Monday, 31 May 2021

Stowaway (2021)

This was an interesting idea and film created by Joe Penna (Arctic) which I watched with thoughts of the excellent 'The Martian' as we considered Mars! Unlike the latter, we never actually see Mars the planet in this outing but rather the drama is all collected within the five month journey trying to get there.

There's a crew of three heading for Mars, sometime in the future (clearly), are going about their business when suddenly a fourth person falls out of the ceiling, unconscious. When he comes round, he has no recollection of what happened and how he was there, but he was a part of the ground-crew working on the ship before take-off. During his fall, he not only breaks the arm of the Commander of the mission but also knackers one of the oxygen backup supplies.

We get to know the crew members - Marina, David and Zoe as they talk about a solution to the problem of Michael's appearance and the impact on their now depleted oxygen supply. Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Knives Out, Unlocked), Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) share their space and resources for the time being with Shamier Anderson (Goliath) playing Michael. As you might imagine, it's all fairly claustrophobic and (relatively) low-budget as the whole film is shot in and around the craft.

This is the point at which they decide, having tried really hard to work out various solutions, that if they all four stay on the ship, they will all die before they get to Mars. They can't go back, either. So the big moral question is posed about what they're going to do. If there's three of them, they will survive. The tension begins to rise as the dilemma throws itself around between them which all four of the actors approach in a convincing manner.

There's more tension in store for the audience as there's a critical space-walk which needs to be executed with the stakes growing as a solar-storm approaches. It's all anxiety for the characters, stress for the audience and at one or two points I was on the edge of my seat!

It's a very well shot film, thoughtful and considered, whilst also taking in convincing views of space, the planets and the out/inside of their craft and associated equipment. Well worth a look and available now on Netflix UK.

How It Ends (2018)

I really enjoyed this film about some sort of apocalyptic event (which is never really explained). It gives an insight into what it might be like for ordinary people if something big was going on, but all channels of communication were pretty much down so actually, nobody knows or can be told what's going on. Directed by David M Rosenthal it's an interesting sideways view of how it could be.

Theo James plays Will who is the partner of Sam and they live in Seattle. Sam is pregnant and Sam's dad doesn't much like Will. There's a anxious opening when Will visits her parents while on a business trip to Chicago and this tension sets the scene for what's to come between the two main leads. Sam's dad Tom is played by Forest Whitaker. He's an ex-military man and clearly no man is going to be good enough for his daughter, particularly when he is instrumental in resettling her thousands of miles away from her parents.

Whilst in Chicago, the event happens. They soon lose communication with each other and so proud dad and loving partner head off by road to 'rescue' Sam, even though they can't know where she is by then, or even if she is alive. The film then turns into a road-trip with the two of them in the car trekking across distance and the focus of the film is survival of this trip (or not) and the mini-adventures they get into along the way.

There are lots of these adventures of course, each an incident of their own, as they come across situations and people who are equally lost and numb, others beginning to make provision and get organised but many just disorientated and often dead. As far as they all know this could be the end of the world - How It Ends, maybe. Much of the film though is about the changing relationship, learning and evolution of the relationship between the two men. How they start off with that anxiety I mentioned, then end up in a position of mutual reliance in order to survive and reach the girl they both love.

Interesting visually with harrowing landscapes sets which are convincing and they got the pacing of the story just right. The acting by the two leads is convincing, and indeed those around them. Anyway, it's on Netflix UK just now and I think it's well worth a look.

Spoiler alert: There isn't really a clean ending to the film. This has got considerable bad press from those expecting every film to have a neat Hollywood ending tied up with bows, but I think that this reflects the nature of what is going on and helps to place the audience into the shoes of the characters facing this thing, whatever it is. It also leaves it open for some bright spark to make a sequel, I guess! I dread to think how people these days would cope with films like Hitchcock's The Birds!

Saturday, 29 May 2021

An Imperfect Murder

I don't think I'm alone in not quite being able to work out what I think about this 2017 short film which leaps between arthouse, murder/mystery, psychological thriller and insightful character study. It's all of those and more - or less, if you go by general reception of this James Tobac offering.

James Tobac, the writer, actor, director, producer has been previously involved with works such as Bugsy, Fingers and even appearing in Woody Allen's Alice. Here, he tries something different it seems. A slightly removed reality centred around an actress who is approached by her ex-boyfriend and in a struggle, accidentally kills him. Concluding that there's no way for her except to cover it up, she disposes of the body and tries to move on.

The audience isn't really very sure about whether or not the above is true, however, as she meanders between reality and the self-indulgence surrounding a book that she is writing which seems, half the time to be about the topic of this film and story. It's a bit complicated in terms of what's what, so much better really to focus on other stuff on offer here.

The central performances of the key characters are beautifully executed, almost inside vignettes with a tad more glue than expected. Sienna Miller (Layer Cake) takes the lead as Vera as others come and go amidst various scenes which generally drill deeply into her life and situation. Alec Baldwin turns up as a policeman for a couple of scenes, trying to quiz her about the alleged incident. Tobac himself also throws himself into the mix for a spell before the most interesting scene arrives involving the late Charles Grodin.

Grodin plays her grandfather who is suffering from confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness and anxiety as an ageing man. Vera sits with him and her mother, his daughter, over a simple meal. The scene takes ten minutes out of the running time and is worth seeing in isolation, for those who can't be bothered with the arty-farty content of the rest of it. Grodin portrays the difficulties facing the old man in a quite frightening way and Miller supports with patience and understanding. It's a film within a film and certainly eye-opening.

The rest of it is slow, dialogue-based mainly but beautifully shot with well considered camerawork, angles, lighting and focus in pretty much a closed apartment set. It feels like it could have been written for the stage, in this respect, but Tobac has made the most of the interior keeping it visually interesting throughout.

The star of the show though seems to be the music as it sweeps through classical music, so powerfully delivered in all the right places, peppered also with choice modern cuts too. It is an attempt at an arty piece of work which, unlike most folk out there it seems, I think has been pulled off. It's interesting and different. As a fan of arthouse, I forgive the cries of pretentiousness from critics and prefer to be open-minded, trying to soak up the show looking for positive attributes. There's enough here for me in that regard, but you may not think so. It's only 70 minutes, so why not try!

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Being a Human Person (and About Endlessness)

The portrait of a very interesting man is presented here as a documentary but released as a film, shot during the making of his last film (though he has now started working on another)! It's an odd concept but I was keen to see it as I had previously followed the work of Swedish director, storyteller and filmmaker Roy Andersson and likened it to a cross between Terry Gilliam and Salvador Dali!

The 'final' film and work of Andersson is called About Endlessness and is his usual crossover between the bizarre, funny, sad and reflective but more importantly empathetic view of ordinary people facing ordinary problems and the absurdness of life and existence. It's highly stylised as it was in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, You, The Living and Songs from the Second Floor amongst many other works throughout his career.

Watch any one of these films and you'll get the style and art, attention to detail and approach straight away. You'll wonder what on earth is going on, what it's about, what it means and what the artist is trying to portray. It's a cranial journey which is fun and very interesting to pursue. The film is mainly a bunch of somewhat thematically related vignettes (as are many of the others) which the supporting documentary, Being a Human Person, here helps to explain via the medium of the mind of the man himself!

He clearly wanted to make a film about himself as he fully intended that this film would be his swan song (even if he changed his mind afterwards)! I would suggest watching the film About Endlessness first so you can reference the scenes and understand first-hand what is being spoken about when you see the documentary. I'm not usually one to go for documentaries - I'm really not. I would much rather watch the film than a 'making of' but this is different because it's, as I said at the outset, much more than just that - and much more a portrait of the 75 year old man who has spent his life creating.

Insights into how he has lived his life, how he lives full-time in his studio, how he spends a month with unknown actors (who often feel like they are living furniture) and his crew creating each of the sets needed in his film/s inside the studio (there is no reference anywhere to location sets) and how, on a personal level, he has struggled with alcohol use. This has had an impact on those around him, particularly the crew he employs who are clearly very loyal towards him and care about him as a person deeply. The documentary doesn't dwell on that but it's an interesting part of his life. It actually paints a picture of the man as jolly, cheerful, generous and friendly. The kind of person with a boozers' conk who you only have to look at, in order to smile. Think Tommy Cooper!

It's also interesting on a technical level to see how the team have cooked up studio trickery (often very manual) to execute shots in the films which you would really think were genuinely on location, in a surreal kind of way! This also explains why the camera in the sets is placed in position and left there mostly. It's an odd effect because the sets are not locational and via his methods, they look clinical with little buzz of ordinary life. Surreal. Every item and person is placed purposely. Like a painting. A drawing. It's hard to explain - have a look! We're taken on a tour of the studio and find out how that technique ensures that false streets and buildings can look as they do without digital or technical trickery. Old fashioned painted film sets. Really very interesting.

The work of Roy Andersson is clearly an acquired taste. It's very arty-farty but also funny and challenging for the audience. During the documentary when quizzed by him after a viewing, some people found the film to be funny and he expressed surprise, as he was going for something else. Interpretation is the key here and that is, of course, true of most art-forms. In that respect too, he has achieved.

I really enjoy all of these films and recommend them highly, as I do this documentary and insight into the man. They tend to come round on Film4 or late-night BBC2 - or you can of course buy the DVDs. Interesting, different and beautifully presented.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Golden Exits (2017)

A film comes along sometimes which leaves you wondering why on earth the filmmakers bothered making it. Cutting straight to the chase here, this is one of those. Dull, boring, overlong, uninteresting, dour, depressing and dull (a second time). I really tried to find some redeeming factor in the outing, but can only find my personal desire to watch the film's star - whatever she's in!

Yes, the far-too-cute Emily Browning (Kill the King, Legend, Sucker Punch) will win me over every time - but even she, in this as Naomi, adds to the general glumness of what is going on and apparent pointlessness of the effort. She plays a girl from Australia visiting New York to refresh after a string of failed infatuations painted up as relationships. She gets a job working with an archivist in a small and claustrophobic office with a chap who, like all the other characters, reflect the futility of existence.

Mostly musician Adam Horovitz plays this guy but really should have stuck with music. He is married to a woman who doesn't trust him to keep his hands off Naomi as their relationship is clearly imploding. She has a sister who is bitter and twisted, willing to stick the knife in where she can, to anyone. There's a young couple in the mix who run a music studio, she not trusting him to keep his hands off Naomi either because of previous form.

Everyone is bitter and twisted, pretty glum and nasty to each other that you wonder why any of them stay together. Glimmers of hope evolve as some of the characters start to recognise that their desires and potential behaviours are damaging to not only themselves but also their situation and those around them or who depend on them.

The film seems to want to very much be a Woody Allen style New York slice-of-life but it misses on pretty much every point. There's no comedy, no one-liners, nothing to engage the audience with the characters, no sharp wit, no snappy dialogue - just the dour side of a bunch of people who are dysfunctional with an object of desire thrown into the mix. Lust for the men and jealousy of her youth and beauty for the women. Mostly. All of whom end up really wishing that she'd never turned up in the first place, even though they all know they're part of a downward spiral of misery, regret and self-harm.

It's not that it's short of acting talent with Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman and Chloë Sevigny making up the cast - and there are glimpses of what could have been, given a decent story and good script. What is on offer here couldn't really light up any room, whatever the wattage of the bulb or how small the room! There's lots of hand-held camerawork going on and it often feels like a very amateur slice of filmmaking.

It really is a depressing viewing, so I wouldn't recommend it unless, like me, you just have to watch the star! There's only so much reality orientation one can take and this is a step too far. Avoid.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Mother (2009)

More Korean cinema for me and this time I delve back to 2009 and one of Bong Joon Ho's earlier films called Mother. As we all know he went on to do loads more, including the amazing Parasite, Okja and Snowpiercer too.

This one tells the complicated tale of a mother desperate to get her intellectually impaired son out of jail after he has been convicted of a young girl's murder with the lightest of evidence collected by a police team with somewhere between little and no experience of such grizzly crimes.

The very same police have no interest in her appeals for further investigation so she, along with one of her son's pals, start playing amateur detective to uncover the events of the night in question themselves. The mood of the film starts off as a light one, regardless of the subject matter and almost verges on the comic at times.

The son and mother are presented as funny characters making their way through life, she trying to protect him from people abusing him because of his impairment whilst making money through illegal acupuncture and he, trying to find a way to get into bed with a girl and at the same time work out if his aforementioned friend is actually his friend or not!

In actual fact, not a huge amount more happens for the first hour. It takes a long time to get going and there is a lot of background and build-up indulgence. However, you need to keep your eyes peeled throughout this time as there are plenty of hooks into the story, surprises and dark nature later on. So keep on your toes!

Dark it gets, too. There were three or four quite startling and eye-opening events which I really didn't see coming and plenty of twists and turns (particularly) in the second half as things gets less comic, grizzly, suspenseful and thrilling. Mother is completely convinced about her son being innocent and is prepared to do pretty much anything, surprising herself at times, in order to clear his name and get him out of jail.

The main players are all excellent in their roles, but particularly Hye-ja Kim in the title role and Won Bin as the son. Bong Joon Ho directs excellently keeping the audience on their toes, unfolding the tale as a master storyteller with the aforementioned hooks making up the clever plot twists and insights - whilst paying attention to gloriously observed cinematography. The visuals and camerawork are a delight throughout and I loved the music, selected a lot of the time as a single classical guitar, sometimes supported by orchestral tones.

I won't say any more than this really as I don't want to spoil things, but if you enjoyed the intricate plot detail of Parasite you will love this one too - but don't switch off after 45 minutes thinking that it's a bit dull and going nowhere. Just pay attention as the devil is in the detail! Highly recommended.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Motorola's Ready For

Yes, really - that's what it's called. Imaginative, eh! It is, of course, Motorola's shot at keeping up with Samsung's DeX. I have been able to start playing with this because my Motorola Edge+ got the Android 11 OS update last week, which includes this functionality.

Be aware that the only two handsets that support this at the moment are this Edge+ (not even the non-plus Edge) and the newly released G100. More will be along apparently, but if they're going to approach it in the same way as Samsung have done, it won't be a low-end addition - rather flagship or at least high-mid range. Who knows, though - maybe Moto will lead the way in making this low-end in time!

So, what is it then? The idea is that you use your phone as your computer. Microsoft started this ball rolling with Continuum some years back now, Huawei have a version of it available for some of their handsets, Samsung have led the way but now we have this new player. Your device must support HDMI-Out functionality and have access to the software (in this case Ready For by Motorola) in order to create the cabled link to the other gear involved.

I tested this here with my TV and also a stand-alone monitor with bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You plug in a USB-C to HDMI cable between your monitor/TV and the phone and then pair up the keyboard and mouse to the phone (remember that phone remains the brain here) and fire up the software - or in this case, it fires up itself, offering a 'dashboard' of four big buttons to choose what 'group' of services you might want to use.

Mobile Desktop is the interesting one of course for productivity and this fires up the 'windows' type environment which allows you to launch any apps that are present on the phone which then pop up in a 'window' and can be resized. Now, be clear here that some Android Apps don't like being resized into 'landscape' orientation so they just won't. You either have to just use them in 'portrait' (like on the phone) or make them 'landscape' but accept that they will look as daft, often, as they do 'sideways' on an Android Tablet. Android wasn't designed, generally, for landscape!

Each of these apps can then be controlled on the bigger screen, jumped between, tiled, resized, whatever you like really - just like a Microsoft Windows environment. The Notifications offers you a quick always-present item to turn your phone into a trackpad (just like DeX) and if employed, can be used as just that - if you have no mouse. Single tap to locate, double tap for execute, swipe to move cursor, two-finger swipes to scroll, two-finger press for context-menu, pinch to resize photos and so on. Just like most hardware trackpads.

If you don't want to use the phone as a trackpad you can leave it in full-screen mode (or let it time out) but when you want to get back in, there's a floating icon which is long-pressed for that 'Choose an Experience' screen, so back to base. Bluetooth keyboard works as expected, as it would directly with the phone for typing text and searching.

Across the 'dock' at the bottom of the screen there's an App Drawer button, Home, Recents and Search on the left, then an array of 'control panel' stuff on the right - information and (generally) links to the Settings inside the phone - and on the far-right, an echo of the Notifications panel on the phone. The phone can be controlled in many ways from this setup including 'phone' and SMS via Messages. Uses the phone's speaker (unless your monitor has this functionality).

The other 'choose an experience' buttons are just shortcuts to the phone's system which isolates specific apps-per-genre. So if you call up Game then it lists the installed games, TV and it lists any services apps you might have installed (like Netflix, iPlayer) and Video Chat similarly any apps in that group (Skype, Duo). You can then click on each of the services to get a full-screen version of each app without having to 'window' via the Desktop. I think from memory this is a stage missing in the DeX experience, but it really isn't a big deal.

Turning to the TV, these big buttons might be a little more useful as you can obviously see them from further away and select with the 'trackpad' on the phone's screen. I was running films and video from my phone on the TV and the sound was routed through both my Roku Streambar and the phone. The latter can be hooked up with bluetooth so headphones can be used but beware of lip-sync issues and choose your app/bluetooth gear wisely! You can also call up gaming or Video Chat apps in the same way but unless your TV has a camera, it'll obviously use the camera on the phone. I didn't have a bluetooth gaming controller to test here but I'm reliably informed that this works well.

The 12GB RAM they stuffed into the Edge+ certainly enables switching between and running multiple tasks fluidly and provides for a powerful interface supported by the SnapDragon 865 chipset in the engine-room. The whole system is very much like DeX, which Moto have clearly based their model on. And that's not a bad thing - as DeX works very well for those who need it.

Who are those people? Well, we often spoken about this - envisaging the businessperson away from home in a hotel room trying to be productive using a folding bluetooth keyboard and the room's TV. Or people who might share communal resources but everyone has their own 'computer' - i.e. their phone - and can take turns in using a big screen for viewing media or playing games. Whichever way you look at it, it seems like a niche thing but as time goes on the smarter our phones get, the more RAM and storage they have, the more likely it is that many more people will indeed use their phone as their only 'computer' and make use of hot-desking at work, facilities in that hotel room or presenting information to customers and so forth.

I'm not sure that we're there yet and all this feels, frankly, like a bit of a playground for nerds and geeks, but it is certainly great to see another OEM getting on-board with the idea and making it work so fluidly. Anyway, there's a quick overview of initial findings from first play. Please do feel free to ask questions and I'll try and fill in the gaps as I learn. In the meantime, there's a good video on YouTube demonstrating much of this if you'd like to take a look by Tim Schofield.

Poetry [Shi] (2010)

More Korean cinema for me and this time a film about a 66-year old woman with a growing Alzheimer's problem. We've seen a few of these themes coming through in recent times with Anthony Hopkins in The Father and before that Julianne Moore in Still Alice to name but two. There's a growing awareness of the way in which this disease impacts the lives of people and this one does similar, though unlike others, not as a primary thread.

This film was created by writer/director Chang-dong Lee (or Lee Chang Dong if you prefer) who was also responsible for Burning, which I really didn't get, I'm afraid, but I was hoping for more from this gentle tale from back in 2010. It's a simple tale in some ways but somewhat complex in others and possibly teaches some us about some of the cultural norms in Korea in terms of how families deal with crisis and find solutions.

The hugely experienced Jeong-hie Yun has been working in a plethora of films since 1967. She plays Yang Mi-ja, the grandmother of a rude, self-centred teenaged boy and they live in the same house, making ends meet. She works part-time as a maid to a wealthy but disabled man whilst the grandson loafs about between school and gaming activities on computers/consoles with his mates. There's a constant irritation between them, thrown together as his mum, her daughter, has moved off to another city for work and they hardly see her.

In amongst all this, she is diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's Disease. She has started forgetting words so seeks medical help. Meanwhile, the boy and his mates are accused of raping a girl at school, who has subsequently taken her own life because of the event. The boys own up to the crime but it seems that in this culture it can be hushed up by the school and parents of the gang members by offering an amount of money to the mother of the dead girl and keeping it away from the police, thereby not ruining the prospects of several lads and their family reputations. The cultural differences to which I referred earlier. Or maybe not - this may well be all a fictional account and the good people of Korea being as shocked as the rest of us that this could happen this way.

In 2010 the amounts involved were about £3,000 each, giving the grieving family about £20,000. So the guardians get together to form a kind of committee to sort it out. Yang Mi-ja has not got £3,000 but she remains as eager as the rest of the guardians to brush this all under the carpet so decides on a radical action in order to secure the money.

Throughout these events and proceedings, Yang Mi-ja has decided to attend a Poetry class so as to learn how to write poems, which forms the artistic backdrop and counter-tale to the other hectic and difficult issues. She attends class twice a week and indulges in much gazing off into fields, trees and apples in the process of considering more meaning and connection with life and the earth.

She starts to visit the places where the girl who killed herself spent time, including the place she did the deed. It doesn't get too arty-farty, but does nicely project the contrast between the approaches of the main characters to the more important subject matter. The Alzheimer's storyline takes very much second fiddle to much else by this stage and there's no prizes for guessing that the finale of the film is the reading out of her reflective poem and offers us a vision of the fateful day when the abused girl jumped from the bridge.

So, much better than Burning, in my view, but yes an artistic, slow and thoughtful story which is very well filmed, produced and observed. The players all do a fine job - I just wish I knew them better so as to be able to give them more credit. My education continues! Grab it via a streaming service or cheap DVD outlet.

Burning [Beoning] 2018

Do you ever watch a well-reviewed and broadly-awarded film and think to yourself that you could have written a more interesting story - and probably shot it in a better way?!

Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighbourhood, who asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.

Director Chang-dong Lee bring us this very strange Korean film which I really miss the point with, sadly. I'm really OK with arthouse - and there has been some great far-east examples of that - I lived a decade of my life in the cinema consuming the European variety! But this is just off-the-wall odd.

I'm sure I'm missing so many points being made here and if you read other people's reviews in IMDb for example, it's clear that people are seeing all sorts of deep meanings - but for me, it's just a boring mess pretentiously attempting to emulate the artform with slow pointless setups and scenes over nearly two and a half hours!

Ah-in Yoo playing the lead is lethargic and unresponsive - so much so I wonder if he's in a coma half the time, Steven Yeun (Okja, I Origins, Minari) seems to be the only more-famous actor on show for his smaller part here as the fruit-loop and virtual unknown Jong-seo Jun plays the wayward loner girl looking for something to cling onto - in more ways than one.

Maybe you'll do better than I did trying to get something out of this film if you could be bothered, but I wouldn't bank on it. Sometimes it meandered towards glimpses of excellent camerawork and photography with the landscape, but most of the time not!

The Housemaid [Hanyo] (1960)

I've been getting back to Korean cinema releases and this one caught my eye from way back in 1960. Directed by the late and very experienced Ki-young Kim. I like what I see here and will certainly be looking out for more from the back-catalogue of films that he has written, produced and directed in Korea such as Goryeojang (1963), A Defiance of Teenager (1959) and The Asphalt Pavement (1964).

This film was shot in black and white and I was able to see a restored version of it as it seems that the original was rather the worse for wear! It was remade in 2010 by Sang-soo Im, so I'd really like to try and get hold of a copy of that to compare with this work.

The story is a thriller set in 1960's Korea and is centred around a Mr Kim who is a music teacher employed by a factory in order to provide cultural, educational and recreational activities for the workers. Seems like that was a thing in that culture, at least back then if not now. He received a letter from one of the student/employees declaring her love for him even though knowing that he was married with two children. He reports the matter to the authorities and the girl is suspended for 3 days under company rules. She is so upset by all this that she goes off and kills herself.

Turns out that it wasn't her after all but one of our main players, Miss Cho, using her friend as a go-between. She works her way into Mr Kim's household under the 'guise of paying him for piano lessons, the money for which the family really need. Mrs Kim is worn out making ends meet and eventually collapses. They decide to take on a maid to help out and ask Miss Cho if she knows anyone. She drums up a young apprentice, Myung-Sook, from the factory looking for a better opportunity and she duly moves in.

This is where the fun begins because Myung-Sook is a bit of a fruit-loop and it seems will do pretty much anything to get what she wants and to better herself. She eventually seduces Mr Kim and gets pregnant. The pragmatic Mrs Kim when she finds out tries to smooth things over but eventually realises that diplomacy ain't going to work and things take a turn for the sinister. The main players at this point, including the two children start to behave in shocking ways to fix the problem and to fuel their desires for different outcomes. It turns very Hitchockian all of a sudden and there are chills and thrills aplenty!

The acting by all parties is a bit wooden by today's standards but the content of the story and the way in which the thrills and chills are delivered in the atmospheric black and white often made the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. I can only imagine that the cinema-going audience of the day were on the edge of their seats, wide-eyed, wondering what on earth was coming next! It's not gory or violent - in fact much of the 'action' is perceived and off-camera, but it had that Hitchcock element of suspense and terror lurking around most of the time.

I really enjoyed this (in fact it was fabulous) and would highly recommend it, so keep an eye open for it on one of the film streaming channels if you don't want to track down a DVD. You won't be disappointed as long as you remember when and where it was made and the cultural background present.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Minari

Minari is a slow and gentle Lee Isaac Chung film from 2020 about a Korean family who head to the USA in the 70's. We pick up the story ten years on, in the 80's. They arrived in the 70's with grand ideas of a free and prosperous life but soon came down to earth when they work day and night sexing chickens.

Dad was not satisfied with this and so hatched(!) a plan to 'better' their situation by moving to the countryside, taking a loan to buy some land and start farming. Things didn't turn out as rosily as they thought though as they ended up with a Static Mobile Home 😎 and still work for someone else sexing chickens whilst he tries to build the farm.

They have two kids, one of which is sick with a heart condition and in order to help things financially they get grandma over from Korea to live with them. Tensions rise between the couple as things don't work out as planned and difficulties of their situation (along with various catastrophes) cause much bickering.

Slow and gentle it is until the finale when some stuff happens. It plods along whilst the main thing on offer is, to be fair, the interesting cultural observations surrounding the family and immigrant workers to the USA back in that era. There's mix of Korean and English as the kids are fluent in English, grandma not at all and mum and dad part/part. So there are subtitles of course when it is not spoken English.

The five leads play their parts incredibly well, Steven Yeun (Okja, I Origins) particularly as he displays the anxiety brought about by the situation and resolve to hold the family together against all the stuff going wrong! He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The two kids are terrific in their roles, especially the little boy and grandma too, the very experienced Yuh-Jung Youn.

I'd suggest you give it a look but don't expect car chases, torture scenes or Bruce Willis popping up with a gun! It's a very different Sunday afternoon film which I just noticed was produced by Brad Pitt. Not sure what that was about. He obviously believed in the project!

PodHubUK Podcasts for April 2021

 ...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!


Whatever Works
Episode 134 - Vornado Tornado!
Friday 2nd April
Join Aidan Bell and I once again as we take another fortnightly look at Whatever Works for us and you! Loads of stuff as usual from Lemon Wafers to comfy foot-rests, we take a Solo trip to Iceland before skipping back to lavish the Louvre with laudits!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 3rd April
Steve and I are back again even in this holiday-littered weekend in the UK to bring you our thoughts on all things mobile phone. Yes, Xiaomi goes a-foldin' whilst Sony trebles-up and Lineage goes Eleven! It's all here and more.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 4th April
Gareth and I are back again with our weekly roundup of tech stuff that's caught our eye. Plenty of the X-factor to consider, Moto not quite getting it right again, what looks like the end of AndroidOne, Windows getting in on the ChromeOS action and loads more.

Projector Room
Episode 85 - Kong Violation!
Wednesday 7th April
Another fortnight gone as Gareth and Allan join me to discuss all things film, cinema and TV for a while. This time we have monster battles, dubious limit-pushing in modern filmmaking, visit France and Germany whilst battling for Japan!

The Phones Show
Thursday 8th April
Join Steve over on his YouTube Channel as he puts the Cosmo Communicator through testing - and poses the wider question about QWERTY devices, who they're for, what the compromises are and whether they are any good in 2021.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 633 - Chocks Away!
Saturday 10th April
The Squadron is back to chat for an hour about all things mobile again. This time Steve and I welcome first-timer Ed Hause as we find out his background in phones and what he's currently favouring. All the usual stuff as well, of course.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 11th April
Gareth and I are back with another weekend dollop of tech stuff that has caught our eye. Leaks, launches, Lenovo, lies and linear Legions!

Whatever Works
Episode 135 - A Sound Shuffle!
Friday 16th April
Aidan and I are back again with a fortnight's catch-up on Whatever Works for us and the Group members here. Lots of goodies as usual - from can crushing and earplugs to DIY for cars and showers!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 18th April
Here's a new approach! So that people can slice and dice this week's show Gareth and I thought we'd split it to see who's interested in what to save those who don't want the whole thing in one! Let us know what you think. Loads of tech chat as usual in both parts!

Projector Room
Episode 86 - Nobody For All Mankind!
Wednesday 21st April
Gareth and Allan join me again to discuss all things film, cinema and TV. This time we tackle dubious horror/thrillers, listen out for the Sound of Metal, decide if Friedkin should be uncut, wrap up Worriker and loads more as always!

The Phones Show
Thursday 22nd April
Join Steve as he takes a look at this super phone and declares it the Star of 2021. So far! Certainly is capable and an amazing price.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 24th April 2021
Steve and I are here this weekend with a two-header as we catch up on the latest, look at some new hardware and chat about various mobile-phone related topics. I still await the return of my Edge+ and Steve's enthusing about the amazing budget-phone with X-Factor!

Tech Addicts Podcast
Sunday 25th April 2021
Gareth and I are back again with our weekend catchup on the tech stuff that has caught our eye this week. Sticking with the two-part idea for now so expect that in your podcatchers!

Whatever Works
Episode 136 - Island of Taiwan!
Friday 30th April 2021
Aidan (Birthday Boy) and I are back again with a festoon of features in our fortnightly assault on your ears! This time we learn all about the Internet of Things, time stuff with Tala, convert our bikes and even go a bee-bombing!



The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Another Widget (Android)

Over the last couple of years, I have got fed up with Google's 'comfy slippers' At a Glance Homescreen widget not working proper...