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The Beiderbecke Affair (1985)
It doesn't get any better than this!
If you think "CAddyshack" or "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" are the funniest thing on earth, this is not for you. If you love cool jazz and warm humour prepare for a treat.
It's not just the script, although Alan Plater is undoubtedly a genius.
It's not just the acting, although not a gesture is out of place, every nuance in its place.
It's not just the soundtrack, although the Beiderbecke-inspired jazz soundtrack is superb in every respect.
It's the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Pace? Who needs it. This is a series which proves beyond doubt that frenetic, fast-paced comedy is *not* the be-all and end-all. This is comedy to be enjoyed with a glass of wine and the life partner of your choice; it is as British as chips and brown ale, it is timeless. Watching it again twenty years on it is as perfect as it was on first viewing.
Sadly all the superlatives have been used up on lesser films.
There is not much one can say about this film that hasn't been said better and at greater length elsewhere - yes, we know that Gimli is not really a comic character and that some bits were cut and others moved around between characters, but if you're so much of a Tolkien weenie that you can't enjoy the film anyway you are in a very small minority.
For the rest of us - well, all the superlatives have already been exhausted on lesser films, so there are no words left to describe just how exceptional this film is. It will surely take its place with Kane and 2001 in cinema history: a brilliant story, brilliantly told, brilliantly acted, brilliantly edited and directed, and special effects which are the pinnacle of the art today.
The acid test, of course, is whether the film still impresses once the novelty of the special effects wears off, and when newer techniques render them outdated and creaky. I believe it will. I believe that in fifty years' time people will still watch this film, because it is a perfect example of movie theatre entertainment.
Well cast, but superficial
Good clean fun with some casting gems, notably Kenneth Branagh, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Miriam Margolyes and Robbie Coltrane Not a particularly faithful adaptation of the book, but a perfectly acceptable film, great for the kids with enough to keep the adults amused as well.
Tolkein is Hobbit-forming.....
It has been said that if, as a fourteen-year-old boy, you don't think The Lord Of The Rings is the best book ever written, there is something wrong with you. And if, as an adult, you still think The Lord Of The Rings is the best book ever written, there is something wrong with you too. This film remedies some of the worst faults of the book (like the implausible and interminable tale of Tom Bombadil) whilst adding few of its own.
There are really two marvellous things about this work: first, that it makes accessible a story which is, to be charitable, demanding of its reader; and second, that it allows itself the time (three long films) to do the book justice.
The result is a film which is more measured in its pace, and which takes more trouble to develop its characters, than the formulaic Hollywood studio products with which we have normally to content ourselves as viewers. Oh, and you can safely take your mother to see it: there is, for once, no gratuitous sex, no bad language, and no overplayed gore - and for that alone I would rank it in the top ten films of recent years.
If you don't "get" irony, don't watch this film....
M*A*S*H is intelligent, poignant, witty, occasionally superbly funny, and deeply ironic. If you don't "get" irony, don't watch this film - but if you do, you're in for a treat.
The casting is perfect, resulting in a blacker and more edgy texture than the TV series (which was excellent in its way, but less true to the books). M*A*S*H (the book) is half way between the Marx Brothers and Catch-22, and this film does a remarkable job of capturing the essential absurdity of an army medical unit: a group of people who exist principally to undo the effects of the rest of the army. This film, although it has moments of knockabout farce, rarely lets you forget the cause of all this madness: just over the hill, young men are killing each other for a cause they scarcely understand.
I guess that those who saw the TV series with a laughter track may have different expectations from this film, but as a UK viewer who saw the TV series first mercifully free of canned laughter, and who had also read the book, I found this film was everything I expected and more.
Required viewing for all those who have lost sight of the connection between "foreign adventures" and body bags.
Someone out there is unhappy.....
Oh, my, how to describe this film. Brilliant, that would be a good start. Barking mad, that would be close to the mark as well. Some films are so bad they are perfect - and this is one. In my old film club we rated films from 1 to 5, with 5 being "mega-movie, kill to see" and 1 being "mega-dud, kill to see" - this is a mega-dud. It is exquisitely bad, taken just seriously enough that you really believe it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. It is even better than Doc Savage, MAn Of Bronze, and infinitely funnier than the remake of Flash Gordon.
If you like sci-fi movies, hanker after the old days of Star Trek when the boulders were obviously polystyrene and the scenery wobbled, and you think Monty Python is funny, you will love this film.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The votes go up to 11......
This Is Spinal Tap is brilliant on several levels. It is a hilarious comedy, the music is excellent, the concept is fantastic, and it is a wonderfully accurate spoof as well.
The preparation which went into this film included going on tour with the band Saxon, which allegedly inspired the superb sequence where the band gets lost backstage on tour. Although Status Quo claim the film was based on them, it was from the Saxon tour that much of the detail was taken.
The characters, though, are quintessentially British. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel (whose amplifiers go up to 11 instead of the usual 10) and Derek Smalls are archetypes of faded British rock musicians desperately trying to be cosmopolitan in an industry dominated by bigger, bolder, louder Americans.
If you are a rock fan you will laugh long and loud at this film. If you are a British rock fan, you will laugh even louder. And watch out for the surreal Stonehenge sequence, which proves once and for all that standards of arithmetic teaching are not what they were....
Cry Freedom (1987)
An exceptional film
This film is, quite simply, brilliant. The cinematography is good, the acting superb and the story absolutely breathtaking. This is the story of Donald Woods, a white South African who thought himself a liberal until he found out the reality of apartheid. Kevin Kline is completely convincing - so much so that when Donald Woods himself appeared on TV some years later, I recognised him from Kline's portrayal. Denzel Washington also turns in a masterful performance, as ever.
I urge you to watch this. It is long, but it is worth your patience because it tells such an incredible story. Remember, folks, this really happened.
Crazy People (1990)
A "video nice" to counteract all the video nasties.
This is not the most intellectually stimulating film ever made. Nor is it the most believable plot - but it is funny, whimsical and charming, and occasionally surreal. If you want a film to brighten up your life, this fits the bill just nicely. The supporting cast are also very engaging, being far more than just a backdrop to Moore and Hannah. I like it a lot.
Night of the Zombies (1981)
Some films are so bad they are worth watching as comedies. This isn't. It's a complete waste of time and effort. For a more entertaining evening, try watching paint dry. Fortunately it is now rarely seen in theatres, saving you the bother of not seeing it.