Monday, October 18, 2021

Review of 'The Incredible Jessica James'

Half way through watching this I realised that I'd started watching it before, and given up. I could see why, even though its heart is mainly in the right's feminist, a little bit edgy, features a strong black woman as the's just a bit boring as a rom-com. Towards the end I was checking my phone quite often.

Watched on Netflix.

Review of "Frozen 2"

We had a little girl visiting us, and and a friend who has decided to watch only Disney films because everything else is so feel-bad, so we watched this. We watched Frozen four years ago (and I wrote a review at the time), and it was much better than I expected. I'm sorry that I can't say the same for this one, even though it was much more self-consciously inspired by good themes - eco-feminism, and anti-colonialism, for starters. 

But it felt much more of a mish-mash, with too many story lines, and too much going on. And I didn't think the music was so good either, though I rather liked the song the Sami-like people sing about half way through. Still visually impressive, with lots of good Sami-inspired graphics, and I suspect that the look of Arendelle is inspired by National Romantic architecture, which I've always liked.

Informal distribution, a USB stick and the new projector in the Springhill Common House.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Review of 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

Based on the James Baldwin novel, and really good, though hard to watch because it's so grim. The acting, the dialogue, the cinematography is all excellent, though I did miss occasional bits of speech.

The poster is very misleading, it's a story about racism, not true love. The love between the two main characters just makes the racism and oppression harder to bear. Impossible to watch without putting yourself in the shoes of the main characters - in my case, particularly the two fathers, knowing that the system of oppression is going to grind your children to powder, and that playing within the rules affords you no chance of coming through with either fortune or dignity intact.

Watched on BBC iPlayer.

Review of Cruella

This was more fun that I expected - I liked the music, the clothes, and wondering where the locations were (some of them weren't anywhere but had been created with CGI, bah!). The acting was sort of camp - especially Emma Thompson as the villain, but I didn't mind. And I'm sure the art directors must have a lot of fun...I was especially pleased to see the packet of Golden Wonder crisps with appropriate packaging. Because of the 1970s setting there was less product placement - no Apple laptops prominently in shot. 

I thought Emma Stone's english accent was perfectly good too.

Watched in the Middle Floor at Springhill, having been obtained by informal distribution. Loaded on to a USB stick, played on the new DVD player which has a USB slot, quality was really good.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Review of New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

I enjoyed this more than I have his other books - it's not only optimistic and left-wing (don't often go together, do they?) like his other books but also has decent, interesting characters and a few enjoyable plots. The bad guys are a bit vague and not so fully described or defined, but the good characters are likeable and interesting (again, that is not often a common pairing).

And I like the descriptions of future NY - the super-Venice of drowned downtown, the superscrapers with farm floors, the vaporettos and the hydrofoil yachts of the rich, and blimps and sky-villages...beautiful and possible.

Oddly it made interested in the geography of New York, and even made me want to go there, which is not likely to happen.

Review of Palm Springs

Sort of a second-rate, updated version of Groundhog Day, with the time loop theme, but without any of the poignancy or thoughtfulness. This time it's a family wedding in a ghastly Florida resort, and it's not just the main character who has to repeat the day, but also a woman (the bride's wayward sister) who follows him into the cave that is somehow the source of the time loop - and also another man, a grumpy vindictive sort who chases and wounds/kills the main guy, but it doesn't have any consequences since everything is reset whenever any of them goes to sleep.

Just about watchable, and the occasional funny groundhog-esque gag (he knows what's going to happen next so can anticipate it), but not a great film or a great use of time.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Review of 'Eaten By Lions'

Nice British film about...well, quite a lot really. Two half brothers are brought up by their gran after their parents die in a freak ballooning accident in which they land in a safari park and are eaten by lions. One boy is brown and of Asian origin - his mum had a seaside fling but the dad of the other boy brings him up as his own - and the other brother is disabled. Then the gran dies, and an aunt wants to adopt the white brother but not the brown one, who goes off in search of his biological father. Lots more plot, and lots more issues.

Funny, sad, thoughtful, clever. More films like this please.

Watched on BBC iPlayer.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Review of The Mauritanian

A while ago I watched a documentary about the too-close relationship between Hollywood and the US military...I'd sort of suspected that the military cooperated with movie makers in exchange for help, but I hadn't appreciated the extent or the depth of the involvement...changing story lines even in science fiction films, for example. 

Well, I don't suppose the makers of this film got much cooperation. There are few punches pulled in the depiction of the US military's cruelty and caprice. We see torture and abuse of prisoners, much of it gratituitous, and some of it vile and porn-inspired. And it goes on way past any possible military or intelligence benefit, partly to cover arses and save higher-ups from embarassment. And the Obama administration did not behave better than its predecessors. 

It's a legal drama, with lots of stuff about release of documents, and privilege of counsel and so on, but it's well-made and well acted. I don't want to say more about just how well made because that'll spoil some of the film for anyone who reads it...but this is well worth watching.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Review of Wild Bill

Gritty London-based crime and family drama, in which a rather deadbeat dad comes out of prison to find his two young sons living a precarious life in a tower-block council flat because their mum has abandoned them and moved to Spain with a new boyfriend. The dad is a hard man - the wild Bill of the title - but not much good for or at anything else, though he's not really a bad person. He tries to be a father to the boys, but they've been managing without him and are more than a little suspicious, except that they need him to pretend to be around or they'll be taken into care and split up.

There's a lot in this film, including the way that the authorities - even the ones that we think of as the good ones, like local authority social workers - manage the underclass. And the way that drug dealing looks like an attractive career option to kids with no other prospects. And how hard it is for ex-cons to move beyond their old circles when they come out.

It's from 2011, and the construction of the Olympic Village (where the older boy is working, illegally because he's too young) sets it at a precise moment in time. So does the mum going off to Spain, which couldn't happen post-Brexit. In every other respect it looks bang up to date...nothing else seems to make it dated, not the clothes or the phones.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

Review of "People Places Things"

Quite nice film about a NZ man living in NY, in the process of separating from his partner and mother of his cute twin daughters, and trying to be a good dad despite his catastrophically bad organisation and life skills. Some humour, some poignancy. Absolutely no connection to the play with a very similar name that was harrowing but much, much better.

Watched on Netflix

Friday, September 03, 2021

Review of Salting The Battlefield

A sort of spy/conspiracy thriller that ought to be good, but really isn't. Lots of good actors, directed by David Hare, but a half-assed script and a plot that doesn't really make much sense except in a very general conspiracy sort of way. Ralph Fiennes is the Blair-like PM who has connections to dodgy US financiers and torture networks, and Bill Nighy is a sort of rogue MI5/MI6 agent who is trying to bring him down...but it's not really clear why, or who is pulling the strings behind him. Lots of running across nice-looking locations in Europe, put together in ways that seem OK at the time but don't stand up to much reflection. Dubious politics, in that it's the security services and the press who eventually get rid of the PM, or rather allow him to resign to take a new and better job...there's no actual politics at all, not in Parliament, much less in the streets. 

Watched on Netflix.

Review of 'Victus' by Albert Sánchez Piñol

A surprisingly good novel about the 1714 siege of Barcelona. I set out to read this as background 'research' for the third book in my Ferenc Marlowe series, because it seemed like it would be easier reading than a history of the War of the Spanish Succession. In fact it turned out to be much better than I expected, and I also learned quite enough about the war itself. It starts out in what I think is the picaresque genre, with quite a bit of slapstick and knockabout humour, but gradually becomes more serious. I don't like war stories all that much, but this is well written and emotionally connecting, at the same time providing a lot of detail about the mechanics of the siege and the politics of C18th Catalonia.