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War & Peace (2016)
I've just watched the last episode of BBC's War & Peace in the hope that I would surely find more favourable things to say about it, but sadly that's not the case. I found episode 1 very clunky (especially the introductory steadicam shot at Gillian Anderson's party - I can't actually remember which character she was playing!), and throughout other episodes the costumes were shocking and poorly fitted for a BBC period drama. Episodes 4 and 5 were slightly better, and by episode 6 all the best actors had been killed off! I think the actors tried their best, and some gave good performances. My issue was with the script - I guess W&P was never going to be an easy adaptation - and with the direction; most of the time this series seemed to be directed by a few different people, with different styles, there was absolutely no cohesion, no pathos, no gravitas. There seemed to be a decision to recreate visual plateaus inspired by Russian paintings, alongside the incredibly annoying habit of hand held camera for scenes which absolutely begged for a more austere visualization. Obviously it's all just another opinion, and I really wanted to like this series so much, but I cannot escape the feeling of having watched a hollow shell of a series which should have been transcendent, the essence of Tolstoy. If you want to watch a TV series which absolutely delivers 100% on its vision, go for Wolf Hall instead.
If you do however decide to watch it: most of the actors do a good job, especially James Norton, Paul Dano, Jim Broadbent, Tuppence Middleton, Lily James, and others. At 6 episodes, there is too much to tell with little time. There are inspired moments and a lot of people have enjoyed it so maybe you will too. I found it a huge disappointment.
From Darkness (2015)
We started watching this mainly because of Anne-Marie Duff and Johnny Harris, and episode 1 was good enough so I stuck with it (but not my husband). That's 4 - or 3 to be fair - hours I'll never get back.
Each episode kept pointing to a poor finale, but as I work in drama I really wanted it to be better than it turned out to be.
Main problems were: Underdeveloped characters, except maybe for Hinds (Johnny Harris).
Pointless plot diversion: Megan, Claire's stepdaughter, was she there just to be the diverting red herring at the end? The woman police chief, should get an award for most wooden acting since Pinocchio.
Rushed conclusion in episode 4, totally unbelievable and clichéd characters like the original killer (why didn't he run her over??) and the vengeful victim.
If the BBC want to emulate Scandinavian dramas they should import their scriptwriters and directors.
Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher has nothing to say
Luckily I watched this soulless piece of crap as part of awards season screenings, which means I didn't pay for it. I cannot believe this is the shooting script they signed off - the amount of plot holes and continuity gaffes is staggering. I cannot believe that all these highly talented people agreed to be in this hollow piece that uses all of its 148 minutes to say absolutely nothing. David Fincher is clearly a talented director, in full technical control of the medium, but after watching this, and having watched most of his previous films, I have to conclude that his films very often have nothing relevant to say. Technical prowess counts for nothing if the film has no soul, which is what I think of Gone Girl. I gave it a 4 for the acting, it is the only aspect worth noting here. The end is absolutely appalling, character development is shallow, and that graphic extended murder scene was pretty gratuitous, horrid and unnecessary. But what else could I expect from a director who chose to remake an already perfect film (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)?
I've just seen Noah, wanted to check other reviews and was a bit shocked by the negative response - even if I overheard a woman at the cinema say it was the worst film she'd ever seen after Oblivion.
Yes, it's a bit of a mess, but it also has some very interesting stuff in it, especially some of the rapid edit storytelling device, and yes, the rock creatures/ angels. I don't really care if it differs from the Bible and those complaining only had to watch Aronofsky's previous work to get a reality check. I'll just make a list instead of a review: The Good: Most of the acting was solid, especially Jennifer Connelly. Russell Crowe did a good job with such a complex portrayal of Noah - I think he lacked a bit of direction with the arc maybe (arc, not ark). Rock creatures/ angels. The concept art was probably pretty cool as well. The Bad: Sorry but after Avatar you can no longer get away with crap CGI, which this had lots of. The snake/ apple/ Eden bit was similar to the first video game on my first iBook, back in 2000. Everything looked CGI, they could in fact have CGI'd Anthony Hopkins in and the result would have been similar. How many hair pieces did Russell Crowe have? The last one looked like something Oprah Winfrey would wear. And Ray Winstone just seems to play the same role in every film. Plot holes: when exactly did Noah add an escape pod to the ark? It just magically appears. And why could the Cain descendants not build their own boat/ raft? No shortage of wood in that forest.
Overall, it was entertaining, probably worth seeing, but a bloated confection.
I was expecting to see a British comedy in the same vein as East Is East, or even in the great tradition of Ealing comedies. Maybe that was too much to expect, but at least I hoped to see a decent film, as it was on my BAFTA screeners list. It is poorly directed, acting is mostly wooden, camera angles and eyelines are all a bit odd. I was surprised to see a few actors who have done good work elsewhere but who can't lift this material at all. The premise is promising: Two brothers who used to be partners/ owners of an Indian restaurant in Leeds fall out and split the business. I started watching Jadoo with my husband and we could only manage it for about 20 mins before we agreed to switch it off. If you like wooden acting and panto filmmaking then this is for you.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
I was so looking forward to this film. I loved Hunger, didn't see Shame, but was expecting this to be outstanding. I will try to express why I felt so underwhelmed by it. I know this is a depiction of the horrors of slavery, but I expected more than that - and that's all I got, relentless and horrific. There was something off and pointless about it. In terms of characterisation, we are shown how Solomon lives with his family as a free man in New York, seemingly oblivious to the plight of slaves. Then he gets kidnapped and spends the next 12 years under sadistic evil masters and has to survive. Then he gets an enlightened Northener to get his freeman papers and rescue him. He is back with his family in the end, but all we get is his relief to be out of that hell. How is that a new angle on slavery? There is a scene early on with Solomon buying a travel case, observed by a slave, but given the context of the film it is a bit of a loose end and not tied properly. In short: Pros: Some of the acting is very good, especially Lupita N. and Michael Fassbender. Some good set pieces, great costumes, production design, sound design. Cons: Too long, story edit all over the place, cinematography OK but no great shakes(considering the stunning locations), too slow and I'd never thought I'd say this - but direction was boring.
I attended a Q&A with director, star and DoP, which was a bit inane as well. Director got defensive about criticism of violence. I get his point about portraying the truth about what happened, but add some damn believable story as well please!
I watched this film on the BBC last week and was so moved by it I had to leave a comment here. This is an essential film for those people who want to understand the profound impact of wars in the world. I am certainly grateful that I don't have to live through what most people portrayed by McCullim have done, but I am equally certain that it cannot keep happening to anyone, ever, anywhere. McCullin at some point in the film says he was afraid he was becoming a "war junkie", which is a pretty sober recognition; how to keep reporting the misery around him and still maintain the humanity throughout? There are some harrowing images in this film, especially the footage of mercenaries in Africa and McCullin's recollections of how they operated. It is strange to see all this now, because governments have made sure that any journalists are now "embedded" within an army and not really allowed to be their own agents - and the consequence is that we no longer see what wars do to civilians and soldiers. Don McCullin's portraits are incredibly moving because they communicate the humanity and dignity in people, no matter what the circumstances are. I found very telling that he now lives in the countryside and only photographs landscapes. Thank you to the filmmakers for this amazing piece of work.