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19 reviews in total 
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43 out of 80 people found the following review useful:
What did he say?, 14 August 2014

Matthew McConaughey mumbles so much in this role I missed the final line of the final episode. Totally unintelligible. Something about stars, which is a good alternative title to this overrated series.

9.4 it rates on IMDb! You got be kidding me. The presence of an A-lister or two has blinded everyone's ability to see the flaws in this series. So much of it is ponderous, repetitive and just plain unnecessary. It needed severe editing, especially the tedious interviews, and doesn't really get going until episode 5 or 6. The first four episodes could easily have been merged into one.

I'm giving it one-star, simply because some perspective is needed here, though I did watch to the end, which, though a chore at times, was eventually rewarding. Interesting well-developed characters, moody cinematography, and an attempt to make this a psychological thriller, not just the usual action cop cliché, puts it ahead of the pack. But ultimately, it really is just the same old serial killer fare in an arty grunge T-shirt. The stars do a fine job on the whole, despite some brooding overacting from McConaughey at times, and annoying cud-chewing from Harrelson, but True Detective is a long way from great. The final episode paves the way for a sequel with talk of more killers that haven't been caught yet, but I won't be watching.

Mt. Zion (2013)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Maori rural charm let down by shortcomings, 22 March 2014

I'm a sucker for movies from New Zealand, which has produced some great Maori movies over the years, from the brutal Once Were Warriors and the bloodletting colonial-western Utu, to the delightful Boy and the spiritual Whale Rider.

Alas, this one falls well short of its peers. Its portrayal of rural life in the 70s has charm but it strives a little too hard for cuteness, falling into sentimentality and idealization of poor but honest Maori family life. The story fails to fulfill any promise, pacing and direction have problems, but the acting really lets this movie down. The dialog can be unintelligible with accents from a later era it seems, and even Stan Walker's wonderful singing detracts from the movie's authenticity, with Walker's neo-soul style out of sync with the times. Temuera Morrison alone is left to carry the acting, but often has little to do except glare for the camera's gaze. The cinematography is a standout, though Pukekohe is idealized, like the times, as a perpetually sunny rural haven (it was either overcast or raining both times I visited!).

Despite its shortcomings, Mt Zion holds interest for the outsider as a social document of Maori life and marae ritual, even though the movie seems to be made primarily for a Maori audience. There's enough charm to keep you engaged, and Bob Marley's digitized cameo is a curious highlight.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Heads should roll after this childish, asinine sequel, 22 March 2014

Steve Carell, for one, should never work again based on his embarrassing screaming scenes. Will Ferrell should be banned from Hollywood for his regrettable meet the African-American parents piece, and many other careers are on the line after some of the most asinine improvised dialog ever filmed.

This popular but passed-its-use-by-date style of riffing comedy leaves you longing for, say, a Neil Simon comedy and a return to tight scripts, direction, acting and professionalism, which this movie lacks in spades. Judd Apatow et al need to start coming up with decent stories instead of relying on actors to ham it up in front of the camera in the hope of coming up with some laughs. Anchorman 2 falls flat on its face and the few gags are no compensation for a lame script and truly cringeworthy ad-libbing.

Most impressive was the line-up of cameos at the end, with everyone from Jim Carey and Sacha Baron Cohen to Will Smith and Tina Fey putting in an appearance but they, too, must be regretting their participation in this garbage.

Not for prudes, young air heads and the terminally single, 31 December 2013

What a surprise this little gem of a movie turned out to be, as was its low score on IMDb. Well, not really. Meryl and Tommy Lee are only going to be attracted to great roles and scripts, and the one-star reviews here prove old people are not box office drawcards, especially if they have sex.

Negative comments can basically be divided into: "ew, old people having sex", "I wanted to see an action movie but my girlfriend made me watch this and, ew, old people talking about sex" , "I thought it would be funny but it made me uncomfortable", "this movie had sex in it, disgusting", and "boring, it's about marriage difficulties".

Well, this movie will make you uncomfortable, as the taciturn, bullying husband and his long-suffering, submissive wife are forced to discuss their sex life, or lack of it, and confront the walls that have built up in their marriage. Anyone who has been married for any length of time will recognise the issues and truth of this story, and applaud the fine performances. Meryl Streep is wonderful, Steve Carell plays it straight in a backseat role, while a standout Tommy Lee Jones would have got my Golden Globe nomination.

Perhaps Hope Springs is wrongly billed as a comedy. Wry humour is scattered throughout, but this is more an emotional drama, not a formula rom-com, despite some tear-jerk romantic moments. The old people aren't cute, their marriage problems aren't trivial, and the laughs don't come easy but this film rewards with fine performances in a sometimes brutal portrait of a stale marriage on the rocks.

The Hunt (2012)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Gripping movie undermined by plot flaws, 19 December 2013

This finely crafted, thought-provoking movie examines conflict in a small, close-nit Danish town confronted by one of the great moral corruptions of our age. Sharing, caring and community quickly descend into vindictiveness, violence, and marginalization. The cast is excellent, with Mads Mikkelsen putting in another mesmerising performance, and the evocative cinematography captures austere but beautiful Danish landscapes and small town life.

But perhaps I lost something in translation, for this otherwise standout movie has some frustrating plot flaws I couldn't overlook. Maybe Danes are naturally taciturn people who can't handle confrontation, because the protagonist when faced with accusations of child molestation merely nods and accepts them, instead of vigorously professing his innocence, then he shuns those who dare doubt him, instead of defending himself. Or maybe this movie is a savage indictment of the Danish legal system, where it seems you can be sacked for unspecified charges with no right of response, and we are supposed to go along with his infuriating silence. The Hunt is certainly a savage portrayal of Danish mob psychology and political correctness gone mad, but the script clumsily constructs the events that allow this to happen.

The final scenes are also problematic, with an unlikely ending given all the events that preceded it. As a gripping piece of social realism, ultimately The Hunt fails the reality test, and a good script editor might have been able to turn this very good movie into a great one.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Ultimately unsuccessful adaptation of a fine book, 6 October 2013

Mira Nair is a fine film-maker, with a lavish eye for detail, so evident in the opening scenes of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but what was she thinking in butchering an intriguing, thought-provoking book by adding a sexed-up terrorist sub-plot that undermines the power and themes of the story.

This action movie subplot – about a kidnapped American professor and attempts by the CIA to find him – is Katherine Bigelow at her worst, and Hollywood at its most mediocre. Completely non-existent in the novel, it takes up half the movie, and ends with an implausible shoot-out, and some tedious speechifying beloved of bad American movies.

Nair should have stuck to the main story of how the war on terror soured the Pakistani middle class's love affair with America, as seen through the eyes of one man. Critical of America's response to 9/11, which alienated moderate Muslims, the movie is at its best when it explores the protagonist's struggle to succeed at Princeton and on Wall Street, and his subsequent disillusionment in the face of post-9/11 hostility. Riz Ahmed puts in a fine performance, as do most of the actors, with the exception of a miscast Kate Hudson as the somewhat-too-old girlfriend struggling to commit after the death of her high-school sweetheart.

The Pakistan scenes (shot in India) are wonderfully evocative, as is the use of Qawwali music on the stunning soundtrack, but a silly action story detracts from the main plot and characterizations, which required much more exploration and depth for this movie to really succeed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
American New Wave masterpiece still looks fresh, 18 September 2013

Time has not diminished this classic, and if anything it looks remarkably fresh compared to today's stale Hollywood formula.

This uncompromising film takes a savage look at the American dream and its lurid underbelly, punctuated with wry social satire. Hoffman and Voight make the most of dream roles, while the cinematography is a standout, this time with a Pole behind the New Wave camera not the ubiquitous Hungarians. Small on action but big on emotion, it never falls into sentimentality, its bold exploration of social themes in strong contrast to the limp conservatism of modern American cinema.

Can you imagine what Hollywood would do to this today? "We love your work John, but we're going to have to reshoot the ending. It didn't rate with the test audience. Too depressing, and can we throw in some action, liven it up a bit."

Midnight Cowboy was made for $3m, around $20m today, still a fraction of modern budgets, which goes to show that more doesn't mean better. As in politics, more money often results in more corruption, of ideals and ideas. Time for a new New Wave to blow away tired movies with lame plots, big on glitz but low on substance.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Funny comedy undermined by studio formula, 13 September 2013

We're the Millers delivers some great laughs and lots of promise before it descends into lame cliché that robs it of potentially classic comedy status. With an interesting, edgy premise – neighbourhood drug dealer forced to smuggle weed from Mexico hires a fake family to get it across the border – the movie consistently delivers laughs-out-loud as this band of foul-mouthed social malcontents somehow clicks and makes it happen. The first half is totally engaging, except perhaps for an implausible Ed Helms as the affable drug baron, while the pace and laughs allow you to overlook a few minor plot flaws, which unfortunately snowball in the schmaltzy second half.

This a Hollywood movie, so you can't really expect the cynical take on the American family to continue, but the switch from satire to sentiment left me wondering if the script was butchered by studio bean counters, or was it always lame? The movie becomes part cliché RV comedy when they meet up with another family on wheels, part teen love story, part drug thug chase movie, and ultimately a full-on family-values feel-good fest that becomes nauseatingly obvious. While the cast is great and keeps up the laughs, the plot becomes a formulaic insult to the intelligence.

Without giving anything away, I just want to know why does Hollywood feel it has to embrace the truly pukeful heart-on-the-sleeve speech finale? Do all Americans at some stage in their lives find themselves upon the podium, or staring down the barrel of a gun, and deliver lump-in-the-throat speeches that make you want to cheer for America or the human race? And do they get away with it without being heckled, laughed off stage, or shot? Go see this movie for the laughs, but it could have been so much better under the guiding hand of bolder indi producers.

Lincoln (2012)
12 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Is Daniel Day Lewis channelling Buddy Ebsen?, 20 July 2013

What's with the crazy old timer voice? If they do another remake of the Beverley Hillbillies, Daniel Day Lewis is a shoe-in for Jed Clampett. Yes siree.

I have to confess, I haven't seen all of Lincoln. First time I fell asleep after about an hour, the second time I tried but just couldn't persevere with this boring hagiography. I've got better things to do with my life, like wash my hair. It was the scene where Lincoln chats to the troops that forced me to switch off. Spielberg never was an intellectual but, really, this is just jingoistic, dumbed-down historical camp for high school study groups.

I don't expect complete historical veracity, but in this scene Lincoln chats to a couple of black troops, one of whom eloquently puts the case for racial equality, though given the way he spoke, he'd already received an education at Princeton. But then it gets truly nauseating, when another couple of troops come along and begin reciting the Gettysburg address word for word, because apparently everyone had heard it and knew it by heart back then. Of course, the black troop knows it as well, and recites it over his shoulder as he slowly heads back to battlefield, to finish off this drawnout, overwordy, cornball scene, which pretty much sums up the movie for me.

17 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Waterboarding is more fun than this garbage, 18 July 2013

Isn't it time America got over 9/11 and stopped wasting millions on garbage like this. 9/11 has not only traumatized the national psyche, it has retarded the national IQ if awful movies this are nominated for best picture. This ham-fisted propaganda piece was so shallow and obviously manipulative it often had me laughing out loud. One comedic moment: head torturer feeds ice cream to caged monkeys, then later when he learns they are eliminated for no reason, we see his anguish. See, torturers do have feelings … for monkeys.

The torture scenes, taking up most of the first half of the movie, are not just propaganda, but slow the action down and provide little useful narrative. Most of these scenes could have and should have been cut, especially when the internee is led around naked on a dog collar. Really? Come off it, Bigelow. This dramatization of the Abu Ghraib photos that so appalled the world is an offensive insult to the audience's intelligence. The message is that, no, despite the obvious evidence, Abu Ghraib guards weren't half-wit rednecks denigrating human life for their own sick amusement and Facebook fun, but serious intelligence agents using scientific dog collar interrogation techniques to protect the free world. Pathetic.

By the time the story finally picks up the pace and becomes engaging, half the movie has gone. There is even enough tension to overlook the slightly ludicrous central characterization and storyline – one woman fights not only terrorists but her table-thumping, swearing, macho bosses to find bin Laden when everyone else has given up. Her mother f**ker outburst, mixing it with the boys, is another unintentionally hilarious scene.

But after Zero Dark Thirty finally promises to become a half-decent thriller, we have to sit through a tedious drawn-out finale shot in night vision inside the Bin Laden compound. It looks like the US military wrote this part of the script, and demanded nothing could be cut. It was visually difficult to follow, needlessly long and left questions unanswered, like how did they know with certainty it was Bin Laden.

And why didn't we see Bin Laden's body dumped in the sea? Could it be they're planning a sequel. Bin Laden lives and is being tortured in Gitmo! If so, let's hope Katherine Bigelow doesn't direct it, or any more movies. She is to the war on terror, what Leni Riefenstahl was to Hitler's Germany.

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