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Love Actually (2003)
How can seemingly intelligent reviewers rate this garbage?
I have no problem enjoying a film that's obviously been made for 'entertainment purposes only'. There's a lot of great films that have been made under this banner. Nor do I consider myself to be one of those 'serious reviewers'. But even pure entertainment needs to have basic standards, i.e. a story line, a plot, characters that you can relate to. The makers of LOVE ACTUALLY have basically thrown huge wads of cash at - and appealed to the more base instincts of greed of - some of Britain's finest acting talent: Grant, Firth, Atkinson, Nighy, etc. They have then commissioned a 2nd rate writer to concoct a collection of short stories, all of them so full of anomalies and inconsistencies that it almost beggars belief. However, it's the characters themselves that are the greatest failing in this veritable pile of junk. You can almost FEEL Mr Rickman and Mr Firth cringing as they deliver some of their lines - the terribleness of it all softened by the prospect of a very large cheque heading their way in the near future. But at last they didn't have to actually listen to the dreadful 'insult to elevator music' music that accompanied virtually every scene!
Norway has never produced anything better
It is a sad fact that this series did not strike the right chord with many Norwegian TV critics. They just didn't get it. A lot of Norwegians didn't get it. The kind of Norwegians who DID get it were those who have been out in the world a bit. Who have lived.
As a non-Norwegian who has lived in Norway for many years and who has embraced the culture, I regard this series as a true masterpiece. Rarely do the Norwegians get a chance to parody themselves on what is, effectively, an international stage. I cannot fault this series on any level. The script is magic. The wealth of acting talent is breathtaking. The constant clash of two virtually diametrically opposed cultures is unnerving in the extreme.
I suspect that some Norwegians find it hard to look into such a dazzling mirror reflection of their own society's stereotypes. That's not the Norway they want the world to see.
But fear not. The international audience that lies beyond Norway's borders seems to have taken Lillyhammer to heart. And rightly so.
Because it's a real gem!
Men Who Swim (2010)
Well conceived story and clever direction. We are drawn into a melodrama revolving around the lives of a group of seemingly dull and unfulfilled middle-aged Swedish males. They decide to form a male synchronised swimming team 'just for fun' and also as a way of relieving themselves of the chronic boredom and general disillusionment they are all experiencing. After much trial and error they learn of an international male synchronised swimming championships that is to take place in Milan, Italy. The twist at the end of the story is so astonishing that it seems almost contrived. Yet you're left feeling overwhelmingly happy that these guys weren't such a bunch of losers after all!
The Only Way (1970)
Does not flatter the Danish nation
I wish I could say something positive about this film. I suspect the other review was written by a Dane who is related to the film's director, or possibly one of the actors. But I'm sure it was a Dane!
The script is quite dreadful. The characters are wooden and one dimensional and deliver their lines like robots. There are some fine Danish actors in this film who should not have necessarily been hindered by playing their respective parts in English. However, with such an awful script, no actor in the world could have injected life into such dreary dialogue.
I hope a contemporary Danish film maker will have the courage to tell this important story again one day. With a proper storyline. And a proper script.
Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
Self-serious reviewers who don't recognise good entertainment
Maybe there really is an Atlantic cultural divide. I don't know. But I just cannot fathom how anyone could be offended by this film. And I cannot believe all the scathing, analytical, pompous nonsense that so-called serious reviewers have written about it.
This film is an exquisite comedy that works on so many levels. Of course the basic premise and plot are quite absurd. But look how beautifully crafted and portrayed each character is! Everyone is an archetype, from the lead bimbo, her parents, her best friend, the tax guy, the kid from the rich family, the Parisian fashion editor, etc, etc.
And look at the heavyweight players! Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Robert Stanton, to name but a few. These actors are rarely associated with mediocrity.
Yes, a timeless parody, indeed. And when it gets it right, no nation is so consistently capable of sending itself up as well as the USA. And I should know. I'm a Brit!
Emil och griseknoen (1973)
The best of Swedish children's television
It is a great shame that this series was not promoted internationally with the same vigour as PIPPI LONG STOCKING. Both the TV series and the two movies are exquisite examples of Swedish TV/film craft at it's very best. The story lines, the cast and the set designs all conspired to create a quality product that has stood the test of time extremely well. I don't think they would even begin to know how to make something as good as this these days. Nor is it all down to the size of the budget. The quality of writing clearly played an important role in how the story translated onto the screen. The only comparable UK series I can recall is CATWEAZLE from the early 1970s.
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Lost the plot?
Many people will ask why this franchise was resurrected after 16 years. The film displays none of the hallmarks of the original film such as a proper storyline, for example. Whereas the slow, unhurried pace of the character and plot development worked well in the original, here the story seems to constantly delve into unconnected cul-de-sacs, leaving an impression of unfinished business, of loose ends. The nonsense with the Pope and the obvious parallels the scriptwriters were trying to draw was a limp and ineffective contrivance. At times, one felt that Mr Pacino struggled to make the most out of some of the corniest lines I've ever hear him utter. And the overacting by both Mr Pacino and Miss Keaton in the final scene was truly awful. A great disappointment.
Vanity Fair (2004)
Astonishingly misplaced music and dance sequence
None of the reviews I have read thus far would seem to have commented on the music & dance sequence towards the latter part of the film. The sequence depicted 'native' dancers performing an 'ethnic' dance to some equally 'ethnic' music. Both the choreography and the music seemed to draw from a wide variety of styles, i.e. Latin- American, African, Arabic - styles which would simply not have existed in the early 19th century! How on earth could the director have got it so wrong? The sequence was laughable, almost Pythonesque in its absurdity. For me this was the final straw in a piece that had struggled from the start to hold itself together. Even the very talented Miss Witherspoon looked fairly clueless throughout most of the film.