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Web of Lies (2018 TV Movie)
6/10
Like a cheesegrater - glossy but full of holes
8 March 2019
There's a freshness to the staging, the settings and locale that I found appeasing. The actors look pretty -including the male headliner, and all represent the millennial demographic so it seemed quite fresh and easy on the eye to begin with. However there emerged huge sinkholes below the surface - like what seems to be a machine-made screenplay, and stilted dialogue throughout. The plot started to look so transparent I began to wonder about some clever bluff which had me sticking it out to a disappointing vacuous ending. There are so many odd incidental characters (alive and dead) and general story threads not properly developed. Contemporary tech & cultural references, and the relatively high production values keep this lightweight from sinking much further down the rating scale.
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9/10
Intelligent and sweetly subversive film
30 January 2019
With a relaxed and pensive pace, this didactic doc manages to cover in a fairly random way a good deal of this massive topic with grace and colour in 90mins. I'm quite shocked to find how few people have reviewed this on ImDb. I caught it on Talking Pictures UK freeview TV. Of course the answer to the titular question is not the point - to me cinema is really everything - our dreams, our reality, an exploration of our very our consciousness as human beings. The film intellectual Bazin's thoughts are weaved through the narrative. It does manage to disrupt the commercial functional intention of cinema and allows an obscure peek at familiar and some really weird clips. I loved Hitchcock saying about the content of film that one shouldn't care about whether the painter's apple included in a picture tasted sour or sweet - that it was way the way it was portrayed and the emotion that the whole composition evoked that mattered. But cinema is so varied, so we have more direct content-mongers like Michael Moore here too...truly thought-provoking stuff.
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Croupier (1998)
9/10
Delightfully dark, sleezy... and baffling
19 January 2019
The slightly tawdry gaudiness of nineties west end casino-land, and London's grubby lodgings, smokey bars are all laid bare in this stylish 'noir'. It's served up complete with morbid soliloquies from Owen's croupier character with reflections on life, death and risk-taking. There's a great deal plot-wise all squeezed in and it's totally unpredictable, but really it's despite all of that that this is so remarkably fun. It is such a brilliant hypnotic concoction best taken sitting down - it's borderline madness but still highly recommended. It's a little rough at the edges production-wise, but that offers extra charm too and for me was above all a thought-provoking study of this fascinating eponymous character, an observer, a philosopher, an anonymous good guy who says he doesn't gamble - maybe not with cards, but does the very same, indeed with his very soul.
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9/10
Aren't the middle aged so obnoxious?
8 January 2019
This is a lovely movie really, it is at least equanimous in its portrayal of the younger and the old - all sides are in a way quite unlikeable! Here, it's the young with thier ruthlessness and blind ambition, and the olders dragging a resentment of the young and a fathomless nostalgia everywhere. For me the film with its many little facets offers at least as much edification as entertainment, but with some really funny moments like the tantric mescaline vomiting party and the paralysed sexuality of the the lead couple. Ben Stiller seems really good at being quite so mixed up at 44, having achieved very little creatively. The young folk are intriguing and cool, but again it's hard to find a really likeable character anywhere, but it's redeemed for me by the philosophy, the psychological insight, and the gentle sustained comedy. The truth be told, we middle aged are not always easy to like - we're fussy and tedious. The tacked on unessessry ending can't disguise the fact.
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9/10
Maybe funnier this time... really!
3 January 2019
I'm sorry but I just love Ron and his left-footed,cack-handed ensemble and will always. Please let me just stand up as one of the thousands that have rated this work way above a few hundred party-pooper reviewers have. It's quite a testament for the film to possess an IMDb score it has that contrasts with the many derisory ratings on show. This has to mean there's a silent majority that had a good old laugh and just left it at that and didn't get writing about it. Perhaps its a personality thing, we're not all the same. Perhaps the asinine style of humour doesn't suit the average review-writing literate type. But there's great writing here behind the bafoonary - indeed maybe a be more risqué second time (not to elaborate on dangerous territory here). The actors I imagine had a whale of a time and seem to work well together. OK I accept there's a meandering story arc, but it's about actors becoming more comfortable with characters and writers brainstorming together- the vibe for me was great, and I felt the same genuine spirit of the original. I think I know what has irked the minority reviewers; it's a postmodern pastiche. Is it not obvious it's not meant to be taken at face value? The joke is that the jokes are generally 'bad', the whole thing is in poor taste, in a way. It's about awkward situations and actually an enlightened send-up of antediluvian social attitudes we hope but secretly know have not yet dissappeared. So its kind of meant to be stupifingly inappropriate, and yes and the gags seem awfully flat on a concrete level. Maybe the lesson, if it can be taught at all, is simply - 'get a grip America, go on, expand your consciousness, and try grow a sense of irony for Pete's sake!'
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8/10
Stylish and sentimental
28 December 2018
After getting over my disappointment that the film isn't really much to do with the world's best TV quiz refered to in the title, I couldn't help warming to the charming leads, and fall to the nostalgic heart-tugging eighties pop soundtrack and generally had a nice time. It did seem a long time in places, as the narrative seems a bit prosaic and the pace saggy in the middle. The salt-of-the-earth characterisations and chic Bristol and Southend locations and the general feel places this well within the canon of top British rom-coms and what fine company that it is. Importantly, the love element works: it's plausible, and what a winsome pair Rebecca Hall and James McAvoy make!
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The Colony (2015)
8/10
Lacks depth and grit, but a good thrill ride
20 December 2018
This is not unlike other historical thrillers where there's a difficult compromise between fact-telling and cinematic pace & form, like Munich if I recall. Emma Watson is great in this and the creepy camp boss too, and other great performances are forged miraculously out of an anaemic script and often robotic dialogue. But it is well produced and visually meticulous and there's some great thrills, and good pace from start to end. The story arc can't be a surprise as the main narrator is well, is in it... I can understand if some find the glossiness and the Hallmark romantic component doesn't do justice to the abject horror of the actual historical setting, but as as say there's a compromise. One might argue that this more accessible picture helps to expose a chapter in world history that the more average movie-goer might well have missed or skipped altogether otherwise. In the end it was poignant in places and also provided a satisfying albeit predictable journey.
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Ghostbusters (2016)
10/10
Sharp female comic camaraderie, tons of slime...
18 December 2018
.... A dense hunk male 'secretary' still learning to use the phone, wicked black New York seen-it-all humour, eighties tropes everywhere - what's not to like?! I've seen way too many hater reviews that I fear are driven in varying amounts by misogyny that I suggest if you find this fun give it a good 10/10 and try and fix this jaundiced rating! The chemistry between these fine comic actors is up there with the best male performers. The movie has a smart tongue-in-cheek vibe that makes it clear it doesn't take itself too seriously, and that the bit I think the rednecks don't get. It's not an attempt at a facsimile of the great originals, but I swear it's got the fun and nihilistic mood of the original pinned down. I only wish there was more ghostbuster banter and hijinks and less bloody ghosts personally but saying that the special effects worked out OK. I do hope we see more of this oestrogen- charged heroic crew in action - how about taking out slime-spitting zombie-sexist reviewers with proton ray guns - that would be fun.
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9/10
Sweet post-modern fable
11 December 2018
Love Will Ferrell in this more nuanced and ever so cute role, and Emma Thompson is fun too as the fate-wielding authoress. I just can't understand why some reviewers found this 'boring'. There's the gentle romance, and the fairy-tale feel still rooted in contemporary city life - perhaps a cookie too sweet for some, but for me I was lickiing my fingers after for every crumb. This is such a good-natured film, yes without any irony or darkness and the ending of course was inevitable but it's a fable not cinema verite, and on that level, with the cool soundtrack too, it just left me with such a warm glow for all concerned. Some movies challenge and enquire, shock or excite, this makes for mild chuckle after chuckle, and leaves one pleasantly enchanted.
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The Witch (2015)
10/10
Wickedly good stuff
1 November 2018
There are multiple interpretations that have been offered on this opaque masterpiece, but the one I like most is that the piece is an example of a group hysteria that goes really badly wrong, or at least it's too simple to just blame the nymph-like beauty at the heart of the film for being 'a witch all along'. She actually comes across as the most saintly character up until the denouement. In the meticulously crafted dialogue of first-generation American pilgrims one becomes immersed in the wierd mindscape of 17th century Puritans, where there's an unflinching belief in the supernatural - be it heavenly or hellish... Somehow the horror seemed just so much more genuine here than amidst the usual comic stumbling fiends that make up the stock of the tired genre.. Anyway I loved it from start to finish, and felt such a transgressive kick, a liberated feeling becoming involved in a vicarious way with the goings on. One witnesses in subtle symbolism and audacious moments a bit of everything from murder to incest, suppressed greed & vanity, obsession in bucketloads, pubertal lust, love mingled with hate, hopes for salvation meeting fire & brimstone, to name a few. And it was all so much more pointed and realistic in the austere, sprititalised and just plain paranoid setting that the director so painstakingly creates. This is far too clever and too serious to be pidgeon-holed as 'horror'. It's more of a psychological thriller with buckets of blood and bible-talk. And the suggestion online that the whole family were all hallucinating on the ergot from rotten corn is way too delicious an idea to dismiss outright.
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9/10
Funnier than gory
11 October 2018
No mistake there's a lot of ickiness but when this charming feature gets going with its well-drawn oddball characters it's a delicious dark comedy above all. There's a friendly aspect even to the twisted perpetrators. The high-school gags and just the plane quirkiness lifts this out of the horror zone in the main and has a almost a relaxed country pace overlaid by timeless Aussie music on the radio. It's a real gem and a directorial debut. The plot isn't the main strength it's the mind boggling situation and inspired character dynamics and dialogue that makes it. Seems a little high on concept and maybe too many stupid ideas for one film - like an over eager film studies submission but it's a jolly good ride, bumpy, hairy, and a bloody good laugh.
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10/10
Sensitive, sentimental, but also witty
27 September 2018
Extra fun watching with fellow Quakers on a course in England, a film sensitively exploring the situation of Quakers at a transitional time in the 19th century, soon to on the whole discard the obsession with hats and the universal 'Thou' and 'Thee', but yet to be greatly challenged into 20th century with choices of behaviour at times of war. There's a lot of laughs but it stops short of mockery and there's real sympathy to be had for the Quaker nuclear family so well played here by all. The novelties and dissipations of the time are viewed through a Quaker lens and of course some kind of accommodation to it all, indeed to the matter of the civil war's challenges takes place, but all participants maintain their dignity and self-assurance. There's lots of mild innuendo and diversion from the serious matters, which all get wrapped up oddly satisfactorily in a little over 2 hours.
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The Day After (1983 TV Movie)
8/10
Possibly did its noble job: stop dreaming of a winable nuclear war
15 September 2018
First you need to see just how widely watched this was in 1983 and how talked about it was and then see it as more of a docu-drama than a movie. It had a clear political intent, and how can you argue with a challenge to the Dr Stangelove mutually assured destruction MAD policy of the era. Half is like a typical disaster flick with a slow build-up, getting to know a circle of perfectly nice folk in Kansas but then follows some great tumult with old school special effects, and then a relentlessly depressing narrative takes over that must have really stuck in the minds of viewers of this TV movie long after they switched off. There are more dramatic and realistic films on this topic but the very ordinary nature of the story and the accessibility of it I think was very carefully calibrated. I began to wonder on seeing this that in hindsight that perhaps this film may well have nudged successive presidents to agee to substantial arms reduction agreements with the Soviets, and indeed that this may have been the beginning of the end of the cold war itself. In any case, as a cultural artefact and fascinating sign of the times this can't be beaten, despite the sagginess of the pace of the second half. You can't expect a happy ending to this story - that's the main message. Right on!
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Hell Drivers (1957)
10/10
Golden grit
14 September 2018
More muscle and pace than a hundred Ealing comedies put together, this picture has the perfect mix of ingredients for a taught thriller of the highest class. There's a circle of excellent actors given the dialogue they deserve, with the tough working class setting a refreshing change. The period detail of the grubby 50s British road hauling mileu is fascinating, and even the minor characters seem so well-defined - from the landlady to the priest officiating last rites. There's certainly death in this, and that's no surprise, but above all there's brawn and testosterone, and heroism, bullying, patience & payback. It's near-perfect entertainment bundled into a neat little runtime - there's all the social realist nuance and themes of love, hate, crime & punishment, but it doesn't fail in the end to be just one he'll of a drive.
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7/10
Some redeeming features makes this not all bad
11 September 2018
OK there are numerous flaws, some a little laughable with respect to continuity, plausibility and underdeveloped dialogue, but there's enough to like for the aviation technology enthusiast, and some pacey and dramatic elements. The genuinely Russian female lead is very good - mixing malice with vulnerability and soars above her peers. The actual bits of tech and effects are, well, so nineties, but delightfully quaint. The handing over of floppy disc, yes a floppy disk reportedly capable of holding critical super-bomber mission telemetry raised a snigger, and the obiquius video displays looked pre-PacMan, but all that added to a period appeal. There is an obsession with GPS as some kind of modern mystery. The back story/plot for want of better word is a little sketchy, baffling and tangential, but there's no diversion in the clear trajectory of the testosterone-laced heroic action plot, and the booming and shaking sound effects make the pair of obvious model super-planes that feature in many ways the biggest stars. Overall, quite fun and even dramatic in places.
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Paddington 2 (2017)
10/10
Adorable and witty, a perfect package
4 September 2018
Paddington 2 has continued to build on something that works, and has everything in a way a the great Bond franchise has had - broad-spectrum appeal - and may it last as long. The stellar cast work together brilliantly with charm, and humility - considering its underneath a CGA bear, and Grant is central in the supporting line up, and so many more 'proper' actors being as fluffy and winsome as dear Paddington. The bits of detail about both contemporary British culture and apocryphal England too give it that depth and interest that makes it engaging to adults too. I was won over and gave way to the sentimentality without much resistance in no time. I didn't even care it centres on a dotty bunch in an upper-middle class milieu with their cosy privileged lives, as they are all, well, just all so nice! The story has some pace, even some cliff hanging thrills, but not too frantic to overshadow the warm glow throughout, codified in Paddington's Auntie's maxim of seeing the good in everyone. The sight of the old lags in pink prison outfits enjoying French patisseries etc, and finally dancing cabaret was the icing on this ever-so cleverly and kindly made best-of-British confection.
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Straw Dogs (1971)
9/10
Moody, morally ambiguous, pure genius
28 August 2018
I was wondering what all the fuss and censorship was about until I found out I'd seen an edited British version that excised the worst of the central rape scene. Nevertheless the bit left in was ambivalent and a bit weird but was far from bad by contemporary standards ... the character of Lucy is ambivalent and indeed everybody is and although the plot is not at all sophisticated the ambience and the direction is hugely complex and worth miles of critical review. Personally I found our hero played by Hoffman to be a little hard to like with his blindness to malice and his sanctimoniousness, maybe a shallowness to the drawing of his character. This left me half routing for the baddies (and aren't they bad!), but then this kind of confusion and challenge of perspective I imagine is just the result the director and was looking to solicit. Not only is this a real brain-worm but it's also good in traditional ways such as with the well-placed horror elements and the ratcheting up of pace and tension to the dizzying and (again) confusing little ending. This film didn't need the censors to become a lasting classic, but they may have helped.
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8MM (1999)
9/10
Nicolas Cage shows versatility
23 August 2018
This underrated work perhaps suffers from identication with the sexploitation it centres on, and in fact if you ask a big actor to get involved with this kind of seedy mix he might well have second thoughts about reputation. But Nic comes out clean in my book here, and indeed also the creative team. It has a gritty shadowy Noir feel thanks to the direction which feels arty, and in no way did I feel exploited as a viewer. There are some flaws but the ambition and adventure of the project eclipses these. There's some soul-searching, but it's also got the actioner elements and some pace, but above all its got Cage acting at full tilt (at least for him and his restrained persona) and it all worked out pretty fun in the end (as well as a bit bloody creepy).
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High and Dry (1954)
9/10
Hearty and heart-warming
17 August 2018
This proto-Local Hero creation, and Wiskey Galore styled film has a perfect mix of ingredients like zany visual gags, class- humour, poking fun of Americans humour and at the English humour plus a dog-eared anti-hero and not to forget stunning Scottish scenery. There's also a tender moment with the singular Yankie character Marshall and a local girl as he reaches some accommodation with all the madness around him. The denouement is predicable on a human level but also has a little twist. Like the trip on the good ship Maggie itself though, it's not the destination or the course plotted that matters - it's the remarkable journey and the salt-of-the-earth ship's company.
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uk18 (2017)
7/10
Sucicdally crazy but but with ranting realism
21 June 2018
The solumn mood of this film and the shouty interview pieces all combine to create an infectious paranoid camaraderie that I suspect is part of the thrill and gel of ]outh activism - that shared threat to self, and pursuit by 'normal' folk, police and almost everyone ... But also the depression of dissent comes out, the sense of futility, even the psychosis implied in the frankly barmy 'plot' if you can call it that. This involves several homicidal elements impossible to decipher or indeed sympathise with. One of the malodorous and profane ranting characters is both oddly engaging but also deeply repellent despite - even though it's supposedly fiction - ±ripping with xenophobia and homophobia - I felt I'd past an awkward point where one is not sure where the fiction is revealed to carry subliminaly at least totally bonkers opinion. Still, it's an interesting and even informative piece with a powerful agit-energy. I imagine the great grunge community would gravitate to its hypnotic vibe.
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Buzz One Four (2017)
8/10
Noble and affectionate tribute
19 June 2018
Visually smart, well supported by music and effects, and well-narratted tale of one of the early 'broken arrows' and the people involved. I enjoyed the clips of the graceful gleaming B52s - for me resonating a little with the techical glory of Columbia and STS-107 and the story of thier brave crew. There's no banging of cold war drums here, just a dignified reminder of a human side to the astoundingly dangerous brinkmanship and of scale of that secret war. This is obviously not an Air Force endorsed film judging by the final questions posed by relatives on the fiasco and the remarks about lack of cooperation with commemorations. The film comes across rather like a very tidily-made home movie, leaving a few poignant queries and reflections - not least for me suggestion of a multitude of stories of everyday heroism and sacrifice on both sides, still as yet largely untold, about the MAD era - of Mutually Assured Destruction.
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9/10
As good as many an Ealing Comedy
14 June 2018
Over in Beaconsfield there was a West London rival in this British Lion presentation owing much to TV I'd guess in style with this amiable farce. There's perhaps nothing comedically side-splitting here, but countless chuckles, persistent quirkyness, and a massive shot in the arm for me watching now of a nostalgia for simpler times and easier laughs. Living in the Uxbridge area, I loved spotting the final robbery scene near a hump-backed bridge in Cowley, tracing the few elements that have survived half a century. The locations are gritty & soot-caked but the characterisations pure and sweet, like the police superintendent being tops, then Sellers' charming master criminal. The collision of the cops and crooks is very droll and the whole thing belts along at a fair clip. It doesn't really seem to matter by the end exactly what happens except to be assured a good time was had by all.
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Contagion (2011)
9/10
Big movie about very small things
11 June 2018
Considering the film shows how methodical and painstaking work by government agencies can effect change, the movie clips along at a remarkable pace. it's a breathless roller coaster ride with plenty of science packed in nonetheless. An exponential ascending course is taken exactly like the epidemic. It begins with a slow-burning beginning where a host of characters are introduced, and then comes a building drama up to a fever pitch followed by a dreamy epilogue. There's a bunch of great actors who are wholly convincing and likable (despite limited screenplay help). The interlacing sub-plots work really well - characters are linked together by the virus and caught in the epidemiological timeframe. There's danger and dynamism in the story with some real shocks in store, and above all just brilliant direction that draws all the elements together and grabs the viewer by the seat of the pants.
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8/10
Sparky, quirky, tongue in cheek
23 May 2018
There's something so so clever and beguiling about this movie even though at the end of the day it never seems to go anywhere, or really do anything, or say something - about love for instance. Down With Love certainly warrants more than a couple of points for the dazzling production design and art direction. Ultimately I felt I was not watching a film in the usual sense of investing something in it, but more that I was watching an earnest and fascinating product of the film industry, a post-modern wheeze with plenty of ubtuse contemporary cultural references. It had an odd hold for my cinephile self, perhaps like for a train spotter gazing into a whezeing veteran engine, but on a human level there wasn't anything below the artifice and crucially the casting seemed implausible for the romantic couple. I think another reviewer nailed it in pointing out that there was so much effort in parodying the idiocies and anachronisms of the 1960s it rather fell into the trap of appearing just dumb & stupid to the core. But this is an interesting problem in itself, and for me it's worthy of some redeeming points for sheer ambition and spirited effort.
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Freeway (1996)
10/10
Holy cow what clever and beautiful chaos!
18 May 2018
Grungy, horrific but also terribly righteous and exquisitely funny to boot, this film blows away the cobwebs of so many boring genre flicks. It's far from subtle in its addressing of raw social issues like abuse, racism, youth & justice and in doing so through its characterisations and ripe dialogue risks feeling a little raw in a 21st century context, but it's from a rougher time. One forgets how tawdry the nineties really were, epitomised by the urban LA environ referenced here. In fact although on one level it's a neat moral fable with sex and violence kind of dumped in, it goes much further and deeper than first appearances with the wit of the writing and the skills of the two leads. Freeway ends up commenting on the moral environment of Red Riding Hood, Wolf if you like, in reality the hostile society the girl is persecuted by. I dare say it's a femminst movie albeit one that traces a delicate line, dancing with the sexploitation culture - it sets out to first court and so draw interest, and then to cheerfully crush. You soon much of the plot is really shocking and far from predicable, and the usual victim/assailant roles can't be relied upon. Light of foot and viscerally profound, this is in a superlative class - there's few movies that document, challenge, amuse and horrify all pretty much at the same time.
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