The last three Saturday evenings have been rare opportunities when I have been at home to catch up on DVD's that I've bought. Hence, I've finished season five of the West Wing, started Firefly and caught three films - Mean Creek, The Remains of the Day and Casino Royale (2006).
Normally if I see a DVD cover which is emblazoned with praise for a film it will immediately put me off. After all if a film is that good why does it need to sell itself so heavily? Mean Creek though was a bargain at £3 and what I'd remembered from the trailer around the time of its release, it looked as it if might be quite good. I wasn't disappointed.
This is a clever film, with an excellent young cast and a powerful message. Rory Culkin is ostensibly the lead, Sam, who is being bullied by the at first very unlikeable but tragically misunderstood George (Josh Peck). Sam's brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) decides that enough is enough and together with the troubled Marty, a strikingly good Scott Mechlowicz, they decide to teach George a lesson. So, the three boys along with Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) convince George to come with them on a boat trip to celebrate Sam's birthday. Once out on the boat they have planned a cruel and humiliating revenge on George however the plans rapidly spin out of control with terrible consequences. The boys then have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this is where the film takes an ugly and tragic turn. Its a downbeat ending, one where there is no easy answers or immediate moral redemption. All these young actors are exceptional and the story is well written and provides much food for thought.
The Remains of the Day
Another film with a downbeat ending and one that left me sobbing into my tissues by the end, the hopeless sentimentalist that I am. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, a butler in a gorgeous looking mansion, servant to Lord Darlington (James Fox) who falls inexorably in love with Emma Thompson's housekeeper (Miss Kenton). But this being a very British film with stiff upper lips all round, not least from Hopkins, it is all about repressed and unrequited love. Not a lot happens but it is a sumptuous study of power and the aristocracy with some political intrigue thrown in for good measure. At its heart though is the restrained relationship between Hopkins and Thompson, which is told in flashback and is probably the most tragic love affair since Brief Encounter. The final farewell is heartbreaking and what adds extraordinary potency and pathos to this moment, is the repressed emotions, the throwing away of happiness to maintain a very English commitment to doing what is 'right and proper.'
Casino Royale (2006)
I could not have a chosen a film more opposite in emotional terms to The Remains of the Day. This is a film that left me feeling as emotionally detached as Daniel Craig's Bond, which makes the frankly bizarre after-thought falling in love with Vesper Lynde at the end of the film implausible. But then I thought the whole film was implausible unless considered only as a slice of escapist fantasy. Alternatively, was it just one long commercial? At times I felt so as yet again another close up shot of that Sony Ericsson mobile or Virgin (was that a strange cameo from Richard Branson I saw?), Google, Sony (TV's and DVD's this time), Ford, Airbus etc. It was a like a gorgeously shot advert with bits of excitement and action in between. The dialogue was not as clever as it thought it was and while I smiled a couple of times, more often than not it was at the crassness of it all rather than irony. And what was it all about? The plot was convoluted and didn't seem to join up in the middle and there was some heavy handed exposition from Judi Dench's M along the way, which tried to make sense of it all. Probably I was expecting too much and I guess I should have disengaged brain before watching. One thing I did notice was some of the Italian locations - parts were filmed around Lake Como and looked remarkably similar to the place where Anakin & Padme stumbled into love on Naboo in Attack of the Clones!