With all this long haul travel I've been doing, I've managed to catch quite a few films.
Top of the pile: The last king of Scotland tells the story of Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of Idi Amin. It's fictional, but the character of Garrigan was inspired by Amin's 'white rat', Bob Astles. This is one of those films that just works. The pace and plot are right, the acting is good, there are enough twists and turns to hold the attention, and mercifully we are spared the graphic gore of some of the nastier events that take place.
Sticking with an African theme, Blood Diamond is an action movie with a conscience that fails to spare the gore. Set in the Sierra Leone civil war in 1999, it tackles the twin thorny issues of conflict diamonds and child soldiers. Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a really good performance as diamond-smuggling Danny Archer - his character is probably the strongpoint of the film. Otherwise, I found it a bit disturbing. The violence is unremitting and very graphic. The plot is hollywooded-up with numerous coincidences and the main characters seemingly protected by an invisible bullet shield. Yes, the film does have an important ethical dimension, but it verges on using the violence and death as a source of entertainment.
I enjoyed Notes on a scandal. Cate Blanchett is a young teacher starting at a new school. She strikes up a friendship with older teacher and control-freak spinster Judi Dench. Dench proves to be a manipulative, possessive cow and she gains the leverage she seeks in her relationship with Blanchett when she finds out that her younger colleague, who is married to Bill Nighy, is knocking off a 15 year old pupil. Much relational pain and conflict ensues. A clever film, only slightly spoiled by the fact that the relationship between Blanchett and her pupil just doesn't seem plausible.