12 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Passengers (I) (2016)
Curious levels of hate for this reasonable romance
2 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the anger seems to be about the moral dilemma that Chris Pratt's character faces and his response to it. Clearly many of the critics feel he made a bad choice. However they seem to be glossing over the fact that he knows what he's doing is wrong (he even has an expository chat with the robot barman to ensure we all get the implications). He's already tried, and failed, to kill himself at this point so it's not like he's acting on a whim and his self loathing is evident. The fact that Jennifer Lawrence's character finds a way to forgive him is crime is held up as a 'message' from the filmmakers that stalking is OK cos she'll come around in the end. Really? Leaving aside that 'stalking' is hardly the right term for such an extreme scenario she has the opportunity to kill him - which he knowingly gives her - and chooses not to take it - facing effectively the same dilemma as Pratt's character faced and coming to a similar realisation - the alternative to this extreme choice is suicide. (If she chose hibernation at the end of the film she knows he will kill himself) She chooses compassion. I've read here someone claiming the robot bartender 'sold him out' No he didn't. In the dialogue he is told that the two characters 'have no secrets from each other' and he - being a robot - believes them. (See the collected works of Issac Asimov for full details) There are problems with this film - the resurrection and convenient death of a crew member seems only to occur to get past a plot obstacle -and yes the usual Hollywood requirement is that the leads are both impossibly good looking - but the visuals are impressive and the cast do a good job. The more I reflect on the film the more I like it.
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Jackson makes a decent film from an unfilmable book
4 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the extreme criticism from contributors here seems to revolve around either the differences from the book or the fact that the killer is never caught (which oddly is the same as the book).

Neither, I think, are fair.

Changes from the pretty much unfilmable book were always inevitable. The book focuses primarily on the the fracture, and healing, of the relationships between Susies surviving family members and those around them. In what would have been a nine hour screenplay Alice Sebold explores how people deal with grief, the lack of closure, and the realities of getting on with life. The murderer and the hunt for him are background McGuffins.

In adapting the book Jackson and his co-writers had to emphasise the dramatic tension in trying to identify the killer, greatly contract the timelines involved and try to simplify the relationships without losing their importance. They already proved they could do the near impossible when they made The Return Of The King filmable and they get almost as close here.

I'm not sure why people insist on comparing books to films as though one should be "better". Is the musical "Cats" 'better' than TS Eliots "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats"? No, and it's not worse either. Its a different medium that should be judged on it's own merits.

The killer gets away (from human retribution anyway) because - from the story point of view - thats what makes the other characters stories worth knowing. Susies parents ability to go on, rediscover their love for each other and live again without the pat ending seeing the killer brought to book is what makes them special people worth making a film about.

The film isn't perfect. Susan Sarandon's as Susies grandmother is great but doesn't get enough interaction with her daughter. Rachel Weiss's return to the family home could have done with more time spent on it. But the visuals are a treat and after this and Atonement, Saoirse Ronan has proved herself a stunning young talent to be watched closely.
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Guinness is mesmerising
15 December 2009
I do understand the folks here who don't appreciate this series. It was a product of its time and, what a product. All the things that make it so difficult for a wider audience - sedate pace, lack of action, etc are all intrinsic to its construction.

Le Carre wanted the world to know - guess what? Being a spy is a job and it's largely just as dull as being a bank manager or anything else. It's bureaucracy, internecine feuding and bloated ego's getting in the way. What action does occur tends to be fast, unpleasant, confusing and immediately smoothed over... Smiley is so brilliant because he has no ambition beyond getting the job done and only academic interest in the power plays of others. This is a spy movie for chess players.

How a new film version is going to deal with this I shudder to think. If Smiley starts shooting at people I'm off.
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Damages (2007–2012)
Brilliantly crafted - but where's the heart?
15 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
My comments only relate to the first 2 seasons.

Don't get me wrong there's little to fault here. All the performances are excellent (I was blown away by Zeljko Ivanek as the doomed Ray Fiske), production values are slick and the script does an incredible job of keeping you up to date with all the latest twists and turns But...

It's hard to care about any of these people isn't it? Every major character is duplicitous and mercenary and characters who don't start out that way either join in (Ellen) or get beaten to death in a bathtub. We could view it all as a meditation on where you draw the line in the endless 'the end justifies the means' debate but I'm not convinced.

However - my wife is completely convinced - so I look forward to the season 3 box set introducing somebody - you know - normal.
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Shoah (1985)
An important document
6 September 2006
I understand the criticism of SHOAH. It fails in a number of things one would normally expect a documentary to deliver. It spends little or no time establishing the causes of the holocaust, nor does it even make a pretence of being an impartial document of what happened. This is an opportunity for the victims to describe what happened to them in order to ensure the world never forgets. The decision to secretly film some of the Nazi guards and camp officials grates as it deviates from this agenda and throws the partisan stance of the filmmaker into the spotlight. He justifies this on the basis of who they are and what they did - but that is a cop-out. He betrayed the integrity of the film by lying to them and proves little by it. That they have spent the years since the war ended rationalising their behaviour to themselves is hardly a surprise - if they hadn't been able to do that they would not have survived anyway. Having said all that SHOAH remains a remarkable testament from those who were there and saw and felt such things as none of us could begin to imagine. As such it is an important work that should be on every school syllabus. The people of the world who do not know, or choose not to believe, about the holocaust (and there appear to be lots of them) need to see this.
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Impressive and ambitious epic that is of it's time
7 July 2004
The Longest Day could never be made today. Only the studio system, in it's last gasps by the production date of this film, could afford to put so many A-List stars into a film for, in many cases, fleeting cameos.

Many of the criticisms levied at the film are merely reflections of the prevailing attitude to such a project in the sixties. WWII was still a vivid memory to many of the makers (Richard Todd virtually plays himself in this film) and understandably they submit to the temptation of making their comrades a little more consciously heroic than they were. This after all is designed to be an entertainment - not a documentary. Nevertheless there is a more even handed treatment of the material than you might expect, the victory is shown as being as much due to German errors as to Allied successes and the acknowledgement of the parts played by the Free French and resistance groups seems more enlightened than modern Hollywood often manages. Three pieces of tour-de-force camera work stick out vividly - a small group of GI's playing craps is revealed, through a spectacular zoom out and tracking shot to be a vast dormitory of soldiers awaiting the word to go. Two Luftwaffe fighters strafe the beaches and we see every bit of WWII hardware the production could lay hands on as we see the attack run from the fighters POV. Finally the opening of the assault on a German garrison filmed as another single tracking shot that must have taken whole days to re-set between takes.

Dated yes but still a significant piece of cinema and a fitting tribute to the Men and Women who lost their lives in June 1944.
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Plot-lite fun
31 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
<Some spoilers> TDAT is a popcorn movie. Visually impressive, no brain power required (In fact thinking about some of the glaring loopholes will definitely spoil it for you). The usual Hollywood blueprint is followed pretty faithfully - only concern yourself with the survival of Americans; the greatest cataclysm of all recorded history will turn out OK if we are nice to each other; the hero's best mate isn't going to be there when the credits roll (but he sacrificed himself for his chums)etc.

There is some fun to be had and I'm charitably going to assume all the jokes were intentional (The city of Glasgow is represented by half a dozen outbuildings in a field, Jake Gyllenhaal's character - having been established as an intellectual giant - demonstrates his brilliant mind by hitting a wolf on it's head with a torch) and certainly the wonderful irony of Mexico closing it's borders to keep American illegal immigrants out was a highlight.

Go see it on a big screen (it will suffer on DVD because without the spectacle you'll have to focus on the plot). You'll have forgotten it by the time you've driven home but hey - we can't all be Shakespeare, right?

By the way - Is it just me or is Dennis Quaid turning into Harrison Ford as he gets older?
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Dinnerladies (1998–2000)
An oasis of wit
9 August 2002
Dinnerladies is uniquely british and unsurprisingly does not travel well beyond these shores. There is little physical humour and the references are primarily based on UK culture and the north of England in particular. However, it is also the best example of its type I've ever seen. Victoria Wood's dialogue is fantastic, (Alan Bennett is the only other writer in her league in this regard). The staging is restricted (effectively one set, two rooms) the plots are secondary and contrived because they are of no real significance. It is all merely backdrop for the characters Ms Wood creates and the way they speak to, across and around each other.

A superb example of intelligent writing managing to survive in a world of slapstick
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Panic Room (2002)
Fun thrill ride - No classic
6 May 2002
This is a quality thriller with Fincher's trademark sophisticated camera work and inventive use of slow motion and editing raising the standard. Jodie Foster and Forest Whittaker do dependable work. Between them they take what would have been a fairly routine film up a notch.

However.... For some reason this movie seems to be getting a lot of extra hype. Fincher, Foster and Whittaker have all done better work. The fact that they are so talented means that this film rises above all the shortcomings that remain visible. (The three criminals are all stereotypes, the crook with a heart, the unpredictable nut case who joins the team at the last minute and the leader who is actually the weakest). Some fairly obvious ways for the bad guys to achieve their goal are overlooked. (In fact, late in the film one of the crooks says "Why didn't we do that?")

The best way to think of it is that Fincher and Foster needed to pay the rent before doing their next "proper" projects and they at least had the good grace to make an effort for us.

A strong *** out of *****
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Mrs Brown (1997)
A beautifully crafted film
8 March 1999
Queen Victoria's slow, painful, emergence from mourning after the loss of her husband Albert, is brought about by the only man amongst her staff who can see her as a woman as well as a queen. This simple tale is used to paint a picture of the Victorian court so perfectly that you're left with a conviction that this is exactly how it must have been.

Certainly the plot restrains itself to the facts: Queen Victoria and her gillie John Brown were friends with a great affection for each other. That their affection never went further is a certainty and the film provides ample proof of the English class and protocol systems that guaranteed it.

The set design and the supporting cast are uniformly excellent. Billy Connolly gives his best acting performance to date, but Judi Dench is breathtaking. She deservedly won a BAFTA for her performance and should have got the Oscar. (Even the recipient ,Helen Hunt, said so during her acceptance speech.)

I can understand how some viewers feel the film is cold and austere, it is, on the surface. But below the surface is a constantly shifting pattern of emotion and passion. Victorian England was exactly the same.
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Unforgiven (1992)
Eastwood & Hackman shine
30 January 1999
Unforgiven is about as far from the fantasy mythos of A Fistful of Dollars as Clint Eastwood could get. No pin-point accuracy with 19th century technology, no desire to 'play fair' and face the enemy on even terms. If you can shoot him in the back...then do it.

Eastwood puts in an astonishing performance as the retired killer Muny, saved from his life of thievery and murder by his late wife. Now, desperately trying to support his children with no income, he is tempted back to his killing ways by the bounty offered by the women of a brothel, one of whom's number has been savagely beaten and disfigured by a drunken ranch-hand.

The film follows Eastwood as he wrestles with his desire to honour his wife's memory and his need to feed his children by returning to the killer that, he fears, is his true nature. Meanwhile word of the bounty has spread and the events spiral out of control as the sheriff (Gene Hackman) deals with the guns for hire that ride into town.

While all the supporting cast are excellent Gene Hackman's Oscar winning performance even manages to eclipse Eastwoods as the brutal Sheriff. He beats one of the bounty hunters, English Bob (Richard Harris) almost to death and then explains to a journalist, in one of the film's stand out scenes, how men like he and Muny are so successful at killing. The mood moves from light banter to life threatening seriousness...and back again, with just one move of his head.

One of the greatest Westerns ever made? Certainly. Although the fact it's a western is really secondary. In truth it's a tale of the nature of evil and the nature of man. Eastwood uses the gap between the western myth and reality as an arena to play out his story and does so with consummate style.
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Oh dear......
29 January 1999
If you have never seen Burton's original and if you thought the 60's TV series was better than the comic then you might, possibly, find something to enjoy here. If, however, you think Batman should be a shadowy, menacing figure you're going to hate the pantomime caricature that Joel Schumacher has produced.

You can't help but sympathise with poor George Clooney who, along with Una Thurman (Poison Ivy) looks embarrassed to be there. Arnie (Mr Freeze) seems to be able to keep the paycheck in sight and even seems to being enjoying himself, perhaps he's more at ease operating in an artistic vacuum than the others.

Visually, it's stunning, and the sound will impress all but the stone deaf, but anybody who wants credibility, a plot, or even a few good one-liners is in for a bitterly grim evening. How Schumacher could have made the flawed but entertaining Batman Forever and then chosen this godawful route to 'improve' on it escapes me.
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