Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Late Quartet (2012)

Rest in pace, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The American actor died in 2014. He was 46.
A Late Quartet is one of his last films, released in 2012. This movie, the only feature credit to date from director Yaron Ziberman, is definitely worth seeing.
An esteemed classical quartet is about to fall apart after 25 years together.
Cellist Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) learns he has Parkinson's disease. He knows he won't be able to play much longer. Mitchell wants the group to continue without him. He's even selected a young talent to take his place.
His imminent departure sparks all kind of troubles with the remaining three members.
Second violinist Robert Gelbart (Hoffman) sees Mitchell's demise as the time for him to assert himself. He no longer wants to be second fiddle, so to speak, behind Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir). His wife, violist Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener) isn't impressed with her husband's poor sense of timing. She's also not keen for her hubby to take the first violin chair. The group isn't the only thing that appears in danger of being wiped out.
Meanwhile, Daniel is taking more than a teacher's interest in Alexandra, the daughter of Juliette and Robert. Yikes.
Mitchell finds the prospect of leaving the group tough enough. Even worse is seeing the quartet implode.
There's much to enjoy here.
The inner workings of a classical group isn't often explored. There's plenty of drama here. Personal relationships fray. Egos must be managed. Just how much control should one person have with the group? "I miss being excited," laments Robert. He also delivers this broadside to Juliette: "Do you really love me or am I just convenient?"
The cast is great. Walken takes a lot of heat for being a bit odd, but he's very good here.
Hoffman is solid. Keener gets ample time to display her acting chops. Juliette is getting rocked from all sides - a straying husband, an ungrateful daughter and a mentor who's experiencing a serious health issue.
A cameo by Wallace Shawn (Toy Story, the princess bride) is a treat. Hey, is it just a coincidence his scene with Walken is a restaurant? Could that be a nod to one of his most famous roles in My Dinner with Andre?
And, finally, there's much to savour about a soundtrack filled with classical music. Play on and see this film.
RATING: 8/10
FUN FACTS; Daniel Lerner has come a long way. His first film credit is Iron Eagle II. Delta Force 3: The Killing Game followed a few years later. Then, he appeared in schindler's list. Much better.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Supertramp: The Story So Far (2002)

What a disappointment.

This is more concert video than a documentary of the great British group with a stable of hits including The Logical Song, Fool's Overture, Give a Little Bit and Dreamer.

Only a portion of Supertramp: The Story So Far is dedicated to telling Supertramp's story. The band goes from forming to Rodger Hodgson leaving in 1983 in 12 minutes. Things get more interesting when, after a slew of musical performances from concert dates that year, Rick Davies talks about two post-Hodgson albums, Brother, Where You Bound and Free as a Bird.

We learn very little about albums such as Crime of the Century and Crisis, What Crisis. We hear no stories of how their hits came to be. Again, this changes when Davies talks about songs such as Free as a Bird after Hodgson leaves the group.

Live takes of songs such as From Now On, Goodbye Stranger and Crazy are fine to hear. Don't expect to hear much different from the studio versions.

The disc also features four music videos, including I'm Beggin' You from Free As A Bird (Remastered). Davies shakes his head at the memory of the song being a dance hit. Go figure.

The Story so Far carries a 1990 copyright. Then, Davies suggests the band will get back together. They did - for 1997's Some Things Never Change by EMI International.

Supertramp deserves as a better documentary than this. Will we ever get to see one?

RATING: 6/10

The History Boys (2006)

This film went from OK to lousy in the last 15 minutes.

Its depiction of a teacher, Hector (Richard Griffiths) who sexually assaults his students, is treated as a joke. Why?

To make things worse, a student suggests a sexual encounter with a teacher as a way of saying thank you. Why?

Take a pass on The History Boys.

SAD FACT: Griffiths was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for best lead actor.

RATING: 3/10