Reviews written by registered user
Balthazar-5

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119 reviews in total 
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2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Whatever happened to plagiarism laws?, 28 January 2005
1/10

This pathetic nonsense is an insult to the great movies of the past that it shamelessly and ineptly imitates. 'National Velvet' may not merit a mention in any cinephile's top 1000, but it had originality, verve and commitment that made it a regular favourite for girls of a 'certain age'. It does NOT deserve to be bastardised by a pack of unfunny morons.

'Dumbo' may not be the greatest animated feature of all time, but again, it does not deserve to have one of its finest sequences completely lifted, almost moment for moment, but the same bunch of nerks.

Message for inept unoriginal screenwriters. If you can't be original, find another job! Minor plus point: Hayden Panettiere has charm and energy.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Yes... VERY long, but beautiful, 28 January 2005
8/10

I must admit to being somewhat ambiguous about Jeunet's latest opus. Positive first (always!!!): The film is exquisitely controlled, visually, as have been all of the director's previous movies. It is difficult to think of any modern filmmaker (Tim Burton?)who seems to keep such a complete and unified approach to visual control in cinema. This is particularly evident in two aspects of the film. First colour, where the sun-infused late-evening hues give the 'Mathilde' part of the film a fabulous (I use the word in several senses) glow. This makes the contrast with the 'Manech' sequences so much more haunting. Second, visual design: the tendency of Jeunet to use big close ups of character's faces (very evident in 'Amelie', but also here), emphasises the most extreme aspects of their personalities. This is totally the right approach when dealing with obsessive love and the madness of war.

Neutral: Jeunet's visual trickery tends to swamp the performances - particularly the key central one of Audrey Tatou, but also the nice cameo by Jodie Foster. It's a trade-off that can be acceptable, but Jeunet need to be very careful, or it will ruin future work. The effect here, I think, is to lessen the emotional impact. I notoriously weep with ease in the cinema, but I didn't find this outwardly moving story sufficiently engaging.

Negative: It is soooooo longgggggggg. Yes, we need to experience the massive effort that Mathilde puts into trying to find her fiancé, but towards the end, the kinks in the narrative seem interminable. Yes, we have its poetry to thrill to, but we need more forward momentum.

One curious note, the tendency of Mathilde to invoke chance and numbers to foretell the future looks to me as if she has Asperger Syndrome...

Local Hero (1983)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Naive but nice, 21 January 2005
8/10

This David Puttnam production - his first fully funded film - is a joy to watch because it brings together two mono-dimensional concepts (the oil industry and quaint Scotland) and teases out the unexpected similarities between them. Oilmen are renowned for their obsession with the 'bottom line' but Gordon Urquart - hotelier, accountant and part-time taxi-driver - runs them a close second. And MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) the king of the telex deal (this was before emails), is shown to be more sentimental and naive than the bunch of 'culchies' that he has been sent to exploit.

At a script level, there are some nice touches, but also some fairly obvious ones... having the two principal women characters named Stella and Marina is maybe just a bit too twee.

But, all in all, this is a lovely warm and humorous film that any cinephiles in their right minds should regard as fairly essential viewing.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'Hoosiers' meets 'Stand and Deliver', 21 January 2005
6/10

Sports films always at least have the advantage that artificial drama can always be conjured up from the uncertainty of the outcome of a particular sporting event. Films set in under-privileged neighbourhoods have the advantage that they are able to show us that there is good in all of us and we can overcome adversity, if only we try hard enough.

Films that are both set in the ghetto and about sporting endeavour have, thus, two advantages. 'Coach Carter' milks its two advantages and turns out to be a highly entertaining, if unoriginal, pot-boiler. Jackson is fine as the tough-nut 'made good' former street kid given the job of beating a bunch of apparent no-hoper school basketball players into shape. We get all of the social stuff... drugs, unwanted pregnancies, academic under-achievement. That's par for the course.

We also get some excellent sidebar characters, like a realist head-mistress who turns idealist, and a massively over-weight mother who dominates her tough-nut son.

The film is, finally, just an amalgam of 'Hoosiers' (1986) and 'Stand and Deliver' (1988) - both substantially superior films. It is, however, worth the price of admission for the ride.

15 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
A no-brainer strictly for no-brainers, 21 January 2005
1/10

Rumour has it that it is difficult to get a movie made. Orson Welles was neglected by the industry for the last two decades of his life. So why, oh why, did anyone commit this execrable junk to film? Pathetic over-acting, unfunny jokes, clichéd situations pile one on another seemingly endlessly. 'The end is near...' you keep telling yourself... but never, never near enough. Since the two central characters are of Asian origin and the 'villains' are WASPish, could this be a clumsy attempt to make a PC comedy of ethnicity? If so, I cannot imagine any of my Indian friends will enjoy being portrayed as crassly priapic or undiscerning pot-heads. Nor will any east asians relish being portrayed as weak-willed and lacking in taste.

As for the scriptwriting team on the film, they give the impression not only of being blissfully unaware of the notion of cinematic subtlety, but of being unable even to spell it.

Save your money and buy a hamburger.

Kinsey (2004)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Neeson nice... Linney luminous, 21 January 2005
7/10

Scientific biopics mainly have the problem that Joe Public can't understand the technicalities. The usual result is a bastardisation of the achievement of the subject. With 'Kinsey', there is no such problem, is there? We all understand sex... don't we? I suspect not.

However, we doubtless all owe a great deal to Professor Kinsey for allowing us to talk openly about orgasms and the like. What comes across most strongly (if you forgive the expression) from this gentle, considered film is the amazing ignorance of the population that Kinsey shared his life with on matters sexual.

The film itself illuminates both both the 'how' and the 'why' of Kinsey's endeavour and throws some glory on both his director Herman Wells and the Rockefeller Foundation for backing him during some very difficult times. But it is Kinsey and his wife, played by Liam Neeson and Laura Linney who are centre stage, and it is a pleasure to look at two actors somewhere near the top of their profession.

Neeson has the problem of portraying a man somewhat psychologically damaged by the religious sexual repression of his father, and this he does beautifully, and particularly poignantly in a late scene with his father (John Lithgow) as an old man. Linney is absolutely magnificent. She ages with grace and complete authenticity, and the sex scenes involving her are refreshingly candid without being prurient.

The input of Bill Condon should neither be underestimated. His own interest in the story might be imputed from 'Gods & Monsters', and one can only take his assertions of Kinsey's own bisexual leanings at face value. But Condon is clearly a serious and sensitive filmmaker, who is not scared to shock.

That some of Kinsey's subjects were paedophiles is today about a shocking as it might have been in the early 50s that (a somewhat larger number) were homosexual. The film is not only not for the prudish, but it is also likely to be a tough ride for anyone with major repressive sexual hangups. But, like in a scene late in the film in which a lesbian tells Kinsey that he saved her life, it can be euphoric and moving.

We should not really ask more of a movie.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
One of the finest first films I have ever seen, 7 January 2005
9/10

As a (former) cinema director, I see thousands of films and after thirty years, I am somewhat jaded. However, just occasionally there comes a film that renews my faith in the cinema as the greatest cultural achievement of our species. Such a film, however small and relatively unambitious, is able to lift one from one's lethargy and walk proud to be, in the words of Andrew Sarris 'a humble artisan in the vineyard of the cinema'.

What is so special about this little gem is the TOTAL commitment to cinematic means to express the story and theme of the film. A simple love story is told almost wordlessly and using fabulous montages to convey complex inter-relationships.

I would not wish to spoil anything for anyone, so just SEE IT if you can.

I will be immensely surprised, and disappointed, if we do not hear (and see) a great deal more from Simon Fitzmaurice.

14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Challenging but magnificent..., 5 November 2004
10/10

I saw this film at Cannes where delegates, including would-be intelligent critics emerged from the film scratching their heads and mumbling 'interesting' - a sure sign that they couldn't understand a word of it. For me it had been an epiphanous experience.

Six months later Cahiers du Cinema voted it the best film of its year...

I am sure there is a word to describe the effect of the film, but I can't lay my hand on it, so I will say 'emotionally disjoint'. As the men sit around playing Mah Jong talking, generally of trivia, huge emotional dramas are going on, but obliquely, in relation to the girls in the brothel. The effect is crushing.

I thought, while watching, mainly of Jean-Marie Straub as it has a minimalist side, but with such greater emotional power and resonance. It is so tragic that this magnificent film has had such a poor release in the west - no theatrical distribution at all in the UK...

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Maybe OK as history, but fairly lame as film, 26 March 2004
7/10

I used to think that 'The Last Temptation of Christ' was a poor film. But it is shatteringly original compared with this very 'straight' and unadventurous production. Structurally, the flashbacks are really chichéd.

Apart from the presence and characterisation of the Devil, it would be difficult to think of a 'flatter' depiction of this most emotive subject. But, perhaps, 'flat' is what such a subject needs. Personally, I am on the squeamish side and wasn't looking forward at all the the much-trumpeted scourging, but I didn't find it gruelling at all.

Ergo... I wasn't empathising that much with the Christ character. So maybe the film's very admirable search for historical accuracy has given it 'too much' objectivity.

Would I recommend it? To cinephiles, not unless you have no better film to see. To non-Christians, certainly. To Catholics. certainly. To Protestants, certainly, just to understand what Catholics are on about... But these latter recommendations are for philosophical reasons, not aesthetic ones.

Finally a note about the translation, which is the one area for real criticism. I found it unbelievable that Jesus talking to God addressed Him as 'you'. It is very clear within the English language that addressing God, the word for 'you' is 'Thou'. (I would be staggered if the German version of the film doesn't refer to 'Du' in this context.) I can only conclude that Gibson and his team thought that a large part of the audience for the film would be too stupid and illiterate to understand the meaning of 'Thou'. Maybe that was the reason for the 'flat' dramaturgy as well...

Mike

P.S. Me, I'm agnostic...

Another magnificent Greene adaptation, 30 January 2004
9/10

A couple of years ago it was Neil Jordan's magnificent End of the Affair, now Philip Noyce has done a brilliant job on The Ugly American. Since Greene's death, his work has yielded two of their finest films...

What Noyce gets absolutely right is the atmosphere of seething corruption that was central to Greene's novel. Everything is believable and the central relationships - especially through the performance of the girl - are perfectly expressed.

Let's have some more Greene adaptations please...


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