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Wolf Hall (2015)
You Have To Like Wolf Hall Because We Say So!!
There is something suspicious or suspect when a certain movie or TV show gets blanket positive news coverage and at the same time ecstatic reviews from the mainstream.
This has been happening more frequently with a heavily orchestrated feel.
A few recent "media assaults on the movie going public" were the blatant selling of Bond 24, Skyfall (2012) complete with accompanying BBC news stories, the "if you don't like this you must be a racist" selling of 12 Years a Slave (2013), the wall-to-wall selling of Interstellar (2014) and recently, the relentless selling of the BBC's own Wolf Hall (2015).
It appears to me that the greater the selling, the more substandard the product.
Wolf Hall (2015) is a case in point. Across the board the media praise has been unanimous, "this is the greatest piece of Television since the creation of the BBC".
Obviously, the BBC licence fee is justified.
Having spoken to some people who have tried to watch Wolf Hall, the reaction is almost diametrically opposed to the mainstream media view.
Opinions I have heard are, "Mark Rylance mumbles his lines with a monotonous gruff voice!", "It is so boring, I stopped watching during the second episode!", "the history is all wrong!", "I can't understand what the actors are saying!", "Damian Lewis was good as Henry VIII", "I can't see anything!" and "that Cromwell actor is awful!"
There is an almost palpable sense of relief when others agree that Wolf Hall is indeed bad television and finding the show unwatchable does not make you a philistine.
My criticism is simple. Mark Rylance gives a dreadful performance as Thomas Cromwell. The cinematography is shaky and crude. The lighting is poor. The dialogue is awful and the direction is uninspired and tedious.
Great Historical dramas do exist, for example, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) starring Keith Michell and Paul Scofield's extraordinary performance in Robert Bolt's classic, A Man for All Seasons (1966).
Bitter Lake (2015)
Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis
Adam Curtis is a good film maker. He knows how to edit and use music to great affect but it is the message in his films that are extremely troubling.
The message taken from Bitter Lake (2015) is very simple.
The West had nothing but good intentions with their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan. The sole reason was to spread democracy. Politicians have simply lost their way and in doing so, lost the confidence of their people. What is needed is a new story to believe in.
Really? Is that it?
One interview with a British Captain towards the end of the film says more about the illegal invasion of Afghanistan then the two and a quarter hours that precede it. He says, quite matter-of-factly, "Opium, that is largely what the conflict is about."
"Opium is a source of literally billions of dollars to extremist and criminal groups... Cutting down the opium supply is central to establishing a secure and stable democracy, as well as winning the global war on terrorism," (Statement of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles. Congressional Hearing, 1 April 2004)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acknowledged, the Taliban prohibition of opium cultivation caused "the beginning of a heroin shortage in Europe by the end of 2001″.
Immediately following the October 2001 invasion, opium markets were restored. Opium prices increased and by early 2002, the opium price (in dollars/kg) was almost 10 times higher than in 2000.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's 2014 Afghan Opium Survey, 2014 was a bumper year for the Afghan opium cultivation as it has once again hit a record high.
So how is Afghanistan's Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade facilitated?
Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted CIA intervention in Afghanistan preceded the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ("From the Shadows"), that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralisation and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998 September 11th 2001
Surely after the far superior The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004), a few questions should have arisen concerning the culpability of the horrific events of September 11th 2001?
Rex Tomb of the FBI's public affairs unit states, "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11." Milli Gazette, 6/11/2006
In the final statement of the film, Adam Curtis limply states "What is needed is a new story and one we can believe in!"
A new story? Is that all?
How about these words - "What is needed is truth and people we can believe in!"
Adam Curtis is apologist for the mainstream orthodox view. He asks few questions about the deeper reasoning behind these seemingly perpetual wars. He simply makes statements that exonerate criminals for their obvious crimes.
La piel que habito (2011)
Broken and Awkward
The list of Almadova''s films is long and includes some real classics such as Volver (2006), Hable con ella (2004), Átame! (1990), Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988) and Matador (1986).
Due to the director's uniqueness and on seeing the striking poster, this movie was on my must see list.
First, the good.
There is a fantastic score by Alberto Iglesias. This composer is a remarkable talent.
The vivid cinematography by José Luis Alcaine is excellent and the production design by Antxón Gómez is faultless.
The performances by Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya are assured and charismatic.
Now, the Bad.
There is no attachment or empathy with any of the characters. The structure of the film is broken and awkward. The shoddy fade out at the end is a case in point, in fact the whole last scene is unemotional and un-engaging.
But the worst aspect of this movie, and it is strange to say this of an Almadova film, is that it is boring.
I hope Almadova will not fall for the high praise this film has acquired and focus on what made him such a great Director to begin with.
Bond Is Dead!!
This movie sucks. For all the hype, product placement and promotion, this Bond instalment is terrible.
Sam Mendes falters in the first reel with a slow and boring start (without the 007 gun barrel) that moves into a bike chase. At one point during the chase, a shot where the stunt doubles face may have been seen, a poor and shoddy CGI face of Daniel Craig is animated over the double's face.
The CGI work is terrible and obvious, so much so, that it resembles some of the blue screen work from the 007 films of the late seventies and eighties.
The musical score is abysmal. The comic book music apes the action in a way that great Bond scores transcended.
Sam Mendes is not an action director, nor does it seems from this effort, a dramatic director. This is the worst Bond of the three so far with Craig.
I predict that the next Bond will be directed by Guy Richie.
The essence of Bond has been lost.
Bond is Dead.
Dredd IS BacK!!!!
Excellent movie for the budget. The spirit of Dredd is here in spades. It is not perfect but bloody imaginative.
First the camera work is fantastic. This is really a film to see in 3D. Not because of fancy Hollywood CGI but because of brilliant artistic imagery.
MegaCity looks European in the visuals and vistas but maybe for Americans the vans and cars just look weird. So it works!
Pete Travis' direction is solid and Alex Garland's script is informed and funny. Would loved to have heard Dredd say "Drokk" just once!
Karl Urban is Dredd. He needs to be warmed too but he plays the part very well. Olivia Thirlby is also excellent as Anderson. Lena Headey is very convincing in her Motherly role.
I do hope this becomes a franchise. Dredd is as important as Bond. Show him some respect.
I was a little weary of watching Marley (2012) because I felt that everything that has been said about Bob Marley has been said yet Marley is a fantastic documentary.
If there is a little gripe, then I would say that the partnership between The Wailers and Lee "Scratch" Perry is left conspicuously unexplored. It must be remembered that The Wailers first proper studio album, Soul Rebels (1970) produced by Perry, became a serious bone of contention between the band and Perry.
That said, the interviews are enlightening and often amusing. The interview with Cedella Marley, Bob's Daughter, is rather sad as she obviously retains a level of bitterness towards her Father.
Fun and Exciting
If we understand the concept that "everything is a remix" then Chronicle (2012) is simply a re-telling of an old story. The question is: How well is the re-telling told?
There are certainly comparisons with Akira (1988) and the style, video diary, could be said to be passé. Yet, not without it's faults, Chronicle rises above these comparisons with some rather clever film making.
It is a shame that the "token" has to follow the usual path of being the first to meet their maker. Or that the pale faced outcast predictably becomes a psycho by reading to much Darwin. Those gripes aside Chronicle is a good little movie.
The acting is generally good but with a few weak moments. Alex Russell comes across as a talented and likable actor if you ignore his final scene, which is over played. Michael B. Jordan is charming and Dane Doha is convincing as the Bobby C (Barry Miller) or Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) archetype.
The intelligence level of the protagonists is not high as shown by the attempts of the Dane Doha character to gets some much needed cash yet the interesting theme of this movie is how these dim boys deal with their new found powers.
Chronicle is fun, exciting and well made.
Sophisticated Hollywood Propaganda!!
Imaginary Witness, Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004)
The history of Jewish persecution under Nazi rule as presented in Hollywood movies is a very interesting and complex subject.
Imaginary Witness, Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004) attempts to document Hollywood's treatment of the Jewish experience in Germany during World War Two and in particular, what has become known as the Holocaust.
While being critical of America and the Allied powers for not stopping the Holocaust before or after it began, "They knew what was happening yet did nothing!", this film is clearly designed to pull at the heart strings. In plainer language, Imaginary Witness is sophisticated Hollywood propaganda.
Steven Spielberg makes a somewhat remarkable comment early in this film claiming; "The reason Hollywood hasn't made many Holocaust pictures is because it is an ineffable experience only understood by those that survived the camps." Maybe when compared with the Hollywood Western, which of itself rests on the genocide of the Native American Indians, Holocaust pictures are few but since the 1960's there has been a steady and increasing flow of films and TV series that deal with the issue of the Holocaust during World War Two.
As the film attests, Hollywood did not want to overtly criticise or alienate the Nazi regime but it fails to mention that the reason was primarily financial because Germany was a highly profitable audience for the US studios at the time.
As the film states, it took the non-Jewish Charles Chaplin and his classic and independently produced The Great Dictator (1940) to break the self imposed silence of the Hollywood moguls on the plight of the European Jew. Chaplin's classic, The Great Dictator, while popular with the crowd was severely criticised by the establishment at the time and made Chaplin some powerful enemies.
Imaginary Witness is made from a solely Jewish perspective and almost all the talking-heads are Jewish. The historical omissions are considerable, the speculation abundant and the tone is one of veneration.
The reality is that Hollywood has exploited the Holocaust. What would be of interest is a film that studies how Hollywood has implanted the image of the Holocaust so succinctly into our minds. The result of this sanctified history is that today literature by those that question certain events concerning the Holocaust have their books burned and are thrown into jail by official sanction.
It is also of note that the Holocaust TV series (1978) and War and Remembrance TV series (1988) are noted by the narrator as being based on novels yet when Schindler's List (1993) is mentioned, it is said to be based on a book. This may be a subtle difference but it shows the level of sophistication that Hollywood propaganda has reached in our ignorant and misinformed age.
The list of historical inaccuracies in movies such as Schindler's List are numerous yet while some may be admitted as fictitious, the movie has the power to make them fact, certainly for an impressionable audience. As with all historical movies, history automatically becomes inaccurate (language, location and chronology are often the first compromises) and at the same time it becomes our official history when the images are repeatedly drummed into our minds.
What is not mentioned in Imaginary Witness, Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004), nor can it be expected, is the truth that the Second World War contained numerous Holocausts, such as the bombing of Dresden, the fire bombing of Tokyo and the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"Never Forget" is the modus of the Holocaust yet historical films of war, injustice and brutality have been rendered moot due to the ongoing atrocities and genocide in the world today. The 1 million killed in Iraq since 2003, of which 90% are civilians, the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, the bombings of Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, the daily brutalities and crimes against humanity perpetrated in apartheid Israel.
Why one particular historical atrocity should be venerated in numerous movies and TV series above all other genocidal atrocities is a lingering question. Another question is why a people so persecuted could be so ready and willing to persecuted another people while at the same time justifying that persecution on their own historical persecution.
However much the Holocaust has been portrayed on screen, it is clear that the lesson of the Holocaust has not been learnt.
Frenetic and Omissive!!
Bhutto (2010) is a frenetically overly edited documentary. The title suggests a study of the woman but it is rather a broad and omissive overview of the political history of Pankistan.
The documentary begins with a sound bite from one of the most important and controversial interviews with Benazir Bhutto conducted by David Frost on the 2nd of November 2007. This interview is never referenced again possibly because it is too revelatory and against the establishment point of view.
The omissive nature of the documentary mainly concerns US activity in Pakistan and Afganistan. Outright misinformation concerns Bin Laden and what is known as al-Qaeda.
The best and most moving moments of the documentary are the interviews with the Benazir Bhutto's daughters and husband.
It is of course true that Benazir Bhutto was a member of the elite establishment, in much the same way as John F. Kennedy but that background of privilege should not take away from their efforts towards peace and basic human rights. The result of their courageous struggle for peace and a better world resulted in the same fate.
Pervez Musharraf living in elite comfort in the UK should be seen for what it is, state protection of a criminal.
Dripping in Genetically Modified Syrup
Flipped (2010) tries to be a feel-good and nostalgic story about simpler times in America where blacks don't exist and old men can openly acknowledge their curiosity for young girls.
Flipped is dripping in genetically modified syrup. At times basic cinematography is not necessary, as is the case with the landscapes of "natural" wonder, which are computer generated.
The story is unconvincing and contrived. Once the narrative set-up is established, where scenes repeat from a different point of view, it soon becomes tiresome.
The production design and over-all feel of the movie does not reflect or capture the period of 1950's America. This is a revisionist dream of what America was once like and has no basis in reality.
The acting of Callan McAuliffe is convincing but the problem is with the performance of Madeline Carroll. The American "Hollywood" form of speaking, particularly for young woman, has changed considerably since the 1950's. Eloquence and diction has decreased exponentially. After the new millennium, female actors increasingly speak from their throats and as a result, a croaking and cracked delivery, particularly with conversational dialogue, has become standard.
The dumbing down of America continues.