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Midsommar (I) (2019)
Pretentious and self-indulgent
19 July 2019
I went into this film deliberately not having read reviews. I wanted to experience it without preconceived opinions. I enjoyed it to a degree. It was watchable, even though it was too long. It was also pretentious, self-indulgent and lacking a sustained coherent story. In short, it was all over the place. It certainly spread itself across genres. Unfortunately, it failed to do adequate justice to any one of them. It was a weak horror, a weak comedy, a weak romance and a weak tragedy. After two and a half hours I expected the film to wrap things up. I left the cinema mystified as to what I had watched.
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Us (2019)
Ok but disappointing
4 April 2019
I was expecting much from this film. It was OK. The acting was good, as was the directing. There were a few genuinely scary moments, but overall the plot seemed contrived and lacking in explanation. I left the cinema not really understanding what I was meant to be taking away.
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Brilliant - why don't they make films like this any longer?
8 February 2019
Re-watching this again after many years, on the back of watching Feud, I couldn't help but think that the standards of film have sunk so low in recent years. We used to be given high drama, exceptional acting, brilliant directing, engrossing films. It is a sad state of affairs when I would rather watch a 50 or even 80 year old film on TV than a recently made film in the cinema. Whatever happened to originality?
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They don't make 'em like this anymore
12 January 2019
Re-watching this film after decades have passed made me realise just how much originality has been lost from film making over the years. This film is challenging in so many different ways that it was a joy to watch. Joy at remembering that films used to be original, confrontational and a challenge to perceived orthodoxies. So much of that has been lost over the years to commerce, profit and marketability, that it was refreshing to remember that films like this not only used to be made, but were actually very popular too. Films that took a chance and did not stick to safe options.

Yes, I've turned into the sort of miserable old sod I always said I wouldn't , but then there is so much in modern cinema to make me miserable, such as lack of originality, too many pointless remakes, too many crap celebrity stars, too many special effects, too much emphasis on profit and marketability.

I am astounded that a film that is 45 years old could actually shock me. No film has done that in years, even the ones that tried to shock me.

This film was even better than I remembered. A true homage to the 1970s and a testament to how much more original films were back then. Where are the John Waters of today, not to mention the entourage of actors making it all possible?
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Zardoz (1974)
Still watchable
18 November 2018
Re-watching this film after many years have passed made me think back to just how much originality in film making there was in the 1970s, before marketing, focus groups, PR people and the financiers took over the business, casting aside originality.

The film is certainly weird, but that is part of its charm. It is like nothing you will have seen before or since. It is very much a product of the 1970s, when film makers were adventurous, and looked for new ideas and ways of seeing things. When there was a genuine feeling of creativity in the air, unlike today where everything seems to be created specifically for pre-existing markets.
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The Nun (2018)
1 November 2018
I found this film a tedious effort in trying to stay awake.
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One of the most boring films I ever sat through
9 April 2018
Pretentious, boring, overly reflective, and clearly aimed at film buffs who will no doubt find all sorts of "references" in this film. Unfortunately, the end product was a very tedious experience in trying to stay awake.
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The Mummy (2017)
Another pointless remake
17 July 2017
Why is Hollywood so obsessed with remakes? Presumably because no-one comes up with original ideas any more...or could it be that it's safer profit-wise to hang onto a winning formula?

The Mummy was a winning formula. Unfortunately, that winning formula was thrown away somewhere in this awful film. How such a strong plot with interesting characters has managed to turn itself into unwatchable trash is a feat that only Hollywood with the aid of some highly over-rated actors could accomplish.

Let's name names. The real fault with the film was that it turned a supernatural, monster movie into an action adventure. This was presumably to accommodate the acting "talents" of Tom Cruise. Each Cruise film seems to be built around him. Presumably because he can't really act. He only seems to be comfortable when looking into the camera for a close up or saving the rest of humanity from disaster through some special effect super-human feats.

If you value your time you will give this a miss. Re-watching earlier versions of The Mummy would have been much more rewarding.
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45 Years (2015)
Well acted unbelievable tosh delivered at a snail pace
13 June 2016
I was expecting something mesmerising after seeing the reviews of this film. This for me was a dull film about dull characters leading a dull existence.

Yes, it was thoroughly British. That was in part its downfall. Too many boring, lingering shots of the British countryside. Too many staid, stolid, small town British characters. A very British approach to some very unsettling news - all angst but little action.

On paper this story looks like a winner. But it was delivered in such a stultifying way that watching it to the end became a challenge. I kept expecting it to suddenly take off, before realising that the dreary pace of the film was really what it was all about. It reflected the dreary characters waiting in retirement for death.

The acting was excellent. Unfortunately acting alone cannot carry an ultimately dull film.
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Neglected Masterpiece
17 January 2016
The full version of this short video has turned up on youtube. It is a brilliant introduction to the "real" Nico. By "real" I mean that later part of her career, after the Velvet Underground where she sang Lou Reed written songs, and her first album Chelsea Girl where she had a single shared writing credit and song arrangements that she hated. Evening of Light is a song from her first self-penned album The Marble Index with arrangements by John Cale. It is like nothing you will have heard before. Even 45 years later it still sounds stunningly original.

The film, presumably made as a promotion piece for the new album, is gloriously obscure and obtuse. Nico is singing at her best. She has abandoned the blond, tailored look of the Velvet Underground in favour of the sackcloth look with red hair.

I wouldn't even dare attempt an explanation of what it all means, but as a document of one of rock's greatest originals, this is a beautiful piece of art.
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Good film spoiled by Tom Cruise
13 October 2014
I enjoyed this film in some ways. It had an intelligent premise, a good script, very good special effects, a story, and generally good acting.

However, why is it that whenever I see Tom Cruise in a film he always reminds me of Tom Cruise and never of the character he is meant to be portraying? I just don't get the Tom Cruise appeal.

His acting is wooden.

Is "method acting" an alternative to "can't act"? Judging by Cruise's efforts in this film it could be.

Why did the whole film seem to be based around him? He was in virtually every scene to the point where his absence was welcomed. And why so many close ups? It was like watching a vain Hollywood starlet from the golden age, best typified by Gloria Swanson acting the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. "Are you ready for my close up?". Even Norma Desmond understood that a close up was something special. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise has this still to learn.
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Neighbors (I) (2014)
Avoid - unless you want to be bored to death
6 September 2014
This really has to be one of the all time turkeys I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. It was seriously unfunny from the start to the point I decided to regain my life by turning the drivel off (after about 25 minutes).

I'm not sure if this is because American humour failed to cross the Atlantic or if it is simply a seriously crap film. Either way, if you find this funny you are likely to male, under the age of 15, and probably doing rather badly at school.

Many reviewers on this site must have seen a different film to the one I endured for 25 wasted minutes.
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Maniac (2012)
For lovers of gratuitous violence (only)
9 May 2013
This is a particularly nasty film that revels in shocking the audience with as much gratuitous violence as it can squeeze in. If you enjoy watching realistic scenes of women being tortured, mutilated and scalped you will almost certainly enjoy this. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a film that tries to explain or understand the psychology of the characters you are looking in the wrong place. The film tries to be clever by viewing the action through the eyes of the main character, presumably to personalise the violence. It really makes no difference. Gratuatous violence is gratuitous violence regardless of perspective. I have always been against censorship, but films like this do make me question my belief in anti-censorship.
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Whirlwind (2007)
Entirely predictable moral tale
28 July 2012
This is a film about a group of five gay men in New York and how their lives are affected by the arrival into their social set of a "nasty type". Unfortunately, the "nasty type" is so transparent and two dimensional that it is difficult to believe that anyone with intelligence would allow themselves to be taken in by him. But then the other characters are two dimensional, cardboard cutouts too. The plot was entirely predictable from the very beginning. The "wit" was nonexistent. The sex scenes were flaccid. The acting ranged from the competent to the wooden. Frankly, it was difficult to care what happened to most of the characters. It had the moral vision of a Victorian novel and just about the same grip on reality.
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What a disappointment!
5 June 2012
This is a film that should never have been made. The narrative is preposterous, the horror scenes are laughable, the religious content is ridiculous, and the characters are unbelievable. The sex scenes are easily the most convincing part of the film. Henry Garrett does a very erotic strip at the side of a lake which I enjoyed very much! Doubtless, Honeysuckle Weeks' alluring nakedness will have a similar effect on those with other orientations. The underlying eroticism of the original The Wicker Man is reproduced here and updated for contemporary times. The rest of the film left me with the feeling that a great violation had been committed to the original. If The Wicker Tree is to be watched at all in future times it will be for all the wrong reasons - it's so bad it's likely to become a cult classic.
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A technical and poetic masterpiece
27 June 2005
Where to begin? A review of a film over 30 years old, seen by so few people that its existence in the public domain is now a source of wonderment. How I don't know, but somehow a version of this film has surfaced in Japan on DVD, complete with Japanese subtitles. Little help one suspects for a bemused audience needing fluent French, English and German to follow the plot and the songs.

Plot, however, is something of a misnomer. There appears to be one...of sorts.

In some ways this is Nico's film. She wrote the script, has a central role in the film, and provides about half of her songs from her album Desertshore, and the later recorded Konig, as soundtrack. In fact the songs are integral to the film in a way that predates the later use of promotional video. She looks, as always, stunning. Even though dressed in what looks like biblical sackcloth, cut in a modern design. Philippe Garrel was said to have designed their clothes.

The main star of the film is not however human - it is the landscape. Garrel has filmed his story in a wide range of deserts. Hot sandy deserts, cold glacial deserts, hot rocky deserts, hot lava deserts in a cold environment. Earth, fire and water (often in the form of ice) are very much at the centre of the film. This return to the elements, to the absolute basics of being, provides a platform from which a narrative evolves. Not many films have not only the distinction of being filmed in Sinai, Death Valley and Iceland, but of making the landscapes such a central feature of each scene.

Given the difficulties of getting to see this film at all, I'll run the risk of "spoiling" the plot by talking about it. This is nowhere near as straightforward as might be assumed. Any description of the plot will inevitably involve a good deal of speculation and interpretation.

The films opens with Philippe Garrel walking a rocky path. His clothing and general appearance indicate a poet, a romantic. He encounters Nico sitting on a rock. In silence he takes her onto his path and into his journey. She asks "where are you taking me", receives no answer, but continues to walk with him.

The next scene has Nico, totally distraught, sitting in a different desert holding onto Garrel, who appears to want to leave. Eventually he pulls away from her hand and walks away. He walks around in a circle, panned perfectly by the camera, stepping over Nico as he completes his circle, only to walk another circle before she stands, pushes him away and wanders off in a different direction. All of this accompanied by Janitor of Lunancy, a sado-masochistic song about power in relationships addressing the past, present and future. You might think that this is the end of the relationship, but no, because they break up again as they walk along a glacier in a different desert. This time Garrel dies, but Nico survives.

And hence into a sort of opening scene, where Nico provides a commentary in German.

Nico appears from this point on to have become something of an old testament prophet. Dressed in her biblical sackcloth and standing on a rock in yet another another desert, she has a soliloquy, contrasting nonsense with mercy, concluding that there is no mercy, before being given a small goat by a passing shepherd. She has prophesied that the "waters will rise over your heads".

Cue for the next scene to begin with a small sailing boat containing a naked man washed up on a glacial beach. This is the archer and horseman. He mounts an Icelandic pony who takes him away. Nico is still prophesying, at first on a cliff, then in one of the most beautiful scenes ever filmed, standing on a rock at the base of a waterfall from where she informs him that "we can never be here until we die/dance???". The photography in these scenes in especially impressive. The technical difficulties of filming large scale scenes with dialogue against a wind swept or water teeming backdrop are transcended. All scenes are shot in real time with a single moving camera. There is no visual editing to improve the realism. Garrel makes every shot count.

In the next scene the fireguard picks up and carries a bowl of fire. Walking slowly against the wind and past lava flows, he guards the flame, before merging with the dark.

A naked child, alone, lies on a bed of feathery down, indented in the glacial ice. A nest. The archer sails in, bringing a bowl of fire, and sets it down on the icy shore. The child is pleased.

We now enter the land of fire. The horseman is running across a flat hilltop, volcanoes in the distance, tracked by the camera until he encounters Nico, still as a statue. She is petrified to the spot. He wakes her from a spell. She wants him to stay but she walks backwards away from him. They leave in different directions. He turns to watch her in the distance. Two figures in a landscape somehow conjoined but very separated.

Nico, wind swept, stands high above a glacial lake. The scene lingers, wind providing the only movement. The camera turns 90 degrees. The horseman rides in from nowhere. They walk together toward the seashore. He sails away, she returns inland.

Nico walks down a rocky path. She finds the fire king. He sees her sitting high on a ledge above his cave. He climbs the rock to pass her his sword. She has become king. The song Konig accompanies the scene.
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Liquid Sky (1982)
A sci-fi story set in the New York of alternative lifestyles
11 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
People I've shown or lent this film to on video tend to polarise into two groups - those who loathe it with an intensity bordering on the pathological (and see some of those comments on this site), usually finding it either incomprehensible or repellent; and those who find it fascinating and truly original.

The second group tend to watch it at least twice and usually more often than that. It is not a film that makes imminent sense on the first viewing. The narrative is so multi-layered that it takes two viewings to appreciate the connections between scenes and characters.

It is a film that you have to work at. And it is no less valuable because of that.

If you don't like it and can't make sense of it, then the loss is your own.

For those prepared to suspend belief it is a rare masterpiece of originality. True, the acting is patchy, but like the actors in Warhol films they do not seek to portray common or garden social characters that we recognise from everyday life, the stuff of mainstream cinema; but are personalities constructed at the extremities of social existence - the exceptions, misfits, and exiles. This makes them interesting in themselves.

The science fiction antecedents to the film probably lie in the literary work of William Burroughs as much as in film history. The same social actors are to be found - people searching for something on the edge of reality, where sex and drugs are pursued and traded, all in the name of obsessive self-interest or self-oblivion. Burroughs characters are often as repellent as the characters in this film. Often for the same reasons. The film centres on the ultimate in self-obsessed, self-absorbed, selfish humanity.

The same can be said for the alien invader. In fact the alien manifests all the same characteristics as the actors in the hip New York crowd. All are obsessed with their own personal needs and ambitions to the exclusion of all else. But whereas the humans are mortal and have an inconvenient habit of dropping dead, murdered by the alien at the point of sexual orgasm, the alien itself lacks physical form. It devotes its life to expanding its own consciousness. Heroin will do but a chemical secreted by the human brain during orgasm is even better.

This is no conventional science fiction film with a monster from out of space. The monsters are also the humans. The aliens are already amongst us.

All of this makes it sound like an argument in favour of the repellent view of the film. It isn't. It's intellectually challenging and morally demanding, true. But it's also visually stunning, original in concept, and an interesting social document on the post-punk fashion scene in New York at the time it was made.

Occasionally, very occasionally, a film is made that transcends the ordinary, everyday reality of commercial cinema. Even commercial science fiction. This is one of those very rare films.

Everything about it is unique. The characters, the dialogue, the music, and the social and economic context combine to create a world-view of extreme existence taken to its ultimate limits by the arrival of a creature from outer space. The creature somehow manages to extend the boundaries of existence of those already far, far out there on the very edge of social reality. In the closing scene the main character tries to become at one with the creature. We can only speculate as to whether she succeeds.
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