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.



  1. Hello Ray;
    Your monthly film review is something which we find most useful when selecting films we should like to see and certainly acts as a guide as to what to look out for when, and if, they make an appearance in Budapest.

    The gratuitous hanging of a dog in Wuthering Heights is enough for us to avoid this latest offering of an interpretation of Emily Bronte's novel and we, like you, cannot recall any such incident in the original book. In any event, we should, in all probability, have given it a miss.

    1. Thanks, J & L. I'm very humbled by your thinking so much of my film blogs - and if they can be of some modest help in steering you towards worthwhile attractions whilst saving your money on other less worthy offerings, then I'm doubly happy.
      And I've got to mention too that I'm so very pleased to find that we are kindred spirits when it comes to animals. I'm always conscious of some readers thinking that I make too much of the subject, but knowing that there people around like your own good selves lets me know that I'm not alone.

  2. The Hunger Games is banned here because according to the censor board, it's too violent. However I will find my way to watch it.

    1. Tai, before this film was released here there was also talk about it being too violent. But as the book is, apparently, very popular with young readers our governing censorship board instructed it to be slightly cut (by only one minute or so, I think) so that children could see it - and that is the version which is playing in our cinemas now. There were certainly a lot of children in the audience when I saw it. In this version there is not much violence explicitly shown - it's nearly all 'off-camera'. I don't know why in your country they couldn't also show this very slightly-shortened version. As it stands it's nowhere near as violent as a lot of films I've seen.

  3. There is nothing on your March list that really interests me, except "Bel Ami." I remember seeing this on TV many years ago with George Sanders and the fabulous Angela Lansbury and remember enjoying it so much. Let's return to last month's list and your review of "Carnage."

    I saw it on VOD - not once but three times - and loved it. This is the exception to the rule that the play is better than the movie.
    Since I saw the play in 2009, I can't recall if sequences were in order, but there were several glaring changes: (1) The wives' names were changed from Veronica and Annette to Penelope and Nancy. (2) The two boys' names went from Benjamin and Henry to Zachary and Ethan. (3) And the biggest change - the desert - from 'clafouti' to 'cobbler' and this is probably my favorite scene in the movie. Just a great, enjoyable, laugh-ot-loud-movie, with a fantastic ensemble cast.

  4. That's great what you say, Paul (about 'Carnage')
    I was going to add a further comment on my original blog on this film, asking you if you didn't find the play in the theatre FUNNY - because that is what I remember most about the film, having the same reaction as you now do. It was so comical seeing all those perfectly-poised postures at the start coming apart, stitch by stitch. (And what sort of person would leave a unique and priceless Kandinsky catalogue out on a coffee table? Just for show? Almost certainly "Yes", the pretentious little woman!)
    Maybe the humour didn't come over in the live version that you saw - or maybe the players didn't think it was a comedy.
    I'd add the further comment that before I got to know Harold Pinter's plays as well as I do now, I used to find them an uncomfortable watch. But years later he became one of my 'gods' after I began to see just how really funny his plays are. I see much the same features of subversive humour in 'Carnage' - and, indeed, in 'Art' too.
    Those changes for the film version are peculiar - but hardly material. I wonder why they made them. Could it be that 'Veronica' and 'Annette' have their close French equivalents - presumably used in the original French version - and their replaced names sound more Anglo-Saxon? I don't know.
    As for the dessert change I'm an ignoramus when it comes to food, not knowing what either of these dishes are.

    But, to repeat, I'm now ever so pleased that we've enjoyed the same film.

  5. No hunger games for me; and 'Michael" is a polite no thank you
    But I liked the Most Dangerous Method. I would very much like to see wuthering heights, for I just returned from a visit with my landlord.

    1. Dr Spo - 'Hunger Games' - I ought to have added that I think the razzmatazz 'opening' goes on for too long. It's not far off half the film's length, but I suppose that having spent so much on its opulence (though a lot of it would be computer-generated) they wanted to show it all on screen. But as you're not going to see it......

      'Michael' - your reaction is understandable. (I suppose I'm thankful it wasn't called 'Raymond'!)

      'Wuth. H' - Re your comment above - Nice one!

  6. I have got a lot of catching up to do. I haven't been to see a film in more than year. So, the only recent films I've seen have been on planes!

  7. Mitch, I think some films are shown on planes even before they are released in certain parts of the world. I know that it's happened sometimes for American films with staggered release dates. So it could be that you have seen a film or two which hadn't opened in Great Britain at that point.

  8. Ray, I read the comment you left on Stephen's Blog regarding the film, "Hugo." You did hear from someone who saw it in 3-D. I responded to your February posting of "Hugo." Because of the awesome job they did, that film will stay with me forever.

    1. Paul, yes, I see you're right. You gave the 3D version such a positive notice, now reinforced above, how could I have forgotten? My apologies.
      Co-incidentally there is a single matinee showing in this format in Brighton (about 12 miles away) day after tomorrow - and this will pretty well certainly be my final chance to catch it as such - BUT already there has already been a clutch of films this year I would dearly love to have seen but have had to sacrifice because I simply do not have the cash - and, blow me, here comes 'Hugo' again, and even more expensive than any of the others! Oh, the pain of this dilemma! It comes down to a choice between food or 'Hugo'.

  9. Ray, As someone who loves films, I hope that you somehow manage to see "Hugo" - 3D. I never see a 3D film because it can be annoying and not at all worth the huge extra cost. But the 3D process in "Hugo" is magical.

    1. Paul, because of what's been said - and not only by you - I'm inclined to grit my teeth and go tomorrow, and worry about the consequences later when it's too late to do anything about it. Pity that it's showing in the very same cinema where I saw it in flat version in Jan. A change of venue might have been an extra attraction.
      If, as seems likely I do now see it, I'll do another brief blog on the experience here.
      Btw: Our leading film critic on the radio here - one Mark Kermode - asserts 'Hugo' is the ONLY film released in 3D so far which totally justifies its being in that format. High praise!