Reviews written by registered user
Pedro_H

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403 reviews in total 
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"Vinyl" (2016)
58 out of 103 people found the following review useful:
"Let's list every 70's rock cliché you can think of and then weave a script around it.", 16 February 2016

Record boss Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) senses his company is on the brink of bankruptcy due to poor sales and failing acts, but salivation may be at hand via a buy out from a German record company. However that might be the least of his problems...

This is a mishmash of fact, fiction, fable and myth and not a documentary. For a start The New York Dolls seem to be very popular (as if!) and punk rock seems to have happened years before it did. Fine, but Peter Grant supported Led Zep and didn't take second best for them. He got loud when he needed to, but he wasn't the bull-in-a-china-shop shown here.

(Don't get me started on the guy playing Robert Plant's accent!)

How many times do we want to hear the same stories/clichés about rock and roll? While I love it, you have to say it is a bit pathetic in print. Alexander The Great conquered the most of the known world by the time he was thirty, Keith Richards - meanwhile - had written Satisfaction and stuck lots of needles in his arms.

To return to the plot. Between the clichés Cannavale chews a lot of curtains about what is going to happen to others. The man has a heart - or is it more of a heart than the other sharks and pimps?

The central problem with flashback is that when the actor is already middle-aged you have to think he would be a pensioner by the time the seventies rolled around. Is Cannavale the best casting they could do? Corruption and creative accounting are popular in the entertainment industry, but few people in it are actually morons. The Germans would look at the books and know what they are buying. They might not be as good with hookers, coke and making rock, but they can read an account book.

In all pilots various cans of worms are opened hoping that the money (HBO) will be intrigued and see millage. Few of them are anything to do with music or entertainment, because the behind-the-scenes industry isn't really that sexy or that interesting. The product is - but the people behind it are just people with computers sitting behind desks. They may like a bit of blow - but who really cares?

Get on Up (2014)
Rambling and shambling, although mostly entertaining, look at a musical enigma., 24 September 2015

The life and times of legendary musician/dancer James Brown told in nonlinear excerpts-from-a-life, rather than any bog-standard birth-to-death, story-form.

There has been many recent musical bio-pics, so much so that a satire films have appeared about them such as Walk Hard. In such an atmosphere Tate Taylor has attempted to be different and non conventional but a lot of the time he is merely confusing, muddled and somewhat over-flashy. Moreover the movie looks like it was edited by running over the footage with a lawnmower and gluing it back at random. Flashback and flashback again was used so often that I lost track of where the movie variation on "now" was!

Starting at the beginning (although not for this film!) While his (Brown's) father was violent and irresponsible you get the feeling he is being short changed. He did try and bring up his son rather than run away. Give him some marks for effort.

However it is used (I believe) as an opening excuse for the behaviour he (Brown Snr) later displayed himself. Not that endless contradictions aren't part of this story, indeed you feel there is a sort of cop-out feel that it can't take any form of moral line. He was both anti-drugs and anti-delinquency apart from in his own actions and his own life. Dare anyone say it, the man had serious mental problems. Because if he wasn't bipolar nobody ever was or will be.

Don't give me the "it was all the drugs" line as if the character wasn't underneath. Indeed drugs, firearms and his huge ego could easily have got him killed in the street. Bizarrely he paints himself as a victim (in real life) when on a violent rampage. I rest my case.

Let's get off this merry-go-round of confusion and onto solid ground: Brown never left an audience member bored and his songs have passion and soul. We can get this from a concert CD/DVD with the real thing and Chadwick Boseman isn't anything like as good. Nor does he look much like him either (too tall).

Brown actually knew little about music and and even his voice wasn't the greatest in range. Indeed I'm not even sure he could have carried a proper harmonic ballad. Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding could have wiped the floor with him on a soul standard. Rather in the manner of Liberace he became important because he told people he was important and people bought into it.

(People who refer to themselves in the third party turn my stomach. If Jesus returned from the grave he wouldn't do it.)

Despite its faults this is an entertaining enough piece. Wouldn't want to sit through it again and - as I say - it is a shame that the editing is such a mess. All movies need narrative and even though we are dealing with a real life a bit of fiction or guesswork is better than lurching around from one unrelated scene to another with no sense of where you are going or why...

A movie which dares to shock, but not for its own sake., 16 March 2015
8/10

A former top Nazi hides out by being a night porter in a hotel, but is recognised by one of the very inmates he has abused, but rather than turn-him-in she decides to continue their abusive master-and-servant relationship.

This is the kind of movie which I came to very cold and so much the better for it. Despite the passing of the years and the shocking things (real and fiction) that have passed before my eyes, this stays and haunts you. Might even have changed me a bit.

(If only in the possibility of cinema.)

Maybe the only film ever made which dares takes on damaged people and explore their lives without aiming for simple exploitation or entertainment. Hearing the testimony of real holocaust survivors should tell us one thing: We don't know how it would affect us.

Nor do we know how people feel after trauma. Or what their reaction to extreme circumstances may be. Or even our own if we ever were in a concentration camp or raped. We guess, but we may be wrong.

The acting here is superb. Leads Rampling and Bogart at the top of their game. Subtle and yet somehow believable in their reactions to each other.

Sadly it has been marketed now as a "come and be shocked" ghost train ride with every twist and turn now public knowledge. It really spoils it, because the audience are being manipulated into the expected and then having their expectations reversed. Without it the power is diminished.

This is a film from an era when film-makers were totally brave and fearless. Big name actors rarely took chances like this again. And you can see why.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining comic celebration of the worst of human behaviour rather than any form of condemnation., 22 October 2014
7/10

A former Wall Street broker realises that pumping junk (penny) stock is very lucrative and turns a small cottage industry into something a lot bigger. Soon crossing white lines even he can see.

I am generally a fan of Martin Scorsese to the point of often wanting to watch his movies more than once. Sometimes even owning. He has made some fantastic films giving some real depth and insight into off-beats, street people and criminals. There isn't a director working today who he hasn't educated. Indeed quality hard-edged TV shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire are almost based on his templates, look and ideas.

(Can you imagine these shows even being made if he had died at birth?)

And yet, and yet, the man has a serious flaw: he struggles to be moral. On film at least. He seems on the side of the conman, the crook and the mafioso. The Joe Public who get crushed under their mighty wheels are of little interest to him. Comedy fodder. Police/law enforcement who stop them (or at least try) dull and low paid. Sometimes corrupt, inefficient and devious. At other times ignored completely or treated as last-reel extras.

Here he brings all his faults to the table and then some. Indeed almost seems to be underlining them. The FBI are full of subway riding drones in cheap brown suits and non matching ties.. Dry humoured nasty people who want to end the party (all bought with stolen money) early. There only advantage - over their quarry - being not risking sleeping six inches from a toilet seat.

Although few have noticed, this film has been shot before as "Boiler Room." A passable Vin Diesel number. So little has this film being seen that some scenes are almost copies of it! Indeed copies with a bit bigger budget. When you have the budget the camera can swoop and roll through a million extras - all acting their little socks off. Here everyone acts like they are on The Price is Right, even when they are work!

(Do the tits-out extras get extra pay? Hope so. Humiliation should come with compensation.)

Excess? I can spot it in small doses. It doesn't need to be repeated over and over again until I wonder if I have sat on the remote control and jumped back two chapters. Voice-over too. In case you have gone blind during the movie. It stops just short of flashing subtitles pointing out that what we are watching is immoral or illegal.

But wait and hold on, it does entertain and does make you laugh. Guilty laughs, but laughs (of the out-loud variety) are not common with me. A lot of it is probably true as well. Or true-ish. Clearly MS doesn't know how a helicopter is actually flown, so why not employ somebody who does?

DiCaprio is very good in the central role of Jordan Belfort. Best acting yet and let's be frank his face has been his fortune so far. Clearly over-the-top and silly at times, but some real acting wrinkles. It is not him on the stunts though, the double is too tall to be him and even in the "daring" sex scenes we never see candle wax on his back. Only that of the double.

I love Jonah Hill (Donnie in the the film). He is a brilliant comic actor. He just has it. Never afraid to make a fool of himself, he does a wonderful performance as best friend and co-conspirator. Not consistent though, stupid one minute smart the next. I wonder if he is going to go down the Jack Black route and get his own vehicles? Second wife Naomi (played by Aussie Margot Robbie) is hot in a Playboy way and seems appropriate for the role, but you don't like her character much. Just another spoilt mercenary happy to join the bandwagon without asking too many questions. Unlike his first (screen) wife. Whether Robbie is going on to anything else is open to question. Probably turn up in costume in one of those superhero movies they are always making. Has the build for it.

In the old 40's Warner Brothers days the film ended with the crook dead or in jail. Here there is another scene to underline the bit about Scorsese being basically immoral. And maybe so if the audience if the IMDb rating is correct. Maybe we are all going to hell laughing.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Obvious, limp and cheap debut for Moore as 007, 15 March 2014
5/10

Roger Moore's first outing as 007 seems designed to highlight all the things which made him a TV star in the first place. Tall, suave and well-spoken, able to give dignity to even the poorest script and even the most unlikely scenario. This is really pretty much the same-old, only with a slightly larger budget. Although the gadget budget must be the smallest in the history of Bond, consisting of little beyond a "magic power" watch.

Looking decidedly middle-aged and packing the kind of clothes that nobody under 40 would want to be seen dead in (even then), Moore/Bond is on the trail of another Mr Evil (twist respected) who wants to mass produce heroin and give it away. Thereby eliminating all competition. Which it might until he started charging for it again, when it would re-appear. Clearly not a serious proposition and Moore doesn't even raise his famous eyebrow to this bizarre school of thought.

Looking sexy and baffled is a young (introducing?) Jane Seymour who is best playing strong women with a brain rather than bimbos who can be tricked by tarot cards. Still she is nice to look at, although for reasons not altogether anything to do with common logic she seems besotted by our old-enough-to-be-her-father hero even with his safari suits and tired puns. But such is the lot of most Bond girls.

CIA agent Rosie (Gloria Ellis) is so stupid that you wonder if she really is a CIA agent at all. While she is black (and we know that clichés are allowed in 1973) why would they employ a numb skull? Mind you the full CIA is not much better rarely doing anything but put Bond in danger.

Boat chases are the worst type of chase because there really isn't anything in the way. You just go very fast and try and outrun the next guy. This seems the budgets biggest expense and we have to watch it with all the excitement of a powerboat DVD we didn't want for Christmas. Things are destroyed and onlookers are shocked, but that is the problem with the series. Driving a car fast was shocking in 1962, by 1973 it is simply nothing to write home about.

What really follows is the, now, much laughed about capture-escape-capture-escape which Bond often engaged in. Never asking for back-up or help you wonder whether he is driven by a death-wish. Making the same mistake twice even.

Still it has a rocking soundtrack and Moore tries not to laugh at the lines which come tumbling out of his mouth. He gets the job done (with the help of a stuntman or two), but then again we knew that at the start. It really didn't get any better did it for then on in? Same old formula being refitted and retreaded until we were all sick of it and the box office told its own story.

In the cold light of day, Moore's Bond was really a nasty user and abuser never mourning much over a death. Even if he caused it. Luckily he never seemed to take himself or the script seriously and that is what saves him. Indeed probably what saved him in his acting career, because he was so good looking he never needed to learn to act.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Cobbled-together cliché-following script, but very entertaining nevertheless., 4 March 2014
8/10

Wreck-It Ralph is a video game bad guy (clearly modelled on Donkey Kong) who detests his life as a much-hated dump-living loner and longs to be, instead, a hero who saves the day and is loved-by-all. Better still have a shiny medal to hang around his neck. With this in mind he leaves his own game and seeks a medal in the other games in the arcade.

(Naturally by doing so he puts the "whole of video arcade in danger.")

The internal logic of this cartoon doesn't really stand much scrutiny because video game characters don't have a life outside of their games and even if they did this is contradictory in the extreme. I suppose we have to suspend all our facilities as regards belief and logic, but why would a bad guy (created for the purposes of this alone) have a heart-of-gold? While this may be unimportant the film can't even decide on its own internal logic. Why would the characters die if the plug is pulled? Do they die if they have a power cut as well? Equally why didn't they die before they got to the arcade?

(This is a movie written by people who don't know their ROM from their RAM?)

For those old enough to remember eight-bit games and the early days of computing there are plenty of laughs and references. Q-bert was my favourite. Not a fan of shoot-em-ups generally and they play on screen worse than they do in any actual game. They just don't create any sense of danger. They are simply there to be shot and never seem to do anything to avoid being shot. They are about as menacing as wasps around a picnic.

For my money it would have been more fun for Ralph to go in to loads of different games and interact with loads of our old favourites. Here he only lingers in two. Clearly this would have cost a lot more and, who knows, meant having to pay licensing. From the information about the film available here this was one of the original ideas.

Ralph is quite a complex character in being a bit stupid (for laughs) one minute and quite cunning (for convenience) the next. I guess that a lot of dim characters are like this in movies, they have to serve the general plot and be whatever is needed. Worse the central character is such a bland retread of Shrek. John C. Reilly's voice performance is simply great though.

The King Candy (Alan Tudyk) character seems to be indicating he is gay (lots of pink - sorry salmon - in the castle) and speaks with a bit of a camp lisp. While attacking some prejudices (the girl racers are all bitches ripe to be made good) it endorses others? He is a lot of fun though and adds a tiny bit of danger to a plot where nothing-bad-can-happen-and-we-all-know-it.

Too cute and sharp tongued by-half Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) is a would-be racer who Ralph helps and is the co-central plot thread of the movie and while fun and entertaining, what follows is like watching somebody else's video game from over their shoulder.

I guess the end message is go and see this film, enjoy it and think about the character references (if you know them), but don't start thinking about it too much. It really falls apart if you do. Strangely for a film about growth and change, the payoff is actually pretty weak. Like many cartoons and animated series the central message seems to be that everybody should know their place and be happy with it. Another cliché box ticked, sadly.

Lincoln (2012)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Worthy, but ultimately dull and draggy, portrait of a great American icon., 24 February 2014
5/10

President Lincoln has two things in his mind and on his plate. Bringing to an end the costly and bloody civil war and find a way to pass the 13th Amendment: In broad effect, to end all slavery on American soil.

It seems churlish to summate any great (in the sense of important or historically relevant) statesman in a paragraph. Like trying to summate the impact of The Beatles in such a couple of lines. A film has to do something similar in under two and a bit hours. A bit more room for doubt and complexity and ambiguity, but essentially not much.

Besides, very few films can survive or be a success where the central character isn't a hero. Or at least a flawed hero. This is a film of selected facts and even some bizarre fictions.

(Why are the details of the final deciding vote wrong?)

Here we have a very modern Lincoln who sees blacks as equals and is moved to tears by the sight of men in chains. Or at least he says he was. Strange that he later wanted to export freed slaves to other lands where their conditions would be similar. Maybe it was the actual seeing it that he objected to?

A film is allowed to have an opinion that isn't mine. To take as fact what may be only interpretation or biography. That is fair enough, but to carry a morality film the central character has to be seen as - at heart - fair minded. A man who would be the right thing, even at personal cost. Reading his own words doesn't lend me to think that. Indeed he seemed to believe that the future America would become be formed as part of an apartheid system. Mixed marriages to be outlawed.

(And maybe they would have been if Lincoln had lived long enough!)

Politicians have stayed the basically the same since the dawn of time. Two faced, corrupt, self-serving and deceitful. They understand only two thing: Themselves and money. Using this information most things are possible now and then. There isn't any subtlety in this story, the politicians were simply bribed for their votes. So much for democracy or even an interesting storyline.

The best thing here is Daniel Day-Lewis. Indeed he saves the film from being unwatchable. What fantastic acting it must be to keep a straight face while a grunting front-line soldier recites the Gettysburg Address from memory! Doesn't matter how many years you work on a script (Tony Kushner), doesn't mean you won't come up with cripplingly bad scenes like this!

After a modestly interesting opening - including some basic battle scenes - we are in the smokey and half-lit rooms where corrupt politicians and lobbyists do their dirty work. To be frank I was soon bored with it all. But it just goes on-and-on in the gloom.

In a crass finish the final vote is played like a big game with close-ups of faces and the gnashing of teeth. All we need is an excitable commentator on the PA. We (those who don't generally live in caves) know what is going to happen so there isn't even any intrigue or tension.

Spielberg has made some great movies and some great flops, but I'd rather sit through one his flops (1941?) again then sit through this all over again.

Hitchcock (2012)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Perfectly passable bio-pic, but a bit too cheap, simple and obvious., 9 February 2014
5/10

Genius is one of the words I rarely use. Nor should you. Hitchcock was a genius and that is why this movie uses it as a title. Sadly this is a movie made by a non genius (Sacha Gervasi) and is therefore trying to gain kudos by association.

What we have here is really one of those jumped-up straight-to-cable movies which seems all the rage nowadays. Made on the quick (read up the sidebar for details) with A grade stars, but sadly not a lot of time or money. Equally the restrictions made by original copyright holders (again available to read about here) make the project even more ball-and-chained than otherwise might be the case.

(A situation curiously similar situation to another Anthony Hopkins bio "Picasso.")

Here Hitch is portrayed as at the peak of his powers. One hit after another and the studio and the public are putty in his hands, but what next? His answer: Psycho a horror movie made by "someone really good" (as if Hitch would say that out loud!) and - although you wouldn't know it from here - made on a small budget with his usual TV series crew.

In the interests of drama the studio, the censor and even his own wife are against the project. While this may be founded in fact (studios are forever asking directors to simply reprise previous hits) there is little evidence that this was really a make or break movie. With the rise of television (for which he was a pioneer) and the low cost of the production the risks were not all that great and the earning powers of his television series (and residuals from previous hits) made him fairly secure.

The prosthetics and makeup on Hopkins is quite good, but you can clearly see it is a man acting being big and fat rather than being big and fat. The movement is not stiff enough and the legs not bent enough. The sexless nature of the relationship with his wife is emphasised, but they had a daughter! While a voyeur (and some ladies seemed to be happy to indulge him) he would hardly drill a hole in the ladies dressing room wall. How crude and insulting can you get!

The best thing in this movie is Alma (Helen Mirren). His wife, supporter and once - it is hard to believe - boss. Hitch the Feminist? Maybe. Certainly his equal and some ways his better. He was more pictures while she was more words. A strong woman, but looking nothing like the sexy Mirren. Despite her dowdy wig and old woman act.

Credit Scarlett Johansson as Vivian Leigh. Really good. Thought she pulled off the role well. Bit too young and fresh maybe, but that isn't her fault. Others are a bit cardboard with the exception of James D'Arcy as Perkins. Maybe the best imitation in the whole piece, almost a double of the real thing without any special make-up!

The problem with this movie is that it needs to have some sense of suspense and drama and it hasn't got any. Does anybody think that Psycho isn't going to be a hit and make pots of money? Or that he is really going to lose his home (as if!) You'd have to be stone-cold to Hollywood to be able to be on tenterhooks before the end.

As many of you will know another similar movie was made around the same time (The Girl) and it is actually much better as it has a better central Hitchcock. See them both though. They both carry you through to the end without too much looking at your wrist...

Life of Pi (2012)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining special effects festival with alleged depth and meaning., 2 January 2014
7/10

Told in the style of a story-within-a-story (very Heart of Darkness, the original novel) a middle aged man tells two stories (to a visiting journalist) of how he - as a teenager - survived a shipwreck thanks to a lifeboat. But which does the listener believe? The standard version or a very bizarre version involving circus animals?

In the "bizarre" a boy (Suraj Sharma) is set adrift on a lifeboat with only a wild tiger for proper company. The tiger being part of a zoo being transported to Canada. The tale of how they get along and/or both survive takes over most of the rest of the film.

What an unlikely premise for a film this is! I came to it with an open mind and left it with a bit of an open mind too. Lots of thrills and spills and the usual special effects wham-bams which modern cinema has to offer (I didn't see it in 3D) but I am not sure what this was supposed to be about (other than basic survival) or why it needed to be structured the way it was.

The set-up is simply tedious and since the production seemed to want to shout its central novelty from the rooftops it became a bit of a wrist glancer as it worked its way towards this - inevitable - central novelty. Either we get to know the people well (think The Deer Hunter) or don't bother at all. I mean Gérard Depardieu in a cameo role? For what purpose?

The central character is mad as a bat anyway. He goes out on deck in a storm with nothing on but a shirt. Do you know how cold it is in the middle of an ocean? He dances about as the cross waves crash over him. Oh what fun it is to have ice cold waves crash over you! Laugh a minute.

Given there is little else to see or talk about (and I don't want to start spoilers) how does a wild tiger (who only feeds on land anyway) catch anything from a boat. And how much fresh water does it need a day. Apart from lots? Not very realistic to nature is it?

Like War and Peace is something about Russia this is something about religion. I suppose people who escape disaster tend to believe in God more than those who don't. Might just be luck though.

The good thing is that I found it generally entertaining. And Shama is solid, although he doesn't have to do much other than be thrown around in front of a green screen. Would be very tedious to watch twice (apart from seeing in its intended 3D on a big screen) and that is the best acid test of a good movie.

First class acting improves upon an average novel, 27 December 2013
9/10

Those who write scripts based on "classic novels" often complain that huge amounts of the text/scenes has to be junked in order to make it fit within the standard two hour movie window. This, I suppose, is why a television series can often be more satisfactory. Think Brideshead Revisited. However with D.H. Lawrence there is so many idle, superfluous and repeating scenes that a major trim usually does his work a power of good. No more so than here, where a pretty draggy and average novel is turned into a really excellent film, mainly thanks to the quality of the acting.

The introduction gives way to the belief that this is will be a standard boy-meets-girl-behind-the-slag-heap soap opera, but we quickly enter the world of madness, ambiguity (sexual and otherwise) and passion. This is cinema aimed at adults and makes no compromises to popcorn fashion. Only Ursula Brangwen (Jennie Linden) seems truly satisfied by the conventional male-female relationship.

In most reviews this is the point where we talk about the naked wrestling scene and Glenda Jackson's Oscar. While both are noteworthy, Jackson (playing Ursula's sister Gudrun) seems simply a selfish thrill-seeker who many actresses could play. In many ways the late Oliver Reed (Gerald Critch) is more outstanding in appearing, in turns, both intimidating and tender. A far better actor than many give him credit for, this may be his best ever role.

The equally late Alan Bates (Rupert Birkin) has slightly the easier role. Someone with wants to explore the boundaries of love, probably beyond the pale of heterosexuality. Quite how and why are not spelled out and the audience can read him in many ways. A bored thrill seeker or a pioneer to world without standard sexual and emotional boundaries? Whatever the case, clearly a man living before his natural time.

Director Ken Russell does very well here. While getting bit overheated at times, he keeps the show on the road and moving forwards towards its sad and unsatisfactory (for the characters) ending.


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