27 June 2016

A Painted House

A Painted House 2003
·       Director: Alfonso Arau
·       Based on novel: by John Grisham
·       Cast: Scott Glenn, Robert Sean Leonard, Logan Lerman
·       Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
o   Scott Glenn – Freedom Writers, The Shipping News, Training Day, Virgin Suicides, Carla’s Song, Courage under Fire,
Edie & Pen, Silence of the Lambs, Silverado, Urban Cowboy, Apocalypse, Nashville
o   Robert Sean Leonard – Tape, The Last Days of Disco, Much Ado about Nothing, Swing Kids, Dead Poets Society
o   Logan Lerman – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Riding in Cars with Boys
·       Why? It’s on a cheap double DVD
·       Seen: 25 June 2016

It’s cotton picking time on a cotton farm in Arkansas. Ten year old Luke is saving up for a Cardinals baseball jacket. His granddad has hired some Mexicans and some mountain people to pick the cotton. Luke witnesses violence and there are tensions, but the cotton must be picked.
It’s all very macho and good ole Americana with beautiful, smiley, loving, hugging, understanding but stern and God-fearing parents and grandparents. There’s puppy love, and a young uncle in Korea, and an obnoxious hoity-toity Yankee bride and the financial catastrophe of being a cotton farmer in the 50’s.
Frankly it’s boring and we pause it now and then to check on the Wales-Northern Ireland game.  It’s the European Cup, after all. 0-0 at half time.
Right. The movie. It’s Hallmark. It’s not bad enough to turn off but it’s not better than, at most

2* of 5

PS Wales 1 – Northern Ireland 0.  I wanted both of them to win but that’s not how it works...

Mad Max - Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road 2015
·       Director: George Miller
·       Based on novel: no
·       Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Burne
o   Tom Hardy – The Dark Knight Rises, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Inception
o   Charlize Theron – Prometheus, The Road, Battle in Seattle, In the Valley of Elah, North Country, Monster, Sweet November, Men of Honor, The Cider House Rules, The Astronaut’s Wife
o   Nicholas Hoult – Wallander, Wah-Wah, About a Boy, Intimate Relations
o   Hugh Keays-Burne – Mad Max
·       Why? Good reviews. Liked the first one in spite of Mel Gibson
·       Seen: 24 June 2106

      Valhalla is a kind of Norse heaven where all the dead warriors gather.  It seems to have been transported to Australia.
You know the story. Future post-apocalyptic ultra-violence over oil and water. In this one an Imperator has gone rogue. Furiosa turns against the insane, super-macho War Lord and steals some of his breeding brides. This dad, Immortan, turns his full forces, including a hard rock guitarist, on her, with Mad Max as one of his minor soldiers’ imprisoned blood-giver.
It certainly is visually striking. It can’t be easy to outdo all the previous cinematic car chases but this succeeds. Is that something to be proud of? There are some tough chicks but they’re still mostly scantily clad fragile beautiful babes – pregnant to boot – so macho Charlize Theron can’t do much but drive her tank in this testosterone-saturated movie.
And then there’s another car (lorry/tank/motorcycle/whatever) chase.  Why can’t anyone ever do a bicycle chase?
The old women are cool and yes, it’s visually striking. But – the movie? I’m not impressed. Essentially it’s boring. I expected much better.

2* of 5

14 June 2016


Camelot 1967
Director: Joshua Logan
Based on lots of books
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris, Franco Nero, David Hemmings, Lionel Jeffries, Laurence Naismith, Estelle Winwood
Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
  • Vanessa Redgrave – The Butler, Coriolanus, Atonement, The Pledge, Girl Interrupted, Cradle Will Rock, Lulu on the Bridge, Mrs Dalloway, Wilde, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The House of the Spirits, Howards End, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Prick Up Your Ears, Playing for Time, Julia, Out of Season, The Devils, Oh What a Lovely War, Isadora, Blow-Up, A Man for All Seasons
  • Richard Harris – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Gladiator, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Guns of Navarone, The Wreck of the Mary Deare
  • Franco Nero – Die Hard 2, The Virgin and the Gypsy
  • David Hemmings – The Night We Called It a Day, Gangs of New York, Last Orders, Gladiator, Blow-Up
  • Lionel Jeffries – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Laurence Naismith – Bonanza, The Fugitive, Third Man on the Mountain
  • Estelle Winwood – The Misfits, TV series from the 60’s

Why? It’s Camelot
Seen:  four or five times before. Now: 12 June, 2016

On Friday of this week I will be giving a talk on ‘Merlin – the man, the myth, the magic’ at Fantastika, the sci-fi/fantasy congress here in Stockholm. Believe it or not, my addiction to Merlin – though it didn’t blossom until the BBC series with Colin Morgan – started back in the 60’s with this film. And Merlin is hardly in it, though Arthur talks to him a lot.

       I loved this movie back then. I still do. Never mind that it’s pretentious and hammy and sexist. The songs are still good, mostly. Vanessa Redgrave is good. I still sniffle at the end.
       I’m afraid, however, that it’s quite a bad film. The leading men are awful, it’s far too long and the dialog is often ludicrous. But I can’t just give it a low rating. It’s too significant for my personal history. And doesn’t one ignore the flaws of one’s loved one?

2 * of 5 because it’s not very good. 7* of 5 because it’s Camelot and it started me on my long and circuitous path to Merlin.

For those of you who are fascinated by the Merlin legend, these books are for you:

Protecting Cheesyfee – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 4
The Nature of Things – the story of Myddin Emrys – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 1

Available on Amazon

or in Sweden on Bokus.com


Cake 2014
Director: Daniel Barnes
Based on book: by no
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, William H. Macy
Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
  • Jennifer Aniston – He’s Just Not That into You, Rumor Has It, Derailed, Friends, Bruce the Almighty, The Good Girl
  • Adriana Barraza – Thor, Babel
  • Anna Kendrick – Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect, Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Sam Worthington – Termination Salvation, Macbeth
  • William H. Macy – State and Main, Pleasantville, Fargo, The Client, Benny and Joon

Why? Jennifer Anniston. Low price.
Seen:  11 June 2016
       Claire is rich with a fancy L.A. house and a loyal maid, Silvana. But her friend Nina has committed suicide and Claire is in constant and severe pain from a car accident in which her son was killed (we learn eventually). She is angry. Her husband has left her. Her dead friend Nina comes back to taunt her for not committing suicide herself. She’s mean to everyone and manipulates her doctor to get more pills. 
       Where is this movie going?
       Well, she forms a kind of friendship with Nina’s husband. His anger is as deep as hers. Nina continues to haunt her and taunt her. She tries to kick her addiction to the painkillers.   
       So it goes.
       Anniston is terrific and William H. Macy makes a good appearance but the whole thing is just too…something.   It’s very good and well done and it leaves me cold.  I don’t like it.

2 ½ * of 5

PS Hal gave it 3 ½


Snowpiercer 2013
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Based on book: no
Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, Ah-Sung Ko, Alison Pill
Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
  • Chris Evans – Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Sunshine
  • Jamie Bell – Filth, Jane Eyre, The Eagle, Defiance, Hallam Foe, King Kong, Dear Wendy, Undertow, Billy Elliot
  • John Hurt – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Merlin, Harry Potter, Melancholia, Brighton Rock,V for Vendetta, Manderlay, Dogville, Dead Man, Rob Roy, King Lear, The Elephant Man, Alien, I Claudius, A Man for All Seasons
  • Tilda Swinton – Moonrise Kingdom, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Burn after Reading, Michael Clayton, Broken Flowers, Young Adam, Adaption, The Beach, Orlando
  • Ed Harris – Gone Baby Gone, Copying Beethoven, A History of Violence, The Human Stain, The Hours, A Beautiful Mind, Pollack, Glengarry Glen Ross
  • Octavia Spencer – The Help, The Soloist, The Big Bang Theory, Dharma and Greg, Roswell, Being John Malkovich
  • Alison Pill – Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Milk, Dan in Real Life, Dear Wendy
Why? Jamie Bell, John Hurt, sci-fi
Seen:  10 June 2016      

       Another frozen world sci-fi film. We’ve seen some good. We’ve seen some very bad. With Jamie Bell and John Hurt and Tilda Swinton one expects quality.
       To lower global warming an artificial substance is introduced into the atmosphere. Oops.   They should have just stopped using fossil fuels. The whole world freezes. A few survive by boarding a train that never stops.
       Seventeen years pass. Most of the passengers are kept in concentration-camp like conditions, the guards are like Nazis. A rebellion is being planned by Curtis and young Edgar.
       There is a Kafkaesque atmosphere to this film, an eerie absurdity and awfulness. It’s hard to get into, not least because it’s dark and it’s hard to see what’s happening. Hal’s comment about an hour in: ‘This is really weird.’
       It comes off as just slightly pretentious but it’s a strong concept and artistically filmed. Often visually exciting it also becomes very gripping.
       It’s a serious attempt at intellectual humane sci-fi and it’s quite successful.

4 * of 5

6 June 2016

The Kid

The Kid
  • Director: Nick Moran
  • Based on the book by Kevin Lewis
  • Cast: Rupert Friend, Natascha McElhone, Ioan Gruffud, Tom Burke, David O’Hara, Jodie Whittaker, Bernard Hill, James Fox, Augustus Prew, Con O’Neill, Shirley Ann Field, Johnny Palmiero
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Rupert Friend – The Young Victoria, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Libertine
    • Natascha McElhone – Ladies in Lavender, The Oher Boleyn Girl, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Surviving Picasso, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke, Absolutely Fabulous
    • Ioan Gruffud – Amazing Grace, King Arthur, Very Annie Mary, Great Expectations, Titanic, Wilde
    • Tom Burke – The Invisible Woman, Great Expectations, The Libertine
    • David O’Hara – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Hotel Rwanda, Braveheart
    • Jodie Whittaker – Cranford
    • Bernard Hill -  Wolf Hall, The Lord of the Rings, Valkyria, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titanic, Shirley Valentine, Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3, Richard III, Gandhi, I Claudius
    • James Fox - London Spy, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, The Remains of the Day, Isadora
    • Augustus Prew – About a Boy
    • Con O’Neill – Frank, Wallander
    • Shirley Ann Field – My Beautiful Laundromat, Alfie
  • Sounded good. Grim but good.
  • Seen: 4 June 2016      

       Screaming, drunken, abusive parents turn young Kevin Lewis into a very problematic foster child. Along the way he meets understanding and supportive adults but bad decisions as a young adult and some more hard knocks lead to even more bad decisions. Crooked partners, booze, pills, lost love, debts, suicide attempt.
       And then it ends happily. It’s based on a true story so we have to believe it.
       It’s quite good actually.

3 ½ * of 5


Arthur 1981
  • Director: Steve Gordon
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Dudley Moore, Liza Minelli, John Gielgud, Ted Ross
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Dudley Moore – Foul Play
    • Liza Minnelli – New York New York, Cabaret, Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon
    • John Gielgud – Elizabeth, Hamlet, Merlin, First Knight, Morse, Prospero’s Books, Gandhi, Chariots of Fire, The Elephant Man, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Oh What a Lovely War, Julius Caesar (1955)
    • Ted Ross – Fisher King, Police Academy, Ragtime, The Wiz
  • Why? The Third Rock from the Sun
  • Seen: Twice before. Now 3 June 2016      

       We have just finished watching all six seasons of The Third Rock from the Sun and in the last episodes it emerges that this film is the favourite of Tommy, Harry and Sally. We have this film. What does that say about our intelligence?
       Never mind. We like it too and now we’re inspired to watch it again.
       Arthur is filthy rich and a terrible drunk. His butler and, according to him his best friend, is the splendid John Gielgud, who is acidly sarcastic. Arthur’s father is going to force him into marriage with a woman he doesn’t love.
       He meets Linda while she’s shoplifting. She’s a brash waitress and has a heart of gold. That’s OK. Liza Minnelli can handle clichés with bravura.
       They fall in love. But he’ll be cut off from his fortune by his ruthless family if he doesn’t marry the heiress whose father threatens him with violence if he doesn’t make her happy.
       As long as Gielgud is in it, it has the feel of a great film. But it fades to a romantic comedy. Which is nice enough in its way.

3* of 5