Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hitchcock - S. Gervasi, 2012

What is it about biopics that makes it so hard for me to stay away from them, despite everything?
Is it because I feel I learn something?
(Am I that desperate for knowledge? Or do I just secretly like them? Are the my guilty pleasure?)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Percy Jackson, Sea of Monsters - T. Freudenthal, 2013

A large number of my high school-students plus my own high school daughter have devoured the Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson-books (both series; they are either hardcore fans or not at all) and are currently awaiting the final opus (due December).
Doing so, they have learnt heaps about Greek mythology - admittedly, the information is often slightly warped, but let's face it; who can remember all that stuff properly, anyway?

Being myself unfamiliar with the books, I consider it promising that this film is generally considered as a failure. That way, there is still hope that the books are worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teknikens Hus, Luleå

Since my ten-year-olds were five they have loved this place dearly.
It is a hands-on science museum, allowing you to make paper, pilot a plane or a train, search for gold in a river, visit a replica of the mines in Kiruna, extract iron ore and much more.

Great place for kids of all ages!


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Promised Land - Gus Van Sant, 2012

Conflicts opposing major corporations to small-time farmers is nothing new on screen.
What sets this one apart is Van Sant's talented film-making and the reversal of roles. Indeed, Damon and Mc Dormand's potential villains are both likable and down-to-earth.

The whole issue is more complicated than your average opposition of good guys versus bad guys.

The ending was a bit of a let-down, however.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chronicles, vol 1 - Bob Dylan

A musician with literary ambitions and the skill to match them is not something you come across every day! That Dylan should be one of those rare birds might come as no surprise to his fans, but it did impress me.
This is an intelligent, perceptive and personal account of his life as a musician and a very reluctant celebrity. Highly recommended.

My uncharacteristic perusal of artist bios corresponds to my temporary proximity to the book collection of my brother, whose taste in music (as you may have gathered by now) differ somewhat from my own.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arcusbadet, Luleå

Seeing how the weather gods appear to have northern Sweden mixed up with Spain, we spend much of our time touring local pools and beaches.

This one you'd be well advised to skip, though, should the option arise.
There are artificial waves (for 2 min. every half hour) and a water slide. It is globally clean, but way too crowded and expensive. Plus - though I expect it was exceptional and unintentional - my bathing kids came out of the pool with oily hair. WTF?



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Blind Side - J. Lee Hancock 2009

Of course, I expected this to be crap, and of course it was.
 
What it also was : A film without a villain or even a real conflict. All love and warm feelings. Yet, strangely entertaining.
Can't even begin to define why.
Possibly, the sun and the vacation are beginning to impact on my brain capacities? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Capote - B. Miller 2005

Faithful readers of this blog are already familiar with my views on biopics.
That said, if there is one way to portray a real person and have the result turn out to be more than a history lesson, then this is it : Focusing on one period in the person's life allows the director to take the time to create Art, which is, I believe, more or less undoable when striving to cover a whole lifetime in two hours, all the while attempting to imitate reality as closely as possible.

This film relates Truman Capote's relation to the perpetrator of the murders he so masterly depicted in his docu-fiction 'In Cold Blood'.
Simultaneously, it describes Capote's multi-faceted personality without ever attempting any justification to his behaviour.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Aronsbadet, Luleå

Not that there is anything at all particular about this heated outdoor pool - crowded and not always as clean as you'd wish - except that it is city-owned, free of charge and very appreciated in the summer, especially as the temperature currently reaches a whooping average of 27 degrees Celsius.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bruce - Peter Ames Carlin

Never any great fan of Springsteen's - which sets me apart from the rest of Sweden - I borrowed this for want of anything better to read.

Not even the low-expectations principle could save this biography, however.
The fault lies not so much in the life of the Boss as in the writing, which was so uneventful, undramatic and uninteresting that I quit after a mere 150 pages. 
Most likely it would have been a lot more fun had Carlin not been such an obvious admirer of his study object. Give me Andrew Morton any day. (Although the more scathing kind of biography poses a different kind of problem, I'll admit.) 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Side Effects - S. Soderbergh 2013

 
Rooney Mara commits murder under the influence of an anti-depressant prescribed by her psychiatrist, Jude Law, in this Hitchcockian thriller which is just as elegant and efficient as you could wish for.
 
Soderbergh, to the best of my knowledge, has never made a bad film (although I did not love 'Magic Mike') which is why I sincerely hope he will reconsider his decision to leave the cinema altogether.
 


Friday, July 18, 2014

A Pocket Full of Rye - Agatha Christie

Vintage Agatha Christie! The English manor, the femme fatale, the silly housemaid, the seductive heir, regular tea-times and Miss Marple to boot!
What's not to like, honestly?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

M*A*S*H

Not that I don't enjoy 'Friends' as much as anyone else, but MASH, it certainly ain't.
One would think that at least one of the innumerable French TV networks broadcasting 'Friends' at any given time of the day (Whichever time of day you turn on the TV in France, there is an episode on somewhere.) could replace it with this brilliant 1970s show, combining side-splitting dialogue with satire and criticism both of contemporary society and war in particular.

Plus, it constituted the outset of my durable affection and admiration for Alan Alda.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Katy Did At School - Susan Coolidge

Not having read the previous book, I remain in the dark as to 'What Katy Did At Home' but in this late 19th century opus, the righteous heroine is sent off to boarding school, where she acts as a role model to the other, more dissolute, students.

I enjoyed re-reading this because it reminded me of my childhood (we'd call it pre-teens today), though why I enjoyed it as a child I truly cannot fathom. Stereotypes didn't bother me back then, yet it seems to me now this inhumanly well-behaved girl should feel more forbidding than inspiring.

What is to be retained from the above : It really doesn't matter what kind of rubbish your children read, what matters is that they do.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Bought a Zoo - C. Crowe 2011

Some films are doomed from the start. Not even a carefully applied low-expectations principle can save them.
Evidence : I had exceedingly low expectations about this one, and indeed, even what with talented Cameron Crowe directing, it really sucked with predictability, stereotype, narrative shortcuts and an ill-advised wish to be heartfelt. (What do you mean, I didn't give it a fair chance??)
How did Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson end up in this?

(And why did I spend almost two hours on it? To have something to write a blogpost about, is why! All self-sacrifice!...)

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man - P. Webb 2012

Very little to say about this - your average, superhero movie, really; at least from the perspective of the superhero-opponent that I am - except Andrew Garfield possesses a certain boyish charm that made this more or less watchable.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Do It Again - Robyn & Royksopp

Intelligent dance (or running!) music, more thoughtful than their previous collaborations, which does not make it any less electrifying.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Vägen Till Bålberget - Therese Söderlind

Ms Söderlind was news to me, but favourites Kerstin Ekman and Joyce Carol Oates were both mentioned in the blurb on the cover, which did sort of get my hopes up.

I did not, however, find that many common points with either of the aforementioned ladies, except perhaps a certain geographical commonality with Ekman (The northern parts of Sweden are apparently dear to them... As they are to me, incidentally!) and a focus laid on the influence of history.
This novel is split in four, parts with distinct narrative voices and several time patterns within each voice. Yet the reading went smoothly, partly because the topic - 17th century witch trials - was enthralling, and partly because Söderlind´s prose is fairly basic.

A good holiday-read, on the whole! Engrossing and entertaining without being debilitating. What else could you ask for, seeing that the weather up here in the northern parts of Sweden are already taken care of.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Now You See Me - L. Leterrier 2013

Magnetic Jesse Eisenberg, suddenly omnipresent Mark Ruffalo plus a bunch of other A-listers in this mashup of 'Ocean's Eleven', 'Burt Wonderstone' and 'the Mentalist'.

Entertaining enough, I guess - though no Bechdel-test is passed, no realism is even vaguely attempted, the whole shebang remains superficial and the dialogues smack of a lack of snap (Why, yes, I AM pretty pleased with that one, thank you!).

It just keeps raining in Paris at the moment. 
You watch anything just to pass the time, basically.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Egenmäktigt Förfarande - Lena Andersson

The subject-matter is commonplace enough, yet not repellent - unrequited love to a true scumbag - but the characters and the style are so pretentious, conceited and stilted, this almost reads like a Paulo Coelho-novel.

How in all the world this book can have been awarded two of Sweden's most prestigious literary prizes is beyond me.

Mercifully short, though.

 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hostages

The plot is pretty much in the title, except for the political angle, which on the other hand becomes more palpable if you consider handsome Dylan McDermott plays the hostage-taker. Indeed, someone that gorgeous can't truly be a bad guy?.. 
Toni Collette is the surgeon pressured upon to murder the President, on whom she is about to operate, while her family is used as leverage.

Despite this being modeled on an Israeli TV series, it is now all Bruckheimer : Slick and efficient, yet at the same time paradoxically slightly over the top and very shallow. 
Have seen the first four episodes and feel no real need to see the rest. (Will it get better?)

And PS to the channel TF1, who has shrewdly shortened each episode by 5-15 minutes; I never realized that was an option, but I can readily suggest at least a dozen other programmes you'd be well-advised to make even more extensive cuts in!

 

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Normal Heart - R. Murphy 2014

This HBO TV film is based on a largely autobiographical play by Larry Kramer, depicting his struggle to draw attention to the Aids virus, in early 1980s New York.

I suppose the quarter of a century that has passed since, has conferred the required perspective for us to consider both the outbreak of the disease and our treatment of homosexual men back then. Not much to be proud of!

Julia Roberts is uncharacteristically  unglamorous as the outsider doctor-in-a-wheelchair, Mark Ruffalo wears brown corduroy jackets as the gay activist and Taylor Kitsch apparently is set to have a career despite the massive and unfortunate bombing of 'John Carter'.

This was well-made and felt sincere; seldom indeed are we shown gay couples in classic love-stories, from the awkward first date through the fights down to the tear-wrenching death on the hospital bed. 
I guess the sincerity compensates for the few uninspired shortcuts which were something of a let-down.

 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Je, Francois Villon - Jean Teulé

Villon was a medieval poet in mid-15th century Paris, leading a life of crime and débauchery, despite being a scholar. Teulé's book is a novel but a well-informed one : Indeed, the numerous gaps in Villon's known biography allows for a good deal of invention.

On the whole, this was interesting, an easy read, and written in a much punchier style than Teulé's novel about Paul Verlaine. The incorporated and explicated poems add depth and authenticity.

The one thing that bothered me was what I perceived to be a certain inconsistency to the character; he makes choices I felt were irrational, and which remained unexplained by the text.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife - Bill Pullman

After the first part of the trilogy, it made no sense to me that parts two and three had not been adapted to film, as well. 
Yet, now after (re)reading part two, I can clearly see why those never hit the screens : There is no way in hell any American major film company would ever have agreed to put out a film for youngsters displaying such an exceedingly evil mother - Kidman's character was sugar-coated in 'The Golden Compass' - and Pullman's criticism of the church (and God!) goes from scathing (in the first book) to downright murderous.

I enjoyed this, though, and so did my offspring. 
It is a bit long-winded (Why do so many writers tend to fall in love with their characters?) but thought-provoking and inventive.
Rowling had clearly read this before having a go at her first writing project..! 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bill Viola, at Grand Palais

This was my first video art exhibition, which might explain why it threw me a bit off guard. 

The films were dazzling and disconcerting, partly because of the visual content and partly because of their lengthiness, adding a near-hypnotic quality to the images.

It WAS lengthy, though; you can save yourselves some time and just check out the best parts in the teasers!