Thursday, May 29, 2014

Google glass ideas

I want to float my 'Google glass' idea to a wider audience.
Having used Apple FaceTime to take my grandchildren on a short tour of the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam my mind drifted to how Google glass could be used for a similar purpose. I propose a business idea to run remote tours of museums and art galleries for those who are unable to travel either due to age and infirmity or simply cost.
Use 1 - for residents in sheltered accommodation who retain a love of art and museums. To run remote guide led tours streamed in 'real time' and recorded for future use.
Use 2 - for schools either (a) to prepare pupils for a forthcoming visit to a gallery or museum by giving them an insight into the geography and layout. (b) for pupils studying a particular period who are unable to travel to a venue. An educational guide would lead the class through a gallery answering questions as they move through. 

A further use was suggested by a colleague of mine who recently remotely attended a friend's wedding. The wedding was in New York however those present were usinga variety of social media tools to attend from 10 different countries. How cool would it be to use google glass to give an 'in the room point of view' for remote attendees. This could also be recorded for future use by the happy couple.

I see a use by Estate Agents .....letting agents to produce walk through videos for prospective buyers/tennants.

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of the community......and possible partners?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Weight of Elephants

Saturday 17 May 2014 - Filmhuis Den Haag The Weight of Elephants (New Zealand)
We meet up with 10 year old Adrian in semi rural New Zealand. In fact the isolation of the film is enhanced by its setting, in and around Invercargill, one of the southernmost cities in the world being at the southern tip of New Zealand. 
Adrian has been abandoned by his mother and is being brought up by his grandmother. Gran is also caring for her disturbed adult son Rory, uncle to Adrian. In his lucid moments Rory bonds with Adrian over the youngster's love of sea monsters. As we meet our characters Adrian is objecting vociferously to having his head shaved by Gran in order to clear head-lice. The 10 year old foresees how this will further alienate him from his peer group in school
The cutting and camera angles in Daniel Borgman's movie enable the audience to experience the awkwardness that Adrian feels as he tries to fit in with his school peer group.
Adrian is haunted by the fact that everyone who is most precious to him abandons him. He is left to his own devices after school and creates his own fantasy world in the abandoned playground next to his Gran's house.
The Weight of Elephants - International Trailer from Katja Adomeit on Vimeo.
In a parallel storyline the TV and media is full of the search for 3 youngsters who have been abducted. While playing in his fantasy world Adrian becomes aware of his neighbours - 3 young children. He has not seen them before and they do not go to school..... has he discovered the abducted children?
After a number humiliating experiences in school Adrian gradually realises that fitting in is perhaps not the best strategy. He befriends his new neighbours particularly Nicole who is his own age. He also finds company with other 'outsiders'.
The cast inhabit their characters well with the children undoubtedly being the stars of the film - The naturalistic acting style of Nicole (Angelina Cottrell) and Adrian (Demos Murphy) in particular steal the show.

IMdB gives a score of 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes do not have any score yet as the film is quite new. I would suggest a score of 7.5 would be a fair representation of the film. I think that viewers will find this to be a rewarding experience.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

19th and 20th Century History in Pathe Buitenhof

Quite by chance over the past few days I have been fortunate enough to see two excellent examples of the historical film genre.
Buitenhof again was the venue, I was heartened to find that even after a break of two weeks of film attendance that I have retained the Foursquare Mayorship of the cinema.
The two films show the huge range and variety within a film type. On Thursday evening requiring escapism I headed for my favourite venue to watch The Invisible Woman.
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this recreation of the somewhat secret relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen (Nelly) Ternan. When they first met Nelly was 18 and Dickens 45. He had been married married to his wife of 22 years,  Catherine with 10 children. Nelly was the third of the three Ternan acting sisters.
The film gives what seems to my sensibilities a very good evocation of 19th Century England. You can almost smell the mustiness and feel the confinement of the Victorian age. The acting is earnest and indeed Felicity Jones as Nelly gives a spellbinding performance. However,  I found the film uneven in its rendition of the story. this could be explained by stating that it follows Dickens turbulent moods however it meant that the film failed to fully engage me leaving me ultimately unsatisfied. IMDb gives the film a score of 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes has the critics scoring the film 76% and Film-goers 52%. I would agree with the Rotten Tomatoes score which is sad as there could be a much better film somewhere in the cutting room!

Sunday 6th April - Pathe Buitenhof  - The Book Thief
I tried to put to the back of my mind some criticisms that have made of this film, and have not read the book on which is was based. I am happy to report that the film is sprinkled with wonderful performances which are drawn together into a well told story. 14 year old Sophie Nelisse gives a magnetic performance as the central character of the film Leisel Meminger. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are excellent as the very human husband and wife, with the acerbic Watson lovingly scolding the husband to whom she is devoted. Rush as the romantic and wistful father who holds the family together, but also threatens its very existence thanks to a promise given in a previous war.  I also want to make mention of Nico Liersch also 14 years old who plays Rudy, Leisel's love interest... his striking Aryan looks mark him.
I enjoyed the film the period was well presented and the characters fitted within this very well, each playing off each other. I felt that The Book Thief was everything that The Invisible Woman could have been. While IMDb scores the film 6.4 while Rotten Tomatoes scores the film with 46% from the critics and 76% from us the film-going public.
I think that the Rotten Tomatoes score for The Book Thief by film critics show that on occasions the critics in their earnest desire to give the viewing public the full picture can forget that an audience is often looking for a film which grabs them, takes them on its journey unfolding human emotions along the way. I am glad that I for one managed to banish the naysayers. This is a must see film.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday Film - 29 March Pathe Spui: Captain America: The Winter Soldier IMAX 3D

I did not have my expectations set very high entering the cinema on Saturday, the main draw of Captain America; The Winter Soldier was to experience once again of Pathe's IMAX 3D experience.
One of the issues that I have with Captain America is that of all Marvel 'Superheroes' he has the most difficulty operating in a contemporary setting being rooted back in the global wars of the 20th Century.
Captain America has also been portrayed previously as a rather 2 dimensional 'cardboard character lacking a personality or a sense of humour.
Whether it is the inclusion of  The Black Widow ( Scarlet Johansson) as a foil for our hero, or the bright and crisp screenplay from a strong writing team. The result I found to be as refreshing as the exciting reinvention of Ironman back in 2008. We see Chris Evans breathe life and character into the character of Steve Rogers.
Of course we are not in the audience of Captain America for an in depth exploration of character..... This is after-all a blockbuster 3D tale about a soldier who jumps out of planes without a parachute and seems to be able to defend himself against a huge amount of bullets and rockets with a simple shield!
The story-line has also been used quite recently... I recall another hero,  James Bond and M in a recent tale about a compromised organisation which begins to turn on itself.
Taking the film with all of these compromises into consideration I still found this a credible superhero vehicle.

Of the supporting cast - Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson and the previously mentioned Scarlet Johansson. Redford and Johansson give strong performances. I agree with others who have suggested that Johansson as The Black Widow has earned herself a film of her own. While Jackson's Nick Fury character I am beginning to find repetitive and too predictable.....There is the hope that change may be on the way regarding  the Nick Fury character(plot spoiler). However I believe that at least 80% of the audience could see through the seemingly actual demise of the character....note to director... must try harder next time!
I must admit I was relieved again to know that it was only really America that was at risk, and narrower than this that it was Washington DC that was the backdrop for our story..... the america-centric nature of the film is a little disappointing and this may ultimately cause it not to play well in the rest of the world.

However with all of its faults I did find the film well worth my time, it moved along at a good pace. Others have reported the final 20 minutes to be too full of over the top  'Bang! and Crash! I would disagree I felt that it was in proportion and leading us to the all to predictable ending.
IMDb give the film a strong 8.3 while Rotten Tomatoes scores Captain America: The Winter Soldier 94% from the critics and +99% from the audience.
I am of the opinion that the Rotten Tomatoes score is somewhat high presently, I would tend on balance to agree with IMDb with an overall score of 8.3 to 8.4.
While I wouldn't say this is a 'not to be missed' film and while it is unlikely to ever be thought of as a classic film, even of its type, I think that the film has merit if taken at face value, I have no doubt that audiences will continue to score this film highly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

August: Osage County

Film: August: Osage County KL086 Singapore to Amsterdam
My film viewing was curtailed over the past week as I have been attending the IB 2014 Asia Pacific Regional Conference in's tough but someone had to do it!
I have never been a huge fan of watching in flight movies, preferring the big screen experience. However as part of my strategy for sleeping on my return to The Netherlands I wanted to spend the early part of the flight watching a film. August:Osage County has been on my watch list for some time having seen trailers where Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts appear to be on top form.
The film film certainly embodies the matriarchal society in its most powerful form, we meet the force of nature that is Violet Weston (Streep) and her immediate family following the possibly self inflicted demise of husband Beverly. Violet had been diagnosed and is being treated for mouth cancer as we saw earlier in the story. I think it ironic that such torrents of abuse cascade from the area which is causing Violet such pain. The object of this bile is eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts). Barbara is quite capable of looking after herself 'like mother like daughter'

Violet's other daughters do not escape the wrath of Violet whose intolerance while part of her character is also being driven by the medication being somewhat oversubscribed by her doctor. Violet gives Streep the opportunity to show her full acting power and her onscreen presence is played off effectively against Roberts who is similarly blessed. Mention should also be made of Margo Martindale playing Violet's sister Mattie Fae.
Interesting then that the undoubtedly strong male cast members are all consigned to to pay 'bit parts' around the lives of the Weston women. It can't be often that Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper went so unnoticed in a film.
August: Osage County was first seen as a Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name back in 2007. The film does show its origins as many of the scenes are based within Violet's house and have the feel of 'set pieces'. This does not however distract from the excellent performances from Streep and her acting sisters.
IMDb gives the film a score of 7.4 while Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 64% and an audience score of 71% presently. I am of the opinion that for all of its faults,  the performances of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts alone are worth an 8.6.
The film set up a fine flight for me, we had 'lights out' just after the conclusion which for me heralded 3 hours sleep. An excellent result I think you will agree.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Wes Anderson weekend

Pathe Bioscoop Buitenhof: Friday 14th March - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Filmhuis Den Haag: Saturday 15th March - Moonrise Kingdom

This weekend I was transported to the world of Wes Anderson. The experience feels more like having been inside his head reading his thoughts or more worrying having participated in a therapy session for Mr Anderson's deep seated psychological hang ups.
So many of Anderson's themes are very personal: family instability, parental infidelity dead animals, young love, the importance of colour to create emotion, direct dialogue delivered in a deadpan style straight to camera, his musical heritage and of course.... Bill Murray.
Murray is of course only one of the family, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman are also essential to an Anderson film. Their participation the greater as seem willing to take small cameo roles in each offering.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tale told by an aging writer about his adventures at the hotel of the title.
When we first enter the establishment it is down on its luck and far from the height of fashion. We meet he owner of the hotel Mr Moustafa, who our guide takes a meal with. we find out how the hotel became Mr Moustafa's property as he came under the influence of the hotel's legendary concierge from early in the 20th Century, the charismatic but horrendous Mr Gustave H (played with panache by Ralph Fiennes). The story is fantastical and very Wes Anderson with a mix of animation and oddly artificial live action we are carried along as the narrative plays out.... watch out for Willem Dafoe playing a malevolent presence through the piece.

The ensemble just works as they seem to have a sixth sense on the requirement of their acting when working with Anderson.
IMDb gives a 8.4  and Rotten Tomatoes 91% from the critics and 92% from the audience.....I have to say that I don't believe the story works so well I would suggest that 8.6 out of 10 would be a fairer score... I may have to watch the film a second or third time, which would not be a unpleasant experience.

I spotted the showing of Moonrise Kingdom almost by accident as I looked through the film listings for Saturday.
We are back on familiar Anderson territory and angst. As the two young outsiders experience first passionate love. Against the backdrop of  rural New England we follow Khaki Scout and orphan Sam Shakusky as he encounters and falls for the enigmatic Suzi Bishop.
All is played with the support of music from Benjamin Britten - Noye's Fludde ( Anderson and his brother performed in the piece when they were around 10 years old) and the Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra.
Our tale is narrated by Bob Balaban and contains other Anderson stalwarts - Keitel, Swinton, Norton, Swartzman and of course the ever eccentric Mr Murray playing Suzi's father.

The cast is supported by Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand, however it is the juvenile leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and their peers who carry the film.
IMDb gives the film 7.4 while Rotten Tomatoes is more generous in awarding 94% from the critics and 86% from film-goers. I felt that Moonrise Kingdom works better as a story than does The Grand Budapest Hotel and have no problem in awarding it a creditable 9 out of 10.
Wes Anderson's reputation and integrity are preserved by both films which are true to his movie credentials......Anderson is back on form with The Grand Budapest Hotel following  Fantastic Mr Fox which I found to be not quite up to the usual standard

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

50 Plus night at the Pathe Buitenhof

It was with a spring in my step (ha!)..... that I caught the 24 bus to the Pathe Cinema Buitenhof for 50 plus night last evening. The deal was a screening at 7.15pm ( also at 1.30 on Tuesday) with a free coffee and chocolate.. all free with a cinema card.
I have missed the past two weeks as the offering has been Diana ( not my cup of tea!.. Diana scored 8% from critics and 27% from cinema goers -Rotten Tomatoes).

This week the main feature was Still Mine, a gentle and unpretentious drama ( based on a true story) set in rural New Brunswick.
The main characters are Craig and Irene Morrison, played sympathetically by James Cromwell and the devine Genevieve Bujold. Is it just me or is Bujold still a gorgeous creature? Her eyes still flash with a sensuousness that can beguile. Enough of this fawning!!
This simple but compelling story  follows Craig as he is prompted to build a new house, for his himself and his wife as she is gripped by the slow but steady onset of Alzheimers.

We meet two of their children and a sparky grandson along with their friends and neighbours in this battle of the craftsman versus 'the law'.
Undoubtedly it is the onscreen chemistry between Bujold and Cromwell that keeps the interest in what otherwise would be a ponderous film with a predictable ending. In truth this is a little gem of a Canadian film, I have to admit that this was my second viewing, I first watched Still Mine at the Filmhuis in the city back in the autumn of 2013.... and second time around my emotional heartstrings were duly tugged again, not only by the delightful Genevieve however, but by the whole story.
IMDb gives Still Mine 7.4 while Rotten Tomatoes  scores this a 93% from the critics and 87% from film-goers. Myself even with the lack of car chases and no hint of CGI ( Unless it was the cows!) and not a shoot out in sight give Still There 8.5 out of 10. You don't have to be over 50 to enjoy this film...... but it sure helps :-)
Still Mine garnered seven nominations in 2013 at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cromwell), Best Actress (Bujold), Best Original Screenplay (McGowan), Best Cinematography (Brendan Steacy), Best Editing (Roderick Deogrades) and Best Original Score (Hugh Marsh, Don Rooke and Michelle Willis).Cromwell won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Film Week - Monday 3rd to Saturday 8th March

In previous weeks I have made the most of the Dutch Pathe 50 showings at The Buitenhof Cinema. However for the past two weeks they have been showing Diana on a Monday evening at 7.15 pm.
I have no desire to go to see this film. Over the past three years I have welcomed being out of range of UK media outlets such as The Daily Express and Daily Mail where a mawkish curiosity of the UK Royal family and Princess Diana in particular persists many years after her tragic death. I could care less of the performances in the film, however I did enjoy the Naomi Watts interview with Simon Mayo from the BBC Radio 5 film show.....

This probably gave the movie greater publicity than it deserved.

Monday 3rd March - Spike Jonze -  'Her'  Pathe Buitenhof  starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johanson as the OS - Warning possible plot spoilers ahead!
The film currently carries an 85% score with the public (94% from critics) on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.3 with  IMDb.
Our hero from a time in the future is Theodore Twombly. Twombly is a withdrawn and detached writer of letters, who is going through divorce.

The film is set in a future where the Simon Cowell fashion of the high trouser waistband seems to have won the day. Small in-ear devices are wirelessly linked to mini computers (much like the old fashioned cigarette box in design) these are carried in special pockets enabling video interaction with the 'real world'. Theodore is very sensitive, evidence this is shown in the empathy of his messages.
Into this lonely life comes a new computer operating system (Samantha) recommended to Theodore by his friend  Amy. The system is lauded as the next generation, an OS that interacts with its user and has the ability to learn and develop.
There develops a relationship between human and machine which seems very natural and loving. Her is shot by Jonze in the warm glow of the future with great colour saturation. The characters are largely quiet and reflective. Adams is excellent as the neighbour as is Phoenix,  each exudes calm despite their inner complexity and turmoil.
The central relationship of the film is as one might guess doomed.... there is a feel to the relationship between humans and computers which is similar to  2001 A Space Odyssey......
I would concur in general with the collective wisdom of the reviews and score HER as 8.5 out of 10. I would place it in the 'do not miss' category for 2014.

Wednesday 5th The Lego Movie 3D - Pathe Spuimarkt

A tale of mistaken identity where as usual a 'nobody' in this case a  standard Lego character called Emmet is 'selected' to be the saviour of the world.... Nothing new there then?
However in The Lego Movie does an excellent job of luring the audience into the story, and before long you too will be willing Emmet and his colourful group of friends seek to thwart the evil President Business.

Eventually we all truly believe 'Everything is Awesome' (or Ossum!)
The movie scores 90% with the audience (96% critic score) and 8.4 with IMDb.... I believe, love Lego, love the Lego Movie.... I would suggest a score of 8.6 - go for it, you will not be alone there will be adults in the movie theatre!

Saturday 9th March After the Tone - Zaal 2 - Filmhuis Den Haag
With my usual cinema going buddy Steve O'Regan off discovering Belgium ahead of his retirement next year, I did not want to watch a 'Blockbuster in IMAX or 3D as these are likely to be on the viewing schedule in the coming weeks.
Instead I headed the the Filmhuis to catch the intriguing 'Indie' film .. After the Tone. The film is built around the life of Onno. He is very successful with a great business family and friends. Onno has just won a prize and initially everyone is trying to get through to congratulate him.
We hear Onno's voicemail kick in at the outset of the film....

His business contacts and girlfriend(s) leave him many chatty message within the first 3 days.... however as time progresses and there is no response, concern and worry grow. Onno misses significant important events in addition to work meetings....nobody gets a reply. Each character who calls is recognised not only by voice and tome, but also by location. Time goes on and it dawns on friends and family slowly that Onno may not be coming back.
For a film where we do not see any of the characters, only hearing their voicemail messages it is remarkably touching and emotional, with Onno's mother, Sister Annet and business partner Adriaan being the highlight for me. The death of his father and how this affects the family is particularly poignant as is Adriaan's reading of his eulogy for Onno.
The film is in Dutch, but is subtitled in English, and is therefore great for those learning the language and Dutch idioms. Of course it is also an interesting film. IMDb scores it 7.5 and Rotten Tomatoes has not yet received any reviews. My score would be 7.9 out of 10. It won't change the world but does throw a light on the Dutch Psyche and also it interweaves the stories of those close to Onno through 365 days.. all in 85 minutes.
 I am looking forward in the coming week to viewing Robocop, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Non-Stop....

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Oscar the hype worth it?

On the face of it, the huge media circus taking place today, where filmmakers and stars who have been vying which each other for top spot finally clash seems vulgar and loaded with self importance.
The fact that production companies and their commodities have been lobbying members of the Oscar committee is even more telling.
I recall the comment that Philomena and Judy Dench would suffer in the final Oscar shakedown due to Dench's recent operation and incapacity... Which has forced the star to cut down on her travels. This is surely a sad reflection on the 'film industry'?
In the main the films which have risen to the top this year are some of the best. We know that the critics and other media will be looking for the film which runs off with the most 'gongs'....will it be Gravity.....or 12 Years a Slave?
While the movie industry does its best to place a greater emphasis on the 'nominated' category in order to ensure that a film's credentials are in the public domain. The ultimate strength of the Oscar juggernaut trumps these efforts and eventually renders the 'worthy also rans' road kill in its wake.

My thought would be to encourage filmgoers that you know to ensure that they view the wider list of films that have been nominated across all categories. This would allow cine goers to reward those films which are deserving.
I have to admit not to have seen many of the foreign language and short, first feature offerings. I will try harder and would welcome recommendations in order to enable me to broaden my viewing.

Good luck to all for The Oscar's today.

Well done to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences for getting the awards spot on in was great to see the awards distributed largely fairly amongst the nominees. This year while not a classic managed to reward the deserving:

2014 Oscar winners -

Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club WINNER
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine - WINNER
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club WINNER
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave WINNER
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity - WINNER
The Great Gatsby - WINNER
Mr Hublot - WINNER
Frozen - WINNER
Helium - WINNER
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life - WINNER
The Great Beauty (Italy) - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
The Great Gatsby - WINNER
Gravity - WINNER
Let It Go - Frozen WINNER
John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave WINNER
Spike Jonze - Her - WINNER

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rumpelstiltskin..... Abergavenny Pantomime Company 2014

I would like to wish 'Good Luck and Break a leg!' to the entire cast and crew of Abergavenny Pantomime Company's production of Rumpelstiltskin at Abergavenny Borough Theatre this week....( first night Monday 24 February:
 Monday 24th February to  Saturday 1st March 2014 Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

After our very successful production of Aladdin, we have decided to perform something slightly different, a pantomime which APC have never performed before. 

“Rumpelstilskin promises to be APC’s Pantomime's finest production ever!

Ruby, a poor miller’s daughter, is forced to spin straw into gold when her drunken father boasts that she can. Help comes from an unexpected source in the shape of a menacing and crafty gnome, but at a very high price.

To purchase your tickets phone the Borough Theatre Box Office on (01873) 850505.

Guaranteed to delight the whole family with all the stunning sets, glittering costumes, wonderful songs and dazzling dancing that audiences have come to expect, topped off with plenty of laughter courtesy of the cast and chorus of Abergavenny Pantomime Company. 

I have to own up to a slight bias as this production will mark the first stage appearances of my granddaughter Abi and grandson Jaycob (uncredited but on stage... if well hidden...!). In addition their mother Emily makes a welcome return to tread the boards on the Borough Theatre stage.
Many months of rehearsal will I am sure enable the cast to bring the story to life for the audiences this week.
I am looking forward very much to coming back to Wales to see the show on St David's Day..........Good Luck all.

Saturday 22 February 2014 - Nebraska - Pathe Buitenhof

I had been looking forward to the intriguing Nebraska since I had read Mark Kermode's Guardian review of the film back in December 2013. This was followed by tantalizing snippets which appeared in  the trailers here in The Hague. The setup of this 'road movie' made it number 2 on my 'must see' list for 2014.
Bruce Dern has for me been one of those fringe actors who has never been a favourite of mine has been 'off the radar' for some time.However Dern along with the rest of the cast were given a dream of a script by writer Bob Nelson and director Alexander Payne..... From the opening image of
 a lonely old man trudging along the side of the highway, eventually 'pulled over' by the local police, sets the scene for this finely judged movie.
What a makes a masterpiece of pauses and short well observed 'one liners' and gives Dern a wonderful deadpan delivery that suits the character of 'Woody' like a glove.

We soon realize the futility of Woody Grant's obsession, as we are introduced to his close family, sons David and Ross and his wonderful wife Kate ( brilliantly observed by June Squibb) who has put up with Grant's madcap idea of claiming his $1million lottery win for too long. The family (an ordinary family) is revealed to us as we travel with Woody and David...from Montana to Nebraska
We meet Woody's siblings and their wider families, watch out for Bart and Cole. There is one great shot where brothers and sons are all sitting in the lounge watching 'the game' the image will long stay in the memory.
We are shown that Woody is a flawed 'Everyman' having been an alcoholic and failed business man, but we warm to our hero as he doggedly pursues his dream. We are introduced to Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) the ex business partner who along with some family members wants his 'due reward' . We learn of how Kate and Woody got together in such a humorous way, it appears that Woody was quite the catch back in the day.
The pace of the film meanders along towards the final act,  where Woody now resigned to the fact that he will not be winning the much sought after prize is given a touching gift by David which allows Woody to get the last laugh.....
I return to the triumph of the script, it is superb.... one of my favourite episodes occurs when the sons determine to reacquire a compressor given to Ed Pegram back in the 1980's. The boys mistakenly enter a barn that they assume belongs to Pegram and return carrying a compressor. Woody states is not his after the boys have struggled to place the compressor into the back of the car...the following dialogue is delivered in a matter of fact way:
David Grant: Dad, why didn't you tell us that wasn't Ed's house? 
Woody Grant: I didn't know what the hell you were doing. 
Ross Grant: Have you ever seen us steal machinery before? 
Woody Grant: I never know what you boys are up to. 
Ross Grant: Why didn't you say it wasn't yours? 
Woody Grant: I thought you wanted it. 
Ross Grant: What would we want an old compressor for? 
Woody Grant: That's what I couldn't figure out.
Better yet, on returning the compressor  they spot the real owners returning... this gives Squibb some of her best lines.
As you may surmise I enjoyed this experience, the film is a triumph and is on my list of 'must see again' movies along with Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips. It gets a thumbs up and 8 out of 10 from this reviewer. Don't just take my words of praise for Nebraska take a look at what Catherine Shoard has to say

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thursday 20 February - 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave opened in Pathe Cinemas around The Netherlands this week. Steve O'Regan and myself visited the favoured Pathe Buitenhof on Thursday evening this week for our viewing pleasure.  Steve McQueen's powerful film which retells the story of the deception of  Solomon Northup which saw him sold into slavery by a pair of unscrupulous men, pulls no punches.
The brutality and despair experienced by those who found themselves ripped from their families and transported as slave labour to the cotton and sugar cane plantations of the Southern States, is shown with very little sentiment.... striking was the fear engendered in the slaves which showed them  pointedly ignoring those who were being tortured or left to die by their owners...often having to leave them to die and carry on with their lives seemingly not noticing the scene before them.

One of my minor quibbles with the production is that on occasion scenes are held for too long. I realise that the long scene where Solomon's face expresses the absolute despair felt was extended for effect.... it did linger for too long, I would have preferred it to have drawn away leaving Solomon alone in the landscape. There were other scenes which would have benefited from a tighter editing.

The performances however were however memorable. Chewetel Echiofor puts in the performance of his career so far as his emotions run from the joy of life with his 'free' family, to the depths as he realises that he should have assisted Patsey in her wish to die with dignity.
Patsey is played with tremendous empathy by the newcomer Lupita Nyong'o who has been rightfully identified as a 'best newcomer' at awards cermonies.
Micheal Fassbender portryal of  the hard drinking, violent, and  power crazed plantation owner Edwin Epps, is a triumph, as is Sarah Paulson as Mistress Epps. Paulson shines a more stark and honest light onto the 'southern belle'. So often shown in films from the 1950's and 60's as polite refined and cultured ladies who 'civilize' their oft brutal plantation owner husbands.
Mistress Epps is brutalised by her husbands predilections, this leads her character to bristle with malevolence towards slave girl Patsey and others.... you would not want to get on the wrong side of either of the Epp's.
Other supporting character roles ably support the story, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alfre Woodard exhibit great presence on the big screen. Brad Pitt's character is required to enable the end of Solomon's story, however unusually for Pitt he doesn't seem to find the mood of the film, he appears somehow too knowing and on the 'outside' of the drama.
Even with its shortcomings which include probably being 20-30 minutes too long (134 minutes!).... and the over use of lingering shots, I can forgive McQueen and the cast... the story is powerful and did leave a lasting impression on this cinema-goer.
I would give 12 Years a Slave 9 out of 10.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear can do better!

I was looking forward to the UK Film BAFTA awards ceremony last night. The show is overseen by the 'national treasure' Stephen Fry. Sadly it is quickly becoming as safe and welcome as a comfy pair of your favourite old slippers. 
The show has become slick now that it is 'on the circuit' just ahead of The Oscars......In seeking industry approval the BAFTA's has in my opinion lost its edge and bite. I would put this down to the format which is yawn inducing - a parade of the cinematic 'great and good' roll up to deliver an increasingly short introduction to each montage of nominees. Mr F oversees the whole thing much like your favourite cuddly uncle....the ceremony has become tedious.
Another element that I find part of this is the 'downgrading' of the perceived less important categories which appear at the end of the televised main event. These awards are those which surely give an awards ceremony it's unique appeal.....I wanted more on the best animation, best foreign film, best documentary and other categories. By the end of the evening we had seen large chunks of the main contenders which shared the major categories in a great piece of free(ish) publicity.
It was good the see the best newcomer category.
I also felt for the excellent UK film The Selfish Giant whose lead actors in their teens had never acted on film before. It was up against the huge global super brands....Gravity, 12 Years a Slave et al. It really should have been in a category where it could have shone amongst its true peers.

Then there were the obituaries.....I realise that this cannot show everyone, however some major players were overlooked ....James Gandolfini, Mel Smith and the excellent Roger Lloyd Pack for example.

While it is unlikely that the BAFTA format will change.... the film industry and BBC appear happy with the status quo. I will certainly think twice before joining the back slapping event next year....the upcoming Oscars show that the billion dollar film moguls will edit the show very much in the way 'the studios' used to do in the 40's and 50's ..........please BAFTA think again, the cream will come to the top, but let's see the real heart and upcoming talent.....

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Films - 10th - 16th February 2014

A new week in film began on Monday 10th February with yet another subterranean encounter with my 50+ friends at the Pathe Cinema Buitenhof. On offer this week was Mr Morgan's Last Love ( also known as Last Love)... warning plot spoilers lurk here....
Michael Caine is Mr Morgan, a retired and recently widowed Philosophy Professor now living on his own in the Paris apartment that his wife selected and loved. Mr Morgan struggles now that he does not have his wife to translate for him. He does however live in a 'between world'  where he still sees his wife at many points during each day.... while sat on a park bench, or in bed at night.
                    Mr Morgan encounters Pauline Laubie ( Po├ęsy) when surprised by his bus stopping more quickly than he was expecting. Pauline is a Parisian dance instructor, the twinkle in her eye is met by the same in Caine's ( he still has it... of course). What then unfolds is a growing friendship between the pair.... we really have been here before in other similar films of the genre. The added layer is that both Morgan and Laubie are prickly individuals  not easy to get to know - each is withholding elements of their lives..... we have seen this before also.
In Morgan's case the frosty exterior unfolds after he attempts to join his late wife, ending in hospital. His grown children arrive and further exhibit the traits of a family that has been fractured by misunderstandings brought on by things unsaid in the past. The ill adjusted offspring of course are not happy with the growing attachment between their father and the young Parisian..... long story short.....the son does eventually warm to Pauline.... this appears to give Mr Morgan to completion he requires.
The story begins quite slowly and with a little suspension of disbelief works. However following the hospitalization and the introduction of the awkward offspring the story telling begins to unravel for me. The director appears to believe that this can be overcome by moving the characters from set to set - Paris - a family house in Dinard, back to Paris to the apartment....back to a hotel room .... STOP!
Sadly for me the need to show the audience the ending literally spoils what could I believe be a cleaner and tidier ending.
The leads and supports try their best with the script which does let them down...and for me this gives Mr Morgan a score of 6.5 out of 10 for me

Friday 14th February - The Monuments Men - Pathe Buitenhof
Based on the true story which unfolded as the Second World War in Europe drew to its close. It became obvious that the Nazi's had plundered much of the art that had been in private collections at the outbreak of war. Much of this looted from Jewish families as they were consigned to their doom in 'the camps'. Hitler and his acolytes  destroyed well known works that were considered degenerate work. Many of his top generals took work into their own private collections, Hitler himself had a plan to create the 3rd Reich Art Museum in Linz.....and to this end many unique works were looted and hidden away in mineral mines in Germany.
The fear was that as the Nazi's drew back to their homeland that they would destroy all that had been hidden. Enter the Monuments Men, a group of middle aged art experts tasked with identifying works and ensuring their return to the places from which they had been taken.....
George Clooney's film was shot deliberately as an homage to the WW2 films of the 60's and 70's ( The Guns of Navarone amongst others)...and is termed a 'Heist!'  It begins as The Magnificent Seven.... Clooney even alludes to this as he recruits Matt Damone's character, it continues in the same manner.  The shame is that this film could have been played as a period docudrama such as the excellent Argo - unfortunately this appears to be Clooney's Ocean's Eleven - prequel! As such it does a dis-service to the original team of Monuments Men.....
The real monuments men are discussed in the following academic video which I would recommend viewing...

As for the Monuments Men.... it has the feel of a Period Ocean's Eleven and this I cannot get out of my mind.... thus I would give the film a 5 out of 10 .... it could and should have been so much better!

Saturday 15th February - Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2... in 3D.. Pathe Spuimarkt.
It was a windy afternoon in the city and I was at somewhat of a loose end... when I chanced upon CWACOM2..3D. The normally reliable Pathe Cinema had a minor meltdown on Saturday afternoon in Screen 2 at Spui. No sooner was the audience of expectant children, parents and others  requested to don 3D glasses than the system failed - the glasses had no effect everything was still blurry.....when we regained vision...the audio failed. The result was that was were treated to the opening 5 minutes of the film  twice. I feared that this was to herald a film that I could have escaped if the presentation had failed.
However what unfolded was a mad 95 minute fun fest. The story which was of course 'unbelievable' was sprinkled liberally with one liners and visual jokes for the whole laugh at.. the script really goes for it, setting its stall out to force you into submission by its very 'upbeatness'.... if that is a word? The amazing creatures that we meat ( not a spelling mistake!)... the Tacodile, Shrimpanzees to name but a few! The visual jokes were a 'piece of cake'..... yup literally a piece of cake.
I was glad that Pathe eventually got the presentation right as were we all....
The film will work for all the family.....I give it a 7.5 out of 10

A very interesting trio of films you will agree with for me unexpected results. I am now off to enjoy the 2014 BAFTA's cheering on Captain Phillips, The Selfish Giant, American Hustle and Gravity.....and of course Inside Llewyn Davis.... I have yet to see 12 Years a Slave and Nebraska and as a result cannot comment yet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Retrospective: Saturday 11th January 2014

The Eye Cinema  Screen 2, Amsterdam - Inside Llewyn Davis

If you find yourself in Amsterdam, I would recommend that instead of following the tourists out of Centraal Station  into the city, that you strike off  in the opposite direction and take the GVB ferry (free of course) across to The Eye...
The Eye Cinema is one of the modern gems of the city and as such shows an eclectic mix of film genres. On Saturday 11th January I took myself up to the busy city to watch an intriguing film by the Coen Brothers.....
The first thing that strikes you is the music as we are introduced to the unlucky musician/merchant seaman Llewyn Davis and his life in Greenwich Village in the early 60's.
We proceed to spend a week in his company as he moves around the city playing in dingy clubs and sleeping in friends apartments by night. He has a great deal of emotional baggage, but very little in the way of possessions....unless we count the cat?

Llewyn is the remaining member of a moderately successful duo, his partner having recently committed suicide. Our hero becomes the guardian of a friend's cat  following its escape from the apartment where he has couch surfed the night before....The characters are well observed with stars Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman take supporting roles in the life of our
eponymous hero played in a low key style by Oscar Isaac.
I believe this film to be a gem, the look and feel of Greenwich Village and the folk scene of the early 1960's is very well observed and the acting is very well observed and sharply focused.

For me the music is the driving thread through the movie. Of the films that I have seen in 2014 it is the one I simply must see at least one more time. It is a film where I feel sure that if I see it again I will find out things that I missed first time around. This may be wishful thinking however it is how I feel. For a film where there are no dramatic cars chases or 3D sets this is quite a feat, but there it is.... Inside Llewyn Davis 9 out of 10 from me.... I would readily accept the soundtrack as a gift also :-)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Legend of Hercules.....3D

Sunday 9th February - Pathe Spuimarkt

I wonder where to begin with The Legend of Hercules? 
My friend Steve who has accompanied me to many a 3D blockbuster over the past three years, has oft' stated that these films have millions spent on 3D and effects while having about €30 spent on the script.
Watch the trailer 
This comment cannot be levelled at The Legend of Hercules - I would conjecture that not much was spent on either script or effects! This is most obvious in the crowd scenes which when rendered in 3D look like computer generated images where the setting looks like small models. The scriptwriters seem determined to prove that volume and shouting even in confined spaces adds value and quality. This is best shown as we reach the fateful wedding of the dark haired (Richard III like) often scowling older prince to Hebe, the major characters shout their threats like children in the playground.
I also wonder why today's directors of 3D films seem to require debris (is it blossom or snow?) t be floating about, as if to identify its 3Dness. 
We then come to the costumes....poor Kellen Lutz appears to have been left out of most of the costume discussions as he is forced much of the time to be unclothed to the iis fortuitous that he has spent many months in the gym ensuring that he accurately portray the physique of the great Hercules!
I have to admit that I was aware from the trailer that this film was not going to be a classic. I guess the saving grace is that no great actors were tempted to turn up 'for the money' and have their reputations tarnished by association with the film. This will sadly also be th film's downfall I fear. It has been proven that with a few 'A graders' on board even a turkey can make its money back.

I had to pay €2 of my money to attend this film.....I cannot fully regret this as I was inside out of the wind for 90 minutes may have been better to have visited a local cafe to achieve the same effect. I would recommend the latter if you have the option. This film I would rank at 5 out of 10 this largely for the 3D arrows which gave a pleasing effect....

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Films - 1st to 8th February 2014

As in other European countries here in The Netherlands the Pathe Cinema chain runs an 'Unlimited Card' system. For the sum of 19 Euros (around £16.20) per month I can use my Unlimited Card to visit the cinema as many times as I like at no cost,. I do pay extra for 3D films... Had I selected Pathe's 'Unlimited Gold' card for 26 Euros per month I would also be able to attend 3D and 3D iMax films free.
I have had my card since December 2012 this has enabled me to see 72 films over the 12 months to December 2013. Obviously quality does not always go hand in hand with quantity.... I have seen some 'turkeys'....The Internship was about the worst! However I do try to be discerning and there are some films that I wouldn't countenance going to see, even free .... The Wolf of Wall Street however high its rating is one of these.
In addition to having 3 Pathe Multiplex Cinemas in The Hague we also are lucky to have an art-house cinema - The Filmhuis (The Film House) - this is great for those films which are not going to be blockbusters...
Not far away in Amsterdam and Rotterdam there are also great art-house cinemas.

Films seen 1-8 February 2014
Saturday 1st February - The Selfish Giant (2013 - dir Clio Barnard) at Filmhuis Den Haag
A strikingly human film. Very reminiscent of the gritty naturalistic UK  films and TV dramas from the 1960's and 1970's such as Ken Loach's Kes and Poor Cow.

The performances of the young lead actors is very honest and believable. Their interaction with the adults that they come into contact with are well observed. The film itself struck a cord with me, as it brought back memories of  a particular former pupil of mine who was very like 'Arbor'.... one of those kids that you suspect will either become a millionaire from living off his wits or will end his days in and out of prison.
The environs of the council estate were Arbor and Swifty live is brought to life vividly without any sentimentality. The denouement is shocking if not a surprise as the set up is predictable, if anything this is the Achilles heel of the film. It does not detract from the acting or atmosphere however.
I am full of praise for Clio Barnard and the cast and would recommend this film scoring it at a creditable 8.5 out of 10.

Monday 3rd February ( Pathe 50Plus) Night Train to Lisbon Pathe Buitenhof

I can't say that I have always been a fan of Jeremy Irons he does on occasions choose films which offer that little bit extra. The premise for the film requires one to suspend disbelief from the outset. A chance encounter on a bridge with a mysterious stranger leads the single, chess playing Classical Languages teacher to simply leave on the train which gives the film its title. Irons simply leaves his class and Switzerland where he lives with no luggage.... surprisingly he must have his passport with him! On arrival he seems with a small degree of research to uncover an intriguing and tragic story from the Portuguese civil war. There are interesting cameos from Tom Courtney, Christopher Lee  and Bruno Ganz.
If you are able to put up with the issues that I have alluded to above, you will find the settings and acting handled skillfully with Irons himself bringing  the professor to life with great skill.
My personal score would be 8.0 out of 10

Friday 7th February - American Hustle - Pathe Spuimarkt
I was concerned by reviews which portrayed American Hustle to be ultimately a film about wigs!  Having seen Parkland the previous week, where the world changing effects of  Dallas Texas on November 22, 1963 are well recreated for a film which ultimately is disappointing as it does not seem to go anywhere or discover anything other than the lives of those involved with the story on the day.
I am happy to report that this film is more than a film about wigs in my opinion.
Yes it does try its best to evoke the 1970's which it does well. For me the standout performances in the film come from the ladies in the cast - Amy Adams who portrays the vulnerability and drive of her character convincingly. While Jennifer Lawrence shows her acting versatility as the ' wronged wife' in a fine display of bravado. I can see why Adams has been elevated to an Oscar nomination - I for one believe that this deserved.
Bale, Cooper, Renner and the uncredited but menacing De Niro ably support the girls. Cooper being the least convincing of the whole cast for me.  The story is somewhat thin, and could leave the experience empty I think that the cast ultimately raise this above films such as Parkland....

From my 2013 statistics my favourite cinema is Pathe Buitenhof
 It is certainly a cinema with style....
both inside and out...
It does enhance the film experience.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

De Stijkelgroep

In planning my visit to Westduin, I came across the Dutch War Grave information regarding the Stijkelgroep.
The leader of the group was one Johan Aarldrik Stijkel,( also known as  Dr Eerland de Vries)  he was born  in Rotterdam in 1911
Stijkel in a letter to his father from prison stated that he saw it as his duty to work against the German occupation forces.

The group's  aim was to gather intelligence on the German's movements around Holland and pass this back to England - as an example the group transmitted data on positions around IJmuiden, anchorages of seaplanes in Rotterdam and ammunition depots.
This was risky work and the group which numbered around 80 brave souls were inexperienced in espionage, as a result sadly made some basic errors which risked their safety. Major amongst these was allowing themselves to be infiltrated a collaborator called  Anton_van_der_Waals (executed following a trial in The Hague in 1950),  van der Vaals was known as the worst traitor active in The Netherlands during the war having given information ensuring the deaths of many from the Dutch resistance.
The group were eventually trapped during a botched attempt to secretly sail out of the harbour in Scheveningen and rendezvous at sea with a British submarine on the evening of  2 April 1941. Having been betrayed they were unaware that the German's had blocked the harbour and arranged for their arrest onboard the fishing boat KW133 "Eendracht". 

Stijkel attempted to escape however he and two other members of the group were arrested and taken to prison nearby in the notorious 'Oranjehotel'.

Over the following weeks other members of the group were arrested an brought to the prison.
The unusual thing was what happened next. The usual way in which traitors were treated by the Nazi's was to execute them publicly in their country in order to subdue the population. This group however were treated differently. On 26 March 1942 the group were transferred to a Berlin prison to await trial.
The trial was held in secret beginning in September 1942, on 26 September the verdict was delivered on the 39 -  32 were sentenced to death and 6 spared death to be sent to 'the camps'... one of the group died in prison.
Efforts were made by the Dutch authorities through the Swedish Embassy in Berlin for clemency and also to use the group in a swap for German spies held in the west. 
All of these attempts failed and on 4th June 1942 at Tegel Berlin,the group beginning with Stijkel himself were executed at 5 minute intervals.
The burial was in what was eventually to become the Russian sector of Berlin and in 1947 the group were repatriated to The Netherlands. A memorial service was held at the Grote Kerk in The Hague on 1 August 1947.
Coffins containing the group were then taken through the city  to Westduin for internment.

 Rest in Peace


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Commonwealth and Dutch War Graves in Westduin, Den Haag

Following our visit to the Australian War Memorial back in November 2013. I was struck by the way in which every day one of the Australian fallen in all wars are publicly commemorated during a solemn and moving service completed by the playing of the Last Post.
Australia War Memorial Canberra
On my return I have been researching British and Commonwealth War Graves from the Second World War in The Netherlands. My plan at some point in 2014 is to visit to Nijmegen.
I should not have been surprised really to find that I have a war graves cemetery very close by. In fact less than 10 minutes walk away from my apartment. This is the Westduin Cemetery, today I took the short walk to the cemetery to pay my respects.
The Westduin Cemetery links back to Australia as there are representatives from the colonial forces buried here in addition to British servicemen.
Westduin Commonwealth Cemetery
The majority of the graves are of aircrew, often the 5 man crew of a bomber who perished together as comrades in arms.
 Buried here are 87 casualties - 70 of whom are identified, amongst there are 6 Canadians, 5 Australians and 1 Czech.
There is of course a story behind every gravestone, one of which was  561257 Sgt Victor Spurr, 40 Sqn. RAF who perished with all of the crew when their  Bristol Blenheim IV was shot down on 10 May 1940 returning from a bombing run on Ypenburg aerodrome in the Hague. The Blenheim stood little chance against the well armed Messerschmidt 109's which harassed them constantly.  
 Blenheim IV
The was pilot Sgt Thomas Downes and his crew who flew in a  Handley Page Hampden for Bomber Command. Their plane came down in poor weather off the coast of The Netherlands on 12 February 1942 following an unsuccessful attack on the two German ships the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

In my researches about Westduin I discovered another story which will form my next post. This is because the cemetery also has a significant Dutch War Grave where 47 members of a Dutch resistance group called The Stijkelgroep are buried. 33 members of the group were executed by the Germans in Berlin on 4th June 1943.
 Johan Stijkel (1911-1943)

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