Reviews written by registered user
|13 reviews in total|
One point that puzzled me: what sort of drug test is it that has no placebo group? A proper clinical trial of a drug requires a double-blind test. The group is divided into two, by the testers. One group gets the drug. The other group gets a placebo. The individual subjects do not know whether they are getting the drug or the placebo. Yet this point was never mentioned. Was it cut out for the sake of dramatic simplicity? if so, it was at the cost of plausibility. There were plenty of other reasons why this was a dodgy test which were raised, of course: the psychiatrist's selecting patients with particularly pronounced symptoms of the mental illness, apparently to insure results that would impress a drug company and make him millions. Is university drug research really this bad and corrupt? How was it ever approved? The academic in overall charge was blithely unconcerned. Apart from that the acting was generally excellent, but severely tested by an involved and confusing plot. Suspicion moved from one suspect to another with bewildering rapidity: like Inspector Morse at his worst/best, but rather overdone.
A commercial experiment to find a new energy source, producing powerful magnetic waves, or vortices goes wrong. One of those pesky vortices gets loose and wreaks havoc. The predictable clichés - CEO more interested in the success of his company than a few thousand lives, scientist hero who solves the problem against fearful odds, cute son who is bad at school but,- guess what? - brilliant at hacking computers, a skill which comes in handy. And the whole cast ecstatic when Philadelphia is saved. The fact that Paris has been trashed seems to bother no one. The Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, hundreds of years of Western art, the Louvre, not to mention, presumably, thousands of French men and women? But hell, who cares about the French? Serves them right, I suppose, for not backing the war in Iraq. The monumental crassness and lack of any cultural values in this is staggering. Awful. In fairness I should add that the acting is generally good, particularly the lead male role played by Lou Diamond Phillips and his son, played by Stephen MacDonald.
One of the sickest films ever made. An unbelievable bloodbath, torture and mayhem are supposedly equated with "justice". But then this is a country that kills people with lethal injections and, quite frequently, innocent people represented by incompetent lawyers. So maybe no sicker than reality, USA style. Also, the ridiculous conceit, common in many violent US films that the "hero" is somehow unstoppable, invincible and possessed therefore of apparently supernatural powers. Is this supposed to be an indictment of a legal system? The alternative is maybe justice as understood by Al-Quaeda - decapitation, ripping bodies apart to "demonstrate" some supposed point about their own superior humanity.
This the BBC series documenting the Watergate affair. Yet again it is a pity BBC have not issued it on DVD as it is a fascinating record with contributions by several of those involved, despite the gaps mentioned by other reviewers - the odd omission of the role of Woodward and Bernstein in exposing the connection between the burglary of the national Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washinton and the White House. I recorded it on a DVD recorder and I count 5 episodes, although the VHS tape version seems to spread over 6. I don't know why this web site says the minimum number of lines for a review is 10, since there are ones that are shorter!
This is the Nixon Whitehouse with the expletives deleted, but somehow manages to be just as menacing and obscene, thanks to the acting of Jason Robarts and Robert Vaughn and other excellent actors. But Nicholas Pyor (Hank Ferris) as the weak, ambitious, amoral, eternally scared director of communications is a masterful piece of acting. He is alternately scared, full of hubris and fragile self-confidence, willing to do anything to please his bosses,then self-doubting. He deserved an Oscar. It is indeed a comic performance and a comedy of manners as another reviewer rightly pointed out. One blemish is that the women all seem hopelessly weak and fickle. Sally Whalen breaks her own rule about not getting involved with a married man and then lives to regret it. The girl with the strangely intense blue eyes (whose name I forget) falls hopelessly for the philandering Roger Castle and seems unable for far too long to see him for what he is. Again, Hank Ferris's inept attempts emulate Castle are wonderfully realized. The real Nixon was somewhat more complex than the TV drama manages to portray. For example, the scene where President Monkton goes out the talk to the Vietnam War protesters is portrayed as a scheme got up by the Pryor character as a cynical ploy, whereas in reality it was Nixon's own idea, it took place at night when he was unable to sleep and obviously, within his own rather severe limitations, sincere. Perhaps it was thought that to portray that would obscure the main theme of the drama. Truth often does. Not much to put against the tens of thousands of deaths in Vietnam and Cambodia, but he was not quite as one-sided as the fictional version. And at last the series is available on DVD, via Amazon.com.
I first saw this film many years at school when the headmaster, a most enlightened man, had a film collector show it to us one afternoon. It made a lasting impression. It is beautifully made and wittily written. Donat gives an excellent performance as our most brilliant prime minister who gave his life, in effect, in the service of his country. There are also some superb cameos, most notably Robert Moreley as Charles James Fox. It gives an intriguing, if overdrawn, view of 18th century manners and behaviour. The House of Commons scenes, with members imitating clucking chickens to vent their disapproval is memorable. So no change there, then. And look out for the little man at the end of the row in No 10 as Pitt leaves office for the first time. Pitt lived to hear of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, so it is not true, as one reviewer commented, that he died without knowing of Britain's victory over Napoleon. But why, with due respect, is it an American import? It is an essentially British film. Churchill raised the money to make it.
The plot cleverly has hero small time journalist Joe Frady slowly become convinced that there is a murderous conspiracy assassinating "some of the country's best people" - it is in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. Excellent photography, but some what too long for this reviewer, and Frady's ability to survive attempts on his life strains credulity to breaking point so that it becomes a comic. He survives drowning when a dam's water is released producing a violent torrent, having just foiled an attempt to shoot him at close range - he uses a fishing rod with unerring accuracy - a violent car chase - he is evidently an expert driver - a boat bomb and a bomb on an aircraft - on the ground we assume. His fight with a maverick deputy sheriff shows him to be a martial arts expert as well. He is clearly wasted in a local newspaper. But I suppose it makes his application to join the modern-day Murder Inc somewhat more plausible. Nevertheless, the paranoia is infectious in the context of the time.
I declare an interest. I am British, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, or tea, if you like. The history is more like propaganda for an idea of American history than an assessment of it. For example, General Colin Powell makes the pint that African-Americans fought in the Revolution, on the side of the colonists. True. But it is also true that more of them fought on the British side and for a very good reason. It was clear that the British were moving towards abolishing the slave trade and slavery itself, after the Sommersett case, whereas the colonists were clearly going to keep slavery. In fact the theme of the series is the "story of freedom", or rather the American project to achieve freedom for all, based on individual character, hard work etc. But why did it remain a "project" for so long, rather than the reality? The slaves worked hard, but they didn't get the reward. And the US was the last country but one in the West to abolish slavery, the last being Brazil. The film is no doubt well-intentioned and believes in its own theme. But history is always more complicated than simple narratives can convey. The truth is that the colonists were more concerned with breaking out of the 13 colonies to move West, taking the Indians land in the process. The colonists had been confined to the 13 colonies by the royal decree of George III which declared all other land to be native title. And the southern states fought to preserve slavery. And why contributions from actors such as Michael Douglas? because he played the president in a film? Why not have professional historians, even disagreeing with each other? And it curious that more he positive points are not made: that in the nineteenth century the US was the most democratic country in the world?
The film presents itself as a serious examination of Darwin and his theory while in fact it appears to be far from this and appears to have a creationist agenda lurking in the background. I say "lurking in the background" because all too often the film lacks the courage of the evident convictions of its producer and director. It points out a number of errors, or alleged errors, that Darwin made on the Beagle voyage, which is fair enough. No doubt Darwin did make errors. But it then uses them to cast doubt on such issues as the age of the earth, suggesting that it is perhaps only a few thousand years old, rather than millions, as all serious scientists accept. Sir Charles Lyell's argument that geology shows that the earth is millions of years old, has not been seriously doubted since, although it is true that he did not give sufficient prominence to examples of sudden catastrophic changes. But the film tries to argue that this casts doubt on the whole theory, which it does not. There is no shred of evidence that all continents and the fossils in them are to be explained by a sudden world-wide and simultaneous flood which submerged the entire globe. The film does not argue, in any case, that the Grand Canyon was created in a sudden cataclysm. The film however never poses the argument directly, presumably because it is unsustainable. The film also states as criticism some points which are false, e.g. that the sea shells which Darwin found high up on the Andes were not fossilized. They were fossilized, as Darwin himself observed and the samples were returned to England. The film makes some valid points about Galapagos finches, which later research seem to show are not always separate species, in the sense that their beaks change from one form to another, but back again in a number of generations. Speciation is a debate within natural selection, but if one was to take on the whole debate and cast doubt on whether species evolve at all, one would have deal with all the intermediate fossils that have been found since Darwin, e.g. archeopteryx and the many Chinese reptile/bird fossils (some of which, yes, were fakes, but most are not), and the many intermediate species between ape and man, let alone DNA evidence. But the film does not attempt this, being apparently content to cast a little doubt here and there, without drawing any firm conclusion.
Let us be clear about this. The burning of the church is a lie. It did not take place. The film, not the church, is the atrocity. Let us also get a few things straight about the American Revolution. It was fought on these issues 1. The colonists refused to contribute to the cost of their own defence (and no, that is not a spelling mistake) from the French, which had been paid for in British money and the lives of her young men. 2. It was fought so that the colonists could break out from the colonies in the East and invade Indian territory which the British Crown - George III - has designated as Native Title. Jefferson is well-documented as have his eyes set on the West. 3 In the south it was fought to maintain slavery. Most blacks fought on the British side and for good reason. They had heard of the Case of Sommersett v Stewart in which Lord Mansfield, chief justice of the King's Bench had granted habeas corpus to James Sommersett who was a slave in Virginia and had been taken to England. The Anti-Slave Trade Movement was also gaining ground in Great Britain. The film tells Americans what they want to hear. If you don't like the truth, don't make films about history.
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