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63 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pilot for legendary cartoon series, 29 June 2013

This 2.5 minute segment within the first 10-minute episode of the anthology series Весёлая карусель (Merry-Go-Round), was the very first appearance of "Nu pogodi". It consisted of three consecutive but separate sub 1-minute sketches. Already it features the familiar childlike androgynous hare being fervently but unsuccessfully stalked by the hapless cigarette-smoking hooligan wolf reciting his familiar catchphrase.

This first pilot has the same writers and some of the same technical crew as the main series that would debut later that same year from the same SoyuzMultFilm studio. Absent however from this pilot are the main series' director V. Kotyonochkin, cinematographer Petrova, Art Director Rusakov, almost all the animators and the entire Art Department of the main series. And it shows. Although the writing has the same quality and wit and appeal, the characters look different and are drawn much more crudely. Indeed all the drawing is much cruder and lacking in detail compared with the main series, rather like the difference between the Simpsons in the Tracey Ullman show vs the 1989- series.

"Nu pogodi" would go on to make further brief and obscure appearances in other anthology programs outside the canonical 20 episodes. In the late 1970's the satirical series "Фитиль" ("Fitil" meaning Wick) would include four "Nu Pogodi" sketches, each 2-3 minutes long, mocking shoddy industrial work practices. These were made by the same studio and key creative people of the official series. These were as good as the official episodes, but shorter, more adult, wordier and with a narrator doing intrusive voiceovers at the end to explain the real life incident which inspired the sketch.

A 5-6 minute sketch (Televypusk 1) was created in 1980 for a New Year's Eve anthology holiday special showcasing the best in Russian animation, and again for New Year's Eve 1981, the latter being split into two consecutive stories (Televypusk 2-3). These were made during a 4 year hiatus in the official series. The premise of all these sketches was that the Wolf would enter the TV world and the hare would manipulate the TV set to influence what happened in the TV world. Though written by one of the writers (A. Kurlyandsky) and directed by an occasional animator (A. Butyrin) from the official series, these were made by a different studio (Ekran). And although Rumyanova voices the hare, Papanov didn't participate. As a result, although the quality is good and the drawing style is similar, the characterisation is slightly different from the canonical episodes and the themes more adult.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Didn't laugh once, 23 June 2013

This is basically a feature length Comic Strip Presents... episode, probably made in an unsuccessful attempt to capitalise on the success and popularity of the Young Ones at the time. Like many of the Comic strip Presents... episodes it was completely unfunny, driven by Richardson and Richens, whose humour had nothing in common with the crown jewels of the Comic Strip scene, the puerile but hilarious Mayall/Edmondson style represented by "The Young Ones" and "Bottom". Richardson and Richens merely rode on their coat tails.

Although the laughs are absent, the Comic Strip style was much more plot-based than Mayall & Edmondson's, so you do at least get a proper story. But who cares about a story in a purported comedy? In short, stay away and don't encourage them.

The Trip (2010/I)
19 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
The best movie I've seen all day, 1 July 2011

As usual for a film described as a comedy/drama, "The Trip" is neither particularly funny nor particularly dramatic. In fact it fails quite severely on both counts. I can't fathom the critical acclaim it has garnered, but then again I couldn't understand why "The Hangover" was successful.

The "plot" as others have stated is that two comic actors go on a 1 week road tour of England's North to review the regional gastronomy for a newspaper. During their walks, drives, sightseeing, and especially meals through this bleak landscape, they banter and engage in competitive impersonations of famous actors. These impersonations provide much of the purported comedy. Their midlife crisis concerns about their relationships and careers (especially Coogan's) and their competitiveness provide the purported drama. This repeats each day. It is as dull and repetitive as it sounds.

There are only 2 belly laughs in the whole movie. One, a variant of an old Derek and Clive joke, is where a fan confronts Coogan armed with a rather unlikely newspaper headline. The other is where Coogan, having bored his companion with his relentless monologue on the local geology, is himself out-bored by an even more relentless geology pedant. But two laughs from minor characters can't carry a 107 minute movie. The endless celebrity impersonations are only occasionally and mildly amusing. I was yawning and looking at my watch throughout. I would have fallen asleep had it not been for one girl in the audience, determined to find this tedium amusing, loudly laughing like a kookaburra at every semi-joke. The rest of the audience were largely indifferent, but twittered a bit at the impersonations.

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Better watching than eating, 25 September 2010

This is a cooking show with only the vaguest resemblance to the conventional concept of a cooking show. Instead of introducing you to exotic regional cuisines or pretending to teach you how to make certain dishes, Heston treats his panel of 6 C-list celebrity guests to a themed dinner of completely new radical dishes unlike anything they (or anyone else) have ever seen before, or will see again. A typical trick is to make familiar-looking dishes taste like something totally unlike what they appear to be, e.g sweet dessert made to look like bangers and mash, or meat-flavoured "cocktails". He also scours cookbooks from centuries ago to make meals inspired by extinct cuisines.

In theory it should be gastronomically irresistible. In practice, watching this TV program, I am reminded a little of "Man vs Wild" in the way that Bear Grylls keeps introducing us to assorted local "delicacies" then struggles to avoid barfing as he consumes these prized morsels. Heston Blumenthal does a similar thing as he presents his guests with dishes that are just too weird or too disgusting to be easily palatable. Pig nipple scratchings, anyone? Fermented fish gut sauce? Didn't think so. It makes great gross-out television, but I wouldn't eat his meals if he paid me. Like John Cage's "music", they are a triumph of inventiveness and technical virtuosity over aesthetics, customer pleasure, good taste and commonsense, memorable for all the wrong reasons. As Nigel Molesworth would sa: "Just give me a suck at a tin of condensed milk".

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Very very funny, 26 July 2010

I last saw this film in my childhood, and remember finding it sidesplitting, especially the Chihuahua scene, the "coded" telegram, and the ridiculous accents. Some years later I chanced across the latter stages of this movie on TV while channel flipping, and was in stitches at the massage parlour scene.

Years I later I read Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook, in which Thompson slammed this film as an abject artistic and commercial failure, something that even the creators supposedly agreed with. Was my youthful imagination playing tricks on me? Then again, Thompson also slammed Cook and Moore's masterworks, the filthy and hysterical "Derek and Clive" albums, while praising Cook's pretentious, dated, unfunny but clean Beyond the Fringe work and some of the weaker Pete and Dud sketches. Could it be that Thompson is just another BBC tard who think the purpose of comedy is ideological indoctrination rather than the induction of laughter? The answer is yes, Thompson and the detractors of this film are simply tards. Having seen it again just now, "Hound of the Baskervilles" is even funnier than I remembered it. Those who claim to have seen no funny bits in it could not have been watching the same film as I was. They must have been watching The Chaser's War on Everything or a Friedberg & Seltzer abortion or some Will Ferrell "comedy". As "Guest House Paradiso" also proved, commercial and critical rejection is not necessarily proof that a comedy is unfunny.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Compendium of clichés with great acting, 23 July 2010

I don't think I have ever given 5/10 to a movie, as that is such a neutral, wishy-washy evaluation. If a movie is not good, it is usually bad or annoying to some degree. Yet 5/10 describes "The Runaways" perfectly. It is neither good nor bad.

On the good side, the acting is indeed good. I don't think I have ever seen an actor capture a living celebrity as perfectly as Kristen Stewart captures the young Joan Jett. In voice, appearance, personality and mannerisms, Stewart is indistinguishable from the real thing. It is an amazing performance. Likewise, Michael Shannon did almost as good a job as ultra-pretentious huckster Kim Fowley, although Shannon is more physically imposing than Fowley and looks more like Dee Dee Ramone than the actual Fowley. Shannon plays ultracamp but doesn't really look it. Dakota Fanning wasn't quite as good at playing Cherie Currie, the real Cherie being thinner and hotter and looking much older than Fanning. Fanning seems more innocent and diffident than Currie did on stage, but maybe that is closer to reality than Currie's stage persona. The set designers and costumers really put a lot of care into getting the 1970's fashions and furnishings right. Also much of the music is quite good. However only a minority is Runaways songs.

However acting alone cannot carry a movie. The script is just a compendium of rock clichés, the sort of fantasies a sheltered early teenager with a low threshold for rebelliousness would have about rock stars. Difficult startup playing house parties that get busted by the cops, lame rebelliousness, alcoholic or abusive parents, exploitative manipulative Maclarenesque manager haranguing his charges about rock & roll being all about sex and rebellion while misappropriating their revenues, lesbian experimentation, record deal with unhip record industry execs, screaming fans on overseas tours, rock magazine headlines, seedy hotels, male chauvinists saying a woman's place is in the home, personality clashes and drug addiction leading to the band's downfall. It's not necessarily inaccurate, but you've seen all this a squillion times before. There is no real story outside of this series of clichés, nothing at all unexpected. It's not notably boring or annoying, but sure isn't interesting either.

Still at least it's not a live action comic book for 13 year old boys or a Prince Charming chick flick for youngish single women, which every other film seems to be nowadays, so it's worth seeing if nothing else is on.

"Top Gear" (2002)
11 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Unfunny tryhards, 12 June 2010

They laugh so hard at each other's jokes. They try so hard to be funny. So desperately hard. And a huge global audience buys it. I must be missing something, because I don't see what is even remotely entertaining about this show, and I am an avid motor sports fan. They have elaborate setups which appear designed to be spontaneous, carefully scripted "humorous" remarks which are supposed to come across as ad libs, and a huge "gee whiz isn't it amazing and exciting and funny" attitude to scenes which are none of these. Every episode is packed full of uninteresting and insipid stunts, failed jokes, endless helicopter/onboard shots of cars driving around, and an insufferable smugness. Trust me, if you wonder what possible appeal this show could ever have, you are not the only one. It is even more tedious than the programs spawned by the rapidly dwindling "reality show" fad, and that is saying something.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining and ludicrous in equal measure, 3 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I very much enjoy this pseudo wilderness survival show, even though the situations that Bear puts himself in and the means he uses to survive them are completely absurd. With very little modification, the whole thing could have been filmed as a hilarious, Leo Wankeresque send-up of legitimate wilderness survival experts such as "The Bush Tucker Man", It is really a stunt and gross-out show in the guise of survival advice.

Bear gets sent "all alone" into the most remote and inhospitable places where no-one would ever need or want to go, surrounded by what seems to be a zillion cameramen and crew. There he uses over-complicated, energy-wasting and risky survival techniques for little marginal benefit, pretending to be roughing it in the wilderness, before retiring for the night to his luxury hotel. The premise is that he is equipped only with a knife, but when required always manages to have a suitable bit of equipment that can be tendentiously improvised in the style of the "A Team" or "MacGyver" into a survival tool. Nearly every episode shows him munching on some nauseating plant or bug or other animal, usually after introducing it as a local delicacy, then struggling to avoid vomiting. All the while he dispenses his over-complicated and obscure survival advice as if it is sincere and useful, when in actual fact you could only even attempt to use it if you were trapped in the wilderness with a DVD of the show and a laptop to play it.

While perhaps not the intent of the show, it really serves to corroborate my loathing of wilderness areas. Mother Nature is a truly loathsome, vindictive harpy that wants to kill you slowly and painfully after feeding you inedible food for your last supper. Watching this show makes me want to bulldoze every wilderness area on the planet and put up an air-conditioned shopping mall in its place. It really helps you understand why environmentalists generally prefer to live in the most densely populated areas of the world's largest and most developed cities.

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Haunting meditation on mementos of memory & experience, 17 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This odd but beautiful and haunting film has a mystical Japanese atmosphere in a European setting. Likewise the characters, setting and plot are all odd, beautiful, haunting and mysterious. The film seems to be about the relationship between memory and experience, and the physical objects which represent those memories and experiences.

The lead character Iris starts by having a traumatic industrial accident that severs the tip of her titular ring finger, which falls into and colours a bottle of lemonade. She moves to a port city, where she time-shares a hotel room with a sailor working the night shift on the adjacent docks. They don't meet, but they "know" each other and interact through their possessions left in the hotel room, and develop a mutual but unrequited fascination for each other.

Iris by chance finds a new job as a receptionist in a bizarre laboratory. The business of the laboratory is to preserve and store (i.e. embalm and inter) specimens (i.e. mementos) of painful memories, so that the owners can find closure and move on. The creepy lab director, who runs the business essentially by himself, takes an erotic interest in her, and gives her a pair of perfectly-fitting attractive red shoes that he insists she always wears.

From then on, the film doesn't really develop further in terms of character or plot. This may frustrate some viewers, but it makes the film so unique and memorable. Instead it develops in bizarre and unexpected ways this theme of preserving specimens. We learn that the lab is a former girls boarding school, and that two former boarders still live in two of the few rooms not yet used as catacombs for the specimens. Both are practitioners of obsolete trades - one a pianist, the other a switchboard operator. Both are old women, yet still retain a strangely ageless girlish appearance. One has a class photo in her room from the boarding school days, which happens to show a still youthful looking lab director. Perhaps they are ex-lovers of the director. There are a couple of mild hints that the women may be ghosts. For example, one of the women suddenly appears and stares at Iris from behind while Iris explains to a potential client on the phone that specimens can't be taken of a malevolent shadow, then rapidly moves away just before Iris looks behind. An unexplained young boy also wanders the corridors, making sudden entrances and exits.

Despite what Iris said, the lab makes specimens of surprising things. One client wants a specimen of a music score given by a former boyfriend - not the score itself, but the sounds. The director gets the pianist in room 209 to play the music, then places the score in a labelled plastic container, without apparently recording it.

The director seduces Iris in the lab's cool inner sanctum, the boarding school's former bathing area and swimming pool, where he earlier gave her the shoes. He tells her of the girls who filled this once wet space with talk and laughter, yet it is now dry, empty and silent. Iris later dreams of herself showering among the voluble girls. Or is it a dream? One young client, who at the start of the movie had ordered a specimen of fungus growing on the ruins of her burned-down house, returns to ask for another specimen - this time the burn on her cheek. To Iris's shock, the director agrees after explaining to the client that healing a burn and taking a specimen of it are not the same thing. He takes the girl to the preserving room in the basement where Iris is not permitted, as only specimens are permitted there. The lab director does not return for the rest of the day, and a perturbed Iris repeatedly presses her ear to the basement door. Later while screwing Iris, the director asks Iris if she wants a specimen taken. Iris after some denial and hesitation suggests her mutilated ring finger.

An old rasta client who works as a shoe shiner (another obsolete craft) compliments Iris's red shoes, but warns her that the red shoes are cursed, and she should not wear them too often. He invites her to visit his shoeshine stand at the station. While wandering the catacombs and looking at specimens during an idle moment, Iris sees a photo of a young girl (possibly the burn victim) also wearing the distinctive red shoes. The former switchboard operator casually mentions to Iris that Iris's predecessors in the receptionist job all suddenly disappeared without a word of warning. When Iris takes up the shoeshiner's invitation, he warns her that she should get a specimen of the shoes, as she will never be free if she doesn't take them off. Iris replies that she doesn't want to be free, to which the shoeshiner replies that he will never see her again. After returning to the lab she accidentally drops a client's mahjong set (a philosophical representation of the universe), and on the director's instruction spends the rest of the night slowly picking up the pieces and reassembling them in their rightful place. Accepting her fate, she takes off the shoes, and walks into the basement where only specimens are permitted.

In concordance with the film's themes of preservation and timelessness, the film is set in the recent past, but apart from being obviously European is geographically and chronologically non-specific. The container terminal places it after the 1950's, and the lack of computers and mobiles places it before the mid-1990's, but all other markers of time and place are carefully removed.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Sub par for Anders Thomas Jensen, 10 March 2010

Anders Thomas Jensen is without doubt Denmark's most talented scriptwriter. Pretty much every film I've seen of his has been absolutely brilliant, even if he does tend to repeat certain themes and plot elements between his various films to a slightly excessive degree. But then again, every artist has his trademarks and his shtick. What I always loved about Jensen's films was the hysterically funny, outrageous black humour driven by a ferocious anti-sentimentality. This is the first film of his I've seen which fell short on that front.

It deals with a hard-working and successful real estate agent who accidentally kills someone. The guilt he feels drives him to counter-productive efforts to atone and make reparations for his offence, which in turn wreck his own life and those of the people he was trying to help. The theme of a well-meaning man causing a trail of destruction through his efforts to atone for past indiscretions is classic Jensen. However this time Jensen has not bothered to add any jokes or plot twists. It all plays out rather slowly and linearly as a character study rather than a plot-driven film. Perhaps it is because it is co-written. Either way, although the film works reasonably well as a serious drama, for someone of Jensen's high standards it is not worthy of the rest of his CV. It is also missing the usual handful of Danish film stars who appear in just about every other major Danish film, apart from the actor who plays the protagonist's brother.

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