Movie: American Hustle

February 14, 2014

Our wedding anniversary gave us the opportunity and impetus to go to the cinema for the first time in many months.  We went to see American Hustle at the Odeon, Braehead, and even though it was Orange Wednesday the theater was almost empty.  Because we have to wait till Lewis is settled we missed the early showings so didn’t get in till after 9, with adverts, trailers, and a movie that was too long for its own good we didn’t get in till nearly midnight – which in the past wouldn’t have been worth commenting on but now with sleep interrupted most nights it is much more of a challenge.

movie poster

movie trailer

So, the film?  Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale and a lot of makeup) is a conman who partners and falls in love with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams).  They get caught by Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) an FBI agent who offers them a deal of working for him rather than going to jail.  The deal is that they will con (or entrap) corrupt politicians by offering them bribes.  But while the crime caper story is engaging, at times funny and provides the main narrative this film is all about the central characters and the fantastic performances that make them so captivating.  I read a review somewhere that this was a 3 star film with 5 star performances, I would rate the film higher than 3 starts but the it is true that the individual performances are much more memorable than the overall story.  Particularly given that, according to press interviews, much of the performance was improvised.  There are certainly a number of intense scenes that look unscripted and that the actors were reacting rather than acting.

Another massive feature of this movie is the look and sound of New York in the late 70s, the costumes, hair-styles (every review seems to mention the hair, but it really is an integral part of the movie from the very opening scene), and above all the superb mix tape from the 70s soundtrack which brings the era to life. –long black road

Like many films IMHO this could have been shorter, it was a little self indulgent, lingered and lost pace towards the end, but other than that a great movie.

Review of 2013

January 17, 2014

Previously: review of 200920102011, 2012, here is the summary of my blog posts 2013… as ever please note this is only to help me remember things I really don’t know why anyone else would be interested:

MOVIES (cinema)

RESTAURANTS, blogged about (I don’t blog about every restaurant anymore)…

BOOKS read this year….


  • June: Isle of Lewis
  • November: Crieff Hydro

Other Highlights:

  • April: Son
  • July: Started Cycling to Work
  • Sept: Lewis Dedication

Running Totals:

  • 2009 – 23 books – 6 Movies – 4 gigs
  • 2010 – 33 books – 13 Movies – 10 gigs – 6 restaurants – 4 holidays
  • 2011 – 18 books – 2 Movies – 3 gigs – 1 restaurants – 3 holidays
  • 2012 – 16 books – 7 Movies – 3 gigs – 3 restaurants – 4 holidays
  • 2013 – 8 books – 2 Movies – 0 gigs – 1 restaurant – 2 holidays – Plus 1 son who is wonderful!

movie: Arbitrage

March 8, 2013

According to the excellent (and free) Collins online dictionary Arbitrage is “the purchase of currencies, securities, or commodities in one market for immediate resale in others in order to profit from unequal prices.” fortunately the movie has nothing to do with that and the worst thing about this film (IMHO) is its title!

movieRichard Gere plays the part of a successful businessman who is selling his company, we don’t initially know why, this is just the point at which we the audience enter the story. He has grown up children and grandchildren, devoted wife (Susan Sarandon), servants, etc. obviously a family of great wealth.  Quickly we discover that he has to sell the company to cover up something, he may loose all the money, he may go to jail.  We also find out that he is having an affair and trying to keep everyone in his life happy and all his secrets in place.

That is when things start to go wrong.  He crashes a car killing his mistress and walks away from the accident.  His daughter, who works for the company, discovers some financial problems and confronts him.  An audit is taking place leading up to the sale of the company, but is being delayed by someone for some reason.

Gere just appears to have dealt with one potentially devastating situation when the next one happens, and as viewers we are confused about his motivation – is he a good guy in a bad situation or a bad guy trying not to be found out?  Does he keep his daughter in the dark to protect her or to deceive her?  By running from his mistresses death is he looking after number one or protecting the investors and employees who will suffer if he is found out and the sale falls through?  When someone else is going to go to jail for him will he let it happen or confess?

Gere’s performance is truly exceptional.  He is on screen almost all the time being torn between humanity and sucess at all costs.  But everyone in the cast is shine, Tim Roth is great as the detective out to discover the truth.  Susan Sarandon isn’t on screen too much but when she is you know all about it.  Also worth mention is Nate Parker who plays the son of a former associate of Gere’s character who he turns to for help – his performance is really impressive.

This is a very engaging film that makes you care about the characters and really keeps you guessing right to the end credits.

BTW: watched this at the GFT – excellent cinema with no popcorn, hotdogs, noisy clientele, etc. a pleasure!

movie: Jack Reacher

January 3, 2013

Without doubt the best movie I’ve seen this year!  Obvious joke, but I couldn’t resist it.

Finally this character has made it onto film, and it really is an excellent movie!  The basic plot is that there is a shooting in an unidentified city, there is overwhelming evidence leading to an ex-military sniper who is arrested within hours.  The suspect simply says “Get Jack Reacher” however the DA and detective in charge have no way of getting in touch with Reacher.  We soon find out that as soon as Jack saw the suspect on news reports he made his way to the scene – not to help but to make sure he was found guilty.

movieSo why would the suspect ask for an investigator who wants to find him guilty?  Why did these random killings take place?  Who carried out the shootings?  Why are people trying to throw Jack Reacher off the trail?

I have been a fan of this character since I read Lee Child‘s first novel Killing Floor back in 2006, since then I have read all of the published Child novels and eagerly awaited each new release (and written about each one here).  Jack Reacher is a great character because he is the quintessential drifter, breezing into a situation (usually in a small town somewhere) helps out those in need then wanders off.  Reacher is an investigator, ex-military police, no ties, no baggage, with the sole aim of staying off grid.

There is some controversy about the casting of this movie because the physical description of Jack Reacher across all the novels is summed up as 6′ 5″ tall with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds. He is exceptionally strong, has a high stamina, and looks imposing and intimidating.  So Tom Cruise (5′ 7″, 150 pounds) isn’t the first person that comes to mind to play the part.  But this is a movie – a different thing from the book – in the movie he isn’t described as 6′ 5″ etc…  he is shown as Tom Cruise.  It’s as simple as that for me.  This is a different thing from the book and the important thing is the skills of the man – and Tom Cruise really pulls this off.

I thought the movie was excellent, that Tom Cruise plays Reacher very well.  It is very close to the book, the investigation keeps you guessing, the action scenes are fantastic, just a really good action film.

Review of 2012

January 2, 2013

Following reviews of 2011, 2010, and 2009… here is the summary of my blog posts this year… please note this is only to help me remember things I really don’t know why anyone else would be interested:


MOVIES (cinema)

Movies (home, but for some reason significant)

RESTAURANTS, blogged about (I don’t blog about every restaurant anymore)…

BOOKS read this year….


  • April: Blair Atholl
  • July: CLANkidz
  • September: Lagos, Portugal
  • October: Rochester trip for Mark’s wedding, (it was a short trip but still a bit of a holiday)

Other Highlights:

Running Totals:

  • 2009 – 23 books – 6 Movies – 4 gigs
  • 2010 – 33 books – 13 Movies – 10 gigs – 6 restaurants – 4 holidays
  • 2011 – 18 books – 2 Movies – 3 gigs – 1 restaurants – 3 holidays
  • 2012 – 16 books – 7 Movies – 3 gigs – 3 restaurants – 4 holidays

movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

December 22, 2012

An Unexpected letdown.  I have fond memories of the book The Hobbit, which I enjoyed much more than the Lord of the Rings books even though I still liked them.  I also enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies as they were released and how brought to life that fantasy world of middle earth.  So why did I find the movie version of The Hobbit such a let down?

movieVisually (for the most part) it is stunning making Tolken’s world come to life. The acting is good, Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman are both great, Freeman really pulls off the ‘things are just happening to me’ of Bilbo Baggins.  The other stand out performance for me was James Nesbitt as Bofur the dwarf, but anyway…  All the stuff that you expect Peter Jackson to do well from the other films he has done well – the CGI, scenery, setting, etc.  But what I found missing was the plot.

The Hobbit, isn’t a complicated book.  The Hobbit is a straight forward quest Children’s book.  There really isn’t enough going on to spin this out to three films so in this movie – which in itself is 2 hours and 50 minutes long – not much happens.  Massive sections of this film could and should have been cut.  There is no clear narrative driving it forward, yes they are going to do something – that’s explained and then they set off but basically it is just a sequence of unconnected scenes, many of which do nothing to move the main narrative onward.

Again, it really is a visual masterpiece for most of the time, for example the dwarfs party in Bilbo’s home at the start showed great sets and was very clever at the scale trick of having hobbits and dwarfs and humans (or at least wizards) all in the same physical space on screen at the same time.  The thunderstorm / mountains giants fighting was amazing and I thought was a really good piece of CG, as was the signature riddle scene with Bilbo and Gollum.  However, what I think didn’t work so well was all the long drawn out fights with Goblins and Orcs.  Especially the Goblins in the mountain where the whole thing looked too computer generated and animated and simply went on for far too long.

Overall, the movie is ok, but what you are really getting is a collection of short stories – incidents along the way with an odd conversation here and there to tie it together,  This isn’t a story in itself with a start, middle and end just a start and then a bunch of stuff.  Disappointed.

Oh I should probably mention on a technical note that I watched this in 2D at Standard frame rate.  The avoiding of 3D was deliberate but the frame rate is just what happened to be showing where and when we booked.  I am reasonably intrigued to see the effect of high frame rate but certainly not interested enough to go to see this movie again.

movie: Skyfall

November 17, 2012

The name’s Bond, James Bond.  He doesn’t order his cocktail “shaken, not stirred” but instead we see it mixed and he says “Perfect”.  We meed a new Q, Moneypenny, even a new Mi6 HQ but the old things are still there – even a return for the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger.  Skyfall is an excellent Bond Movie!  But it is also an excellent movie that could easily stand on its own and well worth catching on the big screen!

(from here on there-be-spoilers) 

The story itself is a different track with what I thought was a focus on the characters – what made Bond ‘Bond’, and how M ticked, etc. I really liked the hints at a back story behind the relationship between M and Bond.  The hints at being an outdated dinosaur in a modern world where old-school spies weren’t needed was well handled in particular by bringing in a new young Q.

I really can’t think of a thing to fault this film.  There are some big plot holes and impossibilities  (e.g. during a fight on top of a train someone finds a short length of chain to fight with – surely that would have fallen off with the vibration of a train moving and wouldn’t just be sitting there, don’t JCBs need keys to operate, and so on…) but to some extent it is a ‘cartoon’ world so we forgive these things.

I couldn’t help falling into the trap of ticking of the Bond-isms that just have to be included to make it a bond movie – big opening sequence [tick], cinematic silhouetted title sequence with massive theme song [tick], Q-branch gadgets [tick-ish], manic bad guy and henchmen [tick], bond-girls [tick, tick, tick], M [tick], union jacks [tick], cars [TICK – The DB5 is back!!!], product placement [tick].

favourite quotes:

  • James Bond: A radio and a gun. Not exactly Christmas, is it?
    Q: You weren’t expecting an exploding pen, were you?

favourite part of the movie

  • really massive spoiler, don’t read until you’ve seen it:
    The most memorable thing from watching bond movies when I was young, probably because it was in more than one film is the scene that goes …  hat flung onto hat stand in M’s outer office… flirt with Miss Moneypenny, through padded leather door to M’s office, everything is wood paneled, ‘old-school and establishment.  The last scene in Skyfall re-created this set, as we discover who Moneypenny is and Bond officially meets the new M.  I totally loved that scene!

On top of everything Skyfall has to offer, there is even a poster simply designed to pose beside…

movie: Brave

August 26, 2012

Pixar goes all Scottish with their latest film about a young princess facing her destiny.  Princess Merida is a tomboy, who doesn’t take kindly to being married off, so runs a way, meets a witch and….  that’s all I’m going to give away.

It is a nice enough story with the great quality that you expect from Pixar (apart from the 3D stuff – more later).  The soundtrack is lovely and really made me think about getting hold of the music though I haven’t yet.  Lastly the voice work is outstanding with Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, etc.

The movie is dedicated to Steve Jobs with this quote at the end credits: “Dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs, our partner, mentor and friend”.  There is also a Lord Macintosh character and I noticed a few times that we saw Merida taking just one byte out of a apple ;-)

3D::  I’m not a fan of 3D movies but since it is supposed to be better in cartoon format than live action, and since the next available showing was in 3D there seemed little point in avoiding it.  The 3D effects were nice enough when you notice them but at no point do they *in my opinion* add anything to the plot, or movie going experience.  Please don’t encourage studios to use this awful format.

film: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

July 1, 2012

After much indecision on what to watch tonight we finally found The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and as neither of us could find any objection we gave it a go.  What a great little film.

Released only last year I hadn’t heard about this at all, but with Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, etc. involved it couldn’t be too bad.  The film is a story about how each of these seven people are dealing with retirement in one way or another.  They each seem to be struggling financially and decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel, they arrive to find that it doesn’t fully meet the advertisement.

We gradually get to know each individual, what brought them to this point and how they face the changes brought about by retirement and moving to India.  Some are young at heart, none ready to give up while one is simply on a quest for lost love.  Meanwhile the young hotel owner has to face up to his own problem of love vs family and Indian tradition.

The cream of British actors make up an unbeatable cast provide some excellent one-liners which will make you laugh out loud. There is an occasional moment of sentimentality, but this isn’t laboured, and the Indian culture and setting make the movie visually stunning.

This is a fantastic movie and well worth getting hold of!

movie: A Royal Affair

June 22, 2012

Late Friday afternoon Mark Kermode blogged about this film, a quick check of the GFT web site I found it was showing just after 5.  From there it wasn’t a difficult decision since D is away for the weekend and this being a Danish period costume drama with subtitles, I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t have been interested.  But I will give most things at the GFT a try and if Kermode recommends it then why not?

Watching a movie I knew very little about before sitting down was unusual, but I enjoyed having no idea what was going to happen next or what direction it was going in.  It was only afterwards that I discovered this is a true story of the mentally troubled King Christian VII in 18th century Denmark who is manipulated and side-lined by his government.  Then the physician Johann Struensee uses his close relationship with the King to implement his own ideas of the emerging enlightenment making liberal reforms and implementing vast social changed, whilst falling in love and having an affair with the Queen.

There is no question that this is a beautifully shot film and while watching it I was completely engrossed in the period without it feeling too much like the costume drama that it obviously is.  The camera direction is subtly modern in style that you don’t normally see in such films and showing glimpses of peasant life clashing with the aristocracy again made the story feel very grounded in reality.  My only quibble would be that at 2hours 17min it was just a little bit too long and I found myself fidgeting to get comfortable by the end.

Whilst at one level this is a love triangle, it is also a political drama, a story of social upheaval, censorship and a bro-mance.  OK, there are no giant fighting robots or exploding helicopters in this film, but it is a truly stunning movie and as Mark Kermode said “if a Royal Affair isn’t in my top 10 at the end of this year, then it will have been a fantastic year.”