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Friday, 6 November 2015

In-flight Movies...again

Yes I'm back from a most amazing stay in New York the details of which form no part of movie blogging, except to say that visiting with old childhood friends after many years is a surreal experience unlike any other. The least interesting part of my absence was revisiting in-flight movies after a two year-plus hiatus -- and while I may well fly long-haul again in the future, I just might not feel inclined to report on miniaturized viewing again, especially since the selection featured very few recent releases.

The first case in point was my feeble attempt to watch "Ant-man". You might joke that a tiny hero is just the thing for the smallest of screens, but frankly it feels as if I didn't see the movie at all. I had a go since Paul Ruud is amongst the most charming of modern actors, but his shrinking by scientist Michael Douglas to create an unstoppable ant-sized hero was little short of unwatchable. I'm not saying it's a rotten film. I am saying that one needs a rather larger screen to appreciate super-hero antics, even when they're teeny-weeny powerhouses. Then again, I've just about had my fill of super-hero flicks anyhow.

I next watched "Woman in Gold", the well-received tale of holocaust refugee Maria Altmann (played by a subdued Helen Mirren) trying to claim back the Klimt portrait of her aunt -- a painting looted by the Nazis -- from the recalcitrant Austrian government. She is assisted in her quest by inexperienced lawyer Randy Schoenberg (played by Ryan Reynolds in a more serious role than his forays into super-heroism), grandson of composer Arnold, who has his own axe to grind. It all seems to be an uphill battle, until their unexpected triumph; the fact that Altmann promptly sold the masterpiece for a pot of gold is neither here nor there. The only trouble with watching this small drama on the small screen is that the German-speaking passages (of which there were many) were furnished with even smaller subtitles which remained unreadable! A recommendable movie regardless.

My third choice on the outward flight also boasted subtitles, but fortunately these were legible. Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat enjoyed a not terribly brilliant Hollywood sojourn after Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule, but he has been off our screens for a while now. That's because he's returned to making the sort of movies in Hong Kong that created his image. Now 60 years old -- and he doesn't look it! -- he is still the coolest man in the world, far cooler than Steve McQueen the so-called 'King of Cool' ever was. The movie on offer was "From Vegas to Macao 2" (otherwise known as "The Man from Macao 2") not that I even knew that the first of these films (2014) existed. They are very jolly follow-ups to the hero Chow created long ago in "God of Gamblers" (1989) and its sequels. Full of chop-socky slapstick and featuring Chow's robotic manservant, they are a good giggle and full of wonderful effects. Chow remains among the most charismatic actors ever, even if the movies he appears in are fatally silly.

I was less ambitious on the shorter return leg, probably because I was overdue for some much needed shut-eye. I managed to watch "The Age of Adaline", a fantasy in which Blake Lively's heroine has remained in her late twenties for the last eighty odd years, after a freak electric storm. Her daughter, the mature Ellen Burstyn, is now visibly older than the mother she can not acknowledge publicly, as Adaline must keep changing her identity to keep nosey authorities at bay. She continues her strange deception until she falls for the handsome young man who has been pursuing her. Reluctantly she goes to meet his parents, Kathy Baker and Harrison Ford, who immediately recognizes her as his long-lost love from years past. Not bad.

I finally fugued in and out of "Ex-Machina" which is top-class science fiction starring three of this years flavours: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander. I shouldn't worry about having missed bits of the movie since it is being shown on satellite television next week. (If I had remembered that, I probably wouldn't have chosen it). The seemingly straightforward yet convoluted story has genius scientist Isaac recruiting young technie Gleeson to interact with his latest advance in artificial intelligence embodied in robotic Vikander, a wonderful piece of CGI design. Their various agendas are at odds with surprising results, but it's a gripping tale. I shall watch it again to discover what ins and outs of the story I sleepily missed.

Next on the agenda is the 10th annual Korean Film Festival which we attended for the first time last year. We've already viewed our first selection -- a fascinating oddity "Miss Granny" -- but I'll review that movie and our second choice next Friday.    
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