Friday, July 24, 2020

Review of 'Late Night'

Cheerful and enjoyable but not very consequential film, in which Emma Thompson (looking gorgeous with great clothes and hair) plays a host on a late night talk show that's been going downhill, and she tries to put some life into it by hiring a new writer - ending up with an Indian woman with no TV experience who just sort of walks in to an interview. The other writers are all men of a certain age and demeanour, with no enthusiasm, who Thompson's character barely knows. It has some good funny moments, but is rather spoiled by taking the business of late night TV too seriously, so that we are really supposed to believe, and admire, and care about the fact, that the host character has devoted her life to delivering 'excellence' in late night talk show hosting.

Watched on Amazon Prime via Chromecast and smartphone.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Review of 'One Day'

I read the book a long time ago - 2011 - and remember it more fondly than my review (which only gave it two stars) suggests. It's sort of a romcom/romantic drama, with an odd twist rarely seen in the genre...yeah, avoiding spoilers here. One of the two principal characters is very obnoxious, though less so in the film; and while the book is a fairy-tale about Britain's class system, this dimension is largely absent from the book - Dexter is obviously a self-assured posh boy, but Emma is faintly Northern but otherwise classless and indeed background-less...she just doesn't have any backstory at all.

The film is from the same year as the book, but I'd managed to avoid watching it until now. Did David Nicholls write anything else ever again?

So watchable, and quite enjoyable, but not memorable.

Watched on Netflix via smartphone and Chromecast.

Review of 'Margin Call'

A film set in a trading house at the very beginning of the 2008 financial crisis, with the implication that this institution and its Mortgage Backed Securities was responsible. Lots of good actors and good acting, but sort of vaccuous. The drama is about the way that the characters plan to stick it to each other and let each other take the blame. There's just a faint whiff of criticism of capitalism in there - the Kevin Spacey character says, as part of his farewell to the troops who are all busy liquidating the company's "position" and will all be sacked shortly afterwards, that the work that they have done has somehow made the world a better place, but you can see that he doesn't believe it and can barely bring himself to say the words. And all of the suits who preside over this have empty, meaningless but wealthy lives. But that's sign that this is a gross, evil system that wrecks lives, wastes resources, mis-applies creative and intellectual resource...if you weren't minded to be anti-capitalist before, this won't make you any more critical of the system. If you think that working in finance is glamourous and interesting, you will probably still think so.

Watched on Amazon Prime via smartphone and Chromecast.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Review of Dating Amber

A nice coming-of-age drama-comedy about two young people, at school in rural Ireland in the mid-1990s, both gay, who agree to pretend to have a relationship so that everyone else will leave them alone. They develop a nice friendship, even though the young man is in part-denial about whether he's really gay, and confused as to whether his friendship with the eponymous Amber is romantic or a relationship of solidarity.

Hilarious Catholic-school sex education film, and I learned a new word - "beard".

I note in passing that the film feels entirely contemporary - the clothes, the language, the music (the club the two protagonists go to in Dublin looks much the same as one would now, I think) - except that there are no mobile phones and no IT at laptops, no internet, because it's 25 years ago and none of that existed. And yet social relationships seem to be mainly the same.

Watched on Amazon Prime via smartphone and chromecast.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Review of Tully (spoiler alert - plot twist revealed, sorry)

Another Hollywood film, billed as a 'comedy-drama' but with no actual laughs - look at that poster and tell me this is supposed to be a comedy. Marlo (Charlize Theron) is an affluent mum with two 'challenging' children and an unplanned third one on the way, when her even-more-affluent brother suggests that she and her husband get a 'night nanny' At first Marlo refuses to share the intimate parts of her life with a stranger but after the baby is born, and she's overwhelmed with the workload and the stress, and then the night-nanny arrives. She's beautiful, and cool, and she solves all of Marlo's problems - she cleans the house at night while Marlo sleeps, she bakes muffins for the children, she discusses Marlo's career frustrations and disappointments in life, and so on.

Then she helps Marlo to re-engage with her husband sexually, and then the two women go out on the town, get drunk and have a car accident that almost kills Marlo - and while she is recovering in hospital we realise that the night-nanny is actually a product of Marlo's imagination. She's been solving her problems herself, via her imaginary helper, but doing so in a way that is frankly psychotic. No-one else seems to have noticed.

So it's interesting, and has led to some thoughtful reflections about post-partum psychosis, but ultimately unsatisfactory as a film. It just doesn't seem fair to have been so misled without any hint that this is a psychological film, not a buddy movie - though in fairness, the sex scene with night-nanny in a diner waitress uniform ought to have been a clue.

Watched on Netflix via smartphone and Chromecast.