Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review of 'Early Man'

Some good visual jokes for the knowing - especially in the Bronze Age city. I particularly liked the names of the stalls in the market place; 'Pelts for Celts' and 'The Beaker People' were there. But not as funny as other Nick Park films. I probably missed some of the football-themed jokes, though lots of them were pretty obvious even for someone who doesn't know or care much about football.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review of 'The Land of Steady Habits'

Another really sad film, this time about people who are comparatively rich and successful, but still confronted by emptiness and failed relationships. There are occasional laughs, but it's mainly pretty bleak. Rubbish friendships, loneliness, and erectile disfunction.

The children of the successful people are all lost, drifting between drugs, booze and rehab. The parents are trying to do their best but don't know what that is - there's a touching moment when one dad tells the son of another couple how they'd taken away their son's teddy bear because they'd been worried he would be teased, and he'd been devastated.

Again, something of an implausibly happy ending. Even indie movies can't seem to stomach confronting us with the full bleakness of the stories they describe.

Watched on Netflix via phone and Chromecast.

Review of 'Lean on Pete' (yeah, spoilers again)

A very good, sad and somewhat harrowing film about a young man - he's fifteen and should be at school, though he's not - living in Portland with a dad who is a drunk (the blurb describes him as an alcoholic, though that's not really apparent). He drifts into a casual job with a not-very-successful racehorse owner, becomes sentimentally attached to one of the not-very-successful racehorses, and triggers a series events that leaves him wandering across the western side of the United States and sliding deeper into its poorest and most desperate strata.

I was struck by all the terrible things that could have happened to him but didn't. Another character warns him that in the district where he is sleeping rough he is likely to get robbed, or raped; he doesn't, even though he is a very pretty young man. And there's a Hollywood-style happy ending, which is logical and plausible but not very likely. Most young people in this predicament end up dead or destroyed.

Watched at Lansdown Film Club in Stroud.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Review of Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

Sort of biopic of cartoonist John Callahan, who was an alcoholic and paraplegic as a result of a drunk-driving accident. A narrative structure that involves lots of flashbacks and flash-forwards to make interesting what would otherwise be a bit plodding, but there's lots of genuine pathos and quite a bit of disabled/paraplegic sex - although Callahan doesn't seem very likable lots of people seem to like him. I didn't even like his cartoons that much - a bit racist and sexist some of the time, and lots of fairly vicious jokes about disabled people, which of course were OK coming from him because...

AA is the real hero - and it does make it clear that AA is a religious organisation, despite some  affectionate jokes about Christianity.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

Review of Widows

Very dark thriller - dark in both senses of the word, because much of what happens on the screen is really murky. It has a complex plot - the trailer makes it look like a regular heist movie, but it's actually much more complicated, with a lot of insight into Chicago politics, sexual politics, and lots more. There were some elements that I needed to go over to make sure I understood them, and one or two that I'm still not sure I followed.  Hard to convey much of this without spoilers, but it's definitely worth seeing.

Watched at the Arthouse Cinema in Crouch End - nice comfortable cinema, but so cold!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review of 'Allied'

Quite good war-time spy/double agent thriller, with Brad Pitt in the lead as a Canadian special ops guy who falls for his associate and then discovers that she is/may be a double agent. Quite tense, convincingly shot, though I was not entirely satisfied with the double agent character. Also, I rather think that when the secret services discover an agent, or a double agent, in place, they try to turn and use them, rather than require them to be shot dead there and then.

Watched on Netflix.

Review of 'Budapest Noir'

This was something of a disappointment. I'd been really looking forward to it since seeking Réka Tenki in On Body and Soul, where she was great. I'd watched the trailer and saw how atmospheric it looked, and I had high hopes.

It did look great; Budapest is very photogenic and it's beautifully shot. But the script and the plot really let it down. Our hero is an implausibly well-connected crime reporter. There's a bit of an antisemitism theme, but it's incidental to the plot, more for colour than anything else.

 It's as if someone decided that they would put in everything that could possibly go into a film noir, and that somehow it would all come together. But it doesn't. The plot just about hangs together but it sort of plods along...there isn't much suspense or feeling of mystery; and once we've got used to secondary characters being slaughtered while our hero remains implausibly untouched, there isn't any noir-like feeling of menace. Also, while I love the kind of Jazz that is typically associated with noir, I felt that the soundtrack ought to have been more Cabaret and less LA Confidential. And Réka Tenki's character isn't all that interesting.

Watched at Woodford Odeon, as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

Review of 'Animal Dreams' by Barbara Kingsolver

Another nicely-written, well-structured book from Barbara Kingsolver, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's great that she not only creates believable characters (especially blue-collar ones), but that she also has her heart so firmly in the right place. This one has environmental degradation and a sister who goes off to help the Sandinista revolution as an agronomist. I'm a bit concerned that the ending is a bit fairy-tale, at least as far as the evil environment-trashing mining company is concerned, but I'm not sure I could have endured a more 'realistic' ending.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Review of 'The Wife' (another spoiler alert)

A film about a New York writer (inevitably, he's Jewish) who is feted as a great, and wins the Nobel Prize for literature, but really it's his wife who is writing the books. Well crafted and acted, beautifully filmed. Great portrayal of her as the actual creative genius who is mainly content to take a back seat as long as she can write and be published and be read, which she wouldn't have been able to do as a 'woman writer'. Great portrayal of him as an utter no-talent prick who is pompous and self-important, and refers even in private to their relationship as a 'writing partnership'.

I note in passing how long ago 1992 (when the film is set, apart from some flashbacks to the 1960s) now seems - no internet, no mobile phones...any of which would have made the plot less plausible.

Watched at the O2 Cinema in Finchley Road - huge screen, powerful sound not really needed for this intimate film.

Review of 'Indignation' (Spoiler Alert)

The official theatrical release poster
Another not-so-great film on Netflix. Young Jewish guy in 1950s America goes from New York to a conservative college in Ohio, partly to avoid being drafted to fight in Korea. His parents are over-protective, he's a socialist and atheist who must dodge the two Jewish room-mates the college has assigned him to and the Jewish fraternity that seeks to recruit him. He attracts the attentions of a beautiful but troubled wasp and posh female student, who sucks him off in his room-mates borrowed car.

It's a bit "Portnoy's Complaint" (well, it's based on novel by Philip Roth), a bit American Graffiti, and a bit something more serious...but it's also a bit boring and a bit too pleased with itself. Bits of the plot don't really make sense or seem implausible. Some of the cinematography also seems odd, the more so because most of it is so conventional.

Watched on Netflix via two halves, several days apart.