28 September 2014

The Invention of Lying (starring Ricky Gervais)

I doubt if I would have considered watching this film, as the reviews are very mixed. However our twenty-something son had bought a second-hand blu-ray after seeing it somewhere else, and suggested we watch it as a family. He said it was ‘interesting’ and ‘different’, and he wanted to know what we would think.

‘The Invention of Lying’ is set in a world where everybody tells the truth. All the time. Some genetic quirk means that nobody is capable of telling a lie - thus everybody is entirely trustworthy. An interesting premise, and one that leads to some mildly amusing scenarios as people greet each other in ways that seem quite rude, yet nobody takes offence. There’s a bit of a fine line between blurting out everything as one sees it, and keeping quiet about some truth, which is not really explored, but the point was well made.

Ricky Gervais plays the main part, that of the screenwriter Mark. He’s a bit short and dumpy, and takes himself rather too seriously. Screenwriting in this world, of course, simply consists of the re-telling of history - fiction, like lying, is an unknown concept. And Mark has been allocated such a dull period of history that he ends up losing his job.

Unsurprisingly there is also a romance; Mark is attracted to Anna (Jennifer Garner) who agrees to go out on a date with him for a friend’s sake. She lets him know that she is not interested in him but then finds that she quite enjoys her evening.

Then, when Mark is at rock bottom, about to be evicted from his flat, something dramatic goes on in his mind - we see the cogs whirring - and he tells the first lie. And gets away with it, because nobody else can even imagine that he might not be telling the truth. After the first time he finds that he can make things up and mislead people as much as he wishes; the only thing he can’t convinced anyone about is that he’s saying things that ‘aren’t’. There’s no word in this world for lies, or even for truth.

All of which is light-hearted fun, and quite thought-provoking, then suddenly the movie alters to be propaganda for atheism. It’s cleverly done, subtly but with the same kind of satirical humour, but is rather a sneaky way of expressing one’s message in what is supposed to be entertainment.

It’s nicely done; the characters are rather exaggerated, but that doesn’t matter much. We were a bit shocked to learn that the rating is only 12A or PG-13; while there’s no violence, and only a few instances of bad language, there are several sexual references - some very direct - which should surely have made this at least a 15.

I doubt if it would be of any interest to younger teenagers, but parents should be aware of the content - the IMDB site has a good parental advisory - if watching it with children around.

Note that the links above are to the DVD versions of this film; blu-rays are also available, but rather more expensive.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews

07 September 2014

Morning Glory (starring Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford)

Always on the lookout for a new DVD to watch, I browsed through Amazon’s recommendations some months ago, and liked the look of this one. I put it on my wishlist, and was given it for a recent birthday. I watched it with my husband and one of our adult sons, and we all enjoyed it very much.

Rachel McAdams stars as the energetic Becky, who works too many hours for a morning television show in the US. Her workaholic tendencies are clear, and her colleagues are convinced that she will be promoted. It thus comes as a huge shock when she learns that she has actually been fired. Desperate for a job - any job - she leaps at the chance of directing another morning show called Daybreak with another TV station. It's a show which has been struggling in the ratings and may well be axed.

Becky certainly provides a breath of fresh air as she attempts to sort out the many problems and questions that the staff of Daybreak are having, and decides as one of her first actions to fire one particularly obnoxious news anchor. This means that she’s left with just one anchor - Diane Keaton is brilliant as the loyal but cynical Colleen - so she decides to recruit an experienced (but obnoxious) former newsreader. Harrison Ford is a wonderfully grumpy curmudgeon playing a part very different from his usual roles.

It’s all slightly predictable, I suppose; Becky naturally falls in love but makes a hash of it at first; she tries some experiments which have mixed results, and the grumpy anchor finds himself thawing against his better judgement. These are not spoilers as they are pretty much inevitable. There are some humorous situations although I would not call this a ‘comedy’ as such; the busy newsroom filled with equipment went right over my head, but appealed to my husband who has worked in similar situations.

The romance, too is not a huge part of the plot despite it being billed as a rom-com. I do wish the couple hadn’t been seen going to bed together; it seems to be a requirement for modern movies, although it was tastefully done with no nudity and nothing particularly explicit. There’s some bad language, too, which really wasn't necessary; I would have rated this as 15 myself but the censors chose a more liberal 12. I recommend that parents check the advisories at the iMDB website before watching this with young teens, although many will, no doubt, have seen far worse.

That aside, we thought this film was extremely well done, and it made an enjoyable evening’s entertainment for us all. The characters are nicely eccentric, and it’s a 'feel-good' kind of story overall. Definitely recommended to adults and older teens who like this kind of thing, particularly to anyone who has worked in the television industry.

The movie length is 103 minutes, and there are subtitles available in a few European languages. No extras, although there’s the option to turn on a commentary (in English).

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews

02 September 2014

The Vow (starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum)

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are a young married couple who are still very much in love. Leo runs a recording studio, Paige is a talented sculptress. Then a horrible accident at the end of the first scene leaves Paige with the past five years of her memory completely missing; she does not recognise her husband, and is surprised to find that she is no longer engaged to someone else.

With several flashbacks, we see what Leo and Paige’s life has been like - how they first met, what happened when they got married - and these intersperse with her physical recovery from the accident with her parents getting more and more involved.

It’s an intriguing premise, one which I would have thought was a bit unrealistic, but for the fact that this story is quite closely based on a real incident. The brain, as the doctors mention, is unpredictable - so apparently this kind of thing might potentially happen. It could have been rather maudlin but this was well made, paced exactly right in our opinion, with excellent acting from the main characters and a little humour to lighten the underlying plot. Paige’s parents were perhaps caricatured to some extent, but that didn’t matter; most of the other people involved had minor roles and I didn't even try to keep track of them.

Leo is determined to help Paige regain her memory; the film looks at the question of whether, under different circumstances, people would fall in love all over again if they had the opportunity. The vows they wrote and made at their wedding are mentioned more than once, and Leo's unselfish unconditional love for his wife is extremely moving. We found the film quite emotionally draining, perhaps because we knew that it was a true story (but did not know how it would end).

The rating is 12A or PG-13, and that seemed about right to me; I doubt if anyone younger than about 15 would be interested in this film, but it’s not inappropriate for slightly younger children. The accident at the start is quite shocking although there's nothing gory shown. Other than that, there’s occasional swearing, mostly minor, and only one (rear) nude shot.

Definitely recommended, to men as well as women.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews