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Oh dear..... Within 60 seconds of watching I drew the clear conclusion that my time was better spent elsewhere. I am totally puzzled as to what BdeP was looking to achieve; I expected the first scene to close with a TV set being turned off, immediately followed by properly scripted actors mocking the car crash/comedy/amateur hour they had been watching. In dismissing the limp interplay between 2 women and a token boyfriend, the proper cast would then make way for the movie to start in earnest.
Amazingly, that first scene set the tone for what was to follow - poor acting, terrible scripting, disjointed pace, lack of narrative, absence of character development, weak storytelling and a general mishmash of locations and scenes that left me thinking this laughable excuse for a movie was nothing more than a Director's self indulgence. At the premiere I can only imagine that a severe case of the emperors new clothes had kicked in whereby no-one dare exhale their sharp intakes of breath in order to share their complete unease and disbelief of what was before their eyes.
The central premise is a lesbian laced joust between 2 hollow, privileged females, masquerading as a business power-play carried out in an artificial Berlin society which comes across as completely meaningless. Thus develops a plunge into unfaithfulness, murder and a totally predictable ending.
The man who gave us Carrie and Carlito's Way is way off beam here, the $20m budget is a gigantic price for a complete stinker.
Casino Royale (2006)
A Ball-Breaking, Bruising, Bonanza of a Bond
Just back from the first regional screening. I was absolutely blown away by it. Mrs Freemanist has never been to a Bond picture - from her reaction it will not be her last. She was, like me, engrossed.
Bond attempts to foil international terrorism through tackling financial crime, resulting in a credible love interest, jumping over blazing construction sites, high junks on an airport runway, demolition in Venice and a poker showdown with a difference. Death and freedom, blood and tears, tension and euphoria. It's all in here. And much much more. The running time is almost 3 hours.
Daniel Craig is by far the most charismatic Bond yet and frankly, aided by magnificent scripting, he acts the others - even the brilliant and under-rated Timothy Dalton - totally off the screen. This film has broad appeal beyond the "Bond Club" and it is without doubt the best film I have seen in years. By dispensing with silly gadgets, dated humor and stuffy shots of Whitehall, CASINO ROYALE lifts James Bond out of the cult envelope and posts him up as a deep, driven, complex man who, in this film, exposes his weaknesses as well as his considerable strengths. Bond does not just maintain his Englishness, he actually expands this necessary attribute. Defeated yet sensitive, wise and ruthless with complete credibility in a film that allows him to be a fine, believable, central character.
The blatant product placement for a certain corporate's mobile phones, cameras and laptop computers is a bit of an irritation, but so what? After all, this Company actually owns the studio that produced it.
Good to see Richard Branson in a Miami cameo role. Did you all spot him?? Highly recommended. Well done to Daniel Craig.
Keep A Going.......
This film remains unique, not only for it's constant ability to attract serious comment over 30 years after release, but also for it's undoubted quality as a study in fame, power, comedy and love.
Centered around a political rally in the world capital of country music, Robert Altman's masterpiece brings maximum rewards as he lets the viewer eavesdrop on the ups and downs of a couple of dozen characters who casually - and perhaps unwittingly - team-build a patchwork of immense story telling through music, candid dialogue, joy and tears.
The country music icons, notably played by Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, Karen Black and Timothy Brown effectively lead the tale, bolstered by a political machine over-lorded by the Primary seeking hopeful (and anonymous, as he is never seen) Hal Phillip Walker, with his duo of sycophantic, in your face supporters, played effortlessly by Ned Beatty and Michael Murphy.
The performances of the country stars, coupled with political stunts to bring Walker into office, blend in to a climax at a star-spangled vote-for-me open air freebie where a twist in the tale leaves the viewer feeling short changed and shocked. I say 'short changed' because there is a brilliantly acted assassination which is never truly developed in terms of why it happened; a possible flaw in the plot, but one that is a minor impediment as the reaction to this horror, through a mass anthem led by an underrated country music wannabee (played superbly by Barbara Harris) is one of steadfastness, resolution and American spirit.
The film is, however, stolen by one central performance. Ronee Blakely as the neurotic, driven but broken and manager/husband abused Barbara Jean is simply magnificent. She does not appear to be acting at all as her character is totally natural, letting us glimpse her weaknesses, strengths, fears and hopes. Ably assisted by her slave-master "Its me who takes care of yooooo honey...." Allen Garfield, excellent as 'Barnett', she is tragedy and triumph rolled into one. Memorable songs of the movie were Blakely's self written/performed 'Dues', My Idaho Home', 'Tapedeck in his Tractor' and a soft, wheelchair bound rendition of 'In The Garden'.
Other reviews here have highlighted the musical and narrative merit of Keith Carradine's 'Im Easy' and I can only agree that the club scene when he delivers this lilting song is worthy of continual re-visit. Lily Tomlin, with a motionless, haunted expression and a brief pause for breath is effectively turned into stone in this scene, absorbing the lyrics as she realizes the song is a tribute to her - even though the camera pans and tilts to reveal 3 other women in the crowd who believe the piece is a personal message to them, without a single word being said. Screen Genius.
The film is (still) not available in England on DVD, so I recently imported it via Amazon.com - MONEY WELL SPENT.
In prison, even the stink 'stinks'
Brubaker (Robert Redford) as a messiah-type, seemingly on the fringe of municipal importance, takes up the job of Warden at a Southern state penal farm and decides to see the extent of what he is up against by entering in disguise as just another inmate, with no privileges. He feels that to absorb the experience from the inside looking out is preferable to relying on preconceptions. He is right as the thrust of the film would have otherwise been lost and the overall plot (simple though it is) is stronger for the fact that Brubaker has 'been there'.
He manages to carve a bond with a few prisoners before he modestly reveals his true identity and, through a series of well acted confrontations, he begins to make the prison machine tick over nicely. In the final analysis his efforts are not totally successful, but the film does reflect change and at least the viewer can agree that he seized the chance to make a difference.
The film is possibly a bit too long and the principal character is under-developed. 'Brubaker' was apparently a rather mournful, strained film to work on and the original director, Bob Rafelson, was sacked for smacking Ron Silverman (producer) in the nose during an early on-set argument.
However, I think it is well acted and very absorbing to watch. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Brubaker gets his staff to release a few long term solitary confinements, stating that before they do so, the requisite pairs of sunglasses should be given to them as they come out of complete darkness for the first time in ages - the staff think Brubaker is crazy: of course, they cannot see that this is all about building trust. The master plan is therefore to get the inmates on board and allow the trustees to follow. Nice theory, not so nice to put into practice as he is up against a rancid, but self policing establishment from day one.
Watch out for Wilford Brimley as "Rogers" - a later teaming up with Redford took place in the outstanding "The Natural", with Brimley starring in a major role as the jaundiced, downtrodden, Pop Fisher.
Concerto per pistola solista (1970)
Hey, there.......do you fancy being in the film?
If anyone out there has this on video (unlikely as it apparently stinks) then I would like to see it. Why? Well, my Dad is in it!!!!! The stately home scenes were part shot at Somerleyton Hall, not far from my hometown. Anyway, when my Dad and his brother stopped the car to see what all the commotion was about, a back-combed sycophant suddenly appeared, carrying a clipboard and asked if they could spare a few moments to fill a couple of subsidiary roles.
Hey presto, the old man became a stretcher bearing ambulance man and his brother became a taxi driver. They were given exceptional 24 hour equity memberships (the actors union)and were dismissively paid about £10 each for their trouble - not bad for 1970!!! They were also told that the working title of the film was "Weekend Murders" but it might have some kind of Italian title upon release.
Their abiding memory was of Lance Percival(English comedian & actor on the fringe of the "carry on" team, popular 1960's/1970's)being locked in the portable toilet by one of the sound crew.
There you go - a bit of movie trivia for you.
The Natural (1984)
Losing is a disease..................Ah! But curable!!
This film is a quality production throughout and my favourite Redford performance next to "The Candidate".
The subject matter is baseball and its place in American life, but the legend is Arthurian, as in the ancient King of England. Along the road to becoming 'The best there ever was', Roy Hobbs (Redford) caves in to temptation and abuses his god-like status by ignoring his honour to his first love and meeting the mysterious Harriet (Hershey)at a hotel. There are many theories on her purpose, but I tend to agree the silver bullet theory: that she was an accomplice of Gus, the bookie from hell, who lost big $$ on Hobbs and, in a return to baseball after an aged Hobbs rose from the dead, Memo (Bassinger)effectively takes her place, seeking out weaklings for Gus to manipulate (such as "Bump" Bailey and, in the climax to the film, the NY Knights bent pitcher).
I like the contrast of the two ladies here - Kershey/Bassinger in black and Glenn Close in white - a clear reference to evil Morgana and pure Guinnevere (have I spelled that right??).
Hobbs rises, falls and rises again to defeat, in a brilliant baseball crescendo, the owner (in league with Gus and Memo) of the Knights. He then returns to his first love in a sentimental, but 'right' end frame. Thus the story comes full circle and why not? It is a tale and a great one, too.
One unanswered question: Hobbs was shot in the stomach, so how come when Memo Paris touches his sensitive scar (the nightmare scene) it is on his shoulder.....?
One of my favourite films of all time and it is something that all of the family can watch, without the feeling that it is wishy washy.
Maybe I am drawn to this film by my love of baseball - but I cant help but draw parallels with the injured Kirk Gibson stepping on to the plate for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series to score a platinum plated homer, against the "A"'s and against the odds.......
"Try this one for size" (Hobbs fits cap on) "Welcome to the majors!"
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Hey Sal! "How come yo ain't got no brothers on the wall"???
Yes, it is a classic. Having now secured the Criterion collection DVD version from the US direct, I can now appreciate the true quality of it all. Mookie (Lee) is a passive but opinionated pizza delivery boy, working at Sal's Famous (Sal played magnificently by Aiello)at the end of the block. The film delivers a slice of real life on a 24 hour deathly hot NYC day. Senior Mr Love Daddy at 'We Love Radio'opens the event and, sets the scene as we then plough through an odyssey of love, lies, misunderstandings, hate and humour.
No-one surely expected a full scale riot and death to result from the early banter???
My favourite scene? Easy: "Hey, don't be f***in with the water - this car's an antique".....When the car and driver get soaked he responds to the NYPD's invitation to file a compliant with "Yeah, I wanna file a complaint, I want them buried UNDER the jail".
I particularly liked the character "Sweet Dick Willie". Now that guy has class.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Fainted?.......Mister, I thought you were dead!!
Cinema, once in a while, can provide frustrations of the highest order. You watch with interest, only to have your train of thought switched elsewhere by a film that steers you off course. You are perplexed, through missing something, but this is even more annoying when you don't quite know what that something is.
This is precisely the criticism leveled at The Man Who Fell To Earth, which carries the hallmark of a peculiar, brave but controversial directorial style. Nicolas Roeg directs this science fiction/drama/love story with one eye on the main event and another on the various sub plots that weave their way in and out of the principal tale. The fact that he uses this to create a somewhat disjointed narrative is seen as a personal indulgence and many were puzzled enough to claim that the whole project was flawed. That is a harsh judgment; the film is highly stylized, but this does not detract from it's undoubted quality.
Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) lands, as surely all self respecting aliens would choose to do, in New Mexico. How come he is wearing normal' clothes? Where did he get the precious metal rings that he wastes no time in trading so eagerly? Why is he carrying an Englishman's passport? These are the kind of questions that confront you at the outset, causing many to bark in dismay. To get the maximum benefit from the film, you simply have to take these unexplained occurrences - and also the rapid passing of time - on board, because the whole is more significant and understandable than its component parts.
Newton arrives here to suck on the capitalist system, recruiting a top patent's lawyer (Buck Henry as Oliver Farnsworth) along the way to help quickly mould his business idea, World Enterprises, into an immense scientific and commercial colossus. He needs the cash to fund the construction of a spacecraft which will carry him back home with the secret of water, the vital resource that, without which, his planet is dying. A disillusioned college professor, (Rip Torn, magnificent as Nathan Brice) stale with the stench of academia and tired of bedding his female students joins Newton as a chief scientist. He is actually the closest to understanding the man, but he ultimately fails him. The mocked time lapses in this film are, in my view one of it's strengths. It enables us to see Mary Lou (Candy Clark) pass from young humble hotel maid to alcoholic old wretch, via live-in lover and Tommy' worshipper. Clark & Bowie share a key scene where Newton decides to reveal his true self: Newton discards his human-eye contact lenses, strips away the false body hair and fingernails. Mary Lou goes hysterical with fear as the real Newton appears in all his extra-terrestrial glory and this is made all the more grotesque when he starts to exude a complete bodily slime during the ensuing love ritual.
A special mention should be made of Anthony Richmond's photography, particularly in the spectacular terrain of New Mexico. Indeed, the whole film is a technical masterpiece and the acting is also of the highest level.
Of course, the Man Who Fell To Earth is himself beaten at the outset. The Intelligence Services, jealous, as opposed to curious, of his corporate success, want this weirdo brought to order. They achieve this by hounding Farnsworth and infiltrating the company, finally spoiling everything.
Imaginative, vibrant,different, ambitious and memorable: I rarely award ratings but will make an exception here. 8/10 and worth regular re-viewings.
The Candidate (1972)
'For a better way - Bill McKay'
Robert Redford, reveling in his finest form (as in The Natural, ATPM, Brubaker & Indecent Proposal) is an idealistic young lawyer, who is sucked into the vacuum of politics - initially refusing to build up his profile by taking a free ride on the coat tails of his ex-senator father. American political films are common, but good ones are quite rare. This film falls into that latter category. Bill McKay agrees to run for Senate believing he can remain true to his values - honesty, realism, ideology, independence and a healthy distrust of policy for policy's sake. On that basis alone, he is an idiot, as the whole process predictably obscures his opinions, blunts his marriage and sees him struggle with compromise.
Mc Kay is rushed around town as the new kid on the block, taking in snatched TV slots, endorsement opportunities, talking with union workers and disenchanted youth along the way. However, 'The better way' is blocked at the outset by the sitting tenant, Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter). As a time-served Mr American and the holder of an office that he feels he deserves just for parking his butt on the seat of history, 'The Croc' is a magnificent enemy. Note the key scene where McKay simply loses patience in a TV head to head with Jarmon. A house of cards seems to fall around his ears and what does The Croc do? Easy - he makes capital out of it in his smug dignified 'I would never stoop so low' brand of schmultz. You gotta love that guy.
The final scene (even though you can guess the outcome of the plot) is a gripper. Mc Kay, among the chaos, manages to get a minute's privacy with Marvin, his overwhelmed agent, who has even combed his beard on the advice of his staff. He simply asks him 'What happens now?'. That left a chill with me when I first saw the film and, on a re-view, the impact is still just as strong. On that basis, 'The Candidate' has stood the test of time as the deep stink of party politics is as rancid as it ever was.
Michael Ritchie is not a director I know much of, aside from his previous Redford collaboration, Downhill Racer, which I thought was average. How nice to be proved wrong, therefore, as this film is definitely a director's badge of honour. It is also extremely well acted across the range. I understand there was talk of a sequel and it is a shame that it never materialized.
Get Carter (1971)
I'll catch up with you later, Margaret.....
Possibly the best on-screen performance that Michael Caine (Jack Carter) has given to date and he can be proud of that achievement as he carries 'Get Carter' to the top of the genre in a style that gained much from Mike Hodges' television based directorial style.
Well heeled London heavy leaves "civilisation" to travel to Newcastle in the gritty, honest North East of England. Ignoring his gangland bosses advice not to travel he takes the next train out and, upon arrival, starts to piece together the circumstances of his brother's mysterious death. He follows the events by looking up old contacts in the underworld and also his deceased brother's tarty (and very well played)girlfriend. Jack Carter, as a true villain, is a born user and the trip up North is no exception. Keith the barman and the purple underwear laden landlady of the Las Vegas hotel are pawns in his game. A sub plot in the story (Carter seeing his bosses girlfriend behind his back)is magnificently handled and when the London gang are revealed as having joined forces with Cyril Kinnear's Newcastle outfit to hide up the death (through an illegal porn racket), it all kicks off in a brilliant climax where Carter manipulates a chance to go head to head with Kinnear's sleazy wannabee bag-carrier Eric Paice, whom he suspected all along. The final twist in the tale thereafter sets this film apart from run of the mill gangster films.
Ian Hendry (Paice) sadly had a severe drink problem throughout his acting life and was almost fired from the film twice - most notably for getting p***ed before the racecourse scene where Caine removes his shades to reveal his genuinely alcohol fuzzed eyes. Caine kept him at arms length throughout the entire association and this certainly added a tension to the acting. John Osbourne - successful 1960's playwright returning to his acting roots - is perfectly cast as Cyril Kinnear. His whining, calm, sinister voice contrasts superbly to Caine's arrogant delivery in the scene where Jack Carter enters his mansion un-invited, to interrupt a card school.
The second scene (and also the title sequence) in the film is of particular interest. Look at the passengers in the train carriage, sitting alongside Carter. Notice something strange? Look again - the hired gun at the end of the film (yes, the signet ring wearer) is sitting there, reading the newspaper, smoking a cigarette - on Carter's trail from the outset.
Physical quirks are in here too. The arrival of Jack Carter sees him enter a pub (minus his cases - where did they go? - they re-appeared when he goes to Frank's house) and when he menacingly scans the inside of the pub to see who is around, an old guy in a flat cap raises his glass to drink. Look closely - he has 5 fingers and a thumb. Great stuff.
The film gained more recent popular exposure when Ted Turner, through TCM, brought the MGM back catalogue. Subsequently, TCM run the film on Sky Satellite in England every so often and quite right too. It is a classic and every scene is memorable.
Superb haunting theme music too.