Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Arrow in the Dust

Another relax a little film was the 1954 Western film Arrow in the Dust. Sterling Hayden plays military trooper who assume the role of a commanding officer when encounters a wagon train under attack from Indians despite the presence of a military escort where men have been killed and wounded. He takes command and at first alienates one of the attractive young women moving west with her wagon to start a new life. Also in the train is a group of men with three wagons who get drunk and annoy the women and are constantly having to be told to get in line.

During the journey he gains the respect of the men by his tactics and also the young woman and problems persist with the men running the three wagons. One of these turns out to be full of cheap whisky obviously intended for selling to the Indians which Hayden insists they leave behind so that the Indians get drunk and give them more time to reach the only pass through the territory where they have a chance of getting through, especially after discovering that there are two tribes of Indians chasing them, including one who has not interfered with Wagon trains in the past. They eventually find out that one of the wagon contains the latest repeating riffle which were to also be sold to the Indians and which the two tribes had joined forced to take less they be sold to the advantage of one tribe over the other. When the wagon is pushed over a mountain top against the Indians they realise they have lost the point of their efforts and leave.
The young woman has found as had the Indian Scout that Hayden is not who he has pretended to be although the man had died and beforehand asked him to assume the role. There was also an issue about the about for which he wanted by the military for questioning so his intention had been to leave the wagon train once the crisis is over and make his way elsewhere. However because of the love relationship he decides to stay with the wagon even when the only other officer he has sent ahead for help returns with the men from nearest military settlement in the knowledge of who he really is. However because of the way he has got them through their ordeal the officer says he will not only speak up for Hayden but asks him to lead the men into the town and military settlement.

Shrek Forever After

As an antidote to the reality of life in the capital I watched the fourth Shrek film Shrek Forever After. This is an animated series about the adventures of an ogre with the voices of Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as he Donkey, Cameron Diaz as his wife Princess Fiona, Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots and in this film Julie Andrew as the mother and John Cleese as the father of the Princess and Ryan Seacrest as Butter Pants father!

In this film Shrek has become bored with family life and that the population of Far Far Away Land and longs to be feared as he once was as an Ogre. The altercation between Shrek his wife and family is observe red by the evil Rumpel of Rumpelstiltskin who is still resentful that it was the efforts of Shrek which prevented him taking over the Far Far away Land as her parents were prepared to sign away their kingdom to him if he saved their daughter. As Shrek goes off to try and reclaim his sense of being an Ogre he is befriended and tricked into signing a document which gives Rumpel a day, any day of his choosing from his life to date in exchange for a day of being a feared ogre once more.

It is only after signing that he realises the day being surrendered is his birthday so that in effect he is yielding the rest of his life as it has been and he finds himself in a land with Rumpel and a horde of witches all out of Somewhere over the Rainbow, running the country in which the Ogres are either slaves or living underground literally as a movement led by the Princess who in these circumstances has no knowledge of Shrek or their relationship and family in the other dimensions.

Shrek discovering the trick that was played on him by Rumpel then earns that there only one thing which can stop him disappearing from existence during the day of being an ogre that is for the Princess to give him a kiss, but with the catch that she must be in love with him. After various incidents in which Shrek surrenders himself to ensure the release of captured ogres and Princess Fiona is also captured and are to be fed to a dragon, but their friends come to their aid and as consequence Fiona kisses Shrek and he returns to the present with Fiona and the children unaware of what has happened. The film features a long tailpiece with various scenes as the fullest details of the characters, the voices; the technical workers are listed slowly. It is one of the longest end pieces I have witnessed.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Man in the Brown Suit

The mood of melancholy continued to prevail. I had enjoyed an early (1924) Agatha Christie novel made into a film for TV in 1988, The Man in the Brown Suit.

According to Wikipedia the story of the novels is as follows

“Nadina, a "Russian" dancer receives a visit in her dressing room from Count Sergius Paulovitch. Both are in the service of a man they call "the Colonel", an international agent provocateur and criminal. After many years, 'the Colonel' is retiring, leaving his agents high and dry. Nadina has double-crossed the Colonel, however, keeping some De Beers diamonds from a crime years before. She now plans to blackmail the Colonel with the diamonds.

Anne Beddingfeld, a young English woman recently orphaned, longs for adventure and jumps at the chance when her father's solicitor suggests she lives with him and his wife in London. Returning from an unsuccessful job interview, Anne is on the platform at Hyde Park Corner tube station when a man falls onto the live track, dying instantly. A doctor examines the man, pronounces him dead and leaves, dropping a note on his way. Anne picks up the note which reads "17.1 22 Kilmorden Castle".

The inquest on the dead man, 'L. B. Carton', brings a verdict of suicide. In his pocket was a house agent's order to view a house for let – The Mill House in Marlow – and the next day the newspapers report that a dead woman has been found there – strangled. The house is owned by Sir Eustace Pedler MP. A young man in a brown suit is identified as a suspect, having entered the house soon after the dead woman.

Anne realizes the 'doctor' did not examine the dead man in an appropriate manner and gets suspicious. After fruitless investigations at Mill House where she finds an undeveloped canister of film, Anne finds out that Kilmorden Castle is the name of a boat sailing on 17 January 1922 from Southampton to Cape Town. She books a passage on it.

On board ship, Anne meets Suzanne Blair, Colonel Race, and Sir Eustace Pedler himself. In addition to his normal secretary, Guy Pagett, he has employed a man who goes by the name of Harry Rayburn.

At 1.00am on the morning of the 22nd, a young man staggers into Anne's cabin having been stabbed. Anne is able to dress the man's slight wound but the man is not in the least bit grateful and leaves after an altercation with her.

One evening on the ship, Colonel Race recounts a story of the theft of a hundred thousand pounds' worth of diamonds some years before, supposedly by the son of the South African gold magnate, John Eardsley and his friend Lucas. John and his friend were arrested but John's father, Sir Laurence, disowned his son. John Eardsley was killed in the War and his father's huge fortune passed to a next of kin. Lucas was posted as "missing in action". Harry Rayburn walks into the cabin as the story is being told, overhears it, looks sickly and leaves. Race reveals he himself is the fortunate next of kin.

Anne confides in Suzanne and they examine the piece of paper Anne obtained in the Underground station. They realize that the paper could refer to cabin 71 – Suzanne's cabin, originally booked by a Mrs Grey, a pseudonym for Nadina. Anne and Suzanne speculate that Nadina was the dead woman in the Mill House. Anne suddenly connects finding the film roll in Mill House with a canister of returned film that was dropped into Suzanne's cabin on night of the 22nd. They look in the canister and find uncut diamonds. They speculate that Harry Rayburn is the "Man in the Brown Suit".

Anne is attacked as she walks the deck of the ship. Harry Rayburn saves her. Anne amazes Harry with her knowledge of events in Marlow and at Hyde Park Corner station and suggests that Harry may be Lucas and the "Man in the Brown Suit". They again part on bad terms.

Once they arrive in Cape Town Anne is lured to a house at Muizenberg, where she is imprisoned in the attic by a bearded Dutchman. Anne overhears the Rev. Chichester speaking with the Dutchman about "the Colonel" wanting to question her tomorrow. The next day she escapes and makes her way back to Cape Town.

There she finds that Harry is wanted as the "Man in the Brown Suit" but has gone missing. Pedler offers Anne the role of his secretary on the train trip to Rhodesia, which she accepts at the last second, and is reunited with Race, Suzanne and Pedler, who has a new secretary named Miss Pettigrew.

In Bulawayo, Anne receives a note from Harry which lures her out to a ravine near their hotel. There she is chased and falls into the ravine.

Almost a month later, Anne awakens in a hut on an island in the Zambezi with Harry Rayburn, who rescued her. He reveals that someone deliberately caused her to fall.

Anne and Harry fall in love. Harry tells her of the diamond discovery he and John Eardsley made years earlier. They were duped by a young woman called Anita Grünberg, who substituted their diamonds for ones stolen from De Beers. After being listed as missing in action, Harry disappeared, coming to Africa under the name of Harry Parker.

Some time later he came across a man – Carton - and recognised him from the incident with Anita Grünberg. Carton is revealed to be the man who fell in the Tube station and dropped the note Anne found. Harry followed Carton to London and Nadina to the Mill House, but insists Nadina was already dead. He realised that the diamonds were probably still on the Kilmorden Castle. Anne confirms they were, and were handed to Suzanne in her cabin on the night of the 22nd.

Harry's island is attacked that night by a party led by the red-bearded Dutchman, but the two manage to escape and Anne plans to return to Pedler's party where she can keep an eye on developments. They exchange codes to be used in order that neither can be duped again.

Reunited with Suzanne, Anne is told that the diamonds are with luggage sent on with Sir Eustace. She also receives a telegram from Harry telling her to meet him.

Anne goes to the meeting with Harry and again bumps into Chichester, alias Miss Pettigrew. She is led to Sir Eustace, alias "the Colonel". Pedler forces Anne to write a note to Harry to lure him to the curio shop, which she does but she does not include their code in it. Harry turns up and Pedler is exultant – until Anne pulls out a pistol and they capture Pedler. Race turns up with reinforcements and Pedler tries to bluff matters out, but is unsuccessful.

Sir Eustace manages to escape. Anne is somewhat pleased, having developed a fondness for him. Race tells her that Harry is in fact John Eardsley, not Lucas, and therefore the heir to the fortune. Harry however has found his happiness with Anne, and they marry and live on the island in the Zambezi.”

Now apart from the having the same characters, diamonds and a boat voyage on craft called the Kilmorden Castle and some other basic story similarities, the setting and environment are changed for the film.

The main character Anne Beddingfeld and a female friend have been on holiday in Egypt and are at the airport with Anne complaining about their lack of adventure when she finds a man in Brown suit bending over a murder victim and then rushing off leaving her to hold a piece of paper on which is written and two other numbers plus Modern Castle. Because she is found looking over the deceased she is taken into custody while her friend returns home. Anne is then released with the help of a Gordon Race who insists that she takes the first plane out rather than stay to find out what happened and why. Anne sees a newspaper which reveals that another person has died at the villa of a Sir Eustace Pedler who was away at the time as was his secretary making a separate trip. The murdered woman was a well known night club singer and the man at the airport was with her (cannot remember the nature of their relationship).

Anne works out that Kilmorden Castle is a small ship with different levels of accommodation and she has sufficient funds after cashing in the airline ticket to take steerage class, a cabin without a porthole. On board she finds in the first class area with Sir Eustace Pedler played by Edward Woodward, and his secretary who he bullies, and Gordon Race together with a suspicious looking clergyman the Rev Edward Chichester and a much married (3 times) lady who knows Mr Race.

Developing a friendship with this older woman Anne finds herself in first class cabin 7 where she finds the man the brown suit at some point who then rescues her as an attempt is made to throw her overboard.

Eventually the story unfolds although I remain confused about certain aspects. The main villain is the Colonel who is eventually revealed as Sir Eustace Pedler. He has arranged for the Rev Chichester, one of his agents to attempt to kill Anne on the ship and then when they take a detour off the ship by train to visit some falls. He also plays the secretary when the actual secretary returns to Cairo and also a nurse on the boat.

The reason for the attempted killings is the correct assumption that Anne has discovered the whereabouts of four large pink diamonds hidden behind tiles in cabin 71 which was booked by the man murdered at the airport for his companion the night club singer. They were involved in attempting to blackmail the colonel who had been involved with the theft of diamonds from a mine in South Africa.

The man in the brown suit is someone believed to have died in South America, the son of landed aristocracy and the companion who disappeared at the same time. Both men had been accused of the theft of the diamonds stolen by the Colonel and as his true self John Eardsley, son of the recently deceased Sir Laurence Eardsley is thought to be the other young man Harry Rayburn. By recovering the diamonds he can clear his name and that of his friend, return to England to inherit his title and marry Ann who had had enough adventuring for a lifetime. Woodward is apprehended and Race who turns out to be CIA marries the already much married friend of Anne. The reason why the Colonel is unmasked as having been responsible for the villa murder is that his secretary who was supposed to have gone on a trip had in fact being visiting his wife and children as being single was a condition of the job and he had seen the colonel return when he was also supposed to be away. There were lots of twists and turns and actions with Anne captured and breaking out of a high barred window.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Intolerable Cruelty

But first a film Intolerable Cruelty which I was tempted to see in theatre when it was first released because it stars the adorable Catherine Zeta Jones. I was also attracted because the film is Directed and Produced by Joel and Ethan Coen who also contributed to the screen play. The film also stars George Clooney playing George Clooney together with Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton, the latter two among my top score of favourite male actors.

The premise of the film is no matter how cynical, calculating, ruthless and hard bitten an individual can become they will abandon everything they believe in and have practised when they meet the right person. In this respect it is a repeat of the film Up in the Air. In that film Clooney is out Clooneyed by a woman but in Intolerable Cruelty they out do each other but decide to go for love happy ever after.

Clooney plays a top notch lawyer with two claims to fame. He has devised as prenuptial agreement which is water tight so that once signed the terms are binding with no legal loop holes. The second is his ability to win settlements for his clients regardless of evidence, fault and actual responsibility.

The film opens with a show case in which a woman is caught with a pool maintenance man by an early returning husband who comments that they have no pool.

Clooney manages to get everything for the wife in the divorce settlement with the husband Geoffrey Rush left on the street.

In the second case Catherine Zeta Jones has married a wealthy man and then sets out have him caught in a motel room engaged in sexual role play. He engages Clooney and Zeta Jones is ultra confident until Clooney take her out for a meal during the trial in order for a colleague to break in and photo her address book and this leads to the discovery that she asked a concierge to find her a rich man who is easily manipulated and as a consequence of his testimony she loses everything.

Hell bent on revenge she finds Rush and enlists his help in a complicated plot which involves her marrying an oil man(Billy Bob Thornton) and she asks Clooney to prepare a pre nup agreement which gives her nothing should the marriage not last, however he tears up and eats the agreement at the marriage ceremony. She then divorces the husband and obtains a settlement which makes her a rich woman, or so Clooney is led to believe!

The two meet in Las Vegas where he is about to address once more a convention of marriage lawyers to give another cynical how to win lecture but announces that because he has found true love he is giving up his career to undertake pro bono work. The two marry. He signs a pre nuptial to show he is not doing it for the money but she tears it up, But after one night she leaves him and he finds out that she was not rich as her husband was an actor recommended to her by Rush. She is therefore entitled to half the marriage assets which is in fact half of his wealth and she has none. She has her revenge.

Clooney engages a hit man but before the assassination takes place Clooney finds out that in fact Zeta Jones has become wealthier than himself because her previous husband has died and had not changed his will so leaving everything to her. If they divorce Clooney will find himself financially better off when the total assets are divided. Clooney takes steps to stop the assassin. At the negotiation for the settlement they decide they want to be with each other. Zeta Jones suggests to the TV producer former husband who Clooney put on the street an idea for a new TV show starring her second husband the actor played by Bill Bob. Everyone gains and true love triumphs The programme is called America’s Funniest Divorce Videos. Ha Ha funny.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Sex in the City 2

I believe I have switched on to the TV Show Sex in the City to see what the fuss was about but it was so awful that I could not bear to stay for more than a few moments. Recently the arrival of Sex in the City 2 on Sky films posed too great an opportunity to see what the fuss was about again in relation to the films, the first was released in 2008.

I am assuming from the incredulous 146 minutes of this film which I viewed in less than half an hour via the fast forward button that the attraction from this mass audience box office success that young men feel obliged to take the young girls to see the film at weekends in order to learn what makes a woman happy and the girls go find out the secret of how to remain an independently sexually happy person before the realities of on going relationships and marriage with children as well as the need to marry someone able to enable you to wear the latest fashions.

The difference between the original series and the first film is the passage of two years enjoying what they have striven for and learning getting what you want only lasts until you have got it. There is a reminder of how it all began with a brief return to 1986 as a flashback early on in the film. There is then an extraordinary over the top same sex wedding which appears to have more to do with Busby Berkeley make believe than anything to do with reality and appears to also have nothing to do with the present film.

The film is primarily about the experience of the four women in the make believe Arab city of Abu Dhabi. One of the four has been approached by a Sheik to devised a PR campaign for his business (unlikely nonsense) and then agrees that she can bring the three others with her on an all expenses paid luxury vacation although the film explain why he should do this before she has accomplished the required work unless the point is to sell the value of paying for a luxury vacation. By luxury this means separate first class cabins on the flight out and a top hotel suit with a male butler for each as well as their separate limo’s although for some reason they are allowed to visit the local market quartet without escorts which does not make sense given the rest of what happens on their visit which includes a visit into the desert for a luxury picnic and camel ride.

One of the quartet encounters a former boyfriend and during a “harmless” look back date they kiss about which she has much angst feels obliged to admit to her husband. Their relationship has reached a difficult stage where he is content to stay home and watch giant screen TV including adding one to their bedroom. She wants to dine out and socialise while he is content with home delivery and on their anniversary she gives him a Rolex hoping for jewellery in return but he produces the TV. He produces a black diamond ring to remind of their relationship and the big screen TV has gone.

Samantha the PR lady is a single 52 and self conscious about the impact of the approaching menopause on her love life. She lives by a manual of drug remedies which are confiscated at the airport. During the desert trip she encounters a wild Dane and back in the city there is public display of sexual interest which lands her in jail and a record and to cancellation of the PR contract offer and an end of further paying for expense of their luxury lifestyle so they are forced to quickly return home.

The third of the quartet is the most stupid in that until the others draw attention she thinks nothing of the fact that her hired help has big boobs and does not wear a Bra and has everyman she encounters leering at her. The woman has become preoccupied with her own inadequacies and demands as a mother of two undisciplined children, for which she appears to have no natural abilities. She panics at the thought of her husband alone with the nanny while she is away but she had no need to worry because on return she discovers the nanny is a lesbian. The fourth member has quit her job because she has just worked out the reality of working in competitive capitalism. In Abu D the two mothers commiserates with their lot and the fourth woman confesses she misses work, the loss of identity and hates domesticity. Back home she finds a job where she is appreciated.

The four women have to visit the market for some last minute shopping where they enrage the local men by their appearance and behaviour and are rescued by several Arab women appropriate dressed complete with the Burka. However the woman are meeting in secret to discuss the same book which has become the bible for Samantha and under their black outfits they are wearing the latest New York fashions, proving that cutting across races and religions here are the same number and level of irresponsible, self centres, emotionally driven too much money and time for their own good females. I am not sure what is the moral message of the film except that perhaps Muslim Arab men have the right approach? I think not. That hot sex is preferable to marriage and children? Perhaps! Although there is a price to pay if you disregard local conventions. The film is in the same ilk as those Joan Collins movies about disco night clubs and the airport bookshop holiday blockbusters or do I mean bonkbusters? Or as a tennis player I admire once said. You can’t be serious. The film grossed three times the original $100 million now that is serious and News of the World.

Dinner for Schmucks

In Dinner for Schmucks, described as a screwball comedy based on the novel Le Díner de Cons (Dinner of Cretins) by Francis Veber. The plot is an invitation to bring a guest to a special dinner with the intention of finding the biggest idiot or cretin to amuse the guests. This is an opportunity for the main character Tim described as an ambition financial executive to gain a top contract and gain competitive status with his peers in the firm.

Tim meets his ideal guest by bumping into Barry while driving his Porsche who is the middle of the road retrieving for one of his mouse dioramas which he spends all his time creating when not working for the USA income tax service the IRS

There are two diversions from what otherwise would have been a straightforward who can humiliate someone most. Barry who is par as an ambitious competitive financial executive has an attractive but stupidly impressionable and emotional girlfriend who becomes infatuated with an equally obnoxious creative artist who she goes off with for a dirty weekend when under the impression her would be fiancée is back with a one night stand tart. In order to try an get the love of his life back he goes with Barry to his office in an effort to try and find the address of the weekends retreat from the IRS records but they encounter the boss Therman Murch who has developed mind control and taken away Barry’s wife to live with him.

There are various complications before the fateful dinner which are supposed to funny but which vary from stupidity to silly or silly to stupidity. At the dinner the other guests find the performance of Barry hilarious and are about to vote him winner when Tim’s rival in the firm produces Murch who mind controls Barry into making a greater fool of himself than usual. This so upsets Tim who has found Barry genuine, loyal and likeable that he tells him the truth of the situation and helps him to turn the tables on his boss and rejects the opportunity which the dinner would have given to him and during he fracas the host loses a finger which a vulture takes away through a smashed window. Back home as his would be fiancée is collecting her belongings to go off with the artists to Paris she overhears Tim saying how much he loves her and wishes he had concentrated on winning her affection rather than on his career.

The film has a diorama postscript in which the two marry and honeymoon in Paris. Barry has a relationship with the former one night stand good time girl friend of Tim, does some artwork for the creative artists and hosts a monthly breakfast for champions for all the losers. The IRS man writes a successful book from a mental hospital while Tim and his bride are involved in the creation of a new museum in Switzerland with the minus finger financier while the firm for whom Tim worked collapses with the owner branded Wall Street’s Biggest Loser