Monday 29 July 2013

Film: 'THE WOLVERINE' (in 2D)

I haven't seen my favourite-looking actor of the present generation playing this role since I saw the original 'X-Men' film in 2000. I would have given this one a miss too but was smitten by seeing clips of him in the trailer and on TV, sporting those fabulous mutton-chop whiskers, which give him a more feline than a lupine appearance. I don't think H.J. has EVER looked as scintillatingly hot as he does in this. On the other hand, I don't recall seeing his engaging and totally disarming smile even just once during the entire two hours plus.

But that aside, this Japan-based, relentlessly serious, dull film was a waste of time for this cineaste. Loud sounds and visual tricks with the lavish use of computer effects do not an interesting film make.
We get an awful lot of seeing Jackman acting with all the stops out, showing his anguish and inner conflicts. I found it easy to empathise with his struggles but that was probably only because I like him so much. Otherwise I didn't find the story in the slightest way remarkable - though most of it being set in Japan was a further slight point in its favour.

Btw: I'd read a hint to stay for the final credits, which I did - unlike the rest of the audience, bar three or four. After all the acknowledgments have appeared, and rather oddly placed, there is a further couple of minutes of film of H.J. meeting up with two very familiar faces (you can probably guess who they are), which will be cause for diehard fans of the series to rejoice, though hardly for me.

Not much else to say. If the lead had been played by another actor I would probably have scored it by 2 points less than I'm going to - but in that case I wouldn't have bothered seeing it at all.................3/10

Friday 26 July 2013


This is the final instalment of the so-called 'Cornetto Trilogy'.
I liked 'Shaun of the Dead' - and 'Hot Fuzz' a bit more than 'Shaun' (unlike some viewers). So I was agreeably disposed to watching this one - and, by and large, it delivered, though without quite eclipsing the earlier two .

Simon Pegg (whom I've always found particularly watchable) plays his most obnoxious character to date - a loud-mouthed, manipulative, heavy-smoking, me-first liar and general slob (and with hair dyed black into the bargain!) He rounds up four of his former teenage chums to complete again the pub-crawl they had started when celebrating their leaving school, they having lost touch with each other since then. The other members of this now middle-aged quintet are all names which aficianados of British film (and TV) will recognise - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan. It's Pegg, of course who calls the tune and they go along with him, mainly for old time's sake rather than with any obvious enthusiasm. (The film's title is also the name of the final pub on their 'itinerary' - a double meaning with a hint of things to come!)
   They start on their 'liquid journey' as intended but very soon it all takes a most bizarre turn. It's difficult to know how much more to say without giving away the direction the rest of the film takes. I was vaguely aware that something very strange would happen without knowing exactly what, and will confess that I was pleasingly surprised (well, a bit) when it did. As the film's still pretty new I'd better leave it at that - though very soon everyone will know, even those who don't see it.
      For me, Freeman and Considine, though good actors, didn't seem entirely comfortable in their roles, but not to the extent of detracting from the fun. The major downer for me was the length - just 10 minutes short of two hours. Comedy, more than most other genres, should not overstay its welcome. It's more effective when closed down while leaving people wanting more, than to unnecessarily prolong its stay by engaging in an attempt to rationalise all what's been happening - especially when it culminates, as it does here, in the expected firework display of special effects. It's the old saying about the length of a film and diminishing returns.
    But on the way there were definitely LOL moments and I did enjoy the start and, even moreso, the middle of the film.

      A respectable comedy, then - fast-talking, generally sharp-scripted and slickly edited - but more than a mite too long. I had been half-minded to give it a '7' but now, on the morning after, I think nearer the mark would be.....................6.5

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Film: 'WADJDA'

I'd really wanted to like this well-received film more, but my hoped-for pleasure was distracted most of the time, though it was not the fault of the film itself.
This is a film remarkable for being made in Saudi Arabia by a Saudi Arabian woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, as both director and writer - perhaps a small but not insignificant indication that that essentially closed-society country may be starting to shed something of its insularity.

The main strand concerns the titular schoolgirl who sets her heart on buying a bicycle - in the first place in order to race her young boy pal, the two of whom share a playfully joshing friendship. Riding a bicycle is considered an unacceptable thing to do for a young girl (or, indeed, for any female) in this patriarchal society where the conduct of females is severely constrained.
The part of the story concerning the bicycle doesn't actually overwhelm the film. Several other strands are in play, mainly the girl's education where the (female) teachers, inside the school, wear westernized dress and hair-styles (as does the girl's mother at home) but when they go outside all have to be shapelessly black-robed from head to foot (girls with head covered), with just the letter-box slit for the eyes, and sometimes not even that. And it's this part that really got me distracted. There was nothing in the film we didn't already know about, but seeing how women have to conduct themselves, under pain of law, when non-familial men may be nearby got to me, especially as here when it's presented as an 'incidental' of no great argument in an otherwise quite admirable film. (When I get angry I'm unable to externalise it, even when there's the opportunity to do so. I always leave it seething inside which, I know, is unhealthy - and I found myself doing this during a large part of this film).
Compounding this, the schoolgirl, in order to acquire money to purchase the bike, decides to take part in a school competition for knowledge of and recitation from the Qur'an. I suppose this is not very different from my own schooldays when we were forced to learn the Catechism by heart and be tested on it by a (usually cantankerous) priest, ever eager to pounce on the slightest error. But seeing the same thing going on again with children at a vulnerable age brought up my anger once more. But, as I say, we all know it goes on right now in many parts of the world. (Incidentally, for years I've been reading a page from the Qur'an daily, as well as a chapter from the Bible - though both, I must stress, not for devotional reasons - rather the reverse, in fact.)

Another strand of the story concerns the girl's mother at home - glamorous, once she's discarded her outside-wear black robes - and the cooled relationship with her husband who's on the search to take a second wife. He is also 'westernised', (plays TV games) and actually does not appear to be an unreasonable guy, at least on the surface..

The film, I suppose, takes a predictable path - with one rather unexpected (to me) 'blip' towards the end.
But overall, it was satisfactory.
If I'd been able to detach my own feelings and just sit back and watch it dispassionately I might have appreciated it more than I did. But even so, it gets from me a quite reasonable, though unspectacular, score of...........................6.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Royal baby? More like Royal BALONEY!

Re; the final paragraph below: 
Before anyone reads this post, I must point out that since writing it yesterday a number of my followers have commented that they had doubts about what I say below regarding Prince Andrew becoming first in line of succession if Charles pre-deceases the Queen. I am indebted to Andrew Brown (comments below) who pinpointed the evidence to show exactly how I was wrong - and that in the mid 18th century there had been the case of George III who succeeded his grandfather after his own father, Prince Frederick, died before his father George II, the crown thus leaping over a generation.
With this error now pointed out, I leave the article intact as I wrote it. My humble apologies for not having thoroughly checked the facts beforehand. (And Peter, why did you ever tell me that porky-pie? - which I believed!)

Oh, spare us all this "Awwwww - coo-coo - three cheers - royal gun salutes - I'm-crying-with-joy" flapdoodle!  I've already had more than enough of channel switching, thank you.

While being mildly republican, I'm in no way bellicosely anti-monarchist - at least not while Her Maj clings on. That may well change when the Prince-in-waiting-ever-so-long ascends to the royal throne. I think I'm right in saying that no British/English monarch in history will have been at such an age as he will be when he does eventually take over.
This new sprog could well be a middle-aged man by the time his turn comes, by which time there'll have been plenty of opportunity for him to have been inculcated into all the jolly-hockey-sticks life of the privileged, he'll long since have been 'blooded' into his first experience at the noble 'sport' of fox-hunting (oh, what spiffing fun!), very likely have been induced into the hush-hush exclusively male world of freemasonry - and, no doubt, gained his valorously-earned stripes in the armed forces, having risen, (by his own, unassisted, sheer dogged efforts, no doubt), to a rank of considerable seniority. Well, good for him. Hurrah!

 But will it happen? Oh, we do all hope so!

(I repeat here, the following paragraph is factually incorrect. Andrew will not become heir apparent. S-o-r-r-r-r-y!) 
Although everybody must want Chas to live until he's 150 (at least), it is by no means certain that he will outlive his mum. (The Queen's own mother saw her 101st.) But (and perish the thought!) suppose.....just suppose..... there were to be an 'accident' - for example, the lovely Camilla crossing her legs at an unfortunate moment, and thus most tragically breaking her husband's neck - then the succession would pass, not to William, as even most British people (ignorant of their own history) assume it would, but to the eldest son of the previous monarch, not the eldest grandson - so Andrew would become king. The order of succession would be turned almost on its head. Andrew would be succeeded by his daughters, then by their children, if any - then would follow Edward ("He's not gay!") and his two children - then, Princess Anne (if she's still around) followed by her children.........and only after all that motley group would come William, followed, finally, by yesterday's arrival, who'd now be way down on the succession list. So, Charles honey, an awful lot hangs on your survival - and if you were to pop your clogs before 'mummy' does, an awful lot of people are not just going to be surprised and disappointed, but damn near outraged!

Of course I only posit a possibility of what could happen. Might be interesting times ahead!


Monday 15 July 2013


Moderately interesting true-story dramatisation of brief, tempestuous marriage of 'renowned' English painter, A.J. Munnings. (Who? Yes, me neither.)
Set in Cornwall in period just prior to WWI, the emphasis is on the painter's bloated sense of self-worth (mainly in painting women and horses), his put-downs of his wife's artistic efforts and of modern art in general, his philandering, and the doubts of his spouse-to-be regarding him even before the wedding day.
A love-triangle provides the engine for this tale, the 'interloper' being a soldier acquaintance to whom she is more attracted, with tragic results.

Dominic Cooper plays the artist effectively. When he appears in unkempt state he can provide, for me, quite an attractive 'piece of rough', though in this film that aspect of his presence is tempered by his often having a cigarette in his mouth, something I personally always find a put-off.
I didn't know any of the other main actors, though I was familiar with a couple of them in the lesser roles. Emily Browning as the female love interest is excellent. In fact all the acting is of a high order - but special mention must be made of the savagely beautiful Cornish coast. I only wish we could have had an extended scene or two there rather than fleeting shots. Photography was superb. (More than once, it got me thinking of Daphne Du Maurier's precocious masterpiece, 'Rebecca'.)

By no means a bad film, though also nothing to write home about. It might have assisted my appreciation if I'd known of, or even heard of, the artist and his milieu.................................6.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Aaaargh! 'Wordpress' so annoying! Can't make comments on three blogger-pals' posts.

(Written two days later than main post below - Problem now resolved. See my own comment at end.)

This is the fourth consecutive day when I've wrestled with this.
At the moment there are three blogs involved which I studiously follow and like to comment on:-

Spo-Reflections @

Stephen Chapman @

Tai Huu Le's Blog @

All these have 'Wordpress' in common, though I don't know why, up to last week, I could post comments without any further ado. Now, when I try to do the same they just don't register. I can type out a comment and press the 'post comment' key, then it disappears. (I don't have the alternatives of  Twitter or Facebook accounts)

I've tried to register with Wordpress but it seems that some years ago I must have set up an account - and now can't locate the password. Recovering it from WP has been virtually impossible. When I try to register anew it tells me they've already got a 'Raybeard' - and when I indicate that I can't find the password it's not sending notification to my nominated primary e-mail account - or any of them - to allow me to recover the p/w or to process a new one! After a little while all this mucking about gets me locked out of WP for at least half an hour at a time. Frustration is high!  

So, until I can resolve this, I seem unable to communicate with these three through their blogs (though I do have e-mail addresses as a last resort). I'd be interested to know if anyone else who follows any or all of these bloggers has encountered the situation of just recently having to sign in to Wordpress to make a comment. What I can't understand is "why now?" when before it wasn't necessary.

Meantime all I can do is to keep trying - and using up needless computer time. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!! 

Btw: Dr Spo/Stephen/Tai - despite this hiccup I am still reading your blogs! 

Added following day: Oh hell! Now there's another one, a fourth! - - How on earth do I overcome this problem? I've got the need to 'converse'. If I can't I'll burst!


Saturday 13 July 2013


Confounding my own low expectations, having read a number of dismissive reviews (one critic calling it 'The Illusionist' for dummies!) I found this great fun.

Including a big-name, pleasingly watchable cast that takes in Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine (somewhat underused, sadly), and not forgetting newer kid-on-the-block, Dave Franco, it tells of a quartet of illusionists who play 'Robin Hood' in stealing huge sums of money through bank heists as part of their act, and distributing it to more 'deserving' members of the public attending their shows. The F.B.I. and Interpol get involved early on and from then on it's a cat-and-four-mice game, with a twist practically every few minutes, until it comes to the big final reveal, in which I'd failed to foresee the eventual actual joker-in-the-pack.
    Of course if one thinks deeply about what one sees I dare say little of it stands up to rigorous scrutiny. It's a very flash and slick film, with many jump cuts, some of them leaping so far that it would be futile to attempt rationalisation. Like a live conjuring act I think it's much more enjoyable if one doesn't keep asking "How did they do that?" but you just sit back and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is, barely letting up on the viscerally-felt momentum from the very start.
It's made in wide-screen so it could be that much of the impact will be lessened when seeing it on TV or computer. But it's one of those films that takes delight in playing games with the audience, so on that score alone it ought to carry some of the fun over. Of course there'll be those who see it and who'll gleefully point out holes in the storyline, and for that reason will talk down the worth of this film. I wouldn't argue that there aren't any such lapses but all I can say is that it kept me entertained for the entire nearly two hours' length. So, being honest as regards to my own enjoyment quotient, and despite a risk of making some blog readers aghast, I award 'Now You See Me' a highly satisfying rating of ......8/10.

Thursday 11 July 2013


Despite my fondness for quirky, even bizarre, films, this  oddity really perplexed me.

                      Opening simultaneously in certain cinemas, on DVD, and on TV last weekend (at a time too late for me to watch), this monochromatically-filmed tale of weird goings-on during the 17th century English Civil War is set entirely in the open, in the titular small area, played by an all-male (largely little-known) cast of actors, representing a motley handful of army deserters who are captured by an alchemist and his accomplice, and who are then forced to search for an assumed buried treasure.
A number of grisly, violent actions are scattered throughout the film, though I don't think of them any lasts for more than one second of screen time.

The special weirdness of this film is manifested by occasional unexplained statuesque poses, a small degree of religious fervour, hallucinatory episodes bordering on horror (which never actually materialises and which, I take it, originates from the ingesting of wild mushrooms found), and manifestations of physical resurrection. It's an odd mix indeed.
If it hadn't been for the tightly scripted and precise dialogue (commendably clearly delivered) I'd have thought at several points that the film-makers had 'lost the plot' and were pushing haphazardly onwards not sure themselves of what was going to happen, none of which is finally resolved.

I really liked a particular previous effort of director David Wheatley. His 2011 'Sightseers', (a quirkily amusing account of serial-killing!) finished in my Top 10 of that year. For that reason I was looking forward to this, especially since the reviews I've seen have been generally favourable. But I just didn't 'get it', though I'm willing to concede that the fault may be mine. 

A disappointment, then, though not a grave one. Still interesting enough to hold the attention, I dare say that others may well get more out of it than I did...........5.

Monday 8 July 2013


A not entirely uninteresting film, apparently based on a true story, of five odiously-attituded, pot-smoking, coke-snorting youngsters in L.A. who assume that the entire world exists only for them, and who have no compunctions about breaking into the homes of 'celebrities' (using that term in a very wide sense) such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, while they're away - and then rummaging through their lavishly and ridiculously overstocked wardrobes, making off with items of clothing, jewellery, handbags, watches etc to either keep for themselves or to sell for significant monetary gain. If this film really reflects the absurd ease with which they enter the empty premises - in one case by merely sliding open an unlocked and unalarmed glass door -  then the victim must only shoulder at least part of the blame her/himself.
I found this criminal quintet so dislikeable that, were I an advocate of c.p. (apart from in very specific and well-defined circumstances) I could cheerfully have given each of them a darned good slap. Had to remain to the end of this sensibly short (90 mins) film because I was yearning to see these loathsome juveniles get their richly deserved comeuppance, which they did, though it wasn't anything like as severe as I would have liked. (The Emma Watson's character's closing speech about how the experience has improved her self-realisation and knowledge is hilarious.)

Sofia Coppola has got herself quite a reputation for coming up with films which are off-the-beaten-track, and deserves great credit for doing so. But, because they are deemed not to have mass appeal, they usually get only selected showings, with the result that I have not had the opportunity to see more of her films than the few which I have. But those I have viewed are hardly ever boring, this one qualifying too.

Not bad entertainment - and certainly an unusual story. I award it a.........................5.5