Reviews written by registered user
ken_bethell

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49 reviews in total 
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110 out of 190 people found the following review useful:
A movie to slit your wrists to!, 31 January 2017
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As I always make an annual ritual of watching the Oscar contenders last night I gave 'Manchester' a viewing. What can one say? My wife and I sat through XXX minutes (whatever it was it seemed an eternity) of one of the most excruciatingly depressing movies I can remember. The narrative made no attempt to redeem itself with any 'feel good' content - it was a movie to slit you wrists to! Our lead character played by Casey Affleck spends the entire movie in an unsuccessful attempt at redeeming himself for having been negligently responsible for the deaths of his three children in a house fire and that is as good as it gets! The director annoyingly kept inter-mingling past and present to such a degree that you were trying to spot things to establish some kind of time line. There was an early scene where our main man tries to grab an officer's weapon to kill himself at the police station. Boy, don't you wish he had succeeded!

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Gloomy but compelling, 11 December 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As I have not seen the two productions 'His' and 'Her' prior to viewing 'Them' it is impossible to judge how well the two earlier films were edited to produce 'Them'. Having no preconceived ideas I was at least able to make objective opinion on what was available and what I saw left me a little bewildered but also impressed. Puzzlement maybe is what the director intended and I am not averse to being left in a little confusion when the end credits start rolling. If you can still be talking about a movie 24 hours after having seen it then maybe the director got something right. This slow and almost claustrophobic portrayal of love gone wrong did not strain one's attention span. We are left to believe that the loss of their baby boy was the reason for their estrangement although much is left to conjecture and deliberately so. Her attempted suicide is shown before any reason becomes apparent and it does enhance the interest. Just how many women jump off New York bridges, never mind being rescued with nothing than a bruised arm, is however an aspect that perhaps shouldn't be explored further. The fact that only minimal effort is made to counsel her afterwards was also remiss and gave the impression that it was nothing more serious than an accidental overdose. I felt that an opportunity was missed at this point to have stretched her character but again the director probably thought otherwise. The acting is superb though. Both Chastain and McAvoy are ideally cast as is William Hurt playing the concerned parent in the kind of niche role he seems to have made his own in recent years. Would I recommend it? Yes but only to people I thought might appreciate it. Art house material.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
High class 'kitchen sink' drama, 14 November 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nietzsche said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger which may well have been the director's inspiration for this dramatic piece of Belgian kitchen-sink cinema. Located in the working class suburbs of Brussels Marion Cotillard plays a factory worker made redundant by a ballot among her fellow workers who had to choose between her job and a thousand Euro bonus. She manages to have the ballot rerun but must convince the other workers that she is worth saving and in doing so we see the incredible range of emotions that Cotillard can bring to a role. It is a veritable tour de force of a performance. People will initially ask what is an Oscar winner and big Hollywood star doing in such a low budget movie but by the end of the film you know why. After that Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf she was courted by Hollywood and appeared in numerous big productions alongside the likes of Day-Lewis, di Caprio and Depp and was even a big Batman villain but those films often showed her as window dressing and presented no real opportunity to act. 'Rust and Bone' was a rare opportunity but English language audiences in general are reluctant to watch subtitled films. Which is a real shame when such talent is on display.

The Giver (2014)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Suspend belief ..... completely, 8 November 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If, like me, you find it difficult to suspend belief when faced with illogical and irrational story lines then you might have a problem enjoying this piece of science fantasy. Dismiss from your mind immediately how a technologically advanced society could exist, above the snowline, on cloud-shrouded mountain top in total isolation with no apparent means of life support. Well they do have have climate control. I however will not comment further on that. Forget about enquiring where children come from (test tube?) in a population given regular injections to suppress their basic human feelings including sex. But do consider how the community leader (Streep) can have no scruples when it comes to murdering children who threaten her doctrine but who strangely tolerates and even encourages the activities of a sage character (Bridges), the'Giver', who imparts dangerous knowledge to a chosen 'receiver' as a part of periodic ritual. Are we suppose to believe that the Bridges character represents Streep's unconscious desire to want to return society to the way it was? You must draw your own conclusions on that one. The acting is fine and there is even a brief appearance by Taylor Swift who with dark hair looked uncannily like Scarlett Johanssen in recent roles. My bottom line verdict is that it could have been much much better.

Memories of David and Prunella, 30 October 2014
7/10

Like me numerous people commenting on this film have done so from memory and have not seen the film since its original release in 1969. This must be indeed be testimony to its lasting appeal for, strangely, it would appear that this film has not been released on DVD/Blu-ray. I will not discuss the historical content which seems to have met with rather mixed reviews (failing memories?) but I shall concentrate instead on the off-screen relationship of the principal protagonists played by David Hemmings and Prunella Ransome. Hemmings was, by his own admission, a 'Jack the Lad' who when asked to kiss Ransome in rehearsal did so in a manner that can only be described as being in the French style. Ransome was so furious that she refused to speak to him offset and in fact there was no communication between them again for nearly thirty years. Hemmings eventually apologised at a function they were attending and it was their final meeting for they were both dead within 4 years. The cause of Ransome's death has never been made public.

15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Peter Pan isn't alone!, 24 April 2013
6/10

The first thing I would like to say about this film is that it kept me entertained for two hours without once glancing at the clock.This in itself is no mean achievement in an age where many movies are unnecessary long. Hollywood obviously believes length is important if you want to be successful. Entertaining as it was I'm not so sure it was plot that kept me watching as much as the parade of veteran actors on display. A rather disparaging comment and maybe one that should have been reserved for the confusing historical context of the storyline itself. Being of an age that remembers the activities of the Weather Underground I was under the impression that their acts of terrorism had ceased by the time the Vietnam peace agreement was signed in 1973 since the Vietnam War had been the organisation's raison d'etre but in this film the Weather Men are still on a mission as we approach 1980. The film also has amusing parallels with another piece of Redford left-wing theatre, 'The Way we were'. In this 1973 film the Redford character, a talented screen writer, backs away from confrontation with the Communist witch-hunt in Hollywood and seeks respectability by compromising his ability and forsaking the woman he loves in the process. His 2012 alta ego also loses his passion for the cause and sacrifices love and a daughter by walking away, 'I grew up'. In both films Redford played people much younger than himself. I'm not sure what this says about Robert Redford but I think my wife summed it up when she remarked after watching an early scene in 'Company, 'He's not the father of that young girl, is he?' Exactly, a 75 year old unconvincingly playing somebody twenty years younger while in 1973 film he was a 36 year college student! Anyway,enough of Redford who otherwise gives a competent performance. It was good to see Julie Christie again and who along with Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon and Chris Cooper and still capable of teaching the young pretenders a thing or two. All in all and enjoyable and nostalgic evening's viewing.

Breathless (1960)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Cool' cc 1960 - that became nostalgic and humorous., 3 February 2013
6/10

I saw this film when I was sixteen and remember thinking how cool and hip it was at time. French New Wave they called it. And what did I think of 'Breathless' fifty years on after viewing the anniversary DVD. Well, I'm not sure which I found funnier, reading the other comments eulogising over Jean-Luc Godard or the movie itself. This exaggerated snapshot of Parisian sub-culture circa 1959 simply does qualify as a 'Great Film'. Great films are like great music. You would not say Tchaikovsky's Pathetique was a great symphony for 1893: it is a great symphony this or any other year. Gone with the Wind and All Quiet on the Western Front are great films because they are as watchable now as they were when first produced. I have watched both 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' and 'Un Homme et une Femme' in the last six months.

Both films are of the same decade as Breathless but survive much better. Suffice to say that Breathless may have wooed them in 1960 but it wouldn't today.Each generation has produced films which seemed chic and fashionable on opening but which quickly become nothing more than clichés for the period in which they were produced. They became nostalgic and amusing reminders of a seemingly more innocent age. It is however worth watching this film for no other reason than seeing Jean Seberg. She is mesmerising.I remember falling in love with that beautiful face and she even made bobbysocks seem cool! How tragic it is that she died so young. Yes, this film is a collector's item but I'm not sure it's necessarily for the right reasons. I can't profess to being a Godard devotee. In my opinion he's over-hyped but people continue to go into intellectual overdrive to express their admiration of his style. Anyone though who can produce a blockbuster on a shoestring budget does deserve some respect. He would seem to be a director that is above criticism and that is is ridiculous. The Tarantino of his generation? If you like but not for me.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Aimless, unimaginative and cheap., 21 December 2012
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If a saw this film dozen I don't think I would be any the wiser as to what the director's intentions were. The French cinema has been a parlous state for some-while and it has survived in the main due to its ingenuity, Canal Plus and its utilisation of a never-ending conveyor belt of talented actors and writers. What the French cinema is most reluctant to do is to finance extensive film sets and 'The Last Metro' is no exception - even a 'brick wall' moved when leaned against! The scene is WW2, occupied France and a small Parisian theatre managed in the absence of her Jewish play-write husband by Film and stage actress Marion played by Deneuve. We very quickly learn that he hasn't fled France at all but is ensconced in the theatre's basement where he continues to write and direct in apparent secrecy, from everyone but his wife, listening to his productions through a chimney flue! Sounding implausible? Read on. Enter stage left Gerard Depardieu a dapper young leading man for the theatre's new production who, between learning his lines and trying to bed a lesbian co-worker (who writes this stuff?) starts acting furtively. Could our man be starting to give some meaning to this aimless exercise? Is he French resistance? Hooray, a stage prop, a record player purloined from the theatre is used in a Resistance bombing. Alas, don't hold your breathe expecting scenes of graphic carnage and dismembered Nazis. The producers no doubt rubbed their hands at the cost saving by simply having a radio broadcast announce the outrage. It doesn't get any better unfortunately and we are already past two hours. We are then treated to a five minute parody on the liberation of Paris - the film's only attempt at humour - before the final sequence where, with a play-within-a-play, the production at long last becomes imaginative. Too little too late I'm afraid. What were Deneuve and Depardieu thinking about when they signed up for this? And oh, the Last Metro? This refers to last Paris subway train to run at night before the curfew is enforced. Relevance to the film? Nothing in the slightest.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Binoche glows ..... just as well there isn't much else!, 21 November 2012
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

''There are a few shots in the film that seem to be unrelated to the story. This is yet another technique often used by Kieslowski to heighten the intellectual capacity of his films.'' This is a quote I read concerning this film and which to me sums up the pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook that seems to surround this director when he brings a new film to town. Yes, 'Blue' is a study in overcoming grief: it is also an exercise in over-indulgence. One of the 'unrelated shots' referred to would undoubtedly have been the scene where the camera pans away from a troubled Julie (Binoche) onto the street where an old lady, bent double with osteoporosis, is endeavouring to deposit a bottle into a bottle bank. The camera lingers while she labours to push the bottle through the slot. Mission accomplished the scene changes to something totally unrelated. What was the purpose of that scene? What did the pain of an crippled old lady have to do with Julie's tribulations? Is it Kieslowski's purpose in life to make you believe that every unrelated scene has some hidden symbolism or is he really having a laugh at how foolish we are. Having previous seen his 'Veronique' which was similarly puzzling I have reached the conclusion that this director now has a status, like that of many modern artists, where nobody dare criticise for fear of being called an intellectual philistine. On the credit side however is the use of classical music which engendered atmosphere something which it also achieved in 'Veronique'. Of Juliet Binoche what can be said that hasn't been said already? A superb actress with a wonderfully expressive face. In my opinion the only reason to watch this film.

Vertigo (1958)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Nostalgic, nothing more, 7 August 2012
6/10

It was after I heard that Vertigo had replaced Citizen Kane as 'Best Movie of all Time' that I pondered as to whether I had actually seen this film. This was curious as I had no difficulty in remembering 'Kane' despite having only seen it once some 35 years ago. Since I could not recall missing any other James Stewart picture of that era or any of the other big productions of 1950s I assumed that I had seen it but would view it again. I watched it last night and my instincts were correct. I had forgotten this film because it is forgettable! In fact the only memorable thing about the film was the San Francisco skyline which had become beautifully enhanced by its conversion to BluRay. I have never been a great Hitchcock fan for the very reason that his films tend to be over-stylised and Vertigo is no exception. No great acting accolades either in fact dialogue seem to be a secondary consideration to the visual enactment of Stewart's character's mental decline. The film could easily have been a silent film. One critic commented on being fascinated by the complexity of this multi-layered psycho-drama. Uhmm, really. The ending was pure David Lynch - not difficult to see where he got his inspiration, but it was inadequate for a movie lasting beyond two hours. For lovers of this movie genre I would recommend 'The Woman in the Fifth'. Don't be put off by its low rating in IMDb. It is fine example Pawel Pawlilowski's direction and Ethan Hawke is excellent as the mentally-bewildered American adrift in Paris. Back to Vertigo and what more can I say? This film and others of its period have garnered praise well beyond their station by virtue of the current nostalgia boom. My criterion for deciding how good a film is is whether or not it stands the test of time - does it look dated? This film does, as does 'From Here to Eternity' but 'On the Waterfront' doesn't.

It's purely personal of course.


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