Monday 31 December 2012


Based on his book, which I read many moons ago, Rushdie both adapts it for the screen and he himself provides the voice-over narration. So one has to assume that he is satisfied with the result.

It chronicles the life of a baby boy born to a poor couple, who is the victim, shortly after birth, of a hopelessly misguided, though well-meaning, baby-swap in a maternity ward into an affluent household. (A sort of 'Prince and the Pauper' scenario). We see the boy growing up right into his 30s - all against a backdrop of Indian independence in 1947, war with, and separation, of Pakistan and the secession from the latter of Bangladesh in the 1970s. The boy, then man, with whom he was swapped becomes his rival - the secret kept by the woman who did the swap becomes his (the upper class one's) ayah or nanny, until when he's a young man, conscience-stricken, she blurts out to his purported 'parents' what she did.

I found the whole film a very heavy experience. It's of almost epic-length (very nearly 2 1/2 hours) and is virtually entirely humourless from start to finish. I don't recall one single, fleeting, smile-worthy moment. Even the festivities of wedding celebrations are comparatively staid.
Naturally, to cover some 60 years (it starts with the main character's grandfather in 1917) it must necessarily be episodic, but the jumps in time were not handled any more than perfunctorily.
I would single out for acting honours Satya Bhabha playing the main character, Saleem, as adult - but even moreso, Seema Biswas as the ayah harbouring her dreadful guilty secret. 

It's by no means a bad film - but neither is it one to remember for long afterwards. It's failure to set my interest alight compels me to score it no more than a...................5/10

Monday 24 December 2012

My TEN most enjoyed films of 2012

A prime example of what cinema can do best. Near-faultless, fantastical tale of human emotions, adventure, whimsy and suspense. Scorsese continues to surprise us with the astonishing range of his cinematic artistry. A stand-out production in all respects.

An object lesson in how to adapt from one medium to another with imagination, confidence and panache. It mightn't have worked - indeed, for some, it didn't - but I find it hard to point to anything here I'd like to have changed. Even its modest and digestible length, compared to what the original source might have demanded, was one of its strengths - and that, coupled with acting of a uniformly high order, made it a peak of my cinema-going this year.

Possibly my most controversial choice for inclusion here. Relentlessly funny, though many didn't see it as such. I was on the required wavelength from the word 'go' - watching with delight as those four masks slipped and poses cracked. It's the old cliche about being on a roller-coaster and can't get off, but this is exactly where this quartet finds itself. The trajectory they must follow is advance-determined. Terrific entertainment.

Another funny one, but with more light and shade. Humour concerning manual manipulation of the female leading to the invention of the vibrator. Exceedingly amusing without being overly vulgar. All coupled with top-notch acting equals high entertainment value.

One of the true surprises of the year. A real achievement to make such a suspenseful film out of a fact-based story whose outcome is known, even if the final escape as depicted was somewhat engineered for filmic ends. A hugely significant contribution from Affleck and his team.

Original (to me) story and a gripping family drama. Clooney proves again that he can really pull something out of the hat.

Corrupt police, drug dealing, characters scarily unhinged, bloody violence - what's not to like? Effective drama. A surprise.

Modest, British crime caper involving two caravanners who inadvertantly become serial killers. Despite the sombre subject, some funny moments and, though only seen a couple of weeks ago, I already want to see again. It got under my skin.

I'd have to include this somewhere, though in many people's lists it might be higher than this position. It earns its place for me by being an original concept (at least for these days) and, despite its flimsy storyline, still being compelling entertainment.

Norwegian thriller, twisting and turning with such effectiveness as is rarely seen. Keeps one on one's toes right to the end - and beyond!

And the films I saw which, though well-deserving of a place, didn't quite make the final cut:-

The Iron Lady
The Deep Blue Sea
The Hunger Games
Woody Allen - a Documentary
The Imposter

Films I really badly wanted to see but couldn't or wouldn't - 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', 'End of Watch' and 'Tyrannosaur', the last one I deliberately missed because it starts with the kicking to death of a dog. Pity, as it had everything else going for it.

It's been, on the whole, an exceptionally good year, with real clunkers being less in evidence than at other times. Here's hoping that 2013 follows the pattern!

Friday 14 December 2012


I see from the IMDb site that, as at now, over 60% of people who have seen this film give it a 'couldn't be better' score of 10/10. I wouldn't go that far by quite some way, but I certainly did enjoy it as superior entertainment.

I went to see this more as a 'dutiful' viewing rather than with great enthusiasm. Not that I dislike the books, far from it, but I don't belong to the hordes of avid fans of the characters as portrayed in both the four novels and on screen. Also, not being quite as familiar with the source material of this particular film than I was for the 'Rings' trilogy, it probably helped in that I hadn't a ready recollection of what was going to happen next - notwithstanding the fact that this film and its two forthcoming companions greatly expand the tale as written.

There was obvious padding out, unusually and needlessly, towards the start of the film. Of course the link with its sequels-in-time had to be done, but for some time after that the scene-setting did go on more than I needed to see. But, when that was over, I found the film getting progressively more interesting. The scenery throughout  is absolutely ravishing, I'd claim even more so than it looked in the 'Rings'. Perhaps C.G.I. was used for part of it, particularly in superimposing figures onto a particular landscape, but most of it looked authentic - and quite breathtaking too. 

The high point for me was, as it was in the previous films, the appearance of Gollum. What a magnificent job Andy Serkis and the computer chaps have done in creating one of the most memorable characters ever to appear on the cinema screen. His appearances alone (not very long in the totality of the film), were worth the price of the ticket. Compulsive viewing indeed.

I liked Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo Baggins (one can imagine easily him ageing into Ian Holm) - and just about all the other characters were well up to the demands. Particularly pleasing to see Christopher Lee back, even for just a very few minutes, after cruelly being excised out of 'Rings 3'.

I'm quite looking forward to the next part - something I wasn't expecting to be saying. Meantime my own rating for 'An Unexpected Journey' is a fine...............7/10

Thursday 13 December 2012


I had to fight hard against a strong resistance to liking this film for the totally unfair reason that I've got Dickens overflowing out of every single orifice by now, having (yawn!) re-read all the novels in this bi-centennial anniversary year of his birth. (Sorry, but I promise not to mention it again - at least in 2012.) But, pleased to report, it won me over.

This is the celebrated tale of a boy being elevated from his menial life in a smithy by a mysterious benefactor, to be brought up in London as a 'gentleman', among a largely odious bunch of Hooray Henrys. His required attendance on the enigmatic and embittered Miss Havisham who entertains herself by making him associate with the snobbish and spoilt Estella to whom he finds himself increasingly attracted - unrequited love, his see-saw of fortunes, revealed identities - all these are the ingredients of a quite masterful story, certainly one of the author's very best - and that really is saying something!

The film has a good momentum, fine location shooting, very atmospheric and a good cast among whom I would single out Jason Flemyng, totally convincing as Pip's uneducated uncle Joe Gargery.
Now, as to the ubiquitous Helena Bonham Carter, whom even I thought was far too young for the role of Miss Havisham, a character I think we all see as a senile, wizened beldam (and made even more of a substantial part in this film than she is in the novel)  - I heard an interview with her only last week when that very point was put. She explained, quite convincingly, that if one worked out her age from what Dickens reveals about her late in the novel, she would be unlikely to have been aged mid-40s at most. I've checked this out and I'm inclined to agree. H.B.C. suggests that we have become so dependent on thinking of the character portrayed in visual representations, films and TV adaptations as a brittle and hardened old crone that we take this as Dickens' vision too. (Mind you, if the author had got his own calculations wrong, it would be by no means a unique case!) I'm prepared to accept that what she says is true, and next time I read 'Gt.Exp.' I'll bear it in mind.

My only real complaint (yet again) is the insistent music which tries to dictate the emotions we should be feeling at any given point. But it's not a serious blemish on an otherwise very worthy adaptation..............7/10 

Tuesday 11 December 2012


The second comedy film in two days to feature a series of murders as the raison d'etre of its black humour. And not only that, but both films have a significant, though not central, canine element. I enjoyed this one more by some way.

'Sightseers' has a small cast (entirely unknown to me), a clearly much smaller budget than 'Seven Psychopaths', lower ambitions, more restrained in execution and shorter than yesterday's film by half an hour - and it all works a treat!

A youngish London couple go off for a caravan (and 'bonking')  holiday to Yorkshire and the Lake District. Immediately on reaching their first destination they encounter a litter lout and, being given the finger, he silently snaps inside - running the chap over 'accidentally' and killing him. She is shocked and he feigns remorse - but he has now been bitten by the 'killing bug'. When he gets irritated by another couple's pretentiousness he disposes of the guy - and she steals their dog to replace her own pet, which had met its end in a brief, grisly flashback, by accident a year previously. But she has now also been 'infected' by the same murder bug. They continue on their travels, each of them now putting an end to those people to whom each takes a dislike. (There aren't, in fact, that many of them). A lot of the humour arises from their shared nonchalance at killing which was not at all premeditated when they'd embarked on their travels. They both retain a sense of detachment from the consequences of their killing spree though she develops an additional 'nasty streak' culminating in a slight twist in the very closing moments which, despite being not entirely surprising, leaves me with an uncomfortable after-taste. Unlike the film I saw yesterday, this one manages to maintain its darkly comic tone almost right through to the end.

The two main characters make an engaging couple who certainly have their laughs together. However, also with regular tiffs and sulks, we are still on their side from the very start, and can smile along at their outrageously criminal behaviour. (Shame on me!) Incidentally, the killings, though brutal, are not depicted quite so egregiously as in yesterdays '7 Psychos'.

It's a very 'English film' and I fear that there's a parochial appeal to it which may not find a ready market outside this country. But one never knows - such unexpected turn-outs have happened before. I certainly hope it does in this case.

No reservations at all in rating 'Sightseers' a .................7.5/10

Btw: I saw this film on my first visit to Brighton's newest cinema - a 2-screener above a theatre mainly for stand-up comics. This particular auditorium is a very plush and ultra-comfortable 90-seater with, proportionally, a huge screen. Pity that I was one of an audience of only five. But it was an 11.15 a.m. showing - and it's early days yet so here's hoping that word is yet to spread around. I do so want it to survive, despite the extra calls which will be made on my own wallet. 

Monday 10 December 2012


I had almost decided not to see this film, on the grounds that it featured the kidnapping of dogs in order to extract rewards from their owners. I was afraid we were going to be shown the depiction of animals in distress or suffering, even if they were not so in real life. In the event my concern was misplaced.

I was eventually drawn into going, not just by the high-quality cast list, but it also being director/writer Martin McDonagh's first film since the well-above-average 'In Bruges' of 2008.

Colin Farrell plays a heavy-drinking, Hollywood screenplay writer who already has the title of his next project, the name of this very film. All he's got to do now is to write a story to fit it. His live-in chum, Sam Rockwell, offers his own suggestions and more. They search out likely candidates to fit the bill - and unwittingly find themselves having got involved with the criminal underworld. Here the film deliberately (I assume) mixes fantasy with reality. We don't know if certain scenes, a lot of them extremely violent with bucketloads of gore (though none is lingered over), happen in reality or are part of his creative mind's invention.

I thought it all started splendidly and in highly original fashion. In fact for about the first hour it was, despite, the gruesomeness, very funny indeed, appealing to those who recognised its skewed sense of humour - which, I dare say, some will just not 'get' and may even find tasteless. But I liked it a lot.
    However, as the film progressed it got steadily heavier and more philosophical in tone, which I found a pity. By the final half hour it had all but shed the light and whimsical touch with which it had begun, descending into an unfocussed hodge-podge of ideas on death, vengeance and heaven knows what else. I don't know if this was the path the film maker wanted to take but that's the way it came over to this viewer. In a film shy of two hours length by just a few minutes some judicious editing, particularly in the second hour, could have paid dividends.

One particular issue troubled me - as it also did in 'In Bruges'. The homophobic use of language - the words 'fag', 'queer', 'homo',  even 'gay' - all applied as insults with the implication that the person being addressed will recognise them as hurtful epithets indicating inferiority. This was also the context of their use in 'In Bruges', my sole complaint about that particular film. However, they are not used here very often - maybe half a dozen times. (Just what is it with McDonagh that he feels the need to write these words into his scripts? )  Actually there is also in this latest film a pejorative single use of the 'n' word by the Woody Harrelson character - and the person he's addressing repeats it back to him, but with sarcasm.

Oh, and by the way, there was indeed a small number of dogs featured, though this is very much a lesser aspect of the tale. None of them were seen to be in any discomfort - and though one had a gun put to its head as a threat to its owner, it worked out okay - at least for the dog.

It's a film which starts out very well, and to which I thought I could be awarding a high mark. It certainly did have some marvellous comedic moments but which, unfortunately didn't sustain their initial frequency. As an entity, therefore, I really can't give it any more than a still reasonably respectable................6/10

Thursday 6 December 2012

Film: 'AMOUR'

Michael Haneke is one of the small handful of directors whose every film nowadays is, for me, an 'event' - and this one is no exception. His recent films have included the chilling 'Hidden', 'The White Ribbon', 'The Piano Player' and, probably the most disturbing film I've seen in all the last 20 years, 'Funny Games' (I mean the Austrian version of 1997. Couldn't bring myself to see the recent American re-make. In any case, why did they feel the need to make one? Answer: Because a re-make in English would make more money!)

This new film, 'Amour', won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. 'Entertaining' is not the right word for it; 'troubling' it most definitely is. I knew it was going to be a tough watch - and one certainly does have one's emotions put through the wringer

Near the start of the film we see a long-term married couple in their 80s having breakfast together, talking normally. Then, out of the blue, the husband discovers that his wife has gone into a sort of trance, totally frozen and unresponsive. He starts to dress himself, resignedly, to go for help - then, hearing sounds from the kitchen, finds that she has returned to 'normal' - and she doesn't believe it when told what had just happened. It had been her first stroke, of course. In the next scene we see her returning home from a stay in hospital, now in a wheelchair but still fully compos mentis. The film chronicles her deterioration both physical (she loses control of one side of her body) as well as her mental slide, while her husband tries to manage care for her at home, at first alone, then with a nurse. He resists, among arguments, their daughter's earnest and well-meaning calls for her mother to be put in a home in order to get professional round-the-clock care.
It's harrowing to watch the descent into advanced senility and helplessness, all captured so gradually, seamlessly and believably. There are no awkward jerks in time which might have made it look contrived. A lot of the scenes are filmed using a completely stationary camera, viewing what happens like a detached observer. Towards the end there's a shocking event which I hadn't expected - part of which is left unresolved at the film's  conclusion, something which tends to be a feature of Haneke's works. He is not one to tie up loose ends.

This film got under my skin for two particular reasons:-
I am nearer in age to the sad fate (if it is also to be mine) of the woman here than nearly all of my blog-readers.
Also, my own mother, at about the age that I am now, suffered her first stroke, with a very similar effect, when she was in a restaurant with my sister and her husband. An ambulance had to be called. And that event probably signalled the start of her own physical (though not mental) deterioration over the ensuing years.

It's not a film to see if you want a 'happy' experience. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it. In fact I would do so, but only if you're prepared to steel yourself for a grimly moving, but also strangely satisfying, viewing. 7/10.

Why me? Why now? - a wallet double-whammy!

What have I done to deserve this?
Just a few weeks after having major computer problems here they are again - I can only load this posting slowly and trust to luck that it'll appear correctly.

But not only that, last night my TV went dead - as in 'doornail' - and it remains so this morning.
Of course both problems can be remedied - but they need an input of dosh, something I'm very far from being flushed with right now.

So, re the first one, if I  unaccountably 'disappear' from blogland for a few days you'll know the reason.
I'm still going to try to see a planned film this morning. If I don't go, as it's a one-off showing it's going to be missed forever. Can only keep my fingers crossed that on return I'll be able to post a review.

In addition, next week, a further two art-house cinema screens open in nearby Brighton, giving cause for concern that even if enough money was availble to see all that I want to see (which is extremely doubtful in any case) I'll be spending more time in the cinema than at home, thereby neglecting my pussies. (There was even a new pussy - number five! - at the window this frosty morning). Oh, will these problems never cease?
But at least this computer is still just about working, I think. Definitely going to have to get something done about the telly. Being a news-junkie if I don't hear and see what's going on in the world, gonna go bonkers!
Come on, you lottery - Look this way!

Thursday 29 November 2012


Better say at the start that this film does NOT have anything at all to do with the founder of Scientology, one L. Ron Hubbard. No Sir-ee!!! Nichts, nada, rien! Right, having now got that out of the way......

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an L. Ron Hubbard-type character, charismatic leader of a cult which believes in multiple past lives (over trillions of years!) and emotional cleansing and spiritual advancement by regressing the individual to these previous incarnations.
He takes Joaquin Phoenix's character (an ex-naval officer with mixed-up life and a very short fuse) under his wing. There's a strange mutual attraction between them, though no indication of anything even slightly sexual. Both are menacingly overbearing in their different ways and, of course, sparks fly. It seems that 'The Master' is almost grooming his new pupil to be an acolyte of his, though it doesn't actually develop this far.

It's an odd film, alternately fascinating, puzzling and frustrating - but certainly never dull.
Both the lead actors produce tour-de-force performances (with an Oscar tag?), each larger than life but still on the safe side of believable. I think Hoffman nails his character the more successfully, though they are both very good indeed (When has P.S. Hoffman ever been less than very good?).
One complaint which I do have is that the Phoenix role is played with a slight facial deformity which makes him slur words out through the side of his mouth. There were times when I just couldn't decipher what he was saying while being able to follow the person he was conversing with.
Also, I was confused by the opening scenes where there isn't a linear progression from one scene to the next, leaving me feeling like it was a jigsaw one was supposed to arrange oneself, though I found that more confusing than interesting. However, as the film goes on it becomes less of a problem.
Further still, a number of scenes have tension worked up or a conflict begun only to have that scene suddenly stop, leaving me wondering about any resolution, if there was one.
On the plus side I ought to say that in my opinion the background score of original music was of unusually high quality. 

On the whole, it's an intriguing film concerning an unusual subject. Bearing in mind that it's well over 2 hours long and I'd gone to it having suffered minimal sleep last night (pussy-care problems) it did hold my attention throughout.
So just on that factor alone, I think a fair score for 'The Master' would be........6.5/10

Tuesday 27 November 2012


I've just read that this Franco-Swiss film is to be submitted by Switzerland to the Academy Awards as 'Best Foreign Film'. Well, that just about beats everything!

I was going to start this post by saying "Why did they even bother to make this?"
If there was supposed to be some entertainment value, then it must have been so negligible as to have missed me.

In a ski resort, a spoilt twelve year old boy (who can barely construct a single sentence without inserting an obscenity) 'earns' money for himself and the one he passes off as his sister (warning: spoiler coming up!) by stealing ski equipment and clothing (and contents of wallets and purses) from skiers who are out on the slopes or elsewhere engaged, and sells them off to other skiers (yes!) on the pretext of having acquired them through clearance sales. He gives the newer items marks of wear and tear to give a more authentic appearance of being second hand. He must have been doing this for some years as he's got such expertise in this, as well as having an ability to lie with ease and to drive a hard sell - yet somehow his 'sister' hasn't cottoned on to what he's been doing until he shows her - and yet all the while he's been providing her with money with which to go on dates.
    The only real 'event' in the entire film is when it's revealed, two-thirds through, that she is not his sister at all, though I thought that (visually) their ages didn't compute. She was acting like an immature and irresponsible adolescent having casual affairs, but she would have had to have been at least 24 if there had been the relationship between the two of them as is now revealed. (I've also just seen that the actress' true age is 27.)  But if my own perception was at fault in that respect it certainly wasn't in wondering how the kid had got away with his crimes for so long without having faced the law. Are we to believe that not a single victim of these thefts reported it to the resort's authorities? - or not enough of them reported and caused a tightening of security and increased vigilance for suspicious activity? e.g. a boy wandering around alone carrying more than one pair of skis and other what-nots?  Did not even one of his buyers find that he was trying to sell to them the very equipment that they themselves had just lost? Apparently not.
    It's a very static film - mirthless from start to finish, with no redemptive path beckoning to either the boy or girl. It finishes with the boy sitting alone, forlornly on the hillside, amid melting snow just after the ski season has come to an end and all skiers and workers have departed. I take it that we are to feel sorry for him, now facing the Summer months without his regular means of income! (Sniffle sniffle!)

For me the film's only saving grace was the welcome, but short, appearances of Gillian Anderson as a tourist who innocently befriends the boy, falling for his untruths. But she doesn't have a significant part to play.

This film is a hot contender for my 'Turkey of the Year'. If it wins the Oscar for 'Best Foreign Film' I shall stick a very large plume of feathers up my arse, photograph it, and post the result on this very blog!
But while you're waiting for that to happen I award 'Sister' a score of....................2/10 (and Ms Anderson is responsible for three of those points!)

Btw: I wonder why they English title is 'Sister' (well, okay, because that is not the relationship we start by thinking it is) - rather than something like 'The Child (Boy?) From Above', which, I suppose, in this context would be the mountainside. Anyway, who cares now? I don't!

Monday 26 November 2012


I was impressed by this. The pivotal characteristic for the central role - played by dishy Bradley Cooper (Man, this guy gets sexier by the day!) - is bipolar disorder, a subject rarely treated on film and, as far as I know, never a feature assigned to a sympathetic role as this is.

   He has just emerged from months in a mental institution, subject to restraining orders, and returns to his parents (Robert de Niro in fine, mellow form) and is set on rebuilding his marriage with his estranged, unfaithful wife.

 I was aware of some of the criticism of cliched portrayal of a character with bipolar condition - erratic behaviour, mood swings, propensity towards violence which sometimes turns on the use of a single word - all that is here, it's true. I have, in my own volunteering work come across a few people with this condition (not wishing to come over as 'superior', I own that I do have my own issues as well!) and, from my own experience, there may be some truth in the criticism, though I don't think it's overplayed here.
   He happens to meet a pushy and disdainful female with such an unattractive personality that I just couldn't see why he wants to cling to her like a leech. In addition, she has her own bagful of mental health problems. I suppose it must be a tribute to the acting skills of Jennifer Lawrence which made me feel so strongly negative about her from very first appearance. But see a lot of her he does.

     The screenplay is sharp, the acting and direction consistently well-observed. My only major reservation is in the ending - one that neatly ties up the loose ends with everyone happy, just like a fairy-tale. I've just read a review on IMDb which praises the ending in avoiding cliche. I disagree totally. That is precisely what it is. I can hardly imagine an ending which could be better designed to give everybody a 'feel-good' as they leave the cinema. But in the totality of this two-hour film, the complaint is relatively minor.

Were it not for the final few minutes I might have scored this film a bit higher, but even as it is I'm happy to give 'Silver Linings Playbook'  a well-earned........................7.5/10.

Thursday 22 November 2012

New film: 'GAMBIT'

This is a 'sort of' re-make of the 1966 Shirley Maclaine/Michael Caine/Herbert Lom feature, which I did see very many moons ago but have now completely forgotten. So I come to this re-filming, like most people will,  virtually 'new', unable to make a comparison. (My film reference books tell me the original was well-regarded).
     I suppose it purports to belong to the category which we used to call 'sophisticated comedy' - and which can only necessarily work when given a light and deft touch. That is a quality which this film lacks.

Colin Firth plays his familiar, straight-faced, shoulder-shrugging character which we are getting to know so well. Alan Rickman, in mood either exaggeratedly histrionic or with buttoned-up menace (the latter always works well from him - most recently, of course, in the Harry Potters) - and Cameron Diaz in full-throttled Texan drawl and cowgirl sass. (I was only waiting for her to slap her thighs - "Yee-HAH!"). Oh, and Stanley Tucci, in three shortish scenes, pulls from off the conveyor belt another of his fey eccentrics.
     A simple plot involves forgery of a Monet which Firth, as an act of vengeance, attempts to sell to Rickman at a price the genuine article would have commanded. Add in a sprinkling of swear words which have long since lost the power to shock.....and there you are.
    I really didn't expect to find it the bore that I did. It felt longer than it's just-under-90 mins. It's a shame because it did have a lot going for it - a good, starry cast (Tom Courtenay's in there too), easy to understand storyline and a script by the brothers Coen. But for me it failed to work - and ultimately it just didn't engross.

I'm afraid that with a film devoid of LOL moments, just a very few half-smiles cannot rescue 'Gambit' from a .......3/10

Tuesday 20 November 2012

New (German) film: 'BARBARA'

Sombre, unassuming, rather slow-paced, but not ineffectual drama set in 1980s East Germany involving a nurse 'exiled' to work in a small rural hospital because of her desire to leave the country in order to live with her lover who is resident in the west. She has understandable suspicions of whom, if anyone, she can trust, and she has her apartment subjected to random spot checks by the Stasi, as well as having to undergo intimate body-searches. During clandestine 'conjugal' visits by her partner plans are made for her to escape the country under subterfuge, but all the while she feels increasing responsibility not to desert the patients at the hospital - and one girl in particular - while she entertains an ambivalence towards her supervising doctor who feels a growing attraction towards her.
     All this sounds more eventful than what actually plays out before our eyes on screen.

It's an efficiently-made film, though hardly one I'm going to remember for more than a few days.

I grant 'Barbara' a rating of.......................6/10..... (though now, one day later, this feels a bit on the high side and I want to take it down a notch to 5.5)

Monday 19 November 2012

Dickens' year almost over (thank heavens!)

At the beginning of 2012 I gave myself the task of re-reading, in this 200th anniversary year of his birth, all fourteen of his major novels in chronological order of their publication - and, apart from the Christmas stories (including, of course, 'Carol'), which I traditionally read in December, I've achieved it. Never again! At least not to read them all in close succession. Before half-way through the year I was aware of developing an 'indigestion' in my brain. All that sentiment, all that waffling, those tear-inducing sufferings of 'innocent' parties, and numerous stoically-borne deaths - but more than any of this, those docile, meek, obedient female characters displaying a superhuman forbearance to their lowly circumstances that made me just want to scream!
Of course I recognise that the expectations of what was considered in the 19th century to be the accepted, decorous conduct of the female in polite society has shifted markedly. Women have, quite rightly, for a long time now, been considered quite as entitled as men to live as reactively to life's trials, rather than with the 'shut-up-and-put-up-with-it' expectations of Victorian repressedness. But, all the same, that particular aspect does make for rather depressing reading.
   I did, however, get much of the expected pleasures from re-living the very many amusing passages, a lot of which are very funny indeed - and his character word-paintings are surely second to none in entire English literature. But for the first time my patience with the stretched-out plots was becoming so threadbare that I was longing to get to the end of each novel. Also, must confess that I 'glided' over more pages than in any previous readings, either skimming them, or with my mind on 'auto'. Anyway, I've now read them all at least three times, some (Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations, David Copperfield) four times. Of course I'm not saying that I'm never going to re-read any of them again because I certainly will - but not more than a couple in such a short period of time. 

  So, with this year's 'project' almost done, what's 2013 got in store? Well, one thing that just has to be done is to make a third assault on the seven volumes of 'A la Recherche...' - though my pipe-dream of tackling it in the original language will have to remain just that for a bit longer.
   I've already embarked on a sixth reading of the Bible (King James edition this time, again) as well as an eighth foray into the Qur'an - making copious notes on both, while trying to make sense of both of these often contradictory exemplars of 'Holy Writ', and which get increasingly and frustratingly baffling on each reading. (The nicest people I've known in my own life have had a superior moral code, and one that was genuinely worthy of respect, than has either of these versions of a Supreme Being!)
    Then there are other 'classics' that have been waiting several years for a re-read which I want to get down to before it's too late - 'Ulysses', 'War & P', 'GWTWind', 'Karamazov Bros', 'Clarissa', 'Canterbury Tales' (in medieval English), 'Rebecca', 'A Dance to the Music of Time', then there all those early Stephen Kings when he was so very good, not to mention the incomparable Patricia Highsmith, and in addition there's.... .....oh, but life is just too short!

Friday 16 November 2012

Why gay marriage IS unnatural..... because ALL marriage is unnatural.

Leaving aside humanity for the moment, where else in nature does marriage occur without the intervention of a separate agency to activate and formalise such a relationship? Doubtless some would argue that the institution has been bestowed uniquely on man by 'God'. Even if that were true that doesn't automatically make it 'natural', otherwise those who wanted to be in such a wedded state would suddenly find that they were experiencing it without having to instigate the process. Now that would be natural! (and pretty miraculous too!)

Whether monogamy is 'natural' in humans is debatable. In the 'natural world' it seems to depend on the species of being which is involved. But even where it's majority within that species it's hardly ever an entirely  exclusive one. Monogamy may work for some humans and not for others - and for that reason why should one pattern be decreed as the only acceptable and viable one for all humanity?

In our wider lives, here are just a very few of the 'unnatural' practices most of us engage in:-
Wearing clothes - cooking food - having haircut/shaving - putting on make-up/cologne etc - driving/flying -  taking medicines - undergoing surgery - wearing spectacles/contacts.........the list goes on and on.

Those who freely bandy about the 'un' word talk as though 'unnatural' is a synonym of 'undesirable', which is basically what they mean - but 'undesirable' only to them and to others who share their views.

It galls me to see a person going on and on about 'unnatural' acts while, particularly if it's a woman, sitting there with face made up to the eyebrows (literally!), lipstick, hair impeccably set, foundation cream, eye-liner and who knows what else, all in an attempt to improve on the body that her very own 'God' has given her -  and failed, because she found it unsatisfactory - and, presumably, wants to make it more attractive to men.  They've really got to use an argument other than endlessly bleating on against those who are being 'unnatural'.

Or perhaps they want to confine the use of that word solely to matters sexual - in which case they can join the 'Holy Father' and condemn all artificial contraception, by whatever method  - though he doesn't seem to be too concerned about it these days, unless it might help to prevent HIV transmission, in which case it's definitely against God's rules.
Then how about enforced labour in pregnancy and Cesarian deliveries? Aren't they unnatural too?

I'm as sure that marriage is as desirable for some as it is not for others, and both can easily apply to the same one person or couple at different times.. That doesn't mean the same automatically holds true for everybody at all times.

To go back to the beginning, if male-female marriage is the only 'natural' one, surely that must also mean by extension that divorce is also natural, despite Biblical strictures against it (and specifically, on grounds other than 'fornication'). Or am I missing something?

Thursday 15 November 2012


( The title of this British film is not a nickname, as I'd thought, but an actual surname).

Based on a novel by Michael ('War Horse') Morpurgo, this film also concerns World War I.
A work of two halves, the first part concerns two soon-to-be fatherless brothers growing up, first at school, then as farm labourers, and the younger one's jealousy at his brother's courtship and getting pregnant a girl whom he also fancies.
  I found this first half a little too meandering and it takes the outbreak of war and the brothers' enlistments into the army to give the story a much stronger focus.
    Incidentally, knowing who the author was I had misgivings about seeing this film as I'd already deliberately avoided seeing the Spielberg film for the plain reason of not wishing to be visually assaulted by the depiction of suffering animals (despite the usual disclaimer, "No animals were harmed during....etc"). So I had to grit my teeth when a point comes in this film where the army requisitions two of the farm horses to be engaged in the war. But apart from a very brief shot of a killed horse there was no further cause to be upset.
   The film begins with one of the brothers being court-martialled without it being stated why. It then turns the clock back to the brothers as boys. We only discover what the deed was towards the end of the film. I did find the conclusion quite moving.

A perfectly satisfying film, though without (for me) being strong enough for the memory to linger long, I give 'Private Peaceful' a rating of..................5.5/10

Tuesday 13 November 2012


After yesterday's high-value, heart-in-mouth entertainment, this one brings me down to earth with a hefty bump.
A largely sombre, totally humourless saga, set in New York, involving a 30s-something documentary film-maker (with a rather attractive, sweet face - here, the one on the left) in an on-off gay relationship with a vacillating young lawyer who can't bring himself to commit. Throw in a bit of casual sex, telephone sex, dope-smoking - and that's about the sum of it.

I think the trouble is that I just couldn't care much about this couple. There's nothing surprising about their difficulties - a lot of us have been through something very similar, maybe more than once. Nothing violent or spectacular happens, the film merely charts the ups and downs of their emotions, leaving me thinking "So what?".
  I was wondering if the whole thing could have been improved by shaving, say, 20 off from the film's 100 minutes, but I doubt if that would have made all that much of a difference.
    No doubt some will relate to the couple's difficulties more profoundly than I did. But, only able to speak of my own experience, I give 'Keep the Lights On' a one stage lower than unremarkable.............3/10.

Monday 12 November 2012

New film: 'ARGO'

I thought this a cracking good film. It got my adrenalin pumping from early on and it doesn't really let-up until the big rescue is over. It's all the more remarkable in achieving that feat in view of the fact that we know beforehand how it will turn out. (The film 'Apollo 13' accomplished the same, and this is quite as successful in that respect as that film was.)

Those of us who lived through and remember the hideously prolonged American hostages incident in Iran in 1980 were never aware of this parallel drama being played out simultaneously. Actually, I don't even recall the lifting of the embargo on details of the affair in 1997. I suppose that by then it was regarded as a curious footnote to history, but the situation was no less harrowing.
  This film concerns the fate of six American embassy workers in Tehran escaping to take refuge in the Canadian embassy after the former premises is invaded and ransacked. By a ruse that is hardly credible it is decided to effect a rescue by flying them out of Iran using a pretence of their being a group of Canadian film-makers who had been looking for a suitable location to film their projected science-fiction production, entitled 'Argo'.
    Ben Affleck, as director as well as principal actor, really knows how to turn the screws. There are a few very brief moments of humour which are, very sensibly, kept in check - and being delivered by the ever-watchable John Goodman as well as the now-veteran Alan Arkin, the appearances of these two only add to the film's pluses.
   Incidentally, over the final credits, when we see photographs of the actual people who had been involved in the escape, the resemblances given to the actors playing them is quite uncanny - something that is usually not the case in dramatic reconstructions.
    This is without doubt the most sustainedly suspenseful film I've seen this year.

Thoroughly recommended, I give 'Argo' a score of 8/10.

Thursday 8 November 2012

2011 film: 'UNTOUCHABLE'

This has been a massive domestic hit in its native France, and it was surely that which had given me high expectations.
    Not only is it the second successive film I've seen which is French but both films concern a chalk-and-cheese friendship between a wheelchair-bound individual and an unlikely helper. I'm not qualified to say which was the 'superior' film (if one can make such an absolutist value-judgment) but I know that I thought that this was better 'entertainment' than 'Rust and Bone' - though I do have reservations in making that claim.

   Out of an array of applicants for the post, a wealthy quadripligic, with high-brow tastes in art and music, chooses a street-wise, clownish, dope-smoking, rather rebellious job-seeker (who's also into 'Earth Wind and Fire' big time!) as his live-in assistant/helper/nurse. Although one can guess, early on, the trajectory arc this film will follow, it ought to be said that it purports to be based on a true story. In fact, at the film's close we actually see, for a few seconds, the real-life couple at the heart of the story.

At the very well-attended showing I went to at 11 o'clock this morning, there were raucous laughs from the audience at the helper character's antics almost from the word 'go'. I didn't think it was that funny. (Maybe the audience was playing up to its own expectations?). In fact I very soon found the character just plain annoying. Truth to tell, it took practically the first half of the film before I warmed to it at all.
   I did find his expoundings on classical music amusing - and his visit to the opera was genuinely very funny - as were some of his gauchely direct and tactless approaches to one or two of the women employed in the man's home. On the other side I was irritated at being shown the man's face so often trying to contain his laughter, as though we were being told "It's okay to laugh at this." I think that particular point was overdone.

I can just about see why it was such a success in France. It might be termed a 'feel-good' feature, and there's nothing wrong with that.
But when I balance up what were for me the good points against its negatives I cannot award 'Untouchable' more than.......................6/10. 

Tuesday 6 November 2012

New film: 'RUST AND BONE'

If it were not for 'Oscar talk', I would have avoided this film. Two reasons :-
a) It features animals in a significant part  - even though in this case they are killer whales which, actually, turn out not to be on-screen for long.
b) Bare-knuckle fighting - again, not seen for long on the screen.
I always give a wide berth to films concerning boxing, which I find boring and completely without any attraction at all, even repulsive. Fighting as depicted here where nothing is barred (entirely illegal, naturally) is boxing times two.

She is a trainer of performing killer whales at a sea-life centre - he a bouncer (a single parent to an infant boy) at a night club where they encounter each other. He takes her back to her home after a certain incident, leaving his telephone number. She is involved in a major disastrous event - 'life-changing' is hardly adequate to describe it. (Anyone who has read reviews of this film will probably know what it was.)
    They arrange to meet up again. Friendship develops. Then a physical relationship, which is more functional than romantic. Inevitably, something deeper develops between them. He then suddenly has to leave where he's staying and goes away without telling her where he's gone. But following a further dramatic and shocking event a few minutes from the end of the film the two come together again.  
        Even if I try my best to put aside my prior unfavourable disposition towards the film, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. It strikes me as no more than an efficiently made film, with some necessarily clever filmic tricks revealing Mme Cotillard as having a particular physical condition.
 Assuming the film gets Oscar/ BAFTA nominations I can't imagine either body giving the award for 'Best Picture' to a French film for the second consecutive year (after this year's 'The Artist'). Perhaps she will get recognition for her role, but if she does I think it will be for the part she plays rather than the standard of the acting of it.

No real surprise that I was disappointed overall, but I'd actually been hoping to witness something really 'special' to justify all the buzz and the superlatives being lavished on this film. Reflecting my general downbeat assessment, 'Rust and Bone' earns a score of............3.5/10


Sunday 4 November 2012

Re-released film: 'THE SHINING'

This Stanley Kubrick classic has been given a limited cinema re-release here - including, for the first time, an additional 20+ minutes which were cut from the European release in 1980. These deleted scenes had already been part of the American release earlier that same year, but which Kubrick then removed, having been stung by the unenthusiastic or even hostile American reviews. He actually came to prefer his own shorter version, which is also the one I have on video. I'd already seen the film at least three times in the cinema as well as twice or more on video so I did know the edited version quite well. The longer film has, I believe already been shown on TV here (probably late at night) but this was the first time I myself have seen it in this cut.
The restored scenes mainly come near the beginning of the story, relating to the Torrance family's background and a reference to their son Danny's being accidentally(?) injured by his father. There are also a couple of later short scenes involving Scatman Crothers' chief cook character's failed efforts to make contact with the snowbound hotel.
    I thought that the restored minutes, although not crucial, did assist in making a bit more sense to the tale and generally helped rather than hindered the depiction of the family's isolation in the hotel's inaccessible location. 
     On first seeing 'The Shining' 32 years ago I recall feeling some irritation about the film not following the book, with very significant departures in places. I'd only recently discovered Stephen King and I had just started devouring his works avidly. He could do no wrong for me at that time and for a few years still to come. But around that time I didn't appreciate, to the extent that I do now, the acceptability of a film-maker to alter a story from the printed page. I had been expecting a faithful and literal transposition from book to screen. That had been my major disappointment. But despite this major reservation, I was still quite overwhelmed by Kubrick's style and technique, and even now it leaves me full of admiration. But then Kubrick is probably my favourite director of all. However, one thing I would say, is that, as with another favourite director, Hitchcock, I sometimes find that there are wonderful 'set-pieces', but they add up to rather more than the film as a whole. In other words, the feeling of overall satisfaction with the film after it is over can be less than the memory of the depiction of certain key moments during its progress. This is actually less applicable to 'The Shining' than to certain of his other films such as his following 'Full Metal Jacket' and his final work, 'Eyes Wide Shut'.

When it comes to giving the film a score, I was tempted to duck out of it this time as it's difficult to judge a film anew which was already known well from an 'incomplete' version. But if a gun was to be depressed against my temple I'd feel compelled to offer a rating of..........................8/10

Btw: I did find myself paying more attention to background features this time round, looking for extra significances - pictures on walls, furniture arrangements and decor, labels on boxes and tins of food etc, but didn't find anything noteworthy.
This same cinema was also showing the new film 'Room 237' (referring to the mysterious hotel room to which Danny is inexorably drawn), a documentary about some whacky theories and observations about 'The Shining', with a number of over-zealous fans of the film mentioning arcane allusions they believe Kubrick had put into his film, playing with his audience. Would dearly love to have seen it, but the timing and further expense put it beyond me. Really must try to catch it when it comes on TV.

Tuesday 30 October 2012


(No, not a re-make en francais of the 1952 Gregory Peck/Ava Gardner version of the Ernest Hemingway novel).

Likeable, unassuming, family drama.
Set in Marseilles where local trade union boss at shipyard is made redundant, along with nineteen of his fellow-workers. As the propelling event of the film happens towards its start it doesn't give much away to say that shortly after his redundancy he and his wife become victims (with two visitors) of a somewhat violent masked robbery at their home. Soon, by one of those co-incidences that rather stretches credulity, he just happens to witness a thread that enables him to uncover the identity of one the perpetrators, which turns out to be someone with whom he'd been already acquainted. The main body of the film concerns the couple's attempts to come to terms with the criminal, the latter's family and his motivation - as well as the attitude of the their own children.
     It's a modest affair and all the better for it, though I personally could have done with an ending a bit more hard-edged than the touchy-feely one we are served up with. But, on the whole, it's a satisfying and good production.

   I've seen a few films recently which have featured one or two 'hotties' of whom I wasn't aware or knew only slightly - and here comes along another one. A cuddly 'Daddy-hottie' - who, I find, is actually seven years younger than I am! Never mind, I still find him beautiful. He is Jean-Pierre Daroussin, playing the male lead.

He really presses all the right buttons for me.

Btw: The misleading title refers to the projected holiday which the main pair were due to have but, due to the robbery, have to cancel. A different English title might have been helpful.

As I say, a good film, to which I award a score of......................6.5.

Monday 29 October 2012


Wish I'd done homework before venturing out to see this one. As it was, I was swayed not just by generally favourable reviews and its getting surprisingly good British box office, but nearly half the voters on IMDb have given it a scarcely credible 10/10 - and the average to date is 8.5. "Why?" is the question!
     My jaw dropped when, within the first few minutes, I was assailed by a succession of some of my biggest film turn-offs - teenage angst, American high school lippy pupils, including the 'regulation' bully-figures, and an (American) football game, though the latter was mercifully short. Add to the mix a flamboyant gay character, so keen to define himself, practically exclusively, by his own sexuality, inter-teenage rivalries in 'romance' - and I'm just bored by talking any further about it. It did pick up a little for me after the first half hour, but that's not saying much.
    The most recognisable name to most people would be Emma Watson (Harry Potter's friend, Hermione) though there is also Paul Rudd - as well as Joan Cusack in a very minor role.
It's one of those films that most make me feel my age. I just cannot relate to anything here. Clearly, a lot of people think it to be a wonderful film. They are welcome to that opinion. They may well be right, though I can't for the life of me see why. Anyway, I'm more than three times as old as the target audience so I accept it wasn't made for the likes of me. My mistake in going.

   I give 'Perks' a miserable, very personal rating of..............3/10

Friday 26 October 2012


I don't think anyone who sees this would deny that this is one of the better of the series.
In the obligatory, pre-credit chase sequence I was initially a bit put out by the filmic cliches - fruit and veg from street market stalls being crashed into, with the produce flying all over the place (it is Istanbul, after all!), a gun having run out of bullets being thrown away with a mini-second of irritation....But these are minor nags in the overall scheme of the film.
  Positive aspects of this film for me was that the arch-villain (played with mincing, deliciously-campy malevolence by the excellent Javier Bardem) as well as Judi Dench's 'M', are given far more screen time than either of these roles have had in any previous Bond film, 'M''s considerably so. The new 'Q' was a brave and unexpected move too, and a good one. Also, I don't think a previous film of this series has been set so much in this country - London (a large part of it being underground - I say no more!) and in the remote Scottish highlands.  (I now don't give away any further 'spoilers'!)
       Actually, there's not much more to say. I found it quite exciting without it gripping me tautly. There's no doubt that after Dalton's Bond (who wasn't exactly bad) followed by Brosnan (who was actually pretty good), the series since Daniel Craig took over has been given a much needed shot in the arm - and all three of his films now have been of a superior standard (though some may disagree about 'Q of S').
      Yes, for a spy thriller this one is distinctly above par - though maybe it's just me in feeling more a detached observer of the on-screen antics rather than a sense of being really involved in them.
     I'd better not say more as many will be going to see this, surely the most eagerly anticipated film of 2012, and I don't want to risk marring anyone's enjoyment by my own personal opinions.

I give 'Skyfall' a.............7/10 - and would not remotely suggest that anyone should avoid seeing it. Go!

Thursday 25 October 2012

New film: 'GINGER & ROSA'

A Sally Potter film is a rarity, not only because she makes them so infrequently, but when she does, they are hardly ever given the distribution they deserve. When one is caught it is always a worthwhile experience - as is this.

    A small-scale, highly-charged family drama set in early 1960s England with, as backdrop, ban-the-bomb meetings, CND marches and the Cuban missile crisis.
     The titular teenage girls have been extremely close friends since birth. The marriage of Ginger's parents has turned sour and he (played by hottie, Alessandro Nivola - below) moves out to live alone, visited by both girls, Ginger being on better terms with him than her mother. We are given the hint early on that he is attracted to Rosa, and it's not very long before he draws her, to Ginger's horror, into an affair. The remainder of this film, sensibly at a modest 90 mins, is concerned with Ginger trying to keep hush about what she's aware is going on - until it all blows up in a climactic scene of high drama. (You might be surprised at the featuring of  two or three quite big-named actors in some of the minor roles. All in fine form.)
    I found this an affecting film, well acted, well scripted and unshowily directed.
    It's not a film for everybody - its current average score on IMDb site is just 5.8. There's very little in the way of 'action', if that's what you are looking for. But I did like it.

And here's the Alessandro Nivola I mentioned, whom I first became aware of in 'Mansfield Park' (1999), but seen all too rarely since:-

Not bad, eh?

I'm happy to give 'Ginger & Rosa' a score of................7/10

Tuesday 23 October 2012


This is a really interesting documentary. I didn't know the name of one-time billionaire David Siegel until now, let alone that of his 20+ years younger, hugely bosom-enhanced, former beauty queen wife, Jaqueline. This riches-to-rags true story (his own words - 'rags' is a relative term!) is fascinating, and it may be a bit glib to take only pleasure from this parable-like tale, though that aspect is so much of the appeal.
    Near the beginning of this film, before things start going wrong big-style, the family patriarch claims credit for being the one person, more than anyone else, who had got George W. Bush elected to the presidency in 2000. At this stage he, Siegel, had been awash with dosh.
    He has a son from a previous marriage - and a further seven children (all within 10 years) with Jaqueline - also not her first marriage. This eldest son, older even than his stepmother, self-admittedly does not have a close relationship to his father, but he helps run the firm as a business partner. Of the three of them he seems the one who lives the most in reality, though there are still questions on his role - such as his mystifying continued loyalty to the firm even after the bubble burst when one would have thought he'd have wanted to seek gainful employment elsewhere.
    The Siegel fortune was founded on property and land and also, in particular, a time-share holiday apartment venture - that is, until the stock market crash of 2009. That event happens before the film is half-way through and the remainder of the documentary chronicles the family's life trying to cut corners to save on resources - or, at least, he does. She remains as dippy as ever, with her several all-white dogs and her brattish brood of spoilt kids who are used to getting anything they want, while she finds it a bit too much to be expected to cut back on her own lavish lifestyle.
     Before the crash they were in the process of constructing an addition to their 'collection' of homes - one that is modelled in scale, design, contents and sumptuousness on the royal palace at Versailles. Hearing her explain her astonishment, when told that this projected home of theirs was going to be the single largest one-family home in the entire United States, is alone worth the price of seeing the film. "We didn't mean it to be the largest - it just, you know.....'happened'!"  (Oh, how we all know how infuriating it is to be the victim of circumstance!).
    As they reduce the dimensions of their living space to something more financially viable for them, their children, their nannies and their dogs, Mr Siegel becomes more petulant in seeing that his family are not cutting back as much as he feels they should - evidenced towards the end by his explicit annoyance when his family continue to leave lights on, at which he threatens not to pay the bills and have their power cut off completely so they'd appreciate what having electricity means. She, meanwhile, goes Xmas shopping, filling up four large trolleys with gifts- including bicycles, of which the kids have a full fleet anyway! We also see the state their living areas have come down to - dog poo on the carpets and dozens of piles of the stuff on a polished floor (perhaps that was the purpose-equipped 'dogs room'?)
  The film is simultaneously both sad and funny - and with more than a dash of schadenfreude at those who, when they had untold riches, used it with such show-off profligacy, then getting their comeuppance.
    But, to be fair, David Siegel does say that he'd be okay if only someone would just give him $300 million. Meantime, the half-constructed 'palace' of Versailles remains a white elephant which no one is interested in buying while it's incomplete and also not least because the location is not necessarily where everyone else super-rich wishes to have their dream home.

          Enjoyable, I give 'The Queen of Versailles' a...........6.5/10

Monday 22 October 2012

New film: 'ON THE ROAD'

For the most part I didn't find this very engaging. I haven't read the novel but the film was pretty much what I expected - marijuana/alcohol-induced hedonism with occasional excursions into polysexuality, constantly driving above the speed limit, and the usual 'what-a-lark!' adventures of stealing from stores. The men never really argue among themselves, unlike the women who, after being 'used' tend to be cast off with little ceremony.
    Although I did feel like nodding off now and again,  there were a few moments where it livened up, though it sometimes had nothing to do with the film - as in the brief appearances of Viggo Mortensen and the even more fleeting Steve Buscemi.
    I missed being a contemporary of the 'beat generation' by about 15 years, but even if I had been I would never have got onto that particular wavelength. It was probably being well into my 30s when I even first registered the name of Jack Kerouac. Even now it all seems a bit alien to me. Perhaps others who were rather more rebellious in their own young adulthood can identify more with the characters portrayed here, and hence appreciate the film more.

As it is, 'On the Road' gets from me a turned-down thumb score of..................4/10

Tuesday 16 October 2012

New film: 'LIBERAL ARTS'

It's difficult for me to be objective. The reason being that I'm absolutely smitten with the looks of this man, Josh Radnor, of whom I'd never heard until this film.
When one person not only writes, produces and directs a film, but is also the main actor who is rarely off-screen during its entire 97 minutes, it may be forgiveable to think of this as a 'vanity project' on that person's part.
But, trying to put my personal feelings aside by imagining someone in the leading role whom I did not find physically attractive at all, I think I'd still find it a charming film, but can't be absolutely sure.
Radnor plays a mid-30s academically-inclined (but temporarily unemployed?) man falling for a student only a little more than half his age. A platonic friendship develops to the point where she wishes to take it further, but he is reluctant to go there because of their age difference. That's really all one needs to know. There are a couple of quite engaging lesser characters - one, a free-spirited hippy-type guy, especially so, turning up like a benevolent genie on the college campus where much of the story takes place. 

But, doing my level best to be dispassionate about the merits of this film, like the one I saw yesterday, I will also give 'Liberal Arts' a score of .....................7/10

I had a very similar reaction of distracting infatuation when I saw the actor Tom Cullen in the film 'Weekend' (which I wrote about in my blog of 22nd Nov 2011) - but at least Josh R. is a few years older than Mr Cullen, even though the former is in the same age ratio to me (just over half my age) as he is in this film to the girl. So, like him, I'd better not think about taking our 'relationship' any further.  ;-)

Here, for anyone who also didn't know of Mr Radnor, are a few more shots of him. I wish I'd had his looks when I was in my 30s. Maybe he doesn't do anything for you. If so, that's okay. I give you permission not to feel the same 'excitement' as I do.

Monday 15 October 2012

New film: 'RUBY SPARKS'

I wasn't sure about paying good money to see this. What I'd read about it, coupled with some negative reviews, didn't enthuse. But go I did - and, to my surprise, I actually liked it.

The idea is that a young nerdy-looking writer, after producing a hugely successful first novel, gets writer's block. He starts to dream about a 'perfect' young lady (the eponym of the film's title) which he befriends in these dreams - and he then decides to make her the subject of his next book. Soon after he starts writing about her she suddenly materialises in physical form, as someone already living with him as partner. After his initial astonishment he soon discovers that whatever qualities he writes about her she then manifests. There would have been scope here for sexual exploitation of her by his using imagination when anything he wants comes true. But though there certainly is exploitation (which is really the heart of the story), that's not quite the way it develops.

It's a good, original film (at least I hadn't met this situation before) and it has a pleasingly sharp script. There are a couple of mushy sentimental moments but they aren't lingered over, apart from the very end with a weak 'tidy-up' epilogue which, for me, diminished a bit of what had gone before.
    The cast was good - with a number of bonuses I hadn't expected. I hadn't realised that the wonderful Annette Bening would have a modest part as the writer's mother. Antonia Banderas, as the father sporting a grizzled beard, looked hotter as a 'Daddy'  than I've ever seen him. In fact I didn't realise it was him until I got back home to record my vote on IMDb site and I saw the cast list. But even hotter still, Chris Messina, who looked only slightly familiar to me, playing the film's third major character as the writer's (unlikely) married brother with a 'playboy' mentality. Two more dissimilar-looking bros it would be hard to find - he replete with sizzling male sexiness, his brother writer with all the forceful appeal of the colour beige.

           I did enjoy this film and award it a worthy........7/10

Sunday 14 October 2012

I've now reached "All the sixes" !

      Yes, I'm clickety-click today!

Two pictures to represent my life so far. One taken recently, one a bit further back in my past. Now the question is - can you tell which is which? 

Okay, this is the answer. This one was taken yesterday...
........and this was NOT taken yesterday.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Film: 'LOOPER'

(This has been round for a couple of weeks or more but I was waiting for a cheap showing to come along which, yesterday, it did.)

The consensus among the critics I read was that one shouldn't question the scenario about this story's basic concept (travelling back in time in order to change the past and hence to alter the future), but just to go open-minded and prepare to be entertained.  So that was the frame of mind I took along.

      Well, first of all, the initial half of this tale is taken up with setting the scene (yes, I get it - now move along, please!) and for me it only seems to acquire purpose and direction after nearly an hour when Emily Blunt appears - steely, sassy and with gun in hand - more than a match for any man! (Watch out, fellas, 'cos if you go on upsetting her she's gonna blast your balls off!)
   Well, you know that when said Blunt has a fiery and envenomed first encounter with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it won't be long before they're in bed together, bonking merrily away to appropriately smoochy musical strains, and leaving me cringeing in my seat. But that was only one of the two major irritations which came about simultaneously. The other one being that there's also a young kid (let's just call him her 'son' for practical purposes) - and there are few things that rile me more on the cinema screen than a child talking with a wisdom and maturity way beyond his or her years. (It could be argued that in this case there was justification for this, but it still makes me wince.)  
     Then things get even weirder with telekinesis thrown into the already curious mix. Bruce Willis gets the film's star billing but he doesn't really have all that much to do - both in terms of screen time and acting, either enigmatically subdued or explosively angry, as he stalks his younger self (in the J.G-L in character) and goes little boy-hunting.
    I gave up on this film long before the end - and was looking at my watch more than I usually do, seriously considering walking out before it was over, but I did stay up to the final credits.
   It's a film that's doing well in the U.K. so I accept that it's probably yet another that reveals me as being well outside the range of its target audience. But I can only talk of my own personal reaction -

- which is to give 'Looper' an unimpressive score of.......3.5/10.