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This Christmas special doesn't come close to the original series, it made me wish they left it where it was back in 2010.
I don't think I laughed once.
I know this will get a ton of dislikes from aficionados who think that any criticism is tantamount to blasphemy but there it is.
This was really poor.
Never Apologize (2007)
I guess you had to be there, Malcolm...
Bearing in mind that Malcolm McDowell knew Lindsay Anderson for nearly 30 years, I was amazed when watching his one-man show that he couldn't come up with better anecdotes than the ones he shares here with a courteous but hardly riveted audience.
Lindsay Anderson was a respected but relatively obscure figure in cinema, he only directed seven feature films and none of them achieved sufficient commercial success to put him on the map. As Anderson's fame and recognition could never be the justifications for this project, you would imagine that there must have been a wealth of fascinating detail that got this the green light.
But there isn't any. This is just a dull affair performed in front of an American theatre audience who most probably came to see Alex from A Clockwork Orange and didn't mind the fact that they would be listening to reflections on someone they knew little about and whose work was barely acknowledged in the United States.
Unfortunately, there is little of interest, the stories aren't worth recounting, they're not funny and polite laughter is the most powerful reaction that comes from an audience whose lack of rapport with McDowell makes for awkward viewing.
Worst of all, McDowell leaves a very bad taste in the mouth with his decision to end the chapter about the late Rachel Roberts with a truly vulgar, demeaning story from the 1973 Cannes Film Festival that mocks the mental illness and despair that would eventually culminate in her suicide.
This is nothing more than a tedious scrapbook of unmemorable memories.
Islands in the Stream (1977)
One of the strangest lines in movie history
Anyone expecting George C Scott and Franklin J Schaffner's reunion for Islands in the Stream to be up to the standards of their previous collaboration, Patton, will be sorely disappointed.
An artist, Thomas Hudson (Scott), living in the Bahamas in 1940 is visited by his three sons (the oldest is from his first marriage and soon old enough to enlist in WWII) and, after a few awkward moments with the middle son who remembers that Dad wasn't always a nice guy, everyone has a wonderful time in the sun before the boys return home...
Later, Thomas' first wife arrives to tell him that their son has been killed in action. But she chooses to go about this is a very, VERY strange way.
First, Thomas and the former Mrs Hudson go for a nice walk on the beach without a care in the world. She tells him she's getting married to a General. They talk about their failed marriage in his home and then (feeling a chill on the back of his neck) Thomas senses the bad news that his ex-wife hasn't even begun to hint at.
And when he asks her if their son is dead, she says....
What the hell kind of an answer is that???
The former Mrs Hudson departs, Thomas decides to do something worthwhile and in a bizarre tacked on action climax, he and his drunken companion, Eddy (played by a post-dental work David Hemmings) are shot and killed.
Knowing that he will soon shuffle off this mortal coil, Thomas has peculiar, cheesy visions of the former Mrs Hudson embracing his two younger sons (yes, the ones he had with someone else!) as he joins them to walk off into the very overexposed horizon.
The very mediocre end to a mediocre film.
Incidentally, the Queen Mother (God bless her) was not in her 80's. She would have turned 73 in 1940.
You would think that someone associated with the film would have checked that or is there some point being made here that I missed?
Boring, pointless and SICK!!
It's difficult to know where to begin. There are so many things wrong with this film.
It takes forever for the story (if you can call it that) to get going and the first half of the film mostly consists of set-pieces that Tarantino wanted to include so desperately that he apparently didn't care that they were unrelated. They resemble a scrapbook of scenes that Tarantino never tried to connect into a coherent story.
Like all of Tarantino's recent films, it is far too long with drawn out or superfluous scenes and the characters of Bruce Lee, George Spahn, Randy (Kurt Russell), his wife, Janet and Marvin Schwarz were just unnecessary, irrelevant and added nothing to the film. In all, an hour could easily be cut from the film.
These issues on their own are enough to seriously weaken any film but the biggest problem I had by far was with the ending where Tarantino changes history (again) and shamefully twists one of the most horrific and infamous mass murders of the last century into a climax of over-the-top slapstick gore that is played for laughs.
I was appalled that such a tragic event could be trivialised and treated in such a disgusting way and it beggars belief that Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie agreed to be in this film after reading the script.
Shame on them for doing so.
Fellini's Circus (2011)
Interesting analysis of an awful film
I Clowns is yet another film that left me scratching my head at why Federico Fellini is considered one of the greatest directors of all time.
After watching 90 minutes of more Felliniesque drivel (to go along with Cabiria, Juliet of the Spirits, Roma, Casanova, And The Ships Sails On and The Voice of The Moon) I was in no mood for the accompanying DVD item, Fellini's Circus.
However, I decided to plough on, and thankfully there were already more points of interest in the first couple of minutes than in the whole of Fellini's film.
It is obvious from watching his films that Fellini had a love bordering on obsession with the circus, it's a recurring stylistic theme, but he never comes close to explaining the appeal the circus had for him in I Clowns - so it's difficult to view his film as anything other than a failure.
I suppose the greatest indictment of I Clowns, and of Fellini as a film-maker, is that I found this modest, hastily assembled companion piece to be far more interesting and informative about the circus.
So, and not for the first time in a Fellini DVD, the extras completely eclipse the main feature.
It's so difficult to care...
Written by Paddy Considine
Directed by Paddy Considine
Starring Paddy Considine...
This film has 'vanity project' written all over it and from the very start I found it unconvincing and impossible to get into.
Considine doesn't even look like an amateur boxer making his debut, let alone a World Champion and is at least ten years too old for the part. Instead he should have cast a younger, fitter actor in the role, but I guess his ego got in the way.
If you get can get past the implausibility of a 43-year-old Considine playing a world class boxer it's quickly followed by the equally unlikely concept of a wealthy brain-damaged fighter receiving no professional care at all and a wife who leaves her increasingly violent husband alone with their baby.
I think this would have worked a little better if the central character was an aging F1 driver who crashes and suffers life-changing injuries, but this is contrived, dull and uninvolving throughout.
I doubt many IMDb users will find this review helpful (because a lot of people seem to think this film's amazing) but I found it impossible to care about the story or the characters.
Verso la luna con Fellini (1990)
So much better than the film itself.
I've never really understood the praise that Federico Fellini received throughout his career and continues to get 25 years after his death. For me, many of his films are mediocre, a few are very bad, some are good but none are masterpieces. He had his own distinct cinematic style but it can be argued that is a weakness in a film-maker rather than a strength.
But it's always interesting to see an established director at work and this documentary on the making of Fellini's final film, The Voice of The Moon (one of the very bad ones, sorry) is so much better than the movie itself. Unlike The Voice of The Moon, this documentary had a structure, a direction and I understood what was going on.
Maybe Fellini should have called it a day after Ginger and Fred which, although by no means a classic, would have been a far more fitting and poignant swansong to his career.
20 Years A Slave
I thought this film really shone a spotlight on the sad consequences of a career decision made by Leon Vitali and was one of the most severe indictments on Stanley Kubrick as a person.
A few years after appearing as Lord Bullingdon in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Vitali abandoned what we are led to believe was a promising acting career to work full-time (and then some) for Kubrick himself.
Whether Vitali did have a promising acting career ahead of him is not really the point, my own feeling is that if his performance in Barry Lyndon is anything to go by then an illustrious career in front of the camera was by no means guaranteed.
The real story here is the level of devotion that Vitali gave to his new career and the price he paid for it; neglecting his family and the detrimental effect the extreme workload had on his health. Vitali looks like a walking corpse and has done for many years.
This problem could have been easily solved if the very wealthy Kubrick had dug a little deeper into his pocket and employed another two or three assistants to share the workload but apparently this never happened. And the fact that Vitali has had to rely on financial support from his children clearly indicates that not only did Kubrick pay him a low salary he also left Vitali very little, if anything, in his will. Kubrick comes across as a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge.
At least Dolores Claiborne was eventually rewarded for going above and beyond the call of duty, Vitali just seems to have been exploited and taken for granted by Kubrick for 20 years.
Kubrick must have had some special kind of charisma to treat Vitali this way and still have him coming back for more. Or maybe Vitali is just downright stupid.
Viewers will decide for themselves.
Disappointing minor work
A dull minor work by Satyajit Ray about a weak, rather pathetic man who is unexpectedly re-united with a former lover, now married. He wants her to leave her husband but, somehow, he cannot see that she is obviously not interested.
This could be never be a great film, even with Ray directing, the story is just too weak and it is not helped by an unconvincing lead performance from the usually reliable Soumitra Chatterjee and dialogue that needlessly switches between Bengali and English, sometimes even in mid-sentence.
Do people ACTUALLY talk like this?
Maybe it's something pseudo-intellectuals do to show off but within five minutes it had already become distracting and very irritating.
This one is for Satyajit Ray completists only.
The closest Ken Russell ever came to apologising
Just read between the lines of his audio commentary to this calamity of a film.
To be honest there aren't that many lines in the first place as Russell seems lost delivering an audio commentary on his own and without Mark Kermode to prompt him and keep him on track. There are long gaps in the commentary that are occasionally broken by dull observations from the director.
This is not a DVD review but Russell's commentary does reveal a great deal about the huge flaws in this film and the director who seemed so obsessed with shocking his audience probably comes as close as he ever did to apologising for taking things too far even by his own extreme standards.
Some of his comments can be easily re-interpreted:
Russell: 'Raising money on classical subjects is not the easiest profession so I'm taking a holiday from that.'
Actual meaning: 'No one will allow me to make another feature film on the life of a composer after the monumental disaster of Lisztomania.'
Russell: 'To really appreciate the film you'd have to know quite a bit about the reality behind Liszt.'
Actual meaning: 'If you knew nothing about Liszt before seeing the film then you'll be none the wiser afterwards.'
Russell: 'Maybe it wasn't as successful as I'd have hoped it would be.'
Actual meaning: 'It was a catastrophe that ruined my career.'
Russell: 'In drawing the facts together I've probably annoyed the Wagner family more than I might have.'
Actual meaning: 'I deeply offended and insulted the Wagner family for showing the following:
1) Wagner as a vampire who sucked blood from Liszt's neck
2) Wagner as a mad Frankenstein-like scientist who used his music to create a monster in his laboratory that would turn Germany into a great country
3) Hitler as another monster that was created out of Wagner's body.
Russell: 'I raised the odd eyebrow as I saw it.'
Actual meaning: 'This film is totally over the top and I'm embarrassed by it.'
Russell even stops his commentary nearly 6 minutes before the end of the film as though he couldn't bear it any longer and wanted to get out of the studio as quickly as possible.
I don't blame him.
I saw Lisztomania out of curiosity as it had been denounced as the most extreme of Russell's films so I shouldn't have been too surprised by what I saw but there really is nothing to recommend this film apart from Paul Nicholas who is actually quite good as Wagner.
The film critic Alexander Walker likened Russell's The Devils (which incidentally is a much better film and nowhere near as over the top when you consider the subject matter) to the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood. Lisztomania seems like the masturbatory fantasies of the director himself.
There's really no pleasure to be had in watching someone as talented as Russell undoubtedly was taking his career and flushing it down the toilet.
Give it a miss.
Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)
Inconsequential and boring
How this project wasn't scrapped after the first reading of the screenplay is a mystery to me. There is nothing about it of interest or consequence that would justify making it into a film.
Laura Linney plays a cousin of President Roosevelt (Bill Murray) who doesn't let minor details like FDR already being married prevent her from having an affair with him nor does she seem to encounter the slightest feeling of guilt about her actions. All it takes is for the lecherous President to place her hand on his crotch and she falls in love...
BUT when she finds out that she isn't the only woman having an affair with the President she acts like some heartbroken wife whose image of the man she loves has been shattered. How about that for selfish hypocrisy?
However this isn't the only problem with the film. All of the characters are either underwritten, unsympathetic or just downright boring.
Samuel West and Olivia Colman play King George VI and Queen Elizabeth as irritating buffoonish twits who argue about hot dogs. Inevitable comparisons between their roles and those of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter in The King's Speech will only serve to further highlight how poor this film really is.
This is awful from start to finish, I can't think of a single thing to recommend it and is definitely one to avoid.
The best Bond film?? (MAJOR spoilers)
First of all I want to make it clear, this is a good film but I was disappointed having expected much more after the rave reviews from many of the critics. In my review, I'm going to focus on these weaknesses and let others concentrate on the strengths the film undoubtedly has.
This definitely is not the best Bond film, I don't think its Daniel Craig's best Bond film either, I preferred Casino Royale. The problem is Skyfall tries too hard to be clever and includes too many elements in an attempt to please all the Bond fans.
It tries to include the classic one-liners, references to earlier films in the franchise, details of Bond's background whilst re-introducing the key characters that have been missing from the two previous installments and, on top of all this, setting the stage for the future of the series. The film suffers from trying to do all of these things perhaps as a 50th anniversary tribute to itself when it would have been better to have spread these elements over at least two films.
I've always felt the best Bond films had a comparatively straightforward and realistic storyline (this is why For Your Eyes Only is my favourite Roger Moore 007 film) and Skyfall avoids this by having a villain who is too far-fetched and cartoonish. Silva (Javier Bardem) is another version of The Joker from The Dark Knight. Ledger's character was a great success and the strongest part of what I felt was a mediocre film. It worked for me because I've never considered the Batman films to be taken seriously; it is part of a comic strip fictional parallel universe that allows these characters to exist without appearing out of place.
Silva just doesn't belong in the tough, realistic environment that the Bond films are now striving for. He is so reminiscent of The Joker both in his mannerisms and his actions (allowing himself to be caught and then escape as part of an elaborate plan) that he becomes a distraction. It is also completely implausible that a genius who can out-smart Q and the rest of MI6 would willingly follow M and Bond to a remote Scottish country home. Why would a villain who has clearly planned everything to finest detail then act so impulsively? The resulting climax, a Straw Dogs-like siege, is a disappointment.
I initially welcomed Judi Dench's departure from the series and then rolled my eyes in disappointment when her successor was revealed. I've never enjoyed her as M. She is undoubtedly an excellent actress and there is where the problem lies. Dench, rightly or wrongly, is a national treasure and it is inevitable that any act-OR chosen to play M will be making a more substantial contribution to the films. I've always felt that the character of M works best purely as a device for explaining the plot to an audience as Bond is sent off on his mission. Any further involvement whether it be additional screen time or the more personal angst and friction with Bond is both contrived and redundant. The best M was Bernard Lee, a gifted character actor who could be limited to a smaller, more effective role.
Now that Ralph Fiennes, another act-OR, is M, the opportunity to address this error has probably been missed. Audiences will be expecting him to be flexing his acting muscles as much as Dench did.
On a positive note, I had my doubts about the inclusion of a younger Q when it was announced but I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Whishaw's performance and I can see this continuing to work well in future films.
As for the new Moneypenny, I've always regarded her to be a secretary, an administrator, she is NOT a former field agent deployed to kill the enemy.
In the previous films Bond was always out of reach for Moneypenny, she knew it and so did the entire audience. How can the playful flirtatiousness work in future now that we know she's slept with him?
Thank God for Ken Loach
And thank God that his segment was last because it rescued what until then had been a dull, pointless film.
If his piece had been set at the start of the train journey, the other two sections would have seemed even more disappointing and excruciating.
I've always admired the way Loach has continued to use cinema as a means of social commentary. I don't always agree with his message particularly when it is surprisingly naive and unfounded (Bread and Roses being a prime example) but his films are always worth seeing.
Thankfully, his piece about a trio of Celtic fans travelling to Rome is the standout in this film in the same way as his contribution had been to 11'09''01 - September 11.
What had gone before it was pretty dire. First of all, there had been the story of a Roy Scheider lookalike Professor and a PR lady who inexplicably has the hots for him.
As he is about to board the train, he says to her that they have never met before even though she was with him earlier and booked the tickets! Maybe there was something going on there that I missed...
The next section involved an incredibly annoying old battle-axe, a General's widow, a man on community service who accompanies her and a whole series of boring, pointless discussions and encounters. One such encounter was between the man and a 14 year old girl he had known several years earlier that made me worry a little about where it was going.
In fact, it didn't lead anywhere at all; it was as tedious and unnecessary as the rest of that story.
Loach's work isn't one of his best but it was good enough to improve something that was pretty dreadful and leave us with a mediocre film that ended on a high note.
I would recommend skipping the first two stories altogether and just watch Loach's instead. Everything that went before it is really not worth the bother.
Long Weekend (1978)
The Long 92 Minutes - Thanks, Quentin...
I saw this film on the strength of how Tarantino raved about it as some kind of unknown classic on the Not Quite Hollywood documentary.
The 92 minutes it took to watch Long Weekend seemed like 3 weeks.
The film is well made but as it is such a thin, boring story with poor dialogue, bad acting and two main characters who are so unlikable that it was impossible to care about them, this was destined to be a real drag.
I usually write longer reviews than this but I'm not prepared to give up any more time on this film.
Universal Soldier (1971)
George Lazenby said that after doing the excellent On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he doubted that the James Bond era could continue much longer with the arrival of new films such as Easy Rider.
This could well be among the worst predictions made in movie history but its an interesting one that goes some way to explaining the thinking behind Lazenby's next project, Universal Soldier.
This film has the influence of Easy Rider written all over it and in trying too hard to copy the style of what was a cinematic one-off, Universal Soldier is prevented from developing into a coherent story.
Very little happens in this film and too little is clearly explained. From what I can put together only a couple of hours after seeing the film, Ryker (Lazenby) is a mercenary soldier in some kind of deal with an African group, represented by Mbote played by none other than Rudolph Walker, better known in the UK as Patrick Trueman in Eastenders. At night Ryker is haunted by the images of violence he has seen in his career.
The accidental shooting of a dog and its subsequent merciful (or is it bloodthirsty?) slaying during a bit of fun target practice seems to trigger Ryker's conscience as he loses interest in the African deal. He rents a basement flat, goes to parties, attends a political meeting, starts dating a schoolgirl(!) whilst his group members wonder what has happened to him.
Once he is found, it is too late. He has decided upon another way of life...
I'm actually making this sound better than it is. For the most part Universal Soldier is incoherent with jarring and misplaced musical interludes (the Easy Rider influence) and it is very difficult to tell what, if anything, is going on.
Despite this, it remains watchable throughout mainly for two reasons; its curiosity value in seeing how Lazenby followed up being 007 and the sheer strangeness of the whole film.
Anyone with an interest in either of these points would be recommended to try and track down this film although it isn't easy to get hold of.
Fans of Open All Hours may also want to watch this as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel makes an appearance and I'm sure its Mr Bronson from Grange Hill working in the airport in the first scene.
Alfie Darling (1975)
Curiouser and curiouser
I bought this film for its curiosity value as a belated, little known sequel to the 60's classic that established Michael Caine as an international star.
As the film progressed, I found myself becoming curious about a number of other things:
If the film is close at all to the source material, then why did the author, Bill Naughton, have Alfie revert to his old tricks when he had obviously learnt a painful lesson and finally grown up at the end of the first story?
Was the character/personality of Alfie totally transformed in the new story by Naughton or by the bizarre casting of a third rate actor who should have stuck with being a second rate musician?
Why did those responsible for this decision choose a Geordie who can't act to take on a role that remains synonymous with probably the world's most famous Cockney? A Geordie who, in fact, was unproven having never before played a significant role on screen and had none of the charm or charisma that is an essential ingredient of the central character's appeal.
If Alfie is such a master of seduction, why does he constantly make childish sexual comments like a schoolboy trying to convince his friends that he's lost his virginity?
Why was the bizarre mating ritual car chase included when it seems so artificial and contrived? I'll attempt to answer this one. Maybe there was a preview screening and the unanimous feedback was 'Good film, well done! Stick in a car chase and you may have an Oscar contender on your hands...'
What was the thinking behind the unnecessary 'tragic' ending? Was it an attempt to match the gravitas of the first film or to establish Alfie as a man who behind the shallow exterior has feelings like the rest of us?
Does the quality of the film justify the time it would take to consider these points?
Does it justify the few minutes I have spent writing about it?
Probably not, unless it persuades those that read this review not to make the same mistake I did i.e. allow their curiosity to get the better of them and end up buying a film they will watch once and never want to see again.
P.S. The kind of people (like scarecrow-14) who dismiss as 'idiotic' any comment they disagree with say far more about themselves than they will ever do about the people they are trying to criticise.
The argument for Alan Price NOT being a second rate musician is that he is right up there with Matthew Fisher of Procol Harum.
In their 43 year career, how many number 1's did Procol Harum have in the UK singles' charts?
The answer is...
The same as the number of times I will watch Alfie Darling.
Till glädje (1950)
Unconvincing, sentimental Bergman melodrama
This is not one of Bergman's better films, perhaps understandably so as he was still in the earliest stages of his career. The main problem is with the script and characters which focus on the relationship between a frustratingly subservient woman (Maj-Britt Nilsson) and her selfish scumbag (for want of a better word) husband (Stig Olin).
Judging by this film and Summer Interlude which was made the following year, Bergman appears to have chosen Nilsson to play beautiful young women who deserve much better but instead fall for annoying young men; especially so in the character of Stig in this film, played fairly unconvincingly by Olin. Nilsson, on the other hand, is very good.
Olin's character spends the first part of the film whining and complaining, making the viewer wonder what on earth Marta (Nilsson) sees in him. He then spends the rest of the film mostly ill-treating and disregarding her which then leaves us asking why she puts up with it all.
Stig is a thoroughly selfish unpleasant character who happily lies down and accepts his wife's offer to make tea and a sandwich as she goes into labour, attends an orchestra rehearsal instead of being with her as she gives birth, is unfaithful to her and then beats her when she finally confronts him about it.
This outdated depiction of marriage is finally complete as Marta honestly blames herself for provoking her husband into repeatedly striking her.
Perhaps this was convincing stuff 60 years ago but the portrayal of a young woman who is prepared to give so much yet accept so little in return just doesn't ring true today.
Their subsequent reconciliation towards the end of the film seems artificial and tacked on purely as a means of building up to an emotional (but as it turned out, overly sentimental) climax.
I found it impossible to feel any sympathy for the husband at the end of the film so Bergman's attempts to move his audience just didn't work for me. One feeling I did get as the film ended was a reminder of the very similar way Beethoven's 9th Symphony was used at the end of A Clockwork Orange. This could have even been a direct reference by Kubrick.
The similarity was so strong that I was half expecting Stig's son to turn to us and say 'I was cured, alright' as the camera moved in on him in the final shot.
Broadcast News (1987)
If only Holly Hunter hadn't been in this film...
Compared to the viciousness of 'Network' which not only attacked television but also, quite justifiably, people in general, 'Broadcast News' is merely a mild satire on the standards of news coverage and our attitude and even disinterest toward current affairs. It can also be seen as a Rocky-like inspiration for those of us who feel that we are in a job that demands abilities that we can not provide as we may be able to thrive on our good looks and personality, if we have them.
The film is about a handsome, likable news reporter, Tom Grunick (William Hurt) who unexpectedly enters the serious world of network news after humble beginnings covering sport for local television. Grunick has little talent but, nevertheless, gets to the top extremely quickly.
It would seem that I have spoiled the film but as the movie spoils itself in its opening scenes, I don't think that makes an awful lot of difference. This is one of several flaws in an otherwise enjoyable film.
The three central characters in the film of Grunick, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) and Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) are introduced at the start as children and already their personal traits are firmly established. The fatal mistake is that the opening tells the audience the destiny of each character. It does this in an attempt to make a witticism about talent counting for little and style triumphing over substance. However, this is unnecessary as this point is made continually throughout the whole film and it therefore detracts from much of the drama and supposed uncertainty about each of their careers particularly in the latter half of the story.
The other flaws have one thing in common, Holly Hunter.
She completely ruined this film for me.
When she makes her first appearance, speed-walking into work, I knew her role would irritate, I just had no idea how much. It could be said that this is down to an irritating character being performed very well.
Her mannerisms really are irritating, her acting is irritating and, most of all, her voice is like listening to someone running their fingernails down a blackboard.
Although you hear her voice in 'The Piano' it is somehow fitting that for that particular film, she scooped the best actress awards at the Oscars, the BAFTAs and the Cannes Film Festival playing a mute.
There are two very poor scenes, one with Grunick and Craig in a hotel room on the night they first meet that has no narrative flow. Incidentally, it is impossible to believe that the shallow Tom Grunick's feelings for her could ever extend beyond respect for being good at her job.
The other scene takes place on Grunick's first day when we are given an example of what he has let himself in for (even though we KNOW he's going straight to the top). The team is frantically trying to complete a piece in time for the evening news and we are treated to Joan Cusack screaming with anxiety, sounding as if she is going into labour and Hunter being as irritating as ever.
The audience is also subjected to some pretty feeble attempts at manipulation. How on earth can Tom Grunick be handed the position of emergency anchorman when we have examples of how clever Aaron Altman is where he not only sings in fluent French but he can also sing whilst reading 'The Fall of Mussolini'? However, these are ONLY a few poor moments in a good film that would have been much better if the aforementioned scenes had been changed and if an actress such as Frances McDormand had played Hunter's role.
The film also fails to make us believe that Holly Hunter is attractive. When her character sees Altman, just as she is ready to go to a correspondent's dinner, Altman says 'you look like this porcelain thing, you look beautiful'. In actual fact, she looks like a six year old girl who, when alone in the house, has raided her parents' wardrobe and dressed up like 'mommy'.
There is one possibility, though. Maybe we were being invited to laugh at how ridiculous she looked and director James L Brooks was being far more subtle and cunning in his criticism of Holly Hunter than I am. If this is the case, then this film is one of the shining beacons of the 80's and I take back everything I have said. Leaving Holly Hunter to one side (which is probably the best place for her), the terrific William Hurt merely has to look good in order to succeed, just like the character he is playing. 'Broadcast News' was made during the most successful stage of his career ('Children of a Lesser God', 'The Accidental Tourist' and the wonderful 'Kiss of the Spiderwoman') and this is by far his least demanding role of that period.
So the acting plaudits for this film must go to Albert Brooks as the wise-cracking, talented but doomed Aaron Altman. Although his is the supporting role of the three, he has the most difficult part. He is excellent, maybe not Oscar-worthy, but certainly more deserving than Sean Connery who won the award for playing an Irishman with a Scottish accent.
Final tip for maximum enjoyment of this film: you should buy a copy of the screenplay before seeing the movie and press mute every time Ms Hunter opens her mouth
This film deserves to be better known
Its such a shame that an important film like this is virtually unknown.
I don't think Alan Bates has done a better film than this.
Its never shown on television. The only time I can recall it being shown on British TV was in the summer of 1998. I have it on tape but sadly the quality isn't great due to a dodgy aerial at the time...
I remember wanting to see this film for some time before it appeared on TV. It was shown on Channel 4 in the early hours of the morning, thereby ensuring that it still remained unseen except for a very small audience.
I was living in Bristol at the time and it was ironic that, when I finally saw the film, I realised that I had walked past the VERY house where it was filmed several times before!! The film treads a fine line; a married couple attempting to make light of their tragic predicament of coping with their severely mentally handicapped daughter by laughing about it and even involving the child in their jokes.
The direction and the acting are so superb that the film is always compassionate and moving and is never in danger of lapsing into bad taste.
A couple of years ago I saw a clip of the filmed theatre production with Eddie Izzard in the role of Bri and Victoria Hamilton playing Sheila.
It showed Izzard improvising and larking about and Hamilton jokingly telling the audience to ignore him when he's being like this.
I maybe taking this out of context as I only saw a brief clip but having read the play and seen the film this is clearly such a delicate subject that such an approach is both insensitive and disrespectful.
Izzard was praised for his performance but I felt uncomfortable with what I saw.
It is perhaps surprising that such a successful play failed to find an audience when it was finally filmed.
This is one of the best British films of the 70s and hopefully it will be released on DVD one day.
An interesting and unusual film.
Unlike other reviewers I haven't read the book and can't comment on its success as an adaptation.
The story is very, VERY basic. A mysterious young man, Bartleby (John McEnery) applies successfully for the position of audit clerk at a small accountancy firm in London.
At first he works well but doesn't socialise at all with any of his colleagues. Things start to slip when the Accountant (the fabulous Paul Scofield) asks him to do a task and Bartleby replies 'I would prefer not to.' This becomes Bartleby's response to every request from now on and the Accountant becomes increasingly exasperated with his new employee. Instead of dismissing him, the well-meaning accountant shares Bartleby's work amongst his colleagues and hopes to get to the bottom of the problem.
In allowing him to stay, the Accountant sees Bartleby's behaviour become more bizarre as he takes up residence in the office.
Even after dismissing Bartleby, the Accountant is unable to get rid of him and he re-locates the firm to a new office in the hope of getting away from this curious young man.
If The Accountant felt he would have heard the last of Bartleby by this stage, he is sadly mistaken.
A story like this could result in an extremely dull film but the inventive direction from Anthony Friedman (why hasn't he done any other films?) and Scofield's superb performance prevent this from happening.
Scofield is one of the more enigmatic figures in cinema history. Primarily a stage actor, and a highly distinguished one, he has made relatively few feature films, less than 20 in fact.
However his limited filmography has not stopped him from winning an impressive array of screen awards including the Best Actor Oscar and three BAFTA's.
It is very typical of Scofield that, having already won the Oscar, he turned down the Robert Mitchum role in Ryan's Daughter (a part he was better suited for than Mitchum) and opted to do a tiny little film like Bartleby.
Although McEnery is very good in the film, he has fairly little to do and it is Scofield who carries the picture. His portrayal of a kindly yet increasingly bemused employer is excellent and the delivery of his lines e.g.
'You're living here; you're ACTUALLY living in my office!' is superb and adds the humour needed to make this film succeed.
I can't imagine this film getting any kind of publicity when it was first shown, no premiere at Leicester Square and subsequent nationwide release. In many ways it resembles the American Film Theatre productions of the 1970's but with a little more cinematic flair.
Its difficult to see how this film could be expected to turn a profit and although there have been 3 subsequent film adaptations of Melville's story, I doubt very much that movies of this style and small ambition would be given the go-ahead nowadays.
But I'm glad that Bartleby was made and that it is now available on DVD (but not yet in the UK), it's an amusing little curio that deserves to be better known.
Worth the wait? Not really
I waited 17 years to see this film, having first heard about Hu-Man on Mark Cousins' BBC TV programme Scene By Scene in 1998 when he interviewed Terence Stamp.
Cousins, although occasionally irritating, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema yet even he admitted that he had never seen Hu- Man and didn't even know anyone who had.
From that point it became number two on the list of films I most wanted to see behind Hitchcock's The Mountain Eagle and the original version of this review written 10 years ago was a request for help in getting hold of the film.
At one stage Hu-Man was even rumoured to be a lost film before a 25 minute version was shown at the British Film Institute in 2013.
Then an 86 minute version suddenly became available in 2015, I got a couple of responses to my original request and my long wait was finally over.
Having now seen the film it isn't really surprising that it proved to be a disappointment.
A film with Terence Stamp and Jeanne Moreau that hardly anyone has seen... There has to be a reason.
The story really doesn't help.
Stamp plays an actor called... Terence Stamp who is still coming to terms with the death of his wife three years earlier and is approached by his former lover Sylvana (Moreau) about the possibility of appearing on a live TV show. The object of the show is to convert the audience's emotional responses into energy that can be stored in a time dome and later used to propel Stamp into the future.
No attempt is ever made to explain how this is done which is perhaps a good thing.
But then again there is very little attempt to explain anything that is going on such as Stamp's sudden transportation to a glacier or why a trip into the future would also include a complete of change of location to the edge of a very active volcano.
There are however some memorable scenes such as Stamp being trapped on the bay of Mont St Michel during a live TV broadcast as a tide approaches from all angles – the attempt to harness audience emotions – and the unexplained shot of our hero gliding through the air during the glacier sequence is as impressive as it was undoubtedly precarious for old Terence.
But the film, clearly influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, suffers from having very little plot or dialogue and often appears as sparse as the landscapes to which Stamp is transported.
It isn't very good but I'm glad I finally saw it.
MICHAEL ANTONIONI and his nephew ANGELO??? Oh please......
I don't have an awful lot to say about this sorry romantic drama.
A hugely uninteresting story about a transatlantic romance between two very dull characters.
Edie is a hard-up yank who has been in a relationship with a complete loser. Michael Antonioni (yes, MICHAEL ANTONIONI) is a hard-working, hard-living obscenely well-paid Brit with a heart of gold under the tough exterior.
I don't want to be too hard on this fella cos he really is a nice chap (no really, he is) but for a guy in a dynamic, highly paid job where image counts for so much it was something of a mystery why he always wore the same suit that was at least one size too small for him....
To be honest, from what I saw (because I gave up after episode 4) Rashida Jones was OK as Edie but Stephen Moyer was uncharismatic and simply dreadful as MICHAEL ANTONIONI.
Some people may admire split-screen drama but ever since watching The Andromeda Strain and The Boston Strangler ages ago, I have always felt that the use of the split-screen is simply a flashy tool with the sole purpose of glossing over a director's inability to edit scenes into a coherent story.
Ny-Lon used the split screen a great deal and I found this incredibly annoying.
The romance between the two lead characters fails to convince purely because there is no chemistry at all between the actors leaving viewers totally disinterested in the supposed drama of their love life.
Worst of all was the embarrassing reference to Italian art-house cinema in the characters names of MICHAEL ANTONIONI and his nephew ANGELO.
I was almost expecting Michael's chums Frederick Fellini, Bernard Bertolucci, Luke Visconti and Peter Pasolini to be introduced at some point.
Thankfully this did not happen, at least not in the first four episodes...
The War Zone (1999)
Incest is rife in this movie (SPOILERS)
I can't help but feel that the praise given to this film has more to do with its willingness to confront a 'difficult subject' than its actual quality.
The War Zone is a reasonably well made film with good performances, particularly from Freddie Cunliffe as the withdrawn, anguished teenage son, Tom.
However, the film suffers from severely under-developed characters and an almost obsessive desire to shock and titillate. Instead of confronting a difficult subject like incest, Tim Roth and to a greater extent the writer, Alexander Stuart, seem intent on wallowing in it.
I was very uncomfortable with the tone of this movie, especially within the bizarre, unconvincing relationship between Tom and his elder sister, Jessie:
- Jessie content to be completely naked whilst talking to her hormonal younger brother
- Jessie getting a friend to seduce Tom
- Jessie burning her nipples with a lighter and then asking Tom to do it to her
Worst of all, the blatant suggestion that after confronting the horror of the sexual abuse that Jessie has suffered at the hands of her father, the two siblings seem content to engage in incest WITH EACH OTHER.
So what is this film saying? That incest is natural and possibly even beautiful only if its done within the same generation???
The War Zone is meant to be disturbing and it is but for all the wrong reasons.
Incest is indeed disgusting but I feel similarly uneasy with a screenwriter who seems to get off on the thought of this type of abuse.
A Rather English Marriage (1998)
A Uniquely English Classic
A modern television classic set in the Eighties, A Rather English Marriage tells the story of two recently widowed men; a brash World War Two squadron leader (Albert Finney) and a retired milkman (Tom Courtenay) who form an unlikely alliance as they come to terms with their bereavements.
The two men miss their wives for totally different reasons, Roy Southgate (Courtenay) is a loyal, devoted husband who spends hours with his wife when visiting her at hospital. Reggie Conyngham-Jervis (Finney) is a philanderer who relies on his wife mainly for her cooking and cleaning skills and sees his hospital visits as time that could be better spent in the pub.
When a social worker sees that each man could be the solution to the other's problems, these two characters (complete opposites plagued by personal problems they try to keep hidden) who were hospital waiting room acquaintances are now brought together full time.
This is the sort of charming, well-written television drama that nobody seems to want to make anymore, the two leads forming an even more effective partnership than they did in The Dresser fifteen years earlier where Finney stole the show.
Courtenay is superbly understated, Finney is more powerful and boisterous and probably the more versatile actor. Their contrasting styles complement each other perfectly.
Although this is mainly a double-act, Joanna Lumley also excels as the gold-digger who has her eye on Reggie's wallet.
However this drama belongs equally to Finney and Courtenay. The final scene with these two grand old men of film and theatre dancing to Glenn Miller's 'Moonlight Serenade' will surely prove to be one of the most lasting and endearing moments in British television.
Success and image; fantasy and reality (SPOILERS)
Antonioni's Blow-Up was the biggest hit of the Italian director's career, the superficial elements of the fashion world, Swinging London and orgies on purple paper ensuring its commercial success.
Models such as Veruschka (who appears in the film), Twiggy and fashion photographers at the time have complained about its unrealistic depiction of the industry and claimed that its central character, Thomas (played by the late David Hemmings) was clearly based on David Bailey.
To look at Blow-Up as an analysis of the fashion business in the Sixties is to misunderstand the film's intentions. In any case, when watching this film it may be difficult to tell what its all about if you're unfamiliar with Antonioni's films but it obviously has little to do with the fashion world which is merely the setting for the story and nothing more.
Antonioni made the clearest statement of his motivation as a filmmaker at the end of Beyond the Clouds when he talked about his belief that reality is unattainable as it is submerged by layers of images which are only versions of reality.
This is a rather pretentious way of saying that everyone perceives reality in their own way and ultimately see only what they want to see.
With this philosophy in mind, Blow-Up is probably Antonioni's most personal film.
Thomas' hollow, self-obsessed world is shattered when he discovers that he may have photographed a murder when casually taking pictures in a park. He encounters a mysterious woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave) who demands he hand over the film and when he refuses she appears at his studio, although Thomas never told her his address.
When the evidence disappears shortly afterwards, Blow-Up seems to deal in riddles that have no solution. Redgrave re-appears and then vanishes before the photographer's eyes, Thomas returns to the park without his camera and sees the body. The film concludes with Thomas, having discovered the body has disappeared, watching a group of mimes playing tennis without a ball or rackets in the park where the murder may have taken place.
It is only in the final scene of the film where the riddle is solved. Thomas throws the imaginary ball back into the court and watches the game resume. The look of realisation on his face is all too apparent as the game CAN BE HEARD taking place out of shot.
There is a ball, there are rackets and this is a real game of tennis. What we have seen up until this point is the photographer's perception of reality: the murder, the mysterious woman in the park, the photographic evidence and the body.
The following exchange between Hemmings and Redgrave is the key to the film:
Thomas: Don't let's spoil everything, we've only just met.
Jane: No, we haven't met. You've never seen me.