Two Mobi-Reviews – 1st May 2016

 

Hollywood and Pacino oiling the movie wheels to perfection.

26 April 2016

danny-collinsRegular readers of my film reviews and blog will know that one of my very favourite actors is Al Pacino. I make no claim that he is the finest actor to ever appear on the silver screen, indeed, many of his performances are way over the top; but I don’t care – I love him. Any movie that Al Pacino stars in is fine in my book – he always lights up the screen, always turns in unforgettable performances, and invariably takes a mundane story and makes it magical.

And so it is in Danny Rose, where Al Pacino plays an ageing pop star who can still fill stadiums by singing the same banal songs that he made famous some 40 years earlier. Most of his devoted fans have grown old with him and we see rows and rows of women of a certain age all screaming and whooping whenever he appears on stage. I am trying to think of similar performers in real life, and maybe the likes of Barry Manilow or in the UK, maybe Cliff Richards might fill the bill. But dear old Danny is far more of a caricature than a real life person, and unlike Manilow and Richards, none of his 40 -year old songs have any merit whatsoever, and he really isn’t a very nice person.

But then something happens that is actually based on a true story. His manager, (the excellent Christopher Plummer in one of his last roles), tracks down a letter that was sent to Danny in 1971 by John Lennon, but which Danny never received. Lennon had sent him some advice about his songwriting and suggested they meet up. Danny is shocked and traumatised as he wonders how his life might have changed if he had received the letter. He is suddenly hit with the realisation that he has been a drunken ass-hole for most of his life; that he is kidding himself if he thinks that his gorgeous, sexy fiancé, one-third of his age, could really care for him, and the fact that he hasn’t written a worthwhile song in more than 40 years. He decides to abandon his moneymaking tour (which we later discover was to be his retirement pension) and move into a suburban New Jersey hotel and track down his long lost son who he has never met.

There is some wonderful, tender interplay between Pacino, his son’s wife and daughter and later his son, who hates him with a purple passion. There are also some amusing, touching scenes with Pacino and his fiancé, (who receives Danny’s blessing to cheat on him), and with the female hotel manager and two of the hotel staff. To be honest, the story is a little on the clichéd side, and some of the events are predictable – but not all. There are some blatant attempts to extract a few tears from us as fatal health issues are dragged to centre stage – but not for Danny… Without Pacino, this movie would probably die without much fanfare, but as ever, he lifts it out of the ordinary to a higher plane. Along with Plummer, Jennifer Garner as his daughter-in-law, and the excellent Annette Benning as the hotel manager, they made a corny story it into an excellent movie treat. Hollywood and Pacino oiling the movie wheels to perfection.

Four  out of Five Mobi-Stars

All of my 66  movie reviews, including the above, have been published by the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb).

If you wish to read them on IMDb, you can find them all by clicking:  Mobi’s movie reviews on IMDB  or the link on the side-bar of my blog.

In my next blog, I will review the film, “Youth” Starring Michael Caine.

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Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

51ZoA-UVXXL._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_Doctor Thorne is my second venture into Anthony Trollope’s 19th Century world, in which money and a rigid class system continue to hold sway in Merrie England. It is a very long book which took me almost two months to read, and on the whole, I found it a reasonably pleasant romp, that was occasionally boring. However, there were a few moments, especially towards the end of the book, when I actually laughed out loud.

Trollope is a master of the English language and he skilfully spins his tale of a near-bankrupt upper-class gentleman, who wishes to marry a poor girl of questionable provenance – the purported niece of the estimable Doctor Thorne.

The themes of the story are rather Dickensian – local villager kills Doctor’s brother in a fight because the brother has had his wicked way with the villager’s sister; sister gets married and emigrates to America, leaving her newly born daughter with Doctor Thorne to raise; the killer serves his time in jail, makes good and becomes very rich and is knighted for his services; the local landed gentleman sells part of his estate to the ‘nouveau knight’, and subsequently obtains substantial loans from him, secured on what remains on his property. Landed gentleman’s son wants to marry Doctor Thorne’s niece to the horror of his upper-class family who insists that he must marry ‘money’ to save them from ruin.

Follow so far? There’s a bit more; like the fact that if certain events come to pass, the good Doctor’s niece might inherit the nouveau knight’s estate.

We can all figure out what happens in the end, but it takes Trollope over seven hundred pages of text to get us there.

There are some wonderful character depictions in this novel, from the good doctor and his beautiful, virtuous niece, to the alcoholic nouveau knight and his equally alcoholic son. Trollope also excels in his wicked descriptions of the local landed gentry, where ‘class’ and high birth matter more than life itself, unless, of course, you happen to be short of a few fivers  to pay the bills.

Trollope is at his satirical best when describing the hypocrisy of these high-born folk who consider it their birth right to look down on the rest of humanity. However, exceptions can be sometimes be made, when a rich ‘commoner’ is willing to marry one of their high-class, but impoverished sons or daughters.

The rigid and hypocritical social classes and the disastrous effects on the poor has been explored by all major nineteenth-century authors, from Hardy to Dickens to Austin, the Bronte’s and many more. Trollope fully deserves his place amongst these august authors, but I think this will be my final Trollope novel. 

The last of his I read was his masterpiece – “The Way we Live Now” which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was crammed full of fascinating characters and enough intricate plot lines to fill several novels.

In comparison, Doctor Thorne is rather thin on plot, considering its 700 odd pages. It seems to have been padded out by endless ruminations by the main protagonists, which sometimes cover several pages. These lengthy and silent thoughts – where characters thrash out difficult issues in their minds and rarely come to any conclusions – adds little to the enjoyment of the story.

Trollope is a wonderful writer of prose and he can be very funny, but it’s not a style of writing that particularly attracts me. After two of his most highly regarded tomes, I will call it a day.

Three out of Five Mobi-Stars

NOTE: Readers might wonder whether this choice of book was predicated by the recent TV adaptation. The answer is that no one was more surprised than me when I discovered that the book I was currently reading was about to become a TV series. I have now seen the TV version, penned by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellows, and will be reviewing it in due course.

All of my book reviews can be found on Goodreads

 

 

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