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13 Reasons Why (2017)
I treated it as a documentary because it made sense to me that way
I am not marking this out of ten because it would simply trivialise the effort the producers have made. I hadn't read the book but I have been close to someone who did commit suicide, hence my interest.
Whilst watching I dealt with it as a documentary about one suicide with no other intention than to set out the evidence of the person who died. By the end I could understand why the outcome had gone wrong for every single character involved, from any standpoint I chose to observe. I will watch it again but not for a long while because even now, after several weeks, there are scenes I remember more vividly than anything I have watched on TV or in a cinema for a long while.
There are times when this series is very hard to watch, and I paced my viewing according to how I felt at the end of each episode. I found all the characters to be complex and complicated, much more so the more episodes I watched until, by the end, I was left exhausted by the folly of it all. If that is what the producers set out to do to the viewer then they achieved it with several notches to spare.
I cannot dismiss it as irresponsible as some have done so, on here and elsewhere. I will not endorse it as a statement about suicide or how such tragic events can be changed because I do not believe that is the message the series delivers or intends to deliver. It left me on empty and I am pretty sure that is what I felt about the suicide I experienced up close and personal.
If you want to watch it then do so with an open mind but don't judge it before you reach the end. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions before episode thirteen then this 'documentary' is not for you.
A very welcome addition to Netflix
From the first lines spoken in this deeply, darkly black comedy you feel you are in for a treat and you most certainly are. Pathos, farce, black comedy at it best but with an undeniably astute message underpinning an excellent script sprinkled with the occasional clever little cinematic trick. The acting is supreme right across the board. The direction and detail (watch a cyclist zig-zag down a road) bringing out the detail and meaning of what unfolds before us. In every way this is a real gem of a film. And time moves so incredibly fast watching this movie so well paced is all the action.
Certainly a movie deserving of as wide an audience as it can possibly get.
Nine out of ten.
A decent addition to the superhero genre
Lad is involved in incident with mobile phone and starts to exhibit special powers which he begins to use in many interesting ways. British cast, with younger actors predominating, does well in a film which is well photographed, well edited, and has a good soundtrack and better than average script. It's entertaining, has some novel twists, and is certainly well worth the watch.
Perhaps it doesn't have the budget of the alternative superhero studios but Netflix have done well to release this as one of their originals. You will pay more to see worse.
Recommended to anyone interested in the superhero genre or who like good, solid entertainment.
El marginal (2016)
In one word - superb
This twisting and turning drama inside an Argentinian prison is a feast of everything about human drama, from pathos to open brutality, and it does not miss a trick within the episodic plot developments and every new character introduced. And if subtitles turn you off then you do not realise what you are missing. The acting is superb throughout, with no one allowed to have so much as a bit part, the whole is visually and aurally superb.
The main themes are compelling, soaked in their own tensions, and attack you from many different directions before meeting, often by way of a new twist. It is genuinely adult viewing but rewards you with a memorable experience leaves you in no doubt you want a second season.
Is it better than Breaking Bad? You'd be silly to try and separate them.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
Poor adaption of Paula Hawkins's excellent book
The relocation to New York was a huge mistake suggesting the screenplay failed to realise the importance of the railway to the character in Paula Hawkins's book, a quintessentially British railway winding through residential areas on raised embankments and overlooking houses, and stopping a red signals, habitually. The film also failed to reduce Rachel to the real levels of the dangerously flawed alcoholic seemingly unwilling to demonstrate the real hazards those levels present.
Overall, if you have not read the book, I would guess the film picks up, well after half way, for a reasonable finale given all other circumstances but it simply doesn't do the book any justice at any level. The acting was pretty good from the main female cast but I felt the male participants didn't resemble the characters in the book at all.
A very lightweight film in so many ways which is a great shame because the book is a wonderful read. I did like the music, however.
Five out of ten because the film deserves to be on mainstream mediocre circuits right now.
Wonderful cinema, but less convincing plot than original
In many ways watching this sequel to the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is an experience equal to the original, although the story line is not as convincing or compelling as the original. What's to like are the flawed characters still driven by a profound inner goodness or badness made possible by the time and country in which the story is set. The unique oriental capacity to have human beings perform apparently superhuman feats is, at times, overdone and that is the films main flaw when compared to the first film. And perhaps the linking up of all the set pieces lacks the finesse of the original.
However, it is very watchable, well acted, beautifully photographed, and memorable from the very beginning when the breathtaking scenery is caught with such rich outlines, camera angles, and clever technology. All the way through are these rich feasts of panoramas painting an atmosphere which is unique to this genre.
I have awarded it seven out of ten, but if I had to judge the film on cinematography alone it would be closer to ten.
The Hundred Code (2015)
An intriguing serial killer mystery
The downsides are Dominic Monaghan, a serious miscast and way out of his depth, and the slipping between subtitled Swedish and un-subtitled English which, at times, is barely audible. The upside is a seriously involving mystery about serial killings set against some wonderful Swedish backdrops. It may not be the best detective story you'll ever see but it beats the pants off of most TV fodder these days. And, aside from Mr Monaghan, the acting is excellent across the board with plenty of sub-plot action for those who like such things.
Worth a viewing of at least the first two episodes to let it suck you in, which it will do in spades full.
Den fördömde (2010)
Certainly very much better than some people suggest
This set of two feature length stories feature the boorish profiler / detective / author "Sebastian Bergman" as he assists police with two murder investigations. The title character's personality is onion peeled away across the two episodes, often painfully and clumsily revealed as a rather unlikeable womanising man, who has suffered serious trauma in his life. But this unlikeable character is able to put complex pieces together in a murder investigation by often sensing that something that appears to fit doesn't fit at all.
Because of the high quality of acting, script, cinematography, and sound, there is atmosphere in abundance, and the unpleasantness of the crimes doesn't so much make you squirm and look away as make you an observer trying to understand what is going on in the characters' minds.
I found the two episodes compelling watching and I am happy to be in a minority of recommending them. As ever there are unexplained pieces or unanswered questions at the end but I assume they are answered in Series 2 which I have not seen released in the UK.
Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
A superb climax to a superb trilogy
To watch this cinematic recount of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy has been as great a privilege as reading the books. The seven hours or so of cinema are compelling and, as faithfully as they may, follow the stories with just the right atmosphere, characters, pace, and realism. Every flaw of every character is reproduced in the acting, and recalls your memory of what Larsson wrote.
The central characters, Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) are superbly cast and are supported by a very strong cast who pull out all the stops whichever side they are on. It is a beautifully photographed trilogy, with atmosphere in video and soundtrack fitting a script that keeps you in touch with what is going on in what is quite a complex storyline. And for a film of a trifle short of two and half hours it literally flies by, because, like all good stories, it keeps you hooked.
Sweden makes some wonderful cinema and these films are up there with the best. Please watch all three movies just to observe how true craftspeople ply their trade.
Child 44 (2015)
A compellingly deep and dark hunt for a serial child killer
Take grim times, the Soviet regime, add in child killings, Party politics, corruption, brutality, betrayal and Nazi leftovers, stir well, add plentiful quality actors, a stupendously good script, superbly dark and atmospheric cinematography and you have a ridiculously good film, whose only failing is it's muddled up language - it could have been subtitled throughout or English throughout but not mixed up in places.
The acting is superb, with a hat full of memorable lines, plot twists and turns, love, hate and deception heaped into each other. The story takes a while to fall into place but, by the end, it all makes perfect sense, a tribute to the way the film is allowed to unfold in real time.
I am going to see it for a second time and I am hoping to look out for things I may have missed first time around. It really is a must see film.
A little tough to follow Superman as a TV series, but at least this has potential
A mixed start, perhaps because setting up characters in a pilot is a tricky process. Melissa Benoist lead has a bright enough personality for the part and the storyline has an interesting feminine approach. Perhaps turning the Superman story upside down was not the best move as an outline but it does paint a picture as to how things may develop.
Measured against other mainstream teen appeal TV is faces big competition and the reality of competition is that it really has to score points very early on in a series to catch the audience. It's glossy and up to date, runs quite smoothly and quickly action wise, is well produced but I wonder if it will catch on. Too early on to predict after the pilot but I wish it well. I'll watch it again and that doesn't happen with all series.
Recommended to sample.
Miss Meadows (2014)
Dark and quirky but very watchable
A tap dancing vigilante may seem an impossible idea to turn into a comprehensible script but somehow Karen Leigh Hopkins makes it work. The opening sequence of the film makes it clear that Miss Meadows (Holmes) is no ordinary school teacher cum vigilante, with victim number one clocked very early after the title sequence. Holmes does a great job of making Miss Meadows seem the epitome of eccentricity, with, apparently, carefully created, precisely drawn and meticulously manicured manners, even at the point of the kill.
Throughout the plot are moments of blissful dialogue intertwined with pauses, telling looks, and, it has to be said, the incongruous, but it does hang together if you stick with it. There are continuity blunders in more than one scene, and occasional poor editing, but these do not stop the film from being surprisingly engrossing. The acting is rather good too, especially from James Badge Dale (the Sheriff) and Ava Kolker (Heather). There are memorable scenes like dancing to an unseen and unheard accordion in a field which make this film a little like an old fashioned fairy tale or a fable, but the message is totally adult in content, and should leave you thoughtful by the end.
A film like few others which is going to be underrated and under exposed. It is better than it will score on places like 1Mbd.
Compelling script. Atmospheric and tense drama. Excellent TV Series.
There are many notable films and TV series about World War Two, but this French series based around a young woman in Paris, Lilli, from 1940 on, is up there with the best. If you do not understand French and worry about subtitles then there is enough visual effort in this series to make it worth your while, and you really do not notice yourself reading the lower part of the screen after a while.
There are no winners in war, a point echoed by the script which does nothing to romanticise its message. There are moments when it is almost unwatchable and yet you have to watch because the screen compels you to. The acting is remarkable by any standards, the period captured in as close to authenticity as you can be. It is like a good book which you just cannot put down.
Liberal Arts (2012)
A refreshing opening soon goes flat
A bright, refreshing, snappy script promises an evening of good cinema, but, unfortunately it doesn't last. The premise of an opportune romance between a nineteen year old and thirty five year old has been done several times over but here Olsen is convincing as a young women who wants to explore and be curious. For a while this film is willing to explore its own promise freely and with stylish brushstrokes, but then somewhere, around the middle the plot takes a rather clumsy detour and goes into standard fair mode.
It isn't all bad, but it is a pity an opportunity to really dig deep into age gap romance is thrown away in preference to hackneyed story lines and the snap disappears.
Five out of ten made up mostly of a good performance by Ms Olsen and her flatmate.
Grand Piano (2013)
Not the best movie you'll pay to watch....
If you like funky piano music then the opening credits are worth the admission fee, but from thereon this film heads downhill fast. The film is murdered by its many clumsy plot movements, until you are left hoping there is a punchline to make it all worthwhile. But there isn't. Indeed the end is the clumsiest part of the film, and it is not as if the actors make anymore sense of anything than we do.
Okay there is some nice music to listen too, but, for the rest, it isn't that good to look at, and it tries to be clever with plot distractions that fail miserably.
I will not be watching it again to see what I may have missed.
Lucy in the sky on steroids....
The beginning is promising - female is tricked by selfish male friend into a rather horrific chain of events in typical Luc Besson fashion. As in the Fifth Element mayhem is released in abundance, in many unlikely places and in many unlikely ways, but it is watchable, likable, and an entertaining couple of hours or so.
Perhaps the sci-fi facts are loosely (should that be lucily?)interwoven but it is tightly directed, well paced, and, in places, inventively shot. Scarlet Johannson does everything she is asked to do and more, is almost well supported by the rest of the cast, and the cinematography and sound are up with the best.
Not a film to be taken too seriously, for, as Morgan Freeman tells us, "it's only theory", but taken on face value it is worthwhile cinema.
Watch it for some light hearted thrills in one of Mr Besson's better films.
Willow Creek (2013)
For a precious moment it almost touches fear. The rest is wasted.
The premise is okay. A couple celebrating a birthday going to the sight where a Sasquatch was first captured on video to make their own hand-held video version. Cue a long build up which is boringly and infuriatingly trivial. Cue a quite rapid ending which is painfully short of almost anything but noises. Edit into this a longish sequence inside a tent which has one brief moment of promising to be scary, but loses it almost as quickly as it records it.
This film is a waste of whatever talent there is on the cast and crew because it didn't have the courage to build tension by understanding what fear is, how it is generated, and what it causes people to do. And the main actors have such banal roles. There is the spoken line "turn around and go back to wherever you came from". It is pity that isn't the only line in the whole film.
A wasted opportunity.
Wish You Were Here (2012)
A Compelling Mystery Thriller From Australia
The plot is simple, two couples visit Cambodia but only three people return, and the film spends its time skilfully cutting between then and now until we understand what went on during the trip, and also understand the unfolding dramatic relationship between the three who make the return trip.
As a film I thought the acting, the script, the cinematography and the sound were all very commendable. Although the plot format is not original it is very well done after a seemingly confusing opening few minutes leaves you thinking you may have blinked once too often, as the opening credits run with the film. But once the film has settled down the action is driven by the acting and the script, which are always thoughtful. The film makes no attempt to sentimentalise anything but reveals the story as if we are eavesdropping on the actors. There are several poignant moments which are down to great performances by all concerned.
It would be good to see some more output from this stable because there is real promise on show.
The Butler (2013)
Compelling drama. Thought provoking. What is not to like?
No matter who tells us about history it is only ever one dimension and when a film is made about people whose lives are divided by the colours of their skins it is only fair to give it a fair airing.
The plus points about this movies are the great performances from the lead actors especially those within, and connected to the Gaines family. One of the many feelings I had was how the script of this film muddied the waters of racism exploring how one evil cannot be beset by another, but that the price to pay for being servile is much too heavy for anyone to pay. There are subtleties in the script, divided loyalties, misunderstandings, fear, passion, hatred, ignorance, prejudice, and sheer evil, but all are almost casually placed before us so that any offence is what we truly feel and not a product of forced art.
Because the White House is central to the journey this meandering river of a story takes we are given full appreciation of the two faced American political system even if it does stop on an apparent high note. All the warnings about trust, mistrust and anti-trust are present and neatly bundled for consumption by what the film hopes is a captivated audience. And for the most part it works even if it is a little tongue tied at times.
I am not sure anyone could do better with this material but it would be interesting to see the same kind of story done from other perspectives. It is certainly a film to see if you love movies that are well made and well presented.
Now You See Me (2013)
Enjoyable in parts but somewhat overrated
There is entertainment and action in abundance in this colourful, glossy and, at times, highly enjoyable, film centred on the world of illusion, deception, and the magician. And, at times, we appear to be treated to explanations as to how tricks were done, but sadly, in doing so, many important pieces of the descriptions were simply ignored because they were inexplicable. It kind of takes the biscuit when you explain the easy and, perhaps, most dramatic parts of trickery but fail on the subtleties where the real tricks occur. But the context of the film is how trickery can be used to fool us all via the many diversions the film uses along the way.
Of course you have to suspend reality watching this film or it can get a little tiresome, which is probably why I found it enjoyable but only in parts. It is a good twenty minutes too long and kind of waffles it way through the final five minutes or so. The actors seem like they're having a good time and the sets are fabulous. But the whole seems to add up to something a little less than satisfactory.
Six out of ten.
About Time (2013)
Mr Curtis is on top form with this rom-com with a difference
There are touches of deja vu in this film which cleverly stitches in time travel to a love story encompassing all the central characters. First and foremost it is about love both romantic and familial, but with a couple of characters who can play little tricks with time. Not all the time trips go as planned but they always provide food for thought. There are the usual Curtis-marked laugh out loud moments, the careful casting of the leads, the flawed diamonds of characters that always bejewel Mr Curtis's scripts, and the tragedies that open our eyes so very successfully. Through all their faults the lead characters are such believable characters, and, as usual for Mr Curtis, the token American character, this time Rachel McAdams, is perfectly cast.
Perhaps Mr Curtis is guilty of formula writing you may say, and you'd have a point, but just like his use of rain and foul weather, he manages to freshen it all up and keep us guessing until the end. It's a formula others copy but no one does it better than the director himself.
And so if you want to watch a heart warming rom-com does very professionally then this is up there with the best.
Nine out of ten as a film, but ten out of ten for the lead actors - all of them.
Alter Egos (2012)
Funny, clever, low budget entertainment on the superhero theme
It's a bit strange to have a superhero film with sharp dialogue, few set pieces, and a lot of innovative comedy based around what could happen when superheroes lose their mojo. The plot focuses on two out of fashion superheroes battling against disillusion, depression, and rejection. It looks and feels like these guys have been shunted off to a workfare programme and it is starting to grate.
With some great energy from the cast, some very sharp dialogue which can be surprisingly easy to miss (watch it a second time perhaps) and some bizarre situations, the eighty minutes passes quite quickly. It isn't achingly funny like some but it is good enough to feel this outfit have a lot to offer the cinema circuit.
Eight out of ten because it does all the important things really well.
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
An enjoyable fantasy with added style
This is a fantastic story about casters and the South Carolina town of Gatlin, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The plot opens by introducing us to Ethan who narrates a candid story of his life in Gatlin and the people you will find there. And when Lena turns up for her first day at school we get the point of Ethan's narration, but it is a chance meeting with Lena later that day which starts the plot ticking over rather nicely.
By merging fantasy with reality the film generates several layers of plot development all of which then reveal further layers and at the same time builds a relationship between Ethan and Lena which seems unbreakable, but is it? There is much magic to unfold before that question is answered.
A strong cast delivers some great acting, especially from Emma Thompson who relishes her role as only she could. There is good support from everyone concerned because the roles they play are very versatile. The cinematography is at times superb, and the CGI sometimes breathtakingly brilliant.
There are a few continuity flaws but they do not spoil the entertainment. This is not a great film but it is certainly good enough to spend some money to see. Teens and above will enjoy but please don't compare it with Twilight. It is much more grown up than that.
Good but could have been better
A film of the genre that has any number of people's lives intertwined by fate. In this case the connection is the internet and technology in various guises. The introductory story lines are well outlined and carefully worked to increase our compulsion to know what happens next, with neatly interwoven switches of action to point us in the direction everything is likely to move.
The acting across the board is good, with some very gutsy performances from the younger actors, and, if the script does, at times, falter, then there are reflective moments with which to keep our interests on edge. The cinematography is brilliantly done and the sound track is of excellent quality.
It is essentially a film that is satisfying to watch and the only nitpicking from me is really because I felt the resolutions were, perhaps, a little too contrived. But, even allowing for my nits (!), it is still a good way to spend a couple of hours.
Locked In (2010)
A wonderful idea which does not quite translate into film
I want to write this review without hinting at anything which may spoil it for you. The plot hovers around an estranged couple and their young daughter getting together at Christmas. As a result of an accident whilst driving home the daughter is comatised and locked in. The prognosis does not look good and Josh (Barnes) the father embarks on a long crusade to connect with his daughter Brooke and bring her out of the coma. Much of Josh's crusade is a mix of flashback and hid detective work which tends to blur detail of appear at of sequence.
In spite of the confusion surrounding his efforts to connect with Brooke, there is something strangely compelling about his passion to uncover the links which may save her life. There is also Josh's estranged wife Emma running a counter problem for him as she consider options which he does not approve.
The denouement is not best written or played out, as explanatory scenes are repeated as if to provide us with answers which never quite satisfy what the film has encouraged us to believe up to that point. This is a shame because the concept is well developed as a mystery right up until the explanations are shoved into our eyes and cheapen the whole event. However I still managed to come up with my explanation of what the end represented and it was different to what others thought. Certainly a film which makes a conversation piece afterwards.
Six out of ten.