Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Boys are back. Drums along the Mohawke. Avalancche express. The Far Country. Nixon Frost and the Oxford Murders

It is film notes catch up day, and colder as it has been with further lighter snow covering of thick solid dangerous ice. Thousands of people were trapped for hours throughout the day and night in central Scotland yesterday. I stayed up to good effect as England thrashed Australia taking the remaining six wickets before lunch to win by an innings. It is a severe dent to Aussi pride so we will look forward with interest to how they react in the third test, about two weeks away.

The Boys are back proved to be a delightful film about the what happens to a British public school educated sports writer living and working in Australia with his younger son after his second wife dies and they are joined by the son of his first marriage who goes to the same public school as his father in England.

The father is played by Clive Owen who does not communicate as someone educated at the public school, became an international sportsman and then a leading all purpose sports journalist. Clive Owen, alas, remains Clive Owen.

Nicholas McNultly is excellent as Artie the young son who understandably finds it difficult to cope with the loss of his mother but against the odds establishes a great relationship with the older son Harry. This relationship is the strength of the film because it stands up given that the older boys feels abandoned, as he was, by his father, and while his mother packs him off to residential school and resents the rest of his time with her because it inhibits her latest relationship. It is not clear why the boy’s mother did not attempt to palm off her son to his father years before.

The only story development of note is when father fakes attending a major sporting event, sending his reports via staff via watching on TV until he is forced to attend finals day at a tennis match leaving the two boys who cannot prevent a take over of the property by youths who wreck the joint as young people are prone to do if given the opportunity. The older boy rapidly returns home with the younger taken in by an understandably upset mother in law. How Clive deals with this situation is the best part of the drama and he and the two boys find a way forward to overcome their grief and the voids within with the help of the mother law, who in turn is helped to overcome the loss of her daughter. Clive has an ongoing friend friend relationship with another single parent with daughter about the same age as Artie where the prospects of a long term third marital relationship are indicated.

I slept through a chunk of the Nixon/Frost film on the interviews conducted in 1977 and syndicated on international TV after failing to find a programme sponsor. Frank Langella was rightly nominated for awards for his portrayal of Nixon seeking to re-establish social standing, while Michael Sheen, who also played Tony Blair in a separate series is always Michael Sheen although he does well as the young ambitious overconfident David Frost. I saw the film in theatre and will take a second good look another day when not tired.

Similarly with the Far Country, a good wild places western type adventure this time with James Stewart in the Klondike cattle driving and gold prospecting with Walter Brennan and Ruth Roman. I watched only the final two thirds. This a film typical where the bad men take over a town and the legitimate mines and claims of everyone except Stewart and where Stewart is taken up with the forward saloon owning sultry Roman overlooking the conventional interest and loyalty of a young French Canadian tomboy. However she gets her man when Roman gives up her life to save Stewart.

I will also have to have another view of the Oxford Murders which should have been officially subtitled Crimes of the Mind set in a beautiful city. I was attracted to the film because it was set in Oxford and features that excellent actor John Hurt and also had Lord of the Rings Elijah Wood. This is a film about the reality of absolute truth and the perfections and limitations of mathematics which I will definitely give fuller attention on another day.

Drums along the Mohawk was made in the year of my birth and features a young Henry Fonda as a New England pioneer which his new wife Claudette Colbert. She is the daughter of a wealthy city based family and under prepared for the primitivity and hardships of a log cabin farmer’s life. No sooner do they get organised that the USA war of Independence from the UK takes places and their homestead is attacked and burnt down by a British Tory sponsored raiding party with support from the original local indigenous population. The couple lose their first child as a consequence and are fortunate to be taken in and employed by a widow whose supporting role led to an Oscar success.

No sooner are they settled again are all the men called up to serve in the army against the British and the drama builds as the main character played by Fonda is one the last to return home after a costly victory. They settle again and a son is born and then there is the final Indian Tory led attack in which they all retreat to the local fort. They win through again although the widow is killed and leaves her farm to the couple. This was a John Ford Directed and Darryl F Zanuck production loosely based on a 1936 novel of the same name by Walter D Edmonds. The film is organised is chapters with a Folksy feel, with a fire and brimstone preacher and a gloss over the true nature of the struggle and horrors compared to contemporary portrayals. Viewed December 6th 2009. It cemented the view of the bravery and hard work of the founders of the modern state, personified best in How the West Was won which I first saw on three screen Cinerama.

Avalanche Express is a silly film of no engagement although several A list stars were involved - Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw, Maximilian Schell and Linda Evans. A senior Russian general wishes to defect and bring down a right wing conspiracy to create havoc in the West using biological weapons. Instead of using an aircraft the normal and quickest method for defection this is another train journey thriller using “the Atlantic express.” The head Russian spy catcher organises a direct attack on the train and when this fails he arrange a monster avalanche and then commissions a European terrorist group a la Bader Meinhoff to assist in a third assault with the promise of transportation to an African state where they will find welcome and shelter. As is usual in this of tea time nonsense the baddies have a good run before the get their deserts. The General is then on his solitary way to the USA while Lee Marvin and Linda Evans reunite their on off senior undercover secret service affair. Does any one care about this 1979 20th Century Fox Mark Robson direction film? No. December 6th Viewed.

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