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86 reviews in total 
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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Good Lancaster series., 2 September 2007

Pathdinders is a very good TV series from the 1970s which I found in my local library as a 12 part DVD. I'd never heard of the series before (I was only 5 years of age in 1972) yet it is surprising that this has never been re-shown on TV down the years. Incredible.

Sadly, the producers only seem to have had use of one Lancaster during filming as that's all you ever see. But the reconstuction of the pathfinding raids over Germany is first class. Of course, some episodes are totally unrealistic, like the one where three of the crew go on the run in Germany - it turns a little bit into a sort of Keystone Cops episode, with the Germans made out to be utterly stupid and naive.

Very good, however.

Stoned (2005)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Stones, Jones and Thorogood, 25 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this film once and thought it was good. I watched it a second time, with the Director's Commentary activated on the DVD, and it became sublime. Simple as that.

Stephen Woolley has done some useful previous stuff as a producer - Michael Collins, etc. - and Stoned, his first offering as director, is just as good.

As Woolley explains, Stoned is heavily influenced by the great, off-beat American exiled director, Joseph Losey. The essence of this film, Stoned, is similar to that of The Servant, the Losey film where a servant (Dirk Bogarde) takes up a post in the house of his master (James Fox) and, slowly, the roles are reversed. The servant becomes the master and vice versa. This is what happens in Stoned, where the builder, Frank Thorogood, seems to take over Brian Jones's life.

Losey's masterpiece, The Servant (1963), is set in a London world facing social upheaval and the end of the old class system. It's also set in Chelsea, just where the Rolling Stones started out, in 1963 also. But, when you listen to the Director's Commentary on Stoned, you get some amazing explanations of the brilliant camera-work and cinematography which I had completely missed.

For instance, when Brian Jones is in Cheltenham, confronted by the father of a schoolgirl he's made pregnant, there are little touches from Losey, like the convex mirror, and a distorted and disturbed Brian Jones.

Stoned has some brilliant vintage-style photography, such as the trip to Morocco preceding Jones's sacking from the Stones. Then it's back to 'Pooh Corner' (as Tom Keylock, the Stones' manager describes Jones's Elizabethan country manor house in Hartfield, East Sussex). Jones lives in A A Milne's old house, the home of Christopher Robbin and Winnie the Pooh.

Stephen Woolley draws on another Losey film, The Accident (1967), also set in a country house with certain class divisions evident. You could even draw on The Go Between (Losey, 1970), with Tom Keylock (in a superb performance by David Morrissey - a sort of Harry Palmer crossed with Mike from the Young Ones).

A fascinating film. Make sure you take advantage of the Director's Commentary on the DVD.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An Eric Rohmer style film., 29 May 2007

I liked this film because of the fantastic outside, location shooting, mainly of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is similar to the way Eric Rohmer would film somewhere like Le Mans in his film le Beau Marriage (1982).

Indeed, the dour, granite buildings seem to sum up the awful plight of Sarah (played very ably by Valerie Edmond). She returns to her father's house, right behind the sea wall and the beach in Berwick, which, of course, is not even in Scotland. It's one of those border towns between Scotland and England, the scene of many violent fights to the death over the years. Perhaps there's some symbolism in there somewhere.

James Cosmo is very good as Frank, Sarah's father. Worth watching.

Longford (2006) (TV)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
brilliant, 23 May 2007

This is a brilliant drama-documentary featuring outstanding performances from Jim Broadbent (as Lord Longford), Samantha Morton (as the infamous Myra Hindley) and Andy Serkis (as the sinister Ian Brady).

Jim Broadbent excellently portrays the honest yet diffident, protector of lost causes, Lord Longford, making incredible railway pilgramages to various prisons throughout the land to see various monsters now in jail. He lives down in Etchingham, on the beautiful Tunbridge Wells Hastings railway line, yet never learned to drive. You can imagine what a trek it would be to Carlisle, up near Scotland.

If you like this, you'll like The Last Hangman (also 2006), about the sick executioner, Pierrepoint. Also, This is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper (1999).

James Dean (2001) (TV)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A brilliant performance from James Franco as James Dean., 22 May 2007

In this late-night TV movie, James Franco delivers a stunning, totally convincing portrait of the late James Dean. His physical resemblance is uncanny and his acting is spot-on, not just with the James Dean style of acting but also the awkward, shy and stooped body language off-screen and the confused persona.

The whole early 1950s era is brilliantly re-created (vehicles, drinks, bars, TV and film of the time) with superb location shooting and a re-enactment of the Hollywood of the time.

Dean is portrayed as an awkward child from a difficult background, with his mother dying when he was nine years old and all of the upheaval that followed (moving to Indiana, for example). He discovers his love of reckless motorcycle driving in the cornfields, something that would later cost him his life.

For me, this was one of those surprise films which was rather short - about 90 minutes - yet which I just hoped would go on for another hour or more. It was that brilliant. James Franco is a star.

12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Joanne Frogatt is due an Oscar, 10 April 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is yet another gripping and fascinating real-life dramatisation featuring the formidable and sensational acting talent that is Joanne Frogatt. The ITV drama department are have again surpassed themselves.

Frogatt plays Joanne Lees, the girlfriend of Peter Falconio, the missing English backpacker, assumed murdered by a stranger while on a camping holiday in the Australian outback. Frogatt is simply expert at this type of role, something she did equally brilliantly in Danielle Cable: Eyetwitness back in 2003, from the same writer, Kate Brooke.

Joanne Lees underwent a terrifying ordeal at the hands of a maniac who duped the couple into stopping their VW camper van ('combi' in Australian vernacular) in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Falconio was apparently murdered (though no body has ever been found) and Lees was subjected to a brutal attempted abduction and who knows what else had she not valliantly managed to escape.

The director, Tony Tilse, does an adequate job in the photography and so on. At one point, the couple set off into the sunset and the arid and scorching Australian outback, their van disappearing into its vastness in a huge landscape shot - totally flat, red, and with just a few scrubs and bushes for company. That symbolises very well the deep chasm into which the two of them are about to fall.

Anyway, Lees eventually undergoes media assassination for not being appropriately traumatised enough (at least in public) and at one point even becomes the main suspect. Enter Bryan Brown, that Michael Caine of Australian actors going back to Breaker Morant in 1980. He does a fine job of persuading Joanne Lees to act as witness in the trial, successfully persuading her to return from Brighton in the United Kingdom.

Joanne Frogatt is master at the close-up; particularly that of the traumatised and vulnerable person caught in an unimaginable situation. Every little nuance of eye and mouth is just spot-on. Joanne Frogatt is, simply, the only decent actress EVER to come out of Coronation Street, that famous British 'soap'.

She really deserves an Oscar for her performance here. Actually, as she's still only about 27 years old, I would put money on her winning an Oscar within 10 years, assuming she moves onto Hollywood movies.

2 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
From Total Football to Total Rubbish, 22 March 2007

This film about the great footballer Zinedine Zidane is an absolute disappointment. Not so much total football as total rubbish.

I expected a sort of documentary about Zidane, one of the greatest footballers ever. Perhaps a few interviews, a look at his background in Marseille, the Algerian ancestry. It could have made for a fascinating film, combining great football with a cultural look at modern France.

Perhaps throw in a few shots of some of his greatest, most skillful moments from a few of his matches - the great artistry against Man Utd in the European Cup quarter final a few years ago.

Instead, what do we get? A facile, banal 90 minutes of shots of Zidane as he runs around the pitch. There is lots of 'realist' sound recordings, boots on grass, breathing, etc. 90 minutes of utterly boring concentration on one man, Zidane, in one of his less effective performances. In fact, he had a bad match altogether. Who wants 90 minutes of that? You might as well have 90 minutes of Leonardo da Vinci cooking.

The directors Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno obviously have no understanding of football programming at all. Ever wondered why football highlights programmes only show edited highlights of games? It's because about 95 per cent of almost any match is boring.

The directors are rubbish at editing, pure and simple. In their pathetic, pompous interview in the Special Features section of the DVD, they are interviewed about their reasons for making the film and they respond as if they have produced a work of high art.

It is high rubbish, that's all. A waste of money to rent and a total disappointment. I'd rather watch a film about the Bernabau stadium, to be honest.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Cate Blanchett is an acting sensation, 19 February 2007

Cate Blanchett is simply outstanding as Veronica Guerin, the heroic investigative journalist who strove to lay bare the evil trade in hard drugs in 1990s Dublin.

In fact, knowing nothing at all about Blanchett, I assumed that she must be an Irish actress. Her Dublin accent is so authentic that it could hardly be otherwise. Yet, it turns out, she is Australian. How can she be such a brilliant actress? Joel Schumacher has produced some great films in the past - my personal favourite is Falling Down - and this film displays some of his favourite themes: urban deprivation and squalor. The scenes of the pathetic drug addicts, many teenagers, in some of Dublin's worse slums, is enough to turn anyone against the drug barons.

However, I think it's their fault, as well. Nobody forces anyone to take drugs and these cretins, in a way, deserve what they get. You might as well blame someone for going down the pub and getting drunk. Blame the landlord.

A great film.

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Eric Rohmer is alright., 12 February 2007

I never really understood the acclaim for Eric Rohmer yet this is a nice little film with some fascinating Loire scenery and townscapes and the beautiful Beatrice Romand. What more can you ask for?

My DVD was free with the Independent newspaper (London), so I can't complain. It even had a little 7 minute interview 'Special Feature' with Eric Rohmer, who explains one or two things (like his admiration for tourist-style films of towns like Le Mans and Ballon).

There are amazing shots of Le Mans and its spectacular cathedral and also its tiny cobbled streets - the typical France that we all know and love. Romand is shown with her friend walking around these historic, somewhat claustrophobic streets, visiting the art gallery where she works and stuff like that.

The contrast between Sabine, in her tinny little vintage Renault car with its cumbersome gear changer, and her latest bloke is amusing, rattling along some very attractive rural French roads.

Very good.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Dull TV movie, 1 February 2007

I can only award this film 3 out of 10 because it's dull and too much like a TV movie. It's just the Towering Inferno under rubble.

It's not even really about 9/11, but just about a policeman who gets caught under a load of rubble while out on duty. Then there's the predictable housewives and stuff at home, waiting for news of their loved ones. Distressing, of course, yet not really what you would expect from an Oliver Stone film about those momentous events of 9/11, 2001.

Nicholas Cage is mainly shown under a heap of rubble, totally immobile, his face looking straight into the camera in agony.

I'd rather have had a full-on Oliver Stone conspiracy movie about the alternative version of what happened on the day.

Don't bother renting this film.

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