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The Making of 'Psycho'...
Based on Stephen Rebello's book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho', Hitchcock is a fascinating glimpse into the Master of Suspense's inner world, as both he and his dutiful wife and aide, Alma, battle censors, Paramount Studios and financial troubles when making the influential and controversial horror classic 'Psycho'.
In an Oscar nominated make-up transformation, Anthony Hopkins looks quite a lot like Alfred but much of the time, I do see and hear Hopkins rather than Hitch, though his characteristic mannerisms seem to be there. Helen Mirren plays Alma, the often exasperated but always dutiful wife who we find out, had far more influence on his films than we would dare believe. Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho's Janet Leigh and James D'Arcy is an uncanny double for Anthony Perkins.
It's quite an easy watch and a pleasant one and with enough juicy titbits for us film buffs to latch onto. It reminds us of how ridiculously the censors and Studios had a stranglehold, even with Hitchcock, who had just made an absolute smash with North by Northwest. That even Hitch had to mortgage his own home, in an effort to make Psycho and how it only ran in two cinemas, initially...
Don't expect a deep insight into Hitch's psyche, though this is covered a bit, often in a light-hearted way. So, in all, a lightly revealing slice of cinematic history, with quite a neat ending.
My Childhood (1972)
Extraordinarily honest and Accomplished first feature
Firstly, to my surprise, my local lending library had this BFI Bill Douglas trilogy to rent for £1.90, for a week. The lady staff member added its second sticker on which they stamp the due date. It had been in the library since 2008. A few dozen borrowings in 5 years...
Secondly, all the reviews here outline much about the plot and story and its gritty, hard-to-take realism. I agree absolutely with all said. Radio Times online quote 'makes the relentless chill of poverty almost tangible'.
This is simple but extremely effective film-making, sparse dialogue, close-ups that show gestures and silence and natural sounds to accentuate those feelings. Heartwarming and heartbreaking, this is one film that is a must-see for all cineastes who think they know British film and really is on par with anything that the Italian or Russian greats have done.
You feel a certain numbness, a chill after viewing that tells you something - that it's touched you. Not too many films achieve that these days.
Jack and Jill (2011)
Unlike many - and many who have posted negative reviews here, I am occasionally endeared to Adam Sandler. Therefore, I gave this film every chance - spurred on by seeing Al Pacino of course and Katie Holmes' radiant sweet face always helps.
However, after 40 minutes the delete button the recording I'd made from Sky Movies sent it where it should have been consigned, even before it was scripted.
Sandler, as the drag 'twin' has a voice that will send armies of rats across rivers and entire continents to escape his high-pitched wail. The comedy, such as it is is more obvious than obvious and never funny. They often jibe at ethnic and taboo subjects but never have the smartness or follow up to make them acceptable.
As for Pacino, well, I did get to see him, in a big heavy parka jacket and false beard. Jack, or was it Jill? makes a lazy connection with Osama Bin Laden and our Al removes said false beard and it's suddenly 'Hey, it' me!'. Yes, you can see what I mean.
Lazy, boring, annoying and a big big waste of talent. And time. Don't waste yours - avoid.
The Space Between (2010)
Well Played Drama
Currently on Sky Movies Premier, I thought I'd give this a try.
At first I found the time and setting rather manipulative and possibly distasteful - why bring back yet more flashbacks and memories of 9/11 - and just for the sake of a rather mawkish drama.
A Muslim Pakistani taxi driver sends his ten year old to LA on a plane, on Sept 11. He also works in a restaurant at the Top of the World Trade Centre. A fed-up mature air steward who has a habit of speaking her mind gets stuck with the boy when the plane is emergency grounded after the attacks. She then attempts to try and connect the boy with his father - and connect with the kid herself, but culture and religious clashes hinder at every turn.
There's a load of implausibilities to contend with too and writer/director Travis Fine mixes every modern directorial cliché in the book at it. The ten year old Pakistani boy is typically precocious, doesn't eat meat, ice-cream or anything 'normal' at all. He's also a right clever little person.
But holding it together is the great performance by Melissa Leo, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress in The Fighter, 2010. Almost too predictably, she's hard drinking, scornful, rough round the edges and bitter. She's strangely unaffected by her country being sent into turmoil and chaos. Chuck these human flaws around a Muslim ten year old with naive and hopelessly idealistic attitudes and it's a recipe for conflict, anger and yes, tenderness. In my view, these are the reasons to watch this movie.
These aspects and the road movie elements remind me of Walter Salle's Brazilian 'Central Station' but that is a FAR better movie in every respect.
I wouldn't have normally watched this movie given its subject and type and I'm still in two minds as to whether it was worth my time. It's not all bad, by quite a way but will fall under most people's radar - and understandably so.
The Hot Potato (2011)
The premise for this so-called 60's style Brit caper sounded intriguing...except that only Ray Winstone has any sort of character or charisma.
Where the likes of Terry Thomas and Peter Sellers had oodles of fizz and bang and entertained us, when the script was a dud, this is just a dud all round. The other characters - and their actors I've already forgotten, ten minutes after it's finished. They might as well been office furniture for all their presence and acting.
The script is obvious and rather boring as we now know all about Plutonium - it has no excitement value whatsoever. The movie seemed to have the budget of a TV pilot 'special' - it's so obviously struggling that it's rather embarrassing. The direction, too, is particularly feeble, without any panache or style whatsoever.
I've been generous with my 3/10. It's not going to be too awful for those that might buy the DVD if they have a good idea of what sort of movie they're getting but for most Hot Potato is a waste of time and effort. And, yes, I do enjoy and own many of the old genuine 60's films on DVD - Too Many Crooks, for example - brilliant! Buy that instead!
Solid Military Biopic...
This is one of those rather long (2 hours) worthy but involving historical war dramas. More drama than war. Always seemingly shot through a veil of soft focus, often to such a degree as to represent a sea-mist, it does feature the excellent Gregory Peck as the eponymous MacArthur.
Entertainment wise it's pretty good, obviously wordy throughout all the military planning and many discussions. To my mind, MacArthur comes across as a softer character than the impression I've got from elsewhere. That maybe down to Peck, or maybe not, his performance is in his usual measured, reassuring manner. He remains very watchable throughout, though for younger audiences, they may just find it all too slow and un-engaging.
For us older lot, it's solid character-based drama from the older school of movie making, with no CGI, of course and the occasional use of actual newsreel. There are a number of large scale and undoubtedly expensive scenes (signing of the Treaty of Japan, for example). If you enjoy Gregory Peck, are interested in MacArthur and/or like war movies that cover mid WW2 to post war and beyond periods, then it's a likable and modestly enjoyable film.
The DVD can be bought very cheaply secondhand, now. It offers next to nothing in the way of extras - only a theatrical trailer, though it has - dubbed? in German, French, Spanish and Italian - and English hard of hearing. Subtitles are in the above languages only. The screen ratio is a widescreen filling 1.85:1 and the score is in a good sounding stereo, but not surround.
Not the sort of movie you expect to find for 99p in a medieval market town's Cash Converters!
I HAD seen Dog Days before, probably on Film 4, where such oddities belong but unaware of this director's subsequent films, though I had seen Import/Export on F4 but not made the connection.
Firstly, I find it strange that many, including some reviewers here have the notion that Austria to be a genteel place. They're human as everybody is everywhere, whether that be LA, London or Vienna. And didn't a certain A. Hitler come from Austria and more significantly, cinematic provocateur extraordinaire, Michael Haneke is Austrian and all his early movies were about and showing almost exactly the same kind of under-the-target unrest and spiralling human life of his fellow Austrians.
To be honest, whilst Haneke is much more the international film-maker (the Oscars in 2013, I believe?) and is much revered, critically, I find his rather sadistic and humourless approach just a bit too trying.
Uri's sardonic and often ridiculous scenarios are often achingly funny - such as the habitual hitch-hiker who soon gets spouting off crazy top ten lists, obviously not knowing what they mean (top ten positions for lovemaking, for example, then, for most popular models of TVs).
Filmed in one long heat-wave with lots of (frankly) overweight Austrians removing their clothing as much as they can - and not just for sex - adds to the strangeness and won't appeal to everyone, but in the 34C heat and in and around our own homes, wouldn't we want to do this too?
There are quite long periods of fairly trivial talk about trivial things - but what might be trivial to the modern suburban Viennese, is actually strangely fascinating for us. Then, there are quite long periods of sadistic cruelty - visiting Haneke's 'Funny Games' territory and as much enjoyment. These, as they should be, are an uncomfortable watch and their inclusion might be questioned, but I would guess are as otherwise the whole exercise would be a quirky, near freak-show comedy.
There are simply too may elements to go into - and if you're not one who can handle a couple of minutes of actual hardcore orgy porn, filmed specially, not as a video on someone's TV, simply ignore this movie. Over ten years have passed since this movie came out and time and viewing habits and expectations have obviously lessened many of the potential shock elements, now.
Indeed, there's almost nothing new here, that hasn't been said, now. That aside, no genre is seemingly unique now and Dog Days still appeals due to its fresh fizz and liberal attitudes. It still remains a unique viewing experience and for the liberally minded adult, has much to offer as both an offbeat social statement as well as entertainment.
Skyfall is Brilliant!
I usually get to see Bond's at the cinema and have the big DVD boxset of all the Bond's up to the last, A Quantum of Solace. I missed Skyfall at the flicks and so when my local Tesco had it at ten to midnight, for £10, it was mine.
And I watched straight away. Bond's still aren't perfect and never will be - we all have different expectations on both who Bond is now, who he should be and how well Daniel Craig is portraying him.
For a start, no Bond will make total sense, which is good, you cannot have a 007 that isn't slightly barmy, fantastical and at least a bit macho. Sexism has largely gone, which suits the modern audience and the interplay between Judi Dench as 'M' and Craig is hypnotic. Others may find it incredulous. But, let's face it, Dame Judi can out-act anything and make it seem real, which is really what this milarky called acting is all about.
Brit director (American Beauty his best to date) has done a superb job, mixing an incredibly exciting, totally implausible opening, from which 007 cannot possibly recover, to big sweeping and (obviously) expensive locational shoots. The Shanghai set scenes are amazing and immediately make you want to go there.
There's an occasional and knowing irony and self-mocking of 'old' Bond, that's as dry as his shaken (not stirred!) vodka tonics, which are both clever and reassuring, aiding continuity within the franchise. Young Ben Wishaw makes for an unexpected (I had no idea) and effective 'Q', again keeping the franchise fresh and open to new story developments in the future.
The prerequisite Bond baddie is taken up by a quite weird Javier Badem, all peroxide blonde...! whilst Ralph Fiennes is supremely suited as MI6 Top Brass. The girls are all beautiful (of course) and Adele's title song (and having just won a BAFTA) is big on presence and stature - a very worthy addition to that title of Bond Theme.
Albert Finney is almost unrecognisable as a white bearded old Scotsman, defending a castle, in Scotland, where the film ends, in a rather Western style sort of shoot-out. I won't say any more on this!
I, personally, thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of Skyfall. I expected to and I wasn't disappointed. I'll watch it again within a few days, guaranteed!
Potomok Chingis-Khana (1928)
I loved this movie - it takes a good silent film to keep me glued to the screen, many Silents have huge amounts of frenetic studio-bound talking heads, but of course we have to wait for the titles to see what has just been said.
Other reviewers have laid the premise of this one but as a Russian film lover and trying anything I come across (this DVD, just £3!!) and expecting propaganda and heavy symbolism, I had a tour de force of both Mongolian and Buddhist life, but far from being a National Geographic documentary, this had real passionate pizazz and incredible, often beautiful locations, with long-lost ancient rituals and occasions coming alive on the screen.
I think it unfair to criticise and thus mark down a film because of the style and way it was made, at the time - this is 1928, the film stock and prints has degraded and the technical aspects made for slightly sped-up and jaunty action, whilst almost all the huge casts would have been local amateurs.
However, what made it for me was the music - brilliantly (and I believe, the original choice overseen by the director just before his death, in the 50s) - the crisp stereo really prickling the senses and the variety - from strident symphonies to traditional music from the locations in the film, all perfectly matched to the action. So, when some of the strangest looking tube-like horns get blown by long bearded Mongolians, we get a strange sounding instrument, not an artificially contrived one. This might sound a minor point but for me, from the outset, it really put me in the mood and set me up for the duration.
So - whilst many of the rather turgid Silent dramas are rather hard work and there's a sense of relief when they finally end, this was pure pleasure all the way through. Put to one side any preconceived notions about communist regimes and heavy Soviet symbolism and enjoy this much lighter and enjoyable classic. (It IS critically considered a Classic, actually and not just my say so or opinion)
Mutant cow foetuses, instead of zombies...
If my title hasn't put you off your takeaway Big Mac, then this unusual, modest, Irish set little horror flick from Billy O'Brien could well stir up your stagnant horror viewing.
Fed up with mutant zombies aimlessly running around or silly, annoying students driving nowhere on a moonlit night, with loud judders all but making up for genuine scares?
I'm not saying that Isolation will be the scariest thing you'll ever see but as it turns into 'Alien' territory, with dark, claustrophobic (& strangely familiar and homely) farm buildings and milking sheds becoming the space craft in that movie, it has its moments of being not very pleasant. At all, as the (whatever it is) wants to find a host in the farm-working humans in the story (all fair/good performances, from relative unknowns).
The basic premise is a fairly sound and pertinent one, an unofficial and one-man breeding campaign for improving his herd's growing and milking capabilities result in a calf being still-born....
Yes, it's a bit too long as it takes a long-winded approach to get on track, The Archers' approach seems naively quaint at times but the gore - as we 'know' its source - always seems real.
Isolation has quite a low IMDb score yet some TV listings reviews rate it highly. I'm going for a safer middle ground - if you want a different horror flick to rent or download tonight, (or see it on Film 4, as I did) then it's well worth trying out. Just be careful what you're eating!