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La La Land (2016)
A curate's egg of a film.
I am a great fan of musicals, I own over 700 of them on DVD and lecture on the subject all over Israel. I eagerly anticipated this film which arrived in Israel on December 16th. I am disappointed.
In parts this film is good, the opening sequence on the freeway superb, but parts of the film were, simply, boringly slow. The music and songs were good but not outstandingly memorable. The "hit" song City of Stars was not allowed to be performed fully and the marvelous and colorful dance sequence towards the end was cut shamefully short. The jazz sequences were terrific, if you like jazz as the dialog points out.
Ryan Gosling is a revelation as a singer,dancer and pianist but everyone else was average. The constant panning of the camera was a distraction but the long, continuous, single takes work very well, particularly Emma Stone's audition song. The dance sequence between the two stars into the clouds was poor, not even in the same class as as Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
The film is described by some as a tribute to Fred and Ginger. Hardly. And I wonder how many of the current reviews from such limited distribution are from actors and luvvies from la la land?
Yes, this is a good film, one I might watch again but the advance hype is not supported by what I saw on screen. The audience seemed to like it, with the odd exception and, maybe, I am being too critical which is likely reflected in the "likes" for my review. But this is not, in my opinion, a musical that will stand the test of time as a blockbuster.
To quote the critic of the Daily Mail, "The best live film of a stage show that I've seen". And I fully agree with him. I am an avid fan of musicals with a DVD collection over 700+.
Having had to wait 25 years since my late wife and I saw it at Drury Lane, London, I have had to be content with the CD.
This production and the DVD are worth more than 10. If you buy only one DVD of a musical, stage or screen, it has to be this one. From the two showstoppers at the beginning and end, The heat is on in Saigon and American Dream, to the beautiful duet, The last night of the World, the score and the performances are fantastic.
After Les Miserables, still the best musical ever, Boubil and Schonberg came up with another smash, this time based on Madame Butterfly. And thanks to Cameron Mackintosh for his foresight in producing both shows.
Bringing this show to a smaller stage than Drury Lane created several problems the least of which was the helicopter and the number involving the statue of Ho Chi Min was more cramped.
There are two extras with the DVD, one giving a history of the musical and the other, the after show performances from the original cast which reduced me to tears of joy. Each member of both casts and the production team deserve a huge amount of applause, which they duly got.
The close up singing shots strongly suggest there were so many cameras, that many were on stage and thus part of the performances were filmed not on the night. If you love musicals, this one totally without fault with a dream cast and incredible production values. Enjoy.
Zoolander 2 (2016)
This may well be the worst movie I have ever seen and, most certainly, the first I walked out of since Modesty Blaise in 1966.
It is simply not funny and is completely childish. The lead actors seem to think that anything that comes out of their mouths is hysterically funny when actually five-year-old's speak and behave infinitely better. Beyond the scenery there is nothing but nothing to recommend it. How such famous actors became associated with this rubbish is beyond me and, at least, Susan Sarendon had the commonsense not to have her name included in the cast list.
Nominated for a Excellence in Title Design and also as a comedy(!!!) by some teen choice award lot, simply avoid this film at all costs. In fact, simply avoid Ben Stiller who not only starred but co-wrote it.
The Sound of Music Live (2015)
This production went out live on a giant stage in London. It was not simply great, it was magnificent. Incredible production values and a wonderful cast. It follows the original stage show (almost) which means that the two deleted numbers from the film version are restored but "something good" written for the film is added. The original sequence of songs and orchestrations are there as well.
I will not single out any of the cast as this would be unfair, they all perform to perfection and never once do you yearn for Julie Andrews or Christopher Plummer. There are no silly English accents with a German/Austrian twang.
The kids are good too, again I single out no one.
I think that an audience might have helped but this would not be possible, technically given the size of the sets. And if you want to see how it was done, there is a documentary "The making of ....".
I presume that this will be available on DVD if you didn't record it live. Go out and buy it - and play it over and over again. Well done ITV.
Jack Goes Boating (2010)
Possibly the worst film I have ever reviewed and, most certainly, the lowest mark I have ever given. Watching paint dry for 91 minutes would be more exciting.
I have read the other reviews, the positives and, even, superlatives are a bit like the king's new suit of clothes; you have to rave over it because it is arty, well-acted and has Philip Seymour Hoffman. No it isn't arty, the acting is so-so and yes it has PSH, but so what?
The stats say it all. Hardly any form of theatrical release, finally reaching Israel in April 2015 and most other countries not at all. In Israel, most films have an artificial popcorn, drinks and you-know-what intermission in the middle. I wonder how many stayed for part two? We gave up at home. And its takings over the past five years confirm it a flop.
Can I say anything positive about this film? Not a one.
It could have been a radio play
The actual story and acting throughout this film were very good but what was definitely not was the lighting. Producers seem to believe that 100+ years ago the world was almost black and white and the sun was much dimmer.
The night scenes (the majority of the film) were so dark that you could really only see shadows at time and even the daytime scenes were poorly lit. Pre-1950 was not a sepia tinted world so, come on, directors, switch on a few more bulbs or, in this case, light a few more candles.
If number 2 of this series is just as bad I, for one, will not be watching.
I really suppose we should have not watched this in the first when it was billed at 90 minutes. Previous episodes at 60 minutes were often quite boring too. But we gave it a try.
The basic premise of all JC stories is a death in a locked room near the beginning and Creek works it all out at the end. In between there is a lot of padding and all the way through far too much very loud music. A terrific cast clearly thought they were hamming it up, I hope Joanna Lumley was very made up, she looked awful.
Ric Mayall and Nigel Planer played it all very much for laughs, the former doing a Peter Sellers from that film about a bomb, or Goldmember. The whole thing drags along and by the end we simply did not care and rued the fact we did not switch off earlier.
The Big Wedding (2013)
A very funny film but not for the prudish
I do not understand the rating of 5.4 (at the time of writing) nor the very poor review of one of the contributors. My partner and I saw this film last night and found it one of the funniest films in years. And, judging by the laughter, most of the audience agree. Bear in mind that for a majority of the audience English is not their first language either.
A word of caution for prudes. There are three scenes of a highly sexual nature that are extremely funny for those who are not.
This is another in the growing trend of using mature actors and it is good to see Diane Keaton and Susan Sarendon in starring roles where some years back they would have disappeared from our screens. Robert De Niro is excellent, as ever and Robin Williams in the smaller part of the quartet of Oscar winners, made this a foursome of very funny performances.
The rest of the cast also turned in fine performances and I think they must have had lots of fun making the film. We go to the cinema for one reason only - to be entertained. I heard no complaints from the rest of the audience as we left. No Oscar winners here but high marks for fun.
The scenery is also quite magnificent.
Lewis: The Ramblin' Boy: Part 2 (2013)
Back on track
After a very weak series 6 which suggested that this series is running out of steam, the first two stories of series 7 suggest that it is back on track, albeit there was precious little of Hathaway in story 2.
Another criticism of both this series and its stablemate Midsomer Murders is that I could guess "whodunnit?" from the credit titles, usually the guest star. A further niggle is ITV's decision to split these stories into two parts a full week apart. I get around this by recording both and I can then fast forward through the adverts as a bonus.
This story was well written by Lucy Gannon and moved along smoothly after a shaky start with too many characters. And two of the minor regulars had much bigger roles. Plus, after a near miss some three or four four series back, Robbie finally got hooked and found love. It brought a smile to his face, the other main characters and to us watching.
Well worth a watch with it murders and a clever idea of an incinerated body to make it difficult to identify victim or killer but with some humorous touches thrown in. Just a pity I knew the killer before he/she had said a word.
The Pier (2011)
Typical Irish drama set in County Cork, Ireland
This is yet another gem of an Irish film. I saw it last night at the Israel Irish film festival in Tel Aviv, in the presence of the director, the writer and the lead actor. One Gerard Hurley, although, as he admitted, he is not a professional actor at all. In fact this film, set in County Cork, has only three professional actors.
The story is simple. A sick father "cons" his absentee son in New York into returning to his hometown to help him recover outstanding debts. The interaction between these two is central to the film and Gerard confirmed to me after the film, that the actor playing his father, Karl Johnson, is actually Welsh although sometimes fathoming out his west Cork accent was sometimes difficult.
Along the way, our hero mets a divorcée from New York and a platonic relationship develops until she returns home. A simple story never bores and many of the other players, presumably locals from this small town in Ireland, add to a typically delightful Irish story.
The scenery is fantastic and the whole film, made on a shoestring with help from the Irish film board, was made in 8 days filming in Ireland and two days in New York. Perhaps the only give away is that it never rains once in the film. Its a pity that IMDb does not list all the players because I would like to single out the angelic older little boy.
The film is unlikely to get wide distribution. Its an Indie and it does not have big names or any money for promotion. But if you get the chance, see it, provided you don't find the regular swearing offensive.
One thing I would like to add is about the Hebrew subtitles. Some of you might know the word eejut (idiot for the rest of you). Clearly the subtitle writers did not and could not find it in a dictionary. So there it was in Hebrew, phonetically spelled as eejut!