Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thelma & Louise - R. Scott 1991

This very atypical cult movie turns out to have aged with surprising grace!

Thankfully, 25 years later, women can play leading roles in action films without being punished by death in the end.

Sadly, 25 years later, Ridley Scott has yet to direct anything remotely as brilliant. Fortunately, he does better work producing TV-shows! (He has fathered 'The Good Wife' and 'Klondike', among others.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jarhead - S. Mendes 2005

To the best of my knowledge, this was a fairly accurate portrayal of the first Gulf War; months of waiting, some friendly fire and then in the end a couple of days of war.

Gyllenhaal is brilliant, of course. Foxx, though no musician, is spot on as his commanding officer.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Broken Harbour - Tana French

OK, this is the close of the Tana French-festival!

This one was more classic than the previous ones, yet kudos to French (again!) for shunning the terribly expected happy ending. (The murder is solved, of course! Though I can say no more short of spoiling a reading-experience I highly recommend.)

Some day, when I'm old (or just bored out of my wits) I might draw up some statistics to illustrate the percentage of dialogue in this book. A rough estimate would be around 80% which is really too much, you know.)

Big Eyes - T. Burton 2014

This tale about the husband taking credit for his wife's work is a multi-layered history :
- It's Shakespeare's Sister : A comment on women's role in art and history, and the discrepancy between the options offered to men and women, still highly relevant in 1950s America.
- It's also a love story and a divorce drama, revolving around ever-excellent Amy Adams.
- To finish, it is a rather heart-rending story about artistic identity; the loss of it, and the will to possess it.

More 'Big Fish' than 'Batman' this nevertheless retains Burton's inspired sense of colour. 
Not one of his masterpieces, perhaps, but watchable enough.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cuban Fury - J. Griffiths 2014

Kinda cute. And occasionally a bit silly, which is no bad thing in a comedy.

(Additional bonus : On a rainy day, you can busy yourself finding parallel scenes between this and 'Purple Rain'. Or '8 Mile' or any other film depicting a modest hero rising to stardom.)


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Likeness - Tana French

My ongoing Tana French-festival soon drawing to its close, I won't go back on the numerous advantages of her crime-writing.

One of the conveniences of resorting to different heroes in different books is that you can have extraordinary things happen to them, all the while maintaining a sort of relative normalcy; "this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"

The pitch of this particular French-novel is original, indeed : The detective is faced with a corpse bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself, thus allowing for her to go undercover and assume the victim's identity in order to uncover the killer.

Focusing more on the victim than on the murderer is a new take, and bold moves are regrettably rare in this genre. It is a little sad, therefore, to realise there is actually a reason why investigations tend to zoom in on the perpetrator. It gets a bit boring when nothing happens!
As a result, what ought to have been a pageturner finally turns out to be little more than an OK thriller.

I suppose not even French hits a home-run every time.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Oblivion - J. Kosinski 2013

The low-expectations principle proved extremely helpful in making this an OK experience in the end. 
A knowing blend of sci-fi and human relations, admittedly rendered rather complicated by the extensive use of clones. 
Tom Cruise is a decent actor, yet it's increasingly hard to dissociate him from his public persona.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nextopia - Micael Dahlén

Nextopia the term Professor Dahlén adopts to describe how our society is based on expectations and the pursuit of happiness, as opposed to experiencing the event / purchase / happiness itself. According to him - and he has made extensive research in consumer behaviour, so he should know - what we value most of all is what we expect to come next.

This was interesting and clear-cut! Despite not having followed the series, I do believe it is almost impossible to dislike an essay that uses 'Lost' and its audience to illustrate its point :

 (That raised your expectations, now ,didn't it? According to Dahlén, you are therefore at your happiest NOW, before I explain it all to you, so take a while to savour it before you go on reading.)

The show was a hit from the first pilote episode, as loads of people thought "Wow, this looks exciting; I'll watch!" 
Then, the plot got too complicated, and it seemed all loose threads would not be tied up in the end. People grew weary of the convolutions and lost interest. Numbers dropped.
Numbers went up again when ABC announced there would be only two more seasons, and everything would be explained in the final episode. 
I won't go into the general deception that followed the finale, but I reckon Dahlén is right in this : What got people watching was not the actual storyline of the actual show, but what they figured would be coming next in that specific show.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monty Python Live - O2 Arena, London (July 2014)

Finally a TV broadcast of this epic event on a channel I had access to! 
It could all have gone wrong, of course. (Christ, look at the numerous resuscitated bands! More fail than succeed, you'll admit.)
It doesn't, though! Mostly, I suppose, because all these elderly gentlemen seem to enjoy themselves so genuinely, playing at crossdressing and screaming at one another.

Absolutely irresistible!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pitch Perfect - J. Moore 2012

Allow me to speak of my eleven-year-old daughter :
She and a friend caught the final fifteen minutes of 'Pitch Perfect' on TV. 
They sat, wide-eyed and gaping in utter amazement for every second of those fifteen minutes.
To catch the rerun, my daughter set her alarm at 8 a.m. (this was during vacation!) and sat through the whole film. Loved it.
Watched it a second time, days later. Loved it again.

Now, admittedly, most of us are not eleven any more, and may expect more from a film than high-profile girls belting out old hits a capella. Still, though! This was kinda winsome!

On a rainy autumn afternoon, therefore, when you have nothing else to do, you might as well watch 'Pitch Perfect'. Especially as the sequel is on its way. 
I can name at least one person who is more than ready for it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paper Gods - Duran Duran

I have thought long and hard about it, yet I can't seem to make up my mind :

Is it because I didn't much enjoy this last time they were around (Oh, but I was quite young. Yes, I was! Quite, quite young!) that I like it now?
Or is it just me being a wee bit pathetic?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good Omens - Pratchett & Gaiman

Whereas two babies switched at birth may not be the most original of inceptions, the rest of this 1990 classic is fairly unconventional!
One of the babies is "the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of this World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan and Lord of Darkness", which obviously entails quite a lot of sorting-out eleven years later, when Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil, is set to take place.

Terry Pratchett is a new acquaintance to me, though I had already - recently! - discovered that Neil Gaiman ('Coraline', 'American Gods') possesses an inventive energy quite akin to that displayed by Rowling in 'Harry Potter'. It was pretty irresistible for the first half of the book - especially the savage nitpicking on modern society; among the devil's inventions count for instance diet plans, oil spills, arms dealers and nouvelle cuisine - then the closer to Doomsday it got, the more I lost interest. Too many unimportant characters, perhaps?

All in all, though; a good read!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Min Mormor Hälsar Och Säger Förlat - Fredrik Backman

The idea of the dying grandmother leaving behind a trail of letters leading her outsider grandchild on to a series of significant people indeed owes quite a lot to Jonathan Safran Foer's brilliant 'Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close', especially as the grandchild in question has a large number of character traits in common with Foer's Oskar Schell. 
But OK - There are worse references to pick from!

Backman does have a style of his own; there is nothing elegant nor poetic about it, but it is entertaining and idiosyncratic enough, all in understatement (let's be literary and call it litote).

Funny at times, though in order to reach perfection, or even maturity, his style lacks the same thing as his plot : Moderation. 
There is just way too much of everything in this book, including pages.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Nightcrawler - D. Gilroy 2014

The real challenge here might perhaps have been the opposite : Finding a positive manner to depict the prurient existence of a more-than-sleazy photo journalist - The very term 'journalist' being unusually hyperbolic here, as the main character is no more than a man with a camera, selling footage of black and hispanic-looking criminals victimizing white middle-class citizens.
Showing him off as a cynical opportunist seems as the most obvious road to take.
Besides, I couldn't really shake the feeling that tracked-down superstar Gyllenhaal might have derived a certain pleasure from portraying this particularly disreputable photographer.

Apart from all of the above, the film was really not bad at all!
It has the same mesmerizing quality to it as 'Drive', and it definitely has a point to make about today's society.
Plus, it's exciting!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Secret Place - Tana French

It is actually quite a bold move, in modern crime fiction, to shun the reoccurring, increasingly endearing main character detective. All hail to French, therefore, for making her readers begin every new book with a new policeman.

Moreover, surprising parallels between French and literary giant James Joyce spring to mind! Indeed, it is in 'Dubliners'-fashion French has created her own universe of policemen swarming around the fictitious Dublin murder squad, carelessly wandering in and out of each other's books, taking turns providing narrative voices.

Another parallel to Joyce is the limited time-span : Interspersed with regular flashbacks, the storyline of 'The Secret Place' begins in the morning and ends that very same night. All in a day's work, just like 'Ulysses', though mercifully, French has preferred a classic first person narration to Joyce's more demanding stream-of-consciousness monologue.

All in all; a good, relaxing read despite (or perhaps thanks to?) the literary ambitions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pourquoi J'ai Pas Mangé Mon Père - J. Debbouze 2015

Despite a promising pitch - popular comedian Debbouze adapting Roy Lewis's 'The Evolution Man' - I found nothing enjoyable at all about this film, although my eleven-year-olds occasionally laughed, and at any rate sat through it, rather than minecrafting or fifa-playing, as I myself was sorely tempted to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monica Z - P. Fly 2013

Stylish, but conventional biopic about one of Sweden's greatest jazz singers.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Into the Woods - Tana French

A detective story is and remains a detective story, like it or not. 
This one, however, does take the pains to circumvent a couple of the usual easy ways out, starting with the self-destructive policeman (Yes! He's gone! Replaced with a merry pair of youngsters!) and ending with the non-solution of half of the mystery.

Frustrating, in a way, yet refreshing!

(A minus, though, for the blond young girl as the victim. Been there, done that.)


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yves Saint Laurent - J. Lespert 2014

Biopics being what they are, this is more a film about great art than it is great art itself.

Brilliantly stylish pictures, oh-so-pretty (equally talented, it would seem!) Pierre Niney in the starring role, and a gripping life-long love story at the core of the film, however, all contribute to making this quite watchable anyway.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Faithful Place - Tana French

Despite my recent weariness of detective stories (Whatever some may say in the matter, there is no denying nor escaping the clichés and predictabilities that predominate in the genre) I must confess some of them make for a relaxing read.
Especially when they are fairly clever, like this one.

French fearlessly broaches the subject of social injustice, not all that common in whodunits (and not to be mixed up with whining about modern society - Yes, Mankell, I'm addressing you.)

The one stereotype French does not manage to steer clear of is the abused, loose-cannon, self-destructive policeman. I do believe Mankell's Wallander created a damning precedent there.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Definitely, Maybe - A. Brooks 2008

Cute. And a whole bunch of other, slightly less flattering, adjectives.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - M. Reeves 2014

I beg your pardon, no! This was not necessarily doomed from the start - The pitch is quite workable, for instance. Humans and apes, some nicer than others, forced to cooperate to ensure their survival.

The production, however, is clumsy through and through; storyline, dialogues, stageing and special effects.

 Oh, well.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Den Bekymrade Byråkraten - Kristina Ohlsson

Despite her youth, Kristina Ohlsson's résumé is impressive indeed. 
Currently a best-selling author of detective novels and children's literature, she is a former consultant for the Swedish Security Police and Defense Department, as well as an ex-Counter Terrorism Officer at the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe.

She has spent time in many of the countries directly concerned with today's waves of migrants, so you like to think she does have a clue to what she is talking about, and her writing is basic, accessible, educational and convincing.

She points out basic facts such as migrants' need for protection, the hardship they go through and the nature of and reasons to our reactions to their mass arrival. 

A sensible read, providing well-pondered arguments to anyone in need of them.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Déjà Vu - Giorgio Moroder

Iconic producer of the 1980s (the man behind Donna Summer's 'Bad Girls', for instance) illustrates the difference between basically doing updated disco music (which is what this album feels like to me) and knowingly blending disco music into modern dance music (Hello, Daft Punk!).

OK running music, though it will stand the test of time pretty much as well as 'Bad Girls' have, I reckon.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Electric - Pet Shop Boys

Much to my embarrassment, I only recently discovered that former favourites the Pet Shop Boys actually released an album two years ago.

As it turns out - and as I must confess I did expect, seeing that I hadn't heard or read a word about it... - the album is unfortunately rather forgettable.

Their distinctive characteristics are still there : A compact sound mat and a pumping, electronic beat which lend themselves quite well both to dancing and other physical activities (unless you are planning on having sex, in which case Marvin Gaye or Prince are still safer bets). 
The melodies, however, are missing, and it all remains sadly featureless.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jag Heter Inte Miriam - Majgull Axelsson

Young Romani girl survives Auschwitz and Ravensbrück, accidentally assumes a Jewish identity on her way to Sweden, where she remains, keeping up appearances up to her 85th birthday.

This sort of book ought to be mandatory high-school reading : History comes alive on the pages, and the subject matter is momentous, especially in Europe today.

For the jaded, middle-aged lady I have somehow become, however, it was a bit long and lacked literary style.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Emperor's Snuff Box - John Dickson Carr

This 1942 detective novel would definitely qualify for the epithet 'Vintage Agatha Christie' if it wasn't for the fact that it was penned by one of her peers. It does, nonetheless, fit snugly into its genre (Golden Age of Detective Fiction), including Knox's Ten commandments and all : the dead body inside the locked library, the absence of signs of forced entry, the damsel in distress, the treacherous villain, the snooty and misled policeman, the heroic detective and, of course, a couple of red herrings.

Today, post-Millennium and Fred Vargas, you might not wish to spend weeks on this sort of book, but it is absolutely pleasant enough to pass off as light entertainment.

The Trip To Italy, season 2

As I missed out on the film version last year, I was pleased to manage to see almost all episodes of this BBC TV version.
What could have felt like reheated leftovers after Coogan & Brydon's gourmet trip through England in 2013 actually offers exotic landscapes in the wake of the British 19th century Romantics; close-ups on good food; improvised, witty and occasionally consequential banter; lightheartedness (less bitterness and resentment than last time, I felt) and countless impersonations of everyone from Tony Blair to Alanis Morrissette's father.

You can call it a bromance if you like, but you could also use the old-fashioned word 'friendship' for what Winterbottom skilfully depicts.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Your Sister's Sister - L. Shelton 2011

I think Emily Blunt can do everything! Admittedly, she hasn't yet tackled any typically award-winning roles (no handicaps, no deadly diseases; only reasonable amounts of make-up) but she does have the courage and intelligence to be open-minded in her choice of films.

Here, she is one of three shut up in a forest cabin for the weekend, talking. 
Talking and talking! And talking. In point of fact, they talk so much this film becomes the exact opposite to the action films my lawfully wedded husband so inexplicably favours and which I dislike precisely because of the scarcity of their dialogue.
Too much talk here, and not enough of anything else. Had never even realized that could be a drawback in a film, actually.