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Booked Out (2012)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful, 17 March 2012

I didn't know what to expect with this but was lucky enough to attend a special screening as part of the films tour across the UK in Newcastle.

The plot is easy to relate to, following quirky young lady Ailidh and the world within her apartment block and imagination. It is her encounters with Jacob and Mrs Nichols which truly bring the film together and evoke life affirming thoughts; the importance of human kindness, tolerance, and also the risk of judging others before you know them fully. Her passion for writing, drawing, taking pictures and telling stories is particularly inspiring and emotional. It is like a coming of age, but with one who is already quite wise, and her neighbours feed off each-others zest and intuition to help their various problems.

The opening credits are delightful and innovative, an apt introduction to Ailidh's imagination, and the score is also excellent and engaging, fitting the character and plot development perfectly, I loved hearing Roisin Murphy when Jacob and Ailidh attend the fancy dress party! Ailidh and Jacob are outsiders, and I found them so relatable especially in this scene as they reminded me so much of me and my friends! The direction is spirited and admirable, with techniques such as keeping actors Claire and Mirren apart until they actually meet to great effect (reminiscent of Mike Leigh with Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Secrets & Lies).

Overall this is a delightful, ray of sunshine, although there are important bleak undertones dealt with, this does not detract from the films purpose. It is sad, funny, and refreshing. If you are a fan of An Education, or Mike Leigh's work you'll definitely find something to enjoy here. It is just a shame that it didn't receive widespread distribution (shame on top distributors who rejected it!) so more people could see it, as it could definitely be eligible for top film awards. Mirren Burke gives a confident, snappy, illuminating debut. Claire Garvey is subtly engaging and effective. Rollo Weeks continues development and transition from excellent performances in youth (such as in The Lost Prince) and is remarkable as the boy next door. Of course as usual Sylvia Sims is brilliant, giving great depth and humour to a character who many will and should relate to.

As an aside I'd like to mention after the show I met and chatted with director Bryan O'Neill and lead actress Mirren Burke. They are such lovely and genuine people, I was embarrassed at how much I clicked with Mirren and felt like she was asking me all the questions! We talked about film, acting, Mike Leigh, Lesley Manville, writing...I felt so lucky and star struck yet also felt like we'd been friends for ages! Here is a talented director with an eye for real human stories, and a very talented and kind young actress, and I hope they both, upon giving such an impressive debut, go onto great success on their next projects as they deserve it. See this if you can, the future is bright for them, and also congratulations to the more established crew. Booked Out is a treat for those who enjoy films about real people dealing with real issues and situations in a sensitive and funny way.

23 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Not so Great, 3 January 2012

I don't want to go into too much detail or else it will be thoroughly spoiled. I anticipated this adaptation for months, being a great Dickens fan, especially after the BBC's magnificent adaptation of Bleak House.

Similar problems always arise in these adaptations, both suffered from an absence of some key characters (although the latter had more episodes, and didn't suffer as a result) so here as a result the character development is not as it should have been.

I was impressed however by how much of the plot they fit into just 3 episodes over Christmas, and the pace was terrific. There were flaws in the script, where Bleak House took plenty of quotes from the novel, this didn't and therefore doesn't feel as fleshy or ultimately, Dickensian. Why change the best form?

I commend the cinematographers. One really felt the setting as it was written. Now onto the major successes and faults; casting.

Douglas Booth as the protagonist tried but came off as a bit too wooden. He also looked far too attractive (which of course is not an insult) but it didn't really work.

It is nice to see Claire Rushbrook again. Not seen her since Secrets & Lies. She was very convincing as Mrs Joe. Shaun Dooley was excellent as Joe Gargery, as were Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket, Jack Roth as Orlick, David Suchet as Jaggers and Ray Winstone definitely brought great life and humanity to the dreaded Magwitch.

My hat though must go off to Gillian Anderson, although many have thought her wrong for the part, let me explain why she was so good and right for the role.

Although Miss Havisham has been typically played as elderly, and her age is never specified really in the book, she was almost married as a teenager, and the time passing would place her in her forties, to early fifties. This makes Anderson, if anything, TOO YOUNG for the role, and the original "best" Martita Hunt, was only some years older. Of course she has been aged by her style of existence. Anderson did look more worn and ethereal as the series progressed. People also seemed to have a problem with her voice.

I see the childish voice as her being trapped in her 18 year old self, which presumably is the age she was jilted, so like the rest of the house, time stopped at that point, which is why she had a similar childish outburst when her relatives visited. I think Anderson's performance therefore is rather genius. One can really feel the angst, anger, regret she feels. I would have preferred a more dramatic apology to Pip in the end, but I suppose it was more subtle. Anderson again impresses in a Dickensian role, showing something completely different to her outstanding portrayal of Lady Dedlock.

It is her impressive work which for me gives this a 7 over 6. Oh and the intro sequence was quite beautiful. Slightly disappointing but overall an engaging adaptation, with a brave effort by Anderson which should really be recognised by BAFTA.

Dooley, Roth, Winstone and Lloyd should all create some buzz too.

18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Very well done!, 21 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes I understand this had a mixed bag of a reception. However, speaking as someone who hasn't read the book, I have an open mind towards this adaptation. I can say I was looking forward to it - having loved the BBC's amazing 'Bleak House'.

Overall I think the story is well executed and Dicken's literature is treated with respect - but some people have pointed out differences from the book - which is a shame - yet I feel as a whole they didn't damage this too much.

Performances overall are very strong. I loved Gregor Fisher from 'Rab. C Nesbitt' as Mr. Bumble, the lead role of Oliver was good too - his performance wasn't annoying surprisingly. Timothy Spall is ace as Fagin, I think the first to use an Eastern European accent (quite brilliantly) he has a warm presence, which makes him perfect to look after a group of orphans. Sophie Okonedo is simply brilliant as Nancy - a very subtle performance. Her demise for me - was quite upsetting. Edward Fox is brilliant as usual as Mr. Brownlow, and Julian Rhind-Tutt gives a startling performance as the dreaded 'Mr. Monks'. For me however out of them all, top marks have to go to Tom Hardy who brilliantly played the turbulent Bill Sykes. His presence is felt throughout - Hardy isn't over the top, and therefore his performance is all the more menacing. The cast in my opinion - is truly memorable - all are excellent.

Finally I will talk about the setting and score. The slums of London are captured brilliantly - with bleak and bustling streets - gloomy workhouses and upper class residents are particularly effective in creating a realistic Victorian era London. The music is a big thing which has either impressed or repulsed. It has even been described as 'schizophrenic' by some. You could say this in that it sometimes comes across as a random and unpredictable cacophany - yet this for me was only a first impression. After a while I began to appreciate how and when the music was used - so overall I can say I liked the score very much - particularly the brilliant opening credits sequence where the main characters are sort of slide-showed, and the music is used well in moments of dramatic tension and character anguish. Hopefully the rather different use and approach to the score in a period drama - will be more seen as innovative as opposed to disruptive or unnecessary.

My only bad point about this adaptation would really be the length. Indeed - it was timed for the BBC's build up to Christmas season - so we couldn't really expect more than a weeks coverage. With the first episode on Tuesday 18th December lasting an hour - the rest up until the finale on Saturday 22nd only lasted half an hour. This happened I think with the brilliant aforementioned 'Bleak House' but that mini-series had a lot more hour long episodes. I think this adaptation would have been that bit better if it had lasted perhaps two weeks. Then again - short and sweet might have been the best. I also think one of the top EastEnders writers penned this - and as much as I loved the script and pace of this great drama - I could still pick up a hint of the soap-ish quality - hence I gave it 9 instead of 10/10.

Be that as it may - I simply loved this adaptation. I can't wait buy it on DVD - and highly recommend it. I hope it gets aired in the US soon - I know they love our period dramas. Even if the script or content or music or whatever is a letdown to adamant fans of Dicken's novel - I highly recommend this for the performances alone. Don't miss it!

Dark Water (2005)
11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Different, interesting and well done, 8 October 2006

I have read many reviews and seen the reasonably low score for this film and was surprised after I watched the film with an open mind. The film is a bit slow to start but gets more interesting as the custody battle between the parents becomes more strong and confusing, and the audience have to grasp with Dahlia's rightful concern of her daughter or her delusional paranoia brought on by a troubled past and stubborn migraines which I think were very well portrayed, the sound effects and emotions on Connely's face were very well portrayed, I could really feel the pain she is going through. I also felt strongly for her because I didn't know whether to trust Mr. Veck the reluctant janitor played excellently by Pete Poselthwaite and the seemingly ignorant manger played by John C Reilly. Also the threat of the "punks" who also live in the apartment and suddenly confront Dahlia in the laundry basement which issued me with a completely different reason to fear for her safety, and as the plot thickens and she discovers more about this place and the apartment above hers, I found the film irresistibly paced and beautiful to watch. The film isn't as hard or confusing as I expected it to be and the ending is excellent, but very sad, I can say Dark Water is to be added to my list of films that I felt like crying at. The music which intertwines with the web of suspense throughout the film is masterfully utilised and is much more effective than music which could have been sudden and obvious to expose certain "jump out of your seat" moments which isn't what Dark Water is about. The performances all around are excellent, especially the luminous Connely and her lonely lawyer Platzer played by the great as always Tim Roth. The only thing I could complain about and in my opinion make the film better *possible spoiler following* is when Dahlia is asleep next to her daughter and she has the nightmare about going up to the apartment 10F upstairs and sees her mother/herself/Natascha's mother in the bathroom, although well done I think was slightly confusing, and on my region 2 DVD on the bonus features there is an alternate sequence for this called "Wall of Water" which was very impressive, showing Natascha summoning water to cascade down her wall like a waterfall into Dahlia's apartment, and to Dahlia's despair downstairs, her acting is serene in this scene and the use of CGI is superb, I only wish this scene was included in the final cut. A superb and surprising horror. Watch it with an open mind. 10/10. I have read the novel which is a collection of short stories and "Floating Water" from which this film is based is only about 50 pages long. I think it was excellently adapted.

23 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
A spectacular triumph., 13 August 2006

Big Cat Week/Diary like Big Bear Week is an excellent documentary drama focusing on big cats in Africa. The presenters Simon King, Jonathan Scott and Saba Douglas Hamilton all bring expertise and wit and the ability to interest the viewer effortlessly yet still implying the seriousness of the situations involving the various groups of cats every day survival including lions, cheetahs and leopards. I watched the first season and the second and eagerly await the next edition, although we have to wait almost a year for the next series to begin. So far I have watched the first 3 series and the 4th I expect will begin in mid 2007. As soon as you begin watching it it's as if a spell has been cast which hooks you on and never lets go until the end of the series. No matter how many tragedies or shocks occur in the Big Cat Diary World I never get bored as all the dialogue and action is executed in perfect and addictive flair. If you love animal programmes you will love this show, but even if you're not interested (I wasn't interested in bears but watched Big Bear Week [2006] and was fascinated) partly because Saba Douglas Hamilton was involved. As I was saying even if you're not interested give it a chance and see how you like this show with it's mix of interesting facts, action and drama, which in my opinion is the perfect cocktail for this unique documentary. I love this show not normally being interested in television documentaries, if you liked Big Cat Diary you should also check out Big Bear Week which you will probably enjoy as much or even more. Well done to whoever organised this fascinating series. 10/10 entertainment.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An excellent intelligent series., 13 August 2006

Rarely do I get hooked on television programmes like Big Bear Week. It's like a documentary but it also comes of as being dramatic too. It focuses on 3 teams lead by the expert presenters Jonathan Scott (Big Bear/Cat Week), the adorable Saba Douglas Hamilton (Big Bear/Cat Week) and the newcomer Jeff Turner. Each presenter tracks a certain species with Scott following a family of brown bears, Hamilton tracking polar bears and Turner following black bears I think all in different regions of a fabulous landscape. The show is very intelligent and informative, also the presenters help emphasise the drama of how these bears live, the dangers and struggles they must face every day to survive so they make you think about bears in a whole new perspective. The presenters also become emotionally attached to their subjects which also helps the viewer sympathise with the bears and keeps them interested from start to finish. All five episodes are full of fresh views and situations which keep the viewer hooked. Each episode ends with a teaser which invites the viewer to tune in next time to see what happens it's a bit like a soap/drama. It is also nice to see how the presenters relate to the bears, as Jeff Turner felt he was attached to his bear as it ate a lot of vegetation and he is a vegetarian. This is another point some people forget that bears are omnivores. Overall Big Bear Week is fresh, exciting and sometimes thrilling, and even if you're not interested in bears (I'm not) you will find it hard to resist tuning into after the first episode. I loved this show as much as the longer running "Big Cat Week/Diary" and was happy to see Jonathan Scott and Saba Douglas Hamilton incorporate their wit and expertise and ability to interest the viewer from that show just as well on Big Bear Week. Well done.