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The Imitation Game (2014)
Turing deserves much better!
This movie is supposedly based on a true story, it says so right upfront. So that's a give-away straight off. It's mostly fiction.
Set in the wartime Bletchley Park of screenwriter Graham Moore's imagination it's also supposed to be based on the factual account "Alan Turing: The Enigma" by Andrew Hodges (you'll see that claim in tiny print right at the end of the closing credits) which relates Turing's life and involvement with the breaking of Enigma. Anyone who has read that book will know that this movie bears little resemblance to that specific book (nor indeed to any other book on the subject), and I would even doubt that anyone involved with this production has actually read it, and that includes Graham Moore.
Although names remain as in real life, also bearing little resemblance to reality are the characterisations of most others who were involved in the real events. Some of the main personnel who should have been included are missing, and events have been added that never happened, nor ever could have happened. The scene of the alleged breakthrough in the reading of Enigma traffic is totally absurd, as was the inclusion in the movie of the character of John Cairncross. Yes the latter was at Bletchley, but at a different time and in a different area, and would have been totally divorced from the events covered in this movie.
It would seem that at the moment Cumberbatch can do no wrong, and his portrayal of Turing was precisely how the producers wanted him to play it, but it was most definitely nothing like the real Alan Turing whatsoever. And couldn't the producers have picked someone who actually looked like Turing? Likewise a look-alike to play Joan Clarke?
As a fictional movie in its own right it was reasonable, but if anyone believes that it's an account of the true events then they'd be advised to do further research on the subject. There's hardly a line in the screenplay which would stand up to scrutiny. It's as false as the movie U-571, and equally as misleading on what really happened.
I believe that Turing is one of Moore's heroes. I can only conclude by saying that (imo) he has given him a very unworthy epitaph. Given the service Turing gave to his country, the world, and to science in general, he deserves a much better epitaph than this pot-boiler of a movie.
The goof of all goofs
I love the episode of "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe", but I fear it contains one of the biggest goofs of any in the Poirot episodes, and it really is the fault of bad researching and sloppy editing which allowed it in.
The episode includes a 1925 visit of the Prince of Wales to the Indian sub-continent which is reported in a movie newsreel with perfect sound attached. One problem. Talkies weren't made to this quality at the time. The first talking movie, The Jazz Singer, wasn't produced until 1927, and sound in that was basically only for the songs, and very poor.
So why put in so obvious a phoney commentary, for a newsreel which is not even of the correct royal visit? The pictures are too perfect. It looks more like a royal visit somewhere sometime in the mid to late 30s than in the mid 20s. The commentary definitely states 1925, but there was no Prince of Wales tour of India in 1925. That occurred in 1921, during which time afaik there were no moving newsreels made at all. They didn't exist. Just still photography. I should also mention that the style of commentary given is more like those of the 1950s. Certainly not pre-WWII.
I've nothing against producers using such an historical idea as a prelude, but I wish the continuity, historical research, and editing departments, would do their jobs properly. If the viewers can figure out the faults, surely they can.
This goof is near the beginning of the episode and really doesn't deter from the rest of the episode which resumes its usual excellent Poirot quality, but the inclusion of such a goof is surely inexcusable.
And this is not a one-off. There's a similar newsreel reporting a murder trial at the start of "Murder on the Links". The action then moves forward 10 years and a hoarding promoting the forthcoming 1936 bicycle race is plainly shown, which would make the earlier newsreel as being in 1926, again before sound was added to film. This has to be the fault of shoddy research.
Call it Dullchester instead
Change the actors, change the directors, change the dialogue, change the plots, indeed change the screenwriters, liven up the action, and do some proper research on the period, and this programme may just work. As it is, it doesn't, at least not for me. I just can't ignore the fact that this is not how things were in the 1950s, which they weren't.
The 1950s decade was in reality quite an exciting one. The war was over, although there were still wars about (but then there always are) and the UK was slowly getting back on its feet. Not everything was perfect, but neither is everything perfect today, far from it. The young were having their say in no uncertain terms and it was the era of the Teddy Boys and that of cool jazz and the birth of rock'n'roll.
Very little of this is evident in Grantchester, which appears to be just another dreary soap with a murder thrown in to keep it in the mystery genre. Even a whisky-drinking priest on a roundabout of almost-but-not quite love affairs can't liven it up. Nor can a timid gay curate, nor even the priest's dog. Furthermore a grumpy house-keeper utterly destroys any sort of liveliness there may have been. As for the murder plots, well they're an insult to any self-respecting whodunit buff. They're mediocre at best.
I suppose Grantchester with its hunky good-looking vicar will gather fans, but I'm not one of them. I like to be entertained, not put to sleep.
Churchill's Secret (2016)
I looked forward to this production with anticipation of something great, particularly with the wealth of acting talent on hand. But oh dear! What a disappointment!
Michael Gambon/Churchill took to his bed and seemed to want to stay there and forget about the whole thing.
The rest of the cast looked equally bored and I'm not surprised. Even their combined talent couldn't rescue this tedious and utterly pointless badly-constructed and ill-scripted piece of alleged 'factual' drama in which one of the central characters...the nurse...was actually fictitious. As for the plot...what plot? There's very little plot in it to discuss.
No doubt there will be those who will drool over it and call it 'art', but it's already gone to the back-burner of my mind as easily forgettable, and never to be watched again.
In short it was a waste of time and effort for both cast and viewer.
Killing Kennedy (2013)
Bill O'Reilly likes to think of himself as an historian. I'm afraid he's anything but. All he has done in "Killing Kennedy" is follow the extremely dubious findings of the Warren Report, which has since been debunked by most sane-thinking people.
The first hour or so is more or less a history lesson of known facts, intermingled with a character bashing of Oswald, but other interpretations can be used regarding both in relation to the Kennedy assassination. For example, although there were suspicions, the shooting of General Walker was never officially attributed to Oswald.
Regarding the Kennedy assassination, which was covered only in the last 30 minutes, O'Reilly completely ignores:
1. The witnesses to shots coming from the grassy knoll and the picket fence.
2. The incompetency of the rifle supposedly used by Oswald. It was the worst on the market at the time. And what assassin would use a mail ordered weapon in an assassination, and leave it at the scene of the alleged crime? Oswald wasn't THAT stupid.
3. The marksmanship required to accurately fire three rounds in under 6 seconds using such an inferior weapon well known for inaccuracy. Oswald was no marksman, contrary to the inferences in this movie.
4. That no transcript or recording of the interrogation of Oswald exists. And no representation for Oswald provided.
5. The witnesses in the Texas Book Depository giving Oswald an alibi.
6. The Zagruber film.
7. The 'magic' pristine bullet.
8. The disappearance of Kennedy's brain.
9. The mismanaged autopsy.
10. Other explanations of events, and events and occurrences not covered above.
O'Reilly may be a renowned TV host, but as an historian he would make a great balloon salesman. Both being inflated with hot air. Rather than being treated as history, the assassination parts of this movie must be placed in the realms of fantasy, as has by most, the Warren Report.
Wonderful yet wooden.
Lovely to see the Glyndebourne interior as it once was. It has gained in stature, fame, and technical ability since then and has become one of the most sought after venues for young singers to vent their artistic talents. Any Glyndeboune is now an unmissable event.
This version of Cosi is beautifully sung by all, albeit a little reserved passion-wise given the nature of the plot. It follows that the acting too is reserved and somewhat wooden.
It is well worth watching if only to see a young Thomas Allen, and three gracious ladies showing their talents. It's also refreshing to see the two young men switching to a disguise which might actually fool two silly girls, albeit Despina's disguises are once again in typical pantomime vogue, and wouldn't fool anyone.
That said I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then it's Glyndebourne, so who could fail to enjoy it?
In conclusion, the story of Glyndebourne itself is such a fascinating story that I'm surprised someone hasn't picked up on it and made a movie or TV series about it. I could try myself I suppose, but I fear my efforts wouldn't be worthy of it.
Arthur & George (2015)
Why oh why?....
Why do writers need to try to solve age old and virtually unsolvable mysteries with crazy and illogical reasoning? The Edalji case is well known, as is Conan Doyle's part in it, but he certainly didn't turn into Sherlock Holmes, nor did he solve it. Admittedly his involvement brought about the creation of England's Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907, and Edalji was pardoned, and allowed to continue as a solicitor. He was exonerated of the animal slaughter, but not of the poison pen writing. Couldn't the reason for the latter not have been examined further instead of the garbage that was dished up to us? Why fictionalise a case which would have stood up as an acceptable drama in it's own right, without all the added crap.
Modern writers just have to bring in racism and homosexuality into the mix even though in this particular case there was a suspicion of both. Even so, these days it's par for the course. And why try to make Conan Doyle into a Sherlock Holmes at all? Or even as some sort of a Dr Watson as happened in "The Murder Rooms". Will we next have a sprightly Agatha Christie as a young heroine solving the Oscar Slater case, the Maybrick Murder, or even perhaps the Whitechapel murders? If writers are so hooked up on writing about crimes, why can't they make up their own mysteries instead of resorting to something which is far better done in documentary fashion. Indeed the story of this case was done on BBC radio not long ago and with much better effect without any so-called solution added...not even a 7% solution.
I rate this as a big fat zero, but I'll give it one star for the quirky little terrier.
I really looked forward to seeing this movie, but what disappointment and a waste of time it turned out to be.
Of all the feature films which follow a great series, this has got to be one of the worst I've ever seen.
It is so disjointed as to be utterly tedious, as is the plot. Miscasting abounds, and both acting and dialogue are dead and lifeless as is the direction. There is very little, indeed none, of the fire of the original characters on display here. In short it is a complete disaster.
Winston Graham is a wonderful writer, ergo I can't imagine or believe that he wrote the screenplay for this drivel.
The Heroes of Telemark (1965)
Most of it just didn't happen that way
Just a few notes on this variation from reality.
a) Why was it necessary to hijack a ship to get the scientist (Kirk Douglas) from Norway to England? The Germans found it impossible to patrol the thousand mile Norwegian coastline. Ergo there was a regular 'underground' ferry service from Norway to the Shetland Islands called the 'The Shetland Bus Service'. Plus the fact that London already knew about the Hydro plant and what was being produced. The invented Kirk Douglas role just wasn't needed.
b) What happened to the story of the parachuted four man advance team which spent months preparing the way, and which all almost starved doing it? All Richard Harris said about this epic tale of survival of an horrific winter on a remote ice plateau was "I'm starving". He sure didn't look it. The real guys certainly did. For a while they had to resort to eating reindeer moss.
c) Why the silly and hackneyed love complication when there wasn't one? If the movie had kept to facts it wouldn't have been needed.
d) There wasn't a Nazi infiltrator. The Germans knew nothing about the operation until after completion.
e) After the aircraft & glider catastrophe, there was no sudden change of plan. A new plan was carefully worked out in London with SOE (Special Operations Executive). The saboteurs didn't need a horny professor to show them where to place explosives. As one of the real saboteurs said afterwards, "I knew the plant better than my own garden". They all knew, they'd been studying the layout for months from accurate models.
f) There weren't any German guards inside the plant at the time of the raid, just one Norwegian, who was held at gunpoint (as was actually shown). There wasn't even any reaction from the sound of muffled explosions.
g) There was no gunfire battle before during or immediately after the raid, not even one shot fired. The saboteurs just walked in, placed the explosives and walked out again. And no saboteurs were killed. Indeed not only did they all survive the operation, but they survived the war and on into old age. Of course Americans aren't satisfied unless a war movie is filled with carnage and guns blazing. That's what comes of having a gun culture. Intelligence and subterfuge aren't really their strong points.
h) It took the Germans 3 months to get back into heavy water production after the saboteurs' raid, not just 2 weeks as mentioned.
i) The ferry 'Hydro' didn't sink bow first. It keeled on to its side, and then stern upwards. As the captain said afterwards. "I walked on the side, and jumped into the water from it". Nor were any passengers warned. But then Kirk Douglas just had to play the hero to please the American audience didn't he? But no such heroics happened on the sinking ferry. There just wasn't time, not even for a lifeboat to be lowered. However there were fishing boats around which picked up any survivors there were.
j) Names of characters in the credits don't give surnames. I'm sure real participants in the operation were very relieved.
I could go on and on with the contortions of truth displayed in this movie, but to conclude, it's not such a bad movie in itself. However don't treat it as a guide to what really happened. Facts here are few and far between. You may not believe me, so find out what the actual saboteurs thought of the movie. They've all said, "Most of it just didn't happen that way". They weren't very impressed with it. Nor am I. The real story is far more inspiring, and the real heroes deserve a far better epitaph than this Americanised movie gives them.
Ghastly caricatures of beloved characters.
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse must be turning in his grave. I've read all the Blandings novels and they are amongst the wittiest that PG ever wrote, and I have been longing for a TV version.
This series however loses all the wit and subtlety of the author and turns Blandings and its characters into something straight out of burlesque. The only ones which have some sort of resemblance to the originals are Beach and the pig. The acting, if it can be called such, is dreadful, but I'd blame the director rather than the actors. They've obviously been given instructions to be unbelievable.
I'll probably watch the rest of the series as I'm such a sucker for the writings of PG, but I would hope any further series would be put either in the PG mode rather than follow the imagination of the director as to what he/she thinks PG should have written, or else shelved forever....or at least until someone else can figure out how to do it properly. Reading the novels might help.