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Louder Than Bombs (2015)
Slow, pretentious, boring mess - too many long pauses.
Attracted by a good cast, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, David Strathairn, I checked this film out of the library. Not since 'Elivra Madigan' in the 60's have I endured such a boring film. After 20 minutes of suffering through long pauses and slow responses between characters speaking to each other, I fast forwarded to the end. Not only did the pauses of at least two seconds, which in a conversation is an eternity, especially as one character is totally immobile while the other fiddles with her hair, grimaces, puts her hand up to her mouth, lips tremble and whatever else she learned at the school of bad acting.
I enjoy foreign language films and am happy with a slow pace if it engrosses me, but this did not hold my attention for even five minutes. If they had trimmed the conversational pauses, and the characters standing stock still for no reason, they could have lopped an hour off the film, or at least filled in more dialog. I should have been warned by the blurb on the box which spoke of the dysfunctional family of a deceased woman each trying to reconcile their emotions and deal with her death in their own way. I will know better next time.
When did all this hair chewing, hand wringing, voice trembling and verbal stumbling, or rigid immobility, begin to pass for acting? I watch films of the 40's and 50's which had none of this, yet it seems everywhere these days. The high school girl unable to read words of more than one syllable (or was it more than three letters) without stumbling as the camera stayed on her for five minutes. Was this a school for developmentally handicapped teenagers?
The other thing which annoyed the heck out of me, but this may be my age, was the apologetic father who let his younger son get away with foul mouthed insolence when he should have smacked that out of him a long time ago. It was not Gene's fault that his son was a brat. I never want to see another film where parents take the blame for the bad behavior of their children.
My overall opinion: a pretentious time waster.
I must now have compassion fatigue
I realize that the film was meant to show how the lives of the islanders were impacted by the refugee crisis, but it didn't. The film showed endless footage of a young boy playing, making catapults, pretending to shoot down aircraft? birds? shooting at cactus, getting his eyes tested, and a friend riding his scooter. There was footage of his family life, mama cooking, peeling vegetables, the family eating, mama making a bed. A DJ playing requests, and on, but no scenes of the interaction with the refugees/migrants. We saw the coast guard rescuing dying migrants from overcrowded boats, the immigration people processing them and the doctor examining and talking about them. There was an African migrant screaming like a gospel preacher about the hardships they had endured and those who have died en route, but for all we saw, the residents seemed to live a life apart and are totally unaffected if not unaware of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have ended up on their small island.
The film did show the comfortable orderly lives of the islanders and their comfortable homes, contrasting with the destitution of the migrants who have lost everything - their homes, jobs, family members and face an uncertain future after a hazardous and sometimes deadly journey, but other than the doctor, no one seemed particularly bothered.
Questions which were not answered, where are the migrants getting all the money for the journey, which seems to cost around $10,000 and more. Just the boat trip from Libya to Lampedusa costs between $1,500 and $850 depending on your place in the boat, and seeing as most of the migrants are from Central Africa, getting to Libya must cost ten times more. What are the smugglers doing with all their money which must run into hundreds of millions by now. Where is it being laundered. What is being done to catch the smugglers? Are the migrants really in peril and facing death, or are they being enticed by the people smugglers with false claims of a land of milk and honey. If the latter, why are they not writing (or phoning on the ubiquitous cell phones) to warn their friends and family not to come? Perhaps it is compassion fatigue, but as we saw the dead migrants being unloaded from the tiny overcrowded boat, I was reminded of the cry of 'Bring out your dead' in the days of the plague.
The Light Between Oceans (2016)
More than a box of tissues, a mob and bucket is needed
I didn't think films like this were still made. A 'women's weepie' to rival Love Story, pushing all the right buttons. What woman would not want a husband like Tom, played so beautifully by Michael Fassbender, or be willing to accompany him to an isolated lighthouse station for years on end?
PLOT SPOILER AHEAD:
Everything in this gentle slow paced film was perfect except for a couple of wrong notes beginning with the casting of Rachel Wiesz as Hannah, who at 46 was too old for the part. I realise that acting is make believe and that a good actor can convince the audience of everything, but Ms. Wiesz did not have the benefit of good lighting which would have softened her appearance. I have not read the book, so it may be that Hannah was one of the million or more surplus women who faced spinsterhood after WWI had wiped out almost the entire generation of marriageable men, and had grabbed the young German as a last resort. This would have made her 42 at the time of Grace's birth and 4 years later unlikely to have another chance. Otherwise, she would have more likely been around 24 when Grace was found. Earlier in the film Isabel's father had commented that the Commonwealth would not have had too many applicants for the lighthouse job as there were not too many men around. The speed with which Isabel proposed to Tom on second meeting after mentioning the loss of her two brothers in the war indicated that she was afraid of letting the chance of a husband go by.
PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD:
I did not feel it necessary to conceal the death of the German. They could have reported it but not mentioned the child. If Isabel's baby was not due, they could have pretended she was still waiting, then announced the birth later.
One other failing was with the film not explaining what happened to Tom and Isabel after Isabel had admitted her part in the crime. Did they go to prison as the policeman speculated, or was Hannah able to testify on their behalf and get them off? Perhaps I should get the book, a large box of tissues, a box of chocolates and a rainy night.
Nieve negra (2017)
Perhaps something got lost in the translation
This is quite a depressing film, almost Scandinavian noir, but I found the constant flashbacks confusing, especially as I could not tell who was who and did not even realise they were flashbacks until later in the film. I much prefer a linear narrative where what happened in the past is shown in all one section at the beginning of the film. If flashbacks are to be used, it is better to have them in monochrome.
SPOILER *** SPOILER *** SPOILER *** SPOILER
The real problem I found with the film, and it may be due to translation, was that it did not explain why a crucial clue had been hidden away rather than destroyed. Who hid it and why not destroy it? Salvatore took the blame for his brother, but did Salvatore know that it was not an accident, or did he just feel unjustly judged by his father because he was first on the scene? I liked the ending where mousy Lauri showed that she had the upper hand without saying it, and the look on Marcos' face as realization set in. I would actually like to see a sequel of the future relationship of Marcos and Lauri. Game Set and Match.
Xiao Hong (2012)
Did anyone actually LIKE this film?
I love foreign films, especially as being hearing impaired I need the subtitles, so I looked for Chinese films on Netflix having enjoyed several, but this was the slowest and most boring film since I watched Elvira Madigan in a cinema in Sydney, Australia, while killing time to embark on a sea voyage to UK. I can only say that the scenery was nice; otherwise, the film was so depressing and just SLOW that I found myself fast forwarding to the end, which I never did reach as I gave up and went to bed.
Another problem I had, which may be due to my advancing years or possibly be that I am Caucasian, but with the exception of the main lead, I could not tell the Chinese actresses apart. The girl friend, student, sister, best friend, may have all been the same or different characters as they all had curly hair. I just could not tell. i am not saying that they should cast a blonde, redhead, brunette with curly hair and one with straight hair so that we can tell the difference, but there are ways to differentiate and this film did not do that. Different body shapes, different personalities can all set characters apart. Instead we got beautiful slender women with as much personality as shop window mannequins.
It may well be that I will give this film a try several years hence and thoroughly enjoy it. Who knows!
Do not watch if you have a drinking problem!
A truly excellent detective series with a different feel thanks to the little known location. The wind and rain swept treeless Shetland location gives a wonderfully authentic atmosphere to the tried and true detective series. I became hooked on Scandinavian detective series through watching Mhz Worldview, particularly as I liked the alternative to London and New York settings which highlight the fact that there is a whole other world out there - a world of small communities where everyone is related to everyone else and the few small towns are like villages where everyone is a family.
Like many people, all I knew about the Shetland Isles is that they were as far north as you can go in the British Isles, almost in the Arctic, had once belonged to Norway, had bad cold weather and were not very high on the list of places I would like to visit.
The ensemble acting is superb, with cameos by famous actors such as Brian Cox, as is the occasional dialect speech 'simmer dim' for the long white summer nights which never get totally dark and people can still be sitting out in the twilight way after midnight. I particularly liked the episodes paying homage to the Shetland Bus operation of WW2 where the Shetland seamen helped ferry agents, money and supplies to Norway, and bring back refugees to help the war effort.
One caution is that they do a lot of drinking - straight from the bottle. A visitor is likely to be handed a glass of whisky along with the bottle! They must never have got through the cases of whisky washed ashore in the film 'Whisky Galore'.
The Fear (2012)
Peter Mullan gave a stunning performance in a series which just dragged on too long. The flashbacks would have been better as a prologue at the beginning as they became boring to the point of being really annoying. I know that the intent was to show Richie losing his mind, but the four part series could have been reduced to two hours with no loss.
Two things puzzled me: why did no one turn the illegal immigrant gangsters into the police/immigration service, then they would have been rid of them? and the progression of Ritchie's Alzheimer's Disease must have been the fastest on record. My observation of dementia and Alzheimer's has been that it takes years rather than days.
Overall, 'The Long Good Friday' did it better.
Queen of the Desert (2015)
Quite enjoyable if you don't know your history and have not read the book 'Desert Queen'.
This film was an attractive costume drama which would not have been out of place on Masterpiece Theater, but anyone familiar with Gertrude Bell's achievements and who has read the book 'Desert Queen', will be disappointed at how much was left out. Yes, she was born to a wealthy family, had a brilliant mind, earned a first class degree at Oxford - even attending Oxford was a rarity for a woman at that time. She mixed in the best society being very well connected socially, and also enjoyed the company of many intellectuals of the day. Yes, she fell in love with Henry Cadogan and mourned his death for seven years. She had been prevented from marrying him by her overly possessive parents on some very flimsy grounds - he was a gambler and had no fortune, when they could have easily set up a trust fund for her which he could not touch. Her parents apparently even opened her mail to ensure that she was not being led astray. Her dutiful devotion and love for her parents may have caused her later infatuations and unrequited love for the wrong men.
Her friendship with the married Doughty Wiley was shown, as was her iffy working relationship with T. E. Lawrence who supported her while being quite catty behind her back, but her later unrequited love for Henry Fitzsimmons, who used her but refused flat out to marry her, was not. Nor was her long and very close friendship with King Faisal of Iraq, which began when he was Prince and whom she had been instrumental in supporting on the throne. As Faisal's wife and family remained in Mecca and Gertrude became his close adviser, many suspected that they were lovers.
Her years of round the world tours to get over Henry's death were left out. Eventually she began her journeys through the middle east and gained the knowledge which put her in the center of things in WWI as a source of information about the Arab tribes, and supporter and close adviser to King Faisal. She was present at the Paris Peace Conference when the winners, desperate to get their hands on the oil, divided up the middle east between them, largely reneging on the promises to allow the Arabs their own kingdom and instead installing puppet kingdoms under British and French mandates.
The film ended with a very brief meeting with Faisal and his brother Abdullah, and an epilogue about the creation of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia where Gertrude Bell had helped define the borders and choose the rulers. But there was much more to the story. After the heady success of helping to create the modern middle eastern kingdoms, being appointed Oriental Secretary awarded the CBE, and being Faisal's right hand woman, called upon every day not only for advice, but companionship, games, tennis, Gertrude found herself becoming less and less important as her task had ended. It probably did not help that she was a woman and had trodden on quite a few toes on the way up. Men would have felt threatened by her and wives would have been jealous. She concentrated her efforts on her writing and establishing the Baghdad Museum, but her life had become empty and no doubt she felt unwanted and useless. Faisal saw less of her and spent more time in Europe 'taking the cures'. Her family fortune disappeared in the post war changing times and she was reduced to living alone if not in poverty, but 'straightened circumstances'. In 1926 she died of an overdose of sleeping pills, which was ruled an accident.
Other than leaving half the story out, the other serious flaw was the miscasting of Faisal and Abdullah and their very brief appearance at the close of the film. The two actors should have switched parts. Abdullah, the great grandson of today's King of Jordan, was short and round faced, Faisal was tall, thin, charismatic and extremely handsome. His leadership of the Arab revolt was the reason for the allied win over the Turks. From the film one would think she had only met with Faisal for one minute. Showing more of her relationship with Faisal would have perked up the film enormously.
Overall, this topic should have been a Masterpiece Theater miniseries running for at least six hours.
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Emily Bronte did it better
In the 1840's Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, which was considered so shocking that she had to write under a non de plume, Ellis Bell. The story told of the passionate burning love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliffe, the wild child found in Liverpool by Catherine Earnshaw's father, which destroyed everyone around them and lasted beyond the grave. The book has been translated into every language on the globe and has never been out of print.
Legends of the Fall is a Wuthering Heights kind of family tragedy as the fiancé of one of the brothers (the wild one) falls deeply in love with him, but is rejected by him when he decides to go off alone to 'find himself'. He returns later to find she has married his straight laced elder brother, but she is still besotted with him. Ah, the grand passion! Brad Pitt plays the same type he played in "A River Runs Though It" the wild child, and Aidan Quinn the same role he played in "The Mission", the decent straight arrow brother who falls in love with the fiancé left behind for years by his wild seafaring brother. Have these casting directors no imagination? I enjoyed the film as you would a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie, but would not rate it a great epic or Oscar worthy. Many viewers rhapsodized over the scenery. What Scenery? All I saw was a green meadow with the shape of blue mountains in the background.
I bought the DVD many years ago and watched it again last night. The overall feeling was that of over pretentious Harlequin Romance.
A work of fiction based on real people and events
I enjoyed this film for the atmospheric scenes of bohemian Paris just after WWI. I did not take the recreation any more seriously than the time travel series on TV where the characters find themselves in the Paris of the 20's and run into Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, cocteau et al every time they set foot in a bar or turn a corner. Before the film began there was a statement that it was fiction based on real people and events; therefore those who complain about it not being an accurate biography of Modigliani have missed the point - no one ever said it was! My main problem with the film was Andy Garcia, who was around 15 years too old, too well fed and nowhere near as handsome as the real Modigliani. He simply did not have the Italian charm combined with dazzling good looks which would have been catnip to women. Not only was Garcia too old for the part, he can't act, and his haircut hanging in greasy strands over his face would turn off any woman.
Another jarring note was that as baby Jeanne was born a few days after the end of WW1 and has not yet been baptised, something the Catholics do within few weeks of the birth, we must assume that the Modi and Jeane meet up again in 1918; however, there is no sign of Paris recovering from the terrible devastation of the war. Modigliani died two years later in 1920 and the film would have us believe that the intervening two years were one long party. From where did the starving artists get the money to buy their booze, let alone drugs? Finally, the structure of a little boy, Amadeo as a child? acting as his conscience was irritating and should have been scrapped. I would enjoy watching an accurate biography of Modigliani should someone care to make one.