26 June 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Hotel Marigold (2015)
  • Director: John Madden
  • Based on Book: Deborah Moggach
  • Cast: Maggie Smith, Judie Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Richard Gere, Tamsin Grieg, David Strathairn
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Maggie Smith – no list necessary but here are a few highlights: Harry Potter 1-8 of  course, A Room with a View, Gosford Park, Keeping Mum, David Copperfield, Tea with Mussolini, Richard III, Sister Act, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    • Judi Dench, ditto: Cranford, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Ladies in Lavender, The Shipping News, Chocolat, Tea with Mussolini, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown, 84 Charing Cross Road, A Room with a View, Macbeth
    • Bill Nighy – The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold, Harry Potter, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Girl in the Café, The Boat that Rocked, Shaun of the Dead, The Constant Gardener, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Auf Wiedersehn Pet, Kiss Me Kate, Longitude, Fairy Tale a True Story
    • Dev Patel: Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold
    • Ronald Pickup: Hustle, Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Ivanhoe
    • Celie Imrie:  The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold, Cranford, Nanny McPhee, Wah-Wah, Daniel Deronda, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Calendar Girls, Absolutely Fabulous, Hilary and Jackie, In the Bleak Midwinter, Frankenstein, Upstairs Downstairs
    • Tena Desae - The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold
    • Tamsin Grieg -  Friday Night Dinner, Black Books, Shaun of the Dead
    • Richard Gere – I’m Not There, Chicago, Runaway Bride, Sommersby, Final Analysis, Pretty Woman, Looking for Mr Goodbar
    • Penelope Wilton - The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold , Downton Abbey, South Riding, Shaun of the Dead, The Calendar Girls, Clockwise, King Lear, Othello, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
    • David Strathairn – The Tempest, Good Night and Good Luck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, LA Confidential, Mother Night, Dolores Claiborne, A League of Their Own, Stars and Bars, Matewan, Silkwood
  • Why: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and the first movie.
  • Seen: 20 June 2015 at the cinema with Hal and friends B-IS and ÖB 

Oh, I love Maggie Smith. And Judi Dench and Bill Nighy and all the rest.  We’ve seen most of this before in the first Marigold Hotel but it’s more than worth seeing again. It’s a series of different stories – various love stories and the expansion of the hotel are just enough for the actors to do their magic. And they do.
The film didn’t get such great reviews and I don’t know why not.  I’m not fond of weddings, especially the lavish kind shown in this film, but even an old cynic like me sheds a tear or two when Dench and Nighy finally… well I won’t tell you.
It pushes all our buttons but I’m more than happy to be manipulated by these actors. A snappy string of droll and biting one-liners spice it up and Maggie Smith’s uncertain fate… well, this is more than just a feel-good movie.
It’s a must-see really.

4* of 5

Batman Forever

Batman Forever
  • Director: Joel Schumacher
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell, Tommy Lee Jones, Drew Barrymore, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough,
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Val Kilmer  Pollock, Heat, True Romance, The Doors
    • Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole, Nine, Australia, Margot at the Wedding, Fur, Birth, Cold Mountain, The Human Stain, Dogville, The Hours, Birthday Girl, The Others, Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Portrait of a Lady, To Die For, Billy Bathgate
    • Jim Carrey – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bruce Almighty, The Mask, Peggy Sue Got Married
    • Chris O’Donnell – The Scent of a Woman, Fried Green Tomatoes
    • Tommy Lee Jones – No Country for Old Men, A Prairie Home Companion, Men in Black, Volcano, The Client, The Fugitive, JFK, Stormy Monday
    • Pat Hingle – A Thousand Acres, The Grifters, Norma Rae, TV series
    • Michael Gough – Sleepy Hollow, Nostradamus, The Age of Innocence, Out of Africa, Cymbeline, The Go-Between, Women in Love
    • Drew Barrymore – He’s Just Not That Into You, Music and Lyrics, Fever Pitch, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Riding in Cars with Boys, Donnie Darko, Ever After, The Wedding Singer, ET
  • Why? Continuing the box
  • Seen:  19 June 2015 

Different director. Different Batman. Not too optimistic about Val Kilmer and I’m sure to miss Tim Burton in spite of not liking the first two so much.  But Nicole Kidman has to lift it, right?
The tone is more aggressive from the start. A bit like the most garish James Bond intros.
Mad criminal Tommy Lee Jones. Mad scientist Jim Carrey. Sardonic vampy psychologist Nicole Kidman. Charmless and charisma-free Val Kilmer. As suspected.
The circus scene is quite exciting. And what’s this?  Are we seeing the entrance of young Robin?
There is an attempt at character development here but it’s so banal that it hardly reaches comic book level. But it’s visually exciting with some interesting story twists. It’s too bad the women’s roles are so sexist. Even Kidman can’t rise above that but she does what she can.
Robin is more interesting than Batman though too plastic Ken-Barbie’s-boyfriend-but-a-little-tougher cute to be really interesting. Val Kilmer is a dud. I even liked Michael Keaton better but I really can’t wait for Christian Bale.
All in all, though, the best of the three. And the music is good.

2 ½ * of 5

Before the Rain

Before the Rain 1994
  • Director: Milcho Manchevski
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Katrin Cartlidge, Rade Serbedzija, Gregoire Colin, Labina Mitevska, Jay Villiers, Silvija Stojanovska, Phyllida Law
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Katrin Cartlidge – From Hell, Topsy-Turvy, Hotel Splendide, Career Girls, Breaking the Waves, Naked
    • Rade Serbedzija – Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Batman Begins, Eyes Wide Shut
    • Gregoire Colin  Olivier, Olivier
    • Jay Villiers – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bonekickers, Extras, Henry V
    • Phyllida Law – Copying Beethoven, Saving Grace, Milk, The Winter Guest, Much Ado About Nothing, Peter’s Friends, The Life and Death of King John, Upstairs Downstairs
  • Why? Katrin Cartlidge
  • Seen: 13 June 2015 

Three stories.
‘Words’. An orthodox monastery. A young monk Kiril has taken a vow of silence. He finds a girl hiding in his cell. A man is being buried. Women grieve. Soldiers keep watch with their machine guns. Katrin Cartlidge watches from a hill. The soldiers come to the church looking for the girl, calling her the Albanian whore. Christians. Muslims. War. It’s a brutal and tender story.  And inevitably tragic.
‘Faces.’ Katrin Cartlidge in a library in London.  Studying photos of the ethnic camps. She’s pregnant. Photographer Alex, uncle to Kiril in the first story, is her lover. He’s returned from Bosnia. The war has damaged him. He wants her to go to the newly independent Macedonia with him. She says she can’t. She studies the photos of Kiril and the girl. She has dinner with her estranged husband. Brutal violence in the restaurant. Something to do with the ethnic wars in what was once Yugoslavia.
‘Pictures.’ Macedonia. Alexander has returned after sixteen years. He encounters the young soldier from the first story, and his cousins and friends. The soldiers. He asks about his first love, Hana. They say: forget her. She’s Albanian. His village is torn apart by war after the war. There is hate and suspicion.  
The connections between the stories are unclear, confusing. Just as the war is.
There is a helpless beauty to this film. It explains nothing of the continuing Balkan war. It gives some individual faces in that war.
It’s really not possible to rate a film like this. How does one rate war and individual hatred and ethnic fanaticism and tragic human stupidity?  That’s what this film wants to show and it does so, strongly.  But I’m unable to let it in and touch me deeply. That would be too painful.

3 ½ * of 5

Batman Returns

Batman Returns 1992
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Michael Keaton – Batman, Jackie Brown, Much Ado About Nothing, Beetlejuice
    • Danny DeVito – Be Cool, Big Fish, Virgin Suicides, LA Confidential, Mars Attacks!, Get Shorty, Twins, Throw Momma from the Train, Ruthless People, Romancing the Stone, Terms of Endearment, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    • Michelle Pfeiffer – Dark Shadows, Stardust, White Oleander, I Am Sam, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Thousand Acres, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, Dangerous Minds, Wolf, Age of Innocence, Love Fields, Frankie and Johnny, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mafia, The Witches of Eastwick
    • Christopher Walken – Romance and Cigarettes, Catch Me If You Can, Sleepy Hollow, Suicide Kings, Blast from the Past, View to a Kill, Nick of Time, The Addiction, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Sarah Plain and Tall, Deer Hunter
    • Pat Hingle – A Thousand Acres, The Grifters, Norma Rae, TV series
    • Michael Gough – Sleepy Hollow, Nostradamus, The Age of Innocence, Out of Africa, Cymbeline, The Go-Between, Women in Love
  • Why? Having started…
  • Seen:  12 June 2015 

Not having been terribly impressed with the first of the series we’re not expecting much this time. Still, with Pfeiffer and Walken it does have potential.
And they deliver. Christopher Walken is more handsome than ever and as evil as usual. Michelle Pfeiffer is exquisitely scatter-brained – but ah – cats to the rescue. She becomes Cat Woman. A bit creepy but – wow. It’s a pleasure to watch her transformation into demon.
The scenography is very Tim Burton. That I like. But come on, Burton, you can do better than this. Otherwise it’s tedious, irritating or unpleasant. Danny De Vito makes Jack Nicholson seem benignly subtle.
Pfeiffer and Walken do what they can but they deserve a better movie. Come to think of it, Batman deserves a better movie.  Lucky for us we know it’s coming.

2 * of 5

21 June 2015

The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death
  • Director: Roger Corman
  • Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Cast: Vincent Price, Jane Asher, Hazel Court, David Weston, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Skip Martin
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Vincent Price – Edward Scissorhands, old TV series
    • Jane Asher – Dancing on the Edge, Alfie
    • Hazel Court – old TV series
    • David Weston – King Lear
    • Patrick Magee – Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, King Lear
  • Why? Jane Asher
  • Seen:  Once before. Now 7 June 2015 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film-group 

The short story is very short indeed. If filmed as is, it would be about 3 minutes long. But I remember an added romance so that’s OK then.
Vincent Price is, as usual, an evil aristocrat Satanist tyrant (the duke in the story was not evil or a Satanist). Jane Asher is a beautiful spirited Christian peasant. She is kidnapped by the evil duke and brought to his castle where luxury and debauchery rule.
But over everything reigns the Red Death.
A philosophical confrontation between a god who allows pestilence, death and fear vs a god of hope and love and beauty.  Between innocence and cynical corruption. The simplicity of the god vs Satan is rather tedious and a lot of the film is just a damsel and dungeon story really.
It might have been considered innovative and avant garde when it came out in the 60’s but it seems pretentious, sexist and tame today.
But it’s colourful. Vincent Price, though doing nothing he hasn’t done hundreds of times before, is entertaining, and Jane Asher has beautiful red hair and a fine earnestness.
It had almost nothing to do with Poe’s story. Neither are very impressive.

2 * of 5


  • Director: Jon S. Baird
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliot, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Shauna Macdonald, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, Shirley Henderson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • James McAvoy – Atonement, Becoming Jane, Macbeth Retold, Inside I’m Dancing, White Teeth
    • Jamie Bell – Jane Eyre, Defiance, Hallam Foe, King Kong, Dear Wendy, Undertow, Billy Elliot
    • Eddie Marsun – The World’s End, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes, Happy-Go-Lucky, V for Vendetta, Vera Drake, 21 Grams, Gangs of New York
    • Imogen Poots – Fright Night, Jane Eyre, Age of Innocence, 28 weeks later, V for Vendetta
    • Brian McCardie – Case Histories, Rob Roy
    • Emun Elliot – Prometheus
    • Gary Lewis – Case Histories, Merlin, Gangs of New York, Billy Elliot, East Is East, My Name Is Joe, Carla’s Song
    • John Sessions – The Merchant of Venice, Gangs of New York, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, In the Bleak Midwinter, Henry V
    • Shauna Macdonald – Case Studies, Bonekickers, Late Night Shopping
    • Jim Broadbent – the Harry Potter films, Another Year, The Young Victoria, Vera Drake, Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Topsy- Turvy, Little Voice, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Richard III, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Black Adder, Brazil
    • Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey
    • Kate Dickie – Prometheus, Red Road, Tinsel Town
    • Martin Compston – Sweet Sixteen, Red Road, Doomsday
    • Shirley Henderson – The Taming of the Shrew Retold, Harry Potter, Tristram Shandy, 24 Hour Party People, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Topsy-Turvy, Trainspotting, Rob Roy
  • Why? James McAvoy and Jamie Bell
  • Seen:  6 June 2015 

Funny? Gross? Parody of… something?
This is not how we are used to seeing Billy Elliot and his dad or Robbie of Atonement.
James McAvoy is Bruce Robertson, a foul-mouthed, coke-smoking, obnoxious ruthless cop, ready to walk over bodies to get a promotion. Jamie Bell is his weaker willed but just as ambitious and ruthless partner. Gary Lewis is a pathetic dim-witted colleague.
Other known faces flash by. Anna from Downton Abbey. Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter. CCTV operation Kate Dickie from Red Road.  Eddie Marsun from a thousand movies. And then show up again to play important roles.
Bruce Robertson is a manipulator that makes Iago look almost loyal. He’s cruel and violent and sexist and sex-crazed. And his wife and daughter have left him. And he hides a grieving and sensitive heart.
Is that supposed to make us feel sorry for him?
And you know what? We do.
One of the weirder movies we’ve seen for a while but it’s funny and fascinating and incredibly well acted.
And we do pity Bruce. He really is suffering. He really is tragic. And he’s falling apart.
The film is like one long hallucination, Bruce’s and our own. It’s a bad trip but a good film. It’s raw and absurd and it leaves me feeling stunned.
James McAvoy is absolutely incredible.

4 * of 5

Batman 1989

Batman 1989
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Michael Keaton – Jackie Brown, Much Ado About Nothing, Beetlejuice
    • Jack Nicholson – The Pledge, About Schmidt, As Good as It Gets, Mars Attacks, Wolf, A Few Good Men, Batman, Ironweed, The Witches of Eastwick, Prizzi’s Honor, Terms of Endearment, Reds, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Tommy, Chinatown, The King of Marvin Gardens, Carnal Knowledge, Five Easy Pieces, Easy Rider, The Little Shop of Horrors
    • Kim Basinger – L.A. Confidential, Never Say Never Again
    • Robert Wuhl – Body Guard, Bull Durham, Good Morning Vietnam
    • Pat Hingle – A Thousand Acres, The Grifters, Norma Rae, TV series
    • Billy Dee Williams – Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back, Lady Sings the Blues, TV series
    • Michael Gough – Sleepy Hollow, Nostradamus, The Age of Innocence, Out of Africa, Cymbeline, The Go-Between, Women in Love
    • Jack Palance – Bagdad Café, Le mépris, and a variety of old roles
    • Jerry Hall – Urban Cowboy
    • Tracey Walter – Veronica Mars, Erin Brockovich, Beloved, Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, ALF, Married to the Mob
  • Why? It seems I like this kind of film.  And Tim Burton, of course.
  • Seen:  5 June 2015 

It’s Friday.  We have seven Batman movies. Why not start a new Friday tradition? So.
Batman. Before Christian Bale.
Songs by Prince? That’s wild.
Tim Burton clearly loves the comics and the tone of the film is true to the original. All that’s missing are the talk bubbles with ‘Wham!’ and ‘Kerpow!’
It’s entertaining and visually it’s a pleasure. I like the Joker’s purple suit. Jack Nicholson does a flamboyant Joker. It’s his film really and he’s just a bit too much.
Michael Keaton as Batman? Not convincing. He’s much better as Dogberry in Branagh’s Much Ado about Nothing. He should stick to Shakespeare.
But it’s obvious, as always, that Tim Burton had fun making this movie. So, though it goes on for too long, we have fun watching it. But it’s no masterpiece.

2 * of 5

1 June 2015


Manderlay 2005
  • Director: Lars von Trier
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach De Bankolé, Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr, Mona Hammond, Ginny Holder, John Hurt (narrator), Zeljko Ivanek, Suzette Llewellyn, Joseph Mydell, Chloë Sevigny, Nina Sosanya
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Bryce Dallas Howard – The Help, Terminator Salvation, As You Like It, The Village, A Beautiful Mind
    • Issach De Bankolé – Battle in Seattle, Le scaphandre et le papillon, Casino Royale, Night on Earth, Chocolat
    • Danny Glover - Be Kind Rewind, Honeydripper, Dreamgirls, 2012, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bopha, Lethal Weapon 1-4, The Color Purple, Silverado
    • Willem Dafoe - Spiderman, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Paris je t’aime, American Dreamz,  The Aviator, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, eXistenZ, Lulu on the Bridge, The English Patient, Wild at Heart, Cry Baby, Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Is Burning, The Last Temptation of Christ, Dear America, Platoon, Streets of Fire
    • Lauren Bacall – Dogville, Misery, probably older films
    • John Hurt – Merlin, I Claudius, Harry Potter,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Melancholia, Rob Roy and seven million others
    • Zeljko Ivanek – In Bruges, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Snow Falling on Cedars, Homicide Life on the Street, Donnie Brasco
    • Joseph Mydell – Jeeves and Wooster
    • Chloë Sevigny – Zodiac, Broken Flowers, Dogville, The Last Days of Disco
    • Nina Sosanya – Bone Kickers, Much Ado about Nothing Re-Told, Love Actually
  • Why? Lars von Trier, Dogville
  • Seen:  Twice before. Now: May 31, 2015 

Lars von Trier is very strange.  Dogville is a masterpiece. Manderlay is a bit more problematic but I liked it the first two times.
Or maybe liked isn’t the right word.  It’s a very uncomfortable film. Slavery, racism, liberalism, white-man’s-burdenism. Or in this case white woman’s burden.  A well-meaning – or is she? – young white woman, daughter of a wealthy gangster, liberates a plantation of slaves, moves in and takes over.
The beautiful words ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ somehow don’t ring true. Somehow they’re warped, distorted.
Slave mentality, mistrust, laziness.  Why don’t things go the way they should?  And even when they do, why isn’t it right?
It’s intricate. It’s disturbing. This is what happens when an individual dictates the terms of how the oppressed must throw off their chains.
The film is fascinating. The scenography, as in Dogville, is essentially non-existent. Walls and doors aren’t there, buildings might be demarcated with a line on the stage. 
It’s a painful and accurate look at racism. ‘Like’ is not the word. It’s provocative, maybe offensive.
It’s Lars von Trier. See it.

4 * of 5

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole 2010
  • Director: John Cameron Mitchell
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Nicole Kidman – Nine, Australia, Margot at the Wedding, Fur, Birth, Cold Mountain, The Human Stain, Dogville, The Hours, Birthday Girl, The Others, Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Portrait of a Lady, To Die For, Billy Bathgate
    • Aaron Eckhart – The Rum Diary, The Dark Knight, Conversations with Other Women, The Pledge, Nurse Betty, Erin Brockovich
    • Dianne Wiest – Dan in Real Life, I am Sam, Practical Magic, Edward Scissorhands, Footloose, Independence Day
    • Tammy Blanchard – Cadillac Records
    • Sandra Oh – Sideways, Under the Toscan Sun, Waking the Dead
    • Giancarlo Esposito – Sherrybaby, Derailed, Homicide Life on the Street, Smoke, The Usual Suspects, Malcolm X, Night on Earth, Mo’ Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, Desperately Seeking Susan
  • Why? Nicole Kidman
  • Seen:  May 30, 2015 

Here’s another film about which I know nothing but which I seem to remember sounded interesting when it came out.
It soon becomes clear that something is not right with this well-to-do couple. It emerges that they have lost their only child.
They deal with their grief in different ways. Tensions with her family complicate the situation.
It’s a movie that can only be tragic and depressing. But it is also believable and utterly absorbing. Somehow, they get through the rabbit hole to a relieved sense of moving on.
It’s a finely tuned, quiet film and worth the high praise it was given. Nicole Kidman and Diane Wiest as her mother are simply outstanding.

4 * of 5


Elysium 2013
  • Director: Neill Blomkamp
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Matt Damon – Contagion, True Grit, Invictus, The Brothers Grimm, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Bourne Identity, Dogma, Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting
    • Jodie Foster – Carnage, Un long dimanche de fiancailles, Panic Room, Anna and the King, Contact, Nell, Sommersby, The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused, Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
    • Sharlto Copley – District 9
    • Alice Braga – Repo Men, Cidade de Deus, I am Legend
    • Diego Luna – Milk
    • William Fichtner – The Lone Ranger, The Dark Knight, Crash, Equilibrium, The Perfect Storm, Contact, Heat, Strange Days, Quiz Show
  • Why?  Sci-fi
  • Seen:  May 29, 2015 

The year is 2154. The rich have fled the dying Earth. The poor remain in the ever growing slums. Orphan Max grows up in the ghetto and experiences continued injustice as an adult at the hands of authorities, robot and human alike.  He has a criminal past and is lucky to have work in a droid factory.
Three rogue space shuttles arrange flights of poverty-stricken and sick refugees up to the Beautiful People space station Elysium where all illness can be cured.  Two of the ships are bombed, all aboard are killed.  The third lands on Elysium. All of the refugees are dealt with by the ruthless and corrupt Secretary of Defence, Jodie Foster.  Thoughts of today’s boat refugees are unavoidable.  We too see to it that the world’s refugees don’t invade our wealthy oasis.
In an industrial accident Max is exposed to a deadly dose of radiation. It will kill him in five days. He could be cured on Elysium. Through his contacts in the criminal world he agrees to hijack the brain of the billionaire who owns the factory he works in. His companions want the codes in the brain. He wants the cure on Elysium.
It’s a grim and realistic premise. Then, sadly, it turns into a macho action film.
But it’s exciting and they know how to grab your heartstrings, sick kid and all.
A bit of subtly would have been nice. It really deteriorates into senseless testosterone violence. Boring.
A pity after such a promising start, such a strong cast, and such an important subject.

2 ½ + * of 5

Raintree County

Raintree County 1957
  • Director: Edward Dmytryk
  • Based on novel by Ross Lockridge Jr
  • Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, Agnes Moorehead, DeForest Kelley
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Elizabeth Taylor – The Mirror Crack’d, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Taming of the Shrew, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cleopatra, Butterfield 8, Suddenly Last Summer, A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant
    • Montgomery Clift – Judgment at Nürnberg, The Misfits, Suddenly Last Summer, The Young Lions
    • Eva Marie Saint – The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming, Exodus, North by Northwest, On the Waterfront
    • Lee Marvin – Cat Ballou, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and many more only vaguely remembered
    • Rod Taylor – Inglourious Basterds, The Birds, The Time Machine, The Twilight Zone, Giant
    • Agnes Moorehead – Bewitched, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Pollyanna
    • DeForest Kelley – Star Trek
  • Why?  It has been in my memory since seeing it as a child.
  • Seen:  In the 50’s. Now: May 16, 2015 

After several tries I have finally succeeded in finding and buying this DVD.  I saw the film when I was about seven years old and for some reason the final scene of Elizabeth Taylor dying, or going mad, or something, in her Civil War southern belle frock under a big drooping tree (a raintree, maybe?) in a swamp at the end of the film has stayed with me all these years. I found it tragic and wonderful.
What’s it about? That I don’t remember. I doubt if it will live up to my childhood memories.
But let’s see.
There is a legend in this Indiana county in 1859 about a raintree which will bring….whatever…to the one who finds it but ruin the lives of those who pursue it without finding it. This legend hovers around the small town where intrigues, jealousies and loves abound. Into this comes a beautiful southern belle.
The first half is full of clichés and the story is boring but Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are gorgeous.
Then after an hour it starts getting interesting. Our southern belle Susannah is a racist and a lonely insecure neurotic.  But golden boy Johnny marries her and goes south with her. With the Civil War looming.
Susannah’s madness increases and her secrets emerge. The couple return to Indiana and Susannah spreads her southern belle poison. 
The war breaks out and the years go by.  Things can’t go well and they don’t.
My memory has played a visual trick on me. Elizabeth Taylor is not found sitting under the raintree. Maybe I’m remembering Audrey Hepburn under the tree in Green Mansions.
Raintree County is far too long and there are many flaws. But movies like this one and Shenandoah were undoubtedly instrumental in awakening my dreadful and cynical fascination with the American Civil War and my general passion for history.  It tries to deal with complex questions and it succeeds to a certain extent.
I can understand my childish self being deeply gripped by the film but my mature self is more deeply troubles by the knowledge that Montgomery Clift died young and Elizabeth Taylor had a troubled life.
As for the film itself, I’m glad to have seen it again. It has held up well.

3 * of 5