Saturday 28 April 2012

My April cinema-goings

Just one worthwhile film in the past month of lean pickings:-

My ratings in order of seeing -

Le Havre (6/10)
Headhunters (7.5)
The Cabin in the Woods (5)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (4)

Le Havre  - Moderately engaging French language offering from Finnish director, Kaurismaki. Often leisurely tale-telling with a few attractive quirky touches. In sum, likeable enough, but hardly exceptional - though I don't think it had intended to aim that high.

Headhunters  - Distinctly above-par crime thriller, in Norwegian language. Multi-twist plot, none of which I saw coming. Discomforts one from the outset in not knowing where to place one's sympathies, but I liked that, keeping me on my 'mental toes'. Not a film for those demanding clear-cut resolutions to finish - AND (a warning!), it features the portrayal of the grisly killing of a guard-dog, though this one was largely off-screen and nowhere near as upsetting to me as seeing the hanging of a dog last month in 'Wuthering Heights', which was, surely, real - even if we didn't see the poor little thing actually die. Overall, 'Headhunters' is a superior film which I'd gladly sit through again.

The Cabin in the Woods  - I seem to be in a minority in not thinking particularly highly of this film. All the reviews I've seen have been positive or very so. The general ratings on IMDb website are higher than average too.
My own score is largely based on the originality of the angle on what has, for decades, become such a tired, cliche-ridden story taken up by scores of horror films, viz a group of largely or entirely obnoxious, mainly sex-crazed young things being terrorised in a confined space and being popped off one by one by unknown forces. Yes, I concede that there's a 'wink' at the horror genre's over-used formula here, but I don't think the film works either as horror or comedy. (Some horror films only work because they are so knowingly funny, but it needs some skill to bring that off successfully without being over-parodic). The main reason why this film doesn't work for me is that the premise of entrapment of the group is undermined near the film's start, revealing that the confined area from which escape must be sought is not the same as that which the preyed-upon group sees it. (It's difficult to give much more away without spoiling it for those who wish to see this film, and who may well enjoy it more than I did). Then, later in the film, the confining walls of this 'box' are re-drawn to unconvincing effect resulting in a plethora of special effects which I just find tedious and lazy. Okay, I'd better stop there. But it certainly is a different film from what most of us might have expected.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen -  Not having read the book, which I understand is more philosophical than the title might suggest, I was mildly intrigued by this - but only mildly. I really didn't know what to expect . Apparently the film takes a literal reading of the title and makes it a 1 hour 45 minutes film of this scientific and engineering project (with a parallel romantic thread) - and  I found it, frankly, dull, dull, dull!  Not even British stalwarts Ewan McGregor and the ever-watchable Kristin Scott Thomas (playing bossy-bitch right up to the hilt) as well as recent 'flavour-of-the-times'  Emily Blunt, could make the whole thing more than a tiny bit interesting. Too long and too damn boring! Some fine scenic photography, though.


Anyway, let's hope the coming month brings more than one single film that is worth catching.


Monday 16 April 2012

My troublesome but truly treasured twosome (again)

All pics taken this very April morn. Blackso now starting to show his 13 years which, in human equivalent age, is probably not far short of my own 65. Noodles will be about 10. They both still control my life absolutely - 'cos I spoil 'em something terrible.

Thursday 12 April 2012

'HUGO' - at second viewing, but this time in 3D.

For only the fourth time in the last 10 years I've just paid good money to see a film in the cinema for a second time. This time the special one-off showing of 'Hugo' had the added attraction of being in 3D. I'd already seen the 'flat' version back in January which, even in that format, had captivated me. I was a bit reluctant to go, partly because it was showing on the very same screen as when I'd previously seen it. However, largely on the encouragement of my good blog-follower-friend, Paul, go I did.
In a previous blog I'd already nominated it as a potential 'film of the year' and it has now not only lost nothing of that status, but my appreciation of it has been enhanced. Visually, it really is quite extraordinary - and that has got to be its major achievement. The story has its sentimental passages for sure, particularly in the first half hour and towards the end, but it doesn't drown in pathos. I was also more attentive to Howard Shore's music score this time and, I have to say, it's pretty good without being ostentatiously distracting (though, perhaps, using Saint-Saens' 'Danse Macabre' a tad too much.). Even though in the story-telling I knew what was going to happen I was gripped all over again - and actually looking forward to seeing certain of the set pieces, this time jumping out in relief. I wasn't disappointed. I've seen half a dozen films in 3D in this latest resurrected wave of film fashion, and 'Hugo' is easily the most remarkable - in fact I'd say the only one so far which fully justifies being it being in that format, even though it holds up excellently in 2D too.
    As I just caught it on what was probably a final opportunity to see it on a cinema screen in 3D I would urge anyone who hasn't yet seen it, even if it's only showing in 'normal', to catch this totally magical film. Can't understand why it wasn't thought merit-worthy enough to carry off a single one of the major awards at the Oscars and the BAFTAs. I wouldn't be surprised if, in years to come, 'Hugo' is going to be considered a landmark film, for visual effects if nothing else. Superb!

Btw: The only other films of the last decade which I've seen twice in the cinema - 'Mamma Mia!', 'Inception' and 'Chicago'. Doesn't mean that I thought these were the best films of recent years, though obviously I liked them. However, what they do have in common is that they stand up well to repeated viewing.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

My latest round-up of some recent cinema releases - March 2012

So here is my list of films seen in the cinema, with my scores marked out of 10, stressing again that these represent my own personal experiential value of each, rather than whether or not they are intrinsically 'good' or otherwise. 
In order of viewing:-

A Dangerous Method (5)
Wuthering Heights (4)
Michael (7.5)
Bel Ami  (7)
The Help  (6.5)
The Hunger Games  (7)

A Dangerous Method - Moderately interesting drama on the Jung/Freud professional acquaintanceship - but little more than that.

Wuthering Heights  - (2011) - a real curiosity, with rough edges in several senses - and containing, for me,  at least one execrable and unnecessary scene.
    The 'big' story behind this one is having a black actor playing Heathcliffe, the only one in the film. Okay, we can all take a deep breath and watch it 'colour-blind', but for me in this production, it tended to be a major distraction. Should we expect authenticity at all times? Of course not. It is, after all, just one version of a work of fiction anyway - based, of course, on the Emily Bronte classic which I love - or at least part of it. But here it really was an ever-present feature which skewered away the focus of the original.
   There were things here which I thought commendable - namely the complete absence of any background music (a huge plus for me!), and the bleak views of the inhospitable Yorkshire moors of the book, (in fact, the same county where I grew up) where the film was actually shot on location. Truly filming 'in the raw'.
   Now to that scene to which I referred which will haunt me for evermore. On having to leave his home a boy kills his little pet dog by hanging it by the neck in a noose. We don't actually seeing it dying but the scene which lasts probably not much more than 10 seconds shows the little thing struggling in panic when it is hung up. I'm as sure as I can be that it wasn't c.g.i. - and I have absolutely no doubt that as soon as the camera was taken from this shot the dog itself was saved from its implied fate, though its fear, alarm and distress was clearly evident.. But why did they do it at all? As far as I recall there is no such scene in the book. But I'm afraid that, for this reason alone, this will join the list of films which I've seen where something about it will forever remain distasteful in my memory. 
As a whole, I think the film would have been better served if it had been given the title of  'Heathcliffe'   - with an appended sentence "as suggested by 'Wuthering Heights'".
     By the way, the actor referred to, one James Howson, has apparently done himself no favours by failing to appear in court last week to answer charges of allegedly racially abusing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. The latest I read is that he is now on the run from the police - though there is also a suggestion of mental health issues, so who knows how this will turn out? Judgment may be premature.

Michael  - A quite disturbing Austrian film (German dialogue) of a 40-something paedophile who keeps a 10-year old boy locked up in his basement. There is little of the situation that is actually spelled about what is happening but it very soon becomes clear what is going on. Nothing is graphically shown - apart from one very brief but shocking interchange between the two of them during mealtime. The boy is allowed upstairs to have meals with the man and to occasionally watch TV with him. In his fully furnished prison-basement he also has all mod-cons, though not his own TV - and is never allowed outside alone. It's not a film for those who don't like inconclusive endings and who demand to know "what happens next?". It certainly leaves one wondering. But all in all, quite a good effort.

Bel Ami  - A pleasant surprise. Didn't know what to expect, but this Don Juan-ish story kept me absorbed throughout.

The Help - After all the hype, both pro and con, had no idea which way I was going to come down. In the event I thought it was competent, and certainly not uninteresting , though rather longer than I might have wished for. I haven't read the book on which it's based but I kept getting the impression that the film-makers wanted to get as much of it into the film as possible, which is fine, but it left me with the nagging feeling that a bit of judicious editing might have helped to have made it more effective.
    However - and it's a big 'however' - I have two major aversions in film (three if you count negative treatment of animals). The first is seeing pre-pubescent kids so worldly-wise as to teach adults, usually their own parents, all about life and its problems - and the latter shamefacedly accepting such revelatory 'instruction' from these little brats. Mercifully, there is little of that going on in 'The Help'. But my other 'biggie' is background music which signposts you to laugh, cry, smile, be cross, shocked, indignant.....whatever - and, boy, does this film have it by the bucketload! The damn thing hardly ever stops! As it goes on and on I find my resistance to feeling what they are telling me to feel growing stronger, and my irritation increasing accordingly. It's just so hellishly distracting!!!
It's not a film I'd care to see again though overall I'd recommend it for at least one viewing.

The Hunger Games  - During the course of watching this I did feel myself being won over to what might otherwise have been a hard watch. It had its moments - but only on hindsight did I realise how unoriginal it really was. Once again, I haven't read the book which has now got renowned status - and it might be that it comes over better in that format. But, on the whole, a worthy offering - and a film from which I got more than (say) any of the Harry Potter films. (An invidious comparison, I know, though both have this 'fighting-against-the-odds' premise.)

Just as a footnote, every so often a film comes round which, from what I read, I'm pretty sure would have been to my own tastes, but for certain reasons (usually financial) I'm unable to attend a screening of it. So it was this last month for one such - 'Martha Marcia May Marlene'. Big regret. Only hope a chance will come round again to see in the cinema.

 Well, that's it for another month.