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|16 reviews in total|
The last time Father Brown shuffled into our screens was in 1974, with
Kenneth More, in 13 episodes. Then it lacked the sophistication of, let
say, Joan Hickson's Miss Marple or Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes a
decade later, especially in the field of atmosphere and art direction.
Today we expect a tad more than 1974's cramped quarters and we're not disappointed; those lovely English quaint 1950 in- and exteriors are excellent. It's the Cotswolds all over again, and who would mind that? Well, me.
Because it is about Father Brown, and that means Chesterton and that means a bit more "gravitas". And whatever the 1974 series missed in terms of convincing backgrounds Kenneth Moore did display some of Chesterton's more subtle "morality" plays in terms of guilt and punishment.
Mark Williams is a very good actor, so I put it down to directing or scripting for this brand new 2013 series. For this Father Brown is apparently more at home in "cops & robbers" in the Fifties than the original stories who were definitely placed in the Thirties. And that is not for nothing. Yes, Chesterton's stories may lack some of his crime brother's ingenuity (Ellery Queen, Dorothy Sayers anyone? ), but there was more than enough to ponder about crime and misdemeanors. The switch from Interbellum to Fifties proved fatal in my view. After all, it's not the Cotswolds but the Crimes, and its solutions, that lent Father Brown his credibility. He was not a detective with a dog collar but a priest who happened to be very clever. And there was and is indeed a world of difference between the years before and after "that" war.
Alas, Mark William's Father Brown is anything but. The religious backbone of his character is bleached out, perhaps to satisfy an American market, but as it was very much the backbone of Chesterton's storytelling we're stuck with tea and roses. For true postwar stuff Foyle's War is still the best choice. For Father Brown... ah, it's back to Chesterton's stories.
Moretti is an interesting director and his documentaries and movies
(like "The Son's Room") shows us why. But what in the name of the Holy
Spirit is he trying to tell us here? To get a foothold inside the
Vatican, the nucleus of one of the great (well, at least by numbers)
religions in the world, is a daunting task. It becomes clear that the
director had been more interested in the the mindset of the man who's
to be the next pope, than in any political or human machinations of the
electors. We know our popes of the past - Peter O'Toole's or John
Goodman's pope are a delight - but any effort to get into the inner
workings of the Vatican has eluded us: Preminger's "The Cardinal" and
Anderson's "The Shoes of the Fisherman" just scratch the surface and
are too reverential, so Fellini still steals the show with his
delightful religious fashion show in "Roma".
And that for a job description to head a congregation of over a billion, elected by a college of a mere hundred or so cardinals. Stuff for either historical pageantry (we all love our Borgias) or an insight into the mindset of electors or popes-to-be, about why a job can make or break a man, or how the past does influence your future. Instead we're offered the choice of an ass between two bales.
Is it is meant to be a farce? Then the bunch of actors hired to play a bunch of totally idiotic cardinals playing volley-ball in the aftermath of the conclave are right fitting in. But because of that it is very difficult to sympathize with the turmoils of a Pope-to-be with those allusions to All the world's a stage, the heavy references to Chekhov and all that. I mean, who wants to be a pope over this lot of twittering morons? And Piccoli is certainly not a fool, but a tormented soul who seems to have lost his confidence and the past. How does that fit in with farce? With a bunch of blabbering idiots playing pinocchio or volley-ball and a man in crisis? So, is it then meant to be a probing insight into the soul of a man who's thrown into this world as the next Pontiff? Is this a probe into the turmoils of a Pope-to-be? After all, apart from power-hungry popes in fiction, it is indeed an almost inhumane job. Then the bunch of actors hired to play a bunch of totally idiotic cardinals inside the conclave or playing volley-ball in the aftermath are totally unbelievable. They deny us any symphatising with the main character as we're lead to believe that some of the most powerful men in the world are blabbering idiots playing pinocchio. Alas, the director, playing the part of an atheistic psycho-analist, fits right in with this cardinal bunch.
The director should have known that the real world is barging in with almost every frame, with a church and its board of managers wading through a lot of controversial items. As a viewer you can't exclude that: we don't live in a vacuum. Moreover, the allusions to John XXII, Paul VI and John-Paul I are drawn with heavy strokes indeed.
So, we're stuck between two bales of hay. Bad choice. The director couldn't make an artistic choice and left us with no choice at all. In the end we can understand the Pope's decision, but not because we care for him or his struggle, but who in his or her right mind would govern a church with a council of idiots? Mmm that may be the point the director is making?
There have been great documentaries about Steinway. And great concerto
registrations of many a keyboard giants. And this should have been a
documentary about a great piano tuner. Stefan Knüpfer is a great piano
tuner. Steinway is the grandfather of grand pianos. Lang and Brendel
and Aimard are great musicians.For any music lover this should have
been a shoo-in, njet? Alas, no. Tuners, instruments and players move in
the mysterious (concert) halls of sounds. If they're good you can hear
it. But the addition of images (and edit the whole in a coherent
manner) is entirely up to the documentary maker.
It says something when the most exciting parts of this documentary are the transport and setting up of those grand behemoths, and seeing Knüpfer at work. But the endless talks and takes about sound and its interpretation are only interesting for the first or second time. And as Knöpfer himself is a rather self-effacing guy, you're not drawn into his world as with people like Glen Gould or Leonard Bernstein (the "making" of the Goldberg Variations, or the "making of Westside Story).
A good documentary maker should have seen this coming, otherwise "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing."
So, there is this lovely family in the suburbs, but there seems to be a dark secret. Is it the house? Is it the family? The one good thing about this movie is the rather ingenious wordplay inside the title itself. On the other hand, I'm not sure of this director and above all, this screenwriter, warrants any form of praise. If you like your food premasticated, then enjoy this rehash by all means; it looks like the writer or director has plundered the kitchen of the Friday the 13th franchise, The Shining, and above all the Poltergeist family saga. So, hie thee to a cinema in your friendly neighbourhood! If not, however, stay away (use a safety zone of at least 10 miles).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fun... at a price
Vengeance is a dish.... But this one was definitively overcooked in the microwave. A movie of this kind may go over the top - and Butler does that in spades - but you still can have fun. Never mind the loopholes in the script the size of a batcave - how on earth could our good guys be in time to set up up Butler's demise while they were in City Hall at the same time as him, and how did they find the time to evacuate the inmates before the whole thing blew up? Well, let's call it the Spielberg Syndrome. The ability to turn a well-made film in the last scenes into a Disney'ed ending.
Butler changes from a symphathetic widower and victim of the System into a monster, virtually turning into a brother of Darby. So be it, and we close our eyes and have fun - sort of - with the movie and how this clever guy keeps stepping ahead of Foxx. The way in which the faux judge gets her ear full is genuinely scary and that's the point, of course.
Scarier still, is how Foxx turns into an even scarier monster - either on purpose by director and screenwriter, or because of sheer stupidity. For most of the movie Foxx remains a deeply unsymphathetic A.D.A. who still thinks his monstrous plea-bargaining that set off the whole chain of events was correct. A career mover.
But take the last big scene. Let's overlook for a moment the sheer impossibility of being in the same location as Butler in City Hall and yet capable of personally setting up his demise in the prison. Anybody remembering a block full of inmates and prison guards? I mean, when the building blows up the WHOLE thing goes ka-boom. Including inmates and guards, thus probably killing more "innocent" people than even Butler dreamed of. And then going to a recital in true Spielberg fashion - all's well that ends well. Mmmm... we could even build a new Disney World attraction around this theme.
As an aside, if Butler was such a genius with gizmo's and gadgetry wouldn't he have built a simple detector to be sure that nobody has entered his batcave while he was on his shopping sprees?
So, was it Gray's and Wimmer's idea all along to show that Butler and Foxx were the the same side of the same coin all along? Doubtful; script was too bad for such subtleties. So, was it a bad movie? Probably, but fun to watch, at a price.
Maybe this year's Christmas message is that we should be very, very distrustful of A.D.A.'s. Mmm.... now THAT's a thought we can live with.
This is a review by Scott Morrisont, who nailed this DVD head-on.
This DVD is self-recommending if only because it is by our leading music documentarian, Bruno Monsaingeon, and is about one of music's legendary figures, Glenn Gould. Add to that the fact that Monsaingeon and Gould were friends for thirty years and that Monsaingeon had already made a number of previous documentaries about Gould, and you have a recipe for a great film. Monsaingeon is a working musician (a violinist) as well and his ability to understand the musical aspects of Gould's life is beyond question. (There is even a clip of Monsaingeon playing first violin in a snippet of Gould's Opus 1, his String Quartet.) Gould, of course, was himself a documentarian and he certainly left behind miles of film in which he plays, discourses about music and all manner of other things. There are even home movies of Gould as a young teen playing on the family piano.
One charming conceit of the film is that Monsaingeon found five 'ordinary people' whose lives had been touched in special ways by Gould's playing and he filmed them in various activities connected with that. For instance, there is a former rock musician who goes pretty far to commemorate her emotional connection with Gould -- I won't spoil the surprise by telling you what it was she did. There is a Russian woman who develops a missionary fervor about exposing others to Gould's music. There is an Italian woman who makes a pilgrimage to Toronto and has a dialog with the startlingly lifelike statue of Gould that sits outside the Gould studio there.
One might wonder what more could be said about Gould after all the previous books and films about him. It is a tribute to Monsaingeon's art that he found a way to approach his subject in a new and fascinating manner. He constructs the documentary as if it were being narrated by Gould himself. Gould's fabled Lincoln Continental becomes a character in the proceedings, traveling through ravishingly photographed northern Canadian forests as we hear Gould discourse in a voice-over on various things. There are numerous video and audio clips, some never seen before, that give us a taste of both his playing and his thinking. We hear and see him play music not generally associated with him -- especially by those who think of Gould as being a Bach specialist -- music by Hindemith, Chopin, Weber, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and others, even Gould's quirky Mozart.
Gould's personal eccentricities are not emphasized but are not avoided either. One does, however, come away, yet again, reminded of George Szell's famous remark about him, 'That nut is a genius!'. Gould was an utterly unique and important figure and it is no wonder that almost twenty-five years after his tragic death at 50, in 1982, his life is still being explored and celebrated.
So, even if you've seen other films about Gould, including those by Monsaingeon, you will be rewarded by watching this film.
This is a registration of a concert in the medieval Pieterskerk of
Leiden (Netherlands) by UK Libera boy's choir, singing well-known hits
like "Adoramus", "Going Home", "Far Away", "Do Not Stand", "Lachrymosa"
and other (semi-)religious songs. The quality of the boy's voices is
not in doubt; it is of the highest standard, albeit with a lot of New
Age music. Less so, may be said about the actual registration of the
concert which started to look like a new age disco party in a venerable
church, complete with superfluous gestures and disneyed lighting.
The sound quality is good, most of the songs and hymns are quite moving but the registration of the concert is a let-down; one gets the feeling that the choir is commercialized at whatever cost.
"The Choir" is a lovely mini-series (5 episodes) about the survival of
a cathedral' school choir, with a top-notch cast that makes it all too
believable how local politics in church and council alike can be
poisonous to the extreme. James Fox, David Warner, Cathryn Harrison,
John Standing, and Anthony Way (in real life a famous boy treble in his
days) and a host of others deliver the goods and it's certainly fun to
It is a solid-made series but with a dangerous high level of soap (especially the last episode). I could forgive this all were it not for the music. Or rather, lack of it.
It is a bitter irony that Gloucester Cathedral provided the magnificent backbone of the series, and when the choir sings you remember that England has indeed a very rich and very long choir tradition. But the overall background music of the series - in which music does play an important role! - is a general let-down. The composer, Stanislas Syrewicz, does know his stuff, but here we're invited to join the worst of pompous Victoriana 19th century music sounding a bit like Vaughan Williams on a very bad day, topped with a 'Panis Angelicum' which was sung by an angel, sure, but the bread was stale and it all sounded like an over the top orchestration by Stokowski.
For a mini-series involved in so much music that's a real let-down.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What is it with our American friends and their own 'mythological'
heritage? Why is it that only such movies as the first Batman or Batman
- the Beginning seems to succeed both artistically and commercially?
Because the heroes were - whatever those movies' other merits - at
least taken with a modicum of seriousness.
But not here. Not with a Peter Parker who is simply incapable of playing the darker side of his character. Not with a girlfriend who you want to be killed and buried within her first 5 minutes. And not with villains who turn out to be so misunderstood that both of them deserve to die in a most noble manner? Aaaarch!
I've seen my share of bad movies but I have to go back a very long way to remember such a load of clichés, so many holes in a script and - dare I say it? - so many mediocre CGI-shots. This is not a movie made by Hollywood. This is a movie made by bankers & accountants.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The problem with Commander in Chief is that, whatever you may think of
"The West Wing", it did set a certain standard. We have to blame the
script for that, especially in the Sorkin years. Whatever the ups and
downs of individual story lines, you did get a real impression of the
West Wing's White House, also thanks to a brilliant production design
and a very good cast indeed. We may have smiled (or yawned) with all
those tracking 'walkabout' shots through endless corridors and rooms,
but this was a White House stuffed to the gills with people. When Leo
(or Sam or Josh or CJ) boasts of "nearly 1,100 people working for us"
you're inclined to believe them. This was a beehive, an overcrowding
mass of people "doing things". And it surely set the tone of a
believable White House.
But what has the Commander in Chief to show for her people? An Oval Office, a Cabinet Room, a small and dark office for the chief of staff (one of the most powerful politicians in Washington? Go figure), and a couple of corridors which certainly looked more at home in "Good Housekeeping" than showing corridors of power. What about the Hill? It is almost exclusively represented by the Speaker and his chief of staff. You don't get any feeling of two powers - White House and Capitol - clashing with each other, but only about two people - a decent president (decently played by Geena Davis) and a totally over-the-top malevolent Speaker (hammed up by Donald Sutherland). While West Wing's Josh and Toby and Leo and C.J. were wheeling and dealing with a host of characters, this White House used the telephone (and lots of extra's working as messengers). The Speaker was almost entitled to a bedroom in the White House; he seemed to be shown more in the Oval Room than doing his job on the Hill. And the rest of the Senate and the House? Well, they must have elected to reside in Santa Barbara, for we don't see them at all.
In fact, the whole tone was already set and stamped with the first episode. We, gullible couch potatoes, are quite willing to set aside our unbelief and enjoy a good time. But even a dimwitted viewer would have asked himself if a vice-president in a foreign country doesn't have at least a core staff with her? That the White House - reputed to have the most sophisticated communication system in the world - needs to send people all the way to France to tell the VP that the president has had a stroke? That a president and a Speaker even consider to ask the VP to resign? You may use all the fantasy you can muster to conjure up a lot of improbable situations (and West Wing did exactly that), but there are lines you simply can't step over without falling into a science fiction scenario. There is a Constitution and a slew of Amendments, and when you play with those you're losing a lot of viewers. So, what about a VP - still not confirmed as the de facto president! - who commands carriers around as if they were shopping carts? Or showing the ambassador of a hostile nation the innards of the Temple of Secrets, the Situation Room? And finally, we really have to believe that a Republican president has gone for an independent VP? How gullible must we be?
I honestly think that "Commander-in-Chief" never recovered from that first episode. The new president was a fine lady, and Davis is a fine actress, but she simply couldn't fill the shoes of any president. Her press conferences and many of her talks with "important" people were devoid of any personal impact. Remember the first episode of West Wing, where Bartlet only had the last five minutes? But oh, what a minutes they were! You may or may not agree about that particular religious subject, but when he ripped apart the bigotry of the people involved you knew there was a president in the room.
President Allen's chief of staff Gardner also was too nice to believe in. You knew from the first episode onwards that, in spite of all those times he conferred with Evil Emperor Ming on the Hill, he would give his life and limbs for his president! And Donald Sutherland himself - a great and accomplished actor - killed the whole series almost singlehandedly by playing it up to the rafters. Yes, politics will always have its share of pettiness, but not on kindergarten level. Remember that episode that he was president for just a few hours? Gods, it was embarrassing - not only because they stole that plot line from the West Wing, but also because Sutherland looked every inch an emperor without any clothes. Remember that other Speaker, John Goodman, in the West Wing? Now THAT was threatening. Nuf said.
The reason why I'm climbing in my pen is that The West Wing, 24, Buffy, Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Wired and handful of other shows did let us, Europeans, believe that in the middle of so much mediocrity and downright awfulness there was still room for genuine original or professional TV-making. Ron Lurie had made an intriguing little movie about power play in the Capitol & White House - The Contender - so we did expect at least an intelligent approach to yet another White House drama. Unfortunately, this White House stood in Santa Barbara. And even the incumbent inhabitant of the real White House deserved a better series.
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