a bad film, though neither is it one which I'd care to sit through again.......................5.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Film: 'Weiner'

After too long an interval, I've at last managed to return to seeing a film outside the mainstream releases. 

The story of Anthony Weiner's 2013 campaign to become Democrat mayor of New York had been retained only on the edge of my awareness, and that because of what he became notorious for - texting selfies of his intimate parts with 'lewd' texts to women he'd never met. I didn't even recall his name, though with such a name as the one he possessed I ought to have remembered.

This film is a fly-on-the-wall account of his campaign, without commentary - only comments from himself as his attempts to retain respectability descend into near farce as his lies and evasions became public - and by instalments, thanks to the 'judicious' timing of the women involved - plus, of course, gleeful remarks from political commentators from across the political spectrum. 

At the end of the film, Weiner is asked why he'd allowed the cameras to follow him around and his reply is that he thought it would give a more rounded picture of the man he was rather than the media's obsession with just the one aspect of his personal life. Unfortunately for him, the film has been edited to show, almost exclusively, reactions to the very subject he didn't want covered. All the while his wife Huma (an assistant to Hillary Clinton) is very present, sometimes attending press conferences with him, trying to put a brave face on it and smiling through gritted teeth. I must say her 'stand by your man' stance is exemplary for those who think that that is exactly what she ought to have done.

There's hardly any discussion at all of his policies. 
Within a very short while his ratings dropped from being strong favourite to win the mayoral election to, on the day, actually coming in last place of the half-dozen candidates, with less than 5% of the vote. An ignominious result, indeed.

The film didn't strike me as being particularly judgmental. though one could argue that its construction was hardly designed to be sympathetic, portraying a political figure who had no one but himself to blame for his fate.
Knowing next to nothing about the man I also am unable to make a judgment other than to say that because I feel instinctively more favourably inclined towards politicians of a liberal/socialist disposition, he did strike me as a tragic figure who shouldn't have been solely judged on his particular (and unfortunate) peccadilloes. However, if this had happened to a hard-right politician in any country at all, especially so in Great Britain, I admit that I would have been crowing with delight.

I'd be interested to know what others, particularly the Americans among you, now think of this man now that the dust has settled - was he a self-destructing fool, a man unfairly condemned, or someone in between?

The film was something of an education for me, and in that respect I found it both entertaining and informative. I do, however, wonder what I would have thought of this film had I already had an opinion of the man.....................6.5.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Just in case I seem to have disappeared.......

Couldn't get this computer to start yesterday afty and evening. Had visions during a sleep-deprived night of my taking it to repair shop this morning. Been playing around with it since 3 a.m., and then suddenly I got in - but, as is often the case, don't know what I did to achieve it. And now I daren't turn the darned thing off!
So just to let y'all know, especially in the light of recent 'events', that if I'm 'gone' or not available for a while I'm really still here, and that nothing untoward has happened. (At least I hope that'll be true).

No need to write any comments - after all, you've all been here, haven't you?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Film: 'Jason Bourne'

Following a recent 'event' in my life, it wasn't the happiest of choices to re-start my film-watching routine with one that features a considerable number of bone-crunching facial impacts - both bare-fisted and with any object near at hand. However, there being  the usual Summertime paucity of adult films around, there was hardly a varied selection from which to choose.

Matt Damon returns to the title role, once again outsmarting and outclassing everyone else in intelligence, physical prowess, determination and sheer guile.  
It's an insubstantial story this; suffice it to say that it involves a hacking into CIA records which occasions Bourne's returning to public life after having gone 'invisible' since his last appearance, and his quest to find out the truth behind the death of his father some years previously.
Tommy Lee Jones is the CIA boss holding the cards, determined that Bourne, on his re-surfacing, be prevented at all costs from finding out what would be detrimental to state security. One of the CIA assistants is Alicia Vikander (is she sympathetic to Bourne?.....or not?) and yet again with her tendency to mumble her lines, though here not quite as bad as she was in 'Ex Machina' and 'The Danish Girl'.
And the principal enemy (for Bourne) 'action man' is mean and tough Vincent Cassell, who just will not lie down.

Apart from CIA HQ in Virginia, action flits from Athens to Reykjavik, to Berlin, to London and to Las Vegas. Lots of chases with chug-a-chug soundtrack, very rowdy at times. It's an 'action' film in its true meaning, there being little plot movement or character development (none at all, in fact). Yet for me it did deliver an adequate measure of entertainment value.

Director Paul Greengrass, a veteran of the Jason Bourne series, knows full well what he's doing and where it's all going, and he succeeds in pulling off a reasonably gripping, tightly-paced piece, the final motor vehicles pursuit being quite the most prolonged and interesting I've seen in some while. 

This film is not by any means the best of the Bourne series; nor is it even the second-best - but I still rather liked it.............6.5. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Touched over and over again - dental progress report.

I've been truly and movingly overwhelmed by the extent of the sympathy accorded to me following my recent tumbling mishap -and I keep saying that I have no friends! Though of course I'm then referring to people present or available in the flesh. But even then I've got my three pussycats - though they give me precious little sympathy, their top priority, their sole priority, being my giving them their eats, no matter what condition I'm in.

Anyway, had my first professional examination today from my dentist - a rather sweet, youngish, Rumanian lady, Florentina who, I doubt, is even over 40. 
Although the facial swellings and bruisings have gone down, they are still visible in the lips and gums. She had an exploratory look at the teeth damage but was reluctant to poke around or even do X-rays, as it's still painful for me to 'open wide'. So, another appointment next Mon, by which time she hopes that with medications she's prescribed (antibiotics, more powerful pain-relief tablets and a mouthwash to compensate for inability to brush) I'll be in a better position for her to pry and have a mooch inside.
I've already started the week-long course of medication and am feeling a bit perkier knowing that I'm at last getting seen to by a professional. 

So, really not much happened in the way of actual 'repair works', but I'm feeling substantially happier now knowing that the process has started. It also gives me a bit of time to get preparations in place for the certain heavy financial consequences.

So that's how things are as at now, my friends. Ever so grateful for all your concerns, but it looks like you don't need to worry quite so much now. I'll let you all know if I have a 'relapse'  - or (heaven forbid!) take another tumble. 
Hoping to resume cinema visits later this week.

Thanks again, from the heart, to all! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

I just want to hide and come out when the bad dream is over.

Less than two years since the last time and I've done it again - taken a heavy fall on the pavement outside - though this time much more spectacularly with results that will be longer-lasting and with consequent greater costs to rectify the facial damage, mainly teeth.

Going out this morning around 7 o'clock (four hours ago) for a morning jog along seafront, just before I got to starting point, I don't know what it was that made me tumble, but I bit the concrete with a violence. Bleeding heavily from somewhere I wasn't sure, hurried back home to find that it was both chin (under the beard) and that I'd split the bottom lip in two separate places, and which has now swelled up. But most conspicuously, I've 're-arranged' my front teeth, the four most prominent ones. One of the incisors has been pushed right up into the gum looking as though the bottom half has snapped off, though I can still see it. The adjacent front tooth has been skewed into a diagonal position, and a third is protruding forward. In addition, there's a large bruise to the side of my right eye, now turning purple. It is not a pretty sight. Oh Lordy! My face looks pummelled as if I'd just been in a pub brawl.

Rang the doctors even though it's hard to speak (my whole face looking like that of someone who's just had a stroke down one side) and explained what had happened and whether I should report for a tetanus injection. Surprised to be told by receptionist, who rang me back after consulting nurse, that it wouldn't be necessary, even though my last such injection was 30 years ago.
Anyway, I'll let that simmer while I think about making an appointment to discuss options for dental repair works, which is no way going to be cheap.

Still shaken by it all. My need is to go to bed and have a couple of hours blissful sleep in a world where this never happened. But I can't yet - Noodles is hungry and he's letting me know it!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Film: 'Ghostbusters'.

I so did not want to expend money and time on seeing this - but, hey, when duty calls........! Also, with screens filling up showing kiddies' films before most schools have even broken up for the Summer hols, my increasingly infrequent visits of late was starting to engender withdrawal symptoms in me. However, this film has had poor, even some stinking reviews (current IMDb average rating is 4/10) - and to add to all that, there's been talk of boycotts of the film for a perceived anti-male prejudice, as well as some (even many!) being let down by the titular gang of four being all-female whereas, of course, in the 1984 original film they were men.
I haven't seen that original one again, and its sequel of five years later, since they were first released half my lifetime in the past, and didn't find them particularly entertaining - just plain daft! (The sequel was just totally forgettable). So, all in all, this one had better be good! And, you know what? Against all the odds, I quite liked it.

The background story of how and why the quartet of fighters got together is not especially relevant. (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon - the last being the only irritating one with her wisecracking, know-it-all attitude). 
The story itself is flimsy and little more than an excuse for employing spectacular special effects,  particularly in the extended final confrontation which takes up about a third of the film. Though yet....and yet....director Paul Feig (also the co-writer) does manage to hold it together with some flair, helped enormously by some sassy lines in a superior script. If there were any demeaning, anti-male barbs I missed them. The film held my attention right through without evincing a single yawn.
In addition to welcome cast member Charles Dance, there are a couple of brief cameo appearances from Bill Murray, one of the original 'gang'. (Another of that number, Dan Aykroyd, is the film's executive producer). Then, during the final credits, interspersed with several short, wind-it-up scenes, is a fleeting appearance from another of the original's cast, Sigourney Weaver.

So this is the second film in a row where my low expectations were confounded. I don't doubt that going in with that attitude helped me to enjoy the films more. And experiencing enjoyment is what it's all about.........6.