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8/10
I thought it was good
8 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
If this had not been a Peter Jackson film I doubt if I would have gone and seen it. The reviews it has received range from mixed to negative. I don't think it's as good as The Lord of the Rings or King Kong but still a film worth seeing. The fact that the protagonist is a teenage girl would put many guys off seeing it but Peter Jackson has made some good films for boys of all ages and I definitely am a fan of his work. There is a small in-joke with the bookshop advertising the book of The Lord of the Rings and you see Peter Jackson in the camera shop examining a now long obsolete implement, a cine camera. It also seems strange now in the digital age Susie taking her pictures on film. I must admit when I first saw it I didn't recognise Saoirse Ronan from Atonement. She gives a good performance but the best performance in the film is from Stanley Tucci. Right from the moment he appears on screen you're thinking "I don't like the look of this guy". He was nominated for an Oscar but didn't win. He should have. The book is I think more of a ladies' book and I haven't read it so I can't make any comparisons. One thing I know about the book is that Christian fundamentalists didn't like it because there is no last judgement and no God in the afterlife as portrayed in the book. But what's so bad about there being no last judgement. They turn God into a bogeyman and they are very flawed and bad people if they wish an eternity of torment on people who don't share their obsession with ancient Middle Eastern beliefs. One critic said Peter Jackson portrayed the afterlife as an amalgam of screensavers. Personally, I don't want my afterlife to be as girly as Susie's.
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7/10
Lower budget but still good
6 July 2010
C S Lewis died the day before the first ever episode of Dr Who was broadcast and like Dr Who this version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has excellent production values but low budget special effects. I think the animatronic of Aslan must have absorbed quite a lot of the special effects budget. The two-dimensional animations of the various creatures contrasting with the three-dimensional Aslan mar the impact of an otherwise good production as do the rather humanoid beavers and wolves. But Barbara Kellerman is every bit as good as Tilda Swinton and the four child actors playing the Pevensie children are excellent. Thanks to the films of more recent years and a DVD promotion by the Daily Mail this BBC version of the second Narnia book will have gained a new following. It might lack the special effects and spectacular New Zealand locations of the 2005 film but I still recommend it highly.
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In Bruges (2008)
10/10
A very original gangster movie
3 January 2010
This film features characters and a plot which one would normally expect to be located in the east end of London. Or if it was about gangsters hiding out in a continental city one would expect it to be Amsterdam. But no, it's Bruges. The plot may seem relatively simple but there are a lot of deeper meanings in the film in the imagery of Bosch paintings and references to religious relics. Bruges is a city well worth visiting which I have been to a couple of times before but for me the city will never be the same again after seeing this film. The film is an 18 certificate and one can see why. Kids who may want to see it because it features four moonlighters from the Harry Potter films should not be allowed to. There is a lot of swearing in it and the scenes where people get shot are quite grisly. There is also one scene which is not for people who suffer from vertigo. Very good and Clemence Poesy also looks hot in a slip!
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The 39 Steps (2008 TV Movie)
4/10
Weakest Adaptation
18 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This version is not true to the spirit of John Buchan's novel and loses out a lot by not being set in Galloway, something which gives Robert Powell's version the edge. I wonder if this version is meant to be a rebooting of the Hannay stories in the style of Daniel Craig's James Bond films. I mean Hannay has always been played by dark-haired actors and most book covers of The 39 Steps and the other Hannay stories show Hannay as dark-haired. Some also say Hannay is a more gentlemanly early 20th century James Bond. There is also no love interest in Hannay's life until the third novel, Mr Standfast, but Lydia Leonard is there as a suffragette who is a romantic at heart and doesn't say no to being wooed with roses and posh dinners. The anachronism of the SE5a before the First World War has broken out really grates. Another thing that mars it a bit for Scottish viewers is that one recognises all the locations. The Foreign Office is Glasgow City Chambers, another part of which contains Hannay's flat and his club and he is seen passing Register House at the eastern end of Princes Street when he is making his escape from London. The London railway station is actually Kelvingrove Art Galleries and the villains' headquarters is Dumbarton Castle. Altogether a rather pointless remake.
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Egypt (2005– )
10/10
Marvellous and Original
5 August 2008
Many of us are familiar with the story of the discovery of Tutenkhamun's tomb but Egypt goes into it in much greater detail. Egypt presents the events that led to the story of the curse of Tutenkhamun in a level headed way. I wonder though, how true is the story about Howard Carter having a thing for Lady Evelyn Carnarvon? Mind you, when she's played by the lovely, slightly Keira Knightley-ish Alexandra Weaver who can blame him? Giovanni Belzoni was a colourful larger than life character whose priceless contributions to Egyptology are not well known to the general public. Thanks to him, marvellous Egyptian treasures such as the Head of the Younger Memnon are now in the British Museum. Thanks to CGI, Egypt shows us Abu Simbel exactly as it was found by Belzoni, half buried by the sandstorms of three millenia. CGI also shows us what these monuments looked like when they were newly built and it's very strange as hitherto it was hard to conceive of them as anything other than ruins. Although the discovery of the Rosetta Stone is well known this series tells us about another name not known to many people, Jean Francois Champollion. I used to think that with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone translating the hieroglyphs would have been as straightforward as looking up a language dictionary. Egypt shows us that it wasn't as easy as that. Champollion deciphered their meaning and enabled the reason for the construction of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh to be discovered. I recommend buying the DVD very strongly. As another reviewer says, it can be watched over and over again. It's great.
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10/10
Never too old! (Spoilers)
26 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Indy seems here to be putting into practice the lesson he learned in German East Africa while pursuing the Phantom Train of Doom. One is only as old as one feels. He's every bit as much of an action hero as he was in Raiders of the Lost Ark. All the essential elements are here. An ancient mystery, militaristic villains, fights during chases in army trucks, creepy crawlies, lost tombs full of human remains, the Paramount logo morphing into something else (in this film a prairie dog hill) and a grisly death for the villain. There are references to the previous three films and also the Young Indiana Jones television series. It would have been nice to have seen Sean Connery reprising his role as Professor Henry Jones but Sir Sean is quite adamant he has retired from films and when he says no he means no. Nice to have the tributes to the late Denholm Elliott in the form of the portrait and statue of Marcus Brody on the university campus. This film rounds off very well a marvellous series.
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Gandhi (1982)
8/10
Another slightly over-rated 80s movie
31 May 2008
This film had been a pet project of Sir Richard Attenborough's which took almost quarter of a century to reach the screen. Sir Richard is a very staunch pacifist and Gandhi is definitely the one of the greatest pacifists within living memory. This film certainly taught us all a great deal more about him and introduced many to his very sensible maxim "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind". Although his approach to his religion was too strict for many people it is very creditable how ecumenical he was. He declared himself not just a Hindu but a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim and a Buddhist. His adherence to his pacifism was remarkable and he achieved infinitely more by being not violent than anyone could by being violent. One of his other sayings, not quoted in the film, was "I am against violence. The good it does is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent". Very true! The pace of the film, though, is a bit slow. It plods along like the Mahatma on one of his protest marches and has a bit of a history lesson air to it. Certainly, until I saw this film I had never heard of the Amritsar massacre. It is good the scene where General Dyer says at the enquiry that he would have given aid to any wounded who had "applied" and then the barrister asks "General Dyer, how does a child shot with a 303 Lee Enfield "apply" for help?". He has no answer to give. It is very poignant the following scene where Gandhi and Pandit Nehru are looking down the well which several people jumped down in order to escape the fusillade of bullets. None of them survived. The film though does contain a few slightly melodramatic touches, characteristic of Richard Attenborough, such as the wee one crying next to his slain mother during the massacre. I have not seen the actor Peter Harlow in any other films but he is absolutely spot on as Lord Mountbatten, to whom the film is dedicated, a man who took a great deal of interest in this film during its long gestation and who was tragically and brutally murdered by the IRA. A demonstration of how pointless violence is. Although this film is good, like a lot of early 80s films it is a bit over-rated. Like Chariots of Fire, if it were being made nowadays it would be a lot more impressive with the help of a bit of CGI. It would also be different in that we have a very different approach to historic films nowadays.
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7/10
A Quite Fair Portrayal
29 May 2008
Although Julie Walters looks a bit like Caroline Aherne as her Mrs Merton character in quite a few scenes this is quite a true and very fair portrayal of Mrs Whitehouse. Whatever you think of her prudery and her lack of humour you actually feel sympathetic to her when she gets heckled at meetings and gets abusive letters and phonecalls. It's fair to say that the permissive society had an inpermissive nature, if you get my meaning. She was also not a lady to mess with and you said unfavourable things about her at your peril. The film mentions her successful defamation actions. It's fair to say that if you were up against Mrs Whitehouse in court your chances of success were slim. The end credits mention Whitehouse v Lemon (aka The Gay News Case) which was very much on the Pythons' minds when they made The Life of Brian. To her credit she was one of the first people to campaign against child pornography but she turned herself into a figure of fun by finding fault with Dr Who and Pinky & Perky. I wondered how on earth was Pinky & Perky corruptive? Well, I suppose it was. It inspired many 60s and 70s kids to play LPs at 78rpm and I think that might have been bad for the records. Sir Hugh Carleton-Greene is not portrayed favourably. He is shown to be arrogant, smug, coarse, foul-mouthed and lecherous. I have no idea what he was like as a person so I can't judge how fair a portrayal this was. Julie Walters these days is of course best known as Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films and I imagined a scene where Sir Hugh gets a howler from Mary Whitehouse. The letter gets delivered by owl on his desk and then shouts, in Julie Walters' voice, "Hugh Carleton-Greene, I am absolutely disgusted" and then goes on to complain about the number of bloodys in Till Death Us Do Part, Dr Who having nightmare qualities etc and what kind of example certain programmes are to the young people of the country and then goes on in the gentler "Oh and Ginny dear" voice to say "Oh and last Sunday's Songs of Praise was lovely", then blowing a raspberry and self-shredding. Mrs Whitehouse died the year the first Harry Potter film came out. It's fair to say she'd have some criticisms to make of Harry Potter.
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The Hole (2001)
9/10
Great! (warning:- spoiler, do not on any account read if you haven't seen the film)
21 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a marvellous psychological thriller. Four Aga Saga teenagers duck a field trip in order to hide out and party in an old nuclear bunker left over from the Cold War. But the real reason for it is that one of them has formed a crush on another and the reason she has done this is part of her plan to win the object of her affection. She enlists the help of her sinister nerdy friend in this scam. Differing interpretations of the story are shown on screen and the ending is totally unlike anything you expect. I saw the trailer and I thought at first it looked a bit like one of these anti-teen drinking films you got shown at secondary school. But it is marvellous and well worth watching. That young lady of whom the world was shortly due to hear a lot more of, Keira Knightley, does very well and it's hard to credit she's only 15 (well, Lee Arenberg says that she has more maturity than he'll ever have). Although it's set at a very exclusive private school it could just as easily be a tough inner-city comprehensive. I almost laughed when Frankie said she was on a diet (Keira Knightley most certainly doesn't need to lose weight) but I realise now that it was a reference to the character's bulimia. A good and original thriller.
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6/10
A Film about Football, Teen Angst, Funny Haircuts, Awful Architecture and Dreadful Fashions!
6 May 2008
When first released Gregory's Girl was shown on a double bill with Chariots of Fire, another film which I've reviewed. I also think, due to the time it came out, the early 1980s when cinema seemed to be a dying art form, this led to it being a bit over-rated but it's definitely not a bad film. It's a comedy but not a laugh out loud comedy, in fact the humour is very gentle. One might also say it's a feminist movie. Dorothy is battling sexism to be up there with the guys, the girls are portrayed as smart and sorted out and the guys are portrayed as nerdy and awkward. In some ways now it looks almost as dated as an Ealing comedy. All the guys are having a bad hair day and the film is from an era when there was no internet and there were no mobile phones. The architecture that forms the backdrop is very cold and unwelcoming and some of the film takes place in Cumbernauld Town Centre, which has been officially named as the worst piece of architecture in Europe. Nowadays no guy would ever dress for a first date the way Gregory does. Times have changed a lot since this was made. If workmen wolf-whistled at schoolgirls nowadays they'd run the risk of being arrested! Gregory's Girl shows that a good film can be made on a microscopic budget. But, as I said, because the film industry was in decline when it was made, this led to it being a bit overrated. Also, in those days if you were born in Scotland, female and of school age and you had talent in some area you became Scotland's Darling! This happened to Dee Hepburn just as it happened a few years earlier to Lena Zavaroni. Dee's role in the film is surprisingly not as big as one might expect. But she was hyped a bit out of proportion and depicted in the papers as a beautiful young woman with the world at her feet. She wasn't really that great an actress despite winning a Variety Club Award and her acting career faltered a few years later and she became a sales rep. I just hope though she doesn't realise it was me who wrote this comment, though. I once had a fleeting chance encounter with her and she's a very nice person. But, although Gregory's Girl is good, I prefer to remain in the 21st Century with regard to films about footballing females and Bend It Like Beckham is much much better.
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Lust for Life (1956)
10/10
One of Hollywood's Greatest Biopics
19 March 2008
The title of this film could just as easily have been the title of Kirk Douglas's autobiography and Kirk Douglas talks about this film as if it had a great deal of meaning for him. Although I think he gives Van Gogh a gregariousness that I don't think he had (but I might be wrong) there has never been a better portrayal of Van Gogh. In the last year or so John Simm and Andy Serkis have played Van Gogh in British drama-documentaries but they can't compare with Kirk Douglas. When Lust for Life was made Van Gogh was still within living memory in Arles and Auvers and a few of the older people saw Kirk Douglas and exclaimed "il est retourné!". If you're an art buff and are familiar with Van Gogh's work you recognise Jules Roulin and Père Tanguy right away in the film. Actors who bear very close resemblances to the people they portray were cast for the film. Anthony Quinn deserved his Oscar for his portrayal of Gauguin who like him was a larger-than-life character. I read it was the shortest performance to win a best actor Oscar and it was only 3 minutes or so long. I must admit it seems longer than 3 minutes. After the premiere John Wayne, who as the world knows had very set ideas on what a man had to do, told Kirk Douglas he was disappointed in him for playing such a weak character. Kirk replied that he was an actor and that he had to play all kinds of roles and it is very clear he was not ashamed, in fact of all the roles he's played this seems to be one of which he's very proud. He also shows Van Gogh's insensitivity, such as when he makes some very cruel remarks to his cousin Kay who is still coming to terms with her widowhood and he comes on to her so intensely that she disowns him. This scene also made me think the real Van Gogh must have been perversely attracted to woman in black. As Kay's husband had died less than a year before she was dressed in black. Before the time frame of this film when Van Gogh was in London he had fallen madly in love with his landlady's daughter, Eugenia Loyer. Her father had also recently died and she was always dressed in black at the time he knew her. Generally, though, he could be a bit obsessive about women, in fact the people of Arles presented a petition to their mayor demanding that Van Gogh be removed from the town as, among other things, he kept on leching at the women. Dr Gachet is portrayed in the film but his daughter Margeurite isn't. Van Gogh painted her playing the piano but Doctor Gachet, knowing Van Gogh's lecherousness, kept him well away from his daughter most of the time. This film sums up the tragic waste of Van Gogh's life. He struggled with poverty and failure all his short life but if he had not killed himself he may well have died a rich man. It's an indication of how much his paintings sell for nowadays when Kirk Douglas said he couldn't afford to buy one of them.
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6/10
Entertaining Monster Movie
29 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film stands out among monster movies of its era. The dinosaurs have the characteristic Harryhausen jerkiness and the light falls on them in a different way from the rest of the scene but it is still very good. Reading up on this film on the net introduced me to the term "Weird West" which is the combining of a western with another movie genre. This is a very original idea combining cowboys and dinosaurs,although the latter part of the story is a bit formulaic, namely monster gets captured, taken to a town, put on show for entertainment and then breaks loose. This is an almost compulsory part of the story for any monster movie from King Kong to Jurassic Park:The Lost World. Although many people think it stems from King Kong it actually originated in the 1920s version of The Lost World. Gwangi though doesn't break out because of being angered by flashbulbs, he is set free by the blind gypsy's dwarf sidekick and Gwangi shows his gratitude by eating his liberator. Well, the blind gypsy had her credibility to maintain. She had foretold of a curse relating to Gwangi and things would not have looked good for her if her prophecy hadn't come true. Mind you she gets trampled in the stampede generated by Gwangi's escape. This film is impressive enough with the old style special effects. Think how great it would look with modern CGI effects. It merits a remake. I personally think Ray Harryhausen's effects are a bit overrated. His monsters are jerky and not very lifelike. I haven't seen many dinosaurs in my time but I have seen a few elephants and I don't think the circus elephant that Gwangi has a fight with is very realistic. But using an animated puppet elephant to perform handstands would mean no complaints from animal rights activists. The scene where the cowboys pursue the small dinosaur into the valley and then Gwangi pounces on it looks like a cruder version of the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex pounces on the gallimimus, in fact it may have inspired that scene. The eohippus is quite cute. Some of the dialogue in this film is a bit corny but not overbearingly so. Laurence Naismith plays the obligatory professor and he is not too stereotypical. A good and original dino-epic.
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10/10
Excellent
8 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If you want to see a film about footballing females, forget Gregory's Girl this film is far better. It's a feel good film about contemporary people and is in the same league as Brassed Off, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot. Like these films, had it been made in the 1970s or early 80s it would probably have been made for the small screen as part of BBC's Play for Today and it would not have been as upbeat. It is socially relevant as it shows the tensions that can arise between young Asians in Britain and their conservative minded parents. The opening fantasy sequence which shows Jess's mother being interviewed by Gary Lineker and him saying she must be very proud of her daughter and then she tells him in no uncertain terms of her disapproval of her daughter playing football is very good. The performances all round are great. Keira Knightley was still a rising star when this was made. It's funny the way there is a misunderstanding which leads to Jules' mother's unjustified fears of her daughter being a lesbian are seemingly confirmed. Keira has a slightly boyish appearance which is an asset when it comes to infiltrating pirate ships but leads to another misunderstanding when Jess's sister's fiancé's parents see her and Jess having a matey hug and kiss. Juliet Stevenson gives a great performance as Jules's mother who definitely has a little bit of Hyancinth Bucket in her. Look at the way she dresses for the football match as if she's going to Royal Ascot. Despite various setbacks all ends satisfactorily. The closing shot is very good showing Jess's father playing cricket after he has mentioned a couple of times in the film how he had to leave a cricket club years before because of racism. I am a bit of an aircraft buff and watching the film I was surprised to see that the team were coming off a Boeing 707, an airliner that has been obsolete for a good many years now. The trivia section here confirmed that it was indeed a 707. But that doesn't detract from a great movie, one of the best British films of the early 21st Century.
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The Real Heroes of Telemark (2003 TV Movie)
10/10
Second World War Documentary with a Difference
21 January 2008
Having had an interest in the Heroes of Telemark since I saw the film as a young boy and being a bit of an outdoor guy I naturally wanted to see this. It was excellent. Ray Mears visited the actual drop zones and hideouts and employed the same survival techniques that they used. Most people's concept of the sabotaging of the Nazi atomic programme is based on Kirk Douglas's film (which, as I've said in my review on it, is excellent). That film certainly stays fairly close to the historical facts but Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris play amalgams of several different people. It was very interesting to see the interviews with the actual men who carried out the raid. In the first programme Ray Mears even went so far as to give a scientific talk on heavy water, illustrating it by dropping two heavy water ice cubes into a glass of water. Both ice cubes sank to the bottom. There was also an interview with the Norwegian skier who doubled for Roy Dotrice in the scene where he is pursuing Kirk Douglas in the film. It was a very full documentary, even including footage of the wreck of the ferry on the bottom of the lake. Well done Mr Mears and I hope this documentary is released on DVD.
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8/10
Deserves to be seen more often
8 January 2008
Why hasn't the BBC shown this more often at Christmas instead of constantly reshowing the 1973 Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. It's great and I never saw it until this Christmas just past. It features Erkan Mustafa in his best known role other than Roland Browning (his only role other than Roland Browning!). Rowan Atkinson is great as usual. It is interesting to see Jim Broadbent when he was relatively unknown. He doesn't really look any different. Robbie Coltrane plays the ghost of Christmas and his first appearance is, we know now, an uncanny prediction of things to come. When he first appears he kicks the door down and he has long hair and a shaggy beard. And this was even before J K Rowling had thought of Hagrid. But here he hasn't come to tell Ebenezer Blackadder that he has a place at Hogwarts. The visions of the future are a bit reminiscent of 1970s Dr Who. I just love Blackadder's inevitable comeuppance at the end.
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10/10
Getting Darker
1 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw this, like most people I saw how the children are getting older. The first two films were good but this film is better. Some say that Harry shows his dark side when he takes revenge on Aunt Marge by blowing her up like a balloon but I personally was completely on his side after what she said about his parents. The scene with the Knight Bus is great. But the films are getting more sinister. A case in point is when the train is halted on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, everything goes dark and the Dementors are on the train. Harry's flight over Hogwarts and Loch Shiel on Buckbeak is spectacular. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and the pace never flags. This film has definitely set the pattern for the rest of the series. A really good one.
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1/10
Garbage!
22 November 2007
This is one of the best known films with a Second World War setting. It's also one of the worst. I find it boring noisy rubbish and appallingly unrealistic. The James Bond films are a truer-to-life portrayal of the work of modern day secret agents than this is of Second World War commandos. I have to laugh at the Luftwaffe Bell 47, surely the worst ever anachronism in a WW2 film. The radio operator is listening to music that couldn't have existed before the 1960s. The scene on the airfield at the end where the bus is driven into the North American Harvards (but The Great Escape also indicated that these were used by the Luftwaffe in WW2) and they burst into flames looks daft. An outdated action thriller, popular with boys of the 1970s who built Airfix models and read Commando books and very much of its time. But given the following this film has I don't expect many people to find this comment useful.
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My Boy Jack (2007 TV Movie)
8/10
Very True-to-Life Portrayal
17 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The presence of young Mr Radcliffe in the cast would naturally draw high viewing figures. Just like Ms Catrall he's inextricably associated with another role but he shows that he is a very good actor in this production. It shows what a terrible waste war is. After Jack failed his medical for the Navy Rudyard Kipling went to great lengths to get his son into the Army. Like many parents at the beginning of the First World War he was very proud of his son going off to fight for King and Country. But nothing could compensate him for the loss of his son. It is very sad where Rudyard Kipling is telling the wee lad the story about him and Jack as Bengal Lancers and then he can't continue because he's too sad. This was very appropriate viewing for Remembrance Sunday. It prompted me to dig out one of my old Blue Peter annuals which had a feature on a Blue Peter Special Assignment on Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's house where quite a lot of this was filmed. I thought Kim Cattrall was unusual casting for this production but the Blue Peter annual told me that his wife was American! The family had moved to Bateman's because of the death of their eldest child Josephine and their previous home, The Elms, was too much associated with her. Kipling had more than his fair share of heartbreak. Arguably My Boy Jack makes good family viewing and there's no doubt many children watched it for the reason I gave above. Harry Potter has definitely brought about an upsurge in kids reading and I hope some will be prompted to read Kipling's stories rather than watch DVDs of the Disney version of the Jungle Book which definitely would not have been endorsed by Kipling. I'd also recommend The Man Who Would Be King which is in fact a story by Kipling, not just a great film with Sean Connery. David Haig gives a great performance as Kipling and he's better than Christopher Plummer in The Man Who Would Be King. He is good in the scene where he is telling the local children the story of How The Rhino Got His Skin (a story I can remember my teacher at primary school reading to the class and it was one I liked). Anyway, an excellent play.
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10/10
Bleak and Beautiful
2 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a marvellous picture. Tom Hanks is brilliantly cast against type. I first saw part of this film some years ago and never took any notice of Daniel Craig, but you certainly notice him now since he became James Bond. He has a very convincing American accent as has Jude Law. At the risk of using a word I feel is used too much these days Sam Mendes has a flair for creating iconic images and there is one such scene where Tom Hanks is looking out the window to the sea which multiplies the shock of what happens next . The violence in the film is very unpleasant and you can almost feel the pain of the gunshot wounds and some of the deaths are very sad. I thought The Untouchables was the ultimate in modern day gangster movies but this is even better.
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10/10
Superb!
12 October 2007
J K Rowling has a unique talent. She takes the basic structure of a boarding school story and works in elements of classical mythology, Arthurian legend and many other things. Because she taps into so many diverse sources that is one reason the books have sold tremendously well (that's an understatement) and they have been made into films which star the cream of the acting profession. It's not often you get a film which draws on old legends which also includes steam trains and Ford Anglias. Harry Potter has forever altered the way people look at a Ford Anglia. This film, though, is a bit more scary than the first one (in fact the films have got progressively scarier) and the scenes with the basilisk may be a bit too much for small children. I am also a bit arachnophobic (like Ron Weasley) and the scene with the spiders made my flesh creep. But this is still a great film. Although it's a fantasy film, children can still relate to it. When he's not at Hogwarts, Harry lives in a street of Brookside houses, namely Privet Drive. Kids can relate to this setting as it is one many of them will identify with. Many of the children's stories of yore like Peter Pan and the Phoenix and the Carpet had their real world sections in upper class Victorian or Edwardian nurseries, which is just as much a fantasy world for modern kids as Neverland or Narnia. This aspect has also contributed to the success of the Harry Potter books and films.
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6/10
A film claimed by both English and Scots
10 July 2007
Eric Liddell is a Scottish national hero but prior to this film being made few Scots born in the second half of the 20th century had heard of him. The Scottish locations, some of which are meant to be England, such as the famous opening scene where St Andrews stands in for Broadstairs in Kent and the London restaurant which is actually the Cafe Royal in Edinburgh, add to its appeal to Scots. But some say it is a very English film, with its Oxbridge educated gentleman athletes taking on the world. It is a good film although a bit overrated. It has also said it was a film for Thatcher's Britain, whatever that may mean. It certainly is very much a film of its time. It came out at the time when just about every new TV drama series on the BBC and ITV was set in the 1920s and 30s and it features two stalwarts of these series in its cast, namely Cheryl Campbell and Nigel Havers. There are, however, some rather unpardonable anachronisms in it. 1980s cars can be seen in quite a few shots and the ship that takes the athletes over to France has a radar mast. If the film were made nowadays the ship would be a CGI effect and the whole film would look a lot more realistic with the help of some CGI. But on the whole it is good although not quite all that it is cracked up to be. When it was made there were not as many films being made for the cinema, in fact it looked possible that the big screen would die out altogether, and this was one reason why it stood out. Another reason it stood out was that it depicted two decent upright guys. Mind you, I don't agree with Liddell's sabbatarianism, and the film's writer, Colin Welland, said he didn't either. But Liddell is portrayed as a surprisingly kind and warm man for a sabbatarian although after telling the boy off for playing football on Sunday I think he would have great difficulty in convincing the boy that God wasn't a spoilsport. It was sad that Ian Charleson died young like two other members of the cast, Brad Davis and Jeremy Sinden. A good film but very much of its time.
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Lassie (2005)
9/10
Wonderful
25 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't think they made films like this any more. If you've seen Lassie Come Home you'll be familiar with the story but that doesn't detract from the pleasure of this new version. It is a somewhat idealised portrayal of the 1930s but still very good. Steve Pemberton makes Hynes a hissable and comic villain, better than Pat O'Malley in the original version. John Lynch is excellent as is Peter O'Toole. The Glasgow scenes are obviously Dublin although they have included a bus in authentic Glasgow Corporation livery. The streets of 1930s Glasgow also look a bit odd without trams! The scene where poor wee Toots gets killed brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I own a border terrier so maybe that made it personal. Nicholas Lyndhurst's reputation has been forever tarnished. Rowlie is a small man with a big wonderful heart and a lovely talent for entertaining children and I really felt for him. It is good though how everything ends up so nicely for Lassie and the Carracloughs. If you ever want to have a good cry a recommend this film.
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9/10
Excellent
18 June 2007
Few people know about this film and it has never received the critical attention it deserves. But do watch it. You won't be let down. It holds your attention from beginning to end. I also don't think there's been a film with so many actors cast against type. You could never imagine Omar Sharif and Gordon Jackson as German officers. John Gregson never lived down his Genevieve image, no shame in that, so it is actually quite shocking to see him as a Nazi assisting in plans for liquidating a ghetto ("I've ordered three times as many flame throwers just to be on the safe side"). Maybe it's not as realistic as Band of Brothers or Schindler's List but it was made 40 years ago. I wonder though why Harry Andrews wasn't credited? Was it because he was usually on the a British officer?
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Candleshoe (1977)
7/10
Good and Entertaining
29 May 2007
The storyline bears very little similarity to Michael Innes's novel and the fight at the end is a bit infantile but this film is good. The story in the film is a bit like one of those cheesy and awful Children's Film Foundation films I detest so much, in fact it's like the Disney organisation found a discarded CFF script and turned it into a better film. Everything in this film is idealised and this is what makes it so cosy. Even the portrayal of life on the streets in Los Angeles at the beginning is very sanitised. Jodie Foster is transported from this idealised American urban deprivation to an idealised England where butlers who look like David Niven work in stately homes and where people in awful 1970s fashions still travel by steam train. It is a good film for youngsters as the plot is not hard to follow. It may not be a great film, but it is beautiful to look at. Ron Goodwin wrote an excellent score, very reminiscent of Ralph Vaughn Williams, which really adds to the film. Yes, do a remake, but keep the English setting. Helen Mirren would be great as Lady Gwendolyn and Tom Hanks would be my choice to play Priory even though he's American. I can think of a few good British actors to play Bundage. How about Hugh Laurie? Or better still Rowan Atkinson. Jodie Foster could play Clara Grimsworthy this time.
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10/10
Great!
8 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The pace of this sequel never flags. It's entertainment from start to finish. There's plenty of action and a cast full of colourful characters. The special effects are marvellous and when you see the kraken you can see how much special effects have progressed since It Came From Beneath The Sea. This tentacles are incredibly lifelike. In the scenes on the Flying Dutchman you can smell the stench of the salty sea air, the seaweed and the shellfish. It was interesting to learn that Davy Jones is actually a CGI image. When I first saw the film I thought it was Bill Nighy in a costume and only the maggot-like tentacles round his face were an effect. He gives a great performance. At the end of this film one can detect a Princess Leia-Han Solo-Luke Skywalker triangle forming between the main characters. We'll see how this progresses in the next film which is out in a few weeks.
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