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Not very engaging and lacks the Potter charm
Firstly I haven't read the book so came deliberately ignorant to this film. As time went on it felt that JK Rowling had watched a few recent Doctor Who's and come up with this...Tardis suitcase anyone? Lead character unable to engage with people? Anyhow the plot of the movie feels a bit contrived with Newt apparently either looking to return a beast to Arizona or to buy a particular one in NY. We have the wizards and witches more underground and frankly far less charming than those of Hogwarts. They basically seem like a neo-fascist bunch that like to keep themselves to themselves and have a penchant for Gestapo style leather coats. The plot then turns to whether Colin Farells character can locate an Obscura or Obscuris... whichever it doesn't really matter and possibly use them for...well presumably something evil...it's never really explained. There are some good parts with the actors who play Credence and Kowalski being very believable. However, Redmayne is not an engaging or warm actor. There are far too many effects, not enough humour and it really doesn't feel...magical. All in all it passed the time but I won't rush to watch it again.
Now You See Me 2 (2016)
So absurd that it really is unbelievable
I hadn't seen the first film but assumed to have a sequel there must be something worth watching. However, even with a decent cast this movie spirals into an ever increasing series of ridiculous set pieces and "tricks". It is so contrived that frankly I couldn't be bothered to care one way or the other what the outcome was. There are so many convenient coincidences and plot twists that just seem very lazy. The Horsemen are not especially well drawn and in this age of hyper normalisation it could have been a great opportunity to highlight issues of "truth", and who controls information which was a central part of the plot that they never explored the implications of. Not worth wasting your time upon and I doubt there will be a third based on this one.
Disorientating,unsettling,curious and always interesting
HyperNormalisation is an ambitious attempt to explain how we view and understand the world we live in. We are overwhelmed by data yet become ever more trapped in silos. We struggle to know what is the "truth" whilst sometimes accepting a fake one if it suits our needs or prejudices...that applies to governments as well as the general populace. The film charts the origins of the Syrian crisis, the rise of the banks and corporates, the evolution of politicians becoming managers rather than leaders. It illustrates quite shockingly how forces unleashed by Syria and Iran in the late 70s and early 80s have come back to haunt them. There are numerous strands to this tale which also covers The Donald who has perhaps more than many exploited the increased anger and disillusionment with the world amongst many. The film shows how there is increased tendency to preach to the already converted and how social media amplifies this as it runs on algorithms based on individuals likes and interests. It's hard to summarise effectively but it is thought provoking and is a noble attempt to lift the veil on the world we live in and how it can be manipulated,obscured and presented in a multitude of ways.
P'tit Quinquin (2014)
I watched this series back to back as part of the London Film Festival. Whilst it had some nice touches it most definitely could have done with some serious editing. The story covers a number of gruesome and seemingly interconnected murders in a small town in Northern France. These are investigated by a pair of ineffectual policemen who adopt a number of quirky, but not necessarily humorous,mannerisms. The series also gives a great deal of attention to the lives of some of the local children. The series captures the geography very well but one feels there are too many shots that are not necessary or over long. Some of the more farcical moments are similarly overplayed and they tend to peter out. The plot is such that the murders are incidental.Life generally carries on with little or no impact or histrionics.The series struggles to know what it is and veers between light comedy,social drama and murder mystery without ever coming off the fence. The introduction of a storyline concerning immigration,racial and religious intolerance almost halfway through is also not given the attention it deserves. The death of Mohammed also illustrates the general indifference to life that one wonders if there was much point including it as it's never revisited. The depiction of France and French society is also pretty stark with casual overt racism demonstrated a number of times. The climax,if it could be called such a thing,is also unsatisfying with most plot lines left hanging. It felt at the end that this destination could have been reached far quicker and with more effect.
I must admit that I had high hopes when I went to see The Hobbit, but with a question of how a relatively short book could be turned into 7 or so hours of film over the 3 instalments. I had fond memories of reading the book and I loved the LOTR films. Unfortunately I think the film really suffers from unnecessary padding and action scenes that just add nothing to the story. The film is a little too knowing with references to the later events of LOTR so it loses some of its innocence. The saddest thing is that the film does look great but it just seems to drag - it's overlong and really doesn't benefit from adding in additional Orc encounters or additional characters. The book in my memory is a little bit more lighthearted and innocent compared to LOTR but this gets battered by too much blood and gore. Martin Freeman does a decent job as Bilbo but he doesn't seem to have a massive range of acting skills - he's the same in The Office or Sherlock Holmes and most of the dwarfs are fairly anonymous. I couldn't call it a disaster but it does not meet the high standards of LOTR and I think the decision to go with 3 films is a massive mistake - out of them might come one decent edited version but on present evidence each instalment is going to be bloated and unsatisfying.
Slightly rushed and an improbable plot...but still good
Firstly I'll be honest that I thought the first series of The Killing was far superior to the second. The first series at 20 episodes had a lot of time to develop themes and plots and characters and it worked beautifully right up to the end. However, the second series at only half the length feels a bit rushed and the plot is pretty improbable and unlikely. The acting is excellent, you really cannot fault it but here I found myself disappointed by characters not being given enough screen time and a number of threads of the plot could have done with more exploration - for instance the political intrigue and machinations. The central plot revolves around a squad of Danish soldiers who are being murdered following some sort of traumatic event in Afghanistan. The central question being why are they being hunted down - is it for religious or political reasons.... Without going into too much detail it is a little implausible that someone may look to cover up past misdeeds by very publicly murdering a number of people. It tends to draw attention just where the perpetrator may not wish it to rest. There are a few frustrating plot holes that are probably best ignored as the more you think about it the less substantial the drama seems. Overall I enjoyed the series and will watch the third one but the second series pales in comparison to the first.
The Truth Is Out There (2011)
The Truth could be...anywhere....
I saw this documentary at the BFI in London a few days ago and have to say it is a curious film. Initially I had been led to believe that it was an investigation by Dean Haglund into conspiracy theories and their generation and popularity, however, in retrospect it is something quite different. It meanders and weaves and doesn't succeed in coming to any meaningful point. One thing that I struggled with through the entire film is that nobody is put into context, and in fact there is also no attempt to analyse different types of conspiracy theory or to explain why they remain an ever present part of popular culture. Instead we have Dean Haglund interviewing a variety of individuals, and this really means a very passive form of interviewing - he lets each protagonist have their say and is open minded and not challenging in any way to the things that are said. We also see, inter-cut, a therapy session for Dean Haglund that seems to culminate in the observation that everyone has their own truth and world view. It would have been a great point to have cut to the various interviewees to ask them : Why do you think the way you do and when did you begin to think like this? The film feels too long - it's well over 2 hours and there seem to be some completely irrelevant scenes - we see Dean talking to his nephew and his brother about their travel plans and homelife, and also that Dean Haglund has invented a laptop cooling system...not that interesting and in fact not helpful to the narrative at all. There are also some really strange issues with the score, which sometimes gets really loud, and in fact during one interview with a particularly passionate radio host convinced me that the film was about to end...but it didn't. Normally I would have expected some hypothesis to have been tested, or for some revelations and illustrations to provide some framework to have educated the audience by the end of the film but this just didn't happen. I am not joking when one audience member fell asleep and began to snore during this showing! To be fair there are a handful of laughs during the film but it is not especially humorous, nor intelligently handled so one is left wondering just what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. Overall I feel this documentary is a mish mash of unrelated scenes that has little to add to the subject area. Dean Haglund seems a fairly pleasant guy but you don't need a 2 hours plus documentary to tell you that.
Went the Day Well? (1942)
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Action - A Great Surprise
I had heard of this film many years ago but only recently had the opportunity to watch it. Initially the premise is not that unusual or promising - this was a wartime propaganda film ( issued in 1942 ) in the UK, written by Graham Greene. It follows the story of an advance group of German soldiers who take over a village as a precursor to a main invasion and how the villagers react and fight back. This could have been full of stiff-upper lipped stoicism and clunky wartime messages but it completely transcends it. Don't get me wrong there are some unsubtle scenes and some of the acting is mediocre at best ( I believe some of the actors were in fact soldiers ) but the film manages to build tension and has the most fantastic female characters. What really stands out for me is that there is a British traitor - he isn't portrayed as a German - he appears to be British and also the sheer acts of bravery that the women undertake - these are not glamorous action heroes - these are ladies that like to have tea at 3pm with a nice cake or cucumber sandwich. I still cannot get over the scene where the lady of the manor grabs a grenade and takes it out of the room to save the children, sacrificing herself. The postmistress who ponders how she is going to murder the German soldier at her table...and how she meets a bad end also....and the lady who knows she must sort the traitor out...how she takes it upon herself to kill him and the look of madness and terror on her face when she does so. This was a joy to watch and I really recommend it.
Mic Macs à Tire-Larigot (2009)
Really wanted to love this but...
I will be honest - I am a huge Jeunet fan but I found this film to be one of his weakest. This is more like City of Lost Children than Delicatessen. Visually of course there are plenty of nice shots, it's always interesting to look at. However, the big problem is the very linear story - there is no major drama here, we don't get to identify that much with the protagonists which is a huge shame, we just get to watch a series of events leading up to the revenge but even the villains are not fleshed out that well. This film would have been so much better if the characters had more time to develop. If you like Jeunet I guess this is a must see, however a lot of people are going to wonder what the fuss is all about. Overall I would rate this as one of his weakest works by a long way and I feel really disappointed in having to acknowledge that.
Four Lions (2010)
Funny but should it be ?
Four Lions had a very strange impact on the audience when I saw it. The film follows 4 would be suicide bombers ( 3 completely inept and stupid and 1 who is slightly more intelligent ) and their path to a martyr's death....doesn't sound particularly funny I must admit. However, the film is a real curious mix of slapstick and wit, but mixed in are some quite unsettling scenes - it cannot be an accident that the writers of this are Chris Morris and the Peep Show team - both of whom have shown in the past that they can push the boundaries of taste and make you question things. I personally didn't find the idea of the film distasteful and I think anyone who might be shocked or outraged should watch it because the ending certainly isn't funny. To me it was thought provoking and definitely worth seeing.