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Nu, pogodi! (1969)
7/10
Pilot for legendary cartoon series
29 June 2013
This 2.5 minute segment within the first 10-minute episode of the anthology series Весёлая карусель (Merry-Go-Round), was the very first appearance of "Nu pogodi". It consisted of three consecutive but separate sub 1-minute sketches. Already it features the familiar childlike androgynous hare being fervently but unsuccessfully stalked by the hapless cigarette-smoking hooligan wolf reciting his familiar catchphrase.

This first pilot has the same writers and some of the same technical crew as the main series that would debut later that same year from the same SoyuzMultFilm studio. Absent however from this pilot are the main series' director V. Kotyonochkin, cinematographer Petrova, Art Director Rusakov, almost all the animators and the entire Art Department of the main series. And it shows. Although the writing has the same quality and wit and appeal, the characters look different and are drawn much more crudely. Indeed all the drawing is much cruder and lacking in detail compared with the main series, rather like the difference between the Simpsons in the Tracey Ullman show vs the 1989- series.

"Nu pogodi" would go on to make further brief and obscure appearances in other anthology programs outside the canonical 20 episodes. In the late 1970's the satirical series "Фитиль" ("Fitil" meaning Wick) would include four "Nu Pogodi" sketches, each 2-3 minutes long, mocking shoddy industrial work practices. These were made by the same studio and key creative people of the official series. These were as good as the official episodes, but shorter, more adult, wordier and with a narrator doing intrusive voiceovers at the end to explain the real life incident which inspired the sketch.

A 5-6 minute sketch (Televypusk 1) was created in 1980 for a New Year's Eve anthology holiday special showcasing the best in Russian animation, and again for New Year's Eve 1981, the latter being split into two consecutive stories (Televypusk 2-3). These were made during a 4 year hiatus in the official series. The premise of all these sketches was that the Wolf would enter the TV world and the hare would manipulate the TV set to influence what happened in the TV world. Though written by one of the writers (A. Kurlyandsky) and directed by an occasional animator (A. Butyrin) from the official series, these were made by a different studio (Ekran). And although Rumyanova voices the hare, Papanov didn't participate. As a result, although the quality is good and the drawing style is similar, the characterisation is slightly different from the canonical episodes and the themes more adult.
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4/10
Didn't laugh once
23 June 2013
This is basically a feature length Comic Strip Presents... episode, probably made in an unsuccessful attempt to capitalise on the success and popularity of the Young Ones at the time. Like many of the Comic strip Presents... episodes it was completely unfunny, driven by Richardson and Richens, whose humour had nothing in common with the crown jewels of the Comic Strip scene, the puerile but hilarious Mayall/Edmondson style represented by "The Young Ones" and "Bottom". Richardson and Richens merely rode on their coat tails.

Although the laughs are absent, the Comic Strip style was much more plot-based than Mayall & Edmondson's, so you do at least get a proper story. But who cares about a story in a purported comedy? In short, stay away and don't encourage them.
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The Trip (I) (2010)
3/10
The best movie I've seen all day
1 July 2011
As usual for a film described as a comedy/drama, "The Trip" is neither particularly funny nor particularly dramatic. In fact it fails quite severely on both counts. I can't fathom the critical acclaim it has garnered, but then again I couldn't understand why "The Hangover" was successful.

The "plot" as others have stated is that two comic actors go on a 1 week road tour of England's North to review the regional gastronomy for a newspaper. During their walks, drives, sightseeing, and especially meals through this bleak landscape, they banter and engage in competitive impersonations of famous actors. These impersonations provide much of the purported comedy. Their midlife crisis concerns about their relationships and careers (especially Coogan's) and their competitiveness provide the purported drama. This repeats each day. It is as dull and repetitive as it sounds.

There are only 2 belly laughs in the whole movie. One, a variant of an old Derek and Clive joke, is where a fan confronts Coogan armed with a rather unlikely newspaper headline. The other is where Coogan, having bored his companion with his relentless monologue on the local geology, is himself out-bored by an even more relentless geology pedant. But two laughs from minor characters can't carry a 107 minute movie. The endless celebrity impersonations are only occasionally and mildly amusing. I was yawning and looking at my watch throughout. I would have fallen asleep had it not been for one girl in the audience, determined to find this tedium amusing, loudly laughing like a kookaburra at every semi-joke. The rest of the audience were largely indifferent, but twittered a bit at the impersonations.
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Heston's Feasts (2009– )
7/10
Better watching than eating
25 September 2010
This is a cooking show with only the vaguest resemblance to the conventional concept of a cooking show. Instead of introducing you to exotic regional cuisines or pretending to teach you how to make certain dishes, Heston treats his panel of 6 C-list celebrity guests to a themed dinner of completely new radical dishes unlike anything they (or anyone else) have ever seen before, or will see again. A typical trick is to make familiar-looking dishes taste like something totally unlike what they appear to be, e.g sweet dessert made to look like bangers and mash, or meat-flavoured "cocktails". He also scours cookbooks from centuries ago to make meals inspired by extinct cuisines.

In theory it should be gastronomically irresistible. In practice, watching this TV program, I am reminded a little of "Man vs Wild" in the way that Bear Grylls keeps introducing us to assorted local "delicacies" then struggles to avoid barfing as he consumes these prized morsels. Heston Blumenthal does a similar thing as he presents his guests with dishes that are just too weird or too disgusting to be easily palatable. Pig nipple scratchings, anyone? Fermented fish gut sauce? Didn't think so. It makes great gross-out television, but I wouldn't eat his meals if he paid me. Like John Cage's "music", they are a triumph of inventiveness and technical virtuosity over aesthetics, customer pleasure, good taste and commonsense, memorable for all the wrong reasons. As Nigel Molesworth would sa: "Just give me a suck at a tin of condensed milk".
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8/10
Very very funny
26 July 2010
I last saw this film in my childhood, and remember finding it sidesplitting, especially the Chihuahua scene, the "coded" telegram, and the ridiculous accents. Some years later I chanced across the latter stages of this movie on TV while channel flipping, and was in stitches at the massage parlour scene.

Years I later I read Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook, in which Thompson slammed this film as an abject artistic and commercial failure, something that even the creators supposedly agreed with. Was my youthful imagination playing tricks on me? Then again, Thompson also slammed Cook and Moore's masterworks, the filthy and hysterical "Derek and Clive" albums, while praising Cook's pretentious, dated, unfunny but clean Beyond the Fringe work and some of the weaker Pete and Dud sketches. Could it be that Thompson is just another BBC tard who think the purpose of comedy is ideological indoctrination rather than the induction of laughter? The answer is yes, Thompson and the detractors of this film are simply tards. Having seen it again just now, "Hound of the Baskervilles" is even funnier than I remembered it. Those who claim to have seen no funny bits in it could not have been watching the same film as I was. They must have been watching The Chaser's War on Everything or a Friedberg & Seltzer abortion or some Will Ferrell "comedy". As "Guest House Paradiso" also proved, commercial and critical rejection is not necessarily proof that a comedy is unfunny.
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The Runaways (2010)
5/10
Compendium of clichés with great acting
23 July 2010
I don't think I have ever given 5/10 to a movie, as that is such a neutral, wishy-washy evaluation. If a movie is not good, it is usually bad or annoying to some degree. Yet 5/10 describes "The Runaways" perfectly. It is neither good nor bad.

On the good side, the acting is indeed good. I don't think I have ever seen an actor capture a living celebrity as perfectly as Kristen Stewart captures the young Joan Jett. In voice, appearance, personality and mannerisms, Stewart is indistinguishable from the real thing. It is an amazing performance. Likewise, Michael Shannon did almost as good a job as ultra-pretentious huckster Kim Fowley, although Shannon is more physically imposing than Fowley and looks more like Dee Dee Ramone than the actual Fowley. Shannon plays ultracamp but doesn't really look it. Dakota Fanning wasn't quite as good at playing Cherie Currie, the real Cherie being thinner and hotter and looking much older than Fanning. Fanning seems more innocent and diffident than Currie did on stage, but maybe that is closer to reality than Currie's stage persona. The set designers and costumers really put a lot of care into getting the 1970's fashions and furnishings right. Also much of the music is quite good. However only a minority is Runaways songs.

However acting alone cannot carry a movie. The script is just a compendium of rock clichés, the sort of fantasies a sheltered early teenager with a low threshold for rebelliousness would have about rock stars. Difficult startup playing house parties that get busted by the cops, lame rebelliousness, alcoholic or abusive parents, exploitative manipulative Maclarenesque manager haranguing his charges about rock & roll being all about sex and rebellion while misappropriating their revenues, lesbian experimentation, record deal with unhip record industry execs, screaming fans on overseas tours, rock magazine headlines, seedy hotels, male chauvinists saying a woman's place is in the home, personality clashes and drug addiction leading to the band's downfall. It's not necessarily inaccurate, but you've seen all this a squillion times before. There is no real story outside of this series of clichés, nothing at all unexpected. It's not notably boring or annoying, but sure isn't interesting either.

Still at least it's not a live action comic book for 13 year old boys or a Prince Charming chick flick for youngish single women, which every other film seems to be nowadays, so it's worth seeing if nothing else is on.
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Top Gear (2002– )
2/10
Unfunny tryhards
12 June 2010
They laugh so hard at each other's jokes. They try so hard to be funny. So desperately hard. And a huge global audience buys it. I must be missing something, because I don't see what is even remotely entertaining about this show, and I am an avid motor sports fan. They have elaborate setups which appear designed to be spontaneous, carefully scripted "humorous" remarks which are supposed to come across as ad libs, and a huge "gee whiz isn't it amazing and exciting and funny" attitude to scenes which are none of these. Every episode is packed full of uninteresting and insipid stunts, failed jokes, endless helicopter/onboard shots of cars driving around, and an insufferable smugness. Trust me, if you wonder what possible appeal this show could ever have, you are not the only one. It is even more tedious than the programs spawned by the rapidly dwindling "reality show" fad, and that is saying something.
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Man vs. Wild (2006– )
7/10
Entertaining and ludicrous in equal measure
3 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I very much enjoy this pseudo wilderness survival show, even though the situations that Bear puts himself in and the means he uses to survive them are completely absurd. With very little modification, the whole thing could have been filmed as a hilarious, Leo Wankeresque send-up of legitimate wilderness survival experts such as "The Bush Tucker Man", It is really a stunt and gross-out show in the guise of survival advice.

Bear gets sent "all alone" into the most remote and inhospitable places where no-one would ever need or want to go, surrounded by what seems to be a zillion cameramen and crew. There he uses over-complicated, energy-wasting and risky survival techniques for little marginal benefit, pretending to be roughing it in the wilderness, before retiring for the night to his luxury hotel. The premise is that he is equipped only with a knife, but when required always manages to have a suitable bit of equipment that can be tendentiously improvised in the style of the "A Team" or "MacGyver" into a survival tool. Nearly every episode shows him munching on some nauseating plant or bug or other animal, usually after introducing it as a local delicacy, then struggling to avoid vomiting. All the while he dispenses his over-complicated and obscure survival advice as if it is sincere and useful, when in actual fact you could only even attempt to use it if you were trapped in the wilderness with a DVD of the show and a laptop to play it.

While perhaps not the intent of the show, it really serves to corroborate my loathing of wilderness areas. Mother Nature is a truly loathsome, vindictive harpy that wants to kill you slowly and painfully after feeding you inedible food for your last supper. Watching this show makes me want to bulldoze every wilderness area on the planet and put up an air-conditioned shopping mall in its place. It really helps you understand why environmentalists generally prefer to live in the most densely populated areas of the world's largest and most developed cities.
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8/10
Haunting meditation on mementos of memory & experience
17 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This odd but beautiful and haunting film has a mystical Japanese atmosphere in a European setting. Likewise the characters, setting and plot are all odd, beautiful, haunting and mysterious. The film seems to be about the relationship between memory and experience, and the physical objects which represent those memories and experiences.

The lead character Iris starts by having a traumatic industrial accident that severs the tip of her titular ring finger, which falls into and colours a bottle of lemonade. She moves to a port city, where she time-shares a hotel room with a sailor working the night shift on the adjacent docks. They don't meet, but they "know" each other and interact through their possessions left in the hotel room, and develop a mutual but unrequited fascination for each other.

Iris by chance finds a new job as a receptionist in a bizarre laboratory. The business of the laboratory is to preserve and store (i.e. embalm and inter) specimens (i.e. mementos) of painful memories, so that the owners can find closure and move on. The creepy lab director, who runs the business essentially by himself, takes an erotic interest in her, and gives her a pair of perfectly-fitting attractive red shoes that he insists she always wears.

From then on, the film doesn't really develop further in terms of character or plot. This may frustrate some viewers, but it makes the film so unique and memorable. Instead it develops in bizarre and unexpected ways this theme of preserving specimens. We learn that the lab is a former girls boarding school, and that two former boarders still live in two of the few rooms not yet used as catacombs for the specimens. Both are practitioners of obsolete trades - one a pianist, the other a switchboard operator. Both are old women, yet still retain a strangely ageless girlish appearance. One has a class photo in her room from the boarding school days, which happens to show a still youthful looking lab director. Perhaps they are ex-lovers of the director. There are a couple of mild hints that the women may be ghosts. For example, one of the women suddenly appears and stares at Iris from behind while Iris explains to a potential client on the phone that specimens can't be taken of a malevolent shadow, then rapidly moves away just before Iris looks behind. An unexplained young boy also wanders the corridors, making sudden entrances and exits.

Despite what Iris said, the lab makes specimens of surprising things. One client wants a specimen of a music score given by a former boyfriend - not the score itself, but the sounds. The director gets the pianist in room 209 to play the music, then places the score in a labelled plastic container, without apparently recording it.

The director seduces Iris in the lab's cool inner sanctum, the boarding school's former bathing area and swimming pool, where he earlier gave her the shoes. He tells her of the girls who filled this once wet space with talk and laughter, yet it is now dry, empty and silent. Iris later dreams of herself showering among the voluble girls. Or is it a dream? One young client, who at the start of the movie had ordered a specimen of fungus growing on the ruins of her burned-down house, returns to ask for another specimen - this time the burn on her cheek. To Iris's shock, the director agrees after explaining to the client that healing a burn and taking a specimen of it are not the same thing. He takes the girl to the preserving room in the basement where Iris is not permitted, as only specimens are permitted there. The lab director does not return for the rest of the day, and a perturbed Iris repeatedly presses her ear to the basement door. Later while screwing Iris, the director asks Iris if she wants a specimen taken. Iris after some denial and hesitation suggests her mutilated ring finger.

An old rasta client who works as a shoe shiner (another obsolete craft) compliments Iris's red shoes, but warns her that the red shoes are cursed, and she should not wear them too often. He invites her to visit his shoeshine stand at the station. While wandering the catacombs and looking at specimens during an idle moment, Iris sees a photo of a young girl (possibly the burn victim) also wearing the distinctive red shoes. The former switchboard operator casually mentions to Iris that Iris's predecessors in the receptionist job all suddenly disappeared without a word of warning. When Iris takes up the shoeshiner's invitation, he warns her that she should get a specimen of the shoes, as she will never be free if she doesn't take them off. Iris replies that she doesn't want to be free, to which the shoeshiner replies that he will never see her again. After returning to the lab she accidentally drops a client's mahjong set (a philosophical representation of the universe), and on the director's instruction spends the rest of the night slowly picking up the pieces and reassembling them in their rightful place. Accepting her fate, she takes off the shoes, and walks into the basement where only specimens are permitted.

In concordance with the film's themes of preservation and timelessness, the film is set in the recent past, but apart from being obviously European is geographically and chronologically non-specific. The container terminal places it after the 1950's, and the lack of computers and mobiles places it before the mid-1990's, but all other markers of time and place are carefully removed.
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Hvid nat (2007)
6/10
Sub par for Anders Thomas Jensen
10 March 2010
Anders Thomas Jensen is without doubt Denmark's most talented scriptwriter. Pretty much every film I've seen of his has been absolutely brilliant, even if he does tend to repeat certain themes and plot elements between his various films to a slightly excessive degree. But then again, every artist has his trademarks and his shtick. What I always loved about Jensen's films was the hysterically funny, outrageous black humour driven by a ferocious anti-sentimentality. This is the first film of his I've seen which fell short on that front.

It deals with a hard-working and successful real estate agent who accidentally kills someone. The guilt he feels drives him to counter-productive efforts to atone and make reparations for his offence, which in turn wreck his own life and those of the people he was trying to help. The theme of a well-meaning man causing a trail of destruction through his efforts to atone for past indiscretions is classic Jensen. However this time Jensen has not bothered to add any jokes or plot twists. It all plays out rather slowly and linearly as a character study rather than a plot-driven film. Perhaps it is because it is co-written. Either way, although the film works reasonably well as a serious drama, for someone of Jensen's high standards it is not worthy of the rest of his CV. It is also missing the usual handful of Danish film stars who appear in just about every other major Danish film, apart from the actor who plays the protagonist's brother.
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The Black Adder (1982–1983)
10/10
Near-peerless comedy masterpiece
11 January 2010
This is the first series of "Black Adder" and the only truly great one. The scripts are masterpieces of TV comedy writing - one belly laugh after another, and all perfectly structured plotwise, while at the same time being bizarre, original and very intelligent, without resorting to the pointless unfunny absurdity of lower quality Python. There are too many highlights to single out any particular episode or scene. They are the finest thing Richard Curtis or Rowan Atkinson would ever write. For me the first series was right up there in the pantheon just behind the Young Ones (my gold standard of TV comedy) and ahead of Fawlty Towers. It made me understand for the first time why Rowan Atkinson was so admired as a comic actor. I still laugh when I remember his Earl of Doncaster impersonation or the way he said "Hello peasant!" The supporting cast is also outstanding, especially Brian Blessed, Rik Mayall, Frank Finlay and Jim Broadbent as the show-stealing Spanish translator. Their acting considerably enhances the jokes. In fact there is not a dud performance in the whole series, helped no doubt by the absence of Fry and Laurie.

The usual and irrelevant complaint about the first series is that the character of Edmund is contemptible, stupid and weedy rather than strong, clever and sarcastic. But the original Edmund is for laughing at, rather than laughing with. The former category of comic characters is invariably much funnier, while the latter is the domain of unfunny standup comedians desperately trying to be loved. Perhaps having a strong, admirable lead character gives the audience somebody to identify with rather than mock and deprecate, but I struggle to understand why that is desirable in a comedy. I never could understand why Ben Elton's sub-Carry On humour in the later series was more highly regarded by some. Perhaps it is because the later series had a louder laugh track?

Although the budget may have been considered exorbitant, it allowed for much more variety in the type and setting of the jokes than the later studio bound, cheap-looking and visually tedious series. The large budget wasn't wasted, but used to good comic effect, especially in crowd scenes like the witch trial. The opening theme is perhaps the grandest, funniest and catchiest original theme song ever heard in a TV comedy. We may never see television comedy with such high production standards ever again, so enjoy this one. It is one of the few comedies that bear repeated viewing.
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Nowhere Boy (2009)
3/10
Drawn out kitchen sink soapie
2 January 2010
Let's face it, John Lennon is interesting because he was a member of and a major songwriter for the Beatles. Most of his interesting non-musical experiences happened as a consequence of his Beatles membership. For some reason this film decides that all of that is less important and interesting than his relationship with his aunt and mother during his late teens. The founding of the Quarrymen and Beatles is just a minor subplot. We don't even get to their Hamburg experiences.

Instead what we get is a humdrum kitchen sink soapie that leaves you wanting less. Its main dramatic focus is the belated revelation of how John Lennon's stern aunt became his guardian even though his more attitudinally compatible mother lived around the corner. This is all explained in one scene, having been previously hinted at a few times in dream sequences. The rest of this overlong film is mainly padded out with tedious scenes of banal domesticity portraying John's rebelliousness, his mother's immaturity and flightiness, and his prim aunt's strictness. There's a bit of teenage truancy, mild sexual encounters and what passed for teenage hijinks in the 1950's, again quite dull. There are a few scenes hinting at his burgeoning interest in rock and roll and growing musical skill, but this is portrayed in an uninteresting manner and is mainly towards the end. If banal kitchen sink soapies are for you then you might like this movie, but it has little to do with John Lennon the musical icon. It is almost false advertising to use his name.

There were some interesting aspects of Lennon's life during this time, such as his art school experiences, his manipulative pursuit of Cynthia, his compulsive mocking of the physically flawed and the early struggles to get gigs. However all this is left out of the film. I suspect many of this film's flaws come from the film being based on a single memoir by one person who knew only one aspect of the subject's life. This is a common flaw with celebrity memoirs and biopics, but it's an especially major flaw when the memoir deals one of the least interesting aspects of one of the least interesting periods in his life.

As for the implementation aspects of a flawed concept, the film has an overall slightly cheap low budget look, although the acting is adequate. It's a little jarring though that they use a handsome actor to play Lennon and an ugly actor to play McCartney. Kristin Scott-Thomas is surprisingly convincing despite playing against type in an unglamorous role.
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6/10
A flawed but occasionally brilliant landmark
31 December 2009
This film was a stylistic, cultural and commercial breakthrough, the first hugely profitable Australian film in decades, and the start of the revival of the Australian film industry. The humour was utterly non-PC and outrageously crude for its day. At last the hideous ocker in England was portrayed on film in all his drunken ribald glory.

However time has not been kind to it. Some of the individual jokes are still hysterically funny, such as Spike Milligan's introduction to the hotel, the Indian aphrodisiacs, and Delamphrey's attempts at psychoanalysis. Other jokes have worn thin though having been adopted by the culture at large (e.g. the largely invented Australian slang) or use of similar jokes by other comedians. Much of the humour doesn't go beyond simply using the crude invented slang in conversation. Today it isn't particularly outrageous or funny. The purportedly stereotypical depictions of English snobbery and Australian crudity are too extreme and grotesque even for a comedy, and further detract from the effectiveness of the comedy.

Another major flaw is structural. "The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie" and its main character is based on a series of self-contained comic strips. A movie on the other hand is built around scenes of protracted dialogue, development within a scene, and development of the narrative across scenes. Indeed Humphries himself has stated he didn't believe his comic strips could be adapted for film for this very reason. As a result the film is highly episodic, with some very tendentious, unfunny and laboured links written to string the episodes together. This isn't helped by the fact that Humphries is essentially a solo performer whose stock-in-trade is the self-contained one-liner. He usually has a relatively brief setup (if any) leading to his jokes in stage performances. In consequence the dialogue is often stilted and unnatural, clumsily and unfunnily targetted towards the recitation of slang expressions or the delivery of some other self-contained comic idea. I don't normally criticise comedies for flaws in structure or logic because they are essentially vehicles for jokes, but in this case these flaws are distractingly obvious and jarring, and the jokes aren't funny enough to prevent the viewer noticing.

Still, the funniest of the jokes are classics, and overall it remains enjoyable. The sequel is funnier though, perhaps because it resolves (but only partially) some of the original's flaws.

On a historical note, the opening shot shows the Hegarty's private mini-ferry approaching the Luna Park pontoon wharf, which many Sydneysiders would fondly remember but neither of which now exist.
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Joy Division (2007)
7/10
Very good, but with the usual flaws
25 July 2009
As a hardcore fan, I really enjoyed this Joy Division doco more than I expected. Given that they were a shortlived band from a provincial area, and had only achieved up-and-coming status at the time of their demise, any documentary maker must face the challenge of the severe lack of video footage of the band, and poor quality of what is available, further exacerbated by the death, and hence unavailability for interview, of some of the key players viz Curtis, Hannett & Gretton. What's more, their active years coincided with Manchester's large-scale redevelopment, hence their old haunts have long since been torn down and replaced. Offset against this is the newfound openness of the remaining players to giving honest and full answers in interviews. They had previously been very reticent, particularly about Curtis whom they professed to be sick of discussing as they tried to establish New Order independent of the Joy Division legacy.

Overall, Gee rises to the challenge brilliantly. Gee's solution was to use extensive interviews with remaining members, brief interviews of many of the bit players, and waffling from some intellectuals explaining the band as being products of their time and place. This is combined with general video footage of 1970's Manchester, snippets of the limited available TV & gig footage, arty stills of the band taken mainly by Anton Corbijn with discussion of the photos' backgrounds, stills showing external shots of the band's old haunts then and now (the "Places that are no longer there" series), and the odd audio recording (e.g. Ian's hypnosis tapes, John Peel getting the speed wrong playing "Atmosphere") with oscilloscope visuals. The briefness of the video snippets used and the snappy editing successfully prevents the viewer noticing the paucity of the source material. Though we are constantly made aware that we are discussing a time and place and singer that are long gone, it all seems appropriate given that their music was mainly about loss.

Highlights included seeing the decaying 1970's Manchester which so inspired and suited their music. It was great to see pictures of the venues I'd only read about, even if they were old stills. There were few truly new facts for the Joy Division anorak, but it did give a sense of time and place and mood to known facts, and put faces and personalities to names. It was fascinating to hear Bernard's detailed account of Ian's first seizure, and the band's reactions to hearing of Ian's suicide first-hand. They are typical northerner artists, in that their brilliant, highly emotional music is created by remarkably dour people, and their sense of humour is cringeworthy. Though the band find their own anecdotes hilarious, Gee edited most of them into an incomprehensible mish-mash to hide how dull and unfunny they were. Lindsay Reade and Lesley Gilbert are remarkably beautiful for fiftysomethings, while the young Annik Honoré is much less pretty than her hold on Ian would suggest. She is overly melodramatic in interviews. Genesis C_Ornflakes is an even bigger freak now than in his Gristle days, and his stories lack credibility.

On the negative side, the intellectuals and their thesis-pushing grated. Joy Division were neither commenting on nor a product of an intellectual notion of "modernity". They were a bunch of rather ordinary Mancunians dreaming of a more exciting life than their dead-end jobs, who happened to be musical geniuses and with a singer/lyricist obsessed by darkly melodramatic bands like the Velvet Underground and the Doors. Nor were they anti-Thatcherites with revolutionary sympathies as the intellectuals claim. The Thatcher government took power in May 1979, whereas punk and post-punk emerged under the previous Labour government. As his wife and bandmates revealed elsewhere, Curtis himself was an ardent Tory with robustly "traditional" views on women and immigrants, while Stephen Morris has said he didn't vote in the first election for which he was old enough through lack of interest.
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10/10
The reason cinema was invented
22 June 2009
Having previously seen "Date Movie" and "Epic Movie" (also by these gentlemen) and "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (by the equally talented Edward Woodward) I was gasping and sweating and feeling my anus slacken with anticipation when I heard this movie was going to be released. I was even more delighted when I saw the trailer. All too often comedy movie trailers contain all the best jokes, leaving nothing funny for the actual movie. I knew this movie was going to be great when I saw the trailer and there wasn't ONE FUNNY BIT IN IT!!!!! Clearly these were film makers who did not need to advertise their greatness, as they could rely on their genius to advertise itself. I knew we were going to experience a comedy masterpiece on par with "Diff'rent Strokes", "Australia's Funniest Home Videos" or Michael Jackson's cosmetic surgery.

I set up camp outside the box office 2 days before tickets went on sale to be sure we got the first tickets accompanied, after a sound thrashing, by my wife and my little boy. For two days and nights we struggled on that lonely sidewalk against hunger and thirst and heat and exposure, and towards the end we had to resort to drinking our own urine. But it was worth it, because when "Meet the Spartans" finally opened we were the only people in the cinema.

And what a movie it was! My own memories are a little hazy given the addled state I was in after two days in the street. For my own part, I was laughing and hollering too much at the little purple animals floating around in the cinema to notice much of the movie. I do remember bits of the trailer getting repeated over and over again, but that must have been the hallucinations as well. However I do remember my wife and my little boy found it so funny they were too astonished to laugh. After a while the exertions of the previous 2 days took their toll and they fell asleep with their precious heads lolling into my unwashed groin. But shoot, I wasn't complaining :-) All in all it was probably the greatest day of my life, and perhaps anyone's life.

I was delighted to learn that there was a "Meet the Spartans 2". If there was one film crying out for a sequel, it must surely be this one. As with "Weekend at Bernie's", you just got the feeling that one movie was not enough to fully explore the vast richness of ideas on display. One can only hope it will produce more sequels than the Star Wars and the Police Academy series combined.
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4/10
John Waters eat your heart out
25 August 2008
"It's such a fine line between clever and stupid" goes the immortal line from Spinal Tap, and this film reinforces that message. The direction and cinematography and editing are as look-at-me slick, stylish and gimmicky as the most 80's of music videos. But oh my goodness the plot. I came to this comments board after seeing the film hoping, once my laughter had subsided, to make the obvious "drugs are bad m'kay" jokes, mock the ludicrous plot, and point out that this film outdoes Reefer Madness for camp, self-parodying counterproductive hyperbole. But I see plenty of others have beaten me to the punch in stating the obvious. This film is the Monty Python "Salad Days" skit writ large. Try drugs, and you will end up getting your infected arm amputated, your game-show-addicted mother will get shock treatment in a loony bin after trying to slim down to fit into her red dress, and funniest of all, your white girlfriend will be forced to fellate over-endowed black men and have foreign objects inserted into her anus at orgies in exchange for drugs. I could almost visualise John Waters and Ed Wood and William S. Burroughs making up this plot over a few cones of wacky tabbacky as they laughed and masturbated themselves silly. Except that they would have cast Divine as both the mother and girlfriend if they had been directing, and they would have called it something like "Naked Flamingoes from Outer Space" rather than given it the pretentious title that it actually had. And they wouldn't have taken it all quite so seriously. Watching this film, I honestly expected a Ron Jeremy cameo at any minute. The whole plot sounds like one of his Catskills routines, complete with long-suffering Jewish mothers doting on their disappointing sons. How they managed to avoid having Ellen Burstyn say "You coulda been a doctor like that nice Dr Spencer" I'll never know.

All that said, despite the clichés and the pretentiousness and the ludicrous, heavy-handed, moralising, didactic plot, the film has its merits. I wasn't overly bored, the direction was OK, if a little hammy, and the acting was adequate, if a little hammy. Still, I don't understand the rating of 8.5/10 and the rave reviews. That puts it higher than "2001: A Space Odyssey", which is even more ludicrous than the plot.
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9/10
Waiting for GTO
20 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Some of the last century's most celebrated works of art explored existentialist themes, featuring characters who waste their entire lives on repetitive, futile trivia, waiting in vain for some external redemption, even as they throw away opportunities to escape their rut. Dino Buzzati's novel "Desert of the Tartars", the most affecting novel I have read, was the standout in the literary field, and was made into a superb film. "Waiting for Godot" was the most celebrated theatrical example. But for me, the standout film in the genre is "Two Lane Blacktop". While the "Desert of the Tartars" film and Antonioni's Blacktop ripoff "The Passenger" were excellent, they, like the above-mentioned novel and play, were self-consciously artsy, the characters and situations artificial and fantastic. "Two Lane Blacktop" by contrast is believable & unpretentious, yet still an intelligent masterpiece. You can imagine such characters really could exist. Some people seem to think it's all about cars and drag racing, or is plot less. But as Hellman pointed out, the plot is entirely in the subtext. The Tennessee hitchhiker summed up the movie's true theme when belittling GTO's fantasies: "It's not important. What we got: 30…40 years?" Cars bore me, but I watched this 3 times in a row.

Like their cars, the nomadic main characters have stripped their lives of anything that might slow them down - relationships, non-automotive possessions, permanent homes, even names and identities beyond their automotive roles. Unconcerned with external appearances, they travel hundreds of miles slowly to drive a quarter-mile quickly, to make just enough money to continue the cycle. "How much bread we got?" from Driver elicits the reply "300 racing bread, 20 to spend" from Mechanic, which sums up their priorities. Their talk is similarly minimal, and what little they say concerns cars and racing. When Mechanic needs to communicate a single, complete sentence, he asks Driver to stop the car because "it's gonna take a long time". The only variance in their conversation topics (when Driver tells Girl of the even more minimal lifestyle of cicadas) is revealed by Hellman in his commentary to be an improvisation, prompted by excessive cicada noise during filming. No future, no past, on a road to nowhere, going nowhere fast - all clichés, but the boys live them out literally.

The immaculately groomed GTO (both man and car) picks up hitchhikers to inflict on them his self-aggrandizing life story, a different one each time. "Image and performance, that's what it's all about" he says, but that's another lie, and everyone see through and tires of him immediately. His lies invariably fail to win the respect he craves, so he tells more. The immaculate presentation conceals a leaky carburetor, personal failure and alcoholism. The one time GTO tries to tell the truth about himself, Driver stops him with "I don't wanna hear about it. It's not my problem." to maintain the context-free eternal present. Life on the road is about always leaving and never arriving. Similarly the Girl jumps wordlessly into their lives, jumps from man to man, then ends the movie by yet again leaving wordlessly with yet another nomad, symbolically dropping her baggage as she does so.

The cross-country race promises a break in the Sisyphean lives of the characters, with a large prize to the winner. They all tell the Girl insincere fantasies of going to Florida and beyond after winning to keep her around. But no sooner does the race start than both sides lose interest in achieving any real goal. "It doesn't interest me to be 500 miles ahead" says Driver, and Mechanic fixes their rival's carburetor trouble. When GTO races ahead with the Girl overnight while the boys are distracted earning cash, he slows to a crawl by next morning, and the boys easily catch up. Yet they turn back after going past him, and talk to him & Girl of picking up spares in Ohio instead of racing to Washington. Both parties stop when they see each other's cars parked at cafés. The only important thing to the boys is to impress upon others their automotive superiority, not earning money that might change their lifestyles.

The move was cut down from 3½ hours and it shows, in that there's not a single redundant scene in the 102 minutes of this ostensibly slow and plot less movie. The acting is flawless, apart from Laurie Bird, which is surprising given how few professional actors were used. Taylor especially is utterly convincing with his brooding, charismatic man-on-a-mission intensity. Bird (who suicided at 25) is suitably sulky and aloof, but her delivery is unconvincingly wooden.

Much as Joseph Conrad said of sailors, through their perpetual motion and dynamic impermanence the characters lives never change. Every road, drag strip, motel, conversation, gas station and roadside café is essentially the same. The film's final dialogue ends with GTO's biggest lie, closing with: "Those satisfactions are permanent". Nothing, least of all satisfaction, is permanent for these characters. The film's celebrated finale is perfect - burnout is the only possible exit from their locked-groove lifestyles.
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Loose Women (1999– )
7/10
Sequel to "Loose Schoolgirls"
18 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this sequel to "Loose Schoolgirls", but not as much as the original. The girls have graduated from Saint Ool's Catholic Girls School and are now at Caldwell University. Strangely, Father Hedgehog has also left the school and gone with them as their chaplain, and not surprisingly he is as strict and depraved as ever. The scene in the college's automobile workshop with Diggler's hermaphroditic grandmother has to be seen to be believed - they actually manage to use up an entire 4L bottle of motor oil just during the backwood section. Compared with its predecessor, director St Aubin plays up the comedy aspects. I was rolling on the floor laughing and pleasuring myself in the section where Fatima goes down on the crucified pig. The bit where Patrice bites off Miranda's nipples because she thought they were Smarties was also very funny. All in all, while not as good as the original, I have to say that Jemma Clarxxxon and Trixxxi Vixxxen look as enticing as ever, and I'll certainly be checking out their other films.
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Fight Club (1999)
3/10
Another Donnie Darko
22 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's either this or Casablanca or Donnie Darko as the most overrated American film ever, and just behind Donnie Darko as the most pretentious. I had heard about the cult status of this film, and the book it was based on, years before I saw it, though what little of the plot I knew about didn't make it seem terribly interesting. Sure enough, it wasn't.

This movie gives pretentiousness an even worse name than it already had. It has the anarchic nihilism of an old Etonian in a punk outfit, the laughs of a Bob Hope routine, the outrageous pranks of South Park's Captain Kaos, the acting subtlety of an amateur pantomime, the philosophical depth of a fortune cookie, and the coherence of a William S. Burroughs cutup.

And then there's the "plot". It seems to consist of a number of separate unrelated ideas which are strung together into what is supposed to be a story, but with no obvious attempt at logical integration. A man is dissatisfied with his humdrum life. So of course he attends group therapy sessions for conditions he doesn't have. Then he meets his alter ego, Tyler Durden, who of course devotes his life to pulling unfunny satirical pranks. Then, naturally, they start fistfights with each other up for thrills. Witnesses see the obvious appeal of these fistfights and start joining in to form a secret nationwide movement. The movement understandably turns into an anti-consumerist terrorist cult financed by selling home-made soap. Finally Tyler Durden is revealed to be the protagonist's alternative personality whom the protagonist starts to fear and dislike, so he kills off his imaginary friend by shooting himself in the head, while managing to survive the injury himself. I kid you not, that is this film's pathetic excuse for a plot. Perhaps this is really just a clever satirical comment on the arbitrary nonsensical plots of Hollywood action movies. But that wouldn't make it any less lame.

As if this nonsensical plot isn't tedious enough, the film-makers drag out its exposition, so that it has the length and pace of an Antonioni movie, despite the relentless action. It feels even longer than its already excessive 2 hours plus.

I only rated it 3/10 because I have seen worse movies that I still gave 2/10. It probably deserves less. I realise that many somehow think this film is amazing. If so, it only proves that we have created a future where everything is amazing for 15 minutes.
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6/10
Aspiring Ozymandiases
28 January 2007
This doco is a wonderful demotivator for anyone who wants to make an independent film. It follows the fortunes of three small aspiring American independent film-makers as they try to make their dreams of creating their first films a reality. The films are "Personal Foul", "Only a Buck" and "Beirut: The Last Home Movie". The film-makers work their guts out and put a great deal of their own money and time on the line. They face endless wearying troubles trying to convince distributors to carry their film, many of whom resemble divorce lawyers in the way they manipulate and exploit their clients' hopes. Needless to say all three film-makers fail to become stars after losing their shirts. Of the three, only Jannifer Fox ever made another film, and that wasn't until 12 years later.

Gerry Cook was the most upbeat and happy of the trio, and his comedy film seems to have got a good reception, even if he did return straight back to obscurity. The intense and serious Jennifer Fox took the endless discouragements to heart, but it didn't seem to faze her determination to get her film released. With her somewhat slurred speech, she didn't come across as very bright in this doco, but maybe she was just tired.

The saddest of the trio was Ted Lichtenfeld. His sad drama about a loser teacher seemed to mirror his own life vis-a-vis this movie. He seems to have lost a fortune on his movie. This doco climaxes with Lichtenfeld securing a premiere of his movie in Rockford, Illinois, the town where it was filmed, at a small and unglamorous suburban cinema. After the screening, the doco makers interview some of the old folks who had been persuaded to see "Personal Foul". Their responses were hilariously memorable, and were the motivation for me to review this doco. "How did you like like the film?" was the question put to one old lady. She tried to be kind, but her facial expression and hesitant tone of voice gave away her true feelings that she had unpleasantly wasted two hours of her limited remaining time on this earth. When asked what she liked about the film she replied, in one of the great examples of damning with faint praise, that it was good to see Rockford in a movie. Another unexcited film-goer expressed the same hilariously limp sentiment. Lichtenfeld's doleful insistence at the end that it was all worth it and that he was satisfied with what he had done rang very hollow indeed, like he was desperately trying to convince himself.

This wasn't a riveting doco, but if you can laugh at other peoples' misfortunes and shattered dreams, you may get something out of it.
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Teachers (2001–2004)
7/10
Series 4 a classic, the rest merely OK
17 January 2007
I started watching "Teachers" rather late in the piece, I think during series 3. I thought it was OK, but not unmissable. The unusual thing about "Teachers" for me was that, though set in a school, the pupils and the teachers' interaction with them was mere background that barely intruded into the episodes. The stories mainly centred around the teachers' interaction with each other. It was clearly comedy-drama rather than straight out comedy. Occasionally it was somewhat funny, but the humour was of the mild, inoffensive, observational, Seinfeldian variety. Some would call that sort of humour subtle. I would call it bland. What's more the comedy was diluted by drama, and was delivered in the telegraphic acting style of crap 1980's American sitcoms. I didn't find the episodes terribly memorable.

Then came series 4. Wow! It was like a completely different show with new characters, new sets, and a new lease of life. Even the old characters weren't quite the same. It was exactly like the difference between "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your enthusiasm", or the difference between MASH the TV show and MASH the movie, between Pete & Dud and Derek & Clive. Not being familiar with the details of the show, I assumed that last series was the first as it was so much more fresh and funny than what had gone before. Bob even looked younger. The mild, bland inoffensive characters had gone, and the nastiness and grotesquery of the nastier and more grotesque (and therefore funnier) characters such as Bob and the headmistress and the fat kid was played up. Most importantly, from being a comedy-drama with somewhat realistic plots it became pure comedy with surrealistic plots that had me howling with laughter numerous times per episode. And the laugh-out-loud jokes and plots dealt with wonderfully, hilariously politically incorrect subjects like masturbation, religion, homosexuality, obesity, mail order brides, death, pupil-teacher shagging, etc.

As with Cook & Moore, many fans of their earlier work felt Derek & Clive was beneath themselves and beneath the performers. Others consider Derek & Clive to be Cook & Moore's crowning glory, even if it did mark the end of their comic partnership. The latter set of fans were right, and the former set can be ignored. Although I gave this program 7/10, it's really 5 or 6 for the earlier eps, and 8 or 9 for the final series.
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6/10
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
8 October 2006
In interviews done at the time of the film's release, Julien Temple talked about the genesis of this film, and the reasoning behind some of the peculiar and novel gimmicks he used. Basically he had some out-takes that he had filmed for "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle", as well as some random British TV recordings from the 1970's that he had recorded on one of the first commercial VCR's. Temple wanted to use this material to tell the story of the Sex Pistols from their point of view, rather than Malcolm Maclaren's point of view presented in "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle". He said he included the ancillary material such as the video recordings to give a flavor of the times. The reason he gave for recording the living Pistols in witness-protection style silhouette (and Maclaren in a mask) was to hide their age and make it seem like the interviews were contemporaneous with the other footage, especially with regard to the interview of a non-silhouetted Sid Vicious in London's Hyde Park in 1978. In practice, the silhouettes are annoying and repetitive and make it hard to identify who is speaking on first viewing.

This film has exactly the same flaws as Temple's original effort, "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle" - its account of the Pistols' story is a biased, inaccurate, incomplete, poorly-structured mess, frequently interrupted by unnecessary, gimmicky, distracting, pretentious irrelevant inserts that have nothing to do with the main story. Only this time, instead of portraying the Sex Pistols as mindless puppets in a cynical commercial ploy by a clever manager, they are portrayed (implicitly via news footage from the 1970's) as idealists making political statements about their society, financially exploited by a useless Maclaren. Both slants are fantasy. The Pistols have repeatedly pointed out they were not political, although Rotten has in recent years started parroting some of the fantasies written about him and the punk scene by intellectuals; any quasi-political imagery foisted on the band was largely the doing of the supposedly useless Maclaren and his cronies. We see all the usual tricks of agenda-pushing documentaries, with isolated, possibly irrelevant snippets of visual interest (e.g. a fat racist squirming through a window to rant to a TV camera) edited together to imply relatedness. What's more, many of these clips appear to date from long after the Pistols formed. Likewise we see the bad guys (Maclaren and cronies) in unflattering shots and the good guys (the Pistols) in flattering or neutral shots. That's just childish, as are the sudden dramatic increases in volume every time a Pistols song starts playing.

Instead of Rock & Roll Swindle's cutaways to shots of Maclaren singing, mugging and pontificating, we get Olivier playing Richard III or TV ads or weather reports or forgotten comedians. These non-sequiturs are supposedly justified on the grounds of Rotten citing his influences or as a reflection of life in the 1970's, but it goes on and on and on long after the original point (if any) was made, until the original point is lost. When Temple was asked if there was any Pistols footage left unused after "The Filth and The Fury", he said there wasn't really, apart from additional concert footage which he considered redundant. This, I suspect, is the real reason for the excessive irrelevant footage, i.e. filler to get a commercial length for a feature film. I would dearly love to have seen the "redundant" concert footage instead. It would have been infinitely more interesting, entertaining and relevant. Temple's TV archives could have interest in their own right, but they belong in a separate documentary.

Ignoring the inept, pretentious directing, this film does have many priceless moments, and does reveal a number of obscure or unknown facts about the Pistols, although I was surprised at how little unused footage there really was, and how much was reused from the final cut of "Swindle". The Pistols are shown to be funny, intelligent and personable, far removed from the punk caricatures. The 3 Johns, and John's closeness to Sid, and John's crying over his dead friend are a revelation. So too, the Pistols' last concert before their American tour, a firemen's benefit with lots of young dancing children joining the band in a cream pie fight - not very punk, but oddly touching. We see footage from the Pistols' very earliest days, together with some of the bizarre early fans like Sue Catwoman highlighting the bohemian roots of the punk scene. We get to see footage of the disgusting Nancy Spungeon. In a remarkable stroke of luck, Temple captured skinny teenage punk fan Shane MacGowan, long before he was famous, doing an acapella rendition of "Anarchy in the UK" on the grounds of a council flat, and schoolteacher Sting playing a gay rapist in a scene from the abortive "Who Killed Bambi" movie. But by far the funniest scene in the film was the intro to a 1978 American TV music show, in which the Pistols were the most normal, most successful, and least ridiculous-looking band to appear on the program.

In summary this film was a wasted opportunity on account of the talentless director. But it's still essential for the odd gem of obscure Pistols footage, which even Temple couldn't mess up. If you want to see the definitive Pistols documentary, check out the "Never Mind The Bolloks" episode of the "Classic Albums" TV documentary series.
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8/10
Hysterically funny
4 October 2006
I caught this movie by accident on TV flipping through channels. Reading the plot summary, I thought this would be another Memento ripoff. But boy was I wrong. Oh my god I haven't laughed this hard and this long at a foreign comedy in years, if ever. This movie can be summarised as "Dumb and Dumber" meets "I Kina Spiser De Hunde", and is every bit as funny as both those movies combined. I can understand the Marx Brothers comparison, but this is Marx Brothers acting with a modern and funny script. I simply cannot understand how this great gangster comedy got such a low rating, and why it isn't already legendary as a comedy cult classic. I am pleased to read that there are others in the series, and I will certainly be checking them out. About the only criticism I have is that it does peter out a little towards the end, sacrificing comedy for a satisfying plot conclusion, but by then I had already screamed with uncontrolled laughter several times.
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2/10
Maximum chode
1 October 2006
This apparently (I say apparently because I honestly have no idea why this film was released, let alone made) was an attempt at a spoof of spaghetti westerns, something like Blazing Saddles, albeit with no discernible gags and no discernible plot. It looks like something you would get if you took a bunch of indie actors and post-punk musicians to a holiday resort, got them drunk, then asked them to improvise a series of disconnected sketches based around spaghetti westerns with "they're all addicted to coffee, ha ha ha" as the only direction given. Which for all I know, is probably exactly what happened. The cast at least look like they had a good time of the "Look at me I'm in a film" ilk. It is very much like watching amateur video of a private party, and about as much fun for the audience. I am a huge fan of the Clash and the Pogues and Jim Jarmusch, and this is truly an amazing cast, but a cast does not make a movie. I must admit, though, that it was fascinating to see Courtney Love of all people being plucked from obscurity years before she became famous and put into a leading role in this film, despite looking even more hideous in her youth than in middle age. Although she was even less talented an actress than she was a musician or stripper, for me the only laugh in this chode of a film came unintentionally, when one of the characters says, referring to Courtney Love: "You have a beautiful wife." The cast, and the excellent Pogues theme song "Rake at the Gates of Hell" were the only things I enjoyed about this movie, and are the only reason I'm not giving this a minimum score. The one good thing about this movie's release is that it killed the talentless Alex Cox's directorial career.
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7/10
Came for the story, stayed for the scenery
25 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Like Michael Powell, I was struck by the pathos when I learned of the story of the abandonment of St Kilda, and the concomitant end of a centuries-old way of life in this harsh but oddly beautiful place. I am facinated by abandoned places, both modern and ancient, as well as by the creativity employed in eking a survivalist living out of extreme, inhospitable, barren environments far from the comforts of civilisation. Therefore I was delighted when I learned of this movie's existence, hoping to get an insight into the islanders' way of life, lingering shots of the village ruins, and a sense of the pathos of the island's end.

I didn't quite get what I was hoping for, as some things seemed a little rushed in this short film, while others such as the protracted dancing at the birth took up excesive time. The key aspects of the islanders way of life are only revealed in brief glimpses. We do get a scene in the church, but without the DVD commentary we wouldn't know that the church was the island's central social institution. The occasional famines which destroyed the real St Kilda are only briefly hinted at in the film, with one brief scene talking of how the poor growing conditions will affect the harvest. I didn't fully understand the effect of the fishing boats without the DVD commentary. The laird's feudalistic power isn't really touched on - indeed when the laird makes an appearance, I didn't even know who he was. You don't get enough of a look at the old way of life to appreciate or lament that anything has been lost. Instead you jump straight into the arguments over whether or not to abandon the island, which should have been Act 2. Instead of the plot centring around the struggle to survive on Hirta, the story and the arguments over whether to leave centred around a soppy, melodramatic love story. When the islanders do decide to leave, it's all a bit of an anti-climax, without the escalating dramatic conflict one would expect leading up to the film's central moment. The two tragedies which provide the film with its drama are admittedly tense, but you can predict exactly how they'll end when the episodes have barely begun.

Despite these quibbles, I thought the film was amazing, not for its story but for its visual poetry. The cinematography is magnificent, and the shots of the island and its hardy characters take the breath away. While the stilted acting may betray the film's age, there is nothing out of date about the beautifully composed images. Some of the shots from seemingly impossible angles would make Kubrick proud. It's all the more impressive when you consider the trying circumstances in which it was filmed.

In short see the film for its spectacular must-see images, and don't worry too much about the plot.
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