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Friday, 2 January 2015

The Post-Christmas Appraisal

Well, Happy New Year one and all! My blog resolution is to try to remain more positive over the next twelve months -- a resolution I might have difficulty keeping as I grow older and more jaded. But before I assume this sunny mantle, I must at least summarise how the past fortnight matched my bah-humbug expectations. I apparently watched thirty movies in the last two weeks -- which is not as many as it sounds (just over two flicks a day which is well under my running average).

Of the five new-to-me films on terrestrial, I somehow managed to forget to set "The Look of Love" (pity!) and have not yet seen "Quartet" which was on last night. "Salmon Fishing..." was a watchable enough experience with good chemistry between Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor in a rather peculiar tale of fish. "The Raven" gave a welcome lead role for John Cusack, who started off on a career course which looked as if it might eclipse that of Robert Downey, Jr.; however, quite the reverse has occurred with Downey rocketing (literally) into super-stardom and Cusack beginning to fade. Unfortunately the moany role of Edgar Allen Poe was not the one to restore his box-office appeal. As for "Hunky Dory" which seemed something of a vanity piece or 'ego-bath' to use the word of the week for Minnie Driver (another erstwhile star whose shine has dwindled), one was left wondering why the film was ever made. Set in Wales in the 70s, it was a maybe-true tale of a charismatic teacher (Driver of course) helping her dead-end students to mount their end of year play, a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". The musical bits were pleasant enough -- even Driver's crooning -- but the framing tale left a very great deal to be desired.

It was left to Sky Premiere to make up the balance of the 'new' viewing, but I've just had to look up the summary to remind myself what "Trespass" was about (Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman as an unlikeable couple in a home invasion). I also can't recall what the dire-titled "Ironclad - Battle for Blood" was in aid of, but that's because I managed to doze through most of the medieval derring-do. "Jackass's Bad Grandpa .5" was a waste of time as a series of out-takes obviously intended as a DVD-extra. "Noah" with Russell Crowe as the obsessed lead character on the ark and a stowaway Ray Winstone chomping away on some of the animal pairs (now do we know why there are no unicorns?) was completely OTT and not particularly enjoyable with it. In the watchable but not really Patty-positive category were "Ride Along" with Ice Cube as a seasoned cop with a really annoying sidekick and "Captain America - Winter Soldier", another of the many scheduled releases from the Marvel stable -- well-enough mounted but ultimately yet another superhero movie to forget.

That leaves the two animations mentioned last time -- "The Lego Movie" and "Frozen". The first of these was exceedingly cleverly written with possibly more appeal to the adults in the audience than is usually the case, with the worthy moral that even a yellow-faced nonentity can achieve greatness and some fairly spectacular animation of cascading Lego pieces; or one can conclude that it was 100 minutes of shameless product placement. Pretty good 'though! As for the crowd-pleasing "Frozen", yes it is probably Disney's best film for years, with strong female characters (a la "Brave") and charming supporting characters in a clumsy-hunky potential love interest, a talking reindeer, and a loveable snowman. The music was fine as well, even if it seems that there is no escape from 'Let it Be' everywhere one turns.

I suppose it behoves me to comment on the two bio slots I mentioned. The one on Julie Walters was a little too adulatory, but not without some interest, although there was too much on her television roles and not enough on her film parts. As for the retired ballerina Darcey Burrell seeking her idol Audrey Hepburn like an overly besotted schoolgirl, I nearly gave up, but the bio was saved by input from Hepburn's two doting sons, to the extent that it actually became very moving.

I know the above-mentioned don't add up to thirty, but I have ignored some dire horrors from the so-called Horror Channel and Film Four, a few Christmassy TV movies (still hanging about even after the event), and the odd golden oldies from my own collection. However I must announce that I have now re-evaluated Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending" from 2002. Having only seen it before on an airplane, I have been saying it was his worst film ever. It was never released in the UK, but courtesy of an Italian DVD (now the only source for this movie) we watched it again a few days ago. Guess what?, it's actually nicely-written, generally quite amusing, and with a few laugh-out-loud bits of business as well. This redemption on my part, now definitely leaves "Cassandra's Dream" (2007) as the Woodster's worst.

Once more, Happy New Year!! Armed with my well-intended resolution -- which might last as long as next week -- here's to happy uncritical viewing. 
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