Friday, 17 November 2017

A Dismal Week...or is it me?

I'm beginning to wonder just what it is about so many recent releases that leaves me cold. Since my dutiful watching makes me look at any recent film that comes my way, I find that this is becoming something of a tiresome task. Let's consider the 'new' movies viewed over the past week to see if we can solve my malaise.

Last Friday there was "Voice from the Stone" (2017) starring Emilia Clarke as a drab governess in 1950's Tuscany trying to get her mute charge to speak again after the trauma of his mother's death. As an actress she's remarkably uncharismatic without her Game of Thrones blonde wig and I was hard-pressed to give a toss whether she would succeed.

Then on Saturday I felt obliged to watch "Fifty Shades Darker" (2016) the sequel to the dreary 2015 'hit' "Fifty Shades of Grey". Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan were even less appealing than before and even the additions of Ria Ora, Marcia Gay Hardin, and Kim Basinger to the cast did little to up the ante.

Sunday we re-watched "Terminator Genysis" (2015) since Michael said he could not remember it -- nor if the truth be told could I. Emilia Clarke again and the boring Jai Courtney in a muddled mess only enlivened by Arnie's occasional appearances, including old footage of the young Arnie reminding me of the passing of time. Guess what? Five days later I still can't remember much about it --- just another pot-boiler.

Monday was even worse when we watched "Assassin's Creed" (2016) a complete waste of the talents of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons, as the film was far too dependent on CGI-enhanced fight scenes for its very little excitement. Not being a gamer I can't comment on how successful this transition to the big screen might have been, but I found it as boring as nearly all the other movies based on video games going back to "Super Mario Bros." in 1993.

Tuesday's 'delight' (not) was a French film "Neither Heaven nor Earth" (2015) starring Jeremie Renier (the glum hero of so many Dardennes Brothers' depressing movies) as a army commander in Afghanistan whose men keep mysteriously disappearing. And the mystery remained unsolved. Yawn!

I was actually looking forward to watching "Effie Grey" (2014) on Wednesday, but this lacked much life to remain anything other than a worthy period piece telling of the unconsummated marriage between Effie and the eminent 19th Century art historian John Ruskin -- he was apparently horrified to learn that she had body hair. Scripted by Emma Thompson, who also played a major role -- along with her husband Greg Wise as the uptight Ruskin -- it was rather like watching a wax tableau. Effie was played by the talented Dakota Fanning -- once a teenaged sensation -- who has not grown up to be the beauty that her sister has become.

Then yesterday afternoon I decided that I had better have a look at "Cemetery of Splendour" (2015) which has been languishing on our hard disc for some weeks now. Directed by the Thai art-house darling Apichatpong Weerasethakul (apparently 'Joe' to his friends) it required as much close attention as his previous films like "Tropical Malady", "Syndromes and a Century", and "Uncle Boonmee...". The plot -- such as it was -- concerns a group of hospitalised soldiers struck down by a mysterious sleeping illness. I think it must have been catching as I gave up half way through.

To wake me up I watched A.C.O.D. (2013). The acronym stands for 'Adult Children of Divorce' and while the movie was no great shakes, at least it had a lively cast headed by Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jane Lynch, and Jessica Alba. It seems that Scott's younger brother (Clark Duke) who has been living in his garage and who doesn't even possess a credit-card wants to marry his Japanese-American sweetie and wants his estranged divorced and multi-married parents to be present at a big wedding.. At least the cast seemed to be enjoying the ensuing shenanigans before the rather ambiguous ending.

Finally last night's choice was "The Olive Tree" (2016) a rather winning Spanish flick telling of a young lady's quest to return a 2000-year old tree to the family plot before her beloved grandfather dies. The tree in question had been sold by her father some years before and now has pride of place in the Dusseldorf headquarters of a multinational corporation. She sets out with her uncle and a friend in a 'borrowed' truck -- and with no clear plan -- to rescue the ancient tree. One always knew that hers would be a fruitless endeavour but her determination and its resulting media uproar provide a pretty satisfying and even moving experience.

I think the answer is that I watch too many movies (the above selection is not all of the past week's viewing) but it would be rather to difficult to wean myself from my obsession. And of course I never know when a real gem will suddenly appear to surprise me and to make it all worthwhile.        
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