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Downton Abbey (2010)
Good, but not up to the great British series of the 70's
Before I start my review, I have to say I am an Italian viewer, I'm in my 50s and I was lucky enough to watch some of the best British tv series on Italian television in the 70s/early 80's ("Upstairs Downstairs", "War and Peace" (starring Anthony Hopkins), "Will Shakespeare" (starring Tim Curry), "Brideshead Revisited" (starring a young Jeremy Irons). These series changed my life in some way, since I decided to visit England and study English at University, after watching them.
So you can imagine how eager I was to watch Downton Abbey. Alas, DA is nowhere as good as the old British series I remembered, especially "Upstairs, Downstairs", that has a similar theme.
First the good: I love the scenery, the English countryside, the dresses, the jewelry: all this is very pleasant to the eye. Of course, I loved lady Violet. I also liked the description of the life of the masters and the servants, which makes you angry for the social injustice of the times.
Now the bad: unfortunately, most of the characters are unidimensional and lack psychological insight (especially the Earl Robert and his wife Cora), some of the characters enter and exit the plot for no apparent reason (as if the writers had no idea how to develop the plot). The events of the life of the servants are a lot more interesting than those of the masters, but I wasn't intrigued enough to go beyond the second season.
Of course, I still prefer watching this rather than the violent and gloomy series that are so much en vogue today (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead), yet I have to say I am rather disappointed and will re-watch some old series, instead. 6/10.
Brooklyn Babylon (2001)
The soundtrack saves a messy movie.
First of all, I'd like to reply to one of the reviewers (Kastellos) who dismisses hip-hop music as cheap and says that hip-hop artists become successful only on luck. Well, I'd like to inform him/her that The Roots are one of the most revered bands not only in the hip-hop world, but internationally, since they blend soul, hip-hop, rhythm'n'blues; their songs have been used for the soundtrack of dozens of movies and one of them topped the charts in 2002.
The Roots are a solid band, and it shows right from the beginning of the movie, when they perform one of the best songs of the soundtrack, a track a lot more mature and layered than your "average" hip-hop track.
I borrowed the DVD from the library mainly because of the soundtrack, and I have to admit it's what saves an altogether messy movie.
The actors are barely beyond amateurish, Karen Starc is very pretty but she definitely needs more acting lessons, like most of the cast (with the exception of Bonz Malone and David Vadim).
The story of the clash between black and Jewish communities could have been told much better with a better script and cast. Some "documentary" takes give a flavor of reality, but the movie falls in many ways.
All in all, a mediocre movie saved by a great soundtrack.
Brothers & Sisters (2006)
Excellent series, you'll laugh and cry at the same time.
First of all, let me tell you that I haven't watched a TV series in ages (the last one I remember watching is "Brideshead Revisited" – a BBC production - back in 1981).
I have to say I can't stand any of today's series – either American, British or Italian. I hate medical, detective and police series; in a word - all the popular series of these days, since they are all incredibly violent and gory – at least, for me.
One evening I was idly zapping in front of the television when I found one of the first episodes of "Brothers and Sisters": I was pleasantly surprised since the characters were not annoying, nor impossibly beautiful; the plot was not silly like "Friends" and, most of all, there was a certain true-to-life atmosphere that made me continue to watch.
So I borrowed the whole series from the library and I am now watching episode 80, something I would have never imagined. First of all, as I wrote, I like all the characters, especially Sally Field who is an incredible actress (like some other reviewer said, she is one of the best actresses ever).
She can make you feel all of her emotions (whether she's happy, sad, anxious) and I think she's just great in her role as a mother who is always anxious for her children (she reminds me of the typical Italian mother).
At times, she's just adorable with all her weaknesses and sometimes you wish you could enter the screen and embrace her. She can make you laugh and cry at the same time, especially when her heart is broken (look at her face when Simon leaves: she deserves an Oscar for that alone). You can see her all enthusiastic about a new date, as if she was a teenager, and you genuinely feel sorry for her when her expectations are disappointed.
Then there's Kitty; she too is adorable (I confess I had seen her only in a couple of episodes of "Ally McBeal" but didn't like the series), whereas I like her here a lot. I find her a very good actress and she gives us a multifaceted character with all her strengths and weaknesses.
All in all, all actors are very good and likable, you get to love each one of them for different reasons; let me just mention the very good Rachel Griffiths, who really surprised me (I saw her some 15 years ago in "Muriel's Wedding" and would've never expected such career).
(Edited just to add how much I like Matthew Rhys and Dave Annable as well. Matthew is not only handsome but incredibly fun, I can't wait to see him in other films/series).
I would also like to mention the work of the directors, which I find excellent: I like the pace and the rhythm, they manage to keep the attention of the viewer very high all the time. Plus, I like the fact that even the most dramatic moments are alternated with some humour. Last, but not least, we have some groundbreaking issues (at least, here in Italy) like a homosexual couple, two men kissing, the surrogate mother, and so on. Now that I'm approaching the end of the series, I wish there was another one similar to this one!
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
What an awful mess!!
I really wanted to like this movie, but unfortunately it turned out to be an awful mess. At the beginning Cooper does a good job at portraying Pat, a bipolar guy who just got out of mental hospital, is obsessed by his ex-wife and struggles to go back to normal life. ******Attention: SPOILERS ahead.*******
He meets Tiffany who too is a bipolar and nymphomaniac. Unfortunately, Lawrence's rendition of Tiffany consists in wearing the same sulky/angry expression all through the movie. Plus, the casting of Lawrence is totally wrong since she is a model-type (I think a "girl next door" type would have been a better choice).
While in any other movie (or in real life) Tiffany would have hundreds of men courting her, here she falls for Pat and even gets to the point of chasing him while he goes jogging (first truly ridiculous scene). Despite her beauty, he doesn't seem too impressed with her, not even when she gives him lectures about life while doing what seems a very sexy yoga poses with her buttocks well in sight.
Pat's parents don't like Tiffany but then there's this big scene (so ridiculous it's involuntarily comic): at some point, she starts listing the scores of some football team and then the miracle happens! They look at her in amazement and suddenly start to like her (!). At this point, if you had given the movie a little chance, you realize it's a joke and just want to reach the exit of the cinema.
But, wait! There's more: the dance competition scene! The two train to take part into the competition and right when you thought they were getting together, Pat meets his ex-wife (and by this time you have come to dislike Tiffany so much that you hope for some surprise ending and that he will get together with his ex-wife). At the end of the dancing scene, poor Tiffany is left alone and wanders in the street like a soaked kitten but – surprise surprise! – Pat realizes he's actually in love with Tiffany, they kiss passionately and live happily ever after.
If I should sum up this movie in a single word, it would be "ridiculous". It deals with a sensitive issue like mental illness in a very superficial way and it constantly swings between drama and comedy, but it seems to head nowhere. The real low point is Lawrence who has a China doll face but lacks the depth and insight that her character requires; she can't express one single feeling (how she won an Oscar Award for this role is beyond me). I can't believe De Niro accepted to play in this mess, either.
Lucía y el sexo (2001)
This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. Despite the sex and nudity the plot is ridiculous, the actors are mediocre, and the script is so bad that it verges on the involuntarily funny.
The plot reminds of certain films by Almodovàr, but unfortunately Julio Medem is not Almodovàr.
The sex disappears after one third of the story. Paz Vega is certainly beautiful and we see a lot of her (especially naked) but she can't save this awful mess. Avoid like the plague.
L'ultimo bacio (2001)
Is this the renaissance of Italian cinema? Please!
First of all, what's the fuss about this film? It's supposed to be the story of the crisis of a group of thirtysomethings reaching maturity.
Instead, it's a very conventional, predictable story, with totally unbelievable characters. For example, Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) comes from a bourgeois milieu, yet when she knows about her husband's fling with a teenager, she goes into a fit of rage and threatens him with a knife, worse than a lower class woman. Another example: Anna's (Stefania Sandrelli) husband is a psychotherapist, yet he fails to understand his wife's crisis.
The biggest fault of this film is the plague of the Italian cinema of the last 10/15 years: the acting. It's always awkward, wooden or excessive and exaggerate. Why do Italian actors seem to have forgotten how to play?
Some of the actors (e.g. Martina Stella) have such a strong roman accent that it's both annoying and hard to understand (for a mother-tongue Italian!). Like 90% of today's Italian actors, she knows nothing about diction.
In the last scene Muccino clearly owes a debt to Germi': does anybody remember the last scene of `Divorzio all'italiana' where Stefania Sandrelli plays footsie with the sailor on the boat?
In short, nothing new under the sun. The renaissance of Italian cinema? Maybe next time.
Runaway Bride (1999)
Avoid it if you can (spoiler).
Gosh! This is one of the worst films I've ever seen!
I rented this because I wanted some lighthearted fun, but I found out it's plain awful! A ridiculous plot, silly jokes, bad writing ... everything made me hate this film. Even my mum at some point said "What's this??".
They don't even save us the pathetic explanation of the reason why Julia runs away from her potential husbands... guess what? Because her father is an alcoholic!
Please don't waste your money on this. Anyway, this is the film that decided me on never to watch another Hollywood romantic comedy for a long time to come.
You've Got Mail (1998)
This film has all the flaws of the typical 90's Hollywood sentimental comedy: polished, predictable, shallow, and not even funny. I had to struggle to get to the end of the tape. Avoid at all costs.
Watch "The Shop Around the Corner" instead: it's a hundred times better.
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Promises a lot, but fails to deliver
For a start we have: a bitchy 16 y.o. tart; her gay stepbrother; his boyfriend; a hysterical spinster and a shy policeman. Not bad!
Problem is, this is America, not Europe; the director is Roos, not Almodòvar.
This film does have its merits, first of all, to familiarise America with gay issues. But the result is not quite what I expected. It promises a lot, but fails to deliver for fear to dare more.
As other reviewers pointed out, the first 30 minutes and the last 10 are really good. Unfortunately, what could have been a good black comedy turns into a lame soap opera and the story becomes pretty dull and boring. Lisa Kudrow is simply annoying and involuntarily funny. She delivers one of the most ridiculous monologues in the story of cinema (sex vs. shampoo and neck massage). And who could ever believe the affair between sophisticated Lucia and the policeman?
Christina Ricci and John Galecki (Jason) are very good, and Dedee's narration is hilarious. I also liked the parody of the Christian girl on the telly. The rest of the cast is forgettable.
With more rhythm and the courage to be more outrageous, this could have been a little gem (just think that when evil Dedee seduces the dumb gay, we don't ever see her breasts!)
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
A huge disappointment from the director of "Muriel's Wedding".
As a rule, I never watch Hollywood mainstream movies, but this time I went to see this because I liked the trailer and because I was in the mood for some light-hearted fun.
What's more, I knew it was directed by the same director of "Muriel's Wedding" (one of my favourite films of all times), so I had great expectations.
But, alas, this film was a huge disappointment! I absolutely disliked it. The plot was boring, silly and inconsistent. Not even Rupert Everett could save this awful film. Definitely, Hollywood did no good to P.J. Hogan's work. This was so different from that little gem that was "Muriel's Wedding".
After watching this film, I made two resolutions: never to watch another Hollywood romantic comedy and never to watch another film starring Cameron Diaz.
The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
A typical example of Hollywood's hypocrisy
The message of this movie is "personality is more important than beauty". Jeanine Garofalo is supposed to be the "ugly duckling", but the funny thing is that she's not at all ugly (actually she's a lot more attractive than Uma Thurman, the friend who looks like a model).
Now, would this movie work if the "ugly duckling" was really unattractive? When will Hollywood stop with this hypocrisy?
In my opinion, despite the message that it wants to convey, this movie is simply ridiculous.
8 ½ Women (1999)
One of the worst films I've ever seen
I am sorry to say that it was one of the worst films I've ever seen. Although visually fascinating (e.g. the use of colour was absolutely stunning), it was pretty boring and disturbing (see the father/son incest).
What's more, music is totally absent, and if you think of those wonderful soundtracks by Michael Nyman (who wrote the soundtracks for most of Greenaway's films) then you can imagine what a difference it makes.