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The 2 Leads Make It Work, 24 September 2011

A Farrelly brothers comedy about a set of conjoined twins? Let's face it - this could have been a one-joke movie that became stale after ten minutes. That was certainly my fear when I first heard of it. But I'm happy to report its much more than that.

The reason? Well the script is pretty good. Lots of surprisingly subtle lines as well as the belly laughs (of which there are many). But essentially the reason why it works is down to the two leads. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear turn in really great performances.

They are certainly funny, and deliver the lines and the physical comedy in a way which makes you feel that they had a terrific time doing so. But what really makes the difference is that there is also a real warmth in their performances.

You feel that these 2 guys on screen really could be brothers. Its not about the script. Its the way they speak to each other, and look at each other that captures perfectly the relationship that can exist between close siblings. Their moments of irritability and anger (in some hilarious scenes they actually resort to fisticuffs) never last long, and you sense a real friendship and love. But don't worry - its all done in a very gentle, low-key way that never drowns out the next laugh.

The quality of the other characters varies, and for me the romantic element was the weakest part of the whole thing. But there's undoubtedly a lot of fun in the Hollywood in-jokes and the typical Farrelly humour keeps it rolling along at a nice pace.

As I always say about this sort of film, its not going to win any Oscars or find its way into any time capsule of 'culturally significant works of art'. But its funny, warm and in its own way quite thought-provoking. Watching it made me suddenly realise that its becoming quite unusual to see a film in which you actually 'like' the characters! Go and see it. It'll cheer you up.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Filled with humour and pathos., 26 March 2011

To anyone who loves to observe the eccentricities of the human condition, this film is a real gem.

Other reviewers have rightly pointed out that very little actually happens: it's just an English couple on a camping trip in the 1970s. But that analysis is to ignore the genius at work in the writing, and the acting of the two leads. Every frame, every line, every gesture is filled with humour and pathos - if you're prepared to look for it.

Roger Sloman and Alison Steadman are just sublime in their portrayal of the new-age suburban middle class couple. We scorn them, we pity them, we recognise them and we like them (albeit we wouldn't want to spend much time with them).

For me, the other characters - though necessary for the 'plot,' are less well-drawn. But the two leads are on screen so constantly it barely matters.

There's not much else to say, really. You just have to watch it. A warning though: once discovered, this is the sort of film you want to watch again and again. The dilemma is how you strike the balance between savouring it regularly without getting to know it too well.... I think the important thing is to use your discretion.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Pointless. Why Did They Bother?, 29 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you read my reviews you'll see that I'm not one for hyperbole. But, all things considered, this really is one of the worst films I have ever seen.

A group of young rich Americans - who have various relationship issues between them - get on a yacht to sail off to a party. The boat sinks and they find themselves stranded on a mysterious island where they must battle to survive against a tribe of murdering sub-humans.

Yes it's all been done before, and there is NOTHING in this film that even attempts originality. But that's not the main problem. I can't tell you how bad it is. The relationships between the characters are poorly developed, the characters themselves are one-dimensional and unsympathetic, the acting is bottom-rate, the plot pointless, the direction annoying.

I usually try not to spoil in my reviews but this film is so bad I don't want you to waste your time seeing it, so I'll give you an example: One character is attacked by the creatures and dragged off into the jungle while he sleeps. He wakes to find his shin-bone broken and sticking out through his skin (he has noticed none of this as he slept). This kind of injury must surely be one of the most painful things possible, yet when he (eventually) notices it he winces as though he has been stung by a bee, then calmly ties the bone with a splint, gets up and starts walking around seemingly un-perturbed. Later we see him running.

Characters are seemingly killed off one by one, only to be seen again later being tortured by the creatures - and then killed anyway. As the plot rambles on, the tribe seems to have some kind of mysterious agenda, and it turns out they are selective in which humans they kill, but by the time we discover this there is only one human character left and she has no-one to talk to, so we don't get to know why.

Sometimes films are so bad they are actually funny, and they develop cult status. That won't happen to this one, because it doesn't even have any heart. Even if you like gore, the killings are not all that bloody so you'll be disappointed on that level too. Overall, by the time the closing credits roll it really is a relief, and you just wonder: why did they bother?

In all my IMDb reviews over the years, I have never given a move a '1' rating before. It seems there's a first time for everything!

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Set aside enough time to watch it twice!, 22 June 2010

The things I look for in a film are, first and foremost, good acting. I love how really authentic performances can drive a movie. Other things I look for are a good tight script, thoughtful direction and strong characters. Bearing all that in mind, I think this is a really fine film. I really enjoyed it.

I can't say very much about the plot, because it's the kind of film that would be very easy to spoil. In fact, be careful of any reviews you read - for that same reason. It's a fairly low-key film (don't look for car chases and explosions) but certainly not boring. The story is intriguing, and the two central performances keep you transfixed. It's about a young boy growing up in Wales, and focuses on his close relationship with his father, who is not all he seems.

Robert Carlyle is great as the Dad, but the heart of the film is the performance by young Aaron Fuller as the son. What a star this kid is going to be - his performance here is quite brilliant. The film is based on the true story of the director's early life and his relationship with his own father - and as such it is very moving, especially towards the end.

What I will say is that you might like to set aside enough time to watch this twice. Because after it had finished, I wanted to watch it all over again - right away. You may wish to do the same (you can do this easily because at 1hr 18mins the film doesn't outstay its welcome).

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Horror as it should be done, 5 July 2009

When I read the synopsis - 3 people lost in the wild battling against a huge crocodile - I wasn't exactly drawn in. It sounded like the typical yawn-movie horror formula of a bunch of people stalked by a monster - except in this case there are only three of them, so we wouldn't even get the macabre 'joy' of watching them get picked off one by one.

However, I watched it (couldn't sleep; nothing else to do) and it turned out to be much better than expected. The acting is great, the atmosphere tense and you really get that rare sense of a low budget winner.

Horror as it should be done. First-rate film-making. It's not perfect but it's well worth seeing. I give it a 7.

Another frustrated fan leaps out of the closet!!, 8 April 2009

Like most of the other comments on this film, mine is not going to be a 'review'. People wanting to know what BTK is 'about' won't get much from the next few paragraphs. Rather, this is a personal tribute - a trip down memory lane and a celebration of a film that meant a lot to me in its time.

Because Yep. I'm another one! I was a teenage snooker addict of the 80s, greedily watching every shot broadcast (and so many were in those days) who couldn't believe my luck when this film came out. And I remember sitting up bleary-eyed to watch it on Channel 4 that late night sometime in 1986 or 87. I too taped it on my family's old VHS video recorder.... but I went a step further than most here and actually transferred it from there onto a maxell audio tape (yes, by sitting the tape recorder in front of the TV and remaining very quiet while it recorded!) so I could listen to it in my bedroom as well!

Well that video has long gone - but believe it or not I still have that audio tape.... somewhere. (not that I need to listen to it. The lyrics and sounds are seared into my memory, so many times did listen to it back then!) And yes, how fantastic it is to come on here and see so many good friends talking of their similar experience. Oh if only the internet had existed back then - we could all have found each other on some online fansite and become friends, rather than believing (universally it seems) that we were isolated; that we were alone in our devotion, that we were, perhaps, "The One"! Ah well. Perhaps it's best that it wasn't submerged in an internet community as films are today. It was frustrating not to be able to share our joy widely (untiol now). But there was something 'pure' about enjoying it alone. It was of its time.

It's been a long time to wait. But this board has proved that, to the small number of us who saw it in the mid 80s, this film will always remain a truly unforgettable little gem, with some of the most outrageously delicious dialogue I've ever heard: "This location is not capricious." Superb! :)

The Return (2003)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A film about people., 19 January 2009

If you are someone who hates 'foreign' films or movies with subtitles, then don't read any further and go watch some other film. But you'll be missing something very special indeed.

This is a movie about two young brothers in Russia who are growing up without a father. Brought up by their mother and grandmother, the only male influence they have is their bond with each other. And then one day their father comes back, and it is decided that they will go with him on a fishing trip. The easy-going older boy is pleased to see his Dad and wants things to work out, but is nervous. The younger brother is more serious by nature, and resents the sudden intrusion. The father meanwhile seems to struggle with his paternal instinct. Off they go, with their fishing gear, and a trip that will change their lives.

No spoilers - but this is a film about people. About brothers. About the father-son thing. About loss, reconciliation, communication (lack of) and loyalty. But it is very watchable, and the story that plays out is very ordinary - at least until the end, perhaps. Any guy who grew up with a brother near the same age will find much to recognise here (I did). And I guess the same will be true of families in which an absent parent returned.

Not much is said - the script is quite minimalist. That's because guys in these kind of emotionally strained situations don't talk much! But the acting from all concerned is superb. They manage to convey so many thoughts, fears and emotions without too many words. The bleak direction is evocative and you actually feel cold at times watching this film, so have a blanket or a sweater handy! But it's hard to take your eyes off the screen, and you'll find yourself really caring.

The 16-year-old actor who played the older brother died in a drowning accident shortly after the film was made, giving added poignancy to his very nuanced performance.

The Edge (1997)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Just a damn good solid adventure story., 13 August 2008

This film has it all. Great acting, stunning scenery, intrigue, tension, adventure, the odd twist, great action sequences, as well as beauty, and a beast! But above all, it is really just a great story. A good yarn, as my grandfather used to say. And you can't ask for more from a movie than that.

Anthony Hopkins is the paranoid rich guy with the beautiful young model wife (Elle MacPherson). Alec Baldwin is the laconic photographer who accompanies them to Alaska as part of a group doing a photo-shoot. Hopkins and Baldwin get lost in the wilderness with their friend (Harold Perrineau). The three soon become two (I won't spoil it by saying how) and the rest of the movie is about their battle to survive against all odds - and each other! I love "The Edge". Hopkins in particular turns in one of his great under-stated performances, and the film as a whole is as good a character study as you will find in modern Hollywood.

But as I say above, its best recommendation is that it is just a damn good story. A rollicking adventure that keeps you glued to the screen and really has you pinned to your seat at times. It won't win any awards for originality or artistry, but it doesn't make those kind of claims. It's just everything that the movies should be: a great film to just sit back and enjoy.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Extraordinary - a little 'off the beat', 2 June 2008

An ageing couple of academics are stuck in a stale marriage. Her old boyfriend comes to stay for a few days with his (much younger) girlfriend. Things are tense from the beginning. And then $50 goes missing.

This is an extraordinary film. I started watching it while working on my computer - so the movie was just on in the background - but gradually it pulled me in and I couldn't take my eyes off it.

The scenario it sets up could have gone in a number of different directions. At one point early on I had a horrible feeling it was going to be a standard sex flick about middle-aged adultery. Or, after the money goes missing, it might have moved too fast and forced us to watch a bunch of repressed characters suddenly turning to screaming and violence. But no - it's classier than that. What we get instead is a slow-burning exploration of character and relationships. And it isn't at all clear where it is going to go.

I won't over-praise it. The film drags at times, and as others have said its origins as a stage play are very obvious (there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, except that it does show a slightly limited imagination). The acting is good, rather than top-notch, and personally I always find Saul Rubineck is one of those actors who plays the same character every time.

So it is not perfect. But if you're in the mood for something a little 'off the beat,' it's worth watching. Just don't expect to get any work done while it's on!

Fine performances from a host of great character actors, 14 April 2008

This is the story of how the young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) lost her heart to a young Irishman Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), and how the social complexities of the times impacted on their lives. It is filled with fine performances from a host of great character actors like Julie Walters and James Cromwell (as Jane's parents), Ian Richardson (as Lefroy's Uncle) and Maggie Smith (as the local wealthy Duchess).

Two shining minor performances to look out for: Jessica Ashworth as the pouting teenage girl who develops a crush on Lefroy and - more briefly - Helen McRory as novelist Mrs Ashworth, who is visited by Jane on a trip to London.

This is not the most original film ever made, but it is well-done, and worth watching for the performances and period detail.

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