Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Rite

I had no previous knowledge of the Anthony Hopkins film about Exorcism called the Rite, written from the perspective of the Catholic Church, It is said to be based on a true story and that the three main characters, possibly four are all based on real people who are continuing their work to day.

The film is also about the faith required to become and remain a Catholic priest, Michael Kovak played by Colin 0’Donoghue lost his mother when a primary level school boy and was brought up by his father a Mortician who insisted on the boy becoming familiar with his work with a view to him joining the family business. His mother had ambitions that he would become a priest similar to others in her family.

The one thing Michael does not want to be is a mortician or remain at home with his father and the only way he can afford a college education is say he wants to become a priest. However he lacks the one essential ingredient, faith and while he obtains straight A in his chosen subjects the one exception is the required religious studies! This lack of devotion is evident to his tutor but who then witnesses the capacity of the man to connect with people.

Michael as planned tends his resignation shortly before he is due to take his final vows and be Ordained. The Tutor (Toby Jones) warns that in strict accordance he could cancel the free four year college education and require repayment of the $100000 investment converting to a student loan. After receiving the email letter he sees Michael and calls out to him thus forcing a young cyclist to swerve and fall into the path of a car. Michael is asked by the victim to provide the last rites which he does reluctantly but brings the individual peace.

The tutor hits on the idea of sending Michael to a residential course in Rome to study Exorcism on the premises that this will provide a true test of his faith and once there among the students he is selected by the course Director to accompany Hopkins as Father Lucas on his work in the city. Because of the growth of referrals over the past decades the Church has taken the decision to appoint specialist priests in every area headed by a Bishop. Michael is even more sceptical of the need holding the view that those who are referred as possessed or hearing voices telling them to undertake evil deeds are not being possessed or driven by the Devil but are psychological disturbed and mentally ill.

In order to bring some female interest into the film, a female journalist has been permitted to attend the course and she is puzzled by his scepticism and lack of faith establishes a platonic relationship focussed on his experience.

Father Lucas involves Michael in one of his current cases in which a pregnant girl raped by her father appears possessed and initially Michael is horrified by the diagnosis and methods used by the Exorcist. When the child is born prematurely and the mother dies in circumstances where it is evident the girl could not have self harmed Father Lucas is devastated by his failure and the being crossed to him and also challenges Michael with a series of worst fear hallucinations. Accompanied by the Journalist Michael sets out to help Fr Lucas who he has come to respect and realising the man has become possessed he attempts to contact his superior only to find the man is away for the weekend and he is then faced with the rest of face as well as skill. He is successful. Michael becomes a priest back in the USA but also a priest recognised as a specialist in Exorcism in the area should the need arise, one of eleven such appointments said to have been made in the USA and Father Lucas reported to have been moved to a less challenging environment but where he continued his good works. The Journalist writes her story which received international attention.

I continue to regard myself as without religious faith but with a moral framework and educated conscience but I lack any experience of the supernatural since one or frightening dreams during sickness periods in early childhood when the Devil appeared to be a real being as subsequently portrayed by others in films suggesting similar childhood hallucinations or waking dreams.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The second event of the third weekend of birthday celebrations was to see the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The film is richly textured with humorous insights into the problems and challenges of getting old. There is an outstanding all star cast. The theme is the same as the Susan Boyle Story in that you should never judge someone by their appearance alone.

Seven elders decide to gamble with their futures and go to live in the Indian city of Jaipur although two do so under protest and with no intention of staying. The Hotel is a dilapidated former Palace in the middle of the city offering a package which includes prepaid one way standard airfare and transfers and a modest full board deal of service for retired people which in theory provide a higher quality of life than likely in the UK. Unfortunately the venture is managed by the head in the clouds son of a successful family whose father had held a similar ambition but also lacked the business skills.
Dev Patel plays Sonny full of ambition and good intentions but struggling to achieve the basics of what is promised from clean cockroach free rooms, effective plumping and telephone systems. The venture gets off to the worst possible start with the plane from the capital to the hotel located city postponed because of fog and the group follow the lead of one of its members in taking the overnight bus rather than putting up somewhere in the capital. I also did not understand why they did not take the train as the city is the HQ of the state and regional railway system.

The story only hangs together because of the desperation the group although never explain why the most reluctant of the group Muriel played by Dame Maggie Smith should end up in the hotel albeit for a temporary period rather than book a traditional unit with lift and all mod cons for her operation and recovery. Muriel urgently needs a hip replacement and is offered a waiting list short cut by having the operation in India. The problem is that Murial is a racist and has no wish to be touched someone without a white skin. She asks to be seen by someone born in the UK and this brings her an Indian hospital doctor but such is her constant discomfort that she overcomes her prejudice but takes a supply biscuits and other portable foods with her although liquids are removed at the airport under the prevailing security conditions.

The operation being successful she remains at the hotel a prisoner pending recovery and it is during this period that she pays attention to the hotel maid who is one of the untouchables. She is invited to take tea with the family of the young woman and this experience is not without its problems. She finds her feet in every sense and learning that the future of the hotel is under threat she investigates without revealing her intentions and arranges a bank loan on the understanding that she is to be the Assistant Manager. As with the other guests each has a back story which makes them ideal residents. She was in service with a family for several decades and was asked to help train an assistant only to find she was retired with the assistant taking her job.

In contrast Tom Wilkinson plays a High Court Judge who decides to retire and go to India in search of his one and only true love, then a young Indian boy where the relationship was severed when the nature of their friendship was discovered. He had returned to the UK and made no attempt to maintain contact with the young man whose family regarded the orientation as a humiliation. Unfortunately the house where the young man lives had been demolished along with the rest of the street and there was no immediate way of finding out the relocation. He spends days visiting the authorities filling the same form at the start of each day until the man is located. He finds that he is married although his wife knows all about the relationship and the two meet with great feeling.

Graham, the former judge has lived with the guilt as well his lost love during rest of his life but is now content to find that the man has had a good life and that the experience was viewed as he had. He is found dead soon afterwards when it is revealed that he had a serious heart condition which had led to his decision to return to India.

Norman is a con man lothario played by Ronald Pickup who finds it difficult to faceup to his age and that he is no longer attractive to the young women he fancies. He hopes to find someone young and rich in a new land although Russia and the new Europeans states would have been a more likely destination as well as the Far East. Celia Imrie as Madge is the female version of Norman although she has led a more conventional life and now divorced whose daughter wants to keep safely in a box so she escapes to India in the hope of new life. She joins the local club pretending to be Royalty, seeking a discount and is then introduced to Ronald Pickup and she introduces him to an older woman at the bar who lives in the city and is lonely and also looking for an adult relationship. Fortunately he drops the act and the two find they have sufficient in common to establish a meaningful relationship although he visits a doctor for virility pills although the claim is then made that she substituted them for aspirins on their first night of passion together. Madge is been having dinner with a wealthy looking Indian gentleman towards the end of the film.

This leaves the blossoming relationship between widowed Evelyn played by Dame Judi Dench and Douglas played by Bill Nighy who is married to Jean (Penelope Wilton). They both victims of trust and loyalty. Evelyn was married for decades leaving financial affairs to her husband who she trusted implicitly only to find that when he died suddenly he had substantial debts which were more than available assets so she had to sell the family home. Her daughter wanted her to move in with her and her family but Judi has other ideas.

The idea of India arose after attempting to speak to an Indian based call centre whom refused to communicate and attend the problem because she was not the account holder. Once in India she seeks employment at a call centre only to see that the place is full of ambitious young graduates but she is taken on as a trainer adviser. Bill Nighy on the other hand had invested his pension fund money in his daughter’s Internet business and they were left to downsize with a sheltered housing flat with railings one property visited. The Indian Hotel appeared on paper a better solution. Bill adapts to the limitations well and becomes a friend of Judi but his wife cannot cope with the noise and the smells, the poverty and begging and the hotel becomes a sanctuary from which she refuses to move and join her husband on his expeditions to the many places of interest in the state. She sees the former Judge as a hero and becomes infatuated with him until being told that he is gay. She is rescued when the company run by her daughter becomes successful and immediately sets off for home with Bill reluctantly agreeing. Their relationship ended in mutual disappointment long before the financial disaster so when because of a festival, the road to the airport is blocked for vehicles, and she gets the opportunity to go on the back of a motor cycle they agree to part and he walks back the hotel and later we see him also on a motor scooter with Judi as his pillion passenger.

The hotel and is limitations as well as the nature of contemporary India remain the core of the film. The hotel is jointly owned by Sonny with two older and successful brothers and their bossy but well intentioned mother is determined that they should sell property and her youngest should move to the Indian capital with her and marry a girl selected for him by her. He is in love with a girl who works at a call centre, the very one where Evelyn has a job and in fact has helped retrain the girl to being more effective when communicating with English speaking people. She is guarded by an older brother who does not think Sonny is good enough for her and indeed that appear to be an ill matched and unlikely couple. When she goes to his room one evening he has forgotten to tell her he has moved to accommodate one the of guests and she is effectively thrown out of the hotel and his life but his mother who he refuses to stand up to. The situation is resolved first by Muriel and getting a loan so the hotel can be developed to become an ongoing paying proposition and then by an elderly family retainer who reminds the mother that the relationship with her husband was not approved by her family so she accepts the situation of the relationship as does the girl’s brother.

The film is designed as a feel good comedy for oldies and therefore contains a good dose of romanticism but it insights into the realities of aging together with the strong cast will lave a mark in the memory and may make into something of a classic.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Sky had added a new sports channel dedicated to Formula 1 racing and which in advance of the new season is showing wall to wall programmes on the shirt of the sport, covering seasons, famous races and drivers and the cars. It was therefore fitting that to mark the event Sky is also showing the midsummer 2011 documentary film on the life of Ayrton Senna the Brazilian racing driver who was killed on track in May 1994 aged 34 years. This is a film which merits being seen by all sports fans and indeed by those who may not be interested in motor racing or professional sports.

Senna was open about the fact that he came from a privileged background with his Italian background parents owning land and factories and resulted in establishing a genuine concern for the less fortunate, especially the education of children which continues to this day through his sister.

At the age of 21 he came to England to race in Go Karts which had been his love from an early age and has become the standards way for young drivers to learn their art. His stay was short lived because of pressure to work in the family business. Before returning home he was offered a contract to race Formula 3 cars and won the Formula Ford Championships in 1982 and then won the Formula championships in 1983. In 1984 he tested for a Formula 1 drive with a number of teams and commenced with a comparatively new team of Toleman and he amazed everyone coming second in the Monte Carol Grand Prix because of his skill in wet weather conditions having commenced 13th on the grid. He achieved two podium finishes and came 13th in the driving table at the end of the season. It was a performance bringing him to attention of major teams.

It is important that this is in the era before the use of technical wizardry both in the preparation and running of cars and in communication between the driver and the team regarding vehicle performance, race positioning and tactics. It was the skill of the driver in learning and driving the car which won races.

He moved to Lotus for the 1985 season and again in wet conditions he won his first race in The Portuguese Grand Prix, the second race of the season. He won again in Belgium also in the wet and this was followed by finishing 4th in the table a position is also held the following season with 55 points improving to third with 57 points the following season. He had become a recognised top rank driver but not yet in the frame for the world championship.

With the approval of World Champion Alain Prost he moved to the second car for McLaren Team but the good relationship was short lived and quickly developed into one of the fiercest rivalries there has been in motor sport. They won between them all but one of the sixteen races in 1988 with Ayrton winning his first World Championship, just. The rivalry commenced when Prost accused Senna of forcing him out of the lead as they approached the first corner at the start of a race.

Relations became strained to breaking point the following season when Senna needed to win a race for the championship and the cars touched and Prost crashed. Senna was forced into an escape lane but was able to continue and win the race. However Prost immediately complained to the Race Stewards after the incident and this led to the disqualification of Senna. There was a bad odour about the decision because was known to have a close relationship with the then head of Formula 1 Race who was also a Frenchman. Prost joined Ferrari for the following season.

There was a further confrontation towards the end of the following season also at the Japanese Grand Prix which was the location of the first clash. What happened is that Senna arranged with the race official that should he finish in pole position they would change the pole position because the nature of the track gave advantage to the second vehicle. The president intervened reversing the decision so Senna had charged holding the preferred line with Prost refusing to give way again crashing and was so incensed that he considered giving up racing. The outcome is that Senna won and took the championship and then again the following year, the year in which he also won the Brazilian race this turning him into the famous Brazilian of the decade and a legend since his premature death.

The problems commenced in 1992 because his car was outclassed by the new electronics used by the Williams Team result in a fourth position in the championship. Because of the reactions to the growing use of electronics the governing body made changes in 1994 after the cars had been redesigned. The impact was that they became unstable and Senna was one of several drivers who forecast there would be disasters.

His team mate Barrichello suffered a broken nose and arm after crashing in to the barrier. The Austrian driver Roland Rozenberger in his first season was killed outright after crashing into a concrete wall at maximum speed. It was then Senna turn to be involved in a major accident and there was devastating bad luck because he was uninjured except that the right suspension frame was sent stabbing back into the cockpit with a piece penetrating his helmet and causing fatal skull fracture.

Given the acclaim he had received in Brazil the death shocked the nation who saw in their young hero hope that the country would rise from its political problems and the poverty. There was three days of national morning. Some three million people descended on his home town for the funeral the largest recorded group of assembled mourners in recent times. Among the pall bearers were Alain Prost and Britain’s Damon Hill. For the next race the first two positions were empty painted with the Brazilian and Austrian Flag. Legal preceding followed the accident for years with McLaren investigated re possible manslaughter the more positive impact is that major changes were made to the cars and to the tracks to reduce the possibility of further fatalities.

Sienna was a devout catholic reading the Bible and able to quote from it and his beliefs led to development an extraordinary concern for the welfare of children in his homeland and to devoting the greater part of his personal fortune to their education and general help. When he first became famous is donated to those requested his help and personal appearance but he decided something more substantial was required any by the time of his death he had established what became the Instituto Ayrton Senna and managed by his sister with the advice of Bernie Eccleston Frank William Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger investing some $80 million in various ventures and which has led to the education over 100000 children. His spirit and endeavour therefore lives on in his homeland.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Middle Men

The Middle Men is an important film for although it is also billed as a comedy it is full of truths about one aspect of contemporary society and although a work of fiction presented as a true story one suspects it is closer to several truths than will be admitted by the powers that be.

The film is also the story of another normal Middle American white male who in this instance has a flair for problem solving and agrees to help out someone in the process of creating a nightclub bar half way across the states from his family. He has married a local girl and has two children and they struggle to live at the level which their background and education has equipped them for.

He solves the problem and creates an effective business which he comes to own employing a group of heavies who he is able to call on for help when he asked to taken on another assignment of different proportions although this is not immediately apparent.

Because the lawyer contact is under Federal investigation he is asked to help sort out the business affairs of a couple of maniac college friends who allegedly created the US based Internet Porn business. One with a high IQ is a former NASA scientist, former because he became a crack head, and is alleged to have worked out the first programme which enabled people to buy goods and services on the Internet using Credit Cards. He does this in order to provide the first Internet Porn site originally pictures scanned from magazines. When this proves successful they have the idea to create their own porn film business and visit a local pole dancing club to do a deal with the owner, not appreciating that the club is owned by the Russian mafia. They do a deal in which they have unlimited access to the girls for 25% of the profits. The project is so successful that they make millions of dollars but fail to make any payments to the Russia and getting beaten up. The oversight was not intentional but they have become so involved with sex, drugs and drink and have no organisation or business sense. One point they leave an uncashed cheque for two million among other papers in a drawer.

Jack (Harris) played by Luke Wilson does not want to become involved with pornography but the lawyer explains that it is being a middle man like hotel owners who provides adult film channels. Jack then has the idea of creating business acting for the production companies and their Internet sites, including the TV channels where the purchase is itemised in a neutral way disguising the true purpose. For this they will charge ten percent offering the provider a vastly increased market as a consequence.

His first task is to buy out the interest of the lawyer who introduced him into the deal for two hundred thousand. His second is to broker a peace deal with the Russian Mafia boss who sends his Uncle for the outstanding amount which is said to be four hundred thousand to which he adds fifty thousand more as a good will gesture. Unfortunately the relative of the Mobster arrives in an aggressive mood and the leading heavy for Jack strike a blow to the man’s head which proves fatal. They dump the body at sea and Jack realises he is now committed to keeping a close watch on the partners because of their instability and tendency to talk.

The Russian is suspicious and there is a confrontation with a settlement of 50% of profits and the threat of severe retribution if it is discovered they had a hand in the disappearance of their relative.

At first he resent the time spent away from his family but over the years he becomes more and more attracted to the life and establishes a relationship with a young porn star nearly half his age.
His marriage breaks up and the porn star moves in with him, and despite giving 50% to the Russian they are each worth in excess of a hundred million with a major commercial and production centre. His now teenage son gets into trouble and Jack flies back to the East to blackmail those preventing the charges being dropped by revealing their record of Internet porn transactions.

At the race track he meets the Russians who advise that he is being watch by the FBI as well as themselves. They have someone trailing the FBI trailing them and overheard their interest in Jack. He arrives home one day to learn that the FBI have called on his mistress with a proposition which they then put to Jack when calling at his office, They have discovered that certain terrorists have become addicted to the site of his mistress because she does not have sex with others. They suggest she uses uniforms and weapons in her act and keeps them informed when she launches direct contact video services. They use internet tracking to locate the terrorists and carrying out successful strikes for which the government is appreciative for their efforts on behalf of the American people.

Everything then changes when the FBI arrive to advise that they have discovered the production company in which he is a partner is providing a child porn site and that in due course those involved will be prosecuted and sent to prison, including himself unless he can find a way out. They are not concerned about the manslaughter of one less mobster.

The situation arose because the lawyer introduced the partners to a contact who was able to provide more challenging sites and unbeknown to them this included those under age. Although alerted and intending to close the site they had forgotten to do so and then they spot the FBI meeting with Jack and assume he is selling them out over the child porn site when they see a handshake.

Jack visits the man responsible for the site at his mansion and finds a large sex party. He attacks the man and shoot him in the leg. He then sees his mistress with two hunks. He has her bags packed when she returns home and although has often said she feels no guilt about her life she pleads to stay needing the stability of normality of their life to counterbalance her professional life. He refuses.

He also discovers that the lawyer has been acting for the Russian mobster. It was he who persuaded the relative to seek double the amount which was owed and it he who introduced the partners to the child pornographer. The lawyer has remained aggrieved at being bought out so cheaply and has suspicions about the disappearance of the Russian. Now as pressure builds up in the partners about the child pornography and fearing the sell out to the FBI they share their knowledge of the disappearance with lawyer who in turn informs the Russians.

The consequence is that they set out to abduct his teenage son but instead take the young child of the Mexican housekeeper. Nevertheless decides to meet the demands for the release of the boy which is a huge amount of money. He fears for his life and has a talk with his son on the basis he may not return. He is asked to relinquish all his holdings to the new syndicate and agrees but asks for the contract to be backdate a year to avoid taxation on his earning of the year. This is agreed.

He returns the boy to the parents and he and his wife are reconciled. The partners are indicated for their involvement in the child porn site and try to take jack down with them The FBI point out that he sold out his involvement six months before the start of the criminal site. The Russian has also disappeared presumed to back to his homeland. It is another form of the American Dream

Since returning from the opera I have been listening to Miss Saigon while writing and have reach the point towards the end of the musical with the number the American Dream. One of those interesting coincidences of life.


I now turn to the three black humour comedies of the weekend with the most interesting Limitless where the subject is the extent of our unused brain power. It is a subject week covered in recent fiction films and television programmes, particularly the series the 4400 but also episodes in the X Files, Star Trek and Babylon 5. There is a new BBC series starting about the same subject where it is argued that we only consciously use about one fifth of the brain operating and storage power with the main function our subconscious accumulating information and memory banks in addition to parts which do not use and who purpose remain unknown.

I have previously expressed the view that perhaps we also genetically inherit the memories of ancestors which accounts for individuals believing they have lived before including recounting experiences under hypnosis. Even the interactions of those who do not have children live on in the memories of the others.

In Limitless Eddie is a writer and similar to You will meet a tall dark Stranger he has encountered a writer’s block. His publisher is anticipating a completed novel and he has not written a word. He has also separated from his girlfriend having been divorced from the ubiquitous Anna Friel. It is a chance meeting with his former brother in law, a man with whom he has nothing in common, which is to change his life in dramatic ways.

The man claims to have found a mind expanding designer drug and later Eddie is tempted to try out and is amazed at the impact. The brain becomes hyper sharp and active with the capacity to grasp the significance of vast quantities of information. The mind begins to function like a super analytical computer. He completes the first 90 pages of a book before stopping for sleep and his publisher is ecstatic and cannot wait to see the rest.

He visits the home of his brother in law to see if more of the substance is available but while he is out on an errand the man is murdered and the apartment ransacked but fortunately the stash of drugs remains to be found.

He decides to put his new powers to making money on the stock market and is so successful that he turns to a loan shark, a Russian mobster for a loan of one hundred thousand dollars. It is interesting the tendencies for Hollywood to now make the mobsters Russian rather Italian, Irish, Jewish or Spanish American. He quickly turns the money into two million attracting publicity and the attention of a speculating company trader, a kind of Wall Street, Wall Street Michael Douglas character.

They meet and he is offered the opportunity to test his ability with a mass of information about a company where the speculator wants to force a merger. Edie makes the mistake of increasing the dose and this send him on a wild period of eighteen hours, full of hallucinations, a fight in which he reproduces various boxing, Kung Fo and other Marshall Arts abilities from the memory of what he has seen performed by others, he goes dancing in a night club and stays over night with a woman he meets up.

There are three immediate consequences of this experience. First he has re-established contact with the girl friend who is impressed by his drive and success, speaking fluent Italian at a restaurant, or it may have been French. While they are not living together she is concerned about his sudden loss in contact and begins to questions his new personna.

Secondly the woman with whom he spent the night is murdered and it takes a lawyer to ensure that when he comes under suspicion there is no evidence against him.

He is reluctant to attend the meeting arranged with the head of the firm to be merged because of his condition but the research undertaken arouses his suspicion that the man had also discovered the properties of the drug amd has become a user to explain the rapid development of the comany. However he is able provide the guidance to achieve the merger on favourable terms and for this he is paid 40 million which means he can progress from a bodyguard to a fortress penthouse,

There are then a number of developments which appear to put his new position and wealth in jeopardy. The Russian wants his money back with interest which is no problem but in the process he tries one of the tablets and is most impressed by the experience and understandably wants more.

He has contact with his ex wife who reveals that she had also taken the drug provided by her brother but had managed to come off before it killed her. What he does is to acquire a lab to produce the drug but also to re-engineer to avoid the side effects. He reduces the dosage taken by making soluble and injecting which also has an impact quicker but lasts longer.

When asked to attend a line up re the murdered girl he changes his suit at the suggestion of the lawyer but when it is returned he finds the tablets in a secret pocket have been taken. He then sees the lawyer on TV acting for the man owning the merged company. There has also been an advance leak of the merger affecting share prices which the man who hired him takes exception believing he is the author and send him the chopped hand of his body guard as a warning.

He has been shadowed by someone who turns out to be the chauffer of the Merger Man who correctly was after a new supply of the drug. After the loss of the supply from his suit he asks his girlfriend to bring some stored in her flat and she intercepted by the chauffer and agrees to take one of the tablets to enable her to escape and reach him safely. The experience is sufficient to break off the relationship.

The Russian now breaks into his apartment mob handed for the drug and there is a fierce fight in which he manages to stab the Russian and although wounded he survives and overcomes the rest by drinking the blood of the dying Russian.

The Merger man dies and Eddie contacts the chauffer and advises that his employer was double crossed by the lawyer who had kept the drugs for his personal use. The man agrees to steal back the drugs taken by the lawyer.

A year passes and the book has been finished and published and is great success. He is standing for the Senate and all the Polls indicate a landslide victory. He is back with his girlfriend. He is approached by the lawyer who says he has acquired the firm with the lab preparing the drug which he has shut down. He will reopen if Eddie agrees to do favours as he becomes more and more powerful as a politician en route to the White House.

He refuses to be blackmailed. He says that he is now 50 moves ahead of the lawyer and all rivals. He had sent up other labs for such an eventuality but in any event as a result of work on the drug and his careful use he has reached the point where his brain functions at the highest level without the substance. He tells the man he has a serious heart condition which required immediate surgery.

The film ends with a celebratory meal with the girl friend and he now impresses her again by speaking fluent Chinese. We the audience are left wondering if he has become drug free or is remains as dependent as before. The film can be argued as one aspect of the American Dream

Saturday, 10 March 2012

U Turn

But talking about the documentary there was the 1997 Oliver Stone film U Turn which is the name of the town in the desert which gangster money owing drifter Sean Penn as Bobby visits to find a garage where he blows his hose and he engine overheats. Here he meets the odd ball garage owner mechanic played by virtuoso Billy Bob Thornton who takes him as far to the cleaners as he is able. He has no other role except to undertake work which will have a crucial bearing on the outcome of the film.

Penn’s journey is to deliver a substantial cash sum borrowed from a gangster in California. With a few hours to kill he takes the money from the back of the car but leaves his gun which given his overall circumstance is stupid but this is a loser Sean Penn who deserves every misfortune that is to come his way.

He goes for a cool drink but first sees Jennifer Lopez armed with parcels of new drapes (curtains) and he follows his trousers unaware that she is a cold blooded calculating manipulative bitch. She invites him to her home for a shower and unaware that she is wearing a wedding ring he gets as far as a kiss when husband Jake, (Nick Nolte) arrives home and starts to beat the crap out of him, understandably, but also offers to drive him back into town knowing that the man will die in the desert midday sun. However he has an ulterior motive as he would like the stranger to kill the scheming bitch for a substantial fee.

In town he goes into the convenience store which is then attacked by two gun slinging robbers but who are no match for the store owner who zaps them with her blunderbuss destroying most of the money in the effort although Penn is so anxious about the situation that he leaves the remains of the money behind. He then cannot pay for the work on the car which is impounded by Thornton and the stupid Penn having left is gun in the boot cannot do anything about the situation other than go back into town and try and raise money, including contacting the owner of the money for another loan who sends someone to sort him out.

He goes to a bar and is approached by the local jail bait whose ten foot tall three foot wide boyfriend takes exception to the fraternization and starts to beat the crap again although worse damage is prevented by the arrival of the Sheriff. He drops the beet outside and encounters a blind Indian played by Jon Voight with a dead dog who bullies Penn into getting him a drink,

Back at the garage Nolte is doing more work on the car and says he will not release the vehicle until the growing debt is paid. There is nothing for it but to take the commission to kill Lopez by throwing her off a cliff to suggest suicide. However instead of carrying out the plan in he starts to have sex with her which she cuts short and explains that she is not just Jake’s wife but his illegitimate daughter who he sexually abused as a child and married after her mother committed suicide falling from a cliff. Grace asks Bobby to kill her husband and share his money. This appears to be a dream.

He manages to get a bus ticket out of town and evades the man sent to sort him out as the Sheriff arrests the individual for speeding. Just when he believes he can escape he is confronted again by the boyfriend of miss jailbait( Joaquin Phoenix) but this time he manages to beat up the man after his ticket has been ripped up and eaten.

Penn then goes back to the home of Jake and Grace to kill Jake who is having sex with his daughter/wife and hears the arrival so he changes the story and says he has come to kill Grace but she overhears and attacks them with a tomahawk which eventually leads to the death of Jake. They find $200000 and celebrate by having sex.

He goes for his car and he and Grace drive off with the body in the back. They are stopped by the Sheriff who has been having sex with Grace until the arrival of Penn. She shoots the Sheriff whose body is also placed in the trunk of the car.

They get rid of the bodies over the cliff and then Penn gets his gun back by hitting Grace in the face saying he does not trust her but will split he money when they reach California. Grace manages to push Penn over the cliff and makes her way to the car only to find that Penn has removed the keys. Although badly injured he manages to strangle her when she arrives back and gets himself to the car with all the money. However he has not driven very far when the radiator hose bursts again and he dies from sub exposure in the car. And the moral is?

You will meet a tall dark stranger- Woody Allen

I have probably seen about half the Wood Allen films in which he has Directed, Scripted written or appeared as an actor and sometimes undertaking all three Roles over the past 50 years. I have enjoyed several of his films although rarely appreciated the humour and in general have not been engaged by his movies for them to remain memorable and if pressed I would find it difficult to recall the story lines, including which have brought him Oscars with Annie Hall in 1978, Manhattan I980, Hannah and her sisters. The last offering to be enjoyed was Vickie Christina Barcelona and I have Midnight in Paris on my future view list. I cannot remember having come cross his other recent film You will meet a tall dark Stranger 2010 which has a number of English actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones in major roles also Anne Friel Pauline Collins, Celia Imrie and Philip Glennister plus Antonio Banderas in an English Language Spanish American co production.

The film was enjoyable rather than outstanding. Alfie played by Anthony Hopkins and a wealthy business man who as most old men do wake up in the middle of the night recognising the rapid approach of their mortality. His response is to go to the gym and hanker to be young again and to have a son replacing the one they lost. They have a daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) who is married to a one book published writer, (James Brolin) who trained to become a doctor but decided this was not something he wanted to do.

The films centre on these four lives. Alfie separates and then divorces, buying a sports car and encountering a common speaking young woman who appears to have operated a hostess/model in Los Vegas at one point in her young life. He buys them a modern Thames view apartment and buys her jewellery and furs and with viagra attempts to create the son. He finds keeping up with her high maintenance spending a problem and her lack of interests in those cultural things which interest him. He goes to a dance club with her and feels out of place and is jealous when she dances with great sexuality with a stranger,

The threat comes from one of the regulars at the gym where he takes he shows her off. Later he spots coming out of a hotel when travelling by Taxi and then when he goes to make inquiries at the hotel he sees one of the other men from the gym also leave and say that he lives nearby. When he challenges the wife she claims she was at the Gym and that the man he saw at the hotel would vouch for her. She is pregnant and he demands a DNA test when the child is born. Their relationship is never the same after that and he arranges to meet his ex wife and with a view to reconciliation. He admits to being afraid of being alone in his old age.

His wife had attempted to commit suicide with the departure of Alfie and had been found by her daughter. She then goes to a psychic played by Pauline Collins and who is skilled at giving desperate clients the kind of information which keeps them going. In this instance she combines the information that the ex wife will meet a tall dark stranger with the suggestion that we lead many lives and that in the past the ex wife was someone like Joan of Arc!

Her daughter had given up a promising career in the contemporary art world to find ways to support her one published novel success by her husband who now depends on financial support from his mother in law for them to survive in an apartment. The wife gains employment as a personal assistant to art gallery owner Antonio Banderas who discloses that he has problems with his bipolar wife. He takes here to a Bond Street Jewellers to help buy a pair of expensive earrings which cost several thousands pounds. As relations with her husband deteriorate and the prospect of starting a family recede begins to fall in love with her employer and this nearly ignites into something when he takes her to opera after his wife cannot attend and her husband is away. He drives her home but does not take up her invitation to come with her to the flat because he appears worse for alcohol.

She takes him to view the work of her art school day’s friend played by Anna Friel and he is impressed and proposes an exhibition. She becomes more drawn to her employer and then is shock to find Anne wearing the earrings she helped purchased and the girl admits she is having an affair with him. This causes the wife great disappointment and brings the flaky marriage to breaking point.

Meanwhile her husband has taken an interest in a guitar playing neighbour across the court yard. He is disappointed when he sees her being undressed by a young man but this does not prevent him inviting the young woman to lunch on a day pouring with rain. After that they have several meetings. The girl is engaged to a Brussels based diplomat but with the wedding only days away she calls it off much to the horror of both families with guests coming from various parts of the world at great expense.

She has introduced the writer to her father who is a translator and critic. During the first part of the film he awaits the response of his publishers to his latest offering and becomes tenser because of several delays. His mood is not helped by two developments. One of his Poker playing friends has written his first novel which he gives to him to read and he realises it is far better than anything he has written and is honest enough to admit this. The other is that his mother in law says she has consulted her psychic who says he should not be disappointed and that while he may have success as a writer perhaps in another life he should consider changing occupations.

Then he learns that his friend has been killed and that another of the Poker playing friends is in a coma. He breaks into the home of his friend and steals the lap top and his notes and then submits the novel to his publishers after getting his girl friend’s father to read and give his opinion. After me moves in with the girlfriend his publishers says the new work is his best yet and they plan to give it prominence. Then learns that it was the other man who died and it is the author of the work in a coma and could well recover with time and support. He visits and his friends believe the man is flickering in eyelids in recognition. They suggest that their successful writer friend reads his latest work to the bed bound man. While the film ends, as often those of Woody Allen do, without conclusions the suggestion is that he knows he will be found out as a fraud and the new successful life he was about to touch will be taken from him.
There are two development in the life of the daughter. The first is that another friend suggests that they open an art gallery together and her mother confirms the often promised willingness to put up half the capital required as has been promised in the past. When she tells her mother even more funds are likely to be needed her mother announces that she will provide no funds on the advice of the psychic and no amount of pleading will change the mother’s mind.

Previously her mother had suggested that she ought to tell her employer of her feelings for him and this she does when they are parting as she leaves to establish the new business with her friend. He gives no indication of ever having had similar feelings for her, emphasising that she was the best PA he has ever had and wishing her well as a rival gallery owner. When she presses him that if she had disclosed her feelings before he met Anna Friel it is evident from his response that he had never been drawn to her in the same way,

It is only the rejected wife who appears to have a happy ending of a kind. When visiting friends she meets a recent widower who runs a books shop specialising in spiritualism and the occult. He is far from being a talk dark stranger short and plump but the common interests drawn them together, He has attempted to gain contact with his wife through a medium and before he feels able to begin a marital relationship they two attend a session at which the wife appears but he is unable to seek approval for the new relationship. Helena, Gemma Jones leaves in distress realising that he is still married to the dead woman. She goes into despair again although is encouraged by her psychic to believe that she will experience happiness perhaps in a later life. However she is contacted by Jonathan the bookshop owner who has found the courage to ask the question and received a positive answer. The two appear well suited for each other.

Woody Allen who is now in his 77th years is married to his technically 5th wife although he lived with Mia Farrow and his present wife is her adopted daughter with Andre Previn. He married his first wife when he was 19 and she 16. His relationship with his fourth wife is said to have commenced when she was 17 and at High School. The relationship between Mia Farrow and Allen ended when she discovered nude photos of her adopted daughter. Then aged 20. Mia also accused him of sexual interference with their adopted daughter when she was seven years of age. The charges arose during a legal custody battle where the Judge said the evidence against Allen was inconclusive.

One evening earlier in the week as I was about to go to bed and flipped the sky channels to see what was on I came across a channel called Current which announced it was closing down and was showing some of its important documentaries before doing so, There were three being shown show which I stayed up to watch. All three concerned the vulnerability of children in poor countries to exploitation by adults and by other children. One featured children in the capital of India where there number of street children on their own is disturbingly high in the tens of thousands. The programme followed the life of one boy who had run away from home and became involved with a gang where later it emerged the older leader in his early teens was sexually abusing the young members. He was a found a place at a residential school. The programme also followed the life of a young girl who lived in a slum home with her grandmother after her father died and her mother walked out. She sold flowers to help the family income and had stopped going to school because of this need.

The second programme feature a child brother in Cambodia where a charitable organisation is now attempting to combat male paedophiles with the help of a team of police who use motorbikes in plain clothes to keep surveillance and attempt to gain the evidence for prosecutions. The programme followed one man who appeared to grooming a girl on the streets and also a man who claimed to have adopted two children.

The programme goes to the Kenyan Coast where local women are used to offer tourists children from villages arranged by male pimps where for a few dollars to the family children are purchased without the parents or the children appreciating the significance of what they are doing. There was also a situation where teenage girls appeared to open to being used for money as a way of improving their position. It was all depressing and alarming. A check when writing this and it appears the channel has ended without finding out what other subjects had been covered and why the channel had now been closed. I have checked on the Internet and the station closes in the UK on Sunday. Missed are a series of 50 documentaries to see before you die and a host of other programmes on various subjects which I would have liked to have experienced. It is not clear why the channel has ended in the UK, presumably from lack of financial sponsorship.