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Deep State (2018– )
3/10
It'll do if you got nothing better on, but no great shakes
25 April 2019
Well, I've seen three and a half episodes of the first series of Deep State, and let's be honest: it's pretty low grade stuff. It's the world of television 'spying' where an operative sitting 1,000 miles away at a computer terminal can track down someone's whereabouts within 20 seconds by trawling I don't know what database and someone's life history in just another 20 seconds.

Back in the real world it's nothing like that (I know, my long-deceased father 'helped out' with Britain's SIS and told me a thing or two when he reached his dotage and he wasn't a show-off. Like 99.9 per cent of all like him who 'helped out' he was very discreet).

That makes many claims here in other user reviews complete nonsense: for example: 'You've got to peek (I think what the writer means is 'you get a peek') at the ugly workings in the intelligence and private military world'. Oh really? So how would the writer know? Did a bit of spying between leaving uni and getting a job running the Waitrose in Alderly Edge?

Intelligence gathering is necessary in even the dullest and most mundane of international dealings - knowing what the 'other side' knows or think they know can be very useful indeed and they are all at it. But 'spying' is not glamorous and can often be exceedingly dull, involving days and weeks laborious and monotonous trawling through list, files and I don't know what else before any analysis of what is known can be made and plans shaped. As for a department being run by just one man with apparently no need to clear matters with any superior of any kind and who can order assassination as easily as a skinny latte, well tell that to the marines.

OK, you say, but this is TV entertainment so don't get so anal and picky. Fair enough, but even as a piece of TV entertainment Deep State gets only two cheers, if that.

The story is both obscure and vague enough to carry you along but is distressingly two-dimensional. The various characters have no problem at all travelling between countries at the drop of a hat (one chap, dropped off in the back of beyond on the Turkmenistan managed to get back to Teharn - more than 500 miles away - with apparently no hassles at all and got straight back to work. Give that man a medal! The men never seem to need a shave, have access to unlimited funds, despited looking like tramps on their uppers never attract the attention of the police and never, ever, ever seem to charge their mobile.

I have gone to town a little because inexplicably Deep State gets an overall 7/10 from assorted fanboys but at the end of the day it is just one of several hundred such series produced annually the world over. It's not bad by any means, but it's not particularly good either. And because I have seen far better, it is irritating that the producers go for second-best because really that's all they need to do.

Whether or not this is your bag depends on your standards. If you want just the usual evening TV thrills with predictable lines and predictable plots, go for it. If you like something a little more challenging, give it a miss - you won't be any worse off by any means.

LATER: A few more episodes down the line and appalled by how bad Deep State has become, I couldn't resist an edit to say so.

Deep State really is the most one-dimensional twaddle I have chanced upon. Certainly there are contenders for silliest 'thriller', but Deep State has a head start. Since I wrote the above, the 'hero' and his son travel from Lebanon to France with ease, pick up two high-velocity rifles with ease, get involved in a gun battle which attracts no attention whatsoever, eventually cross the Channel where just as he is about to torture his former MI6 boss, the boss kills himself - and on and on and ridiculously on.

Deep State is not intended for those who have a small brain, but for those who have no brain at all. It is garbage. Don't bother unless you don't mind admitting your are less intelligent than a flea.
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Be Cool (2005)
2/10
Astonishingly awful - nothing about it works
3 February 2019
It is quite difficult to convey how surprisingly bad Be Cool is. It has all of the potential elements - well most of them anyway - for succeeding but somehow misses the target each time. That is not to say it could have been great, just not quite as bad as this.

Pretty much everything, from the cliched script, the cliched dialogue, the cliched performances, the cliched direction and the cliched setting hits the wrong note. In fact, it must be as difficult to hit the wrong note each time as to hit the right note, but Be Cool manages to do so with aplomb.

Really, there's nothing more to say. Quite obviously after the success of Get Shorty, which did manage to hit all the right notes, the producers took to heart Sam Goldwyn's dictum that 'if they liked it once, they'll love it twice' and went to broke, but broke is what they got. No one, not one of the 'name stars', and there are several luminaries who don't give the impression they think they are slumming it, has done him or herself any favours by being involved in Be Cool and I don't doubt that when they saw the finished product they wished they had said 'thanks, but no thanks'.

Elmore Leonard (who wrote both the novels Get Shorty and its sequel Be Cool) is on record as saying that of all the films made from his books, Get Shorty is the only one that he thinks is halfway decent, so perhaps his work doesn't easily transfer to the screen. Who knows?

So if this comes your way, somehow - I would never suggest you actually go looking for it - do yourself a favour and find something else to do. Whatever it is will be a damn sight more entertaining than this dire, sorry film.
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The ABC Murders (2018– )
6/10
A tad confused and not an 'Agatha Christie' mystery, but a decent enough arty-farty film for all that
15 January 2019
This latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders is a strange fish, at once both confused and stylish. In fact, I suspect that had it been presented not as an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot mystery but as a slightly left-field arthouse film, it might well have fared a great deal better with some of the reviewers here and in Britain.

As it is the Agatha Christie fans complain that it's 'not Agatha Christie' and for a nation brought up on David Suchet's rather dapper and rather camp sleuth, John Malkovich's Poirot, a dour rather depressed man apparently on the skids, doesn't press the right button. Result? The film (well, three-part series) loses out and attracts rather low ratings from many, which is a little unfair.

If, on the other hand, it had been played, not as a mystery, but as a somewhat obscure character piece about a foreigner nearing the end of his life in a country not his own and haunted by memories, I suggest it would have won more fans. Such a film would also have justified several otherwise inexplicable elements which seem, for no reason I can guess at, grafted on.

There are, for example, the ongoing references to some English fascist movement which has it in for foreigners. These references are not developed in any way and have no relevance to the story, let alone the central mystery and are generally a mystery all of their own. Then there are the flashbacks to Poirot's experiences in World War I when Belgium was invaded by Germany: what purpose do they serve? Perhaps there is one but I am too stupid to spot it. Who knows?

As it stands these two elements stand out high and dry and are irrelevant. In an arthouse movie, though, the kind we are quite happy to be baffled by if, for example as here, the cinematography is good to excellent and interesting in its own right, we wouldn't complain at all, telling ourselves 'some things aren't meant to be completely understand in 'art' such as this'. Or something like that - we've all met the 'buff' who can come out with such trite.

In fact, the filming , direction, the stylised characterisations and the general feel of the film goes a hell of a long way towards saving an otherwise rather uninspiring 'mystery' which is only a mystery because, to be blunt, Agatha Christie cheated (or I'm assuming it was her fault if it followed her plotting). So there you have it: pretend the BBC's The ABC murders is not what it was presented as and enjoy a halfway decent series. Just don't expect to understand it all.

By the way: some reviewers have accused the film of being pretentious. Well, I am happy to report that whatever its minor faults pretentiousness is not one of them, and I pride myself on a keen nose for that kind of thing. You can rest easy.
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3/10
Not just a very, very silly film but downright embarrassing. Avoid
10 January 2019
Is it OK to review a film of which you have seen only 40 minutes? Discuss. But on the assumption that I won't be shot at dawn for daring to do so, let me carry one (and confirm what I'm sure you already suspect) that for this viewer Midnight In Paris is another Woody Allen clunker. In fact, it is often so wooden, so badly directed, so trite, so superficial, so unconvincing and, finally, so downright bloody dull that you really wonder whether all those quite good Allen films you saw in the past are just rose-tinted false memories. Whoever coughs up the readies for Allen to produce this kind of silly dross must still be convinced the old phoney still has it, or perhaps it is merely a tax scam. Who knows? Who cares?

The idea behind Midnight In Paris is not a bad one, but it needed a script and direction by someone with less of a dead hand than Allen to carry it off. As it is the whole exercise is an embarrassing waste of time.

The script: it might well have been written by a would-be filmmaker of minimal talent it's so threadbare and thin. (And by the way at the time the film was set Hemingway had not yet published his first novel and only published two very slim volumes of short stories, and had not yet ever gone big-game hunting so he would not have known any 'rhino hunters'. As for Hemingway's reference to a battle in which he fought the Germans, that, too, is complete tosh - he did not fight but served as an ambulance driver after the US army, navy and marines turned him down because of an eye defect - though as Hemingway was something of a self-aggrandising mythomaniac, at least his account of battle is in character.)

The direction is equally amateurish: two-dimensional, static, flat and - yet again - dull, just how did Allen ever gain his reputation in the first place? So there you have it: if this review appears I shall know that charitably (they probably also disliked Midnight In Paris) IMDB's editors have allowed it to slip through even though this writer could not bring himself to see the whole film.

My advice to you is don't even bother to see any of it. Find something else to do, wash up, clean the house, memorise the Bible - all three and many other pastimes will be far more appealing and satisfying.
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6/10
Convoluted and confusing mess, but it does entertain
30 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Here's the puzzle: what's it all about? What just happened? The Accountant succeeds in that it entertains, holds your attention and intrigues. It behaves as if it is making a significant point, but doesn't get around to making it. OK, if the point is that those with autism are no lesser mortals than those of use who aren't autistic, all cheer to that, but forgive me if that isn't a rather trite point to build a film around.

As for that film, being intriguing shouldn't mean being confusing. I can settle for not being spoon-fed - in fact, I rather like it when I'm not - but there is an obligation on a filmmaker (or writer) to supply all the bits from which we the viewer (or reader) can piece together what we are intended to piece together. The Accountant doesn't do that. Worse, it pulls that rather sneaky trick of pretending to be more than it is.

Convoluted doesn't begin to describe The Accountant, and that it doesn't end up being something of a mess is probably more luck than judgement. The questions mount up but are not just not answered, but are given a spurious significance. Why is it important, or rather how is it relevant that the junior Treasury analyst should have a criminal past she never disclosed and which fact her Treasury boss uses to coerce her into a covert investigation? Why does that investigation have to be covert? We are given a confusing scene in which the boss 'explains' what motivates him, but blow me if I understood. Perhaps I'm just a little bit thick. Or perhaps I'm not and the film is cheating.

Who is the British women who organises the accountants work? How come she is somehow omnipotent? Who is the accountant's brother and what is his line of work? And on and on. Yes, it is good to be intrigued but there must be a pay-off line of some kind.

Irritatingly, these huge flaws are to a certain extent offset by the film being very entertaining (these even a long gunfight in the dark in which our hero takes out about a dozen heavily armed men). So there you have it.
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Top Dog (2014)
6/10
Better than you might expect (and ignore the sniffy purists)
4 November 2018
I'm rather surprised that director Martin Kemp's London gangster drama Top Dog gets only an average 5.2 based on user ratings here. Although the figure is nominally above average, I've always thought that anything less than a 6 implies not only that the film is not very good, but that is rather bad. Top Dog by ex-Spandau Ballet bassist Kemp (and I'm sure he must hate that description - I mean no one refers to ex-RC seminarian Martin Scorsese or former jobbing artist Adolf Hitler) also got less than admirable reviews in the Guardian and the Huff Post and I do wonder why: it wouldn't have won an Oscar and does tread well-trodden ground but it does so with aplomb. In simpler words: as one of its kind Top Dog isn't at all bad and a lot better than some.

Were I writing for the Guardian I might write - although it didn't, it described the film, which it gave only one star out of a possible five, as 'witless' and 'low-level ladsploitation' (note the 'clever' wordplay there which will have amused guardianistas if no one else) - that Top Dog is an investigation into what happens when testosterone-fuelled male bravado gets way out of hand. In one sense 'witless' is apt as it does well to describe the leading figure (Leo Gregory), a man astute enough to run a car dealership well enough to afford him a nice lifestyle but who otherwise can see no further than his own ego and addiction to fighting with the fans of rival clubs.

The Guardian is very unfair: Gregory's Billy Evans, a man who gets way out of his depth when he locks horns with a local gangster and then eventually comes into the sights of a far more important - and far more dangerous - gangster, is neither glorified nor portrayed in any way as enviable. In that sense Kemp's film takes quite a moral stance although I doubt he would be too happy to have that sign hung around the film's neck.

Gregory gets great support from fellow actors, but a special mention should go to Vincent Regan who as the man Billy Evans should never have tangled with - though he certainly didn't do so on purpose - can get more menace into his Northern Irish brogue when ordering a glass of orange juice in a pub than many a man could get toting a handgun. The two female leads also do a good job at portraying long-suffering wives who love their husbands but do wish they would finally grow up.

So there you have it: ignore the average '5.2' the film gets here on IMDB and most certainly ignore the sniffy review in the Guardian. Top Dog does the job and does it well - as I say better than many such films. And the ending did take me by surprise. Give it a whirl if you come across it. (I caught it on Netflix.)
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7/10
Very worthwhile adaptation of du Maurier's great novel
2 November 2018
I watched this latest film version of Daphne du Maurier's novel My Cousin Rachel immediately after finishing reading the novel itself and was reminded what, in some ways, a thankless task it is to 'make the film of the novel' or even to 'make a film of the novel'. The saying - well, make it 'the cliche' - is 'comparisons are odious', but all too often 'the film' is adversely compared to 'the novel' and all to often comes off second-best by stalwarts who 'just loved the book, loved it!' It would seem filmmakers just can't win.

Those who do make such comparisons are being unfair. For one thing a writer can do things which a conventional filmmaker simply cannot (and I stress 'conventional' filmmaker because those of a more arty and experimental bent sometimes do attempt to translate literary devices into film techniques, quite often successfully, although the rule of thumb seems to be that there is an inverse proportion between how arty and experimental a film is and the numbers which bother to see it). So perhaps it would be best if we spoke of 'the film based on the novel' rather than 'the film of the novel'.

Bearing that in mind, writer/director has made a very good fist making his film based on du Maurier's novel, and those coming to it who have not read the original will enjoy a well-made, intriguing and entertaining two hours. He has necessarily adapted the story a little and 'left out bits', but - well, see above. I can recommend it. But I can also recommend du Maurier's novel, and it is not for nothing that her biographer, the novelist Margaret Forster insists that du Maurier should be regarded as a bona fide literary writer rather than its poor relation 'the romantic novelist'. She is that, certainly, but she - sometimes - is much more, too.

As for the film, go for, it's worth every minute. In his conclusion Michel does rather water down the essential ambiguity which makes the novel so intriguing, but his film is none the worse for that, and as his conclusion is the one I reached after reading the novel, I don't disagree with it. Sorry, but I can't say more for risking of spoiling a rather good mystery.
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Westworld: The Passenger (2018)
Season 2, Episode 10
7/10
Complete and total hokum - but magnificently done
9 September 2018
The best advice - OK, the most sensible advice - is not to try to make head or tail of Westworld over its two seasons (and a third is planned and has already been set up in the final episode of the season 2 finale). Don't just suspend disbelief, ditch disbelief entirely and let it all wash over you and, who knows, you'll probably enjoy it.

Fifteen years ago when my two children were still young, our regular Saturday night routine was to sit down after supper and watch Doctor Who. I must confess that I, by no means a complete idiot, gave up trying to follow the story each week about halfway through. 'But how could he do that?' I asked my youngsters. 'He used his sonic screwdriver, Dad!' they came back, puzzled that a 'grown-up' could be so stupid as not to understand a simple ruse quite obvious to children. It's in that frame of mind I suggest you watch Westworld.

I have no idea whether two (or even three) seasons were planned from the off, but seasons 1 and 2 do differ in treatment. The pseudo-intellectual notions pitched up by the writers in season one - musings on what it means to be 'conscious', what it means to be 'human', that kind of thing - were interesting, if still a little middle-brow going on banal.

The second season ditches much of whatever subtlety season 1 attempted and managed to portray, and goes hell for leather for all-out hokum, which does raise the question as to whether the producers knew they would be filming a second season - except from the final scenes, season 1 would stand up well on its own.

It also resorts a great deal more to a gun battle and actors racing round in futuristic utility vehicles when, if truth be told, the gun battles and utility vehicles don't necessarily serve the best interests of the protagonists but certainly do keep the story rattling along nicely.

Instead, in season 2 we get far more of that old and useful standby 'confusion': one trick TV and movie producers increasingly resort to is flash-back, flash-forward and here in Westworld even 'flash-sideways', which leave the viewer pretty confused but impressed, content in the knowledge that all will be revealed in the final scenes.

Clever producers, writers and directors - and Westworld has those - spin all the confusion in such a way that more likely than not the viewer feels they are to blame if they don't have the faintest clue as to what is going on. The vital point is to keep the story gripping enough to keep the viewer watching throughout long periods of such abject confusion and that is what happens in season 2.

So, for example, in season 2 echoes and references galore of all kinds of myths, legends and religious and metaphysical themes give the whole shooting match - a very apt description for season 2 - a spurious intellectual credibility. However, what was attractive about season 1 - a variety of ostensibly independent and intriguing storylines - gets more than a little out of hand in season 2, so that 'variety' becomes 'something of a mish-mash', all of which storylines, though, must be concluded in some way in the series finale (though in the event not all storylines are granted that courtesy).

Actually, whereas the puzzles of season 1 are intriguing, the puzzles of season 2 all too often make no sense at all when the credits roll on the finale - but who the hell cares? If we are able to swallow notions such as the god of gods, Zeus, changing himself into a swan to be able to seduce the young woman he fancies (why a bloody swan?) or that one of three very ugly sisters - she had snakes for hair, for God's sake! - can turn a man to stone just by looking at him, you should be able to swallow wholesale the magnificent hokum served up here. And there is something magnificent about both seasons, if only at times magnificently mad.

Plot holes? You want plot holes? You've got them in spades. And it becomes rather too obvious that Westworld is cutting corners when protagonists manage to turn up at just the right moment or are able to cover a vast distance in a matter of minutes or just how such a super-secret complex - the various parks - could have been constructed with such efficiency. And exactly where does the electricity come from to power the whole complex - but again it doesn't matter: the whole Westworld team have approached producing the series with such verve and panache - and more than a little CGI larks - that you are apt to forgive the many, many, many plot holes and inconsistencies like that.

So don't ask questions, don't pick nits, just enjoy. Let the shambolic glory of it all wash over you. And don't take any of it in the slightest bit seriously, especially the cod-philosophical ontological musings which seem to have impressed other reviewers. It's all just outright hokum, though I'm glad to report it is 24-carat, grade A+++ hokum, so roll on season 3.
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Emma (1996 TV Movie)
6/10
Good but not great screen adaptation, which seems to do little to convey Austen's satire
29 July 2018
I had just finished reading Emma by Jane Austen when I took a fancy to watching a screen version to see what was made of it, and chose to watch the TV version starring Kate Beckinsale. I was surprised to see it getting an overall rating on IMDB of 7.1

Don't get me wrong: it isn't at all bad and for its kind quite good, but after reading Austen's subtle novel and having fresh in mind the nuances with which she conveys all the - essentially trivial - goings-on in Highbury, I do feel it somewhat misses its target. Not a lot, but enough to challenge that 7.1 overall rating.

Naturally, a screen or TV adaption of a novel is in many ways restricted, and I have borne that in mind. But there are one or two other details which I feel don't do the novel justice. For example, Emma is undoubtedly a rich woman - her 1816 fortune of £30,000 translates into 2018's more than £2.6 million, and she and her father can afford to live a life of ease.

But their circumstances as portrayed in the TV film do over-egg the pudding to an alarming degree. They - and George Knightley - were most certainly not titled. They were simply well-off landed gentry able to live off the rents they received for their land. So the super grand homes they are shown to live in - and the number of uniformed flunkeys the Woodhouses are shown to employ - are, to be blunt, ludicrous. This is TV early-19th century life.

The social divergences and disposable income in the early 19th century were certainly far, far wider than they are today (at least here in Britain - I can't speak for the US), but the Woodhouses, Knightley and the Weston's were fundamentally well-off middle-class folk. Yes, they had no financial worries, although fate and fortune could, and very often did, pitch such families down the social scale quite fast as they had no way of insuring themselves.

In those days, a candle falling over and starting a fire which could burn their houses to the ground was a perpetual fear for them and did easily bankrupt many a well-to-do family. (A good example is how TV portrays the ball at the Crown: despite the availability of staff, in the novel it was very much a small-scale DIY affair, more a fun gathering than the full-blown event shown.)

The TV film portrays them otherwise. As shown in the film they would be living as minor aristocracy. In this regard Knightley's grand pile is especially ludicrous. Austen herself and her family, however impeccably middle-class, were certainly not well-off and were forever teetering on the brink of penury, all to often relying on the goodwill of family. Hence the then sheer necessity of a young woman 'marrying well'. These might be minor points, of course, and after all it is fiction. But as in this regard it does not reflect on Jane Austen's world, other infelicities also creep in.

My second reservation is that the TV film falls short of conveying the subtleties of the different situations the characters find themselves in. Again to be blunt it is all just a tad too cut and dried.

Screenwriter Andrew Davies, the go-to chap for this kind of stuff, otherwise does reasonably well: though at times a little broad-brush, he does Austen's characters s0me justice, although his script does rather take too little account of Austen's sharp with and satirical eye.

The plot of Austen's novel is also far to syncopated in this adaptation, with the various developments simply not being sufficiently established to make much sense. Overall, I was disappointed and would recommend anyone so inclined to head for the far more substantial novel. But that said, as a piece of costume drama this version can still hold its head high for those who go a bundle for this kind of thing.
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6/10
Perhaps a tad baffling to be really great
21 June 2018
Several claims have been made about Blade Runner 2049, including one in review that appeared in the UK's Guardian, that it is destined to become a future 'sci-fi classic'.

Other reviewers suggest that in some kind of profound way the film examines what it is to be human (or something). Both claims might well be true: but either way, the film does go on for quite some time and almost - almost - overstays its welcome. As for 'being profound', well, if that's another way of saying the film occasionally gets close to being a little baffling, so be it.

Oddly, I never saw the first Blade Runner all the way through - I always grew a little bored and doing something else seemed a little more attractive, but I understand that first film is now a 'sci-fi classic'. Perhaps, but by my own admission, I'm in no position to say yay or nay.

As for Blade Runner 2049, I can see how some might like to make the claim, but as for being profound and some kind of ontological examination of both humanity and whatever '-ity' droids will claim for themselves, the jury is still out and won't be back for a while.

Even if the production company's publicity department had thought of describing the film as such, it will surely soon have been obvious to them that they would run the risk of alienating all those fans who like their words to have no more than two syllables. Visually, Blade Runner 2049 is magnificent, so it is a shame that the storyline - 'plot' is a little too mundane for a 'sci-fi classic' - meanders rather more than a tale told by the local bar bore.

It hooks into the first Blade Runner outing and in a somewhat convoluted way - I've already used the word 'baffling' so I'm attempting what is often called 'elegant variation' - doing so make sense. It's just that the sum of the parts doesn't quite add up to a satisfyingly coherent whole. You can admire each part, but drumming up total admiration for the whole is rather a challenge.

I feel rather guilty being so apparently mean-spirited, but I have no choice. Blade Runner 2049 is a well-made, well-acted, well-directed and well-produced film, but doesn't quite pay the full shilling. Go for it and make your own mind up. Who knows, you might even decide that I'm talking cobblers. Or perhaps not.
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Sliver (1993)
3/10
Completely ludicrous 'suspense' film which is best ignored
6 June 2018
A well-known phrase is 'nice try, but no cigar', Sliver doesn't even rate as a 'nice try'. That's a shame because Sharon Stone deserved better than this (though as a working actress, I'm sure she enjoyed, well, the work). The film starts in a pretty conventional manner, though in a manner you have seen many times before, but a slow decline starts quite soon. For one thing William Baldwin is throughly miscast, and although Tom Berenger is not, there is so little meat to his role that the guy has nothing to work with.

The whole set-up is not even two-dimensional and there is just so much you just don't buy: the 'relationship' between Baldwin's character and Stone is at best ludicrous. None of the characters is fleshed out in any way at all, they are cyphers and nothing more. I've read that Stephen King described Ira Levin, who wrote the novel Sliver on which the film is based (he also wrote the novels Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil which were all subsequently filmed) as 'the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels, he makes what the rest of us do look like cheap watchmakers in drugstores'. Fair enough, though as I haven't read any of the novels I can't comment. What I can certainly say is that any subtlety and wit Levin put into his stories has completely disappeared in the film of his novel Sliver.

It's as though the producers took various elements of what is known as a 'suspense' film and jammed them altogether without having much of an idea as to what they were doing. Well, I could go on, but what's the point. In sum: don't waste your time. Really. If you want to see how good an actress Stone can be in the right hands, get a copy of Scorsese's Casino. She nails it.
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Anonymous (I) (2011)
4/10
A potentially good film pretty much ruined by an unsubtle blockbuster approach
29 October 2017
Is there anyone here who is familiar with the name Fred Quimby. I'm sure it rings a bell. Here's a clue: Tom and Jerry. And what does Mr Quimby have to do with Tom and Jerry? Well, very little, actually.

Those – in my view spectacularly good – cartoons were the creation of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, as in Hanna-Barbera, when they were working for MGM. Quimby, whose name appears prominently – very prominently – as the producer in the final credits had, on the other hand, very little to do with their creation. He was, in fact, merely the head of the department which produced those gems.

Reputedly, Quimby was a rather humourless man forever at odds with Hanna and Barbera and the suggestion has even been made that although Quimby originally gave the green light to the long series of Tom and Jerry cartoons, he contributed almost nothing to their success. So what has Mr Quimby to do with Roland Emerich's film Anonymous? Well, this… Emerich made his mark with Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and other rather unsubtle blockbusters, and who can't doubt that he has a certain gift of some kind in that field. Those films are not at all to my taste, but their success cannot be gainsaid.

So on the face of it Anonymous was a rather odd choice for the man. Certainly, he had far more to do with the film's production that Mr Quimby had to do with Tom and Jerry, but those cartoons sprung to mind while I was watching Anonymous in that the whole experience is oddly cartoonish. Subtlety is not Roland's strong suit, and what Anonymous and its 'story' desperately needs is subtlety. So on that score it's 1-0 to failure.

What Emerich can and does bring to Anonymous is spectacle: Elizabethan London with all its squalor is brought to life with vigour, his actors perform with vigour, everything is a rousing spectacle – and so on and on an on. And that is exactly what Anonymous, or rather the film, its theme and suggestion and execution doesn't need. It needed a light touch, not the Germanic vigour so capably and so unnecessarily applied by Emerich.

The suggestion that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was, in fact, the true author of the plays attributed to a glover's son from Warwickshire, is a contentious one. It has it's champions, and although I am not one of them, it would be quite amusing to see the theory propounded in a film such as Anonymous. Add to the mix the volatile question in the last years of Queen Elizabeth's reign of who would succeed her, and there is very fertile ground for a good, interesting and amusing film. Sadly, Emerich's film isn't it.

The actors, some of the best in the business it has to be said, are required by Emerich to declaim their lines and outline the plot in a manner which was the hallmark of Hollywood 50 years ago. But filmmaking has since moved on considerably, and a better producer/director might well have made a good fist of Anonymous. But instead we got the dead hand of Emerich.

Oh, all right it is, in its peculiar mish-mash of a way it is entertaining enough - and a mish-mash it most certainly is - but it could have been so, so much better. And there's the shame.
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TURN: Washington's Spies (2014–2017)
7/10
Well-made and engaging history which neatly avoids the many possible pitfalls
19 October 2017
Here on IMDb users' reviews and elsewhere Turn: Washington's Spies has been castigated for 'historical inaccuracies', and I don't doubt the series is guilty of changing the facts to suit itself. For example, Anna Strong and Abe Woodhull, part of the Culper Ring of spies, were not romantically involved and, furthermore, Strong was ten years older than Woodhull, and apparently there are many more instances where the series doesn't stack up with what we know about the spy ring. But that begs the question: is AMC's series intended as an historical document or as entertainment? If the former, if the series was produced as a documentary, then certainly playing fast and loose with what historians have established really happened is unacceptable. But it doesn't to me seem that it was.

AMC is in the entertainment business, and I think we can be sure that Turn was intended more as commercial evening entertainment than has a history lecture. But that doesn't mean it is all fictional and 'made up' or not in any way worthwhile. In fact, I think it has struck the right note between a broadly historical account and out-and-out fiction rather well, especially for a US company: I have watched too many American films and series which have laid on the patriotic schmaltz rather to much for me to have acquired a taste for it (Designated Survivor, and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and the thoroughly dishonest Amistad spring to mind. It might be worthwhile if parts of America took to heart the observation by non-Americans that no country on Earth prides itself on being 'the second greatest nation in the world').

Dealing as it does with the beginnings of the war of independence, AMC seems to get it right not to stick to the Dick and Dora version of history so love by Hollywood of a 'freedom-loving people struggling to shake off the yoke of British tyranny'. If only it had been that simple (though many Americans still like to push that line).

Obviously, there are many different interpretations of the genesis and motivation for the formation of the Continental Congress and its aftermath. But one of these interpretations is that essentially the struggle for independence was by some of the ruling classes in the colonies who simply wanted to call all the shots rather than just some of them and most certainly not on behalf of a king several thousand miles away. Oh, and they also wanted to keep more of their money. There is scant evidence of a 'popular uprising' by 'the people' who had come to hate the king, and as revolt against the Crown and his representatives in the colonies grew, many remained loyal to the king simply because independence would make very little, if any, practical difference to their lives: it didn't matter who they were paying rent to or for whom they toiled: they still had to pay rent and still had to toil for a pittance, and were hounded if they didn't.

Essentially the colonies were divided, and war was, at first at least, civil war, and AMC's Turn conveys that sense well. Many of the 'Americans' were, in fact, British, some third and fourth generation, who had settled in the colonies and who, crucially, still regarded themselves as British.

As for the production itself, Turn deserves a lot more bouquets than brickbats (in fact, so far I can't even think of a brickbat I might want to wield). The actors are all well-cast and persuasive, the direction is unobtrusive (and successfully avoids pretty much all patriotic grandstanding and posturing), the story neatly interweaves the political and historical with the personal, and there is, thankfully, none of that 'olde English' 18th-century speak which can mar and jar just as much as using modern anachronism. (So far no one has said anything along the lines of 'General Washington, I've got to do this thing, for me its personal!' and we can thank God for small mercies.)

So if you come across Turn and are tempted to look in, do so by all means. It does a good job very well, although given the period it covers, you will be disappointed if you crave bucketloads of patriotic syrup and a rousing soundtrack. I, you might have gathered, don't.
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Cannabis (2016)
8/10
Convoluted, gripping full-blooded Med crime melodrama. I love it.
14 October 2017
Had enough of the usual formulaic schlock schlock you are fed on mainstream and, increasingly, on cable TV? Want something different from the standard story lines, plots, characters and situations you know so well you could write them yourself (well, you almost could)? Well, give Cannabis a whirl.

I have to say that I have been watching it through Anglo-Saxon eyes and experiencing it with Anglo-Saxon sensibilities, for which read US/Northern European eyes and sensibilities. So if you are French, Spanish, Italian, North African or from somewhere where the days and nights are hotter (so I might as well include you guys and gals from South America) you might well tell me Cannabis and its almost grand guignol melodrama is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff and you see it on your screen seven nights a week. Well, we rather more reserved, not to say damp-souled lot up in the North don't: so Cannabis is a very refreshing change.

I like that there are no good guys or bad guys, no good girls and bad girls. I like the oh-so utterly convoluted storyline which keeps you guessing and then some. I like the lack of grandstanding, the lack of posturing, the feeling that many of the characters seem - I have to say 'seem' because this is, after all, fiction - quite true to life. I like that, as in real life, the wrong people get killed and even the heroes aren't immune. Above all, I like the moral ambiguity.

At points your credibility might be stretched and the filming is not as polished as it might be, but the whole shooting match is carried off with such panache that you really don't care. So if you want far spicier fare than your more usual diet of plastic men and women we are served up all too often on TV, give Cannabis a go. I doubt you will be disappointed.
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Designated Survivor (2016–2019)
5/10
Standard schlock for the 8pm drama slot
22 September 2017
If it's entertainment you want, Designated Survivor fits the bill. It has tension, suspense, intrigue, explosions, downhome family scenes and oodles of that peculiarly American schmaltz where everyone loves their country and is just doing his job, sir, just doing my job and which turns off a good many Brits like me, I have to say. And this Brit is also turned off by the somewhat formulaic nature of it all.

This, sadly, is once again drama by numbers, the kind of thing you have seen often before and will see often again before you pop your clogs. And if it's nuance you want, subtlety, ambiguity, something pitched a little higher than just 8pm evening fodder, go to The Leftovers, Boardwalk Empire, or one of several other excellent series which have hit our screens these past few years. There are too many plot holes, too many occasions when you ask yourself 'but why did she/he/it do that? Why not…? And there are to many clichéd characters - clichéd liberals, clichéd foreigners, clichéd journalists. So if you want clichés... But as entertainment, Designated Survivor will do, and do just fine.

That isn't, though, meant as much of a compliment.
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I'm Dying Up Here: Pilot (2017)
Season 1, Episode 1
7/10
Promising, but it's early days yet
17 August 2017
Well, so far this has had one review and two down votes, so let me even the balance a little. For what it is, it's good, or better than it might be. There's a fair amount of new age schamaltz, but toned down for the millennials who are, you know, cooler than their older brothers and dads. But on the evidence of the pilot, this could be promising. You can't really tell too much from a pilot, because if it is picked up, the picker-uppers will insist on all kinds of tweaks, but let's see how it goes.
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Broken City (2013)
5/10
If you haven't seen this before in many other guises, you've been asleep for years
20 July 2017
The puzzle is why Broken City was made at all. I understand that the script had been knocking around for years until someone had the quite possibly no-so-bright idea of filming it. But why exactly? The plot is one with which anyone who has watched films for the past 75 years will be fully familiar, and apart from the kind of fancy-schmanzy camera shots with recent technology allows, the film might well have been made from 1940 on. Was some kind of favour called in? Because I can't otherwise think why this was made.

It's certainly not bad in any particular way, simply a tad redundant in an era when HBO, Amazon, Netflix and all the rest are producing 12/13-programme series whose length allows for more nuance, slower (and thus often more convincing) plot development and everything else more space and time allows.

Broken City has all the names – Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg (who I always enjoy watching irrespective of how good or bad a film is), Jeffrey Wright (a highly versatile actor) and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a part which is woefully underwritten – but little for them to do. The storyline is more than a tad confused and the 'crime' at the centre of it all – well, worse happens in my household pretty much every weekend, let alone New York.

So there you have it: not bad, but not in any way distinguishable from many other films made over the past 75 years covering the same ground. It gets a 5, for that reason.
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Jamestown (2017– )
1/10
Two dimensional twaddle for the Great Unwashed
10 July 2017
The note in the introductory credits 'from the producers of Downton Abbey' should have alerted us. Those who just simply loved, loved, loved Downton and thought it was the acme of contemporary drama will have been beside themselves with anticipation when they saw the trailers for Jamestown and undoubtedly as I write are gushing about how really, really, really brilliant Jamestown is. The rest of us (I gave Downton ten minutes and gave up) will sigh and know exactly what to expect. Last night I watched the first episode and got exactly what I expected.

Superficial doesn't begin to describe it: the characters are at best two-dimensional (often, though this is almost impossible, slipping into just one dimension), the dialogue is banal going on dire, the plot lines are lazily established in a matter of seconds, the set is straight out of Disney and generally Jamestown lives up (or down) to expectations as unchallenging pap for the great unwashed.

Ironically, given that this is a big bucks production on sale worldwide, the producers have hired some top actors who all know how to do the biz. It's just a shame they weren't given far better material to work with. I don't at all doubt that with a substantial proportion of viewers, the Downton freaks, Jamestown is 'excellent, amazing and brilliant and a really, really, really good way to learn history'. But then as they say, 'eat sh*t, seven trillion flies can't be wrong'.
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8/10
B*gger the critics: if you like film noir, you'll love this
16 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I first came across Dutch director Paul Verhoeven when I saw Robocop in the late 1980s, and I found his sly, quietly satirical humour appealing. I didn't catch Basic Instinct when it first came out in the early 1990s, to all-round notoriety for 'that scene' and was generally panned by the critics, and the next Verhoeven film I caught was Black Book, which did not impress me much at all. I thought it was cheesy and derivative and ordinary. As for Starship Trooper and Total Recall, I haven't been there yet, but plan to in the next few days. But Black Book rather put me off Verhoeven.

Last night I watched Basic Instinct and the admiration was back, though not just for the quiet, satirical humour, but for the man's utterly successful recreation of film noir. He has it off to a T: everything, from the convoluted plot, the snappy 'cool' dialogue', the incessant, urgent background score and, of course, the irresistible femme fatale who you just know is a total wrong 'un but, like the male lead, just can't help falling in love with. In addition, and more subtly, he has the camera perpetually moving, nothing is static, which makes for far more interesting shots, but which also adds to a certain intrigue.

I caught the uncensored version which features rather a lot of sex. I gather the cinema release was rather more restrained and I have to say I don't think the film particularly gains from the extended sex scenes. Some might prefer more rather than less of Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone writhing this way and that, but to be frank I can take it or leave it. I'm not at all offended, but there is a suspicion it is all just a little gratuitous. But what the hell.

The convoluted plot is, of course, entirely ludicrous and utterly implausible, and once you get a moment to reflect - though that moment is quite delayed by the enjoyment of Verhoeven's success in carrying it all off - it doesn't really bear scrutiny at all. But as is oddly the way with these films, Basic Instinct has somehow won you over - especially if you like, as I do, all those hard-bitten film noir - and you just think 'oh, what the hell'. 'Why would so-and-so go to all that trouble just to...?' - oh, what the hell. It's that kind of film.

The critics didn't much like it and had it not had Michael Douglas as one of the leads, they all suggest would have been banished to B-movieland. But the fact is, it did (have Michael Douglas as a lead) and it wasn't.

Especial mention must, though, go to Sharon Stone for her performance and, game lady that she so obviously is, 'that shot' (you know, the one which so excites adolescent boys). I also caught her in Scorsese's Casino in which her performance won here an Oscar, and I'm not at all surprised that she was honoured (she was nominated for her role here, but didn't win). There is in Basic Instinct - although not in Casino - an amused, detached quality to everything she does which is wholly appealing, but which doesn't undermine the film but add to it.

So there you have it: if you like film noir - melodrama squared, snappy lines and all the rest - go for it. By me, at least, Basic Instinct comes highly recommended.

PS Even the - equally ludicrous - final shot of the whole film which pretty much makes a nonsense of all that's gone before can't be faulted. As I say, one of Verhoeven's attractive qualities, for me at least, is his quiet and understated satire.
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Arrival (II) (2016)
6/10
Sorry, but this kind of undercooked, cod philosophical stuff doesn't achieve very much at all
11 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
To be honest, Arrival probably isn't intended for the likes of me: I suspect its cod philosophical theory of time and faux-profound message of world peace is more intended for idealistic young teens and folk who like a bit of little bit of deep thinking between their soaps. Me, I prefer either no depth at all and just plenty of action, or real depth which treats me as an adult and can't be having this kind of cartoon-style theorising which is intended to impress but leaves you none the wiser (and, frankly, more than a little baffled).

Having said that – and having pretty much dismissed the contents – the packaging by director Denis Villeneuve (who made 2015's far more impressive Sicario) is handsome enough and the cast do what is required of them if not much else: Amy Adams, plain enough to be convincing, adds a certain understated anguish as the super-brainy university linguist summoned by the military to help try to communicate with visiting mysterious aliens. Oh, and she was also the single mother of a young teen who succumbed to some unidentifiable affliction.

Forest Whitaker is a gruff, no-nonsense colonel who collects her in the middle of the night to take her to the mysterious aliens' mysterious vessel in mysterious Montana, but then has very little else to do. Jeremy Renner charms enough as the scientific companion to Adams's linguist, but he again does pretty much nothing except spout the occasional cod science and offer support to Adams when he realised things are getting tough on her (and eventually becomes her love interest in one of the least persuasive romances I've seen on screen).

Then there's Michael Stuhlbarg as – well, what exactly? His character is so peripheral, underwritten and underplayed that it's hard to know. You gather he is something of a villain, the government 'agent' in charge, because when Adams hits upon an easy- peasy way of achieving world peace, he's apparently not interested. Or something. The set- up is intriguing enough to hold your interest for a while: 12 extremely mysterious spacecraft (looking very much like smooth, but huge, brazil nuts in their shells, but I don't think we are intended to read too much into that) suddenly appear around the world, but the world is none the wiser as to why. They do not seem to threaten, but without somehow communicating with their inhabitants, the world is at a loss as to what to do next. Enter Adams, who had previously helped the US military with her knowledge of Farsi, and is tasked with getting through to the aliens to find out just why they came.

She does exactly that, and although there is no apparent timescale, the rise of civil unrest around the world in view of the alien visitors and their government's inaction makes is seem like it all takes place in a matter of days or possibly weeks. But our Amy's the gal, and don't you know it, she cracks it and is communicating with the seven tentacle but otherwise super-intelligent aliens like old friends! Yes, folks, that's Hollywood for you! It's a wonder the US government doesn't simply hand over all its research to the good folk of Tinseltown because these guys and gals are really no slouches.

The problem with Arrival is that it is neither fish nor fowl: the little action there is is a throwaway scene when a small group of military, fired up by right-wing TV commentators urging action, explode a bomb in the spacecraft but very little is made of that at all. In other ways it is all so sadly undercooked: the special effects and the realisation of the aliens is impressive but oddly irrelevant. The surprisingly simple – and extremely fast - deconstruction of their 'language', which also provides the key to their visit just doesn't convince. (By comparison, Jodie Foster's Contact which covers similar territory and is equally woolly still manages to persuade you of something or other.)

I have already admitted that I suspect I am not the target audience for this kind of good-looking melange. You might well be, and certainly other reviews here are far more enthusiastic. But if, like me, you – well, I shan't bang on. Sadly, Arrival, for all its production values strikes me as an opportunity missed.
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5/10
Pretty much just another Bond plot with 21st-century technology. No great shakes but you might like it. I didn't much
9 June 2017
Got to say this is pretty much the same kind of formulaic undemanding fodder which kept all those Sixties, Seventies and Eighties James Bond films going for so many years, though being 2010 fodder the special effects are, courtesy of CGI, rather more spectacular.

It has the usual impossibilities, a ludicrous plot, one-dimensional characters, corny dialogue, cornier jokes, plenty of chases, gunfights and fist fights and loads of different locations - Wichita, Boston, a tropical island, Austria, Seville, and the Lord knows where else. And absolutely nothing bares more than a second's thought: ask any sensible question and the whole thing falls apart. But then it isn't supposed to be anything other than that kind of film and if you like the formula, you might well enjoy it. Me, I only watched the full film out of duty because I knew I would be writing this review.

Tom Cruise does his Tom Cruise thing, Cameron Diaz her Cameron Diaz thing and the rest of the cast follow orders and provide the scenery. I'm giving it a 5 because, 5 is halfway - it isn't bad for the kind of thing it is, but it's not very good either. Don't let me put you off: if you went for all the 007 schlock, Knight And Day is perhaps for you, but if I never have to see another potboiler like this ever will still be too soon.

I only started watching it because it was directed by James Mangold who made the far, far superior - and highly recommended - Identity. Here he just does a workmanlike job and collects his paycheck.
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The Revenant (2015)
6/10
Great on style, not quite so great on content
28 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I feel a bit like a party pooper, especially as The Revenant was deemed worthy of three Oscars, but I was underwhelmed by the film and not even slightly. There's no denying that visually it is a feast, and the well-known scene where Leonardo DiCaprio is attacked and mutilated by a grizzly bear is an cinematic accomplishment all of its own.

It's hard to believe – although given the CGI expertise about it shouldn't be – that the scene is entirely and utterly fake: the wood in which it takes place is made up entirely of 'rubber' tree props, the 'bear' is a stuntman in a blue CGI suit and DiCaprio is attached to several harnesses to allow him to seem thrown about by the bear. Which is all fine and dandy and makes for a thrilling experience. But it also leads to questions about Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's reported insistence that his troupe of actors should all go through a week's boot camp so that they get to know and understand the hardship the characters they play suffered and also look the part when it comes to filming.

Now, call me an old cynic but that – the reported week in boot camp – is entirely the kind of story the studio press department would like to get out there to drum up a bit of interest, for which read money before the premiere. 'Look,' the story tells us, 'this is the real deal, this is acting really suffering for their art, this is serious filmmaking' with the subtext 'this film is one you really won't want to miss because it is special.' Yes, but is it really?

Although Inarritu lost out on the Best Director Oscar, his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was luckier and grabbed one of the little fellers for is camera-work. And apparently Lubezki wanted to work with only natural lighting and eschew artificial lighting so much that filming lasted at most four hours a day.

Well, for this old cynic it reakkt doesn't quite stack up, and that snippet of news – as well as other stories 'leaking out' that filming was 'so tough' hardened crew simply walked out of the production in protest – most certainly didn't do pre-publicity for the film (and whisper it quietly, the film's Oscar chances) any harm at all. So what of the film? Well, what of it? What is it about?

Superficially, it is at tale of survival against all odds. Our mutilated hero, DiCaprio, is left for dead by two men charged with taking care of him – though the younger man is far less culpable than the nasty old Texan played by Britain's Tom Hardy – yet despite his wounds, despite being at death's door for quite some time, despite plunging into icy-cold water several times, despite his skin 'dying' (which I suppose is gangrene), despite being chased be Native Americans, despite riding over a cliff and plunging several hundred feet – despite it, all dear reader, our intrepid hero manages to find his way back to civilisation after almost two months – it is never clear just how long it took - in. Once there, he is not a bit puffed and then sets about chasing down nasty old Tom Hardy and has enough energy to pretty much kill him. (He doesn't actually do the deed - he remembers the wise old words of a Native American who befriends him on the way and leaves the dirty deed that to an troop of Native Americans who also want him dead). And then he dies. Fancy! What a man!

Well, I was pretty underwhelmed. I was underwhelmed by the lack of a story, I was underwhelmed by a vague kind of mysticism which permeated the story but which really made little sense at all, I was baffled by the intermittent appearance of a gang of French trappers, I was underwhelmed by the gang of Native Americans whose chief is looking for his daughter, and I was underwhelmed by the film's insistence that a man who was barely alive and could, at first, only crawl everywhere, who ate hardly anything but roots and shoots should still find the energy and resolve to survive hyperthermia finally to get up and walk (and after his supposed exertions) appear to have lost very little weight).

Am I being unfair? Well, only if the whole film had not been pitched as 'this is something entirely different – this is real!' At the end of the day it is in many ways an entirely impressive piece of filmmaking but in many other ways it cuts to many corners to be taken completely seriously. For style it gets pretty much top marks, but sadly loses quite badly on content.
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Performance (1970)
7/10
Don't run scared of any 'hippy philosophy': Performance has cast that off and still stands proud as a remarkable film
12 May 2017
I first saw Performance whenever it first came out, the film everyone was raving about and which was thought to be very much of its time. I have no memories of it at all, except that I didn't understand it, was a little frightened by it, and was thoroughly confused by it. Whenever I heard it mentioned, usually in glowing terms, I would think 'well, a little more of the hippy-sh*t memory lane cr*p. Forty-seven years on, I've seen it again and I have to say it stands the test of time remarkably well. By way of comparison Easy Rider, which I saw then and 30 years later, in my view, doesn't (or rather was does stand the test of time isn't the Peter Fonda character's idealism, but the Dennis Hopper character's cynicism).

I suspect that when it was written, by Donald Cammell who also co-directed with Nicolas Roeg, although these days the film is always trailed as Roeg's film, the two of them thought they were exploring ideas and their age, ideas about sexuality and identity and conventional as opposed to alternative living.

They were also examining, to a lesser extent, different forms of insanity, and also examining what it means to 'perform'. If, like me, you believe that what a film maker thinks she or he is doing and what the film actually becomes are quite often entirely different, you will be relieved to hear that if those ideas are examined, they most certainly don't dominate or suffocate the film. There is more to it which carries it all very well.

Forty-seven years on, in fact, ideas which will have been seen as groundbreaking when the film was released (and which horrified Warner Bros, who financed the film), tend to look a little silly and naive if they are still intended to be profound (and are more proof, if more proof were needed, that nothing dates faster than this year's fashion). What we get - 47 years on - is a thoroughly entertaining, visually often stunning, intriguing look at two men, the sadistic gangster and the reclusive rock star, both utterly narcissistic and controlling, who meet by chance and pretty much recognise themselves in the other.

It is an irony that rather than wilt, Performance has matured over those 47 years, and what we get is a thoroughly engrossing piece of cinema which is worth every one of the 105 minutes.

Check it out. And if some of you disagree with me that it can no longer be taken seriously in the sense it was when it first came out, well, peace man, now go and count your collection of antique joss sticks.
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4/10
Someone must tell Woody: maybe you've lost it a little
21 April 2017
Oh dear, where to start? The plot, the acting, the direction, the dialogue, the characters? All of them are so utterly two-dimensional that quite soon watching Magic In The Moonlight becomes a chore. And whatever the film, whether comedy, tragedy, art-house, slapstick, watching it should never become a chore, whatever else it might be. And sadly as the man who came up with the plot, wrote the dialogue and directed the actors Woody Allen must take sole responsibility.

I have seen several Woody Allen films, but too few to pass judgment on his career - as in whether or not he has lost his touch - but one thing I can suggest is that perhaps his films don't ever come alive if he isn't in them. Certainly he was in all the other films of his I've seen and none - though they are certainly from the earlier years of his career - dragged so limply as this Magic In The Moonlight.

The plot: well, on paper it can neither be praised or damned. There's the old saying that it isn't the joke, but the way you tell it. So I'm quite prepared to accept that another director (perhaps one who isn't content to point his camera at stagey set pieces and have done with it - the only movement is a tracking shot, but that's it) might well have done something with what is otherwise a pedestrian plot.

As for the acting, well, a the end of the day and with few exceptions actors are only as good as the direction they get and the material they have to work with. And here they are horribly short-changed. Wooden and stereotyped don't even begin to describe what we see. The same is true of the dialogue: to be blunt it is awful.

Wit? There's none, though there are lines which I assume Allen thought might makes us chortle. In truth they are little more than a hack writer's pastiche of Oscar Wilde.

I must confess that I am writing this halfway through watching the film, mainly to take a break from it. I shall go back to watching it - I shall, I promise - and perhaps somehow the whole sorry film will redeem itself. But I'm not holding my breath.

Perhaps Allen has reached the stage where no producer dare tell him what he has written and how he is directing is mediocre. Well, if that's the case, I hope he reads this review. The whole thing is embarrassingly lame. There, Woody, I've said it. Sad, but true.
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Moneyball (2011)
5/10
Dull as ditchwater if you don't know baseball (and quite possibly equally as dull if you do)
18 February 2017
I'm a Brit and know b*gger all about baseball. Perhaps that's why I found this film to be duller than watching paint dry. On the other hand even if you know about baseball, you might also find this film dull, dull, dull.

I like Brad Pitt and have enjoyed many of his films. I find he always brings a certain something to every role he plays, and he brought it to this one, too. Sadly, it wasn't enough to save this film.

When I wasn't baffled by all the baseball talk, I was bored. And even when I wasn't baffled by all the baseball talk - there were one or two jargon-free scenes - I was still bored. To be frank, I considered switching off and writing this review halfway through, but I persevered. Well, I know think I need not have bothered: the review would have been the same.

If you think you might like this, by all means give it a whirl, but don't blame me if you don't and like me feel bored out of your tiny mind. Gets a five because it isn't exactly bad, but that's it.
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