Gambit 2012.

The very British art forger Major Wingate explains in one of his many voiceovers ‘an optimist is simply a man who hasn’t heard the news’ but I would suggest an optimist is a man who hasn’t seen Gambit (2012)! Because make no mistake this is nowhere near as good as the promise of a Coen Brothers script would have you believe, think more The Ladykillers (2004) than No Country for Old Men (2007) if you get my drift.

Harry Deane and Lionel Shabander
This is the remake of the 1966 film of the same name originally directed by Ronald Neame and starring Michael Caine, Shirley Maclaine and the late great Herbert Lom. The idea for this remake has been about for around 15 years with various line-ups of cast and crew ending up with Michael Hoffman in the directorial chair. It was Hoffman who directed  The Last Station (2009) an interesting film about the final months of Leo Tolstoy’s life which starred Christopher Plummer as the Russian scribe and Helen Mirren as his wife. Gambit 2012 stars Colin Firth as Harry Deane Art curator, a character that attempt’s to get laughs by constantly being punched in the face and being stranded half way up the outside of The Savoy Hotel in London without his trousers! Cameron Diaz, with a dreadful Texas drawl that really grates, plays cowgirl P J Puznowski. Also involved is Alan Rickman who must have been drunk, drugged or skint to have agreed to play the part of the arrogant media mogul Lionel Shabandar. The afore mentioned Major Wingate is played by Tom Courtney.  The films plot involves Deane conning his abusive boss Shabandar into buying a fake Monet with the help of Major Wingate and the Texan rodeo queen Puznowski.

Major Wingate and P J Puznowski.

Although setting this remake in the 21stcentury Hoffman has attempted to remake it as a swinging sixties pastiche including animated credits, a Mancini style score and the obligatory glossy London setting. Stupidly I’m naive enough to think that something described as a lighthearted comedy would be at least amusing rather than just embarrassing. Sitting through this 90 minute ‘comedy’ with out so much as a titter let along an actual fully blown laugh raises the question of why remake a film that was not particularly well acclaimed in the first place? 

Puerto Ángel

Era el atardecer previo a la Nochebuena. El agua en su continuo movimiento se hacía espuma en la arena y sonaba al estrellarse contra los riscos. Llegaron algunas gaviotas volando sobre las lanchas de los pescadores. Siguió la tarde hasta que el Sol se puso. Inició la Nochebuena.

Silver Linings Playbook

The film provides great chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper. 
I must be getting old, why, I hear you say? Well, I actually went to see a romantic comedy with a happy ending and thoroughly enjoyed it!!!!  But before you all get too excited I’d better tell you that the director of the award winning The Fighter (2010) and the brilliant quirky comedy I Heart Huckabees (2004) David O Russell’s latest film Silver Linings Playbook (2012) does in fact deal with problems associated with mental illness, maybe not quite Family Life (1971) but a very agreeable picture all the same.

The film boasts a very talented cast that manages, with Russell’s directive powers, to walk the line between romance, comedy and a dark psychological drama. Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Matthew Quick is stars Jennifer Lawrence (Winters Bone 2010) who plays Tiffany, the young widow of a police officer who was run down and killed by a car while helping a stranger change his wheel after a puncture. Unable to get over his death she suffers from an addictive dysfunction, which has resulted in her getting the sack from her job after having sex with all the staff, male and female!  Pat Solitano, played by the Hangover (2009) star Bradley Cooper, is a former school teacher who has spent the last eight months in a psychiatric hospital suffering from a bipolar disorder brought on when he came home from work early one afternoon and found his wife Nikki naked in the shower with a fellow teacher and severely beat the man. Discharged, he is sent home to live with his parents, Dolores (Australian actress Jacki Weaver best known as the gangland matriarch in Animal Kingdom (2010)) and his gambling addictive father Pat Senior (an on form Robert De Niro) with the proviso that he diligently takes his medication and does not enter the exclusion zone around his estranged wife. It’s when he meets Tiffany and she invites him to partner her in a dance completion, in aid of a police charity, that the psychological sparks begin to fly.

Mum (Jacki Weaver) and Dad (Robert De Nero)

The chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper forms the backbone of this hugely watchable movie, but all members of the cast, even the minor one’s are excellent. Russell is a director of some credit who is not afraid to tackle underlying serious subjects without being pretentious or depressing. A film that’s head and shoulders above the normal material found under the rom-com banner and for once I can sit through a feel good movie without requiring a sick bag. Could be in the running for an Oscar nomination?

The Master.

The rather interesting poster.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous body of work includes There Will Be Blood (2007) and Magnolia (1999), which I believe is still his best film to date. His latest offering is The Master (2012) which has received a great deal of praise from the critic’s and has gained a much-lorded position in many of the ‘Best Of’ lists for 2012. The only reason I can see for such acclaim is the quality of the performances from its highly rated cast and its period detail that allows a really classy glimpse at 1950’s America and its middle class. But I’m afraid Anderson’s script is just not good enough for such a complex story, it did not draw you in and hold your attention which made the 137 minute running time seem even longer than it actually was.

Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quall.

The film’s central character is an ex Word War 11 veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who is struggling to adjust to post war society. When Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement known as ‘The Cause’ comes across the alcoholic Quell he see’s something in this strange gait figure. The film basically deals with the relationship between two very different men. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodds.

After the catastrophe that was I'm Still Here (2010), one of the very rare films which I have left before the end, I could not imagine that Joaquin Phoenix would ever redeem him self in my eyes. But his performance as Quell is totally believable gaining him a very well deserved nomination for Best Actor in January’s Golden Globes, which in it’s self is a good pointer for Februarys Academy Awards.  Hoffman should also get nominated for Best Male Support at the Oscars for a role that’s said to be based on L. Ron Hubbard who founded the Church of Scientology in the 1950’s. Also well worth a mention is Amy Adams, who plays Peggy Dodd, Lancaster’s supportive wife, who is rapidly becoming one of America’s best actresses. The rather pleasing soundtrack has been composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood who has previously composed music for another of Andersons films Let There Be Blood as well as the intriguing Norwegian Wood (2010) and Lynne Ramsay’s Oscar neglected We Need To Talk About Kevin (2010). Personally I would swop some of the beautifully looking camera work by Romanian cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. for a story line that engaged my undivided attention: disappointing. 

The superb Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd.

It’s a Wonderful Wife.

Danger: warning not for people with acute sensibilities.  

Am I one of the only people in the whole universe that does not like It’s a Wonderful Life the 1946 movie directed by Frank Capra?  A very irritating James Stewart plays the main lead George Bailey, a man with mug written all over him: he even turns down a fantastic job with a salary of $20000 per year, this is the 1940’s remember! The film should be called It’s a Wonderful Wife, the poor women is left to completely renovate a very large derelict house, bring up a brood of young kids and carry out the cooking and cleaning and still look a million dollars when George comes home late from work. What a great role model this character is?  Its because of the modern equivalent of men like our Mr Bailey that the worlds financial institutions are in such a pickle i.e. you lend money to people that have no viable means of paying it back! Baileys relations are not much better! Uncle Billy Bailey misplaces all the companies money because he’s too busy abusing a disabled man, the same man that offered George the great job, the same man that appears to keep Bedford Falls financially ticking over, I could go on.