We've watched three movies on DVD over the last week or so that have been worth noting.
Let me put in a plug for our local library while I'm at it: they provide DVDs at $2.00 a pop for a week, and $2.00 a pop for TV series, which you can have for a fortnight. I wanted to catch up on the first series of Broadchurch the other day, because I'd missed some episodes. In the end we got it from a video store, and it cost $10.00. I found it in the library yesterday as one of the 'top of the picks' at $4.00, and I could have had it longer... It's a great service, and we've made some really interesting discoveries as a result, even watching two entire series of DVDs in Italian: Inspector Montalbano was one of them. And then we went on to learn Italian as well...but that's another story.
First up on the movie front was Last Passenger. It's about a small group of people who get left on a train that's refusing to stop - the driver turns out to be someone, they think, who wants to commit suicide in a spectacular way. Dougray Scott and Kara Tointon star, and do a good job. The whole film takes place on the train and for the most part maintains its sense of tension. There are a few spots where things could have moved along a bit, and the plot probably doesn't want to be investigated too strongly, but overall this was a nicely tense ride. There's an affecting performance from the seven-year-old boy, Joshua Kaynama, a little boy caught up in a situation he doesn't understand and who's asked to do the impossible at one point.
The second movie was much more sure of its pacing: the tension barely let up for a moment, even when there were conversations between various baddies. This was 7 Boxes, a film made in Paraguay, which apparently isn't well-known for top quality movies; in fact several of the cast seem to have started their film careers in this movie (!)
It's about a young man whose job is wheelbarrowing purchases for customers in a market. (The wheelbarrow isn't your garden model but a long flat thing that obviously takes muscle to handle.) These wheelbarrow boys have to compete with each other to get the work, and it's tough. When the boy, Victor (Celso Franco) gets an opportunity to take seven boxes 'around the block' for some devious characters, he jumps at it, because it's going to be very well paid. The boxes of course contain something much worse than he imagines, a nasty fellow-barrow boy has been shunted out of the job by accident and wants to get it back, and those sending the boxes on their way have got things considerably tangled, much to their horror. The piece is well plotted, and all the elements keep crossing and intercrossing until there's a violent climax in which Victor almost dies.
In spite of the tension and violence there's quite a bit of humour, lots of fun with cellphones changing hands, a nice bickering relationship between Victor and Liz (Lali Gonzalez) his know-all friend who obviously thinks girls can do anything, and all manner of other enjoyable details. This movie also takes place in a fairly confined area: small in South American terms, anyway. Everything happens in a huge (and I mean huge) market area, a market that seems to go on in a maze for miles in every direction.
The last movie was Saving Mr Banks. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks star, Hanks playing a generous second fiddle to Thompson's wonderfully arrogant performance. Thompson is P L Travers, the creator of the Mary Poppins stories. Her books are sacrosanct and the idea that Walt Disney (Hanks) should make one of his awful animated movies out of them appals her. She's been holding out for twenty years, but now she's starting to need the money, and is finally persuaded to go to Los Angeles and meet Disney, and see if she can agree to anything. There's almost nothing she wants to agree to, which makes it difficult for the Hollywood people, but in the end...well, you can imagine the end because you know Mary Poppins got made and was one of Disney's most successful films ever.
Interwoven with the modern story (set in 1961) is Travers' childhood. She had an imaginative father of Irish stock, in Australia, but he was an alcoholic, and for all his intentions to keep his promises, seldom could. In spite of this Travers, as a child, adored him, and shared his wonderful fairytale view of the world. Her childhood is a tragedy, in fact, and this has affected her adulthood, so that in spite of writing a wonderful set of stories she has become a bitter old woman. Perhaps she wasn't quite as difficult as the filmmakers make her out to be, but she was certainly opinionated, and the 'family' (the Banks family in the book, and Poppins herself) were extremely precious to her.
It's a classic Hollywood movie in the old style, with a cast of great actors (Colin Farrell plays the relatively small part of the father, and Rachel Griffiths makes a brief appearance as an aunt who obviously was in part a model for Mary Poppins). Very enjoyable, and emotional.