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15 reviews in total 
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Catch-22 (1970)
1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A valiant attempt, 5 February 1999

It was inevitable that a book of the magnitude of Catch 22 would pale into insignificance in movie adaptation. Tom Wolfe's magnum opus - Bonfire of the Vanities - suffered the same fate.

How could Yossarian's caustic scepticism of all around him be captured as well on celluloid? Or Cathcart and Korn's conniving? Or the well meaning chaplain's impotence when confronted with authority? And so many other things. The answer is of course: it couldn't.

Instead I tried to view this film as though I'd never read the book. After one viewing I found myself rather warming to it. It isn't as grand in scale, how could it be. But instead of slating it for being nothing like the original work, I just settled down to enjoy it as a film in its own right.

On subsequent re-readings of Heller I found myself picturing Alan Arkin as Yossarian. And I believed it too. And Art Garfunkel captured the innocent patriotism of Nately. I like this film because it didn't try too hard to be like the novel, and as opposed to Bonfire, it doesn't fail as entertaining cinema.

beautifully scripted and wonderfully cast, 29 January 1999

Joel and Ethan Coen have never sold us a dud. Quite the contrary in this beautifully dark comic fairytale. Stealing babies is a very delicate subject, but never once do the Coens tread carefully. And why should they with such a funny script and great comedy cast.

The robbery and chase scene is marvellous slapstick, the likes of which we are never treated to any more. And the one liners are gems: "Are these balloons funny shapes?" "Not unless round's funny."

The Coens have shown us that they are adept at different genres, but I always look forward to their next comedy.

Huey Long (1985)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
a colourful documentary, 15 January 1999

This film charts the life of one of America's most colourful politicians in an unbiased and very entertaining manner. Long's speeches were awesome. Absolutely tailor made for the audience before him, and guaranteed to win them over. It wasn't just his Louisiana electorate he won over though. At the time of his assassination in 1935 he controlled the board of education, the state militia several local police forces, as well as most of the state legislature, and most importantly, as senator, he also controlled state governor, O.K. Allen. Huey's brother Earl once said of O.K.: "A leaf once blew in the window of OK's office and landed on his desk and he signed it."

Ken Burn's is even handed in his criticism of Long, and justly so. Long did take Louisiana out of the mud by building over 2000 miles of road and several bridges over the Mississippi. Burn's manages to commit to posterity what would otherwise have been written off as a dark period in US political history. Again, I'm all in favour of stories that should be told.

80 out of 98 people found the following review useful:
A marvellous production of Steinbeck's epic., 5 January 1999

Henry Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad captures perfectly the humanity and compassion of the Steinbeck character, an ex-con who breaks his parole conditions by joining his family in their epic journey across the southern US to a "better life" in California.

This is not the usual Hollywood fare. Tragedy and betrayal beset the Joad family from the outset. But it is nonetheless an uplifting movie. Spirit, compassion and tenderness mark them out. Fonda's role is particularly understated, and we see, as in Steinbeck's masterly epic, the maternally robust figure of Ma holding the family together.

The performances all round are wonderful, and Ford's direction and sense of space under the big sky of the Midwest is breathtaking.

This film is now largely a testament to the time in which it was set, but like the war movies that were soon to follow, a story that needed telling lest we forget.

Huey Long (1985)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
outstanding documentary on superlative political shenaniggins, 5 January 1999

Ken Burns makes some wonderful documentaries, and this two hour special on one of America's most colourful politicians is first rate.

Huey Long was Governor and then a Senator of Louisiana in the 1920s and 30s. When he was assassinated in 1934 he had a complete stranglehold on the state legislature, controlling the state militia and several local police forces, as well as the board of education. He was also making plans to run in the next presidential elections against Franklin Roosevelt.

Burns not only documents these facts - he is a shrewd journalist and appreciates the need for balance. He interviews many people, many of whom believed Huey Long to be a good politician. He did take Louisianans out of the mud by building miles of roads and bridges over the Mississippi - all at public expense. He was the Keynesian economist's dream without knowing it, but would have hated being described as a Liberal.

But watch the film. It is a marvellous insight into the American political process, and shows how one man can exploit the system even though there are supposed to be measures in place to avoid this.

12 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
a compelling trio, 4 January 1999

Director, Jim Jarmush showed great form with this movie, but has done little of note since. This simple trio of stories set in a seedy Memphis hotel are linked by a single event and each one is introduced by the hotel concierge and bellboy. The acute realism of this film is its most notable achievement. The Japanese rock 'n' roll fans touring sites of rock history, the wealthy Italian lady forced to spend the night with a lush, and the three hapless crooks are so believable it is almost necessary for the interjections of the larger-than-life concierge played by Screaming Jay Hawkins. The film is compelling without ever becoming over complicated or wildly action packed.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The perfect anti-hero, 4 January 1999

There are few modern directors whom I respect as well as John Boorman. His biopics are always keenly observed, and he has a great eye for the comic moment. Cahill, history tells us, was a vicious thug - his only redeeming qualities, Boorman tells us, were his love for his family and comrades. Even if a few of Cahill's blemishes were airbrushed out to present him as a modern day Robin Hood, what the hell, it makes great cinema. Cahill is the perfect anti-hero, and with Boorman's decision to show us the ending at the beginning - we know that he ultimately pays the ultimate price for his crimes.

No point in harping on about the use of monochrome photography. I don't particularly think it matters - it just makes me wish I was watching Casablanca. But the principal actors are perfect. Brendan Gleeson and Adrian Dunbar make a fine pairing, and Jon Voight as Cahill's nemesis, Inspector Ned Kenny, is surprisingly good at the Irish accent, and back to his best form as an actor.

Boorman, although not as prolific, deserves to be regarded alongside Scorsese, Coppola and Kubrik for his insight into humanity and the sometimes strange bonds that result. No other modern directors do this as well as the above mentioned.

56 out of 65 people found the following review useful:
Feeling thirsty? Then have a cup of tea., 4 January 1999

Seedy bars, pawnshops, and an array of elaborate hiding places are the overriding images from this film. The Lost Weekend is a grimly realistic account of four days in the life of a chronic alcoholic, played by Ray Milland. In films of this quality one always takes away unforgettable images. The most striking is Milland's drunken efforts to remember where in his apartment the last hiding place he used is. Degraded and thoroughly beaten by his addiction, his last refuge is to try and keep it a secret from those who still love him. Billy Wilder's direction and script is brilliant - sympathetic, but unpatronising in his handling of a delicate and rarely dealt with affliction. Not until Nicolas Cage's portrayal of a man determined to drink himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas, has alcoholism been dealt with so well. Milland's performance is first rate - no hammy shlurring of words - and the atmosphere is dark and seedy like the bars he frequents. The scene where he spends several hours trying to find an open pawnshop on a public holiday is both harrowing and dazzling - it is remeniscent of the filmic image of a parched man trying to cross the desert.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Memoirs of a beautiful war, 4 January 1999

These are director, John Boorman's own memoirs of his experiences growing up in the Blitz. Boorman's recollections bring to mind a sense of innocent wonderment about what was happening around him. Neighbour's houses being destroyed, children learning through their friends that their fathers would not be returning, young women frollicking amid the rubble with Canadian Airmen. Boorman shows his usual touch with applying humour where perhaps a more discreet director would have played it straight. This film is beautiful because it portrays the darkest hour of the century through a child's unknowing eyes

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This is not a Christmas movie, 21 December 1998

James Stewart has long been a favourite actor of mine. Not just because of his effortless charm and wry wit both on and off screen, but because of the variety of roles he played in his distinguished career. He was the favourite actor of many eminent directors. Capra, Hitchcock and Ford all used his ample talents more than once, and although many people associate him with either westerns or sugary, cutesy roles, he was very versatile and a remarkable talent. It's a Wonderful Life shares the same misfortune - to be misunderstood. Often written off as a Christmas film or schmaltz, It's a Wonderful Life is neither. George Bailey is a complex character. He is first and foremost a man, and he feels the acute pain of bitter disappointment. He doesn't act out of love for his fellow man, he acts out of love and respect for his family. He is burdened with being the eldest son, and the responsibility that that entails, and his greatest desire, to travel, is thwarted by these responsibilities. We share his pain because George Bailey is a good man and we want to see good things happen to him. While his brother and his friends achieve fame and fortune, George is left behind in Bedford Falls, the town he grew up in and so desperately wants to escape. George is resentful of the people who put him in this situation, especially the unscrupulous Mr Potter, played by the excellent Lionel Barrymore. When $3000 goes missing from the Building and Loans, George is at the end of his tether, and Clarence the angel is sent to save him.

This really is not schmaltz or saccharine, the film is a dark study of responsibility and disappointment, and even though all ends happily around the Christmas tree, this certainly is not a Christmas movie, because by definition they have to be crap.

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