Wednesday 29 February 2012

RECENTLY RELEASED FILMS seen by me in a cinema during Feb 2012 - with my personal ratings (+ some opinions)

There were only three contenders for my much-coveted 'Raybeard Award for Film of the Month'. It took a little heart-searching (though only a little), finally to present it to:-

This type of 'lotta talk/little action' film is right up my street. It's the kind of entertainment I revel in. The sort of film in which Woody Allen, when at his best, was supreme. Mine is a very personal reaction which others may not share, but I go to the cinema for my own enjoyment, and this delivered it. More on this superlative piece later.
My complete list of February viewings, in order of seeing, and with my own scores (out of 10) were:-

  Man on a Ledge(4)
W./E. (3)
The Deep Blue Sea (8)
Carnage (8)
The Descendants (7.5)
The Woman in Black (5)
Anonymous (5)
The Woman in the Fifth (5.5)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (6)
Young Adult (5.5)

 Further comments (on some):-

W./E.  I used to be a great fan of Madonna's music, and will still listen to her, though have grown increasingly non-responsive to her records over recent years. But it would be unfair to class me as one of those who is now averse to everything she does. I did go and see this with, I think, an open mind. But I wish I'd saved my money.
    Just exactly what was the point of having two stories running in parallel, with, as far as I could make out, hardly anything in common? Or was that precisely the point? I've said elsewhere that it was rather like flicking between two films running simultaneously on two different channels - save for the fact that Wallis Simpson makes the occasional spectral appearance in the 'other' one . Exactly why, I couldn't begin to fathom. I just found the whole thing irritating.
  I appreciate that the royal romance saga has been dramatised many times, especially on T.V., as well as in documentaries, and so to depict it yet again it needs a fresh perspective. (I could even accept Mrs Simpson dancing energetically to the Sex Pistols!) But this idea of going in tandem with a modern romance for no obvious reason totally lost me.
   Having given it a score of just three, I'm tempted to ask myself exactly what are the these three points for?  Well, I suppose the acting was pretty faultless, so let's just leave it at that.

The Deep Blue Sea    I was really looking forward to this, especially since the recent renaissance of the works of gay playwright, Terence Rattigan - and directed by that master of nostalgic atmosphere, Terence ("I do so loathe being gay.....absolutely loathe it!") Davies.
  I did already know the play quite well, and it is an undoubted masterpiece in my books. But theatre plays transferred to the screen are always cut - and Davies really pares this one down. However, what he's lost in dialogue he mostly makes up very well indeed in atmosphere. His slow-moving visual style is masterful and does the work proud. However, my only quibble is that in reducing the dialogue he's also taken a lot of the verbal histrionics out of it, a feature which works well in the theatre, but is more difficult to sustain on screen. So I can see the justification of it, though I did miss what was not there. Maybe those who don't know the play will not have the same problem I had.
     I was slightly less convinced by Rachel Weisz in the lead, even though Davies himself thought she couldn't have been bettered. I think it needed, possibly, an older person, and hence with a more significant age difference between this character and her lover, she knowing that this was probably her final chance for a physical romance, albeit adulterous, and was ever so desperate not to lose the opportunity. Her resignation at accepting her lot seemed to need a bit more conviction. However, it is on the whole, a most engrossing film.

Carnage Not a film for those who do not like to see theatre pieces transferred to screen (Not for you, then, Stephen.) - and its origins are very evident here. But I loved this.
    Based on 'The Gods of Carnage', a play by Yasmina Reza (who also wrote the play 'Art', which I know and love, and have seen on stage), this four-person chamber-piece, taking place, essentially, in one room, I found so very funny and entertaining. It amuses me to see, in the course of an hour and a half, to see the personal masks of courtesy,  manners and decorum, which we all wear in front of strangers, slowly dissolve away as people get to know each other more - the innocent odd word is taken the wrong way, barbs are noticed and reacted to, criticisms rise to the surface, point-scoring occurs, open bickering ensues until it predictably ends up with everyone verbally tearing everyone else apart. In this film there is a very gradual and carefully realised trajectory. Out of the four actors here, Jodie Foster is amazing. She seems a totally different creature at the end of the film, collapsed in on herself, from the cool, reasonable wife at the start. ( I'd be interested to know if the film was shot in the same running order as the play. I can't see how it could have been done otherwise). The other three players were almost as good, showing us four completely different personalities.
     Only one regret. Right at the end (I think they are, in fact, Kate Winslet's final words in the film) she describes someone as a "faggoty wimp." Whenever I hear this 'f' word - or the 'c-sucker' word' - it feels like a little stab. As the original play was written in French I don't know if the word, as written, was 'pede' (sorry, I don't know how to type accents). It would be an obnoxious term which someone like the Winslet character could have used. But it still hurts me a little.
   But that was the sole thing which I didn't like. Otherwise it's a wonderful film - and I'd not only watch it again, I even more want to see it on stage.

The Descendants  I liked this more than I was expecting to. I reckon this is Mr Clooney at his best. It's a good, simple story. Playing a father of two potty-mouthed daughters, I thought the latter would have been a real turn-off for me - and so they were, at first, but their alienation towards him, especially that of the elder daughter, pointed up the defects in his own former laissez-faire attitude, now regretted. The dialogue is as spiky as the plot. My single regret was that it all got a bit emotionally mushy towards at the end - 'family coming together', sort of thing. I think that mass audiences need this to feel a sense of 'closure', as they say these days. I think it would have been braver and better if, instead of going off arm in arm, they'd ended the film by all going bickering off into the sunset. But all in all, a good film.

The Woman in Black I saw the play in the West End shortly after it opened (now been running in London for over 20 years) and after seeing it I dismissed it to my companion as 'juvenile claptrap'. My friend agreed.  How on earth it's still running is unfathomable to me. The theatre play (with just two actors) was based on the Susan Hill book of the same name. Now the film opens it out considerably - but is still not entirely successful for me. 
Daniel Radcliffe, despite his facial stubble, still looks far too young for the lead. All the standard cliches of a haunted-house film are there in the first 30 minutes. But some of the purported 'shocks' only make the audience jump because of a loud thump or crash on the soundtrack, That's not skilful film-making - that's cheating!. However I have to confess that there was one point where I did indeed jump and which elicited screams from the audience, though that was just the once.
      So, not actually bad - but ought to have been better.

Anonymous A film based on the notion that Shakespeare wasn't written by Shakespeare - a hardly startling or original idea, but which I put in the same category as 'Diana was Murdered' i.e. an interesting story, and certainly a better story, but until someone comes up with hard evidence I remain sceptical. As some of the actors putting their household names to the theory by taking part in this handsomely-mounted film - Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance - one must take notice of their worthwhile opinions. But I'm not lying awake at night wondering who actually did write Shakespeare - Was it really his contemporary, the Earl of Essex, just one of the several alternative possibilities, which is played out here? (Yawn!)..

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I usually like ensemble-piece films (Steven Soderbergh, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, of course) and this is one of them. Includes Judi Dench (yet again!), Maggie Smith (yet again!) and Tom Wilkinson (yet again!), the latter playing gay - and quite unconvincingly.  But the film did have a few 'moments'. Unfortunately nearly all of them are in the film's trailer, before it all disappears, in the last half hour or so, in a wash of sentiment.


(for the moment)


  1. Hello Ray:
    We have missed you and your film reviews and so have much enjoyed reading about your latest cinema exploits.

    We are intrigued about 'Carnage' which, on the face of it would not appear to be anything like our cup of tea. But, given your wholehearted recommendation, we might well give it a try.

    'The Deep Blue Sea', 'The Descendants' and 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' are all on our list for the cinema in Budapest. Generally we have to wait rather longer to see the films than in Brighton but the low cost and lack of people eating in the cinema make it well worth the wait!We suspect that perhaps with so many 'names' in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' it may well fail to hit the spot with too many stars clashing for attention in the one galaxy!!

  2. Thanks for that, J & L. Yes, I think I'm in a minority in liking a film like 'Carnage'. If you do see it and don't like it that's your privilege. Maybe you also might enjoy it more on stage.
    I would expect you to like 'Deep Blue' and 'Descendants'. Even 'Marigold' delivers what it says and it's certainly no way a total dud!

  3. "...she describes someone as a "faggoty wimp." Whenever I hear this 'f' word - or the 'c-sucker' word', it feels like a little stab." It feels like a little stab because it *is* a little stab. How disappointing that this would be included in an otherwise great film.

    I love your reviews. I think it would be fun to spend an afternoon with you watching a couple of films then discussing them over coffee and cherry pie.

    1. I'm really chuffed at what you say, Cubby, but sooner or later our opinions are going to diverge violently and you may not feel so well-disposed to my reviews. But until that time happens, yes, let's fantasise over that post-film treat of coffee and cherry-pie - though the latter would have to be sugar-free for me, of course. ;-)

    2. I couldn't stop thinking of cherry pie after I mentioned it here, so Greg and I went out and bought one. Mmm, you would have loved it!

    3. Put a piece in the freezer for me, will you please? I'll let you know in advance when I'm coming round so you can start the thaw.

    4. Oh, I get it. The two have you have gobbled it ALL down? Well, you'll just have to buy me another.

  4. The play 'Art' is also one play that I know and love, having seen it twice in NYC and four more times at local theatre companies if they were within a 100 mile radius. I was so ready to see 'The Gods Of Carnage' when it opened on B'way. I even stood in line for over an hour for a ticket. I guess I am in the minority - I hated it! I just wanted it to be over with. And finally it was. I had no intention of seeing the film, but after your review, I'll give it a go - but only on DVD.

    Still waiting to see'Deep Blue' - it has never opened here, even a DVD release date isn't mentioned. Can't wait to see 'Marigold' only because of the great Maggie and Penelope Wilton whom I discovered in 'Downton.'

    1. Well, Paul, I think if you see 'Carnage' on DVD I'll be most interested to find how you think it compares with the play because, as I say, I'd LOVE to see it live. I'm actually sneakily hoping that you'll dislike the film just as much - which will mean that I'll probably enjoy it a great deal on stage. But there's hardly any likelihood of a chance arriving.

      Being a fan of one or more of the 'Marigold' cast will certainly help to like the film. I don't think it would have recouped the costs of making it if the cast had been largely unknown.

  5. I am disappointed in your review of The Woman in Black, as the preview makes it look faaabulous! Oh well, we were going to wait for it to appear in Netflix anyway... ;)

  6. T/C - your viewing of this film will, at least, be untainted by your having any expectations. It might not sound like it, but I did prefer this film to the stage version.

  7. I rather like Anonymous, despite it being great nonsense. I got lost with Elizabeth having children, and then having affairs/children by/with her son? Still, it was all jolly good fun.

    1. Yes, it WAS fun in parts - though I was put in an unreceptive and prickly mood by Jacobi's opening speech which seemed to be over-earnest in casting doubt on the authenticity of S. being the true Bard - and then positing the Earl of Essex, in this film, as being one of a small number of alternative and more likely 'suspects'. Although I really don't have a closed mind on the subject, I will own to being nervous that a number of people seeing this film will go away taking this particular viewpoint as fact. Maybe I'm under-estimating the intelligence of the audience.
      I'm more comfortable with the reputation of the 'Virgin Queen' being debunked, though once again, evidence is wanting.

  8. Yes, The Descendants was a good simple movie and it can not make us watch it twice.

    1. Pleased you like this film, Tai - especially as it's another one with so much talking in it.