Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film: 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'.

This, the latest filmed project from the formidable imagination of J.K.Rowling, is the first of a projected series of five films. 

Set in 1926 New York (some 70 years before Harry Potter began his first term at Hogwarts) it has the likeable Eddie Redmayne as an itinerant globe-trotting magician carrying an old suitcase of live specimens of weird and wonderful beasts whose sizes vary all the way up to immense. When it's stolen by 'no-maj' (= 'muggle') Dan Fogler, the result is that all manner of its contents are freed with unintended consequences, creating havoc on the city and its residences, not the least being one of whom is Redmayne's nemesis in the form of Colin Farrell playing the anti-hero native magician. 
Redmayne is accompanied on his quests by the faithful but tested Katherine Waterston and is found in conflict with severely matriarchal Samantha Morton.

The film is directed by David Yates who also directed the final three Harry Potter filmed stories. Special effects abound all over the place, and are every bit as visually as impressive as one would expect. Those responsible for realising fertile Rowling's imagination on screen are to be congratulated.

I saw all the Potter films, of course (and read the first three books) and was troubled by finding every one of the former quite exhausting to watch (likewise those books to read) even though they were targeted as being, essentially, children's films. I could only assume that I was viewing them the wrong way - over-seriously, perhaps? So I did have a preconception that I would find this film likewise weighty. In the event I didn't find it quite as bad as all that, though I must say that the plot here was markedly more confusing than in the Potters. I was rapidly lost in the ins and outs of the exposition so just submitted to giving up and letting myself be taken where it wants to go. In doing that I did achieve a measure of being entertained, though I can hardly say that I'm especially keen on seeing the remainder of the series.

I think you'd have to be a Potter fan to get the maximum out of this film. I can't imagine many being disappointed by this if you'd been sad to see the Potter series finish. It's very much more of the same, though set decades earlier, and is sure to make admirers of H.P. feel satisfied that they'll continue to get their 'fix' in future planned productions of this franchise................6.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Film: 'Les Innocentes'

French-Polish film in those two languages (with some Russian), based on 1945 immediately post-war true story of aftermath of a Polish convent being pillaged by advancing Soviet soldiers, the 15 or so nuns therein having suffered rape, not just the once but also on two further 'visits' - with the consequence of half a dozen of them falling pregnant, their times of delivery being close together. 
As you can imagine, the story is unremittingly bleak - at least that is all apart from its conclusion which seemed to be tacked on to show that life after such a dark episode need not be entirely hopeless.

It begins in the convent with a girl in labour, who had been taken in by the nuns on account of her being rejected by her parents for having become pregnant. In need of help, one of the younger nuns sneaks out of the convent and seeks a French Red Cross nurse (Lou de Laage) working in a makeshift hospital which treats newly liberated French survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. After some persuasion she agrees to accompany the nun back, but without telling her Jewish boss (Vincent Macaigne), the head doctor-surgeon, with whom she's having an affair - he being the keener, she rather less passionate about the relationship. 
At the convent, and out of sight of the sternly inflexible mother-abbess (Agata Kulesza) - who herself carries consquences of the attack on the nuns, and who is determined to keep the entire episode as their own 'secret' so as to shield the convent's ordeal from the outside world - the nurse after delivering the baby, discovers the advanced state of pregnancy of one of the nuns and gets to know what had happened. She then examines all the nuns, to the horror of the mother-abbess who is afraid the nurse will leak out the story of what happened. On discovering the reality, the nurse has to perform a balancing act of concealment from her lover/boss in the hospital while assisting where she can with deliveries. The fate of the new-born babies might be regarded by those outside the church as heartless - at least one wretched case markedly so - whereas in the mind of the abbess the reputations of the convent and the Church are paramount.

There are crises of faith among the nuns while the mother-abbess clings rigidly to the notion that it's best all left to Providence and to an all-knowing God.

It hardly needs saying that the story is utterly horrifying, all set in a country at Winter-chill season with more than a fair dusting of snow on the rock-hardened earth. I dare suggest that the story is far from unique. Thankfully, we are spared any flashbacks of the original attacks on the nurses, which would have been horribly indulgent.

The only other film I've seen from director Anne Fontaine is 2009's 'Coco Before Chanel' to which I awarded a low '4' rating. 'The Innocents' is far better if only, by the very nature of what it relates, it's much more involving, though it has to be necessarily cold in illustration. And then there's the question of the positive ending. Whether that is also part of the true story or is simply put in to cast some much missed 'sunlight' onto all that's gone before, I have no idea.  Whatever, it's a story that needs to be told, and this film achieves it efficiently.................6.5.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Film: 'Arrival'

Mine won't be a popular view of this largely praised science fiction film, but I really did find it to be bordering on the ponderous. It took too long to say what it wanted, and when it did it was too little, albeit that the 'little' was merely the future of mankind, wrapped up in a predictable cosy glow of hope and amity. Goodness me! How original!

Amy Adams. a linguistics expert is called in by a Colonel (Forest Whitaker) of the American military,  to help interpret sounds emanating from within one of twelve enormous pod-like space capsules hovering over widely dispersed locations around the globe. She, along with another expert, Jeremy Renner, and a small group of military enter the pod and start making contact with the alien 'crew' from behind a translucent screen on which the latter draw puzzling circle-shaped symbols.
Much time is spent interpreting these symbols, interspersed with many flashes (far too many) of Adams playing or talking to her little daughter. If these 'punctuations' were supposed to speed up the slow action then they spectacularly failed as to me they seemed mere padding - and dull padding at that. And the film is all capped with a needlessly sentimental final few minutes.
The body of the film is played against a backdrop of nervous foreign governments threatening to attack and destroy these pods, the Chinese being to the fore in their influence with other countries.

The pods and the aliens themselves are depicted impressively and interestingly I thought, eschewing previous ideas of what aliens might look like. Likewise the sounds they made.

Two of director Denis Villeneuve's more recent films, 'Sicario' and 'Prisoners', were well worth viewing. I don't consider 'Arrival' to be in the same class. 

Once again I'm going to be in a minority in my view, but I did find this film to be far too laboured to be of especial positive significance...................5.5.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Film: 'Nocturnal Animals'

Intelligent, stylish, double-layered thriller with some harrowing moments - and a suspended ending which drew audible gasps of exasperation from the audience, which I can well understand without my sharing their sense of (presumably) feeling cheated.

This is only Tom Ford's second film as director/writer but is every bit as masterly as his 'A Single Man' of 2009.

Heading a terrific cast, Amy Adams is an art gallery owner which, it turns out, is illustrated by the film's opening credits which I can promise you is, erm, 'unforgettable'. (Tee hee!)
She receives a surprise package at home, a book written by her husband of 20 years previously (Jake Gyllenhall). dedicated to her with the same title of the film, which refers to a name he once affectionately called her. They have been out of touch with each other in the interim, her own present marriage now also falling apart, and this gift now causes her to wonder if she did the right thing in ending her first.
She begins reading and this story of fiction is shown in tandem with her current situation. 

In the story which she reads she sees herself in the part of Gyllenhall's wife again, these two characters now having an adolescent daughter. The three of them are driving on a lonely highway at night when they try to overtake another car which, apparently, won't let them pass. Eventually overtaking them, the girl makes a gesture to the car through the back window. Bad move. The other car contains three roughneck hill-billy types. The consequence is disturbing to say the least. 
Michael Shannon impressively plays an unrepentently heavy-smoking, phlegm-coughing. lung cancer-suffering state cop investigator.
There's also Michael Sheen and Laura Linney in the cast, the latter in just one scene practically unrecognisable as Adams' insufferably reactionary and unforgiving mother.

The film flits back and forth from the written story to real-life, Adams and Gyllenhall meeting up again after all these years, he keen to know what she thinks of his novel, she having previously dismissed his potential as a writer. Could there be a possibility of their getting back together again?

I found the film absorbing on both its independent strands, all beautifully photographed, some shots looking as though they would not be out of place mounted in Adams' own gallery. Background music was, very sensibly, not at all obtrusive.

I was thoroughly impressed with all aspects of this film. If there was any slight difficulty I could mention it's that one is regularly shown Amy Adams' silent face as she puts down the book having come to the end of a key episode or she is too upset by it to read on. Has she got too emotionally involved by getting drawn into the fictional situation? Is she trying to relate it to her present position? Exactly what is she thinking? We don't know, but one could argue that it's better left open for us to put our own interpretation on what her thoughts could be. I think it's a perfectly valid approach.

In summary, a fine cinematic experience - exactly what I was hankering after...........8.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Film: 'The Accountant'

Unexceptional, incoherent, violent 'thriller', Ben Affleck, being the eponymously nicknamed brain-on-legs. first working for criminal syndicates because of his head for figures and then, when taken on by State Department Treasury (boss, J.K.Simmons) finds that a goodly sum is disappearing from the Government's coffers and identifies the culprits. Stage is set for shoot-outs galore!

Affleck's role as a child, shows him as being autistic, some aspects of which carry over into adulthood. His father inculcated in him the need to stand up to anyone who sees him as a 'freak', first by fighting his similarly young brother (who also appears in adult guise elsewhere in the film). Never mind that they get bloodied, it's all part of the training! And then he gets further hardened by his father encouraging him by, in effect, emotional blackmail to stand up to juvenile gangs. (Far too many flashbacks to his childhood. They keep on coming long after we've got the message.)
Being autistic, he also possesses rare mental gifts - who would have thought it! - namely a photographic memory and a prodigious aptitude at mental arithmetic. So far, so dull. 

It's all plotted by-the-book - or, at least, I think it is as I very quickly got lost in the tortuous exposition. Not that it mattered too much. I just gave up and let it play on like a record that's finished and you can't be bother to get up to take it off the turntable.

Director is Gavin O'Connor who is yet to make his mark on film history, and he's not going to do it with this one.

It was only the illustrious presences of J.K.Simmons and John Lithgow who gave me anything like flickering enjoyment, resulting in its being rated higher than it might otherwise have been. However, in summary my recommendation is - forget it!...............4. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Film: 'The Light Between Oceans'

A fine story and some fine acting can't tip the balance against the negatives in this. The promise is all there but, alas, it's snookered by so much that's wrong with it.

Starting in 1918, Michael Fassbender, (who has never once disappointed me in the acting stakes), after serving in the Australian military, elects to go on a period of solitary seclusion by opting to man a lighthouse on a small offshore island. (Filmed in Tasmania). On a visit to the mainland he's taken by the sight of young, single Alicia Virkander - of whom more in a sec. Before very long they're married and start to live together on the island. Her failed experience(s) at giving birth leave them both feeling incomplete and deeply disappointed when, what should be seen drifting near their island? Only a rowing boat containing - yes, a baby, plus a dead man, presumably the baby's father. Seeing it as a 'sign' she takes the baby as her own, with him at first complicit, burying the man on the island and telling no one. They decide to pass the baby girl off as being their own child.
After a few years, with the girl now an infant, on a visit to the mainland again, and in one of those contrived coincidences used as a device to propel the story forward, he discovers the little girl's true mother, played by Rachel Weisz. He keeps this from his wife as long as he can though his inner conflict is apparent - until he starts making anonymous communication with the mother to assure her that her child is safe. Good story so far.

Now, that thorn-in-the-flesh that is Alicia Vikander. This is the fourth film I've seen her in the principal female starring role. In the first three I found that well over half her lines were so indecipherable as to make me wonder why she bothered to open her mouth at all. She obviously finds it too much effort to enunciate clearly - and so she is in this film. In fact, in just her first few lines of her initial appearance my heart sank in the realisation that she's learnt nothing. (In 'The Danish Girl', she might as well have been playing a mute as far as I was concerned!) It's a complete mystery to me as to why someone doesn't tell her. Are they afraid of her temper or what? Just because she became 'flavour of the month' a couple of years back does she think that she need not trouble herself with having respect for her audience? I'm sure she's pretty enough to look at, if you like that sort of thing, but I really do expect her to work for her money. I'd defy anyone to tell me what she's saying half the time or more. I can only assume that  everyone else is too embarrassed to say that they cannot catch her words for fear of other people thinking they might be going deaf. A case of 'The Emperor's New Clothes', I'd say.

Anyway, having got that off my chest, another major criticism I have of the film is that the background music is far too pervasive - it just can't shut up! Nearly all of it is sentimental slush, as though the story is incapable of speaking for itself. If you want to see how perfectly valid sentiment should be treated, I refer to the recently seen and superb 'I, Daniel Blake' directed by the veteran master, Ken Loach, someone who knows exactly how much to give it on screen - and then to just let go. Don't have it as a hovering background ghost for the entire rest of the film. 
The fairly unimaginative script too left something to be desired. 
Director (and writer) Derek Cianfrance draws excellent acting from at least Fassbender and Weisz, and virtually all the minor characters, but other than that it's a lacklustre affair, not helped by it being two and a quarter hours in length, which could easily have had 30 minutes lopped off, especially in the final scenes replete with implausibilities.

This could have been so much better, having, as it does, a really absorbing story. A finer director - and the replacement of the female lead - as well as some judicious editing, could have made it a superior experience to what it was..............5.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Film: 'Doctor Strange'

I wasn't familiar with this comic book character, but I don't think it's relevant. Word is that the main attraction is the special effects, taking this film onto quite another level. I agree, and that is after seeing it on a less-than-large screen and in 2D. It could well be visually mind-blowing in Imax and with 3D specs, in which format it is also released.  
As to the content of the storyline, well I thought it began in fairly interesting fashion and maintained its hold for the first half of its almost two hours. Thereafter it hit the formulaic buttons resulting in my soon becoming weary. 

Benedict Cumberbatch, leading a stellar quartet of actors, is an arrogant, cocksure, New York neurosurgeon, Dr Stephen Strange, tapping his foot to music whilst performing an intricate operation. While driving home he undergoes an horrific accident resulting in multiple injuries, most notably his hands, rendering him incapable of continuing his work, and which looks like pulling the curtains down on his career. He hears about a man who had similarly extensive neural injuries but was now re-functioning normally. On seeking him out he's told that he was put right by a visit to a place in Nepal. So Strange decides to go there himself (and why not?) and is there overheard making enquiries by Chiwetel Ejiofor who takes him to a building dedicated to esoteric arts presided over by Tilda Swinton as the mysterious and super-powerful 'Ancient One'. He gets a crash course from her on the development of these powers - powers of attack, defence, manipulating reality, time suspension, visiting other dimensions, and many more. He laps it all up and quickly becomes adept, avidly trying to achieve more than is normally allowed for a novice. 
Meanwhile, these forces for 'good' are being challenged by arch-villain Mads Mikkelsen and his gang. Cue many conflicts, fights between the positive and negative , both in the real world and in other dimensions where buildings are tipped and folded over onto themselves, as we saw in 'Inception', now achieved with even greater flawless proficiency. I was impressed.

However, the basic story is quite routine. We all know who is going to win so it's only a question of waiting for him to do it.

Director Scott Derrickson delivers the goods, though there's only limited scope for the cast to display any emotional interaction.

If it wasn't so spectacular and noisy I might have fallen asleep, though I do repeat that it must gain a lot by being seen in big, BIG screen - and additionally in 3D......................5.5

Film: 'I, Daniel Blake'

This is the most heart-rending film I've seen not just in this year but in several years. It's been much talked about in this country and has gained wide praise as being something quite exceptional, which is precisely what it turned about to be.

The film constitutes a howl of protest, desperation and frustration against a government-invoked system for claiming unemployment state benefits, describing itself as 'caring', in particular for those worst placed financially, even though all the evidence speaks otherwise. 

I knew it was going to be hard to watch, dealing as it does, with an ageing, widowed man, a former carpenter in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, still of working age but caught in a 'Catch 22' situation of having a heart condition for which his doctor classes him as being unfit for work, yet is deemed to be capable of working according to physical ability criteria set by the government. He is put in the position of having to look for and apply for work, and providing evidence that he's done so  - work which, if offered to him, he cannot accept. If he doesn't do this he's under threat of losing his benefits for a period, that length of time increasing on each occasion he fails to do what is required.   
In a visit to a Social Security office he witnesses an argument between a single mother of two small children who's just moved up to the north-east from London, and a claimants clerk who maintains that because she's a few minutes late for her appointment (a late bus to blame) she has to start the process again. The man intervenes on her behalf and, for his pains, gets ejected from the building with the family by cold, impersonal staff who are just "following the rules they are given". 
He strikes up a friendship with the young mother, modestly helping her out with his carpentry and other skills where he can. The film follows the rise and falls (nearly all 'falls') in the fortunes of these two, in similar circumstances though disparate as a pair. 

There are distressing moments, when they come up time and time again against the wall of officialdom which requires everybody to act 'just so', and if they fall short in any respect, if they don't tick the necessary boxes, they will suffer in consequence. Just too bad for them! How the young female is, during the film's course, reduced to particular states in two different senses, is frightening and troubling, to say the least.  

The man is played by Dave Johns (better known for his TV appearances here in a range of roles) and the young mother by Hayley Squires. who has made a number of films, though none quite as up-front as she is here.There's already talk of the two of them being certs for award nominations. They are both so outstandingly good in this film that if they don't get at least nods for the BAFTAs it would be a grave injustice - and Oscar nominations would also be well deserved.

It's a Ken Loach film. Loach, now 80 and a lifelong ardent socialist, has been, through his long line of politically-edged films, a thorn in the side of Conservative governments for over half a century - and this is surely his most polemical film of them all.

I've just two complaints about this otherwise excellent film. The first is my old bugbear of indistinct dialogue. Being set in Newcastle, many of the accents are Geordie  - a part of the country not far from where I myself hail, so I normally don't have any trouble with the dialect. But the delivery of the words here sometimes leaves something to be desired - most especially when there's a scene change and in this film, instead of the action moving in next shot straight to the new scene there's a slow fade-to-blank screen a number of times, giving the impression that what's just been said is of crucial importance. Sad, then, that on at least two occasions I couldn't make out what the final words of the most recent scene were when they were obviously material to the development.
The second reservation is that one of the children, the girl aged about 9-10(?), is so refined and speaks in such mature tones, unlike her mother and younger brother, that she is scarcely believable.

However, even with these two provisos it didn't shake me from my conclusion that this is indeed a remarkable film. I was deeply moved a number of times and, I'm not ashamed to say, actually came out of the cinema moist-eyed. I wouldn't be at all surprised to be told that quite a proportion of the always totally-attentive audience would have experienced a stage or two even beyond that condition............8.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Film: 'Jack Reacher - Never Go Back'.

I've been trying to identify something original about this film. Anything! Still struggling. We've seen it all before numerous times.
Tom Cruise reprises his creation of Lee Child's invincible, hard-man, quick-thinking, violent character - righting wrongs and saving the world in the process. 

His earlier position as army major leads to his being a useful target for framing and put out of the way as part of a government conspiracy involving opium trading with fighters in Afghanistan. All too complex for me to want to remain engaged. It involves his freeing from detention of a female military general (Cobie Smulders - a name I'd never heard of, just like all the rest of the cast) and both go on the run as two wanted figures, along with a 15-year old girl (further complications I can't be bothered to explain - heigh ho!).  
Action starts in Washington then moves down to New Orleans, culminating in (guess what?) yes, fleeing during one of the city's grand costumed parades! 

Many fights both with fists and weapons with the couple's pursuers, all very violent, all very predictable.
Edward Zwick's film as director ought to be best appreciated by those who aren't familiar with this kind of film, and how many of those can there be?

Will there be a third Jack Reacher film? I do hope not, but if there is it had better have something more to say than this one............5. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Film: 'Valley of Love'

Very unusual, this. Despite its dreadful English title, which is apparently also used in France (director, Guillaume Lecloux) it's set in and around Death Valley, Calif., and stars Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu - their duologue (which comprises 95% of the film's talk) being entirely in French.

They play a long-divorced couple having been out of contact with one another for years (she, now re-married but in the throes of another divorce, he still single) brought together by each getting letters from their son some months previously, in which the son tells them that he has now killed himself, without proffering them any reason why. He'd become estranged from both of them years before, they not having concerned themselves too much with his withdrawal from their lives, though they know that he had gone to live in San Francisco with his male lover. But the most curious thing about the letter is that he says he will briefly re-appear to them on a day when they are at one of the seven official Death Valley view-sites at a certain time, meaning that at that particular hour for a week they must be at one of the locations. Of course, they have no idea about what he could mean, they having travelled from their homes in France, but now their meeting up again dredges up a range of recriminations on both sides about their past, though a residual affection between the two of them keeps resurfacing in spite of their bickering moments. It's Depardieu who is the more sceptical of the two of them by a long way - which begs the question as to why did he bother to come, though the son did stipulate that they must both be there together.

As you can surmise, very big, mysterious questions are raised from early on in the film. I can tell you now that those who demand resolutions are going to feel short-changed by the time of the final credits, which is very much the way with filmic riddles these days. I didn't feel dissatisfied at all. There were very faint echoes of one of my all-time favourite films, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', which left its audience gasping for answers, yet was brilliantly effective. I don't class this new film anywhere near the exemplary exercise in mystery that was 'Picnic', though the conclusion of things left in the air was extremely similar.

I've also got to say that Depardieu (now 67) has become huge, with a belly as big as two barrels. (Luckily, the film is in widescreen!) His spending much of the time here without a shirt - because of the oppressive heat, even though it was supposed to be November! - is a less than savoury sight. 
Huppert at 53, manages to look younger than she actually is.

I thought both lead roles were marvellously acted - their showing in alternate fashion both tetchiness and mutual affection.

For myself, I found considerable satisfaction with the film, much more than some of the unenthusiastic reviews I've seen. I'd recommend it quite strongly, but with the sole proviso that you're prepared to come away from it with questions remaining unanswered.....................7.

On making an exit from the cinema this afternoon.........

.......I espied this pavement billboard outside one of the adjacent eateries:-

I don't know how widespread this can be viewed - and in particular, whether it's shown in the U.S.A. (if it is, then with one word spelt the American way, of course), but it gave me a chuckle. I hope that if you also haven't seen it before then it may do the same for you.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Film: 'Swiss Army Man'

Completely preposterous story from beginning to end - as were also my last two films reviewed, 'Miss Peregrine' and 'Inferno' - though this was better than both, and certainly not having the over-serious pretensions of the latter.

For all but the final minutes of the film there are only two characters, played by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, but the story is so absurd, yet totally original, that it held my interest right through. I've never heard of anything like it either in literature or certainly not on film. Having said that, I was yet not spectacularly impressed, though it certainly had its moments.

Paul Dano, is about to hang himself, apparently having been living as a castaway on a deserted island, and grown tired of living alone. Dishevelled and bushy-bearded, he's just about to step off for the noose to tighten when he espies a body (Radcliffe, of course) washed up on the beach. Investigating that it really is a corpse, he's about to give up and return to the task of suicide when he's intrigued by the sound of built-up gases escaping from the deceased. (An oft-repeated but key 'joke' this, so if one finds farting funny, there'll be laughs galore throughout the film.)
Pulling the body onto dry land he tries to resuscitate life into it but gives up, though allowing it to keep him company in his lonely existence. To his utter amazement he finds that, despite its state of decomposing, the body starts to talk, initially in slurred, disjointed fashion, then sightly more coherently so that he can even have conversations with it.  
He also gradually discovers that the corpse has a number of features which he can use to his advantage, hence the film's title. Although it cannot move without his assistance, he gets it to use an astonishing inordinate physical strength in various activities, some of which involve using gas expulsion. In its talking, it seems the body has forgotten what life was like and Dano has to teach it/him the basics. In an old magazine, when Radcliffe sees a certain photograph of a beautiful girl he becomes aroused and prominently tumescent under his trousers, this seeming to be the only activity he can do himself, even though it's involuntary. (Very unrealistic depiction, this - at least in my experience I've never seen such an actively 'mobile' one! But so what? The entire story requires a complete suspension of disbelief!) 
Dano now has been given a direction to his life, his mission now to instruct Radcliffe on the art of courtship, and with makeshift skirt and wig he shows the corpse how to achieve success with the female sex. 
One of the numerous curious qualities which the Radcliffe corpse had was that he could belch up drinkable water for Dano. As Radcliffe had been drowned, why wasn't he bringing up sea-water? But this was just one of the countless holes in the story, which doesn't play well if one dwells too much on it. You just have to dismiss such nit-picking and let the story run on regardless.
Can't say too much more without spoiling it, and definitely not what the end comprises. 
I've been rather bemused by reading some of the 'interpretations' read into this film by some viewers, including those going to extraordinary lengths to rationalise the story, theorise on its meanings and to suggested 'symbolism'. I'll have no truck with that. It's just an entertainment, for heaven's sake, and I don't think it was intended to be any more than that. 

Both Dano and Radcliffe give spirited performances, one might say, - though in the case of the latter I think 'lifeless' would be a better description, here in the most appreciatively appropriate sense.

It's jointly written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, both of whom played parts, most notably, in the 'My Best Friend's Wedding' project with Julia Roberts.

I give the film very high marks for originality and cheeky daring, though the final result left me feeling just a bit short of what it could have been. Its being very slightly over 90 minutes in length is another point in its favour. If you're particularly fond of fart jokes you might think it of greater worth than my own.................6.5.