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The Descendants (2011)
Globally satisfying but weak plot
The main strong point of this film is that for once we are preserved from violence, blood, gore, sex and and special effects which have pervaded a large part of the cinema and can only quite frankly interest a limited number of people on the planet.
Personally I have always been fascinated by Hawaii, but for a European this place is across the other side of the earth and very difficult to access. I am keen to visit the place to hear their music, eat the local delicacies and photograph the flowers and mountains. My uncle has a time-share there and he speaks some of the local language ! This film shows us a lot of different views of the islands and the climate, given the lush vegetation, seems to be quite changeable with an ever changing sky between rain and sun. One must suppose that one of the film's aims is to show that even in such a peaceful paradise such as Hawai'I, pain and grief are possible.
The film's plot is very limited but Clooney's actor performance in the role assigned to him is very good indeed - for this reason at the end of the film, you feel "highly satisfied" which is not the same as "enthralled" : to feel the latter you would have needed a spicier plot which just wasn't there. As to Clooney's wife in the film I could not imagine being paid to act in a film and to spend the whole of that film motionless in a bed ? Could they not have used a lifelike dummy ?? As we never saw the woman "in action" during the film even by use of flashbacks, it is difficult for the spectator to feel any real emotion for her and we have more emotion in following the way Clooney apprehends the situation thrust upon him.
One very negative point is the frequent use of absolutely foul and vulgar language by the children. Is this typical of American children nowadays ? Or was it exaggerated for the film ? Whatever the reply to that question, it does absolutely no good for the film at all and the only effect it would have would be to repulse certain would-be viewers who would have otherwise liked the film. How I relish the older films from the 1940's and 1950's where this filth was totally absent and the film far more enjoyable. Even in fighting/violent scenes, people seemed to control their language.
A good point with "Descendants"was the lovely Hawaiian music I have collected quite a few CD's of this bought overseas and I am fascinated by the culture mix these islands have produced.
Globally I have a satisfactory appreciation of the film which can be put down to Clooney's excellent performance and the magnificent surroundings and music and whilst you feel sad that the poor wife is confined to a bed with the unenviable prospect of death at the end of the tunnel, this sadness is tempered by the fact that we learn she was cheating on her husband. And cheating with who ? One of the killers from "Scream". Your emotions are slightly "numbed".
In Keeping with the Series - 3 amis, bronzés pour la vie........
Although this film actually came out in 2006, I have just now got round to seeing it. I remember at the time when it came out, many people were complaining that it was not as good as the original two films. In fact, the film is a reasonally praiseworthy successor to the other two and notably to the first one which, if I am not mistaken, takes place in Senegal. In fact, I found the second film, which takes place in the snow, decidedly more boring than the first. This third effort, manifestly made on the island of Sardinia, is more in keeping with the first original. The difference is that at the time of the original film, the morals of the film were a shock to the public. Today, the morals of the film remain the same, but public moral standards have declined so much (in my opinion) so that the film's morals do not shock any more and the film is therefore a disappointment to those who were expecting something even more "outré". I hasten to add that I in no way identify with the morals of this film - notably on the subject of infidelity which I find horrifying but I try to regard the whole film as something not to be taken seriously. The humor of the film is an extension of "Le Père Noël est Une Ordure" with the same gestuals and expressions, and it is easy to enjoy the performances of actors one has known for many years. The humour is (a) typically French and (b) within that domain, at the bottom end of the scale of finesse and subtlety, i.e. it is light years away from the likes of Fernandel, Bourvil, de Funès, Richard/Depardieu et alia. But there are some original touches and real comedic talent - I do like Martin Lamotte/Dominique Lavanant, and Thierry Lhermitte, and have a lot of admiration of Jugnot, though his rôle here is really not one of his best. However I am clavier-allergic, and I imagine many other people are too - they guy is just unbearable whatever the part he takes - and Marie-Anne Chazel is reasonably funny but not a ball ! On the other hand I do have soft spot for Michel Blanc with his pseudo-American expressions, and I have always found this actor to have a lot of talent which could be better used in other circumstances. Picture quality wise, the film is abysmal - everything seems overly yellow and it is a real shame that such a beautiful setting as Sardinia could not have been filmed in natural colors. I also mention the low audio quality and whilst liking the title song, would have preferred it to be sung in Italian rather than Spanish - there is something that defies all logic here but I can only conclude that the film director was under the misapprehension that the island of Sardinia was part of Spain !!
Des hommes et des dieux (2010)
This type of film is not, frankly, my cup of tea. The idea to see it was more my wife's - she is Mexican and during our trips to her region of Mexico we always pop in and see a community of Trappist/Cistercian monks whom she has known for many year and one monk in particular who is a great friend of hers. When you know such a community, it's true that the film takes on a more familiar meaning. The monks live a simple and healthy life, selling their produce locally, and caring for the local population and indeed most impressively are little interested in material possessions like the rest of us. To return to the affair in question, I had heard of the Tibherine monks at the time in 1996 so knew something about this drama. The film was incredibly slow to me and of course lacking in action - but, knowing the story, I really don't see how it could have been livened up otherwise. I did not know most of the actors, outside Michel Lonsdale and Lambert Wilson but I found their performance magnificent given the very limited subject matter.On the subject of image quality, I found that several scenes left to be desires - too much grain on inside scenes and a lot of over-whiting in the sunnier outside shots plus a slight tendency towards yellow overall. Ironically, some of the best and most natural scenes are those where they country side was covered in snow and where one might have expected white to over dominate - but this seems to have been very correctly handled by the cameraman. To resume - the limited subject matter means that a passionate exciting film is out of the question - but the actors did the best they could with what they had available. Some of the musical passages were too long and we both concluded that the whole affair could have satisfactorily been locked into a ninety minute time frame instead of dragging on for 120 mins. On the blue ray disc we have, a "complément d'enquête" gives a very interesting comparison of the real monks vs the actors who portray them plus showing the actual monastery and interviews with some of the monks' family members. Certainly a useful contribution to cinema with good production qualities - I am sure the film will end up in a few years being sold in monasteries around the world once it has become better known internationally.
Excellent Action Movie
I discovered this on a DVD on a recent visit to Mexico under the title "Busqueda Implacable". Not being a fan of modern films generally (too many special effects), I did not realise that the film was two years old. I sat down to watch this with my wife and we both concluded that it was an excellent action movie in the James Bond style. Particularly satisfying is the way in which our hero, in his quest to find his kidnapped daughter, liquidates the baddies one by one. The action scenes are nervous and impressive. It's a more modern and more violent version of Harrison Ford's "Frantic". Indeed the film is very violent, but this is good clean violence and is more than necessary, given the sort of scum our hero has to deal with. There is not a dull moment in the film and that is a very strong point. I have also seen the actor Liam Neeson in various other films and have liked him every time. Some viewers may complain that parts of the film are not plausible but I would send this sort of person packing immediately - plausibility is in no way the issue here - what counts is the entertainment value and nothing else.
Bobby Deerfield (1977)
What a yawn !
I made a special effort to see this movie and was totally disappointed with the outcome. On paper, the script seems hopeful, and the choice of actors leaves one with hopes - I liked Pacino in Scent of a Woman and have seen Anny Duperrey and Marthe Keller in several French and other films of the 70s/80s. But I had forgotten how important a part dialogues can play in a film, and in this film they are absolute ..... trash ! The filming locations were also attractive but the hopeless, pretentious and forced dialogues pulled the whole thing down to sub zero level. In addition to that, I am pretty allergic to the world of motor racing and find no interest in this sport. Even the inelegant dialogues in "Love Story" were better than the ones in this film (and that's saying something !!). I was really expecting better from this film and was very disappointed to have been let down so much.
Interesting Documentary WW2
A documentary potted history of WW2, the novelty here is that most of the film has been "colorized". The maker does not like to use this word and prefers to say "restored" but to all intents and purposes it is seeing the war in colour that makes it more gory and emotional. Explosions, bodies, speeches, ruins, bombs, it's all there and by the end of the sixth and last episode you are completely drained ! It is difficult to imagine how so much grief, damage disaster horror can be caused at the beginning by such a small number of people. Apparently, over 700 hours of film were examined before selecting the final product which is 6 x 52 minute episodes.
Why is this not issued to DVD ?
With almost every bit of cinematic junk being issued to DVD these days, and a lot of junk there is too, the mind boggles as to why this film, quite a respectable political thriller from 1970's France, has not undergone such a fate. Indeed the DVD situation in France is now pretty hopeless and whilst a lot of modern transatlantic tripe has here been issued to DVD ( for what reason I daren't imagine ) many of the classics of French cinema are still, in the year 2008, still sadly missing from the DVD repertoire in their home country. I possess a VHS copy of the film and would dearly like to see this restored and remastered as the colours appear washed out or "délavées". The film has an amazing number of strong points, not least its opening sequence with aerial shots of Saint Etienne in the Loire Department all accompanied by a MAGNIFICENT score by.....Philippe Sarde. True the score sounds more reminiscent of desert scenes or some more dramatic décors than a French town. Patrick Deware, who sadly committed suicide at a young age, is brilliant as the pure judge who wants to see justice done in spite of those all around him having cold feet when top ranking officials or politicians are compromised by a scandal. There are unfortunately too few people in the world with qualities of this nature, even today and in whatever country, though I do think that Western Europe has made some progress on the issue. The film is NOT left-wing propaganda ( thank God ) and merely seeks to denounce political "magouilles" or under dealings and has a bleak end. Jean Bouise, another all-time favourite of mine, is magnificent as is also Jean-Marc Thibault. The dialogues today seem a little dated but are far preferable to the politically correct homogenous tripe that today's cinema serves out with deeper-by-the-day ladles.
Ultimate Deception (1999)
Fairly Good film but with some silly stereotyping
This film is not bad, indeed I have always enjoyed movies with Yasmine Bleeth in them ! On the critical side, there is nevertheless a small point that needs to be addressed. There's some typical silly American stereotyping in this film especially about smoking. Need I add that smoking is neither a crime nor immoral ! On the contrary it's one of life's pleasures ! I certainly wouldn't give time of day to a woman who chucked me out of the house for smoking indoors as we see in the film. And, making only the "bad guy" smoke is both unrealistic to start with and a very very poor reflection on an increasingly sanitized and neurotic society. That point made, there is quite a bit of suspense in the film but also some plot holes and incoherences. It does seem highly unlikely that the husband could hide his real life completely and make his wife believe it. I had a lot of sympathy for the husband because he really did love his wife and had a problem admitting his own sterility. He therefore needed to find a child because he feared that if he did not, he would lose his wife and he couldn't envisage life without her. If obtaining a child could only be done through murder, I can see why he did it even though technically the murder was wrong. Anybody trying to cover up the truth about their life will eventually get found out, even if it takes time. Typical of today's American films, this one is very moralistic and the husband is caught by the police and imprisioned for life, which seemed a bit harsh to me, given that the motive was love for his wife and not some awful thing like sadism or cruelty to others. But I assume these sort of films are made to please a certain type of audience, generally the sanitized North American liberals ( the 'politically correct' ) and I suppose that if you consider the work in this context, it does its job perfectly.
Come Fly with Me (1963)
Good Fun and Great for a Rainy Afternoon
I've had this on tape for quite a while and recently transferred it to DVD. It is quite an unpretentious work but such a pleasure it is to watch this type of film compared to all the sophisticated overblown over special brain-tiring FX films of today. It's a hark back to the carefree 1960's when no-one (in the west, at least) had much to worry about, and the time was right for romance and love ! My favourite person in the film is Karl Malden, it's nice to see him in a role different from the Police of San Francisco, and I like the guy's face -it's original and unforgettable. My preferred scene is the one where French singer Simone Langlois, one of my favourites, sings the Yves Montand song "La Chansonnette" ( curiously enough translated into English as the Paris Love Song ) to Malden, his girlfriend stewardess and the ever so funny street urchin who accompanies them, this boy is listed as "Bibi Morat" but I have no idea if he is still an actor today as I have never heard this name outside the film. The on-location shooting in Paris and Vienna gives some kind of authenticity to the film, and I just loved the stewardess' costumes when they dressed up to go out for the evening - they were superb. Indeed, the more I watch the film the more I enjoy it !
Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (2008)
Should please French Canadians & Chti' Vee Wonder !!
This film, which should be a big success amongst the québecois and other French-speaking Canadians for reasons I will explain later, came out recently here in France and is having pretty substantial success. The plot : basically, a manager of the Post Office in Salon de Provence, France is trying to obtain a transfer to the Riviera in order to satisfy his neurotic and depressive wife who wants to live near the sea. Just when he thinks he's clinched an opening in Sanary-sur-Mer, he learns that preference was given to a handicapped candidate. He then tries to pass off as handicapped, wheelchair and all, during an interview for another post in the same area. All goes well and the interviewer is convinced that he is handicapped and cannot walk when at the end of the interview he stands up to say goodbye and thereby gives himself away ! This is a pretext for a "blâme" or sanction, and the poor guy's punishment is to be transferred, for a period of two years, right to the other end of the country to Bergues, in the Nord department, not far from Lille. To someone from the far south of France, going to the north is like going to the north pole, and his wife's old uncle, brilliantly played by Michel Galabru, warns him about the dangers and sub zero temperatures of the north, so our friend leaves his wife in Salon and makes the journey himself, planning to return home every second weekend. The purpose of the film is in a lighthearted and satirical way is to introduce the spectator to life in the north of France and to have a bash at some of the stereotypes commonly held about this region. The film contains numerous linguistic jokes and references and non French speakers will have difficulty in appreciating the full force and effect of the plays on words. Chti'mi is a dialect spoken in the north of France which tends to muddle c's and ch's, use mi and ti to mean me and you, braire (bray) to mean moan or complain as well as frequent usage of the word "biroute" which elsewhere in France is used for something more crude as well as lavish helpings of the word "quoi" (what, eh ! )pronounced as it if were "quow". I can see the film having enormous success in the French-speaking area of Canada as the Chti accent is not dissimilar to that used by the québecois and I feel intuitively that the latter will relish in it. Director Dany Boon is actually a Chti, or northerner, himself in real life and as well as directing actually plays the part of one of the Bergues post office employees and using his chti accent to excellent effect. His mother in the film is played by singer Line Renaud ( which IMDb lists as being born in Nieppe in Department 59 Nord so she may well be a chti herself ! ! )These northerners are painted as high livers, « bons vivants » over indulging in fatty foods and alcohol, very different from the south but little by little, our new manager gets used to this way of life, although the picture he paints to his wife in the south is much blacker than the reality. Eventually she joins him, is initially shocked but ends up enjoying herself too. Plot is not so important in the film, more important is the culture shock and interaction between the players. I have lived for several months in the north of France and the people there are indeed hearty, sincere and friendly, far more so than those in the south of the country who make more noise but are generally shallower as far as friendship goes. I also was lucky enough to have made a guided tour of Bergues about ten years ago, and found it a truly delightful place, surrounded by old fortifications. To resume, I really enjoyed the film and will willingly purchase the DVD when it is issued.