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8/10
The best films are ones where you expect nothing but get everything!
5 October 2017
Nuns form a nunnery in the Himalayan "roof the world" and quickly get swept up by the local traditions, cultures and people. Being more effected by them than the natives are by the newly arrived nuns.

Films are made too often and too often for the wrong reasons for them to stumble in the world of profound art. But here they have created a masterpiece which despite passing of time rarely fails to enthral and amaze. The care and attention to detail are astonishing.

(Shame the bell tower scene features on the poster and in the trailer - should be kept as a surprise. But any film maker - from Hitchcock down - could learn from it. If they haven't already.)

The first thing this film needs and then gets is a great cast. Deborah Kerr is amazing as she has to play two roles: The nun and the nun in her former life. This isn't as easy as you would believe and provides insight and comparison. The locals are well cast too - and believable - in a way so few films of the period are. Fully fleshed with a life and agendas of their own.

Emeric Pressburger is a genius. This film is all the evidence anyone would need. Like musicals it has all the ingredients not only to be a failure - but a complete joke. A colony of nuns in the middle of nowhere! What nerve the producers had! My final thoughts are the final thoughts of many favourite films. Flawed or otherwise. They are a deep experience. Not always a pleasant experience and not always an experience you wish to repeat, but a unique experience. Black Narcissus is a unique experience and there aren't that many films that stand on their own like that. See it.
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6/10
Ageing, creaking, wheezing and production-troubled - but passable entertainment.
17 September 2017
As a only a casual Bond fan I wasn't put off by the word "remake" because, after all, aren't all Bonds a form of remake? Certainly up to this point in time anyway!

Connery has got himself down the gym for this one, but looks every one of his fifty plus years and then some. Thankfully the stuntmen do most of the work meaning a lot of the time he is wearing a helmet, headscarf, wet-suit or photographed from an obscure angle. Can always tell though - the stunt-man's hair moves while Connery's doesn't.

(It is said that the original script included a scene where Bond puts the toupee on!)

Listen you know the score or you are very young indeed. Man wants to take over the world, the sexy girl (or two) comes along before they face the ticking bomb. Kim Bassinger looks fabulous with a fantastic figure, but what shocking dancer! Gets her in to a leotard (and I am not complaining), but what a baby elephant.Can't even do a 360 turn! As per usual she looks vaguely disinterested in anything and everything - but there was an Oscar in it down the road so keep going darling!

The logic of Bond is that he is sometimes very smart (knows how to operate secret equipment with no training!) and other times very stupid. Gets captured very easily, indeed doesn't seem to mind too much when he does. Usually there is a nice meal in it for him.

Baddie No.1 Klaus Maria Brandauer isn't too shabby and plays the psychopathy quite well. Practicing for a better movie with a smaller paycheck maybe? Barbara Carrera is actually quite good, an assassin with bad taste in fashion, but a nice looking girl who looks like she can do mean. Even though Bond never cares who gets killed - as long as it is not him - so why is she bothering?

Box office wise didn't do as well as the other "official" Bond of the day (Octopussy) and you can see why. Still, good enough for Sunday afternoon. As long as it is raining and there doesn't seem a break in sight...
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Ivanhoe (1952)
7/10
Entertaining big-budget historical action film with all the correct boxes ticked.
4 June 2017
King Richard is captured while returning from the crusades and his evil brother, Prince John (Guy Rolfe), is appointed acting king in his absence. A middle-order knight (Ivanhoe) seeks natural justice for his country and freedom for his former ruler.

Hard to know the correct approach to take on this crowd-pleasing historical epic. Falling short as a history lesson (other than a few random nods at reality) it quickly boils down to nothing much more than a good versus evil parable that even a small child couldn't lose. The masterful MGM reading the whole thing as nothing more than a well-financed and staged pot-boiler.

The casting of Robert Taylor in the lead role is curious because being a knight and warrior is a young man's game and he is - despite his permed hair and clever make-up - clearly approaching middle-age. Still he does a good job when not being replaced by a stuntman.

Evil brother and stand-in king Guy Rolfe is brilliant in the role and maybe the best acting on show. All snarl and beard stroking. Liz Taylor is a bit all-at-sea, which the director simply disguises by making her stand stock still while the camera takes in her staggering early beauty.

The whole affair puts me in mind of Raiders of the Lost Arc where after being entertained for a couple of hours you are left reflecting of the things you could have been doing other than being entertained. Still simple entertainment isn't something to be sneezed at...
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8/10
Giimpses in to the mind and madness of a legend
26 May 2017
Like The Beatles, Elvis or even the birth of Jesus the constant telling and retelling of the basic known story tends to - initially - put off the would-be consumer to a "new" product. But please don't be. True, Brando's troubled background (both parents being alcoholic) and sudden rise to fame in "Streetcar" (Named Desire) are the stuff of showbiz legend.

(To be snobbish to other reviewers I have also read his own autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me which is required reading if full context and detail is wanted or required. His wives apart.)

Yet, despite my doubts, this is an amazing documentary. Indeed it breaks through to another level of understanding and comprehension. Rather like the Watergate Tapes did for our understanding of Nikon.

Brando had himself digitised for the video game The Godfather (how they persuaded him to do so is unexplored - money probably) and in this guise he repeatedly speaks his own lines to camera. A device which - like a magician's trick - gets a bit tiresome when over-repeated. The only real fault I can lay at the door of this production apart from the difficulty of actually catching what he said.

(Frank Sinatra didn't call him "Mr Mumbles" for nothing.)

The central problem with Brando is that he liked to think of himself as an intellectual or even a philosopher, but he simply didn't have the brains for it. Not that he was in any way stupid. Only mediocre.

Monty Clift (glimpsed in passing) was a far smarter man and probably a better all-round actor. Shouting and roaring (and doing so as a thick set man) is no real achievement and although he could be subtle he rarely was. Accents weren't his thing either and his appalling British accent on Mutiny of the Bounty showed. Maybe the worst accent this side of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

(Let us throw a complete blanket over his refusal to learn lines later in the his career - although not glossed over in this documentary.)

Healthy genes, a wide smile and devil-may-care attitude attracted many women. And some men. But was there anything more than the passing or cheap thrill about the man? No grade A actress ever did more than have a fling with him and his marriage partners remain a mystery. Nothing here gives us a grain of help - although his good words about Tahitians maybe explains one of his later marriage choices. Not that it didn't - again - fail.

Accusations of being difficult on set are treated as being misguided, although he undoubtedly was very difficult and on the set of Last Tango and possibly even criminal. You have no right to go beyond to what is agreed in the script or a rehearsal - even if it does create realism.

Finally we have to throw in that overused word "complex." But in lifestyle he wasn't a complex man at all. He liked cheap food (and lots of it), wore cheap clothes and preferred the company of cheap women. His relationship with Michael Jackson is unexplored or even mentioned. Maybe he had lost his mind by then?

He does make sense when says that you have to be your own psychiatrist and know your own foibles and their possible causes. I knew that without spending a penny though...

He was only a dabbler in politics, although the things he supported were ahead of their time. However his greatest art was to be a one-off and an immortal. The recipe for which remains, as yet, unknown. However one of the key ingredients is to be different...
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Vinyl (2016)
"Let's list every 70's rock cliché you can think of and then weave a script around it."
16 February 2016
Record boss Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) senses his company is on the brink of bankruptcy due to poor sales and failing acts, but salivation may be at hand via a buy out from a German record company. However that might be the least of his problems...

This is a mishmash of fact, fiction, fable and myth and not a documentary. For a start The New York Dolls seem to be very popular (as if!) and punk rock seems to have happened years before it did. Fine, but Peter Grant supported Led Zep and didn't take second best for them. He got loud when he needed to, but he wasn't the bull-in-a-china-shop shown here.

(Don't get me started on the guy playing Robert Plant's accent!)

How many times do we want to hear the same stories/clichés about rock and roll? While I love it, you have to say it is a bit pathetic in print. Alexander The Great conquered the most of the known world by the time he was thirty, Keith Richards - meanwhile - had written Satisfaction and stuck lots of needles in his arms.

To return to the plot. Between the clichés Cannavale chews a lot of curtains about what is going to happen to others. The man has a heart - or is it more of a heart than the other sharks and pimps?

The central problem with flashback is that when the actor is already middle-aged you have to think he would be a pensioner by the time the seventies rolled around. Is Cannavale the best casting they could do? Corruption and creative accounting are popular in the entertainment industry, but few people in it are actually morons. The Germans would look at the books and know what they are buying. They might not be as good with hookers, coke and making rock, but they can read an account book.

In all pilots various cans of worms are opened hoping that the money (HBO) will be intrigued and see millage. Few of them are anything to do with music or entertainment, because the behind-the-scenes industry isn't really that sexy or that interesting. The product is - but the people behind it are just people with computers sitting behind desks. They may like a bit of blow - but who really cares?
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Get on Up (2014)
Rambling and shambling, although mostly entertaining, look at a musical enigma.
24 September 2015
The life and times of legendary musician/dancer James Brown told in nonlinear excerpts-from-a-life, rather than any bog-standard birth-to-death, story-form.

There has been many recent musical bio-pics, so much so that a satire films have appeared about them such as Walk Hard. In such an atmosphere Tate Taylor has attempted to be different and non conventional but a lot of the time he is merely confusing, muddled and somewhat over-flashy. Moreover the movie looks like it was edited by running over the footage with a lawnmower and gluing it back at random. Flashback and flashback again was used so often that I lost track of where the movie variation on "now" was!

Starting at the beginning (although not for this film!) While his (Brown's) father was violent and irresponsible you get the feeling he is being short changed. He did try and bring up his son rather than run away. Give him some marks for effort.

However it is used (I believe) as an opening excuse for the behaviour he (Brown Snr) later displayed himself. Not that endless contradictions aren't part of this story, indeed you feel there is a sort of cop-out feel that it can't take any form of moral line. He was both anti-drugs and anti-delinquency apart from in his own actions and his own life. Dare anyone say it, the man had serious mental problems. Because if he wasn't bipolar nobody ever was or will be.

Don't give me the "it was all the drugs" line as if the character wasn't underneath. Indeed drugs, firearms and his huge ego could easily have got him killed in the street. Bizarrely he paints himself as a victim (in real life) when on a violent rampage. I rest my case.

Let's get off this merry-go-round of confusion and onto solid ground: Brown never left an audience member bored and his songs have passion and soul. We can get this from a concert CD/DVD with the real thing and Chadwick Boseman isn't anything like as good. Nor does he look much like him either (too tall).

Brown actually knew little about music and and even his voice wasn't the greatest in range. Indeed I'm not even sure he could have carried a proper harmonic ballad. Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding could have wiped the floor with him on a soul standard. Rather in the manner of Liberace he became important because he told people he was important and people bought into it.

(People who refer to themselves in the third party turn my stomach. If Jesus returned from the grave he wouldn't do it.)

Despite its faults this is an entertaining enough piece. Wouldn't want to sit through it again and - as I say - it is a shame that the editing is such a mess. All movies need narrative and even though we are dealing with a real life a bit of fiction or guesswork is better than lurching around from one unrelated scene to another with no sense of where you are going or why...
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8/10
A movie which dares to shock, but not for its own sake.
16 March 2015
A former top Nazi hides out by being a night porter in a hotel, but is recognised by one of the very inmates he has abused, but rather than turn-him-in she decides to continue their abusive master-and-servant relationship.

This is the kind of movie which I came to very cold and so much the better for it. Despite the passing of the years and the shocking things (real and fiction) that have passed before my eyes, this stays and haunts you. Might even have changed me a bit.

(If only in the possibility of cinema.)

Maybe the only film ever made which dares takes on damaged people and explore their lives without aiming for simple exploitation or entertainment. Hearing the testimony of real holocaust survivors should tell us one thing: We don't know how it would affect us.

Nor do we know how people feel after trauma. Or what their reaction to extreme circumstances may be. Or even our own if we ever were in a concentration camp or raped. We guess, but we may be wrong.

The acting here is superb. Leads Rampling and Bogart at the top of their game. Subtle and yet somehow believable in their reactions to each other.

Sadly it has been marketed now as a "come and be shocked" ghost train ride with every twist and turn now public knowledge. It really spoils it, because the audience are being manipulated into the expected and then having their expectations reversed. Without it the power is diminished.

This is a film from an era when film-makers were totally brave and fearless. Big name actors rarely took chances like this again. And you can see why.
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7/10
Entertaining comic celebration of the worst of human behaviour rather than any form of condemnation.
22 October 2014
A former Wall Street broker realises that pumping junk (penny) stock is very lucrative and turns a small cottage industry into something a lot bigger. Soon crossing white lines even he can see.

I am generally a fan of Martin Scorsese to the point of often wanting to watch his movies more than once. Sometimes even owning. He has made some fantastic films giving some real depth and insight into off-beats, street people and criminals. There isn't a director working today who he hasn't educated. Indeed quality hard-edged TV shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire are almost based on his templates, look and ideas.

(Can you imagine these shows even being made if he had died at birth?)

And yet, and yet, the man has a serious flaw: he struggles to be moral. On film at least. He seems on the side of the conman, the crook and the mafioso. The Joe Public who get crushed under their mighty wheels are of little interest to him. Comedy fodder. Police/law enforcement who stop them (or at least try) dull and low paid. Sometimes corrupt, inefficient and devious. At other times ignored completely or treated as last-reel extras.

Here he brings all his faults to the table and then some. Indeed almost seems to be underlining them. The FBI are full of subway riding drones in cheap brown suits and non matching ties.. Dry humoured nasty people who want to end the party (all bought with stolen money) early. There only advantage - over their quarry - being not risking sleeping six inches from a toilet seat.

Although few have noticed, this film has been shot before as "Boiler Room." A passable Vin Diesel number. So little has this film being seen that some scenes are almost copies of it! Indeed copies with a bit bigger budget. When you have the budget the camera can swoop and roll through a million extras - all acting their little socks off. Here everyone acts like they are on The Price is Right, even when they are work!

(Do the tits-out extras get extra pay? Hope so. Humiliation should come with compensation.)

Excess? I can spot it in small doses. It doesn't need to be repeated over and over again until I wonder if I have sat on the remote control and jumped back two chapters. Voice-over too. In case you have gone blind during the movie. It stops just short of flashing subtitles pointing out that what we are watching is immoral or illegal.

But wait and hold on, it does entertain and does make you laugh. Guilty laughs, but laughs (of the out-loud variety) are not common with me. A lot of it is probably true as well. Or true-ish. Clearly MS doesn't know how a helicopter is actually flown, so why not employ somebody who does?

DiCaprio is very good in the central role of Jordan Belfort. Best acting yet and let's be frank his face has been his fortune so far. Clearly over-the-top and silly at times, but some real acting wrinkles. It is not him on the stunts though, the double is too tall to be him and even in the "daring" sex scenes we never see candle wax on his back. Only that of the double.

I love Jonah Hill (Donnie in the the film). He is a brilliant comic actor. He just has it. Never afraid to make a fool of himself, he does a wonderful performance as best friend and co-conspirator. Not consistent though, stupid one minute smart the next. I wonder if he is going to go down the Jack Black route and get his own vehicles? Second wife Naomi (played by Aussie Margot Robbie) is hot in a Playboy way and seems appropriate for the role, but you don't like her character much. Just another spoilt mercenary happy to join the bandwagon without asking too many questions. Unlike his first (screen) wife. Whether Robbie is going on to anything else is open to question. Probably turn up in costume in one of those superhero movies they are always making. Has the build for it.

In the old 40's Warner Brothers days the film ended with the crook dead or in jail. Here there is another scene to underline the bit about Scorsese being basically immoral. And maybe so if the audience if the IMDb rating is correct. Maybe we are all going to hell laughing.
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5/10
Obvious, limp and cheap debut for Moore as 007
15 March 2014
Roger Moore's first outing as 007 seems designed to highlight all the things which made him a TV star in the first place. Tall, suave and well-spoken, able to give dignity to even the poorest script and even the most unlikely scenario. This is really pretty much the same-old, only with a slightly larger budget. Although the gadget budget must be the smallest in the history of Bond, consisting of little beyond a "magic power" watch.

Looking decidedly middle-aged and packing the kind of clothes that nobody under 40 would want to be seen dead in (even then), Moore/Bond is on the trail of another Mr Evil (twist respected) who wants to mass produce heroin and give it away. Thereby eliminating all competition. Which it might until he started charging for it again, when it would re-appear. Clearly not a serious proposition and Moore doesn't even raise his famous eyebrow to this bizarre school of thought.

Looking sexy and baffled is a young (introducing?) Jane Seymour who is best playing strong women with a brain rather than bimbos who can be tricked by tarot cards. Still she is nice to look at, although for reasons not altogether anything to do with common logic she seems besotted by our old-enough-to-be-her-father hero even with his safari suits and tired puns. But such is the lot of most Bond girls.

CIA agent Rosie (Gloria Ellis) is so stupid that you wonder if she really is a CIA agent at all. While she is black (and we know that clichés are allowed in 1973) why would they employ a numb skull? Mind you the full CIA is not much better rarely doing anything but put Bond in danger.

Boat chases are the worst type of chase because there really isn't anything in the way. You just go very fast and try and outrun the next guy. This seems the budgets biggest expense and we have to watch it with all the excitement of a powerboat DVD we didn't want for Christmas. Things are destroyed and onlookers are shocked, but that is the problem with the series. Driving a car fast was shocking in 1962, by 1973 it is simply nothing to write home about.

What really follows is the, now, much laughed about capture-escape-capture-escape which Bond often engaged in. Never asking for back-up or help you wonder whether he is driven by a death-wish. Making the same mistake twice even.

Still it has a rocking soundtrack and Moore tries not to laugh at the lines which come tumbling out of his mouth. He gets the job done (with the help of a stuntman or two), but then again we knew that at the start. It really didn't get any better did it for then on in? Same old formula being refitted and retreaded until we were all sick of it and the box office told its own story.

In the cold light of day, Moore's Bond was really a nasty user and abuser never mourning much over a death. Even if he caused it. Luckily he never seemed to take himself or the script seriously and that is what saves him. Indeed probably what saved him in his acting career, because he was so good looking he never needed to learn to act.
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8/10
Cobbled-together cliché-following script, but very entertaining nevertheless.
4 March 2014
Wreck-It Ralph is a video game bad guy (clearly modelled on Donkey Kong) who detests his life as a much-hated dump-living loner and longs to be, instead, a hero who saves the day and is loved-by-all. Better still have a shiny medal to hang around his neck. With this in mind he leaves his own game and seeks a medal in the other games in the arcade.

(Naturally by doing so he puts the "whole of video arcade in danger.")

The internal logic of this cartoon doesn't really stand much scrutiny because video game characters don't have a life outside of their games and even if they did this is contradictory in the extreme. I suppose we have to suspend all our facilities as regards belief and logic, but why would a bad guy (created for the purposes of this alone) have a heart-of-gold? While this may be unimportant the film can't even decide on its own internal logic. Why would the characters die if the plug is pulled? Do they die if they have a power cut as well? Equally why didn't they die before they got to the arcade?

(This is a movie written by people who don't know their ROM from their RAM?)

For those old enough to remember eight-bit games and the early days of computing there are plenty of laughs and references. Q-bert was my favourite. Not a fan of shoot-em-ups generally and they play on screen worse than they do in any actual game. They just don't create any sense of danger. They are simply there to be shot and never seem to do anything to avoid being shot. They are about as menacing as wasps around a picnic.

For my money it would have been more fun for Ralph to go in to loads of different games and interact with loads of our old favourites. Here he only lingers in two. Clearly this would have cost a lot more and, who knows, meant having to pay licensing. From the information about the film available here this was one of the original ideas.

Ralph is quite a complex character in being a bit stupid (for laughs) one minute and quite cunning (for convenience) the next. I guess that a lot of dim characters are like this in movies, they have to serve the general plot and be whatever is needed. Worse the central character is such a bland retread of Shrek. John C. Reilly's voice performance is simply great though.

The King Candy (Alan Tudyk) character seems to be indicating he is gay (lots of pink - sorry salmon - in the castle) and speaks with a bit of a camp lisp. While attacking some prejudices (the girl racers are all bitches ripe to be made good) it endorses others? He is a lot of fun though and adds a tiny bit of danger to a plot where nothing-bad-can-happen-and-we-all-know-it.

Too cute and sharp tongued by-half Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) is a would-be racer who Ralph helps and is the co-central plot thread of the movie and while fun and entertaining, what follows is like watching somebody else's video game from over their shoulder.

I guess the end message is go and see this film, enjoy it and think about the character references (if you know them), but don't start thinking about it too much. It really falls apart if you do. Strangely for a film about growth and change, the payoff is actually pretty weak. Like many cartoons and animated series the central message seems to be that everybody should know their place and be happy with it. Another cliché box ticked, sadly.
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Lincoln (2012)
5/10
Worthy, but ultimately dull and draggy, portrait of a great American icon.
24 February 2014
President Lincoln has two things in his mind and on his plate. Bringing to an end the costly and bloody civil war and find a way to pass the 13th Amendment: In broad effect, to end all slavery on American soil.

It seems churlish to summate any great (in the sense of important or historically relevant) statesman in a paragraph. Like trying to summate the impact of The Beatles in such a couple of lines. A film has to do something similar in under two and a bit hours. A bit more room for doubt and complexity and ambiguity, but essentially not much.

Besides, very few films can survive or be a success where the central character isn't a hero. Or at least a flawed hero. This is a film of selected facts and even some bizarre fictions.

(Why are the details of the final deciding vote wrong?)

Here we have a very modern Lincoln who sees blacks as equals and is moved to tears by the sight of men in chains. Or at least he says he was. Strange that he later wanted to export freed slaves to other lands where their conditions would be similar. Maybe it was the actual seeing it that he objected to?

A film is allowed to have an opinion that isn't mine. To take as fact what may be only interpretation or biography. That is fair enough, but to carry a morality film the central character has to be seen as - at heart - fair minded. A man who would be the right thing, even at personal cost. Reading his own words doesn't lend me to think that. Indeed he seemed to believe that the future America would become be formed as part of an apartheid system. Mixed marriages to be outlawed.

(And maybe they would have been if Lincoln had lived long enough!)

Politicians have stayed the basically the same since the dawn of time. Two faced, corrupt, self-serving and deceitful. They understand only two thing: Themselves and money. Using this information most things are possible now and then. There isn't any subtlety in this story, the politicians were simply bribed for their votes. So much for democracy or even an interesting storyline.

The best thing here is Daniel Day-Lewis. Indeed he saves the film from being unwatchable. What fantastic acting it must be to keep a straight face while a grunting front-line soldier recites the Gettysburg Address from memory! Doesn't matter how many years you work on a script (Tony Kushner), doesn't mean you won't come up with cripplingly bad scenes like this!

After a modestly interesting opening - including some basic battle scenes - we are in the smokey and half-lit rooms where corrupt politicians and lobbyists do their dirty work. To be frank I was soon bored with it all. But it just goes on-and-on in the gloom.

In a crass finish the final vote is played like a big game with close-ups of faces and the gnashing of teeth. All we need is an excitable commentator on the PA. We (those who don't generally live in caves) know what is going to happen so there isn't even any intrigue or tension.

Spielberg has made some great movies and some great flops, but I'd rather sit through one his flops (1941?) again then sit through this all over again.
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Hitchcock (2012)
5/10
Perfectly passable bio-pic, but a bit too cheap, simple and obvious.
9 February 2014
Genius is one of the words I rarely use. Nor should you. Hitchcock was a genius and that is why this movie uses it as a title. Sadly this is a movie made by a non genius (Sacha Gervasi) and is therefore trying to gain kudos by association.

What we have here is really one of those jumped-up straight-to-cable movies which seems all the rage nowadays. Made on the quick (read up the sidebar for details) with A grade stars, but sadly not a lot of time or money. Equally the restrictions made by original copyright holders (again available to read about here) make the project even more ball-and-chained than otherwise might be the case.

(A situation curiously similar situation to another Anthony Hopkins bio "Picasso.")

Here Hitch is portrayed as at the peak of his powers. One hit after another and the studio and the public are putty in his hands, but what next? His answer: Psycho a horror movie made by "someone really good" (as if Hitch would say that out loud!) and - although you wouldn't know it from here - made on a small budget with his usual TV series crew.

In the interests of drama the studio, the censor and even his own wife are against the project. While this may be founded in fact (studios are forever asking directors to simply reprise previous hits) there is little evidence that this was really a make or break movie. With the rise of television (for which he was a pioneer) and the low cost of the production the risks were not all that great and the earning powers of his television series (and residuals from previous hits) made him fairly secure.

The prosthetics and makeup on Hopkins is quite good, but you can clearly see it is a man acting being big and fat rather than being big and fat. The movement is not stiff enough and the legs not bent enough. The sexless nature of the relationship with his wife is emphasised, but they had a daughter! While a voyeur (and some ladies seemed to be happy to indulge him) he would hardly drill a hole in the ladies dressing room wall. How crude and insulting can you get!

The best thing in this movie is Alma (Helen Mirren). His wife, supporter and once - it is hard to believe - boss. Hitch the Feminist? Maybe. Certainly his equal and some ways his better. He was more pictures while she was more words. A strong woman, but looking nothing like the sexy Mirren. Despite her dowdy wig and old woman act.

Credit Scarlett Johansson as Vivian Leigh. Really good. Thought she pulled off the role well. Bit too young and fresh maybe, but that isn't her fault. Others are a bit cardboard with the exception of James D'Arcy as Perkins. Maybe the best imitation in the whole piece, almost a double of the real thing without any special make-up!

The problem with this movie is that it needs to have some sense of suspense and drama and it hasn't got any. Does anybody think that Psycho isn't going to be a hit and make pots of money? Or that he is really going to lose his home (as if!) You'd have to be stone-cold to Hollywood to be able to be on tenterhooks before the end.

As many of you will know another similar movie was made around the same time (The Girl) and it is actually much better as it has a better central Hitchcock. See them both though. They both carry you through to the end without too much looking at your wrist...
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Life of Pi (2012)
7/10
Entertaining special effects festival with alleged depth and meaning.
2 January 2014
Told in the style of a story-within-a-story (very Heart of Darkness, the original novel) a middle aged man tells two stories (to a visiting journalist) of how he - as a teenager - survived a shipwreck thanks to a lifeboat. But which does the listener believe? The standard version or a very bizarre version involving circus animals?

In the "bizarre" a boy (Suraj Sharma) is set adrift on a lifeboat with only a wild tiger for proper company. The tiger being part of a zoo being transported to Canada. The tale of how they get along and/or both survive takes over most of the rest of the film.

What an unlikely premise for a film this is! I came to it with an open mind and left it with a bit of an open mind too. Lots of thrills and spills and the usual special effects wham-bams which modern cinema has to offer (I didn't see it in 3D) but I am not sure what this was supposed to be about (other than basic survival) or why it needed to be structured the way it was.

The set-up is simply tedious and since the production seemed to want to shout its central novelty from the rooftops it became a bit of a wrist glancer as it worked its way towards this - inevitable - central novelty. Either we get to know the people well (think The Deer Hunter) or don't bother at all. I mean Gérard Depardieu in a cameo role? For what purpose?

The central character is mad as a bat anyway. He goes out on deck in a storm with nothing on but a shirt. Do you know how cold it is in the middle of an ocean? He dances about as the cross waves crash over him. Oh what fun it is to have ice cold waves crash over you! Laugh a minute.

Given there is little else to see or talk about (and I don't want to start spoilers) how does a wild tiger (who only feeds on land anyway) catch anything from a boat. And how much fresh water does it need a day. Apart from lots? Not very realistic to nature is it?

Like War and Peace is something about Russia this is something about religion. I suppose people who escape disaster tend to believe in God more than those who don't. Might just be luck though.

The good thing is that I found it generally entertaining. And Shama is solid, although he doesn't have to do much other than be thrown around in front of a green screen. Would be very tedious to watch twice (apart from seeing in its intended 3D on a big screen) and that is the best acid test of a good movie.
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Women in Love (1969)
9/10
First class acting improves upon an average novel
27 December 2013
Those who write scripts based on "classic novels" often complain that huge amounts of the text/scenes has to be junked in order to make it fit within the standard two hour movie window. This, I suppose, is why a television series can often be more satisfactory. Think Brideshead Revisited. However with D.H. Lawrence there is so many idle, superfluous and repeating scenes that a major trim usually does his work a power of good. No more so than here, where a pretty draggy and average novel is turned into a really excellent film, mainly thanks to the quality of the acting.

The introduction gives way to the belief that this is will be a standard boy-meets-girl-behind-the-slag-heap soap opera, but we quickly enter the world of madness, ambiguity (sexual and otherwise) and passion. This is cinema aimed at adults and makes no compromises to popcorn fashion. Only Ursula Brangwen (Jennie Linden) seems truly satisfied by the conventional male-female relationship.

In most reviews this is the point where we talk about the naked wrestling scene and Glenda Jackson's Oscar. While both are noteworthy, Jackson (playing Ursula's sister Gudrun) seems simply a selfish thrill-seeker who many actresses could play. In many ways the late Oliver Reed (Gerald Critch) is more outstanding in appearing, in turns, both intimidating and tender. A far better actor than many give him credit for, this may be his best ever role.

The equally late Alan Bates (Rupert Birkin) has slightly the easier role. Someone with wants to explore the boundaries of love, probably beyond the pale of heterosexuality. Quite how and why are not spelled out and the audience can read him in many ways. A bored thrill seeker or a pioneer to world without standard sexual and emotional boundaries? Whatever the case, clearly a man living before his natural time.

Director Ken Russell does very well here. While getting bit overheated at times, he keeps the show on the road and moving forwards towards its sad and unsatisfactory (for the characters) ending.
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9/10
"All is vanity... All is ego.": Nietzsche
11 April 2012
Rough-necked and uneducated Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) has fought his way through the ranks, and despite the love of hard drink and the odd highland fling, has proved himself in the very heat of battle. So much so that he has been made Acting Colonel of an (unnamed) Scottish regiment.

Sadly, for him, his informal barracks is going to be reformed under the auspices of the public school via Sandhurst graduate Lt. Col. Basil Barrow (John Mills) who believes in doing all things by-the-book. This sets the scene for a post WW2 power battle under a grey Scottish winter sky.

When writing a review of any excellent film - such as this - you are frightened you are going to put people off by its limits. However this is a classic example of less really being more. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the sense that armies without wars are prone to be heavy with politics. Not unlike like prisons: To many people in the same space with too much time on their hands. They drive men mad and extend the worst in the human character.

Guinness and Mills are fantastic actors. Oscar winners both and more. They could read the phone book and captivate an audience. For the record they had both seen war service, although Mills baby face and short stature had made him the butt of many jokes (many he was happy to re-tell). Did this help form his character? The guy who was laughed at and therefore worked even harder to enforce discipline or gain respect. This is, naturally, speculation.

I have no the knowledge of author (of book and film) but just by watching you know he has seen it for real. The little details that only the insider would know. The story would just as well be served as a theatre piece and it employs some its stock devices. The accidental narrator being the more obvious. Maybe this was to save money, but it would not have helped the picture to see - say - the incident that Mills had to endure from the Japanese.

Eyewitness testimony from the filming says that Guinness thought he would look silly in a kilt and used fake tanner on his pale legs. He is not the biggest of men and has to stick out his chest and stand on tiptoe to be imposing, but you do believe him. What an actor he was. An actor's actor. Like Peter Sellars, totally bland out of character (and not always very nice as he writes in his various autobiographies) but always mesmeric on screen. Mills - on the other hand - could never work as a bad guy. The perfect uncle figure who you would want to confide in.

(I am maybe giving the support cast short-shrift - but most British films of the time had quality character actors. No exception here. Amazing to see Susannah York in her first role.)

Alfred Hitchcock himself said Tunes of Glory was his own personal favourite film. It is not quite mine, but a great demonstration of how brilliant film can be when top class actors get their teeth in to a wonderful script. The end is pure Shakespeare. Don't watch it once, watch it twice...
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7/10
Intriguing and long - but non too critical - look at the quiet Beatle.
14 November 2011
The central problem with documentaries is that they are - at best - when they surprise, intrigue or even shock. The story of The Beatles is only behind the story of Jesus in being constantly re-told.

Even with the novelty of the focus being on George Harrison (for a change) you come with a heavy heart: knowing that you are, probably, going to see a lot of familiar film stock, hear a lot of familiar songs and yawn through a lot of misty-eyed wasn't-he-great backslapping from the great and the good.

Thankfully Martin Scorsese knows all this and - at least - tries to get original and unseen material, original interviews (but no Dylan or Jeff Lynne - why?) and dabbles with unorthodox approaches, including home movies. The opening and closing images (George in his beloved garden) being the most striking.

(The balance he gets totally wrong - his son Dhani gets so little interview time for a start.)

This clearly isn't going to be the best doc about Harrison in a hundred years time. It is aimed at me - the all-too-knowing viewer who has lived it though the papers, TV and even cinema. To enjoy this (and even make sense of it) you have to be able to fill in the many blanks yourself.

Major bombshells are avoided. Sometimes for no reason. The My Sweet Lord plagiarism case (he lost) is not even mentioned once! The farce of the Concert for Bangladesh which saw not one penny go to those in immediate need (here the film is deceptive to the point of being misleading!) The media comments about after hearing about Lennon's murder only to go back to sleep!

People loved this man. As Madonna said, "there isn't a bad bone in him." Well there was a few small ones. He took a lot of hard drugs (probably explaining his pasty-faced shambling stage performances glimpsed here) and he smoked very heavily. He also dosed unknowing people with acid. He cheated on his second wife (she says so herself in highly rehearsed code) and was strange (maybe greedy) with money. Who else goes in to tax exile when fighting cancer?

(How many mansions and exotic holidays can anybody want?)

He didn't actually write much, but it was usually pretty good when he did. Some of my favourite Beatles tracks are his, but the constant claims about "being squeezed out of the albums" has never borne much examination. When it was brilliant it got on. The mediocre stuff was junked. Lennon and Macca were the only ones allowed so-so material.

As a guitarist, not very good. OK on a good day. Here they give half-hearted praise about his slide work. Pete Townsend said (on hearing the tracks without the vocals) how ropey and out-of-tune they often sounded. Next to (best mate) Clapton he sounded like a guy playing in a pub. Not that he actually pretended otherwise.

I simply don't understand eastern mysticism or like eastern music. That is probably my ignorance/loss. However it clearly involves a lot of sitting on bottoms trying to feel good about yourself. Mansions, motor racing and electric guitars - his other three clear loves - are built by people who don't do a lot of these things. You know something, the material world has more going for it than these orange-clad layabouts would acknowledge.
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6/10
A bombshell at the time - dated and hysterical today.
12 October 2011
A teenage boy (Jim Stark played by James Dean) seem fated to get in to trouble and his family have to keep moving hoping that he will grow up and settle down. This proves to be a futile hope as things slide from bad to worse one fateful night.

Despite the sometimes over-the-top script and acting, there is something very special about James Dean on screen. However three films are not enough to judge him as an actor. Two of which are basically the same part.

Acting wise he was very Brando-lite, but more than that he had the vulnerable look and the fashion haircut. Not tall - barely 5'6 - but well proportioned and without an once of fat. A fashion trend-setter. The red jacket he wears here is worth several times his salary for making the film.

Sadly Dean's role as the world's "first teenager" is rather spoilt by the fact that he is - in fact - 24. Not even a particularly young looking 24 at that!

Strangely co-star Natalie Wood (Judy Hopper) is closer to the real age of her teenage character and yet - side by side - they look of a similar age. Her "middle aged" bomb-proof hairstyle making her look older than her years.

Best acting is actually Sal Mineo (Plato) as the homosexual hanger-on and social misfit, fresh from a psychiatrist's couch. More sad than bad. Despite what happens later.

I am not going to take this script seriously. Nor should you. Wood would need to be a psychopath to behave like she does on the "big night." How strange it seems to Europeans to see "children" driving and having their own car! So incredibly convenient for storming out the house after a chewing-the-curtains drama queen session with your folks.

Sad to think that all three of the above came to tragic early ends. Such is the fickle candle of life. Wood went on to West Side Story, which despite its fame didn't really take her in to orbit. Never scoring her "great role." Here she works well with Dean because he is trying too hard while she is trying too little to compensate.
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7/10
All films written by lawyers are really about lawyers.
4 October 2011
A bright social misfit (Mark Zuckerberg) becomes a billionaire by coming up with a new and radical way of communicating with friends and colleges through the internet. But was he the complete and total author?

Before I even saw this film I congratulated David Fincher and his production team for even touching this theme. So recent a piece of social history. The protagonist has the deepest pockets imaginable - so the film is clearly guided by lawyers and legal advice. The usual flashback he said/she said bomb-proof air-raid shelter. Mostly based on court deposition.

(Not only was the film virtually written by lawyers they feature on-screen more than they need to. Loyalty-free parasites - all of them!)

I don't think many people will want to see this product twice and over time the (high) IMDb rating will shrink. Why? Because the soup is too thin. We know he did it - what we may not know is how he did it. Once this is learnt (in the broadest who-do-you-believe strokes) then there is not a lot to return to.

Credit Jessie Eisenberg for playing a slightly autistic virgin loner who clings to the wall at parties, but clearly untrue. He not only had a girlfriend before his life went bang, but he is still with her today. Movie convention dictates that all programmers are geeky social misfits, usually wearing glasses held together with sticking plaster.

(They stopped short of this here - but cliché is not avoided.)

Programming is a slow business. Like working in treacle. To show his skill he hammers away like a speed typist. But most of programming is debugging. He never got it right first time. Although, to be fair, only programmers know this and the audience has no interest in such nuts-and-bolts.

Quality acting by lead Eisenberg and especially good support from Justin Timberlake (as theft-is-good Napster "founder" Sean Parker) who really is quite adept at playing flash character roles. Lost a lot of weight to make himself look younger.

The movie contradicts itself is when it claims that Zuckerberg has no real interest in money. Especially when most of his actions show that he wants to cut the cake more-and-more in his favour and, earlier, makes himself scarce rather than having to lie. Cowards lying. Like Bill Gates (featured in cameo) I don't envy him because he is not cool and in reality money (above a certain level) cannot improve your life. Not unless your only ambition is to build a hospital in the Third World.

Like many I came to this film looking for information and what I got was mostly opinion and spin. At worst it clinks and clangs in its ball-and-chain. However I was entertained for a couple of hours and that is - really - all we should ask of a film.
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6/10
Leaves you with more of an aching bottom than an aching heart
2 September 2011
A tale is spun of a blind clock maker who makes a large public clock which runs backwards. A symbol of forlorn hope that his son can return home from a war in which he died. Later a baby is born, but with the features of an old man. For Benjamin Button - played by Brad Pitt - time will really run backwards.

I haven't read the F Scott Fitzgerald short story, but I might. Could well be better than this film and secondly it might fill me in on the clues, meaning and motivations that passed me by (or the makers could not convey clearly).

First a word on the acting: Pitt received an Oscar nod (not win) for this, but does he deserve it when most of the acting is imposed by CGI or make-up? Indeed the central problem in casting is that Pitt (today) is not really all that young. So a lot the supposed "young man" scenes had to be filmed in medium shot.

(If you think he is not a gym-toned forty something - at his youngest point - you shouldn't be giving descriptions to the police!)

While there is plenty going on there is also a lot of meaningless padding. He meets a former long distance swimmer at a hotel in Russia, but I have no idea why this means anything. And given the screen time it must - at least to the various authors.

The "old" BB acts young (because he is in his own mind!) and confuses himself and others, but there is no answer and no solution. His life is bizarre and he has no role model or no way of making sense of it. So - in time - he quietly accepts.

Naturally long-term sexual happiness cannot be achieved as you get younger to a partner who is getting older. Indeed at some point you might risk being arrested and put in jail!

Yes, there are loads of unique dilemmas and crossroads, but Button just runs out of the kitchen every time it gets hot. There is no dealing with it. Equally meeting people that he left when he appeared older (now as a younger appearing self) is dealt with in a matter-of-fact way. Why would they believe it was the same person? Anyone sane would be totally disbelieving!

The movie having one big central novelty seems to be a license to follow the road of cliché in most other areas. The romance here ticks every box which was laughed at in the Naked Gun series. The romance montage where they laugh and clown, practical joke and roll like thunder (in the hay) is so old hat that you think they are taking the Mick!

Thankfully the act direction is simply first class. Yes lots of stuff made on a computer - including a ballet rehearsal where Tilda Swinton's face has been morphed on to another dancer! Every shot is well framed and thought out. Creates a true sense of being in the past.

(And while I am on the subject, Tilden is shown dancing vigorously and later seen stretching. You stretch before you dance - not after!)

There is solid acting from the full cast - with special mention to the classy Tilden as the love interest - but I don't understand her particularly well either. While Pitt has a pretty face and six-pack you need more than that to entertain an intelligent career woman for long. BB is weak and totally empty. A drift through life chancer who, as I said before, always runs when things get tough.

Three hours is too long to spend with him. He is not worth this extended length of celluloid. Glad I saw it though. If only for the art direction and cinematography.
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7/10
Seems more a critique of basic human nature than the golden age of Hollywood.
29 August 2011
Under the dry and dusty Hollywood(land) Hills of the 1930's, dispersant characters and chancers gather to harvest what they can get from the studio system or else become leeching camp followers. Based on a celebrated novel by Nathaniel West.

(Who presumably knew the scene first hand from his date of birth and working C.V.)

America, being a republic and a relatively new country does not have that many unique stories in its foot-locker. The western, the gangster/American Mafia cycle and Hollywood backstage story are the only three I can think of right now. The latter - naturally - being today's quarry.

Like the other two, lots of free gifts, built-in charms and easy plot devices. Human ego, sex and exploitation are never more to fore than in showbiz. The prize of success and the cost of failure mean that morals are more easily put to one side. Nothing being as cheap as human beings out here in the Cali sunshine.

While I used the term "chancers" in one of the early paragraphs above I should have used the term "no chancers." Only lead male - William Atherton - has any clear and discernible artistic talent and even that seems depressive and obsessive.

(Judging solely by what he produces. Unless he was trying to do early sketches for Pink Floyd's The Wall - which his drawings curiously mimics!)

Karen Black is a standard over-verbose ten-a-dime peroxide dreamer. Taking everything from fan magazines and the movies. An extra with no chance of progress beyond Central Casting because she can't really act (although Black certainly can!) Seems loyal to her ageing father (a brilliant pre-Rocky Burgess Meredith) and her odd-ball friends though.

(Her interactions with a dim accountant - brilliantly played here by Donald Sutherland - shows a hint of a darker and more exploitative side. Or is the reality of her own situation beginning to sink in? Is he the future meal ticket when her looks fade?)

To add perspective the film takes an upstairs/downstairs look at the big studio. With Atherton walking between the two storeys. However this does little other than to illustrate a fairly healthy props budget. With money comes sex, privilege and opulence, the movie tells me. Hold the front page.

The central problem is that there is very little subtle about this production from the title (humans being locusts) onwards. What could be almost a soap-opera-come-tragedy is brought to a climax that brings to mind Apocalypse Now. Real bizarre and heavy-handed stuff.

(In 1930's Hollywood even the street by-standers are mad as hatters?)

In short summation, Locust is a more interesting film for its parable and its moral than the often tepid (ludicrous and over-the-top finale accepted) on-screen action. My closing thoughts are that in Hollywood nothing has really changed other than the clothes and the technology. It is still the wheel on which a thousand dreams are broken.
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Crazy Heart (2009)
7/10
Only Jeff Bridges could shine with this basic and shop-worn material.
29 August 2011
"Bad" Blake (Jeff Bridges) was once a famous country singer-songwriter (although how big and how famous are never clearly spelt out), but he has now slid to the very bottom of the greasy music pole: now a reluctant opening act or playing small shows in bowling alleys or suchlike dingy places.

Age, booze and multiple divorces have taken further toll on his mind and body. Today, he rarely thinks much beyond his next drink or resting his weary bones in the nearest - and preferably cheapest - motel.

In to this paint-peeling world comes a hint of genuine love and affection, courtesy of a much younger single-mother (and professional music journalist) Jean Craddock played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

There is not a lot of originality about this production. Indeed it might be viewed as an attempt to re-film The Wrestler in Stetson hats, where it not for Bridges. Talk about carrying a show on your shoulders. Although it does beg the question of how simplistic/basic country music is when an actor (with only very occasional musical forays to his name) can be so convincing.

(Clever pastiche songs being a great aid to the believability.)

Despite the negative opening headlines, things are not totally hopeless. Musical friends and agent are loyal. Dues are owed and paid. Indeed there seems to be ladies (of a certain age, granted) who, still, want to entertain the former legend back in their rooms. Yes, even the bottom of the showbiz barrel seems to have its freebies and its perks. When sober enough to actually enjoy them, that is.

In many ways the act or review - and therefore after-the-fact analysis - takes some shine off this drift-down-the-river production. Indeed only re-enforces how little there is to chew on.

Craddock has to be either mad or desperate to to take an interest in this long broken down musical artist who is not only old enough to be her father, but only one false step away from being a vagrant. What does she see in him? Is she so seduced by the romance of low-rent showbiz to see he is totally selfish (he has, for example, long taken no interest in his own child) and lives in the past?

Maybe Bridges should milk this a bit - go on stage as his alter-ego Bad Blake. I am sure people would be happy to see it. Clearly he is good enough and the professional and functional songs on display here would pass twenty minutes of general inspection.
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The Duchess (2008)
7/10
Spirited and stylish costume drama with heart and soul.
29 August 2011
A girl of nineteen (Georgiana Spencer Cavendish played by Keira Knightley) is to be married-off to an older titled man (The Duke of Devonshire played by Ralph Fiennes) as a form of provider-of-male-heir business arrangement (brokered by her mother - played by veteran Charlotte Rampling), rather than as a union based on true mutual love.

Based - loosely - on a true historical story.

(Parallels to the doomed marriage of Diane and Charles being played upon in the marketing and - in my opinion - in some of the acting on-screen!)

I am a bit hesitant over costume drama. Too often the thing plays out like a fashion parade with too little moving central drama to keep my eyes from my watch. This isn't too bad, even though the mounting and costumes ARE still the only real prize winners on display. You feel that you are really going back in time. The well preserved mansions of England doing sterling service to the cause.

To date this is KK's biggest - and most taxing - dramatic role and she handles it very well. A solid and polished performance without needing to clear her mantelpiece for awards. Although hard to believe that she is - later in the piece - a multiple-times-mother. She would have put on weight to play a rickets victim.

Fiennes is better at playing not-very-nice than most actors and here he plays a man with little to no moral fibre. Indeed by today's standards someone for the Sex Offenders Register. Blame his over-privileged background and parents as much as him!

Two previous films came to mind while watching: Barry Lyndon and Amadeus. Films with more money to spend and more plot to follow. This does not give the social context of these films although this might diminish sympathy for The Duchess. Who is - at worst - a frustrated and loveless bird kept in a gilded silver cage, rather than living in the disease, filth and poverty that the vast majority of the population had to endure way back then.
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The Prestige (2006)
7/10
Entertaining - but slightly overheated - mishmash of Victorian period melodrama and science fiction.
22 February 2011
Two Victorian London magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackson) become involved in professional rivalry which has dramatic and far-reaching consequences for both of them.

Magic is by its nature being able to appear to bend the rules of nature and/or physics - while, in reality, being no more able to do so than you or I.

Equally the role of an intelligent viewer is to try and guess and predict the unexplained, the how, or the hidden twist (if you believe there might be one). A film which is allowed to take both feet of the floor (more literally than metaphorically!) destroys all such audience games.

You can't knock Michael Caine for his supporting roles, because he plays them so well. Jackson and Bale are both overheated and a bit hysterical, and besides which, professional rivals tend not to hate each other deep down. There is - again deep down - a respect and admiration for the skill of the other.

Here, for the purpose of the plot and a does of extra drama, this relationship has to turn murderous. This film could have survived, and be even been better, with a bit less plot and a bit more breathing in the dusty backstage atmosphere of the music hall.

(And very well created it is - the art direction is simply superb.)

Feel for female lead Scarlett Johansson, not a lot to do and almost window dressing in this production. I will watch her career with interest, (which red-blooded male wouldn't?) when she has more to do than looking good in an assistant's costume.

While entertained and involved I have to say this is a lesson more in what the audience is prepared to accept than it is a cleverly crafted film script. Many films contain nonsense and illogical developments, but this doesn't lay its cards out on the table early enough. You can't switch formats mid-film.

In many ways, it is a form of cheating. Or more accurately a case of "wouldn't it be good if only....."
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6/10
Entertaining enough if you know the fuller picture
27 January 2011
The Ian Dury story was definitely too strange for fiction. A disabled pop star - in the modern video age - who created a mix of musical hall, punk and pub rock that topped Euro charts and still gets a whirl now and then on nostalgia radio.

But is this is the real story? For a start he had one of the great backing bands (and to be frank they were more musical than him!) and, besides that, he was both an art teacher and born and brought up well outside of London. Making him Mockney No.1.

Like most bio-pics, facts that don't fit the overall picture are thrown over the wall. Also chronology is not guaranteed either. Never mind the interesting bits that the micro-budget couldn't touch.

Serkiss is simply great as Dury. Indeed hard to see anyone doing any better with the material. Such as it is. Why did women go for this unconventional man who clearly had a great deal of trouble thinking beyond himself and his own creature comforts?

("Don't know" says the movie very honestly. Although he may have been quite nice on the days he wasn't acting a prick. There was a brain and a conscience up there.)

Like many artists you are glad for their art because it shows they had hidden depths that their appearance and behaviour didn't always indicate. Later he left music ("writers block") to try and be an actor. I don't mean play at being an actor, but become a real one. Work at it. Character roles a speciality. He did OK actually. Another fact that could have been a good 20 minutes rather than ending up over the aforementioned wall.

The whole production team has worked hard to get some energy and oomph in the film and not to make it limp like the man himself, but despite that it is really only a time passer. As I have already said, the film doesn't have the budget to get involved in his era (which made him really) and while it is nice to know he had a country house and a swimming pool the real action is clearly elsewhere most of the time.
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7/10
"Reading Karl Marx is boring - let's go out and kill someone."
24 August 2010
The story of how late 60's West German student radicalism turned to violence and then cold-blooded terrorism.

If you know a bit of Euro history and also know the German language - and you were old enough to remember all this first time around - then you are about as well placed to enjoy (if that is the right word) this production as I am. However even from this privileged position the production does play like "urban terrorists greatest hits."

Yes, things will blow up, combatants will be riddled with bullets and radical lefty middle class bullshit will be spoken (or should I say shouted.) But I am (as a book reader on the subject) more interested in the characters than the bombs, the bullets and the cigarettes (does any radical not smoke?) Who are these people and why should you shoot people in the head because they happen to run a bank? It is not like you are not using money yourself. Soft targets for soft heads.

Dare I say it, these people were as "German" as their parents: Maybe even more self-serving, violent and compassion-less. Liars and hypocrites too - the bombing of workplaces kills without discrimination. Equally, where does the money (for the guns and hideouts, etc.) come from? This film gives no clear information. Let me help: East Germany some of it - a place where hot members were even allowed to hide out.

Director Uli Edel is wise enough to know that the audience for entertainment will out-number those that look for information, so he keeps the script cracking along like a band rushing to end a bad gig. The plot (while often true) doesn't really bare any more thinking about than the script of a bad Eddie Murphy movie - the West German state wasn't going to release hard line terrorists for any hostage. Token gestures and futile actions.

Praise to the backers. They have coughed up a fortune for props and sets. I can well imagine this is the most expensive local film to date. The acting is good too - even though most have little to actually act with other than a mug sweat.

Most of the real action happened in the heads of the main protagonists and that cannot be filmed or fully explained. Not in rational terms. Their world is a world of nonsense and most of the rest of the world is far too sane (and comfortable) to want to join them in their Marxist/anarchist ultra violent fantasy island. Entertaining as it may be - in watching - in the safety of the cinema.
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