Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reviewing Extreme Measures

This is an old film from 1996 and yet thankfully I found to buy this first Simian production easily enough. (Simian Films is the production house opened up at the time by Hugh Grant with then-partner Elizabeth Hurley and which has by now been closed). For those that might not have heard of it, Extreme Measures is a thriller dealing with ethics in medicine and neurological experimentation, based on a book by the same name. Due to an aversion to gore, I googled this film and read all the reviews and comments I could get hold of to ensure I would be able to see it without squirming (well I did look away a couple of times because of some ugly scenes). Despite the uncertainty of how many times I would jump out of my skin whilst watching (hence I implored my husband to watch it with me) I am a loyal fan of Grant's works and couldn't give up watching a non-horror film of his at least once.
If there was ever a film that Hugh Grant starred in that should dispel the common perception that he plays the same character over and over, it is this one. It sees him play the good doctor, Guy Luthan, who is thrown into a world of crime, deceit and too much gore and pain. It was difficult, especially at the start, to take him seriously with those soft blue eyes and the floppy hair all over the place, since this time it would have seemed out of place to have him constantly running his hand through it to calm it down. But as the film progressed and the good doctor turned private detective of the most heroic kind, I got used not only to a totally serious side to his acting but also to seeing him with blood on the face and oozing from his nose and eventually the bullet wounds. That is not to say I enjoyed watching his smooth face covered in red or his hair matted from the blood. And with this mention of hair I must comment that he had a good hair cut in this film (and one that hid the mark on his face just in front of the ear). But if the hair looked good and the makeup was to my relief (and his as from what I gather he hates makeup) non-existent, I must say that he could have done with waxing off that monobrow if he wanted those non-fans to become followers.

Now on to the film itself, I must remark that there are quite a few twists and turns, both literal (once Guy finds himself in an underground labyrinth of tunnels full of train tracks) and not. Having read the summary of the film, I thought I had it all figured out and that I was just watching it mostly out of curiosity and for yet another view of those baby blues. But time and again during the course of almost two hours I was proven wrong or had to admit there were things the reviews had not told me, which is just as well as I love a good surprise. And surprises there were, for even whilst the viewer almost immediately gets to know who is meant to be the big man on the bad side, you can never be sure of the rest of the characters. Being Hugh's usually blundering 'nice guy', Luthan does not keep much of what he learns to himself and I was quick to point out to my husband how this was not the ideal thing for a 'detective' to do. But trust the film to prove that I was always wrong in who I regarded as a possible threat to him. I was also, ashamedly, surprised that our good doctor chose always to look out for his patients first and foremost, even when they were anyway on the brink of death and he was risking his own skin in doing so.
I think my loyalty at times got the better of me as I pleaded with Hugh Grant to leave them alone and just run, or asked some villain to 'please now, enough, stop hitting him.' I must seem a real moron whenever I watch what I call 'an HG Film' that can in any way put his character in danger, or in one case unfortunately even death. It is inconceivable to me that someone would be blind enough to harm such good looks but then again maybe that is why I have never been cast in a thriller myself (I'd only be good at the romantic comedies I guess!).
Before I make you gag with my recurring mentions of the dark haired man with pools of blue for eyes, let me move to commenting on the last part of this long film. It is unusual in a thriller for the bad guys to win but with so many bends in this plot I could not be sure of that. And I will also not tell, for the sake of those who still intend watching this unique presentation of Hugh's and would rather find it out for themselves. And I will also not tell you what awaits Guy Luthan at the very end of the film, not only unexpected to the audience but definitely also to himself.




Friday, 21 November 2014

Short Review About A Long-Ago Time (The Lady and The Highwayman 1989)

I am not one to watch Romance films. Even for the imaginative fanciful side of me, the genre screams too soppy and is usually, in my opinion, devoid of plot unless absolutely relatable to the love story. This counts also for the written Romance.
 
However nothing (except maybe for the really squirmy scary scenes!) can keep me away from watching any film or series that Hugh Grant's been in. So having seen only a clip of 'The Lady and The Highwayman', I got curious enough to actually buy the DVD. After all, what is a collection unless it is complete?
 
The film is apparently based on a book, one which is therefore now a good candidate for my film-tie-in books part of the collection. But aside from the fact that I did find the story pleasing enough to now want to read, my job today is to review this film from twenty-five years ago, which in the film world is considered too long ago.
 
The story is set in the confines of a historical background, though I must plead guilty to not knowing anything about the time in question and therefore the accuracy of this film in its regard. However I must applaud the authenticity of plot (unless I have obviously missed similar plots for not being a follower of the genre).
 
I must admit to shaking my head a couple of times in the course of watching this story with regards to some excessively 'coincidental' scenes such as how Lucius (aka Silver Blade) could so easily know that and find Panthea when she is in trouble. The film does not give the reason... has he been stalking her, is it pure coincidence, is it deus ex machina? Also too unbelievable the synchronisation between Panthea's minute of execution and her lover's timely saving her from sure death. Having had my little grumble, I do believe it is permissible in Romance to have such coincidences and magically resolvable problems as long as they help the lovers along.
 
As always, I have researched this film for facts as well as other people's opinions of it and was disappointed to read on a blog that one particular person, for thinking Hugh Grant so badly-acting in this film, has in all these twenty-five years never shaken off her image of him as Lucius, in whatever other film of his she might be viewing. Since we're on the subject, I do not think Grant's acting was bad at all, though I am sure that he was much more believable in other later roles. The one problem I do find with his portrayal of Lucius is that in this case, the highwayman could not have been as shy a person as Hugh sometimes made him out to be? In a 2012 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Hugh Grant himself mentions how at times he had difficultly keeping his voice firm and highwaymanly enough for the role. But that just adds to his cuteness, don't you think :-)

On to the outline of what I think is a well-executed film. It centres around Lady Panthea Vyne, a young woman of noble birth, and the notorious Silver Blade (played by a young Hugh) who she meets, seemingly quite by chance, in her hour of need. Silver Blade rescues her from the lecherous, brutal, lying tax collector Drysdale (you might have guessed I dislike this character!) who has pushed her into marrying him. To make the highwayman more humane and likeable, he even helps her bury her dog whom her husband's just killed.

After they run off on a horse into the sunset together, Silver Blade escorts her home where the plucky girl is intent on keeping house, despite apparently being a female orphan (and now knows her brother's been killed). This set up does not last for long, for her aunt descends upon her home to lure her to go and live with her and this older woman, a good old friend of the King, succeeds in introducing Panthea to the royal way of life and this is where her troubles, and true love, really start. It is here I stop my narration for those who might be now curious enough to watch the whole film for themselves. All I will say is, despite the soppiness and extreme bravado of the characters, which might be quite exaggerated for our times, there is something quite endearing in the love of these two young people and well, I couldn't help falling in love with them myself. Give me a good old Robin-hood-type highwayman any day :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I've Got News or... What is Bridget Jones without Daniel Cleaver?!

I have not been able to post an update for this week but now I have something I want to post more than my planned entry... My column at www.eve.com.mt is finally up and you can find my first article at:

http://www.eve.com.mt/2014/11/18/what-is-bridget-jones-without-daniel-cleaver/

Hope you enjoy :-)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Bad Weather and Good Films

A post on here is well overdue and I must say I had quite an eventful last week. However I do have a policy not to go into the too personal on this blog and so I am anyway at a loss as to what I could go on about. So here is the gist of my thoughts about this last week (as already stated excluding the personal):
 
The weather has definitely turned now! I still remember saying this on the blog back on 9th September and I was so wrong as the chilly weather lasted a mere few days back then and went back to being obnoxiously hot. But last week has showed us that the wintry weather seems here to stay. It is still not cold, considering we're practically mid-November but the deluge usually reserved for the first September rain has hit badly now instead. The first bad weather-related experience occurred two Wednesdays ago when a single hour of very heavy rain once again flooded our valley, leaving me and my son stranded just metres away from where my mother's car was parked. Needless to say, son and I both got a good soaking.
 
It's funny how my mind works mostly through connotations and just that word 'soaking' brought an image to mind - that of Tim and Mary running through the rain on their wedding day in the trailer for 'About Time', which review you can find here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/its-about-time.html
 
Which in turn brings me to talk about my latest findings related to filming. I have not only discovered, started and finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey, but I also read the book by Beryl Bainbridge entitled 'An Awfully Big Adventure' and on which a film by the same name is based (you can find my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/an-awfully-big-adventure-1995.html ) The book is a little difficult to follow but totally worth a read. I hope to write a review relating book and film when I have some time.
 
I unfortunately have to go now but I promise to try and have something more interesting than getting my socks wet in the rain to say next time.
 
 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

About A Man: Hugh Grant

He is the man the tabloids love to hate, most especially since he turned the tables on the press with the publication of his taped conversation with Paul McMullen, in which the latter unknowingly confessed to the dirty tactics of the press as well as the involvement of people in high places. Later, Grant served as a witness in the Leveson Enquiry into phone-hacking and is to date a director and frontman of HackedOff.

Yet whilst the less-serious journalists hate him for all this, they must also deep down be thanking him for the multitude of times he came in handy for writing interesting titbits about his life. Since the paparazzi photographs of Hugh with the beautiful girl in the safety-pin dress by Versace twenty years ago, the press have never left him well alone. In fact, when he got arrested in 1995 at Sunset Boulevard for ‘lewd conduct’, the incident received so much coverage that unfortunately I have met people who know little about him and yet, when I mention his name, they are quick to point out that one episode in his life. When Hugh manly owned up to being in the wrong on Jay Leno's 'Tonight' show only a week or two later, he made what many refer to as a 'public apology' (as if the public was due an apology for his private affairs?!). Since then, the press has taunted him in all possible ways, many times publishing stories or details achieved by underhanded means. They have gone to great lengths to provide the public with juicy details (and sometimes pure fiction) from the life of a man who first rose to fame in 1994 as the bumbling toff Charles in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'.

That year he made the front cover of the UK Edition of Premiere, his lovely model-perfect face captioned 'SWOON! The rise of Hugh Grant'. But his acting work goes way back, before he became a public symbol of both good looks and charm. From his debut in 'Privileged' (1982), he went on to get an important part in 'Maurice' (1987) for which he won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and then his main actor role in the French Production 'The Bengali Night' (1988). His acting is to be admired in both these films, even at the young age of twenty-seven (back then very lean, boyish-looking and absolutely adorable).

Other old films of his include 'Impromptu' (in which he pulls off the Polish Chopin's part to snobbish perfection) and 'Sirens', as well as Roman Polanski's 'Bitter Moon' in which he co-stars with Kristin Scott Thomas who also appears in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' as his best-friend Fiona. His earlier films seem to indicate an interest in projects that defy accepted norms, exploring that which is unacceptable and at times immoral. I hazard a guess that this might have intrigued a young witty and intelligent Englishman who was bright enough to receive a scholarship to Oxford, where he studied and graduated with a degree in English, before choosing to pursue an acting career.
  
He is self-deprecating about his acting abilities and it's been over ten years since he declared he would stop making films. And yet few actors could brag not only his notoriety but also his achievements. One of his biggest films of all time has to be 'About A Boy' (2002), based on the book by Nick Hornby, in which only Hugh Grant could pull off to perfection the part of a cad that the viewer cannot help but love and side with. For his interpretation in this film, GQ named him 'Man of the Year' but theirs is only one of a very many honours bestowed upon him for his brilliance. On winning his Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a motion picture Comedy in 1995, he made what must have been one of the most original (and mockingly honest) speeches I ever heard. It was to be the first of a series of awards that include a BAFTA for Excellence in Film and an Honorary Cesar for Lifetime Achievement.

I am not yet done with my praise for the person who I must admit is to me an inspiration and a hero, maybe my muse and certainly my idol. But if I were to draw this article out any longer I am in danger of losing those readers who are not Granters like myself. So whilst wishing him more success and hoping that the world never runs out of new Grant films to watch, I leave you till next time.