This will almost certainly be the last in-flight report of the year -- thank goodness! All of the following are 2008 releases which I more or less watched under the suitability of the smallest of screens and the variability of the sound quality -- to say nothing of altered viewing ratios. But at least I know which of them might bear watching again under improved conditions.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: This is not a film that is likely to break any box office records, or even to have mass appeal, but it is a charming and unusual examination of an aging spinster's embracing life. Set in late 30s' London, Frances McDormand plays a poor but well-brought up vicar's daughter who is unable to hold any of the nanny jobs in which her agency has placed her and faces jobless penury. She "steals" the address of a potential employer and rather than finding a difficult child to look after, she finds a naked lover in the bed of aspiring American actress-singer Amy Adams. Proving herself invaluable to the flaky Adams, she is semi-glammed up by her new friend and may even find a love she has never known in the arms of Ciaran Hinds. Both actresses are terrific, the period setting and music are top-rate, and the feel-good factor is uplifting.
The Incredible Hulk: This is not to be confused with Ang Lee's box office flop "The Hulk" from 2003, but for my money it is not much of an improvement, not even with the surprising casting of Edward Norton in the lead. This time he must cope not only with the military who wish to exploit him as a weapon, but also with mad adversary Tim Roth who has exposed himself to the same formula. Cue a lot of over the top CGI fights between the two giants -- one of whom is meant to be truly evil. Yawn. You can tell that the Marvel folk really hope to extend this franchise and there is even a cameo for Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man at the end, but I for one am hulked out.
Hancock: This Will Smith starrer as a drunken and anti-social superhero starts off as great fun, but by the second half has degenerated into an unholy and unbelievable mess. Unsuccessful PR guru Jason Bateman wants to polish up Smith's image after he is saved from death by the destructive Smith, who manages to rack up expensive mayhem each time he uses his powers. Smith is prepared to give it a go, even accepting a jail sentence, until he lays eyes on Bateman's luscious wife, Charlize Theron. It seems that he is not really one of a kind since she has fantastic powers too and from that point things just get sillier and sillier.
The Ruins: I've read this sub-Stephen King horror novel and could see where someone might think it would make a good and gory movie. Well they've simplified the plot, cast a bunch of minor actors (the one exception is the very able Jena Malone), and were too chicken to give the film the same very bleak ending as the book. The plot concerns some college-grad holidaymakers in Mexico who visit a Mayan ruin with a new German friend only to be stranded at the top, prevented from coming down by hostile natives, and at the mercy of flesh- eating plants. The high point of thisso-called horror is watching one of the actor's legs being amputated. Horrible yes, horror not really.
The Wackness: This was apparently a big hit with the audience at Sundance earlier this year and is certainly a quirky tale. Recent high school grad Josh Peck earns his money for college by pushing an ancient ice cream wagon around the city as a cover for the drugs he sells. One of his best customers (and his confidant) is a shrink played by Ben Kingsley, who is in a strained relationship with his new wife and whose stepdaughter is the object of Peck's lust. As stories of adolescents "growing up" go, this is a watchable one and the main actors are fine, although I must confess that I found Kingsley rather annoying. However, like life there are no guaranteed happy endings here.
It's London Film Festival time and I saw the first of my selection last night. More to come here in due course...