12 December 2017

Enough Said (starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

I’m not sure why this film was recommended to me by Amazon; I don’t think I’ve heard of any of the actors before, although it fits nicely into the ‘rom com’ genre. I put ‘Enough Said’ on my wishlist after reading a few reviews, and I was given the blu-ray for my birthday earlier in the year.

Last night we wanted something light to watch, and this fit the bill nicely. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, who works as a masseuse. She is fairly amicably divorced, and close to her eighteen-year-old daughter. At a party she meets a middle-aged and somewhat overweight man, Albert (James Gandolfini), and while she feels no attraction, she quite likes him and a friendship develops.

The friendship is obviously going to lead to something more (it’s that kind of film) but it’s taken fairly slowly, with a lot of banter and some good chemistry that leads them to becoming close friends. Albert is also divorced, and also has a daughter who’s about to head off for college, so the two have quite a bit in common, as well as their shared sense of humour.

Meanwhile, Eva has also become friendly with a poet called Marianne (Catherine Keener) after meeting her at the same party, and then becoming her masseuse. Marianne is yet another divorcee, who spends a lot of time ranting about her ex-husband, whom she rather despises.

The main plot focuses on a somewhat unlikely coincidence, which would be a spoiler to reveal, and then a great deal of cowardice - or perhaps outright dishonesty - on Eva’s behalf as she doesn’t reveal something she has discovered that could drastically affect her new friendships. A side-story, never fully resolved, involves her daughter’s best friend.

There are some amusing moments in this, and the acting is believable enough, although it’s a bit of a strange film without a great deal of plot. We could relate to the trauma of seeing one’s offspring depart for university, knowing they’re moving on and becoming separate. But the complexity of relationships, and the acceptance of divorce and remarriage as ‘normal’ was a bit depressing, and some of the humour was not really to our tastes.

The film is quite fast-paced, under an hour and a half in all, and we quite liked it, though it’s not one we’d necessarily watch again. I thought the rating of 12A (PG-13 in the US) was about right; there’s no violence and nothing explicit.

However I wouldn’t want to watch it with a younger teenager. There are a lot of ‘adult’ references, and frank discussion of body parts and intimacies. There is also quite a lot of bad language; not the worst words, but still more than I’m comfortable with.

The blu-ray has an ‘extra’ containing outtakes, mostly involving one or other character laughing at inappropriate times.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

02 December 2017

Sunshine on Leith

I was staying with relatives. After an enjoyable family party, they suggested watching a DVD. From a pile of those I hadn’t seen, they suggested watching this one. None of us knew anything about it, other than that it included music from the band The Proclaimers. The front cover said it was the ‘feel-good’ film of the year in 2013, and it promised to be something a little different from the average rom-com.

‘Sunshine on Leith’ opens with some rather disturbing images of war, and I thought I might not like it… but the action quickly moves to the lives of two young soldiers (George McKay and Kevin Guthrie), returning to Edinburgh from a spell of duty in Afghanistan. One of them is in love with the other’s sister…

There are several subplots to this film, and I found it a bit hard to keep track of who was whom, as there were several characters, including large numbers of extras. There’s a new romance, an anniversary party for one of the soldiers’ parents (I never did remember which was which) and a disastrous proposal. There are several scenes set in pubs, and there’s also a traumatic side-story about an illegitimate daughter, recently discovered, which threatens to break up a happy marriage…

While the topics and settings are completely different, I was reminded more than once of the film ‘Mamma Mia’ featuring songs by Abba. It felt as though several of the scenes were set up in order to introduce a song, rather than because they added to the story - and, in classic musical style, everyone drops what they’re doing and the extras, who were hanging around drinking beer or just walking along the road, suddenly join in with well-executed choreography.

It was nicely done, and the finale - the one song we all knew - was very enjoyable. However not all the storylines were really resolved, and there were too many gut-wrenching moments for it to be a ‘feel-good’ film, as advertised. Still, it was a nice bit of escapism, worth seeing once.

The rating is PG, which I think is about right, although I doubt if it would appeal much to children. There’s a small amount of violence, nothing explicitly adult and not much implied.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

29 November 2017

I Could Never be your Woman (starring Michelle Pfeiffer)

I was staying with relatives, to help celebrate my father’s 85th birthday. After a very enjoyable day, he suggested watching a DVD in the evening. I selected a few I hadn’t seen from the large collection, and he chose ‘I could never be your woman’ since it stars one of his favourite actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer.

As with so many films I’ve seen recently, the main character, Rosie (Pfeiffer) is in her early forties, and divorced. She’s the producer of a sitcom which is becoming rather tired… and then her boss insists that she must abandon any remotely controversial storylines.

Rosie decides to introduce a new character, and struggles at first to find anyone remotely suitable. But eventually she offers a contract to Adam, an actor in his late twenties. He lifts the show somewhat, and he and Rosie find a mutual attraction, although neither is entirely comfortable about the difference in their ages.

Rosie is very close to her thirteen-year-old daughter Izzie (Saoirse Ronan), who’s going through puberty and has fallen for a boy in her class. He doesn’t seem to want to know, however. Rosie offers her daughter some advice, and I thought their scenes together were some of the best in the film.

Much of the story involves production scenes for Rosie’s TV show, and a very unpleasant PA who tries to cause trouble wherever she can. There were rather too many caricatured characters for my tastes, and an all-too-predictable storyline, brought out of the ordinary not by Pfeiffer, although she was good in her role, but by the scenes involving the young teenagers.

Bizarrely, given that the film is mostly set in the real (if somewhat soap-style) world, there are also mystical scenes with a woman whom I thought was supposed to be a guardian angel, or possibly even a voice of conscience. According to IMDB she is intended to be Mother Nature. These scenes spell out the theme of the movie, something to do with moving on and letting the younger generation fall in love and take their place in the world.

The rating is 12A (PG-13) in the US, and that seems to be to be correct. There’s nothing too explicit (although a great deal is implied) and there’s only one violent scene, which isn’t particularly traumatic. It might be of interest to younger teenagers, particularly if they enjoy films about TV production, but it’s really intended for an older audience.

Pleasant enough viewing, but it’s not a film I’d necessarily want to see again.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

19 November 2017

In her Shoes (starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette)

My relatives in the UK like to shop from wish-lists (as do I) so from time to time, I browse Amazon’s recommendations to add a few books or DVDs to my list. I’m not entirely sure why this ‘In her shoes’ was suggested to me; perhaps I had rated another film with Cameron Diaz, or perhaps it was the genre - mildly amusing light ‘rom-com’ style - that made this suggestion. In any case, the blurb sounded good, the reviews were mostly positive, so I added it. I was given it for Christmas nearly a year ago, and we finally decided to watch it last night.

Actually we had started to watch it about a month ago, on an evening when I was very tired. For some reason I found the opening sequences too confusing, and somewhat gross. We see a lot of shoes, two young women, one of them in compromising positions at an office party, then throwing up and phoning her sister, who’s in bed with someone else … hardly an auspicious opening on an evening when I wanted something light and totally undemanding.

However, last night I was more wide awake and willing to try again. I still didn’t much like the opening, but the story quickly became more interesting. Cameron Diaz’s character, Maggie, is basically a spoilt brat who can’t keep a job, seduces men at every opportunity, and even steals money from family and friends. Her older sister Rose (Toni Collette) is sensible, hard-working… and lonely. In almost every respect she is a contrast to Maggie, except that they both like shoes.

They evidently have a stormy relationship, and Rose regularly bails her sister out while trying to persuade her to look for work. But this time Maggie does something so awful that Rose severs the relationship entirely. At that point, Maggie goes to visit a long-lost relative (Shirley MacLaine) and finds herself staying in a retirement centre for senior citizens. Gradually she starts to take more responsibility - and at the same time we see Rose begin to throw off some of the shackles of responsibility, and start to live a more bohemian lifestyle.

There’s a romance involved, but it’s not the main feature of the film, and the hero (Mark Feuerstein) begins as a rather dorky guy, pushing for a date in a not particularly attractive way. The scenes at the retirement centre are wonderful; there are some very amusing scenes, and some great lines. Apparently (as we learned in one of the ‘extras’ on the DVD) the people shown are not regular extras, but the people who were actually living in the centre concerned, playing parts that suited them best. They did a wonderful job, with humour and skill.

Rated 12A (PG-13 in the US), there’s nothing too explicit but several bedroom scenes with strong implications, and some mild swearing. I can’t imagine it would be of any interest to anyone younger than about fifteen anyway.

It’s not the kind of film I’m likely to watch again in a few years (not that I do that much anyway!) nor one I’ll necessarily remember in future, but the issues related to the importance of family connections lifted it a little above the average, and it made a very enjoyable evening’s viewing.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

06 November 2017

The Intern (starring Robert de Niro)

My husband saw this film - or part of it - on a flight, and liked it so much that he put it on his wish-list. He received it a while ago as a gift, and we finally sat down to watch it. I wasn’t particularly inspired by the blurb on the back, explaining that a retired man got a job as an intern, but it turned out to be an excellent film and I’m glad I was persuaded to see it!

70-year-old Ben is the star of this film. Robert de Niro is perfect for the role, as an understated, likeable and hard-working guy. Ben has recently been widowed, and is finding time rather drags in his retirement. He is somewhat old-fashioned, and likes to have a routine for each day, but he misses the buzz of being at work. So when he sees an advert for a ‘senior’ aged intern at a clothes company, he decides to apply.

The first scenes are cleverly done, and we learn a great deal about Ben as he prepares his resume - on video camera, not on paper. Unsurprisingly he is accepted for the job, and is put to work with the work-obsessed Jules Oston, the founder of the company. It’s an ideal part for Anne Hathaway, featuring a young, idealistic and driven woman who has quite a heart hidden beneath her high-flying exterior.

The story is character-based, with Ben as catalyst for a lot of changes to different people. He is a secure, confident person who is good at spotting when things need to be done. Perhaps he’s a tad too good to be true, but it didn’t matter. I found myself warming to him more and more. I couldn’t quite forget that Jules was Anne Hathaway; she does the ‘gradually transformed strong young woman’ role very well, but it would be nice to see her in something different. However, I can’t think of anyone who would have been more suited to the role of Jules.

There’s a surprising amount of humour in the film, some of it rather suggestive. The PG-13 or 12A rating is appropriate, although younger children would probably miss most of it; there’s nothing explicit. There's no violence either, though there's some mild (and very well done) slapstick. I particularly enjoyed the excellently choreographed burglary scene later in the story.

The scenery is excellent, the houses different in their layouts, but all welcoming and pleasant to the eye. One of the extras explains that the set designer and director were very picky about this kind of thing - and it certainly works well. There’s minimal bad language, no nudity, no violence… and a satisfying ending in all respects.

Thoroughly enjoyable to watch, and one that I expect to see more than once.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews