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22 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A missed opportunity, 25 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Up to about 70 minutes It would have rated the film considerably higher. The razor-sharp dialogue really makes the film, especially that between Mitchum and Russell.

However it's never very clear where the plot is going, and eventually it falls apart spectacularly. Vincent Price seems to belong in a different film, and the constant switching between his scenes and Mitchum's in the final act is jarring to say the least. Having expertly established a mood, it seems bizarre that the film-makers chose to puncture it with broad comedy. I think they should have rewritten the final act to include Russell, as it makes no sense for her character not to play a pivotal role in the final scenes.

In the end I was left disappointed, as I thought that with a better and less baggy ending this could have been one of the all-time Film Noir classics.

Fine but too long, by about half an hour.

Taken (2008/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing, 7 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm genuinely surprised at how highly this film is rated. I really wanted it to be good, but there were just too many problems with it.

First the good points. Liam Neeson is impressively convincing as the ex-spy who has to draw on his old skills to rescue his daughter. The action scenes are well choreographed, especially the fights, and very reminiscent of the Bourne films.

Now the bad. Everyone apart from Neeson is just a 1-dimensional cypher. This includes his daughter, which is a problem as we're supposed to care about her fate. The plot is also extremely linear and formulaic, even for the genre. Maybe if Neeson had a more interesting mission this would have led to a stronger film.

Also there are huge holes in the plot (for example: why did the kidnappers leave the mobile phone behind?), and at one point it was so implausible it reminded me of the cliffhangers from the 1960s Batman series.

The potential was there for an entertaining Bourne-style thriller, and in places Taken delivers, but only the action scenes really work and in the end this fatally undermines the film.

Crash (2004/I)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
One-dimensional and over-rated, 2 August 2006

Not to be confused with the David Cronenberg movie of the same name, Crash is a film about racial tensions in Los Angeles. It paints a picture of people of different races living uneasily alongside one another, while doing their best to keep the 'others' at arms length as much as possible.

Crash boasts a large ensemble cast, ranging from established stars such as Don Cheadle and Sandra Bullock to unknown actors in breakthrough roles. Ensemble dramas can work well, but in Crash there are just too many different plot strands all vying for attention, leaving some badly underdeveloped. Bullock's character for one would definitely have benefited from more screen-time.

While the acting is strong throughout, the film is let down by its script. All anyone ever seems to talk about is race, and while this is obviously the main theme, this obsession detracts somewhat from the film's realism, and risks turning the characters into ciphers. Also everyone has to voice every thought that enters their heads, rather than occasionally letting their actions alone do the talking.

Crash is attempting to address race in the way that Traffic tackled drugs, and it is interesting to compare the two films. Traffic benefits from having fewer separate story lines, and when the strands came together at the end it is much more convincing. Also, the film feels less like a straightforward issue movie than Crash does.

While racism is the film's overarching concern, there are also spiritual overtones, which seem to be fashionable these days (they even appear in Superman Returns). In Crash they centre on a lock-fitter who pretends to hand a cloak of invincibility to his daughter. Without giving away the ending, it is very implausible, and doesn't appear to have much to do with the main thrust of the narrative.

There are some effective scenes in Crash, and even some humour (in the exchanges between the two young car-thieves). However, the film just has too many subplots, making it feel at times like an extended TV episode. Racism is certainly an issue that needs addressing, which makes it all the more disappointing that Crash doesn't rise to the occasion.

Just another blockbuster., 18 May 2006

The third film in the Matrix trilogy proves to be a disappointing finale. The scope of the action is almost unprecedented but this cannot disguise the film's fundamental deficiencies. The plot is even more threadbare than usual this time around.

The biggest mistake made by Revolutions is that the series' greatest asset (the Matrix itself) is barely utilised until the final reels, leaving a film which is hard to distinguish from any random sci-fi blockbuster, throwing special effects at the screen that would make even George Lucas's eyes bulge. When the humans are defending Zion, the effects are truly epic, but it goes on too long, and Neo, Morpheus and Trinity are not even involved, distancing the film further from the 1999 original.

The best thing about the first Matrix film was its notion of a world not unlike our own filled with ordinary people going about their daily lives, but who were really part of a gigantic program. Even Neo began the film as one of these people, until he was made aware of the reality. This was a terrific concept, which the sequels failed to carry forward. In Reloaded our heroes often ventured into the Matrix, but it no longer bore much of a relation to the world we know.

Both the sequels suffer from the presence of far too many minor characters, feeling like an attempt to ape the ensemble cast of Lord of the Rings. The trouble is that most of these characters are hardly fleshed out at all. Whereas Reloaded used numerous kung fu sequences inside the Matrix to distract attention from the slightly tedious main plot, Revolutions is forced to tie up this plot, and it has only 2 hours in which to accomplish this, an almost impossible task.

Revolutions is not a terrible film, but it is just another blockbuster, and most of the originality which marked out The Matrix has been lost. It's a shame the series had to end in such a conventional way.

Entertaining and well worth checking out., 17 May 2006

The upcoming vegetable competition is proving to be an obsession for the villagers, including the wealthy Lady Tottington, but is in danger from an explosion in the rabbit population. Fortunately Wallace the inventor and his dog Gromit have a new sideline in pest control, but Wallace pushes his luck too far when he hatches a plan to eradicate the rabbit threat for good.

This latest extravaganza from Nick Park's Aardman Animations is the 4th outing for Wallace and Gromit, their first full-length film following on from the success of Chicken Run. Though most animation films now use CGI, Aardman have thankfully stuck to their Plasticene roots. This medium has some definite advantages over CGI, such as the ability to employ natural light.

The film is resolutely old-fashioned, and makes few concessions to international audiences. This is the world of 1950's England, reflected in the dialogue and accents, as well as the characters of the villagers, many of whom wouldn't look out of place in an Ealing comedy. Gromit on the other hand resembles a silent movie star, able to convey an amazing range of emotions through his eyes.

Comparing Were-Rabbit to Wallace and Gromit's earlier adventures, the film most closely resembles A Close Shave, substituting rabbits for sheep, and having a similar love sub-plot. The film's main challenge was to extend its plot over more than 80 minutes. It occasionally feels slightly stretched and some of the twists are ridiculous even for this series, but on the whole it achieves a remarkable level of success.

Overall the film doesn't reach the standard of The Wrong Trousers, but it's very entertaining and well worth checking out.

9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A classic of screwball comedy, 24 November 2005

Bringing up Baby is an absolute classic of screwball comedy, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and the eponymous Baby. Grant plays stuffy palaeontologist Dr David Huxley who is due to be married, and is trying to obtain some money for his museum, but all his carefully laid out plans start to unravel when he first meets Susan Vance (Hepburn) on the golf course. From this point on Huxley is subject to an almost continuous series of humiliations and misfortunes.

Those who claim that Bringing up Baby isn't funny because of the cruel way that Hepburn's character treats Grant's are missing the point. If the film's events were taking place in the real world then many of Hepburn's actions would be inexcusable, but the point is that these events are happening in a world without consequences where anything goes, and this is the premise on which much of the film's humour is based.

The presence of a tame leopard called Baby provides further evidence that the film is trying to distance itself as far as possible from the boring predictability of reality. Much humour is derived from the contrasting attitudes of Hepburn and Grant towards the leopard. Whereas she reacts as if it were a small kitten, despite it's need for massive quantities of raw meat, Grant seems genuinely terrified, even though the animal shows no signs of aggression.

One of the most remarkable things about Bringing up Baby is the extent to which it remains enjoyable today. While many films regarded as classics in the 30's seem somewhat dated now, Bringing up Baby seems as fresh as it ever did, thanks largely to the energetic central performances. Grant is terrific as the professor who gradually loses his inhibitions, but Hepburn steals the show as a self-absorbed young woman who wins the audience over through her lack of inhibitions.

Films such as Bringing up Baby became far less common as America geared up for World War II and people began to lose interest in screwball comedy. This makes the film all the more significant, as it is undoubtedly one of the defining examples of a genre which never re-emerged in quite the same form again.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Slavishly follows the standard disaster movie template, 28 October 2005

Dennis Quaid stars as climatologist Jack Hall, who predicts that the world is heading for a new ice age due to global warming, but nobody listens. However, extreme weather systems soon start erupting all over the planet.

The recent hurricane season in America has made some of the severe weather in this film seem slightly less far-fetched, but this is still a ridiculous film, which subjugates science to the needs of a fast-paced action movie. Although this is understandable, using global warming as the basis for entertainment seems somewhat misguided.

As with many disaster movies the characterisation in The Day After Tomorrow is wafer-thin. The film might have benefited from ditching it and concentrating on the action, which at least provides some excitement, despite some fairly average special effects. As in Deep Impact, sentimentality substitutes for meaningful characterisation. This explains the focus on Jack's son and the fact that his wife works in a hospital with sick children.

The film is hampered by having too many sub-plots, one of which involves Ian Holm heading up a group of stereotypical Brits who send some data to the Americans. The over-abundance of sub-plots means that they become squeezed, with none given enough space to develop. Deep Impact at least had Morgan Freeman's impressive performance as the President, but here the President is almost anonymous, and only makes a few very brief appearances.

The Day After Tomorrow is a lacklustre film, which slavishly follows the standard disaster movie template. It was never going to be a classic, but the piecemeal characterisation makes it very hard to care about the fate of the characters. Without the ability to generate empathy the film loses any tension it might otherwise have had.

49 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
A terrific film, featuring one of Nicholson's best performances, 24 October 2005

Jack Nicholson stars as a Warren Schmidt, a man who suffers several crises at once. First he goes into retirement, then his wife dies, and finally his daughter marries a no-hoper. Forced to abandon his usual comfortable routine, Schmidt goes on a personal journey of discovery and tries to make some sense of his life.

The beauty of About Schmidt is how well developed and interesting the characters are. They feel like real people struggling with real situations, which is a surprisingly difficult trick to pull off. This success can be attributed to the strength of the script and most importantly to the uniformly superb acting.

This film provides a showcase for Nicholson to display his talent, and he doesn't disappoint, delivering a superb and multi-layered turn, which is a world away from the smirking characters he often plays. He allows his face to droop, and adopts a world-weary expression, as Schmidt continually finds himself at the mercy of events.

One of Schmidt's first decisions when he determines to get out of the rut he finds himself in is to sponsor an African child. This doesn't have much to do with the rest of the plot, but provides an outlet for Schmidt's innermost thoughts, and is a brilliant and original way of allowing the audience inside the head of the central character.

About Schmidt succeeds in tackling the subject of old age, a topic not often addressed in mainstream Hollywood fare, and for that it should be applauded. This is a terrific film, which features Nicholson at his best.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An effective and moving film about personal and political change, 24 October 2005

This is a German film about a young East German man in the late 1980s whose mother suffers a stroke. While she is unconscious the Berlin Wall is knocked down and Germany is re-unified. When his mother starts to recover, he is desperate not to shock her into a relapse by revealing the truth, and constructs an elaborate fantasy in which East Germany still exists.

Throughout the film, he persists in his efforts to keep his carefully constructed fiction alive in the mind of his mother, and goes to ever more extreme lengths to maintain the illusion. He enlists the help of a friend to construct some fake news footage, and their combined efforts are a success, but the lie is now too big to allow them to turn back, and it seems as if the truth must come out eventually. When it does, will it be too big a shock for his mother to take?

One of the most telling sequences in the film is when his mother is shown TV pictures of West Germans flooding into the East. He tells her that the westerners have come because they finally realised the emptiness of consumerism, and have sought sanctuary in the communist East. Because this was such an attractive lie his mother was taken in. As well as showing how people can become blinkered to reality when it becomes too painful, this scene makes you think about all the East Germans who didn't celebrate when the wall came down. This point is subtly made, and is all the more effective for it.

Goodbye Lenin is a very effective and moving film, which explores how people deal with all kinds of change, whether just affecting a few, or the entire population of a country.

13 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Really should have been better., 29 June 2005

As the concluding section of the Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is quite disappointing. Most of the same characters from the first two films appear again, including Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Darth Vader and Chewbacca, but somehow they don't have the same impact as they did before.

The main problems with Return of the Jedi are the general tone and the uneven script. The film is at its best when at its darkest, but unfortunately the film is less dark overall than the original Star Wars, let alone The Empire Strikes Back. Most of the film's best scenes are those featuring Emperor Palpatine, who is finally seen in the flesh for the first time. He exudes a believable aura of malevolence, and many of his scenes are electrifying (no pun intended).

Return of the Jedi is hampered by an over-abundance of set pieces, which are entertaining enough while on screen but don't do enough to advance the plot, and are quickly forgotten as our heroes move on to tackle the next leg of their adventure.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of the film is spent on Endor with the Ewoks. The appearance of these small furry creatures indicates that Return of the Jedi is aiming for a younger demographic than before, but in doing so it sacrifices much of the cross-generational appeal the series used to have.

Return of the Jedi marks the point at which the Star Wars series began to lose its way. It undoubtedly has some memorable sequences, but there are also long sections where it becomes boring (yep, the Ewoks), an accusation that couldn't be levelled at the first two films. Viewed on its own terms, or compared with the more recent Star Wars films, Jedi's faults can be forgiven, but as part of the original trilogy it really should have been better.

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