Hyde Park on Hudson

March 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see this the other night because, generally historical pieces interest me. I was also curious to see how Bill Murray would handle the part of FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt – 32nd President of the United States of America).

He, Murray, did a very good job.

The film is centered around the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to FDR’s mother’s house in up state New York just prior to World War II. The result of this visit would affect the course of history – the visit went well and America aided Britain in the War.

Times were different: no big entourages, little security (one stick of Fallschirmjäger and World War II might have had a very different outcome), and respect for privacy. The King and Queen have one one to advise them of to ‘interface’ with the Roosevelt household. There are four motorcycles around the Royal couple; Roosevelt drives himself, followed by a single local police car (no sign of a Secret Service detail, even though they started guarding the President after 1901). The Press never photographed FDR’s braces, being carried, or in any pose that might suggest he had been affected by polio. The Press never photographed FDR’s mistresses, or him with them.

The film explored his seemingly complex relationship with the women in his life.

The film is seen through the eyes of Daisy – a 5th cousin of FDR. The wider Roosevelt clan is well established in the Hudson Valley, and Daisy’s visits to distract FDR from his burdens, moves from tea to something much more intimate. This is a very disturbing element of the film: FDR’s mother seems to have procured Daisy for her son. Daisy’s relationship with FDR seems to be a closely held secret until after her death. Laura Linney is Daisy; and brings a naive innocence to the role. It turns out that FDR ha more than one mistress at a time – it is why he and his wife do not live in the same house!

Otherwise a gentle film set in another time and place: suitable for those seeking a gentle film with a bit of historical accuracy.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

May 29, 2012 at 7:42 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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An intriguing film; ostensively about transplanting salmon from Scotland to Yemen, but it is a romance and a journey of self discovery.

Ewan McGregor, as Dr Alfred Jones, and Emily Blunt, as Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, play the two main characters. He is a borderline autistic scientist seemingly more interested in fish (salmon) than people. She is a charming bubbly young advisor at a firm that manages money for very wealthy individuals – like the Sheikh Muhammed of Yemen. Kristin Scott Thomas, as Patricia Maxwell, the energetic get-it-done British Prime Minister’s PR advisor, rounds off the cast. She is like superwoman – mother and the PM’s smiling PR hatch-woman.

At first Dr Jones is against the idea of salmon in Yemen. But Harriet’s charming efficiency and the Sheikh’s sincerity (and the challenge of it all), wins him around.

The fact that this is viewed by some as eco-vandlism and a corruption of Yemen’s traditional ways is seemingly glossed over. That is, until, the protests get a bit extreme.

The path to true love is not smooth – a bit like salmon swimming up-stream. How does a bashful shy scientist compete with a war-hero?

The film is well made, with some fantastic scenery – mainly the fishing scenes. Everyone must have had compulsory fly fishing lessons !

The film also has an element of political satire: Mrs Maxwell cynically manipulates and manages the news cycle to inject a positive story about Britain and the moslem world – portraying a policy and decision making process driven solely by the need to keep the government popular.

The Avengers

April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw Joss Whedon’s The Avengers this afternoon.

I enjoyed the movie – particularly the scene setting and the introduction all the main characters, at the beginning. There a lots of characters, including: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Helmsworth). Loki and The Black Widow got the most introduction; I presume that the rest, got less time, because they had already appeared in previous Marvel Comics inspired movies.

Scarlett Johansson makes for a believable spy/assassin; it is a role well outside of her normal roles. Tom Hiddleston does the villain very well.

The film picks up from where Captain America: The First Avenger ended. (Captain America, Nick Fury, and the Tesseract were introduced in this film.)

Once more the Tesseract is has fallen into the wrong hands – Loki. And a team of heros is needed to get it back. There is lots of action: the heros battle the many minions of evil. There are some great actions sequences and some great special effects.

The one drawback of the film is that there are so many heros, and I found the scenes with only one hero the most absorbing.

Red Doors

July 11, 2011 at 7:24 am | Posted in DVD Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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Found this film at the library and watched it at home.

It was quite good. A film about Chinese Americans that concentrated on the American part. The film centres around the everyday goings on of three sisters: Sam (Jacqueline Kim); Julie ‘Jools’ (Elaine Kao); and Katie ( Kathy Shao-lin Lee). Sam is about to marry someone who wants she probably shouldn’t. Julie can’t find a boy friend; and Katie who doesn’t know how to talk to the boy next door.

By the end of the film: Sam will have given herself a chance for self-happiness; Julie discovers someone she really hits it off with (much to her mother’s surprise); and Katie tries communicating with words, rather than with dangerous practical jokes. Their father runs away to a monastery to find some time to think.

If anything the film is about New Yorkers – the film won Best New York film at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film has a small immigrant Chinese element to it – the family look and are Chinese (well at least to the extent that you can be Chinese in America) and they eat with chopsticks and speak mandarin at dinner (well at least at the beginning), but otherwise the story would work for a Greek American family. the film does not labour the point. The father going to a monastery is a very American story!

The film has an immigrant element: Sam was good enough to go to Juilliard (to train as a ballerina); but her parents advised her not to go – not a secure financial career path. Echo’s of Georgia Lee’s (writer and director) own path – she dropped out of business school to make films; we she choose to resist the immigrant desire to be ‘safe’.

A good film – particularly if you come from an immigrant background! or not !!

Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Embassy Theatre

July 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Film Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show the other night and it was great!

The film was as I remembered it, and the audience participa … tion had gone up a notch or two.

When I arrived I was greeted by a young man with a slight limp and a hunchback discretely asked if I had been to one of these types of events before. I indicated that despite wearing normal clothes that I had; and so I ended up with a sticker that said “slut” stuck to my chest.

The people … the bustiers … the bustiers are the people !! (to mis-quote a literary work of my youth 🙂 )

Most attendees got into the spirit of things and dressed … er … down for the occasion. There was a wet bar inside the theatre – no more smuggling your own in like the old days. And everyone danced and partied and threw the stuff in the loot bags provided – the toilet roll was most challenging. Fantastic !!

There was a nice bit of warm up before the movie with a costume parade and competition; and a bit of interjection practice: JANET, DR SCOTT, BRAD, ROCKY !!!!

Big thanks to the Embassy crew for getting into the swig of things – by dressing up – and being willing to clean up the mess after each of the two sessions.

If you want an excuse to wear your underwear on the outside and have a great time, then go next year. …. Now if they would only show Sound of Music again …

Source Code

May 15, 2011 at 12:45 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Source Code the other day – curious to see how it would handle the central “ground hog day” premise.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Colter Stevens, a US helicopter pilot ‘in Afghanistan’. But who seems to be trapped in a capsule, where the only means of communication is a video link to a mysterious (US Air Force) Captain Goodwin – played by Vera Farma.

The Air Force has some secret project that sends someone’s consciousness backwards in time – Stevens is that someone and Goodwin is his controller. Steven’s mission is to find out the identity of the person who put a bomb on a train. The only catch is that Stevens arrives just eight minutes before the bomb kills everyone on the train (including his ‘host’). But ‘they’ can, and do, send him back as many times as it takes; or until the nuclear bomb, that the train bomber has threaten Chicago with, goes off.

The whole science behind the project is implausible – but the usual suspension of belief gets one through.

Stevens strikes up a relationship with Christina – played by Michelle Monaghan – on the train. Christina is a regular commuter – along with Steven’s host – and Steven eventually falls in love with her.

Stevens must find the identity of the bomber and find a way to save Christina (and all of the people on the train), and spend the rest of his life with Christina. Stevens is very focused on ‘not leaving friends and comrades behind.’ Christina represents something good – someone to spend one’s last moments with (forever).

Goodwin is driven to find the bomber and save Chicago, and she must build a relationship with Stevens to keep him focused on the mission, and along the way they develop a mutual understanding. The film and Goodwin are time constrained as to how to build this relationship, and it ends up with Stevens recalling Hot LZs at night. Farma does a good job in a difficult role.

Stevens dies over and over again, each time he uncovers another clue, or overcomes an obstacle.

As to whether Stevens can save anyone on the train, that depends on whether it is a time machine or a portal to a parallel universe or something else.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

September 29, 2010 at 8:39 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I never saw the prequel, but I though it might be interesting.

It certainly explains the causes of and the current global financial recession very well, and for this alone, it is worth seeing the film.

Gordon Gecko, played by Michael Douglas, is the inside trader from yesteryear, released from federal prison, in upstate New York. You are never sure if he is reformed or just trying to get back into the game. We find out at the end.

There is host of shady dealers and bankers.

Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan play the main characters. They are engaged; Winnie (Mulligan) is Gecko’s estranged daughter; and Jake (Labeouf) is her fiance. Jake is an investment banker. Winnie runs a not-for-profit news web site, and has a million dollar trust fund that her dad wants (back).

The move takes place at the tail end of the recession. Jake’s bank collapses, and as he tries to stay afloat and strike back at the bank that took down his, we see him discover his powers and the way the world really is. Winnie leave him.

In some respects this is a master-and-the-apprentice movie. Though at times it is not clear who is the master: Gordon or clearly sleazy Bretton James (played by Josh Brolin).

The end is a little unsatisfactory – Gecko reforms, and he gets back with Winnie, and she gets back with Jake.

The Expendables

September 29, 2010 at 8:11 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw the trailer I decided that this was a ‘must see’.

The ‘Expendables’ are a small team of mercenaries played by a dream team of action actors: Slyvester Stalone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger! In the end it was hard to give each ‘star’ enough time in only 113 minutes !!!!

Giselle Itié provides a hint of romance, plays the good icon. She offers up some good contrast to Eric Roberts – who plays the bad icon, and to David Zayas – who plays the paper-tiger icon.

The film is a series of very well choreographed fight scenes. These are interspersed with some character scenes where the guys show off their tender sides – Lundgren like you have never seen him! The best is the brief by-play between Stalone and Schwarzenegger.

In the end good triumphs over evil, or in this case the CIA – or is it a rogue CIA element.

I expected a little too much – the Seven Samuri are hard act to follow. But it is very watchable, particularly if you like any of the dream team. Warning: Willis and Schwarzenegger don’t have much air face time.

The Expendables

September 6, 2010 at 8:05 am | Posted in Film Trailer Review | 1 Comment
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This is a film that I have to see – in the same way that I ‘have to’ see James Bond films, Star Trek films, and Seven Samuri Films.

It has: Slyvester Stalone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger! Like the dream team !! The contract negotiations must be worthy of an academy award !!! All those stars and only 113 minutes !!!!

It looks like a Seven Samuri / Guns of the Magnificant 7 re-work – there is even a guy who throws knives (Jet Li ?). A bunch of mercenaries who apparently agree to fight for free – for a good cause, and because the head guys asks.

A ‘must see’.

Inception

September 6, 2010 at 1:23 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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Spoiler: Plot details revealed !

I went to see Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the other day – I had a spare two hours.

The film is well made, with a complex plot. DiCaprio’s character litterally gets into people’s minds to steal secrets – as they dream. In the film, DiCaprio is hired to plant an idea – something that is suppose to be impossible. To do this DiCaprio and his team of dreamers will have to go deep into the target’s – Joseph Gordon-Levitt – mind.

The film is set in the target’s mind, inside a dream, inside a dream, inside a dream, … . It is all very complex. An additional complication is that the dreamers need to have physical control of the target’s body, to hook up instruments and inject a series of drugs.

Unfortunately, the end is telegraphed to the audience well before the end – does DiCaprio really get out of the target’s mind? or his own for that matter.

Oh the special effects – computer graphics – are very good.

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