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A literary caper with many plot twists!
Jessica uncharacteristically ducks out of this ep early on, leaving the sleuthing in the capable and "venerable" hands of noted British thesp Keith Michell. He reprises his character first seen in season 5 of one Dennis Stanton - a raffish, middle aged Englishmen with impeccable manners and a slightly dodgy past. However his former career as a fraudster and gentleman "tea-leaf" proves invaluable when he encounters what purports to be an unpublished Mark Twain manuscript, one which the owners are trying to insure with his own insurance company for a cool $5 million. Acting out of altruism rather than pecuniary interest, when things take a turn for the highly suspicious and the museum holding the rare book burns down, our hero sets out to nail the malefactors. There are twists and turns along the way in this amusing and delightfully acted yarn.
Oh dear,this was dated even for 1980...
"Are there somewhere places...?" If you could get past the appalling (and relentlessly repeated) signature song by the deservedly obscure Meal Ticket, you'd be entering a place that truly had travelled in time. This timeslip drama unaccountably has 1980 stamped on the base. You remember 1980? Yep, it was nothing like the society depicted here, of vaguely-political, pint-glugging, chirpy Notting-Hillers. Ferchrissakes, setting it in Portobello says it all.The place was a living museum to the early '70s back then and has only recently dragged itself into the,ooh, early '90s. Dominic Hide's's naif rapidly loses his charm and his stoner persona combined with the look, attitudes and stylings of the supporting cast had me in mind of the early '70s, certainly not the hard-nosed era of Thatcher and 3 million unemployed! Truly just how irksome is Firth and how inexplicable that even 200 years hence such a hippy-dippy twerp could be charged with such an important task as travelling back in time (and potentially upsetting history). Once there he predictably starts messing around and his canoodling with Langrishe whilst happily spliced in his own time (without seemingly much in the way of moral dilemmas) might ring true when seen through the prism of those long-gone late '60s/early '70s mores (free-love, "if it feels good do it" etc) but it should have struck a dull note to a reasonably progressive 1980s audience and by 2007 seems utterly anachronistic. And this feller's from the 22nd century,remember! I'll let you into a secret here - I saw this on telly on its first repeat in the early 1980s and loved it. I was an incurable romantic back then and I guess that on rewatching it today,I was hoping to be swept back to happier times. But I found I just could not buy its sloppy idealism. To compound matters I began watching the 1982 sequel but at the point where the (male) babysitter entered the story, looking like the bloke from The Joy of Sex and with all the patchouli-scented charm of Sher's History Man, nausea overcame me and then when an even sillier time-traveller (Pyrus Bonnington) began flirting with the Spanish au-pair, Alice was duly summoned with the sick-bag. Just how has this tripe acquired the status of a classic?? Or am I simply an old curmudgeon?
Les valseuses (1974)
A male inversion of "Celine and Julie go Boating"?
As with that film we follow the implausible if always engaging adventures of the 2 lead characters. But whilst C + J eschew sex for a girly trip back into childhood, this pair revel in their carnality even to the point of exploring homoeroticism. Most of the sex they acquire from grudging or unwilling partners and yet, despite their deeply un-PC behaviour, everyone emerges smiling. Like C + G, through it all they remain innocents at heart, rebels against the quotidien, the bourgeois, the restrictive. As someone else has commented, I wouldn't want to know these 2 and it's a minor miracle that their trip brings scenes of mostly comedy and very little tragedy (and what there is of that cannot be laid at their door) and thus for that reason, it left me beguiled but with a sweet taste in the mouth. Dare I say that only the French can get away with films like this. And that is part of their genius.
Lovejoy: Bin Diving (1991)
Bin diving lately?
Many of you out there might been repelled at the idea of apparently sane and decent folks rootling through sacks of rubbish in search of collectables,but it does go on,or it did leastways. I know cos I went out and did it myself at the local tip near where I used to live in Welwyn Garden City circa the late 1970s! I was dragged along y'see by a local antiques dealer who knew all about the hidden treasures hiding in those innocent-looking skips. So the nostalgia aspect made this episode even more of a delight. Chief amongst the great things in this story though is Warren Clarke's fantastic portrayal of head "duster" Brian Nunn. By turns he's a malevolent rogue, a solid mate of Lovejoy's and a cordon bleu chef. Why oh why wasn't he featured in more stories? In fact we could ask this of many of the terrific figures who pop up in various episodes. Some wonderful character actors took these roles and really should've been "recycled" later in the run. Anyways,if you haven't seen this one or it was long enough ago that you've forgotten it - dive in and enjoy a rattling good Lovejoy yarn!
Mercury Rising (1998)
Predictable and contemptuous of intelligent audiences
I actually gave up on this film right after the laughable scene in Alec Baldwin's wine cellar. The sight of Willis tossing off his party piece wise-cracking followed by that gratuitous wine trashing was just too much for my delicate stomach. Baldwin seemed to be merely reprising his scenery-chewing role from Glengarry Glen Ross only with now murderous malevolence. Why I wasted a good hour on this abysmal movie is a mystery to elude even the NSA's code breakers. Where does one start with the insults to our cinematic intelligence? Just how many times could that assassin wave his piece around in public without getting just a hint of interest from law enforcement? Oh,I forgot,the NSA are so powerful that they can suborn any branch of government, can't they. But one can of course easily find their assassins on a computer database using only a grainy morsel of CCTV footage to go on. Look,I'm partial to a bit of consp/theo myself but this was just absurd. The very fundamentals of this film are awry. For instance, why not, instead of wasting the kid, his parents, Uncle Tom Cobley and all,not just give Simon and co. say a million out of those billions budgeted on "Mercury" (yeah,as someone else here has said,where DID all that money go?) to go live out the rest of their lives in obscurity in the boondocks somewhere, well away from puzzle magazine vendors or indeed any temptations whatsoever to do code-breaking for those nefarious "Enemies of America"?. Dumb films like this,whatever their budget, are classically peppered with glaring plot holes, if you're not too beaten down by the end to keep counting them. The plots only survive on implausibility and coincidence in fact. "Why did they do this instead of simply doing that?" is my tedious but insistent refrain. Can it really be so hard to put together an action thriller where the action if not plausible at least conforms to what we know about how people and organisations behave in real life? Nope but if you keep it plausible you can't throw in,every 15m a gratuitous violence scene/chase/bit of rumpy-pumpy and so on. The makers just hope you're either too stupid or else too mentally deadened after a while to object. I'd be aggrieved if I'd seen this to the end. I don't care what happened but I can easily imagine. I still feel bad about the bottles of vintage French red that WERE harmed during the making of this movie though!
A wondrous trip and a stunning piece of original cinema
I approached this movie for the 1st time with few preconceptions. The title was vaguely familiar and I'd recently seen Paris Nous Appartient which at least set me up for Rivette's obscure and allusive style of film-making. That was a film which I admired for its atmosphere and direction rather than its now-dated cold war paranoia schtick. The chief drawback for me is its treatment of the lead characters, none of whom one can really feel any engagement with or interest in. When the action peters out, one is left intrigued but ultimately rather empty. Perhaps that was Rivette's commentary on the blankness of the society of the time - the grim late '50s. It's evident that with certain directors, a "macro" perspective of their movies serves one better than attention to matters of plot and character. It's certainly true of Celine et Julie vont en bateau. Don't look for a tight narrative, plot exposition or credible character motivation, you'll find all that in dime-a-dozen movies that will be forgotten before the popcorn's been cleared away. Celine and Julie is a child's adventure, enjoyed by two adult (and rather beauteous) women. It's not a lesbian love story although the intimacy of the characters would normally suggest this. Indeed sexuality is noticeably eschewed and even scorned here. Naturally, because it has no place in the imaginative world of the child which requires freedom not the slavery of innate bodily desires. I found it a pure delight - original (ok,but for dollops of Lewis Carroll), human, engaging and fresh with only a vague taint of early 1970s whimsy despite its age.
As with many of the other posters here, watching this movie was a revelation, like the first time you taste a really good wine or hear Nick Drake. And after 3 and a half hours of patience you feel so glad you didn't get served a typical denouement and that you have, like the main characters, been treated to such a wonderful,wonderful experience. Never mind that all of it is illusory. After all,what else is a movie but an escapist jaunt around another's imagination. Undoubtedly the film's principal theme is childhood innocence and how the child's imagination transforms mundane reality. Inherent in Rivette's treatment is an understanding though that the imagination and reality cannot co-exist for long. One is essentially the enemy of the other and C and J become progressively removed from reality, ending up closseted in their darkened room with their transforming psychedelic boiled sweets and magick potions. Their mission is to save the young girl in the mansion from harm but this is surely heavily symbolic, really they are intent on preserving their own "inner child", their innocent separatism from an evil and unattractive "adult" world (peopled with sleazy club impresarios and Julie's "bandes de maquereaux"). Feeding one's imagination thus (even a deux) is basically masturbatory however, it has no life of its own and the reality it feeds on soon sickens and dies, just as visibly do the 3 characters in the ghostly love-triangle who have become grey and mute by the end of the film. C and J's gauche and unpractised interventions in saving the imperilled young girl remind us that we cannot enter our own dreams without seeing their fundamental flimsiness, they are our creation but are less sophisticated than us - simplified and unreal. The blue-remembered hills are much greyer when seen close-up. The joyous finale tells us that, nevertheless, another adventure always beckons, even if it does simply recycle old elements for new. I'm not sure if Rivette's is a sad or an uplifting message - what do you think?
Grasshopper Island (1971)
They don't make 'em etc etc
I too remember this from the early 1970s. The dreamy idyll that it portrayed now seems indistinguishable from that of my own long-gone childhood. I was obsessed by the series,as I recall,in the same way I was by Dr Who and other escapist entertainments made primarily for kids. But this one had a different frisson,it was set in a foreign country,with cypresses and crickets and that kind of sun that you just don't see in England and which exerts a strange fascination upon us as a result. I still have the book which came out at the same time with a picture from the TV programme on the cover. It was never repeated on TV and in those pre-VCR days this gives it a magical kind of status for me!I notice it can be obtained on DVD now but I dare not rewatch it for fear of spoiling the beautiful if dim memories it still holds for me.
A beautiful tale of redemption
Nearly every modern French film boasts a leading actor who has a magnificent obsession outside of their professional life,have you ever noticed that? Frequently it's music,sometimes a quest for a rare item, rock climbing or even acting (that last one's a favourite for all the rather pretentious play-within-a-play options it throws up). This film ploughs the same furrow but the obsession in this case - the piano - is more than just a showy tack-on,it's the very agent of the protagonist's eventual redemption. Everything good in his old life relates to his mother who fostered his interest in playing the piano; his present of moral turpitude and anger he owes to the influence of his deadbeat father. "My heart stopped beating" is the literal translation of the French title ("The Beat My Heart Skipped" sounds more like exhilaration than spiritual stasis to me!) and surely relates to this period,after Tom's mother's death,where Tom's heart is moribund. His is a world that whilst not outlandish (he goes to bars,works in an office,has mates) is subtly killing him. Comparisons have been made with Scorcese's Mean Streets and the squalid but recognisable world depicted there and truly Duris does have more than a hint of the early De Niro - that disarmingly sweet face allied to a troubled often explosively violent character. His is a superb,nuanced performance,leading us in time to an understanding and an empathy for what at first appears a "lost boy", just as he comes to find what had been lost within his spirit. Magnificent stuff and proof that European cinema is still light-years ahead of Hollywood in terms of films that actually mean anything.
The Goonies (1985)
Unspeakably vile-everything that's nauseating about Spielberg films
If you like hackneyed,inspiration-free plots straight out of best-forgotten children's fiction featuring a gaggle of unlovely,shrieking,white-bread American Kids boasting all the charm of a waterspout at a sewage farm, this is surely the film for you. Me,I'd rather watch somebody else watch paint dry. Everything that repels me about Spielberg is in this repugnant waste of celluloid - the cutesy sentimentalised, middle-American vision of childhood, the corny "humour", the utter predictability, but more than anything the incessant screaming and shrieking by the fat-faced,horrid,horrid little kids,who,in a more enlightened age would've been slaughtered at birth. Anyone who really appreciates cinema - both populist AND serious should rightly reject cynical junk like this.
All or Nothing (2002)
Dismal, deja-vu drivel, the worst of Leigh's career
It strikes me that this sort of stuff bewitches the French etc at their film festivals because they fatuously see in it a corrective to the Curtis/Grant Cool Britannia, "red London bus school" of UK film-making but in reality it's just as false and fatuous -- all that Leigh's ladelled out here is an unappetising,lardy dollop of council estate ennui, over two hours of it, with precious little action and few of the light comic touches that he usually throws in to keep us engaged. Either he doesn't have it in him anymore or he felt that keeping it unrelentingly bleak this time marks him out as a more serious film maker. Whatever,it's an unwelcome and redundant return to Mean Time territory (now over over 20 years old) that reeks of the late '70s/early '80s and,despite its pretensions has little of the flavour of modern Britain. Everything here feels laughably out-of-date -- from the tarty estate girl (who looks like a refugee from some obscure '50s British black-and-white movie) to the comedy alcoholic mum (who reminds me of the bint in the Fat Les "Vindaloo" video). Only the subject of obesity gives it any contemporary feel. And a fat lot of good that is! In short, Leigh's gone back to basics here, tried to "do a Ken Loach" and produced a real gobbler that is not worth feeding to the dog on Boxing Day. Here's the plot,such as it is -- a bunch of uninteresting, taciturn working class folk living in Bermondsey eke out a turgid existence (no sign of drugs though-hmmm,has Mike read any newspapers lately?) variously getting pantomime drunk at karaoke evenings (can't remember her name but that character was so laughably simplistic that I almost took her to be a post-modernist joke slipped in!), now and again shouting at each other, having listless sex, and barely able to conjure up a wry larf between the lot of them. Who do ya think you are,Mr Mike Leigh,with your paternalistic middle class inversely-romanticised view of working class life? Oi Leigh, NO-O-O-O! Don't you think that these people can still have fun? Geez,this is as bad as Woody Allen when he decided to "go serious" and make Bergman movies,but without any of the feeling or the skill. Here Leigh's tried to remake himself, 20 years on but forgot to look out his window and see what'd changed! Ferchrissakes,these people would have topped themselves if this was all that life had to offer them! Really you're every bit as out of touch with that class as are the poor old writers of Eastenders,who also seem to think that all their working class characters are fit for is barneying and throwing themselves at every passing bit of skirt 5 minutes after the wedding ceremony! Now,I used to be big Fan of Leigh's right back to Nuts in May and up to Life is Sweet, but it needs an aficionado not a sycophant (and nowadays Leigh's got his fair share of the latter on both sides of the Channel!) to blow the whistle on bombs like this one. Please,I implore you, forget this exists, go back to the early funny ones and don't,but don't, for pity's sake watch the vox pops from the actors without a sick bag to hand. Come in Mr Leigh your time is up!