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Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A worthy salute to everyday heroes. Truly, a masterpiece.
What a piece of work. I remember when it came out all the hype about the realism of the battle scenes. Well for once you can believe the hype - absolutely gut-wrenching stuff. But it's far from being just a Boys Own action movie - indeed, anything but. Far from a derring do tale of nobility and victory thru' moral superiority, it's an enormously ambitious, triumphantly realised and utterly believable portrayal of men in all their variety and complexity struggling above all for survival, but motivated also both by the immense power of comradeship and a genuine if barely understood or articulated belief in the righteousness of a cause. A truly majestic piece of work, an immense example of film doing what only film can do, and a worthy salute to the everyday heroes it depicts. If Saving Private Ryan doesn't deserve 10/10, I really don't know what does.
Tom Jones (1963)
Simply, a masterpiece.
Mostly the reviews on IMDb can be relied on, but sometimes they just make no sense. Over upwards of a decade and many hundreds of visits I can recall no starker illustration than the truly unbelievable 6.8 given to Tom Jones. It is, simply, a masterpiece.
A brilliant story at the heart of it, of course, but brought to life with fantastic, innovative direction, including affectionate nods to the silents, extraordinary action sequences, unsurpassed breaches of the fourth wall ("Did you see her take it?"), uncommon acknowledgements of some of the grimmer realities of the era, and tour de force performances from the entire cast (who clearly relished every minute), centred of course on the sublime Albert Finney - one of the greats, never better - and the heart-stoppingly gorgeous Susannah York.
Tom Jones is one of the ultimate explorations and illustrations of the full potential of the medium: movies don't get better than this. Anyone who contributed to that risible score should hang their head in shame. Anyone else, watch Tom Jones. Then watch it again. And again.
'History' with a powerful emotional punch
Hats off to Abi Morgan and all the actors for avoiding the common fate of 'Big Issue' films - producing something honest and worthy but lacking in engagement. This is a big (by Brit standards!) movie, but it manages to avoid 'worthy' distance and reverence, taking you instead on a very human journey full of shadows and half-truths and moral and personal ambiguities.
The central performances are flawless. Unusually for a British film, even the boy is brilliant (British child actors all too often being stage-schooled past believability or spontaneity). The scenes of violence perpetrated against these women - whether the police with their truncheons or the prison doctors with their force-feeding equipment - viscerally convey the loathing felt by many for these uppity 'unwomanly' women.
The tragic frustration of women both ashamed and ashamed of their very shame was superbly conveyed. Perhaps above all, it stopped you in your tracks time and again by an awareness of just what was at issue. The fact that a man had sole 'ownership' of any children, and could do whatever he chose with them, regardless of their mother's views, just seems incredible, a century hence - yet it comes from an age where brides were required to promise 'obedience' to their husbands - and that was no mere form of words.
And as others have said, the 'roll of shame' in the final credits brought audible gasps from around the auditorium, along with a timely reminder that these 'historical' struggles are far from altogether historical. This battle may have been won; the 'war' continues.
Oh, and the evocation of the era - physically - is superbly done. You feel immersed in Edwardian London, from start to finish.
At the end, you come out feeling more than a bit stunned. And so you should.
Adam & Paul (2004)
Turning dross into gold - isn't that what movies are all about?
Proof if ever it were needed that you don't need pots of money to make a great film. Achieves the near-miraculous in making you care deeply about and fear for a couple of in many ways utterly worthless and in some quite loathsome characters.
Great dialogue, wonderful cinematography, and some of the best bits of slapstick since Buster Keaton, with acting from the two central characters that convinces utterly and even, somehow, enchants, from beginning to end. A rare gem.
I've commented on the minimum length criterion before, and I have to say my frustration with it has not diminished with time. I've said all I wanted to say. 'Omit needless words'. Enough already. If this ain't enough, the hell with it. (This paragraph is, needless to say, redundant.)
La tourneuse de pages (2006)
A masterclass in tight, flawless film-making
Not a surplus word, not a gesture out of place, not a scene that doesn't contribute to a gradual crescendo of tension culminating in a calm, controlled but devastating climax. A superb central performance, excellent support, and a lean, mean script that's directed with a sparse intensity that delivers every ounce of a stunning psychological payload. Masterful. Film-making at its very best.
I was blocked from posting my review for failing to provide 10 lines. I find this baffling. I'm sure I've seen reviews on IMDb with fewer than 10 lines, and I said what I wanted to say in six. Does that make it unworthy? Doubly ironic in this instance, given that one of the things I regarded so highly in this film was the tight concision of its script.
Are these 'junk words'? If so, so be it. Oh, one last thing: I find it good practice when visiting reviews of foreign films on IMDb to add one to the score. In the case of The Page Turner, I think anyone would have to double that. Personally I have no hesitation in giving it 10, but I wouldn't expect even reasonable and astute people to necessarily feel the same way. But 7? Mon Dieu!
Pretty much faultless - 5.9? How come?
I don't do IMDb reviews. I drop by all the time, and when I've just sen a movie, I often drop by with my prediction...and though I say so myself, I've got pretty good over the years. I guess 6.3, it's a 6.5; I guess 7.2, it's a 7.0.
Just watched Twins for the first time in 20 years and came in with my prediction of 8.1 and what the...? 5.9? You have got to be kidding! Of its genre, Twins is damn near perfect. Great idea, brilliantly executed. An excellent script, with great one-liners and terrific plot twists along the way. And above all, one of the best buddy-twosomes outside of 48 Hours. How this ended up under 6 just defeats me.
I was so amazed - and indignant - that I ended up doing my first IMDb review in years, in the hopes it might ease the score just a bit closer to where it deserves to be - which is 8, minimum. If you don't enjoy Twins, check for a pulse.
Wedding Belles (2007)
TV drama doesn't come better than this
It's unfortunate that this programme's IMDb rating has been dragged down by one person who just plain didn't like it. Note that *every* other reviewer has given it a 10...and how often does that happen? From the fantastic, surreal opening sequence to the close, this is simply British TV drama at its best. Hilarious yes, as others have noted, but also one of the most moving portraits of friendship I can remember seeing. The script is razor sharp, every performance flawless, the direction superb. Not a dull moment from start to finish. This one is going to *rack* up the awards. The only problem I can see from an American's perspective is the accents - Glaswegian you could cut with a Stanley knife. My guess is it'll get subtitles when it hits HBO, as it surely must. Irvine Welsh - maestro! Dennis Potter couldn't have done it better...and praise comes no higher than that.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Great book, great movie
An absolutely gut-wrenching roller-coaster of a movie that among other things provides an object lesson in how to film a novel. The broad arc of the original plot is faithfully followed, tho' significant events from the book are simply ignored, and the ending bears little relation to the original. But the film is in the most important sense absolutely true to the book, whose core and most pervasive feature is the escalating sense of dread, of unpredictability, of sheer terror, of things starting to slide inexorably out of control, of madness, of limitless power at the disposal of a capricious and unhinged infant. That *feeling* - of sheer, mounting dread - is the very heart of the book, and is brilliantly transferred to the screen. Excellent, efficient, totally-focused direction; towering performances all round (every bit part was played to perfection...easy to miss given the dominance of the central performance); intelligent script, great location photography....movies don't come much better.
P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)
Great atmosphere, iffy plot
An enjoyable movie, without a doubt, and very evocative of both its era and that very particular stage in any boy's 'rites of passage'. But I have to say that having read the very positive comments here, I was a bit disappointed. The period was captured, but the plot was desperately thin. The whole thing revolves around the most egregious bit of miscasting in the history of school plays. The idea that quack quack would ever be chosen to play not only one of only three star turns, but a philanderer, is risible. And without that, nada. The sub-plots bore no relation that I could see to the main plot - all of them could be removed in their entirety without in any way affecting the main story - which surely suggests a fundamental flaw. When all your sub-plots look like padding, you know a central idea is being stretched beyond its limits. Nevertheless, it's a benign movie with its heart in the right place, there are some fine performances, and you just get the feeling that everyone involved felt deflated at the final 'cut!' That good feeling permeates the film. And that has to count for something. A flawed really quite good movie. 7 out of 10.